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(Don't) Say My Name

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It’s late evening, and Lee has been training most of the day. Lee is still getting used to the unique nature of life in Suna, even though he’s been officially moved in with Gaara for months now. Folks in Suna tend to wake up early, take a siesta midday, and work late into the night, to avoid the worst of the heat. Lee, accustomed to pushing through any adversity, took a long time to learn that it was practically suicidal to try to train in the middle of the day during the warmest months (or rather, most months).

He’s on his very last lap around the village, just getting ready to go home, when he passes through the training field in the Northwest corner of the village. There’s a kunoichi off in the corner of the field: a tall woman with a short, dark braid down the back of her neck, dressed in Suna’s standard chuunin uniform. She’s practicing a jutsu, and Lee slows to a jog to observe. Lee loves to watch others training, even if they’re working on something that he could never hope to replicate; he finds others’ hard work incomparably inspiring. The kunoichi - Lee thinks her name might be Chigako, but he’s only seen her a few times before - is forming a sequence of hand signs that Lee isn’t familiar with. When she releases the jutsu, a blast of golden light pulses from her hands. Lee is fascinated, and he pauses for a moment, jogging in place. The jutsu doesn’t seem to have any damaging effect, at least not on the training posts that Chigako is practicing on, and it doesn’t seem to have much range either.

Lee is watching her charge up another jutsu - the hand signals are still utterly unfamiliar to him - when, unexpectedly, he coughs. Chigako gives a little cry of alarm, and spins to face Lee directly. The golden light bursts from her hands and strikes Lee directly in the chest. Lee reels back slightly, out of surprise more than pain. Chigako rushes over, hands extended.

“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” she cries, bowing deeply.

Lee examines himself cursorily. He appears to be unscathed. “No harm done! That’s a pretty interesting-looking jutsu. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it before! Doesn’t pack much of a punch, though.”

Chigako drops eye contact, blushing furiously. “I apologize. It was irresponsible of me to be practicing out here to begin with. I was trying to increase my range. And now I’ve hit the Kazekage’s honored guest.” She gives a little cry of despair and covers her face, her braid flopping dramatically over her shoulder.

“Don’t worry about it,” Lee says, giving her the Nice Guy Pose. “And you can just call me Lee!”

Chigako shakes her head, not raising her face from her palms. “I really, really can’t.”

“Um, well, if you’re not comfortable with it, that’s fine. You’re Chigako, right? Or is there something else I should call you?”

“No, Chigako’s fine. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable, it’s just- ” She peeks one eye up from her hands. “That jutsu, it’s a seduction jutsu…”

Lee feels a blush creeping up the back of his neck. His words stumble in his mouth until he forces out an, “Oh?” He blanches, “But I don’t … feel seduced.”

“You won’t!” Chigako exclaims, throwing her hands up. “It’s purely physiological! It only stimulates, um, arousal, not attraction. And it hasn’t been activated.”

Lee has never felt more uncomfortable with a topic of conversation in his life. “Oh, um. That’s great. I mean, not great, but- ”

“As long as nobody says your name, you should be fine!” Chigako says hurriedly. “And it should wear off by midnight either way. I’m not very strong, so it doesn’t have a very long effect.”

“Great, okay, just don’t let anyone say my name before midnight. Shouldn’t be a problem.” Lee forces out a small, hysterical laugh. “I should, uh - I should get going. It was nice to meet you, Chigako!”

“Likewise, L-” Chigako claps both hands over her mouth. “Uh, sir!”

Lee’s feet barely touch the ground as he races back to Gaara’s house.

By the time Lee has gotten back to the house, he has resolved to not think too hard about his acutely embarrassing encounter. The Kazekage manor is austere and simply appointed, but spacious. Lee is still adjusting to the contrast to his own dim, cramped apartment in Konoha.

He decides rather quickly that the best thing to calm the burning in his face will be routine. He makes his way to the bathroom, neatly folding his jumpsuit and setting it aside for the wash. A quick shower, then perhaps some light cleaning, and then he’ll make dinner. Everything in its own time and orderly for when Gaara comes home.

