Title: Hikari no Hades
Author: AkizukiSakura
Pairing(s): GaaNaru
Spoilers/Warnings: As far as I know, the spoilers are minimal. This is an AU inspired loosely by the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Naruto: Shippuden. I make no monetary profit from the writing and posting of this, or any, fanfiction.
Notes: This chapter has a metric crap-ton of exposition as Naruto learns where he is and how things work. Hopefully it isn't too boring. On the plus side, he gets to talk to Gaara at the end…?

Hikari no Hades
Chapter One

The process of waking up was normal enough that, as Naruto yawned and squinted in the hazy light, he'd decided that the strange red-haired man and his creepy sand had been nothing more than a dream. Letting his eyes slowly adjusted to the relative gloom, however, he realized he didn't recognize his surroundings at all. His thoughts went from sluggish to wide-awake in less than a second. He made to sit up and found that it was more of a struggle than it really should have been – the coverlet keeping the chill of the room at bay seemed heavier than any cloth had the right to be. Finally he managed to shove the stupid duvet aside and sit up, but just that little bit of activity drained him; he nearly faceplanted onto the covers. He caught himself and scanned his surroundings, noting with some surprise that he was in a large bedroom. The walls were a bland brown that might have been sandstone, but the most obvious thing about the room was that, despite the fact that it was steadily growing brighter as his eyes adjusted, there were no windows.

The room was well-appointed, if a little on the dull side. His bed was at least a king, with plush sheets and sumptuous pillows, but the dark wood was plain and unembellished. The dresser, nightstand and mirror were all solid wood, and the dresser and nightstand had matching marble tops, indicating that the furniture was expensive indeed. His overall impression of the room was that it was nice, but the lack of windows meant that he felt too much like a prisoner in a cell to really appreciate any of it. He shifted slowly so that he could put his bare feet on the floor. A plush rug of some kind of soft fur soothed the aches of his feet that came from his long run on the beach. He pushed himself to his feet and yelped, dropping almost immediately back onto the bed. For some reason he felt incredibly weak. If he had to compare this weakness to one in the past, he'd say it was like that time in University a few years back when he'd lost his wallet and had to go nearly a week without any food.

There was a bowl of fruit and a pitcher of something – probably water – sitting innocently on what looked like a desk near the door of the room, but the idea of eating anything right now sent his stomach roiling nauseously. He rubbed his face, trying to make some sense of this situation. He'd been kidnapped by some weirdo with freaky sand, and yet he was in a room that looked rather nice. He felt weak as fuck – but he wouldn't be surprised if he'd been drugged or something.

The blonde pressed his lips stubbornly together and made a second attempt to get to his feet. Wherever he was, he had to try and escape – drugged or not – before than insane redhead came back. This time he was able to wobble a handful of steps before nearly collapsing again; a frantic grab for the wall was all that kept him from a graceless tumble to the floor. He drew in a shaky breath, firmed his resolve, and pushed off the wall. He stumbled over to the door and slammed into it, biting off a hasty swear word as pain lanced sharply though his knee where it had impacted with the heavy wood. Muttering darkly, he tried the handle, half expecting the door to be locked. It wasn't, which only added to his suspicion. What kind of kidnapper went to the trouble of snatching up a person, gave them a plush, windowless room to sleep in, and then left the door unlocked?

Cautiously, he opened the door and poked his head over the threshold. The room opened into a short hallway that looked…surprisingly normal. He crept as quietly as he could out of his room, making sure to shut the door behind him; there was no need to advertise his absence, after all. A second glance down the hall revealed a curtained window and he shuffled eagerly toward it, using the wall as support. If he could just figure out where he was, he could formulate some kind of plan to get out of here. After what felt like an obscene amount of time, but was really only a few seconds, he was able to thrust the curtains aside and peer out. It took a moment for him to actually comprehend what he was seeing. When he finally did, it felt like the bottom of his stomach had dropped to somewhere around the vicinity of his ankles.

