Chapter One

When I was a child, there was no one.

As I grew, people came, slowly.

One by one they told me that they'd be there, that they'd be willing to do anything. I just smiled dumbly like I always did, thanking them. But inside I really wanted to ask,

"Are you willing to die?"

But he was different. When I met him, he didn't offer me anything.

The only thing he had to give was something no one else had, and the only thing I really wanted…

That was eight years ago. I'll never forget that day that I first saw him with his teammates on the street. Even then he surpassed me as a shinobi, and didn't take the time to acknowledge my existence. When we fought after the chunin exams, although I beat him, he was still the superior ninja.

I haven't seen him much since then. Once I was sent to save him from the akatsuki, but since then… oh well. I suppose being the kazekage means you're busy.

I still can't believe he made it before me. He never once said 'I'll be Kazekage one day!' Unlike me, who goes around screaming about how I'll replace Tsunade as Hokage…

So today, just like every other time I'm sent to the village hidden in the sand, I'm looking for him. Sakura sends a sly look my way, but I ignore it. Sai has his usual unreadable smile plastered on his face, but I know he's thinking the same thing.

The first time we came here after saving Gaara, Sakura had asked me who I was looking for. When I'd told her 'no one', she, of course, heard 'Gaara'. For a while she was angry with me, saying that I'd replace Sasuke with Gaara, but when I finally snapped at her, she'd shut up.

No one could replace Sasuke. He was my dearest friend and always would be. Besides… the reason I looked for Sabaku no Gaara was far different from the reason I searched for Sasuke.

"Naruto!" Cried a voice from ahead. I looked toward the sound and smiled, waving wildly to the man I saw there.

"Kankurou! How have you been?" I called back, grinning as he approached us.

"Good. Hello Sakura, Sai." My teammates nodded their greetings, and Sakura immediately started jabbering on about something pointless, which I tuned out. Sai seemed to be looking around as well, but probably for a different reason. Being in Anbu tends to make you alert, after all. I should know that.

"Naruto…" Kankurou whispered over his shoulder to me, pretending to be listening to Sakura. "Gaara's in the usual place."

"Thanks." I answered without looking at him, and leapt into the air. The usual place… that means something's bothering him again. I went from rooftop to rooftop, headed for the top of the tallest building in the village.

Sure enough, when I landed silently on the shingles, he turned to look at me with those empty eyes.

"Hello, Naruto."

"Gaara. What are you doing up here?" I asked, sliding down to sit beside him, keeping about two feet of distance between us, just in case he was in one of his moods. But before my rear even touched the shingles I felt myself sliding over, and I hid my smile.

The sand under me gently set me down only inches away from him and disappeared. He had a habit of doing that. Instead of using his hands to pull me closer or simply asking me to sit next to him, he'd use his sand, lifting me up and moving me. So he wanted me to be near him. Fine with me.

I leaned my shoulder against his, and he leaned back, sighing at the contact. We sat there silently for a long time, staring out over the sea of sand, only our shoulders touching. We both knew that we didn't need to talk, since there was nothing to talk about.

In my younger years I would have been rambling on about how I needed to find Sasuke, or how Jiraiya wasn't training me enough, or a new jutsu I'd learned, but I'd matured now. While I had always been too dumb to understand the complicated formulas and theories behind jutsus, the idiotic face I put on was always just a mask. Gaara was the only one to see through it. Even Sasuke had been fooled.

No one knew me like Gaara did, and the same went for him. No one could even pretend to understand what it was like to be alone like we had. To be shunned for so long by your own people, the people who should have been protecting you. To not have a single friend to turn to, no family to care for you, nothing. To be hated and feared for something you cannot control… this loneliness is the worst feeling in the world.

Gaara knew it. So did I. Sasuke told me once that I had it easier. That it is better to never have bonds than to have them and lose them. I suppose some might think so. But I would have given anything to have one person. Just one. Even if I had known before hand that being friends with them would kill them, I probably would have done it.

Because the pain of losing someone is nothing compared to pain of not having that person to begin with. At least Sasuke had memories of love. Memories of time spent together as a family, laughing and playing. Through all of my childhood, I have not a single memory of such things. Iruka-sensei was the first friend I'd ever had, and even he couldn't see the real pain inside of me.

But Gaara… when Shikamaru and I had caught him in Lee's hospital room and he'd told us about the monster inside of him, I realized that I wasn't as alone as I'd thought. No matter how many friends I made, I always felt alone, because none of them could understand me. But this man, Sabaku no Gaara, he knew. He knew the anguish that I did. He understood how hard it was to be a Jinchuriki. He was the only one…

I heard him sigh, softly, and I knew he was thinking the same thing. Gaara was never one to talk much, but I didn't really mind. We didn't need to talk. It was nice to just be with him. There was something about him… a feeling I had toward him that I didn't have toward any of my other friends. Sasuke came close, but even he hadn't earned this feeling that I couldn't identify.

"Naruto." He said softly, pressing on my shoulder only slightly.


"When are you going to become Hokage?"

At first I thought he was teasing me, but his face was serious, almost sad.

"I don't know, why?"

"No reason." He looked away, hiding himself from me.

"Gaara." I reached out and gripped his chin, ignoring the way he flinched away from the contact. I knew he didn't like to be touched, but I wanted to know what was wrong. "Why do you ask?"

He looked at me with empty eyes and smiled sadly.

"Because when you do, you won't be able to visit me anymore."

I blinked once, twice. Had he just said that? Did Gaara actually want to see me? Was he as anxious to see my face as I was his every time I came here?

"I don't know why, but every time Konoha sends shinobi here, I sit on the rooftop and look for you." His eyes fell to his lap, away from me.

"I do the same thing!" I told him, leaning a little harder on him, craving more contact, and he pushed back, until our sides were completely pressed together, shoulder to hip.

"Naruto, you didn't answer my question." Gaara reminded me. It was true, I hadn't, but then, I had never looked at it that way. When I become Hokage, I won't be able to see him anymore.

"I know I didn't. It's just… I don't know if I'd be able to handle not seeing you. I mean, we barely see each other as it is, I can't imagine only seeing you once a year."

Then Gaara did something that made my breath stop and my heart thump. He laid his head on my shoulder. I looked at him sideways, surprised, but his eyes were closed.

"I feel the same way." Gaara whispered, and my heart slammed itself against my ribs yet again. "But then, I can't just ask you not to become Hokage, can I?"

"No, I suppose not." I answered, looking up at the clouds, and wishing he would ask me.

We sat in silence again for time unmeasured, until a flare of chakra behind us made both of us turn. It was Kankurou.

"Kazekage-sama, the elders request an audience." Kankurou said, his head bowed, and Gaara sighed, rising to his feel gracefully.

