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In Disguise

Chapter Text

 

 


Konoha was a dry and cool little town surrounded by trees and forest.

Gaara could feel himself shivering despite being under his layers of black clothing as he walked to the new school. The No Subaku’s had only recently come to the new town after their father decided they needed a change of pace. Rasa meant for Temari and Kankuro, he could care less if Gaara was perfectly happy in Suna.

In fact Gaara suspected that Rasa had chosen this god awful city knowing Gaara would hate it.

The teen trudged through the snow and onto the school grounds, his cheeks stained pink from the cold that nipped at his exposed face. Gaara had walked the path several times on nights were sleep had eluded him.

Insomnia was his only friend it seemed. Gaara walked to the office, his hood up and headphones in his ears blasting rock music. He walked past a group of laughing boys all wearing sports gear. They bumped into his shoulder without apology.

Gaara glared at their backs as he entered the office. He pulled out one headphone as he approached the front desk.

The receptionist was a younger woman with short black hair. She looked over at him from behind her computer, her eyes lingering on Gaara’s forehead. her gaze fell onto his fairly fresh tattoo.

It read Love in Japanese kanji in bright red ink, barely hidden by his dark red locks that had grown into his eyes. Gaara sighed and spoke.

“I was told to come here for my schedule so the sooner you want to stop staring and do your job, the sooner I can be on my way.” He snapped. He had long since grown used to not sleeping for more than two hours a night but it didn’t help his patience. The woman narrowed her eyes and turned to her computer.

“Gaara No Subaku I am assuming?” she said with an air of annoyance. “I’m Shizune, your siblings already arrived earlier today to fill out any of your paperwork.” Shizune clicked a few things with the mouse and the printer whirred to life. The woman turned to the phone and pressed some buttons as she pressed the device to her ear.

“I need Rock Lee Maito-Hatake to the office please.” Shizune announced professionally, “Rock Lee Maito-Hatake to the office please.” She then turned to Gaara with a smile, handing him his schedule. “I called your guide up, he should be here in a few moments.” She chirped happily, trying to smooth over their previous interaction.

Gaara took the paper and sighed impatiently.

“I am not deaf or stupid,” he noted, gazing over his schedule with cold eyes. “I heard you call him in and I assumed it was for me.” Shizune crinkled her nose and opened her mouth to snap at the teen.

“I am here Miss Shizune, I apologize for not being here sooner.” Came a male voice that practically dripped with politeness. “Kakashi forgot his lunch so Gai-sensei wanted me to drop it off.” Gaara turned to see the origin of the new voice.

It was a tall, slightly lean muscled teenage male around his age. His large round eyes were dark brown almost black, framed by larger eyebrows that would have looked ridiculous on anyone else but seemed to work for him.

He wore a green shirt over green track pants, his orange converse sneakers almost hurting Gaara’s eyes with their brightness. The bowl cut framed his face but seemed to only add to his odd appearance.

The male smiled at Gaara brightly, giving him a thumbs up.

“You must be Gaara No Subaku.” The boy greeted, holding out his hand. “I am Rock Lee, but you may call me Lee.” Gaara stared at the hand for a moment than pushed passed Lee.

“Let’s just get this tour over with.” Gaara said icily, walking towards the exit. Lee’s smile didn’t falter as he waved his farewell to Shizune and followed after Gaara excitedly. Shizune shook her head in pity, Lee had his work cut out for him.


 

Lee wasn’t surprised that he had been called to the office to introduce the new student to the school.

He had been told the previous week that Gaara No Subaku was a bit of a rough case. A troubled teen in need of a new friend in a new town. So Lee prepared to win the new kid over with any means necessary.

He hadn’t been prepared for how beautiful his charge would be.

Gaara No Subaku was smaller than average, barely reaching Lee’s chest. His greenish blue eyes were framed by black eyeliner that tried to hide the even darker circles under his eyes. The longer red hair fell into his eyes, complimenting his pale complexion. Under the hair, a red tattoo could be seen and read the kanji for Love.

Lee felt his mouth go dry as he mentally shook himself. He extended his hand and introduced himself as friendly as he could. Gaara gazed at him with a slightly bored expression before departing.

Blunt was a good way to describe the younger teen’s manners.

Lee quickly recovered and went after the boy, not before saying goodbye to Miss Shizune, the school secretary.

He showed Gaara his locker first, so he could drop off any books he had before taking a look at the redhead’s schedule. After a quick glance, Lee smiled down at the boy.

“You have my father Kakashi’s English class!” he exclaimed happily, walking after his ward. Gaara made a small noise in acknowledgment, barely paying attention to Lee as he led him to the door.

Inside the room stood a tall, lanky man. He wore an eye patch that barely covered the long scar that ran down his face and disappeared under a cloth allergy mask that covered his mouth. He looked up from his romance novel and his one good eye scanned Gaara nonchalantly.

“Who’s your friend Lee?” Kakashi asked, giving his adopted son a look when Gaara moved to sit in a seat near the window. Lee smiled at his father happily.

“This is our new student, Gaara No Subaku.” He chirped in response, watching Gaara from the corner of his eye. “Mr. Sarutobi asked me to show him around his first day and he happens to have your class for first period.” Kakashi nodded, turning to watch the new student.

The boy quietly stared out the window. Gaara’s reputation had preceded him and the rumors were rampant amongst staff, he had been kicked out of three of his old schools for fighting and Kakashi didn’t like the aura of darkness that seemed to permeate off the young man.

The kid was a ticking time bomb, much like he had been after Obito and Rin’s deaths.

Kakashi turned to Lee, reaching up a hand to ruffle his son’s bowl cut with a hidden smile as his students began to pour in.

“I’ll keep an eye on him and make sure he gets to his next class,” Kakashi said happily as Lee headed for the door. “Now get going before you’re late.” Lee nodded and waved to Gaara.

“See you later Gaara!” Lee said happily, stopping at the door to wave goodbye to several other students he was friends with.

After Lee left, Kakashi turned to the board. He had to get this assignment out and Gaara had come on a good day. They would be studying Hamlet today, the first in the Shakespeare section of the lesson plan.

“You’re in my seat.” A voice said loudly. Kakashi turned to see Shinichi Nakano, one of his older students that got held back staring at Gaara. The older boy was clearly annoyed. Gaara looked up lazily, scanned Shinichi then turned back to the window.

“It’s my seat now.” The redhead said simply. Shinichi scoffed.

“Get out of it now before I kick your ass into next week.” Shinichi threatened. Kakashi sighed, he really didn’t need this and it was too early. Shinichi was on the football team and was a notorious bully when it came to younger students.

Despite being held back, Shinichi was smart, he never got caught for his actions. Gaara ignored the other teen and Shinichi’s face went red. He ripped Gaara’s headphone out and forcibly turned the new student angrily.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you!” he growled and Gaara looked up at him. Within a matter of a second, Gaara kicked the other boy across the room. Several desks clattered to the floor as Shinichi tried to catch himself in vain. the large boy fell onto the floor and looked up angrily.

Shinichi picked himself off the floor, holding his gut and diving for Gaara with an angry yell. Gaara rose and dodged easily, aiming a punch at Shinichi’s face just as Shinichi did the same. The fists never landed. Kakashi held both fists in his palms, pushing the boys away. He rolled his eyes and sighed.

“Shin, sit next to Shikamaru and stop being a nuisance.” The teacher said lazily and turned to Gaara. “Try not to get expelled your first day, okay kid?” Gaara sat back down in his seat, not even making eye contact with Kakashi.

Gaara watched his new English teacher saunter up to the board and continue with the lesson. Gaara looked out the window and focused on the scenery outside. The teacher droned on about Hamlet and Gaara found himself sighing.

The bad part about switching schools, sitting through lessons you already learned at the old schools.

Gaara felt someone poke his back and he turned, ready for another fight if needed. He locked eyes with a blond boy about his age. The boy’s blue eyes bore into his, his tanned skin standing out against his hair. He had long, whisker like scars on his face and a thoughtful expression to match.

“Psst, hey new kid.” The boy spoke in a whisper, poking Gaara’s back with the eraser end of his pencil. Gaara glared at him.

“What do you want?” Gaara said with an air of irritation in his voice. The boy smiled at him, holding out a hand to shake Gaara’s.

“I’m Naruto Uzumaki, future captain of the police department and protector of the innocent.” Naruto said with a smile. “Wanna be my friend, Dattebayo?” Gaara huffed, turning back to his desk.

“I don’t care what you do.” He said simply. He didn’t need friends. His own mother never loved him, how could anyone possible care about being his friend. Naruto smiled at him brightly as the bell rang, signaling the end of class.

Naruto rose and swiped Gaara’s schedule without asking. Gaara let him, he didn’t feel threatened by the blond and he had already memorized the sheet of paper. Naruto scanned the page then his grin widened as he looked up at Gaara.

“We have all the same classes!” Naruto said excitedly, grabbing Gaara by the arm before the boy could react and dragging him towards the door. Naruto briefly turned towards Kakashi with a grin.

“Make sure you and Bushier-brows sensei are on time for dinner tonight.” Naruto told the man, who looked up from his book briefly to nod. “Pervy-sage is buying and he wants to bounce ideas for his next novel off you.” Kakashi sighed and scratched his head.

“Depends if Gai is back from the Dojo by then but we’ll be there.” Kakashi stated before watching Naruto smile and drag Gaara out the door. Kakashi chuckled as the pair exited his classroom. Naruto would have Gaara worn out in a week.


 

The next few hours felt like torture to Gaara.

Naruto had made it his mission to stay by Gaara’s side all day and Gaara was begrudged to allow it. He was too tired to bother punching the blond. Naruto would probably take that as a compliment on his friendship skills.

Gaara stared at Naruto and his group of friends. Gaara had only been half listening when Naruto introduced the group of teens to him. Naruto had taken to yelling at a dark haired boy that Naruto called Sasuke.

“It’s not my fault you didn’t do your homework idiot.” Sasuke growled at Naruto, ripping his book bag from the boy’s hands. Naruto scowled and huffed.

“Come on you bastard, I just need a peek…” Naruto begged. Sasuke gave Naruto a dirty look before sighing and handing his paper over to the blond.

Gaara scanned the group and chose to walk the opposite direction towards the library while they were all distracted by Naruto and his antics.

On his way through the halls, Gaara plugged in his headphones again. His bad mood was increasing and he just wanted to be left alone by all these annoying students at his school.

Gaara made it to the roof, trying to find a place that was quiet enough to listen to music without the constant interruptions of Naruto and his bouts of friendliness. Gaara quietly opened the door. He walked out onto the roof, the chilled air hitting him in the face as he inhaled the crisp, sharp air that filled his lungs.

The air burned his lungs and stung at his eyes but the stillness was a welcome distraction to the cramped and stuffy warmth of the school halls. It was in the silence that he heard a familiar voice coming from the rooftop, near the end.

“Atticus sai-said to Jem one day, ‘I’d rather you shot at tin scans… ‘Cans’ in the b-back yard, tub…” A pause in the words that weighed heavy with thought and the voice said.

“No, that is ‘but’ not ‘tub’ now where was I…” the voice began scolding himself.

Gaara looked over to see the back of Rock Lee, bent over a book. The boy’s busy eyebrows furrowed in concentration as he continued on. His breath coming out in white puffs as he spoke, a thick orange scarf wrapped around Lee’s shoulders and a thick green parka barely masking the shivers that wracked his lean body.

“Here we go. “I know you’ll go after dir-birds. Shoot all the blue jays you want, if you can hit ‘em, ‘tub’…BUT remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ Hmmm…I guess that’s where the title comes from.”

Gaara turned to leave before Lee could detect his presence, leaving out the door as quietly as he came.

‘What an idiot, he can’t even read correctly it seems.’ Gaara thought as he headed for the library, hoping to be left to his own devices. He didn’t understand how he would be able to suffer the next two years of school he had left until he could go to a decent college and away from everyone who could hurt him.

All he needed was himself.


 

Gaara walked into his home quietly, the house cold as he walked past the kitchen and up the stairs to his room.

His brother Kankuro was at the kitchen table, tinkering with a small mess of gears and metal parts that vaguely resembled a robot. Kankuro met his eyes briefly before looking down at his bot again.

Gaara looked away just in time for a dark blond head turned the corner to peek out of the living room. His older sister, Temari wore a half formed scowl as she stared at Gaara’s shoes.

“Take off your shoes Gaara, you’ll track in dirt.” Temari scolded. Gaara gave her a dirty look and continued up the stairs and disappeared into his attic bedroom.

The attic was a far from the rest of the house as could be managed by Rasa. The man preferred to keep his youngest child out of sight and thus, out of mind.

His room was relatively clean, despite the still half empty cardboard boxes Gaara hadn’t finished unpacking yet. A small dresser in the corner, a desk with an old computer on it near the window and a single twin bed made the room seem more like a motel than something a person lived in. Gaara collapsed on his bed, kicking off his shoes and fixing his eyes on the crack in the ceilings.

Gaara’s room was the smallest of the rooms, drafty and cold compared to the other parts of the house. Gaara watched his fan circle, trying to focus on the blades to entertain his mind. The pain in his chest was heavier today, the pain he often tried to harden himself against. Gaara was drowning in his loneliness after the move, the new school and the stress of the day.

It had started just after Naruto told him they were friends. Gaara didn’t have friends, friends meant heart break. Gaara only loved himself, if he loved himself than he could exist without interruption.

“It’s not like anyone will love you brat.” Came a menacing voice from the other side of the room. Gaara looked over at the dresser lazily, knowing the voice and seeming unfazed.

“No one asked you Shukaku.” Gaara said his focus turning to the small raccoon plush that rested on top of his dresser. The stuffed animal’s lifeless yellow and black eyes seemed to stare back at Gaara mockingly. Gaara followed the plush’s pattern of purple swirls with his eyes.

“It’s not like you’re actually worth anything, even your own mother hated you.” Shukaku’s somewhat low voice grumbled, teasing maliciously. Gaara turned away from the voice, only to have it follow him.

“Just sleep kid, let loose and I’ll show them all just how much they should fear us…I think I’ll start with your sister…she seems like a screamer…” Gaara ignored Shukaku and rose to sit at his desk to start his homework.

It was going to be a long and lonely night fighting his demons.


 Lee rubbed his eyes, looking up from the paper he was writing the answers to his homework on.

Neji was going over his English essay, looking for mistakes and occasionally ticking off wrong answers in red pencil. Lee sighed and looked down at his poorly organized science homework. The words in the book only seemed to become more jumbled as he tried to remember all the bones in a fish. Fish were exceedingly the most boring creatures on the planet, Lee had resolved.

In the corner of his notebook, his hands had distractedly drawn a poor copy of the kanji word. Lee sighed again and wrote out Gaara’s name underneath it. His thought had kept returning to the captivating new student all day. Lee wanted to get to know the boy that had held his attention. 

“Lee, you need to re-write your essay again.” Neji’s voice said, breaking Lee out of his daydream. Lee looked up at his pale-eyed best friend. Neji’s lavender gaze was fixed on Lee’s tired eyes, handing the brunette the paper.

It was covered in red pencil that corrected grammar mistakes, misspelled words and misplaced words. Lee nodded and rubbed his temple.

“Alright, I shall fix them.” Lee said with his normal determination, taking the page and pulling out a fresh piece of paper while Neji hovered over his shoulder.

“You’re doing much better than last year Lee, a lot of your misspellings are better and your grammar has improved.” Neji encouraged. “And according to last year’s grades, you’ve gone up to at least a low B average.” Lee smiled at his friend, Neji was a genius student and while he didn’t always understand the struggle Lee faced when it came to school but he did try to help where he could.

Suddenly, the door to the library opened and TenTen walked towards their table, her hair tied in buns and her duffel bag of sports bag swung over he shoulder. 

TenTen had been their best friend for years, having met both boys in their martial arts class when they were eleven years old. The girl had grown up a tomboy, participating in track and field as well as the woman’s softball team at school.

“Come on guys, its five fifteen.” TenTen informed the boys, her hand on her hip. Lee froze, he was supposed to tell Neji when it was five o'clock. Neji sighed and turned to him.

“Lee you were supposed to pay attention to the time, now we’ll be late to meet Kakashi and Gai-sensei outside the school.” Neji scolded and Lee lowered his gaze sheepishly. Lee had never been good with keeping time and dates straight, another annoyance caused by his dyslexia.

TenTen glared at Neji when Lee gathered his things slowly and dejectedly.

“Neji, be nice.” She stated, helping Lee gather his things. “He can’t help if he has trouble.” Lee felt his face heat again as he hung his head. Lee had only found out about his learning disability in middle school.

He had always struggled in his lessons at school, his foster parents and teachers often questioning how he could be so stupid. Lee had believed himself to be stupid. No matter how hard he tried, he simply couldn’t get any higher than a D on his tests and he could barely read by the time he got to sixth grade. Lee believed he was just stupid and would never amount to anything. Until he was adopted by Gai and Kakashi.

Gai had held the first failing report card in his hands, the paper crumpled by Lee’s nervous hands. He looked down at Lee’s tearful eyes and simply said

“Let’s go talk to your guidance counselor.” After a series of tests, Lee was diagnosed with a pretty severe case of dyslexia and enrolled in the special courses at his middle school. Now that he was older, he still struggled but had the tools he needed to succeed. Lee worked hard, taking notes and reading.

He was constantly practicing his spelling and grammar skill, sometimes staying up late into the night to complete his homework and study. He wanted to graduate, to make his father’s proud.

As the group walked outside the school, pulling up their scarfs and hats against the cold. Lee wrapped his orange scarf around his neck as the group shivered. There was a rumble and two blurs sped up the street towards the group. Kakashi skidded to a halt just seconds before Gai tumbled into him and the two men fell in a heap at the teenager’s feet.

Neji rolled his eyes at his sensei as Lee helped Kakashi up. Gai gave Neji and TenTen a thumbs up.

“Hello Neji, TenTen.” Gai greeted with a grin, dusting the snow off his bright green jacket and snow pants. “You’re looking quite youthful today.” TenTen smiled at her teachers and Neji gave a weary sigh.

“Looks like Kakashi won another challenge, hm?” Neji teased his teacher good-naturedly. It was a common occurrence for Gai and his partner to participate in little challenges with the loser often having to do a chore that neither man wanted to do.

“Yes I did.” Kakashi said, catching his breath in heavy pants. The lean man straightened up and Gai smiled at him, taking his hand as the group began to walk to the Ichiraku ramen shop. Lee walked next to his father’s, telling them about the day.

Neji and TenTen watched the little family walking a little ways ahead of them and found themselves smiling at the display.

Kakashi held Gai’s hand in his own gloved one, his face mask pulled up over his nose and Gai enthusiastically recounting his day. Kakashi’s normally sharp blue gaze softened at the other man, his body relaxed against his partner’s. Lee bounced in front of the men, occasionally giving them a playful jump as he excitedly talked about something or other.

When they arrived at the ramen shop and piled into the door to warm up.

The small shop was inviting, with authentic Japanese décor and a warm atmosphere that seemed to chase away the bite of the Konoha winter.

Ayame, the waitress for the small shop beamed at the group. Her brown hair was held back in a ponytail, her small but womanly figure accentuated by her uniform. Her pretty blue eyes seemed to sparkle when she greeted her favorite customers.

“Hello Kakashi, Gai, Neji, Lee and TenTen too.” She said with a smile, gesturing towards the bar. “It’s good to see you all.” Teuchi poked his head out of the kitchen.

"Hello all, the usual bowls I'm sure?" the elder man asked with a smirk. Kakashi nodded at the man with a grin under his mask.

The kind older owner of this shop was warmer than the food he cooked, always there with a smile for his regular customers. Kakashi and Gai had been visiting the place since they were young. They often brought Lee and met up with the rest of their rag tag family here for dinner.

"Hey Kakashi-sensei, Bushier brows, Bushy brows and friends!” Came a familiar shout that had the whole group turning to see. Naruto smiled as Lee waved and jogged over to take a seat between Iruka and Naruto. Jiraiya smiled as Kakashi and Gai slid next to him.

Jiraiya let out a bark of laughter as Gai blushed and ducked his head away before meeting the older man’s eyes.

“I take it Gai lost the challenge and has to answer all my questions about your sex life for the novel?” Jiraiya asked Kakashi, who nodded good naturedly as he pat his lover on the back.

“Yep, so ask him everything you have.” Kakashi said turning to watch Naruto and Lee try to outdo each other while eating ramen.

Lee had bet he could eat more than Naruto, Naruto was not about to let that happen. Sakura and TenTen both rolled their eyes at the pair while Sasuke tried to stop them in vain.

Neji shook his head before turning away to talk to Iruka, always the mature one of the group.

Gai was blushing as he stuttered out an awkward recount of his and Kakashi’s latest sexual exploits for Jiraiya. The older man wrote it down in his notebook, smiling mischievously while he wrote everything down and asked more awkward questions.

Tsunade drank her sake heartily as she recounted some story from the hospital to Iruka laughed. Kakashi felt his heart fill with warmth at the sight of his little family, his heart feeling full as he went to act as a mediator between his son and adopted brother of sorts.

His family was small and stitched together from random bits of cloth, but the seams seemed strong enough.

Life felt good and complete.

Chapter Text


 

The next two weeks only seemed to aggravate Gaara further, cementing his hatred for the new town and its people.

School was boring and the work was too easy, barely providing a challenge for Gaara when he had too much time on his hands already. the perks of insomnia it seemed. The former desert dweller was not used to the wet and snowy winter that seemed to make the cold nip in the air worse. He hated getting wet and the snow was just a nuisance that he had to conquer to get to school each morning.

Gaara also found he could never just be alone. The boy he had fought over his seat with, Shinichi had made it a personal goal to try and piss Gaara off.Shinichi put rotten meat in his locker, took his textbooks and drew on them, and even tried to goad Gaara into a fight more than once. Frankly, Gaara found the whole ordeal more annoying than angering.

Wherever Gaara turned Naruto Uzumaki was there, like a particularly persistent fly that Gaara would have loved to squash but couldn't quite bring himself to do. The loud blond apparently thought they were friends. He drug Gaara to lunch with him and his group of friends, annoying him in class with notes and tried more than once to rope him into some sort of prank idea.

Then there was Rock Lee. Whenever Gaara even narrowly managed to escape Uzumaki, Rock Lee would soon take his place. The green wearing teen had told him that he was going to make it a personal challenge to befriend him. At least Naruto had other friends to talk to whenever he dragged Gaara to the lunch table, Rock Lee always managed to find Gaara when they could speak one on one. Ignoring the boy didn’t work either, he only took it as an invitation to try harder.

Lee was determined if anything.

At the moment, a very rare moment as of late, Gaara managed some peace. He had just finished trudging through several snow drifts. His jacket dripped water as he shoved it into his locker, not bothering to take out his text books.

He was not having a good start to this day.

He had managed to sleep for a couple hours the night before, missing his alarm and not being able to scrounge up some coffee before Temari got a hold of the pot. Gaara had begrudgingly accepted an energy drink from Kankuro's stash as a substitute. The vile drinks always left his stomach in knots and he hated how they tasted.

Now his stomach churned in pain, he was still tired and his temper only flared more at the prospect of having to sit through school with his annoying classmates. He had finally walked into the building after missing both first and second period due to his late start. He slammed his locker closed loudly, grumbling as he lifted his back pack over his shoulder. 

Suddenly, a hand slammed against his locker door with a crash. Gaara looked up at the source of the interruption with a scathing glare.

Shinichi looked down at the boy, his grin smug.

“Well, well, well…” Shinichi stated as he pushed Gaara away from his locker, knocking the thin boy almost off balance. “You and I still need to have some words asshole.” Gaara glared up at him, crossing his arms. He was not in the mood to deal with this.

“Just let me at him, you’ll never be able to take this loser on yourself.”  Shukaku whispered menacingly, the voice seemingly coming from the walls. Gaara turned slightly towards the lockers to reply before thinking better of it. The voice wasn’t real and he needed to get a handle on this.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you raccoon eyes!” Shinichi, backing Gaara back against the blue lockers, Gaara hissed as his back slammed painfully against the cold metal.

“Ha ha…Come one, I never get to punish fools like this.” 

Shinichi continued to shout in his face, grasping Gaara’s collar and lifting him off the ground. The larger boy’s voice suddenly drowned out by Shukaku’s loud laughter.

“Just cut loose kid, no one is going to miss this bratty little asshole…his blood can decorate the walls!”  The voice seemed to shout from everywhere. Gaara held his head, he knew he shouldn’t have slept the night before. Sleeping only made Shukaku louder. Gaara shut his eyes tight, trying to block out Shukaku and his goading voice.

“Shut up.” Gaara whispered to the voice. Shinichi scoffed, thinking Gaara was talking to him.

“Don’t tell me what to do, freak!” Shinichi said lifting Gaara slightly then slamming him back into the lockers. Gaara hit the metal, his back wailing in pain as Shukaku’s laughter echoed off the walls.

“Come on kid, get pissed…I WANT BLOOD!”

Gaara just narrowly dodged the blow from Shinichi’s fist. Gaara dove for the boy, tackling him to the ground. Teal eyes were unfocused and glazed as Gaara punched Shinichi’s face. His vision glazed red as he pounded the boy’s face with his fists.

“JUST SHUT UP!” Gaara yelled. Shinichi pushed Gaara off of him, switching the roles so he was on top of the smaller boy. Shinichi slammed his head on the ground before picking him up by the jacket and tossing him into the lockers. Shinichi dove for Gaara. Gaara picked himself up, digging into his pocket and grabbing the small bag he kept there. Shinichi grabbed Gaara by the shirt once more.

Gaara tossed the handful of sand he kept in the bag into Shinichi’s eyes. Shinichi cried out in pain, releasing the red head and staggering backwards. With one swift motion, Gaara took Shinichi’s wrist and forcibly turned him towards the lockers, shoving his face into the metal.

He twisted the appendage with all his strength.

An audible snap was heard and Shinichi screamed in pain just as Gaara felt himself being pulled way. Kakashi held him in a sleeper hold while several teachers pulled Shinichi up and lead him away.

Gaara watched the red disappear from his vision as he calmed his breathing. Shinichi’s face was covered in blood, his eyes swelling shut and tears mixing with blood as he held his broken right wrist in his left hand. His eyes wide, staring at Gaara with fear.

The same fear as all those who experienced Gaara’s rage.

Kakashi sighed as Shinichi was led to the nurse’s office. He lifted the small teen, walking them towards the other direction. Gaara tried to fight but Kakashi tightened his grip.

“What did I say about fighting kid?” Kakashi complained, dragging the boy towards the principal’s office. “Now I gotta take you to the office and file all the paperwork…” Gaara scoffed, giving into his fate as Kakashi continued to lead him away.


 

Gaara sat in the chair directly in front of the principal. The wizened old man gazed over the top of Gaara’s thick school file, his brown eyes looked tired.

Hiruzen Sarutobi laid the file down and intertwined his fingers together. Leaning forward, he locked eyes with Gaara and sighed.

“Mr. No Subaku…from what I understand, you’ve had some issues with fighting in the past correct?” he asked the red head, eyeing him closely. Gaara shrugged, averting his eyes to the window. The snow was falling again, coating the ground with the slush with a fresh layer of the cold flakes.

“I don’t start the fights.” Gaara replied simply, crossing his arms in front of his chest and leaning back in the chair. Hiruzen chuckled dryly, reaching up one hand to squeeze the bridge of his nose.

“Well you sure do finish them.” The man stated, flipping one of the pages in the file roughly. “What did the nurse say about Mr. Nakano’s injuries again Kakashi?”

Kakashi looked over the top of his book, a romance novel from what Gaara could gather by the cover. His one good eye gazed over at Gaara as the red head’s eyes flickered to the title of his book.

“I believe they said he has two black eyes, a broken wrist, split lip, a dislocated jaw and a bruised collar bone.” Kakashi replied, the smirk practically oozing into his voice despite the mask he wore. “Not to mention the bruises on his back from smashing into the lockers.” Hiruzen sighed again, turning back to the small teen in the seat in front of him.

Hiruzen knew that the boy was troubled and his suspicions on his home life had all but been confirmed when he had called Rasa No Subaku about the fight.

“I don’t care how you punish him.” Rasa snapped, his irritation apparent in his voice. “Maybe some punishment will teach the little monster a lesson. Don't call me about that little demon again.”

Sarutobi watched Gaara’s body language. He could see the defeat in his shoulders, as if he didn’t care what happened to him.

Or if he didn’t expect anyone else to care.

“Gaara,” Hiruzen said heavily. “Regardless of who started the fight, you did hurt Mr. Nakano pretty severely and I’m afraid I will have to take disciplinary action. I’m going to have to suspend you…” Gaara rolled his eyes, sinking further into the seat. He had been expecting punishment and at least this meant a break from this god awful place.

“Can I go now?” Gaara started to say, rising from the seat with his hands buried in his jacket pockets. Kakashi raised a hand.

“Hang on Hiruzen,” Kakashi said thoughtfully, closing his book with one hand. The book made a soft slap noise as Kakashi pushed himself off the wall. “I may have a better solution.” Kakashi turned to Hiruzen, tilting his head to the side. Gaara watched the man suspiciously.

“As you know my life partner runs a dojo,” Kakashi explained to Sarutobi, sitting down on the edge of the principal’s desk. “Maybe as punishment, Gaara can come there and take classes for a month. Maybe it will help him learn to control his outbursts.” Kakashi met Gaara’s eyes and Gaara just knew the man was smirking under his mask. “And I’ll mention that even Asuma, my fellow marine is afraid to take one of Gai’s classes, it could be a good punishment.” Kakashi added, making Hiruzen chuckle. Gaara shook his head as he saw the look in the older man’s eyes.

“And I’m sure Gai will jump at the opportunity to put you through the ringer.” Hiruzen said with a wide smile. “He loves the hard cases.” Gaara rose to protest, he was not going to spend his only alone time after school in a sweaty dojo with some strange man.

“And if I refuse?” Gaara asked defensively, clenching his fists. Kakashi and Hiruzen looked him over and Hiruzen’s expression grew stern.

“Then I shall have you expelled.” Sarutobi threatened calmly, intent heavy in his voice. “And from what your father said the reformatory school he plans on sending you too doesn’t sound pleasant.” Gaara clenched his jaw as he thought it over. 

The Raikage reformatory school in Kumogakure was known for being a hellhole on earth. The school ran much like a prison, with strict rules and harsh punishments. Gaara knew he could survive in a place like that but he still did not want to go if he didn't have to.

“Fine, I’ll go.” Gaara relented, his shoulders slumping in defeat. Kakashi smiled behind his mask, taking his small flip phone out to dial a number. “I’ll call Gai, you can come with Naruto and Lee after school.” Kakashi said simply, looking up to give Gaara a look.

“Naruto takes the class and Lee teaches there and I know your friends with them.” Kakashi added and Gaara gave the teacher a dirty look, irritation flashing in his eyes.

“I don’t have friends.” Gaara said as he turned towards the door. “Can I go to class now?” Hiruzen nodded and watched the boy leave quietly before turning to Kakashi.

“Have Gai keep an eye on him.” Hiruzen asked gently, looking down once more at Gaara’s file. “If anyone can break through the shell this boy has built around himself, all three of those boys can.” Kakashi headed for the door lazily, his hand going to his pocket to replace his book.

“I’m assuming you mean Naruto, Lee and Gai.” He stated standing at the door. “Gai always loves a challenge and that kid is definitely going to be a tough nut to crack.” With a wave, Kakashi opened the door to head back to his classroom.

“I’ll make sure Naruto knows.” Kakashi said with a small nod. “See you soon Hiruzen.” The elder man nodded and let out a sigh as the door closed. He had high hopes for the No Subaku boy, he had a bright future if given the chance.

He just hoped the boy would take the chance.


 Lee let out a grunt as he completed his second set of two hundred and fifty pushups, sweat trickling down his face as he rose to begin jumping jacks.

He needed to work out his nervousness. Gai had called him after he got to the dojo and told him that Gaara would be joining the class and for some reason, butterflies had danced in Lee’s stomach at the thought of sharing the dojo with the attractive red head.

Sasuke watched Lee from the corner, where he practiced his warm up kicks on the dummy. Sasuke smiled at his friend’s nervousness. Sasuke had to admit he was intrigued by the red head that would be joining them today.

The story of what Gaara had done to Shinichi’s face and wrist had circulated quickly and Sasuke was eager to see what the other teen could do.

The door swung open with a heavy slam as the windows of the dojo rattled from the impact. Sasuke scowled and turned towards the sound.

Naruto walked him, kicking off his shoes and dragging Gaara with him. The red head kept his head down. Sasuke sighed as Lee ceased his jumping jacks.

“Don’t just swing open the door idiot.” Sasuke scolded as Naruto walked past him to get to the back room. Naruto rolled his eyes at the Uchiha.

“Shut up bastard.” Naruto quipped back. “I only broke the window once.” Sasuke followed his friend to the back room, shoving him forward playfully.

"Yeah and then you actually broke the door the second time." Sasuke teased as the door slammed shut.

Lee suddenly found himself very alone with Gaara, the main source of his recent distraction. Lee smiled at Gaara brightly, giving him a thumbs up. Gaara looked up at him. The red head seemed bored as he took off his tennis shoes.

“Hello Gaara,” Lee greeted happily. “I am glad you are here for class today even if the circumstances are not ideal.” Gaara gave a grunt in answer, looking around.

“Isn’t Hatake’s gay lover supposed to be here…I only see you and the others?” Gaara asked as Lee smiled sheepishly.

“Gai-sensei had some car trouble, he told me to run you through a warm up and start the basics with you until he gets here.” Lee responded cheerfully, glad the red head was talking to him. Gaara usually ignored Lee while he talked to him at school.

“Apparently I’m to be taught by a man who can’t even be bothered to be here on time.” Gaara grumbled as he wandered to the center of the room. Lee felt his ears turn warm, annoyance at Gaara’s words making his eyebrows scrunch together.

“Gai-sensei has allowed you to come here for free and during his private lesson time slot.” Lee reprimanded, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “I will not allow you to speak ill of that kindness or the man who is raising me.” Gaara met Lee’s gaze steadily, the silent fight for dominance apparent as tension filled the air.

Gaara narrowed his eyes and straightened his spine. Lee bit his lip to keep the butterflies that danced in his gut at bay. Suddenly, an arm wrapped around Lee’s neck, pulling his taller body down. Naruto laughed and rubbed his fist against Lee’s skull.

“Come on Bushy Brow, stop flirting and let’s get started so bastard here can will finally fight me.” Naruto complained loudly. Lee nodded as Naruto released him, rubbing his hand over where Naruto had given him the noogie. Sasuke handed Gaara a white training gi and a white belt. The boys locked eyes and Sasuke gestured a thumb towards the door they had just come out of.

“Go change in there, this will be your uniform for your remaining time here.” Sasuke explained quickly, not one to waste his words. Gaara mumbled something inaudible as he disappeared behind the door to change. Naruto turned to Lee and snickered at the older boy’s intense gaze as it followed their new companion. He gently shoved Lee with a bright grin.

“Got your eyes on Gaara, huh Lee?” Naruto teased. Lee’s face heated in a blush and he stuttered in minor annoyance and shock. Naruto's blunt nature was not one suited for secrets you wanted kept sometimes.

“N-Naruto, not so loud…” he whispered, his eyes going to the closed door. The door to the spare room remained shut and Lee let out a heavy breath he didn’t realize he had been holding. He turned back to Naruto, his expression cross.

“Start on your pushups Naruto.” Lee said sternly. He hated talking about his sexuality aloud and even if he did have a small attraction to Gaara, he certainly didn’t want it broadcasted across the dojo. Sasuke smacked Naruto upside the head, making the blonde flinch.

“Idiot.” He said as he joined Naruto for pushups. Naruto mumbled his protests and began just as Gaara entered the room. The white gi was a little large on his small frame, exposing his chest slightly despite the belt being tied high around his waist in and attempt to shut the shirt. Lee gulped and gave Gaara a thumbs up, trying to mask his nervousness.

“A near perfect fit!” Lee exclaimed happily as he took his place at the front of the room. Gaara stood next to Sasuke, watching the dark haired male out of the corner of his eye. Lee tried not to notice as he took a deep breath. He locked eyes with Gaara briefly before speaking. 

“First we’ll start with our usual two hundred pushups and if you cannot do that, we’ll work on doing three hundred and fifty jumping jacks!” Lee said. Sasuke and Naruto bowed towards Lee, their expressions suddenly serious as Naruto jumped back down to continue his pushups.

Gaara rolled his eyes and dropped to the ground, already regretting choosing this class over reform school.


 An hour later, Gaara tried desperately to take a deep enough breathe to fill his aching lungs. His arms muscles shook, sweat covered his entire body and he couldn’t seem to stop the fire that had ignited in his chest.

Suddenly, a water bottle dangled in front of him and Gaara looked up.

Lee smiled down at him, handing the small teen the water. Gaara took it quickly and drank greedily. He tried to compose himself as Lee straightened up with an even wider grin. Lee seemed fine, barely any sweat on his body after the “warm up” that invovled lots of pushups, sit ups and drilling Gaara on the basic stances, punches and kicks.

Gaara deeply suspected that Lee was trying to kill him.

Suddenly, the door opened and the bell above it range brightly. Gaara turned towards the door when a loud voice called out.

“Hello my most youthful students, I see you’ve completed the warm up.” The older man said happily, a big grin on his face as he gave a thumbs up. He took in Gaara’s hunched over form with dark eyes. His bushy eyebrows furrowed then softened as he spoke. “I see my most precious son has taken you through our beginners work out, I hope you ready for the hard part now.” Gai said happily, taking his place near the front of the room.

Gaara groaned as he hauled his body up, his muscles screaming in protest.

‘Holy crap there is two of them…’  Shukaku’s voice growled from the corner of the room, Gaara blinked and bit his lip.

“Not now Shukaku…’ Gaara thought bitterly as Lee stood next to his father.

Both father and son were a perfect match for each other from their eyebrows to haircut. Gai looked down at Gaara for a moment, taking him in.

“I am Gai Maito, Kakashi and Lee have told me a lot about you.” He said, crossing his arms and meeting Gaara’s gaze steadily. Gaara looked up lazily, crossing his arms and trying not to show how weak his body felt. Gai turned to Sasuke, who stood in the corner with Naruto trying to sip his water in peace.

“Sasuke, come have a spar session with Gaara.” Gai said, gesturing the boy over. “Take it easy on him at first I need to see what he can do.”

“I won’t take it easy on him, let’s rip him to shreds.”  Shukaku chuckled menacingly from the walls. Gaara shook his head a little to regain his focus as he walked to the center of the room with Sasuke. Lee followed the boys, picking up two small flags on the way.

One was white and the other red to indicate which side would gain points. Gai nodded to his son before turning to Gaara.

“To show respect for your opponent, make sure to bow to them before the fight starts and after it ends. Bow to Sasuke if you will Gaara.” Gai explained. Gaara turned his eyes towards Sasuke, who bowed respectfully. Gaara scoffed and begrudgingly followed suit.

It was then the door tinkled and Gaara caught sight of dark red hair from the corner of his eye. Rasa No Subaku’s voice carried loudly.

“I was told I needed to come in and fill out some forms.” The man said with an air of annoyance. His gaze fell on Gaara, staring at his son for a moment. Gai grinned and waved happily.

“Ah, you must be Mr. No Subaku.” Gai greeted, heading towards the man for a handshake. “I am Gai Maito, this is my dojo.” Rasa took the other man’s hand and shook it briskly.

“If I could get that paperwork, I have a busy schedule to keep.” Rasa asked impatiently. “I’m sure you understand.” Gai nodded, his smile not wavering.

“Let me just jump back into my office to grab them.” Gai obliged, turning to Lee and Naruto. “Start the spar, I’ll only be just a moment.” Lee nodded and Naruto took Gai’s spot opposite of Lee.

“Will I get to spar Sasuke next Bushier Brows sensei?” Naruto asked curiously as Gai headed for the office in the back. Gai smiled at the young man, chuckling as he shook his head at Naruto’s antics.

“We’ll see Naruto.” He said as he disappeared. Lee turned towards the two boys that were about to spar, smiling at Gaara.

“Sasuke knows the rules but just so you know Gaara.” Lee explained, pointing to parts on his body as he talked. “No hit’s below the belt, no punches to the head until you get a little more experienced with sparring. Do your best and try not to get too frusterated, Sasuke has been doing this a lot longer so it’s okay if he scores a point.” Gaara nodded, only half paying attention. His attention was on his father.

Rasa glared at his son, scoffing at the rules of the fight. Sasuke lowered himself into a stance and Gaara followed suit. Lee stood in front of them, crossing the flags in between the boys and then moving away with a shout of “Begin!”

Gaara watched Sasuke circle him, eyes watching him for an opening. Gaara leapt at the raven haired male with a punch to the side. Sasuke blocked the punch, striking Gaara in the gut and sending him backwards. Lee raised the red flag.

“Point to Sasuke.” He said then smiled at Gaara. “Your form is very good Gaara, keep it up.” Gaara reset himself in his former spot as Lee shouted for them to begin again. Shukaku chuckled from the corner of the room.

“Just jump him and take him to the ground, the old man will see how strong you are then.”  Gaara ignored him, choosing to aim a kick at Sasuke. The other teen chuckled as he dodged quickly and scored another point with a punch to Gaara’s gut again.

“And here I thought you’d actually succeed at something.” Rasa’s voice drawled from his spot against the wall, rolling his eyes as Gaara fought to ignore him. “Let’s see how long until you lose control Monster.” Lee looked over at Rasa, his eyes full of concern and a minor bit of annoyance. He turned back to the spar.

Gaara clenched his jaw and aimed another kick at Sasuke.

“You heard the old man, cut loose and show them to fear you brat.”  Shukaku whispered as Sasuke pushed the leg away, sweeping Gaara’s other leg out from under him. Gaara fell to the ground painfully despite the mats.

Rasa laughed coldly as Gaara hissed in pain and picked himself up with a growl, falling back into his stance. Lee called out the point and then ordered the next round. Gaara circled the ring, his eyes locked on Sasuke’s and trying to reign in his anger.

Rasa snickered, drawing Gaara’s attention to him, finally wearing the red head's patience thin. The teen turned and opened his mouth in anger. He didn’t need to take this shit.

“Will you shut up old m-.” Gaara started when a fist connected with his jaw. Gaara stumbled back and stared up at Sasuke, who grinned down at him smugly.

“Never lower your eyes to an enemy.” Sasuke said cockily as Gaara pulled his hand away. Blood trickled from his nose and Gaara felt his restraints fall.

“Now he’s in trouble…”  Shukaku rumbled as Gaara saw red in his vision and dove at Sasuke, punching the teen in the face. Sasuke’s head snapped back and he stumbled back. With a growl, Sasuke leapt for Gaara with another punch as Gaara moved to dodge knowing he would end up taking the blow.

Suddenly, arms held his own in place to stop his movement. Lee panted as he held Gaara gently.  Naruto stood in front of him, his body lurched backward as Sasuke’s fist connected with his jaw. Naruto scowled at Sasuke, who stared wide eyed at his best friend.

“Sasuke, calm the fuck down.” Naruto shouted, wiping the drip of blood from his mouth before turning to Rasa with a glare. “And you, if you can’t do anything but piss everyone off go sit in the waiting room in front.” Lee held Gaara in place, the younger boy still heaving in anger.

“Gaara, you need to calm down.” Lee said softly, trying not to hurt the boy. "I know your angry and his words don't help but he's wrong about you." His eyes filled with concern. Gaara started to relax, trying to gain control of his breathing.

“It’s not my fault that the monster can’t control himself.” Rasa said to Naruto, crossing his arms in annoyance. He smirked coldly at Gaara as their eyes met.

“You’re just a rabid dog that needs to be put down.”  Shukaku agreed with a dark laugh. Gaara snarled, his eyes going unfocused and he wrenched himself from Lee’s grip and seized the boy’s arm. Gaara flipped him over his shoulder with as much strength as he could muster.

Time froze as Lee felt his body falling over Gaara’s, his shoulder pop out of its socket and he fell to the ground in a heap. He felt the muscles tear and hear his shoulder crack as it fell out of place. He landed hard on the mat and he screamed in pain.

Tears sprung to his eyes as he let out a cry of pain. His shoulder felt like a thousand hot pokers had just stabbed him, the limb hanging loosely on the floor. Lee felt his vision blur and the corners of his vision blacken from pain.

Sasuke and Naruto moved to his side and Gai sprung from the office with a look of concern on his face after hearing the scream. Gaara’s eyes widened and he backed away. He hadn’t meant to hurt Lee…he’d just lost control.

Sasuke looked up at Gaara, his face contorted in rage.

Lee cried out as Gai lifted him, his arm hanging uselessly at his side. Gai turned to Sasuke and Naruto.

“Naruto, call Kakashi and explain what happened.” Gai ordered and then Rasa was at his side, a look of concern on his features. He hadn't meant for the boy to get injured by his son, only to make the little monster suffer.

“I called the hospital, we should get him there as soon as possible.” Rasa offered as Naruto held open the door for Gai to run out to the car, followed closely by Sasuke and Rasa. It was a good thing the hospital was just a few blocks away from the dojo. Naruto moved towards the back of the dojo to grab his phone out of his back pack.  out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Gaara curl into a ball on the ground. The red head held his head in his hands, looking utterly helpless.

Naruto walked over to the teen, leaned down and put a hand on Gaara’s shoulder. The red head started and looked up, worry on his face. Naruto felt sympathy cool his rage. Gaara looked so lost, like he didn't know what to do. Naruto knew right then that Gaara wasn't trying to hurt Lee.

“I-I didn’t mean to…” Gaara explained softly, his voice small and confused. Naruto smiled at the boy, helping him up and dusting him off.

“Come on then Gaara.” He reassured, trying not to shout at the boy. “Let me call Kakashi and he’ll give us a lift to the hospital. Lee’s gonna be fine and you can apologize to him, Dattebayo.” Gaara nodded, not sure about Naruto’s attitude as the blonde started to walk away towards his bag to retrieve his cell phone.

“But…aren’t you mad at me?” Gaara asked, confusion running around in his head. Naruto pulled out his phone and turned to Gaara with his normal grin on his face. The smile barely hid the concern underneath.

“Yeah I’m pissed but mostly at that bastard of a father you have who kept trying to piss you off, Dattebayo.” Naruto explained scratching his head nervously, his nervous speech tick coming out.  “You were in control until he opened his trap, Dattebayo. Lee saw it and I saw it, Gai will understand once we explain.” Gaara nodded as he watched Naruto call Kakashi, the blond occasionally nodding as he explained the situation.

Gaara remembered how the blond had taken the blow for him and took note of the bruise forming on Naruto’s jaw. Naruto had protected him.

