Title: Beginnings

Author: paws-bells

Genre: Romance/Humor

Word Count: 9967

Type: One-shot (Complete)

Rating: T (Suitable for teens, 13 years and older, with some violence, minor coarse language, and minor suggestive adult themes)

Summary: Naruto needs a favor, Gaara needs an escort and Sakura wants nothing to do with it! As usual, nothing goes her way and she even got more than she bargained for! How did she always end up in this kind of situations, anyway?

A/N: Beginnings here is my longest one-shot yet, and I realized that it is definitely a lot harder for me to write a plausible Gaa/Saku one-shot compared to its sister pairing, my Neji/Saku creations. I think I will need more practice, haha.

Last but not least, Gaara may be a little OOC!

Chapter Last Revised on: 31/10/07


Sakura stared at Naruto with disbelief.

"You want me to what?!"

Naruto of the idiot ideas had the good grace to scratch his head awkwardly. He smiled uneasily at his momentarily shell-shocked best friend, very much aware that she probably wouldn't stay that way for very long.

"Aw, Sakura-chan, don't be like this." The blonde Jinchuriki wheedled cajolingly in his boyish voice. "You are baa-chan's disciple; you do understand that all visiting Kages and Daimyos would each require a local escort for tomorrow's dinner meeting, right?"

Sakura started to glare daggers at the hyperactive blonde. Of course she knew! That had been the norm for years! Everyone knew that!

Even the foxy twenty-year old quickly noticed the deadly glower that his insanely powerful friend was wielding at him. He swallowed nervously and laughed uncomfortably, remembering just what had happened the last time he had displeased this particular kunoichi. Sakura had damned near punted him over the Hokage Monument, and he winced just recalling his extremely rocky landing.

"So…uh," Naruto continued nervously, sapphire eyes darting anxiously over the pink-haired female who was currently all decked out in blood smeared medic scrubs and looking every inch the cantankerous and overworked healer who had just successfully completed a fourteen hour surgery procedure. "You definitely understand that Gaara needs an escort, right?"

Sakura merely continued glaring at the blonde. She was dirty and sweat stained, not to mention that she was also very exhausted and would like nothing more than to sleep the whole of tomorrow away, which she might add was her one and only off day for this week and stupid Naruto wants her to spend her precious and greatly anticipated break squiring around the distant, emotionally empty and all around utterly boring Godaime Kazekage.

Was he joking?

"Are you joking?" Sakura demanded irritably. "Do I look like I will be ready to escort anyone around anywhere tomorrow? Do I even look like I want to?"

Naruto immediately flashed her his version of the Gai/Rock trademark megawatt grin of Springtime Youth™ which to his greatest dismay did not appear to work on the annoyed pink-haired female at all.

"Sakura-chan…" Naruto cajoled. "It's not as if it would be someone you didn't know. I mean, it's Gaara!! You saved his life five years ago, remember now?"

Now Sakura's stare was nothing short of acidic. "Of course I remember who Gaara is!" It was all the kunoichi could do not to yell at her idiot friend. "That's precisely the reason why you have chosen the wrong person to accompany him! I don't know him that well! Escorts are supposed to entertain their companions; what am I supposed to talk to him about? We have nothing in common at all!"

"You can always talk about what happened five years ago." Naruto provided helpfully.

"Yes, because Gaara would definitely relish the reminder that he was soundly defeated by a pair of Akatsuki, right?" Sakura tossed back with great annoyance. Naruto sighed.

"Come on, Sakura-chan. You are baa-chan's disciple; I am sure you have picked up some political mumbo jumbo to impress Gaara with. You are always so smart, Sakura-chan. You will definitely find something to occupy Gaara."

"Flattery is not going to get you anywhere, Naruto." Sakura remarked dryly, discreetly rolling her vibrant emerald eyes as she said so. "Why can't you escort Gaara yourself, baka? Aren't you both pretty chummy together?"

Naruto blushed. "Anou…about that…"

The pink-haired medic-nin took one look at the suddenly tomato-faced young man and immediately felt a lot better. She also got her answer. "You are escorting Hinata-chan, huh?"

The blonde nodded quickly, smiling so wide with happiness that he appeared to be squinting. Seeing him like that, Sakura quickly lost the heart to deny his request. Sighing outwardly and mentally woefully bidding her rest day goodbye, Sakura threw her hands up in defeat.

"Alright. I will escort Gaara."

Naruto lit up like a light bulb.

"Really?!" The blonde promptly forgot that he was in a hospital and raised his voice in his excitement. He was lucky that the staff were all used to his frequent outbursts by now.

Sakura nodded resignedly.


Naruto whooped.

"You won't regret this, Sakura-chan!" The excited blonde all but yelled into her ears, much to her irritation. Naruto earned a painful bonk on the head for all his enthusiasm. He mock scowled at her for a brief moment before resuming his idiotic grinning. Sakura shook her head and hid a small smile behind her hand. This Naruto; always so eager in everything.

"When do I have to be there?" The kunoichi asked. Her best friend immediately rattled off the time and the location, grinning insanely and no doubt daydreaming of his 'romantic date' tomorrow with the shy Hyuuga heiress. Sakura was happy for him that he had found love of course, but not that happy. For old times' sake, the pink-haired female bonked him once more on the head for good measure after she had gotten all the relevant information from him, grinning as his eyes turned all swirly and comical-like.

"Enjoy your lovely date with Hinata then, Naruto-baka." The petite female smirked. "And you so owe me one."

The next evening saw an irritated Sakura marching out from the row of exclusive private residences reserved solely for the use of foreign delegates and VIPs, vibrant emerald eyes bright with annoyance and long, elaborately coiffured pink curls bouncing against her slender back as she mentally spouted death threats to a certain blissfully oblivious blonde Jinchuriki and his Shukaku hosting pal.

The Godaime bloody Kazekage had stood her up.

Of course no one had bothered to inform her that Gaara was not in his suite and the pink-haired kunoichi had waited at the lobby for nearly an hour, steadily growing more and more aggravated as she did so. It was only when she had impatiently requested for the bellboy to inform the Kazekage of the arrival of his escort did she find out that said leader of Suna hadn't even been in since late morning.

