A/N: This is my first GaaSaku, and I do it because my darling, darling Seren likes it. Hopefully it'll make her write more, and then you'll all thank me.This is more like a friendship fic than romance, since Gaara's still a bit socially retarded (we love him anyway). :D Thread gently. Unbeta-ed.
We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love.
"Alright, the first thing you need to learn is how to talk to people."
Gaara didn't look up from his paperwork. He didn't need to look up to know whose voice he was hearing. There was only one person alive whose voice managed to sound nagging, annoying and at the same time, strong. And there was only one person who'd dare interrupt his work as the Kazekage, on the day after he'd come back from the dead. Actually, he knew two people, but the second one was a boy, and this voice was decidedly feminine. And even though most of his life, Gaara hadn't exactly been on love-love terms with his family, he still knew the sound of his sister's voice in the morning.
"I'm busy," he answered simply, signing one scroll with his name.
"Well, last I checked with your secretary," Temari said, a sarcastic tone to her voice, "you have no appointments for today, no work to do. It's your day off, and you should be in the hospital, seeing a certain person…"
"The Kazekage doesn't have days off."
"Have you been talking to Baki again?" she asked flatly. "You just came back to us, Gaara. Maybe you don't see it how I see it, but this is a second chance. We've been given a second chance to be a real family, and I won't lose it to some…fake paperwork you pulled out just to avoid a medical check-up."
"The medic-nins of Suna still fear me," he observed, ignoring how his heart did a little twist when his sister gave her speech.
"That'll change," Temari supplied with a soothing voice. It couldn't have been more soothing even if the woman had snuggled Gaara to her chest. "And besides, the medic-nin in charge of your check-up isn't from Suna."
That got his attention at least. He raised his eyes. "Explain yourself."
"The pink-haired girl who cried at Chiyo's funeral?" he asked, blinking once.
"Yes. And also the pink-haired girl who saved Kankuro's life, and the pink-haired girl who helped save your life," Temari explained.
"Acknowledged," Gaara muttered, looking down at his paperwork. "Still busy."
"Get down to the medical ward right now, Gaara, or I'll drag you down there by the ear if I have to."
Gaara set down his brush, and gave his older sister a look that should have been menacing, but she was obviously not buying it. "Why is it so important?" he asked, tiredly.
"Because you just returned from the dead, and someone needs to check that there's no anomaly around your body or anything. And Sakura qualifies perfectly for the job. And also because you need to learn how to talk to other people in a friendly way."
"I talk to oth—"
"The only people you talk to, outside of work, is myself, Kankuro, and that Naruto kid. Three doesn't qualify as a crowd in this situation, Gaara. Now, you will take advantage of this day of freedom, and visit the doctor for a tiny check-up. Afterwards, just…do something that doesn't involve returning to this office. I don't know…go out to lunch, or…eat ice-cream. Anything works."
"You can't talk to me like th—"
"Damn right I can. I'm your older sister, and as your older sister I have to right to order you to get off your fuckin' ass and get out of your office. Now!"
Women. What the hell was it with women and giving orders, anyway? Gaara didn't understand women. But then again, there were a lot of things Gaara did not understand. like teenage girls, chocolate, love, family, and the need for underwear. Although the last one wasn't that important a doubt as the rest. Either way, back to not understanding women.
He was the Kazekage. He was a person most people in Suna respected, and feared. Shuukaku had allowed him to have that sort of influence over people. To cause fear, and to also be respected. But at the same time, he ended up not being loved. Which, if you looked at the number of dead people on his victim list, wasn't a good thing. Still, and getting back on track, he did not understand women. Or better said, his sister. And her ability to trap him doing things he didn't want to do. Like visit the doctor.
With a sigh, he entered the room where he'd been sent to by Temari, to find that the pink-haired girl was already there, sitting on a chair and looking impatient. Yet another person who's forced to touch me and afraid to do it.
At his tiny couch, the girl's green eyes snapped away from the window and up to his face. Her lips drew a comforting smile—which, if Gaara hadn't been Gaara, he would've returned it—and she spoke: "Hello, Gaara-san. Or…should I call you Kazekage?"
