A/N: FINALLY! I managed to finish this thing! Sorry for the long wait, but you're probably all very aware of the erratic way in which my mind works. Whenever I plan to sit down and write something, the words for something completely different end up flowing. Sigh.

Just so you know, Gaara enters one of the lower levels of 'Shukaku mode' in this chapter. So, just in case you're squeamish about violence, you've been properly warned. Since I'm used to high levels of violent behavior (comes with the job description of being an anime addict!), I never really know when it's actually too much. But I did keep it at a normal level… hopefully.

Thank you so much for the support all of you have shown for this fic! It's greatly appreciated!


Fated

A soft light hovered over her eyelids, forcing Sakura to leave the blissful realm of sleep. Opening them slowly, she realized that a gap in the curtains was the source of the luminescence responsible of waking her up. She pouted slightly in annoyance and turned round on the bed, her back to the window. It was in this new position that a lingering fragrance in the pillows and sheets registered in her still sluggish brain and it took a moment for her to place it.

It was a peculiar smell, completely unique and undeniably masculine. It held traces of sandalwood and of other fragrances she couldn't exactly pinpoint, but the end result was a heady scent which drove her senses crazy and forced eager sighs from her lips…

Gaara.

Eyes opening rapidly, she scanned the half of the bed she was facing, no signs of the aforementioned man anywhere. As sleep quickly vanished altogether, memories of the previous day came flooding back and she found herself overwhelmed with emotion. Before she could help herself, she pressed her face against the sheets, inhaling deeply and filling her lungs with his marvelous scent.

The events of the preceding day could not be described as anything short of a miracle. After 3 years, the man she had always loved had showed up at her door and had taken all her pain and anguish away with a brush of his lips. Gaara had brought hope back into Sakura's life… hope she had long since lost after the experiences she had been through.

His father was dead… dead. The only person who had ever dared to interfere with their relationship was gone and would not be bothering them ever again. The person who had crushed Sakura's heart with fear for Gaara was no longer a part of this world… and now, after so many years, they were free to love each other as they wished.

Tears ran freely down her cheeks as she buried her face even more in the sheets of her bed, trying to cover herself with his scent. The lingering fragrance was clear evidence that all that had happed was real, that it wasn't a dream… and the happiness swelling inside the pink haired girl's heart was too intense to stay hidden. Crying in joy for the second chance she had been given, she thanked whatever God was listening at the moment for being so good to her.

She wouldn't hurt him this time, not after all the anguish she had put him through. True, it hadn't been her fault in the first place, but that didn't mean Sakura didn't feel guilty about the torment Gaara had suffered due to her disappearance. She completely regretted the decision which had been forced upon her, even though she knew she hadn't been given any choices. But now, he was with her again and she had been given the opportunity to make it up to him.

Lifting her face up, she looked round her room for any other signs of him. His clothes weren't on the floor where she had thrown them last night and the spot next to her was completely devoid of warmth, which meant that he had left hours ago. Biting her lip in annoyance, Sakura looked up over the bed once more and finally spotted a folded piece of paper on top of the pillow her lover had used.

Taking it quickly, she scanned over the written words, initially marveling over the untidy writing she hadn't seen in years.

Ouka,

There's some business I need to attend to. It won't take long so I'll be back soon. Start packing your things, you're moving into my apartment today.

It was so typical of him to give her orders! On any other occasion she would have thrown a tantrum at his bossiness but not this day. Even though Sakura had an amazing independent streak and hated to be told what to do, she knew there was no point in arguing with Gaara on this one… especially when she thought he was absolutely right. She wouldn't be satisfied until they were both living underneath the same roof and she knew very well that he wouldn't have it any other way either.

Jumping out of bed, she giggled in unsuppressed glee and proceeded to make herself breakfast. She knew she needed to start packing, but there were some other things she needed to attend to first. Even though it was Saturday, she had promised one of her co-workers that she would cover part of the morning at the health centre today, which meant she needed to spend at least 2 hours there before she was free. Hence, she made herself a quick breakfast and wrote down a note for Gaara.

