Hiya.

This is an earlier update than I expected, but later than it should've been, really.

On another note, it seems some people are concerned I'm not going to finish this story. I can tell you guys now, that no matter how long it takes to update, The Spoils of War WILL get finished – short of some permanently debilitating (or fatal, for the morbidly desensitised) condition, or whatever. I'm a closet optimist. It's all good. n_n

Anyway, thanks to Guest, moodymel, Refrigerator-Burn, Falynn1993, minniemousemom, Kor Anders, IridescentInTheDark, akiremichan, Guest, LilithiaRW, Angrypixels, laurah2493, Denise, saku642734, DramaQueen, SectumSemprae, Executiion, Holy, ulquihimesz, Chyna Fey, honey-taste, AnimaAmore, Guest and anyone else I've forgotten, for reviewing.

I'm not 100% happy with chapter (and probably never will be), so please excuse any and all rough edges. Enjoy! ^_^

– Chapter 13 –
.:. Unhappy Reunion .:.

A myriad of colours on the artistic palette represented, in her mind, as systems of the body. Chakra, for instance, held many hues, if one was able to see them. To a medic every organ, bone, muscle, fasciae, artery, vein, nerve, and even appendage had its own sensation as well as shade associated with it – it was only theoretical of course as she'd never been able to actually see said colours.
But she imagined she could see them now: not with Sharingan eyes or anything else of the sort – with her own eyes. They swam around her like fish and as though the air itself was an ocean. It took her a few moments of admiring the scenic display to realise that she was dreaming... remembering... one of them... and the dance of colours
was actually chakra. It belonged to people not fish, to Shinobi not a canvas.
They were all around her.
And then it struck her: She was back in that valley, where she'd been left for dead and her mind separate from her body, watching everything as it happened. At first, the replay was sluggish like she had been plucked out of time and forced to watch it slowly, to torment her. Then it was like fast forward, and she could barely keep up.
Colours contorted and faces swam in front of her. Unfamiliar faces, and bodies rather than the palette she had just been witnessing. It was now
real.
She didn't remember this part.
Everything now slowed down again but to a more normal tempo rather than slow-moving.
But she still couldn't feel the ninja as they brushed past her and Sakura stared at them. Her own body, the one on the ground and bleeding was vulnerable and seemingly unconscious.
A Suna ninja jumped in front of her and red splattered her vision: had this really happened?
'
Stop it,' she screamed at them. 'Stop doing that!'
They'd recognised her as the Hokage's prized student and Sakura reached out to grab them to stop them from throwing away their lives for her. But her hand passed right through them... was she a ghost? Had she actually died on that battlefield?
So she was helpless; one after another, they appeared to protect her only to be cut down where they stood. And she wondered: why weren't they fighting back?
She felt nauseated, her hand going to her abdomen as she remembered her condition – familiar chakra had her head snapping up and Sakura let out a scream. He was here standing in front of her body and his eyes fixed angrily on her attacker... just standing there, as the rest of his subordinates had done, waiting for the attack, waiting to die for her...
'
No!' All logic abandoned, Sakura threw herself at Gaara.

And then she woke up. Of course she did – her conscience never let her have any peace of mind if the truth was even remotely disappointing. But instead of the bright white of a hospital ceiling, her eyes were met with darkness. Not pitch black, it was more like blotches on her vision; a blurry vision, with no distinction between colours. Like her dream was filtering into the waking world.

Instead of calming her, the transition from bright lights to pallid darkness sent her body into a panic. She thrashed, a whimpering moan falling from her lips as something suddenly grabbed her shoulders, pushing against her efforts.

"Sakura…" The gravelly voice was unfamiliar, but the sympathetic intent was there. Whoever they were, they meant to calm her. "Go back to sleep Sakura."

Her befuddled mind couldn't tell if they were male or female.

She let out a hoarse scream as a shooting pain shot up her abdomen, but couldn't stop the sudden feeling of drowsiness as her arms felt like they were on fire. Sleeplessness was a drug, but despite her mind's inability to fully grasp her situation, her body responded as though it had been attacked. She continued to thrash, struggle against unseen restraints, and scream when she couldn't get free.

Loudly.

When there was no longer physical pain, something palpable coursed through her veins: it was now just a disjointed sensation that left her feeling exhausted and vulnerable. The strong hands pressed down upon her again, and chakra now forced its way into her body; what it was doing, she wasn't sure. The voice of its owner was as unfamiliar as the chakra itself. But the intention was clear – to keep her flat on her back.

Her mind didn't register a lot of this – it was an afterthought – and instead she continued to struggle, yell, and curse to the high heavens. She wanted to see where she was. She wanted to know where she was. And more than anything, she wanted help. Sakura just had no idea, in that moment, who from.

Gaara.

She'd dreamed he was there to rescue her, when she was unconscious, like he'd promised: that he would never let anything happen to her. But it was just a dream.

The strong hands grasping her finally relented and she wondered why. Her body sank down with a mind of its own, obeying his silent demand and Sakura slipped back into the dark regions of her mind.

