Disclaimer: I don't own Gaara, Sakura, or the Naruto characters and story.

Blossom of a Desert Cactus

"Why aren't you sleeping?" a smooth calming voice inquired, stirring the blackness of the night.

The girl hesitated at first, but then brought her hand to the face of the boy beside her. His eyelids fell shut at her chilling touch. She brushed a few strands of stray crimson hairs back into their proper place, pausing briefly when her fingertips trailed over the red tattoo-like mark engraved on the teenaged boy's forehead. Ai. Love. What a strange symbol to bear for someone who could hardly comprehend the meaning of the word.

Her own pink-colored hair lightly brushed against his cheek, tickling a little. His eyes flew back open at the odd sensation. From the opened window across the room a scarce amount of moonlight had snuck in, but its entrance was only short lived for it was then captured in her shimmering emerald eyes. They sparkled enchantingly, mesmerizing him.

The boy gazed up at her from where he lay, hypnotized by those intriguing gems. She could have been an angel, dressed in the moonlight, glowing. She was so beautiful, so captivating. At that moment he wanted her. He wanted this angel who glistened so happily and fearlessly in front of him; a monster.

But somehow he regained the self control he had learned in the past years, turning his eyes away from her, the one that brought such odd feelings of yearning and desire. She was an angel after all and his demonic touch would only taint her; turn her into darkness like him. He didn't want that. She was too pure, unlike him, who had spilt the blood of many; he who was wandering alone in the darkness as a monster. "I rarely sleep," he murmured.

She sighed, a little defeated. She thought he would be more willing to get some rest since Shukaku, once inside him, had been forcefully extracted from his body, but yet he refused to. It confused her; made her wonder. Did the very thought of nightmares reoccurring terrify him? Did he think there was still a demon buried somewhere deep inside him that would consume him in the eerie darkness of sleep? Or was it simply that he had gone for so long with little sleep that he just didn't fatigue and couldn't get into the routine of sleeping. Even with all her studying the kunoichi did not know the answer to her question. But she did know one thing: he had to get rest now and she was determined to make sure he got it.

She mustered up the courage to confront him about the matter and stated firmly, "You have to get your rest. Your wounds won't heal fast enough it you don't." Wounds were one thing he wasn't sure he could get use to. He had rarely ever gotten hurt in his life. Though the number of times was quickly moving from the number of his fingers to his toes. And now he had to be looked after by a medical ninja from a neighboring country as if he was helpless was another thing he wasn't sure he could get use to. No one had ever taken care of him before. They had never cared. "You're Kazekage, Gaara" she continued in a stern voice, but quickly realized the meaning of her own words and who she was speaking to. Who was she to tell the leader of the Sand Village what he could and could not do? She whispered in a quieter and more inferior voice than before, "The village is worried about you. They need their leader strong." An injured Kazekage was definitely not good for Sand's reputation.

Gaara slowly sat up from the bed he laid on, groaning. He wanted to escape from its capture. He wanted to escape from the thing that held him down from doing anything. But mostly he wanted to escape from this angel who made his heart ache so. His action only caused a panicked young girl to hold him back, pressing her hands firmly against his shoulders. "What are you doing? Your wounds could reopen!" she cried.

He stopped and glared at her. It was a chilling stare that sent shivers coursing through her body. "You're not of the Sand. Why do you care so much? Why help someone who tried to kill you and the people you care for in the past?" His icy words cut like knives into the healer, stinging at her chest, bringing back painful memories.

"That was…" She paused before speaking again, the events of the past replaying in her mind. An expression of terror quickly came and went across her visage. "That was a long time ago. You have changed so much since then, Gaara."

Change? Can anyone truly change? No matter if he changed, he couldn't change the past. He had hurt her in the past. He didn't want history to repeat. He was a monster. He couldn't change that even if Shukaku was gone. He still was a monster, wasn't he?

She hesitated and lowered her gaze, letting go of his shoulders, recoiling her hands toward her chest. She was trying to grasp the pain and heal it; make it go away. But the pain in one's heart isn't so easily mended. Gaara knew that far better than anyone. The heart doesn't heal as quickly as flesh and bone. It may never even heal. "I'm a doctor. I am supposed to help anyone, no matter who they are." Her eyes lowered. "And," she paused, "Naruto couldn't stand it if something were to happen to you again…" Her voice was soft, quivering, and unsteady as it trailed off.

He was no fool though. He was quite familiar with pain and had seen the way people react to terror and knew instantly that she was afraid of him. Even if it was just a little, it was still there. She was still afraid and for some reason that brought about a strange and unfamiliar feeling: a new type of burning sadness that wouldn't subside. It was different from the sadness he always felt. It hurt far more.

Is she only helping me because of Naruto? Naruto; why did he bring about another burning feeling? But this feeling was different. It was angry and burned hotter than a flame. For some reason he resented the other boy at that moment.

The boy rose and walked pass her. He didn't bother glancing over at her to see if she had any reaction from that. At first he thought she would protest like before, but then again, everyone always gave up; didn't fight against him; always let him have his way. But he wanted someone to stand up against him! Maybe that would prove not everyone was afraid; that they weren't afraid of a monster.

The girl didn't dare look up at him as he walked by her. She felt she had said too much to someone of his ranking. She watched the steps he took out of the corner of her eyes. She saw him stop once he reached the window. She was sure he was trying to make an escape; to escape from this prison; to escape from her. And who was she to stop him? But instead he just starred out the window at the indigo blue sky that watched over every thing.

"The desert," his voice came, cool and soft, "doesn't have all the trees that Konoha does. There's a clear view of the sky…" As he spoke his gaze didn't waver. He just continued to stare up at the star filled sky.

She didn't understand what he was trying to say. She starred at him, inquisitively. But how the moonlight radiated off him and how the wind gently lifted his short red locks made a small blush creep up on the girl's cheeks and made her wonder: if he was truly a monster why did the moon hold on to him so tightly? His hands were pressed against the window seal. The shadows and reflected light that the moon cast upon him brought attention to the finely sculpted muscles of his arms and torso. Even the bandages strapped around his chest and back couldn't hide them.

He had described himself as a monster to her before. When she had first came to Sand to heal the wounded Kazekage. She remembered his words clearly. They seemed to be filled with a deep bitter sadness.

"Why are you doing this for me? I only caused you pain in the past. Why help a monster?"