Lee’s shower is brisk and cool, draining the worst of the heat from his face. Even the Kazekage’s home is on water restriction during the hottest season. Lee is fairly certain that Gaara could circumvent the restrictions if he wanted to, but Gaara is deeply invested in earning the respect of his citizenry. Even when it comes to small luxuries, Gaara would never accept them if it were unfair to his people, even if nobody would ever know about it. Lee focuses his thoughts on the ritual of cleaning himself, systematically working his way from head to toe. He certainly misses being able to soak in the tub the way he would in Konoha, but such is life in the desert.

Lee dries himself perfunctorily with Gaara’s scratchy, utilitarian towels. Idly, he wonders whether Gaara might like a new set as a gift. It’s the sort of thing that Gaara would never think to do for himself, but that he might appreciate. Lee knows he himself would certainly prefer slightly more comfortable accoutrements for his bathing.

Lee spends a few minutes on his cooldown stretches, working the remaining tension out of his muscles. He rewraps his bandages and shrugs into his most comfortable sweatsuit. The extremes in temperature are something else he has had to get used to in Suna, how the heat drains away from the earth the moment the sun goes down, leaving behind a bitter cold.

By the time he’s finished sweeping the worst of the sand out of the entryway, he is completely focused on his plans of what to make for dinner. The soothing brush, brush of the broom against the sandstone floor clears his mind of any wayward thoughts of awkward interactions.

Lee throws himself entirely into preparing a simple curry with rice, one of the few meals that he can cook with confidence. He focuses on the chopping of the vegetables, allows the scraping of the sides of the rice cooker to bring his mind back to clarity. If his thoughts start to stray to his mortification at the training field, he gently coaxes them back into line, restoring his focus to the present again and again until he is completely calm.

Lee is just finishing spooning the curry into bowls when Gaara steps through the door.

“Hello, Lee. I’m home,” Gaara says, hanging up his ceremonial hat and robes near the front door. Under his robes he’s wearing a simple, dark red shirt with a cutaway collar over armored mesh, the narrow hollow of his throat exposed. The bridge of his nose is slightly flushed, the high temperatures affecting him as well. Lee can see the flex of his thigh muscles through his short canvas pants, plated with leather and strapped at the thigh and ankle.

“Gaara!” Lee calls, ignoring the rush of heat in his stomach. A prickling sensation drags down his spine, like the lightest brush of fingers. “Welcome home! I made dinner.”

Gaara just hums as he washes his hands and sits at the kitchen table. Lee pushes a bowl towards him.

“I hope it’s not too spicy.”

Gaara takes a bite and his ears go slightly pink. That almost certainly means the food is too spicy, but Gaara doesn’t say anything.

“How was your day?” Lee says brightly.

“Long,” Gaara pauses. “Tedious. Too many meetings about topics of no importance. The council spent three hours debating whether or not to rename the aviary.”

“I’m surprised you sat through that.”

“I didn’t. Temari told me about it afterwards.” Gaara sighs, swirling his tea in his cup. He sets it down and grips Lee’s hand across the table. “It’s good to come home to you, Lee,” he says sincerely.

Lee stifles a gasp. His body throbs, pinpricks of heat spreading from his scalp. Something warm and liquid trickles down his chest and curls, aching, in his gut. His toes clench involuntarily.

“I’m happy to see you too, Gaara!” he says, perhaps a bit too loudly. Lee can see the minute narrowing of Gaara’s eyes that means he’s noticed something is unusual.

“I trust you had a good day,” Gaara says cautiously, eyes scanning Lee’s face.

“It was great!” Lee blurts out, “I started my day with an invigorating run, but I didn’t finish in the time I had set for myself, so I challenged myself to 500 one-armed push-ups!” Lee prattles on about his day, hoping that if he can keep up the patter of conversation until they’ve both finished eating, he can avoid Gaara saying his name again. Everything is going perfectly according to plan until Lee starts talking about his final lap around the village.

“And when I got to the training field, I uh- “ Lee freezes.

Gaara barely raises an eyebrow.

“I um, I- “ Lee is a terrible liar, but it would be almost too humiliating to share this with Gaara, the person he’s pledged his whole heart to.

“You what, Lee?”

Gaara’s words wash over him like a heat wave. Lee sucks air through his teeth and grips his knees so hard he’s afraid he’ll bruise himself. His entire body pulses with desire. He is rock hard in his sweatpants.

“I … came straight home and took a shower!” Lee hopes his grin is convincing enough that Gaara doesn’t notice the sweat gathering at his hairline.

