TK:Ah yes, big surprise last chapter. Unfortunately, this is where the shit hits the fan. (Ah, Airplane reference, though most of you are probably to young to know it... old TK is old.
Moving on! This chapter marks the end of part one in the book Sakura is reading, the 'First Chance', if you will. You'll see why at the end, if you haven't figured it out. Some of you have.
On another note... writer's block has been killing me of late, and I am steadily losing inspiration. The Akatsuki are all getting killed off in canon, and fucking Sasuke with his stupid posse and 'Madara' and 'new Akatsuki' and just, ugh.
You know what? Balls to canon.
A Third Chance
When Your World Crumbles
Before her lunch hour ran out of time, Sakura was able to make it back to Akatsuki Studios. She spent a full three minutes in the car, telling herself she would survive and not stare at her boss all day. Yeah right. At least not get caught staring at her boss all day. Oh man, she thought miserably. I must sound so bad, ack!
Sakura walked inside, surprised to see Sasori was still reading the book. He didn't even notice her come in. Deidara was hovering over his shoulder, pretending to be looking through a file from the filing cabinet whilst instead he was glancing at the book every so often.
"Hey, guys," Sakura said, hanging her trench coat back up.
"Heya," Deidara grinned. "Bring me anything?"
"You didn't ask," Sakura replied teasingly. "I didn't go out to eat, anyway, sorry, Dei. I hung out with Ino for a bit."
"You wasted your lunch hour and you didn't get food, yeah?" He sounded a mixture of shocked and disappointed. With a sigh, he shrugged and said, "Oh well, you'll get hungry later and be sorry."
Sakura looked at him, giving him the best puppy-face she could manage. She stuck out her lower lip slightly, complete with a small whimpering noise. "You'll get me something on your lunch break… won't you?"
Deidara was able to keep her gaze with a straight face for a full ten seconds. Then he scowled and walked towards the front door. "Yeah, yeah, fine. Be back in a few."
Sakura grinned as she watched him walk out the door. Deidara didn't realize that he forgot to get Sakura's money for whatever it was he was going to bring her. Oops. That said and done, she walked over to the desk and looked at the book. Her green eyes then drifted up to Sasori. "Sasori?"
He looked at her quickly – he even appeared a bit startled or surprised. "You're back early," he said softly. It was either Sakura's imagination or Sasori looked as if he was somewhat in a daze.
Sakura tilted her head worriedly, "You didn't hear me come in?"
"Huh?" A quick pause. "Oh. No, sorry."
Sakura furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. "Are you all right?"
"Yes, I'm fine."
Unconvinced, Sakura put her right hand on his forehead, pushing a few of his messy red bangs back. Her left hand was then placed on her own forehead. Sasori's eyes widened at the contact, and Sakura felt him go tense. Then, as quickly as it had happened, he relaxed and leaned in to her touch.
Sakura felt her cheeks heat up. "Well… You don't have a fever," she said, removing her hands.
He managed a smile at her. "I'm fine, Sakura. But thank you… for always being so concerned."
Sakura couldn't help but smile back. "You're welcome. So what part are you reading?"
To her surprise, Sasori suddenly closed the book and set it back down on the desk. "Nothing, really." He stood up and looked out the tall window by the front door. "Did Deidara leave?"
Sakura nodded, "Yeah, he went to lunch. You were really engrossed in that book, huh?" She chuckled, "It does that to me, too. I forget to pay attention to what else is going on."
Sasori looked at her, and for the longest time, didn't reply. Sakura felt worry once again. Finally, he spoke, "Something like that… yes."
"Wow…" she murmured. "You really are distracted, aren't you? Is it because you stayed up too late? You know, lack of sleep is really bad for-"
"Don't worry." Short and sweet – typical of him, though just enough. He walked past her and towards the stairs, headed for the second floor.
Sakura sat down in the chair, breathing heavily. She finally felt the blood rushing to her face, knowing an intense blush was on her. It didn't matter now, though. Hell, she was amazed she was able to hold it in during that.
Her gaze drifted to the book. A curious expression crossed the features of her face. She wondered just what it was that Sasori had read. He was always so calm and collected – what could possibly distract him like that? Not to mention the way he stared at her just moments before… Sakura's heart was racing.