She remembered now: she had been phasing in and out of consciousness, acutely aware of the sounds and smells around her. She couldn't see, not having the energy to even open her eyes, and her body had gone numb past exhausting her pain threshold, but she knew what was out there, despite the fact that only two of her senses were working, and it was freaking her out.

It had been hours now since her first episode and she was again strapped down; her chakra was flaring beyond her control and she distinctly heard a murmur about her "foetus" and "damn condition" being to blame.

The rest of the voices overlapped each other (scrapping and the sound of something tearing brought dark possibilities to her mind) and her imagination went into overdrive at the overpowering smell of blood. Were they carving her up?

'Don't be ridiculous.'

"Sakura…" There was that voice again... male, definitely male. "Go back to sleep Sakura," he whispered again.

And like an obedient dog on a leash, she did exactly that.

Waking up had always been a pleasant experience for her in the past; her groggy mind would still be vignetted by her dream and she hadn't had nightmares since she was a child (and even then they had been few and far between). But recovering from battle wounds were always the exception. She'd never been in a coma, but had gotten close – it was never pretty.

This was why she wasn't surprised by the unconscious trepidation she felt as she tentatively opened her eyes.

The first thing she registered was that she was free of any kind of restraints (like from a harness, manacles, or a chakra wielding, disembodied voice).

The second thing she registered was a trickling heat surging through her veins – maybe from an IV.

The third thing she registered was blinding light, like the long cylindrical lights of a hospital ceiling.

The fourth thing she registered was the fact that that blinding light was just in her head.

What really greeted her was a dark ceiling, a soft illumination off to her side that indicated a lamp or some such thing, and a strange tingling sensation through her body that she dimly recognised as a symptom (well, her symptom, based on her own previous experience with it) of an intravenous drug in her system.

Her mind was befuddled, that explained it. Why the hell would she be attached to an IV bag if she was dead?

Right.

'Fuck.'

The fifth thing she registered was that she was alone.

And the sixth thing she registered was that she was wearing a hospital gown.

She was just glad she could still count.

Sakura groaned, closing her eyes again before rolling onto her left side so as to not pull excessively on the tube sticking out of her arm. Whatever it was, it wasn't hurting her, so she let it be for now; her arm stung a little, but she ignored it. The room was still blurry to her, and it was giving her a headache; keeping her eyes closed, she inhaled deeply, held it for a moment, and then exhaled. She counted to ten in her head before managing to push herself into a seated position.

Sakura ran her free hand over her face, feeling the surge of chakra in her body that came when she concentrated on it. A moment later, it flickered and died. Frowning, she opened her eyes uncertainly, and looked down at the IV in her arm. Her brain seemed to shut down for a moment and she just stared at it blankly. Despite the haziness of her vision, she saw it quite clearly, and debated, once it registered to her brain what it was, just pulling it out. She felt fine...

Sakura grunted at herself, and then tore the IV out of her arm, wincing at the sting; she blinked heavily several times, trying in vain to clear her blurry vision. One part of her brain registered that she was fighting a losing battle, while the other was too out of it to understand she had been drugged. It couldn't have been a sedative, because it was still attached when she awoke. Maybe it was for the pain? She waited for a moment, to see for sure, realised a few minutes later that she was not okay without the IV, and then groaned, the pain searing through her – that answered her question about what kind of drugs were still in her system. She scoffed at the ridiculous idea that her body was already being dependant on it. Still, she didn't want to think about the state her body must've been in before it was healed, by whoever that had been.

She'd never even had a hangover this intense before.

The medic in her screamed at her not to do it, but Sakura disagreed with it painfully and grudgingly reinserted the IV; her hands shook with the effort as she struggled to find the vein in the crook of her arm (she ended up having to use her chakra to do it properly). It had been stupid of her, but she didn't care anymore – the pain was becoming too much. Besides, she had more important things to worry about; she waited impatiently for the pain threatening to rip apart her body to die down and the drug (she wasn't sure, since it wasn't labelled, but it could be anything, from lidocaine, to Procainamide, or Bretylium) to kick in. It might dull her senses and slow down her chakra, but it was better than the alternative right now.

'It just better not be morphine,' she grumbled to herself.

Instinctively, Sakura's hand went to her stomach and without hesitation, she searched for the faint chakra signal she knew should still be inside of her. She held her breath, closed her eyes, and forced herself to concentrate; it took every ounce of control she had left, due to the unknown drug impeding her chakra, but she did it.

The tears came then and she let out an involuntary gasp, not bothering to cover her mouth as she clasped her hand tighter to her stomach. She felt it; it was there, the small chakra signal was strong and easy to find. She was still pregnant!

Sakura couldn't stop the resounding sobs, so she didn't even try. Although she'd initially been terrified and upset at her condition, she couldn't help the fierce wave of relief that flooded through her body now. She sat on the edge of the bed, one hand holding tight to the IV stand and the other gripping her stomach like it was her lifeline.

As her sobs subsided, and her breathing finally evened out, she opened her eyes and blinked away the last of her tears. Tears of joy... she hadn't had them in a while. Sakura smiled; she moved her hand up the front hospital gown absentmindedly and without thinking, her fingers gripped at the place where she expected a small, sand sculpture to be. It wasn't there. Frowning, she looked down at her bare neckline and felt around between her breasts, even though it was obviously gone, as though it would magically reappear.

