a/n I've taken certain liberties with the characters. Obviously they will tend to be OOC but that doesn't bother me. I'm trying to illustrate the point that time has passed and people have changed with time (not completely but substantially) I really hope you enjoy this I haven't written for this site for a few years now. Please review as you see fit.
Smack. Smack. Smack.
Sakura pinched the bridge of her nose and exhaled slowly relieving the pressure in her throbbing head slightly. She placed her clip board on the surface before her and looked at the clock hanging behind the nurse in front of her. The time was 4:45pm and soon Sakura would be finished what had been a nightmare shift from hell. It was midsummer in Konoha and the students of the village – ninja or citizen alike – had been causing nothing but trouble for her and the staff at the local hospital which had been running on a skeleton staff due to employee holidays. Sakura wasn't supposed to be working at the hospital as much as she was but due to short staff and a lack of appropriate missions she was stuck doing the hard yards slaving away at Konoha Hospital. Sakura, having already served the early morning shift which had proved uneventful and painfully slow, had drawn the short straw of double duty meaning that she had been setting casts for rowdy kids with broken limbs all day. One child had been so scared of Sakura relocating a dislocated shoulder that he had whacked her hard in the face with the back of his hand so hard her eyes watered and threatened to overflow; this boy she could now thank for her colossal headache. On top of all this it had been one of the hottest days in Konoha history and the hospital's air conditioning had decided that it would only operate on half power resulting in dehydration for many of the existing patients and creating many more new ones. Yes, Sakura would be very happy to go home and submerge herself in her bathtub; maybe she would even try those fancy bath salts Hinata had given her for her 19th birthday the previous Autumn.
Smack. Smack. Smack.
Sakura surveyed the nurse seated lazily in front of her. She was roughly the same age as Sakura with pure black hair and red lips which were currently smacking open and closed chewing on bubblegum that seemed to be the same colour as Sakura's hair. The sound was loud and obnoxious and had Sakura not been so far past the point of exhaustion she was sure she would've snapped out the nurse long ago. It was against hospital policy to chew bubblegum whilst on duty anyways; unhygienic.
"Ami?" Sakura said suddenly and sharply to gather the girl's attention. "Please go and check on Mr. Kimura in room 303."
It was more of a command than question which merited a snooty faced sigh from Ami as she rose slowly from her chair and magazine that she had been a moment ago so fervently engrossed in.
"Yes, Doctor." Ami gave Sakura another look of discontented loathing before passing by her into nearby room 303. Sakura amazed by Ami's behaviour made a mental note to mention this to Tsunade when employee review time came up again.
A middle aged man by the name of Dr. Genta slowly approached Sakura fiddling absent minded with his ball point pen. He was the Doctor relieving Sakura for the next four days.
"Good Evening Sakura." Dr. Genta greeted her kindly before pulling a pair of plain metal spectacles from his coat pocket and fixing them firmly on his face. "-And what's the status here in ward 1?"
Sakura liked Dr. Genta he had often seen to her common colds when she was much younger as he was the primarily a paediatrician. He too had been roped into picking up extra shifts such as the ones Sakura had to cope with the holiday period.
Sakura gave Dr. Genta a general update of the situation which had for the past two hours had been firmly under control. Sakura hated to finish her shift without leaving the ward in proper conditions for the next doctor; it was only polite. As Sakura was taking of her coat and placing her clipboard into its pigeon hole Ami emerged from room 303 with a sour look on her face before washing her hands thoroughly in the basin provided near the nurses quarters. Sakura didn't know what had happened in room 303 but she was sure it wasn't pleasant. This thought made her smile pleasantly as she turned to Ami.
"Good night Ami, have a good evening...and don't forget Mr. Koboyashi's wounds need re-dressing in around an hour or so." Sakura calmly said without letting a single hint of satisfaction lace her words. Ami's sour face intensified with disgust. Sakura could feel her evil glare bore into her back on her way down the corridor towards the exit. Sakura new she was going to hell for that. Mr Koboyashi's wounds didn't need to be dressed for another two hours...after Ami's shift.
