Corvin: I wrote this fairly fast, so I'm quite proud of myself.
Kyo: I'm such an awesome muse.
Corvin: He really is! I mean, wow, you're usually a little bitch but this time you've been awesome; you too Botan.
Botan: I drank four cups of coffee and 32oz of sodi pawp.
Corvin: YES! THE LONG AWAITED UPDATE! BEGIN!
Botan: Corvin does not own Naruto. Otherwise the 10 latest chapters of the series wouldn't be full of suck and fail.
"Did you break up with me before or after you slept with him?"
"I didn't sleep with him."
"He is quite infatuated with you Neji-san, and you have confided in me that you have fondness for him."
"That doesn't mean I had to sleep with him, Lee."
"…why was he here Neji?"
"He called me last night. His dad tried to attack him and he ran to a payphone and called me to come get him."
"…are you sure?"
"What's what supposed to mean, TenTen?"
"Do not raise your voice Neji-san-"
"What I mean is, are you sure he was actually attacked? That he didn't just call you to get attention?"
"Wow, you are some piece of work."
"Neji, you told me yourself that he has problems!"
"He's a little emotionally needy once he gets attached to someone, that doesn't mean he's a liar."
"Neji-san, please calm down, we are all friends."
The three friends stood silently in Neji's living room for a moment, the sound of birds and cars outside serving to fill the tense silence. Neji was defensive, TenTen was accusing and Lee was just trying to mediate.
"We are supposed to be friends." Lee said sadly.
Neji took a deep breath and held it briefly before exhaling loudly, "TenTen, Gaara and I did- do have feelings for each other, but no, I haven't slept with him."
TenTen fiddled with a hangnail on her pinky, "did you…do anything with him?"
"…" Neji looked away in shame, "yes."
"Neji-san how could you?" Lee cried, but he quieted when TenTen held up her hand.
She gave Lee a small, pained smile and looked at Neji, "I figured…if you two hadn't done something then you'd at least be having an emotional affair." TenTen sat down heavily on the very same sofa that Gaara had been sitting on earlier, "you always wanted someone to take care of, and I've always been too strong. I did try you know…"
"I made a mistake TenTen," Neji kneeled down in front of her, "there's nothing wrong with you and there never was and I love that about you…but my feelings aren't romantic…not like Lee's."
TenTen blinked and they both looked at Lee who had been leaning against the wall. He turned red at Neji's words and began edging towards the door, "I-I-I'll give you guys a minute!" He said before he disappeared into the hallway.
"Wow… He reverted to casual speech." Neji turned back to TenTen who was still looking both surprised and amazed, "I don't expect you to forgive me right away, but I hope that…in time we can be friends again?"
"…best friends?" Her eyes were teary and her smile was small but brave.
"Yeah, you'll always be my best girl TenTen."
"Alright," she wiped her eyes and sighed deeply. "Alright…then I wish you two happiness, but," her smile widened a fraction, "if he hurts you I'll kill him."
If her eyes weren't still full of sorrow Neji might have been fooled at her heart breaking attempts at normalcy between them.
"I really am sorry," he murmured as he moved onto the sofa next to her and pulled her into a tight hug, "but I'm not going to get with him." He pulled back and looked at her, "you both deserve better than me."
His feet were healing nicely.
Gaara wobbled around Temari's apartment with minuscule pain. He smirked triumphantly, the wounds had been mostly superficial; he wouldn't be cooped up much longer.
"Are you still fidgeting? It's been three hours." Kankurou blinked as he entered the room with Shukaku trailing behind him.
"Hey midget, what's good?" The tall blond sat down on the couch, "sit down." Gaara sat. "How are you?"
"Peachy," deadpanned Gaara, "what took you so long?"
"There was some…stuff I had to take care of." Shukaku frowned and looked at Kankurou, "can you go get Temari?"
There was no need however, Temari ran into the room with make-up streaking down her face, cell phone in hand, "I just got off the phone with Uncle Yashamaru," she whispered.
Shukaku's frown deepened to a scowl as Gaara and Kankurou stared at her in confusion. He spoke before she could, "Sakyuu is dead."
