Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Absence Makes the Heart ( Chapter 12 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
TYK: As promised, here is #12!!!

And thanks to the reviewers who pointed out the problem with the content and the rating. I up-ed it to T because this fic does include adult themes, however minor they are. And according to the ratings guidelines, K+ has no adult themes. Figured I’d be safe on that one.

Sound Sleep Ch12:
Absence Makes the Heart…

It had been four weeks.

Four whole, damn weeks since the incident where Gaara left her hanging in his bedroom.

And after that the Kazekage had developed a sudden love for work because she had seen him thrice, and at no time had he spoken to or acknowledged her. It made her mad, deservingly because he had, after all, legally kidnapped her from her home and brought her to Suna only to seduce her body and soul before going back to treating her like she didn’t exist. And worse, he wasn’t even sleeping in the same room.

Which meant that he wasn’t sleeping at all.

And that wasn’t good for the country. Gaara had gotten used to having slept every night for however long he’d been using her. And he’d gotten grouchy after only one night of her sleeping in Temari’s room…

Sakura sat out in the gardens during the day as she usually did, but lately her thoughts were constantly on her situation, eyes focused on Gaara’s office window where she’d hoped to get a glimpse of the man while she pondered what was going on.

Sakura had finally vowed to get to Gaara—to get him to trust her as he trusted someone like Taki—and letting Gaara touch and kiss on her those few times were considered part of that plan, which happened to backfire in the end because she hadn’t realized just how much she liked the way he touched her. Or the way that no matter how deep a sleep she was in, lately the pinkette was able to tell whether or not Gaara was in the room. Not that she needed to be guarded or anything, but his presence did make her feel safe—and wanted.

And she’d become accustom to his attention. Most of all the way that he had been looking at her up to that night in the bedroom.

His eyes used to be so vulnerable when they allowed her to see past the barrier that he’d previously erected against anyone who wanted in. They told her that he cared for her… even in the slightest. But he’d walked right out the door afterward.

And that was the biggest blow.

Sakura had fallen asleep hoping that he would wake her when he came back to the room from…wherever he went that night. But he hadn’t returned. She could tell by the way she’d slept—being alone in the room just wasn’t the same.

The lights were still on when she woke up.

 
“I don’t know what you want me to say, Sakura,” Taki added once a silence had come over the conversation.

“Well, you talk to him. You interact together. Can’t you tell me anything about what he’s feeling or the way that he’s acting?” Sakura’s intentions in arranging a late lunch out in town with the other ninja were simply to get information from the woman in a neutral setting. As surprised as Taki was when she had been asked by the young girl, she’d been expecting this conversation to come up because of her business relationship with said man.

Taki had known Gaara since they were young. He was older than she was, and by the time she’d heard of him it was because of his notorious inhuman nature. But her family had worked with the administration for decades, so she’d gotten the job and come to know the then Kazekage a little bit better through those connections and her experience as a Suna nin.

After a few years, Taki realized that she actually had a sort-of relationship with Gaara that no one else seem to have: an understanding. Later Gaara would tell her that it was because she had a no bullshit attitude about her work and wasn’t using him for anything. Plus she was a woman, and women friends always came in handy for something. The thought would have been nice had it not been followed with a comment about older businessmen from other countries liking something nice to look at when they walked into the building.

But nonetheless she had developed this friendship with Gaara, and she had followed his every command without question since then.

And she would be damned if she was going to betray the trust that Gaara had in her for a visiting medic. If Sakura asked something she didn’t need to know, Taki would stand by her loyalties to the Kazekage.

He’d come to her once, just as the girl across the table from her had that day, wanting advice and to talk. He wasn’t the most articulate man on the planet but had said enough that she’d easily gotten the gist of the situation with Sakura. The brunette would be the first to admit that when Gaara had returned from Leaf with the pinkette, she’d been a little jealous of all the time he was spending with Sakura, especially during the night. Then Taki had learned about their situation. And it was as if this Sakura Haruno was no longer a threat in suddenly taking her place as the only woman to really know the Kazekage.

Ever since then she had seen a change within Gaara from his moods to his overall treatment of other people, and the reason for all this was probably that girl.

