Being born in Suna, Akasuna no Sasori had never once in his life seen snow fall until he left it all behind. Even now, he could distinctively recall the sight of the cold powder slowly covering every inch of the scenery, leaving nothing but pure white in its stead. Treading slowly through the snow covered ground now, the Akatsuki took in the sight around him, sinking into reverie with the past that came with it.
It too, was snowing when he first found her.
Or was it she who found him?
He had been wounded, scattered to pieces and left in the snow after a fight with Orochimaru. The cunning snake had turned on him as soon as their mission objective was in their hands, a forbidden scroll on summoning the dead. Already drained from having to fight and take the scroll, the red haired Akatsuki was unprepared when his own partner sank his fangs into his wooden shell and ripped him apart.
"Too bad, Sasori-kun, your body would have made a wonderful host for me," Orochimaru smirked, slithering his long tongue back, the tip wrapped tightly around the blood-stained scroll, "if only it wasn't made out of wood."
Pinned against the trunk of a tree by the short sword that stabbed through his chakra core, Sasori's dark red eyes narrowed on the conniving snake.
"You would dare betray the organization?" He spoke calmly, contrary to the anger on his face." His reply was a mocking laugh as the Leaf missing-nin turned to walk away.
"I only joined the Akatsuki because it was useful to me, for I have now found the perfect body to be my next host," those sharp narrowed eyes glanced back at him. Understanding dawned on the puppet master, and he couldn't help but lay his head back and scoff into the chilling winter air.
"You think you can win against the Uchiha?" the corner of his lips quirked, "then you're stupider than I thought, Orochimaru."
"We'll see, Sasori, but then, you wouldn't be alive by then, will you?" And with that, the snake sanin left, leaving behind the scattered mess that was his former partner. A glance downwards at his pierced "heart" told Sasori all he needed to know; he was loosing chakra fast. As the core of his being was slowly drained of its energy, the Akatsuki's thoughts drifted and he couldn't help but wonder if this would be what dying in a real body feels like. There was no gradual loss of feelings, for he had no nerves, just the fading sensation of his conscience, like a toy running out of battery.
Eventually every part of him would shut down, leaving behind an empty shell.
His eyes closed then, having no need to see the world during his last moments of awareness.
But then warmth came.
A soft, gentle sensation that started at the core of his being, drifting outwards throughout his broken shell of a body. It was a feeling he had lost ever since he remade himself.
'Is this what dying feels like?' Sasori couldn't help but wonder to himself, but it didn't make sense that a puppet like him should be able to feel again even at death's gate. The entire unnatural feel to the sensation forced the Akatsuki to open his eyes, only to be greeted with pink locks levelled with his chest.
The head tilted up, and his eyes saw only green. The shade was a clear hue, like the new grown leaves of spring, and it captivated him like nothing before. It took him a moment to realize it was someone's eyes he was looking into, and that someone was just a child.
A little girl, probably no older than seven years, dressed in multiple layers of colourful kimono. Her small hand, glowing with a light pink hue, was pressed against his previously pierced heart, thrumming with a steady pulse of chakra that was slowly being pushed into his core.
She was healing him.
Little by little, his drained heart was refilled by her chakra, and the wound sealed under her gentle hand. Staring in surprise at his newly repaired heart, Sasori didn't notice the little girl moving off his lap until her small voice whispered into the cold winter air.
"Daijoubu ka, mister?"
He looked up then, still uncertain if this was all real. Eyes narrowed in suspicion, Sasori nodded once.
And the little girl smiled.
And that was how he met her, a mysterious little girl who appeared out of nowhere, with pink hair, large green eyes, and a bright smile. After that initial night, the girl had returned every following day, sometimes just watching him put himself back together, and other times she would sit beside him, going on and on about pointless little things that had happened to her that day. Many times he had told her to go away with his silent glares, but she would always return the next day with another bright smile. It had taken him a week to restore his shattered body back to its former state and another week to regenerate the lost chakra. In that two weeks, the little girl who introduced herself as Sakura never failed to show up on time, except for the one day when she merely stumbled into the clearing and promptly fell asleep in the snow beside him.
Being himself, Sasori kept silent as he watched her small hands tugged desperately at a corner of his cloak while she whimpered in her sleep. He could have reached out and comforted her, laid a hand on her head and told her everything was okay, but he didn't. He didn't, and he couldn't, because he was sure that something inside him would have shattered had his hand reached out to her. So he simply sat there, watching her curled up beside him, and wondered if she would mind the feel of cold wood touching her.
When it came time to leave, he hesitated when he saw the smile she still kept on her face despite her disappointment. But he was an Akatsuki, and Akatsuki didn't feel remorse.
So he turned his back and walked away, his first word to her in the two weeks they've known each other.
Time passed by quickly after that, Sasori returned to headquarters only to confirm that Orochimaru had indeed betrayed the organization, and a new member was to be recruited in his stead. Deidara was his name, a fellow artist like him, but with a skewed concept of art and an inflated ego. The annoying blonde had no respect for anyone, and was constantly getting on his nerve whenever he opened his mouth to talk about his precious creations. It took their third mission together for everything to go up in smokes, literally.