"Kankurou, stop calling me that." He said, running a pale hand through his rust-colored hair. I smiled up at him and also rose to my feet. I should be getting back…

"Naruto, why don't you come with me?" Gaara suggested, surprising both myself as well as Kankurou, judging from the way he looked up at his brother and leader.


"Because, it would show those damned elders that there really is a lasting peace between our villages." Gaara was standing there in that way of his, looking relaxed, impatient even, but if you really knew him you would see how alert he was. I nodded and followed him as we ran across the rooftops of the sand village. I knew that his eyes moved constantly over this city, whose people he had come to care for. He was always on the lookout for danger, for any sign of misfortune that might befall his village.

We arrived at our destination quickly, and landed silently on the packed dirt in front of the building. Gaara led the way inside, his head held high, and I followed closely, only a few steps behind. I had the sudden urge to reach out and grasp his hand, but I fought it off and instead pulled out my Anbu mask, slipping it on quickly just before we entered the meeting room.

I knew that in my all black outfit, with my face hidden behind the fox mask, I could look intimidating, but that wasn't my intention. Gaara wanted someone from Konoha to demonstrate the strong bond between our villages. The least I could do was be a powerful ally for him. He cast an approving look over his shoulder, and then we swept into the noisy room, which fell silent almost instantly.

It was a huge room, with a round table in the center, surrounded by ornately carved chairs. Most of them were occupied by hunched old men and tired-looking old women. There was one empty chair, which I assumed belonged to Gaara.

I could feel their eyes on me, as if they were trying to burn their way into my soul, but I ignored them. My own gaze was set straight ahead, my back stiff and my arms loose at my sides. I was Anbu, after all. Now was the time to get serious.

"Good afternoon, elders. You wished to see me?"

"Good afternoon, Kazekage-sama." Came the reply in unison.

"Kazekage, why is there a member of Konoha's Anbu here?" One of the old men at the other end of the long table asked, and I smiled behind my mask as they nodded and turned questioning eyes to me.

"Because, Konoha is our ally, and a strong one at that. Since we have no secrets from our allies, I see no reason why he should not accompany me." Gaara explained smoothly as he made his way to his chair. I stood silent and still just behind his right shoulder, and watched him from behind the mask. I stared at him, admiring his profile, as he talked about something random and pointless with the elders.

My attention was caught only when I heard the word 'assassination'.

"There have been reports of a sound ninja in the area, Kazekage. We assume he is plotting an assassination." One of the women said, and I looked at her quickly. I did not want to believe such a thing, but then, if she were a liar I doubt Gaara would keep her on his elder council. Besides, the title of Kazekage did not come without its danger, so it really wasn't too hard to believe.

"I see. I will dispatch a team at once to search the area." Gaara replied without missing a beat, signing some piece of paper another elder slid in front of him. My mind was busy planning my own actions regarding this new information, so I didn't notice one of the elders staring at me.

"What is your name, Anbu boy?" She barked at me, and I glanced at her, not responding.

"Elder, he is of Anbu, you know they have no names." Gaara chided without looking up.

"I know his scent from somewhere, I do not think he can be trusted." She retaliated, her voice rising just a bit.

"He can be trusted elder, I can assure you of that." I heard the anger rising in Gaara's voice, though it didn't appear that the elders did. Some of them were whispering amongst themselves, their bodies tensing and eyes darting toward me.

I let my knees bend slightly and my arms relax, hands loose and near my kunai.

"I think Kazekage-sama's judgment is clouded! Perhaps you are under the influence of this man!" The woman rose from her seat in anger, and I prepared myself. It didn't matter if I was Anbu or not. There were eleven elder ninja in this room, all extremely well trained and experts in their craft. There was no way I was getting out of this room alive if they decided I was a threat to their leader.

I was saved the trouble of trying to survive, however, when Gaara rose from his seat, his chakra almost tangible in his anger. The ground beneath our feet shifted and the woman was thrown against the wall and pinned there by a giant hand of sand.

"Do not question my judgment, elder." Gaara snarled, and I saw that his eyes were far too wild to be considered sane. I knew why he was angry, and it pleased me that he would go to such lengths to defend me, but we had a new problem now. There were footsteps a floor above us that did not sound as if they belonged.

I laid a hand on Gaara's shoulder, and he looked at me. I was looking up at the ceiling, however, because the footsteps had stopped suddenly. What was going on? Gaara released the old lady, and she fell to the floor, gasping for breath. The other elders were staring at her, amazed that the Kazekage would do such a thing, when suddenly they were caught in a rather potent genjutsu.

Gaara and myself, who had possessed the foresight to realize that the attack was coming, dispelled it quickly and searched the room for the intruder. There were two, both staring directly at Gaara. Their eyes moved uncertainly to me, looking back and forth between us as if unsure if they should continue.

"Well?" Gaara taunted, and I resisted the urge to gape at him. What the hell was he doing? I didn't have time to wonder, though, since the sound ninja decided to attack at that moment. They went for Gaara first, who leapt back easily. We fled the room and raced for the door leading outside.

Gaara was thinking that we would be less likely to hurt innocent bystanders if we took the fight to the roof. I was thinking that it would be easier to maneuver out in the open, as well as avoid any unnecessary property damage.

The sound ninja followed us closely, only a few steps behind as we made our way outside, up the side of the building, and finally to the roof. Once out in the sunshine and clear of any civilians, Gaara and I turned, facing our attackers.

"Go away, Anbu. This has nothing to do with you." One of them snarled at me, and I smiled behind my mask, answering him with a kunai in the stomach. He fell to his knees with a groan, and his partner stared at me.

"I didn't even see him move." The first ninja groaned, bent over in pain.

"It's nothing. He just got lucky." The second said, and drew his own weapons. Gaara was standing there silently, letting me do my thing, and I was grateful. I wasn't worried about him getting hurt because I knew he was powerful and could handle himself in a battle, but it was easier for me to fight if I didn't have to track the position of someone I wasn't supposed to be attacking.

And so the two would be assassins were defeated in five minutes. The first took another kunai to the stomach and one to the throat before he could even get up. The second was a little more challenging, since he seemed to actually have some training. But with a full powered rasengan shuriken to the chest, there are few who would get back up. He was not one of them.

I didn't notice the cheers from below until I saw Gaara waving. I looked down through my mask at the crowd that had somehow gathered in that short amount of time. The elders were there, apparently freed from the genjutsu, as well as an ample amount of townspeople. In the back of the crowd I spotted Sakura and Sai, dressed in their Anbu outfits and I nodded to them.

Gaara grabbed my arm and pulled me back from the edge of the roof, out of sight. I turned to look at him, and he smiled. My knees went weak at the sight.

"Thank you, Naruto."

Chapter Two

As a result of the assassination attempt by the sound, Tsunade decided to leave Sakura, Sai, and I in the sand village as extra protection for the Kazekage. It was fine with me, but Sakura didn't seem too happy. Probably because she didn't want to be away from Shizune for so long. The two of them had only recently started getting serious, much to Lee's dismay.

