Did you ever just have a really crazy idea that just had to be told? Well, I was about to embark upon a really long SasuSaku when this forced itself to be written. Sorry if you don't like the pairing, but I think that GaaSaku is cute, even if this turned out a little bit creepy. It was all written in one sitting, so forgive errors or any sense of abbreviated time. It is meant to be a oneshot. I was trying to capture as much emotion as possible in as short a piece as possible.

My worries:

That this is not believable.

That, having not really edited it, there are too many mistakes to make it properly readable.

I might have gotten some names wrong.

Please allay my worries, if you want to be kind, but know that I'm aware of the flaws in this piece. Very much so. With that in mind, enjoy my little oneshot!

Disclaimer: I don't own any rights at all to Naruto, and I never will. These are not my characters and I don't own this universe at all. ::weeps::

A Fine Line

Everyone looked dead in the moonlight. He knew this because, as he moved from house to house and window to window by the rooftops, he could watch the still forms freely. No one seemed to notice his presence, he knew, because if they did then they would certainly object to it. After all, he was a monster, by his own admission and the accusations of others. Some of them had screamed the claim with their dying breaths, and others simply whispered it as they watched him wreak his blissful killing from afar. There was no fear in him for their disapproval or disappointment, so there was no need to justify himself and dispel the idea that he was inhuman, amoral, and bloodthirsty. It was easier to tell people they were correct in their assumptions. This way, if he had to kill them, then at least it wasn't a surprise. It was all the mercy he could offer.

But watching the sleeping people in the towns he wandered to, Gaara could find some peace. There were no worried glances, wide eyes and quickened breathes as he passed by. There was the occasional toss in sleep, the moving of lips in silent pleas to the subconscious, but no true disquiet. There was peace only in sleep, just as there was in death, and Gaara found a certain fascination in both. He could not find death by his own hand, and would not allow it by any other, and the release of sleep was not something he could indulge in so he found a morbid fascination in both.

For his own gratification he killed, and once Naruto has caused him to see some folly in this he took instead to watching people sleep. It was either that or visiting morgues, and he had seen enough dead people to last a lifetime. People who died at his own hands. The joy in killing was still there, of course, but now it was tempered with the desire to find out if there was another way. . . a way that lasted longer than the smell of fresh blood on his clothes.

So far, nothing could compare to the rush of breaking the body of an opponent. Watching people sleep, however, was an amusing hobby at the moment. It had been lasting him for a few months, keeping him busy and under the radar of those who observed him. Gaara knew he was under observation most of the time, he could feel them, as villages far and near tried to understand the changes the Sand nin was going through. They had stopped following him at night, though, when he went about his rounds from house to house to find open windows and watch the faces of those sleeping.

There had been little thrill to it, really, just the almost clinical cataloguing of the various faces and sleeping positions people exhibited. He saw them all, repeated time and again: curled, flat on the back, twisted sideways, on the stomach, spread eagle, half off the bed, under covers, over covers, entwined with covers, folded over arms, buried in pillows. . . very little could surprise him anymore in this respect. Faces were just as varied as positions, and he examined them with the leisure and fascination of someone who had never had a face turned his way that didn't express anger or fear to some degree.

Maybe it was his blasé feeling that there was nothing that could possibly surprise him anymore that when he saw her, he just had to stop his wanderings for the night and watch her. This was not a behavior he had seen before, and he couldn't wrench himself away. The position in which she slept was not in of itself unusual, it was a normal sideways leaning half-curl. The covers were in disarray, as was her hair which gleamed washed out pastel pink under the moonlight. Her face was not particularly startling, since many people had expressions of pain on their face as they slept, though more were neutral or smiling. What stopped Gaara and kept him rooted to his spot on the rooftop next to her bedroom window was the way her form shuddered every so often, and she bit her lip as tears streaked her face.

She was certainly asleep. He knew that. Once, two days ago, he had covertly followed her all day and then watched her fall asleep. No, this was something she wasn't aware of, since the tears didn't begin until she entered her deep sleep cycle. It must be her dreams, he decided, the deep workings of her mind that even she could not access, that caused her such agony each night. He had only been watching her for four days, but every night she had wept throughout the night and then woken to stare at her face in the mirror, to trace the dried path of her tears with wondering fingers. There was the feeling inside of Gaara that she knew what caused these tears, even if she could not stop them. Turmoil of the soul Gaara knew well, but he lived with the most fearful construction of his subconscious in a day to day manner, so that she could hide such a deep scar from the rest of her companions was no surprise to him.