"Stop thinking like that! You are not a monster! Gaara, you're a person, just like me. And you don't have to have a reason to want to help someone. I am doing this because I want to. On my own free will. I want to help you."

But how could someone so beautiful be a monster? How could someone who suffered so much be a monster? How could someone who only wanted love be a monster?

"The moon…" he began. She felt entranced by him at that moment; entranced by this so called monster that was draped in moonlight. She just waited for his next words, next motions. She slowly approached him, tiptoeing. She felt if she hurried too fast or made too much notice to herself the moon would leave his side and the illusion would vanish like a cheap magic trick.

"It's so far away from everything. Even the stars that seem so close to it are billions of miles apart from it." When she reached him she reluctantly ripped her gaze away from him and found the spot in the sky that his eyes were so fixed on, the moon. But he then said something that surprised her, "The moon must be lonely."

With his pain-filled words she felt her heart tear in two. She felt he was telling her something he wished her to know, that he was crying out to her in his own way. She felt the little monster beside her wanted her; wanted her to mend him. She wanted to reach out to him at that moment, but the words she needed wouldn't come.

Gaara turned his gaze from the moon and rested it on her. "You don't have to stay here. I know you are terrified of me, Sakura." It felt awkward for his lips to form her name. It felt almost painful. "I'm a monster, after all." His eyes wandered to the floor. A strange emotion was sweeping over him. Why did it hurt so much to say those words; to push her away? Why did he hurt knowing that this girl was afraid of him? Many other people had been afraid of him in the past and with a lust for blood he had enjoyed seeing them scream and scramble in his presence. But now, with her, he couldn't bare her running from him in terror. He couldn't bear her screaming, a frightened cry. Why was that? Why did his heart ache so because of her? Why did this monster long for such a creature like an angel?

Her eyes followed his to the floor. Tears were forming in them. "Is that what you think you are? A monster?" Her voice was trembling, but it wasn't because she was afraid, but because of something else. It hurt her for him to think of himself as a monster without a soul, without a heart, and she would weep for him because she knew he wouldn't himself.

"For the longest time I have been called that. Even if Shukaku is gone, does it change the fact that I am a monster? I killed many people. I even enjoyed hearing them scream as their bones broke; seeing them bleed. Isn't that someone you would call a monster?"

Gaara saw a tear roll off her cheek and hit the sand covered floor. It surprised him. No one had ever cried in front of him unless he or she was scared, bent down on hands and knees, pleading for his or her life. But he could sense that she wasn't afraid of him then. His eyes were captured by her shaking form.

"Yes," she whispered, a slow response. Her eyes rose to meet his. "But a monster wouldn't want to protect this village. It wouldn't want people to care for it. It wouldn't want to be loved." Her emerald jewel-like eyes pierced through him. He didn't want to meet them. His gaze fell back to the floor.

"And no, you're wrong, the moon isn't lonely. It continues to shine because it knows someone believes in it. Even if it is just one person. One person that needs the light it provides. It protects those with the light it gives off. It protects the ones that love it. The moon can't be lonely. The light it shines is too bright and too warm."

She saw his lips twist into a small smile, a painful, but somewhat happy smile. He shut his eyes, meeting the darkness of his eyelids. "Do you believe a monster can be purified? Do you think one can be transformed into a human?" his voice was a little unsteady and broken.

"Yes," the girl replied. Her eyes raised. A smile graced her lips.

"Thank you…" his voice came in a low quite whisper.

He longed for this angel before him to heal him, to purify the beast he was. He wanted to be transformed from a monster into a human. New strange feelings were blooming inside his cactus-like heart that had been for so long closed up. He wanted this girl before him to love him, even if he had once been a monster.

The sun rose the next morning, shining brightly through the window. Its beams lightened up the once dark room. The fiery haired boy quietly walked pass the sleeping kunoichi who lay, leaning against his bedside.

He watched as her form rose slowly up and then back down, in a steady rhythm. She had a calm, soft expression on her face. She looked so peaceful. Her arms were folded under her chin, propping her head up. She was bent over at her midsection and her upper body rested uncomfortably on the bed. She had been like that for a while now. She had watched the boy for hours after their conversation but the need for sleep had finally won the battle against her.

But he wouldn't be as easily beaten. Yet he had humored her by closing his eyes, lying down, and pretending to sleep. But her eyes! Her eyes were watching him, watching every movement he made, every breath he took. Even if he had wanted to rest he wouldn't had been able to. He felt too uneasy. He couldn't unwind. Granted, she was there to look after him, to make sure his wounds healed, and to make sure he was taking it easy and getting rest, but he just couldn't take it easy; he just couldn't rest. Not with her there. She put his heart on a roller coaster ride. She made his mind wander. Made him want things he had never yearned for before. He felt strange. He didn't know what this unusual feeling was. He had never experienced anything like it before. She made him feel more whole, more complete, more, dare it be said, happy. He felt nervous around her. And when she brushed against him or when their emerald eyes locked with his he felt his face flush.

He wanted her to need him, to want him, to not be afraid of him. He wanted her to-

No! He had to escape from these awkward, frightening feelings! He knew they were something that wasn't suited for the likes of him. He was a demon and she was an angel; but, yet, how he secretly yearned for her. It was only human nature to want, to desire that one certain something more than anything else. But then he wasn't human; he was a monster. Yet he felt more human than he had ever felt before. He hungered for one emotion that he one day wished to be able to comprehend and be able to have. He wanted to be loved more than anything else and even be able to love in return.

Yet the idea of love and these new found feelings terrified him. Experiencing something for the first time is a scary concept and for him, someone who had never known what true love was, love was most frightening. He didn't grow up with caring parents. The one person he thought loved him turned on him and betrayed his trust. Even his siblings had been terrified of him until recent years. The first person who had ever showed him real kindness was Naruto. Though that wasn't the kind of love he craved. He wanted a different sort of love. A kind he saw in the streets with couples holding hands or whispering sweet, easing words in each others' ears. But was he really a person who could ever experience such an event? He felt it best not to answer that for the truth may be too bitter. A monster wasn't supposed to have feelings and lust for affection. It should only want to kill and spill blood.

