They don't know how it started. It was like an unspoken, unimaginably strong bond that rushed deep inside their veins. It all started with that hand shake. Once Naruto took Gaara's hand in his, it was like every cell in body was on fire. And the only way to extinguish the flames was to surround himself with the blonde. To wrap himself up in those arms, and stare up into those eyes…those deep blue eyes that understood the darkest and most complicated parts of him.
But Naruto was leaving in the morning, and the night was progressing faster than he would have liked. If Gaara wanted to confess his feelings (which he really wasn't sure of yet), he would need to do it soon. There was a festival raging in the streets below his window, celebrating his safe return from the Akatsuki…from death. But he wasn't there. He was hiding in his room, almost like a child, contemplating whether or not to spill his emotions in front of his savior…his best friend. The young man who had saved him from is constant suffering.
Suddenly, there was a knock on his door.
"Gaara?" Came the soft voice of his sister, Temari. She slowly opened the door, shutting it behind her as she walked over to him. "Why aren't you out in the streets? Everyone's so happy to have their Kazekage back. I've never seen the villagers celebrate like this. They really love you."
Love. Was that it? Was that what he felt for-
"Naruto is down there, too. He's been asking for you all night. He wants to spend time with you before he has to leave in the morning. He's so…Gaara, he keeps telling everyone how you're his best friend, over and over. Did you ever think that this would happen? That you would have a best friend?" She sounded so happy as she sat down on his bed. She was wearing his festival kimono, which was black with a red trim, and on the back was an intricate red dragon design. Her course blonde hair was still up in its four signature ponytails. It was almost impossible for her to do anything else with it. Gaara's hair was the same texture, course and thick. It was a trait they got from their mother, Karura.
Gaara turned away from the window, and looked at his older sister. There was a desperate look in his aquamarine eyes, and she was taken aback by it.
"Gaara? Are you okay?" She asked, sounding nervous. Even though her brother was emotionally stable now, he very rarely showed those emotions so plainly on his face. Whatever it was that was bothering him, it must have been eating him up. "What's wrong? You can tell me, you can talk to me. You know that." She said it sweetly, patting the spot next to her on the bed. She truly loved her little brother. She wasn't a very good big sister in the past, and she was the first to admit it. She's bought into her fathers hatred for the youngest Sand sibling, believing he was an evil demon, even when he was only an infant and toddler.
Gaara approached her slowly, clenching and unclenching his fists as they hung by his sides. This was something he often did when nervous. He could clench his fists; curls his fingers, and rub his thumb and middle finger together repeatedly. Temari had picked up on these habits of his lately. He was becoming more and more outwardly expressive.
"Temari…" He whispered cautiously. He sat down on the bed, though not right next to her. She took a slow breath. Baby steps. She reached out to lay her soft hand on top of his fidgeting one, smiling gently.
"It's okay, otouto. You can tell me anything." She desperately wanted to be there for him now, to be the one he could turn to. He may be the Kazekage now, but he still struggled with personal relationships. His emotions, as well as how they affected those around him, were all concepts that were lost to him. She wanted to be his confidant.
The redhead was staring at his knees, and something that resembled a storm was gathering behind his eyes. Other than that, his face was completely stoic, as it always is. If you wanted to know what Gaara was feeling, never look at his face. Always check his hands. The faster the clenching, the faster his fingers rubbed together, the more desperate he was becoming. The more troubled he was. After what seemed like hours, he spoke.
"It's Naruto." His voice was businesslike, the same voice he used with the council members. Temari theorized, this time and many times before, that he knew no other way to describe things. No other way to explain what was going on in his head. He often found one way to adapt, and stuck with it. He was a work in progress.
"What about him?" She pressed, leaning back a little to give him some space. Gaara tended to clam up when he felt pressured. She wanted him to feel relaxed…like he could trust her.
"He is always on my mind. Day and night, he's all I think about. Even though day and night to be are one in the same, blending together. It's still the same thoughts, always him. And then, when I woke up from…death…he was the first person I saw. He dragged me out of the abyss, that ever-present smile on his face. Is this normal, Temari? We are both male, both strong in our own right, and yet I want him like this. I love him in the same way a man loves a woman. Should I be ashamed? Will others be ashamed? Are you ashamed? Will he…be ashamed?" He was leaning forward now, staring at his older sister with so much pain in his eyes, she could feel it seep into her bones. He was…having romantic feelings for Naruto. He loved him.
Her brother was in love with Naruto.
And he thought…people would be ashamed of him. Abandon him like they did all those years ago. She understood now, that this must have been eating him up inside. He thought everyone would hate him…including Kankurou and herself. She knows, deep down, that he would suffer this pain in silence, tell no one of his feelings, if it meant keeping them in his life. He would sacrifice his own heart to be near his precious people. Oh…how he must hurt.
Temari reached out, maybe a little too quickly, and wrapped her arms around her small, hurt baby brother. She held him tightly to her chest, and when she felt him stiffen, she rubbed soothing circles on his back.
"Gaara…don't worry about your brother and I. We will love you no matter what. As for the villagers…have you looked outside? These people are celebrating your life. They used to hate you, despise you, for all the horrible things you thought you had to do to survive. All those horrid things the Fourth made you do. If they can forgive that, forgive you, and love you now…they are not going to care if you love another man. They love you, Gaara. They look up to you, they depend on you. And you can depend on me, in turn. Kankurou and I will always be here for you. And Naruto…I don't know how he will react, but judging by how deeply he cares for his friends, even if he doesn't return your feelings, he will still love you as his best friend."
It was almost a miracle when Temari felt her brother relax against her. Her words must have touched him, because the movement of his hands ceased.