Barely a month later, the Kazekage officially announced his engagement to the rest of Suna. Sakura stayed in her room while he did this. It was… disgusting. That seemed to be the best way she could put it. He made such a big deal about Sakura, making a point to make her life miserable with every opportunity, for the claimed reason that she had taken his first wife away from him – and then he goes and marries some random woman?
She could only imagine what she had in store for the next two years until she and Sasori left Suna. Of course, when thinking of that, her foul mood quickly vanished. Just the thought of that day helped lift Sakura's mood. Naturally, she had already imagined several scenarios of how it would go. She began to doubt whether or not she'd get any sleep the week before they left.
Time went on; the passing months, as slow as they seemed to Sakura, eventually turned into a year. Barely two weeks after her thirteenth birthday, her 'wicked stepmother' (so kindly dubbed by Chiyo) gave birth to a son. How wonderful, Sakura thought distastefully. The heir he's always wanted.
With a sigh, she laid down in her bed, pulling the covers over her head as if to drown out the outside world. For the moment, all Sakura wanted to do was sleep. It would have to do for now.
"How long do you plan to keep her around?"
The servant woman stopped in her tracks, surprised to hear Kyoko, the Kazekage's bride, speaking in such a tone. She silently walked up to the door she heard the voice come from. It was ever-so-slightly ajar, as if someone had just barely given it a light push and hadn't bothered to close it the rest of the way.
The Kazekage turned his head, looking at his solemn wife with an expression of intrigue. "Sakura?" he asked, though was quite sure he knew whom she was referring to. It was true. Sakura was an annoyance – perhaps now more than ever.
After a short pause, the brunette woman met her husband's gaze. "Yes." He opened his mouth to speak, but she cut him off. "If you're really that concerned about your image, and what the public would think if you just disowned her, than why not put your creativity to the test?"
He didn't need to think twice to figure out her meaning that time. "Frame."
"It'll be ruining the life of whoever we decide to pin the murder on," the Kazekage said. "The only problem I see would be if Chiyo-baa-sama got in the way. Other than that, it would be rather simple. Any ideas… Kyoko?"
A wry smile crossed her lips. "How about the traditional 'wrong place at the wrong time' instance? No one would believe a commoner's word over that of the Kazekage."
At that moment, everything began to fall in place. "Precisely."
"The question is when," Kyoko continued. "It wouldn't be wise, now that our son has just been born. The best idea would be to wait about a year from today. Nothing could be traced to us."
The old woman brought her hand over her mouth, a frozen look of shock covering the features of her face. As quietly as possible, she turned and walked away, not waiting to hear the rest. As she walked to the exit of the chateau, she didn't have to think about where she was going. She knew right then that the only people she could tell would have to be the elders. Chiyo was her best choice, considering she was more often readily available.
Without a second thought, she knocked on the front door of the small house at a hasty pace. Chiyo quickly came to its answer. "Yes?"
"I have to talk to you, Chiyo-baa-sama," the woman replied with urgency. "It's a serious, private matter."
Chiyo quickly ushered her inside, knowing already this wasn't something to take lightly. Chiyo sat down on the couch in the living room next to Sasori, who was reading another book. The servant woman took her seat when Chiyo gestured to the chair across from her with a wave of her hand. "All right, what seems to be the problem?"
"Kazekage-sama is going to execute his own daughter!"
Chiyo's eyes widened considerably – out of the million possibilities she had expected, that wasn't one of them. Sasori's amber eyes slowly drifted from the book to look at the woman, his calculating stare as perceptive as ever. When Chiyo finally found her voice, all she was able to say was, "What?"
The other elderly woman was extremely distraught; it was clear the stress was getting to her, especially as she started fidgeting with her fingers. "I-I was doing my duties at the manor, b-but I overheard… I know I shouldn't have eavesdropped, but I couldn't help it – p-poor Sakura-hime… Chiyo-baa-sama, I didn't know what to do!"
"You did the right thing by coming to me," Chiyo told her, though even she was searching her mind to try to decide how to act. She couldn't see any trace of lie in the woman's voice or expression. She had obvious signs of shock and distress. If she was telling the truth, which Chiyo believed to be so, there weren't many ways to go about doing anything. "You need to understand… I'm not left with many options."