Gaara’s heart wrenching painfully as he recalled Lee’s kind words when he tried to calm Gaara down by holding him in place.

"He's wrong about you..."  the words echoed in Gaara's head. His heart gave another sharp twinge, causing Gaara to clutch his chest at the pain. Gaara was used to the pain in his chest but this was a new type of pain. This was guilt, something he had never felt for people he had hurt before…

And he was frightened by it.

 

 

Chapter Text


 

Kakashi pulled up to the dojo, trying to remain cool-headed despite the fact thousands of scenarios of how exactly he would hurt the little No Subaku delinquent ran through his mind. Gaara had effectively gotten on his bad side when he had injured his son. 

He had been filing the paperwork for the fight that he had run into between the red head and Shinichi when he got the worried call from Naruto, asking him to please come get him and Gaara so they could go to the hospital too. Kakashi clenched his fists at the thought of the little brat, his fierce protectiveness over his family bubbling to the surface as he practically threw the unfinished paperwork at Shizune and left for the car. 

Kakashi had settled on water boarding as the method of torture he would use on Gaara for hurting his son as Naruto sprinted towards the car after grabbing Gaara by the wrist. The thunder rolled as hail poured from the sky with the fresh snow, hitting the car and denting the metal. Kakashi was too worried and angry to care. From what Naruto said it had been an accident and Gaara was truly apologetic. Kakashi glared harshly at Gaara as he watched the blond and the red head kid run towards his car.

This was the kid he’d watch beat the shit out of Shinichi Nakano, the kid he’d given a chance to save himself. Kakashi boiled in rage as he mentally slapped himself for even thinking that Gaara deserved another chance to redeem himself after watching him fight. Gaara was not apologetic about much and he seemed to enjoy hurting others it seemed.

 He glared as the red head stood awkwardly outside his car after Naruto piled in. Gaara looked him in the eye, the blank expression aggravating Kakashi more. 

Naruto grabbed Gaara’s arm and pulled him into the back seat with him. Naruto looked at Kakashi with a glare as the man pulled out of the parking lot.

Better to kill the kid after he saw the extent of the damage done to his son.


 

Tsunade rushed to the doors of the emergency side of the hospital, Sakura following closely by her side. Tsunade's expression was the most serious that the pink haired girl had seen since she began volunteering as her assistant. Tsunade was hard to read sometimes but Sakura could tell the blond doctor was worried. 

Sakura had barely had time to change into her volunteer uniform before Tsunade burst into the on call room. She had just gotten a panicked call from Gai and after getting the story from a slightly more calm Sasuke, had found out that Lee had been injured during a spar between two students that had gotten heated.

“From what Sasuke has said Lee’s got a dislocated shoulder.” Tsunade explained as Sakura handed her Lee’s file. “He can’t even touch it without some form of pain which makes me think there must be some muscle tearing.”

Sakura nodded. They made it to the emergency room just in time to see Gai, followed by Sasuke and a man she did not recognize burst through the doors.

Lee lay limp in Gai’s arms. Several nurses brought over a gurney for Gai to lay Lee on, the tall sensei lay his son gingerly onto it as Tsunade approached him.

“He passed out on the way here from the pain…” Gai explained as Tsunade went over Lee’s vitals, opening one of the boy’s eyes and checking the dilation. She turned to the nurse and pointed towards the doors.

“Get him to a room, he should be fine until he wakes up. Immobilize the shoulder, ice it and when he comes too page me.” Tsunade ordered as the nurses nodded, taking the gurney away and followed closely by Sakura.

Tsunade turned to Gai and gave him a stern glare just as Kakashi burst through the doors followed closely by Naruto and a smaller red head. The one eyed man scanned the room, spotting Gai and sprinting over to him. Gai’s body relaxed as Kakashi trotted to his side, clearly feeling more at ease with his partner near.

Kakashi eyed Rasa No Subaku with a wary eye before turning to Gai, his eyebrows knitted close in worry. The silver haired man did not typically trust strangers but Gai wasn't worried. Kakashi took note as Rasa raised an eyebrow slightly at the sight of the other male but seemed to keep his comments to himself for the moment. He turned briskly to walk towards the desk, throwing a glare towards the other red head that was obviously his son as he did so. 

“What happened?” Kakashi asked, silently taking Gai’s hand to comfort the male. Gai took a breath and explained it as well as he could. His brain was still trying to wrap itself around the story he had gotten from a very angry Sasuke. He couldn't help but wish he had been there in enough time to stop this accident. 

“I-I was getting the paperwork for Mr. No Subaku to sign…I only left the spar for a moment…” Gai struggled to explain. Naruto appeared at Kakashi’s side in an instant, getting in between the adults so he could be heard. 

“Gaara was sparring with Sasuke and then that asshole he calls a father started saying things to Gaara. He kept insulting him and calling him “Monster.” Naruto said, clenching his fists and not bothering to try and keep his voice down so Rasa would not hear him. “Then Gaara got distracted and Sasuke punched him real hard.” Naruto glared at Sasuke who shrugged coldly.

“It wasn’t my fault he looked away.” Sasuke defended, crossing his arms and looking over at Gaara, who sat in the guest area looking dejected.

Naruto shoved his best friend, his cheeks turning red in his annoyance and anger.

“You didn’t have to get all cocky about it either.” Naruto growled at his friend before turning his attention back to the adults, continuing the story. “Gaara lost his temper and the fight got more heated. So Lee jumped in and held Gaara back while I took the punch Sasuke was throwing at him. Then that jerk Rasa insulted Gaara again and he flipped Lee over his shoulder.”

Kakashi watched Gai’s expression change from irritation to sympathy as Naruto explained the story. He looked over where Gaara sat. The red head stared at his hands, looking lost and guilty. Naruto cleared his throat awkwardly before smiling sheepishly up at Gai. 

“He’s really sorry, dattebayo.” The blond said hastily. “He was curled into a ball when I told him he should come and apologize…” Gai started towards the boy, releasing Kakashi’s hand as he strode over to the red head. This child was hurting, Gai reasoned as he made his way over to the empty seat next to the red head. Gai couldn't bear the hurt that was clearly shining in the youth's eyes. Children should never carry hurt like that. 

Kakashi sighed inwardly. His lover always did love the sad stories.

Gaara clenched his fists when he felt Gai appear at his side, not looking up at the man. He couldn’t face the man right now. Not after what he had done to Lee. Gaara watched the man take the seat next to him from the corner of his eye. Gai folded his hands in front of him, leaning forward slightly to rest his elbows on knees. He didn't look at Gaara at first. 

Gaara curled his legs to his chest, drawing his feet up onto the chair so he could grip his knees. He really couldn't blame the man for hating him. 

“I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to hurt…Lee was only trying to…” Gaara struggled to find the words to convey how guilty he felt. Gai smiled and chuckled a little, raising a hand to ruffle Gaara’s hair. Gaara flinched at the contact, not used to being touched by anyone.

No one ever touched him not since…

Gaara felt his heart throb painfully at the thought, best to not think about that.

“We need to work on that temper of yours.” He said dryly but his smile didn’t waver. Gaara looked up in shock, not sure how to react to Gai’s reaction.

“Aren’t you angry with me?” He asked, his tired eyes widening in marvel at the older man’s reaction. “I hurt Lee…I lost control again.” Gai rubbed his neck and sighed.

“Naruto explained the situation and while you are still responsible and I do plan on giving you some sort of punishment but I recognize it wasn’t entirely your fault.” Gai replied with his gentlest smile

Gaara nodded, looking down again as Gai sat next to him silently. He was at a loss for words at Gai’s reaction. His hand rose to clasp his chest, the area just above his heart. 

What was this other new feeling that hammered in his chest and why did he hate the feeling of relief that flooded his veins at the older man's forgiveness. 


 

Lee’s round eyes fluttered open and he groaned. Pain throbbed in his shoulder as he stared up at the white ceiling of the hospital. Looking around as much as his position from his back would allow, he tried to remember what happened from behind the fog his brain had created.

What happened…last thing I remember was…Gaara?’

Lee’s eyes widened at the thought and he tried to roll out of his bed. As he rolled onto his shoulder it gave a sharp and painful protest at the movement and Lee yelped in pain before falling back onto his back. He grabbed his shoulder and bit his lip to bite back tears that sprung to his eyes. 

It was then that Sakura entered the room. She was at Lee’s side, raising his bed so he could sit up. Her green eyes scanned Lee for damage then she helped him sit up on the bed.

“Lee you shouldn’t move, you’ll do more damage to your shoulder that way.” She scolded. A nurse entered the room, drawn in by the sound of pain. Sakura looked up at the nurse.

“Can you page Lady Tsunade for me? She wanted to know when Lee woke up.” Sakura asked and the nurse nodded, giving Lee a sympathetic smile before leaving the room. Sakura looked down at Lee again.

“How are you feeling?” she asked giving Lee a once over. “Anything feel broken, Tsunade said that you seemed fine but we didn’t want to jostle you around too much.”

Lee shook his head in response, nothing hurt but his shoulder and as long as he didn’t move it at all. It was even starting to tingle a bit.

“No Sakura, it is just my shoulder.” He answered with a smile. Sakura smiled with a sigh.

“Good.” She said with a relieved tone.

Suddenly, a hand smacked the back of his head. Lee winced and yelped, more in surprise than pain. He rubbed his head with his right hand and looked up at the clearly annoyed girl. Sakura crossed her arms and glared pointedly at Lee.

“That’s for getting hurt and trying to get out of bed.” The teen scolded as Tsunade entered the room, followed closely by Kakashi, Gai, Naruto, Sasuke and Gaara. Lee locked eyes with Gaara as the other’s gathered around his bed.

Gaara broke the gaze, looking at his feet and choosing to hang near the wall near the door rather than join the group. Lee felt his brow crinkle in concern for a moment before turning to his fathers.

Kakashi sat heavily in the chair next to Lee’s bed while Gai chose to take a seat at the foot of the bed. Gai gave his son a quick once over before smiling at him.

“Lee, how are you feeling?” Gai asked, Lee smiled and tried to give his normal thumbs up to his father. He tried to raise his left hand, forgetting his injury. He winced as pain shot through him. An involuntary cry escaped his mouth, tears springing to his eyes.

Tsunade jumped forward to inspect the injury. She gave Lee a look and sighed.

“You’ve probably torn a muscle but I still need to put your shoulder back into place.” Tsunade said, meeting Lee’s eyes. “It’s going to hurt like hell, kid.” Lee nodded, mentally bracing himself for the pain. 

“I will be okay.” He said quietly, moving closer to Tsunade. Tsunade nodded and Sakura instructed Lee to open his mouth. The black haired male did so, taking the rag that the pink haired girl offered him into his mouth. he wondered for a moment what it could be for. He had dislocated his shoulder before and never needed to have a rag shoved in his mouth to do so. 

Tsunade helped lay Lee back down gently, taking his hand and placing another just under his upper arm. She looked into Lee's eyes and nodded at him. 

“On three.” Tsunade said, strengthening her grip on the arm. “One…Two…”

On two, Tsunade pulled the shoulder out and up. Lee screamed in pain as the joint reconnected and his muscles pulled. He understood what the rag was for as he bit down onto it hoping to ease the pain. The rag muffled the cry and he fell back onto the pillows, breathing heavily. Tears blurred his vision as they streamed down his face, whimpers escaping his mouth as Sakura took the rag from his mouth. 

 Gaara winced at the sound of the muffled scream. Tsunade helped him sit up again, Lee panted from the pain and whimpered when he tried to move his arm.

Tsunade replaced the ice pack. She turned to Sakura, a serious expression on her face. Sakura worried her lip. The injury must be worse than they thought it was.  

“Tell a nurse to get him some oxycodone.” She ordered “And prep for an x-ray while they’re at it.” Sakura nodded at the orders and headed for the door obediently.  

“Yes Ma’am.” Sakura replied, giving Lee on last look of sympathy before she exited through the door. Tsunade sighed and touched Lee’s shoulder.

“I’m going to check on the muscle, I need you to just relax and try to breath.” Tsunade said putting her cool hands gently on Lee’s shoulder. Even with Tsunade’s light touch, the muscles screamed in pain.

Lifting the shoulder, Tsunade watched Lee bit his lip and squeeze his eyes shut. She felt the area gently with probing fingers. Lee tried to hold back tears as the doctor manipulated his shoulder, eventually a cry of pain did escape.

Tsunade’s frown deepened and she growled in frustration, she whirled around to face Kakashi and Gai. Gai rose in an instant. Worry was plastered over his face, knitting his bushy eyebrows together.

 “Kakashi, Gai.” Tsunade said to the pair, gesturing to the door as she began to walk. “Follow me, I need to speak with you in private.” Kakashi rose and followed Tsunade’s white coat out the door with Gai close behind.

Gaara suddenly felt eyes on him. He looked up to catch Sasuke’s glaring at him with an intensity that would have made lesser beings squirm. Gaara met it easily and turned to the door, he would wait until Lee was alone. He needed to figure out what to say anyway.

Gaara snuck out of the room, closing the door silently behind him. He looked around to see Tsunade talking hurriedly to Gai and Kakashi. Her stance stressed and her words clipped as Gaara listened in.

“…the extent of the damage won’t be fully determined until after I look through the x-ray but from what I can tell, he’s going to need surgery for the torn muscle.” Tsunade explained, squeezing the bridge of her nose. “He’s in for a long and painful recovery.”

Gai nodded and Kakashi laid a hand on his partner’s shoulder. Gai ran a hand over his face and sighed. Tsunade knew they were worrying about how to afford the surgery. While the couple could live comfortably on the funds from the dojo, Kakashi’s teaching paycheck and the check he got from the government for being injured in combat, a surgery like this could cost more than they could afford.

Tsunade sighed, she really didn’t want to tell them what could happen.

“We’ll figure this out Gai…the most important thing is that Lee’s arm gets fixed…” Kakashi tried to reassure Gai. Tsunade cleared her throat to call attention back to her.

“There’s only a fifty percent chance that Lee will regain full use of his arm again.” Tsunade blurted out impatiently. “He’s never going to be able to be a martial artist again unless some miracle occurs.”

Gai’s head snapped up in surprise. His eyes began to water and he looked at Kakashi with wide eyes. Kakashi looked down at his feet, his shock getting the better of him.

“But…being a martial artist is all Lee has ever wanted to be.” Gai said softly, clenching his fists and reaching up to wipe his tears. “It’s his passion and the reason for working hard…”

Gaara felt his stomach lurch as Tsunade continued, a look of pity crossing her features for a moment. She placed a hand on Gai and Kakashi’s shoulders. Both men looked up, drawn from their thoughts by the sudden touch.

“Would you like to tell Lee…or should I?” Tsunade said quietly. Gai shook his head hopelessly as he raised a hand, wiping his eyes. Kakashi took his lover’s hand as they turned for the room.

“No.” Kakashi whispered as they headed for the door. Gaara edged down the hall and out of sight before they could notice him. “Let us do it ourselves…hopefully it will soften the blow.”

They disappeared into the room.


 

Naruto sat at the end of Lee’s bed, making the boy laugh with a story of how he’d gotten detention again while Sasuke rolled his eyes at him. Lee felt his arm throb dully but the pain killers he’d been given were making it less noticeable.

His head felt a little light though.

It was then his father’s entered the room, carrying with them a heaviness that seemed to draw all the happiness from the room. Gai, normally so carefree and happy looked despondent and worried. Naruto rose from his seat and Sasuke caught Kakashi’s gaze. Something like a silent understanding passed between the two. 

The man jerked his head towards the door. Sasuke nodded and took Naruto by the arm, heading for the door so Lee could speak privately to his parents. 

“Come on idiot,” he said dragging the blond out the door. Naruto struggled against his friend’s strong grip on his forearm, wanting to stay and comfort Lee.

“But I want to stay.” Naruto whined loudly as the door shut behind him, leaving the adults and Lee in awkward silence. Lee smiled up at his father’s.

“Did Dr. Tsunade have anything to say about my recovery time?” He asked confidently, clenching his right fist in excitement. “I want to be sure my training doesn’t suffer. I still have the state tournaments to get too after all.” Kakashi looked at Gai as the man clenched his jaw.

Lee noticed his father’s expression and Kakashi sighed as he took a seat next to Lee. Gai followed suit, taking the spot on Lee’s left side. Kakashi ruffled his son’s hair. He forced himself to look into Lee’s wide eyes.

“Lee…you won’t be able to participate in the state tournament…” Kakashi said softly and Lee’s expression turned to one of disappointment, his smile faltered for a second but was quickly put back into place.

“I guess the injury happened a little too close to the tournament this time.” Lee observed with a small laugh, turning his happy gaze to Gai. The man couldn’t hold back the tears and raised a hand to wipe them away as Lee’s eyebrows crinkled in concern.

“It’s okay Gai-sensei…there is always next year and I will for sure make it to nationals or I’ll run one hundred laps around the track at school.” Lee reassured and Gai turned to Kakashi. Kakashi felt his own tears drip down his cheek at his next words.

“Lee…even with the surgery there is only a fifty percent chance you’ll regain full use of your shoulder again.” Kakashi said forlornly, meeting his son’s eyes with his own. “You may never be able to be a martial artist again…”

Lee’s heart skipped a beat. His eyes widening as he looked back and forth between his fathers, shaking his head in disbelief.

“N-no…” Lee whispered, his chest starting to heave in panic. Fear gripped his heart. The coldness of dread squeezing it tight and making it hard to catch his breath. This could not be happening. Martial arts were his outlet for his frustrations, his dream for the future, his passion. When he struggled in school it was all he clung to, the one thing he had that he could always depend on. 

It was his entire being and now, it was lost. It felt as if his heart had been ripped from his chest. 

Lee made no effort to stop the tears that welled in his eyes. Gai pulled his son to his chest, minding his injured shoulder as Lee buried his face in his father’s broad torso.

“No…It can’t be true.” Lee cried out, making Kakashi’s heart ache at the pain in his son’s voice. Gai felt Lee’s grip tighten around his shirt as he sobbed. Lee’s whole body shook against him as Gai ran his fingers through his son’s raven locks, in a vain attempt at comfort. Kakashi pressed his forehead to the teen’s back.

“It’s going to be okay Lee.” He comforted, trying to dam back his own tears as his son choked out his next words.

“It’s not fair. I worked so hard at everything I do.” He shouted into his father’s shirt “What have I done to deserve having all my dreams taken away from me?” Kakashi finally let his tears fall onto his son’s back. He didn't have the answer that question, no matter how much he wanted to explain why their sweet little son had been punished this way. 

“Oh Lee.” Gai whispered into his son’s hair. “I’m so sorry…”


 

Naruto was frozen in his spot, his ear still pressed to the door with Sasuke just above him. He slowly slide down the door and onto the floor. His shock and sadness mixed in his head, making his vision blur with unshed tears.

“No…Bushy Brows.” Naruto whispered as he looked up at Sasuke. Sasuke had moved away from the door, his fists clenched at his sides and his normally handsome features contorted in a scowl.

“It’s not fair Sasuke!” Naruto said, rising quickly as anger tinged the edge of his heart. Sasuke looked over at his friend. He sighed at the sense of helplessness that settled over him. Lee had been their friend since their days in foster care being looked after by Iruka.

The bushy browed kid had always been so full of fire and passion that often rivaled Naruto’s in nature back when they were all lumped in the same foster home. Sasuke had often been dragged out of his corner where he sat scowling at the other children, trying to avoid the girls who often surrounded him.

Naruto had been the first to drag him out of his shell, followed closely by Rock Lee. The spent their days wrestling and climbing trees, just being the children they were. They spent several years together with Sakura following close behind. Even when Lee had been adopted by Gai and Kakashi when he turned eight, he kept in contact for the year it took for Orochimaru to adopt a then eight year old Sasuke and Jiraiya to adopt Naruto.

Orochimaru often left Sasuke with Jiraiya or Kakashi when he traveled for his job working as a herpetologist, studying various species of snake in hopes of one day creating a synthetic universal antivenin that could be used by hospitals to treat venomous snake bites. Those days were spent practicing martial arts, reading and talking endlessly about various topics. 

These people were his family and the pain in Lee’s voice when he cried out made his heart ache and his anger fan up into flames. He needed to avenge Lee somehow. 

It was then that Gaara chose to materialize from around the corner, standing awkwardly and unsure of what to do. Sasuke turned with a feral growl and slammed the young man against the wall. The wall shook as Sasuke lifted Gaara’s shorter form off the ground.

“This is all your fault, you hell spawn!” Sasuke yelled, getting in Gaara’s face. Gaara grabbed onto Sasuke’s wrists to keep from falling out of his shirt. He didn’t bother fighting the man before him until Sasuke sneered at him, his black eyes narrowing dangerously. 

“I guess you father is right in calling you a monster if you hurt people like Lee who do nothing to you but defend you.” Sasuke insulted. Gaara snapped his head up, he clenched his teeth as he prepared to kick the other teen away.

Naruto grabbed Sasuke by the wrist. His featured darkened as he looked at the other boy.

“Put him down Sasuke, it was an accident and Gaara feels bad enough as it is.” Naruto defended, trying to pry Sasuke’s grip free. Sasuke glared at Naruto, his next words full of bite.

“You aren’t seriously going to take his side?” Sasuke questioned in shock. “You have only known him for two weeks and you’ve known Lee and me for years! Yet you take this creep’s side even when he takes the one thing Lee loves more than breathing?”

Naruto bit his lip, his eyes looking at Gaara for a moment before turning back to Sasuke. Gaara prepared for Naruto to agree with Sasuke. Deep in Gaara’s heart, he knew what the black haired male said was true. He didn’t deserve friendship from anyone, especially Naruto or Lee’s.

“Whether Gaara has been my friend for two weeks or ten years doesn’t matter!” Naruto shouted at Sasuke, his blue eyes lite with a determination and fierce protectiveness that Sasuke had only seen when Naruto was defending him.

“Gaara is my friend, just like you are my friend and Lee is my friend.” Naruto continued, passion dripping from his words. “I forgive him for hurting Lee and I know Lee will forgive him too!”

 Suddenly, the door swung open and Lee stepped out. His large brown eyes widened at the scene before him.

“Sasuke, please let go of Gaara!” Lee said, moving forward and gently taking Sasuke by the wrist with his right hand. Sasuke glared at Gaara before releasing the boy and letting him fall onto the ground. Lee met Gaara’s gaze as Kakashi and Gai filed into the hallway to investigate the commotion. 

Lee held out his good hand to Gaara, an invitation to help him up. Gaara looked at him in amazement before taking the hand and standing up. Lee checked him over.

“Are you hurt Gaara?” Lee asked, his look of concern making Gaara confused. Gaara shrugged and crossed his arms over his chest. He couldn’t meet Lee’s round eyes as his tangled thoughts chased themselves around in his head.

Why is he worried about me?” Gaara thought apprehensively. “I hurt him…I’m the reason he may never be able to fight again and he wants to make sure I’m not hurt?”

Sasuke scoffed at Lee’s words.

“Lee, he deserves to have his ass kicked for what he did to you!” Sasuke scolded the injured young man fiercely, glaring daggers at Gaara. “You shouldn’t be mothering the hell spawn that hurt you!” Lee’s head snapped around and he stood in front of Gaara. His eyes narrowing.

“I am the injured party here Sasuke,” Lee said quietly. He clenched his uninjured fist and let out a deep breath as he looked into Sasuke’s eyes. Sasuke felt himself wilt under the depression and sadness that the brown eyes held.

“I forgive Gaara for hurting me, I am sure he did not mean to cause me any harm.” Lee stated solemnly “He is my friend and that is what friends do for each other.” Gaara’s head snapped up in alarm and surprise. He was forgiven but he hadn’t even managed to apologize yet. Lee met his eyes and Gaara felt his heart hammer in his chest.

Friend…he was Lee’s friend. Naruto was his friend.

He didn’t know how to handle this. He needed to get out of here, he needed to think. Gaara paled and ran down the hall, disappearing down the hall.

Naruto turned towards Gaara’s retreating form. He clenched his fists and pushed past Sasuke, his body acting before he had a moment to think about it. 

“Gaara wait!” He shouted after the boy, taking off after him as fast as he could.


 

Gaara reached the outside of the hospital, his chest heaving and his breath shallow. He couldn’t understand the pain in his chest. He needed to leave, he needed to get away from Lee and Naruto, the ones who caused this pain to worsen.

“They don’t really want to be your friends, brat.” Shukaku whispered from the bushes it seemed, his voice a low chuckle. “Friends are just people who will hurt you again, you don’t want a repeat of Yashamaru do you”

Gaara grabbed his head and shook it, trying to stop the voice. Suddenly a hand laid on his shoulder and he looked up. Naruto’s face was red and his breathing labored as he leaned against Gaara.

“Naruto…” Gaara whispered as Naruto straightened and scowled at Gaara. He tightened his grip on Gaara’s shirt.

“What did you run for?’ Naruto questioned, his voice hard with irritation. “You still need to apologize to Lee.” Gaara tried to shrug him off but found he couldn’t.

“I can’t…” Gaara said quietly, his body shaking. “I don’t deserve his forgiveness or yours…I don’t deserve friends!” he pulled out of Naruto’s grip.

“Why can’t you all just leave me alone?” He shouted, his frustration getting the better of him. He pulled at his hair, tears welling in his eyes.

“I’m a monster! My own mother died giving birth to me and cursed my existence, a fact my father reminds me of every day and it’s true! I hurt Lee and now I’ve taken something he can’t replace because of it…I need to spend the rest of my life alone, only caring about myself.” 

Gaara looked at the ground, clenching his fists and holding back his tears.

“That’s got to be a lonely way to live.” Naruto said quietly then chuckled lightly. Gaara looked up sharply, Naruto stared down at Gaara with soft eyes. “And nobody should have to carry the burden of loneliness like you have Gaara.” Naruto rubbed the back of his neck, looking up at the sky.

“My parents died when I was just a baby and I was in foster care until I was eight.” He explained, his voice heavy with emotion. “The foster family I lived with was only interested in the money and I became a trouble maker because I wanted someone to notice me, someone to care.” He looked back down at Gaara, teal eyes locking with sky blue.

“The pain of being alone is completely out of this world, isn't it? I don't know why, but I understand your feelings so much, it actually hurts.” Naruto said putting his hands on Gaara’s shoulder as Gaara felt tears finally start to pour down his cheeks. “But my friends. Friends like Sakura and Sasuke and Lee…Because they saved me from myself, they rescued me from my loneliness. They were the first to accept me for who I am. They're my friends. Just like you are Gaara.”

Gaara wiped his eyes and nodded at Naruto, his body starting to calm.

“What if you don’t like who I am?” Gaara asked, still sounding lost as Naruto led him back inside. “What if Lee doesn’t like who I am?”

Naruto smiled widely, his warmth making Gaara’s whole body feel strange but light as if a huge weight lift off his shoulders.

“Let us be the judge of that, okay Gaara?” Naruto said, slinging his arm over Gaara’s shoulders as they headed back to Lee’s room.     


      

Gaara walked into Lee’s room after Naruto shoved him into it. He hadn’t wanted to go alone but Naruto insisted that the red head would be fine.

He took a deep breath and walked to the bed Lee laid in. Lee was sound asleep, knocked out by the pain killers he had been giving as well as the hectic nature of the day.

Gaara silently made his way across the room. He stopped to watch Lee breath for a moment before taking a spot on the seat next to the bed. He curled his legs to his chest, laying his chin to rest on the tops of his knees as he watched the older teen sleep.

He could wait until Lee woke up to apologize, he was used to not sleeping.

The brunette’s chest rose and fell, light snores escaping his mouth as he mumbled in his sleep. Gaara counted the breaths as Lee slept. The normally neat hair laid sprawled onto the pillow, his normally intense features softened by sleep.  

 An hour past with him watching the boy sleep, it was an hour before Lee stirred and yawned as he woke. The fifteen year old boy mumbled as he looked around. Sleepy brown eyes passed over Gaara once before locking back onto him in surprise as Lee realized Gaara’s presence.

“Gaara, you came back?” Lee said disbelieving. He had been worried when the boy had run away from him, he hoped he hadn’t said something wrong. Gaara blinked at the boy. He looked down at his knees, not meeting Lee’s curious eyes.

Gaara mumbled something incoherent into his knees. Lee’s eyebrows scrunched as he struggled to understand what the red head had said.

“Could you repeat that Gaara?” Lee asked giving the boy a smile.

“I’m sorry for hurting you.” Gaara said louder, his eyes locking on Lee’s. Lee’s eyes widened in surprise at the apology. Lee’s shock softened at the red head and he gave the boy a thumbs up, he was never angry at Gaara but perhaps the red head didn't know that. 

“There is no need to apologize Gaara, I have already forgiven you.” Lee explained happily. Gaara bit his lip then looked out the window before speaking again.

“N-Naruto said that he isn’t lonely anymore because he had friends that accept him.” Gaara softly whispered then looked up at Lee again. Lee was shocked to see the determination in Gaara’s teal gaze.

What had before been cold indifference, had been lite into a fire that made Lee’s breath hitch. Lee smiled softly as he realized that Naruto had done this.

“Will you be my friend Lee?” Gaara asked, his voice full of nervousness as Lee’s jaw dropped. He had not expected the boy to ever accept his friendship, let alone ask for it.

Gaara waited impatiently, his nerves making him feel on edge and caught between running for the hills and staying. He knew he had no right to ask Lee for his friendship after how he had treated the other male. He could barely hide his surprise when Lee reached out and held out his good hand. Gaara stared at the hand and then up at the smile its owner had on.

“You must be Gaara No Subaku.” The boy chirped, a small laugh hidden in his words. “I am Rock Lee, but you may call me Lee and I would love to be your friend if I could.” Gaara’s eyes widened as he realized when Lee was doing. He was repeating the words he had spoken when they had first met that day in the office. The No Subaku took the hand that had been offered to him slowly, shaking it. Lee was giving him a second chance, a fresh start.

He wasn’t going to mess up this time.

 

      

Chapter Text


 

Lee set his pawn down just on the other side of the black knight on the board, looking up at Gaara with a smile. Gaara nodded in silent approval as he looked around the board. The red head contemplated his next move for a moment before moving his rook to claim Lee’s own knight and landing in front of Lee’s king piece.

“Check.” Gaara said monotone.

Lee frowned and tried to figure out his next move.

It had been a week since the accident and his surgery was tomorrow. Gaara had rarely left Lee’s side in that time, coming to visit after school and martial arts practice with Lee’s homework and staying until the nurses kicked him out. The younger teen would often engage Lee in a game of chess and brought his own board to play on. Lee, much like other aspects in his life, had no talent for the game.

“You’re too direct Lee.” Gaara noted as Lee moved his own rook to the space where Gaara had set his other knight. Gaara easily intercepted the rook with his pawn, just before reclaiming the spot in front of the white king. Gaara looked up at Lee with a small look of amusement.

“Check.” Gaara said with an air of cockiness in his voice. 

Lee smiled sheepishly. He enjoyed their friendly games, even if he always ended up losing. He examined the board. He was not about to give up as he moved his king just to the left. Gaara sighed and moved his queen, taking the king easily.

“Checkmate.” Gaara said and Lee huffed in self annoyance.

“Darn, I really thought I had it this time.” Lee sighed in disappointment, laying back as Gaara put away the board. Gaara rolled his eyes and took the white pieces that Lee had managed to claim from him during the game.

“Don't pout. You did a lot better this time, although you still have a long way to go before you’ll beat me.” Gaara mused as he sat in the chair next to Lee’s bed. Lee nodded and clenched his right fist, his normal look of determination on his face.

“Yosh, I will beat you the next game or I will do four hundred one arm push-ups!” Lee exclaimed. Gaara raised a nonexistent brow. Lee meant to ask him about why he didn’t have any.

“You will do no such thing, Dr. Tsunade told you to take it easy.” Gaara ordered sternly. Lee felt his body deflate for a moment. He would have to complete the challenge later when Gaara wasn’t around, so he wouldn't worry his friend. 

“Let us do something different Gaara.” Lee said, reaching into the side table to pull out some playing cards. He looked at Gaara and handed him the deck.

“Could you shuffle these?” he asked, remembering his left arm that hung uselessly in a sling. Gaara looked at it for a moment before taking the deck, something like regret shining in his eyes. Lee took note of it but didn’t say anything.

Gaara did not enjoy talking about the things that bothered him and Lee wasn’t sure how to breech the subject. Over the last week, Lee had become well-educated on which subjects to avoid when speaking to the red head. While Gaara never mentioned discomfort or anger, Lee could tell from his eyes when the younger man was feeling a powerful emotion.

Mentioning his siblings usually resulted in his eyes darkening and the boy looking away, loneliness and sadness seeming to mix into the teal gaze. Lee stayed away from the subject. Lee had decided he didn’t like that emotion coming from Gaara. 

Mentioning Gaara’s father had resulted in loathing and anger the likes which made Lee want to run for the hills. Lee didn’t like the man. Despite the fact the man was paying for his care in the hospital, Rasa still treated Gaara like the scum of the earth. Lee wished he was allowed to know why.

It frustrated him that every time he felt like he was chipping away at the wall Gaara seemed to had built around himself, Lee would end up with more questions than answers. He felt further away from the real Gaara than when they had first met. Lee sighed inwardly. He would never push the red head to share, not unless Gaara needed it. 

Gaara shuffled the deck quietly before dealing out the cards. He looked up at Lee from behind a curtain of red hair and gave Lee a puzzled look.

“Why are you staring at me?” he asked bluntly, wiping his face with one hand. “Do I have something on my face?” Lee felt his cheeks heat in a blush and ducked his head down to the cards in front of him. His face was burning when he managed to stammer out an excuse.

“D-do you have any fives?” Lee mumbled in embarrassment, intently staring at his cards as if they held the secret of life among the printed numbers and symbols.

Gaara cocked his head at the bushy browed teen for a moment before moving his eyes to his own cards. His eyes flicked over the numbers as he lazily laid his cheek on his hand, propping his elbow up on his knee. 

“Go Fish.” He replied, watching Lee as he took another card from the pile.

 


 

Sakura finished filing the patient files that had been left on Tsunade’s desk, her back and feet aching in protest from her long day. After walking out of Tsunade’s office, she set the updated files onto the main desk. Sakura sighed as she combed her fingers through her short pink hair. All she had to do now was go home and sleep.

She gathered her things from the locker. She noticed several new messages on her phone and scrolled down to see who had sent them.

Two from Sasuke asking about martial arts practice tomorrow, she could reply to those when she got home. Six from Naruto. She rolled her eyes when three were asking her to buy him ramen, she would ignore those.

The last one caused her heart to skip a beat and her movements to falter for a moment.

Why don’t you come on over tonight? I’m sorry about our fight, I miss you.

She stared at the text for a moment before throwing her cell phone into her pink back pack without replying. She would answer it when she got home, she was too tired to deal with her tonight.

Slinging her bag over her shoulder after throwing on her winter jacket, Sakura left the locker room and headed for the door. She passed by Lee’s room on the way. Hearing voices Sakura turned to check who had stayed an hour past the end of visiting hours.

She peeked into the open door, spying a familiar shock of red hair on the end of Lee’s bed. The boys had cards spread between them, entertaining themselves with what appeared to be a game of Go Fish.

“Gaara should you not be heading home? It is getting late and it is snowing outside.” Lee asked out loud, not noticing as Sakura peeked into the room. “Do you have any two’s?”

Gaara shrugged and handed over two cards from his hand. He didn’t seem to notice Sakura either.

“I’ll just wait till the nurses kick me out.” Gaara said as he looked over his cards. “Any three’s?” The red head asked and Lee frowned as he handed over three of the cards from his hand, leaving him with a two cards. Lee raised a brow at Gaara.

“What about your homework?” Lee asked. Gaara shrugged again and sighed.

“I don’t sleep so it’ll be done by the time class starts tomorrow.” Gaara answered and Lee nodded in understanding but then seemed to process what Gaara had said. Lee seemed concerned by the confession

“Wait, you do not sleep?” Lee asked. “Is that normal for you?” Gaara shrugged, not sure why Lee seemed concerned. He’d gotten so used to not sleeping that it hardly bothered him anymore. The less he slept the longer Shukaku remained quiet, But Lee didn’t need to know about Shukaku. Lee would only run if he learned about the voice that often echoed in Gaara's mind.

“I’ve been like that for years now so I’m used to it now. It’s not like anyone cares enough to make me sleep anyway.”  Lee’s eyes widened in concern, his eyebrows crashing down and Lee opened his mouth to say something just as Sakura decided to intervene.

Sakura cleared her throat loudly. The pair looked up and Sakura tried to keep up a smile despite the fact she didn’t like Gaara being in Lee’s room at all.

“Time for you to head out.” Sakura ordered sternly. “Lee has his surgery tomorrow and he needs his sleep.” Gaara frowned and rose, turning to Lee who smiled up at him brightly.

“I’ll be by tomorrow after school with Naruto and Uchiha. Hatake said something about you not needing the extra excitement but Naruto insisted we come by anyway.” Gaara said as he gathered his chess set into his back pack. Lee looked down. He worried his lip and Gaara stared at him for a moment.

“There is no need to be nervous.” Gaara stated bluntly. “Tsunade seems capable enough despite the fact she constantly smells of alcohol and I’m sure you won’t die on the table even if she was drunk.” Sakura scowled at the comment but Lee looked up, his smile returning.

“Thank you Gaara…That makes me feel better.” Lee chuckled, his voice grateful. Sakura failed to understand how the younger teen’s words had been comforting in any way. Gaara shrugged and hooked his arm under one strap on his back pack, swinging it over his shoulder easily.

“Those are just the facts, making you feel better wasn’t really the intent.” Gaara indicated as he headed for the door. The younger teen paused, not looking back as he added “But I’m glad it did.”

Sakura led the boy out as Lee’s smile widened to a size she didn’t think was possible even for Gai-sensei. Lee gave them both a thumbs up.

“Goodnight Gaara, be safe in the cold and be sure to bundle up.” He called out as the pair left, “You too Sakura!” Sakura smiled and waved her farewell as she followed Lee’s friend out. She closed the door behind her.

As they walked past the desk and to the doors, Sakura watched the new boy walk from behind. Her green eyes scanning Gaara’s back as if looking at a complicated math problem. She was trying to figure out his intent with her friend. Sakura felt fierce protectiveness rise in her heart.

Lee had been her friend since she was five. She had lived down the street from the foster home the boy lived in along with Naruto and Sasuke. He had been kind enough to save her from some bullies when they met. At first, she’d been nervous around the boys but soon Naruto, Lee and even Sasuke had warmed up to her. They became good friends.

When she was made fun of for her large forehead, Her best friend, Ino would bring her to play with Lee, Sasuke and Naruto. Lee would smile his bright smile at her, telling her how pretty she was until she had forgotten the harsh words.

Lee had given her flowers for Valentine’s Day every year since fifth grade. The round eyed boy had taken her to the eight grade dance when no one asked her and even fought some boys that had made fun of her that night. Lee had accepted her when she told him she was attracted women in ninth grade, going so far as to take her with him to the Gay Straight Alliance club at school and telling her about his own sexuality.

Lee was as close to a brother as she had along with Naruto and Sasuke. He was family. Lee had been hurt by the boy before her and even though Lee had explained the situation, she did not trust Gaara. She took a deep breath and fought down the uneasiness she felt. 

But she did trust Lee, so she would be nice to the No Subaku teen. 

As Gaara left for the door without turning to her. Sakura grabbed his shoulder, grasping the dark red hoodie and pulling the red head’s body back. Gaara’s eyes widened at the amount of strength in the pull. He turned and looked up at the pink haired female behind him.

“You know Gaara, Lee is like my brother.” She said, a small smile on her lips. “He’s a sweetheart and I know he’s forgiven you for hurting him. I trust his decision.” Gaara felt her grip harden on his shoulder, painfully so. Gaara tried to move away but Sakura pulled him back.

“I have a black belt and I’m a nationally ranked weight lifter.” Sakura stated, her smile fake and her voice sickeningly sweet. “Hurt Lee again, be it physically or emotionally and I’ll break you.”  Gaara met her gaze coolly, he wasn’t afraid of this girl.

He did however, admire her fierce protectiveness for Lee and strong grip.

“I had no plans to do so.” Gaara replied calmly and Sakura released her grip, her smile returning to normal. She ruffled Gaara’s hair and giggled.

“Good, now head on home so I can do the same.” Sakura said as she turned to the door, waving goodbye as she made her way out to a car that was parked in the lot. Gaara watched her hop in the car and hug the man in the seat. The pink haired man smiled at her warmly, ruffling Sakura's hair before the car pulled away. Loneliness pulled at Gaara's chest as he turned for the door, turning up his jacket to block out the harsh winds that came in with the open doors.

The night was freezing. Gaara pulled his jacket closer to his body, fighting for warmth as he trudged the block and a half to his home. He had found that was one good thing about Konoha being fairly small in size. 

“Be sure to bundle up!” Lee’s voice echoed in his mind and Gaara felt an unusual warmth bloomed in his chest. Lee always fussed and worried about him when he walked home at night. It was new to Gaara, who had grown used to being ignored by everyone for the most part. It was odd to have someone he barely knew try to care for him. 

But Lee wasn't exactly normal it seemed. 

When he managed to get home, Gaara’s nose was red and raw from the wind and he shivered as he opened the door. The warmth of the house was a welcome feeling as Gaara laid his back pack onto the ground and slammed the door shut. Sitting down, Gaara was quick to peel off his galoshes and soaked socks. He stood and hung his snow covered jacket on the coat hanger. 

Temari passed by the door on her way up the stairs, briefly making eye contact with her brother and opening her mouth to speak.

“I made tomato soup for dinner.” She said trying to look up and smile. “It’s in the crock pot on low so it’s warm if you want.” Gaara took note of the tenderness in her eyes. Despite being somewhat close in age, Gaara hadn’t really been close to his siblings in years. He had shut them out just like he had the rest of the world. Despite usually avoided his siblings, lately he’d been thinking of Lee’s act of kindness, Naruto and his gesture of friendship.

Maybe it was time to try something small, an experiment.  

“Thank you Temari.” Gaara said as he rose and moved to walk past her. He lifted his arm, gently gripping his sister’s shoulder for a brief moment before moving towards the kitchen. Temari’s eyes widened and she looked at him with confusion and joy mixing on her face. Her smile filled her face as she turned and headed up the stairs.

Gaara took out a bowl, moving to pour some soup into it. He sat at the table and sipped his soup quietly. The creamy red of the tomato soup swirled around on his spoon, the warmth of the homemade soup chasing away the cold that had reached his bones.

Gaara’s thoughts went back to his sister’s happy smile when he thanked her and he felt warm again for a very different reason. He took a sip of the hot soup, not caring if it scalded his tongue.


 

Lee rubbed his eyes as he tried to finish his English homework. It was a simple ten questions about the book they were reading. Lee had moved the bed so he could sit up, his paper laid on his food table and the book open next to it. So far Lee was enjoying To Kill a Mockingbird despite his usual difficulties reading. He was still several chapters behind the rest of his class but what he had deciphered so far had intrigued him.

Lee sighed and looked at his answers as he finished the last one. His spelling was probably atrocious but he would have Neji or Kakashi edit it later. Tiredness itched at his eyes as he closed the book and looked at the clock by his bed.

The bright blue letters flashed three am and Lee sighed. He should really get some sleep, but nervousness still whispered at the back of his mind. Taking out his laptop, Lee turned it on and entered his password.

The screen lite up, revealing his Bruce Lee wallpaper. Lee clicked on his browser icon and typing out the words Chronic Insomnia into the search bar of Google.

Several articles appeared and Lee clicked on WebMD. It was usually the most informative on conditions even if it was a horrible place to self diagnose. 

His eyes scanned the page. He highlighted the text and reached over to his nightstand, grabbing his headphones so he could plug them into the headphone jack. He right clicked the touch pad and hit the listen button so he wouldn’t have to read the text.

“Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep.” The robotic and emotionless voice began. “People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms: Difficulty falling asleep, waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep, waking up too early in the morning and feeling tired upon waking.”

Lee took out his notebook, laying it beside his laptop to jot down notes. His eyebrows scrunched down in a serious expression.

“There are two types of insomnia: primary insomnia and secondary insomnia.” The voice continued and Lee made a mental note to double check his spelling of the larger words later. “Primary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems that are not directly associated with any other health condition or problem. Secondary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems because of something else, such as a health condition such as asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, etc.”

Lee tried to remember if Gaara had ever mentioned an illness he suffered from. Unable to recall if he did, Lee decided he would have to ask the redhead about it. He continued to listen to the voice until the end of the article, jotting down more notes before switching to a new tab and typing in a new question into the search bar.

How to help someone who suffers from Chronic Insomnia.”

He opened three of the first articles and started his note taking again. He was determined to understand his new friend, whether Gaara wanted to share his problems or not.


 

It was eight thirty in the morning when Gai and Kakashi entered the hospital. Lee's surgery was scheduled for nine o'clock and Kakashi had taken the day off to wait with Gai for the surgery to end so they could be there for Lee together. He didn't want to leave Gai alone to wait, he wouldn't be able to concentrate at work anyway.

Kakashi entered the hospital hand in hand with Gai. He worried his lip nervously, trying to put on a brave face for when they saw their son. This surgery and its level of success would determine whether or not Lee would ever be able to fulfill his dreams. He wasn’t about to pretend his wasn’t worried. The mask hid it well though.

But Kakashi could never hide from Gai for long.

Gai stopped suddenly and pulled Kakashi towards him. He smiled as he cupped Kakashi’s face in his hands and making the smaller man face him. Gai gently pulled the mask down and Kakashi let him, trusting his partner’s large hands to shield his face from prying eyes.

Kakashi still held his lip in between his teeth as he looked up at his partner. Gai chuckled, lifting his hand to gently work the abused lip free. Kakashi moved his cheek into his lover’s touch as Gai swiped a thumb over the scar that ran down his cheek. Gai's smile was affectionate and soft as he looked down at Kakashi with warm eyes. 

“I’m confident in Tsunade’s ability to fix Lee’s arm, there is no need to worry.” Gai said confidently before placing a light kiss on Kakashi’s lips and replacing the mask. Kakashi relaxed a bit, trying not to think of all the worst case scenarios that ran through his mind.

Gai was always so positive and hopeful but Kakashi couldn’t help but be a bit cynical at times. So much of their son’s happiness hinged on this. But Kakashi trusted Tsunade and most of all, He trusted Gai.

Gai opened the door, a bright smile on his face. Kakashi followed after him, looking around the room. He chuckled when spied the small pile of finished homework on Lee’s nightstand as well as their son’s sleeping form on the propped up bed. his soft snores filled the room and Kakashi realized he must have fallen asleep working. Kakashi gave Gai a look, as if silently blaming him for their child's workaholic attitude. 