“Look,” Taki said. She didn’t really know what to do with the woman because every time they’d been around each other, Temari had been there to act as the buffer, the mutual friend. “Sure, Gaara has changed since you’ve been here, but that’s always been for the better. These days, it seems like nothing happened and he’s gone back to exactly the way he was before you… well, you know what I mean. Maybe Gaara is a little more grouchy than usual, if anything. But it’s not like it’s hurting the country. He was just as good a leader before you came along.”

Taki noticed how Sakura’s eyes dimmed slightly with her words.

“But you’ve changed, too, Sakura. Sure, I didn’t really know you from the beginning, but your first couple of weeks here were rough.”

“All I could see in you was a constant struggle for freedom as if you were imprisoned by this country and our leader. But now that’s changed. I don’t see the same resistance in you, possibly because you’re more open to him than you have ever been. Like something happened…”

Sakura could help but listen to Taki’s words as she stared at her. It was true when she thought about it. There was a turning point that she couldn’t put her finger on when she had gone from a prisoner to a willing participant—even if she still resisted against Gaara every now and then.

She’d suddenly lost her appetite.

Taki finished her food in silence as Sakura frowned at nothing in particular, and as she stood from the table, Sakura looked up.

“Perhaps the best plan of action would be to time things right and talk to him. If he’s really been avoiding you then cornering him is eventually going to get him angry or riled up enough that he says something to you. Then with the ball rolling you could find out for yourself,” Taki forced herself to say. They walked out into the sun and back to the administration building mostly in silence.

Taki figured that it was best for the two to work it out themselves. She wanted to keep Gaara’s confidence but make him happy at the same time. If it would eventually make him happy that she gave Sakura advice and let it all settle between them, then she was going to do so. And she could tell that he was just as confused as Sakura.

Until they arrived back home, the rosette just pondered what it meant to be so concerned with someone who seemed so off limits to her.

“Tsunade, I don’t know what’s up with you! I tell you that I haven’t received a letter from Sakura in over a month, and you still won’t let me go find out what’s wrong!”

“Shino, I don’t appreciate the tone you’re taking with me. You forget that I am your superior. And I am well aware of the fact that Sakura has stopped communicating with us. I sent a letter to her as well to which I have not received a reply. I am worried for her, but the thought of sending someone out there to check on her would only serve to infuriate the Kazekage. Gaara isn’t stupid, and he knows about your “relationship” with Sakura. He’s not going to take an intrusion from you of all people very lightly,” Tsunade said as she sat across from Shino at her desk.

“There has to be something that we can do. I just… I need to know.”

At the tone in his voice, Tsunade looked up. “You seem resigned about something.”

“When the letters stopped coming, it was around the time I actually told Sakura how I felt. I finally decided to get it over with and write to her telling her that I didn’t want it to be an unspoken secret between us anymore. And when I pressed the issue for her to return the sentiment, the letters suddenly stopped,” Shino said. He rubbed his hands over his face to rub out any confusion in his eyes behind the dark sunglasses. “I have to know what’s going on. Does she love me, but the letters aren’t getting back here? Or does she not love me and doesn’t want to hurt my feelings?

“You realize that it is not wise to have relationships with other nins?”

“Well,” he replied. “We can’t all control how we feel about others, can we?”

“Understood. As long as you stay level headed about situations like this.”

“I’m trying to keep a cool head, but I can’t help asking myself, is there someone else?”

At Shino’s last question, Tsunade’s mind shot to what Naruto had said when he returned:

Yes. Unless I am wrong, Sakura is sleeping in Gaara’s room. And he was in there with her. I sensed it.

“Shino, I will think about it and let you know as soon as I have made a decision regarding this. For the time being, I need you to find Naruto and tell him to come speak to me in confidence.”

Shino knew that she wasn’t telling him everything about Sakura, especially when she wanted to talk to Naruto without him there. She wasn’t going to send Naruto instead, was she? The blond had managed to get himself suspended from missions—even though no one knew how exactly—and Shino would be damned if he went out there without him.

 I’m going to get down to the bottom of this. She’s only been gone for three months, and I know she had feelings for me when she left. Has the distance between us changed how she feels?

It was a few minutes before Naruto arrived, and Shino wasn’t happy to see that he was asked to leave while Tsunade talked to the blond. The bug man didn’t understand what was going on, but he was going to see Sakura and find out everything even if he had to leave without permission.

He walked along the dirt path back toward the main part of town while thoughts ran through his head about the inevitable conversation he was going to have with Sakura.

