"She can eat ramen, right?" Naruto asked as he rummaged through his cupboard. His mind was still reeling from Nako's admission that she knew they were Jinchuuriki. That wasn't a skill they all had, since when Naruto met Gaara for the first time, he had no clue they were the same in that aspect. Perhaps she was somehow in direct contact with their Biju, like Sasuke had been with Kurama? The thought didn't bother him so much that she would be able to speak with the Nine Tails…it was Shukaku he was worried about. He and Gaara would discuss that later.
"Of course, just make sure you crush the noodles, and add some cold water after you've put it in the bowl. I don't want it to be too spicy for her." Gaara explained as he sat down at the table. Nako was holding his hand, looking positively adorable in Naruto's old clothes. The dark brown khaki shorts and orange frog t-shirt fit her perfectly, but with her hair chopped the way it was, she looked like a little boy. Or so Naruto thought.
"Oh, Nako-chan. You look just like my sister did when she was your age! I can put you hair up like hers when you're all done with lunch! You'll look very adorable!" He smiled at the young girl, and Naruto watched as she beamed up at him. Gaara then turned to him. "She's going to be too small to sit in a chair at the table. Why don't you let her sit in your lap, and I'll feed her? She probably can't use chopsticks on her own. They really haven't worked with her at all."
Naruto finished putting cold water into the small bowl of ramen and set it on the table, frowning as he picked the small girl up and sat down close to Gaara's chair at the table.
"No. They kept her shut up in this tiny room with no windows. She doesn't have any toys…not even a stuffed animal! And that potato-sack dress you saw her wearing was the only clothes she had…and that stuff on her hair was dirt." Naruto explained, anger rolling off him in waves. Nako began to squirm in his lap, whining nervous. Gaara reached out to touch her head.
"Naruto-kun, I know it's terrible, but you have to calm down. You're scaring her. Children can tell when you're upset." The red head turned his gaze back to Nako. "They just didn't see what a precious little girl they had on their hands. Too late for them now, though! You're ours now. You're Mama and Papa's."
Naruto felt himself blush when Gaara said that outloud. He pursed his lips, looking away as Gaara began to feed Nako. He would gather up a small amount of noodle onto the chopsticks, blow on it gently, and then offer it to the blonde girl. She opened her mouth and ate it right up, smiling in delight as she chewed. But Naruto was having trouble watching it. It was sweet, and precious. It felt like everything Naruto had ever wanted. A happy family. People to call his own.
But this was temporary. Gaara would leave. He would go back to Suna. Why was he telling Nako he was her mother, if he was just going to leave and break her heart? Why was he leading her on? He seemed to generally care about the girl…to generally care about him…
By the time Naruto came back from his thoughts, Nako was finished with her noodles. Gaara was smiling such a warm, caring smile as he wiped her mouth and chin with a napkin.
"Was that good, Nako-chan?" He asked sweetly.
"Mhm!" She mumbled, patting her stomach cutely. "Tummy full!" She was squirming around on Naruto's lap again. She turned her head up to look at the blonde. "Papa, Mama, I play now?"
Naruto couldn't help but smile at her. "Yeah…I think I still have all of my old toys, I can dig them out." He scooped her up into his arms, standing. Gaara followed suit, holding his hand up.
"Hold on. There's something I want to give her." He whispered softly, before walking away back into the living room, where his travel bag was. After a few long minutes he came back, holding in his arms a faded, tattered looking teddy bear. Naruto recognized it from the pictures that Gaara had sent him of himself as a child.
"Here, Nako-chan. This is Mama's favorite teddy bear. His name is Kumo-kun. He is very old, so treat him kindly. " He got very close to the little girl, and whispered to her. "And guess what?"
She opened her eyes very wide. "Wha'?"
Gaara reached out and touched her tummy, handing her the bear. "Kumo-kun knows all about the kitty. And he still wants to be your best friend. Forever and ever, just like he was my best friend. He was by my side when no one else was, and he'll be by your side, too. Just like Mama and Papa will be. We love you, Nako-chan."
"Gaara…" Naruto gasped, feeling the tears prickle at his eyes. Everything the red head was saying sounded so…honest. So loving. He had never seen Gaara like this. He could feel the truth in the other boys words, but he could feel the heartbreak, too. Gaara knew what it was to hurt…to feel like no one was by your side. That was the one thing that brought Naruto and Gaara together. They knew true loneliness. Naruto never wanted Nako to know that pain.
"M-Mama, Papa, l-love-u." She mumbled, squeezing Kumo-kun tight to her chest. Naruto knew it was now or never. He had to talk to Gaara about what he was doing. Nako was going to get too attached to him.
