My very first Naruto Shippuden Fic. Though some pairings are emphasized in the story, it is mainly a SaixSakura fanfiction. I just realized I like them together. XD
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto Shippuden. None of the characters I used here are mine.
The wedding was going to be held in a week in the Hidden Village of the Sand. While it was customary for weddings to take place in the village of the groom, Shikamaru had decided that it would be easier for Temari to have the preparations for it within her own territory. If one would look at it from someone who did not know Shikamaru, one would think he was being a gentleman. But Sakura Haruno could see through her friend's plan: it was most likely one of the guy's way of weaseling away from more responsibility, which he seemed to be quite allergic to.
Sakura sighed as she made her way out of the cave where she had taken shelter from the sandstorm that had decided to hinder her travel the night before. The Village Hidden in the Sand was a good three days away from the Leaf, two if you were lucky. But traveling alone had proven to make it seem much, much longer.
She had been away from the Village on an errand for the Lady Hokage, and Sai had hurried on ahead to the Sand along with the other teams for the upcoming ceremony. Naruto, who had been away for almost a month now training with the old Frog Sage in Myobokuzan, said he would catch up a few days later, hoping to make it just in time for the wedding. And because of this, Sakura was traveling all by her lonesome.
She smiled at the thought of Shikamaru and Temari finally trying the knot. It was kind of unexpected to learn that the my-pace Chuunin was going to be the first to marry in their batch, especially since everyone knew that he undeniably thought that women were lame, scary and very, very troublesome. But beside this fact, she kind of saw it coming; ever since Temari had taken up the role as Ambassador from the Sand Village, Shikamaru had nearly been glued to her side every time she came for a visit, all the while complaining that it was a "drag".
Marriages weren't usually given this much importance, but it was going to be the very first intermarriage between the Sand and the Leaf since the peace treaty. Both the Lady Tsunade and the young Kazekage, Gaara were looking forward to such a joining, be there purposes other than diplomacy. More to that, Temari was the Kazekage's older sister, and Gaara may not admit it loudly, but the guy seemed to be quite unconsciously attached to her.
Sakura adjusted her boots quickly, straightened, then took off into a run. Last night's sandstorm had already made her lose too much time. Not that she was in a hurry, but she was tired and it had been quite a while since she had seen Temari and her brothers.
In less than an hour, she finally saw the mountain pass leading to the entrance of the Hidden Village looming over the horizon and instantly hastened her pace, excitement building up at the thought of the reunion. Much to her surprise, aside from the boarder guards on duty on the walls of the pass, three very familiar people were waiting for her by the foot of the path. Kankurou, as always dark and brooding, Shikamaru, looking really bored, and her squad captain, Yamato looking absolutely hassled. None of them looked happy.
Sakura skidded to a stop in front of her Captain. "Something tells me something really bad happened while I wasn't here. Lady Tsunade didn't give me any briefing, nor orders to hurry… Should I have come sooner?"
Kankurou, right now dressed in a dark tunic, and somehow looking less menacing without his face painted, had his long bulky arms crossed over his chest. And for a reason Sakura could only dread, the Sand ninja had a patch of hair missing from the left side of his head, as if someone had shaved it off.
Sakura stared at his head. "You do know you have a bald spot on your – "
Kankurou cut her off. "I know it might seem rude to tell you this, since you just got here, but I think your teammate just ruined what could have been one of the greatest milestones the Leaf and the Sand could ever have had."
Sakura, quite confused, winced uncomfortably, feeling sweat beading her brow, which she knew had nothing to do with the heat. "I thought Naruto wouldn't be coming this soon…? What did the idiot do now?"
Shikamaru, who was wearing a white tunic which looked like it had been burned at some places, started to dig his pinky finger into his ear. "Naruto didn't do anything, because he isn't here yet. Kankurou was talking about your other teammate."
Captain Yamato nodded gravely, those creepy almond-shaped eyes rimmed dark with exhaustion as if he hadn't had a good night's sleep. "Let's just say that his… err… innocence… has finally gotten him into more trouble that what it's worth."
"More like ignorance," she heard Kankurou mutter under his breath.
That was enough said. Sakura knew that Sai, much as she had grown to accept his very rare handicap, was lacking a lot in the tact department. But she could not believe he was capable of aggravating others to the point of anger. Discomfort, yes. But anger?
"Where is he?" she asked.
Shikamaru finally finished his ear excavation and blew at his pinky finger. "In jail," he said off-handedly.
Sakura blinked. "What?" she snapped. She turned to her squad captain. "What exactly did he do?"
Captain Yamato rubbed his eyes tiredly. "It's a long story, and I'm glad I'm not entitled to tell it to you. The Fifth wants me on my way back to the village the moment you arrive."
"So you mean you're running away?" Sakura asked incredulously.
