A/N: So, the chapter after the first kiss is always the hardest one to get out. The urge to instantly rush into a wonderful romance must be stamped out by cold realism. Things don't progress that quickly after all.
I also ask that you offer me some suspension of disbelief in regards to the politics of this fictional college. Different colleges organise their student unions/governments in different ways and for those familiar with the process, you will notice a mixture of different systems. The way I've organised it isn't completely made-up but isn't necessarily 100% realistic either. That's all.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy this chapter.
Ino had to blink several times in surprise as the orange-haired man strolled into the office to greet them. It wasn't often one saw Pein outside of the Student Union building unless he was attending his courses or doing one of his charity events. If any business needed attending to, Pein would often organise matters behind the scenes and send the Vice President- Konan- to deal with it directly. And yet, there he was, so early in the morning.
"Pein, what a surprise!" Ino offered a tentative smile, briefly worried that she had done something wrong. However, the small smile the pierced man shot her way helped soothe her and confirmed that this was a pleasant visit. The relief she felt was indescribable. She exchanged looks with Kabuto, silently thanking him for refusing to cover for her a little while ago. If she had left with Naruto she would be completely busted right now.
"Good morning." Pein said, resting on the desk casually as he looked between the both of them. "I trust everything's going well this morning?"
"The office work is almost completed for the day." Kabuto said.
"That's good but I meant personally."
"Oh," the silver-haired man was taken aback by the sudden friendliness of their President but smiled nonetheless. "We're both doing well, thank you."
"Good." Pein smiled a little. "I actually came here to make an announcement regarding a position which recently opened up on the Student Union."
"Chief Justice?" Kabuto asked, cocking an eyebrow.
"You are well-informed." The pierced man shot him a look, slightly suspicious of Kabuto's knowledge on such a private matter, but chose to overlook it. "Our former Chief Justice decided to step down from the position due to 'personal issues.' As President, it falls upon me to choose who will take his place for this year. I've decided to give the position to one of you."
Both Ino and Kabuto stared at him blankly for a moment, each of them holding different expressions on their faces, before Ino spoke up.
"Isn't the Chief Justice normally elected?" The woman asked, slightly baffled by the news. She glanced over at Kabuto, confused to find he looked completely cool about the whole thing- like he'd known it was coming.
"The last one was but, with him stepping down so suddenly, it was decided that my judgment would be trusted on this matter." The pierced man explained, glancing between the two of them again. "Either one of you would be a worthy candidate for the position. You're both very knowledgeable when it comes to the college's code of conduct and its expectations. You're also both experienced members of the Student Union and, as far as I'm concerned, more than capable of maintaining the position as well as your work as students."
"Your belief in us is flattering," Ino said with a smile. "I always knew you appreciated me."
"Well, being involved in cases of academic and non-academic misconduct isn't an easy job and the responsibility of potentially being part of the expulsion process for code-breaking peers can be overbearing." Pein pointed out. "But the two of you are well-suited for the job. As such, I will be expecting your individual applications for the position by the end of the day. A final decision will be made based upon your applications on Friday. Any questions?"
"Sounds good to me," Ino smiled over at her colleague. "Guess it's a little competition between us, right Kabuto?"
"Certainly." He said, a strange smirk on his face.
"Healthy competition between fellow Union members is always beneficial," Pein said, turning to make his leave. "but remember that you're both part of a team, regardless of who gets the position. I wouldn't want this to come between you two. Have a good day." They both watched the President as he headed out to the Student Union building with smiles on their faces,
"No way will this come between us. No hard-feelings when I win, okay?" Ino said, shooting the grey-haired man a cheeky wink.
"Back at you." Kabuto sneered, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose with a barely-repressed chuckle.
'Personal issues, huh? I'm a little disappointed that was the best he could come up with to Pein but I suppose I didn't pay that idiot to be creative. Guess all I have to do is convince Pein I'm the better candidate and then the position will be mine.' Kabuto chuckled to himself. 'Good luck when that happens, Gaara.'
Kabuto's grin widened uncontrollably as he slipped behind a stack of papers- hiding his expression of glee room the woman opposite him. His plan may be too convoluted or dramatic, but he knew it would work perfectly.
