Disclaimer: the characters in this fic such as Gaara, Matsuri, etc. don't belong to me, although if they did, then by the end of the series, they will be married and have a couple of children running around the Kazekage office.
Dedication: God, my parents, my fans, Masashi Kishimoto for creating the Naruto series and giving us these colorful characters, and especially to my beloved friends, especially Nymyrra, Zero-Nightmare, Kzdatgurl, Nakoudo Byakugan, PhoenixSong4232, GaaraXmatsuri, Musashi Sanada, T. A. Raskelt, narufangirl16, Francisco Devilman Warrior, and all of you wonderful readers!
Special dedication to: everyone that voted in my poll – you guys wanted another GaaMatsu fic from me, so here it is!
Naruto: From Beginning To End
Installment: Set Alpha, Part 1
He had no experience giving comfort to distraught people, but one look at Matsuri's tear-stained face made him want to learn immediately.
Especially since her current state was really caused by their relationship with each other, rather than result from her sensitive nature. She was becoming stronger by his daily training, but he understood that one could only take so much jeers and cruel torment from peers before eventually crumbling.
Fortunately, the presence of his hand on her shoulder seemed to provide her a small amount of relief, and he remained by her side until her tears had finally dried.
The girls that pledged their devotion to the young Kazekage were always trying to steal kisses from him, but there was only one girl he would save them for.
He had no patience with their catcalls and sought to ignore their provocative offers. That proved difficult when one particularly bold girl grabbed his shoulders and tried to force a kiss on him. Gaara never raised a hand against any of his admirers, but his first instinct was to react by inflicting a reprisal upon the invader.
Fortunately, he was able to quash the reflex and settled for a firm push.
The first time Gaara actually noticed that his student had changed was when she hugged him, unintentionally pressing her soft curves against his lean body.
Once she realized what she was doing, the girl immediately retracted and apologized, knowing how he felt about being touched. Fortunately, he wasn't upset; he understood her enthusiasm and accepted the gesture.
Still blushing, Matsuri mumbled something inaudible before leaving his side to go converse with the other candidates, and presumably to offer her congratulations to the ones that had also passed.
As he was walking away, he couldn't understand why his face felt warm.
The fear of being betrayed again kept him away from the notion of love for a very long time, until she entered his life and made him consider changing his mind…
The malicious sand spirit tried to convince Gaara that the mousy girl only hung around him because she was after something. There was no way she had noble intentions, not with the labeled monster of the village, shunned and resented by practically everyone.
But all Matsuri ever asked from him was his instruction and his friendship.
After a short period, he realized he had no reason to doubt her.
Gaara stood back and watched with mild curiosity as the bole-haired kunoichi dug her hands into the ground and pulled up numerous small brown objects.
He had known for quite some time that gardening was one of her favorite hobbies, and he respected her knowledge in the area. Because of her experience, she was prone to give him advice on how he should take care of his own plants to ensure they would last longer. Her enthusiasm on the subject made him consider expanding to other plants, aside from just having cacti.
Provided, of course, he could find enough time.
He understood that rain was vital to agriculture, but he disliked being forced to walk around without his sand armor; Matsuri smiled warmly and promised she would protect him in this state.
"Hmm." That was his only response as they continued down the path leading toward the Kage building in the foreign village.
"What? I can! Really," she insisted, wondering if he had any doubts in her abilities, despite the fact that he taught her himself.
"I know," Gaara responded quietly, but with utmost sincerity in his voice, "But I would prefer to protect you."
She blushed at his words.
"I can't believe you don't even like chocolate," Matsuri gasped lightly in surprise after Gaara told her about his preferences with food, which included a rather strong disdain toward all sweets.
The redhead glanced down at the open box of chocolates and wondered if he should tell her the real reason behind his dislike. Memories of an uncle that used to bring home candy for a foolishly-trusting nephew entered his mind just then, causing the sand wielder to grimace slightly.
…Fortunately, Matsuri was nothing like him.
Gaara hesitated for a moment, and then slowly reached toward a piece of chocolate.
It took the redhead a while to realize that the unfamiliar sensation he felt around Matsuri was happiness – and then even longer to identify the presence of affection.
