Pairing(s): Naruto/Gaara (unresolved SasuNaru in the back)
Genre(s): … angst? Introspection?
Rating: NC - 17
Word Length: 22,500 (in total)
Description: Temari wasn’t entirely honest when she sought Naruto’s help. She said Gaara had been missing for a few days, but he’d been missing for a few weeks...
Written for fireun during the oh_shit_santa fic exchange.
I. Years and Years Hence
II. Two Roads Diverged
III. The One Less Traveled By
Gaara came back after the sun had gone down. The moon was high when he appeared beside Naruto, face devoid of any expression. Naruto found he wasn’t surprised by the sudden appearance. He’d figured Gaara would take some time to collect himself before showing up again.
“I was out of line,” Gaara said, as soon as he appeared. It sounded like an apology.
“No, you weren’t.” Naruto sighed. He could see that Gaara didn’t like that response. Naruto smiled to lighten the air. It was surprisingly easy to do so. “Gaara… thank you.”
Gaara frowned and pulled back slightly, caught off guard. “What for?”
Naruto shrugged and smiled. “For caring. For trying to help me. For being a good friend.”
Rather than make him happy, this only seemed to make Gaara bitterer. “A friend,” he sighed, face pinched.
Naruto’s smile faltered. That was not the reaction he had expected. But it made him remember that Gaara had problems of his own, and he’d cast them aside to help Naruto. Gaara was troubled: by his very nature, by the events that had lead him to become who he was… and by something else, which he refused to speak of.
He still hadn’t told Naruto why he’d fled Suna after Akatsuki’s fall.
“Gaara,” Naruto cautiously began. “We are friends, right?”
Gaara looked caught, an animal in a nasty trap. “I…yes,” he affirmed after a brief pause.
Naruto wondered at the hesitation. He had thought that Gaara saw him as a friend… one of his closest friends. Even Temari thought this to be true. Why was Gaara implying that might not be so? Naruto felt his stomach tighten, uneasiness made him jittery.
“Then… if we are friends… why won’t you talk to me?”
“Naruto…” Gaara murmured, a warning in itself.
“I mean… there has to be a reason why you disappeared like you did, right? Why don’t you want to tell me?”
Gaara turned his face away, but Naruto saw the lines of pain he sought to hide. “Leave it be, Naruto.”
“No, why? You pestered me until I wanted to snap your spine. I should do the same for you,” Naruto joked. Far from lightening the mood, Gaara’s hands fisted as Naruto spoke.
“It’s not the same,” Gaara replied.
“Why not? You might feel better after talking about it,” Naruto insisted. “If anything, you know I will never judge you for what you say.”
Gaara’s head turned towards him again, a torn look stole over his features, something half-hopeful and half-afraid. “You can’t possibly know that.”
“Come on, Gaara. It might even help you clear things up in your own head.”
Gaara’s eyes went sharp again, watchful. “Did it help you, then? Have you figured out how you feel about Uchiha?”
Naruto’s mouth curved down, the beginnings of frustration and anger in the pit of his stomach. Not this again. “This isn’t about me, Gaara.”
Gaara laughed, abruptly. “Yes it is! Why can’t you see that!?” He seemed at his wit’s end. Tension kept Gaara’s back arched like a bow.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Only the truth, Naruto. If you want to help me, then tell me: Do you love Uchiha Sasuke?” Gaara speared him with one look, his face was stark with emotion. Naruto knew he could not lie, not to Gaara and definitively not to himself.
“Of course I love him,” Naruto whispered. And it struck him then, that Gaara’s question implied more than one thing. “I love him because he’s my family, my best friend, my rival, the first person I ever truly formed a bond with.” Emotion made his voice hoarse.
Gaara’s downcast face was--- his steely expression was fragmenting, there was no other word for it. “You love him.”
“Yes.” This is the truth. This is what I really feel. “But---“ And here Gaara looked up. “--- but I don’t know if I’m in love with him.”
Gaara’s face tightened, not quite a frown, but close. Naruto though he looked as if he were trying to control himself from a stronger emotion. “So you don’t know.”
“No,” Naruto agreed. It was oddly relieving to say it.
Gaara breathed out, eyes wide and unseeing. Naruto watched him in silence, giving him a few seconds to pull himself together. This was about him, Naruto realized. Gaara had spoken the truth in that. The more they talked the more Naruto saw how his actions, his answers, his fears, they all affected Gaara on a level Naruto had not anticipated. Gaara was struggling for control over his own emotions, but he was also fighting for clarity.
Clarity over his own feelings… and mine?
“You ran away because of me,” Naruto whispered, in a moment of stunned revelation.
Gaara nodded. Another person might have denied the truth, stammered out apologies or made excuses. Gaara only accepted the truth, and watched Naruto out of wary eyes. “Yes.”
Gaara took a deep breath and seemed to consider his next words. “I…I was foolish. I wanted to see if you would look for me.”
Naruto was at a loss. “Look for you?”
“Like you did for Uchiha,” Gaara clarified. Naruto’s jaw dropped. Gaara continued in a low voice. “News of Akatsuki’s fall reached us only a day after it happened. When I heard that Uchiha Sasuke was alive, and had been taken back into Konoha I wondered if… I worried for you.”
