Long Road to Love
A Naruto Fanfiction
Shikamaru x Gaara
Chapter Six: Your Final Answer
"He's staring at me again," Genma complained.
"Obviously," Neji said moving his chess piece. They were taking a little break from the manual labor. "You're the competition. Gaara's not accustomed to someone being in his way and not killing them for it."
Genma's shoulders tensed a little as he moved his piece. "If you're trying to make me nervous, it's working."
"Not at all. I was just thinking that if I was you, I'd be a little embarrassed about dating someone half my age when everyone knows he doesn't even really care about me one way or the other."
Genma stared at Neji flatly. "You lack something in tact," he said. "This is the first time I've let myself like someone since Hayate died, you know. I know it's a little unconventional, but I still think I suit Shikamaru better than that guy does."
"I find that often, those you're fond of and those you're suited to aren't even close to the same thing," Neji said. "Checkmate."
Genma frowned at the board. "You and Temari are the exception to the rule," he said.
Rolling to his feet, Neji said, "Don't you think you're maybe just seeing what you want to see?"
"So?" Shikamaru asked. "How do you feel?"
"...the same," Gaara answered, brow furrowed as he lay back against the mattress.
"You're probably thinking too much. Try to relax a little and falling asleep should be easier. Kankuro is right. Without Shukaku, you have to take better care of yourself or you'll wear yourself thin. Then you won't be any good to anyone." He laid Kagemane down on Gaara's chest. "Nice deep breathing, try to imitate your cat, he's got it down."
Gaara opened his eyes and looked down at the scruffy little kitten. "This is hopeless," he said, petting the cat.
Shikamaru sighed. "Well, I don't get it. I'm getting tired just looking at you."
"Nah. It's okay, but even a genius has their limits. I'm not sure what else to tell you," Shikamaru said.
Gaara seemed intent to give up for now and sat up, resting the kitten in his lap. "Thank you for trying," he said. It was hard to concentrate on relaxing when Shikamaru was there. He thought that was the problem, but didn't say so. He still didn't understand what was so wrong with him that Shikamaru would rather be with a – in Gaara's oh so humble opinion – mediocre special jounin twice his age than entertain the thought of being with him when Shikamaru was obviously way smarter and more attractive and funnier and kinder than the thirty year old Genma Shiranui. And not as weird. What was with the senbon, anyway? Gaara wondered if he chewed on it when he was sleeping, and if so, how he managed not to choke. Okay, so it was petty jealousy that made him think this way, but he was extremely frustrated by the entire affair.
"It's fine," Shikamaru said. "You're just troublesome by nature. You can't help it." It was a bit of a joke, but when the nin got up to leave, Gaara and his 'troublesome nature' grabbed onto Shikamaru's sleeve.
The Nara blinked. "Well, come to think of it, I can probably get you some medicine that will knock you right out, if your situation is that bad."
"That's not it," Gaara said. "I...would you stay tonight? I mean, even if you're sleeping, it's okay."
"Gaara, I already told you..." Shikamaru said, ready to explain yet again how he was with someone, though he rarely stayed the night with Genma either.
"As a friend?" Gaara tried.
The pale green puppy expression made Shikamaru sigh a little and nod. "I'm sleeping on the couch though."
"Maybe we should end this," Genma blanketed when Shikamaru sat down across from him with a cup of tea, trying to rouse himself into full consciousness and showing he was having quite the hard time with it.
"Huh?" Shikamaru asked, rubbing his eyes.
"You were with him last night, weren't you?" Genma asked, unable to curb a little hint of jealousy.
"Sleeping lessons," he said. "Nothing happened. Not much sleeping either, unfortunately." In spite of all their efforts.
"Not the point," Genma said. "It's like pulling teeth to get you to stay overnight with me. I bet he only had to ask you once. I've known from the beginning you weren't really interested, but I figured you'd warm up to me and come around over time. I've been more than patient."
