A/N; I've had this stuck in my head since Shippuden 31.
Edit; I found a few mistakes that virtually killed me inside, so I fixed them. Now... I can die in peace.

Losing Ground

It gains the more it gives
And then it rises with the fall
So hand me that remote
Can't you see that all that stuff's essential?
Such boundless pleasure
We've no time for later
Now you can't wait
You roll your eyes
We've twenty seconds to comply

- 0 -

It was when he exited the door to the Kazekage tower that he saw her. She was leaning against the building across from where he stood, and by the way she was breathing, short gasps of breath, and pressing a steadying hand to her chest, he knew she'd been running from something. Someone.


She jumped at the sound of his voice, but upon finding his face, she smiled. "Gaara-sama!"

The sky glowed a bruised purple, casting faint shadows on the ground between them. He could tell that she was trying to control her erratic breathing and sighed, crossing the empty street. Her eyes widened, giving him a good view of something akin to surprised pools of only the darkest ink. "Gaara-sama?"

"What did you do, Matsuri?" he asked frankly, shifting the gourd on his shoulder. He locked his unwavering gaze to hers.

"I… it wasn't my fault!" she exclaimed. "They said…" she paused, glancing away. "…Awful things." Ah. "I can't stand judgmental people, so I… I swear I just barely nicked that bastard's--"


She swung her eyes back to his. He sighed again. "I don't think I want to hear the rest of that sentence."

She blushed, per usual. "S-sorry, Gaara-sama."

He knew, of course, the only reason she ever saw fit to attack a fellow human being. Temari and Kankurou shared the same quality.

"You shouldn't listen to them," he said quietly, scanning her front side for visible injuries. She folded her hands behind her back.

"Yes, Gaara-sama."

But she wouldn't, he knew. "I mean it."

"I know," she replied just as firmly. "And even when you had Shukaku--" she stopped herself. He stared expectantly. "… Even then," she said softly, tentatively curling her fingertips around his lower arm, "you weren't… a monster."

The silence thereafter was a suffocating one, and Matsuri looked away. "Don't touch me," he rumbled softly, distancing himself a few more inches, "if you don't want me to touch you back." And who would want a monster?

Yet, even with that thought, he still caught her blush. She locked her hands behind her back again.

"Were you hurt?"

Her eyes flitted to his and then back at the ground. "No, Gaara-sama."

"You're lying."

"I'm not!" She placed her heel against the wall, gesturing at her body with her arms out wide. "See?"

"Turn around."

The girl stood, leaning on one leg as she pivoted herself on the other. Her backside was free of injuries. She turned again at his silence, letting her back rest on the wall. "Well, I think I'll just wait here in case they come looking for me at my home," she said smiling. By his look she could tell that he didn't buy it. "They might!" she insisted.

"Wouldn't it be more dangerous for you to be out in the open like this?" he asked skeptically. She grinned.

"Go home, Gaara-sama. I can take care of myself."

He glanced down at her legs and stepped back. "Walk to me."


"Walk to me and I'll go home."

Her face paled and she nervously tried to laugh it off. "Oh, Gaara-sama," she chuckled, her voice wobbly. "I'm so honored that you're worried for me, but I--"


She shivered. "Um… okay…" She lowered her leg from its place propped against the wall and she did a little hop-ship-stumble thing on the opposite foot, trying to make it look as though she was simply clumsy. Gingerly, she stretched out the toe of her other foot and touched his. "S-see?" she stuttered, her face paler than before. He took another step back.

"Come. I'll walk you home."

"NO!" Matsuri placed a hand on her extended thigh. "I… I did hurt my knee. But it… was an accident." She swallowed. "I'm sorry for lying to you…. But please go home."

She was… what was she doing? "If you're trying to protect me from the people who hurt you--"

"It's not just that!" she cried, staggering on one leg. "I just… don't…" She lowered her eyes that were shadowed by the rising moon. "Please don't look at me like this, Gaara-sama," she said. "I'm a disgrace… please don't look at me."

He watched her, slightly puzzled at her humbled form. It might have been instinct that made him reach to her, his hand making light contact with her shoulder. The feel of flesh on flesh caused a reaction in both of them: Gaara's mind reeled for, though he'd come far, non-violent physical contact was still foreign to him; and Matsuri's surprise caused her to lose her balance. She was pitched forward.

