DISCLAIMER: The following story is by no means based on the characters that I created. That credit goes to Kishimoto Masashi. Bow to his genius! But nag at him for not putting Naruto and Hinata together yet. It's common sense people! Enjoy.

Sand Blossom

The sound of screaming women and starving children could pierce through a soundproof window here in the Wind Country. Recently an epidemic has been spreading, costing the lives of 25 citizens and 4 ninja. It first begins with boiling skin… a rash over some distinct part of your body… one week of agonizing pain that spreads through your body's veins and arteries affecting the heart and lungs, making every heartbeat and breath of life a new painful experience… and finally… the heart collapses in on itself and the victim dies. These are the symptoms and results of the Shukaku Curse Virus, implied by the medical unit of the Wind Country for its terrifying effects.

One lone ninja has been sent to the Wind Country to counter this virus and defeat it with the latest in medical advances by the Nara Clan of the Hidden Leaf Village. She alone stands between Death and plans to put a stop to his murderous rampage. Sakura Haruno of Konoha has come to help the citizens of the Wind Country. Sakura is a girl of 15, has been studying to be a medical nin for two years and a half so far and her skills are about to pay off. Her appearance greatly differs from her usual attire; she wears a special anti-bacterial suit that covers her whole body except her face. The suit is white with a Konoha insignia on the back along with her clan symbol on the front next to a medic symbol. The suits' manufacturing was her idea, it used a small percentage of chakra in order to fend off disease and the face was unmasked in order to keep a friendly face visible when working with patients. She was indeed beautiful for her age, and her strength alone was unsurpassable only by her mentor and maybe other higher ranked shinobi.

Sakura quietly made her way through the village of Tatsumaki, the center of the virus's presence. The sandy wind blew against her medium cut pink hair as she looked side to side at the poor people who were weakened and in despair by the beginning effects of the virus as it slowly spread through their bodies. "Well, I guess I better get started. One vaccine at a time." Sakura entered the nearest home and looked around cautiously. The lights were out. The dishes from about 4 days ago were not done and accumulating roaches. The sun shone slightly through the shades and into the corner of the room where a young mother and her child were curled up against the wall. Sakura calmly stepped towards them, noticing their frightened reaction when they saw her. "It's okay. I'm here to he-…" Her boot hit something on the ground as she walked. One look down and she quickly covered her mouth and muffled a short scream. The supposed husband and father lay across the floor, unrecognizable in appearance for his face was already rotting from a week's worth of being dead. Sakura could not let the rest of the family see it but her tears of fright and pity fell to the ground, one by one evaporating the heat of the day. Regaining her senses, Sakura continued forward and stretched out her hand with the vaccine ((in the form of an injection)) to the mother and spoke softly to cover her fear, "Take this intravenously, and then do the same for your son." The woman took it slowly from Sakura's white glove, for a moment her hand was visible in the sunlight… her skin was already boiling. Sakura nodded and stepped backwards out of the house and closed the door behind her. Once outside, Sakura fell on her knees and grabbed her head to control herself. "Oh Kami… how horrible." she gasped, every breath being shorter than the last. The tears soon stopped and Sakura knew what to expect from the rest of her mission. She was ready for the worst. To cope with terrifying situations as fast as they came was part of her job, of her life as a medical kunoichi.

The next cases were not as frightening as her first though. She administered the vaccine to the people in the streets who were too fatigued to go home, and sometimes they gave her an address to visit of a family who had also been affected by the disease. Sakura gladly visited said places and cured whomever she could find. About 3'oclock came and her work was only half done. "A quick snack and its back to work." Climbing up into a tree, Sakura took out a bento box and ate the small meal that Shizune had prepared for her. All of them were certain herbs to fend off bacteria and any sicknesses she may have contracted from the different patients, making it seem like a big medicinal meal. She sighed lazily as she picked up another herb leaf with her chopsticks, "Oy… what I wouldn't give for some ramen." She paused. "Oohggrrrr… That lousy Naruto is getting into my head! You idiot!!" There a rustle in the tree from above her, "Hm? Hey who's there?" There was no answer, just some leaves falling from the branches. Sakura finished her food and jumped down to the ground taking one last look at the tree. Nothing suspicious, so she prepared to go back to the village. rustle rustle This time Sakura turned around and threw a kunai right at the tree, landing squarely above a person who just happened to be sitting at the foot of the tree. "You weren't there before. What do you want?"

The scent of gin and vodka filled the air almost immediately, obviously radiating off the man's clothes. He got up, sliding his back against the tree and wobbled towards Sakura a few steps, "Heeeyy thereee. You must be that hot nin who's handing out vaccines to the currr-sed people."

