“That I never wanted something from him.”
His smile was slightly pained, but there was such hope in his expression, that she blinked. “It doesn’t matter now. So Sasuke needs me, does he?”
“He won’t admit it.”
“Then I suppose I’ll just have to beat it out of him.”
Laughter burbled in her chest. “He is still on house arrest. He can’t train yet.”
“The day I can’t get around some old fogies to spar with my best friend is the day I kiss the old hag.”
Sakura snorted at that mental image. “You’re one of those old fogies now, Mr. ANBU.”
He stuck his tongue out and went back to his ramen. Sakura went back to her own noodles, her appetite revived. Naruto hadn’t mocked her, hadn’t told her that yes, she had to love Sasuke. Ino certainly had. There was a sort of understanding in his face that warmed her as she finished her meal.
It was good to have him home.
Sakura waved to the blond bouncing impatiently on her heels. Ino was looking impatient and she couldn’t blame her. She was running behind this afternoon.
“Ino! I’m sorry I’m so late; the medical examinations took so much longer than I thought they would.” She apologized as she stepped up next to her friend.
Ino lifted a brow as she turned, her expression amused. “One of these days you are going to have to learn how to tell Tsunade no, you know.”
“I know,” Sakura said sheepishly as the girls walked into their favorite tempura restaurant. “But it’s only for another two weeks and then things will be slowing down a little.” ‘Or at least that’s what I am hoping. I’m going to have to take a mission to get some rest if it doesn’t.’
“I’m surprised they even let you out of that dungeon for lunch with me,” Ino teased.
“It’s not that bad,” Sakura scolded. “It’s just… busy.”
Ino snorted, but said nothing else as the waiter appeared to take their orders. They hurriedly scanned the menu.
“Shikamaru said that Naruto was back in town.”
“He came by the other night,” Sakura agreed, sipping her cold tea with a sigh. It was getting so hot already. This summer was going to be miserable. “I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to him since then. I think he left this morning to go on another mission. I’m not sure.”
“Shikimaru didn’t mention him going on a mission. He did say that Naruto was taking a lighter load of missions.” Ino stared at her. “Do you know anything about that?”
“We talked about some things,” Sakura admitted. “It was mostly me doing the talking, but I was under the impression that he would be slowing down a little. Naruto is just the type that he has to have something to focus all his energy on at one time or he starts to get antsy.”
“I don’t think that’s it,” Ino mused, leaning back with a thoughtful look on her face. “Did you explain to him what was going on with you and Sasuke.”
“Nothing is going on with me and Sasuke,” Sakura pointed out, rolling her eyes.
Sakura frowned at her friend. “I don’t understand what you are trying to say.”
Ino waved her hand. “Don’t worry about it. It’s not that big of a deal.”
Sakura shrugged. “Okay. Did Shikimaru say when he thought the council would let Sasuke out of his house arrest?”
Ino gave her a weird look. “I would have thought you would know before Shikimaru with Tsunade.”
Sakura shook her head. “She is doing her best not to compromise her position by giving me information that the council would disapprove of. I’m doing my best to pretend I’m not interested.”
Ino shook her head in amusement. “No, Shikimaru hasn’t said anything, but I haven’t asked either. I can ask him if you want?”
“That’s okay,” Sakura said. “I’m sure Naruto will fish the information out eventually.”
Ino nodded. “So, speaking of Sasuke, now that you’re over him and everything, have you been thinking about dating anyone else?”
Sakura swallowed her tea wrong and ended up coughing. “What?”
“It’s a perfectly natural question, forehead girl,” Ino said in exasperation. “You don’t want Sasuke anymore, so what do you want? I don’t think Lee has given up on you yet…”
Sakura sighed. “No, he hasn’t.”
“I’m sensing a ‘but’ here.”