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Lee woke up with a start, which wasn’t something that happened much unless he was being attacked. At first it didn’t occur to him why this had happened, as he was still in his bed at the inn, all was quiet, and he wasn’t picking up on any malicious energy. It took him almost a minute to realise why he’d stirred from such a peaceful sleep, which was embarrassing enough considering he was a shinobi. It was especially so considering the disturbance was actually Gaara, who’d apparently decided that the inn’s master suite wasn’t adequate and was now burrowing himself under the covers against Lee’s back.

“Gaara?” Lee croaked, blinking into the darkness.

“Go back to sleep,” Gaara muttered. How the hell had he crept in so silently without waking Lee up? That was worrying.

“But… why are you in my bed?” A quick glance up at the window told him it was the dead of night.

There was a moment of silence. “I can’t sleep,” Gaara replied slowly, as if he was trying to placate a child.

Lee blinked a few times while he let this sink in. Something about it didn’t make sense. “But… you hardly ever sleep,” Lee mumbled, his eyes falling shut again.

Gaara sighed, his breath tickling the back of Lee’s neck and making him shiver. “Fine… well, if you must know, I can’t get any work done in this place.”

“Why not?

His lover was silent for another moment. “S’too cold,” he murmured.

“Huh?”

“I said, it’s too cold,” Gaara whispered.

Lee felt a smile pull at his lips. He rolled over and felt around in the darkness for his lover’s form. When he found it, his smile turned into a quiet giggle as he realised that Gaara was wearing his coat over his linen undergarments.

“Hn… I guess this is where I should feel vindicated for all those times I complained about the heat in Suna, and you told me I needed get used to it,” he muttered, trying not to laugh.

Gaara scowled.

Lee chuckled and pulled his lover closer. He wrapped his arm around his waist and eased Gaara’s head into the crook of his neck until his chin was resting against the kanji burnt onto his forehead. Gaara nestled closer to him, bending his legs to slot them between Lee’s and letting out a sigh.

“Better?” Lee asked softly, arranging the blanket so it came right up to Gaara’s jaw.

Gaara nodded fractionally.

It was silent for a few minutes and Lee allowed himself to bask in them, enjoying them fully. He had to admit – although Konoha could get pretty cold at this time of year, the winters in Snow Country were really something else. The inn they were staying at en route to the conference wasn’t the most luxurious; in fact, the wooden building was rather shabby and there was an icy draft creeping in here and there. But it was the only one around for miles, so they had taken the opportunity to rest after two days of constant travel through the bleak countryside.

Lee had been professional throughout the mission so far, as he always was, and especially when he was accompanying Gaara. Given that this was a diplomatic mission, Lee’s formality was in overdrive. They’d stayed in separate rooms at Lee’s insistence, even though Gaara had told him that their relationship was obvious to pretty much everyone at this point and he wasn’t going to sleep anyway. In fact, Lee had barely touched his lover since they left the meeting with Hokage-sama in Konoha two days ago, and he was starving for it.

Apparently Gaara was too, because he let out a long, relaxed groan of pleasure soon after Lee threaded his fingers through his hair and began scratching his scalp slowly. It was one of Gaara’s sweet spots – one of Lee’s personal favourites in fact, as it was the first one he’d discovered.

“You know,” Lee whispered, letting his other hand stroke up and down Gaara’s back suggestively. “If you’re that cold, I know another way I can warm you up.”

He felt Gaara furrow his brow against his neck. “Really?” he asked. “That’s unusually bold of you. You realise that my brother and Naruto are asleep in the next room, and that Yuya and Akito are only down the hall?

“We’ll be quiet,” he said softly, smiling against Gaara’s hair, but he didn’t expect his lover to agree.

Gaara didn’t reply. Instead, he tilted his head up and gently caught Lee’s lips with his own. The sound of their kissing sounded loud in comparison to the hushed tones they’d been talking in before and it sent a tremor of excitement through Lee’s body. He brought his hand up to cup Gaara’s face, his movement allowing a chill to rush under the blankets and make them both shiver. He tilted his head to one side, slipped his tongue inside his lover’s mouth, and slowly started to lean over him a little.

Lee felt a hand travel down his side, over his belly, and then Gaara’s fingers began to play at the dark hair leading down to his waistband. His fingernails scratched through it gently, making his muscles quiver, then dipped under the fabric to slide over Lee’s growing erection.

