A few (woefully inadequate yet pertinent) notes on the Japanese language: First off, there is no "L" in Japanese; the letter L is represented by an R. Japanese has two alphabets (hiragana and katakana) as well as kanji (symbols/formal script). Foreign words are always represented in katakana, while most Japanese words, including names, are written in kanji or hiragana or a combination of both. Thus Lee's name actually starts with an R in Japanese and cannot be written in kanji because it is a foreign (Chinese) name. Each kanji can be said numerous ways, depending on the meaning and word it's used in (which makes Japanese particularly difficult for foreigners to figure out!). This is important to the story, I swear! And now that I've fully confused you…
CHAPTER 11: NAMING BABY
"It's so small and fragile," Gaara said as he looked down at the tiny slumbering bundle in his arms. "I could crush its skull with one hand."
Lee gasped. "Gaara! Don't say things like that about the baby!"
"I'm not going to do it," Gaara told him levelly, touching the baby's tiny nose with his finger. "I like this baby."
"Well that's a relief," Temari said, looking thoughtfully down at the tiny sleeping form.
"So you think you're gonna keep her?" Kankuro asked with a grin. "Not gonna trade her in for a differefnt one?"
"This one is acceptable," Gaara told him, probably not getting the joke. He hadn't taken his eyes off the baby the whole time.
"Pretty cute, huh?" Kankuro asked.
Temari rolled her eyes. "That's the fourth time you've said that."
"Hey, it's true!"
Lee couldn't disagree. Their baby had a full head of messy black hair, an adorable button nose, tiny puckered lips, and steel grey eyes. Her face was squished just enough to give her a mildly disgruntled look even in sleep, as if she were still a tad annoyed at being forcefully expelled from her nice warm home. And yes, she had cute little eyebrows.
She slumbered peacefully even as Gaara unwrapped the soft pink blanket from around her. Nor did she mind Gaara pulling off her fuzzy booties and sweater.
Ah, so CUTE! Just looking at her made Lee want to gush with glee-- but he didn't because he didn't want Temari to hit him again. Usually his reflexes would kick in before something like that could happen, but with the baby around, his self-defense mechanisms seemed somewhat dulled. Though he was sure if someone tried hurting the baby, one hair on her perfect little head, they'd kick in like--
"Gaara, what're you doing? You just got her dressed," Temari asked as Gaara eased off the diaper.
"I want to look at it again," he told her.
"Gaara," Lee began patiently, gazing happily down at the baby's perfect pink skin, "now that we know the baby is a girl, you should really stop calling her 'it'."
"I think it likes me," was Gaara's response as he poked interestedly at the tiny clamped umbilical cord. "Or at least, I don't think it hates me. Do you think so, Lee?"
"SHE, Gaara, call the baby SHE. Not IT. And as long as you keep her safe and warm and fed, I'm sure she'll like you just fine. But say SHE, alight?"
"It's a good baby, isn't it?" Gaara asked.
Lee sighed heavily in defeat. "Yeah, it's a really good one."
"We did a good job making it," Gaara concluded.
Kankuro cleared his throat and Lee flinched. "Baby making" talk had long since been declared taboo. Lee had promised that if it ever came up again, he'd put a hundred pound weight on his back, tie concrete blocks to his feet, and run twenty laps around--
"Ahem," Temari coughed warningly. "I've sent word to Konoha to send Sakura here as soon as they can, but I was thinking we might call in a midwife so we can make sure to be in time for the naming ceremony."
"Naming ceremony?" Lee asked. This was the first he'd heard of anything of the sort.
"Yeah," Kankuro said. "You don't have one in Konoha?"
"Um," Lee offered.
"Well, in Suna, when the baby's three days old, a village elder checks it out to make sure it's ah…" Kankuro scratched his head, "fit to enter society or whatever. And then they name it. Nowadays, we usually get the baby examined by a midwife and pick the name beforehand though."
Lee nodded. "Well I guess that makes sense… but what happens if the elder decides the baby isn't fit?"
"They set it out on the edge of the Southwestern Bluff and let the wild animals eat it," Temari answered.
"But that's not usually done anymore," she amended.