And now she was furiously stalking out of the bustling VIP complex, lack of proper sleep coupled by her growing ire making her one very formidable kunoichi. However, despite the fact that the young medic-nin was obviously in a fit of temper she still drew admiring eyes towards her petite frame as she strode past the complex grounds, not that she was aware of those stares. Sakura was too busy fuming to care about what others thought of the slinky emerald evening gown that accentuated her feminine curves perfectly and her dramatic kohl-enlarged eyes of the precise same shade.

"I'm going to kill that idiot Naruto." Sakura hissed under her breath as she started to head towards Konoha's convention hall. The kunoichi continued cursing quietly as her strappy stilettos pinched her toes something fierce. Those shoes were certainly pretty to look at, but they were definitely not meant for long distance walking and Sakura wondered what on earth had possessed her to buy those footwear from hell in the first place. It really was a good thing that the convention hall was not all that far away from where she was now, if not she really would have started throwing things. Heavy, bulky things. Things that would probably cause massive property damage.

By the time Sakura managed to walk/limp into the convention area the dinner was about to start and people were already milling around the reception area. The kunoichi's temper hardly improved at the sight of the throngs of VIPs and their aides crowding the place and it was near impossible to see anything past five feet, let alone to try to look for Naruto. The poor kunoichi felt so frustrated then that she could have screamed and pitched a fit worthy of any three-year old. She was unbearably tired, she felt really crabby, and god knows how frazzled she looked now especially after tramping up and down the streets of Konoha like she just had!

Suddenly it was all Sakura could want to quietly slink back home, and since the redheaded leader of Suna had rudely stood her up that means she was no longer obliged to find and escort him, right? She was free from her obligations and that meant she could choose not to attend this dinner conference and spend the remaining of her day off cozily curled up at home with a nice book and a cup of hot chocolate. Just the thought of it had her sighing inwardly with pleasure and anticipation, and now that there were so many people crowding here and fortunately none of whom who seemed to recognize her it was as good a time to make a hasty getaway.

With that errant thought in mind the petite little female started to turn towards the exit, once again completely unaware that she had already been spotted. Contrary to what she had believed, Sakura wasn't as unnoticeable as she had thought. Her presence had been duly noted the moment she had stepped foot within the reception area. It was hard not to notice her actually; the pretty pink-haired pocket Venus had cut a dramatic picture with her formal evening gown that had revealed her flawless, milky skin and graceful, feminine figure. Once again, admiring eyes have been drawn to that impish heart-shaped face that had been slightly dusted with a becoming flush from her impromptu stroll earlier on, as well as her slightly tousled pink hair that made her looked alluring and approachable at the same time.

Mind already focused on the things that she would do when she reached home, Sakura did not notice the presence before her until it spoke.

"You are late."

The low, almost toneless voice wasn't exactly recriminating, but Sakura puffed up with indignation all the same. Who was this person and how dare he criticize her?

Sakura's head snapped up and immediately she opened her mouth to retort. "What am I late for, pray tell, and who are you-" The kunoichi meandered to a halt as her mind processed the identity of man standing arrogantly before her, that ass. Emerald eyes widened with fury and disbelief. "You!"

It was the bane of her existence.

The reason why she was stuck here in a goddamn crowded place all alone with her awful heels hurting her feet something fierce.

It was the Godaime Kazekage.

It was Gaara.

"You!!" It felt so good yelling at the utterly impassive male that Sakura was sorely tempted to do it again. Only the fact that she was attracting all sorts of unwanted attention had lowering her voice to a furious whisper. "I'm late? How dare you? You were the one who stood me up, almighty Kazekage."

Said redhead merely lifted his brow an exact millimeter.

"How could I have stood you up when you have not arrived at the scheduled meeting place until now?"

Sakura glared at Gaara. "That's not true! I was at the scheduled meeting place on time; in fact I had waited there for an entire hour but you didn't turn up!"

Jade eyes sharpened.

"And exactly where were you waiting at?"

Sakura was getting rapidly fired up by what she deemed as the redhead's deliberate obtuseness. She growled; face flushed with agitation and eyes flaring with emotion.

"I was at the lobby of your residence, of course! Naruto said to meet you there!"

A small frown gathered in between Gaara's eyes and he fell silent. Just when a smug Sakura was about to demand for an apology the redhead spoke up again. "I clearly told Naruto that I would be meeting you here. He must have made a mistake."

Sakura's eyes widened, then narrowed just as quickly. Luckily for Gaara, the source of the kunoichi's ire seemed to have changed.

Of course it would be Naruto! It was just like her clumsy blonde friend to make a stupid mistake like this!

"Why, that little idiot!" Sakura grumbled under her breath. This was so embarrassing for her! And she had thought all along that it had been Gaara's fault! "I am so going to wring his scrawny neck the next time I see him, that Naruto no baka!"

Suddenly the atmosphere became a little awkward for her, and Sakura cringed inwardly as she realized just how she had come to insulting the now-proven-innocent Kazekage. As much as she hated to admit it, she owed the taller redhead an apology.

"…sorry." Sakura ducked her head so as to hide the blush of mortification displayed so prominently on her face. "I jumped to the wrong conclusion."

Gaara nodded arrogantly to her. "I know."

If Sakura was expecting a similar confession from the redheaded Kazekage she was in for quite some disappointment. Suddenly, the kunoichi didn't feel quite as embarrassed as she had earlier. No, that awkward feeling was quickly replaced with something more…interesting, if the way her eye twitched was of any indication.

"However, when you failed to show up an hour ago there had been some panic among my aides." Gaara continued, blithely oblivious to the simmering female currently giving him the evil eye. "And so another had been sent to accompany me."

With that said the redhead calmly gestured to the refreshment table somewhere to their right, and a brief look at that particular direction revealed a pretty brunette who was looking back at them and judging by the way that she was staring at the unattached Kazekage with hungry bedroom eyes an appalled Sakura was immediately cued in to the fact that this particular female had definitely jumped at the assignation of being Gaara's companion for the evening.

A part of her was immediately irritated that she had been replaced so fast and so easily, especially when she had wasted so much time preparing for this troublesome event. However, the more sensible side of Sakura was immediately filled with relief—and delight. With a replacement in her stead, that meant she wasn't needed as an escort anymore, which in turn meant that there was no longer any obligation for her to attend this extremely tedious and boring dinner, which meant that she was free to go home!

