A/N: I wrote this a while back when i was in one of my depressed states...hope you enjoy it. BTW, I don't own Naruto.

Chapter 1: And the Thunder Rolls

Thunder was crashing and lightning was flashing as a storm rolled through Konoha. Gaara looked out the window of his best friend's house at the violent blowing of the wind. He sighed and turned around, a frown on his face.

"Naruto, I thought you said that Sakura would be here with food soon. It's been four hours since you talked to her. Don't you think you should check on her?" Naruto looked up at his red headed friend. It was unusual for the normally stoic male to say something like that.

"Are you worried about her Gaara?" Naruto asked with a sly grin on his face. Gaara had to stamp down violently on the blush that was threatening to rise to his cheeks. True, he likes Sakura…enough to date her. But she was dating that asshole Uchiha. He barely let her hang out with Naruto and downright forbade her from hanging out with Gaara.

Before he could protest, his stomach rumbled noisily, letting them know he was very hungry. Gaara took that as his out. "I think that answers your question. I'm freaking starving Naruto!" he growled at the blond Naruto scratched his cheek and laughed.

"Yeah…me too. I guess it won't hurt to call her again. Sasuke sure was testy when I called and asked Sakura to hang out with us. Something about she was supposed to hang out with him." Gaara stiffened at this as Naruto walked over to he phone. He knew that Sasuke had a temper and didn't like for Sakura to choose her friends over him.

Gaara's stomach grumbled again and he looked down at it before plopping on the sofa. 'I wonder what she cooked for us this time?' he wondered and looked up at the ceiling. It had become a bit of a ritual that whenever they all had time, they would take one night out of their week and hang out. Sakura always cooked for them. Her food was also always amazing, unlike Naruto's sad attempts and his own disastrous tendencies.

Gaara sighed and waited for Naruto to come back in. When the blond came in, there was a slight frown on his face. Gaara noticed and sat up. "What's wrong?" There were many things going through Gaara's head at that moment…had she bailed on them?

"No one answered. Sakura doesn't just not answer her phone. I called Sasuke's house and he said he left a long time ago and she had still been at her house, but he sounded strange…almost like he was hiding something." Naruto shook his head and looked at Gaara. Gaara was about to say something when a light knock startled them. Naruto ran to his door and jerked it open. Gaara looked around Naruto and saw Sakura. She was holding three large bento boxes and Gaara could feel his mouth starting to water.

"You're really late, Sakura-chan. You even made Gaara worried." Naruto looked back at his best friend, who glared at him, a slight blush on his face. He noticed that Sakura reddened lightly…too lightly. He cocked his head. When Sakura blushed, she turned really red…there was something going on. Sakura gave them a weak smile and walked in. He noticed she stayed very quiet and seemed to try and make herself look smaller.

Gaara stiffened slightly. Something was nagging at the back of his mind. He took in the smile, the lack of extensive movement, the near exhaustion. He shook his head…Sakura wasn't that kind of girl. She'd cut a man's throat for even suggesting having sex before marriage. He sighed and sat down. He watched as she walked into the room and set the boxes down. She took off her coat with a bit of trouble, Gaara noticed. He didn't say anything, just watched her closely.

"I'm sorry I worried you guys. I just have a bit of a sore throat right now. I think I may be coming down with something." She whispered. Gaara's eyes widened…she sounded awful…like she had screamed and cried for hours on end…

Gaara could tell his friend was lying, but he didn't want to press the issue. Something was going on and she was scared to tell them. He would pry it out of her later, after Naruto went to sleep. She always told him what was wrong…even the things wrong in her relationship with Sasuke. Gaara stood and walked over to her.

"It's fine Sakura-chan…I just thought perhaps you had decided to spend time with Sasuke instead." he watched closely and noticed she flinched when he mentioned the black haired man. Everything inside him went still at that one little flinch. He could see her trembling and her head was down. Something definitely wasn't right. "Sakura-chan-" he never got to finish because at that moment her eyes rolled up into the back of her head and she went crashing to the floor. Luckily Gaara was able to catch her before she hurt herself.

