Title: A Blessing
Fandom: Naruto
Rating: PG
Pairing: Naruto x Gaara (very slight, more friendship-ish)
Word Count: 1500

Gaara sits on the edge of his bed. It is pleasantly quiet in his dignitary's guest quarters. Gaara doesn't say a word, he only stares out the window. Gaara's face is peaceful. There are no signs of the malice or hatred. This is such a stark contrast to the person the Kazekage was as a youth.

Gaara displays no signs he is aware there is another person standing in his doorway. Just when Naruto thinks perhaps he shouldn't intrude on this private moment, Gaara turns slightly to face Naruto. Even in the dim light Gaara's eyes are haunting. There are deep, dark marks that still frame his pale green eyes. However, these eyes are more curious than threatening, so Naruto chooses to say his hello.

"Hey Gaara," he says. Naruto's hand rises in some awkward greeting attempt.

Gaara doesn't reply, only cocks his head to the side. So much of what Gaara communicates is said in complete silence. If Naruto hadn't become more observant in the last few years, he might have missed the slight gesture Gaara gives with his hand. The Kazekage pats a spot on the bed beside him.

It is a bit strange to be summoned to another man's bed, but Naruto doesn't deny Gaara this request. Naruto takes, soundless strides to where Gaara is and sits next to him on the mattress.

"Who knew? You are actually a ninja," Gaara says in a mere whisper.

"Who knew? The Kazekage actually has a sense of humor," Naruto retorts with an unamused snort.

Gaara looks out the window, but barely breathes the words, "We all grow up and change…" before letting them fall off into the stillness of the night air.

The room is hot. It is also wet with moisture which is common in Konoha, but not in Suna. Gaara is used to intense heat, but it is almost always dry. Nights in the desert are cold in comparison to this stiflingly moist place. Sleeping is already difficult, and this humidity makes the Kazekage cranky and robs him of precious sleep. Gaara can't find the energy at this time of night to make decent conversation with his friend, but it is still comforting to have Naruto by his side, even without talking.

Naruto's Hokage coronation is tomorrow. It is a culmination of a long, arduous road. The past couple of years were rather tumultuous as Gaara watched his counterpart grow into a strong, capable shinobi. Uzumaki became more than just a good ninja, Naruto became a first-rate leader who was respected and loved by his friends and subordinates. Even Gaara has come to admire Naruto as a leader.

"So is this how it was for you?" Naruto asks, his hands held together as he fidgets and rolls his thumbs in lazy circles.

"I suppose it was. I was surprised they didn't forgo my ceremony entirely," Gaara replies.

Gaara chooses to continue looking out the window rather than at Naruto. The Kazekage doesn't understand why, but in this close proximity it is difficult to look at his friend directly. Gaara always feels a little queasy when he does, his emotions shifting into chaos, reminiscent of the days when the Shukaku was in his body ravaging his mind.

"Hmm…"

Naruto's voice is low and soothing as he hums. It is an unconscious sound, but Gaara likes how Naruto's voice vibrates soft and deep.

"I wish I could have been there to support you," Naruto tells Gaara.

Gaara doesn't know how to respond. He wants to say how he wished Naruto could have been there too; to see the conscious effort Gaara made to be a good person. That was a time when Shukaku was still part of him, so it took considerable effort to be a good person. Gaara tried so hard to be like Naruto, and he succeeded in the end. These days Gaara also has friends and subordinates who respect and care for him.

The air is heavy again, but this time it is filled by things Gaara can't find the courage to say. They are things Naruto doesn't have knowledge of, and probably never will. These are words Gaara keeps locked deep in his heart, because he isn't sure exactly what they are or how he can express them to his friend.

Naruto fidgets a bit more, and Gaara unconsciously touches the tattoo on his forehead.

"Ai" or "love"…

"Headache?" Naruto asks, oblivious to what Gaara had really done.

