Maple Trees and Lizards: and the Sa-Ga continues

A/N: As of the 31st, this story will have been posted for a year! I would post this chapter on the anniversary, but... I want to say that I got this chapter done before the year was up.


Sakura lost her footing and fell out of the tree, twenty feet to the ground.

"Sakura!" Naruto and Sasuke came leaping over. "You Ok?"

"Yeah, just absent-minded, I guess," she laughed, dusting herself off.

"I meant are you hurt?"

"Oh, no, I'm fine."

"What happened up there?"

Sakura sighed, her eyes losing focus and staring off into the distance as they had so often in the past month. "Oh, I just got distracted watching the leaves. Aren't they pretty at this time of year?"

Naruto and Sasuke exchanged a meaningful glance.

"Sakura, he's going to be back in May, and, well, he didn't even say goodbye to you, maybe you shouldn't be taking this so seriously... Try to concentrate on more important stuff."

Sakura smiled at them innocently. "Who's going to be back in May? I really have no idea what you're talking about. I was just admiring the scenery and forgot what I was doing, that's all."

The boys sighed. "Whatever you say, Sakura. Let's call it a day, all right?"

Sakura sat on her window ledge and watched the moon as she combed out her hair. The nights had begun to get chilly, so the window was closed, probably for the best, given how prone to accidents she was these days.

A brush stroke unsnared some flora that had stuck in her hair after her fall. It spun around and landed on the little red-and-pink wrapped box that had been sitting on her dresser collecting dust.

Sakura moved to brush the twirlygig away, but instead only rested her hand on the box.

"You're right," she whispered. Sakura had gone a little crazy in the past month.

"Why doesn't anything grow out here?" Gaara asked that morning at the breakfast table. Surprisingly, Temari was not in the room, and this was odd because she was inevitably the one who got asked awkward questions by her little brothers. ("What's sex?" "Why doesn't Gaara have a bedtime?" and "Why won't anyone talk to me?" among others.)

Kankuro set down his spoonful of Fruit Loops. This had to be a trick question. "... because it's a desert?"

"Duh," Gaara growled. "I mean, why is it a desert?"

"Because you're here, and you suck the will to live out of the place."

"Kankuro!" Temari admonished, having picked this moment to enter the kitchen.

"What? I was joking!"

"Hey, Maki, is your sister home?" Naruto asked the little boy who answered the door.

Maki shook his head.

"Well, where is she?" Sasuke asked.

"She went on a quest," he said, "to find her boyfriend."

"Oh boy."

"This was a dumb idea," Sakura told herself three days later as Sunagakure's outer wall came into view. She wasn't even technically allowed to be there without official business, and her business today was anything but official. She didn't have the appropriate travel papers, she didn't know where Gaara lived, she didn't know his last name, she didn't know anyone she could ask, she didn't have a whole lot of cash on her... up until now, she had just been traveling along blindly, without a thought to what to do once she arrived. She had just assumed that, after that sign she received from the Powers That Be, that everything would work itself out.

She took off her headband and unzipped her dress a little, hoping to flirt her way out if things got bad. She doubted she would be able to do this, but she was certain that she would be able to whip up some tears in a pinch.

Fortunately, the guards were busy talking to a couple that just happened to show up at the gate a little bit before her, and Sakura was able to slip past with only a quick nod in her direction.

After that bit of luck, things started to look bleak again. She had snuck into another village illegally and was now lost, alone, and likely to stay that way.

"I suck at this game," she decided.

Gaara sand-smushed the practice dummy, hardly blinking as the bits of stuffing fell around him. He knew the crew in charge of keeping the practice grounds in repair hated it when he was in the mood to do this, because there was never a dummy left when he was done, but he also knew they wouldn't complain, because, as the Suna saying goes, "a semi-sane Gaara who is smashing straw dummies to bits is a semi-sane Gaara who is not smashing people to bits. At least, not for the time being."

He kicked at a scrap that had fallen at his feet. He was in a weird mood, and the destruction of the final target on the court had left him with no distraction. He thought about heading home. Temari was making gizzards tonight to try to cheer him up, maybe he could help her. Of course, the last thing she wanted was his help, but it was better than standing there, kicking at stuffing. He turned around.

Haruno Sakura stared back at him.

"Sakura? You startled me."

Sakura said nothing, just smiled.

"What's your problem? What are you even doing here? Get sick of the forest or something?"

Sakura shrugged. "I was looking for someone."

"Is it legal for you to be here? Since you're a Leaf nin and all?"

Sakura shrugged again. "Temari isn't the only one who does illegal stuff in her spare time. What are you doing here?"

"I was practicing... since this is a practice court and all."

"Do child prodigies have to practice like us lesser mortals?"

Gaara looked to one side, planning out his answer. "All right, I was letting out steam... I miss my girlfriend so much right now, that if I didn't have this dummy to pulverize I would rip this whole village to shreds. And don't think I couldn't manage it."