He gave her an uninterested shrug and took a seat on the hospital bed. "Temari sent me."
"Oh, good. I'm glad she listened to my suggestion, then," Sakura answered, standing up and starting to fidget with her fingers.
"Your suggestion?" he asked in a tone that said 'you're the culprit'.
"Yeah, I told her you should get a check-up. It's just…wise. I've never seen cases like yours before, so I want to make sure you're alright, and not going to suffer any sort of…relapse…or something."
Gaara's jaw tightened slightly as he realised what this was. She was treating him like some sort of…experiment gone right. Her eyes were alight with interest to examine him like a lab rat. She was using him, to satisfy her means…her thirst for knowledge. Because there was no way this girl actually did it for his best interest. Gaara was used to people using him for their own interest, but that did not mean he would stand it from a…little miss smiling face like this Leaf twat. Fear. I'll just make her fear me.
"Right, then, shall we?" she said, snapping him out of his reverie when her hands came up to his head. Before he could react—everything's slower without Shuukaku's presence—her hands were touching his forehead, and they were glowing. They were also cold. In a moment of epiphany, Gaara realised he'd never been touched willingly by someone, not like that…and not a girl, either. Then he remembered what she was trying to do, and all his forgiveness intents faded away.
"What are you doing?" he asked.
"I'm going to use my chakra to infiltrate your nervous system, and your blood system, and see if I find anything that's out of place. Don't worry, it won't hurt you," she explained, closing her eyes at the same time her hands became colder and green chakra flowed inside of him.
He could feel it. Feel…her. Inside of him. It had to be repulsive, he should have thought it was violating of his privacy, but…he didn't think that at all. He was more confused by another thing. Sakura was touching him without flinching, and his sand was still tucked safely inside his gourd. Human contact. This is what Temari was talking about? For some reason, human contact should've felt…a bit more special than just a simple medical check-up. "You don't fear me," he said. Or maybe he asked.
"I don't," she answered, her eyes still closed as she ran through his blood system. It made him shiver a bit.
"I tried to kill you."
"People tried to do that a lot, but it's because I was weak," she answered. "I've learned not to take it too seriously." She was quiet for a while, her chakra retreating from his body completely, as she opened her eyes to watch him. She was taller this way. "And besides, you've changed now. I heard about all you did for Suna. The Gaara-san I met when I was younger is different than the one here today."
"You've changed, too," he said.
"I hope I did!" she quipped, laughing slightly. "For the best, too. Well, you're all done. Nothing's wrong with your health. Just watch the chakra control for a while. Try not to use it too much."
"You are strange," he said, not moving from his spot.
Somewhere around that, it seemed, she creeped out. "Oh…kaaay…?"
"You cried at Chiyo's funeral," he stated.
"Yeah. I did," she answered, a look in her eyes that spoke of recent pain and loss.
"Why? She wasn't anything to you. You only teamed up once."
"I felt like I knew her," she answered. "I grew to care for her in that short time, I guess. I guess I'm too kind for my own good, huh?"
"That's not right. You can't grow to care for someone in that short of time."
"Who told you that?" she asked, sceptically looking at him. "Time has nothing to do with it. It's different from that. Sometimes you can grow to care about someone, regardless how long you've known them for. It's about how the person is, not how long you've spent time around them."
He paused, weighting this new information in his mind. He stored it away for later, when it wouldn't sound as ridiculous as it did then. The medical check-up was done, which meant he was free to return to his office. Though he was mostly sure Temari had guards set up at the door with instructions to not let him in. he had to occupy his day with something. What was that thing about meeting new people and relating to them? Well…"You have no plans for today," he told her.
"Actually, I d—"
"And you are hungry."
"Do. Are you…asking me out to lunch?" she asked, looking at him as if he'd grown a second head. "Or are you ordering me to do it?"
"I want to try ice-cream, and you are coming with me. If I get poisoned, you can heal me up."
