Twirlygigs and Gizzards
A/N: Yes, another oneshot romance, after the smashing success of Lust of Ishbala (cough).
I got the idea for this pairing while writing the third chapter of "The Village Hidden in the Lemon Peels", at the GaarLee part. The original draft of that section was really, really out of character for Lee, but, I noticed that, when a certain young lady was substituted, it worked out perfectly. So here it is, the bastard child of "The Village Hidden in the Lemon Peels".
(Warning: Completely nonsensical matches and a little OOCness on Gaara's part, but I think that's because he's so stunned by Sakura not being the least intimidated by him that he's just kind of in awe.)
POW! THUNK! POW! BAM!
Sakura hit, kicked, stabbed, and otherwise abused the punching bag with all her might, imagining with each blow that it was Naruto and Sasuke she was pulverizing. "I'm weak, huh? Well, take that! And that! And THAT!" she huffed, throwing all her energy into one last blow and leaning heavily against the abused bag of straw. Panting, she turned back around.
Gaara of the Desert stared back at her.
"OH MY GOD!" Sakura shrieked, jumping back into the punching bag and clutching at her heart. "Gaara! You scared the bejeezus out of me!"
Gaara said nothing.
"What is your problem?" the pink-haired girl asked, breathing heavily. "What are you even doing here? Get sick of the desert or something?"
"My siblings want a summer home out here. They left with the realtor, but I didn't want to go."
"Is it ... legal for you guys to live here? Since you're Sand-nins and all?"
Gaara shrugged. "We do illegal stuff all the time. Temari used to steal old car parts."
Sakura blinked at this. "Why?"
Gaara shrugged again.
He was quiet... after being exposed to Naruto and Sasuke's taunts, Sakura found that this was a great quality in a man. Hmm... delivered right to her doorstep, a benevolent stranger to listen to her bitch. (Whether or not Gaara can be considered benevolent is debatable.) She tried to think of the best way to start her rant. Fortunately and unwittingly, Gaara helped her out.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm practicing... since this is a practice court and all," Gaara continued to stare at her in such a way that she was almost convinced she had spinach in her teeth. "You do know what practicing is, don't you?" she snorted. "Or maybe you don't. Isn't your whole family child prodigies? I bet none of you have practiced in your entire lives."
"Why was I practicing, or why is your whole family child prodigies?" Sakura replied pertly. Gaara glared. "Ok, ok, I was just letting out steam. I'm so upset with Naruto and Sasuke right now, if I didn't have this dummy to beat up, I would rip the entire village to shreds. AND DON'T YOU DARE SAY I COULDN'T MANAGE IT!"
"You're that angry... at Sasuke?" Gaara knew what was up. He and Kankuro might not be Suna's most eligible bachelors, but he was aware that such people did exist... and their fans did, too.
Sakura grinned, a little blush rising on her cheeks. "You know how it is. Love is complicated."
"Uh, yeah," the girl rolled her eyes at such a dumb question. "Don't you have anyone you love? A friend? A teacher? A pet goldfish?" she suggested, getting more and more desperate as he continued to shake his head.
"Love is not something I am permitted. And we don't keep pet goldfish in the desert."
Thinking about the various goldfish her family had owned over the years, and the heartbreak they had caused her siblings, Sakura saw the wisdom in this. "Wait! What about Temari and Kankuro?"
"What about them?"
Inner Sakura flared up. "You little BRAT! I can't stand it when kids ignore their older siblings. I'm the oldest of about 50, and let me tell you, I do everything for those kids, and if they were as ungrateful as you, I'd tan their hides! You younger kids have no clue what it's like to take care of your younger siblings while trying to live your own life, worrying that one will get killed or go crazy and kill the others or something. It's a lot of work, and you should appreciate everything your siblings do for you!"
Ino, Shikamaru, and Chouji hid out watching nearby.
"Hey, Ino," Shikamaru said, poking her. "Sakura is going to die."
"I bet no one's ever been suicidal enough to talk to Gaara like that before," Chouji added.