…usually? Suddenly, Lee felt rather dizzy. Of course there was absolutely nothing wrong with their adorable little girl, she was perfect in every way! Beyond perfect! Perfectly perfect! But what if the elder was some antiquated old man with a grudge against Konoha who decided--
"Lee, are you alright?" Temari asked.
"Ah. Ahaha, it's nothing!" Lee smiled, regaining his balance. There was nothing to worry about. The current Suna elders were assuredly not the type to feed small children to wild animals, and even if they were, they wouldn't dare do it to their Kazekage's baby. Right?
"You do need a name by then though, so you might want to think about it," Temari told him.
"I'm going to name it Lee," Gaara declared.
Lee stifled a groan. "Gaara, I thought we talked about this…"
"I'm naming it Lee," Gaara insisted. "It's the best name. And it looks just like you."
Lee blinked down at the flawless little naked body and couldn't fathom where Gaara had gotten that idea from. Other than the hair, Lee didn't think she looked like him at all. He'd never been this tiny, this pink, this peaceful…
"As fantastic as that would be," Temari said between clenched teeth, "Suna babies aren't allowed to have foreign names. It's a law, Gaara. You can't even write 'Lee' in traditional Suna script, the letters don't exist. It'd be something like Rii."
"And Lee ain't even a girl's name," Kankuro added.
"They will let me," Gaara told her, turning the baby's head to the side to touch her ear. "You'll see."
"Gaara," Lee began.
"If they do not," the Kazekage continued mildly, "they will regret it. Dearly."
And that was the final word on the subject.
An antiquated man with a long nose and fluffy white eyebrows and mustache sat before a dying fire, nodding his head and mumbling as Lee and Gaara knelt across from him. It was barely noon, but the small room was dark and stuffy and smelled like incense. The old man's voice was tremulous as he said, "Well, on with it then, hand the little one over."
The baby was cradled against Gaara's chest, naked inside a heavy white blanket, as tradition dictated. Her thick black hair stood out against it, her tiny mouth pursed in her sleep. Yes, Lee decided for the seven hundredth time, she was definitely the cutest baby ever!
Gaara was less than thrilled at having to let their baby out of his grasp, but Lee had spent countless hours reassuring him that everything would be fine. "The Village Elders have held hundreds, maybe THOUSANDS of babies, Gaara. And besides, the baby can't go around without a name forever!"
As Gaara handed the bundled infant across the fire to the old man, he shot an accusing look at Lee, as though this were all his fault. Lee gave him an encouraging thumbs-up, and Gaara looked askance at his bandaged hand.
"Oh, what have we here?" the elder asked, eyes wide as he peered down at the baby. He was unwrapping the blanket and making odd clucking noises with his tongue. "Never seen one like this before… are you sure she's one of Suna's?"
"She is ours," Gaara answered, nodding ever so slightly toward Lee.
The old man frowned and squinted at Gaara, shaking his head and laughing at a joke inside his own head. The thought that the man had suddenly gone senile raced through Lee's brain, but he forced it back. He did the same with the thought that their baby was too foreign looking and unable to be accepted into Suna society. Everything would be fine. Their baby was perfect and cute and not about to be set out on the Southwestern Bluff to be torn apart by wild animals. Not even the really bloodthirsty, starving ones with particularly sharp fangs--
"Its name is Lee," Gaara announced, bringing Lee out of his chilling reverie. He winced and wanted to protest, but Gaara's expression was set as though made of steel.
"Lee?" the old man asked sharply. "Lee. Lee…" he mused, running his gnarled fingers over the baby's pink cheeks. "Lee?"
"Yes," said Gaara. "Lee."
Lee bit his lip and crossed his fingers behind his back because Temari would kill him if she ended up with a niece named Lee, and he wasn't ready to die quite yet.
"No," the old man said, "not this baby. Definitely not a Lee."
Gaara tensed, and Lee winced, reaching out a hand to calm his boyfriend.
