Deidara closed his empty locker.

Nothing was left inside, a strange sight after seeing it stuffed for the whole school year. He was just carrying the last of his binders and folders home; it was the last day of school before the summer started.

Everything's going to start to change, he thought, rearranging the two binders so they were easier to hold, stacking the folder and spiral notebook on top.

It was the last day of his senior year; over two years since Sakura had left.

Deidara was going to be heading off to college the coming spring, already having been accepted by an art college. He'd be driving his motorcycle constantly back and forth between college, home, and his new job.

Deidara began walking down the hallway, towards the steps to take him off the third level of the school. He began thinking of Gaara and Sasuke; they'd both be going to college immediately as well. Sasuke got accepted into a prestigious college a little over an hour away, and was staying in the dorms there. He was moving off at the end of August.

Gaara, meanwhile, would be going to KCU: Konoha City University. He'd be only 15 minutes away (if he drove his shiny red car) and was staying in his apartment with Kankuro and Temari- who was moving out soon, leaving the two boys.

Deidara took the stairs down to the second level, then slowly down to the first. School was over now, and everyone was gradually going home, saying goodbye to their friends. Deidara thought maybe he'd catch Sasuke before he drove off in his sleek, expensive black car. They were planning on hanging out tonight, on their last free night, before everything changed.

Deidara pushed open the front doors of the school, stepping onto the concrete and walking down the sidewalk as a brisk breeze blew in the air. His eyes searched for Sasuke's car, but suddenly, screams reached Deidara's ears. Everyone in the school yard stopped, looking towards the noise.

Deidara spun, looking over towards the large oak tree in front of the school. A group of freshman girls with wide eyes were scrambling away from sitting at the tree's roots, and leaves fell from it as someone climbed down.

Deidara stared with wide, unbelieving blue eyes. She jumped, landing gracefully on the ground, looking up and giving him that smile that his heart had ached to see.

"I've been waiting for you," she said, grinning.

A smile broke out on Deidara's face, so big that it threatened to take over his other facial features.

"Sakura!" he exclaimed, dropping his books onto the ground and racing up to meet her. Deidara grabbed her in a hug, picking her up and swinging her around before setting her back on the ground. His action pulled laughter like bells out of her, making Deidara smile even bigger.

"You're back," he said quietly, hugging her as soon as he set her down.

"I am," she responded, snuggling into his hug. They pulled back, looking at each other after being apart for so long.

"Geesh, did you grow two feet?" Sakura laughed.

"Ah, I've been eating my vegetables," Deidara joked, grinning.

She was taller too, but only a little. Her hair was about the same length, possibly even a little shorter, since being an assassin and having long hair didn't quite go together all the time. Her emerald eyes sparkled with a new strength he hadn't seen in her before, and her face glowed with happiness. It was a little less rounded, too, after all her hard work.

In her hug, Deidara had already felt that she was stronger. She held a sense of power with her now. Deidara also noticed the rose necklace hanging around her neck.

"You've really become strong, huh?" he asked, leaning down and kissing her cheek.

"I could take on five Orochimaru's!" Sakura boasted.

"But how many hungry Deidara's could you take on?"

The two turned, spotting two others standing behind them.

"Gaara!" Sakura shrieked, running past Deidara and tackling the redhead in a hug, which he gladly returned. Sasuke was strolling up behind them, and Sakura hugged him, too.

"Aren't you supposed to come back with long pretty hair?" Sasuke teased as they released. He too was taller, with a more mature face and –though it was hard to believe- a happy look in his eyes most of the time.

"You and your stereotypes," Sakura huffed. "Besides, Deidara's got that covered for me."

"Hey," Deidara protested, giving her a pout.

"Well, it's true," Gaara agreed. Gaara was taller too, of course, and he'd let his hair grow out a little, but said he'd be getting it cut shorter for college.

The four of them stood there, looking at each other. They were almost grown-up now, after only that long, but they were together. They were reunited.

"….wow," Deidara stated after the moment of silence. "It's you! It's really you…"

"Yeah," Sakura answered quietly. "It's me."

Deidara just stared at her. She'd be gone without a word for over two years, yet he hadn't expected her back so soon.

