He goes out with Tsuyu for smoothies once a week when he's not too busy with hospital shifts or courier and diplomacy missions to the other elemental nations. Naruto essentially saving the world (with plenty of help mind you, mostly from Sakura himself and Sasuke) had kind of ensured that everyone was content to be allies for as long as physically possible. Which means, Sakura doesn't have to leave the village often and he can talk to Tsuyu about this whole - gender thing.
She's got an answer for every question Sakura has. And if she doesn't, she knows someone who does. There are at least twenty civilians that are non binary like Sakura is, or trans the way Tsuyu is. Sakura had barely expected that many.
He has his own suspicions about the trans shinobi population; it didn't surprise him that not everyone was out, because how could they all be? They had just gotten out of a war and they were dealing with all sorts of trauma. Any gender questions they had posed before the war were likely shelved because of the reconstruction efforts. Not to mention they were probably worried about bringing it up in therapy only to have it used against them.
For now, Sakura is the only one of an unspecified population of trans shinobi that's out. And he thinks that's sad.
"That's the way it is sometimes," Tsuyu says, stirring her smoothie with her straw. "It's not easy for everyone. Lots of people are still trying to figure out who they are now that the war's over. If this peace is going to extend not from nation to nation, but from citizen to citizen."
Sakura purses his lips and looks at the others in the brightly lit smoothie bar. He hadn't known it was a gay bar until Tsuyu had brought here for the third and fourth time, and had realized that the same people frequented it as often as he and Tsuyu did.
Sakura looks down at his bound chest, and thinks of how little has changed in his own life. The Konoha Twelve all know, primarily because of exposure. When he shows up presenting as a man, Naruto, Sasuke, or Sai are sure to call him 'Sakura-kun'. It had given everybody else the memo that something was different about the Sakura they had grown up with. But they were shinobi, so they got the memo.
It had barely taken a week for everyone to start clocking how he wore his hitai-ate or his hair or his shirts to figure out which pronouns to use when they saw him.
Sakura's eyes flicker up to Tsuyu, to Hikaru behind the smoothie counter, to Kaori working the blender, to the handfuls of civilians who created this bright, sunny place for themselves because they didn't really have anywhere else to go.
If there were other shinobi out there questioning like he had questioned, but were too - confused or concerned in ways that Sakura hadn't been, he wanted to help them.
"Let's make it right, then," he says, flexing his hands.
Tsuyu lifts an eyebrow at him, but there's a smile glittering in her eyes.
"Let's make it safe for everyone."
Sakura is the Godaime's apprentice. She's healed damn near every shinobi in the village, has delivered the children of over a fourth of the civilian population, and punched a god in the face. She can more or less do whatever she damn well pleases.
It's a privilege, her position. She recognizes it for what it is, and she's going to use it.
She sidles up to the Nara compound, purposely presenting as a woman because she knows she's got to play this game the right way. Nara Yoshino was the current Jounin Commander under Kakashi-sensei. Sakura was a Jounin. And creating workplace policy within the jounin ranks to protect people like Sakura was the first step in a long road to unabashed public acceptance.
She pulses her chakra once so that the wards will notify the clan head that she's there. Predictably, Nara Yoshino is quick to answer. She's much less lazy than her son and her late husband. She looks at Sakura for a moment, dressed tidily in a simple white dress with her pink hair curling sweetly around her ears.
"You want something, don't you, Haruno?" she asks.
"Nara-san," Sakura says, blinking prettily, "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Yoshino scoffs and turns around, pressing a hand to the wards to allow Sakura access. She falls into step behind the Nara clan head, hands politely resting at her sides so that she doesn't telegraph that she's a threat.
"You must have a very good reason," Yoshino says as they enter the woman's home, "for interrupting my day off."
Sakura takes off her pale green sandals, the nice pair of wedges with white and pink flowers embroidered on the heel.
"I have questions, Nara-san, about the ways in which shinobi that identify - differently are being protected by our legislation."
Yoshino leaves Sakura in the sitting room, prepares a light tray of snacks and tea and returns momentarily. She was a longtime housewife before she was thrust into Jounin Commander when her husband died, but before she was a housewife she was an assassin of the highest degree. She's more than qualified and it shows in the easy way she picked up her husband's mantle and carries it during the Rokudaime's administration.