By now Sakura was feeling so cheerful that she smiled brilliantly at Gaara. "That's alright." The pink-haired kunoichi replied sweetly all of a sudden. "I wouldn't mind being replaced. In fact, now that you have an appropriate escort, I think that I will take my leave now. Have a nice evening, Kazekage-sama-"


Just by that quiet, one-word denial, Sakura's simple plan at a quick and painless exit was immediately shattered all thanks to one irresponsible Kage.

The pink-haired kunoichi stared long and hard at the irritating male, a frown starting to gather on her forehead.

"No?" She echoed dangerously.

The Kazekage nodded.

"No. As you mentioned yourself, she is only a replacement. If possible, I do not settle for second best."

Sakura was immediately affronted by his pomposity. What was she? Some product on the market?

"Besides," Gaara continued. "You have been recommended specifically by Naruto. I wish to sample your services this evening."

Forget about product. Sakura's eyelid started to twitch something fierce. Why that little- The actually-not-so-little redhead before her was speaking so suggestively that anyone listening in to their conversation would have thought that she was…for hire or something!! Sakura started to turn bright red thanks to a special blend of growing anger and extreme embarrassment. She was definitely going to kill that Naruto! Recommended specifically?!!

"Watch your words, Kazekage." Sakura hissed under her breath, furtively looking around to see if anyone had heard them.

In response Gaara merely tilted his head slightly to the side, as if curiously wondering why she was acting so uptight. Sakura ground her teeth with growing frustration.

"Wait here while I dismiss the other kunoichi." The redhead said before Sakura was inclined to say anything else. Before Sakura could open her mouth to protest Gaara was already well on his way to the refreshment table, and a resigned Sakura watched as he casually relieved the brunette of her duty, much to her disappointment. Sakura winced inwardly when the Kazekage gestured absently in her direction, and the pink-haired kunoichi was immediately rewarded with a hateful glower from the other female. Sakura could only thank the gods that she did not personally know this younger Chuunin well enough to give a damn.

After watching the sulking woman stalk away Sakura immediately started for the refreshment table as well.

"You should have allowed her to be your companion for the evening." Sakura remarked caustically when she reached Gaara's side. "It's rather obvious, Kazekage, that she's smitten with you. She would have made a much better escort than I will."

Gaara looked down at the disgruntled looking kunoichi with the pink hair and beautiful face for a short moment before announcing to her calmly. "I will take my chances."

Sakura twitched. He's so arrogant!!

Utterly frazzled and quickly getting extremely irritated, Sakura reached towards the refreshment table and snagged a glass of cheery looking cocktail concoction in the hopes that her nerves would calm down with a little alcohol. Before she could bring the glass anywhere near her mouth though, it was swiftly taken away from her by said male whom she was currently annoyed with. Understandably, that little interference did nothing to improve her mood at all.

"What are you doing?" The pink-haired kunoichi hissed, employing all of her willpower just to keep from stamping her feet in a fit of temper. She was rapidly reaching the end of her tether. "Is it your life's mission to make my life hell, Gaara?"

It was the first time that night that she had addressed him by name, and the slip of tongue was hardly overlooked.

"You cannot hold your liquor well."

The flat statement was true, of course, but what astounded Sakura somewhat was the fact that he actually knew. Then Sakura quickly dismissed her surprise; Naruto must have blurted it out to him before, though Sakura really did not wish to know how she had become the subject of conversation between the two Jinchurikis in the first place.

"That may be true, but it's just a harmless little cocktail." Sakura protested. "I don't see how it is going to get me drunk that easily."

Gaara's only reply was to lift a brow skeptically. Before Sakura could open her mouth and hotly tell him just where he could put that holier-than-thou attitude the redhead brought the blended concoction right to her face and waved it slightly under her nose.

The alcoholic fumes that she had inhaled accidentally were so strong that Sakura was hard-pressed not to choke on her breath. Just as quickly, Gaara withdrew the glass of potent alcohol and set it casually back on the refreshment table. Sakura glared at him. Yeah. So he was right again. So what? She hated know-it-alls, and Gaara of the Sand was rapidly rising to the top of that list. She had never met a man who was so…infuriating!!

"I am not a child and I can drink whatever I want!"

Okay, so it was not the most matured of comebacks but Sakura could hardly take it back now that she had blurted it out.

"No, you are not a child." Gaara agreed amiably. "However, you are now representing your country in a rather important political function. You should show some restraint."

Now Sakura was turning a bright, glaring shade of red. Of course she knew that! She wasn't the Hokage's disciple for just the fun and games! How dare he say something like this to her, as if—as if she was some backwards child!

It was fully Sakura's intention to give the pigheaded man a piece of her mind but as per usual, Fate had a way of messing with her timing. Or rather, an ambassador from River Country.

"Ah, Kazekage-sama!" The small, rotund man gurgled excitedly as he waddled towards them with surprising speed. "Where have you been? I have been looking for you since this little shindig began!"

Sakura barely managed to conceal a squeal of surprise when she felt a large hand settle against the small of her back, her thin silk gown providing little protection against the electrifying warmth that was Gaara. Shocked emerald eyes flew up to meet impassive jade ones, and it was at the tip of Sakura's tongue to protest his rude gesture but common etiquette indicated that he was doing the correct thing when in the presence of polite company. Sakura groaned inwardly as the enthusiastic dignitary from River appeared to have no intention of leaving them anytime soon despite Gaara's usual noncommittal behavior, talking about the most inane things in the vain hopes of catching the Kage's attention.

Sakura really did groan out loud this time, but barely audibly of course.

She was really going to kill that Naruto.

Recommended specifically?!

She was going to specifically recommend her dastardly blonde friend to her fists!

By the time dinner was announced, Sakura's feet were throbbing fiercely and she was sure that her smile looked as artificial as she felt. She had also developed a newfound respect for Konoha's seemingly modest looking convention hall; the pink-haired kunoichi swore that she had walked around the gigantic reception area at least thirty times. They had managed to lose the ambassador from River Country after fifteen minutes of meeting said acquaintance, that was a piece of good news, but the bad news was that there were many others like him just waiting to ambush them.

Sakura really didn't know how Gaara managed this on a near daily basis.

The kunoichi never knew that life was so hard for those in the political scene, and after watching Gaara whom she had always thought as someone who was hopelessly blunt and pragmatic navigate successfully through the shark-infested waters of politics; she could not help but also find newfound respect for the powerful Kazekage.