"How long was I unconscious?" he whispered, horrified by what he was staring at. The window overlooked what appeared to be a city crafted entirely of brown stone. Piles of sand littered the streets and people milled about below, but the people were grey: grey skin, grey hair, grey everything. It was the single most disturbing thing he'd ever seen in his life. He pressed closer to the window to see; sand-laden wind blew seemingly endlessly, obscuring his vision more often than not. Even scarier than the grey people, if that was possible, was the sky – or what he could see of the sky. There were no clouds, no sun, and no moon. The sky wasn't even blue – it was the bloody crimson color the horizon usually turned at dusk.

Unable to cope with these bizarre abnormalities, Naruto backed away from the window and leaned dizzily against the wall. "What the hell?" he muttered incredulously. Was he on LSD or something? He'd never really done drugs, except that one time as a freshman, but he'd heard of the weird hallucinations one could get while high, and it was all he could come up with to explain his surroundings. He might have stayed there against the wall until someone came along and put him back in his room if not for the fact that he caught the faint strains of a conversation drifting through the hallway. From the sound of it, the speakers weren't very far. With renewed purpose, Naruto made his way slowly but steadily down the hall, determined to figure out what was going on. As he got closer, he was able to make out words.

"…you have got to be shitting me. Are you insane, Kankurou?" This speaker was a woman, and she sounded livid. "What possessed you to suggest such a thing to Gaara? Fuck, you had to have known he'd take it seriously!" There was a masculine mutter, followed by the soft whump of a fist striking someone. Naruto winced in spite of himself, having been on the receiving end of countless punches from Sakura-chan.

"Ouch! Damn it, Temari! That hurt!" This statement, presumably, came from 'Kankurou', and he didn't sound very happy either. "How was I supposed to know he'd go and actually kidnap a mortal?" Naruto blinked, pressing closer to the open door. Mortal? What were these people on? And he thought he was the one who'd been drugged. Maybe it was some sort of code…? "Besides," Kankurou continued, apparently oblivious to Naruto's presence, "I thought he'd know better. He knows that mortals fall asleep in his presence. It's part of his job description, damn it. Why else would people refer to him as 'The Sand Man'?"

Okay, now Naruto knew these people were insane. According to them, the guy who'd kidnapped him was some kind of god of sleep who used magic sand to knock people out. Yeah, right.

"Well, I hope you're ready to be the one to tell him that his precious mortal's gonna die, since you're the one who got us into this mess! Mortals need food and water to live, which he can't get if he's sleeping." The girl showed no signs of calming down, if her tone was anything to go by. "Of all the stupid, harebrained things to say to our little brother–!" She stopped abruptly and Naruto frowned, wanting to hear more about this 'Gaara'. So wrapped up in the conversation he was eavesdropping on, he didn't notice right away that he was no longer alone. Something nudged his leg but he ignored it, waiting impatiently for the man and woman to continue. It brushed against his leg again and, irate, he looked down to see what was annoying him and froze.

A white thing was staring at him. It looked catlike, but his mind eventually supplied him with the information that this creature was a weasel. It wore clothes and had a strip of cloth wrapped around its head, obscuring one eye – and, in a word, it was oddly terrifying. It blinked at him and then began hissing menacingly. Naruto backed slowly away from it, hands raised to show they were empty. "Ah, nice…weasel…thing…?" he tried. The sound of a shattering dish brought his attention to the two he'd been listening in on. He tried to put on a tough front, but the effect was ruined when his knees arbitrarily buckled and he had to catch the doorframe to keep from collapsing to the floor.

The woman, a sandy-haired blonde with her hair in the strangest array of pigtails Naruto had ever seen, appeared to have dropped her teacup, if the shards of china on the floor and the puddle of reddish-brown liquid was anything to go by. Well, that explained the sound of breaking china… She was staring at him like she'd just seen a ghost, which Naruto found funny in a slightly hysterical way given that both she and her companion were the same ghastly grey-white as everyone else here, though at least the lack of color was limited to their skin like it had been for Gaara. The man, Kankurou, looked a lot like Naruto's kidnapper, except his hair and eyes were brown. He had a cookie raised halfway to his mouth, but in light of Naruto's appearance he'd obviously forgotten about it.

