Sakura sighs, staring down at yet another patient's file.
Ando leans backward on his chair, peering into her office. "Y'know, Sakura-san," he says. "I think it's time for you to go home."
She sets the file down on her cluttered desk, rubbing her eyes. "It's eleven PM," she reminds him. "It's best I just"—she yawns, and her neck clicks into place—"sleep in my office again."
"What?" Her secratory teases, "Scared of a little darkness?"
Sakura rolls her eyes. "I'm just lazy. You go home, Ando."
"Yeah, just wrapping up here. But, seriously, go. I'll hail cab for you if you're that lazy."
"I guess there's no way out." She glances about her office, at the bookshelf, her old hitai-ate nailed to the wall, decorative knick-knacks, and the red couch in the corner. "I guess it'll be nice to sleep on a bed instead of a couch. Fine, I'll walk."
Sakura doesn't clear out her desk or pick up a briefcase; her office is her second home. She'll come back the next day, anyway.
She walks out, bidding a farewell to her secratory, a white doctor's coat hung upon her shoulder.
She steps out of her office, a frown on her face. She's tired and annoyed; Kakashi has been stubborn about not giving her missions for a while now. The world is no longer at war, there aren't as many patients as there used to be. What's the problem with sending her away for a day or two?
And Tsunade-shishou? She's been traveling with Shizune for a few weeks now. Ino is too busy juggling her boyfriend and her new job at the intel wing. Hinata is enjoying her newlywed life. And Karin….
Sakura paused. Where was Karin? Last she heard was that she'd gone back with Orochimaru…
She's lost in her thoughts as she walks past the rapidly urbanising streets of Konoha, and doesn't notice where she's going till—
She knocks into something—someone, her Inner corrects her.
"Oh my gosh, I'm so—" She glances up.
Black hair. Emotionless eyes—one black, one lilac with concentric circles. Pale face. Angular cheekbones. Muscular stature. Male.
She blinks. "Sasuke?"
He stares down at her.
He is taller than before, towering over her with a mighty five-nine. He's dressed in a dark brown parka, head wrapped in a bandana. He watches her with his mismatched eyes, which glint with what looks like amusement.
She's suddenly self conscious of her tired posture, the last of her smudged eyeliner, the stains of blood on her coat and her disshiveled hair. She bites her lower lip. "Your pili seems to have grown."
This time, he's the one who blinks.
What the hell did I just say, she thinks, mentally smacking herself.
"I mean—I mean, hair." She flushes, darker than her own "pili". "Um… Err, pili is the scientific term for hair. Pili, plural; pillus, singular. The, uh, protein filament that grows from follicles found in the dermis."
Sasuke doesn't reply, instead tilting his head inquisitively.
"I—ugh. God, I'm so awk." She mumbles. "Lemme restart. Um, hey, Sasuke! How're you? Not seen you in a while. When did you come back to Konoha?"
Real smooth, Inner says, as she shakes her head in disappointment.
Sasuke doesn't laugh at her, thank God. "I came right now," he responds.
"Oh." She nods; that makes sense. "Where are you headed?"
"I had to meet the Hokage."
"Alright. Yeah, you should probably go. I'm headed home, from the, uh, hospital. Where I work. I'll just… I'll just go now."
He looks at her, not unkindly. "If you want," he says, after a beat, "I'll walk you home."
"Um, really?" she says, hoping she's no longer red, though the warmth doesn't seem to leave her face. "Don't you—don't you have to go to Kakashi?"
"It can wait," he returns.
Sakura tries not to blush again—or worse, spout some more scientific vocabulary—and so she quietly nods and falls into step.