Spoilers: Starts being AU after the Sasuke vs. Deidara battle in that he lives, and shit like that.
A/N: OR, How To Write An Epic Fic In A Oneshot. (22 pages of Word. Whoa.) Fallacy is at fault for the initial idea, and the times she pulled me out of a tight spot with this fic. Allory Shannon also gets a dedication, because she'd the best fucking Deidara I've had the pleasure of rping with, so there. I have so many things I'd like to say about this fic. But I won't. I'll let the fic speak for itself. Read on. (Please mind the rating, though. Seriously.)P.S. Unbeta-ed. Seriously? If you see a mistake, something that's spelled wrong, I don't give a damn, man. I just spent two days writing 22 pages, okay?

Everyone aspires to better things. It's how the human mind works. The question is, how far will they go to achieve them?

To be completely honest, Sakura had always found explosions to be something beautiful to watch from a safe distance. She wasn't sure this qualified as a safe distance, but it was an explosion. Maybe it didn't wipe out entire cities, but it destroyed. It took whatever was in its path, and the only thing in its destructive, burning path, was her.


"The rest of the team will be expecting us by now," Sakura muttered to Pakkun as she followed the dog further along the way. "We'd settled a meet-up in five minutes, because Naruto thinks he found something, and I don't want to be la—Pakkun. Pakkun, are you listening?" she snapped, a bit annoyed and seriously unsure of whether the ninja-dog had actually an idea of where they were. If he'd led her all the way to the outskirts of the village just to find a good tree to pee on, she'd kill hi—

"His scent is here."

—okay, she wouldn't kill him, then! "Here where?" Sakura asked, watching along the narrow road which ended between two trees. A dangerous path. She wondered if she should call the rest of the team first.

But then it happened.

First, the blinding light: white, and red, and orange, and fire. Second, the noise, that she didn't hear because her heart had stopped beating, her lungs had stopped pumping air, and she just stood there, in the forest, looking up at the sky, entranced. Third, a whoosh of hot, too hot, air blowing her hair back, making her take two steps backwards, her stomach twisting in a knot. And then the smell of sulphur. "What is that…?" she asked, as the trees bent slightly in the direction of the wind, and the hot air made her choke slightly.

She'd never seen an explosion like that in the fifteen years of life she'd had. What worried the shit out of her was that the place where it came from was the place at where Pakkun had indicated Sasuke had been last.

Without thinking it twice, Sakura forced her legs to move forward, picking up pace until she was running, running, don't let him be dead, not now when we were so close, gods. The smell of burnt flesh became more obvious, the nearer she got to the place of the explosion. It was a clearing, or it had been a clearing, or maybe it had been a forest turned clearing by the explosion—the location didn't matter. What mattered was that—

"Oh my God…"

—that in the middle of the scorched clearing lay a body. And she knew who it was. Without words—she could say nothing, not when her voice was gone, not when she could barely even breathe—she ran towards the body, arms and legs moving on their own accord, because she could think straight. She crashed to the ground a few feet beside him, tears gathering in her eyes at the smell, and on her knees she moved the remaining distance, until she was near him.

"His smell was here," Pakkun said somewhere behind her.

Sakura interpreted that as 'the burned body you see was once him', and without delay, her hands moved. Hovered over his body, she channelled chakra to her hands, and set to work.

She had to heal him. She'd heal him, because he still had a pulse. And when he was healed, she'd tie him up and drag him the hell back to Konoha, where he could heal, and apologize to Naruto, and find himself a wife and actually be normal again. She'd heal him, heal his wounds and wait for him to breathe again, for his hair to grow again, for his wounds to lead way to new skin, smooth and soft and masculine. And when he, Sasuke, the man she was healing—


The man she was healing choked out a gasp as he returned to consciousness. Sakura could devise pronounced cheekbones, and thin lips, a straight nose, and a masculine jaw line.

Hold on.

Masculine jaw line? The last she remembered, Sasuke hadn't developed a masculine jaw-line, and she was an expert at human anatomy so she'd know this shit.

Who the hell am I healing?

Her patient opened his eyes. Blue. Shit. Definitely not Sasuke. So that only left one answer: who she healed had been Sasuke's opponent. It was already too late to stop healing, and Sakura couldn't just let him die there. Other medic-nins might've, but she had always had a sense of humanity that far surpassed her sense of duty. Which did not mean she healed him fully.

"Who are you?" she asked, pulling completely away from the man. She sat on the ground, her hand inside her pouch, fingers wrapped around a knife. If he attacked, she'd show no mercy.

Unfortunately, the man, it seemed, was more worried with his situation than with his saviour. He sat up from the ground, lifting his burnt hands and pulling a face. "Those'll take a bitch of a time to heal, hn," he muttered to himself. Then he palmed his skull, now devoid of hair. It seemed that being bald wasn't pleasing him one bit. "That'll take even longer. Stupid Uchiha brat and his stupid-ass logic. When the shitting hell did electricity start to win over the ground, huh? Science's just not the same as it used to be."

Her brain barely had the time to register the name 'Uchiha' and 'brat' before making the connection, and forcing Sakura into action. Said action was, inevitably, to pull out a kunai, and launch herself at the man she'd just healed. Caught in his grumbling, he didn't notice her until she was pinning him to the ground, her kunai poised precariously under his chin. One wrong action, and his throat would be slit.

"What, you heal me to kill me, hm?" he asked, grinning dangerously. Or it would've been dangerous, if his lips hadn't been burned, and he hadn't looked so damn tired. "What do you want?"

"Sasuke," was the only word she said, glaring a bit more, her blade pressed a bit harder against his skin.

"Hopefully dead, yeah?" he answered, and his grin turned manic. "Like I would've been, if it weren't for you. Thanks a lot, princess. Now…" She had no time to react. He was on her in two seconds. Strong hands gripped her wrists, and using his advantage when it came to weight—plus the element of surprise—he rolled them over, bringing himself on top. "Now," he continued, two of his fingers wrapped around her kunai. "How can I ever thank you for that, hnn?"