"By the way, before we catch up…" Sakura began, "I have a little something for you that I found while traveling, Deidara."

Deidara gave her a questioning look, wondering what it could be. Suddenly a car pulled up to the front sidewalk of the school, and Sakura took him by his hand and pulled Deidara towards it. They stopped in front of it, and Sakura gave his hand a reassuring squeeze.

A woman got out of the driver side of the car, pulling off a pair of sunglasses and looking at him in a mixture of love and disbelief.

"Deidara," she said.

Deidara stared at her short blonde hair. "Mom?"

She rushed forward to meet him, grabbing him in a hug. Deidara was still a moment, and then, hesitantly at first, put his arms around her. She hugged him tightly, rocking him side-to-side.

"Oh, my sweetie," Deidara's mom hummed, holding him an arm's length away. She looked him up and down. "Look at you! You're so much taller than me! And look at your hair, it's so much longer! It's beautiful, honey. Oh, and you have your father's blue eyes," she observed. "I haven't seen eyes that blue in so long…"

Deidara just stared at her, stunned. "Mom?"

The woman smiled. "Yes, Deidara, it's me."

He turned his head towards Sakura. "Where did you find her?"

"Oh, all the places mixed together after traveling so long," Sakura said, sighing. "I just knew she was your mom though. I had a gut feeling." Sakura grinned. "Plus, she was getting pretty temperamental with the fruit seller and was threatening to punch him."

A goofy grin got on Deidara's face, and he looked back at the woman in front of him. "Yeah, that's definitely my mom."

"I asked her if she had a son named Deidara," Sakura continued to explain. "And when I told her I could bring her to you, she was so happy to be able to see you again."

"I've wondered where you went," his mother said. "First, your father moved, then after finding him I found out you weren't with him anymore but with your grandma, so then I went and found out that your dear grandmother had passed away and you were probably living on your own. I had no clue where in Konoha you were and continued to travel."

"Did you talk to Dad?" Deidara asked. He hadn't talked to his dad in about ten years. For ten years, Deidara had absolutely no contact with him. He wondered what the man would have said about him.

"Yes," she said, smiling. "You should go visit sometime. He said he gets lonely every now and then."

Deidara swallowed. He'd get to that, one day. "Okay," Deidara agreed.

"Now, who are these handsome young men?" Deidara's mother exclaimed after Gaara and Sasuke walked up.

"Hi, I'm Gaara-!" the redhead began to introduce, but the woman was already hugging him, then moving on to Sasuke.

"Why, hello there! Are you boys friends with Deidara? That's so nice!" she said, smiling at them. She looked back at Deidara, nudging him with her elbow. "And by the way, Deidara, you did a fine job on getting yourself a girlfriend." Said boy blushed. "Ha! You'll have to tell me everything I've missed once we catch up later."

"Everything?" Deidara repeated. He looked at Sakura, knowing she was sharing the same memories, some of which he couldn't repeat to anyone; not even his own mother.

"Everything," she said firmly, clasping her hands together.

The four of them all went to Deidara's house first, driving their vehicles separately. His mom had a few things to do, so she left the teenagers to themselves.

"Ah," Sakura sighed, flopping down on Deidara's couch and sprawling across it, taking all the space up.

"Make yourselves at home," Deidara muttered sarcastically, seeing that Sasuke was already helping himself to the fridge, Gaara peering over his shoulder.

"Will do!" Sasuke said, pulling out a can of pop and opening it.

"Oh, grab me one too!" Sakura requested from the couch. Gaara grabbed three, handing one to Sakura, one to Deidara, and keeping one for himself.

"So," Gaara began as he settled down in the chair. "You have a lot to tell us about."

Sakura gave a little laugh. "You guys tell me about what's going on here, first!"

Deidara sat down on the other end of the couch, scooting Sakura's legs over. She turned, sitting the right way and leaning against him.

"Ugh, fine," Sasuke said. "Just don't go all lovey-dovey on us."

"Where should we start?" Deidara wondered. So much had happened in the past two years, how could they possibly relay it all? He had so many things he wanted to tell Sakura, but right now, he couldn't think of any of them.

"Well, Naruto, surprisingly, is going into politics," Sasuke began. "He'll be heading to KCU this spring to start."

