Check out Sonnet 116, by William Shakespeare, to understand the title.

This is actually intended to be a prelude to a longer story, and ... what? What is that? Are you asking me what the hell I'm doing starting another story while I have so many yet unfinished? All I can say is, writer's block works in mysterious ways . . .

I haven't done MatsuGaa for a long time, and I miss it. Special thanks goes to Ednama, for listening to (and replying to!) my prattle, and to Tiger, for ... pretty much the same reason ^_^. Hope you two, among others, enjoys this one.

To Look On Tempests

Chapter I

They watched in silence as the small, slim device dipped into the little cup, touching down lightly into the amber depths. They watched as it withdrew, brightly wet in the bathroom's light. They watched it darken, turning slowly from white to a pale, merciless pink.

Matsuri put the testing stick down onto the cloth spread out over the table, and she and Gaara, standing together, side by side, gazed somberly at the three other pregnancy tests laying beside the fourth, and most recent, one.

All were positive.

"It was only twice," Matsuri finally said, and turned her dark eyes hesitantly to Gaara's. They were too wide in her pale face, too young, too bright. "Only . . . only twice . . ."

They looked back to the row of pink sticks, gleaming in the bathroom light, the color of warm and budding things, of flesh.

". . . What are we going to do?" she said finally, and her voice, for all its softness, was too loud, too lonely.

"I . . . I don't know." Gaara reached out, touched the newest test. It felt hard below his fingers, plastic, undeniable, real. "I'm . . . sorry."

"Are we . . . still friends?"

Surprised, he turned to look at her, at her too-dark eyes and their uncertainty.

"Of course."

She looked so pale and sad in the too-harsh light, and he took her hand in his, something he had seen people do before, something Temari had done for him when he was ill, and when he held her like that, she seemed to relax a little. Her hand was firm, its curves and dips warm below his own touch.

"Of course we are." He repeated, and felt the weight of those words on him. Friends. Friends. So . . . normal, after all this time, and yet so . . . new. Years . . . both forever and an blink of an eye, too long and too short and . . . friends.

She held his hand back, and they stared down at the pregnancy tests, and the world seemed a very lonely place, with the darkness pressed right up to the windows.

"The Council," Matsuri began. "What are . . . I mean . . ."

"Don't worry." Gaara said, a bit brusquely.

"But –"

"You and I and . . . and this . . ." He tapped his nail to the head of the pregnancy test, "this is none of their business. This is our business. We're in this together . . ."

His voice trailed off, and she looked up at him.

"Sure we are, Gaara."

"Yes . . ."

He paused. She was biting her lip.

"Hey, Gaara?"

"Hm?"

Her black eyes moved slightly, as if she was going to look away, but didn't.

"Would you . . . marry me?"

He stared at her, at the dark wisps of hair falling forward over her cheeks, at eyes that were now determinedly fixed on his hands.

"Would you want me to?" He asked softly. "I do not want this to force you into . . . I do not . . . I want you to be happy. Matsuri . . . I have so many problems. I . . . you deserve . . . I do not want you to be stuck with . . ."

She was staring at him now, and the helpless, sad space inside him, the dark feeling he could never name, constricted, as if there were not enough words in all the world to say what he wanted to say.

". . . I want you to be happy." He said, and felt as if he had said everything.

They were still, standing beside the table, the clock ticking slowly in the background.

"Are you saying," Matsuri said finally, her eyes moving back up to his, her face tilting up so that she was looking him full in the eye, "that you don't want me to marry you because you don't think I deserve to be forced to deal with you?"

". . . I guess so." Gaara whispered.

They stared at each other, blue eyes to black.

"Gaara?"

He forced himself to look at her, and nodded.

"That's . . . that's absolute bullshit." Matsuri said vehemently.

He didn't say anything, and in that one moment, Matsuri could see the worry and the insecurity that shock had brought into sharp, pitiless focus carved clearly into her friend's face.

She took her hand from his, and then clasped both of his hands in her own, bringing them together in the space between them.

"I . . . love you. I love you. I have for a . . . a very long time. This –" she laid a hand over her womb, fingers spread across her body, "This wouldn't be here if I didn't love you. This wouldn't be created if we didn't –"

Gaara stared numbly at her, and she seemed to read his mind, because her face softened.

"Gaara . . . I understand."

"I don't know." He said sadly. "I just . . . you are precious to me, but I . . . cannot . . ."

"I understand."

"What if I never –"

She tightened her grip. "I don't care."

"But–"

How easily hurt, Matsuri thought, we are. The naked look of pain on Gaara's face was something that hurt, something that pricked her eyes and burned her throat.

