Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto in any way, shape, or form.
A Matter of Pride
"I can't believe how lame you are, Kankuro," A feisty blonde shook her head, "I swear, you're worse then Gaara."
"Come on, Temari," Kankuro whined, "No one can be worse then Gaara." He could only pout as his sister only laughed at him.
They were on a routine mission escorting the Kazekage to the Village Hidden in the Leaves to strengthen their alliance. Which was all and good, and everything but when the Kazekage was Gaara then an escort was more of a formality then requirement. This usually left his bodyguards with little to do and a lot of time on their hands.
Which leads to their current situation.
"What am I worst at?"
The two jumped and spun around with a sinking feeling in their stomachs to stare with horror at their little brother.
He had grown over the years and was now able to meet Kankuro in height though his body type took more after Temari, giving him a long, lanky body that was oddly graceful.
His face had lost it's baby fat and gave his face a more defined look, framed by his reddish hair that fell almost to his shoulders.
Pale green eyes framed in black narrowed slightly as he stood with his chin lifted and his arms crossed.
"Nothing," Temari smiled and waved the question away, "How did the meeting go with the Hokage?"
"Fine," Gaara tilted his head, "What am I worst at?"
"Forget it, Gaara, Temari was just being stupid," Kankuro ignored the angry look she sent him.
"Yeah," she forced a smile, "You know me."
"Yes, I do," the Kazekage nodded, "You rarely say something irrelevant."
Mildly vindicated, she sent a bemused smile towards both of them.
"All right," Kankuro sent a sly smirk in her direction, "Temari thinks you can't pick up a girl to save your life."
Gaara blinked and turned to his sputtering sister.
"That is not what I said," she finally managed.
"It's what you implied," the puppet master snickered.
"And what you agreed with," Gaara concluded.
Kankuro chocked and Temari was mildly apologetic. "Kankuro is an idiot," she shrugged and thumped him helpfully on the back, hard, which earned her a watery glare.
Gaara's brow creased as his pale green eyes moved from one sibling to the other and back again.
"You think- You both think I am unable to . . ." the crease became a full blown frown, " . . . be social with a girl."
Temari winced, "Well. . ."
"You got to admit, Gaara," Kankuro remarked dryly, "You're not known for laying on the charm. You're more likely to scare a girl's clothes off then talking her out of them."
"Kankuro!" Temari whacked him with her fan.
"Damn it, Temari!" Kankuro barely restrained himself from retaliating.
Gaara turned on his heel and walked away from his bickering siblings.
Calculating green eyes coldly assessed females he passed and dismissed them just as quickly.
The female Hyuuga. Too timid. Would most likely faint before he could prove anything.
Ino Yamanaka. Too bold. Might make him faint and undermine the whole purpose of this excursion.
Tenten . . .
"Neji, that was perfect form," she gushed proudly.
…too obsessed with male Hyuuga. Would not make any progress.
This might be harder then he thought.
A flash of pink caught his eye and his gaze turned thoughtful.
The Hokage's protégé.
Hmm. . .
Sakura sighed as she pushed away from the bridge. It had been a long day and she was happy to see it come to an end. Not that she didn't like the life of a medical ninja, she loved it, it was just sometimes. . .
"Naruto! Behind!" Sasuke's eyes flashed as he flipped out of the way of flying kunai.
She missed . . .
"I got it!" Naruto threw himself at the enemy and twisted midair to throw her a kunai, "Sakura, catch!"
"Got it!" She snatched it out of mid-air.
She shook away the memories, there was no use dwelling on the past.
All three of them were completely different people now and there was no going back.
And yet . . .
"Not bad," Kakashi acknowledged idly.
She snapped around in surprise and then had to right for a neutral expression as none other than Gaara of the Desert stood before her expectantly.
"Gaara," he corrected.
She blinked, "Gaara."
His pale green eyes seemed to study her for a moment and then they turned dismissive, "I have disturbed your thoughts."
He turned to leave and actually took a couple of steps before she regained her manners.
He went immediately still and turned his head just enough to glance at her from the corner of his eye.