"Wow," Sakura said. "Naruto in politics? I mean, I know he said he wanted to be Hokage, but I never would've thought he'd actually pursue it."

"Yeah," Gaara agreed. "And Ino's going into cosmetics, she really wants to be a beautician. She'll be at KCU, too."

"I'm not surprised," Sakura said, giving a smile as she thought of her beauty queen friend.

"Hinata's going to go to college for teaching," Sasuke added. "Since her family is pretty wealthy, she's going to be going to some higher level college."

Sakura nodded. "I'll have to make sure I get to see her before she leaves. But what about you guys?"

"I'll be going to KCU, too," Gaara said.

"And you'll be pursuing…?" Sakura trailed off, leaving him to fill in the blank.

"I'm…. really not sure yet," Gaara admitted, resting his hands on his knees. "All I know is that I want to do something with science, so for the moment I'll just be taking all kinds of science classes. I want to do some kind of biology. I'm thinking maybe desert."

"That's cool!" Sakura complimented, smiling. She leaned forward, putting her elbows on her knees and resting her head in her hands. "What about you?"

The question was directed at Sasuke. "I'm moving," he replied with a sad smile. "I'll be staying in the dorms of a college a little over an hour away. I'll be studying business, of course. I'm taking over my father's company one day."

"That's right!" Sakura exclaimed, sitting up straight. "That will be so cool! Hehe, you'll have to wear a suit," she teased. They all knew that, surprisingly, the rich boy hated dressing up.

Sasuke and Gaara gave a laugh, and Deidara shook his head while chuckling. "You haven't changed much, have you, Sakura?"

"Ummm," Sakura pretended to think about it. "Nope! Don't think so."

They all shared another laugh, and Deidara relished in the fact that they were all here, together, laughing.

"How about you?" Sakura asked, leaning into Deidara again and looking up at him.

"What about me?" Deidara asked, breaking out of his trance.

"Are you going to college? I mean, I'll understand if you weren't smart enough and-"

"I'm going to college, too," Deidara interrupted. "I'll be heading to Konoha University of the Arts. It's about fifteen minutes away, if I take my motorcycle."

Sakura gave a little shout of delight, hugging Deidara. "You got accepted into an art college! I'm so happy for you, I knew you would!" Sakura encouraged, running her fingers over her necklace.

Deidara grinned at her. "And you?"

"And I?"

"Are you going to college?" Gaara clarified.

"College?" Sakura scoffed, crossing her arms. "Heck no! Assassins don't go to college!"

"Well, excuse us," Sasuke begged sarcastically.

"You are not excused," Sakura jokingly replied. Sasuke punched her in the arm, and she punched him back three times harder. Sasuke planned to never punch Sakura again.

"How come?" Gaara asked, referring to why she wasn't going to a college.

"I've never gone to school really," Sakura said, leaning back into the couch. "I went to kindergarten, but that didn't work out." Sakura wouldn't say anything else about why it didn't go well. "And then I took all my classes at the ANBU corps. I came here for how-long just for the mission, and then missed the rest of high school while I was traveling, though I already took all those classes."

"Ah, I see…" Sasuke said, nodding in a silly fashion. Sakura giggled. She stopped, looking around the room and at the three boys with a smile on her face.

"Man, I've missed you guys," Sakura admitted. "It's been almost two years-"

"Over two years," Deidara corrected.

Sakura smiled. "Over two years, yet it feels like yesterday that I came to the school."

Gaara laughed. It was a deeper sound then before; he was older. They all were. "It does. It seems like the three of us were just wondering, What the heck is up with Sakura girl?"

They all laughed again. "I was wondering what was wrong with you," Sakura replied. "I got this red-haired, tattooed stalker following me around-"

Gaara protested, but they all kept laughing.

"-this boy with hair like a chicken butt saying that he wants to go out with me-"

The three of them began laughing so hard, they didn't even know why. For some strange reason, it was just so funny.

"-a-and then there's a boy with long girly hair trying to punch- punch m- pu-!"

Sakura couldn't even finish, they were all laughing so hard. Tears were in their eyes, and Sakura rolled off the couch onto the floor, her hair splayed out behind her.

