The Konoha Blend

When he put in the request for a pot or two of coffee--somewhere along the line, he had developed an intense attachment to the alarmingly addictive legal drug, probably because the caffiene rush kept him awake and alert long enough to slog through piles of tedious paperwork and reports--he figured either his brother or sister would bring it over, and that would be that.

Naturally, his assumption was dead wrong.

Long before she entered the room, Gaara knew who would come breezing through the door. Though his senses were not as acute as, say, the Inuzuka clan's, he was still rather receptive to scents, and he could determine an individual's identity without seeing them by listening closely to their footfalls. The difference between one person and another might be very slight, but everyone walked in a way unique only to them, and he had learned how to notice subtleties. As a Kage, such a skill was almost a requirement.

For instance, he knew his approaching visitor always took long, graceful strides, particularly now that she had come into her own, accepted the limiations of her body and worked around them, utilized her strengths and fortified her weaknesses. She put her entire foot down before pushing off from the ground again, the heels of her boots giving an audible 'click' as she sauntered toward his office, her pace light and easy. She was confident, secure, sure of herself...although doubt lingered there, too. Fear that she would fail, that she would disappoint those who depended on her. Reasonable, considering her chosen profession as a medic. Anything could happen at any time; a treatment could backfire, a healing patient could take a turn for the worse...

While his job was nothing near a walk in the park, Gaara would rather face the constant swarm of busybodies and diplomats who demanded every second of his time than the chaos and uncertainty that thrived in a hospital.

But the thing that thoroughly captured his attention was not her gait.

He heard the inevitable knock on the door, and the hinges creaked as it swung open without invitation. Haruno Sakura, temporary trainer of the Suna med unit, flashed him a blinding smile that showed the top row of perfect white teeth. She held a coffee pot in one hand and his favorite oversized mug--a gift she herself had given him for his birthday a week ago--dangled by the handle where it was looped around the pointer finger of the opposite.

"Good morning, Kazekage-sama," she greeted brightly, and followed up with a mischievous inclination of the head, laughter in her large, emerald eyes. "You look surprisingly well, considering how ass-early it is." Nudging the door shut with an elbow, she came forward to set the coffee and mug on his desk, and then settled herself in an armchair across from him, one long, porcelain leg crossed at the knee over the other. "Though I suppose you've had a lot of practice in that area."

It was her scent.

She smelled like...berries. Strawberry, specifically, and it drove him mad.

Gaara never used to have any interest in food, let alone strawberries. He ate whatever was placed in front of him. It was methodical. He couldn't taste much, anyway, not when the desire for blood overwhelmed him.

But then she entered his life, her and her damned scent that followed him around everywhere, and he suddenly developed a need more powerful than the bloodlust to have strawberries.

Sakura didn't realize how dangerous she was...or how much danger she had brought upon herself. She should have declined when asked to leave her homeland for three months to instruct a ragtag group of ninjas not esteemed for their prowess in the art of medicine, but her healer's instict spoke louder than the voice of reason.

Truthfully, Gaara could not deny that they needed her, and that out of anyone he could have chosen, she was the most competent. Not even a month there, and he was already noticing improvement. Her students respected her, and she in turn held nothing back from them, knowing that through her, lives would be saved. His siblings both seemed fond of the pink-haired kunoichi, Temari treating her like another sister and Kankuro engaging her in shrewd banter that sometimes lasted for hours--Sakura, it would seem, enjoyed to talk as much as he.

And Gaara...

The fact that he was a threat to her was the only thing that had not changed in all the years since their first fateful encounter when he meant to kill her...with the exception of one small variable.

He didn't want her to die any longer.

"And for it being so "ass-early," you're too cheerful," he retorted in a curt voice, reaching for the coffee. It smelled...unusual. Not quite hazlenut, but not quite vanilla either. Interesting.

Her cheeks dimpled. "Grouch," she murmured, tapping blunt-tipped nails against the oak armrests of the chair. "I deviated from my schedule to play maid for you, and this is the thanks I get."

