A Haunting Kind Of Memory
O O O
The weeks passed slowly, time having turned into the lethargic and unhurried crawl of a snail. The sun didn't help matters at all, though in retrospect it could have been the final straw that pushed Sakura into buying the piece of junk car she now owned. A Pontiac Grand Am with vintage faded red paint and scratchy polyester seats that were frayed beyond belief.
It ate gas up like it was going out of style and the transmission, brakes, and many other parts Sakura didn't know let alone could sound out, were all in various stages of biting the dust. Still, it ran (however unreliably) and Naruto had been coming over every Saturday since she got it and was slowly returning it to 'slightly less hazardous' condition.
On one of said Saturdays, Sakura had finally bit the bullet and told Naruto about Gaara.
"I don't care what you say or what you do, I'm still going to see him and you can't stop me-not that you could even if you tried." Were her exact words, said forcefully and with the perfect of poker faces.
Naruto, to his credit, took it rather well. He didn't throw anything, didn't even raise his voice, though he did come rather close to breaking his foot by kicking the back wheel of her new (ancient) car. At which point Sakura had spent a good ten minutes screaming her head off saying how it was already about to break apart, do not help it dig its grave faster!
The next day Naruto had stayed later at her house than usual in order to meet Gaara (again) and 'asses him', as he had so eloquently put it. Which had roughly translated from Guy Talk to "Since you don't have a big brother, I'm going to play the part and rip this guy a new one".
It had been a tense and very uncomfortable gathering, but Sakura had somehow managed to pull through with a wary Gaara and a disappointed Naruto (deflated to a sour puddle because of Gaara's lack of reaction to his every word).
And so it was established in concrete among Sakura's friends and Gaara's family that they were officially dating once more, however difficult it was to gain footing on the shaky ground of New Relationship. But both had faith they would soldier through it and get closer and stronger together and make it work this time-and, maybe, that had been the first sure step into the unknown.
O O O
Sasori blinked. "What did you say?"
Across from him, spread out comfortably on Sasori's couch, Kisame huffed and ran a hand through his blue hair. "The kid's dead, Sasori. As in 'bullet-to-the-chest-can't-blow-up-any-more-cars-for-the-hell-of-it' dead."
Itachi shot a sharp look at his partner before fixing his blank eyes on Sasori once more. "It happened sometime last month while you were still in the hospital. We were not aware of Madara's intentions, and therefore we could not give warning to Deidara in time."
"He told me that you three were conspiring against Madara. That everything was going smoothly."
"Conspiring?" Kisame repeated. "Is that what we're doing? Huh. And here I thought we were a handful of double agents out for a bloody revenge."
"Kisame. Keep quiet or get out." Itachi said, eyes still fixed on Sasori.
"What happened?" Sasori clenched his jaw and fisted his hands into the fabric of his jeans.
Itachi blinked slowly, the closest thing to hesitation the man had ever shown, before saying quietly, "We are not entirely sure."
"Do you expect us to-"
Kisame promptly scooted to the far end of the couch as the air around Itachi turned decidedly deadly. To Sasori, it seemed like the stress of being a part of Akatsuki was finally reaching the silent Uchiha and flaying his nerves just as bad as the rest of them, despite his best efforts of keeping it hidden and away from the others.
He was human, after all. They all were.
"We were informed of Deidara's murder," Here Sasori narrowed his eyes. "...after we returned from our latest assignment. Kakuzu was with us and asked about him since he apparently owed a large debt. Madara then explained how Deidara had been a mole and was dealt with accordingly. Zetsu took care of the body."
"The sick fuck probably ate him."
Itachi turned his head and glared openly at Kisame, and it was such a malevolent, threatening look that the bigger man stood, cleared his throat, and exited the room. Sasori imagined him bent over the sink sweating bullets.
"He was shot in the chest?" Sasori asked, recollecting Kisame's earlier comment.
Itachi nodded. "His room was cleaned out. We retrieved a small box of odds and ends from the hall, hoping to find something useful against Madara since Deidara had been digging up information on him."
