Ugh. This took a while. Suffering from intense brain damage and an equally-if not more-intense obsession with Kyuubi. Expect a Kyuu fic out extremely soon. (PS-If you have never heard of Nujabes, i.e. Samurai Champloo, i.e. the amazing music that the anime has—I kindly suggest you do. The dude has a myspace, how cool is that?!
Well, at least Rei could sufficiently say she was happy at this point. Be the fact that the tomatoes she had eaten were already wolfed down, or the fact that one of her favorite Uncle's (of which she had too many to count) was now in town. Which, should be enough to make at least one child happy. And it did. Rei was very content skipping along with the red head, his small smile the equivalent of some very ecstatic cuddling.
"So!" She giggled. "What's Suna like?"
To anyone else that would have been a rather monotonous and bland statement, but Sasuke could tell there was something different about the way the Suna-nin had said it. Almost…endearing?
" 'Course! Suna's alwaaays hot."
"It is." The Kazekage nodded once, pulling something from his robes. "I got something for you."
Cutely wrapped, the little pink box had an enormous bow that sat upon the cover, its large silken ribbons all too big for the tiny box. Definitely meant to impress. Rei jumped in joy, grinning at her Uncle with a wide kiddish smile as she rocked on her heels, grinning as she did so.
"Thank you Uncle Gaara!"
He gave her a platonic smile.
"I'm gonna wait to open it at the house 'cause then Kaa-chan can see it too!" If possible, her grin widened considerably.
"If you want."
"Hai!" She cheered.
Sasuke felt a bit like a third wheel watching there conversation. He had always thought that talking to the Shukaku Jinchuuriki was a bit like talking to a brick wall-hard and inconsiderably difficult. But, it seemed that he was genuinely listening to what Rei had to say. Sasuke was certain it was because she was Sakura's child more than anything.
The apartment complex was coming into view, its gardens spreading across the landscape with it's freshly cut bushes. The water fountain at the center was working, Rei skipping over to admire its staggering water falls.
She leaned over the cemented edge, mouth open and concentrating on catching water with her tongue.
Gaara pulled her along. "That's nasty water."
"But Kaa-chan can heal me!" Rei grinned, but let herself be drawn away.
"Your mother can't heal sicknesses."
The young girl pouted, hands on her hips as she walked beside the Kazekage—a feet that only the greatest diplomats and Naruto could achieve—as she animatedly talked to the stoic man.
The young woman at the front desk was on the phone, but she stopped to bow at him as she continued to patter on. She did though, shoot an incredulous look at the duo in front of him, as Rei-instead of taking the stairs- pushed the button on the elevator.
As they strode into the elevator, the third-wheel feeling came back with a bite.
There elevator ride was rather silent besides Rei's continuous chatter, which effectively broke the tension that had misted itself in the elevator. To a point at least, because Sasuke could still feel it terribly, Gaara standing proud next to him. Maybe even guilt mixed in there somewhere.
"Kaa-chan's gonna be happy to see you!" Rei sing-songed. "She's making breakfast."
"I hope she's a better cook than the last time I was here."
"Probably!" She smiled. "Because I think it tastes a lot better!"
His lips turned upwards a bit. "How long has it been since I've been here?"
Bing. Floor two.
"I dunno, maybe two years…I wasn't even in the Academy by then!"
Bing. Floor three.
"Ah, how are you doing in that?"
"Really, really good! Me 'n Taro-chan are best in our class!"
The doors slid open with the sound of metal on metal. Rei bounded to the apartment door, giggling as she did so, and the bag of half eaten tomatoes in her hand. Sasuke had the carton of milk tucked under his shoulder, a little ways behind the two of them.
Oh god. He could just tell breakfast was going to be an affair of tension, him probably being at the center of it.
Sakura had been in the middle of flipping the eggs, literally jumping as her child bounded through the door and into the kitchen. Luckily, she caught the eggs and gave a relieved sigh-yet to see the redhead and brunette (is he?) in her doorway.
"Oh Rei-chan…don't do that I could've dropped the eggs!" She sighed.
"Sorry!" Rei giggled, definitely not meaning it. "But guess whose here!"
Sakura paused, looking at the doorway.
This time, she did drop the eggs, but another miracle in itself was that the pan plopped onto the stove, where it should've been. Sakura grinned, a really big smile as she walked over to the redhead, perfect Kodak moment, two friends meeting after two years of just letter writing and a very, very, long time.
"Gaara!" She smiled brilliantly. "You didn't tell me you were in Konoha!"
Sasuke grunted somewhere in the background, trying his hardest to isolate himself from this rather sappy moment.
Sakura noticed however, gracefully slipping out of Gaara's grip and looked to Sasuke.
"You'll stay right?" She asked tentatively.
He nodded slowly. "Of course."
And somehow, he thought there was a bit of an agreement between them.
Breakfast was a lovely awkward affair. The only one out of them who could talk nonstop for almost three minutes was Rei, the only one with actual true conversation skills was Sakura. Gaara and Sasuke combined created about half a person in terms of people skills and conversation skills. So, breakfast was spent with Rei chattering on about everything under the sun, this included every sun in every galaxy, because she had described what she and Taro thought monsters from space looked like.