Sakura closed the distance between them and smiled, "Did you need something? I saw Kankuro and Temari-"
"I am not looking for them," he tilted his head at her, "I require your presence."
He turned once more and started walking in the direction of the Hokage's building.
After a moment's hesitation, she fell into step with him. Must be official business with the Hokage, she reasoned with a shrug. She walked with a looseness that implied a casualness but could quickly turn deadly in an instant.
Gaara eyed her discreetly and noted with approval that she too, had changed over the years. She had grown taller, though, she didn't quite match his height, and had developed curves, which her aesthetically pleasing to the eye, while retaining the slimness of her youth.
He laid a guiding hand on the small of her back and ignored the slight start she gave to direct her down a different path.
"I would rather my siblings stay in the dark on this matter," he intoned as he removed his hand.
Sakura swallowed and ignored the fact that her heart had picked up it's pace.
He . . .touched her.
He didn't touch anybody.
And nobody touched him unless they had a death wish.
What did this mean? Was she overreacting? She didn't know him very well and . . . Where was Naruto when you needed him?!
They entered the building without further incident and she ignored the hard thump in her chest as she followed him into the temporary office the Hokage had set aside for him. Though, she couldn't ignore the very real alarm that crept up her throat when he shut the door behind him with a decisive click.
She turned to find the Kazekage eyeing her with those eyes. . .
She swallowed, "You needed me for something?"
His head dipped slightly into a nod as he leaned against the door, which, incidentally, blocked her escape.
"What did you need?" Her gaze remained steady despite the growing need to glance around nervously.
"An answer," he replied simply.
"Oh," relief filled her voice as she smiled, "Then feel free to ask me anything."
He pushed away from the door and walked towards her slowly, those damned eyes catching her every move.
She wasn't sure staying in place was the wisest choice, since instinct was demanding she flee, but it felt right.
Especially when something akin to curiosity entered his eyes when he stopped a mere foot away.
"You are not afraid," he stated with a kind of wonder.
She shook her head as her heart beat wildly in her chest.
"What the hell is going on?!" Inner Sakura demanded.
His hand lifted to ghost over her cheek, "May I . . . touch you?"
She blinked at the question.
He sighed and pulled away.
"Forgive me, if I offended you," his voice was cold and he went around his desk to glare at a picture on the wall.
She stared at him, completely bewildered at his actions.
"Leave," he ordered.
She automatically took two steps toward the door before she turned and demanded, "What the hell was that?"
He made no move to even acknowledge he had heard her.
Incensed she stomped around his desk and had to restrain herself from the suicidal urge to grab his arm and make him face her.
"You can't just ask a girl to go with you, letting her think it's official business-"
"I never said it was official business," he corrected.
"-just to get her alone to ask if you could . . ." she faltered and forced herself to forge ahead, ". . . touch her, and then order her to leave as if nothing had happened!" She finished with huff.
"You tell him, Sakura, cha!"
Green eyes studied her curiously, "What should I have done, then?"
"You should've . . . You wanted to . . . You should be clear about what you want?" She winced at the questioning note she had ended on and glanced up at him, "How do you want to . . . touch me?"
He glanced at her wordlessly and then stepped into her personal space, "The skin on your face . . . A possible . . . hug?"
He drew back then, his face averted as his arms wrapped around his middle.
"Never mind, forget this happened. It was a bad idea," he muttered and suddenly looked like a lost and scared little boy.
"Gaara?" She couldn't help but reach out to him.
He cringed away from her touch and clenched his eyes shut making the black line even thicker against his pale skin.
All at once, she was reminded of the talk she had had with Naruto after the chuunin exams.
"He's just like me, Sakura, I could have easily turned out the exact same way," his usually bright blue eyes were haunted, "I was on my way but you guys and Iruka-sensei saved me."
"But he had a brother and a sister," she protested.
"They were scared of him and he knew it. His own dad was ordering hits on him," Naruto frowned into his ramen, "No, Sakura, he didn't have anybody."
But he had changed drastically since then. . .
. . . Because he had had Naruto.
