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Suna No Samael
06 October 2012 @ 11:14 pm
"Why do you like him so much, Sakura-chan?"

We, meaning myself, Naruto, Sai, Team Kurenai, Team Asuma, and Team Gai, were all out to lunch one day when Naruto asked me that question. I really couldn't give him a straight answer without sounding like a lighted headed, gooey, love sick girl.

All I needed was for them to think I was like that again.

I tried to think of how to explain it while avoiding sounding like I did when I was twelve, being that I was now nearing eighteen and entering into the adventure that was adulthood. Hah. What a joke that was. Being a shinobi had a way of aging children far before their time. A childhood was a distant dream once a child was enrolled in the Academy. However, some children had their childhood forcibly stolen from under their soft little button noses before they had nary a chance to learn to feed themselves or sit upright. The thought made me think of the current topic of discussion, and I promptly pushed the notion away in favor of focusing on answering the question at hand.

Why do I like him so much? Leave it to Naruto to ask such a shallow question. There are so many reasons I do, I mean, how could I just summarize all the things that drew me to him in the first place? Or what keeps me wanting him now? I couldn't, I just… well I… I just couldn't (heavens, I hate when I stutter).

I briefly considered mentioning a few small things that crossed my mind immediately after he asked me that stupid question- small idiosyncrasies I'd rather not live without - maybe a few short stories about our times together, but promptly squashed the idea. How could I expect them to understand, appreciate them like I have come to? I had to stifle a smile at the thought, as the humorous image of the expressions on some of the faces of my friends after a story about that time I had finally found sand in places sand simply did not belong for the last time I could allow myself to tolerate it. I covered my smirking lips with my hand, deciding that no, in fact, they would not understand the… preciousness (hah, hardly) of the memory.

Ino gave Naruto a short slap on the arm, whining, "Now look what you did, Idiot! Forehead is thinking so hard that vein is pulsing in her temple!"

I shook my head wordlessly, coming over my moment of speechless idiocy, "It's okay, Naruto, honestly I just got lost in my thoughts trying to answer the question adequately. I don't think I can really sum it up," I scratched my nose sheepishly, out of more nervous habit than need.

"Well, what exactly is your relationship with him anyway?"

Gah, damn TenTen and her difficult, complex questions.

Really, this question was neither difficult nor complex if one knew the answer. This could be seen as partially my own fault, as I hadn't thought to ask him the last time I was with him, but I like to think it wasn't. Its not as if I was easily distracted, it was just he excelled greatly in distracting me, even if he wasn't entirely conscious of it.

Gaara, being the simplistic creature he was, never felt the need to specify exactly what our social title would be if we were asked.

We would meet when it was possible, be it his visiting Konoha on official business or my missions that sent me abroad, sometime to Suna, other times (later on) I extended my mission time to stop there. It started at first with chance meetings at a park in his village. I should have realized, though, that meeting him late at night on rooftops or in the middle of the day in the market was of a greater volition than chance ever had. I didn't, however, and our meetings continued, escalated, to lunch, sometimes a late dinner, long hours in his office spent in silence as we both diligently attacked his mountains of paperwork, or quiet walks enjoying the peacefulness nights in Konoha had to offer.

Even when things became intimate, that night in my apartment when he had staggered in after his first real night drinking with Naruto and his friends (romantic, right? Our first time was under the influence. I can't help but be thankful for his overconsumption, as ashamed as I am to admit it), I hadn't thought to sit him down and demand an answer as to what this thing going on between us was called. It simply was - it didn't need an explanation, a label. It existed in harmony (for the most part, I could hardly say that pursuing any kind of relationship with Sabaku no Gaara was without its turbulence and frustration) without a name, and that's how it happily remained.

Until now. The weapons expert was looking at me, patiently, as was the rest of the shinobi seated at the table (with the usual exceptions, of course, like Shino, Chouji, and Sai who all seemed to be focused elsewhere – Neji seemed to only offer the amount of interest that could be deemed as polite).

I didn't have an answer for her, and I voiced just that, the information finding the ears of a disappointed brunette.

"Ah Tenten you are so old fashion! Who really cares what they are formally, Sakura got her self a man! A handsome one, even if he is a little socially… odd."

That wasn't really a question. But it was memorable, due to the discomfort it caused. That Ino, she was so inappropriate.

I didn't appreciate her talking about Gaara like that (though a voice in my head told me it was true anyway). I wouldn't have minded if she has stated it a little more… delicately. But it was never in her nature to do so. That would be considered "mature," something many a blonde in my life certainly were not.

Except for Temari. She was one of those kids that was forced to learn what life was really like, and fast, when she was growing up. Kankuro too, actually, I suppose the same was said for all of the Sabaku siblings. Temari was more dirty blonde, anyway. I digress. It was a stupid comment to make.

"Does he get… I don't know, jealous a lot? You have a lot of male friends and all. He just seems to me like the jealous type, no offense."

Kiba looked, honestly, a little uncomfortable with his own question. It wasn't often that the confident male appeared to be anything but, well, confident. I stared at him a moment before a reply immediately fell from my lips.