But I suppose it was for the best, since he is now happily part of the least expected couple in Konoha. I mean, who knew a guy like him would end up with Shino? I always pictured Shino as a 'gimme the girls' kind of guy… Their relationship has been rocky at best, but I think they can pull through.

After Hinata and Neji's forbidden love scandal which was really just a night where they got drunk and ended up fcking by mistake, Hinata started going blushy-fainty around Kiba suddenly, and last I heard they were making wedding plans.

Chouji and Ino have been together forever it seems, and Neji and Tenten, who miraculously made it through the incest outrage, are as strong as ever.

Shikamaru and Temari are an odd couple. Since both seem to find relationships 'troublesome', they're really just a couple of friends that fck whenever they see each other and don't bother with any of the other formalities of dating.

As far as everyone in Konoha is concerned, I'm the only one of our group left alone. The girls are always trying to set me up with different people, and don't seem to get the hint when I never show up. I don't want to tell them that I'm not interested in dating, because that's not true. I do want someone to be there with me when I'm alone at night, and I want someone to walk hand in hand with in the rain, but it seems every time I think about going on a date, I picture Gaara's face, and I feel guilty.

I don't understand it, but his face is always there in my mind. I miss him when we're not together, and when we are together I can't seem to get enough of him. Why is it that my heart aches so much when I think about not being able to see him?

I asked Iruka and Kakashi once what this feeling was. They'd smiled at each other in that way of theirs and told me I was in love.

No way.

Iruka and Kakashi are in love. They gaze at each other all day, walk around town in a daze, have picnics in the fields… at least, when Kakashi-sensei isn't off killing people they do. I'm not like that. I don't act like that, so this can't be love, right?

"Naruto." Gaara's impatient voice jolted me from my thoughts and I looked at him. "Stop daydreaming."

"I wasn't." I answered him, turning back to watch whatever was going on up there. Ah, a play. That's right. We were at the annual festival, watching the play that would end the first day. Gaara was sitting in his big chair that looked an awful lot like a throne in the blue and white Kazekage robes, and I was standing next to him, scanning the crowd for threats. Sakura was up on a roof across the courtyard, and Sai was next to the stage.

"You were daydreaming." Gaara whispered, smirking.

"Don't worry, I was still being alert, Kazekage-sama." I bit at him, my voice thick with annoyance. Damn him. How could he tell I was daydreaming? I have my mask on, dammit. Did he think that I was slacking off?

"Don't call me that." He hissed at me after a pause, and I felt his anger rolling off of him in waves.

"Yes sir." I responded, my own anger rising.

"Anbu shinobi of Konoha, I relieve you of your post. Leave me at once." He snapped. Great. Now he was pouting. Fine. I disappeared in a swirl of smoke and leaves, reappearing silently a few yards behind him.

I didn't want to be apart from him, no matter how angry I was. I was surprised at how much it hurt that he had ordered me away. I stood behind him in the shadows, watching the crowd as if I were still by his side. I know he felt me there, but he didn't tell me to leave, and slowly I felt his anger recede.

I fell into my thoughts again, about how in only two weeks we would have to return to Konoha. When would I see him again? I didn't want to be back here in the shadows when I had so little time to spend by his side. Even if I were only to spend it standing silent as his guard, I wanted to be there beside him.

My eyes caught and clung to his hand as it appeared on the side of his huge chair. He crooked his finger, and I smiled, jumping into the air and landing silently by his side again. He didn't say anything, and neither did I. We just watched the play, then left.

I brought him to his house, a huge building near the edge of the village. There were ninja everywhere. I could feel them, in the trees, on the roof, fanning out through the city, watching over their leader's home. There seemed to be far too many to be normal, until I realized that slowly their numbers were dwindling. Shift change.

"Goodnight, Anbu." Gaara smiled in the darkness, and I nodded to him, disappearing into the shadows. I watched him until he was in the house, and waited for the light in his bedroom to turn on. I knew he hated that huge house, but it was the Kazekage's house, and he was all but obligated to live there.

With an internal sigh I made my way for the edge of the city. All my guard duty had kept me from my daily training exercises. I landed in the dust of the sun-baked desert and looked around. I could see for miles under the bright moonlight. Miles of nothing. This place… it was such a lonely place. No trees to sigh in the wind, no rivers to cut their way through the land, determined to find their way to sea. There were no little animals scurrying about, living their lives in the ever-growing forest.

Then again… the moon was so bright. There were no leaves to block the stars, no bright lights to dull their shine. I stood there, staring up at the glittering beauty above me until I sensed chakra drawing near. Sakura.

"Naruto, what are you doing with that look on your face?" She called out in a teasing voice.

"Nothing! Just thinking about stuff!" I called back to her, rubbing the back of my head in a sheepish manner and pulling off my mask to reveal a dopey grin. She shook her head like she always did and sighed. Sai appeared a few seconds later, and we began sparring while Sakura took off on her nightly five mile run, her feet pounding into the sand. Sai and I exchanged blows until Sakura came back, then we started the real training.

I felt a faint chakra signature, and paused midstep, almost getting nailed in the face by Sakura's kunai. It was Gaara, and he wasn't far away. He was on a rooftop on the edge of town, watching us fight it out in the sea of sand that was his home. I dodged a huge lion that appeared to be made of ink and raced at Sai, who pulled out more of his scroll in a flash. His brush flew over the paper and before I had even reached him there was a huge dog snapping its jaws at me.

"Dammit, Sai, play fair!" I yelled at him with excitement in my voice as I jumped around, keeping just out of reach of those ridiculously long fangs.

"Aw, come on, fox boy. Too hard for you?" He called back, laughing. Sakura took advantage of both of our distracted states and we each caught a kunai in the shoulder.

"Ow! Dammit, Sakura!" I yelled, but I was smiling. I loved training with these two. There was no need to hold back. Every night we went at each other with all we had, and every night someone else came out victorious.

"That's what you get for chatting during a battle, dumbass!" She yelled at me. "I'm tired, let's stop for tonight."

"Alright." Sai answered, pulling the kunai out of his shoulder without even batting an eye. I walked over to where the two of them stood and smiled.

"Sakura wins tonight. I swear I'll get you tomorrow, Sai." I teased and Sakura shook her head again, yanking the kunai out of my shoulder with a little more force than necessary.

"I should just let you dumb men bleed to death." She sighed as she placed a hand on each of our shoulders, healing us quickly.

"That's not nice Sakura-chan!" I teased her, laughing. I received a hard punch in the face that sent me flying. As usual, calling her 'chan' makes her furious. I twisted in the air and landed on my feet, already running out into the desert. Sakura might run five miles a night, but I had fifteen ahead of me, and if I wanted to get any sleep tonight, I couldn't waste any more time with them.

