Akatsuki Babysitters

Of Butterflies and Flowers

It was snowing outside.

Deidara first took notice of the beautiful crystals that gently floated down. He smiled to himself. Sakura had been waiting a long while for this time of year to roll around again. He walked to her room and knocked twice before letting himself in.

"Sakura, did you see that it's snowing outside?" he asked happily. She was still wrapped in the covers on her bed with deep red dusting on her cheeks.

"... Is it?" she rasped before she was struck with a bout of coughing. Deidara sat at the edge of her bed and felt her neck.

"Probably a fever, hm..." he muttered to himself, "So, how are you feeling, un? Tired? Nauseous? Hot? Cold?"

"I'm... I'm really tired..." she murmured. Deidara gently stroked her hair.

"Get back to sleep, then. I'll get some medicine for you and I'll get the idiot to whip up some ramen or something, hm." he said. She nodded, but as he turned around, she reached out and grasped the hem of his shirt. He looked over his shoulder.

"Mm? What is it?"

"I... I have something to tell you... about me being sick... Deidara-s-san..."

"She's dying?" Kisame questioned incredulously, "What do you mean she's dying?"

"Her bone marrow is producing abnormal myeloblasts, a type of white blood cell. Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. We've taken her to numerous specialists and they can't do anything about it. There was a treatment called chemotherapy, but the development of it is still in its early stages so much so that it's too risky to use on her. She has a fever running now and it's taking an even bigger toll on her body. I don't know how much time she has left. Not much, I imagine." Konan explained quietly.

She stood before the others, straight-faced as ever, but her eyes were among the saddest ones he had ever seen. Itachi, who was also in the room, didn't say a word and merely kept up his level gaze even after Konan had spoken. He didn't know what else to do. Was he shocked? Of course he was. There was nothing at all that hinted to the fact that she was sick, much less dying. There had been the bruises, but using her clumsiness as an excuse had made them all fall for her lie.

Once Konan dismissed herself, both Kisame and Itachi walked to the kitchen to find Kakuzu reading through medical papers with Sasori looking over his shoulder.

"Cancer, eh?" Sasori drawled, "I certainly wasn't expecting that. Sakura knew it was going to happen to her too, Deidara had told me."

"Sakura knew? Well, what did she tell Deidara-san?" asked Kisame.

"She said she didn't tell us because she didn't want us to worry about her. She didn't want us thinking that she was just another body with a timer. She wanted both her and us to be happy with the time we spent, all without the thought that she'd be gone sooner that she... we would've liked."

It was silent.

Hidan, who had not uttered a single word the entire time since he had learned of Sakura's condition, scoffed from his seat at the kitchen island, his back facing everyone else.

"Of course she'd say some shit like that. She always does."

They couldn't disagree with him.

"Aren't you busy, Papa?"

"Yes. But that does not mean I cannot take the time out of my day to visit you."

"But... But Papa's sick too! You shouldn't-!"

"Hush, Sakura. I am quite alright."

Sakura wasn't convinced in the slightest but kept her mouth shut. Nagato, who was seated on the bed beside his daughter, smoothed down her hair. All Akatsuki members were absent this current moment, giving him the perfect opportunity to come visit his daughter himself. Her words were right, though. He really shouldn't be out and about by himself.

His body was still unstable, being as weak and malnourished as he was, and his chakra levels were still rather low. Konan had even argued against him to keep him from moving, but he absolutely had to. It didn't feel right socializing with Sakura from Pein's body, and it certainly wasn't fair to her either. She deserved a father that was always there for her. Not somebody like him who was always holed away in a tree in a different country.

"I regret not being here for you when you needed me most." he said quietly, "I know that no matter how much time I spend with you now will not make up for the time I had been away."

She smiled up at him.

"You don't haf'ta say sorry. It's not your fault that you're busy! You have a job to do and I don't wanna get in the way."

...God, he was an awful father. Nagato laid down beside her where she promptly snuggled into his chest. She frowned.