He pulled her body closer to his and he felt her flinch, her body stiff and tense. He gasped as he noticed large amounts of foundation rubbing off on his black clothing. He pulled away and saw a horrendous sight. Sakura had bruises on her arms, her legs, her neck, her face…everywhere he could see, there was at least one bruise. Her left eye was swollen and black, there was a cut that ran from her lip almost to her chin, and worst of all, there were purple fingerprints around her delicate throat.

"NARUTO!" he yelled as he stared at her limp form. Naruto barreled into the room at the urgency in his friend's voice. Naruto came to a screeching halt as he saw Sakura, beaten and bruised. He looked at Gaara, who look shocked and horrified. The red head looked up at him.

"Wha…who…why!?" the red head demanded hoarsely. Naruto approached them slowly, not knowing how Gaara would react. He knew very well that Gaara was extremely attached to Sakura…for many reasons. The biggest reason had been her unquestioning acceptance of him. She had never looked down on him like everyone else had just because he was an orphan. That was why Naruto was so attached to her.

Naruto thought long and hard about what could have happened to their friend. He started listing things out loud, to distraught to hold it in. "Mugged on her way here? No, she has a cell phone. Fall? No, that doesn't explain the face and neck." The only other possibility made him freeze. He and Gaara looked at one another, ice seeping into jade and sapphire.

"Sasuke…" they both said at the same time. Naruto started marching towards the door, his coat in hand. He was almost to it when a moan caught his attention…Sakura was waking up. He heard her pained gasps, her muffled sobs. Naruto clench his fists and ground his teeth. He was about to storm out when a noise froze him.

"N-naru-t-to…" she whispered lightly. Naruto turned to see the young woman he considered his sister lying in the arms of his best friend, beaten nearly to death. Naruto fought back the tears and quietly closed the door. He walked over to her and knelt beside her. Tears leaked from his eyes as he stared at her.

"Hey Kura-chan…you look like shit." He teased, trying to lighten the mood. Gaara watched the two interact. They had both been raised by the same woman…Sakura's mother. Tsunade had been a rare woman…she had loved every child she ever met and never turned her back on one. She opened her home to every child that had ever been in need of one…including him. He stiffened when she attempted to laugh and only ended up coughing violently. Gaara looked up at Naruto, who looked back at him. They nodded in agreement.

Gaara picked her up while Naruto grabbed a thick blanket. They wrapped her in it as gently as they could and Naruto grabbed the keys to his car. Both made their way outside where the rain was pouring down. Gaara used his body to shield her as he ran to the large SUV. He opened the rear passenger door and got in, Sakura in his arms. He could feel her trembling and wondered if she was cold or afraid. He decided to let her know he would, could, never hurt her.

"Sakura-chan…I swear on my life that I'll make him pay. I won't ever let him hurt you again…I promise." he choked out and then kissed her with surprising tenderness on her forehead. He looked up to see Naruto looking at him in the rear view mirror. Gaara blushed lightly and cleared his throat. "Maybe you should call Hinata. She's really close to Sakura. Ino too. Maybe they can shed some light because it's obvious that something has been going on and Sakura hasn't been telling us."

Naruto's eyes widened and he nodded. He started the car, making sure the heat was on so that Sakura wouldn't get cold. Gaara felt Sakura squirm closer to him…whether for body heat or the sense of safety he didn't know. All the same, he sighed and wrapped her up in as tight a hug as he dared with all her bruises.

Gaara could hear Naruto talking low on the phone, letting whoever was on the other end know that they had to take Sakura to the hospital. He heard a light tone and then Naruto was speaking again. When the words Sakura and hospital were both out in the same sentence, Gaara heard Ino's voice loud and clear. "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT 'YOU'RE TAKING SAKURA TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM'!? WHY THE HELL WOULD SHE NEED TO GO THERE!? UZUMAKI, WHAT DID YOU DO TO HER!?" Naruto growled low under his breath, something about bitchy psycho blonds being in love with scum sucking assholes with black hair and blaming everything on the innocent party.

Apparently, Ino heard this. "WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT INNOCENT!? YOU HAVEN'T BEEN INNOCENT SINCE…EVER! AND I'M NOT PSYCHO NOR AM I IN LOVE WITH SASUKE. I'M ENGAGED, REMEMBER!?" Gaara sweat dropped when he remembered the announcement that had been made during his 1:30 Shakespeare class: Ino and Kiba were getting married…finally. They had been dating since freshmen year in high school and were now engaged as juniors in college. Naruto seemed to have just remembered that too, but he still didn't apologize.