Sakura took some precautionary steps away from the drunk and zipped up the rest of her medic suit. "Hey listen here girly… my pallys and I have been real miserable lately. Too many pretty girls with the virus nowadays so there is no fun to be had anywhere." As he spoke in his slurry speech, three other drunks came from around the perimeter of the tree, two wobbling forward while the third one circled behind Sakura. The drunk slowly slid a kunai out of his pocket and placed it in his hand to hold it firmly, "Right, so you're coming with us."

Sakura rolled her eyes and sucked her teeth as she turned around to leave, "Sorry drunk guy, but I've got plenty of people to take care of. Too many cases to cure to go anywhere. So if you'll excuse me." Sakura took two steps forward and then the drunk with the kunai was already next to her holding the kunai to her neck. "Come on Pink Hair, don't be stubborn." His eyes trailed from the kunai down Sakura's body and to her shoes. He then leaned his head to the side and took a long deep breath as he smelled Sakura's hair.

Sakura's eyes blinked and her gaze fixed itself on the drunk. "Heard of something called elbow room?" Before the drunk could answer, Sakura's elbow suddenly flew out and crashed against the side of his face. SNAP CRACLE AND POP were only three of the distinguishable sounds that the drunks face made as his body flew into the nearby tree with such force that the tree was uprooted and fell over. The other drunks followed basic instincts and ran away in wobbling steps and trips as they ran into the bushes and into the village. "Annoying drunk." Sakura stretched out her shoulders and headed to the next house to check for more victims of the virus.

In the shadows of the fallen tree and the disfigured drunk, there was a dark figure watching… waiting. He kept his eyes closed as his third eye looked around and saw the carnage left by the medical nin. A smile curled up on his face showing small fang like canines and an almost evil grin of either amusement or interest in the subject at hand.

Sunset was coming and it was getting harder to see for Sakura to finish up her vaccination rounds. A hand held flare could only last for so long, but she was almost done, "I only have two vaccinations left, better find two lucky people and go back home to get more." Her last two patients were a Sand ninja and a field worker she found working in the mill. "At this time of day?" Sakura had asked. The worker answered, "My life is to end soon because of this virus, I might as well work off my debt to society in my final days." Sakura smiled at the poor man and was proud to give him a vaccination and send him home. It does my heart good to find good people like him. It makes it all worthwhile.

Sakura cleaned herself up and ate another bento box for the night journey home. There was a safe village outside of the Wind Country where she would sleep the night until morning when she'd head back to Konoha. Some of the villagers bid her farewell as she left the village; she was too tired now to jump into the trees and speed away, so she just kept walking at a calm pace.

Along the road she noticed something odd. She looked around a bit and found a tree with a whole in it. She recognized that tree…… from the last two times she had passed it! A genjutsu?! Sakura clapped her hands together and made a Tiger seal, "Release!" The tree disappeared along with the entire landscape, at least the one she had been following. Now there were a new set of trees and bushes all around her. "Now who performed that jutsu?" There was a rumbling from the ground bellow her and suddenly, a set of hands pulled her knee deep into the ground keeping their grasp on her even though she struggled. "What the?" she looked down and tried to pull her legs out but no use. She looked up and a sappy liquid wrapped itself around her fists and arms incapacitating her movement except for her head and upper body. "Oh no! I—can't—move!"

"Of course you can't. It's my Syrup Capture Field jutsu." An annoyingly familiar voice like that cannot be forgotten. Sakura looked up in dismay to find that the drunk guy from earlier was still alive. Her eyes bulged, "You're a ninja?" The drunk's friends soon joined him as he started slurring again, "Of course! I'm just off duty most of the time so I can find pretty girls like you and take advantage of them." His face was terribly swollen, a couple of teeth were missing, and his eye looked lopsided, all the more horrible to look at now. Sakura struggled to move inside the sappy syrup, "You—are—sick! Seriously! Get some help!" The drunken ninja staggered towards her and leaned down close to her face and lifted her chin up, "Don't worry Pink Hair, you are a medical nin, you are going to help me. Heh heh heh."

The ground begins to shake… it shifts… it changes from dirt to grains… how ominous. The drunk nin looks down and around and barely notices the sand beginning to lift itself around his hostage's body. The sand engulfs her in a frenzy creating a perfect cocoon. "Hey! What gives! Come out here !" The drunk nin attacked the shell with his kunai but its no use, he then hears the muffled and terrified screams behind him and then the sound of crushing bodies. He held still and felt the cold sweat run down his face as he anticipated the person who was waiting for him to turn around. Heart beating faster and faster his adrenaline suddenly neutralizes his drunken state and he has a sense of balance to maintain. He slowly turned around to see the assailant who has just killed his former partners in crime… "Oh ."