Naruto gulped, unexpectedly touched by that admission. Something warm yet sad made his chest heavy. “Gaara..:”
Gaara shook his head to cut him off. “But when I heard that Uchiha had not been executed, I realized he probably wouldn’t be. You had what you wanted, then. Uchiha Sasuke had returned to Konoha… to your life.”
(…that’s what you wanted, right?)
Temari and Kankuro had been right to be angry at Naruto. “Gaara, just because Sasuke came back doesn’t mean I’m not your friend anymore. It doesn’t mean I’ll stop caring, just like that. How could you possibly think that?”
“I don’t want to be your friend, Naruto,” Gaara spat, unexpectedly venomous.
That hurt. It hurt more than Naruto could have predicted. He blinked, because it was hard to believe Gaara had actually said that, and it was hard to stand there and accept it was true. “Why?” Naruto demanded, pain turning to anger.
Gaara’s eyes had not left his face as he spoke. Naruto’s injured expression made his mouth tighten. “Can’t you see why? Do I really have to say it?”
Naruto stared, hurt in ways he hadn’t believed he could be hurt - not again - and found that Gaara was staring at him expectantly He still wanted something more out of Naruto. For a moment, he couldn’t understand what that was. Why had Gaara done all of this, ran away, waited for him to come, saved him, spoken to him… all of it… why had he done it, if he didn’t want Naruto’s friendship?
Because if he didn’t want that, then what could he possibly…?
Naruto stared at Gaara in frank disbelief, but the truth was already there, in his mind and in his heart. Realization stole over him in a rush, driving the breath from his lungs.
“You’re in love with me.”
Gaara’s shoulders loosened, resignation made his eyes seem lighter. “Yes, finally. Yes.”
“That’s just stupid,” Naruto mumbled, his tongue felt numb.
“Undoubtedly,” Gaara agreed. “Very stupid.”
“We’re both guys.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” Gaara drawled.
Naruto saw Gaara’s pained amusement. It made his breath catch uncomfortably, because Gaara was obviously trying to hide how upset he was.
Naruto didn’t know how to cope with that. He looked around, trying to fix his eyes on something, but everything seemed alien and distorted. How did one answer to this kind of thing? No one had ever told him that--- he felt exposed, flattered, frightened and cornered, but very lost.
“You disappeared… because you wanted to see… if I would come looking for you…” Even if that meant leaving Sasuke behind. Oh… Gaara. Naruto could understand that kind of rash despair. He had once felt that way over Sasuke. Unexpected warmth suffused Naruto’s body, his heart beat too fast and it made him dizzy. “That’s why you didn’t let Temari find you. You were waiting for me.” All this, for him. Naruto didn’t know what to do with this revelation.
Gaara looked hopeful, yet wary. “Well… you came.” There was a question in his eyes.
Reality fell back into place. Naruto looked away, feeling something constrict around his lungs. He had to speak up, but he didn’t want to. If he could have stopped time and remained like that, he would have. But Gaara deserved the truth from him, after all of this. “Gaara… I didn’t come here to look for you. I mean… I did, but….” He felt, more than heard, Gaara’s sharp indrawn breath. Naruto didn’t dare turn to see the expression on his face. “I came because… I needed to get away from Konoha. Sasuke was… and… When Temari came, I…”
“Enough,” Gaara whispered.
“Gaara, I’m sor—“
“Enough, Naruto,” Gaara spoke steadily. “I already knew this. Anyone could have seen that.” He still sounded devastated. “At least I have my answer, now.”
Naruto started, heart hammering in his chest. “No!” Denial turned his stomach to ice. He stumbled forwards, closing the distance between himself and Gaara. Gaara pulled back instinctively, taken by surprise. Naruto didn’t know what he was doing, but he thought his lungs would cave in if he let Gaara think that. “That doesn’t mean I don’t---!” He choked on what he was about to say, because he didn’t even know what that was.
What the fuck is wrong with me?
Gaara’s eyes were wide, they shone with amazement and something Naruto had never thought he’d see on that face. It was also something he’d never imaged to see when someone looked at him. Naruto bit his lip, frustrated with himself and how little his emotions seemed to be making sense.
“What I mean is… that I hadn’t thought of you that way, so I don’t know if… I just don’t know,” Naruto growled, wishing he had a way with words. He wasn’t getting his point across, and he felt Gaara deserved more clarity than it was in him to give.
Gaara seemed as out of sorts as Naruto was. “That’s not a ‘no’,” he said at last, drawing each word out slowly.
“It’s not,” Naruto agreed, amazed at himself. Where was this coming from?
Gaara shivered. He fixed his stare upon the sand for an endless moment. When he looked up again, his eyes were nakedly human. He seemed stripped of all defenses and Naruto made himself think of what he was doing, very carefully, because the idea of hurting Gaara now was sickening.
“Gaara, listen, I need to… think about this… carefully... and…”
… and Sasuke too… I need to think about all of this.
Gaara frowned, shadows crawled back into his eyes. “Think,” he said, as if it were something distasteful. Gaara shook his head. “You reach stupid conclusions when you think about things.”
“But, Gaara! What I’m trying to say is---“ Naruto shut up quickly when he felt the sand rustle ominously under his feet. “Gaara!” Naruto insisted, unsure of the sudden change in the air.
Gaara’s face revealed nothing, again. He almost looked like the Gaara of old. He closed the distance between them in one quick stride, standing so close Naruto could see each separate eyelash around those stone-hard eyes. The air between them was thick with a wholly unmapped kind of tension, it made Naruto remember that stolen moment, through the bars of a cell; but this was Gaara – not Sasuke - and it felt completely different.