"You need ta' eat, Papa. You're gonna get more sick. You're all bone!" she exclaimed before coughing a few times. Nagato shut his eyes and exhaled slowly before wrapping his arms around his daughter and bringing her closer. How could he let this happen to her? His own flesh and blood... sick without a cure. And she was so accepting of it that the mere thought of it broke his heart. He loved her, really, he did. He should've shown her.

He should've been the one at her side every day- the one she'd tell her stories to and the one to teach her all the things she needed to know when she grew up. But instead, he had the Akatsuki who raised her for him. Nagato owed everything to every single one of them. They were there for her when he wasn't. They were her family when he couldn't be. They were her life when he had his own miles away.

Sakura looked up at him worriedly.

"... Papa... why're you crying, Papa...?"

He placed a kiss to her forehead.

"Remember that I love you, Sakura. I always have, and I always will. You deserve a much better father than anyone I could have become." he said. Sakura's pale hands reached up to wipe away his tears.

"I only have one Papa, and that Papa is the only one I'd ever want!" she exclaimed, grinning brightly. Seeing that look on her face, Nagato couldn't help himself. His hold on her tightened as he hugged her.

"Sakura... Please... Please don't go..."

Dawn had just broken in, and it was raining. Deidara was at Sakura's bedside with his sketchbook and colored pencils. Sakura was nestled comfortably in her sheets, watching him draw all sorts of eyes. She smiled.

"I like that one." Sakura said, pointing to one narrowed with a striking blue and purple contrast.

"Do you? I like it too, hm. Do you want me to draw someone with these eyes, un?" he asked. She thought about it for a minute before shaking her head.

"I think the eyes are really pretty, but I think you should draw something prettier." she suggested as cheerily as she could. He set down his sketchbook and took the towel off her forehead to dip it in ice water and ring it out before placing it back to where it was before.

"And what would that be, hm?"

"Butterflies. Could you draw me butterflies, Deidara-san?"

He forced a small smile onto his face.

"... Alright, un. If that's what you want."

Before he could pick up his sketchbook, her weak hand lifted up and tugged at his sleeves. He raised his eyes only to find her worried.

"Please don't be sad, Deidara-san." she said. "Smile for real, like this!"

She gave him a brilliant grin. When he mimicked the grin, Sakura clapped her hands giddily.

"See, Deidara-san?! Isn't that much better?!" she chirped. He chuckled in spite of himself and tousled Sakura's hair.

"Much better, hm."

They sat in silence for a little while longer with Deidara sketching butterflies all over the page. Once half the page was covered with small butterflies, he sighed and set down his things on Sakura's nightstand.

"Do you remember the time we went to the beach, Sakura, un?"

She brightened up at the memory.

"I remember! It was so fun! We built sandcastles, buried Kisame-san neck deep in the sand, and watched as you and Hidan-san had a competition of who could swim the fastest!" she grinned. That memory was one of the ones engraved so perfectly in her mind. Deidara smiled sadly.

"It was fun, hm. One of the few times I've had fun in a long, long time."

Fun. That was a hard word to try to associate the Akatsuki with. Sakura snuggled into her bed and held onto Deidara's hand as she did so. As she fell asleep, she failed to notice the way Deidara clenched his teeth and cover his eyes with his free hand.

Sakura happily slurped up the ramen Tobi made her for breakfast. He sat on the chair beside her bed, staring down at his hands. Sparing a glance to the side, he couldn't help but wonder how she could keep on such a happy face everyday.

"Sakura..."

She looked at him with cheeks full of noodles.

"Hm? Wha' ish it?"

"... How do you keep a smile on your face?"

Sakura hummed and chewed before setting the bowl down on her nightstand.

"I'm never sad. I think that's why." she answered. "Why'd you ask, Tobi-san? Is it because you can't keep a smile on your face? Or... maybe you already do. Do you? I dunno. You don't take your mask off a lot."

Tobi smirked and slipped off his mask, setting it next to the ramen bowl. He leaned back in his chair and stared at the ceiling.

