Notes from the authoress, TLH.
Yo, minna-san. How are you all? Well, just to let you know, this is my first fanfiction that I am posting. I have started to write others, but this one was short so I could post it easier. It took me 4 hours in early morning, 11:30 p.m.-3:38 a.m., to write it all out and I thought it was interesting, but it took me several days to type it out, lol. In the end I managed to take an extremely short piece and turned it into 14 pages faints. I always work better in the early a.m., I guess I am just weird like that. Anyways, this is a Sakura centered fic, and there is slight Gaara X Sakura, but only slight, i guess again. . . I had to try really hard to stay in character when I made their interaction, so don't flame me if you don't like it, constructive criticism only! And if the Fanfiction ANBU's attack me, well . . . I don't care, Humph, I have buckets! crosses arms and pouts GRRR! This is a One Shot, only if I don't have an excuse to do more poses like girls from The Price is Right pointing to the 'Submit Review' button. Any reviews or questions, starts dramatics that i hope i get, will be answered when i get them (email is sooooo wonderful!)
Sakura walked along the familiar, beaten path, not entirely certain where here feet were carrying her, but also not caring in the least. It was her routine now, and it felt good to be back in routine. The days came and were spent, and finally wound down into a familiar trip outside for fresh air and tranquility. Although, where she went each time was not normally known at the start of the trek, as it was this time, she was always pleasantly surprised to find it was someplace she needed to see to get over the day and its hassles or to help someone else meet that goal. Once it had been the memorial stone on the outskirts of Leaf to run a trained finger over the engraved names of passed loved ones, and be reminded of other times. Another time it had been Ino's house when her dad passed away, or Hinata's place to help her get ready for her first date with Naruto. Those times were good, and they helped her to mature into the lovely, knowledgeable 17-year-old, who had seen and been through so much, yet still remained the amiable teen that yearned to be more. But everyday, the routine never varied and yet the end result was something she always looked forward to since it was always something different. The brunt of the day was spent running around the hospital, following Tsunade-sama's and Shizune-san's orders and teachings, or maybe on a mission wherever her level skill and quick wit was needed. Though the missions were never an unwelcome change in her routine, she always yearned for the familiar walk at the end of the day that always showed her something beautiful and/or important. She would never cut it from her day, even when sent to another country.
She had just returned from a relatively short, three-week mission: exchange some information on recent activity of the Hidden Sound Village with the Kazekage, or Gaara of the Desert.
She looked back and mentally laughed at her sensei and Hokage. Tsunade-sama had made it clear that they were Leaf's allies and needed to be trusted and they should learn to trust Leaf. Yet Tsunade-sama became fidgety and uptight when she and the Kazekage were in the same room, and she always made an excuse to send someone else to the Hidden Sand. In this mission, Sakura was urged by Tsunade-sama to go to help the budding alliance along with Hidden Sand. Because she is Tsunade-sama's apprentice and she doesn't mind going away anyway, anything that will keep her from dwelling on the past is an acceptable change to her routine. So, she accepted the mission for that sake.
While her mission had been successful, it was uneventful. Her stay in the Hidden Sand would have been almost unbearably boring, if not for the several interactions she had had with the Kazekage. Being the skilled ninja that she is, she kept her guard up during all their meetings, always innately aware of how dangerous he was and how vulnerable she was around him. No matter how hard she tried to tell herself to calm down with the reasoning that he had changed since the Chuunin Exam, every time they made eye contact the hair on the back of her neck would rise and her heart would race. The adrenaline rush she had whenever he came in sight never seemed to fail her and always put her keen sense on alert. It didn't help that he could read her like a book, when her eyes always betrayed her calm façade, and he was quite keen on watching them when they talked. Sometimes he would smirk at her and she mentally swore he was going to suddenly yell out "BOO!" But what angered her most about it was that if he did, she knew it would make her jump out of her skin. It frustrated the placid teen to no end to know he could cause her to lose her hard-earned peace of mind and when he gave her that knowing, and almost cruel, smirk she would become a victim waiting for the strike at her sore pride. But he would just continue talking about the alliance and whatever else she had come to the Hidden Sand Village to learn, and it frustrated her even more.
