Don't get all ethical on us.
--Dilbert to the Weasel, Dilbert, Scott Adams
There. For good or bad. It's done.
--Furies, Sandman: The Kindly Ones, Neil Gaiman
Even though they were almost always fighting and bickering--well, Naruto was bickering while Sasuke was offensively ignoring him--Sasuke had always made a point of looking after Naruto. Making sure he was alive and nearly complete, that he was somewhat comfortable and taking care of himself.
Nothing hugely obvious or particularly heartfelt, and in truth Sasuke acted more like it was a chore--taking care of Naruto--because he was too stupid to take care of himself. Perhaps because Sasuke knew exactly what it was like to live completely alone. Perhaps because it was some sort of moral obligation to him. He didn't go out of his way a whole lot to help the blond boy, but it was more than he ever did for anyone else.
It was obvious that Naruto either didn't notice, or didn't appreciate it.
For a short time, Naruto had been Sasuke's grudging stray dog that was fed scraps whenever it wandered through, and gave nothing save his time in return.
Naruto's and Sasuke's relationship had always been funny, fuzzy, and entirely too hard to pin down exactly. It was always changing, right in the split seconds morphing and evolving and regressing faster than viruses in a kindergarten, but it never faded away. Perhaps it couldn't. Perhaps they wouldn't let it.
At any rate, that had been the thread they were following between team member and sworn enemy and bitter rival and clandestine friend right up until--
Naruto disappeared. Actually, not so much disappeared as...left. As in left the village. As in left his home. As in left his life. As in left his dreams. And--most important--as in left Sasuke.
In response to quieter, less hectic days, one less rival and itching, irritating and above all bloody Loud thorn in his side, Sasuke was decidedly not regretful. So Naruto was gone. So what? Deadlast could barely tie his shoes right without getting his fingers knotted in the laces as well--It was too much to expect that he would know how to say a decent good-bye or even get his papers in right. The idiot could hardly ever do anything right.
And Sasuke didn't care. So what? It was Naruto's life, Naruto's choice. Wasn't his business, he didn't owe the dobe anything, and vice versa. Wasn't like it was a big deal or anything.
So, despite all appearances, Sasuke was not depressed.
In the very invisible cloak of his bed late at night with the window closed and curtains shut and all the lights off with no one at all in the universe existing or living or breathing except for Uchiha Sasuke sitting alone and still on his rumpled bed sheets and hard bed, the Prodigy was not depressed. He was not depressed at all, even to himself very quietly.
What he was, what he actually felt, Sasuke felt very quietly and only to himself. He didn't share. He had never been very good at sharing.
Naruto had been bright and vibrant and uncontrollable, all aspects that Sasuke didn't have and didn't want. Naruto had been alive and wildly, fickly passionate, something Sasuke could not be. Naruto had been something Sasuke couldn't afford to be. Naruto had been something Sasuke couldn't afford to have.
Naruto had never been something Sasuke wanted.
Even sitting in the padded darkness of his own head, Naruto had never been something Sasuke wanted. Never. It was a simple fact. That was all.
But Naruto had been something Sasuke could take care of.
Lightly. When he felt like it. And only if he wanted to and because it would get the blond airhead to leave him alone in peace, in silence. It was something of an odd hobby Sasuke couldn't avoid, no matter how he tried. It was just like feeding a stray dog, really. Just one of those funny things.
Back when they were eleven and twelve to fourteen, back when they had learned to exist in the same biosphere by absolute chance, back when dreams about Naruto had always been weird and slightly disturbing in the chaotic way everything about Naruto was.
Way back when they had been merely rivals, merely taken up 95% of each other's minds through sheer irritability and chafing arrogance and absurd durability. Way back when the shadow-shackles Itachi had cursed him with had been blown straight away by stupid golden banter and disgusting self-conceit. Way back when his off-hand contempt was turning into bitter poisonous jealously at the blonde's potential. Way back when the dreams had turned less chaotic, more streamlined, and a good deal more terrifying. Way back when Naruto lying asleep and unaware on a bed was just another thing. Way back when the secret unspoken feel of Naruto's lips against Sasuke's tongue had meant absolutely nothing at all.
Absolutely nothing at all.
Because Naruto had left like it was nothing at all. Like nothing and everything and Sasuke was absolutely Nothing at all!
...Because it wasn't. Because Naruto, in the long run, was nothing important. Because Naruto was no one important. Just one of those odd bobs that life occasionally dished out, every now and again.
Naruto was nothing special. Naruto could be replaced easily, and the few times that Team 7 had reconverged for missions Naruto had been replaced, because Naruto had actually been improved...
Because Naruto had left like Sasuke was nothing at all.
So Sasuke acted like Naruto was nothing at all.
Because Naruto didn't care.
So Sasuke didn't care.
Because Sasuke really was, quite, quite angry.
Over nothing. Over everything. Over Naruto and over dreams and things he didn't understand and couldn't afford and didn't want and couldn't have.
It was nothing special. Naruto was nothing special. They were nothing special; if Sasuke wanted a loud and brazen rival, all he had to do was walk down two blocks to knock on Rock Lee's house or stare at Neji for a second too long or if he really wanted to get some good training in all he had to do was find the pervert Kakashi and pull him away from his stupid book or another lunch with Iruka-sensei that he was always having and try to finally beat the Jounin into the ground.
Besides, the moron hadn't really needed Sasuke so much really before he had left, before anyone had even guessed that he would be leaving. His technique, his sheer power was bitterly, sickeningly, insanely better than Sasuke's. Naruto's strength was better than Sasuke's. Even though you really couldn't tell, even though Naruto's behavior was still dismally retarded and idiotic and impulsive, he was still stronger than Sasuke. He really didn't need Sasuke anymore. It wasn't Sasuke who was doing the rescuing anymore, wasn't him feeding the stray dog the scraps.
Sasuke didn't accept second-place. He'd never accept pity.
The bitter hatred was still one-sided, but the coin had been flipped.
Sasuke hated Naruto.
Then Naruto left.
Sasuke didn't care.
Naruto was nothing. Naruto wasn't special. Naruto wasn't necessary. There were other people to fill in his spot as rival. There were other people to fill in his spot as a pain in the fundament. There were other people to screech agonizingly loud in Sasuke's ear at exactly the wrong time. Usually Sakura, over another date Sasuke was always turning down with increasing viciousness.
Naruto was replaceable. Naruto was nothing.
Naruto was a dog that had finally found a real home somewhere, or had been road-kill on some highway. Naruto was gone, and was nothing really special. Naruto was an itch that was finally gone, a bruise that had finally healed up.
Naruto was gone.
And Sasuke wasn't going to go chase after him.
No matter how Sakura glanced at him.
No matter where they traveled.
No matter how many blondes there were in the crowd.
No matter how many times a raucously cheerful voice called out.
No matter what Kakashi said.
Kakashi-sensei was a twisted romantic; someone who could never get his characters right and didn't understand people basically even if he did notice things pretty closely. In the very heart of things, Kakashi didn't know anything. Not about Sasuke, nothing about Sasuke, not really. Not a fucking thing.
Sasuke never looked for Naruto.
Sasuke made a point of never looking for Naruto.
Life went on.
Sasuke went on.
And then, right in the dawn of war and uncertainty and doom and glory, the tempting scorned baby powder blue, crashing into his life and structure and mind right all over again, demolishing everything and anything in his path, all of the old borders and walls and firebreaks came Naruto.
All over again.
Sasuke was no longer quite, quite angry. He didn't want to know what he was, or what he was thinking. Sasuke didn't want to identify what he was feeling.
Naruto was an idiot and screw-up in every possible way. And seeing what the blond had finally done with his life, what he had finally accomplished after all those years and months and days so very far away and out of reach and out of sight...
There were no words for the cold hollow feeling that slowly grew inside of him.
It would vanish instantly whenever teenage Naruto would flash him a quick smile, his eyes closing and crinkling at the edges, or whenever he would laugh just slightly at the edge of something. But--it wasn't Naruto. It was Naruto. It wasn't Naruto.
It wasn't Sasuke's Naruto.
Except that Sasuke had never owned Naruto.
It wasn't Sasuke's lost dog anymore.
It wasn't even a dog.
It wasn't joy or relief or despair or disappointment or regret or guilt or anything really. It wasn't even that good old familiar anger anymore. The anger was cold. The anger was dead. Whatever it was, Naruto always made Sasuke to some degree--angry. The emotions he needled and provoked were always hot and agitating. Never, never, had Naruto ever made Sasuke feel colder than he already was. It wasn't possible. It just wasn't possible.
And all of sudden now it was.
It was dawning on Sasuke that perhaps Naruto wasn't nothing. Maybe Naruto was something. But whatever that something was...
Sasuke wasn't sure if he still didn't want it anymore.
But one thing was certain.
Naruto was Something.
"Naruto the Bastard. Naruto the Demon King. Now and forever."
And then came that mess with the village. And then came that mess with the fire. And then came that mess with everything.
And then came that mess that Naruto always created.
Sasuke was never quite sure what had happened, only that the quiet and strangely empty village street had suddenly gone dark. When he opened his eyes again, he had been tied up and gagged deep in the woods, and there was dark red tumor of fear and dread growing in his brain and his stomach.
Nothing had held him. Not the handcuffs or rope or two people who kept hitting him or their screams or anything. Nothing had held him.
Sasuke had always taken idle care of Naruto.