“Hn,” Lee huffed, his fingers tightening in Gaara’s hair.

Breaking the kiss, Gaara watched his face in the dim light coming in through the window as he began to rub at Lee’s cock. His fingers travelled lower, cupping his balls and sliding back up again, tracing the sensitive vein with a fingertip. Lee was letting out quiet gasps, his legs melting open wider until he was straddling Gaara’s thigh. He started to thrust into his lover’s hand fractionally and Gaara’s eyes flashed with arousal that shuddered through him, his gaze wondering down Lee’s body and focusing on the way his hips were moving.

Something was stirring deep inside his lover and Lee felt his body began to react accordingly. Gaara kept stroking Lee’s cock slowly, letting his fingers tease the sensitive tip, moaning softly at the hiss of pleasure Lee released. Lee pushed their faces closer together as Gaara began to pant. His hand started to pull and stroke at him a little harder, aided by the small amount of slickness that had gathered at the tip.

Lee gasped and made an odd sort of choking noise, and then he abruptly shifted until he was leaning back enough to get to the fastenings on Gaara’s coat. He pulled at them impatiently and Gaara paused in what he was doing to help. He pulled it off his body and threw it off the side of the bed, then pulled off his linen shirt and pants while Lee undressed himself fully. He settled between Gaara’s legs and let his warm hands travel down the smooth skin of his chest, sides and belly, before finally reaching the deep red-brown curls at the base of his half-hard cock.

Gaara once said that it jarred him slightly to feel how rough the skin of Lee’s hands actually was; he was used to his touches being accompanied by the bandages. There were dips and scars all over them—Lee’s knuckles were extremely calloused and often scabbed or bruised, and there was a large, bumpy area of scar tissue across his right hand where he’d broken it on a mission a few years ago. Gaara had also said he didn’t like all the reasons they were there—he thought his boyfriend pushed himself too hard unnecessarily, and the thought of someone hurting Lee filled Gaara with a rage that almost obliterated his consciousness… But nonetheless, they were a part of him, and Gaara couldn’t imagine him any other way.

Gaara’s eyes flicked down to what Lee’s hands were doing. They were currently wrapped around his shaft tightly, pulling on his erection slowly and firmly. Lee felt himself twitch as Gaara arched his back and whined, a shudder wracking his body.

“Focus,” Lee whispered, with a smirk that Gaara could just make out. Lee could always tell when his boyfriend’s mind was going to strange and often dark places.

Gaara blinked and nodded, and shifted a little on the mattress, lying back fully with his head on the pillow and looking down his body at his boyfriend. Lee smirked as Gaara’s eyes widened slightly when he bent his head down to lick and nip at his abdomen, kissing his navel playfully. His mouth travelled down his quivering muscles and over the jut of each hipbone. He paused to kiss the little beauty spot just above the left one… he had a fixation with that particular mark that Gaara didn’t really understand. Then his dark head moved lower and Gaara’s hips jerked involuntarily.

Lee’s lips caressed the sensitive head of his cock gently, just barely touching him, the pleasure almost ticklish. Gaara shuddered violently.

“Huh—nn,” he gasped, and gripped Lee’s shoulder while the other fisted in the bed sheet.

It was hard to see in the semi-darkness, but they just about caught each other’s gaze as Lee flicked his eyes up. Gaara bit his lip and panted through his nose, trying to keep himself from moaning as Lee wrapped his lips fully around him and gently sucked.

He flailed a bit, arching his back and spreading his bent legs a little wider as Lee increased the pace. Lee kept his movements slow though, careful not to over stimulate his boyfriend—he’d found that this was easily done with Gaara. His thumb and forefinger held his shaft still at the base while he sucked and his other hand moved lower. His free hand slid below his boyfriend’s ass slowly, cupping the curve of his body and squeezing gently. Then, slowly, he brought his thumb down to rub over his lover’s entrance.

“Lee—”

“It’s okay,” he whispered. “I know.”

He pulled away momentarily to reach over the side of the bed for his backpack. He rummaged around in the side pocket for a few seconds until he found what he was looking for. It was a medicinal gel he’d been using for a very itchy patch of sunburn he’d sustained while training in the desert a week ago. It was a natural remedy that was widely used in Suna, so Lee felt confident it wouldn’t irritate either of them.