"G-Gaara-sama…" she said, her voice lightly muffled on his shoulder. "You should have let me fall."

He didn't reply, slipping her arm over his other shoulder and transferring her to his side. He instructed her to lean her weight on his hip. "Kankurou might be able to do something about your knee."

"Yes, sen—Gaara-sama." Her hand clutched the red fabric of his tunic. "You…" her breath hitched as they took a step forward. "Thank you. For always being here."

"Seven days a week, all year," he said dryly. Looking at him for a moment, she giggled.

"You know what I mean." For a while after, they were silent, treading through the crisp night with only tiny little hisses of pain from Matsuri and the crunch of sand below their feet. They were near his home when he cleared his throat.

"How did they do it?""

She glanced away, regretful of losing the comfortable silence. "I… I told you. It was an accident."


"… The big one grabbed me when I was arguing with the short one," she mumbled. "I sort of… cut him… there out of self-defense. The little one got my leg with a big rock and they took off. I started back to my house slow because I thought they were gone for good, but then I heard a bunch of shouting behind me, so I ran. I think that made it worse." She winced, her side falling more into his.

"Then," he said, securing his arm around her waist, "I suppose it should be me thanking you."

"N-no, Gaara-sama!" she cried, blushing. "It's my obligation to protect you, even if you don't… need it."

He nodded slowly. "Obligation…"

"But…!" she exclaimed, grabbing his arm with her free hand. "You're my obligation, Gaara-sama." She smiled. "Without you, I have no reason to fight. You are everything to me!"

He paused, if only momentarily, and then nodded. "I am the Kazekage."


He turned his head and she blushed. "I mean… I guess… sure. You're the Kazekage-sama." But her voice was uncertain and she still wasn't looking at him.

"… Matsuri…?"

She smiled. She'd never heard him say her name, or… well… anything with such uncertainty before. "Yes, Gaara-sama?"

"Is it not just my being the Kazekage…?" Truthfully?

"… No, Gaara-sama." He looked expectant, but she shook her head. "I am… afraid to tell you more than that."

"Afraid of me?"


"My reaction?"

"… Yes."

"I would never… hurt you, Matsuri."

She smiled at the sand below. "I know."

They'd reached the single-floored apartment he shared with Temari and Kankurou, and he propped her against the side of the building, unlocking the door with one hand and setting his gourd beside him with a very audible thunk.



"… Why aren't the lights on?"


"And didn't Temari-san say she'd be in Iwagakure a few days ago? Has she not returned?"

"I… didn't know she'd left." He cleared his throat, pushing the door open and pulling her to him. "Sometimes work is consuming," he admitted. "I'll come home late, get up early… It could be a week before I even see my siblings face to face."

She breathed. "Wow. You know what's happening in every crevice of Suna and its boundaries, yet you don't know what's going on in your own home. It must be tough, Gaara-sama."

"You get used to it," he replied, setting her on the couch and turning on a light. "Kankurou?" he said in a deep, resonating voice. His words reverberated into each and every corner of the small building, seeping under the doors and into the furniture beyond. And still, no one answered.

Matsuri winced, deftly rubbing her knee. "I can do it myself… would you get me your medic kit?" The couch was terribly uncomfortable, but she didn't exactly expect plush with a bunch of ferocious warrior siblings living together.


"… Gaara-sama?"

"… I don't think we have one of those…"

"Eh? But… everyone has one!"


"Under the bathroom sink, maybe?"

"Why would medical tools be under a sink?"

She shrugged, her fist clenching the arm of the couch when her leg hit the edge of the coffee table in front of her. A small curse slipped past her lips in a whisper/whimper sort of way. Her face was even whiter than before.

"Here," Matsuri said, pushing herself forward with her elbows. "Help me up. I'll look."

He didn't want her to stand on that leg any more than she absolutely had to. Then again, apparently female instinct could better find medical supplies. Faster, too. Mindful of her knee, the Kazekage stepped his right leg over her bent ones, wrapped his fingers around her biceps and pulled.

Her breath caught in her throat at their sudden proximity. He was nearly a head taller than her, she realized, feeling his chin near her forehead. His hands were warm, and they sent little electric jolts from her arms to her shoulders, through her chest and lifting her heart into her throat. Her reaction was one she was sure he felt. Her fingers slowly clenched into his shirt.

