A/N: This was a one-shot I started a long time ago and finally decided to finish. This is my first real lemon, so please excuse me if it's absolutely awful. Feedback on it would be extremely welcome. This fic was inspired by the song 'Coin Operated Boy' by the Dresden Dolls (though this is by no means a song-fic). Check it out--it will make you happy. And last but not least--I do NOT own Naruto.

Coin-Operated Boy

Sakura sulked as she trotted after Ino down the street. The particular corner of the city they were perusing was old and shabby, and it was starting to rain, and Sakura just wanted to go home. Ino was insistent though.

"I swear to you, Forehead, you will love this shop," the blond haired woman said, turning to tug on her friend in an impatient manner.

Sakura frowned, watching her feet to avoid tripping over any of the cracks in the sidewalk. "You said that about the last shop, and look what happened with that?"

Ino rolled her eyes and waved a hand loosely. "That man didn't mean to grope you. You overreacted." Sakura interjected with a mumbled, "--Like hell I overreacted--" and Ino talked over her. "And you wouldn't have had to pay so much if you hadn't knocked him into the dildo display."

Sakura's scowl deepened. "So help me, pig, if this turns out to be...."

"We're here!" announced Ino cheerfully, stopping them in front of a dramatic set of double doors. They were a deep cedar red with a painted golden inlay. Sakura read the sign out loud with narrowed eyes.

"Doll shop...? Is this a joke?"

Ino let out a frustrated sigh. "Oh shush. Come on."

Sakura followed Ino reluctantly through the ornate doors, eyes widening as they entered the shop. Her feet faltered as she stared.

The shop was filled with life sized dolls--very realistic looking ones. Ino trotted to the counter across the room, inspecting small gadgets displayed behind the glass case. Sakura ignored her, instead letting her eyes rove over the store's merchandise. She held her breath as she slowly inspected the dolls, searching for some kind of flaw in their design, anything so that they didn't so completely real. Sakura frowned as she came to a doll with ink black hair and feminine eye lashes. He was a man, she was positive, but he looked so delicate....

"I don't think that one would suit you."

Sakura straitened and gasped, whirling to face a tall man with a mild smile. His smile widened at her discomfiture, but he raised his hands in a placating manner.

"Excuse me," he said contritely, "I did not mean to startle you."

Sakura narrowed her eyes as she studied him. He was tall and lanky. His gray hair was tied at the base of his neck, leaving a short queue to sprout forth. Laugh lines creased his face and his face had a genial aura to it. Sakura relaxed.

"No, excuse me. I was not paying attention," she replied, though much less apologetic.

The man nodded sagely, and Sakura glanced behind him to search for Ino. He caught her look knowingly.

"You're friend went into the other room," he pointed to an open door in the corner.

"Ah, well," Sakura muttered awkwardly, "I better go find her."

"Be my guest, but aren't you interested in getting finding the doll that fits you?"

Sakura flashed the pretty doll another look before turning back to the salesman.

"Thank you, but I don't think now is the right time for me to be getting any..." Sakura eyed the shop. "...dolls."

The man nodded and swiftly hooked his elbow with hers. "Ah, but we have a sale going. In fact, I think I know the perfect doll for you, and it is rather cheap at the moment."

Sakura scowled as the man dragged her along. She was tempted to wrench herself away and just leave, but something kept her attached to him. Perhaps it was curiosity, or possibly the innate desire to avoid the rain that had started pelting down outside. Either way, she followed him to the counter of the shop. He deposited in front of the glass case. "One moment, miss," he murmured and disappeared through another door behind the counter. Sakura drummed her fingers against the aged glass, trying to see Ino through the other room.

The salesman quickly returned, rolling behind him a giant crate. Sakura eyed it warily.

"You know-" she tried to say before he interrupted her.

"Come look," he commanded.

Sakura scowled but stalked over to him, waiting impatiently as he carefully pried the top of the crate away. Sakura peered inside and gasped.

Slumped over was a young man, perhaps about her age. He had hair the color of rust and dried blood, and a tattoo was engraved onto the right corner of his forehead. His eyes were closed, but the skin around looked bruised and shadowed. He looked thin, but muscled.

"You sure that's a doll?" Sakura grumbled, though her interest was piqued and her cheeks were slightly pink.

"Doll indeed..." the man whispered. Sakura glanced up at him sharply and his blithe smile spread laconically across his face.

"What I mean," he continued, "is that we have the finest of products here. Nothing will beat what we sell. And I think this product was meant for you."

Sakura eyed the man suspiciously though her gaze turned thoughtful as she turned to stare at the doll.

"I don't know," she sighed. "I'm positive I couldn't afford something like this."

"One hundred," the man stated.

"One hundred?"

"Yes, one hundred dollars. I did say he was on clearance, remember?"

Sakura straitened up and stepped back from the box. Rubbing her forehead she glanced back at the crate tensely.

"I don't have a way to get it home."

"Free delivery."

"Is there something I should know about this doll?"

The man's expression blanked innocently. "You should know, miss, we place high value in customer service."

Sakura groaned. "Fine, you sold me."

The man grinned at her, revealing a set of dazzling teeth. Sakura glared.

