A week went by, Naruto swiftly regaining his strength, Gaara drowning in work as the Allied Shinobi Forces' Regimental Commander. The effort and preparation for The Forth Ninja War were charging ahead, gaining momentum. A chill could be felt through the
streets. Tension mounting. Anticipation setting teeth on edge.

Lee excitedly fulfilled his promise to help Naruto recover and gain use of his newly re-attached arm, Kakashi, Sakura, and many others showing their support and helping in any way that they could.

But where Naruto grew in physical might, his emotional status began to strain and suffer.

Things were different after that morning with Gaara. He'd only been able to receive a few letters since, no visitations. Understanding the burden on the young Kazekage, Naruto tried to pace himself and rationalize his anxieties. But, beyond the busyness
and stress of war on the rise, he felt something else between them.

Had he been wrong about this love too?

The time sped closer for him to travel away to meet Lord Killer Bee and the Eight-Tails, Captain Yamato as his escort. Still unaware of where he would be hidden to train, Naruto packed, and tried to prepare as best as he could, heartbreak creeping inmoreeach
moment he grew closer to leaving with no word from Gaara.

A few days before they were to leave, Naruto could no longer stand it. If this was the wrong path, he was going to run the full length of it before turning back on it too. He threw a small knapsack over his shoulder, and set out on his own for The Hidden
Sand Village.

The journey was perilous for him, taking every ounce of his energy, trying his freshly healed body, pushing it beyond its limit. He knew it was stupid to go out on his own, that Lady Tsunade would be furious, that Captain Yamato was probably right on
his heels, but he didn't care. He had to know.

Finally arriving, haggard and weary, Naruto did his best to sneak through the outer patrols and to the office of The Kazekage.

Within five minutes, Temari had caught him.

She smirked largely, "It looks as if I've apprehended a Leaf ninja disobeying his direct orders, and trying to break his way into our Village offices… This way." She instructed, leading him right up to Gaara's door. "I'm afraid I'll have to leave you
to be dealt with by The Kazekage himself. I'll warn you though, he's not a man to be trifled with."

Her eyes briefly met his with serious threat, before punching Naruto's arm and heading back down the hall.

Naruto looked to the great wooden doors. He swallowed hard, sweat beading up on his forehead.

Then, in a burst of courage, he opened the door and strode in.

Gaara was on his feet instantly, a mess of papers scattered over a large desk, a cup of tea cold and untouched leaving a ring on one of the documents.

"Naruto," He swelled with joy. "You're here… Is anyone with you? Did you travel here alone? … Naruto, it's not safe right now. Lady Hokage is going to be-"

"I don't care how Granny Tsunade feels." Naruto interrupted, Gaara giving a small gasp at the confession.

"Naruto," he sighed. "You need to have a bit of awareness and respect for Lady Tsunade and what she's trying to do. There's a lot more going on here… Have some formality. We're-"

"At war," Naruto interrupted again, "I know… I will have formality. I will call Granny Tsunade, Lady Fifth Hokage of The Leaf, and you Lord Fifth Kazekage of The Sand, for the rest of my days if it will please you, but I had to come. Let me have a moment
more of behaving informally, please."

Gaara paused, longing to draw near, aching against responsibility.

"Just a moment more of informality."

"Good," Naruto declared, "Because I'm going to kiss you right now in your Kazekage office."

Gaara's mouth fell open.

"That is," Naruto added, moving toward him, "If you want me to."

The sand shinobi flexed his hands tight. "Naruto…"

"Listen, I said I would wait for you through this war, through anything – and I meant it – but, I have to know before I leave, before you go out and lead the fight… Do you love me, Gaara?"

His heart was in his throat, "Yes… Since the day we first fought, when you wouldn't give up." The memories flashed through his mind. The rage of Shukaku. Laying bloodied and destroyed on the forest floor. Naruto inching over to him, slamming his head
into his. "You broke me open and filled every ounce of me a thousand times over…"

Naruto closed his eyes, soaking in the words.

"Tell me," he asked, "Are you letting Sasuke live as a demon inside of you?"

Gaara's eyes widened, his body rigid.

"Are you letting him keep us apart?"

Slowly, he nodded.

Naruto extended an arm around behind Gaara's waist, ever so gently pulling him in, the other hand cupping his face.

"Hey," Naruto whispered, "I know it's hard to see a glimpse of truth in the middle of the desert, during a sandstorm… Don't let your demons rear their ugly head. Don't let Sasuke's decision scream out louder than mine. This, right here, is my decision.
You are who I chose."

Gaara's eyes fluttered, swelling with tears. "What if he comes back? He's still out there. He's going to come back, whether for good or for bad. What happens then? I don't want to just be your decision because of his decision."