And right now, he knew beyond a doubt, Naruto was doing something so totally stupid and brainless and crazy and stupid and painful and irrevocable and so very, very terrible that things would never get better no matter what. Naruto was creating a wound that could never be healed, digging a pit that would swallow him whole.
Sasuke had set out to save Naruto from himself.
Sasuke's heart changed.
Sasuke set out to stop Naruto. Sasuke set out to kill him.
The anger returned.
Pale silver tinted with a hint of yellow cream slinked through the trees to where Sasuke was standing waiting. Easily as tall as a truck and so much longer, eerily slender, wraith-like, and aerodynamically streamlined like a walking hieroglyph for speed, solid and warm with scorch marks for paw prints, eddies of smoke and steam and magic breezing from forelocks like windblown leaves. Eyes. Eyes alive and feeling and warm.
Sasuke stood perfectly still, keeping the creature's gaze. It was a very strange hunting technique, where the hunter stood absolutely still where the prey could see him perfectly and the deer actually came to the hunter, staring at him with their liquid brown eyes not running away and not bothering to hide.
Steam teapot-hot whooshed softly past Sasuke's face while he looked slightly up into slow beating depths that were an unnatural shade of color. To say they were merely red was to say that the ocean was merely blue, and not green or gray or aquamarine or black or white in places. The eyes weren't red. They weren't red and they weren't human and they weren't stupid and they welcomed Sasuke like the parents he barely remembered now.
It was impossible to swallow, and Sasuke's clothes and hair were steaming from when had fallen in the river by misstep. He could feel his skin tanning, getting burned and peeling back.
Sasuke could drown in those eyes. He could drown in those eyes forever like the strongest red wine, intoxicated and helpless and completely content. He knew he could drown in those eyes. He also knew, that he wouldn't be hurt. Those eyes would never hurt him.
Strangely, that was the spark.
Sasuke moved faster than he knew he could, faster than he ever remembered moving, but even as he marveled at the speed, he already knew something was wrong. He knew he had done the wrong thing, that while the speed and strategy was uncanny, the timing was wrong.
Sasuke knew this, because the fox hadn't dodged.
Burning wetness ran over his bruised fingers like hot wax, blistering the skin and weaving under the finger nails that were clenched white against the handle of the stolen katana he had thrust up into the creature's heart, right in between the ribs, the blade sliding more than half-way in, the lustrous fur barely brushing Sasuke's knuckles.
He was standing with his head level to its muzzle, smelled the strange smell of burnt cinnamon and wood smoke that the creature was dusted in, and for the first time noticed the bloodstains on the body. Noticed the sickly black thick smell of burned blood, smarting the eyes. Noticed the smell of burning animal flesh.
//Is that me?//
His eyes slid to the side, frozen in the instant that took up minutes, still not noticing on purpose that the flesh next to him hadn't shivered a single time. Still hadn't flinched or moved from his attack, content to take it head on. Like it didn't hurt at all.
There was blood on the muzzle.
Fine and thick and black, but there was blood on the muzzle. Sasuke seriously doubted that the blood belonged to the creature. It wasn't fear or horror that welled up in him, but only absent annoyance.
His feet flew like light, but he wasn't fast enough.
Sasuke cried out as the tree crashed into his stomach, mentally wincing absently when he heard the bones snap and saw white flecks on his arm rushing down to be crushed by the scorching earth, and screamed bloody murder when he felt roiling pristine golden claws rake lazily over the tenderness of his mind.
The pain sang brilliant scarlet over his eyes with pearly white asterisks punctuating the red blankness, while he choked on his saliva and blood. His mind was invaded again.
Cold indigo blackness pushed the bright redness away, pushed the pain away leaving Sasuke feeling surprisingly hollow, empty and lost, after being so filled. After two convulsions of his neck that he didn't order and a well-aimed spit, he was able to breathe again. And see again, though everything was blurry, a foggy kaleidoscope of gray black and orange.
He was on his back, Sasuke realized. And the fox was looming over him.
Abruptly, blandly, the pain left Sasuke's body. He gasped. Then startled, blinked, and gasped again. The pain was gone. The fire in his bones was gone. The heat was gone.
Naruto was grinning down at him, a human face and body, yellow light behind his head, eyes dark and sparkling with hunger. And it was...his Naruto, the young Naruto, the Naruto of thirteen years with his soft and innocent face. The smile was easy, slightly rueful and infinitely gentle, but the eyes were dark, lusty, with a look that didn't belong on any child's face.
Sasuke glanced off to his side. His bones really were poking out of his arm twisted the wrong way. And the fire still raged--he could see that, if he squinted. He just...couldn't feel that blistering heat anymore.
Sasuke turned his attention to more pressing matters.
Naruto was lying on top of him, smiling that dirty smile. He wasn't 13 anymore, but a blurry image back to his current age and face, his hair long and thin blond trails falling over him streaked thin with blood and dirt, creating a semi-curtain around Sasuke. Dark blue eyes were flecked with purple and pinkish-burgundy around the edges, and his teeth were pointed and white where he smiled.
"I'm naked too," Naruto murmured softly to him.
"You're so weird," he chirped cheerfully.
Not knowing what to make of that, Sasuke found he didn't have to make anything as Naruto's lips sang gentle cool tunes to him in his throat, smoky urban blues sliding down across his tongue while Naruto kissed him healingly, tenderly, polishing his teeth with his tongue and tickling childishly along the roof his mouth, dancing shyly with his tongue.
By absolute chance, Sasuke closed his eyes and opened his mouth, his lips caressing the laughing free wild ones; hot and alive with demon fire.
With a show of dexterity, Naruto turned his arm around and back in time to catch Sasuke's wrist before the knife stabbed into his back. Naruto laughed against his mouth, and lifted off. Forcing his good arm at odd angles, Naruto pinned it at Sasuke's side, squeezing it until he released the kunai. A half-hearted desperate attack could never hurt him, not even if it was Sasuke's. He was still grinning down on him. Still laughing. Like it was merely nothing.
The anger returned.
Sasuke was never sure how he did it and he really didn't care at the time; his hands were sizzling with energy, veritably thrumming with energy like a buzz saw, and Naruto was wincing and crumpled on the ground, the clean pale blue of his eyes watering with pain and his stomach bleeding and missing some important bits. He had a hole the size of a grapefruit in the side of his stomach, and was wincing on the ground. There was a lot of blood. There was a lot of pain.
Naruto had never been something Sasuke wanted.
Except that Sasuke had never *owned* Naruto.
The heat and pain returned full force, but they weren't important in Sasuke's mind. They weren't anything special. Naruto wasn't anything special. Naruto had never been anything special.
The only thing special was the anger.
The only thing important was the anger.
The only thing good was the anger.
The only thing wanted was the anger.
The only thing Sasuke had wanted--ever--was only the anger.
The only thing Sasuke would ever have was the anger.
The only thing Sasuke could have was the anger. Only thing.
He let it flow through him.
If Naruto didn't die here, then Sasuke would do it in his stead. The last real thing he owed the idiot. The last real thing.
Naruto came back to the fortress later, much later. Some three days and nights later. And he brought a souvenir.
Huge silent paws padded through the corridors and tunnels, moving with the same fluidity and grace as the wind, and people stayed out of its way religiously. The smoke had traveled far, had risen high, and still lingered in the sky over the forest. People stayed away, far, until a voice inside their heads called them.
A body was left on the floor for them to find, Naruto standing over it and dressed in only his red duster closed at the waist and hanging down to mid-thighs, his hair raggedly cut off at the shoulders, a large pile of pale blond hair dropped beside him. The body was beaten and bloody, and quite unbelievably alive.
On Naruto's quiet request, they carried him to the somewhat clean room that was occasionally used as an infirmary, and set his broken arm and leg and cleaned and bandaged his wounds, applied salve to the burns, antiseptic to the wounds and healing herbs of indeterminate origin that had definite results.
Naruto stood quietly in the shadows of a corner, and lit a cigar.
After working so long with Nine Tails, traveling so far on four legs with the taste of human blood in his mouth, his hair and skin still smeared with red-brown stains and the smell so strong on him, Naruto really needed a cigar to calm down his blood, get some other smell in his nose besides the scent of human blood and wood smoke.
He wasn't so worried about his various injuries, the worst when a sword was ripped and torn through the left side of his abdomen taking quite a bit of flesh with it, right over the fresh raw spot where Sasuke's energy had hit him, damaged the bone and torn out the flesh. Had that been a chidori, or what? He was nearly healed, the pain bearable, and injuries already turning to scars that would fade within a few days.
He wasn't a chain smoker, any more than he was alcoholic, because he didn't seem able to get addicted. It had something to do with demon blood, the high metabolism. The affects of the drug hit him hard and fast, and then left just as quickly as if nothing had happened, and didn't linger in his system.
The two of them, one with funny skin and one with hands that did funny things, reported that the boy would live, but it would be few weeks, few months perhaps, before he completely recovered. The breaks in his bones had been clean, but still pretty severe. And yes, to answer Naruto's first question, he would be scarred in several places.
Naruto absorbed this quietly, his face a mask, then nodded and told them to leave.
He wasn't quite willing to wait a few weeks, much less a few months. And he also wouldn't tolerate scarring, not on him. Not on Sasuke.
Moving quietly to stand besides the metal slab, looking down on Sasuke, Naruto exhaled the cigar smoke out through his nose, looking something like an angry dragon with a pensive look on his face. Presently, his hair began to turn paler in the fluorescent light, and inch down his back.