The pair walked over to him. His laptop was open, headphones in his ears and a pencil in his hand. Kakashi chuckled as he reached over to shake his son. His good eye caught a single word of his son’s notes, Insomnia. He raised a brow as his son stirred, unsure as to why his son was researching insomnia. 

Lee’s eyes blinked open and he rubbed away the tiredness. He looked up and grinned sleepily at his father’s. Kakashi ruffled his son’s already messy bed hair.

“Couldn’t sleep Lee?” He asked as Gai took the spot on the end of Lee’s bed. Lee smiled sheepishly. Lee realized he must have fallen asleep at some point during his research. The last time he checked the clock it had almost been about six in the morning. It seemed he had finally managed to pass out for a few hours of rest. 

“I was just trying to understand Gaara a bit better.” Lee explained, his cheeks flushing in embarrassment at being caught. “He mentioned he does not sleep so I wanted to see if there was anything I could do for him since I could not get to sleep.”

Kakashi stiffened at the mention of the red head. Gai caught the lines of a scowl on his partner’s face and decided to change the subject, Gaara was still a sore subject with his silver haired lover. 

“I’m sure the surgery will go fine Lee.” Gai reassured his son, giving him a thumbs up. Lee looked up and smiled at his father warmly and returned the gesture.

“When it is over I will do my best to get back into fighting condition Gai-sensei!” Lee said, a fiery determination lighting in his eyes that made Kakashi’s heart fill affection. Gai had certainly passed his determination onto Lee.

“Yes you will!” Gai exclaimed “I will work closely with Tsunade to develop a training plan with you so we can get you up to full strength again.” Lee nodded.

Tsunade entered the room, clearing her throat as one of the nicer nurses that Lee knew filed in behind her. The nurse wheeled over a wheelchair and helped Lee into it. Tsunade’s brown eyes softened affectionately as Lee thanked the nurse.

“It’s time Lee,” she stated and Lee nodded in response, nervousness tensing his muscles. His face became serious as they rolled out of the room. Taking a deep breath, Lee smiled up at Tsunade.

“I am ready.” He responded as the nurse followed Tsunade out the door. 


 

Gaara watched Naruto laugh at something Sakura said about Dr. Tsunade while Sasuke rolled his eyes. Gaara trailed a few steps behind the group as they walked towards their lockers to collect their things before going to the hospital, observing them quietly. He knew that only Naruto really tolerated his presence, and to some extent Sakura but even she seemed awkward around him. Gaara had decided it was best to keep his distance.

Not that he really knew what to say anyway. It seemed that most of Lee and Naruto’s friends hated him for hurting Lee and being a general jerk to him before that. He would have to work to earn their trust it seemed.

“Naruto!” Called a feminine voice that made the group turn. A lithe girl with her hair in buns waved to the group accompanied by a tall boy with long brown hair tied back in a ponytail. The boy’s lavender eyes narrowed as he caught Gaara’s gaze.

“Hey TenTen, Neji!” Naruto said excitedly, waving his hand back and forth quickly. The pair walked over and the girl glanced at him briefly before addressing Naruto.

“Are you heading to the hospital?” she asked the blonde. “We were going to head over there today.” She added. Naruto gave a bright grin.

“Yeah, Sasuke, Gaara and I were just heading over there now.” Naruto replied and Sasuke scowled at the mention of Gaara’s name. He didn’t try to hide his dislike of the red head and had spent the last week saying comments under his breath or trying to leave Gaara out of activities.

To be fair Gaara wasn’t much better when it came to underhanded insults. He only tolerated the Uchiha because he was always with Naruto, the pair were practically glued to each other’s sides. If Gaara wanted to stay friends with the perky blonde, he’d have to play nice with Sasuke.

“Maybe Gaara should stay behind.” Sasuke suggested, crossing his arms in front of him. “It’s going to be mainly a family thing anyway.” Gaara looked up sharply, he did not want to be left behind.

“Then why are they going?” Gaara asked, gesturing towards TenTen and Neji. Sasuke snorted in response, his dark eyes smoldering in loathing for the redhead.

“They have been friends of ours since middle school.” Sasuke commented, trying to appear intimidating and failing to scare Gaara in the slightest. “More importantly they are Lee’s best friends.” Gaara met his gaze lazily, not feeling patient enough to put up with the Uchiha.

But I’m also Lee’s friend.” Gaara noted stubbornly, part of him itching for an argument. He was getting tired with the constant attacks on his trustworthiness and whether or not he even deserved Lee’s friendship.

Gaara knew he didn’t deserve it but that was not anyone else’s business.

Naruto placed a hand on Sasuke’s shoulder. The Uchiha closed his mouth and turned to Naruto, taking in his serious look. Sasuke frowned.  

“Lee wants Gaara there, he told me so.” Naruto said “Don’t give him a hard time about it or I’ll punch you Bastard.” Gaara smirked a little at the name Naruto always called Sasuke. The blond wasn’t afraid to put the dark haired boy in his place.

 Gaara straightened. He had no intention of being left behind, no matter how much the Uchiha pouted.

“I plan on being there when Lee wakes up.” Gaara stated coolly. TenTen’s jaw dropped as she pointed to Gaara. Her eyes turned into slits as her expression changed from one of easygoing relaxation to anger.

“Wait, you’re Gaara? The one who did this to Lee in the first place?” She exclaimed, pointing at Gaara. Gaara sighed and looked towards her. The male with her had taken on an aggressive stance as well. Sasuke had said they were friends with Lee as well, best friends he had stated. Just how any friends did the bushy browed teen possess?

“Yes I am Gaara but I-.” Gaara was cut off by a sudden punch to his jaw.

He staggered back into the lockers behind him with a crash and fell on his ass. Gaara looked up to see the brunette male, Neji holding TenTen back with the help of Sakura. TenTen glared daggers at Gaara as she struggled against her friend’s grasps. Her hands curled into fists. 

“Like hell I’m letting you near Lee!” She growled and turned her gaze to Naruto.

“I can’t believe you even thought that be a good idea after what he did to Lee!” she yelled at the blonde. Naruto’s jaw clenched as he turned to help Gaara up.

The redhead took the hand and stood up. Gaara worked his jaw gently, trying to rid himself of the pain. Naruto gave Gaara a bright smile and pat his shoulder before turning to TenTen and Neji. Naruto gave TenTen a look.

“Lee forgave Gaara for hurting him and they are friends now.” Naruto explained, trying to calm the situation. He really did not want to hurt TenTen. “Gaara is my friend too and if you try to hit him again I won’t hold back!”

Sakura smiled at Gaara sympathetically as she kept TenTen back.

“TenTen, you may not like Lee’s decision but can you at least try to respect it and tolerate Gaara.” She said gently then lowered her voice to a whisper so only TenTen and Neji could hear her. “Lee really seems to like him.”

TenTen made a small noise of displeasure as she nodded in defeat, relaxing as Neji and Sakura released her. TenTen glared at Gaara again. He met her gaze easily and without fear as TenTen stuck a finger in his face.

“You try to pull anything shitty and I’m going to kick your ass so bad that punch will feel like a butterfly kiss.” TenTen threatened, her eyes blazing in obvious anger.

 Gaara nodded slowly, looking away. He deserved their harsh words and glances but hopefully he could make up for it.

The group started out of the school, Gaara trailing behind as he tried to ignore the loathsome looks in his direction. He took to staring at his shoes as the group made their way to the hospital.

Making friends was going to be more difficult than he thought.

Chapter Text


 

Tsunade grumbled as she disposed of her blood covered surgery gloves in the hazardous materials bin. She walked to the sink to wash he hands and try to relax her nerves, surgeries were always nerve wracking but more so when you knew the patient and the stakes of failing. Lee would be in the recovery room until he awoke from the anesthesia, the teen was blissfully unaware of just what craziness awaited him when he did awaken.

In the waiting room, several guests waited for word on Lee’s condition and the success of the surgery.  Normally she would have chased so many people out but seeing all the friends Lee had made that now filled the chairs and stood against the walls. It warmed her heart a little to see so many worried about her patient. 

The adults gathered in groups, leaving the teenagers to group together on their own to converse what they wished.  

Kakashi looked a little more relaxed as he talked with Jiraiya about the latest installment of his Icha Icha novel series, one that Kakashi had helped with the writing. Gai discussed something cheerfully with Iruka and Neji while TenTen hung near the wall and talked to Sakura about something that made both girls giggle.

Naruto and Sasuke chatted lightly each other, laughing and carrying on about who was the bigger pervert, Kakashi or Jiraiya. Tension still hung in the air but the group was trying to make light of it. Tsunade hoped her news would help lift everyone's spirits a little. 

Her eyes landed on a red shock of hair that sat just a little ways away from the group and the only one to be alone. Tsunade’s eyes narrowed. Gaara No Subaku sat in a chair, his headphones on his head and his eyes watching the crowd of people awkwardly.

Tsunade took note of the tension in his shoulders and how stiffly he held his body. She raised a brow at this. All the times she had seen Gaara during visiting hours with Lee, he’d seemed at ease and relaxed as the two teens played hours of chess and various other games. The red head before her now looked lost and unsure of himself and his place among the others.  

Tsunade walked over and all eyes were on her in an instance. From the corner of her eye, she watched Gaara look up with rapt attention. She smiled at Kakashi and Gai as they stood up. Gai looked hopeful at the sight of the blonde doctor’s smile.

“How is Lee?” Gai asked as all eyes fixed on Tsunade. Her brown eyes bored into the dark eyed man before her.

“You owe me a lot of alcohol for the miracle I just pulled.” Tsunade leered, putting her hands on her hips and smirking. “Lee is fine and while it’s still a little early, I think he’ll make a full recovery if he follows all my directions.”

Kakashi’s head snapped up at that and the room went silent. Naruto was the first to speak.

“So Bushy Brows will still be able to do martial arts?” He asked excitedly, his room brightening smile stretched across his face. Tsunade returned it with a nod and a soft smile of her own.

“In my expert opinion, yes.” She answered. Naruto whooped and slapped Sasuke on the back. Kakashi was pulled into a bone crushing hug by Gai, TenTen laughed and jumped up and down with an excited Sakura. A small smile pulled at Neji’s stoic face and Iruka laughed as he tried to save Kakashi from suffocation.

A warm arm slung around Tsunade’s shoulders and she looked up slightly at Jiraiya. The silver haired man smiled at her warmly, looking very much like his adopted grandson.

“Good job Tsunade, I knew you could do it.” He praised “Allow me to buy you the first of many drinks.” Tsunade huffed and smirked up at her old friend.

“Was there ever any doubt?” She teased as she caught the sight of Naruto gathering Gaara into his own version of a Gai-level bear hug. The red head’s eyes widened in surprise as he was pulled into the festivity, Gai laying a hand on his shoulder and the red head looking up at the older man. Gai gave the teen a thumbs up.

“I expect to see you in the dojo to help with Lee’s recovery Gaara, he’ll need a good sparring partner.” Gai demanded with a half serious tone. Gaara nodded, still shocked from the sudden intrusion into his observation of the group.

Tsunade’s smile turned into a small frown as she watched the others in the group eye Gaara warily, the distrust was almost tangible and she caught Kakashi’s gaze. The silver haired man’s normally cool gaze was dark with contempt. Tsunade sighed at this.

No wonder the kid was so nervous. With Kakashi looking at the kid like he was the scum of the earth. Naruto broke away from Gaara, sneaking to the back of the crowd as they talked. Tsunade smirked as she watched the blond sneak around the corner, no doubt sneaking off to the recovery room to see Lee.

It wasn’t long before she watched Sasuke follow and she shook her head at the antics. Tsunade decided against calling them out as she followed Jiraiya to her office, her favorite bottle of saké calling to her.                                                                                         


 

Sasuke let a small smile reach his face as he watched his family and friends wait for Lee to awaken. The group was always a bit rowdy but Sasuke was sure the nurses were looking at them with looks of contempt while the group carried on a little too loudly for a hospital.

It wasn’t very long before he noticed something off about the group and it didn’t take him long to realize exactly what was off about the room.

Naruto was missing and Sasuke was sure that the blonde was up to no good. He slid away from the group stealthily, moving down the hall in search for his friend. He already knew where to look. He moved around the corner's of the hospital with ease, searching for his destination. 

After sneaking past several nurses, Sasuke opened the doors to the recovery room. Naruto looked up from his spot on the floor near Lee’s sleeping form. The blonde grinned, his whisker-like scars stretching over his cheeks as Sasuke sighed out his amusement. He shook his head at his best friend. 

"I knew you'd be here." Sasuke said coolly, not letting his aloof attitude give into his amusement. Naruto saw through it easily. 

“Hey Sasuke,” Naruto greeted, lifting his hand to wave slightly as Sasuke shook his head. “I wanted to be the first to see Lee when he wakes up.” Naruto added as Sasuke folded his arms in front of his chest and raised a brow at his friend. Naruto was always getting into trouble like this, trouble Sasuke would have to drag him out of.

“Tsunade is going to kill us when she finds us.” He said as he took a seat next to Naruto. “If she doesn’t know already.” He added with a smirk. The blond rolled his eyes and laid his head down on Sasuke’s lap. He spread his arms out in a long stretch, yawning as he put his arms behind his head. Naruto sighed deeply as he settled in for a nap. 

“Wake me when Lee’s monitor starts to pick up.” The lazy blonde said as he closed his eyes. Sasuke nodded and waited, tense as he waited. His dark eyes watched as Naruto’s breathe slowed as he fell asleep. 

Sasuke let himself relax after he heard Naruto’s snores, indicating that the other boy was dead to the world and wouldn’t be awakened by his next movement. Sasuke gently carded his fingers through Naruto’s hair, smile softly at the softness between his fingers. His heart warmed as Naruto murmured in his sleep, the words incoherent but soft. 

Sasuke sighed contentedly at this closeness to Naruto. He enjoyed these little moments were Naruto laid all over him, draping his arm over him or laying on his lap. It was one of the few moments he could indulge in the fantasies he had about the other teen. He didn’t always understand romance or attraction but this desire to have Naruto close to him was so much better than anything he’d seen sappy teen romantic comedies. It made him feel secure and safe. 

Not that Naruto would ever see him as more that a friend.

Sasuke leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes as he enjoyed the weight of Naruto’s head on his lap. He would take these little moments while he could.


 

Lee’s eyes fluttered open and he blinked the blurriness away. A groggy fog had settled over his mind as he looked around the dark room he was in. His shoulder hurt a bit now, a dull throb the only indicator of his surgery for now. Lee turned his head slightly when he heard a small noise.

Sasuke was sitting cross legged with a sleeping Naruto on his lap, both boys looking content as Sasuke smiled at Lee gently. Lee could see the softness in his friends gaze hardening slightly as he removed the hand he had been using to stroke Naruto’s hair.

Lee had been aware of Sasuke’s feelings for Naruto since middle school, knowing that the Uchiha wasn’t particularly romantic or good at identifying his own feelings. Lee felt bad for his younger friend but he knew this was something Sasuke had to do for himself. Lee smiled at Sasuke and gave a thumbs up at the boy.

“Hey Lee,” Sasuke greeted before shaking Naruto violently. “Wake up idiot, Lee’s up.” Naruto woke with a start.

"I'll eat the rest of the ramen!" He declared excitedly as he regained conscious thought, rubbed his eyes before looking up at Lee. Lee chuckled as Naruto’s smile filled his heart with affection for his friend. Lee let out a laugh as Sasuke rolled his eyes at Naruto's antics. 

“Bushy Brows!” Naruto yelled just as Tsunade entered the doors. She took a small glance down at Naruto and Sasuke as they untangled their limbs and tried to rise only to smack their heads together painfully. Tsunade shook her head and a smirk appeared on her lips as the boys rubbed their aching foreheads. 

“Should have known you two would sneak in here.” She said with a chuckle as she turned to Lee to check out his vitals. Everything seemed normal as she nodded to herself then stepped away to look Lee in the eye.

“How do you feel?” She asked, her demeanor becoming calm as she switched into her healer mindset. “Are you feeling any pain?” Lee smiled.

“I am just a little sleepy still but the pain is bearable.” Lee replied as Tsunade helped him sit up, helping him guide his way off the bed and into a wheelchair. Naruto rose to take the chair from Tsunade, smiling brightly as Sasuke took the spot next to Lee’s chair.

“I sure hope so after all that work I put into you.” Tsunade stated as she ruffled the jet black hair and Naruto pushed the wheelchair through the doors. The group rolled Lee down the hall, taking the corner.

“Everyone has been waiting for you to get off your lazy ass and say Hi all afternoon.” The blond said as he pushed the chair towards the waiting area. Lee’s eyebrows crinkled in confusion at first, but they widened as they rounded the last corner at the end of the hall.

Lee was greeted by several calls of his name. His fathers’ smiling at him as they ruffled his hair, the other’s gathered around his wheelchair to ask how he felt. Neji laid a hand on the uninjured shoulder while TenTen grinned at him.

“How are you feeling Lee?” Neji asked, concern crinkling the corners of his lavender eyes. Lee smiled his wide grin and gave a thumbs up at his best friend.

“I feel fine, it hurts a little but I am sure I will recover in no time.” He stated happily as TenTen laughed and shook her head. There was no doubt in her mind that Lee would recover.

“Well Neji turned in all your homework for you and the teachers said not to worry until your better.” TenTen said happily “So you just focus on getting better.” Lee looked around at all the people. So many of his family and friends were talking all at once, surrounding him with congratulations and well wishes.

The smile that Lee wore at all the people who had come to wish him well faltered a bit when he saw Gaara staying near the corner, as if he felt he had no right to join him. Lee smiled and waved to the red head when their eyes met. Gaara’s teal eyes met his and Lee’s breath caught for just a moment at how beautiful the other boy was.

“G-Gaara!” Lee exclaimed, recovering almost immediately as Naruto wheeled him over. “I am glad you came too, I will be better in no time just wait and see.” The smallest twitch of Gaara’s mouth made Lee’s heart swell with pride.

“I told Maito-sensei that I would assist as best I could with your recovery at the dojo.” Gaara replied with a slight smirk. “I get the feeling I’m in for the punishment he mentioned earlier.” Lee laughed at that, his heart skipping a beat as Gaara moved towards him.

He had made the red head smile a little and that made him feel like he could run one thousand miles. Gaara walked over and took the spot next to Lee’s chair as they all walked back to Lee’s room. No one seemed to catch the slight falter in Lee’s speech or the light blush that dusted his cheeks.

Well almost no one caught it.

Kakashi caught the falter as well as the widening of his son’s eyes when he’d laid eyes on the red head. He walked behind the group, watching his son interact with the red head. Gaara visibly relaxed around Lee and Naruto in a way he had been unable to around everyone else. Lee began to talk animatedly to Gaara and Naruto both about his plans on recovery but Kakashi recognized the tenderness in those dark eyes when he spoke to Gaara.  

It was the same tenderness that Gai had always held in his eyes for Kakashi. Kakashi had to hold back an affectionate chuckle, Lee was truly Gai’s son.

A fact that almost made Kakashi shake when he realized how much Gaara No Subaku reminded him of himself when he was in high school, aloof, emotionally distant and a loner. Gaara may have tried to open up more to Naruto and Kakashi was fine with that. Naruto was tough, he could handle it if Gaara tried to hurt him because unfortunately the blonde had dealt with that kind of thing before. Lee’s heart was made of something gentler though. 

Lee may have been strong physically, made tough from the hard training but the teen was weak when it came to his emotions. Lee would not be able to handle heartbreak. Gaara had already physically hurt his son.

Kakashi narrowed his good eye as he watched Gaara settle on the end of Lee’s bed. Neji and TenTen glared at him, Sasuke moving over to join them when Naruto took the spot next to Gaara. The blond ruffled the red hair, messing it up more than it already was. Lee smiled as Gaara glared at the blond, speaking kindly about the teasing. Gaara relaxed and Kakashi tensed.

Jiraiya placed a hand on Kakashi’s shoulder, startling the slightly smaller man out of his thoughts. The older man smiled down at his friend, his eyes leaving Kakashi’s own blue to watch Lee and Gaara.

“I know you’re worried but you got to let kids make their own mistakes.” Jiraiya said, trying to comfort the younger man as they watched just outside the room. Kakashi didn’t remove his eye from his child. His mind protested but his heart found Jiraiya to be right, no matter how much Kakashi hated that fact.

“But what if he gets hurt?” Kakashi asked, his voice sounding more lost than he meant for it to. Jiraiya chuckled as he threw an arm around Kakashi’s shoulders. He led the silver haired man forward into the room.

“We give them space and pick up the pieces if things fall apart.” Jiraiya explained with a small chuckle. “What was it they said. “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots; the other, wings.” Got to let the kids figure it out sometimes even if they break a few things in the process.”

Kakashi sighed and joined his family and friends in their festivities, giving up control to the universe and whatever it had in store for his son.

It wouldn't stop him from watching Gaara like a hawk though. One wrong move, one ill placed comment or hurtful word and Kakashi was sure he could not be held responsible for his actions. Gaara would regret ever meeting Lee.

Hell, he would regret being born.  


 

It was well after visiting hours by the time the nurses kicked the remaining members of the group out of Lee’s room so the teen could rest. Neji and TenTen had long since left, along with Sasuke and Kakashi. The silver haired male agreed to drive Lee’s friends home so he could get to bed and be up for work the next day. Iruka had left because he had a meeting with a patient in the morning, taking Sakura with him. So thus Gai, Jiraiya, Naruto and Gaara were all that remained of the once large group. 

Lee smiled as Gaara became a little more comfortable in the presence of Gai and Jiraiya, even taking a book from Jiraiya. Lee was thankful it was one of the man’s non-romantic serials. He would probably die of embarrassment if it had been the books Kakashi often read. Tsunade reinforced the decision and yelled for them all to leave.

“Come on brats,” Tsunade yelled, grabbing Jiraiya and Naruto by the ears when they refused to leave on their own. Lee waved as the men were dragged out complaining loudly and griping in pain. Gai laughed out loud before turning and leaning down to kiss his son’s head. Lee bent his head down slightly in embarrassment as his cheeks flushed red. Gaara stood awkwardly, slightly averting his eyes. He had regained his nervous energy, as if unsure what to do with the display.

“Get some sleep Lee.” Gai said with a grin, straightening himself and ruffling his son’s hair. Lee laughed and smiled up at his father. Gai then turned dramatically to Gaara. The red head met the older man’s gaze easily.

“Is your father coming to get you?” Gai asked, watching for Gaara’s reaction. Gaara shook his head, looking down and away.

“No, I was just going to walk home.” Gaara replied, placing his hands in the pockets of his dark red jacket. Lee’s eyebrows crashed down in worry.

“It is not safe for you to walk home like you always do Gaara.” Lee scolded lightly, placing his good hand on Gaara’s shoulder. “It is too cold out and there is a storm warning.” Gaara looked up at Lee. He seemed unsure of what to do with the boys concern. Gaara shrugged.

“I’ll be fine, I’m used to…” he started only to be interrupted by Lee.

‘You should not have to be used to it!” Lee cried out. He blushed as he realized how loud he had been, dropping his hand from Gaara’s shoulder to wring the blanket in his hand. Lee felt his heart ache for the look in Gaara’s eyes, the look of anger and loneliness that made him angry at the man who put it there.

“I am sorry for shouting…I am just tired.” Lee apologized calmly. Gaara’s eyes widened and he just stared at Lee, unsure of what to say at first.

“It’s…fine.” He assured, not meeting Lee’s eyes. An awkward silence settled over the room for a moment as both boys blushed at the outburst. Gai took that moment to clear his throat, hoping to dispel some of the tension.

“Get your things Gaara, Lee is right. It is way too dangerous for you to walk home in a snowstorm” the man said with his usual grin. “I’ll drive you on my way home, just give me directions.” Gaara opened his mouth to protest but seemed to decide against it, shutting his mouth in favor of gathering his back pack.

Lee looked up at his father gratefully as Gaara turned his back to gather his things from the chair. Gai smiled at his son, giving him a thumbs up. It warmed his heart when his son returned the gesture.

Gaara turned back, raising his brow slightly at the two men before shaking his head. He slung his back pack over one shoulder and turned to Gai.

“I’m ready.” He stated simply before turning to Lee, who straightened up and smiled at Gaara warmly. “I will be back tomorrow around the usual time.” Lee nodded, giving Gaara a thumbs up.

“I look forward to it Gaara.” Lee chirped, all embarrassment gone. “Have a good night.” The boys locked eyes, a moment seemingly passign between them as the minutes passed. Gai chuckled, shaking his head and putting a hand on Gaara’s shoulder to lead him away. He hadn't realized just how big of a crush Lee had on Gaara. It reminded him of his own teen years pining after Kakashi. It made the older man smile. 

“Get some sleep my son, Gaara will be perfectly safe in my care.” Gai reassured as they walked out of the room and down the hall. Gai shook his head at the pair.


 

Gai steered skillfully through the snow covered streets in his large green truck, occasionally looking over at Gaara when the teen pointed to a turn they needed to take. Gai nodded at the directions, enjoying the quiet. The man remained silent except for the occasional question of direction until he pulled in front of the small brook stone style apartments, the snow was raging outside as Gaara gathered his things from it's spot at his feet. 

Gai bit his lip for a moment. He had been playing with an idea since he had left the hospital, he finally reached a decision quickly when he noticed the red head reach for the door. The snow fell gently but in large amounts that gave way to drifts. 

“Wait a moment Gaara.” Gai requested as he reached down for the business cards he kept in his cup holders, using a pen from his middle console to hastily write down two numbers on the back. Gaara raised a nonexistent brow at the older man as he held out the card.

“Here Gaara,” Gai offered, handing the card to Gaara, who took it cautiously turning the card to look over the phone numbers. Gai smiled at him.

“The first one is Lee’s number, in case you wanted to text or call him sometime.” Gai explained. “The other one is mine, in case you ever have an emergency, or need a ride or need to talk.” Gaara stared at the little card for another moment longer before putting it in his pocket gently. He didn’t look up as he moved to leave.

“Thank you Maito-sensei…” Gaara started but Gai reached over and ruffled his hair. The boy froze at the warm gesture and Gai felt his heart cry out for the boy.

“Call me Gai-sensei Gaara.” The man asked, moving his hand away to give a thumbs up. “All of my students do and you are one of my students now.” Gaara nodded mutely before lifting up his hood up over his head and opening the door. 

A rush of cool air hit Gai's face, causing him to shiver slightly as he watched the boy turn away and slide out of the car. The height of the truck was almost too high for the short teen but he managed to get his feet on the ground with little problem. Gaara turned to Gai once more, his eyes searching Gai's for something that only the red head knew of. 

“Thank you,” Gaara thanked awkwardly and unsure, gripping the door tightly with one hand and pulling his hoodie closer to his body with the other. “Have a good night…Gai-sensei.” Gai grinned brightly,

“Have a good night Gaara.” He returned as he watched the boy shut the truck door with a slam, walking around the front of the truck and trudging up to his front door. Gaara struggled to find his keys for a moment before pulling them out of his thin jacket pocket and sticking them in the lock.

Gaara disappeared into the house and Gai pulled his truck into drive and started for home. Kakashi was not going to be happy that he’d given Gaara his personal number but Gai knew that Gaara needed someone to rely on. If anyone needed to be cared for and loved, it was the No Subaku teen his son had taken such a liking to.

Gai would help him as much as he could.


 

Gaara entered the house, shaking off his jacket and boots. It was late and only the light of the television in the living room was on. Kankuro laid asleep on the on the couch, various tools spread throughout the living room as well as a half finished battle robot on the coffee table. Kakuro snored loudly as Gaara entered the room. Gaara shook his head slightly in amusement. 

Gaara entered the room, turning off the television and setting the fallen remote on the already cluttered coffee table. He looked over at his older brother for a moment before pulling the blanket that laid over the back of the couch off of it. He gently pulled the warm material over Kankuro. Gaara was gentle to avoid waking his older brother and watched him sleep for a moment before heading up to his room. 

Gaara closed the door and collapsed on his bed, the old twin mattress squeaking in protest as it distributed his weight. Gaara took his phone from his pocket as well as the card Gai had given him. He held them up and stared for several minutes before flipping open his old phone and typing in Gai’s number and hitting the save button.

Gaara hesitated slightly when he went to enter Lee’s number and text a message to him so he would have his number. He hovered over the send button, unsure of if he should let Lee have his number. He was not used to having friends, was it customary to take a friends number from their parent when they hadn’t offered it?

Gaara decided to just explain where he had gotten the number and send the text. He rolled over and sighed, his body felt utterly exhausted after the day’s events and his jaw was sore from TenTen’s punch. Despite appearances, the brunette had a mean right hook. 

Gaara rose from his bed to check the mirror that hung over his dresser, inspecting the place on his jaw where he had taken the hit. The pale skin was turning slightly grayish blue, indicating the location of the bruise that had just barely begun forming. Gaara flexed his jaw and sighed. Temari would ask about that when she saw it but at least he hadn’t gotten into a fight this time.

Suddenly, a soft buzz filled the air and Gaara turned to his bed. His small black flip phone had lit up, telling him he had a new text message. Gaara flipped it open and read the words that Lee had texted him.

I am glad Gai-sensei gave you my number, I kept forgetting to!

What are you up to?

Gaara stared at the message for a moment, his thumbs hovering over his keys as he thought of a reply. He decided to be honest and stated what he had been doing despite that it was not very interesting. It wasn't like Lee expected him to be doing anything productive anyway. 

Just inspecting a bruise on my jaw. I have no homework at the moment so I may start reading that book Naruto’s grandfather gave me.

Gaara had barely set his phone down before Lee texted again, making the phone shake on the nightstand it lay on. Gaara opened the screen to inspect the message. 

How did you get a bruise on your jaw? were you in another fight? 

Gaara felt his heart ache a little at the concern he could find in Lee's text. The wide eyed male was constantly fussing over him, it was new and odd for anyone to care about him in such a way. He'd have to ask Naruto if Lee was always like this. Part of him however, hoped that this was special treatment. 

TenTen was rather unhappy about the injury I gave you. She punched me in the jaw as revenge and then we went about our day.  

Gaara threw the phone down after hitting send, deciding to change his clothes. He threw off his long sleeve shirt and pulled off his still soaked cargo pants. He shivered slightly at the cold before pulling on his flannel pajama bottoms and sleep shirt, diving into his covers in hopes of staying warm. He would never be used to the cold winters of Konoha. 

He pulled over his back pack and took out the book he had received from Jiraiya. The small orange book looked slightly battered as he read the title.

The Tale of the Utterly Gutsy Shinobi

 Gaara made a small sound of approval as he laid the book on his lap. His phone vibrated next to him again and Gaara reached over to grab it.

Lee’s number flashed on the screen and Gaara hesitated for a moment before answering it.

“Hello?” he said curiously, unsure as to why Lee would call him.

“Hello Gaara, I hope you do not mind me calling but it is easier than texting.” Lee admitted sheepishly, his voice slightly grainy from over the phone speaker. “It is very hard to text when I have one arm in a sling.” Gaara hummed in understanding.

“I suppose that makes sense.” Gaara decided, not sure what to speak about. Lee quickly filled the silence though.

“I was also a bit bored anyway before you texted me,” Lee explained, “I cannot sleep and there is nothing to do but read…I do not really feel like trying to do that.” Gaara leaned back against his pillows, settling into them comfortably.

“Why is that?” Gaara questioned. “Doesn’t reading make most people tired anyway?” He then remembered seeing Lee on the roof his first day of school. Lee had been struggling to read aloud, mispronouncing words and scolding himself for struggling.

“Well you see Gaara…” Lee hesitated and Gaara could practically hear the dark haired teen biting his lip in nervousness. Gaara grew impatient and sighed.

“Spit it out Lee, it cannot be that hard to say.” He stated coolly. Lee laughed nervously in response and Gaara worried he had been too short with Lee. 

“Well, I have dyslexia.” Lee confessed. “When I was in the foster home they never cared enough to notice but when Gai-sensei and Kakashi adopted me, they noticed how hard school was for me and they had me tested.” Gaara’s eyes widened at the confession, unsure of what to say.

“I am a lot better than I used to be but sometimes I still struggle with time, dates, grammar and reading.” Lee continued with a small chuckle. “It’s nice to know that I’m not as stupid as I used to believe though.” Gaara bit his lip in thought at what his next words should be. He didn't want to insult Lee or say the wrong things. 

“Would you like me to read Jiraiya’s book aloud?” Gaara offered slowly, his heart hammering slightly at his own words. He hoped that this was something friends did for each other. “To help you sleep…” the sound of a crash on the other end made Gaara perk up in slight alarm.

“Lee?” he asked to the static on the other end. Some shuffling could be heard and then Lee’s voice returned.

“Y-yes.” Lee said quickly into the mouth piece. “I-I would like that very much Gaara, if you do not mind.” Gaara felt the barest tug of a smile on his lips at Lee’s reaction. Apparently he was just as surprised at Gaara’s offer as Gaara had been. Gaara relaxed his shoulders a little as he looked down at the book in his lap. 

“Let’s see…” Gaara started, placing the phone between his left ear and shoulder as he maneuvered the small book into one hand and thumbed the page open to the first chapter.

“Are you ready Lee?” he asked Lee before he started to read, unsure how his gesture would be received.


 

To say Lee had been surprised to hear Gaara ask if he could read to him was an understatement. His jaw had dropped and his hand had loosened its hold on his phone, sending it sliding to the floor. Lee had snapped out of it quickly and moved to fetch the gadget.

He had to get up and crawl rather awkwardly under the bed, trying to remain mindful of his injury and eventually grabbing his phone. He had pressed it to his ear just in time for Gaara to say his name. The deep, calm tone was enough to make his spine tingle.

Lee decided then that he always wanted his name to sound that way.

“Y-yes.” Lee answered quickly into the mouth piece. “I-I would like that very much Gaara, if you do not mind.” Gaara chuckled a little and Lee crawled back into bed, settling into his pillows before replacing the phone by his ear.

“Let’s see…” Gaara started and Lee heard rustling on the other end of the phone as Gaara adjusted himself. “Are you ready Lee?” Gaara asked and Lee felt himself nodding, still surprised.

“All set on this end Gaara.” He replied when he found his voice. Gaara hummed in response and Lee heard another rustle before Gaara began to read aloud. Lee closed his eyes, listening to the soft rumble of Gaara’s voice as he described the forest where an enemy ninja was fighting with the hero of the story. Gaara seemed to fall right into the story. He read slowly and calmly, keeping a rhythm that was calming. Lee felt all the tension leave his body. 

Gaara chortled a little when the name of the hero was revealed but continued onward. Lee found Gaara’s dulcet tone, not monotone but almost calm to be the most soothing thing he had heard. He felt his eyes grow heavy as Gaara continued the story, unable to keep his eyes from closing as the last thing he heard was Gaara softly saying.

“Have pleasant dreams Lee, enough for both of us.”

Before his brain could even register the words, Lee fell into the blackness of sleep claimed him.

Chapter Text


 

Lee chewed on the end of his pencil as he poured over what was left of his history homework. He had one more question left and he would be done with his work. It was a struggle to work on writing with his right hand as he was normally left handed, but Neji was quick to help him write a neater version if need be.

He scribbled down the answer just as his phone vibrated and he reached over to pick up the green gadget. He looked at the message and his heart warmed, a bright smile appearing on his face.

Your father is trying to kill me with all these push ups and running. Does he ever stop talking about youth?

Lee chuckled as he texted back, leaning back in his chair as he thought about his reply.

It had been almost five weeks since his surgery and Lee had certainly become closer to Gaara. Gaara and Lee texted almost constantly now. Even if they had nothing important to say, they would always at least text about their days. At first, Lee would tentatively call at night before he fell asleep in hopes of hearing Gaara’s voice.

Then Gaara had started calling first, alleviating Lee’s fear that he was being weird. Their routine became cemented in seeing each other, speaking to each other. Lee felt an expansion of warmth in his chest at the thought.

“Don’t you have homework to finish?”

Lee looked up to see Kakashi in the doorway, barely out of his teaching outfit with the tie that hung loosely around his neck. Lee blushed as he turned back to his work.

“S-sorry Kakashi,” He apologized sheepishly, setting his phone off to the side. “Gaara just got done with martial arts class. I think Gai-sensei maybe be trying to train him for the next tournament.” Kakashi rolled his eyes and tried to reign in his annoyance. Lee didn’t notice as he looked down at his phone when it vibrated again.

Your father is crazy. He wants me to do a tournament next month, doesn’t he remember what happened when I sparred with the Hyuuga last week?

Lee held back a laugh as he recalled the vicious loss Gaara had suffered at the hands of Neji. Neji was Lee’s greatest opponent in the ring so Lee hadn’t suspected Gaara to hold his own so well. Gaara had managed to hold out for three rounds on a tie before Neji scored his winning point. 

Kakashi cleared his throat, calling his son’s attention back to himself.

“Well we are heading out to get ramen tonight so finish up and get dressed.” Kakashi stated, his eye crinkling in concern. “Do you need any help getting ready?”

Lee shook his head and let out an annoyed sigh. He still had one more day before he could stop using the sling but it felt like he had worn the garment forever. It made it hard to shower, change his clothes and even function properly. Tsunade had put the fear of god into him however, threatening to lock him in the hospital again if he tried to use his arm until she told him.

Lee really hated the hospital, it was boring and he wasn’t allowed to move around as much as he liked. Sitting still did not suit the bowl cut sporting teen.

“I’m sure I can manage on my own, I’ll just leave my pants on and change my shirt.” Lee supplemented as he stood up. Kakashi nodded, leaving the room to go change himself. Lee felt his phone vibrate yet again.

Lee opened the phone and he read over the text as he walked to his closet.

Naruto and Gai-sensei invited me to dinner so we are stopping by your house to pick up you and Hatake it seems.

Lee blinked at the message then looked down at his current state of dress.

His green sweat pants were faded and stained from the years of use, various holes covered the legs. His once white shirt was now gray with various mustard and curry stains. Lee squeaked in panic and turned around quickly to face his closet.

He normally took at least a little effort in putting together his appearance but something about Gaara coming over to his house made him nervous. Lee ran his hand through his hair as he scanned the closet for something suitable. He couldn't look like he hadn't changed his clothes in days. 

He tried to tear off his shirt, sliding his good arm out and using it to slide his pants off. Lee managed to get his pants off around his knees and pulled the shirt over his head. Before he could let his head escape to get it over the sling, the sling tangled in the material.

Lee grumbled as struggled to lift his injured arm from the trap he’d gotten it into. He tried to wiggle free, catching his foot in his pants and falling backwards with a loud bang. Lee hissed in pain as he hit the hardwood.

Lee managed to sit himself up, trying to breathe out the pain. The heat of the exhale being held in by the cotton. Lee growled in frustration when he heard a small chuckle coming from the direction of his doorway.

“Do you want to rethink having me help you get dressed?” Kakashi’s playful tone asked as Lee heard his footsteps walk forward. A hand eased its way under his sling, lifting the arm carefully and sliding the shirt free from Lee’s head.

Lee blinked and took a deep breath of fresh air. His father laughed out loud, not trying to spare his son the embarrassment. The man stood shirtless and clearly only halfway through changing his own clothes. Lee blushed deeply as he nodded.

“Gai-sensei invited Gaara to eat…I realized that my current attire was a little…” Lee blushed deeper as he tried to explain. Kakashi’s laughter faltered and he looked down at his son for a moment. He sighed at his lover’s spur of the moment ideas, making a mental note to talk to him later.

Kakashi went over to his son’s closet, scanning it for a pair of blue jeans and a long sleeved green shirt. Turning back to face his son, Kakashi held up the shirt. Lee nodded as Kakashi moved forward and pulled the shirt over his son’s head. Lee quickly pulled his right arm through the arm hole, a practiced action after so many weeks of help. Kakashi gently guided the injured shoulder from the sling and pulled it through the long sleeve.

After replacing the arm in the sling, Kakashi held the pants open and let Lee balance himself using his shoulder as anchor. Lee lifted his feet one at a time into the jeans and allowed Kakashi to pull them up and button them. Kakashi conceded the zipping of the pants to his son.

“There,” Kakashi reassured as he ran a hand through Lee’s black hair, trying to tame the mess the shirt had left. “If that crush of yours doesn’t think you look adorable in that, he has no taste.” Lee blushed again, his eyebrows jumping up in indignation.

“I-I do not have a crush on Gaara!” Lee stammered, adjusting his shirt and pocketing his phone. “We are friends…that is all!” Kakashi raised an eyebrow at his son, giving him a skeptical look just before turning to leave. The silver haired man shook his head.

“Whatever you say Lee. Be sure to put on a pair of warm socks, its cold out.” He chuckled, leaving the room. Just as he turned the corner to head back to his room. The door opened downstairs with a crash, drawing Kakashi to the stairs.

At the door stood Naruto, Gaara and Gai. The three of them covered in snow with red cheeks and noses as they tried to warm up before taking off their snow jackets.

Naruto waved to the man from the front door as he tore off his bright orange jacket, shaking snow onto the floor. The snow melted and made puddles on the wood. Kakashi shook his head, smiling down as he leaned over the railing.

“Making an entrance as usual, aren’t we Naruto?” Kakashi teased as Gaara hung his jacket on the coat rack neatly. Their eyes met briefly and Kakashi watched the teal gave flick down his chest, lingering on the raised scars just under his pectorals before Gaara looked away. Kakashi almost wanted the red head to ask just so he could have a reason to smack him.

Naruto grabbed Gaara by the wrist, dragging the teen up the stairs and past Kakashi. Naruto grinned as he took a deep breath.

“LEE!” the blonde shouted at the top of his lungs, making Kakashi’s sensitive ears ring as he sped past and disappeared into Lee’s room. Kakashi opened his mouth to protest when the blond slammed the door. He turned quickly towards his son’s room.

“Leave it o-.” he started just as he felt strong arms wrap around his waist, pulling him to Gai’s firm chest. Cool lips met the base of his neck and Kakashi leaned back as Gai kissed up to his ear. Warm breath tickled his ears as Gai chuckled.

“Leave them be for the moment.” Gai whispered into Kakashi’s ear, sending shivers down his spine.  “We have just enough time for a shower, let’s go.”  Kakashi meant to protest but thoughts failed him when Gai nibbled gently on the shell of his ear, his large calloused hands gently moving down Kakashi’s torso. Kakashi sighed, turning in Gai’s arms and pressing his warm chest to his lover’s. He gentle carded his fingers through Gai’s hair as he met the dark eyes with his own blue.

“You are making it really hard to argue.” Kakashi rumbled as Gai cupped his ass, pulling the smaller man’s body up into his arms. Kakashi jumped up slightly to wrap his legs around Gai’s waist and grabbed onto his lover’s strong shoulders. Gai looked up at Kakashi, a playful spark in his dark eyes as he began walking into their room.

“That is the point rival.” Gai stated as Kakashi leaned down to kiss him, closing his eyes in content. The dark haired man hummed in joy as he used his foot to close the door to their room with a small slam.


 

Gaara’s eyes scanned Lee’s room. It was fairly unimpressive it seemed. A queen sized bed in the corner with an orange and green bedspread, a desk near the small closet, a single dresser and nightstand. Lee smiled at him from his bed and Gaara felt his heart warm in affection.

He returned the bright grin with his own smaller one. Naruto practically dive bombed onto the bed with a loud whoop, almost knocking Lee off with the force.

“Do not do that Naruto or you are going to buy me a new one.” Lee joked as his friend reached over to toy with the radio on the nightstand, rolling over on his belly. Lee patted the bed, inviting Gaara over. The red head sat down quietly next to Lee.

“Don’t worry bushy brow, I won’t break it.” The blond laughed, finally deciding on a rock station and sitting up. Naruto crossed his legs and pouted. “at least now we won’t have to listen to Kakashi and Bushier brows-sensei go at it like dogs in heat.” Lee blushed deeply.

“I-I do not think they would while Gaara is here…” Lee stuttered as he moved nervously. Naruto gave a sly grin at his friend’s embarrassment, chuckling mischievously.

“Come on Lee.” Naruto teased good-naturedly. “You know how Gai gets when Kakashi takes his shirt off and shows off his scars. I bet there banging in the shower now.” Lee’s face went bright red, he buried his face in his hand for moment and squeaked. Gaara gave Naruto a look of question as Lee sputtered.

“Naruto!” he scolded, pushing the blonde’s shoulder and causing the teen to crash to the ground. Naruto stood up, rubbing his backside. Gaara looked up at both his friends

“You mean the one’s on his chest?” Gaara asked innocently, raising his finger to his mouth as he crinkled his brow. “Where did he get those anyway they seem odd.” Naruto and Lee stiffened visibly, exchanging a look. Gaara's look became one of confusion. 

“What?” he asked again, had said something wrong somehow?

 Lee hesitated for a moment. He really wanting to explain but unsure if it was his place. Kakashi usually explained the situation to his friends when the subject came up and Lee didn’t want to tell someone if his father didn’t want him to. He also felt nervousness. What if Gaara was uncomfortable with being his friend after this?

Lee decided he trusted Gaara enough to handle the secret.

“Kakashi is transgender Gaara.” Lee explained carefully. “He was born with female parts but he takes hormones so he appears more masculine. The scars are from the surgery he had to remove his breasts.” Gaara blinked at the explanation.

“So…he’s a tranny?” Gaara questioned. “Wait does that mean Gai isn’t really gay then, seeing as Hatake is a woman?” Lee felt his eyes widen at the use of the slur and the use of the term woman to describe his father.

“Do not use that word, it is very disrespectful Gaara!” Lee snapped, losing his temper for a moment. Naruto crossed his arms and glared at the red head as Lee continued. “And Kakashi is a man, he is not and never will be a woman and Gai-sensei is bisexual so it doesn’t really matter because he is not gay to begin with.” Gaara’s eyes widened at Lee’s clipped tone as Naruto stood up off the bed.

Before Lee could react Naruto curled back his hand.

Smack!

The next thing Gaara knew, he was on the floor looking up at a wide eyed Lee and a pissed off Naruto. Naruto glared down at him.

“If you have a problem with Kakashi and Bushier brow-sensei’s relationship than you can forget about ever being my friend again.” Naruto growled, meeting Gaara’s eyes fiercely. Gaara rubbed his head, hoping to ease the pain. Lee looked down at him sadly, looking away from him. Gaara felt his heart stab in pain. Lee looked almost sad and Gaara had caused that.

“I apologize…that is how my father always referred to people like that, I didn’t realize it was insulting.” Gaara said, staring at his feet. Lee’s hard gaze softened at Gaara’s apology. Leaning down, the bushy browed teen offered his hand. Gaara took it and Lee helped his friend to his feet.  

“It is fine Gaara,” Lee forgave, his smile returning slightly. Naruto nodded and scratched the back of his head.