Gaara watched him, hawk-like, as he rubbed a generous amount between his fingers, trying to warm it up before he brought one hand down to his boyfriend’s entrance. He rubbed one finger against him slowly but firmly, and gently pressed inside. He was panting. Gaara lifted one leg and bent it at the knee as he watched Lee’s face curiously. It always seemed to interest him to see Lee become wildly aroused yet so intensely precise and careful in his movements at the same time. Lee had surmised that his control was down to his proficiency in Taijutsu, but…

“More,” Gaara muttered. “It doesn’t hurt.”

Lee’s eyes flicked up to meet his and he nodded. He pressed his ring finger against him along with his middle and pushed. Gaara shivered at the stretch, and then sighed as his body relaxed and adjusted. He panted softly as Lee slowly worked him open, letting out a stifled whimper as Lee gently caressed the head of his cock, then added another finger and parted them.

Finally, Lee pulled away. There was the sound of some shuffling as his boyfriend got to his knees, then a slick noise as he rubbed the rest of the ointment over his erection. A few moments passed and then Gaara felt him press against his entrance gently. Their bodies were lit by just a dim light from the lantern outside, which was bathing the room in a bluish glow. It highlighted the outline of Gaara’s jaw and cheekbone, the flex and curve of his muscles, the flicker of Lee’s thick eyelashes as he looked between their bodies and guided himself to the mark.

“Ah,” Gaara gasped, lifting his hips a little and reaching for his boyfriend’s wrist where he was gripping his hip.

Lee let out a quiet hiss of his own as he sank in fully. Goosebumps appeared on his skin where Gaara was touching him, and then a shudder wracked his body. Gaara sighed and let his head fall back onto the pillow, closing his eyes and trying to adjust to the feeling of being filled.

He lifted one leg up a little as Lee bent over his body to kiss him, panting through his nose. Then he wrapped his arms around Lee’s neck, rolled his hips up and let out the most delectable groan. Gaara’s cock twitched against his muscled abdomen and Lee shuddered.

“Lee,” Gaara breathed desperately.

Lee had drawn his hips back, their faces still pressed together, and then nudged back in again. He began to move slowly, gasping, his body tight as he fought not to move too fast. Gaara shivered and lifted his legs to wrap them around his body, completely encasing him. Lee smiled and closed his eyes. In moments like these, Gaara seemed to want to pull Lee so close to him that they merged into one. It made Lee feel like he could melt with love. His heels were digging into his hips a bit and his fingernails were leaving marks in his shoulders. Lee didn’t mind; in fact, he was deeply aroused by Gaara’s marks on his body.

He gradually built up the pace until he was rocking his hips back and forth lightly. He sat up a little and let out a sigh of pleasure, his eyes falling closed as he tilted his head back and felt the pleasure course through him. He shuddered as he felt lips on his throat and he tilted his head back down to catch Gaara’s lips with his own. Lee groaned as Gaara sucked on his tongue, his ears prickling as the bed squeaked and knocked against the wall quietly.

“Lee,” Gaara moaned, louder than Lee expected.

“Shh, shh,” Lee whispered, cradling his boyfriend’s beautiful head in his hands and pressing their faces together.

If Gaara heard him, he paid him no attention. He spread his legs wider and reached down to grip Lee’s ass cheeks firmly. “Harder,” he growled, his eyes alight with something primal.

As always, Lee was helpless to oblige. He arched his back and began to thrust deeper and harder, his eyes fixated on the way Gaara’s eyes rolled back and his face darkened to a pretty scarlet that almost matched his hair. He grimaced and arched his back sharply as he felt him flutter around his cock, a choked sound escaping his lips as a jolt of pleasure wracked his body.

“Gaara—!” he gasped, then bit his lip to hold back the moan that would’ve escaped had they been at home.

“Lee,” Gaara sighed in response, his pliant body laid out on the bed before him like a river.

Lee kissed him with a quiet moan in his throat, shuddering as Gaara’s fingers trailed from his hair, over his shoulders and down his back softly. They broke apart reluctantly and Lee straightened up a little. He braced himself on his arms either side of Gaara’s body on the bed, then began to piston in and out harder than before. He closed his eyes as his boyfriend let out a gasp and a whimper, then opened them again through his furrowed brow to watch him arch his back and writhe. Lee smirked and changed his angle until he was dragging against his sweet spot as much as possible. He trailed one hand from his cheek to his neck and chest, then down his abdomen and closed it around his cock.