Strangely enough he never really insulted her during her stay in his village, aside from the smirks that told her she was too easy to read. He had asked an odd question to her during her evening routine walk on the second to last day before her departure, and at the time it left her shell-shocked. It caused her to forgo her routine walk around Hidden Sand on her last day, where he always seemed to find her. She didn't know the answer, and she knew she was running away from the question. But if avoidance was an option, she always took it, whether it was interrogation, fighting, or Gaara of the Desert. She didn't dislike him, but he unnerved her, he was dangerous and a threat to her future, and he was very analytical and observing. And she guessed that by spending time with her on her evening walks he was watching for her weaknesses. They had talked about the meaning of certain things in each other's lives, things where they either had a common bond of a barrier against each other, and she found that during these talks it was easier to relax around him enough to enjoy her walk. She learned a few things about his troubled past and he learned about hers. She had gained respect for him, and all in all, she began to trust him enough to tell him about herself instead of Naruto and Lee as she was at first. He actually seemed interested in her past and present. She was quite surprised to learn that they had shared a few similar experiences in life, and he understood her. But when he had asked her that odd question, she was a little shaken and pushed back to her alert state. She had looked at him to see if he was serious and judging by the way he looked at her, he was dead serious. If Temari-chan hadn't picked that time to come walking up to them, she was sure she would have passed out from stressing. As it was Temari-chan wanted to visit Shikamaru in Leaf and would escort Sakura home, but wanted to accompany Sakura back to her apartment and make arrangements there. While Gaara glared at his sister for the interruption, Sakura was elated with the excuse Temari had unknowingly dropped in her lap, and after excusing herself politely from Gaara and his penetrating eyes, practically ran away from him with Temari at her heels. She swore she could feel him smirking at her and his gaze pasted to her back. She didn't come in contact with him again before she left for home two days later.
She was completely relieved to make it home four days ago, safe and sound. Now that she was well rested and returned to the familiarity that was her home, she could pick her life up and continue it from where she had paused it with the interruption of her mission. She walked on into the quickly darkening twilight, taking a deep breath of air that smelled of green and home . . . and hope. She vaguely registered that fact that her feet neither stumbled nor faltered on the path that was steadily taking her uphill, and becoming rather rocky. Yet she kept her feet and continued to admire the soft glow of summer sunset in the air, which was all that was left of the day. The beautiful scene was being painted in the sky as the moon rose full and golden in all its harvest glory. Things certainly changed in such a short time. Her thoughts began to wander again, drifting between her surroundings and questioning life in general. She thought back to how four weeks ago in mid-August, summer had been in full bloom. Now September was bringing in the comforting chill of fall. 'Autumn . . . that's Kakashi's season, right?' her eyes brightened with unshed tears she calmly blinked back. 'It sure has been awhile, with everyone doing their own thing, its gets hard to keep track of the time as it passes.' She sighed deep from the bottom of her heart to ease the ache that suddenly made her feel so hollow. While her thoughts traveled universes away from her body, her feet trudged on silently on the trail without any assent from her faraway mind.
Slowly, the heartache was replaced by an anticipating restlessness, which meant her destination was near. Finally she stopped and gathered herself from wherever her mind had blown her thoughts. As she looked around in awe of the beauty of her surroundings, she realized she was standing atop the Hokage's monument, a very long walk that seemed to pass in seconds. She stood at the tallest point in her entire village and smiled at the scene before her. She took another deep breath of the summer breeze, sweet tinted with the first spices of autumn. The sun had finally set, painting the sky a brilliant ruby red and gold that was fast bleeding into the darker hues of twilight.
"This must be it," she sighed as she gracefully sat on the day-warm stone beneath her and relaxed into the wind, "This must be my hope of today."