“I should have asked before hitting you,” Naruto conceded sheepishly. “It’s not your fault if you didn’t know any better…”

Lee nodded in agreement, flashing his normal thumbs up and wide grin as he continued. “We should not have snapped at you. Just try to be careful with your words.” Gaara nodded, raising his eyes to meet Lee’s.

“I will just refrain from using language my father uses when explaining people…I know that certain words aren’t appropriate but it seems I still need to learn a little.” Gaara said, running a hand through his hair. "And you were just defending your family..."  Lee gulped as he locked eyes with Gaara. Silence passed by for a moment before a loud bang could be heard on the door.

“Come one boys, time’s a wasting!” Came the cheery sound of Gai’s voice. “We don’t want to keep the other’s waiting!” Naruto rolled his eyes at Gai's good mood.

"Yeah they totally banged." He commented, making Lee blush once more before the blond gave a cheer as he leapt towards the door. Naruto tore it open forcibly, making the hinges creak.

“RAMEN!” the blonde shouted as his socked feet thumped down the steps. Lee smiled and headed for the door. He turned back to look at Gaara when he didn’t sense the other boy’s movement. Gaara held his gaze to his feet. Lee’s eyes softened in affection at Gaara’s obvious discomfort at insulting his friends family, no matter how unintentional. 

Lee gently reached out, taking Gaara by the wrist and causing the red head to look up. Lee smiled down at him.

“Let us go eat Gaara, I am starving!” Lee said, leading his friend out of the room. Lee tried to ignore the small spark that passed through his fingers as he touched Gaara’s skin. Gaara felt his heart warm at Lee’s touch. The skin around his wrists felt warmer than usual as he let Lee lead him out of the room.

Why did he desperately want to reach out and curl his fingers around Lee’s? Why was his heart racing and Lee's smile making his heart ache? Gaara had little time to think as Lee pulled him down the stairs. The black haired male released his hands when they got to the front door in favor of putting on his boots.

Gaara watched Lee from the corner of his eye as he shrugged on his thin hoodie, trying to ascertain why his heart picked up when Lee looked up at him with that bright grin.

Gaara looked away just as Naruto decided to drag him by the shoulders back into the cold weather and the redhead hoped the cool air would hide his burning cheeks.


 

The Ramen shop was a quiet little place, warm and inviting. Gaara turned to look over the chef and waitress when Lee greeted them with a wave.

“Ayame, Mr. Ichiraku!” He greeted happily. “It is good to see you again!” the older chef gave a chuckle as he stuck his head out his little window, raising his spoon in a greeting.

“Lee!” the man chirped with a bright smile. “It’s good to see you feeling better, gave us quiet a scare when we heard.” Lee nodded happily.

"I'm almost all better, I hope to see you at my next tournament next fall." Lee exclaimed happily then looked down at Gaara, remembering the red head’s presence.

“Oh Mr. Ichiraku, this is my friend Gaara No Subaku.” Lee introduced, pulling Gaara forward so the man could see him. “He recently moved here from Suna.”  The woman smiled at him gently before turning to her father with a happy grin.

“We may finally have found someone who will try that beef tongue ramen you insisted on inventing after your last trip to Suna, dad.” She joked and the chef rolled his eyes. He lifted his spoon in mock threat.

“Listen you little…” he started to say but the sound of Gaara clearing his throat called them to attention. Gaara crossed his arms in front of him as he spoke.

“Beef tongue is my favorite actually…if you have it I’d love to try it in ramen.” He requested politely. Lee gave him a look of surprise. Teichou blinked and Ayame turned her head quickly, her jaw dropping. Teichou then split into a huge grin.

“I like this kid already, first bowl is on the house!” the man said jovially before disappearing into the kitchen to make the ramen. Lee smiled at Gaara, leading him down to the tables where Jiraiya, Naruto, Neji, TenTen, Sasuke, Tsunade, Iruka, and his father’s had seated themselves.

“Hey Lee, I bet I can finish my ramen faster than you!” Naruto said loudly and Lee laughed, clenching his good fist in determination. His eyebrows crashed down and his expression became playfully mock-serious.

“You are on Naruto!” Lee exclaimed, leaving Gaara’s side. Gaara let a small smirk grace his lips as Jiraiya turned to him. Gaara tried not to appear startled as the man smiled at him warmly and waved him over to him.

“Heya kid, what do you think of that book I gave you?” He asked happily, catching Gaara off guard with the casual attempt at conversation. Gaara blinked for a moment before taking the seat next to the man just as the ramen began to come out onto the table.

“It was very exciting so far,” Gaara noted, leaning back in his chair and nodding his thanks to Ayame when she placed his food in front of him. He pulled apart his chopsticks and took a piece of the tongue onto it. “I’m only on chapter five so far but I can’t wait to see if Naruto finds Renge in the next chapter.”

Jiraiya nodded, chortling as he poured himself another cup of beer. Gaara gently took the soft beef tongue into his mouth savoring the taste. The salty piece of tender meat brought back memories of Suna, the familiar taste a comfort in this new environment. Some things never changed.

“I thought you’d like it.” He said, ruffling Gaara’s hair warmly as he took a drink from his glass before digging into his food. “And when you’re older I’ll let you read my romance series.” Tsunade turned her head up from her glass of sake suddenly, raising her head quickly and smacking Jiraiya upside the head. The sound startled Gaara and made him jump slightly.

“You will do no such thing, you giant pervert.” Tsunade growled as the grey haired man rubbed his aching head. He glared up at Tsunade and grumbled.

“Why do you have to hit me?” the man complained as Tsunade smacked him again, a little lighter this time.

“I’ll stop hitting you when you stop being a pervert.” She replied with a huff, turning back to her food with a small sniff. Jiraiya rolled his eyes.

Gaara chuckled a little at the adults then caught Lee’s eye. The dark haired male looked over at him with some slight worry, as if he wasn’t sure how Gaara would handle the group. Gaara offered the teen a small thumbs up. Lee smiled brightly once more and turned back to Naruto, Gaara’s chest expanding with warmth once more.

Gaara decided that he liked it when Lee smiled at him like that.


 

Gaara hopped out of Gai’s green truck, waving to the man as he trudged through snow drifts to his front door.

Since that first night, Gai had taken to driving the teen from the dojo or Lee’s house back to Gaara’s home. The older man was always quick to blame the cold but Gaara knew it was because Gai was worried about him. It made Gaara feel warm and cared for in a way he hadn’t experienced before. He was slowly getting used to the treatment.

His house was empty tonight when he entered.

Temari was away with their father on business and would be gone for the next four weeks. Kankuro had finally finished his battle bot and had taken it to a few towns over to compete in a tournament. Gaara shivered as he shrugged off his coat and hung it up.

Making his way up the stairs, Gaara suppressed a cough. His throat had been aching all day and his muscles felt tired. He’d done a good job of hiding it from his friends, hoping it was just a passing bug. He couldn’t afford to get sick.

Gaara closed the door to his room. He removed his shirt, feeling a little too warm even in his normally cold room as he collapsed onto his bed. His eyes felt heavy as he pulled back the covers and laid down.

He settled into his bed, his eyes slowly blinking shut. Gaara was vaguely aware of his phone vibrating as he slowly slipped into sleep. His body betraying him as darkness claimed his vision.


 

Lee furrowed his brow when Gaara didn’t answer his phone. It was odd. They always talked around nine o'clock before Lee fell asleep so they could read Jiraiya's book together. The dark haired teen closed his phone, setting on his bedside table before settling beneath the sheets. Lee sighed and fell back onto his pillows.

He was getting his sling taken off the next morning so he would be late getting to school but Lee knew he would see Gaara in school the next day. However, part of him could not help but be disappointed. Lee had grown used to hearing Gaara’s voice before he fell asleep at night. The older boy closed his eyes slowly, letting sleep claim his senses. 

He could always find Gaara at school the next morning. Gaara may have just finally let himself rest and Lee couldn’t help but hope that Gaara had sweet dreams filled with everything his heart desired.


 

It was later in the day, the bell rang to alert the students to their release for the weekend. Lee stared down at his phone as he emptied his locker. Gaara had not been waiting for him at the entrance of school that morning nor had he responded to Lee’s text messages questioning this.

Lee closed his locker door. Neji and TenTen walked up, smiling at him warmly.

“Hey Lee, what’s up?” TenTen asked. “Are you going to watch practice today?” Lee shook his head in response as the group turned to head for the entrance. He flipped his phone open again. He bit his lip in worry at the lack of messages as they turned to head for the open doors of the high school.

“I was going to see if anyone has seen Gaara today.” Lee mentioned. TenTen and Neji shared a look that went unnoticed by Lee. TenTen shrugged.

“Well I haven’t seen him.” She observed as Neji shrugged out his own answer. Neji was really relieved that Gaara was not hanging around Lee, the red head made him uncomfortable. The injury Lee had sustained at the hands of the red head made him want to beat Gaara into the ground everyday at practice. 

“Neither have I, maybe he skipped today.” Neji offered, holding open the door for TenTen as they passed through the doors, Lee spotted Sasuke just in front of the gates, standing among the group of his other siblings. He bolted over in hopes that his friend could ease his worries. 

Sasuke looked up as Lee approached, giving Lee a nod of acknowledgement and a small half grin. Lee waved towards Sasuke’s adopted siblings with a smile.

Juugo nodded in his direction, smiling solemnly. Suigetsu rolled his eyes at Lee but his toothy grin seemed friendly enough, Karin slapped him for the eye roll and smiled at Lee. Sasuke’s siblings had been adopted around the same time but before Sasuke. At first they had been cold to anyone outside their little group but soon warmed up to Naruto and the rest of Sasuke's friends. 

There were several other teens that the scientist had adopted but they no longer attended the school, having gone off to universities.

Lee turned to Sasuke, he could not shake the feeling of concern. Gaara may not appreciate his concerns for his well-being but Lee knew he would not be able to rest easily if he did not find out.

“Have any of you seen Gaara today?” Lee asked. Despite not usually hanging out with Sasuke’s friends, most of Sasuke’s siblings were aware of them. Suigetsu shrugged, scratching his head as he tried to recall if he’d seen the red head.

“He’s the other red head right?” Suigetsu clarified, tapping his chin in thought. “Can’t say I have.”

Karin shook her head and shrugged, Juugo copied her gesture after a moment of thought. Lee bit his lip and turned to his childhood friend.

 “Have you seen him Sasuke?” Lee asked, his eyebrows crinkling as his worry grew. Sasuke snorted.

“Can’t say I have either, maybe he finally got carted off for assault.” Sasuke exasperated, crossing his arms in front of his body. Lee gave Sasuke a fierce look and his eyes widened at Sasuke's callous comment. 

“Don’t talk about Gaara like that Sasuke.” Lee asserted “He is our friend and-.” Sasuke tossed a glare at Lee, his temper flaring a bit as he shook his head again.

“No Lee, he is your friend and no one can for the life of them figure out why.” Sasuke snapped, losing his cool for but a moment in frustration. The Uchiha rolled his eyes and scoffed again. “Everyone but Naruto hates him and we can’t really say Naruto is a good judge of character.”

Lee stiffened at this. He glared at his friend, squaring his shoulders and opening his mouth to argue. Neji and TenTen finally caught up, standing next to Lee awkwardly just in time to hear Sasuke’s comment.

“That is not…that is not nice to say Sasuke.” Lee stated, turning to Neji and TenTen for support. “Tell him that it is not true, you two like Gaara.” TenTen bit her lip, staring at her boots as she shuffled them back and forth through the snow. Neji looked up at the sky for a moment before turning back to Lee.

“Lee…Sasuke isn’t exactly wrong.” Neji conceded carefully, trying not to anger his friend. “Only you and Naruto really like Gaara, the rest of us tolerate him because he’s your friend but…” Lee’s eyes widened in surprise as he turned to TenTen.

“TenTen?” Lee begged hollowly. “Is that true?” TenTen didn’t meet Lee’s eyes as she kicked the snow beneath her feet, snow sticking to the buns in her hair.

“He can be a little awkward and abrasive…and it’s hard to forgive him for how he treated you.” She tried to defend. Sasuke gave a short laugh.

“See, what did I tell you?” Sasuke huffed, running a hand through his hair and meeting Lee’s eyes. Lee sighed in frustration, he could not believe what he was hearing as he tried to quell his annoyance at his friend. 

“Well I like Gaara,” Lee mumbled, tucking his cold hands into his jacket pockets and suppressing a shiver. Lee wasn’t sure if the cold he felt was from the snow that covered his shoulders or the look of contempt on Sasuke’s face.

“Yes, we all know how much you “like” Gaara.” Sasuke snapped before thinking about what he was saying. “We all see just how hot and bothered you get whenever you’re near the little monster. As if he could ever love you.” Lee ceased all movement, his eyes falling to the ground as tears burned at his eyes. Sasuke blinked as he realized exactly what he said. The Uchiha paled as he tried to take his comment back. 

“Lee…I didn’t mean…” Sasuke back pedaled, his tongue stumbling over his thoughts. “I only meant…” Lee didn’t let him finish, turning on his heel and heading for the gate. He bit back his tears as he heard TenTen and Neji call after him, running to catch up. Lee didn’t bother turning to face them.

“Just leave me alone!” Lee shouted, clenching his fists. “I am going to go check up on Gaara, if you all hate my choice in friends so much then just…” Lee felt his shoulders shake. TenTen reached out to touch him but Lee shrugged her off. Lee whirled around and glowered at his friends, tears welling in his eyes.

“I cannot help it if I have feelings for Gaara but that is not why I am friends with him!” Lee murmured, wrapping his arms around himself. “He is hurting and I want to help him anyway I can. I do not care if he ever feels the same for me, I want to look into his eyes and not see the crushing loneliness he has now even if it means never having my feelings returned.”  TenTen gave him a sympathetic look.

Lee had always struggled with his sexuality and confidence. Despite being an extremely kind and warm person, he was not attractive by conventional means. His large brows took up most of his face, his tall and thin build was awkward, and his eyes were too round. Having a learning disability and being attracted to other men did not help his case. Lee always seemed so sure of himself but he knew his faults and accepted them.

Lee turned away, walking off towards Gaara’s address and leaving his friends speechless. The snow began to fall slowly around them as Lee disappeared around the corner of the block, it was then that Lee let his tears fall from his eyes in freezing tracks down his cheeks. 


 

Lee knocked on the front door of Gaara’s home, shivering slightly in the cold. It was getting dark and the temperature was dropping slowly. Lee knocked again and looked inside the window. The house seemed dark, which puzzled and worried Lee even more. He returned to the door, reaching out to the knob. The door opened when he turned it. Lee hesitated for a moment before walking inside.

“Gaara, the door was unlocked so I let myself in!” Lee shouted up the stairs. His breath gathering in puffs as he looked around the house. The home was cold, even colder than the snow outside it seemed as Lee took off his boots before heading into the dark home. He turned on a light in the kitchen. The house appeared to be abandoned.

Suddenly, a loud fit of coughing and retching called Lee’s attention to the top of the stairs. Lee sped up the stairs at top speed, his socked feet banging softly on the hardwood.

“Gaara!” Lee called as he reached the top of the stairs. Light poured out of the open bathroom door and Lee walked towards it just as the sound of someone vomiting painfully reached his ears. Lee walked into the bathroom and bit back a gasp.

Gaara lay clinging to the toilet, his hair sticking to his sweaty forehead and his body shaking as he threw up into the white porcelain. His skin was pale and clammy looking as the red head lifted his head weakly. His normally clear eyes seemed glazed over.

“L-Lee…what are you doing here?” Gaara asked weakly before coughing violently and turning back to the toilet to heave. Lee leaned down to inspect Gaara’s state. Lee reached out, gently touching Gaara’s forehead to judge his temperature.

Gaara was hot to the touch, his face red and flushed. Lee’s eyes widened in worry as he watched Gaara shiver and try to rise. Lee steadied Gaara gently.

“Gaara, you’re burning up!” Lee exclaimed as he reached over to flush the toilet. The toilet was full of yellow bile, showing how little Gaara had eaten or drank that day. Lee closed the lid, easing Gaara down to sit on the toilet. Gaara coughed.

“I’m fine…just a little cold.” Gaara stammered. Lee shot a concerned glare at his friend. The boy was sweating and shivering at the same time, clearly he had been sick all day. The house was empty so that meant Gaara had been without care for his illness all day.

“No you are not, where is your family?” Lee fussed as he turned to the medicine cabinet in search of a thermometer and something to bring down the fever. Gaara shrugged as he wrapped his arms around his torso.

“Gone.” The teen replied simply. Lee felt his heart squeeze painfully as Gaara’s cracked voice gave way to more coughs. Lee finally found a small electronic thermometer, turned it on and grabbed Gaara’s face gently.

“Open your mouth so I can take your temperature Gaara.” Lee ordered gently. Gaara obeyed, taking the contraption into his mouth and under his tongue. Lee took out his phone and dialed his home phone number. It rang for several moments before the deep sound of Gai’s happy tone answered.

“Lee, where are you?” Gai chirped happily. “You weren’t home when we got back.” Lee heard a beeping and took the thermometer from Gaara’s mouth. His eyes widened at the severity of Gaara’s fever. The thermometer read 101.2. Lee brought his focus back to his conversation with his father.

“Gai-sensei, I am at Gaara’s.” Lee explained hastily. “He was not at school today so I wanted to check on him. He’s got a high fever, he’s throwing up nothing but bile and he says he feels cold. He’s been alone all day, I don’t want to leave him by himself…” Gai was silent for a moment before answering.

“Grab him some things to wear, his toothbrush and anything else he may need.” Gai ordered, the clinking of keys could be heard from the other end. “I will be there in ten minutes, we can’t leave him all alone if he’s this sick.” Lee nodded.

“Yes Gai-sensei, see you soon.” Lee replied as he heard Gai called out to Kakashi before he hung up the phone.

“Kakashi, call Tsunade.” Lee heard just before the click of the phone hanging up. Lee replaced his phone into his pocket and looked over at Gaara. He shivered from his spot on the toilet and Lee felt his heart ache a little. Gaara was really sick. 

He reached out, gently lifting Gaara’s tiny body into his arms and ignoring the slight twitch his shoulder gave at the sudden use of muscles. Gaara murmured incoherently, burying his face in Lee’s chest as Lee took him carefully out of the room. Gaara was surprisingly light.  Lee looked around the many doors in the hall and looked down at Gaara.

“Where is your room Gaara?” he asked softly as he walked forward, cradling Gaara close and trying to calm his racing heart beat. Gaara raised a weak hand and pointed towards the stairs that led up to the attic.

Lee bit his lip and made his way to the door and up the stairs into the attic.

The room was freezing, even more so than the rooms downstairs. Lee walked over to the small bed, laying Gaara down gently and wrapping the thin blanket around him. Gaara curled into a ball and let out another cough.

Lee turned to the closet, grabbing Gaara’s back pack off the ground and removing the text books in favor of setting them on the desk. Turning to the dresser, Lee opened the drawers and removed several pairs of boxers, socks, three shirts and a pair of sweatpants.

Placing them in the now empty back pack, Lee zipped the bag and threw it over his shoulder. He looked over at Gaara. The red head sneezed before coughing again and shivering under the blanket. Lee’s determined gaze softened as he gently placed his arms under Gaara’s shaking form.

Lifting Gaara up once more, Lee adjusted his grip as Gaara murmured as he looked up, his teal eyes still clouded from delirium caused by the fever. Lee felt his breath catch in his chest.  

“L-Lee…” he whispered as he turned to cough weakly into Lee’s shoulder. Lee gently turned towards the stairs and headed for the front door.

“I’ve got you Gaara, I’ll take care of you.” Lee reassured the teen, stealing a gentle kiss on the top of Gaara’s sweat soaked hair. He carefully made his way down the main hall, down the stairs and to the front door.

Gai entered through the front door just as Lee made it down the last steps. He wore a parka thrown over his turtle printed pajama bottoms. Gai’s concerned face softened as he reached out to move Gaara’s hair out of his eyes. Gaara looked up from Lee’s shoulder.

“G-Gai-sensei…I’m sorry I missed practice.” Gaara muttered hoarsely before sneezing again into Lee’s hoodie. Snot covered Lee’s shoulder but he was more concerned when Gaara started coughing again. He stabilized his grip and pulled Gaara closer, worried about how warm the boy was. 

Gai’s eyes gained an affectionate tinge as he held the door open for Lee to carry Gaara to the truck.

“No need to worry Gaara, your health comes first.” Gai assured as Lee slipped on his snow boots easily over his converse and headed for the door. Gai ran around the front of the truck, opening the passenger side door for his son and taking Gaara from him for a moment.

Lee threw the back pack to his feet, crawling into the passenger seat and adjusting himself for Gai to set Gaara into his lap. Lee wrapped his arms protectively around Gaara. Gaara curled up, resting his warm head in the crook of Lee’s neck.

“I can hear your heart Lee.” Gaara whispered, clearly still delirious from the fever. “Wanted you here, wanted you to hold me.” Lee froze slightly before pulling Gaara tighter to his body as Gai shut the door. Gai ran around the front of the truck, hopping into the driver’s seat and pulled out onto the road.

Gai watched his son from the corner of his eye when they stopped at a light. Lee hummed gently as Gaara dozed against him. Lee’s eyes soft with affection as he leaned forward to press a small kiss to Gaara’s love tattoo. Gai strained to hear his son’s next whispered words.

“I’ll always be here for you Gaara, I promise.” Lee murmured softly as the light turned green and Gai pulled forward toward their home.

The older man felt his throat catch with emotion as he drove carefully over the ice covered roads, pretending not to hear his son’s whispered confession.

Chapter Text


 

Kakashi was at the door when Lee carried Gaara into the house. He had contacted Tsunade shortly after Gai had left and he could now see why his partner had been so worried. Lee carried Gaara carefully and Kakashi almost protested the use of his bad shoulder until he saw the quivering mess inside the blankets.

Gaara was sweating and shaking, his coughs hoarse as he hacked into Lee’s shoulder. Kakashi walked forward. He tentatively felt Gaara’s forehead. The skin was hot to the touch and Gaara mumbled as he looked up at Kakashi. The older man’s heart gave a sympathetic twang.

He gently took the boy from Lee, balancing the weight carefully before turning to his son. Lee looked up nervously at his father. Kakashi jerked his head towards the kitchen.

“Grab one of the Gatorade’s from the fridge and a cool wash cloth, I’m going to put him in your room so bring it up there.” Kakashi ordered as he carried the shivering boy upstairs, he turned to Gai. “Grab some flu medicine to bring down the fever. Tsunade will probably be here any minute.” He added and Gai headed off to find Kakashi’s ordered supplies, Lee following close behind.

Kakashi carried Gaara up the steps and into Lee’s room. He gently laid the boy down and tucked him under the comforter, removing the blanket he’d been brought in when he realized it was drenched in sweat. Gaara curled up and coughed miserably. Kakashi decided to remove Gaara’s shirt, allowing the heat to escape a little more efficiently.

Kakashi combed the red hair out of Gaara’s eyes with his fingers. The red head mumbled softly. “Uncle…” before rolling over again to curl into a ball. Kakashi sighed. From what Gai had said Lee had stumbled upon Gaara this sick and all alone. Kakashi wouldn’t say he liked Gaara but he could not understand how his family left alone if he was sick. Maybe they weren’t aware.

Lee entered the room, carrying the washcloth and sports drink as well as the medicine and a bucket. Lee sat the items on the bedside and turned to Gaara. He carefully placed his hands under the teen and helped him sit up against the pillows.

Gaara made another pathetic noise and Lee shushed him gently, wiping the sweat away with a dry cloth.

“You need to drink and take this medicine Gaara, you have to be dehydrated after all the throwing up you did.” Lee stated as he gave Gaara the cup filled with the red flu medicine. Gaara swallowed it weakly, coughing after he finished. Lee held the straw that he’d stuck into the top of the sports drink to Gaara’s lips.

“Drink this for me please, than you can lay down again.” Lee coaxed and Gaara obeyed. After drinking his fill, Gaara laid back onto the pillows and Lee placed the wet and cool washcloth on his head. Kakashi watched his son care for the red head with tenderness in his eyes. Lee truly was a saint sometimes.

He turned for the door, seeing as Lee seemed to have this handled and went to find Gai. He walked down the steps and down to the kitchen. Gai sat by the home phone, his fist clenched in obvious anger.

“I just assumed you would like to know that Gaara isn’t feeling well and I brought him to my home for supervision until the fever breaks.” Gai said through gritted teeth and Kakashi raised a brow as he approached, just barely catching what the voice on the other line said.

“If it isn’t a serious illness why did you bother contacting me?” The voice of Rasa No Subaku said bitterly from the other line. Kakashi felt anger prick the edges of his patience. “I have important business to attend to, just do what you want with him and don’t bother me unless he’s close to dying. I’ll be sure to compensate you for the trouble.”

Kakashi felt his anger boil over his normally calm surface, he quickly tore the phone from Gai’s hand and held the receiver to his mouth. How could a father talk about his son like that, like Gaara was just a burden he had to deal with?

“Don’t bother, we don’t need your money.” Kakashi snapped “In fact, you can take your money and shove it up your ass.” Kakashi didn’t bother to listen to Rasa’s response before he slammed the phone down onto its base. Gai stared at his lover with wide eyes, surprised by Kakashi’s protectiveness over Gaara. He had been so calloused to the teen before.

Kakashi tried to calm his rage and regulate his breathing again. He was shaking in anger, guilt eating at the corners of his conscience as he started to see what Gaara must go through. This couldn’t be the first time Gaara had gotten sick. Not the first time Gaara had been shunned aside like a broken toy no one wanted to bother fixing. For the first time since he’d met the boy, he saw what his son and partner must have seen hidden underneath. A child who couldn’t understand the bonds of others because no one had ever bothered trying to bond with him.

“Remember Kakashi, sometimes you have to look underneath the underneath.” His father’s words echoed in his head as he mentally slapped himself for being so blind.

“He’s staying here until he gets better.” Kakashi said as he walked over to the kitchen sink, wetting down several rags that hung on the cabinet and putting them in the freezer. Gai didn’t press the issue as he nodded in response. Walking over to stand next to his partner, he leaned over to kiss Kakashi’s temple gently.

“I love you Kakashi.” The man said simply. Kakashi continued his movements, not looking up as he smiled and muttered.

“Love you too Gai.”


 

Temari raised her brow at her father as his form stiffened, his eyebrows crashing down in annoyance only to pull his phone away. Rasa stared at the screen for a moment before giving a small chuckle and putting the phone in his suit’s right breast pocket.

Temari gave her father a look as she straightened her back, trying to keep her impassive mask on.

“What was that about father?” she asked coolly, trying not to give away too much of her concern. Rasa was not kind to any show of weakness.

Rasa straightened his back, leaning against the seat of the limo and crossing his hands in front of him. He sighed in exasperation.

“The little demon spawn apparently has gotten the flu. The faggot who teaches martial arts at that dojo took him to his home for supervision. I offered compensation and his partner told me to ‘Shove my money up my ass.’.” Rasa chuckled dryly. “At least he was honest I suppose.”

Temari’s eyes twitched vaguely at the use of the slur, biting her tongue down just as she always had. Her worry over Gaara superseded her indignation at her father’s close minded words. When the car pulled to a stop in front of the building where the meeting between her father and the lawyers would take place, Temari excused herself to the bathroom.

She quietly entered the family bathroom, locking the door and pulling out her personal cell phone. She pressed her thumb to number five on her speed dial. Holding the phone up to her ear, she tapped her foot impatiently as the phone rang.

The other line picked up, a soft rustle and a grumble.

“What the hell Temari!”  Kankuro growled from the end of the phone. “I’m busy!”  Temari rolled her eyes, putting a hand on her hip.

“Pull your cock out of your latest conquest and call Gaara.” She snapped. “He’s sick with the flu and the sensei from that dojo he’s been going to has him at his house. I want you to call him and see what’s going on.”

Kankuro groaned, more rustling as he rose from the bed.

“Why can’t you do it?” He complained, his latest bed partner could be heard mumbling in the background. Temari couldn’t quite make out what was being uttered but it was a deep and clearly male voice. Temari stiffened at the realization. 

“Oh my god are you with a guy?” Temari whispered angrily into the phone. This wasn’t the first time Kankuro had slept with a guy but Temari knew what would happen if their father found out. She bit her lip in worry.

“He won’t find out Temari I’m in another city and it was strictly a one night only thing.” Kankuro reassured as the sound of a door slamming made Temari wince. She hadn’t meant to ruin her brother’s night.

“Sorry Kankuro.” She apologized, wrapping her arm around her torso. “I’m just worried about Gaara, remember what happened the last time he got this sick…” Kankuro sighed loudly, air making the speaker of the phone crackle in Temari’s ear.

“Text me the number and I’ll call, I’m a little worried now too.” Kankuro said softly. “He’s actually been trying lately hasn’t he?” Temari felt her heart warm a little as she thought about Gaara’s behavior over the last few weeks.

First he had touched her shoulder and offered a smile, than her lunches and coffee started appearing on their own. She had at first thought it might be Kankuro. But when her brother denied it, she had gotten up early to find Gaara making her lunch and setting out her pot of coffee after he made his own.

 Kankuro found the flyer for the battle robot competition under his pillow and he hadn’t suspected Gaara at first until he’d found his little brother cleaning his tools of grease and grime one night when he went to check on something he’d forgotten. He couldn’t remember what after the initial shock had worn off.  

Temari laughed a little. Gaara had definitely started to get a little better at trying to connect with them, even if they didn’t know how to approach him.

“He really has…” Temari admitted and fought back the tears in her eyes. “I hate how dad treats him…” Kankuro sighed again.

“Me too Temari.” He whispered. “I’m going to call then head out of here. It’ll take about five hours to get there if I travel all night.” Temari nodded, sniffing a little as Kankuro tried to alleviate her fears. She straightened her back and hardened her features. She needed to go back and face their father.

“Be safe Kankuro, text me when you get into Konoha.” She said and Kankuro chuckled at her caring.

“I will.” He said as he hung up. Temari replaced her phone in her purse, looked into the mirror for a moment to make sure she was just as perfect as before. She lingered on her pigtails, tightening them slightly.

She grimaced on her way out, dreading the meeting in the morning with the owners of the InoShikaCho Corp. She wrinkled her nose at the thought of meeting with stuffy old men who stared too long and thought they could outsmart her just because she was a woman or because she was eighteen.

This Shikaku Nara and his associates better watch out. Temari was in no mood to be pushed aside or made a fool of. As she walked out of the bathroom and down the hall to meet her father, she passed by a table in the lobby occupied by young man that looked barely older than Gaara. He leaned over a game board, leisurely lifting pieces from the board from either side. He seemed to be playing by himself.

Temari passed by him to get to the elevators. She kicked the board accidentally with her foot in her hurry, knocking the board down. White pieces went flying onto the floor and the boy looked up at Temari. He sighed audibly and mumbled under his breath.

“Damn, what a drag.” He grumbled as he made no move to pick up the pieces. Temari grabbed one or two and placed them on the table. She hadn’t meant to knock them off the table.

“Sorry about that.” she apologized. The boy still made no move to pick up his fallen game. The teen watched her with dark tired eyes. He seemed bored by the world as he scratched his head, knocking a few hairs loose from the tight ponytail. He mumbled under his breath but Temari caught every word.

“New secretaries are always such a drag.” The boy said with another heavy sigh as he finally leaned over to pick up the pieces. Temari stiffened and looked up at the boy with fire in her eyes.  

Temari rose slowly, squaring her shoulders as she picked up another handful of pieces. She turned to the boy, tossing the white plastic at the male’s face.  He blinked as the pieces hit his chest and fell to the ground. 

“I’m not a secretary.” she retorted, putting a hand on her hip. “And if I was, I wouldn’t let random punks play board games in my lobby. Did your friends all leave you here alone to play games by yourself…or do you even have any?” The teen didn’t even bat an eye. He sighed lazily.

“I’m not in the mood to deal with spunky girls, I’m going to try and get a nap in before I have to stay awake and go to that stupid meeting.” He responded, slouching as he turned away to head for the elevator. “Girls are always so troublesome.” Temari huffed as she leaned down to pick up another few pieces to toss at the boy’s retreating back.

“You’re not exactly prince charming, lazy ass.” She growled at him as he disappeared around the corner, rage boiling in her veins at being dismissed so easily.

“What a jerk.” She thought as she sprinted in her heels towards the nearest elevator so she could make it to the quick meeting before she could go to the hotel to sleep, avoiding slipping on the fallen pieces of the game. It wasn’t until she got to the elevator that she realized she still held one of pieces in her hand. 


 

Sasuke stared at the ceiling in his bedroom, watching the brown fan blades as they circled slowly and mentally kicking himself for what he had said to Lee. He hadn’t meant to hurt Lee’s feelings. Today just had not gone the way Sasuke had wanted.

It had started out fine. Sasuke had awoken to Naruto and Suigetsu getting into it over Juugo’s pancakes, to which the dark haired boy had pointedly pushed Naruto out of the way to get to his tea. Then he had taken a shower, dressed and headed out the door with his best friend per usual.

Then he got to school.

As soon as he got to his locker he’d found several secret admirer notes and a few not so secret ones. He rolled his eyes before unsympathetically tossing them into the nearest trash bin. Naruto laughed at all the notes and opened his own locker.

Then a single piece of notebook paper fell out when the blond had pulled out his books. Naruto’s eyes had grown wide as he leaned down to pick up the small note. Sasuke’s heart stopped for a moment as his friend read the letter excitedly.

“Dear Naruto, I’ve thought you were cute for a long time and I’ve always been too shy to tell you. Meet me alone near the field after school when everyone leaves so I can finally tell you how I truly feel about you!” Naruto said with a bright grin as he looked up at Sasuke.

“Can you believe it Sasuke, someone actually has a crush on me!” the blond whooped happily. Sasuke stayed quiet, trying to rein in his hurt feelings. It wasn’t like Naruto was his.

Since then his anger was slowly building under the surface, bubbling in his gut until he lost it. He honestly hadn’t even meant the words the way they sounded.

He wasn’t even sure they were meant to convince Lee.

Sasuke sat up in bed and looked over at his phone, hoping for a reply to the text he sent Lee. He hoped the round eyed teen would forgive him for his hurtful words. Sasuke rested his chin on his hand with a sigh. Karin, Juugo and Suigetsu were all out doing their own things tonight so he was alone in the house. He was bored and Naruto hadn’t texted him since school got out.

He was probably off with his new flame. Sasuke felt the jealously claw at his sides and he groaned in frustration, imagining some faceless figure he would have to interact with soon. Naruto holding hands with the person, cuddling with that person, giving Naruto all the things Sasuke struggled to comprehend. He wanted to do those things with Naruto.

Sasuke sighed as he thought about how he couldn’t understand this. He had no interest in sex, dating or any of the other things guys his age worried about. He liked the idea of holding hands with Naruto, kissing Naruto, cuddling with Naruto but that was the problem. He only wanted to do those things with Naruto. He had no interest in anyone else.

He had no interest in sex. The whole idea was of little interest to him and even when he had tried to at a party Suigetsu had dragged him too, he found he was completely uncomfortable with the act. It made his heart squeeze in anxiety just to think about it, made him feel wrong. 

So Sasuke struggled with it, unable to tell Naruto, Lee or even Sakura about it. All teenage boys wanted to have sex, it was practically a given. Love was tied to sex. In order to fall in love with someone, you had to want to have sex with them.

So why was he different?

A sudden knocking on the door downstairs pulled Sasuke from his thoughts. He rose from his bed, sliding into his slippers and made his way down the hall. He walked down the steps to open the door carefully. He didn’t want to let random people into his house at night.

Suddenly, he was on the ground and staring at the ceiling. Sasuke’s nose throbbed in pain and he wiped his nose when he felt something warm trickle down his face. Blood coated his fingers.

Sasuke’s head snapped up and he was met with the sharp blue gaze of Naruto. The blonde’s chest heaved as if he had ran to Sasuke’s home, his eyes lite with fire and rage as he leaned down to grab Sasuke’s collar and hoist him to his feet.

“Why the hell did you insult Lee like that?” Naruto shouted in Sasuke’s face, his grip tightening on the material of Sasuke’s white shirt. “You know how insecure he can get about that kind of thing and you barely know Gaara! What gives you the right to talk about him like that?” Sasuke felt the lid he had kept on his anger snap.

He pushed Naruto away, kicking him in the side. Naruto caught the kick easily before Sasuke brought his other heel to Naruto’s head. They both fell in a heap. Naruto twisted Sasuke’s foot that he still held as he jumped away. Sasuke was on his feet quicker, punching Naruto in the face and drawing blood.

Naruto dove for him, crashing into the living room and pinning Sasuke to the floor.

“What the hell bastard!” Naruto shouted, trying to hold Sasuke down but Sasuke flipped him and slammed his head to the ground. They rolled about, switching between punches and kicks as they fought for dominance. It wasn’t long before Naruto gained the upper hand.

Sasuke groaned as Naruto kicked him off. He hit the wall, shaking several frames loose. They fell with the breaking tinkle of glass and snapped Sasuke out of his anger.

Naruto’s head was bleeding, so was his nose. A cut on his cheek from one of the many punches and bruises from the others. Sasuke’s breath came out in pants as Naruto sat next to him. Naruto closed his eyes as he tried to catch his breath, leaning his head against the wall.

“Next time you want a fight, just ask. Don’t make me come over and punch you because you hurt Lee’s feelings.” Naruto simpered. Sasuke nodded, pulling his knees up to his chest so he could rest his head.

“I didn’t mean to hurt Lee’s feelings.” Sasuke conceded, not looking at Naruto as his head throbbed in pain. “I just don’t trust Gaara not to hurt him again and Lee is too stubborn to see that Gaara is a dead end. He needs to get over that crush so he can find something meaningful. Gaara will never be able to do that.”

A sharp slap upside the head made Sasuke wince and he looked up and over at Naruto, his eyes narrowing in anger.

“What the hell Idiot?” Sasuke snapped as he rubbed his aching head. Naruto met his gaze steadily. Sasuke felt his breath catch at the disappointment that was held in those blue orbs.

“I know how you feel Sasuke, Lee is like my brother and I want to protect him.” Naruto said quietly, reaching over to place a hand over Sasuke’s own. “But you have to let Lee decide on who he wants to share his bonds with. You have to give him the dignity of making his own decisions. He’s a big kid, he can take care of himself.”

Sasuke sighed, pretending his fingers didn’t feel warm at Naruto’s touch.

“Come one, what is really bothering you?’ Naruto said nudging Sasuke’s shoulder, wincing at the movement. Sasuke laughed for a moment before pain laced through his side and he groaned in pain.

“I think you bruised my ribs with that last kick.” Sasuke groaned as he rose, holding out a hand to help Naruto up. The blond laughed as he was led to the kitchen by Sasuke.

“You deserved it bastard.” Naruto teased as he sat down at the kitchen table while Sasuke walked across the room, opening the cabinets to reach below the sink for the first aid kit and peroxide. He strode over to Naruto, soaking a paper towel in peroxide. He lifted Naruto’s face and cleaned the cut. Naruto whined in pain, trying to jerk away only to be stopped by Sasuke’s firm grip.

“That stings!” Naruto complained as Sasuke chuckled, only to feel another twinge of pain in his side. Sasuke placed a bandage over the cut before moving to the cut on the back of Naruto’s head. He wrapped it gently and wiped the blood from Naruto’s face.

Naruto rose after that, taking Sasuke by the shoulders and easing him into the chair opposite of him. The blonde took another clean paper towel and soaked it in the peroxide before patting the blood away. He carefully treated the cut above Sasuke’s eye, his knuckles and split lip before wrapping the knuckles in gauze.

Naruto stepped away, admiring his work with that bright smile that made Sasuke’s heart blossom in affection.

“Since you made me come all the way over here to kick your ass, I’m spending the night and eating all that ramen I left here last week.” Naruto said as he turned to the stove. Sasuke watched Naruto’s easy movements, relaxed now as if the fight had never happened.

He chuckled again, ignoring the pain for the soft rays of sun that filled his heart when he walked up behind Naruto to help him find the tea kettle for the instant cup ramen.

“That stuff is going to kill you one day.” Sasuke teased as he filled the kettle with water and placed it on the stove. Naruto shoved him playfully.

“And I’d die a happy man now make this water boil faster.” Naruto retorted easily.


 

Tsunade listened to Gaara’s lungs as he hunched over, coughs wracking his body. She had retaken his temperature when she had gotten there and it had decreased slightly from 101.2 to 100.0. He had been able to hold down the Gatorade's he’d been given from what Lee had said.

But the youth was still shaking from the chills and his cough was deep but dry. Tsunade pulled her stethoscope away. Gaara collapsed back onto the bed, curling back under the covers with another shiver.

Tsunade looked over at Lee, who had replaced a fresh cloth onto his patient’s forehead. Kakashi had been leaning on the door frame and straightened up when Tsunade looked up. Gai was seated next to Gaara’s bedside, rubbing small circles between the boy’s shoulder blades in an effort to ease the pain caused by the coughing.

“I would keep an eye on him until the fever breaks but he should be fine since he’s managed to at least keep fluids down. If the fever doesn’t break or it gets higher, then take him to the hospital. When he can eat, give him something plain and small.” Tsunade said in a brisk and professional tone. “It’s good you brought him here, he shouldn’t be left alone with a fever like that.” Lee’s ears turned pink at the praise.

Tsunade gave a small nod towards Gai as she turned to leave. She gave Kakashi a sly grin, tapping his shoulder to get his attention. Kakashi looked down at her. His eye patch had been forsaken in favor of showing off the damaged one underneath, the clouded and blind eye looked almost lifeless.

“Care to walk me out brat, I have graveyard shift at the hospital and can’t be late.” She teased at Kakashi who smirked at her and followed her out the door.

“Whatever grandma.” Kakashi retorted as they walked down the stairs and to the door. Tsunade threw on her coat ad stopped for a moment before putting on her boots. She turned towards Kakashi suddenly, causing her long pale blonde pigtails to fly out before returning to their spot on her shoulders.

“Give that boy some TLC, god knows he needs it.” She ordered as she looked Kakashi in the eye. “Take care of yourself, I’ll call tomorrow to check.” Kakashi nodded, reaching out to give Tsunade a one armed hug. She returned it with a smirk.

Ruffling Kakashi’s messy hair, the woman opened the door. A gust of cold wind blew in and the door shut behind her.

Kakashi sighed and rubbed his eyes with one hand. It was a good thing he didn’t have work tomorrow, he would have been exhausted.

The house phone rang and filled the home with a shrill buzz. Kakashi walked towards the one that was kept in the living room, lifting it to his ear when he failed to recognize the number.

“Hatake and Maito residence, whatever you’re selling we don’t need it.” Kakashi deadpanned. The voice on the end tittered slightly before speaking.

“Hey, my name is Kankuro No Subaku.” A deep, male voice spoke. “My sister called and said my brother was sick? She said it wasn’t serious but I’m on my way. How is he?”

Kakashi raised a brow in surprise. He had no idea that Gaara even had siblings, let alone one who was rushing over to help him. Maybe the kid wasn’t as bad off as they thought.

“Names Kakashi and our doctor says he should be fine. He just needs rest and a little TLC.” Kakashi informed. “Not that your father seemed to care.” He added with a slight hint of poison in his voice.

“Yeah the old man is a bastard when it comes to anything involving Gaara.” Kankuro admitted, sounding nervous with a little bit of frustration mixed in. “Me and Temari are trying but up until recently, Gaara wanted nothing to do with either of us.”  Kakashi nodded vaguely, remembering how shut off Gaara had been upon their first meeting.

“He’s made friends with my son and my younger brother, they have been trying to get him to be more open to people.” Kakashi explained, chuckling at the memory of Naruto dragging Gaara out of his classroom that first day. “He’s trying to reach out to people.” The line went silent for a moment and Kakashi worried he’d lost the call until Kankuro spoke

“I’ll be there as soon as I can.” Kankuro said softly, as if trying to hide something in his voice. “Take care of him till I can get there, please.” Kakashi almost thought he heard remorse in the boy’s voice.

“That was the plan.” Kakashi said as he heard a click from the other end of the line. Kakashi placed the phone down and felt arms around his waist. He leaned back into Gai, not speaking as the man kissed down his neck and between his shoulders.

“Who was that Kakashi?” Gai asked as he rested his chin on Kakashi’s shoulder. Kakashi sighed and brought his hand up to touch Gai’s face, the other man leaned into it slightly.

“That was apparently Gaara’s brother, he’s on his way to make sure Gaara is okay.” Kakashi explained. “Gaara’s sister must have heard our conversation with her father and called to have Kankuro check up on him.” Gai made a small noise of approval as he pulled away from his partner, walking over to the couch to sit.

“At least we know someone cares about him enough to check on him.” Gai said happily as Kakashi turned to him. He met Gai’s gaze lazily, walking over gently place a hand on Gai’s large chest. Gai let his lover lay him down with a grin. Kakashi settled himself on top of Gai, the larger man moving slightly to wrap his arms around Kakashi. Kakashi rolled to settle into Gai’s side before laying his head in the crook of Gai's neck. 

They laid there, legs intertwined and bodies pressed together. Gai’s hands massaging small circles on Kakashi’s lower back. Kakashi laid his hand on Gai’s chest, interlacing the fingers with Gai’s free hand. The silver haired man sighed contentedly as Gai continued his ministrations.

Gai always knew what Kakashi needed and tonight was not the night for words or questions, tonight he needed to lead his lover into the couch and hold him until his eyes became heavy with the need for sleep. Lee would alert them if Gaara got worse. For now, all Kakashi wanted was to just be.


 

Lee hummed softly as he removed the cloth from Gaara’s forehead. The fever had come down to a steady ninety eight degrees and Gaara was sleeping peacefully. The teen breathed easily, the coughs finally settling enough for him to rest.

Lee used the wet cloth to wipe sweat off of Gaara’s face before he threw it in the bucket. Lee set the bucket off to the side and rubbed his eyes as he looked down at the clock on his bed side table. It flashed 1:00 am at him and he sighed. He was exhausted down to his bones.

Lee's father’s had fallen asleep on the couch so Lee decided to take a shower and maybe crawl into their bed for some rest. Lee turned for the door when Gaara whimpered slightly, drawing his attention back.

“Uncle Yashamaru…” Gaara muttered softly as he turned in his sleep, knocking the comforter from his upper body. Lee felt his eyes soften. He pulled the covers over Gaara’s shoulders, the soft blankets calling to him. As Lee settled next to Gaara, Sasuke’s words echoed in his mind.

He had a crush on Gaara, Lee was very much aware of that fact. Lee felt the familiar flutter of attraction in his gut and chest whenever the red head was near him.  At first it was his handsome features, stoic and calm. The deep voice that reached parts of Lee he had never felt. Those expressive teal eyes that seemed to say so much, yet so little.

