I do not own Naruto in any way, shape, form, or manner. So please don't sue, I spent the last of my money on Christmas presents!

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Scent of Ash

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by Kaiyo No Hime .

Note: Everything in Italics means a flashback.

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"Quit struggling, this will just take a second," Naruto hissed, trying desperately to bind the old bandages around Gaara's wounds before he bled out, "Damnit Gaara, cut it out or I'll kill you myself once I'm done!"

Gaara ceased his struggles immediately, going limp in the blond man's arms, a wispy look traveling across his eye. The only eye Orochimaru had left him, telling him to depend less on his sand, and more on his senses all those years ago. He would have lost them both, that time, if Naruto hadn't come along and saved him, forcing water down his throat as he was pulled from the deserts sands.

"Promise?" Gaara whispered, his voice faint in the midst of the silence.

"Promise what?" Naruto asked, confused, as he tied off the last of the bandages with a weak grin.

"Promise that you'll kill me," Gaara repeated, "Let me die, please."

"Quit saying that," Naruto rasped, glaring, "Why do you want to die so badly!? What the fuck is wrong with you!?"

The words faded into silence as Gaara watched the last of Naruto's self control break, tears streaming down his face as he collapsed onto Gaara's chest, dampening the bandages he had put so much effort into applying moments before. The red head sighed, rubbing soothing circles into the blonde's back as he began to waver from crying to sleeping, utterly depressed by his lovers words.

"I'm sorry, Naruto," Gaara whispered, curling up beside his sleeping form, trying to put everything out of his mind.

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"What!?" Naruto screamed, glaring Tsunade down, daring her to repeat her orders.

Gaara rolled his eye, used to the fighting between the two by now.

"I said I want you and Gaara to go and defend the camp by the Kinoki waterfall," Tsunade repeated, glaring the blonde down.

"There's nothing out there! Why the fuck do you want your two most powerful nin's out in the middle of no where!?" Naruto roared, his voice thankfully much deeper since his 18th birthday a month before.

Gaara sighed, resting a hand on his lover's shoulder, trying to calm him down.

"Because I ordered you to be there! You disobey orders, I strip you of ALL ninja status!" Tsunade screamed back, her eyes beginning to glow with rage.

"I don't care, I'll still become Hoka-," Naruto was broken off as Tsunade slapped him across the face, hard, leaving her hand print showing clearly.

"Don't you disgrace that title by speaking it! A ninja that can't even obey orders is useless to everyone, especially the Hokage," Tsunade snapped, ignoring the shocked expression that had come over both men's faces.

They had never seen Tsunade truly snap and lose her cool before. Whatever had sparked her to send them on this mission must be very important, or out of the way of something even worse. No matter how hard she tried to hide it, Gaara could see that he and Naruto had always been held back from the most dangerous missions, kept away from certain death. She still cared for the blonde as if he were her little brother, and treated Gaara with the same respect simply because of his status with Naruto.

"We will report to the camp in the morning," Gaara whispered, nodding politely to Tsunade as his grip tightened on Naruto's shoulder, signaling quite clearly that he was to stay silent if he knew what was good for him. They may be lovers, but Gaara would be damned if he ever became a push over.

"I expect you both to be gone by eight am, or I send the ANBU squads after the both of you, Tsunade hissed, glaring Naruto down as she waved for them to be gone, her hand twitching nervously on a mission file.

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Naruto and Gaara had left early the next morning, Naruto still asleep in a little cocoon of sand as Gaara dragged him out of town to prevent the scene he knew the blonde would cause. And Naruto had been right, there had been nothing worth protecting at Kinoki Falls. Just an old hut, some nice scenery, and a breathtaking waterfall.

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"Gaara, please," Naruto begged, showing his big blue eyes, trying to sway the red head to his side.

Gaara grunted, looking away.

"It'll just be for one day! Just one hour, I promise!"

"We are NOT going back to Konoha so soon. Tsunade ordered us away for a month," Gaara reminded him, "Am I really that boring?"

"But I'm out of ramen," Naruto wailed pitifully, making eyes at his lover once more.

Gaara sighed, and shook his head, knowing it was useless to continue the argument. Without ramen the blonde would drive him nuts begging for it. And Tsunade couldn't dock them for leaving their post if she never knew of it. One little hour to get in, buy as much instant ramen as they could haul, and get out couldn't be too bad. It wasn't like anyone was going to invade Kinoki Falls in the mean time. And even if they did, the most damage they could do was piss in the water.

"Fine, but we'll make it quick. An no stop side trips at Ichiraku," Gaara muttered, already bracing for impact as Naruto glomped him, sending them both flying to the ground.

