Author's note: this was originally a one-shot fic, but I've been enjoying myself far too much with this one (I don't think it'll go any longer than 3 chapters though). It's not really an AU… it's just something that I like to imagine happening somewhere in the 3 year gap of Naruto. Don't think too much on the timeline, but remember that Gaara is older than Sakura by a year.I love Gaara… don't even get me started. Anyway, the story Sand Glass by Celtic Oak was the key inspiration for this fic. The concept was brilliant so I decided to follow in her footsteps. Celtic ownz.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. But I own the stuffed Gaara doll sitting on my bed :)

"Well that's what we do, we fight... You tell me when I'm being an arrogant son of a bitch and I tell you when you're a pain in the ass. Which you are, 99 percent of the time! I'm not afraid to hurt your feelings. You have a two second rebound rate, then you're back doing the next pain-in-the-ass thing. So it's not going to be easy. It's going to be really hard. We're going to have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day." - The Notebook

Protect Me
Leanne Ashley

Her eyes fluttered open when she felt the warm trickle of blood escape her lips. She was dying. Worse, she was dying slowly. The relentless grip enveloping her fragile body clenched harder, crushing her and denying her oxygen. Her mouth opened in a silent scream of agony as certain parts of her body, her mind too distracted by torment to figure out which parts, began to snap from the pressure.

Stop… Please stop… She didn't know how to make it stop. She didn't know how to make him stop. He had lost control of Shukaku, the demon housed inside him, and was hell-bent on killing her at all costs.

She had angered the demon. She was the one who had kept its host sane. She was the one who had the utterly impossible ability of calming the anger, the jealousy and the desperation to kill. To the now raging monster, she was the demon.

Helpless tears escaped her bright green eyes as the world surrounding her began to collapse. Bound by the relentless sea of sand, Sakura knew the darkness was coming. All was dissipating in a murky swirl of obscure shapes and colors. He was killing her. The unlikely person she had learned to love most was killing her.

And as the sand swirled around him, arm outstretched, fist straining to close, he growled softly through the twisted smirk on his face: "…I love you."


Please don't kill me… I'll lose you if you kill me.

"Haruno Sakura."

The deep, emotionless tone sent a slight shiver down her spine as she reluctantly turned to respond.

"What is it?" Sakura tried to keep her own voice calm and reserved, trying her best to hide the fact that she was surprised he remembered her name.

She was met with jade colored eyes encased within thick black shadows. Fiery red hair pushed every which way by the sand-filled breeze fell across the Chinese character 'love' displayed at the side of his forehead. It had been a good number of years since she last saw him: Gaara, the feared and legendary shinobi of the desert.

Familiar trademarks aside, atseventeen years of age Gaara, the young Kazekage of Suna, had grown up quite a bit. He was taller, handsomer, and it was evident that the skinny boy had become toned and muscular over the years, hiding it modestly under his traditional dark red attire.

Sakura had matured as well. After growing into her wide-forehead, she was often told that she had become the most beautiful girl in Konoha, surpassing even the lovely, yet disturbingly misleading, Tsunade. Her vibrantly pink hair was kept short, as it wasn't as distracting during battles. Though she still wore the same similar apparel, it was evident that a graceful, slender body had developed beneath… a feature she was secretly proud of.

As attractive as she was, Sakura still hadn't gotten a boyfriend. Over the years of pining over her first love Sasuke, maturity finally kicked in and she was able to let him go, preparing to offer a welcoming friendship with his safe return to Konoha.

But finding a boyfriend was the least of her worries as she stared into the stern eyes of a man once claimed to be as deadly as he was mentally unstable.

"Why were you sent here?"

The word 'you' was practically spat on, kicked at, and smeared promptly into the sand as he continued to stare nonchalantly, arms folded across his chest in his usual trademark stance.

Sakura tried to ignore the obvious lashing and folded her own arms in a challenging manner. "Suna requested medical assistance from Konoha because of the illness attacking the children."

"That explains why Tsunade is here. I'm asking why you are here," he paused. "…hindrance."

She unknowingly balled her hand into a fist. POUND HIS ASS! Inner Sakura shrieked. "I am the Hokage's apprentice. I'm here to assist her." She replied through clenched teeth.

