The Sand Prince

A.N.: Thank you all for the wonderful reviews. I am terribly sorry about the long wait.

Chapter Fourteen – Unforgotten

Gaara's thoughts strayed back to the expression on Sakura's face after he had awaken, to the feel of her fingers in his hair. He was on his way to the meeting tent to speak with his sentry. He couldn't tear his thoughts from Sakura. Her gentle and vulnerable expression had verged on the side of tender. No one in his memory looked at him that way before.

"Gaara." The voice broke into his thoughts. His eyes turned to the young bandit that stood beside him. His name being Taka.

Gaara followed the younger bandit through the tent flap. He found two of the other bandits standing inside, having awaiting his arrival before they sat.

"You thoughts seem heavy." The bandit to his left, Kou said softly. "We have recently been told by Kiba as you have been, that girl is not the Princess, but Countess Sakura Haruno."

"Hn. Have news have you got for me?" He asked.

"We have had a message from Kiba, there are now two separate search parties looking for the girl. The duke's party has stopped following the false clues." The bandit to his right,Ginta reported.

"I see."

"They are not any closer, we should still retreat back to our base." Kou stated

"If we are not in any danger of being found it is unnecessary to do so." Gaara answered gruffly.

"Gaara, the Haruno guard is not to be trifled with, they will find us. It is only a matter of time before they they do. They will slaughter us all. The Countess is their precious person." The fear in Taka's voice made Gaara glance sharply at the younger bandit.

"They are fierce, but we are stronger and have more in number." Gaara answered, becoming irritated. 'Fools.' He thought. He rose from his spot, he would not listen to their fears.

"Gaara." Kou said his name quietly. Gaara turned back to them, irritation showing in his eyes. They leaning away subconsciously, fearing his temper. Gaara did not best Danzo their previous leader by being kind. His temper was legendary and his violence matched it.

"We do not fear anything easily. Heed our words, they will kill us all should they find us. Even you will not be spared. Count Haruno was their master. He hand selected and trained them. We should return the girl."

Gaara's temper flared, "No." He growled staring them all down.

"But Gaara-" Ginta started unhappily. Gaara cut him off with a look.

"You have fallen for her, haven't you?" Kou whispered incredulously. The other two stared openly at him.

"No, I will complete our revenge on the duke." Gaara stated, his anger level rising, he turned and left the tent, stalking back to his.

'I am not falling for that sneaky woman.' He thought.

Sasuke woke to Tenten's soft humming. She was reading a scroll and sitting with her back to him. "Tenten." He croaked. His throat felt dry and tight. She turned and a concerned look came over her face as she pressed a flagon of water into his hands.

"Drink Sasuke." She quietly commanded. He nodded, taking the water. "The medicinal herb in the drink Chiyo gave you dehydrates you. She told me you would need water when you woke. But I can't let you have food for an hour. How do you feel?"

"Better." Sasuke answered, never one to use more words when one would do. His handsome face grimaced as he ran a hand through his hair. "Bath?"

Tenten smiled and helped him up. He leaned on her as she escorted him out of the tent flap only to stop suddenly. There stood Gaara in a tan tunic and red breeches. His face was covered as it usually was. His eyes flashed in rage.

"You knew." He growled.

"Knew what?" Sasuke asked tiredly.

"About Sakura." He retorted.

"Of course." Sasuke pushed away from Tenten and stood on his own glaring right back at the man before him.

"Why didn't you say anything?" Gaara growled. "What was your plan?"

"Nothing." Sasuke bit back. He hadn't expected Gaara to find out so soon.

Gaara stared back at him before he turned his back on Sasuke and walked away.

Tenten's hand touched his shoulder. "You. You don't do anything stupid." Her voice held a note that wavered with anger. She took his arm and lead him to the oasis, she did not look at him at all.

White eyes stared out into the open vast desert. 'How will we ever find her?' The thoughts followed by feelings of hopelessness and desperation filtered through the pain Neji was currently feeling. His wound, while healing, still caused him to hurt.

"We have a trace on them now." Kakashi's friendly monotone broke through his thoughts.

"How?" Neji asked, his voice colored with doubt. Kakashi pointed to a middle age man with light brown hair and tan skin. His face was lined and his eyes weary.

"I don't remember seeing him with us after leaving Suna. Who is he?" Neji asked. While he knew a few of the Haruno guard well, there was some he hadn't met.

"Pakkun. He is our main sentry and tracker. He has found the tribe that has been leading us around in circles. They are in contact with the men that have kidnapped Sakura. We will have to threaten them for the information on where they are keeping her. But we have our first real lead." Kakashi stated. His mood seemed improved with his news.

Neji could feel his hopelessness lifting. "Lets move out then."

"I'll give the order."

"Thank you Kakashi, and your warriors there."

"Just doing our duty, Lord Neji." Kakashi turned and walked to where the rest of the Haruno guard stood completing random tasks.

The guard had been cheerier when their mistress was with them. They held themselves apart from him. They were friendly but nothing else.

Almost as if they blamed him for the countess being kidnapped.

Maybe that was his own guilt.

Sakura could feel the anger on Gaara as he returned. His jade eyes on fire. She shivered. The anger was not directed at her. At whom she did not know. He did not speak to her as he entered the tent, followed by an equally angry Tenten. Neither had visited during the night. As morning light began to touch the horizon had Gaara returned.

Tenten carried a tray of food and Sakura's stomach rumbled hunger as her eyes fell upon it. A blush crept up her face as a giggle sounded from the young woman holding the tray.

Gaara sat on the cushions pulling a small table from the side of the tent over. Tenten silently handed him the trey when he finished arranging the table the cushions. He looked expectantly up at Sakura. Sakura could not return his glaze without thinking of his almost kiss. Without a part of her wishing it had happened.

"Sit." He commanded. She was almost going to refuse but his eyes flashed. His mood hadn't returned to normal yet. She sighed.

Before she could join him at the table, Tenten pulled her into a hug. Sakura's eyes widen in surprise. As she was about to say something, Tenten whispered in her ear, "Be careful Sakura, I know not what he plans but I don't think he means well for you."

Sakura gasped and whispered back. "Gaara?"

"No, Sasuke." With that Tenten released her and left the Tenten leaving behind a bewildered and confused Sakura as well a surprised Gaara.

Gaara hadn't heard that they were whispering, he had been surprised by hug itself. He hadn't realized they were so close.

Sakura's memories of the only boy named Sasuke she had ever met. Her teeth clenched and her insides turned to ice. The only Sasuke she had ever met was the coldly beautiful, cruel Prince Sasuke of the Uchiha Kingdom. He could not be here. He could not.

She stiffly sat down to eat with Gaara. Her eyes not even seeing him, but turned in to her memories.

Ino hissed as the doctor bandaged her. His kind eyes, sympathetic. She would live, she would be scared but she would live. She had to find the idiot Naruto and tell him what happened. Warn him. Kabuto was coming for him. She didn't let the doctor see her blatant terror as she knew what Kabuto would do if he caught Naruto.

A.N. - Thank you for reading. Sorry about the long time to update. Really, I had no inspiration to write more until I read all your wonderful reviews. Thank you for the encouragement!