A/N: This fic is a request from anchovies for a GaaraLee. A request which was made over two months ago. I'm so sorry it took so long, ahah. Anyway, it turned into a comedy, so hope you like! Reviews, crit, and the like are all welcome!
Just a note: Courier-nin are a class of ninja from a filler episode that are basically fancy mailmen that all look like each other. If you haven't seen the episode, then that's all you need to know. Courier-nin mailmen.
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or the universe, they are property of Kishimoto. I own this fic and the plot. I refuse to take credit for that letter; you'll know it when you reach it.
After that big deal last week, I wanted to check on you to make sure that you were recovering from the accident well. I would like to visit you myself, but it's a three-day journey from Konohagakure to Sunagakure, so I decided to send you a letter instead.
How are you doing? Are you getting plenty of rest? Remember, the youthful body can take a lot of abuse, Gaara-san, but it needs proper sleep to function well! Are you getting a well-balanced diet? Do you get enough fruit out there in the desert? I know it's very dry there. I realize that I should not be worried about you. You are a very strong, healthy person, after all. Still, a friend should care about his friends!
I hope you are having as good a time as the Kazekage! You won't believe what happened here. Naruto-kun got into an argument with Neji-kun about whether or not a Hyuuga would fall for Sexy no Jutsu, but Neji refused to participate in an experiment. They went to get Hinata-chan, and...
Temari snorted. "And he goes on like that for the rest of the letter?"
"He does," Gaara confirmed. "All twelve pages."
"Half a page butting into your medical business and a bunch of Konoha gossip." Kankurou shook his head, grinning. "Nosy and boring."
"Since he's prying into your privacy, maybe you should send a reply," Temari said, smiling wickedly, "asking him how long his..."
"Temari!" Gaara snapped.
"... eyelashes are."
Kankurou covered his mouth to keep from spraying soda all over the table. Gaara gave him a withering glare.
For once, Gaara, Temari, and Kankurou were all off-duty at the same time, a rare occasion – even rarer now that Gaara was Kazekage. They had decided to meet in a small cafe and just talk, seated around a small round table with their drinks. They weren't quite sure why they had decided to do it because, really, they had never been that close to each other as siblings. At some level they probably thought that through meetings like this they could forge new bonds by pretending to renew old ones that hadn't existed.
However, when they'd agreed to meet, they had not expected Gaara to get such an interesting letter. He never got letters. Not even the spam companies bothered the jinchuuriki.
"What's the kid's name?" Temari asked. "Rock Lee, right?"
"Yes," Gaara said. "The boy whose arm and leg I crushed at the Chuunin exam."
"Which Chuunin exam?" Kankurou asked. "And which boy?" They had attended three Chuunin exams and Gaara had mutilated seven other genin in total.
"The first one. The Leaf-nin with the huge eyebrows."
"Oh, him!" Kankurou laughed. "The one with the drug problem?"
"I heard it's a drinking problem," Gaara said.
"Really? With eyes like that?"
Temari had pulled the letter over – all twelve pages of it – to read while the boys talked. Lee had written about Shikamaru on page eight, she noticed with interest. Apparently during his time off, he was researching the physiological differences between male and female brains. Undoubtedly trying to figure out what made girls so troublesome, she thought with amusement, sipping at her green tea.
"Are you going to write him back?" Kankurou asked.
"No," Gaara said. "Why should I?"
"Because he asked about you," Temari said absently, still reading. "It'd be polite."
"So?" Gaara said.
"You're one of the Kage now," Temari said. "You have to learn some etiquette someday."
"Teach him first," Gaara said, looking pointedly at the little spills of soda in front of Kankurou. This was why he hadn't gotten anything to drink, so that he could rag on Kankurou about his manners instead.
"I'm not Kazekage," Kankurou retorted.
"Gaara, write a letter," Temari said. "I'm going to Konoha next week to help organize the exam, so I can take it then." She took another sip of her tea, as if that settled the subject. After delivering the letter and finishing her business, maybe she could go help Shikamaru's research.
However, Gaara wasn't taking this lightly. "But I don't want—" he protested.
"Write the letter," Temari said.
"Write the letter."
"I'm the Kaz—"
"I'm your sister. Write the letter."
Gaara sighed. "Yes, ma'am."
Kankurou watched the exchange with a grin. "Man, Temari. If the Akatsuki had asked you to capture Gaara, he'd be dead before we knew anything was wrong."
Gaara smacked Kankurou in the back of the head.