Of course, naturally, Sasuke would fight. Sasuke made everything difficult, it was something built into his general Sasuke-ness. He had made winning Sakura over difficult without even trying, for one, and had made being the best ninja ever very difficult with little action on his part Naruto had always thought. He had always been Naruto's rival in all things, even way back when they could have called each other "friend" quietly in their heads, and even now that they were enemies, they were still rivals in so many things.
He partially unwrapped the bandages from Sasuke's broken arm, right above the elbow.
Picking up a scalpel from the tray next to the slab, Naruto held his cigarette tightly between his lips. He opened his palm upwards, and quickly slit a line diagonally across it, breaking the skin and biting into the muscle, before gripping the bare skin and muscle on Sasuke's arm, and just held it there while his own skin ever so slightly began to glow.
A few weeks, few months perhaps, was entirely too long to wait. A few days, one week perhaps, was all Naruto was prepared to wait. Sasuke would be back on his feet before then, he was certain, and ready to dish out the old Sasuke ass-hole attitude.
Naruto looked forward to it.
Day six since the initial attack on Konohagakure. Day three since the demon fox had returned to his lair.
Day four since Sasuke Uchiha was in his right mind.
The room spun around and around and around over and over again with the dry icky itchy smell of dead burning pine and ashy coughing smoke that really stunk and it all went around and his arm was twice it's size and he was really awake in a cloud far away so why was he so hot?
He was burning up he was so very hot.
Dimly, unwillingly, he registered a dull whiteness, a general feeling of cleanliness, and the smell of cigar smoke. He was warm, wherever he was, and it wasn't too uncomfortable though everything still hurt like hell.
He didn't have the energy to wince, but he still felt pain as his eyes traveled around in their skins, fingers attempting to flex and exploding in very small fireworks at the joints, and the film over the skin burning. Still the same dullness, same grayness, still the same feeling of disinfectant and clean linen.
His skin felt chilly, damp, and his throat ached as the room gripped him round the neck and swung him over and in a circle. The room was a dragon blue green that ate babies and kitchen grease and had camped out in the back of his throat to vomit and crap on his tonsils. Crawly and stinky and he hurt all over. His stomach was a drum except if Sasuke had known more he would have thought it a guitar made of sheep gut tied with purple sound in little loop de loops.
Vaguely red eyes burned on his retina with black spikes and insanity and resentment and disappointment and betrayal and anger so much damn anger. What was that doing there that didn't belong to him. He wasn't like that not his aniki he wasn't like that he trusted him he needed him he loved him. That smile couldn't lie; not those eyes. He loved Sasuke. So what was that doing there? It didn't belong there it didn't belong to him it's not like this it's not like this what the hell was it doing there!!
Why was it moving why was it all moving it's too Loud shut up shut up shut UP!!!
Sasuke made a soft sound, and his eyelids winced.
In a far corner, Naruto quietly lit a cigar and inhaled deeply.
Sasuke never screamed in his sleep. Naruto wasn't quite sure how to feel about that. It annoyed him, somehow, but he knew he had to be in pain.
The drugs that Sasuke had been fed had guaranteed to put him out for a week, but he hadn't gotten in more than five hours complete sleep at most. The demon blood had seen to that. It would heal him--it was healing him a good deal faster than any drugs or attention Naruto could get, but Sasuke's body was rejecting it, fighting it, and the sickness and fever dreams were a result of that.
None of this terribly surprised Naruto. It was expected.
His blood would heal him faster of his physical wounds, erase nearly all the scars, and lower his immune system significantly, so the minor cold he had caught was quickly mutating into something uglier; either strip throat or some pneumonia. It was hard to say this early. He hadn't left Sasuke's side for more than a few hours the whole while. The doctors kept giving him funny looks. He could smell their fear; see it in his eyes. He might have been a sight; he didn't know. Naruto didn't care.
He didn't feel like sleeping any time soon. He wouldn't need to eat for a while.
Sasuke didn't cry out in his sleep, but he did dream. He sweated, whimpered and even cried, his body turning and legs trying to run only they were still too damaged to do so. But he didn't actually talk, nor give name to his nightmare.
If Sasuke dreamed of Konohagakure, Naruto didn't know. If Sasuke dreamed of Sakura, wondered on her, Naruto didn't know. If Sasuke dreamed all the way back to Itachi, back to the three-day living hell he'd been crucified in, Naruto didn't know. If Sasuke thought of him...Naruto didn't want to know. He had no idea what Sasuke was thinking, or what he was going through save what he could figure through his obsessive selfish vigil.
Naruto himself didn't dare sleep.
Every time he closed his eyes he saw the flames. He could still hear the screams. He had gone through a packet of cigarettes in three hours, and continued. He couldn't get the smell out of his nose.
Naruto didn't dare touch his mind.
Sasuke walked this desert alone.
Oh crap, you're going to try and cheer me up aren't you?
I've killed a million petty souls
But I couldn't kill you
I've slept so long without you
--Queen of the Damned soundtrack
Hate is force of attraction.
The door opened softly.
Gaara had crept to the hidden corner of the shower wall when he heard the footsteps down the outside hall; since the doorway and the bathroom door were directly across, it was the only hiding place he could manage in that short time.
Temari would have knocked. No one else would dare go into his room, not even on order; they weren't that stupid. They weren't important, but they weren't that stupid. Kankuro wouldn't have dared.
The past week, perhaps longer, he had spent in barely conscious pain, aware that the pain was gradually receding to a pounding dull ache, and he was being touched. He had reacted badly to that, and it had only been Temari's face, Temari's voice and touch so close to him that he couldn't see anything else, that had stopped him. His energy was gone, drained; leaving him with various cuts and more serious burns that hours of salve and ice had been spent on until he refused to take it.
Everyone was so terrified of him it was disgusting. Logical and smart, but still disgusting.
Now he was nearly completely healed and still as weak and violent as ever. All they told him to do was not to shower or wear clothing too tight, definitely not to fight, and to bathe with some sort of brown powder mixed into the cold water. That was what he had been doing, until he heard the door open.
Silently, he slid to vertical out of the water, not even allowing droplets to fall for the splash. He already had a kunai in his hand that he had placed next to the soap earlier, and it was the only weapon he had; even though the room was drenched with sand in every conceivable corner, he was still too weak to use it, all of his available chakra was still being funneled towards healing his body.
The footsteps stopped in the bathroom's doorway, and waited. Gaara pressed tighter against the wall.
Even with the weak power supply and immune system, Gaara's eyes still burned at the sound of that voice, and he gripped the kunai harder while loosening his muscles instinctively. The speaker sighed.
"I know you're there. You know I'm here. And I'd really like it if you didn't attack me first thing, all right? At least not until you're better."
The silence grew positively icy from the bathroom, and deeply, madly, hateful.
All right, so those weren't the best words...so maybe he had screwed up that line. He hadn't meant to be condescending-not too much. Gaara had partly deserved what happened to him, and he had rescued the bastard, hadn't he? Words were Gaara's and Sasuke's forte, not his; he did illusions, actions-even as a child with his Sexy no Jutsu.
Naruto sighed silently.
"Gaara," Naruto began.
...Well, at least now he knew Gaara wasn't unconscious. Or dead or asleep or not really there...Just incredibly, darkly, unyieldingly angry. And all the more angrier at his position, his vulnerability, past normal pissed-off-angry and into hide-or-kill-angry. Angry with fear. Angry with hate. This would not be pretty.
Emotions vied for speech: reflexive anger, pity, sulkiness, sympathy, righteousness...
"Will you come out?"
The childish accent was gone. The friendly, careless and casual tone was gone. The voice wasn't threatening, and didn't even manage an impressive "cool", on Gaara's scale of intimidation; the only one to do that had been Sasuke. Yet in Naruto that mature voice was unexpected, which was a cause for thought.
Gaara didn't answer.
He didn't hear the footsteps, the sounds of breathing seemed to erase from the room, didn't even hear the swish of the fabric as it moved across Naruto's body. It was suspense, and he knew beyond whatever generous doubts he'd given the backstabbing vixen before that it was intentional.
Naruto appeared, next to the bathtub, in his black shirt with red padded jacket and loose pants, hair tousled and eyes dull, dark. Gaara stared at him naked and slightly wet, burn marks running over his hands and chest, over the distance of a foot and the short bathtub wall, arm held loosely to his chest and knife held tightly in his fist and angry as only Gaara could be.
For a long time, neither spoke.
Since the time at the end battlefield, this was first they had really looked at each other. Naruto raked his eyes over his body curtly, always keeping some attention on the knife, on Gaara's eyes.
"You betrayed me."
His voice was unnaturally cool, smooth and hard like marble, and devoid of all emotion when he spoke. He wasn't accusing anything and didn't seem angry. He said it like it was nothing, just a dead fact. Strange; nothing was ever dead in Naruto's voice, it was always lit by some passing emotion...
He didn't bother to remind Gaara about Sakura's death, how foolish it was. He didn't bother to inform him on the sheer effort it had taken to free him, how risky and stupid it was to launch a full-scale attack on Konohagakure that day...how easily they could have been defeated if just a few more things had gone wrong.
How victory had cost them everything and left them with nothing.
Not here, not now. It wasn't like Gaara would care anyway; he'd take the opening for what it was and belittle and criticize like Hell's harpies, and Naruto didn't trust himself completely around Gaara yet, not in his condition.
The knife thudded into his chest.