What the fuck?

Whoever had undressed her had clearly taken it away. She felt a mild panic at the thought of it being tossed carelessly into a bin, or breaking apart and returning to its original, grainy form. She wanted it back!

Happiness contorted into anger, she pushed herself off of the bed and dragged the IV stand with her as she walked over to the only door in the room. She yelled out "hey!" pounded on the door and screamed herself hoarse before realising she really was alone. Someone was going to pay for this, that much was certain. Growling, she decided to get her bearings, and searched the walls for some sign of the time, or date; a small calendar sat in the corner of the room, prominent against the boring, plain coloured wall plaster behind it. Apparently (even though it felt like she'd been unconscious for weeks on end), it had only been three days since the battle that had almost killed her. The drugs in her system didn't allow her to feel how bad off she was, but even as exhausted as she felt, she knew she was out of the woods.

Sakura had just woken up early, by the looks of things. No-one else was around because she wasn't supposed to be awake yet... maybe. Well, it was the theory she was going with until a better one came along.

Sakura sat back on the bed and lamented on the loss of her sand bonsai as she rubbed her belly affectionately. So lost in her thoughts she was, that she didn't immediately sense the approaching chakra. Even in her current state, chakra this powerful was difficult to miss. She looked up suddenly and scooted to the other side of the bed as the door opened slowly, trying to calm her laboured breathing. She didn't scare easily. Frankly, the only person in Konoha that frightened her was Lady Tsunade, and that was only because she'd spent enough time around her to know exactly how angry and powerful her shishou could be. Maybe it was a Sannin thing since, and only under pain of death would she admit this, she was a little wary of Jiraiya-sama also.

So when Orochimaru stuck his head in past the doorway, like a snake slithering into a room, she had to force herself not to gasp, or whimper – anything that would show she was scared of this man. He was followed into the room by another – from the uniform she guessed a medic. The man was cute; with dark brown hair and a boyish face, he looked to be in his mid-twenties. He moved toward her, stepping around the bed that she'd used as a physical barrier between herself and the door, and gave her a gentle smile that she returned reflexively. He seemed genuine.

"Hold still," he said holding out his hands (now glowing green), and she immediately relaxed; his voice was familiar and calming. It was a few moments later as his chakra invaded her system that she realised she'd heard his voice in her delirium – he was the one who'd held her down in her intermittent bouts of consciousness after her arrival in Otogakure. It was nice to be able put a face to that enigmatic voice.

"Who are you?" She asked, before she could stop herself.

"Yasue Nagao," he replied, the corner of his mouth turning up in an amused smirk as he continued to ease her pain. "Head field medic for the second Otogakure battalion."

She was pretty sure she should have already met him then, considering their villages were allies, and the head medics were obligated to be seated in every inter-village war meeting. And more than that, she was pretty sure she had already met the head field medic for the second Otogakure battalion before, and it had been a woman.

"I was only recently promoted." He answered her unspoken question. "There," he pulled his hands away from her. "All done."

Gently, he reached over and pulled the IV out of her arm; he gave her a disapproving look, perhaps realising that she'd already removed and replaced it, then bowed to the Senkage before obediently leaving the room at Orochimaru's nod and silent dismissal.

Sakura fell silent, her eyes flickering to the door, and then the floor before settling on her hands (which were nervously resting over her abdomen).

"There's no need to be nervous," Orochimaru insisted. "I'm not going to bite you."

She looked up in time to see him motion to her to move out from behind the bed. She really didn't want to, but he was the Senkage, no matter how creepy she found him or what Gaara had told her about him, so she did as she was bade. He had moved away from the door, so she walked in the other direction, if only to put more distance between him and herself, even if she could no longer rely on the barrier the bed had beguiled her into thinking it was. Swallowing heavily, Sakura licked her lips, voicing the thought that now burrowed into her head.

"H-how am I still alive?"

"My medics saved you, and your unborn child," he said, his eyes now flickering to her stomach.

"For what reason?"

He gave her a hurt look. "You are an invaluable ally, Miss Haruno."

She held back her scoff. "And a branded traitor."

"Yes... I know." He hissed. "An err in judgement I am told, made by the Daimyo and his associates; one that will be rectified soon enough."

Sakura wasn't sure what to say about that. He looked genuinely annoyed, but she knew from Gaara, and talking with the Suna council, what a snake he really was. Was it possible though, that in his own way, he was disgusted by what had been done to her? She didn't dare believe it for a second. She couldn't. This man was not to be trusted. After all, what would he have to gain by healing her, saving her baby (her hand went to her stomach again, unconsciously) and keeping her out of harm's way?

No matter his words, she couldn't shake the sick feeling she got, standing this close to him. He wanted something from her – the cold hard fact that it was the only reason she was alive. Orochimaru never did anything for anyone (outside Otogakure) without wanting something in return, or without sending assassins or some such, to take what he wanted.

Or so she heard.

"And what do you want from me?" Sakura asked, shivering involuntarily as he chuckled softly.