"You're… tall," she managed weakly. In actuality, she was just glad her voice box was functioning and not crushed flat by her sporadically jumping heart.

And she really hoped he didn't notice that her chest was smooshed against his.

"Are you alright?" he asked, ignoring her comment. She nodded, but then gasped in pain as her knee throbbed. Her head landed on his chest as she kneaded his shirt in one hand, gritting her teeth to the pain.

Being who he was, Gaara was simply unaware of how to handle the situation at hand. So he let human instinct take over. Laying a hand on her hand, he let her work the pain out on her poor teeth, and waited patiently for it to pass. When she slowly looked up, he tried a pathetic smile. It was too awkward, and so he stopped trying.


"I'm fine. Thank you, Gaara-sama." She smiled brightly, face ghostly. His brow furrowed.

"Maybe we should take you to a hospital…"

"No!" she exclaimed, looking down. Her bangs draped over her eyes and she shuddered. "Please… not there. I'll wait days for Temari… just not there."

He nodded though she didn't see, and placed his hands on her shoulders to steady her as he stepped back, and he turned, crouching. "Get on. We'll search the place."

"… Yes." She fidgeted awkwardly before stooping over and finding balance on his shoulders, looping her uninjured leg around his side and letting the other drag close. To avoid further misplacement of her knee, he did the completely logical thing and clamped his hand around the thigh of her offended leg, and then the same for the opposite. He never did catch her crippling blush.

"You said the bathroom…?"

"Ah! Yes!" she squeaked, wrapping her arms around his neck as he stood. "Under the sink."

They traipsed into the room, and both looked at the sink; Gaara skeptically, Matsuri hopefully. "Bend over," she said, and he did so. She opened the cabinet, and much to her delight, found a box of various medical chemicals, tools, and other beautiful, multicolored contents. She grabbed it, and draped her arms down his chest with the box swinging near his navel. "Do you have a place that I could check this stuff out? Preferably with a soft surface…" She winced. He turned his head to catch her eye.

"You really didn't like the couch."

She blushed. "You weren't supposed to notice!"

"I notice more than you think. Would the bedroom be alright?"

Wow. I've never heard two more contradictory sentences in my life. She bowed her head forward, tapping it onto the back of Gaara's to hide her prominent blush. "S-sure…"

The room itself was sparsely furnished, not to her surprise. He had a simple, clean bed with a pale burnished red comforter, a bedside table, a lamp, a wardrobe, and a chair with (to her shock) a small, ragged bear sitting on the arm. If he noticed that she was staring at the toy, he didn't make it known.

Gaara slid her slowly onto the soft bed, taking the box from her and kneeling by her dangling legs. He began to rifle through the box, and all Matsuri could do was stare. She'd been near him for all of her life as a warrior, and all she could find him doing was kindness. He was such a selfless person… it was a wonder that people could say the things they did about him. He'd made Kazekage at fourteen, by a unanimous vote; obviously he was well-beloved in Suna. But for those that didn't know him, a few in Suna and Konoha, and those from other villages, they would still glance at him with disgust. When she accompanied him on a few missions, as guard, she would see these actions.

They not only infuriated her, but they also hurt. Her heart ached for her leader, the one that had been nothing but good to her and her people. He was too good for their horrible looks. Too kind; too perfect.

"Ah… what am I looking for?"

She smiled. And much too cute.

"Here." Matsuri dug her hands into the tub of various tubes and instruments, and finding a bottle of pain killers, she cracked it open and popped two into her mouth. Recapping the bottle, she swallowed the pills dry and began searching for a brace.

"… Can I do something…?"

She glanced up. He was staring at her hands.

"Would you know where to find some gauze, Gaara-sama?"

He blinked slowly before his seafoam-green eyes sparked to life. He nodded and shot up to his feet. He briskly exited the room. After nearly a whole minute of stunned silence, Matsuri's lips parted. The smile on her face grew so large that she had to cover her mouth with her hand to keep it from lifting to the ceiling. "Gaara-sama…" she said, giggling lightly.

How could he ever be a monster? Those people were surely blind.

"Here," he said, cutting through her thoughts and striding into the room, kneeling in front of her once more. She stared at the roll of gauze he offered. She couldn't bring herself to look at his face, which she was sure would still be barely containing its anxious boyish look. His shoulders drooped slightly. "Is it not enough?"