“Lee-!” Gaara breathed, and grabbed him by the back of his neck to bring their faces close together. The small space between their open mouths was peppered with their heaving breaths as they stared each other down, but Lee didn’t stop his movements. He thrust deep and hard into his boyfriend’s body, his hand not slowing as he moved.

It took only a few more thrusts before Gaara’s breathing sped up to almost an alarming rate and he arched his back high off the bed. Then, shaking, he went rigid and squeezed his eyes shut as he spilled over his belly. The rattling cry he let out would surely be heard by their neighbours, but Lee could only moan as he watched him come apart, distracted from the need to be quiet but still thrusting, moving himself along with his lover.

Gaara’s body was just beginning to relax when Lee’s own orgasm hit him like a whip. He gasped and groaned as he came, his hips jerking helplessly, his eyes screwed shut.

It took a few moments for them both to recover. They lie panting against the mattress for a few minutes, sweaty and luxuriously spent.

When their breathing had evened out, Gaara began to stroke Lee’s back gently. Lee lifted his head from the crook of his boyfriend’s neck and kissed him gently, cradling his face in his hands. They laid there for a few minutes until Gaara shifted and Lee rolled onto his back. He pulled Gaara with him to gather him against his chest, but Gaara stopped him.

“No,” he whispered. “You need to sleep.”

Lee frowned. “Can’t you stay here?”

“I’m not going to sleep.”

“I know, but… can’t you lie here with me..? At least until I fall asleep,” Lee murmured.

Gaara regarded him thoughtfully. “Are you sure? I thought it was ‘unprofessional’, as you put it, for us to share a room on a mission?”

Lee looked a bit sheepish. “Well… You’re already here,” he mumbled.

A small smirk twisted Gaara’s lips, but his eyes were still soft and misty from the intimacy they had just shared. Lee really didn’t want him to leave… “Alright,” he whispered. He pulled a tissue from the box on the small table beside the bed and cleaned them both up as well as he could, then settled back down against Lee’s chest. Lee wrapped his arms around his boyfriend protectively and sighed.

“Do you feel warmer now?” he asked, opening one eye and smiling.

Gaara pinched him gently. “Go to sleep.”

Lee grinned.

*

Lee yawned as he stretched his arms above his head. His back gave a satisfying crunch. The weather in Snow Country was bitter, but it made for a unique challenge to test his stamina against. He’d run seventy laps around the inn before he even heard the others begin to stir, and his cheeks were now thoroughly reddened from the cold.

He slipped off his shoes by the door and then slid it open. He stepped into the dining quarters to the sound of Kankuro and Naruto bickering. It was a normal occurrence, although Lee had been concerned when Naruto first joined them in Konoha that the two men would actually come to blows. Since spending a few days in their company however, he’d quickly realised that their quarrels were rather light hearted, almost brotherly. Gaara was not perturbed enough by it to say anything, so Lee had decided not to give it much thought.

“I swear if I have to share a room with you again I’m going to ask for a pay rise. Your farts are an occupational hazard,” Kankuro grumbled.

Naruto snickered into his teacup. “That’s just the price you pay for the honour of having Uzumaki Naruto escorting your brother to his fancy conference.”

“Oi, its Kazekage-sama to you, Uzumaki,” said a voice from the door. Akito was one of two Sand Jounin who were accompanying Gaara on this trip along with Kankuro. He was a little shorter than Lee and rather stiff and formal in his manner. In fact it was a little off-putting, but Lee was never one to judge someone so easily. Besides, he was deeply loyal to Gaara in a way that made Lee keen to befriend him.

Naruto was about to reply with another crass remark when Lee stepped fully into the room. Then he gave a rather lurid smile and Lee’s eyes widened, knowing what he was going to say before he even said it. “Oh, good morning, stud,” he teased, sniggering. “Where is he? Walking it off? Or is he still in your bed, waiting for round two?”

“Naruto,” Kankuro growled, and elbowed him in the ribs. “That is my kid brother you’re talking about.”