Gaara was breathing evenly, but Naruto could see that he was straining to keep himself calm. Nervous energy skittered over Gaara’s skin, making him jerk when Naruto so much as breathed out.
Gaara’s face was too close to his, he couldn’t even look at him comfortably. It made Naruto all too aware of how warm Gaara was, he could feel it through the thin linen of his clothes. Gaara’s gaze was fixed upon his face but Naruto didn’t think he could stand to look back at him; he kept his eyes on Gaara’s neck. Sweat beaded Gaara’s skin – not sand, skin – and a stray lock of hair was plastered to his pale neck, like a dash of curling red ink. Naruto looked up, saw the lines of Gaara’s tattoo a mere breath away from his own face.
He reached up, as if in a daze, and brushed his fingers against that mark. Gaara breathed in sharply and tipped his head up, watching Naruto gravely. Naruto touched the tattoo, found it was warm and smooth, like scar-tissue.
Gaara closed the last few inches of space between them in a rush. Naruto let out a surprised little sound when something warm and dry touched his mouth. At first he couldn’t puzzle it out, and then it dawned on him that Gaara was kissing him. It was a firm press of lips against his own, immediate and warm. Gaara pulled back slightly and tried again, angling his head slightly. A hot shiver made Naruto tense when Gaara’s lips nipped his lower lip softly and something warmer still brushed it carefully.
Gaara is kissing me. He didn’t know whether to laugh or groan in response.
Gaara seemed to become frustrated. He gripped Naruto’s left forearm and squeezed the muscle, digging his fingers in. “Open your mouth, damnit,” he growled.
Gaara’s voice snapped Naruto out of his reverie. He pulled away and stared at Gaara, wide-eyed in his amazement. Gaara’s chest was a solid presence, right next to his own. One of Naruto’s knees was touching Gaara’s legs, he could feel the bowstring tension that made them both taut. Gaara’s face had lost its impassive quality, emotions moved in his eyes like rippling water, making Naruto’s breath hitch.
Gaara seemed angry at the pause. He moved towards Naruto again, determined. Naruto moved his head back and regarded him carefully. Both of Gaara’s hands clenched on his arms, almost hurtful. There was an appeal in his eyes that made Naruto’s belly warm. It was nice to watch Gaara like this, staring up at him angrily because he wanted more. When Gaara opened his mouth to say something Naruto leaned down and returned the kiss, swallowing whatever it was that Gaara meant to say.
Gaara’s breath quickened. He closed his eyes and groaned, fingers clenching and unclenching over Naruto’s arm like a cat’s paws. Gaara was all warm, inside and out. Naruto was surprised to find that there was nothing even slightly off-putting about feeling Gaara’s tongue against his, or accidentally knocking their teeth together. Gaara’s kissing was intense and demanding, just a bit sloppy, all unfettered emotion. When Naruto lifted a hand to touch the small of his back Gaara arched with a pleasant growl, butting his hips against Naruto’s accidentally.
Gaara gasped sharply and pulled away. His body was shaking a bit, Naruto could feel the faint tremors in the hands that still gripped his arms. Gaara licked his lips and breathed in and out, very slowly. He let go of Naruto’s arms and took a few steps back.
Naruto had to will himself to keep staring at Gaara’s face, for fear of looking down at Gaara’s hips. He had felt Gaara’s excitement quite vividly, and he knew he was in a similar state of arousal. The intimacy of the moment hadn’t disappeared all at once, but the sheer instinct of it had worn off and Naruto found himself blushing.
Gaara was quite unrepentant. “I want to do that again,” he informed Naruto in a very even tone of voice.
Naruto felt his nerves twitch. He didn’t know what to answer.
“You liked it too,” Gaara continued. He wasn’t quite smiling, but whatever anguish he’d felt before seemed to have lifted, becoming only a tense air of expectation. “You can think now,” Gaara told him, with the same ease as before.
He turned on his heels and left Naruto standing there.
Naruto lay on his makeshift bed, staring up at the sky as he willed himself to calm down. It was hard to gather his thoughts, much less string them together, when he felt as if he were burning from the inside out. It was a very different kind of heat from the one he’d felt in the desert, granted, but just as bad. Naruto turned on his side with a breathless groan.
I could… But the very idea of masturbating made him feel exposed. What if Gaara was around? What if Gaara was watching him, even now? And if he did it, and Gaara saw him…. Naruto closed his eyes tightly and shivered. He wasn’t sure that was a good or a bad thing.
But Gaara had done this to him. Not that Naruto minded… except that he did. A few hours ago the idea of kissing Gaara would have never crossed his mind; now his head was full of Gaara’s scent and Gaara’s low, gravelly voice. The manipulative fuck had managed to get straight into Naruto’s nerve-endings. Who would have thought? But then, Gaara was often all-instinct and very little thought, it was what had once made him so dangerous; Naruto didn’t know whether Gaara had planned for him to end up like this, or if it was accidental. Either way, he was burning up.
What did it all mean, then? That he wasn’t disgusted by the idea of being with Gaara as more than just friends? Well, that was clearly true. Gaara had made that clear to both of them when he’d kissed Naruto.
