Characters/Pairing: Haruno Sakura and Sabaku no Gaara
Type: One-shot (Complete)
Word Count: 3578
Theme: LJ Community, Lethal Empathy Challenge #28
Rating: T (Contains content not suitable for children)
Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto-san.
Summary: He had never met anyone who could give him this much grief before. Of course, she just had to prove him wrong.
Completion on: 11/02/08
Chapter Last Revised on: 12/02/08
"Take off your shirt."
Sakura blanched slightly at the quiet command.
Immediately, exhausted emerald eyes lifted and slammed almost accusingly into impassive jade ones. Even in the semi-darkness of the underground cavern the alarm in her gaze was obvious to see.
"Excuse me?!" Her voice, though still not as strong as it can be whenever Uzumaki was in the vicinity, was certainly no longer a pathetic scratchy whisper.
He was hardly impressed of course, and responded with an unaffected stare. Truly, only the Leaf would teach their kunoichis to put modesty above their very lives. For the strongest country among the five Greats, they sure weren't very perceptive when it comes to differentiating between need and want. There was no modesty in death after all, and that's what was going to happen to this pink-haired female currently gaping at him if she keeps refusing to tend to the large wound on the back of her left shoulder.
Normally the Godaime Kazekage would have kept to his own business and left the ridiculous female to bleed to death but Sand was currently enjoying a very prosperous trade relation with Leaf and unfortunately the kunoichi currently trapped with him happened to be the Hokage's prized disciple. She was also Uzumaki's teammate and from what he could gather his fellow Jinchuriki was very close to this petite female.
It did not take long for Gaara to come to the conclusion that it would be completely unacceptable if it was known to his allies that this girl had died and he had not even lifted a finger to help. He owed Uzumaki more than enough; his act of intervention now may just lessen that debt—if only for a little.
Besides, it was the least he could do after she had spent all of her chakra keeping him from bleeding to death after being impaled in the middle with a sharp slab of stalactite that had broken off and had slammed through his abdomen during the cave-in. Of course, he wouldn't have gotten injured in the first place if he wasn't busy shoving her out of harm's way for the same reasons mentioned above but dwelling on what had already happened was something completely foolish to do and so Gaara easily dismissed it from his mind.
The kunoichi's initial reaction to his injury wasn't as easy to forget however. Personally Gaara really didn't think that it was all that bad; the limestone formation had miraculously failed to impale any vital organs though he grudgingly supposed that the sight of him leaking blood all over the place and completely skewered through with a piece of dangerously-formed rock would have been hard to swallow, not to mention for any of the faint-hearted shinobis of Konoha; who were well known for possessing tender sensibilities and were rumored to run around their village holding hands, randomly spouting rousing songs of love, peace and harmony, as well as dancing with the birds and deer. Gaara never really believed the latter until a completely horrendous looking dog appeared before him during a meeting with Tsunade and started to strike up a conversation with his busty blonde counterpart about sake, of all things.
Then a talking toad appeared as well and joined in the conversation.
Gaara started to wonder for himself then if the local wildlife participated in the singing as well.
Idle rambles regarding the odd habits of Leaf-nins aside, the pink-haired kunoichi had been completely aghast when she had discovered his injury. She had been so affected by him that her resulting squawks of alarm had jarred him even worse than the original injury had. She had flown to his side immediately of course, completely tossing aside her earlier wariness of him and then proceeded to prod and probe at his wound, appearing to him to be doing nothing more than aggravate it even worse.
Completely irritable and even more short tempered than usual, he was about to brutally snap at her to leave him alone when she finally looked up at him, intense emerald orbs shining with genuine worry as she expertly guided him to the ground, careful not to touch the bloodied piece of stalactite. Suddenly, it was as if the panicking, almost useless female from earlier on had been completely transformed into this no nonsense medic-nin who had a job to do—and was determined to do it well no matter the cost—even if her patient wasn't exactly willing.
Gaara really did not understand why but for the life of him he had kept silent as she fussed over him, occasionally pushing back grime-streaked pink hair from her face as she worked hard not to kill him as she slowly and carefully started to pull back the jagged limestone from his chest and at the same time pouring copious amounts of healing chakra to close the wound.
