Before I get started, sorry for the delay. But I DID get to it! Eventually.
Aw, you guys are awesome! It's good to be back. I know all moms say this, but my kid's a cutie. But back to the reason you guys are here! I have to say, seventy-seven chapters and having pretty much all positive reviews from start to now makes me feel really good. Thanks for sticking with me. It's encouraging!
A loud thwack from the floor above made Kakashi lift his eyes to the ceiling of his apartment. A few thudding footsteps followed after before he shook his head and returned to reading his book. He shifted on his couch to get a little more comfortable. He wore his usual mask over his face. It was dubbed his 'burglar mask' by his closest friend. He groaned as his left eye began to ache. He reached up to rub his eye.
"Don't you dare." Snapped the female in his kitchen busy cooking for him. He sighed and rolled his eyes at her good naturedly. "It will only make the ache worse."
"Oh shut it, Kashi." The brunette turned and served up the fried rice onto the plates beside the stovetop. "You know that if I don't take care of you, no one will."
"Mmhm. And being a thirty six year old man means nothing to you either, Rin." Kakashi drawled, looking away from her slightly frustrated. "Just because Obito—"
"All done!" Rin piped up, purposefully talking over him.
"You know…someday you're going to have to talk about him."
"And that day is not today." Rin sighed, keeping her back to Kakashi. "How did last night go, in any case?"
"…boring. Well, besides one instance. Otherwise…boring."
"What happened?" Rin turned around, looking at him curiously.
"Nothing too important. You're late." He pointed to the clock behind her.
Rin glanced back and cursed. "Eat up before it gets cold! Do you need me to make you dinner tonight?"
"Again…thirty six years old…"
"Okay, okay! I'll see you tomorrow then!"
He watched as she threw the apron onto the chair and ran for her shoes. She darted out the door with a quick goodbye. Kakashi breathed a slow breath of relief. Rin was his closest friend. He knew she meant well, but damnit…could she be bossy as hell. Standing up, he crossed to the kitchen and stared at the food she'd made. It wasn't that she was a bad cook or anything, he just grew tired of her doing this. All. The. Time. Every time he tried to tell her to stop, she ignored his protests. She also ignored the blatant elephant in the room as well. He sat down and started to eat slowly.
"Hey man! How'd the party—?"
"Nothing worth noting. And no, I didn't score." Kakashi cut Genma off before he could ask the next question. He sank into the booth across from his friend and former college classmate. They'd attended the same classes for a similar major back in the day. Where Genma actually pursued his choice of study, Kakashi had taken a different route. Although, yes, there was a time he wanted to be a teacher. Hell, he'd even done a few years substituting. But his family business needed him more. So, like the ever good son who strived to take up where his father fell short, he took over Hatake Corp.
Genma frowned, shaking his head. "You really have no idea how to live, do you?"
"On the contrary, I live quite well. I just choose not to blow every dime I make frivolously."
The brunette man rolled his eyes. "You know what I really meant."
"And I'm purposefully ignoring it."
"Noted. Disregarded completely. You and Rin aren't a thing, so what's stopping you from at least finding a girl?"
Kakashi looked away. This line of conversation was always uncomfortable. No. Rin and he were not in any way romantic. Although Rin desired more from him, he simply could never give it. He never saw her as anything other than a friend; a sister even. But what really kept him sheltered from the idea was the ever present reminder that he failed his closest friend. He wasn't there to help him when he needed it and in the end…Obito was ripped from their world. It was disgustingly unfair.
"I really hate it when you shut down like that." Genma half sighed, half growled before taking a deep swig of coffee.
"I don't have need for a 'girl' in my life."
"No, but you sure as hell need a good lay."
Kakashi frowned and grabbed the coffee carafe on the table and turned the mug over that was in front of him. As he poured the hot liquid, he mused aloud. "Maybe I do…"
Sakura turned at the cry from one of the nurses. She began to walk back toward the girl to meet her halfway. "What it is, Michi-san?"
"Tsunade-sama said you were needed in her office stat."
Sakura frowned but nodded and headed toward her mentor's office quickly. The hallways wound around until she moved up to the large door on one of the higher floors. Stepping into the office, she was met with the back of her mentor. The blonde woman stood before the large window, staring out at weather that was quickly becoming rather bleak. Sakura took in the appearance of the most famous doctor of Konoha and, hell, even the world. A bottle of sake sat open on the paper covered desk with a small shot glass next to it. That…didn't bode well.
"Take a seat."