“I have to find him,” Sakura said to herself. “Find him and make him talk to me.” She wouldn’t openly admit it, but the memory of Gaara’s voice was strong in her mind yet so foreign at the same time. She wanted to hear it again. Just like Shino’s. And at the thought of the bug man she stopped walking and let her mind run away with her for a moment.

She leaned on the wall in the middle of the hallway thinking about him, her hands rubbing the stress from her eyes. Since she’d been obsessed with Gaara for the past four weeks, she hadn’t thought much about Shino or his letter or the fact that she hadn’t yet received a reply.

Maybe my letter wasn’t enough for him

She looked up from her palms and noticed the long empty hallway around her. Sakura saw the equal distances from either side of her and couldn’t remember whether she was coming or going any more.

Sakura stared to her right, the direction she’d been heading to find Gaara, and without much thought, she impulsively began walking toward his office for a confrontation long overdue.

When she reached the next floor, she saw Gaara at the other end of yet another hallway.

She couldn’t believe it—there he was just walking down the hall toward his office like absolutely nothing was wrong with his life and as if he wasn’t destroying hers.

The gourd on his back moved with him, but once she got closer, she saw it slow down as he paced himself. Gaara knew that she was there.

And the bastard didn’t have the guts to acknowledge her first?

“What the hell?” Sakura said to his back.

He stopped right where he was, but that was the only indication that he was paying attention to her words.

“What’s going on with you?” It’s not like Sakura missed him or anything. But she was worried about him not sleeping in the room with her. That was the reason she was in Suna after all. And Gaara not taking advantage of sleep she could provide him was the sign that something was wrong.

Of course, the something that went wrong was probably a certain session of hot and heavy touching they’d had before Gaara called everything off. He just walked out on her and… left her hanging, for lack of a better expression. It was that fact that scared Sakura: she’d been all for it, ready to be taken and loved and finally accepted.

It was no surprise that there was a bit of sexual tension between the two. Even if she hated the man when she was first dragged to Suna, sharing a room with him every night for a couple of months was inevitably going to replace that hate with curiosity. Of course, that curiosity had soon developed into rage when she realized that there was no reason for her to be there in Sand if he wasn’t going to use her to sleep, and yet she wasn’t allowed to go home of her free will.

“I’ve barely seen you. You haven’t acknowledged me in weeks,” Sakura said. She broke the stiff silence in the hall.

What’s bothering him? I wish he would just trust me. He doesn’t seem to have a problem talking to Taki...

“Is it because of that night?”

Gaara remained stiff. She could see the muscles in his shoulders tense and relax beneath his gourd reacting to what she was saying.

Sakura sighed in desperation. “You’re going to have to speak to me eventually.”

Actually, the pinkette mused to herself, he really doesn’t have to speak to me for the next three months if he doesn’t want to.

You can’t give in, Gaara said to himself. You cannot give in to this woman. Those kinds of feelings almost got you killed once. Never again.

“I’m scared, Gaara.”

Sakura registered a slight turn of his head. At least she had part of his attention for the time being.

“I was so set in my ways to hate you for the entire six months when you forced me to come here. And even though I’m glad that I’ve started to let go of that anger at you, I’m still afraid of what was happening that night. “

She still had his attention—that much was obvious as he turned his ear even closer to her voice. She began to walk closer to him, slowly so she wouldn’t startle him. He might bolt from her with the grace of a delicate doe in the presence of its predator.

“I won’t say that, given the chance, I wouldn’t go back to Konoha, but I will say this: I can tell that you miss my presence as much as I miss yours.” Sakura tried to put it delicately and not reveal anything too personal, but he needed to know that they were probably feeling the same way at that moment.

She was close to him now, very close. If she reached out, her finger would touch the hard curved of the gourd that hid most of his back. A step forward and Sakura managed to brushed the shoulder unoccupied by the sand container. She felt how warm he was, even more than usual in the Suna heat and longed for that warmth against her once more. She couldn’t believe she was actually wishing for his touch rather than repelling it like she should be doing. It was time to admit that there was only so long she could go without feeling a connection with another human being. And since she’d been there, Gaara was the only one that had extended that connection whether it was for his own gain or not.

“I don’t want my stay here to be wasted when you fought so hard to get me in the first place.”

He still didn’t respond to her, but his shoulders did relax. Sakura wondered if it was her words or presence that was comforting to him.

“Isn’t it lonely, Gaara? Trying to keep people away?”