He had-he had seen the blow coming, had seen the anger and the movement and had known what it had meant--Why hadn't he moved? Naruto didn't know.
Gaara was leaning into his chest, his left hand gripping his shoulder, not for pain but for balance, he was still so weak on his feet he had to be leaning against the shower wall the whole time, and the speed and shoving the knife through the liar's thick skin had taken up strength. Gaara glared up, hatred written all over his face, into Naruto's blue eyes not a few inches away from him.
"You betrayed me."
Naruto was still. Gaara was trembling a little.
"You would have left me to die."
"You're alive now."
Something was going on in Gaara's mind, something Naruto didn't even want to see or feel. He could feel the faint remains Nine Tails laying down, relaxed, yet watching Gaara with deadly attention. Naruto's hand moved up to cover Gaara's fist against his chest, not touching him or distracting his attention from his eyes and his own private war inside his head.
Gaara sneered deprecatingly.
He felt like laughing; you could hear it in his voice.
He felt like any minute now, he was going to start laughing out loud at the games still going on, like he was still playing them. Naruto wanted something, wanted to go into his mind again to figure out what he had said, what the enemy knew, and wouldn't believe him if he told the truth that it was nothing, it was nothing at all, that even though Gaara hated him he wouldn't have folded under the enemy, not for anything. That wasn't the way he worked. He'd stab his partner, but he'd never help the enemy, even at his own pain. But the idiot wouldn't understand that, wouldn't see that. No.
And Gaara couldn't stop him from getting inside anymore. He couldn't stop him at all.
"Because I care."
"About you, I mean," he added, because it sounded phony and cliche even to him without it. "You h..." Naruto stopped, and turned his eyes to the faucet. He couldn't look at Gaara and say this. He couldn't say this at all; he didn't know what he wanted to say!
"You probably...deserved it. You know. But I wasn't..." Naruto blinked and looked quickly back into Gaara's eyes again. "I wouldn't have left you to them. If I want you dead, I'll kill you myself. But I wouldn't leave you to them."
//I won't leave you. I might hate you, but I won't leave you.//
It was impossible to pin Gaara down just then. It sounded like a lie. It sounded like a convenient lie. It sounded like a bad lie.
He wanted to believe it.
He was afraid it was true.
And yet Naruto...Naruto wouldn't...
Naruto had Sasuke. Naruto wanted Sasuke. Naruto played games, and the hell with the ones that got caught in the middle.
He wanted to believe it.
It hurt to look in Naruto's eyes. It hurt to look at Naruto.
Angrily, uncertainly, he shifted his stance but didn't move away, or closer. He glared at the sink and mirror over Naruto's shoulder. This didn't...this didn't...it didn't really mean anything, not in a way that anything meant something it didn't...it really...
He wanted to believe it.
Gaara was trembling now, hard, and Naruto clasped his hand over quickly and pulled the knife out smoothly, wincing and hissing between his teeth. He had time, he had power, it would heal, it would heal...It hadn't actually hit anything important, which was strange for Gaara, but it would heal and he could feel queasy tickly feeling of the blood and muscle moving already, and shunted some chakra to the area. He was bleeding all over himself...all over the floor.
Gaara's head fell lightly on his shoulder, wanting and not wanting to just collapse right there and right then on Naruto and too afraid to do it because if Naruto moved away...then he'd fall. Right to the tile floor and right through his mind, the final exile going through his mind and soul like a hot ball bearing through butter. He wouldn't be able to take this one, he wouldn't be able to come back from this one, not when another demon, another boy as lonely as you throws you away. Away? He had wanted to kill Naruto, but only because...only because...
Gently, hesitantly, he felt Naruto's warm hands on his bare back, his sleeves brushing against his arms and sides as he was embraced.
You were never loved.
This is it. Please die.
Gaara felt himself fall apart.
He clutched at his back, opened his mouth to drag in the air because for some reason he couldn't breathe, for some reason the air wasn't going into him and it was making it hard to think and Naruto was holding him and he felt all hot and slippery and wet and terribly off balance and absolutely bone-deep afraid of everything and nothing and tried to dig his nails into Naruto's back, tried to hurt his vertebrae through his clothes and he couldn't because the strength went out of his fingers.
His eyes felt funny and it was hard to see, far too warm for anything and he dimly realized that Naruto's neck was right there, not an inch away from his mouth and if he wanted he could rip out the bastards throat, he could kill him just like that, just in an instant, he could rip out Naruto's throat and it was getting so hard to breathe, why was it so fucking hard to breathe?
Naruto pulled Gaara closer, nearly holding him up, and rubbed his hands in circles over his back lightly. He had to be hurting the hell out of him, with the way his burns were, but Gaara wasn't pulling away. He just clung tighter, trembled harder, and continued to cough and hiccup against his neck.
Not sure how these things were supposed to go, his mind flashing to all the times he Naruto had sat crying in a tree or under his bed with frustration and despair...Naruto could only keep his arms around him tight, and wait for some sign of what to do next. He felt a little alone, very dysfunctional, and slightly proud. His chest was nearly completely healed up, and he was sure some of his blood was on Gaara by now.
It seemed to last forever, but after about half an hour Gaara calmed down, out of energy to even think or feel. Gently, Naruto reached a hand down to find the back of his thighs, and tried to pull him out. By degrees, he realized the shrimp, Naruto, tried to carry him, Gaara, who was still a little taller and heaver than him. He couldn't even laugh.
On autopilot, Gaara pulled a leg over the bath wall, onto the floor, and then the other one. His feet were still wet even if the rest of him had dried off, and the tile was very cold. Leaning against Naruto, led by Naruto, he somehow found himself on his bed with Naruto laying next to him. He hadn't let go of him. The whole time, he hadn't let go of Naruto.
Naruto offered a weak smile to him, even though the skin around Gaara's eyes was darker than usual and his eyes were runny and red from crying. Even though Gaara probably couldn't feel a thing.
Gaara sighed loudly and hiccupped, closed his eyes briefly to dig his head against Naruto's chest, both arms still locked tight around him, and wedged a leg between Naruto's and pressed down and close in every way he could to try and keep him there as long as he could.
Naruto couldn't even think of a good crack to make about Gaara being naked. And it wasn't even really funny.
He totally out of his depth. He was out to sea without even a matchstick.
Moving on bare bone instinct and empathy, he wrapped one arm around the bare back and looped one leg over Gaara's hip, head coming down so he breathed in the smell of the other boy's hair and skin. Belatedly, he raised his hand to Gaara's temple, and tried to enter his mind.
He was very surprised that all gates were open.
Internally, everything was in chaos. It looked like one of his earlier mistakes, one where the cell packets that enclose memory and information and smell and feeling just break and all crowd and swim together in current consciousness. He tried to ignore it, ignore the desolation and despair he could feel radiating sickly off the pile of mess, and just moved straight towards the old fireball. Which no longer looked dead.
The demon wasn't active, not yet, but it was about to be. It smelled spilt blood, inside Gaara's mind and on Naruto's shirt, and it wanted some. It was the first time Naruto would have to hold the demon forcibly, and he quickly made the first move.
Far away in his own mind, he could feel Nine Tails stir to watch Gaara, watch the demon, and watch him. Watch him for his feelings and thoughts and perceptions. He could feel the fox's confusion, and interest. It nearly mirrored his own. And then Nine Tails slid from his mind.
He mentally winced, and slid his eyes open, ears pricked. The ground was surprisingly close to his face. His body hummed with adrenalin, with bloodlust and exertion, scored in places where the enemy's attacks had caught him. There...was a sensation. A strange sensation.
He struggled up to one arm slowly, grunting.
He was Gaara of the Sand. He didn't feel pain. He didn't feel anything.
Funnily enough though, he seemed to feel a lot more now. Now that he had started working with Naruto. He was trembling. And he hurt all over, even though he wasn't supposed to. He wasn't too accustomed to dealing with physical pain; there had never been a need for it. He had never really learned how.
The woman screamed at them, screamed at Naruto at the top of her lungs so low Gaara could barely hear it at the distance. Short, disheveled, with a Stone hitae head band clutched tightly in one fist, screaming mad at Naruto with tears running down her face, this woman of sixteen years, with a background of flame and rubble everywhere at her feet.
"You monster! I hate you! My family is dead because of you!"
Naruto stopped, startled dumbstruck; Gaara watched at a distance. Naruto stared at her, eyes wide and mouth slightly slack, with blood on his shoes and ash in his hair. Naruto blinked a couple times, before walking over to her carefully, as if in awe.
"Bastard! I'm not afraid of you! You can't hurt me, you hear? You can't!"
Regardless, the woman of sixteen years stepped back a few steps yelling at him, before stopping and rallying herself, crouched, angry and absolutely vulnerable as she trembled. The fox boy stopped a few feet in front of her, slightly shorter than she was, and looking a great deal younger than the woman did.
A couple of inches would have been helpful right then, because Naruto had to look up in order to meet her in the eyes.
Then he laughed. Laughed out loud; a fast explosion that ended just as quickly, Naruto moving quickly until he yanked her hard by her hair, pushing her down to her knees so he could look down into her eyes.
Naruto was grinning demonically as he spoke softly to her words Gaara couldn't make out, even if he had tried. Still smiling that soft, amused smile as he kissed her lightly on the lips, but letting it linger. That same confused but intangible feeling of chakra being rerouted, controlled but not contained rippled through Gaara's nerves before Naruto dropped her body. She was dead before she hit the ground, Gaara knew.
