Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. If I did, Gaara and Neji would be fighting over Sakura. But that's just wishful thinking.
Author's Note: This is just a GaaSaku oneshot that's been in my head since I saw the episode where Sakura jumps in front of Sasuke to protect him from Gaara and she gets practically strangled. It was further prompted by the manga series, the Save-Gaara Arc. If you haven't read it, or if you haven't seen that episode, you will be horribly spoiled. I also mention apart from the second Naruto movie. Just warning you. On the other hand, if you haven't seen those, you'd better get started. Good stuff, man.
It wasn't her glossy, cherry-blossom pink hair. It wasn't her slowly-developing figure that promised to turn into a curvy masterpiece. It wasn't even her skill as a ninja, which started mediocre but grew fast and furiously, turning her into the Hokage-taught, medic-learning, earth-shaking powerhouse she was now. No, it wasn't any of those, although those attributes certainly contributed to his growing anticipation for a visit to Konoha.
No, it was those eyes.
Those damned jade eyes that haunted him during the night, when he'd lay down on his bed, finally able to sleep, but at the same time not, all because of those eyes staring into his soul. It was those eyes' fault that he got so easily distracted from his work and the mountain of the paper he'd eventually have to sort through. It was those eyes that made him actually wish for some important development in the Sound/Orochimaru/Uchiha Sasuke case that would make him go to Konoha to discuss options with the Godaime Hokage, Tsunade (and eventually see her, because, as Tsunade's apprentice, she was always there to train anyway).
He'd first seen her at the chuunin exams and had immediately pinned her as a weak good-for-nothing, not worthy of his time. Later, he had been surprised when she had fought her best friend and drawn. She had been fast and quick-thinking, and even had some sort of strong mental power (his hearing had caught the blonde saying 'you have two selves?' in a sort of amazed way) that had forced her opponent out of her mind. She obviously had a fighting spirit, but he felt immediately that she had been holding back slightly... that she didn't want to fight her ex-friend. During that fight, her eyes had held such emotion: confusion, rivalry, determination, sadness, and a sort of loving relief.
That had been his first indication of her pleasant strangeness, her difference from all the other kunoichi he knew.
The second time, and even more amazing, was when she had jumped in front of the Uchiha, kunai in hand, and had stared him down. In his Shukaku-crazed state, that was all he had seen. Naruto was gone. Uchiha was gone. Temari was gone. He was gone. All that was there was her jade-eyed stare, intense and hard, protective and sacrificial. She knew she was going to be pummeled. She knew that what she was doing was folly, that she would probably die. But she'd done it anyway, for her love and friend. He had reminded her of Yashamaru, he remembered dimly, but with one exception: he knew that she was not the type to harbor a secret hate. If she did hate someone, she would make it known. He also remembered the huge impact that suicidal act had had on him. It had made him angry in his half-demented state then, but now it nearly blew him down. He had been in a rage, so he'd pinned her to that tree, rendering her useless.
But her kunai was the only kunai that had hurt him. When he morphed into his real self again, he looked at his hand and saw a deep cut that had penetrated Shukaku's body. He'd shaken his head, amazed. This girl... there was something about her...
And then. And then.
First, he'd heard, she'd healed Kankuro by using a possibly self-made Poison Extraction Jutsu. Kankuro had actually said that it was pretty erotic when he'd woken up to see her with her hands moving up and down his bare chest (Temari had smacked him, but Gaara had thought he probably had a point... then remembered that he was Gaara and wondered why the hell he was thinking that anyway).
After that, he heard that she had broken the wall that enclosed him and the Akatsuki with her bare fist, using her extroardinary strength. He'd heard that with Chiyo-baa-sama's help, she had broken open the puppet that they were fighting with the same unbelievable strength. Naruto had told him that she had tried her hardest to save him, that she had pushed her chakra into him and had listened to his heart and cried when she realized that he was dead. She'd actually cried for the bloodthirsty Kazekage that had tried to kill her friends, that had tried to kill her, that had tried to invade her village. She'd cried for him, and she hadn't even known him.
And when he'd woken up, the first thing he'd seen was her staring at him with those jade eyes. But this time, her stare was full of relief and happiness and a tinge of sadness and loss, too, that was probably caused by Chiyo-baa-sama's death. He'd stared back at her, reveling in her beauty and the fact that the was alive when he probably should have been dead.
Later, when he was healed and Kankuro was healed and she and Naruto were back in Konoha, they had met up again to stop that madman's attempt to use that Stone of Gelel thing to destroy everything and make a utopia. And there, when she had screamed Naruto's name and actually made a move to go and join him in that hellhole of a death pit, he had seen her eyes. They were full to the brim with worry and rage and sadness and the feeling that she had to do something. And he had then realized that he had started feeling something for the mysterious pink-haired kunoichi.
He thought it was love.
But he couldn't be sure... not after Yashamaru, not after his mother... not after the way everyone in the village had looked upon him as a monster, the way even his siblings had been terrified of him and more inclined to run away from him than to love him. That had all changed, of course, but Kami-sama or whoever else was up there, Sabaku no Gaara was probably feeling love for Haruno Sakura.
Now, as he stood in the middle of the desert that separated Suna from Konoha and watched the starry skies, his only thought was: What the hell is wrong with me? Why was he loving again? He had already deduced that loving someone from the outside... someone that wasn't Kankuro or Temari... was deadly dangerous. So, why was he falling for it again?
He blinked his black-rimmed eyes in frustration, clenching his fist. Even though he could sleep now, the blackened rings around his aquamarine orbs were still there... probably the aftereffect of around fifteen years of insomnia. He didn't care, though. It would be weird if he didn't have them after so much time.