With shift hands he quickly pulled his arms through his robe's sleeves, zipped it up, and then fastened his gourd onto his back. He casually strolled past the girl sitting in the small chair next to his bed. He felt it was a little cruel to leave her in such an awkward position. The boy lifted her small body into the air, placing an arm around her knees and the other around her back. He placed her gently on the bed she had been leaning on. She sighed peacefully and unconsciously snuggled into a more comfortable position.

She looked so tranquil and lovely. He tried to resist the urge to reach down to her but he couldn't. His body wasn't listening to what his mind was telling him, but instead was listening to his heart. His rough fingers trailed on the girl's creamy skin, brushing away strains of soft apple blossom-colored hair. He saw her lips open and form a small smile. He was entranced by that small smile and her lush eyelashes. He caught himself leaning down towards that small smile and those lush eyelashes. They drew him towards her without his realization. But suddenly he came back to reality, stopped himself, and pulled back. He felt his heart pounding in his throat. He tried to shake the strange emotion that was stirring in his chest, but it wouldn't leave!

"I need…air…" he mumbled under his breath, frantically wanting to escape, to run away from this girl who made these painful yet exciting feelings arise. And just as soon as he said those words he was gone in a whirlwind of sand.

An awakening Sakura stirred in the bed. Her eyes slowly opened, blinking a few times. Waking up to the unfamiliar scene around her made her jump. "Where am I?" she questioned out loud, her head shooting around the room. The floor was covered in sand and she could see the adobe buildings outside the room through the window. The realization of where she was hit her. She was in Sunagakure. She had come on a mission to heal the wounded Kazekage. Since the demon once inside him was no longer there he was down in defense and hadn't adjusted to life and battles yet without its aid. He had been caught off guard by a fury of kunai while protecting the village and been severely injured. Temari had personally asked the Leaf Kunoichi to attend her brother's wounds, knowing there wasn't any one with enough trust or skill for the task in the Sand Village. The girl had immediately headed off to Sand to see the Kazekage.

Sakura noticed the bed she was on. "How'd I get here? Did Gaara…? Gaara!" The girl instantly shot up and began frantically searching the room for the red headed boy with dark eyes. But he was no where to be found. Her heart pounded.

Where could he have gone?! Gaara, your wounds aren't fully healed yet…

"Where'd he go…?" She clutched her hands to her chest. She could feel her heart beating uncontrollably. But why? He was her patient so, of course, she was worried. But why did the pain in her chest seem different somehow? "I have to find him." The words left her lips so effortless she was a little surprised, but determined.

Gaara, please be all right.

The emerald eyed girl dashed out of the room, through the corridors, and out into the busy streets of the Sand Village.

The young Kazekage wandered through the streets of the Sand, deep in thought. He didn't even pay any notice to the young swooning girls or the waves from working men who had large smiles on their sun beat faces. He paid no heed to the occasional cold stares he received from the ones who disapproved of him being Kazekage. Gaara was too much in his own world to notice any of this. He was trying to solve the puzzle of his heart, the puzzle of these abnormal feelings he was having ever since she had arrived, but he was stuck. The pieces just didn't fit.

Why did his heart pound in her presence? Why had he almost kissed her!

When she first arrived he had been so angry with Temari. He didn't need help from someone else. He wasn't weak and certainly didn't need another person nagging him with "You need to keep up your strength. The village depends on you," or "You need to rest. The Sand rests on your shoulders." He was already getting enough of that from his siblings and advisors. He didn't need another on his case.

But some how she was different. She had been kind, yet still stubborn. She paid no attention to his threats on her life. He seemed to have lost his power of fear over people after the extraction of Shukaku and she seemed to know she had some protective air about her since she was Naruto's friend and she used that to her advantage. She talked to him like she would any other person, as if he was no different. The words seemed to come to her so easily. She could talk for hours. She told him all about Naruto and herself. Though she seemed to avoid the mention of her former teammate, Sasuke. The red-head could tell that his memory brought her great pain. Pain. Maybe that was one thing they had in common. They both had been hurt from someone they thought cared for them.

He kept his distance from her at first. He hadn't had many interactions with others and was afraid of what would happen if he did. She seemed to respect that somewhat and cautiously approached him. She would smile at him. Only when she was sure he wasn't so nervous around her did she reach out to him and gently touch him. But when her soft fingers came in contact with him he had quickly pulled away. She had apologized for her action. But really it wasn't something she should have apologized for. It wasn't her, it was him. She sent shivers up his spine. He felt nervous around her, almost frightened. But why? She was no threat. He was far more powerful than she, but yet he didn't think he could win against her. She entranced him with every motion she made. He felt like she was controlling his mind.

Yet why was she helping him? Why did she care? He had hurt her in the past. He knew that. He could tell even if she tried to hide it. At times she seemed hesitant. And when she had touched him he had seen the terror flash through her eyes. He had felt her tremble. Maybe that was why he had pulled away. He didn't want her to be afraid. He had to keep himself, a beast, away from her.

They both did finally come to terms with their fear, however. She had insisted that she needed to do her job to heal his wounds. She had a way about her that he couldn't deny. Even if he felt a tug at his heart when close to her he would obey her commons and let her treat his wounds. He didn't want her to be afraid. He didn't want to hurt her more.

He was captivated by her. She was a beautiful flower, yet he was a cactus. A cactus that had a protective barrier of thorns always surrounding it. A shield which blocked others from getting close to his heart. A shield that blocked his true emotions and feelings from seeping out. How he wished he could turn into a flower too. How he wished someone would care for him, break through the thorns, his wall of sand, and warm his stone heart so maybe a single blossom might bloom from his dried up desert heart.

He questioned her motives for what she was doing, for helping him of all people. There had to be a reason. Humans, at least all the ones he had met, didn't do something for another without getting something in return. "Why are you doing this for me? I only caused you pain in the past. Why help a monster?" The words spilt from his lips a little difficultly. They were filled with venom to try to hide the pain it brought to say them. He didn't meet her eyes when he asked. He couldn't. She made him yearn for things a monster shouldn't.

She let out a fury of anger in response to his words. "Stop thinking like that! You are not a monster!" She put down the medicine bottles she had been rummaging through and came to the bed he was on and sat on the edge next to him. He felt her hand creep across his neck, cup his chin, and pull his face to look upon hers. Her touch brought shivers through him but he couldn't deny her, not her. Her eyes were soft. Her gentle but saddened emerald jewels stared back at his dull, pain-filled aquamarine ones. He couldn't bring himself to pull away. "Gaara," she began. Her voice was soothing and caring. "You're a person, just like me. And you don't have to have a reason to want to help someone. I am doing this because I want to. Of my own free will." Her voice became louder and more determined "I want to help you."