Sakura didn't answer, a pure look of rage on her face as she took in his words. 'Hopefully dead'. Dead. Dead. "He can't be dead."

"Are you still on that? Did you see the explosion? What makes you think anyone'd survive it, hm? That was my most potential, perfect work of art ever. It's a miracle I survived it…or maybe…it's your fault I did."

"He can't be dead," was her murmured answer. She felt herself losing will to fight, the kunai nearly slipping from her hands. Her gut twisted, and her breath slowed down, and suddenly she was thrown in a world with no Sasuke to rescue. No emotionless former-teammate to drag home. What would Naruto say? What would Kakashi say? What would she do?

"Oi, oi, focus on the fight here, yeah," the man on top of her drawled.

"There is no fight," she said in a monotonous tone. From a distant part in her mind, Inner!Sakura supplied that she sounded like a broken doll right there, and reminded her: We were supposed to never sound like that again. That was right. She'd made a promise to herself. She would not give up. "You killed him…you killed Sasuke-kun…"

"It was either him or me, yeah. Bastard deserved it, if you ask m—"

"QUIET!" When Sakura moved, it was to kick him off of her. Her legs firmly planted on the ground beneath, her hands moving back then slamming into his chest, she sent him flying back a few feet, crashing into a tree. "You bastard," she growled, picking herself up from the ground, and launching herself at him, fist aiming for his face.

So what if she'd just healed him up? The bastard deserves it—whoever this bastard is—for killing Sasuke. No. Not killing, because it was Sasuke, dammit, and Sasuke's didn't just die. Her fist impacted with the tree behind his head, smashing it to pieces. He, a few feet away, having reacted quickly enough to retreat, was looking mildly impressed. "Do that again," he said, grinning from one ear to another. (Before the explosion, he had probably been pretty, Sakura rationalised, and then hated herself for doing it.)

"What the hell are you talking about?" she asked, running at him, twisting in mid-air and aiming a kick at his head. He moved away quicker than she could see, and her heal impacted with the ground, making it crumble.

His eyes widened in an insane way, the grin matching said insanity as he repeated: "That, yeah? It's amazing…you destroy without explosives. Very nice, yeah…"

Sakura huffed and looked at him as if he'd grown a second head. Was it normal to do this during a fight? Or was it just this weirdo? "Look, idiot, I'm trying to kill you here, will you be serious?"

He flashed her another grin, and then he was gone. "How's this for serious?" he asked a moment later, when it became quite obvious to Sakura that no, he wasn't just happy to see her, and that yes, that was the tip of a kunai digging into her back. His left arm circled her neck, and brought her back and up against his chest. "Listen, yeah," he started, speaking directly into her ear. "Since you healed me, I won't kill you this time, yeah? Don't push your luck too much, though. You might've killed Sasori-danna, but I'm a harder enemy to defeat."

And then it clicked. Who he was. Who she'd healed. The only thought she had about it was: fuck. She'd just stopped that madman Kakashi and Naruto had fought against from dying. She'd just saved an Akatsuki. There must've been a big, huge level in Hell reserved just for her, for this stunt.

"I'm gonna count to three, and then I'll go, yeah. You'd do well not to remind anyone about this meeting, princess. Just a friendly advice."

"Screw you."

"Heh. Maybe some other time, yeah? I'm a traditional guy, date and flowers first."

"Just. Ugh."

"I love the way you talk to me, hmm," he said, grinning against her ear. She scrunched her nose. He still smelled like burned flesh. She didn't answer again, settling instead on boiling with rage. "So, then, princess. We'll be seeing each other."

"I hope not."

"You know what they say, yeah? Hope's the last thing you lose." And then he pressed one spot at the back of her neck, and she crumbled to the ground, unconscious.


Twenty minutes later, Sakura joined the rest of her teammates.

"Sakura-chan, you're late," Kakashi said, looking at her as if he didn't believe it himself.

Sakura waved a hand that had been previously covered in ash and blood, and said: "I know. Pakkun thought he'd caught his scent." It was needless to specify which person she referred to.

"Really? Why didn't you call us then?" Naruto boasted, looking excited.

Sakura's eyes flashed with pain for a second. 'Hopefully dead, yeah.' 'Hopefully dead'. She shared a look with the pug near her feet, then looked at Naruto. "He had mistaken the scent for someone else."

"Aw, man," Naruto grumbled, pouting. "Let's keep looking."

They had a five minutes break, and then set off in a different direction. "What'll you do about that guy, Sakura?" Pakkun asked her.

She was too tired to argue about moral etiquette with a freaking dog, so: "I don't know," she answered. And that was that.


She hadn't expected to hear from him again. Like. Ever. Honest to gods, she could've lived her life peacefully, not knowing if he lived, or not. The crazy bastard.

So months, years passed with no news of anything concerning him, and Sakura took the wisest conclusions. He was dead. Much joy had been involved when she'd reached that conclusion, to be honest. Because she'd never have to think about how she'd saved an Akatsuki member, and he would never see her again. Plus, that reduced the guilt to a minimum.

The only time she'd directly thought of him had been a few days after their encounter, when she found out that Sasuke was alive, and right then, her thoughts of him had been something like: 'Hah! Take that, you bald-headed crazy bastard.'

So it came as a surprise when, one day, three years later, she found a letter in her mail.

'Dear princess,

Thought I'd forgotten all about you, yeah? Thought wrong. I'm sure you've missed me terribly during these three years we've been apart, and trust me when I say, I've missed you too. Our last meeting was rather violent. Let's make the next one a bit nicer, yeah?


"Yeah right. You wish," she muttered to the letter, before crunching it in her fist and threw it in the bin.

Afterwards, she visited the post office in Konoha and asked—more like shook within an inch of life—a mailman who the hell had given him that letter. Apparently, no-one knew how the letter had arrived. But later that evening, Sakura went back home and found a clay bird on her desk, with a tiny post-it note attached to it: 'It's impolite to throw away the letter I tried so hard to write, yeah.'

