I tried YonIru, I really did! And this is the closest that I can come to. Also, there are hints of IruGaa and GenGaa. Final pairings will be a surprise! Well, it's probably going to be an obvious "DUH!" at your face, but oh well!
Beta-read version by V-chan (b4k4girl). Thank you, sweetie!THE CHILD IN ME 1
It had stunned him quite hard to hear it from his colleagues. The second chuunin exam had just ended, making the majority of the rookie nine chuunins, save for Hinata, who still wasn't quite physically fit enough to fight, since that face off she and Neji had in the previous chuunin exam. It had been a casual gathering of sake and sushi at a local restaurant, something that was very common amongst the exam organizers.
He was still staring at Genma like he had an octopus sitting on his head. He forced the bolus of food in his mouth to slide down his throat and shakily set his chopsticks down. "Come again, Genma-san?"
Genma shrugged, mixing the sake in his cup with slow swirling motions of his hand. "Gaara, that sand kid, came up to me and asked me if I could 'bend down a bit for him to whisper something to me'. Believe me, I was so surprised when he just kissed me. Gaara? That sand-nin? It's crazy! But it happened."
No-one knew whether to laugh or feel sorry for Genma. It was a shocking and quite humorous situation. Gaara was the most anti-social shinobi that had ever graced the ninja world. There was a joke that went around amongst the female ninjas that Gaara's attitude could put any of the Uchihas to shame. Even Sasuke hated the boy's guts and couldn't stand being near him for more than five seconds. Plus, Gaara's reputation was such that it rendered him not dating/relationship material. Someone pointed that factor out and it caused a fair amount of laughter, but he did not see the humor in it.
So what? Does that make him a person unworthy of love? To feel it? Even a killer had a soft spot, because in the end, there is not a mass murderer/killer who does not go insane from guilt before death. He knew little of Gaara, but he heard enough from Naruto to know that the boy deserved more than wise cracks and laughter. He frowned visibly, ignoring the joke that was said, and finished the sushi on his plate.
"Oi, Iruka. Why the long face?" Asuma asked, reaching out for his packet of cigarettes in his pant pocket.
"Oh, sorry." Iruka said, the apology coming out mechanically and out of habit. "My sushi is quite bland."
It was a lame excuse, but none pressed the matter and that was all that mattered to him at the moment. He set his chopsticks on his empty plate and drained the sake in his cup. He didn't indulge himself in alcoholic drinks if there was no need for it. Alcohol usually left him with a pounding headache in the morning, plus tomorrow was going to be a busy day because he would be helping in arranging the paperwork for the newly graduated chuunins.
A glance at the simple wooden clock on the wall of the restaurant's bar told him that it was already past ten, and he had promised to drop by Naruto's house for the evening. Exams ended two days ago, and those who were injured had already been released from the hospital. He stood up, gave his colleagues polite goodbyes and pointed out that he had some matters to attend to.
"Aww! Stay a while Iruka!" Kurenai said, smiling up at him.
"I would love to, Kurenai-san, but like I said -"
"I'll walk you home." Kakashi said, standing up.
Iruka turned to look at him, his ego swelling. He may be a chuunin and a man of lower rank that the copy-ninja genius, but that does not mean he was helpless and couldn't defend himself, from what? An alley cat? He felt very insulted.
"I'll be fine thanks." Iruka said tightly, trying to remain polite, but his sheer annoyance and plain uncalled-for outrage - egos can do miracles - made it quite visible that he was no happy man.
"No, I insist." Kakashi said, grasping Iruka by the elbow, his touch gentle but firm enough for him not to argue. He said his own goodbyes and lead Iruka out of the restaurant and towards the quiet street, where the street lights cast dark shadows. It would have been a prankster's haven, to use such dark places as hiding spots. Iruka briefly remembered his own younger days.
Then he remembered Gaara.
Then he remembered his younger self.
That particular age and time.
"You don't need to do this." Iruka said, a bit miffed with having the jounin walk by his side. "I'm perfectly capable of walking home without being raped by alley cat."
"That's something I don't hear everyday." Kakashi's eye curved with mirth. "No, I wanted to leave as well. Plus, I think you could use the company."
"Whatever gave you that idea?" Iruka asked, looking directly ahead of him, his and Kakashi's feet making light shuffling noises as they walked down the street.
"You look, well, sad." Kakashi said, shoving his hands into his pockets.
"Now that is a really dumb reason." Iruka said, though the words did strike something inside him. Minutes passed and they still had five more blocks to go to get to the Bachelor's Area, named so because most of those who lived there were single men.
"Do you agree with what they said?" Kakashi suddenly asked.
