Love: a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.

Grains of sand danced around her rosy locks as she stood completely immobile, tranquil in the silence. It was sunset and time for her to go home. Her stomach was empty, desperately crying for some nourishment. She didn't want her food in her bag to get cold.

But her body refused to move a single muscle.

Why?

Whether this young female was aware of the answer or not, it sat right before her – tears streaming down his pale face, his head lying down in his arms.

Elaborate designs splattered the desert sands, slowly drifting away in the slightest breeze.

She had only a glimpse of the cruelty that transpired here. This red-haired boy had walked passed a group of children, and they all ran away, fear flooded in all of their innocent eyes.

'Why were they so cruel?' she wondered, feeling sympathy rush through her systems. She was not sure what to do in this sort of situation. She nibbled on her lower lip, considering her options.

Should she just walk away? The children must have had a genuinely good reason to run, the girl reasoned. It may be safer to get out of there while she had a chance…

She inwardly slapped herself for such a thought as she continued watching the boy. His shoulders shook violently. More tears rushed down from his orbs, leaving a sparkling, iridescent trail down his cheeks. Each tear was like a stab to her heart, hot and painful as the liquids that streamed down his face.

Or…

The girl finally made her decision, her feet already moving forth after a quick adjustment of her small bag. Her hand stretched forward.

"Need some help?" She asked, a light smile tugging at the corners of her lips. The fiery haired boy gawked quite awkwardly at her outstretched hand, surprise and raw pain swirling in his pale orbs.

"Come on! You don't want to sit in this huge sandbox all day, do you?" she asked, her hand unwavering.

The boy slowly lifted his hand from his side, inching closer… and closer… until finally…

"Now, let's get up!' She grunted, pulling the boy up to his feet. "Whew… doesn't that feel better? Now come on! I'm escorting you home… um, is that okay with you?" A moment passed by without a single reply when suddenly the little girl gasped. "Oh my god!"

The young boy's light blue spheres widened, his bright orbs tremulous in the white sclera. She smacked her palms to her cheeks, causing the young boy to cringe and drop his gaze. "I never told you my name! What kind of person am I? Where are my manners?"

The pink-haired female nervously scratched her head, embarrassed that she forgot such important polite regulations. The boy furrowed his brows together, watching as the girl stretch her hand towards him.

"Masami! Nice to meet you!" A large smile spread over her lips, friendly and inviting.

His pale blue orbs dropped downcast to gaze at her pallid hand before meeting a pair of rosy irises, kind and innocent. He lifted his hand from his sides, grasping her warm palm into his.

"G…Gaara," he stuttered, a smirk slowly emerging at the corners of his thin lips.

* [X . o ] ~ v ~ [ o . X ] *

A bright beam of sunlight bled out into the room through a breach in the curtains, caressing Masami's pale lids ajar and gently lifting her from her dreamy haze. A yawn erupted from her throat as she blinked away the stream of illumination. Her ruby orbs looked down to see a pile of papers lying innocently beneath her, acting as her pillow for her mini nap.

'Oops… I guess I fell asleep…' Masami deliberated groggily. She giggled at the sight, quickly straightening out the stack. 'I still can't believe I still remember that far back!'

"About time you woke up."

Masami held her breath. Her heart immediately stopped beating. Could it be?

"Gaara?" She quickly snapped her head around towards the voice, a smile gracing her lips.

That grin slowly evaporated when she saw a completely different figure, one that was not even the same gender as the redhead. Her blonde hair was tied in her traditional pigtails, and her dark orbs blinked several times.

"Oh… Temari-senpai… it's you," Masami mumbled in a rather deadpanned tone, attempting (But failing) to conceal her disappointment.

Temari released a low scoff. "Gee, thanks for sounding so happy to see me. To think I was so excited to see my closest friend after a long, grueling mission. I never knew Masa-chan would be so mean to me…"

"Ah! I'm sorry, Temari-chan! I'm really happy to see you!" Masami cried, running to give her friend a big hug. "I was just…hoping that's all."

Once they separated, Temari simply nodded her head in understanding. "You and me both. Gaara has been pretty busy ever since he finally became kazekage, neh? I miss him!"

Masami nodded her head, looking down at the wooden tiling. "Yeah… he has."

Years had passed since Masami and Gaara had first met when they were just children. She had always remained by his side as a loyal friend, no matter what. Of course, sometimes it was tough, but she was willing to endure it.

