A/N: Well, I'm finally done with this bitch. Thank you, Fallacy, for betaing, (and correcting the grammur on my author's note, omglol) and thank you, Akatsuki and Sakura, for letting me screw with your heads. And thank you, make-believe village and old lady and new parents and baby and Kado and Daichi and Michi, for letting me make you up.
#41 – Stable
Considering there were not many places nowadays where Deidara and Sakura could be left in peace, the couple had to get increasingly creative with their hiding places: Daichi found the hole in the maze and spent time there with his guitar now, Michi could unlock any door blindfolded and upside-down, and then there was the rest of the Akatsuki, most of whom made it a habit to be where you didn't want them to be at that particular moment; this one had to be the most creative yet, Sakura mused as she was tugged along by Deidara's insisting hand to a local farmer's stable barn; the next morning, the farmer stared in shock at the straw strewn haphazardly all over the floor—he was sure he'd piled it all up nice before turning in for the night—the overturned buckets, and a woman's single shoe left where it had landed after being tossed over someone's shoulder the previous night in quite a hurry in stall number seventeen; meanwhile, miles away: "Deidara, where the hell's my shoe?"
#42 – Strange
Sakura felt isolated at the base; she knew somewhere inside of her that Deidara was just trying to be nice by showing her his friends—"Sorry, Deidara, comrades,"—but her first few days there were the worst; she felt strange to the environment, But, she thought darkly, it's better to try to belong in a place where I didn't than to not belong in a place where I did; still, Sakura found herself inventing excuses to remain at the base and endure Deidara's bizarre new attitudes—the bugs, the cleaning, the cooking—but she really didn't feel passionate about it all, and was bored out of her mind most of the time; a day in town changed all of that: Sakura and Kakuzu were getting supplies for the base—or, Sakura was getting supplies for the base while Kakuzu stood around looking important—when an elderly woman rushed into the pharmacy where they stood in the checkout line and cried, to the pharmacist, clearly distressed: "Kado, it's no use; the baby just won't come out!"; feeling the call to battle surge through her veins, Sakura shoved the packages in Kakuzu's arms, swiped a box of latex gloves and alcohol from the counter (the pharmacist told her later he didn't mind; it was an emergency) and ordered the woman to lead her to the mother; the baby came out fine in the end, the new parents thanked her, the old woman praised her, and Sakura quietly left the scene at the appropriate time to find an annoyed Kakuzu laden down with merchandise; "What the hell are you smirking at?"; "Oh, nothing," Sakura laughed, "it's just…I don't feel so strange being here anymore,"; "…I'm not carrying these all the way back, just so you know."
#43 – Summer
No one ever really does anything around here, Sakura grumbled, it's practically a utopia outside and everyone just lays about and bitches about how bored they are; I'd like to change that; Sakura got up from the kitchen table, a woman with a goal, and went straight to the nearby town to the city hall; days later, Sakura called everyone to the living room to discuss what she called an "extremely vital" and "life-sustaining" mission to the southern parts of the valley, but for some reason remained vague on the finer details ("Mom, what weapons should we take?"; "Oh, uh…you probably won't need them…no, you will…well, you can bring some if you want, I guess,"), and confused most of the Akatsuki men into a state of niggling suspicion—except for Deidara, who had been let in on the plans after some high quality "persuading" last night of where she'd been going, and was holding his face in his hands; the group reached their secret destination early afternoon the next day, and the group stood stock still when they reached the final rendezvous point: a pasture with some grazing sheep; all eyes turned to Sakura—Deidara's turned away in embarrassment—who was looking proudly at the sheep with a hand on her hip, reading off a paper, "The local sheep are summered year-round in the high pastures and are a great source of income to the local population; to partake in the shearing, come on the following dates…well, we're here, guys; everyone pick a sheep; the stable hands will show you how to do it properly, and I can help someone, too,"; a deafening silence met her ears, and she whirled around to face various levels of betrayal—"Mom, you said was gonna be fun—you said!"; "I can't believe I came all this fucking way and I don't even get to kill anyone, dammit!"—annoyance—"…"; "I agree with the Uchiha,"—slight discomfort—"I wonder what I'll do now with all these extra kunai; might as well keep them just in case,"; "Um…Tobi likes sheep; really!"—and near humiliation—"Don't fucking look at me, yeah! It was all her idea! Stop it!"; "Mom, you made us think we were going on a mission and just wanted us to come shave some damn sheep?"; "It's called shearing, and watch your mouth, Daichi, because we are on a mission to keep the sheep from having strokes; now everyone grab a kunai get working."