"I was correct. You would make an excellent hostess."

Disbelief painted clearly on her face, Sakura turned on her seat to stare at Gaara. "You are kidding." The kunoichi muttered. "I never want to do this again. I am seriously thanking God shishou never makes me come with her to such events."

Gaara continued to look at pink-haired female sitting demurely beside him, legs tucked daintily under her and generally exuding a tranquil expression to all present despite her growing fatigue and general boredom.

"Nonetheless, you have done well." Gaara remarked quietly, much to Sakura's surprise. "You possess a very good grasp of the different political climates of each country and it showed."

Sakura did not know what to say about that. After all, her knowledge had come from years of being Tsunade's prized disciple. "Erm…thanks." The kunoichi acknowledged almost shyly. "I still don't think that I am all made out for the political scene though. Once in a very long time is more than enough experience for me, thank you very much."

To her surprise, Gaara appeared mildly amused by her exaggerated look of revulsion. Once again, she was stunned by how handsome the Kazekage looked especially when his angular features were lightened by amusement. The pink-haired kunoichi promptly turned bright red for even noticing the powerful Suna-nin in that remotely non-platonic manner.

Upon realizing that a large portion of her thoughts were being occupied by Gaara, Sakura quickly turned away from the redhead's perusal and instead focused her attention on the people around her, cheekbones dusted with a most becoming shade of pink the entire while.

Really, what on earth was wrong with her today?!

The dinner meeting was extremely formal. All leaders of the five Great Countries, Kages and Daimyos alike, were invited up stage to talk about their individual countries and the things that were being done to help improve the lives of their citizens. It was a very meaningful convention meant for the five countries to learn from one another and in the process become more cohesive and less disjointed but privately Sakura thought that the only thing remotely tasteful about the whole event was probably the food. The dinner meeting itself was certainly boring and ineffective the moment the Very Important Peoples quickly took this convention as an opportunity to outdo and outbrag each other.

Sakura could only be thankful that her shishou had not been foolish enough to jump into this en mass pissing contest. No, the pink-haired kunoichi thought with pride, the Legendary Slug Sannin had kept her speech short and concise, though Sakura could not say the same for their Fire Daimyo though. Gaara had gone up already as well, and if possible his speech had been even shorter than her shishou's. Sakura reckoned that part of the reason for that was probably because of his infamously reclusive personality.

It was nearly eleven when the dinner with all the foreign delegates drew to a close, and just when Sakura thought that she was going to be home free she was promptly informed that there was going to be a small afterparty for everyone to relax and mingle around. The pink-haired kunoichi was so annoyed by the announcement that for a moment she had forgotten who she was with and had grumbled to the impassive redhead beside her that she would have much preferred to relax at home, thank you very much.

As expected, the small afterparty was anything but small; as almost everyone from the dinner turned up. A sharp contrast to the stiflingly formal atmosphere earlier this one was much more casual and relaxed. Sounds of lively conversations mingled perfectly with soft strains of music and there were laughter and joviality everywhere Sakura looked, though whether those had come from the pleasant company or the liquor she wasn't quite so certain.

Once again, the pretty pink-haired kunoichi was standing by the side of the reception area and this time she was all alone. Gaara had been spirited away by one of his own aides awhile ago to meet yet another foreign ambassador who had seemed interested in forming an alliance with Suna, and the redheaded leader of Sand Country had left with his assistant but not before ordering Sakura to stay put and not to leave until he returned to her. Understandably the kunoichi had been most displeased by His Kazekage's Arrogance, and was sorely tempted to leave the convention area just to spite him. Only the fact that she was sort of here in official capacity had curbed her almost childish reaction.

With nothing to occupy her thoughts and attention, the throbbing in her feet seemed to intensify and Sakura swore under her breath as she shifted uncomfortably on her heels. The pink-haired female was sure that she had developed some painful blisters and really, really regretted buying that damned footwear in the first place. Sure it made her legs look sleek and endless and like a wet dream come true, but it was simply sheer torture!

A small movement at the corner of her eyes distracted Sakura from her discreet inspection of her feet then, and the kunoichi lifted her head to see an attractive male moving towards her. The foreign dignitary seemed to realize that he had caught her attention and promptly shot her a charming, flirtatious smile. Already severely aggravated by her 'date' for this evening, not to mention those blasted, uncomfortable shoes that she had on, Sakura had no reservations about smiling back.

Only that the grin on her face looked downright ferocious and combined with her irritably narrowed eyes and the slight twitch on her forehead, the pretty pink-haired female appeared positively feral.

Unsurprisingly, the easygoing smile on the man's face faltered, and then he promptly did a smart turn about and set his sights somewhere else. Sakura rolled her eyes mentally. Stupid men. He was the sixth male that she had scared away from her side of the refreshment table for the last fifteen minutes, and the oblivious kunoichi wondered vaguely what was so interesting about the food table behind her that people kept wanting to come over. The pink-haired female turned around and took a cursory glance at what the table had to offer. Why, there was nothing at this side other than for some fruit punch and a seemingly wide selection of cocktails.

Sakura took a closer look at the colorful array of refreshments behind her, feeling somewhat thirsty all of a sudden.

It wouldn't hurt to try something from that temptingly wide selection of cocktails, right? After all, the dinner meet was already over, and this afterparty was supposed to help her unwind, right? Looking furtively around to make sure that there were no busybody redheads about to bear down upon her for what she was about to do, Sakura reached out tentatively for a simple looking glass of blended alcohol. The kunoichi brought the glass to her nose and took a delicate whiff and was immediately delighted by its strong fruity scent. She could only detect a trace of alcoholic fumes and satisfied, Sakura brought the sweet-smelling concoction to her lips and took a sip.

The cocktail turned out to be as delicious as it smelled, and Sakura happily gulped the pink-colored liquid down. Setting the empty glass down, Sakura was feeling a little more adventurous this time. Tapping a considering finger against her plump lips, the kunoichi decided on a more colorful concoction this time. Without even scenting it the pink-haired female knocked it back daringly, a wide, pleased smile on her face. This one was even better than the last, and Sakura was eager to try yet another one.

Once more, she glanced around cautiously for any signs of the spoilsport Kazekage before choosing yet another potent concoction of cocktail, not even aware that she was giggling softly to herself as she did so.