She especially stood by him when he was chosen to be kazekage. To her, he was a natural candidate. He had far surpassed her mediocre abilities, of the skill of any sand shinobi.

She absently recalled how she even had attempted the jounin exams with Temari… but when she fought with the fan user, she lost – badly. Masami has always been content with chunin level so she never minded.

"But I doubt Gaara would be happy if you kept slacking off like this! What type of assistant are you?" Temari teased.

Masami's lips curved to a silly grin as she scratched her head. "Yeah… I guess after I was done organizing the stacks of paper, I never realized just how soft they are! I thought I slept like a baby. Besides the stacks are fine! See?" Masami quickly pointed to one her perfect pile of parchments when she accidentally pushed it over the table, scattering pieces of white all over the room. "Oops?"

"Masa-chan, I think that is why you never became a jounin yet…"

"… Be quiet and help me clean up."

Both kunoichi kneeled down and gathered the fallen pieces, reorganizing them back to a pile.

"But did you hear? Gaara is finally coming back from a mission!"

"Yeah, I heard." Masami limply shrugged her shoulders at the thought, indolently placing the neatened stack back atop the mahogany tabletop.

The blonde jounin gazed at the languid female curiously, raising an eyebrow at her uncharacteristic glumness. "Hey, what's the matter with you? Usually you would be jumping and screaming like some nutcase at the fact."

Masami refused to respond, despondently arranging the already tidy piles.

"And now I thought about it… what's the matter with you the passed few weeks? You haven't been as cheerful as you usually are." Seeing the pink-haired female was not going to offer a reply any times soon, Temari drew closer, placing a comforting hand over her shoulder. "I thought you'd be happy once he became kazekage."

"I am happy," Masami insisted. By the dubious look varnishing the blonde's tanned features, she knew Temari was far from convinced.

"Sure… but are you sure you don't want to talk about it? I'm a good listener you know."

The pink-haired female watched as Temari pulled out a chair from the table, placing herself before her as she awaited a response. With a dramatic shrug of her shoulders, Masami complied. "Fine… I really am glad Gaara finally became kazekage and all. I just never realized that I would not see him as much as I'd like to. He's always busy with paperwork or someone needs to speak with him concerning the village… I feel he doesn't need me around anymore. I'm almost a burden to him." Masami wrapped her pallid fingers around her arms and continued, "I'm not anyone special really so there's no point in me hanging around him. Heck, he even has fan girls for god's sakes!"

Almost on cue, their attention was attracted by a small murmur chatter, resonating from two females that tried sneaking passed the two towards Gaara's office.

Enraged, Temari flew from her seat and barked from the doorway, "Hey, you two! You have no business in this area! Kazekage-sama is not even here."

The two kunoichi shrieked, trembling at the sight of the blonde jounin and a curious pink-haired chunin. "Ack! T…Temari-senpai… Masami-san… We… we were just…"

"I suggest you two get out now. You have no business here," Temari threatened, reaching for her large fan behind her back. The two girls screamed and raced out. The blonde relaxed, exhaling a distraught burst of air. "Idiotic females… Lousy excuses for Suna kunoichi…"

"Even if they are, that just proves my point," Masami pointed out, seating herself in the empty chair. "He… he doesn't need my anymore…"

A blonde brow raised, her eyes scrutinizing the floral female's forlorn expression curiously. She then moaned, "Oh my god… You haven't noticed?" Masami, in turn, furrowed her own brows, gawking at the blonde girl questioningly. "Here I believed he would be the oblivious one!"

Her friend then inquired, "Temari, what are you talking about?"

Temari shook her head, assuring her it really was nothing. Temari then muttered in a low voice, "Well, I guess that's his fault. He still didn't find the courage to tell her…"

The ruby-eyed female ignored her companion's mystifying comment and simply asked, "So what do you think? I really should just stay out of his life now that his dream is fulfilled, shouldn't I?"

"No! Get that stupid little thought out your head this instant!" Temari shouted vehemently. "You must be insane if you think that. Don't you realize that…"

"Well hello there, Masami!" A voice greeted her, interrupting Temari from her long harangue. An arm loped around the pink girl's shoulders, tugging her into an embrace.

"Ah! Kankuro-san, you came back from your mission as well?" Masami inquired, staring into his purple painted face.