"Oh, nothing my dear," the snake Sannin said genially. "I have no need of you."

'Yeah right,' she thought, remembering the way he'd looked at her on the battlefield, lustful and appraising.

"Then why am I here?"

"I went out to find you as a favour to a friend, young Sakura," he said. "Lady Tsunade has been very worried about you."

Sakura perked up, despite her fear of reprisal from her mentor due to her "condition". A friendly face right about now would do the world of good for her. Orochimaru chuckled again.

"And as far as the Hokage is concerned," he continued. "My forces are still scouring the countryside for you. It is not for Lady Tsunade that I personally ventured into that bloodbath to find you."

"Then for who?"

"Sakura…"

Sakura spun around, immediately recognising that voice, the deep, husky voice she had fallen in love with, so long ago.

"Sasuke…"

Suddenly self-conscious, Sakura worried that she had "pregnant and volatile" plastered across her slightly larger than normal forehead.

"I will leave you two to get reacquainted," Orochimaru said, before turning to leave.

Sakura was shocked, to say the least that the Uchiha was still here. Gaara's information had placed him in Konoha, where it was said he was working with leaf ninja to find her. Her heart had leapt at the thought that he was still worried about her, but now it seemed those reports were wrong, or that he'd finally given up and decided she wasn't worth it anymore.

'What is wrong with me?'

She couldn't be thinking that way about Sasuke when she desperately wanted to get back to Gaara. But she couldn't have both Gaara and Sasuke, let alone both Gaara and Konoha. Sakura had already decided where she belonged, and with who, and she wasn't going to let her shock at seeing her former lover make her forget it. But the pregnancy wasn't so easily ignored as her desire to return to her friends and loved ones in Konoha. They would never accept her back in her condition. She had already been marked as a traitor, so her place was in Suna, right? She swallowed heavily, watching the way Sasuke was raking her body with his eyes. It wasn't lust, or a sudden desire to just hold her close; those eyes were calculating. Did he know she was pregnant after all?

Of course... if Orochimaru knew, then Sasuke should know too. But would he tell him though?

This was not the reunion she would've hoped and planned for.

She stared at him, taking in the sight of his familiar form, her eyes noting the lack of Konoha insignia on him, and the fact that he was wearing the grey high-collared short-sleeved shirt and dark blue pants that he often favoured while training. She sighed deeply, noting he was patiently waiting for her to talk first. He never did like to start their conversations. She just wished he would stop staring at her for a moment, so she could gather her wits.

'Might as well get this over with.'

"What are you doing in Otogakure?" Sakura said in a whisper, deciding to forego the pleasantries.

"What are you talking about?"

"You're supposed to be in Konoha."

"No, I'm not – I have a mission here, remember?"

"You have been back since I was taken," she corrected him.

Sasuke raised his eyebrows at her. "How do you know that?"

She wasn't supposed to know that. He continued to stare at her, waiting for an answer; Sakura didn't want to give it to him.

"You're supposed to be in Konoha," she said lamely.

"Why?"

"It's your village Sasuke," she said. "The place of your birth, where your loyalties lie, remember?"

"Of course I remember," he said, frowning. "What's gotten into you?"

"Answer me Sasuke," Sakura said, stiffening slightly as the Uchiha reached out to take her hands. "Why are you here?"

He hesitated for a moment, confused by her line of questioning, before realising she meant with her. "Orochimaru said he could find you, that's why."

"And I'm healed, and I'm fine, so let's go."

Sasuke pulled his hand away. "I can't."

"Why?"

Why, oh why was she not surprised?

"I made a promise Sakura. I'm in Otogakure to help Orochimaru. I can't just up and leave."

She frowned. "Help him do what?"

Sasuke just shook his head. He wanted to hold her, to make love to her; he'd missed her so much. She was standing right in front of him, close enough to reach out and hold onto... but there were issues and questions he needed answered first. Such as…

He took a deep breath. "Who's the father?" He asked softly.

He knew it couldn't be him; they hadn't slept together for months before she'd been abducted (it had been the night before he left for Otogakure, and subsequently broke up with her). Orochimaru's medics had estimated the time of conception was no more than eight weeks ago, so it was either some random guy in the week preceding her leaving Konoha, or Sakura had slept with someone in Suna. When he'd suggested they take time off from each other while he was in Oto, this was not what he meant. If Sakura had fooled around in Konoha, scratched her itch, and just had some fun, he'd be jealous and upset, but it would be his own fault for breaking up with her. But if it was someone in Suna, then that was different. The village hidden in the sand was the enemy. First and foremost, the Suna option was what he believed, despite the small chance that a Konoha Shinobi or civilian could have wormed their way into her pants... call it a niggling feeling, a sixth sense or just his bad karma fucking with him. So who was it in Sunagakure that could have or would have seduced her? He had hoped she wasn't raped, and the look of guilt and shame on her face told him the sex had been consensual.

But Sakura wasn't ashamed, not really. Yes she'd let Gaara seduce her, yes she'd wanted him from the first moment he'd kissed her, but she wasn't some kind of slut. She was in love with the Kaze-heika, and wasn't going to pretend otherwise, but the ever present fear of Sasuke's reaction to this silenced her, and she lowered her eyes to the floor.