Sakura was not prepared for the wave of heat that greeted her when she passed the threshold of the hospital out into the village. She could feel the sun burning her through her black skirt and dark purple blouse.
"I really should buy some damn lighter clothes to combat this stupid heat." Sakura said aloud to no one in particular. She brushed the sweat already forming on her brow away with the back of her hand accidently aggravating the small bruise endured earlier in the day. Sakura sucked in air between her teeth. "Little shit."
Sakura's apartment was conveniently situated 5 minutes away from the hospital. This was a good thing on a day like today when she was physically drained but not good on the days when they needed extra staff and she was the closest and always the most available as well.
At 19 years old Sakura had never had a serious boyfriend and as she was a ninja and her friends were all ninja she rarely had time off that aligned with their time off. There had been a few hopefuls over the years, love life wise, but none that truly stood out as a romantic conquest. Even when Sasuke had returned two years earlier she was dismayed to find whatever flame she held for him had long since fizzled into an admiration of appearance as opposed to the burning passionate love she had held for him in her youth. Sasuke's opinion of her, as far as she knew, had stayed very much the same but of course less aggressive. Sasuke, in the last two years of living in Konoha, had begun to become less, well...rude. That was the only way Sakura could put it. She could hold a decent conversation with him now without feeling insulted or wanting to cry. He and Naruto had fallen into being best friends again within days of Sasuke's return. They were practically joined at the hip training together, eating together, and doing missions together. Had it not been for the small progress, romantically, Naruto had made with the sweet Hinata Sakura would have considered that there was more to Sasuke and Naruto's friendship than met the eye. Sakura giggled to herself when she imagined the looks of Sasuke and Naruto's faces if they had known about these thoughts of hers.
She had soon reached her apartment building and had started to climb the stairs, choosing not to grab the banister as she could see the sun glint of it warningly telling her that the coarse metal was probably hotter than her hand could handle. Sakura loved her apartment. It was the embodiment of safety in her eyes. She had carefully decorated the place analysing every addition making sure that the place was pleasing to the eye and always neat. She spent a lot of her time in between shifts sitting in her front room reading the books that had piled up in reading pile over the years.
Sakura faced her front door searching the small side bag she carried her purse and name badge in for the small key ring with her keys attached as she envisioned herself soaking in a tube of lukewarm water, she mentally thanked herself for purchasing a bottle of her favourite wine the previous night. It was then that she realised that her bag was a little roomier than usual...a lot roomier than usual. She shook the bag listening for the distinctive sound of metal on metal. Her heart sunk from the preordained place in her chest to the pit of her stomach. She frantically shook the bag upside down expelling all the contents on the ground in front of her.
"Noooo...not today!" She exclaimed as she sunk to her knees. She had locked her keys inside her apartment. Naruto had her spare key in his apartment. Naruto was away with Kakashi on a mission and wasn't due back until the day after tomorrow. As Sakura fervently planned a way to break into his apartment without causing immense damage she suddenly remembered that Sasuke had the spare key to Naruto's apartment. It was just a matter of walking ten minutes around the corner and receiving them from him. Sakura inwardly groaned he was the last person she wanted to see after working since the early hours of the morning. She was sure she needed a shower and with a bruise blazened across her already enlarged forehead she looked anything presentable.
"This is my karma for making Ami change Mr. Koboyoshi's bandages prematurely. I am a bad person and this is my punishment." She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth in pure exhaustion before standing slowly. She sighed and started on her way to Sasuke's apartment.
Sasuke had opted not to live in the Uchiha compound which belonged to him but choosing instead to rent a small apartment in the heart of Konoha with his mission earnings. Sakura surmised this was due to the memories that haunted the place but was secretly extra thankful due to the fact that the Uchiha compound was on the other side of the village and she had exhausted her chakra too much today to allow her to run across town.
Sakura knocked loudly on the dark blue door of Sasuke's apartment. The paint had chipped in places but a number 9 was fixed to the front of the door shining in the sun. Sakura knocked again louder and obnoxiously. She was too tired at this point to greet him pleasantly. When she knocked again and received no answer she tried the handle and wasn't surprised to find the door unlocked. She scoffed at this of course he didn't lock his door no common thief could break into his apartment and live to tell the tale or so he probably thought at least. That was Sasuke's arrogance plain and simple. He lived in a constant state of no fear for the realm he lived in. Sakura knew this was due to the fact that the things that scared him most only haunted him when he was sleeping.