"Let me get the paperwork," he said smugly.

Sakura clenched the phone receiver much to tightly against her ear. She glanced around her slightly messy apartment, eyes alighting on the giant crate taking up most of her living room. Ino was laughing on the other end of the line.

"Seriously, Ino. I'm never going shopping with you again," Sakura blustered.

Ino found the whole thing hilarious. "I can't believe you actually got one! And it has instructions? Oh god!" She burst out laughing again. Sakura rolled her eyes and leaned against the cool tile of her counter. Sakura counted to twelve before Ino calmed herself.

"So, I thought they were just supposed to sit around and look pretty. I didn't know there would be an actual manual," chortled Ino.

"I didn't either," responded Sakura dryly. She studied the creased paper she held in her other hand, eyes roving over the neatly printed script.

"Congratulations on your recent purchase," Sakura read out loud flatly. "You're new roommate will fulfill your every need.... What the hell does that mean?"

Ino giggled. "Maybe those dolls are more than just art, hm? Did you check how detailed her really is?"

"It, Ino, it's an it. And no I have not looked down it's pants."

"Hm, well maybe you should," Ino rushed, "Anyways, I have to go now. I'll come over in a few days to check it out. Later!"

"Bye." Sakura hung up the phone and groaned. This was much more than expected. She padded over to the crate and peered in again, only to see the doll still resting where she left it. She couldn't help but wonder what insanity must have possessed her to buy such a thing. Sakura was nothing if not practical these days, at least with how tight she was on money. Being an intern at the local hospital was not very friendly to one's bank account.

Sakura collapsed onto her couch and propped her feet up on the edge of the crate so she could finish reading over the instructions.

How to get your DOLL. tm started! The first line proclaimed. Sakura snorted.

Each and every one of our DOLLs is unique and tailored for the customer's individual tastes.

Tastes? Sakura frowned.

There are many steps to owning a DOLL. Please read carefully to understand how your specific DOLL should be cared for. The DOLL you have purchased is named GAARA.

Step 1: Clothes. A set of clothes will be included with your DOLL, but DOLLs have feelings too, and thus you must be prepared with another pair of clothes for them, if not more. Please take into consideration their preferences. Many of our male models do not take kindly to dresses, GAARA included.

Step 2: Food. DOLLs get hungry, so please feed them. Your GAARA model tends to like spicy food, and chocolate.

"What the hell?" Sakura muttered, staring incredulously at the paper, then the crate again. She couldn't help but presume this was either a joke, or some people were extremely fanatic about their doll.

Step 3: Room. You GAARA model is particularly active. Please ensure he has a place to exercise, else you might find some of your possessions broken or missing.

Sakura glanced around her cramped apartment and shrugged.

Step 4: Bed. GAARA does not sleep deeply, but he does snooze and meditate, thus be prepared to have a bed, or some other sleeping mechanism prepared for him.

Step 5: Interaction. Your GAARA DOLL will be extremely tolerant of you, but not of any company you have. Please ensure no one upsets him. We are not liable for any injuries he inflicts on the populace.

Sakura got up once more, checked inside the crate to see the motionless doll, then sat back down to continue reading.

GETTING STARTED: To awaken your GAARA DOLL breathe gently on his lips from a safe distance. He may be confused and volatile when awoken. We are not liable for any damages, losses, or injuries incurred.

WARNING. DO NOT KISS THE GAARA DOLL. We are not liable for his actions after that.

Sakura snorted humorously. The last warning was completely unnecessary. She had no plans on kissing a doll, for heaven's sake. She reread the instructions again, her brow scrunched. Slowly, she set the paper down on the couch cushion and stood up.

The doll was still slumped motionless in the crate. Sakura reached in and gently brushed her fingers across his face. His cheek was cold, but, shockingly, he felt real. Her hand continued to explore his hair and shoulders, studying the absolute detail of his face and body. Sakura felt nervous, as though the doll was only sleeping.

Glancing around her apartment as though someone might be watching her foolishness, Sakura leaned into the crate, her face about an inch. Softly, she breathed against his mouth. She paused, then straitened, watching him closely, then she shrugged and laughed. Of course it was a joke. Dolls weren't people, no matter how much they looked it. She tried to ignore the small twinge of disappointment and padded back into the kitchenette to rummage up something to eat before she found a spot for her new acquisition.

'Like the back of the closet,' she thought to herself.

Sakura froze though, as she heard a thump. She stiffened, looking behind her, into the living room, but seeing nothing amiss. Another thump came from the crate and Sakura's eyes widened. Something slammed against the edge of the crate and it shuddered then stilled. She took a step forward nervously.

A hand appeared from out of the crate, curling around the edge with white knuckles.

"Holy shit," muttered Sakura as a second hand appeared, curling around the opposite edge of the wooden box. "Holy shit."

Sakura refrained from shrieking as a man slowly, steadily raised himself up. His back was to her, and Sakura watched entranced as he stretched and straitened. His joints popped and he rolled his shoulders stiffly. He was wearing a leather jacket with leather straps sewed into it. His hair was shaggy and red.

Belatedly, Sakura realized her doll was alive.