"That was very romantic," she snapped. "Oh, my heart swooned right there." She pointed a finger at him, aimed at his chest. He didn't recoil. "If you're going to ask a girl out to lunch, even if it's not a date, try actually asking her, instead of making it sound like an order. And there's nothing girls hate more than to hear that they're only useful for detecting poisons," she scolded him, wagging her finger. "You're lucky I like ice-cream. And you're the one who's paying."
Well. That certainly crossed out the fear from the list of things this girl felt around him.
So, ice-cream. He stared at the cone in one of his hands, and the little spoon in the other, wondering how to approach it. Should he go for a low attack? Start from the top, maybe? No, the top attack might smush it down, and it would get on his fingers. Maybe if he used the spoon with circular movements, beginning at the base and going up around the cone.
"Are you going to keep on making strategies of how to eat it, and wait until it melts, or are you going to eat it?" Sakura asked from beside him. Her ice-cream was already half-way done.
"This is my first time," he explained, with a strained voice. Did she have no sympathy? It wasn't his fault he didn't know how to eat ice-cream. When she'd eaten her first cone, he'd probably…killed his first victim.
"Look, you do it like this," she said, after a sigh. "First, forget the spoon. Only polite people eat with spoon, and right now, we're impolite, brazen teenagers enjoying an ice-cream," she explained, taking the spoon out of his hand. Or trying to, since he kept it gripped firmly.
"I am the Kazekage, I cannot be brazen."
"You can freakin' eat without a spoon," she snapped, snatching it away from his fingers with determination. "No-one is going to blame you. Suna's weather is freakin' hot as it is, no need to torture yourself further. And trust me, once you taste ice-cream, you'll forget all about she spoons."
"…I see. How do I—"
"With your tongue, of course," she reasoned, and then demonstrated it. She leaned down towards her cone, a tiny pink tongue poking out of her lips. She took a swipe at the ice-cream, staining her tongue with it, and retreated it into her mouth. "The first time, let it linger on your tongue," she instructed, but Gaara was too busy watching how her tongue travelled around the ice-cream. Circular movements. HA! He'd been right, after all.
"You look like a dog," he observed calmly.
She stopped in her movements, looking at him with a look that many would've feared. Gaara knew those looks. He'd patented a few of them himself, so he didn't fear her. "Eat your ice-cream, Kazekage-san. Before I smash it in your face," Sakura quipped with a tense voice.
"You would not dare—"
"Eat it!" she snapped.
Gaara gave her one of his looks, not quite happy when the only reaction was a raise of eyebrows. He sighed, and mimicked her movements, taking a bit of the ice-cream on his tongue. He let it linger, like she'd instructed, tasting his first chocolate-vanilla ice-cream. It was…it was good. It was tame, though, and he felt like he needed something else. Like a child, avid to learn more, Gaara experienced his flavour-rush, needing to try more. Different flavours. Different colours, different textures.
"Is it good?" she asked, curious. Gaara's eyes went to her cone, a pink colour, much like her hair. He wanted to taste that. Her ice-cream. Preferably in the same spot where her tongue had been before. So as any good Kazekage, he did what was to do, and wrapped his hand around hers, bringing up the ice-cream cone to him, and taking a daring swipe from it. "What—hey!"
"Mmm," he observed, liking how hers tasted more than how his did. It was more…sweet, and sour. "What is this?"
"Sour cherry," she answered, automatically. Then she shook her head. "If you wanted some you should've just asked! I thought starting with the basic chocolate-vanilla flavours was good for you."
"I need to taste more," he said, looking at her with a ravenous tint in his eyes. She pulled away an inch, raising an eyebrow. "Of the ice-creams," he continued. She lowered her eyebrow, and returned to her position.
"Then we should buy some more. You can order them in sizes, and add more flavours, or chocolate syrup."
"No, it's too sweet. I like it when it stings the tongue a bit…when it's sour. Like your ice-cream."
"Well, okay! I can guide you in that way if you want," she said, nodding slowly.
He stood up from the park bench, and grasped her free hand, pulling her up with a bit of surprised protest from her lips. "Now," he said. "I want it now."
