Hello! Welcome to the sequel of The Exchange. I decided to be - oh so original - and named this story The Deal. (Because after you made an exchange, you are technically making a deal.) For the new readers, I would highly recommend reading The Exchange prior to this story since much of it would not make sense. The main reason I separated the two stories was because I wanted the first one to be have an ending, so that readers can have a "completed" story to read. However, I wanted to build on to that story and hence this sequel.
Hope you enjoy!
P.S. The character tag kind of makes it obvious who the rival is going to be. kekeke
Summary: After realizing his feelings for Sakura, Sasori goes to Konoha to assist with her puppet limb project and to woo her heart. Along the way, he came to know the shinobis of the Leaf, while Sakura, happy to have her new found friend by her side, reveals more and more of her past. Would feelings be exchanged or would someone break the deal?
Last time on The Exchange
After Sasori had requested - demanded - that the Third Kazekage sent him as the puppeteer that Konoha had requested for the Puppet Limb Project, he had ran all the way from Suna to Konoha. He reunited with Sakura at the main gates and she personally brought him to the Hokage.
Chapter 1: Arrival
The Suna ANBU crouched down in front of the Hokage's desk with one knee touching the ground. He held out two scrolls and Tsunade took them from his hands. One had Puppet Limb Project written on it and the other had a big heart doodle. Tsunade was truly amused by the Third Kazekage's antics. She looked at the ANBU who was still half kneeling and at Sakura who was staring at her expectedly. Tsunade gestured for the ANBU to stand up and proceeded to read the first scroll.
When she finished, she opened the second scroll. Each sentence made it harder and harder to not laugh out loud in front of the silent ANBU and her confused pupil. After she finished the second scroll as well, Tsunade rolled them both up and finally addressed the ANBU.
"You may take off your hood and face cover, Sasori-san."
Sasori did as he was told. The expression on his face was blank and he held himself back from looking at Sakura. He did have several days to calm down after coming to one of the biggest revelations of his life and his mad dash to Konoha was more tiring than he had expected. The Third had warned him about that, but he wanted to see Sakura badly.
Sakura, on the other hand, was staring at Sasori from the side. Even though she was happy to see him, she was still surprised that he was the dispatched shinobi. Of all the people that the Third Kazekage could send, she did not expect him to send Sasori. The red head was Suna's poison master, one of Suna's elite, and the Third's right hand man. It was true that he had an active role in the Puppet Limb Project and was a skilled puppeteer, but it was a dangerous move. Suna could not afford to lose Sasori. Even if Konoha and Suna were building an alliance, there was still the possibility of someone attacking him.
"The Kazekage had agreed to our request and sent his best puppeteer to assist in the surgery. He expects prompt reports on the project's progress. I give Sasori-san full clearance for activity in Konoha, given he be accompanied by one of my most trusted shinobis. Since you are already here, Sakura, and currently free besides working on your project and light shifts at the hospital, you will be in charge of him. I am sure you two are acquainted."
Sakura nodded, "Understood." She remembered how upset he was when she left, so he must be glad that she would be his escort. Besides, she understood him and was the best person to help him adapt to Konoha. He was also her first partner when she developed the project and there was no one else whom she rather worked with. Furthermore, if anyone dared to protest his presence in Konoha, they would have to answer to her fists.
"As for his side mission," Tsunade continued, breaking Sakura's train of thoughts, "I would like to speak with him alone."
The pinkette tilted her head in confusion, "Side mission?"
"Sakura," The seriousness in Tsunade's eyes made Sakura shut her mouth immediately.
Sakura looked at Sasori, "I will be waiting outside the door." After she received his confirmation through a nod, she stepped out, leaving her Shishou and the ANBU alone.
The Hokage cleared her throat before quoting from the second scroll, "During his stay in Konoha, Sasori must woo the heart of Sakura Haruno, or he will be striped of his elite ANBU status and become the laughing stock for Suna's Kazekage."
Sasori's eyes twitched, but he knew the Third Kazekage would have written something along those lines just to tick him off.