"Yes. It was his assignment. There was nothing useful however, it seemed that Madara had gotten to Deidara's stuff before we could."
"Then why bring the box to me? What am I supposed to do with it?"
Itachi stared quietly at him for a moment, effectively freaking Sasori out and, strangely enough, causing him to feel guilty of all things. He ducked his head in shame and stared at the carpet, thinking cynically of how hard Deidara would be laughing at him right now had he still been alive. It wasn't every day that Sasori, the stoic, scary, intimidating red-headed man that he was felt anything short of apathy.
"He was your partner, we figured it was your property do with as you wished." Itachi said, and stood from the couch. Sasori followed, though awkwardly because of his still-sore injuries.
Kisame lumbered back in then, probably sensing the atmosphere slightly less hostile and therefore more approachable (or more likely, eavesdropping from around the corner until it was safe). Still, he kept his mouth smartly shut and trailed after Itachi and Sasori out the door and down to their car.
The box was small and hardly anything special. All sharp edges and rigged sandalwood compacted to hold an assortment of ticket stubs, a seven of spades, what looked to be a wad of gum but was actually just a rock, a jagged piece of sea glass, and, down at the bottom covered by receipts and scraps of paper scribbled on in a messy scrawl, was what looked like the leg of a doll.
Sasori closed the lid and nodded to Itachi. "Thanks...for stopping by and telling me-and for this."
Itachi chose not to reply and instead turned to get in the car, leaving Kisame to shut the trunk where the box had been stored.
"See ya around," Kisame gave his trademark manic grin and flipped Sasori a two-fingered salute before folding himself into the passenger's seat.
Sasori stayed on the sidewalk, cradling the box in his hands, and watched as the sleek black car disappeared around the corner before climbing the steps back up to his apartment and locking the door behind him.
The box sat ominously on his coffee table for the better part of an hour while Sasori alternated between pacing the rooms, rearranging his CD collection, folding and refolding his only afghan, and flipping carelessly through his mail, all the while shooting it worried looks that carefully hid the sadness marked in the depth of his eyes.
Finally, Sasori sat down and pulled the box close, emptying it of its contents.
O O O
Sakura burst into a fit of giggles as Gaara sat back comfortably in her comfy chair, having just finished relaying one of Hidan's latest attempts at trying to seduce Temari into bed without giving Gaara the head's up and, also, keep his shins safely away from Gaara's kicking foot.
Of course, it hadn't gone as Hidan wanted.
"Did you really throw your book at him?" Sakura managed, wiping her eyes.
Gaara smirked, full of humour, and nodded. "The pillow was too far away."
"Anna Karenina is a thick book, though."
"It's also a very adept weapon."
Sakura fell into another giggling attack, face flushed and brimming with uncontrolled glee.
The sheer effortlessness they had fallen into over the past month was staggering to say the least. Sakura, for all intents and purposes, had been braced for impact. Had expected at some point in time for it to all go to shit and that would be that. It couldn't be said that she didn't try.
But, by some odd twist of fate, things had been smooth flowing from the start. From the first words that fell from his lips to the last syllable just spoken, it had been easy and fun and simple. And she was drinking it in just as she had always done, and maybe that was the downside. That she was putting herself out there and not even thinking of the consequences.
She gave credit were credit was due, though. Gaara made it easy to believe there might not be any consequences in the long run.
Only time would tell if that would come back to bite her in the ass or not.
"Are you doing anything later?"
Gaara looked up at her with quirked brow. "Temari is making dinner for everyone. Says she has some big news she wants to discuss."
Sakura smiled and shrugged. "Oh, that sounds nice. I was just wondering if you wanted to go to the opening of the Natural History museum downtown, but we can go some other time."
"Why don't you come?"
Gaara scratched his cheek absently. "Why don't you come over and have dinner with us?"
Imposing on family time. Sakura bit her tongue and shook her head. "That's alright, it could be something private and I don't want to make things weird."
