A/N: uhg! I promised myself that I'd take a nice, long break from writing NaruGaa/GaaNaru since I recently completed an extremely long fanfiction (plus a mini sequel/deleted scene for it) of the same pairing. And yet here I am, finally getting around to writing a songfic that's been in the back of my mind for FOREVER. And um, technically this isn't AU, but it is years later in the canon world. About four or so, making the two boys nineteen years old. In this oneshot, Gaara is in Konoha for 'Kage business (and since they're together, he's staying at Naruto's apartment), but it's winter and chillier than he's used to, even though it does get cold on desert nights. Now, enter the song lyrics (which are slightly altered) and here we go! XD
All italics, even in dialogue, are lyrics to Secondhand Serenade's 'Vulnerable'.
Share with me the blankets that you're wrapped in,
Because it's cold outside.
And share with me the secrets that you've kept in,
Because it's cold inside.
I reach over and attempt to untangle the mass of blankets around the body beside me. Even in my half-awake state, however, I sense that I shouldn't take the sheets and should get my own. Sure enough, the second I lay a hand on him, I feel Gaara shiver violently. I blink a couple times to get the sleep out of my eyes, and I find him completely buried in the frosty moonlight. My heart goes soft and I smile weakly. Maybe, if I can slip into the blankets, I can help heat him up; after all, having Kyuubi – a demon of the fire element – in me makes me run a slightly higher temperature than average humans.
But it's no use; he's wrapped up in there pretty tightly. So, gently, I try to wake him enough so he can share the blankets. "Gaara," I whisper, "Let me in."
He stirs, and I slowly see red hair peek out. He lifts his head and blinks at me. He shivers again as the chilly air grazes his face. I suddenly wish I was able to afford a better heating system.
"Hey," I murmur. "If you want to be warmer, share the covers."
I see recollection cross his face, and I know he remembers that two bodies are warmer than one. In a sleepy daze, I watch the Kazekage's movements as he unwraps the sheets and slides them over me. He scoots up close – an intimacy issue he's grown out of when he's alone with me – and cuddles my chest, which now reflected by the sheets, I can feel is radiating heat despite how cold I feel.
Gaara's breathing doesn't return to the steadily rise and fall of sleep. I cock my head down at him. "Oops; now that I woke you up, you can't go back to sleep, can you?"
He shakes his head and peers up at my face. His own face is expressionless, although his eyes look terribly tired.
A thought comes to mind. "Well," I say, "Since we're both unable to sleep, maybe we should talk a while, 'ttebayo."
He makes a sort of shrugging motion. I should've known; talking isn't one of Gaara's main traits like it is mine. He only speaks when need be, where I on the other hand, like to chat constantly.
No matter. I can talk for him, then. Sometimes it's my voice that puts him to sleep, since he can't always do it on his own. The years of insomnia became habit, so even after losing Shukaku (which is a day I both hate to remember and would hate to lose) he doesn't sleep often. Some nights, I know all he does is watch me sleep. I know this because even in my sleep, I can feel his hand caressing my skin.
I begin with, "I think I see frost on the window. It must've gotten really cold tonight; more than usual. D'ya think it'll snow soon?"
He clears his throat, but as he speaks his voice sounds a bit gruff. "It might. Although it feels too cold at the moment."
Gaara's right; it's too cold to snow. If it warmed up a little, we could probably have snow. "Yeah, that sounds about right." I hold him closer. "So… big meeting tomorrow with Tsunade-baachan…"
"Hn," he agrees. There's an undertone in his voice that's wondering where I'm going with all these small-talk statements.
Without hesitation, I dive into what's been on my mind for a long time now. And I think he'll answer me this time. "What are you hiding?"
"I knew you wouldn't make small talk with me unless something was bothering you, Naruto," he remarks lowly. I wince, feeling guilty. Against my skin, he frowns. "And what do you mean, 'what am I hiding'?"
I let out a steady breath. "I mean your secrets. We've been like this," I gesture with one hand down at our clinging bodies, "For years now. And I feel like I'm open with you all the time, and yet you're hiding things from me! Gaara, I want to know what's going on in your head sometimes, I really do. I want to know what makes you randomly shed a tear and wipe it away before you think I notice. What are you keeping inside? Can't you trust me enough to tell me?"
I didn't mean to ramble or seem as hurt as I realize my voice sounded just now. But I can't linger on what I said; I have to hear Gaara's response.
At first, he says nothing.
And your slow, shaking fingertips show
That your scared like me, so
Let's pretend we're alone…
Then, he starts to quake. A tremor runs through him and his fingers quiver as they grip my waist. And I understand: he's scared. He's scared to tell me, or scared of how I might react.
"Shh, it's alright," I whisper in a worried tone. I start rubbing small circles on his back under his shirt, my meaty hand burning into the slightly cooler flesh. "I'm the only one here. You don't have to tell anyone but me. But now that you're shaking, you have to tell me. I'm worried about you, Gaara."
He's always been so strong. And it's merely recently that he's been revealing fractions of his weaknesses to me. More-so since he can't defend himself as well without his demon.
And I know you may be scared,
And I know we're unprepared,
But I don't care.