Naruto slowly pulled away, confusion and hesitance shimmering in the depths of his blue eyes. He really did wear his heart on his sleeve, something which both irritated and fascinated Gaara. But the redhead didn't have time to be either, not with the tension between them soaring to unbelievable heights. The kiss had lasted only a second and had been more of head-butt-like-attack than anything pleasant…but its meaning hadn't changed at all. Effectively, Gaara had just not only admitted his feelings, but shown the desire to follow through with those feelings. That thought was scary and frightening but…for some reason, Gaara was feeling rather calm. His head was still getting round the fact that the blonde idiot had kissed him first, completely erasing the chance of rejection.
"I…" Gaara began, trailing off as his eyes glanced down at Naruto's wrist- of which he still had hold of. Feeling suddenly shy, the redhead uncurled his fingers and withdrew his hand. He couldn't believe he'd been so impulsive, but part of him had just stopped caring…or started caring, depending on how you looked at it.
Once he looked back up, Gaara was treated to a wonderful sight. Naruto's confused and unsure expression slowly morphed into a small and tentative smile before growing into a massive grin. The blonde beamed at him, eyes sparkling in the light and teeth fully on display as the situation hit him.
"You kissed me." He stated bluntly, not as a question nor as a pondering thought, but as a cock-sure and confident statement. Gaara would have normally found both that grin and Naruto's cockiness irritating but…these circumstances were different- he could afford to be a little lenient.
"You kissed me first, Uzumaki." The redhead hissed back lamely, not sure how a person was supposed to respond after just slapping their lips onto their roommate's.
"Yeah," the blonde murmured, stepping a little closer. "I guess I did."
"Why?" Gaara asked suddenly, trying his best to make it sound like an accusation rather than a self-doubting search for answers. He could tell from the way Naruto's features softened that he had failed.
"Because I think…" he shook his head, proceeding to correct himself. "I know that I kinda…like you that way." The blonde nodded, pleased with his correction, as he reached up to scratch the back of his own head. "I don't really understand how a straight guy can like another dude but…Ino said it was possible and I can't deny it. You're special to me, Gaara."
"I…am…?" the redhead stared back questioningly, slightly suspicious of his roommate's confession and annoyed that Naruto had been discussing him with his friend, but still slightly elated to hear the final confession.
"Yup." Naruto said back confidently, not a single tremor of doubt in his tone.
"…" Gaara simply had nothing left to say. He couldn't question Naruto, not after hearing the confidence his voice had carried. It was like when the blonde had ordered him to not leave the room the night before- there was something which forced Gaara to comply and accept it. But still…he had no idea what else he could possibly say. He'd never been in this situation before; he'd never bothered sharing his own emotions before. But he had stopped Naruto from leaving, against all better judgement, and kissed him back. It was something he had to accept. Naruto was different…Naruto was special to him too.
"So…" the blonde began, dropping his hand back to his side as he stared into his roommate's eyes fiercely. "I guess you and I are going out to dinner tonight."
"That was an odd way of asking," the tattooed teen pointed out, hiding the way his heart fluttered behind a façade of aggression. The aggression, however, melted away as Naruto stepped into his personal space with a grin on his handsome face. He softly brushed the tip of his nose against Gaara's, never breaking eye contact, causing the redhead to gulp.
"I wasn't asking…" Naruto whispered, his breath ghosting over the redhead's twitching lips. They were so close they could kiss…again. "because I know that you would secretly like to go to dinner with me. So even if you said no, I'd keep asking again and again until you said yes."
Despite the situation, Gaara was still able to roll his eyes at his roommate's persistent and 'don't-take-no-as-an-answer' attitude and, in a way, that comforted him. It meant that, despite what had just happened, nothing had changed between them. They were still Naruto Uzumaki and Gaara Subaku. They still had the same personalities. They still had the same experience with one another. It proved that this was a beginning, not an ending. They weren't losing what they had had up until now; they were gaining a new angle to their relationship. That was…uplifting…
"Fine, I'll go." Gaara whispered back, rolling his eyes back to make eye contact. It was still uncomfortable, but far easier to gaze into those blue depths than it had been before. "As long as you don't do anything cliché and embarrassing."
"Like buy you flowers?" The blonde suggested with a chuckle, leaning a little closer.
"Buy me flowers, Uzumaki, and I will destroy them petal-by-petal."
"Wow…that's just mean…" Naruto pouted with his lips but his eyes were smiling. He was enjoying the fact that nothing had changed as well. It would have been awkward if they had shifted into some weird and creepy lovey dovey mode. This was better. "I'll just have to charm you some other way then."
