• Weeks had passed since their talk under the Hokage Monument and after they had gone their separate ways, they would meet up every once in a while to talk some more.

    Sakura learned that Shikamaru was one day older than her friend/rival, Ino. Shikamaru was amused when he learned that Sakura liked playing trivia games.

    “You’re serious?” he asked after she mentioned that to him. She just shrugged and took a small sip of her oolong tea.

    “Is it that surprising?” she asked, setting the cup down next to her. She looked over the shogi board and frowned. “No way can I win at this.” He already had her king in check. “Has anyone beaten you on this?”

    “…” he looked away, slightly embarrassed. “My dad.” She smirked at him, moving her rook and taking one of his pawns.

    “Ah. So that’s where you got it from,” she watched him assess the board with a critical eye and moved his bishop. “Damn.” It was checkmate.

    “Maybe,” he said, setting the board up again. “But, you might be right.” She tossed him an exasperated look and stood up, suppressing a tired yawn.

    “It’s getting late, and I have to go change for work,” she said, taking a pink lock of her hair and twisting it around her fingers. “I’ll come back tomorrow, for a rematch.” She smiled and left.

    Shikamaru simply nodded and turned to go back into his house. He was met by a wall of flesh. “Ouch!” he looked up to see his father smiling deviously. “Dad?”

    “So, you’re going to let the girl walk out on you like that, Shikamaru?” Shikaku teased, patting his son’s head. “But then again, you’ve always wanted to avoid women…”

    Shikamaru pushed his father’s hand away from him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He walked past him, completely missing Shikaku’s smirk.

    “That son of mine…” he shook his head. “A genius, maybe. But right now…as dense as a rock.” He looked over at the forgotten shogi board, and noticed that Shikamaru had set it up wrong. “Really dense.”


    On the other side of the village, Sakura had just entered the hospital to begin her shift. But before that, she had to make a stop somewhere. She walked down the hallways until she reached Tsunade’s room, and with a quick word from Tsunade’s overseeing doctor, Dr. Saotome, she went inside.

    “I’m back, Shishou,” she quietly whispered to the comatose woman. Even though Tsunade didn’t respond, Sakura knew she was listening. She looked out the window and took a seat beside Tsunade’s bed. “The village is slowly pulling itself back together and now Naruto has been accepted by everyone in the village.” She smiled. “They believe in him.” She sat there for a few more minutes, talking about random things that popped into her head. “I’ve learned to play-” she was interrupted by a soft knock and the door sliding open.

    “Haruno-san?” Dr. Saotome poked her head into the room. “Your shift starts in five minutes.”

    Sakura turned and nodded. She stood up, and after smoothing out her medic skirt, walked towards the door. “I’ll be back once my shift is over. Thank you, Saotome-san.” The older woman nodded and watched Sakura leave.

    “You would be proud of her Tsunade-sama. She‘s strong…and soon, she will surpass you.”


    “There. That should do it,” Sakura said, tying of the end of a strip of bandages around a Genin’s arm. “Try moving it slowly.” The Genin girl nodded and slowly lifted her arm for closer inspection.

    She smiled, “Thank you, Haruno-senpai!” she hopped of the table and joined her other two teammates at the door. “You’re the best!” The three disappeared with smiles on their young faces.

    Sakura sighed and leaned back against the examination table. “At least they can still smile…” She shook her head and walked towards the counter to put away the excess bandages she had brought out. Once the last of the medical equipment was put away she shrugged off her medic coat and hung it on it’s hook.

    “You look pretty worn-out, Forehead,” Sakura twitched at the sound of Ino’s voice. She faced her friend, a fake smile on her face.

    “Really? You don’t look too hot yourself, Pig.” she shot back. Ino gave a small snort. “Are you about done too?” The blonde nodded, walking further into the room.

    “Yeah, but I think I’ll stay a little longer. There are still a lot of injured people coming in. It’s sad that this hospital can’t hold them all,” Ino traced a random pattern on the countertop. “But we do what we can…" She paused for a moment. "How…how is Tsunade-sama holding up?”

    “I talked to Dr. Saotome and she’s…fine. It’s just that she won’t wake.” She turned away, glassy-eyed. “I…I have to go.” True to her word, she left, leaving a surprised Ino behind.


    “You really like this place, don’t you, Haruno?” Shikamaru asked, sitting up straight when he saw Sakura come closer. She took a seat next to him in silence and looked up at the monument. “What’s wrong?”

    “Nothing, it’s nothing.” She drew her knees up to her chest. “Just tired from work.” She rested her head o her knees and turned her face towards him. “And you?”

    “Mm. Dad was talking in riddles all through-out dinner, so I left,” he said. “I don’t understand him sometimes.” He leaned back into a lying position to look up at the stars. “But he doesn’t confuse me as much as my mom does.”

    “Riddles? About what?” she was curious. In all the time that she had known Shikamaru, this was the first time he had ever talked about being stumped over a riddle. “Care to share?”

    He scratched his cheek, “Hm, how to put it?” She gave him a questioning look and he sat up again. “Something about how I keep letting women get close, but keeping them at bay at the same time.”

    “…” Sakura thought about it for few seconds. “That’s easy.”

    “What? You know what he was talking about?”

    “Well…” her gaze shifted away from his dark eyes, blushing furiously. She twisted her fingers together, in an amazing Hinata-like way. “It…”

    “…? It what?” he asked, his brows knitting together. Half of him was disappointed that a girl had figured out the answer before he did. The other half was dying to know what the answer was.

    “It obviously involves women. What he was saying was…” she bit her lip. “You have someone you like and you’re in denial.” She stole a quick peek at his stunned face. “That’s it.”

    “You’re joking. Seriously?” the serious look on her face told him ‘No.’

    “Think of it as ‘you are looking the other way’. Either you are afraid or you are just that dimwitted. No offense,” she quickly added.

    Were there any girls he liked? he thought about it, but the only thing he saw was a pink flower. Pink…pin- “Pink!” He blurted it out without thinking.

    “If you’re going to ask if this is my natural hair color, the answer is yes,” she said, crossing her arms and scowling at him. Any former hint of shyness had quickly disappeared.

    He shook his head, “I wasn’t gonna ask that.” He knew it was her natural hair color, thanks to unnecessary information provided by Ino. It had taken him quite a few weeks to clear that picture out of his head. “I…figured it out.”

    “And your answer was pink?” her voice was filled with doubt. “I’m pretty sure I was right.”

    “Yeah…it’s pink,” without warning his hand came up and took a strand of her pink hair between his fingers. “Definitely pink.”


    “Took him long enough to figure it out,” a dark figure whispered to the smaller shadow next to him. A small thump was heard and a muffled ‘Ouch!’ followed. “Why’d you do that?”

    “If you hadn’t been so obscure about the subject, Shikamaru would’ve figured it out a lot sooner, Shikaku!” the second shadow hissed.

    Shikaku chuckled, hugging his wife close. “But where would the fun have been in that, Yoshino?” His gaze flicked back to the two Chuunin. “But everything turned out fine.”