Slowly he turned around, surveying his surroundings blankly, until his eyes fell on her. He kicked the edge of the crate and it splinter and caved, allowing him to walk over it. Sakura stared, aghast as he strode towards her purposefully. Quickly she back peddled into the counter, pressing herself against it as he marched up to her and glared into her eyes. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she noticed that his eyes were a foggy green.

He grabbed her chin and tilted her head to the side, studying her. Sakura squeaked indignantly. He ignored it and Sakura tore herself away, glaring at him mutely. He was only a few inches taller than her, so Sakura rose to her full height and scowled. Her doll look extremely unimpressed, but he stepped back.

"Where am I?" he demanded, crossing his arms.

Sakura imitated his stance, but hesitated. "Is this some kind of joke?" she asked dourly, looking at her front door as though someone was going to burst in and start laughing at her. Possibly Ino.

The doll narrowed his eyes. "This is not a joke. Answer the question."

Sakura tapped her fingers against her bicep, tilting her head slightly to the side. "My apartment. Are you...?" Sakura trailed off, not sure how to ask this man whether he was the inanimate object that had been resting in the decimated crate a few minutes before. She couldn't help but wonder what alternate reality she had been thrust in.

The doll-man-whatever glanced around again. "Who are you?" he besieged arrogantly.

"I'm Sakura," she responded curtly, irritation coloring her voice. "And you are...." The manual she had been reading earlier flashed through her head. "Gaara?"

The man--Gaara--jerked his head in a nod. Sakura's frown deepened as she peered at him warily. Suddenly he turned and stalked back into the living room. Sakura gaped as he stopped at the couch, brushed off a few splinters of crate wood, then plopped down. She waited a few seconds to see if he would do anything, but he just remained statuesque, staring at the blank wall across from him.

Sakura drew in a deep breath then went to stand in front of him, fists on her hips.

"Okay," she commanded, "what is going on here? Dolls do not just come to life. And they aren't completely rude either. What is going on?"

With a mechanical smoothness he tilted his head to look at her blankly. "You woke me up," he said simply. "You figure it out."

Sakura felt frustration clench on her chest and throat. She wanted to scream at the thing at the couch, and possibly tear him a new one, too. Instead, she stomped back into the kitchen and began ripping through her fridge and cabinets.

The main thing Sakura noticed about Gaara was that he was very quiet, and very still. In the morning he would be sitting on the couch, or in the middle of the floor, eyes staring, to all appearances, at nothing. She would leave to go to work, and after a full day, when she dragged herself through the door, he would be in the exact same spot she left him.

A few times, she tried to instigate conversation, at least after the shock wore off a bit, but he remained stubbornly silent and refused to respond. In fact, the only words she really heard him speak--aside from those he spoke when he first woke up--were "yes," and "no."

The conversations usually went:

"Are you hungry, Gaara?"


"What would you like to eat?"


Sakura had read over the manual another ten times before she called the shop. The salesman had not answered. She had left a message, but her gut instinct told her she would not be getting a return call. Luckily enough, her 'doll' was fairly low maintenance. She knew he would used the bathroom and shower. She had found damp towels draped over the curtain bar a few times. She also knew he had to be eating when she wasn't at home, because food was steadily disappearing that she was absolutely certain that she hadn't touched.

Aside from these quirks, Gaara, for all intents and purposes, acted like a doll, albeit one that moved, occasionally talked, and picked at food when she made dinner for them. Sakura was grateful for the weekend, and planned to lounge around as much as possible while ignoring her new roommate, or whatever he was.

Sakura was jittery with anticipation when she got off work on Friday. She rushed home and tapped her toes impatiently in the elevator going up to her floor. She mused on what to make for dinner and allowed a small grin when she decided upon ordering pizza. The grin faded quickly, however, because when she reached her floor she heard a series of loud noises.

She passed the other apartment doors, praying it was coming from them, but luck wasn't with her. A loud crash came from behind her door and Sakura winced.

"What the hell is he doing?" she muttered to herself while unlocking the door.

As soon as she entered, she regretted it.

Gaara stood sweaty and panting in the middle of her living room. Shirtless. Sakura gaped as he turned to stare at her flatly. Vaguely she noticed he had scrunched and piled all her furniture against the far wall, leaving the room mostly bare. She also observed he was wearing a pair of her old sweatpants, which fit quite snug around this thighs and... parts.

"Oh my god," Sakura stuttered, "what are you doing?"

Gaara frowned as though it were obvious. "Training," he replied flatly.

Sakura carefully shut the door behind her and entered, dropping her coat and bag to the floor. She noticed her textbooks sprawled across the floor, many of them missing pages and covers. Her expression darkened murderously as she looked at Gaara, who frowned back at her.

"What is this?" she asked lightly, pointing at her injured books.

Gaara looked at the books as though it was the first time he had seen them. His frown deepened and she noticed he was looking a tad wary. He didn't respond to her question though, instead choosing to remain silent.

Sakura stalked forward, grabbed a book, and shoved it under his nose. Gaara stiffened but didn't move back.

"This," she hissed, waving the book threateningly, "is my school book. Those," she pointed at the rest of the books, "are extremely important to me." Sakura dropped the book and took a step backwards.