#44 – Taboo
The Akatsuki was tabooed from the rest of the world, so "exciting events" happened right there at the base, and whatever it was was usually big news, especially if it had to do with Sakura: Sakura's arrival, Deidara and Sakura's joining, her pregnancy, and other various milestones in her life; she viewed the whole group as a family, not by the way they acted around each other, but by the way stories were spread around; this habit first caught Sakura's attention when she really started listening to everyone after she and Deidara officially got married behind everyone's backs—not a smart thing to do when one wanted to avoid gossip—when Tobi approached her to politely ask if what he heard from Kakuzu was true: That they'd really been seeing each other before Deidara even joined Akatsuki, had gotten married shortly before the attack on Suna, and had six children hidden in a different village to protect their identities; too stunned to even attempt even a chakra-less punch, Sakura could only stare at Tobi as he became increasingly nervous and began to babble: "Well, it might have been that way; Hidan said that you guys met in a brothel when you were doing reconnaissance missions, and Zetsu said he was sure it had been an arranged marriage 'cause there was no way anyone would marry Deidara in the first place since he's so cranky all the time, and Tobi thought maybe he'd captured you a long time ago and fell in love and you eloped but couldn't be together at the last second and—"; Tobi never got to finish his sentence; the next thing he knew he was flying out a window.
#45 – Ugly
When Deidara sculpted, he put all of his heart into making the end result exactly the way he pictured the subject in his mind, and Sakura hated this sometimes as much as she appreciated it; that hot afternoon when Daichi was helping Michi to learn how to crawl (everyone would regret that later), Sakura was reading a novel and Deidara was hunched over next to her with a blob of clay was the day she realized this revelation in its fullest; Sakura was just getting to her favorite part when Deidara suddenly shoved the blob under her nose and said, smirking, "What do you think of that, yeah?"; the smirk should have been her cue not to look, really, but it was just a reflex, and anyways, it was too late now; sitting in her hand—sitting on a bed in her hand, actually—was her, the way she looked right after having Daichi after most of the afterbirth was put in washtubs to the side: Her hair was a total mess, there were bags under her eyes, her limbs were sprawled about in an extremely unladylike way…she was just a mess, there was no debating it; shrieking and tossing the book to the side, she grabbed at the little figurine—that bitch was going in the garbage disposal right away—only to have it whisked back away to Deidara's protective—laughing, the bastard—form of arms and torso; "Oh, why do you always have to get inspired by my ugly moments?"; setting the clay Sakura down on the desk nearby, Deidara saw his chance and grabbed the real Sakura's waist and pulled her squealing down onto his chest, where she eventually surrendered enough for him to give her a really slobbery kiss—more squealing—and reply: "Well, I thought you looked beautiful, yeah."
#46 – War
It was perfectly normal for members of the Akatsuki to get in loud fights with one another—well, it was mostly Deidara and Hidan arguing about Sakura for the millionth time—with the pointing of the fingers and the reaching for the weaponry and the tensing of the muscles, but it was known among them—in almost myth-like reverence—that when Sakura acted calm and quiet to any one of them, she was usually declaring open war; a woman could be pissy in any hour of the day, but only when she got really mad did she seem to get "all better"; The trick to distinguishing this from a normal lull in mood, Itachi thought sagely, was the sudden drop in hormonal rages and the like, because otherwise it could just be a normal situation; it took the Akatsuki a while to notice her little habit, but when they did, none of the men ever took offense at being yelled at or smacked around again, except for Deidara; he learned to be pretty neutral about it since no doubt he had many years ahead of him full of henpecking; it was best to learn to endure these things pretty quickly.
