A/N: Edit September 2008: I'm switching this whole thing up! Chapter by chapter, in fact, before I start adding new things. It's going to be rewritten in some places, and for one thing, Deidara's English is going to improve, and he'll start using contractions, because I just decided that it's too out-of-character for him otherwise. Sorry if some of you were attached to it! You shouldn't be.

The legends and myths of Molly Pitcher both intrigued and inspired Sakura Haruno.

That explained a lot right now.

It explained why she wore the pants of a suddenly recalled soldier, why the helmet she stole from Captain Kakashi looked so lopsided on her head, why she was fearlessly defending her home camp from death, hell, and the grave… It didn't quite explain, however, why that strange person had come out of nowhere and started shooting at her with a really big gun.

Sure, people got shot with guns all the time. The Axis powers were as ruthless as every other enlisted man on the Ardennes front was. Nevertheless, they were not supposed to shoot a nurse. It was inconceivable! People made laws against that sort of thing, didn't they?

Sakura just couldn't shake that guilty feeling that she always wanted this to happen, though. The picture inside her mind spanned the most glorious act of selflessness ever encountered. Her wounded friends fallen around her, and a gun clutched in her remaining arm, shooting the daylights out of at least sixty opposing soldiers while she bled out of every cut in her body profusely and the snow fell gracefully all around. Didn't everyone want the chance to play the hero?

Well, no one was on the ground—no one was around to be on the ground—she had both arms completely attached, but she was shooting the daylights out of…well, one soldier. As for her skin, at a glance there was nothing spectacular to see—the exception, a rather nasty paper cut on the back of her hand—and the clouds recently exhausted themselves of snow and decided to move on, leaving the area bereft of a good, dramatic snowfall.

Not all hope of a theatrical glory party vanished, however, because there, on the man's left sleeve, was a swastika. Considering that major detail, Sakura might have her celebration after all, even as conflicting thoughts began to swirl in her head. Just her occupation of battlefield nurse suggested an aura of healing and mercy, something she didn't even remotely represent at the moment. Still, there existed the other moral issue... Even the annihilation of a single man from their side helped the allies out, and then no one would ever say Sakura Haruno didn't do her part to help save the free world. Sakura released her finger from the trigger after the third shot and squinted hard.

'One German soldier, down and out.' And that German soldier didn't look too good, apart from the fact that he'd just been shot by a rifle, of course. Even from yards away, Sakura could see the man displayed trademark signs of dehydration and acute delirium, which probably explained the sudden shooting. Just as she contemplated retreating back inside the tent and radioing for some assistance, the man doubled over at the waist and pitched forward. His helmet flew from his head, revealing a matted mop of blond hair, and pale skin the hat's shadow hid before.

Oh, wow. He looks like one of those Nazi poster boys they showed us at training, Sakura mused to herself sternly, mouth set in a grim line. Tally one up for the lady in green, I guess. No one is even going to believe me when I tell them about this.

Sakura reluctantly threw the gun--and her better judgment--aside, a shock of relief seeping into her shoulder. Who knew guns were so heavy? Stepping up from her crouched position at the tent opening, she cautiously peered out of the ramshackle first aid facility. First order of business, scan the immediate area for more Nazi boys. You never knew where those bastards were hiding nowadays. Seeing no one, Sakura slipped on her fur-lined boots and tiptoed through the powder whiteness, praying she wouldn't get into any trouble over this.

Possible trouble, of course, because she planned to fetch the man back into the tent and give him a warm place to sleep, provided he was alive. Once before, Sakura offered water to a haggard POW in England and almost received a pay dock, had Kakashi not come to her rescue, explaining sheepishly that she was knew, she was stupid, and didn't know the difference between a mop and a broom. All the same--Sakura grumbled to herself at the edge of the river embracing the east stretch of tent, picking out the safest stepping stones jutting above the ice--the duty of a battlefield nurse required allotting aid to everyone in need, no questions asked until later.