Sakura nearly jumped at the sudden sound of Tsunade's voice in the office. She obeyed and sat in the seat that sat before the large desk. "You…wanted to see me?"
"In all my years teaching and bringing up young interns into doctors, there are only two in existence that I have ever considered truly worth my time."
Sakura swallowed the lump forming in her throat. Was she about to be…dismissed? Was this over what happened with the Uchiha last night? Was he forcing the hospital's hand? Was this a really bad nightmare she had to force herself to wake up from?
Tsunade continued, unaware of the inner turmoil storming inside Sakura's mind. "To be honest, I feel more like a surrogate mother more often than a teacher. So when I see my precious pupils suffering, I take it personally. Which is why I really don't want to do this to you, Sakura. But my hands are tied."
Tears began to sting Sakura's eyes. Tsunade turned around and looked at her seriously. Sakura burst. "Please don't dismiss me, Tsunade-shishou! I-I really don't know what else to do with my life! I've already poured so much of my life into this profession!"
Tsunade looked at Sakura as though she'd grown a second head. "What are you going on about, girl?"
Sakura blinked through tears and felt confusion overtake her. "A-aren't you…dismissing me?"
"Where did you get that ridiculous notion!? Stupid girl! Of course not! Shizune and you are the only girls I've ever kept around longer than a month of internship! The rest were not acceptable! I'm giving you an assignment as an intern!"
Shoving her blonde bangs from her eyes, Tsunade flopped into her own large chair behind her desk. "No. I'm not dismissing you. Although you may wish I had…"
Sakura sat up straighter. "What is it?"
"…Uchiha Ichiro has fallen ill. As I'm sure you know, he was born prematurely and with health complications. This particular complication…has him desperately ill. I tried to assign Shizune to it, but the Uchiha demanded I put you in there instead. I even said you were still an intern and it was highly unprofessional…you were still demanded." Tsunade must have read the look on Sakura's face as she held up her hand. "Not that I doubt your skills, Sakura. In fact, were it any other child…I would be fighting to get you on the case. It's because it is Sasuke's little boy that I fought to get you out of the situation. But…because they fund the hospital…"
Sakura growled and sighed her next words in disgust. "They tied your hands."
The blonde woman nodded, mirroring Sakura's look of disgust. "Do what you can for the little boy. I'm certain you'll succeed where some of his home nurses failed miserably. Funding or not…if that cheeky little shit pulls anything with you, I'll make sure I remove you from the situation even if I come under fire for it. Nobody screws with my surrogate daughters and gets away with it."
Sakura smiled despite herself. "Hai, Shishou."
Her. Feet. Hurt.
Due to the fact that her rounds would be changing the next day, Sakura had to run around finishing up with her usual rounds and patients she dealt with like a chicken with its head cut off. Needless to say, when she fell into the elevator, she was more than happy to see the dingy metallic box. She hated to touch the sides, but tonight? She didn't give a damn as she leaned heavily on the side wall as it made its ascent to the correct floor. She fumbled out of the elevator and trudged to her door. She rounded the corner of the hallway and drew up short. Her eyes narrowed as she honed in on the bouquet resting against her door. Sakura approached and stooped. She plucked the card up first and flipped it open. The script was scrawled in meticulous handwriting.
I miss you.
Four words. How could four simple words feel like physical knife wounds? Shaking, Sakura looked around before she quickly ducked into her apartment, leaving the bouquet. She'd never told him where she moved. She'd purposefully made sure any others didn't either. She crushed the note in her hand and threw it on the counter as she rummaged for her matches. She lit a match and held the note over the flame over her kitchen sink. Her heart clenched painfully. Then she tilted her head back and laughed bitterly.
"Who was I kidding? Of course he'd find where I live. He's a fucking Uchiha!"
The only others that had been nearly as powerful as the Uchiha were the Senju. But they'd mostly died off. Several in questionable accidents. Once the words were effectively ash, she ran the sink over the flame to keep her fire alarm from blaring. Leaning heavily on her sink, she hung her head. She looked up at her cabinet next to the fridge. She moved to throw it open and growled. Her booze were all out. Grabbing her wallet and cramming her shoes back on, Sakura kicked the bouquet into the hallway and out of her way. She locked her door and went to the fire escape stairs access door. She jogged down the floors and then out the door of the apartment building.
