Author: Mask of Mirage
Rating: Between T and M
Comments: Okay, time to witness something that I have never done before. Juggling two full-length stories while maintaining my schoolwork and my sanity. This should prove interesting, don't you agree? I was going to take another stab at dry humor seeing as everyone liked Letters to the Editor. There will also be a mixture of angst in this fic so be forewarned. Set after Gaara's resurrection, if Naruto hadn't continued to search for Sasuke. For all those thinking that I am abandoning Phobia, relax, I still have that one on my drive and it's an ongoing battle for me.
Mood Song: Comatose by Skillet.
Disclaimer: A great genius thought up a incredibly amazing manga and called it Naruto. That great genius was not me. Sadly...
Chapter 1: Disease
A disease. A burning. Fire flowing through his veins at speeds man could not comprehend. It was unfamiliar, this new want he felt, slowly taking root in the pit of his stomach. It made him want to gouge out his eyes and beat his hands upon the scorching desert sands. To climb to the nearest cliff and throw himself from great heights, screaming at the top of his lungs.
But above all, it made him feel weak. It humbled him till all that was left was three words, forever frozen on his lips. He couldn't live like this; his people counted on him and he couldn't protect them if he was weak.
So he sought out his release, traversing the expansive desert to make his sentiments known to a dear friend of his.
Did you really expect Gaara's first crush to be all peace, bunnies and rainbows?
It was sometime after Naruto's eighth (or was it his eleventh?) consecutive bowl of ramen when Sakura asked him what he would do if a close friend came to him for advice.
"…If someone you knew asked about a relationship with someone else you knew," she attempted to explain to the puzzled teenager.
It was only when Naruto went off on a tangent about how he only saw Hinata as a friend did Sakura realize he didn't understand it was she seeking relationship advice regarding the many proposals Rock Lee threw her way.
She left shortly after, giving Naruto a quick hug and tossing a wad of cash on the bar of Ichiraku. Ever since Sasuke's defection and Iruka having to work late at the academy, not to mention the sudden "yoga class" Kakashi-sensei claimed he was taking, Sakura was usually the one keeping tabs on Naruto's extensive ramen consumption.
At the rate he was going, she would be broke come Christmas-time. Even so, it felt good, almost gratifying, to be the one taking care of him and not the other way around.
Not long after they had parted ways, Naruto decided a walk would be nice, you know to tone his shapely body physique. Autumn had just begun and a light chill caused him to shiver slightly, zipping his jacket to his torso. He didn't pay any attention to where he was going and ended up in front of the training post where years of numerous young Shinobi trained themselves brutally and pretty much cursed the gods above.
He ran a finger over the smooth blood-stained wood, closing his eyes and imagining the burning fire one would feel in their muscles after an extensive day of training.
This was the price of a Shinobi, the life he chose since he was old enough to understand the concept and duties of a ninja. Pain and injuries came with the job, a perk if you will. He let his hand fall from the post to hang limply at his side.
Like often times it did, his mind was straying to his former ebony-haired teammate. What were Sasuke's views as a Shinobi, he wondered? Did he actually enjoy protecting and serving his village or was it all a hoax in his grand scheme of things; a stepping stone to his ultimate goal in life to kill his brother and get his vowed revenge?
Naruto shook his head violently to rid himself of such thoughts and begun to walk again, the dry leaves beneath his feet crunching with each step. It was useless to try and analyze his best friend's motives; his only main concern was getting him back. Then Sasuke could spend all day explaining his reasons.
He was so engrossed in his thoughts that he failed to notice the blue-and-white clad figure approach him.
"Some Shinobi you are, an enemy could've killed you that easily."
Naruto jumped suddenly, startled to hear the calm, deep voice next to him. He stared down into jade green, vaguely amused that he was taller than Gaara by a couple inches (1).
"Oi, Gaara what are you doing here?" Naruto exclaimed in his too-loud-to-be-socially-acceptable voice.
"Kage business," the Sand-nin quickly and effortlessly lied. Naruto pulled a face at the mention of anything boring, I.e. anything that required him to sit still in a pre-determined amount of time.
"Okay, then why aren't you off…doing Kage business?" Naruto questioned, lacing his arms behind his head and quirking an eyebrow upwards.
"I needed to speak with you. Do you think we could go sit somewhere?" Gaara asked, switching his weight to his other foot.
Naruto sensed this slight change in body language and came to the conclusion that the other was nervous. About what, he did not know. Since when was Gaara nervous about anything?
The Jinchuukri led his friend to a nearby log, amazed at the appreciative glances the boy gave to everything surrounding him. He guessed death did that to you, made you stop and truly appreciate life's little things that you took for granted once before.
"What are you thinking about?"
Gaara's question caught him off-guard and Naruto sputtered audibly, not sure if he should tell him or not. But if Naruto lacked anything, it was tact. Not that he thought his answer would offend the Wind Shinobi. "I was thinking about you actually," he paused and then continued," and how utterly helpless I felt when you died."
Gaara grimaced slightly, the subject of his death obviously still a sore subject for him. "But you helped bring me back and it's all over now," Gaara reassured him, clearing his throat, "But really Naruto, I need to talk with you."
Naruto flashed his famous crooked grin and leaned forward expectantly. This quickly turned into shock when a blush began to form on the boy's face.
"Well, lately I've been having these really strange feelings and… and I don't know what to do. It's like an ache in my chest and it usually happens when I start thinking about y--a certain person. I thought the wounds on my heart had healed long ago, that they no longer bled?"
Probably much to Gaara's utmost surpise, Naruto burst out laughing, clutching his side in an attempt to ward off the imminent pain. Gaara blinked thrice, completely missing the part where his predicament was supposed to be humorous.
"S-sounds like y-you're smitten," Naruto finally managed to get out. He placed a reassuring hand on his closest friend's shoulder, squeezing tightly. Gaara shrugged off his hand and stood suddenly, pacing back and forth in front of the log.
"You don't understand. I don't know how to react around them, what I should do."
"Well, it's not your fault you're socially retarded," Naruto teased, ignoring the potent glare sent his way. "So who's the lucky girl?"
Gaara paused in his pacing, casting his seafoam orbs to the debris-littered forest floor. A light breeze rushed through the clearing, whispering in the boys' hair and the nape of their necks. Naruto shuddered slightly, both from the wind and the fact that Gaara wasn't answering.
His next words, when he finally did open his mouth, made Naruto stiffen with utter and complete shock, his mouth dropping open to sit and gape like a water-deprived guppy.
"It's you, Naruto, it's you."
A/N: So how was that for a first chapter. Love it, hate it?
Naruto Manga Spoilers:
Why is it that in almost every anime/manga I read/watch, someone, at least one person, has some sort of god-complex. Although, some of Pein's ideas for a "new world" actually make sense to me. Hey, he wants to end war. I'm up for that.
(1). Databook says they're both around 5'4" in Shippuuden but work with me please.
Mask of Mirage