In the past few months when Sakura had actually been able to secure a mission, and get away from the hospital, that she had been paired up with Sasuke for she had noticed that his affliction for night terrors was steadily getting worse. One night Sasuke's nightmares had been so bad that Sakura had to violently shake him awake which had led to a bewildered Sasuke telling her to never touch him again. She had also known that the things that haunted him sometimes caused him to treat her rudely again. Even though he never apologised she knew he was sorry due to the way he made extra effort the next morning to include in the mission proceedings.
Sakura, of late had been enjoying these one on one missions with Sasuke a bit more and more. Even though she no longer felt for him the way she used to the feelings she felt for him now could easily be described as hormonal and not loving. She'd often find herself staring at him in front of her on the way back to the village after a mission. Admiring that every inch of him was covered in wiry muscle. Every bit exposed that is. She also often wondered what he looked like under his standard issue nin-clothes. Sakura blushed as she pushed the door open feeling like she did when she was a child and she knew she was doing something naughty and ran the risk of being caught. This in itself was confusing. Couldn't one friend enter another's apartment unannounced without feeling weird?
"Sasuke?" She called searchingly for the man. "Sasuke? Are you home? Hello?"
Would he be so arrogant to live the apartment unlocked if he wasn't in? She slowly approached the living room of the house. Sasuke's apartment was surprisingly homey considering the cold nature of the person that inhabited the place this was just another reflection of how the man had changed from complete and utter rude, arrogant, elitism that edged into the realm of psychotic to less rude, arrogant, elitism mixed with a healthy wash of seldom acts of kindness and a budding humour that had to be the influence of Naruto. She pushed onto the kitchen connected to the living room and then on into the corridor again that joined to the bedroom and bathroom. Sakura swallowed she had a growing sense of intrusion with was gathering in a lump in her throat. She had hoped to find him sitting on the couch or maybe in the kitchen. It was much better to surprise a person there than in the bedroom or the bathroom, god forbid.
She cleared her throat and knocked on the door to the bedroom.
"Sasuke?" She waited hopefully for a response. "Sasuke? Are you in there?" Sakura cleared her throat again and opened the door with her eyes clenched shut. "Sasuke? I-"
Sakura opened her eyes and noticed the room was empty. Why had she closed her eyes? What did she expect to see him in here doing? Sakura blushed deep red; the heat in her cheeks confirming this. She really needed to stop having such perverted thoughts. She really needed to get out more but she couldn't help it. She'd finally got around to reading the book Ino had lent her six months ago. It was one of those romance ones and she couldn't help but daydream about the content, fantasizing that one of these days someone would passionately envelop her in their arms and kiss her deeply. Sakura shook her head and tried to clear her mind of the mature content that ran through her mind. She looked over to the corner to the closed door that led to the connecting bathroom. She had no way of telling he was in there or not as it was still shining brightly outside meaning if he was in there he wouldn't need the light. Well, Sakura thought, She'd come this far she wasn't about to awkwardly give up and leave like she'd never been here at all.
She knocked carefully on the door to bathroom and reached for the latch. She called his name again to no avail. Cautiously she rolled the door sideways. Steam filled the room and the sound of running water met Sakura's ears. How had she not heard the shower before she came in...how?! Sakura tried to turn around and leave but she was frozen where she was.
"Can I help you?" a voice called over the steam and Sakura's eyes travelled over to the owner. She instantly regretted it. There stood Sasuke every inch of him naked to the human eye. Sakura wasn't sure how long she stared at him for hypnotized by the way he rubbed soap over his abdomen and chest like he was in slow motion. Slowly her eyes lowered to the point in between his thighs. How was it possible for him to be perfect in every which way. She put her head to the side to better analyse. Why such a great body was wasted on the most socially and emotionally challenged person she'd never know. It was unfair. She felt inadequate in comparison.