"You're right. I can't really keep a smile on my face. It's been very hard for me ever since my genin team thought I died. Through everything that's happened... I haven't found the time to be happy." he said. He had a hollow smile on his face as he said that, sending a shiver down Sakura's spine. But she was curious about something.

"Why? Everyone has the time to be happy if they make the time. What happened?" she questioned.

"Well... I got injured and spent a very long time healing. During that time, someone I cared for was killed by someone I knew. After that, I came to the Akatsuki and began to pull the strings from behind the scenes. As I said, I didn't have the time."

Someone he cared for was killed by someone he knew?

"Do you blame that person for killing that someone you cared for?"

"Of course!" Tobi snapped, causing Sakura to jump a bit. He didn't notice, "He killed her! He impaled her chest with his chidori!"

He clenched his teeth to try to keep his anger in as his head fell into his hands. He murmured a 'sorry' and inwardly berated himself for losing his cool in front of her. When he composed himself and turned his attention back to her, she had a contemplative look in her eyes.

"Tobi-san... let's say that you're really thirsty and you have a cup of dirty water."

"...Okay...?"

Tobi wasn't sure about how to feel about such a random thought, but went along with it.

"In front of you is a really pretty, clear river. Since you're really thirsty, you'd want to drink that water, right?"

"Yeah. That makes sense."

"So what are you gonna do with that dirty water?" she asked. Tobi furrowed his eyebrows. Wasn't the answer obvious?

"I'd get rid of it. There's no need for me to have it with such clean water in front of me." he answered. Sakura smiled and patted to the spot on the bed beside her. He moved to sit on her red silk sheets. Her window rattled a bit from the strong winds outside.

"I know you can't ever change the past, Tobi-san. It's like the dirty water in your cup. Even if you try to clean it as best as you can, it'll never be that 100% pure water. And that's okay, y'know? You have so much ahead of you, all that clean water you could drink from! If you keep that dirty water with you, you're just gonna be thirsty, and you can't do nothin' about it. If you just keep drinking it, you're just gonna keep gettin' yourself sick."

He exhaled through his nose and looked at her with sorrowful eyes.

"I can't forgive him, Sakura..."

She placed her hands on his.

"You won't ever know until you try! Keep your heart open and if bad things can get in, good things can get in too! Isn't that right, Tobi-san?"

Her eyes were wide and hopeful, making him sigh and giving her a small smile.

"Obito."

"E-Eh?"

"You can call me Obito. It's my real name, after all."

He sat there, reading through his bounties silently with Sakura snoozing quietly in her bed. Kakuzu couldn't keep himself from wondering as his eyes drifted to her fragile form.

"What would you have become, I wonder..." he murmured. Sakura was so young who had such a bright future ahead of herself. Had being the key word. For her, they each planned to teach her the gist of their specialties to see what she would excel or be interested in. Deidara with his bombs, Itachi with genjutsu, Kisame with swordsmanship, and so on and so forth.

He remembered one day especially when he was dealing with finances amongst everyone else. He didn't know how the topic of the conversation had changed, but it did and nearly everyone failed to to notice. The Akatsuki were talking about her future as if she were one of their own. It wasn't too long ago, actually.

Maybe he was the only one who noticed as he was a silent observer. Kisame, Hidan, Deidara... they were genuinely ecstatic with small smiles on their faces as they discussed a training regime for Sakura once she turned six. Kakuzu received a startling epiphany in that moment.

They were changing.

No, it wasn't one of those dramatic changes that happened with the snap of one's fingers, nor was it the sudden thought that they needed to better themselves overnight. That was definitely not the case. Every member of the Akatsuki seemed to have the exact same personality as they had before, but something in their actions had somewhat... differed.

Kakuzu had to watch them for a few moments longer before he realized it. Their actions had changed because they were happy.

Happiness was a word uttered so scarcely and shown so little in the organization that Kakuzu wouldn't be surprised if someone began to forget what the word actually meant. At first, he thought he was surely losing his goddamn mind. They were changing? Because of a little girl?

