AN: So this...was probably not what you were expecting, Jayuki. I tried my best T___T
I'll probably continue this when I have some time later.
Prompt taken from r-evolve-art's master list of soulmate AU prompts on tumblr: [the person] tastes the things that their soulmate is eating/drinking
It's about a year after Team 7 disbands that Sakura starts tasting things. Not that she has anything against food in general; it's just uncomfortable and slightly surreal whenever she tastes instant ramen, or grilled saury and miso with rice, when she's eating arugula salad for lunch, or chalky ration bars and soldier pills whenever she's not eating. Still, it's a good thing that she's sworn off the salad-only diet that she's been on since she was nine, because then she would have been pissed.
"It's a soulmate thing," her primary care doctor says when Sakura goes in for a check-up. He looks at the expression on her face and sighs. "It's just a phase," Kumohara-sensei tells her, pinching his nose. "Your body's adjusting to the mental and physical links between your soulmate and itself." He eyes her speculatively. "Have you been experiencing any kind of stress recently?"
Sakura shrugs. "I've just been training with Tsunade-sama and shadowing Shizune-senpai," she says. "But I can handle it."
"Do you have anyone to talk to when you're stressed?" Kumohara-sensei asks, jotting down a few notes in Sakura’s file.
"Well, there's Kaa-san, I guess..." Sakura trails off. Tsunade-sama is a good mentor and an accommodating superior despite all of her grumbling, but Sakura doesn't think she's comfortable enough to talk to Tsunade about her personal problems. Shizune-senpai isn't exactly someone Sakura would confide in, even if the older girl hasn't been anything but friendly towards her. Sakura isn't particularly close to any of her graduating cohort either. And Ino was definitely out of the question, for obvious reasons. Naruto's probably the one to whom she can freely talk to without any qualms, but Naruto's gone, as is Kakashi-sensei and their wayward teammate.
"I see. And how long have you been without a team?"
"Fifteen months, three days, eight hours and—" She cuts herself off.
Kumohara-sensei just gives her a wry look.
"My advice," he says, scribbling something down on a piece of paper, "is to talk to a few people. Another one of my patients with the same symptoms is around your age. Maybe you should talk to her." He tears off a neat little square and hands it to her.
"Isn't this a violation of doctor-patient confidentiality?" Sakura asks skeptically, still pocketing the slip of paper.
Kumohara-sensei rolls his eyes.
"Whatever. I wouldn't be surprised if you knew her better than I do. Now scram: there's a line outside the door and I haven't got all day."
When she's outside the hospital, she takes out the note from her pocket.
Yamanaka Ino , Kumohara-sensei has scrawled across the paper.
Well, shit .
"What are you doing here?" is Ino's response when she opens the front door of Yamanaka Flowers to see Sakura standing in front of her doorstep. They hadn't exactly parted on the best of terms and while they aren't enemies anymore, they haven't managed more than a stilted exchange of greetings on the street.
Sakura grimaces. "Kumohara-sensei sent me over to talk to you," she grits out. Ino just looks at her, confused, before her eyes widen with realization.
"…Oh," is all Ino says.
There's an uncomfortable moment of silence before Ino sighs. "Well, come on in, Forehead. We have a lot to talk about anyway. Might as well get this all over with."
Ino's bedroom is exactly how Sakura remembers it, but less frilly. Ino has taken down the few pictures of Sasuke that used to be taped to the full-length mirror and replaced them with photos of Team 8. Ino and Chouji's faces occupy most of the pictures, but Asuma-sensei and Shikamaru can still be seen in the background playing shoji.
Sakura hastily looks away, but she can tell that Ino's clearly noticed.
Ino coughs. "So," she says. "How have you been doing, Sakura?" It's a feeble attempt at making conversation and both of them know it, but how else is one supposed to address a former friend/frenemy/rival?
"It's been fine," Sakura says, and then, tired of going through this whole charade with Ino, who was supposed to be the person who knows her best in the entire world, bursts out: "Actually no, it's been terrible. Naruto's gone training with Jiraiya and Kakashi-sensei's back to doing whatever he does when he wasn't teaching us full-time and Sas—that person is gone god-knows-where and now I keep on tasting things that aren't in my meals and I feel food going down my throat even when I'm not eating. Ino, I don't even like spicy seafood ramen."
"Hey, hey," Ino says. "Calm down." She puts her arms around Sakura and Sakura belatedly realizes that she's shaking like a leaf, hands trembling and teeth chattering. "There, there," Ino's voice soothes, "It's okay. I'm here for you. It'll be alright, Sakura," and Sakura finally breaks down sobbing.
She clutches Ino tightly like a drowning woman holding onto a lifesaver, and Ino lets her.
