Very big screw-ups ensue.
Gaara is preparing to take his midnight two-hour rest when he senses a flare of chakra from outside his rooms, from his guards.
There are no raised voices, nor explosions, nor anything else that might suggest an attack. It is likely that this is only an argument, though god knows what about, but one can never be too careful. Gaara calls some sand to him in preparation, and stands, staring at the door.
There are footsteps outside, coming closer. The door opens.
It opens to reveal Naruto.
There is a frozen moment where Gaara drinks in the sight hungrily. Naruto is wearing a pair of faded jeans and a soft v-neck sweater, which Gaara knows to be his comfort clothes. His hair is mussed, as if hands have run through it, tugged on it, messed it up in frustration many times. There are shadows beneath his eyes, testament to a lack of sleep, and his face is pale – but the expression on it is determined, and the light in his eyes speaks of… hope.
He is the most beautiful thing Gaara has ever seen, and the most painful.
So he runs.
There is a startled yelp behind him as Gaara darts through the window. In his panic, he forgets that he can use his sand to transport himself away; in fact, he leaves the sand behind in his room, and simply runs. All that he can think of is getting away from Naruto.
But he senses familiar chakra behind him, the effort that had been spent on hiding it now discarded in favour of the chase. Gaara runs harder.
The moonlight is bright as only the desert moon can be, its light pure and liquid, unobstructed by clouds and perfected by the clear air. The night is cold, sharp, and stings Gaara's exposed skin as he leaps from rooftop to rooftop; each breath is like being woken up from a deep drowning sleep. Everything is quiet, and starkly illuminated, white and black and deep blue shadows blurring under his feet and before his eyes. It is as if the world has stopped, and is standing still, as he runs above all the sleeping people, above the silence. It is as if he is racing time itself.
And then, having crossed the walls of the village, as he darts across one of the rare oases that surround Suna, he is tackled from behind, and they fall.
Gaara closes his eyes, and grits his teeth for the impact. At least we are on grass, he thinks. But the expected pain never comes, and when he feels the shudder as they hit the ground, it is conveyed to him through the body pressed against his back, and the arms wrapped tightly around him. Gaara finds himself staring up at the leaves of a tree and the star-filled sky, and wonders what the hell just happened.
Then the body beneath him groans, and he is suddenly seized with conflicting senses of panic. One screams at him to flee, but the other is much stronger, and does not need to scream.
Naruto is hurt, it tells him simply.
Gaara struggles to get up, to get off Naruto, but the arms merely tighten. Naruto's voice, when it comes from behind him, sounds winded and tight with pain. "I'm not letting you run off again."
"I am not running," Gaara snaps. "I simply wish to get off of you so that you can breathe without my weight crushing you, and check your injuries."
"You're not heavy," Naruto objects, but obediently loosens his hold. Gaara rolls off, and then gets to his knees beside Naruto, reaching out to gently pull him upright. Naruto winces as he sits up.
They stare at each other, brilliant green and intense blue like gems in the night. Gaara is the first to look away. "You broke my fall," he says. "You turned us so that you would be underneath."
Naruto shrugs, the rasp of his clothes a whisper to add to the soft breeze through the grass. "Ninja skills," he says wisely, as if it explains everything.
Gaara cannot stop the quirk of his lips, and he despairs that even now he can still love this man so much. "Let me check your back," he says.
"I'm not really hurt, just bruised," Naruto says quickly.
"Taking into consideration the times when you called a wound that needed stitches 'a mere scratch'," Gaara says dryly, "I feel disinclined to trust your word."
Naruto sighs and sits up straighter, crossing his legs. "Fine, fine," he grumbles. "Do your mother-hen thing."
Gaara shifts so that he is looking at Naruto's back. He is in the process of lifting up the hem of the sweater when he realizes what he is doing, and by then it is too late. His left hand has already pulled the cloth up. He is committed to the action.