He smiled easily, and it was just a bit unsettling to see him crack a grin like that when the last time they were intimate he could only scowl. Or, on some occasions, give his trademark mocking smirk from Hell.
"I'm sure she wouldn't mind, Temari likes company. The whole," He gestured vaguely with his hands. "Show-off-your-house-and-family thing. Gives her pride a nice stroke."
Sakura laughed. "I'll think about it, but maybe you should talk to Temari about it first. By the way, how's Kankurou doing?"
She couldn't be entirely sure, but it almost looked as if Gaara winced at the mention of his brother. "He's doing better. Doesn't much care for his meds, but he's recovering."
"I heard from his nurse that before he left he flushed his pills down the sink."
Gaara's lips turned up in a rueful smile. "Yeah, he did. He's convinced they are making him insane."
Sakura shrugged, getting the sixth sense that this was a touchy area and decided to back off. "It's been long enough now that he can cut his dosage in half, you know. He doesn't have to take so much."
He tilted his head curiously. "Is that a concerned citizen's input or professional advice?"
"For the sake of legality, we'll say it's the latter," she said, chuckling.
The conversation lagged into a comfortable banter from there, a moment that would forever be stored into that old trunk Sakura kept stored in the back of her head (which had been cleaned out and renovated for the new and sweeter moments labeled 'Gaara'). It had been like this since their first meeting (date) a few days after Gaara was released from the hospital.
Granted, that had been a tense and awkward hour sitting in a slightly rundown diner on the edge of town. But, despite the shabbiness of the place, Gaara had starting talking right form the beginning and didn't stop until he had cleared the air between them, turning the place from dreary to bright with possibilities. He began explaining everything that he had felt, the reasons he did what he did, and what had changed since then.
And the one thing that hadn't.
"I've loved you, I never stopped. And I know that I'm late, and I know that you may never be able to forgive me, I understand that-I really do. But, if there's any chance of that happening, if there's any possible way of...of you giving even a pardon, I'll take it. I'll do whatever I can to show you I won't botch it up this time, Sakura. I'm just asking for one more chance. Please, let me show you that I'm not that monster anymore."
And, God, if her very soul hadn't ached at the raw sincerity in his voice, or the way that his eyes became deep pools of icy-green pulling her in so, so gently. It was that, if nothing else, that won her over in the end, how his gaze spoke volumes-more so than words could ever hope of achieving.
So she had said, "Better late than never."
Said, "It damn well took you long enough, you bastard."
It was water under the bridge, and a her head screamed at her that it was crazy, that she was setting herself up for heartbreak again, but her heart whispered for her to give him the chance because she wouldn't regret it. Live like it's your last day, Sakura. Just jump off the cliff and fly again.
Presently, Gaara stood in her doorway with that smile that never failed to speed up her heartbeat, and he held her hand in one of his. "You're coming later, right?" he asked, facial expression reminiscent of the child he had never been.
She nodded and smiled widely. "If Temari agrees, then yes. Just call me after you talk to her, alright? I really don't want to make things awkward."
Gaara nodded, and then he was leaning toward her, his shoulders hunched and fingers soft over her cheek, lips pressing against hers gently. But then he nipped her bottom lip and sucked on it, causing fire to shoot through her veins and reminding her abruptly that though Gaara was a different man, some of his old recklessness still lay just beneath the skin.
"'Bye, Sakura," he chuckled, voice low and thick.
As she watched him go, she couldn't help but laugh at herself. It seemed that lately Gaara's kisses just weren't enough.
O O O
Hidan nudged Kankurou with his knee under the table and, after catching his eye, nodded his head toward Gaara and Sakura and wiggled his eyebrow with a manic grin. Kankurou gave the 'what are you, stupid?' look before tucking back into his roast and potatoes with a shrug.
The way he figured it, Hidan's mental deficiencies were beyond repair, so really there wasn't any use in wasting time better spent stuffing his face trying to make sense of what he was implying.