"If they had asked me to capture Gaara, they'd be dead before they knew what hit them," Temari said. "That's why I don't work for the Akatsuki."
To answer your questions: Fine. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Please do not write to me again.
Temari came back from her mission in Konohagakure with the letter still in her possession. She marched straight to the Kazekage's office, interrupted a genin team's report on its latest mission, and put the letter down on Gaara's desk. "Do it again."
"Stop whining, Gaara. If you'd done it right the first time I wouldn't have to make you start over." She marched back out of the room, slammed the door, then opened it again to look at the genin team. "Oh, Team 4. You'll be participating in the Chuunin exam, right?"
They nodded dumbly.
"I'll include that in my report to Shikamaru-san." She shut the door again.
Gaara sighed, and was about to tell the genin to continue their report, when the team's kunoichi raised her hand. "Yes?" Gaara said.
"If I help my little brother become Kazekage," she said, "can I boss him around too?"
"No." Gaara looked at the document on his desk. "Now what about your C-Rank mission to escort the daimyo from the Land of Gullies to the Land of Clay?"
All three genin carefully avoided meeting Gaara's gaze.
It was going to be a long day.
Dear Rock Lee-san,
Thank you for your letter. It's good to know you're concerned about my well-being, and I'm sorry we don't have an opportunity to visit in person. Perhaps when I come to Konoha for the Chuunin exam, we can meet then.
I'm doing much better now, thank you. I'm not missing the Shukaku in the least, especially since I can still manipulate sand without its help. I'm getting plenty of sleep; in fact, much more than I used to. Yes, we have plenty of fruit in Sunagakure, and I'm eating well.
How are you doing? In your letter you told me about every single living human, dog, toad, and pig in Konoha except yourself. I hope you're doing well.
Kankurou could not stop laughing.
He did not. "I – you really..." He bent over with his hands on his knees to keep from collapsing.
People passing by were giving Gaara and Kankurou odd looks. They were standing in front of the Courier-nin station, both very red faced for completely opposite reasons. The more people stared, the redder Gaara's face got, which just made Kankurou laugh harder.
"Kankurou, I mean it!" Gaara hissed. Delivering this letter was, without a doubt, the Most Humiliating Moment of his life. Not even the time last year when the Shukaku had possessed him during a diplomatic meeting and made him drop his pants in front of the princess of the Land of Umeboshi compared with this. At least Gaara hadn't been conscious at the time. "Just take it in for me, okay? I don't want anyone to see me mail this thing."
"Temari really got to you," Kankurou said, still laughing. "Lee is gonna think you're in love with him..."
If it had been night, it may have been possible to see Gaara's face faintly glowing red from the heat it was giving off. "Just send it! That's an order!"
"Fine, I will." Kankurou folded up the letter and put it in its envelope, already addressed to Rock Lee in Konohagakure. "You don't have to be nasty about it. Who rubbed sand up your crack, anyway?"
He turned around and jogged to the Courier-nin station door before Gaara could retort. He was rather proud of that one, he'd come up with it himself.
"If anyone asks," Gaara called, "I didn't write that thing!"
"No one's gonna ask!" Kankurou yelled back, and went inside.
A blast of stuffy air hit him. Apparently, Courier-nin weren't fond of air conditioning. One was standing smartly behind a counter in his green suit and goggles – did they stand like that in the heat all day? That explained where "going postal" came from – and he tipped his hat at Kankurou. "You have something to send?"
"Here," Kankurou said, holding out the letter.
The Courier-nin took it, asking, "To whom from whom?"
Well. Someone had asked after all. "To Rock Lee of Konohagakure, from a secret admirer." He managed to say it with a straight face.
The Courier-nin quirked an eyebrow. The name on the letter's return address said "Gaara of the Desert, Kazekage." Well, it wasn't any of his business. Shrugging, he held up the letter and said, "Package to Konohagakure."
"Gotcha." A second Courier-nin came out of a door behind the first, snatched the envelope, vaulted over the counter, and ran past Kankurou and out the door. He wished he was that fast.
"It should be there in two days," the Courier-nin informed Kankurou.
"Oh, thanks." He really wished he was that fast.
As he headed outside, he glanced over his shoulder at the Courier-nin. Didn't this guy change position? Or get hot??
Noticing Kankurou's glance, he said, "I'm actually sitting on a tall stool, and they let us put ice packs under our suits."
"I... see..." Kankurou backed out the door. What was this guy, psychic? Maybe he'd find someone other than these guys to carry his letters from now on.
As the door shut, the Courier-nin sighed. "We scare off more customers that way."