Inside the cocoon, Sakura felt her legs freed inside the sand, the sap around her body had also been taken apart by sand particles and her hands freed from bondage. What just happened? What is this cocoon? What's with the sand? From the outside comes forth a spine tingling scream as high pitched as it could get followed by a crushing silence, "AAAAAAAAAARRRRRHHHHHHHH---------------!!!!" Sakura's blood has run cold by this time, her heart racing…… Am I going to die too?

The sand cocoon began to waver, turning soft and unbalanced. It melted away and a heavy dust filled the air blocking the moonlight from showing. "Wh-Who's out there?" Sakura crawled from out of the sand and got back on her feet, her fists up and ready to defend herself against whatever comes her way. "You can relax." A deep calm yet growling voice called from the dust, "I'm an ally."

"If you are an ally, then show yourself!" Sakura was not very convinced and her fists tightened as she molded her chakra to deliver a powerful punch. The dust was clearing now and a faint figure became visible in the forest. He had……red hair, a black buttoned up matrix style jacket that reached down to his ankles, black boots, and a white vest across his chest and left shoulder. His skin was as pale as the moon, his eyes affected by insomnia and his head bore the famed insignia of kanji. Sakura recognized him as Gaara of the Desert.

"Gaara!" Sakura's worries disappeared. The Sand Village has been an ally to the Leaf Village since the Chunnin Exams. In fact the Sand Village invaded Konoha once upon a time, but realized that they had been manipulated into war by the Sound Village, thereby their actions were pardoned. ((sort of)) Sakura ran up to Gaara and gave him a respectful bow. "Thank you! I was in a big jam there so you really saved me!"

Gaara's sand armor hid his inner emotions so he didn't smile much, but he accepted Sakura's gratitude nonetheless. "I have actually been following you all day, watching you help the villagers. Tatsumaki owes you a great deal for your help. Helping you deal with these fools was the least I could do." Sakura remembered the drunks from before and looked around for them, "Actually, um… where are they?" She knew she didn't want to know the answer but it was too late to take back the question. Gaara silently pointed to one of four piles of red sand that surrounded them, "Dead." Sakura made a small gasp when she saw the bloody results, but she kept her opinions to herself, "Oh… lovely." Before losing her balance, Sakura snapped back and faced Gaara who was starring t her curiously, What's with this woman?

"Um! Uh… okay Gaara, well thank you so much for helping me out. But now I have this uneasy feeling that I should repay you for helping me out." Sakura looked down at the sand and spun her boot in a small circle while folding her arms behind her back. "There really is no need to repay me. I was only repaying you for helping the villagers, your debt is paid." Gaara turns around and starts to leaf, some of the sand reconfiguring into his gourd. Sakura looked up and watched him slowly move farther away…Why do I feel like this…I can't just let him leave…

Sakura quit her dilly dullying and caught up with Gaara before he got too far away, a boldness filled her and she quickly turned Gaara's head slightly towards her. Gaara was almost ready to attack thinking that she was trying to nap his neck or something, when he suddenly froze. Sakura held him still as she gently placed a sweet kiss against Gaara's cheek. Sakura blushed uncontrollably as she backed away and turned to the side to hide from Gaara's frozen gaze. "Well………thank you." At once Sakura leapt into the trees and disappeared into the night. Gaara couldn't move. For a guy whom had never had any type of emotion expressed towards him much less a kiss, this was really confusing for him. What is this feeling? What... What was that? What did she just…?

Gaara ran his hands through his hair, pondering and pondering what had just happened. What was that? An emotion? What?? The Shukaku demon inside of his body sent a shockwave to his brain. The evil spirit which ate away at Gaara's being was getting annoyed and Gaara knew it. Don't question yourself! Emotions are for the weak! Says you! Gaara blocked out that dark part of his mind and took deep breaths; he felt sweat dripping off his head. I have never felt like this. I've never felt like killing is not enough. But… she… she did something… He leapt into the trees and left the village. He panted as he jumped from tree to tree, forcing himself not to pass out from forcing his demon from knocking him out.

In the Hidden Sand Village, there was an apartment owned by Kankuro, Gaara's brother. His black attire was a must, but surprisingly he kept his hat and face paint off at night. Go figure. He sat in the middle of his room tinkering with Karasu, one of his puppets that he used in battle. Kankuro was a Puppet Master, specializing in the puppetry of people or his favorite puppets Karasu and Kuroari. "There, that should do it." As he finished tinkering with Karasu's head he placed it down gently and narrowed his eyes, noticing that there was someone outside his window. He connected his chakra lines to his puppets and prepared to attack.