Gaara’s eyes narrow again but he doesn’t say anything further.

When their dishes are both empty, Lee gathers everything as quickly as he can, carefully holding the bowls in front of his crotch. He practically hurtles to the sink, turning his back to Gaara.

“I’ll just wash up!” he calls, not turning around and standing as close to the counter as he possibly can. He quietly curses his sweatpants; they conceal nothing.

Gaara comes up behind him.

“Lee,” he says, gently touching the small of Lee’s back, “is something wrong?”

Lee bites his lip around a moan. His knees are shaking. Desire unfurls in his belly like a cat waking from a nap in a sunbeam.

“Everything’s great! Super great. I’m just going to wash the dishes. Why don’t you go relax?” Lee hastily slops the dishes into the sink and tries to will the blush away from the back of his neck.

Gaara steps in closer, cranes his neck around until he’s eye-to-eye with Lee. For all his social foibles, he is unerringly perceptive when it comes to those he cares about. Lee tries to avoid making eye contact, pretending he’s focused on the dishes.

“Something is wrong,” Gaara concludes, at length. “You’re upset. Have I done something to upset you?” Gaara’s expression is soft, his face dangerously close.

“No!” Lee shouts, dropping a bowl into the water with a splash. Gaara takes a half-step back in surprise. “No- you could never- ! I mean, if I was upset with you, I would tell you,” Lee stammers.

“And yet you won’t tell me what is distressing you.” Gaara’s eyes are sharp, and his lips purse minutely. Although his expression barely changes, Lee can read him like a book. He’s disappointed, feeling vulnerable and uncertain.

Lee has many qualities and skills befitting a fine ninja, but deception is not one of them. He can’t bear the crestfallen expression on Gaara’s face.

“It’s not that!” he says, grabbing the thin cotton sleeve of Gaara’s shirt in one soapy hand. “It’s just- “ His mouth struggles to form the words. His face is burning. “I’m- it’s embarrassing!”

Gaara’s eyes scan Lee’s face, scrutinizing. He opens his mouth, exhales half a breath. “I won’t laugh,” he says, seriously.

Lee can’t help but chuckle. “I know you wouldn’t. It’s not about that. It’s more … personally embarrassing, I guess. It was clumsy of me. “ Lee ducks his head, rubs the back of his neck. “I was running past the training field and I got hit by a jutsu.”

“You what?” In an instant, an arm of sand is pulling out one of the kitchen chairs while another forces Lee to sit. Gaara seizes Lee by both shoulders and pulls his face close, eyes checking over his body for any visible signs of injury. Lee struggles to cross his legs, hoping Gaara won’t see the very obvious bulge tenting his sweatpants.

“What type of jutsu was it? Did you give yourself First Aid? Do you need to be seen at the hospital? Where did it hit you?” Gaara spits out the questions in a hiss, barely pausing for breath.

“It’s fine, really!” Lee tries to gesture for Gaara to calm down. “I’m okay, no lasting harm done- “

Lee.” Gaara cuts him off.

Another wave of heat crashes over Lee, stronger than before. He shudders, mouth falling open around a moan. His body jackknifes, trying to relieve some of the pressure in his groin.

“You’re in pain,” Gaara says. “Where?” The arm of sand that was holding the chair thrashes nervously behind him.

“I’m really not! It’s- I’m- “ Lee can barely string two words together. He digs his nails into his thighs desperately.

“That’s it, we’re going to the hospital.” The sand rushes back into the gourd at Gaara’s waist. He turns abruptly and begins stalking towards the door.

“No!” Lee shouts. Gaara whirls around, his face tense with worry.

“Tell me what is going on. Right. Now. Lee, please.”

The dam breaks. Lee groans as a shaft of heat pierces him to his core. His legs fall open, hips thrusting uselessly at nothing. He falls back into the chair, panting.

Gaara surveys the scene, eyes locking onto the tent in Lee’s crotch, where a wet spot is just beginning to spread.

“Oh,” Gaara says finally. “I see.”

“Do you?” Lee says weakly.