And fuck, it was... Naruto shivered in the cool night air as he remembered Gaara’s tongue on his lower lip, and that pleasant little sound he’d made when Naruto kissed him back. And that wet lock of hair against Gaara’s neck… even now that image sent a hot thrill down his nerves and straight into his groin. “Fuck,” Naruto growled, because this was certainly new to him. He’d been attracted to other people before, but never like this.
Then again, no one had ever kissed him like that either, so there was very little for him to compare with.
It was horribly selfish, but he wished Gaara were there with him. He wondered if Gaara would let him do more. Nothing way out of line, Naruto wasn’t sure he was ready to consider how to work out actual sex between the two of them, but… if Gaara were there, maybe he’d let Naruto touch him. Maybe he’d want to touch him back. Naruto closed his eyes and pictured it suddenly, Gaara lying there, kissing him like before, sticking a hand down his pants and---
“Fuck!” Naruto cursed emphatically, sitting up and shaking his head. He couldn’t erase it though, the image was there and it was making him ache.
Naruto got up on his feet and walked deeper into the oasis.
The moon shone brightly over the arch of a distant dune. White light reflected on the water as he reached one of the many pools. Naruto dropped to his knees and splashed water onto his face. He felt cooler, but not in the least bit calmer. There was a fever under his skin that would not go away.
(Open your mouth, damnit!)
Gaara’s voice when he said that had been…
Naruto groaned and shook his head. Water dripped into his eyes, making everything seem distorted, like a haze of heat. Gaara was like a desert, if he could make Naruto’s head spin this way. It was a ridiculous thought.
I’m going nuts.
He was going crazy and it was Gaara’s fault. Sasuke had a lot to do with it, but presently, it was all Gaara and Naruto didn’t know whether to be thankful or furious. He slapped the water as he stood up, and wriggled out of his clothes. He dropped them carelessly on the sand and walked into the pool. The cold water struck his body like a wet blanket. Naruto sighed in relief as the coolness spread over his limbs, easing some of the heat from his insides. He swam under the surface and stared up at the stars through the film of water.
When he came back up, gasping, a breeze chilled his face and shoulders.
I wonder what Sasuke is doing. The thought came to him suddenly, like a blow. Naruto sighed and sat near the edge of the pool, most of his body still in the water. Is he still in that cell…?
Had Sakura gone to see him? Had Sasuke asked her out? Did he really mean those things he said, or had they been words spoken in anger, because he wanted to drive Naruto off?
In his mind’s eye, Naruto could still see him. He could also see the other Sasuke - his Sasuke – the boy who’d almost died for him on a bridge. The boy Naruto had watched on the playground, just as lonely as he was. The person Naruto had most wanted to impress, the one person he truly wished to be acknowledged by. Sasuke had been the beginning and the end of Naruto’s childhood. Now Sasuke and Naruto were both men, close to becoming fully adult, and there was very little in Sasuke of the boy Naruto remembered so well.
That boy was gone. The boy who’d fought alongside Naruto to save Sakura from… from Gaara, was gone. Naruto looked up at the sky, wishing his heart could sort itself out, for once. Gaara was different too; very, very different. So why was it okay for Gaara to be different, and so terrible for Sasuke to have changed?
Naruto tried to picture going back to Konoha. What could be possibly say to Sasuke?
Bastard, do you love me? Do you think I’m in love with you? Ridiculous to even consider it. Then: What is more important, being happy or reviving your clan? After calling Naruto a moron, Sasuke would probably say that reviving his clan was the most important thing. But he wouldn’t say that reviving his clan would make him happy.
Would it, though?
Maybe the be all end all of Sasuke’s life was the fact that he had once been part of something huge, and he wouldn’t sit still until he existed in that space again. At least, now that Itachi was dead and he had time to think of those things; before, the whole world had been about Itachi.
But if the bastard can leave that part of his life behind, and start something new… could I do the same thing?
It was a daunting prospect, and Naruto shivered. He wasn’t sure what his life would be like without Sasuke at the center of it all. He still had his dreams of becoming Hokage, of becoming the strongest ninja in history – though he was sure he was pretty on track with that last goal. As for the other, the people of Konoha had accepted him in general, or at least tolerated him. He had so many friends, and he loved them all to death. But bringing Sasuke back and defeating Akatsuki had been the center of his life for so long he didn’t know what to do now.
Naruto wondered if this was similar to how Gaara felt when he realized Shukaku was gone. He thought he’d feel happier, but he just felt lost. He was happy to have brought Sasuke back, at last. But it made him realize that what he wanted the most was to go back to those days when his life had been Team 7. He’d felt safe and cared for. Sakura and Kakashi and Sasuke had been his whole universe. Chasing Sasuke to the very end of the earth had been all about recapturing that moment in time, when his life had been perfect.
(All my dreams lie in the past)
Now, finally, Naruto could understand Sasuke’s words to him on that fateful day.
I wonder if Sasuke still loves Itachi.
That thought was more than Naruto could contemplate. He waded deeper into the pool and swam, letting the exercise numb his mind for a while. The night was pleasantly warm, the breeze just shy of cold and the water a counterpoint to both. Naruto swam to his heart’s content, until his arms and legs began to ache.
When he got tired, he swam back towards the edge of the pool where his feet touched the bottom. By the waning moonlight he could see faint bruises on his forearms. The purplish fingerprints were fading already, as most wounds of his did. Naruto rubbed the discolored skin thoughtfully. Gaara must have been pretty out of it, if he had left these marks. Naruto knew Gaara would never intentionally hurt him.