#47 – Water
Deidara hated water, and no one who knew him for any length of time was a stranger to this fact; thus, on the day that Sakura decided it was time for Daichi to have some swimming lessons in the nearby lake, this duty passed to Kisame, who carried the grinning, unsuspecting child into the water on his back while the nervous parents watched from shore; hours later, after Sakura had brought lunch down for Deidara and her to watch the thrilling climax—Daichi was screaming like a maniac while holding on to Kisame's neck, who was on his last nerve—things didn't look any better than they were or were ever going to be, but Deidara and Sakura were getting a break to eat lunch with only each other, so as long as someone was watching the offspring, the sky would fall and they wouldn't notice; then, just as Kisame was ready to call it a day (it almost had been, really), Daichi's little friend he'd met from the trips to the library with Sakura swam up to the surface where he was at, shyly mumbled a hello, then took off back underneath the water; Daichi was as unmoving as Hidan on washing day for a moment, then without warning he launched himself off Kisame's face into the water after her, streamlined and agile as an Olympic champion; while Deidara and Sakura were nearly getting sick from laughing so hard back on shore, Kisame wearily sank into the depths, boneless as an eel, and wasn't seen until the next day, during which he refused to say a word about the previous day's events.
#48 – Welcome
Sakura took in a lot of strays back in Konoha: They were all welcome at her house, as far as she was concerned; hell, she'd taken in a lot of human strays, too—Naruto, to name the most prominent—but after a while—and especially with Naruto—Sakura began to feel as though she was the stray being taken in and nurtured, not the other way around; Naruto had always made her feel loved and accepted, and he was still absolutely infuriating at times—even now, in her thoughts—but she remembered all the times that it was him with the smiling face and the ready assurance to right the wrongs and fight the dark clouds in her sky away; Sakura couldn't say that Deidara could do all that as sappy as Naruto did (no one could really pull off the Voice of Assurance like Naruto was prone to use once in a while), but Deidara sure did a damn good job of making sure she was comfortable: Sakura had her own room, five hundred thread count sheets, and lots of books; maybe she'd figure out some day something she could do to repay Deidara, but what with the way he never met her eyes when he talked to her and tended to turn red around her, that would prove to be a difficult task, indeed; what the hell was wrong with that boy these days?
#49 – Winter
The winter was inescapable, Sakura grudgingly admitted to the freezing wind, and brutal; she'd been wandering around the ninja country for hours on end looking for the battlefield, but was never able to see more than a few feet in front of her face; she was able to keep warm with what was left of her chakra, but if she didn't find a village or something soon, she was definitely screwed; I should've never left, I should've never left; she was only leaving to get some extra herbs she'd found nearby to treat a comrade when she slipped and fell down the cliff; it wasn't tall or steep, but it was icy as hell, so Sakura had gone looking for another way up, which had led to this: her wandering around like a lost and starved animal ready to collapse; several hours later, Sakura was too tired to go on, and she sat in the snow feeling surprisingly warm, her inner medic left to scream about dehydration and survival tactics and "never fall asleep in the snow" unheard; laying her cheek down on the goose down pillow, she looked up and saw a mop of yellow hair; Naruto? What's he doing in my room? Why's he picking me up?; "I don't know what the hell you're talking about, yeah, but I'm dropping you off in the village. And this is just a one-time thing; you're not going to talk around about this, yeah, okay?"; "Okay, Naruto,"; "Hmmph."
#50 – Wood
The best thing about living in a colder country was the bonfires, because they really had sentimental and traditional purposes there; wood was bought and gathered from all areas of the world and set aside for a cold night during which the whole village—and everyone around it—would come and sit by the huge fire to talk, tell the news, pass on legends, make new ones, or generally scare the hell out of people (Hidan and Kisame's "Tale of the Dead Guy in the Woods"); the whole Akatsuki went—even Daichi, Sakura, and Michi—and stayed by the fire usually all night, wearing dark cloaks to conceal their identities; later on, after Daichi and some girl who worked in the local library disappeared, Deidara and Sakura decided to weave the epic tale of their love for the crowd by the fire—much to Michi's embarrassment, so he and Hidan also disappeared to go scope out the local shops for something to eat besides sake and biscuits—and spent three hours telling the whole story (some names were changed to protect the blatantly guilty) and another half-hour answering the villager's prying questions; walking back to the base with everyone relatively sober—except Daichi, who had some bizarre red smudges on his neck as well—Deidara slinked his arm around Sakura's waist and she snuggled back into his side with a sigh: "I'm so glad I met you,"; "Me too, yeah,"; Deidara leaned down to peck her on the lips and Sakura licked his nose in response; "Keep it in the fucking bedroom, seriously,"; It's always Hidan, Sakura thought with a giggle while Deidara landed a punch on Hidan's head, but I couldn't imagine life without any of them anymore; and as the sun rose slowly from over the mountain, bathing everyone in yellow and red, Sakura smiled.