The bus ride to the liquor store was uneventful. She stepped into the brightly lit store and moved directly for the heavy stuff. She scoured the labels and prices. Finally settling on a couple bottles, she paid for them and moved to the door. She reached for the door handle at the same time another person did. Her hand moved back as she looked to her left. The owner of the other hand was a beautiful brunette woman. They both looked at each other studiously. Sakura noted the woman's bloodshot and red-rimmed eyes. She knew she didn't look much better. In that moment, she felt a kindred connection to the woman that made little sense.
"Sorry, you go ahead." Sakura stated. The woman smiled and opened the door.
"Here, why don't I hold it while you walk through?"
Sakura hated the stupid back and forth arguments of polite etiquette when it came to who goes first, hangs up first, etc. She smiled and bowed slightly before stepping through. The woman followed her out. They both began to walk, coincidentally, in the same direction. Sakura stopped under the bus-stop stoop and noted that the woman did too. They kept looking at each other until finally the woman turned to Sakura, holding her hand out.
"Nohara Rin." She introduced herself. Sakura reached out and shook her hand.
They turned away from each other for a few minutes. The sky apparently decided it was the perfect time to open up and begin to dump. Sakura huddled deeper under the cover to make more room for Rin. Rin flashed her a brief grateful smile as she moved a little further in. Silence punctuated the air for a bit.
"I hate awkward silences." Rin commented with a soft chuckle.
Sakura snorted and nodded with a smirk. "They really suck."
"It's my…ex-fiancé's anniversary of death." Rin sighed, shifting to stare out at the rain dismally. Sakura's heart clenched in sympathy. "So why are you puffy eyed from crying while buying booze too?"
Sakura blinked before she chuckled with little humor. "My ex-boyfriend, he had a kid with the woman he cheated on me with…and is bringing his little boy to me to treat at the hospital."
Rin made a face and shook her head. "That's severely messed up."
"Definitely is." Sakura agreed with a bone-weary sigh. The bus pulled up then. They both stepped on and paid their fare. Finding seats by each other, they watched as the scenery passed. It wasn't a long bus ride before the large vehicle stopped a block from her apartment building. She stood and was a little surprised when Rin did too. They made their way off the bus and turned in the same direction.
"You live this way?" Rin asked finally.
Sakura nodded. "Yeah. Hibari Apartments."
"That's where I'm headed." Rin stated and smiled. "My friend lives there. Though…" her face fell, "I'm sure he'd rather be alone tonight. He hates sharing memories and time with others on Obito's death anniversary. I…probably shouldn't go there tonight."
Sakura slowed as they reached the building. "…what are you going to do then?"
"…I…guess I could go home." Rin sighed and shrugged sadly.
"You already came all this way. You know what? I could definitely use a drinking partner tonight."
Rin looked at Sakura before shifting with a sheepish look. "Are you sure? I mean…I'm still just a stranger to you."
"Better than drinking alone in a bar." Sakura shrugged.
"So…true." Rin agreed and smiled. "All right. Thank you, Sakura."
Laughter rang out as both women sat on opposing ends of the couch with booze in hand. Their woes were momentarily forgotten in the haze of alcohol as they told ridiculous stories of friends over the years. It was strange how only an hour or two with the older woman made Sakura feel like she'd known her forever. Their laughter faded off into a few chuckles while sipping at their drinks. Rin sighed and shook her head.
"This day for years has always been such a dismal, depressing day. It's…it's nice to have a change for once."
Sakura nodded, sympathizing with the woman. "I'm sure your fiancé wouldn't want you torn up like that every year."
Rin swirled her drink, staring thoughtfully into it. "You're right. Obito wouldn't have stood for it. But it's…it's all I knew. I couldn't drag Kashi out of it and I guess I just continue to sink back into that pit of sadness when he does."
Something about the name 'Obito' rang a bell in Sakura's alcohol buzzed brain. However, she couldn't think past the pleasant thrum of the toxin racing through her blood. Brushing the thought aside, she refocused on the brunette. She held her glass up with a grin. "I didn't know the guy, but here's to Obito!"
Rin blinked at Sakura for a moment before smiling warmly and raising her glass as well. As they clinked their glasses together, she nodded while adding, "To Obito."
Taking a long swig, Sakura winced as the rest of her glass burned down her throat. Rin mirrored the look and then burst into giggles that Sakura soon joined in with.
"And to stupid men who shouldn't have the right to get it up!" Rin threw out there making Sakura's giggles double into full out raucous laughter.
"Hallelujah!" Sakura held her empty glass up in the air in silent salute.
