Author's Note: Happy Early Birthday Gaara! There's still thirty minutes to go, technically, but this way it's out there. This is my gift, to you! ^-^ x x x
Disclaimer: I don't own rights to Naruto Shippuden or the characters, I just love them!
"Kankuro, pass me the tape."
"Get it yourself, I'm busy."
"I'm holding this, just throw it."
"I told you, I'm busy."
"... Is that glitter?"
"Just pass me the damn tape."
Kankuro huffed and threw the roll of sellotape at his sister. He pretended that he hadn't been trying to hit her with it when she caught it effortlessly.
"When's he coming home?"
"He's still doing his paperwork, but he'll be finished by seven."
"And what's the time now?"
The same roll of tape now bounced comically off the side of Kankuro's head.
"Check it yourself! Baka!"
"Sakura, could you hold this for me a sec?"
"Huh? What're you doing over here Naruto?" Sakura asked as she walked around to the edge of the trees where Naruto was sitting cross legged on the floor.
"I'm trying to wrap this, but the paper won't stay still."
"You're wrapping? What is it?" She asked as she placed a finger over the flap of decorated paper Naruto was fighting with.
"It's Gaara's birthday present. We should get there in time for me to give it to him if we run." With the pesky corner safely taped down, Naruto found the rest of the package much easier to cover and soon held out a small, oddly shaped parcel complete with a birthday ribbon.
"I didn't know it was Gaara's birthday." Sakura said as Naruto packed away his tape and scissors. "What did you get him?"
Naruto placed the present carefully in his backpack and smiled. "The same thing I always get him!"
"... which is?"
Naruto seemed to miss the dangerous tone in Sakura's voice because he just tapped the side of his nose in an infuriating manner. A minute later when Sai came to fetch them, he found an angry Sakura already stomping in his direction and a dazed Naruto slumped on the floor with a large bump on the top of his head.
Better stay out of her way for a while, Sai thought, but then again it was so fun to tease her.
"Gaara-sama, another card for you."
Gaara looked up from his paperwork and watched a familiar child trot across the room towards him. When she stood silently beside him with her hands held firmly behind her back, he slid out of his chair and knelt in front of her. It was unusual to see the Kazekage ignoring the rules his Anbu set about his safety, opening himself up to potential danger as he now was, but he knew that this child concealed no weapons on her person.
"Tengha, it's good to see you."
Tengha beamed a bright smile and revealed the little coloured envelope she'd been hiding. Several Anbu heaved a sigh of relief when they confirmed that the envelope did in fact, contain nothing but a card. No hidden weapons this time.
Gaara's eyes brightened as he opened the envelope and pulled out the handmade card. There was a picture of a racoon, a cat and a fox on the front. Gaara knew that this was meant to represent himself, Tengha and Naruto and glanced at the girl, remembering how she'd taken to the blonde leaf shinobi the first time they met. When he opened the card, there was a neat little paw print inside.
"Thank you, Tengha."
But when Gaara looked up, the girl was no longer there. He looked instead over to the cushion he'd placed in one of the windowsills and spotted a ginger tabby cat curled up there, batting at bits of dust floating in the air. A knowing look floated over Gaara's features before he looked back at the card she'd drawn and took a guess at what she meant by it.
"Naruto's busy too, Tengha. He can't just drop in and visit for no reason."
The cat stopped swiping at the dust and looked solemnly at him.
"It's been a long time, I know."
She just continued to stare sadly into Gaara's eyes and eventually, the Kazekage broke the eye contact and tidied his papers.
"I'm almost done." Then, almost as an afterthought, "Temari's cooking later."
The tabby's ears pricked up and a soft purr could be heard rolling from her chest. As he finished up his days' work he wondered how anyone could enjoy anything Temari "cooked," but as long as Temari never found out, Kankuro and himself continued to inconspicuously leave their dishes on the windowsill with the windows open, and it was such a shame when some conveniently well informed neighbourhood stray came by and ate it all...
He hoped there wouldn't be a homemade birthday cake.
Sakura sent an envious glance in Naruto's direction as they raced across the desert. Far from showing signs of fatigue, the blonde looked like he was itching to go faster.
"Look, Naruto if you're that excited, then-"
"Awesome, thanks Sakura! I'll see you guys later!" Naruto yelled with a grateful grin before practically vanishing in a burst of speed.
"Natuto, I...!" But Sakura's words trailed off as Naruto was way beyond hearing distance. She felt Kakashi and Sai's eyes on her and shrugged off their accusing stares.
