Chapter 1: The Headache

"Ugh... not again." Sakura said in pain as she woke up with yet another headache. "When are these things going to go away?" She added as she got out of bed.

By the time she was in the shower it had died down, but the repetition of the nighttime headaches had reached her last nerve. "Every night with this. When did these start again?" She tried to remember the first time these had started. As a trained medic she tried hard to keep track of her own health to notice the beginning signs of anything wrong with herself.

"I think it was after we encountered Orochimaru and Sasuke-kun." She thought out loud, only to feel a sudden painful pulse across her temples making her wince. "Yeah, and it's been a week since then. I should see Tsunade-shishou today. Maybe I contracted something there."

She got dried and dressed, then headed outside towards the Hokage Tower. Being the Hokage's apprentice, she was one of those that didn't have to make appointments to see the Hokage so she walked right into Tsunade's office.

The slug sannin was going thru some vital paperwork but not enjoying it, so she welcomed this small excuse for a momentary distraction. "Is something wrong Sakura?"

"Shishou, could you give me a quick check-up? I've been having terrible headaches each morning I wake up and at random times during the day. It's probably nothing but I'd like to make sure it really is nothing. Worst case scenario, somehow I got infected with something when we were at Orochimaru's base last week and who knows what that can do."

Needing no more reason than that, Tsunade was up and examining her second student carefully, trying to locate any discomfort in her cranium. She checked for three minutes just to be sure.

"Sakura, I don't see anything physically wrong here. No traces of chemicals, no irritant, no injury or signs of trauma or infection. The only unusual thing is that your body temperature is slightly higher than normal. Not exactly feverish, but above normal. It's possible you've just got a weak disease and little more. If you want I can take you off the work schedule for the next twenty-four hours to give you a chance to get it out of your system."

"I'm already off today so it wouldn't be any different." Sakura replied.

"Good timing then, or maybe not. Getting sick on a day off is sort of a double-edge sword if you know what I mean." Tsunade stated. Sakura nodded. "Just try to relax, and tomorrow if you're still out of it let me know before you head to work. And say hi to Naruto for me if you can. I hear he's trying himself into exhaustion right now."

Sakura felt a new sensation throb in her head but this time it was pleasant, not painful. "Might as well since I've got nothing else to do. Where is he?"

"Last I heard outside the village working on elemental manipulation. I doubt you'd miss him if you knew what to look for, and since it is Naruto I'm sure you know what to expect."

Sakura felt the strange sensation again but ignored it and nodded. "You're right. Thanks Shishou." She then left the office.

Once outside Sakura paused for a bit to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, something she didn't get too much of working in a hospital all day. "What did I do the last time I had a day off anyway? I did think about seeing Ino for a bit but that can't take all day." After a moment she shrugged and started walking off. "I'll think of something for after that I guess."

Sakura came up to the Yamanaka flower shop and saw a Yamanaka at the counter but not Ino or one of her parents. So the pinkette then went to Ino's house directly since the two buildings weren't connected, not like Tenten's house and weapons hop.

She knocked on the door and Ino's mom answered. "Hi Sakura."

"Hi Mrs. Yamanaka, is Ino around?"

"Sorry Sakura, I think she's getting ready for a mission with her team. But I think she's got an hour before she has to be there so maybe you can see her if you're quick."

"I can be."

"Okay, she should still be up in her room getting ready."

Sakura went upstairs and knocked on the door she knew to be the entry to Ino's bedroom.

"Yes?" Ino asked from inside.

Rather than answer Sakura decided to open the door and walk in. When she did she saw Ino standing in just a towel looking over her clothes to put on. Her hair was wet from the shower she just took and down rather than in her usual ponytail.

"What the hell? Sakura?" Ino all but shouted in shock. "Couldn't you have warned me you were just going to barge in?"

"I knocked and you said you heard me. Besides, it's not like we haven't already seen each other in the hot springs." Sakura told the platinum blonde.

"Still, I expect to have privacy in my own room." Ino reprimanded. "Could you turn around please? What did you come here for anyway?"

Sakura looked away, and closed the door as she did. "I was mostly bored so I thought I'd see you for a bit to kill time."

"'Fraid to say tell you this but I can't stay long. I've got to meet Shika and Chouji and Asuma-sensei after I get dressed and equipped here."

Sakura heard a dresser drawer open and close and turned around by force of habit. In that moment she saw Ino completely naked. It was nothing new to her, but the angle of the mindwalker's body showed just how buxom she was compared to the pinkette. 'Why can't I have a chest like that? And even her butt looks better than mine.' Before Ino could see her she turned back away.