Ha.

A ridiculous notion.

Yet as ridiculous as it sounded, here he was, sitting at the bedside of a dying child when he didn't even need to be here. Kakuzu sighed heavily and shut his book.

He was one of the most powerful, feared missing-nins who had ever dared to carry the title. He had killed hundreds over the course of his life and not once did he regret it. He was a cold-blooded murderer. A monster.

Kakuzu looked out the window. It was still the early afternoon and snow was falling softly to the ground.

But he couldn't bring himself to leave the room.

"Ice cream?!"

Kisame put a finger to his lips as he shut the door with his back. Sakura quickly covered her mouth, as if to erase her surprised exclamation.

"Ice cream?" she repeated, this time lowering her voice to a whisper. She couldn't keep her happiness and joy out of her voice when he stepped in with a small bowl of rocky road ice cream.

"Just a bit, kiddo. But don't tell anyone I gave you some."

Sakura whisper shouted a 'thank you' before grabbing the bowl and immediately scooping a spoonful of ice cream into her mouth. She melted as the chocolate-y taste touched her tongue.

"You're the bestest, Kisame-san!"

He grinned and tousled her hair.

"Alright, alright. But seriously, don't tell anyone I did this. They'll have my ass for it."

Sakura giggled and stuffed more ice cream into her mouth. Kisame let the grin fall from his face as he eased into his seat. In the beginning he didn't believe that Sakura was really sick. How could he? She was so cheerful all the time that it would have never crossed his mind that she had a terminal disease. She said she didn't want to worry them...

Kami, he didn't think someone could be so selfless. She was dying and all she wanted was for them not to worry. Hell, she didn't even look like she was afraid of death! Sakura was a child. She shouldn't have been so accepting, or even understand, what fate had in store for her.

When Kisame first saw her in her bed, pale and far more thin than she needed to be, his stomach dropped and finally settled with the fact that Sakura wasn't going to make it. A humorless smile creased his face and he raised his fingers to massage his temple.

How ironic was it? The first person to die in the Akatsuki, a criminal organization, was the person who didn't do anything wrong in the first place.

"You're a good kid, Sakura." he said. She looked at him with a mouth full of ice cream and a bright grin gracing her lips.

"Than' 'shu, Kishame-shan!" she exclaimed, "After this, can 'shu take me ou'shide?"

Kisame peered out the window. The sun was high in the sky it being only midday, and the weather seemed relatively decent.

"Sure, why not? I'll just refill your humidifier and we'll get going."

Sakura was sitting up in her bed with a mug of milk and honey in her hands. Her throat was looking a little worse for wear and she had woken up in the middle of the night because of the discomfort. Itachi came into her room a few minutes later with a cup of warm milk to soothe her throat. She was even more ecstatic when he sat down in the chair when he decided to keep her company for the next few hours.

Rain pelted the window and the low rumble of thunder hummed in their ears. Itachi was without a book this very early morning. Normally, he would silently read a book if he wasn't listening to Sakura babble on and on about her day.

"Sasori mentioned that you enjoyed listening to stories, and I understand that Hidan comes often to read you those illustrious novels."

Sakura's eyebrows furrowed.

"... Fairy tales. I meant fairy tales."

She beamed.

"For a long time, nearly a year now, you've told me countless things about yourself. You've also shared much of your knowledge and blatant curiosity. Perhaps, before it's too late, I should return the favor."

Her eyes brightened as every ounce of her attention was glued to him. Itachi was ready to tell her about his past life and experiences. More importantly, he was going to talk about the boy in the picture.

"Once, I had a little brother named Sasuke, the boy in the picture. He's five years my junior. When we were younger, he would always follow me around and ask me to spend time with him. I was busy, but every now and then I would make time for him. I loved him. In fact, I still do. Thought I can't say the same about how he feels about me." he sighed. "When I was thirteen, I killed my entire family except for him. He resents me deeply for it, and I expect nothing less."