Gaara listened to Lee, listened and understood. He never lied, never held humor or pity in his eyes when Lee stumbled over words or forgot the time and date. Gaara seemed to care for him, maybe from guilt at first but now Lee wasn’t sure that was the case. Lee did care for Gaara, trying to show his friend how kind people could be.

Gaara was still discovering how to form lasting bonds with people, still trying to see how he fit into the world. Gaara barely understood friendship and familial bonds as it was. Lee would not, No, he could not try to lure someone so naïve into a relationship when they could not even begin to understand what that meant.

Lee was beginning to understand Gaara. The teen still held many things close to the chest, not letting anyone really see what he held underneath but he had let Lee see a little bit of that with little gestures of kindness here and there.

Lee still knew he had a few layers to peel back before he found who Gaara really was under all that protection he had erected over his heart. Lee just wasn’t sure how. Gaara’s tough exterior did well to hide his fragile spirit, a soul that had been shattered only to be haphazardly glued back into place.

More reasons why his feelings were entirely inappropriate.

Lee sighed and leaned his back against the wall. He watched the fan blades on the ceiling, counting slowly as his eyelids became heavy. He looked down at Gaara one more time before sleep claimed his senses. He could have sworn Gaara had rolled over in his sleep, pressing his head against the side of Lee's long legs and draping his arm over them.

But Lee wasn’t awake long enough to see if it was just his tired mind playing tricks again.


 

Kankuro swore as his car sputtered and died, smoke billowing up from under the hood as the snow fell around him. The tall sixteen year old pulled the flash light out from under his driver’s seat. After popping the hood, Kankuro threw open the driver’s side door in anger. He stalked around the front of the car and lifted the hood. Coughing on the thick black smoke that felt heavy in his nose, the teen tried to determine what was wrong with his car.

Kankuro tried to think of every reason for the black smoke but unfortunately the results were not looking positive. Kankuro swore as he realized his valve systems were worn and he’d need to fix them before he went anywhere.

He pulled out his cell phone to call a tow truck but the screen was black. Kankuro slammed the hood of his car, grumbling and trying to see just how far away from the city he was. He was still far out, the lights of the city barely making it over the trees.

This entire night had gone from bad to worse. First he got to watch his robot Karasu get torn apart by some smart ass named Sasori and his bots before getting cock blocked by his sister just as he was about to get lucky with a cute little blonde whose name he honestly didn’t care to remember.

Said blonde had left in an angry huff when Temari called and wouldn’t hang up. Kankuro was willing to rush home for Gaara but it seemed like he was in good hands, Kankuro should have been able to have a quick fuck before he headed out. No such luck it seemed.

Now he was broken down, miles away from his home with a dead cell phone and snow coating everything within his general area. Things honestly could not get worse.

Kankuro shivered as he pulled his black hood up. It was cold out, the snow still falling and Kankuro sighed in frustration. He really wished he could curl up in his warm hotel room right about now.

It was then he heard a honk from a car. Lifting his head, Kankuro’s eyes widened as a beat up red truck pulled up beside his car. In the truck, a teen around his age poked his head out of the passenger side. The woman in the driver’s seat smiled at him as the male yelled.

“Hey, you need some help?” the boy asked. Kankuro nodded in response as the brown haired duo stepped out of their truck to inspect Kankuro’s car.

“My car broke down and my cell phone is dead so I can’t call a tow truck.” Kankuro said as the boy approached him, eyeing him up and down. Kankuro smirked arrogantly and moved to pop his hood up for the pair to look at. Most of the smoke had settled, enabling the newcomers to look over Kankuro’s engine.

“It’s definitely something with your valves.” The boy said as he turned towards Kankuro. “Hana and I can give you a lift to our place if you’d like. We have a phone and we lived just a little ways up.” Kankuro gave the boy a quick once over.

The guy was wearing a large snow jacket that covered most of his body but the lean body was obvious.

“Sure, but can I get my handsome savior’s name first?” Kankuro asked smoothly, smirking as the boy blushed. “I’m Kankuro No Subaku.”

“Kiba Inuzuka, that’s my sister Hana.” Kiba said as he turned, trying to recover from his blush. The teen cleared his throat as he opened the door for Kankuro to crawl into the back seat of the truck. Kankuro winked at the boy as he clambered into the back.

Kiba cleared his throat as he took his spot next to his sister. Hana caught the whole exchange, rolling her eyes as she started the car.

“Feel free to catch some winks if you need it.” She offered as she pulled forward. “We’re about twenty or thirty minutes away from our place.” Kankuro nodded in response and pulled up his hood, leaning against the side of the truck. He smiled as he caught Kiba staring at him.

“Take a picture Inuzuka.” Kankuro stated gruffly, not hiding the teasing tone in his voice. “It’ll last you longer.” Kiba looked away quickly, keeping his eyes trained on the road as he blushed. Kankuro chuckled as he settled in for a quick nap.

Maybe this night wasn’t ruined after all.


 

Gaara opened his eyes, blinking away the tiredness as he looked around the morning lite room. It took him a moment to realize that it was not his room as he stared at the green comforter he had been curled up in. After another moment he recognized the room as Lee’s.

Gaara thought for a moment, trying to quell the nausea that still stirred in his stomach. He had been ill the entire day before and had been throwing up when Lee had come into his home. The rest was a blur of events, made hazy from his high fever the day before. Lee must have brought Gaara to his home to keep an eye on him while he was sick.

It was morning now and while he still felt a little weak and shaky, the worst of the illness had seemingly passed. Gaara could hear talking downstairs and the shower going across the hall. Lee must have left to clean himself up. Gaara sighed as he sat up in the bed, rubbing his eyes.

Loud and cruel sounding laughter suddenly alerted Gaara to a presence. He looked around the room quickly, unable to find the source. It sounded as if it was coming from above him.

“Thought you could get rid of me brat?”

Gaara jumped up from the bed, looking towards the closed door as Shukaku chuckled. He seemed to echo off the walls, so loud Gaara could hear him breathe as if he was next to him.

“I’m so pissed you tried to keep me away, I want blood kid.”

Gaara turned towards the window, his temples aching as Shukaku practically shouted. He clenched his teeth as he tried to focus on the room around him

“Stop it, you aren’t real.” Gaara whispered, “I’m not going to listen to you…if I talk to you Lee will find out.” He closed his eyes and trying to ignore the voice.

He couldn’t risk Lee or his family hearing him speak to Shukaku. The voice had been dormant for about a month now, even when he had fallen asleep. He hadn't acted up since the incident with Lee's shoulder. Why did he choose now to surface?

“I sound pretty real brat.” Shukaku chuckled ominously, “But keep talking, someone will hear you. The old man will make sure to lock you up when he finds out what a basket case you are.”  The deep voice was sounding as if he was in every corner of the room. Gaara tried not to seem weak as he growled.

“Go away, I don’t want you here Shukaku…I don’t need you.” Gaara said out loud, he glared up at the ceiling as his breathing picked up. “I’m not alone anymore…I have friends. Naruto and Lee. I will not let you ruin that.”

“You think just because that blond brat and that bushy browed freak are pretending to be your friend, I’ll just leave you alone?” Shukaku mused threateningly “Remember what happened the last time you ignored me for so long. Remember when your uncle found out about me…”  The voice chuckled as Gaara’s eyes snapped towards the space by the bed.

“Shut up.” Gaara whispered, his heart rate picking up as he clutched his stomach an he fought the wave of nausea from the panic he was feeling.

“I wonder what Lee will say when he finds out how fucking crazy you are?” Shukaku continued, his laughter echoing as Gaara shook in fear at the thought. “He’ll probably call the mental hospital himself or maybe he’ll try to drag you there like Yashamaru did. Remember what his blood looked like against the sidewalk?”

The flash of his uncle laying on the concrete, life leaving his eyes as blood poured from the back of his head. The way his body lay broken next to the ladder as Gaara stared down from the roof. Lee’s face replaced his uncle’s, bloodied and haunted.

Gaara heaved the empty contents of his stomach at the thought, coating the carpet. He shook as he whimpered. He needed to get ahold of himself. Anger boiled in his veins at Shukaku.

“T-that was your fault…not mine.” Gaara said, trying to keep his voice quiet. Shukaku let out another laugh and Gaara tried to ignore the flash of a dark figure from the corner of his vision.

“But I didn’t push him.” The voice reminded him. “It was all your fault. He touched you and you knocked him off the roof.”

“Shut up.”

“You killed him, you made him fall.”

“Shut up.”

“Everything you touch dies!”

“Shut up Shukaku!” Gaara growled, clenching his fists as he tried to pinpoint where the voice was. He just wanted it to be quiet again.

“Gaara, who are you talking to?” a soft voice said, making Gaara’s blood freeze. “Who is Shukaku?” Gaara turned slowly, his eyes widening as his teal eyes met with Lee’s dark ones. The teen looked confused and concerned. He reached out a hand.

“No…” Gaara said as he backed away. “Lee, you’re not supposed to know…” Shukaku’s evil howl of laughter filled the room, seeming to pour from every wall as Gaara panicked. Bile rose in his throat as Gaara fought his sickness, his knees buckled as he tried to move away from Lee. 

“Now he’s going to die…just like last time.” Gaara felt his nausea wash over him. His breathing became erratic as panic gripped his heart. Lee took a step forward, not hearing the crazed cackle of laughter all around the room as he reached for Gaara.

Gaara clutched his hair in his fists, tears springing to his eyes and clouding his vision. The red head took another step back. The laughing continued and he couldn't focus on Lee in front of him. The room was starting to spin as his vision swam. He stumbled to the ground and curled in on himself. 

“N-no…Lee get away.” Gaara begged, “Y-you weren’t supposed to hear me.” Lee leaned down, carefully balancing on the soles of his bare feet and ignoring the warning. He could see the panic in Gaara’s eyes, the heave in his chest as he tried to breathe away the weight on his chest. Lee knew the red head needed him.

“Gaara it is okay, just talk to me.” Lee comforted, his eyes softening into a gentle gaze as his hand drew closer to pet Gaara's head. He tried to move slowly so he wouldn’t frighten his friend. “There is no one here but us…” Shukaku laughed menacingly, his voice echoing from behind Lee and Gaara tried to crawl away from his friend with a whimper. 

“That’s what you think freak, we’ll have fun making him scream.”

Gaara’s eyes widened and he shook his head, trying to get rid of the voice. He turned away from Lee and dug his fingernails into his head. He could feel blood start to well to the surface but he ignored the pain. Anything if it would just make Shukaku be quiet. 

“Shut up Shukaku…get out of my head!” Gaara cried as Lee grabbed his wrists, pulling them away from his head to stop his assault on his skull.

“Gaara please stop hurting yourself! Are you hearing something?” Lee begged, fighting Gaara’s strength as the red head tried to claw at his scalp. Lee could hear his heart in his ears as Gaara went quiet, losing focus as his eyes moved around the room.

“It is going to be okay. Who is Shukaku?” Lee asked softly as Gaara whimpered and mumbled as Shukaku chuckled again. Gaara’s eyes darted around the room, still searching for Shukaku’s next hiding spot. He just wanted Lee to leave before he got hurt. 

“He’s…If I sleep too much he comes out…he won’t stop laughing.” Gaara struggled to explain. Lee hushed him softly, reaching over to inspect his head. Blood had welled up from the cuts but it wasn’t flowing any longer.

“Just let me call Kakashi up, he can find someone to help…” Lee started and Gaara froze in fear. His body shuddered as his heart skipped a beat. Gaara could feel his blood run cold in his veins at those words. Another voice echoed in his mind, overcoming Shukaku's manic laughter despite it's soft tone.

“I don’t know how to love you anymore Gaara. I have some people coming that will take you away and I won’t have to look at the monster who took my sister from me…”  

“NO!” Gaara shouted as he turned and shoved Lee away as hard as he could. Lee lost his balance and fell backwards, his left arm throwing itself out immediately to break his fall. Lee landed hard just as Kakashi and Gai entered the room. Lee yelped at the sudden pain when his hand hit the floor, drawing Gaara out of his panic for a moment.

The red heads eyes widened as Lee’s fathers ran to his side. They inspected his arm as Lee winced a bit. Gaara held his hand to his mouth as the realization hit him. He had hurt Lee again. He needed to get away, run before he hurt his friend again.

He ran past the door, not hearing Lee call out to him as he bolted down the stairs. He threw open the front door and jumped past another person as he tore out into the snow covered streets. Gaara’s vision spun and his heart hammered out of his chest as he fought for breath against the cold air. He didn’t know where he was going, only that he needed run before he hurt Lee again.

Before he did something unforgivable again. 

Chapter Text


 

Lee was up like a shot, ignoring the pain in his wrist as he attempted to run out of the room. It was his fault that Gaara was running. He must have said something wrong to make Gaara react like that. He could still see the fear in Gaara’s eyes when he said he was going to get him help.

Gai was quick to catch his son’s right arm, pulling him back to inspect Lee’s wrist. He manipulated it gently and Lee twitched but the pain wasn’t bad. He must have just sprained it. Gai let out a breath and crinkled his brow in concern at his son. Lee tried to pull away. 

“What happened?” Kakashi demanded as Lee struggled against Gai’s hold. “We heard yelling and Gaara was shouting at someone...” Lee looked up nervously, biting his lip as he struggled between a desperate need to find Gaara and telling his fathers the whole story.

“I…I think Gaara has…” Lee struggled to explain, trying to find the right words. “He was yelling at someone when I came into the room, someone named Shukaku. When I asked who it was Gaara freaked out. He kept saying that I was not supposed to find out about it. He then said that Shukaku starts speaking if he sleeps for too long, starts laughing…” Kakashi’s eyes widened and he looked at Gai in worry at Lee’s next words.

“I think…I think Gaara is hearing voices.” Lee stated as the realization crashed down on him, he managed to jerk his arm from Gai’s grip before taking off down the stairs. “He could hurt himself, I have to go find him!”

“Lee wait!” Kakashi shouted as his son bolted down the stairs, barely stopping to grab his cell phone on the table and grab his coat by the door as he practically knocked Sasuke and Naruto over when they walked in the door. Both teens looked cross as they turned to look after where the youth had run off to. 

“What the hell Lee, First Gaara now you. Where’s the fire?” Naruto called after his friend as he ran down the street, following after Gaara’s barefoot prints in the snow. The blond looked up at Kakashi and Gai as they came down the steps, taking in their worried faces. Something was clearly wrong.

Sasuke was first to ask.

“What happened?” he asked as the older men looked back and forth. A silent understanding seemed to pass between the men as Gai headed for the phone. Kakashi looked at Naruto and Sasuke and sighed.

“Gaara was very sick last night with the flu and his family was out of town so we brought him here.” Kakashi explained, running his hand through his silver locks and messing them up more than they had been before. “When we woke up this morning...I think Gaara has been dealing with something by himself that he shouldn’t have to deal with.”  Naruto cocked his head to the side in question, his eyebrows furrowing in concern.

“Like what?” Naruto asked carefully, watching Kakashi’s movements. “Is he okay or is he sicker than we thought?” Kakashi let out another sigh, knowing Naruto would be the best person to help with this but still reluctant to share. It wasn’t his place.

“From what Lee said before he ran out, Gaara may be hearing voices. More specifically a voice…” Kakashi finally said. Sasuke’s spine stiffened and he looked at Naruto. His face was one of pure shock. Sasuke turned towards Kakashi.

“Is he having an episode right now?” Sasuke demanded his eyes locking with Kakashi’s. Lee could be in danger if Gaara was confused and disoriented. He may not mean to hurt Lee but he could and Sasuke wanted to be sure that Lee was protected. Sasuke wasn't going to allow a repeat of Lee's injury. 

Naruto turned to Kakashi, his blue eyes shining with his familiar determination and resolve. Naruto was not going to let anything bad happen to either of his friends if he could help it. 

“Let’s go find him. I’ll talk to him, it worked last time.” Naruto defended as Kakashi nodded, Gai was on the phone with Yamato, Kakashi’s therapist, and hopefully could get some advice on how to handle the situation properly.

Kakashi grabbed the keys to his car, his resolve setting itself as he motioned for Naruto and Sasuke to follow. Gaara was in need of more help than he thought but he wasn't going to let this go on any longer. They needed to find Gaara and Lee first, then they could figure out how to help the boy. 

“Naruto, where would Gaara go if he was feeling threatened?” Gai asked as he reentered the room, grabbing the keys to his truck and armed with the knowledge of what to do. Naruto scratched his head as he tried to think of a place. He wracked his brain for some clue from the conversations he had held with Gaara before. 

“He said he spends a lot of time in the library or at the park…Lets check the park first and then his house, maybe he’s there.” Naruto suggested as they split into groups. Kakashi took Naruto in his car and Gai took Sasuke to his truck.

Kakashi texted out to Jiraiya, Tsunade, and Iruka asking for help. Most of them were off today or asleep but this was an emergency. Gai was already having Sasuke call Neji, TenTen, Sakura and anyone else they could think of into searching.

Hopefully they were right and nothing bad had happened.


 

Kankuro whistled as he made his way into town. His car had been put into the shop and wouldn’t be fixed till Monday but the rental car he was currently driving would do until then. His cell phone was charged and the Inuzuka family had been kind enough to give him a bed for the night.

Granted he spent more time talking to Kiba than anything. The other teen was pretty well versed in mechanics and actually wanted to hear about the battle bot he had created. Kankuro hadn’t ended up getting laid but Kankuro had gotten his number so it would happen eventually. They went to the same school too it seemed and Kankuro had a sneaking suspicion that Kiba was not as straight as the country boy demeanor let on.

As he headed for Konoha’s city limits, Kankuro felt his phone vibrate just as he stopped at a stop sign and he answered it when he recognized it as Gaara’s sensei’s number.

“Hey, this is Kankuro.” He answered, taking a turn into the city. “I had a little car trouble and I just got into the city. How is Gaara holding up?” The man on the other line hesitated for a moment.

“Kankuro, I wanted to tell you that Gaara had a schizophrenic episode this morning when he woke up.” Gai explained hurriedly. “He ran off and we wanted to know if you knew anything about how to help him. Does this happen often?” Kankuro slammed on his brakes and the car screeched to a halt. Good thing it was still morning and the streets were abandoned or he could have hit someone.

“W-was it S-Shukaku again?” Kankuro stammered, his heart was hammering in fear as it threatened to leap from his chest. Gai made a small confused noise on the other line.

“Lee mentioned that was the voices name…is everything alright?” Gai asked and Kankuro rubbed his temple. This was bad. He and Temari had hoped that the voice had stopped after that one incident when Gaara was six, it seemed their prayers had gone unanswered.

“Gaara got sick when he was younger and had an episode but he hasn’t really had any since then.” Kankuro explained cautiously. His father had tried to ignore Gaara’s episode after it happened but Kankuro knew most people would have locked his brother up for what he had done. “I’ll be there as soon as possible, just keep him there.”

There was a pause as Gai hesitated to speak again.

“Gaara ran off, he became panicked when Lee heard him talking to the voice.” Gai explained as Kankuro felt all the blood drain from his face. This was bad.

“I’ll go check my house, he normally tries to hide in his room.” Kankuro ordered with a sigh. “And do not call my father, he won’t cause anything but problems. Keep me posted and call if you find him.” Gai made a small noise of agreement before hanging up the phone.

Kankuro groaned as he tried not to speed through the city to get to his home. He hoped his brother was okay and unharmed, he just wanted him to be safe.


 

Lee followed Gaara all the way to the red head’s home. The door was thrown open and left there, snow dragged into the home and covering the floor. Wet foot prints led up the stairs and Lee sprinted up to the second floor.

Gaara’s door that led up to the attic was open and Lee could heavy, panicked mumbling coming from Gaara’s room. He bit his lip as his heart ached at the gut wrenching cries. Lee walked into the room slowly, looking around until he saw Gaara curled in the corner of the room.

“Gaara, it’s me Lee.” he announced, approaching slowly as to not startle his friend. Gaara looked up slightly. His eyes were wet with unshed tears as they widened to look at Lee.

“You shouldn’t be here Lee, I’m a monster.” Gaara whispered, trying to edge further into the corner he was in. “I’ll only hurt you.” Lee gave Gaara a sympathetic look as he managed to crouch in front of him. Gaara shook his head as he tried to move away.

“Gaara, you won’t hurt me.” Lee comforted, raising his hand to gently card his fingers through the blood red locks. His smile was soft. “I trust you.” Gaara looked up and shook his head, knocking Lee’s hand away with his own. His teal eyes angry and hurt.

“Then you’re an idiot.” Gaara shouted, trying to shy away as he sat up and moved across the room. “You should be leaving…trying to send me away just like Yashamaru tried to do.” Lee was up in a heartbeat, walking across the room to look at Gaara.

“I do not want to lock you up Gaara.” Lee reassured, feeling a little hurt that Gaara would think that he would try. “Kakashi knows a therapist that could help you…” Gaara turned and growled angrily, like a cornered and frightened animal.

“I’m crazy!” Gaara shouted, his chest heaving in frustration as he grabbed at his hair once more. He squeezed his eyes shut as he fought tears. Why wouldn’t Lee just run away before he got hurt, before Gaara lost what little control he had left? Shukaku had long since quieted but Gaara didn’t trust himself not to hurt his friend.

“I’m fucking crazy and you’re going to lock me up…just like Yashamaru wanted to do…he couldn’t pretend anymore.” Gaara cried, his hand moving down to his bare chest as he dug his nails into the space above his heart. The pain was too much. He didn’t want to remember. “I-I’m the monster who stole his sister from him, mother would be alive if I’d never been born. Yashamaru would be alive…I’m better off dead.” Lee took Gaara by the shoulders, spinning him around and forcing the red head to look at him. Lee’s eyes bore into Gaara’s as they locked eyes.

“You are not crazy Gaara, you are just a little unwell.” Lee insisted, his eyes narrowed in his seriousness but the kindness still shining in his dark gaze. “Do not call yourself a monster either. A monster would not have asked for my forgiveness after hurting me, a monster would not stay up late reading with me so I can fall asleep easier, a monster would not try to protect me from getting hurt by them.”

Gaara felt the tears he had held back spill over and trail down his cheeks as he lost what little control he had over his emotions. His shoulders shook as he broke down.

Lee’s arms wrapped around Gaara’s small shoulders, pulling his crying friend into a hug. Gaara sobbed into Lee’s chest. The tears soaked the green shirt as Gaara fisted the material, Lee rubbing his back in gentle circles. Lee softly murmured words of comfort. They stood like that for several minutes, Lee not letting go of his friend until Gaara’s eyes could shed no more tears and his throat was raw.

Lee pulled away slightly, lifting his jacket sleeve to wipe Gaara’s nose. The other teen looked up at him with waiting eyes. He was waiting for the rejection, the harsh words that he had grown so used to hearing when he showed weakness. Lee smiled his wide grin.

“You don’t need to carry this burden alone Gaara. No one should have to shoulder the pain you’ve been forced to deal with.” Lee whispered as he brought a gentle hand to Gaara’s hair so he could stroke the soft locks. “But all this pain…let me take some of it for you, we can work this out together. Talk to me if you want. Tell me what you fear, what you’ve held in for so long. I want to help…If you will trust me.”

Gaara sniffed and thought the plea over. His heart was so tired, he was so drained. Trust was not something he was accustomed to, trusting other people was something he had learned not to do. Lee could hurt him. How could he trust the dark haired boy not to hurt him like so many others had done before him, like Yashamaru had done before him?

Gaara took a breath and let it out. He was so tired, his soul felt heavy in his chest. Maybe it was time to take a risk.

“I don’t know how to trust…” Gaara stated slowly. Lee moved away from Gaara, taking a seat on the end of Gaara’s bed, patting the spot next to him. Gaara looked from Lee’s hand to his round eyes nervously.

“I trusted you not to hurt me just now.” Lee reassured, holding out his hand for Gaara to take. “Trust me to do the same.” Gaara stared at the scarred hand for a moment, his eyes looking over the rough hands before setting his soft pale one into it.

“It’s a long story.” Gaara warned as he sat down next to Lee, his hand still wrapped in his friends. Lee chuckled, his eyes sparkling with mirth.

“We have time.” He assured and Gaara took a deep breath. He didn’t know where to start at first, biting his lip for a moment as he decided on the path to take. He hated thinking about these memories but if Lee wanted him to share, if doing this would help, than he was willing to try. 

“My mother died when I was born…I was told I came early and there were many complications with the birth that resulted in her death. My father loved her very much I am told and he blames me for her death.” Gaara explained, willing his voice not to shake as he recounted the story he had been told. "Father says she dies cursing my name, hating me with all she had." Lee sucked in a breath of air but said nothing as Gaara continued on, the red head looking everywhere but at Lee. He didn't want to see the shock or anger in Lee's eyes when the story was told. 

“Yashamaru was my uncle…he helped raise Temari, Kankuro and I because father was busy. I remember that he always looked sad but tried so hard to look happy when he talked to me. He was always there to take care of my scrapes and chase away the nightmares. Until the day I asked him why he looked so sad.” Gaara sighed as he looked down at his feet but seeming as if he wasn't really seeing them as he lost himself in memory.

Lee felt Gaara’s hand squeeze his, as if seeking comfort as he spoke. Lee squeezed back. His gaze never left the red head's face as Gaara continued on.

“I remember him shouting at me. “Who do you think I’m doing this for?” he broke a plate or two when he threw them across the room. H-he was trying so hard to love me. He wanted to love me like he should but in the end he couldn’t love the monster that took his beloved older sister from him” Gaara’s voice shook a little as he recalled the next incident, shutting his eyes as tears threatened to overwhelm him again. He took another shaky breath before continuing. He was not going to break down. 

 “Shukaku started talking after that. He whispered to me from the walls and I was so lonely that I spoke back to him. Yashamaru started to notice even though he stopped trying to take care of me. He starting locking me in my room more. I remember waking up every morning with an ache in my heart, wondering if Yashamaru would feed me that day, if I would be let out to play. If he would hug me again and say he loved me like he used to.”

Lee felt sick to his stomach at the thought of anyone who could be so cruel to any child, let alone one of their own kin. Lee clenched his free hand into a fist. In that moment, he hated Gaara’s uncle with all his heart. He hated him for making Gaara feel this way, like he was some unlovable burden, like the lonely child was something evil. 

“I-I don’t remember how long I went without seeing my family or being let outside. I was six when I got really sick. I slept for almost three days straight and when I woke up Shukaku was so loud…he wouldn’t be quiet so I managed to climb up onto the roof from my window. I just wanted it to be outside for a little bit, for it to be quiet. Yashamaru came up on the ladder…he tried to pull me off the roof. He said…he said there were people coming to take me away…to lock me away.”

Lee felt his heart ache painfully for his friend. Gaara must have been so frightened and confused. He had been sick only to wake and be told he was going to be cast away like a stone. Lee bit his lip as tears welled in his eyes.

“He startled me when he grabbed me. I pushed him away a-and he lost his balance. He tried to grab onto the roof but he caught the ladder instead. The crack sound when he hit the pavement…T-there was so much blood. A neighbor saw what happened and called an ambulance but it was too late, he was gone. The police ruled it an accident but my father knew it was my fault. After that…Temari and Kankuro avoided me. I started locking myself in my room, with only Shukaku to keep me company. I decided that it was best if I only cared for myself, lived for myself…until we came here and I met Naruto…when I met you.” Gaara concluded, letting go of Lee’s hand to place his hand in his lap. He didn’t want to meet Lee’s eyes now that he knew what Gaara had done. How much of a monster he really was.

Lee wrapped his arms around Gaara, forgetting that he shouldn’t move too quickly. Tears poured down his cheeks as he pulled the startled Gaara close in a crushing hug. Gaara wrinkled his brow at Lee’s tears.

“Why are you crying?” Gaara asked innocently, not understanding. Had he hurt Lee by accident? Lee shook his head, letting out a small watery laugh at Gaara’s question. Lee pulled away. He wiped his eyes as he tried to regain control over his emotions.

“I just…you had to carry that for all these years.” Lee said softly, awe heavy in his voice as if he was seeing Gaara for the first time. “You are so strong Gaara.” Gaara looked at Lee with wide eyes. Teal eyes locked with the round black ones as Gaara searched for the hatred he was sure was there. Lee's eyes held no malice, only sympathy and sadness. Gaara put his hand to his chest, above his heart. The ache had receded and it was beating rapidly as warmth bloomed in his chest. Gaara didn’t understand the feeling and opened his mouth to ask Lee. 

“GAARA! LEE!” came a loud shout from down the stairs just minutes before a familiar blond sprinted into the room. Naruto smiled at the pair before turning back to the door. 

"They're up here Kakashi!" He called down to the second floor. 

Lee was up in an instant, his cheeks turning red as he pulled away from Gaara. Naruto smiled brightly and Kakashi walked into the room behind him. Kakashi looked around the room for a moment before his eyes fell on Lee’s just before they settled on Gaara. Kakashi narrowed his eyes at Gaara, his protective instincts kicking in. Lee rose, unconsciously shielding Gaara from his father’s accusing gaze.

“Kakashi, everything is fine now.” Lee explained as he met his father’s eyes before turning to Naruto with a wide grin. “Gaara and I talked it out.” Kakashi’s eyes did not cease their scrutinizing of Gaara. The one eyed man eyed Gaara warily, as if daring him get up. Lee felt a fierce protectiveness fall over him as he stood in front of Gaara.

 “Father, please do not be…” Lee started to defend but felt a hand on his shoulder. Gaara looked up at him as he stepped in front of Lee, giving him a small nod as he looked up at Kakashi.

“I am sorry for any trouble I caused Hatake sir.” Gaara apologized, meeting Kakashi’s eye steadily. “I thought I could handle this on my own but it seems that I may need some help.” Kakashi’s gaze softened a little as he placed a gentle hand on Gaara’s shoulder. Naruto laughed as he ruffled Gaara’s hair with his typical wide grin, he chuckled as he flicked Gaara's forehead. the red head winced before reaching up a hand to rub the spot. 

“No shit Sherlock. You should have told us sooner.” Naruto reprimanded him gently, taking his hand away to cross his arm. “We could have had Yamato look you over before you had a freak out!”

Gaara looked away, shame weighing heavily on his conscience as he took great interest in his feet. He shivered slightly, feeling the coldness of the room for the first time since he had arrived. He pajama bottoms were still soaked from his run through the slush and that was not helping his freezing body temperature. A cough escaped his lips.

“I just thought…I was worried you would think…” he stammered as he wrapped his arms around his torso, not wanting to meet anyone’s gaze. Kakashi chuckled and sighed as he shook his head in a fatherly manner.

“I know the feeling kid.” Kakashi said softly, taking off his jacket to wrap it around Gaara’s shivering torso. He ruffled Gaara’s messy hair as he smiled. “Yamato said he’s always willing to accept a new patient. He’s my therapist as well as Naruto’s so I can’t guarantee he’s the best but he’ll try.” Lee rolled his eyes at the comment.

“Kakashi!” he scolded, giving his father a look of alarm as Naruto snorted in laughter. "Yamato is a very good therapist, don't talk about him like that." 

“Well Kakashi and I aren’t exactly pictures of mental health Bushy Brows.” Naruto teased at Lee, who sputtered in annoyance. Gaara felt the anxiety slowly give way to a soft warmth in his heart. This family, his friends had accepted his biggest secret. Accepted it and chosen to understand and help him through it. He wasn't sure how to take it.

Kakashi put an arm around Gaara’s shoulders and led him down the stairs, his good eye crinkling as he smiled down at the boy with warmth he hadn’t held before.

“Let’s go get some breakfast, we wasted so much energy trying to find you two. I’m starved.” He offered as the little group walked down the stairs of Gaara’s home. Gaara didn’t get a chance to answer when Naruto let out a loud shout.

“YES!” the blond yelled as he licked his lips and took Lee by the wrist. “FOOD!” Gaara had to cover his mouth to keep from laughing at Lee’s face as he was yanked down the stairs. Lee watched his feet closely to keep from tripping as he was pulled down the steps.

Kakashi let out a snort of laughter as he took his time down the steps, not releasing Gaara’s shoulders until he was safely by the car. Somehow, the gesture made Gaara feel secure.

A silver car pulled up to the street, parking and Kankuro got out. He leapt onto the sidewalk and the older teen looked panicked as he jogged over to Gaara. His eyes searched Gaara’s body for injury, lingering on the scabbed over nail marks on his temples. Kankuro bit his lip as he took them in but deemed them not serious as he looked down at his little brother. Gaara seemed okay. 

“Gaara, are you okay little bro?” Kankuro asked, putting his hands on Gaara’s forearms and meeting his eyes. “Temari said you were sick last night and I tried to get here as quick as I could but I had car trouble. Then Gai said you had an episode. Was it Shukaku again?” Gaara’s eyes widened in surprise and he blinked several times at the concern in his brother’s voice. Could it be that even after all this time...

“I-I’m fine now…It was but Lee who helped me through it…” Gaara managed to stammer and Kakashi’s hand squeezed his shoulder in reassurance. Kankuro relaxed, drawing back and running a hand through his brown mess of hair with a sigh.

“Good, I was so worried you’d gotten…I mean…” Kankuro stammered, blushing in embarrassment. He shut his mouth and looked up at Kakashi, brown eyes narrowing.

“Where are you taking him?” He asked suspiciously. Kakashi eyed the boy as he squared his shoulders, readying for a fight if it meant protecting his brother. Kakashi smiled and chuckled.

“To get breakfast back at our home and get him the number for my therapist.” Kakashi clarified warmly, motioning to the car. “You’re free to join us.” Kankuro looked between the man and Gaara before rolling his eyes.

“Fine but I call front seat.” Kankuro stated as he headed for the car, pushing Naruto out of the way so he could sit in the front seat of the car. Naruto complained as he opened the car door,  and Gaara managed to slip into the back seat and take the middle seat. He caught Lee’s round eyes for a moment.

Lee met his eyes with a bright grin and he gave his friend a thumbs up, making Gaara feel warm again. He nodded for a moment before the car took off down the street. The car was peacefully silent the whole way to Lee's home, nothing but the sound of Gaara's rapid heartbeat in his ears as they drove. 


 

Sakura mumbled as her phone rang, waking her up from a dead sleep. She groaned as she took it off of her nightstand and hit the answer button when she read the Caller ID.

“What is it Sasuke!” Sakura snapped, rubbing her eyes and looking at her clock. “I had a really late night last night so this better be important.”

Gaara had another freak out, Lee went after him and we need help finding him. Sasuke said hurriedly. “I’m currently looking through the park with Naruto, Kakashi and Gai-sensei. You need to get here.”

Sakura was up like a shot, running to her closet to throw on some clothes. “What kind of freak out? Is Lee okay?” She asked as she shimmied one leg into her sweat pants, still holding her phone as she slipped on her boots.

“Just get here and we’ll explain everything.” Sasuke snapped, hanging up. Sakura rolled her eyes, the raven haired male was always temperamental first thing in the morning and an emergency situation was not helping.

Sakura looked towards her bed, noting the emptiness. She sighed as she walked over to her desk to grab her parka from the back of the chair. On the desk was a note, written in loopy cursive that made Sakura’s heart ache when she recognized it.

Picking it up, Sakura looked over the note quickly.

Thanks for the night.

-Karin

Sakura gave another sigh as the familiar loneliness ate at her heart when she pulled on her coat. At least she had been left a note this time. Karin never stayed the night and she should be used to it. Sakura had grown used to waking up alone after passion filled nights with the red head.

Karin was smart and fiery but Sakura couldn’t really see herself being anything more than friends with benefits with her. Karin was good to hang out with but she spent more time thinking about her future. It was a future that didn’t involve a relationship with Sakura.

It always seemed like Sakura was destined to have failed relationship after failed relationship. All the girls she had dated so far simply weren’t ready for the commitment she wanted or decided that they weren’t as into girls as they thought. Sakura was getting tired of rejection.

Sleeping with Karin was simple as long as she didn’t hint at wanting more. If she did, then the fights could last hours. Sakura had learned better than to hope for more.

Grabbing a quick bite to eat, Sakura checked her messages and noticed a message from Neji saying he would come pick her up so they could look for Lee. She took the time to add an extra layer to her snow attire.

Sakura was used to the cold but it didn’t mean she wanted to freeze while looking for Lee. Sakura looked out the window as the silver Prius pulled up into her driveway and honked. Sakura opened her door, closing it behind her and stopping to lock it before heading to the car.

Walking out into her driveway, Neji and TenTen waved to her as Sakura clambered into the back seat. TenTen looked worried as Neji made sure to turn up the heat and Sakura settled into the warmth of the car.

“We are on our way to meet up with Gai-sensei at their home, Kakashi found them just a few moments ago.” Neji said as Sakura looked towards the occupied seat in the back.

Sakura let out a sigh of relief. Lee was safe then and hopefully she wouldn’t have to kill Gaara. Neji’s cousin Hinata looked up with a gentle smile and Sakura smiled back. Hinata’s red scarf was wrapped warmly around her neck, her puffy lavendar colored coat neat and clean. Hinata always looked so put together that Sakura couldn't help but be jealous at times. 

“H-hello Sakura, I came to help if I could.” Hinata explained, her face turning red slightly as she stuttered. Sakura nodded. Hinata was always so kind to Neji’s friends. Her crush on Naruto was obvious to everyone except the stupid blond but the others kept quiet, not wanting to hurt the sensitive girl’s feelings.

“Sorry that it wasn’t needed.” Sakura stated, her heart skipping a beat as she looked into those pretty lavender eyes. “At least you’ll get some of Gai’s awesome pancakes out of it.” Hinata giggled and Sakura beamed at the accomplishment.

 Hinata was gorgeous, much like Neji was but she seemed so much softer. Sakura had to tear her eyes away as her cheeks heated. She turned to Neji as they pulled out of the drive way.

“What happened exactly?” Sakura asked as they sped towards the address that Gai had texted them, trying to be careful of the slush as they went down the almost empty morning road.


 

The whole family was gathered in various rooms throughout the house, making more noise than they were allowed as Gai passed out plates of hot pancakes with butter. Gaara had managed to change into his sweatpants and t-shirt, currently helping Gai hand out the plates. Kankuro had hugged the wall at first, not used to Gaara's loud and colorful friends but he settled in after talking to Kakashi for a bit and finding good conversation with Iruka in the living room. Kakashi sat at the kitchen table with Jiraiya and laughed at something Jiraiya said about his latest book. He thought it needed something hotter and asked Kakashi if he and Gai if could try out this fancy new sex toy for “research”.

That earned the both the older men a slap from both Tsunade and Sakura. 

Naruto and Sasuke had gotten into a heated game of checkers, one that the Uchiha was very much winning. Naruto looked about ready to throw the boards across the room when Gaara handed them both their plates of food.

“Thank you Gaara.” Sasuke managed to say, not making eye contact with him. He had barely talked to Gaara before and had actually seemed to despise him. But it seemed even he was trying to be pleasant and polite. The red head nodded in acknowledgment before turning to back to the kitchen. 

Naruto waved as he scarfed down the food in front of him and didn't bother trying to thank Gaara through a full mouth. Gaara took his plate and took a vacant spot at the base of the stairs. It gave him the perfect view of all the chaos as he munched on his pancakes.

Everyone had come searching for him and Lee. It was an odd feeling to be cared about and at first Gaara tried to convince himself it was all for Lee until everyone had gathered around him to ask if he was feeling better. Maybe it wasn’t just for Lee after all.

The vibrant youth was currently talking excitedly to Sakura about some club they were both in. He was practically bouncing on his toes when Sasuke chose to join them after Naruto tossed their checker game across the room when he lost yet again. Iruka scolded him, making the teen pick up his mess with an angry glare that could have made lesser men melt in shame. Naruto grumbled and did as he was told. 

Neji talked to Tsunade about something, leaning his face on his hand and looking relaxed while TenTen tried to comfort Naruto after his loss at checkers. Gaara felt a smile tug at his lips at all the people he was beginning to care so much for. He would ever get used to all the activity and noise that came with the group it seemed. 

Then he felt a presence next to him. He looked up to see Hinata Hyuuga, Neji’s cousin pointing to the spot next to him. She looked exactly like Neji except for the long black hair that shone almost blue. Her face was softer as well, her voice polite and tender. Gaara liked how much quieter she was in comparison to the rest of the group. 

“May I?” she asked softly, her smile warm as Gaara nodded in response. She seemed quieter than the others. Hinata sat down, placing her plate gently on her lap and shyly stared at her plate before smiling back up at Gaara.

“Jiraiya said that your reading his shinobi novel, do you like it so far?” she asked shyly, a blush appearing on her cheeks. Gaara met her eyes and nodded, not sure about her motives. “I thought it was a good book but my favorite is still To Kill a Mockingbird, we are actually reading it in English right now.” Hinata continued and Gaara nodded.

“I’ve read it, I liked it well enough but I still prefer Of Mice and Men. I read that for my old English class before we moved here.” He said before taking a bite of food. Hinata’s smile widened in excitement.

“I loved that one, although the ending still makes me cry.” She admitted. “Then again Old Yeller and Savage Sam did the same thing. Good books but still very sad.” Gaara nodded with a small smirk.

“I can’t say I’ve read either. I saw the movie for Old Yeller…” he confessed and Hinata gasped, giving Gaara a playfully stern look.

“I will lend you my copy at school on Monday if you’d like to read it.” She stated gently. “Also if you like reading, the book club at school meets on Mondays before school. I’ve seen you there waiting for Lee sometimes so why don’t you come with me? Everyone is really nice.”

Gaara was taken aback, he wasn’t sure how to answer. He had never paid much attention to the clubs at his school. He knew Lee and Neji were in a few but had never taken the time to find one of his own. A club at the beginning of the day wouldn't impede on his martial arts practice now that he thought about it. 

“I-I guess I could try it.” Gaara answered nervously and Hinata smiled gently at him, her kind eyes sensing his nervousness.

“Don’t worry, there are only a few of us there,” she reassured, crossing her hands in her lap. She was very well mannered from what Gaara observed and her non threatening energy made him feel somewhat relaxed. “We just finished a book so this meeting will be about what to read next. Maybe you can suggest one.” She took out a pen from her pocket and took Gaara’s hand. He stiffened for a moment as she wrote down her phone number.

“Feel free to text me so we can meet up on Monday, just let me know it’s you.” She said kindly, giving him a shy smile. Gaara nodded, his own smile reaching the corners of his mouth.


 

Lee looked over when he heard a small light laughter from the stairs. Hinata was talking to Gaara, smiling at something he was saying. The red head had the smallest of smiles on his lips as they discussed something. Lee felt his stomach curl in jealousy as Hinata took Gaara’s hand, writing her phone number on it.

Lee looked away. He had no right to be jealous of Hinata, she was a very sweet girl who was genuinely trying to befriend Gaara. Everyone knew of her one sided crush on Naruto and that eased the knot out of Lee’s gut. There was no way she was interested in Gaara. 

"But what if Gaara is interested in her?"  he mused and the thought made his gut tighten again until Lee felt sick.  

He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up at Sakura. She gave him a sympathetic look and a gentle smile. Sasuke gave him a small look before he turned to go talk to Naruto, seeming to understand that Lee wanted to be alone. Lee was grateful for his intuitive friends understanding. 

“Hinata was talking about inviting Gaara to the book club since he likes to read so much.” Sakura soothed, letting her hand fall as she leaned back against the wall. “She’s just being nice.” Lee nodded, a blush dusting his cheeks as guilt pulled at him. Of course Hinata was just being kind, that was the type of person she was. 

“I-I am sure Gaara would love that.” Lee stammered sheepishly, running a hand through his hair. He straightened his back and looked away, taking one more glance back at Gaara. He looked happy as he talked about something with Hinata. Lee felt a tug at his heart and turned away again. He couldn't let his jealousy cloud Gaara's happiness. Even if Gaara was still naive, he had the right to talk to and be attracted to whoever he wanted. 

Lee would never let his one sided crush get in the way of Gaara's happiness. He sighed as he shook away the feeling and smiled up at Sakura.

“I’m going to go see if Gai-sensei needs any help, would you like me to take your plate?” Lee asked, masking his hurt poorly. Sakura decided not to pry but instead handed her friend the plate she had been eating off of.

Lee took the plate, trying to keep his spirits up but Sakura noted the lack of his normal bounce in his step, his smile seemed forced as he walked to the sink. The tall male began to viciously scrub the dishes. He didn't even look up when Gai made a move to join him. She furrowed her brow in concern and looked back at Gaara and Hinata. They both seemed relaxed, as if they had known each other for years as they talked.

“Poor Lee.” Sakura thought before her attention was called away by Sasuke asking a question. She gave one last look at Lee’s back as he scrubbed at dishes in the sink before turning to walk over to the Uchiha.

Lee would have to learn to deal with certain things on his own, his feelings for Gaara being one of them. 

 

 

                                                                 

Chapter Text


 

Gaara’s teal eyes watched the trees as the soft breeze rustled the leaves. Summer had just started, the heat and humidity from the rain making the leaves of the trees bright green. He had been in Konoha for almost eight months now and so much had changed for him that Gaara found himself thinking of it all. The sound of a clearing throat drew his attention back to Dr. Yamato, who was sitting at his desk with a warm smile.

“Sorry to interrupt your thoughts Gaara, you trailed off.” The therapist chuckled and Gaara shrugged. He had grown comfortable talking to Yamato but it was still odd talking to the man about things that went on in his life.

“Sorry…I was just thinking.” Gaara apologized. Yamato perked up and raised a brow.

“What about?” He asked, giving Gaara a curious look. Gaara shrugged as he leaned back onto the couch, looking up at the ceiling with a heavy sigh.

“I have been in Konoha for almost eight months now, I was just thinking about how much has changed since then.” He stated, taking a mental note of the approving sound that Yamato let out. “I’m happy that we came here.”  Yamato paused and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his desk and leaning forward slightly.

“Is your new medication working better than the last one?” he asked with a raised brow. “Sasori mentioned it was giving you some problems when you first started taking it.” Gaara shook his head. While the Abilify that his psychiatrist, Sasori, had given him some enduring stomach pains and made it even harder to get to sleep, the Seroquel had stopped doing such things within the first two weeks.

“I still have some issues with sleeping but it isn’t nearly as bad. The hard part is remembering to take it but Naruto and Lee has been helping with that.” Gaara noted, his lips curling in a slight smile. Naruto had taken to asking him every day at school if he remembered, even roping Hinata into asking during book club in the mornings.

But Lee had taken it a step further. He set reminders on both his, Lee’s and Gai-sensei’s phones so that they all knew when Gaara needed to take his medication. Lee would call when his alarm went off and make sure Gaara didn’t just turn off the alarm like he had done at first.

“How are things going with your siblings?” Yamato inquired carefully, He had discovered the touchy subjects he should avoid unless the boy wanted to speak about them. His siblings had become a slightly safer subject than his father in earlier sessions.