Iruka found his brows knitting together in irritation when he remembered the jokes that were passed around. "Do you?"
"And why half?"
"Because someone like Gaara would definitely be hard to be considered relationship material." Kakashi answered. Iruka made no reply, but the stiffening of his shoulders and the tightening of his jaw was enough an answer. "If, say, I were in Genma's shoes, I'd find it hard to get some sleep without worrying that my own neck won't be snapped in half." Still no reply came from Iruka, but the fists did tighten. "You don't like what I'm saying, do you?"
"We are all entitled to our own opinion." Iruka said, trying to keep his voice calm and controlled, but it still came cold and chilly.
"Oh?" Kakashi said, turning his head to look at him. "That's true. We run democracy here, after all."
Iruka rolled his eyes and quickened his pace, taking a detour to the Ichiraku to pick up some take-out for Naruto's breakfast. Naruto had saved up for eight months to get himself a microwave and the boy loved the machine to bits. He loved it more than his own mini fridge (a name he gave it, since it was, in his opinion, cute looking). It took him ten minutes to receive his order, packed and sealed with napkins and disposable chopsticks lying snugly on top of the Styrofoam packet. He was quite surprised to find Kakashi waiting for him outside the Ichiraku, staring up at the crescent moon glowing in the sky.
"I thought I left you behind." Iruka said, now annoyed than ever. He was not a useless person.
"Well, I don't want you raped by an alley cat." Kakashi said, tone in a joking manner, eye glowing with humor.
Iruka sighed and continued walking towards Naruto's house. He did not expect Kakashi to follow him, but the jounin did anyway. As he knocked on Naruto's front door and waited, Kakashi lurked in the hallway before heading outside the building, choosing not to follow Iruka, but to give him his own privacy. It was only about eleven-fifteen, and Iruka knew that because all graduates were given some time off to recuperate, Naruto would most probably be reading his old jutsu scrolls, playing on his already mangled and deformed couch or just sitting on the window sill, counting stars. He said he did it to fall asleep on nights when he couldn't and Iruka caught him in the middle of it several times. And on those times, he stayed with the boy until he fell asleep.
He was quite surprised when Gaara opened the door, and stared up at him with those bright green eyes, like emeralds. He gave the boy a smile. "Naruto awake?"
"Yes, I am." Iruka answered.
Gaara opened the door wider for him to step in and closed it behind him. "He fell asleep." Gaara pointed at the couch, where Naruto was slumped on to it, arms pillowing his head and one leg hanging off the edge. "We were playing cards."
Iruka chose not to ask Gaara why he was in Naruto's apartment. He heard that his team left the other day, but did not press the matter with Gaara. The Hokage knew if the boy was gone or not and so, trusting her, he kept quiet.
"Must have been a long game then." Iruka set the bags of ramen on the kitchen counter, taking out the Styrofoam cups and placing them in the fridge. With that task done, he approached Naruto and picked him up in his arms, carrying him to the bedroom and tucking him into bed. Chuunin or not, he was still a mere thirteen years old. He was still young. Iruka came out to the living room to have Gaara look up at him in a quiet stare, with confusion and wonder glowing in his eyes. "Did you have dinner yet? I'm assuming you're staying with Naruto for a while, yes?"
Gaara nodded. "He invited me to stay for a while."
"That's nice." Iruka said, placing one of the packed ramen into a bowl he took out from the cupboard. Steam wafted in the air as he poured the Styrofoam contents into blue porcelain bowl. He took out some chopsticks and handed the bowl to Gaara, motioning him to sit down on the kitchen counter stool. "It's still warm."
Gaara stared quietly at his bowl. "You're not afraid of me."
It was a mere statement, but his tone had a somewhat questioning edge to it. Iruka poured some milk into a glass after making sure that it was not expired, and set it beside Gaara. "I don't see a reason why I should be. But that does not mean I do not respect you as ninja. Just that, it's a nice evening, and having ramen and some milk would be good. I don't think I should feel afraid of that. Besides, eating alone doesn't feel very nice."
Gaara was staring at him like he had a penguin sitting on his head, but eventually he averted his gaze and stared at his bowl. Iruka pulled up a stool and sat down, a cup with some tea powder in front of him, while he waited for the kettle he had set on the burner to boil.
"So, how does it feel? To be a chuunin?" Iruka asked.
Gaara shrugged. "Nothing. I feel the same." He then looked up at Iruka. "Why are you talking to me?"
Iruka blinked, feeling slightly offended. "You don't want me to talk to you?"
Gaara suddenly got a hurt look on his face, and Iruka could tell. Cold or not cold, he was still a child. And he, of all people, knew how to read a child's face. He was not a teacher for nothing, and a well known one at that. So he took his time in handling Gaara, keeping an air of calmness around him and always smiling at the boy.
