Alright, I know it took me a bit. It's usually four weeks or so before I get a new chapter posted. So, I apologize for the long wait. I have already started Chapter 2. I do sincerely apologize. I don't usually promise my fans times. I see a lot of authors doing that and can't keep to it. So I don't promise anything but it will usually be a few weeks. I try to write ahead for you guys. I balance a lot in my life. :) So bear with me!

I haven't been keeping up with the manga so my stories might be slightly off. I tend to keep characters in good character. So you won't hear Gaara breaking down and begging Sakura to love him and la di da. Also, Sakura has grown a lot more in my stories. There is NO inner Sakura. Alright, I have chattered enough.

I do NOT own Naruto or anything of the sort. Only the idea of THIS particular fanfiction.

Til The Day I Die

Chapter 1

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"Her hair looks like a rats nest"

Sakura narrowed her eyes on her best friend and longtime rival who stood with her hip cocked out with a hand placed upon it like a diva. Ino stared rudely at Emiko's matted mop of dirty hair. Sakura had to agree. It was horrid. The barber who was currently working on the little girl's hair sighed in frustration as she tried to pull the comb through the mess. Emiko grimaced and complained loudly once again.

"Shut up, Pig", Sakura growled. The barber looked up at Sakura and shook her head before saying, "There is nothing I can do. Even if I get these...knots...out, the ends are split and dry. It's best I cut it off"

Sakura looked at Emiko's face, whose eyes grew large as the barber waved her scissors in Sakura's face in exasperation. Sakura sighed and closed her eyes. It had been a long night and she was exhausted. Emiko had clearly been tired during their first encounter.

It had been over twelve hours now since the hellion had darted around Sakura's small apartment squealing in delight at everything she touched in pure wonder. She had had a nice hot bath before a nap in Sakura's room and a hot meal of ramen and dumplings. The child would stop in front of everything of Sakura's and have to touch it, hold it, and cuddle it to her chest as if it were precious treasures. She had darted on top of counters and squealed in joy when Sakura would run over in a panic and place the child's two bare feet back on the floor. They wouldn't even touch the floor and the child would take of running to the next thing.

"Sakura?" Ino brought Sakura back to the barber shop they were standing in. "What do you want to do with Emi-chans hair?" she asked irritably. Sakura pictured herself strangling Ino just to shut up her high pitched crowing voice.

Sakura turned with a bright smile to the barber, who glowered back in annoyance. She felt sheepish really. Emiko sighed and put her head on the head rest in exaggerated show of impatience. The child was truly beautiful now that she was clean. Though her hair was matted, it was clear now it was a deep red, almost black. Her eyes were large childish eyes that took in everything around her and filed it away. She was small for her age. Very petite and short, and way too thin.

"Cut it how you have to" Sakura replied, hurriedly. "We want you to look pretty, ne, Emiko-chan?" Emiko grinned and nodded enthusiastically.

The Kazekage would be here sometime tomorrow and Emiko was almost presentable. Clothes shopping was where Ino came in. Emiko turned forward in her raised chair as the barber instructed her to move her head this way, then look down, straight ahead, don't move. She peered out from the corners of her dark green eyes too look at Sakura. Emiko grinned broadly at her, before turning her eyes back on her reflection as chunk after dark chunk disappeared off her head.

The sun was high, beaming hotly down on the villagers of Konoha as women tended to gardens and children and men worked on projects and laborous things. It was a hot day today but well enjoyed. Children ran through the streets screaming and chasing one another and dogs lounged lazily under shaded trees.

All eyes turned as the trio of sand shinobi and the Kazekage made their way through the streets. Everyone remembered that day years ago at the Chuunin exams. Wearily, people moved aside to watch the progress as the four made their way to the Hokage tower.

They all recognized the Suna Ambassador, Sabaku no Temari. She had a sense of comfort across her features, as she spent a lot of time here in Konoha. Her blond hair, in its usual set of four short pigtails, adorned her head. Her brother Kankurou stood beside her, hands in pockets, looking bored and slightly irritated. As he always did. Nothing seemed to perk this man up bit girls these days.