"Sakura? Do you mind?" A cold but humoured voice distracted Sakura from her train of thought which had travelled on deeper into the realms of her repressed perversion.
"Huh? What?" She brought her eyes upwards to face his.
"What are you doing?" He asked.
"Huh?" Sakura's eyes were half lidded as she struggled to bring her mind back to clean thoughts.
"Sakura! Either get in or get out." This got her attention and she made a small high pitched squeaking noise as she turned around and ran out of the bathroom almost tripping over her feet, slamming the door behind her.
Sakura paced back and forth in the bedroom slapping her face gently urging herself to snap out of the lust filled mind set. She felt pathetic. Not only had she barged into his apartment but she barged in on him in his own shower and then had the gall to stare at this...
"How embarrassing." She sighed defeated and slumped down on the edge of his bed. She was so exhausted. Yes, that was the reason for her slight lapse in sanity and that's what she'd tell that man in there. Sakura was considering fleeing the building and seeking shelter at Ino's for the next two nights until Naruto returned and let her into her damn apartment. She was weighing up the positives and negatives of smashing her own window with a rock when the door to the bathroom slid open and Sasuke emerged wearing only a white towel wrapped around his waist.
"Now when my neighbour Mrs. Yamada was telling me this morning that there had been a peeping Tom in the neighbourhood I never expected it to be you Sakura." Sasuke said looking straight in her eyes with a look of curiosity and a hint of a smirk on his lips.
"Har har, Sasuke. When did you get so funny?" She quipped folding her arms and looking to the side of the room like a child scorned would do.
"When did you become a pervert?" He walked over to the built in wardrobe which was located in the wall that Sakura was looking at.
"I wasn't perv- As if you wouldn't have done the same thing I did in that situation!" She started then pointed at him accusatorily. He grabbed a shirt and paused for a minute thinking about what she had said. His face grew stern and he shook his head.
"What do you want?"
"What do you mean what do I want?"
"Well you didn't barge into my home for fun did you?"
"Do you seriously think I would associate you with fun?"
That last question was double loaded. If she said no it would be rude and he wouldn't care and the incident wouldn't be mentioned again but if she said yes then he would know that she was a little interested in finding out what type of fun he could be...
"Would you?" She asked turning the question back onto him. He shrugged the navy shirt in his hands on and almost laughed at her.
"That depends on the type of fun you mean." He motioned for her to turn around so he could finish getting dressed.
When she turned around again he was fully dressed but the image of him in the towel was now forever burned into her head...along with the image of him in the shower. She cleared her throat suddenly hyper aware of her exhaustion allowing her posture to sag a little she rubbed her eyes. Okay, yes, maybe she was playing it up to evoke a response from him.
"What's wrong?" It had worked. There had been a time where Sasuke was so out of tune with the human emotions of others that he wouldn't even acknowledge these types of things.
"Sasuke, do you have Naruto's spare key to his apartment?" He suddenly looked straight in to her eyes giving her his full attention.
"Has something happened to Naruto?" He said seriously all sense of humour all but gone from the room.
"No! He's fine." She said exasperated. Did he have the same serious response when he thought that she was in danger? Or was this only reserved for Naruto. For the billionth time in her life Sakura wondered if Sasuke cared about her. And if so how much did he care?
"It's me who's in trouble. I've locked my keys inside my apartment and Naruto has my spare but he's away with Kakashi on a mission and I'm so tired I've been at work since before sunrise this morning and it's so hot and the air conditioning wasn't working and some boy who dislocated his shoulder whacked me in the head hard when I popped it back in and all I want to do is go home climb into my bathtub or my bottle of wine whichever comes first."
Wow. She had just opened the floodgates and everything had come pouring out without any sense of dignity or pride if she felt embarrassed before about walking in on a naked Sasuke she no longer cared. She realised she didn't care about anything anymore today she just wanted to sleep. She looked at Sasuke who was now leaning against the wall with his arms folded surveying the crazy woman in front of him.
