Sakura groaned and dropped her face into her hands. She had been hearing those same words shouted over and over again throughout the Kazekage's mansion while she tried to eat breakfast. This time, it was Kankuro. He scrambled into the room and took in the scene. Gaara and Sakura were sitting across from each other, eating breakfast with several other nin. Some were from Konoha, some from Suna, and they were all doing their very best to keep a straight face. Kankuro quickly walked up behind his brother, who didn't pay him the slightest bit of mind. Sakura peeked out to see Kankuro clapping Gaara on the shoulder, nodding and smiling. Sakura groaned again, louder this time, pushing her plate out of the way so she could drop her head to the table and wrap her arms around her head, and over her ears especially.
This time, it was Temari. Kankuro had snuck up to her the second she entered the room and had begun whispering in her ear. Temari whipped around to stare at the two of them. Gaara turned just enough to acknowledge her presence before he resumed eating.
"Is there anyone who doesn't know?"
Sakura spoke into the table before lifting her head back up. Big mistake. Temari and Kankuro were arm-in-arm, dancing in circles, silently waving and cheering on their little brother. The other nin seated at the table worked very hard to concentrate on eating and not grinning. You can't eat while you grin, after all.
Gaara looked at her for a moment before he turned to his siblings.
"Temari. Kankuro. Stop that."
They did, albeit reluctantly. Though they were still grinning as they sat down to eat.
"I understand you're a medical ninja."
Sakura looked up at the sound of Kankuro's voice. He was leaning forward, as if studying her.
Kankuro nodded, with a slightly larger grin.
"And you've been trained by Tsunade-sama, one of the legendary Sannin."
Temari was the one staring at her now, eyes narrowed.
Temari and Kankuro glanced at each other, and the two shared a nod of approval. Sakura dropped her head back onto the table with a thump.
Gaara found her later, staring out over the desert from the roof of his home
"Last night. It was…"
Gaara paused, and Sakura studied the odd look on his face. He looked like he was trying to remember something. He opened and closed his mouth several times as the expression intensified.
"Oh, I'm glad I could help…err…"
Sakura blushed and turned away, feeling the hot desert air wash over her. She could feel Gaara staring at her, and tried to rub the blush off her face as she heard him move closer.
"Could you help me with something else?"
"Taijutsu? I thought you've always used your sand?"
"It was Shukaku who controlled the shield of sand. Without him, the sand won't move to protect me on it's own, anymore."
"It won't? But you can still control sand, right?"
"Yes. But I've always had Shukaku's chakra to draw upon. With him gone…"
"I'm not strong enough to protect the village."
Sakura looked at him in open shock. He always stood so calmly, his eyes so emotionless, but now, as he looked out over the village, his village, his voice nearly cracked with emotion.
Sakura grinned and raised a fist.
"But don't think I'm going to go easy on you just because you're the Kazekage!"
Gaara merely turned to walk towards the training grounds, Sakura marching alongside.
And that was why Gaara was now limping through the hallway, leaning on Sakura for support. His entire body was one big bruise. Turns out, Gaara didn't know the first thing about taijutsu, having never needed it before. So unnerved by the onlookers, Sakura failed to notice this fact until the third time Gaara was airborne. She ended up taking him completely back to basics. Apparently, he also didn't know when to admit he needed a break. Training was over when Gaara fell flat on his face.
Sakura opened the door to his room and helped him inside. Setting him down on the bed, she helped him out of his clothes so she could examine him. She had seen this sort of damage a hundred times before, usually when Lee or another ninja overdid themselves while training. Making the seals, she ran her hands over the worst of it, the bruises retreating from the healing jutsu.
"You shouldn't have pushed yourself so hard, Gaara."
"I told you. I needed to learn taijutsu."
"Taijutsu isn't like ninjutsu. You can't just memorize moves like they were hand seals. And you certainly can't learn everything you need in just one day. It takes time, and lots of practice."
Sakura sat back to examine her work. Gaara was still far, far too stiff.
"Here. Lie down."
Gaara obeyed quietly, lying facedown on the bed. Sakura sat down next to him and began to massage the stress out of his muscles and tried to ignore Inner Sakura's comments on the little noises Gaara was making in response.
"H-how's that? Better?"
A black-rimmed eye opened and gazed at her, and Sakura waited for Gaara to say something. And waited. And waited.
"A-alright. Wow, look at the time. I'm g-going to go get cleaned up for dinner. You b-better…"
Sakura trailed off as Gaara slowly rose, and she helped him to his feet. Gaara began to walk towards the washroom while Sakura headed for the door.
Gaara was looking off into space. He turned to her after a moment, raising a hand to his neck where Sakura had worked out a particularly tough knot.
Sakura turned and quickly left the room, closing the door and leaning against it with a sigh. Inner Sakura was right. He was much cuter than Sasuke.