Gaara walked slightly ahead of them, his arms crossed over his broad chest. He, too, had a sense of boredom that he wanted others to see but Temari knew better. He was nervous. He was obtaining a family of his own today. A wife and adopted child. But still a family. She hoped everything worked out for him. She would try her hardest to help him. He deserved this. He worked so hard these days, locking himself in his office for days at a time without being seen. She hardly ever saw him sleep these days anymore as well. She supposed he was used to it after all.

"Gaara", she began, stepping up beside him. "Are you alright? You seem tense, little brother" She tried to sound teasing and cheery. He sensed this, in her easy smile. He smirked at her before nodding.

"This way, Sakura-chan. I remember the way, hurry up!" Emiko pulled at Sakura's hand as they raced down the corridor to Tsunade's office. Emiko had wanted to say hello and bring Tsunade a batch of fresh flowers for her desk that Emiko said was dirty and needed to be cleaned. The child had short hair now but it seemed to fit her. It framed her pretty little face and made her look impish and fey. She reminded Sakura of a hummingbird, flitting around without a pause. The child had boundless energy, like Naruto-kun. Sakura sighed. Naruto, Sasuke, Neji, and Tenten were all out on a mission and wouldn't be back until a week after Sakura had departed for Suna.

A frown tilted the corners of her lips. Suna. Where it is overly hot. It wouldn't be so bad if it was not dry. But it was so dry and hot and sandy. There would be sand everywhere. On her chest, hair, thighs, even in her underwear by the time she would return from just walking a block. It had been horrible. Temari had insisted she just was not used to it and it was home to them all. It was beautiful in its own right and would grow on Sakura if she visited more often. Now...it had all the growing it wanted. And it better.

A hard jerk on Sakura's wrist pulled her back to the present events as Emiko turned another corner and darted faster forward. Sakura stumbled and laughed aloud. "Emiko-chan, slow down! Hey!"

"No time to slow, Sakura-chan, Tsunade will need help with her desk. It's dirty!"

"It's always looked like that. No help for it, I'm afraid" Sakura replied. The child was intelligent beyond her years. Her speech was impeccable and had no childish lisps or stutters. She spoke fluidly and clearly.

The double doors to her Shishou's office loomed closer and closer at the end of the hallway. A chuunin stood outside the door as always. He looked at the child and pink haired girl barreling towards him and stepped aside, recognizing Sakura. "Hello, Isunu-san!" Sakura said. Isunu opened the door to the left for them. Emiko waved politely at the chuunin and ran straight in to the room ahead.

Tsunade was sitting at her desk with her hands folded on the desk as they ran in to the room. Her face was unreadable as she looked at something directly to her left and said something before her eyes turned and narrowed before widening at the pair coming fast down the hallway. As they entered the threshold, Emiko came to a sudden hault, causing Sakura to ram straight in to her, knocking them both to a sprawl in front of Tsunade's desk.

"Sa-ku-ra" Tsunade stood slowly, gnashing her teeth together in a desperate show for patience. Sakura gulped bravely before standing slowly and giving Tsunade a smile of apology before helping Emiko to her feet. She groaned and rubbed her left elbow before her eyes turned and locked to her left.

Tsunade glared at Sakura before closing her eyes and taking a relaxing breath. Sakura seemed to have been enjoying herself. "Sakura, I was just about to send for you. The Kazekage has arrived, as you can see" she stated sarcastically before gesturing to where Emiko had locked her eyes. Sakura stiffened, refusing to turn and look at the man. Her heart hammered behind her ribs. If it beat any harder, she was sure everyone would be able to hear it. It roared in her own ears.

I can't do this! I can't do this! Of course you can! You are a Konoha ANBU.

Straightening her shoulders, attempting to look brave, she turned and looked at the three standing in the corner of the room. The three sand siblings stood there, quietly watching the exchange between mentor and student. Temari smirked at Sakura before giving a small wave. Temari and her had grown close over the trips to Suna and Temari's many trips to Konoha as ambassador. She had been one of her only friends in Suna during her short stays.