"Ino, Sakura was four hours late getting to my house after I called her and asked her to hang out tonight. Sasuke was at her house when I called. He sounded mad that she had already agreed to spend time with me and Gaara. Also, when I called her house, she didn't pick up and when I called his house, he sounded like he was hiding something." Naruto's voice could have made a clean cut through diamond at this point. He was really angry.

"S-so you're saying…S-sasuke…that Sasuke…beat her?" Even though she wasn't yelling anymore, Gaara could hear her. She sounded dumbfounded…and scared. Gaara was about to make a comment when Ino cut him off. "I'll be there in 3 minutes. If you're not there when I get there Uzumaki, you'll be eating through a straw for the next seven months." Gaara's eyes widened, as did Naruto's, at such a violent declaration from the normally bubbly blond Sure, occasionally her and Sakura got into shouting matches and did the whole name calling thing, but they always ended up laughing about it five minutes later. Neither had ever heard her be so…cold. Naruto blinked as he realized the line had gone dead. He jumped as he realized he had only two minutes left to get to the hospital before Ino.

Gaara grunted as Naruto accelerated suddenly. Gaara had a bad feeling they were going to get pulled over. Hoping that his gut was wrong, her looked down when Sakura began moaning again. She sounded so scared…Gaara took her hand gently and began placing soft kisses on her knuckles. This calmed her and he continued to kiss her softly. First her knuckles, then her wrist, and then her forearm. He kissed every bruise he could reach on her arm without waking her.

However, he could not stop the blaring of the siren that was suddenly hot on their bumper. Naruto jumped and looked at the flashing red and blues behind his SUV. He pulled over and waited for the officer to come up to the window. When he did, Naruto rolled his window down and started yelling frantically. "PLEASE OFFICER, YOU HAVE TO LET US GO. MY SISTER'S BEEN BEATEN REALLY BADLY AND WE HAVE TO GET HER TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM! YOU CAN HOP IN WITH US AND GIVE ME A TICKET AFTER I GET HER THERE, BUT PLEASE, YOU HAVE TO HURRY!" Gaara could see the dazed look on the man's face. The officer craned his neck and looked back at Gaara, who was holding Sakura protectively. The officer nodded and ran over to the front passenger door. He got in and closed the door. He immediately turned around to assess the situation.

"So, what happened?" he asked, his kind chocolate eyes looking straight at Sakura. Gaara kicked Naruto's seat and growled.

"Ino's going to assassinate you if you're not at the hospital when she gets there. You know she'll do it too, especially when she sees Sakura's condition." The officer saw the blond boy pale and put the car into drive. The brown haired officer sighed and radioed for someone to pick up his cruiser because he was in route to the emergency room with a young woman and her brothers.

Gaara cleared his throat as he waited for the officer to finish. He then corrected the officer. "I'm sorry officer, but I'm not her bother. I'm her best friend. Naruto's her brother." The officer shrugged and repeated his question. Gaara sighed and looked down at his friend…his first crush.

"Naruto called Sakura at the house that they grew up in. Naruto is Sakura's foster brother. Sakura lives alone in her mother's house about twenty minutes from Naruto. Naruto asked Sakura if she wanted to come over and have our 'GSN' night. Basically it's just where the three of us hang out at Naruto's house and eat the food Sakura brings us and watch movies and play games all night." Gaara took a breath and looked down at Sakura. His heart clenched as he noticed her other eye beginning to swell. He shook his head and looked back at the officer.

"We were waiting for her to get there with the food when the storm started. I started to get worried because she was four hours late. She's never late for anything, no matter how trivial it may seem. At first I thought maybe her and her boyfriend had fought again. He doesn't like for her to be around me because he thinks I'm trying to steal her from him." Gaara blushed as the officer smiled at him. He continued with his explanation. "After a little while more went by, I started thinking she had decided to humor Sasuke and stay with him tonight, not at his house, just hang out with him. She's not the kind of girl to stay the night with a guy, no matter who he was. She won't even stay the night with me and Naruto, and Naruto's her brother." The officer nodded, writing everything down.