Focus, Gaara tells himself, and leans in. His eyes take in the expanse of golden skin, turned a beautiful bronze in the moonlight, and notes the tender areas. "You will have bruises," he says softly, reaching out to carefully press the skin, judging the depth of the bruising, "but nothing more."
It is then that he realizes that Naruto is frozen, hardly breathing… and it is the completely mad pounding of his heart that is vibrating up Gaara's fingers. Simply running the way we did is not enough to elevate the heartbeat this high, Gaara thinks medically, logically, distantly. That means…
He can hardly believe what he thinks it means.
Naruto is still, unmoving, and Gaara stares for a long while at the back of that familiar head. Then he drops his gaze to his fingers, still lingering on Naruto's back, the paleness of his skin contrasting with the darkness of Naruto's. Slowly, still not believing that this is happening, that he is allowed to do this, to touch and to caress, Gaara trails his fingers up and down Naruto's back, lost in the feel of quivering muscle underneath smooth, soft skin.
The body under his fingers shivers, breaking Gaara out of his trance. He quickly snatches his hand back and drops the shirt, rising to his feet. "I apologise," he says, averting his eyes, cursing himself. "I know the desert is cold at night."
Naruto stands, and Gaara's gaze is drawn to those eyes, watching him. "There's no need to be sorry," Naruto says quietly, his gaze searching. "I liked that."
"Do not do this," Gaara whispers, unable to look away.
Blue eyes sharpen. "Why not?"
"You have Uchiha." The words are bitter on his tongue; he ruthlessly speaks them anyway. "You love him."
Unexpectedly, Naruto smiles ruefully. "That's what I used to think, too," he says. "And Sasuke thought that maybe his inability to throw my friendship and my life away meant something more. But we were both wrong, and we figured that out pretty quickly."
The pain in Gaara's chest feels like he is breaking all over again, and yet it is completely different. I never knew hope was this painful, he thinks, dizzy with it. "You are not… in love with him?" he says, voice catching. "But… your behaviour… the dinner…"
Naruto seems to find what it is he is looking for in Gaara's face, in his eyes, and the blue gaze softens. "Temari said you misunderstood," he mutters half to himself, "but I didn't really believe that there could have been such a colossal screw-up. God, Sasuke was right, I am an idiot." He suddenly looks directly at Gaara, catching him off-guard. "What did you think was going on?"
"I…" What had he thought? Gaara cannot quite remember, in this hushed oasis. "I thought that you were trying to win Sasuke back. I had news of your romance and your break-up, so… and the dinner, I thought that Sasuke had given in partly, and consented to have dinner with you once again, but then he decided that it was truly over with you, and you tried to get him to stay…"
Naruto's eyes have been growing progressively wider, and the disbelief progressively stronger, and Gaara continues hesitantly, "I thought you were trying to make him jealous by… by coming on to me…" He finally stops, when he fears that Naruto's eyes will fall out of his head in shock. Gaara himself is confused; is his interpretation of events really that wrong?
"You thought…" Words fail Naruto; his jaw works. Finally he says, "I can't believe you would think that of me! How could you believe that I would ever use a friend like that –"
Gaara flinches, each word almost a physical blow. Now that Naruto is here, before him, angry and hurt, he wonders how he could ever have thought Naruto capable of such deeds. He has failed Naruto, the moment he failed to trust him. Suddenly the self-loathing from years past is back, the self-loathing and the confusion, and Gaara tenses, prepares to flee –
A pair of warm hands catch hold of his, and the feeling, the knowledge that these are my hands in Naruto's, drive all other thoughts away. Gaara thinks he might not be breathing as he looks down at their joined hands. "Damn it, here I am screwing things up again," Naruto mutters. "I'm sorry, Gaara, I didn't mean to yell." He pauses, and when he speaks again, there is wonder in his voice. "Your hands are so soft."
Naruto's hands are callused, rough, and Gaara knows he can never match the strength in them. He leans heavily towards ninjutsu, after all, rather than taijutsu. He dares to tighten his grip, and feels an answering squeeze. It gives him courage to say, "I apologise for not trusting you. I have always, and will always have faith in you, but… I was confused. I did not know what to make of your erratic behaviour. I did not think that it was possible that you could be doing it simply because… because you wanted me, for me."