Four days became five, and then suddenly seven. Two weeks he watched her cry at night, weathering rainstorms, the harsh winds of spring, and the occasional terminally curious animal as his hobby became obsession. He was not a boy who did things by halves, and this Sakura Haruno was his new focus. So that those who followed him would not suspect, he did his best to observe her obliquely during the day when he was not training to improve his own skills. It took a week to justify doing this in his own mind, but he wanted to find the source of her pain and to do that he needed to know more about her life.

The way Sakura lived seemed straightforward. Most days she trained to be a medic nin, and when she was not training she was doing other tasks typical to girls her age. Sometimes she went out with friends, or spent time with family members. There was the shopping for groceries, making her lunch, and then the extra training she did to be able to impress Tsunade with her progress as a medic. She had been working hard for a couple years now, expectant of the day when she would be able to protect those she loved.

And at night she cried.

Gaara was getting impatient. He couldn't seem to gather enough information just from following her. Tsunade had sent envoys to question him a month after he had been effectively stalking Sakura, whether he was planning to spend extended periods of time in Konoha, or if he would be moving on. He knew it was not a politely worded request to leave. No one bothered to be polite to him, really, and he knew he was not truly welcome anywhere though he was fearfully tolerated everywhere. This was a true act of curiosity from the Godaime to get her bearings with the state of his residency. Gaara sent back the reply that he was remaining indefinitely until he felt the need to move on. There was no request for permission to stay. Gaara did as he wanted to. Who would stop him, with the power of Shukaku lying so close to the surface of his body and mind?

Once his residency was assured, he decided that he could not gather enough information by simply observing the Haruno girl. However, the other way seemed so distasteful that it took another week for him to push down the nervous bile in his throat and actually approach her.

Considering he was still infamous, things went pretty smoothly. He waited for a time when she was near Naruto and Lee, rather than when she was spending time with her friends who were girls and whose names he had not bothered to ever learn. Naruto and Lee he knew, even if Naruto reminded him of an annoyingly powerful gnat and Lee was so confusingly nice that sometimes Gaara almost wanted to kill people he cared for just to teach him that loss and disillusionment were the only inevitabilities in life.

The people on the street parted ways for him, seeing his distinctive red hair, the gourd of sand, and the kanji that graced his forehead and knowing to keep away for their own health and self preservation. Naruto's eyes had bugged out of his head when he had laid eyes on Gaara. Lee had flashed a smile. The only one whose reaction Gaara was truly concerned with simply gave him a polite but hesitant greeting.

"I'd heard something about you being around. Took you long enough to find me. Wanna fight or get some lunch?" Naruto, grown taller since they had last fought was still the only irrepressible person who could move from one base instinct to the other with such efficiency and charm. He was all smiles, and Gaara stifled the temptation to say yes to the offer for a fight. It had been so long since someone had proven a challenge. The assassins that came for him on a semi-regular basis were so unimaginative that even Gaara had given up killing them slowly for the sake of it and now merely crushed them as soon as he discerned them.

"C'mon, you gotta eat some time right? I'm hungry, and me and Lee had just conned Sakura into buying us some ramen. . ."

Suddenly, the timid Sakura came to life again, rather than balk at Gaara's intimidating presence. "You said you were out of money! You jerks!" Her anger was not fully awakened, and it seemed to be half-amused. The affection she held for these two was apparent.

"Lovely Sakura, I confess I did not know that this was Naruto's plan. There is no way I would make you pay for my meal. As a way of apology let me buy you lunch." Lee was all attentiveness and Gaara felt a strange twinge of annoyance at his fawning over the pink haired kunoichi.

"Lee, Sakura, whoever pays, I still need food." Naruto rubbed his belly. He was probably still growing, and between that and training Naruto certainly was a regular food vacuum. "Coming with us Gaara, eh?"

Three sets of eyes targeted the somewhat nervous Sand nin. This was too much too fast. He just wanted to speak to Sakura, to find out what caused the pain that he so eagerly lapped up each night from the other side of her window. That beautiful pain was driving him to seek people, to threaten involvement and dependency that he had sworn off of at an early age.

"No." Gaara turned around and walked away through that aisle of space that generated wherever he went as people fled from him.

"We'll catch ya next time then, right? Later!" Naruto called over the crowd, but Gaara didn't turn back or give any sign that he had heard or agreed to it.

