And this story is officially done!

Epilogue – of Rain and Blossoms

"And that's how it is, dad," Sakura said cheerfully. "Sometimes you really don't know when life's going to sneak up behind you with a surprise or two."

She was standing in front of his grave, her umbrella in hand. The grass all around was wet for it had been raining intensely all through the morning. At one point, she thought they might not be able to make the visit to the cemetery they had planned a couple of days ago. But some higher force seemed to have intervened and when they were making their way over to the flower shop to pick up their blooms, the sun had suddenly shone through the overcast.

Of course, bringing an umbrella had been essential. You simply couldn't be too careful with this unpredictable weather.

The bouquet at Sakura's feet contrasted greatly with its myriad colours against the bleak grey of the tombstone. It really was good to bring your loved ones flowers; it gave the cemetery a whole different atmosphere as you walked among the graves and passed the blossoms people left in homage. The roseate haired girl had always thought that they attested to the life that had ended, reminding those who were still walking on these grounds of the vibrancy that soul had possessed while it was alive. For her, it was a way to pay respect to the man her father had been… always lively and cheerful. She'd inherited her positive streak from him.

Thus, never in all the years that she had come visit him had she ever forgotten to bring him flowers.

Sakura reached towards the tombstone with her hand, caressing it lovingly. "I guess I never thought myself lucky enough to find what you and mum had together," she whispered. "But I guess I never gave myself a chance. I don't know where all this will take me… even so, I'm willing to give it a shot."

With that, she lifted her face to look down the row of graves where she was standing. Gaara was squatting in front of his mother's resting place, a large bouquet of lilies in his hands. Smiling, Sakura watched him place the flowers upon the base of the stone and saw him move his lips slightly. She couldn't stifle a giggle at that. After having learned that her redhead had only 'talked' to his mother a couple of times during all the years he had come visit her, it was only proper for her to encourage him to do so again.

For Sakura, talking to her father at his grave generally helped her get her thoughts together when she was worrying over something or simply made her feel that she continued to have a special link with him even if he wasn't actually with her in a physical sense. It was a kind of continuation of the relationship she had with him while he had been alive. Nonetheless, she knew it wasn't the same for Gaara, who had never actually known his mother, but she told him that it wouldn't do any harm to speak to her in his own way and voice the feelings in his heart. The words didn't have to be spoken out loud… they only needed to be felt.

From the looks of it, he had taken her advice to heart even if he hadn't shown much enthusiasm initially. Sakura truly hoped that it helped him to heal the scars that had been etched in his heart since he was so young. It would take time but she had a strong belief that he would one day be able to overcome them.

She watched him for a few more moments before turning towards her father's grave once again. "I'll see you soon, dad," she said, leaning down and placing a quick kiss on the top of the cold stone.

Swinging her umbrella in her hand, the pink haired girl made her way down the aisle of graves and watched Gaara straighten up. He bowed once more before the stone, lingering for a bit before he looked up to see Sakura coming his way.

Turning towards her, he graced his mother with a half-smile over his shoulder as he started walking. They met midway between their parent's graves with a quick kiss.

"You are aware that this is the first time that I visit my mother on another date that isn't my birthday," he said, taking her hand as they started walking towards his car.

"I know. You told me," Sakura replied, squeezing his fingers. "You could've visited her anytime you wanted all these years… including on your birthday."

"Yeah," he said thoughtfully. "I guess it had just never occurred to me to do so."

"You learn a new thing every day!" she exclaimed with a laugh.

Gaara chuckled, loving her randomness and haphazard outbursts all the more.

They walked amongst the graves in silence for a few moments, as if giving their respects to all of those that were lying beneath them. Sakura thought it was truly strange for their relationship to have been initiated among the last resting place of so many. Any other person would've considered this a bad omen. Having one of your initial meetings with your future boyfriend in a graveyard? It was unheard of.

But the pink haired girl thought it carried a completely different connotation, especially with the loved ones both of them had buried there. Death carried many meanings, not all of them as cryptic as the approaching end of your life… if you looked at it from a certain point of view, you lived many deaths in the course of your lifetime, all of them leading to a new beginning as you walked your path and left all manner of things behind.

So why shouldn't such an astonishing relationship like the one she had with Gaara not begin at a place that was marked by so much significance?

Other might see it as ill-fated… but Sakura chose to see it in an auspicious way.

In life, it all truly narrowed down to attitude.

"We'd better hurry," the redhead said as they walked into the parking lot. "Naruto will most likely be there already."

"I can't wait to meet him!" Sakura exclaimed as she got into the car, "From what you've told me, I have the suspicion we're going to get along wonderfully."

Gaara narrowed his eyes at her for a moment but remained silent. With the way she had naturally teamed up with Temari against him, the last thing he needed was for her to make allies with his best friend as well.

They drove in companionable silence through the city, the late afternoon sun lazily shining down from near the horizon. The redhead had agreed to meet Naruto at the 'Rouge Dog' and had promised that he would bring Sakura along this time so he could meet her.

The blond had been ecstatic with the news and sworn that he would be there early.

After parking the car, Gaara led Sakura to the entrance of the relatively small pub and explained that it belonged to an acquaintance of theirs. As they walked in, a brown haired man with red marks on his cheeks greeted the redhead with a wave. The pink haired girl assumed that this most be Kiba and she smiled at him as she was led to the booths of the establishment, where another man with golden hair was sitting with his back to them.

"We're here," Gaara announced gruffly, as if he had resigned himself with the inevitability of this particular meeting.

The blond man jumped from his seat, evidently startled. But as he did so, he revealed another person that they hadn't been able to see initially sitting across from him in the booth.

"Dammit, don't sneak up on me like that!" Naruto exclaimed.

But Sakura wasn't paying much attention… she was gaping at the girl sitting in front of her.

"HINATA?" she exclaimed in shock.

The raven haired girl looked at her with equally wide eyes and stood up quickly.

"What are you doing here?" she asked in surprise.

"I was about to ask you the same thing! I'm here with Gaara."

Hinata brought her hand to her face in shock when she finally saw the redhead and nodded slightly in greeting.

"You two know each other?" Naruto exclaimed in surprise, unable to stifle a bark of laughter. "Talk about surprises."

"Of course we do," Sakura replied, "we actually work together."

"You're the Sakura from the flower shop?" the blond exclaimed. "I can't believe it!"

"Naruto, right?" the pink haired girl asked with a smile, extending her hand. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

"The pleasure is all mine! You have no idea how much I've been wanting to meet you. Right, Gaara?"

But the redhead, who had remained silent up until now, was standing next to them with a thoughtful look in his eyes.

"What is it?" Naruto asked.

"You're dating the mute?" he asked in disbelief, pointing at the raven haired girl standing a few paces away.

"GAARA!" Sakura exclaimed, slapping him on the arm forcefully.

Hinata blushed fiercely and looked like she wanted the ground to swallow her whole.

"Hey!" Naruto said indignantly, coming to her defence.

The redhead seemed to get himself back together after the initial shock. "I didn't mean any offence. It's just that a loud mouth like you would simply drive the girl insane in a matter of seconds."

The blond looked sheepish for a moment as he stepped up to wrap an arm around Hinata's shoulder. "Well, she more than makes up for my weak points. What can I tell you? Opposites attract."

Sakura laughed out happily and moved to embrace Gaara in a similar fashion.

"I agree with you there."

With that, she stood on her tiptoes and planted a quick kiss on his cheek.

The redhead grumbled but accepted the show of affection stoically.

Deep down inside, after all he had lived through recently and had managed to discover thanks to the roseate haired beauty standing next to him, he agreed with that statement as well… but there really was no need for them to know that.