Finally at peace with the world, silent and alone, she let the days events catch up with her troubled mind and heart. As the ache returned and she began to appreciate this time to watch nature paint her a portrait in heaven, she cried. No sobbing, no sniffling. Merely streams of tears that ran down her face and wouldn't cease. The liquid slid from her eyes, leaving glistening trails on her skin. It felt so good, the ache didn't bother her so much now, and she could feel the desperation she felt for the past also fading as she watched the sky.
"Amazing how simple tears can make a whole world of difference to some people," she whispered calmly to the silent world, as she wiped away the weakness that made her strong.
"Others would ridicule you for this, anyone could use this against you as your weakness," a presence behind her stated.
She calmly took in her surroundings again, before analyzing the chakra of her visitor. He had so rudely interrupted her musing yet she was not offended, merely tired of assumptions about her weaknesses. Her mind was so far gone, that she had only stiffened when he spoke, to unaware to be surprised, to in her own thoughts to recognize the voice of Gaara of the Desert.
"Let them, then. They don't know what my strengths and weaknesses are," her voice held a serenity that he had never heard before, though when she turned her head to look him in the eye, he saw an apathy that meant something had broken her once boisterous spirit, along with weariness that came from lack of sleep and tense muscles in her shoulders and jaw, "They don't know me."
Had he been anyone else, he would have backed down from the sword-sharp cold edge discreetly placed behind that apathy. He noted she had been practicing hiding her emotions, but he also remembered the laughing young woman who he had talked to back in Hidden Sand. This was the same girl, but something was off, different. He reminded himself of why he sought her out, and then he saw it. What was off was there in her eyes. The laughter was gone, replaced by a new guarded expression that was not her own, it was his. She put it out there and he met it head on. He watched as she unconsciously pulled her knees to her, and raised the bar with the addition of that cruel or knowing trademark smirk. The smirk, it made him look a whole lot like Sasuke . . . but he wasn't Sasuke. Sasuke was gone. She clenched her teeth and steeled herself for whatever he would do. The day had worn thin her poor tattered nerves. His being there had unceremoniously ripped her from the high her walk had given her, but she was too wary to be cautious. So she relaxed again, letting the steel in her eyes fade back so they expressed the pain and loss she truly felt. He saw it, he knew it, he felt it in her gaze; so when he spoke, the harshness in his tone was not meant for her, but rather as a defense against her raw, unveiled emotions that he had not expected. So when she flinched, he sneered at his own mistake.
"Are you afraid of me? You ran last time I asked you that question. Does that mean I scare you?" he had not expected a dazed laugh as his reply.
"You know what, ever since you asked me that," she smiled as she turned her gaze back to the still glowing dusk as stars began to sew diamonds in the brilliant artwork above them, "I truly wondered about it, I didn't know if you were being rhetorical or what, in all honesty, and I wasn't sure I even knew the answer."
"Did you figure it out yet . . ." his voice had turned low, and he too gazed at the sky that never seemed to convey so much beauty to him. The way she had coaxed him into this mood was surprising in itself, he felt extremely at ease, even Shukaku had decided to silence his incessant rants and give him peace of mind. It made him suspicious of his surroundings, yet trusting that she would not do something to break the bond that was between them at this moment. She would answer his question, and she would tell him the truth. " . . . Because I meant it, I want to know."
"I think I did, and honestly," she sighed as she stood and dusted herself off, "you did, before, but now I think its not you I am afraid of, if I am actually scared at all."
" . . . Then what are you afraid of?" he asked after a thoughtful pause, as he watched her stand, becoming as dazed and defenseless as she had become.
"Why are you so curious?" she turned her head slightly to look at him from below her long lashes, "What would you do with the knowledge of my fears? Would you use them against me . . . or to bury yourself deeper under my skin?" she added with a smirk that told him she wasn't being literal, but still wanted to know his reaction.