That night Sakura seemed to take longer than usual to get to sleep, but the crying still occurred. Gaara found himself reflecting on how he wished he could touch the fine strands of hair spread around her head in a tangled mass. Was it soft, like the small grains of desert sand, or was it larger and rough like the tightly packed earth deep underground? He could not picture any other sensations with which to compare textures to other than sand. Instead he felt his own hair, as if to find some sort of organic basis for comparison, but other than thinking it somewhat grainy he had no opinion. Besides, the reality of touching his own hair did not compare to the way his breathing quickened in anticipation at the idea of touching hers.

The turn of his thoughts worried him, and that night he left her window early. Again he wandered from window to window throughout Konoha, trying to see if he garnered any thrill from his voyeurism and the thoughts of death and sleep that had kept him engrossed previously. There was no thrill, just as he feared. Somehow, his fascination with the girl had driven itself somewhere into Gaara that he didn't quite understand and perhaps didn't want to encounter. He did not approach her or anyone else within Konoha for more than a week after that revelatory night. Naruto was the one who broke his resolve to cut off this unnatural need for another person through solitude. Then again, Gaara could have just ignored the pounding on his door, so maybe he had wished for this on some level.

"Finally! You know, this shitty little apartment was hard to find. Of course, once I did find it you were never here, but now that you are we can go get that ramen you promised me." The smile spread across his face and Naruto had already turned around to go, expecting Gaara to follow him.

"I promised nothing. I don't make promises." Gaara didn't care about ramen, but Naruto was a strangely compelling person and there was a nagging feeling in the back of Gaara's mind that it might cause him regret to reject this offer as well. Wasn't he trying to understand people better? Didn't that require interacting with them?

Naruto looked crestfallen for only a split second, and then he bounced back. "Ok, fine. You play hardball, my friend—I'll buy the ramen, how about that? Don't tell anyone though." This was followed by a broad wink and again Naruto began to walk off. Leaving behind the scrolls he had been studying on the floor where he had been sitting, Gaara decided to go with him. When Naruto noticed the door was still wide open, as he turned back to make sure Gaara was actually coming with, he pointed it out.

"Who would steal from me?" Gaara said with a sneer. "That would be suicide."

Naruto gave a laugh with a slightly nervous edge to it as if he knew it was wasn't a joke but was determined to make it one anyway. Gaara didn't care how Naruto took it, but he was glad that the cheerful future Hokage didn't try to deny that Gaara was capable of such barbarism. In a way it was a sort of justice, even if the price for an eye was slightly steeper from the other party than their own eye.

When the two youths had gotten to the ramen place, Naruto had actually forced Gaara to say a few more sentences in response to rapid fire questions. Gaara wished he had asked a few of his own when he walked in to find Sakura, Hinata, Shino, and Kiba all obviously waiting for Naruto at a large table. They seemed as taken aback at Gaara's presence as much as he was initially at theirs, but that was more because of Sakura than because of the other ninjas who he dismissed easily as non-threatening. Why Sakura was so unsettling he didn't want to question, but when he was arbitrarily seated next to her he forced himself not to just stare at her throughout the meal. It was very tempting to do so.

With Naruto there, and Kiba as well, conversation quickly became loud and scattered even with Hinata and Shino's stabilizing presence. Sakura, left out on the side with Gaara, tried to make conversation with the boy rather than force her way into the other flow of thoughts near them. Increasingly, Gaara wished he had not answered the door this evening.

"What brought you to Konoha?" Sakura gamely tried to start a new line of thought, even though her previous attempts had been met with one sentence responses and no invitations to continue.

Even with his stunted social skills Gaara knew that 'To watch people sleep' was probably not the best answer. "I was traveling and it seemed like a good place to stop. Training is easier when you are stationary." This was all true as well, just not the primary reason. He could have trained anywhere.

"That's true." She leaped on the opening he had made. "So I guess you went all over the place in these past few years. Anywhere you particularly liked?"

"All villages seem the same." From the outside of a window, they became almost uninterestingly similar, actually. During the day the same looks of horror, during the night the same looks of repose. Yes, he had no reason to be intrigued until he had found her. Did she still cry at night? He wished he could just ask her, but the odds of getting an answer without her asking awkward questions were slim.

"See anyone you knew?" To cover up her anxiety, she followed up quickly with, "You know, family or friends. . . or. . ." her thoughts trailed off tellingly.

