Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto Shippuuden.
The first thing that hit him when he awoke was the heat, then the overly bright light. Sai groaned as he threw his arm over his eyes at an attempt to both wipe the perspiration from his brow and shield himself from the blinding rays of the orange sun streaming through the half-drawn lace curtains of the window located somewhere to his right.
The next thing that started to bother him was the – thing – heavily weighing down on his torso.
He whipped his arm away, tried to peer through his eyelids with pupils unfocused with sleep –
– and blinked when he saw Sakura's piercing green eyes staring down at him, her head resting on her chest and her fingers playing with his nipples. After a while of utter confusion, he soon realized Sakura was on top of him, straddling him, with bare legs and nothing else covering her upper body but a very thin yellow tank top. Her skin was slightly moist of sweat, her shoulders sun-kissed and glowing from the light coming from somewhere above her.
"Good morning," she murmured, her eyes grazing his sweat-beaded face lovingly.
Sai's cheeks grew hot, and it had nothing to do with the temperature of the room. Sakura always did enjoy waking him up by practically seducing him out of dreamland, but he did not expect she would still be doing it, even in a foreign room, in a foreign Village.
It was the day of Shikamaru and Temari's wedding. While Sakura came with the other Leaf Nin a week ago to the Sand to help with the preparations of the wedding, Sai, due to a delayed mission in the Grass, had just come in last night with Naruto and Yamato. Gaara had prepared a room for them immediately the moment they had arrived.
But what surprised Sai that morning was that when he had retired for the night, it was Naruto who he was sharing quarters with, and the blonde had been occupying the bed at the other side of the room when he finally fell asleep.
"What's going on?" Sai asked groggily as Sakura started drawing lazy circles on his shoulders. "Where's Naruto?"
"He asked me to change rooms with him."
"He wanted to be alone with Hinata."
"I… find that hard to believe."
Sakura frowned. "Alright. I was the one who asked him to swap rooms." She ran her palms over his chest and shoulders sensuously.
Sai felt the hundred thousand sensations Sakura always caused him to feel erupt from the middle of his stomach and he squirmed from under her, placing his hands on her hips to navigate her away from… that place where she shouldn't be sitting, especially this early in the morning.
Unfortunately, Sakura wouldn't budge. She clamped her legs around him tighter still, and she dug her nails into his hair.
"What time is it?" Sai asked her when she wouldn't leg go.
"It's early," Sakura whispered, bringing her face down and nuzzling his neck, inhaling his scent. Sai doubted he smelled any better than a clammy pig, but Sakura didn't seem to mind. In fact, she had started to nip at his throat, as if tasting his saltiness. Her hands released his hair and rested on his shoulders.
"The wedding…!" Sai gasped right before Sakura planted her lips on his.
"It's early," Sakura muttered again in between kisses.
And Sai had to hold back the laughter when Sakura's fingers started to trail under his arms. He could say he was already used to Sakura being adorably demanding in bed as of late, but then he would be lying if he did. There were times when he would be somehow overwhelmed, and more often than not, confused at what to do, as he did not know if this was normal or not.
This did not mean, however, that he did not enjoy every single minute of her advances, and he sometimes wondered if it was okay to be taking liberties on her body this way, especially since he wasn't... properly equipped at the moment. Did he bring condoms for Shikamaru and Temari's wedding? No. Of course not.
He felt this was not his fault. Definitely not his fault.
His eyes – which he did not even realize had closed as he started reciprocating her passionate kisses – popped wide open when he remembered something Tsunade had said to him when he and Sakura started dating.
"If you get my apprentice impregnated before marrying her, I will personally cut off your penis and nail it to your forehead. Clear?"
Sai blinked several times as he watched Sakura start to make her way down his body in a shower of open-mouthed kisses.
Sai grabbed her shoulder and she looked up, bewildered. "Are you ovulating?"
Sakura blinked weirdly, stared at him from a moment before asking, "What?"
"Are you ovulating?"
Sakura sat up, red in the face. "I don't usually keep track – "
"You should," Sai said as he pushed himself up on his elbows, facing her. He tried to ignore the building tension right where Sakura sat. He wished she would get off him… or at least shift a little. "Your master wouldn't be too happy with me if I got you pregnant before we get married."
This made her stare even more. "What on earth are you talking about?"
Sai nodded with a serious face. "Tsunade said that if I get you impregnated before we get married, she would cut off my penis and nail it to my forehead. I don't think you would appreciate me much without a penis, and I don't think it would be pleasant to have it cut off…" he trailed off when Sakura started laughing like crazy.
"I'm serious," Sai said, a bit hurt that Sakura was laughing at his expense. "I bet it would be really painful, too."
This caused Sakura to crawl off him and collapsed on her side, chuckling hard. "Oh, Sai!"
"Not only that, but she threatened to nail it on my forehead. That's what you'd call 'adding insult to injury', right?"
There were now tears in Sakura's eyes and she was holding her stomach from guffawing too much. "Insult to injury…! Oh, God!"