"Shh!" hissed Ino. "I want to see her get sand-smushed."
But Sakura didn't get sand-smushed. She and Gaara just talked for a bit, and finally she laughed at something, Gaara nodded, and they went their separate ways.
"That was... unexpected," Ino muttered.
Gaara was sitting alone at the cheap desk in the hotel room, looking troubled, when Temari and Kankuro returned from their tour of Konoha Homes for Sale. Both seemed happy, and both ignored Gaara, assuming he wanted to be left as alone as possible in the cramped room.
"I dunno, 'Mari, do you really think we need the pool?" Kankuro asked. "It makes the backyard seem all crowded."
"But pools are so nice! And it is a summer home, they're supposed to have pools," objected his sister.
"What if we get a kiddy pool?"
"A kiddy pool?" Temari laughed. "Kan-kun, you ought to be ashamed! We're too old!"
"Sis, do you even know how to swim?"
Temari paused. "...I could learn."
"Hey, Temari?" Gaara asked quietly. "I... met this girl."
Kankuro dropped the pillow he had been preparing to throw at his sister. Temari plunked down on her bed, stunned.
"And she asked me to go hang out with her tomorrow." He wanted to add, and I'm kind of afraid of her, but he thought the shock of two such unexpected statements in a row would kill his poor siblings. On the other hand, he would like to see someone die of shock... that would be interesting...
"Like, on a date?" Temari asked. "Really?"
He turned red. "It's not really a date,"
"It's as close as you're ever going to get," Kankuro told him. "So, who is the.. erm, lucky lady? Do we know her?"
Trust his brother to pick the most embarrassing question possible. "I... don't know. I don't know her name. She's on Team 7... or maybe Team 6, I don't remember. She's got pink hair."
"Oh, Haruno Sakura," Temari said automatically. She couldn't say much beyond that, as she really knew nothing about the third wheel of Team Kakashi beyond her name and that she was crazy enough to ask her sure-to-die-alone brother out. "Well, that's really sweet, Gaar-Gaar."
Gaara winced. "Don't call me—,"
Kankuro interrupted him with a cough. "Hey, Temari... could you um... maybe step outside for a bit? We've got some... guy stuff to talk about."
"Ah," With a knowing smile, the girl tapped her nose discreetly and exited the room.
"All right, little bro, time to set you straight on the facts of life."
Gaara tried glaring at him. It didn't shut him up. His greatest weapon had failed him in his moment of need. He started to get desperate.
"...and then you have to GAARA! Get that sand out of your ears, you need to hear this."
Two little streams of sand poured out of his ears as sullenly as streams of sand can manage to pour from ears as Gaara braced himself...
When Temari returned with take-out food, her youngest brother had darker-than-normal circles under his black-rimmed eyes and a decidedly haunted look. He didn't eat much. It looked like the talk had been a success.
Gaara rang the doorbell, trying to forget the "advice" Kankuro had given him. He didn't care what Sakura said, his siblings were horrible care givers. What on earth did they think twelve-year-olds did on dates? NO! Not dates, this wasn't even a date. They were "hanging out". Normal kids, Gaara was dimly aware, "hung out". He was also vaguely aware that this summer home his siblings were so dead-set on could turn into an opportunity to be "normal". (That this might be the reason they were so dead-set on the summer home in the first place didn't occur to him.)
A tiny pink-haired girl answered, peering out shyly from behind the door. "Who're you?" she asked suspiciously.
A little boy, slightly taller than the girl, came into view, sticking out his tongue at the stranger. "Hey, Sakura! Your boyfriend's here!" he yelled tauntingly. The little girl giggled, staring up at Gaara again, this time blushing.
"Who?" snapped Sakura, coming to the door with a baby balanced on her hip. "Gaara? What are you doing here? I thought we were meeting at the park?" she exclaimed quizzically.
"You were late, so I looked you up in the phone book," he replied flatly over the chant of "Sakura's got a boyfriend, Sakura's got a boyfriend!"