"Uh…hi," Naruto said finally, seeing as how neither of them looked like they were going to say anything. He expected some sort of reaction – after all, they obviously knew Gaara, which meant they probably knew that Naruto was supposed to be a prisoner.

"Holy shit," Temari breathed, not even moving to clean up the slowly spreading puddle of tea. "You're… You're actually awake." Her expression morphed into one of annoyance and she directed a glare at the brunette. "You told me Gaara went to get this mortal personally, and that he buried him in his sand!"

"He did! I used the mirror when I realized Gaara was gone, and I saw it happen myself!"

"Well obviously you're wrong, considering that this kid's awake right now!"

"Um…" Naruto glanced at the hissing weasel and then back to the arguing pair. "Could you maybe call off this, uh, weasel thing before it eats me, or whatever it looks like it's about to do to me…?" They looked at him in surprise and Naruto realized in bemusement that they'd completely forgotten he was there.

With a sigh, Temari flicked her fingers into a series of weird signs and the weasel vanished in a puff of spoke before Naruto's startled eyes. Clearly seeing Naruto's weakness and shock, she scowled at Kankurou. "Don't just sit there," she snapped. "Help him to a chair before he falls over."

"Geeze, just because you're older doesn't mean you have to nag," Kankurou complained, getting to his feet and shuffling over to Naruto. When the blonde didn't move, he rolled his eyes and grabbed Naruto's arm, looping it over his broad shoulders and tugging him over to a chair. He pushed the blue-eyed blonde unceremoniously into a chair and sat down again.

Numbly, Naruto stared first at Temari and then at Kankurou. "That weasel thing just…vanished." Forgetting that he wasn't supposed to trust these two, since they were probably in on the whole kidnapping thing, he released a shaky breath and asked, "How…?"

The woman exchanged an unreadable glance with the brunette and sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose irritably. "I see Gaara didn't bother visiting in your dreams to explain any of this… Of course…" She rolled her eyes skyward and scowled. "Typical Gaara… Right, well, first thing's first. Welcome to the Underworld, mortal." She stared at Naruto, obviously expecting some kind of reaction to her statement.

Naruto shook himself from his stupor with a snort. "Underworld, right. What's that code for, a gang or something?" He shrank back when Kankurou slammed his fist onto the table, lips twisted into a fierce scowl. Temari, too, looked unamused.

"Don't insult us, mortal. You may be my little brother's pet, but I guarantee that he won't hesitate to vaporize you for disrespecting him. He's not as bad as Father was, but he's plenty sadistic enough to find a way to make it last," Kankurou threatened, only settling down when Temari gave him a hard glare.

"Look, why the hell would I believe you? You're trying to tell me you two are gods, and that insane redhead is a god, too?" Naruto crossed his arms and raised a skeptical eyebrow. "Seriously, how stupid do you think I am?"

Temari drummed her fingers on the table. "I don't think you want us to answer that," she commented snidely, ignoring the frown Naruto sent her. "You want proof? Tough. We're not obligated to prove anything to you." Naruto opened his mouth to protest but she spoke over him. "Honestly, I don't give a fuck what you believe. My brother wanted you here, but I don't have to like it, and I don't have to treat you nicely either."

Naruto scowled at her. "Well, if you don't like me, send me back. You're gods after all, right?"

"We don't have the power to do that," Kankurou admitted gruffly, crossing his arms. "We aren't major gods." Naruto, despite his anger, gave him a confused look and the brunette sighed irritably. "There are hundreds of gods and goddesses," he explained reluctantly, tipping his chair on its hind legs and leaning back. "Gaara is a great god, one of five. The five great gods are known as 'shadows', or kages. Gaara, as the ruler of the Underworld, inherited the title of 'Kazekage' when our father, ah…stepped down."

Temari continued the story, tone bored. "Only the five kages have the power to transport a mortal between the surface world and their domains, and even then there are limits. The Raikage, for example, couldn't take a mortal from the surface world and bring that mortal here directly. He'd have to take the mortal to his lands and then travel here. There are five realms total: The Underworld, the Sky Domain, the Ocean, the Earth, and what we call the Harvest Lands, where all life originates from."