Sai had to grimace. He did not like the feeling of being laughed at. He had read in a book that being laughed at wounded one's pride. He supposed it wouldn't be enjoyable to have his pride wounded, though he doubted he would have recognized the emotion if it ever happened to him. Grabbing Sakura's upper arm roughly, he flipped her over and pressed her down on the bed. She gasped in surprise.
"Are you ovulating?" he repeated patiently as he pinned both her wrists above her head with one hand, then used his other free one to tug at her tank top.
Sakura giggled a little, a lock of limp pink hair caught between her lips and she tried her best to spit it out. "I could be," she said with a straight face, though she was batting her eyelashes alluringly.
Sai squinted at her. "If we have sex now, what are the possibilities you could get pregnant?"
"That would depend…" She trailed off, blushing.
"On my performance?"
"On luck, I guess," she corrected.
Sai let her wrists go and they both sat up looking at each other, unsure of what to do next.
This was probably the closest thing they had ever come to discussing their future. Two weeks ago, Sai had asked her if she would like to spend her future with him. She had said yes, but seemed quite surprised when he brought up the prospect of rings. Weren't people required to wear rings as a symbol of their love and faithfulness to each other?
The past two weeks had been a blur of the both of them, with Ino lugging Sakura around to help her with the flowers and the decorations, and Sai away on missions, trying to make up for the loss of nin headcount because of the upcoming wedding. Now that he looked back at it, after his proposal, he wasn't able to ask Sakura at all about what she thought of the marriage thing.
And every time they did get together, Sai would be too busy being – 'sexually honored' – by Sakura to even talk about anything.
"You would like to get married, right?" Sai asked uncertainly. "Not just… live together and have sex all the time?"
The question made Sakura blush and laugh more. "Sex is always a good bonus," she said jokingly.
Sai kept a straight face. "You seemed surprised when I asked you."
"I wasn't. I answered you straight away when you asked me if I wanted to spend my future with you."
"But when I brought up purchasing wedding rings… you… hesitated," Sai said tentatively. He knew he was being difficult. A part of him thought that her hesitation could have been brought about by the way he had asked such a vague question.
Sakura ran a hand through her damp hair, and Sai let his eyes wander down her body. His blood started to heat up with just the sight of her tightly muscled legs tangled in his sheets, on his bed. "I didn't realize it was a proposal," she muttered, somewhat a bit fazed.
Sai swallowed hard as he felt his hand move through the sweat-sodden sheets and found her knee. "What did you think it was?" His hand made its way up her leg, making Sakura shudder.
"I… don't know. I just… thought it was a simple question. And… ohhh…" Sakura involuntarily closed her eyes as Sai's hand slipped under her tank top. It was joined by his other hand no sooner, and he was thumbing the curve of her waist.
"I'm insulted," Sai whispered as his grip tightened on her waist and without warning, pulled her to him. She ended up straddling his hips, her arms automatically around his neck.
"I'm sorry," Sakura said as she planted a kiss on the corner of his mouth.
It was Sai's turn to shiver. He tugged at her top. "This doesn't look good on you. It makes you look fat."
While two years ago, Sai would have earned him several punches for that comment, Sakura actually giggled throatily as she arched her back and pulled the thin piece of clothing over her head, baring her supple breasts to him.
Now, what was so mysterious about the female anatomy was that no man could ever get tired of looking at it.
"That's so much better," Sai said appreciatively as he let his eyes roam down her beautiful body before exploring her throat with his mouth.
"Very sexy." Sai gave her shoulder a kiss before raising his face to hers, planting his forehead against hers. "It was wrong of me to ask questions about your eagerness on our future. It was my fault to begin with, for having asked something so obscure."
Sakura flicked his nose, but this time Sai did not pull away. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath and asked, "Sakura, I've said it before, that you would probably be getting the raw end of the deal here, because there isn't anything I could offer you that any other man couldn't do better. There isn't anything from the past that I could tell you, and it's not like I've grown up with you like Naruto, or Hinata, or Sasuke – "
"Shut up," Sakura said fiercely as she placed a finger on his lips. "What matters is now. It's always what really mattered. I've been blind about so many things until now, and I've finally opened my eyes, thanks to you. Can't we leave it at that?"
Sai kissed her finger, then her nose. "Definitely not."
Sakura looked at him reproachfully. "Why not?"
Naughtily, Sai ran his palms down her naked, sweaty back, clamped his hands on her backside and rolled his hips against hers. She gasped at the sudden contact. "Because I need to properly say this, so don't interrupt me." He brushed a lock of pink hair from her forehead, tucking it behind an ear. "Marry me."
Sakura stared at him as if he were blabbering nonsense. It made Sai insecure and for a minute wished he had at least asked Shikamaru how he had proposed to Temari. He should have done a bit more research on the subject. But then again, when he slept last night, he wasn't expecting to have Sakura on top of him to seduce him awake this morning.
Sai saw Sakura's mouth open and close faintly, and then she nodded, "Yes…" she said silently, the corner of her lips twitching up.
Sai felt his heart leap and he grinned crookedly, somewhat breathless. "I'm happy."
Sakura raised an eyebrow at him. "You know what happiness is? I didn't think you'd be capable of feeling such a complex emotion at such a quick time."
Sai nuzzled his face against her neck, inhaling that familiar scent of hers. "Happiness… is you."