"What do you mean by identifying differently?" Yoshino asks, pouring tea.
"I mean shinobi whose paperwork calls them men, but who view themselves as women," Sakura says, taking an apple slice. "And vice versa. And those who view themselves as both or neither at all."
Yoshino nods, not looking at Sakura as she carefully hands her, her tea before sitting back comfortably.
"Some people would call that a disorder of some kind, Haruno," Yoshino says lightly.
Sakura nibbles on the apple in the most aggressively feminine way possible.
"Some would call it a valiant resistance to an archaic labelling system, Nara-san," she replies.
Yoshino tucks a few pieces of dark brown hair behind her ear and gives Sakura a calculated look. She's a Nara by marriage, but was an assassin by choice. She knows how to size someone up before they enter a room.
Sakura in her pretty white dress with her pretty green wedges and her pretty pink lip gloss with her mascara and her finely plucked eyebrows; she had done it all on purpose. Yoshino knew it, and Sakura knew that Yoshino knew as well.
"I think that after all we have been through as a nation," Sakura says, "resisting lies, uncovering the darkness within our village, we owe it to our citizens to let them live truthfully as their most authentic selves."
She picks up a grape, casually rolling it between her fingers.
"And if for some people it is a phase, or a moment of experimentation, that's all the better. Because at least they know, don't they? Knowledge, especially knowledge of one's self is power. Wouldn't you say so, Nara-san?"
She says it on purpose and with purpose. Yoshino is visibly fighting down a smirk. Sakura already knows that she's won.
"There are plants that display multiple sex characteristics. Male organs on female plants and vice versa. Even both simultaneously." Yoshino says, taking a strawberry for herself. "But people are not plants, Haruno."
"No, they aren't," Sakura replies. "We have an ability to reason."
"It makes us much more foolish than flowers, doesn't it?"
Yoshino's unsaid answer makes Sakura's stomach do a cartwheel.
"If you write something up, I'll be happy to put my weight behind it," Yoshino says. "As Jounin Commander, and as the head of the Nara."
If the Godaime's apprentice starts a little revolution, and the Nara follow, Sakura as good as has the Akimichi and the Yamanaka as well.
Sakura was a medic, a doctor. Yoshino was a Nara, and with that came medicinal experience as well. If one person and a clan full of people who understood biology better than any halfwit Elder's Council said that gender was a construct more than reality, they would be listened to. With the whole of the Yamanaka to insist on the psychological basis for gender exploration and experimentation, Sakura's proposal would be unstoppable.
She puts down her cup of tea, and skooches away from the table so that she may bow to Yoshino. Sakura is positive that she could have done it on her own; she's the Godaime's apprentice and one of the Rokudaime's students, after all. But help from a noble clan (or three) was going to make the process a lot easier.
After all, it wasn't only about her anymore. It was about Tsuyu, too. And Hikaru and Kaori. And the countless other civilians and shinobi that didn't feel safe enough to be out. To live authentically.
"That little white circle of yours will be a target on your back," Yoshino warns, watching as Sakura bows.
As Sakura rises, she feels that latent battle calm settle into her bones, exciting her. She's a good fighter, but she's an excellent talker. And after all she's been through, Sakura knows how to get what she wants.
"Then those fuckers better hope their aim is good," she says, grinning.
She runs into Shikamaru on her way out.
She's crouching down, carefully placing her wedges back on when the front door opens and a person steps through it. She looks up, and there he is. She gives him a light smile as his face minutely pinches in confusion.
"Morning, Shikamaru," she says. "Nice day to bend the rules, isn't it?"
He opens his mouth to reply, then shuts it. Then opens it again to say, "You look nice."
Sakura ruffles the hair at the back of her head as she stands.
"Thanks," she replies. "I'll see you around!"
She turns back once on her way out of the compound. She catches his eyes on her. She likes it.
He spends a lot of time at the Nara compound between his hospital shifts.
Yoshino is a busy woman and Sakura can empathize. Some days after a graveyard shift and an early morning spar with the boys, he wants to crawl into bed and sleep for a year and a half. It's nothing compared to the war though, which is something he tries to keep in mind.
