Chapter 9

"Goodbye, Temari," Sasori whispered against her scalp as he held her in his arms. He took in her scent silently, holding her tightly as he did so. Tears forced their way to her eyes, and so she hid them from Sasori by burying her face in his chest. "I'm going to miss you." They stood at the base's exit, Deidara silently waiting for his Danna a few feet away. From what Temari could see, the sun was only just rising. It made for a pretty view, turning the Sand around the area a blood red, but Temari was not interested in that beauty.

Carefully, Temari looked up to Sasori, tears streaming down her face. "Sasori," she murmured, clamping her eyes shut and clinging to him. Her heart literally hurt at the proposal of him leaving - now more than ever. She used to be an independent person, but now, Temari gelt she would crumble without Sasori's guidance.

"Tsk," he began softly, causing her to open her eyes and look into his, "Don't cry over me. I don't like seeing you this way." Sasori rubbed his thumb against her cheek, clearing away some of the tears. Carefully, he kissed her. But the kiss had a different feel to it than before - one of sorrow. Sasori didn't want to leave her. "Temari," he exhaled her name as they broke apart, his lips brushing against hers as he spoke, "be careful. Try and make an ally out of someone. I spoke with Itachi - the one with the black hair and red eyes - and he agreed to help you if you needed anything. Just be careful, okay? I'm coming back for you."

Temari nodded vigorously. "You be careful, too. I'll be waiting."

They held each other for a long while before Deidara broke in, "We should be going, Danna, un."

"Hn," Sasori murmured. He inhaled deeply, paused, then backed off. "Goodbye, Temari," he repeated, turning his back on her.

"B-bye, Sasori." She managed. The two Akatsuki jumped away then, gone.

Tears streaming down her face, Temari ran back into the base and to Sasori's room, slamming the door shut behind her. She threw herself onto his bed, slowly taking in his scent. Sasori was gone, and he wouldn't be back for three whole days. How would she possibly survive in a base filled with murderers without him? Silently, Temari sobbed into Sasori's pillow, hating how frail she had become. She curled up tight and closed her eyes, willing the pain in her heart away.


She awoke a few hours later in a daze - all she could feel was hunger pains in her stomach. Slowly sitting upright, Temari swung her legs over the bed and looked around. On Sasori's worktable was a note for her, the leftover dango, and the bag of fruit she had brought along. A wave of helplessness washed over her then, ans she hated herself for it. Over the of a few short days, Sasori had hooked her heart completely. She was no longer the independent person she had been only a week ago; she now clung to every word Sasori spoke, every move he made. It was as if he was a priceless doll and she were the avid collector.

"Crash," Temari heard herself whisper as she bit into a dango, "crash and burn."

That was exactly what her eyes were doing just then. Burning. Temari blinked, and a hot tear ran down her cheek. Anger welled within her at the tear - a defiant anger. Unable to control it, Temari threw her dango against the far wall, burying her face in her hands as she ran over to his bed and collapsed onto it. Sasori's smell overwhelmed her, and she groaned as the crushing weight on her heart intensified.

How could she have ever grown to be so pathetic?

Sobbing silently into the pillow, Temari realized that both of her artistic friends would chastise her for behaving so irrationally. Deidara would probably remind her of being putty, and Sasori would probably wear a pained look in his eyes and hold her in his arms. Thinking that way, Temari felt a soft chuckle bubble out of her throat, over her lips. Neither Sasori or Deidara would want to see her this way - she had to be strong for when they returned. Besides, she was in a lair filled with seven other S-class murderers. Crying like a child would only get her killed.

After a moment of silence, Temari sat up again and rubbed the tears away. She felt liberated, stronger - like she possessed the ability to be independent again, at least for a little while. Perhaps she was still an independent person again, and she would be fine without Sasori or Deidara.

Taking a deep breath, Temari climbed out of bed and decided she wanted to take a shower. But where were the showers? She hardly knew the place's layout and doubted she would be able to find anything on her own.

If you ever need anything outside our rooms, Sasori's voice came to her then, go directly to the hall and knock three times on the door labeled 'Itachi.' He'll help you around.