Once Gaara had figured that out, he pondered what his next move should be – or if it was even necessary to make one. The last thing he wanted to do was weaken the bonds of their close friendship, although he was aware that a romantic relationship would likely bind them together more tightly.
Nevertheless, insecurity stayed his tongue.
For now, he would wait. There was no need to rush things between them.
As the days passed by too slowly since her departure, Gaara had to consciously resist the temptation to send out a messenger hawk to locate her and deliver a letter of concern.
Realistically, he had little reason to believe that his girlfriend would be in any grave danger, since she was accompanied by teammates. Not to mention she was a competent kunoichi perfectly capable of handling herself, so surely the mission would end in success. He just had to remain patient and wait for her return.
This was how it felt to care for someone else so strongly… to worry.
Matsuri knew her boyfriend wasn't very expressive, but whenever she scratched that special little spot between his ears and neck, he would close his eyes and emit a light sigh of content.
She could tell by looking at his rigid expression that he was feeling tense and needed to take a break. But knowing his habits and ethics, he would likely refuse to stop working for even a few minutes.
So while the young Kazekage was intently reading documents and reviewing proposals, she sat on the arm of his chair beside him and kept her hand in the special spot.
The demon vessel maintained a stoic expressed even as he heard his name being muttered like a curse within the group of Academy students, and right then, he wondered if things would ever change, when a girl suddenly approached him.
Matsuri was timid and clumsy, and also either foolish or a little overconfident, choosing a heavy weapon that would obviously impede her process in battle. Given her inexperience, it seemed as though he would have to teach her everything from the beginning.
She needed a lot of personal attention and instruction, and he definitely didn't want to fail with her.
The moment Gaara saw other men eyeing his girlfriend with interest, he sent a silent glare of warning their way, and then made a mental note to tell Matsuri to only wear that kimono around him in private – it made her look too sensual.
When they had a moment alone together, he spoke to her on the subject, and the bole-haired girl blushed slightly in embarrassment upon hearing the reason behind his request. She was certainly no beauty queen… Maybe the boys were just drawn to the various bright colors of her kimono, since it was cut at normal length.
As Matsuri knelt by the gravesite of a fallen teammate and shed tears of grief, Gaara grimly stayed silent, wisely deciding not to remind her that death was a common occurrence in the life of a shinobi.
How many lives had been lost in the shinobi wars that periodically occurred throughout the history of time? There was no escape from the inevitable ending for every person that existed in this world. Birth and death were merely necessary parts of the cycle.
He knew there was a strong possibility that he himself would die one day in the line of duty.
Long ago, he once thought that killing strong opponents made him feel alive, but then he discovered how much it paled in comparison to the sensation of two bodies merging together in physical and emotional ecstasy.
Under the glow of the full moon, he created a sturdy barrier to shield their forms from public view, and then pulled her to him with a low growl. Matsuri was a little surprised by his unexpected action, but she responded with an eager kiss.
When their hunger was satiated for the time being, they huddled closely together in the aftermath of their love.
Contrary to the perception of others, Gaara didn't hate physical contact so much as he was unaccustomed to it – and the kunoichi patiently waited until he felt more comfortable with the notion.
Even as he was slowly growing used to the concept of touch, he preferred to keep all physical expressions of affection behind closed doors, which she also agreed to. As much as Matsuri wanted the other girls to know about their relationship just so they no longer had an excuse to continue their pursuit, she understood his main priority was to keep her safe from any possible enemies.
From the very first day of his training, the sand wielder had been conditioned to believe that emotions were a ninja's most dangerous weakness, but nothing made him fight harder than the sight of Matsuri's limp form sprawled over the ground.
She had taken a hit in his sister's stead, and now two kunai knives were lodged into her back. Temari called out the younger girl's name and darted toward her direction even as a fresh assault of projectiles launched into the air. Gaara swiftly blew them away.
The enemies were going to pay. He would make sure of it.
Tears were supposed to represent sadness, he thought, so the knowledge of people cheering and crying at the same time confused him greatly – later, Matsuri explained that tears could be an expression of extreme emotion.
Gaara accepted that answer because she would likely know better than him, even though he couldn't imagine ever crying out of happiness. He had only cried once in his life, and it was during a cold night of devastation many years ago. When people felt happy, didn't they express that emotion by smiling or laughing?
Confusing… but he would continue to learn until he understood.