"Enjoy that, did you?"
"Tactless. You wasted time."
"It's mine to waste. And I don't see what you're complaining about. You've done worse."
"What about you? Did you enjoy doing that?"
There was a pause.
"What do you care?"
Gaara didn't answer.
"Hey dummy! What the hell are you waiting around for?"
Gaara's eyes snapped open, recognizing the voice. Naruto...Naruto was coming. Naruto was coming dammit and he was helpless! Had to get up, had to get up before he saw, before he saw he was open that he was vulnerable dammit he had to get up and what the fuck was up with his leg!
Gaara grunted softly, one leg gradually bent under him with his good arm supporting his balance, struggling from hand to knee and from there to foot where he could be standing at least dammit he had to get up he had to get up why the fuck couldn't he move more...
...Naruto couldn't see him like this.
He wasn't weak, dammit, but he certainly did look like it, nearly crumpled on the ground and if Naruto saw then he'd try and hurt him like everyone else did. He was Gaara of the Sand. He didn't feel pain. He didn't know weakness. He could stand and he could kill, and Naruto would never dare hurt him or he'd tear the kyubbi's arms out of their scrawny sockets.
A hand gripped him hard by his shoulder, yanked him up.
He was Gaara of the Sand. No one touched him.
"Watch it stupid! They're coming, we can't hang around anymore. We did what we came to do, lets go already!"
"Let me go."
"I said don't touch--"
"Shit! You fucker what the...Fine! Fine whatever but come on we gotta go now. They're nearly here. I can smell them...come on."
Naruto hadn't let go of Gaara's wrist, but it was the last time he had ever tried to carry him, or to force him to do anything Gaara hadn't wanted to do. Gaara hadn't asked for more.
Return to present.
Gaara stirred to consciousness.
Around him, he could feel his energy ripple and rock. His body felt whole, limp and relaxed and eager to move and just as eager to linger and his mind relaxed and coming to alertness, and he was sleeping--he had been sleeping in Naruto's arms.
He was...he still was in Naruto's arms. Loosely. But still there.
Naruto who...bits of recollection tumbled out of the closet. Naruto, Naruto who had betrayed him. Pain. Burning. A rescue and the stabbing...Naruto. And after that...after that...
After that he had dreamt, and the memories were still fresh in his mind. Naruto sighed loudly in his ear.
"Four whole days...I thought you were finally running for the home stretch of a whole week this time."
Naruto's voice drawled lazily, that irritating smile resounding in the harmonics. He was actually bracing himself for another attack; Gaara's power was back, and the whole room was drenched in sand. He could be seriously screwed quite quickly.
Blinking, Gaara collected more memory, feeling himself swamped yet comfortably floating on top of everything. Gaara moved, but unexpectedly.
Completely avoiding Naruto's eyes, he slid his muscles smoothly until he locked his chin and throat over Naruto's shoulder, and his arms and legs wrapped around him tightly, almost in some sort of martial hold.
Naruto tensed, but Gaara's chakra stayed low, and he wasn't armed or hitting him so...He swallowed nervously, and Gaara was in exactly the right spot to hear it and feel his throat move. Gingerly, Naruto patted him awkwardly on the back, before surprising both of them and squeezing Gaara affectionately back once.
Naruto blinked and smiled lopsidedly--hell if he knew what was going on in his own head. Gaara jumped slightly, and tried to cling closer, but his hold relaxed somewhat.
Neither got hugged very often. Neither was planning to let go soon.
He felt one of Gaara's hands leave his back and heard it move up towards his neck, but didn't touch him again. He smiled lightly. "Yeah, it's like that all over. You're nearly all healed, but it's gonna take some time for the marks to fade." Gaara shifted, and his hand came to back to cling to Naruto's back.
Slowly, Naruto's fingers traced idly along his back, and up to thread his fingers through his hair at the nape of his neck. He'd never felt Gaara this relaxed. This relaxed or this... friendly. Gaara never touched him willingly, Gaara never touched anyone willingly. Very strange. He was almost afraid to know what was going on in his mind. Playfully, he drummed his fingers along his vertebrae.
"Gonna get dressed anytime soon, or are you just gonna wander around naked?"
There was a nervous pause.
"It bothers you?"
Naruto raised one eyebrow and pursed his lips together. It wasn't like Gaara to ask questions, much less for people's opinions.
"No, not really, but you might give somebody a heart attack, you know? Or you'll get cold."
The air nearly shimmered with energy, and Naruto next to him was warm. It was one of the strange things of the boy; his body always was a little warmer than normal. At least it seemed that way to Gaara.
"I'm not cold." Gaara's voice was quiet, dark yet not evil. Just contemplative, and moving lazily, sleepily. He was gentle, for Gaara anyway. And Naruto couldn't argue with that last sentence. Gaara wasn't cold. His skin was warm under his fingers, and through his clothes.
"Take off your jacket, it hurts."
The hair on the back of Naruto's neck stood up. Requests that like that made him nervous. He kept most his weapons and wards in his jacket; it made them easier to access, and even the material itself was magically valuable. When he changed forms, his other clothes ripped and got lost, but he could always find his red blazer somewhere close by. Besides, people didn't ask other people to take off their clothes for no reason. And yet...Gaara was probably right, there was enough stuff in there to probably be poking at him everywhere, he was gripping him so tight.
"Ahh...Actually I gotta get up," Naruto said wincing at the automatic clenching of Gaara's limbs around him, actually causing him pain.
"I've been here too long, and god knows how everything looks out there, it's a real mess." Gaara didn't let go. Naruto clumsily rubbed his hands over his back. "I've gotta go fix things, ok? You can stay here a bit longer, but I've got my work cut out for me....Gaa~aara...Please? You're hurting me...Come on, please?"
Gaara didn't move stubbornly, and then just shook his head into Naruto's chest. Naruto's whole body slumped and pouted, and his voice was sulky and flat. "Come on, let go...It's not like I won't come back...If you don't let go, I'll tickle you. I swear I will." That was as close as a threatening voice Naruto could ever get, in Gaara's opinion. He wasn't even ticklish.
Naruto frowned, and began to poke and brush his fingers along Gaara's ribs, frowned, swore softly so Gaara could hear it and then just began to push hard against his arms and chest and kick his way out. It was like trying to push a mountain away, and getting him nowhere but flustered and a little hot, and Gaara didn't seem bothered by it at all...
"If you don't let go I'm gonna kick something important!"
...So it came as a surprise to Naruto to find himself flipped flat on his back with Gaara's hands pushing his biceps into the mattress, and his mouth completely covering his.
Naruto's body went absolutely rigid with shock, so straight it could have been used as a ruler by any who cared to. His eyes remained absolutely open, a look of mild surprise on his face, and every muscle locked into place. His heart and mind skipped a beat, and it took a few precious seconds to realize what had shocked him and what was happening now.
His nerves were registering gentleness, hardness made soft, warmth, and a kind of pressing coy insistence on his lips that had previously always attracted Naruto, and one smooth warm finger was stroking him tantalizing soft and teasing under his chin and along his jaw line, which was Nine Tails' and his shared erogenous spot. His arms felt cool. His jacket had been taken off.
He didn't even--Gaara must've really paid attention to take his jacket off without getting caught with something sharp. Warm hardness was pressing down on his chest, over his left nipple through his shirt, and was rubbing in small hard circles over it; teasing him without changing the intensity or giving him any kind of relief. A tongue pressed between his lips, warm and gentle yet demanding entrance.
Gaara was going incredibly slow, taking his time to explore Naruto's mouth and teeth and lips, his hands trailing lightly over his skin, leaving Naruto's hands free and giving his mouth time and opportunity to push and reply back.
Naruto closed his eyes tight and kept his body rigid. It felt like...he had to push down his voice. Pushed it down hard, and his hands wanted to run out the door and take the rest of him with them.
He hadn't said it, or given any real hints, but Gaara wasn't an idiot. He was paranoid and reckless and lonely. And he noticed that Naruto never opened his eyes. Or had said his name. Or touched or kissed him back. He had been watching for that. Even now, cheeks flushed and breathing heavily, he still wasn't looking at Gaara. Because it was Sasuke he wanted to see. Not Gaara.
Gaara sat up smoothly, neatly onto his heels, hands in front of him and discreetly hiding his groin. He hated himself. He hated Naruto. He really hated Sasuke. But that was his life. He should have gotten use to it by now.
//You were never loved!//
//This is it. Please die.//
Bitterness, helplessness, denial, anger, hatred, envy, jealousy, hunger, desire, affection, confusion fuck fuck fuck fuck...
Naruto's fingers trailed along the side of his neck.
He'd opened his eyes, startled, shocked and breathless, and taken one look at Gaara's face and knew he was going to leave. Not just leave as in leave the room, or the bed, or the castle. Really leave. He was going to go. Abandon. Leave it all, fall completely. He'd seen that look too many times in the mirror in too many places before, and he'd come to hate and fear it. A look of anger and agitation, helplessness. It looked different on Gaara; distant, and instead of fear there was resentment.
Naruto instantly reached out.
Gaara and Naruto had been alone so much in their lives that a gentle touch could move the sun backwards. It was stronger than reason and more potent than force or magic. They would bend over backwards and through time just to feel it. Iruka had proved that through Naruto. Anything for a gentle touch. Anything and everything, but baby love me do. Please.
Just a gentle touch, just along his neck and jaw line. Keep it innocent, keep it simple. Doing fine.