She laid a gentle on his cheek. She ignored the feeling of sand armor against her skin to concentrate on the vulnerable green eyes that had sprung open.
"You may touch me if I can touch you back," she informed him softly, "Nothing inappropriate, though."
"Agreed," he replied just as softly and released his sand.
The sand slid off him like water and she had the rare privilege of seeing him without his protection, to touch his surprisingly soft skin.
His hand lifted and after a moments hesitation cupped her cheek, mirroring her hand on him.
She traced the arch of his cheekbone with her thumb and felt him do the same.
Sakura just smiled and dropped her hand to grasp his inactive hand. She brought it up to her other cheek and pressed it there firmly. She let go of his hand, pleased when he didn't let it drop.
Getting the hint, Gaara explored her cheeks, forehead, eyes, chin, and mouth with the pads of his fingers. He touched her as if he were blind and he was trying to piece together her features in his mind to see what she looked like.
One hand touched her hair questioningly, and when she didn't seem to protest, he explored the strands of her hair and scalp.
She wasn't sure how much time had gone by but when his hands left her, she felt it was much too soon. She opened her eyes that she had long since closed to find an emotion she couldn't identify on his face.
He cupped both her cheeks and gently pulled her toward him while angling his face down. She had a wild moment to wonder if he was going to kiss her when he stopped, his lips a breath away from her own.
"You would comfort a monster?" His eyes burned with intensity though he did no more than breathe the words.
The movement had tickled her lips and almost distracted her from the meaning of his words.
Her eyes widened and she licked her lips, accidentally brushing his as she did so, he was so close, and breathed back, "You're not a monster, Gaara."
He pressed his lips against hers, kissing her with all the intensity he possessed, and then he buried his face into the curve of her neck with his lips against her pulse.
She noted absently as she wrapped her arms around his waist that he was trembling. He held her closely as if certain she would disappear and realize it had all been a dream.
She squeezed his waist and rubbed his back gently, comfortingly as she would a small child.
Slowly, he calmed and relaxed into her arms like a large, deadly cat. His warm breath tickled her neck as he started once more to mirror her movements by moving his hands on her back.
He lifted his head slightly which brought his lips to her ear, "May I taste you?"
Heat shot through her as she was forcibly reminded that the person she held in her arms was not a child but a man. Intellectually, she had always known he was a man and not a child but somewhere along the way she had forgotten-
He pressed an open mouth kiss against the curve of her neck and swirled his tongue against her pulse.
He had obviously taken her silence as consent.
She gasped and could help but arch her neck to give him more room as he sucked light at her skin.
She didn't even notice his hands settling on her hips where they kneaded the flesh gently.
Instead she felt her knees go weak as he licked, sucked, and lightly bit a trail to her mouth.
His eyes met hers for a sizzling moment and then he devoured her mouth as heat consumed them both.
She felt her legs give out completely and she might have fallen if he hadn't gathered her body to him so completely.
She found herself braced against the wall with her legs dangling limply on either side of his waist. His hands buried in her hair as he kissed every inch of her face.
A hand gripped her chin, suddenly, and drew her startled eyes to his face.
"Thank you," his lips touched hers gently and then he pulled away.
Or tried to.
"Oh no, you don't!" Inner Sakura roared!
She fisted a hand in his shirt and pulled him back to her.
"Sakura?" He blinked.
"You can't just kiss a girl like that and then walk away," her eyes were a dangerous green.
She kissed him and was gratified to feel him instantly respond to her coaxing by opening his mouth to duel tongues with her.
She wrapped her legs around his waist and angled her hips to settle against his hardness.
He pulled away from the kiss started, his eyes wide with surprise and desire as he searched her face for an endless moment.
Then he was kissing her again as he ground against her. His hands darted along her body as he tried to get as much contact as he could-
The doorknob turned.
Gaara jerked away instantly, his sand instantly creating a barrier around them to keep them safe.
Sakura slipped down with a small yelp and palmed a kunai knife as she tried to see around Gaara.
Temari and Kankuro stood in the doorway with their mouths hanging open in amazement.
End Chapter one
AN: This only has two parts. Expect the second part soon!