Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any characters associated with it
Well hello, all.
Long time, no write. I know; I'm sorry.
Firstly I would like to apologize if you're one of those readers who are still waiting patiently for the final chapter of The Trouble With Me… Surprise! I've… well… I've been working on this instead…
Please don't kill me. At least let me explain myself first:
In regards to TTWM, I have come across a great figurative wall that I simply cannot gather the gumption to overcome, despite all the desperate pleas for that final chapter. Again, I'm sorry. I thought that by picking up reading FF again, perhaps it would encourage me to write more, so I read my all-time favorite FF (and possibly my favorite story out of any genre). Unfortunately, my favorite story is not a HS fic, and so it did not inspire me to finish the TTWM.
It did make me want to look back at my only other story that was not HS: A One Month Bet.
I could not believe how outright bad it was…
I literally cringed with every poorly-structured paragraph, every over-used pronoun, every moment of poor character development, every misaligned event or misplaced reference…
Every time Temari or Kankuro said, "Omg."
I sat in front of my computer asking myself, "Did I really write this? Can this even be considered good literature?"
And suddenly the inspiration was there!
I am rewriting A One Month Bet. It has the same characters with the same general plot. It's just…
Now again, I apologize. I don't mean to offend anyone who read and enjoyed AOMB in its original format. If you are a writer, then you will understand how one is never completely content with one's own work. I first began writing AOMB nearly four years ago, and my vocabulary, writing skills, and overall maturity have since increased. I have used this to create a better, deeper story, at least in my own opinion. I hope you will enjoy it in its new and improved form:
A One Month Bet (Revamped)
A hot desert wind was curling its way through the streets of Sunagakure. It whistled past the homes of the people on the outskirts of the city, rattling windows and rustling curtains. It wove past the shop owners closer inward, who turned their backs to avoid the familiar warm blow of sand. By the time it reached the center of the city, it was little more than a breeze as it whispered through the pink locks of Sakura's hair. She glanced up at her destination. The Kazekage tower looked very much like the Hokage's back in her home village, only a little more wind-worn and better-suited for the harsher desert climate.
While the Hidden Leaf and the Hidden Sand were allies, Sakura knew little of the brethren city. She had only visited it once, five years ago, and even then had not had the chance to explore. She knew little of the town, and even less of the people. Today she knew only what her Hokage and mentor, Tsunade, had told her before she left.
"Sakura, I have a mission for you," Tsunade said, tossing a scroll at her apprentice. "Suna's medical team is lacking, and the Kazekage has requested that I send a team of our own to train his."
"Gaara-sama?" Sakura thought it out of his character to admit to a weakness of any kind, but then again, as Kazekage it was his duty to ensure that all areas of his city were in top shape. If his medical unit was found wanting, it was natural for him to search for proper training.
Konoha's own medical unit, Sakura was proud say, was quite excellent. She had trained personally under Tsunade herself, and had already passed along the knowledge to her fellow medical nin and to Konoha's hospitals. Sakura was, with the exception of her sensei, the best medical nin in the Hidden Leaf.
"Teh, yes," the Hokage continued, flicking her long, blonde pigtail over her shoulder, "And he's an idiot if he expects me to send all our best meds to him and leave Konoha unprotected. It's not my fault his medical team is shoddy."
"Well you can't just ignore his request," Sakura protested, "If he needs—"
"What, do you think I'm stupid?" her sensei asked a little snidely. Sakura's cheeks burned with shame. She shook her head slowly, feeling suddenly very small and naïve. Tsunade smiled apologetically. "Look, it's alright. I know you mean well. Just let me finish, alright? Anyways, as the Hidden Sand are our allies, it's our obligation to help them out, but I'm not going to put our own city at risk to do it."
She glanced expectedly at her apprentice, who said nothing. Still too embarrassed by her last outburst, Sakura held back her curiosity. She still did not know what part she was to play in this sticky, political situation.
"Sakura, I'm am not going to pretend that I've not noticed your skill," Tsunade continued admiringly. "You are a very strong kunoichi, and you are the best in our medical unit."
Sakura's pride sky-rocketed. "Thank you, sensei."
"I want you to go to Suna to train the medical teams there. That way the Kazekage gets his unit trained and Konoha still has our own in case we need it." She tilted her head and raised one eyebrow skeptically. "Gaara will most likely not be pleased with this arrangement, but hand that to him," she tilted her head in the direction of the scroll in Sakura's hands, "and maybe he won't make too much of a fuss."