"I didn't actually say anything, you know. He didn't even let me finish."
Gaara was bombarded by party poppers when he stepped into the house he shared with his brother and sister. He'd been expecting something along these lines though, and reminded himself to smile.
"Good evening." He said, placing his gourd down and slipping off his shoes.
"Gaara, we've got presents for you, come through to the living room ok? Kankuro, seriously, don't." Temari began herding Gaara into the living room and threw a warning at Kankuro who was hovering suspiciously around Gaara's gourd.
"Hey, open mine first." Temari clapped, picking up a little box, neatly wrapped with awful, racoon print paper. Gaara disguised his distaste for the wrapping paper and instead took a little sadistic pleasure in carefully tearing it up. Inside was a long, thin box which when opened revealed a very sleek looking pen. He picked it up and turned it around in his hand to get a better look at it.
"It's a new design; it'll help stop you getting that bump on your finger all the time."
Gaara brushed his fingers against the little callous, realising what a thoughtful gift his sister had given him.
Before Temari had the chance to gloat, Kankuro shoved a gift bag under Gaara's nose.
Inside was a complex wooden riddle, a three dimensional puzzle requiring the player to isolate a ring from an intricate system of strings and poles. As Gaara again held it up to look closer, he noticed Kankuro's makers mark on the bottom.
"You made this?"
"Yep, bet you didn't think I was clever enough, huh!"
"You've probably made it impossible." Temari muttered, "Did you test it first?"
"... uh, no?"
"I'll soon find out," Gaara interceded, spotting an argument brewing. "I'll keep it on my desk."
*tut* "You're supposed to be working in there." Temari scolded softly.
"He works all the bloody time, give him a break!" Kankuro replied, throwing his arm around Gaara's shoulders. "So... want to know what Temari cremated?"
"That's what I said."
"You said cremated, dumb-ass!"
"I'll be upstairs" Gaara said, but by now his infamous soft voice was drowned out by the squabble and he slipped away unnoticed. His room was at the top of the house, it was the room he'd used as a small child and one that held a mixture of memories for him, both good and bad. He didn't stay in this room as often as his siblings would have liked, since due to his habit of working late into the night, Gaara had his own apartment in the centre of the village to which he could return in the small hours and not worry about waking them.
He lowered himself onto the bed and retrieved a small stack of birthday cards from his pocket. Most of the cards he'd received from the villagers, he kept in his office, but he'd brought a few home. There were the ones from Temari and Kankuro of course, and a postcard from Baki. There were flirty little things from Matsuri and Sari which although irritating, still brought a feeling of acceptance to the Kazekage which merited their place on his bedside table. Tengha's card, however, he placed on the level windowsill which overlooked the village, beside a row of potted plants of various sizes and species. He looked at the card for a long time before gazing out over the village and letting his mind wander in trivial thought.
It was just getting dark when Naruto finally arrived at the imposing entrance of Sunagakure. After showing his pass to the chunin stationed there, he made a beeline for the Kazekage Tower.
"I'm heading out."
Temari and Kankuro popped their heads around a doorframe.
"But you haven't eaten yet, I made a cake and everything." Temari said sadly while Kankuro made hand signals behind her back which told Gaara to run, run as fast as he could!
"I'll be back later, you don't have to wait for me."
"But it's your birthday!" Temari complained. Kankuro's gestures now looked a bit like: All the more reason to save yourself!
Gaara smiled at his siblings and picked up his gourd, missing the mischievous glint in Kankuro's eye as he did so. "I'm aware of that, Onee-san."
Temari's protests went to the wind at Gaara's use of the affectionate name. "Well then, take care. Don't stay out too late."
"Seeya later Gaara." Something about Kankuro's tone brought a look of thunder upon him and Gaara left just in time to miss his sister screaming, "YOU DID, DIDN'T YOU?"
It wasn't far to where he wanted to go, and you never know...
He might be lucky again this year.
The night staff told him Gaara had already gone home to spend the evening with his family, so now Naruto stood outside Gaara's house, waiting for someone to come to the door.
"Hello? Ah! If it isn't Naruto Uzumaki! How are you?"
"I'm pretty good... Temari." Said kunoichi rolled her eyes as Naruto had to stop and think about it.
"Just as big an idiot as always." She sighed, to which Naruto pouted.
"Heey, Naruto! What's up?"
"Kankuro!" Naruto grinned, "Long time no see, is Gaara home?"
Temari shoved Kankuro enviously into the house. "He stepped out for a bit."
"Ah, ok thanks!"