“Yes.” Gaara approaches Lee where he sits, extends a hand and cards it through Lee’s damp hair. Lee’s cranes his head into the cool touch of Gaara’s long fingers, body rigid but emotions saturated with relief. “I’m familiar with the efforts of our larger kunoichi divisions to reform the seduction jutsu that we have traditionally used as methods of coercion. We’ve recently forbidden the use of any sexual jutsu that strip the victim of free will. Those that are still permitted are only to be used as a tool of embarrassment or humiliation, never for … that.” Gaara spits the last word like a curse. “It is dehumanizing to our kunoichi and dishonorable to our enemies.”

Lee nods enthusiastically, body beginning to calm, although he still aches for release. Gaara is unerringly noble, such a considerate leader - Lee’s heart swells. He leans his head against Gaara’s hip, Gaara’s fingers lightly scratching against his scalp.

“As I see it,” Gaara says thoughtfully, “we have a few options here. My first preference would be for you to go to the hospital and be looked over by a medic, to ensure no inadvertent damage- “

“No!” Lee leans back from Gaara’s touch, face hot. Gaara’s hand drops to his shoulder. “I mean,” he falters, “please don’t involve the hospital. It’s embarrassing enough when I injure myself during training, much less … this. Besides, it’s only supposed to last until midnight. If I’m not better by then, then we can talk about seeking medical attention.”

Gaara nods his understanding, expression closed off and considering. “Which kunoichi was it who struck you?” he asks.

“Her name’s Chigako,” Lee says.

Gaara’s gaze drifts into the near distance for a moment. Lee recognizes the expression as one of strained recollection.

“She’s taller, short hair, wears it in a braid… “

“Ah,” Gaara’s eyes snap to meet Lee’s. “She’s just a chuunin, not an especially strong one at that. I could contact her jounin squad leader, she may be able to dispatch the jutsu- “

“Absolutely not!” Lee interrupts. “Please, no more people need to know about this. She made an honest mistake, and I’m the one who disrupted her training. I don’t want her to get in trouble with her leadership.”

“She was careless,” Gaara says severely. “You could have been hurt.”

“I wasn’t cautious enough! This is my fault,” Lee argues.

“Fine,” Gaara relents, voice sharp. “I suppose you could attempt to handle this physiologically. Perhaps a cool shower- “

“I’ve already used my water rations for the day.”

The corners of Gaara’s mouth draw down in a tight frown. The tips of his teeth dig into his lower lip, his expression one of uncharacteristic indecision. It’s clear to Lee that he’s weighing the possibility of subverting the water restrictions for this one exception, but he quickly dispatches the thought with an abrupt, minute shake of his head.

“I can probably just wait it out on my own,” Lee suggests. “As long as I avoid the trigger word-”

“Trigger word?” Gaara interjects.

“The word that activates the jutsu.”

“What is it?” Gaara’s grip on Lee’s shoulder tenses, expectant.

“My name,” Lee admits.

“L- “ Gaara cuts himself off, edges of his lips white where they’re pressed together. Gaara says Lee’s name often, more often than the average person. He sprinkles it casually into conversation, whispers it like an invocation in Lee’s ear, mutters it breathlessly into Lee’s neck when they embrace. Even absent the power of the jutsu, Lee find himself weak to the way Gaara says his name - cradles the sound of it to his chest like some precious thing that needs protecting, lets it clench around his heart like a fist. But right now Gaara refrains, over cautious as his light eyes search Lee’s face. “I don’t think it’s safe for you to try to wait it out. From my understanding of this jutsu, its effects won’t wear off until the time limit expires, not without some kind of effort. And if you won’t allow outside intervention, I’m concerned that remaining in this state of arousal for this long could cause permanent damage.”

Lee cringes backward, eyes cast downward to his lap where the evidence of the truth of Gaara’s words juts out like an accusation. “I can go … take care of it by myself,” Lee says, wincing. He makes to stand.

“You mean masturbate,” Gaara says without reservation.

Lee’s upper lip curls in distaste at the clinical language. “Y-yes,” he stutters.

“You could,” Gaara says. “Or you could let me help you.” Gaara’s eyes burn through Lee like a brand.

Lee’s eyes trace up Gaara’s body - the tense line of his shoulders, the crease between his eyes - every line of him radiating concern and care. The throbbing heat running through him distracts him not at all from Gaara’s emotions, the warmth of his hand on his shoulder their only point of connection.

“I…” Lee breathes, “I would like that very much.”