During the Civil War, one commonly saw nurses skimming about the aftermath of skirmish, administering bandages and fulfilling pleas for water indiscriminately. Sakura despised the Germans for their evil potential, but you just couldn't look into the eyes of someone screaming in pain and stop to make sure they were one of "yours." At least...Sakura didn't think you were supposed to.

Darting across the shallowest part of the rushing water, Sakura reached the small, icy hill where she saw the man stumble, readying the medical, rational part of her mind for anything she was about to see…

…except for a live body. Sakura anxiously stared down at the man's groaning, bleeding form. Just when I get the scare of my life, I get more work thrown on me. This is going to be so much fun...

The first thing Deidara forlornly realized was that he felt very, very cold. Again.

He wished for the warmth, a blanket of the stuff to burrow in and never come out, the proverbial summer in this damnable icebox. Cold signified something he knew intimately--a forced relationship, really--a relationship he dearly desired to rip into little, tiny pieces, just like his identification papers a week before whatever hell day this was, torn to shreds in a sudden fit of madness and alcohol. Later he regretted it, but as they say, what's done is done. No one asked for those papers, really.

Futility covered his mind like a dark cloud; to wish for things you didn't have in this war, to try and make something of yourself in an empire focused on one mind within the people, to escape from the destiny of serving the Führer…everyone said that. What they didn't say was that you had to turn in your imagination to the government for screening. Deidara fully took advantage of that, and other people noticed. Deidara was never fond of most governments anyway, and this new one just bit him in the wrong place. Therefore, of course, he was going to complain loudly about it to everyone who came to his store.

Oh, those were the days...when naivety ran rampant among his fourteen-year-old consciousness, when he swam consistently in his sea of ignorance. He thought, back then, that given talent and creativity came admiration and respect. An artist of explosives, you could call him, and then there was the workshop. Mostly Deidara made fireworks, even though it was illegal because of his age. They embodied beauty in all forms of expression: the light, the fire, and the noise, all blending to symbolize a masterpiece, and different, every one of them. And then he had to be an idiot and go dabble in artillery and shells, at the suggestion of his uncle.

Uncle R, his Grandmother's brother, worked for Hitler's Sturmabteilung. Deidara should've known.

During the days before the Nazi police force arrived at his doorstep, he noticed an abrupt lack of human company. All of his friends stopped visiting, and any calls made to his family unearthed nothing but broken apologies and stuttering, and ended with the recipient of the call hanging up on him. The blond began to wonder dreadfully, after those first few incidents, if his position against the government connected in any way with his unbidden isolation when a confident knock sounded on the door, sending his senses spiraling on the verge of panic. Something told him he wasn't going to like the secrets hidden beyond that heavy oak barrier.

The moment he hesitantly cracked his door open, Deidara's vision faltered, then went black.

And then his whole world changed.

He came to surrounded by darkness and a haze of pain. For a moment he wondered if he'd gone blind before a bulb in the ceiling flickered on, assaulting his eyes with a blast of white light. A rope tied him securely to a chair, stifling the impulse to shield himself from the onslaught of optical overloading; he made do with squeezing his eyes shut so hard they stung, clenched his jaw when a rough hand reached out and held his jaw, observing some unknown feature on his face. And then, the voice.

"Deidara. It's your uncle. You're in a holding center. We're going to make a better life for you, you'll see."

He didn't give Deidara time to stutter before a needle pricked his arm and a staggering exhaustion overpowered his senses. The scraping of the rope over his arm didn't register with his skin, and he didn't detect the vertigo when he slumped forward into a pair of strong arms that carried him to a broad, flat surface. The voice returned, but when Deidara awoke on a dilapidated bunk the next morning, facing a locked metal door, he didn't remember a word of it.

"It's okay, it'll be okay." A drawn-out moan from somewhere nearby. "I won't let them do anything to you. You don't have to pay the price for what she did or who anyone was, okay? I won't let it happen. Just sit up straight and do what you're told and you'll be fine. I enrolled you in a pilot's program, and you'll learn all kinds of exciting things. It'll be great..." The voice choked, a fine spray of spittle and a single tear fell upon Deidara's cheek.