"Right…" Naruto stared at the siblings for several long moments before whistling. "You're…not joking. Holy fuck…" He hesitated. "So, am I a prisoner here, or…?"

"You can't leave the walls of Suna – that's the name of the necropolis, by the way: Sunagakure – not only because Gaara said so, but also because you wouldn't be able to survive if you left the walls. The guards of Paradise won't let you through, and if you find yourself in the Fields of Punishment, well…" She shrugged, but for a split second the expression on her face was scary. "Aside from all that, the lands between our realm and the other realms are inhospitable, even to a god. Otherwise, you can do what you want. No one actually expected you to even wake up, except maybe Gaara, but…"

"Just don't do anything stupid," Kankurou said tartly, ignoring Naruto's glare. "If Gaara wants to see you, he'll find you."

"Well, what about Gaara?" Naruto wanted to know. "Why'd he even bring me here? Did I die or something?"

Surprisingly, that prompted a chuckle from Kankurou. "Nah, you're not dead. Temari's what you mortals would call the 'Grim Reaper'. It's her job to gather up the souls of the mortals when they die." He scratched his head absently. "Thing is, Gaara was just a minor god like us before he became Kazekage. He dealt with sleep and dreams, and he was always sort of…detached. It makes him awkward, even for a lord of the Underworld."

"No one really knows why Gaara does half of the things he does," Temari interjected. "For now, like Kankurou said, just don't cause any trouble." She eyed Naruto, noting his slumped posture and visibly weakened state, and sniffed. "Not that you look like you're in any shape to do anything." Her gaze strayed to the broken teacup. She rolled her eyes and Naruto realized that her eyes, too, were green – though they were more emerald-green than Gaara's mint-green. She snapped her fingers and the shards of china reassembled.

Watching the cup revert to its original state reminded Naruto of another question he wanted to ask. "So, if you're gods, why are you eating cookies and drinking tea?" He squinted thoughtfully. "Don't gods drink nectar and eat ambrosia or something?"

Kankurou snorted, biting into a second cookie. "We're not Greek, you idiot. And, strictly speaking, we don't really need to eat or drink, but it is fun."

Naruto blinked at them incredulously. "…fun. Right." He got to his feet, pleased to note that he felt a little better. "I'm going to look around the city then, since I'm allowed to wander." Neither deity moved to stop him, so the blonde cautiously left the room, feeling their eyes on him the entire time.

Everyone was staring at him, and had been ever since he'd stumbled out of the huge, spherical building that he decided was probably important; the observation was valid, considering the large green kanji for 'wind' was displayed proudly on the building. He supposed that had something to do with that whole 'Kazekage' business. Part of him wanted to discredit what Temari and Kankurou had told him, but the creepy piles of sand that littered the city rustled and coiled languidly – snake-like – whenever he passed them. The one-eyed weasel had watched him with intelligence that seemed very human, and had vanished without a trace. And the people here… Either it was really, really good makeup and hair-dye, or they really were a pearly grey.

Naruto sighed as yet another grey citizen eyed him suspiciously and stepped away from him. He couldn't tell why they were avoiding him, but it was both annoying and saddening at the same time. He didn't realize he'd spoken his frustrations aloud until someone answered him.

"It's 'coz you're different," commented a young child at his elbow. Naruto had no idea if it was a boy or a girl, and he didn't care. He jumped at the chance to talk to someone; it was rare he went so long without talking at all. He crouched to meet the child's eyes. They were grey, as expected, but they were bright and had a mischievous sparkle to them that made the blonde smile. The kid grinned at him in return and he reached out to tousle the pale grey hair.

"What's so bad about being different?" he wanted to know, though he kept his tone playful.

"Well, I don't think it's bad," the child said thoughtfully, having apparently taken his question seriously. "But you have color to your hair and eyes. Your clothes are colorful. You even have color in your skin. Kazekage-sama has the same skin color as us, and he's our lord. So no one knows what to think of you."

Naruto scratched his cheek, staring at this child. The frank way the kid spoke was…weird. "How do you know all that?" he asked, curious. "No offense, but you're just a kid. Hard to believe a kid knows what everyone's thinking."