Kakashi dragged himself through his front door. His feet stumbled and caught on several offensive items. He glared deadly daggers at them as he finally managed to shut and lock his door. The scent of beer rolled off of him like a pungent cologne. Disgusted at his own smell, he began to peel off his clothing as he made his way across his apartment to the bedroom. He hated beer. It reminded him of piss. But it was the poison of choice on this fateful day every year. Why? Because. Obito loved the horrific tasting, smelling, and feeling alcohol. He wasn't even much of a drinker the rest of the year. Only on this one night of the year. He glanced at his clock and cursed. Rin, for the last twelve years always came to see him. He knew that. Yet somehow he'd let himself lose track of time at the bar tonight. He'd stopped in, wanting to change up his wallowing in self-pity and loathing for a change. Go figure he'd fuck up another part of his life by trying to change one little piece. He groaned and cradled his head as he trudged out to the phone. As he suspected, there was a red glowing light shining on his answering machine. He pushed the button and sighed as the very voice he suspected came over the line.
"Hey Kashi…I know I missed you tonight. I'm really sorry. I…I really was going to stop by. But I just felt like you wanted your peace and quiet. I also forgot about cooking you dinner tonight. I hope you're not starving. I ended up having a drink with a friend. I'll swing by and see you tomorrow, okay? Again…I'm sorry…"
Kakashi frowned. Rin was having drinks with a friend? It wasn't that he was upset, quite the opposite really. He was just curious as to who this friend was? She really didn't have many besides him. It was nice to hear that she'd finally made another one. With a small smile he trudged back to his room and flopped out on the bedding face first.
~One Week Later~
The pink haired woman paused in her steps while reading the charts in her hands. She turned with a raised brow as the busty blonde woman who she practiced medicine under came down the hall after her.
"Follow me." Tsunade cruised past Sakura knowing the younger woman would follow. It wasn't until the door to Tsunade's office was shut soundly that the woman spoke again. The older female growled and slammed her hands down on her desk hard enough to send two stacks of neatly organized papers flying around the space. Sakura cringed in sympathy for Shizune-senpai who had actually been the one to organize and prepare all the reports for their shishou.
"Of all the cheeky little—" Tsunade finally composed herself enough to breathe without grinding her teeth. Pinching her brow with one hand and the other arm crossing over her chest, Tsunade blew out a slow breath. "You've been demanded at the Uchiha residence. Ichiro is 'to be tended to upon Uchiha grounds alone'. Apparently the damned hospital is 'too much a risk' to poor Little Shit Jr.'s health!"
Sakura, oddly enough, almost giggled at the way Tsunade referred to Sasuke's offspring. But that wasn't exactly unexpected. She sighed as she regrouped her thoughts. "In other words, Sasuke isn't able to keep a close enough eye on me here without being interrupted?"
"Your hands are tied, shishou. I understand that."
"Doesn't mean I have to fucking like it!"
Sakura started. Tsunade rarely, if ever, used the f-bomb. She opened her mouth to say more only to have the angry woman continue.
"It's not like I don't have enough medics to send! Why take one of my two brightest and best, damnit?! How are you supposed to finish your internship if you keep having to play nurse for some rich little bastard?!"
Sakura moved forward and touched her shishou's hand quickly. "Tsunade-sama…walls can have ears."
Tsunade frowned. With a huff she yanked her hand out from Sakura's. "Yes, yes, I know! I just…gah! I hate this kind of politics! I'm a bloody doctor! Not a friggin' Madame!"
Sakura knew Tsunade didn't mean to indirectly call her a whore. She shook her head. "Well, the sooner I can get Ichiro up to 'prime health', the sooner we can be done with this nonsense."
"Should I head over now or…?"
"Now would be the best. Again, the sooner the better."
"Hai, shishou." Sakura bowed and left the room. As she walked to clock out, the idea of billing Sasuke for her time lost and pay lost to do this made her smirk.
The jaunt to the Uchiha complex took around twenty minutes. Sakura managed to get herself into some semblance of calm before approaching the front gate. She buzzed the guard and informed him of who she was and her purpose. It wasn't long before she was being escorted via a stupid golf cart to her destination. The lavish properties that unfolded around the central building were ridiculous. She hated this place. The only one that didn't bother her was the one house off to the side, tucked back a little ways. It was the least gaudy of the Uchiha grounds. It also housed the most prominent heir to the Uchiha fortune, Itachi. So ironic that the most well-known heir and sought after bachelor was the one with the least ridiculous home. Sasuke's older brother had always been a quiet, simple kind of man with the intelligence that rivaled the very foundation of knowledge itself. He'd always been particularly kind to her.