Sakura noted the twinge of sarcasm in Tsunade's voice. Gaara? Not get what he wants? That kind of situation had turned deadly in the past. Literally. But, Sakura thought, maybe he's softened up a little, now that Shukaku was removed… Hey now, a girl could hope, right?
She nodded to her sensei. Tsunade returned the gesture and shuffled through some of the papers on her desk. Sakura left the Hokage tower feeling proud and confident.
Her pride had diminished somewhat now, after the journey between her village and this one. It was many miles of forest until the grasslands could be reached, and then another number of miles through the desert before the city could even be found. Covered in sweat, dirt, grime, and sand as she was, she didn't feel too proud of her appearance. Her confidence, however, was still intact. She knew she was good, and she had come damn well too far to not be able to train Suna's meds. Sakura was determined to finish this mission, whether or not Subaku no Gaara was happy about it.
Her weary feet trudged up the steps and into the Kazekage tower, ready to face the Kazekage and his stubbornness. The woman at the appointment desk smiled sweetly at the new guest. She could tell Sakura's origin from her attire: clearly more suited for moving swiftly through shade and trees, not the barren, open heat of the desert. "Konohagakure?" she inquired. The kunoichi gave a polite nod. "The Kazekage has been expecting you. He's in his office, just through there." She pointed to an ornately decorated door behind and a little to the left of her desk. Sakura nodded again, this time with a slight smile in acknowledgement to the woman's kindness, and headed for the door.
A brief knock and a curt, "Enter," was all that was necessary for Sakura to go into the office. It looked much like that of her Hokage's, with slight differences in decoration and furnishing. The desk was in the same place, in front of the same window, though instead of a busty woman with blonde pigtails and a bottle of sake, there sat a rugged young man of about twenty. Subaku no Gaara was the youngest ninja ever to have acquired the title of Kazekage, but that title was certainly not unwarranted. His scarlet hair had grown longer and shaggier since she had last seen him, and it shaded his already dark eyes. The emerald orbs were beautiful and deep, and had seen many deaths in their time. They were rimmed in black, as they always had been, and the red character on his forehead, Love, still shown bright like an angry burn. His characteristic gourd of sand sat leaning against the wall to his right. He was rough. Mysterious.
But there was no time for thoughts like that right now. Sakura was here strictly on business. She bowed low and with respect to the man who was leader of this city. "Kazekage-sama," she began.
"Haruno Sakura," he growled. She glanced up in surprise. He recognized her?
"Yes, sir," she said. "I come on behalf of the Hokage."
"Obviously," he acknowledged with disinterest. He lifted one hand in expectation. A little miffed at his attitude, Sakura obeyed silently and handed him Tsudnade's scroll. He unrolled it and began scanning. The further his eyes made it down the page, the darker they became. He finally slapped it shut and jabbed it accusingly at her.
"What the hell is this?" he demanded. His voice was not very loud but Sakura could not ignore the fact that it was nonetheless terribly authoritative and intimidating.
Eyes straight ahead, Sakura replied, "I don't understand what you mean, sir."
His eyes narrowed. "You know perfectly well what I mean. You think I'll take this kind of shit from Tsunade? I asked for a team, not her pet."
Inner Sakura's rage exploded. How dare he insult her like that? And not only her, but Tsunade as well? But Sakura had to keep her temper in check. Already she could feel her chakra channeling to her fists, ready to punch Gaara all the way to the outer wall of the city. And from there she would punch him so hard he'd fly straight into Tsunade's office so the woman could bitch-slap him herself.
But that would lead to a war, no doubt, and Tsunade would be pissed.
No punching the Kazekage.
With a deep breath to steady herself, Sakura tried again, "Kazekage-sama, I assure you that I am more than capable enough to—"
"To train Suna's entire medical team?" he scoffed, "I think not."
Sakura jutted her chin out defiantly, but bit her tongue. Don't start a war, don't start a war, don't start a war…
"I'm going to give you a letter to Tsunade," He began writing on a new piece of parchment. "You're going to give it to her, and she is going to send me a proper team, do you understand?"
It was too much. Sakura had reached her limit. She strode up quickly and slammed her hands on his desk, forcing him to look up at her. "Listen, you asked us for a favor. Do you want your unit trained or not?"
Sakura stared down at him indignantly, but as she watched the cloud of anger darken over his features, she suddenly remembered her place. He stood up quickly, towering over her, and she took a step back. Sand began to seep menacingly from his gourd, and she eyed it with caution. She felt her heart rate increase as she remembered, all those years ago, what it felt to have that same sand surrounding her, literally crushing her. She'd hoped Gaara had softened in the years that Shukaku was absent, but she now realized her mistake. Perhaps he no longer killed simply for blood-lust, but he was still just as lethal.