“Kankuro and I have been working on one of his robots together. I have no talent for the actual mechanics but I get to read while I hand him tools and we talk sometimes. I still leave Temari lunch before she goes to college in the mornings. Tonight Gai-sensei and Kakashi invited me and my siblings over for dinner tonight.” Gaara answered solemnly. “We are celebrating my belt promotion and it will be the first time Temari is meeting them all.”

Yamato chuckled at that.

“I’m sure I will see her there then. Gai invited me and it is my first time with all of them together as well. From what I heard from Kakashi, they can get pretty crazy.” Yamato observed as he looked at the clock. “Looks like this week’s session is over. Who is-?”

A knock on the door drew their attention to it as it opened and Kakashi entered the room. He waved to Yamato, his eyes crinkling as he smiled from under his mask. Gaara picked up his bag from the corner of the room.

“Yamato, good to see you.” Kakashi greeted the man as Gaara padded up to his side. Kakashi turned to Gaara and jabbed his thumb out the door. “Lee is waiting at the dojo, if we hurry we can pick him up on the way back to the house.” Gaara nodded and headed for the car.

“See you for dinner later Yamato, don’t be late.” He said giving Yamato another nod before heading out to follow Gaara. Yamato shook his head as he rose to gather his papers and organize for his next patient.


 

“Five hundred and eighty-nine, Five hundred and ninety…” Lee counted as he punched the weighted bag in front of him. The dojo was empty save for himself. Gai had left early with the others to prepare dinner for tonight, Gaara had graduated to a green belt and the whole family was getting together to celebrate. Lee felt pride well in his chest as he thought about how well the red-head had been doing in the classes.

Gaara was a natural after he learned to channel his rage into something productive and after ridding himself of Shukaku, Gaara’s focus was unmatched. He had risen in rank easily and had become a valuable sparring partner for Lee during his recovery.

Lee had regained most of the strength in his arm with the help of the special training Gai and Tsunade had set up for him. He was now almost back to his former fighting strength and would be participating in a tournament next month. He had never been so excited.

The bell above the door rang as someone entered the dojo. Lee didn’t look up as he continued pounding on the bag.

“I am sorry but we are closed for now but we reopen tomorrow at eight in the morning if you wish to return.” Lee announced as he continued. A warm chuckle filled the air.

“No exceptions for former students than?” a familiar voice said that made Lee pause and his cheeks flush as he turned. At the door stood the green eyed gaze of Kimimaro, one of the former foster children of Orochimaru and a former student teacher at Gai’s dojo. Lee smiled widely.

“Kimimaro-senpai!” Lee exclaimed as he embraced his friend enthusiastically. Kimimaro smiled warmly at Lee and returned the hug before pulling back.

“I thought I’d find you here.” The white haired man said kindly, giving Lee a smile that made him blush. Lee sunk to the floor, patting the ground next to him. Kimimaro joined him gracefully.

“I am surprised, Juugo said you were not due back from Cambridge until next week.” Lee stated as he grabbed his water bottle to take a drink. Kimimaro nodded his response.

“I finished early so I got to come home early.” He said happily. “I flew in last night and spent most of the day with Juugo. I wanted to come here and talk with you. Juugo mentioned you had been injured a few months ago, something about getting between Sasuke and someone else” Lee blushed deeper at the hidden insult in Kimimaro’s voice.

“I-I am fine, t-there was an incident with one of our new students, my friend Gaara…I’m fine now.” Lee stammered, looking down as he downed the last of his water. “Gaara has become very serious since then, he recently made green belt and we are celebrating with a family dinner tonight.”

Kimimaro didn’t fail to notice the tenderness in Lee’s voice or how his eyes softened at the mention of Gaara. He chuckled at this.

“I heard and Orochimaru and all of us will be attending.” Kimimaro said his gaze hardening a little. “I look forward to meeting him, it sounds like you are very fond of him from what I’ve heard from Sasuke.” He observed, lightly patting Lee’s shoulder. “Although I’m sure he would like you more if you let your hair grow out of your dad’s silly haircut, your hair was so cute long.”  Lee nodded awkwardly, his heart falling in the normal location it fell when he was talking to Kimimaro. Right around his ankles.

“He is a very good friend of mine.” Lee said sheepishly. “He moved here a few months ago and after my injury we became close…he’s a good friend.”

Kimimaro nodded, not pressing any further and deciding to change the subject. He really didn’t want to hear about Lee’s friend.  

“How is school going?” he asked, folding his hands in front of himself. “Are you still having as much trouble as last year?” Lee shook his head, his smile widening as he gave a thumbs up.

“The bullies have stopped bothering me and my grades have improved dramatically since Neji started tutoring me. I am also involved in the LGBT club at school which is very rewarding.” Lee listed happily and Kimimaro nodded his approval.

“It’s always nice to meet others like you.” Kimimaro observed. “But I don’t know if joining that club was the best idea what with the bullying but to each their own.” Lee nodded and laughed a little.

“It is but there is only a few of us so far and most of them are girls although Sakura does not seem to mind but I wish at least Neji could join so I could talk to someone.” Lee explained with a sigh. “But enough of me complaining, tell me about Cambridge! What has it been like living in another country?” Kimimaro laughed and began to recount the odd things his roommates and he had gotten up to in Britain.


 

Gaara was surprised when Kakashi got a call from the car as they were pulling out of the parking lot of Yamato’s practice. He knew it was Lee the second Kakashi spoke, his voice full of warmth.

“Hello Lee, we are just on our way.” He stated then quirked a brow and nodded. “Oh, so Kimimaro is giving you a ride. That’s fine, we’ll head straight to the house then and we’ll see both of you there. Okay, goodbye then.” Gaara gave Kakashi a look as he hung up the phone and turned to him.

“Lee is getting a ride from a friend of his and he’ll meet us at the house.” Kakashi explained as he pulled the car out. Gaara gave Kakashi a look but turned his head to the window instead of questioning things.

He would see Lee when he got to the house, it was not as if they hadn’t seen each other earlier in the day and they would have all the time in the world to see each other during summer break. Three whole months with nothing to do but spend time with his friends.

Then why did the pit of his stomach twist at the thought of Lee with someone he didn’t know?

The ride to the Maito-Hatake home was quiet but that was to be expected from the pair. Gaara made a point not to waste words just to fill silence and Kakashi had learned to enjoy it. With several members of his family that had never gotten the hang of volume control, Kakashi took some friendly silence when he could.

Gaara and Kakashi soon found themselves in front of the house. Kakashi parked the car and Gaara grabbed his things as he stalked to the door, giving Kakashi a grateful look.

“Thank you for picking me up Kakashi, it is always appreciated.” Gaara stated as they walked to the front door. “But I am capable of walking around, it isn’t like this town is very large.” Kakashi rolled his eyes at Gaara, stepping in front of him and ruffling his hair. Gaara’s stoic expression didn’t change.

“Whatever kid, I know you enjoy the company.” He stated as he opened the door. Gai poked his head out from the kitchen as Gaara took off his shoes at the door. He eyed the orange converses that laid by the door next to a pair of sandals he did not recognize.

“Hello Gaara, was your session with Yamato enjoyable?” The bowl cut sporting man called jovially. Gaara looked over at Gai and nodded as Kakashi crossed through the living room to walk into the kitchen to kiss Gai on the lips. It was then that Gaara heard Lee’s voice from his room and padded up the steps.  

He heard laughter as he opened the door without knocking. On the floor sat Lee, his legs spread out and his back pressed against the end of his bed.  Lee was wearing his sweatpants and green tank top, his hair damp from the shower.

A man he did not recognize sat on Lee’s bed, his legs draped over Lee’s shoulders as he looked at photos Lee was showing him from his Christmas album. The man’s white hair just a little longer than Lee’s and his green eyes looking into Gaara’s with question.

Lee smiled at Gaara and waved from his spot on the floor.

“Gaara, it is good you are here.” Lee exclaimed then turned to the white haired man. “Kimimaro this is Gaara, My new friend that I told you about.” Kimimaro lifted his legs from Lee’s shoulders, turning around to rise from the bed and walked over to Gaara with a friendly smile. He held out his hand to shake Gaara’s.

“I am Kimimaro Kaguya. I’m one of Orochimaru’s former foster children and I’ve known Lee since he was very small.” He explained as he introduced himself. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lee has told me a lot about you this afternoon.” Gaara looked at the hand for a moment before shaking it. He did not like this man. Something in those green eyes unsettled him.

“Gaara No Subaku.” He said simply “I’m afraid that I have never heard anything about you.” Lee flushed a little at that and laughed nervously.

“Well Kimimaro has been in Britain attending Cambridge University and he never really came up…” Lee stated, rubbing the back of his head in his nervousness. Gaara nodded slowly when the sound of the door slamming from downstairs drew their attention to the door.

“GAARA!” the familiar sound of Naruto’s voice called down from the bottom of the stairs. “GET YOUR ASS DOWN HERE!” Gaara sighed and walked out the door with Lee and Kimimaro in tow. As soon as he padded down the stairs, a box wrapped in brown paper hit Gaara in the forehead.

Shaking away his shock he looked down at the box then back up to Naruto. The blond smirked as Gaara glared up at him with a raised brow. Naruto chuckled nervously and ran his hand over his hair.

“I got you a present for reaching the next belt level before me, ya know.” Naruto explained then looked up when Kimimaro walked down the stairs with Lee. “Hey Kimimaro, when did you get back?” Kimimaro smiled down at the blond.

“I flew in last night and decided to visit Lee after I heard about his injury. I’m glad to see he’s recovering.” Kimimaro stated and Gaara looked towards the floor, fidgeting with the package Naruto had gotten him. Naruto turned to him and motioned for him to open it.

Gaara tore at the brown paper that wrapped the box and pulled back the flaps to reveal a small green cactus in a hand painted orange pot. Gaara gently pulled it out of the box and inspected the small succulent.

“An Easter lily cactus.” Gaara observed as he turned his dark rimmed gaze to Naruto. Naruto laughed.

“I saw you reading all those books on cacti and you said they reminded you of the desert. I figured starting a little garden might remind you of home and the weather is getting nice so it’s the perfect time to start.” Naruto noted with his normal wide grin. Gaara blinked for a moment then nodded his response.

“Thank you Naruto. This is very thoughtful.” Gaara replied simply, gently placing the plant in the window sill until later. The door opened again and Kankuro walked into the house along with Temari, Jiraiya, Tsunade, Sasuke, Sakura, Hinata, Sasuke’s siblings and a man that Gaara recognized from photos. Orochimaru gave him a curt nod before holding out his hand.

“You must be Gaara, I’m Orochimaru.” He said with a smile. Gaara nodded and shook the man’s hand. “I’ve heard a lot about you from Sasuke.” Suigetsu rolled his eyes.

“Geez mom can you get more embarrassing, your freaking the kid out.” He scoffed as he leaned over Sasuke’s shoulders. “Tell him Sasuke, he listens to you…” Sasuke rolled his eyes and sighed. Karin pushed Suigetsu off of him and Juugo gave Gaara a nod before walking over to Kimimaro. The tall teen practically towered over Kimimaro’s petite form.

Kimimaro raised his arm to hook it around Juugo’s with a wide grin, making Gaara feel a little better about what he had seen earlier between the older man and Lee. It eased the knot he hadn’t realized had twisted in his gut. Anger rose in his heart as Lee placed a hand on Kimimaro’s shoulder and led him into the kitchen.

Naruto scoffed and rolled his eyes as he watched Kimimaro leave. He, Sakura and Sasuke shared a look as they walked into the kitchen, a silent conversation passing between the three. Gaara raised a brow at this but didn’t question it as they gathered in the kitchen as Gai called everyone into the kitchen.


 

It was an hour and a half after dinner when Jiraiya, Gaara, Suigetsu, Tsunade, Kakashi, Naruto and Karin all gathered at the table. Crumpled bills filled the table, most of it in front of Karin.

Gaara looked over his cards at Lee and Kimimaro across the kitchen as Suigetsu tried to accuse Karin of cheating at the poker game they were playing. The white haired teen had already lost fifty dollars to the girl and Gaara was too busy watching Lee to really care how much more he had lost this round.

 Lee and Kimimaro brushed shoulders as they worked on doing the dishes. Kimimaro’s hand brushed Lee’s ever so often as he took the dishes to dry. Gaara clenched his jaw as Lee smiled and laughed at something Kimimaro said. Gaara clutched his cards in his hand.

Gaara rose and threw his cards down.

“I fold.” He said simply as he walked away and into the living room. Kakashi leaned back in his chair, raising a brow at the boy. Naruto caught Kakashi’s eyes and nodded at him as he rose up.

“I fold too.” Naruto stated as he took off into the living room after Gaara.

Gaara looked around the living room as he took a seat at the base of the stairs. Sakura, TenTen and Temari had actually struck up a conversation despite her earlier reservations about the whole family. Kankuro recounted a tale from one of the competitions he had participated in to Orochimaru and Yamato. Gaara sighed and tried to calm his breathing.

The jealousy he felt in the pit of his stomach raged, making his gut tight and his head hurt. He shouldn’t be feeling this way. Kimimaro was Lee’s friend and Lee knew his friends better than Gaara did. So what if Kimimaro was always touching Lee or making Lee laugh, it wasn’t his business. But why did Kimimaro’s presence make him uneasy.

Naruto plopped down next to Gaara with an easy grin adorned on his face. He sighed in relaxation. Sasuke broke away from his conversation with Juugo and Neji to stand next to Naruto. Sasuke sipped his soda with a smirk.

“Is Kimimaro still hanging all over Lee again?” Sasuke asked jokingly as he jerked his head towards the kitchen. “I know he wants to pretend it never happened but honestly Lee must feel like shit.”

“Kimimaro is so touchy now though, I think he likes fucking with Lee now that he knows Lee liked him.” Naruto said with distaste written on his features. Gaara took this as a comfort. Maybe he was not the only one that was uncomfortable with how Kimimaro acted around Lee.

“Kimimaro can be an ass but I hate how Lee just puts up with it. I mean it was fine before but I don’t know how he can pretend that it’s all harmless teasing. I know he said he doesn’t mind but I get the feeling Lee is just taking one for the team when he says that.” Naruto continued. Gaara couldn’t help but raise a brow in question but remained silent. Naruto snorted in annoyance as Sasuke chuckled.

“I don’t know, he’s seemed pretty happy after he found the LGBT club at school. I heard they want him to be the president next year.” Sasuke reassured, Naruto laughed and Gaara blinked in confusion, unable to keep quiet.

“Why is Lee in the LGBT club?” Gaara questioned slowly, causing Naruto and Sasuke to turn their heads quickly. “Isn’t that the club for all the homosexuals that go to our school?” Sasuke stiffened and Naruto glared at him before punching his friend in the arm.

“Way to go bastard, you just outed Lee!” Naruto whispered heatedly and Sasuke scoffed, rubbing his arm.

“It’s not like you weren’t just talking about the crush he had on Kimimaro at all. I’m surprised everyone in the room didn’t hear you.” Sasuke snapped, shoving Naruto into the stairs. Naruto growled and rose angrily to shove Sasuke onto the couch.

“How was I supposed to know that he didn’t know?” Naruto shouted as he was pulled down with Sasuke by the collar of his orange t-shirt. Temari and Sakura both rose quickly to avoid collision with the boys. Hinata didn’t move fast enough.  

Sakura looked down at the boys as they landed on Hinata’s lap, effectively scaring a squeak out of the timid girl. Sakura leaned down with an angry growl and took both boys by the collars.

“Would you two stop fighting already, you’re freaking out Hinata!” the pink haired girl shouted as she pulled them up with her monstrous strength. Out of the corner of his eye, Gaara noticed Kimimaro come out of the kitchen to stand next to Juugo and laugh at Naruto and Sasuke’s antics. Gaara took his leave and entered the kitchen as the others filed out of it to watch Sakura as she smacked both boys upside the head. He had seen enough of the fights between the two boys to know how this situation would end up.

Lee was putting the last of the left overs into individual Tupperware for everyone to take home when Gaara walked over to him. He looked up when Gaara entered and smiled widely, giving his friend a thumbs up as Gaara leaned onto the counter.

“Hello Gaara,” he chirped in greeting. “Were Naruto and Sasuke fighting again? They cannot behave for even one evening it seems but I am sure Sakura will set them straight…if she doesn’t knock Naruto out like last time.” Gaara nodded, staring at Lee with a look he often got when he was trying to figure out a hard problem.

Lee glanced at him curiously. He couldn’t help but feel as if Gaara wanted to ask him something, it was making him uncomfortable to be looked at like he was being observed. He tried to continue dividing up the left overs, picking up the large spoon he had been using.

“Can I-.” he started only to be interrupted by Gaara.

“Are you attracted to other men?” the red-head asked bluntly, crossing his arms in front of him as he looked into Lee’s eyes with his normal intensity that made Lee feel like he was under a microscope. Lee’s movements ceased as he stiffened. His grip on the spoon loosened and the clatter of metal hitting tile filled the room, Lee ignored it and turned to Gaara nervously.

“How did you…W-why do you ask?” Lee asked back, trying to calm his erratic heartbeat and turning his gaze to his feet. It could just be a crazy coincidence that Gaara was asking. Lee had been so damn careful to avoid Gaara finding out.

“Naruto and the Uchiha mentioned your involvement in the LGBT club at our school as well as your crush on Kimimaro.” Gaara answered. “I wanted to ask you to be sure they weren’t just joking. So are you gay?” Lee let out a nervous laugh.

“Um…” he stammered then let out a sigh. He was going to kill Naruto and Sasuke for this later.

“Damn it Naruto, Sasuke…” Lee thought bitterly as he looked up, straightening his spine to stand tall and finally meeting Gaara’s eyes. Too late to go back now.

“Yes, it’s true.” Lee confessed calmly, a little quieter than he meant. “I am attracted to other men.” A long silence filled the room as Gaara made a small noise that sounded like ‘hmm’. Lee took a deep breath and let it out, moving his eyes back to the counter.

“Is that…Do you have a problem with my preferences?” Lee asked quietly, the question gripped at his heart as he prepared for the worse outcome. Gaara’s head snapped back over to him and raised his nonexistent brow.

“No, why would I?” he said as if it was obvious. “I have no problem with Kakashi and Gai-sensei, it is simply another part of your personality. Although I do have an issue with Kimimaro hanging all over you when he clearly did not return your feelings for him.” Lee looked up, his brows wrinkling in thought. He could have sworn that he heard something akin to jealousy in the red-heads voice.

He pushed the thought away. There was no way Gaara was jealous of Kimimaro or Lee’s former crush on the older male. Lee smiled as the tension eased around them.

“I’m glad.” Lee said happily. “I was just…never mind.” He picked up the spoon off the floor, placing it in the sink before turning to Gaara to take the other boy by the wrist. He tugged him out of the kitchen and Gaara followed.

“Come up to my room Gaara, I haven’t given you my gift yet.” Lee stated happily as he pulled the red-head through the living room, past Sakura and her loud berating of both Naruto and Sasuke. Lee’s room was quiet as he guided Gaara to the bed and forced his friend to sit.

Gaara plopped down on the bed, his heart in his ears as Lee released his wrist before turning away. Gaara took a deep breath, pushing down the feeling of nervousness in his chest and rubbed the area where Lee had touched him. He had grown used to getting rid of this feeling whenever Lee was too close.

Walking over to his desk, Lee opened the top drawer with a smile as he took out a wrapped package. He smiled as he turned to Gaara and held out the present. Gaara eyed the metallic red paper, carefully wrapped to perfection in a way that he almost didn’t want to open it.

Lee smiled widely at Gaara, excitement in his bouncing movements as he watched Gaara closely.

“Go ahead and open it!” Lee coaxed happily as Gaara gently peeled away the paper, careful not to ruin the pretty wrapping paper that Lee had obviously put a lot of work into making perfect. With much effort he managed to pull the gift free from the confines of the paper.

It was a small scrap book decorated in images of cacti. Gaara set the wrapping paper aside, opening to the first page of the book. The first page was of book was a single picture that had been taken on Gaara’s birthday that year. Lee had thrown the boy a surprise party at the house with the help of Naruto.

Naruto and Lee had wrapped their arms around Gaara’s shoulders, Naruto to his right and Lee on the left. Both boys were smiling and giving the camera a thumbs up. Gai and Kakashi stood directly behind him. Gai had placed his hand on Lee’s head and Kakashi had his on Naruto’s while they held up their own thumbs. Sakura, Hinata, TenTen, and Temari all sat on their knee directly in front of Gaara, thumbs raised and smiles up.

Kankuro had his arm slung around a scowling Neji who had been forced to copy the thumbs up at insistence from Gai, Kankuro was laughing at the brunette. Jiraiya and Tsunade were both red cheeked from alcohol and their drunkenly mimicking the gesture while Sasuke had just barely ran to the right of Naruto and put his own thumb up after setting the camera.

Gaara smiled as he remembered the event. It had been the first time he had celebrated his birthday in years. As he looked through the pages, each marking a different event during his time in Konoha so far.

Pictures from his first martial arts tournament, photos from the dojo while he and Lee sparred, Hinata and Gaara reading under a tree just after book club with their noses buried in the first chapter of the latest book.

Naruto losing to Gaara at a game of chess, Sasuke and Gaara falling asleep on one another at Naruto’s spring break sleep over. Gaara frowned at the mustache that had been drawn on his face in magic marker but smirked at the clearly penile image that Naruto had drawn on Sasuke’s forehead. Gaara flipped through the book for another moment or two before closing the book to look up at Lee.

Lee looked down at him with a nervous gleam in his eyes, his hands behind his back as he leaned forward. He bit his lip.

“Do you like it…I was not sure if it was a good idea but I thought you would like some photos of all your friends in one place.” Lee explained sheepishly. A blush dusted Lee’s cheeks as he looked down and Gaara looked back down at his book. Warmth spread through his body, happiness flooding his veins at how thoughtful the gift was.

“T-thank you Lee.” He stammered, laying his hand over the book and looking up at his friend. “I truly appreciate this, I really like it.” Lee’s grin was brighter than the sun as he rubbed the back of his head.

“I am so glad you like it!” Lee exclaimed just as Temari’s voice called from down the stairs.

“Gaara, we have to head out!” She shouted tiredly. “We both have school tomorrow and you need to get some sleep!” Gaara nodded and rose from the bed, placing the book gently under his left arm. Lee followed him down the stairs and when they got to the door, the taller boy hugged Gaara happily. Gaara’s eyes widened as his heart rate picked up again at Lee’s touch.

“See you tomorrow Gaara, congratulations again on your belt promotion!” Lee stated as he pulled away from the embrace almost as quickly as he had initiated it. Gaara nodded mutely as he grabbed his cactus from the window sill and turned towards the door with his siblings, waving his farewell to the rest of his friends as he followed his siblings out the door.

Once in the car, Gaara let his hand flutter to his heart. It was still beating rapidly and nervousness twisted his gut as Gaara’s cheeks flushed red at the thought of Lee’s closeness. His mind reeled over the reaction and he resolved that he would ask Yamato about it the following week during his session.

Looking at the window, Gaara watched the trees and streets flash by as he clutched his little book to his chest as if it were the most precious thing he owned.


 

Lee groaned as his alarm blared loudly. He slammed the snooze button, rising with a groan and rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He rolled over and got out of bed. He pulled his left arm over his head, stretching the limb until he counted to twenty then switching arms. He stretched his body down to touch his toes before straightening and walking to his closet.

Grabbing his favorite shirt and a pair of track pants, Lee walked across the hall to the bathroom. He shut the door and slid off his pajama bottoms and boxers before moving to the shower. With the weather getting warmer, it was easier to sleep without a shirt on, making it easier to get into the shower in the mornings.

After a quick five minute shower, Lee stepped out much more awake than he had been. He dried his hair with the towel, before pulling fresh boxers on. Despite it being the last day of school before being let out for the summer, Lee still wanted to go to school the last day. The last day was always considerably less busy and the teachers were less strict so Lee could spend all day hanging out with his friends in their classes.

Lee ran a comb through his hair before turning to the door and leaving the bathroom. He dropped his pajamas on his bed, picking up his cell phone from the nightstand while he was there. The alarm alerting him that Gaara needed to take his medicine was going off.

Opening his phone Lee quickly texted his friend

Good morning Gaara! It is such a lovely day out.

Be sure to take your medicine as soon as you get up.

 Lee smiled in satisfaction and headed out his door after pocketing his wallet and keys. As he reached the top of the stairs, Lee felt his phone vibrate and he lifted the screen to view his new message.

Mornings are never good Lee. And yes I took my medicine.

I will see you at school early. All the clubs are meeting in the cafeteria since the library is being renovated.

Lee smiled at that, he would get to see Gaara bright and early today. That was a good start to his morning.

Hopping down the stairs two steps at a time, Lee sprinted into the kitchen. Gai looked up from his spot by the oven. Kakashi looked up from the paper groggily as he sipped his coffee. Gai smiled brightly as he handed an egg sandwich to his son.

“Good morning Lee, isn’t it just a youthful morning?” Gai stated as Lee sat down at the table, reaching across it to grab the jug of milk that sat in front of his father. He poured himself a glass as he nodded.

“The most youthful Gai-sensei.” Lee said happily before tucking into his sandwich. Kakashi chuckled as his son inhaled his food as he stood to leave. He gave his son a look of amusement as he ruffled Lee’s hair when he passed.

“Remember to chew Lee and also you may want to leave soon.” He informed, giving Lee a long look. “I need to visit the endocrinologist today so you’ll have to get to school yourself for the club.” Lee nodded as he swallowed his food.

“All right, school isn’t that far so I’ll leave right after breakfast. I need to get there for the final club meeting to see if I actually made president for next year.” Lee replied before he chugged his milk down and rose, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He brought his dishes to the sink, laid them down inside of it and walked over to hug each of his father’s.

Gai handed him his lunch box with a bright smile as he gave his son a one armed hug.

“I packed your favorite curry to celebrate the last day of school.” Gai said as he released his son, running a hand over Lee’s hair to flatten it. “Try to have a good day.” Lee nodded.

“I’ll will and I’ll see you when you get there Kakashi.” Lee said as he walked to the front door. He bent down to pull on his converses, leaning his back against the door so he could get them on and tied them into bows.

 Lee decided that since it was the last day of school, his backpack wouldn’t be needed. He waved farewell as he closed the door behind him and headed for the school. He loved the warm summer air first thing in the morning as he hummed.

It took about twenty minutes to walk to the school from his home and Lee was practically jumping with excitement as he walked. He would have a whole summer of not having any homework, not feeling stupid when he stuttered over words when he read aloud, no one making comments about him as he walked down the halls. It would just be him and friends.

Speaking of friends, as he entered through the gates of his school he spotted a familiar pink head and cupped his hands around his mouth.

“Sakura!” he called and the girl turned around. Her mouth split into a huge grin as Lee jogged up to her, reaching her in seconds.

“Hey Lee, excited to see if you’ll be president next year?” she asked as Lee held open the door for her, allowing her to enter the building. Lee nodded rapidly, unable to curb his enthusiasm.

“Yes, I have so many ideas for what we can do for the club next year.” Lee said excitedly as they walked down the halls. “Although I will miss Haku next year. I’m glad he found a transgender inclusive college to go to.” Sakura nodded as they turned the corner towards Lee’s locker, the boy always left his yearbook there so he could get signatures from all his teachers. She looked up and gasped, making Lee follow her gaze towards his locker.

Lee’s heart sank as he laid eyes on his poor locker.  

His locker was covered in graffiti. From scrawls in permeant marker to bright red spray paint, Lee made out several slurs that made his heart ache in shame. Lee walked towards it quickly to get a better look. He sighed as he ran a hand over the largest of the words as it stood out bright in red paint.

King of the Faggots

Lee pulled his hand away. The paint was coating his fingers in a slightly sticky layer, it was tacky but not quite dry. Lee felt tears prick his eyes as he heard laughter coming from behind him. Shinichi Nakano and a few others from the track team laughed loudly from the lockers just a few feet away. Sakura put her hand on his shoulder as Lee clenched his fists, biting back his hurt as he walked over to the janitor’s closet.

The janitor never kept it locked so Lee was able to grab a sponge and bucket. Sakura grabbed her own sponge silently, grabbing some bleach to mix with the soap. They both knew there was nothing they could do about this other than ignore it.

After filling the bucket with soapy water in the boy’s bathroom, the pair set themselves on the task of cleaning the offending words from the metal as his tormentors laughed at his misfortune.


 

Gaara walked past the gates of the school, catching Hinata’s eye as she waved from her normal spot by the doors as she stood with Shino, another member of the book club. Ever since he had joined the book, Gaara had been meeting the two first thing in the morning. Shino was quiet and serious but intelligent enough that Gaara found he actually enjoyed talking to the boy.

Today there was going to be an extra meeting for the club since the next week they would be unable to gather due to summer break. Gaara nodded his greeting to Shino before Hinata fixed her warm smile on Gaara.

“Good Morning Gaara.” She said happily as the group walked into the school and headed down the hall towards the cafeteria. The library was being renovated over summer break and would be closed for the day while they started so they wouldn’t be heading up the stairs but straight ahead.

 “Did you take your medicine this morning?” Hinata added and Gaara nodded, holding open the door for Hinata before following her into the building.

“Yes, just like I already told Lee when he texted and Gai when he called.” He informed. “You can inform Naruto of the same.”  Hinata grinned, clasping her hands together.  

“Good and I never got to ask if you actually got to chapter seven. I was a little confused by it and wanted your opinion.” She asked as they turned the corner. Gaara opened his mouth to speak only to be interrupted by the sound of laughter. He looked towards the noise and narrowed his eyes.

Shinichi Nakano was leaning against the lockers with two of his friends from the track team. The teen wasn’t usually there in the mornings and Gaara did not like the look on Shinichi’s face. He was watching something and snickering, poorly hiding his amusement behind his hand. Gaara followed his gaze and felt anger burn his vision red.

Lee and Sakura stood scrubbing at Lee’s locker with sponges and water, the scent of cleaning solution heavy in the air. Lee was always at school early but this was the first time Gaara had actually seen him there since their clubs were always held in different places. The dark haired teen had told him it was because he wanted to get a chance to talk to his teachers about his homework but Gaara should have guessed there was more to it.

All across the green surface of the locker were slurs and insults of varying viciousness written in permeant marker and spray paint. Gaara read the messages he could still make out as Lee scrubbed them away.

King of the Faggots, dumbass, ugly, homo, ass bandit all seemed to be burned into the locker as Lee tried to scrub them away. Gaara could just barely make out the wetness of tears that Lee refused to let fall as Shinichi cupped his hands around his mouth.

“Hey Fairy boy, you missed a spot!” he jeered as his friends snickered and laughed. “Maybe you should let the dyke handle this, she can use her hulk arms!” Lee continued his cleaning without looking over, choosing to ignore the comment as he turned to head towards the janitor’s closet for something stronger to wipe away the insults. Sakura clenched her fists around the sponge, fire in her eyes as she scrubbed a little harder at the words.

 Gaara clenched his fists as Hinata gasped at the slurs. Before anyone could stop him, Gaara had seized Shinichi by the collar of his shirt and slammed him against the lockers. Shinichi’s eyes went wide and yelped in pain as his spine met the cold metal of the lockers.

“G-Gaara…” the boy stuttered nervously. “W-what are you doing here so early…isn’t your club usually at the library.” Gaara narrowed his eyes even further as he realized that Shinichi must do this regularly, waiting to torment Lee when Gaara wasn’t around.

“My club moved to the cafeteria while the renovations to the library are being done.” Gaara stated lowly, his voice dangerously calm. “If you ever visited there, you’d know that but instead you think that writing insults on my friend’s locker is more worth your time.” Shinichi sputtered and looked away from Gaara’s accusing gaze.

“You can’t prove anything. The cameras are broken on this hallway and…” He began only to be silenced as Gaara pulled back his other fist, rage dancing in his teal gaze. Hinata stood silent and Shino sighed, not sure what to do about the situation.

“Come on Gaara, he isn’t worth your time…” Shino started, holding up a calming hand in an attempt to disarm the situation. Gaara ignored him and glared up at Shinichi.

“You are a coward who likes to pick on people until they put you in your place.” Gaara growled then smirked as he moved to pummel the cowering boy beneath him. “Since Lee is too nice to do so, allow me to do it for him.” Shinichi winced as he prepared for the punch and felt the familiar rush from the adrenaline coursing through his veins as he moved his fist.

Suddenly, a hand was holding back Gaara’s fist by the wrist.

Lee was shaking his head at Gaara. His eyes soft as they looked at Gaara’s, the red-head sighed and rolled his eyes as he let Shinichi’s shirt go. Shinichi watched the exchange as he rubbed his neck while glaring at the pair.

“Thank you Gaara but I do not need you to get into trouble for me and you are scaring Hinata.” Lee said as he took Gaara by the wrist. Gaara looked over towards Hinata, her eyes shining with tears as Sakura slung an arm around her shoulders in comfort. Gaara felt guilt touch his heart.

“Sorry Hinata.” Gaara apologized, Hinata sniffed. Gaara sighed as Lee chuckled and led him away towards the cafeteria.  

“You are too nice Lee.” Gaara complained as the older teen rolled his eyes at him.

“He is not worth my time. Now come on, both our clubs are meeting in the cafeteria before summer break starts and we can’t be late.” Lee said as Gaara rolled his eyes and grumbled. Hinata let out a self-calming breath and followed after them with Shino.

Shinichi started to laugh and snorted as he glared at Gaara’s retreating back.

“Yeah, run away because your ugly ass boyfriend told you to!” Shinichi called as he ran down the hall. Gaara blinked at his words but continued to let Lee pull him away instead of going after the bully. Why had his heart skipped a beat at the thought of Lee being called his boyfriend?

Gaara did not have a moment to think as they walked into the cafeteria. Several clubs had gathered at various tables and Lee released Gaara’s wrist, much to Gaara’s disappointment. Lee waved farewell as he took his spot amongst the LGBT club.

Gaara found he could not concentrate on his club after Lee met with Sakura and a handful of other students in the LGBT club just one table over from the book club. How many of those students had been a victim of bullies like Shinichi? Were there any of them that bore the secret scars of loneliness that he himself had once felt? Why did Lee not report the bullying or at least tell Gaara about it?

He had heard things in passing. Girls would snicker at Sakura’s back, calling her names like Shinichi had used. Lee acted as if the slurs painted across his locker were a common occurrence. Gaara did not know the other members that sat around the table with smiles on their faces as they clapped for Lee.

 His eyes kept wandering to Lee’s enthusiastic gestures as he talked about how he would lead the club after being announced president. He made a small speech about the changes he had wanted to make. How he wanted everyone to feel welcomed.

A fierce protectiveness washed over Gaara. He was not going to let this stand, no one should be ostracized for things that they could not control. It had taken Yamato months to convince Gaara of the very same notion. Gaara was only barely beginning to understand that what his uncle had done was wrong, that he himself was deserving of basic human dignity even if his mother had died birthing him.

He had to do something about this injustice.

“Gaara, did you have any suggestions for the summer reading list?” questioned Shino as he adjusted his dark sunglasses, breaking Gaara away from his thoughts. Gaara looked up and sighed as he tried to recall where he had put the list he had written out. He passed a thoughtful glance at Lee before turning to Shino and answering the question.


 

By the time the bell finally rang, Gaara was glad the year was over. He was excited for martial arts practice today because he would be spending the night over at Lee’s afterward with Naruto and Sasuke to celebrate the first day of summer.  

As he walked down the hall, the sudden call of his name pulled Gaara from his thoughts. Gaara look behind him to see principal Sarutobi smiled at him from the door of his office. The older man waved to Gaara, beckoning him over.

“Well my boy it’s been a while since I’ve seen you.” Hiruzen said with a chuckle as Gaara padded over reluctantly. “A fact I’m very happy about.” Gaara nodded.

“Gai-sensei doesn’t like it when I fight and it usually results in extra drills.” Gaara stated as Sarutobi gestured into his office.

“Care to come into my office then Mr. No Subaku? It won’t take long, I just would like to see how you’re doing.”  Gaara looked at the clock. He still had some time to talk to the older man before heading for the dojo.

“It’s acceptable as long as I can get to the dojo on time.” Gaara said as he followed the man in. “Lee is already there and it’s our personal sparring night with Gai-sensei.” Hiruzen chuckled again as he sat down at his desk.

“So you enjoy the classes at Gai’s dojo then?’ Sarutobi asked as he offered the other seat to Gaara. Gaara took the seat, nodding as the older man took out a thermos of tea, pouring himself a cup. He lifted the thermos slightly in a silent offering to Gaara. Gaara nodded and Sarutobi took out another teacup from his desk drawer.

“It is iced tea unfortunately, seeing as it is so hot out.” Sarutobi stated as he handed the cup to Gaara. “I prefer hot tea myself.” Gaara shrugged as he took a sip from the cup.

“Either is fine with me, I’ve found that I like tea more than coffee now that I sleep regularly now.” Gaara revealed. The tea was cool with the slightest sweetness from honey rather than sugar. Gaara licked his lips before looking over at the principal.

“So how have things been since the last time you were drug into my office?” Sarutobi asked as he leaned back in his black desk chair. Gaara met his eyes easily. “Although I am glad that this time it was voluntary rather than as punishment.”

“I have been well, I joined the book club a few month ago and it’s quite enjoyable. I have made a few friends. Although…” Gaara hesitated, toying with the rim of the tea cup. Sarutobi raised a brow at this.

“What is it Gaara my boy?” He asked sipping his tea and raising a brow at the red-headed teen. The boy seemed to have a determined gleam in his eyes, one that reminded him suspiciously of Naruto.

“I was wondering how one would go about running for student council. The current president it leaving this year correct?” Gaara asked as he met Hiruzen’s eyes. “Or has the new one been chosen?” Hiruzen hummed in thought.

“The running is usually held at the beginning of the first semester with elections just before homecoming…I could put your name into the running if you’d like.” The older man offered as Gaara finished his tea, taking the cup from him with a small smile. Gaara nodded.

“I would like that.” Gaara said then crinkled a brow in question. “What do I have to do over the summer to prepare?” Sarutobi chuckled and pulled out some forms. He laid them in front of Gaara, who picked them up to read.

“Fill these out and I can submit them today. Make sure you write an essay listing all the reasons you want to run as well as a formal list of changes you wish to make.” Sarutobi explained, pointing to the sections on the papers. “I suggest having someone help you run the campaign as well. Student council is run a bit differently from the clubs in how officials are elected so you will need to garner support from the majority of the student body as well as two teachers to approve posters, speeches and so on.”

Gaara nodded, going through the papers and signing his name as well as listing the informal list of changes he wished to invoke if elected. It took several minutes before he handed them back to Sarutobi and rose.

“I will have Kakashi email you my official list of potential campaign promises as well as anyone who will be helping me run.” Gaara informed as he picked up his back pack, tossing it over his shoulder and turning to leave. Sarutobi gave the boy a hard look before speaking again.

“One moment Gaara,” he asked and the boy turned to face him. “What brought on this sudden ambition?” Gaara blinked for a moment then turned away, staring at the door but not really seeing it.

“Something has come to my attention that should have been addressed some time ago, I hope to create a safe environment where everyone is free to be who they want without fear of ridicule.” Gaara explained softly, his hand resting gently above his heart before he straightened.

“May I go now?” he asked with his hand on the door. “Lee is waiting for me.” Sarutobi nodded and waved the boy away with a smile.

“Go on, get out of here.” The old man chuckled as he looked down at the paperwork. “Enjoy your summer Mr. No Subaku.” Gaara nodded and left the room, shutting the door behind him with a soft click.

Sarutobi hummed to himself as he prepared to file Gaara’s running form, glad he had been correct when he had sent the boy to Gai. Gaara was becoming quite the upstanding student.

Perhaps there was hope after all.

                                                                   


 

Lee sighed as he punched at the bag, not counting as he took out his frustration from the day on the heavy bag. Naruto and Sasuke had left early to prepare for the slumber party, leaving Lee to pound away at the bag until Gaara arrive. He yelled as he kicked the bag with all his strength. The bag flew from chain and landed on the mats with a loud thump.

With a sigh, the teen stalked over to the bag just as the door opened and Kimimaro walked into the dojo with his normal smile. The white haired man looked around as Lee moved to lift the bag. He’d help Gai put it back up later.

“Weren’t you supposed to be sparring with you little friend today?” Kimimaro asked as he walked over to Gai’s office. “And where is Gai?” Lee put the bag in the corner before moving to the center of the room to practice his kata.

“Gai-sensei decided to drop Naruto off at home so he could prepare for our slumber party tonight.” Lee replied as he started his movements. “Gaara is running a bit late but he should be here to spar in a moment.” Kimimaro made a small noise from Gai’s office as he left it, carrying Lee’s water bottle with him as well a few papers.

“Well I just needed this letter of recommendation anyway,” Kimimaro said with a smile, handing Lee his bottle of water. The white haired man looked up at the clock. “How about we have a friendly spar? I’ll record it so we can see how much that injury took out of you.” he suggested and Lee nodded, ignoring the comment.

“All right, let us do it.” Lee exclaimed clenching his fist in front of him, a determined look on his face. He ran to the spot in the middle of the mats. Kimimaro got on the other side of him, taking off his shirt and getting into his stance.

Kimimaro let Lee come to him first, taking the kick and blocking it with his forearm before attempting a leg sweep. Lee jumped back to smirk at his friend. After a moment, Lee leapt at his partner with a yell.

Landing on his hands, Lee kicked up with his left foot. Kimimaro laughed as he caught the foot and pushed Lee away. Lee rolled and was up in an instant, punching at the older male. Kimimaro met ever blow with a block.

Lee met each of Kimimaro’s kicks with a block, trying to hide his wince as the man hammered his bad arm. Lee bit back the pain, determined to prove he could still fight someone on Kimimaro’s level despite the injury.

The pair was perfectly matched, neither giving an inch until both men backed away to take a break. Lee panted, his mouth dry. Kimimaro’s chest heaved and he coughed as he wiped the sweat from his brow. The white haired man smiled at Lee, pointing to his abandoned water bottle as he went to grab his own.

“You should take a drink Lee, you look parched.” Kimimaro suggested and Lee nodded. He had been punching at the bag for a while before and with the intensity of the spar now, he was thirsty. With a nod, Lee uncapped his water, chugging nearly half the bottle before choking on the taste.

It burned his throat but Lee shook his head and tried again, draining the bottle dry. The taste did not change and Lee’s vision began to swim as he fought back nausea. The room spun as his legs began to shake.

“W-what’s going on?” Lee slurred, taking a wobbly step back and fell on his ass with a dull thump. “What…what was in m-my water?” Kimimaro laughed as he took his phone from his pocket. He flipped his phone open, hitting his camera button and turning the video on to record.

Lee stood shakily, stumbling back and looking up to glare at Kimimaro.

“Do-do not laugh at me…do you think your better than me?” Lee growled drunkenly as he took a step forward, aiming a punch at Kimimaro. The older male dodged it easily, his hair swishing to the side but not losing his grip on the camera as he spoke.

“Oh I know I’m better than you.” He goaded as Lee fell onto his face. “I’m sure the little No Subaku you like so much knows that too.” Lee rose, grumbling as he stood. A dreamy look graced his features.

“Do-do you mean G-Gaara…he’s so pretty.” Lee stammered with a small giggle. “I like his hair…it smells like flowers.” Kimimaro tried to hide his snort of laughter behind his hand.

“You like that little lunatic don’t you?” Kimimaro teased as Lee’s head snapped up, his features contorting in a scowl. He dove for Kimimaro again with a loud shout.

“D-do not make fun of Gaara. I love him and…” Kimimaro tried to dodge the punch only to catch a kick to the side. He groaned in pain and scowled at Lee. He snorted and punched Lee in the nose, sending the drunken teen flying back.

“T-that wasn’t very nice Kimimaro…” Lee said, blood pouring from his nose. “Y-you’re a meanie…” Kimimaro rolled his eyes and laughed as the door opened behind him.

“Lee?” Gaara said as he dropped his bag by the door and jogged across the room, kneeling down in front of Lee. Lee smiled up at him drunkenly.

“Gaara! My best friend…w-why are there two of you?” Lee exclaimed happily, hugging Gaara and covering his shirt in blood. “I’m so glad you’re here…the room is spinning! It’s like a ride!” Gaara turned and glared up at Kimimaro.

 “What did you do to him?” Gaara growled lowly, threat weighing heavily in his words. Kimimaro laughed and shook his phone as he stopped the recording.

“I was just having a bit of fun with him.” Kimimaro said innocently as he grinned down at Gaara. “I may have switched his water with the sake that Gai keeps in his office. The idiot drank the whole thing down even though it tasted strange.” Gaara glared at the man and Kimimaro chuckled.

“He is such a lightweight and I can’t wait to show everyone all the embarrassing things he just said on video, it’s going to be hilarious.” Kimimaro continued, raising an inviting brow to Gaara as he shook his phone. “He said some pretty flattering stuff about you, would you like to see?”

Gaara stood after leaning Lee against the wall, his sleeping form slumped against it as he snored loudly. Gaara turned to Kimimaro and held out his hand.

“Give it to me now.” He ordered, his eyes narrowing at Kimimaro. “I will not allow you to embarrass Lee for your own sick enjoyment.” Kimimaro’s eyes narrowed as he returned Gaara’s glare with his own.

“The little loser deserves it.” Kimimaro said coolly, wrapping his fist around the phone as he grinned slyly. “You know, I cannot understand why he has so many friends really? He was always so annoying when he followed me around like a puppy when he was little. No matter how many times I toyed with him, he would always be convinced it was just playful teasing. Why should a loser like him have the loving parents, the friends who were so severely loyal nothing could shake them?” Gaara clenched his fists. He dove for Kimimaro’s hand. So jealousy was the root of this torment.

“I could hardly believe it when he said he liked me!” Kimimaro scoffed as he dodged, aiming a kick at Gaara as the other teen dodged. Kimimaro punched the boy in the chin, sending Gaara staggering backwards. Gaara moaned in pain as he wiped the blood from his mouth.  

“As if anyone could ever be attracted to his ugly ass!” Kimimaro laughed “He is so pathetic it is almost sad really, he’ll probably die alone.” and Gaara let out a snarl, pulling back his fist and punching Kimimaro in the gut. The older man stumbled back.

“Oh your tough little boy, but what could you possible hope to do against me.” Kimimaro goaded with a cackle. “I’ve got three black belts, you’re just a green belt.”

Kimimaro looked up, only to have Gaara throw his bag of sand into his face. Kimimaro cried out in pain and coughed as his eyes watered, dropping his phone to rub the sand from his eyes. Gaara slid down, sweeping Kimimaro’s legs out from underneath him. The older male fell hard onto the mats.