Sakura was showered and ready 15 minutes later, wanting, for the first time in her life, to get her job over with for the day so she could get on with other things… or other people. Smiling as she closed and locked the door behind her, she taped her note on the door for her red head to find before walking down the corridor, a cheery gait in her step.

It was truly one of the happiest days of her life.

XXXXXXX

He was angry… extremely angry. The stupid worm had evaded him somehow and no matter where he looked, the bastard was nowhere to be found.

Gaara's agents had given him accurate information concerning Jiro's whereabouts and had given him both his home and office address. Wanting to give the maggot a rude wake up call, the red head arrived at the businessman's luxurious house at around 6 in the morning, but he was disappointed to find that the man wasn't there.

From what Gaara could tell, he hadn't come home at all during the night. Knowing how workaholic these business freaks could be, he decided to check his office. The idiot had probably tried to calm his frustration by working himself to exhaustion, which in truth, didn't sit very well with the red head. He wanted Jiro to be completely healthy and rested when he came to enact his vengeance… he wanted to see the asshole try to struggle while he gave him the beating of his life. For the man to be helpless as a rag didn't offer any type of entertainment for Gaara, not with the fury inside of him building up with each passing moment.

No man touched his woman without paying for it… no man.

When he arrived at the office building, he found it to be closed. One of the security guards told him the building opened to the public until around 8am. It was already 7:30, Gaara could wait.

Making his way over to a nearby café, he decided that it was a good time to have his morning coffee buzz. He had developed an addiction to the brown liquid during the time he was forced to be separated from Sakura, since he found it helped him to calm his anxiety and also had the beneficiary effect of keeping him awake whenever he needed to stay up late to finish some work.

He gulped down three cups of coffee and one espresso while he waited, his eyes never leaving the doors of the adjacent building. As he sat there, the accelerating effect of his drink was starting to run through his body and in his mind, he could clearly see Jiro as he forcefully grabbed Sakura outside her apartment… he could see the bastard's fingers digging into her flesh, bruising her pristine skin.

It was time to crush the fucker's face.

Gaara walked through the building doors at precisely 8:01 and took the elevator up to the 7th floor. There, he was met by the company's secretary and he asked to see Jiro immediately.

The woman regrettably informed him that Mr. Hagarashi had called in sick just minutes before, but that she could take Gaara's name and number and reschedule his appointment.

"No thank you," the red head replied viciously, "this is an appointment which just can't wait."

Once he was on the ground floor, he called up his agents again. They told him they would locate Jiro as soon as possible and would have his house monitored in case he decided to go back home. Once his whereabouts where known, they would call up Gaara immediately.

The caffeine wasn't helping with his mood and his rage was increasing by the minute. Usually, he forced himself through a strenuous workout whenever he felt like this, since only physical activity could successfully calm him. However, some years ago, there had been a person who had been able to soothe his violent temper more effectively than any exercise ever could, but he had been forced to look for other solution to his tantrums when she had disappeared from his life. But thanks to the workings of destiny, that was no longer the case.

Breaking the speed limit three times over, Gaara arrived at Sakura's apartment building in record timing. He took the steps two at a time and walked hastily down the corridor, intent on slipping back into bed with his lover and staying there for the rest of the day… or at least, until he received a call from his agents.

But as he reached her door, he picked up the note she had left for him and read over its contents. Sakura had left around 7am to go to the centre and would be gone for two hours. It was almost 9am now, which meant she would be coming home soon. This did little to appease his anger, but he would have to cope. Crumbling the small note in irritation, he decided it was a good moment as any to start helping her with her packing.

Picking her lock easily, Gaara stepped into her apartment, taking in the permeating perfume of his lover which lingered in the air. Soon, his own home would smell like this as well and once it did, he would finally be able to call himself a satisfied man.

The red head entered Sakura's bedroom and made his way up to her closet, wanting to tackle her clothing first. Opening up the wooden doors, he was surprised to find that it was half empty. His forehead creased in puzzlement as he took the clothes on the hangers to the bed… he didn't even need to make two trips.

