Chapter 2: A Natural Obsession
Sakura could admit it to herself, as she wandered toward Tsunade’s office, she had a thing for bad boys, for danger. It tore her apart to look at him, and she couldn’t figure out if that twitch in her head came from thinking his was such a jerk sometimes or feeling disloyal to Sasuke.
Ha! Like anything but friendship had ever been between them, but Sasuke had been dangerous, too, and her knees had been weak from the first dark, condescending look.
Even Sai, void of personality, made her look twice—maybe only because he had no personality or conscience. Something about that made him dangerous, too.
And Lee, there was a time when she had thought him a little dangerous, too.
It wasn’t like she’d never had a crush on anyone, but the pattern rattled across her thoughts like some kind of…of addiction.
Naruto was a friend, an unbearable, immature, clueless friend. That’s all. So why the strange obsession with his training? With the way his muscles flexed under his clothes? Beads of crystal sweat that dropped off his face and only made her think of him moving above her, weight pressing down on her…
Oh, this wasn’t a good train of thought. She stopped at the window near the Hokage’s office and forced herself to stop, forced herself to concentrate on the glitter of sunshine on the village spread at her feet. The back of her hand pressed into her cheek, measuring the heat and hoping it couldn’t be seen.
This addiction hadn’t even surfaced until she had seen the fox…until he had hurt her. Was it pain she was after? No, the attraction pulled her toward power; power and danger sucked at her, like iron to magnet.
She shook her head against silly thoughts and watched a pair of sparrows flit across the sky, tumbling and spinning with each other before lighting in the eaves above her head. No, the need was simply part of growing up, Tsunade had explained it to her—not in such personal terms, but the understanding of such things was part of her education.
The drive was natural; it would become more overwhelming as she matured. This was perfectly normal and Naruto was just a convenient outlet. That’s all.
Her breath caught as Tsunade’s voice sharpened and rose, clearly audible through the closed door. “I said no! You have no business telling me what my apprentice needs! I’m in charge of her training, not you.”
Apprentice? Someone was talking about her, telling her Shishou how to train her. Who would…?
“Yeah, you’d better run…and stay out! Genjutsu my butt. What an idiot.”
The door hadn’t opened, that meant Kakashi or Jiraiya—the only ones to make regular use of the Hokage’s window as a door. Given that whoever it was had run away, and given that she had just run into Kakashi, that meant…
Fury welled up inside her, until she felt she could bellow just as loud as Shishou. What right did he have to interfere and make demands?
She drug her hands over the smooth, durable material of her skirt, straightening it and flicking her thoughts aside. Kakashi wasn’t about to get involved in her physical needs; she’d just have to find a way to scratch that itch with someone who…didn’t feed that little bad boy addiction she’d been harboring. Someone uncomplicated and…easy. Itch scratched, no distractions.
Tsunade commanded her to enter when she called, and the blazing look from her master made her face hot, brittle determination melting away—sugar crystals in hot water.
Shishou averted her eyes, and then fixed her with a sweet smile that shook her to her boots. “How was lunch, Sakura? Get a little fix of ramen?”
Now why should her choice of lunch make her stammer and stutter? “I…uh…Shishou. You asked me to…uh…are you angry with me?” Inner Sakura seethed, I got a taste, but next time…hell yeah!
Tsunade exhaled long and loud, staring up at the ceiling. “No, Sakura. I’m not. I sent you to find out how Naruto’s training was going. I…should be thanking you.” The woman looked at her appraisingly, her eyes more sincere now, and certainly less frightening now the anger had flushed away. She took another deep breath and let it out. “What did you find out?”
But Sakura still whirled in her own feelings, and couldn’t help striking back just a little. “Kakashi was just here, wasn’t he? Why not ask h…”
“What did you just say?”
“Sorry, Shishou.” She smiled, raging inside. “I guess I lost my head. He seems…discouraged. Didn’t want to talk about it, and you know Naruto. If he was having any success he’d have been bragging about it the whole time.”
The Hokage nodded and turned back to the overload of papers on her desk. She shuffled a set, the rasp announcing to Sakura that she was dismissed. As she turned to the door, though, Tsunade stopped her.
“Have you been getting enough sleep lately?”
Confusion tumbled up her words. “Shishou? Uh, I think so, why?”
“Just wondering why you fell asleep in your lunch.” Tsunade’s eyebrow rose, demanding explanation.
Sakura’s throat closed, pounding along with her heart. “I didn’t…it was just a daydream…”
“Really? What about?” The feigned innocence in her brown eyes choked Sakura again.
She cleared her throat. It was a natural part of growing up, after all. She couldn’t stop the burning in her cheeks, but she could answer plainly. “Kissing.”
Tsunade’s curious expression didn’t change. “Kissing.”
“Yes, Shishou.” She lifted her chin and tried to look matter of fact, humiliation boiling out of every pore. Oh, every time she thought she had gotten through the part of her relationship with Tsunade-sama where she just wanted to die…some new whirlpool drug her into unplumbed depths of terror. Her knees knocked; she just knew it.
“I see.” The Hokage broke the gaze and shuffled the papers again; Sakura turned to focus on the beautiful door that signified escape. “Sakura.”
What now?! “Hn?” More? There was going to be more?
“Shizune is about to give an initial prenatal…I want you to relieve her.”
“Prenatal?” She didn’t know any kunoichi were pregnant, and that is the only reason Shizune would be doing the exam. Such things were need to know only—until it became obvious. Who was it? The list of possibilities ran through her mind, and she shuddered when she got to her own age group.
Tsunade nodded. “It’s Kurenai.”
“But…” Kurenai? She had been high on the list, but disregarded as she and Asuma—well, maybe it was more obvious than she’d thought.
But still, Kurenai?