"Kankuro." A low voice called to him from the other side of the room. Immediately Kankuro made a quick jump and dropped his puppets.

"Whoa! Gaara! Don't do that! You know that freaks me out!" Kankuro flailed his arms around wildly shaking off how tense his body was at the moment. Gaara seemed to make a gesture with his face that would have been more significant had he any eyebrows to make gestures with, but nonetheless he stayed true to his objective.

"Kankuro I have something serious to ask you, and I need you to give me as much information as you can." Gaara's stern face shone. Kankuro sat down with his legs crossed in front of Gaara, and tried to straighten his attitude. "Okay, shoot."

Gaara made an uneasy movement with his eyes, shifting a bit but not losing his focus. "I need to know what this is." Gaara, knelt forward, his sand armor hiding a glint of blush in his cheeks as he drew ever closer to Kankuro's face with his lips at the ready. Awkward moment, stop! Kankuro's hand almost immediately flew out and stopped Gaara's face from getting any closer, "O-kay bro! I think I can get the gist of it!" Gaara calmly leaned back and sat back down, his face still clueless as to what he had done. Kankuro wiped the sweat off his head and relaxed himself into his sitting position.

"Alright, Gaara, I think what you were going for there was a kiss." Kankuro got that over with nice and quick. Gaara turned his head slightly in curiosity.

"What is it? What does it mean?" Gaara established the best questions to find out why his head was bothering him.

"Eeh? Whoa, hmm…… 'What is it?' Ummm… It's hard to explain Gaara. Hold on a minute, backtrack here what exactly happened this afternoon? Did you see someone do it? Was it Temari?" Kankuro asked.

Gaara remembered the earlier evening when he was following Sakura, "That woman from the Leaf Village, Sakura, was in Tatsumaki today. She was administering the vaccines for the virus to the villagers." At this point Gaara's eyes seemed to turn cold and hate filled, "There were some drunk ninja who were going to harm her. I did my part and killed them before she got hurt." The hate disappeared, "After that she stood around saying that she had to thank me for helping her. I told her that it was nothing to thank me for, after all our villages are allies. I started to leave… and that's when she came out of nowhere and 'kissed' me."

Kankuro tapped his fingers against the side of his cheek, analyzing Gaara's obviously eventful day. "Alright Gaara, from what you have told me, you saved Sakura's life. Or considerably extended it, but anyhow… It seems that – where did she kiss you?" Gaara made a lazy tap on his right cheek, "Alrighty then, phew. Close call. But um… yeah, the fact of the matter is that…… Sakura may have a thing for you Gaara."

Gaara didn't seem at all surprised, actually he didn't get it… "She could like you!" Kankuro repeated.

"Can't you go into a little more detail than that?" Gaara said. Kankuro leaned forward putting his head to the ground for a little while then getting up, "Gaara! Couldn't you have taken care of this before the Kazekage ordered your assassination?" Wrong answer. Next thing Kankuro could feel were sand spikes starting to poke through his clothes, with two extremely sharp one aiming at his eyes at eye level. "Okay Gaara, I can help you in any way you want. Sorry to disappoint at first. Heeeeh……

The sand spikes died down and Kankuro's tense half frozen body limped down to the ground, "Ooohh……okay. Where do I start? Alright… don't suppose you'll want to know about the miracle of birth, right?" Gaara's eyes narrowed as his sand began to crawl around Kankuro's knees again. "Okay, okay, let's deal with your problem. Okay… to be liked… is… oh! Think about your kanji!" Kankuro pointed at Gaara's forehead where the kanji symbol was formed in blood red.

"What about it?" Gaara looked up towards where it would be ((left side of forehead)).

"Well think about what it means to you. You have sworn to love yourself and fight for only yourself right?" Kankuro asked to make sure.

"That's the gist of it." Gaara confirmed. Kankuro leaned back and scratched the back of his head. "Right, so…… you think that you could kinda share that belief?" Kankuro's voice was calm, he knew this would confuse his younger brother.

Gaara's eyes widened, "What do you mean?"

"Could you love yourself and someone else? Fight for them? To protect them?" The sand at Kankuro's feet was retracting back into Gaara's gourd, he was thinking… trying to separate what made sense and what didn't. "You see the thing is that, Sakura could very well like you Gaara. Not that I don't see any reason not to, but this is the first time she has ever done that, right?"

"Yeah… what connection does this have to me?" Gaara crossed his arms and slightly looked at the floor.