Itachi expected even the slightest form of disgust from Sakura or even a disapproving frown. But her eyes, as young as they were, were understanding and reassuring. Those eyes calmed him a bit as he continued with his story.

"He turns sixteen this year. But for the past eight years of his life, he's been getting stronger for the sole purpose of killing me, like I expected him to. But I didn't expect him to be fully consumed by his lust for revenge. He even left the village to get stronger- something I never wanted him to do. Sasuke didn't deserve all the things I did to him, so when the times comes for us to truly meet again, I will allow him to kill me."

"You can't!" Sakura exclaimed. Her throat burned viciously from her outburst and she took a big gulp of her milk. Itachi pulled out a sketch pad and pencil from her drawer and handed it over to her. She scribbled down her thoughts quickly and sloppily.

You gota live!

"My reason for living was for him, Sakura. I didn't want him to be corrupted from my clan's ideals and I wanted to free him. I was given the chance when I was ordered to kill the clan. If killing me will make him happy, then I will welcome death with open arms." he said. Sakura looked so sad after hearing this and her eyes grew glossy. She scribbled some more.

Dont you hav anothr reeson? Arnt you hapy here wid the Akatski?

Itachi poked her forehead.

"My happiness doesn't matter. Don't worry, Sakura. I'll be alright."

So that means... soon, I get ta see you in the stars?

He smiled softly and nodded.

"Aa. We'll be together in the stars, and we'll wait for everyone else."

A small pile of fairy tale books were at Hidan's feet, most of them already having been read through. The one he was currently reading was 'The Vampire Princess'. When he had finished, he glanced at Sakura's face. Her eyebrows were furrowed and her cheeks were puffed out.

"Oi, oi, oi. What's with the face?" he teased, "Don't over think things, you'll hurt yourself, seriously."

She stuck her tongue out at him.

"I'm just confused, Hidan-san." she pouted.

"About what?"

"Well... about the princess. Since she lives in the land of vampires, she gets to be young forever, right? She never grows up and she'll never die, so she's immortal. Is she... happy that she doesn't have to go through life?" she asked. Hidan took off his reading glasses and placed it in an inner pocket of his cloak that was hanging on his chair.

"How do I explain this... everyone has a different kind of 'happy', Sakura. You might not think someone's happy, but that's just from your point of view. For the Vampire Princess, she was just happy to live forever." he tried to explain.

"But what about the human boy she fell in love with? She didn't end up with him in the end. All she did was watch him grow old, have a family, then die. Actually... the Vampire Princess kinda reminds me of you, Hidan-san."

"Hah?" Hidan said, confused that the subject of the conversation had now fallen upon him. Sakura nodded furiously, making herself slightly dizzy. She snuggled into her pillow.

"You're immortal, aren't you, Hidan-san?" she questioned.

"Well... yeah. Basically."

"So does that make you happy? Being immortal? Not being about to grow old?"

Hidan opened his mouth, as his answer should be obvious. The word 'yes' should have flown out quickly and leisurely like is was the most conspicuous thing in the world- but Hidan closed his mouth and looked at the book in his hands. Did this immortal life make him happy? It was a few steps higher than his childhood.

Hell, the only reason he turned to Jashin was because he had nothing. He was born in downtown Yugakure. A place filled to the brim with shady figures and low-lives. His mother was a prostitute, but she was a good woman. She took on two other jobs during the day to make sure they had food on the table daily. He truly did love his mother, but she was raped and killed when he was eleven.

At fifteen, he found the cult. They offered him everything, and he took it because he had nothing to lose. Was he happy that his life turned out this way?

"... No. I'm not happy." he answered, "I'm tired of bowing my head to the name 'Jashin'. I'm tired of sacrificing people all the time. I'm tired of acting like a voodoo doll just to appease some fuck that doesn't exist!"

Sakura had shrunk a bit into her covers when he started to raise his voice. When Hidan saw this, he let out a shaky exhale and ran a hand through his unkempt hair.

"Sorry, kid. I didn't mean to get loud." he apologized.