Sakura nodded. "It's you…"
And everything would have been utterly perfect, if Rock Lee had not decided to ruin the moment by knocking on his door.
"Naruto! Sai! Now is not the time to spend our youth indoors when the sun is shining brightly outside and the desert is a smoldering forty degrees!" came Lee's loud, boisterous voice.
Sai's head shot up in panic and was barely able to react when Lee suddenly kicked the door open.
Sakura let out a strangled squeak when Sai suddenly had her pressed against him, and in a flurry of sheets had her sheltered from Lee's suddenly very, very huge eyes.
Sai did not know what kind of emotion had taken over him when he saw Lee's round eyes trail down to the only exposed patch of skin Sakura had – her feet – and the Taijutsu master's face instantly blazed a fiery red.
"Get. Out," Sai said between gritted teeth as he smiled stiffly at Lee, who had to take a step back at Sai's voice. The guy had nearly seen Sakura – his Sakura! – naked! And although the boy now had let his eyes wander somewhere else, Sai very nearly pounced at him and kicked him out the room.
"I-I'm sorry for intruding! I had thought it was Naruto and Sai's room… I promise on my honor that it is not ill-willed. I just came here to deliver a message from Gaara and – "
"What's the message?" Sai interrupted mildly, tucking Sakura's feet under the sheets. Sakura eyed him oddly, a small bewildered smile playing at her lips.
"Gaara said that… uhm… Shikamaru's an hour late for the final dressing and if we can't find him, the wedding might get postponed again. So… uhh… Kiba's on the case, but I can't find Hinata anywhere, and Neji isn't here yet, so Ino asked me to find you…"
Sai nearly snarled when he saw Lee's eyes stray again on Sakura's fidgeting form before he caught himself, stepped out of the room in a hurry and slammed the door behind him.
"Gaara's not worried, because there's still time. But it would be faster if we have you out there looking," came Lee's muffled voice from behind the door. Then came the sound of footsteps hurrying away.
Sai finally let Sakura go, who instantly groped around the bed for her tank top and pulled it over her head.
"What time is it?" Sai asked his initial question earlier as he too started to reach for his clothes neatly folded on the chair by his bed.
"Seven in the morning," Sakura answered soberly, picking up her shorts carelessly littering Sai's floor. "I'm sorry for doing this," she apologized silently, somewhat a bit embarrassed. "I should have known better than take liberties like this when we're away from the village."
"What are you saying?" Sai asked, discarding his clothes again and turning to Sakura, touching her shoulder from behind.
Sakura laughed mirthlessly. "I'm starting to believe that I won't go a day without being near you, and I think that's making me appear… selfish." She looked over her shoulder at him, a little unsure. "Am I being a nag? Or do you think I'm becoming too clingy?"
Sai tilted his head to the right, as he always did when introduced to words he hadn't really gotten quite acquainted to yet. "Are those… bad traits?"
"They are… selfish traits," Sakura corrected. "Childlike and immature that usually come out when you want something so bad and you demand it be yours so you 'nag' and you 'cling'."
Sai thought it over a bit, paused then said, "It defines you. You know what you want and you know how to get it." He scratched his head. "Sometimes you take it by force, and I of all people know how it hurts when you do. Even when you mean well."
Sakura stared at him dryly. "I'll take that as a compliment."
"Actually, I'm the one who's flattered," Sai said as he gave Sakura a final reassuring hug before pulling on his pants. "Being wanted by someone to the point of selfishness is a first for me. But it's not as if I don't know the feeling."
"I don't want anyone else seeing you… erm… naked. Except for me. Your body is for my eyes only." He paused again, turned to her questioningly. "Does that make me selfish? Because I don't like other men looking at you, really. I can't explain it. It's like there's this strong urge to hurt them, like earlier when Lee started ogling you."
Sakura laughed a little as she slipped on her vest and skirt then stood up from the bed.
Sai pulled her to him, positioning her between his knees. "Don't laugh. I'm serious."
Sakura rested her hands on his shoulders, squeezing gently. "Repeat after me: I'm yours."
"What – ?"
"Just repeat what I say: I'm yours."
Sai allowed himself to give her a confused smile. "I'm yours."
"I love you."
Sai paused, felt his mouth curl up at the corners and he pulled Sakura to him, resting his head on her abdomen. "I love you." He nuzzled his cheek against her firm stomach lightly. "So very much."
He felt Sakura play with his hair gently. "You don't have to worry about other men. They can only look but they can never have."
Sai supposed this was the problem most men would have when their girlfriends were irresistible. "I guess it isn't your fault for being beautiful."
Sakura pulled at his hair lightly, making him look up to see her eyebrows rise skeptically. "And to think you used to call me ugly."
Sai chewed on his lower lip seriously. "The book I read about the female mind said that girls usually wouldn't want to hear what guys normally think, and so I opted for a nickname that's the exact opposite of what I thought of you then," he explained, making Sakura blush. "I had never thought of you as ugly. You were always beautiful in my eyes."
Sakura took five seconds to eye him before pinching him on both cheeks and pulling at his face. "Is that an honest assessment?"