After all, these were just a few glasses of slightly alcoholic cocktails. What harm could they do?

She was clearly pickled to the gills when Gaara returned to the reception area to look for her.

Her unique pink hair and eye catching deep emerald evening gown made spotting her extremely easy, and even from across the large room he could clearly see the odd glitter in her overly bright verdant eyes, not to mention the flush on her cheeks that loudly announced her intoxication to all who bothered to look.

She had also gotten herself surrounded by at least five men, and as she threw her head back and laughed huskily at something one of them had no doubt said the redhead could clearly see the shark-like intent glinting in the eyes of those men as they stared lustfully at the inebriated female. It was when one of the more daring males had made to wrap an arm around the petite kunoichi that Gaara reacted.

Suddenly, everyone within the reception area became aware of the Kazekage's imposing presence.

After all, the incredibly potent source of killing intent could come from no one else.

Hairs rising eerily on ends, the males hovering around the pink-haired kunoichi were quickly made aware of the fact that they had hit up the wrong woman. One look at those frigid eyes of intense jade quickly convinced those men that the beautiful female's earlier claim of having arrived with a date was indeed true after all, and that said date was none other than the fearsome Godaime Kazekage of Suna himself.

After that extremely dangerous realization, it didn't take long for the men to beat a quick retreat and disappear rapidly from the radar of the powerful Suna-nin.

Sakura was somewhat bemused when the charming men who had kept her company but moments ago suddenly disappeared without a trace. Just like she would never have even associated with the abovementioned sleazy men normally, she had also been too far gone to recognize the terrifying killing intent directed to the people around her earlier. The dazed kunoichi tottered unsteadily in a vague circle, looking around to see where her companions had gone only to end up smacking into a masculine chest.


Bewildered emerald blinked up at mildly annoyed jade.

"You were not supposed to drink." The owner of the pair of pretty jade eyes admonished her in a lecturing tone. Sakura squinted slightly to see if she personally knew this person. Things were getting a little bit hazy, you see.

The formal white robes with royal blue trimmings indicated that that he was a Kage. Hm…a Kazekage…Gaara!

"Oh, Gaara! It's you!" Sakura hollered out cheerfully, never mind the fact that said male was standing nary a foot before her. To his credit, Gaara didn't even flinch at Sakura's enthusiastic greeting. "I have been waiting a verrrrryyyy long time for you! Did you forget about me?"

She proceeded to grin childishly up at the taller Kazekage, wide emerald eyes sparkling with innocence.

It had fully been Gaara's intention to acidly point out to the intoxicated kunoichi about the dangers of alcohol, and that had he returned just a little later she would probably have been spirited away by those men and promptly taken advantage of but the cheerful look on her face made it hard for him to stay irritated enough to deliver his reprimand in a sufficiently severe manner. It was obvious that Haruno Sakura was a happy drunk, and at last what came out from the Kazekage's mouth was a very dry: "I don't think half an hour constitutes as a very long time."

Sakura giggled and a somewhat exasperated Gaara took the opportunity to look her over to ensure that she was only inebriated and nothing else. Her neatly coiffured pink hair was now tousled and rumpled beyond repair, her face carried a perpetual alcohol-induced flush that made her look like she was blushing permanently, her evening gown was still remarkably intact though, and her delicate pink toes peeked out from under the emerald hems—what the hell happened to her shoes?!

The redhead was not aware that he had blurted out his question until Sakura answered him. The redhead stared at the petite little kunoichi with something akin to disbelief in his eyes.

"You destroyed your shoes."

"Yup." Sakura nodded innocently. "They were hurting my feet." The kunoichi would have showed Gaara the blisters that she had accumulated if not for the fact that her gown kept getting hopelessly entangled with her legs. Sakura gave up at last and gave the incredulous shinobi before her a dainty shrug.

Gaara raised a brow. This situation would have been hilarious if he actually knew how to laugh. "And how are you going to return home without any proper footwear?"

Sakura frowned. Gaara had a good point there. It was just too bad that Sakura's alcohol marinated brain was just too liquored up for her to even attempt the dangerous act of thinking. Instead, the kunoichi burst out in yet another almost hysterical bubble of laughter. She shook her head confusedly at the mildly nonplussed Kazekage.

"Oh, good question. I don't know." She mumbled drunkenly. It was obvious to the redhead that the pleasant buzz from all that alcohol was rapidly dying down and Sakura was starting to feel the fatigue from earlier on weigh down upon her even worse than ever. Even as Gaara watched, the kunoichi seemed to literally droop with exhaustion.

"Alright." Sakura slurred almost incoherently. "I don't feel so good."

Gaara looked carefully at the slightly weaving female. The clinical part of him observed that she must have a very high metabolism rate, to be able to absorb the alcohol so quickly. It was no wonder that she had such a low tolerance for alcohol.

"Erm…Gaara…?" Sakura whispered once more, her face pale and the way her body was weaving unsteadily even more pronounced than ever. The redheaded Kazekage was immediately alarmed.

"Yes." Jade eyes observed the plastered female with sharp scrutiny.

"Catch me."

Sakura awoke the next morning to semi-familiar surroundings.

Sleep glazed emerald eyes focused slowly upon the bedroom that was clearly not her own, and it took Sakura a grand total of fifteen seconds for that simple fact to register in her brain. With a shocked yelp, the pink-haired kunoichi immediately jackknifed to a sitting position, her earlier thoughts about how entirely comfortable she had been quickly pushed aside to be replaced by growing panic.

Just where the hell was she?!

Sakura was growing so frantic that she had to look over the richly decorated bedroom interior twice before she managed to identify her location. Judging by the scenery of the Hokage Monument outside the window and the familiar decoration, Sakura slowly became aware that she was in one of the many suites in the heavily guarded Konoha VIP complex. Unfortunately for her, her realization was doing nothing much to help her at all; after all as of now there were so many foreign delegates milling around Konoha! And exactly what had happened last night? Whose suite was she in now? For the life of her she could not remember anything past consuming a couple of cocktails while waiting for Gaara at the afterparty and enjoying herself with some unknown men at the reception.

Had she gotten herself in trouble again?