The two of them waved to me and headed back for their rooms, leaving me alone in the desert once again.

There is something about running that just calms the soul. When I run I'm always alone, but I never feel lonely. Whether it's the wind on my face, the rhythmic pounding of my feet on the ground, or simply the fact that the physical exertion seems to wash away all the stress of the day, running always makes me feel better. It clears my head and makes me feel alive.

By the time I got back to the village the moon was already on its path down to earth. Only a few more hours until the sky would begin to lighten with dawn's first rays. Gaara was still there, waiting for me to come back. I suppose he thought he was suppressing his chakra enough to hide it from me, but I would sense him anywhere.

"Gaara, stop hiding from me." I called into the nighttime as I stretched my cramped legs.

"Naruto, you are too perceptive." He responded, appearing next to me in a swirl of sand.

"No, I'm not. You can't hide from me, Gaara, I can always feel when you are near me." I corrected him, and smiled when I caught a slight blush spread across his cheeks.

"Well, I just wanted to watch you." He said quietly, turning is face away. As usual he was hiding himself from me. Why was he so afraid? Did he think I was going to hurt him?

"Still can't sleep?" I asked, wiping sweat from my face with my shirt. I caught his eyes moving over my flat stomach and I swallowed my smile.

"Nope. Even though it's gone, I haven't been able to sleep." He sighed, looking up at the stars. Before the Akatsuki had taken Shukaku out of Gaara, effectively killing him, Gaara had been unable to sleep due to the fact that if he fell asleep, Shukaku would take over his body. After being killed by the Akatsuki and revived by Chiyo-sama, Gaara still found it impossible to sleep, despite the fact that Shukaku was no longer a part of him.

"Do you want me to stay with you?" I asked, letting my shirt fall back into place. The cool night air felt like heaven against my burning skin, and being with Gaara made this night perfect.

"No, that's alright. You need your sleep." He said and turned to leave. I caught his wrist and turned him around quickly. He tripped and fell against me, and I took advantage of the moment to close my arms around him for the first time.

So I was wrong. Cold night air? Hell. Warm Gaara cuddled in my arms? Heaven. He stood there for a moment, obviously pretending to be too surprised to move, though the way his fingers gripped the back of my shirt gave him away.

"I don't mind." I whispered into his hair. When had I gotten taller than him? "I'll stay with you."

"Alright." He pulled away slowly, as if he had to force himself to do so. I know I had to force myself to let go… We ended up back on the rooftop of the highest building in the city, lying side by side and staring at the stars. At some point the weariness in my body took over and I drifted off to sleep. When I woke the sun was rising and Gaara was gone. It hurt me more than it should have not to have him there.

"Gaara…" I whispered to no one. Why do you make me feel this way?

Chapter Three

"I'm sorry I left you alone again last night." Gaara said, looking up at me with his usual blank stare.

"It's alright." I answered, gently running my hand down his arm to comfort him. For the past two weeks now, we'd spent every night together, sitting on the rooftops, and I always woke up alone. He apologized every morning, and every morning I assured him that it was fine.

We were standing in his office, a drab room with little personality. For a while I'd thought Tsunade's office was boring, but Gaara's was simply sad. At least Tsunade's had a big window with a view of the city.

This office was dim, like many of the rooms I'd been in so far in this village. His desk, unlike Tsunade's, whose desk was always piled high with work that needed to be done, was bare, and the only other furniture in the room was his chair, a huge bookshelf with neatly organized books, and two more chairs sitting on the opposite side of his desk for clients to sit in.

He was looking up at me with those eyes, and I smiled at him. Sakura and Sai had already left to return to Konoha, and I was expecting a letter from Tsunade any time now scolding me for not returning with them. I knew it would arrive soon, and she would lecture me about the importance of having three members to a team, and about how I need to learn to follow orders, yadda, yadda, yadda…

What was I supposed to say? That I didn't want to go home? That I wanted to stay here in this sun-baked land? I couldn't tell her that there was a part of me that ached horribly when I thought of leaving, and that somewhere, deep inside of me, there was a voice telling me to stay by his side forever.

"Naruto, you are thinking too hard. It's not like you." Gaara teased me, and his empty eyes glittered for a moment, making my heart jump.

"I was just thinking about how I don't want to leave you." I said quietly, and froze. Wait… had I just said that out loud? I looked at Gaara quickly, and cringed. Yes, I had. He was staring at me with a shocked look on his face, and I shrugged quickly, trying to mask my discomfort.

"What did you say?" He asked after a long pause, and I sighed.

"I said I don't want to leave you. Is that what you want to hear?" I was frustrated with myself for saying such a thing to him, and my anger was ruining my mood. I was being cross with him, and it wasn't fair, but I couldn't help it. "Does that make you happy? I want to stay here with you. I don't want to go home. I want to be here, in this village, forever with you."

I was speaking quickly and my anger was evident in my voice, but Gaara didn't seem to notice. He stood, slowly; his eyes big and his mouth open slightly as he looked at me in wonder.

"Do you really mean that?" He whispered, and I sighed again in exasperation.

"Yes. Now, if you'll excuse me…" I walked past him, my heart racing. I needed to get out of here. That look on his face made me want to hold him, and self-control was never my strong point. I was almost around the desk when a surprisingly strong hand grabbed my wrist and whipped me around.

Caught off-guard, I stumbled, but Gaara's grip never loosened. He waited for me to right myself, and as soon as I looked up, ready to yell at him and demand an explanation, his mouth was suddenly there, pressing against my own.

My body froze, my mind went blank, and my world diminished to this moment, this room, and this man in front of me. His lips were warm and surprisingly soft, as they pressed almost innocently against my own. Fire spread through my veins as his hand slid from my wrist up my bare arm, his touch feather light and almost afraid.

'What…' Gaara was kissing me. Sabaku no Gaara, the man that had invaded my mind and reigned over my dreams, the man that set my whole body on fire with just one look, was kissing me.

Before I knew what I was doing my arms were around him and I was pressing him back against the desk. He didn't resist, and when he sprawled back across the desktop, his body welcomed my weight when I crawled atop him. I attacked his mouth like there was no tomorrow, shoving my tongue into that sweet cavern and exploring. His moan only turned me on more, and I pulled back, gasping for breath. He lay there, panting, staring up at me with hazy eyes. An attractive pink flush stained his pale cheeks and I tried as hard as I could to gather my wits.

"Gaara…" I panted, looking down at him. I was kneeling between his legs, supporting my weight with my arms on either side of him. He was lying there beneath me, looking sexy as hell with his hair tousled and his body shaking. "We shouldn't…"

The heavens opened up before my eyes as Gaara smiled at me, and my resolve inched that much closer to snapping.

