Haruno Sakura was being watched.
He watched her carefully. Watched her pastel-pink hair sway in the light breeze, watched her jade green eyes close in relaxation as she leaned back, her dress straining over her chest. It was time she got a new one, he realized. This one was getting too small. He watched her lips part slightly to let in necessary air, and watched her stomach rise and fall with each new breath.
He hung from the tree, silent as the grave, and rubbed his black-ringed eyes with disdain. Why was he even looking at her? Why did he find her so interesting as to follow her from her home to this very spot? He knew the answer: she'd spoken to him. They'd passed as she exited her home, and she had waved a hand in cheerful greeting. "Konnichi-wa, Gaara-kun! How are you?" It had taken his breath away. She didn't run from him, or glance quickly at him and then even more quickly avert her eyes, like most villagers did. He barely had the bearings to give a nod. She had smiled like it was the best thing that had ever happened to her, and walked off. He'd followed her to this place.
Sakura's jade eyes suddenly snapped open. Her hand went to the pouch at her hip as she leapt up from her position. Gaara mentally cursed. She must have sensed his presence. She took a kunai and fingered it tightly, running a thumb down the blade in an absent motion.
Sakura felt herself being watched, and there was nothing she hated more than being watched. It made her feel vulnerable. She quickly leapt into the trees, silently landing on a thick branch, her pink hair settling a little below chin-length. The kunai in her hand gave her strength, she remembered. She had a weapon. She could defend herself. She gazed around, looking for her spy. It was then that she saw legs. Wrapped around a branch. And with a new feeling of relief, she dropped right in front of him. "Oh, Gaara-kun, it's you. Why did you scare me like that?"
Gaara felt the sand at his back well up at her sudden arrival, but it managed to stay somewhat calm. He unhooked his legs and landed catlike on his feet in front of her, not saying anything. He eyed the kunai in her hand. "Spar with me," he spat. It was the demon. It was urging him, Go on, show her our strength. Squeeze her until her bones crack. She's not worthy to be around.
"What?" She looked at him. "Spar with you? Well, okay..." She knew she would lose. She knew it in her heart. And yet she couldn't bring herself to say no.
Neither could Gaara.
They positioned themselves at opposite ends of the clearing. Gaara simply stood there, as usual, while Sakura was in battle position. They stood there for a while, none of them moving, until Sakura realized that he wouldn't move at all. He would just stand there, let his sand do the work for him. She scowled. This would be harder than she thought.
She ran forward, kunai in hand. As she made to stab him, the sand came up, blocking her way. At the very last minute, she leapt behind him and lashed out with her legs. Gaara, though, had anticipated this, and slid to the left. Using his movements, the sand lashed out at Sakura. It managed to grab her ankle, but she was smiling. Her body collapsed into a tree trunk, and the real Sakura was standing in front of Gaara, who was watching his sand. The kunai was thrown. Gaara caught it without even looking at it and sent it back, where Sakura nearly tripped in a mad haste to dodge it. Wow, he's amazing, she thought ruefully. I don't stand a chance. And yet...
Yet she had to try. Inner Sakura was urging her. Go on, stab 'im! Kill 'im, kill 'im! We can take him!
Gaara was watching her, almost amused. This girl isn't that bad, he thought. She'll never beat me, but she's got more fire in her than most...
Sakura reached into her pouch again and leapt into the trees, the leaves flying up behind her. A handful of shuriken came spinning out at Gaara, but sand spilled from the gourd, blocking them. Gaara never looked at her as his sand sped through the trees, seeking her out, looking for her. Sakura watched it, frozen in equal parts of awe and horror as she leapt from branch to branch at a terrifying speed. It was chasing her! Her blood was spiced with excitement as adrenaline coursed through her body with a swift trill, like water spilling out of a fallen glass, soaking into her very bones. She turned around and made a quick handsign. "Waterfall Justu!" she shouted. Water streamed from her hands in a torrent, fighting back the sand. She strained to keep it at bay, but she felt it was futile.