She saw his eyes waver and fall. "Why do you insist on calling yourself 'a monster' when it brings you so much pain?" Sakura's voice was calm. She brought her fingers up past his chin bone to the kanji written on his forehead. Her caress made him stiffen. "It seems to me that you want to deny it. You may call yourself that, but you don't want to believe it. You want to be just like everybody else and what you really want…" she leaned towards him. He could feel her breath against his neck, tickling his ear. "All you really want is someone to love you."

His eyes widened. His teeth clenched close. No! There was no way that was something he wanted! He only loved himself. No one else. Only himself! Oh, how he wished he could believe that now. But he couldn't. He did yearn for love. Somewhere deep down he wanted it. But he couldn't. It was too painful. It would only make him hurt more.

With a rapid motion he pulled away from her, standing up, backing away. She didn't seem shocked by his sudden outburst. She just stared up at him with those eyes of hers so full of compassion. "Why love?" he snarled, his eyes shooting towards her. But his tone quickly softened and his words seemed to be filled with agony when he looked upon her. "It only brings pain…"

"That may be true," the girl whispered her eyes half closed. "But it can also bring happiness."

"Happiness…?" He questioned. He chuckled at the thought. Maybe it was true but happiness wasn't meant for him. A monster shouldn't be happy.

"You think that you don't deserve happiness, do you?" Sakura's voice was clam. She showed no fear. He admired her at that moment. After all the heartache she had experienced from "love" she was still able to believe in the mythical thing.

"Why should I? I have only brought pain to others…"

Yet he yearned for love and happiness. He wanted to be happy, wanted to be loved by another and maybe he even wanted to love in return. But a monster shouldn't desire such things. Yet he yearned for her touches that sent shivers through his entire body. They were frightening yet strangely filled with excitement. As her stay in Sand lengthened he secretly desired her soft caresses more. He welcomed them and wanted her more and more.

What was wrong with him? He had never felt this way before. Surely he must have some illness. Maybe someone had slipped a poison into his food or drink and the drug was causing him to think such crazy thoughts. Why did that girl make his chest burn so? Why did she make his heart pound? He didn't understand. How could he? It was all too new. Too odd.

He grasped his chest like he had when he was a child. The more he thought about her the more it hurt. Her sweet innocent smile kept flashing in his mind. Why was it she was all he could think about? Why was it that she tugged at his chest and sent him so much pain when she was supposed to heal and make the pain cease?

A sudden jolt sent his mind soaring back into reality along with his body. His heavy gourd contributed to his fall, its weight pulling him down. He met with the hard, rough surface of sand and skidded back a few feet. He heard something else come crashing down almost simultaneously. A mourn left the lips of another, along with soft whimpers.

The Kazekage quickly stood and brushed himself off. He then looked upon the culprit who had so rudely plunged into him and broken his train of thoughts. It was a small boy, cradling his head and choking on tears as he rocked back and forth. His short, greasy bangs hung over his dirty face, covering it.

Gaara was taken back by what to say. He wasn't quite used to the kindness act and wondered if it was better to just walk away and not say anything. Though he was Kazekage and knocking the leader of your own village down was something that angered him, Gaara just couldn't scold the child. Maybe it was that the boy reminded himself when he was younger: covered in sand, crying.

Gaara decided to just walk away. He passed the boy, but when he did the boy looked up at him, gasping when he recognized who he was. His eyes went wide in bewilderment. "Ka-Kaze-KazeKage-sama…?!" the boy managed to mutter. The older boy paused and glanced down. If Gaara had eyebrows he may had raised one, but instead he just stood there, staring down at the child, his expression unchanged. The boy quickly altered his position, bringing his legs under his knees. He bent down, bringing his head to the ground, bowing. "Forgive me, sir!" He stuttered loudly. "But I was in a hurry! I needed to get help. My sister! She's trapped!"

"Where?" was the burgundy haired boy's only word of reply.

The young pink-haired kunoichi roamed the streets of the Village Hidden in the Sand in hopes of finding a certain red haired boy. One would think he wouldn't be too difficult to find. A gourd strapped on the back, the fiery red hair, and heavily outlined eyes weren't too common among the civilians. But then again she had no idea where she was going or for that matter which way she had come from. All the buildings and the people looked the same to her. The buildings were all made of sand and had fairly the same shape. All the people wore shawls or hats to protect themselves from the beating sun. Or maybe it was just the heat playing tricks on her mind causing her to hallucinate and see the same thing again and again. She wasn't quite sure anymore. But one thing she was sure of was that it was extremely hot! Her body felt like it was on fire. Her shoulders and all her other exposed skin burned like a million lit candles. She couldn't imagine how the villagers dealt with the heat day after day. And she couldn't believe how they were all fully clothed; almost from head to toe! Layers of cloth draped over them. She was surprised no one was keeling over from the heat, especially dressed how they were. It was so hot!

The heat was making her vision blur and sweat was dripping off her, but she couldn't just give up. She had to find Gaara. And even if she did quit she was still lost and had no idea how to get back to where she had came from. Her best bet in getting back was that red head. Besides the beating in her chest wouldn't subside. It just seemed to increase with every step she took, every breath she breathed. Her head spun with thoughts and it wasn't just because of the sun. Worry bubbled in the pit of her stomach. But why was she so anxious? Her breathing became more ridged the more she thought about him. Was he all right? She was just worried about him; that was it. He was injured and he was her patient. But why, why did she long to see him so…? The feeling inside her chest couldn't just be worry. It hurt far worst. But why?

"Maybe I should ask someone," Sakura sighed, wiping some of the sweat off of her brow. She narrowed her eyes in search for someone who looked like they might be of some help. She spotted a dark haired kunoichi a few feet away.

Sakura approached the other girl. "Um, excuse," she began a little nervous. She felt the question she was going to ask might sound odd.

The raven haired girl took notice in her and stopped. "Yes?" she questioned.

"Um…by any chance have you seen Gaa-Kazekage-sama around?" She remembered the boy directly telling her to stop calling him by his title, but by his name. He said it made him sound too honorable and he had done nothing to deserve the honor. But calling him that now would be impolite.

