Chapter Three: Exposed
Sakura scanned the shift schedule one more time. She squinted at the board willing it to look differently.
“Everyone’s working on the fourteenth.” She frowned at the board. “Not a single staff member is off…”
“It’s always like that.” A soft voice just behind her almost made her jump.
The pleasantly plump pastry chef was just behind her, pulling at her long dark hair. Sakura never had a chance to speak to her before but always got the impression that she looked a bit like the petit fours she made. She mainly kept to herself and her station and if it weren’t for the occasional moments when Sasuke would shout at her for moving too slowly, Sakura would forget she was even there.
“Oh, it’s you Hinata.”
“No one ever gets off on Valentine’s Day. It’s our busiest day of the year.”
“That seems a little unfair. What if you wanted to spend the holiday with your boyfriend?”
“You would need to get a boyfriend first, forehead girl.” Ino tossed her jacket over Sakura’s head and immediately started stripping. Hinata pulled her hood over head and covered her eyes.
“This is a mixed gender locker room.” Sakura tossed the jacket back over Ino’s head.
“It’s nothing anyone here hasn’t seen before.” Tenten, the brunette Ino had told Sakura worked as the boucher, opened up her locker next to Ino’s and stuffed her bag.
“You know you like what you see,” Ino teased, reaching over and tickling Tenten’s sides.
“I’ve never been into blondes.” Tenten smacked Ino’s arms away, trying to catch her breath. “Or girls taller than me.”
Tenten pulled out her smock and slid her arms into the sleeves. After she was done she pulled up her pigtails and styled them into twin buns.
“Wait,” Sakura whispered to Ino, “I thought she and Neji were a thing. They always head home together.”
“Nah, they’re just roommates. But I’m sure Neji has a thing for her. Must suck being hung up on someone that━”
“Neji isn’t interested in women,” Hinata interrupted. This time Sakura did jump. For some reason she thought Hinata had walked out already. “He’s just protective of her and vice versa due to solidarity. People tend to make that mistake.”
“You need a bell or something,” Sakura muttered, embarrassed.
“Kiba says that all of the time.”
“Well guess I should expect to hear some griping from Naruto,” Sakura sighed, feeling exhausted already. The boy was a ball of energy and was always talking her ear off whether she actually paid attention to him or not. “He probably won’t be able to see his boyfriend that day either.”
“Boyfriend?” Ino cocked her quizzically as she adjusted her bandana on her head. “Naruto doesn’t have a boyfriend.”
“What?” Sakura rubbed her eyes with her thumb and forefinger. “I could have sworn the produce delivery guy was his boyfriend.”
Ino burst into a fit of laughter and wrapped an arm around Hinata’s shoulders.
“No he’s just super friendly so people think he’s always flirting. Wanna hear something scandalous, Sakura?”
“Ino, no!” Hinata cried. Her voice was louder than Sakura had ever heard it.
“That dumbass hooked up with Hinata on New Year’s Eve. They both got drunk and headed to his place after our staff party.”
Hinata glared at Ino but the effect was lost with her round cheeks puffing out and blooming pink. It was more of a pout than anything.
Sakura tried to recall anything about Naruto that would give her the impression that he was dating the pastry chef. She caught him being friendlier than he should and begging her for treats but nothing that she would call romantic.
“Don’t worry about it.” Ino waved her hand dismissively. “It gets confusing. Right, Hinata?”
Hinata sighed and worried her lip.
“I keep thinking he’s asking me on dates but Kiba or someone else usually tags along.”
It was the most disgruntled Sakura had seen her and it made her want to pinch Hinata’s cheek. She and Neji looked so similar but she was so soft that any familial similarities in appearance still made it difficult to tie the two as cousins.
“Well at least Hinata has someone to be confused about.” Ino patted the top of Hinata’s head. “Unlike Sakura.”
“I’m too busy to date,” Sakura huffed.
It wasn’t a lie. She was still a student and all of her free time went to work shifts, studying, and clinicals. Nursing school was enough stress as it was and dating just wasn’t an option.
Sakura never liked hook up culture and had deleted the dating app she had been using. One too many pricks messaging her and the “safe” men she did end up going out with had her turned off from even attempting to put herself out there.
“Yeah, sure.” Ino snorted. “You just don’t want to put any effort.”
“Says the woman who ended up dating a coworker.” Sakura adjusted her tie and grabbed her apron.
“That’s completely different,” Ino grunted as she shimmied out of her skinny jeans to change into her work slacks. “Chefs have, like, no life. You just choose to not have one.”
“I do not,” Sakura denied. “Stop making me look bad in front of Hinata.”
Sakura peered out of her peripheral to where the woman had been standing but the spot was empty.
“When did she━? I swear she was just in here.”
“She does that a lot. Especially when she’s avoiding someone. You’ll get used to it.” Ino had barely pulled out a fresh t-shirt from her backpack when Sasuke had walked into the locker room.
He walked straight to his locker and pulled out his cell phone, typed something, and then put it back. Without even glancing over at Ino he slipped out of the locker room like he had never entered in the first place.