(I’m not Uchiha Sasuke, and I won’t be him for you either.)
No, Gaara would never be Sasuke, but that wasn’t a bad thing. Gaara was himself, his very changeable, very unique self. He was also the first person to have kissed Naruto intentionally, the first person to have given Naruto a glimpse of shared desire. Touching Gaara had been like touching a furnace without getting burned, Naruto wondered what other strange desires lay under that restrained exterior. There were probably many things Gaara was viciously ashamed of, but what of the others? Naruto tried to imagine what it might be like to have Gaara love him, and open up to him even further. Gaara’s inner heart might be as dark and full of madness as Gaara feared, but Naruto didn’t think it would scare or surprise him much.
But do I love him?
Naruto was lucid enough to know he wasn’t in love with Gaara. It was a possibility he had never considered, his feelings had simply never turned in that direction. Now he didn’t know what he felt, or rather, what he might feel, given a chance.
Naruto closed his eyes and found that it was easy to picture Gaara too. He could clearly see the dangerous creature that he’d faced during the chuunin exams, that boy that was three parts hate and one part loneliness. Gaara’s journey back into the light had been long and difficult and Naruto admired him for how far he’d come, it was hard to believe today’s Gaara and that unstable kid were ever related.
Gaara had faced his own demons more than once – literally – and become stronger for it. He’d tamed what was terrible in him and become a respected leader, a beloved sibling and a dear friend. Naruto still remembered the crowd that had gathered when Gaara had almost---
I looked for him then too.
Naruto blinked in the darkness, startled by that thought. Naruto had barely been able to contain himself when he had heard Gaara was abducted. The idea of losing Gaara had been too much to bear. He remembered the sheer raw despair he’d experienced in the cave, and then when he’d opened up Deidara’s clay bird and beheld Gaara’s still form.
When Gaara’s limp form lay in his arms…
Naruto couldn’t recall the exact emotion, nor did he want to. It had been like dying inside.
If we had not saved him then, if Chiyo-sama hadn’t brought him back…
Naruto wouldn’t have seen all these different sides of Gaara. He would have never seen Gaara smile thinly at Kankuro’s comments, or make difficult political decisions. He wouldn’t have known what it was like to kiss Gaara, or hear him speak softly of his own fears, or what he wanted. He wouldn’t have ever gotten to hear Gaara say, in that almost-sultry voice---
(I want to do that again)
Naruto closed his eyes and pictured Gaara clearly: the copper-and-blood hair that curled at the tips, those harsh green eyes that – he now knew – could burn with feeling, the pliant skin that had felt warm against him, the soft exhalation at the discovery of something pleasurable.
Naruto swallowed thickly, caught by the recollection. Gaara had said he wanted to do it again, and Naruto desperately wished it was true. But he also knew it was unfair of him to want Gaara like that, when Gaara had blatantly told Naruto he was in love with him. It felt like taking advantage, even if Gaara had started it.
He’d come full circle with his thoughts. Now that he’d gone back to Gaara, it was impossible to banish the images again.
Naruto wondered if Gaara’s back was sensitive, he’d almost jumped when Naruto had touched it. Would he like to have his spine stroked, like a cat? A sudden flash of what touching all that white skin might be like made Naruto squirm in the water.
Damnit, damnit, damnit!
His breath was uneven and he felt his blood pool downwards in a most distracting fashion. Naruto hated feeling this out of sort. Worst of all, the Kyuubi’s seal was starkly visible against his belly, reacting to the change in his chakra patterns. It was like having a fever, all over again.
Aww… fuck this.
Naruto reached down and took himself in hand. A ripple of pure sensation tightened his skin, but being in water made everything feel a bit funny. He changed his grip and licked his lips. An image of Gaara’s face before the kiss made him arch his back slightly, short of breath.
With a frustrated growl Naruto stopped what he was doing and go to his feet, determined to get dressed and walk back to the shelter of the rock.
Then a yellowish light glimmered in the water in front of Naruto.
Gaara was there when he turned around.
If Naruto was honest about it, he was sure Kakashi must have caught him jacking off at least once, if not more often, during the early days of Team 7. Life on missions had the down-side of eliminating privacy, and Naruto was accustomed to living alone and doing things his way. Surely, his stealth skills had required some practice.
Naruto was sure he’d heard Sasuke at it more than once. He hadn’t dared to move on those few times he’d detected the faint rustling. Logic demanded that Sasuke must have been woken up by him a few times as well, though he said nothing. Or he slept like a log and never noticed, but that was unlikely. Naruto rarely jacked off during a mission, because it was terribly hard to stay quiet, and his body often seemed not-his-own after he did.
None of this, however, came even close to being caught in the act by the person he’d been fantasizing about.
“Gaara,” Naruto whispered, stricken. Then he took two steps back and sat down in the water. Not that Gaara could have missed his raging erection, since he carried a dimmed oil lamp with him. “I didn’t… hear you.” It sounded lame to his own ears and Naruto wanted to smack himself as he spoke.
Gaara said nothing. He seemed to unfreeze after a few seconds. Of all the things Naruto might have expected Gaara to feel, none of them showed on his face. Gaara seemed quite collected as he set the oil lamp on the sand, by Naruto’s clothes. He regarded Naruto calmly, and Naruto felt a furious blush creep all over his face and neck.