Her query to his own psyche, again reminded him of the young woman he had gotten wedged into his ever-musing mind. It made him wonder why he did want to know, why he had sought her out every evening to see if his being there would change her routine or change her, why he had come all this way for an answer that he wasn't sure he truly wanted to hear, under the guise of a mission. Why had he, Gaara of the Desert, done these things, when he shouldn't have cared, why? When he answered he was completely honest, with her, as well as himself.
"I don't know," he said, completely open and vulnerable.
Her eyes widened a fraction and then she smiled a true smile, one that lit into her eyes. If she had ever wanted to wound him beyond repair, now would be the time. But Sakura would not be so cruel to someone, like Gaara, whom she truly respected. His openness at this moment only helped to deepen her respect for him. She wondered at the stories of his childhood she received from Temari and Kankurou. He never let his guard down, and she felt honored that he had willingly disarmed himself for her, if only the tiniest bit. Any base feelings she had of him from their first meeting years ago were lost and replaced with admiration and acceptance, just as he had just accepted her. So she turned her head back to the stars with a contented sigh.
"I'll tell you," she raised an arm to the sky and reached for a star, lowering it and spreading her arms to embrace the entire sky in all its magnificent glory, "This scares me."
Her eyes wandered over the scene, from the sky and its possibilities, to the forest and village that was her home, her hope. She looked back at his mildly confused face with caution thrown to the wind, knowing that he was still wary of her in some ways yet open to her in so many others. She smiled wider as he took a step toward her to see her world, her fear. His presence was not menacing, rather it was calm and fairly protective. He would protect her, if she so needed protecting, from her fears. Her instincts were still nagging at her foolishness for opening herself up to a possible threat, but she reasoned that opening herself up would strengthen the new bond between her and Gaara. She knew that Gaara wanted this as much as she did, for it would mean that neither he nor she would be alone anymore. Bolstered by his silent acceptance of her fear, she continued to explain, to keep any awkwardness to a minimum.
"I was not afraid of you, just what you can do," she said, though she saw his eyes lower a fraction so she hurried to continue, "You are capable of destroying me, ending my life here and now, ruining what I worked my whole life for, but you haven't. Instead, I fear time, or really the lack of it. While I was in Hidden Sand, I felt as if I had stepped out of time, just paused my life for a while, and when I returned here nothing would have changed. I would just return to my life and everything would be the same. I really hoped that would be it, but deep down I felt I was just deluding myself . . . when I talked with you I felt unnerved that you could look at me and see my conflicting thoughts, everything I felt was so surreal. When I came home I saw that time really hadn't stopped for me, the world had continued and many things had changed. It was such a rude awakening, and I felt like no one cared and instead of pausing I had fast-forwarded. I missed so much, and if I had died, no one would have known for weeks after the fact. A fading memory and little more would have been left. And I would have missed this so much . . ." tears streamed down her pale, moonlit face upturned to the sky. Her arms still outstretched as her smile turned slightly down in disappointment and longing.
Gaara stared at her silently in shock of how unguarded she was. He mentally shook himself as he remembered his own childhood and would have scowled at her, but the look on her face brutally open. She had lost someone precious to her, she had wondered if others would have grieved her if she had been in their place, and yet she would have missed this world for all its faults. It made him wonder if she would miss him if he were gone; he knew he would have missed her fiery spirit. He wanted an answer.
"Why would you miss something that wouldn't miss you? Something as intangible as time that makes all life insignificant, you fear that?" Gaara of the Desert asked curiously, but the slight animosity in his tone made her wonder if she was being delusional about their connection before. However, he regretted it as her shoulders fell somewhat.
She didn't know if he was mocking her weakness or protecting himself from something. She was bereft at the most minor of aggression on his part, but she was compelled to answer his question. When she looked up into his face to see if he was shunning her and her weakness, she was surprised to see him watching her so intently, an assurance behind his glazed, green eyes. He was a yard or so behind her and she nearly blushed at the moment as she turned her head back to nature's mural. If she could see him so clearly in the half-light consuming their world, she guessed he could see her even better. So she summoned a little more courage to get him to open up to her, gathering all her courage into something that would close the emotional distance between them. Something she knew was desperately vital for their sacred union. She was not afraid of his reaction, she was not a child anymore, and she was not going to lose anymore.