It took them quite a while until they could catch their breath, and when they did, they all just sat there (or laid there, in Sakura's case) contently. They all smiled at each other.

"You know what?" Sakura asked, folding her hands on her stomach as she stared up at Deidara's ceiling with a smile.

"What?" Deidara replied.

"I love you guys," Sakura said.

They all agreed that they felt the same.

Sakura was making her rounds.

On her days off like this -with no missions, training, or data gathering; no recruits to teach, no one to heal, and no one hollering for help; no chores, errands, or rooms to clean- Sakura made sure to make her rounds and see everyone.

Sakura stopped by and visited Tsunade, catching her as she had her morning coffee. She kissed her "mother" on the cheek and sat and chatted with her on so many different matters. Tsunade worried about her, asking her questions that sakura answered with just "I'm fine, everything's okay." Sakura then got up and visited her room, grabbing a few things to take to Deidara's house since she was half living there, helping him balance home, work, and school.

Sakura would also, if they weren't out on missions (like today), visit Kakashi and Sai. She'd train with Kakashi and talk with him, and she'd take Sai out to experience something else of the modern world he'd never gotten to know. Today, Sakura and Kakashi worked on their chakra control, which she was better at, and he complained about becoming an old man.

Then, Sakura took Sai out to play putt-putt. It was really funny watching him do that.

Then, of course, Sakura had to get those split ends cut. Maybe get a shampoo. So, she walked down to the small beauty salon with the flowers in the windows and the light pink siding. Ino rushed out and greeted her.

"Forehead! Are you here to get that mop of yours cut?" But she was smiling with her blue eyes shining as her friend walked in. Sakura gave her a hug and made sure to tell her all the latest gossip.

From the beauty salon, if she hopped from the top of a few buildings, Sakura could walk to the elementary school where Hinata volunteered, just in time for the lunch break. She went and sat with the soft-spoken girl, talking with her as they watched the children play on the playground. They caught up with each other, and helped solve any problems the other was having by giving advice.

From there, Sakura went home to eat lunch, making Deidara one and packing it in a paper bag. She threw it into the compartment of her motorcycle, hopping on, revving the engine and then speeding towards KCU.

Luckily, Sakura got there right when some classes were letting out. She knew that Naruto should be in a class on the first floor, so she sat outside the school on a bench until he came out for a break. When he did, he set his stuff down and grabbed Sakura in a bear hug before showing her his 97 that he got on his test.

"I don't believe it," Sakura said to humor him.

"Believe it!" Naruto shouted, an enormous grin on his face. Sakura sat with him a moment, then went around back to where she knew she would find Gaara.

He was sitting with his eyes closed, calmly listening to the music that played from speakers that were hidden somewhere.

When Sakura walked up, he said "Oh, look, it's the Stalker again." bringing up their old high school joke, making Sakura smile.

"Hey, I have a right to stalk you now," Sakura retorted. She sat with him then, asking him for advice on different matters. Unlike Hinata, she could talk with him about her ANBU life.

Sakura asked if Sasuke was at home today, and when Gaara answered that he was pretty sure that the busy teenager was, Sakura bid him goodbye and walked off the campus, pulling out her cell phone and giving Sasuke a call. She chatted with him as she walked to her motorcycle, giving him the latest news on what was going on with everyone and he told her how everything was going with him, but he was very busy, and by the time Sakura got to her motorcycle, he had to go. Sakura said goodbye, and hung up.

When Sakura glanced at the clock on her phone, she decided that she needed to hurry. Sakura once again (and like always) sped off on her motorcycle, zipping down the roads for about twenty minutes. She did, in fact, obey the traffic laws this time, so it took her longer than usual. Finally, she pulled into the parking lot of another college. No one was out and about, since most of the classes were in session.

Sakura walked through the empty hallways, occasionally passing someone and nodding politely in greeting at them. After taking a flight up stairs up a level and heading down the hallway, Sakura came upon a pair of open glass doors. She walked in, and it was quiet. Shelves of books were in an orderly pattern in the middle of the spacious room, and on one side of them were many computers, all hooked up to the walls. Some of the college students were working at them, creating complex designs and patterns.

