A/N: Okay, I have absolutely no excuses for how long this update has taken, OVER A YEAR

A/N: Okay, I have absolutely no excuses for how long this update has taken, OVER A YEAR! GOOD GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! Urgh… all I can do is offer my apology. All I can say is… college, my sister got pregnant then had the baby and I've been babysitting, and we got kicked out of our house, and we have to find a place… and… yeah… life T.T But, here it is, and I hope you enjoy it! I'm so sorry it took so long…

"Your Protector" – Chapter 8

"Urgh, Gaara, where are we going?!"

Vaguely, Sakura could hear the snickers and laughs of Naruto, and the rest of her friends. She could practically feel Gaaras smirk. But his hands were over her eyes as he led her into some dark place that smelled vaguely… very… good. She nearly drooled at the onslaught of delicious smells that assaulted her nose. She was led into the middle of a large area, she could tell. She could hear ceiling fans whirling, but other than that there was no clue as to where, exactly, she was. Her sensitive ears picked up more scuffling, and heard the small giggles of Tenten and Hinata. Frowning, she was about to speak when hot breath caressed her ear and she heard that oh-so-husky voice she loved.

"Do you even know what day it is today, Sakura?"

Her frown deepened, but before she could reply, the hands were lifted from her eyes and a bright light turned on.

"SURPRISE!"

Sakuras eyes: O.O

In front of her, were at least 15 long tables, a dance hall, streamers and balloons everywhere in the colors of Blood Red, Black, and Pink. The pink was a bit… garish, but she would figure out what that was for later. Her eyes widened further as she read the banner hanging just a few feet in front of her and above her friends.

"HAPPY 18TH BIRTHDAY SAKURA!"

Jaw dropping, she turned around to look at Gaara only to have his lips on hers, she gave a wide smile, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him softly. Gaara chuckled against her lips, afterwards pulling apart and turning her around to face her friends. They were all shouting and cheering, and holding presents of various sizes. Unable to help it, Sakura giggled. Her birthday! Her own birthday and she had completely forgotten! All her friends were there, along with her family and Gaaras as well. Her laughter echoed, a melodic sound as it carried across to the ears of her friends and family, and the one person she truly loved, behind her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his head on her shoulder, smiling warmly as people came up and wished her a happy birthday. Gaara had his own plans, for later, and at the thought of what he was going to do, his heart flip-flopped in his chest, his stomach got butterflies and he felt his mouth go dry. Breathing deep through his nose, he quelled his nerves and calmed himself, that wasn't for at least another hour… or two…. He didn't know, damn it! Sighing internally, he tried to reassure himself that this was the right thing to do. Looking over at Sakura, at her smile, at her bright emerald eyes shining with happiness, he felt the way her body molded into his, a perfect fit, and his lips twitched, barely curving into a smile. 'Yeah… this is right. This is… perfect.'

Two hours later

Gaara gave a slightly shaky grin, watching as Sakura danced on the dance floor with her friends, and looked at the clock, taking a deep breath he placed his hands in his pockets and walking over to her. He whispered something in her ear and she smiled, nodding. Placing her drink down, she walked over to the table laden with various gifts of assorted sizes and colors. She signaled to the DJ to cut the music and she yelled over the crowd.

"PRESENTS! GET YOUR ARSES OVER HERE DAMN IT!"

Many chuckles were heard, as well as giggles and a distinctive snort from a certain Hyuuga and blonde with four pig-tails. She picked up the first present, and smiled, reading the tag.

"From Shikamaru!"

Opening the dark green wrapper, she smiled wide, seeing a brand new and, rather expensive looking shogi board and pieces in front of her. She rose a brow, sending a grin to Shikamaru,

"Is this so you can beat me some more?"

A lazy grin across his face, he murmured one word.

"Practice."

Laughing a bit, she put it aside and picked up the next one, tan wrapping paper that held silver 'happy birthday' writing across it.

"From Neji!"

Opening the gift, she smiled softly, seeing a pair of black gloves, not leather but not exactly fluffy. They looked like the type perfect for chilly nights when she went out for a walk. She gave a grin, holding them up, she knew for a fact these were expensive, she'd been wanting some for a while but never got around to it. She held them up and grinned at Neji before putting them aside and picking up the next one.

"From Temari!"

Opening the purple paper, she blinked, seeing inside some authentic, hand-painted Japanese fans. She opened one, and gave a giggle. It was black, but had delicately painted cherry blossoms floating across the length of it, and in the corner, a few branches and part of the stump of a cherry blossom tree. The black and pink went well together. Smiling widely, she thanked Temari before placing those aside as well. She then picked up a small black package, that looked suspiciously like a clothing box. She rose a brow and read the tag.

