Yes! A multichapter story! One that will be updated sporadically, but as the chapter lengths will probably be twice the length of Five Days of Witty Banter, and this has much more plot and writing and planning involved, I won't complain. I've been playing with this idea for a while, and the Kakashi and Sakura training thing never came off very well, plus I can't think of anything for it. It's sort of shelved, I guess. And I'm going to finish any crossovers and inspect them before I post them. So here this is. I hope it's passable and likeable. (And tell me if there are any errors.) Edit: Various tense switches fixed, now all tenses are uniform. Sorry about that, typing something up at midnight from a piece of looseleaf where it had been scribbled rather illegibly probably isn't the best idea ever, but there you go.
The room was small and the color of sand, which was not surprising as they werein a city in the middle of the desert. One of the girls in the room had hair the color of the sand; the other had hair the color of the white-hot sun. One was perched on a windowsill across from the sill where a mirror is, the other was standing in front of the latter. The girl with sandy hair was talking to the other, who seemed to be panicked.
The one speaking was Temari no Sabaku, the older sister and advisor of the Kazekage. The silent one was Hamada Miyo, one of Suna's top-ranked jounins and a genjutsu expert with a smattering of medical training- or so it appeared. In actuality, she was Haruno Sakura, a Konoha medic-nin and currently on a joint mission between her home village of Konoha, and Suna, which is now her adopted home village. Her mission involved a great deal of espionage, something that she was rather good at, and tracking down rogues. Too many people were susceptible to a pretty face, and a hint of genjutsu could ease her way very much. (She had trained with Yuhi Kurenai for four months before the start of her mission two years ago, when she was still seventeen. Her exceptionary chakra control allowed her to completely mask her chakra all of the time and not use more than the tiniest bit when doing so. Despite what her friends and mentor wanted her to be, she was rather perfect for this mission, the obvious choice.) Her disguise had held up so well, and she could occasionally drop it but now, staying Hamada Miyo might be a little more complicated.
"It's not like they're going to be actively looking for you," Temari reasoned, looking at Sakura through the mirror perched on top of the windowsill. Sakura sighed, applying mascara to her eyelashes meticulously.
"But they are, Temari. They know that I'm in Suna, it's only logical that they would want to see me. Of course, I don't look like me, but still…" She put down the mascara wand and picked up a brush, then dragged it through bleached white-blond hair, the longest tips of which were stopping just short of brushing her shoulder. She wasn't wearing her red zip-up shirt or medic skirt, on the contrary, she was wearing a black short-sleeved shirt under a jounin vest and loose olive green cotton pants that were tinted beige, a nothing color. Under those were sandals. Depending on the heat, the pants might be cropped to her calves. "And I bet you that I'll get paired up with a Konoha ninja to proctor, too. Do you want to tell me anything about that, Temari, or is it still classified for another hour?" The older blonde girl winced.
"Um. I think that you're either with Kurosawa Yumi, that girl in the belted tunic with really orange hair who we hang out with sometimes, who knows all of the bouncers and bartenders at all of the good places, or, well… or Hatake Kakashi." The last part came out rushed, and Sakura gasped.
"Kakashi? Temari, he was my teacher and team leader when I was in Konoha! He had known me for five or six years before I left, and we've gone on many missions together. He's more likely to notice me than Naruto, or Ino, or Sasuke, or maybe even Tenten, because he's that much more experienced. He'll probably see through my chakra mask."
"I thought only a very strong Byakugan could penetrate the outer layer and only a Byakugan- that is, to say, a Hyuuga, could even tell that your chakra is masked to feel like Hamada Miyo's, that's how thick and good you've gotten with manipulating it. You have quite possibly the best control over it in Suna."
"But they're my friends, Temari," Sakura said. "They've been missing me for two years, and I've only visited once. None have had any contact with me. All that they know is Tsunade-shishou periodically telling them that I'm alive."
"That's true," Temari said. "Well, hopefully you're with Yumi then, and some other Suna nin can partner with Kakashi to show our alliance and all of that. Hold on, someone's in the hall. Gaara, is that you?"
"Actually, it is," said the Kazakage, walking into the room in all of his robed glory. "Sakura, I need to have a word with you before the delegations begin." Sakura smiled at the red-haired man who had, oddly enough, become one of her closer friends in Suna (along with Temari and various other jounins, including the two on her team when she was sent out on 'regular' missions to detract from the suspicion of her.)
"Of course," she said. "I presume that's it's something about this?" she indicated her disguised self. Gaara nodded.
"You've been paired with Hatake Kakashi-" Sakura yelped- "because Kurosawa-san has been sent out on a mission to retrieve some businessman's kidnapped daughter who has been thought to have been raped. Since she has training in psychology, it was considered useful. You need to be careful." Gaara emphasized the last four words. "So far, this joint mission has been a success. Both Suna and Konoha are safer. To lose your cover, we would lose safety, plus when your time is up you would have enemies coming after you, not Hamada Miyo. Do you understand?"
Sakura fixed him with a level gaze. "Of course I do," she said. "I'll be careful. I've been slowly adding layers to my chakra mask all week, too. So I'm proctoring with Kakashi. That should be all, right?"
Gaara nodded. "Hopefully, yes." He turned on his heel and swept out of the room, his robes flowing besides him. Temari grumbled.
"I hate when he does that," she said. "Now, tell me something: do you know if the Inuzuka boy, Kiba, is coming with the Konoha delegation? I know your entire year was required to come, all nine of you- or eight as the case maybe, because Gaara knows them, so he'll be here soon?"