But Gaara suddenly had insight he had not possessed before. For a brief flash of time he had seen the same twisted look of pain on her face as a memory surfaced and was stifled. His quick mind knew exactly now what made her cry at night, and it was someone far away, someone lost to her. While he thought and she bit the side of her lip in slight apprehension at his silence, Gaara rifled through his memories of more than two years ago. Who had she been. . . when it came to him he almost made the mistake of saying the name aloud.

Uchiha. The boy he had so desired to challenge to a real fight. Not something controlled and observed, but private and—if possible—deadly. To die at the hands of, or to kill, such an opponent would be a rare thrill. That such a man could command this kind of loyalty, this sort of emotion, after years of absence. . . Gaara was filled with a dark loathing. Sands shifted around him, churning the dust at his feet and creating a muted slushing noise in his gourd which rested on the floor next to his seat.

"Gaara?" She said his name hesitantly, and he realized he had just been sitting there. How much time had passed? Gaara was unsure. She was waiting for an answer, and he would give her the honest one.

"I have no friends to visit, and my family remains in the desert."

"I see." Her disappointment seemed to goad the feeling inside of him, which clutched at his heart and began to resemble the bloodlust that had driven him to kill at a whim. Gaara had to leave before this got out of control. Even if he did not cherish the lives around him, he also did not want to start killing from a mere aberration of a mood.

After picked up his gourd from where it rested, Gaara nodded to Naruto his thanks for the food.

"Going already?" Naruto honestly looked disappointed, and there was a brief cessation of the rust stained feeling in Gaara's heart. "It isn't even night yet!"

"Good bye. Thank you." Gaara turned on his heel and strode out, refusing to look back. Desperately, he wanted to catch one last glance of Sakura, but even as the thought occurred to him he suddenly knew what that feeling in his gut was.


Rather than walk back to the apartment, he used his powers to transport himself there far more quickly. Alarmed, he began to systematically destroy everything in his small apartment as a form of release. When he ran out of breakable items he turned to his scrolls, evaporating them using little or no effort with millions of miniscule tears in the paper. He had no way to control his actions just as he could not control his emotions. Despite his strict control, his desire never to again let anyone close enough to hurt him, this girl had managed without even trying. Jealousy! How could he feel jealousy if she truly meant nothing to him except as an interesting toy?

Gaara was not stupid, and he was not naïve. From town to town he had observed people, when they thought he was not looking, as mothers clutched their children closer while he passed, as men put their arms around their wife's shoulder, how friends sometimes drew in together for protection. These people, they were attached to one another. It was a physical manifestation of a mental problem. To Gaara, anyway, it was a problem. To be attached was to care, and if you cared then you could be hurt. Up until now, Gaara had not been attached—not since he was small and he was betrayed by someone he thought loved him.

Now things were different, now he was attached, and even something as small as jealousy was causing him pain. All the defenses in his life had been buffers against the possibility of someone getting in causing the havoc Sakura was unknowingly causing. This was jealousy for a missing figure, and anger too that this long absent boy could cause the object of Gaara's interest such continued agony. She cried every night for him! Every damn night! Odds were good that no one would cry even at Gaara's funeral. Odds were even better that there would be a celebration, a collective sigh of relief.

It was inevitable, maybe, that he sought out her window that night just as he had sworn her would no longer do. The weather was unseasonably warm for late spring and, for the first time since he had been visiting her, the window was open. With jealousy and the joy of self indulgent destruction still singing in his mind, Gaara felt impulses jolt him that the open window seemed to invite. Creeping closer, he could actually hear her involuntary sniffles as she cried in her sleep, and he saw the large saline wet mark that seeped over the pillow.

At first he forced himself to just be content to watch her from this distance, closer than he had come to any of his subjects before including her, especially her. Suddenly, he didn't want to bear it any longer. With attachment had come physical manifestations of a mental problem. . .

Her body was soft, pliant. She curled into his embrace, sniffling into his shoulder, molding her form to his in a blind attempt to seek comfort. Gaara knew she had not awakened, otherwise she would have been horrified at this invasion of her space, her privacy, her own will and ability to choose—and he was glad. After a few more racking sobs forced shudders through her form and his, her body stilled. Rough snorts alerted him to her sinuses clearing, and then just a light snore, until utter silence other than steady breathing conquered her. The tears had stopped, and still she clutched at him instinctively.