Sakura was left to bask in the uneasiness of knowing just how terribly this situation could go with a few wrong moves.
However, Brunch passed with ease.
Sasuke helped her clean up, Gaara stayed for coffee afterwards, and Rei was showing him her amazing talent for drawing. Sakura had gotten around-some place around washing the forks-to ask Sasuke if he had any artistic talent. He looked at her strangely. Eventually, he confessed that he didn't but his brother had. Somehow that made Sakura feel like he was giving her a very genuine part of his memory.
Finally, Sasuke left as well, and Rei went to her room to begin drawing on her walls.
"Sakura." Gaara asked through his coffee. Scalding and black. Sakura wondered how he could stand it. "How are you?"
"I'm…" She wanted to say she was perfectly find. Peachy. Dandy. Whatever. But the words didn't slip from her tongue. "I'm not amazing, but I'm okay."
"You never wrote back."
She smiled sheepishly. "Your letter's back has been used for one of Rei's artwork. It'd break her heart if I took it down."
He chuckled at that. "The one with the flowers?"
"Did you get to read it?"
Frowning, she shook her head. "I'm sorry, I didn't."
"Well," He leaned over the table a bit, his sea green eyes meeting her emerald ones. "I have a proposition for you."
"You do?" She smiled.
Gaara was blunt. "Come to Suna with me."
Sakura blinked. She hadn't expected that. "…what?"
"There's a job offer over in the Suna hospital. You now how the medics are there. They can't handle a lot of stuff, and they need a teacher. It's a great job. Don't worry about where you'll live that's not important, I can get you any house you want."
"B-But Gaara," She stuttered. "Rei—
"Will be coming with you." He said seriously. "I'd never ask you to give her up."
She closed her mouth. Before Ino, before Tsunade, before Naruto…
…she thought of Sasuke.
She'd be leaving him if she went.
"Can I," She started softly. "Can I get back to you on it?"
He stared at her very seriously, eying the way her confused eyes looked at his.
"I'm leaving next week."
Ino made her way slowly across the park, a feeling of utter cat behavior making its way onto her face. She picked her head up, and walked with the fine gait of someone who just totally won the cattiest cat fight around. Which she did, actually. And for that, she was absolutely proud of. Also proud of the fact she hadn't started it. For any records, it was all Temari, and her sly smirk and the way she kind of slid next to Shikamaru somehow. Right. In. Front. Of. Her.
And suddenly, Ino's cool-headed temperature sky rocketed.
How dare her?
The main street of Konoha flinched as a hard punch hit a street lamp and the street lamp bent with a long screech.
Meanwhile, long legs crossed subtly on the long couch, sipping her tea, Sakura looked up to see her best friend flattening a street lamp right outside her window. She blinked very slowly, removing her other hand from its place on her lamp to knock on the window next to her. The small tap was enough to catch Ino's attention, and the blond turned to see Sakura waving from inside the tea shop.
Ino grinned devishly as she pushed her way through the double doors and into the café.
It was the same one they had all there memories in, its varnished and old wooden floors the same as they had been years ago. The server-caught up in another table-nodded slightly as Ino pointed she was sitting with Sakura.
"Is all you have sundresses?" Ino grinned, as she swiftly sat into the seat opposite of her friend.
Sakura laughed from behind her tea cup. "Yeah, well, I haven't been here in a while."
"I can tell." Ino picked up the menu, scanning it as she lazily stretched over her chair. "The Suna brats are in town."
Pink hair fell softly as she nodded. "Temari?"
Ino growled, the menu flopping to the small round table, next to Sakura's half eaten cake. "Don't remind me."
"The skank was all over Shikamaru today, we were over at the Deli-two streets away, its good by the way-and she just kinda waltzes in there like she runs the god damn place! And then, oh she just casually takes the seat in the booth next to Shikamaru, casually puts her arm next to his—sliding their fingers, ooohh that b—
Sakura laughed as Ino enthusiastically told her tale of Temari, herself, Shikamaru, a Deli, and a room full of people witnessing the cat fight of the year.
Finally, the blonde sighed, took a deep breathe and slid into her seat. She mixed her extra black coffee slowly as she sent a feral smile over to Sakura.
"What about you? How's life going for you?"
Sakura's lips quirked up slowly. "Not too well actually."
"Is it written over my face?"
"Sorta kinda." Ino grinned.
Sakura looked down at her tea. "Well, I sent the two of them-Rei and Sasuke-to go run some errands for me. And they came back with one extra man, Gaara actually. I could tell the tension just by looking at there faces. We ended up having an extremely awkward breakfast that seriously ruined my morning."
"Serves that Uchiha bastard right." Ino snorted. "What? Don't give me that look. I mean, he's asking for it. Seeing Gaara and Rei is a perfect example of what their relationship is supposed to be. And a wake up call."
The pink-haired of the two nodded slowly. "I guess…but isn't that a little harsh?"
"Are you taking his side now?"
"I'm trying to see it from his side, if that's what you mean."