Right. Temari thought with a nod as she opened the door exiting Sasori's room. Itachi. Just don't get too scared, she told herself. Or, at least, don't let him know you're scared. Be strong, Temari - You can do this. Temari took a deep breath and knocked on the door. Three times, just like Sasori had said.

The door opened, not a moment later, to reveal Itachi. His red eyes stared down at her, silently questioning. Temari felt her reserve cracking, but she spoke before all was lost. "Konichiwa, Itachi-sama. I was wondering if you could, er, please show me to the showers?"

Itachi stared her down for a moment longer before blinking and answering, "You will need a change of clothes." in an emotionless tone that made shivers run down her spine in fear.

"Oh, uh...yes. I don't have anything else..." Her voice drifted off as she held her right elbow in her left hand and looked to the ground nervously.

"Hn," Itachi murmured as he stepped into the hallway, closing the door behind him. He began to walk away, and Temari anxiously followed, not wanting to get lost.

Itachi stopped at Konan's door and knocked slowly. She answered immediately. "Konichiwa, Itachi-san, Temari-chan," she greeted softly, as if she didn't really care.

"H-how do you know my name?" Temari choked.

"Sasori-san mentioned it when I was treating Deidara-san."

Wow, Temari thought, what an excellent memory. She caught herself staring, blinked, and looked away.

"Is there something I can do for either of you?" Konan pressed, her wind-chime voice harboring only an ounce of annoyance.

When Temari realized that Itachi wasn't going to answer for her, she began, "I wanted to take a shower, but I don't have any spare clothes." She looked away from Konan's piercing gaze.

"I see," she whispered, her voice barely audible. "One moment, onegai." The blue-haired kunoichi closed the door to her room and dissapeared.

Temari had time to gulp before Konan appeared with an outfit. "This is the Akatsuki uniform," Konan told her, "exactly as Itachi-san and I are wearing. The uniform is one of mine, so please try to keep it from getting ruined." She winced at the thought.

Nodding, Temari carefully held the outfit under her right arm. "Right. Domo arigato, Konan-san."

Konan nodded once and closed the door to her room.

Once Itachi showed her where to find the showers from Sasori's room - mercilessly bringing her arouns dozens of times, making sure she knew how to get there on her own - Temari took a wonderfully hot shower, enjoying the pressure and heat of the water against her skin. The steam around her cleared her nostrils and breathing tubes - she took in big, healthy gulps of air, enjoying the feel. The shower's wonderfully hot water calmed her, completely erasing her fears and sorrow. In the shower, she was normal again; not bogged down by the confusing feelings she held in her heart for Sasori or the affection she felt for Deidara.

Temari thought about her relationship with the ex-Iwa nin deeply as she lathered soap into her untied hair. How would Sasori react if he knew how much she trusted Deidara? Would he care at all? Or, the worst possible scenario, would he be compelled to hurt the blonde again? She vowed not to let that happen. If she had to, she would take Sasori's blows herself.

Thinking of Sasori hurting her caused her stomach to tie itself into a knot painfully. She exhaled deeply, trying to work the knot out, as she reminded herself that he would never intentionally hurt her. He had the same feelings for her as she did for him; a burning desire to be together, to hold one another closely.

At tweleve years of age, and completely inexperienced with the male element, Temari was too naive to call that love.

The rest of the shower went by quickly, Temari having pushed down all thoughts of Sasori of Deidara her starstruck mind could create. She was simply too - tired? - to continue thinking of them so intensely. They were gone now, and would stay gone for at least another two days. And so Temari found other things her mind could comfortably wrap around.

Her family came to mind first. She had been gone for three days now - Would they have noticed? Would they miss her and search for her? Did they even care that she had gone? Of course they care, she thought to herself as she dried off and put the new clothes on. Even though she had no solid proof at the moment, Temari was certain that her family had noticed her absence, at the very least. What kind of people would they be to not notice the absence of their second oldest child?

Would they accept her a year from now, when she would go back for the Chunin Exams? This was the next thought that came to mind. But why wouldn't they? Without Temari's skill, her brothers were not a complete team. She knew this as well as she knew that her position could not be replaced. Her brothers were meant for none other but her, and so she knew that she would be accepted again easily. There was no problem there.