From below, Gaara watched as his opponent used a water jutsu. It must have come from Tsunade, who she was training with, because he'd never seen nor heard of it. And that was something. He had to admire the way she stood strongly on the thick branches, her hands outstretched, putting her energy into the frothing water. His sand was putting up a good fight, too, but he was focused on Sakura. Once again, he found he couldn't tear his eyes from her face. He felt a strange lifting emotion in his chest as he eyed her determined face, the glimmer in those beautiful jade eyes.
He quickly shook himself out of it and watched in mild interest as she let go of her jutsu and dropped to behind him, letting his sand hit the tree she was positioned on while she tried to hit him. Gaara smoothly moved away as he had with her kick.
Sakura focused her chakra into her hands as the sand barrier came up again. She punched against it, her arms flaying out with great strength. The sand kept at it, though, and her arms started aching. Sakura refused to give up, though. Her muscles were stretched taut as she slammed her fists into the sand. There was a small pain, and she realized that a knuckle had started bleeding. The sand stayed in place, as if held there by an invisible shield. Sakura's anger mounted. This stupid sand wasn't going to let her in! She had to! She felt her back arch, and knew that Inner Sakura was taking over. Her lips parted in an 'O' as her fists exploded into the sand, the desert material flying everywhere as she kicked, punched her way through.
Her left fist punched through.
If Gaara was one to gasp, he would have gasped. He probably would have fainted. But instead, his blackened eyes simply widened in shock and disbelief. This girl... this slight, small girl... had broken through his sand barrier! He grabbed her wrist and suddenly drew her in. The sand closed around her, and Sakura realized with heavily flushing cheeks that they were close. Too close. Her chest was pressed against his. She could feel his hot breath tickling her ear, blowing the hair away from it. "How did you do that?" It was a demand, not a question. Looking into his eyes, only a shade different than her own, Sakura felt true fear of Gaara for the first time in her life.
"I..." She couldn't bring herself to form words. "Gaara-kun..."
"Sakura." It was the first time he'd said her name, and she felt ashamed for loving the way it rolled of his tongue. "Tell me." His grip on her wrist tightened.
The girl took a sharp intake of breath at the pressure on her wrist. "I... I just did, Gaara-kun... I don't know how." It was true enough. She really had no idea how she had managed to break through the unbreakable sand barrier of Gaara of the desert. The grip tightened even more, and she felt her wrist pop. "Mou, Gaara-kun!"
Gaara was so preoccupied with the fact that she'd gotten through his sand that he hadn't noticed that he was hurting her. He released her wrist.
"Baka," Sakura said angrily, massaging her wrist. Too late she realized what she'd said, and she looked up at Gaara, eyes wide with fear.
The red-haired boy stared at her. Had she just called him stupid? She had dared to call him a name? She had dared to criticize him? Kill her, the demon said. Kill her with the Desert Coffin. Crush her. She is useless to us.
Instead, he kissed her.
Sakura's last sight was Gaara's eyes. They weren't angry at all. Maybe just amazed. And then... oh, God, then... his lips met hers. She'd half expected them to be cold as ice, but they were warm and pleasantly soft. She managed to see that his eyes were closed before succumbing to the passion in his kiss herself. She tentatively put her arms around his neck, and, encouraged, he deepened the kiss. His tongue begged entrance to her mouth, and she let it in willingly.
Gaara was having the time of his life. His sand, forgotten, dropped away and crawled back into the gourd. A hand came up and almost subconsciously stroked her pink locks. Another tightened around her waist, until they were almost one person... bodies entwined in a loving embrace.
Finally, Sakura's need for air caused her to softly break away, eyelids drooped. She opened her eyes slowly to find Gaara's staring right at her. "Gaara-kun..." No, that was wrong. Not anymore. "Gaara..."
"Sh." Was it her imagination, or was the hint of an actual smile breaking forth? "Don't talk."
And he kissed her again.