Sakura stared at the bird for ten seconds, before throwing it out the open window. "COME NEAR ME AND DIE, YOU FREAK!" she shouted fiercely out in the night.

On the streets below, three men cowered in fear and made a pact to never take a walk on that street again. When the clay bird exploded a few feet from them, they made a pact to never take walks again, period.


Many things had happened in the three years between their meeting in the forest, and the letter in her mail box.

They had found Sasuke. They'd found him, and fought him again, and he'd tried to kill them again. He'd been aiming the sword at Naruto, running towards his brother-best-friend-teammate-whatever, his eyes cold, and blank and emotionless; and Sakura hadn't been able to stand it, so she jumped in front of Naruto. Sasuke's sword pierced her three inches below from where Sasori's blade had, long before. It had hurt the same. But she'd yanked him close, and punched his face so hard that she broke his nose and three teeth. Then she instructed Naruto to 'tie him the hell up, we're taking him back by force if needed'. Naruto had obeyed, confessing that that had been the scariest he'd ever seen of Sakura. She'd healed herself, and dragged Sasuke's sorry ass all the way back to Konoha.

Before his trials, she'd visited his prison cell, and broke his nose again, for 'everything you've put us through, you bastard, and don't expect me to forgive you for trying to kill Naruto!'. His trial passed, and Sasuke, emotionless, cold, blank, but most importantly brotherless Sasuke, stayed.

Sakura wouldn't visit him again for two months, picking a long mission in Suna as means of escaping the need to deal with a friendship that would never be the same. When she returned, she realised Sasuke had never really thought of her as his friend. Naruto and him were friends again, or at least, they were back to bickering incessantly, again, which could qualify as friends, of course. Sakura wasn't included in the group.

Time passed. Time usually did those sort of quirky things like passing slowly when you were depressed, and very quickly when you were happy. She'd watched her friends and teammates go through loss, and love, and angst, and loss, while she stayed on the sidelines, empty. Sometimes she tried to tell this to Sai, because Sai would understand, even if he was a bastard, most of the times. But soon, even Sai started to join the flow of people feeling, losing, loving. And she couldn't hate him for that, because he was finally human, and Sakura, like a mother-teacher-sister-friend, was proud.

People were happy, people moved on, and Sakura moved on with them. She just had no clue where to she was moving, exactly.

So three years passed. She had friends. She had her job. She had no purpose. She should've been happy, but for some reason, that happiness didn't feel complete. Something was missing. Associating that something with lack of adventure, Sakura asked the Hokage to send her on the longest mission she could think of, elsewhere.

So two days after the notes from a stranger from her past arrived, Sakura crossed the gates of Konoha, with hopes of grandeur.


In a small village in the country of Watterfall, the only thing remotely close to grandeur that Sakura could find was a damp restaurant that had the cordiality of serving her a hot meal in the middle of the night.

"This isn't what I asked for when I said 'grandeur'," Sakura complained to the waitress, a plump lady she'd never met before in her life, but whose motherly features made Sakura confide in her fully. She'd have told that woman anything, from the date of her birth, to the exact location of the tiny mole on her inner thigh, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the sake she'd been served. Really.

"Some tea, dear?" the lady asked, way too cheerful for someone who was serving a soaking wet stranger in the middle of the freaking night. But, she guessed, that's how Waterfall courtesy goes for you.

"Please," she answered, and went back to twisting her hair to get out the surplus of water. If it hadn't rained, Sakura would've arrived at her destination on time. Of course, the advantage of being sent on a diplomatic mission was that she could take her sweet time in getting there. "Should've asked for an escort," she muttered to the glass. But who could she ask for, that was sane and serious enough to not start bitching in the middle of Sakura's diplomatic discussions with the Kage of Waterfall? No-one. Diplomatic life sucked, or at least that was what Temari had told her. At the exact moment, Sakura couldn't agree more.

Then the food arrived. "Thank god for diplomatic missions."

"Would you like a room to be set for you, dear?" the lady asked, refilling her glass with sake.

"You have rooms?"

"Just above the restaurant," was the answer, topped with a look of 'and you call yourself a ninja, not noticing that?'.

Something, Sakura thought, was suspicious. And then she thought no more.


Hours later, she woke up with a really, really bad headache, from being drugged, drunk, knocked unconscious by a sweet looking plump lady, and having a hangover. But at least she woke up in a comfortable bed, and that, she was a bit grateful for. Of course, there was the issue of being tied up and all, but…

"What the shit?" she said, suddenly wide awake.

"You know, I thought they'd trained you better, princess," came the answer, an infuriating, drawl of a voice. "Weren't you supposed to be good at genjutsu? That henge was D-ranked."

"What, now you've read my files, too, you stalker?" she snapped, glaring at him as she struggled against the bonds. Either there was something about the bonds, or she was still groggy, but as soon as she was free of them, she'd kick his ass so hard his mother would feel it.

"Stalker is such a harsh word to call me, when I so nicely gave you food and shelter," he said.

"Untie me. And show your face."


"So I can kick it."

"Still as violent as the last time, then. I'm pleased, yeah," he said, and seconds later, he was near the bed, and she saw him. Three years had passed since they'd last seen each other, and Sakura's first reaction was:

"Your hair's grown back."

"That was lame, yeah. Could've said something more profound," he dryly noted.

"I'll show you profound once you untie me and I let your nose meet my fist. It'll be wonderfully profound. I'll have you waxing poetics from it, I promise."

"I prefer you tied," he answered, smiling.

Sakura made a noise that sounded like a growl, and slumped back on the bed, watching him closely. He looked better than how she'd last seen him. But anything looked better than how she'd last seen him. His skin was back to normal, a few scars, here and there, and his hair was long again. Great. The Akatsuki she'd revived was in full health agai—

Wait. "Where's your cloak?" she asked.

He looked at her strangely, not quite understanding what the hell she meant. And then it clicked. The Akatsuki cloak. "Probably on the loser that had to re-emplace me, I guess," he answered with a shrug.


"What are we, slow today? I quit the Akatsuki, yeah."

