Chapter 15: Shine
Sakura released a loud groan as she stretched out her arms above her head. She had just finished reading a history book about the Land of the Wind that she borrowed from the library. If she was going to be a good diplomat, she needed to understand the people of Suna and the country in which they resided. Since her arrival - scratch that, return -, she had already read several books and became good friends with the librarians. Sakura thought about what to borrow next as she got up from her chair, tucked the book under one arm, and then made her way out of the green house.
The enormous glass structure, filled to the brim with various plants and foliages, was the biggest surprise that Sakura received when she had returned to Suna. The building rivalled the Kazekage's greenhouse in size and content. Everything within the greenhouse was personally designed and created with the pinkette in mind; from the pristine lab benches to the artificial waterfall that kept the space humid. Sakura loved this place and often spend more time here than the actual house in which Sasori shared with her.
During the two months before Sakura left Konoha, Sasori had requested time off and took out much of his savings for his "not-so-little" project. He had acquired a plot of land at the outskirts of the village, but still easy roof-hopping distance to the hospital and Kazekage tower. Then he personally designed and built a house, mixed with both Suna and Konoha culture, and the greenhouse. He had some help from his grandmother and the Kazekage, but they both admitted that it was mostly this love-struck man's effort.
Sakura had been speechless when Sasori had first lead her to the property and explained that it was all hers to use during her stay, which he secretly hoped was for forever. The pinkette had jumped into his arms and he returned the hug just as tightly. It had been several weeks since Sakura had settled in and made the place more homely and welcoming.
At first, the pinkette felt strange adjusting to her diplomatic position, because working as a diplomat meant she spent a lot less time in the hospital. However, as the previous Hokage's apprentice, Sakura was accustomed to political events and meetings. She was proving her worth as a diplomat; much of the nobles and political figures tied to the Land of the Wind were already wrapped around her fingers. She was proud of her work and the Third often teased that she was much better company than Sasori when they were trapped at fancy dinners.
Sakura shielded her eyes from the bright sun rays as she made her way back to the house. However, just as she was preparing to make dinner for Sasori and herself, several loud knocks came from the door. She quickly went to open it; everyone in Suna knew this house belonged to Sasori and herself and knew this was the best place to find them if needed.
When she opened the door, a chunin gasped out of breath, "Sakura-san, we need you at the hospital!"
The pinkette shut the door behind her and lead the way to the hospital, "What is the situation?"
Unlike in Konoha, Suna's medics were still lacking. Hence, Sakura was often asked to assist with more difficult cases. Hopefully, with her extended stay, she could help train more medics during her free time. As of now, she was making plans with the Third to develop an ideal schedule for her to teach at the hospital while maintaining her diplomatic duties.
The chunin replied, "An upper class official from Iwa had arrived with his escort team. They were ambushed at the borders by some rouges. According to one of their nins, their charge panicked and injured himself and is demanding to see you and only you."
Sakura halted, causing the other shinobi to nearly crash into her. "Are you serious?"
"Yes," the teenager nodded, "He is being difficult at the hospital despite Tomoe-san explaining that even the newest medic at the hospital is capable of treating him. From the looks of the Iwa-shinobis' faces, this man must be rather hard to deal with; they all looked like they wanted to kill him."
"Let that man suffer," Sakura huffed, "We can walk there. He isn't dying anytime soon."
True to her words and to the chunin's slight fear, the pinkette took her sweet time strolling towards the hospital. It took almost triple the usual time, but no one mentioned that when she finally arrived. Sakura was immediately lead to the VIP room; she could hear the official complaining inside.
When she entered, she had a fake smile plastered on her face. The nurse being subjected to the man's ranting quickly greeted her and scurried out of the room.
"Haruno Sakura!" he grinned, "What an honor to see you! Only you can help me, I am a very important person after all."
The pinkette was certain that she heard a snicker and a small "oof" from the Iwa shinobis standing further in the room. Seemed like the chunin was right, even that man's escorts disliked him.
"Hello," Sakura bowed, "I technically do not work at the hospital; it is only out of my friendship with the Kazekage and people of Suna that I assist in the hospital occasionally. I hope you understand, Yamada-san."
"I understand," he nodded, "I am honored that you know my name!"
Sakura wanted to groan. She was not stupid, she had done her homework and memorized many nations' officials' names and faces. It was part of her responsibilities and she took that very seriously.
