Title: Courtship

Author: paws-bells

Characters/Pairing: Haruno Sakura and Sabaku no Gaara

Type: One-shot (Complete)

Genre: Romance

Word Count: 2029

Theme: LJ Community, Lethal Empathy Challenge #28

Rating: T (Contains content not suitable for children)

Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto-san.

Summary: It was an accidental courtship, and it started the very moment she smiled at him.

Chapter Last Revised on: 10/02/08

They were both twenty-one the first time he really 'noticed' her.

He was in Leaf for a meeting with the Hokage and she had been staggering by the tower carrying a most ridiculous stack of files.

He wasn't exactly the tallest of shinobis and neither was she a giant amongst the females of her trade. In fact, they both seemed like quite the pipsqueaks compared to some of their stronger looking allies. The collision was inevitable.

He nearly crushed her to bits with his impenetrable defense.

She shrilled angrily at him when she finally stopped seeing her life flash past her eyes and started to see the appalling mess of paperwork all over the dirt floor instead.

He had stared at her with those impassive jade eyes of his as she ranted fearlessly at him, shaking small, charka-enhanced fists angrily for good measure. He crossed his arms arrogantly before his chest and that made the small pink-haired female flittering agitatedly around him even angrier.

He eyed her with increasing interest, and wondered just when she would start to realize that he had her surrounded with his sand.

She never did, and even though he knew that he should have taught her a lesson in vigilance he had not. She was oddly mesmerizing in her anger.

Eventually, it finally occurred to her that yelling at the Sabaku no Gaara, the Godaime Kazekage of Suna was simply not the way to go, not to mention that it was highly unproductive and that just being in his general vicinity was ruffling her feathers even worse. With a huff of displeasure she had turned away from the irritating man, finally resigned to spending extra time hunting for some of the papers that had been taken for a brief flight around Konoha.

Imagine her surprise when she saw that all the paperwork had already been collected for her, the documents neatly slotted into thick files stacked tidily together in a pile and supported by a small pillar of sand. Formerly irate emerald eyes softened, turned hesitantly to meet emotionless jade ones.

Haruno Sakura of the Leaf lifted her hands and slowly took the files from the gently hovering sand. He took note of the way she stared at his Shukaku-gifted ability with a sense of faint wonder and curiosity.

Then she turned those large verdant eyes on him, and smiled gratefully. Brilliant. Warm. Genuine.

"Thanks." She whispered almost shyly to him, pink head ducked down in a gesture of bashful embarrassment, smooth, milky cheeks softly dusted with the color a few shades lighter than that of her hair. He could not help but notice that it was a complete turnabout from the almost violent way that she had descended upon him earlier and had trouble deciding which part of her he liked more; the ferocious lioness or the innocent little lamb.

With another hesitant glance at him and a small nod of acknowledgement, she turned and quickly hurried away from him, no doubt fueled by her growing embarrassment and the fact that she was already way too late for her appointment.

He stared after her even when she was long gone, and moved from his spot only when a Chuunin guard came to escort him to the Hokage's office.

It was two months later when he next saw her.

He was back in his village by then and she had been the kunoichi that the Leaf had sent under an exchange program to strengthen relations between the two villages. The famous fact that she was the well-loved disciple of the Hokage and was only second in medical skills to her beloved mentor showed just how much the Leaf valued the peace treaty between Wind and Fire. He had reciprocated the positive gesture of course, promptly dispatching his own sister to act as ambassador for the Sand.

She looked travel-worn and dusty by the time she stepped into the Kage offices for an official welcome and debriefing but her eyes remained the same despite her apparent fatigue; the vibrant green orbs alert and full of curiosity just like the last time he saw her. She was fully decked out in official Jounin attire and was still wearing clothing more suited for Konoha's gentle climate than Suna's harsher conditions. He had no doubt that she was probably dehydrated and going to be badly sunburned come tomorrow.

It annoyed him. For someone who was supposed to be an excellent medic-nin she sure wasn't being very smart. His sand stirred in response to his mild agitation and his gathered councilmen shifted nervously.

It was at that exact moment that she looked up from across the large room and emerald met jade once more and held for a brief moment.

He was honestly surprised when she smiled at him again, the same wide, cheerful grin that he had imprinted firmly in his mind two months ago. No one else noticed the way charcoal-rimmed orbs widened imperceptibly with shock but of course she did.

Her little grin widened, became a mite sassier and it was interesting how something as minute as the mischievous twinkle in her eyes could make her look so much more eye-catching than ever.

The sand settled.

His advisors let out a collective sigh of relief. It was true that the Kazekage was no longer as bloodthirsty as he had used to be but his temper was certainly shorter than ever. Things do tend to become a little messy whenever the Sabaku no Gaara got irritated. Not to mention very painful for all parties involved, barring the Kazekage himself that is.

And when she smiled at him that day…

Sakura really had no idea what she was getting herself into.