Gaara sighed as he felt her shift in his arms. He soothed her again by kissing her hand and blushed bright red when the officer cleared his throat. Gaara decided to continue without looking up. "However, Naruto called her and she didn't pick up. She always picks up if she's at home and can get to her phone. He called Sasuke when Sakura didn't answer to see if she had gone over there with him. Sasuke said he'd left her hours ago, but when Naruto came out he was frowning. I asked him what was wrong and he said that Sasuke had sounded like he was hiding something. I was going to make a comment about him, but there was a knock at the door. Naruto answered it and it was Sakura." The officer nodded for him to continue after Gaara paused for a bit to let him catch up.

"Naruto teased her about me and she blushed, only she wasn't bright red like she normally would be. That's what made me wary. I started watching her and noticed she was really quiet and would shrink away from Naruto or myself if we got really close to her. She had trouble taking off her coat as well. When she spoke, it sounded like she'd been screaming and crying for hours, like her throat was raw." Gaara could feel the emotion building in his throat, making it hard to talk.

The officer gave him time to recover and he continued relating the event as he'd seen them. "She said she was coming down with a bug or something, but I knew she was lying. I thought she was trying to avoid upsetting Naruto. I knew I could coax her into telling me later, she always tells me what's wrong." Gaara heard the grunt from the blond in the front seat and could just imagine his petulant look. Gaara gave a weak smile, but his eyes remained on Sakura.

"Before I could tell her we'd talk about it later, I had a brain fart and mentioned Sasuke. She flinched and stiffened immediately…that really caught my attention. I was going to ask her if she was alright, but her eyes rolled up into the back of her head and she passed out. I caught her and held her and that's when I noticed there were big makeup splotches on my clothes. When I looked at her, I saw bruises everywhere, her eye was swollen and black, her lip had this big cut in it…she looked like she'd gotten into a fight with a professional boxer." Gaara's teeth were clench and he was holding back tears.

Gaara took a deep breath and calmed himself…he'd beat the living crap out of Sasuke later. Right now, Sakura needed his help. "I called Naruto into the room and we began to go through all the possible things that could have happened to her that were plausible. She didn't get mugged, because she has her cell and there's a panic button on it, plus she has mace in her purse. We ruled out fall because there are fingerprint sized bruises on her neck, like someone had been choking her." Gaara's voice became colder as he spoke. He was really getting mad. "It then occurred to us that Sasuke, her boyfriend, had been in the house with her when Naruto called. He'd been angry and was yelling at her…you could hear him over the phone. When they'd hung up, we assumed Sakura would be on her way, just like normal. However, she was four hours late, as I mentioned earlier. Then there was the phone call to Sasuke, who had sounded like he was hiding something. Naruto and I came to the same conclusion…Sasuke beat Sakura up. What we don't know, is why." Gaara could feel Sakura's breathing become shallow and his eyes widened. He looked up at Naruto frantically.

"Naruto, she can't breathe…hurry the hell up!" He panicked and pulled her up into his lap so that she was leaning against his chest. Her breathing eased and Gaara sighed in relief. Seconds later, they were outside the emergency room. Naruto slammed the SUV into park. He ripped his door open and ran to the passenger side, his door gagged wide open. He threw open the rear passenger door and stood aside so Gaara could get out. The officer said he'd take care of the SUV and Naruto nodded, running in with Gaara.

Doctors flooded around them as they saw the two young men bring in the unconscious young woman. She was put on a bed and immediately started gasping for air. Gaara panicked and sat her up, which helped slightly. The doctors were able to stabilize her long enough to rush her back into emergency surgery. Gaara stood at the double doors that had the big red 'EMERGENCY' sign above it. Two male nurses had stopped him from following and it had taken both of them to keep him there.

Gaara glared at them, but went back to the waiting area to sit with Naruto. When he got there, Ino was there and was bawling her eyes out against Kiba's chest. Hinata was there as well and she had a comforting hand on Naruto's back. She rubbed his back as his body was wracked with silent sobs. Gaara stood there and saw the devastation this cruel act had wrought. He shook his head and looked over his shoulder at the doors Sakura had disappeared through. "Please be okay…" he begged and sat down beside his best friend. The only person that would have consoled him, was the very woman they were worried about. He sighed and rested his head against the back of his chair, waiting for new…any news.