Organizing the clothes, he recognized a small number of fancy blouses Sakura used to wear and some dresses. However, there were very few new articles of clothing and he only found one pair of jeans. There were a couple of trousers which she probably wore to work, but it was clear that they had seen better days.

He didn't like where this was going.

Opening up to her dresser, he found only a handful of t-shirts and underwear. Even though the drawers were relatively small, the bottom one was completely empty. Taking up the contents of the first cabinet, he placed the clothing on the bed, completely amazed at how little Sakura owned. It was one thing to live a simple life and not want to spend tons of money on clothes, but it was entirely something else not to replace garments which were clearly reaching the end of their days.

He opened up the second drawer and he took out a couple of sweat pants, a bathing suit, some old tank tops and some boxers Sakura used as pajamas. There was a surprise, however, waiting for him at the bottom and he stopped momentarily in his task to take a good look. It was an item of clothing he was extremely familiar with.

Taking it up lovingly with his hands, his breath quickened slightly when it came into full view. It was piece of lingerie Sakura had bought specially for his birthday in those last months they had been together. Black with red lacing, it came with indecent small panties and as he held it, Gaara couldn't help but remember how deliciously exquisite his pink haired beauty had looked in it.

Growling quietly with suppressed desire, the red head decided then and there that he would take his girl down to the closest Victoria's Secret store and would buy her a piece of lingerie for every day of the year. Finally, he had found a productive way in which to spend his money!

But as he took the rest of the clothing up to the bed, his treacherous mind got the best of him and he found himself wondering if Sakura had ever used the lingerie with anyone else. It was completely plausible since it had been a very long time since they had been together… Gaara had succumbed to sexual desires himself during this time, why wouldn't Sakura do the same?

Glaring at the now offending item, jealously pulsed through him as he thought of his woman in the arms of any another man. He threw the lingerie on the bed before stomping his way to the kitchen, intent on getting something to drink to try and alleviate his fuming. As he opened the refrigerator roughly, his jealous fit was replaced by serious concern when he found barely any food inside.

There was some milk, butter, half a carton of orange juice, a few apples and pears, an old lettuce, one tomato and no meat anywhere to be seen.

What was going on?

Straightening up, he opened the cupboards only to find a half empty box of cereal, a couple of cans of tuna and a few cups of instant ramen.

Gaara prayed that the reason behind the lack of food was that Sakura ate out everyday, but he had the underlying suspicion that this wasn't the case. He was starting to put two and two together and the result wasn't sitting very well with him.

Settling on a glass of water, the red head made his way to the living room, planning on beginning to tackle the messy pile of books on Sakura's table. As he crossed the room though, a blinking red light caught his attention and Gaara found his lover's answering machine on a small coffee table.

Without thinking about it twice, he pressed the button and proceeded to listen to her messages.

"Sweetie, I'm calling to see how you're doing. Maybe we could go out for some coffee later today and catch a movie. My treat, obviously. I'm worried about you! I know you're at the center so give me a call when you get back!"

If Gaara remembered the tone of the female's voice correctly, this was Sakura's blond friend, the one who had attended the cocktail party with her. Ino, she was called, if his memory served him right.

"Sakura, darling…"

As soon as the male voice sounded through the speaker, Gaara's nerves stood on edge and his anger returned with full force.

It was Jiro.

"…I know I have to make this up to you somehow. I swear, I don't know what came over me. It's just that, I can't bear the thought of another man having you when it is clear that we're meant to be. You have no idea how sorry I am. Remember the trip to that beach resort I had mentioned? Well I booked us up for next weekend. I know you'll just love it. Our suite has a private outdoor Jacuzzi and we can sit in it while looking at the stars and…"

In a single fluid movement, Gaara sent the answering machine flying across the room. It hit the wall with a loud crash and it disintegrated into pieces as it fell to the ground.

Who the hell did this bastard think he was? Sakura going to a beach resort with him? The idiot had just signed his death sentence and Gaara would relish in being his executioner.