Sakura grinned. "You miss her... that much? I hear you didn't even say goodbye to her."

Gaara shrugged. "You know how it is. Love is complicated."

"Is it?"

"Uh, yeah." Gaara rolled his eyes at such a dumb question. "Don't you have anyone you love? A friend? A teacher? A pet goldfish?" he asked, taking a step closer to her with each suggestion until they were finally face to face. "A boyfriend?"

"Yeah," Sakura whispered. "Actually, I do."

They decided mutually that it was a good time for a passionate kiss.

As to what was in Sakura's going-away present:

"Seriously, Gaara, leave your girlfriend alone, I'm trying to eat," Kankuro finally snapped at his brother at dinner.

"Aw, leave them alone, Kan-kun," Temari cooed. "They're cute."

"Cute? Kittens are cute, Temari. That's just gross."

Sakura and Gaara, of course, ignored both of them completely and continued cuddling.

"Sakura... what's in your pocket?"

"Oh," Sakura giggled and retrieved the package she had been saving all month. "I wanted to give you this," she explained, handing it to him with a kiss. "But you left..."

"I'm sorry..."

"No, it's ok. I understand. Temari explained everything."

This was news to Gaara, who hadn't realized there was anything to explain, but his curiosity in his present overcame his interest in his sister's justification for his actions.

"It's just, I know that we can't be together the whole year. I mean, I can't stay with you here," she said as he ripped off the paper.

"Damn right you can't stay," Kankuro muttered. "I can't live with some girl joined to Gaara at the lips walking around."

"Oh stop being so melodramatic," Temari said. "Nobody really believes that you'd lose your appetite, fatty."

"Shut up, 'Mari!"

Gaara had opened the box. "It's... a pot?"

Sakura nodded and picked up the twirler nestled inside the container. "I thought, you could grow your own... so that you can remember me when we're apart."

"But–," Gaara kissed her. "But, what about you? I–," kiss, "I didn't get you anything."

Sakura laughed. "That's OK. I'll remember you."

"No." Gaara vanished just as Sakura tried to kiss him again.

"See how much quieter this is?" Kankuro remarked. Sakura glared at him. "Oh don't look at me like that. He's coming back."

He did come back, with a water gourd (the miniature of his own) in tow. "Here."

Sakura took it from him uncertainly.

"It's filled with sand... it's not as good as a twirlygig tree, but,"

"It's perfect!" she exclaimed, throwing her arms around him.

"Here we go again," Kankuro muttered.

"I love you, Gaara."

"I love you, Sakura."

What? You didn't expect me to let Kankuro have the last word in a SakuGaar fic, did you?

--The End--

Final A/N and Credits:

Wow. It's hard to believe that a oneshot spin-off of a crack story would turn into a 12 chapter, 360-odd review story. I'm a little unsure what to say... I'm sure you'd like me to just shut up and let you get back to your fanfic'ing, but this story has been such a big deal to me for so long, I couldn't just... end it.

First off, SPECIAL MAGICAL COOKIE THANKS to all my reviewers. If not for you guys, I would have just left this thing, and that would have been a shame, for even though I've complained a fair deal, I really love this story. I go back and read it again myself ('cause I'm a narcissist that way). It makes me really sad when I check my stats and realize that The Fortune of Mrs. Sakura is outstripping Twirlygigs and Gizzards... T & G is like my favorite child, and now it's all grown up... Sorry, got sentimental, there.

I'm still not sure if I like this best as a oneshot or the full version, but if you've read this far it's clearly too late to find out, right?

Other acknowledgments:

The Nuances of Toast, who, more than anybody, have put up with far too much writer's block bitching from me.

People who supported The Village Hidden in the Lemon Peels, which is the original inspiration for this story. (Rainbow, that's you! X3)

P. G. Wodehouse, Jeeves, and Bertie Wooster,

The people who own the restaurant in Athens, OH that The Tango Mocha was based on.

Best Western, Dimetapp (I thank them a lot...), Casablanca, Adult Swim, Gainx

My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Orange County, and all the other movies I ripped off

Apologizes to Amaya, who, if she had any idea how much she had to do with this story, would kill herself out of shame. Sorry, A-chan!

And finally, the mystery solved (I'm sure it's been bugging you): Sakura's little siblings names come from DeathNote. I was borrowing the manga when I first wrote this, didn't have access to any other Japanese names, and I was desperate. I don't remember which volume, but Shoko Maki is the fake name given to Light by the wife of a dead FBI agent, and Sayu, of course, is Light's little sister.

Once again, thank you to everybody, and I hoped you loved reading this as much as (more than) I loved writing it!


"And mom said she was out of oregano and I said "Itachi's got some in his room", and I was only four, how was I supposed to know it wasn't oregano? So mom blows up, and Itachi gets all pissed at me, and I'm like—," --Sasuke