The effects were obvious: Gaara's arms immediately slackened, bringing him a tiny bit closer, his face fumbled the mask for a split second, too quick to learn anything. But his eyes were no longer nailed on the wall and the door, but flickering between his neck, the bed, and the wall. He laid his hands flat carefully on his thighs.
Naruto's lips still tingled with the taste-sensation, unwanted memories of him awkwardly and brashly investigating the brothel house and Gaara's disgust. Disgust with his human weakness, his need, Gaara had said. Disgusted because Naruto wanted it...he had said.
Looking as fragile and nervous now as he did was a big slap in the face to his off-hand disdain.
"I didn't know," was all Naruto could say, as softly and gently as he dared. Play it cool until you know the stakes. He couldn't say he returned it because he didn't know what it was. He had nothing to apologize for. He still wasn't quite sure what was going on, except that something important had just happened. Gaara's response surprised him.
His voice was hard, flat, like it didn't matter whether or not if Naruto knew or not. It was all expected. It was all ordained, it was all destiny, it was all fate. It didn't matter what he did, it didn't matter what Naruto said. This always happened. This always would happen.
Naruto put his hand firmer on Gaara's skin and continued to wander slowly. What the hell was going on?
The question Naruto really wanted to ask went something like, "How long has this gone on?" and "What is this?", and "Who the hell do you think you are?"
Anyone else he could curse, belittle, hurt and glorify in it, in his power over them.
Limp thin strands of blood red hair against porcelain skin scribbled here and there with fading burns. Solid lime cat's-eyes darting here and there like a sparrow caught in a trap.
Gaara had given him that power. Given. Not lightly, or foolishly, or blindly. Given. With an idea of what Naruto could do to him every time he closed his eyes and either not caring or...
Tanned fingers slipped along his skin, lightly touching his ear.
Who would ever trust a demon?
Honor among thieves.
The phantom taste of human blood still slumped on the back of his throat. Wondering, rather cynically, why any idiot on this earth would ever dare to trust him, with anything. Especially something like this, whatever it was.
"What is it you want?" Gaara's eyes narrowed, but he didn't answer, and kept his eyes on the corner of the room. "If I can give it to you, I will, I promise," something in Naruto tensed, ears flattened and Gaara remained unmoved. "I'll try."
"Are we making some kind of deal?" Gaara snapped sharply, quickly, his eyes finally locking with Naruto's and flinching.
//No,// Naruto wanted to say. //But it kinda is in a way...//
Gaara kept staring, kept glaring down at Naruto, his gaze like a knife cutting him apart to see what was underneath. He came to a decision.
"Sasuke's here," he said flatly.
Naruto's reply was deplorably quick. "How did you know?"
Gaara seemed to fade back into himself.
"I didn't. I guessed."
Gaara was fast, but Naruto was on edge and expecting it. Chakra energy pooled and swirled into sand whirlwinds immediately, but froze and fell apart almost instantly. Gaara's hands, nearly invincible and strong, were pressed flat and helpless against Naruto's shirt. He could easily pull back and hit him in the gut. Easily send it right through his body. Hurt him; kill him in a million ways easily.
Of course Naruto was fighting dirty.
One hand firmly caressed his naked hip; the other holding his arm in place and his mouth was tap dancing on his ear. Gaara's cheeks flushed in humiliation and desire, which caused another deeper, further flush all over his body when he realized he had. His eyes widened as Naruto began to use his tongue, fingers trailing lightly, clumsily along his side and back, reminding him exactly how vulnerable and naked he was, while the other was close to leaving bruises and trailing too far over his hip in either direction.
//It's a game. It's all a game! Get away, hurry, before it comes! //
His hands pushed away hard at Naruto. Naruto pressed his chest into his hands. Gaara jerked his head away; Naruto fell upon his neck, making every hair stand up straight and tickle. Gaara viciously shoved down a whimper when Naruto started to use his teeth, which Naruto still heard.
"Stop!" Gaara pushed hard and got some space, and tried to look away, tried to look at anything but the demon boy before him, dully shocked at how high and small his voice sounded. How weak. How lost.
Naruto kept his grip on his hip, and moved forward. "Stop it, stop teas--" Gaara slammed his mouth shut. His voice didn't sound like that. His voice didn't sound like that. Desperate. Hungry. Afraid. So damnably young. Naruto watched him sharply.
"What do you want?" Naruto repeated, but his voice lost the gentleness. It was darker, sharper, and far too close to him.
"Can't you read my mind! Don't you know?"
His voice didn't sound like that. Hysterical. Weak. That wasn't him. That wasn't him. He was Gaara of the Sand, that voice wasn't him. Why couldn't Naruto leave him alone? What was going on? What was going on? He didn't want him, he wanted Sasuke, why wouldn't he let him go? Why why why?...
No. Of course the ass hole would tease him like this; would tease him and give him a little taste, a little lick, make him whimper and beg and smile and then saunter back to that human fucker Sasuke!
"No. I can't," Naruto replied too calmly for Gaara's taste, too innocent.
"I never really could," he continued.
Gaara snapped his head up. "You get into it every night! You go through it every night!"
//You get into me every night. You get through me every night. How dense can you be? How can you not know?//
Naruto's look was puzzling, and strangely innocent. "Yeah, but I can't read it." Gaara looked ready to hit him.
"I can read normal people's, but people like you...You've got two souls in you. I can't read you at all like that. I can get into you because you let me, I can push you, but most of it doesn't make any sense to me. I don't go looking around, you told me not to. You have to tell me what you want, or else I can't know."
Gaara was still staring at him, but didn't look ready to kill him anymore. He wanted to swear. He wanted to swear badly. But he couldn't think of a single word to express himself. Naruto was slowly losing hope, and gently tried an old trick.
Fingers brushed lightly against his neck, while his hip was still being gripped.
No warning given.
Naruto thumped back heavily against the pillows, his mouth full of Gaara and his shirt roughly being taken from his body. He tried to yell but the sound didn't come out right, and he winced as he heard the fabric ripped. He liked that shirt! Hot wide hands pushed him down hard, and he began to really struggle when his pants became looser and more active.
Naruto broke off the kiss sharply and arched his head back; his face a rictus of pain while his open mouth gulped the air. Gaara watched dispassionately from above, and began to really squeeze and stroke in earnest. Naruto's head tossed and his body twisted while his stomach sucked itself in on some reflex while he tried to dig his heels into the mattress even as Gaara forced him down. Odd, choked sounds were coming from his throat, the final one very clear and angry as Gaara's hands were dipping into his mouth instead of his pants, leaving him hot and helpless and wanting.
A half-human cry scratched at Gaara's ears before he was thrown hard onto his back, his constant fear and apprehension exploding and being repressed in a sea-sickening instant when he couldn't feel Naruto anywhere only to have his mouth invaded by a hot warm slippery sliding tongue fighting and beating and seducing his own, Naruto's body only coming to cover his.
Gaara moaned into his throat, felt his skin shiver and every fiber quiver a few times hard right before Naruto smoothed his skin down hard the wrong way with a burning hurting luscious touch.
Just like Naruto needed Gaara as a ruler to measure against, Gaara used Naruto...Gaara used Naruto...Gaara needed Naruto to tell him where the ground was. To keep him from floating above it and getting shot and from sinking below it and suffocating. Naruto was the filter, a compass between light and darkness and human and demon. Gaara hated people, but alone--completely alone--he didn't know what to do. He didn't know where to go.
And since Naruto had needed him, since Naruto had wanted him...Everything just fell together. It had fit like good socks.
And Gaara was afraid, because he never wanted to let go.
Two of a kind.
For the first time, he was almost happy. Almost.
He was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, always waiting for the hangover after his three year drinking binge of laughter and sleep and near companionship. He didn't let himself be happy, because he'd known it would hurt when he let go. It always hurt. It always hurt like hell, and worse.
It was seduction in its purest form: You went out on a limb and jumped because you wanted someone and hoped like hell he would catch you when you fell.
But sometimes, you weren't caught. Sometimes you fell.
He'd kissed Naruto gently because that's how he liked it, had teased him gently because he'd known it would get Naruto going, just like it had in his dream, his dream just before he had awoken in Naruto's arms; where Naruto touched and tasted and talked to him in the sweetest, filthiest ways like no one ever had, like no one had ever dared, and Naruto was at the same time holding him loosely in his arms, just being content doing nothing with Gaara, doing nothing at all, just being with Gaara.
It had a waking dream, but he hadn't known that. One had been real and the other hadn't but he'd felt the same way for both.
But it didn't work, did it? No, it hadn't. All that wanting and planning and dreaming and damning he'd done, all reaching out for a single flame in the darkness hell he'd always known and his hand had been slapped away. Because of Sasuke. All because of Sasuke.
Sasuke who was completely human.
Sasuke who was admired.
Sasuke who was so much more weaker than him.
If Naruto hadn't grabbed Gaara when he had, hadn't touched him when he had, yes, he would have run, would've run and kept running until he reached the ends of the world, and even then he would've kept running, but he would have killed Sasuke before he left. And if Naruto killed him afterward it wouldn't matter because Gaara was done living anyway.
He hadn't even been completely sure this was happening, that this wasn't still another game of Naruto's. So he had teased him, just to see what would happen. Because after being alone so long, both boys didn't really believe anybody would ever, could ever, take an honest interest in them. And Naruto had proved him wrong.
