Konoha was almost done being rebuilt after Pain’s devastation one year ago. The Hokage mansion, the Shinobi Academy, the training grounds, the council buildings, the police station, and the market place stood tall in the sunlight beneath the faces of the five Hokage. There had been some restructuring of the village hidden in the leaves; they even recruited Shikamaru to redesign the city’s layout to be more easily defended from attacks and allowing for greater escape accessibility from residential areas. The neighborhoods were still in progress, but almost everyone had a place to stay for now.
The hospital got the new renovations it so desperately needed. Sakura beamed as she walked through the new halls, freshly tiled, bright windows in every room, fully prepared with new equipment. They had cardiac monitors in every room now and a brand new 10-bed intensive care unit. They even had a hyperbaric chamber for burn patients. She was ecstatic; Konoha’s hospital had become the best in the Fire Nation due to the outpouring of supporting towns indebted to the shinobi of Konoha. Lady Tsunade had really outdone herself rebuilding this place.
Also a new edition to the hospital was the basement level which housed the newly appointed Pharmacy and the recently employed Shino. After the attacks, having so many wounded and injured, Shino volunteered to prepare medications that the Aburame clan had used for generations to improve wound healing, fight infection, and enhance bone healing. He was a genius, harvesting compounds from his thousands of colonies. Blood thinners, antibiotics, anti-fungals, and toxin chelating suspensions were just a few of the new treatment options developed by Shino offered at Hospital of Konoha, or “HoK” for short.
Sakura peeped her head into Shino’s lab. That familiar buzzing and ticking noise of insects in tanks made Sakura grin as the mysterious man continued to work under his microscope.
“Hi Sakura,” he said without looking up. “What do you need?”
“Oh nothing. I discharged both of my patients this morning, so I have some free time. Figured I’d come check on you down in your magical lab.”
“Is that so,” Shino smirked. Sakura was always poking her nose into his lab hoping to learn more about the medicines he was making. Offering ideas on what new drugs would be clinically important. She was a big inspiration for his work. Without her, he wouldn’t know where to begin.
“So, how are the bugs doing?” she asked, knowing Shino would care.
“Colonies 23 and 24 are getting too hot because of all the sunlight coming in from those windows. Do you think I could get a better shade or curtain for them?”
“Absolutely. I’ll tell Tsunade straight away. Anything else?” she replied.
“That’s all for now. Today I’m harvesting more antibiotic compounds for the topical ointments. I can make a few packs of the intravenous ones too, probably about 5 liters of high dose and 10 liters of the low dose formula.”
“You’re the best Shino. I don’t know what we would do without you. I’m so glad you started working here. It’s amazing the progress you’ve made in the last few months alone,” she praised.
Shino looked up at her. He was not used to such affectionate responses. He was used to silence and criticism. He was used to buzzing and humming and birth and death. But this was sort of nice, having someone in his life who expressed herself so much. “Thank you,” he said quietly, smiling behind his jacket collar.
She could see his eyes wrinkle at the edges and knew he must be smiling under there. Everything was so simple with Shino. He was precise in his work. He acknowledged everything she said and remembered it. He never stepped out of line, and he never lost his temper. He was so meticulous, it was beautiful. She loved coming down here just to see what amazing things he was coming out with next. She had never thought that Shino, of all people, the silent creepy bug kid, would become her friend and colleague.
“So, are you going to the festival tonight?” she asked, peering into one of the tanks with brightly colored beetles resting on a bed of rocks and sand.
“Yes. I think so. Hinata and Kiba asked me to go. A team 8 bonding thing I guess,” he answered dully. As much as he cared about Hinata and Kiba, festivals and parties were not really his scene. The loud music and hot crowds made his bugs uneasy and he didn’t care much for it.
“Great! Then I’ll see you there. Naruto and I are going to compete to see who can win the most prizes. You better come cheer me on,” she grinned trying to imagine Shino “cheering” about anything at all.
“…. Sure,” Shino lazily responded looking back at his microscope and picking up his forceps. “We’re going at 8. I’ll catch up with you.”
“See you later Mr. Bug Master,” Sakura giggled as she burst out of the lab through the double doors. She had bothered Shino enough for the afternoon. She was so excited for the festival; it was the first celebration that Konoha was having since the village had been destroyed. Enough of the restaurants and vendors had rebuilt their shops that they could provide food and entertainment for the event. People all over the village were starting to feel at home again in Konoha, starting to feel safe again.
As she rounded the corner, she saw Ino carrying some new bedding supplies heading towards the stairs.
“Hey ugly,” she called out to her friend.