Gaara narrowed his eyes and presented her with a slight smirk of amusement. "Is that so? From what I remember, your combat skills are close to useless."

"H-Hey…!" Sakura managed to protest, searching desperately for the nerve to go against his venomous 'observations'. Her own green eyes burned into his as her fury got the best of her. "You don't know anything about me! You don't have the right—!"

"Your chakra skills, on the other hand…" he interrupted as he turned his back on her. "Training as a medical Nin is impressive. Perhaps you have the potential to prove your usefulness."

Sakura blinked. Ara? Was that suppose to be a compliment?

She could only stare dumbfounded into Gaara's back as he walked away, seemingly forgetting about her presence instantly.

Swallowing her fear to the best of her ability, she forced out an angrily determined exterior.

"Get out of my way!" Sakura managed to snarl.


"If you don't, I'll be forced to fight you!" The words slipped half-heartedly as she knew it was a damn futile action to consider.

Much to her relief, Gaara ignored it.

"Why are you leaving?"

"Because!" Because you scare the hell out of me! Because you follow me! Because you take every opportunity to look down on me!

"I won't allow you to pass without a legitimate reason."

Sakura sighed angrily in frustration. Soon after the sick children of Suna were healed by Tsunade, Sakura was left alone to complete the mission, instructed to keep observation over the children until they were back on their feet. Tsunade, being the fifth Hokage, had other matters to attend to in Konoha.

After the first long day, Sakura had walked sleepily down the streets of Suna to her hotel room when she felt a pair of eyes piercing steadily into her back. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end as she turned cautiously toward the looming presence.

Sitting upon a not too distant rooftop was Gaara. As he remained perched and unmoving, he watched her intently… angrily… distrustingly. There was so much she couldn't read from his expression as he continued to glare out from those cat-like sapphires. Sakura jumped to the most obvious conclusion: He just plain didn't trust her.

Intimidation getting the best of her, she turned away quickly and entered the hotel room.

In the days that followed, Gaara continued to monotonously scoff at Sakura's presence in his village. Even though the children in the hospital had come to adore her, he would often demand that she leave and quit taking advantage of his hospitality. The verbal assault continued until one day, Sakura expectantly snapped. Letting Inner Sakura reach the surface, she counter-attacked every snide remark he had ever made and called him a sad, pitiful child.

"…And MY combat skills are nothing? You just stand there like you're waiting for some godforsaken bus!"

She wasn't stupid. She predicted that seconds later, a wave of sand would push her right out the window to her death. Gaara, of course, would shrug it off and order someone to write an apology letter to Konoha.

Sakura folded her arms and turned her back on the sand shinobi, waiting for whatever punishment she felt was worth it to smack his ego down a couple notches.


Hesitantly, she peaked over her shoulder.

Gaara was in awe. He stared wide-eyed at the pink-haired girl as if she'd gone completely mad… even more so than himself on one of those bad days. For a large majority of his life, people had feared him and would surely bite their tongues to bloody pieces before talking back to him. But, this girl… Haruno Sakura… he half expected her to retract the verbal kick-in-the-crotch and beg for forgiveness, but she merely gazed back at him from over her shoulder.

He looked away from her, as if the criticism beaming from her shiny emerald eyes was enough to burn his own retinas to ashes. In a fit of sand, Gaara vanished from her sight.

That night, as she again wandered sleepily toward her hotel room, she gazed up to find Gaara sitting on his favorite rooftop. It wasn't a surprise anymore; he was always up there. Though his stare continued to make her feel uneasy.

Approaching the hotel, she failed to see the pail of water that had been left out on the entrance steps. She cried out in surprise as her footing stumbled against the unexpected obstacle. Her state-of-mind was too exhausted to alert her normally quick reflexes as she fell backwards…

Not to the ground, however, but into the arms of a certain red-haired shinobi. Gaara caught her easily from behind, supporting her effortlessly with a single arm wrapped around her waist. Releasing her, he grunted a sort of quiet disdain for her clumsiness and disappeared quickly.

She blinked in confusion from the sudden ordeal and arched an eyebrow when the realization hit her: Why didn't he just use his sand…?

The next night, Gaara wasn't on the rooftop. Instead, he stood in the shadows… confused as to why he was following Sakura to her hotel when he normally just watched her from above. As if on purpose, he avoided any possible effort to properly conceal himself. She discovered his presence instantly.