"None taken. He can have a jealous streak, but it usually amounts to nothing. Everyone gets a little jealous, sometimes." I am ashamed to say that was the first (but the only!) time I was not honest in my response to their questions. My dishonesty wasn't without good reason, though (which is still no excuse, I should probably stop trying to rationalize my white lie) as I doubted Gaara would appreciate my slinging his privacy all over the village.

The Kazekage did indeed have a jealous streak, but came and went in regards to intensity. Sometimes, he seemed apathetic and hardly effected at all if I mentioned my seeing one of my male counterparts or if I told him about a conversation or whatnot I had with them. Other times, however, his reaction was completely different. I supposed his jealousy was founded purely on his discomfort with the entire situation, perhaps with a lack of self-value and esteem on his part, but maybe that's just my way of excusing his occasional possessive outbursts. It wasn't as if they were exceptionally bad, I mean it never got to a point of anything too crazy, but there would be shouting (on my part), things broken (mostly on my part, but his sand had contributed to that in the past), and the most serious, pushing and shoving or grabbing, things that were physical but not downright aggressive. We both contributed on that end.

If you put two short tempered (okay that was mostly me, again) people in a situation like that, things are bound to happen.

But I didn't think they would understand.

"Do you believe it is entirely safe to involve yourself with him, Sakura-san?"

I still don't understand why Neji insisted upon calling me "Sakura-san." It seemed he only used the honorific when we were with other people. He called me plain old Sakura the many times I had healed him from training and missions. In fact, I considered him one of my close friends.

That's exactly why I was bristled by his question, but didn't lose myself as I would if someone other than him had said it. It also helped to know he didn't mean to offend Gaara by it. Neji had clearly picked up on my slightly under exaggerated response to Kiba's question, the cunning man he was (hey, you don't become a prodigy for one of the most respected clans in the village on good looks, you know). He was concerned more of my paper-heartedness than anything else. Neji's thinking was less along the lines of "he will physically hurt you" and more so "he might really fuck up and not even notice if he hurts your feelings," in a more formal and less vulgar, Neji-ish way that is. That boy and his propriety. Will he ever learn to let lose? I'm getting sidetracked again.

I'd be dishonest if I said the thought hadn't crossed my mind at some point or another. How could it not? He was Sabaku no Gaara. The unstable jinchuuriki. The mass murderer of the desert. He was a self-proclaimed monster, loving and living for only himself. He had attacked me once, my precious people, and had tried to kill them.

But Gaara was gentle. Broken, but solid in his resolve. Mislead, unloved, neglected. Slowly mending fragments of a shell of someone that had never gotten the chance to ever assemble himself in the first place. Gaara was so much like a child in so many ways, he had so many things he didn't know about, never experienced, but he of course, like a child, was curious about it all. Shy, unsure, afraid, even… but curious – willing. He had made himself better, into a man more than fit to be a Kage. He had died for his village, a love so strong that not even the certain threat of death could keep him from defending the people he had grown to love, and that love was what allowed him to return – reciprocated love, understanding finally from an old stubborn woman who had never accepted him in his lifetime.

What did I have to fear from a man so terrified of his past, of what he used to be, that he still couldn't sleep a whole night through without waking up, sweating, horrified?

Gaara was always so gentle with me. Treating me like broken glass as if it wasn't he who was so damaged he could fall to pieces with the blowing of the desert wind?

"I had considered the possible dangers, Neji, but honestly, I feel safer with him than I do anyone, than I ever have with anyone," I replied in earnest, trying to find the words to express how I felt in the sincerest way possible.

The Hyuga prodigy seemed a little surprised by my confession, but accepted it with a terse nod of his head nonetheless.

As per usual, a certain ebony haired nin seemed to be the only one of the group not affected at all as he took advantage of the sudden silence that had broken over the group and spoke.

"Ugly, do you find his performance in the bedroom to be as satisfactory as it is on the battlefield? I have read many things that link the two."

I swear, my cheeks burned so badly I thought my face was going to melt off. I sputtered for a moment, staring wide-eyed at the completely nonchalant façade of the ex-Root member staring impassively back at me.

"I – uh – Sai! How – wha!"

The more conservative members of the group had the decency to shy their eyes away, pink shadowing their cheeks, but I did notice none of them even attempted to come to my rescue. The other, more abrupt shinobi present – I'm sure it's obvious who was included in that category – grinned in merriment at my response; a few urged me to answer.

Leave it to Sai, honestly, to force me into those kinds of thoughts while sitting at a table with some of the most renowned and promising shinobi in my village staring at me, waiting for an answer. What could – should – I say to that? It was entirely inappropriate! Not table talk in the slightest!

My rebellious mind entertained an idea, suggesting going ahead and telling them all how gentle and quiet and downright loving the notorious Kazekage could be in his most intimate moments. That should shock the pants right off of their smirking faces- and teach them a thing or two about presuming things! (I don't think the sheets or pillows or drapes or anything in my room that had faced the wrath of the sand wielding nin would agree on his tenderness, as they were usually the objects to take the brunt of the strain of his variety of vice-like grips or rampaging sand during our… erm, bouts of … romping).