"I'm not a girl." The redhead reminded him coldly, watching as Naruto stepped back and cocked an eyebrow- an amused smirk playing on his luscious lips.
"I had kinda noticed, Gaara. I don't think you appreciate how difficult it's been for me to come to terms with this."
"My heart weeps for you." Gaara muttered, rolling his eyes.
"Hey, Gaara?" The blonde began, smiling just a little. "You really like me, huh?"
"Sure," the redhead mumbled, looking away as he started heading toward the building.
"Like 'please-take-me-right-here-against-this-tree' like me?"
'Uzumaki…' Gaara bowed his head to hide the blush that had risen to his cheeks, storming off in embarrassment and irritation. Things may not have changed hugely between them but…now Naruto was able to one-up Gaara whenever he needed to…and something about the blonde idiot's grin made it obvious he was going to enjoy it.
"Hey!" Ino called, strolling over to the two young men gracefully with an all-knowing and satisfied smirk on her lips. The way they were walking so close together, the slight flush on Gaara's face- it told her all she needed to know about how Naruto's little confession had gone. It was cute, bless them. "Naruto, Gaara," she greeted, smiling at the redhead's poor attempts to stealthily slip away from his roommate to avoid suspicion. As if that would get past her! "I have something I need your help with."
"Er…" Naruto began lamely, glancing between Gaara and the woman, "don't you wanna know about…" he trailed off awkwardly, eyes shifting to the redhead in suggestion.
"Yeah, yeah. You admitted your feelings, Gaara reciprocated, you shared a kiss or two and now you're headed back to your room to do God-knows-what." Both Naruto and Gaara blushed profusely at that, though the blonde took it more in his stride than his poor roommate. Gaara wasn't used to Ino yet, or her powers of knowing everything so it was harder for him not to splutter at her words. "Anyway, there's something far more important than that."
"What?" Naruto asked curiously.
"What word would you use to describe me- dynamic or vibrant?" Her odd question, bigged up as being hugely 'important', certainly got her some looks from both of the men. All she did was give them a stern glance which said, 'what? It is important.'
"Don't they basically mean the same thing?" Gaara muttered, narrowing his glare ever-so-slightly.
"Yes, I know that." She countered, rolling her eyes. "I need to know which one sounds better on paper; I'm not disputing the meaning."
"I…er…you…" the blonde man stuttered, still totally lost at the line of questioning. A second ago he'd been focused entirely on his roommate, only to have Ino interrupt him.
"Dynamic sounds better to me." Gaara interrupted, deciding it best to cut Naruto's rambling short. "Why?"
"How nice of you to ask, Gaara." Ino said sweetly, shooting a disappointed look Naruto's way as she did. "I'm actually being considered as this college's next Chief Justice."
"Chief Justice, huh?" The redhead echoed, genuinely impressed. He'd never thought a woman like Ino, despite her powerful presence and confidence, would be the kind to take up such position in something like a college structure.
"Is that really your kinda thing?" Naruto asked, cocking his head slightly.
"Are you kidding?" She shot back. "Holding power and control over the fate of my fellow students whilst also having time to stay looking this damn good? I thought you knew me better than that, Naruto." It was said half-jokingly, with just a hint of teasing beneath the surface. Gaara liked this woman- she was witty and constructive. "I've just gotta convince Pein of my awesomeness and the position is all mine."
"Doesn't he already know how awesome you are?" Naruto asked with a grin, trying to get back some brownie-points.
"Please, it takes even more than my good looks and charm to get that guy to back me up," she groaned, rolling her eyes. "I suppose the challenge is refreshing…I wonder if he's any good in bed." Ino said the last part with a sneer, eyes darting to Naruto's scrunched up face as she said it. She'd gotten the reaction she wanted.
"I really don't wanna think about Pein in bed right now."
"Afraid the image will ruin your time?" Ino said, cocking an eyebrow.
"Ino…" the blonde man groaned.
"It's alright, I can see you have your hands full…and I know they'll be full of something else later on." It was the wink that did it. The wink directed at the both of them which earned a pair of blushes. Gaara wasn't used to any innuendo, having heard very little before joining the college, and certainly didn't like it when he was the subject. Naruto, however, was more embarrassed on Gaara's behalf. "Oh, and Gaara?"