To be honest, Kankurou found the entire situation highly entertaining.

The Sand Jounin was pretty sure that the beautiful pink-haired medic-nin had no idea whatsoever what was going on yet; Gaara was very subtle, so subtle that it made the painted male wonder if the redhead knew just what on earth he was doing.

Kankurou really doubted it.

Gaara and puberty never got along very well in the first place after all, and as a result the older male was sure that his Kazekage brother was fairly ignorant of hormones and the such either. Come to think of it, the Jounin had never seen his brother in any relationship before.

Kankurou was very amused.

He would have offered to give the younger male a lesson in love and women if he wasn't sure that Gaara would 'Sabaku Sousou' him even before he was through, brother or no.

Kankurou had no intention of dying yet, especially when there was finally something interesting happening in the dull, paperwork-filled life of his little brother.

Just wait till Temari comes back and realizes what happened.

The first time Gaara appeared in the hospital during her shift, Sakura had thought that it was just pure coincidence.

She had been teaching the Suna medics a more advanced and quicker method of setting fractured bones during field operation when he slipped unnoticed into the conference room to listen to her lecture. One minute she was looking at an empty row at the back of the room and the next time she looked up he was there, his arresting eyes bearing steadily into hers as he listened attentively to the precious knowledge that she was imparting to his people.

She had been so surprised that for a moment her head went blank and she forgot what she was talking about, much to her inner chagrin. She recovered just as quickly, though why she was so flustered by his presence she really had no idea. Determined to ignore the Kazekage's unexpected entrance, the little kunoichi gave him a distracted smile before launching herself wholeheartedly into her teachings again.

Jade eyes watched intently as the enthusiastic kunoichi did her best to educate those under her charge. She was so very animated; her bright green eyes shone with passion for the subject that she was discussing and she was all but vibrating with barely pent-up excitement as her hands gestured gracefully in the air in an attempt to show the medics what she was talking about.

Watching her as she was now was extremely…distracting.

The next time Sakura chanced to turn her eyes to the corner that Gaara was occupying, he was no longer there.

Their first kiss was something neither had planned.

The inevitable had happened; she had overstrained herself helping out in his hospital and though it happened sometimes in Konoha this was the first time she had collapsed in Suna.

It was a good thing that she had been walking with him on the streets when she could no longer resist the sense of vertigo anymore, and promptly lost consciousness.

However, that wasn't such a good thing when she woke up awhile later and had to contend with his furious aura and turbulent jade eyes. He had brought her to his residence and they were all alone in his bedroom, and before she could even have the chance to feel awkward about it the cold waves of his displeasure distracted her.

He was obviously not happy with the way she was abusing her body and she had been in no mood to deal with him.

The resulting clash between two stubborn, proud individuals had been most spectacular—and completely unpleasant.

Sakura hadn't wanted to stay and be subjected to his sarcasm and cool retorts. Slightly hurt by his insensitivity, she was most determined to leave to heal herself in peace.

He wasn't about to let her go anywhere in her current fragile state though. A small explosion of chakra and a brief slither of sand later he was right before her, blocking her way and refusing her the right to even get out of his bed.

She had been growing steadily agitated with him, and what he had done hadn't helped matters at all.

Annoyed, exhausted and not wanting to stay anywhere near him anymore the pink-haired kunoichi was about to open her mouth to express her unhappiness regarding the situation when he leant down and covered her mouth with his.

It had been a most abrupt kiss and nowhere near gentle either but she had been so stunned by what he had done that it never occurred to her to push him away. Then his soothing scent inundated her senses; the sweet smell of grass and crisp desert wind comforting her in the way that he couldn't and she felt herself relax despite everything.

Just like that her anger fled, leaving behind an odd sort of confusion and bewilderment in her beautiful eyes. He must have sensed that she had calmed, for he drew back slightly to look at her.

"Why?" She had asked.

His jade gaze was unreadable.

"Because." He answered simply before closing in on her and kissing her again. This time his firm lips were soft and moved gently against hers and she let him. Emerald eyes fell close, and she leant towards him slightly.

She was willing and pliant against him; and he would have carried things further if not for the fact that she was still chakra-depleted and quite exhausted. They parted slowly, breathing just a tad quicker than before and eyes filled with the knowledge that the dynamics of their relationship had shifted.


She appeared slightly bemused when they separated. His jade eyes were so oddly captivating that she could not look away.

Then he nudged her back to the bed. "Rest." His command was soft and this time she did not protest it. Brilliant emerald watched him as she lay obediently on the soft surface and he covered her with the comforters.

"What…are we now?" She asked softly.

He crouched down at the side of the bed. The feel of his callused fingers against the curve of her cheek was so comforting that she pressed her face nearer to him.

Jade eyes were calm.

"What do you want us to be, Sakura?"

Emerald eyes were slightly troubled. What did she want? This was so sudden.

"I…don't know."

He was not daunted.

"Then we will find out."