The rational side of my mind, however, had me tugging on the long sleeves of the shirt I wore, subconsciously covering up the finger-tip shaped bruises that could be found across my pale skin from a few nights before when my redheaded lover had come home just a bit agitated and it had subsequently shown through when he had lifted me against the wall and –

Okay, Sakura, stop right there. But, heavens, the crest fallen look on his face the next morning when I woke up to him staring in horror at the just appearing marks marring my skin nearly broke my heart. I assured him that he hadn't hurt me and I wasn't mad at him in the slightest, but he didn't seem to hear my assurances. The way he had attempted to make it up to me during those early morning hours, however, had an entirely different effect on a dissimilar area of my anatomy.

I flushed, swallowing a rather large gulp of water before I spoke, "That is something I am not going to talk about."

Kiba just shrugged, leaning back into his chair, "I'm definitely taking that as a yes, just based on your reaction."

Happily, I ignored him, engaging Neji and Tenten in some distracting conversation about the genin that had graduated from the Academy this year in order to take the attention as far away from me as possible.

Thankfully, my luck changed as the interrogation permanently ended as the soft sputtering of Hinata's calm voice announced the presence of a certain redheaded topic of conversation when she spotted the man lingering outside the window of the restaurant. I always knew I loved that girl.

It may have seemed to everyone else that his greeting was cold, unfeeling towards me. But it didn't matter. I had felt that hand fleetingly brush across my shoulder when he came to stand behind my chair, fingertips lingering as long as possible as to not be detected. I had seen how he heaved an almost invisible, quiet sigh of relief when he first came through the door and spotted me sitting a ways across the room

I didn't care if they couldn't see it. I could. I loved it. I didn't care why; I just loved the way I felt. The way he made me feel. It was there and it was good and it wasn't going away.

Turning to him, seated next to me silently and attentively listening – but never participating unless addressed directly – to the group's conversations, as a smile of raw emotion, happiness, slipped across my lips. He appeared to be confused at first, but then I saw his brow relax, the corner of his lip turning up in that serene expression that only seemed to exist for me.

I didn't need to name it to feel the raw realness of it.

My fingers had sought his under the table and Gaara pulled my hand decisively into his lap, entwining our fingers securely.
 
 
Suna No Samael
03 October 2012 @ 11:21 am
Sighing, the pink haired student plopped her chin onto her palm as she stole yet another glance at the clock. It was unlike her to be wishing for the end of her class, she prided herself on being studious and the pleasure she took from learning, but today Sakura couldn't help but be anxious to get the hell out of there. Her teacher had gone off on one of his infamous tangents and her class, of course, was encouraging the time wasting by flowering him with questions and commentary on his less than appropriate recounts of his life.

How Jiraya became such a well esteemed professor was totally beyond her. Her bored emerald eyes slid their gaze to Naruto, down a few rows from her own seat, as he excitedly chatted with the older white haired man. Perhaps it was popularity among students. She had no idea.

Her eyes found the clock once more, against her will, and the urge to pound her head relentlessly against the table before her was never so strong. A little less than ten more minutes… ten more minutes to suffer through. She regretted her choice of jeans today, wanting nothing more than to curl up in her seat and at least be comfortable while she wished for death. The white washed denim fabric restraining her legs prevented such relief.

Her cell phone sat temptingly in her pocket, but her resolve against cell phone use in class was as strong as ever, leaving the pinkette totally and helplessly bored.

Besides, her phone could offer little entertainment; mindless games never interested her much and she couldn't think of even one person that communicating with would break her boredom.

Sakura turned her chin in her palm, deciding that attempting to find something interesting to look at through the huge windows of the classroom was worth the effort. But how interesting could a few squirrels be, anyway? The campus was lush with foliage and the woodland creatures associated with it, and the auburn shades of fall were of course a pleasurable spectacle, but the ordinary sights of Konoha did little to quench her thirst for captivation.

That is, until, widened emerald eyes fell across the form of a certain, rather interesting, individual.

One could almost miss him, the dark colors of his clothing fading in with tree bark, his rusty hair camouflaged among the leaves of similar color.

He was quite a sight for sore eyes standing outside the window leaning against one of the many trees on school grounds, taking a long drag of his cigarette.

Her eyes gluttonously drank him in. Tall and lean with faded gray jeans that hung loose off thin hips. A long narrow torso concealed under a worn black thermal long sleeved shirt. Strong shoulders branching into long arms, chiseled from long hours spent in the dojo training relentlessly day after day. Rough pale hands, coarse after two decades of struggle and violence.

Close enough for her to see his distinctly blank expression, he glared with his lips in a straight thin line, eyes narrowed slightly as they seemed to drink in humanity and disapprove of it.

Nothing in the past eighty five minutes or so had captured her devout attention quite like he could. But that was pretty normal. An average captivation. A familiar stranger. A very welcomed distraction.

She could go on, but mindless staring was so much more appealing.