Captain Yamato raised his hands between them, as if to fend her off. "Now, now. Don't put it that way. I'm not running away. I have orders to follow here, Sakura. You know how the Lady Tsunade is…" He gave a nervous laugh. "Shikamaru will brief you on what's happened. I'll have to stock up on supplies for the road so I'll be here for a while if you still need me." He made a move as if to run, but stopped and turned to Sakura again. "I almost forgot. The Sand Medic Ninja are taking care of everything, but if they need any help with the injured, give them a hand, all right?"
With this, Sakura's eyes widened. "Injured? Injured! What – "
It was Shikamaru's turn to cut her off. "Walk with me. I'll explain along the way." With that, he started his leisurely pace down the pass, hiking his tunic up to stuff his hands in his pockets.
Sakura gave Kankurou an unsure look.
In return, the Sand ninja nodded. "You know that if it were up to me, I'd let you rest a bit, Sakura. But I think you should go ahead and have a look at what happened."
"Your head… " Sakura started.
Kankurou rubbed his bald spot. "It's fine. I could always wear a hat… " he mumbled.
Uncertainly, she gave Kankurou a weary look, then hurried after Shikamaru though the pass.
"Shouldn't I attend to the injured first before anything else?" she asked, finally catching up with the Chuunin.
"Trust me, you'd want to see Sai first."
Sakura frowned. "Tell me what he did, already. You're making me nervous."
Shikamaru gave her a side-long glance. "He… insulted Temari."
Sakura blinked several times, trying hard to digest what Shikamaru just said, and waited for him to elaborate. When he did not, she asked, "He insulted Temari and got thrown in jail?"
Shikamaru sighed. "Today was supposed to be dress rehearsals for the ceremony, as you can see." He gestured at his very forlorn tunic. "Everyone had gathered in the Kazekage Tower for it when Sai handed his advanced Wedding Gift." Shikamaru shrugged uncomfortably. "It was a painting."
Sakura felt sick. "Of what, I dare ask?"
"A disturbingly fat Temari in a wedding dress. The resemblance was uncanny."
Sakura gasped. "He didn't!"
Shikamaru rubbed his forehead tiredly. "He did, the idiot. The Fifth will tan his hide with his own ink when she finds out about this."
Sakura bit her lip, somehow feeling guilty for what she had to say. "Master Tsunade doesn't have to know about a petty little fight like that…" she gulped. "Does she?"
"I'm afraid she has to be informed about this."
Shikamaru stopped walking and gestured with his hands to what was in front of them. "See for yourself."
Sakura hesitantly turned her head to what Shikamaru was referring to.
And her hands flew to her mouth in utmost disbelief. Where the Kazekage tower stood before was tons and tons of sand and stone. The surrounding buildings were left untouched, or so she thought, until she saw the roofs, which were cleanly sliced off from the walls. "What in the Will of Fire's name happened here?"
Shikamaru sighed. "Temari happened. With the painting shown to her, reinforced by Sai's constructive criticism, she no sooner had her fan out and was blasting wind strikes everywhere in desperate attempt to obliterate Sai. Hinata and the rest were there, thank heavens, and saved most of the civilians from harm, but the people within the perimeter had their roofs torn over their heads and some children suffered minor injuries. Scratches and such."
"That's not the worst part. You want to hear the rest?"
Sakura covered her eyes in resignation. "No, but tell me anyway."
"The Kazekage was on the topmost floor of the tower when it happened and had it not been for his Sand Jutsu, he would have been buried in the rubble. I could say the least for his office. Half of the important scrolls in it were torn into shreds with Temari's attacks."
Sakura felt faint. "Where's Temari?"
"In a cell, adjacent to Sai," Shikamaru said, somewhat a hint of amusement in his voice.
"Within a week of her wedding day? Shikamaru, and you allowed that?"
"The Kazekage's orders, only until she calms down." He turned to Sakura with a weird look. "You women, is vanity that much a big deal to you?"
Sakura narrowed her eyes at him. Shikamaru nearly shrank.
"I'll take you to Sai. Everyone's there, too."
Three days later, Sakura found herself in front of the Fifth with Sai and Captain Yamato on either side of her.
Lady Tsunade was not looking at any of them, but was drumming her fingers rapidly on her desk, reading a piece of parchment with Gaara's crooked handwriting. Ten minutes, twenty minutes passed. The office was silent except for the Fifth's long red-painted fingernails on hard wood.
Sakura looked at Sai who was standing on her left. The boy's face, as expected was placid and unreadable. He was still wearing his ANBU uniform, and except for the few cuts and bruises on his cheeks and exposed abdomen which Sakura decided not to heal for his own good, he did not seem rattled at all at what he had just done.
"So here are the facts," Lady Tsunade suddenly said, making Sakura jump. The Fifth had stopped her finger-drumming. "The Kazekage has assured that nothing was taken personally, but has asked us to at least provide financial aid for the rebuilding of his tower." Her sharp brown eyes turned to the squad captain. "I am assigning you to head the rebuilding, Yamato. And I am expecting it done as fast as humanly possible."