"I also noticed that this is S-ranked while your main mission is A-ranked," Tsunade was trying her hardest to hold in her laughter.
The red head nodded, "Sakura is not suppose to know about this mission. This is between the Third Kazekage, you the Hokage, and myself."
The blonde tapped her chin, "This is not a joke, you know? Despite what it sounds like, this mission has all the official information, seals, and signatures. Your Kage commissioned this mission."
"I came knowing that, Hokage-sama."
Tsunade eyed the man from head to toe. He was calm and collected, she would give him credit for that.
"Arrangements to acquire an apartment close to Sakura's home are underway, but as of now, I am sure my pupil would allow you to stay in the extra room at her place. I expect your full cooperation with the project and your best behavior while in Konoha. Even if certain Konoha-nins provoke you or challenge you to a fight, please refrain from causing permanent damage to the village and killing my shinobis."
Sasori nodded in compliance. He did not plan on harming anything that resided in Konoha. He knew Sakura loved the village dearly and she would be disappointed in him if he did anything to damage the village or hurt the people that she loved.
"Sakura is fully in charge of the Puppet Limb Project and I have given her permission to perform her procedure on a Konoha-nin. She will be discussing the details with you. She will be reporting to me on a weekly basis and you can report your side mission's progress after she completes her report. Am I clear?"
"Before I dismiss you, I must reiterate my point on not fatally injuring any Konoha shinobis who attempt to fight you," Tsunade added, "Sakura should be able to handle them, but if anyone challenges you when you are alone. Please be the bigger person."
The red head quirked an eyebrow. Sasori could not understand why the Hokage seemed so certain that Konoha ninjas would pick a fight with him. It was true that he was from Suna and that he had probably killed many Konoha shinobis during the war, but many Konoha shinobis also killed Suna-nins. Heck, his parents died in the hands of a Konoha jounin. But the war was in the past and if the alliance was to survive, the new generations had to forgive and forget the blood sheds of the past. Besides, younger ninjas who would be immature and foolish enough to challenge him probably did not know his title as Akasuna no Sasori. He could easily incapacitate them with chakra strings before they hurt themselves.
"You seem certain that someone would challenge me. Are there particular individuals that I should be cautious of?" Sasori asked politely.
Tsunade nodded in affirmation, "Many people are protective of Sakura. Her teammates especially."
"Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha."
"You did your homework." Tsunade was genuinely surprised.
"Sakura likes to talk about the people she cares about," Sasori said softly as he wondered if she talked about him to her Konoha friends as well.
"I see. You are dismissed," the blonde added with a smirk, "Good luck."
Sasori bowed and swiftly exited the office. He found Sakura conversing with two Konoha ANBUs in the hallway. They were both wearing cloaks and their masks were positioned on their faces, but Sasori had no doubt that they were smiling at the pinkette. The moment he looked in their direction, one of the ANBUs turned his head and honey brown eyes met two painted eyes of a cat. The other ANBU, wearing a cat mask with slightly different pattern, followed immediately, but Sasori's eyes did not leave the first ANBU.
Noticing the ANBUs' reactions, Sakura turned as well and she smiled at Sasori. She looked back at the cloaked figures, "Have a safe mission. My favorite captain and his best sidekick. Tell the rest of your team I said hi."
"I am the vice captain, not a sidekick!" the second Cat whined. Sasori noted that his voice was that of a grown man, but he sounded childish.
"We will, as always. See you when we return, Sakura," the first Cat replied. He nodded at Sasori and entered the Hokage office, with the other following close behind. This one had a gentle voice that radiated composure and confidence.
Something about the two ANBUs was triggering Sasori's senses as a seasoned warrior, but he pushed his unease away. His body was probably reacting since he was in the presence of obviously powerful shinobis. He turned to Sakura, who was looking at him with curiosity beaming in her eyes.
"What is your side mission? Can I know about it?" her voice was so sweet that Sasori wanted to spill everything and confess how his recently discovered love for her was the reason why the Kazekage had commissioned the side mission, but he controlled himself.
