Author's note: Okay, so I was wrong. Apparently I feel like stretching this story to another chapter or two. Wahaha... Well, I'd like to emphasize the unique style of their relationship. I think the ending would lack relevence without it, so... Anyway, thanks for waiting for chapter 3! Your reviews give me joy bubbles :) Oh! And for those of you keeping up to date with the Naruto manga (around chapter 281) daammnn does Gaara look good!

Protect Me
Leanne Ashley

Chapter 3

Sakura's eyes wouldn't stop burning as tears cascaded down her cheeks and over the ridge of her nose. She lay in bed on her side, struggling to get a hold of herself as she brought her knuckles to her lips.

Stop it, you wimp! Inner Sakura scolded. Why must you do this to yourself every time Gaara has to leave? He'd be disgusted with you.

She couldn't stand him leaving. For days, sometimes weeks, he would be gone and she was left alone to wait in anxiety, fear and emptiness. Dark, painful, complete and utter emptiness. No… not a happy place to be. His departures were slowly killing her.

Gaara had announced he would be leaving her again for another mission. Sakura had been less than pleased. She pushed him away angrily and demanded to know why he was always so willing to leave and how he could be so damn careless with her emotions.

He scowled in fury and argued that living with her in Konoha should've already been enough to prove his devotion to her. He had left his home, his village, and his people just to be with her as much as he could.

Hell, he hadn't killed anyone either… randomly anyway. All pent-up frustrations from this had to be relieved using other alternatives. This of course was obvious given the amount of ungodly bent spoons and forks in her kitchen drawers.

Enraged by Sakura's ungratefulness for his efforts, he stormed out, kicking a chair clear across the room in the process.

She closed her eyes in anticipation, and as the wooden chair shattered loudly against the wall, she cringed and slid to her knees against the doorframe behind her.

She didn't know where he went. Dreading the worst possibility, she feared that he had gone ahead and left on his mission without saying goodbye. Separating on such hateful terms… she felt the need to break something to relieve her anxiety.

Maybe he was right… Sakura thought bitterly. Why do I always have to have those whiney outbursts?

She glanced at her calendar and sighed. His missions are usually a week or two long… I guess we can talk it over when he comes back.

She frowned inwardly. If he comes back.

"Damnit…"

She closed her eyes, trapping the liquid heat behind the tenseness of her eyelids. It would be a painful ordeal, but she would force herself to fall asleep.


It had been much later in the evening when Sakura felt her back being pulled against a hard chest. Her eyes fluttered open at the sudden contact, but she immediately recognized the presence behind her.

"Sakura…"

She could feel his heated breath against the back of her neck.

"You didn't leave…?" Sakura whispered, surprise clearly evident in the tonality of her voice.

"No…" Gaara said slowly, puzzled that she had even considered the idea of him abandoning her in such a way. "But I'll still have to eventually."

He paused.

"You know that, Sakura."

"Yeah…" she sighed in defeat. "I know."

Reaching an arm up behind her, she slid a hand against Gaara's neck, inviting him closer. She wanted to forget about being angry. Truthfully, she was just relieved that he hadn't left. His embrace tightened as he nuzzled his face against Sakura's delicate pink hair, "Are you upset?"

"Of course I am," she stated simply.

A deep, throaty chuckle escaped him. Somehow, his cherry blossom could still be blunt and stubborn without the aid of being shrill to emphasize.

In a rough instant, Gaara had Sakura on her back. He held her hands by her head, entwining their fingers as he stared intently into her eyes.

"Don't go anywhere while I'm gone."

She pouted slightly. "You know I need to train—"

"Don't go anywhere, Sakura," he repeated darkly. "No leaving the village for missions. You're still inexperienced, and I can't be there to protect you."

Now, over the years Sakura had moved far from being the weakest link amongst her peers. With the fifth Hokage as her teacher, she was more than capable of protecting herself. Gaara, however, chose to ignore this and remained undeviatingly protective if there was the slightest potential of Sakura being harmed.

If she had a mission, Gaara gave the usual who, when, where, why, followed by the inevitable no.

They would argue till their throats were parched. She called him stupid and stubborn, while he in turn called her naïve and careless. She argued furiously that he was being unfair since he left on missions all the time, missions in which she was never allowed to accompany. It was another of their routines: fed up with all the yelling and cursing, Gaara would march off and eventually end up at the Hokage's office, demanding menacingly that he be allowed to 'supervise' the very mission Sakura was involved with. More often than not, his affection for the pink-haired girl was often displayed through temper tantrums.