Gaara’s hand slides up to cup the side of Lee’s face. Lee hears the rustling of the sand pulling the kitchen curtains closed, unseen as Gaara fills his vision. The room falls dim, saturated faintly orange where the barest hints of streetlights permeate through the fabric. The green of Gaara’s eyes flash in the darkness. He leans in and captures Lee’s mouth with his.

Gaara’s lips are warm, slip-sliding against Lee’s with soft pressure. Lee breathes him in, all the warmth and closeness of him, hands running up Gaara’s sides to grasp his shoulders.

“Lee,” Gaara whispers, unbidden, tongue heavy but comfortable around the word. A pulse of radiant heat sears through Lee’s body and he falls back to the chair, knees falling open. Gaara pulls back, eyes wide with alarm. “I’m sorry,” he gasps.

“No, don’t- “ Words are never easy for Lee during intimate moments, but Gaara needs him right now, needs his reassurance. “Don’t apologize. You can say it, you can say it. It feels... “ The words are faint as a whisper in his mouth. “It feels good.”

Gaara’s eyes meet his, searching for any hint of deception or uncertainty. Lee meets him head-on, gaze unwavering and sure.

“If you’re at all uncomfortable, if you want me to stop - say so and I will,” Gaara says, voice soft. “I don’t want you to feel pressured, despite the circumstances- “

Lee can’t stop himself from the low chuckle that rumbles through his chest. “I don’t feel that at all,” he murmurs. “I’m- I’m grateful. Thank you for taking care of me.” He brings his hands up to cup the back of Gaara’s neck, draws their faces nearer together. “And you, too. You promise me the same. That you don’t feel obligated to do anything, and you’ll tell me if you want to stop.” This part, at least, is familiar to Lee - it mimics the conversation they had so many years ago, on the very first night they were together like this, and the same negotiation that has happened many times since.

“I promise,” Gaara whispers, forehead pressed to Lee’s.

Lee smiles, his heart warm and filled to bursting with affection for Gaara. He tilts his chin, and this time the kiss breaks across their lips intensely, incendiary. Gaara’s mouth meets Lee’s like the first sip of water in the desert, and Lee drinks him in. Gaara’s hands slide up to cradle the back of Lee’s head, fingers feeling along the line of his skull, pressing, grabbing. Lee pulls Gaara in by the open collar of his shirt, urging him closer, closer, and Gaara complies. His knee drops to the seat of the chair between Lee’s legs and presses up, in.

Lee gasps into Gaara’s open mouth, the pressure simultaneously a relief and a tease. His hips rock up against Gaara’s knee, the plush inside of his sweatpants and the warm weight of Gaara’s leg driving him to distraction.

“Lee,” Gaara mumbles into his mouth, pressing a peck of a kiss to his lower lip. Lee’s head falls back, heat spiraling from low in his belly, thighs trembling as the patch of wetness spreads on the front of his sweatpants.

“Shh, shh,” Gaara soothes, trailing kisses down Lee’s throat. His long-fingered hands crawl up inside Lee’s shirt, drag down his abdomen and leave trails of tingling pressure in their wake, fingers catching on the waistband of Lee’s pants and hanging there, the elastic pressing just so against the top of Lee’s throbbing erection. “I’ve got you,” Gaara murmurs into Lee’s collarbone, as his knee drops from between Lee’s legs to meet the tile of the kitchen floor. Lee has no idea how Gaara remains so composed and so verbally astute during intimacy, but he’s never been more thankful for it than he is in this moment, when Gaara presses a soft kiss to Lee’s hipbone, murmuring reassurances.

Gaara eases Lee’s pants down his legs. The cool night air against his exposed skin feels blissful and torturous all at the same time. The closeness of Gaara’s warm mouth overwhelms him. Lee nearly moans at the caress of Gaara’s fingers as he trails them down each of Lee’s thighs, down his calves, squeezes at the base of Lee’s feet as he pulls his pants all the way off and arranges them into a somehow still tidy pile on the kitchen floor.

Gaara looks up at Lee from the floor, his expression wide open, something rare and precious and just for Lee to see, fingers still smoothing up and down Lee’s thighs. The sensation on his right leg is more acute than the feeling on his scarred left leg, and Gaara presses in more firmly on that side, making sure Lee feels him. Lee’s hips shift impatiently, waiting. Gaara noses into the hair at Lee’s base with an inhale.