"S'okay. Can I... Can I asked you one more question? Just one more and I'll stop." she said. Hidan shrugged. Another question couldn't hurt. "It's just that what you said was confusing too. If you're unhappy with your life, how come you haven't done anything about it?"

It was snowing outside. The fall was gentle and peppered the ground just enough so that a thin blanket of pure white covered everything that was open to the evening sky.

"I can't change. Not now. Not with how far I've come."

...

"You know, Hidan-san. I saw a caterpillar a couple of months ago." Sakura said suddenly, a smile on her face. Hidan raised an eyebrow at the change of topic.

"Oh? Did you?"

"Mm! It was black and white and yellow and striped all over!" she exclaimed, "It stayed in one of the bushes and I went out to go see it every day before I had ta' go back inside and eat lunch. All the caterpillar did was eat and eat until it got all big and puffy. It was so cute!"

Hidan grimaced. He hated bugs.

"But one day, I didn't see the caterpillar. I looked all around the bush, but I couldn't find it. All I saw was the green and yellow shell thingy hanging from one of the twigs. It was really weird and I still went to go see it everyday, since I couldn't find the caterpillar. After a little while, something amazing happened! The shell thingy broke and a butterfly with orange wings came out! I told that to Zetsu-san and he told me that the caterpillar was the one that turned into the shell-thingy that turned into the butterfly!"

It was hard not to smile at her enthusiasm.

"So do you get it now, Hidan-san?" she asked. He stared at her blankly, making her sigh dramatically.

"Kakuzu-san was right. You are dumb."

"Wha-tch-f-what the hell are you doing listening to that bastard?!" he sputtered incredulously. Sakura giggled and coughed a few times before getting into a comfortable sleeping position.

"I'm just kidding, Hidan-san. I don't think you're dumb, even when Kakuzu-san keeps on saying it."

Damn Kakuzu for trying to fill her head with goddamn lies.

"But I still want you to think about it m'kay?" she murmured, sleep quickly creeping into her system, "Just think you're the squishy caterpillar and tell me when you've found a way to grow your wings."

She slept soundly right after, her light breathing the only sound in the room. Hidan looked at her for a bit before turning his gaze to the scythe that was sitting at the other corner of the room. He sighed.

"Goddammit..."

"How are you feeling today, sweetheart?"

"I'm okay, Mama. I wanna hear about your day! Did'ya do anything cool?"

Konan loved this aspect about her daughter. No matter the situation, she would always try to be as cheerful as she could, for her and everyone around her. It was a wonder how Sakura became how she was being surrounded by people like them. But she was content that Sakura was who she was. The ray of sunshine in the Akatsuki's darkness.

"Nagato was right..." she murmured.

"Huh? What about Papa?" Sakura asked. Konan shook her head.

"Nothing, darling. As for my day... no, I didn't do much. I scouted for missions for everyone else to take."

"That's still cool, Mama! You got to go outside! I miss goin' outside sometimes like I did before. But I guess that's okay. I don't think I'm gonna stay here much longer." Sakura said. Konan pressed her lips into a thin line and cast her eyes downward. How could such a little girl say that with that breathtaking smile on her face? Didn't it hurt to know your death could come in a week, a few days, or maybe even tomorrow? Sakura saw this and grabbed Konan's hand.

"I'm not afraid to die anymore, Mama. It's gonna be okay."

When she stared into her daughter's eyes, those beautiful emerald eyes, she could see how happy they were. There was no trace of regret or sadness, just her pure, innocent, untroubled joy.

"How do you know it'll be okay, angel?" she questioned softly, "How do you know that everything will turn out alright?"

"Those are easy questions, Mama! Even though I'm gonna be gone, that doesn't mean nobody's gonna be happy. I'm gonna make sure everyone gets ta' be happy or else I'm not gonna go. Right, Mama? Isn't that a good idea?"

Konan smiled.

"Of course it is, honey. And what will you do to make sure everyone gets to be happy?"

Sakura grinned and put a finger to her lips.

"It's a secret~!"