"There should be statues of me put up around the world as the idiot to top all idiots," Naruto says, wincing. "Yeah, about that whole seduction thing… I know it was sudden and came out of nowhere. I should have thought about it more, but… I wanted you so badly, and I wanted to test if you could feel the same, that's why I did it. Because, you know… that is…"
The blush is obvious even in the soft dim light, and Gaara tilts his head, eyeing him. "That is…?"
Naruto looks at him and gives him a quick grin. "You look really adorable when you do that," he says. Gaara stiffens, glaring at him, and tries to yank his hands away. Naruto refuses to let go, however, and says quickly, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Look, do you want to hear this or not?"
Still glaring, Gaara shrugs slightly.
"Fine. Um… okay, so… remember I said that Sasuke and I found out pretty quickly that we were just really good friends?" At Gaara's nod, Naruto grimaces, and blurts out, "We tried to test our feelings by having sex but neither of us could get it up and we wondered whether it was just us being impotent and you have no idea how horrifying the thought was so we named all our closest people and it was only until Sasuke thought of Sakura that he got hard and then I thought of you and… yeah."
Gaara takes a few seconds to work this out. Then, amazingly, he feels his cheeks start heating, too. "Oh," he says intelligently.
"Yeah," Naruto says, grinning embarrassedly. "Then a week later I had to come here for the Kage meeting, and thoughts about you in that way were still running through my head, and so all I could think of was trying to see if you could think of me that way, too."
Gaara tries to make sense of this revelation. "So… about the dinner…?"
"Oh, that." Naruto winces. "Man, this is going to sound really stupid."
"It cannot be worse than what you have already revealed."
"Yeah, make this easier, why don't you." Naruto's grin shows that he does not mind, however. "Okay, well, you do know that the Iwa guy likes you, right?"
"I have had that fact pointed out to me, yes."
"So you didn't actually know when you were having that little chat with him?"
Gaara shakes his head.
"Huh. I knew you were dense, but… okay, okay! Stop glaring. Anyway, I was, well, I was jealous."
"Yeah, stop repeating that word! So I was jealous, okay, and then Sasuke came and I knew that he would help me in making you jealous and hence the dinner happened. Oh, and I knew that the Iwa guy would come by to give you the scroll and I just knew that he was going to try and stay and have dinner with you or something, so I kept alert for his presence and when I felt him approaching I went out to intercept him. And… that's it."
"That… makes sense," Gaara says slowly. Naruto was jealous because of him, Gaara? A wave of happiness rises, breaks, washes over him.
"But you didn't get jealous." Naruto pouts, and Gaara thinks that this is what adorable is. "I tried really hard, too. Sasuke was just about ready to kill me, especially when I kept eating his food."
So Gaara had read the annoyance correctly. "I did get jealous," he admits with a tiny smile. "But by then I had resolved not to hinder the progress of your relationship with my unwanted feelings."
Naruto sighs. "Ever the self-sacrificing Kage."
"So…" Gaara tries to recall their after-dinner conversation. "After Uchiha left. That whole exchange – you thought that your feelings had been revealed by Uchiha, and you thought that I was… rejecting you?"
"Yep." The memory of hurt flashes across blue eyes. "And you thought that I was asking you to have sex with me to make Sasuke so jealous that he would take me back."
"You sounded so desperate when you asked to stay," Gaara mutters, feeling stupid. "And then he told you that it would never have worked, and that he should never have agreed…"
"Actually, come to think of it, I can see why you misunderstood," Naruto says thoughtfully. "Huh. How screwed up is that?"
Gaara finds himself smiling in sheer relief and joy. "Our misunderstanding was rather spectacular."
Naruto is watching him, with the loveliest smile Gaara can ever remember seeing on his face. "I haven't seen you smile like this in such a long time," Naruto says wistfully. "You should smile more."