“Well I wasn’t the one screwing him so hard last night the bed was hitting against the wall,” Naruto shot back. “By the way, Bushy-brows, not cool. I can sleep through a lot for a Shinobi, but even I woke up when I heard that racket.”

Lee scratched the back of his head and then glanced at his friend sheepishly. His face was so red it was almost purple when he sat down to eat, and it wasn’t just because of the cold now. The innkeeper’s elderly wife had been around with their breakfast already and was off somewhere in the back now. He picked up his chopsticks and poked at his food, trying to ignore the conversation going on around him. If he said nothing, maybe they would drop it…

“I’ll say,” came another voice from the hallway, “I got back to sleep quickly enough but… Jeez, I was this close to banging on the wall. I would’ve if it wasn’t my boss you were screwing.” Yuya, a lean and very pale man, was making his way down the hallway. He was still straightening out his grey top and like the rest of them he had not yet fully equipped his armour or weapons. His grey stringy hair was in disarray, not yet tied back into its usual ponytail. It was still a little dark outside, though they would likely be leaving before long.

 “I’m sorry,” Gaara said gently from behind him. Lee had heard the door open and close behind him and he was aware of Gaara’s presence somewhere nearby, but he still jumped a little when he felt his hand brush his shoulder in passing. “We’ll try to be more discreet next time.”

“Next time?” Naruto laughed.

Yuya shot Lee a teasing smirk, while Akito ate in silence on the other side of the table, his sharp eyes glaring at Naruto. Kankuro’s mouth was a firm line and he looked visibly uncomfortable.

Lee glanced at him and was stunned, as he always was, by his boyfriend’s complete and total lack of embarrassment. If anything he looked... peaceful. Replete, even. Like the open discussion of his sex life was more than bearable if it meant that others were comfortable enough with him to rib him (and by extension, his unwitting boyfriend) for it. Nevertheless, Lee felt some of his own embarrassment dissipate, replaced by warmth in his heart for Gaara’s happiness.

Lee coughed and shifted as Gaara sat down. “I—um, yes. Sorry,” he said stiffly, looking down at his bowl and trying to ignore the burning of his cheeks.

 “I want to leave in the next hour,” Gaara said when they had finished eating. “It’s another two days travel from here, but if we leave soon we should be able to make it by midday tomorrow.”

There were murmurs of assent and a salute from Kankuro as they piled up their dishes. They returned to their rooms to gather the rest of their things, paid the innkeeper for their stay, and then set off.

The conference was some kind of trade meeting between the Kages of Sand and Snow. Lee wasn’t one hundred percent sure of the details exactly, but it involved long and lengthy legal discussions and complicated language that made Lee grateful he wasn’t a politician. He found himself zoning out a few times as they leapt from tree to tree, darting through the sparse woodland of the snowy pass. On the other side of the mountain range was the village, but it would take some time to get through all the winding valleys before them.

Lee could feel them long before he heard the kunai pierce through the air. They leapt out of its vicinity long before the tag exploded, though in real time it was barely a second. The tree the blade had struck gave a creaking groan as it lurched to one side, damaged but still retaining most of its branches. Their enemy was not very high calibre then; Lee knew that exploding tags were deadly whatever their quality, but being on a team with Tenten had made him appreciate the real variation in craftsmanship.

It took him only a moment to realise his tactical error when he saw Gaara now on the other side of the valley. There was a large distance between them, but Yuya and Kankuro were with him, so Lee wasn’t overly concerned. Barely a moment seemed to pass before a trio of men dressed in white and grey filled the space between them. Six on three; two to one—Lee immediately picked off his opponents’ weaknesses and strengths from their size, posture, and the weapons they were using. He would take the one facing them – he was wielding tonfa, a weapon Lee himself was rather fond of. He was also highly aware of its weaknesses, which he made quick work of in the ensuing fight.

Opposite him he saw sand appearing from the gourd, but it didn’t get a chance to strike. Yuya had used his prowess in water release to take them down.

Lee almost sighed. Bandits were always unsatisfying. They rarely had any interesting jutsu and their fighting style was usually intermediary at best. He tried not to let it get him down for the rest of the day, however, and instead focused on the sense of contentment that was emanating from his boyfriend.