"Of course! We succeeded naturally," Kankuro boasted with a cocky smirk. "So how's little Masa-chan though? It's almost a crime to let such a pretty little thing stay cooped up in this place for so long."

"Kankuro, you know I'm here too, right?" Temari growled, placing her hands over her hips.

"Yes, I'm aware, onee-san," Kankuro said dismissively, waving her away with an airy wave of his hand. "Now don't you have some work to do? I have some catching up with Masami here."

"Oi, hentai!" Temari quickly smacked her brother right in the head, causing him to separate from the innocent female. "Give Masami some space for god's sakes!"

"Jeez… so cruel, Temari. Cut a guy some slack…"

"Just tell us what you want."

"Hey, I can't just say hello to Masa-chan anymore?"

"In your case, hell no. Now spill."

Kankuro shrugged his shoulders and indifferently said, "Well Gaara's finally back, and he wanted to see Masa-chan, but that's not all that special." With a bright smile curving his lips, he asked, "Now, Masami, what would you like for your…"

Masami cried, jumping up from her seat, "Gaara's back?!" Her ruby eyes sparkled brightly as she dashed out the door, leaving the two sand siblings all by their lonesome.

Temari rolled eyes, "Smooth…"

The male brunette then shouted, "Well do you know what she likes? You didn't get her anything either. At least I tried finding out."

The blonde then replied calmly, "Well I don't need to ask. I'm her best friend, and as her best friend, I know that she's not the materialistic type."

He blinked several times. "She's… not? Then what are we supposed to give her?"

The fan user pondered that inquiry in her mind, nibbling on her thin bottom lip. Suddenly, inspiration struck. "I think I know the perfect gift!"

The puppeteer joked, "Me, right?"

"Ack, you hentai! Shut your trap!" Temari shouted, again hitting her sibling in the head.

"I was kidding! Jeez… no sense of humor…" he whined, massaging his tender skull.

With a bright nerve pulsating from her pallid temple, she then told him, "Just come. We're going shopping."

"But, wait… you just said…"

"Just come already!"

Not wishing for yet another smack to his beaten cranium, Kankuro conceded, following his blonde sister through the doorway.

Meanwhile, Masami raced through the hallways, her heart nearly overflowing with joy. 'Hee! It seems like yesterday we were talking about something like this… who could have guessed?'

* [X . o ] ~ v ~ [ o . X ] *

"Ooh… this is so cool!" Her younger self exclaimed, tentatively stroking the sand that surrounded the redhead. "I don't see what's so bad about it. It's awesome!"

After the two children met each other, Gaara had led her up to the roof, allowing them a private place for them to just talk.

"Masami-san, you're changing the subject," Gaara said. "I still can't believe you don't have any parents…"

The pink-haired girl shrugged her shoulders, admitting, "They died in a mission when I was still an infant. I have to live in an orphanage, but they're really nice. They let me go as I please, so no biggies! And I'm glad I did go out today!"

"W… why?" The young red-haired boy inquired, his blue eyes wide, brimming with honest curiosity and incredulity.

"You know what I mean. How could those kids be such big meanies." The floral female scowled at the memory. "You're not a bad person."

"That's what you think…" Gaara chuckled wryly, turning his pale orbs towards the starry sky. "People have always treated me differently, looking down at me like I'm some sort of disease or something that just doesn't belong..."

Silence slowly manifested itself, thickening the air in a nearly suffocating veil. Masami sat quietly in her place, gazing at the forlorn boy with sympathetic eyes. She soon broke the silence, "Well… maybe you have to change that." Gaara simply turned around to stare into her sparkling ruby eyes, shining with great determination. "Yeah! Instead of everyone looking down, you'll make it so that everyone looks up to you!" The pink-haired child cheered happily. "Then they'll see there's more to you then what they think! BELIEVE IT!"

The young boy simply stared at the pinkette as she jumped to her feet, her rosy spheres nearly radiating with encouragement. Gaara simply chuckled. "Masami-san, you surely are strange."

"But it's true… It can happen," she whined, dropping her shoulders. Gaara simply nodded his head, a semblance of a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. Pleased by that reaction, Masami plopped herself down, devouring her last piece of food in one bite.

"… How could you swallow a whole stick of dangos in one bite?" he inquired, staring curiously as she pulled the empty wooden stick from her lips.

After she finished chewing her meal, she replied with great exuberance, "Easy! I love dangos!"