The servant's mouth opened in surprise. "But… but you have to do something! You must! If you don't, she'll die!"
Chiyo raised her hand in motion of silence. "Please stay calm. I know. But if I act without thinking things through, nothing will be gained. This could be turned around and pinned on me, after all." She took a deep breath, slowing her mental pace down to help herself analyze the situation. "Do you have any proof to offer?"
She looked at Chiyo incredulously. "H-how could I possible have…?"
Again, the village elder was silent for a while. "That brings down our options considerably, as well as our chances of stopping this. You know very well an accusation – especially one of this caliber and towards the Kazekage, no less – cannot be done without evidence. How can you or anyone expect me to make a charge of this magnitude with no verification?"
"You… you have a year," the other woman said, trying to calm herself down. "They said they would do it in a year because they didn't want it to be traced back… to them."
Before Chiyo could speak, Sasori beat her to it. "Did they mention a manner of execution?" Chiyo slowly looked towards her grandson, surprised to see his gaze on the servant before them.
The servant woman nodded once, rubbing her eyes. "They said they were going to frame someone. They said it would be the 'wrong place at the wrong time' sort of thing…"
"I see." Without another word, he resumed reading.
"Aren't you worried at all?" Chiyo asked.
She didn't ask further. She couldn't deter if he truly didn't care or if he was hiding something. There were ways in which he surpassed even her. Chiyo finally stood up and led the old woman to her front door. "Return to the castle before someone decides you have been away for 'too long' and decide to interrogate you on where you were. You know nothing, so you needn't worry."
"Yo, cherry chick-"
"What?" Sakura asked exasperatedly, placing her hands on the desk for emphasis. She was totally engrossed in the book and did not want to be disturbed. She blinked with surprise when she saw it was Deidara holding a bag of carry-out food. "Oh."
Deidara smirked as he walked over to her, purposefully holding the bag over her head just high enough that she couldn't reach. "What do you saaaaay?" he teased.
"Um… give or else?"
"Nope. Magic word, cherry chick… yeah."
"My magic word…ss," he added at the end, remembering it was more than one word.
Sakura sighed, defeated, and droned out, "Art is a bang…"
Out of nowhere, a crumpled piece of paper hit Deidara on the side of his face. "No it isn't," Sasori said plainly, walking past him and towards Sakura. He handed her a tan folder. "I forgot to mention – while you were out earlier, I got a call for a meeting. Could you input it on the computer?"
"Sure thing," Sakura replied, smiling.
Deidara picked up the piece of paper and opened it. "What the hell, yeah?" It was just a plain sheet of printing paper.
Sakura giggled, using the moment's distraction to snatch the sandwich bag from his other hand. "Hey, thanks, Dei. My favorite."
Deidara's jaw dropped. "No fair…"
A couple nights later, Sakura was making her usual preparations for sneaking out. It had been at least a week since she had done that, so she was quite certain she wouldn't be discovered this time. The last thing she wanted was another day in that dark room. She'd lose her mind if she spent enough time in there, she was sure of it.
After sneaking out the dining room window as she usually did, Sakura hugged the outer wall of the chateau, making sure to stay in the darkest shadows so she couldn't be discovered. Perhaps it was a good thing she wasn't a ninja – none of the palace guards could sense her by chakra.
The shinobi were making their usual rounds, back and forth around the mansion perimeter. Sakura would have to time her sprinting run just right or they'd see her from their peripheral vision. When she found an opening, she jumped forward, only to be pulled back by something. Whirling around quickly, she froze when she saw Sasori. He put his index finger to her lips, in case she should speak and draw the guard's attention their way.
Sakura remained absolutely silent and followed him, relishing the fact that he was leading her by hand, and not by the wrist, as he used to. Walking around the edge of the manor, they exited into the gardens. There weren't any guards there, but it definitely wasn't safe. "The Kazekage comes here all the time," Sakura whispered. "I don't think-"
Curiosity was eating away at her, but Sakura obeyed without question. Of course she trusted him. He was the only one she could trust. Keeping to the shadows, they left the border of the mansion and stayed within the trees, gradually making their way to the back of the gardens. Honestly, it was amazing that these plants managed to survive in such awful climate conditions.