"You look all right, so as long as you don't act out of line they'll let you be. God damn them, I can't believe this is happening. But it's all I can do, son. Don't hate me for this." A pause, and the sound of a gunshot down the hallway. "You're just a child, you're just a child..."

That ethereal kingdom disappeared forever, along with his uncle. Deidara never saw him again.

Waking up on that uncomfortable cot with every muscle in his body begging for mercy became somewhat normal over the next few days, as did the ritualistic opening of the locked door, when an unseen hand quickly shoved something resembling food inside. The room he would spend a small eternity in measured a tiny span, about thirteen by ten feet, possessing only that cot, a grungy sink, and a suspicious toilet. And eternity, Deidara came to discover, offered plethora of thinking time, considering that kind of company decor. Mostly he thought about what he could do to get out of that hellhole, but the rest of the time he devoted to cursing and punching the wall while he brooded over the reasons he was in there.

In another life, his mother gushed over and praised Deidara's artistic side, but his father scorned it. Imagination "always got people in trouble," he said, "especially now." Well, and he was right. Even a much-needed profession in explosives couldn't save Deidara from the judgment of the Third Reich now. But why did he feel like nothing bad would happen? Did something happen last night...?

It was all grossly unfair, really. All Deidara had done was complain lightheartedly about the system of the economy to the government officials who came in to supervise his underage work. And maybe he might've insulted the school systems once or twice. Possibly, he said one or two derogatory comments about Mr. Führer's mental state. Then there was that time he ran one of the officials out while brandishing a large chisel, just as a joke, because an army officer paid him to do it. As far as Deidara was concerned, there was absolutely nothing to justify hauling his ass off to what appeared to be an interrogation facility. He suspected the building's identity because of the pleading and crying he heard occasionally late at night, the kinds he ignored with all his heart, as he ignored the men in tall boots coming to take his friend away a year ago. The way everyone ignored things. There was so much no one talked about, things always kept silent with a frightened word, a tensed muscle.

But this was definitely a direct attack by the government on a completely innocent man. Deidara's wounded pride suffered further injury on the day his food was late for the first time. Instead of bread, old horse meat, and stale water, a rather strange group of uniformed officers greeted him briskly before professionally laying down Deidara's future options in an organized and psychologically biased fashion: execution by gunmen, a vacation to Auschwitz, or a jolly good year of service on the front lines with the German version of the boys back home. Complete with pretty nurses, whiskey all around, and clean underwear everyday.

Deidara chose life.

For the next few days, in exchange for freedom from his tiny cell, Deidara endured test after test to ensure his fitness for military service. An amusing coincidence; now he suffered through prying questions about his medical health and took tests for hours measuring the limits of his physical capability, all to determine his fitness for war, and the only thing he was in the military for was hating it. But strangely enough, Deidara's examinees continued to give him strange glares every time he mentioned the fact, that sort of 'well, I'm never going to see this idiot again' expression. Of course, that was nothing new. Still, even the barber wouldn't talk to him.

Deidara had never felt so alone.

Looking in the mirror after his first trip to the servicemen barbershop tent in his new home at the main barracks, Deidara fully understood the more important use of protective helmets: o hide that cropped mess everyone was hiding underneath layers of metal. His unfortunate contact with mirrors thankfully ended soon after it started; a man in a mechanic's uniform walked his way and whispered in his ear that he was missing the flight training session.

Empathetic to the blond's startled expression, the mechanic beckoned with a grease-stained hand and gestured to a runway tarmac out in a field, parallel to the lines of barracks, with the other hand. After searching in vain for a large group of uniformed men, Deidara and the mechanic eventually stumbled across the group inside a room modeled after a schoolroom; the neat rows of stoic, burly young men, crammed into tiny desks made for secondary children produced a laughable effect. The lights off and a projector rolling, no one noticed Deidara slip in--giving the benevolent mechanic a grateful smile--and slink to the back of the room. He sat on the floor, pulling his legs up underneath the small of his back in order to see the small square of light up ahead.