The news he got, however, was not the news he wanted. The officer that had taken his statement walked up to them, a gentle smile on his face. "Now that the rush is over, I can introduce myself. My name is Officer Umino, but you can call me Iruka." the man held out his hand, but Gaara just stared up at him, his eyes blank and his face twisted in a scowl. Iruka withdrew his hand and nodded. "I can understand why you're not in the greeting mood. I'm sorry about your friend. However, I have news for you both concerning Uchiha Sasuke, the man both of you are convinced beat Haruno-san." Naruto and Gaara sat upright, their attention centered on the officer.

Iruka cleared his throat and nodded. "After I took your statement and parked your car for you, I radioed a unit to check out Haruno-san's house. There were signs of an immense struggle in the kitchen and living room. There was blood on one of the walls and a bloody hand print on the doorknob. The print belonged to Uchiha." Iruka saw the dark look that overcame the two young men he knew and also the dark features of another young man he'd yet to be introduced to. However, he had to continue.

"My partner, Officer Hatake, went to the Uchiha house to find Uchiha Sasuke packing several bags into the trunk of his car. Uchiha was apprehended and taken to our headquarters. When asked why he was packing, he said he was going to visit his brother. When confronted with the evidence, he scoffed and said the blood was his. He said that Sakura attacked him while they had argued and that he had left." He noticed the disbelieving looks on their faces. He sighed and rubbed his face.

"We had the blood tested…it was Haruno-sans, not Uchiha's. We also had a doctor give Uchiha a checkup. Besides a large red mark on the side of his face and a large bruise on his chest, there was no where the blood could have come from. He is currently in our custody. Haruno-san can press charges at any time, if she regains consciousness." Iruka smiled at them, but Gaara scowled.

"When…" Gaara said forcefully, startling Iruka. The officer cocked his head and Gaara sighed. "When she regains consciousness, she can press charges." Gaara got up and turned his back on the officer. He thought for several seconds and then turned to the officer with cold eyes. "I suggest you keep Sasuke in jail for as long as you can…for his own safety." Iruka gasped as he noticed the two other men nodding in agreement. He saw a young blond woman with tear stains on her face curled up against the brunette he'd yet to meet. A dark haired young lady was leaning against the blond he'd pulled over for speeding. He nodded in understanding and looked back at the red head.

Iruka kind of felt bad for Uchiha Sasuke…he'd made some very powerful enemies tonight. Iruka turned and started walking away. He waved his hand and locked eyes with the blond "Next time, if you're having an emergency and need to get somewhere fast, give me a call. I'll see if I can get you an escort." Iruka tossed his card to the young man and left without another word. Naruto blinked several times and looked at the card. He smiled and gave the man a thumbs up.

It was about that time that Gaara saw a woman walking towards them. She had a set look on her face. Gaara steeled himself for the worse. "You are the friends and family on Haruno Sakura, correct?" she asked lightly, as if she were intruding. Gaara nodded for them and waited. She sighed and motioned them to follow her. Gaara was very nervous at that moment.

They were led into a room with two beds and a sofa. The nurse turned to them with a sad smile. "Haruno-san is in surgery right now. She'll most likely be there most of the night and maybe a little into the next morning. She's in really bad shape. But our doctors are the best. So just have hope. You can sleep here and I'll come and get you if there is any news." Gaara nodded as he looked out the window. He watched Kiba lay Ino on one of the beds and snuggle up behind her. Hinata was awake, barely, and was rubbing Naruto's back while she leaned against it. Gaara walked over to his best friend.

"Get some sleep, Naruto. I'll wake you up as soon as I have news on Sakura." He looked at the blond, who seemed to be debating. Finally giving in to the need for rest, the blond nodded and turned so that Hinata was pressed against his chest. Neither said anything as Naruto laid on his back and pulled Hinata down so that her head was right under his chin. He held her against him like a lifeline…like he was afraid to let her go…like Gaara wanted to hold Sakura.