"Borderline stupid," the Nara confirmed, too tired to curb his tongue.
Genma frowned, but didn't disagree. "I thought you'd realize that I was a better match for you than he is, but in the end you're only with me because it's too much of a bother for you to initiate a break up."
Shikamaru shrugged. "It's not like I hate you or anything."
"You don't particularly like me either," he answered. "Even months after the fact. I'm not trying to make you look like the bad guy, but even I have my pride. I've had enough. I lost. I give up. Do whatever you want."
Shikamaru watched as Genma got up to go about the work for the day. 'Whatever I want, huh?' he thought, and within the next five minutes burrowed into bed. Just a little nap, then he'd get back to work. So. Tired...
When Shikamaru woke two hours later, there was something warm cuddled up against his back. He tried to look without disturbing who, or what, ever it was, and managed to glimpse a little fly-a-way of vibrant red hair. He sighed and Gaara blinked his eyes open with a little yawn. "It was an experiment," Gaara defended himself, scooting back a bit as Shikamaru flopped onto his back.
"Were you sleeping?" Shikamaru asked.
"A little, I think," Gaara said. "I don't remember. I think I dreamed some. It was things I remember, but they were all out of order and there were things in them that didn't happen."
"So, your experiment?"
"I thought, if it was next to you, I might feel more relaxed and be able to rest a little," Gaara admitted, a little embarrassed.
Shikamaru rubbed his eyes and sat up. "Why me, huh?" he asked finally. "What is it about a lazy bastard like me that has you so enthralled?" Didn't Gaara understand how amazing he was? That he was supposed to fall for someone who was also amazing?
Gaara shrugged a little. "It's always been you."
Shikamaru knew that Gaara had no idea how romantic a statement that really was. "I'm a bad boyfriend," he said. "I don't pay attention to people and I'm too lazy to go on proper dates. I don't listen often."
"That's fine," Gaara said. "Since I don't say much."
Shikamaru couldn't help but find the earnest comment terribly entertaining. "You're something else. You really don't know how to give up, do you?"
"You can teach me that too," Gaara said. "As long as..."
"As long as what?" Shikamaru asked.
"As long as it's not..." Gaara slowed, feeling embarrassed. "As long as it's not giving up on you."
Shikamaru sighed. "Genma broke up with me today, you know," he said. "I guess I suck like that."
"Good," Gaara said, causing Shikamaru to blink a little. "If you're not his anymore, then you can be mine."
Again, Shikamaru found himself laughing a little at the comment. "You really are a stubborn, troublesome guy."
Gaara stared up at him, apparently unwilling to let it rest until he got an answer.
"It's too troublesome to tell you no," Shikamaru said at last, looking away, cheeks flushing slightly.
"Don't say it that way," Gaara insisted. "You're my favorite person, you know, so I...want to be yours too." Shikamaru made him use full sentences. He wasn't sure he liked that much.
Nara Shikamaru gave up at that point and leaned down, laying a light kiss on the corner of Gaara's mouth. "I'll probably never say it, you know," he said. "Because I'm a coward."
Gaara wrapped his arms around Shikamaru's neck, feeling as if he was somehow 'happy'. He'd never been truly happy before, so he wasn't sure, but he thought this bubbly feeling in his chest was probably close to it. "Is that your final answer?" he asked.
"Basically," Shikamaru answered, deciding he no longer gave a damn whether they were a good match or not. It was, after all, the first time he'd been in love. He leaned down and placed a gentle kiss more directly on Gaara's soft mouth.
The kazekage looked up at him when they separated with a shy smile. "Then in the future," he said, pulling Shikamaru back down against the mattress. "You'd better write back."
Shikamaru let the red head do as he pleased, smirking slightly in reply. "I knew it when we first met, and I'm even more sure about it now. You're troublesome." He settled into the loose embrace against the mattress and finished by saying, "but I guess I don't mind."