Both proud and horrified at himself, Gaara thought about how much it had been like watching someone die in his arms. The way she had quivered and gone still had been just like the twitching throes of some of his victims in the past, before he had become disinterested in torturing victims and decided that at the very least, if they had fought well, they deserved a quick death. They killed, he killed, and he thought he understood that this was all the humanity he had to offer them.

Then Sakura sighed and pulled his body closer to hers as if he were some oversized stuffed animal, and Gaara suddenly felt all too human. . . and all too male. He was no longer just a child in need of affectionate companionship; that much was clear. The slightly parted lips just a dip of his head away seemed all too tempting, ripe and waiting, and he bent forward enough to caress her cheek with his ragged breaths.

Sakura's face screwed up, as if she was tickled by the hot air unsettling the small hairs on her face. "Sasuke. . ." she sighed in pleasure.

It was easier to extract himself than he thought, and soon Gaara was halfway to his destroyed apartment. It was just as well that he had torn apart everything inside of it already, because if his display of temper earlier had been bad, then this was far worse. Instead of shredding the ruins of his living space down to the foundation, Gaara removed to a more secluded portion of the forest nearby, a site for training for the younger ninjas of the village. Here he would express his anguish, his frustration, his fury. When Gaara next came across Sasuke Uchiha, he would be sure to kill him. Unfortunately, in the mood he was in, the same fate might have been set for Sakura Haruno.

The Godaime sent a warning to his home the next day, the messenger quaking in the broken door frame. Tsunade asked Gaara, politely but firmly, that if he had the urge to destroy such a large swath of land and material that he should remove himself deeper into the forest and then away from the village entirely until they saw fit to invite him back. There was his warning. The message crinkled in his hand as he fisted it, and the messenger continued to shake beneath Gaara's steady gaze. An answer would be expected.

"Tell the Hokage, 'I understand'."

That was all the messenger needed, and the unfortunate chunin speedily made tracks back to the safety of the sane and controlled members of the village. Not that Gaara thought he would ever be accepted as part of the village. In his home in the desert, his violent uprisings had to be tolerated, as part of the price of using him as their most powerful weapon. However, here he was a guest and a guest could be thrown out. He smirked to himself. Not many people would be so ballsy as to throw out Shukaku no Gaara, but this female Hokage knew no fear. A current of respect fro the village and its inhabitants had been budding ever since Naruto had defeated him those years ago.

In the light of day, Gaara was forced to once again confront his feelings. The purenesses of killing and total obliteration of the objects around him were not actions he could indulge himself in indefinitely. But during the night he had come to a decision.

For a moment, even if she had thought he was someone else, he had comforted Sakura and she had accepted him. She needed him. He wished he had been there this morning, watching from across the way as she woke to find there was no wetness upon her pillow. He wanted to watch her trace the place where the tear tracks should have dried upon her face and how her eyes did not have their usual redness. There was a peace in her happiness for Gaara to find solace as well. That thought was the only thing that had stopped him from continuing from the training ground into the village last night and satisfying his emotional pain with the physical pain of others.

If this was the love that people talked of, this feeling that he wanted to protect the happiness of this one girl even at the cost of his own soul, then he wished he had stayed a monster. The pain, the rawness that seemed to infect his mind and slash at his senses, was not the blank clarity and joy he felt while killing. This was messy, it was hard to pin down and even harder to control, but somehow it was satisfying as if a hole inside of him had been filled even if another one had been opened.

That day Naruto came to see him, and he couldn't deny access to the boy. Mainly this was because there was no longer a door to his apartment, but Naruto was the sort who would not be denied when he was in the mood. The blond ninja had a choice word or two to share with Gaara about how stupid and childish Gaara's midnight exploits had been. The whole village was up in arms and many petitions had been sent to the Hokage to get rid of him as fast as humanly possible. But, the blond had said as he watched Gaara impassively absorb this information, Naruto was going to stick by him and stick up for him because something like this wasn't going to happen again, right?


"I make no promises." Gaara had said, and Naruto's face had fallen into a childlike look of betrayed expectations. "But," Gaara qualified. "I will try."

He would regret those words, when Naruto whooped in joy and insisted that Gaara come stay with him until they could convince a new landlord to take Gaara on. Gaara said he'd rather sleep outside somewhere then deal with the hassle of terrifying a land lord into leasing anything to him. Not that he ever paid money for where he stayed or what he ate.

"What?" Naruto looked flabbergasted. "You don't pay anything? Ever?"