The few people that didn't have morning classes strolled on passed as if he was invisible, but, she figured, this was his intention when he chose that particular tree to enjoy his dose of cancerous fumes. The branches began just above his head, rusty spikes brushing against them in the occasional autumn breeze. For a man so out of his natural element, he seemed particularly capable of blending into the foliage surrounding him. Nothing but a mid-morning shadow.

She knew she had been caught staring when his clear jade eyes shifted and his chin titled in her direction. Unabashedly, the more brazen side of her surfaced as she refused to look away. With a smirk, he was the one to break the contact.

Sakura was out of her seat, books clutched between her arms and chest as she dashed out of the room, before the bell signaling afternoon break could finish ringing. She walked briskly down the hallway and broke out into a slow jog as she pushed past the doors to the courtyard of the academic quad, eyes searching for a familiar figure under a familiar tree.

"In a rush?" A voice called out from behind her, halting her steps suddenly and causing her two notebooks to fall unceremoniously to the ground. A grunt that was some mocking form of laughter was hopelessly optimized by her villainous senses. They made the grating sound a harmonious one. Her brain informed her that it clearly was not. That particular organ went ignored, as it was wont to, in his presence at least.

Blushing, she stared down at her fallen books and tugged on the long sleeves of her beige cardigan as she stepped toward them, mumbling, "Not particularly."

Gaara was kneeling before her before she could process his movement, cigarette perched between pale lips as her notebooks were thrust into her unsuspecting hands. Blinking, she offered her hand to him but he stood up swiftly without utilizing her aid. "You're clumsy."

A vein popped out of her forehead, her hand falling to her side sharply and curling into a fist, "You're the one that startled me!"

The smirk that crept across the edges of his lips as he took a short drag told her he was purposely goading her. It did nothing to quell her rising irritation. "Then stop being so jumpy."

Her eye twitched as he turned away from her, walking away without gracing her ears with another arrogant comment. She called after him. "You should stop sneaking up on people!"

His response was a simple snort as he halted, tossing his finished cigarette on the ground and stepping on it. "When you stop staring at people."

Sakura's chin nearly unhinged from her jaw, shutting promptly when he glanced at her over his shoulder. "Or do you just stare at me?"

The arrogance of that man! How dare he assume such things? Of course she stared at other people! What kind of question was that? He wasn't the only one she stared at, not by a long shot! She was about to verbalize that before she suddenly stopped herself, realizing how creepy any of those responses would have been. Grudgingly, she realized Gaara had won. Again.

He seemed to realize it to as he washed the many expressions the flitted across her face in a matter of seconds. The redhead began walking away from her once more.

Deflated, she jogged after him, walking along side of his long strides. "You're a real prick, you know that?"

More gruff sounds that shakily served as laughter.

"Yes, I do."

Sighing, she clutched her books with one arm and linked her other arm through his. "Let's go get lunch, I bet you haven't had anything but those damn cigarettes all day."

Gaara didn't deign her command with a response, leaning over to her and quickly pressing his mouth against the crown of her head in a manner that derided a kiss.

Sighing for the umpteenth time that morning, Sakura rationalized that if breaking the monotony meant getting riled up and mercilessly teased every once in a while (or more often than every once in a while), it was well worth it with the man walking next to her.
 
 
Suna No Samael
06 September 2012 @ 04:44 pm
Sakura gave her customary three respectful knocks to the large heavy door before entering the Kazekage's office. This had been her daily routine for the past few months of her stay in Suna – get up, visit Gaara's office for her daily orders, report to the hospital for her day shift, return to the Kazekage building for lunch with whatever member of the Sand Siblings was free, train, and then finally return back to her temporary home. She sometimes found herself sighing wistfully, homesickness creeping up on her, but always promptly delved herself into work or sought out one of the sand shinobi that had become her close friends over the course of her stay to distract her.

The redheaded Kage sat stoically behind his desk reading over papers, the picture of an ideal leader, as he did almost every single day.

His eyes rose from the papers he had been reading to meet her gaze. She bowed respectfully, as she did every morning, and stepped into the room to stand before his desk. "Good morning, Lord Kazekage," Sakura chirped, the respectful greeting laced with teasing.

Gaara set the paper in his hand down onto his desk, resting his chin on his palm. Some of his unruly rusty hair shifted, the long strands falling across his forehead and nearly into his eyes. Sakura thought how he needed a haircut, noting how the back and sides of his red mane reached the collar of his maroon vest. "Good morning, Haruno," he grunted in reply, sea foam eyes enlightened with dry amusement as she scowled.

"I have a first name!" She cried indignantly, her playfulness still displayed with the jut of her lip.

"As do I, I have told you countless times to use it," the Kazekage replied smoothly, removing his chin from his hand as he began ruffling through some of the papers stacked on his desk, "I assume you're waiting for your orders."

Sakura rolled her light emerald eyes dramatically, choosing not to deign his comment with a reply. He noticed, but said nothing.

"You are to stay at the hospital until lunch break, when you are expected to meet my siblings and me for lunch at the restaurant across from the hospital," the redhead ordered, although it seemed his attention was entirely focused on the paper he was currently scanning.