"Naruto-kun…" He sighed, and I moaned, closing my eyes in an attempt to fight off the urge to devour him again. With a sigh Gaara pushed himself up on his elbows and looked at me until I opened my eyes again. "Am I not good enough?"

I gaped at him openly. How could he think that? Wasn't it obvious how much I wanted him? My arms were shaking from the effort of holding my body away from his.

"Don't ask me that." I said brokenly, and I felt tears burning in my eyes.

"I'm not good enough, am I?" Gaara's gaze turned cold again, and I could see him closing up, locking me out.

"Gaara, don't do that!" I cried, grabbing him suddenly and pulling him into a hug. His body was stiff in my arms and he didn't return the embrace. "It's not you. You know I'd be willing to do anything you ask." I whispered into his hair, and I cringed slightly at the cynical laugh I heard from him. He pulled away and looked somewhere over my shoulder.

"You'd be willing to do anything?" He sneered, disbelieving.

"Anything for you." I said, staring into his empty eyes.

"Are you willing to die?"

The question. He had asked me the question I had always wanted to ask others. So many people offer their support and make empty promises… this was the question. Was I really willing to do anything for him? Was I willing to die?

"Yes." I answered without hesitation, and his gaze turned to me again, startled. "I am willing to die for you, Gaara. I would give it all away if you asked me to. Sasuke, Hokage, everything."

That's when I saw the one thing I thought I would never see as long as I lived. Gaara, who so carefully controlled his emotions, so meticulously schooled his face into a mask of indifference, began to cry. At first it was a single tear that slipped unnoticed from a startled eye, then it seemed that all the pain he had gone through, all the suffering and heartache, simply broke loose and he collapsed against me, sobbing uncontrollably.

I'll never understand what it is girls like about a man that can cry. No matter who it is, a grown man crying is not an attractive thing. Even Gaara failed to make crying pretty, although he did come close. As I carried his sniffling and worn out body back to his house, making sure to avoid any people on the way, I wondered why women were attracted to it.

It was still daylight, but Gaara was exhausted, so I carried him to his house, snuck in through an open window on the top floor, and carried him to his room.

"Naruto…" Came a weak voice after I had laid him down and turned to leave. A soft hand on my arm stopped me and I looked back at him. "Stay with me." His face was open, his mask gone. All of his pain inside was laid out there before me, bared for me to see. If I rejected him now I knew he would never open himself to anyone again. Still, I didn't know if it was a good idea for a Konoha Anbu member to climb into bed with the Sand Village's Kazekage.

"Shouldn't I just sit outside or something?" I asked him, uncertain.

"No. Stay." He insisted, and I finally gave in, sliding in beside him under the covers. He snuggled against me as soon as I was settled, and I folded his thin body into my arms, holding him close as he sighed tiredly.

We were silent for a long time before I heard his breathing change. Surprised, I looked down, and found him sleeping soundly. I smiled happily and hugged him, burying my face in his soft hair and drifting off to sleep myself.

Chapter Four

I opened my eyes the next morning and couldn't help the smile that played its way across my face. For the first time since we'd started spending nights our together, Gaara was there when I woke up. He was sound asleep and still curled against me. The sunlight slanted in through the windows, illuminating the tiny bits of dust that chased each other through the air.

"Gaara…" I whispered, not wanting to wake him but knowing that I had to.

"Mmm…" He purred, snuggling closer, and I felt something stirring in lower regions as I stared at him.

"Wake up." I shook his shoulder, and he opened his eyes slowly.

"Naruto?" He yawned stretching like a cat before letting his arms fall around me again.

"Yeah, I'm here, now get up."

"Why? We just went to bed." He protested, pulling the blanket over his head. I laughed and got up, ignoring his complaining whine.

"No, we slept all through the night, and now it's morning again." I informed him, sliding to the door and checking the hallway.

The coast was clear. I didn't sense any intruders.

I walked to the bed and yanked the blanket off of him, only to freeze where I stood, my playful grin stuck on my face. At some point in the night, Gaara had managed to remove his clothes.

… And how hadn't I noticed that?

He was lying there on his back, his lithe body stretched out, one leg casually raised and strategically placed to shield that one place I most wanted to see.

He was surprisingly pale for a man that lived in the desert, his skin smooth and unmarked with the exception of a small scar on his left shoulder, a wound he'd received from Sasuke. His shaggy rust-colored hair fell attractively around his face, and his sleep-hazed eyes were gazing at me, as if begging for me to ravage him.

After the shock wore off I hurriedly turned away, forcing myself to tear my eyes from his gorgeous body. But even looking away didn't erase the image from my mind.

"Naruto-kun…" He purred, and I steeled myself against it. My body was betraying my desires, but I'd be damned if I gave in to them. I heard him moving on the bed, but I wasn't ready for the hand that suddenly cupped my manhood through my pants. "Am I that attractive?" Gaara teased, and I turned my body away.

"Of course you are, now please get dressed, Kazekage-sama." I answered him abruptly, throwing the blanket back onto the bed and quickly striding out into the hallway.

I leaned against the wall, breathing heavily and trying to gather my wits. My face was flushed, I could feel it, and my whole body was shaking. It wasn't fair. How could one man have such an affect on me?

Minutes later Gaara was dressed and we were on our way. For the first time I noticed just how different he was when he was with me. Alone in his office or in his bedroom he was fragile and almost innocent, but once we were outside and he assumed his duties as the Kazekage, he was Sabaku no Gaara, one of the greatest shinobi of our time.

He carried his huge container of sand like it weighed nothing, and his face was serious when he spoke. His eyes held that same strange mixture of calm psychosis that they had so long ago, the look that made you wonder when he was going to snap next and kill everyone around him.

We met up with Kankurou as we were walking around the city, and he decided to join us. Gaara walked ahead, and Kankurou and I started talking.

"Does he ever act different around you, Kankurou?" I asked him, and the man looked at me as if I'd asked the most random question one could ask.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, right now I don't see much of a difference between how his is and how he was when we were kids, do you?" I gestured to Gaara, and Kankurou shook his head.

"He's changed a lot. He's not obsessed with killing anymore. Now he just wants to be accepted. He wants to protect his people."

"I know that, but if someone were to look at him then and now, would they see a difference?" I asked him, speaking low so that Gaara wouldn't be able to hear us.

"No, I suppose not." Kankurou answered me. I nodded. Gaara purposely schooled his face into that killing mask so that no one doubted his strength. It was so important to him that he be acknowledged by his people that he refused to show any sign of weakness.

"But when he's alone with me, he changes completely. He turns into a lonesome child that needs attention and someone to cling to. Does he change around you too?" I asked, meeting Kankurou's eyes. He shook his head.

"No, he doesn't."

"So I'm special?" I wondered, looking up at Gaara, who was being greeted by an old lady.

"Of course you are. Don't you know, Naruto? Gaara lo-"

"Kankurou! Don't you have something to do?" Gaara interrupted him, throwing a scalding glance over his shoulder.