"Yamada-san, what is the problem? You seem well to me."
"I twisted my ankle during the ambush," he answered, "It hurts to walk."
"Excuse me," Sakura sighed under her breath as she reached for the ankle that he was obviously babying. She waved her hand over it, after a green glow, the man's eyes lit up and he placed the foot on the ground.
"That was amazing!" he clapped.
Sakura stepped back to a respectful distance, "That was a very low level healing; even the medics in training could do it with ease. Please be more careful in the future. Now, if you will excuse me."
The pinkette ignored Yamada and his would-be reply and addressed the shinobis in the room. She quickly scanned her eyes over them. It was a four man squad. She recognized the tallest man with light brown hair, he was the shinobi that went to Konoha with poisoned teammates. The other three were also male, one had orange hair and the other two were blonde, one had short hair and the other had long hair. They were all in standard Iwa shinobi gear and looked a little ruffled up. Sakura knew they had been observing her since she had entered, but these nins would not be stupid enough to do anything reckless in foreign territory.
She smiled at Gou, the one she had met before, "Long time no see, Gou-san."
He seemed genuinely surprised that she remembered him, "Hello again, Sakura-san." They both ignored Yamada's gasp behind them.
"I heard there was an ambush, is your team okay?" Sakura approached them carefully, fully aware that some shinobis were extremely skirmish around medics.
Gou looked at this teammates and back at the pinkette, "Umm. I got some scratches, as for the team..."
The two with shorter hair said in unison, "We also only got scratches."
Sakura looked at the last man on the team, who narrowed his eyes at her, "I am not going to let a foreign medic treat me even if I am hurt."
"So you are hurt," Sakura nodded, ignoring the baffled face the blonde gave her.
Gou quickly interjected, "I apologize, Sakura-san! Deidara is not very polite."
She waved her hand dismissively, "No worries. Gou-san, please escort your less childish teammates and Yamada-san out. Tomoe-san can treat your injuries. I will take care of this one here. Deidara, you said?"
Normally, Sakura would squash down her annoyance and respect foreign shinobis even if they did not deserve her consideration, but an injured shinobi - foreign or not - who acted like a butt in the hospital was an exception.
After the crowd left the room, the medic stared at the blonde, who returned her gaze with hostile intensity. "Where are you hurt, Deidara-san?"
"It is as I said, I won't let a foreign medic heal me. I don't trust you," he bit back. Then under his breath, which Sakura barely caught, he mumbled, "especially not one from Konoha."
Sakura crossed her arms, "What do you have against Konoha-nins? If I am not mistaken, Iwa is one of the nations eagerly making an alliance with Konoha. Your kage even came to our kage's inauguration."
"It's none of your business," Deidara bit back, "and I still won't let you touch me."
She sighed as she glanced over him. It was clear that he was not in any obvious pain, but there was something wrong with him - call it medic's instinct. Sakura held one hand up to swear, "I promise I won't touch you more than necessary or cause any bodily harm. Medic's honor."
The blonde still seemed suspicious, but Sakura noted that his posture did relax slightly. After another few minutes of staring, Deidara relented. He rarely required the assistance of a medic, even back in Iwa. The few times he saw one were when his shishou forced him to get his infected burns checked out. The only time that he actually had one save his life was after an encounter with a Konoha shinobi; the memory of a black haired ANBU with glowing red eyes would never fade from his memory.
He turned to the side, showing Sakura his back. There was a relatively long gash from his shoulder to the tricep. It seemed that the blood had already clotted. Sakura sighed. That stupid official wasted so much time that even a large wound was able to seal itself. She appreciated that the nin did not react as she reached out and allowed a green glow to cover the wound. The cut disappeared without a trace of a scar within a few minutes.
Deidara checked out the medic's handiwork from the corner of his eyes. She was as good as rumors said. He was about to leave and find his team when the pinkette stopped him.
"I don't mean to be nosy," Sakura said quietly, "But you seem very familiar to me. If I am not wrong, you are the Tsuchikage's discipline. How did you get this cut when your team only got scratches?" If there was a formidable shinobi among the rouges, she felt the need to report to the Kazekage.
Deidara huffed, "I was sent on this stupid escort mission because I blew up part of the Tsuchikage tower by accident and some idiots got hurt. My usual weapon of choice was confiscated as well and I totally forgot about that during the battle, since that Yama-whatever-san was so annoying. Satisfied?"