"And I should believe you, because…"

"Have I come after your fox-friend lately? Did you see me in the final battle against the Akatsuki? No. Believe whatever you want, yeah."

"…why?" Sakura had been taught a valuable lesson about teammates and origins once: if you have a team, you stick with it till the end. Obviously, Deidara hadn't considered the Akatsuki as his team, but. Still.

"Three years ago, yeah. They though I was dead, but thanks to you, I wasn't. Didn't feel like returning, anyway. It's not like I joined willingly."

"So…" What did one say to one's former enemy, when one's former enemy wasn't an enemy anymore?

"Tch, do try to not look so surprised, yeah? I was given a new chance to live for my art, so I took it." He sat down next to her on the bed, and leaned down. "All thanks to you, yeah."

"Is this your idea of showing gratitude? Because it sucks."

His brow furrowed and he pulled again with a slight growl. "What is you problem, hmm? I'm not even your enemy anymore and you're acting like a—"

"Finish that phrase and I'll kill you."

"Have you considered taking drugs for that temper? They'd help a lot, yeah. Be a bit nicer, I'm trying to express my gratitude here."

"What the hell? By tying me up to a bed?!"

"I take it you don't like my idea of a date, then?"

"I hate you. Untie me."

"Not quite yet, princess. We haven't seen the show yet. I brought you here for a reason, you know?" he said, giving her an ominous grin.


"Let me explain something, Sakura. I'm a firm believer that you should give as much as you receive, yeah. And three years ago, you rescued me from death, so I didn't kill you. However, I'm still in debt to you. See, you offered me such a great display of your destructive art, that I feel like I must repay the favour."

Oh shit. He was going to explode her. Inwardly, Sakura gave out a groan. She just had a talent to pick and save the mentally deranged ones, didn't she? "You know, just flowers would've been enough, seriously," she tried to convince him, showing off a small smile.

"I know. I brought you flowers," he said, grinning, dangerously close to her face. He opened up one palm, and from the—ew, were those mouths on his hand?—mouth on his hand, she could see three small sakura blossoms made of clay. They would've been pretty. If they hadn't been bombs.

"I seriously think you don't need to do this," she tried again. "I mean, wow, yes, your gratitude? Totally getting it, no need to demonstrate through actions, I swear."

He smirked, and pressed a finger over her lips, effectively shutting her up. "Are you afraid of death, Sakura?" She gave him a look of 'DUH, idiot', and he chuckled, amused. "I won't kill you, yeah. But I promised you a show, so…a show you'll have. Watch closely, yeah."

He sat up from the bed, and disappeared from the room. She called his name frantically for a few minutes, hoping to gods he wouldn't explode the house with her in it, because she would so haunt him as a ghost, and she'd be an annoying ghost, too.

And then it began again.

The blinding light, the heat, the wind, the boom. From her place on the bed, she saw perfectly outside the window, and what she saw, was beautiful. In a completely insane, 'oh look at that pretty fire, let's not get burned by it' way. Another explosion. Another. Up to five explosions shook the forest in Waterfall country, and Sakura could only watch.

What had she gotten herself into? Who was this crazy guy? Why the hell was he showing so much interest in her? And what the hell was with the explosions thing? Finally, they ended. She kept on watching the view outside the window, her breath shallow from the surprise, the amazement, and the overwhelming feelings. She heard him reappear too late, only growing aware of his presence when he was beside her, his hand brushing over her cheek, and his mouth near her ear.

"That's exactly the reaction I wanted to get from you, yeah," he whispered, and she could feel his smirk rather than see it. "Till the next time, princess." Another hit to a pressure point, and Sakura was back to sleep.

When she woke up, the bounds were gone, and the room was empty. The forest behind the restaurant was gone too, and the smell of burned wood persisted in the air. It was beautiful.

And she was as insane as him for thinking that way.


In the end, Sakura went on the way and did her duty, and since then Konoha and Waterfall have been in good graces. When she'd returned back home, three months had passed, and things were, yet again, different.

Somewhere along her way to find grandeur, or at least a further purpose in life, she'd lost the little contact she had had with her friends. Deep down, she knew she should've been angry as hell when they'd started to exclude her of their group, but Sakura had been so happy to see them happy, that she'd relented. Somewhere along the road, Sai told her to stop putting others before herself. She'd kicked him for being so damned right.

When Sakura had finished giving Tsunade her reports, when she'd finished her awkwardly quiet lunch with Naruto, Sasuke and Sai, she returned home. There was another letter in her mailbox, but this one wasn't from the lunatic. This one was creamy white, with lavender, and words like 'the pleasure of inviting you to' and 'Uchiha Sasuke and Yamanako Ino' and, worst of all, 'wedding'. Well. That explained why the lunch had been so awkward.


Two weeks later, Sakura attended the first wedding in her life. Sadly, tragically, and whatnot, it was not her own. She wasn't the bride facing Sasuke. Sitting in the front row and watching Ino and Sasuke exchange vows, Sakura had an epiphany. She didn't want to be Sasuke's bride.

She didn't want to be a bride.

She wanted something more, something different. Not a wedding, or children, but something equally beautiful. Something…explosive.

She wanted change. She desperately needed it. And she needed to get out of that place, get out of her pink frilly dress, get into the good old medic uniform, and just. Go. That would've made her happy. That would've made her happy.

But it would've ruined Ino's happy day. And she couldn't do that to her friend, even if the friendship had dwindled. Vaguely, she wondered if this was how Kakashi had felt when he'd been left alone in the world, surrounded by ghosts of his past. The only difference was that her ghosts were still alive.

The wedding was beautiful. Sakura felt like screaming all the way through.


"Why is the cake pink?" she idly asked Naruto in a hushed whisper, three hours later, at the reception party.

"I think Ino likes it. Tastes good," Naruto answered.

"…she picked this on purpose."


"Look at it, Naruto. It's pink cake, dammit. It's like a wide declaration of 'ha ha you lost, Sakura'," she snapped, pushing the plate under his nose. "It's sweet, and pink, and I swear there was a flower decoration on it earlier."