"Sasori-san, could you tell me a story?"

Sasori snapped out of his inner musings and turned his attention towards the little girl.

"What kind of story would you like to hear?" he inquired softly. Sakura was silent for a few moments, pondering while sipping at her orange juice.

"Hmm... whatever you wanna talk about." she decided, "I'll listen to any story Sasori-san will tell me."

She was as cheerful as she could be despite the fact that she was now bedridden. The curtains in her room were drawn back to show the gently rising sun along the horizon.

"Is that so?... Then I'll tell you about someone I've mentioned before. Kaede." he said.

"Kaede-san...? Oh, the lady you talked about when were watching the sunrise with Deidara-san!"

"Yes. That one. Kaede. Now where do I begin... When I first met her, I was already a missing-nin. I stopped for some tea in a small, inconspicuous town in Fire Country when I was sure the hunter-nins had stopped following me. My waitress was a clumsy girl, much like yourself- but she was always tripping on air and apologizing profusely. You would think that I would've snapped at her, being the impatient man that I am. But I wasn't. To put it simply, I enjoyed watching her face fluster."

While he was telling his story, he began to absentmindedly stroke Sakura's hair. She was enjoying this rare form of his affection and was listening attentively as she watched him be taken in by his memories.

"I soon found myself frequenting the cafe she worked at. It was the ideal place for me to spend my time. I never really understood why I had done so at the time. I had already finished creating my puppet form and had already decided on the eternity I desired. But I put off those plans for her. Kaede. The enchanting, clumsy waitress. Eventually, I came to terms with my attraction towards her. Some times led to others, then I took her out. Adored her. Made her mine. A year later, I asked her to marry me. She said yes."

Sakura noted that the air became heavy and Sasori's hand had gone still.

"Two weeks before the wedding, she got her dress... A beautiful white gown with cherry blossoms decorating the bottom. She'd stare at it every night with that stupidly happy smile when she thought I was asleep. To think she believed I would never find out... Tch. Honestly."

Bitterness seeped through his voice, coating his underlying anger.

"One day when I finished completing a job, I came upon a metal worker and had the rings made. On the inside of hers, I had carved in the date of the day we met. She would be happy with them, I was sure of it. But when I thought about it, I was dumbfounded. I was so ready to settle down with her that I had completely changed the eternity I strove for. I didn't want to live forever if that forever wasn't with her. I was going to change my life for her. I was completely willing to give up the shinobi life for the family she always dreamed of. When I arrived back in town, it was a day before our wedding. But she had gotten sick."

His last sentence was spoken in barely above a whisper. Sasori's voice was so soft and so gentle that you could almost hear his heart break in his words.

"I stayed at her bedside for days. Those days soon turned into a week. Then two weeks. Then three. By then, I was so angry at myself that there was nothing I could do to save her. I was there when she passed. Before she did, she had the brightest smile on her face like she was telling me that everything was okay. I hated that smile... I hated it so much..."

Sakura's face was neutral as she watched Sasori's teeth clench and his eyes grow glassy. Internally, she was amazed.

"But I got over it." he informed quickly, turning his head away from the little girl's gaze, "I transferred my being into this puppet and was granted the eternity I wanted from the very beginning."

"Sasori-san."

He turned back to look at her, and oddly enough, the sweetest smile was on her face.

"Don't worry, Sasori-san. I'll tell Kaede-san that you still love her. I promise." she said. He went completely quiet and continued to stroke Sakura's hair until she fell asleep. When he was sure she had knocked out, he stood up and walked out the door.

Only to see Deidara with a glass of water in one hand and medication in the other.

"Oh, hey Danna, hm." the younger man greeted, "It's time for Sakura to take her pills. She sleeping, un?"

"She fell asleep not too long ago. It's best if you give her some time before waking her up again. She's tired."

Deidara nodded and stepped outside, letting Sasori pass by. He looked a little nervous, something his senior curiously took note of as he shrugged on his cloak.

"If you have something to say, say it, brat."