-Turn on channel 13-
Sasuke scowled at his phone. True to Naruto's prediction, they had gotten rather distracted while waiting for Gaara's call. It was just getting to Sasuke's favorite part when his phone because the wailing personal ringtone Itachi had set for himself. Oh well, at least the freak hadn't seen fit to travel up to stairs and burst in the door with a horn…like last time.
He looked down at Naruto, who was shirtless and panting beneath him, "where's the remote?"
Naruto looked vaguely annoyed and shrugged. Sasuke sighed and leaned off the blond to turn on the TV next to his bed. He manually flipped through the channels to 13.
They both gasped, Shukaku's house was on the news.
"-homeowner has no comments at this time, but police have reported that the nephew has been located and is in good health. Back to you, Kotetsu."
"Thank you Izumo, lovely as always-"
"Early this afternoon, the father, Sabaku Sakyuu's body was found in an alley on 15th street. His identity was confirmed by his brother and brother-in-law-"
Naruto turned off the TV and leaned his head against it, "his dad is…" He looked at Sasuke helplessly. "What should we do? Gaara didn't like him but…but it's his dad…"
"…he said he'd call."
"But what if he didn't know at the time?!" Naruto looked desperate, "I need to be there for my friend, we have to do something!" He stood up as he pulled his shirt down to cover his stomach, "come on get your keys."
"Do you know where Neji's apartment is?" Sasuke raised an eyebrow. If he let Naruto have too much free reign when he was panicking he would only make the situation worse. It was up to Sasuke to keep a cool head. "Just call him; you have Kankurou's number, right?"
"…" Little by little, Naruto's shoulders began to relax, "err, no, but I have Shukaku's." Sasuke handed the blond his phone.
The stupor was broken by Shukaku's phone buzzing loudly in his pocket. As his niece and nephews looked on he pulled it out and answered, "hello?"
"It's-it's Naruto, I just saw the news and uhm…did you see the news?"
"Are you referring to my house getting broken into?"
Temari and Gaara continued to stare at the wall and the ground but Kankurou turned to regard him.
"Referring to-to your brother…"
"Ah. Yes, we all know." Shukaku watched Gaara carefully, "I went to ID his body earlier." As expected Temari and Kankurou looked visibly upset, understandably so, but Shukaku was more interested in the reaction of his youngest nephew.
Gaara remained still, statuesque even. His face was turned away but Shukaku imagined that his face was probably as indiscernible as his form. What did one feel when one's father died? What if the father was estranged and only came around to remind the child that he wasn't wanted?
"How is Gaara doing?"
If Gaara hadn't cared what Sakyuu thought, he wouldn't have gotten upset all those times. Shukaku had always established himself as the Uncle, not the Dad. So what was Gaara feeling, now that Sakyuu, the man who had treated him so poorly, but had still been his only father, was dead? What better way to find out, then ask?
"Naruto wants to know how you're doing."
Gaara remained unresponsive.
"How are you, Gaara?"
"…tell him I'll call him back." Gaara's tone was dead. Not quiet, not apathetic even, but really and truly dead. He wasn't bothering with indulging in any feeling because he wasn't sure what exactly to feel.
"He's taking it pretty hard." Shukaku looked away, "he'll call you back, ok blondie?"
"Right…and you're blond too."
Shukaku's lips twitched for a moment, struggling to form a smirk, but the heavy emotions in his head held them down, "bye." He hung up and set his phone on the couch arm.
Temari had buried her face in her hands and her shoulders were shaking. Kankurou, who had been leaning against the wall, watched her. As the oldest son he had probably been taught that tears were for women. Even now, as he watching his sister cry, maybe in hopes that her tears could represent his own and alleviate some of the sorrow that had formed a weight in his gut.
Shukaku himself knew exactly what he felt. Sakyuu had been nearly completely broken when his wife died. His brother didn't care very often and for very much, similar to Shukaku, but he loved Karura, he truly loved her. He had always blamed Gaara for her death, because Gaara survived while she did not.
He hadn't held it against them that they couldn't have another baby. Sometimes things just weren't right for one and Sakyuu and Karura knew it. They only wanted what was best for their family. Shukaku had gone along with them to the clinic simply because he wanted to; a bit of morbid curiosity maybe.