"What you can give me – that's enough. That's fine. Gaara . . . I know how you feel. I know. Love is . . . hard. It's not anything specific, not anything nameable . . . it just is . . . ok?"

She searched his face intently.

"Ok?"

Gaara slowly shook his head. "You should have someone else. Someone who can . . ."

His voice seemed to crack, and what came next was a small, vulnerable, anguished.

"What if I hurt you?"

Now Matsuri was shaking her head.

"What," she said, "if I hurt you?"

"That's not . . ."

They stared at each other.

"I don't trust myself." Gaara said finally, and the voice that spoke those words, like his expression, was raw, and pained. "I'm sorry, Matsuri, but this . . . being close like this . . . those two times . . ."

"It wasn't a mistake."

"But it was irresponsible. I could have lost . . ."

"No."

"You –"

"No." She brought their hands up, showing him their hands holding on together, and found his eyes. "You wouldn't have lost control. You're stronger than that."

"It will never hurt you," Gaara whispered, almost sharply. "Not while I can fight. But, Matsuri . . . sometimes . . . sometimes I can't fight."

"I know." She said. "And I've seen that. It's ok."

"It's not ok." Gaara whispered harshly. "What if I hurt you? Or the . . . the baby?"

The word was odd in his mouth, foreign, as if it didn't quite fit, didn't quite make sense. It hung in the air, and Matsuri was silent as Gaara breathed in deeply, and bit his lip.

"Our baby?"

"You won't." Matsuri said. She let go of him, brought up her hand, and brushed her fingers through his red hair. Her touch lingered on the scar cut into his forehead, love carved out in no uncertain terms.

"Gaara . . ." She swallowed, and searched for the words, "I know . . . what you're talking about. I know the danger. I've been there – I've gone there with you – and I never got hurt. All I got to do was see you get hurt, and all I could do about it was try to make it better, and I never really could. But I never got hurt. You're stronger than that. I know you are. I trust you."

He looked away, eyes distant, mouth pressed tight.

"You love me." She said simply.

"I don't know." He replied. "I . . . can't tell. I don't know . . ."

"You love Temari and Kankuro."

"I . . ."

"You loved Yashamaru."

He was silent, and the eyes that came back to hers were haunted, and unhappy.

"You love me," she repeated firmly. "I know, even if you can't define it, even if you fumble in the darkness for it, even if you can't find its shape . . . you love me. You come back for me. You help me. You take care of me. We talk. I feel complete with you. When you're gone, I feel like a piece of me is missing . . ."

They were looking at each other, and some of the pain in Gaara's eyes seemed to ease.

"You love me." She said softly, black eyes intent on him. "I love you. We have a . . a baby." She took his hand in her own again, and brought it to her belly, against the spot where she and he had worked a miracle. "We have a family."

Gaara's eyes followed his hand, before moving back up to her face. "We . . ."

"Yeah." Matsuri drew in a breath, past her anxiety, past her worry, past her thoughts of how the Council would react and how her chuunin cell would react and how Temari and Kankuro were going to react and how everyone was going to react, and smiled. "We're a family. You, and me, and Temari, and Kankuro, and this baby."

Gaara watched her soberly, his gaze turned inward, and his hand still in her own, still pressed up against her.

"That's true," he finally said, and Matsuri stepped forward and hugged him, in profound and strong reply to the question in those words.

The bathroom, so white and empty, seemed a poor place for romance, but they didn't have romance, she thought. They had loyalty. They had a thousand moments by each other's side, resting across the fire on a mission, sneaking through darkened alleys, tending wounds, both of the flesh and of the heart . . . talking . . . bringing cups of tea . . . just being there. The teddy bear he had given her all those months and months ago, when she had just recently become his student, and he learned that she was scared of being alone at night. The time he got very ill, and she had stayed by his side in the hospital the whole night. The night three weeks ago, when the dust storm had come and turned everything to nighttime, and the howling winds made the world such a strange and lonely place.

Matsuri buried her nose in Gaara's thick hair, and held on. And after a moment, Gaara held back, even stroked some stray strands of hair from Matsuri's face with his light touch, the kind of gesture that says a thousand things.

The clock chanted its stilted chant, as if it was a witness to something that was best left to silence.

After a long, long moment, Gaara moved his hands down to Matsuri's shoulders, and gently broke free of her. Surprised, Matsuri lifted her head, but Gaara held up a hand for silence.

"I . . ." he said seriously, blue eyes both purposeful and distant, "I have to do this properly."

He returned twenty minutes later with a rose.