Gaara feels extremely exposed, and vulnerable, and with his hands still in Naruto's he feels both trapped and free. But he is the Kazekage, with nerves of iron and the love of his village, and he can be as strong as Naruto is.
He is Gaara, who has been through unimaginable hell and back again, and he is already strong.
"I think," he says steadily, drawing strength from within him, from Naruto, from his siblings, from his shinobi and his village – "I think that if you stay by my side, perhaps I will."
Those beautiful eyes blink at him. And then Naruto tugs at him using their joined hands, and Gaara willingly lets himself be pulled forward. Naruto looks down at him, blue eyes so close that it is like being surrounded by an ocean, and smiles crookedly. "If I tell you I'm in love with you," he says softly, "then can I stay by your side?"
"If you mean it," Gaara replies, equally soft, "then yes." His heart feels like it will hammer itself out of his chest; now he understands Naruto's reaction from before, because he cannot seem to stop the shiver from running through him at being so very close.
"I do mean it," Naruto whispers, and leans in.
Gaara has never imagined that lips can be so soft, or that a kiss can be so sweet. He has never imagined that such simple contact can send the world spinning, or make his body so weak even as it makes him stronger than ever before. He closes his eyes and lets himself melt.
Naruto is fire, and he is sand, and together their first kiss is like glass – fragile and all the more beautiful for it, and too-gently, so-carefully handled. And, like glass, their emotions are clear and strong, finally out in the open, and Gaara is lost before he even knows the possibility exists. It is terrifying, this loss, this lack of control, but Gaara is strong enough – his love is strong enough – to meet that fear head on.
They part, and Naruto's hands release his – the resulting momentary sense of loss is quickly banished, when strong arms wrap around him and pull him close again. Naruto is warm, and Gaara returns the embrace, resting his head on his shoulder, simply breathing.
He presses a kiss to the crook of Naruto's neck, and Naruto presses a kiss into his hair. "We should get back," Naruto says finally, though he makes no effort to move. "Your guards are likely to come hunting me down if we stay here any longer… if Temari and Shikamaru and Neji don't get here first. Your sister is one scary woman. She was the one who figured that something was wrong, you know, and she barged into my rooms and demanded my side of the story. And then she and Shikamaru figured enough of it out to make me believe that I had a chance. And it was her who talked to your guards who were just about ready to murder me on the spot, and convinced them to let me into your rooms."
"I knew she was up to something," Gaara mutters, feeling vindicated. He does not want to break this perfect, perfect moment, but he knows that it is a miracle that they are not already surrounded by his guards and his siblings. So he pulls back from Naruto, and it takes an act of will that he is pretty damn proud of. He gives Naruto another smile, and holds out his hand.
Naruto takes it, beaming. He gives it a squeeze.
Then they are off, running across the sands, and after the first few seconds they find a rhythm and fall into step with each other like they have been doing this all their lives. The air is still cold and sharp as Gaara breathes, but this time it is like waking from sleep to a warm body next to his, and holding a warm hand. There are still shadows, and the world is still silent, but now in it Gaara thinks he can hear the hush of sleepers dreaming, and it feels like they are angels, slipping quietly by.
It feels like peace.
The next day, the Tsuchikage takes one look and congratulates them on a happy ending. Ume looks a little disappointed at first, but he seems to get over it quickly and wishes Gaara all the best, and holds out a hand.
Before Gaara can even think about taking it, Naruto grabs him and bends him over the table and gives him a scorching, deep, very-much-involving-tongue-action kiss. He reaches behind and gropes Gaara, for good measure.
Not to be outdone, and infected by the high spirits all the ANBU are in at the news that their Kazekage is truly happy now, Tsuki grabs Omi and Seiji grabs Ren. They proceed to demonstrate their high spirits and their kissing skills very thoroughly.
Ume looks like his every (wet) dream has come true and looks around the room frantically as if spoilt for choice. His eyes glaze over.