The kunoichi nodded her understanding, fully aware that he could see her despite his captivated attention. Turning on her heel, Sakura looked over her shoulder from the doorway, "See you later, Gaara."

Sea foam eyes met hers as he looked up and nodded, more of his red bangs falling across his smooth forehead.

Kankuro chuckled, poking Sakura in the arm teasingly with his chopstick, "I never took you for the sensitive type, Sakura!"

The medic nin could hardly keep the grin from tugging at the side of her lip as she swatted the puppet master away, trying to appear indignant, "I can't help how mean your teasing is, Kitty Ears!"

This time, Temari laughed, quickly covering her mouth to make up for her outburst, "Kitty ears!" She cried, wiping her eyes with her napkin demurely. Kankuro scowled, not enjoying being the brunt of the joke, as he pointedly ignored the cackling kunoichi and continued his meal. Gaara resisted the urge to shake his head at their childish ways, eating his meal in silence as he sat at the table with his siblings and Sakura.

"Seriously," a sobered Sakura began, before taking a short sip of her drink, "Why do you still wear the hood and face paint? Don't you ever want for a change?"

The jounin seemed to consider her comment before he replied thoughtfully, "Sometimes, yeah, I wonder if nixing the entire look would help me out with the opposite species," he waggled his chopstick at her arm suggestively, and she laughed before swatting it away again, "But then I realize that this is who I am. If they can't accept it then, too bad." He shrugged indifferently, pushing his now empty plate away as he stretched.

Sakura seemed to accept this answer, nodding as she too finished the remainders of her meal.

"Oh please," Temari scoffed at her brother haughtily, "If you take that attitude, you'll never find a steady girlfriend!"

Kankuro frowned, but was interrupted by their youngest brother before he could retort, "Please, Temari, you are going to give him a complex. Leave Kankuro alone," Gaara ordered quietly, setting his chopsticks down beside his plate and folding his napkin next to it properly.

The dirty blonde merely snorted while the hood-clad shinobi stuck his tongue at her, inciting another fit of giggles from the present pinkette.

"By the way," the redhead addressed Sakura before he stood from the table, "I'll be clearing one of your mornings this week, if you don't mind."

Blinking, the medic looked puzzled, "Of course not. For what?"

Gaara seemed to shift uncomfortably in his seat, for him, at least, that meant avoiding eye contact for a moment, "I have some questions about sleeping," the redhead murmured, his eyes focused on some random spot on the table as his hair flopped unceremoniously across his brow.

Emerald eyes widened with realization, "Oh! Of course, Gaara. Come down to the hospital whenever you're ready and I'll be happy to help in whatever way I can!"

The Kazekage finally let the sigh that had been coiling inside of his chest for the past two hours escape from his pale lips as he quickly exited the room and began briskly making his way back to his personal office. Meetings of the Village Council proved almost always to be incredibly taxing on his energy – and patience.

Being the young leader he was, Gaara found himself facing several old fashioned councilmen who insisted, despite his proving otherwise, that their way was the best and only way to go about running his village. The rational man he was, Gaara simply did not accept that just because something was traditional, it was the best course of action. There were countless things to consider about any given decision made by the Kazekage and the Council, a concept that caused – more often than not – discrepancies between the former jinchuuriki and the bunch of old timers.

As he pushed open the door to his office and stepped into the haven of seclusion, Gaara recalled a particular instance during the meeting that had reminded him of his younger days – and of the precarious hold he still maintained on himself sometimes. He had risen his voice just a fraction above his normal - albeit exceptionally quiet - level and, accompanied by a visible twitch of his hand that lay idle on the table before him, the redhead had witnessed a few of the councilmen seated before him flinch. It was a regression back to much older, better forgotten times, when a simple movement of his limbs could cause even the most seasoned shinobi to quake in terror.

He ran a callused hand through his red mane and frowned.

The following morning, when Sakura had come in for her daily orders, she noticed immediately that the Kazekage looked more worn and tired than usual. She immediately questioned him about the cause of this, but he shrugged her inquiry off.

It was a well-known fact in the Kazekage household that the sleep Gaara got was slim or sometimes none. No one really questioned if they came into his office one morning and he looked like he had been hit by a carriage or was a bit snappier with his tone than usual.

However, rumors of the meeting yesterday had circulated among the nurses in the hospital, and it was not long after lunch time that Sakura heard of the slight break in the redhead's patience. Some of the more scandalized nurses commented that he had "lost control," an accusation that sent the pinkette on a tirade as she scolded the women for speaking in such a disrespectful manner about the young man who had literally laid down his life to protect theirs and how could they even imagine to know enough about him to make such an ignorant comment?

The gossiping females had quickly lowered their gazes and scurried off to escape the wrath of the irate kunoichi.

Her irritation returned with a vengeance as she stared across the room at the young shinobi, whose head hung with a little too much stress and eyes looked a bit too heavy for a young man of his age. How could those women possibly speak about him like that? Look at him, for Kami's sake! Exhausted and still working diligently for his village. Sakura made a mental note to promptly squash any and all bad blood circulating around the hospital about the redhead.