"Hey, aren't you going to ask where he's gone?" Temari called as Naruto trotted off down the street. The leaf shinobi paused and looked back,
"Nah, s'okay. I'll find him."
As he lowered the flower onto the cool headstone, Gaara whispered a prayer.
"I know you never held anything but hate towards me, but I hope still to change that. I wish you could have lived to see the family we've become... mother. You would have been proud."
"I bet she didn't, you know."
Gaara smiled as the owner of that voice approached him and stood by his side.
"You always say that." He slowly looked up and met a pair of clear blue eyes. "But how can you be so sure, Naruto?"
"'Cause a mother's love is unconditional, right? And besides, if your mum really hated you like your uncle said then there's a chance mine did, too. And that's just not happening."
A smirk. "Because you're awesome in every way?"
Naruto closed his eyes and grinned that idiotic, signature grin of his. "Damn, Gaara! You're a crazy mind reader, you know that?"
"Only because you taught me."
"Yeah, I guess. Hey, here, this is for you!"
Naruto held out a badly wrapped present, the reason for which Gaara recognised as an incredibly awkwardly shaped gift. He smiled as he gently took the gift from Naruto's outstretched hands and carefully unwrapped it, slowly revealing the newest addition to his collection.
Naruto stood and grinned as Gaara turned the plant pot around and around to get a look at what had been painted on it. There were, as on many of the others, orange swirls and red lettering, but the crude little painting which dominated it was of a racoon and a fox, wrestling. The racoon had a head of red hair and a little love heart above its eye, and the fox had a mop of blonde hair and a squinty eyed grin.
Smiling more than he had all day, Gaara finally spoke. "You know, Tengha gave me a card like this today."
"Aah, that little squirt! How's she doing?"
A glint of shiny cats' eyes let Gaara know she was listening.
"She's doing well, I'll take you to see her tomorrow if you're staying."
The soft padding of her paws on the ground faded away into the evening, causing Naruto with his sensitive hearing to turn and look. But the tabby had melted into the shadows with a contented swish of her tail.
Gaara looked back down at the pot in his hands and smiled at it.
"You haven't looked at the seeds yet." Naruto pointed out gently, and Gaara with a quick flash of realisation in his face, detached the packet of seeds taped to the inside of the pot.
"A Rose Cactus?"
"It's pretty rare. I persuaded Granny Tsunade to let me take Sakura and Ino with me to look for it. They argued the whooole way, but we found it so it was worth it!"
"You... went to all that trouble?"
"I had to get you something special, right?"
Gaara stared happily into the little pot, already wondering how he could top this when Naruto's birthday came around.
"So... you like it?" Naruto asked, suddenly sounding nervous. However, he was completely reassured when Gaara smiled up at him and said,
"I love it, Naruto. Thank you."
Gaara once again looked out over the village from his bedroom window. In his hand he held a note from Temari which read:
Kankuro put a kilo of glitter in your gourd, I told him not to.
As he sifted through the sand in his gourd to find the glitter he'd inadvertently infused with chakra, he gazed out of the window at the sleeping village. Somewhere out there, his friend was fast asleep, probably dreaming about noodles and pink haired girls. But Gaara had decided long ago that it didn't matter to him if Naruto had people who were more important to him than Gaara was, as long as the blonde was alive, and he was as happy as possible, that was all that mattered.
"Besides," Gaara whispered aloud, "I already know that I'm an important person to him." He looked over at the row of painted plant pots beside him, each with a mess of swirls and lettering across them and a unique, childish drawing sprawled across the front. Sometimes of a red haired child, and sometimes of the redhead and a blonde companion. He smiled affectionately at the pot on the end, full of soil but as of yet, no plant to be seen.
"You remember what he said that time, don't you?" Gaara asked the silent room. A soft purr answered as Gaara whispered in a voice so hushed, it was almost as if the air itself was speaking:
I say love, it's, like a flower... And... And you're its only seed.
Author's Note: That line at the end is from the song, The Rose, so consider this my disclaimer for that! Also, I apologise for the aawful cactus name, I couldn't think up any cool, plant sounding names (besides spikeus plasticus and I think that would have spoiled the moment a little bit!) For anyone who knows me from outside this site and expected some more serious yaoi out of me, again, appologies :) I kept it mild but in my heart it's all there! Oh! And I didn't explain much about her in this because she's not massively important, but Tengha's the OC I'm working on. She can't talk and she transforms into a cat in case that needed clearing up!
(This AN is getting kind of epic)
Finally, I hope you all enjoyed my little present for Gaara :) Thanks for reading! x x