The sand wielder had superior ninjutsu and genjutsu, so her only advantage against his techniques was taijutsu – she just had to beat the speed of his sand defenses.
Easier said than done. Her pants of effort, coupled with the sweat glistening on her forehead, were clear evidence of his powerful tactics. Whenever they trained together, Matsuri often found herself on the defensive front, rarely having the chance to attack. But she forced herself to be patient and wait for an opportunity.
There-! An opening…!
She flung the head of her weapon toward the area, hoping it would hit the mark…
With a swing of her rope dart, a gust of wind swept along the sand and dissipated against his shield; apparently, his sister had taught Matsuri a few techniques.
Impressive, the redhead remarked silently, but betrayed no emotions upon his facial features because he knew his student was watching him for his reaction. He had to maintain a focused mindset.
She looked a little disappointed at his composed profile and quickly resumed her offensive tactics. The kunoichi had a few other tricks up her sleeve and felt fairly confident that one of them was bound to catch him by surprise.
"You're not a free man anymore – you're off the market now," his brother jibed with a knowing smirk, and Gaara just stared back blankly, unsure of how to respond.
"What do you mean?" He asked finally, feeling confused about the remark. Was Kankuro against the idea of being in a relationship? He did seem to prefer dating a number of different girls rather than just stay with one…
"Well, unless you're the type to play the field," the puppeteer continued in a casual tone.
The redhead frowned slightly after he deciphered the term. He would never be unfaithful to Matsuri.
Darkness enveloped his consciousness, consuming him from every direction… until life returned to his form, and he opened his eyes to see her worried face and hear her concerned voice shrilly asking if he was all right.
His mind swam in a daze when he tried to stand up. Matsuri immediately rushed to his side, but he insisted he could manage on his own.
Looking a bit forlorn, she nodded and backed away in respect of his wishes.
Later, he made sure to explain that he refused her help because he wanted to remain strong in front of his people.
A foreign sensation formed a tight knot in the pit of his stomach when he saw the light blush creeping up over her face while she was talking to the other boy; for some inexplicable reason, he suddenly wanted to walk over and pull her away.
Gaara resisted the urge and instead, futilely attempted to divert his attention elsewhere. It wasn't a question of trust on his end, but a dual sense of protection and possessiveness he had never felt before.
So when Matsuri returned to his side and gently took his hand, he led her toward a different area.
Matsuri marveled at the fact that he could be so gentle with her, using the very same hands that commanded the sand to enforce his awe-inspiring strength.
Despite what his powers represented, she trusted him with her life.
He was dominant, but never overwhelming. She knew he was accustomed to being in control during practically every situation, due to his position, and it would take him some time to adjust to the idea of compromising in a relationship.
Little by little, he slowly changed his ways, and together, they were able to reach a medium that both could agree to.
His taste in food was a little unorthodox – chicken liver just didn't appeal to her preferences – but she changed the spices in her cooking to adjust to his liking.
"Is it… all right?" She asked him after he had taken a few bites.
With his mouth still full of food, he nodded, assuring her with a faint smile, and then continued to eat.
Matsuri breathed a sigh of relief, feeling happy he was pleased, and focused on her own meal. She could try making his favorite dish for him someday… once she got over the smell of the raw material.
All the girls claimed to be devoted to him, but at the end of the day, the young Kazekage knew he could only rely on the one that had been by his side since the beginning of his change, prior to his rise to fame.
She had known him back when he still possessed the dangerous entity in his body, and maintained their friendship even though the other villagers thought she was making a terrible mistake. He wondered if she ever felt afraid of him, not that she would ever admit to it.
But some questions were better left unasked.
End of Installment
Author's Note: Yikes, once again, it has been too long since I uploaded something! My apologies to you readers, but I appreciate your patience. :D I'm still working on a multi-chapter story, but I need to figure out what's going to happen before I start putting up the first few chapters. Now, for this fic, all of these started out as a single sentence for the 1sentence prompt at LiveJournal, but I expanded them to give you guys a little more content to gnaw on, hehe. There will only be one more installment after this, because the set has 50 prompts. Well, I certainly hope you readers enjoyed the drabbles, and as usual, if you have any requests, feel free to leave them in your review!
Merry Christmas, everyone, and have a Happy New Year!
With love for my fans,