Sai took her wrists and pulled her hands away from his face. He had already known Sakura's personality: She was never good at taking compliments, and she always tried to cover her happy embarrassment with hypocritical violence. It was quite hard to deal with, because while books had encouraged showering the girl you like with compliments, Sakura seemed keen to shrug it off, especially when he meant it.
"It's not an assessment. It's a fact." He kissed her hands. "But I'll tell you about it later. After we find the groom."
Sakura nodded, but the way her face was pleasantly flushed made Sai know that though Sakura brushed away his compliments, at least she looked like she believed him. "I'll see you later, then."
Thirty minutes later, Sai found Shikamaru lying on his back on top of the tallest plateau in the outskirts of the village, a cigarette right at home between his teeth. He had his arms thrown back over his head and he was staring at the cloudy sky. Sai dropped down from his Ink Summons and dismissed it quickly, but Shikamaru didn't even look up when Sai approached.
"You aren't dressed yet," Sai pointed out as he crouched down by Shikamaru's side and tried to mimic him by watching the sky. He was surprised to discover that the heat down the village did not exist on higher land and the wind blowing from the North made it a perfect place to do exactly what Shikamaru was doing, which was practically nothing at all.
Shikamaru, who as always seemed to have all the time in the world, took a huff of his cigarette, plucked it out of his mouth and exhaled contentedly. "The wedding's four and a half hours away. They had wanted me dressed an hour ago. Have you seen the matrimonial robes they asked me to wear? It weighs a ton. You expect me to waddle around in this heat around the village until noon in that? I don't think so."
Sai had to pause at this. Before he had set off in search for Shikamaru, Yamato had briefed him on why he had to get stuffed into his wedding robes this early, and that was because of the Sand Tradition of having to kiss the hand of every single woman in the village who was of marrying age. It was supposed to symbolize gratitude for the trust they had bestowed on the groom to protect and love the bride with all his power. Sai, though he really didn't have anything against tradition, thought it to be quite a tedious feat. Shikamaru, who had always disliked women in general, probably knew of this and had decided to run away from the task.
"It seems like you have to follow the order of things in the Sand. Gaara is starting to get quite impatient. He said there is a total of nine hundred fifty-three women of marrying age currently in the village, and you have to pay your respects before the wedding at noon."
Shikamaru sat up and crushed the cigarette on the ground. "I knew we should have arranged the wedding in Konoha instead. At least there, we don't have to kiss hands of women we don't even know."
Sai looked at him side-ways, the conversation suddenly catching his attention. He had never really attended a wedding in the Leaf before, and did not really know if Konoha, like the Sand, had weird traditions that he had to know about. "It was you who decided to hold the wedding here," he pointed out.
"Because it is tradition in the Leaf for the parents of the bride to walk their daughter to the aisle and formally 'give' her away to her new household." Shikamaru rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. "Temari's parents are dead, and so I thought it prudent not to arouse too many bad memories on what's supposed to be a happy day."
Sai raised his eyebrows at him. Shikamaru had never really struck him to be sensitive to those tiny matters. "That's nice of you."
"Melancholy is always troublesome to deal with. It's always easier to coexist with Temari when she's happy."
"She wouldn't be happy if you arrive late for your wedding because you opted cloud-watching over her village's tradition."
"I've already planned out a route through the village that would get me in contact with the women and kiss all their hands and finish in an hour."
Trust Shikamaru to make a plan for everything. "You only get married once. It would be nice if you left a bit of time allowance in your plan."
Shikamaru fell back on the ground tucking his arms behind his head. "My plan already has allowances. I said all their hands. Tradition demands only one hand for each woman to be kissed. I have all the time in the world."
Sai groaned inwardly. "That's beside the point. You do know you're being slightly unreasonable with this?"
"Busy-bodies are unreasonable. Kages are unreasonable. Women in general are unreasonable. I, on the other hand, am listening to reason. Who in their right mind would want to get dressed hours too early for their wedding and risk getting soaked in sweat and look like a smoldering pig on what is supposed to be the happiest day of their lives?"
Sai's brow furrowed. Perhaps he should have brought someone who was more skilled in negotiations that he was. He was never really good at this. For a mere second he even considered jumping Shikamaru and taking him back to Gaara by force. But then that would involve having to fight him. And god knew Sai didn't want to risk damaging his face or he knew that he would have to face the wrath of Temari. "The Kazekage asked me to bring you back. Everyone is looking for you," he said desperately.
And as if on cue, a gigantic hand appeared over the plateau drop and it instantly trapped the started Shikamaru between his fingers.
The arm followed the hand, and in a minute, Chouji's other normal sized hand followed, and his head popped into view. At the sight of Shikamaru, his pudgy face broke into a satisfied smile. "Gotcha!"
Sai watched as Chouji crawled into the flat clearing, still holding onto a very stoic Shikamaru.
"You don't have to hold me down, Chouji. I'm not running away," Shikamaru said.
Chouji, in an instant, looked unsure. He looked over his shoulder when Ino suddenly crawled up onto the plateau, dressed in lacy robes of green. She would have looked pretty, if it weren't for the nasty scowl she was wearing on her sweaty face.