Angered at being followed, she gave him another verbal onslaught, carelessly thinking that since she had gotten away with it the first time, the second time would be no different.

The misconception could've been fatal as the sand from his gourd surrounded her neck and slammed her into the concrete wall behind her.

She had no right… no right at all.

As he clenched his fist, the sand around Sakura's delicate neck imitated. Her eyes were shut in the midst of her struggling; praying that someone… anyone… could help her. Weakening, her eyes opened… unleashing the clear, sparkling liquid down her cheeks.

Gaara froze. Something inside him began to scream. He was hurting her. He was making her cry.

Stop… No more! I'm not hurting people anymore!

The dark shadow rims caging his eyes began to twitch as something else began to counter-attack the screaming. The monster within wanted this girl dead… for her disrespect… her nerve… her bravery.

He began to convulse. The sand instantly dropped Sakura as Gaara fell to his knees. Gasping desperately for air, she watched in fear as Gaara clutched his chest and began screaming bloody-murder in hysterics.

Her own hands began to shake as she tried pleading with Gaara for some kind of sanity. It was her worst fear that she had awakened the monster by her own bitchful stupidity. As she clutched his shoulders, he whipped out his arm instinctively and nearly knocked her unconscious. However, persistence was another of Sakura's stronger aspects. Ignoring the throbbing pain upon her cheek, she crawled back to his side and proceeded in calming him down. After what seemed like an eternity of clawing and thrashing, Gaara gave one final cry of anguish before passing out against Sakura's chest.

The boy's features slowly changed from twisted and tormented to calm and child-like as she held him in her arms. She stared down at him sympathetically… apologetically… a strange feeling beginning to swell in her heart.

It scared her.

Gaara awoke the next morning in the Suna Hospital. He was told soon after that Haruno girl was returning to Konoha that very night.

Her reason for leaving? The children of Suna were healthy once again. There was no other reason to stay. No reason at all.

"My mission here is complete." Sakura stated firmly as Gaara continued to block her passage out of Suna. "That's not legitimate enough for you?"


Her bright green eyes widened in surprise at his blunt response. Crap!

"Wh-what then…?" she unknowingly stuttered. "Are you still angry about what happened? Will you not feel better until you've succeeded in killing me…?"

He didn't respond. He remained placid; arms folded, eyes staring intently.

Sakura instantly began fearing for her life. Disgusted with herself for feeling the slightest bit of affection as he slept peacefully in her arms.

"Looks like I'm still in your way," he observed. "…so fight me."

She scowled at him, a look of pure distrust shadowing her features.

Gaara narrowed his eyes at her hesitation and began walking toward her, stopping only a few feet from where Sakura stood nervously.

"I'm not doing anything," he informed darkly. "hit me."

Sakura considered the option with doubt. Gaara had the ultimate sand defense at his disposal, almost no one, least of all someone at her fighting level, could beat it.

"Are you scared, Haruno Sakura?"

She tightened her fist in response. Even though she knew she couldn't land a single scratch, knew it was utterly impossible to penetrate the anticipating barrier of sand, she brought her fist back and slammed it forward with all her might.

The sand flew up instantaneously as expected. But what she didn't expect was that the sand, rather then manifesting a wall, wrapped quickly around her wrists and bound them up beside her head. Instinctively, she struggled against her confines and gasped when Gaara suddenly appeared closely infront of her, staring her hard in the eyes a mere couple inches from her face.

Before she could protest, he closed the small gap between them and aggressively captured her lips with his own. Sakura's eyes widened in surprise as Gaara continued to kiss her… hard… forcing her to acknowledge the dominance he held over her.

Her breathing became rapid as mixed emotions began to heat her skin. She contemplated in a haze whether or not to kiss him back. Sakura's shock lead to a lack of participation, which led to Gaara biting down non-too gently on her lower lip. The sensation struck a nerve in her spine as she parted her lips, allowing him access to slip his tongue in and glide it against her own. Whether or not her mind had gotten over the confusion, her body reacted to his touches. While one strong arm kept her body tightly embraced against his, the other was positioned gently at her cheek, stroking the bruised skin and feeling the soft pink strands of hair between his callused fingertips.