"I know that it hurts, but please bear with it a little bit more, Kazekage-sama." Sakura had urged quietly. The powerful Sand-nin had been a lot paler than usual and perspiring badly. His expression was as pokerfaced as ever though, but Sakura was completely unconvinced by that blank façade. An exceptional shinobi he may be, but a god he was definitely not.
A small crease had gathered between the brows of the redhead. "Get it over with, medic."
Sakura nodded and refrained from commenting on the Kazekage's brusque manners.
And amazingly enough, he was now fully healed with nary a scratch on his body. The kunoichi was surprisingly competent despite her deceptive appearance; belatedly Gaara doubted that there were more than a handful of such skilled medics in the world, and none as young as this female currently checking on his vital stats.
The Shukaku may no longer reside within him but the heightened sensory abilities gifted to him since birth had not faded away with the extraction of his one-tailed bijuu. The sharp metallic whiff of blood was simply unmistakable and the strength of the scent indicated that she was deeply wounded as well. His gourd had been lost to him during the mad scramble to escape the ambush from Oto-nins and it seemed that the thin layer of sand shield that he had summoned from what little amount of sand there was in the cavern had not been enough to prevent her injury. It was lucky that the falling stones had not hit her on the head; the impact would have killed her.
Gaara looked at the kunoichi
"You are injured as well." He spoke calmly in explanation, as if reiterating a commonsensical fact to a little child. "Your back needs attention. I can smell your blood."
Sakura shook her head immediately. "There is no need. I can look after myself."
He leveled an unconvinced stare at her, and the pink-haired kunoichi flinched slightly in embarrassment. The taller redhead got to his feet slowly, his sleek torso bare and streaked with his own blood from his earlier injury. Sakura had divested him of his top earlier in her hurry to get to his wound and now the reminder that he was partially naked made the kunoichi feel slightly awkward.
It became even more so when he started towards her, jade eyes quietly watchful as he gauged her reaction to his increasing proximity.
The powerful redhead stopped less than a foot away from her, and it was all Sakura could do not to startle away from him.
"You should know your limit." He spoke at last. "Your chakra is low; you won't be able to heal yourself."
"You don't know how to heal." The kunoichi blurted out in a last ditch effort to convince him to leave her alone.
"I don't have to heal you." The redhead replied. "I just have to make sure that you don't die while you are still under my watch."
The kunoichi twitched at his careless remark.
"I don't die so easily." She snapped before she could stop herself, starting to get irritated with Gaara's uncaring attitude.
"Good." Jade eyes narrowed slightly. "I have no wish to owe Uzumaki anymore than I already have. Make sure to keep yourself alive, kunoichi."
Sakura stared at the redhead for a long time. Then she started to frown. "Are you telling me that the reason you saved me earlier was because I'm Naruto's teammate?"
The Godaime Kazekage gave no confirmation with regards to her question, but his silence was already an answer in itself.
Sakura got mad. This man was so…insensitive!!
The kunoichi retreated from the Kazekage immediately, completely disgruntled by his callous attitude. Of course she wasn't exactly expecting overemotional gratitude from the stoic male, but this was almost too much! If she wasn't so weak right now she would have done something that she would have regretted later—like try to smack him around and hope that he would get pierced by yet another piece of stalactite.
But of course that was just wishful thinking on her part. Knowing Gaara he was probably harder to kill than a cockroach. Sakura was completely convinced that even if she wasn't here to save him from death ala limestone formation, he would still somehow miraculously survive the ordeal.
Hadn't he sprung back to life after dying a few years back?
Sakura was so occupied contemplating the mystery that was Gaara that she hadn't even noticed when said male followed after her retreat soundlessly.
However, she did noticed when she was abruptly tackled from behind and pushed onto the ground. Weakened by the extensive loss of blood and chakra, the only thing the stunned kunoichi could do was to let out a surprised squawk of outrage.
Then there was a loud ripping sound as the dratted man currently straddling her like a horse started to tear away her clothes, and in the process jostle her sluggishly clotting wound painfully.
Sakura drew in a sharp hiss.
"What are you doing?!" The pink-haired female was not happy at all. "Look, I don't care if you are the Kazekage or not. Let me go now or you are going to be in a world of pain!!"