It took Sakura a moment to process the sudden change in topic, from espionage and covering herself up from her closest friends to, well, Kiba. And Temari. And a relationship.
"Yeah, he should be here soon," she replied. "Why? I know you're not interested in Shikamaru anymore, which is good because he and Ino are engaged, but Kiba? Really?"
Temari shrugged. "He's cute, I like how's he's pretty nice, his clan is powerful enough that that interfering council could be persuaded top take it as keeping diplomatic relationships with Suna, and he's funny."
"Well, each to her own," Sakura said. "Although with all of the horrific blind dates that you've set me up on, sometimes I question your taste." Temari laughed. "Alright, alright, I concede your point there," she said. "Anyways. You're one to talk. You dated what's his name here, the blond one with the pointy cheekbones and knobby knees for two months when you first got here."
"Shut up," Sakura said good-naturedly, placing her hairbrush beside the mirror on the windowsill. "So, do you really think that everything will go okay?" Temari tensed a little. "I hope so," she said. "Elsewise we're probably screwed, right? Now come on, let's go put on some nice clothes and meet all the people out there."
Sakura followed her from the room, checking her appearance in another mirror placed outside the door as they left. Her skin was much tanner than it had been in Konoha, setting off her almost white hair. Her green eyes were the same, but looked different in her face. Her body was more toned, more muscular, and oddly enough, she had grown an inch since she was seventeen, unlikely as that was. Her hands had more scars, and her favorite of her scars, a slight, fading silver line across her cheekbone, made her face look different. She had gotten that in a fight with a missing-nin who she'd thought she had no chance against and was getting used to the idea of being killed by him, when suddenly she'd just struck out. Taijutsu was still on of her strong points, even though she passed herself off as a genjutsu specialist, and that one hit hand been enough, Plus, her face had matured a little. There was almost nothing left of that silly twelve year old girl who had lusted after an unattainable boy anymore. There was barely anything left of Haruno Sakura in that face, but she could always return to herself. She had to be able to, or she didn't know how she would survive.
They walked into the Kazekage tower meeting hall, which was big, and beige, and had always felt to Sakura like she was standing inside the middle of some domed sandcastle built by giants. On one side were the Suna ninja. On the other were the Konoha ninja, Tsunade most apparent. She had the strangest, most bizarre feeling that she should be standing in the middle.
Naruto, Sasuke, Kakashi. Ino and Shikamaru, Ino appearing to be pregnant? Weird. Hinata, standing next to Naruto. Neji and Tenten, her former roommate when Ino was with Shikamaru. Chouji. Shino. Rock Lee, and standing besides him, Gai. Shizune. Ibiki and Anko. (She had shuddered when she'd heard through the grapevine that they were getting married.) Kiba, with his sister Hana behind him.
Temari poked her in the rib. "See," she whispered. "Told ya that he's hot." Sakura shrugged uncomittedly. This whole thing, the chuunin exams, had thrown her for a loop. Gaara stepped forward, his arms opened wide.
"Welcome to Suna," he said. "Those that are part of the diplomatic delegation, please come into the side room on the right so we may start. Those who are merely here for the exams, Nemaru-san shall show you into your rooms. The exams start in three days time. I hope that your stay in our village will be excellent." He drops his hand, and they all divide into two groups- those who are diplomats or advisors, and those who are not. Sakura stepped to the direction of side room and found herself side by side with Shikamaru.
"Hello," he said. "I'm Nara Shikamaru, one of Tsunade-sama's specialists. And you are?"
Okay, so he most likely didn't suspect anything. Shikamaru was most likely trying to be friendly. Ino was most likely trying to force him to talk with other people more.
"I'm Hamada Miyo," she said. "I'm one of Gaara-sama's advisors and an expert in genjutsu. It's nice to meet you, Shikamaru-san." He nodded his head. "It's nice to be in Suna," he said. "A bit of a change from Konoha, though,"
"I've only been there a few times," Sakura said, lying through her teeth, obviously. She was exceptionally good at that by now. Lying well had memorably saved her life on more than a few occasions. "I guess that the weather is very different?"
"Less desert," he said. "More green." Ino walked up to him. "Guess I have to attend the meeting," she said, taking his hand, then spotting Sakura. "Oh, hello. I'm Yamanaka Ino, and this-" she places a hand on her belly- "is Nara Shikari. Or Nara Inoji, we're not sure yet."
"She's representing the Yamanaka clan," Shikamaru said. "This is Hamada Miyo, one of Gaara-sama's advisors and an expert in genjutsu."
"Nice meeting you," Ino said. Sakura agreed in kind, even though it was strange, introducing herself to her best friend who she has known since they were very little. They walked the rest of the way to the delegation room, caught up in a flood of Konoha and Suna ninja. Tsunade and Gaara seem to already be deep in conversation, while she saw Naruto annoying Sasuke as Hinata looked on with an expression that was half exasperated. Temari was making a beeline toward Kiba, who must be there with his sister Hana representing the Inuzuka clan. Sakura laughed. Guess that she wasn't kidding then, when she was talking earlier about how she would go for Kiba.
Sakura couldn't see it.
And then she spotted spiky silver hair in the midst of the crowd, and the telltale orange of a copy of an Icha Icha book. It was obviously Kakashi. And her first and only reaction was shit.
She could handle best friends and roommates, and Hyuugas with over developed eyesight. She could handle former teammates and classmates. But this man was damn perceptive, and due to the long nature of the way Suna styled their exams, endurance being one of the strong points, she would be spending a lo0t of time with him soon.
She cursed again under her breath as Shikamaru and Ino walked on.
She was so dead.