"I understand why you feel that way, you were ostracized as a child, just like Naruto, all because of something you had no control over," she nodded and continued, "but it is what I fear. I have no control over time . . . and I have come to realize that I don't want to die yet. Not until I have done something significant with my life. I want to conquer that fear. And that way when I do die . . ." she turned back to him, completely this time, and, painstakingly taking the time she so desperately clung to, letting her watch her every move to prove she was no threat, she walked up to him. She stopped about two feet in front of him, always keeping direct eye contact with him, "when I am gone, I will have found happiness and be without fear, and I will know love . . ."
She reached up and touched the red symbol on his forehead, before smiling that beautiful smile and opening her arms to a young man who never knew love. He was almost lost, when she turned to him, mesmerized by the slow steps she took to reach him. When she touched the kanji on his face, he let his head gently lean into her palm. Shukaku had long been silenced and he was still in a daze at the calm in his mind. When she embraced him, he was stunned into silence. She was careful not to threaten him with her movements, and her actions were of soft and he felt safe. There was no mocking smirk here, just a night sky, and something else . . . something beautiful and it shocked him to the core.
"Is that . . ." numb arms came up to wrap tightly around her small frame and return the embrace, "is this what you meant by hope?" he asked in a barely audible whisper.
"Yes, hope that the world will continue to change and give everyone a second chance. Since time makes everything insignificant, I want a chance to watch it change. It will change me, and you, and I want to see it and face it without fear. I hope to see life become death, day become night, and one day, become stronger for it. Do you understand?" she clung to him, and he held her up, as all the despair and emotions she had dammed up for weeks became hard to hold back. Her knees went weak and he still held her tightly, refusing to let her fall to her fears, and buried his face into her hair. She cried.
She felt almost unbearably weak. In her mind she had once again become the weak child she had left behind, not strong enough to defend herself from bullies, not strong enough to protect herself or others during missions, not strong enough to keep Sasuke from leaving, not strong enough to hide her emotions, and ultimately not strong enough to save Kakashi. She cried harder, into his chest, and he let her.
Her aura had become dark with misery and he knew she was feeling extremely vulnerable. He saw her as fragile, delicate as the flower she was undoubtedly named after. But even though she was breakable, he never thought of her as weak, even though her tears were soaking though the sand that surrounded him and into his clothes. She was a subtle change from the monotony of being a shinobi. Her emotions were raw and untainted by taking the lives of others, unlike him, and he felt blessed that she considered him worthy of her emotions, thoughts, and tears. He knew she was right about her tears. They were her own special strength. He smiled a small smile into her hair, and held her close to him. He didn't know what to do, but knew that the best way to comfort her was to let her decide when she was ready to let go. Slowly she pulled back enough to look up into his face, both still locked in an embrace they both needed.
"I believe that time will eventually make everything obsolete, because nothing stops it and nothing outlasts it," his eyes moved to hers and their gazes locked and an unspoken agreement passed between them, "but . . . I understand you, and when the time comes, you will be there and face it head on."
She stood astounded in his arms, frozen with an unnamed emotion whirling her insides into knots, her eyes gleamed with more tears that threatened to spill over. She smiled and when it reached her eyes, his features softened. They looked up to the sky once more to see the star strewn sky, full moon high above the earth.
"What about you?" her voice was so quiet that it didn't register with him for a second that she a spoken.
"What about me?" he looked down at her, his eyes narrowed in question.
"Do I scare you?" she turned back to him and made sure to set her face to it's most defiant look, but anyone else would have missed the beautiful, mischievous glint in her eyes.
" . . . You are weak . . ." he tilted his head back and to the side somewhat, in a means to stare her down, but his own eyes held more hidden in their jade depths, a longing and a protectiveness that made her reel in mock surprise. He ever so slightly tightened his grip around her waist, just incase she did fall, he would not let her, "I cannot be hurt, and you are far too fragile . . ."