"How about you clear your schedule and come down to the hospital tomorrow morning so I can examine you?" The medic suggested, marching up to his desk and thumping her palms against the wood in front of him as she leaned forward, leaving no room for argument.

Gaara's brow wrinkled incredulously as he stared up at the determined face of the kunoichi. He surmised that "no" was not an acceptable option. The Kazekage nodded in acceptance, the ends of his dusty red strands tickling his eyes as they had fallen across his forehead some time ago. He was, however, not sure how he felt about being bossed around by the tiny pink woman, but rationalized that he had been planning to do so for quite some time anyway.

"Good," huffed the kunoichi as she removed herself from his desk and turned to walk out of the room.

"Oh," Sakura glanced over her shoulder, "and you could really use a haircut."

Her offhanded comment went ignored as the heavy door shut behind her by a tendril of sand and a barely audible sigh.

Gaara nodded in assent that he understood the pink-haired medic's instructions, rising from where he had been sitting on the metal tray in the examination room. He had come in to visit her today, prodding her knowledgeable mind and inquiring if she had any medical advice of how he could more successfully delve into the – relatively – newly acquired bliss that was sleep. It had only been a year since the Ichibi had been extracted from him, and he was slowly becoming more adept at falling and staying asleep for short periods of time.

Blinking, the redhead stared down at the crown of her pink head, waiting silently for her to move from where she stood directly in his way. Suddenly, Sakura sighed, lifting her eyes from where they were level with his chest and staring up at him with a light emerald, calculating gaze.

"Gaara," she began reluctantly, her voice barely audible as her eyes roaming over his face to where his scar was hidden under long red tresses.

The Kazekage looked incredulous, unused to this uncertain side of the usually brash kunoichi he had come to know. He shifted his weight, arms crossing over his chest and brushing against her in the process as a small nod of his chin prompted her to continue.

"I just…" she sighed, uneasy about broaching the topic with the usually distant sand-wielder. Was it really her place, a jounin from Konoha, to discuss such a private matter with the former jinchuuriki? Regardless, over the past few weeks, Sakura had noticed the slow progression of a change in Gaara - even before that stupid meeting with the Council. It wasn't major, not even substantial enough for his siblings to notice much less address, but it was hard not to notice the subtle changes in a person you saw twice – sometimes three or four times, actually – a day.

"Why are you covering it up?" She asked vaguely, her gaze twitching from his own jade orbs to where his tattoo lay veiled by a mop of his hair.

Charcoal rimmed eyes widened, just a fraction, as the young Kage considered what the kunoichi could possibly be referring to.

"Be proud of who you are, Gaara." Sakura murmured, her hand slowly lifting in front of his face as she pushed the strands of his long, dark red hair to the side, "Be proud of where you've come from, and where you are now."

The soft pad of her fingertip ghosted across the red, thick lines of his scar.

Swallowing past the lump that had taken residence in his suddenly parched throat; Gaara gently grabbed her wrist, bringing her hand down to his chest.

Not trusting his voice, the redhead nodded, and was rewarded with one of the brightest smiles the medic-nin had ever graced him with.
 
 
Suna No Samael
10 April 2012 @ 12:31 pm
Immediately aware of his slightly distant, distracted state after his battle with his father, Sakura quickly aided the Kazekage in moving behind a dune some distance away from the combat. After leaning him against the mass of earth, the medic quickly began a basic sweep for any major injuries. She immediately set to work on his slightly twisted and tentatively placed left leg. Soothing the sprained tendon with her chakra, Sakura glanced up to her patient's face to assess his level of pain.

The distant expression had not faded on his face and as he stared definitely at nothing she noticed a red tinge to his pupiless eyes. She squinted disbelievingly. If it had been anyone but the Regimental Commander of the Allied Shinobi forces and the Kazekage of the Hidden Sand Village before her, the kunoichi would have sworn those were tear stains marking the length of his narrow face.

He shifted and suddenly the late afternoon sunlight reflected from his skin an odd, otherworldly radiance that set his face aglow with incandescence that stretched down the narrow length of his nose, bounced across the plains of his cheekbones and glided over his hard jawline. She stared, overwhelmed, as his brow furrowed and the bouncing light concentrated between eyes seemingly lost in the sea of celestial luminosity garnishing his face. The strands of deep maroon hair that dusted his forehead too had the grainy substance mirroring the light and setting his red scar aflame. Bewildered emerald eyes swept back down over the plains of his hard, glowing face to the hard set of his mouth.

It took her a moment to get over her astonishment and realize the Kazekage had caught her gaze several moments ago and was intently watching her as her eyes roamed over his face blatantly. She felt her cheeks burn as she snapped her attention back to his newly healed leg under her hands. Several moments of silence passed by, her awareness full of the nearby sounds of battle and Gaara's still slightly labored breathing. She moved from his leg to his sleeve, stained and hard with dry blood.

"Gaara," she murmured, eyes now trained on the gash she was focused on healing, continuing when she heard a soft grunt in acknowledgment, "why did you leave the gold dust in your armor if it is heavy enough to slow down your sand?"