"Nobody talks to me." Gaara said.
"Naruto does." Iruka pointed out.
"Because he's like me." Gaara replied quietly.
"So?" Iruka said, shrugging. "I'm like you too. We're both humans, we both breathe and we're both literate. That's reason enough for me."
"How do I know that you're not going to kill me?" Gaara suddenly asked.
Iruka blinked. He blinked hard and slow. "Kill you?"
"They all do!" Gaara narrowed his eyes. "Those like you. Those grown ups!"
Iruka chuckled. "I have a job, I have a home. I have Naruto to support. Killing you, or attempting to, would get me into trouble." Gaara's eyes now mirrored barely hidden hurt. "But that's not my reason. I have no reason to kill you or hurt you. I just wanted to sit down, have some tea and have you try the ramen I bought. That's a good reason, don't you think?"
Gaara stared at his bowl. "This is a good conversation."
Iruka laughed. "Well, I guess it is." He smiled and poured the boiling water in to his cup. "The ramen is getting cold. You should eat it while it's warm."
Gaara stared at his bowl some more, before picking up his chopsticks and sampling the noodles. A few seconds of slow chewing went by and then he was tucking in to his bowl at a fairly fast pace that showed that he was not an ignorant hungry fool, but at the same time showed that he was enjoying it. Iruka smiled at the sight, wondering why anyone wouldn't like a child like him. He seemed fairly nice.
Gaara finished his bowl and straightened his shoulders that were, for once, free from the weight of his gourd. "You're nice."
Iruka smiled. "Thank you."
"I like you."
Iruka found himself blushing slightly. "Ah, I'm glad to hear that." He was fairly surprised to find Gaara staring at him with a pair of lost looking eyes. Iruka blinked at the unintended display of sudden cuteness. "I like you too."
Gaara blinked and then his cheeks colored. "R-Really?"
Iruka stared for a while. Naruto was like this the first time he met the boy at the academy. He had known the boy was Kyuubi and he had caught him trying to sneak out of the classroom, dragged him to his staff room and began to lecture him about the importance of education. Naruto wore the same look, only it was glazed with 'boredom' and 'mischief' and it was not enough to fool Iruka. He could see the sadness in Naruto's young eyes then, and at the moment, when Iruka began to talk to him, as in talk to him like he was an equal, he got the same reaction as Gaara was showing him at the moment. A blush, a phrase of 'you're talking to me' and a look of happiness and relief. But Naruto had been about six or seven years old then. Gaara should be thirteen by now, or twelve at the least. Iruka felt appalled. Was there no one who took interest in what Gaara felt? Even the toughest layers of indifference within a child could be cracked with simple words and smiles.
And that was what was happening to Gaara.
And Gaara was already at least thirteen! Iruka felt outrage grow in him. No child, absolutely no child deserved such treatment. Smiling at Gaara softly, he stood up and ruffled his hair, all the while the boy looked up at him with surprise and some form of relief. "Yes, I do." He nodded, to emphasize his point. "I think you're a good person."
"I killed people."
Killed. Past tense. "Then you'll just have to save more people to make up for your past mistakes, right?" Iruka smiled, and ruffled his hair some more. "You're a chuunin now. You'll get plenty of chances. Save one for each who died."
"You don't think I'm bad?"
"If I did, I wouldn't be here, with you." Iruka sat back on his heels, staring into Gaara's eyes. "Right?"
Gaara blinked and tilted his head to one side. "Do you love me?"
Iruka blinked. "That's a strong word. Do you know what it means?"
"Naruto said that when someone likes you, they love you. I like you. So, I guess I love you too."
"He said that?" Iruka asked, smile even wider. Naruto was growing up, and the boy before him was slowly getting there too.
"Yes." Gaara said, frowning a bit. "Do you love me?"
Iruka, considered Gaara's understanding of the word, and nodded. "I guess I do too."
And then Gaara kissed him, on his cheek.
Then he remembered.
Then he smiled at Gaara.
Okay, I know it's a bit boring. But there is a plot. I don't think this going to be very long. It's a pretty straightforward story really.
Why is Gaara the way he is?
Simple. He's a kid, who knows nothing about affection and although he's skilled in battle and strategies, he lacks social skills. Iruka is going to be there to help him! It's like a Naruto case all over again, only at an older age. Iruka's a teacher, he knows how to handle such things. Gaara is no exception.
Anyway, I know its OOC for Gaara, but he's with Naruto. When you're with Naruto, you tend to act differently! And it's for the best! So, yeah, that's not an excuse. It's just the way I see it, and it does make sense.
Tell me what you think so far.