Gaara attempted a real smile, but only managed a slightly more sinister smirk than usual. "Who is going to make me pay?"

In the end, Naruto convinced Gaara to stay, but it was only in name as Gaara instead spent all his time training in the forest, sometimes with the company of Naruto and his fellow young ninja friends, but rarely with the girls and never with Sakura. Not that he was looking for her. No, Gaara was content to spend his days wandering or training as he pleased. While his nights. . .

In the beginning, Gaara planned to simply watch over her but his good intentions were dashed when he saw her weeping in her sleep again. That night when he held her, her body had been tense, but the tears stopped all the same and Gaara had sighed into her hair and stroked it, thinking absently that it really was just like fine sand running through his fingers. She had seemed stiff when he had come to her the next night, and also the night after that. But Sakura's tears seemed to only disappear with his presence, and despite his body's urgings he did not capitalize upon the situation more than with slight indiscretions. Gaara tried to approach it as a strange sort of training. He thought that if he could control himself like this, then he could control himself in other aspects of his life. With Naruto frequently interrupting his serenity and much coveted solitude, he did need the patience. There had been no reason to prize this quality in himself or others before, and now it was necessary for his continued happiness.

Sometimes he wished Sakura would wake up. An end to this farce would have been a release that broke his only somewhat firm grip on sanity, but he also knew that his good intentions were slipping. Gaara knew that patience was not a quality he had cultivated, and it was becoming more hit than miss the longer he held her body next to his. Nobility never seemed to account for hormones.

It had started with light touches to clandestine areas of her body, gentle scrapes of the pads of his fingers against her neck or cheek, then it moved lower to the calves of her legs and as far up as the knee. He had told himself he was just curious about her body, and how different it was from his own. The muscles were smaller, though still firm, and she actually had scars dusting here skin here and there as a testament to her activity as a ninja. Gaara had no scars, his perfect shield having been rarely ever penetrated. The skin on her body was oddly smooth, compared to his sand and sun roughened skin, and slightly paler.

He tried to convince himself he was content with that, but one night he slid his hand up the back of her shirt to rub his palms over the skin of her back in a reassuring manner, like he had seen Naruto do to Hinata when she was feeling particularly nervous about something. Naruto had always done it on top of the jittery girl's clothes, but under the circumstances Gaara thought that there would be no harm when Sakura's shirt was gaping already and the friction might wake her at any rate.

Each night he seemed to be pushing the bounds he had set for himself with new rationalizations and excuses. In his mind, part seemed to twinge at the concept that she had no knowledge of what he did to her body at night, but the rest of his mind was angry at him for not simply taking what he wanted in the manner with which he approached the rest of his life. How was he planning to survive years of this when he could barely survive weeks?

At least she had started to train with him and Naruto during the day, even daring to joke with Gaara every now and then. She seemed happier these days, more free, as if a weight had been lifted. Gaara liked to think her mysterious good mood was mostly due to his attentions, but he knew he would never receive gratitude and he contented himself with observing her renewal of energy, of cheer, and tried to respond to her attempts at friendship.

He began to understand her moods better, how she could be just as secretive with her own inner thoughts and desires as he was, but how she did not let herself close off to others despite that inner concealment. The rough way she treated Naruto was contradictory to the way she trained so hard to be a good medic for his team just in case it was to be her strength that decided if he lived or died. Her harsh names for Ino were contradictory to the way she respectfully listened when Ino spoke to her and tended to take her advice even if she ridiculed it a moment before. Sakura seemed to live a rich inner life that Gaara could guess at but couldn't be certain of, and she showed him similarly enigmatic behavior by treating him as a confidant in one moment and then shying away as if angry with him the next. Anger he could take, it was fear he never wanted to see in her eyes. Or worse, pity.

Spring rolled into summer, then late summer, and soon it was so hot that holding Sakura close became difficult. They both would sweat so much that he was afraid she would overheat and awaken. Unfortunately, this left his eyes free to look and his hands free to wander. If the nights hadn't grown so short, he knew he would do something he might regret.

Then one night he decided to do it anyway.

Gaara, used to the heat of the desert, was not the sort who cared to take off clothes even when he was too warm in them. A large layer was necessary to prevent dehydration where he came from, and it seemed only natural to be covered from head to toe at all times. Sakura, at night, didn't seem to follow the same thought pattern. This humid night, one leg hung out of the sheet and it was obvious she was not wearing her usual shorts, only her underwear. That wasn't what broke him, it was the obvious lack of shirt as her bare back was exposed to the open window, gleaming with a sheen of sweat from the lulling nocturnal heat.

