AN: Fluffy NaruGaa one-shot.
It was late at night in the village of Konoha, but huge crowds of people – from all around the five great shinobi nations and other smaller villages – were still roaming the brightly lit streets. The reason for this was that the first night of Konoha's famous annual summer festival had begun about an hour earlier. Everyone was in formal robes, and I was too – blue and gold, thanks to Sakura's insistence that it "matched my eyes and my hair." I guess it could have been worse, though. Poor Lee looked like one of those garish Christmas trees. But then again, he didn't seem to be too upset about it, since Sakura had picked it out for him.
Everyone seemed to be taking full advantage of the festivities, especially the vendors; they sold bright balloons, food, clothing, masks, and all kinds of useless souvenirs at ridiculously high prices. I guess they were taking advantage of the gullible tourists.
I was sitting at a table with Sakura and Shikamaru, and I was pouting; Shikamaru was dressed as casual as usual, and to this day I still have no idea how he had gotten out of Sakura's "mandatory" shopping trip. She had been so forceful with Sai, Lee, Kiba, and I.
Speaking of Sakura, she was wearing a spring green gown with pink and yellow floral designs all over it, with a matching spring green belt and hair tie. I thought she looked very pretty, but I was afraid she'd take it the wrong way if I told her, and I still have a bruise on my face healing from pissing her off last week. She had dominated most of the conversation so far that night, since she was the only one out of the three of us that was actually having a good time.
Speaking of which, I was upset with myself for that. In the years I'd attended the Summer Festival, I'd had such a great time. And the funny thing is, I'd even been alone all those times. It's ironic that I feel so depressed and bored right now; you'd think I'd have been having even more fun with two of my best friends around, right? But before I could think it through much more, a voice called out towards the three of us, "Shikamaru?"
All three of us turned to see the person the voice belonged to. Wearing a purple and red dress with gorgeous dangly red earrings, Temari approached us with her brothers and two of Gaara's female students in tow. I immediately turned my gaze to Gaara, and I was relieved to notice that he looked almost as miserable as I was. The girls flanked him, both trying to get his attention to point out the beautiful things around them. He was looking the other way and I don't think he even noticed me. His outfit was obviously not his choice, and when I saw the pastel blues and greens on him, I couldn't help but laugh aloud.
"What's so funny, Uzumaki?" Temari asked. She looked pissed like she thought my laughter was directed at her. Maybe she's a more insecure than she seems. I immediately tensed; I've seen that same expression on Sakura multiple times, and it's never brought me good news.
"Umm…" I couldn't think of something to say that would prevent me from getting a black eye. But apparently I didn't have to.
"Naruto," Gaara said in a low voice, taking a small step forward and acknowledging me with a nod. I guess he had heard his sister say my name and looked up. We awkwardly exchanged glances, telling each other how miserable we were without actually saying anything. But I already felt a little better having him here. It'd been such a long time since we'd seen each other in a relaxed setting.
"So what are you guys doing here?" Shikamaru directed at Temari, and I was just relieved that all of this distracted her from pummeling me.
The conversation continued, and everyone started to go their separate ways. As Sakura and Gaara's students were talking, I saw Shikamaru and Temari starting to leave together.
"Oh, so you two are finally going on that date?"
Both Temari and Shikamaru tensed, and I could see a red tint reach Temari's cheeks. Apparently I struck a nerve. I started laughing –Kankuro did, too, as I later recalled – but before I could see his full reaction, I felt the air whoosh out of me, a sharp pain in my stomach, and then I flew backwards. I fell hard onto the ground with the wind knocked out of me.
When I opened my eyes, I saw that Sakura was standing over me with a demonic expression on her face, and I was afraid that the pain I was feeling was only the beginning of the beating I was going to get from her. But I was wrong; she didn't even say anything. Instead, she quickly turned to face Temari, "I'm so sorry," she said, laughing nervously, "You know how he gets…"
"Are you all right?" someone asked from behind me. I turned around and met Gaara's unmistakable eyes. He was kneeling down behind me, and when I turned around, we were only inches apart; this was way too close for comfort. I felt my face start to flush, "Oh… Yeah. I'm okay," I mumbled. I waved my arms in front of me, dismissing any concerns, and then I stood up on my own, ignoring the hand he'd held out for assistance. I could see his frown deepen the slightest bit, like I'd offended him.
But as I rose, my stomach ached from the punch. Even back then, Sakura didn't hold back, did she? I managed to keep it together for Gaara not to notice my pain, but I had to put a hand on my stomach to ease the discomfort a little.