And so Deidara learned about planes, every day, newsreel by newsreel. He learned that planes "weren't really that hard to fly," and that with enough practice, "even a small child could accomplish this task." A video outlining the steps to take in event of numerous malfunctions and pilot error immediately followed. Within weeks, due to the extreme pressure for new graduates, Deidara dove, barrel rolled, and bruised his way to initiation day, when without warning he transferred to an infantry division, even before he took a plane out on his own.

It was only a matter of hours after the transfer when his division received an unexpected summons to an attack on the West Wall and the American forces stationed along it. This attack would end the war, Führer promised, set against a background of German hills and trees, displayed in glorious black-and-white. Those Americans would be sent scurrying home where they belonged and the whole world would realize how powerful the Germans truly were.

Deidara dreaded the trip, knowing he was probably going to die, confused and dejected that he wouldn't ever fly again, missing his explosives terribly. From the moment an officer presented the blond unceremoniously to the other men of his regiment, he could feel their jeering stares on his back constantly. After many years of drilling, eating, and training with the same army-toughened people in a monotonous, grey harmony, here was a scrawny boy of seventeen with ideas and passion, a love of art and the beauty of flight. Deidara never knew, then, what it was that made them hate him so much, but every time he looked, he saw it. The hate, burning terribly in the whites of their eyes, clenched teeth and hands, as if to snatch him from his life.

Every chance they got, the privates poked fun at Deidara while the officers weren't looking, and swore silent vengeance with their eyes when the officers skulked about menacingly like cats, searching for an excuse to punish.

In the confusion of battle, everyone knew well, no one would care if a regiment of petulant and malicious soldiers turned against its least-liked member. No one would care if one German soldier was left behind to fend for himself. No one important would notice hallucinogens sneaked into what some hoped to be Deidara's last meal.

And so Deidara found himself alone again, separated from his regiment by the cold, the wind, and the burning hate. Someone, he couldn't remember who, told him they needed a sniper to the east to come around and surprise Them from behind, and that he was the best to do it, the top of his class, the most amazing undesirable of them all. Never mind that it's just you, Deidara. Just go and we'll send reinforcements. You can scout out. Find some water. Find a hill to start the attack. Go check the horses. I'll keep your dog tags safe for you, it's okay. Give them to me...give them...

It was getting dark now. Where were the others? Where was the sun? Hidden behind a blanket of white and grey, everything white, white, white, grey, nothing and nothing for miles around, a drop of monotony in an ocean of conformity. But it shouldn't have been this dark yet. After all, it had only been a couple hours after he left the base camp. Or days. Perhaps it had been years. Was the war already over?

Noises to his left. Someone singing. A woman? What was she doing in his shop now? Didn't she know it was after working hours? Deidara was running along his grandparents' fence at their farm, trying to make the cows chase him, and failing horribly. That was all right, cows never did like to listen. The sun was burning hot, but why was the grass so cold? A million frozen needles stood upright for as far as he could see, pricking his feet and steadily turning them bluer with each footstep.

Why was he carrying this gun? Did it belong to him? And a girl, a small girl, sitting at his feet, staring up, haunting him with her wide-eyed, innocent stare. She cried, and sang a sad song. When she reached a hand up to touch his cheek she disappeared, tore into a million sparkling pieces tossed asunder to the wind.

A man, cloaked in black, holding a book to his chest, a perfect, perfect book. The man stroked the book with his thumb and stood at the door of Deidara's shop, muttering ceaselessly as though mad. 'I knew her,' he said. 'But I don't know you. Not you. It's you she told me about.' Deidara stood and fell through the floor soundlessly, grabbing for a handhold through icy streams, and then everything slowed down, slow, slow, slow, but he knew he could move faster. He knew he could find a place, if only he could move fast enough. But now the image was gone, and he was on the ground. His helmet was off. His face was burning on the needles.

