Kankuro cracked an eye open as he heard the nearly soundless footsteps that could only belong to one person. He opened both eyes and stared dumbly and in mild surprise at what met his gaze.
“What are you smiling for?” he asked a bit too curtly as the red-haired boy made himself comfortable beside him. Even though it had been years since he had seen a real sinister smile from his younger brother, Kankuro was still prone to feeling the shivers of repulsion and fear whenever those lips curved into any form at all.
Gaara shrugged lightly and laid on the rooftop, pale green eyes staring at the, thankfully, clear blue skies above him. The sandstorms had stopped long enough for the villagers to find some time to play outside. The sounds of happy laughter from children and grown-ups alike filled their ears causing the slightly shorter boy to smile a bit wider in growing pleasure.
There was the familiar stirring of adrenaline coursing through his body at this time, but it had nothing to do with the need to kill another human or with the monster that had once taken precedence in his life. The knowledge that his rivals were making their way towards his village was enough to get him excited all over again. It had been almost five years since he had last seen them and Gaara hated to admit that he had spent it hoping and praying for a chance to see the two boys again.
Especially the blond one.
There had really been no need to prove his existence to anyone anymore. With the death of his father and the defeat of the Sand Village after Orochimaru’s demise, Gaara had come to appreciate those that had always cared for him. Kankuro and Temari had always been there for him, despite the way he had sometimes treated them. They were his flesh and blood and had cared for his welfare, despite their concerns or worries. It was his time now to take care of them. He would do his best to make up for some of his sins of the past…at least to them.
On the other hand, there was no denying the faint anger that still boiled in the bottom of his heart at how he had been created and used as a weapon for destruction. The thought of being a person that no one gave a shit about personally had been hurtful to the teen back then, but he had shut it all away in the pretext of searching for an existence that was meaningful to him. Killing others had been a way to satiate the raging beast within him.
But what now? Had he given in to the peace and stability that had plagued the villages now to no longer feel any need for revenge again? No. And to be honest, it had all been the blond’s fault.
Of all the people in the world that could have talked some sense into him, it had to be that short, loud-mouthed, overconfident fool that had managed to get the message across. He was not a tool and should not have thought of himself as one. There was indeed more to life than drowning within one’s lust for blood and death.
He sighed and wiped a hand across his mouth. Things and times had changed. They had all grown up to be wiser and stronger, both in mind and spirit…or so he thought.
He turned away from Kankuro, who had been staring at him all this time, to lie on his side. He closed his eyes and tried to will the small nagging voice that was beginning to make itself heard again. It was a voice that had begun to rage ever since he had met that…
It had all happened over a year ago. He had just turned sixteen and was still reeling from the over-sugary cake that Temari had baked for him as he made his way towards his private thinking spot amongst the dunes. No one would ever think of following him this far and deep into the foreboding sand hills. Many still believed that there were hidden traps of quicksand that could bury you in there forever. Naturally, Gaara paid no attention to such things.
He licked off the remnants of the icing from his fingers and grimaced at how sticky they were now. Cursing softly at Temari’s tenaciousness with desserts, he almost failed to see the shadow that had fallen over him.
In a swift move, he ducked and shifted to the right, watching in mild surprise and irritation as his attacker flew right into a dune with a loud yell.
Geez…not another one, Gaara thought with exasperation as he eyed the legs that were sticking out, rather comically, out of the sand. He had about had it with other kids that still tried to play senseless games with him. When would they ever grow up?
He was just about to make his way back to the village, when giddy laughter had him freezing in his tracks. He spun around in bemusement to see the grinning girl....? No, it wasn’t a girl. He looked closer to see that the boy, with incredibly long red hair, was shaking off the sand that had filled his cloak and hood. He looked no older than Gaara and that same impossible grin was still on his rather effeminate features.
Is he crazy? Gaara thought in growing confusion.
“Hello, Gaara,” the boy greeted with a wave as he walked closer to the shinobi who was unconsciously shrinking away from the other’s presence. The boy noticed and stopped a few feet away with a sheepish laugh. “Ah, don’t mind my earlier introduction. I was just trying to get your attention and see? It did work! You finally noticed me.”
“My name is Kikaida,” he continued with a hand outstretched. When he saw that it wasn’t going to be taken, he withdrew with an amiable smile. “I am originally from the Sound, but my family is visiting a few friends here and so I decided to explore the area. I never thought I would get to meet the famous Gaara of the Sand. I have heard so much about…hey! Where are you going to?”
“Awww…wait for me then,” came the hurried cry as he tried to catch up to the striding teen. “I just wanted to talk to you for a while.”
Gaara grit his teeth and stubbornly kept his gaze pinned ahead of him. Damn! Why did he have to meet this weird person today? He began to walk a little faster with every intention of ignoring the annoying brat. It wasn’t until he heard the small cry of terror, did he finally stop long enough to glance behind him.