He was about to call up his agents again when the front door swung open and in walked Sakura, her satchel full of medical records.

"Good morning," she said happily, a full smile on her lips when she caught sight of her red head standing in the middle of her living room.

At seeing her smile, Gaara's temper lessened significantly. In a blink of an eye, he was standing next to her, engulfing her in a tight hug. Without a word, he kissed her deeply, closing the door behind her with his foot.

Slightly breathless, the pink haired girl finally came up for air only to stare lovingly into his jade eyes. He was her dream come true and there was nothing which would stand between them now.

"Did you eat breakfast?" she asked.

"I had some coffee earlier."

"That's not breakfast!" Sakura exclaimed. "Let me make you something."

"And what exactly are you going to make me?" he asked sarcastically as she headed towards the kitchen, knowing very well that there wasn't much to offer.

Missing the irony in his voice completely, Sakura laughed cheerily at his comment, but as she opened the fridge her smile faded slightly. Damn it, she knew there was something she had needed to do before returning home!

"Ok, there isn't much. How about ordering something? There's a really nice pancake place round the corner. I can call and pick up our food in around 15 minutes…"

But Gaara didn't let her finish. Closing the refrigerator door as he pulled her up towards him, he pinned her with one of his trademark stares.

"Sakura, why isn't there any food in your kitchen?"

'Direct as always,' the pink haired girl thought helplessly.

"Well, I sort of forgot to go grocery shopping this week…"

"Ouka, grocery shopping isn't something you forget to do."

"Oh come on, it isn't as if I'm starving!" she replied defensively, reaching up to open a nearby cupboard. Her plan backfired however, since it was only filled with a pair of tuna cans.

'Shit,' she cursed inwardly. This was a discussion she did not want to have with him.

Avoiding his gaze, she turned to open the fridge once more and reached for the orange juice. Things were about to get a lot worse for her though, since as she took up the carton, the lights of the refrigerator suddenly went out.

Turning abruptly towards the microwave, she noticed that the lights on its clock were out as well.

"Noooo," she moaned, "this can't be happening." She turned on the light switch on the wall while crossing her fingers, but luck wasn't with her this day. "I paid the bill yesterday, damn it!" she yelled feebly.

Walking over to the living room, she found her purse on the sofa and opened it, looking desperately through it. After a few moments, she found the bills she had taken care of the day before and looked over the dates on the paper.

"Damn it!" she yelled in frustration while looking down at her electricity bill. She had paid the receipt from two months ago but had neglected to pay the one from the previous month. Groaning loudly, she let herself fall in defeat upon the couch, the bills in her hands.

Gaara watched her in silence, the pieces of the puzzle finally coming together. He came over and kneeled in front of her, taking her hands in his.

"Sakura, why didn't you tell me you were having money problems?" he asked, a hurtful tone in his voice.

"It's not something you just talk about, ok?" she replied, completely defensive. "I don't want anyone's charity."

"It's not about receiving anyone's charity, it's about asking for help when you need it," he told somewhat harshly. It was one thing to try and solve a situation as best as you could by yourself but it was something else entirely when you chose to hide behind your pride when you realized you couldn't get out of it on your own.

Not wanting to meet his eyes out of embarrassment, Sakura kept her emerald orbs locked on the carpet.

He regretted seeing her like this. From the looks of things, she had been struggling with money for some time now. Even though he had no way of knowing what she was going through, this didn't mean he didn't feel bad about it, wishing that things would have been different. Never in his life would he let her suffer like this again, never. He would provide for her in every single way and she would never lack anything else for as long as she lived.

Sighing loudly, Gaara knew that, for the time being. he wouldn't be getting any further information concerning the situation out of her. "It doesn't matter anyway," he told her, "you'll be moving in with me and you'll never have to pay a damn bill for the rest of your life."

Sakura looked up at him, a retort involving her much needed independence on the tip of her tongue. But before she could say anything, the red head pushed his cell phone towards her. "You wanted breakfast right? Here, call that pancake place and I'll go pick up the food."