"Ah, you're right, Kazekage-sama. Excuse me." Kankurou bowed to Gaara, and smirked at me for a moment before disappearing, leaving me to wonder what he was going to say.

The wind sighed past us as if it were bored as we sat on the rooftop watching the sun set again. A long day of greeting the villagers, sorting new missions, giving instructions to the shinobi, and meeting a visiting noblemen - plus the fact that we had encountered Tsunade's messenger around noon telling me to come home immediately - had left Gaara just this side of cranky.

"Naruto, when are you going back?" He whispered as the sun dipped lower, sinking below the horizon and relinquishing the sky to the moon.

"I don't know. Why?" I answered, falling onto my back to watch the stars blink into existence.

"… I don't want you to leave."

It was so quiet that the wind almost snatched it away before it reached me. I looked over at him, my heart breaking at the lost look on his face.

"Gaara… I've loved every second that I've spent with you these past two weeks, and there's nothing I'd like more than to stay here with you, but-" I was interrupted when he suddenly turned around and fell on me, wrapping his arms around my neck like he'd never let me go.

"Naruto… I don't want to lose you too. Not you… please don't leave me…" His voice was broken and I had to fight back the tears it brought to my eyes. I wrapped my arms around him securely and felt his shoulders shake. He was crying.

"Gaara…" I moaned, hugging him closer.

When darkness had finally settled on the world, night found us back in Gaara's bed. He was naked again, but not me. I was fully clothed, holding his hands above his head as I kissed and licked my way down his throat.

"Naruto…" he breathed, and I had to pause, breathing heavily. The way he said my name…

"Don't worry, Kazekage-sama. You won't be sleeping tonight." I teased him, then resumed my mission of mapping his body with my tongue.

Chapter Five

Dammit! I hate bugs. I'll never understand why Shino loves them so much. Hell, I'd never understand how there could be an entire clan devoted to them. Disgusting creatures…

Unfortunately, just as I was getting to the good part and had Gaara panting and writhing beneath me, an Anbu member decided to show up in the doorway and damn near drag me back to Konoha, direct orders from Tsunade. Stupid old hag!

So here I was, running through the trees with a seemingly rabid swarm of blood-sucking insects in hot pursuit, and two Anbu members making sure I didn't turn back to finish what I'd started, (and left), in Gaara's bed.

I wasn't so much upset that I'd been dragged away from Gaara's embrace and forced to run with a very uncomfortable bulk in my pants. I was more upset that these stupid shinobi had made Gaara make that face. The face that broke my heart. His eyes were so sad and lonely, his expression forlorn as I walked away. Then, just as I left the room, he'd forced himself to look stoic and uncaring again. I hated that look on him.

"Gaara…" I sighed under my breath, saddened.

"Did you say something, Naruto?" Came the voice of one of the Anbu running parallel with me on my left.

"No." I snapped back, pulling my fox Anbu mask over my face and bending over, placing my hands on the branches as well as my feet as if I were running four legged. Usually I only ran like this when I went into my kyubbi form, but I didn't feel like having company right now, and if I ran with both my arms and my legs, I could move twice as fast. "I'll see you guys back in Konoha." I called before racing ahead and leaving shinobi and bug alike far behind me.

Normally the trek from the sand village to Konoha takes three days. I made it in one, without resting at all. I arrived at the gates and strode into the city, ignoring the few people that were around. It was night again, and many of the city's population had gone to bed. I heard familiar laughter from a bar as I passed, so I pulled off my mask and ducked inside.

"Naruto! You're back!" Came a drunken holler from the bar.

"Hey Lee." I said, going to sit with my friends.

"Where did you run off to?" Shikamaru asked me as I sat in the circular booth. Temari was trying her hardest to get Shikamaru to go to the hotel with her, Shino was sitting silently as usual, watching Lee make a fool of himself up by the bar, and Kiba was half asleep, drooling on the table. Akamaru was lying on the floor nearby, his huge head up and watching every movement in the place.

"I was in the sand village. Tsunade assigned me to guard the Kazekage because there was an assassination attempt." I answered Shikamaru's question.

"Liar!" Kiba cried suddenly, somehow managing to sway even though he was only sitting up straight. "Sakura and Sai were assigned to do that, and they… hic… already came back!"

"Kiba, it's late, shouldn't you be getting back to your fiancée?" I teased him, and his eyes cleared for a moment as he realized that it was, in fact, very late.

"I guess you're right! Damn, Hinata's gonna kill me!"

"Hinata wouldn't kill you." I laughed and he playfully punched my shoulder a little too hard.

"You have no idea! That woman… hic… is a real tiger when she gets mad!" I stood up to let Kiba out, and he stumbled over to flop on Akamaru's back. The huge white canine stood and trotted off into the darkness, Kiba already snoring away on his back.

"Shikamaru-kuuuun…" Temari whined. "Come on, I want it." She was obviously trying to be sexy and alluring. I looked at her for a while as Shikamaru talked to Shino, ignoring her.

Temari was a great drinker; I knew that, so she must have been drinking all day to get into the state she was in now. Her blond hair was wild and had come loose from her four ponytails in various places, and it fell around her flushed face attractively. Her shirt had been loosened and had fallen off one shoulder, revealing a sexy expanse of pale skin. She was beautiful, that was for sure. But I couldn't help but compare her to Gaara. Next to Gaara, she was plain and boring.

Apparently Shikamaru thought otherwise. Finally succumbing to the mischievous girl's demands, he looked at her with a lazy, crooked smile.

"Tch… why do always end up drunk when we go out?" He asked, sounding annoyed. "You're so troublesome."

The two of them stood and walked out of the bar. Well, I suppose it would be more accurate to say that Shikamaru stood, then supported Temari, and together they sort of stumbled out of the bar, obviously headed for the hotel across the street.

I sat there, tired and depressed with a silent Shino, who was staring at a now unconscious Lee who had apparently passed out in the middle of a drunken jig. He was standing there, swaying slightly, one leg and both arms raised up, snoring. Shino stood and went to him, dodging a half-hearted swing at his jaw as if he were used to such things, and hoisted his lover over his shoulder.

"Good night, Naruto." He said to me, and I nodded. Then they, too, left me. I sat there alone for a while, staring at the empty glasses and beer cans, thinking of Gaara. I was so absorbed in my own thoughts that I didn't notice when another body slid into the booth next to me.

"Don't think too hard, Naruto-kun. You'll hurt yourself." Came a bland voice next to me that I knew well.

"Hey Sai."

"When did you get back?"

"Just now."

"Impressive. Tsunade's messengers had to arrive only a day ago. You were that upset?" As always the man had an annoying way of being able to read my every mood, and I nodded. There was no use lying to him.


"You really like Gaara-kun, don't you?" He said, drawing a tiger with his fingertip in the spilled alcohol on the table.