Sakura stared at him. She knew that the Tsuchikage had a very powerful discipline who specialized in explosives, but she never thought that he could be so heartless. The Tsuchikage was rather funny and wise, how could his man in front of her be his apprentice?!
Suddenly, the blonde leaned forward and stared deep into her eyes, "I know you cause just as much collateral damage as I do." Then he pulled back with a smirk, "If you are done, I have to find my team. See you, Haruno Sakura."
Sakura glared at his back as the blonde walked out of the room, "What a brat!" The pinkette knew that the blonde Iwa-nin was younger than her based on the bingo books and that was no way to treat his elder! Her disrespect to Sasori was the only exception.
The kunoichi took a deep breath as she stalked out after him. She was a civil woman, she was just going to go home, make tea and dinner, then read in peace until Sasori returned. Her plan was completely ruined as she was nearly ran over by one of the nurses.
"What is wrong, Soyu?" Sakura asked.
"The official wanted you to guide him and his escorts to the Kazekage tower," the girl gulped, "He said he'd feel safer with another foreign shinobi in the room."
Sakura was about to snap until Soyu whispered softly, "Sasori-san is probably with the Kage. You know he isn't as polite with foreigners as you are. I am sure the Third would appreciate your presence."
"Fine," the pinkette grumbled.
The walk to the tower was surprisingly not unbearable. As annoying as Yamada seemed, he was still polite towards Sakura. He actually asked and spoke about the different nations with respect and Sakura appreciated that. This man was at least tolerable, but on the other hand, the blonde that she treated was slowly getting on her nerves. He stared at her the whole time and seemed to enjoy it.
Sakura thanked the heavens when they were invited into the Third' office immediately. Both the Third and Sasori were slightly surprised at the pinkette's appearance, but did not outwardly show it.
"Welcome to Suna," the Third greeted the people of Iwa. Then he turned to Sakura, "What brings you here, Sakura-san?"
"I insisted that she guide us after she treated us at the hospital," Yamada answered for the kunoichi, who discreetly rolled her eyes.
"I see," The Third nodded, "Well, it is late, I will have a chunin take you and your escorts to your resident. We will meet again in the morning. A chunin will take you here."
Yamada looked at Sakura, "Can't Haruno-san guide us? She is good company."
Sasori wanted to laugh at the exasperated expression on his lover's face, but he himself was rather annoyed at the civilian as well. This pink haired, almighty kunoichi was his. Alliance or not, any man who even thought of his blossom in an inappropriate way was going to die. However, before Sasori nor the Third could speak up, Sakura walked to Sasori's side and turned to face Yamada, "I have already assisted you out of the kindness of my heart. The chunin responsible for you during your stay will be here shortly. I must leave your presence."
"What about dinner?" Yamada insisted, "My treat."
Sasori's eye twitched slightly and Deidara noticed. He had heard about this red head and completely disagreed with his shinobi ways. Life was supposed to be fleeting and colorful, but this man twisted death into lifeless dolls that were just so dull. He supposed that this Suna-nin was powerful in his own ways, but Deidara had every right to dislike him.
The Third stood up, "Sakura-san has a prior engagement, but you will see her again during our meeting."
Yamada, who finally gave up, nodded as a chunin entered the room. He introduced himself and lead the Iwa group away.
"I am assuming I don't have the day off tomorrow," Sakura asked the Third, who childishly made a face at the closed door.
"Sorry about that, Sakura," he sighed, "I will let Sasori go early so you two can enjoy dinner out."
Sasori narrowed his eyes, "I am off in five minutes."
"Be grateful for the five minutes, why can't you appreciate me more?"
Sakura laughed softly whereas Sasori ignored the older man as the pair left the office. The pinkette smiled warmly at him as Sasori gently brushed her hair behind her ear. "What would you like for dinner?"
"Maki said a new restaurant opened by the markets, let's go there?"
Sasori nodded as Sakura linked her arm with his. Everyone in Suna knew that Sasori and Sakura were an item, from civilians to shinobis. At first, people were curious whether their terrifying ANBU had managed to chase down the lovely medic, but when Sakura moved in with Sasori, there was no need for explanation. Sakura thought rumors spread fast in Konoha, but there was no comparison with Suna; the news spread like wildfire in this scorched and windy village.