Leaving her to order, he stood up and headed towards her bedroom once more, intent on finishing with the packing he had started. Sakura walked in a couple of minutes after and stared dumbfounded at the neat pile of clothes on her bed.

"What are you doing?" she asked in alarm.

"Packing," he answered simple, his commanding tone leaving no room for argument.

Knowing that it was useless to say anything, Sakura sat down at the edge of her bed and started folding some of her shirts. In truth, as she looked at her entire wardrobe stashed up in her bed, she realized how little she did own. No wonder he had picked up on her money issues so quickly! After emptying her closet in less than 3 minutes, it didn't take a genius to figure it all out.

The red head proceeded to throw things into a large back pack he had found under the bed and realized that he would only need another small bag to put everything else in.

"After you get settled down at my place, I'm going to take you shopping and you will not dare to protest against it," he threatened.

"Fine," she said curtly, crossing her arms across her chest and huffing a little. She hated when he was right about things and when she couldn't find a flaw in his arguments. It irritated her to no end, especially when he used that arrogant tone in his voice.

Recognizing the stubborn look in her eyes, Gaara chuckled as he came towards her, kissing her tenderly on the lips. Her body responded automatically to his touch and she found herself deepening the kiss and wrapping her arms around his neck. He kissed her back just as passionately but he broke the contact after a few moments.

"If we keep this up, you'll be naked in less than a minute. Tell me were this pancake café is located so I can pick up the food. After that, I promise I'll finish this… and don't think I haven't noticed the tub in your bathroom."

Cheeks blushing slightly at his implications and at the sensuous images coming unbidden into her mind, Sakura hurriedly explained the location of the small restaurant and saw her red head to the door.

She finished packing the few items of clothing remaining on the bed into a large handbag. Looking around, she realized she would need some boxes to pack most of her stuff. She headed towards the kitchen, remembering she had some cardboard boxes stashed away somewhere, but as she crossed the living room, she couldn't resist taking a peek out the window.

Smiling as she caught sight of the sexy red head walking down the sidewalk, Sakura couldn't help but sigh loudly at the impressive vision he made. Everything about him spoke of an arrogant personality… from the way he carried himself to the way his jade eyes dismissed the things around him; it was as if the trivial things in life weren't worth his time and he discharged them without a second thought. Knowing that this arrogance had, at the beginning, been a way for him to hide his insecurities, she knew that things were different now. During his life, Gaara had been able to attain a hard-gained confidence by fighting his way through the many obstacles he had been forced to face. And after so many difficulties and hindrances, nothing in this world could make him doubt himself ever again.

Sakura found her eyes lingering on his body… on the very interesting way his jeans fit his muscular form. At this short distance, the pink haired girl could see the muscles of his arms and memories of a shirtless Gaara flooded her mind, making her heartbeat increase momentarily.

So concentrated was she on admiring the sexy figure of her boyfriend, that she failed to notice the speeding car until it was too late.

The incoming vehicle made its way up the sidewalk, trying to run Gaara over. Sakura shrieked as she saw the red head dodge it expertly while he jumped out of the way at the last second, lading in a roll on the pavement.

It stopped a short distance away and as Gaara was getting up, five men stepped out of the car and advanced towards him.

"Jiro!" Sakura exclaimed, as she recognized the man in a business suit. In general measures, Jiro was a tall man but he was positively dwarfed by the other four men.

"I see you brought your thugs to do your dirty work," Gaara told Jiro as they approached, hardly intimidated by their size and numbers. "It's so typical of a cowardly bastard like yourself to do such things, especially when you try to run over a man while hiding inside a car instead of coming to face him personally."

"I don't need to explain myself to anyone," Jiro answered, a crazy look in his eyes, "and especially not to you. In fact, we saw you walking down the street by coincidence, since we're really here to pick Sakura up and running you over wasn't an opportunity I was about to miss."

"So you brought backup because she beat you up when you came by yourself," Gaara said, chuckling mirthlessly. "You really are a coward."