As the golf cart came to a halt, Sakura wasn't exactly thrilled by the sneers of some of the servants in her direction. She was very tempted to tell them she didn't really want to be there either. Instead, she squared her shoulders and marched into the home without waiting to be let inside. She knew her way around this place unfortunately. She reached the door she was pretty sure would be the little boy's room when she heard a low, somehow familiar voice.
"And then we do what with the remainder?"
A small pause came before the hesitant voice answered. "Place it up here?"
"How come you wear a mask?"
"Ah…because I like to play hide and seek."
Sakura smiled at that. It was kind of cute in a way.
"Yes. Now no more distractions. Next set."
Sakura reached for the door when a hand grabbed hers. She turned quickly. Dark eyes met green and Sakura felt her blood chill. Sasuke looked at her in a way that made her feel like she needed to run away. He released her and motioned down the hallway.
"I'm here for Ichiro's health, Sasuke. Not you."
Sasuke, apparently thinking she was going to follow like any good little groveling girl, paused and looked at her. "He's fine today."
"…then I guess I'm not needed." She ground out.
Sasuke sighed and turned fully to face her. "You realize you're on my property?'
"Really?!" Sakura fake gasped. She took note of the fact she couldn't hear voices inside the room anymore. "I hadn't noticed! Oh, are you going to kick me off for being defiant? Is it really my lucky day?"
"Don't mock me. I can have your job—"
"Ripped out from under me in a second? I know. It's the only reason I even bother coming here. But don't mistake that with desperation. You aren't the only family in Konoha with power."
Sasuke opened his mouth to respond when the door opened next to Sakura. Ichiro stepped out and blinked up at Sakura.
"Sakura-san? Did you come to check my throat and cough again?"
As much as she hated it, a piece of her melted at the sight of the small boy. How could she hate him? It wasn't his fault he came about the way he did. It hurt to look at him, sure. But it would hurt her more to break this little child's heart by being cruel. She smiled and nodded.
"I did. How is the cough doing?"
"Better. I haven't had a night time problem since you helped me in the hospital. Just when I run or get too excited." Ichiro stated, smiling broadly back at Sakura.
"Did you finish your studies?" Sasuke butt in rather sharply. The smile faded quickly and was replaced by trepidation as Ichiro snapped his little body into attention.
"Then finish your studies for the day. How is he doing, Kakashi?"
Sakura finally took note of the other male presence and stifled her noise of surprise. The silver-haired man walked lazily toward the door with hands tucked into his pockets. His lone eye that was uncovered seemed disinterested in everything around him. It was the same man from the party.
"His basic math is doing well. His English could use some practice. Literary skills are above average. Historical facts are a work in progress. His science understanding is growing. All in all, he's doing above what's normally expected of a three year old."
"Until all of his subjects are above average, he's not doing well enough." Sasuke stated coolly. Kakashi's one brow raised but the man wisely kept his mouth shut.
Sasuke's gaze slid to her. "…and?"
Sakura stared at Sasuke incredulously. "He's. Three. Years. Old! Barely at that! You can't expect him to be doing mathematics, science, literature, history, and english flawlessly! In fact, you shouldn't be pushing him like this!"
"I wouldn't expect you to understand the pressures of being a genius, Sakura." Sasuke sighed as though tired of her.
Sakura's fists clenched at her sides. She felt her blood boiling. Not only was he pushing the poor child too far, but he was insulting her like that as well? Trembling with barely restrained anger, she couldn't have been more relieved to see the elder Uchiha enter the hallway. If Itachi noticed the strain or tense air, he made no sign of it.
"Sasuke, father wants to see us for a business meeting now." Itachi stated calmly. Sasuke turned and nodded, waving his hand dismissively.
"All right. I'm on the way. Kakashi, once finished, I'll have your pay readied for you by the front gate. Sakura, make sure you do a decent examination on Ichiro." With that, the younger Uchiha walked past Itachi and disappeared down the hallway. Itachi turned and looked at Sakura before the barest hint of a smile touched his handsome face.
"Thank you for your care of Ichiro-kun, Sakura-san."
"You are welcome, Itachi-san."
His smile turned slightly into a smirk before disappearing as he nodded to Kakashi and left as well. Sakura turned to the light haired man while blowing out a long suffering sigh. His eye was glimmering with amusement.
"Your face almost made your hair look ashamed." He mused before stepping into the room.
Sakura felt her face heat again but this time out of embarrassment. Taking a deep breath and stealing herself, she walked into the room as well. This was going to be an interesting day…