DISCLAIMER: egads, I do not own 'Naruto' or anything associated with the anime and manga. I am merely writing this for my adoring readers and my own mind, because Sasori needed kindness darn it!
Authoress' Note: Here it is! The sequel to "The Scorpion's and The Flower's Freedom"! Honestly, if you have not read that, then I strongly suggest that you turn back and read it before you even glance at this chapter. Otherwise you'll be mortally confuddled.
I do hope this story will live up to the expectations of you all and I hope that you will greet it with the same warmth you greeted it's predecessor. Oh, don't let the title worry you...I promise this will not make you utterly depressed for eternity!
A Broken Friendship
Chapter One: Joy
Sakura Haruno walked along the streets humming a happy little tune in her head. She wasn't sure what she was humming to, but it made her face smile all the same. There was a good feeling inside her, as though the day would be perfect for some reason. The young ninja had this wonderful feeling of excitement, as though something simply amazing was just around the corner. Sakura just hoped that it wouldn't be closely followed with something bad.
Nothing new had happened in the Leaf village as of late and not once had Sakura had a visit from her new friend, Sasori. He hadn't come to see her since that one time a couple of weeks ago, where he had acted very strangely and even…faintly touched her face before he abruptly left with a cryptic message and warning for her not to be around while he was on his mission. She still had no clue what he meant, but for some reason Sakura trusted the red-haired puppet master more than she knew that she should do.
Wait! It had been about two weeks? That meant only one thing…Naruto would be back any day now! With a huge grin plastered on her face, Sakura started to skip happily down the bustling streets, until a trio of short people collided with her as she rounded a corner. She fell clumsily to the dirt floor just as the three others did the same.
Wincing, Sakura carefully picked herself up off her behind and then looked at the ones who had knocked into her so carelessly. Sprawled on the floor in a haphazard way were Konohamaru and his friends, all three of them moaning about evil cats and stupid, fat, lazy grown ups.
"What were you three doing that made you run into me, huh?" Sakura's tone wasn't reprimanding, not matter how much she tried to make it sound that way. There was no possible way that she could be angry with the kids; they were probably doing some simple mission and weren't looking where they were going because they had been so focused.
Konohamaru looked up at the older girl, a light blush on his cheeks from the sheer embarrassment over what had happened, "Er…sorry about that Sakura. We were trying to catch a stupid cat and it kept getting away from us. I almost had it too…now where did it go?"
His dark eyes searched intently among the different street stalls and people, but he couldn't see the pesky critter. His friends also came up with no results and the trio sighed in dismay. No doubt that would be a failed mission for them.
Sakura, noticing their misery, smiled kindly at the younger kids, "Don't worry, I'm sure you'll get the cat soon."
Konohamaru grinned at the Hokage's apprentice, "You really think so?"
"Uh huh, I bet the little guy's hiding somewhere close by. Don't give up!"
The three little ninja nodded, saluted Sakura – which she found strange – and then they darted off in a random direction to begin their search once again.
"I remember doing that kind of mission…" A wistful look passed over the girl's face, "It seems like so long ago that we were a team…" At once, Sakura's mood darkened and she could no longer muster up the energy to smile or be joyous. Not now that she had thought about the past – about Sasuke. "Even though I don't think of him that way anymore, I still care about him. I still worry…"
The now depressed teenager trudged through a random street, not really paying any notice of where her feet were taking her. So it was a surprise when she passed by a lamp post and a voice called down to her – a familiar, happy, often annoying voice. Her head shot up and Sakura searched the sky for the sound that she had waited to hear for such a long time now. All that her eyes saw was a shadowed figure silhouetted against the bright sunlit sky.
"Who..?" she muttered the question quietly to herself.
"SAKURA!" the voice called happily once again and this time the person jumped down from the pole and was right in front of her face.
The young girl had no doubt who this was, "Naruto!" She almost hugged him, but stopped herself at the last moment. There was no point in giving him a big head, making him think that she had missed him a lot. As if she had!
"It's good to see you again, Sakura." He was grinning at Sakura and the pink-haired girl found herself returning the grin with a smile of her own.
"You too, Naruto." She blinked and looked at how much the blonde had changed in the last couple of years or so. "You look…different." Indeed he was, for his height had vastly improved from the small, slightly plump boy of twelve that Sakura remembered. His hair had grown a little longer too, but it still only reached his shoulders at the back. His face wasn't as round as it used to be. He looked more mature than Sakura would have ever thought possible for him to be. He even had a change of clothes. They were still orange, but there was black on the clothing as well. All in all, Sakura found herself amazed and impressed with the new looking Naruto.
"Yeah, I know. I had to get some new clothes because my old ones were ruined after training so much. You haven't changed at all though Sakura!" His grin never left his face, even as Sakura twitched at his lack of attention. She had most definitely changed from nearly three years ago; trust Naruto to not notice a difference!
A booming and very irritating voice called from above the pair, grabbing Sakura's attention momentarily, "Now, now Naruto, is that any way to compliment such a beautiful little flower?" The Legendary Toad Sannin himself dropped down from the sky, much like Naruto had before, and landed easily enough on the ground behind Naruto. Jiraiya, of course, hadn't changed one bit since the last time Sakura had seen him. His hair was still bizarrely white in colour and he was still wearing the exact same clothes and sandals that made annoying tapping sounds as he walked. On top of that, he was still just as lecherous as ever.
"Hey, don't say that about Sakura you pervy sage!"
