for Shukaku in Drag, Gaara, Sakura, gen. Prompt: 'Sandstorm'

Outside the wind howled; the shutters rattled and rang under a million grains of sand. Inside, it was almost perfectly silent, just the faint clicks and whispers of fabric of Haruno Sakura putting her medical instruments in the sink.

Gaara sat on the edge of the infirmary bed, staring at his hands. They rested lax in his lap; the back of the left one had a little bandage stuck over a vein, to keep it clean until it clotted.

Sakura was rinsing out the syringe, calm and efficient as she erased all traces of blood from the equipment; she didn't react to the weight of his gaze.

She had been the third person to make him bleed; now that Shuukaku was gone, she wouldn't be the last.

It was terrifying.

He should have been watching her more closely, he knew. It had been hard enough to compromise between the necessity to check Gaara for residual drugs and the necessity for Sakura to protect her trade secrets. In her hurry to save Kankurou, she had already betrayed quite a few. They had wanted someone else in the infirmary to watch; she had refused. They had talked of asking another medic-nin to check him over; he had refused. She was better with poisons than any of his men, and as far as he was concerned, Konoha had proved its loyalty.

She was loyal to Naruto, too, as Naruto was loyal to her; and that told Gaara even more.

He wasn't really afraid of her turning around and murdering him now. She had been polite, competent and professional. She had even smiled.

If she had been under orders to poison him, she would have smiled more.

She knew that he wasn't the same person who had tried to kill her teammates anymore; but Gaara was pretty sure that she hadn't forgotten. Asking for forgiveness seemed out of place; not to mention that Haruno Sakura mattered to him only in the distant way that everything which mattered to Naruto did.

The wind still howled; the silence was deafening. "Haruno."

"Yes, Kazekage-sama?" she asked pleasantly; she didn't look at him.

He watched her dry her utensils, cautiously put them away in her backpack. She was smiling politely, and for a second she reminded him of Yashamaru again; but the last shreds of Yashamaru's ghost had finally left him, along with Shuukaku, and then she was just Haruno Sakura again. Naruto's teammate; the one he had almost killed because she refused to let him kill Uchiha Sasuke.

"...Thank you."

She paused; didn't turn to face him. Her refusal to acknowledge his gaze was less of an avoidance than her smiles.

"I didn't do it for you."

The door closed quietly behind her, and Gaara was alone in the silence again. Outside, the sandstorm kept raging; but it was no longer part of him.