“If it isn’t the beast herself,” Ino retorted beaming at her friend. Ever since the two had started working together in the hospital, their friendship grew stronger as they found out just how much they had in common. “Are you bothering Shino again?”
“I never BOTHER Shino, he loves it when I check on him,” Sakura reassured Ino. They both let out a hard laugh. “Let me help you with that,” Sakura said as she took half the stack of sheets from her friends arms.
They took the sheets up two flights and restocked the pantry.
“The wards are so empty today,” Ino noted looking down the empty hallway.
“Don’t say that, Ino!” Sakura scolded. “If you jinx it then we’ll get a flood of new patients by tonight and have to work overtime. Do you want that?”
“So superstitious…” Ino laughed. “If I ruined it and we get a ton of new patients, then I’ll treat you to dinner. But if we don’t, then you’re taking me out for drinks later. You need to de-stress lady. Deal?”
Sakura cocked her head to the side and shot her friend a big grin. Ino was wonderful at getting Sakura to live a little. Not that she didn’t work hard herself, but she made sure to have her share of fun too. She dragged Sakura out to dinner and drinks after work, took her shopping when she needed it, and always backed her up when she was in a bind. She was beautiful and so confident all the time, too.
“Fine,” she agreed.
A few hours later, the two girls found themselves sitting outside at a small table at a cafe in the center of the village’s new downtown area. The newly built shops and restaurants sparkled in the setting sun and the cool breeze felt nice wafting through their hair.
“Cheers to you, pink lady,” Ino raised her glass forward. Sakura had been promoted to head of ICU and handled all of the hospitals toughest cases. Ino was still an assistant and hadn’t finished her medical ninjutsu training yet. A few more months, and she would be able to oversee the medical wards. A few months after that, the surgical wards. And maybe eventually, be head surgeon herself.
“And you, blonde beauty,” Sakura tipped the top of her glass into Ino’s as they both gulped down their fruity cocktails. “Only a few more months of training and then Tsunade is going to let you loose in the hospital. Poor patients…” Sakura laughed out loud. Ino raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow.
“Yeah well, that’s a long time from now,” Ino said looking down into her drink. “Are you working tomorrow?”
“Yeah, Tsunade asked me to run medical wards tomorrow.”
“Nice. Nobody in the ICU?”
“Nope, it’s been pretty quiet these past few days.”
“So you can’t drink too much tonight I guess.”
“Not really, I have to be in pretty early for my shift. What about you, Ino?”
“I’m off tomorrow. So I plan to thoroughly enjoy myself tonight. I heard there’s an afterparty at that new karaoke bar near the the edge of town.”
“How typical. Don’t get too crazy tonight because I won’t be there to drag your ass home when you’ve blacked out,” Sakura warned, leaning her head forward and looking at Ino out of the top of her eyes.
“I am very responsible Sakura,” Ino argued, taking a sip of her drink. “I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. Unless it’s my birthday. But that’s a different story.”
The two giggled thinking of Ino’s birthday celebration a few months ago when they had snuck out into the woods with two bottles of sake and got drunk together and went skinny dipping in Ino’s pond. The next day, they had laid around the house with sunglasses and hats trying not to throw up.
“I’m going to stop by Naruto’s place and see if he’s coming out tonight too,” Sakura said leaving money on the table. “Maybe he’ll make sure you don’t drink yourself silly tonight.”
“Okay fine, I’ll see you later,” Ino said taking Sakura’s money and heading to the front of the cafe to pay for their drinks. The girls parted ways and Sakura made her way across the bridge that separated downtown from the residential areas. Naruto was relocated to a government owned apartment building near the training grounds. He was content with his new place, as he gained full access to the grounds at all hours to work on his skills. After all, he was a budding new Sage and all.
She knocked on his door and heard some shuffling inside.
“Naruto? Open up, it’s me, Sakura,” she yelled at the door.
“Sakura-chan?” Naruto said as he opened the door still sweating from his workout. “Why are you here?”
“I wanted to ask if you were still coming to the festival tonight. Ino and I are going at 7, and I think she’s going to need some supervision tonight. I have work at the hospital tomorrow but she plans on staying out all night. Would you mind staying with her so I know she gets home safely?”
“No problem, Sakura-chan! You can count on me! I’ll watch her, after all, I am going to be Hokage one day. No one safer than me!” Naruto beamed and gave her a thumbs up.
Sakura rolled her eyes and smiled. “Okay knucklehead, I’ll see you later. Wash up please you big baby.”
Summer in Konoha by RasenShuriken