Chapter Twenty-two


Sakura groaned when the sun streamed in through her window, effectively waking her up from her slumber. Not that she had gotten much sleep anyways. Rolling over, she stared at the wall in her room. She had taken to snuggling a pillow at night, trying to pretend that it was Gaara. But she knew deep down inside that it wasn't. It didn't feel like Gaara, look like Gaara, or smell like Gaara.

God how she missed his smell. It had a strange soothing effect on her, and she could really use it right now. She snorted to herself. She really was pathetic. Gaara wasn't going to show up and apologize for his actions, not this time. This time, it was her who had run away when she didn't like where things were headed, and there was no way she was going to go back to Suna. It hurt too much, and the humiliation of her behavior would destroy her almost as badly as Gaara's rejection.

Getting bored with staring at the wall, she rolled onto her back and began to look for patterns in her ceiling. The only somewhat good thing that had happened to her since returning was that Sasuke was being nice to her. Lunch with him yesterday hadn't been that bad. He told her of some of the things he had done while he was gone, but she was sure he was avoiding all of the illegal and more harrowing things. And in turn, she told him a little about becoming a medic, and working at the hospital.

At one point, he had asked her if she ever saw herself settling down and starting a family. It took her completely off guard, but she decided to answer it, since he was making such a huge effort to speak with her and get to know her again. She used to see that in her future, but now she wasn't so sure, is all she told him. She left out the part about only wanting to have red haired children with their father's eyes. He probably didn't want to hear that, and she didn't want to bore him with her fantasies.

After lunch he had asked her to go on a walk with him, which she accepted. After all, he was making an effort to get to know her, so she could at least try and be nice to him, despite all the things he had done. People in the village gave her weird looks though, and not the kind she had gotten in her dream when she was walking with Gaara. These were looks of confusion and disgust. They were probably wondering why she was associating herself with a traitor.

After their walk he left her at her apartment, saying that he needed to go see the Hokage and have some kind of seal placed on him. It was probably to make it impossible for him to leave the village for a while, as well as to deplete his chakra reserves so that he was limited as to what he could do, since he was on probation. The council also wanted him to settle down and continue the Uchiha line, but she doubted Sasuke would comply so easily. He didn't strike her as the type of person to create a family and actually stick around to watch it grow. And there was nothing wrong with that, but he had always been about being the best and proving that nobody could beat him, so Sakura expected that he would just continue his life as a shinobi.

Maybe if she just lay in bed for the rest of her life, she would die a slow and painful death, decomposing from lack of food and water. But she couldn't, she thought with a groan. She had promised to go to dinner with Sasuke tonight. He even said that it was a date when she had agreed. She laughed at the irony. She had dreamt most of her life of going on a date with the stoic Uchiha, and now that she had the chance, she wanted nothing more than to stand him up. She didn't care anymore. She had come to the conclusion yesterday that she would never be over Gaara, so there was no use in trying, or even lying to herself and saying that she was.

Looking over at the clock, she noticed that it was almost noon, meaning that she had effectively stayed in bed for half of the day. She sat up and swung her legs over the side of her mattress, causing her bones cracked in protest. It really wasn't healthy for her to stay in bed that long. But, after her date with Sasuke, she would simply return to the soft haven her sheets provided, and lay there for the rest of eternity.

She walked across the room and into her bathroom. Every time she came in here she felt claustrophobic, having gotten used to the large elegant one that she had in Suna. Turning on the water, she didn't care that it was hot enough to sting her flesh when she stepped into the steaming shower. She scrubbed herself clean to the point that her skin was an unhealthy shade of pink, before washing and conditioning her hair. Turning off the water, she stepped out and dried herself off. Wiping off the tiny mirror so she could brush her teeth, she was disgusted with what she saw. Her skin was a deathly pale color, having lost its natural glow days ago, and her eyes were lifeless. Well, this certainly seemed familiar, she thought. It was the exact way she remembered looking when Gaara had disappeared before her birthday.

A determined look crossed her face then. She would not allow the redhead to have such a huge effect on her life. She would continue to do things as she had done before ever falling in love with him, and she would be happy, even if she had to lie to herself in order for that to happen. She was good at lying to herself about things that would never become true, Sasuke's defection from Konoha had been a perfect example of that.

After she got dressed, she walked into her bedroom and spied her pack sitting next to the door. She still needed to unpack everything. She had left it full, in case Gaara came for her, so that she could just grab it and run away with him. But it was a stupid idea. She was just giving herself false hope at this point.