"What on earth are you thinking?" Ino demanded as she clumsily waddled her way to Shikamaru, who was now horror struck at seeing Ino there.
Ino's dress was obviously getting in her way and her normally intimidating glare did not have its normal impact, but she was still quite scary as she kicked and clawed at her dress to reach her teammate.
Shikamaru sighed. "Can't you cut me some slack, even for just today? It's my last day of being single."
Sai pursed his lips at Shikamaru's futile pleas.
Chouji gave Ino an uncertain look. "I should just let him go, Ino. I don't think I want to remember Shika-bear's wedding day like this."
"Don't call me Shika-bear."
Ino crossed her arms over her chest, observing Shikamaru for a minute, then nodded. "All right. You can let him go."
Chouji did so gratefully and he withdrew his gigantic hand, which had returned to its normal size the moment he released Shikamaru.
Shikamaru then dropped on his butt and fished a cigarette from his pocket. Ino quickly snatched it away. Shikamaru rolled his eyes, as if this always happened, and got out another cigarette and placed it between his teeth. "You know I'm lazy and I get bored easily, but you know I would never run away from responsibility, however troublesome it may be."
Ino crouched down beside him, hugging her knees to her chest. "Shikamaru, we're not accusing you of running away. We were just worried you… well… " She looked over her shoulder at Chouji for help.
Chouji shrugged his broad shoulders casually. "Ah, we thought it was cold feet."
Shikamaru's eyes widened in incredulity. "Cold feet? Why would I get cold feet?"
Ino shifted uncomfortably. "Well, it is a big step… getting married and all. And we've known you since we were kids. You were never really eager to face change… "
Shikamaru eyed her curiously, his hand paused in mid-strike of his lighter. "I would never do that to Temari. You know me better than that."
This made Ino smile deplorably. "I know how you love her. We didn't mean to question that. I guess we were just – "
Her explanation was cut off instantly when Shikamaru suddenly pulled her to him in a tight embrace. Ino's arms were instantly around the man's shoulders.
"I apologize for having to worry you all the time, Ino. You were always the level-headed in the team, and I could just imagine the responsibility Asuma placed on your shoulders before he left us. He shouldn't have done that." Shikamaru let the cigarette drop to the ground as he stroked the back of Ino's head gently.
Sai tried to look away, as if the events unfolding before him were something only Team Ten should be seeing. But he could not help but watch, thinking that this was what 'bonds' really meant.
Ino laughed tearfully, and she dashed at her eyes, as if afraid to show weakness. "Asuma-sensei made me swear too many promises I couldn't keep. I couldn't beat Sakura at anything, and I couldn't keep you and Chouji out of trouble even if I tried."
Chouji's face was now crumpled in effort not to cry. His big hands were clenched into fists and he was trying hard to smile. "Asuma-sensei would have been proud of you, Ino. And he would have been happy to know Shikamaru's getting married. Maybe… I should really make an effort to diet more, so I can make him proud of me, too."
Shikamaru gave Ino one final squeeze before letting her go, then he gave Chouji a sharp salute and smiled. "He would have been proud of you either way, Chouji."
Ino wiped at her eyes again and faked a frown. "I can't believe you're really getting married!"
Shikamaru shrugged. "Neither can I."
Chouji joined his teammates on the ground "Are you nervous?"
"But you're happy?" Ino asked.
Shikamaru grinned shyly, running his thumb over his nose self-consciously. "I'm damn happy."
Ino watched him before once again throwing her arms around him tightly. "Then that's all that matters."
"God, you make it sound like we're never going to see each other again. You are aware that Temari and I will be living in Konoha, aren't you?"
"But it'll be different! Your priorities will change!" Ino insisted.
Chouji nodded. "And you'll even be too preoccupied especially when you have kids!"
Shikamaru nibbled on his lower lip, thought for a moment, then smiled. "Yeah. Having kids would be nice. A girl, then a boy. Yeah, two would be just fine."
Momentarily distracted, Sai wondered what it would feel like to be a father, and what Sakura would be like as a mother. He had to smile at the thought. Sakura was naturally nurturing. Aside from the healing, Sai supposed she would be a great mom. He also supposed he would suck as a dad. Shaking himself out of his reverie, his attention was back on Team Ten, where Shikamaru had gotten up to his feet and was now dusting himself down.
"Fine. I'll get dressed and kiss the freaking hands of the freaking women of the freaking village. But don't blame me if Hinata's plan of making a memorable photo album of the wedding turn into a disaster with me looking like a haggard monster by noon."
Ino grinned toothily as she gathered her lacy robes above her knees. "Don't be such a baby. Look at me. They already stuffed me in this, and you don't see me complaining."
Shikamaru, as if noticing for the first time that Ino was wearing something other than her revealing skirts and tops, frowned and asked. "Is that part of tradition too?"
"Apparently so. The women in the life of the groom is entitled to escort the bride to the altar, as a sign of entrusting the groom to his new wife. Or something like that. Hinata, Sakura and Tenten are also getting dressed in these ridiculously lacy robes."
Sai had to blink. It was going to be the first time he would be able to see Sakura in feminine robes. Unrolling a scroll, he summoned an Ink Falcon which sprang to life in front of them. "So, can we go?" he inquired.