Outside, Gaara was waiting for Kankurou, arms crossed and eyes narrowed in fury. That was typical for him.
"Did you see those guys?" Kankurou said. "Talk about a bunch of crazy—"
"Kankurou," Gaara interrupted. "I was listening."
"You were?" He decided not to play innocent. That explained the look on Gaara's face... "Uh, I didn't tell them who you are. Right?"
A rope of sand floated up from the ground. "What was it you said earlier about someone rubbing sand up my crack?" Gaara asked. "Would you like to find out what that feels like?"
Kankurou went so pale that, combined with his face paint, he could've done a decent impersonation of Orochimaru.
It didn't help much.
Wow, it's so great to hear from you! I did not think you were going to write back. I am sorry for ever doubting you. I also look forward to seeing you again, and I eagerly await the next Chuunin exam. It is wonderful to have you as a pen pal!
I am doing very well, thank you for asking. Yesterday I did 4,598 push-ups in a row. This is nowhere near my record (5,273, two months ago), so I decided to run 500 laps around Konoha to make up for this. But I was only on 468 when Naruto-kun asked if I wanted to go with him to Ichiraku Ramen, and I was very hungry, so we...
"He's insane," Gaara said, flipping through the letter. This time, it was twenty-three pages long, all about the things Lee had done (mostly exercise) the day before he had received the letter. That wasn't natural. "I know, I shouldn't talk," he said, noticing Temari's glance. "But that's the only explanation. Even I can tell when someone else is insane."
Temari shrugged, leaning on the back wall of Gaara's office and reading over his shoulder. "When was the last time you heard Kankurou talk about his puppets?"
About a month ago. He had started talking at lunch and didn't stop until midnight. Point made. "At least Kankurou attempted to make it interesting."
"Lee probably thought this was interesting, after how eager you were to hear about his life..." Temari said, smirking.
"I could kill you," Gaara snarled.
"Oh, don't be such a baby."
Sometimes he missed the grip of terror he had kept his siblings in three years ago. "You're going to Konoha to help arrange the Chuunin exam," Gaara said. He held out an already-sealed envelope. "Take this with you."
"You prepared that fast," Temari said, taking the letter. "It's polite, isn't it?"
"Yes," Gaara said.
"I'll take your word for it." She half-saluted Gaara and left. She'd already packed her bag and was ready to go.
Temari was hardly out of the Kazekage's mansion when she tore open the envelope and read the letter. "Lee. Don't write to me again. Gaara." She snorted. "Very sweet, little brother." She looked up as she drew near the gate out of Suna. Kankurou had promised to meet her here before she left, just in case Gaara was sending a letter...
There he was, leaning against the wall by the gate. She waved the letter over her head as she approached, and he waved one back. Temari grinned.
"Is it good?" she asked, stopping in front of him.
"It's perfect," Kankurou said, handing her the letter he'd written himself.
"This'll knock him down a few pegs," Temari said. She gave Kankurou the original letter to dispose of. "He's got to learn that if he doesn't reply to his messages properly, someone else will do it for him."
Kankurou read the original and smiled maliciously. "Oh yeah, this'll do that."
"It's not too embarrassing, is it?" Temari asked. "This is just supposed to be a little chastisement."
"Yeah, don't worry about it," he said.
"All right." She pocketed the fake letter and headed out the gate, starting towards Konohagakure. "I should be back in about a week and a half!"
As she disappeared in the distance, Kankurou's grin became positively evil. He headed back into the village, chuckling to himself. Several nervous parents drew their children away from him.
Oh, for Temari, this might be just a little lesson in etiquette. But for Kankurou, this was pure, simple, cold-blooded revenge.
Gaara would pay for the Sand Crack incident, oh yes. It had taken Kankurou a week to get it all out of there, the worst week of his life. Sometimes he woke up even now, terrified, feeling like he was still chafing down there. He'd had to walk bow-legged the whole time, which brought him more than a few unsavory rumors.
But oh, this was a sweet, sweet revenge indeed. Gaara would never live this down.
I'm sorry to be so abrupt, but I have a confession I must make. I didn't want to tell you this through a letter, so I was going to wait until I saw you at the Chuunin exam, but getting to read your words and imagining you as you write them – I just can't be patient anymore!
Lee, I am in love with you. I have been since our battle in the preliminaries for the third test in the Chuunin exam – do you remember it? The moment I crushed your arm and leg into gory little bits, I knew you were the one for me. The unearthly grace with which you passed out on the floor, the heavenly voice which emanated from you as you screamed in agony, the feel of your perfect skin and wiry muscles and pearl-dipped bones as I crushed them with my sand... I could go on forever, Lee, about how unspeakably wonderful I find everything about you.