What the hell…? Kikaida had fallen into quicksand and from the look of things, if he didn’t do anything soon, the treacherous earth was bound to swallow him completely. Feeling as if his day couldn’t possibly get any worse, Gaara growled to himself and quickly formed the necessary seals that would will the sand to do his bidding.
“Mugen Saijin no jutsu!”
A great blast of sand parted the weak sand like a tornado and hoisted the coughing teen back onto safe ground. For several minutes, the boy coughed and spat out as much of the sand that had filled his mouth as possible. He staggered weakly to his feet and tried to walk forward, but Gaara noticing that he was going to fall again, did the unthinkable and actually found himself moving closer to steady Kikaida. Although, he still wasn’t too comfortable touching others in any way, he realized that he would have to hold on to this boy or else…
“Thank you…Gaara-kun,” came the hoarse whisper that had the shorter red-haired shinobi shaking his head quickly.
“No problem. Let’s just take you back to…wha…??”
He barely had the time to register what had just happened, but he suddenly felt his muscles go slack as if some kind of sedative had been given to him. He felt incredibly relaxed and lazy, his breath coming out slowly as he lifted heavy-lids to stare into the smiling face before him.
“Ki…Kikaida…?” he asked weakly as he felt himself being pushed slowly but carefully to the ground.
A seductive grin had come onto the boy’s face and Gaara couldn’t be sure, but he felt like he had seen a weird marking on the Sound nin’s neck. But all of that was wiped out of his mind as he felt the warm lips trail across his neck. He shivered in spite of the heat and reached up to try to push the other boy away albeit weakly.
“What…what are you doing…?”
Kami, but his voice sounded like he was a million miles away. His eyes were growing even heavier and he could barely hear the softly spoken words of ‘Just relax, Gaara-kun. I’ll make you feel sooo good.”
Yes, he did need to feel good. He had been in so much pain and now…now this was the time to allow himself to relax and give himself up to this new sensation. He did not notice that his clothes were being taken off. Neither did he notice that the once seductive grin had now become lecherous and hungry.
All Gaara could feel was warmth, something wet against his skin, his legs being lifted and the sharp pain of something that was quickly erased with the delicious sensation of being filled. He didn’t know what was going on, but whatever it was…it felt incredibly good.
One year ago to this month, Gaara thought ruefully, someone who had claimed to be from the Sound raped me. He wasn’t even sure he could call it an actual ‘rape’ but whatever had taken place had been done without his permission. He had woken up completely naked among the dunes and had felt something sticky against his inner thighs and within his throbbing rear. The pain that had shot through his body while trying to move had almost undone him. This was not the kind of pain he was used to. This was a different kind of pain. It was strange and Gaara wanted to know what it meant, but he didn’t know who to turn to or ask.
Just what had happened to him?
Since that incident and much to his chagrin, bemusement and irritation, he had found himself beginning to take an interest in other male shinobi’s backsides. He was sick. He had to be getting sick. There was no way that staring at such a part of the human anatomy could make him feel this…hard and uncomfortable. He wasn’t stupid. He had heard all about the ‘things’ that happened to boys and girls when they were extremely close. Kankuro had been more than willing to share his knowledge about sex and its repercussions to his younger brother. And although Gaara had given him the sense that he wasn’t paying attention, the younger ninja had been keeping his ears attuned for any thing of substance.
He knew he gave out the ‘white stuff’ whenever his dreams became more vivid than normal. And he knew that most of these dreams sometimes had him back on the sand doing something with Kikaida again. But that was what bothered him the most. Besides, spending fruitless months searching for the other teen, Gaara had wanted to experience just what had happened to him back there all over again.
Properly this time.
He sighed in frustration. He was seventeen and was yet to be with anyone romantically or sexually. No one – boy or girl – had tried to approach him for a relationship and Gaara had not gone out of his way to look for one either. He was a loner. Always had been. Always would be.
He turned his gaze back to the sky above him with a small smile. He could feel the adrenaline rush through his body again causing a familiar part of his body to stir in response.
His rivals were coming and he just couldn’t wait.
Kakashi eyed the clearing with an approving eye. He gave a curt nod and leaped back to where the waiting group stood.
“There’s a clear stream nearby and plenty of shade for us to rest,” he said with a pleased smile. “We will camp here for the night if that is alright with you, Miura-sama?” he asked the oldest of the group they were escorting.
The white-haired man, who reminded Naruto so much of the bridge-builder, Tazuna, gave a soft nod and a warm smile. “This will do, Kakashi. And besides, I think the children need to take a rest as well.”