A strange flicker of change in her countenance washed over the girl at the mention of the Sand's leader. "Well, if I knew where he was I definitely wouldn't be standing around here talking to you, honey." The Sand kunoichi laughed at her own words.

"Oh…" Sakura's eyes fell to the ground, disappointed. She stared back up at the girl. "Well, if you see him can you tell him he shouldn't be wandering around yet. His wounds could open up again."

"Wounds?" The other shinobi questioned. Just then a light bulb looked like it went off inside her. "You're the healer from the Leaf?" And then she added with much more force, "A girl!?" She seemed a little angry.

"…yes, I'm a girl." At that moment Sakura felt that maybe asking for help hadn't been such a hot idea.

The girl gasped, well more liked squealed, "You get to touch Gaara-sama and even watch him sleep! Ah! I am so jealous!" She held her face in the palms of her hands, blushing madly.

"Well, actually he never sleeps…" The pink-haired kunoichi murmured.

"I should become a healer too! Maybe one day I'll be good enough to heal Gaara-sama!" The girl sighed, dreamily.

It was time to leave this nut house and Sakura was heading straight to the exit. "Uh, right! Good luck with that. I'm sure you'll do great", the blush-haired girl replied. "Well, I'll be off then." She waved as she walked away, leaving the girl to her own imagination.

She sighed a little, but it soon grew into a small chuckle. "When did Gaara get so popular?"

"She's over here, Kazekage-sama! Please help her!" a child-like voice cry. The girl could hear the anxiety in his voice. The sound of a set of hurried footsteps and another set of slower, steadier ones crunched the grains of sand that spread out in every direction. The sound became louder and louder.

Could it be…? Her heart felt like it had stopped. Her breath was caught in her throat.

The young girl peered around the corner of a nearby building and sure enough there he was! She saw the trademark gourd strapped on his back, the fiery red hair, and the heavily darkened eyes. He had his arms crossed and he slightly glowered, his lips had long forgotten how to form a smile. He was accompanied by a small, anxious young boy who appeared to be speaking very rapidly and frantically. He pointed to a bunch of crates and what Sakura's eyes witnessed made her heart sink and her eyes fill with tears. She brought her hand to her mouth to cover up her gasp.

A small girl, no older than the boy, maybe even younger, lay half buried in the sand. Her long black hair fell all over her dirty, tearstained face. It slightly hid the tears that slide down her cheeks. Her eyes were dull. They seemed to had lost any hope. They looked like the shine, the life, had been sucked out of them. Her thin legs were trapped under many heavy wooden crates. There was no way the little boy or even Gaara could lift those crafts that piled on top of her. They looked far too heavy. A red liquid seeped into the dirt around her, spilling out from the many wounds that were carved on her body.

"Sister!" The boy cried, running over to her. He crouched down beside her and grasped her by the hand. "Sister," he spoke softer. "I found help. I brought Kazekage-sama. He'll save you. Don't worry." He gave her a reassuring smile.

The little girl peered weakly up at the red haired young man before her through her black strains and swollen eyes. She sniffled a feeble, "Ka-Kazekage-sama?" in disbelief.

"Out of the way," Gaara ordered rather coldly. There was little emotion in his voice. The boy, realizing that his leader was addressing him gave a quick glance towards his sister, who in turned gave a look back at him. He gave her hand a final tight squeeze before running behind the raccoon-eyed boy. He starred up at the flaming haired Kazekage just as eager as Sakura was to see what he was going to do.

With quick hand gestures he performed his jutsu. Sakura felt the earth beneath her began to quake and move as her body became off balance. The sand under her feet shifted forward toward Gaara. She braced herself against the wall so she wouldn't collapse on to the ground. She couldn't believe him. She was flabbergasted. He paid no notice to the tremors. He was perfectly collected and calm. A mound of sand approached him. He brought his hand forward. The sand followed suit and also crawled forward.

The young boy starred at the mountain of sand heading toward his sibling, then at the Kazekage, and then back to his sister. His eyes were wide in terror, unknowing of what was going to happen next. The young ninja from the Hidden Leaf was also in awe.

The mountain continued onward and then seemed to become smaller and smaller as it neared the girl, like a creature lowering itself below the surface of an ocean, except this ocean was filled with sand. A rumble erupted as the mountain sprang upward, lifting the wooden crates slowly along with them. It backed away from the wounded child carrying the items which had ensnared her along with it. It slowly faded back down, smoothing out, bringing the wooden boxes along with it again a good distance away from the girl.

Gaara felt a burst of pain surge throughout his chest. He grasped it momentarily. But he couldn't hide it from the girl watching him. She gasped silently to herself. She saw his shoulders rise and fall quickly as he tried to catch his breath. But that only made him wince with a sudden jolt of pain. Her concentration was quickly shot back to the small children when the boy cried out to his freed sister and dashed over to her. He knelt down next to her and gently turned her frail body over onto her back, holding her in his arms. She winced at the sudden movement, letting out a sharp cry of agony.

"Are you all right?" he questioned, worry in his voice.

"M-my leg…" the girl choked, weakly. A tear trailed down her flushed cheek. She brought her hand to her left knee. It was torn and battered. A red sticky liquid seeped out of a large open gash.

The Kazekage made his way to the children after the pain had subsided. He bent down to the siblings' level, his long coat trailing across the ground, scattering sand. His eye examined the girl's injury. He was troubled. He had never a wound such as this before. He knew a little about setting bones, but he was afraid he'd only cause more harm than good. He was absolutely of no help.

The blood caught his eyes. It made a sick feeling fill his stomach. If he had been his old self he may have been driven to insanity by that bright crimson liquid pouring out of the child's slender leg. It just reminded himself of the monster he had been and still was. Though it also reminded him how he now could be injured. Without Shukaku the sand didn't freely protect him anymore and he could be caught off guard by an enemy and be wounded. His own blood could freely pour out. Maybe that meant he was more human now, more alive. He could now feel pain on the outside just as he had always felt so much pain on the inside. Now he could feel both kinds of agonies. With every motion he made the wounds stung. And, oh, how his heart ached. He was lost in a sea of darkness and loneliness and he yearned, searched for something to bring him to the light. Though he didn't know what it was he was searching for. What did he want so badly? What did he need so badly?

