Beta-ed by: ItachixSakura Forever
Characters/Pairing: Haruno Sakura and Sabaku no Gaara
Type: One-shot (Complete)
Word Count: 1800
Theme: LJ Community, Lethal Empathy Challenge #28
Rating: T (Contains content not suitable for children)
Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Kishimoto-san.
Summary: Sequel to Courtship. They understood each other perfectly. There was really no need for anything else.
Completion on: 05/02/08
Chapter Last Revised on: 22/02/08
The Godaime Kazekage was exhausted.
The S-class mission had taken longer than expected and while it wasn't common for him to accept an assignment due to his status, there were always some operations that required his lead—and personal expertise. The fact that the large S-class payout would help fatten the lean treasury of Suna would always be part of the reason why he would never decline such missions. The good of Sand was always in the foresight of the youngest Wind Shadow in history and he understood that, in order to survive, his village would need all the advantages that it could gather.
The mission itself had been rather simple. It was an assassination and there had only been a single target. An S-class missing-nin who had been spotted in Sand territory and it had been too good a chance to let slip. Tracking the elusive target had proved to be more time consuming than expected but he had thoroughly relished in the challenge of a good hunt. For a brief moment he could put aside the heavy responsibilities that came alongside the rank of a Kage and just enjoy the adrenaline pumping through his veins as he flawlessly executed the abilities that all in his family had been specifically groomed and bred for, the beauty of the ugly fight, the savage satisfaction from a difficult kill.
The Shukaku may have been forcibly extracted from him for more than half a decade already, but the inbred animal instincts that he had been born with refused to be so easily suppressed. His siblings understood that a piece of the Ichibi would forever be ingrained within their little brother and they had learnt to work around his needs. The once upon a time insatiable bloodlust, though almost nonexistent now, would still manifest occasionally. But most importantly, it was now tamed and controllable and they had found a way to work that need to kill into something that would benefit the village.
It was a completely unorthodox arrangement and it had been fiercely shot down by the village elders initially. It was something that no Kage had ever done before—actively going after S-class missing-nins—and especially after Gaara's near- death experience thanks to the Akatsuki, the protection of the Kazekage had become something that nothing else could take precedence over.
Then Gaara had calmly explained that the advantages of his proposed plan far outweighed the disadvantages. Konoha too was starting their hunt for the Akatsuki; the least Suna could do for their ally was to drastically cull the numbers of other S-class missing-nins so that it would be a lot harder for the bijuu-hunting organization to fill their missing ranks once the Leaf begins their plan. There was also the fact that an S-classed bounty was very high, and any extra income of that caliber would definitely not be unwelcome in the Sand.
Temari and Kankurou had offered to watch over the village in Gaara's stead and everything was set. The Kazekage trusted explicitly in his elder siblings—they had come through time and again for him and had proven that they were more than capable of protecting their village.
Above all, Suna-nins were highly practical and deadly-efficient shinobis. They had to be—in order to not only survive in that harsh desert environment that they were all born in, but also to flourish. The elders grudgingly agreed to their Kage's proposal in the end—but had warned that at the slightest whiff of danger the plan would be declared void. As much as spare income could benefit the village as a whole, it was certainly not worth the death of one of their most promising Kages.
"Kazekage-sama, we have reached your residence." The night guard on duty announced quietly. It had always been protocol for the Wind Shadow to be escorted whenever he was in the village and now was no different.
The powerful redhead nodded and dismissed the Chuunin with a careless wave of his hand. Slipping soundlessly into the traditional manor that had at different periods of time housed all five generations of Kazekages, Gaara proceeded silently up the stairs and into his bedroom. It was almost two a.m. in the morning after all; there was no need to rouse the servants and his siblings just because of his late return.
He sensed her presence by the time he scaled the long, curved flight of stairs; the heady scent of sweet strawberries could come from no one else and unconsciously his tensed form relaxed. She was not supposed to be here, though, but he wasn't about to question his luck. Imperceptible jade eyes scanned the second floor family area and spotted the tousled mane of soft pink hair almost immediately.
She had fallen asleep, half curled on the sofa with open medical texts surrounding her.
He approached her noiselessly, his combat attire making no sound as he drew by her side and crouched over her peacefully dozing form. She was turned slightly to the side, a slender palm pillowing her head and her breathing deep and even. A lock of pink hair had fallen over her reposeful features and he drew callused fingers lightly across her temple to brush aside the long strands of hair that were disrupting her rest. At the familiar contact her closed eyelids started to flutter, the long dark pink lashes that fanned her pale cheeks resembling the delicate wings of a newly emerged butterfly.
