Ah, GaaraSakura owns me. :submits: XD (Although I am still a faithful NaruSakuer. Heehee). Written for the LJ (requested by mowlawnerqueen) with the keyword "massage." Hope y'all enjoy!

"I don't want to do this," Gaara muttered, staring blankly at the report he'd been trying to read for the past two hours. "It pisses me off just thinking about it."

Kankuro, who lounged idly in an armchair and was currently perusing the Kazekage's newest batch of love letters paused a moment to shoot his brother a questioning look. "Oh? Details, man!"

Gaara's nostrils flared, and his eyes narrowed dangerously. "Those puffed up busybodies must think I'm a complete idiot to send me this thing." He seemed like he wanted nothing more than to rip the paper to shreds the way he glowered at it. "I tell them over and over and over that we don't have it in the budget to make the kind of expansions they're pushing for, but they won't listen!" Fingers tapping agitatedly against the wooden surface of his desk, he added, "It's like they expect me to pull money out of my ass whenever they need it because I'm a teenager, and obviously, I don't have two brain cells to rub together."

"Oh, of course not," Kankuro grinned, folding up the letter and reaching for another. "And you're a teenage male on top of it. We all know what that means."

Quite suddenly, the young Kazekage's countenance took on a conspiratorial air, and he leaned forward. "You know what I want to do?" His brother raised his brows, and he continued, "I want to take all the money in that treasury and spend it on porn. That'd stir 'em up, wouldn't it?" His expression became distant. "I can see the scandal…it's beautiful…"

Kankuro was positively beside himself. "Oh, man," he sniggered, teary eyed, "you kill me." He wiped the moisture from his cheeks, still chuckling. "I don't get it. You used to be the most impossible little shit to hold a conversation with, and now you're Mr. Personality. Dying was the best thing that ever happened to you."

"Gee, thanks," Gaara's reply was as dry as chalk. "Don't be offended if I say I'm not impressed." But he smiled anyway, because, when it came down to it, he agreed with the assessment. Life had become much less of a chore after he got over the fact that the world wasn't his playground, created for him exclusively so he could define his character and the reason he existed at all.

Despite common opinion, it required a lot of effort to hate everything that breathed, and he'd tasted more than his share of that wine.

Which is not to say he didn't feel awkward in his own skin once in a while. Learning to be human was frustrating, some times more than others, and he wasn't normal by any means, but he muddled along.

Hardly sentimental, he had to admit the knowledge that he wasn't alone, nor would he ever be, made it easier for him to wake in the morning and do his job to the utmost capacity. Temari was the mother hen; Kankuro was the partner in crime, and Sakura…

He hadn't figured her out yet. He wasn't sure he wanted to, considering she had been a frequent guest in his dreams the last month and a half, which gave him due cause for concern.

She was a good worker, an even better teacher, and the village had fallen in love with her. They valued the advances her techniques had made in the med unit, and were truly grateful that she had chosen to help them.

Gaara was no exception, being the one who asked her to come in the first place, but…

The possibility that he himself would fall in love with her never crossed his mind. It was too absurd to even consider. He'd almost killed her years ago, and since then, their correspondence was rather limited.

When she arrived at Suna, however, all that changed.

"Say, where's the spitfire?" Kankuro wondered, jarring Gaara out of his thoughts. "Last I talked to her, she had today off."

The pink-haired kunoichi and Kankuro had formed an amusing companionship that consisted of sharp jabs being tossed back and forth between them like a hot potato, and usually left their audience in stitches.

"She does," the Kazekage confirmed. "And she's probably out taking advantage of it." He rubbed the back of his neck, which had developed a painful crick from being bent over for so long.

It irritated him. He couldn't concentrate, and the crick was in a spot that made it difficult to get at.

And now, to add to the torment, he was thinking about Sakura, and where she could have gone.

Why did his brother always have to flap his jaws at the most inopportune times?

"Oh, Gaara-sama, I'll love you forever and ever with all my heart and soul!" Kankuro had affected a high-pitched, squeaky tone, and was reciting from the letter he held. "I would throw myself at your feet and lick your toes, that's how much I love you!" By that point, he was laughing too much to finish.

For some reason, that made Gaara's neck hurt even more.

"Lick my toes?" His nose wrinkled. "Are you serious?"

Kankuro pointed at a passage. "Look—" And he doubled over again.

Gaara looked. "That's sick," he said, flabbergasted. "Why in all hell would I want my toes licked?" I'd rather have a massage…

Sakura had lithe, capable hands, he'd noticed. A medic's hands. Receiving a massage from her would be heavenly, he imagined…

But he wasn't supposed to imagine her giving him massages. He wasn't supposed to imagine her giving him anything…except her service until she returned to Konoha.

And he'd have to let her go.

"So this is where all the noise is coming from."

Sharply, Gaara glanced up, saw her standing in the doorway.

She smiled at him, and he swore his heart dropped to the bottom of his stomach like a lead weight.

"Princess!" Kankuro recovered enough to greet her. "Couldn't stay away from me, could you?" He smirked. "It's that animal magnetism. It draws people to me."

"Then I guess it's a good thing you have your brother for bait," Sakura retorted sweetly.

The Kazekage didn't care for the direction this was heading, so he changed the subject.

"What are you doing here?"

"Why? Do you want me to leave?" Her voice sounded entertained, far more so than he was comfortable with.

It felt as though he was walking on a tightrope, and fast losing his balance.

And the worst part was, he had encouraged the familiarity when he offered her a spare room at the estate, told her, firmly, that she should call him by his given name and not his title when they weren't in public.

He could've prevented all of it had he just remained aloof, decided not to get involved…

But Sakura made it damn near impossible for him to ignore her.