I remember the first time I kissed him. Gaara hadn't expected it, and he nearly smacked me across the cheek out of defense and surprise. But when I did it again immediately (because I didn't care; I wanted to kiss him and was determined to do it), he melted.
But he's not melting tonight. His mask is on, his walls up. He's reluctant to allow me entry. Still, I have methods of convincing him.
"Tell me, tell me… what makes you think that's you are invincible?" I ask. "I can see it in your eyes that you're so sure…" I shake my head. "All those years of having to hardly lift a finger to destroy your enemies are passed, Gaara. You have to let the walls down some time. Plus, I'm no enemy. I'm here to help you, dammit!"
"Naruto…" he mumbles.
I shake my head. "Please don't tell me that I'm the only one that's vulnerable… That's impossible." I bring his chin up so I can look him in the eye. In the silvery moonlight, his aquamarine orbs appear minty-grey. "Under that mask you wear, I know that you're just as vulnerable as me. Deep down, you're that same lonely child I was. Or had our fight during the Chunnin exams meant nothing to you?"
"No," he snaps stubbornly. "You haven't an inkling how much that meant to me. How much it changed me," he emphasizes with a mild growl. "I just…"
"'Just' what?" I prod softly. "You 'just' don't know how to say it? You 'just' aren't sure I can handle it? I'm not exactly the misinterpreting type, dattebayo."
The Kazekage looks away from me and leans off of my body. He's hesitating.
Seems I have to convince him further.
"I was born to tell you, 'I love you'…" I remind him.
Isn't that a song already?
I get a B in originality…
"And it's true I can't go on without you…" I elaborate. I come closer and touch his shoulder, but Gaara flinches away. I feel conflicted, wondering if I should stop, but know that I can't. I need to get to the bottom of this puzzle once and for all. I turn him around and stare into his watering eyes. He's crying, that's why he doesn't want me to see him; he's again trying to hide his emotions. I smile dimly and swipe at a pair of tears on his milky-colored left cheek with my thumb. "Your smile makes me see clear; if you could only see in the mirror, what I see…"
I know he doesn't. I know Gaara doesn't see anything special when he glances at a mirror. When he looks in the mirror, I bet all he sees is a man of status, or a previous demon container, or a pathetic boy with empty eyes.
But what I see is his 'ai' scar: love. My love. My one true match, the only person in the world who can understand me and accept me. When I look at Gaara, I see my most precious person, someone I can't afford to lose; not again. Not after I wept painfully bitter tears over his corpse. Not after I gave any chakra I could to refuel him, and with Chiyo-baasama's jutsu, bring him back to life, to me. I see a noble man who's willing to give everything for his nation. I see someone I need to protect and nurture. I see a million other things, too; things I can't even bring to the front of my mind half the time because I'm too lost in all the beauties that make up the unusual appearance of Sabaku No Gaara.
He pulls out of my grasp and sits up, the sheets of my bed draping his shoulders. "How can you say those things?" he mutters breathlessly. In his voice, I hear unspoken pain: 'I don't deserve to hear it'. That's not true… I mean, yeah, he killed some people. Okay, so maybe a lot of people. But he was young and foolish and confused, not to mention a pawn of a Tanuki. Plus, every shinobi kills; it's the way of life us ninjas have to adapt to. We have to kill, or else we can't survive, and no war would be justified.
Gaara stands to leave. I grab his wrist. "Slow down boy… You're not going anywhere. Just wait around and see. Maybe I'm much more… You never know what lies ahead. I promise I can be anyone, I can be anything… Just because you were hurt doesn't mean you shouldn't bleed."
It's true. He gets hurt, but doesn't let his pain out. He bottles it up inside, holds back his 'blood' and refuses to show that he was even scratched. It pains me, because then I feel like I'm bleeding for him. Don't get me wrong; I'd gladly bleed or even die for him, but I don't like seeing that I'm the only one who can bleed. Gaara's human, too; and unlike me, he's no longer a Jinchuuriki. He can walk freely without the burden of a bakemono inside him. So he should be able to let his emotions run wild.
"Be anyone or anything?" he repeats. The redhead turns his eyes to me. "But I wouldn't like you to 'be anyone or anything' else. It's you I fell in love with, Naruto no baka." And he makes an effort to send me a lopsided smile.
I return it. "I meant: I can be anyone, anything… I can be what you need," I clarify and yank him back down under the blankets, forcing his lips to mine.
Tell me, tell me
What makes you think that you are invincible?
I can see it in your eyes that you're so sure;
Please don't tell me that I'm the only one that's vulnerable…
I taste salt from his tears in my mouth, but I think I've softened him.
And I must be correct, because then Gaara spills his secrets to me. Every last one of them. For a better part of an hour, he laments the major events of his childhood, his innermost thoughts, and every raw emotion he's ever felt I see reflected on his face.
And I absorb each detail and hold him and rock back and forth gently. When he's through, I see dawn breaking in the distance. "Arigato," I thank him. He doesn't say anything, but I know that I'm welcome.
I kiss the kanji on his forehead and lay him down.
"Now let's try and get some sleep, Gaara. You don't have that many hours until that meeting." And I smile.
In minutes, I feel his breathing calm. I think he's asleep, and I begin to drift into dreamland myself, but then he speaks. "Naruto…" he's saying, "You're right. Underneath it all, I am quite vulnerable."