He was Kazekage of the Sand village. She was just a jonin from Konoha. Unless Konoha or anyone in relation to it was in immediate danger, she had no place to defy him. He was her superior. The bastard. She bowed quickly. "My apologies, Kazekage-sama," she said quietly. Though Inner Sakura was clawing at her insides, thirsty for redemption, Sakura forced herself to remember just who she was talking to. She swallowed her anger. "Please, sir, the Hokage would not lie to you." She glanced up at him. "I am not so weak as you remember."
Gaara stilled. Anger still radiated off him in waves. He looked over the woman in front of him.
Yes, he remembered her, though not very well. When he'd first met her during the chunin exams, she was nothing. Barely a ninja at all. She was vain and naïve; she'd never killed anything in her whole life. Her sole purpose in life was to gain the recognition of a boy who cared more about the dirt under his fingernails than he did about her existence. Sasuke, the traitor. Gaara sneered at the very thought of him. He knew she was also acquainted with the only person he truly considered a friend: Uzumaki Naruto. She had been on the team with him that was sent to rescue Gaara when he was captured by the Akatsuki. She'd certainly grown since the exams, but she was still young and impulsive. He felt no reason to get to know her any better.
Now, however, she was clearly an accomplished kunoichi. No longer a child, but a woman. Her recognizable pink mop of hair framed her face femininely. Her complexion was fair, though tainted faintly pink from the harsh desert sun. The days of traveling showed easily on her skin and clothing, but it did not distract from her attractive features. Her eyes, large, round, and embellished with delicate pink eyelashes, were an exotic sea-foam green, providing a stark contrast to the rest if her fair face. She was slender, curvaceous. His eyes roamed over her body skeptically.
"No," he agreed hesitantly. Sakura straightened up a little more. "No offense was meant to your village or your Hokage. However," he sat back down at his desk and continued writing, "when I request a team of medical nin, I expect a team of medical nin. I need no further affirmation of your skill; Tsunade made it very clear in her letter that you are highly accomplished in the medical field. I would prefer, however, that my request be granted in full. It is unlikely that a single instructor would bring about a major improvement in my team." He finished his letter, rolled it neatly into a scroll, and held it up to her.
Sakura eyed the scroll. Sure, he meant no offense to her village. He meant no offense to her Hokage. But what about herself? He didn't believe that she could train his whole unit on her own. Well why not? She'd trained most of Konoha's, hadn't she? She refused to back down now. "One month," she proposed, holding up one finger for emphasis, "Let them train for one month under me. If they've not improved significantly at the end of thirty days, I will personally go to Hokage Tsunade and tell her a medical team is…" She ground her teeth, "Necessary."
Gaara's eyes shone with skepticism. She's quite sure of herself, isn't she? he thought. Seldom did anyone go against his authority. He'd been Kazekage for nearly six years now, and despite his absence with the Akatsuki incident, he'd been able to hold up his city fairly well. The people, even if they still feared him, had at least come to trust and respect him as their Kazekage. His decisions were rarely challenged. To see this young woman, this jonin from another village, no-less, go against his will was… rattling, to say the least. An older, darker part of him wanted to punish her, hurt her, for her insubordination. Yet another, more prominent portion of him was simply… interested. He stood slowly, again casting his shadow over her. "One month," he echoed. "Very well. I will give you thirty days. Roughly four weeks." He stared her directly in the eye, a small smirk playing on his lips. "I want you working 7am to 6pm every day, with the exception of Sundays. You may use them for training or rest or whatever else you choose."
Sakura started. As proud as she was that she got her way, she wouldn't stand for such outrageous terms. He was trying to daunt her, purposely trying to push her back to Konoha, even after agreeing to let her stay. But being a successful medical nin had certain requirements.
Sakura knew this.
Gaara did not.
So she threw it in his face.
"With all due respect, Kazekage-sama, that is ridiculous."
"Oh?" Gaara asked mockingly. His smirk a little wider now.