Kakashi eyed said ‘children’ with a raised brow. They looked anything but tired to him. Sakura was still alternating glances between the necklace around her neck and at the two boys on her right –specifically Sasuke. Meanwhile, said boys were doing their best to be as far apart from each other as possible. The jounin groaned and shook his head. It was clearly obvious that the teenagers had their issues to work out. The last thing he needed was to have it compromise their mission.
“Oi, oi,” he drawled lazily as he tried to get their attention. “Make yourselves useful and start setting up the camp.”
Low murmurs of ‘Hai, hai’ filled the evening air as they went in search of firewood and water. Even the young couple volunteered to help and Sakura was more than grateful for the woman’s company. She seemed nice and willing to talk with the pink-haired shinobi.
“My name is Hanase,” she offered with a bright smile as she followed Sakura towards a small grove of broken tree limbs.
“Haruna Sakura,” came the slightly shy reply as both women fell to their knees to begin picking up as many sturdy branches for firewood. “You were just married?” She eyed the rather beautiful female with dark brown hair that was wrapped up in the familiar headgear of the Sand. Her eyes were as brown as her hair and there seemed to be a perpetual rosy glow of happiness on her cheeks. Sakura envied her.
“Yes, I am,” Hanase said quickly around a light giggle. “I met Daisuke when he came for a peace mission to my village a few months ago.” The woman gave a soft and wistful sigh. “He was so shy and would hardly say a word to me, but things turned out alright in the end, didn’t it? I was determined not to let him go and I practically wooed him.” She laughed again and focused on the task at hand. “Have you ever fallen in love, Sakura? If I am not too bold in asking.”
The shinobi’s hands trembled slightly as she tried to pick up another branch. She has been in love since she had seen his face as a little girl but it was a fruitless love. A love that would never be returned, no matter how much she tried.
“Perhaps,” she finally replied quietly. “But he is not interested in me and he never will be.”
“Oh?” Hanase looked surprised. “You shouldn’t give up so easily, Sakura.” She rose to her feet and eyed the crouching girl with a warm smile. “Have you tried telling him the way you feel? Sometimes you have to let the man you love know how you feel about him or he will never know. You have to be the persistent one, Sakura. Don’t give up on him, okay?” She glanced towards the camp and gave a small cry. “Let’s hurry up and get back. I think they are beginning to worry about us.”
“Hai…” came the low mumble as the pink-haired girl rose to her feet to follow the older woman back to the campsite.
Never give up on Sasuke, huh? Her fingers caressed the necklace around her neck again as she gave a soft sigh. How she wished things could be just that simple.
~ & ~
Sasuke placed the water bottle carefully against the flow of the small waterfall. He focused his gaze on the clear liquid trying hard to shut out the happy laughter that came from the couple a few feet away. Daisuke and Naruto had already become friends and were currently wading in the small stream. Dressed down to their boxers, both men were making fruitless attempts to catch as many fish as possible and a particularly loud scream of delight from Naruto had the bottle he had so carefully held to drop from his fingers. He cursed softly and tried to retrieve it again, sighing softly as he continued his monotonous task.
It was always so easy to be taken in by Naruto. Sasuke had always known this and had come to accept it as a fate in life. Anyone who came in contact with the blond shinobi was prone to either befriending him or to at least leave with an impression that would not be so easily forgotten. Sasuke’s jaw tightened as he felt the familiar stir of jealousy well within him. He knew he was selfish in wanting to have Naruto all to himself and it wasn’t as if he had him at all to begin with. So what was a little kiss here and there? It didn’t mean he had endeared Naruto to him and he was sure that the blond shinobi was even more wary and possibly ‘afraid’ of him now.
Great going, Sasuke.
He twisted the cap onto the flask and got to his feet. Daisuke, who was still a chuunin like themselves, was currently standing upon a relatively high piece of jutting rock. His arms were spread out by his sides and he was telling Naruto that he would be able to catch a fish from this distance. Naturally, the blond thought he was crazy and told him as much. Naruto was standing up to his waist in the clear waters and Sasuke was treated to the delightful and yet agonizing expanse of pale skin that glistened with water and just simply begged to be touched. The golden strands of Naruto’s hair were plastered to his head and as he raised his arms to hail Daisuke, the muscles of his shoulders stretched to reveal the undeniable strength within them. The dark green boxers slid a little lower and Sasuke groaned at the tiny crack that was revealed. He couldn’t trust his feet to move as the throbbing ache between his legs was nearly his undoing. He forced his gaze away and somehow did manage to get his body to respond to his will again. With steps that felt heavy, he began to wade out of the water, only to freeze as his name was called.
“Where are you going to, Sasuke? Aren’t you going to join us?”
It was Daisuke that had asked the question and Sasuke was already about to shake his head to refuse the offer, when he felt himself being tugged back into the deeper parts of the stream.