"I'm not that late, am I?" Sakura asked, only to turn red as she checked her watch. "OH! I'm sorry, I didn't realize what time it was! Sayu here was being all fussy," she explained, hoisting the baby up a little. "I'll try to put her to sleep real quick... I'll be right back. You can come in if you want," she added over her shoulder, disappearing back into the house.
"All right, Lee, here's your chance!" Naruto announced excitedly to his bestest friend in the whole wide street, Rock Lee. "We've ticked Sakura-chan off to the point of no return, so she's going to be spending the whole day moping. You just have to show up, be understanding, give her a shoulder to cry on, all that stuff, and before you know it, you two will be enjoying candlelit dinners and walks on the beach!"
"Really?" Lee asked, his eyes lighting up.
Sasuke, standing in the shadows, trying to avoid being seen with the two closest people to friends he had, snorted.
"What's your problem?" Naruto snapped.
"Mr. Naivety over there," the brooding young man sniggered, nodding to Lee. "Now, if I had a crush on a girl, and another guy with a crush on her and some guy she has a crush on offered to set me up with her, I'd be a little suspicious."
Lee pondered this, walking over to Sasuke and surveying him thoughtfully. "You are a very cynical person... that may be part of the reason that you're always so lonely. But, you do have a point," he acquiesced, returning his attention to Naruto. "What's the catch? Sakura-chan's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of young woman. You wouldn't sacrifice your chance with her merely for the sake of romance."
Sasuke snorted again.
"What now?" Naruto and Lee asked, rounding on him.
"Nothing," Sasuke smirked, enjoying this position of power. "Just... Naruto's actually seeing someone else."
"SASUKE! You said you wouldn't tell!" Naruto yelled, glaring at him.
Rock Lee stared back and forth between the two young men. They seemed like opposites, but once you got to know them, they had a lot in common... Now, Lee was a very open-minded, unprejudiced, sensitive lad, so he was as delicate as possible in phrasing his next question. "...gay?"
Sasuke snorted again. "Not unless Hinata's hiding something."
"Sasuke!" snapped Naruto. "Shut up!"
"They're keeping it quiet because Neji would kill Naruto and dismember his corpse if he found out," Sasuke explained.
Lee nodded. That sounded like Neji, all right. "You know, Naruto, since you're doing all this for me and Sakura... if you want me to throw in a good word for you with Neji, I could."
"Really? That'd be awesome of you!" Naruto exclaimed.
Another snort from Sasuke, as he imagined Eyebrow the Boy Wonder trying to convince his overly-serious teammate that Naruto wasn't a total moron.
"Do you love Sakura?" the little girl asked, hiding partially behind the couch. Apparently she was very shy, because Gaara hadn't once seen her not hidden behind something.
"Are you gonna kiss her?" the boy asked, making it very clear that any guy who kissed his older sister was gross.
"Maki! Shoko! Hush!" Sakura hissed, shooing the children out of her way as she pulled Gaara out the door. "Sorry about them," she apologized as they walked along. "They're good kids, but they can be a handful... um... are you hungry? Do you want to grab some lunch?"
Fortunately, Sakura was perfectly used to noncommital replies from her little brothers and sisters. "Is that a yes-shrug, or a no-shrug?" she asked helpfully.
"... a yes-shrug, I guess."
"All right!" Sakura chirped. "Where do you want to go?"
"There aren't any good restaurants in Konoha."
"Sure there are! You just need a native to show you around. And you're in luck, because I happen to be 100 percent Leaf Villager! So, what's your favorite food?"
In spite of himself, Gaara actually perked up a little. "Lizard tongues and gizzards."
His new pal stared at him. "Really?" Gaara nodded, and Sakura shrugged. "Must be a desert thing."
"They're good," the boy assured her.
"I'll take your word for it..." she compromised, unconvinced.
"What's your favorite food, then?"
"Pickled sour plums and fruit salad with dumplings!" Gaara stared at her. "Hey, don't mock the pickled sour plums! They're one of mankind's greatest inventions."
Gaara shrugged. "I'll take your word for it."