The girl sat on her haunches before him and grinned wickedly. He could see her, and himself, from far above, static in the air atop her head. She took a handfull of snow and dropped a formed ball onto his hair, sending him away again, this time to his grandmother's house. It was time for bed now. Every night at eight o' clock.

Deidara's grandmother leaned across his bed in the spare room and pecked him on the cheek. The girl kissed him too, but now she wasn't smiling anymore. The stare returned, and she sat at his side, looking down, mindless and blank.

"Good night, liebchien. If you wake up early in the morning I'll make you some meat pies and you can have some goat's milk with them."

His grandmother turned off the lamp on the nightstand.

Sakura scowled a scowl of the highest consternation. If the boys and Ino decided to come back from the front now, she had half a mind to go out and start screaming from all the frustration, the sweltering emotions burning a hole in her head, making her palms sweat.

It was entirely the fault of this mysterious person, whoever the hell he was. After having a fine time getting him across the river without getting either of them wet (which involved an unhealthy amount of waterproof clothing and rubber boots), she'd managed to get him into an already made-up cot after stripping him down of his uniform and leaving him in a t-shirt and army-regulated boxers (remarkably clean ones). That pleasing factor did nothing to help Sakura's distressed mood, however. Not only did she willingly drag one of the enemy into this safe haven of tarp, spikes, and rope, she deliberately made him comfortable on Naruto's bed, probably one of the most patrioticly anti-Nazi soldiers in the whole United States.

And now one of the guys might have to go without water, since the Nazi's condition required quite a lot of it. Looking down at his shivering, fevering, muttering form, Sakura felt some inner emotion twist her stomach in knots, wondering if it was guilt, compassion, self-loathing, or a mix of all three. Sighing dramatically, Sakura snatched the water canteen from the counter and tipped some of its precious contents onto a sterilized rag, depositing the container near her knees. She knealt carefully beside the bed, cautiously avoiding any blunt objects on the ground below, and gently applied the wet rag to the man's forehead, wishing she had some real medical supplies. Basic techniques like this would only get her so far, especially with a serious case such as this. If the man didn't wake up soon and drink some water, he would probably die. 'But is that what I really want to happen?' Sakura felt guilty. 'What would Tsunade have done? What would she have—?'

The man jerked violently under the cloth and moaned once, coughed, then sighed weakly. Too weakly. His eyes snapped open and he gasped a single word. Sakura stiffened in her chair at the man's unexpected movement, but scrunched up her nose in confusion at his cryptic message.


Sakura decided not to bother translating such a bizarre greeting. She knew rudimentary German because it was convenient in the area, and despite the fact most of her knowledge was in greetings, random comments about the weather, and how to ask for directions, whatever the man had said was free to go right over her head. Twisting around in place, Sakura groped the ground behind her for the water canteen once more, trying to hurry before the man fell unconscious once more. Just as she turned around to face him once more, he closed his eyes, and Sakura couldn't stop the loud grunt of frustration from leaving her clenched teeth. She opened her mouth to rebuke him loudly—uncaring whether he understood or even heard—when he stiffened and jerked his head around to face in her direction, gaze locking with her own, blue eyes clear and intelligent, confused. Scared.

The man burst out in rapid German, his meaning unclear to Sakura, but she still heard the questioning note in his tone of voice. Where am I? Who are you? What are you doing to me? How did I get in here? Sakura continued to stare at him blankly, feeling emotionally violated by the way he was shamelessly wearing his heart on his sleeve. Anyone could look into his face now and see exactly what he was feeling as he watched her unscrew the lid of the canteen. A vulnerability Sakura could never afford in her life here. There was the confusion and fear, and anxiousness, and now indignity at being totally ignored. 'Well, he can go straight to hell for all I care. Oh, I shouldn't say that, that's so horrible...'