"I can tell, Masami-san."

She then said with a loud humph, "And how many times do I have to tell you? Stop calling me Masami-san! Just call me Masami or Masa-chan at least. That makes me sound old."

"I know. I'll keep trying," he assured her.

"You better! Well… I have to go. See you around?" Masami asked, rising to her feet.

A genuine smile curved his lips as he nodded his head. "Yeah. See you."

* [X . o ] ~ v ~ [ o . X ] *

'And he said I was weird for saying that… ha! Look at him now!' Masami mused, standing right before his doorway. She quickly drew in a abundant amount of air into her lungs, quickly brushing off any errant grains of sand that clung to her clothing. 'Jeez… what am I doing? This is Gaara for goodness sakes! No reason for me to be so worried.'

With quick shake of her floral locks, Masami quickly opened the door and stepped inside.

"Hello, Masami," a certain redhead greeted from behind his desk.

"H… hi there, K… Kazekage-sama," Masami stammered, swallowing a large lump that prevented any air from reaching her lungs.

"Come on. You can still call me, Gaara," he told her.

She replied in an enthusiastic tone of voice, "I know that! I'm just so happy that you're finally kazekage. It's so exciting!"

He merely chuckled. "Of course, only you could be so exuberant over something like that."

"Anyways, Kankuro-san, told me you wanted to see me?" Masami asked curiously. "Is there anything you need of me, your humble assistant?"

"No, I was more hoping to see you as Masami, my friend." The pink-haired girl smiled. Gaara quickly cleared his throat. "Honestly speaking, there is something I wanted to talk to you about."

"Oh? Whatever could it be?" she inquired, her bright scarlet irises gazing into his pale blue orbs.

Just before Gaara could open his mouth, someone walked through the door.

"Kazekage-sama, I know you just got back from a mission, but the council really wishes to speak to you," he said, clad in the traditional, robed habiliments. "We have a meeting today, and we really wish you join us."

"Couldn't you wait for a moment?" he asked, but the man shook his head.

"My sincerest apologies, but we're starting right away, and we want you there now."

"I know, but this will only…"

"It's alright. I apologize for monopolizing your time." Gaara's pale orbs snapped towards her. The pink kunoichi had dropped her gaze to the floor, her stance rigid and tense. "I really should get going. I promise to not waste your time any longer."

"Masami, please don't go," Gaara implored softly, but she simply shook her head.

"No, I really must. There are more important issues revolving around you than dealing with me…" Masami exhaled a sharp breath, controlling her breathing to a calm, even level. She quickly said, "Goodbye, kazekage-sama."

With that, Masami dashed out the door, pushing passed large clumps of bodies that blocked her way. Though her vision was blinded with veil of tears, she did manage to catch of a glimpse of a blur of red chasing after her…

* [X . o ] ~ v ~ [ o . X ] *

"This sucks…" Masami brooded atop the roof, resting her moping pink head on the railing. "Correction: Life sucks."

She really had nowhere else she could go. She shared a room with Temari which just so happened to be the same building where her redheaded brother retired. Masami didn't have the courage to see him after what just happened. She needed to be away and sulk in silence.

A loud rumble erupted from her stomach, nearly roaring in the night air.

'Shut up, tummy,' Masami ordered in vain, hearing her abdomen again whine. 'This must have been some sort of punishment from the heavens!'

She expected to have something big for dinner that day so she even skipped lunch. She wanted to preserve her appetite. She never knew that her special dinner was to be air. 'UGH! I am so stupid!' she moaned in her mind, mentally smacking her head.

Ignoring the rumbles resonating from her stomach, Masami sighed, lazily raising her head to gaze at the stars.

'Funny… I feel incredibly nostalgic,' she thought wistfully, her ruby eyes gazing sightlessly on the world above her. 'This reminds me of this one time Gaara and I were up here…'

* [X . o ] ~ v ~ [ o . X ] *

"Yashamaru, we're going up to the roof!" Gaara called out, already dashing up the stairways.

"Hey, hold up, Gaara. What's the rush?" Yashamaru inquired, stopping the young redhead dead in his tracks.

"Don't worry, Yashamaru-san! We're just going up to the rooftop!" A blur of pink emerged from Gaara's side, a sweet smile curving her lips.

The blonde guardian blinked, taken aback by the sight of the petite female. Quickly softening his features, he greeted her warmly, "Oh, Masami-chan! It's very nice to see you once again."