When they arrived at the restaurant, there was a long line of people already. Sakura looked at Sasori, who smiled, "I am not very hungry. We can wait. There is an errand that I wanted to run, would you mind waiting alone for a little while?"
Sakura shook her head, "I don't mind." Sasori had changed a lot since Sakura had came into his life. He was more patient, smiled a little more, and did not give people spine-tingling chills when he approached. Sakura was good for him, which in turn, was good for Suna and its inhabitants.
The red head pecked Sakura's forehead, then disappeared down the crowded streets. Sakura quickly got in line and was greeted by others already in line. She was literally the only natural pinkette in all of Suna; everyone knew who Haruno Sakura was and what she looked like. Unless they lived under a rock for the last year of course.
Sakura was happily chatting with the couple in front of her when a hand tapped her shoulder. She turned and came face to face with the Iwa-nin from earlier. "Deidara-san?"
He grinned, "I thought you looked familiar."
"Aren't you supposed to be with your charge?" Sakura asked, peeking around his shoulder. If Yamada-san had followed her, then that man really needed a beating.
Deidara laughed at her reaction, "He is not here. We have shifts and I am off right now." The kunoichi did not need to know that he threatened the team leader to let him take the first break.
"I see," Sakura could see a familiar redhead in the distance, "What are you doing here?"
"I saw you and wanted to say hi," Deidara answered, "You are very interesting, so I wanted to talk to you."
She narrowed her eyes, "What happened to not liking Konoha-nins?"
"Correction, I don't like Konoha ANBU, but you are not ANBU," Deidara stood closer, "So if you don't mind, can I join you for dinner?"
"I have to ask my date," Sakura looked at Sasori, who was standing behind Deidara, "what do you say?"
The Iwa-nin whipped around and Sasori titled his head back to dodge the long ponytail; he had a sudden flashback of Sakura's best girlfriend. He looked at the blonde, then back at Sakura, "Whatever you want, love."
Sakura wanted to giggle as Deidara took a step back from Sasori. "Ah, Akasuna no Sasori," he looked back at Sakura, "I see why you are Konoha's diplomat now."
"Yes," she grinned, "But you can still join us for dinner if you'd like."
"If your boyfriend doesn't mind."
"I don't mind," Sasori answered as he looked at the younger shinobi. If Sakura chose him over Uchiha Itachi, there was no way he would lose to this teenager.
Dinner was quite fun in Sakura's opinion. Sasori did not speak much, but he did not mind listening to Sakura and Deidara's chatter. The Iwa shinobi reminded him of Naruto and Ino and he was glad that Sakura was having fun. They were having a heated discussion about their destructive techniques when the orange haired Iwa shinobi appeared.
"Deidara! I was looking for you everywhere! Your break is over, it's your turn to watch that Yama-whatever."
The blonde groaned as he stood, "Hope to see you again, Sakura. Bye, Sasori-san."
"See you," Sakura waved as the Iwa-shinobis left. Deidara was not too bad after talking to him. He was obviously narcissistic, but he made good conversation.
Later that night, Sakura and Sasori were sitting on the ground in the greenhouse. The stars shined brightly through the glass roof, the little waterfall splashes sung a gentle melody, and the flowers that only bloomed at night released a faint sweet scent. It was warm in the greenhouse, which meant Sakura did not have to freeze to death whenever she wanted to stargaze. The few nights when she missed Konoha, she would come here and Sasori would bring her her favorite tea.
Tonight, however, was not of those nights. It was Sasori who asked Sakura to come to the greenhouse this time. The pinkette did not question it as she admired the starry sky. Suddenly, a shooting star bolted across the sky and Sakura screamed, "Quick, make a wish!" She closed her eyes and clasped her hands together.
When she opened them again, she smiled blindingly at Sasori, "Did you make a wish?"
"I only have one wish," Sasori replied as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box.
Green eyes widen as a ring that could rival the stars' shine was revealed. "Marry me, Sakura."
A bright blush lined her cheeks, "That was not a question."
"It wasn't," Sasori took her hand and gently slipped the ring into place. "You are mine and I am yours."
I hope you enjoyed this story. It was a long way coming, but we are here at last! I somehow really like this Suna-verse. If I ever get feels again, be prepared to be bombarded by new stories!