Sakura endured the awkward silence for several seconds before sighing and forcefully slamming her unoccupied hand against the ground, huffing as if greatly annoyed—'I am, dammit. This is even worse than Naruto with chicken pox. I have a distinct feeling he's going to be a troublemaker.'—and heaving herself up to a standing position, where she resumed staring at the blond man, who was beginning to look sickly and sallow once more as the adrenaline wore off. The surge of dislike she felt as she bore her eyes into him shocked even her own self. Honestly, he was just a kid like her, practically, from what she gaged by his physical appearance.

But rules were rules, and now both her head and her heart told her to get a grip and start taking care of this man regardless of her personal feelings. Perching on the edge of the bed and making a silent vow to not be a prickly bitch, Sakura leaned in towards the man, amused when he sluggishly drew back from her searching hand and the canteen in the other. She smiled lightly, trying to placate him with her voice. 'Voice first, then gradual physical contact. Makes the patient less nervous of your presence. Talk to them as if they're a baby. When they're that far up the river of death, they won't even remember anything anyway. Thanks, Tsunade.'

"It's only water, and you're very dehydrated," she cooed, "I'm a nurse and I'm going to help you. Drink this."

Something in the blond's eyes dulled, and he allowed Sakura to put one hand behind his head as she carefully gave him the water. 'Oh, man. He's not even trying to gulp it all down. Can I save him? Do I…want to save him?' Sakura chewed on her bottom lip as she reached below the bed—still trying to hold onto his neck and keep him awake—for a second canteen, which she barely managed to persuade him to swallow before he went limp again. Sakura gently arranged his unconscious form on the cot, grabbing extra blankets in preparation for the return of his fever. Sighing as she looked down at him, Sakura felt bitterness of pity, all for the young man. It didn't matter who they were, Sakura's heart always reached out to a suffering human being. Cursing herself for her weakness, Sakura knew that the guys wouldn't say anything about it; they understood her, and would accept whatever 'rights and needs of a wounded soldier' speech she'd dish out, if they ever got back. Fighting down a pang of wrath at Nazis in general and ignoring the shiny, metal scalpel five feet to her left, Sakura closed her eyes and forced herself to calm down.

'I need to rest. Time to go to bed.'

Sakura stretched languidly and strolled to her cot at the end of the first section of the hospital tent, which unfortunately meant passing by a full-length mirror as well. She balked at her appearance, and felt a heavy blush setting her face on fire. What a sight she was! Wearing those huge, baggy pants of Neji's and Kakashi's enormous helmet, she looked…

"I look like a weed trying to crossdress as a tree! And my hair sticks out of this damn helmet everywhere! I sure hope he's too delirious to remember any of this," Sakura muttered to herself. "With any luck, I may hold on to some of my dignity, here."

Another moan broke Sakura's depressing reverie; the man's fever was probably picking up again. Grabbing an unopened bottle of rubbing alcohol as she rushed to his side, Sakura steeled herself for a long journey ahead of her, one without an end in sight.

Lying back on the cot, comfortable and warm for the first time in a long time, Deidara remained limp and slothful, staring at the ceiling. How long would it be until his paradise was ruined and his commanding officer ran him out of the hospital tent, back to the slush and dregs of men who bandied about in it? And then there was his head. Dear Gott, it hurt like hell. He must've been drinking again. That meant a punishment inflicted from an officer upon his glorious return. Taunting the new kid's pushups was a good old time in the barracks, maybe even better than sex. Even the cook came out to watch. But when had he been drinking? Who even had time for that anymore? The war was on, and soon his regiment deployed to—no. They had been deployed. To Ardennes for the surprise attack on the Americans... He embarked on a scouting mission, but then what? Deidara vaguely recalled something soft, something wicked, something…?

"Oh, looks like you're awake now."

An American? That meant he had probably been captured somewhere along the line. When did that happen? How worse could his life possibly get? An odd-looking nurse's head swam into his field of vision and blocked his fascinating view of the tent roof. She was looking at him funny. Deidara hated it when people did that. Never mind that it happened to him every day of his life, he still despised people who thought they could look down on him for whatever reason. This silly American nurse had no idea who she was dealing with, did she? She had no idea who he was, or where he was from, or even what she was doing, most likely.