"You chose to do that on your own. I didn't ask you to." Gaara brought the cup to his mouth and took a sip. "What is this?" His expression bordered on mystified.

Sakura suppressed a giggle, though just barely. "Why? Is it bad?"

"No." He blinked, and took another sip. "It's...very good, actually."

The kunoichi beamed. "So you like it?"

"I thought that's what I said."

"Yes, but I wanted to make sure," Sakura explained solemnly, though her eyes betrayed any sense of seriousness. "You're notorious for being impossibly vague, Kazekage-sama."

"Oh, stop that," Gaara muttered tersely, troubled by this closeness, this…familiarity. He was becoming comfortable around her, too comfortable. His mind practically screamed not to encourage this, but... "You know my name." He looked at her, not failing to note that she seemed somewhat taken aback, yet her recovery was quick.

"I do know your name." She uncrossed and recrossed her legs, returning his stare. "But I was unaware I had the privilege to use it...Gaara." Chin propped on her palm, she showed him her teeth again, and he had to remind himself that breathing was necessary if he wanted to remain conscious.

From her lips, he liked the way his name sounded more than he should have, far more than he anticipated.

The situation was not dangerous. It was dire. The ice on which he treaded was cracked, each step triggering another splinter, another harbinger of the fall...he'd be drawn under if he weren't careful, cautious, vigilant...

She was speaking, and he'd missed about half of what she said while he was caught up in contemplation.

"...I'm glad you like it, though. It's a brew I put together myself while I was on duty one night. Guaranteed to keep you buzzed for at least eight hours." Sakura winked. "I call it the 'Konoha Blend.'" She stretched out her hand in an imploring gesture, and Gaara, hesitating at first, gave her his mug.

Eyes locked with his, she took a long draught, happily sighing, "Perfect," before sliding the cup back to him.

Bewildered, Gaara looked from her to the mug, and saw the tiny pink ring her lip gloss had left behind on the rim.

For some reason, that little ring was so erotic it was physically painful.

Must be a result of that hormone crap I missed out on…He mused, near hysterics. He might have laughed if he were anyone other than the Kazekage...or anyone other than Gaara, for that matter. It was bad enough his body chose now of all times to reassure him he was indeed male, and the streaks of irrationality that he only experienced when in her prescence were none other than symptoms of full-blown, irreversible attraction.

He wanted her. There was no refuting it. Turn it inside out, paint it different colors, it was what it was.

Strawberries wouldn't be his favorite fruit if he hadn't met her.

If she were merely a distant, aloof recollection, the pink ring on his mug would've repulsed him.

And now he'd have to find a way to discreetly requisition a lifetime supply of 'Konoha Blend,' because the old Columbian just wouldn't cut it anymore.

"Are you finished distracting me from my work?" Gaara demanded in what he hoped was annoyance, motioning about his desk at the stacks of reports he had yet to tackle. "I wake up at this hour for a reason, regardless of the general opinion where my sanity is concerned."

Briefly, Sakura's eyes narrowed as though she were about to argue, but the moment passed. Whether or not intuition had clued her in on his secret was a mystery, however Gaara had a sinking suspicion the neutral facade would not last.

For the final time that morning, Sakura treated him to a smile.

"Of course you do," she agreed amiably, and extracted herself from the chair. "I never doubted it."

Gaara watched her as she walked away, mind racing. When she was almost at the door, she glanced over her shoulder and added, "Enjoy the coffee."

Only after he could no longer hear the echo of her soft chuckles in the hall did he allow himself to laugh, partly out of sheer panic, and partly out of amusement. Raising the mug, he found the spot where her lips had touched and drank.

Her lip gloss tasted like strawberries.

Holy monkeys, I have done it. I have written a Gaara/Sakura. Gasp? XD Oh LJ, the things you make me do...(I originally had this posted on my journal for my buddy yoko chan, who requested the keyword "coffee." Hee. Hee. Hee. XD) Hope you guys liked!