Naruto fretted a bit under her angry gaze, rubbing his neck and shrugging in indifference. Sakura scowled, and settled for glaring at the preposterous dessert. "Maa, Sakura-chan…" the boy started, a bit later. "You're not still…in love with him, are you?"

Sakura's head snapped up at the same time as the metaphorical knife plunged into her heart. "No," she answered in a tiny voice. "No, of course not," she tried again, her voice louder. "All forgotten now, yep."

Naruto gave her an analysing look, before he smiled. "Just checking, you know? Wouldn't want you to be unhappy, Sakura-chan. So you gotta let go of Sasuke-teme, you know?"

"I know." After a pause, she added. "You want me to be happy, Naruto?"

"Of course," he answered, as if it should've been obvious. And it should have.

"What if…what if my path to happiness leads me away from you guys, though? What if I can't find happiness here, and I have to leave?"

The man paused, looking lost in deep thought, before answering: "Whatever makes you happy, Sakura-chan. I meant it. Plus, if you move far away, I'll visit, I promise."

She placed her plate on the table, and dragged him towards her, hugging the boy tightly. "Thank you," she whispered, feeling really, honestly, grateful.

"What are friends for, right?" he said, rubbing her head in that annoying brotherly way she loved. "I'm gonna go see if Hinata-chan wants to dance. Will you be fine here?"

"Sure," she answered, pulling back from the hug. "Go," she said, and waved at him as he left. She'd been wrong to think Naruto didn't include her in his group of friends anymore. Dreadfully, horribly wrong. Naruto would have been there for her, always. So who had been distancing themselves, then, if not her? She'd placed the gap that was between her teammates and her there. She'd been the one to run away. She' been the one wanting change.

And painfully, she still wanted it. She loved the three of them dearly, but at times like these, she wanted some escape. Something to remind her she was alive. She wanted to live. With a last look of disgust towards the cake, she pushed the plate away. "Hate cake, anyway."

"Would you like to dance?"

Sakura looked up, her eyes following the hand held out in front of her. A man in his mid-twenties was standing in front of her, black hair ruffled slightly by the wind, and a shining smile on his face. He had a boyish looking face. And he was asking her to dance. Sakura thought for a moment, why the hell not? "Sure," she said, and place her hand in the man's own, letting him help her up and towards the dance floor. She vaguely recalled seeing Naruto give her a thumbs up, before being swept into a slow dance by the stranger.

"You looked sad and desperate back there," the man whispered, somehow making his voice heard over the sensuous strings of the song. His hands were sure, steady on the middle of her back, one hand in hers. His grip was steady, formal, and yet there was something about it that made it feel bold. She couldn't explain it.

Sakura looked up into blue eyes, and blushed slightly. "You must've seen wrong."

He smirked faintly, before twirling her around once, this time pulling her closer once the pirouette was over. Now his chest was pressed against hers (deliciously so), and he was leaning down to whisper something in her ear. "You're not fooling me."

"You hardly know me," she replied, coldly.

He chuckled warmly into her ear, before pulling back and showing her a deadly familiar grin. "You'd be surprised at how well I know you, princess."

Well. Shit. "Deidara," she bristled angrily, her voice kept down to a whisper. She knew that if she revealed his identity, several things would happen: 1. there would be a fight, 2. Ino's wedding would be ruined, 3. people would end up dead or exploded. So she settle for the next best thing. Gripping his hand hard, she growled, "What the fuck are you doing here?"

"Dancing," he answered, as if it were the most normal thing to answer, and as if her hands were not breaking a few bones at that moment. "And you?"

"Don't be so damn--ugh!"

"I can't guarantee anything, but I'll try," he answered cockily, before spinning them both on the dance floor.

"Why are you here?" she asked again, wishing she could access the senbon in her cleavage.

"I heard there was a wedding, and came in case you didn't have a date."

"Will you stop being so damn arrogant? If you're here to ruin the wedding, I swear I'll kill you, revive you, and kill you again," she growled.

"Relax, yeah? I'm not here to kill anyone. Though," he said, leaning in until their noses touched. "I will, if you tell anyone who I am." At her surprised look, he chuckled and defiantly poked her nose with his tongue before pulling back. "I'm here for you."

"Why?" she asked, trying to subtly wipe her nose of his bad, bad touch. "What use am I to you, anyway? I already saw your art, we're even. You should've stopped this shi—"

"Tsk. Sakura…try to deny that you don't like this, yeah. I dare you to," he whispered, his tone serious yet teasing, his mouth right next to her ear. "Try to convince yourself that your heart doesn't beat faster when I'm near. Deny that you don't like the danger. Deny that you don't want more."

"I don't want more."

"…okay, don't deny that, yeah? It ruins the mood," he snapped, pouting slightly.

"There was a mood?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Course, yeah. I'm trying to seduce you here, and you're making it hard." He grinned boldly. "Can't say I'm not liking the chase, though."

"Wait, hold on, you're trying to seduce me? Why?" she blurted out, hardly aware that a second song had started, until he picked up the pace.

"And why not?" he asked, shrugging slightly. "I'm not interested in just explosions, you know? Have you ever seen an artist when they're obsessed, Sakura? They go at unimaginable lengths to reach that obsession."

"I'm your obsession?"

He smiled, and she wished he wasn't hidden behind a henge, because the smile was honest, and slightly sad, and maybe a bit melancholic, and damn. It would've looked beautiful on his real face. "Something like that, yeah," he answered. Then he leaned in, and pressed his lips over hers briefly, less than a second, fleeting. "Beautiful," he whispered, his lips still hovering over hers.

What was so beautiful, she never found out. He was gone before she could open her eyes. Sakura stood still in the middle of the dance floor, a hand raised to her lips. Nothing of him lingered. He was gone. Fleeting.

Just like his art.


He was slowly becoming a constant. Not a huge constant, but a constant nonetheless. So maybe he wasn't there with established frequency, and sometimes it took three months, a week, half a year, four weeks, a day, for him to establish some sort of contact, but at least he seemed to be there when she needed it. In a way, that scared her a lot. In a way, she was grateful.