"I'm not just a kid! I'm Maki! And I know 'coz Mama told me." The child, who Naruto was strongly beginning to suspect was a girl, crossed her arms with all the dignity that she seemed capable of mustering.

"All right then, Maki-chan. I'm Naruto. Nice to meet you!" He glanced around and frowned. "Where's your mother?" A beat. "How old are you?" She looked too young to be standing out here alone, and he didn't see anyone around that seemed to be watching the girl.

Maki pointed. "She's in there," she said simply. He followed the direction she pointed. "And I was nine when Mama and I died in a car accident. She's filling out the forms for reincarnation right now."

He knew he was staring – gaping, really – at Maki now. Nine when she died? What the fu-? Oh. Right. The Underworld and all that. He ran a hand through his unruly hair, glancing again at the building Maki had pointed out to him. There were a lot of grey-skinned people milling about inside that were just visible through the window. "So… Reincarnation…?"

The little girl nodded sagely, her expression seeming much too old to belong on the face of a child her age. Naruto wondered how long she'd been dead to look so world-weary already. "See, really special people who did good things in their life, they go to Paradise," she explained. "Everyone wants to go there, 'coz it's perfect." She hesitated, and then plowed on. "Bad people go to the Fields of Punishment," she continued, grey eyes solemn now. "They get punished for however long Kazekage-sama says, based on how bad they were. Then they come here."

Naruto started, looking around at the people again. That was like letting prisoners from jail mingle with normal people, in his opinion. The girl must have understood his expression, because she shook her head.

"Suna is for the reformed bad people and the unremarkable people like Mama and me." She shuffled her feet and clasped her hands, twisting her fingers restlessly. "We wait here for when there's enough room in the living world for us to reincarnate!" She fell silent after that and Naruto saw what looked like sadness in her level grey eyes.

"Sometimes it takes a long time though, right?" he asked gently. When the girl sniffled – could ghosts even cry? – and nodded, Naruto patted her head gently. Maki didn't say anything else after that and, though Naruto could have left, he chose to wait with her until her mother finally emerged from the building. Maki brightened and ran over to the woman, and Naruto realized uncomfortably that Maki's mother was staring shrewdly at him. He got hastily to his feet and waved. She didn't return the gesture but, to Naruto's amusement, Maki did.

The little girl even cupped her hands around her mouth and shouted "Bye-bye, Naruto-niichan!" across the street. His unease melted at her exuberance despite the scandalized expression on her mother's face.

Just like back home when he was a kid… At least the children warmed up to him easily enough. That was something…

When Naruto finally made it back to the main building – he'd gotten lost and no one would give him directions – he found Temari and Kankurou in the kitchen again. They both looked up when he walked wearily into the room and sank into a chair. He was tired.

After talking to Maki, he'd wandered all around Suna, using the time to think about his situation. At first he'd thought to head for the walls anyway. After all, Temari and Kankurou were related to Gaara. For all he knew, they'd lied about what was beyond the walls to make it easier to keep him a prisoner here.

The closer he'd walked towards the walls, however, the more restless the shifting piles of sand became until, by the time he'd actually reached the walls he could have sworn there was an eyeball made of sand following him. He ignored it, guessing that Gaara was keeping tabs on him, and focused instead on the walls. They were well-guarded, he realized. Even if he could somehow sneak through, he'd probably be spotted soon enough if there wasn't any cover on the other side. Discouraged, he'd turned around to find that he was completely lost – and the weird eyeball was gone. Evidently Gaara knew that Naruto wasn't dumb enough to try to escape Suna.

Naruto had spent over an hour trying to find his way back, grumbling about how stupid he had to be to misplace a building that looked like a giant clay ball. Though there was no sun, and Naruto's watch had long since stopped working, he'd always had an internal clock that was scarily-accurate down to the last minute.

Now that he'd finally made it back, he was tired and hungry. Luckily, Temari seemed to have anticipated this because she set a plate of still-steaming food in front of him. He all-but inhaled it, not even taking the time to figure out what it was. It tasted good and it was filling and that was all he cared about; it was his first meal since being kidnapped, however long ago that had been, and his nausea of the morning was gone. When he'd finished, he looked up to find Temari shaking her head and Kankurou staring at him with one eyebrow raised.