Sasuke felt guilty now; he couldn't stop it. He reached out, gripped the pinkette's hands, and entwined their fingers. Open affection wasn't his thing, but they were alone, so he felt comfortable pulling her into his arms. Sakura leant her head on his chest, not sobbing or apologising, just explaining. The damn in her broke and she let it all out – everything that had happened to her from that fateful fight with the Suna ANBU, how the sand siblings had turned up and taken control of the battlefield, and how she had been so terrified for Neji. And she still didn't know if the Byakugan user was okay, despite Mia's insistence that if Gaara had wanted him dead, there'd be no denying that he was dead.

He didn't interrupt as she told him how Gaara had fought to keep her from being tortured, how he had been drawn to her as she was to him. She explained what she'd been told about the Kazekage, and how his disease turned out to be a deliberate attempt at assassination. She told him how the Sabaku family had treated her respectfully, despite the council's desire to make her suffer, how she'd spent her birthday upset, but had gone to Arō's party and actually enjoyed herself, despite the scuffle with the Iwa dignitaries.

Sasuke gripped her tighter as she told him how she'd fallen in love with the Kaze-heika. He listened with rapt interest as she confirmed that the Kazekage was healing, and there was a spy in Suna – there had to be, given how Arō had been poisoned. She didn't speak of what she'd learned from Gaara about Orochimaru, but she told her former raven haired lover about Suna's decision to look for an alliance with the leaf, given that the one with Iwa was failing, and Tsunade's conditions for agreeing to meet with them.

And then the icing on the cake: "I found out I was pregnant the night before I left Suna."

Sasuke took it all in as she fell silent, still gripping him fiercely. It was a lot to digest. He had no idea what to say.

Sakura broke the silence a minute later. "Sasuke?"

"Hm?"

She didn't even look up at him, her face buried in his chest. "Do you know where my bonsai is?"

He almost did a double-take at her seemingly random question. "Bonsai?"

She nodded. "Made of sand and infused with chakra: Gaara made it for me. It was..." She blushed, turning her head to the side as though he could see the rapidly building crimson on her cheeks. "Down the front of my shirt, but I couldn't find it when I woke up."

Sasuke struggled inwardly, trying to curb his frustration and jealousy. He had a good twenty years to practise self-control, and wasn't about to lose it now of all times. He swallowed heavily before answering.

"I'll check with the staff that had access to this room while you were recovering." He promised, though the chances of finding it were remote, since Sakura's arrival in the Senkage's arms had created quite the disturbance, and he doubted many were paying attention to her breasts when the rest of her was so torn up.

"Thank-you."

He pulled away from her, and looked down at the hospital gown that was covering her body, if only to distract himself from his invidious thoughts. "You're going to need a change of clothes. I'll be right back."

Sakura watched him leave and close the door behind him. She understood what she was putting him through and desperately wished she could've prevented how he discovered she was pregnant with another man's child, but knew it would be futile to show him any sympathy – he was too stubborn and prideful not to view it as proof that he was weak.

So for now, she would just take Sasuke's advice and get dressed.

...

"Are you fucking kidding me?"

The previously worried and nervous Sakura was gone and Sasuke resisted the urge to roll his eyes at this new but achingly familiar hot tempered one – he was pretty sure this wasn't just her hormones acting up, after all she'd always been temperamental. He sighed heavily at her foul language as Sakura glared at him. He had scrounged up a few articles of clothing he was sure she would fit into and right now, he had a hikizuri (a trailing kimono) in his hands held out to her for her inspection.

"I'm not a geisha, Sasuke! Where are my clothes – my top, my gloves, my shorts, and my bloody boots for crying out loud?"

Sasuke gave her a look that clearly said 'are you fucking stupid?' and it took her a moment to realise why this was; considering the state she'd been in physically, there would be little doubt that her clothes had been torn beyond repair.

Well, that was just fucking great! She growled. "I'm not wearing a dress."

"The women in this compound aren't field Kunoichi," he said matter-of-factly. "This is all I could find."

"I'll wear a damn haori and hakama if I have to."

That would not go over well with some of the more traditional "gentlemen" currently enjoying the honour of visiting the Senkage's personal home, but Sasuke didn't bother telling her – likely, they would only glare at her for it, and she was more than capable of dealing with some light weight chauvinists. It wasn't like she hadn't gotten attitude for wearing men's clothes before (though that had been from leaf civilians who were too stupid not to ridicule her, in public no less). He should've foreseen this however, and absentmindedly rubbed his temple, feeling a headache coming as Sakura yanked the hikizuri out of his hands and threw it on the floor in some kind of symbolic show of ingratitude. She always did have a penchant for the dramatic.

"Fine." He ground out. "I'll be back, again."

Sakura let out a deep sigh as he half-slammed the door behind himself. She realised she was being difficult, but couldn't summon the capacity to care. If she was going to be stuck here against her will, then by Kami or any other deity, she was going to make them want to send her home!