Oh my Lee, I understand if you cannot return my undying passion, but at the least I beg of you to understand how I feel. My love and adoration for you has not lessened at all in the time since I first realized my own emotions. If you need any more examples of my devotion, I used to have a voodoo doll of my father, but long ago I stitched black yarn hair and eyebrows onto it and gave it a green jumpsuit, just so that I'd feel like I have you near even when you are so, so far away. I sleep with it every night and when I put it through the washing machine I don't leave the room once until it's done. If any of this helps you understand how I feel, please, please tell me so.
Even if you cannot return my love, dear Lee, I pray that you will at the least continue to write. I don't think I could live if I didn't get these infrequent reminders that you think of me.
It was only a few days before the Chuunin exam when Temari returned. Gaara was in his office, poring over some last-minute reports about the plans for the exams. Temari didn't make it any easier.
"Report," she droned. "Report. Report. Letter from Lee. Report. Letter from the Hokage-sama. Letter from Might Guy. Report. Report." She dropped each one onto his desk as she said it.
Gaara glanced up, brow furrowed. "Letter from Lee?" He grabbed it. "But I told him not to send another one."
Temari tried to look as innocent as she could.
Gaara snatched it up, tore it open, and started reading. At first he seemed confused, then suspicious, and then there was a moment of realization. Horror and disgust flowed off him. Temari backed slowly away, not quite sure what to make of this, and on a hunch took the letter from Guy with her.
She opened it, heading downstairs to where she had last seen Kankurou working on a puppet, and after reading it she slapped it down in front of him. "And what, Kankurou, is this?"
He jumped, dropping several tools. "What's what?" he said, picking up the letter from among the Kuroari parts on the table.
As he read the letter, his brows furrowed and he murmured to himself. "Beautiful letter... youthful courage... such poetic prose... admire your passion... springtime... youth... blah blah." He offered the letter back. "I think I got a good review. Maybe I've got a career in poetry?"
"What. Did. You. Write."
Kankurou gulped. "Oh, nothing much."
"Then what's this?" Temari jabbed a finger at the last line.
He gulped again, and one more time for good measure, before reading. "'If you are both happy, then I will gladly support any relationship you and Lee choose to pursue. After all, love is to be enjoyed freely by those in the springtime of youth, and neither distance nor gender should stand in the way of that.'" With the perfectly straight face that Kankurou had taken to practicing in the mirror for situations like this, he said, "I have absolutely no idea what this means."
Temari would have liked to interrogate him further, but at that moment Gaara stormed up. A cloud of writhing sand loomed over him like a daycare teacher coming to the defense of her favorite child. "What the hell did you do!" He slammed the letter from Lee down on Kankurou's table with enough force to crack it, shooting metaphorical kunai from his eyes at Temari.
She blanched. "It wasn't me, it was—" She turned. Kankurou had disappeared. The Kuroari parts and the letters from Guy and Lee had gone with him. She smiled apologetically at Gaara, already thinking of ways to make that good-for-nothing puppeteer's life miserable.
The letters did not disappear forever. They turned up again the next day, photocopied hundreds of them, scattered through the streets of Sunagakure, as well as copies of the letter Gaara had supposedly sent Lee. Under the Kazekage's orders, all the genin finally got them cleared up by the day before they had to go to the Chuunin exam. Gaara could now, however, stop the other Sand-nin from giggling behind his back.
Unfortunately, Kankurou didn't get to see the exam. He was still in the hospital.
I am so sorry I did not notice before! I really had no idea how you felt. In the future, Gaara-san – or should I just call you Gaara? – you should know that you can come to me and say whatever you want, and I will gladly listen and do whatever I can to help you.
I am very... I really do not know what to say. I am very... grateful, that you feel this way about me, Gaara. And I do understand. Guy-sensei has explained to me about how people feel these kinds of emotions in the springtime of youth, so I think I know a little bit about what you are experiencing.
Gaara, I... really cannot think how to respond! Though I am... happy. And while I have already devoted myself to Sakura-san, Guy-sensei has said before that youthful people should feel free to try out new people and new experiences before settling down with one person. As we are already good friends, I would be willing to attempt a relationship with you.
I hope to see you at the Chuunin exam next week so we can talk more.