"Seize him," Jiro ordered his men, fuming. "You're clearly mistaking cowardice for intelligence, you dim-witted prick."

As the four men advanced towards him, Gaara moved quickly to the side, trying to avoid their grasp. He sent a couple of punches in their direction, but it was easy enough for two of the thugs to grab him by the arms. Once they had a hold on him, it was useless for the red head to struggle… or at least, it seemed so.

"What the hell is he doing?" Sakura asked out loud in exasperation. She had seen Gaara fight many times before and she knew that he wasn't even attempting to do anything. He was a Kyokushin world champion, for God's sake! He was definitely up to something and Sakura didn't know if it would turn out alright. Gaara had a nasty habit of letting his anger get the best of him and when he did, the rational part of his mind tended to disappear completely.

She knew she should call the police and she knew she should be doing something. But try as she might, her eyes were glued to the scene outside her window and especially on the red head in the grasp of those disgusting brutes. All Sakura could do now was pray for Gaara's safety.

"So you think you deserve her?" Jiro asked, a sneer twisting his face. "You think you're good enough for her, you useless bastard? You only have money and power because you inherited it from your daddy. Unlike me! I climbed up the ladder of the business world with my own bare hands. My achievements are only mine. I don't owe them to anyone else."

"You can take your business crap and shove it up your ass!" Gaara replied harshly.

Anger boiling at the insulting words, Jiro stepped forward and hit the red head in the face. Gaara's head jerked sideways with the force of the blow, but as he turned towards his attacker once more, an evil grin was starting to spread all over his face.

"You call that a punch, you sissy?" he asked mockingly.

Jiro hit him again, but Gaara was still unaffected by the blow. The grip of the two thugs holding him didn't waver one bit; however, the red head wasn't the least perturbed by this. Everything was going according to plan.

"It seems you only have the courage to beat a guy up when he's being held by someone else," Gaara said contemptuously. "That shows how much of a man you are."

"I'm more of a man than you!" Jiro exclaimed furiously, stepping up even closer to Gaara. He stopped until his face was mere centimeters from the red head's. "You think you could treat her like the true lady she is? You think you're refined enough for her to be your woman? You're fooling yourself."

"No, you fucker, you're than the one who's delusional," Gaara replied in a harsh whisper, his jade eyes matching the maniacal grin on his lips.

The moment Gaara had been waiting for since yesterday had finally arrived.

Neck muscles contracting with the violence of his movement, the red head brought his head forward, viciously hitting Jiro's nose with his forehead in a brutal headbutt. As blood flowed freely down his face, the business man stumbled backwards, bringing his hands up to his fractured bone as he screamed in pain.

The two remaining thugs made their way towards Gaara, ready to punish him for his actions. But as soon as they were close enough, the red head leaned into the hold the other brutes had on his arms, and using them as support, he sent a violent kick in the direction of the closest man. His foot connected directly with his jaw and a gruesome crack was heard before the dazed brute crumbled to the pavement.

But Gaara didn't have time to celebrate his victory. Taking advantage of the distraction his movements had caused, he managed to free his left arm and sent a backhanded punch towards the thug that had been holding him. The large man dodged the blow and retaliated by aiming a hit directly at the red head.

The speed he had gained after years of Kyokushin practice didn't disappoint him and he ducked the incoming fist just in time. Instead of striking his enemy, the idiot hit his companion who was still holding Gaara's right arm, directly in the stomach. The red head's appendage came free and he took advantage of the confusion to smash the incoming brute's kneecap with a kick. Groaning in agony, the man dropped to the floor, cradling his smashed tendons and bone.

There were two down but he still had two to go. As the thug on his right cradled his stomach from the blow he had just received, Gaara concentrated on the remaining man, who was by then directly on top of him.

Sakura's breath caught in her throat when she saw her lover twist round to avoid a deadly kick aimed at his shoulder. His attacker came in hard, barely giving Gaara time to catch his balance. But the red head was notoriously known for being extremely quick on his feet. He blocked the kicks expertly with his forearms as the thug kept forcing him back. This gave the other man time to recover and he made his way round Gaara, coming at him from behind.