Sakura passed these people, going in between the shelves of books to the other side of the room where there were large tables used for studying and drawing. Few people were over here, but Sakura only needed one of them.

He was sitting at a table pushed up against the wall at one edge of the room. He didn't see her, since he was concentrating so hard. There was an open book to his left, and a large white paper in front of him with other papers scattered around the table's surface. One of his hands was holding his pencil, moving it across the paper, and the other was going from turning the page, to holding his paper, to keeping his blonde bangs out of his face as he drew.

Sakura walked up, still unnoticed until she sat down next to him, placing the sack lunch on top of his book.

"Lunch," Sakura explained with a smile as he looked up. "It's already 2:30!"

"Sakura!" Deidara exclaimed, and then quieted his voice as other students glared at him. "You're here!"

"Of course I am," Sakura replied, making sure to keep her voice down. She leaned forward, kissing his cheek. "You know I love to come see you work."

Deidara glanced down at his drawing with a troubled expression. Sakura took a glance at it and saw that he had drawn something, then erased it, then drawn something else, then erased it again, and had done that several times. On the papers all around, there were sketches, some clear and others messy or scribbled out.

"Geesh, you're going to have to get a new paper soon," Sakura said, scooting her chair closer to his. "What are you supposed to draw? What class is it for?"

"It's for my conceptual drawing class," Deidara replied. "We're supposed to do something big. And I don't mean in size, but like something that has greatly affected us, is dear to us or that we hate… just something big." Deidara sighed.

"And?" Sakura prompted. She still didn't know what he was having a problem with.

"Most of the others are having trouble thinking of something so meaningful that happened in their life," Deidara explained. He turned to her, giving her a small smile. "I'm having trouble about which I should choose to draw out of everything."

Sakura gave a little smile as she knew she shared similar memories. Suddenly, she could make more sense of the sketches thrown off to the side. There was a toy being run over by a suitcase, a car driving off from a house, a single yellow canary in a birdhouse on his own. They all made sense to her.

"And the conceptual part?" Sakura asked, wanting to clarify her thoughts.

"We're not supposed to straight out draw it," Deidara said. He picked up the suitcase sketch as an example. "Like, instead of actually drawing out my mom leaving my dad and I, I've drawn her suitcase running over one of my toys on its way out the door."

Sakura nodded. "I thought so…"

She continued looking at his ideas so far. Besides those, there was also a messily colored gold cat chasing a pink bird. There was a snake coiled around a dead pink flower, and that picture really got to Sakura's heart. She continued leafing through, seeing some she didn't know, one of yet another car driving off- yet this one was going into the unknown, and some not quite as important as the others.

"All of these," Sakura began, setting the papers back down, "are all sad."

Deidara looked at her in surprise, then back at his ideas.

"You don't want to draw any of them, right?" she asked.

Deidara shook his head. "No… none of them really appealed to me."

"Because they're sad," Sakura insisted. "You're focusing on all the bad parts of your life. You've had so many good things happen to you, too." Sakura gave him a big, loving smile. "You need to draw something happy, full of joy."

Deidara stared at her, then got a big smile of his own.

"I know what I'm going to draw," he decided, and began to work. Deidara had no clue how Sakura could cause so many problems, yet solve almost all of his. It was like she was his princess in shining armor.

What a strange girl, Deidara thought with a smile.





And I leave you with this, my friends. C':

It's over! I can't believe it, like AT ALL!



-I really like the line "Heck no! Assassins don't go to college!" XD XD XD Looove it~!

-I don't know if there are conceptual drawing classes at colleges, especially ones in Konoha. XD I made that up.

-I'm not the proudest I've been of the ending, and I'm sorry if it hasn't satisfied all of you. :C

-This chapter was like sooooo long for me. :O It's over 4,000 words, and most of the time my chapters go from 1,000 to 2,500.

-I clearly didn't go with that Christmas idea I had. XD

-Now that this is over, I'll just be taking a small break, then I'm back to writing! It's time for Like a Red Rose in the Summer, my GaaSaku fic. :D

-I seriously want to thank everyone that read this story and gave me such kind and encouraging reviews. Some of you really warmed my heart, and for that, I thank you. :'3


(That's the last time I'm typing that for this story T.T)