"So what's on your mind Sakura?" Ino asked as she began putting on her underwear.

"Not much. I had worried that I had been poisoned somehow on my last mission, but apparently that was just worrying about nothing. I guess I'm just feeling a little lonely since you haven't been around lately and Naruto's busy doing his own thing." She felt that gentle pulse in her head again but ignored it.

"Didn't you see Sasuke on that mission?" Ino asked, getting her skirt on.

Sakura felt a painful pulse. "Yeah I did."

"How much has he changed?"

"It's hard to say. I didn't see much and I don't want to compliment him because that would sound like him going to Orochimaru was a good thing. But I could tell he made no effort to get away. I think it's safe to say Sasuke's content with where he is." Her headache was aching up again and she tried to ignore it.

"Three years and you just now realize that Forehead?" Ino asked as she put her top on. "Didn't you say that you saw him try to leave and he admitted he was doing it? Have you been in denial all this time?"

Sakura groaned lightly and rubbed her temples in an effort to ignore her pain. "Maybe I was, but seeing him kind of forced me to face it. Sasuke-kun's happy as a criminal and apprentice to a monster."

"Then why do you still address him as kun?" Ino asked, starting to put the wrapping on her limbs. "I'm decent now by the way."

Sakura took a seat at Ino's vanity mirror, finding it harder to stand up without wanting to throw up right now. "It must be force of habit. I mean, I did care about who Sasuke-ku.. Sasuke used to be..." She had to pause for a moment in an effort to relieve the ache.

"You okay?" Ino asked.

"Get me some aspirin."

Ino nodded and disappeared into her personal bathroom to get some medicine. She handed Sakura two pills and some water to take it with, which the pinkette took eagerly. Ino tried a soothing medical jutsu to relieve the tension in her friend's head.

"What's wrong?"

"I don't know. I must be having a migraine or something. Can I lay down for a bit?"

"Sure. Can you stand up?" Ino asked.

Sakura slowly got to her feet. "Long enough I guess." With Ino to help her, she made it to the mindwalker's bed and laid down. All of a sudden all she wanted to do was sleep. "Mind if I take a nap?"

"Sure. I'll let my mom know before I go. Just try to not vomit outside the bathroom." Ino said.

Sakura nodded as she passed out.

After a while Sakura woke up, and saw Ino was gone. Not only that, but her headache was completely gone.

"Wow that helped. Maybe my problem is simply exhaustion. It is hard to get enough sleep when you work as a medic and shinobi."

She got out of bed and went downstairs where she saw Ino's mom watching tv on the couch. "Hello Sakura, are you feeling any better? Ino told me you were resting in her room for a bit and shouldn't be disturbed."

"I'm alright, but I'm still a little tired. I think I'll just go home while I can and rest there so I won't intrude here anymore." Sakura said to the older woman.

Mrs. Yamanaka nodded. "Take care then dear."

Sakura left and slowly walked home, once outside she saw that the sun was close to setting and the streetlights were already turning on in anticipation of night. "Wow, I was really out of it. I probably won't be able to sleep at all tonight unless I pass out again." As she walked she found herself feeling a bit more energetic then she had before. "You know, there's no reason I have to go home right away, but I should stick close in case I do feel like passing out again. So where should I go?"

An idea quickly came to her. "I never did see Naruto earlier, maybe I should stop by his place and say hi and see how his new training's going. Maybe even get some dinner while I'm at it. I'm so hungry right now even ramen sounds good." She headed in the direction she remembered his apartment was in thanks to Kakashi once insisting the genin of Team Seven all know where the others lived for more convenient access to each other if they ever needed it. Oddly enough Kakashi never showed them his house, probably as a way to ensure Naruto and Sakura would never try to find him before he had a chance to get lost on the road to life.

As Sakura walked she now had a bit more of a spring to her step that she was unaware of and she felt an increasingly state of euphoria. Then all of a sudden, she blacked out.

Naruto was home cooking an actual meal for once. Training with Yamato and Asuma in wind manipulation with lots of clones had taken a lot out of him and even he knew he needed more than ramen to get his energy back. Of course hearing his two instructors point that out to him triggered a sense of token denial but he did see their point.

For tonight he was cooking some seasoned chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy, simple and quick he figured since he didn't want to spend too long at the stove tonight. "Looks about done." He said as he cut open the chicken and saw no pink left inside. The potatoes were already done so the chicken was the last part to check.

He had just set down his plate on his table when he heard a knock at his door. "Who could that be?" He asked himself before going to the door. He opened it and was quite surprised. "Sakura-chan?"

"Hello Naruto-kun."