Sometimes, he brings snacks to the Nara compound. Yoshino likes barbecue chips and strawberry pocky, so whenever he hits a roadblock in writing up his bill, Sakura heads to the convenience store to get armfuls of offerings for the Nara clan head.
She scoffs at him when he arrives, but opens a bag of chips and takes the always multiplying sheaf of paper Sakura brings with him and goes over it with a terrifying red pen.
It's just a bill of protections, an amendment to the Uchiha Itachi Memorial Civil Rights Mandate passed after the war. Sakura had pushed that through with Naruto and the Eleven, but this somehow seems much more difficult. It's easy to outline the ways in which one can prevent a tragedy like the Uchiha Massacre from happening ever again, but Sakura doesn't know the history of abuses against trans and non binary people in Konohagakure.
So he starts asking.
Tsuyu is happy to oblige; she's in her forties, and she's seen a great deal in her time. She was taken off the active duty roster when she started presenting as a woman. She was a chuunin when it happened, not dishonorably discharged but quietly and summarily fired.
It's harder to find other shinobi willing to testify their experiences, but the civilians Sakura knows are happy to. They talk about workplace discrimination, the struggle that comes with deciding which bathroom they 'ought' to use, shopping in stores with shopkeepers that side-eye them when they enter long until they exit.
It makes Sakura angry to know that this has happened, and that countless other terrible things probably still are happening because nobody has shined a light on it yet and demanded that it stop. He wonders how many shinobi have been hurt because of this bullshit, how many are still hurting in silence. He refuses to let it continue.
"You realize you can't keep referencing the Uchiha Mandate," Yoshino says, scribbling in the margins of the tentatively named 'Konagakure Gender Inclusivity Protection Act'.
"There's no other piece of legislature that I can reference," Sakura groans from his place on the couch, face buried in the pillows.
"That's not my problem," Yoshino quips, popping a handful of chips into her mouth. "Talk about the Uchiha segregation less and more about the Women's Protection clauses in the Foundation Documents."
Sakura's head snaps up, and he turns his gaze immediately on Yoshino.
"Why didn't I think of that?" he asks.
"Because you're not a Nara," Yoshino replies, breezy as can be.
Sakura groans and picks up his own copy of the KGIP Act, and starts scribbling in the margins on his own. He'll have to go to the library again to check out another copy of the Founders Document. He thinks absently to bless Uzumaki Mito and Senju Touka for physically fighting for the Women's Protection Clause to get into the documents in the first place. His foremothers have done him a great service.
All of this is to say, Sakura spends like, a lot of time at the Nara compound. Specifically on Yoshino's couch. Kakashi teases him about his new older girlfriend and Sakura politely tells him where he can stick his book of porn, Rokudaime or not.
Sakura likes Yoshino. She's a really cool woman. She's not even remotely ashamed of her arranged marriage to Shikaku. She got over being shelved from active duty to pop out a Nara baby when she was back in her twenties. She had been on active duty during the war, had been the commander of the forces assigned to get the last of the civilians to the safe houses in the mountains before the fighting got too bad for transportation.
She's got a dry sense of humor, meaning she laughs at Sakura's jokes. She's good at what she does, excellent in fact. Bureaucracy makes Sakura's head ache, but Yoshino cuts finely through red tape and paper work with that damn blue pen of hers like it's easy.
She also tosses a blanket on Sakura's shoulders when he falls asleep in her living room, and sometimes leaves a plate of breakfast wrapped in aluminum foil on the table because they both have similar work schedules.
Today is one such morning.
Sakura wakes with the sun in his eyes, well aware that Yoshino left the window open so that he wouldn't oversleep. He groans and sits up, rubbing at the crick in his neck that comes with sleeping on a haphazard combination of throw pillows and his own bicep.
He stands, dressed in yesterday's clothes. He had unzipped his red Haruno crested shirt before he went to bed, and his black binder keeps his breasts firmly flat against his chest. His hitai-ate is on the table beside the couch, and he wraps it neatly around his bicep.
He rolls his ankles a couple of times, glad he had left them wrapped. He had been jogging in the mornings lately, running with Sasuke. Their 'soothing' morning ritual more often than not ended in bloodthirsty races to see who could make it back to their apartment to wake Naruto up in the rudest possible way.
