Finally, part two of 'A Far Off Place!' It was hard to write and I hope you all enjoy. Remember, these are all two-shots, so the next story will involve two new main characters. If you really like any of these stories and feel as if they need to be continued in more depth, please let me know! I'm always open to suggestions.
As always, Wash, what would I do without you? I'd be a far worse writer, that's for damn sure.
The Abdication of the Godaime
A Far Off Place: Part Two
Rock Lee sighed, searching his mind for the best way to tell Tenten.
"Look, I don't know what you're so worried about. So you had a bad dream about the Kazekage? You were the first person to ever hit him, I know you'd be able to hold your own in that fight." The slight girl began the meticulous and careful cleanup of her weapons from the training area.
"It wasn't all that bad of a dream…," Lee mumbled, flushing briefly. A clang echoed from behind him as Tenten began to slowly wrap her practice kunai into a clean cloth.
"Did you say something?" She looked up curiously from her kunai, furrowing her eyebrows as she took in Lee's blush.
Lee quickly shook his head, causing his mop of black hair to sway in a neatly-trimmed unit before executing a graceful somersault from the tree branch he had been sitting on.
Tenten shrugged and smiled. Her friend may have been awkward in every conversation he participated in, but he moved with an admirable amount of masculine grace, a testament to his incredible work ethic. He alighted near the base of the tree trunk and seamlessly pulled out an embedded shuriken, casually tossing it to his training partner.
"You know, with your taijutsu, I'm sure you could take to weapons well, Lee."
He sheepishly held up his bandaged hands before gesturing to his orange legwarmers.
"Sorry Tenten-san. These are all the weapons I need," Lee declined politely.
"Your loss," she replied cheerfully, gathering up the bundle of weaponry. Lee chivalrously reached over her to carry the pack.
"Yosh!" He started with his old enthusiasm. "You are absolutely right, Tenten-san. Gaara-sama isn't a monster, and one dream shouldn't ruin our youthful friendship!"
"That's not exactly what I meant," Tenten muttered. She refrained from sharing her exact opinion of Sunagakure's leader as Lee seemed to count him as a friend.
Lee, too busy to notice her skepticism, smiled broadly with a new spring in his step. Gaara was consistently busy with his duties as Kazekage, although once in a while he managed to respond to Lee's long and rambling letters. Lee giggled as he imagined Gaara in his Kazekage hate, bent over a pile of paperwork and scribbling off a terse reply. His laughter quickly turned into a silent blush as an unbidden image from his dream floated its way to the front of his thoughts, involving the redhead bent over something else entirely.
"Excuse me Tenten-san, I must go!"
He neatly bowed before shoving the pack of weapons into her hands and disappearing, leaving only a trail of dust to show where he had been.
Lee ran blindly, squeezing his eyes shut in an attempt to erase the images from his brain, relying on memory to carry him through the town.
"These are most unyouthful thoughts! If I cannot stop thinking about Gaara this way, I will do 500 laps around Konoha!"
"Hey crazy eyebrows, or whatever the hell they call you!"
An unfamiliar voice halted Lee, who stumbled uncharacteristically, stopping at the gates of the hidden village. As he looked around, his eyes rested on a familiar trio of siblings. The brother, complete in his makeup and cat hood, was frowning at him and waving.
"You're just in time! How did you know that we'd be so early?"
Lee stared for a minute, wincing under Gaara's piercing gaze. The Kazekage had shrugged his sister's arm from his shoulders and now pinned the leaf jounin with a stare. Knowing that the thought was ridiculous, Lee couldn't help but wonder if some of the terrible rumors about Gaara were true, and he could currently read Lee's mind, perverted thoughts and all. Lee pushed this thought down, along with the nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach, and launched into a friendly greeting.
"Kazekage-sama! Temari-san, Kankuro-san! How splendid to see all of you, and in such a fantastic time! I didn't expect any of you until tomorrow, and was simply running my training laps around the village, but I see the power of youth has prevailed and brought me here at the exact right time!"
He reached out a moment and shook Kankuro's less-than-enthusiastic hand. The expression on Temari's face went from annoyed to amused, and Gaara continued to stare at him.
"Gaara," the Kazekage finally said aloud.
"What was that, Kazekage-sama?"
"Call me Gaara."
Lee flushed and nodded grabbing Gaara's hand in a powerful handshake. Temari and Kankuro tensed. Gaara's new efforts to become more human hadn't reached the stage of casual touching yet.
"Okay, Gaara-sama, where do you want to go first? What do you want to do? You all must be tired, I can show you to your quarters if you would like."