"Yes, it is. While I'm sure the terms which you have listed would most surely hinder my ability to teach your team, as I guess you've already considered," His smirk grew ever so slightly. "It would be detrimental to your medics, as well. As an accomplished medical ninja I must inform you that medical nin need at least seven hours of sleep to function properly. I know perfectly well that most ninja can function on very little sleep, or," she chanced a glance at his black-ringed eyes, "No sleep at all, but in the medical field its always best to have seven hours under your belt to keep a clear head in case of emergency. Also, I've learned through my years of experience that changing teachers suddenly can be harmful to the learning process. They still need to work with their original trainers too. It has already been made obvious that the medical unit needs extra training—otherwise I would not be here—but putting too much stress on the human mind, ninja or not, could quickly turn disastrous." While Gaara glowered unhappily at her, she quickly did the calculations in her head. "Sleeping seven full hours and then waking up to train with me would leave… only six small hours to train with their normal teachers. Now that's a huge difference between the eleven hours they'd be spending with me each day, and that's assuming that there would be no breaks for rest or meals. And don't even get me started on the importance of breakfast—"
"Enough," he growled. He glared at the smug expression on her pretty face. Gaara did not like being made into a fool. He was unfamiliar with the process of learning medical jutsu, and had not realized how delicate it was. However, he felt like even more of a fool for not at least guessing some of those requirements. At least then he would not have left a window open for Sakura to batter him with simple logic and make him seem ignorant. "Devise your own schedule, then," he relented. "But keep it consistent. Don't take advantage of this liberty or I assure you the trip back to Konoha will be a swift one."
Sakura, though irritated, bowed respectfully in acceptance. Gaara did little in acknowledgement. After a moment had passed in silence, Gaara clearly became annoyed with her lingering presence. There was a click on his intercom and a curt order to the woman in the next room: "Mitaya. Send Temari to my office." Sakura recognized a scratchier, less intelligible version of the voice of the woman at the desk. "Just a moment," the box gargled. And then there was a beat of awkward silence as neither adult knew what should happen next.
Gaara clearly felt uncomfortable. He had nothing more to say until Temari arrived, and there was no point in trying to make small talk. Not that he knew how to make small talk, exactly. Unless it concerned Suna or politics, Gaara rarely had to anything to say, actually. His responses generally consisted of one or two syllables. In fact, Kankuro had once bet he could make Gaara say more than two words. The younger brother promptly replied, "You lose."
Needless to say, Gaara wasn't much of a chatter box.
Sakura could've easily filled the silence had she not been convinced anything she had to say to him would land her in a jail cell. Or worse. She was pretty sure that calling the Kazekage a two-faced, inconsiderate turd pile might not go over so well.
Thank goodness for Temari, slicer of the tension.
In the usual, carefree, stoic manner that was Temari's, she strode into Gaara's office without knocking. Already at the ripe age of twenty-three she maintained an air of command that was attributed to living around politics and war since the day she was born. The role of Kazekage had been in her life one way or another for as long as she'd known, almost like an inherited trait, previously belonging to her father and only recently passing to her brother. Temari embraced the Kage gene in a way that most would've feared in case it might anger Gaara, but she was closer to her brother than many perceived and felt comfortable with her allotted amount of control.
She greeted Sakura with mild interest, the same way someone might greet a former co-worker after bumping into them at the grocery store. Addressing her brother she said, "You rang?"
Gaara nodded, but did not look at her directly. Instead he shuffled some papers on his desk and explained the situation. "Haruno Sakura will be staying in Suna to train the medical nin. She will be here for one month."
One of Temari's eyebrows visibly arched in cynicism. Sakura scowled. Why did everyone believe her so incapable? Gaara glanced up at his sister and continued, "I want you to find a room for her here in the mansion."
Sakura nearly stumbled backward. Stay in the Kazekage mansion? With Gaara? She immediately protested, "Kazekage-sama, I assure you that would be unnecessary. I would much rather find a hotel—"
"I'm sure you would," he sneered, "But how else am I going to monitor your schedule and progress? It would become tiresome to have to call you in for meetings every other day. You'll be much more accessible here in the tower." He gave her devilish smirk. "Just a precaution."
Just overkill, Inner Sakura growled.
This time Temari could almost see the wall of tension in which she was about to break. "Right… so… Sakura? Shall we?" She bowed to her brother and waited for the other kunoichi to follow suit. Sakura was not at all pleased with this situation now. She knew she could train the medical nin, but the accommodations now in place were unsettling. She would have to write a letter to Tsunade. Surely this was pushing at least some kind of political taboo. Was it even legal for her to stay there? As she followed Temari out the door, she rolled her eyes in spite of herself. Of course it's not illegal, she mentally sighed. It just feels… weird. Like staying in the apartment of an old classmate who you never really spoke to but whom you've recently discovered has a strange fetish for something like toenails. She shuddered.
Temari led her up a flight of stairs and down a hallway. "It'll be nice having another female around, Sakura-chan," Temari said with a grin. Sakura blinked at the suffix added to her name and gave a small smile in return. She'd never been particularly close to the sand kunoichi, but she suddenly felt more comfortable with her there. "I'm sure you already know how annoying it is having to live with men all the time."