It would have been perfectly legal to continue with the abortion. Even after accidental delivery, all the doctor had to do was put the head back in, perhaps he didn't even have to if the couple was still willing to go through with it. But still, when Shukaku had seen the frail, tiny body he couldn't stand the thought of it dying.
The wails coming from it were pathetically weak as were its struggles in the doctor's hands. He was not sentimental, not at all. But he couldn't think of it was, well an 'it' once he had seen him. He had another nephew, a little baby boy, and the thought of him dying just didn't sit right.
That was why Shukaku had taken him, named him and raised him.
"He killed her!"
His younger brother had come to him after Karura's funeral, which Shukaku had been forbidden to attend. At the clinic, when the doctor announced that they could not stop Karura's bleeding and shook his head in a dramatic and unmistakable manner, Sakyuu had turned to him and quietly demanded that he never speak to him again.
But weeks later, there he was, pounding on Shukaku's door. An argument ensued, in which Sakyuu blamed his wife's death on 'Gaara' while Shukaku blamed everything but. Their already awkward relationship remained strained until Sakyuu's death.
"Uncle Shukaku, do you hate me too?" A smaller and cuter Gaara had once asked him.
"Nah," he had replied, "I hate the fact that your father is a stubborn jackass."
That was still how he felt. Annoyance that Sakyuu, after all these years hadn't let go; anger that he had gone after Gaara with malicious intent and sorrow, that in the end, it had killed him.
'I hope you rest in peace little brother…'
It didn't take long to throw together a funeral service. Temari and Kankurou both agreed to have Sakyuu's body cremated and have a memorial set up for friends and family to come pay their respects. Like a pulling off a band aid, they wanted all the formalities done quickly so that they would be free to grieve in peace.
They sent out invitations, wrote an obituary for the local newspaper, and held the ceremony in within a week.
At his funeral, Gaara had been surprised to find so many people. It was hard to imagine that the man, who had been almost all the unpleasantness in his life, could have been a respected and well-liked individual. He had stuck close to Shukaku's side the entire time, watching as people he had never seen before approached Kankurou and Temari, most of them crying or red-eyed.
The entire hubbub had distracted him so much that it wasn't until the first time he was actually given some space to just be alone that Gaara noticed something amiss: Neji still hadn't called.
Gaara frowned; he certainly wasn't going to stand for that.
"I need a ride."
"I'm not sure why you called me if you're friends with my little brother." Itachi felt a bit like a secret agent as he talked on his headset and typed away at his computer.
"Because I'm pretty sure everyone else would just tell me that my father just died and that I need to deal with it or something."
"My father died once," Itachi watched a dancing pig prance across the screen, "do you want know what I did?"
"Too bad, I got too drunk and I don't remember. Anyway, if you have gas money then sure, I'll give you a ride. Where do you want to go?"
"I don't know really know where you live…like at all, and I don't know the exact location of Neji's apartment, but I do know what part of town it's in and the landmarks."
"Flat fee of twenty, count 'em, twenty dollars. Can you do that Ginger-Chan?" Itachi sent a psychotically laughing woman in response to the pig.
"Then I'll be there in a second."
"You don't know where I am."
"…tell me when you're ready to take the address down."
Neji hadn't picked up any of the thirteen times Gaara had called, so he was resorting to drastic measures. He had asked Kankurou and Temari for a ride, they refused, Shukaku had gone back to work and Naruto didn't drive. Then of course he somehow felt better asking Sasuke's older brother for help rather than Sasuke himself. If he recalled correctly Itachi had been a year ahead of Kankurou in school.
As he sat in the passenger seat of a strange blue vehicle called a Montero, listening to the soundtrack of something called 'Repo Man the Genetic Opera,' Gaara felt sure he made the right choice.
Despite all the odd things he said and his blank, somewhat disturbing expression, Itachi seemed like a fairly laid-back person who took Gaara's lack of direction-giving-abilities in stride.
When Gaara finally spotted the apartment complex they had been driving for a full hour. "Wait…no way."
Neji was in the passenger side silver Porsche, with an older man who looked very similar to him. They were pulling out of the parking lot. Through the window, Gaara could see that the backseat held some luggage. "He's…"
"Is that him?" Asked Itachi.