"Or rather, not entirely," the Elder continued. "This little girl is something special. Just look at her face! I sense something in her… the woman who saved the Kazekage, Chiyo… Yes, this baby is more than a Lee…"
He chuckled to himself again, rewrapped the child in its blanket, and handed her back to Gaara, pausing to kiss her on the forehead. The baby fussed, not liking the ticklish sensation of the old man's beard against her face, and the Elder made his way slowly to a small table beside the fire. He mumbled something under his breath and withdrew a brush and ink, smoothing down a paper across the tabletop.
He wrote three symbols on the paper in deep red ink, though what they were, Lee couldn't see. Looking down at his work, the man nodded, coughed, and rolled the paper, handing it to Lee. "Your daughter," he said with a nearly toothless smile.
Back in the Kazekage's residence, the baby clutched to Gaara's chest in her white blanket, he demanded, "Open it. What does it say? Tell me. Now."
Lee glanced warily at Gaara, who looked murderous, and unrolled the scroll. He stared down at it in confusion. It bore the formal symbols for blood, beauty, and Leaf. "Um… I don't know," he admitted. "I'm not so good at reading these…"
Gaara all but snatched it out of his hands. Lee watched nervously as his boyfriend's nonexistent brows knit, his lips working at the words. "…ketsu… chi…Chiha… Chiba…"
"Chiyo?" Lee offered, remembering what the Elder had said.
Gaara paused. "Chi," he said, nodding once. "You," he said, nodding again. He paused for a moment, finally adding, "Ri."
Lee blinked. "Chiyouri?"
Gaara scowled, the paper crumpling in his grasp.
"Well that's not so bad, right Gaara? Right?" Lee asked, rescuing the paper from him. "Don't you think it's pretty? Chiyouri… Chiyouri… sounds important! Right? And it does have a 'Lee' at the end… kind of. Right? What do you think it means? Beautiful Bloody Leaf? A bit violent… Beautiful Leaf Blood? Not like a Sand-nin to say our blood is beautiful… Hmm, maybe…"
Gaara said nothing, but he touched the baby's cheek as though to make sure she was still alright now that she was no longer Lee. He looked distinctly unhappy.
"Should I write Gai-sensei?" Lee offered. "I know he's out on a mission, but--"
"You've written him seven times already," Gaara told him, running a finger over Chiyouri's lips.
"But he has so many pearls of wisdom to dispense!" Lee insisted.
"It means Leaf-Blooded Beauty," Gaara told him. "Do not write to that man again." If Lee hadn't know better, he'd have said his boyfriend was working up a mean pout.
Lee sighed, looking down at the wrinkled paper in his hands, Leaf-Blooded Beauty staring back up at him in its bold crimson lettering. "Chiyouri," Lee said again, tracing Beauty with his fingertip. "It's a good name, Gaara."
"Better than Self-Loving Demon," Gaara murmured, "but not as good as Lee." Casting an accusatory glare at the man who bore that name, the Kazekage pulled baby Chiyouri closer and slunk off toward his private rooms.
Lee went to write Gai-sensei.
"I think she has my hair," Naruto determined with a nod. "Yup, definitely my hair. See how it's all stick-out-y-like?"
"Naruto, move. I need to examine Chiyouri, Tsunade-sama's orders," Sakura demanded. "And she does NOT have your hair!"
"Touch it, and I will kill you," Gaara told her, pulling the baby closer. The sand in his gourd shifted menacingly.
"Gaara, please learn to call the baby SHE," Lee urged.
"Yeah, so I know her hair's black, Sakura-chan," Naruto told her, "but it looks JUST like mine! It must be my super positive influence on--"
"Kazekage-sama," Sakura urged, so frustrated she could just about spit, "all I need to do is--"
"Go away," Gaara ordered, eyes narrowed to slits.
"No killing in front of the baby, Gaara," Lee chided. "Darling Chiyouri is still in the first blossom of her childhood, and she'll end up with developmental issues! Now just undress her so Sakura-san can take a--"
"Hey, I wanna see!" Naruto announced, bouncing from foot to foot. "What does her bellybutton look like? Oh oh, and her toes! When they say 'soft as a baby's butt,' what do they mean? And what about--"
"Sakura-san, when did you say Gai-sensei would be arriving, again?" Lee interrupted, eyes sparkly.
Sakura sighed. It was going to be a long day.