What Gaara-chan needs most of all is a friend, someone he can trust and someone who can protect him.

A friend, huh? Naruto thought. That I can do, for sure. I'll show him that he can trust me and I'll always keep him safe.

Suddenly, Naruto's phone went off.

Naruto sighed and picked it up. "Yello?"

"Dobe, get down to the shop," Sasuke said.

"Oh, no, teme," Naruto growled. "I did a house call today. I get the rest of the day off."

"Yeah, I know," Sasuke replied. "I just need your help with something."

Naruto sighed. Stupid teme. "What?"

"Just come down to the shop," Sasuke repeated.

"Fine," Naruto snapped before closing his phone and throwing it on the seat. He shifted his driving and went to the shop.

000

Sasuke yawned, leaning back against the wall. Where was that idiot anyway?

Naruto came in the back of the office, dropping his things -cellphone, wallet, keys- on the desk and said, "Well?"

"We need new stock," Sasuke said, bored.

"And?" Naruto said.

"And you're going to help," Sasuke went on.

"Dammit, why?" Naruto yelled.

"Because," Sasuke explained calmly. "You have good taste in pets and you know what to look for."

"But I did a house call," Naruto whined. "I'm s'posed to get the rest of the day off."

Sasuke rolled his eyes and said, "How about this? Come with me, and I'll pay you a hundred up front, plus fifty for every pet we purchase."

Naruto thought about it. That was better than he was normally paid. He nodded and said, "I'll agree to that."

"Good," Sasuke said, grabbing his keys. "Get in the car."

000

"Speaking of house calls," Naruto said after they'd been driving a while, and he grew tired of watching trees blur past. "You have the Akasuna's number?"

"Why?" Sasuke asked.

"Cause," Naruto replied. "He told me if I needed anything concerning Gaara to call him."

Sasuke snorted but said, "Fine. I'll give it to you when we get back to the shop. Don't forget to remind me."

"Right."

000

Naruto sighed tiredly. They'd been shopping for the past seven hours. That meant it was -what? Naruto flipped open his phone and checked the time. Nine o'clock. Damn. He glanced over at Sasuke, who was reading a file. "Teme?"

"What?"

"It's after nine."

"And?"

"What happened to us just hanging out?"

Sasuke gave him a look that said, 'you're an idiot' and went back to reading the file; apparently the question wasn't worth answering.

Naruto sighed and picked with the tail of his shirt. This was why he didn't like shopping.

"Dobe."

"Yeah, what is it?" Naruto said without looking up.

"I'm sure Gaara would like to hang out sometime. Perhaps you should try it."

Naruto stared at him incredulously. "And how the hell would I do that? On the few days I am off, you bribe me into doing more work!"

"Dobe, shut up and listen, all right?" Sasuke snapped as he signed his signature for the purchases. "I know I have you do a lot of the work, but I was planning on giving you some vacation time. After all, you have, let's see, the primary hundred and we've purchased," he did a quick count, "ten pets. So you have $600 to do with what ever the fuck you please." With that said, he completed the purchases and walked out of the breeder's, while leaving Naruto to jog to catch up to him.

000

When they walked back into the shop, Sasuke held out his hand expectantly.

"What the -oh, yeah," Naruto mumbled. He dug his phone out of his pocket and put in Sasuke's hand.

The raven put in the number and tossed the phone back, before pulling the cash out of his pocket and handing it to Naruto. "There. And take the next few days off. You'll still get paid, of course, just spend some time with your pet."

Naruto nodded and walked out to his car. Starting it up, he drove off, back to his house. He was halfway there when the realization hit him. "Shit," he muttered. "I should have told Gaara where I was going. What kind of friend am I?" He sighed and pulled into his driveway. Walking inside, he threw his keys on the kitchen counter when he noticed how quiet it was. That was odd. Usually, Gaara was waiting for him in the living room. The house -living room, dining room, kitchen, den- all seemed to be devoid of another presence. It was really unnerving. Naruto sighed and went upstairs. Maybe Gaara'd gone to bed. He opened his bedroom door to find Gaara, sitting on his haunches, staring out the window.

"You're late," the red head said quietly. "What kept you?"

It wasn't a complaint, Naruto realized. Gaara was simply curious. He glanced at the way the moonlight and the lamp cast conflicting shadows around the red head, muting to color of the vermilion hair. He sighed and crossed the room to sit on the bed. "I'm sorry. I should have told you."

Gaara turned to look at him, aqua eyes glittering. He didn't say anything, just waited.

"Sasuke wanted to shop for more stock; he paid me to go with him," Naruto explained, holding up the six hundred before throwing it, and his phone, on the night table. "I'm gonna take a shower, you wanna join me?" Naruto blinked. Where the fuck did that come from?

Gaara just shook his head and looked back out the window.

Naruto grabbed some sleep clothes and went to the bathroom. He showered quickly and came back. As he sat down the bed, he laid back against the pillows and said, "Gaara."

Gaara turned his head to look at Naruto.

Naruto patted the bed beside him. "Come on," he said.

Gaara got onto the bed and curled up beside him.

Naruto pulled the covers over them both and said, "Hey, you wanna go to the movies tomorrow? We can bring Sakura-chan and Hinata, if you like. How's that sound?"

"Sure," Gaara murmered after a few minutes of silence, before snuggling closer.

Maybe Sasuke was right, Naruto thought as he turned out the light and settled down beside Gaara. We should be friends before anything else.