"I suggest that you clean this up," she continued, her voice lighting again as a terrifying smile spread across her face. With that, she stormed to the bathroom door and slammed it behind her.

When Sakura got out of the shower and dressed in a pair of loose fitting sweats she slowly entered the living room. Relief flowed through her as she noticed her furniture had been put back to where it had previously sat, and her books were stacked primly on the coffee table. Gaara sat on the floor with his legs crossed and his back stiff and tense.

Sakura proceeded to pad to the kitchenette, rummaging in one of the drawers to find her list of phone numbers. She could feel Gaara's eyes on her as she searched, finding what she needed, then calling the pizza place.

She glanced at him as she placed her order, confirming that he was indeed staring at her intensely. Sakura raised a questioning eyebrow at him as she talked to the person on the other line, but he didn't grace her with a response. He didn't even stop staring.

Once she hung up she decided to speak. "I hope you like pizza, because that's what I ordered," she informed him.

He shrugged and Sakura went and collapsed on the couch a few feet away from where he sat on the floor.

"Thank you for cleaning up," she mumbled, feeling slightly awkward under his stare.

He inclined his head. Sakura turned on the television, staring at it intently so she could pretend to not notice his current fascination.

A few minutes later he came and sat on the couch next to her.

"Actually, Ino, I don't think you should see him."

Sakura cringed as Ino berated her for putting off her visit to see her new 'doll.' She had been on the phone for the last ten minutes trying to convince the stubborn blond that her new doll was not really that great and couldn't they just go out to lunch? Unfortunately, Ino was not to be deterred.

"Don't be such a square," Ino quipped, "I'm coming over tonight. I'll even bring some take-out. Chinese alright?"

"Ummm," Sakura replied. "Bring extra. Something spicy."

Gaara was currently lounging on the couch with one of her medical text books and seemingly ignoring her conversation on the phone. Sakura suspected that he was perfectly aware of what she was saying though. She had noticed that he rarely ever let his guard down.

The previous night Sakura had gotten up to get a drink of water, not paying much heed to the man who was sleeping on her couch. As soon she had grabbed a cup though, he had appeared beside her, a looming shadow in the blue darkness. Sakura had gasped, her heart beating wildly against her ribs as she nearly dropped her cup.

"Oh, Gaara!" she gasped, "You scared me."

He had stared at her for a few seconds before whipping around and going back to the couch. Sakura had stood still, calming herself, before grabbing her water and going back to bed.

"I thought you didn't like spicy food," Ino griped on the other line.

"Yeah, well..." Sakura hedged, "Just bring it, okay? Enough for three."

"Whatever, see you in a bit."

"Uh huh."

Sakura sighed as she dropped the phone back into the cradle. Gaara set down the textbook and turned to watch her.

"So, I have a friend coming over tonight..." Sakura started.

"Yes, I heard."

"Well, she will probably want to see you."

Gaara gave her a flat stare.

"And," Sakura continued, "she doesn't really know you are alive, or whatever, so...."

Gaara didn't respond and instead picked up the textbook and flipped a page. Sakura rolled her eyes, inwardly hoping the night wouldn't be disastrous.

"You're kidding me."

"Um, no."

"Seriously, Sakura, this is a big fucking joke, isn't it?" Ino circled the couch on which Gaara lounged, watching the skeptical blond silently. Sakura grabbed the food from her friend and started dishing it out onto plates. "Okay, you got me. Where's the camera? I promise not to take you to anymore weird shops."

Sakura prepared a special plate for Gaara, then dished out her and Ino's food. She talked while grabbing silverware. "No, I'm not kidding. You can read the manual if you want." Sakura glanced at Gaara's slow forming scowl. "I think you're offending him, by the way."

Ino harrumphed then went to plop down at the small dining table squirreled away in the corner of the room. Usually stacked with papers and other paraphernalia, Sakura had cleared it so they could all fit.

Sakura quickly grabbed what she could and set their dinner at the table. Ino picked at her food, sending suspicious glances at Gaara, then glancing at the empty seat where his plate was.

"Are you going to join us, Gaara?" Sakura questioned mildly. Gaara didn't respond, so Sakura just shrugged and dug into her chicken and rice. A few minutes later, Gaara sleuthed to the table and began to chow down.

Sakura tried to keep her smile nonexistent. Her new 'doll' certainly had a quirky personality. Despite his grumpy front, he listened to her for the most part. Unfortunately, Ino was quick on the draw and saw Sakura's small smile.

"You're getting laid, aren't you?" she accused.

Sakura choked. "What? No!" she blustered, "I was telling the truth. What is wrong with you?" Sakura glanced at Gaara, appalled and praying that he wasn't paying any attention. Apparently God hated her, because he had set down his fork and was watching her and Ino with extreme interest. Sakura imagined a hole opening up beneath her, and admonished herself mentally. She should have known Ino would come up with some half-cracked idea like that, especially one that would embarrass Sakura to death.

Ino grinned smugly, pointing her chopsticks at Sakura. "Ah ha! I knew it! You're getting laid. And if you're not, you're close to it!"