"From Kankurou…"

Warily, she untied the white lace ribbon and peeked inside the box, before turning cherry red and slamming it shut, glaring half-heartedly at Kankurou, who was grinning. Inside, though no one else but Kankurou and Sakura knew, was a black lace Teddy, just her size, with dark red sequins around the breast area, and the hem. Gaara rose a brow, silently asking her 'whats up?' but she just shook her head, and put it aside, clearing her throat.

"From Naruto!"

Opening the gaudy orange wrapping paper, she blinked, before breaking into a full out laughter. Inside was three packages of his favorite ramen, wrapped in lace. Naruto grinned and then walked forward, handing her a smaller gift.

"Heres the real present."

Smiling, and still slightly giggling, she opened the, thankfully, NOT orange wrapping paper, then blinked, tears coming to her eyes as she smiled gently. Inside was a silver frame, flowers and swirls made out of said frame and swirling around the edges of the picture inside. In said picture, was her and Naruto, on their first day of high school, he had his arm around her shoulder and she was giving him bunny ears, but unknowingly to her, he was doing the same. They both wore large, cheesy grins on their faces and Sakura laughed, smiling up at Naruto, who smiled back at her. She put the frame delicately on the table and then picked up a package, that was rather slim and long, and read the tag.

"From TenTen!"

Grinning, she undid the white ribbon and then slid off the top of the box, gasping at what lay inside. A brand new Katana, the sheath silver with, yet again, cherry blossoms lining the whole thing, floating across it. The handle was wrapped in pink thread, but had an emerald gem in it. She remembered it, she had been in the mall with TenTen about… now that she thought of it, a week before Gaara entered her life. And she had pointed it out, gasping over it and whining that she would have to save up. But when they went back a few days later, it was gone, and Sakura was depressed. She looked up to TenTen and saw said girl grinning at her. She smiled and placed it against the table gently. She then grabbed the next, light purple package,

"From Hinata!"

Opening it, she smiled, inside was a brand new coat, perfectly her taste too. She smiled to Hinata and placed it aside, then reached for the last item. ( I really don't want to go through the families presents, so bear with me here, please. )

A small, red velvet box. There was no tag, but she opened it, and blinked. Inside was a small card that held the words:

"Stand up, walk three steps forward, and close your eyes."

Sakura blinked, and looked around, but noticed that everyone was looking at her curiously, so she shrugged, and stood up, walked three steps forward, and closed her eyes. She heard someone shuffling, and felt someone grab her hand, followed by gasps from everyone in attendance. Her brows furrowed, she knew the feeling of that hand, it was Gaara, she knew it, but what was he doing to make everyone so shocked? She felt a tug at her hand, and heard the whispered words, "Open your eyes, blossom…"

Blinking them open, she looked forward, expecting to see Gaara. Not seeing him, she instinctively looked down, and gasped, tears coming to her eyes instantly. There was Gaara, on one knee, one hand holding hers and the other holding a black velvet box that held the most beautiful ring Sakuras ever seen. Near instantly her breaths became shallow and, besides that small fact, she seemed frozen, her eyes wide as she stared at Gaara. He spoke softly, and though to everyone else, he would seem confident, she could hear the slight shake in his voice, could see the fear in his eyes as he spoke.

"Sakura, my blossom… we have been through so much, and I can't bear to lose you. I want to stay by your side for eternity, I want to hold you every night before I fall asleep, I want to be the one you lean on in your troubles, and I want you to know just how much you mean to me. This is my way of proving it. I want to stay with you, Sakura, for the rest of my life; I want to be your only love, your best friend, your protector… Marry me, Sakura?"

Sakuras mind reeled. Marriage. Gaara. Eternity. Forever in his arms. Never another.

Without a second thought, she whispered, tears falling from her eyes.

"Yes…"

Gaaras eyes widened,

"Sakura…"

She gave a tearful laugh and smiled,

"Yes, Gaara, Yes!"

Gaara gave a laugh, pure joy echoing through the sound as various claps and cheers of encouragement sounded throughout the hall. He picked her up, hugging her tightly, and swung her around in a circle. He kissed her firmly before placing her to her feet once more. She smiled against his lips and he broke it, grabbing her left hand, he slipped the ring onto her finger and kissed her gently, yet deeply. Lifting a hand, he wiped away at her tears, still kissing those lips that he loved. He heard the various snapping of cameras and smiled against the kiss. His heart fluttered in his chest, and he knew, without a doubt, that at that very moment, he was the happiest man alive.

A/N: Okay. There will be an epilogue. Tell me in reviews if you want a wedding scene or not, but there will most definitely be time skips if you do. I hope you enjoyed. One more chapter, everyone. ONE MORE! Gah! No promises on if it'll be soon or not, I'm not going to bother with those anymore since I always break them… but leave your opinion in your review: wedding scene or no? And if you have any ideas, lets hear em! LOVE YOU ALL!

SuChAbAKa