He tucks his hands into his pockets, yawning as he enters the dining room. He opens the refrigerator for a glass of orange juice. When he realizes the carton is a glass away from empty, he bypasses the glass and drinks straight from the carton, reminding himself to leave Yoshino a note to say that she's gonna be out of juice when she gets home.
That's when he notices Shikamaru.
He's looking at him, bleary eyed and confused, and his cheeks are a little pink. Sakura stops drinking, wipes his mouth with the back of his hand and says, "Morning."
Shikamaru sits there for a moment, like his brain is taking longer than usual to wake up. When he finally gets the hang of being human again he says, "Morning."
Sakura finishes off the orange juice and chucks the carton in the trash. He sits down at the table in the chair opposite to Shikamaru where the plate Yoshino left him is sitting neatly. He unrolls the foil and peers at the omelette and rice, and tucks in with the chopsticks left for him as well.
"You sleep here?" Shikamaru asks, when Sakura's mouth is full of egg and rice.
"Yeah," Sakura replies once he swallows. "Your mom is helping me write a bill. Act. Thing."
Shikamaru nods absently, like he really hasn't noticed the fact that Sakura has spent the last two and a half weeks on and off sleeping on his couch. Which Sakura knows is impossible, because he's seen Shikamaru look at him.
They finish eating in silence, Shikamaru nursing a cup of coffee black enough to be a mug of Sasuke's melted hair. Once finished, Sakura stands and heads to the sink, washing his own dishes. Afterward, he wipes his hands on a dish towel, turns around, and zips up his shirt.
"You mind telling your mom you're out of orange juice?" he asks. "I'm coming back tonight, and she knows, so if you see her before then, just tell her I'm gonna bring another carton and remind her not to yell at me for finishing the carton."
Shikamaru nods, like a man in a daze.
"Thanks," Sakura says, before leaving the dining room to head into the living room.
He folds up the blanket Yoshino had dropped on him the previous night and sets the throw pillows to their proper places on the couch. He gathers up his copy of the KGIP along with his pens and highlighters before he heads for the door.
"Sakura," Shikamaru's voice calls from over his shoulder.
Sakura looks up, zipping up one black sandal and shoving his foot into the other.
"Do you - ,"
He's standing in the hallway, hand on the back of his neck like he's trying to figure out what he wants to say as he's saying it.
"Do you need another pair of eyes? On the bill, I mean?"
Sakura zips up his second sandal and rises.
"I didn't think this was your kind of thing," he says, gesturing at the papers and pens he leans over to pick up. "It's pretty boring, even for you."
"Then do you need dinner?"
His face is pink, and he's still scratching the back of his neck.
"Tonight, I mean."
Sakura can remember the last time he got asked on a date. It was by that one guy, during the war. Sweet boy. He didn't remember his name now.
And it wasn't that he had never considered Shikamaru before. He had grown up to be unreasonably attractive. Sakura didn't like that he smoked, but otherwise, he was a good man with no other vices.
But Sakura hadn't really had time. Hadn't really thought about dating. Not between the Uchiha Itachi Memorial Mandate, and his work at the hospital, then discovering that he was sometimes a girl and other times a boy, and now this damn Act he's trying to get signed into law.
He knows that Shikamaru knows he's - well, himself. Sakura-kun and Sakura-chan. But Sakura hasn't exactly thought about how to navigate a romantic relationship now that he's discovered this new part of himself. And he isn't sure Shikamaru knows how to either.
"I like dinner," Sakura says after a moment of silence, nodding slowly. "Generally speaking."
Shikamaru looks less like he's going to explode and more like he's trying to solve a puzzle with half the pieces.
"Do you like sushi?" he asks.
"I do," Sakura replies.
"How's tonight?" Shikamaru asks. "After your shift. I can walk you back here, after we eat."
Sakura lifts an eyebrow.
"I don't need an escort," he says.
Shikamaru shakes his head.
"That's - that's not what I meant - I - sorry -,"
"Relax," he says, grinning a little at Shikamaru's slight discomfort. "After my shift is fine. You can come get me at the hospital. We'll go from there."
"Oh," Shikamaru replies, suddenly looking relieved. "Yeah. I can do that."
"Yeah," Sakura says, grinning still. "You can."