It didn't appear that she was crying tonight, but Gaara never waited for her to start anymore, he simply slipped into her room and eased in next to her on the bed. With her back to him, he could trace the muscles there with one finger and it seemed safe enough until, with a sigh she rolled onto her back. The sheet was draped low on her chest, provocatively so, and Gaara tried not to let the breath that caught in his throat alert her to his presence.

As naturally as if he had been waiting for this signal, he bent down and tasted the sweat on her collarbone before he even thought about what he was doing. Salty and tangy from whatever soap she had used to shower with before bed, he found he didn't want to separate his lips from her body.

Slowly, he worked his way up her throat, snaking out his tongue at her pulse point and then tracing his lips over her chin. Seemingly coming to himself again and realizing his actions, he hesitated. The memory of the last time he almost kissed her rose to the top of his mind, clouding his lust with jealousy and a possessive need to both run from her and to take her and brand her as his own. Sakura drew in a deep breath, just as she had that time long ago.

"Gaara. . ." she sighed "You're too slow." And her lips crushed against his.

His body screamed in triumph at the contact, but his mind recoiled in shock. "How. . .?" Was all he managed to get out as their lips parted wetly and her light green eyes fluttered open and met his own more intense shade.

"How did I know?" She leaned forward, clutching the sheet to her chest to give her at least a little decency. "Gaara, I've known probably since the first night. I assume it was the first night because that was the first night I found sand in my bed. I'm a smart girl, did you honestly think I wouldn't figure it out? I was tired for days until I adjusted to you keeping me company at night."

The shock had faded from his face and his neutral expression, his shield to the world, was set in place again. "Then why? Why let it go on like this?" For some reason Gaara felt like he was the wounded party here, the one under attack.

There was a moment when she seemed embarrassed. "At first I was scared. I'll admit it. But then I figured out that you were just trying to comfort me and it was far easier to. . . accept it. To accept you."

"You think you can accept me? You don't know what you're saying." He rolled off the bed to leave, no longer comfortable with a situation where he was not the one on control. There was a lot he needed to think about, and his first instinct was to just leave. Gaara wanted to run from the village entirely. It would be easier than trying to make this work. No way did this girl know what she was offering to him. He would destroy her.

Sakura sounded cross as he pulled on his gourd from its usual resting place by the windowsill. "I think I've shown you a lot of faith these past months." He paused. "I could have mistrusted you and 'woken up' screaming, driving you from my bed, this village. . . but I didn't. I knew what you were doing, ever since I realized I was waking up with a dry pillow."

"You just want me to replace Sasuke." His voice was a hiss, echoing the sand that was beginning to rise in automatic response to his upset emotive state. Gaara wanted to hurt her, to end this, before it went any further. She was offering too much too quickly. He had no defense against it, or her. There was no recourse in his mind for actually getting something he wanted. It was unprecedented.

"Maybe at first, but Gaara. . . think. . ." His sands could very well rage out of control when he was like this, and she knew he was not stable now and might never be. "If all I wanted was a replacement for him, why would I have bothered to get to know you? I thought we were friends, aside from anything else, and I don't see what Sasuke would have to do with our friendship."

Gaara didn't want to believe her words; he didn't want to see her calmly tell him what he should be feeling. "I could kill you right now. If you're lying—if I ever think you're lying—then I promise you I will kill you."

"I thought you didn't make promises." Her mouth quirked, but she met his eyes blankly, her own glassy and ready for whatever outcome Gaara decided. Accepting his judgment.

The gourd dropped onto the floor loudly and his lips and hands sought her with an eagerness that was intense enough to both frighten and flatter her. He wanted reassurance, he wanted to feel solidly how much she needed him and to have her understand how much he wanted her. As his mouth met hers and his hands bruised her skin with the ferventness of his ardor, Gaara thought about how Sakura was the only really precious thing in his life. He had a history of erasing all the valuable things in his life, but she seemed willing to risk it and the strange exercise in trust was intoxicating to him.

"You know I will sooner kill you than let you go," Gaara growled into her ear, pulling her hair painfully to the side for emphasis. She gently opened up his hand from its punishing grip and turned her head to kiss him tenderly.

"Then I won't run away."

Gaara had a feeling that this precious thing was not a valuable that would break so easily.