Sakura groaned and covered her face with her hands, attempting to hide the neon red flush that spread across her cheeks.

Luckily Ino wasn't completely ruthless and changed the subject before Sakura decided to maim her for life. Dinner went quickly enough, and then they settled down to watch a movie Ino had rented. Gaara sat across the room, cross legged and silent. Ino raised a questioning brow at Sakura about it, and Sakura just shrugged helplessly. The mental machinations of Gaara were still quite beyond her.

After watching the tawdry romance Ino had been dying to see--which left Sakura completely embarrassed again--Ino left. Sakura collapsed with relief against the door after showing her friend out, and fending off her lewd comments.

Sakura trudged over to Gaara, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "I'm sorry about Ino," she apologized awkwardly, "she can be a little...." Sakura waved a hand as if whatever Ino was couldn't be found in a single word.

Gaara stared up at her, then quirked his lips the bare minimum, in what Sakura realized with dawning shock must have been a smile.

"I was not offended. I did like the spicy chicken though. I would not be adverse to having it again."

"Oh... well, okay...." Sakura trailed off, startled at actually getting a half-formed opinion from the stoic man. "Maybe in the next few days then. I'm a bit tired so... Good night, Gaara."

Gaara inclined his head slightly and Sakura stumbled off to her room, eager for the forgetful bliss sleep would bring. Unfortunately, she didn't fall asleep until after midnight. Her thoughts her too occupied by the red-head inhabiting her living room.

Work on Monday put a whole new meaning to how awful Mondays could actually be. Her bus had been late, so Sakura hadn't arrived to the hospital until about fifteen minutes after she was supposed to clock in. Out of irritation, the doctor she answered too gave her a list of the most obnoxious, volatile patients Sakura had ever seen. After lunch he had finally given her the slightly less testy patients before she was crippled for life. A nice little present colored her left eye in an array of blue, green and purple from the flailing fist of a young kid. Sakura fingered it tenderly and frowned, hoping it didn't make her look unprofessional.

The rest of the day improved on a minute scale, but Sakura was still heavily relieved when the clock struck six and she was able to escape.

On her way home she picked up Gaara's favored Chinese food so she wouldn't have to prepare anything. Luckily it wasn't raining, though the sky was low and overcast. She took her time walking to her apartment, reveling in the brisk winter air.

When she entered her apartment Gaara was nowhere to be seen. Sakura set the white, plastic bag on the counter and peered down the hallway, noting that the bathroom light was on and steam was curling out from beneath the doorway. Gaara was taking a shower.

Sakura piled food onto the plates. A few minutes later Sakura could hear the bathroom door open and Gaara padding out.

"Hey, I got the stuff you liked...." Sakura trailed off as she caught sight of what Gaara was wearing. Or, in all honesty, what he wasn't wearing. He was looking quite comfortable in a towel wrapped securely around his hips, with another towel hanging loosely around his shoulders. Sakura gaped, then whirled around to face the other way.

"What are you wearing?" she screeched trying not to think about his toned chest and the thin trail of red hair that lead down below the edge of the towel....

Sakura gasped as she felt him grab her elbow and turn her around again. He grasped her chin and scowled as he stared at her face.

"You're hurt," he stated, though there was a hint of malice in his voice the shocked her. She pulled away gently before lightly touching her bruised eye.

"It's nothing," she replied soothingly, "just a wild patient."

His brow furrowed as he looked at her searchingly, perhaps seeing whether she was really telling the truth or just fibbing.

"Um," Sakura stuttered, "perhaps you should get dressed?"

Gaara stiffened slightly then smirked. "I am quite comfortable like this."

Sakura flushed, looking carefully away from him. "Are you sure? It's pretty... cold."

"The temperature is just fine."

Sakura grabbed his plate quickly and shoved it into his hands, her fingers trembling just the slightest bit. "Alright. Here, eat," she grumped despite the bashful shiver her voice exuded. Gaara grabbed his plate and went to lounge on the couch, eating his food languidly.

Sakura sat on the complete opposite end of sofa, hunched over her plate protectively, focusing completely on her meal.

Gaara broke the silence. "Do you get injured a lot at work?"

Sakura set her fork down and straitened. "No, not really," she replied softly, "today was just one of those days."


Sakura shrugged and flicked on the T.V. to relieve the silence that fell like a damp blanket over the room. After finishing she escaped to the bathroom to take a shower.

Over the next few days Sakura noticed a change in Gaara's demeanor. He would stand and sit closer to her than before, completely invading her personal bubble. He would also watch her intently, instead of just focusing on the opposite wall. Sakura pretended not to notice, instead going about her regular activities as if nothing had changed.

She ended up buying him some clothes so he would be wearing more than just some of her old sweats. And towels. She really couldn't handle him wearing just towels anymore. Sakura didn't think of herself as perverted in any sense (that medal went to Ino) but when he was dressed in next to nothing she found the most lascivious images running through her mind. She immediately smashed these images as fast as possible, completely ashamed she was thinking of a 'doll' in that way. He was probably asexual.