“Lee,” he says again, face pressed close. Lee’s hips jerk up into nothing; he nearly comes on the spot. Gaara pushes his hips back down and holds him there. Lee gasps raggedly, pulsing and leaking into the brisk air, untouched. “Relax,” Gaara hisses, grip firm on Lee’s hips, grounding him.

Lee wills the tension from his body, lets his hands fall slack from where they’ve been cracking the chair seat into splinters. Gaara watches him with keen eyes, waiting patiently until he’s fully satisfied that Lee is calm.

Then, he licks up Lee’s shaft with his hot tongue and sucks the head into his mouth. Lee’s legs tremble as Gaara grips the base of him in one hand, the other hand holding his hips steady, and works over him in tight, hot strokes. Lee’s eyes flick between open and closed - the sight of Gaara’s lips stretched around him equally as overwhelming as the wet heat of his mouth. Gaara’s mouth moves up and down, rhythmic and focused. Lee’s hands flutter uselessly at his sides, coming up to brush through Gaara’s rough hair, dropping to his shoulder, stroking the bulge of himself through Gaara’s cheek, directionless. Gaara hums his satisfaction, precise and intent in this as he is in all things.

After a few long minutes, Gaara pulls back, lays a soft kiss on Lee’s tip with lips blushing pink from friction. He looks Lee straight in the eye, gaze foggy with lust, and sinks back down onto him.

“Lee,” he mumbles, mouth full around Lee’s shaft.

Lee shakes. Heat crashes through his body like ocean waves in a tsunami. He clenches and unclenches his thighs, mindful of the pressure of Gaara’s shoulders holding them apart. Words bubble up in his chest and die in his throat: Gaara, and I love you, and thank you. Lee bites down hard on the meat of one bandaged thumb, barely manages to whisper out: “I’m going to- “

Gaara never breaks eye contact. He merely presses closer, lips parted obscenely wide, flush creeping up the sides of his face and tongue pressing hard to the underside of Lee as Lee finishes down his throat.

After a moment, Gaara sits back, swallowing loudly and wiping the back of his hand across his mouth. Lee grabs his face in trembling hands, pulls him up to sit in his lap. He licks into the bitterness of Gaara’s mouth, crawls his fingers up into the back of his hair and tugs at it gently, panting and spent. Gaara kisses him back hard, body flush to Lee’s.

Gaara breaks away, presses his damp cheek to Lee’s and whispers in his ear, “Are you okay?”

“Better than,” Lee says in a shaky voice, hands stroking down Gaara’s neck, crawling up under the leather plates on his back, digging his fingers through the mesh. Idly, he notices that Gaara’s hand has fallen away from his shoulder, now clenched and fidgeting at the front of his own slacks.

“Ah, you haven’t- “ Lee breathes. “Let me- “ His hand reaches to brush Gaara’s away.

“You don’t need to,” Gaara cuts him off, but his hand falls to his side, body urging closer to Lee’s hands.

“But I want to,” Lee insists, cupping him through his pants. Gaara’s breath gusts hot down his neck. He chances a glance over Gaara’s shoulder. “Besides, it’s not quite midnight yet. I can probably go another round.”

He feels Gaara’s lips quirk in a small smile, feels the warmth of his tongue darting out to lap at his earlobe. “Okay,” Gaara whispers.


“Mmm,” Gaara hums, standing, hand extended to pull Lee to his feet, even though they both know he doesn’t need the assistance.

They walk to the bedroom with their fingers sweetly intertwined, Lee leading the way. His sweatpants lie abandoned on the kitchen floor.

Gaara’s bedroom - officially, the Kazekage Quarters - is just as austerely decorated as the rest of his home. Now that it’s Lee’s bedroom, too, a few small tokens of personality have crept their way into the space: a plush green comforter draped over the bed, a few books on taijutsu cluttering the neatly alphabetized bookshelf, a set of training weights piled haphazardly under the window.

There’s a dull clatter as Gaara unhitches his gourd outside the bedroom door. He always leaves it outside the room during their more intimate moments, and Lee never thinks to question it. A long shaft of moonlight falls across the bed, and Gaara walks to the window to close the curtains himself. The room falls into quiet darkness until Lee clicks on the bedside lamp, bathing the room in a warm glow. Gaara is softly illuminated, practically glowing as he sheds his shirt and pants in perfunctory motions. Lee hastily strips out of his sweatshirt and goes to him, sweeps up the long lines of him in a firm embrace.