The Kazekage also tensed, but allowed Lee to quickly shake his hand, rubbing his fingers together curiously after the loss of contact. Kankuro and Temari visibly relaxed.
"Yeah, some rest would be amaz…," Kankuro started before he was swiftly cut off by his brother.
"I would like to see the preparations for the ceremony."
"C'mon, Gaara, I'm so tired. After you forced us to get here so quickly, I really need to relax," Kankuro whined.
Lee winced, bracing himself for a violent retaliation from the Kazekage. When none came, he opened his eyes cautiously. Gaara shrugged his shoulders the slightest bit and turned from his siblings towards Lee.
"You two can go ahead. Kankuro, go sleep. Temari, go to that shadow-user. At some point one of you will check in with the Hokage, announcing our arrival."
Temari blushed furiously and narrowed her eyes at her brother before nodding. She quickly ushered Kankuro forward, before he could begin to complain about why one of them had to check in with Tsunade instead of Gaara himself.
"The preparations are going quite smoothly," Lee began, smiling brightly to contrast with the awkward feeling that had settled in his chest when he realized that he was now alone with Gaara.
"Naruto has actually been quite cooperative when dealing with the new amount of work. I am sure he will make a most excellent and youthful Hokage!"
Gaara nodded and fell into step beside Lee.
"I would like to spar with you," the Kazekage said abruptly.
Lee's grin spread widely until it took up the majority of his face as he paused to flash Gaara the 'Nice Guy Pose.'
"Yosh! I have just come from training and am already warmed up and prepared! Do not think that simply because I have been working hard all morning that I am tired! I will not go easy on you, Gaara-sama."
The Kazekage's mouth twitched a bit as the ends turned upward in resembling a smile. Lee felt the nervous feeling tighten in his chest and he resisted the urge to blush.
Gaara swiftly and noiselessly walked out of the village, stopping a few feet from the gates. The sand in his gourd trembled and buzzed restlessly as he turned to face his sparring partner.
Lee happily bounced out of the gates, barely able to contain his excitement as he raised his arms into a fighting pose.
The cork released with a pop, followed by the hissing sound of gallons of sand being released. It was a sound that formerly had given Lee nightmares, and now haunted his dreams in a completely different way.
Gaara struck first, releasing the sand in a controlled but violent manner. Lee easily countered this with a swift kick, blocking the attack and quickly countering with a series of lightning-fast punches. These were easily blocked by Gaara's sand armor, allowing the Kazekage to relax for a moment and plot his next offensive.
Lee whirled, nearly dancing, around Gaara, landing light punches and kicks to the sand armor, searching for a weakness. As he rapidly circled his opponent, Lee sifted a few stray grains of sand between his fingers. They were sticky with sweat and humidity. Firing off another blinding round of kicks, Lee watched as the sand armor seemed to slow, just a fraction. The Konoha jounin grinned as he realized Gaara was slower than his best because of the humid air of the forest. It was only a tiny percent, insurmountable to the untrained eye, and certainly undetectable by a genin or even chunin, but it was there.
Smiling broadly at his sparring partner, Lee aimed few punches at the armor, hoping to keep Gaara occupied as he reached down with his other hand and released a few of the weights from his legs. If he was able to increase his speed enough, he could break through the protective sand shield and possibly land a punch or kick.
Gaara blinked as he watched Lee's speed double. He had yet to see Lee in combat since the fight with Kimimaro years before, and the Konoha nin had increased his skill exponentially. Artfully shifting the sand, he drew it closer into his body until it created a second tight seal around his skin. Lee landed a kick mid-thigh, still not touching Gaara's skin, but propelling him backwards towards the forest.
The two men stood still for a moment, facing each other, panting. Lee smiled at the Kazekage as he ran his fingers through his hair, distributing sand and sweat. Faster than Lee could track, Gaara released a second barrage of sand from the gourd wrapping it tightly around Lee's neck, pinning him to a nearby tree.
Watching helplessly as Gaara approached, Lee struggled against the sand, causing it to tear at the more tender skin on his neck, pouring into the wounds with a burning dryness.
"You are not afraid of me."
The Kazekage was still shorter than the leaf jounin, and his head came up to Lee's neck. He looked up at the taller man with an intense green stare.
Lee attempted to shrug, but was held steady by the sand.
Gaara stared at the ground and released Lee with a hiss of retreating sand. Lee fell unceremoniously to the ground in a heap, breathing heavily.
"I wanted to see you," Gaara said. It was more of a question than a statement.
Lee smiled up at him tiredly.
"Maybe it's because I'm your friend too."