"I was merely saying that the young blossom had finally become a blooming flower. Surely you have noticed Naruto?"
The twitch didn't fade, and increased a greatly, as Sakura listened to the pair talk about whether or not she was pretty. It was bad enough that Naruto didn't notice, but to have Jiraiya notice was just terrible! It was hardly a compliment or a good thing when he paid attention to a woman. Wanting to stop the current conversation before it turned very embarrassing for her, Sakura plastered on a large smile, reigned in the twitches to a bare minimum and cleared her throat, "So, Naruto…have you learnt any new jutsu while you've been training?"
With the new topic – one that the blonde boy loved immensely – Naruto gave his undivided attention to Sakura and paid no mind to Jiraiya's ranting.
The sun beat down fiercely on the dark clothed figures as they ploughed through the sand, a fixed destination in their minds. One was slightly taller than the other and was wearing a strange straw hat with wind chimes on it. The other had no hat and was red-haired. He was also grumbling about stupid sandstorms, for they were both caught in a particularly nasty one. It was just a lucky thing that the red-haired one knew the exact way to the Sand village, otherwise the duo would have gotten horribly lost.
The one with the hat turned to his partner, "Say, Sasori, how much further IS this village, yeah? My feet feel like they've been walking all over the country, yeah."
Sasori fixed his companion with a cold stare, "Stop complaining Deidara. We'll be there before nightfall."
Deidara huffed and rolled his eyes skyward in a child-like manner, not at all pleased with what his comrade had told him. He wanted to get to the village now so he could get his stupid mission over with and finally prove his worth to the other Akatsuki members. His partner, Sasori, had already proven his worth some months before, so Deidara wanted to show what he could do on his own. He really, really wanted to capture his very own demon container by himself!
While Deidara's thoughts were entirely focused on the approaching task, Sasori's were a large jumble. Lately he had begun to question…things. Things he did, or things he was told to do. Anything that he knew was wrong he had started to see as…bad. He used to revel in doing bad things and causing fear and pain. Now however…the fun was slowly vanishing in every one of those activities and he was starting to regret doing cruel things to others, especially when the person who suffered happened to be a girl or someone truly vulnerable and innocent. Their faces all resembled…her face. Sakura's smiling, innocent, pure face.
Sometimes he would imagine how she would take some of the things he did, and he always felt some kind of shame or revulsion towards himself. Sasori was truly ruined as far as his career in the Akatsuki was concerned; he couldn't very well remain alongside an organisation that enjoyed harming others and wanted to destroy all the great ninja nations – that would put Sakura in danger.
He wondered if she still thought of him. He hadn't seen her in about two weeks since his brief visit to her village, but there were forces at work that prevented the puppet master from seeing the young girl. One of them was the inevitable task of accompanying his bomb-happy partner to retrieve the one-tailed demon in the Sand village. The other force was the typical peril of entering the Leaf village while they now knew to keep their eyes peeled for anyone wearing coats like his. Apparently word had spread about what the Akatsuki wore, so now they couldn't sneak around amongst the great ninja nations without drawing unwanted attention to each other.
Sasori hoped that Sakura had not learnt of what the cloaks meant; he didn't want to think that she would ever hate him. He would never admit this to anyone, but he truly liked the girl. She intrigued him and she trusted him almost completely. He knew that she was very naive for doing so, but he was thankful to have a person care about his own well-being once more.
All these thoughts conflicted with and confused the red-haired puppet master, who was utterly sick of not knowing just how he should act anymore. He wanted to remove the reason for his confusion, but of course he knew that he couldn't do that. After all, the reason was a very pretty pink-haired girl from the Leaf village…wait, did he just think she was pretty??
Sasori shook his head and closed his eyes in dismay.
He was afraid of getting to the stage of crazy infatuation. He'd heard of such things happening to the greatest of men, but he never believed he would fall into that trap. Apparently, he was starting to do just that. He knew he liked her, but he didn't honestly expect to start liking how she looked as well! It was absurd, but it also made some illogical sense. He couldn't remember the last time he had ever appreciated another human being for just existing, except perhaps Deidara, so it made some strange sense that he would start to notice Sakura for something more than just a friend.
He'd never start to fall in love with her though!
Clearly, his partner had begun to notice his odd mood changes, for he kept glancing at the red-head with worried eyes. Yet, Deidara didn't say anything to him, for fear of suffering torture most painful.
The evening sun was slowly drifting across the sky, marking the passage between day and night, but the sand storm had not let up one bit. If anything, Deidara would bet that it had gotten WORSE since they'd been travelling. He wouldn't put it past the weather to do such a thing to him and his long blonde hair. Deidara personally hated the sand, whereas he wasn't sure whether Sasori cared about the sand at all. He figured it couldn't be very good for the puppets or his partner's body; all those joints getting sand clogged in them…
"We're nearly there Deidara. It's just over this hill. Then you can do some damage."
The grin spreading across the blonde's face was equal to that of a child at Christmas time, when they had gotten the one thing that they had always wanted. For Deidara, blowing up a village full of people was just like the best present in the world.
Sasori wasn't as enthusiastic as his partner; he was rather reluctant to actually harm the one place that had helped him in looking after Sakura. Even if this was his old home, which was a good enough reason to destroy it, Sakura knew people there. And Sakura upset was the very last thing he ever wanted.
His velvet smooth voice whispered amongst the chaos of the storm one word, "Sakura…"