He leaves, goes to work, goes through his shift still thinking about how to make the language of the act as accessible as possible. It's not going to work if nobody can understand the damn thing as they read it. Yoshino knows all sorts of legal jargon that flies right over Sakura's head, and he has to rework it into words that normal people use without sacrificing the integrity of the document.
In short, it's a nightmare. And he accidentally gives a grown man a lollipop when he gets through his routine check up instead of the five year old to whom he gives a pamphlet on arthritis. Shizune laughs at him because she's awful, and she corrects the mistake.
The rest of Sakura's shift goes by in a hazy blur that ends with him standing in front of the hospital, wondering why exactly he's not heading home yet. He's forgotten something, that much is clear.
It's rectified when he steps through the sliding doors and sees Shikamaru right on time, dropping his cigarette and crushing it under his heel when Sakura comes outside.
"Ready?" Shikamaru says, coming up to stand in front of him.
"Yeah," Sakura says smoothly, wondering if Shikamaru could tell that he completely forgot about the date he said he was going to go on that same morning.
They walk in a companionable silence for some time. Sakura can't tell if Shikamaru doesn't know what to say to him, or if he recognizes that Sakura's brain is as fried as the omelette he had for breakfast. Either way, he's grateful for the chance to collect his thoughts and shift his focus to the person in front of him.
The sushi place is a nice little hole in the wall, with high bar stools around the counter.
When they enter, Shikamaru gestures towards them, and asks, "Should I -?"
Sakura looks from the stool to Shikamaru and shrugs.
"If it's something you'd do for any guy, yeah," he replies.
Shikamaru chuckles and says, "That would be your response, wouldn't it?"
He ends up pulling Sakura's stool out for him and pushing him back in towards the counter.
"I thought about bringing flowers," Shikamaru says, taking his own seat. "Wasn't sure if you'd be a girl by five o-clock or if you'd still be like you were this morning."
Sakura cups his chin in his hand, looking at Shikamaru.
"How'd you decide what to do?" he asks.
Shikamaru folds his hands across his chest and sighs.
"I asked Shizune when she left how you were presenting today," he replies. "Shushin-ed home and chucked the flowers in a vase before I came back. Smoked three cigarettes because I was worried you would've wanted them anyway."
Sakura smiles, touched. His boys had all made magnificent efforts to help him be more comfortable as he was now. So had Tsuyu and Hikaru, and Kaori and everyone else. Even Yoshino had done her part.
But this was different. This was someone seeing Sakura as he was and altering his behavior to make sure he was treating him the right way. The way he wanted to be treated. Of course Naruto, Sasuke, Sai, Kakashi, and Yamato had all done the same, but obviously to a different degree. Sasuke and Sai had offered him clothes; Naruto had helped him through his first realizations; Kakashi was going to put the KGIP through once he had enough approval on it; and Yamato hit anyone who misgendered Sakura in the ribs with a plank of wood.
Shikamaru had bought him flowers, then ditched them when he realized they might not have been welcome, then chain smoked because he was worried he had done the wrong thing anyway. It was sweet.
"I would like them," Sakura says. "When we get back to your place."
The implication makes Shikamaru's cheeks redden somewhat, and Sakura wonders just how much he can do to make the Nara blush. It was cute on him. Especially so because it was Sakura's fault.
"You can help me and your mom with the act," Sakura adds wryly, watching Shikamaru scratch the back of his neck and recognizing it for the nervous tick that it obviously is.
"I can buy you dinner or I can legal advice," Shikamaru says, getting back in control of himself. "Pick your poison."
"How about you do both and buy some orange juice for your mother," Sakura says, picking up the menu on the bar in front of her, "and if this goes well, I'll take you out next time."
"Next time?" Shikamaru asks, smirking at him.
"If you're good," Sakura answers with a wink. "And your legal advice is, too."
It makes Shikamaru laugh, and their waiter comes over to take their orders.
It's Sakura's first date as a man, and it goes perfectly. From the food, to the alley he drags Shikamaru in to kiss him before they get back to the Nara compound, to way Shikamaru gasps when Sakura grabs his ass, to the way Yoshino rolls her eyes when they arrive at the compound looking vaguely rumpled and ready to start a minor revolution.
All of it is perfect.