Kankurou stood next to Temari on her right. He didn't look any different as he always had. His face adorned with purple war lines. His trusty scrolls strapped to his back. He looked down right bored but amused. He flashed a cocky grin Sakura's way before winking. Sakura rolled her eyes at him before moving on to the only one left.

Gaara of the Sand. He stood like a statue, looking emotionlessly at not her but Emiko. His pale green eyes were devote of emotion. His arms were crossed across his white and blue traditional Kage robes of Wind. He was missing the hat so his kanji and his unruly head of deep red hair was viewable. It had grown. But so had all of him. He was now taller than Temari and had filled out. His arms were larger and his chest and shoulders were broad. His face had squared out to a mans face. Nothing of the boy he used to be since his attack was, the same. He was a man now.

As if sensing her perusal of him, he turned those blank eyes on her face. His eyes did a once over before turning to Tsunade. "This is her?" he asked stoically. The child was beautiful. For being only four, she was small but a wisdom he had seen in many of the Suna children hid in the depths of those green eyes. The woman next to her, Sakura Haruno, moved closer to the girl. She placed her body slightly in front of the child without realizing what she had intended to do.

The woman was rather short. Five five perhaps. Maybe slightly taller. She had become a rather attactive woman. Her exotic pink hair was no longer than it had been when he had seen her on that fateful day many years ago. They had been young then. Much younger than their twenty four now. Her face was all soft edges and smooth curves. Like a woman's face should be. Gentle but strong. She stood straight but not to the point to intimidate or put off.

She wore something similar to her outfit from years past. The same tall black sandaled boots adorned her legs and the thigh wrap and compression shorts were still there. The wrap medical skirt was a deeper pink. The shirt that she now wore was black, tighter in the chest. The sleeves were to her elbows. She did not wear her black gloves but they were tucked into the small black weapons pouch on her right hip.

He took all this in in a matter of seconds.

"Yes, Kazekage-sama. This is Emiko-san. You know Sakura-san, I presume?" Tsunade replied, watching the Kazekage watch the child and her student. She couldn't read him. He gave a slight incline of his head in acknowledgment.

He turned that gaze back to the child, who turned her head in to Sakura's skirt and watched him through one eye. Her small pale handed lifted to grab a hand full of the dark pink skirt. The woman placed her hand gently on the child's head. Gaara narrowed his eyes only slightly. Her hair had recently been shorn off. It was as short as his own.

"Correct. I am pleased to have met you, Emiko-san"

The child hid her face completely in Haruno's skirt. Sakura kneeled down beside her. "Emiko-chan, why don't you say hello to..." She looked up at Gaara, asking silent permission to use his first name for the child's benefit. She was going to marry this man, after all. She might as well get used to using it herself. Gaara bowed his head slightly, as if understanding. "...Gaara-san. He is going to take you back to Suna. Isn't that great? Back to all your friends and...sand. It'll be fun!"

Emiko looked appalled. She glanced at Gaara before turning back to Sakura for comfort. She was such a nice person. Her hair was pretty, too. "Are you coming with me? I want you to come, too."

"Of course I am! I'm going to be with you for a long time, ne? Like a big sister" Sakura said, not wanting to startle the child by saying mother just yet. "And Gaara-san, well, he is going to be like your brother. It will be like an adventure"

Emiko peeked over at Gaara before turning bravely too him. "I don't think he wants to by my brother, Sakura-chan", she whispered, meeting his aquamarine gaze fully.

Gaara looked up at Sakura. Temari cleared her throat, noticing Emiko become nervous under his stare. "Can I pick you up, Emiko-chan?" Temari smiled and stepped forward, trying to look as friendly as she was able.

Sakura just smiled when Emiko narrowed her eyes at Temari innocently before making her decision. Emiko smiled and put her arms out to be picked up. Temari gladly obliged, making a big show of acting as if the child were heavy. Emiko giggled her approval. She sat comfortably against Temari's hip where she looked her in the eyes.