"Understood," Yamato replied.
"Because of this unprecedented turn of events, the wedding has been postponed until everything within the Sand is stabilized. That will take two months, at the very least." She shook her head in displeasure. "If it had just been the office, everything would have been done in a snap. But those scrolls…" Lady Tsunade seemed lost in thought. After a few minutes of muttering to herself, she blinked, looked at Yamato and frowned. "Why are you still here?"
Yamato was taken aback. "Excuse me." And with a quick hand sign, he disappeared in a whirl of smoke.
When the captain was gone, the Hokage resumed her drumming, and was once again looking at the parchment.
Sakura felt sweat trickling down her back. She knew that habit of her master, remaining silent before exploding. It was like the silence right before a squall.
But much to her surprise, Tsunade merely sighed in exasperation. She looked at the former ROOT member. "Sai."
Sai blinked, his eyes that had been focused on the window behind the Hokage turned obediently to the woman speaking to him. "Yes, ma'am."
"You gave Temari of the Sand, betrothed to Shikamaru Nara a… self portrait, yes?"
"Undeniable, Lady Hokage," Sai said calmly. "I have it with me, if you want to see. Miss Temari threw it at me before she sent me wind barrages, which I dodged with my life."
Tsunade eyes the boy in disbelief. "Give it here, then."
Sai took his time in taking the said object from his backpack. The offensive painting was kept safe in a brown paper bag. Sakura eyed it curiously. Sai took a step towards Tsunade and placed the paper bag on her desk.
Tsunade glanced at it once, then stared at Sai again, who returned to his place beside Sakura. She studied the boy intensely. Nobody but Sai could have withstood that look.
"I know what you've been through, Sai. I know all about the training you've undergone to erase your emotions." She pressed her knuckles to her lips. "Yes, I know all about it."
Sai tilted his head to the side. "What have I done wrong?"
Tsunade tapped the paper bag with one finger. "This gift. Tell me what your purpose was in giving it to the bride."
With this said, Sai once again started rummaging through his backpack. Sakura almost groaned when she saw him take out a book entitled "Sense of Humor".
"I read in this book that – "
Tsunade raised her hand at him, frustrated. "You know what, forget I asked. I'm sure you meant well." She leaned back on her chair, took at deep breath and sighed. "The provocation you did on Temari of the Sand was uncalled for, however different your motives were. Luckily, the Kazekage is not a rash person. Had it been a different Hidden Village, it could possibly have started a war. You were in a foreign Village, and you provoke their kunoichi, endangering the locals as well as the Kazekage himself, destroying property worth more than we can afford at the moment. What do you have to say for yourself?"
Sai looked bewildered. "I don't think I've read that part of the book yet…"
This made Sakura groan along with the Fifth.
Tsunade tried to brush Sai's comment as if it were an annoying fly. "Sai, you are no longer a member of ROOT. Sometimes, emotions do get in the way of a mission, but now that you are working directly under me, I am ordering you to take control of them. As you have witnessed in this predicament, one tiny word, one miscalculated move, and it could lead to trouble far more than you are willing to bear."
Sai merely blinked.
Tsunade stared at the boy. Sai stared back.
In obvious annoyance, Tsunade turned to Sakura, who jumped a step back as if she knew what she was going to say next. "Sakura Haruno! I am giving you the responsibility of your teammate, Sai! You are to teach him what he has been trained to forget, and I am expecting progress in a month's time. Do you understand?"
Sakura felt dizzy. She looked from the Lady Hokage to Sai, then back again. She gave a salute. "Understood, ma'am."
Tsunade let a relieved sigh. "Good. You are dismissed." She waved her hand and watched as the two of them exited the door.
Once alone with Sai, Sakura turned to her teammate, completely unsure of what to say.
Sai was looking at the closed door of the Hokage's office. "The book said that poking fun of each other is a sign of affection between friends. I had wanted to be her friend…"
Sakura looked up at Sai, eyebrows crunched up as she examined his scratched face. "I guess I have a lot of work to do with you yet." She grabbed Sai's face roughly with both hands, making him look her in the eye. He looked startled but closed his eyes drowsily when she started to treat his wounds.
In the middle of the process, both of them jumped when they heard the Fifth suddenly burst out laughing from behind the door.
"… Oh, my! This is rich! Shizune! Hurry and come take a look at this!"
It was obvious she decided to take a peek at what Sai had drawn, and unlike Temari, she seemed have liked what she saw.
I don't know what drew me to this pairing. Although Sai's character isn't developed much in the series, I found his childlike innocence strangely appealing, and the way he seems to have nice chemistry with Sakura just fueled my inspiration on writing a fic about them.
Reviews are loved, by the way. XD