Why was that shinobi from the Village Hidden in the Leaves causing him so much pain? Why did she keep reappearing in his thoughts? Maybe if he slept he may have even dreamed of her. And maybe they wouldn't have been nightmares but sweet dreams, but he wouldn't risk it. He wouldn't risk himself subduing to the blackness and loneliness sleep allowed. It was much too frightful. Every time he closed his eyes to rest the images of all who he had killed tormented him. Their screams echoed in his mind as he saw their limbs being torn to pieces, leaving only a pile of blood and flesh. And there he would see himself in the sea of blood, smiling maliciously as a monster. These images haunted him. It showed his true nature; a monster.

"There's not much I can do," Gaara finally spoke, snapping everyone out of a daze. The small boy peered up at him, meeting his stone cold emerald gaze. A slow frown spread across his lips.

"It's all right, Kazekage-sama," the boy choked out, holding back tears. "You got her out from under there and for that I am grateful. But what about her leg? The wound looks serious and could get worst if it's not treated right away." His face became distorted as he tried to restrain himself from crying. But he couldn't. The tears came pouring out.

The cherry blossom-haired girl saw something that surprised her. Gaara looked sad. His eyes were down cast. His head was titled so his gaze didn't meet that of the children's. He felt useless and that made his already torn up heart rip more. She knew at that moment that he wasn't a monster no matter how he had persisted that he was. A monster wouldn't feel remorse. It wouldn't be saddened. It wouldn't feel pain in its heart.

Slowly Sakura made her way over to the Kazekage and the two children. She spoke with confidence heavy in her voice, "I can help."

The red head's eyes widened when he saw the pink haired kunoichi. The one thing he had tried so hard to escape from had found him. She made his chest ache at the sight of her. His cheeks felt like they were on fire. But why? He wasn't sick.

He watched as she bent down to the little girl's level. She gave the child a big smile. "Everything will be all right. Don't worry." He watched as her hands gently pressed against the girl's knee. A light glow emerged from her hands as her chakra flowed out of her body and into the younger girl's.

Gaara stood. His head pounded. His heart raced. His fingers brushed the spot where her hands had paused at earlier: the symbol on his forehead, the word "love." Love? Such a foreign thing. What was it anyway? Just a simple word, right? Or did it mean something more, something he wished to understand? Was it something he could even have?

"How's that?" her sweet, soothing angelic voice asked. "Good as new?" Her smile never left her lips.

The children's eyes were wide with disbelief. They stared at the now healed wound. The girl slowly bent her knee. A smile spread across her face when no pain came from doing such an action. "It doesn't hurt!" she cried.

"Thank you so much!" the boy spoke as he hugged his sister.

"Yes, thank you!"

"You're very welcome. It's my job to help those in need." The older girl smiled.

Job? Why did that word hurt? Was it just a job? Something she had to do. Did she even want to be here, here in the Sand? Ha! What a fool he had been to think she really had cared for him. To think that she actually wanted to help him. To think that she could heal his broken heart. To think that she may have loved him; loved a monster. But then again was this really a shock? Others in the past had pretended to care for him and yet they all had turned on him and proved that their words, their feelings, were only lies. How could he have been so stupid to fall for the lies all over again? How naïve was he?

Why did it hurt so much…?

Gaara took a few steps back. His hand bolted back up to the center of the pain and clutched the fabric covering his chest, trying to grasp his pounding, aching heart and make it stop. In a quick moment he was gone with only a swirling whirlpool of falling sand left to show he had even been there.

Sakura saw the young girl's eye search for something behind her. Her brother glanced at his sister. "Huh? What is it sis?" he questioned, raising an eyebrow.

"Where'd Kazekage-sama go? I wanted to thank him for saving me." She pouted

"You know he's pretty busy. You can thank him next time we see him." The girl's brother told her. His sister nodded in agreement.


She didn't want to look back. She didn't want to believe he was gone again. She didn't want to confirm it. She hesitatingly glanced to where he had been standing moments ago but the truth hit her hard. He was gone. She felt her heart sink. Why did it hurt so much when he wasn't in her presence? Why did he of all people make her heart race so rapidly?

Her fists tightened as her gaze lowered. Her eyes caught a glimpse of something, something that made her gasp get caught in her throat. A trail of a bright crimson liquid stained the many grains of sand and then all together disappeared. She knew who's blood it was. It was his.

The young kunoichi sprung to her feet, her body was trembling but that wouldn't stop her. His name left her lips in a short breathless whisper. "Gaara…!" Her legs rose and fell, the balls of her feet pounded against the ground. Her feet sunk into the sand, slowing her pace.

Her heart was pounding, beating against her chest with such force. It felt like forever since she last took a breath and when she finally did it hurt. A burning sensation exploded inside her throat. Her chest felt like it was on fire. Her side began to cramp from the sudden outburst of speed and the lack of air but she ignored it. Her mind told her to keep running. Her heart told her to find him. His name reiterated over and over in her head. Her legs were heavy, keeping her from achieving greater speed, keeping her from achieving her goal faster.

He was wounded. She knew he was. Those red droplets were his. Worry and concern wrapped around her. Why did she worry so? Why did these feelings she feel seem so different from any other she had ever felt? Was it a feeling she had thought she felt for another? Was it really true this time? Is that why it hurt so much?

Gaara knelt down clutching his chest with one hand; the other stabilized him with the help of a wall. A red liquid poured from the wound near his heart, through his fingers, trickled down them and fell onto the ground below. He gasped for air, wincing at how it smarted to do so. The pain was unbearable. That same spot, how could it hurt simultaneously on the inside and the out? But the pain inside hurt far more than the gash.

Her words echoed in his somersaulting mind. "It's my job to help those in need." She had said it with such an innocent, smiling face and, oh, how he hated her at that moment.

"I'm such a fool…" The words formed and slide from his lips. He couldn't stop them from coming out. He loosened the restrain holding up his gourd and let the item fall to the ground with a sharp sound. His body felt lighter from it but his heart was still heavy. He let his grasp on the wall loosen, allowing gravity and his shaking legs to take his body down. An unfamiliar cold wet liquid leaked out from the corners of his eyes. He ran his hand through the stream it made, wiping it away, smearing his own blood across his face. He brought his hand in front of his face. "A tear?" He let out a short chuckle. "Monster's aren't supposed to cry…They don't have feelings…."