"When you can spare a minute, there's this story about Naruto that you just have to hear. I call it the bedroom incident and you will honestly piss your panties when you find ou-"
"Alright, you need to leave, Ino." Naruto barked suddenly, lunging forward to spin her by the shoulders and send her on her way. "Like, now." His face was unbelievably flushed at this point; horrified at the prospect that Gaara might learn such a horrid truth.
"Hey, I didn't just come to ask you about words, you know."
"Bye, Ino." Naruto stressed, nudging her slightly.
"Fine, fine." She muttered in defeat, starting to head away with a satisfied smile. "By the way, Kabuto wants to see you tomorrow morning, Gaara."
"My application, as you requested." Kabuto said with a smile, placing the folder down on the desk in front of the Student President. Pein glanced at it, before looking up at the silver-haired man with a cocked eyebrow. He seemed sceptical, like he was suspicious of Kabuto, but shrugged it off nonetheless.
"I didn't expect it so soon. I did give you until the end of the day, after all."
"Well, my quick-thinking and motivation to act swiftly are traits you'll find listed in my application as some of my good qualities." Kabuto smirked, straightening up under Pein's watchful gaze. "Just a few reasons why I should be named Chief Justice."
"I believe you'll find that's my call to make." The orange-haired man reminded him curtly, picking up the folder to briefly look it over. "Still, I'll make sure to look over your application with great interest. I don't take decisions like this one lightly. The position of Chief Justice is a key one in our college community and I will not settle for anything less than the best."
"On another note, I couldn't help but sense some tension between you and Naruto's new roommate at the collection yesterday. Anything I should be aware of?" Pein glanced up at him with an expectant look.
"Gaara? Oh, he and I just got off on the wrong foot," Kabuto explained with a smile. "He isn't the most sociable of people so I think my offer of friendship may have rubbed him the wrong way. That's all."
"That so?" The Student President didn't seem entirely convinced as he dropped the folder back onto the desk and continued to stare at the other. Kabuto showed no signs of cracking under the pressure.
"However, I'm optimistic that he and I will become good friends soon. I happen to believe that we have quite a bit in common."
"Oh, is he a sly bookworm too?" Pein asked with a chuckle.
"You're too cruel, Pein. You know I have nothing but the upmost respect for you." The orange-haired President scoffed lowly before gesturing for Kabuto to leave. "Fine, I'll go. I can see you're busy." Kabuto said with a smile. "But you're not going to let your dislike of me influence your decision on Friday, right?"
"Nonsense." Pein muttered, shooting the other a warning gaze. "I would never allow personal feelings to get in the way of something so important. As President, it is my duty to ensure the efficiency and stability of this college. I'm not fond of the current treasurer, yet I still chose him because he was the best candidate." The orange-haired male looked annoyed and once again gestured for Kabuto to leave.
This time, the new candidate did so silently.
"You're serious?" Gaara muttered, staring blankly at the blonde.
"Yeah," Naruto said, scratching the back of his head as his roommate's stare bore into him. "there's a basketball game on this afternoon. I promised to play and I don't wanna show up the guys on my course so soon. So…I guess I'll see you for dinner tonight."
"…" Gaara considered throwing it in Naruto's face but he knew perfectly well he would never be able to do that. The blonde had invited him out to dinner that night, which meant a whole day had to pass by before that point. Perhaps it was best that Naruto had somewhere else to be. Being stuck near each other for the whole day before they went out and set any foundation would just be…awkward. And Gaara needed some time to think things through. It wasn't everyday he was kissed and then kissed in returned. It wasn't everyday someone so…irritating…forced their way into his life. Still, he couldn't help but smile a little when Naruto leant in and pecked him on the lips before heading off to his game.
Denial had long been out of the question and the option of distancing himself from his roommate wasn't a realistic one. So, perhaps just this once, Gaara could go with it. If it all went horribly wrong then he could deal with it the same way he had dealt with everything…but if it went amazingly good…well, he couldn't even begin to imagine. He was gonna give the damn Uzumaki a chance but he was going to keep realistic expectations whilst heading into it. This wasn't some sickeningly runaway romance, this was Gaara's life. If Naruto wanted a part of that he'd have to earn it.
But still…maybe this would be a nice change…
A/N: So, not much progression on the relationship front but I suppose that's what the next chapter is for. Anyway, hope you all enjoyed this chapter nonetheless.