That evening, dinner went smoothly, as it was apparent everyone now knew that Sakura and Gaara had spent last night together. There were no distant shouts of surprise as word spread, and far fewer covert glances sent her way. The ninja present even managed to talk to her with a straight face and without innuendo. Sakura doubted that anyone would be stupid enough to say anything too bluntly. However, it only takes one idiot to screw up an otherwise nice time, and Naruto happily volunteered.
"So, Gaara…How long have you and Sakura been together?"
The fork paused halfway to Gaara's mouth, and the rest of the nin froze as well. Gaara turned, oh-so-slowly, to stare at Naruto, who was grinning from ear to ear.
"What do you mean?"
"You know! How long have you two been seeing each other?"
Gaara merely looked at him blankly. Not getting an answer, Naruto turned to the other nin at the table, who were doing their best not to look at him.
"I asked everybody! They didn't know…"
The downside to Sakura's Shut-up-Naruto-glare no jutsu, it didn't last long.
"…Oh! I get it!"
Inner Sakura bet he didn't get anything that didn't involve ramen.
"You two have been keeping it a secret!"
Sakura owed Inner Sakura twenty dollars.
"What are you talking about?"
"Huh? I'm talking about the two of you! How long has Sakura been your girlfriend?"
Everyone turned at Sakura's rushed outburst. She looked away from Naruto, turning to Temari with a pleading look on her face.
"Oh, oh yeah…there was a…an exchange program between Konoha and Suna medical nin…Gaara got injured one day during training, and that's how they met."
"We've been keeping it secret because of the political ramifications." Kankuro quickly added.
Gaara looked back and forth between his siblings. Subterfuge was one aspect of shinobi life he didn't have much experience in. Having a sand-demon sealed inside you made the need for subtlety somewhat redundant, but that didn't mean he was helpless in such situations.
"It's because I'm the Kazekage."
Everyone turned to Gaara, who offered nothing more.
"Oooooooh! It would be trouble if you were seen with a girl from another village! I get it now. Really. Uh huh."
"So try to keep it a secret, Naruto."
Naruto resumed stuffing his face, and Sakura took a deep breath to calm herself. It would be awhile before Naruto said anything more. Unfortunately, everyone else in the room was now grinning again.
Later that evening, Gaara had gone to bed early. A healing jutsu can't help with exhaustion. Unfortunately, once again, he couldn't sleep. He was certainly tired, was comfortable enough, and it was dark. He knew everything was just the way it was supposed to be, except for one little thing.
"Sakura's not here…"
Gaara stood and pulled his clothes back on. He knew people could fall asleep by themselves, but for some reason, it was a lot harder without Sakura. He stopped with his hand on the doorknob. When he thought about it, it had become a little uncomfortable to be alone. It reminded him of when he had Shukaku inside him, and how things were back then. He had been making an effort to spend more time around other people without realizing it. And right now, it was Sakura he wanted to be around.
Sakura, wrapped in a towel, stepped out of the bathroom. She ran a comb through her hair while trying to find the pajamas she had set out earlier. She was halfway dressed when there was a knock at the door.
"Who is it?"
"J-just a moment!"
She quickly dressed as she walked to the door. She opened it to find an almost nervous-looking Gaara.
"What is it?"
"Can I come in?"
Sakura stepped to the side as Gaara walked in. He stood in the middle of the room, looking at nothing.
"What did you want?"
"Would you sleep with me again?"
"Would I WHAT?"
"I couldn't sleep. I think it's because…you weren't there."
Gaara stared as Sakura began pacing back and forth, shaking her head and babbling to herself. She finally stopped and turned back to look at him, blushing brightly.
"Gaara, look…err…you should be able to fall asleep on your own."
"Yes, but I couldn't. And...I don't want to."
Gaara walked towards her and Sakura found herself stepping back until her back hit the wall. He moved close enough to lift a hand to her cheek, brushing the skin with his fingertips.
"Tell me why…why do I like being near you? Why do I keep thinking about you?"
Gaara suddenly stepped back, staring at his hand.
"And why did I do that?"
Sakura finally let of the breath she was holding. She slumped against the wall, shaking her head in disbelief.
"You really don't know, do you? You don't know about…about why people do the things they do?"
"…No. Before I met Naruto, I was…I didn't care about that sort of thing. I know a little, but…I wasn't really a person before. There's a lot I don't understand…"
Despite the seriousness of what was said, Sakura couldn't help but smile. She reached up and ran her fingertips across Gaara's cheek, and he startled at the contact, grabbing her hand before she could pull it away, pressing it back against his cheek, closing his eyes and leaning his head onto it.
"Then…starting tomorrow, I'll help you to understand, Gaara-kun."
Gaara looked up at her, emotion finally forcing it's way into his eyes. She pulled him towards the bed, settling down as Gaara shrugged off his clothes and lay down next to her. She tossed the covers over them both, and an arm quickly wrapped around her, pulling her tight against his side. She rested her head on his chest, and listened to a heartbeat that once could be only stirred by bloodshed, but now beat frantically for her as she traced the outline of his stomach muscles with her fingers.
"Good night, Gaara."
"Good night, Sakura."