“I love you,” he mouths, lips pressed to the coarse crown of Gaara’s head. Gaara, if he notices, doesn’t react, his hands gripping Lee’s forearms and idly picking the bandages loose so they unspool onto the floor. That’s okay, too - the words are still new, sometimes uncomfortable for Gaara to hear, his reaction to them often tense and faltering. Lee struggles too often not to say them, doesn’t want Gaara to feel pressured to return the sentiment, not when the notion is so weighty for him that he’s etched it indelibly into his forehead. But sometimes still Lee’s heart overflows with it, with his deep and abiding affection for Gaara, his desire to speak his feelings into existence with grand words and grander gestures. And yet it seems that all that Gaara truly needs is this: strong, scarred arms wrapped around him, the touch of skin against skin, comfort given and received in their shared space.

Gaara shifts in Lee’s hold, raises his head from the crook of his neck to nip at Lee’s jawline.

“What do you want?” he asks, hands pressing firm into the muscles of Lee’s back. “Lee.”

And, oh, Lee could break into pieces from that alone, the hot tangle of those words in Gaara’s low, gravelly voice traipsing up the column of his spine, lighting him up. He’s already at half-mast again, from the soft purr of Gaara’s voice and the warmth of his body against his. Gaara ruts lazily against him, his hardness riding the crease of Lee’s hipbone.

Gaara is soft all over, muscles lean where Lee’s are bulky, skin smooth where Lee’s is scarred. Even his expression, looking up at Lee through those dark-ringed eyes is tender, open. Still as deadly as a finely sharpened blade, but nonetheless beautiful. It’s all Lee can do to breathe, slow and steady.

“I was thinking,” Lee starts, the words a confused jumble, slow as honey trickling out of his mouth, “you could be…” - words are so difficult, no matter how often they’ve done this - how does one describe this most meaningful action, the ultimate expression of devotion - “... in me?”

Gaara takes a half-step back, fixes Lee with a considering stare. “You want me to penetrate you,” he says, plainly.

“Sure,” Lee coughs into his fist. “If that’s how you want to put it, but, oh-!” He could really curse right now, furious with himself. “I wasn’t expecting- I haven’t prepared- I’m not, uh…” He trails off, Gaara watching him cautiously.

“What?” Gaara says. His hands drop to catch Lee’s, squeezing and releasing.

“Maybe you could … my thighs?” Lee finishes awkwardly.

Gaara pauses for a long moment, motionless. His right eyebrow creeps slowly towards his hairline. “You’ll have to show me,” he says. Despite their mutual inexperience, Gaara tends to defer to Lee in these matters. At one point he had explained that he expected that Lee’s greater facility with his body would grant him ‘better instincts’ in this domain, a notion which Lee had laughed off. Still, Gaara tends to allow Lee to take the lead when it comes to novel sexual exploration, seemingly content to continue to improve (and oh, has he improved) upon the old established standards.

“I’ll try my best,” Lee says, guiding Gaara to the bed. He turns down the comforter and arranges Gaara behind him, both of them laying on their sides. Lee rests his head on the pillow (my pillow, crows the bragging, self-satisfied part of him, on my side of the bed). Gaara’s arm comes up to drape around him, anchoring himself to Lee. Lee reaches forward to root around in the bedside table, ultimately retrieving a small vial of oil, label worn away from frequent use. Quickly, he slicks the inside of his thighs, then cants his hips back towards Gaara’s.

Gaara slides between his thighs with a gasp, the slow drag of him along the underside of Lee hot like coals raked over fire. Lee tenses his thighs, their hips rocking together, breathing as one. Gaara’s hand comes up to grasp at Lee’s shoulder, his other hand searching along Lee’s chest and stomach, purposefully tracing the path of a years-old scar.

“Lee, Lee, Lee,” Gaara chants against his shoulder, mouth wet and teeth catching at the skin there. The words shower down Lee’s back like sparks to settle as a burning ember at the very core of him. Gaara’s hand brushes down his front, lower, lower, until it closes around him. Gaara strokes him unevenly, his hips stuttering as they thrust. Lee clenches his thighs tight and hears Gaara breathe out a curse in Suna’s rough dialect, feels the bite of a sharp canine at his shoulder.