Chouji and Ino looked over to him and smiled. "Thanks, Sai. We wouldn't have been able to find him if it weren't for you."
Sai could only tilt his head to the right as he watched Team Ten embark his Falcon, and wondered to himself if he, like them, had developed such a bond with Naruto and Sakura. The thought of his teammates made him grin silently. It was good to experience bonding with his friends, but after having watched how Ino, Chouji and Shikamaru treat each other as something more than just a member in a team, he realized that they had almost – almost – reminded him of an emotion he had always categorized with his late brother. The same feeling he felt when he was around Naruto.
And as he gave Team Ten another glance, he felt a new emotion that hasn't really crossed him until today.
He felt utterly, utterly touched.
While Sai had been tempted to search out Sakura in her dress, he had been curious as to how Shikamaru's plan of kissing nine hundred fifty-three women under one hour would work. He then found himself trailing the Nara around the village. His plan was fool-proof, as always. Sai did not know how he did it exactly, but Shikamaru had memorized the nooks and crannies, the back roads and the alleys of the Sand Village, that he was able to seek out every single female of marrying age in forty-seven minutes. After that, he spent the remaining two and a half hours complaining about the heat, the weight of his clothes, the absence of his cigarettes and pretty much everything else he found annoying at that certain time.
Sai eventually got tired listening to him being negative and decided to pursue his curiosity on how his girlfriend would look in robes. Sakura seldom gave herself the courtesy to flaunt her assets in public, and although Sai had earlier told her that he didn't like it when other men looked at her, a part of him still wanted to show her off.
He decided to search for her in the very lively square in front of the newly rebuilt Kazekage Tower, where some sort of event was being held in honor of the very first intermarriage between the Leaf and the Sand. There were little shops that sold candied apples and sweet cactus meat at one corner of the square. The middle of the plaza was allotted for dancing, where in the middle of it sat three men playing strange instruments that looked like round-shaped guitars and lyres Sai had never seen before. Young women in colorful skirts were swaying to the curious rhythm of the two-set drums, skipping their feet and leaping in circles with men in billowy trousers and vests open at the front.
There was no mistaking it. Everyone in the Sand was happy of the joining.
Much to Sai's surprise, he bumped into Naruto, who was clad in one of those trousers very similar to what the dancing men wore. What made him look so out of place was his shinobi mesh shirt, on his whiskered cheek a smear of pink lipstick that suspiciously matched the one Hinata was always wearing, and strangely, a pink hair ribbon on one of the spikes that stuck up his head.
"Hello, Naruto," Sai greeted him as the Jinchuuriki turned to him, a weird prickly thing on a stick in his hand. "What are you holding?"
Naruto grinned happily. "A cactus on a stick! Prickly delicious. Want one?"
Sai moved his head away when Naruto almost stabbed him in the eye with his cactus. "Ah, no thank you."
In response to his dismissal, Naruto grabbed him around the neck in a choke hold. "I hope this time around you don't end up giving Temari something that will make her mad at you again," said Naruto, making his hair sway about as he nodded.
Sai stared at the pink ribbon on his head, then gave Naruto a sedated look as he ducked from his hold. Tsunade had assigned Sakura on a mission to train him on his emotions for today's specific occasion. He was not about to put Sakura to shame by being tactless. "I'm trying my best to behave."
"Yeah I can tell. You've been stiff as a board since you arrived yesterday evening."
"I was aiming for formality."
His grin widened. "How was your morning?"
Sai gave him a bland look. "I woke up with Sakura playing with my nipples. And I have you to thank for that. How was Hinata?" His eyes wandered to Naruto's pink ribbon and lipstick-stained cheeks. He wondered if Hinata had anything to do with the hair accessory.
Naruto flushed a deep red, still unused of Sai blurting out uncomfortable truths, and he nodded, then suddenly changed the subject. "I was aiming for formality, too. But no one would take me seriously."
Sai doubted that entirely. Naruto and Sakura were considered as the Village heroes. Kakashi and Team Gai came a close second. No one who didn't know Naruto's name would even try to not take him seriously, with or without the pink ribbon and the cactus on a stick. "It must be your hair…"
Naruto self-consciously fingered his blond locks, missing the ribbon by millimeters. "What's wrong with it?"
"Uhm…" Tact. Sai had to remember tact. "Nothing. Nothing's wrong with it."
Naruto eyed him suspiciously, but nodded anyway. "All right. If you say so." And he walked away into the merry crowd, muttering about hair gel, foreplay and Hinata.
Sai followed him with his eyes until the cluster of people swallowed him out of sight. Sai didn't know if he did the right thing of sending Naruto away with a very conspicuous pink ribbon stuck in his hair, but he felt slightly good for not saying such an embarrassing thing to his face. Sakura would be proud of him. Patting himself on the back, he set off in his search for Sakura.
Much to his annoyance, he ran into a very drunk Lee in the drink bar next to the candied apple stands.
"You had her naked in your room!" Lee accused him suddenly, making the dancing people pause and look at them for a moment before continuing their business.