"Thank you…Temari…" His voice was softer now, and he slowly reached up to hug her back. "But if…if he doesn't return these feelings…if there is no hope of him loving me back…I fear it will crush me."
Temari pulled away slowly, reached up, and lifted her brother's head so he was looking directly into her eyes.
"But it's crushing you now to hold those feelings inside. Go to him now. Confess what you're feeling. You won't know until you try. Is him loving you back worth it?" She asked, a smile tugging at her lips. She watched as he nodded, straightening his back.
"Then…go get him."
Naruto wasn't hard to find. Even in the dense crowed of festival-goers, his bright yellow hair stuck out. He was like the sun, beaming down on everyone, keeping them warm. And Gaara had always loved the sun. He approached his friend slowly, making his way over booth by booth. Many villagers wanted to stop and talk to him, which was a new experience for him. Right as he was about to come face to face with Naruto, a young woman with an infant stopped him.
"Kazekage-sama!" She said brightly, her smiled wide and excited. He nodded to her awkwardly.
"Hello. Are you enjoying the festivities?" He asked her, turning to face her fully. She was older than him, probably in her thirties. She had short, brown hair and wide, expressive green eyes. The baby in her arms was wrapped in a green silk blanket, and had a tuft of hair that was just as red as Gaara's. He was impressed, since red hair was not common in Sunagakure. He was the only one he'd known of who had it.
"Oh, yes! We were so happy to hear that you survived the attack! Ever since my husband died, my brother and I have become more and more involved in the Shinobi effort. Our goal was to raise our son to be a great shinobi, like you! His name is Unmei. It means destiny, because he was born on your birthday, Kazekage-sama. January 19th. His destiny is to become strong, and loved. Just like you. Would you like to hold him?" She was speaking so fast, so elated. He took in everything that she said, his sister's words from earlier being proven true by this woman and her tale. She wanted her baby to grow up to be like him. To be loved like him. He nodded slowly to her, holding his arms out. She placed her infant son in his arms, and it was like something clicked inside his mind. Maybe it was his protectiveness of his villagers, or his new found emotions, but he felt as though he had found his calling in life as he looked down at the defenseless baby boy. Gaara wanted to be a father. He was tiny, just like he himself had been when he was born.
"Was he born premature?" He asked the mother, not looking up from the baby's sweet face.
"Yes, by two months. How did you know?" She answered, smiling at the young man. He was rocking the infant back and forth gently.
"So was I. By the same amount of time. My mother died giving birth to me. He is very lucky to have you." She looked up at her now, a small smile on his face. He slowlyly, reluctantly, handed Unmei back to her. "Thank you so much for introducing me to your son. When he is old enough, I promise you that I will take him under my wing and train him personally. You have my word. Now, if you'd excuse me, I have very important business I must deal with. Enjoy the rest of the festival."
He left her speechless, a huge disbelieving smile plastered on her face.
When he finally found Naruto again, he was alone, standing a little ways away from the festival, watching the dancing and smiling faces of his villagers. When his blue eyes fell on Gaara, his face lit up so fast, it almost blinded the redhead.
"Gaara!" He exclaimed, as said boy came within arm's reach. Naruto pulled the Kazekage to his chest, which almost caused Gaara to hyperventilate. When he pulled away, he was blushing. Naruto saw this, and smiled softly.
"You don't have to tell me, Gaara. I already know." He said cryptically. Gaara paled, even more than usual. He felt his mouth go dry, and his hands were clenching and unclenching faster than they ever had before.
"You know what?" He sounded scared, and he was. He was scared that Naruto was about to make fun of him. That he would make a joke out of it, play it off as nothing. Gaara was so busy freaking out over the rejection he was sure he was going to face, he didn't notice Naruto's face drawing closer and closer to his own.
"This." The word was whispered, and the Naruto's lips were on his.
Gaara's entire world exploded. Every feeling he'd ever felt in his entire life was sucked up into that one simple kiss. All the hate, all the anguish…the tortured pain of his past all disappeared as Naruto pressed their lips together. It was almost like a promise, a whispered prayer for all the happiness that had been denied them.
Naruto was the first to pull away. He kept his face close to Gaara's, their noses brushing together.
"I knew the second you shook my hand." He said, almost teasingly. But then his eyes grew dark, and his tone turned serious. "I'm scared, though. I'm afraid to open my heart up again. To the last person…it didn't mean a damn thing."
Gaara knew he was talking and Uchiha Sasuke. He reached up to brush some of the other boys loose hair off his forehead. Without the Konoha headband, Naruto's hair was wild and sticking up every which way. To the touch though, it was soft. Gaara noticed in that moment just how close they were. Their groins and chests were pressed together, their lips were merely inches apart. He loved this closeness…this was the most intimate he had ever been with another human being.
"Naruto. I would never take you for granted like he did. What I feel for you goes beyond anything I think I'm capable of understanding just yet, but I want you to help me understand it. I love you. I know that much is true. You're all I think about. I never sleep, so I've had sufficient time to think this over. You're smile moves me in ways I can't comprehend. Your voice rivals anything I've ever heard. And your eyes…they speak to me in a way I was sure no other human could. You understand me, the worst parts of me. You accept what I was…and what I have become. I want to spend the rest of my life with you by my side. I want to live the rest of my life, loving and being loved by you." He finished by pressing his lips against Naruto's for their second kiss, and he could feel the other boys tears on his face. This kiss was deeper, and it held none of the hesitancy that the first one had. They were sure of themselves now. Sure that they would never be hurt again, because they had each other. And with that knowledge, they could face anything that the world had to offer.
They don't know how it started. But it ended with them living the rest of their days being loved by each other.