“That’s a dirty move.” Kimimaro groaned in pain, still rubbing his eyes as Gaara picked up the phone. Searching through the phone for the video before deciding to delete all the videos instead. Taking the flip phone in both hands, Gaara snapped it apart. Kimimaro glared up at him with red eyes.

“It’s dirty to get someone drunk just to make yourself feel better about your lonely existence.” Gaara deadpanned his mouth contorting in a smirk. “I pity you. You’re just a pitiful child that can’t stand his own existence, a pathetic little pawn.” Kimimaro was up like a shot, wrapping his hand around Gaara’s throat. He slammed Gaara’s small body into the mirror that adorned the back wall.

Gaara hissed in pain as Kimimaro tightened his grip around Gaara’s throat, choking him. Kimimaro’s eyes were wide as he laughed.

“You talk so big but what do you know about anything!” Kimimaro screamed as Gaara fought to breath. He kicked out his legs as he struggled. “I spent my whole life in foster care after I watched my father blow my mother’s brains out. DON”T TALK AS IF YOU KNOW ME!”

Dark spots circled Gaara’s vision as he fought for his breath, gripping at Kimimaro's wrists in desperation. Just when Gaara felt like he would pass out, Kimimaro’s grip loosened. Gaara gasped for air as he fell to the ground, coughing as he rolled onto his knees. Gai held a struggling Kimimaro in a half nelson. The man thrashed and kicked, trying to get at Gaara.

“What is going on here?” Gai managed to say as Lee startled awake, mumbling incoherently and struggled to his feet. Gai’s eyes widened as he recognized what was wrong with his son.

“Why is Lee drunk?” Gai asked lowly, an abnormal amount of demand in his deep voice. Kimimaro tried to calm himself, stopping his struggles to hang all his weight against Gai. He glared at Gaara.

“Maito-sensei, Gaara spiked Lee’s…” he started only to get a punch to the mouth from Lee, who had moved with amazing speed. The teen stumbled a bit as he grinned up at his father.

“G-Gaara wasn’t even here.” Lee managed before he grabbed his mouth to keep from vomiting onto the mats. Gaara rose and caught Lee’s arm, keeping him from falling and helping him stand. “Kimimaro…he gave me m-my water b-but…” Gaara nodded, looking up at Gai.

“He was recording a video of Lee when I got here, I stopped him.” Gaara explained and Kimimaro snorted, looking up at Gai.

“Maito-sensei, who are you going to believe? Lee is drunk and you’ve known me for years longer than you’ve known him.” Kimimaro protested, putting an emphasis on the word ‘him’. Gai released Kimimaro and looked back and forth between his students and his son. He looked at them all and took a deep breath. He wanted to trust all of them but Kimimaro had a point to his words. Letting out the breath, he hardened his resolve.

“I will simply check the cameras to see.” Gai stated. Kimimaro’s face paled and his eyes widened. He hadn’t thought about the cameras that were in the dojo when he had formed his plan. “If any of you want to come clean now, I promise the punishment will not be too severe…” Kimimaro glared at Gaara who shrugged, jostling the sleeping Lee just a little.

“I have told no lies, go check them to be sure.” Gaara stated, meeting Kimimaro’s eyes smugly. Kimimaro clenched his fists and looked down at the ground. He scoffed in frustration, he would be caught either way it seemed.

“Fine, it’s true.” Kimimaro admitted, throwing his arms up in the air. “I replaced Lee’s water with your sake and I recorded him making a fool of himself but-.” Gai held up a hand to silence him, disappointment glistening in his eyes.

“I’m going to call Orochimaru and tell him what happened.” He stated as he turned to Gaara. He leaned down slightly, inspecting the bruise that was starting to form on Gaara’s neck as he handed the boy his fallen back pack. “I’m sorry Gaara. Call Kakashi while I deal with this.” Gaara nodded and helped Lee walk to the front door, smiling to himself as Kimimaro protested the calling of Orochimaru.

“I am twenty-three years old, I am too old for you to call my foster father every time I mess up!” Kimimaro whined as Gaara let the door slam behind him, effectively muffling the sounds of the men arguing. Gaara set Lee onto the curb, pulling his phone from his bag.

“You smell nice Gaara.” Lee said sleepily, nuzzling into Gaara’s neck and making the red-head stiffen as he flipped open his phone. He held down the number three on his speed dial and Kakashi’s name appeared on the screen. The phone rang twice before the familiar click of someone answering filled his ears.

“What is it kid?” Kakashi asked, his voice crackling on the other end of the phone. “I’m busy with Naruto setting up…” Gaara sighed into the phone and opened his mouth to speak. Lee laughed.

“Heeeeyyy dad. You won’t believe what happened at the d-dojo today…” Lee started and Gaara held back a snort as Kakashi sighed wearily.

“What happened?” He asked with an exasperated chuckle. “Why is my son drunk?” Gaara couldn’t help but smirk as he recounted the events of the afternoon to Kakashi. Lee leaned forward, holding back a childish giggle.

Kakashi groaned from the other end of the phone before laughing.

“Watch him till I get there.” The older man requested with another sigh. “Lee really cannot hold his liquor.”  Gaara nodded as he cast a glance at Lee.

“I will.” Gaara promised as Lee laid his head in his lap, making Gaara’s heart beat in his ears. The red-head gulped as he tried to concentrate on Kakashi while Lee sang an out of tune version of a Spice Girls song that Gaara was surprised the teen even knew.

“Come a little bit closer Baby, get it on, get it on! ‘Cause tonight is the night when 2 become 1!” Lee sang badly, making Gaara wince at the volume as Kakashi snorted from the other end of the phone. Gaara sighed as the older man laughed. Lee smiled at Gaara.

“Come on Gaara,” the teen whined. “Sing with me!” Gaara’s cool expression didn’t change as he looked down at his friend.

“No.” the red-head deadpanned.

Kakashi’s laughter grew louder and Gaara waited patiently for the man to gain control of himself long enough to speak. After a deep breath, Kakashi finally spoke, coughing slightly.

“J-just keep an eye on him, he should fall asleep in a minute and I’m leaving now…oh and kid, thanks for kicking Kimimaro’s ass.” Kakashi conceded gratefully, breathing heavily as he recovered from his laughter. “He’s been needing a peg or two knocked out of him for a while. I’m just sorry I couldn’t do it.” Gaara chuckled as the phone call ended with a small click. He put his phone away in his bag and looked down at Lee’s head in his lap.

Lee’s cheeks were flushed pink as looked up at Gaara with a bright smile. He reached up a hand, running his knuckles over Gaara’s cheek. Gaara froze as a thumb ran over his lips and Lee giggled.

“Gaara is so pretty.” Lee stated with another giggle. “And his hair is soooo soft and r-red.” Gaara rolled his eyes and chuckled as Lee hiccupped. He laid his hand on Lee’s head gently, the shiny black hair felt as silky as it looked.

“Lee, only you can get this drunk from one bottle of Sake.” Gaara teased as Lee shook his head and batted at Gaara’s hand. Lee puffed out his cheeks, making him look even more like a child.

“I-I am fine…just a little tipsy.” Lee slurred stubbornly and Gaara shook his head. “I’m j-just trying to enjoy the sp-springtime of my youth!” that made Gaara laugh, his shoulders shaking with the sound. He never laughed like this unless he was with Lee.

Lee looked up wide eyed as he sat up, getting on all fours to get closer to Gaara’s face. Gaara felt his face heat as he felt Lee’s alcohol ridden breath on his face. It made his eyes sting but he couldn’t look away from those big brown orbs. Lee’s eyebrows scrunched in hard concentration.

“Can I kiss you G-Gaara?” Lee slurred, moving closer and Gaara’s heart skipped a beat. His mind reeled as Lee smiled at him. Lee was drunk, there was no way he knew what he was saying. Gaara opened his mouth to stammer out his protest as he tried to back up.  

Lee’s face fell as it turned white then green and Gaara raised a brow at him. He reached out to touch Lee’s shoulder, concern overriding his protest and discomfort.

“Lee are you o-.” he started as Lee retched, vomiting violently into Gaara’s lap and the red-head froze as his eyes widened. His lap was warm and he looked down at the remains of the red curry Lee had eaten for lunch that was now decorating his black jeans.

Lee murmured sleepily as he crawled over to Gaara’s back pack and laid his head down, quickly falling asleep. Staring in shock for a moment, Gaara sighed as he reached for the side pocket of his back pack for some tissues as he tried not to disturb Lee.

What a lovely start to his first summer in Konoha.

 

                                                                  

Chapter Text


 

 Lee’s heart hammered in his chest as he blocked Gaara’s kick to his head with his left arm, pushing the leg away with enough force to knock the red head back. Gaara regained his footing easily and backed away. They circled around each other, Lee’s feet hitting the ground heavily from the leg weights around his ankles. Lee dove forward. His instincts were on fire as he aimed a kick towards Gaara’s side. His friend dodged to the side quickly, expecting the direct attack.

Gaara seized Lee’s shoulder, going for a leg sweep that would lay the other teen flat on his back. He didn’t expect for Lee to catch himself with his hand. Lee smirked as he put all his weight on his hand, contorting his torso around and kicking Gaara in the back.

Gaara fell forward and rolled to the side. He leapt up just in time to block Lee’s punch with his arm. Unable to steady himself, Gaara stumbled back and Lee took his opportunity to jump forward. Gaara felt Lee’s hand on his Gi shirt and Lee’s leg behind his. There was a pull and the next thing he knew, Gaara was looking up at Lee with his back on the soft mats. Lee held him down with his foot on Gaara’s chest and a wide smile on his face.

“That’s match!” Gai called from the corner as clapping came from the crowd of people by the walls. Several potential students and parents lined up against the wall to watch the spar with eager eyes. Naruto, Sasuke, Sakura, TenTen, Ino and Neji clapped from their spots on the floor as they waited for the spar to end.

Lee held out a hand to Gaara, helping him up. The pair bowed to each other then turned to Gai to bow to him. The older man returned the gesture before turning to the group.

“That was a demonstration of the differences between a level one black belt and a green belt.” Gai explained with his usual grin. “Now in the beginning you learn the basics and if you’d like, today you can ask my students questions about the class.”

The younger teens all gathered around Sasuke, Lee and Neji like hens as they asked about the classes. Gaara leaned against the wall to take a drink of water as he observed the potential students. Most of them seemed very enthusiastic about starting but Gaara felt his eyes drawn to a girl that stood in a corner of the room.

She had light brown hair that was cut short and fell just above her shoulders, her small frame made even smaller by the large black sweatshirt she wore over baggy cargo pants. She looked around at the crowd as if wanting to join but feeling unsure is she should. Gaara cocked an eyebrow at her before setting his water down to approach her.

“If you wish to join, than I would go over there now.” Gaara said coolly, making the girl look at him as he stood next to her. She hadn’t seen Gaara approach and now she stood looking at him wide eyed.

“I-I don’t think I have anything to contribute.” She stammered, wringing her hands together and not meeting Gaara’s eyes. “I’m only here because my aunt thinks it be a good idea…I really don’t like fighting and this class seems really hard...”

Gaara chuckled a bit as he watched the girl for another moment before leaning his back against the wall. The girl followed suit, still nervous and tense under the large sweatshirt and Gaara sensed that she was trying to hide something. He just wasn’t sure what that something was.

“Would you like for me to teach you a kata?” he asked. “Then you can decide if the class is worth your time?” The girl bit her lip for a moment, deciding if it was a good idea. Her eyes darted from Gaara, to the group of kids that all gathered around Lee and the others. She slowly nodded and rose with Gaara.

“I’m Matsuri by the way.” She said as she followed him to the corner of the room, a small smile on her face. Gaara blinked at her for a moment before giving her a nod.

“Gaara.”


 

Lee had managed to get away from a few of the teens that questioned him now that they crowd had lessened. He took this time to drink some water, all the talking made his throat dry. He scanned the room for Gaara. He hadn’t seen any of the guests talk to the red-head and wanting to make sure Gaara wasn’t too bored. He had seemed reluctant to spar with Lee in front of people and Lee knew the red head had been holding back. Much to Lee’s annoyance since he knew that Gaara could have easily beaten him when he tried.

He spotted Gaara’s shock of red hair in the corner after a quick scan of the room. Gaara stood with a younger girl, maybe a year or two younger than himself. The girl was slowly walking through a simple beginner’s kata. Lee scrunched his eyebrows as he noticed her footing was off and her hands were too low.

Gaara took notice too, taking the time to reach forward and lift the girl’s hands up while sliding her foot into the right position with his own. He directs her eyes forward and tells her to focus on one spot near the wall.

Lee’s heart soared at the gentleness and patience in Gaara’s eyes. The red-head was not known for either of those things but he looked like he was in his element here. Lee felt pride that spread warmth through him at the sight of Gaara doing something like teaching, particularly teaching something Lee had taught him months ago.

“Matsuri, it’s time to leave dear!” came the kind voice of a woman, drawing the girl’s head up. She paused and turned to Gaara before bowing.

“That’s my aunt, I have to go.’ Matsuri stated before giving Gaara a shy smile. “I-I think I’ll start taking the class, will you be willing to help me Gaara?” the red-head gave a nod as the girl turned and ran for who Lee could only assume was her aunt.

Gaara walked up to Lee after collecting his water bottle from the corner. Lee moved forward hugged Gaara in his excitement and pride. Gaara stiffened as Lee pulled back to smile at him.

“You did so well with teaching her Gaara!” Lee exclaimed. Then he realized what he was doing. He had his arms around Gaara. Lee’s heart leapt in his chest as Gaara managed to wriggle from his grasp, a pink blush dusting his pale cheek. His heart was beating rapidly from Lee’s touch, he didn’t like it. Lee’s own face was bright red.

“I-I think she’ll be back soon.” Gaara stammered, clearing his throat as Lee turned stiffly to head for the back room so they could change out of their gi. Lee tried to pull back his nervousness and replace it with his excitement and anticipation.

New students meant more training for Lee, who wanted to run the dojo one day when Gai finally retired and Gaara had made a new friend. This was shaping up to be a pretty good week for the boys.

“Are you excited to be coming with us on our beach weekend in a few days?” Lee asked as he pulled his gi top off, hanging it on a hook with his name on it. Gaara felt his mouth go dry as his eyes trailed down Lee’s toned back. The muscles in his shoulders moving as Lee reached for his shirt, pulling down his gi pants as he did. Gaara shook his head as he tried to focus on taking his own gi off.

This wasn’t the first time he’d caught himself staring at his friends. Lee’s training hardened muscles had proven to be more distracting than usual as of late. Gaara gulped and looked down at his feet as he changed. He felt warmth spread in his lower abdomen and he turned his back to his friend. He didn’t know what to make of these feelings he felt whenever he was around Lee, this feeling of protectiveness, of warmth and affection. He had tried ignoring it but it only made it stronger.

“Hinata is taking me and Shino to go shopping for a swimsuit after I get out of class.” Gaara said as he pulled on his shirt, shaking his hair out as he did. “She also wants me to get a haircut so Temari loaned me some money for it, apparently she agrees.”

Lee sighed as he pulled his own shirt on, forcing down the jealousy and longing he had grown used to feeling lately. It was getting harder to keep his feelings for the other teen to himself. Just watching Gaara made Lee’s heart ache.

Everything about Gaara made Lee feel like he was on cloud nine. The expressive teal eyes, the ones that left Lee breathless with their beauty to the honesty in his words. Lee mentally shook himself. He couldn’t let himself think those thoughts, they would only lead to more heartache. Lee put on a strained smile as he turned back to Gaara.

“That’s great!” Lee said with a false tone of excitement. Gaara quirked an eyebrow at this but chose not to ask as they headed out the door into the main part of the dojo. Hinata was waiting near the door, dressed in a new yellow sundress as she talked to Neji. She looked very pretty as Lee and Gaara walked up.

Hinata looked up from her conversation with Neji and smiled up at Gaara gently. Lee’s heart squeezed painfully, threatening to suffocate him as Gaara gave a small smile to the girl with a gentleness in his gaze. Neji took notice when Lee’s shoulders slumped slightly and glared at Gaara from behind her back but said nothing. Gaara walked up and looked around for Shino.

“Shino apologized but he couldn’t make it, he said something about a last minute insect exhibition with his father.” She explained and Gaara shrugged. He was okay with this, he wanted to speak to Hinata privately anyway. Maybe the intuitive female could shed some light on these feelings Lee drew out of him. Besides, Shino was close to his father but the man was often gone for work. Gaara could understand wanting to spend time with him.

“Then let us get to the mall and get this over with.” Gaara said as they headed out the door. Hinata smiled at him, a blush on her cheeks as she looked towards Naruto as he talked to Sakura. Gaara shook his head as he held the door open for his female friend.

Lee locked eyes with him, giving him a thumbs up and a bright smile.

“Have fun Gaara, I will speak to you later!” Lee said and Gaara felt the familiar flutter in his heart and the ache returned. He nodded in Lee’s direction, turning his eyes down as he followed Hinata out the door quickly. 

They walked towards the Hyuuga family car and Gaara held open the door for Hinata before clambering into the black car with her. With a quick nod to the driver, Gaara buckled into the seatbelt. Hinata’s face was red and Gaara couldn’t help but smirk slightly at her.

“D-do you think Naruto noticed my dress?” She asked as she smoothed out the yellow sundress. It was no secret that she had feelings for the blond, even Gaara could see that. He also knew that Naruto rarely noticed anything unless it was ramen.

Or if its last name was Uchiha.

“I don’t think so.” Gaara said bluntly then felt guilty when disappointment crossed Hinata’s features. He needed to learn to watch his words around the sensitive girl. Gaara bit his lip as he tried to think of something to get the dark haired girls mind off of Naruto.

“I apologize Hinata that was insensitive of me.” He tried, sighing as he leaned his head back onto the black leather seats. “I’ve just had a lot on my mind recently.” Hinata perked up at this, concern for Gaara wrinkling her brows as she gave him a look. He was her friend after all.

“What about?” she asked as she laid her hands in her lap and turned her lavender eyes onto Gaara, making him feel as if he should just spill all of his secrets. Hinata was a caring young girl and would never tell anyone unless Gaara told her she could. She made everyone comfortable, even someone as emotionally closed off as Gaara.  

“I’ve been feeling oddly around Lee lately…” Gaara stammered, pulling his knees up to his chest and resting his shoes onto the seats. “Well, it’s been happening for a while but lately it’s gotten worse.”  His heart felt heavy with worry. What if what he was feeling was wrong? Should he ignore the feelings that stirred in him whenever he thought of Lee?

Hinata nodded, urging Gaara to continue. He looked up at the ceiling, trying to put the odd feeling into words, to describe the fire in his gut and the ache in his chest. The trees passed by as they turned onto the main highway that ran through the town.

“Whenever I’m around Lee…I-I just feel warm a-and my heart aches.” Gaara tried to explain as his hand wandered to his chest. He gripped the shirt as his heart ached in pain, trying to push forward. “His smile, the way he cares about everyone…Lee makes me feel things I don’t understand.” Hinata bit her lip in concentration as she looked at Gaara’s confused expression.

“I think you may have a crush on Lee, Gaara.” She stated as the car stopped in front of the Konoha mall. Gaara’s brow scrunched as he thought about her words, as if realizing it for the first time. How did he not think of that before?

The mall was bustling as the pair walked in. Gaara wrinkled his nose at the crowds as Hinata grabbed his sleeve and led him to the nearest department store. They walked by a group of men about their age and Gaara caught their conversation as they walked past.

“Damn look at that girl, she’s fine.” One of the guys said and another scoffed.

“Her boyfriend looks mean though, best not mess with them.” Gaara crinkled his brow in confusion at this but soon was dragged into the store and to the men’s section. Hinata tugged him over to the racks in the corner display to look at swimming trunks. The rows of multicolored material hung on metal rack and Gaara couldn’t concentrate on them as his thoughts raced.

Was the way he felt around Lee really an indicator that he had a crush on the bushy browed teen? Lee was one of the few people who had crashed past his walls, breaking them down slowly with the determination and patience that Gaara had come to care for. Lee was always ready with a smile and acceptance. Gaara valued his opinion and friendship almost as much as he valued Naruto’s; Lee was his best friend by the very definition of the word.

So than why did he have to feel so nervous around him, why did Lee have to make Gaara’s heart feel heavy and light? Why did Gaara love the feel of Lee’s hand on his wrist that made him tingle like he’d just been shocked by static?

Gaara sighed as he suddenly became aware of Hinata speaking to him. Gaara looked up wide eyes, he hadn’t meant to get lost in his thoughts so easily.

“Sorry Hinata…I was thinking about what you said.” He apologized as he took the three sets of trunks from his friends pale hand. Hinata bit her lip in concern as Gaara disappeared into the dressing room. She hummed to herself as the red-head tried on the swim trunks.

“What had you so concerned?” Hinata questioned from her side of the changing room. “Have you never had a crush before?” Gaara grunted as he toed off his shoes and slide his pants down to his ankles. He wracked his brain for a moment.

“I’ve never really been close to people before now.” Gaara admitted as he pulled on the red pair of trunks that he’d been given. They were too large, sliding down his hips dangerously low. Gaara pulled them off. “I’ve never felt this way around anyone but Lee.”

Hinata made a small noise in understanding as she brought her finger to her mouth. She bit the appendage as she thought about how to help her friend. She understood what it was like to want to be close to someone but not sure how to go about it. Gaara pulled on a blue pair of trunks, letting them stop near his thighs before deeming them too small.

“Maybe you’re attracted to men?” she suggested as she handed Gaara more trunks under the door. Gaara took them and tried on the first one, a black one this time.

“I’ll admit that I do not mind either but I’m not sure…shouldn’t I be attracted to women?” Gaara asked hollowly, his mind reeling at the thought. He had never really given anyone much thought before Lee. Men and woman were there but Gaara never paid attention to relationships.

“Well…have you ever been on a date with either before?” Hinata suggested again gently as Gaara reached under to hand her the swimsuits he didn’t like as he slid the black one off. He reached for the last dark red one.

“No…should I have?” Gaara questioned as he pulled the last one. The light pair of trunks sat just right on his narrow hips, not falling to low without being unbearable tight. He liked the color as well.

A sudden thought finally dawned on Gaara. If he had never dated anyone, than how was he to know if he was gay or straight, if he liked Lee or not? The gears turned in his head and Gaara swung the door to the dressing room open with a slam.

 Hinata jumped and squeaked in surprise as Gaara fixed a heated gaze on her. Hinata knew that look. It was the same look Gaara had given her when he roped her and Shino into being part of his campaign for student council president.

Hinata suddenly felt like she should be running.

Gaara stared at Hinata for a moment, his gaze intense as he hummed in thought. His expression as serious as she had ever seen it. She suddenly became very aware that Gaara was still in swim trunks and was grateful he still had his shirt on. 

“Go on a date with me, Hinata.” Gaara ordered and Hinata felt her cheeks heat as she shook her head in disbelief. She couldn’t heard him correctly. Gaara did not just ask her on a date…

“W-what?” she questioned, pushing her fingers together in her nervousness. Gaara placed his hands on her shoulders, meeting her eyes.

“I’ve never been on a date so how can I know if I like men or women.” Gaara explained ignoring Hinata’s blush or not noticing it in his single minded realization. “I need to go on a date with a female and see if I develop the same feelings I do when I am around Lee. Sakura is only interested in women and TenTen would tell Lee about my feelings. You are the only girl I trust with this.” Hinata’s jaw dropped and she looked down at the ground with wide eyes.

“G-Gaara…I’m not sure about this.” She stammered, her face feeling hot and she felt faint. Gaara bit his lip and sighed. He must have made some sort of social blunder. He removed his hands from her shoulders slowly and taking a step back.

“I-I’m sorry Hinata…I shouldn’t have asked that of you.” He said with a sigh. “I just want to understand this feeling better.” Hinata bit her lip and looked up at Gaara. His shoulders slumped in defeat, his hand ghosting over his heart as he stared at the ground. He looked so sad.

Hinata sighed as she decided on her answer. She just hoped she wouldn’t regret this decision to help her friend.

“I’ll go on a date with you Gaara.” She said placing her hand on his shoulder. Gaara’s head shot up and a small smile stretched over his lips. His eyes lit up and Hinata smiled. Gaara was like a little kid that barely understood the world sometimes, despite how mature he often acted.

“Thank you Hinata.” Gaara said gratefully as he turned towards the dressing room again. Hinata sighed and looked up at the ceiling, as if the fluorescent lights would somehow give her the strength to go through with this.

The things she did for her friends.


 

Neji sighed as he rubbed his eyes as he finished writing the journal entry for his summer reading. He really didn’t like this book but “The Memory Keepers Daughter” was required reading for his senior advanced placement English class. The book so far was boring and long winded.

He rose with a grunt as he decided to go find a snack in the fridge. He could use a break anyway. He opened the door, pulling his long brown hair from the ponytail as he did and running his hand through it. The hall was empty as he walked down towards the stairs that led down to the kitchen.

He walked quietly passed the sliver of light that came from Hinata’s room. Neji raised a brow. It was almost eleven o’clock at night and Hinata had gotten home from the mall about three hours ago and should be in bed. As he moved closer to the door, he heard Hinata speaking to someone on the phone. He stopped just outside the door when he heard Hinata say a familiar name.

“I think we should go to the movie they’re showing down the street, Gaara.” Hinata suggested as she collapsed onto her bed. “Movies are usually a good idea for a first date and this one is outside so the stars will be romantic.” Neji froze. Had Hinata just said she was going on a date with Gaara?

“The showing is tomorrow and the weather should be nice. W-we can meet at eight o’clock here than walk down to the field.” Hinata said as Neji tried to hold his breath. “I would suggest bringing a blanket to sit on. I can bring some drinks and they should have popcorn there.”

Neji’s brain started to slowly turn. His precious and sweet little cousin was going on a date. She was going on a date with Gaara No Subaku, the boy Rock Lee was in love with. Did this mean Gaara was straight? Did this mean the Hinata was moving on from Naruto?

“I would suggest wearing something light, you really don’t need to try too hard seeing as we are friends.” Hinata said then giggled at something Gaara said. Neji frowned. “Okay I need to go to bed, I will see you tomorrow Gaara. Have a good night.”

Neji turned heel and practically jogged back to his room. He was not about to let this happen, he needed to tell Lee.

After closing the door quietly, Neji picked up his phone to dial Lee’s number. He paused for a moment as his finger hovered over the speed dial assigned to Lee’s number. He bit his lip. Lee would be devastated by this. Neji sighed, snapping his phone shut.

Neji sighed as he threw his phone on the bed. He would tell Lee tomorrow after he followed Gaara and Hinata on their date. He needed proof and to be sure the red head didn’t try anything on his date with Hinata.


 

Gaara ran his hands through his freshly trimmed hair with a sigh. It no longer hung in his eyes, making it much easier to see but he had to admit he liked it longer. He looked down at his plain dark red t-shirt and black jeans, they were some of his nicer clothes. This would be acceptable if what Hinata had said was anything to go on.

He wasn’t nervous like the book he had gotten on the subject said he would be. He had also found another book on his sister’s book shelf, although he wasn’t sure how accurate Jiraiya’s novel “Icha Icha Makeout Paradise” would be on the subject. He did find the whole thing to be somewhat informative.

A knock on the door drove Gaara from his thoughts. He padded over to the door and Temari stood there holding a store bought rose, her eyebrow raised and Kankuro standing behind her. Both of his siblings entered and Temari looked him over before exchanging a look with Kankuro.

“So is there a particular reason you asked me to get this for you?” Temari asked as she handed the rose to Gaara. Kankuro pointed to Gaara’s clothes.

“We’ll cut to the chase little brother.” Kankuro stated bluntly as he walked over to Gaara’s bed and sat down, looking at Gaara with a serious expression. “Are you going on a date?” Temari tossed a glare at her other brother before turning back to Gaara. The red-head blinked.

“Yes,” he said simply. Temari’s jaw dropped at how casually her brother put it. Gaara never failed to surprise her with his bluntness during times like this. She opened her mouth to question who it could be when Kankuro groaned and fell back onto the bed.

“Is it that bushy-browed kid you always hang out with?” Kankuro asked as he stared up at the ceiling. He had seen how Gaara acted around the other teen and if his suspicion was correct, if his younger brother was seeing the loud teen he wanted to be prepared to defend Gaara against his father, or at least work to hide it from Rasa.

Temari whirled her head back to Gaara, eyes widening in worry as she bit her lip. She knew that Gaara always acted strangely around Lee but she didn’t think…Gaara had never even expressed interest in anyone before. Their father would blow a gasket if he found out Gaara was seeing another man.

“No, it’s with Hinata.” Gaara explained as he turned to grab his wallet from his nightstand. “She is helping me understand attraction. She’s doing an experiment with me. We are going on a date to see if I feel the same way with her as I do with Lee.”

Kankuro shot back up and gave Temari another look. So Gaara did feel something for Lee. Temari glared at her other brother, jerking her head towards Gaara as she turned towards the door. Kankuro scowled at her as she exited the room and closed the door behind her. Gaara raised a brow at them as Kankuro squeezed the bridge of his nose.

“Look Gaara…You never really got the sex talk and…” Kankuro struggled to find the words. This was not how he wanted to spend his Friday evening. He had planned to spend it trying to woo Kiba into going to a battle bot tournament with him on Saturday. Kankuro sighed.

“Gaara what exactly do you feel for Lee?’ Kankuro asked nervously, not meeting his brother’s eyes. “And what do you know about sex?’ Gaara shrugged and pointed to the book on his nightstand. Kankuro turned three different shades of red when he read the title.

“Well I read a little about it in Jiraiya’s book.” He answered, crossing his arms and bringing one hand up to wrap a hand on his chin. “I became aroused while reading it…” Kankuro held up his hands, shaking them along with his head.

“Okay!” Kankuro said leaping up, awkwardness weighing heavily in the air. He really did not want to talk about this with his kid brother. “Too much information bro. Just tell me how Lee makes you feel and why it’s prompted you to want to figure this out now?” Gaara’s eyes softened as he unfolded his arms, bringing up his right hand to touch his chest.

“Lee…he makes me feel warm whenever he’s around.” Gaara said with a sigh. “Ever since we became friends I’ve felt this need to be near him, to see him smile. When he touches me, it feels like my skin is on fire but I don’t want it to stop….” Kankuro sighed, this was bad. Gaara was further in the hole than Kankuro thought. The brunette approached his brother, resting a hand on his shoulder.

“Look Gaara, I’ll drop you off at Hinata’s.” He said. “I’m always here for you bro and if you ever have questions…I’ve had sex with both so I can help you.” Gaara’s eyes widened in surprise.

“You mean you are attracted to men as well as women?” Gaara stated as Kankuro rubbed the back of his own neck. He really did not want to have this conversation. He sighed again, trying to relieve his own tension.

“Yeah…I’m bi so…” He started then felt a hand on his sleeve. He looked down at Gaara and met his brother’s large teal eyes. They seemed full of uncertainty and question. There was a long silence as Gaara seemed to contemplate a response to this new information.

“Can you help me understand this attraction to Lee?” Gaara asked as he headed for the door, pulling Kankuro along with him. Kankuro’s gaze softened and his shoulders relaxed. The look of wide curiosity reminded him of how Gaara had been when he was little. Back when they were all happy. Kankuro nodded as he headed after his brother towards the car.

“Sure thing bro.”


 

Hinata smiled at the car as it pulled up. She recognized Kankuro’s silver car immediately and padded down the steps of her home as the car stopped. She waved to Kankuro as Gaara got out of the car. The older teen smiled at her, rolling down his window to speak with her.

“Hey Hinata.” He greeted as Gaara walked around the car to stand next to her. She looked nice tonight in a lilac sundress that fell to her ankles, a white cardigan on her shoulders. “Let me know if this experiment of his goes sour. I’ll kick his ass for you.”

Gaara rolled his eyes as Hinata giggled, a blush creeping onto her cheeks. His brother was attempting to flirt with his friend, he had no shame it seemed. Tugging Hinata’s sleeve, Gaara turned towards the gate. Hinata nodded and waved to Kankuro, oblivious to the male’s flirting.

“See you later Kankuro, I’m sure Gaara will do fine.” She stated as she followed after the red head.

“You look nice Hinata.” Kankuro heard Gaara say. “Thank you again for helping me.” Kankuro smiled warmly at his brother’s earnest gestures. He chuckled and rolled up the window as he put the car in reverse. Kankuro pulled out, checking his rear view in just enough time to see Hinata’s cousin Neji walk out the door.

The Hyuuga male had his hooded sweat shirt pulled up to hide his face. In all black, he walked down the drive, following after his cousin and Gaara. If the scowl on his face was anything to go on, Neji was not privy to the details of the “date”.

Kankuro laughed to himself as he pulled out and drove past his brother and his “date”, the older Hyuuga male not far behind but too far to be spotted. It was a good thing that Gaara wasn’t really dating the Hinata, otherwise he’d probably end up in a hospital at the hands of Neji.


 

Gaara laid the blanket out near the middle of the crowd. He wrinkled his nose at the noise and people but sat down on the blanket anyway. Hinata had set out a few waters, sitting down gracefully and putting her hands in her lap. She looked up at Gaara with a smile.

The little field was full of couples coming to watch the movie. The large white screen was tall and the projector was set up on a nearby hill and the smell of popcorn filled the air. Gaara took a seat next to Hinata, not to close but closer than normal. So far, his heart hadn’t reacted like it did with Lee. Although he did find that Hinata looked very nice in her dress.

“So anything yet.” Hinata asked as the red-headed boy sat down next to her. She was surprisingly comfortable with this whole “date” and had relaxed a bit. Gaara hadn’t tried to do anything she wasn’t comfortable with.

“Not particularly.” Gaara said as he crossed his legs, plucking a piece of grass into his hands. He tore it down the middle. “It’s nice but not like how it is with Lee…” Hinata hummed to herself in thought, wracking her thoughts for an idea. Then it occurred to her.

“You said you get tingles when Lee touches you, right?” Hinata asked. Gaara nodded and felt a small hand on his. He looked down to see Hinata’s tiny fingers curling around his own. It felt…nice but the tingles and heat that came from Lee’s touch was not there in Hinata’s. Gaara waited another moment before shaking his head.

“It’s nice…but not the same.” He admitted and Hinata nodded, pulling her hand away. Hinata looked up at him as the movie started to roll. The film began to play and Hinata watched with a smile. Gaara raised a brow as the title rolled.

They watched the movie in comfortable silence for a long while, not speaking and enjoying the normal ease of friendship the pair had always shared. Gaara was not sure what else to do as part of this experiment, wrinkling his brow as Hinata laughed at something that happened on screen.

“Westley, what about the ROUS’s”

“Rodents of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.”

Gaara smirked as a large rodent attacked the main male lead. He liked the characters so far, particularly the main male lead that kept reminding him of Lee. Kind and gentle but fierce when provoked. Gaara sighed as his thoughts turned to Lee. As much as he liked Hinata, he was sure the dark haired teen would have made the movie more fun. Lee would have tried to act out the fighting scenes or cried at the romantic parts.

The movie rolled on and towards the end, Gaara found his mind wandering yet again. This time his mind focused on the other couples attending the event.

Gaara looked around at the couples that surrounded them. Many of the males had their arms slung around their female counterparts, the females laid their heads on their boyfriend’s shoulders. They looked comfortable and content.

He moved towards Hinata, putting his arm around her and making the girl squeak. She looked up at him. She almost laughed when she noticed Gaara’s expression.

Gaara’s face was contorted in concentration, as if he was trying to figure out a difficult puzzle. Hinata shook her head and let the hand stay there. Gaara soon removed it, letting the hand rest behind Hinata. He returned his attention to the movie, disappointed with his results so far.

“Since the invention of the kiss there have been five great kisses that have been rated the most passionate, the most pure…Well, this one left them all behind.”

Gaara watched the on screen couple kiss. He had read and Kankuro had said that kissing was something that people who loved each other did. He had never been kissed before, at least not by anyone not related to him. His thoughts turned to Lee. What would the round eyed boy’s lips feel like on his? Would they be soft like they always appeared to be?

Gaara’s cheeks flushed as he realized what he was thinking about. He tried to picture kissing Hinata but the thought didn’t seem right. Hinata felt him stiffen. She looked up and paled when she saw the familiar fire in his eyes, the same fire that had caused this date in the first place. She knew he had an idea but when he didn’t voice it right away she grew more worried. What could he be thinking about?

The movie ended and Hinata rose, dusting off her dress. Gaara stood up and bit his lip. Hinata looked up at him when Gaara put one hand in his pocket, running the other through his hair with a sigh.

“Hinata…can you kiss me?” he asked softly, not sure if he was going to insult his friend with the small request. “Just on the cheek…I just need to see one last thing.” Hinata wrinkled her brow at him, searching his eyes for some sort of lie or even a trick, only seeing confusion and hurt in them. He was so desperate for an answer. She sighed and nodded.

Leaning up, Hinata gripped Gaara’s shoulders and pulled him down slightly. She lightly kissed his cheek, not letting the gesture last long. She pulled away and looked up at Gaara. He shook his head in disbelief, the tension leaving him.

“Anything?” Hinata asked as she took a step back from Gaara. The red-head shook his head again, turning around to lean down and collect the blanket. He folded it slowly, the gears turning in his mind. Hinata waited nervously.

“No,” Gaara said as Hinata gathered the remainder of their drinks to throw away in the trash bin. “To tell you the truth, it felt like when Temari used to kiss my forehead.” Hinata’s eyes softened and she covered her mouth in an attempt to hide her giggle. She understood what Gaara meant. The red-head was her friend and despite being very attractive in his own right, she could never feel herself ever seeing him as more than that.

“I’m glad I wasn’t the only one of us who felt that way.” She stated through giggles. Gaara chuckled a little, the ridiculousness of the situation finally reaching him. This whole date had been enlightening at least. Gaara was definitely closer to understanding attraction than he had been.

“I kept picturing Lee the whole time…maybe that means I really do have a crush on Lee.” Gaara sighed. Hinata giggled and walked through the crowd with Gaara. She could almost guarantee that was the case for her friend.

“Well, then I think you should think about if you want to tell him or not.” She stated and Gaara nodded again as they left the field, following the crowd out.

“I’m not sure how I would go about that…I think I should look into this a little more before I do that.” Gaara stated as he walked forward, slowing his pace so Hinata could keep up. Hinata made a small noise of approval.

“Good, now did you ever finish “Old Yeller”?” Hinata asked, trying to get her friends mind off the evening. He needed to figure his feelings out, sometimes the best thing to do was give yourself time. Gaara smiled slightly at the question, nodding as they walked back to Hinata’s home.

He wanted to get home, he needed to talk to Kankuro and figure out the mess that had jumbled itself in his heart. He needed to clear his mind.


 

Neji watched from a spot nearby, far enough not to be spotted by Gaara and Hinata but still ideal to snap a photo or two. The pair was not as touchy as the other couples that sat around them, Gaara seemed to be respectful enough to his cousin. Neji watched carefully, trying to strain his ears to hear what they were talking about. The pair was too far away to hear anything useful but getting any closer might give away his position.

He sighed as he watched them lay the blanket out, Hinata taking two water bottles out of her bag and handing one to Gaara when they each sat down.

Neji’s eyes widened when Hinata held Gaara’s hand. She normally wasn’t that bold. Neji felt rage lick the corners of his vision when Gaara put his arm around Hinata’s shoulder. Neji snapped a photo with the camera on his phone and hovered over the message button.

Lee was smitten with Gaara. Knowing Gaara was not interested in him, knowing that Gaara was on a date with Hinata. It would hurt his friend. Neji hesitated for but a moment as he contemplated his next move. Should he really tell Lee about this?

He settled on a text.

Gaara is on a movie date with my cousin.

Neji sighed as he hit send. This would be for the best. Lee needed to move on from Gaara, find someone he could have a meaningful relationship with. Lee needed to get over these childish dreams about the red-head.

Neji looked up just in time to have his gut curl in horror. Hinata and Gaara had stood up, Gaara’s back facing him. Hinata had pulled the taller boy down by his shoulders and kissed the boy. Neji couldn’t actually see the kiss from this angle but when he shot the photo there was no mistaking what the pair was doing.

He was going to kill that red-head.

Neji felt his phone vibrate and he looked down at the message he had received, glancing down quickly so he wouldn’t miss anything his cousin did with her date. The message was from Lee.

Maybe they are just hanging out. You worry too much Neji!

Neji looked at the message for a moment then to the photo he had just taken. This would prove he wasn’t just worrying too much but…he hesitated. 

He looked back up at his cousin as she walked away with the red-head, laughing at something he said. They would be heading home now. Neji sighed as he clicked the send button before he turned to follow after the pair.

Lee would forgive him eventually.


 

Lee stared at the screen of his phone after he hit send. Neji could be so over protective of Hinata it was almost ridiculous. She was a very capable young lady, she could very much handle herself and Gaara was just friends with her. The thought of them going on a date was…

Lee felt his phone vibrate again. It was another picture message from Neji and Lee rolled his eyes as he opened it. He had half a mind to call Neji and scold him for stalking the two friends.

The picture came up on the screen and Lee’s heart skipped a beat as time seemed to halt all around him.

Gaara’s back was facing the camera when the picture was snapped, his thin body leaning down as Hinata grabbed him by the shoulders. The petite girl’s face was blocked by Gaara’s head but there was no mistaking what the two were doing.

Gaara was kissing Hinata. Hinata was kissing Gaara.

Lee was vaguely aware when his fingers loosened their grip and his phone fell to the ground with a clatter. His chest felt tight as his heart beat painfully, he struggled to breathe as the world spun around him. He sat heavily on his bed and stared at the floor. It hurt to breathe.

Lee’s vision blurred as tears welled in his eyes. He laid his elbows on his knees, tangling his hands in his dark hair. He should have known better by now. He should know better than to hope that he would ever meet someone who would want him. That someone like Gaara would love him.

Lee wiped his eyes in a fruitless effort to stop the flow of tears. Why did it hurt this much? It wasn’t like Gaara was his to lay claim to. In fact, he had purposefully kept his feelings bottled up so Gaara would have an opportunity to develop a relationship with someone.

Someone who could make him smile like he had when he saw the scrap book Lee had made him, someone who could inspire him to be the best he could be. Gaara had come such a long way and Lee was so proud of how many bonds he was learning to form.

It was then that Lee realized it. He wasn’t falling in love with Gaara, he was already there and this new information only made the pain worse. He took a shaky breath that only made his chest hurt more.

Wiping his tears again, Lee made his way to the door. He opened it and wandered into the hallway. He came to his father’s room and softly knocked on the door. He didn’t want to be alone tonight, he knew it was childish to come to his fathers for comfort but he needed to near them. He needed to feel loved.

“Come in Lee…” Kakashi’s muffled voice said and Lee opened the door. His fathers’ lay in bed, Kakashi sitting upright while he read his battered copy of Jiraiya’s book. Gai looked up from his paperwork for the new students at the dojo and smiled at his son, until he noticed the dried tear stains. His brow wrinkled as he fell into his protective father mode.

“Is everything alright Lee?” Gai asked, setting his papers aside on his nightstand. Lee stood awkwardly, rubbing his arm as he sniffed to keep his nose from running. He looked up miserably.

“Dad, papa…can I sleep with you tonight?” Lee asked softly, his feet suddenly becoming of great interest to him in his embarrassment. Kakashi looked up immediately after Lee called them by the familial terms he never used to address them unless angry.

Or hurting.

Gai looked at Kakashi and worried his lip. Lee had been fine at dinner, what could have happened? Gai turned to their son and moved to the side to make room between them. His smile was soft as he patted the spot.

“Sure thing Lee, come on in.” Kakashi said and Lee crawled up onto the bed, collapsing next to his fathers. He curled into Gai’s side and Kakashi rolled onto his. Rubbing small circles on his son’s back, Kakashi waited for his son to feel alright telling him what happened. Gai gently ran his fingers through the silky black locks as he looked over at Kakashi.

Lee felt the pain well up in his chest again, constricting his breath and his vision blurred again. He hugged the sheets in front of him as he tried to focus on his fathers’ and their gentle touches. The tears came anyway and he felt arms around him, he wept quietly into Gai’s chest.

“Papa…is there something wrong with me?” Lee asked muffled by Gai’s chest. “I just do not understand why I cannot seem to meet anyone who…could love me.” Gai looked up at Kakashi, his eyes full of worry.

“We love you Lee.” Kakashi stated, confused. “So do Naruto, Sasuke, and Tsunade…” Lee shook his head, a fresh flow of tears coming as he protested miserably.

“They are family…I mean why can I not find something like what you have.” Lee cried, clenching his fists around the blanket. He didn’t mean to snap at his fathers’ but it just hurt so bad. This pain was worse than the one he had felt when his shoulder had been dislocated and the muscles torn. His heart had been ripped from his chest and he made no move to cover the wound.

“Lee…what happened that has you so upset?” Gai asked softly, pulling away slightly to look down at his son. Lee looked up, hurt shining in his tear filled eyes. Gai felt his heart pull painfully.

“N-Neji followed Gaara and Hinata to the movies…they were on a date…” Lee answered, his voice barely a whisper. “H-he sent me a picture of them kissing when I didn’t believe him.”

Kakashi looked up at Gai. Gai frowned and jerked his head through the door and Kakashi instantly understood. He rolled off the bed, grabbing his phone and car keys. He turned towards his lover and son as he grabbed his face mask off his nightstand.

“This looks like a job for Ben and Jerry.” Kakashi suggested as he pulled on his mask. “I’ll run to the store now. You two talk.” He leaned over, kissing Lee’s head before moving up to peck Gai’s lips. Gai nodded and watched Kakashi leave before turning back to his son.

“Why do I have to feel this way?” Lee asked his father, not looking up at him as he spoke. “I-I should not feel as if my heart is being torn in two when he was never mine to begin with.” Gai chuckled and ran his fingers through his son’s hair.

“I used to tell myself the same thing whenever I saw Kakashi with someone else.” Gai said gently. “I would feel as if my heart was torn from my chest and ripped in two. It hurt to breath and sometimes I’d cry myself to sleep thinking I had no chance with the man I loved.” Lee looked up, wiping his eyes as they widened in curiosity. He had never heard either of his fathers’ talk about the times before they had gotten together, in fact he had never heard them talk about anything about the times when they first started dating.

“W-was Kakashi anything like Gaara?” Lee asked as he sat up, leaning against the headboard as Gai sighed. The older man’s smile was small. His eyes sparkled as he fell back into memory.

“Kakashi was closed off, aloof. He never wanted to let anyone in for fear of getting hurt. We were rivals for years and there were still things I never knew until recently. While Gaara was never given the opportunity to develop bonds, Kakashi not only developed them but had them severed before his very eyes several times over.” Gai explained with a sad smile.