Most kunoichi probably felt that way, Sakura mused. It was one of those downsides to subjecting oneself to a male-dominated profession. She murmured a sound of agreement to her companion. They stopped in front of a door midway down the hall. "I'm impressed, by the way," Temari said while opening the door and gesturing for Sakura to enter. "Not many people can make Gaara actually speak in full sentences."
Sakura laughed. She was glad that at least Temari would be nearby in case she needed a girlfriend. Not that I will, she reminded herself, I'm here strictly on business.
As though reading her thoughts, Temari rested one shoulder in the doorframe and said casually, "Hey, maybe sometime while you're here we could hang out. Have a couple drinks and go shopping or something. Let me know, 'kay?"
"Thank you, Temari-san." Sakura said respectfully. Temari grimaced.
"Just Temari. 'San' is only for the genin… And maybe some chunin. Anyways, you're our guest, so make yourself comfortable. I promised I'd go train with Kankuro, so I'll catch ya later." She winked and headed back down the stairs. Sakura smiled and closed the door behind her.
She surveyed her new room. It was pleasant, but not as ornate as the Kazekage's office. Makes my apartment look like crap, she noted ruefully. There was a medium-sized four-poster bed with a crimson bedspread. The walls were a natural shade of brown, and any other furniture was dark-stained wood. It complimented nicely with the south-eastern view outside her window of the housetops in the city and the sand dunes beyond. She eyed the desk in the corner and took seat. There was parchment in a lower drawer and she retrieved a piece.
I have arrived in Suna and spoken with the Kazekage. He—
Is a conceited jerk.
—has agreed to let me train with his medical team, though—
He's gonna try everything in his power to discourage me.
—he isn't comfortable with the fact that I have come alone. It was as you predicted. He has given me a single month—
During which he's going to watch me like a hawk and take every opportunity he can to scrutinize my abilities as a trainer.
—to train the medical unit on my own. I'm sure that will be plenty of time to see some improvement. His only requirement is that—
I have to live under the same roof as him so he can watch and criticize every single thing I say or do.
—I will stay in the Kazekage mansion while I'm here, though I would much rather stay in a hotel. It seems—
—inappropriate, to say the least.
There wasn't much else to be said. All Sakura really wanted was for Tsunade to know that she was staying and that she would really, really rather prefer a hotel. Hopefully she would gain Tsunade's sentiments. Perhaps then a hotel room would be more attainable. She scribbled a final salutation, wrapped up the letter, and curled it into a scroll to send in the morning.
With a second review her room, she noticed a door in the corner leading to a very small bathroom. That was convenient. She'd had a long journey, and a shower was welcome.
Back in his office, Gaara sat staring angrily at all the papers in front of him. Why does there have to be so many? He sighed and signed his name on yet another sheet, feeling just about as worn out as the black ink pen he was writing with. The sound of running water caught his attention, providing a momentary distraction in which he was happy to indulge. He could hear it pushing through the pipes above, where the sleeping quarters were. Probably the kunoichi, he thought with distaste. He wondered angrily if she would be a water hog, a trait characteristic of Konoha's citizens. They lived in a forest where streams, rivers, and lakes were in abundance. Water was scarce here, and consequently, more expensive. He wouldn't be surprised if she was one of those girls who enjoyed long, steamy showers, the kind that completely destroyed a water bill…
Gaara suddenly found himself imagining Sakura in the shower, soap suds slipping downward over her ivory skin. He froze. Thoughts like that hardly ever crossed his mind, and what's worse, this one lingered. In his mind's eye, he watched her rub soap over her arms and neck. Her pale pink hair was plastered to her face as she gazed over her shoulder at him and—
Gaara shook himself. No. No, no, no, no, no. He'd be damned if his self control was so weak. Thankfully, he heard the water stop after only a few minutes. He slumped with disap—ahem, relief. He shook his head. Definitely relief because… oh, right! Because she was going to run up the water bill, or something.
Yes. That's what it was. He chanced a weary glance out his window. It was only midafternoon. If he didn't buckle down and get these papers finished now, he would be working well into the night. Not that he minded staying awake, even if he could sleep now, but there were more interesting things to do and watch at night than signing papers.
He had to pry his mind away from the thought of watching a certain kunoichi sleep.
Well I hope you like it. I realize it's pretty different from the original story, but I promise it'll make more sense with later chapters. My main goal for this chapter was to establish the setting, plot, and characters (who are hopefully less OOC than their predecessors).
There's nothing I love more than a good review, especially those with constructive criticism, so have at it!
See y'all next chapter,