Silence stretched between them and Naruto had the distinct impression that Gaara was waiting for him to say something more. Well, he could wait all he wanted, Naruto couldn’t have spoken up even if he’d cared to. Gaara was right there, in the faint light of the lamp, saffron and milk all mixed together. His eyes were intensely focused of Naruto, just as they had been earlier on in the night, and Naruto’s body was far, far from winding down. Seeing Gaara, even under these circumstances, only made him want more.
Naruto had to hold himself still, a part of him wanted to leap out of the water and stammer apologies. The other wanted to grab Gaara by the neck and demand that he finish what he started. He had to tear his eyes away before any of those scenarios actually took place. But, fuck, his erection was keen enough to hurt.
Gaara watched him quietly.
Naruto breathed out unevenly, shaking a little but not from the cold.
“… I’m sorry,” Gaara murmured, and he seemed genuinely contrite.
Naruto swallowed with difficultly. “Why are you apologizing?”
Gaara’s small smile was self-deprecating. “Jinchuuriki have problems dealing with strong emotions. Hate and pain can get a strong reaction. So can love… and lust. It upsets the balance of chakra going through the seal.” Gaara made it sound terribly logical, like the hospital stuff Sakura sometimes told Naruto.
“W-where did you get that?” Naruto’s teeth chattered, more from the effort of keeping himself still than anything else. The thrumming heat in his belly had become maddening, all of a sudden.
“My guardians were very informative in that respect. Not that it affects me now… but I wondered about you.”
Naruto laughed edgily. “You mean you wanted to see if it worked on me?”
“No. I wanted to see if you found me attractive, which is something I wondered about. I didn’t mean to… put you in this state.”
Naruto growled a curse under his breath. “I’m not in any particular ‘state’, Gaara. So if you could just….” Go away. Disappear. Forget this ever happened. Leave me alone. Any of the above. Naruto didn’t know which one he preferred. ‘Touch me’ certainly wasn’t an option.
Gaara moved towards him, face utterly inexpressive. Naruto watched him, caught by the play of light on Gaara’s flat eyes. Even now, he was something to behold. Sasuke was certainly more handsome, but Gaara was just wild.
Naruto closed his eyes tightly. “Gaara, will you go away? I think I’ve been embarrassed enough.”
“Don’t be,” Gaara replied.
Bashing Gaara’s face in didn’t seem like such a bad idea, now. “Gaara, please?” When Naruto opened his eyes, he found Gaara was even closer now, bare feet at the edge of the pool. He was watching Naruto with an expression of restrained craving. Naruto’s mouth went dry. “Gaara…”
Gaara cocked his head sideways and caught Naruto’s stare with his own. “Why are you ashamed? It’s only natural to want to be touched. Humans are like that.”
Naruto decided to go on the offensive. “Do you want to be touched?”
“Yes,” simple and clear, like most of Gaara’s answers were, when he was of a mind to be forthcoming.
Naruto didn’t know what to say to that. His straining erection had a pulse of its own. Naruto wouldn’t be surprised if Gaara could hear his heartbeat from where he was standing.
“But there are other things I want more.”
It begged the question. “Like what?” Naruto asked breathlessly.
Gaara smiled then. “I want to touch you.”
Naruto’s heartbeat was out of synch with the rest of him already. Gaara’s words made his arousal worse, but they also etched themselves deep into the darkness in his heart. Gaara wanted to touch him. Gaara loved him. Someone loved him and wanted him. It filled a space Naruto hadn’t even know was such a gaping hole.
“Can I?” It took Naruto a moment to understand that Gaara’s question was in relation to his previous comment. The naked longing in those green eyes made it hard to say anything at all, least of all what he knew he had to say.
“Gaara… I’m not… in love with you.”
Gaara’s mouth twisted, sorrowful humor. “I am very aware of that, Naruto.”
“I don’t want to take advantage of you.”
Gaara’s brow smoothed out, irony flickered in his gaze. “Are you sure I’m the one being taken advantage of, here?”
“Gaara, it wouldn’t be right,” Naruto insisted. He dearly wished he was callous enough to give in and just say yes, but he couldn’t. Gaara deserved better from him. Gaara deserved someone who truly loved him, not someone who decided to lust after him in the space of a few hours.
Gaara snorted, a surprisingly mundane gesture, for him. “What you define as right or wrong is a social boundary, Naruto. I don’t care in the least for those.” He stepped into the water, air made his clothes balloon around him ridiculously until he pushed them down. The shirt and trousers plastered to his skin as he walked over to Naruto. “I know you don’t love me. I don’t care. If it makes you feel better, then understand this: I want to touch you. I’m doing this for me.”
Naruto worked through Gaara’s logic, the puzzles of his mind and the odd mixture of selfish and selfless that was this man’s nature. Gaara made it sound as though he were the opportunist and Naruto could be doing him a favor, which was ridiculous. “That’s stupid.”
“Why? Why is it stupid for me to want to touch you? I love you,” Gaara said it easily now, with an air of finality. He acted as though the whole conversation were nothing out of the ordinary. “I want to show you that. And I want to see you.”
Naruto felt faint. “See me?” Okay, my voice sounded squeaky for sure.
Gaara’s devouring gaze was heavy on Naruto’s face. “Yes. I want to see the face you were making before you noticed me.”
That was a little bit too personal for Naruto. He squirmed and avoided Gaara’s face. “I’m not sure this is a good idea.”