“Come have fun with us!” the older chuunin urged as he wrapped his arms around Sasuke’s shoulders. “We are almost about to catch a fish, aren’t we, Naruto?”
The kyuubi laughed and dove into the stream, more to hide his blushing visage than anything. For a moment back there, he had almost forgotten that Sasuke was still in the stream with them. The thought of swimming with the other shinobi with him half-naked was too much for Naruto to take. Perhaps he could swim towards the other end and escape before Sasuke could find out.
Yeah, that seemed like the plan to take.
He pushed himself out to get some much needed air. Wiping his eyes quickly, he glanced around him in bemusement, wondering just where everyone else had gone to…
He was knocked onto his back and soon found himself beneath the cool waters, blue eyes widening in mild panic and fear as he tried to make sense of what was happening to him. He flailed his arms about and tried to push himself back out again, but strong hands upon his shoulders kept him in place and soon had him staring into eyes of darkest night.
He opened up his mouth to say something – rather foolish, when you think about it – but he felt his lungs burst with the force of water that rushed into his mouth. He was pushed upwards to get some air and coughing like he was bound to die at any moment, he spun around to glare angrily at the dark-haired shinobi.
“Sas…Sasuke, you idiot! Just what do you think you are do…huh?! Aargh!”
He was pulled back into the water by unseen hands and this time, Naruto had made sure he got a lungful of air. His face settled into a scowl, more than ready to give the irrational shinobi a piece of his mind when he was stumped into silence as he met the mischievous look in Sasuke’s eyes. He could feel his heart pounding faster and harder than before and despite the coolness of the water surrounding them, his body flared up with a heat that was undeniable between them.
Sasuke swam closer to him and their noses brushed in a light tease. They both stared helplessly into each other’s eyes, hands reaching to clasp the other’s as they swam lazily beneath the stream.
Air. They had to get more air.
And with a ‘whoosh’ they both pushed themselves out, not releasing each other as they tried to get as much air into their lungs as possible. By some unspoken agreement, they dove back into the stream and needing no permission or invitation, Sasuke closed the distance between their lips to claim Naruto’s in a searing kiss.
Their clasped fingers tightened as the kiss intensified with each subtle movement of their bodies. Eyes slid shut as they opened up to each other, tongues caressing, tasting, sucking, nipping, and hungry for a satisfaction that could only be satisfied with one another.
Daisuke shook his head with a light laugh at the question posed. “Those two? They might still be getting fish. Sasuke did tell me that they had everything under control and I could leave.”
The adults laughed except for two people. Kakashi had a thoughtful look on his features. Sakura was staring at the direction of the stream with pure dismay on hers.
She rose to her feet and began to walk slowly towards the stream.
Their legs struggled to keep them afloat. Their limbs seemingly going lifeless as they gave in to the burning desire that flared within them.
Sasuke released Naruto’s hands to slide his hands down to the boxer shorts that were barely staying on the blond’s body. He slipped his hands into them and almost lost it as he felt the soft yet firm flesh of Naruto’s ass. Just a little bit more and he would be able to touch him down ‘there.’
Sakura stood at the water’s edge. She could see nothing. It looked deceptively quiet but she knew all was not as it seemed. They were both here. Together.
And everything was under control.
Naruto’s eyes widened at the touch and he tried to push himself away. No, not here. Not now. Anyone could come by and see them. And hadn’t he sworn to himself not to allow himself to fall for Sasuke’s charms again?
He shook his head rapidly, ignoring the pained look that came into the dark-haired shinobi’s eyes as he kicked out his legs to release himself. To his utter and total embarrassment, his boxers slid off his hips and remained trapped in Sasuke’s hand as he pushed himself out of the water. He barely waited to find out what the genius chuunin was planning now as he half ran/stumbled towards the safety of the shore.
His cheeks burned with color, his entire body trembling so much that once on land, his legs gave way and he fell to his knees. It took him only a minute of trying to catch his breath before he noticed the familiar blue sandals that could only belong to one person.
Oh shit…oh shit…oh shit…
He could vaguely hear Sasuke coming out of the water himself and Naruto closed his eyes in dismay, humiliation and horror as he knew without a doubt that Sakura would have put two and two together.
Nobody said anything for a long minute as Naruto kept his eyes stubbornly closed. Sasuke, who had been ready to lash out at the blond froze in mid-stride with the damning evidence of the green boxers still in his hand.
Sakura’s fingers tightened around the necklace as she struggled not to give in to the scream that threatened to erupt from the pit of her stomach. She closed her eyes and caressed the wooden object gently. It was all a dream. It had to be all a dream. She would make it a dream to her. After all, Hanase had told her never to give up.
And nodding firmly to herself, having come to a decision within herself, she opened up her eyes and said as calmly as she could muster.
“Hurry up and get dressed. Supper is ready.”