He had forgotten who had thrown the first attack, only remembered the sight of their battle ground filled with corpses littering the flaming area along with the broken shell of his puppets. The blonde Akatsuki laid somewhere among the chaos, but Sasori could have cared less if the idiot lived or died. He too had been wounded, his right arm completely shattered, the rest of him charred from the explosives while his chakra was consumed almost to an impossible low. Immediately after the fight, the puppet master had stumbled from the sight, not wanting to be caught in the blazing sea of fire consuming everything in its path. A slow dread had filled his head during the fight as the surrounding seemed familiar to him, and the memory flash of a wide smile made his stride that much faster for getting away.
Deeper and deeper he made his way into the nearby forest, leaving the flaming village behind, and then he paused, something pricked at his senses as he turned around in caution.
It was her
The little girl from before
Her bright green orbs nearly glowed in the darkness of the dense forest, and they were focused solely on him. Silence fell between them, and Sasori resisted the urge to fidget under the pair of blank eyes. There was no anger, oddly enough, only a calm intensity that seemed to stare right through him, searching for some part of him that Sasori himself couldn't identify.
He allowed his eyes to drift and it was then that he noticed the wounds marring her pale skin. Her small body was slumped, seemingly in exhaustion, and the small kimono she had on was torn and dirty. But most noticeable of all was the red marks around her small wrists and ankles.
Chain marks, his brain supplied.
His focus returned to her bright eyes when her softly spoken voice reached his ears.
"Ano… was it mister who burnt down the village?"
There was no trace of sadness or anger in her voice, only curiosity. Not knowing what to say to the child whose home he had just destroyed, Sasori simply nodded with his usual expressionless face. He could not feel guilt, for years of brutal slaughtering had numbed him sufficiently, but for once…the Akatsuki wished he could. Watching the little girl standing before him, with the brightness of the flaming glow eating away her village and home while the screams of the villagers filled the air behind her, Sasori wondered if this would be what shattered the last trace of his humanity.
He waited for her tears, for her anger, for her to regret ever saving his broken shell of a body back then.
But then she smiled.
A bright sincere smile that lit up her face as her small form bent down into a formal bow despite her exhausted state.
"Arigatou, mister." Her round eyes matched his own, gratitude and adoration filled the tired emerald depth. Gratitude and adoration…for him. Her eyes stunned him momentarily, and his eyes widened when the small child suddenly collapsed onto the forest ground.
Taking slow steps toward the unconscious girl, Sasori stopped beside her fragile body. There was uncertainty in his dark eyes, but the slight shivering of her small shoulders sealed his decision. Soundlessly, his dark Akatsuki cloak was removed and draped over the small body before wrapping it up with careful hands.
…And he left, leaving nothing behind this time.
It was only when he noticed the slight shaking of her fingers that he realized the dress she had on wasn't nearly enough for the chilling weather. Before she could take another step, Sasori had already grabbed her hand to still her as he looked harshly down at her.
"Why did you not tell me you were cold?" Being made of wood, he had no such fear of catching an illness due to bad weather, since he had no aversion to the cold. Ever since he had made his body this way, he had never once doubted his decision of taking away those silly human functions…until now. Seeing the cold blush on her cheek and the whiteness of her small hands, Sasori cursed himself for not being able to recognize the danger of having the little girl come with him in this kind of weather.
Her current attire, consisting only of a long-sleeved dress and the black boots on her feet, covered by a thin white raincoat that Deidara had stuffed into her hands before they left, was not enough for the snow that had fell and gathered around them. It was barely into the beginning of winter, but the weather at the border of the Land of Rain was anything but predictable.
In front of him, he could see the corner of her pale trembling lips lift up into her usual bright smile, her large emerald eyes looking up at him.
"Sakura is alright, Sasori-nii. It's only a little-" but she was interrupted when a big cloak was draped over her head and covered her eyes. Pouting in indignation, her small hands tried to remove the obstructing fabric. But the hands that wrapped the dark cloak tighter around her small body were insistent, and Sakura could only peek out from beneath the cloak at the serious face of the puppet Akatsuki.
When he was finally done arranging the cloak so Sakura could see properly, Sasori gave a small sigh before standing up from his crouched position. The small unrecognizable bundle of black and red looked up at him with only a pair of bright green eyes visible. Wordlessly, he picked up the bundle in his arms and proceeded walking again.
His only response was to wrap his arms around her tighter.
"So is mister gonna be Sakura's new daddy?"
"That's good, I think. Sakura's old daddy wasn't very nice, he smelled a lot and he's always talking funny, even when-"
"I'll take care of you."
"Nii-san said the same thing…but then he had to go somewhere…"
"And he never came back for me…"
"I won't leave you behind."
" …Yoroshiku onegai shimasu, Sasori-nii."