She also began to notice he started doing little things around her apartment. He organized her jumble of books and papers, and he did the dishes when she left them to wallow in the sink. It made her feel uncomfortable, and whenever she tried to thank him he would shoot her a glare, then ignore her for the next hour.

She ended up instigating more conversations with him to cover up her awkwardness.

"So, you do... martial arts?" she asked him one night as they lounged on the couch, each with a beer.

"Hmm," Gaara replied, nodding.

"Ah," Sakura said thoughtfully, "what kind?"

Gaara shifted to face her, studying through his fierce green eyes. "The deadly kind."

Sakura took a sip of her beer, watching him out of the corner of her eye. He followed suit, and they both studied each other suspiciously.

"Well," she finally said, "you don't have to stay in the apartment."

The surprised on Gaara's face nearly made her smile. It almost seemed as though he thought he was imprisoned in her place, never to be let out.

"There is a park a few blocks down," she continued lightly, "I'm sure you could train there."

"Ah. That sounds... good," he said softly.

"Probably better than training in my living room," Sakura said pointedly.

Gaara's face registered amusement. "Probably."

Sakura shifted again and sunk further down into the couch, gazing across the room blankly. Gaara remained frozen, and she wondered how he was able to remain so still. Perhaps because he was a doll, she thought. Or maybe it was because he was a martial arts expert. Sakura tapped her fingers against the damp glass of her beer bottle thoughtfully.

"You work tomorrow, correct?"

Sakura blinked, stunned speechless that Gaara had initiated a conversation with her. It took her a few seconds to realize that he expected an answer.

"Oh," she stuttered, "yes, I do."

"Hm," he replied, "I will escort you then."

Sakura felt her mouth open, then close, then open again. "What?" Gaara didn't reply, but the next morning he waited patiently by the door as she stumbled around groggily trying to get her stuff together.

"My book bag, my book bag," she muttered as she searched for it.

"I have it," intoned Gaara flatly from the door. Sakura stared at him, then shook her head to try to clear some of the fog.

"Okay," she replied, "okay."

She slipped on her coat then made to reach for her bag. Gaara held it out of her reach and scowled, so Sakura just gave it up without a fight. If he wanted to be a gentleman, who was she to argue?

He walked beside her confidently, pushing past people effortlessly on the crowded sidewalk. Sakura remained silent, still stunned at Gaara's recent behavior. The sky was overcast, but dry, for which she was grateful. She wondered if the rain would affect Gaara in any away, or if he was resistant to that as well.

Gaara caught her studying him and his eyes narrowed curiously. Sakura flushed and jerked her head to look away from him without an explanation. When they reached the hospital, Gaara handed over her book bag and inclined his head slightly.

"I will be waiting for you when you are done."

Sakura stuttered, "You really don't have to."

Gaara shrugged and turned to disappear back into the busy streets.

The day went by quickly enough and Sakura couldn't help the anticipatory nervousness that curled in her belly as she got ready to leave the hospital. She chided herself when she noticed it. 'He's just a doll...or whatever. He's not real....'

The thought slipped out of her mind like water when she caught sight of him lounging against a cement bench. He straitened when he saw her.

"No extra bruises today," he stated as she approached him. Sakura laughed.

"No," she agreed, "none today. It's not a regular occurrence, you know."

Gaara just shrugged and fell into step beside her as they strolled down the sidewalk. The silence was surprisingly comfortable between them as they made their way down the bustling sidewalk. His shoulder bumped hers and Sakura glanced up at him and paused as he stared down at her with smoldering eyes.

Before she could say anything someone pushed against her and, as if in slow motion, she fell towards him. He didn't move though. Neither did he grab her. Instead he allowed her to collide against him, and a shock jolted her system, like electricity, as her lips pressed against his.

Ino scowled as the first few drops proceeding a deluge of rain dripped down her face. She was on her way home from the flower shop and was eager to get there. She had a date that night and she wanted to look her best.

Shouldering her way through the crowd she stopped when the most unexpected sight came upon her.

Sakura locked in a passionate embrace with the red haired man.

Ino gaped all of two seconds before a smirk crossed her pretty features. And Sakura said she wasn't getting laid. What a little liar, Ino thought. She would drill the pink-haired girl later.

Grabbing one last look at the couple Ino strode off. If she didn't hurry, she would be late.

He was devouring her. Sakura's mind remained completely blank as his lips caressed hers sensually and his tongue slipped into her mouth deviously. His calloused hands had moved to grip her biceps, and when she didn't push away they moved to her hips. The overwhelming hustle of the crowd dimmed to a mere hum. All her attention was focused on him and the way her blood coursed through her veins and how she burned where he touched her.

Soon her senses returned to her though and she ripped herself away, gasping and flushed. Gaara studied her with a distinct smirk.

"Um," stuttered Sakura, "I'm not quite sure what just happened."

"Hm," Gaara replied, grabbing her hand and tugging her through the crowd at a near jog-like pace.

"Hey," she dissented weakly, but he ignored it and soon they reached her apartments. They entered the elevator alone and as the doors shut Sakura turned to scold Gaara for his rough handling, but was stopped as his lips came crashing down against hers again.

