Sakura Blossoms in Sand

Disclaimer – I do not own Naruto in any which way. Though, I do have the story line and the title.

"Sand?"

Tsunade nodded in affirmation towards her former apprentice.

The young, pink haired medic gave a small sigh, looking down in a hopeless manner.

Staring at her former pupil, Tsunade quirked an eyebrow at her, puzzlement evident on her face. In the eight years of mentoring the pink haired kunoichi, she had never seen the woman looking so miserable when given a mission. Sakura was usually so moved, and motivated to try her best, that she usually strived forward, taking any mission that happened to bounce her way. Even the more ridiculous ones were taken in stride.

"Sakura. What's wrong?" The blonde asked Sakura.

Sakura moved her green eyes to meet Tsunade's deep brown ones. She knew that she could never keep a secret from the woman. Tsunade was like a second mother to Sakura, and as the saying goes, "Mother know everything".

Lifting her head to face the Hokage, Sakura let a little smile filter onto her face before answering her.

"It's just that… I was hoping to go to Sasuke's reinstatement ceremony. He invited me himself", Sakura told Tsunade.

Tsunade felt as if she could have slapped herself at that moment. The Uchiha's reinstatement as a ninja of Konaha was a big deal. It meant that the city of leaf was willing to let a known traitor back into their ranks. That action was something scrutinized as being 'foolish', by the other village leaders, but Tsuande held on. She had seen the original team seven in the hospital; after Naruto had retrieved the now, last remaining Uchiha. She had seen the devotion and the love in Naruto and Sakura's eyes as they crowded around the grumpy missing ninja and, now thinking back, she knew that that scene was her undoing. She couldn't have the Uchiha killed. She couldn't hurt the two ninja's who had affected her life the most.

Tsunade looked towards Sakura with an apologetic gaze. Even if Sakura was no longer pinning after the Uchiha prodigy, they were still friends. Actually, they had become even closer than Naruto was to the boy. Three dango on a stick if you will. Sakura had let the Uchiha stay at her place and Naruto helped with getting him a job when Sasuke was still recovering. He later moved back into his own, Uchiha manor, when Sakura felt he was strong enough to stay on his own. Both had stuck with the named 'traitor' while he was still getting back on his feet. Each child without a family of its own had found it in each other and was as close as real blood siblings. It was amazing that they could stay good friends after all this time.

But there was Sunagakure to think about. A break out of small pox had severely weakened the nation AND during that time, an army of bandits from the desert had attacked them. They had been able to defeat the bandits, but had a major amount of causalities. They needed medical care desperately, and as an ally with the best medics, Konoha needed to help.

With a sigh, Tsunade tried to think of a way out of this predicament.

"I could send someone else if you wish?", she asked the younger woman.

Sakura's eyes seemed to intense at this statement.

"But there is no one else for this job. I am the most qualified person to help out Suna. You know that. And besides, we don't have anyone to spare. After Kabuto's final attack, we need to keep as many medics on hand as possible"

Tsunade wouldn't deny this girls argument. After Orochimaru's death, Kabuto decided to take a final strike with deadly bio-weaponry. Much of the fire country landed into disarray as the people became infected with a potent strain of influenza. Most of the top Konoha ninja's had been sent out to help repair their crumbling nation. Tsunade had kept Sakura in Konoha incase of an emergency, and now that one had arisen, Sakura was the only one left in reserve. Not only that, but Shizune was pregnant with her first child and Tsunade herself couldn't leave her country to help sand. The only option was Sakura.

"Are you Ok with going? Even if it means missing Sasuke's reinstatement".

Sakura stared at Tsunade for a good minute before answering.

"It is my duty as a ninja" and with that left Tsunade's office.