Before going to the Chuunin exam, Temari and Gaara had a very long discussion about how, exactly, they were going to get out of this mess without further damage to the Kazekage's reputation. They agreed that Gaara should talk to Lee privately, explain what had happened, and hope everything would blow over. With luck, the news of "Gaara's" love letter hadn't spread nearly as far in Konoha as it had in Suna.
Gaara and Lee didn't run into each other until the actual day of the third test. The Hokage was already in her seat long before the even started, but Gaara was waiting in the public stands for Lee to show up. He wanted to get this over with before the test started so that he could enjoy watching genin senselessly mutilating each other in peace without having to worry that some green-spandexed kid might run up to him and – Gaara shuddered at the thought – try to kiss him, in front of the Hokage of all people.
He almost sighed with relief when he saw Lee and his team come into the stands. He walked over and said quietly, "Lee-san. We need to talk immediately."
"I understand," Lee said. "I have been wanting to talk to you, too."
As Gaara led Lee to a more private place, Guy flashed a thumbs up and Tenten had to restrain a giggle. Gaara winced. This did not bode well.
They did not reappear for over an hour.
Meanwhile, Tsunade was wondering where on earth the Kazekage had disappeared to. Two of his bodyguards were already stationed behind his seat, and they assured her repeatedly that Gaara would come back soon. Temari in particular said that he had some very important business to take care of, but it should be finished in no time.
Be that as it may, the crowds were getting restless. Tsunade had to start the test, and the first match was half over before Gaara appeared.
"Where were you, Gaara-dono?" Tsunade demanded, ad the exact same moment Temari asked, "How did it go?"
Gaara threw himself into his chair with all the self-righteous fury of an angsting teen who'd been told he couldn't go to the biggest party of the year. "He dumped me!" he declared indignantly. "After all that trouble, he dumped me! I can't believe it!"
Tsunade stared at Gaara in bafflement. Temari leaned against his chair and said, "Hey, it's fine. It all worked out, didn't it?"
"Yes, but... I just can't believe it!" Gaara sulkily hid his face under his Kazekage hat. "This is utterly ridiculous."
"Guys are just jerks about other people's feelings," Temari said, shrugging. "You get used to it."
Gaara grunted. "I'm sticking to girls."
After that he fell quiet, only occasionally mumbling a "Can't believe it." A few minutes later, Sakura came up to serve her shift as guard for the Hokage. Gaara silently radiated killer intent at her until she nervously excused herself to go to the restroom and didn't come back.
Sometimes Tsunade was glad she never read the reports about what happened in Sunagakure.
I am very sorry if I hurt your feelings in any way at the Chuunin exam. I did not mean to offend or wound you, and I hope you are not too down over everything that happened. This would be an appropriate time to use the phrase "It's not you, it's me," for that is true.
Please, write back. I appreciate our friendship very much and I do not wish to lose it over this. I understand how strong your emotions are, but I simply cannot return them in that manner. If I can do anything to make this easier for you, please, let me know.
With a pained look on his face, Gaara finished reading the latest letter and looked at Kankurou (still in his hospital bed) and Temari. "This is beyond stupid," he said flatly. "It was stupid to begin with. Now I get a headache just trying to think about how stupid this is."
"Even I don't think it's funny anymore," Kankurou grumbled.
Temari nudged his shoulder. "You haven't thought it was funny since Gaara broke your leg, fractured your collar bone, snapped four ribs, almost crushed your right hand, and shoved a column of sand almost all the way up your—"
"Minor point," Kankurou said.
Gaara looked at Temari. A hint of desperation entered his voice. "I've learned my lesson, Temari. I mean it. This one time, can I please..."
Watching him actually beg was almost too delicious to give up, but it was also very, very creepy. She nodded. "Yeah. Go ahead. You've suffered enough."
"Thank you!" He was gone in three seconds flat.
"What happened to teaching him etiquette?" Kankurou asked.
Temari wearily shook her head. "Forget it. The Kazekage is above the rules."
Quite frankly, I couldn't care less about any of this.
If you ever send me another letter, I will burn it, put its ashes in the original envelope with an exploding tag, and give it to the mailman with instructions to return to sender.
When they were sure Gaara was gone, Kankurou quietly said, "So, was he really that upset?"
Temari nodded enthusiastically. "I didn't even think it was the same Gaara. He was moody all the way home."
"How 'bout that."
"Do you think maybe..."
They grinned knowingly at each other.
Kankurou said, "What are the odds we'll be able to intercept the Courier-nin that Gaara gives that letter to?"
"I'll be waiting for it at the gates."