So, finally huh? Sorry for the wait but school and a healthy dose of laziness has been holding me hostage. Thanks to my loyal readers and to all who've reviewed or favorited. You guys are the absolute best. Thanks, too, to my wonderful beta xxtokidokixx for last minute betaing (as always.) Enjoy!

'If I were that in love, I'd run too.'

Gaara sat in a tree curled into a ball against the cold, head tilted back against the trunk as he measured his breathing. He felt as if he were suffocating but refused to let his heart rate race out of control. He needed to stay calm. 'If I were that in love…' He took a deep breath, making a conscious effort to calm the blind panic churning in his stomach. He didn't love her. He couldn't. Any capacity to love had been leached out of him by lies and betrayal long ago. He wouldn't even call the affection he held for his siblings 'love'. It was a stretch to even call the bond affection. '… I'd run too.' His teeth was there to run from? Some pink haired- He stopped that thought process as he heard Shukaku's soft growl in his mind. Since when had his demon become so protective of anyone? Shukaku chuckled but offered nothing. Gaara sighed, rubbing one frozen hand down his face.

Love; a four letter word meaning to feel tender affection for another person, place, thing, animal, or ideal. His mind rejected the whole definition. He'd never felt tender for anything, and Sakura seemed so much more than that. Her hair was spun silk, softer than anything he'd ever dreamed of. Her skin was pure satin, supple and warm in his arms. Her smile was sweet rain after months of dry heat. Her eyes were the softest green when she looked at him- color of leaves on the fruit trees when they first came out in the spring, before the summer sun hardened them and the chill of the night changed them forever. He sat up suddenly, the need to see those eyes a fever in his blood. He unfolded himself stiffly and bounded off toward Sakura's apartment.

Sakura stood next to her bedroom's open window, staring out over the rooftops. Shaking her head in disgust she slammed the window closed. She stuffed her feet into her bedroom slippers, grumbling under her breath.

"I'm not going after him. I'll be damned if I'm gonna be the fool chasing after another man who doesn't want me." She glanced out the window again and sighed. "I refuse," she muttered and stalked into the kitchen to start herself a cup of tea. She pulled out two tea mugs and started to heat water. Her eyes were drawn to the bedroom window repeatedly as she waited for the Fukamushi tea to steep. She glared out the window. "I'm not," she gritted out from between clenched teeth. She drummed her fingers on the counter and turned her back to the window. Sakura added ginger and crushed peppermint to one of the mugs. She paused, realizing what she was doing. "Damn it!" She yelled, throwing the mug into the sink. She growled, the sound of one of her favorite porcelain mugs breaking doing nothing for her temperament.

She reached into the sink and jerked her hand back as her middle finger was sliced open. "Why can't you just drink tea like a normal person!" She yelled at the cup. She probed the thin cut for fragments and, deeming it clean, stuck the injured digit in her mouth. She glared at the window and stomped into the bedroom. "You've got one hour," she snarled, wrenching open the window. It's not chasing, she told herself. It's hunting.

Sakura paced in front of the window, glaring at the clock on her nightstand. Gaara dove through the open window, rolling into a crouch before pouncing on the pink haired woman as she turned to face him. Rolling them both over to absorb the impact, he pinned her to the floor, watching fire rise in those glorious green eyes as she saw him. He felt her inhale to attack and dropped down to place a kiss on her scowling lips. Her frown deepened as he stayed in place, his eyes staring into hers only a breath apart. Gaara felt a tingling sensation crawl over his body, not sure if it was his freezing body's reaction to being back in a warm room or just the impact of her eyes.

By the gods, she was magnificent: her skin softer than clouds, her hair a frothy confection spilling across her midnight blue carpet like a beacon in the darkness. She carried no scent as a good ninja should and yet she was distinctly Sakura; her fragrance swirled around him in an intoxicating cocktail. He gazed into those eyes he'd become so addicted to, watching as her fury mellowed but didn't fully dissipate, not understanding but accepting of his odd behavior. She was always accepting of his odd behavior. Her chest was pressed to his and he counted her heartbeats, felt her breathing and heart rate slow to match his own. He sighed as her chakra moved automatically to blend with his, surrounding him until he couldn't tell where he ended and she began. As always she soothed his ragged emotions, cleared his mind of his usual heavy thoughts until he was…tranquil. His vision blurred until all he could see was that perfect soft green. There was no constant buzzing of over stressed nerves from years of insomnia, no fight to control his volatile emotions. Shukaku wasn't even a distant memory when he was with her. The pressures of Kazekage and ninja duties evaporated. The stress of dealing with people dispersed. With her he simply was.

He was shivering uncontrollably now, his teeth chattering behind his lips but he never moved. Her body wrapped around his, legs twining and arms coming up to circle his torso as she shared her body heat with him. He blinked, his vision clearing, realizing for the first time that he'd been crying. His tears falling onto her face, into her eyes- eyes that had softened, anger forgotten in an attempt to comfort him. What she had given him he'd never be able to reciprocate. This small, pale, thin wisp of girl that he'd almost destroyed so many years ago had given him a serenity he hadn't even known he'd been without. The peace he thought he'd achieved his first day without Shukaku was nothing compared rest she gave his soul.

'Sounds like you're saying you love me.' He wasn't sure what he felt for Sakura but he did know that Love was just too inadequate a word to explain it.

'I'd run too.' Gaara mentally shook his head. He couldn't run. He was addicted. And he'd never quit anything in his life.