Later, she would wonder if she really got to him with her words or if he just caved in to the need to be around her, but Gaara finally turned toward her and grabbed her wrist. Without hesitation, in a whirlwind of sandy heat and stumbling feet, Gaara took them up to his room.

Within the bedroom, Gaara threw Sakura onto the bed, and after dropping his gourd to its old resting spot next to the desk, he joined her on the bed, crawling up her body until his face was on level with hers.

Sakura thought he was going to continue where they’d left off, and the stoic look on his face was so obviously betrayed by the trust in his eyes that she was almost okay with the idea.

He stared at her for a moment before grabbing her waist and letting his weight fall to the bed. With barely any noise from the outside penetrating their world, and with Gaara’s head resting in the crook of her neck, he slept.

Content with the situation, Sakura closed her own eyes and rested.

“I’m giving you this mission because… well, I don’t exactly know the reason,” Tsunade said. “This is highly against our agreement, and the Kazekage could easily take this as an intrusion. But I’m hoping that you’re able to stay long enough to check up on Sakura.”

Naruto stood before her, eagerly excited that the Hokage had lifted is hold on missions and decided to finally send him to Suna.

“Maybe you are using me for the fact that Gaara and I are friends?” the blond asked.

Tsunade just smiled knowingly. “Perhaps. I am going to let you choose who else will go with you. If, under the mission’s pretenses, you are to go alone, the Kazekage might be suspicious that we are checking up on him. But I strongly advise you to choose wisely. There are some people that obviously wouldn’t be suited for this—”

“Shino,” Naruto said without hesitation.

“You realize that’s exactly who I was talking about. He’s a liability—personally involved.”

In an eloquent moment, Naruto replied, “But who in this village isn’t personally involved? Some more than others, but in this case even you would be up on the list with Shino of who not to send.”

Tsunade admitted that he was telling the truth. “That’s a moot point, at best, when you take into consideration that should your observation of Sakura’s sleeping arrangements be brought to his attention, our alliance with Suna would surely be compromised. Shino is powerful, but should he challenge the Kazekage of all people, with whom we are allies, he might be considered a traitor to Konoha. Are you prepared to take responsibility for Shino knowing how serious he feels for Sakura?”

Naruto nodded. “That’s why I wouldn’t trust anyone else with Sakura’s safety. The point of the mission is to make sure she is alright as well as doing her duties stated by the contract. If she isn’t, we must act in the best interest of Konoha and bring her back to be disciplined for failing to follow obligations in a mission. And the problem would be solved.” He smirked.

The Hokage nodded blankly, and Naruto, satisfied with her silence, left the room without another word.

Tsunade was speechless. Where was the young, whiney boy from the ninja academy? Where was the obstinate, borderline guileless boy that was in her office merely the week before? For having nothing worthwhile to say most of the time, Naruto was approaching his dreams of greatness if he spoke like that more often.

She smiled at the empty space where he once stood. “Uzumaki, what wouldn’t you do or say for a friend?”

“Get your gear together. I’m not going to tell you twice.”

Shino looked at the fox-boy with a raised eyebrow. “Nice to see you, too.”

Naruto’s face was unchanged.

“If you speak in that tone more often, more people would take you seriously, you know?” When Uzumaki had barged into his quarters without so much as a knock or a hello, Shino noticed something off about him, something more stubborn and commanding than usual.

“Duly noted, Shino.”

“While I get my things together, kindly tell me what it’s for since you’re so full of authority today,” Shino said while getting up from the floor of his living area.

“We’re going to Suna, you and I.”

The blond saw Shino’s movements increase in ferocity at the words. They didn’t speak again until after the edges of Konoha were barely in sight.

“I’ve been over it so many times in my head, but I still don’t know what I will say or ask Sakura when I finally see her.”

“How about you start with hi,” Naruto laughed, “and then go from there?”

Shino shot him a glare at the obvious sarcasm in the blond’s tone, while their strong legs kept pushing them close and closer to Suna in silence.

Tsuyoku: Wow! So glad to have this finally typed up and published! Hope you like it. Guess I’m going into a “story arch” here, but it’s definitely going to start leading up to some serious stuff… but we’ll see about that. It won’t be long in between updates. I’m ashamed to say that my fics have been neglected for about a year before I updated Tempt of Fate and now this one. R&R guys! Let me know what you think!!!

Backfired Plan
Reunion