A little overwhelmed by her one and only wild night (of which she hardly remembered a thing) Sakura muffled a dismayed groan as she covered her face with her hands. The optimistic side of the kunoichi kicked in then, informing her consolingly that at least she was not hung-over.

The pessimistic side of Sakura though, namely her inner self, promptly informed her that she was not dressed.

Poor Sakura stared down at her bare legs for the longest time in what seemed like a stunned stupor. Then she shook her head fiercely and emitted a strangled whimper. Why was this happening to her?!

It was obvious that someone had undressed her sometime last night, but at least whoever he or she was had been decent enough to leave the lacy pink teddy that she had impulsively chosen to wear alone. Sakura sighed. She was never ever, ever going to drink again—

"You are awake."

Sakura decided that she really wasn't very surprised when she looked up and saw Gaara lounging casually against the doorframe. Suddenly all the blanks about last night had been filled by his sheer presence. Of course it was Gaara who had took her back, and Sakura began to relax. The kunoichi believed that the redheaded Kazekage would definitely not stoop so low as to do anything untoward to her while she was unconscious and out cold, and anyway, she didn't think that he would be interested in someone like her anyhow.

"Please tell me that you didn't undress me yourself." Sakura mumbled embarrassedly as she quickly scrabbled for the sheets and pulled them up modestly to her chin.

Gaara raised a brow. The Godaime Kazekage was dressed in a less formal robe this morning, but his Kage status was simply unmistakable.

"I did not undress you myself." Gaara answered Sakura obediently.

Deeply mortified emerald eyes looked hopefully at him. "You really didn't?"

Gaara continued looking steadily at the beautiful, albeit somewhat rumpled and sleep tousled kunoichi on his bed.


Sakura gaped momentarily at his negative reply; and then in the very next second she was all puffed up and ready to pick a bone with him, her eyes flaring with growing ire, effectively pushing away her earlier feelings of embarrassment.

"W-wh-what do you think you are doing taking liberties with me like that!" Sakura stuttered, fingers clutching the sheets to her body in a death grip. Gaara was almost sure that had she not been currently disadvantaged physically she would have jumped out from the bed to engage him properly. Strangely enough, the thought of the feisty kunoichi doing exactly just that excited him.

At the other side of the room, Sakura was not having any such similar thoughts. Far from it, the petite female was rapidly turning a becoming shade of pink from her increasing agitation. The thought that the handsome Kazekage had laid his large, callused hands on her body had not repulsed her as it should, but oddly enough she was trembling lightly with barely suppressed excitement and exhilaration, much to her inward dismay. "You should have gotten a female assistant to do it or something!"

"Oh?" Gaara asked; his baritone voice deceptively mild. "I had no idea that you were this eager for everyone in the complex to know of your unexpected overnight stay at my suite."

Sakura promptly turned bright red. Gaara was…right, of course, as much as it almost hurt her to admit it. He had been trying to protect her reputation. The pink-haired kunoichi quickly lowered her head, suddenly self-conscious again.

"You were right." Sakura admitted at last. Gaara's brow rose even higher. From what he had heard from Naruto and so far seen for himself, this particular kunoichi was very strong-willed and it was probably extremely demeaning to her pride to admit a mistake. But yet she was doing it all the same. "I can't hold my liquor well and I shouldn't have drunk at all last night."

Biting her lips nervously, Sakura looked up into calm jade eyes.

"I'm sorry; I wasn't a good escort at all, was I? I must have caused you quite a lot of trouble last night."

It was rather obvious to Gaara that she was beating herself up something fierce over her actions the previous night, and the redhead pushed away from the doorframe, padding soundlessly to the now miserable looking kunoichi on his bed. Stopping at the nearest edge of the huge four poster, Gaara looked down at the dejected looking female.

"I had to carry you back." The redhead announced somberly. "You were completely unconscious from the alcohol and you had destroyed your own shoes."

Emerald eyes widened. "My shoes?" The kunoichi asked bewilderedly. That pair of sinful looking stilettos had cost her a bomb! "I destroyed my own shoes?"

Gaara nodded. She had sounded ridiculously pleased with herself when she had announced that fact to him too, though Gaara certainly wasn't about to mention that to her now, judging by the way she looked as if she was going to start crying anytime soon.

Sakura groaned loudly to herself. Now that Gaara mentioned it, she suddenly seemed to recall flashing through a sequence of seals for a rather powerful Katon jutsu, though for the life of her she couldn't remember what she had used it on. Well, now she knew. Sakura sighed despondently. She might as well get the whole story from Gaara now, now that she had started her little pity fest.

"And then?" The kunoichi asked; her whole body filling with growing dread. She just knew that things were going to get worse. "What happened next?"

"You woke up half way through the journey here." Gaara answered amiably. "And then you proceeded to throw up all over me."

"Oh. God." Sakura suddenly felt faint. Was it possible to die of embarrassment? "I…did that?"

Once again Gaara nodded, and Sakura was feeling too mortified to even notice the slight glint of amusement in those clear jade eyes. "You were a very busy drunk; you did all that right after praising me on my 'pretty red hair and green eyes'." The redhead deadpanned.

Sakura looked utterly aghast by that particular tidbit of information, much to said redhead's growing amusement. Gaara was starting to realize just how stimulating it was to watch this particular kunoichi turn colors and change emotions, and honest to god the Kazekage had never spent such an entertaining evening as he had last night with this interesting female. It was certainly a surprising revelation for the normally emotionally distant Suna-nin.

"Oh god." Sakura could only repeat the blasphemy with great dismay. "I don't think that I will ever have the cheek to face you anymore, Gaara. Just let me dig a hole here and die peacefully, alright?"

At any other time and place, Sakura would never be caught dead talking so familiarly to the infamous Kazekage while clad only in her undies and sprawled on his bed. But this situation wasn't normal at all, and Sakura was so busy wallowing in her apparent failure and embarrassment from last night that she couldn't care less anymore. After all, how much worst can this get?

A lot more, apparently.

Before Gaara could open his mouth to assure her that he would in no way allow her to die in his suite and that he had decided that he would be seeing her a lot more in the future, a familiarly loud and raucous voice was heard from across the threshold of the apartment style suite.

"Gaara!!" The enthusiastic shout was accompanied by a series of cheerful, albeit incessant and irritating banging. "Oi! Are you in there? Don't make me open the door myself!! You won't like the consequences!!"