Ino studied the face of her best friend. From the way her eyelashes curled over her eyes like a tired soul, the spiky shadows patterning her pale cheeks. The way her lips met together in a pink thin line.
"Here," The suddenness of Ino's voice caused Sakura to look up quickly. "Take a day off, I'll pick up Rei from school today. Shikamaru could use the exercise. I'll tell Sasuke your off somewhere and I'll tell the hospital your sick today."
Sakura smiled gratefully. "Really?"
"You make it sound like this is difficult." Ino chortled.
"Thanks Ino, really." Seeing the weight lifted off her friends shoulders was enough thanks she needed.
"Seriously, it's not a problem." The blonde stretched, admiring how long her hair had gotten since she cut it back in her Gennin days, and got up from her seat.
"I better find Shikamaru already." Ino patted her back. "You know how long that takes."
"He's a man who doesn't like to be found." Sakura chided.
"Well he's going to be!" Ino yelled on her way to the door. "And it's not gonna be pretty!"
Still smiling, Sakura watched her best friend hop out of the café and over in the direction of the park.
She stared into the depth of her chai tea, one of those secret get-me-up kind of things for her. As it swirled partially and cleared enough for her to see her gloomy reflection, she decided she had enough of being sad. Melancholy sorrow really wasn't her forte, and quite truthfully, she was growing tired of it.
With a direct goal in mind, she stood up from her small sanctuary in the corner and went to pay.
The house with blue shutters, and white washed walls was probably the easiest to find. It was a modest two story house, with a very pretty and well tended garden in the front. In the fall, the late bloomers of summer were making there last shot into the sun, and the lawn was covered in a beautiful backdrop of leaves. It never amazed her how Kakashi-if you didn't know him personally-looked much more like a normal civilian than a shinobi at all, especially from the way his house looked.
A young brunette women who looked much to young to be married hummed as she tended to the eggplants that were just sprouting. As the brunette women saw Sakura out of the corner of her eye—Sakura never ceased to be amazed how the women wasn't a shinobi—she stopped her work and looked up to smile at one of her husband's old students.
"Sakura-san!" The lady called.
Sakura smiled back, as she made her way to the sidewalk infront of the house. "Good morning, Reina-san."
"Afternoon actually." She moved her summer hat. "Are you staying for Lunch?"
"Maybe." Sakura said noncommittally. "I have to speak with Kakahsi-sensei."
The young women frowned, pushing her hands to her hips, adjusting the watering can in her hands and as she did so. "Ah, where did he go now?"
"It's fine." Sakura assured her. "I think I know where he is."
She hopped up over the trees and onto the roof gracefully as if it was nothing more than leaping off two stairs. Reina frowned good-naturedly, muttering how she wished she had become a shinobi just to do that to get her husband down. As Sakura had predicted, Kakashi was snoozing in the afternoon sunlight, his book covering his face.
"Sensei." She kicked him lightly. "Porn isn't good for you when you have a child and a wife."
Her sensei groaned in protest, but didn't make a move until Sakura pulled the book from his face and dangled it like a very bored master would do with fish for a cat.
Like most bait, her sensei leapt up in a futile attempt to pull back his only weakness-of sorts-into his hands and safety, when Sakura lifted it up more.
"Sensei." She said quietly, as she had lured her sensei into a sitting position and gave back the book.
"Hmmm?" Her Sensei hummed noncommittally.
"What do you do when your teetering between what you want and what's right?" She fidgeted with her toes in her very civilian sandals.
"You follow your heart."
The sun was coming down in a vibrant splash of saffron. It stretched into the absolute blue like long arms, blending into purple and pink-and ended up taking over almost all of the sky. It shone through the tallest mountains, creating long shadows of her and Kakashi.
"Even if that's the wrong thing to do?"
Kakashi, for once, had closed his book. "Ah."
A frown tugged on her pink lips. "Let me rephrase that. What would you do if you were teetering between what you want and what's right for your child."
Kakashi let eyes-his wife didn't let him wear his mask in her presence-move from the glorious sunset to one of his old students. He studied her melancholy face with an oddly distorted apathetic look to his face.
"Why the questions so suddenly? I thought you and Sasuke had hit it off nicely?"
"I'm thinking Sensei…"
Her verdant eyes glowed in the reflection of the orange hues that lit up the sky. It brought out the green in them, they glowed in the sunset.
"Would you miss me?"
Nothing on his face changed, expect for a rather abrupt blink and a bit of a twitch. "Your leaving."
She blinked slowly. Her eye lashes met her pale cheeks with long shadows. "Yes."
"Missing-nin style or, Jiraiya style?"
Kakashi eyed her again. "Suicide isn't really an option here—
She laughed softly. "Tsunade-shishou needs a medic over in Suna, and Gaara really wants me to go so…
She looked over to him, her hair bleeding gold in the afternoon light. Her hair gently swaying in the soft breeze, her face awash in a sea of saffron but her shadow very dark behind her. If he had a camera, he would have taken her picture. But it was they eyes. There green depths sparkling like emeralds. Melancholy emeralds.
"To Suna." She affirmed.
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