The responding grunt of disbelief that came from the powerful redhead made Sakura stiffen with increasing indignation. It was obvious that he didn't think very highly of her, and stung by his immediate dismissal of her skills as a kunoichi the pink-haired female could only growl and puff up with anger. Like it or not she had been completely subdued by him and there was nothing else for her to do until he was satisfied with her condition and chose to let up on her.
Her bristling form was the least of his concerns. Her injury appeared to be a little more serious than he had originally thought; the wound was quite deep and appeared to have nicked a minor artery, fortunately. It would clot by itself eventually but she had already lost a lot of blood, and the way she had emptied her chakra into him earlier on didn't seem to bid well for the petite female.
She might die if this goes on. Even if the blood loss didn't get to her first it was entirely possible that she could perish of hypothermia. They were still in desert territory after all, and if his internal clock was of any indication it was nearing dusk soon. The scorching temperature would plummet drastically with the onset of night and they were going to be virtually defenseless against the onslaught of freezing cold.
The frown intensified, and the female under him fidgeted uncomfortably.
"Will you get the hell off me now?" She burst out once more, unable to tolerate the unfamiliar weight of a masculine body on top of hers any longer. She had understood enough that he was trying to see to her wellbeing of course, which was why she hadn't put up that much of a struggle when he brought her down but since he wasn't doing anything but staring at her exposed back right this moment Sakura was quick to reckon that she definitely had a huge problem with him gaping at her like a certain white-haired pervert Sannin of the Leaf.
He seemed to snap out of his thoughts, and surprisingly enough he moved obligingly away from her prone form. Immediately clutching the tattered remains of her shirt to her chest, the kunoichi rolled to her haunches and gave the impassive man a good hard glare.
"Thanks a lot destroying my shirt." Her words were drenched with sarcasm. "You were such a great help. I feel so much better already, you know—even though you didn't even administer any first aid to my injury. I guess your sheer presence just have that kind of effect on people, huh?"
Predictably, her sharp comments were not appreciated. The knit between his brows worsened into a ferocious scowl that would normally have his advisors quaking in their sandals but unfortunately the pink-haired female failed to witness the full glory of his deadly stare. She was too busy mourning the loss of a perfectly functional top, as well as ripping strips out of small portions of it to try her best to wrap around that gash on the back of her shoulder.
Her practiced actions made perfect sense to him and since she seemed to have a lot of trouble trying to locate her injury one-handed he moved towards her in an attempt to help again. She scowled at him, now clad in only half a shirt.
"Attempting to help again?" She questioned dubiously.
Wordlessly, he took the makeshift bandage from her and she let him—albeit in a completely reluctant manner.
For the next minute or so, the Kazekage proceeded to prove that he was about as sensitive as a water buffalo when it came to dealing with wounds and injuries, and that he firmly believed that cutting off the circulation to her arm was definitely going to make her feel a lot better. Other than those minor details, he was almost decent when it came to bandaging wounds—for a completely blundering amateur, that is.
"Now what?" Sakura asked grumpily when she didn't have to present her wounded shoulder to him anymore and turned around to look him in the eye.
Charcoal-rimmed jade orbs were completely stoic.
"We conserve our energy for tomorrow."
The kunoichi frowned.
"Why can't we try to find a way out now?"
He looked at her for a long time.
"Suna's temperature is unbearably frigid at night. In our current states-"
"-we will freeze to death." Understanding dawned. "Alright, so we will rest now."
He nodded once, and since Sakura appeared completely comfortable against her side of the rapidly darkening cavern he shifted over to her before joining her swiftly, sitting himself down beside her.
She looked at him with great incredulity.
"Why are you here?" She asked at last with he didn't seem to be at all affected by her continuous stare.
It was a completely foolish question from his point of view, but instincts told him to humor the high strung female—the coming evening would definitely be more peaceful to his senses in that manner.
"I believe that I'm attempting to rest."
She started to glare at him again.
"I know that! But why are you resting beside me?!"
Privately, Gaara began to wonder if all that blood loss had addled the woman's brain. She was suddenly so irrational that he really had no idea what to make of it.
"We need to share body heat."
"We need to share-" She gaped at him. He stared right back at her, completely unamused by her exaggerated antics.
"I'm not sleeping with you!" She blurted out at last, completely appalled.
For obvious reasons her revulsion irked him.
"Do not worry." He commented sharply. "You do not interest me at all."
Sakura sputtered, turning a dull red at the slight. He ignored her.