His hands were everywhere--rubbing her hips, cupping her breasts, cradling her face. Sakura felt as though she couldn't keep up. He pushed her against the wall elevator and the railing dug into her back until he lifted her up slightly so her bum rested on it. Her legs wrapped around him and she couldn't help the moan that slipped through her lips when he focused his attention on her neck.

They barely noticed when the soft ping from the elevator indicated they had reached their floor and the doors slid open.

Gaara growled and pulled away, then grabbed her and stalked down the hallway to her place. Sakura's fingers trembled as his large fingers tugged at the hem of her shirt. The soft click of the lock tumble was all he needed to push the door open and stumble in with her, his mouth latching onto her neck again as he slammed the door shut behind them.

"Gaara," Sakura hissed as he dropped her book bag to the floor with a thunk and began to lift her shirt. "Gaara," she repeated, this time gently pushing her away.

He looked at her questioningly and frustrated and his hands didn't leave her hips.

"I don't understand," she whispered. "Why this? All the sudden--"

"You released me," he said intensely. "You freed me."

The darkness of the apartment hid much of his face in shadows, but she could still feel the desperation in his voice.

"How?" Sakura asked.

"With this," he hissed, and his lips pressed against hers softly, though the kiss was no less heated. In the back of her mind she thought of the manual and the warning she had snickered at. "Do not kiss the doll."

'Oops,' Sakura thought vaguely as Gaara once again overcame her senses with his body. Suddenly he pulled away from her and Sakura almost whimpered.

"Come," he commanded, and he pulled her over to the couch. She allowed him to press her down against the cushions and he kneeled before her. Seductively he lifted her shirt over her head and she lifted her arms to accompany him. His scorching fingers danced over her sides and then up to the lacy bra that cupped her pert breasts. Sakura's breath hitched as he reached behind her to unhook the bra and slip that from her shoulders as well.

She began to feel distinctly bare and awkward, until she caught sight of his eyes. They devoured her hungrily, and before she could protest his lips closed around an aroused nipple. She gasped as his tongue lapped at her and his other hand came up to tweak the other bereft breast.

Her panties were feeling wet and Sakura had to force herself not to shift her hips. Instead she squeezed her thighs, attempting to force friction to relieve some of the wanton anticipation.

Gaara growled and his hands left her body to go to the zipper of her jeans. He unhooked the snap and quickly began to pull her pants down. Sakura lifted her hips to hurry the process, and Gaara slipped off her panties along with the jeans. It left her completely bare and him fully dressed. Sakura was about to protest that when his head dipped down between her thighs.

Sakura was not a virgin. She was not loose by any means, but she far from untouched. Her sexual experiences had consisted of awkward, disappointing couplings which left her extremely unfulfilled. And never, never had a man gone down on her. Sakura's first thought when Gaara's head dropped to face that spot was to push him away. She was about to reach a desperate hand to do just that when his tongue touched her.

Sakura gasped.

He roughly licked her clit and a wave of pleasure swept through her abdomen. Her muscles clenched and released and it felt as though her body were out of her control. He repeated it again and Sakura couldn't help but cry out.

Gaara's hands joined in. One went back up to her breast and the other snaked down to fill her.

"Gaara," Sakura gasped as a finger entered her and she couldn't resist as her hips rocked forwards on their accord. Another finger joined the first and he was pumping into her and she was pushing against him wantonly, her body too overcome by pleasure to even think strait. It was as though sparks were being set off inside her, curls of lava and fire flooding her body yet at the same time she felt so empty.

Yet his tongue devastated her and in a matter of minutes she was begging and then she was releasing and oh god she had never felt that before.

Gaara pulled away as Sakura collapsed back, panting. He pressed butterfly kisses up her navel, breasts, neck, until landing against her mouth where she tasted herself on his tongue. His hands left her and she shivered as he pushed his own pants down his hips and released her lips to tug his shirt over his head.

When he was completely nude Sakura couldn't help but stare.

His body was amazing. His abdomen formed a perfect V, strung with corded muscles and sharp curves where his hip bones ran into long, muscular thighs. And then her eyes focused on his straining organ.

It was hard and perked and quite obviously aroused, and Sakura couldn't help but feel completely embarrassed that she was staring at a man's penis. Gaara, fortunately, held no such reservations. He reached down to the floor, rifled through his pants and pulled out a small--

"When did you get that?" Sakura asked aghast as Gaara peeled open the condom.

Gaara smirked at her. "I am always prepared."

Sakura couldn't help but scowl. "Are you serious? Because--"

She was interrupted as his lips landed against hers in a smothering kiss. She melted against him as his bare skin brushed against hers and sent frissons of heat back down to her abdomen.

"I was not being presumptuous," Gaara whispered in her ear, "just careful."

Sakura nodded shakily and watched as he slid the condom over his straining shaft. Then he looked back at her and Sakura nearly gasped at the intensity in his eyes. They had a feral hue to them, glowing slightly in the watery grays of her living room. Sakura slid back against the couch and Gaara crawled over her, his breath brushing against her lips before he moved to her neck. He suckled and nibbled and bit as Sakura writhed beneath him. Her hands gripped his shoulders, then moved to smooth their way over tense muscles and silk skin. Gently, he pushed her to lay lengthways over the couch and then settled over her. His cock nestled between her thighs, the head rubbing against her opening.