"Hello? Do you speak English? Nod if you understand me." And there she went again just flaunting her superiority around. Stupid American. She was planning his death as she spoke, he just knew it.

Deidara didn't feel like nodding, either. If she were a good nurse, she would know about the terrific headache waging war in his brain that kept him from jumping up and throwing various objects around. If she wanted nodding, she could just reach her goddamned hands over here and nod his head herself. The nurse pursed her lips and glared at him, as if he were the source of her problem. She was probably on her rag or something. Crazy bitch.

"Well, I don't know if you understand or not, but my name is Sakura and I guess I'm going to take care of you now. Do not try anything funny on me and I will not take advantage of you. You're in a subdued state right now from what I suspect, and it's definitely not over. I know for sure you have a fever and intense muscle strain, along with lingering delirium. You may have pneumonia. I'm going to do some tests really quick and that'll do the trick, I suppose. Up you go, now."

Where was his grandmother? Where was his shop? The girl?

"You have save me?"

The nurse Sakura blinked. "What?"

"You...did you save me?"


Another blink. Was this woman good for anything? Sakura scurried back to perch on his bedside and put her hand to his forehead and, drawing her hand back to scrutinize it, knit her brow together at the moisture gathered there.

"You have a definite fever, and I'm not altogether sure that your delirium is totally gone. Just the fact you speak English is going to help me out a lot, though. I'm going to run and get my stethoscope now. You just lay there and try to be comfortable."

Watching the Sakura-girl dash to the tent wall and open up a flap to another room, Deidara frowned and sighed, dearly wishing he hadn't as he was suddenly seized by a coughing fit and sat up to double over and hold his chest. His headache grew worse when he coughed. 'Why is it always me?'

Sakura rushed back in Deidara's section with a stethoscope and several small, translucent containers with white lids. Placing the tubes in her ears, she placed the containers on the small nightstand and put her hand on Deidara's back to steady him. Her hands were very small, he noticed. And warm. And the stethoscope was very, very cold.

At Deidara's gasp, Sakura returned her other hand to his back and rubbed it soothingly.

"Try not to do that, it may make you have a coughing fit again. I'll need you to breathe in deeply and slowly, now. That's it. Now hold it for a second…and breathe out slowly. Good."

She removed the stethoscope from her ears and his back and curled it into the drawer of the nightstand before turning towards Deidara again, her facial expression grim and foreboding. Oh, great. How many hours do I have to live?

"Well, that didn't take long," Sakura sighed, seemingly exasperated. "You have a minor case of pneumonia, a bacterial strain caused by social interaction. That's my assumption, anyway. I keep telling the officers that they need to redesign the barracks and change some regulations around to avoid this kind of crap. You must be the thousandth guy in here for this, no joke."

Having a hard time keeping up--they never taught American slang in language classes, just proper British--Deidara just decided to go with her earlier advice. He lay back and closed his eyes, trying to drown out her confusing words. Sleep would do him good; he was so tired…surely, no one would care if he slept...slept until the end of the war. Maybe the pink nurse would let him stay here, out of harm's way, far from the flying bullets, mass cruelty, and men in uniforms who took grandmothers away. There was something intriguing about this woman; that was for sure. Maybe tomorrow he could talk to her more, if his mind had unclouded by then. She was right about that lingering delirium, though. Deidara was sure cows weren't allowed in hospital tents. The last thing he heard before the oblivion took him away again was her voice, affable and clear.

"Oh, I'm sorry! You must be exhausted. Just—just keep lying down, and I'll get you some more water… I'll have to wake you up later so you can drink it. And you'll be getting checkups pretty frequently, too. What else was I thinking? Oh! There's…"

What a pleasant voice, even for an American. She was very pretty, as well, and Deidara smiled lightly despite the searing pain lancing through his skull. He had a good feeling about this.