"This is a necessity. We will need all the energy we can conserve for tomorrow. There are a lot of possible scenarios that may happen then, and none that are pleasant. We will need our wits around us. Do you understand what I mean, kunoichi?"
Of course she understood. She understood the reason why he had suggested for them to stick together from the very beginning. She was just hoping that there might be another alternative; that was all. He didn't have to be so condescending!
"I know that I have no choice in this matter." She muttered at last. "Do what you want."
The way the pink-haired female tensed at his proximity completely belied her careless tone. But yet she stayed put, only eying him nervously. They weren't exactly touching per se; only their clothes brushed against each other's and privately Sakura wondered just how this was supposed to be effective in conserving heat.
The kunoichi chanced a glance at the powerful shinobi beside her only to see him staring coolly at her. It was obvious to her then that he wasn't going to come any nearer since it was apparent to him that she was completely uncomfortable with the situation.
Sakura sighed mentally. This was really not the way to go. Need would always prevail over want, and as much as she really disliked this pushy, violent and rough male at the moment there was just no other way but to stick to him for the duration of this night.
She was so exhausted and all she wanted to do was to sleep.
Maybe tonight would pass quickly.
All she had to do was to pretend that she wasn't about to share warmth with the Sabaku no Gaara, that he was someone else instead. Like her fox brother, Naruto. Or even Kakashi-sensei.
Just thinking about her team fortified her drooping spirits drastically. The kunoichi was completely convinced that Naruto and the rest was probably going to try their best to look for her come tomorrow morning; it was going to be ridiculous if she failed to meet their expectations of her.
She could do this.
Sakura took a deep breath.
The determined look on her face irritated Gaara. She appeared as if about to be sent to her death, not just ready herself to sleep beside him. The redhead was about to give up and leave the completely idiotic female to her own devices when she leant over abruptly, scooting against him and leaning her entire body weight against his side.
Not prepared for such a sudden move on her part, he stiffened.
She did not seem to notice, unfortunately. She was too busy trying to make herself comfortable. Mildly disconcerted jade eyes became disbelieving as she lifted his arm and settled it no-nonsensely against her shoulders, mindful of her injuries as she proceeded to use his arm as a makeshift pillow. Of course the action slid her head closer to the crook of his shoulder, and suddenly the nonplussed Godaime Kazekage found himself with an armful of soft, warm female flesh and long pink silky hair.
Curled tightly against him, she turned her head slightly to him and their eyes met. She frowned slightly.
"Touch me inappropriately and I will kill you." She threatened. She appeared about as intimidating as a harmless kitten and he did not bother to reply to her absurd statement. She seemed to take his silence as an agreement for she proceeded to settle herself firmly against him despite his increasingly irritated stare. It was as if she had forgotten just who she was speaking to—or in this case, snuggling beside.
"Good night, Naruto." The affectionate tone that she had always reserved for her heart's brother was obvious. Gaara thought that he had heard wrongly.
"I am not Uzumaki." Gaara growled before he could control his rising aggravation, not really appreciating her mistake.
She shrugged—actually shrugged.
"I know." She commented, her voice sounding wearier than ever. "I'm pretending that you are Naruto. Don't ruin my imagination."
He craned his head towards her and stared at her with blatant disbelief. Then he scowled, completely insulted by the chit of the insolent female.
"Keep it down." She cut him off sleepily, much to his increasing displeasure. "I'm trying to sleep here."
His scowl worsened, and more than anything he was completely nonplussed by the way she was acting around him. No one had dared behave the way like she had and he had no idea whatsoever how to deal with her. She was affecting him albeit in a completely unintentional manner and that sort of power over him made him distinctly uncomfortable. He had half a mind to shove her off him—even now she was unabashedly using him as a pillow, her smaller body pressed snugly against his side in a completely unafraid manner. Anyone would have thought that she was completely accustomed to resting by him.
It was the first time that day that she was addressing him by name. He ignored her.
It didn't work.
"Thank you for putting up with me."
Her voice was barely a whisper. He glanced at her sharply, once again surprised by her. Her eyes were now closed, and she appeared to be almost asleep. It was amazing how different she looked now when compared to earlier, when she was red-faced and shrieking away at him like a crazy banshee. Like this, she was almost…tolerable.
He may be able to last the night without strangling her, after all.