Naruto blushed, realizing his manners had probably been non-existent just then. "Ah, sorry," he apologized sheepishly. "Thanks for the meal, Temari-san." The woman twitched and muttered that he should just call her 'Temari'. He shrugged and looked around, then blinked. "What, no Gaara?"

"Gaara doesn't eat with us," Kankurou said, rolling his eyes. "He considers it a waste of time." He hesitated. "He wasn't always like that, though. Before he became Kazekage he talked more, and he ate with us." Temari was glaring at Kankurou, Naruto noticed, but the brunette continued anyway, staring levelly at Naruto. "He was happiest, relatively speaking, as the god of sleep and dreams. He didn't want this job. I don't know why he brought a mortal here, considering he can only talk to mortals through dreams, but–"

"Wait, what?" Naruto sat up straighter and frowned at Kankurou. "What do you mean, only through dreams? He spoke to me before he brought me here. He said…" He trailed off, flushed faintly, and shook his head. "Anyway, he talked to me and I heard him just fine."

Both Temari and Kankurou were staring at him now. "…he talked to you?" Temari whispered, green eyes wide. "You actually heard him? That's impossible. Impossible." She didn't sound as sure now, though. Finally, she glared at Naruto, who scowled back at her.

"Look, I didn't know about any of your weird rules," he muttered. "I do know that I went for a run that morning and Gaara grabbed me right after I'd finished. I'm not crazy, and I definitely wasn't asleep."

"…he's right," Kankurou said suddenly. "I was watching, remember? Gaara was definitely talking while the kid was awake, and the kid was talking back. Sure looked like a conversation from where I was sitting."

Naruto twitched. "My name is Naruto. Uzumaki Naruto," he added, heatedly. "Not kid." He grumbled and got to his feet, stumbled, and grabbed the table to steady himself. Between Kankurou treating him like a child and Temari calling him a liar, he had no desire to stay in the kitchen. He thought he might like to go to bed but, as he walked down the hallway towards his room, he realized that he only knew where the kitchen and his room were. Curious, he began to explore.

Besides, talking about his kidnapping reminded him of Sakura and Sasuke. He wondered how long he'd been here and how his friends had taken his sudden disappearance. Did they think he was angry with them…? He shook the melancholy thoughts from his mind and opened the first door he came to.

Luckily, this room was a bathroom, because Naruto had to go. With that taken care of, he wandered over to the next door, opened it, and found himself looking at a staircase that led up. Cautiously, he climbed the stairs. He came across only one door and it was at the very top of the stairs. He tried the handle; it wasn't locked and the door opened smoothly with a light touch. He pushed it open all the way and found that he was on what seemed to be the roof. Despite the spherical construction of the building, the roof was actually flat – it was just hard to see that from the ground, he supposed.

The sky had darkened from its twilight-red to a dark, velvety indigo that was not unlike the night sky back home. There was still no moon, though, nor were there any stars. Interestingly, everything was lit dimly, as though there was a moon and stars.

A flash of red caught his eye and Naruto stilled, recognizing the man standing with his back to the door. Gaara

He froze indecisively, barely breathing, and considered retreating back inside. Before he did, though, he glanced at Gaara again. The redhead was dressed differently now than he had been on the beach: White robes fluttered in the faint breeze. Against his grey skin the white was almost blinding. Naruto took a small step back. Suddenly there was a thin blanket of sand behind him, keeping him from leaving. It slithered along his back, making him tense, but all it did was gently urge him forward.

"You need not run from me," Gaara said softly without turning around, voice barely audible in the 'evening' air. Despite Temari's statements earlier, Naruto could hear Gaara just fine.