It was beautiful, the scene in front of Sakura. Emiko was in the arms of her new Aunt. Though the child was unaware of it at this time. She was quite content with being held by Temari that she didn't notice Sakura cross the room to where the Kazekage stood next to his older brother who still, at this time, looked rather bored with the while situation. Obviously, he was not a kid person. Gaara…was harder to read. He seemed the kind of person who would not be able to tolerate the innocent joyfulness of children. But if he did not, why take this child with no family left in to his home and make her part of his life. He was the Kazekage after all. He didn't have time for a child but then…neither would he have time for his Kazehime, his wife.

She smiled as she approached him. He was gazing over at Temari and Emiko, who was playing with one of Temari's little pigtails and squealing in delight when Temari would shake her head in the girl's face, where they tickled the child's nose. Is this what Temari and Kankurou had had with their mother? Love and joy? Perhaps he could give this to the kid. It would not be so difficult a task. He glanced up as Haruno stepped into his line of vision, looking a little nervous, a small smile on her lips.

"Kazekage-sama. Sakura. I'd like a word with the both of you privately, if I may" Sakura glanced up as Tsunade gestured for the two of them to her desk where she was writing on a document on her desk. She looked bored and irritated as always. Sakura huffed. She would have to talk to Gaara later.

"What can I do for you, Shishou?"

Tsunade grunted before gesturing to the paper she had been working on. "I need the both of you to sign this" Tsunade handed the paper over to Gaara even as Sakura reached her hand out for it. Sakura snarled under her breath in annoyance. How snobby l of them both.

Sakura crossed her arms over her chest and huffed as Gaara took his time reading over the paperwork before glancing at Sakura who continued to huff quite loudly next to him.

"Transfer papers, Haruno-san" he explained, not that he needed to. She had already read the paper where she was standing but was only making a show of annoyance with her Shishou. Gaara smirked before handing the paper to her to let her examine it.

Her green eyes skimmed the wording before narrowing slightly. "I will be working under…the Kazekage as well as the hospital? I don't understand…"

"The Kazehime is just as important as myself. You will be my personal assistant in a way. As well as dealing more with the public than myself" Gaara spoke quietly and evenly to Sakura. Her face soured before she leaned her head back slightly and sighed. She acted as if he wanted this any more than her. He had no time for a woman. He would barely have time for Emiko let alone a wife in his home but Emiko would need a mother to care for her as Temari had her own life to live and was constantly on the move. He was being ridden hard by the elders to marry and start his line of heirs. Every Kazekage had had a Kazehime by his side.

Sakura put the paperwork on the desk before reaching for the pen that Tsunade held out to her. She snatched it away viciously before putting the tip on the paper but paused. This was it. Her whole life on this sheet of paper. This changed her from a Konoha ANBU shinobi to Suna royalty. From being with her friends to a married woman. Working in Konohagakure hospital to Sunagakure hospital. Her whole life on this sheet of paper. Did she want this? No. Did she have a choice? Not really. Quickly, before she changed her mind, she signed quickly and slammed the pen down and whirled around where Temari had Emiko sitting on the floor with her.

Without thinking, Sakura grabbed Emiko in to her arms and storming out of the Hokage office, tears brimming in her eyes. Her life had just changed so fast that it left her head spinning.

"SAKURA!" she heard Tsunade yell before she started to run with Emiko in her arms. She didn't listen. She did her part. She needed to pack hers and Emiko's things.

Temari looked shocked before her eyes narrowed and she growled as Sakura ran down the hall and out of sight. "Gaara, she just took off with Emiko-chan!"

Gaara looked down the hall as he watched the woman retreat. Running away wasn't going to make this better. He closed his eyes before signing the transfer papers for Haruno. He placed the pen down directly in the middle of the paper before straightening to his full height. Temari had started to walk out of the office to find Haruno, he guessed.

"Temari" he spoke quietly but she heard as she turned to look at him. He shook his head at her.

She looked stunned. "She just took off with-"

"Her adopted daughter. As is her right. The child is her right" Gaara interrupted.

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A/N: Thanks for reading. Please review. Let me know what you think. :)

-Firefly