Sakura's eyes widened with comical horror.

"Oh god, oh god, oh god." The pink-haired kunoichi could only chant in sheer panic. Naruto was dense as a potato most of the time alright, but even he would definitely jump to the wrong conclusion if he saw her in here, dressed in next to nothing and in Gaara's bed of all places! And her gown had probably been taken to the cleaners, and she had nothing to wear!! Except the bathrobe that is, and that was definitely not going to help much in giving Naruto the correct impression of what had really happened.

Gaara clearly saw the reason for Sakura's alarm from as far as a mile away and the redhead decided to help the poor, frantic female. She had probably learnt her lesson on the dangers of alcohol and wouldn't be doing anything half as reckless as she had done last night for a very long time.

Meanwhile, the knocking only got more insistent and privately Gaara wondered how this particular shinobi could have ever beaten him in anything. Naruto was so loud and hyper, and not for the first time the redhead also wondered how on earth they had become such good friends; the personalities of both Jinchurikis were certainly as different as night and day.

"Wait here and stay as quiet as you can." Gaara spoke at last to the near hysterical kunoichi. "If you don't come out of this room, Naruto will not know of your presence."

Sakura had no idea why Gaara was suddenly so cooperative in aiding her but she was certainly not about to question him now. The kunoichi nodded and shot the tall redhead a tentatively grateful smile. The powerful Kazekage stared at her a second longer than necessary before giving her a nod and exiting the bedroom swiftly.

Sakura bit her lips in trepidation as Gaara left, and then against her better judgment she untangled herself from the sheets and crawled out from the bed, creeping silently across the room to eavesdrop at the conversation that was about to take place in the living room.

Naruto burst through the doorframe the moment his redheaded friend finally deigned to open the door for him, and Gaara had to tilt his head slightly to the right to prevent those enthusiastically swinging arms from decking him in the face.

"Ah, you are always so slow, Gaara!" The blonde Jinchuriki lectured in his deep but still boyish voice as he loped deeper into Gaara's living quarters, making himself perfectly at home by flopping noisily onto a particularly cushy sofa. Gaara eyed the wake of Naruto's noisy entrance for a short moment before slowly slipping the main door shut. He strolled calmly towards the reclining blonde and took a seat across the sofa that Naruto was busy occupying all by himself.

The two Jinchurikis stared at each other for a silent moment.

Then Naruto proceeded to grin so wide that he looked like he was squinting while eating a banana sideways. Gaara continued to stare at the Leaf-nin with a morbid sort of fascination. What was he so happy about?

"About last night…" Naruto giggled suggestively to himself before he could finish his sentence. Gaara eyed the clearly mental blonde blankly, and said blonde immediately coughed and tried to regain his composure. "Er-herm. About last night," Naruto repeated, starting to grin again but at least not stopping halfway this time. "How was the dinner meeting with Sakura-chan? We didn't see you guys at all."

Gaara's brow went up. "You came all the way here just to ask me this, Naruto?"

Said blonde gave his friend an unrepentant grin. "Aa, I just want to hear from you that I was right about Sakura-chan. Ne, ne, I was right, right?"

Hidden out of sight in the bedroom and leaning against the door, a certain pink-haired kunoichi twitched. That bloody Naruto. Right about what?

"So tell me what happened last night! I think I deserve to know at the very least, don't I?"

Impassive jade eyes stared back at enthusiastic sapphire ones, but Naruto was hardly discouraged. Gaara was always like this. A little nudging was always needed to jumpstart all their conversations.

"Why don't you ask Sakura instead?" Gaara asked almost curiously and Naruto started to fidget uncomfortably.

"Ahahaha…" The blonde scratched his head ruefully. "Let's say that Sakura-chan is rather sensitive about such things." Naruto nodded firmly as he correctly grasped his pink-haired ex-teammate's character. "She's definitely going to pound me if she even suspects anything amiss!!"

'Damn right!' thought Sakura as she narrowed her emerald eyes with annoyance. So she had discovered the original culprit for all of last night's troubles. Naruto was going to be lucky if he breaks only a few bones after she was through with him. In fact, if not for the simple reason that she was supposed to be in hiding the kunoichi would have jumped out and gave the meddling blonde a beating he wouldn't forget! And why was he trying to match her with Gaara anyway? Other than for passing acquaintances they hardly even know each other and she certainly wasn't desperate enough to start looking for a potential boyfriend from other countries!

"So…" A pushy Naruto persisted when Gaara didn't seem inclined to talk at all. "Like I said before, our Sakura-chan is really, really beautiful huh? So what do you think after spending some time with her last night?"

Sakura knew what she thought alright.

She really was going to kill her idiot best friend. The petite female was so red in the face that she was surprised that she hadn't self-combusted yet. She just couldn't believe what Naruto had done! Arrgh!! Did she look so lonely that he had to try to hand her over to any of his friends? Who was going to be next, huh? As if her own blunders last night had not been embarrassing enough; but to know that Gaara had been actively aware of Naruto's awkward hand at matchmaking…

Sakura growled under her breath, totally irate. Still, she forced herself to calm down and keep her focus, which was to listen to what other diabolically foolish plans the blonde was up to. She was surprised when Gaara spoke instead.

"You are right." The redhead admitted calmly to the openly smirking Kyuubi Jinchuriki. "Sakura is very knowledgeable in the matters of politics and is sensitive to the different views of each of the dignitaries whom we had spoken to last night. It had been an…interesting experience, watching her last night."

This time, Sakura's face was tinted pink for an entirely different reason. Was Gaara praising her?

Naruto laughed gloatingly. "Hah! Of course I am right! Sakura-chan's the most capable and beautiful kunoichi I know, barring Hinata-chan of course!" The blonde answered with a furious blush. Gaara stared interestedly at Naruto's behavior. The embarrassed blonde quickly coughed and tried to change the subject. "Erm…so what happened with you both after the meet? Done anything I wouldn't do?" Sakura just knew that Naruto was wriggling those stupid brows of his suggestively.

This time, Naruto was genuinely surprised by the small half-smile that appeared on the redhead's face.

"I have done nothing that you wouldn't have hoped." Gaara replied vaguely, much to Naruto's confusion.

"Huh?" The blonde asked, eloquent as usual. "And what was that?"

Suddenly, Sakura was interested to know what as well.