"Likewise! So it's okay we go up?" Masami asked.

"By all means go!" Yashamaru said, gesturing with a quick flick of his wrist.

Turning on their heels, the two children rushed up the stairs, muttering their thanks to Gaara's blonde haired guardian.

Once they arrived on the open rooftop, a blast of warm night air pelted their cool faces, playing with Masami's bright pink locks. The nights in the desert were usually considerably cooler, a welcome relief to the sweltering heat

Masami always reacted otherwise. The pinkhaired female embraced the warmth just as the night welcomed the moon. It helped warm the lonely darkness that surrounded it, fill up the spaces overrun by cold shadows.

The pink-haired child glanced over to her friend, his eyelids over his beautiful eyes. Apparently he enjoyed the warmth as much as she did. Moments continued on in silence as Masami settled herself on the freezing stone floor, unwrapping a box of dangos.

Masami found that was one good thing she liked about Gaara. They did not always have to fill everything with meaningless chatter. They could simply sit there for hours, not uttering a single word. All that mattered was that they were in each other's company.

Just as the dangos were finally revealed, her eyes glittering in ravenous anticipation, Gaara finally spoke, asking a rather peculiar question, "Masami, do you know the meaning of love?"

The dango froze at Masami's pale lips, her eyes wide in astonishment. The very nature of the question rendered her into the state of a stupor. With the food slowly retreating from her hungry mouth, Masami soon inquired, "W...why are you asking that?"

The red-haired boy shrugged his shoulder, explaining that it was just something he and Yashamaru had discussed earlier that day. He thought it was the strangest thing he ever heard.

The pink-haired giggled, saying, "Well I guess it's a weird adult thing. I have no clue either!"

"Yeah... I guess."

"Besides, I think we would know what it is once we're older, neh? We would know what love is when we are in love. Don't you agree, Gaara?" She asked, a smile appearing over her lips.

A strange color appeared over the young boy's cheeks. He quickly turned his gaze away, mumbling, "I guess so, Masami..."

As the colorful dumplings made it's way towards her lips, she curiously noted. "Hey... You finally called me Masami."

The young boy paused in reflection, considering his actions in his mind. "Huh. I guess I did." He glanced over to the young female, a large stick of dangos entering her mouth. She retrieved her last stick, regarded it curious, and turned her ruby orbs towards his. 'I guess I did, Masami...'

"Want a bite?" she asked, offering the stick to him. Gaara barely blinked, gawking both at the girl and her offering. "Oh come on. Don't tell me you're indisposed to having a dango! It's yummy deliciousness!"

The red-haired male did not as so much bat an eye, continuing a rather blank stare at the food. He then nodded her head, slowly taking a bite from the stick in her hand. A tiny ball slowly slid off, falling into his mouth.

"Its good," Gaara noted aloud as he chewed and swallowed it.

Masami's grin widened, pleased by his reaction. "Well it's from my favorite place! They always make great dangos!"

Gaara nodded his head in agreement, feeling the taste linger in his mouth as he watched Masami finished the stick. He felt his own lips quirk up.

* [X . o ] ~ v ~ [ o . X ] *

A rumble ripped through the quiet air, aching at the delicious memory. The pink kunoichi sank down to her knees, upset over the general hopelessness of her current situation. 'Stupid dangos! Why must you be so good?' With a pout contorting her lips, she lowered her desolate gaze to the world below her.

Even now, Masami felt she had not grasped such a confusing subject as love. The concept was so abstract, almost beyond human realm of comprehension. Masami may not be known as the most intelligent and logical ninja in the Sand, but she knew she wasn't that stupid. She supposed she'd never know...

Soon the pink-haired girl felt her whole being tense, feeling something rough coil itself around her wrist, scraping against her flesh. Quickly dropping her gaze, she saw it was a string of sand grasping her wrist, taking her captive in its iron grip.

A thin, pink brow arced upwards at the sight, scrutinizing the object with the utmost curiosity. 'What the…?'

"At least now you won't run away from me."

Masami felt herself freeze as if the desert climate had dropped far below normal. She slowly turned, seeing a young man stand before her. He was no longer garbed in the kazekage vestments, making him appear regal and almost unapproachable. Now he stood in his more casual style of dress. That intimidated Masami more.

"K… Kazekage-sama!" Masami stammered, her breath coming out in uneven, nervous puffs. "W…wh… what are you doing here?"