Gaara pulls Lee closer to him, sweat on his chest slippery against Lee’s back. Gaara makes love like he’s devouring, or being devoured - every ounce of his being poured into this moment between them. Their legs tangle together, ankles jostling. Gaara’s breath is hot on Lee’s neck as he strokes faster, faster, his hips juddering in time. Lee gives as good as he gets, reaching an arm backwards to pull Gaara’s hips further into his, flexing his thighs until Gaara makes a half-broken sound, keening lowly in the quiet of the room.

“L-Lee-” he cries out, hips losing all semblance of rhythm, voice cracked and wavering. The sound punches through Lee like a fist. His hips jerk and he spills his release over Gaara’s hand with a groan through clenched teeth. Gaara follows soon afterwards, his hips shuddering to a stop on a low gasp and warmth spreading between them.

Gaara wipes his hand half-heartedly on the sheet in front of Lee, curling closer as Lee rolls over to face him. The mess between his legs is already growing tacky and unpleasant, but Gaara is so warm and so close. His lips meet Lee’s in a gentle kiss, his eyes already slipping half-closed, sated and exhausted. Gaara can and does sleep these days - seems to enjoy it, even, like he’s making up for lost time - and Lee treasures even the time they spend asleep together. Lee pulls him to his chest, tucking the comforter up around them as protection from the cold night air.

“Mmm, Lee,” Gaara hums, nuzzling against Lee’s chest. Lee feels the familiar hot creep of arousal swirl in his belly, but pushes it down, gathers Gaara closer in his arms. “Love you,” Gaara mumbles into one pectoral.

Lee stops breathing. One million feelings surge within him - he wants to scream it from the rooftops, shout it in the streets - but more than that, he doesn’t want to disturb this perfect, wonderful, precious man falling asleep in his arms. Lee blinks back tears, his throat thick with emotion.

“I love you, too,” he says, quietly. He presses a last kiss to Gaara’s forehead, eyes drifting closed to the soft rhythm of Gaara’s relaxed breathing. As he turns off the bedroom light, he catches a glimpse of the clock blinking 12:45 AM.

Lee wakes up the next morning to Gaara shaking his shoulder. His alarm clock blares in the background and his eyes are crusted with sleep. He must have been snoring last night, too, because his tongue sticks to the roof of his mouth, dry and cottony.

“Time to wake up,” Gaara says, voice soft in the still morning air, the room just heating up as the sun rises behind the curtains. Everything is awash in the dim purple of the pre-dawn light. Gaara’s hair is more tousled than usual, sticking up on one side from where it was pressed against the pillow. There’s a faint red crease across one side of his face - he must have slept hard. His eyes are lidded, his body relaxed as he brushes the hair away from Lee’s face.

Lee stretches luxuriously, every joint in his body cracking in response. He’s surprised he slept in later than Gaara - normally he wakes up even before his alarm goes off, to get an early start to his day and maximize his training time. Last night’s exertions must have tired him out more than he anticipated.

Gaara leans in for a kiss and Lee claps a hand over his mouth, holding him back with his other hand. “Don’t!” he yells, muffled. “I have morning breath!”

If Lee didn’t know better, he’d say Gaara rolled his eyes at that comment. Instead, he presses a quick peck to the back of Lee’s hand and sits back, studying Lee’s face. His eyes are serious, mouth a straight line.

“Lee,” he says, the name warm and easy in his mouth, “are you feeling all right?”

The words wrap hot around the base of Lee’s spine. His toes curl and a tingling feeling creeps through him, slow and steady as a river in spring. He shifts his hips, hoping to avert Gaara’s gaze, but it seems he’s already been noticed. Gaara stares intently at where he’s tenting the blanket.

“I thought the jutsu was supposed to be worn off by now,” he says at length.

“It is!” Lee protests. And he’s certain he’s right - this feeling is distinctly different from the sharp, hot tension of last night, treading the well-worn paths of his familiar desire. “But, um. I think you might have given me a little bit of a complex.”

The corner of Gaara’s lip quirks up. He raises the blanket and peeks down over Lee’s exposed form.

“Is that so,” he says, pausing meaningfully, “Lee?”

Lee groans, blush rising from his chest and reddening his face. Gaara’s expression as he ducks under the comforter is pure mischief.