He brushed one of her loose strands of hair away from her face, "Sorry, top secret."
Sakura's homely apartment was everything Sasori expected it to be. It was clean and tidy. She was minimalistic when it came to furnitures: a comfy couch, coffee table, bookshelves against the wall, etc. Trinkets and photos, most likely momentos from her life, decorated the place. Several photos caught Sasori's attention: there was an older photo that must be her genin team photo, one with whom he assumed were her parents, and another where Sakura was dressed rather scandalously and posing with a light teal eyed blonde.
The pinkette was in the midst of explaining the location of things in the kitchen and the bathroom when she noticed Sasori was looking at the photos on her bookshelf.
"Were you listening to me?" she huffed as she walked to his side.
"I was," Sasori replied, "I can multitask."
Sakura rolled her eyes. "Those are my teammates, Naruto and Sasuke. That's our sensei, Hiro-sensei, but we lost him due to a mission gone wrong." Sasori waited as she took a deep breath before continuing her explanations. "They are my parents, but they moved to the Land of Tea when I became a jounin. They decided to be tea farmers. That's Ino, my best friend. She likes to make me wear dresses like that when we go out."
Sasori nodded as he put all the information into permanent storage in his mind. One of his goals was to learn as much about Sakura as he possibly could and he was off to a great start.
After Sakura made Sasori repeat everything she said about the kitchen and bathroom, in order to show that he indeed listened to her, she took him to the spare bedroom. It was simple like the rest of the apartment; there was a full size bed, a dresser, and a small table against the window. Sakura opened the dresser and pulled out some folded clothes. He vaguely saw some dark blues and bright orange.
"The guys sometimes sleep over and they tend to leave stuff everywhere. I thought that it might be you who was coming to Konoha and that you would probably be stuck with me until Tsunade finds you a place to live, so I had already changed out the sheets and covers. I also dusted the desk and cleared out the dresser. Treat it like your own room. I will let you unpack. Meet me in the living room when you are done and we can go over the project together."
"No problem! I am so excited!" Sakura grinned cheerfully and went out of the room.
Sasori set down his pack on the table and draped his cloak on the foot of the bed. He did not particularly fancy the idea of other men "sleeping over" at Sakura's place, but she was bound to sleep near them anyways since they were teammates. He was going to be mature about this. He decided that wearing his ANBU regalia was going to gather more unnecessary attention than he would like, so he quickly changed into a simple black shirt and brown pants, similar to his jounin clothing. He forwent his flak jacket, but he kept his forehead protector secured on his head.
He was not sure if he liked the expression on Sakura's face when he joined her on the couch. She had only seen him in his ANBU uniform or the long floppy robes that Suna-nins wore, so he must look fairly different to her at that moment. But then she smiled and his worry left as soon as it came. She passed him a warm cup of tea and unrolled a scroll. From the corner of his eye, Sasori could tell it was information regarding the Konoha patient that Sakura wanted to perform the procedure on.
"He lost one leg on a mission several years ago. Instead of doing missions, he is a sensei at the academy. I know that our previous patient lost his leg much more recently in comparison to this chunin, but I'd like to give this a go. The procedure should be the same, except that I would have to re-open some of the scarred tissues where the reattachment would be."
"That should be fine. If your goal is to help shinobis regain abilities, this is a good trial. We already know puppet limb attachment works for recently disabled shinobis. So this would be a good chance to see if and how the attachment could help shinobis who have been disabled for a period of time already."
"Yes, my point exactly. I have already spoken with the chunin in question. We can go see him tomorrow and you can take his measurements."
Sasori nodded in confirmation.
"Now then… You had a long journey from Suna, and running no less!" Sakura suddenly scolded him, "You should rest now. I will make some food and wake you up later."
But before she could stand up from the couch, Sasori pulled her closer and somehow maneuvered them until he was lying on his side with his head on her lap. He let out a contented sigh and Sakura narrowed her eyes.