"Gaara, look at me," Naruto's hand settled under the young Kazekage's chin, lifting it up to for their gaze to meet. "You're not a second choice. You're not just a filler in my heart because I can't have him. You are everything I ever wanted, and more.
I want you because I went so long missing out on what I could have had. I was so stupid, so blind…So buried in this idea of Sasuke that didn't actually exist… I wanted to fix and save him so badly… I couldn't see what was in front of me. If he comes
back, in whatever way, we'll figure it out. But he could come to me now with Tobi's head on a platter begging for forgiveness and my love, and I could would be joyous to give him my forgiveness, but I would not have any love outside of friendship
for him. He is not on my path anymore. He has walked away, yes, but more importantly, I have walked away too. Don't let him control you the way I let him control me. Don't let him blind you to what's in front of you. I don't want to miss out
on what's in front of me for another second. Especially on the brink of war, especially when we are to be parted… I choose you because I want you, because I am in love with you, Gaara."

He was crying now too, and Gaara folded into his arms, nuzzling beneath his chin, wrapping arms tight around his back.

"I love you too, Naruto," He whispered into his chest. It was the first time he'd confessed any love out loud, and it was unlike anything else. Being there, enveloped in each other's embrace, something they'd never known from anyone, a deep loneliness
inside of them was finally comforted into dissolving away, the vast void finally being filled.

"I don't want to make us wait to be together until this war is over." Gaara declared, "I want us to walk into battle confident that we stand together, and fight for not only the future of the shinobi world, but for our future. I don't want demons
to stand in our way any longer." He pulled back to look into Naruto's face. "I want to be with you from this day forward."

Naruto blushed and beamed, laughing slightly in such overwhelming joy and disbelief.

"I want that too, ya know."

The Sand shinobi hummed in satisfaction. Then, gently asking, "Naruto, were you going to kiss me?"

His smile grew somehow bigger.

"Would you like me to?"

"More than anything."

Naruto leaned down. "As you wish, my Lord Kazekage."

"Wait," Gaara flinched back. Suddenly, his sand cocoon melted to the floor, a mound at their feet. "I want to feel you."

Naruto's stomach flipped, and he let out a small giggle of relief, pressing his cheek to the side of the young Kazekage's. His skin was like satin, warm and inviting.

Ever so softly, Naruto tilted up and kissed Gaara's forehead, right over his tattoo. Their breath shuddered, and chills ran down Naruto's back as Gaara leaned up, pressing his mouth briefly onto his throat. Their eyes met, and then, moving in together,
their lips.

Slow, and soft they moved into each other, savoring this new perfection. Naruto's hands slid up from Gaara's waist to his back, under his sand gourd, pressing the young Kazekage into him, not able to be close enough, beginning to let his passions take
him. He kissed in harder, moving his mouth over Gaara's, down over his jaw and settling beneath his ear on his flushed neck. The fire-haired shinobi swooned into his partner, unable to suppress a satisfied moan from escaping his open lips.

Naruto was undone.

His mouth crashed back into Gaara's, moving hungrily, letting his tongue slip through to taste, and teethtugging tenderly on his lips. The leaf shinobi found the strap ofGaara's sand gourd, and slipping it over his shoulders, lifted the young
Kazekage up in his arms, setting him down on his desk, hands gripping tight onto his thighs.

Gaara was breathless, heart racing, body burning. He ached to let loose.

Naruto sensed his restraint, and between kisses, reminded him, "You're not going to hurt me, my Lord Kazekage. Have your way with me."

Surrendering into his desire, pushing past fear, Gaara pressed hard and fast back into his love, hands flying up and tangling into blonde hair, running down the sides of his muscled body, tugging him up and on the desk, straddled over him. His orange
jacket and shirt met the floor.

Naruto rolled his head back, purring at the sensation of Gaara's teeth and tongue on his stomach and hips.

"Come here," The sand shinobi pulled their mouths together before commanding, "Flip me."

Naruto leaned them back to lay on the desk, gripping tight around Gaara's back and rolling them over, papers and the cup of cold tea spilling to the floor.

The young Kazekage, now straddled over his blonde-haired ninja, leaned down kissed with intensity from his mouth, and down his neck to his bare chest. Slowing, he began to move along the scar trail from Naruto's left arm, across his shoulder, and into
the crater left behind on his chest where the Chidori had struck, nearly robbing him of this love.

"Naruto…" he whispered, his green gaze pouring over him. He let his fingers play over Naruto's chest, watching little goosebumps spring up in a trail behind his touch. "You're my most precious love. My skilled, passionate, precious love."

Gaara leaned in and kissed him tenderly.

"How could I ever have earned your love?"

He kissed him again, sweeter, more gently. Chills sprang up over his whole chest.

"How could I have ever have known I would have been so changed by it?"

Naruto felt a warmth explode through him, and he began to overflow with it there on the Kazekage's desk.

Gaara smiled full and unafraid.

"Whatever path we take from here," Naruto promised, "We will take it together, my Lord Kazekage."

"As you wish, my future Hokage, my Naruto."

They shared a smile and a laugh, and relishing in every second of this peaceful moment in the middle of a sandstorm. Their love washing out hate and fear, and taming back every demon within them.