"You tell me this every time…Just stay then!" Sakura began pleadingly. "Stay with me! Protect me! Do whatever you want! I won't get mad anymore… You're the Kazekage for godsakes, why do you still insist on going on missions?"

He scowled at her outburst. It was enough to mentally smack her down as vibrant green eyes lowered in defeat. "…Why… why do you have to leave…"

Realizing his habitual death-glare was out of line, he shook it off and diverted his eyes guiltily. "I can't… stand leaving you... When I'm gone on missions, I grow… impatient, angry, frustrated, everything. I just want to get the hell out of there and get back to you." His eyes narrowed slightly. "I need you to understand that."

Sakura nodded slowly, rubbing her fingers soothingly against his to let him know she was listening.

"But," Gaara continued. "What I do has to be done. A-Rank missions can't be done by just anyone."

She sprang forward, eyes widening in surprise. "A-Rank? This is another A-Rank mission?"

"Sakura…" he warned.

"How could you not tell me? Jeez, you idiot! You're always on missions to kill yoursel—!"

"Akatsuki has been spotted near Suna."

Taken aback, she swallowed hard. Oh no…

"Akatsuki… the ones who tried to kidnap Naruto before?"

"Yes," he answered stiffly. "And I'm next. They'll attack Suna looking for me. I have to protect my village."

"But…" She stopped herself quickly. To argue further would be selfish on her behalf; Gaara was more than dedicated to protecting his village and his people. It was his home after all, and it was hard enough having to keep tabs on his village while staying with her in Konoha. She had no right to stop him.

"Then," she looked up at him hopefully. "Let me—"

"You're not coming with me," he snapped.

She let out an irritated sigh. "I'm not as weak as you think I am."

"That's not the point."

"Then let me come with you."

He released one of her hands and gripped her chin. "I said no."

"Fine…" she muttered, jerking her head away. She despised being treated so childishly when he began losing patience with her.

"Promise me then…" she said quietly. "That you'll be careful?"

Gaara's head tipped curiously to the side. "…What does—How do I 'promise' you…?"

Anger vanishing quickly, she giggled despite herself. He may treat her childishly at times, but he could be more of a child overall. He knew almost every word in the dictionary, but the meanings of certain terms and phrases, when expressed emotionally rather than logically, would fly clear over his head.

Once, she had called him 'cute' after an outburst. He stared at her for a good ten minutes trying to figure out what the hell she meant.

"When someone asks you to do something, and you promise… then, you have to do it no matter what," Sakura explained. "You can't break a promise."

He wrinkled the space between his eyes in confusion. "You… want me to sign a contract?"

For the first time that night, she burst out laughing. "No, no… it's not like that!"

"Not like what?"

"Forget that you're a Kazekage for a couple seconds. It's not suppose to be like a legal document."

"Then what stops me from breaking a promise?"

"You do," she said poking him playfully in the chest. "It's an agreement from the heart."

"I… see…"

Gaara captured her hand as she poked him. Lifting Sakura's delicate fingers to his lips, he kissed them tenderly before clutching them back against his chest.

"So if I promise to stay out of danger, then I can ask you to do the same?"

She smiled rolling her eyes. "Well… I guess that's only fair."

He smiled back almost wickedly as he pressed his lips to hers. She could only run a hand briefly through his unruly red hair before he had her arms pinned to the bed.

Gaara never got bored of exploring his cherry blossom. His lips trailed across her face, relishing the salty tears that were once streaked across her cheeks. Everything about her tasted so pure, so amazing…

Indeed, she was in for a night of ravagement… he would make sure of that.

But, he would be gone the next morning. She knew she would be waking up alone in her quiet apartment. His impression, his scent… both perhaps still present against her pillows. She would cherish this moment, cherish the feeling of his heated skin against hers, the feeling of his breath as he nuzzled his face into her neck.

Together, they reached euphoria. He fell against her, holding her tightly against his chest. Their rapid breathing slowed, and sparkling green met fiery emerald… Gaara kissed Sakura softly on the forehead as he lay to rest beside her. She ran a hand against his cheek, memorizing his face, knowing it could be days before she saw him again.

And as they drifted to sleep, she couldn't help but smile as Gaara muttered quietly:

"I'm sorry I broke the chair…"