"Oh…sit down," he said exasperatedly, watching as she flopped into a chair next to Kankuro, who whispered something in her ear that Gaara didn't catch.

She blushed, and gave his brother a solid whack on the arm.

"You're such an asshole," she declared, though the fondness behind her observation was apparent.

Gaara experienced a brief twinge of jealousy.

Or maybe it was the ache in his neck getting the better of him. What reason did he have to be jealous? It didn't make any difference to him who Sakura fraternized with, even if that person happened to be his sibling.

Enough, he ordered himself, thoroughly disgusted. This is ridiculous.

Apparently, he'd been making a face, because he realized both Kankuro and Sakura were staring at him.

There were few scattered occasions during which Gaara wished he could sink through the floor and disappear, and this was one of them.

His hormones—they'd behaved so well up until she came along—were flying off the charts, his neck hurt, he was grouchy, and it was her fault.

"Are you okay?" She asked, genuinely concerned. "What's wrong?"

"Yeah," Kankuro chimed in, "you were fine a minute ago." His expression was puzzled, however Gaara did not fail to see the shrewdness in his eyes, as if he knew something deeper was going on here, yet he couldn't put his finger on what.

"I'm a little sore, that's all." The Kazekage replied vaguely, shifting the papers around on his desk for no particular purpose other than as something to do.

Sakura reacted immediately. "Where?" Her fingers flexed of their own accord, itching with her 'healer's instinct,' as she called it. When he appeared dubious, she stood up, strolled around the chairs, and halted by his side. "Tell me where, Kazekage-sama," she commanded in a business-like manner. "I won't budge until you do."

She meant it, too. Haruno Sakura always followed through on her threats.

From his seat, Kankuro muffled a chortle with his hand, and chose to make himself scarce. He could practically feel the tension, it was so thick, and as much as he wanted to stick around and watch events as they unfolded, he figured the show would be pretty subdued were he to stay. But if they were alone…that was a different story altogether.

He'd wheedle a confession out of his brother later.

"Well, kiddies, have fun," he said when he was at the door, and winked at Sakura. "Go easy on him, eh? He's delicate."

Before Gaara had the chance to return the sentiment, Kankuro blew him an exaggerated kiss and slipped out, his laughter echoing down the hall.

The redhead blinked.

"Prick," he sniffed under his breath, all the more aware of Sakura's closeness, and oh dear lord, Kankuro had abandoned him…

He almost panicked, but then he remembered who he was, and why it was imperative he not fall apart, especially in front of Sakura.

But she was the problem in the first place! He didn't have to endure any more grief; he could send her away, concoct some excuse that required her to depart as soon as possible. It was within his power as a Kage…

Yeah, right. How stupid would he look if, after nearly begging her to whip their incompetent medics into shape, he changed his mind and said they didn't need her anymore? She'd take that as a slight, and probably never want to speak to him again, though he wouldn't blame her.

Damn it all, he did need her, and not simply because of her advances with the med unit. She'd become his friend, the one person besides his siblings and perhaps Naruto whom he felt he could share his thoughts with, and not worry about being judged. Oh, she made it clear when she disapproved of him, or when he annoyed her—which he did on purpose fairly often—but it wasn't hostile.

And if he were to lose that now, lose her so soon after establishing his humanity, it would crush him.

He'd have to start over again, and he didn't have so much faith in his stability to be confident that he could.

Dying is a unique event. It's only supposed to happen once. Due to circumstances out of his control, Gaara would die twice. It took a lot of patience to accept that, to move on, to make the most of this borrowed time and just live, because he was on his second chance already. Hastiness wouldn't do him any favors.

There was pressure on his shoulder.

"Come on, Gaara," her voice was gentle, coaxing. "I won't hurt you, I promise," she grinned. "If anything, you'll worship the ground I walk on."

He snorted in spite of himself. "Your modesty astounds."

Unabashed, Sakura shrugged. "My mother told me a girl should flaunt her talents," she explained, straight-faced, and then her demeanor morphed from flippant to determined. "Quit stalling. Tell me where it hurts."

He toyed with the notion of declining again, but the crick wasn't about to go away, and Sakura wasn't, either.

It's been said that the bravest thing a man can do is swallow his pride and concede defeat when he knows he's lost.

Gaara believed it.

"My neck."

Sakura made a triumphant noise. "That wasn't so horrible, was it?" She didn't wait for an answer before she began to knead the tender muscle, wincing in sympathy. "You're all knotted up. Relax. This might take a bit."

He couldn't relax. The massage was more painful than the crick.

"Don't tense, or it'll sting," she warned. "Close your eyes. That helps."

Not willing to argue, he did.

And fell asleep.

Once she had all the knots worked out, Sakura propped herself on the edge of his desk, content to study him as he dozed. Her leg swung absently back and forth.

"This is bad, you know," she said softly, more to herself than to him. "I shouldn't dread going home, but I do. And…I think I'm starting to understand why. It's not that I don't want to see my family and my friends. I do. I miss them." She chewed her lip. "It makes no sense, and yet…" her voice was barely above a whisper, "somehow I feel like I'll miss you more."

Gaara slept on, giving no indication that he'd listened, which was probably for the best. Their relationship was riddled with complications; she'd only be adding another.

"Come what may," she resolved simply, hopping off the desk. On a whim, she crouched down so she could plant a chaste kiss on his forehead. "We'll figure this out."

After she'd gone, the scent of her perfume lingering in the air, Gaara opened his eyes.

He'd heard everything.

"Come what may," he repeated, mouth turned up in a smile.

She would miss him.

That soothed better than the kiss.