A/N: This is a gift fic for the exceptionally awesome Fey, and as such I will be uploading all of the chapters at once. Happy Birthday Fey!

Can't guarantee these guys are entirely in character as I wrote it coming down off of a nanowrimo of 100k words, but I tried!

Remember boys and girls, yaoi means Boy x Boy Love. No Likey? No Readey.

Standard Disclaimers apply.

Long Road to Love

A Naruto Fanfiction

Shikamaru x Gaara

Chapter 1: At First Glance

"It's not like I wanted to do it," Shikamaru complained. "I hate tests." He ran his hand over the back of his neck and yawned.

"You were awesome though!" Ino protested. "You'll definitely become a chuunin, Shikamaru."

"I hope not," Shikamaru said. "Sounds like too much work."

Chouji swallowed and laughed a little. "That's our Shikamaru," he said before stuffing another mouthful of chips into his mouth.

The sand trio was walking by at the time and Temari shot the Nara a dirty look before rounding a corner. "I can't believe I have to fight that lazy bastard," she complained. "I know it's not our main objective, but even so..."

"I think he's interesting," Gaara said. He didn't speak often, and when he did it was normally something about death, killing, and confirming his existence, so the fact that he'd said something that didn't sound even remotely homicidal made both of his siblings stop dead in their tracks and blink.

"Ah, Gaara," Kankuro began carefully, "not to, you know, piss you off or anything, but I think I heard that wrong, did you just say you thought someone was interesting?"

Gaara, not at all seeing the problem with this, nodded at his older brother. "His match was interesting, with that sound nin," he said, remembering how Kin's head had collided with the wall. It was hardly an edge of your seat match by all the normal standards: there wasn't a lot of running about or blatant violence (when compared to, say, his own match with Lee, for example), but it was so different from what he was used to seeing that Gaara could only pin one possible word to it: interesting, and since the match had been interesting, that made Nara Shikamaru, also, interesting. "I want to see what a match with Temari would look like."

Temari wrinkled her nose. "Well, I'm not going to crash head first into a wall," Temari said, "that's for damn sure."

Kankuro exchanged a look with his sister as Gaara continued a few steps ahead. "Interesting?" he mouthed. Temari shrugged a bit. She found it kind of strange too, but wasn't about to say so.

"So, ah, Gaara, did you find any of the other matches interesting?" he asked, trying to sound as normal as possible in spite of the bizarre conversation that he was sure might just get him killed.

Gaara blinked as if he hadn't given it much thought and after a pause answered, "not particularly."

It was a passing interest as far as Gaara was concerned, an idle curiosity. He had no way of knowing then that it was going to bloom into so much more.

"I always end up fighting girls," he complained. "If I lose without putting up a fight, it'll look bad for me, but if I won I'd have to fight again. It's troublesome, so this way is best," the Nara explained plainly.

"You really are a lazy bastard," Naruto said flatly. "Someone like you will never be a chuunin."

"Whatever," Shikamaru answered. "I thought we ordinary guys would stick together, but then you had to go and beat Hyuuga. I guess it'll be me, Ino, and Chouji next time. That's fine too." The Nara yawned and stretched, leaning his head back to stare up at the sky. "Being average is totally fine by me. Most people don't pass the exam the first time around anyway. Being a statistic is easier. People don't expect as much out of you."

Gaara, standing in a shadowed corner as Shikamaru and Naruto conversed, found the Nara's logic downright bizarre, but oddly amusing. He also got a strange pleasure out of the fact that Temari was so mad and trying not to scream her rage on the top of her lungs.'I was right,' the red head thought. 'He's interesting.' He didn't understand the Nara one bit and was fairly confident he never would, but he had the strangest impression that he'd like to see what sort of weird things Nara Shikamaru say next. It started as a niggle, an impulse; he had no idea it would balloon into something that would take over his entire life.

Shikamaru Nara wrinkled his nose. "Don't laugh," he said for what felt like the thousandth time. The comment only made Uzumaki Naruto laugh even harder. On the one hand, he was pissed about not passing himself, on the other, Naruto couldn't deny a small measure of hilarity at the fact that the one and only Konoha nin to pass the exam was the laziest, most cowardly nin of the bunch.

"It's funny," Naruto said when he finally stopped laughing, eyes wrinkled in mirth. "Some genius you are. You failed at being ordinary."

"Shut up!" Shikamaru griped. "I'm way more normal than you. What kid of ninja wears day-glo orange anyway?"

Naruto didn't take it personally. Shikamaru had a tendency to insult whoever was nearest at the time when he was flustered was all. "You know," the blond added, "for a guy who's supposed to be so lazy, you sure put a lot of effort into seeming average.

Shikamaru sighed. "Yeah, yeah. It's all part of my diabolical plan."

"To think," Temari grumped, "a lazy bastard like that would be the only one."

Kankuro shrugged. "It may not be official, but he had you beat, after all."

"I was having an off day!" Temari defended. "This time I'll show him."

Gaara blinked. They had to be talking about Nara Shikamaru. No one else made any sense as the topic of this particular conversation. "The only one what?" he asked, startling both siblings as he hadn't said a word since breakfast.

Kankuro was the one to answer. "Temari's favorite person is the only one of the Konoha nin to pass the chuunin exam. It's a little belated given all the stuff that's happened for them recently, but ever since our big sis here found out he's the team leader of this mission she's had her fishnets all in a twist."

"I have not!" Temari griped. "It just annoys me a little. If he wasn't so damn lazy, we wouldn't have to save their asses."

"I'm sure he'll be thrilled when you inevitably tell him so in person," Kankuro retorted, at which point Temari threatened to shove her fan up a very uncomfortable place.

His siblings antics didn't particularly phase Gaara. Rather, it was one turn of phrase that got him: 'favorite person'. He dwelled on it. It was a concept the slightly less homicidal Gaara was only beginning to understand. 'Who is my favorite person?' he wondered. Was it okay not to have one? And did you have to think about it? It seemed like an awfully important thing to choose. "Temari?" he asked.


"How do you choose a 'favorite person'?"

Kankuro had to struggle not to laugh. "Go ahead. Tell him, Temari." He was sure glad Gaara wasn't asking him and deliberately ignored his elder sister's aptly coined 'glare of imminent doom'.

"It's not something you pick," Temari said at last. "It's just something you know. And just to be very clear, Nara Shikamaru is not mine."

Gaara thought about this for a long moment. Well, if he wasn't Temari's, he had to be someone's right? "Maybe he can be mine then," he mused, not fully understanding what he was saying just yet. Even so, the statement made Kankuro falter and leap right past the branch he'd been aiming for. He hit his head and fell gracelessly into some bushes. There was a comical crash just as Temari stopped dead in her tracks and said soberly, "Gaara, do you really like Shikamaru that much?"

"I don't know," Gaara answered innocently. "But if I 'just know' who my favorite person is, then I think it has to be either him or Naruto. You can only have one favorite though, so I thought if he wasn't yours, maybe I could have him."

Kankuro stayed down in the bushes a while longer, not daring to emerge before he stopped laughing. Gaara had no idea what he was saying, and the funniest part of it all was that he could just imagine the look on Shikamaru's face when he found out a clueless, slightly homicidal, demon-containing sand nin had a crush on him. He prayed he'd be there to see it.