Sai, eyes shifting nervously as he backed away from Lee, tried to formulate a means of escape. Before he could even move, Lee had him cornered against the candied apple stand and a potted plant. Lee took his time examining him with half-moon eyes, his mouth in a serious straight line. After a minute or so, he grabbed Sai by the shoulders and… hugged him.
Sai felt a shudder run down his spine.
"You lucky, lucky man! Being able to experience one of the most wonderful feelings in the world!" He started sobbing now. Sai quickly looked around, hoping they weren't getting unnecessary attention. That was too much to hope for. A few young women were looking at them and laughing. "Oh, the wonders of youthful love where the heart tends to overlook flaws like… social handicap and… outright obnoxiousness!" Lee's laughs immediately turned into snarls and his arms tightened around Sai, making the artist gasp. "So what if you're good-looking? We do not succeed in this world with looks alone! We succeed with the way we dress! And you dress funny…!"
Sai was genuinely unaware that he was being insulted. And unsure of what to do, he shrugged away from Lee and smiled uncertainly. "All… right…" And he made his escape when Lee had mistaken the potted plant to be Neji and he started talking to it. Sai took this chance to slip through the crowd of people falling in line for a dance with the young women wearing the colorful skirts.
Sai was beginning to doubt he was going to find Sakura in this crowd, but he was surprised when he made his way to the Kazekage tower just in time to see Sakura running out towards him.
Sai's heart started to dance inside his chest at the sight of Sakura in light green robes similar to Ino's. She looked absolutely stunning in green. Perhaps in normal circumstances he would, in his mind, be seeing simulative images of how satisfying it would be to undress her from those layers and layers of lace, but right at the moment, the expression on her face was what made him stop in his tracks.
She looked undeniably annoyed as she made his way to him in a hurry. Sai reached out his hands to her and she immediately took them into hers while saying, "Temari's not in her room. We think she left through the window in her wedding dress because her fan was gone as well."
Sai groaned. This was turning out to be a very, very long day. And to think the wedding was starting in a few minutes. He wondered if it was tradition in the Sand for the bride and the groom to disappear in turns within a few moments before they join in holy matrimony. Sighing in defeat, he planted a kiss on Sakura's forehead. "I'll go look for her."
Feeling a bit annoyed that he was not even given the opportunity to appreciate how beautiful his girlfriend was that day, he took out his scroll and summoned another Ink Falcon, and flew off in search for the bride.
Of course, in record time, he found Temari. She had chosen a better hiding place than Shikamaru. Approximately three kilometers from the Village was a small oasis with three small springs clustered in the middle of trees Sai did not recognize. On the branch of one of those trees sat Temari. He recognized her because of her fan, and the white dress. But when he landed on the moist sand and dismissed his summons, it was then did he notice that she looked different.
Of course, that could be because he hadn't seen her in a span of three months since they had been thrown in jail cells adjacent to each other after practically devastating the Sand Village and causing great damage to the Kazekage's tower. However, as he looked up at her, he nearly lost footing when he saw she looked absolutely beautiful in her wedding gown that resembled a white kimono with tiny black flowers lining the hem of the sleeves. Her blonde hair, which was usually parted in four pony-tails, was pulled back into a neat bun on top of her head where white roses he had seen with Ino more than once arranged around the bun like a crown.
"Hello there," he greeted tentatively. He did not disregard the fact that this woman had nearly killed him three months ago with the fan that she was holding at that very moment.
What was so surprising was that the expression on her face was of pure shock when she saw him looking up at her.
"You…" she whispered silently. When Sai waved at her, she bit her lip and turned away. "What do you want?"
Sai cleared his throat. He asked himself why on earth he had to go alone in search for this woman. He doubted he would be able to bring her back in time for her wedding without using force. "Lucky Sakura noticed you were gone before your wedding started. If she hadn't then we wouldn't have been able to look for you just in time for the ceremony. Let's go back."
Temari narrowed her eyes at him. "I don't know how you found me, but if you don't want to get hurt, then I suggest you leave. I'd like to be alone."
Sai frowned at her. This just was not right. "I can't do that. I'm sorry."
"And why not?" Temari raised her eyebrows at him, smirking. Sai thought that she looked scary, even when she was all dressed up as a blushing bride.
"Sakura spent a lot of time to train me for this occasion. If you don't show up for your wedding, then her efforts would have been in vain," Sai said, then as if an afterthought, said, "Shikamaru and Gaara would be worried if you didn't show up."
Temari watched him silently, and she leaped down from the branch she was perched on. Sai, out of habit, reached his left hand to his shoulder for his tanto only to discover he did not have it with him. Sai covered his anxiousness with a fake smile. He had been given a lot of opportunities to find Temari and apologize for the wedding gift he had given her that had made her so mad at him, but he never did get the chance to come in contact with her. In fact, after the scene they'd made in the dress rehearsal three months ago, this was the first time he would be able to talk to her.
He cleared his throat again. This was the perfect chance to apologize, he thought. And although he knew he would be risking angering her even more – because he was Sai – he decided it was now or never. He opened his mouth to begin but he was immediately interrupted when Temari asked him the weirdest question anyone has ever asked him in his life.
"How do you feel about children?"
Sai blinked. "Pardon?"