Although it wasn’t visible to anyone else, Lee knew Gaara had been feeling somewhat cheerful recently. Their relationship was stable and happy, things were relatively peaceful in the world, and he was well respected and liked by his people. More obvious than that however was the contentment he felt from the small group of friends he had made in the village. He would always have his friends in Konoha of course, and in some ways this was enough for Gaara - but Lee knew how important it was to also have comrades in close proximity. The early days of their relationship had taught Lee that this was also important to Gaara.

Indeed, Yuya and Akito had become rather good friends of Gaara’s, and they were perhaps the fastest friends his boyfriend had ever made. Gaara’s other friends in the village were rather dotted around in different departments and although this didn’t appear to concern him very much, Lee knew his boyfriend was aching for a sense of inclusion. It was a longing Lee was rather familiar with, even though he had found what he was looking for long ago.

As the mountains began to give way to snowy foothills, they started playing a game of what could only be described as ‘ninja tag’. It was something a lot of ninjas did on long treks through the countryside on missions. Up ahead, Naruto was ‘it’ and he was currently pursuing Yuya across a snowy ridge. They darted from little crags peeking out from the snow for a better grip. Yuya leapt from a boulder to a tall, horn-like stone when another Naruto appeared in front of him and almost knocked him off the stony wall.

Naruto’s shadow clone bopped him on the head playfully. “Tag! You’re it.”

“Oi, oi! That’s cheating! No shadow clones allowed,” Yuya yelled, glaring down at the real Naruto who’d leapt from the ridge down onto the snow-blanketed hollow of the pass.

“I never agreed to that!” Naruto said with a laugh.

Yuya gave an annoyed grunt. “You’re goin’ down, Uzumaki,” he sneered. At once they were off again, displacing flurries of snow as they darted across the low, undulating hills before them.

Lee heard a low sound. It sounded like… chuckling? But Gaara was next to him, and he never—oh...

He glanced behind him to see Gaara wearing a small smile on his face and looking at the ground as he walked. Lee felt a smile pull at his own lips, a little twist of elation in his chest.

He fell back to walk in line with him. “Are you… smiling?” he said softly, slipping his hand into his boyfriend’s as they walked.

Gaara squeezed his hand gently and locked their fingers together. He gave Lee a sideways glance, and the corner of his mouth was upturned slightly, his eyes glinting with amusement.

Even though it was freezing cold, Lee felt his heart melt with warmth that radiated down to the tips of his toes. He returned the small smile with a grin of his own and placed a kiss on his boyfriend’s cheek.

“Hey lovebirds, hurry up, will you? The Yukikage won’t be happy to know we were late ‘cause you two were canoodling the whole way here,” Naruto called back.

Lee blushed and pulled away slightly.

“Very well,” Gaara said, and then dashed from Lee’s grip.

Lee grinned as he followed the shadow of his partner darting from rock to rock.

*

They were met at the entrance to the village by a dignitary Gaara seemed familiar with. He was accompanied by a pair of stern-looking shinobi who nodded at them in greeting. Gaara walked ahead of them and they made their way to the main administration building. A couple of hours of official greetings and preliminary meetings later, they were finally shown to their living quarters for the next few nights.

It was a large suite with four bedrooms coming off of a central living room. It was richly decorated with antiques and traditional furnishings – apparently this was the house used for other visiting high-level diplomats.

“Oh man, I didn’t know heating could feel so good,” Kankuro sighed as he fell onto a soft couch with a grey pelt slung over the back.

“You too?” Lee asked, unfastening his kunai pouch from his thigh and placing it on a small sideboard. “Gaara has been bothered by the cold as well.”

Kankuro smirked. “Yeah, he’s not a fan. He didn’t say anything, but I could tell he was having a hard time with it when we came to that Winter Festival in Konoha last year.”

Lee smiled fondly. “Yeah, I remember. He didn’t even want to leave my room when he came to visit me. I told him it would be lazy to stay in bed all day, but—” he stopped and blushed a little when he realised what he’d said.

“Dude, I really don’t need to know the gory details,” Kankuro said, holding up one of his hands. “But it’s good to know he didn’t disappear off somewhere dangerous.... Temari was close to calling a search party, you know,” he added.

“Really?! I’m sorry, we should’ve told you! I did mention to Gaara that—”

 “Hey, chill out man. I calmed her down. I think she was just on edge because she was going to see Shikamaru that weekend. I know Gaara can handle himself. Besides, I’m glad he got a break from all those meetings. I was starting to worry about that insane workload of his anyway,” he explained, then let out a loud yawn.