Sasuke had learnt in the last two years more about the craziness of women than ever before in his life. He had stopped seeing them as annoying and inferior and had started to see them as they were – complex. Something so complex couldn't be inferior. Even the most complex jutsu couldn't be inferior just because of the person using it. Unfortunately he still had a long way to go before he really learned how to react to them. He'd only come as far as to not treat them like dirt. Well, to not treat the women that he actually interacted with like dirt. Naruto had told him to imagine how he would feel if someone was treating his mother the way he had treated women in the past. That really put it into perspective for him.
Sasuke looked at Sakura she seemed to radiate tiredness. Sakura hadn't remembered that Naruto hadn't given his spare key to Sasuke. He'd given it to Sakura. Naruto had Sasuke's spare not the other way around. Sasuke considered going to Naruto's busting down the door and finding her spare for her but he had a suspicion that he kept it with his keys which would be on his person miles and miles away from the village. This was really a problem. He didn't know what to do. He wasn't sure he wanted her staying here with him.
"Sakura, I don't have Naruto's spare key...you have it...in your apartment." He said carefully gauging her reaction as he went on. This caught Sakura's attention. How could she have been so stupid? How did she forget this? She checked her watch it was now 6pm the sun would start setting soon and she was nowhere near closer to getting into her apartment.
"Oh, silly me I knew that." She said and she really meant it. She tried not to let him see the sadness in her eyes as she stood from where she was sitting and smoothed out her skirt. She'd always like this skirt it clung to her body and really flattered her figure but now all she wanted to do was go home and take it off. Why hadn't she grabbed her damn keys on her way out all those hours ago? She was supposed to be one of the villages leading kunoichi and she couldn't even remember to grab her keys of a stupid hook.
"I suppose I'll just go and smash the window or something. Sorry to disturb you Sasuke." She said formally before she walked towards the door. He watched her leave and sat down on the edge of the bed that she'd just been sitting. He heard the door close with a defeated click. Sasuke had a perfectly good couch out in the next room. Why hadn't he just let her stay there? He knew it was because at the core of it he didn't want her there. It wasn't because he hated her it was just because he liked to be alone and Sakura had a way of not letting him be alone. He reclined backwards on the bed and felt a twitch in his stomach. With one hand he caressed it but it wasn't hunger it was almost like an upset stomach but it wasn't hurting him physically. He'd rarely ever felt this feeling but when he did it usually happened when Sakura was upset about something. He thought of Sakura pathetically smashing a window to her apartment, of how tired she'd be when she finally got into her little apartment. He knew Sakura wasn't like him. She didn't like to be alone yet for as long as he'd been back in the village she'd been alone. She was always working and when she wasn't working she was on a mission and when she wasn't out on a mission she was in her apartment. He'd often walk past her apartment on his way home and see her sitting in there alone reading, always reading. Maybe, he thought, in the books she read there was the romance that she wanted. She'd eventually learn that stories were never like real life.
Sasuke let his mind wander back to just twenty minutes ago when the same pink haired girl had been standing in his bathroom transfixed on his naked form looking him up and down with half lidded eyes. Sakura had made it clear over that last two years that she wasn't interested in him the way she had been when they were young. Sasuke had never really thought about pursuing any woman for anything apart for casual one night stands here and there. He didn't want to even think about having the responsibility of a whole other human to worry about on a deeper level than friendship. He was only really just getting the hang of that in the first place. Still, he couldn't help noticing the way Sakura looked. She had matured into quite a nice person to look at. Her hair framed her face nicely and she always had a nice shade of lipstick on when she worked at the hospital, he especially liked when she wore her hair up. On top of this she had filled out everywhere she should have, no longer was she flat and shapeless she was now had pert breasts and a round behind that he found himself staring at a lot when he shouldn't be. Sasuke even went as far to conclude that she always smelt nice too, like a mixture of forest berries wild yet sweet.
"What am I doing?" Sasuke sighed and grabbed the bridge of his nose in annoyance. He knew he'd have to go get her before she broke her window. It would cost more to get the window replaced then it would cost him in annoyance if she slept on his couch. He grabbed his keys placing them firmly in his pocket, pulled his shoes on and slammed the door a little too hard on his way out alarming his neighbour Mrs. Yamada's cat 'Pudding'.