“Must you be so noble all the time?” Gaara spoke softly. “Let me have this, at least. Give me this one little thing, in case it’s all I can have.”
Naruto looked up quickly, caught between the burn of arousal and the edge of pain in Gaara’s voice. “Gaara,” he whispered, a low exhalation.
Gaara closed the distance between them and knelt down to touch Naruto’s neck with warm fingers. “Please,” he said, his voice had gone back to a monotone, but his eyes were vibrant and needy as they watched Naruto.
“I want this, Naruto.” The hand on his neck and moved, Gaara’s thumb touched his collarbone expectantly.
Gaara smiled. It was a quick flash, feral and pleased, then it was gone. He leaned in and kissed Naruto, dipping his tongue into Naruto’s mouth with no hesitation at all. Naruto closed his eyes and shivered convulsively. The water was cold but Gaara’s chest was hot. The wet linen of Gaara’s dark shirt was rough against Naruto’s nipples. He’d never even considered those sensitive, until now. Gaara angled his head and deepened the kiss. When Naruto opened his eyes he found that Gaara had never closed his. Naruto squeezed his eyes shut, unnerved by the intense scrutiny.
Wet fingers touched his arms. A clothed knee bumped his where they both knelt. Naruto realized that even though they were both in the water, Gaara was wearing all of his clothes, whereas Naruto was completely naked. He lifted his hands to work at the clasps on Gaara’s shirt, but Gaara gripped his wrists and pushed them away.
“No,” he said, and his tone left no space of arguing. Before Naruto could even think of what to say Gaara was kissing him again.
Slippery fingers coasted over his forearms, a wayward hand stroked the space between his shoulder-blades. It drew a hissing sigh from Naruto, and that same hand reached up to stroke the back of his neck, before tangling covetously in his hair. No one had ever stroked Naruto’s head like that, but he loved the sensation already. Naruto relaxed in slow increments. Gaara petted him slowly, letting him grow accustomed to it all.
Gaara’s other hand slid over his collarbone again, then lower, touching his pectoral muscles with gentle fingers. A thumb brushed one of his nipples curiously, worrying the nub as it hardened. Naruto pushed his tongue against Gaara’s, feverishly caught up in the caresses. No one had ever--- and he hadn’t imagined--- it was---- Naruto’s breathing quickened and he reached up to touch Gaara’s neck with shaking fingers.
The hand on his chest went lower still, exploring the shape of his abdominal muscles. When Gaara’s fingers reached his navel Naruto jumped slightly. Gaara smiled into the kiss, until he felt Naruto tense. The seal flared, hot and aching under Gaara’s fingers. One more sensation that added to the mesh, but not one Naruto wanted to focus on. Gaara seemed to sense his unease, his fingers went down after only a brief pause.
Naruto gasped softly when Gaara pressed his palm against Naruto’s pelvis, fingers splayed downwards over his pubic hair. It tickled slightly, but his whole body tautened as Gaara’s hand petted the blonde curls slowly, gradually easing down.
Naruto had to pull back then, seeking Gaara’s face out in the dim light. “Are you sure?”
Gaara raised a brow, half annoyed and half amused, and went back to kissing him. Naruto opened up to the kiss and almost bit Gaara’s tongue when steady fingers wrapped around his erection. Breath exploded in his lungs, jagged and difficult to hold in, or out. Gaara’s breathing was short and fast too, but he didn’t stop what he was doing. Naruto groaned into the kiss.
Gaara’s hands moved slowly in the water, it still felt funny. Naruto let out a frustrated little growl. Gaara snorted and let go of him abruptly. Naruto almost fell back in surprise. Gaara grabbed his wrist and tugged him unceremoniously to the shore. Before Naruto could really wrap his mind around the events, he was on his back on the damp sand and Gaara was lying beside him, mouth seeking his once more.
Naruto saw the stars above his head, and Gaara’s eyes when he chanced to look down a bit. Gaara watched him greedily, drinking in each and every one of his reactions. Naruto thought he’d feel bared, almost ashamed, but Gaara’s frank desire only made his nerves fizz.
Wet fingers found his erection again and squeezed it carefully. Naruto’s chest heaved and he had to close his eyes, holding back an embarrassing whine. Gaara touched the tip of his cock with questing fingers, rubbing the moisture around the head as he coaxed it out.
“Gaara,” Naruto’s throttled voice surprised them both. Gaara paused, waiting to hear what Naruto had wanted to say. Naruto found he hadn’t meant to say anything more, it seemed fitting to say Gaara’s name like that. He’d wanted to say it. Gaara’s eyes held but one message: he had wanted to hear that too.
(in case it’s all I can have)
Gaara, please don’t let me hurt you after this.
Gaara’s fisted him and pumped slowly at first, trying it out. Naruto’s breathing became truly ragged then. He turned his head sideways, filling his lungs through gasps as Gaara figured out a rhythm and set a pace. A thick, cloying heat began to pool in his belly, making his thighs tremble faintly. Naruto scrabbled for something to hold on to and latched onto Gaara’s shoulders. He couldn’t pry his eyes open, but he guessed that Gaara was still staring at him, drinking it all in with that unreadable expression of his.