I looked over at the girls, and they were talking about how annoying boys could be sometimes; great, they were still pissed off at me. Poor Shikamaru was stuck in the middle of their complaining, but I assumed Kankuro had managed to slip away since I couldn't see him.
'I should get out of here while I have the chance…' I thought to myself. I started to creep away slowly, not wanting to piss off Sakura or Temari any further. Those girls can really scare me sometimes.
I turned around to face where the voice came from, and Gaara stared at me expectantly, "You're leaving?" he asked me with this look on this face I couldn't quite read.
"Oh, I'm just going for a walk," I answered. He titled his head to the side and looked like he wanted to say something more, but he hesitated, "Do you want to come with me?" I asked.
He bristled a little. I guess that meant that I'd just read his mind, which made me laugh, "Yeah… I thought so," I chuckled again so that he wouldn't have to come up with a response, "C'mon, Gaara," I urged, taking his hand. And tugging him along. He looked a little nervous, but he followed me without question. I guess he wanted to get away from the rest of the group as much as I did; he seemed to relax more and more as we moved further away from them. Or maybe he was just getting used to being around me again.
"I think the others forgot," I started, smirking slightly.
"Forgot about what?" Gaara asked with genuine interest in his tone.
"The fireworks, silly!"
"Fireworks?" Gaara repeated, looking anxious like before.
"Did you forget, too? They should be starting soon; that's why I was surprised that the others weren't talking about it at all. I'm glad we left; at the rate Sakura was going, there was no chance we'd get out of there in time to get to see all the fireworks." We both laughed awkwardly.
"I'm so excited; they're always really cool," I continued to explain while grinning, "They always go all-out, and I swear, it gets better every year. It's my favorite part of the festival."
"Oh…" Gaara murmured with a disappointed tone to his voice that I didn't notice back at the time.
"This is always a really good spot," I explained as we approached a hill. There were a few people already sitting there waiting, but there was still enough space for Gaara and I to find some elbow room. I plopped down on the warm summer grass, and Gaara sat directly to my right.
"Any moment now," I murmured excitedly. I had fully expected Gaara to look unenthused, of course. I wasn't going to kid myself by thinking that someone like him was going to get excited about a bunch of lights in the sky. But when I saw his torn expression, I started to worry about him, "Are you okay?" I asked, putting a hand on his shoulder.
He hesitated for a moment, and then as if suddenly making a decision, he stood up abruptly, "I have to go, Naruto."
"Huh? Gaara, where-?"
"I'm sorry!" He spat out as he suddenly took off at a brisk pace.
"I… I don't understand!" I yelled as I started to chase him down. I had to shove people aside, and I'm hoping I hadn't been too forceful because I honestly wasn't paying attention to anything other than trying to catch up with Gaara, "Gaara, wait up!" I finally managed to reach him, and I grabbed his arm, "Gaara, where are you going-?"
Bang! Bang! The exploding sounds of the first fireworks rung through the air, and bright colorful lights flashed across the sky. I turned and gazed in awe, and when I turned back, Gaara wasn't there anymore; he must have wriggled out of my grip when I wasn't paying attention.
"Gaara?" I called out, trying to figure out where he went; there was no sign of him. I sighed and just stood there, watching the fireworks by myself. But then the realization started to hit me, slowly but surely. I started to replay the events of the night in my mind, because deep down I was afraid that I had done something to upset Gaara and made him leave so suddenly. But to my relief, I realized that it probably wasn't my fault.
I stood up abruptly, finally grasping what was wrong. I still can't believe that I had missed all the signs! I hadn't realized that Gaara was afraid of fireworks, or anything for that matter. But I guess it made a little sense to me, knowing what Deidara did to him. I do remember Kankuro saying something about him suddenly acting differently during thunderstorms, too… It made me wonder what else he was afraid of. I eventually found out later, but that's a whole other story I won't get into right now.
I ran to the ritzy hotel he and his siblings were staying in for the week – it was actually pretty close, which is why I figured he may have gone there – and I knocked on the door to his suite. I suddenly became a little envious of how rich I knew he was as I glanced down the brightly lit hallway. I could only imagine what the inside of his actual suite looked like. I started to picture outrageous and expensive things that I'd never even been allowed to go near.
No one answered, so I knocked a lot louder, to the point where I was surprised I didn't get yelled at by one of the other guests in the rooms lining the hallway. The door slid open, and behind it stood Gaara, looking even more cautious than usual. He had a pair of black ear muffs hanging around his neck; this immediately answered my question of why it had taken him so long to answer the door.