Sakura lay on the floor, her hands smoothing up Gaara's back. His face was turned into the side of her neck, his breath dewing her skin. He still lay on top of her, one of his hands combing through her hair. They'd yet to speak, Sakura still a bit shaken to have seen him cry. Sakura sighed, today was just too much. Her emotions couldn't take another upheaval. Gaara pressed his lips to her throat and she couldn't help the bubble of anger that rose in her.

She rolled Gaara off her, pushing to her feet. She stalked into the bathroom, applying an exfoliating mask to her face and ignoring Gaara's prone form on the floor. She spent a moment in the bathroom, trying to calm her anger. She came out a moment later to find Gaara sitting at the kitchen table, two steaming mugs in front of him. He measured ginger and crushed peppermint into his own mug, sticking out his tongue in disgust as he tasted it. He could be so much like a child at times she thought and grabbed the second mug, enjoying the astringent taste. Gaara continued to doctor his own tea, seeing the sweeteners bringing her broken mug to mind and raising her ire.

"You're angry," he stated finally, wrinkling his nose at his tea and finally pushing it aside in defeat. Sakura glared at him.

"I have a right to be." He said nothing, focusing on the table. She slammed her mug down, anger spilling over. "You walked out on me. Just left without a word. Didn't leave a note, didn't even get dressed. You were starting to get hypothermia, Gaara!" She shouted. "It's a miracle you even got back here! If you don't want to be with me, fine, but you don't have to almost kill yourself to get away." She started to pace in the small kitchen. "And I suppose the fact that you came back is supposed to comfort me, huh?" Gaara said nothing. "What are you gonna tell me? That you've never felt this way about anyone before and you just didn't know how to deal with it and left? Bull shit! You're not the only one confused by this, damn it. I didn't ask for this anymore than you did but at least I'm dealing with it. I didn't just cut and run when Kami knows you're not the greatest catch!" She saw him wince, knowing her barb had drawn blood and leaned her hands on the table in front of him. "But for some reason you're important to me, Gaara, and I know I'm important to you on some level. I'm willing to work on this, whatever this is, but if you don't, fine. If you wanna leave, then leave. I won't stop you." She pointed through the small living room to the front entry way. "There's the door, walk through it and don't come back." He didn't move, continuing to stare at the table. "I'll even help you pack," she stated and started to walk through the apartment, gathering his things.

Sand rapidly surrounded her, restricting all movement and trapping her against the wall. In an instant Gaara replaced the abrasive grains, his hands gripping her wrists, his body pinning hers. He stood there a moment, his jaw clenching and unclenching as he searched for words. "I don't love you." He took a deep breath before pushing on. "I don't know what you are to me, but everything my father and Shukaku taught me screams for me to destroy it, to destroy you before you can do the same to me." He dropped his forehead to hers, eyes closed. "You are important to me, more than anyone else. I acknowledge that. I won't lie to you. I won't tell you I can't live without you. I could. My world would go on just as it did before you."He glared at her, jaw clenched. "But I wouldn't want to and that scares me. You terrify me. I have never needed anyone as much as I need you. What you give me I can't begin to return and I'm petrified that somehow you'll be taken away from me." He sighed. "I don't want to talk about how you make me feel or where our…relationship is headed. I don't want to think about where we'll be two years or even two seconds from now. I don't know what I want from this but I do know I want you. I want to be with you." His eyes opened, staring into hers. "Can't we just be? No analyzing, no soul searching, just…be with me."

Sakura nodded after a moment, somehow understanding everything he wasn't saying. Now was all he could handle. She blew at his bangs.

"It's not like shinobi get to make long term plans," she said, her lips lifting in an attempt to smile. His lips tightened along with his hands on her wrists and she instantly noticed her mistake. "I'm petrified that somehow you'll be taken away from me." Of all the things she could have said to lighten the mood. She licked the tip of his nose to get his attention. He opened his eyes, the orbs wild and holding more than a touch of panic. "Did I never tell you about this?" she asked and pushed him back and pulled off her top. She turned and lifted her hair to show him the small purple diamond at the base of her neck. His fingers brushed the mark and she couldn't help but shiver.

"No," he stated and she turned around with a smile.

"It's a seal that Tsunade taught me. I focus chakra into the seal over time then when I release it, it can heal major injuries through rapid cell division. Supposedly makes the user immortal during a battle." She bumped her forehead to his. "You don't have to worry about anyone 'taking me from you.'" She winked and pushed past him. "Me leaving is a totally different story though." In an instant sand was wrapped around her body once again and she was brought to the floor. He frowned down at her.

"You'd leave?" The look she gave him was dry.

"If you keep man handling me with sand, I just might." His frown deepened.

"That's not funny." She sighed.

"In case you haven't seen my track record, Gaara, I'm disgustingly loyal. To the point of stupidity even. Once you've got me, only death will take me away and we've just established that's not likely." She bucked lightly. "Get off me now?" He sighed and pressed his forehead to hers, eyes closed.

"I feel like I should tell you I love you or something. This feels like it would be a good time." He looked so tired for a moment that Sakura couldn't help but give him a reprieve. She kissed him lightly.

"Don't lie to me or anything," she said, indicating his earlier confession of not being in love with her. "Just show me how you feel and all words will be unnecessary. 'kay?" He frowned but nodded.

"How?" She shrugged.

"I don't know. Buy me flowers, get me candy, write a song." He scowled.

"You don't care for flowers, food is pointless since Naruto will end up getting it, and I can't sing." Sakura sighed, fighting a laugh.

"Those were just suggestions. It doesn't really matter what it is. Just express that I mean something to you. That you appreciate me and you'll be miles ahead of almost every other male in the world."