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Such a Funny Way to Fall

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In the aftermath of the war and all of their losses, Tsunade named Sakura the Chief of Konoha’s hospital so that she can focus on newly and tentatively established foreign relations. Sakura is proud of the title, knowing the honor it is to be Tsunade’s successor in the medical profession. So, Sakura throws herself into her new task, setting about organizing and updating the hospital’s current system of patient information. More than that, her unique viewpoint as a first-generation shinobi offers her clarity in a number of aspects that most clan-born shinobi would never consider.

Mainly mental health care.

The current structure of mental health care for shinobi consists of visiting the Intelligence Division and letting a Yamanaka poke around in your mind in the aftermath of a particularly brutal mission.

That, Sakura knows, is not enough. She’s seen the symptoms in many of the older career shinobi and now they are manifesting within her generation, in all of those who shouldered the burden of war. Most ignore them, passing them off as shinobi quirks, but Sakura knows that there have been suicides in the past linked to these symptoms. She thinks of Kakashi, of his father, and wonders if all of that anguish and tragedy could have been prevented.

The civilians call it PTSD and Sakura will be damned before she lets anyone else slip through the cracks.

So, Sakura strides into the Intelligence Division on a mission. They are, after all, consistently the worst about their health, both physical and mental. She is going to make them come in for check-ups, even if she has to drag them all the way there.

A couple of shinobi stand to stop her but, taking a look at her face and her set expression, they leave her be.

Sakura makes her way downstairs, unfaltering even as the screams of the tortured get louder and louder. Sakura wonders, briefly, if those that work here are put-out by Tsunade-shishou’s political overtures towards peace. Somehow, she doubts it.

There are always rebellious souls to bleed of their secrets.

She goes deeper underground, unfazed by the chill that begins to emanate from the walls. Finally, when she reaches the lowest level, she strides out of the stairwell and heads toward the only other room on this floor. From the other side of it, Sakura can hear wet gurgling noises and she throws the door open, taking a cursory scan of the room before her gaze lands on the one person she’s been seeking out.

“Ibiki!” she barks, channeling all of her frustration. This is the voice that makes all of Team Seven stand to attention and watch her very, very carefully. “Outside now!”

He opens his mouth to respond, but snaps it shut at the quelling glare she directs his way.

Sakura turns and heads out the door, pleased that Ibiki does follow her. He is dressed as he usually is in his trench coat, though it shimmers with fresh blood. His gloved hands are covered in viscera that Sakura recognizes as bits of intestine. Ibiki fairly looms above her, glowering down at her over his crossed arms. With the gore he is coated in as well as his general physique, Sakura should, by all means, be intimidated.

Sakura, however, has punched a goddess in the face. Ibiki does not bother her in the slightest.

“What is the meaning of this?” Sakura hisses, shoving an envelope in his face. “Return to sender? I know you opened it and read the contents, asshole. All of T&I has been mandated to report to the hospital immediately. So why the hell haven’t you come? I gave you a week. Imagine my surprise when, as I asked Ino why none of your crew has come by, she knew nothing of the mandate?” Sakura glares up at him, wishing she could punch him in his smug face. Maybe she’ll challenge him to a spar after he receives his check up. Or maybe she could challenge him beforehand to force him to go to the hospital. “Of all the immature, childish techniques, this one just might be the lamest. Did you really think I would leave it alone because you chose to ignore the summons?” She laughs. “Think again buddy.”

“Would you shut up?” Ibiki asks, jaw set at a dangerous angle. “Damn, you’ve got a shrill voice, woman. If you haven’t noticed, we’re a bit busy here. There are a quite a few individuals and organizations displeased by the idea of international peace. Cuts in on the profits they earn in illegal trade. These types of threats are much more important than ones you seem to imagine we have.”

Sakura stares up at him steadily, crossing her arms. “Ibiki, you work in T&I; you know the damage that can be done to the mind. Hell, you’re often the one causing it to those you interrogate. This isn’t imagined and it will take root and take hold of your people unless you do something to prevent it.”

“Listen, we’ve got bigger, more pressing issues to deal with right now,” Ibiki says, some of the tension leaving his body. It leaves him looking drained, tired.

“When was the last time you slept?” Sakura asks.

Ibiki squints down at her. “What day is it?”

“You need to rest,” Sakura says. “You’ve apparently been at this for ages. Take some time to recuperate and try again.”

“No,” Ibiki says mulishly. “We’re close.”

Sakura peeks around him at the door. “Once you crack the guy in there, you’ll rest?”

“Sure, princess, whatever you like,” he says. He blinks, emphasizing the rings beneath them, and Sakura realizes that the nickname was not meant to slip out.

“If I crack him,” Sakura begins, “you’ll get a full night’s rest and bring your entire crew into the hospital for a check-up.”

“You?” Ibiki asks, looking her over. His lips twitch like he wants to laugh, but he manages to restrain himself. “Listen, I know you’re a war hero and all, but this is different—”

“Look, if I fail, I’ll stop harassing you about going to the hospital,” Sakura wagers, sweetening the pot. Tsunade-shishou has taught her all sorts of tips and tricks with gambling and Sakura, thankfully, did not inherit her mentor’s luck. “Do we have a deal?”

“What the hell, sure,” Ibiki says.

He steps back, giving a bit of flourish to the way he opens the door. Sakura’s lips quirk at that, charmed by the show of humor. She gets the feeling that the sleep deprivation makes him sloppy, showing off bits and bobs of his actual character.

Sakura steps inside, smile saccharine sweet as she pulls on her gloves. “Hello there,” she says to what is left of the man bound to the chair. “I will be your doctor this evening.”

In all, it takes her just shy of twelve minutes to get the man, someone in the middle tier of this whole black market operation, to sing her all the secrets he held. Her task done, Sakura moves to the industrial sink in the corner of the room and sets about cleaning herself up. As she moves, she is tailed by a hulking shadow.

“How did you do that?” Ibiki asks gruffly as she turns the faucet on. “We’ve tried everything in the book, even got a bit creative, but that…” He trails off, looking dazed.

“There’s a reason that enemy shinobi always target medic-nin first,” Sakura replies. “And it’s only partially because they can revive their teammates. Any medic-nin worth their salt can do something similar. After all, we know the human body intimately; we know what it takes to break a person. Really, did you learn nothing about how dangerous medic-nin are from Kabuto?”

“I…I mean…damn princess,” Ibiki says, deep voice going even deeper in appreciation. Sakura’s toes tingle with the force of it, but she just sets about scrubbing her hands harder. “That was—that was something else.”

Sakura smirks, drying her hands. “Well, a deal is a deal,” she says, grinning up at Ibiki with triumph. “I will see you and the rest of T&I in my office three days from now at noon. Am I understood?” He nods, mouth dry. “Good!” Sakura presses up onto her tiptoes and pats Ibiki’s cheek. Even then, she can just barely reach. “I’ll see you then!”

Sakura sails out of the room, buoyant with her success.

Ibiki, on the other hand, stays where he is, removing a glove to press his fingertips against his cheek where Sakura’s hand just was.

It’s uncommonly warm.

He hears the slightest of snickers and turns to his assistants, glaring death their way. “Finish up here!” he barks, striding toward the door. “And clean up this mess.”

Ibiki exits the room, sorting his priorities as he fairly bounds up the stairs. First things first, he needs to sleep, probably crash for a day. And then?

Well, he’s going to see Sakura, long before their scheduled appointment.

Ibiki cackles, grin wild and mad as he begins to plan.