A sound from the dark sweaty jungles of human-subconscious ripped through Naruto's throat, when Gaara was slammed on his back, sweating fear and fervent desire from every pore in his body as his mouth was attacked viciously, and even as he struggled for a way out, a way back into control, his hands threaded through Naruto's hair and rubbed hastily over his shoulders and back, trying to push him down, trying to push him closer, trying to keep him from leaving.
Naruto did get up, his eyes dark and narrow, his features less and less human by the second, and Gaara sat up instantly and moved to grab him when he heard something flop against the floor, and was slammed roughly back into the mattress again.
Light flared in his eyes then, and then tendrils of sand worked their way around and over the bed, slowly, stealthily, but definitely moving into place. And then Naruto sank his teeth into the junction of his shoulder and neck. Gaara went rigid, and the sand nearly went wild, combusting and shivering and only a tiny bit of control kept it from attacking completely. Naruto's teeth were actually in his skin, they were actually under his skin.
Fear, horror, was all overrun by a deep, reverberating tingle-touch of pleasure and Gaara felt something dark in the back of his mind stir, felt something crunch and unbend, and tilted his head further to give Naruto more access even while his hands slowly moved to cover his back and hold his neck there, hold his head in place to keep him from leaving again leaving like they always did, all the time wondering where the hell he had such a sick and kinky streak. It...was painful, it did hurt, and it was highly uncomfortable, but the things that were reacting in his stomach...in his mind...
Even in his blood, everything felt warmer and keener, and Gaara blinked in bewilderment and just tried to hold on and feel without getting hurt.
But...Naruto was still there. Naruto was staying. And somehow...that made everything worth a little pain.
Smoothly, slowly, Naruto licked his neck, absolutely washed his neck, gliding over the curves and tendons and virgin skin never touched this way before, because nobody else ever would have dared.
Gaara moaned hard, painfully hard, and trembled violently.
Slowly, he felt Naruto's head lift, and struggled to open his eyes that were so very heavy to stare in confusion and drowning desire at eyes that were glinting bright and brilliant, completely dark blue light. Naruto stuck his tongue out and licked the corner of his mouth even while his lips turned up into a smile, a look of absolute pleasure etched on his face.
Lips that were deceptively soft and yielding touched his, and he opened his mouth willingly, eagerly, and tasted his own blood on Naruto's tongue, felt his life essence offered to him. Gaara accepted, pushed against him harder as he tried to kiss him deeper, more aggressively, more violently, and finally bit into his bottom lip, rejoicing when the blood came out and coated over his tongue. His tongue that was still brushing with Naruto's, still caressing and welcoming Naruto's who was completely dominating and controlling him and somehow...
Gaara didn't care at all.
Gaara leaned back as his mouth was gently left, his shoulders and collarbone were further explored and cherished, his hands touching and caressing the flowing muscle in Naruto's back, feeling the hard sharp shoulder blades, probing between his vertebrae, feeling the sheer amount of strength and promise born flesh right under his skin and the feeling of somebody else. Their chests so very close together that they were touching, he could feel everything and anything and as he was bombarded by a million overwhelming sensations he remembered only the miniscule, the fact that he could feel every time Naruto inhaled and his heart beat and Naruto could surely feel each and every time he breathed in, his lungs failing and surviving in some sickly sweet game of Keep Away, and Naruto could surely feel everything Gaara was doing.
Naruto broke off the kiss to breath in deeply right by his ear, deep and thirsty, crying softly and clenching gently when Gaara's hands explored further down his back, right down to his ass that he squeezed hard in his hand and felt the flesh yield and fight him, scratching with his nails until he scored the skin and blood swelled up and filled beneath his fingernails. His other hand scratched hard down along Naruto's back, making him arch down and twist slightly, his body heaving in controlled intervals.
Naruto pushed down, laying flat against Gaara, Gaara who was licking his cheekbones in wide strokes, his heart beating a hard lub-dub, lub-dub, so hard he couldn't hear anything else but his heart beat and feel Gaara's hands on him, Gaara under him rippling and burning and throbbing.
Reluctantly he moved his body away a little, slightly thrilled when Gaara jerked and tried to grab him, thinking he was going away, needing his company, just his company, so very badly. With a ruffled grin Naruto sloppily kissed the center of Gaara's chest, licking hard and using the rough back of his tongue to get as much as his skin and his sweat in his mouth as he could, feeling the surface rise as Gaara inhaled quickly as he registered what Naruto was doing and began to regularly shudder and throb and squirm beneath him, his hands scratching Naruto's neck until blood came and smeared on his skin and on his hands, the smell tainting the air.
The smell of demon blood just barely touching the air.
It was a queer feeling, strange slippery wet feel of their twin erections bumping and throbbing so close together, touching each other, an alien feel and Naruto gently wrapped his hand around Gaara's cock so damn close to his, felt it slide and pulse a live hot thing and tangled white sound cracking out of Gaara's throat as he bucked up hard, grabbed Naruto, not sure of what he wanted but knowing that Naruto did and Naruto could give it to him.
Trusting Naruto to give it to him. Trusting Naruto.
Gaara couldn't speak. He wanted to speak, needed to speak. Light was flaring behind his eyes. Why couldn't he speak?
Their tongues tangled as Naruto attacked his mouth again, swallowing his lips and voice, hand stroking him hard up in a single tube of hard muscle that was his hands, stroking them both hard at the same time, right next to each other so it was putting reactive hot hormones boiling over too entirely close to each other.
Gaara was squirming and arching frantically, a leg looping behind Naruto's back exposing more and entrapping him, while Naruto was growling down his throat and stroking him even harder, teasing the skin on the head and running down the length lightly with his fingers, breaking off the kiss to watch with avid pleasure and interest as Gaara's face contorted and his head lashed side to side breaking out in sweat and his cock leaking tightly, small streams of tears running down his face even as his open mouth gasped his name over and over into the air, whimpering and mewling and crying in the sweetest adorable ways like only Gaara could, breathing so damn hard that Naruto was vaguely afraid the poor guy was about to pass out and came across a fantastic discovery:
Gaara was a virgin.
It was absolutely probable, more than likely, but still a surprise.
A look of pure carnal pleasure broke out on Naruto face as he leaned down and swallowed Gaara's tongue, mildly pleased to find that his canines were also a good deal longer than they should have been, before lifting off and moving his head down to his wet and dripping erection.
Short choked sobbing sounds erupted into a full throated scream as Naruto rubbed his tongue hard against the solid pounding feel of sex before engulfing the whole thing in a wave with his lips crashing and crushing, the raspy flat of his tongue surfing down the underside of his sweating cock, the veins and thumping pumping pulse, the rough back of his tongue tickling the sensitive head, and sucking as hard as he damn well could, lips contracting and squeezing at the base.
Gaara did scream.
Screamed as high and loud as he didn't know how, as high as he had when he destroyed his only home, foregoing the bass harmonics and leaping straight for the high pitches where human voice couldn't carry it anymore, veins popping out on his neck and teeth fully bared and sharp and white, eyes and hands clenched tightly as his body just went wild...
Sand erupted from every corner and crevice, streaming out in lightening fast streaks only to collapse midway of hitting anything.
...he was going to die...he was going to fucking die...
...he'd never felt this good...
...in his whole damned life...
Naruto sat back, still burning, and wiped off some of the milky substance that was trickling out of his mouth. Gaara collapsed back, crying and limp.
Gaara's body was frantically trying to cough, trying to breathe, because something had gone haywire and it wasn't working quite as he'd expected it to, but he couldn't cough so he was dragging in air through a straw.
When Naruto touched his lips to his, nibbling on the edges gently just before entering his mouth and swiping his tongue lazily along the inhuman teeth, allowing Gaara to taste his own essence again via his tongue, slightly bitter and deathly strong and vastly overwhelming...Gaara stopped caring about breathing.
Then he felt Naruto leave.
His eyes opened slightly, as much as he could make them, trying to find Naruto and...make him stay somehow. He wouldn't leave, would he? Not after all that. Not after...what he felt...running and rushing through him, no not Naruto...
Naruto grinned at him lasciviously, before crawling to the edge of the bed.
//He's gonna leave...He's gonna *leave*...// His muscles wouldn't respond, he couldn't even get his voice to work, and his lungs were shot. He couldn't even feel his arm, much less move it, but he had to keep Naruto from leaving, he wouldn't leave him, not after that, not after...
Gaara's erratic breathing dropped a beat a minute or two, before his whole body seemed to slump into the bed, aquamarine eyes half closed and pitiably sad.
Naruto turned around and made his way back.
Gaara looked up, met his eyes, which were still grinning darkly.
"Crazy," Naruto told him affectionately, before pressing a small kiss to his cheek, and moving towards his thighs, licking across his stomach while Gaara watched silently, eyes bright and damp, his heart already skipping madly with fear and fatal hope the second Naruto had touched him, swallowing, unable to even speak his voice was so gone.
Naruto seemed to fumble with his hands, before finally a popping sound registered in Gaara's ears, watching Naruto pour something into his cupped hand and was aware of a flow of chakra being focused in his hand.
Gaara breathed in quickly, hissing, when warm, nearly burning liquid was pooled into the hollows of his stomach and chest, before Naruto's fingers began spreading the liquid over and rubbing into his skin. It was slippery and hot, sliding smooth over his skin and muscles and clinging to Naruto's fingers, smelled vaguely of flowers and disinfectant, and was soothingly relaxing right after the hormonal roller coaster Gaara had taken for the first time.