Picking it up and sitting it on the bed, she began to pull out the various items. Kunai, her clothes, medical supplies, and the standard gear that she always brought with her on a mission. When her hand brushed a scrap of paper, she pulled it out slowly. It was the card Gaara had written to her for her birthday, and, right beneath it, was the one he had sent with the flowers. She kept them instead of throwing them away like most would, because they made her smile. Then she remembered her petrified cherry blossom he had given her. She searched through the bag, but couldn't find it anywhere. "Deep breaths Sakura. I'm sure it's just in the bottom." She muttered, continuing her search. Her words not enough to reassure her, she began to yank everything else out and toss it to the floor.

Still no sign of her most cherished present, she opened up all the outer compartments, only to be disappointed. When the realization finally hit her that she had lost it, she screamed in agony. It could be anywhere by now! She could have left it in Suna, or it could've fallen out on their way back to Konoha… there was a multitude of things that could have happened to it.

She began to rock back and forth on the floor of her bedroom in the fetal position, clutching the cards to her chest. These were now all she had left to remember him by. She didn't even have a picture. She cursed her stupidity. She definitely should've swiped one from his house, but that might have been taking things a little too far.

It was hours before she eventually stopped crying long enough to pull herself together. The only reason she got up was because Sasuke was going to be there soon to take her to dinner. But even though she hadn't eaten anything all day, she wasn't hungry. She washed her face, and got rid of all traces of what she had been doing.

When the doorbell rang, she answered it with a fake smile. Once she got this over with she could curl up into a ball and die. "You look lovely Sakura." The Uchiha spoke up, nodding his head to her appearance.

Being startled out of her thoughts, all she could do was look away, confused. It's not like she had gone out of her way to look pretty. She was wearing what she wore every day. She meant it when she had told Gaara that he was the only one she had dressed up for, and it would stay that way. "Thank you." She muttered quietly.

The restaurant they wound up going to was eerily familiar to the one where she and Gaara had had their food fight. It took everything in her being to keep up her happy façade and not just break down and cry then and there. When they were seated, she looked around the place in confusion. "Well…that's odd. Shouldn't there be more people here at this time?" she asked, puzzled. It was only six-thirty in the evening, prime time for people to be out enjoying a meal. And yet the entire establishment was empty, save for the waiting staff, and her and the Uchiha.

He smirked, glad she had noticed this little factor. "I bought out the whole restaurant so that we could have privacy on our date." He explained. He knew how shallow women were, so he figured, if he showed her how wealthy he was because of his inheritance, she would talk herself into marrying him faster. He didn't delusion himself into thinking that she was over the sand demon, but, if he behaved in the right manner towards her, she, in her vulnerability, would accept his proposal, convincing herself that marrying him had its perks. Nobody else would want her anyways, and he didn't care if she didn't fully love him. He only needed her to restore his clan and raise his heirs.

Sakura was simply disgusted. It had always bothered her when people showed off their wealth. True, Gaara was wealthy, both from his family and being the Kazekage, but he didn't flaunt it. He did things normal people did, and was always humble about his money. Sure he insisted on paying for everything, but that wasn't out of pride, it was out of the kindness of his heart. At least when it came to her that's what it was.

"Why?" she asked, figuring that he wouldn't explain it to her unless she did. And she was right too. He stood up, and walked over to her side of the table. Taking her hand in his, he knelt down on one knee, looking up into her confused emerald orbs.

"Sakura, I know this may be a bit sudden for you, but hear me out. We've been friends since we were genin, and know things about one another that others can only guess at. I know that I broke your heart when I left, but I did it for us. I needed to find closure before I could share my life with you." He brought her hand closer to his face. "I know that things have changed since I left, but I believe we can grow to love each other deeply over the years. And, once we have our first few kids, things will definitely have picked up." He said, as if he were simply explaining the meaning of life. "We could be happy together." He finished, looking into her startled eyes with his own stoic ones.

So this was why he had been so nice to her once they left Suna. He wanted her to marry him and have his children. She didn't need to ask why, because she wasn't stupid. With her chakra control and his sharingan, their kids would be a force to be reckoned with. Not to mention the fact that she could teach them how to use her monstrous strength, and be healers. He was also aware that she knew how to cook, clean, and do laundry, since she'd done it for the team many times. Therefore, he expected her to quit her career as a ninja and become a house wife. No working at the hospital, no missions, no nothing. She couldn't live a lie like that, no matter how depressing her life was now.

As she opened her mouth to say no, Sasuke was shoved away from her and slammed into a wall by a giant mass of sand. She didn't need to look to know whom it belonged to, but she had to make sure that she wasn't dreaming. Turning her head slowly to the right, Sakura let out a gasp at the sight before her. There stood Gaara, far away, but close enough to have heard the conversation, and he looked pissed, though she wasn't surprised. He did hate Sasuke after all. What she really wanted to know was why he was here. How was she supposed to move on if he wouldn't let her? Before she could ask, his gaze locked with hers, and she froze, mesmerized by his jade depths.