"Kids. Do you like them?"
Sai found himself in an internal battle with himself. He searched for the right emotion to fit with this situation, but all he could find was confusion. "I… don't know. I've never had children before…"
Temari furrowed her brow at him. "But would you like to have some? In the future, I mean?"
Sai, too, furrowed his brow. "In the future? Well, maybe after I get married, yes. I don't think I'd like my penis nailed to my forehead so I have to marry Sakura first before having children."
Temari's face twitched. "Are you mocking me?"
Sai smiled. "No."
The woman looked at him weirdly, then sighed in resignation.
"Why do you ask?"
Her face twitched even more. "Nothing."
Sai frowned. "Does this have anything to do with Shikamaru? You're not…" he recalled what Ino and Chouji had used on Shikamaru earlier. "… getting cold feet, are you?"
That made Temari react differently, because this time, she did not furrow her brow, she did not look mad, and she was not frowning. Instead, she was blushing. "Do you think Shikamaru would like to have children?"
"Would you like me to ask him?" Sai asked instantly, as he was willing to make amends with Temari. Perhaps it was not too late to become friends.
Temari was silent for a full minute before turning to him. "About almost killing you before, I apologize."
The sudden change of subject made Sai even more confused, but he decided to go with the flow. "It was my fault. I should have been more sensitive to your feelings. I should have known girls do not like being called fat, even if it's a joke, because girls think that jokes are half-meant."
"I…" Temari muttered. "… have no idea what you're talking about. But it was not your fault. I'm not that vain to go obliterating people because they comment negatively on my looks – "
"I didn't mean to, I swear."
" – but I overreacted because…" Temari paused, the hand lingering on her obi for a moment before letting it fall at her side. "Damn it… Do you think Shikamaru would like children?"
She was back on the topic they had earlier. Sai watched her body language, the way her eyes strayed to her stomach, the way her fingers rubbed at the obi around her waist, the way it was loosely wrapped around her form. Sai's eyes widened in disbelief. "Temari… you're…!"
Temari avoided his gaze. "Three months…"
He was not trained for this. Sakura forgot to train him to react when a girl asks advice if she was unsure of how her future-husband would react if he found out she was pregnant. But even without the training, he knew that perhaps – just this once – telling the truth would be the best solution. He touched her shoulder gently. "He would like two kids. A girl, then a boy."
Temari swiveled her head and stared at him with wide eyes.
Sai smiled. "He's waiting."
Sakura held back the tears that were threatening to overcome her as she pushed her way through the crowd and waved desperately at Shikamaru and Temari as they descended down the aisle. The ceremony had been wonderful. Ino and Chouji had cried their hearts out all throughout the wedding. Naruto had the time of his life cheering Shikamaru on when it was time to kiss the bride, and Hinata was clapping when Temari appeared to be flustered.
After the couple had received the blessings of the Kazekage and the Hokage, the crowd had broken into chaotic rejoicing and it took everything Sakura had not to get swept away in the sea of people. She was intent on saying goodbye to Shikamaru before the newlyweds ran off to a day of endless partying and probably a night of endless sex. In the corner of her eye she saw Ino, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief as she joined her at waving at the couple.
"Oh, my god! It's over! He really did get hitched!" Ino sobbed.
Sakura hugged Ino to her in a one-armed embrace. "They'll be back after their honeymoon."
"I know! But I can't stop crying!" the blonde still continued to cry. She waved frantically when Shikamaru and Temari turned to the crowd.
Sakura laughed as she watched her friend desperately wiping at her eyes with her free hand. "I bet you're just crying in frustration because Shikamaru got married before you."
Ino gave her a watery smile. "That may have something to do with it."
"I knew it." Sakura rolled her eyes as she gave Ino a squeeze. "Don't worry, Ino. It's – "
"Oh, my god. It's coming this way!" Ino suddenly cut her off, and she suddenly started hopping in place, her hands outstretched. No sooner did Sakura realize that the rest of the young women were also imitating her.
Sakura frowned as she looked up to see what was going on, and nearly screamed when a bouquet of thorny white roses hit her on the forehead and landed in her hands. The girls around her, even Ino, groaned in disappointment. Sakura stared at the bouquet angrily. "Temari just threw me a thorny bouquet!"
Ino looked at her in bewilderment. "Isn't that supposed to be a good thing?"
"It's a thorny bouquet."
"It means you're getting married next," Ino pointed out dryly as she eyed the flowers in Sakura's hand, almost wistfully. "Don't you know that Sand tradition?"
Sakura was about to say something rude to her when she felt strong arms wrap around her waist from behind and the familiar scent of charcoal and parchment filled her senses when Sai suddenly pressed his mouth to her ear and whispered, "It's a sign," before leaving a lingering kiss on her cheek.
A/N: There may be an epilogue for this, if I get enough inspiration but for the meantime, I'll let your imagination do the work. I've even left enough open-ended themes if I ever decide to make a sequel with it, but there's already a new SaiSaku plot brewing in my head that can't wait to get out.
To everyone who has stuck to this story till the very end, thank you! To those who reviewed, added this to their alerts and favorites, thank you! You guys make me remember the reason why I love fanfiction so much.