A/N: This chapter is way short, but it's kind of just a wrap up and epilogue in one, so I couldn't really make it too long. Anyways, enjoy.

Pulling Strings

Just What the Hokage Ordered

Sakura woke in the very early hours of the next morning; from the shadows that fell across the room, dawn must have just been creeping onto the horizon. Her thoughts, still muddled a bit from her deep and comfortable sleep, took their time in catching up to the new day. She was only half aware of the body that lay next to her. It was hard to miss the masculine limbs that were entangled with her own. All she could really focus on was the fact that she was warm, rested, and satisfied.

Then, she remembered why she had woken up. Damned bladder.

It took quite a bit of silent coaxing to work her way out of Kankuro's arms. He seemed to be the clingy type while asleep. Who'd a thunk, right? But, being the brilliant shinobi that she was, Sakura managed escape by using a pillow as a substitute for her own body. Seeing that boyish face, sleep-softened and blissfully unaware, cuddled with a pillow was nearly her undoing. But, alas, the call of nature...

The pink-haired woman stood from the bed, then nearly jumped back in at the stark cold that overwhelmed her body. Her entire being became one giant goose-bump. Grumbling softly about 'damned deserts weren't supposed to be so damned cold', the medic fumbled around for something to wear for her trip to the bathroom.

Fastening random buttons as she moved, the girl decided anything would do to cover her while she did her business because, if she didn't go now, she would look quite ridiculous explaining the urine stain on the carpet.

Once she found the room and went about what she needed to do, the woman let out a sigh of relief. Seriously, when had she drank so much to merit all of that?

The bathroom was only slightly warmer than her bedroom, but it was still cold enough to cause her teeth to chatter. All she could think about was finishing up so that she could get back into bed and attack the puppet-ninja with her cold feet.

Thinking of Kankuro sleeping in her bed brought back flashes of the previous night. Never had anyone treated her the way he had. He was so gentle, generous, caring, and loving. How she felt mattered to him. And, of course, he was absolutely right about her. In her attempts at making herself worthy of working with her team, she had come to see herself as unworthy in comparison to everyone and everything. She had taken complete control over her life but had only succeeded in nearly strangling herself with self-doubt.

But Kankuro had seen through all of that. Where other lovers had only utilized her need for physical release, he had sought to relieve her emotionally.

Then, he had touched her. Those soft caresses and lingering kisses were heaven sent.

That was when Sakura felt the old doubt begin to creep up on her. Yeah, he had forced her to let him stay the night. But what happened next? What were they to one another? Were they friends, lovers? What if this was only a one-time, well actually two-time, fling for him? What would he say to her when he woke up?

These questions stirred throughout Sakura's mind, and she found herself leaned against the door-jamb between the bathroom and bedroom, wondering what to do. Should she go back to bed? His voice put all of her questions to rest.

"Still prefer the shirt over the real thing, huh?" Kankuro's voice was intimate and gravelly, from sleep or maybe not. Sakura was startled from her thoughts at his words and looked down at her body. In her haste to make it to the potty without wetting the floor, she had thrown on his dress shirt. It was way too big on her; the sleeves hung several inches past her fingers, and the bottom hem hung to her knees. She couldn't hold the flush of embarrassment at being caught in another of the man's shirts. This brought out that dark chuckle that sent electricity through her body.

"Hey beautiful, why don't you make it up to me by getting back in bed. Now." Sakura couldn't help but to comply.

As the sounds of Sakura's attempt to 'make things up' filled the room with soft sighs and low moans, she realized that she owed her shishou a debt of thanks. The Hokage had told Sakura to lighten up and have fun. She had wanted her to let go and live her life, not just endure it. And Kankuro was just what the Hokage ordered.


Three days later, a very tired and cold Temari traipsed her way into Konoha's red-painted gates. She had decided to bust her ass to get back to her adoptive home in an attempt to not have to camp out on the frozen wasteland that was Fire Country in the dead of winter.

As she made her way to the Hokage's tower to make her report, she thought back to her rather awkward send-off from her real home.

Sakura and Kankuro had been late. It was a wonder that the two have even made it at all. It was really no secret what had gone on in the girl's room, and Temari couldn't wait to tell everyone in Konoha about that particular hook-up.

What was startling, though was the fact that Sakura didn't clam up or act embarrassed at all. It was as if the woman was at complete ease with the situation in which she had found herself. Of course, Kankuro was nothing if not confident. Perhaps, he had given the girl her own, much needed, confidence boost.

No, Sakura and Kankuro weren't the problem.

Gaara and Matsuri, on the other hand...

Matsuri was the epitome of the shy little girl that she had always been. However, arriving beside the Kazekage, as his equal, as opposed to behind him as a subordinate, seemed to throw the girl for a loop. Otherwise, all was picture perfect. Neither showing what had occurred between them the night before. Well, besides, Matsuri's very discreet limp that could have been, and was, passed off as a bruised ankle received from a fall at some time or another.

Yeah, they weren't fooling anyone.

Especially, not with the predatory growl Gaara tossed at his own sister when she gave Matsuri a goodbye hug.

Definitely not with the possessive hand on her shoulder at Kankuro's barely concealed snickers.

Most assuredly not with the arms around her waist as his sand teleported them away before Temari was even finished saying goodbye.

Oh well, at least her brothers were happy.

As the blond sand-kunoichi left her meeting with the Hokage, she was deep in thought about how her brothers had found themselves suitable lovers. If not permanently, at least for a time.

Now if only she could....

That was when she saw the slouching form of her favorite plaything. That easy-going pace and spiky ponytail sent a thrill down her spine. A slow smile drew itself across Temari's ruby lips.

Maybe now was the time to tell that lazy bastard that he loved her.


A/N: Ahhh, so thus ends my little excursion into the lives of the Sand Siblings and their mixings with Sakura. I hope you guys liked it. Thanks to all who had read, alerted, favorited, and reviewed. And especially to earthbender068 who is a constant shoulder to lean on. You're a peach, thanks so much!! Anyway, I am off to begin my next fic which may be a while in posting. I'm going to try a different approach this time, so please bear with me.

Until next time...