Finally at the back, they made their way through the trees and exiting the garden that way. It was practically a back road for leaving the chateau, without the 'road' part. All that was in front of them was sand with the mountain borders of Suna in the distance. "Now what?" Sakura asked.
"Now we leave."
Her heart leapt. "I thought we weren't leaving for another year."
"Change in plan," he said, redirection his attention to her. "Are you ready?"
Sakura smiled at him, holding his hand in both of hers. "Absolutely."
Sasori froze; he turned his head slightly to the left, as if listening. With amazing speed, he put his hand over Sakura's mouth and backed both of them back into the trees, concealing them. Both remained absolutely silent, but Sakura's heart began to speed up. She wondered what exactly was out there.
"How convenient," an unmistakable voice said. It came from the right, but Sakura knew immediately who it was. Sasori could tell by the obvious chakra signature.
Slowly, with his amber gaze staying on the Kazekage now in front of him, Sasori stood up, in front of Sakura. His blank expression was there once again, blocking away his thoughts and emotions. After all, the hardest enemy to defeat is the one you can't read.
"I was going to blame some random ninja or even villager, but I like this better," the Kazekage continued. Silvery specks of what appeared to be dust to Sakura began to swarm slowly, almost invisibly around him. "Princess of Suna, killed by the village prodigy. The Kazekage had no choice but to avenge his beloved daughter's death. I really must thank you, prodigy. You're making my job so much easier."
Sakura's breath hitched in her throat. Her own father had been planning to kill her. Perhaps that was why Sasori had decided to leave Suna early. She couldn't process another thought because of a sudden pain in her stomach. It felt hot and searing, the worst possible feeling she could ever imagine.
Sakura gasped in agony, her eyes widening as she slowly managed to look down. Those silvery fragments, the ones she had failed to recognize – it had been the Kazekage's Satetsu, Iron Sand. Without even realizing it, some of the particles had combined to form a sharp shard-like weapon.
It was as if everything had slowed down. Time had suddenly just dropped its speed by several notches. Sasori slowly turned his head, staring at her with the first expression of shock she had ever seen on him.
Her eyes drifted down again. Her pale green shirt was now a horrible shade of red. A puddle began to form underneath her. Sakura opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Nothing could come out. She lifted her hand barely, only a few centimeters was all she could muster, and stared at the sticky red blood on her palm.
Then, her strength left her. She felt her knees give way, unable to hold her up any longer. Sasori quickly caught her – he still appeared somewhat frozen, unable to even think properly to know what to do.
From nowhere, a stream of poison needles came and landed at the Kazekage's feet, forcing him to rapidly leap out of the way. He landed a few meters away from Sasori and Sakura, looking frantically to find the source of the attack. Apparently he had missed Sasori's fast fingers – Hiruko was certainly easy to control, even in the worst of situations.
Sakura coughed. More blood splattered on the ground and on Sasori. A small trail of it made it's way from the corner of her mouth down her chin. "Ch… ch…" She struggled to speak.
"Chiyo?" Sasori asked. "You want me to find Chiyo?"
She smiled. It was ridiculous. What on the face of the Earth could she possibly find amusing at this moment? "Cher…ish," Sakura said softly, the smile still on her face. "Don't… forget…"
"Stop it." She had resigned herself to die. That wasn't going to happen.
"Please?" Sakura asked, her voice barely above a whisper. The pain wasn't enough to cloud her mind. It may be able to stop her body and blur her vision, but not her mind. "Sa…sori…"
"Don't." Sakura was being dramatic, he had decided. Or perhaps Sasori was in denial.
"I wanted… I wanted us to… be together." She winced again. Her vision was getting worse. The world around her was darkening. But she had to see. She had to tell him. It was imperative that she told him. "I wanted… you, and I…"
It wasn't that she couldn't find the words. Sakura couldn't find the strength to say them. Her voice was broken, her remaining seconds slipping away. "Don't forget…"
Her eyes closed. She didn't say anything else. Her heart slowed to a stop. Her life ended.
Sasori laid her down on the sand and stood up. He turned his head slightly, looking at the Kazekage. The Iron Sand whirled around him, ready to strike at any given time. But this time, he was ready. He wasn't going to drop his guard again.
The Kazekage was going to die.