"He's leaving," Itachi sounded slightly vexed, "call him."
"He won't answer." Gaara began to frown, "well fuck me, now what?"
"We stop them." Itachi ran the last stop sign in front of them, accelerating greatly. Gaara tensed up and grabbed his armrests, "WHAT ARE YOU-"
Itachi's large, truck-like vehicle slammed into the back end of the Porsche. The tires skidded sideways, making large, black marks on the road, while Itachi peacefully pumped his brakes and came to a delicate stop. "I suppose I should tell you that I don't have any insurance."
Gaara was wide-eyed with his back pressed as far into the seat as he could get. His panting subsided quickly and he turned to glare at Itachi, "what the hell was that?!"
"What?" Itachi asked nonchalantly. "They stopped didn't they?"
And indeed they had. In fact, the older man was out of the car and storming towards them. Gaara could see Neji getting out of the car as well and wished that he had longer hair to hide his face behind. He had hoped their meeting would commence with a bit more dignity than this situation was allowing.
The older man stopped a couple feet away from Itachi's door, leaving him room to step out and explain himself. Itachi unbuckled his seatbelt and looked at Gaara, "just let me do the talking." He got out of the car and faced the man, "what's shakin' bacon?"
Gaara wanted to smirk at the look of annoyance and confusion the man's face but he stopped himself when Neji, who had circled the car, spotted him. Gaara coughed uncomfortably and rolled down his window as Neji approached it.
"What are you doing here?"
He wanted to crawl into the driver's seat and drive away. "You didn't answer your phone…"
"So you came all the way here?" Neji asked incredulously, "and who is that?" He looked at Itachi who was wordlessly gesturing from car to car while Hiashi watched him looking more and more irritated.
Neji continued to stare at him, "…well what did you want?"
"I wanted to know why you never called…my dad is dead you know." Gaara crossed his arms and leaned his head back against the seat.
"Gaara…" Neji reached through the window and squeezed Gaara's nearest hand, "Gaara I'm sorry."
"Don't touch me," Gaara flinched away from both the touch and the look in Neji's eyes, "don't fucking touch me."
Neji curled his fingers as he withdrew his hand. "We'll talk later, ok? I have to get my stuff to my Uncle's house-"
Neji took a deep breath, "…we'll talk later Gaara, I promise."
"You've made promises before," whispered Gaara, "and you've broken them." He looked at Neji, "why didn't you call?"
"Things got busy-Ah!" He held up his hand when Gaara's expression turned murderous, "they did. I had to talk to TenTen and Lee and then my Uncle called me." Neji glanced at the man who was yelling at Itachi to stop speaking Gaelic, "he's been getting on my case again about studying in London."
Gaara scowled, "it's kept you busy all week?" He demanded incredulously.
"No, not really, but I figured when we did talk that we'd need a big chunk of time and I haven't had that. I don't want to leave anything left unsaid Gaara. I'll go to my Uncle's house and drop off my things, and I'll come see you. Are you still at your brother's?"
"I'm back at home." Gaara looked at the silver Porsche with Neji's luggage again, "…why are you taking all of that to your Uncle's?"
"Later Gaara." Neji reached in and squeezed Gaara's hand again before he could be stopped, "I will come, I promise."
Gaara wanted to protest, but Neji had already turned and approached the other two. The damage to the cars was superficial and after exchanging very fake insurance information with Itachi, the Hyuugas got into their car and left.
"Where to now?" Asked Itachi as he got into the car.
"To my house," said Gaara, "I guess I have to go wait for him some more."
"Cool, hey tell me what you guys talked about; colon, capital D."
Corvin: I know I suck to end it there, but hey! It gives me a head start on the next chapter.
Kyo: And this filthy whore needs as much of a head start as she can get!
Corvin: … I really hate you.
Botan: I just noticed something!
Botan: We always abuse you o:
Corvin: You just now noticed?
Botan: I am not a wise man.
Kyo: Psshaw, that's the only good part of any of her updates! I think of it as a service to all the readers out there who are scared to abuse her for always taking so long.
Botan: I suppose you're right.
Corvin: No he's not!!
Kyo: That I am, so let the abuse continue.