When Sasuke's first child was born, Sakura took the first mission she could get her hands on, and retreated behind that perfect mask of work and duty. In the middle of that mission, while enjoying a cup of tea in a quiet part of the forest, he appeared. This time, there was no fight. This time, he sat down, and she allowed him to, because she'd been hurting, or feeling strangely lost after the news of Ino and Sasuke's child. So they sat for a few hours, and somewhere in the middle, Sakura poured him some tea. He commented on how strange it was that she carried tea with her, of all things. She told him to shut up and drink.

They talked then, for hours. Sakura was taking a break, anyway, so she didn't care if she was late. There was nowhere for her to be late, anyway, since she was returning from her mission. So she took that break from reality, and pretended they were just a man and a woman sharing tea in the middle of the forest, and talking until they had nothing left to talk about. And when the talk as over, he smiled at her, and left with a wave.

The things she'd learned that time about him, were many. Or as much as one can learn in three hours, fifteen minutes and fourty-five seconds—not that she'd counted.

The time after that, she'd just lost all her squad members in an S-class mission. Her hands still reeked of blood, and were red like blood, when Sakura picked herself up and ran from the battlefield, from the death, and the loss, and the incompetence. He found her—or maybe followed her—near the river, scrubbing her hands furiously in the freezing water. She didn't react when he materialized behind her, and when he said he could've killed her easily, had he been an enemy, she'd quietly answered "But you're not one." Something changed in Sakura in that battle, where she was the only one to survive the massacre. Something broke.

So when Deidara kneeled besides her on the river-bank, and took one of her hands in between hers, she looked up with a blank stare, and asked: "Make me feel something before I lose myself." The mouths on his hands opened and kissed the front and back of her hand. She sucked in air through her parted lips.

And then he was kissing her. He was kissing her, and kissing her, with lips moulding together, teeth clashing, tongues battling wildly. It wasn't a dance, it wasn't chaste, and it wasn't like any kiss Sakura had ever experienced. It was better. It was a frenzy of lips, tongues, teeth; of kisses, nips, and heavy panting. They didn't pull away for twenty minutes, and when he finally pulled back from her mouth, she realised that somehow, in the middle of it, she'd ended up lain against the forest floor, with him above her, entangled around her.

This is dangerous, her eyes seemed to say. He must have agreed, because two moments later, he was gone, again.

She wouldn't hear or see him in another six months. Ironically, the next time would be on her birthday, when again an envelope appeared mysteriously, this time on her bed. There was a post-card, but what caught her attention was the small figurine of clay attached. It was them, on the forest floor, two abstract people so entangled that they looked like one being. Sakura kept it on the shelf in her room, grateful for the simple words he'd written on the card: 'Normal clay'.

Two days later, she would leave on a mission. And hour after her departure, the clay figurine would explode, and the post-card would split into two parts, revealing a secret message written in invisible ink: 'Beauty should be fleeting'. Sakura wouldn't see either, because her mother would clean her room the following day.


Five years passed since the first time, since she'd healed him. Sakura was now twenty years old, and recently promoted to Jounin. Team Kakashi had been dissolved, because Sai and Sasuke were back in ANBU, and Naruto was too busy with his duties as a Hokage. Sakura alternated between missions, and work at the hospital, and imminently, among the routine, she began to have that feeling of emptiness. That need to escape. To let go. To be something better. Greater.

The mission she chose had been fairly simple. Infiltrating the base of the crime-lord hadn't been hard, because apparently minions nowadays came with extreme-weakness to genjutsu. Not even getting to the man's rooms had been tough, because apparently guards those days came with a weak resistance to poison darts. Once inside the room, Sakura settled to looking for the scrolls she needed, while thinking about how her life had gone down the drain lately. Vaguely, she reflected that a certain psychotic madman could maybe, make her feel better.

And of course, that was like a sign for the gods to act.

"Didn't they teach you stealing is bad?" came a familiar voice from behind her. Sakura was quick, the kunai flying towards him before she could realise who he was. Luckily, it only hit the door of the closet he'd been hiding in. "Tsk."

She turned around fully, and placed her hands on her hips. "I thought you'd have came out of the closet by now."

"Funny, yeah," he drawled, leaning back against the wall behind him. Apparently, the crime-lord just loved having extremely wide, spacious closets. Almost like small rooms. "Missed me, princess?" he asked.

"No," she answered. Yes, she meant.

"I think you have, yeah," he replied in a low voice. Raising a hand, he beckoned him towards him. "Come here, Sakura."

"Why?" she asked. Her legs were moving on their own accord, though, leading her to him, to the closet, to his arms. "Why are you always here when I want you to be?" she demanded, stopping two feet in front of him.

"Because I'm your guardian angel, princess," he replied, smiling softly. His hand circled around her wrist, and pulled her brusquely against him. Her chest collided with him, and he spun them around, pushing her back against the wall of the closet. "I don't know either, yeah. I just…feel like I should be. Crazy shit, huh?"

"No kidding," she answered, not moving from her spot. "What will you do now?"

"Have you," he replied, as if it were the most natural thing to say, ever.

"Here? In a closet? Are you mad?" she asked. Meanwhile, her hands, the traitors, had slid under his shirt. They both hissed at the feeling of cold hands against hot skin.

"Mmmmyes, right here," he murmured, leaning down to lick the shell of her ear. "We both need this," he whispered, and it sounded like a prayer.

"Will you leave afterwards?" she asked, reaching behind him to pull the door to the closet shut. Darkness enveloped her, and the sound of their harsh breathing was the only thing heard for a moment.

"Yes," he finally answered, before covering her mouth with his. It was wonderful, and lazy, and untamed. His tongue wasted no time in sliding past her parted lips and rolling around hers. His hands slid under her shirt, bloodline acting up. His left hand travelled up to rest under her breast, the tongue of that mouth licking the skin it caught in its path. His right hand rounded her waist, slipping under her medic-nin skirt, and above her shorts, right over her ass. He pulled her closer, while his lips nipped at her bottom lip, Sakura letting out whimpers of pleasure. "Wanted this for too long, yeah," he murmured against her lips.