Gaara’s shoulders moved out of his reach. Naruto reached out, but his hand encountered only air. And then, then, searing heat and wetness drove the last of his reserves out the window. Naruto cried out, once, twisting under Gaara’s touch. Gaara mouthed him messily, never breaking the rhythm of his hand. Naruto struggled to breathe, it felt as though he were choking on pure sensation. He could hear his own voice and the embarrassing sounds he couldn’t hold off, but he didn’t care any longer. When the tone of his voice became frantic Gaara took the cue. He sped up his movements until Naruto jerked like a puppet on cut-strings.
Naruto felt his body arch and twist, out of his control. The seal over his belly flared but he was past caring. The whole world disappeared in a shout, pleasure strong enough to be painful cut his thoughts into pieces and sent them flying.
Naruto opened his eyes after what seemed like an eternity.
Gaara was still staring at him. There was a flush on his pallid cheekbones, and a look of profound satisfaction in his eyes. The look suited Gaara, his face was made for haughty expressions.
When Naruto found his voice again, he still didn’t know what to say. Gaara didn’t seem to expect any response either, so he settled for lying there in the cooling aftermath. Naruto felt languid and sated, almost sleepy. Touching himself had never felt like this. This was---
When he blinked again Gaara had sat up, and was fiddling with the oil lamp. It was getting colder and Naruto shivered.
“I’m naked,” he suddenly remembered. He was very naked, while Gaara was very dressed.
“Yes, you are,” Gaara agreed, bemused.
Hearing his voice made Naruto start. It brought the whole situation into stark relief.
Gaara jacked me off. It sounded insane, even if it was the truth.
“You jacked me off,” Naruto whispered numbly.
“Yes.” Gaara’s eyes softened and he touched Naruto’s cheek with shaking fingers. That small sign of weakness reminded Naruto of how much Gaara had exposed himself, how big a piece of his integrity was at stake.
(I know you don’t love me)
(I’m doing this for me)
“How can you be so calm?” Naruto asked, because he couldn’t believe it.
“What else can I do?” Gaara replied, even-voiced. “I can only hope. That’s something you taught me.”
“So… what now?” It seemed silly to be asking Gaara for advice on this matter, but he was there and this was about him. “What do we do?”
“We do nothing.” Gaara’s eyes hardened again, steeling himself for his next words. Naruto watched him in mounting worry. “We do nothing… Naruto. There is no ‘we’. I go back to Suna… and you go back to Konoha.”
That just didn’t seem right.
“No,” Naruto growled.
Gaara gave him a fraught look. “Naruto, I have to return to Suna. I have all the answers I’m going to get.”
Naruto felt unexpectedly offended, as if Gaara had bypassed him all of a sudden. “I haven’t said anything yet.” Naruto cursed himself for the stupidity that kept pouring out of his mouth. Now he sounded peevish, which was insane.
“No, you haven’t. You also haven’t told me if you are in love with Uchiha or not.”
Sasuke… Naruto blanched. What would Sasuke say to all of this?
Did his opinion even count?
“I have to go back, and you have to figure things out for yourself.” Gaara shrugged expressively. “There is nothing more to be done now.”
Naruto sat up, feeling a kind of exposure that had nothing to do with being naked. A few minutes ago Gaara had been kissing him, but now he seemed far gone, too distant to touch. Gaara might be able to flip his emotions off and on like a switch, but the twists of his mind were going a bit too fast for Naruto.
“You seem unconcerned,” Naruto snapped, angry at himself for being angry.
Gaara’s face twisted into a mask of vivid fury. Naruto felt his hackles rise when Gaara’s viper-like eyes bored into him. “Unconcerned? Then what would you have me do, Uzumaki? Cry and wail and beg you to stay?”
“No!” It was scary to hear Gaara say things like that; scarier still to imagine him doing them. “I just… fuck. You’re right. I know that. I just---“ It was strange to imagine going back, as if this had been just another mission.
The desert, the oasis, Gaara’s eyes… everything hung in a suspended reality. Naruto didn’t want to go back yet.
Gaara’s livid expression faded back into one of blank disinterest. His words told a different story. “Naruto, I didn’t honestly think you’d come. I thought you wouldn’t leave Uchiha, no matter what. I needed to convince myself of that. I went into the desert to accept this truth.”
”Then… what was all this?”
Gaara’s flat stare belied his feelings. “When I saw you in the desert, I… hoped.” He shook his head. “I believed there might be a world where love was possible, even for creatures like me.”
“Gaara, you’re not—“
“--- a monster, I know. You seem bent upon repeating that.” Gaara faltered, seemingly at a loss for words. “But you’re not the best judge of character either. No, don’t frown, it’s the truth, Naruto.”
“Would you have preferred it… if I hadn’t come?” It was an unfair question, but he had to know.
Gaara honestly considered it. “I don’t know, Naruto. If you hadn’t, I might have been able to forget about this feeling altogether. Now it’s like I have something inside of me, again.” Gaara clawed at his abdomen and Naruto flinched at the comparison, but Gaara didn’t seem to take any notice of that. “I actually have to wonder about what will happen after we part ways.”
Naruto didn’t know what to say to that.
“I’m glad you came, Naruto. You have given me much, without even realizing it.” Gaara’s face was bland and distant, all the same. “We should go to sleep.”
The sudden change in topic threw Naruto off, but he knew better than to press the matter further. If Gaara didn’t want to talk about it anymore, then Naruto would respect it.
It gave him time to sort out his feelings as well.
IV. All The Difference
Now, I'm not even going to try to explain how hard it is to write Gaara-smut. Seriously. Just. AUGH.