After many seconds had passed, Sakura lifted her gaze to his face, curious at what kept him from replying, only to be met by sea foam orbs staring intently back at her. She held his gaze and, after what felt like several moments had passed, had almost decided he was going to ignore her question until he glanced up over her head to look somewhere far behind her as he spoke up in a soft, but decided, voice.

"The gold is… strong and tough… Heavy, in some instances, and it hinders my sand's attacks. But, it is durable and hard, serving as a valuable asset for protection. Under damaging circumstances, such as attacks that will breech my shields during this war, it is far more valuable than sand and its potency, ultimately, compensates for its burden on my speed.

"If, in the quest for such strength and protection, the gold slows me, it is valued enough to be worth it." He redirected his scrutiny from the distant landscape to Sakura's face and found her staring back at him intently, brow furrowed and opening her mouth before quickly closing it and shaking her head.

"However," he interrupted before she could voice whatever ailed her thoughts, "I can recognize your doubt, and I agree with it, for war and the desire for strength is often a cloud that hinders judgment and create dangerous weapons, both for the enemy and the wielder. Such decisions made under these circumstances have, in the past, indeed proven devastating, I agree with you."

The Kazekage stood, nodding to her in thanks for her medical attention, before swiftly turning on his heel and approaching where his comrades were engaged in a battle with Uchiha Madara, who had just been blasted with an impressive technique by the beautiful Mizukage.

"But, Gaara!" Sakura blurted out, having yet to move from her kneeling position on the ground. He paused, glancing at her over his shoulder with impressive patience, "I've seen things… like war, or the desire for power, create some… devastatingly beautiful things."

His eyes widened, and he was unable to respond as he heard his name being called by a frantic Naruto. Whipping his head back around, the young Regimental Commander sent a wave of sand directly in the aid of his comrade, rushing over to the fray to lend proper assistance. The medic took a deep breath and allowed herself a millisecond of relaxation before acting in likeness and joining her fellow medics.

Fair cheeks remained flush for the duration of the battle, a result not of the harsh desert sun or the exertion of battle, but of a subconscious knowledge that a certain Kage would be seeking her out at the medical base with many inquiries she was not entirely prepared to respond to later that evening.
 
 
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Suna No Samael
13 March 2012 @ 08:45 pm

What's The Story, Morning Glory?

I could feel the light beginning to penetrate my closed eyelids as I slowly woke up, causing whatever kind of vision I was limited to take a sort of orange-red tinge. My whole body was feeling stiff with sleep and the drainage whatever amount of alcohol that had worked its way into my bloodstream the night before; I stretched my legs underneath the warm covers lazily without opening my heavy eyelids. Flopping onto my back from my side, I rolled my shoulders and then slowly sat up. I let the covers fall off my chest leaving me exposed, not that I particularly cared for a dull throb within my head had focused my attention entirely on being rid of it.

Yawning, I finally took the initiative to rub my sleepy eyes to slowly wake myself up. My groggy mind gradually allowed my senses to kick in and for the first time since I awoke I smelt a potent aroma of espresso drifting from the kitchen, down the hallway, and finally into the bedroom.

With that scent as motivation, I pushed myself to my feet and slowly gathered the strength it took to reach down to the floor where I thought my ruby colored panties had been deposited. Frowning, I discovered no such article of clothing and found myself in the predicament that forced me to grab the soft grey fabric of a pair of boxers that were strewn a small bit to the left of the bed. After I pulled them over my legs, with more fluid motions I picked up the thermal black shirt that had been strewn on the floor not twelve hours before. Pulling it over my head as I walked down the hallway, I chose not to enter the living room but to follow the fragrance straight into the kitchen which I found empty.

There was no tall redhead (if he could be called that considering his hair was more of a light maroon type shade) leaning on marble counter drinking black espresso and reading some ridiculously long, boring novel with tiny print and barely legible diction about war that happened centuries ago (or something of that effect.) The lights were even dimmer than usual and the stainless steel appliances all blinked the morning's time, which I had not been previously aware of.

As I wondered where the brewer of the coffee was, as there was about a cupful already missing from the pot in the machine, I took my favorite white mug from the cabinet and poured myself a still steaming cup of the delicious liquid. Staring down at the still black coffee void of any sweetener I suppressed the urge to sigh as a slow smile formed at my lips. I took a sip and actually enjoyed the bitter taste. It was remarkable how much of himself he managed to impress upon me, however persuasive his self may be.

Still not fully awake despite my distant musings, I yawned yet again. Regardless of how he managed to change me, I needed a little time to wake up, unlike he who could simply rise from bed fully on task with not a whisper of complaint. Where was he anyway?

Drinking my highly caffeinated hot beverage, I strolled out of the kitchen into the moderately furnished living room. A burgundy couch and matching loveseat framed the small glass coffee table in front of the fire place, which was currently closed with no fire roaring within its stone chambers. The television above the mantle was on displaying the weather for the next week but the volume had been muted.