She sighed softly, sleep glazed emerald eyes finally opening to see him. Sluggishly, her hands unfolded themselves from their original pose and started to reach for him, tender fingers trailing over his face, his sleekly muscled arms, everywhere they could touch. "Injured?"
Even in her semi-conscious state of awareness she was checking him over for wounds. In response he shook his head once, and then pressed his lips against the elegant curve of her jawbone, trailing down to her neck where he nuzzled her throat with his nose. She did not resist his act of affection and emitted a soft purr of contentment, a little more awake than before.
"How was the mission?" Her voice was deliciously husky from sleep and he nipped once on the silky patch of skin below her ear before answering her.
"Completed." His one-worded, seemingly brusque answer was abruptly shoved to the back of her mind as he slipped his arms under her and easily lifted her from the couch. Sakura clung onto her lover for dear life.
"I have legs, you know," the petite kunoichi commented dryly. Still, she made no move to remove herself from the redhead's grasp as he walked them both down the long hallway and towards his massive bedroom, instead settling trustingly into his arms and leaning her head against his strong shoulder.
Gaara did not bother to reply to her remark. "You have lost weight," he noted instead.
Sakura was hardly concerned and shrugged, not noticing the way the Suna-nin was frowning at her seemingly lack of concern regarding her own wellbeing. "We have just completed a two-week assignment in Kumo," the pink-haired kunoichi mentioned in way of explanation. "The mission was a success, and Naruto and the team have headed back to Konoha whereas I have decided to take a little detour."
Like Kiri, Kumo was water country—ridiculously far away from Suna. She must have bypassed Konoha completely to make her way here. It certainly explained the circle of fatigue that ringed her eyes, as well as her ridiculously slim form.
His frown deepened, and Sakura finally noticed the way the skin around his mouth pinched with blatant displeasure.
"What?" the pink-haired female joked half-heartedly, her apparent exhaustion not allowing for much more energy to be expanded for this purpose. "If you are not pleased to see me, I can always leave."
In response his grip around her tightened—slightly. It would be the only answer he would give her, for the notion that he would want her to go was so ridiculous that the both of them knew it.
"Tomorrow morning you will have your meals with me." His tone was completely commanding and she frowned slightly at his imperious attitude.
"I just knew that you would overreact," she grumbled in response. "Let me down." They were already in his room, and the moment he put her down on her feet, the kunoichi staggered blearily over to the large bed and sat herself there, unsuccessfully stifling a huge yawn as she did so.
"You shouldn't have waited up for me," he reproached mildly. The pink-haired female in question merely lifted a brow at him.
"Oh really?" she retorted. "Would you have gone to sleep if you were in my position?"
He didn't answer.
But then again, there was no need.
A small, entirely feline smile appeared on her dainty features before she turned to fuss with the bed sheets and pillows, happily creating a nest of bedding for the night. Behind her she heard him pad almost soundlessly into the bathroom, clearly going about his nightly rituals. She was curled safely in bed by the time he emerged, fresh from a quick shower and dressed in only a pair of low slung black pants. His hair was still slightly damp and he toweled the unruly crimson mess vigorously before carelessly tossing the towel against the back of a chair.
Drowsy and all but fighting the relentless onslaught of fatigue, Sakura watched unabashedly as Gaara started towards her, the subtle play of his sleek abdominal muscles completely fascinating to her dulled senses. He crawled into bed without fuss and switched off the dim side table light before reaching for her. Spooning her intimately, his familiar callused hands trailed reassuringly against the sliver of soft skin that peeked out from between her night shirt and sleeping shorts. Arms wrapped around her waist, he nudged her slowly but firmly towards him and she let herself relax against his broad chest, emitting a soft sigh of contentment as she finally quit resisting her exhaustion.
He nuzzled the crook of her neck gently, and then brushed his lips against her skin. She turned her head to him and returned his affection with a small kiss on his jaw.
"I missed you," she murmured sleepily, her honesty candid and genuine. Within a couple of moments she had fallen asleep, giving in to her weariness completely this time, secure in the knowledge that he was here with her now.
Charcoal-rimmed jade eyes watched over the slender form of the slumbering pink-haired beauty. Taking a deep inhale of that strawberry scent that was uniquely hers, he pressed his face against her neck one last time before he spoke, his smooth baritone barely a whisper against her skin.
"I missed you too."