" . . ." She narrowed her eyes at him in a mock glare, and a smirk spread across his face.
"I am not afraid of you . . ." he gently released her, making sure she could stand on her own, and for a split second she wondered if she would able to stand. Her knees felt like noodles, but she quickly regained her feet. However, neither Sakura nor Gaara broke complete contact and they were both staring into the other's eyes. He kept his hands protectively placed on her upper arms by her shoulder, while she kept her hands positioned on his chest. In the back of his mind Shukaku stirred nervously wondering why it was so quiet, and the sand began to move around him. It spun around them in a whirlwind of trillions of tiny grains, blowing her hair around and causing their clothes to flutter. But she showed no fear, and he was grateful. He didn't want to know what Shukaku would try to confuse him into doing if she had. They stayed that way for awhile until the sand rained down, then he added, "but you are different, and . . . I like it . . ."
Shukaku edged into his thought and his eyes took on a slight predatory gleam. He cursed the demon as she looked at him in confusion. She did not drop her head and submit to it like most would have. They both let their hands slide to break the sacred contact between them. She smiled up at him, relishing in her free and happy feeling that she had thought was gone. Shukaku was taken aback by her show of affection for his host, and Gaara mentally laughed as the demon crept somewhere to the corner of his consciousness to debate over the female. Gaara thought she was beautiful with that smile in her bright emerald eyes, no wonder Shukaku had been aroused to the forefront of his thoughts. And she accepted him. The feelings that she had aroused in him had not gone unnoticed either. As a male he knew he would never forget the feeling of that embrace, and how he now felt suddenly cold with empty arms. The feelings were completely new to him, and he wanted time to sort through them. She turned away to reach for a star again, this time waving at the sky as if to say that she was there.
She turned her head to look at him from over her shoulder, "I'm here," she turned back to the sky, "And Don't You Forget Me!" She yelled to the sky, the underlying hope in her aura made him smirk as he turned his back to her.
"You are so fragile, but you are not easily broken," he whispered into the wind, and she turned to see him begin to walk away, "you won't be . . . "
She smiled at him, her eyes bright, and bowed in respect, "Thank you, Gaara. I hope I see you soon."
She stood up again as a hand traced her jaw line, gently pulling her up to look into his face, his eyes were gentle and intent on her eyes, "You said you wanted to watch time change everything, me included. You will."
Suddenly sand surrounded them and as he vanished she was positive she felt his hand stroke her cheek, and he was gone.
"Hmm . . . that's why I don't fear you," she sighed in contentment as she turned to face the sky and contemplate the evenings events, " Underneath the sand, your just like me . . ." she nodded to the starry sky.
As she sat back down to gather her thoughts, when she was content, she stood to walk home. As she walked her thoughts wandered back over light-years and returned to the days events, to hope and love. She thought of how similar yet completely different she was to Gaara, about time, and about tears. She mused about how much she enjoyed her daily routine, and the times when it mixed with randomness and became beautiful. She always learned something new, or helped someone else meet that goal. She hoped that she helped him in some way; that Gaara of the Desert had in some become closer to her. Then she remembered the look in his eyes; his strong, protective embrace; his hand on her cheek; and new that he had. She smiled and her stream of consciousness moved her mind back to the sky, far away from her feet, as they took her gracefully home. Autumn was in the breeze . . .
'Thank you Gaara . . .'
'Thank you . . . Sakura . . .'
In case you didn't know tears, while having the ability to protect and cleanse your eyes, will also help to alleviate depression. It has something to do with neurons in the brain, and how tears remove excess neurons and help neural reception. Lol. I went nerd on you guys for a second there. But anyways, it's true; it's why most people feel better after having a good cry. Works for me! lol. In case you were wondering what Sakura meant about 'Making a world of difference.' If there are more questions, email me. Flames are unworthy of my attention and will be ignored. Praise is honored, and constructive criticism is rewarded with better updates. Remember that.
Sorry its kinda long. lol.