"No," the sand leader responds, letting his hand drop immediately when he realizes.

"Oh…okay," Naruto says curiously, but he doesn't press the issue, instead he changes the subject. "Well, did you get me a present?"

Sand council members and dignitaries bogged the Kazekage's visiting party down with gifts for Naruto and Konoha, but not a single one of them was actually from Gaara. The young Kazekage can honestly say that he doesn't even know what most of them are.

He bluntly tells Naruto, "No. Nothing."

Naruto harrumphs and crosses his arms, like he is supposedly mad at Gaara, but it is a very obvious act. "I see, and after I got you that really nice orange vase to put in your office for your birthday last year."

The response from the Kazekage is to squint at his friend and a firmly say, "I do not give gifts."

"And I don't do deserts and sand, but you don't see me complaining when I come to visit you every now and then," Naruto shoots back. As an afterthought he points an accusing finger at the Kazekage before continuing. Gaara's eyes widen at the childish display. "AND, you never come to visit me here in Konoha. You are a bad friend."

Even though Naruto isn't serious, the words still sting. The hurt shows in Gaara's eyes, a deep pain resurrected momentarily as he gives Naruto a wounded look. He turns away from Naruto and decides the window is much less irritating.

Naruto scoots close to his friend and gently touches Gaara's arm, "Hey, I'm sorry, don't be mad. It was just a joke."

"It was a bad joke," Gaara tells Naruto bitterly.

"It came from me. Did you expect genius?" Naruto asks with a smile. Gaara isn't looking at the other man's face, but he can hear the smirk creep into Naruto's voice. It is warm and cheery and oh so disarming.

"Do you really want a present?" Gaara asks.

Naruto nods emphatically, coupling his movement with an excited, "Yes." For a man who has traversed such a difficult path in life, Naruto is surprisingly jovial and still has an air of innocence about him.

"Give me your hand," Gaara instructs Naruto. He holds his out to demonstrate, palm up as an example, then looks Naruto in the face again to show he is dead serious.

Naruto lets out a nervous chuckle, not really knowing how to respond. "Uh…" but doesn't say anything else, he just gives over his hand to Gaara, hoping he'd get it back in one piece and still attached to his arm. Once it is in Gaara's possession, he urges Naruto to turn it over; then Gaara studies the lines in the dim light.

"Oh, I get it!" Naruto exclaims, "You're doing one of those palm reading things."

Gaara jabs a finger into the center of Naruto's palm, "No," he says sternly, "I'm not."

Naruto's expression goes from excited to dread in less than a second, "Then what exactly are you doing?" he asks worriedly.

"A blessing," Gaara responds as he runs his finger over one of the lines on Naruto's hand. "It is known to many of the people who live in the desert."

Naruto watches as Gaara traces a slight line on his hand. It is fascinating to see the Kazekage be so…human.

Gaara follows a deep line on Naruto's palm with his fingertip, "For a long life filled with contentment," and then one beside it, "In which you find companionship," and one below that, "And the strength to persevere over the obstacles presented to you." Gaara's gaze focuses onto Naruto's face, and then he bows his head. "This is what I wish for you, Naruto."

Naruto's hand is returned, the ghost sensations of Gaara's fingertips still dancing over the nerve endings in his palm. Naruto's mouth is dry and he nods deftly, not really knowing what to say. It was quite the poetic blessing, and Naruto can hardly believe Gaara had been the one to give it to him.

"Thank you," is what Naruto finally settles upon when he regains the ability to speak. "That was really beautiful."

Gaara nods. He too finds the blessing pleasant. Temari had once done it to him and wished for him to find courage, friendship, and a love that would heal past wounds. It was one of the most precious gifts Gaara had ever received, and now it is his wish to pass it on in hopes that it will be precious to Naruto as well.

Judging from the warm, genuine smile Naruto gives him that is spread from ear to ear, and even twinkles in his vibrant blue eyes, it is.