Her lips quirked in an amused smile. "You look like a kid on sugar-rush," she observed, before twisting her hand until it grabbed his, and she moved along the road, towards the ice-cream shop. "Come on, Kazekage-san, we're off to try more ice-cream," she said, walking calmly, as if it was completely normal to hold his hand. Gaara stared at the two linked limbs, noticing how her hand held his. A friend's grasp, that's what Temari had said it was, when she's explained it. It was like shaking hands, and holding them. He was surprised at the girl.
How could she, after being pinned to a tree and almost suffocated by him, after nearly dying to save him…how could she touch him so freely, so without fear. Was it because Shuukaku was gone? Or was it because she really didn't fear him anymore. Gaara slowly moved his hand until their fingers were linked together, too. That was better. She looked back at him, questioningly; he gave her what he thought resembled a smile, and she looked away, smiling herself. "I would like to properly thank you for saving my brother's life," he spoke, startling her out of some reverie.
She looked at him. "You're welcome," Sakura said, smiling.
"No, a proper thank you," he explained, stopping in place. His ice-cream was dripping down his fingers, and hers was almost done. He was too busy to care, more interested in thanking her. What had Temari and Kankuro told him about thankings? Not much he could use in this occasion. He'd have to go for gut-instinct, based on memories he had of his uncle, his relatives…and how they'd thanked someone, when they meant it. So Gaara leaned down, noticing how her eyes widened. He moved until his cheek was next to her, acknowledging idly how soft her skin was. Then he turned his head, and kissed her cheek. He may have let it linger, but it was only because it was the first kiss he'd given. It was a strange first experience. It was also the first time he heard her breath hitch, and he took a bit of satisfaction in that. If he'd known that was all it took to make her breath hitch, he'd have done it during check-up. With a slight sneer, he pulled away from her face. "Thank you."
She looked at him, surprised, her free hand going to her cheek. "You're welcome," she said. Her fingers were still stained with ice-cream, and she got some on her cheek. He remembered the flavour, and without thinking, he leaned in again, and licked her cheek clean of the ice-cream. When he pulled away, they both had the same expression.
Amazement, and surprise. Gaara coughed, Sakura cleared her throat. "Let's go get more ice-cream," he said. She nodded her head, and lead the way. This time, her hand wasn't in his, and he was missing it.
"It's almost dinner time," Sakura complained, fingers fiddling with her napkin, watching how Gaara finished his first banana split. "I'm hungry."
"Order another cone," he said, looking up from his treat.
"Hungry for real food, I mean," she explained. "I'm more interested in a balanced diet."
"What do you normally eat for dinner?" he asked, keeping the spoon in his mouth. He must've looked ridiculous—and she seemed to agree. But he didn't really care, for once.
"Whatever I cook, I guess. Tempura, or rice, or sometimes I make sweet-sour pork. Or soba, or miso soup, or suhi, if I eat out."
"I've never tried sweet-sour pork," he said, placing the spoon into his empty cup. "There's a restaurant nearby that serves it."
"Are you asking me out for dinner?" she asked, smiling amusedly.
He smirked back, just as amused. "In case I get poisoned. You know…"
"I'd love to, Gaara."
"Okay, let me get this straight," Kankuro said, bursting into his office the next morning, Temari in tow. "You went on your first date last night?"
Gaara looked up from his paperwork—which was a first. "A date? No, Sakura and I had dinner."
"After you spent the whole day together," Kankuro added.
"We had ice-cream. Did you know that apple and cherry put together are more sour than two gr—"
"Nevermind that," his brother drawled. "Tell me about why you were seen kissing the girl in the park?"
"How did you know?" Gaara asked, blinking. "I was thanking her."
"For what, showing you ice-cream?" Temari asked, bemused.
"No. For saving Kankuro's life," the redhead answered simply.
"Oh," Kankuro said, deflating a bit. He was silent, and then: "I should've thanked her too."
"Of course," Gaara said, tilting his head slightly. "It's only polite."