"Isn't it obvious? I wanted to wish you a happy birthday," Gaara said with no inflection in his voice. Even his eyes did not betray a single emotion, of how the redhead was feeling.

With her stomach twisting into uncomfortable knots, Masami decided to play it off. A light laugh rolled out from her lips as she sarcastically said, "Yeah, getting bound by sand is what I always wanted to do for my birthday. Thanks for making that birthday wish come true!" She struggled to keep the smile on her lips, seeing Gaara was unaffected by the levity in her voice, his blue eyes fixated on her red orbs. She then airily added, "Well you didn't have to do that. My birthday really isn't something you should concern yourself with, kazekage-sama!"

With his forehead wrinkling slightly, he argued, "You're birthday is very important to me. Why would you say that… again?" Masami merely dropped her gaze, feeling abashed by her earlier actions. Oh, how she hoped she could have avoided such an awkward conversation. Her luck was just simply terrible.

"And how many times must I tell you to call me Gaara? I'm no one different." A cool hand reached to touch her chin, pushing her gaze up to meet his eyes. Masami felt her breath cease reaching her lungs, almost shocked by the intensity in his aqueous stare. "What's the matter, Masami?"

Masami struggled to regain her breath, only able to dumbly reply, "It's nothing."

"I know it's not nothing. Please don't lie to me. Tell me."

Masami felt herself running fingers over the sandy manacles, softly saying, "Gaara, you really don't have to worry about me like this. There are more important issues revolving around you than dealing with me…"

"Yes… you said the same exact thing as before." Gaara paused, regarding the pink-haired female curiously. "Does this have to do with me being Kazekage?"

"Yes! I mean no… I mean." She struggled to form her thoughts into feasible words. She then sighed in exasperation, seeing her attempt fail utterly.

He added softly, "I… I thought you would be happy once I was."

"I am! It's just…" Her exclamation slowly died on her lips. No other words seemed to materialize in her mind, nothing that was able to form into intelligible words. She absently blurted out, "Well Everyone finally looks up to you. I… just feel you don't need me around you anymore. You got what you finally deserve. Maybe it's better if I just leave you alone…" Masami chuckled wryly. "Listen, this is just a waste of your time with my menial affairs. You should just go back and do whatever is you do."

Then there was a perfect moment of silence. Gaara's light blue eyes scanned her face, trying to figure out if Masami was pulling a prank, or if she was completely serious. Her face remained steadfast in her words, almost oblivious to the pain she felt when she stared straight into his eyes.

Then the new kazekage did something she never expected him to do under the current circumstances. The redhead released a low burst, light, unintentional, but clearly amused. She then realized it was a small burst of laughter.

"Here I thought I was the strange, oblivious one..."

Curiosity piqued, Masami opened her mouth in confusion and blurted out, "Huh?"

Gaara then clarified, "You don't get it, do you? If it wasn't because of you, I doubt I'd be kazekage right now."

"I thought it was that blonde moron who must be colorblind if he thinks he could pull off orange and blue together," Masami whined. As her mind evoked his very appearance, she visibly winced, as if such a fashion atrocity could physically inflict harm on her.

Gaara chuckled and said, "Yes, Uzumaki Naruto did help me go on the right path long ago. You were the one that encouraged me to stay on it. Unlike everyone here, you were always there for me. I thought I was nothing more than a monster. Even though I didn't know this before, with you around, I know I can be much more than that."

Masami quietly protested, "But I'm not anyone special. You're just saying that to make me feel better."

"Masami, I'm not. You were with me through everything, even when I thought my only purpose was to kill, spill blood to fill that void in my heart." Gaara paused in reflective silence and added, "I realized... I don't need to be everything to everyone, all that matters is if I'm something to someone."

"What?"

Gaara then began to say, "Masami, do you remember we were just children... and wondering what the love meant

She felt her lungs cease pumping oxygen. Her own heart stopped beating. "…Yes. I remember." The sand manacles pulled her closer to the redhead.

Gaara's face was merely inches over hers, his breath warming her chilled features as he spoke. " think… I think I finally understand what Yashimaru meant…when he said that. I think I finally understand what you mean to me. Masami…"

She nearly felt out of breath. The air was suddenly warm once again, suffocating her with it's heat, the gravity of the air pushing all breath from her lungs.