Was Tsunade siding with Kakashi now? What did that mean? And why did she feel betrayed? It was a medical exam, not a training session.
“She’s down there now; if you stand here stammering and arguing you’re going to fail…”
It was all the warning Sakura needed; she tore out of Tsunade’s office swearing under her breath, and didn’t stop until she reached the exam room.
Sakura ran through the list of standard questions, taking notes on Kurenai’s statements. They were standard, right off the form. Shizune had handed her the papers, a puzzled smile on her face, and pointed her to exam room 3. Sakura had never given a prenatal by herself before, but neither one of them were about to argue Shishou’s orders.
“That all sounds really good, Kurenai, it sounds like you’re having a really easy time of it,” Sakura said, reaching for the tape measure. “Now for the hands on part. Just lay back so I can measure the baby. Looks like you’re almost three months along, so let’s just make sure the size is right for that.”
Kurenai gave her an encouraging smile, apparently picking up on Sakura’s nerves and slid to the edge of the table. She lay back, lower legs dangling. “Sakura? I thought I saw Shizune on my way in. Did something happen?”
“Hm?” Sakura fumbled with the paper tape, trying to remember just how to position it to get an accurate measure. “Oh, Tsunade asked me to fill in all of a sudden. I’m not sure why.”
Kurenai’s red-brown eyes looked curious at this. “Really?”
Sakura felt her face getting hot all over again. She shrugged and felt for Kurenai’s pubic bone; she secured the tape to start from here. Stringing the other end up and over the little bump, she pushed gently into Kurenai’s abdomen for the top of the fundus. There, halfway between the bone and her navel.
She strung the tape over and wondered, imagined what it might feel like to grow like this, to have someone else inside you, tumbling and turning and kicking from the inside. She imagined the pain of labor, and being handed a slick little pink body, limp from exhaustion—looking up into clear blue eyes filled with excitement and rimmed with tears…
“Release.” Kurenai gasped.
Sakura sat back, blinking, and scribbled the measurement into the chart. “That’s right on target, Kurenai. Normal as…”
“Sakura,” Kurenai’s eyes danced in amusement and maybe amazement as well.
“It just couldn’t be more normal, Kurenai, like a textbook. What…what’s wrong?”
“You don’t know what you just did?”
“Measured the growth of your baby?”
“Oh, you did, Sakura, but you also worked a pretty intense genjutsu.”
Sakura forced her mouth to close. Ridiculous. She scoffed. “I’m not a genjutsu user.”
“You know, Kakashi once told me I’d have to train you one day. He insisted from the start you were a genjutsu type.”
“I am not!”
“Has that been happening a lot lately? Daydreams that feel real?”
Oh, how did she know about that? “Er…I guess…”
“Have you drawn anybody else into them? In addition to me?”
“I…” Her breath caught; Ichiraku today. No wonder Kakashi had scampered right up to Tsunade’s office and given her an earful. No wonder she had listened. She nodded, frightened at what could have happened had she been left alone with her bad boy addiction and a helpless Naruto. He couldn’t fight genjutsu with sharingan eyes, a mirror and a map.
Kurenai pulled herself up onto her elbows and laughed in a kindly sort of way. “I take it you imagined something you wouldn’t normally do?”
Sakura nodded again, choking on her own embarrassment. Whatever she had imagined doing to Naruto, he had imagined it too—and it had felt just as real to him. Her eyes widened, blood pounded in her neck. “Kurenai…what do I do…?”
“It’s a normal progression, Sakura. Sooner or later talents like genjutsu sort of…make themselves known. It would have been better if we had trained you before it surfaced, but…give me a couple sessions and we’ll have you back under control at least.”
“Sessions? Does this mean training?”
Kurenai nodded, eyes serious now. She sat up. “You really have to. This is only going to get stronger and more unpredictable unless you learn to control it.”
“Does anybody have to know?”
“Not unless you want them to. Your jutsu, your business. Unless you want me to clear it with Tsunade-sama first?”
Sakura shook her head, still not quite able to speak around her dry tongue. “I think she knows.”
Kurenai smiled again. “Yeah. I think you’re right or I’d be sitting here talking to Shizune.” The woman put a hand on Sakura’s slouching shoulder and brushed a lock of hair out of her face, sympathy smoothing her features. “It really is perfectly normal, Sakura. You have nothing to be embarrassed about.”
Tears started to prickle, and she felt her bottom lip start to shake. “But I…kissed Naruto…undressed him…it…it wasn’t a friendly kind of kiss…”
Kurenai laughed and gently lifted Sakura’s chin. “How did he act when the genjutsu ended? If I know Naruto…did he even catch on?”
“He didn’t seem to…”
The woman’s hand jostled her face and dropped away. “There you have it. You’re also forgetting, Sakura, he’s a teenage boy. He probably has daydreams like that about you, about anything female, all the time. Maybe not as intense, but still…you watch, he’s not going to treat you any differently at all. For him, nothing’s changed.”
“Oh,” she said, putting on a smile, but it wasn’t a relieving thought. What if I want it to change?!
“Look, why don’t I have you over for dinner, and I can teach you the basics. That way, no one has to know, right?”
Sakura nodded and turned their attention back to the checklist, wrapping up the exam. She waved goodbye to her new sensei and promised to see her later.
So she had a little genjutsu problem…and an addiction to dangerous power…and a physical need that no one was meeting.
She had named her problems and they should just go away now, right? But cleanly labeling her distractions hadn’t made them any easier—and hadn’t reduced them either.
If anything, the pull to step into a daydream with him loomed in her mind. Kurenai shouldn’t have said that bit about him not noticing, about nothing changing for him—the temptation almost made her blind as she finished the notes in Kurenai’s chart.
Then that little voice inside her touched the match to the fuel. What if I want it to change?!