He felt himself pushed towards respite. He didn't want to go. He didn't trust it. He was so scared. He was so scared and he wanted it so much.
He wanted more.
Naruto was still sitting back between his legs, fingers probing his chest and stomach and ribs, his touch a pleasant teasing burning through his fingers. But Gaara's full attention was really on Naruto's face. He was grinning slightly, but he was nearly always grinning at something and nothing. His eyes were slightly closed, a little foggy, but oh so very avid and vibrant, not the normal light crystalline blue but a darker, sapphire blue with flecks of purple on the edges, the scratch marks darker and pale hair a little longer, framing his face. He looked so eager, so completely devoted on what he was doing.
Completely concentrating on Gaara.
It wasn't getting any easier to breathe, Gaara wasn't caring much more, but he had no intention of allowing his body to collapse now, to even miss a second.
Naruto's fingers were slowly moving their way back down Gaara's thighs, moving up and down with slow hard palm strokes, his fingertips hard and dragging like little marbles, nails biting into his skin without bleeding him. Not yet. That would come later, Gaara was sure. Already, the bite in his neck was fading to a dull throb.
Naruto met his eyes sharply, and grinned, eyes swallowing him whole.
Gaara felt himself blush hard, blush hot saffron, felt every inch of his skin tremble and twitch and inch forward. His throat was pleasantly sore, his lips were bruised and his teeth tainted with blood, his eyes hurt and there were small twin streams running out of the corners of them. And the green in his eyes, the sharp fresh blue-green of his eyes were so damn--intense!
Moving purely on instinct, Naruto rubbed the flat of his hand down across his stomach, collecting and covered in oil, before ever so gently running over Gaara's fresh new semi-erection, gripping it gently and caressing it when Gaara instantly snapped his eyes shut and tilted his head back, mouth open and gasping and a strangled moan fighting it's way up through the exhausted throat.
He was so reactive...He reacted to everything, anything, so very intensely...
Gaara jumped slightly and pulled in sharp quick puffs of air, eyes clenched closed and mouth snapping shut with a 'click' of teeth when Naruto gently cradled his balls in his hands, fingers still slick and warm, just cradling and caressing him gently, and Gaara blushed deep from embarrassment and stabs of pleasure.
Shock flooded his body in an icy burning flash when he felt fingers probe him, along his butt, his entrance, running along the bumpy skin and hard muscle and just shoving into him. He was shaking hard now, in intervals, his eyes wide and disbelieving and nearly glaring at Naruto with that stupid smug grin painted on his tasty flexible mouth, and felt something twist and turn inside him, and get thicker. He wasn't ignorant, but he still didn't think...anyone would...Gaara squirmed, coughed and gasped, struggled against the sensations, but not to get away because--
He inhaled deeply like the Pacific, moaned out loud, his body twisting enticingly.
But Naruto did know what he was doing. The tension melted and streamlined in his body, right along his epicenter and breastbone, coming together fluidly as he arched up gently, breathing in deep with his eyelids fluttering closed. Dimly, he registered that one leg was raised and pressed against Naruto's chest, the other curled around his waist, and the uncomfortable stretching feelings were vaguely dimmed by the bouncy white subtle pleasure that Naruto was just barely touching. He had no idea...no idea...
His heart was thumping now, so loud he couldn't hear himself think, couldn't hear himself breathe, couldn't even hear the little sounds of Naruto's gasping and gentle swearing, his throat closing up as his stomach tried to make it's way up through it.
He shuddered everywhere, in every muscle and every organ, even his breath stumbling out in stuttered intervals. Wide blue-green eyes stared point-blank at Naruto above him, his face locked in concentration and his eyes screwed shut, mouth bobbing as he formed words he didn't speak.
He felt invaded, vaguely afraid, and unsure about what came next. He closed his eyes tight, tilted his head back. It...kind of hurt. It was too tight, too much pressure, too much stress on him...Damn, it hurt. It always hurt. People always hurt him. But Naruto didn't...not...
He felt heavy breathing break against his collarbone, felt Naruto's body clench and move against his body, felt the pressure recede, and Gaara relaxed slightly, eyes still closed. He didn't make a sound when Naruto pushed back into him, simply endured, willing to take it, if it meant Naruto stayed. As long as Naruto stayed. He could take anything.
Distantly, he registered kisses along his collarbone, along his throat. Gentle, light kisses, barely there.
"Relax...it'll get better...I need you to relax..."
Those familiar words, always in his ear said so quietly, so gently, fluttering down like the feathers of a dove. Before they had promised sleep, oblivion, safe darkness. He didn't know what they were promising now. There was faint growl tainting them, a rough animalistic cord ruffling them.
Out on a limb...
...pray you're caught before you fall. Gaara inhaled deeply, forced his muscles lax, the strange feeling of being invaded, being touched from the inside, being stroked from the inside. There was something down there...something that could make it all sing...
He arched his back again, silently this time, gently...felt the white warm pleasure shake behind his eyes, through his circulation system into his lungs...his blood gather down in groin, his heart beating in his ass...
Naruto was gentle, or tried to be gentle, but with Gaara behaving kittenish, pliable, so temptingly and submissively willing, muscles clenching beneath that white skin streaked with crimson, red hair tousled and alive, it was very, very hard to keep his control.
He had been hard, burning, felt the tightening and constricting for so damn long and he still had to hold back, seeing eternity but not touching it, not yet, not until Gaara was ready...not until he was ready...
By degrees he went deeper, harder, still trying to keep it slow. Rocking slow and hard. Slow and hard and warm.
So lost in the velvet dark burning heat and willing, open frightened body beneath him, eager and desperate but still afraid. Just gently rocking them together, ragged fluted moans and wordless pleas reaching his ears, soft submissive, trusting whimpers and butterfly touches on glancing off his arms, on his shoulders, barely enough to tame the demon inside that wanted something far more violent, something with far more blood. Gaara was willing. Gaara was willing and letting him, and that should be more than enough; that was more than he could ever ask for.
Gaara squirmed, shivered constantly and panted beneath him, his voice gone, his eyes closed, blood still hot and warm and sweating, the smell of salt and copper entering both their systems, making them slowly lose their minds, the sounds of choked breathing, the feelings of pleasure and pain running through both of them, ramming straight through the apathy and loneliness...
You're not alone anymore.
Eyes opened and met, light blue lime against baby blue, glinted, and just for a few seconds...
Naruto's lips caressed his, reassuring but oh so very hungry, Gaara's hand glided over his neck, holding him close, never minding when movement sped up faster, turbulent, uncontrollable and frightening because right now he had a tiny bit of peace, a tiny bit of understanding that he would never forget.
Nails dug into his hips, scratched down his chest, his skin slightly smeared with pink everywhere, and Gaara tilted his head up in offering again, mind smooth and complete for a few unguarded impossible seconds.
Gaara's own hands, disassociated, tore into the sheets while he threw back his head, soft moans and mewling cries coming from inside his ravaged throat, Naruto's lips caressing the outside skin and licking it gently, then faster and harder as control slipped, trying to keep his teeth away for a few seconds longer, just a few seconds longer to feel it all...
Naruto's sharp teeth clamped down his shoulder, biting into the muscle, muffling the shout and scream from his throat and voice as he came, hands leaving bruises and blood along Gaara's hips and down his ribs where he had raked down hard.
Gaara followed a few seconds later, the sudden jolts of pain and surprise from something exploding inside him, down in his abdomen, something of Naruto's, Naruto exploding down inside him.
With a shudder and harsh breathing, by belated careful degrees, Naruto's body came to rest beside and on Gaara's, fingers wearily kissing his skin in apology for all the blood and pain. Gaara's body was struggling to somehow capture Naruto, and failing, settling for just laying his fingers on his arm.
A few minutes later he felt Gaara start to slide into sleep, and lifted his arm slightly to press his hand to his head. Aquamarine eyes snapped open with a jerk, instantly trying to grab him, catch him.
Naruto leaned a bit and brushed his cheek against Gaara's, licked the tears off his face in a lazy stroke. The fingers on his arm relaxed, and he laid his hand flat against the side of Gaara's head fingers at his temples, opening his mouth willingly when he turned his head to kiss him, before drifting off to sleep.
Gaara drifted to waking reluctantly, feeling he was missing something important, something he should have remembered. For several seconds, he thought he had done something wrong again. Something bad, while he was asleep.
Sultry baby blue eyes glimmered at him lazily.
On the ceiling were shiny splats of wet glass and other bits of half-melted sand, creating a frieze on the walls and slopped on the floor and corners like drifted feather snow and dirt. They had melted the whirling sand without ever--without Gaara ever realizing it. His best weapon, only defense, had been turned to a shiny trimming without him ever realizing it. Without him ever caring.
He still didn't care.
A mouth closed over his, slowly playing with his tongue, poking it and nibbling his bottom lip between his teeth, letting the new saliva seep into his mouth wetly, warmly. Gaara moaned again--that seemed all he could do--and opened his mouth and returned the kiss, his tongue chasing Naruto's back into his own mouth, lazily moving against him, moving with him.
Fingers whispered into the inside of his thigh, and Gaara realized he could do more than moan. He could gasp.
A/N: The lines:
You were never loved!
This is it. Please die.
Are the lines taken from the Naruto manga, spoken to Gaara by Yashamura (his psuedo-mother, caretaker, later hired to kill him and she's really happy about that). That's kind of Gaara's outlook on him and love.
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