His heart ached. His chest ached. His back ached. His forehead ached. Surges of chronicle pain kept shooting through his entire being. "Why does it hurt?" His eyes fell shut. His head fell into his hand. She appeared in his mind eye. Was the pain really all because of her? But why did she torment him? The pain on the inside hurt far more than the physical wound inflicted on his flesh. But it had always hurt. Why did it pain him now so much more?

More crystal droplets fell from the corners of his eyes. They rolled down his cheeks and hit the dry, thirsty ground. His body shook, aches erupted in his chest from the spasms. He bent over, hiding his face with his black cloaked arms. How did I become so weak? He was Kazekage, the Sand's leader. Why was he crying? Why would the tears not cease? Why…? It doesn't rain in the desert. And I am like the desert; deserted and alone… He would never be completely understood, never fully accepted, not by anyone. He had once been a monster. How could anyone love a monster? People don't change. And even if they do others never accept that change. They never believe it. Why would she be any different? But he yearned for her to believe that he had changed. Yearned for her to understand him, accept him, and believe he wasn't a monster but a human. Yearned for her to love him. And if only she did, if it was just her that believed he wasn't a monster, just her that loved him, it would be enough. Just her. And maybe then the pain that was always there in his heart would go away and be replaced with warmth. Maybe she could heal his cold heart.

The tears wouldn't stop. All his emotions and agony he had bottled up for so long came pouring out in the form of clear crystal droplets and he wept for the first time in a long while.

The boy leaned against the building on the burning sand for what seemed like eternity. The flaming heat was his only warmth. His sadness rushed out until no more tears would come. Each breath he took was more painful than the last and just reminded him of the anguish in his chest as the pain thundered through it, burning.

Each time he closed his blazing eyes he saw her: A smiling pretty cherry blossom smiling down at him. And it tore him up inside. Yet he didn't understand the heated feelings and the pounding in his chest which emerged from the sight of her. But the sight of her was somehow smoothing even though pain only accompanied it.

The soft crushing of grains of sand caught his attention. He shifted his position, rising his head up slightly with one eye above his folded arms that wrapped around his knees to find out who dared to approach him. His eyes felt swollen and burned. His vision was a little blurry, but he could easily make out the familiar black clothed shinobi who stared down at him, jaw dropping. It was his older brother, Kankuro. The Kazekage let out a short sigh of relief but it was muffled by his own arm pressing against his lips. Gaara saw a moment of concern wash over his brother, but he quickly shook it off. Kankuro knew his brother didn't want his pity.

The red-head's face was striped of all emotion. His swollen eyes came to rest again in the corner of his arm only seeing the blackness of solitude and agony.

Kankuro's lips moved but no sound came out. He finally managed to speak. "Gaara, what happened to you? You look like a wreck."

What had happened to him? Why did his chest hurt when he thought of her? Was it because he yearned for her; desired her smiles, her soft touches, her gentle words? Was it because he had fallen in love with her? But how? He had promised himself he would never love. How could he love anyone? He was a monster? Monsters don't love. They don't have feelings. Yet if he was a monster why did he have these feelings, these desires?

Gaara let out mumble that resembled the word "nothing." Kankuro wasn't going to buy that. He took a step towards the other boy. He saw his brother tense as he drew near. He positioned himself a little distance apart from him and leaned back against the building, sitting on the sand next to him. He stared out towards the desert below them and in a concerned voice whispered, "What is it you are running away from?"

Gaara's muscles tightened in response. "Who says I'm running from anything?" He growled into his arm. There was venom in his voice. His tone was full of anger and malice.

But he was running. He knew he was. He was running from her and the pain she made him feel. But the aches just hurt more when she wasn't there.

Kankuro let out a sigh. "Yes, you are. Now what is it?" His eyes left the desert and fell to rest on the younger boy. They were fierce and demanding.

"It… hurts…" A small moan escaped his lips. His hand shifted and his fingers tightened around the clothing over his chest, over his heart. "The pain won't stop."

Kankuro's features softened, understandingly. He let out a soft laugh. "So you are running. I guess it is something you would run from." He brought his arms behind his head and braced himself with them, again returning his gaze to the desert. "But you know, you shouldn't run. Not like I am speaking from experience or anything. But I do know love isn't something you should run from. It doesn't have to be frightening. It can bring happiness."

Love can bring happiness. That was what she said, too. Was it really true?

"And I think that is something you want. You want to be happy. You need it. I think everyone deserves to be happy," Kankuro continued.

"Even a monster?" Gaara questioned, his eyes peeking out to stare at the endless blanket of sand. "How can a monster love? Why do I deserve to be happy when I have hurt so many others in the past and destroyed their happiness?"

"It is true that you have hurt a lot of people in the past, but aren't you repenting for that now? You became Kazekage, the leader of Sunagakure. You are now protecting this village and the people in it. You can't erase the past. You can't undo everything you did or erase the pain caused to everyone you hurt; that's true. But you also can't live in the past either. You got to go forward to the future. So you were unhappy in the past, why can't you be happy in the present or in the future?" Kankuro gave him a reassuring smile.

Kankuro's eyes soon filled with concern when he noticed a red liquid dripping down the other boy's fingers. He saw the blood covered fabric clinging to the red head's chest. "You really should get that looked at by that medical ninja of yours," Kankuro said. His eyes never left the blood. He saw his brother's expression change to a fearful and wide eyed one. He saw Gaara tense at the words "medical ninja of yours'."

"So, it's her, huh? The medical ninja from the Hidden Leaf Village?" His brother didn't answer.

Kankuro rose to his feet, gazing down upon his brother. "Oh, and another thing. You aren't a monster, Gaara. Monsters don't feel pain, sadness, loneliness. And they certainly don't feel love. They aren't supposed to have human emotions. So how can you be a monster? You're just like everyone else. You're a human that feels pain, gets sad, is sometimes lonely, and falls in love."

The younger boy's eyes widen. "Even though it is frightening and painful," Gaara paused, red tinting his cheeks, "when I am with her I feel warm and comforted. Maybe even happy."

Another smile graced the lips of the older ninja. He bent down to the other boy and whispered near his ear, "Then don't run away from it."