Shikamaru and Neji eye each other, and very carefully inch away.
Temari puts her head in her hands, but secretly peeks at her brother and his lover, because, really, they make just about the most incredibly hot couple ever. Kankurou slaps a hand over his eyes and swears softly.
The Tsuchikage promptly keels over from a heart attack.
(He survives, of course, but after that whenever he meets the Hokage and the Kazekage again, he gets a nosebleed and has to go have a lie-down.)
More relevantly, when Gaara is finally released from the kiss and recovers enough to look around, a vengeful resolve is born in him. For this and for all the other stunts that Naruto has pulled so far, with no thought as to decorum or the agonizing strain on Gaara's self-control…
Naruto is going to pay.
When Naruto opens the door to his bedroom and steps in, one very gorgeous redhead stirs from his reclining position on the bed and gives him a slow, long-lashed blink as he says, "Good evening, Hokage-sama."
Naruto blinks, and shuts the door.
This is achieved by blindly reaching behind him and flailing his hand around until it comes into contact with wood, but he cannot (not that he wants to) look away for his life.
Gaara stretches, and Naruto's eyes cannot help but follow that slim form as luminous skin shifts over subtle muscles, and a pale torso arches. Green eyes flutter half-shut, in a face with a hint of an unbelievably sexy smirk on it, and rich red hair rustles as a head tilts back, baring a slender throat. Then Gaara relaxes, curling back onto the bed, coy and kittenish at the same time.
The only covering he has seems to be a bed-sheet messily draped over half of him. A long, slim, pale leg emerges from the cloth.
Naruto's throat is dry.
"Remember the first few days when you tried to seduce me?" Gaara asks, his voice somehow huskier than Naruto remembers, and it sends a shiver through him. That voice should be a sin. "Remember all the things you tried – all those slutty clothes, and the towel? The fifty naked bunshins?"
Naruto nods dumbly. He cannot actually think straight right now, but he figures that if he keeps agreeing with whatever the vision in his bed says, something really good might happen.
Gaara tilts his head, and Naruto twitches. "Your tactics did not work," he says, licking soft, full lips. "Do you want to know why?"
Naruto nods again, unable to look away.
"Because you were too subtle and yet too brazen at the same time," Gaara informs him. There is a glint in his eyes. "Only you, Naruto, could achieve such a paradox."
Naruto bites back a whimper at his name slipping through those lips, in that voice. He nods; it is the only thing he can remember how to do, now.
"Seduction needs to be… elegant. It needs to be artful. You cannot approach it in the careless, loud way that you always approach things."
Nod, nod. Whimper.
"Do you want to learn?"
Nod, nod. Whimper.
Gaara smiles at him, sweetly devilish. He pats the empty space on the bed next to him. "Then come."
Naruto practically teleports onto the bed. He reaches out, dying to run his hands along pale skin –
And encounters empty space.
He blinks, and looks up.
Gaara stands at the foot of the bed, holding the sheet to cover himself; sand swirls around him, alternating between covering and revealing the rest. He is regal, arrogant, the feared and respected and beloved Kazekage of Suna, chin held high and green eyes glittering. There is a smirk on his lips. "This," he says almost conversationally, "is the true art of seduction. You have much to learn, Hokage-sama."
And then, in a swirl of sand, he is gone.
A white sheet flutters to the ground.
Naruto stares at the sheet. The image of Gaara covered only in a sheet is still imprinted on his eyeballs. It is replaced by an image of Gaara without the sheet that is now currently on his floor – an image of Gaara that is currently very real, and very naked, in some other part of the building.
"Damn," is all Naruto's mind can come up with.
And then, with a feral grin, he jumps off the bed and heads out of his room at a run. He has a very tricky Kazekage to hunt down and claim as his own.
He has to admit that in seduction, he is way outclassed by Gaara.
But in stamina…
We'll see, Naruto thinks.
The chase is on.
Ashen | "If I tell you I'm in love with you, then can I stay by your side?"
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