"Yeah," Kankuro said, a tiny grin on his lips. "And as she saved my life, my thank-you should've been more significant. Maybe I should've kissed her lips."
A noise came from the desk, and both Temari and Kankuro shared knowing looks. "Did you just growl at him?" Temari asked Gaara.
"No," Gaara answered.
"Liar! You did! You growled at me," Kankuro accused, laughing. "You're jealous, because I would've kissed your girl."
"Sakura is not my girl. She's a friend," the Kazekage said, taking great pleasure in calling her his friend. She'd told him he was a friend the night previous, and luckily Gaara hadn't been too entranced by her mouth back then as to not hear her. The moment had been locked in his memory, like a treasure. Another friend.
"Sure, a friend. A friend you bought ice-cream, spent the whole day talking to, kissed, and had dinner with," Kankuro drawled.
"It was a friendly outing," Gaara said.
"Oh, yeah, Kankuro," Temari said, smiling. "Let the poor guy have his girl-friends." She winked, which completely stroke out the possibility that, for once, Temari was taking Gaara's side.
"Tell me, Gaara. This friend of yours, you never thought of kissing her?" Kankuro asked. "Because you gotta admit, Sakura's certainly grown up to be a fine girl."
"Her mind is busy with other things," Gaara said, looking down at his paperwork. He wrote 'Uchiha' down, and then stabbed the scroll with his brush. He wasn't jealous. He was not, at all. But in quality of a friend, he was worried about Sakura might go through, looking for the traitor Uchiha. That was it.
"Awww, poor little brother," Temari said, looking as though she wanted to give him a hug. Gaara's glare put her off a bit. "His first crush, and it's already hopeless."
"It's not a crush," the younger boy explained, glaring at his conspiring siblings. Traitors. "It's friendship." And it wasn't hopeless, Gaara knew as much. As soon as Sakura returned from her missions, he'd send for her. He make up some 'we need a good medic-nin to train our medic-nins because they suck' excuse, and request Sakura to come to Suna. For a few months. And then he'd make her forget all about Uchiha Sasuke. He would, because just like his newly found obsession with sour cherry ice-cream, he'd found a new obsession in his first girl friend. Someway, or another, he'd have Sakura by his side again. Soon.
"And tell me," Kankuro said, snapping him out of his reverie. "This friend of yours…did you at least get her address to write to her? Or are you going to keep contact at all?"
"None of your business," Gaara answered, pulling out a clean scroll, and going back to work. His siblings did not need to know that in his pocket, he had a crumpled napkin on which Sakura had written down her phone number and address herself, specifically asking him to call her sometimes. He would. He would call her, he would talk to her, like they'd talked the day before. About everything and nothing. And maybe with time, she'd grow to be the person who'd know him best. Maybe…
It was a thought Gaara looked forward to.
I believe I have you to thank for my brother's new affliction to ice-cream? Our refrigerators are stuffed with tons of flavours now, and it is starting to look like a circus. Nonetheless, it's a nice change. If you ever feel like dropping by Suna any time soon, we'd love seeing you. Gaara would, too, but he'll never say it out loud. I think you caused an impression on him. Keep in touch.
To Konohagakure's Hokage:
I request the presence of your best medic-nin, Haruno Sakura, in Suna. Our medical team is suffering from lack of experience and knowledge, and if we are to rise to the greatness Suna had, previously, we need to invest in our medics. Haruno-san's services and experience is needed. Due to the urgency of the matter, this mission has been given the highest ranking. Should Haruno-san want to go up in her mission scale, this is a good opportunity.
Mission rank: S-level
Length: for as long as it takes
Mission: train Sunagakure's medic-nin team until they are efficient
Salary: ¥400.000, and the gratitude of the entire village, plus honoraries
Please respond as soon as is possible.
Sabaku no Gaara, Kazekage
A/N: A note on timing. The last two letters were received at the same time, during the summer after Hidan was defeated. So while Naruto trained and relaxed, you know where Sakura was. I left it open to interpretation, because…it's cooler like that.