"Fine!" she relented and weaved her hand into his messy red locks. She gently rubbed his scalp while sending soothing chakra through her fingertips. A small smile graced Sasori's lips as he fell into a deep sleep, unweary of his surroundings, despite being in foreign territory.
Sakura did not notice when she dozed off, too, but the bright ray of light that woke her up told her that the sun was high in the sky. It was most likely a little past noon, which meant they napped for a few hours. The pinkette stretched her arms over her head and smiled a little when Sasori, whose head was still firmly on her lap, mumbled and stirred.
"Get up, sleepy head! I don't know about you, but I am hungry!" Sakura patted Sasori's arm and he grumbled. But he reluctantly sat up when she shifted and his head was at risk of falling towards the ground. His hair was messy, from his stirring and Sakura's patting, and it made her giggle. She smoothed his hair down, much like how she did for her other boys when they woke up with a nest for hair.
"I have some onigiri that I will heat up. There are extra towels and toothbrushes in the cabinet in the bathroom, feel free to claim yours."
Sasori nodded groggily as Sakura walked into the kitchen. Since her kitchen was designed to have an open space that faces the living room, he could see everything that she was doing. He wanted to watch her in her domestic grace for a while longer, but his eyes were gritty and his mouth felt dry. With slow steps, he found his way to the bathroom.
Inside the cabinet that Sakura mentioned were color coordinated towels and toothbrushes. It was obvious which ones were used and Sasori was completely certain whom the orange and dark blue toothbrushes belonged to. He grabbed the red towel and red toothbrush and used them to freshen up. When he was done, he hesitated whether he should put them inside the cabinet with the other used ones. He glanced at the cabinet, then back at the counter where Sakura had her pink one inside a cup and her pink towel hanging by the shower. Swiftly, he dropped his toothbrush next to hers, admiring how the two colors complimented each other, and hung his towel next to hers.
When he returned to the living room, Sakura had already put a plate of steaming onigiris and two cups of tea on the coffee table. One rice ball was already in her mouth as she waved him over. He quickly joined her before she decided to eat everything.
"It's good, isn't it?" Sakura asked as she grabbed her second one.
Sasori was eyeing the last two rice balls as he ate his first one. There were five in total and he would have to do something drastic if she did not give him the last two. "Did you make them?"
"Mikoto-san made them. I was sparring with Sasuke yesterday and she told me to take some home. She is his mother."
"She is the Uchiha Matriarch," Sasori noticed Sakura did not reach for the last two and inwardly sighed in relief.
"I see you know your stuff."
"I am the Kazekage's right hand man. I know all the major clans and their leaders."
"But I will admit that I did not know your teammate was of the main house," Sasori confessed.
"Oh? Sasuke is of the main house, but he is the second son. Itachi is the heir."
"Itachi? Uchiha Itachi?"
A long forgotten memory from the Great Shinobi World War resurfaced in the Suna-nin's mind. It was during the later part of the war, about a year or two before truce was called. Sasori was 13 and a fresh jounin. He recalled how Suna took pride in his ability on the battlefield, but he knew that he was not the only prodigy that the war created. He knew that Konoha, their enemy at that time, was well known for the amount of prodigies it produced. One of which was a boy, the same age as him, who hailed from one of Konoha's noble clans. While he turned sand red with his foes' blood, this boy traumatized grown warriors with his eyes that turned the color of blood.
Sakura sipped her tea, unknowing of the blood sheds that just crossed Sasori's mind. "Yes. You probably know of him. He fought in the war, just like you did."
"I never faced him in battle." "Would I win? Or would I lose?"
Sakura looked at Sasori with a sincere gleam in her eyes. She patted his head gently, "You know. Despite the horrors of war, I am glad that you and him have both turned out okay. War can cause irreversible trauma."
"That's why you established a mental health department for children," Sasori stated, surprising Sakura.
"You know about that?"
He gave her a pointed look.
"Fine, fine! You know everything. If you'd like, when we have free time, I can take you there. Ino is mainly in charge of that department since I am more needed in the hospital doing physical healing work."
"I'd like that," Sasori smiled warmly as he drank his own cup of tea.