The normally impassive Kazekage actually smirked.

"I took her to my bed."


Then twin yells of "What!!!" could be clearly heard echoing across the Kazekage's suite.

Naruto could only stare dumbly in sheer shock as the woman whom he had long since claimed as his heart's sister suddenly jumped out from what seemed to be a bedroom, clad only in a lacy cotton candy pink teddy that almost left nothing to the imagination. The blonde continued gaping at the kunoichi's state of undress, and mentally connecting it with Gaara's earlier announcement…

"Good god…" Naruto breathed, too shocked to react much. "It's true…"

"No, it's not!!" Sakura cried out immediately. The pretty little female had no idea what Gaara was trying to do by feeding this sort of lies to Naruto but she would be damned if the blonde jumped to the wrong conclusion, which he was already well on his way to accomplishing.

The kunoichi narrowed her eyes at Gaara, who had stood up and was approaching her the moment she had ran out from the bedroom, and was hard-pressed not to back away from the powerful Kazekage. Then Gaara stopped a bare feet before her, turned around and all in all effectively blocked her view of Naruto with his tall and lean form. It took Sakura awhile to realize that he was shielding her from Naruto's gaze.

Said blonde in question didn't really care either way; he was no longer interested in Sakura that way anymore, after all. At the moment he was too busy mulling through Sakura's frantic denial even as Gaara easily pulled the large afghan blanket from the sofa and promptly covered Sakura with it.


The pink-haired kunoichi swore at that moment that if the swiftly recovering Naruto could look anymore crestfallen she was really going to punt him across the Hokage Monument; and they have such a very nice view of the monument at the VIP complex too.

"…Yes. It's not?" Gaara's silky question did bode well for Sakura. "You deny that I took you to bed?"

And Sakura was well and truly stuck. After all, Gaara did take her to bed literally, but certainly not in the figurative way like Naruto was no doubt thinking. Feeling desperate and knowing that there was no way she could air this out quickly enough to suit her tastes Sakura blurted out the next thing she shouldn't have.

"It's not what it seems!" The kunoichi protested in a distressed manner. "I was drunk!!"

Naruto all but goggled at his pink-haired ex-teammate. This was just getting more and more interesting.

"You were drunk?" Naruto echoed blankly. Sakura was always so conscious of her image, and so it was quite rare for her to overindulge thusly. The fact that Gaara had managed to get her inebriated… Naruto started to grin even as Sakura nodded her head frantically.

"Quit thinking what you are thinking, Naruto! And quit smiling like that while you are at it, baka!! I was drunk alright!! I was so drunk that I was unconscious. Knocked out cold. We didn't do anything!! Ask Gaara!!"

Said redheaded Kazekage was more than happy to provide his input.

"I'm not quite certain about the unconscious part." Gaara drawled in a deceptively mild manner, near impassive jade eyes save for a wicked glint or two staring unblinkingly at her. "You were clinging to me and making all those small little noises at the back of your throat as I undressed you. Don't you remember at all?"

Sakura's face promptly went up in flames. Naruto gurgled unintelligibly. The blonde had heard enough. He didn't need any further descriptions of what had happened last night between his stoic friend and surrogate sister. Naruto quickly jumped from his seat on the sofa.

"You know what?" The blonde muttered in a squeaky, slightly strangled voice. "I think that my attempt at matchmaking had just become too successful. I'm sure that baa-chan and the rest would be interested to know that our Sakura-chan is now officially attached!! InfactI'mleavingrightnowsoyoutwolovebirdsenjoyyourprivacyalrightja!!!!"

With a quick sequence of hand seals and a dramatic puff of smoke Naruto was no more, leaving a bemused Gaara and a clearly panicking Sakura. The kunoichi would have chased right after her mistaken blonde friend if not for Gaara's dry remark about how the whole of Konoha was going to see her run about scantily clad.

Poor Sakura was really near tears then, and she was so dismayed that she glared at the once again impassive redhead standing beside her.

"Why did you do that for?!" Sakura demanded angrily. "By nightfall everyone is going to think that we have something going on! What happened to trying to protect my reputation?" The kunoichi wailed unhappily.

"I don't think that Naruto would spread any vile rumors about you." Gaara retorted reasonably.

Sakura glared harder at the deliberately dense redhead. For a Kazekage he was being extremely dumb—and irresponsible. "Have you not heard what I just said? Everyone is going to think that we are together or something! At this rate, I will never get myself a boyfriend!!"

At that, Gaara looked down sharply at an obviously upset Sakura. "You are not involved in any relationships?" He questioned, jade eyes focused intently at her.

"Yeah, and no thanks to you!!"

To her increasing agitation, Gaara had the cheek to look smugly satisfied.

"Good." The Suna-nin nodded to emphasize how pleased he was with her admission. Sakura really wanted to dent a hole in that big sand-filled head of his.

"No, it's not good at all!" Sakura cried out. "No one will want me now!"

"I want you."

This time Sakura noticed the intense look that he was giving her. She gaped openly at the powerful Kazekage. Was he joking again?! This was not funny! They didn't even know each other that well!!

Sakura, being the highly skilled, intelligent and powerful medic-nin that she is, of course answered in the most articulate of ways.


Gaara was not put off by her dumbfounded stare. No, the Suna-nin crossed his arms and announced his intentions to her once more.

"I want you." Certainly never one to beat around the bush, Gaara explained his attraction to her. "You are certainly a unique kunoichi, and I like the way you could easily change colors and yell at me."

Sakura continued gaping. Was he insane? Maybe he was masochistic. He enjoys getting scolded by her?

"You…you-" Sakura sputtered. "But I don't know you at all!" She burst out at last, ridiculously relieved that she had at least come up with a reasonably suitable reason why they were impossible.

Three seconds later, Sakura was sincerely regretting the fact that she had opened her mouth.

All of a sudden he was so near her that their breaths mingled and their noses touched. Emerald eyes widened with alarm when the seemingly emotionally distant Kazekage licked her cheek almost affectionately. Sakura turned pink, her heart racing a mile a minute and her breathing suddenly rapid and shallow.

"Don't worry," Gaara's voice was so low and husky that Sakura's eyes dilated and she started to tremble with anticipation. "You will know me very well…as of now."

And then he kissed her, and Sakura promptly forgot about anything else.

It was going to be a beautiful relationship.



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