"So," Ino prompts. "What has your soulmate been eating recently?"
Sakura wrinkles her nose. "Some kind of muddy biscuit," she eventually says. "They've been eating it for days. It's kind of gross and tastes a little like cardboard and dirt. Kind of like a soldier pill, except I've had one before and it doesn't taste the same."
Ino's eyes light up. "Hold on," she says, and runs out of the room. She comes back with a small fanny pack. "It's Daddy's," she says in response to Sakura's raised brow, and rummages through Inoichi's pack. She unzips a few compartments and dismisses their contents (mostly medical gauze and cloth bandages to wrap around hands and joints) before she pulls out a small paper envelope. She opens the flap and shakes out three round pills into her palm.
"Aren't these also soldier pills?" Sakura asks, poking at a pill.
"Yeah, but they're the special kind that they give out to Anbu. Daddy told me not to eat these, but it might help if you just scrape off a little bit. You know, just so you can see if this is what you've been tasting for the past week." Ino says. She narrows her eyes at Sakura. "Or are you too scared to try?"
"Of course not, Pig," Sakura snaps. She takes a pill and gingerly scrapes it with a fingernail before handing it back to Ino. She pops her finger into her mouth.
"Well?" Ino says, watching Sakura's face anxiously.
"…Blargh. It's this, all right," Sakura makes a face. "It tastes worse in reality. Can't they add something to it to make it taste better?"
Ino just shrugs and tucks the medicine back into the pack. "Well, now you know for sure that they're on active duty," she says. "I mean, look at my soulmate. How am I supposed to tell who they are and what they do for a living if all I can taste is spare ribs and blood?"
"They don't eat anything else?"
"Nope. Just spare ribs. And blood, apparently." Ino shudders and makes a face. "It's disgusting. What if he's one of those weird monsters whose head flies around looking for blood to suck? What are they called again? Nukekubi?"
"It could be a bloodline limit," Sakura points out and when Ino pales, tries to reassure her. "Or they could just really like raw meat. Like Kiba. Doesn't he just scarf it down raw all the time when we go out to get Korean barbecue?"
"Forehead, are you saying that my soulmate is Inuzuka KIBA?! GROSS. TAKE THAT BACK!" Ino shrieks and launches a pillow at Sakura. Sakura ducks the first one but the second pillow smacks her right in the face.
"HA!" Ino crows with laughter, and Sakura scowls.
"Oh, you are so going to pay for this, pig," she growls without any real heat. Ino, giggling, just lobs her stuffed toy pig at her, and Sakura returns with a volley of throw pillows she takes from the loveseat near the window.
She ends up being late to training, which earns her a stern warning from Tsunade-sama. Still, Sakura reflects as she narrowly dodges a boulder, it's nice to have Ino back.
Ino's earlier suspicion is probably correct: Sakura's soulmate is definitely an shinobi on active duty. Most likely special ops.
"They must be pretty good at what they do if they're always being sent out on long missions," Ino says, pouring over Sakura's journal. Out of curiosity, but mostly out of boredom, they've decided to keep a log of the different foods their respective soulmates consume. "I mean, look at the amount of soldier pills and ration bars they're eating in two weeks ! It's inhuman . Most people burn out after three days . I'm pretty sure that even Anbu restricts soldier pill usage to no more than five days max, but I'll have to check with Daddy."
"Everything tastes like soldier pills now," Sakura sighs, flopping back on Ino's pillows. Her soulmate seems to be on missions most of the time. The gritty medicinal texture of soldier pills stays on her tongue for days, even after she scrubs it hard with her toothbrush.
"Hey, you don't get to complain," Ino snaps. "You're not the one who throws up every time she even smells meat." Ino's soulmate still insists on spare ribs and the occasional blood. At least Sakura's soulmate eats the occasional ramen and miso and rice. They seem to have a particular fixation for grilled saury and egglant, though.
"Hey, but at least we've proved that your soulmate's not a nukenubi or a degenerate caveman. Look, they're civilized," and Sakura riffles through the pages. "They ate sukiyaki on the 23rd and uh, waffles on the 26th?" Sakura squints at Ino's handwriting. "And chocolate ice cream? Man, I wish my soulmate ate some ice cream."
" Bloody chocolate ice cream," Ino corrects. "Don't sugarcoat things, Forehead." She drops her face down into the throw pillow that she's holding. "Why do you have to ruin chocolate ice cream, of all things?" Ino's muffled voice wails. "Fuck you, soulmate."
Sakura just pats Ino's soft blonde hair comfortingly. "At least you won't be tempted to binge-eat that pint in the fridge during Friday movie night," she points out.
"Shut up, Sakura."