"Well Gaara… think about what has happened recently. You haven't been able to think of anyone else but her this whole time right?" Gaara's head shot up… he had been thinking about her an irregular amount of time. "You could like her too. Maybe something stronger."

Gaara's head was troubled… having realized that no human being could ever love him for himself because himself included his Shukaku demon spirit, Gaara could barely understand how love was supposed to feel on the receiving end. Gaara remembered back to his childhood, all the pain that had turned him into what he was now… "Yashamaru did the same thing. How can I trust something that brings more pain?"

Kankuro leaned on his hands and looked up at the ceiling, "That's something that you'll have to figure out on your own Gaara. It does come down to a trust thing."

"Hmm… thank you, Kankuro. I think I'll go see Temari now." Gaara got up an headed for the window. One foot stepped out into the balcony and he stopped.

"Wait, Gaara!" Kankuro called to him.

"What is it?" Gaara didn't bother to turn his head, just listen.

"Be careful with this thing 'kay?" Kankuro held silent for a bit to see if Gaara would respond. Gaara stepped out again and jumped to the next rooftop and into the night.

"Temari must be where she always is nowadays. The Kazekage's office." Gaara ran all of the ideas through his head. Love, liking, that kiss… what did she mean by it if she had already said thank you? Shukaku… you keep your mouth shut.

The Kazekage was the strongest Sand shinobi of the Hidden Sand Village. As bearer of this prestigious title, the person overlooked most of all the activities taking place in the Sand Village. The Kazekage's office had a large desk positioned next to the lookout that faced the rest of the village. The furniture had been moved around recently mostly by the Kazekage's choice of scenery, he didn't like it to be crowded with file cabinets and meaningless ornaments.

There was also a rather large and comfy chair that Temari liked to take advantage of. Temari was Gaara's older sister, adorned in a purple dress with a skirt that went down to just above her knees. Her hair was a fiery blonde with four pigtails that extended in 4 different directions. She gently snored as she slept in the Kazekage's chair, having been in there all day completing paperwork.

"Temari." A familiar voice called to Temari in her sleep. She immediately sprung up from her sleep and looked around for the person that called her name. She turned the chair around and saw Gaara standing on the balcony.

"Oh, hey Gaara. Do you know how late it is?" Temari stretched in the chair and rubbed her eyes awake.

Gaara eyeballed her and reminded her of her current position, "Do you know where you are sitting?" Temari inspected her surroundings and noticed that she was sitting in Gaara's chair.

"Oops! Heh, um, sorry." She rubbed the back of her head as she stood up and cleared Gaara's chair for him. It wasn't his intention to sit down any time soon, but he did mind that Temari was sitting there. ((a little possessive))

"Temari, I have a quick question to ask you about this Shikamaru person." Gaara stared bluntly as he held up a snapshot of Shikamaru that Temari usually kept in her room.

Temari's jaw dropped down in shock and snatched the picture out of Gaara's hand, "Gaara! What did I tell you about going through my journal?!"

Gaara rolled his eyes, "Journal, shmournal, I know it's a diary."

Temari blushed red in embarrassment and furry, but knew not to go against her brother, "Just what do you need to know that made you have to go into my room for this?" She didn't even know it, but she was being a little protective of the picture, if you call sliding the pic into your blouse "protective".

"What kind of feelings do you have for him?" Gaara asked seriously.

Temari was about to slip and fall but she held herself up with the desk, "Gaara!" Her face was turning redder by the second, "That's not something you ask me and expect a straight answer for." She stood up straight and stared down at the floor, twiddling her thumbs. "My feelings for him……"

"Simply put, how do you think about him? What makes you want to be with him?" Gaara was getting more personal with each question.

"How do I… that is… I just feel different around him. He's so annoying I feel like I should just slap that lazy smirk off his face!" Temari said almost annoyed.

"Hrrrr……" Gaara growled under his breath, talking to women, even his own sister made him inpatient.

"But…… other than that… I guess, I see through his plain and lazy side." Temari continued. Gaara's eyes widened, Finally something important! "That's what happens when you're in love. You see through the person's faults and mistakes and you see who they can really be. How sweet they are… and how smart… how hard they work to look out for you and others…"

Temari's rambling trailed off as she continued to fantasize about her infatuation. Gaara turned to leave, before she started saying something he would regret hearing, "Alright, Temari. Thank you." Gaara jumped off the balcony and began riding a wave of sand out of the village.

So that's it… Sakura could like me in some way or another. If what Temari says makes sense then… its possible that Sakura is not frightened by me. My cold hearted ness… Hmm… She's the first person who I've ever thought about like this… Gaara shrugged as he rode the sand into the forest and slowed it down to the ground where he started to walk… My head still hurts.

To be continued…