Every day, Sakura had thought of him. Constantly, he was her goal. Each practice began with Naruto shouting something along the lines of, "Yosh! Let's work hard so we can get Sasuke back!" All of these distractions had kept her from knowing the truth of the matter- what would seem like a shock as big as Sasuke's departure.
"I can't help it." Said Sai in an amazingly comforting voice as he pulled her into a warm hug. "I think I know what 'love' means now."
Pushing him away quickly, Sakura stepped back to regard the dark eyes before her. He had been with them for quite a time, and still, they had not managed to find Sasuke and bring him back. She would have easily admitted before that she and Sai were at least friends… but this?! The pink-haired girl hardly knew what to think! Who could after such a confession as this! For years, the only special memories she had nurtured in the depths of her heart were for Sasuke. And now… And now, she didn't know what she should do! After such a long time, Naruto had, of course, remained his flirtatious self, but he seemed to have learned the difference between love and playful friendship. He was concentrating on his work as a ninja, as was she. The main motive behind such work was of course, Sasuke, but she obviously loved her job as a ninja as well. With it, she could protect others, and because of Tsunade's recent training, she could heal as well. Yes, everything had fallen into normal routine.
Someone just had to drop a bombshell on this rare bubble of normalcy.
"Sakura…" Said Sai softly, and for an instant, she felt her heart reach out. NO! With a hasty excuse, she made her way back towards her home in Konoha. "Enough practice…" She mumbled to herself as she wiped her eyes. Closing the door firmly behind, she couldn't help feeling more miserable than she could've ever imagined. She was a ninja. A NINJA! Why did she have to succumb to such girlish flutterings? Appearing half-dead, she walked over to her kitchen sink to splash her face. An odd sight was visible outside the window. On the side street below, she saw Hinata, apparently a tour guide, for Gaara of the Village of Sand. Now, this in itself wouldn't have been odd… but Sakura had seen how Hinata was usually.
Usually, the shy Hyuuga kept to herself and stuttered. Usually, her movements were small and hesitant. Not so now! Though she couldn't see Gaara's face, he dropped his head for a brief moment as Hinata laughed, a blush covering her pale cheeks. Could he have been… smiling? Now as we all know, Gaara never seems to smile, and Sakura had only seen him during his rather aggressive moments. The Chuunin exams, for instance. But here he was, appearing calm at least while Hinata was more open with him than with anyone. However, one is not inclined to smiling or cupid-like acts when they are heartbroken and confused themselves. So, Sakura sat down upon the couch and rubbed her temples. She had her own problems to worry about.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
With a bleary sensation in her eyes, Sakura rubbed the sleep from her green-toned hues. Logically, she concluded that she must've fallen asleep. So, she threw her feet over the side of the couch to answer the pounding on the door. Who should she see but a very red Ino?
"Ah? Ino?" Sakura inquired sleepily.
Making herself at home, Ino pushed her way in, looking very flustered. "Argh! I don't know what to do!"
Coming to her senses, Sakura raised a brow, "Well… this is strange. What do you want me to do? Is it about your medical nin trai-"
Ino quickly interrupted, "No! No! It's about…" Hesitantly, Ino slowed down and placed a hand upon her forehead. Sakura led her over to the couch, and they both sat down together.
Sakura was getting a bit worried, now. After all, Ino wasn't usually like this. "What is it?" Asked Sakura in a more comforting voice than she realized.
All too excited to pour out her tale, the blond nin began (Very quickly might I add), "So, I was walking down the wooded path outside Konoha when I saw… Sai. He looked somewhat depressed…"
At this point in the story, Sakura looked distraught, but Ino was too worked up to notice. She continued, "But he looked so cool!!!" Ino squeed, a blush of red coming upon her cheeks. "Sakura! Eh? Sakura!" Ino waved a hand in front of the pensive-looking Sakura's face.
"I…" The Green-hued ninja began softly. Promptly, she dropped her head into her hands.
One pot of tea and one girl-to-girl love problems talk later, Ino nodded. "Ah, that's what happened."
Sakura smiled grimly, "I'm afraid I don't know what to do, either. Sasuke is… he…"
Seeing that Sakura was getting stressed out again, she pulled her up to a stand. "Come on! Let's go on a walk!:
But before she could protest, Ino had dragged her out of her own home and onto the wooded path. As they left, Sakura concluded that maybe her and Ino were better friends now than they had ever been. She seemed to know… exactly what to do to make her feel better. The fresh air would do her good! Now out of her silent revelry, Sakura noticed something.
"Isn't this where you saw Sai?" Asked Sakura with a bit of worry.
Ino blushed hotly, but before she could speak, Hinata's cheerful laugh echoed throughout the forest. Now in super-ninja mode, Sakura and Ino crept behind some bushes to observe the spectacle.
Hinata stifled her laugh, not wanting to scare the little yellow creature that had alighted between Gaara's eyes. Somewhat cross-eyed, the fearsome Kaze-Kage clutched a sandwich in one hand while a small butterfly tickled his nose. "Ah-" He began, but Hinata's smile caught him off guard. Green hues softening, he merely watched the delicate little creature flutter its wings in jubilation. A few minutes later, the lone butterfly finally decided to rejoin its friends, and a few moments after that, Hinata finally spoke up.
"It appears you've made a new friend, Kaze-Kage-sama."
Gaara coughed, "Yes, I suppose so."
Apparently, Hinata and Gaara had taken a lunch break, and indeed, the shy Hyuuga had been in charge of guiding the Kaze-Kage. To the two romantics hidden behind the bushes, though, this was a thrilling moment. To their disappointment, events did not proceed as they had hoped.
"Didn't Naruto say he would meet you soon, Hyuuga-san?"
A deep blush soon covered Hinata's pale cheeks once more. "A-ah yes, Kaze-Kage-sama." More conversationally, she asked as she began to pack up their picnic, "Are you sure you don't want to come as well? After all, Naruto did invite both of us to come to Ichiraku with him."
Smiling the slightest bit, Gaara replied gently, "It is alright, Hyuuga-san. I have some more matters to attend to." As they both stood and exchanged the proper parting words, Sakura and Ino practically cried behind the bushes. When finally Hinata had left from sight, (Gaara suspiciously still looking in the direction she had left), Ino and Sakura emerged.
Each pointing accusing fingers at Gaara, they said in unison, "That was the perfect opportunity!"
Looking over to the two with that deathly calm, mortifying stare, (which certainly had its effect) Gaara replied, "I do not know what you speak of. Are you assuming my emotions are-" He couldn't help pausing at Ino and Sakura's open-mouthed stares.
"So you do have them!" (Once more in unison.)
Regarding them quietly until they closed their mouths, Gaara continued. "And neither was that a 'perfect opportunity', so you say. It might've been a perfect opportunity to hurt Hyuuga-san, which I have no intention of doing."
Fish-eyes Ino and Sakura looked at him ponderously…
"MASTER OF LOVE!!! TEACH ME YOUR WAYS!!!" Requested Ino with Sai in her heart. Sakura watched Gaara, thinking.
Looking between the two of them, the Kaze-Kage finally said one thing before walking away. "…Be true to yourselves." Ino did not get the hidden message in that statement, but Sakura, with recent events, did. Be true to yourselves. Be true to the feelings of love you harbor. But if you truly do harbor those feelings, you would not want to hurt the one they are directed towards.
Later, Sakura would continue to think about the surprisingly deep Kaze-Kage. Her thoughts also changed to a more optimistic standpoint. Whatever happened, whatever occurred, as long as she was true to herself and those she loved, everything would turn out all right.