AN: Another product of the free-for-all requests post I ran last summer - Kankurou/Sakura (ish) for stormbringer986. Spoilers for business of the post-timeskip type.
Sakura doesn't know if she likes Suna.
On the one hand, there's the endless expanse of desert, lit up to glory by a setting sun or gleaming coldly under the moon's eye. There's something stark and beautiful about the desert, she thinks.
Sometimes she thinks it lends a little of that to its people.
She doesn't remember thinking of Gaara as attractive, back in the Leaf, or noticing that Temari is beautiful in her own way. There's something about them now, here, something about how the light reflects in their eyes or how the little fragments of mica trapped in sand on their skin makes them sparkle and gleam.
Even Kankurou, she's willing to concede, is almost half-way handsome against the glory of a Suna sunrise.
Of course, that could just be the lack of the hood and face paint, she thinks. But, like his siblings, there's something in him that is just...right. For him. That's really the only way she can think of to put it.
But there's always the flipside. How the desert will strip people to the bone on a whim, how it will make your eyes ache and tear under the harsh sunlight. Sakura wonders how people can stand to live there.
The people here have to be harsh, too, she thinks, and wonders why they stay. Surely, surely the forests and streams of Konoha are much prettier, more comfortable...
Kankurou just laughs when she asks and shakes his head, looking fondly out on the desert sunset with eyes narrowed against the still too-bright sun.
"It's not a why question," he tells her, with a slow shrug. "That'd be like me asking you why you stay in Konoha."
But Sakura likes Konoha. She doesn't see how people can stand it here, the dry air that makes your lips crack and bleed, the sand that gets everywhere (her mouth, her ears and nose, under her clothing, until she's the same dull yellow as the walls of the great gourd-shaped buildings).
She doesn't ask again, though, mostly content with the picture he makes, leaning on the balcony railing, head tilted up slightly to make the most of the slight breeze. There's sand in his hair, dulling the rich brown, and on his skin, making patterns that don't quite mimic the facepaint he wears on missions.
Sakura brushes futilely at the sand that tickles her face and makes her eyes itch, succeeding only in smearing the mess of sand and sweat around a little more.
"You're still going after that kid, what's-his-name?" Kankurou asks suddenly.
Sakura's hands still. "Of course," she says. There's no question to it. "He's our teammate," she adds, and smiles a little. "That would be like someone asking you if you'd go after Gaara if he were captured."
"He was, and I tried to," Kankurou grumbles. "But it's not the same thing."
She tilts her head a little, silently inviting him to go on. She's found she likes talking with Kankurou. For all his complete lack of tact or niceties, he's really quite intelligent, and after a few days on the road with Naruto for company, she's found herself rather starved for good conversation.
"I mean...Gaara's not just my teammate, he's my brother," Kankurou points out.
'Just' a teammate? Sakura bites her tongue so as not to interrupt him. There's no 'just' about it, not for Konoha. Not for Team Seven.
"And..." he rubs a hand through his hair, messing it up even worse, and scowls. "Ah, hell. What's-his-face knew what he was doing when he did it. Gaara was captured against his will. That's the real difference, isn't it?"
This isn't something Sakura likes to think about, much less discuss with a near-stranger, however interesting his conversation may be. She folds her arms over her chest and gives him a narrow-eyed look.
"Don't gimme that," he growls. "I get that look plenty from Temari. Tell me I'm wrong. Go ahead."
She can't, and she knows it and hates it. She doesn't say anything.
"I got a real good look at the aftermath of that," he goes on after a moment or two. "That kid Kiba got his ass handed to him. And I got a look at the white-eyes before the medics got to him." He shivers a little, in spite of the too-hot air. "All because of that one kid."
"That's not fair," she says, setting her jaw in what she knows is a mulish way, but she can't help it.
His eyebrows rise. "Isn't it?"
"Sasuke didn't do anything to Neji or Kiba," she says, and it sounds weak even in her own ears.
He snorts and waves a hand. "Direct responsibility or not, your buddy's aligned himself with your village's enemy. I dunno how you guys do things in the Leaf, but around here, that's called going missing-nin and there's a very simple solution for it."
She opens her mouth to object, but he holds up a finger.
"Hold on a sec, I'm not done," he snaps. "Look, I know Naruto pounded Gaara into the dirt. And I know you helped defeat Sasori-sama. You're both powerful, and I know that." He pauses for a second, frowns. "Did I ever thank you for saving my life?"
She blinks, thrown by the sudden change of subject, but he flicks his hand dismissively.
"Whatever. Point is, you two are tough. And I know your sensei's reputation. But..." he pauses again, looking frustrated. "If you don't go after your enemies with killing intent, you die. It's as simple as that."
"I know," she says quietly. "That doesn't change the fact that we have to try."
She smiles a little and shrugs. "You know, I don't think it's really a 'why' question," she says.
There's a moment of silence. Then Kankurou sighs. "Hell. I could make a career out of pulling Leaves out of the fire. Might as well just put it on the business cards."
"We're not asking for your help," Sakura says, a little stung.
He shrugs. "Yeah, I know. But keep it in mind for when you need it."
Sakura doesn't know if she likes Suna, and she certainly doesn't pretend to understand it, but she's coming to see the good along with the bad.
Endnotes: I had to format this three times, due to FFN's unfortunate habit of brutally Jossing whatever it is I'm working on with no warning and my sister's cat being a tiny attention whore. HAET.
In any case, I just wanted to say that Kankurou is awesome and I need to write him more often. Sakura, on the other hand, always makes me worry. Concrit?