"You know, Tsunade said she's probably going to step down as Hokage soon."

"Yeah." It took a moment for my brain to register what Sai had said in his monotonous voice. "Wait, what?!"

"Tsunade is retiring. That's why she called you back." Sai looked at me with those dark eyes that seemed cold yet innocent. "Apparently you're the number one candidate for the next successor of Hokage."

My brain wasn't working properly at that moment, so I had to ask Sai to repeat himself three times before I got it. When realization finally dawned, I leapt from my seat and ran for the door.

"Congratulations, Naruto-kun!" Sai called after me as I raced into the night, headed for the Hokage's building.

Chapter Six

It was raining, as if the sky itself felt my pain and was weeping for me. Indeed, Tsunade had decided to give me the title of Hokage, but not because she was retiring. Because she was dying.

Despite the fact that I always called her a stupid old lady, my mind seemed to overlook the fact that 'old lady' meant 'old'. That underneath her twenty-something exterior, Tsunade was actually almost sixty. Apparently her health was failing and there was nothing she or any of her medic nin could do about it.

"Naruto, don't look so gloomy." I heard her say from behind me. I'd been standing here staring at the dark sky and wondering if the gods really did feel the way my heart was tearing apart. Not only did this mean that sooner than I'd hoped I'd be losing the only mother I have ever known, but I would also be losing my only love for good.

"You love him, don't you, Naruto?" Came Tsunade's soft voice behind me, and I turned my head to the side, showing her my profile but not looking at her.

"…Yes. Very much." I answered, nodding.

"Go to him. You have four days until the ceremony."

Yes, only four days. Such short notice… though when I had brought this fact to Tsunade's attention she had used it as an excuse to yell at me for not coming back sooner. I suppose she was right. If I had come home when I was supposed to, I would have known sooner.

"I don't know if that's a good idea." I answered her, turning to look at the rain again.

"It's alright. Go say your goodbyes. I'll be fine until you get back." Her hand fell almost heavily on my shoulder and I looked back at her. She looked tired, but happy.

"Are you sure?" I pushed, not entirely sure myself if I could do what she asked. If I went back to him now, would I even be able to come home?

"I'm sure. I trust you, Naruto." Her eyes were soft as she hugged me closely, and I held her back. She really was like a mother to me. An ill-tempered, violent, gambling-addicted mother. "I'll see you soon."

For some reason her voice sounded sad as she said that, and I almost didn't believe her. But her smile eased my worries, and I nodded, disappearing instantly. I began the long trek back to the sand village.

I was tired and cold, and I still hadn't eaten anything, but I didn't care. I needed to be with Gaara. I needed to spend every second I could with him. After this, I would only see him once a year, at the chunin exams.

Somewhere along the line I ended up passing my previous escorts, and they stared at me as if wondering if they should give chase.

"Ask the Hokage!" I cried back to them before disappearing through the trees. I was running as fast as I could, leaping from one tree branch to the next like it was solid ground, my eyes fixed straight ahead and my mind trained on one thing.


Four days. It wasn't enough. It would never be enough. I wanted to spend every day of my life with him. I had four days. My heart skipped as my mind made this realization. I really did love him. I did want to spend my forever by his side. Life has a funny way of screwing you over like that, I suppose.

The rain pelted my face like needles as I ran. It was a cold, cruel rain, driven by a hard wind that shrieked through the trees like a banshee, tearing at my soaked clothes and chilling me to the bone. I growled in frustration, and pushed myself to run faster. The cold kept me awake. The pain kept me going. I had to get to Gaara today. The sun had not yet risen, and I was planning to reach him before it set in the evening.

There would be no rest for me tonight. I ran and ran until I was sure I would collapse, then I ran some more. By the time the trees gave way to sand and I began dashing across the dunes, racing the sun, my legs were completely numb and I could barely see where I was going. At least it wasn't raining…

I reached the city and ran like a blur through the streets, scaring the people and ending up with three of Gaara's best guards on my tail. I lost them easily and burst into the Kazekage's house.

"Gaara!" I cried, and collapsed to my knees on the marble floor of the foyer. "Gaara…" I had meant to scream it, but it came out as a sob when I saw him at the top of the stairs. His eyes were huge, and he was breathing heavily, telling me that he'd come running at the sound of my voice.

The room was spinning, and I felt myself falling. I saw Gaara run down the stairs before my vision became to dark for me to see. I was wondering why I didn't feel the hard floor when I realized that I was floating. Struggling to see, I noticed Gaara standing over me, his face filled with concern. There was something under me, and the sand that should have been abrasive was caressing my skin like feathers. I weakly reached for him, and sighed when his warm hand took mine.

"Gaara… I love you…" I gasped. The surprise on his face was the last thing I saw before the room swam with blackness, then disappeared altogether.

Chapter Seven

There was something cool on my forehead and it felt like heaven against my burning skin.

"Gaara…" I moaned, not knowing what I was saying. The coolness paused, and I groaned in protest until it began stroking my heated face again.

"Naruto, are you awake?" I heard an angel say from somewhere.

"Yes." I answered, struggling to open my eyes, but unable to do so.

"What happened to you?"

"I ran… back to Konoha. Tsunade is dying… gave me Hokage. Had to see Gaara again. Tell him I love him…" I couldn't form my words properly, and it was frustrating me to no end. I decided it was time to get up and find Gaara, but a cool, firm hand on my chest kept me effectively paralyzed. "I have to… find him… I only have four days. Want to spend forever… only four days."

"Shh, Naruto, sleep…" Came the angel's voice again, and I did as I was told.

When I woke again I could open my eyes. It was dark outside, and Gaara was next to the bed, wringing out a cloth in a bowl of water.

"Gaara. How long have I been asleep?" I asked him, my voice breathy and weak.

"You slept all day. You got here last night." He answered me without looking up, his face sad. I forced myself to sit up.

"Stop it, come here." I opened my arms, and he dropped the towel, shaking. His eyes were brimming with a bright wetness when he looked at me, and I smiled at him sadly. He crawled onto the bed and curled into my arms as I fell back against the pillows again.

"I'm sorry, Gaara." I whispered, stroking his hair as he sniffed, trying to hold in his tears.

"It's alright. I'm happy for you. You've finally achieved your dream."

"Funny thing, that. I don't even want it anymore." I answered him, smiling at the ceiling, amused by the irony of it all. I felt him look up at me, and I sighed. "I just want to be with you."

"Then be with me." He whispered, and I stared at him, shocked.

"What did you say?"

He smiled and sat up, throwing one leg over me and straddling my hips. "Don't go back. Stay with me." I saw the look in his eyes, and I knew it was just the desperate plea of a lonely child, but I wanted to believe in his words. I wanted to believe that I could do as he asked. Could I really just not go back? Could I abandon my home, my friends, everything, and just stay here with him?