"Why do you keep running away, then?" she asked, opening her eyes to look at him. He looked beautiful. Even if she could hardly see inside the closet, she knew he looked beautiful.

"Because, Sakura, every moment near you is…beautiful, now. And to me, beauty should be fleeting. If I didn't leave, I'd have to turn you into my work of art, yeah. And I'm a bit too selfish, with you, to do that," he explained, his lips fluttering over her face, forehead, eyes, nose, lips again. Lips against lips, that was how it should've always been. "Now be quiet," he ordered, pleaded.

She spoke no more, and neither did he. Actions took over words, and it was perfect. Even if it was inside a closet.

Deidara's lips—the ones on his face—left her mouth, trailing kisses down her neck, to her collarbone. Meanwhile, his hands unzipped her top, pushing it out of the way, before moving down south. His mouth moved again, tongue swirling around her left nipple, making her arch and stick her knuckles in her mouth to keep her from crying out loud. He licked her nipple until it was hard, before clamping his mouth around it, while one hand covered her neglected breast, the mouth on it mimicking the first. He suckled, and licked, and nipped at her breasts until she was whimpering from need, her hands thread in his hair, pulling him closer, and her back arched.

He pulled away enough to look up at her, or at least she thought he was doing that. "Wish I had a light to see you now, yeah," he murmured, before his tongue boldly ran over her nipple again.

"Nnnhh," was her only answer, her grip on his hair tighter. Somewhere along that line, he'd ended up on his knees in front of her. One hand was left teasing her breast while the other lifted her right leg, and placed it over his shoulder.

"One day, we'll have to do this in a bed, yeah," he murmured, his hands leaving her completely only to hook under her shorts and panties and pull them down her legs. He brought her leg back up over his shoulder, and kissed her inner thigh. "I wanna see you the next time." His tongue licked a path to her knee, where he grinned against her skin before biting the skin there.

"Oh gods!" was her reaction, knees buckling slightly.

"I prefer Deidara, yeah," he replied, before running his tongue up her thigh. "Describe what I'm touching, Sakura. Be my eyes."

"Nnnhh…th-the…" Well, she clearly couldn't, and the bastard knew it. Too lost in the lust meddling with her brain, she couldn't form any words, let alone describe herself.

"Do it or I'll stop," he warned.

"There's a mole an inch above from where your mouth is," she quickly blurted out, saying the first thing to come to mind. When, a second later, his mouth was on that spot, where her mole was, she was so grateful she'd mentioned it. "P-Please," she gasped out.

"I'm not gonna hurry," he said, scraping his teeth over her hipbone and making her moan softly.

"We're…in a fucking…closet, dammit…of a crime-lord, might I aaaaaaahhh—add."

"Try something more convincing, yeah," he said, grinning against her skin, before his head disappeared between her thighs.

"Deidara," she moaned, as soon as she felt his tongue, skilfully spreading her wet folds, giving her one lick, before pulling away.

"Want me to stop, hmm?" he asked, teasingly licking her again.

"No," she answered, deciding that fuck, she needed this. Screw the fact that they were in a closet. If anyone dared walk in on them, she'd kill them. Unless Deidara got to them first. He probably had explosives laid about the room.

To be completely honest, Sakura had always found explosions to be something beautiful to watch from a safe distance. She wasn't sure this qualified as a safe distance, but it was an explosion. Maybe it didn't wipe out entire cities, but it destroyed. It took whatever was in its path, and the only thing in its destructive, burning path, was her.

His mouth moved again, pressing kisses to her wet core, teeth scraping over her clit before his tongue flickered it once. She mumbled something incoherent, and twisted her fingers in his hair. Lazily, his tongue licked her clit while he slipped two fingers inside of her, pumping them in and out at a steady pace, rhythmic. Ten pumps, before he stopped, fingers inside her; twisting his hand until his palm was towards the sky, her moved his fingers inside her in a beckoning movement, rubbing over her g-spot over, and over, until she could help it anymore—and then he stopped, and resumed the process. Again, and again, as if they had all the time in the world, as if they weren't in someone else's closet, as if—oh, who cared anymore.

"Want…Deidara, please…" she mumbled incoherently, grinding her hips against his hand.

"Yeah?" he murmured, teeth brushing over her clit again.

"Fuck!" she exclaimed, buckling again.

"Mmmhmm, eventually." Eventually, his fingers settled for rubbing against her g-spot, tongue teasing her clit, over and over, until she really couldn't stop herself, and she arched—


—silently crying his name, back snapping into an arch, before shudders and whimpers took over, and she rode the wave of her orgasm, while he licked her clean, and pulled himself up from the floor.

"Really gotta do this again with lights, yeah," he said, grinning widely—she could see his teeth—before crashing his mouth against hers in a kiss that tasted like sex, and lust, and—god, she needed more.

Her hands moved this time, fingers pulling at the string of his pants before pushing them down to below his buttocks, together with his underwear. One hand slipped under his shirt, nails scraping over a nipple, while the other wrapped around his cock and gave it one, firm stroke.

"Fuck," he groaned against her lips.

"Would've gotten there ages ago, but you insist on being slow," she said, before his mouth grabbed hers in another passionate kiss.

"Want you now," he gasped out against her lips, his hands travelling down to the back of her legs.

"Take me, then," she said, defiantly.

He did. His hands gripped her legs, pushing her up against the wall of the closet, pulling her legs up and settling them around his waist. With the hand she had wrapped around his length, she positioned him at her entrance, and pressed one fleeting, beautiful kiss to his lips. "Now," she growled, and he slammed inside of her.

Thankfully, she wasn't a virgin, or else that would've hurt. And it felt way too good to let any pain filter through. "Gods," he groaned, hips moving to thrust in and out of her quickly for a few moments, before settling a rhythm.

"I…prefer…nnhhh—Sakura," she replied, laughing slightly.

"Cocky, yeah," he said, grinning before the hands wrapped around her legs opened their mouths and licked.