"Um... I heard the story about Kaede-san, un. I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but-"

"It's fine." Sasori interrupted, waving his hand around like it was no big deal, "It's not like anything about her was a secret. Anyways, tell Leader-sama that I'll be gone for a few days."

Deidara cocked his head to the side.

"Eh? Where are you going, hm?" he asked. Sasori opened the door, murky morning light pouring into the house. A rainbow was in the far distance as result of last night's rain.

"... A body. I'm just going out to look for a body."

There were seventeen different flowers spread across Sakura's covers. Each were beautiful in their own right and had their own special meanings. When Zetsu had first stepped foot into the room, Sakura asked him a question. A short simple one.

Could you tell me about what the flowers mean?

He complied with the simple nod of his head and went out to the greenhouse to get a single flower of each species he grew. When he came back, he laid out each flower on her bed for her to see and marvel at. First, he held up a stalk holding a cluster of dark pink blossoms.

"This is a snapdragon. These are graceful flowers, no? They certainly live up to their meaning, but be careful, they could also mean deception. Kinda like our ex-girlfriend. She doesn't need to hear this. Who brought it up? Hm?"

"Eh? Zetsu-san... Zetsu-san actually dates his plants? Uwa- so what Kisame-san said was true?!" Sakura gasped.

"She was an actual human being, excuse you! I may be fucking insane and tend to the plants in the greenhouse all the time, but that doesn't mean I'm a chlorophile. Anyway, are you going to keep laughing at me or do you want to know more about these flowers?" he demanded, even when there was no real anger or offense behind it. Sakura giggled a bit longer before smiling brightly at him.

"I wanna know more!" she chirped. Zetsu went on through the meanings of every single flower, from statices to alstroemerias with Sakura being attentive every second of the way. About half-way through his explanations, she grew silent and stared at the ceiling in deep thought. Zetsu looked at her.

"Something you want to share?" he asked.

"I... Zetsu-san, do you have a lot of pink carnations? And white sweet peas?"

"Plenty." he answered after thinking about it for a bit, "Do you need them for something?"

She nodded vigorously, determination shining brightly in her eyes. Zetsu gave her an odd look but went to get her the flowers anyways. He walked out into the dusk and stared up at the still cloudy skies overhead. It had been like this a good week now, and had no intention of letting up.

He came back with a bundle of each and watched as she made quick work of them. Once Zetsu realized what she was doing, he couldn't help but smile. For two hours, she worked on the flowers until she was at the point where she was desperately trying to fight off all sleep. But she had finished what she had started.

"Before I go to sleep, I want to leave these in everyone's rooms." Sakura murmured. Zetsu nodded and carried her bridal style all through the Akatsuki House and let her put down each of her flower creations on the member's beds. When they returned to her room, Zetsu tucked her into bed.

"What do you want to do tomorrow?" he questioned, "We can pull the bleach blonde shampoo prank on the Uchiha."

Sakura giggled tiredly.

"Sounds fun, but tomorrow... Tomorrow I want to see the sun first, if it comes out... 'kay?" she mumbled.

At around six am, the Akatsuki started filing in from their missions. Zetsu told them about what she wanted to see today, so they all decided to go and watch the sunrise with her and make her smile. After they opened the door and greeted her, they grew deathly silent.

Because just like the clouds of the days before,

She was gone.

On that same day was her funeral, and it certainly was a sight that no one would believe. Every single member of the Akatsuki: Nagato, Pein, Konan, Deidara, Tobi, Kakuzu, Kisame, Itachi, Hidan, Sasori, and Zetsu were wearing flower crowns.

Flower crowns made of pink carnations and white sweet peas.

When they entered their respective rooms, they all had found such flower crowns sitting on their beds. It was painfully obvious to them who had made every single one of them, and they all wouldn't admit how much it hurt them that during her last moments, she would still do this for them. If the making the crowns didn't bring tears to their hearts, the meanings of the flowers did.

Pink carnations and white sweet peas.

I'll never forget you. Thank you...

And goodbye.

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