Yes, I could.

I sat up and kissed him hungrily, groaning when his arms slid around my neck and he kissed me back. It felt like we were doing something forbidden, and it made my blood rush with adrenaline.

Somehow we lost our clothes and Gaara ended up underneath me. The blankets were somewhere on the floor, piled in a forlorn heap and forgotten. The breeze from an open window was the only thing that cooled our heated bodies as it swept into the room like a perverse thief, blowing the gossamer curtains back and caressing our skin before stealing away again.

"Naruto, please! I've waited long enough!" Gaara cried, writhing beneath me as I leisurely licked up and down his hard length.

"I don't know, I think you can wait a little longer." I teased him, placing a gentle kiss against the head, making him gasp. In my enthusiasm I had shredded the sheets and tied his hands to the headboard, so as I teased and taunted him, he pulled on the bindings with all his might, struggling to free himself.

"Naruto, stop or I'll…" He trailed off and I smiled at him.

"You'll what? Come for me?" I teased, suddenly swallowing his entire erection without warning. He cried out, his back arching and his arms twisting against the restraints.

"N-Naruto! Get off! Ah… I'm going to…" He panted, and it took every ounce of self-control in my body to resist the urge to fck him right then and there. But I was enjoying my torment of this deliciously sexy body beneath me, and when he finally did come, I relished in the feel and taste of it as it filled my mouth and slid down my throat.

He was panting, flushed and sweaty, and I'd never seen anything more beautiful in my life. The full moon was framed by the window, shining in through the thin curtains, and the only light in the room. It made him look like he was glowing.

I slid up his body slowly, appreciating the feel of skin on skin, and kissed him, long and slow.

"You taste so good, Gaara." I moaned, and he blushed an even deeper shade of crimson. "Are you ready now?" I asked, waiting patiently and trying my best to ignore my own achingly unattended-to erection.

"I'm ready." He answered, looking at me with smoky lust-filled eyes. His gaze alone made me growl, and I pushed his head to the side, sucking and biting on the pale expanse of flesh exposed there. Gaara gasped and purred, bucking under me. "Naruto! Give it to me, now!" He cried, and I sat up quickly, hooking my arms behind his knees and spreading his legs.

"Are you sure?" I asked him, knowing that there would be no going back if I continued, and not sure I could stop even if he asked me to. His nod was all I needed. With the help of a cherry-scented lotion he had retrieved from the bathroom earlier, I slowly rubbed myself over him, making him moan again.

"Here I go, Gaara." I whispered, leaning forward and giving him a kiss as I pushed inside. I swallowed his scream as his muscles clenched, fighting against the painful intrusion, and I rested my forehead against his.

"Relax, Gaara. Just relax." I soothed, and felt the way he forced his muscles to loosen up. "Good. Are you ready for more?" I asked, not wanting to hurt him, and so close to losing control I was almost afraid of myself.

"Naruto, I'm the Kazekage and one of the strongest shinobi in the world. Stop babying me and do it!" He cried, thrusting his hips upward, forcing me inside of him. We both cried out at the sensation, and my arms began shaking as I held myself still, letting him adjust.

He was gasping, his face red and his eyes closed, and I watched him carefully, waiting. Finally he looked at me and smiled.

"Move it, Anbu." He said in a slick, sultry voice that tore away any shred of reason I had left. I rocked into him, loving the way his cries echoed in the huge room, watching how he pulled on the fabric binding his arms, feeling the way his legs around my waist urged me to go faster, harder, deeper.

Was there anything more perfect than this? The primal dance of two bodies that had existed since the beginning of life. If this was a mistake, I would gladly make it a hundred times over, and never regret my actions.

I pulled out suddenly, ignoring his cry of protest, and rolled him over. His hands still bound, I pulled him to his knees and slid in again. His scream was satisfying and exhilarating. This angle was sharper, deeper, and he loved it as much as I did.

"Naruto… oh god… Naruto!" He screamed my name, rocking with me as we found a rhythm and let it carry us away.

Later, as the sun was rising on my third day, we collapsed onto the bed, a panting, sweating, exhausted pile of entangled limbs and whispered promises.

"Stay with me Naruto."

"I will, Gaara."

A kiss, then sleep.

Chapter Eight

The horrible things about promises are, so few are actually kept. That night Gaara and I decided that we would be together forever. But when we woke we both knew that this was the last time we'd be together like this. Gaara neglected his duties as Kazekage, and we spent the day walking around hand in hand, stealing kisses and caresses whenever we got the chance.

By the time the sky began to dim and the clouds were painted an attractive pink, we were standing in the desert, and he was crying. We didn't say goodbye, and we didn't wish each other well. We both knew that it wasn't goodbye forever, just to this stolen moment, this forbidden relationship. I pulled him into a tight embrace, not ever wanting to let go, and he did the same, sobbing quietly into my shoulder. I kissed his tears away and watched a sad smile, but a smile nonetheless bloom on his face.

"I love you Gaara. I always will."

"I love you too, Naruto."

Then I was gone. I refused to look back, though I knew he was waving. I felt him turn to go back into the city, and I fought to draw breath as a sob clawed its way up my throat.

If only we could go back. Back to when we were younger and had no responsibility. Then we really could be together. But the truth was we had simply waited too long, and now it was too late.
Gaara was Kazekage, and in two day's time I would be Hokage, and all of the false hope we had of being together would die. There were simply too many obstacles between us.

I could almost hear my heart breaking as I ran, and I wondered if Gaara felt the same. Knowing him he'd lock his heart away and remain sealed behind his mask for the rest of his life. It hurt me to think of him that way, but I couldn't deny that I was a little happier knowing that neither of us would never be with anyone else. There was no one that could replace Gaara in my world, and I knew it was the same for him. We were destined to spend our lives apart and pining for each other.

"I'll see you later, my love." I whispered to the wind, and let my pain wash over me. As the Kyuubi's power soaked into me, responding to the anguish in my soul, I felt myself losing control, but at the moment I didn't care. My mind was deadened by the agony of my heartbreak, and the only thing I could focus on was running.

Running home, to Konoha, where my fate and future were sealed. The wind in my face and my claws digging into the sand, urging me to go faster, faster, faster

Tsunade was dying when I got there, and she passed quietly in her sleep the night after I was made Hokage. I still miss her very much.

And so our story ends with heartbreak and sorrow, as most love stories do here in my part of the world. I still see him every year, at the chunin exams, which keeps me going during the hard times. My favorite time of the year, seeing the youth of my village grow and mature, and getting to spend just a few hours sitting next to the one I love.

I suppose I can't complain. We've always known that we're willing to die for each other, but now another question has been answered. The question neither of us even knew needed answering. Are you willing to live?

Are we willing to live, even if it cannot be with each other?

Yes, we are.

The End