Temari's mind continued to wander to faraway places as she walked through the Akatsuki lair, now fully dressed in Konan's clothes. Her old clothes were bundled together tightly in her arms, her fan strapped to her shoulders underneath the Akatsuki cloak. She walked at a peaceful pace, anticipating what Konohagakure would be like and who she would meet there. Itachi was a former Konoha nin, she recalled.

Speaking of Itachi - the same rogue Konoha nin rounded a corner she was about to pass, intercepting her. His bloodred eyes seemed unnatural, in a literal sense of the word - although his gaze was already creepy, it was laced over with an added sort of concern she's never seen it harbor before. In a second's time - literally - he had her pinned against the wall, but in a gentle way that didn't really scare her. "Temari-chan," he whispered in her ear, "be careful around here. As both you and Sasori have predicted, it is not safe for you. Harm is headed your way." He backed off her so suddenly she had to struggle to remain standing.

"It-Itachi-kun, what do you - ?"

He cut her off. "I will escort you back to Sasori's room." Fluidly, he turned his back to her and walked down the corridor he had appeared out of. Temari quickly followed, her heart racing in fear as the magnitude of his words finally hit home.

Hidan - the purple-eyed Jashinist - was planning on hurting her. Her and Sasori's assumptions had been correct, based on the information Itachi just gave.

Temari's heart leapt into her throat. What exactly had Itachi learned? How did he come across the information? Temari slowly asked him these questions as they walked.

Itachi was silent for a long while before carefully answering, "He boasts of it, of what he's planning to do. He does not seem to care that I am loyal to Sasori and will be the one protecting you."

The loyal statement surprised Temari, halting her breath for a moment. Fighting through the shock, she collected herself enough to stutter, "W-what was he saying?"

Itachi failed to answer that as they stopped at Sasori's door. "I will be leaving on a mission with Kisame in a few hours," he murmured, as if ashamed. Temari's heart dropped to her stomach at the thought - her breathing stopped as her heart went into doubletime and butterflies emerged from their chrystali. In only a few hours, Temari would be forced into complete vulnerability by Itachi's mission. She had only a few hours of safety before she was free for Hidan to trample. "When I leave," Itachi finally picked up again, "it would be best if you come out of your room only when absolutely nessecary. Be wary of your surroundings."

Shaking in fear, Temari managed a nod. Wordlessly, Itachi opened the door to Sasori's room, allowing her to enter. She entered, nodding her thanks numble, and lay on Sasori's bed as Itachi closed her door. Closing her eyes as she tightly gripped the blankets underneath her, Temari focused on nothing but her shallow breathing, trying to steady it. A silent tear fell.


She had to go to the bathroom. Her eyes opened as she slowly sat upright, rubbing the left one. As Temari looked around, she realized that she had fallen asleep and that her last few hours of protection had whizzed by in sleep. This fact sent shivers of fear throughout her body, halting her. Was it really a smart idea to wander around the base alone and completely vulnerable? No, it wasn't.

But she had to go to the bathroom. She couldn't hold it much longer.

Groaning at her body's horrible timing, Temari slowly stood and moved off in the direction of the bathroom, walking slowly and straining her ears to pick up any sound.

She made it to the bathroom successfully, without even the slightest worry. Chuckling softly as she emerged from the bathroom, Temari thought to herself, There. That wasn't too hard, now was it? Perhaps Sasori, Itachi, and I were worrying too much.

She even cracked a smile as she walked. What pessimists we all are, she thought.

"What the fuck are you smiling about, blondie?" The voice of Hidan appeared from nowhere as she was suddenly pinned against the wall to her right. Temari gasped in fright as she stared back at purple eyes. Her vocabulary was stolen in one made rush as her heart went into double time. As she gripped his wrists where he pinned her, her mouth opened and closed as she groped for words. Her attacker gripped her harder, producing a cry from her throat. "You don't have much of a pain tolerance, do you?" he snickered, not swearing much. "That's too fucking bad." With that, he cruelly dragged her by her hair into a darkened room.


Translations:

Konichiwa - Hello

Onegai - Please

Kunoichi - Female ninja

Domo arigato - Thank you very much.

Iwa - Stone (Iwagakure means 'Village Hidden in the Stone.')

Konohagakure - Village Hidden in the Leaves. (Konoha literally means Leaf)