Beside him, Hidan looked as if someone had just tried to drown his kitten in bleach. With a huff, he kicked out viciously at Kankurou's shin-and completely misjudged the direction and ended up smashing his toes against the frame of Kankurou's chair.
"Hidan!" Temari glared fiercely across the table at him, completely ignoring the pathetic whimpers he couldn't keep silent. Don't you mess up my family dinner, the look seemed to say, complete with a lethal hiss and deadly undertones.
Gaara blinked and shook his head. Sakura could see his lips twitch into the smallest of smiles as he took a swallow of his drink and found herself grinning, too.
"The goddamn chair hit my foot," Hidan muttered, training his eyes back on his plate.
Temari quirked a brow, reminding Sakura instantly of Gaara. "Really, now? I wasn't aware we bought magical chairs that moved on their own," she deadpanned.
"Then I suggest we get a fucking refund, seriously."
It was by sheer luck that Hidan managed to dodge the fork aimed at his head, and as he picked himself up off the floor and peeked over the table at his fuming wife, he couldn't help but think his sense of humour was going to give him cardiac arrest. Or send Temari on a pissy rampage, either way, he was going to be the death of himself however involuntary.
Kankurou leaned back in his chair so as to effectively give Hidan his best shit eating grin. "I wondered when you'd take your place on the floor."
Hidan narrowed his eyes. "Bastard," he muttered petulantly, too afraid (though he'd never admit it) of the possibilities of Temari's butter knife and spoon to right himself in his chair just yet.
"Alright, enough," Temari growled and crossed her arms over her chest. "I want to make an announcement."
She watched with slit-like eyes as Hidan carefully sat in his chair and innocently folded his hands on the table.
Gaara coughed to cover his laugh. Beside him, Sakura ducked her head and shoved a spoonful of rice to hide her smile.
"There's going to be a few changes around here, and I wanted to give all of you a head's up." She glanced around the table and cracked a grin at Sakura.
Hidan scowled and picked up his drink. "I'm not throwing out my vintage scythe, it's a religious icon. You might not find it very pretty but my great-grandfather went through a lot of shit to get it, seriously," he said, and took a large swallow of milk.
Hidan spit his milk out in an uncanny resemblance of Old Faithful.
O O O
Sasori wiped his face with his hands and sighed heavily. In his lap lay what he had previously thought as a doll, but had turned out to be...well, a doll, but for the sake of respecting Deidara's memory, he was going to properly dub it a clay sculpture.
It was very well made though, for someone who had made it a hobby to blow up everything he could get his hands on, delicate and strong looking and detailed with intense precision. It felt odd holding a little version of himself, almost like it was a voodoo doll and if he stabbed a pin in the stomach he would most surely feel it.
But at the same time a bitter sense of loss settled like acid in Sasori's chest, and hate surged up with it, covering it and drenching it in shadow. He sat there for a long time, just staring down at the figurine with a pained expression and glazed eyes.
Finally, he stood and sat the sculpture carefully on a shelf against the wall. It was positioned so that no matter where you moved inside the apartment, it was within sight and therefore always watching with those curious flat eyes and tense posture.
Giving it an apologetic look (wishing that he could have Deidara back because it was glaringly obvious now just how much he had been a part of his life), Sasori turned and picked up his land-line.
He dialed a number he had long since committed to memory and slumped against the wall at his back. He didn't have to wait long, Itachi picked up in the middle of the second ring.
"I want in. Whatever it is you're planning," He glanced over at Deidara's last piece of art. "I want to be part of it. I don't care what I have to do."
Then, "Be at the old warehouse off I-10 in an hour."
A/N: No your eyes did not decieve you! That was a real update! Surprised? So am I, honestly. Didn't think I had it in me but, YES!, I finally figured out how I'm going to work the rest of this fic to completetion. I rather hope you enjoyed, thank you very much.
Also, just want to take the time to say thank you to all six of you who leave me reviews lol. They help, more than words can express. Thank you so much guys!