It was something Gaara had longed to touch ever since she first stepped foot in Suna.

"If you leave, I'll come after you."

"I-I don't understand. Why are you telling me this…? Gaara?"

"Because you belong to me."

The almost threatening conversation had been all that was said after Sakura broke the kiss, pushing away from his chest and nearly stumbling as she did so.

Gaara stepped reluctantly out of her way before calmly declaring the consequence of her departure.

She walked cautiously past him. He didn't blink, flinch, or attempt to make any direct eye contact as she watched him suspiciously.

The kiss wasn't bad. It had been pretty damn good actually.

She recalled on it rather pleasantly as she journeyed back to Konoha, a bright shade of crimson flushing her cheeks at the memory of his lips, his embrace… his surprising warmth…

He had stated plainly that if she were to leave, he would come after her… yet as she marched defiantly past him, he hadn't moved a muscle.

Perhaps it had been a lie…

Sakura paused in a clearing to rest, staring down at her shoes in disappointment. Disappointment? Disappointment…! Had she gone completely mad? Not only was Gaara cold, violent, and mentally unhinged, the guy had practically tried to strangle her to death on account of some half-asleep demon lounging in his body. Why did she care if he did or didn't feel some kind of attraction to her?

Just because he often looked out for her and boosted her determination… or the fact that the way he looked at her was different from the way he looked at anyone else… or how great it felt to have his impressively built body pressed against her own, and…

Sakura… she sighed in defeat. What the hell are you thinking?

Several days later, as the lights of Konoha diminished for the welcoming of night, Sakura lay sleepless in her bed. Resting the side of her head against the cushiony softness of her pillow, she felt unsettled by the newfound emptiness waiting for her upon returning to the village.

Her friends were around, her family lived close by, but something was missing…

Sakura shivered as the invading breeze played with the delicate sheer curtains of her room. She hadn't remembered opening the window in the first place, but was regretting the assumed action as she hugged her shoulders tightly.

"I'm not good at lying,"

Immediately flushed with panic, her eyes shot open at the familiar dark tone. She turned her head quickly to find Gaara lying over her on all fours, arms trapping her possessively in place.

"so… don't look so shocked."

Gaara was right: She really hadn't expected to see him, let alone have him positioned so seductively over her in the blink of an eye.

And he had hidden his presence so well. It was only then in which she noticed the shifted weight change on her bed. She also noted absently that his sand gourd was leaning against the wall. It was one of the rare times she had seem him without the heavy container strapped to his back.

Supporting himself on one arm, he lifted the other and gently touched the side of her face.

"Sakura…" he murmured softly, stripping the usual formality of including her last name.

"Why are you here?" she whispered back, voice cracking in a confucius whirl of fear and passion for the red-haired boy. .

Gaara stared hard into her eyes, hesitant to grant her the answer that exposed his reluctant vulnerability.

"I need you."

The warmth of his hand left her face as he took hold of both her wrists and pinned them over her head. His grip was strong, controlling; the delicate cherry-blossom unknowingly drove him to mad instincts of desire and passion, property and possession. He needed her. He wanted her. She would be his. He wouldn't let anyone else have her.

Sakura winced at the forceful grip restraining her arms. "Gaara…" she breathed, it was a half-hearted plea to get him to ease off her wrists.

Much to her surprise, he obeyed, and the aggressive hold became gentle as he lowered his head and began distributing delicate kisses down the pale skin of her neck.

Each kiss warmed her skin as she blushed at the surprise of how gentle he was being. Though it appeared to be somewhat difficult for him.

"Shouldn't you be in Suna?" she questioned as she turned her head, giving him better access to her neck.

"That's not important to me at the moment," came the mumbled response.

She smiled wickedly. "And what is?"

He stopped and pulled back to glare at her with a hint of skepticism in his eyes: What kind of question was that? Surely she already knew the answer... The realization dawned on him when he saw the challenging smirk on Sakura's face. It seemed she was out to embarrass him. He didn't like being pushed to verbalize his emotions.

She knew that, of course, but teasing him was helping to put her own nerves at ease for the rather intense situation.

Gaara smirked back at her, but didn't respond to her question. Although in another perspective he did as he brought his lips down forcefully on hers to put himself back in control.