Beloved Karura

By Ariel-D

Description: More Yondaime Kazekage and Karura fluff: how they met, their dates, their wedding, Gaara's birth, etc.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Kishimoto's and Shonen Jump's.

A/N: Yondaime is named Hirohiko in my stories, and I imagine he had an abusive father.

I: Meeting Again

Hirohiko was cautiously darting from building to building, nearly out of chakra and bruised and bleeding, when he heard the screams.

In this little town on the Earth's outskirts, Suna nin and Iwa nin had exploded into battle. What was meant to be a supply run for Suna, led by two teams of jonin, had become a spray of blood over storefronts, streets, and stone fences. Civilians lay dead in the streets; the rest hid in their houses. And Hirohiko was trying not to think about the loss of innocent lives and focus on finding his team when suddenly shrieks shattered what had become dead silence.

Hirohiko dashed to the next store front, then looked down the alley. What he saw made his entire body icy, and then he felt his pulse in his temples. Rage. Instant rage. His fellow jonin team leader, Karura, was on her back against the cobblestones, and an Iwa nin was on top of her, jerking at her pants.

The man had a bloody nose and lips, and Karura's knuckles were bloodied. Hirohiko could tell she had put up a fight. But her puppet was missing, and clearly she was beginning to lose the battle. Despite Hirohiko's lack of chakra, he reacted instantly, shooting a stream of gold dust at the man and knocking him off of Karura. With a grunt, the man hit the ground a few yards away.

A pulse of pain shot through Hirohiko's head at the chakra usage, but he still ran forward, putting himself between Karura and the intended rapist. "Leave her alone!" he shouted, sickened. He shifted his weight back onto one foot and lifted his fists, thinking he might have to finish this with taijutsu.

The man stumbled to his feet and took in Hirohiko's posture, only to laugh. "You must be very bad at taijutsu!"

Hirohiko smirked. "Not too bad." He just rarely ever used it. "But I'm very good at this." He punched the air — a snap of a punch right toward the man's jaw. A fist of gold dust flew up from the ground and connected instead.

The man yelped as he was thrown backward onto the cobblestones.

Hirohiko let his temper loose, punching first with his left fist, and then straight downward with his right fist, driving the man into the stones with his gold dust. Only when the man didn't move anymore did he stop. By the time Hirohiko was finished, he had a splitting headache from chakra over-extension; however, there were more important things to consider than that, and Karura was one of them.

Standing still for a moment, Hirohiko made sure the man was dead before turning to Karura. She was sitting up, her arms wrapped around herself.

"Oh, God! I'm so sorry." Hirohiko rushed over to her, kneeling by her and carefully pulling her into a hug.

She leaned against him, shaking. "You saved me," she whispered.

"Of course," Hirohiko murmured; he would never just stand by and watch something like that happen. Most especially to a fellow Suna nin. He rubbed her back with one hand.

"Thank you."

Hirohiko held her closely, worried for her still. As someone who'd come out of an abusive home, he knew there were more scars and pains than physical ones. And he hated that someone as nice as Karura had been subjected to such an attack. He'd served on a team with her once before, and now today their teams had been sent out together. She'd struck him as strong, opinionated . . . kind, caring.

In the end, he sat with his arms around her until she stopped shaking.

Karura gazed up at him and gave him half a smile. "I'm okay now."

Hirohiko didn't contest that. "All right. Let's find your puppet, okay?" He stood and held out his hand.

Nodding, Karura accepted his hand and let him help her to her feet. They stared at each other for a moment. Hirohiko didn't release her hand, and she didn't pull away. Wordlessly, they turned and headed toward the end of the alley, Hirohiko assuming that they would start their search the next street over.

"I began my fight with him out here," Karura said quietly, confirming his suspicions.

They checked the street before stepping out into it; Karura's solid white puppet, White Dragon, lay on its side in the middle of the street. Dozens of shuriken and kunai littered the area.

"I thought I had him beaten," Karura said. "Then he set off a gas bomb. I tried not to inhale, but a tiny bit got in. Just enough to weaken me."

"Plus you couldn't see," Hirohiko finished.

Karura nodded.

"You're safe now," Hirohiko said in a calm, soothing voice.

She gave him half a smile again, then released his hand to seal her puppet into the scroll that had fallen nearby. Once finished, she secured the scroll to her back. When she stood, Hirohiko held out his hand again.

Karura paused. "You know, I really am okay."

"I know," Hirohiko lied. He gave her a sad smile. Scars and pains on the inside were hard to heal. But just once he wished he could prove his father wrong, make a friend, be someone's hero, make a difference . . .

Karura took his hand, sliding her warm, soft hand into his. He gazed down at their clasped hands, the moment striking him as momentous.

Someday, he thought, someday . . . I'll have a wife.

And I'll protect her.

A/N: Thank you all who review!