Naruto carried the small girl into the living room, setting her down on one side of the couch, tucked against the armrest securely.
"Nako-chan, can you stay right here with Kumo-kun for a minute? Papa has to talk to…Mama…about something very important." Naruto explained, kneeling in front of Nako. She nodded, tacking Kumo-kun by the arms and making him dance on her lap.
"Okay. Don't move! We'll be right back!" Naruto looked up at Gaara, and motioned for him to follow. Naruto walked down the hall and into his bedroom. Once Gaara was inside as well, he shut the door, leaving only a crack so he could hear if Nako got up. He turned to face Gaara.
"What are you doing." He deadpanned, staring the Kazekage in his deep green eyes. He watched as the other boy cocked his head to the side, genuinely confused.
"What do you mean, Naruto-kun?" He whispered. He sounded nervous. Naruto frowned, taking a step forward.
"She's getting attached to you. Why are you letting her think you're her mother? You're just going to leave her. You're going to go back to Suna in two months." Naruto was still looking right in Gaara's eyes. He watched the green orbs widen.
"I…I love her, Naruto-kun. She's…just like we were. I want to be here for her…I want-"
"That doesn't change anything, Gaara. You're still going to leave us all alone here."
"Us?" Gaara caught the blondes slip up. Naruto stepped back, covering his mouth.
"I…Gaara, you said in your letter…you have someone back home, don't you? You met a man in Suna. You came here to tell me, to break the news to me. Now, you're confusing my daughter!"
Naruto could see the anguish pass over the smaller boys face. He watched as Gaara dropped his gaze to the ground.
"It hurts me that you would think I would do something like that. There's no one, Naruto-kun." He whispered softly. "No one…but you. It's always been you."
Naruto let those words sink in slowly. He searched Gaara's face for any sign that he was lying. Is that why he hadn't responded to Naruto's letter? Was he too embarrassed to admit that he found Naruto attractive?
"I came here to tell you that…I love you, Naruto-kun. And if you want me…here with you and y-your daughter…I am fully prepared to relinquish my Kazekage title to Baki-sensei. "
"I was going to resign, anyway. I've earned the trust of my people. That was my goal. I proved to myself that I could be a selfless, caring member of my village. But now, I wanted to do something for myself. Something to make me happy. You make me happy, Naruto-kun. You make me feel things I never thought I would be capable of feeling. I'm laying everything out in front of you. I am bearing my very soul to you. I love you. Completely, every piece of you. Your determination…you're stubbornness. The way you smile, the way you cry, and especially the way you care and love unconditionally. If you reject me, I will go back to Suna. I will live out my days there, but I will never replace you, nor will I replace Nako." Gaara was breathless, Naruto could tell by the way his chest was heaving. The red head was shaking, too.
Naruto couldn't believe what he was hearing. Gaara…loved him? He hadn't expected that to come out of his best friend's mouth. He was silent for a long time, just staring at Gaara, who still had his eyes trained on the ground. What was he going to do? He'd never thought about…being with another boy. Sure, Gaara was attractive. He had that lovely blood-red hair, that pale skin, and a lithe, petite body. But Naruto was always so sure that he liked girls. Girls like Sakura, whom he was sure he loved.
But all of that seemed superficial now that Gaara was here, confessing his undying love. Naruto took a shaky breath.
"Stay for the two months, Gaara." He said softly. "I don't know if…I-I can love you like that, but give me time. I've never thought about being with another boy, but I'm willing to try. Okay?"
Naruto's eyes widened. "G-Gaara! I just said-"
"Just kiss me. Try. Please, Naruto…promise me with a kiss, that you will try to love me." His whispered words held such sorrow. It was raw and scathing. Naruto walked forward on unsteady legs, and Gaara grabbed his hands. Naruto leaned in, slowly, and pressed their lips together.
Gaara's lips were dry and warm, and they molded against his own almost perfectly. Gaara's grip on his hands tightened, and he slowly parted his lips. Naruto pulled away quickly.
"We should check on Nako."
As if on cue, there was a shrill, high pitched laugh that sounded like Nako's voice. Naruto panicked, and ran into the living room, only to find his new daughter being hoisted up into the air but none other than Uchiha Itachi.
Gaara flew into action, his sand gathering around him menacingly. Naruto quickly jumped in front of the Kazekage, holding his arms out.
"WAIT! GAARA!" He yelled. "This isn't what you think! He…he came back to the village. He's…on our side."
Hearing this, Gaara quickly sent his sand slithering back into his gourd. The raven haired man looked down at the little girl, his eyes quizzical.
"Looks like we all have some explaining to do, huh?" He said, half to her, and half to the other boys. She tried to copy his questioning look.
"Yeah, 'slainin!" She copied him.