'Suna,' she told herself. 'When Orochimaru figures out I'm more trouble than I'm worth and lets me go, I'll head to Suna.'

Really, the village hidden in the sand was the only place that made sense to her right now, considering her missing-nin status. Sakura ignored the involuntary twisting of her stomach at that thought and sat back on the bed as she waited for Sasuke to return. Too much verbal banter with Sasuke however, and he was bound to realise what she was up to – he knew her well enough. So she would save her temper tantrums (real or not) for the important things, like having something decent to wear. The only skirts and dresses she was willing to wear were still in her wardrobe back in Konoha.

Her mind went to the dress she'd worn to Naruto and Hinata's wedding: champagne coloured, with simple tassel-like trimmings and a matching shawl. She smiled nostalgically, also remembering that Hinata was pregnant too. Except her Hyuuga friend would be something like nine or twelve weeks along now, and surrounded by family and friends, and able to listen to her baby's heartbeat... maybe.

Sakura sighed, her hand going absentmindedly to her abdomen as she let her mind drift off again (but this time in a different direction) – she was really good at that game she used to play with Ino when they were kids called "anywhere but here". When Sasuke finally reappeared, she was basking in the tropical sun and sipping martinis with a certain redhead, her only worry half a world away. She sighed again, noting that Sasuke had taken her seriously and brought a set of what she might've thought were his clothes if they didn't look to be more her size than his.

"Thank-you Sasuke," she said softly, sliding off the bed. He just grunted and left her to dress herself. She felt no embarrassment from the fact that he'd thought to procure new underwear and had even knew/remembered her bra size. It was funny the things that used to make her blush but just seemed so trivial now. Sakura glanced at the door as she changed, her thoughts going to all the belongings she'd lost in her backpack when the ROOT members had thrown it away; it was probably the property of some very delightful squirrels by now.

Despite the situation, she giggled out loud at that thought.

Still, the letters she'd written to Naruto, Kakashi, Ino, and the rest of her friends had been in that backpack. She had loved perusing them and picturing their reactions if they ever got to read them. She would never know now.

She sighed, folding the hospital gown that she'd been wearing neatly on the bed and ignored the strewn, girly clothes still littering the floor; and her hands went to her hair as she realised it must look like crap. And it still needed cutting to get back to her preferred length but quite suddenly, she didn't want to do that anymore. Maybe it was her hormones, or the fact that she was no longer going to be heading off on some mission where her opponent might grab her hair in the middle of a fight, but she was seriously contemplating growing it out again. Of course, she was not going to wear it down all the time, remembering that she'd grown to loathe getting hair in her eyes, but a nice simple braid or plait would fix that well enough.

She ran her hands through the mop on her head however, and grimaced when she realised it would need a thorough brushing.

She frowned to herself and without thinking, tried to open the door Sasuke had exited through; surprised that it was unlocked, she was not surprised however, to find her Uchiha "escort" standing on the other side, waiting for her. She put her hands to her hips, trying to look intimidating and failing miserably.

Without waiting for her to ask or demand it, he handed her a comb and motioned silently for her to follow him.

Sakura instinctively reached for the doorframe and she faltered, her vision blurring. She was out of the woods, but not fully healed, by the feel of it. It was understandable, given what she'd been through – in fact, she was surprised she was feeling as good as she was. It looked like her shishou hadn't been lying when she'd told her that Otogakure's medics weren't as bad as their reputation would have the other nations believe.

"Sakura?"

Damn it, Sasuke had noticed her falter. She didn't want to be sent back to the bed, or to another room with another bed in it.

"I-I'm fine," she said quickly, pushing off of the doorframe. "Just a little light headed."

He didn't look like he believed her. Instead of leading the way, he grabbed her elbow and steered her into the hallway. In her exhausted state, she was having trouble taking in the sights, but she registered that they were in a small, lowset complex – from the smell of things it was a small hospital. As Sasuke led her out into the open air she registered suddenly that it was very early in the morning; blinking heavily, she shielded her eyes from the rising sun and looked around, smiling lightly at the gardens as they passed through an open walkway.

"Where are we going?" She asked, and yawned before she could close her mouth again.

"Out of here."

They passed through another set of connecting walkways, a maze of walkways, and around several complexes that she got the feeling she wouldn't be allowed in – they then veered south once they exited what looked like an enclosed cafeteria.

"Is this entire place the Senkage's home?"

"No."

Sakura frowned at him, but let it go. It would do no good to continually question him anyway – he was the king of monosyllabic answers, and often left her wondering why she'd opened her mouth in the first place.

When the structures they moved around changed from busy and easily accessible to empty looking and guarded by high wire (Sasuke even motioned to a couple of guards who instantly moved to let him and Sakura through), she realised they were definitely within the confines of Orochimaru's private compound. Surprisingly, it did look more welcoming than the place she'd woken up in.

Sasuke brought her to a stop in front of a bench, overlooking a large garden. "This is the southern gardens of the Senkage's home," he informed her. "Sit: you haven't had breakfast, so I'll bring you something from the kitchens."

"Are you my babysitter or manservant?"