This was exactly where the red head wanted him.

As Sakura watched her lover move with the fluidity of mercury, her breath was taking away by the precision and grace with which he performed his movements. She had seen him fight many times before, but every time she did, she was mesmerized all over again with the unique style of his fighting. Gaara always made things look so easy, even when performing the most complex of techniques. And now, after so many years of being bereft of the privilege of seeing him at his best, she felt her chest tighten with overwhelming emotions.

She would always be safe with him, no matter what happened. Her lover would never let harm come near her ever and the events she was watching were evidence enough of that.

The red head danced between the two thugs as if they were moving in slow motion. He forced them to hit each other and he dedicated himself to dodging the blows so they would tire each other down. At any time one of them let their guard down, Gaara was there to hand out a vicious hit.

Whenever a rich man went out of his way to hire a thug to do his dirty work, he always made sure to employ the stupidest man available. The reason behind this fact wasn't clear; maybe it had something to do with preventing the brutes from overpowering the employee, but the result was always the same. Their muscles usually took up all the space their brains should've occupied.

And these pitiful idiots weren't the exception.

It took them quite a number of blows and injuries for them to realize that they weren't a match for Gaara's speed and precision. By the time they thought it would be prudent to change their tactics, it was already too late.

The red head came in hard with a right hook, hitting the man in front of him directly in the nose. Another gruesome crunching noise ensued as the brute stumbled backwards. In the same position, Gaara brought his right arm backwards, smashing the man behind him directly in the mouth with his elbow… in that instant, the red head was sure he felt the bastard's front teeth come free from the intensity of the blow.

By then, both maggots were already too tired to recover in time. Jumping forward, Gaara landed a flying kick on the man directly in front of him, his foot connecting directly with the brute's chest. The large man flew backwards, landing with a strangled grunt some distance away.

Turning immediately towards the last remaining thug, the red head threw a brutal punch at the man, hitting him directly in the temple and forcing him to stumble on his companion, who was still on the floor moaning over his crushed knee cap. The brute lost his balance when he collided with his cohort and fell to the ground, hitting his head forcefully against the sidewalk.

When Sakura saw the last man fall, she ran towards the door, making her way down her building corridor and down the steps at full speed.

But Gaara wasn't finished. Once he made sure that none of the bastards would be standing up anytime soon, he advanced threateningly towards Jiro, who was sitting on the payment looking at the scene with horrified eyes, blood covering his face.

"You're a monster!" the business man screamed.

It was definitely the wrong thing to say.

Picking the man up by the collar of his shirt, Gaara held him up using only one arm. He looked Jiro directly in the face, a maniacal look in his jade eyes.

"A monster?" he asked calmly, the tone of his voice completely at odds with his expression. "Monster is the man who lays a hand on the woman he's supposedly in love with," he finished, anger thrumming through his entire being.

Punching Jiro in the stomach several times, Gaara wasn't satisfied until he heard the other man gasping for breath. He threw him against the pavement as if he were a rag doll only to pick him up again as he advanced towards the car parked halfway on the sidewalk.

The red head lifted him up one final time, looking at the pitiful business man with his merciless green eyes. "Since you have money," he told him, "I'm sure you'll be able to pay for a plastic surgeon. But I just want you to know that your company will be mine soon, so I wouldn't get my hopes up if I were you."

And with that, he threw Jiro against the car and grabbing the back of his head with both hands, he smashed him through the window, breaking it violently with his face.

Leaving him there, head hanging inside the vehicle with his body outside against the door, Gaara looked up to admire his handy work, completely satisfied with the turn of events. The sound of approaching footsteps caught his attention and he turned to see Sakura coming towards him at a full run.

He advanced towards her and caught her in his arms when she reached him.

"Are you alright?" she asked, her concern clearly showing in her voice while at the same time, she checked his arms and face for injuries.

Sighing in relief, the pink haired girl quickly found out that he had emerged from the whole incident with only a few bruises and minor scratches.