His hard expression softened at the sight of her. All she heard was her name uttered from his lips and she was up and running to him. She felt so many things in the moments she was running towards him that she didn't know how to describe it. She was relieved, because he had come back to her, like he always did. And she was happy, because she got to hear his voice and see his eyes. Those hypnotizing, beautiful eyes. But at the same time she was angry. Not at him, but at herself. Was she still so pathetic that she would run back into the arms of the one who broke her heart and crushed her soul? Yes. Yes she was. Because love made you do stupid and pathetic things.

Surprisingly to her, Gaara moved forward as well, unable to keep his distance from her any longer. He had missed her too much. As soon as she was within grabbing distance he wrapped his arms tightly around her waist, as she looped hers around his neck. He instantly felt the rage and misery that he had been carrying around with him disappear. All of his doubts and unsure-ness vanished the moment he saw her face. "Sakura," he repeated her name lovingly, burying his face into her beautiful pink hair and immersing himself in her delicious scent.

At the sound of her name coming from his lips, and the feel of his heart beating in time with hers, she began to cry, much like she had when he'd come back the night of her party. Reigning in her emotions somewhat, she buried her nose into his neck and took a deep breath, inhaling his scent. "Oh Gaara." She sighed, content to let him hold her.

He pulled away then, but not letting her out of his grip. "Sakura…I didn't…I'm sorry…" he finally muttered out, staring lovingly in her restored emeralds with all their luster. "When you told me you loved me…I didn't understand…but now I know what I wanted to say to you. And I say it with pride and in hopes that you still feel as you did." He stopped, pulling her against him once more, tilting her chin up to his face. "I love you Sakura…more than anything in the world. More than life itself even. I can't survive on my own anymore." And with those words said, he leaned down, closing the distance between them and pressing his lips against hers in a gentle yet passionate kiss.

She pulled herself closer to him, responding to his kiss eagerly. She had waited so long for this moment and it was just as amazing as it had been in her dreams. "Oh," he spoke softly, fishing around in his pocket and pulling out her gift. "You left this behind."

Sakura gasped, and took it from him, cradling it in her hands. "I thought I had lost it." Looking back into his eyes, she smiled. "You have no idea how badly I tore my room apart looking for this thing."

"I thought you might want it back," he placed his hands over hers, closing her fingers over the small orb.

"You thought right." She said, before leaning forward to give him another kiss.

Across the street stood a very confused Neji and Tenten. "Did we miss something?" the kunoichi asked.

Naruto walked up at that point, having been on his way to the Hyuuga District to ask Hinata out on another date. Seeing the confusion on his friend's faces and where they were staring, he turned to them and laughed. "Yes you did. A lot happened in Suna." He said, and walked away, wanting to find Hinata that much faster so that she could hear the great news.

Turning to her companion, Tenten said, "Next time there's a mission to Suna, we have to go."

"So it seems." The Hyuuga replied. He then began to walk away, wanting to give his friends the privacy they deserved, with Tenten close on his heels.

She was walking down that familiar street in Suna, but this time, it wasn't a dream. Having found out about the sudden romance between her and the Kazekage, Tsunade allowed Sakura a few weeks' vacation, using the excuse that she was emotionally exhausted from everything that happened concerning the Uchiha.

She looked down at her hand, which was linked with a smooth, pale one. She didn't need to look up to see who it belonged to, but did anyways. She gazed into the eyes she had come to love, and smiled.

He glanced over at her, a smile gracing his own features. "What?" he asked with a small laugh. All the villagers they passed giggled with glee, some whispering the words 'Finally' or 'About time'.

"Oh nothing." The pink haired woman said. "Sometimes I just can't believe I'm so lucky as to have found you."

A pained look flashed across his countenance as he stopped and took her face in his hands. "Sakura…if anyone is lucky it was me…you came and saved me from the dark." He whispered, pressing his forehead against hers.

She smiled up into his eyes. "Well, I've always been one to keep my promises." She murmured, leaning into him.

He simply smiled and kissed her right there, in the middle of the street, getting cheers from the surrounding villagers. They both laughed, their kiss being broken then, but he was still happy. He had gotten what he wanted, what he needed, and he was never going to let it go.




The chaotic sequel to Whirlwind. When all seems to be going well, Gaara and Sakura are sucked into a Typhoon of emotions that might just tear them apart.