Lee nodded and scratched the back of his head as he looked at the floor. That night… had been their first night together. His blush only darkened as he remembered it.

He was snapped out of his thoughts by an odd flicker in the atmosphere. He didn’t know what it was, but he knew it wasn’t just him that felt it because Kankuro sat up on the couch.

“Did you feel that too?”  Lee asked.

“Yeah,” Kankuro replied, and stood up. He placed a finger to his lips and walked over to the window. It was dark outside, but the small garden was lit by a few lanterns here and there. “Can’t see anything…”

“Perimeter sweep?” Lee asked, already putting his kunai pouch back on.

“Yeah,” Kankuro replied, his eyes trained on the gardens and the dense forest beyond. “I’ll stay here and keep a look out.”

Lee nodded and slipped out through the sliding door silently. He hopped up onto the roof to look out into the lantern-lit darkness, but he couldn’t see anything. He leapt into the trees and began to circle the grounds of the residence, his eyes quickly adjusting to the darkness and his ears listening out for the slightest disturbance.

The strange bristle in the air had gone, but Lee wasn’t about to assume it was nothing. However, there was no sign of it now, so once Lee had done a thorough search of the surrounding areas without finding anything, he had no choice but to return.

“Nothing,” Lee said as he stepped back inside the house half an hour later. His cheeks were a little red and he shivered.

“Nothing what?” Gaara asked from the dining area. Apparently his meeting hadn’t taken very long.

“There was a weird chakra flare just now, not long before you came home,” Kankuro explained, and settled his puppet scroll back against the wall. “Lee went out to do a perimeter sweep and I kept a lookout, but there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.”

Gaara didn’t reply. He gazed out of the window with a little crease between his eyes, which he often got when he was deep in thought.

Lee walked over to him and placed his hands on his shoulders from behind. There was a lot more tension in his frame than Lee was happy with.

“Hey,” he said softly, rubbing a small circle into his shoulder gently. “You okay?”

“Yes,” Gaara finally said. He was watching his reflection in the darkened glass of the window.

Lee nodded. He trusted Gaara to tell him if something was up, so he decided not to press the issue.

A little while later, Naruto finally returned. He’d been given what had been described as a ‘small dispatch’ to deliver to various Snow Country officials, but was actually a backpack full of scrolls and letters. He stomped into the room, muttering something about being a glorified delivery boy and his wasted potential.

“Goddamn perverted—can you believe Kakashi-sensei would send me on a mission like this?! I thought he would actually send me on some cooler missions once he became Hokage, what with him being my sensei and whatever. But nope, delivery duty. A-gain,” he grumbled, and flopped down into an armchair huffily. “I can’t believe it’s even a B rank.”

 Lee frowned. “Naruto-kun, those messages are probably just as important. Besides, Snow country is a little too far away for it to be a regular C or D rank. We did get attacked by bandits on the way here, after all.”

“Pfft, those guys? They were like swatting flies. They were hardly strong enough to challenge a single one of us on our own!”

Lee couldn’t help but agree with him there.

“It’s getting late,” Gaara said abruptly. “Do you mind if I skip dinner and head straight to bed? The conference starts early tomorrow and I need to sleep.”

Lee blinked. “But Yuya-kun and Akito-kun aren’t back with dinner yet. Aren’t you hungry?”

Gaara shook his head. “No. I had to accept a lot of food in my meetings today. It’s rude not to accept their hospitality.”

“I see,” Lee said softly. “Well, I can join you if you need me to help you get to sleep,” he added quietly, so the others couldn’t hear. They were already bickering about something unimportant anyway.

“It’s okay. I’m really tired. It shouldn’t be too hard for me to drift off tonight.”

“Okay,” Lee replied softly. He was about to move aside for Gaara to walk past him, but instead his face was cupped by a pair of cold, soft hands and then Gaara’s lips were on his. It was only a short, soft kiss, but it made Lee’s whole head feel like it was tingling.

“Goodnight,” he said softly.

“G’night,” Lee mumbled, still a bit taken aback.

“See ya in the morning,” Kankuro called after him.

Lee tried to put the unsettled feeling to the back of his mind, but he still had trouble getting to sleep that night.