Looking behind him, she stared at the bodies strewn across the sidewalk, amazed at everything Gaara had done on his own.

"You really are a one-man army," she stated, somewhat in shock.

He surveyed the scene as well, chuckling at her affirmation, doing nothing to refute her claim. Holding her for a few more moments, he suddenly remembered that he was in the middle of an errand when all of this had happened.

"Ouka, here," he said to her as he handed her his wallet. "Pick our food up. I'm going to call the police so they can come and pick up this mess. I need you here for when they come, since you witnessed when they attacked me."

Nodding at him and not sparing Jiro a single glance, Sakura hurried down the street, clearly hearing Gaara as he talked on his cell phone to the police department. Looking down at the wallet in her hands, she was surprised to see it was extremely fat. Her curiosity got the better of her and she opened it up, only to see a thick load of cash stored safely inside.

'And this is probably what he calls change,' she thought with a sigh. 'I could doubtlessly buy the whole pancake café with this money!'

But as she walked, Sakura looked over her shoulder to glance at the sexy red head talking on his phone, looking completely comfortable while being surrounded by a group of bleeding injured men.

Smiling brightly, the pink haired girl told herself that she needed to get used to this type of thing. It was one of the drawbacks of having a violent, ill-tempered Kyokushin fighter as a boyfriend…

… but in truth, she wouldn't have it any other way.

XXXXXXX

EPILOGUE

Inhaling deeply as he woke up, Gaara opened up his eyes slowly, shifting comfortably in his bed. Without even looking in her direction, he reached over towards Sakura, only to find that she wasn't there.

Forehead creasing in irritation at not having there with him when he woke up, he lifted his face towards her half of the bed and scanned the room. She was no where to be seen but her presence was given away by her intoxicating perfume, which lingered clearly on the sheets. Knowing she would be somewhere nearby, the red head got up from bed, put on some boxers which he found lying on the floor and went out of his room.

Eyelids heavy with sleep, he forced himself awake as he made his way towards the living room. He shouldn't have bothered though, since the sight which met his eyes as soon as he walked into his sitting room was enough to bring him full into wakefulness.

Sakura was standing by one of his large windows, exactly how he'd pictured her countless times during their time apart. She was dressed in a silk robe, one of her newest acquisitions Gaara had convinced her into buying, and a cup of coffee in her hand as she surveyed the landscape of the mountain outside the window.

Making sure he didn't disturb her, the red head inhaled deeply, closing his eyes as he relished the scent with which she permeated his home. 'No,' he corrected himself, 'it isn't just mine anymore… it's our home.'

As he stood there, looking at the most beautiful woman in the world and losing himself in her unique aroma, Gaara allowed himself the pleasure of admitting that his life was now complete.

She turned to look at him when he stepped forward, his eyes never leaving her face as he came towards her.

"Good morning," she greeted with a smile.

"Good morning," he replied as he embraced her from behind and buried his face in her cherry blossom hair. "Are you going to the center today?" he asked, his voice muffled by her locks.

"Yes," she replied contentedly, "you know I have a lot to do, especially since you donated that large amount of money. The resident doctors have practically made me manager and since we're expanding, I'm in charge of hiring new people."

"That's good," he told her, "but you know I would prefer if you stayed all day in bed with me."

Laughing at his childish tone, she swatted him playfully on the arm. "Well, not all of us have the privilege of having an older brother like Kankurou to run our business when we're feeling particularly lazy."

"He volunteered for the job," Gaara said defensively, slightly irritated.

Sakura didn't deign him with an answer and only giggled in response.

Silence descended on the couple as both of them turned two pairs of green eyes towards the view outside the window once more. Leaning backwards even further, the Sakura lost herself in the feel of her lover's strong supporting arms, cherishing her with his protection and care.

Gaara squeezed back, kissing her softly on the cheek.

As they saw the morning sun shine through the clouds and caress the mountain side lovingly, the pink haired doctor and red haired fighter silently agreed that all was as it should be.


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