Sasuke ignored the jibe and walked away. She just shook her head at his retreating form and sat down as instructed, resigning herself to staring out over the simple gardens instead of wasting time being frustrated at him. He was right about her need for food though – remembering the comb in her hand, she got to work unknotting her hair. The air here was cool and inviting, and she gazed over the peaceful scene in front of her – the footbridge, the brush fencing, stepping stones, perennial plant life and water features. The nearby kakei reminded her of the one she had drawn up in her own plans – amidst all the plans for her life, she also had an amazing traditional garden – the clunk of the bamboo spout as it filled with water and tipped making her homesick. But oddly enough, it was also comforting.

When Sasuke returned, she noted he'd also made himself a little something out of what looked like leftovers. He handed her a bento box and sat down next to her.

"Thank-you."

He "hn'd" her and then ignored her to eat his own food. They ate in silence, and she was grateful for it really. It gave her time to think and admire the scenery some more. Everything in the Senkage's home was designed after the more traditional homes.

'Home.'

She struggled with the concept of Orochimaru being homely. Sure, he had saved her life and on one hand she really should be grateful. But on the other hand, she didn't trust the lying, slithering fiend. Even without the information from Gaara and the council, he'd always wigged her out. There was something unseemly about him... no, yes, well that and unhygienic. Wrong word: hm, repugnant maybe? Kakashi had once described his scent as that crap that even flies avoided – to be fair, he was a little bit drunk at the time, but his point still stood. The Senkage smelt bad.

She restrained from giggling at that. The humour she found in it worried her.

"Sasuke?" She asked without thinking.

"Hm?"

"I think I'm going slowly insane."

...

After the impromptu breakfast, Sasuke showed her the room that Orochimaru had had made ready for her. The snake had really gone all out – the dining area was bigger than her apartment back in Konoha. But she didn't say anything, just taking it in and doing as her chaperon suggested and had a shower. He must've left while she was under the water, because when she emerged, wrapped in a bathrobe, he had a whole new set of non-girly clothes waiting for her, like they hadn't been hanging in the closet two feet from the bed.

"Why Sasuke," she teased. "Are you trying to dress me?"

He didn't bother hiding his frustration with her. "Just get dressed – you have an appointment with a medic to keep."

He left the room before she could ask what the fuck he was talking about. And as it turned out...

Sakura's first check-up with Orochimaru's finest OBGYN slash medic had no chance of going smoothly. Sasuke refused to let her go alone, she felt like a zoo animal on display (and her temper showed it), and she was close to breaking point before she'd even been told to get up on that metal Ultrasound Table.

Asshole.

The medic was a middle aged man, had a receding hair line, and didn't bother with bed side manner – in fact, he'd probably thrown it out the window the moment he got his licence to practise. Sasuke stood on her other side as the medic consulted his chart, not looking at her right away.

"My name is Isaaku Shimada, Miss Haruno–"

"Don't call me that," she snapped, fidgeting on the table.

"–and I'll be your OBGYN for today," he finished, without missing a beat.

"Sakura," Sasuke said, warningly. She threw him her nastiest glare and he rolled his eyes, not intimidated in the least. Pregnant women were not a threat to him, in any way.

"Why do I have to do this now?" She asked. "And how the hell was I cursed with an appointment with Mr Monotone so quickly?"

Sasuke shot her a foul look. "The Senkage had this all pre-arranged the moment he brought you to Oto and the medics informed him you were pregnant. Now shut up."

She poked her tongue out at him. Isaaku didn't look fazed in the slightest at her attitude.

"Is this your first pregnancy?" He asked.

"Yes."

"Have you seen a medic regarding your pregnancy before today?"

Sakura frowned. "Only the medic who informed me of my condition – it was just preliminary stuff. She–"

"Not unexpected," he interrupted.

What the hell did he mean by that? Sakura growled at him, but he didn't seem to care.

"Do you have any previous medical conditions that might impact your pregnancy?"

"No."

She didn't like his questions, and yet he seemed to have an endless list of them. Finally, once he was done, he put his chart away and looked at her.

"Let's see how far along you are," he said instead.

"I'm six weeks," Sakura snapped (ignoring his apathy at her temper, as well as Sasuke's barely silent annoyance at her annoyance). She didn't need midwifery lessons from this sanctimonious arse – Lady Tsunade had already put her through that when she was still learning to be a medic. Apparently, most nurses (which Sakura had been seriously considering instead of being a field medic at the time) gushed and got all gooey eyed over getting midwifery training. So she fell for that excuse, hook, line and sinker. "I want a female medic," she grumbled.

Isaaku ignored her again but seemed to decide to take her word for how far along she was, and gently probed her stomach with his fingers instead. There was no visible bump yet, but she didn't like the feel of his cold hands on her bare skin. "Does that hurt?"

She ground her teeth together. "No."

She refrained from knocking his head off of his shoulders as he probed her stomach; she hated ultrasounds. Okay, so she'd never had one before, but she'd heard all about how uncomfortable they were. Sakura tuned him out as he talked about how it was too early for this, too early for that. She knew damn well how early it was.

"Do you want to know the gender?" Isaaku asked casually, like he was commenting on the weather.

She shook her head.

