"Keep climbing trees and you'll get more bruises." Zetsu said as he watched the small girl climb the branches of an enormous tree situated on hill. Sakura giggled and kept on climbing higher.
"Who was the one who keeps saying 'the only one you can count on is yourself'?" Sakura recited, pitching her voice as low as she could. She broke out into another fit of giggles before finally settling on one of the wider branches and staring at the purple-pink hues of the horizon. Zetsu sighed and sat down at the base of the tree.
"This is what you get for telling her a bunch of bullshit. Shut up. I don't need to hear it from you."
He looked at the two baskets beside him, both filled with blueberries. Earlier in the day, Sakura had tugged him along to pick these ripe fruits. He went along with it, thinking it would only take thirty minutes or an hour at most. He most certainly didn't anticipate spending the entire afternoon plucking blueberries and talking about whimsical little things. Zetsu sighed a second time. Actually, he never anticipated spending much of his time with a little girl. The situation was almost laughable.
"Zetsu-san, you saw that butterfly in the bushes, right? And it broke out of the shell thingy? Why did it do that?" Sakura questioned.
"That butterfly was that caterpillar you made friends with a while back. Remember that you said he disappeared and all that was left was that 'weird shell thingy'? The caterpillar turned into that shell before becoming the butterfly."
He looked up and saw Sakura's face filled with utter astonishment.
"Amazing..." she muttered. She leaned back onto the bark and stared up at the the green leaves above her. Sakura reached upwards until her fingertips felt their waxy surfaces. "Zetsu-san, are you happy?"
He tilted his head to the side as he folded his arms behind his head.
"...I don't know. I wasn't made to be happy."
Sakura didn't know why, but his reply made her heart feel sad. She sat still on that tree branch for a good while before putting on her best smile.
"Well, I'm happy, Zetsu-san!" she chirped. She slowly started making her way down the tree with Zetsu watching her carefully, making sure she didn't fall.
"Yup! I'm happy all the time! I'm able to spend all my time with Mama, Papa, Deidara-san, Tobi-san, Kakuzu-san, Itachi-san, Kisame-san, Hidan-san, Sasori-san, and you, Zetsu-san! I love everyone and I'm so lucky to have such wonderful people in my family! I dun' care what people say 'bout you guys!"
She was already halfway down the tree when Zetsu raised an eyebrow.
"What people say about us?"
"When I went to get groceries with Kisame-san, he did this jutsu that made him look different but I stayed the same. And there were these guys who kept talking about 'Katsuki sayin' that they're 'no good' and that they're 'awful people' and they're 'monsters', but I know that's not true!"
Sakura was now firmly on the ground with her tiny hands balled into fists. Her face was flushed red with anger and her eyes were absolutely furious.
"Why do people gotta' talk bad about you guys?!" she exclaimed. Her voice was squeaking at the end of her sentences, "Why do people say they hate you?! They 'aven't even met you guys b'fore so they shouldn't be saying such mean things!"
Tears started forming at the corners of her eyes, and for the first time, Zetsu felt slightly panicked and at a loss of what to do. He crouched down and wiped the tears from her eyes with his sleeve.
"... You don'tneed to cry..." he tried. Sakura sniffed.
"B-But why do they gotta do that?! You guys aren't bad people, I know you aren't... Everyone's nice an' kind an' why can't nobody see that?!"
It's been a long time since Zetsu had felt any sort of guilt. Maybe even the first time. Here was this naive girl crying about how they were good people even though it wasn't true, and he couldn't force himself to tell her any different. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand to try to make them stop while Zetsu went to pick up the blueberry baskets. He held his free hand out for her to grab. She stared up at him, eyes red-rimmed and puffy.
"Let's go home. We'll make a blueberry cake for everyone to eat. Would you like to do that?"
A wobbly smile surfaced from her tear-stained cheeks.
As they walked home together, Zetsu couldn't make that guilty feeling leave his stomach. He knew that the Akatsuki weren't good people at all, himself included. They didn't deserve those tears from her.
And they sure as hell didn't deserve her unconditional love.