"Naruto?" he questioned nervously. He had a guilty look on his face, "What are you doing here?" Another explosion of fireworks went off outside, but the sound-dulling walls of the building in combination with my distracting him kept him busy. But I knew he was aware of it, because he looked away from me with a very slight shudder.
"I was about to ask you the same thing. I thought you had somewhere you had to be?" I teased him with a sick grin on my face. Gaara looked a little hurt. I hoped I hadn't betrayed his trust for showing up like this. The popping sounds continued lowly under my voice, but none were too loud to be jarring, "Hey, you know I was just kidding, Gaara, right?" I assured him with a smile. I gently put a hand on his shoulder for emphasis, "I just wanted to make sure you were okay. I mean, you looked so upset before… I was really worried about you…"
Gaara frowned and still didn't meet my gaze, "Come in," he said softly when he realized how long we'd just been standing there. He took a step back to let me into his room.
It was just as extravagant as I thought it would be, "Wow…" I meant to only think it, but it slipped out of my mouth.
"Yeah…" Gaara responded to the obvious awe of a poor man in a rich place, "It's really unnecessary, but I guess it's nice every once in a while," Gaara explained. I childishly looked around the room with a huge grin; I snickered to myself when I realized he had turned on a fan and closed both the windows and the blinds. I guessed he was trying to block as much of the noise and the bright flashes of the fireworks as possible. It was amusing to me to think that something bothered him this much, but then I felt bad; he was truly anxious and scared, and so far I hadn't exactly been helping.
He was all the way on the other side of the room by the refrigerator and the kitchen cupboards, so I walked over to him. A set of louder explosions went off, and I could see Gaara's shoulders rise as he paused for a moment, "So you really don't like fireworks, huh?" I teased again. His cheeks turned a deep shade of red, but he didn't say anything, "Hey, Hey, it's all right. Everyone's got to be afraid of something, right?" I added reassuringly.
"Yeah… I guess so…" Gaara murmured, facing away from me. He turned around, and I saw that he was holding two glasses of iced-tea in his hands. He took a sip from the one in his right hand and simultaneously held out the one he was holding in the other. It took me an embarrassingly long moment to realize that he wanted me to take it.
"Oh, thanks Gaara-" More fireworks suddenly went off, the loudest yet, and this time we both flinched; they had been so muffled for such an amount of time that neither of us were prepared for it.
The two glasses shattered as they both slipped out of Gaara's hands and hit the tiled floor. And sadly, I didn't handle the sudden explosions very well, either. In fact, I was a lot worse. I was so surprised that I yelped and staggered backwards. I tripped over the spot where the tile connected to the carpet and fell backwards, hitting my head on the bedside table with a loud crack.
I heard the clinking of glass being kicked around on the floor, and the bottoms of my feet hurt just listening to it. I hoped that Gaara didn't step on any of the shattered remains.
Gaara got to me surprisingly fast, "Naruto! Are you all right?" he asked with the most worry I've ever heard from him outside of battle. He knelt down close in front of me and put his hands on my shoulders. I sat up slowly, "Yeah… I think so…" I suddenly started to laugh brightly, "See? I told you that everyone gets scared-" my voice trailed off as I opened my eyes and suddenly became hyper-aware of how close our faces were. My heart started to race, and I felt my face flush slightly.
"Naruto?" Gaara murmured, and he was probably wondering why I suddenly looked so embarrassed. I could faintly feel his warm breath on my face.
I don't know what I was thinking when I decided that it was okay to kiss him. He tasted like the tea he'd just sipped and I vaguely remembered the huge mess on the floor.
I guessed that he didn't mind my sudden intimacy, since I felt his hands slowly slide from my shoulders and clasp at the back of my neck. My hands met the small of his back, and I pulled him closer. Coincidentally, the grand finale of the fireworks started as we continued, but neither of us was affected. But I still found it to be a good excuse to pull him even closer to me as we kissed, you know, for his sake, of course…
He slowly broke away from me, and we paused for a moment in each other's arms, just staring at each other. We were both breathing a little ragged, and I remember being surprised that I had anything like that in me considering how little experience I'd had.
After a moment of recovery on both our parts, I pulled Gaara into an embrace, where he rested the side of his face against my shoulder. I anxiously waited for a feeling of regret from kissing a boy – and a close friend in particular – but nothing like that came. All I felt was the comfort of having him with me and a feeling of warmth deep inside my chest, and I knew he felt the same; I didn't want either to ever go away.