Sasuke looked down at her. "Are you sure?"

"It's too early for that, Sasuke."

"Actually–" Isaaku started.

Sakura glared at him. "It's too early!" He would just mess it up anyway. There was still a risk, in the first trimester that he'd make a mistake on the gender recognition, and she'd rather not get her hopes up. He seemed to get what she really meant, and let the matter drop. And he didn't need to know that she'd already decided she was having a girl. Temari's words rang true in her ears.

And damn the consequences either way.

"Are we done?" She growled out.

"One last thing–"

Sakura grabbed his shirt, lab coat, whatever the creepy man was calling it, and used her chakra to keep a hold of him as Sasuke watched on dispassionately. "I. WANT. A. FEMALE. MEDIC!" She screeched in the man's ear.

"I think a second opinion might be in order," Sasuke said evenly.

Isaaku nodded, and Sakura let him go. "Of course; but Miss Haruno, for now, you should take my advice and rest up. You've been through an ordeal and I don't need to tell you how delicate these early months are."

She glared until the patronizing ass was out of sight and then let out a whimpering sigh. She hoped the follow-up practitioner was actually competent at their job. Despite her attitude, there were a number of things he failed to do, that were important. And with that thought, Sakura felt immensely guilty; her child needed those tests. They both did. There were blood tests to do, urine tests... These early months were important, and she'd just chased off the best medic with midwifery experience... supposedly, probably according to Orochimaru.

Sakura scoffed. What the hell did that pale skinned reptile know about pregnancy?

Sasuke remained quiet beside her, waiting patiently for her to finish her internal struggle. She paid him no mind.

'I wish Gaara was here.'

No, that wasn't right – she wished she was in Suna. Otogakure had pleasant gardens, a beautiful view and the kind of morning air she liked, but it wasn't Suna. And Sasuke wasn't Gaara. Biting her bottom lip in earnest, Sakura closed her eyes, trying to will away the tears – it wasn't working. This was hard enough, and even Sasuke's reassuring presence didn't make her feel any better that she wasn't doing this with the actual father of her baby. She fought back a sob and turned her head away from Sasuke, trying to hide her tears from him.

"You miss him," he said a moment later.

It wasn't a question. And she knew he was talking about Gaara.

Sakura nodded slowly, unsure how to respond. Sasuke may have not needed to ask, but she knew him well enough to know a part of him was still clinging to her – he put up a good façade, but he wasn't even remotely in the same league as his brother when it came to forced indifference. She saw right through him.

And somehow saying, "I'm sorry Sasuke but I hope we can still be friends" just sounded in her head like pouring salt in the wounds. She still loved him but they could never go back to the way they were. So instead, she just sat up awkwardly, mentally groaning at a sudden vision of herself doing this in her third trimester, and offered him her hand.

Thankful for the distraction, Sasuke help her off of the table and onto the floor. Even if it was all he could do, he wouldn't let her go through this alone.

"I'll have Orochimaru find another medic," he said absentmindedly.

She snorted. "I don't trust that snake."

Sasuke glanced at the door, toward where Isaaku had disappeared. "Why?"

How could she tell him the things she'd learned in Suna? Sasuke would never understand, let alone agree. Gaara had told her that Orochimaru couldn't be trusted, and it was on his word that she felt too much like a prisoner.

'I just traded one cell for another,' she thought dimly.

But she would trade them back in a heartbeat, if she could.

She ignored Sasuke's question and sighed. "Do you think you could convince him to let me leave?"

"Sakura–"

"Please Sasuke I can't stay; I don't belong here."

"Then where do you belong, Sakura?" He asked, annoyed. "You've been branded a traitor in the Land of Fire, and you're carrying the child of the next Kazekage. If you step foot in Konohagakure again, Lady Tsunade will be forced to have you imprisoned; and don't think Danzou won't stoop to having you quietly executed while you await your sentencing – probably long before you could even give birth. And if you return to Suna, you will never see your friends and family ever again. So tell me, where exactly do you belong, Sakura?"

Sakura almost broke his hand when he said that, and dutifully he didn't even wince. Shock replaced anger, and then was exchanged with outright horror at his words.

He was right.

And she broke down, the truth of his words hitting her hard. She wanted to find Gaara and let him hold and comfort her, but the thought of never seeing Naruto, Kakashi, Tsunade and Ino again was just as torturous as never seeing the redhead either. Regretting his harsh words, Sasuke held her close again. But his arms weren't enough, and his voice wasn't soothing her sheer terror. He realised this, and it broke his heart that she no longer saw him this way.

"I'm sorry Sakura," he said, not knowing what else to say. "But I won't let you be executed. You must stay here, at least until I can figure out how to make this all right again."


X X X

And... end scene, lol. ;) Not the length I'd expected. Second longest chapter so far – after number 12 – but I wanted to end it on that note, so it's all good. And don't worry, Gaara's in the next chapter. :) *sighs* Lotsa love! ^_^

R&R.

A quick poll:

Of the following options, which is the most interesting kind of fanon Sasuke to read?

a) Bad guy

b) Redeemed

c) Good guy

d) Other! Tell me!

...