He scowled. "I wasn't gonna run," he insisted. "You just didn't look like you wanted company is all." Still, he hesitated long enough that the sand nudged him again. He glared at the red-haired god's back and stalked forward to lean on the low wall beside Gaara. He caught the lazy flick of mint-green eyes in his direction before Gaara returned to staring at…whatever it was he'd been staring at before. After several long minutes of silence, Naruto huffed an annoyed breath and turned to his silent companion. "So, your name's Gaara, right?" The slight nod from the redhead indicated that he was listening. Naruto's eyebrow twitched. What was with the silent treatment all of a sudden? He knew the god could talk.

He stared at Gaara's relaxed profile for a moment before abruptly sticking out his hand. This time Gaara turned to look at him. He was giving Naruto that blank look again – or, wait… Was that amusement in those green eyes? "My name's Naruto. Since you didn't ask before kidnapping me and all." He wasn't blushing. He wasn't, damn it.

The god blinked, all traces of amusement gone now, and glanced down at Naruto's still-extended hand. Naruto wiggled his fingers a little, one eyebrow raised. Slowly, Gaara uncrossed his arms, reached out, and slid his fingers gracefully around Naruto's in a firm, but unassuming, grip. Just like before, his fingers were icy.

"…Naruto…" he said slowly, his tone vaguely thoughtful. He didn't release Naruto's hand until the blonde, uncomfortable, flexed his fingers. Even then the redhead seemed reluctant to let go. Naruto rubbed his fingers idly, trying to coax some warmth back into them. Gaara stared at his hand, head tilted just slightly, but remained silent.

When it seemed Gaara wasn't going to say anything else, Naruto sighed and leaned his butt against the low wall, bracing his palms on either side of his hips. "Look," he began, and Gaara glanced at him again, expression bland as ever. Naruto swallowed but forged on gamely. "I get that you're bored and all that, but I don't belong here. I want to go home, and Temari and Kankurou say that you're the only one who can take me back."

Green eyes appraised him and it was impossible for Naruto to guess what the god was thinking. Then Gaara shrugged and turned away, staring at his village again. "I do not wish to take you home. I want you here," he stated flatly. He sounded…less bored now, but there was still little emotional inflection in his smooth voice.

Naruto bristled. It would have been flattering that the god was so interested in keeping him, if not for the fact that Naruto wanted to go home. As it was, his fists clenched, lips pulling down into an irritated frown. He'd known it wasn't going to be that easy, else Gaara wouldn't have kidnapped him to begin with, but it would have been nice.

"You can't keep me here against my will forever," Naruto informed the god coldly – and, if he was honest, somewhat petulantly. He turned his head away from Gaara to glare at the streets below, shifting so that the walls didn't dig so sharply into his back. So wrapped up in his annoyed thoughts, he jumped when cold fingers slid gently across his jaw to press lightly against his cheek, effortlessly bringing his sullen gaze back around. The god tilted his chin up, forcing Naruto to meet his eyes.

"I will not keep you against your will," Gaara agreed serenely, and left the statement at that. The implication – that somehow Naruto would want to stay – was not lost on the blonde. For a moment Naruto didn't say anything, too caught up in the mint-green eyes that seemed to read his soul, but then he raised a hand and batted Gaara's fingers away. The god let him, and said nothing when Naruto straightened and walked away.

He paused at the door leading back inside and glanced over his shoulder at the redhead, who had apparently watched him go. "You can't force someone to be your friend, Gaara." The god's eyes widened – presumably at Naruto's audacity in addressing him so informally – but Naruto only shook his head and went inside, closing the door firmly behind him.

Word Count: 5932

So, there's chapter one. Hopefully everyone enjoyed it…? Sasuke and Sakura actually do still have a role to play, but it is a small one. I don't like either of them very much, but I try not to bash characters, so my compromise is that they get small roles.

While I had this chapter pretty well thought-out in my head, a lot of the plot details and linear-ness came from Gaaras-Gothic-Ninja-Sappy-Sue, who helped me tremendously not only with this story but also with two up-coming one-shots. If you haven't read her works, I'd recommend The Light in the Fifth Floor Bedroom, particularly if you like psychological thrillers.

Shameless plugs aside, I look forward to hearing from everyone. Hopefully this chapter measured up to the prologue's potential. We've got a long ride ahead of us, so buckle up and enjoy!