"No!" she cried, wrapping her fingers around his, entrapping the gauze between their hands. "It's perfect. Thank you, Gaara-sama."

Her coal-black eyes twinkled happily at him as she smiled. The inky slates were flooded with so much adoration, so much acceptance and… and maybe even love that his heart lifted suddenly. It was as though it had chosen to defy gravity, jumping upwards, and somehow pulling him with it.

She was sure that her heart stopped beating the minute he leaned up and over the edge of bed, the light, uncertain pressure of his lips brushing over hers. He was there for a split second, and then he pulled away, seeming more dazed than she.

"I…" His eyes were wide and lost. "I didn't--"

She smiled slightly. So lost… "Gaara-sama." Taking the roll of gauze from his hands and placing it in her lap before taking his whole hand in her two smaller ones. "You're perfect." She bent forward, relieving her grip on his hand and letting her fingers hovering near his warm cheek before leaning forward once more.

But she hesitated.

Maybe it was reflex, she thought worriedly. What… what if it was some jutsu?? I don't know much about ninjutsu or genjutsu… My specialty is taijutsu, and him being the Kazekage, maybe it was something completely unrelated! I bet it wasn't even a real kiss! Damn; look what I've gotten myself into! He was surprised because I took it the wrong way… I'm so transparent!

"I'm so sorry, Gaara-sama!" She sprang upward to escape, momentarily forgetting her leg, and so the minute she was on her feet, she nearly collapsed in pain. Instead, in a flurry of motion that was not entirely hers, she found herself on her back, right where she'd started. His hands left her shoulders from which he'd used to return her to the bed, and planted themselves on either side of her head. One of his knees was bent near her waist, and the other was on the floor on the opposite side of her body.

She was pinned.

"Don't… don't do that," he said, shaking lightly. "You'll be hurt even more."

I knew it. It wasn't a kiss… I'm so stupid. Hot tears pricked the back of her eyes, but she blinked them into nonexistence once more. "I'm sorry."

"No." He shook his head. "Don't be."

"I shouldn't have tried to kiss you back," she argued. He started.

"I… you were apologizing for that?"

She blinked. "Yes…? Why? What did you think I was apologizing for?"

"For… standing. I just didn't want you to get hurt, so… I didn't want you to say you were sorry for my concern."


He gazed down at her, and she felt the incredible urge to squirm. "Gaara-sama?"

"You regret trying to…"

She blushed. "Only because… you do…"

"I don't!"

She stared and he glanced away. "Gaara-sama?"

"You… I couldn't control myself," he mumbled, refusing to meet her eyes. "Your eyes were…" He swallowed. "They were so happy. And it was… nice. No one… people aren't usually like that around me."

"They're wrong."

His eyes swung back and her eyes were softened with sadness, but she smiled.

"You're beautiful, Matsuri."

One hand burrowed deep into her earthy tresses and he lowered himself on his elbows, neck craning down to match her lips again.

- 0 -

The first thing Temari noticed when she entered the apartment in the moments just after midnight was the feel of two chakra signatures; both familiar, but one very much not Kankurou's. Curious more than worried, she trekked to Gaara's room and pressed her ear to the door. No sound. Gently, she turned the doorknob and let the door crack soundlessly open until she could peer inside. At the silhouette that greeted her, she was slightly concerned for her little brother's virtue. But when her eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room, she sighed in relief.

Certainly, there were two figures on the bed. And yes, they were tangled together in a questionable pretzel-form. But they were fully clothed, and so she would leave her sisterly-duty interrogation for dawn.

- 0 -

If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the NOs on their vacancy signs
If there's no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I'll follow you into the dark

- Fin -

Top lyrics: Let Go, by Frou Frou. Bottom lyrics: Into the Dark, by Death Cab for Cutie
I had writers block for, like, five minutes. Then, bam, I started writing a shitload of stuff. I wrote this in a notebook first, so this was basically created at school. Whenever I write something in my notebook, I usually try to get critique from my friends, but not this time, for some reason.
I feel like I have an obligation to you people. Is that normal?
Raep is equal to love, and reviews
are love. So... raep me?
P.S.- I just realized… this may have been the most romantic thing I've ever written in my life. O.o I mean, seriously. You wouldn't THINK it'd be hard to write a kiss scene, but… I make it so awkward. I can barely write it. I was cursed with this… this handicap. T.T