Sakura grinned mischievously. "Tell you what, you try my favorite food, and I'll try yours. Deal?" After some consideration, Gaara decided he had nothing left to lose, and nodded. "Ok! Come on, I bet Aru's sells lizard tongues. They do specialty foods," she said, pulling him down the street. "Uh... hey, Gaara-kun? What is a gizzard, anyway?"
"Well, when you dissect a—,"
Sakura cut him off with a shudder. "Never mind. I don't want to spoil the surprise."
Part of Sasuke's problem, he had decided by reading therapy books in his spare time, was that he didn't talk to others enough. With being assigned to Squad 7, he had set out to rectify this. "And mom said she was out of oregano and I said "Itachi's got some in his room", and I was only four, how was I supposed to know it wasn't oregano? So mom blows up, and Itachi gets all pissed at me, and I'm like—,"
"Hey, Sasuke, Lee," Naruto interrupted, pointing at the entrance to Aru's Market. "Isn't that Sakura?"
"Yes, I think it is," Lee said, squinting. "But who's that short kid she's with?"
"Looks like," Sasuke leaned forward, "GAARA?"
The three boys were stunned. They turned to each other in shell-shocked stupor. "She blew us off for the creepy desert kid?
Recovering, Naruto turned back to the couple. "And she looks like she's having a good time, too!" he wailed. "Now we have to follow them!"
"If only to see what their deal is," Sasuke agreed.
Sakura was having a good time. Aru's had had the desired lizard parts, and, while wandering through downtown Konoha, she was discovering that they didn't taste half bad, if you ignored the fact that you were eating lizard organ meat.
Gaara, meanwhile, was nibbling thoughtfully on a dumpling.
"Well? Do you like it?" Sakura prompted. Gaara shrugged, which at this point in their day, lead automatically to her next question. "Yes-shrug or no-shrug?"
"It's an I-haven't-decided-yet shrug. It tastes... different. I'm not used to Konoha food. I told Temari that I'd starve if we moved out here. She told me not to be so melodramatic."
"You don't like Konoha?" Sakura asked sympathetically.
Gaara shook his head. "Too much green. And the weather changes too much. And it feels too closed in. And it's too wet. And too warm at night, and too cold during the day, and,"
"So, I take it that the summer home wasn't your idea?"
"No... but Temari and Kankuro said that they're getting one, end of story, and if I don't like it, I can stay at home all summer. Much as I hate the forest, I hate being home alone even more. At least it's only summers."
Sakura shook her head, studying her companion bemusedly. "Wow. I just don't understand you at all. I love it out here! I don't get how anyone can live in the desert. It's so bare. No rain, no trees, no twirlers,"she sighed, picking up a twirler off the ground and tossing it in the air. Gaara watched it flutter gracefully to the ground, and, becoming curious, picked one up himself and tossing it up. It dropped back to the earth like a stone.
Sakura grinned. "You must have got a dud... here, try another."
Gaara did; and it dropped like a stone.
Puzzled, Sakura retrieved it and tried again. This time, it twirled around, landing softly on the ground. "Hmm... maybe you're flicking your wrist funny or something."
They spent a good long while trying to force Gaara's twirlers to work, failing miserably, but still having a good time.
The light from the setting sun reflected off of two identical lenses concealed in a nearby tree. "It looks like... Gaara's grinning!" Naruto gasped. Lee grabbed the binoculars away from him.
"He can grin? Oh, what I'd give to know what they're talking about."
"He can talk?" Sasuke gasped, making a grab for the binoculars. "To people? Like, in a conversation?"
Afraid that some ill-fated Konoha punks would want to try beating on her puny little sand-nin friend (nothing says tourist like a Suna headband), Sakura escorted Gaara back to the hotel after sunset. "G'night, Gaara," she started outside the door, breaking the awkward silence. "Thanks for coming along today... I know it's not really your kind of thing, but I had a really good time."
Gaara nodded emotionlessly, and Sakura, still feeling a little awkward but unable to break the silence again, turned to go.
"Hey... um... Sakura? I had a good time, too."
Sakura turned back around, but Gaara had disappeared.