I shouldn’t have been surprised when he walked into the hospital later that same afternoon, his arm bleeding profusely, a typical smile of sheepishness on his face. I was tempted to duck behind my current patient’s wheelchair, but then I’d look and feel like a complete moron. Instead, I headed quickly to the hallway, pushing the wheelchair, hoping desperately that he’d somehow miss me.
It was the hair. The pinkness must be some sort of beacon – unique and obvious. Maybe I should shave it all off. But, would being bald be more conspicuous? I sighed. I’d miss my hair, anyways.
I turned my head and watched over my shoulder as he hurried over to me, his arm tucked close to his stomach, the blood seeping into his tunic.
The elder woman in the wheelchair smiled broadly at the Hokage and tilted her head back to look at me. “Why don’t you take care of him, dear? I’ll just get the nice young woman over there to take me back to my room.”
I bit back a groan and smiled weakly as I handed her over to the floor nurse. Naruto came to a stop beside me as she was taken away.
“I was hoping to catch you,” he said, his lips curved in a bright smile, despite the obviously painful wound.
I glared pointedly at the long gash, and raised a questioning eyebrow. “Dare I ask how this new injury came about?”
He shrugged. “A construction accident downtown.”
“And you were there because you’re such a wonderful carpenter…,” I queried dryly.
“Just helping out,” Naruto said with a quick smile.
I sighed and grabbed his uninjured arm, tugging lightly to get him to follow me. Surprisingly, his skin was cool against my palm despite the warm weather outside. I kept my eyes peeled in front of me, and tried to not think of the close contact for fear that my cheeks would become embarrassingly red. When had I become this bashful? It was absurd.
“I didn’t see you yesterday at the picnic,” he chatted as we made our way down the hallway.
It took me a moment to remember what I’d been using as an excuse for my absence. “I got some bad food poisoning,” I replied hastily, glancing briefly back at him. I bit my lip to keep from smiling when he visibly blanched. The poor thing was probably terrified he would be the next victim, what with his bottomless, food-loving stomach.
“Food poisoning! From where?”
Damn. I hadn’t thought of that. I hesitated slightly, and then said, “I think it was some expired crackers I had in my apartment.”
Naruto made a funny noise that sounded suspiciously like choked laughter. “You eating expired food, Sakura-chan? That’s not something I ever imagined you doing. You’ve gotten onto me constantly for doing just that.”
He was making fun of me! I glared at him and yanked him rather roughly into the empty examination room. That seemed to amuse him even more, but the smart man tried to hide it in an attempt to curb my wrath. He was learning.
I pointed to hospital bed. “Sit.”
He did so, and watched me as I gathered the materials to help close the wound. He was surprisingly silent as I pulled up a chair in front of him and took his injured arm into my hands. I cradled his wrist with one hand and lifted the other to cover the wound. With a deep breath, I relaxed into my flow of chakra and let it cover, mold, and envelop the gash. When I briefly glanced up to his face, I noticed it was slightly whiter than before, but otherwise you couldn’t tell he felt any pain at all. After a few seconds, my healing seemed to take effect, and some of his color returned.
“Are you planning on returning to the construction site?” I asked softly.
His eyes caught mine. “Told ‘em I would.”
“Is that for reassurance the mighty Hokage wasn’t irreparably injured, his future doomed?”
Naruto chuckled, and I felt my lips twitch in response. “A small, splintered beam couldn’t possibly take me out, have no fear.”
My eyes went down to his injury, then back to his face, and I gave him a sardonic glare. “Small?”
“Okay. So, it was big. But, still.”
I stopped the flow of healing chakra, and grabbed for the wet washcloth to clean off bloody residue. There was still a thin slice along the length of his arm, but it had ceased to bleed, and no longer needed invasive stitches.
As I applied ointment, I told him, “You can go, I guess, but try to avoid anything strenuous. I’d hate for you to undo all my healing.”
He grunted as he watched me. I grabbed the bandages and began to wrap his arm. I was acutely aware of his eyes on me as I worked, and it made irrationally nervous. Thankfully, it didn’t take me long to finish.
I heard more than saw him stand up and meander slowly away from me. I busied myself with clearing away some of the mess I had made.
“You busy tonight?”
Surprised, I glanced up at him. He stood across from me in the doorway with his back against the doorjamb, and his arms folded against his chest. His hair tumbled messily over his forehead protector as it always did, and his eyes were innocently inquisitive. I opened my mouth to reply, but I couldn’t figure out how to form the words. I sucked in a breath and tried again.
But before a garble of nonsense could spew from my mouth, he continued. “I haven’t eaten ramen in so long. I finally talked Fai into eating something different from the stuff she usually insists on. I can hardly wait.”
He seemed genuinely excited, too. But, at the mention of Fai’s name, I suddenly remembered how to talk. I averted my eyes, and smiled slightly to help soften my decline of his offer. “I have a date with my kitchen, actually. I’m trying to learn how to successfully cook this recipe of mother’s and it hasn’t been going so well. I was planning on taking another stab at it tonight.”
I heard him sigh. When he placed his hand onto my shoulder, I jumped slightly, surprised by his sudden proximity. My gaze flew to his. I had never realized how bottomless his eyes were – how clear a blue they were. You could drown in the crystal clarity of them. My lips parted as they seemed to almost smile at me, though his expression didn’t change and lips remained straight.
“If it works out, promise to make it for me sometime, will you?”
I nodded slowly. “Sure,” I murmured.
His stomach suddenly let out a loud rumble of annoyance. A grin split his lips, and he said, “See! I’m already hungry for your cooking.”
My lips quirked. “It’s just mad about the recent lack of ramen.”
“Nope. I’m positive it’s pining for your culinary delights.”
I rolled my eyes heavenward, reached out and shoved his chest as an act of rebuttal. “Don’t you have somewhere to be, Hokage-sama.”
With a step back, he cocked his head to the side and sent me a lighthearted smile. “That I do. Promise to run into me sometime soon, Sakura-chan?”
“I’ll make no such promise.”
He chuckled as he walked backwards. With a parting dip of his head, he turned and headed down the hall towards the exit. I watched as he stopped numerous times to greet patients, visitors, and hospital employees. I shook my head with a smile and returned back inside the room to clean up the mess.
I spent the next week trying to avoid over-analyzing my feelings. Most of my time was spent burying myself elbow-deep in hospital work. Although Tsunade wasn’t the Hokage any longer, she had remained as the temporary head of the medical unit. She had been very specific about the temporary part. I think she fully planned on returning to the wandering life she had been enjoying before being tied to the village years ago.
During the middle of the week, she’d decided to take a small break, and had left most of the responsibilities of keeping the hospital in working order to me.
What a nightmare.