"I love you Gaara," Naruto smiled, nuzzling his cheek before jumping up and packing his wallet.

"I do too," Gaara muttered under his breath, "And that's where the trouble starts."

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Gaara stopped on the trail suddenly, his sand grabbing Naruto and dragging him back instinctively even as he drew a kunai. Something was definitely off, and even Naruto, normally chipper and happy, was wary.

"I smell blood," Gaara whispered, wishing he could still use his third eye technique, "Fresh, and lots of it."

"Ash and smoke," Naruto replied back, his eyes turning red as he put two and two together, "Konoha."

As the two ran down the trail, the destruction became apparent, opening up on the horizon before them like a child's picture book. Ash smeared the horizon, turning the day a sickening shade of gray as the scent of blood polluted the senses of both demon vessels.

Where once had stood Konoha now stood the rubble remains of a dead city, the inhabitants in a state of decomposition and dismemberment. And, slashed across the Hokage monument, tenderly carved across the faces of the five Hokage portraits, were the trademark kanji of the Akatsuki. And an evil message, daring the two demon hosts to seek their revenge for the little present that had been left for them.

"Naruto," Gaara whispered, resting his hand gently on the blonde's shoulders as he let loose an inhuman howl, his voice echoing through the smoking ruins, but no tears trailed down his cheeks.

He refused to show that weakness, even as he screamed to the heavens for his fallen village.

"We'll kill them, we'll kill them all for this Naruto, I promise," Gaara swore, catching the individual scents that he had secretly prayed would not be there.

Temari, her husband Shikamaru, Sakura, Lee, Neji, Tenten, Shino. The list went on and on, the scents becoming so intertwined and cooked in the debris that it was impossible to tell them all apart, but one thing was clear.

They were all dead.

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"Gaara, you're crying," Naruto whispered solemnly, shaking the red haired man to waking, interrupting him from the only dream he had ever had.

It was always the same. He would remember the events from seven years before, and be woken up sobbing, his face washed with the salty tears, asking himself why. Asking why Tsunade had decided to send them away. If they had been there, the village might have been saved, and the others might all have lived.

Now, instead, Naruto and Gaara were left making guerrilla attacks against the Akatsuki, weakening them even as they themselves were weakened. They had found a way past the sand, and created a poison that could stop Naruto's amazing healing abilities in their tracks.

They were defeated, and neither had the guts to open their eyes and see it.

"Hold still a second, your wounds are bleeding again," Naruto smiled weakly, pulling out some more bandages to wind around Gaara's chest.

"Why do we still bother," Gaara asked, looking his lover straight on.

"Because we can't let them win," Naruto reminded him, "We can never let evil win."

"They've already won, Naruto," Gaara whispered, cupping Naruto's face softly with his callused hands, "They won the day Konoha burned to the ground."

Naruto turned, looking away from his green eyes as he bit his lip to stop the tears from rolling down his face. He knew that the Akatsuki had won, but he couldn't bear to admit it. In his heart, he believed that if he refused to remember the ashy scent of the burning village, then it had never happened, and there was still a reason left to defeat Akatsuki.

"There's nothing left for us to do," Gaara whispered, blood dribbling down his chest, soaking into the bed sheets, "I'm sorry. I should have listened to you, we should have stayed, no matter what Tsunade insisted."

"Quit talking, you're making the wound worse," Naruto sobbed, tearing off his own shirt to stop the bleeding, too little too late.

"I love you, Naruto," Gaara whispered, his eyes going glassy and he planted a last, bloody kiss on his lovers lips, "I always loved you."

"No, don't leave me, please," Naruto begged, clutching the cooling body to his chest as he rocked back and forth, sobbing freely, his heart shattering howls echoing across the country side.

He had truly lost everything close to him.

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Owari

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Yes, I know, not that great of a story. I based it all around this sketch of Gaara one of my friends sent me a while back that I found again while looking for something to photoshop into a desktop. Unfortunately I have no clue where my friend found this picture, and there is no author signature, so I can't really give a link or a name to it.

Which kinda sucks because it was a BEAUTIFUL picture of Gaara, with one bandage wrapped around his eye, hence the one eyed Gaara in this fic, and no explanation behind it.

And no, there will be no more of this fic. It was a one shot through and through.

So, Happy Non Specific Winter Holidays to everyone, do look forward to my next fic (which is complete but not typed up) 'I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus', probably the first angsty take on that song ever. .

Interesting fact: my spell check contains the words Hokage, Neji, and Shino, but not ninja, ramen, or Sakura. I can't understand that in the slightest. I think that means my computer is biased. O.o