Sakura gestured to the doorway and then back to Ino’s shirtless body. Ino cocked her hip and crossed her arms in front of her sports bra covered chest and snickered at Sakura’s floundering.
“Yeah, the man doesn’t even flinch. I might as well be one of the lockers.” Ino finally pulled her shirt over her head and shrugged her smock over it. “It was a little insulting at first. Would have kept being insulting if he weren’t like that with everyone.”
“With just women or━?”
“Everyone,” Ino insisted. “He’s the definition of not having a life.”
“Oh,” she muttered dully.
That wasn’t surprising at all to Sakura. In the few weeks that she had been working at Wisteria Place, no matter how late she stayed past all of the employees and even Ms. Kato, Sasuke was always the last to leave. It could be one in the morning and she was dragging her weary feet and he would be in his office going over paperwork or giving the kitchen one last inventory check.
It was one of the rare moments he seemed almost relaxed. There was no shouting or glares.
Sakura found it a shame he wasn’t like that usually. He was pretty cute that way.
Not that she had time to think about that.
“Neji’s doing that thing again,” Sakura chatted away with Ino as she picked up her food. “Is it really that big of a deal what wine you drink with your meal?”
“Trust me, it is.” Ino nodded seriously and leaned over the service counter. “Don’t let him hear you ask that or he’ll make you go to a seminar.”
“Is it really that bad?”
“I’ll help you with that later. Now,” Ino tapped a bowl with her short nails, “take the soups to the diners.”
“You just wanna wine me up,” Sakura teased her as she grabbed her dishes.
“Oh, you know it.” Ino winked back flirtatiously. She giggled to herself as she plated for service.
Because of work and Sakura being in school she barely got to see her friend. Ino jumped at the chance at bringing Sakura to Wisteria Place when she needed a job. Now they could joke back and forth and talk during breaks.
Ino hadn’t been kidding earlier when she had called Sakura out on not putting any effort to have a social life.
I swear she’s as bad as Chef Uchiha, Ino grumbled inwardly, refusing to flinch as Sasuke barked an order across the kitchen.
At least he was yelling.
It was worse when he wasn’t.
“Quit distracting Haruno,” Sasuke scolded. “You can’t afford to waste time either.”
A “yes chef” was on the tip of her tongue but she bit back the words, her mind working double time on his earlier statement.
“Oh,” Ino turned to him and gave him a sly smile, “you called a waitress by name.”
“Get back to work.”
Ino couldn’t even feel bad about being shouted at. She just hummed to herself as she made sure all of the plates were clean and ready for service.
Sighing to herself, Sakura massaged the base of her neck where it met her shoulders and rolled her neck. She hadn’t expected to take so long to fold the cloth napkins, but one of the waitresses had a family emergency and left her alone after the rest of the wait staff had left for the night.
“We could switch tasks if you would like to complain,” Neji had warned her off from whining about how many napkins there had been to fold. He had been helping until it was time to gather all of the written checks and match them with what was input into the computer system.
He had left earlier when Tenten dragged him away insisting they hit a club. Neji looked absolutely scandalized when Tenten had mentioned opening up his dating app and “shaking out the cobwebs” in front of Sakura but she pretended she hadn’t heard a thing.
Just because she lacked any sort of sex life didn’t mean she would tease others for theirs.
She should have gone home earlier when Ino insisted. Neji had reminded her that the first shift wait staff could finish up folding napkins but she wasn’t ready to head home yet. Ino and Sai looked so cute walking with their arms linked as they left the restaurant that she didn’t want to intrude and be the third wheel.
They were just as busy as she was and it was difficult for them to get any time alone between working at Wisteria Place and Sai’s time as a resident artist.
If we had showers here that would have been great.
Sakura sighed heavily as she reached behind her back and untied her apron and made her way to the locker room. She couldn’t wait to be home so she could wash away all of the sweat and grime that accumulated throughout her shift.
Going to have to take some uniforms to the cleaners.
Sakura shimmied her shoulders to shrug her button down shirt off. Being the last one to leave at the end of the night had the wonderful perk of privacy. She hated wearing her work clothes on public transportation. Unbuttoning her slacks, she let them drop to the floor before bending over at the waist to pick them up. A cough had her snapping back up quickly.
She spun around and clutched her pants to her body to cover up as much of herself as possible.
“Chef Uchiha!” Sakura squeaked, slamming backward into the lockers. “Oowww!”
She had forgotten about her still healing bruise. It no longer bothered her except when she applied too much pressure to the area. She reached around to soothe the area, wincing at the throbbing.
Sakura felt a hand gripping her upper arm and another reaching for her hip when she dropped her pants to push Sasuke away.
“No, I’m good! I’m really, really good!” Sakura continued to push until he took a step back. “Just, please, leave.”
“Right.” Sasuke nodded and averted his gaze. “Just let me know when you’re done.”
As soon as he exited the locker room, closing the door on his way out, Sakura fell back against the lockers and slid down onto the cool linoleum floor.“Oh. My. Fucking. God.”