He grimaced at the horrible feeling in his chest. It was the same feeling that he had described to Yashamaru before: a pressured, aching longing to not be alone anymore. To be around someone. Someone like... her.
There is no fucking way, he thought incredulously before turning around, eyes wide.
Eighteen-year-old Haruno Sakura stood behind him. The jounin's pink hair was waving in the desert breeze, leading the enticing scent of sun-warmed strawberries and citrus fruits tinged with cinnamon towards his nose. Her jade eyes... those damned beautiful eyes... were staring at him. They carried happiness and friendliness, and... something like the aching sensation he was feeling in his chest.
"Haruno-san," he acknowledged, nodding slightly, trying to make his heart beat normally.
"Please, Kazekage-san, my name is Sakura." She smiled easily at him, moving to stand next to him to talk easier, but leaving a respectful distance between them. "Haruno-san sounds too formal."
He looked at her pointedly. "So does 'Kazekage-san'."
Sakura laughed, blushing slightly as she looked over him. His messy red hair was being blown lightly across his forehead. His tattoo was still painted brightly over his black-rimmed eyes, and his Kazekage robes were being blown against him just enough to show a hint of the considerable muscle beneath them. He looked- she was a girl, she could think it- he looked good. Hell, he looked great. "Fine, Gaara-san. But only if you call me Sakura."
He nodded, turning his head to the front to avoid her hypnotizing gaze. "Sakura-san, I didn't know you were coming to Suna."
She laughed again. Her laugh was so different from her delicately pretty features (although the fire in her eyes and the lift in her cheekbones betrayed that delicacy). It was full-body and shoulder-shakingly genuine. When she laughed, her eyes closed in joy and her mouth curved ripely in ecstasy. "Neither did I," she confessed, chuckling further as she looked out onto the desert landscape that belonged to the man next to her. "Tsunade-sama sent Naruto, Shikamaru-kun, and me here yesterday to report that we have a new lead on Sasuke-k... Sasuke."
Gaara snuck a glance at her and noticed that all traces of laughter were gone from her face, and that her green gaze was now determinedly away from him. This always happened when the Uchiha was mentioned, he remarked to himself. And the annoying -kun was gone from his name. It made him smile. Very slightly, but it was there. "Sakura-san, we can talk about the Uchiha tomorrow."
He looked at her, surprised. She was crying? Why? He hadn't even said anything mean! There was a plummeting feeling in his stomach. Damn it all, Gaara, you just couldn't do it right, could you? You were acting on impulse, and look where it got you.
"G-gomen," his companion apologized, turning to him with tears in her eyes. "I've just... ever since Sai..." She took a couple deep breaths and wiped her eyes. "We-- my team and I-- saw him the other day. He was with Orochimaru, and Gaara-san, he was... he was strong. Incredibly strong. I'm worried for him, and I'm worried for us. He knows that he's a pawn of Orochimaru's, and he doesn't care. It's a 'whatever-it-takes' deal with him just to get his damn revenge."
Gaara said nothing, only watched as her anger evaporated into anger. "Let it out," he said softly, watching as her fists clenched.
"He... he had a chance, Gaara-san. He had so many chances! He had friends that loved him, friends that would care for him and kill for him, and... and die for him-" Gaara remembered the second time he'd seen her fiery, determined gaze. "-and he blew it all by betraying Konoha! The village that had taken him in and cared for him! The people that had loved him!" She held onto her head, walking forward slightly and staring at the moon. "Revenge won't bring his family back! Revenge won't elevate him in anyone's eyes but his own! Revenge won't do anything but make him a pawn of a snake-bastard! And it might even kill him! THAT... DAMNED... BAKA!" She punched the ground in a show of rage, making sand spray up around her like water. When it settled, she was panting with relief and exertion, and there was a crater around her heaving body.
Gaara slowly walked towards her, and she looked up at him, looking ashamed. "Gomen nasai, Gaara-san. That was stupid of me. I let my rage get the better of me."
He shook his head. "No, that's all right." He moved closer to her and stared into her eyes, searching. "You let out your anger... constructively."
Sakura's breath was knocked out now not from the punch, but the nearness of the man in front of her. They were a finger-width apart, and he was still gazing so intensely into her eyes. "G... Gaara-san..."
"Sh." He ignored her and the blush that spread across her cheeks, and searched in her eyes. Countless emotions, of course. But he noticed that the nearer he got, the more her eyes softened and shaped into perfectly round green circles. The nearer he got, the more the ache in his chest lessened. The nearer he got... and now his lips were a hair's breadth from hers... he could feel her breath mingling with his... the nearer he got, the more complete he felt. Those eyes... they completed him. They made him feel, for once, that the love Yashamaru had talked to him about, the love that he had from Temari and Kankuro, and now... the love that he was sure he had from her... they made him feel that this love was real and cruel and lovely and wonderful all at the same time.
Their lips met lightly and broke apart just as fast. Sakura's eyes opened wider. "Gaara-sa-!"
She was interrupted as he kissed her again, fiercer this time. One hand went to her head and another went around her hips, pushing her in closer. Her hands went around his neck as she responded to the kiss vehemently, passionately. She tasted like her scent... melt-in-your-mouth fruit and sweet cinnamony spice. Her brilliant eyes closed. He tasted like a gust of wind, fresh and abrupt; spicy sand; the hint of the forbidden.
They broke apart again but remained close, embracing each other tightly. "Gaara..." she looked at him. "Why me?"
He smirked. "Your damn eyes."
She laughed, and he marveled in the feeling of her body shaking against his.
They kissed again.