Sakura nearly cried out and shifted her hips to try to push him a little further in. Gaara remained just out of reach, teasing her with his proximity. She was just about to beg when he slid himself into her.

Sakura whimpered as he filled her, deliciously stretching her. He filled every corner and every nerve cried for more-more-more. Gaara paused though, staring down at her flushed face, panting slightly, then leaning to nuzzle her neck and cheek. Sakura gripped his shoulders as he withdrew from her. Swiftly, he plunged back in.

Sakura cried out and lifted her hips to meet him as he repeated the process. Jolts filtered through her whole body and the friction between them caused her to twitch in pleasure. Biceps straining, Gaara slithered a hand between them and down to her wet curls. He fondled the soaking button--playing with it, stroking it and Sakura was completely overwhelmed.

"Please!" she gasped desperately, though what she was pleading for she didn't know. Then tension coiled through her body before she knew it and she was tipping precariously over the edge, her body straining for release. Gaara's hips became more erratic as he drove into her frantically, roughly.

With a burst, vision turning white, Sakura came, moaning deeply as his lips found hers to muffle and swallow the sound with his own desperate groan. He pumped into her deeply a few more times and buried his face in the crook of her neck and shoulder.

Sakura stared blankly at the ceiling as Gaara relaxed on top of her, though he didn't burden her with his full weight. The last vestiges of pleasure left her, in their wake a solid contentment lethargically relaxing her limbs. Finally Gaara pulled out of her and rolled himself off to stand next to the couch. He pulled her up with him and Sakura followed dazedly.

"Oh my god," she mumbled as Gaara pulled her to her bedroom. "That was-that was--"

Gaara turned and his lips quirked slightly. He bent his head to plant a gentle, lingering kiss against her swollen lips before turning to nudge her into the room.

"That was-" he said, finishing the statement for her, "asking for a repeat performance."

And Sakura gasped as he pushed her onto the bed.

The next morning found Sakura curled up with her doll and half asleep. A possessive arm circled her waist, holding him to her as she breathed deeply, slowly. Blinking the lingering fog of sleep from her eyes Sakura moved to slither from the bed.

Gaara's arm stopped her.

"Where are you going?" he asked flatly, and Sakura frowned.

"To the bathroom," she whispered awkwardly, and his arm released her.

"Come back quickly," he replied and Sakura said nothing as she tip-toed out of the room. After purging her aching bladder Sakura studied herself in the mirror. Her skin was dotted with splotchy love bites--ranging from her neck to her thighs. Sakura flushed and shook herself as her abdomen tightened. Wrinkling her nose, Sakura started the shower. She was an absolute mess.

After only a few minutes of washing the bathroom door opened. Gaara peeked around the edge of the curtain.

"Hey!" Sakura cried indignantly, attempting to cover herself.

"You didn't return," he stated flatly.

"I needed to shower," she informed him, giving up her attempts at modesty and continuing to soap her chest.

Gaara's eyes followed the movement of her hands as she rubbed the floral scented bar over her perky breasts and belly.

"I will join you then," he said, stepping into the shower with her.

Sakura grumbled but moved to make room. His hands moved to intercept hers and finish her cleansing, but she stopped him.

"Before anything else happens," she told him, "I want to know more."

Gaara tilted his head questioningly.

"You know what I mean," she elaborated frustratingly, fluttering her free hand at him. "I got you in a crate. You're supposed to be a doll. What are you really?"

Gaara studied her blankly for a few minutes before nodding tightly. "I am human now," he explained. "I was not, and now I am."


"You." Gaara responded flatly. "You released me. You took me home and treated me like a human, then you kissed me."

"Okay," she sighed desperately, "but what about later? Will you age? Will you stay? Or will you be leav--"

Gaara shushed her by pressing a finger to her lips. He then replaced his finger with his own hot, seeking mouth. After a few seconds he released her.

"I will stay," he whispered huskily, "as long as you need me. I will live by your side and I will age with you. I am yours."

"I still don't...." Sakura trailed, but then she gave up, because she had the distinct feeling that she would never truly understand, and perhaps she should just live in the moment and take what she could get for the time being. Without prompt, Sakura stepped forward and pressed her body against his, her fingers tangling in his sanguine hair as she pulled his head down to clash with her lips.

They spent the rest of their time in the shower putting soap and their bodies to good use.

A few weeks later Sakura was walking down the street when before she knew it she was stopped in front of a familiar shop. The cedar doors were much more worn than the last time she saw them, and the gold inlay was peeling.

Frowning, Sakura stepped up the stairs and peeked through the dusty windows. The shop was deserted, looking as though it hadn't been inhabited in years. No dolls lined the shelves; no tricky, genial old men lounged behind the counter and all the inner doors were boarded shut.

Feeling vaguely disturbed, Sakura stepped back and walked away. The 'for rent' sign had long since weathered away to be barely legible.

She put it from her mind though, because she was happy with her circumstances, despite the unusual way they had come about. Gaara was waiting for her at home and would certainly be anticipating her. With a content smile, Sakura quickened her step.