"I think… I think I…" He was soon was unable to finish, his lips swooping down to capture hers in a gentle kiss. Her ruby irises were wide with shock, unable to process just what was going on. Was this truly happening? She dared not think any more of it. Her lids skid to an ecstatic close. The sand slowly released her raw wrist from its iron grip, allowing her to lope her arms around his neck. The moment continued in a splendid eternity. Masami had lost all sense of time, her mind only on him, his presence, his own lips against her own.

That is... Until a rumble ripped through the placid air. They then broke apart. She flushed a scarlet red.

"I guess that means we should find you something to eat," Gaara said with a chuckle. Abashed, she nodded her head.

Suddenly there was another noise. It clacked together like an uncomposed symphony of castanets - it was something that was horribly uncalled for, but still able to grab everyone's attention.

The two quickly spun around to see what was causing such a noise. Masami had quickly noted it was a strange wooden marionette, clicking as it placed a strange package onto the ground. Blue strings of chakra controlled the puppet's limb with perfect, inconspicuous ease, originating from somewhere far below them.

She was able to recognize that puppet anywhere. "Crow?"

Crow then suddenly snapped erect, struggling to remain still. Despite the puppeteer's efforts, the puppet still clicked quietly, but feigned statuesque immobility.

She felt as if it was undermining her intelligence. Masami lashed out, "Kankuro, I'm not stupid or blind! I can still see your chakra strings."

Then there was silence. Only Crow's chattering sounded in the air. Finally the puppet turned to face them, waving his deadly hand in a friendly gesture. Masami laughed and waved back. Crow then leapt off the building's edge, returning down below to it's master.

Then there were voices.

"Kankuro, we were supposed to do this discretely. I knew that stupid puppet of yours wouldn't work," a voice Masami instantly recognized as Temari castigated him.

"Hey the job's done. That's all that matters," Kankuro said simply. Then there was a wistful sigh. "Maybe it would have been better if you really did give me for her birthday..."

"You idiot!" Temari shouted. Then there was a loud smack. Masami just laughed. She turned towards Gaara. She soon saw the redhead had left her side and was striding in long deliberate steps towards the package, lifting it carefully from the ground.

"So what they get me, Gaara?" Masami asked curiously, trotting over to his side.

He merely opened the box, pulling out a certain item from it's contents. "What do you think?"

A cry of exultation erupted from her lips, a joyous light sparkling in her eyes. She raced down towards the roof's edge, calling out, "Thank you for the dangos, guys"

Kankuro was the first to respond. "Anything for your birthday, Masa-chan!"

"Hey! It was my idea! Don't take credit for it!" Temari scolded him.

Masami giggled as she turned her attention back towards the red-haired boy. He offered her the stick.

"No, I can't!" Masami said with a shake of her head. "It's in your hands right now. You should eat it first."

"No, you're the one that was hungry," Gaara insisted. "It's your birthday. It'll make you feel better."

He rosy haired girl hesitated for a single moment before she stepped forward. She clasped her hands around to steady herself as took a bite, sliding a single dango off the stick into her mouth.

She sighed in contentment, glad she finally had food in her systems. God, how she loved dangos... To her, it seemed like a little bit of heaven was inside each bite.

"So what do you think you're birthday? Not to bad, was it?"

She merely raised her scarlet eyes to meet his, regarding him with an air of reflection. It had been awhile since she looked at him, truly saw how much he had grown. As a child, Gaara was fearful of other people and how they treated him, unable to comprehend the word love. Masami offered him friendship.

Later in his life he believed he only wrought death, that bloodshed was his only purpose. Masami was there as support - whether Gaara wanted her or not.

Now in this moment of time, Masami saw neither of those two boys in the one that stood before her. There was a new Gaara, one that had grown to be great young man, highly revered by the village. He had even matured enough to know his own feelings, to know what love truly means. Gaara had given her that. What can Masami give him now? What could she give him now after he had grown so much, matured in ways she felt she had not, when he had given her almost everything?

There was only one thing she could think of.

Masami felt a smile curve at her lips as she said, "No, it wasn't. It was just perfect."

Love.

Love - a word who's definition has been debated all throughout time. We all have sought for it's meaning, searching for a concrete definition that could help our mortal minds describe something so abstract.

The truth is that love does not have a definition. The only way we could know what it truly means is when we feel it ourselves.


Huzzah! It's done!

Thanks for reading~