My eyes swept over the living room of the apartment and finally fell on the bay window to the left of the furnishings. Sure enough, there was the tall redhead I had expected in the kitchen equipped with his coffee mug full of what I was sure was black espresso. However, his book was closed on the window sill as he leaned his bare shoulder onto the window staring with his forehead against the glass at the city below where the people were bustling to work in the morning hours. He wore his black sweatpants with the name of his dojo printed down the side in bloody red text but had chosen to leave his defined torso and chest exposed. The glare produced by the rising sun restricted my view of his pale, chiseled face which probably held his normal blank expression.

I found myself smiling and approached him wordlessly, leaning on the window next to him sipping the still hot coffee he had prepared earlier. His jade eyes fell upon me and slid over my form which was clothed with his very own clothing. Giving an approving nod, his eyes fell back upon the half risen sun before he uttered a quiet "good morning" to which my smile widened. It always amazed me how a man of such little words possessed the ability to show such physical affection and desire merely hours before the sun rose.

"Good morning, thank you for making coffee" I replied pleasantly, lifting the warm cup to my lips for emphasis. Despite his shortage of sweet words or other verbal affections which I know sometimes made him feel inferior to other men, small tasks such as making coffee or having dinner ordered when I came home at night often meant more than meaningless words that when repeated meant nothing over time. He nodded yet again nonchalantly, arrogant as he was, accepting my appreciations. Setting said mug on the window sill, I slid my arms around his thin waist slowly, keeping my eyes resting on his passive face.

His free arm slid around my shoulder while his face leaned down to press upon my forehead, "Did you sleep well?" I asked into his collarbone, concerned. He could never get a good night's rest, constantly plagued with nightmares from his horrible upbringing; I refused to even call it a childhood. Coming into the world only to have his mother taken by death from her third childbirth, his father hated and beat him while his siblings feared their father enough to outcast their baby brother until the death of said sorry excuse for a man. His mother's brother who supposedly loved him enough to care for him in the early years of his life, the only person who would, betrayed him and he learned at a very young age how corrupt people could truly be. Only when the man who claimed to be a father was six feet under compacted dirt did his two older siblings, Kankuro and Temari, attempt to make amends with the brother they had cast out of their life and shown no love to for the years he struggled to grow up. And by no small means did he struggle in his adolescence. Using violence as an outlet for his great loneliness, he constantly got into fights and beating the peers brutally who also didn't accept him gained him an unspeakably dangerous and feared reputation as a merciless bully. Prior to meeting Naruto, this was the only way he knew how to live, loving and living only for himself.

Naruto, being the heaven-sent idiot he was, showed Gaara not all people would hurt him in the end. It took quite a while for him to understand and accept this, and he still didn't treat people the way he would had he not had been betrayed so many times by his own family, but eventually Gaara started using martial arts as a constructive outlet for his anger and pain. He found much more satisfaction in beating an opponent who was able and willing to fight him than a victim who was not, it seemed. Because of his ruthless combat style, he quickly excelled and became quite renowned among the dojos as a great fighter and worthy opponent. He spent his passionless fighting just to survive, but now his passion had become fighting, and he survived to fight.

I couldn't say I approved of him going into an arena with a man whose sole purpose was to hit him, but it's what he loved. I could never take that away. After my musings, I found myself frowning. I mentally shook away the negative thoughts; it was simply not a way to wake up in the morning.

The man gave a hint of a shrug, "Somewhat," he replied stoically. My lips lifted back to their previous smiling position; "somewhat" was a better answer than usual.

"I'm glad," I nuzzled into his neck, closing my eyes and enjoying the warmth that emanated from him. I felt him nod as he pulled his arm a bit tighter around my shoulders. We stayed in a distinct sense of serenity and content for a few moments while the rising sun slowly but surely finished it's ascent above the horizon of many tall buildings and urban structures of the region.

Finally breaking the silence, my amusement mixed with slight embarrassment found its way into my voice laced with a false sense of innocence, "So, Gaara, was your birthday celebration to your pleasure?"

His chuckle came in the form of a soft cough as his eyes trained down to the top of where my bed headed mop of hair met my over-sized (which was a matter of opinion, no doubt) forehead. "It was," he replied almost earnestly. However the rare moment of sincerity was over rather quickly as he continued, his normal arrogant tone back with a vengeance, "However, are you missing something?"

The comforting pressure created by his arm pressed against my back disappeared while he reached into the deep pocket of his pants. I felt my expression crumble into confusion as he pulled out a small deep ruby fabric and held it to my eye level.

I visibly twitched as my face reddened. "You insufferable pri—" I went to reach for my respective cloth only for it to be quickly yanked out of my reach.

"I found them for you; will you not appreciate my chivalry?"

I rolled my eyes. "Your birthday ended about five hours ago, I don't have to 'appreciate' anything even if there was something deserving appreciating. Return my… erm, property." I went to reach for the red material again only to be thwarted by my lack of height.

The incorrigible bastard had the gall to smirk at the small fumble of my speech caused by an obvious amount of shame. "Now Sakura, I thought your knowledge of manners far exceeded this display."

Sighing, I let my hand fall into my hair and push the mess of pink away from my face is exasperation, "You get more excruciating with every passing year don't you?"

"So they tell me."

It was simply and completely too early in the morning for this crap.

 
 
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