The chlorine smell is from the water, actually. Water is so scarce in Sand Country that every drop of it is purified and recycled and reused at least 10 times before it's dumped into the ground, hopefully to be used as water for the plants. Baths are rarely taken; instead, people are encouraged to swim in the public swimming pools as often as they can. And pure water is almost never found anywhere for human consumption.
It rains only once a year in Sand Country. It rains for a whole week when it comes. The people bring out gigantic basins into the streets. The people run naked down the streets with bars of soap in their hands, washing, and no one cares because everyone is just glad to see the water. Nobody works for those days. Everyone drinks in the water.
Gaara remembers once, when he was maybe seven, and he had stepped out into the streets just as it started to rain. The crowds suddenly disappeared. Within seconds there was no one on the streets, just the sound of the rain hitting the iron tubs "plink plink" all around Gaara. The sky was an odd shade of gray. The sand swirled around Gaara, wet and thick like something living.
The people of Sand Country love the rain, but they fear death more.
For some reason, the rain in Sand Country is never enough to wipe away the smell of chlorine and the smell of the sand. Even though the villagers take out their laundry and wash it in the streets just as they take baths, the chlorine smell has sneaked into the fabric so much that no one can get rid of it. The water only seems to make the smell even stronger.
To Gaara, the smell of chlorine is the smell of home, the smell of a place he never wants to go back to and the place he'll always hunger for. It's the smell of paradoxes, the smell of dilemma, and Gaara swears it lingers at the edges of his nostrils just like the smell of death and blood.
The smell of sand, of course, is something Gaara has long gotten over.
Gaara comes to Konoha during the monsoon season. He expects it to be something like the monsoon season in the Hidden Sand village, but it's nothing like it at all. For one, in the Hidden Sand village, monsoon season means chilly winds and lower temperatures, but in Konoha, the monsoon season is hot and moist, almost tropical. There's nothing solid about it, just hazy and a lot of colored umbrellas on the street that almost blind Gaara when he first sets eyes on the whole sea of them.
In Sand Country, no one uses an umbrella. Rain on the body is something to be cherished.
Gaara comes to Konoha as part of a treaty between Sand and Leaf. After all, Sand is the side that loses. What it came down to is that there's nothing in Sand more valuable than Gaara, and because he's in Konoha, it's almost like a guarantee that there won't be anymore attacks from Sand. It's a way of crippling Sand's fighting power.
It's also a way of helping Gaara cope. There's no one in the world, everyone's figured out by now, who's more like Gaara than Naruto, and that's who Gaara will answer to in Konoha. Naruto is in fact the only person Gaara will answer to in Konoha. It's almost like a mission to Naruto: take care of Gaara and help him learn how to control the demon inside of him, and in return Gaara will be the Sasuke Naruto never had, someone able to match him ploy for ploy, kick for kick, and maybe even keep Naruto on his guard all the time. It's a symbiosis. It's a power play. But in the end, Gaara has a sinking feeling that Naruto is going to win, by no fault of Naruto, but by the simple fact that Naruto is the only person who can make Gaara nervous. Maybe it's their now legendary history with each other. Maybe it's the parallels between each other. Whatever it is, Gaara is so afraid of going to Konoha he almost lets Shuukaku control him midway through the journey, but he forces it down in time.
Understand this: it's not fear. It's a strange sickeningly lurching feeling in Gaara, sort of like the feeling the sand gives him when it heals him, sort of like the emptiness he feels when at night when he should be sleeping. He remembers it from before, when he let Shuukaku completely take over him during the last part of the Chuunin exams, and strangely enough, he remembers it when he heard from his siblings that Naruto and a whole squad of Leaf ninjas went out to find Sasuke.
The thing about Gaara and Naruto both is that they both have an incredibly sense of smell. It comes from being half-demon. It comes from the heightened need to stay alive that comes from the demons. That's why Gaara remembers the smell of chlorine so well. More light-heartedly, it's also the reason Naruto likes to eat ramen so much, because the smell reminds him of warmth in Konoha.
Naruto lends Gaara his clothes during the first week because Gaara's clothes had to get dried and washed. They go shopping later, but for a couple of days Gaara walks around smelling of distinctly of--
not exactly Naruto but things that remind Gaara of Naruto. Dried leaves and something Gaara learns is cinnamon, maybe warm toast and a peculiar sense of having been lived in. It rather painfully reminds him of Yashamaru too, but only because it's gentle and underlying it all is an organic living smell. It's a smell that digs under Gaara's skin and threatens to tattoo him like the sand. He's almost sad to let it go when Naruto does buy him clothes.
Which is interesting because Naruto doesn't smell of anything, not even of fox. Gaara would like to think it's that the rain has washed all of his scents away. The monsoon in Konoha lasts longer than the week of rain in Sand Country, and there's definitely enough rain to wash away all the smells. And Naruto's skin, Gaara discovers, is smooth and white and unmarked except for the whisker marks on his cheek. It's like Gaara's in more ways than imaginable, because their demon powers heal their marks.
Gaara's skin is strangely soft for a person who's had sand all around him since he was born. In Sand Country, where the wind and the sand battered the skin constantly through the day, Gaara's skin was odd, yet more proof that he wasn't natural at all. But in Konoha it's nothing at all.
Embarrassing enough, one of the first things Gaara does in Konoha is get lost.
Naruto finds him eventually, though, but not until Gaara's stood in the rain for about an hour, letting the water soak him from head to foot so completely that he formed puddles when he took a step. Naruto lets him know that he can get sick from being in the water so much, but that doesn't change the fact that Naruto humors him and stands with him in total silence for about 15 minutes more before gently nudging him back towards the direction of Naruto's apartment. The rain is calm, steady, and completely expected. Gaara's surprised that rain in two different places can be so different.
That night Gaara watches Naruto sleep. They share a bed because Naruto offered and because Naruto refused to let Gaara sleep on the floor and furthermore refused to let Gaara harp on the fact that he doesn't sleep. Naruto's hair is wet from both the rain and a shower. They're close enough so that every time Naruto moves his hair brushes against Gaara's nose. It's almost ridiculous, Gaara thinks to himself as he sneezes and tries to keep himself from falling asleep.
Sharing a bed with Naruto is warm like Konoha's monsoon, warm like Sand Country without rain, warm like the smell of chlorine that will eventually wash out of Gaara's clothing, warm like Gaara's never been before.
When the monsoon season in Konoha ends, Gaara can still smell it in the sand in his gourd. At first Naruto had complained about training with Gaara when the sand was wet. It dries out after a few days and Naruto stops commenting on the fact, but both of them can smell it, the smell of rain and wetness, in the sand, and sometimes Gaara will stop right in the middle of a training routine to remind himself.
Naruto still smells of nothing, not even when Gaara leans in real close at night, almost resting his nose on Naruto's neck.
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