"Nhhhh—don't stop…" she gasped out, hands coming to wrap around his shoulders.

"Don't plan to," he said, and didn't. His rhythm was brutal, because he slid out slowly, and slammed inside quickly. It was torture, of the best kind. Any other type of sex they'd had before this was insignificant, however mindblowing it had been.

This was more. This was like his best explosions, condensed.

His speed picked up soon, until he was thrusting into her relentlessly, while she gasped, and moaned, and begged, and clutched. He switched one hand from her legs to her breast, while he bent down to swipe her mouth into another kiss. Her nails scratched the skin on his back slightly, her back desperate to arch, but unable to.

"Deidara…" she mumbled against his lips, clenching her legs around his hips.


"Don't leave," she whispered.

He made a noise that sounded like a cry of something, knees buckling slightly. But he didn't answer, opting for thrusting into her with passion, wildness, lack of control, again, again, more and more, until she was there again, until the earth under her crumbled, and her world exploded behind her eyelids, and she saw white, and warmth, and--gods, just like his explosions--blissfully orgasmed. He wasn't late in following, a couple of more thrusts into her tight core, and it was all it took to bring a psychotic, insane, dangerous man to a state of abandon.

"Bang," Sakura breathed out, a minute later.

"Yeah," he agreed, panting softly. "Bang, indeed."


Sakura regretted a few things in her life. Having sex with Deidara in a dark closet was not one of them. However, not fighting more and trying to stop him from leaving, was.

At least this time, he didn't leave her unconscious, and at least they parted after her mission was over, in the forest. He did not take her again, though by the way his fingers curled whenever he looked at her, he wanted to. But he must've been fighting some superior force, obviously. Or against himself. She wasn't sure.

But she was sure of one thing, though. As soon as she had arrived in Konoha, as soon as Naruto noticed, surprised, that she looked 'diferent, like…happier, but sad…did you do something with your hair?', she knew. She had found her escape, her change, her grandeur. And she would be a damned fool if she'd let it go.

"Naruto, I need to tell you a story," she said, and sat down, and spoke. If anyone could understand her, it would be Naruto.

She knew it was wrong to be attached to a former Akatsuki member, a former enemy, but, Sakura pointed out, in the life of a shinobi, the line between enemies and allies was determined by a bag of coins; and to their enemies, they were the bad guys, while to themselves, the enemies were the bad guys. Moral etiquette was okay to know that killing was bad, but necessary. But beyond that, they were all murderers there, and no-one had the right to wear a crown or a halo. So Naruto understood.

Sakura, at twenty years, filed in her resignation as a Konoha shinobi, and required the permission to leave her village without being persecuted like a missing-nin. Normally these types of processes took months, but it helped to be the best friend of the Hokage.

So two days later, Sakura'd been packed, and ready, and saying goodbye to her friends and family. Of all of them, only Naruto knew the truth. The rest thought she was retiring from the world of a shinobi, and probably planning to work as something else. (That would depend on someone else.)

"So where are you going? What are your plans?" Sasuke asked.

"I don't know where I'm going," she answered. "But I have plans for grandeur."

"And you can't get those here?" Sai asked.

Sakura smiled at him. She'd miss the bastard. She'd miss them all. Maybe she'd return to visit one day. Maybe not. But she'd always have them in her heart. "No. I must go out into the world to find them."

She didn't cry at that goodbye.


It took Sakura two months to find him, and when she did she was half-tempted to punch his jaw in for eluding her so well. Instead, she took a seat on the bench next to him.

"Nice view," she said, looking out to the ocean in front of them. "Could've picked somewhere closer to Fire."

He turned his head—god, he looked gorgeous—and gave her a grim look. "Why are you here, yeah?"

"Oh, well, you know, I heard the fish in this place is something you have to try at least once in your lifetime," she answered, waving her hand dismissively. At his pointed look, she cleared her throat and looked away. "I am no longer a ninja of Konoha."

"What happened?"

"You did," she answered, turning her head to lock gazes with him.

"You're insane, yeah," he said, looking mildly grim.

"Look, idiot," she snapped, breaking the mood. "This is the first time I stalk you. I don't care if you say yes or not, if we last for a short while, or for forever, but I do know that you're my escape, Deidara. You're my change, my…my grandeur, for God's sake. And I hope you'll be that for a while longer. So please, give this a chance."

He looked at her for a long time, taking in every detail. She held her breath until he leaned in and kissed her lips softly. "If I end up blowing you up…"

"I'll just haunt you in my afterlife," she finished for him. "I know you think beauty should be fleeting, Deidara, but a relationship won't always be beautiful. We'll fight, and bicker, and sometimes I'll get so mad that I'll leave, and sometimes you'll get so mad that you'll blow something up, and we'll have ups and downs. I know we'll pull through, though, even if I'm sure you're going to make me mad about the weirdest things, like how you leave clay all over the place, and the way you'll take five hours in the bathroom to fix your hair every day—"

"I bet you're going to steal my blankets, hmm," he said, leaning his forehead against hers and smiling, warmly. "And burn our kitchen while trying to cook."

"I don't know what you're talking about, I'm an excellent cook," she sniffed.


"So what do you say?" she asked, grabbing his hands in hers. "Give this a try? Or should I grab my bags and go back home? Will you be my escape?" He opened his mouth to say something, but she clamped her hand over it. "And before you answer, remember that I travelled for weeks, miles and miles, and that a wrong answer might lead to your sudden death," she finished with sobriety.

He grinned against her palm, before pulling her hand away from his mouth, and kissing her, hard. Fifteen minutes later, he pulled away, and said: "This time, I'll stay."

"Oh good!" she exclaimed. "Hold on, let me put away these kunais here, and we can—" He shut her up with another kiss, grinning against her lips during all the time.

Maybe his answer hadn't been direct, and maybe Sakura was right. Maybe they'd last for a short while, or for forever. But he'd relented, and she? She could work with that. Together, they could work with that, make that crazy, obsessive relationship work. And if it didn't, well…she always had the kunais at hand.