A small smile slowly spread across his lips as he lowered he gaze. He finally understood why the beating in his chest wouldn't cease, why the burning wouldn't subdue. He understood why these strange emotions seemed to increase in her presence. He now understood the meaning of the symbol engraved on his forehead. He knew he loved her.

Gaara slowly and shakily rose to his feet, the lost of blood had made him weary and light headed. But that wouldn't stop him, not now. He wouldn't run anymore. He wouldn't run from the one thing that he desired more than anything else. He wouldn't run from the burning in his chest, the pounding in his heart. He wouldn't run from these warm and comforting new emotions. He wouldn't run away from this love. He wanted to chase it. He wouldn't be afraid any longer.

He winced at the pain surging through his muscles of his chest and back from sudden movement, but he wanted to walk forward. He didn't want to turn back. He wouldn't live in the past anymore. He was no longer a murderer but a protector. He was no longer a monster but a human.

Kankuro smirked at his brother's fading form. "Who would had thought she would be the one to heal his wounded heart."

The Leaf Kunoichi's legs shook, her throat burned, spasms shot through her torso and legs. She could feel her heart pounding against her ribcage. She could hear it. Her hair was a mess, flying in every possible direction, but she didn't care. She only cared about one thing at that moment: him.

Now the sun was going down. The desert's temperature was quickly dropping. The cold air felt nice against her burning skin. But her muscles still ached. Her chest felt tight and her heart wouldn't stop pounding. Her breathing wouldn't steady.

And in all her searching for him she had finally found the answer to why her heart pounded so much knowing that he wasn't all right. She knew that she loved him. Though it confused her to why she did. He hadn't shown her much kindness. He was cold and bitter. But somehow she knew deep down that was just a mask to hide his true emotions. She had seen the sadness and pain in his eyes. She knew that he wanted someone to accept him, to care for him, to love him. He longed to be happy. She had seen the kindness he had unknowingly exposed. He wasn't a monster. He was just human. A human who wanted to be loved. And she had somehow winded up being that person who loved him.

Her eyes caught a glimpse of something in the distance. There was a black silhouette against the beaming bright rays of the setting sun. She saw his flaming red hair. He was starring in her, no, the village's direction.

Without a second thought she ran towards him, her chest tightening more, her heart pounding more, her breathing increasing more. Her stomach twisted in a knot. It had to be him, it had to be Gaara.

When she neared him she knew it was him. Her speed increased just as the pounding in her chest did. She was sure her heart would stop beating. Her breathing was becoming more rapid with every step she took.

She saw his gaze meet hers. His emerald eyes locked with her own pair of jewels. The setting sun caused them to glisten.

Her legs began to falter when she was merely feet away from him. Her muscles gave in from the strain she had put them through that day and she fell, but was caught by warmth. Strong arms broke her descent, wrapping firmly around her waist. Her head came to rest on a shoulder. She could smell the scent of sand in his hair. Her breathing was harsh and hit his neck hard but it slowly calmed, tickling. Her heart rate decreased as well, becoming steadier with time.

Catching her breath she spoke in a hushed whispered, "You had me so worried." Her breath against his neck tickled, bringing about an excited sensation. Her arms wandered around his neck and her hands came to rest against his shoulder blades. She pulled him towards her. She felt him stiffen at first but then he relaxed into her embrace. She felt the warmth of his cheek against her forehead and the heat of his breath rush pass her.

She felt a cold sticky liquid seep in her clothing. She pulled back. "Your wound. It did reopen." she spoke; her eyes widened starring at the blood covered fabric that her fingers now traced over.

"Its fine," he began, eyes examining her motions. "It is all ready beginning to close up."

Her eyes met his, disbelieving. "Let me have a look at it." She reached out to the strap around his waist, fingers hesitately fiddling at the buckles.

The boy sighed. And quickly undid the buckles himself. He fingered the zipper at his neck and pulled it down to reveal the wound. "See. It has closed up."

She examined the wound, letting a sigh of relief. Her fingers brushed over the torn skin, but he didn't pull away like he had the time before at her touch. She sent a small amount of chakra into him, pressing down on his chest. The skin began to close up and the blood surrounding it began to dissapear. She pulled her hand away. "You didn't have to strain yourself so much," she whispered, her eyes meeting his gaze.

He shifted, zipping his coat back up. "I'm Kazekage. It's my job to help those in need. I don't have to have a reason to help someone. I did it because I wanted to."

The girl's eyes narrowed a little but then softened, remembering she had spoken similar words before. She let out a short laugh, a small smile spreading across her features.

She saw his expression ease as well, a smile forming. Her hand reached up to him, fingers brushing against his cheek. "You look cute when you smile." He was taken back by her choice of words. A small blush crept up on him.

"The Kazekage isn't supposed to look…" he paused, looking away, "cute." She laughed at his childish reaction.

Her fingers moved down to his jaw line. Her gentle carrasses felt nice and sent an odd sensation cursing through his body. He placed his hand on tops of hers, intertwining their fingers. He saw that her hand was the same as his only a little smaller. He didn't have the hands of a monster. He encircled his other arm around her waist pulling her towards him. She was a little surprised by his sudden show of emotion but didn't protest. Instead she sunk into him. She felt soft and warm against him. His breath was hot against her neck. "Please, heal me," his voice whispered in her ear. He wanted his heart to be healed by her, a pure angel. He wanted her to mend his torn up heart with her love and kindness.

Her arms found their way around him again. "Do you still believe the moon is lonely?" she whispered.

"No," he replied back into her ear. "It can't be lonely when it is greeted by the warmth of the sun every day." She closed her eyes, resting her head on his shoulder. He could feel her lips form a smile as they brushed pass his neck.

He knew now that he wasn't a monster, but just a boy who had fallen in love with an angel. Her warmth and love would be the nutrients he needed to break his shield of cactus needles and cause a desert flower to blossom. This flower, Sakura, the one he cherished so dearly, would be the one to heal his heart and teach him the true meaning of the word engraved on his forehead, the true meaning of love.

The End.

This is Yami from Yami-and-Ryoko! I returned after nineteen months of not writing to write this, my first Gaasaku fic! Wow! This took me weeks to type up. I am pretty proud of it. I think I write way better than I used to and am disgraced by how I wrote before. I wanted to write a fanfic about Gaara realizing that he wasn't a monster but a human and that he could fall in love. Please review if you want! I like to hear your comments.