Lee nodded, he knew about Minato, Obito and Rin from the yearly visit to the memorial. Kakashi didn’t like to talk about them but Gai had always said that Kakashi and Obito were close, Rin and Obito were like his siblings. Brothers in arms.

“But Kakashi loved you back so…” Lee started to ask but Gai actually laughed. It was almost bittersweet laughter, like the sound of someone who lost someone they disliked but still felt bad they were gone.

“Kakashi ran away when I first…confessed to him, he left for boot camp and never wrote. I never stopped loving him though. For three years I missed him. I missed his presence, his laugh, the way his eyes crinkle when he smiles under the mask.” Gai lamented, running a hand through his hair. “When I finally found him again, I acted as if it never happened. Kakashi was hurting and the last thing he needed was my baggage as well. It hurt to be near someone you loved even though they could never love you. I tried so hard to bottle up my love for him after almost a year but with every passing day, I found myself falling for him even harder. But this time, he confessed to me and he said that he loved me in return…”

Lee nodded as he looked up at the ceiling. He sighed and thought about his feelings for Gaara, of how his heart beat whenever the male was near, of how just seeing the red-head brightened his day. The pride that had swelled in his chest when Gaara had taught Matsuri the kata. The happiness that filled his heart whenever Gaara talked about anything.

“But what if Gaara never feel the same?” Lee questioned out loud. “And what if he finds out I am in love with him! He will not want to be friends anymore!” Panic started to set in, Lee could bear Gaara never loving him back but losing the other teen’s friendship would be too much. It would truly break his heart. Gai placed a warm hand on his shoulders.

“Lee, I am sure Gaara would never do that.” Gai reassured as he ruffled his son’s hair. “Gaara is not that petty. Loving him would never surpass your friendship. Just like me and Kakashi, it may only make your friendship stronger.” Lee nodded and sighed, pulling his legs into his chest.

“Maybe you are right…” Lee said as his father ruffled his hair, although he didn’t see a need to tell Gaara his feelings right away. Maybe Gai telling Kakashi about how he felt all those years ago had been the right thing to do but Lee knew Gaara well enough to know that telling him about his feelings would only hurt the red-head. Lee decided he would wait to tell Gaara about his feelings. He just wasn’t sure how long he would wait.

The door to the bedroom opened suddenly and Kakashi walked in, carrying a plastic bag that was slung on his arm and three spoons. His mask had been pulled down and the silver haired man smiled as he looked at Lee, glad to see that the tears had faded.

Kakashi opened the bag, taking out a tub of ice cream and tossing it towards his partner. Gai caught it effortlessly, smiling at his love when he read what flavor he had been given.

“I’ve got Chocolate Therapy for Gai,” Kakashi stated as Gai smiled at him, catching a spoon that was thrown his way. “Milk and Cookies for Lee.” Lee was quick to intercept the flying tub, happy his father had remembered his favorite flavor of ice cream. “And Cherry Garcia for me. I also took the liberty of getting us a movie to watch that will take our minds off things.”

Kakashi laid his ice cream tub on his nightstand for a moment before walking over to the television set across from the bed.

Popping in the video, he smiled and turned on the television before heading back to take a spot on the bed. Taking a moment to admire the view of his son and partner snuggled up before joining them.

As the movie started, Lee and Gai were in tears for a very different reason than before. Lee had moved into Gai’s lap and laid back onto his father’s chest. Gai had sat up to enjoy his ice cream, spoon still in his mouth as he watched the movie.

Lee seemed to have forgotten about the hurt in his chest for now, the dull throb still there but not as sharp as it had been before.

“I know it is raining and you are scared but do not give up Oliver!” Lee said to the shivering orange kitten on the screen, sniffing as Gai nodded with him. Kakashi rolled his eyes as he took a bite of his ice cream. His lover and son could be so over dramatic.

But he wouldn’t trade this moment right now for anything in the world.


 

Gaara waved to the Hyuuga driver as he pulled away, watching the car leave before jumping up the front steps of his home. He needed a shower and some sleep. The medicine made sure he could sleep regularly, even if he still had some difficulty falling asleep at first. He dug in his pocket for his keys before sticking them in the lock and opening the door.

Gaara toed off his shoes, rubbing his neck as he made his way past the kitchen to walk up the steps into his room.

“Where have you been monster?” the agitated voice of Rasa No Subaku spoke from the kitchen. Gaara turned slightly, meeting the man’s eyes as he leaned against the counter. Rasa must have just come home. The house had actually been purchased for Kankuro, Temari and Gaara to live in. Their father spent more time in his own apartment but came by to check on his children when he had time.

“I was out with a friend.” Gaara answered simply, trying not to cause a scene. He just wanted to go to bed. Rasa snorted in disbelief.

“You don’t have friends.” Rasa spat. “And look at me when I speak to you demon.” Gaara turned, biting back his anger at the man before him. He clenched his fists as he father sized him up and down. Rasa smirked as he walked up to Gaara.

“You think just because those faggots who run the dojo you go to actually seem to think your worth something that you are?” Rasa stated, getting into Gaara’s face. It was then Gaara could smell the alcohol on his breath now. Gaara wrinkled his nose, his father was always like this when he was drunk.

“You are a demon incapable of loving anyone,” Rasa spat as he glared down at Gaara. “To think you actually think those…freaks love you is almost laughable. Friends…you need to actually have a heart to have that. You are just a monster who killed your mother, killed your uncle…”

Gaara felt his fists clench and his jaw tighten. He tried to shut off his anger, think about something else while his father’s voice became muffled.

“Everyone is deserving of love Gaara,” Yamato’s voice said in the back of Gaara’s mind, bringing back thoughts of their very first session together. “What your father says is wrong. You are deserving of the love your friends give you. It was not your fault your mother died, it was not your fault your uncle fell. You need to let these feelings of guilt go if you want to move forward.”

Gaara took three deep breaths as Rasa pushed his shoulder, drawing the teen from his thoughts. Gaara looked up and he could see the rage in his father’s eyes. Rage and loneliness that had consumed him.

Gaara was not going to let his father stand there and remind him of all the things he hated about himself, of all the hurt he had carried because of this man in front of him.

“He is wrong about you.”

“They're my friends. Just like you are Gaara.”

Gaara had friends, friends that had proved his father wrong with every word they said to him. Naruto had felt his pain, Lee had shown him unwavering forgiveness, Gai had taught him control, Hinata had showed him kindness, and Kakashi had helped him strengthen his mind. All of these people had accepted him and showed him the way to a better life. They loved him when his own father had failed to do so.

“You’re wrong.” Gaara stated quietly. His voice had been barely more than a whisper. Rasa didn’t register the statement at first, his face revealing his confusion. Rasa scoffed.

“Excuse me?” the older man questioned, raising his brow in skepticism. Gaara very rarely spoke up to Rasa, choosing to ignore him when he ranted like this. Gaara blinked up at his father now, his voice calm but full of confidence.

“You are wrong.” Gaara repeated at a slightly higher volume, looking into his father’s eyes. “Those people are kind and they care about me. I am not a monster and mother’s death is not my fault.” Rasa’s eyes widened before crashing down in a glare.

Rasa raised his hand quickly and backhanded his son. The slap echoed through the house as it like a gunshot, drawing his siblings down from their rooms at top speed. Gaara fell to the floor from the force, his cheek stinging as he touched it. He pulled back his hand and saw a small bit of blood on his fingers. Gaara stood up tall as his father raised his hand again to land another blow, he closed his eyes in anticipation.

The second blow never came.

Kankuro had sprinted down the stairs and come up behind his father, seizing the old man’s hand by the wrist with a growl. He met his father’s glare steadily as he released the hand and stood in front of Gaara. He was protecting Gaara.

“Stop it dad, Gaara didn’t do anything wrong.” Kankuro said not turning his eyes from his father. Rasa snorted and glared at his eldest son.

“Move out of the way Kankuro, he deserves this...” Rasa started and Kankuro shook his head and glared back at his father. He was not about let his father treat Gaara like this, not when his brother had just began learning how to open up to people again. It wasn’t fair to hold Gaara responsible for things that he couldn’t control, it wasn’t right to let his father continue doing so.

“No he doesn’t, he hasn’t done anything wrong.” Kankuro argued, clenching his fists at his side. “He’s just a kid and it isn’t his fault what happened with uncle and mom.”

The next slap was not as hard as the one Gaara had been on the receiving end of but it still left a red mark on Kankuro’s cheek. Kankuro was shocked at the blow, his father had never hit him before. Rasa glared at his other son. He looked almost regretful when he looked over Kankuro.

“You are grounded, no workshop until I visit again.” Rasa growled before pushing Kankuro out of the way. The black clad teen stumbled away, still in shock as Rasa grabbed Gaara by the hair.  

Gaara grunted at the sharp pain as his hair was pulled tightly. He could only grab onto his father’s hand as the man dragged him violently to the front door. Gaara’s socked feet barely able to keep up as his father opened the door with a fierce tug. Rasa looked down at Gaara, his expression unreadable as his hand gripped the knob.

“Get out.” Rasa growled as he pushed Gaara onto the steps, making the teen almost trip down the steps as his neck was yanked about. Gaara heard the door slam and he rubbed the pain away from his head. He had probably lost a few hairs and his neck ached from the sudden push out the door. He sighed as he sat down on the stoop, curling into a small ball as he gave into his fate of sleeping outside.

It wasn’t like it was the first time and at least it was summer, the warm air felt like a blanket as Gaara closed his eyes and tried to sleep in the corner by the door.


 

Kakashi chuckled as he cleaned up the empty tubs of ice cream, placing the spoons together in one with a soft clink of metal hitting metal as they moved. Gai had fallen asleep, Lee still curled in his lap. Lee snored softly against Gai’s chest, murmuring as Kakashi lifted the blankets to cover his small family with the warmth.  Lee had seemingly forgotten about his earlier heart ache and Kakashi smiled as he smoothed his son’s hair before taking the empty tubs to the kitchen.

He walked down the hall and made his way down the stairs. After he entered the kitchen, the phone rang shrilly and he sat down the empty ice cream tubs onto the counter as he reached to grab it. He wrinkled his brow when he glanced at the clock. It was well past midnight, who could be calling this late.

“Kakashi speaking.” He said into the phone. Temari’s worried voice spoke from the other end of the phone, her voice heavy as if she was upset and Kakashi’s head snapped to attention. Something must have happened.

“Kakashi, its Temari…can you come get Gaara?” the girl said, barely managing to hide the shake in her voice. “D-dad…he locked Gaara out of the house and he won’t let us let him in…I don’t want him outside all night…” Kakashi was already reaching for the set of keys that laid on the counter.

“I’ll be right there.” He reassured as he heard shuffling from the phone and Kankuro’s voice spoke.

“Make sure you check if he’s okay…we can’t really help him with dad here.” Kankuro growled, helplessness dripping from his voice. Kakashi felt anger curl his stomach as he slipped on his shoes by the door. Rasa No Subaku was slowly making Kakashi hate him more with everything he did.  

“I’ll be there in two minutes.” He said sternly “Don’t let him wander off.” He clicked the end button fiercely, laying the phone onto the table by the front door before heading for the door. He left the house, making sure to lock it behind him before he walked to his car. He climbed into the driver’s seat, slamming the door and jamming his key angrily into the slot.

He needed to calm down and he took a few deep breaths as he drove. He couldn’t let his anger get the better of him. He just needed to pick the boy up and bring him someplace safe, not fix the problems the family clearly had. That is what he told himself the whole drive there.

Until he pulled up in front of the house and saw Gaara curled up on the corner of the stoop in his socks. The red head looked up as Kakashi got out of the car and walked up, the rage in Kakashi’s gut flared back to life as he spotted Gaara’s cheek and eye.

The pale skin was already bruising, the skin turning red with a small blue tinge around it that spread towards the brow bone. A nasty cut where Gaara had caught Rasa’s ring was no longer bleeding but the crusted and congealed blood painted Gaara’s bruised skin from where it had been wiped away. Gaara seemed surprised by his arrival.

“Kakashi?” the red head asked as he rose. “What are you doing here?” Kakashi looked down at the boy, his eyes soft as he made to ruffle the boy’s hair. Gaara winced slightly at the gesture and Kakashi clenched his jaw.

“Never mind that, how did you get that bruise?” Kakashi asked and Gaara looked towards the ground, not meeting Kakashi’s eyes. Kakashi bit his lip as he could see the lie forming in Gaara’s mind.  

“I fell down the stairs.” Gaara said simply, trying not to worry Kakashi. It was his fault his father had slapped him anyway, he should have just kept his mouth shut. It was one thing for Rasa to hit Gaara, but Kankuro had gotten hurt trying to protect him and lost access to his workshop. This time, it was Gaara’s fault and he needed to accept his punishment.

Kakashi gave him a look, scanning the boy’s look before sighing. He couldn’t do anything if Gaara didn’t tell him that his father had hit him. No matter how bad the bruise seemed.

“I’ll take you to Naruto’s in a minute.” He stated, heading for the door as he pointed to the car. “Get into the car while I grab your things.” Gaara nodded as Kakashi walked past him and pounded on the door, looking back for a minute before taking a seat in the passenger side of the car.

The door opened and Rasa looked outside, surprised to see Kakashi it seemed. Kakashi met those dark eyes coldly, doing his best to stay calm as his military training took over. He would have to play this game carefully.

“What do you want?” Rasa stated defensively, eyeing Kakashi warily. Kakashi smiled tightly, giving a small chuckle, rubbing the back of his neck.  

“I came to pick up Gaara. He and Naruto had a sleep over planned for tonight. He said he forgot his things though, may I come in and get them?” Kakashi said, fake friendliness dripping from his voice. Rasa looked him over before stepping aside and letting the man walk in.

Kakashi picked up Gaara’s shoes, tying the laces together and draping them over his arm. He moved to head up the stairs, closely followed by Rasa. Kakashi scanned the stairs.

“Gaara has a nasty bruise. It must have been some fall down the stairs.” Kakashi mused, watching Rasa’s reaction. The man stiffened for a moment before stepping in front of Kakashi.

“Yes…there is a rickety step on these old stairs and he tripped on it.” Rasa said slowly, as if still processing the obvious lie. “He needs to be more careful.” Kakashi nodded and followed the man up the stairs and noted how solid every step seemed.

“Yes, sometimes you need to watch yourself.” Kakashi mused as they walked down the hall and up to Gaara’s room. “One day the fall might be a long one.” His eyes met Rasa’s coolly Rasa paused for a minute while Kakashi entered Gaara’s room, picking up the boy’s suitcase that he had packed for the beach weekend they were leaving for the day after tomorrow. Kakashi would tell Jiraiya to keep the teen for the few days before they left.

He had a feeling Jiraiya would agree when he Kakashi told him of his suspicions.  

Kakashi threw the bag over his shoulder, heading out the door. Rasa followed after him and Kakashi waved after he finally reached the door. He chuckled.

“Gaara will be back in a few days with us. We’re taking the kids to the beach for a few days in a little town not too far from here. I’m sure he told you.” Kakashi stated as he opened the door to leave. He looked the man up and down, his hard gaze not lost behind the fake smile he wore.

“Have a good night Mr. No Subaku.” Kakashi said mechanically, forced. Rasa nodded, meeting the steely blue eyes with his own brown. Rasa was not easily intimidated but something about the silver haired man made the feeling of uneasiness swirl in his chest. Kakashi nodded before turning, pulling the door shut behind him.

Rasa let out the breath he hadn’t realized he had been holding.


 

Naruto bounced impatiently as he waited for Kakashi outside the house in the drive way. He had received a text from the man several minutes ago, informing him that Gaara would need a place to stay until they left for the beach in a day or two. When Naruto had asked why Kakashi had only texted two words.

You’ll see

Naruto worried his lip as Kakashi’s car pulled up to the drive way. Naruto practically flew off the porch, his curiosity getting the better of him. Kakashi got out of the car and nodded towards the passenger side, giving Naruto a silent message as he went to fetch Gaara’s suitcase from the trunk. Naruto understood immediately as he tore open the passenger side when the red-head didn’t come out right away.

Naruto took one look at Gaara and instantly knew what Kakashi had meant. Rage flared in his heart as he took in the state of Gaara’s face, his eyes lingering over the purplish-red fresh forming bruise and the shallow cut that colored his friends pale cheek.

Naruto clenched his fists, trying to remain calm. He took a deep breath and looked at Gaara fiercely. He didn’t say anything as he reached for Gaara’s hand. The red-head gave no protest as Naruto dragged him up the steps of the porch and into the single story house to the nearest bathroom.

He sat Gaara onto the toilet, closing the door behind them and bending down to dig for the first aid kit under the sink. Naruto took out the peroxide as well. He poured the solution onto a cotton ball they kept in a jar on the counter, tuning to Gaara and patting the cut a little more roughly than he should.

Gaara winced at the sting of the peroxide in his cut but didn’t move as Naruto cleaned it. Naruto was quiet for a long moment, a worrying the red-head slightly. Naruto was never this quiet. Naruto placed a band aid over the cut before looking down at Gaara sternly.

“What happened?” Naruto asked, the question more of an order than a request. Gaara looked down at the ground, not comfortable with lying to Naruto. He clenched his fists on his knees, his eyes hard.

“I fe-“ he started but Naruto slammed his fist onto the counter, making Gaara look up to see the blond looking at him with a hardness in his gaze. He had never seen Naruto so serious.

“Do not say that you tripped.” Naruto interrupted, “Or that you fell. Did your dad hit you?” Gaara gulped at the question but sighed, there was no way he could lie to Naruto. Gaara sighed heavily.

“I talked back when he was yelling. Normally I avoid him but I was just getting home from Hinata’s.” Gaara explained solemnly. “He started calling Kakashi and Gai-sensei “faggots” and telling me that I was a monster, that it was my fault my mother is dead. I told him he was wrong and he slapped me.” Naruto’s eyes narrowed and he leaned over the counter, staring into the sink.

“Does he do this a lot?” Naruto asked as he gathered the first aid kit to replace it under the sink, his voice still scarily quiet. Gaara shook his head.

“He did it once before. This time Kankuro tried to help me and my father hit him too, though not as hard.” Gaara answered, rising from his spot on the toilet. “It was my fault Kankuro got hurt.” Naruto turned to him and put a comforting hand on Gaara’s shoulder.

“Come on Gaara,” Naruto said, his demeanor calming a little as he opened the door. “I’ve got instant ramen and a movie set up. You can tell me what this whole commotion with you having a date with Hinata was about. Although nice job scoring her.”

Gaara chuckled as he followed Naruto out into the kitchen. Kakashi was talking to Jiraiya on the porch, the older man still dressed in toad pajamas and his long grey hair standing in crazy directions. Naruto reached for the teapot on top of the fridge that stood next to the stove.

The kitchen was small but fit the two teens just fine as Gaara reached up to the shelf where Naruto kept his ramen as well as some tea that he had left there the last time he had slept over. Sleepy time tea, to calm his frayed nerves.

“It was just an experiment date.” Gaara explained as he took down the mug Jiraiya had given him to drink out of whenever he visited. The black mug read in bright red letters “Do not speak to me until the contents of this cup are gone”. The man had gotten it for him after Gaara had almost punched the man to get to his early morning coffee.

“Hinata was trying to help me figure out whether or not I have a crush on Lee.” He added casually.

Naruto dropped the teapot he had been filling in the sink with a sharp clatter that startled even Gaara when it hit. Naruto ignored the sound as he turned to Gaara, taking the red-head by the shoulders roughly. The other male’s eyes were wide with surprise and bewilderment.

“What did you figure out?” Naruto questioned, the desperation in his voice making Gaara confused as he blinked back at him. “Do you like-like Lee?” Gaara raised a brow at the childish use of wording.

“I-I have some attraction to Lee…but I’m not sure what it means.” Gaara stated as Naruto released his shoulders. “He…I care for him but...it is all very confusing.” Naruto rubbed the back of his neck, sympathy in his gaze as Jiraiya entered the kitchen.

The older man smiled at Gaara, placing a hand on the teens shoulder before opening the freezer. He took out an ice pack and handed it to Gaara. The teen stiffened and looked up at the man, watching him as his eyes scanned over the bruise on Gaara’s cheek. There was something in Jiraiya’s eyes. Pity or maybe sadness. The look was quickly covered by a bright smile, one that reminded Gaara of Naruto.

“You should ice that bruise, it will bring down the swelling.” Jiraiya offered before turning to Naruto. The blond had returned to boiling the water for ramen He ruffled the teen’s hair before turning for his room. Yawning as he waved behind him.

“Have some fun kids, I’ll be hitting the hay.” The older man said kindly. “I need to go run some errands really early tomorrow. Have a good night, no having any girls over without waking me up.” Naruto rolled his eyes and stuck his tongue out at his guardian.

“Whatever you pervy grandpa!” Naruto shouted at the man as he leaned against the counter. Gaara rolled his eyes as he held the ice to his face, wincing slightly as the soft ice pack laid against his cheek. He grew used to the cold as the water boiled and Naruto poured him a cup of ramen and a cup of tea. Gaara took the tea as Naruto carried the ramen out of the kitchen. This made it easier for Gaara to keep the ice pack on his aching cheek.

“So are you going to tell Lee about how you feel about him?” Naruto asked as he and Gaara walked towards his room, just a few feet away from the kitchen. Gaara shrugged his shoulders. To be honest, he had no idea.

the room was small, the walls covered in band posters and a large yellow one on the closet that read "No Ramen, No Life" in large black letters. Naruto's bed was pushed into the corner near the window with a small night stand next to it. several pictures laid upon the stand. A dresser stood tall next to a small desk in the corner that was covered in old, empty ramen cups. Gaara sighed. Naruto was so messy sometimes. 

“I am still figuring that part out, until then could you not tell Lee of my feelings?” Gaara requested as he took a seat on the blow up mattress that Naruto had set up for him to sleep on. Kakashi had sat his suitcase near the end of the bed and Gaara opened it to retrieve a clean pair of pajamas.

“Are you sure you don’t want to tell him?” Naruto asked as he sat on the end of his bed, munching on the half cooked ramen, unable to wait for the noodles to finish boiling. “Sometimes you should just rip the band aid off and get it over with…” Gaara nodded as he pulled his shirt over his head, leaving him in just his boxers as he laid on the air mattress.

“Yes, I still need time to figure these new feelings out…” Gaara stated slowly, sitting up to enjoy his tea. He took a long sip and savored the taste on his tongue. The water was hot but had cooled slightly to make it easier to drink. Gaara preferred his tea hot anyway.

“Well what is so hard about it that makes it so you need to figure it out?” Naruto asked through a mouthful of noodles, broth spewing from his mouth as he spoke. Gaara sighed as he looked down into the greenish-brown water in his cup.

Why was it so hard for him to admit these feelings? His gut twisted in nervousness every time he thought about telling Lee about his crush. Lee was always there when he needed him, always there with a kind word or gesture. The thought of losing Lee’s friendship hurt his heart, filling him with a sense of dread and making his chest feel tight.

He didn’t want to go back to being alone but something about looking back and not seeing Lee because the teen did not return his feelings, was even more terrifying than anything he could think of.

“I-I just want to be sure, I don’t want to…” Gaara tried to explain.

“I don’t want to get hurt again.” Gaara thought as he sipped his tea. He didn’t want to talk about this anymore. Naruto looked at Gaara for a long moment before picking up the remote. Gaara was complicated but in some ways, Naruto understood why he was being cautious.

“I won’t tell Lee but take my advice, don’t let the grass grow under your feet while you wait around.” Naruto stated as he rose to slip a video into the VCR. “Sometimes you got to take a chance, it’s the only way you’ll grow.”

Gaara nodded slowly as he watched Naruto put in a movie and fast forward past the previews before collapsing onto his bed, turning the light off as he did. The blue light of the screen filled the room as Gaara stared at the screen, hoping the movie would get his mind off of his hectic evening.

He just wanted to lay down and sleep as Naruto’s snores filled the room. The blond always fell asleep as soon as movies started it seemed.

Gaara watched the opening sequence with a tired interest as he set his empty cup on the carpet next to his bed and settled under the blanket Naruto had laid on the end of the bed.

The soft sounds of Hawaiian music lulled him to sleep as the heaviness of his eyes finally got the better of Gaara. He shut his eyes and fell into a dreamless sleep.

Hopefully the morning would be better and his mind would be clearer.


 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text


 

Gaara groaned as he laid his head down on the back seat, his headphones in his ears as Kankuro and Naruto argued over which station to listen to as Jiraiya yelled at them to cut it out. They had only just picked Kankuro up and he was already complaining about having to hang out with “Kids and old men”. Gaara rolled his eyes as Jiraiya finally just loudly declared.

“Driver picks the music, shotgun shut their cakehole!” the older man shouted to the teens.

Gaara finally had some peace as his brother and friend finally quieted down, still glaring daggers at each other. Gaara looked out the window and sighed. They were heading over to Lee’s house to pick up the remainder of his friends for the beach trip. Jiraiya’s large van would be able to hold all the teenagers for the trip while Kakashi and Gai took a separate car.

Gaara couldn’t help but feel tense and nervous about seeing Lee.

It had been about a day or so since the incident with his father, the bruise was still red but was changing into a blue purple and looked almost worse. The cut was scabbed over but he still looked as if he’d gotten into a brutal fight. Lee would worry when he saw it.

The van came to a stop, indicating that they had reached their destination. Gaara tried to tuck himself into the corner as he pulled his hood up, trying desperately to hide the bruise on his face. Naruto gave him a look of sympathy.  

Kankuro caught his brother’s shoulders tensing as Lee threw open the back doors of the old Volkswagen bus. With a small look, he moved in front of his brother as Naruto reached to block Lee’s entry.

“Hey Lee, are you ready for the beach?” Naruto asked as he laid his arm around Lee’s shoulders, turning him around and drag him to the house. Lee nodded happily at him. He was excited to be going somewhere as fun as the beach, despite his heartache knowing Gaara would probably spend the whole time with Hinata.

“Yes, it is going to be so much fun.” The teen said, giving Naruto a thumbs up and his brightest grin before spotting Gaara in the corner. “Are you excited for your first trip to the beach Gaara?” Gaara didn’t look up at Lee as he nodded. Lee felt his heart pang at the brush off.  

“Yes.” He said simply and Lee crinkled his brows in confusion. Gaara hadn’t been this curt with him since the first day he met him. Kankuro seemed to be shielding Gaara with his body, making it hard for Lee to see Gaara. Naruto was also acting strangely as he tried to grab Lee by the arm to lead him away. What was going on?

Then his inner thoughts began to whisper, setting his mind into a panic.

“Does Gaara…did he figure out my feelings for him!” Lee thought, slightly panicked as his heart skipped a beat as the rational part of his mind tried to shrug off the idea. Gaara was not looking at him but there was no way the red head could have figured this out. Beating down the thoughts, Lee decided it would be best to ask.

“Gaara, are you okay?” Lee asked as he pulled his arm from Naruto’s grip. The blond tossed a look at Kankuro. Gaara nodded his head, still not lifting his head. Lee blinked at him, his lip quivering slightly before he spoke.  

“Then can you look at me?” Lee said hollowly. Hurt was rising into his chest as the familiar ache filled his heart, threatening to crack him open. His voice shook ever so slightly and he bit back tears. “Did I do something wrong?”

Gaara heard the hurt in Lee’s voice and his head snapped up without thinking, barely noticing as his hood fell away from his face. He hadn’t meant to hurt Lee’s feelings, he never wanted to hurt Lee. Gaara’s heart ached painfully and his chest felt tight at the thought. He looked up at Lee and opened his mouth to speak.

Lee’s eyes widened as he caught sight of the bruise that decorated Gaara’s pale skin. He blinked for a moment before tears gathered in his eyes for a whole new reason. Gaara quickly pulled his hood back up but it was a pointless effort. Lee had seen the bruise.

Lee had seen his weakness.

“What happened Gaara?” he asked as Gaara looked back down on the ground, not meeting Lee’s eyes as he stared at his shoes.

“Nothing Lee, I-I fell down the stairs.” Gaara stated, guilt eating at his heart as he stammered out the lie. Naruto scratched his head and looked over towards the house, wondering if anyone would notice him making a break for it. Gaara and Lee seemed like they needed a private moment.

Naruto tossed a look at Kankuro before motioning behind Lee’s back. Kankuro took one look at Gaara, then to Lee as he weighed the choice in his mind. He laid his hand on Gaara’s shoulder. Gaara looked up and Kankuro was surprised by the panic he saw in his little brother’s eyes.  

“Gaara, I think it’s going to be okay…tell him. I’m sure he’ll understand.” Kankuro whispered reassuringly. He squeezed his brother’s shoulder before crawling out of the car and letting Lee take his seat.

Naruto shut the door, heading into the house with Kankuro as the car became silent. Jiraiya had seemingly disappeared in the commotion and Gaara still refused to meet Lee’s eyes. Lee felt his heart hammer in his chest as he reached over Gaara’s lap, laying a hand on his friend’s knee.

“Gaara…please let me look.” Lee said softly. Gaara sighed and lifted his head towards Lee. Lee’s eyes softened in concern, tears spilling down his cheek as he gently touched the bruise. Someone had hurt Gaara and that made Lee’s heart ache. He hadn’t been there to protect him, to take care of him.

Gaara winced slightly despite the gentleness of Lee’s warm fingers. His heart hammering in his chest as Lee locked his eyes with teal ones.

“How did this happen Gaara?” Lee asked softly. There was no demand in his voice, only soft concern. Gaara could hear his heart beat in his ears as his cheeks flushed. He was hyperaware of Lee’s hands on his knee and face, the touch lighting a fire in his chest and bringing comfort to his mind. His mouth felt dry as he spoke.

“I talked back to my father the other night, he was drunk and he hit me then threw me out on the porch.” Gaara admitted, subconsciously leaning into Lee’s hand ever so slightly. “It was only a slap…I’ve gotten worse in fights before.” The warmth of Lee’s hand was a comfort. A darkness passed over Lee’s eyes, making the guilt swell in Gaara’s chest. He had made Lee angry.  

“Is that why Kakashi said he was bringing you over to Naruto’s when he left the other night?” Lee asked quietly, “Is that why you didn’t answer your phone either, because your father locked you out?” Lee lowered his hand away from Gaara’s cheek as he kept his eyes locked on Gaara’s. Gaara’s heart cried out at the loss of touch, Lee’s touch. The red-head nodded and lowered his eyes under the fierceness of Lee’s gaze.

Lee clenched his jaw. Rasa had hurt Gaara, making the protectiveness surge in Lee’s chest and chasing away any panic he had once felt. Fathers were supposed to love their children, not hurt them. They were supposed to protect and raise their sons to be good men.

Gaara looked away and Lee felt his gut churn. He hadn’t realized how close they had been sitting, or that his hand was still resting on Gaara’s leg. He moved his hand quickly as his cheeks flushed crimson.

 Lee’s skin was on fire from where his fingers had touched Gaara’s skin. Lee sighed. This was not the time for his feelings to get the better of him. Lee’s eyes wet again with tears as he pulled his friend into a comforting hug, his heart tugging at the contact and his nerves screaming.

 “If this happens again, I am telling Iruka.” Lee stated simply. “Your father has no right to hit you…he shouldn’t leave you with bruises.” Gaara felt his breath hitch at the feeling of Lee’s closeness, of Lee’s warm breathe on his neck.

The fire in Gaara’s gut was slowly rising and twisting. The urge to kiss Lee fought against his restraint as Lee pulled away, Gaara bit his lip as they locked eyes. Gaara stiffened slightly at the warmth in Lee’s dark brown gaze, tenderness and something Gaara could not identify. 

 Lee placed his hands on Gaara’s shoulders, smiling brightly as whatever emotion that had been in his eyes was replaced with the normal twinkle. Gaara mentally shook himself as Lee opened the door.

“Let us go inside and finish gathering everyone so we can leave for the beach!” Lee exclaimed as he bolted out the door. Gaara blinked, a small fog still hanging over his mind as he managed to climb out of the car door. Lee waited patiently with his normal happy grin, as if nothing had happened.

Gaara felt his heart sped up again as Lee’s calloused fingers closed around his wrist to lead him into the house.


 

Kankuro laughed as Sakura pushed Naruto off her shoulder with enough force to send him flying into the back of driver’s seat. He had been snoring and drooling on her shoulder as he slept. Naruto glared at her, rubbing his head where it had hit the seat.

“What was that for Sakura?” Naruto complained as he tried to wake himself up. Lee chuckled softly as he looked down at his own shoulder.

Gaara had fallen asleep some time ago, his head falling to the side and laying on Lee’s shoulder. Lee was happy that Gaara was getting some sleep, warmth spreading through his heart as Gaara softly murmured. Lee reached up to pull the hoodie that had fallen off of Gaara’s shoulder back up. His eyes lingered on the bruise for a long minute before flickering over to Hinata.

Hinata sat on the other side of Sakura, making no move towards Gaara the whole time they had been traveling. This confused Lee greatly. They had been in the car for almost three hours now and the girl hadn’t even tried to cuddle up to Gaara. Wasn’t it normal for new couples to want to be near each other? But then again Gaara did not seem to be the cuddling type.

Neji gave Lee a pointed look from his spot by the door of the van next to TenTen as she talked to Hinata about some kind of new weapon she had been looking at getting. Lee looked back down at Gaara with a sigh as he looked down at the other teen.

At least he could still have these little moments.

Lee felt his phone vibrate in his pocket and he took it from his jacket with a puzzled look. Looking down at the screen, he noticed the message was from Neji. Lee blinked for a moment, looking up at Neji to meet the Hyuuga’s eyes before looking at the message.

Lee stop this. You can’t keep torturing yourself like this. He is with Hinata, you need to let him go.

Lee sighed, his heart getting heavy again. Neji’s words sounded cruel but Lee knew he was only trying to help. He knew that he should listen to Neji but he could not just shun Gaara for apparently no reason. Not when the thought of losing the red-head as a friend felt like an icicle was being stabbed through his chest. Cold and painful.

I know what I am doing Neji. I am very aware that Gaara is with Hinata.

Neji read the text after he received it and gave Lee a sympathetic look before typing out another message. Lee looked at his screen, his phone still in his hand as the message arrived in his inbox.

Lee, it only makes you look pathetic. Gaara clearly does not like other men, stop chasing your tail. I sent you that picture to help not so you could continue to pine after Gaara like a love sick puppy.

It was then that TenTen chose to look over at Lee, sad expression and then to Neji’s hard gaze that was directed at Lee before reading over Neji’s shoulder. Her brown eyes widened when she read the latest message that Neji still had open on the screen.

“What picture?” the brunette blurted out, raising a brow at Neji and making all of the people still awake in the car turn towards the pair. Neji stiffened.

“Whatever do you mean?” Neji tried to hide his phone. TenTen raised a brow at him before she got a sly smile on her face, turning to Lee. Lee gulped. TenTen’s brown eyes were serious, locking onto him like a lion that had just found fresh meat. Lee’s throat went dry.

“Lee, you have ten seconds to tell me what picture Neji is talking about or everyone in this car is going to know about every embarrassing thing you’ve done since you were eleven.” TenTen threatened.

Neji looked at Lee pointedly, his lavender eyes narrowing.

“Lee if you tell her I will personally make it my mission in life to make you miserable.” Neji stated coolly. Lee paled and shook. This was a choice of who he found more terrifying out of his two best friends. The choice was easy.

“Neji followed Gaara and Hinata on their date yesterday, he took a picture of them kissing!” Lee stammered out to TenTen, bringing up the picture message on his phone and thrusting it out stiffly for TenTen to see. TenTen took the phone and Hinata scooched closer to look at it.

Hinata’s eyes widened as she looked at the picture, her lip quivering as a red blush covered her pale face. TenTen turned to Neji as he tried to meet her gaze.

“What the hell Neji!” TenTen exclaimed, sticking a finger in Neji’s face. “You can’t just stalk people, that’s an invasion of Hinata’s privacy!” Hinata seemed stunned into silence as Sakura leaned closer to look over her shoulder, looking at the photo. Sakura clenched her fists and turned to Neji.

“What the hell Neji?” Sakura shouted as she grabbed the long haired teen by the collar. It was then that a small voice spoke, dangerously quiet and serious. Everyone turned towards Hinata, who was staring at her hands.

“How dare you…” Hinata said as she looked up at her cousin, her eyes hard in anger and hurt. Lee gulped, he had never heard Hinata raise her voice before. While the smaller Hyuuga laid into Neji verbally, Lee looked down at Gaara, who was still fast asleep on his shoulder with his headphones securely in place. At least he didn’t need to listen to this.

Lee focused on Gaara instead of the commotion, looking the pale face over and letting his mind wander as Neji took his verbal lashing. Served him right really.

“I was out with a friend and you…followed me and took pictures to send to Lee!” Hinata scolded, backing Neji into the corner of the van. Sasuke slipped beside Naruto who was watching in apt attention.

“This is going to be good.” He whispered to Sasuke as the dark haired teen nodded. Kankuro snickered behind his hand as Neji paled at Hinata’s anger. The brunette deserved every bit of this punishment. Sakura watched Hinata with interest, as if seeing her in a new light.

“I will have you know it wasn’t even a real date!” Hinata stated as she poked a finger into Neji’s chest, her face flushed in her rage. “And if you would have looked from another angle, you would have seen that I kissed him on the cheek!”

Lee’s head snapped up from admiring the curve of Gaara’s jawline to stare at Hinata as his brain processed what she had said. Not a “real” date, did that mean that Hinata was not seeing Gaara?

“T-then why did you two go to the movies and why you hold his hand?” Neji questioned, bewildered by this new found information. Lee watched closely as all eyes turned to Hinata. She crossed her arms, eyes narrowing and looking slightly annoyed.

“Gaara wanted to see what an actual date was like.” Hinata explained, hesitating over her next words. She wasn’t sure if she should share all the information Gaara had shared with her but she could give the basics. “H-he has been feeling an attraction to someone. He w-wanted help deciding if he could feel those things for anyone or if just for this person…” she glared at Neji.

“Now apologize to Lee for bringing him into this!” Hinata stated and Neji lowered his head, defeated. He turned to Lee, his lavender eyes looking terrified in a way Lee had never seen them. Lee made a mental note never to make Hinata angry.

“I’m sorry Lee…I shouldn’t have gotten involved.” Neji apologized sheepishly.

Lee smiled and gave a thumbs up, having already forgiven his friend. His mind was too busy racing through the new information Hinata had unknowingly provided him. Lee’s heart was leaping in his chest and dancing with joy. Gaara wasn’t with Hinata, Lee still had a small bit of hope.

Maybe he still had a small chance.


 

A soft breeze blew through Gaara’s hair, carrying the scent of the ocean as the ferry carrying them to Kirigakure churned through the water. Kirigakure was a small island surrounded by ocean and the large ferry carrying them was just big enough to carry the large van under the decks.

Gaara watched the sea as it was pushed along the sides of the boat, the blues swirling into white as the boat cut through it. The sound of the seagulls overhead was drowned by the sound of retching just a short distance behind him.

Gai was thrown over the railing, vomiting violently into the ocean as the boat rocked. The usually solid man was not built for sea travel it seemed. Kakashi leaned against the railing next to Gai, barely looking up from his book as he rubbed small, comforting circles on the small of Gai’s back. Apparently this happened every year.

Everyone else had gathered on the other side of the boat, watching dolphins jump next to the ferry with great interest. Gaara had lost interest for the noisy animals after a few moments, choosing to instead watch the water on the other side as it churned.

Neji was practically kissing the ground Hinata walked on in an attempt to placate her anger. Hinata had forced the other teen to apologize to Gaara. Apparently he had followed them on their experiment date, took a picture of the kiss Hinata had given him on the cheek and sent it to Lee. The picture looked incriminating and Lee had thought that Gaara and Hinata were seeing each other.

Gaara was sure he had never disliked the Hyuuga more than in that moment but forgave him begrudgingly. He did not enjoy having his private life exposed without his knowledge. Lee had apologized as well, even though he too had been a victim of Neji’s meddling.

A hand ruffled Gaara’s hair, drawing him from his thoughts as he looked up with a scowl. Jiraiya chuckled down at Gaara’s face as he removed his hand and leaned his elbows against the railing. He smiled at Gaara with a wide grin that reminded the red head of Naruto. It seemed he’d picked up more than a few mannerisms from his adopted grandparent.

“So kid, you want to tell me what happened with your face?” Jiraiya asked as he looked out onto the sea. “I assume you told Naruto but won’t tell me but Kakashi told me his suspicions.” Gaara looked back towards the ocean, not answering as he sighed. He hated the questions that came with this. Hated feeling so weak.

“My father slapped me, he doesn’t do it often but he’s still an ass.” Gaara stated in irritation. “I don’t want to talk to Iruka, I don’t need child services trying to take me away. All I want is to finish high school and then leave.” Jiraiya nodded, his smile widening as he ruffled Gaara’s hair again,

“Well, if you’re looking for a job, there’s an opening at my editor’s office. Baki needs an assistant to file paperwork, fetch him coffee and basically be his servant. I can put in a good word for you and you should get the job. He's a bit of a hard ass but he’s fair to students and you’ll work for minimum wage. It's a good opportunity to save up for your own place.” Jiraiya offered. Gaara’s head snapped up. He blinked at the white haired man.

A job. Jiraiya was offering him a way out, a way to do it on his own too. Gaara felt his heart do a back flip. His features remained impassive but the gratefulness still shined through his teal eyes.

“I-I don’t know what to say.” Gaara stammered as he looked up at the man. “Except thank you and I would like a job if possible.” Jiraiya smiled again, the easy grin that made Gaara feel welcome. He pushed himself off the railing with a grunt.

“Thank me after you’ve met Baki, you may change your tune after that.” Jiraiya stated as he turned to head for Kakashi and Gai. “I’ll talk to him about it after summer, so you can enjoy yourself.” Gaara nodded as he turned back towards the other adults, giving Gaara a wink.

Gaara stared back out at the sea for a moment, his mind swimming with the prospect of being able to work, to save up money to move away from his father’s influence. He could live his life the way he wanted to.

  “Gaara!” Lee shouted across the deck with his wide smile, waving Gaara over. “Come watch the dolphins with us!” Gaara turned to the dark haired boy, warmth and affection spreading through his heart. He left the railing to stand beside Lee and watch the noisy dolphins as they breached the water.

Lee laughed as he smiled at the creatures, his shiny black hair glinting in the bright sun and Gaara felt his face heating pleasantly.

Maybe he could live his life with who he wanted to as well.                                                  


 

It was early evening by the time they reached the duplexes where they would stay. The large brown and cream homes were two story and large, the ocean waves crashing behind them and the view breathtaking as the sun began to disappear in the distance.

Kakashi and Gai headed for the smaller of the two buildings, wanting some privacy from the teens and leaving Jiraiya to watch over the younger ones so they could be alone. This vacation was just as much for them as it was for the teenagers.

Kankuro snickered with Naruto, making vulgar hand movements behind Kakashi’s back as he turned to the group, his eyes serious. He held a sheet of paper in his hands and a quick glance showed Gaara that it had pre-assigned roommates. His heart sunk a little when he saw that his name was not next to Lee’s but Naruto’s. He hadn’t realized he had wanted to be near Lee during this experience.

Kakashi handed the paper to Jiraiya.  

“So no one gets any ideas.” Kakashi said as Jiraiya rolled his eyes. The older man gave Kakashi a look.

“Listen Kak-Daddy, if they want to screw like rabbits they’ll find a way.” Jiraiya pointed out, giving the younger man a slight look before lowering his voice. “And you’re not the best example when they all know why you and Gai are taking a house to yourselves.”

Kakashi gave the man a withering glare as a titter of laughter went through the group of teenagers. If the man didn’t write his favorite book series, Jiraiya would be in a world of hurt at the moment.

“Just be sure you enforce it, you’re the adult so act like it.” Kakashi stated as he followed Gai into the smaller duplex. Jiraiya rolled his eyes as he turned to head inside the building.

The house was large, with four bedrooms on each side as well as one bathroom. Jiraiya quickly tossed the paper Kakashi had given him in the trash in the kitchen. He walked up the stairs with a grunt.

“Figure out who you want to sleep in the same room with.” Jiraiya said as he dragged his suitcase into the room nearest to the bathroom. “I trust you kids not to be stupid and there should be condoms in every room if I remember correctly.”

Gaara shook his head at the man and rolled his eyes. Lee squeaked and flushed crimson at the older man’s candid words. It made Gaara chuckle a little.

Hinata was quickly dragged to the door that separated the duplex in two, the girls would be staying on one side of the building, the boys the other. Temari was on the way, choosing to sleep in and come a day late after completing some reports for her father. Temari would have been better left in charge.

“You can stay in my room if you like Hinata,” Sakura offered happily. “Temari can room with TenTen when she gets here.” Hinata nodded with a smile, following after Sakura into the other part of the building.

“Thank you so much Sakura, I would love too.” She replied. Sakura’s cheeks dusted with pink as she held the door open for the lavender eyed girl. Sasuke was already making his way up the steps, grabbing Naruto by the collar as the blond just barely managed to grab his duffel bag as he was forced up the stairs.

Neji was already silently heading for the room Kankuro had taken, leaving Lee and Gaara to blink at each other for a moment. Lee felt his whole body stiffen as he realized it was only them left in the living room. The others had chosen their rooms.

He was going to be sharing a room with Gaara. Lee gulped as he turned to his friend. His heart was pounding out of his chest, threatening to leap from his chest.

The red head picked up his suitcase, moving toward the stairs and walking up the steps. He turned to Lee. The teal eyes seemed impassive as he beckoned Lee to follow. Lee quickly slung his duffel bag over his shoulder and padded up the steps.

“Calm down, it’s not like your sharing a bed,” Lee thought as he followed Gaara to the room furthest from the bathroom, the only one still left. Gaara moved to the bed closest to the window, laying his suitcase down on top of the blue comforter. Lee took the other bed and tried not to look awkward as he unpacked his bag in silence.

His body was humming, he was hyper-aware of Gaara presence as he watched the red head take out his clothes and put them into the dresser that lay opposite the beds. The sun was beginning to set, causing the room to glow orange. Lee collapsed on his bed after he finished putting his clothes in the drawer.

“I am so tired, who knew sitting in a car could take so much out of you.” Lee commented as he closed his eyes, stretching out over the blue comforter. The teen yawned loudly.

Gaara looked out the window, they had gotten the best view of the ocean from this room. The sun was beautiful as it disappeared behind the waves. Gaara was vaguely aware of his eyes starting to droop as Lee’s snores filled the room, the ride had worn him out more than he thought.

Gaara fell onto his bed with a soft thump, sleep claiming his senses as the remaining light warmed his body.


 

A loud bang and a small cry of pain awoke Gaara from his slumber, drawing his tired senses to the hallway. It was dark out, the moonlight just barely making into the room from the open window. The clock next to Gaara’s bedside table flashed 1:00 am in large red letters. They only slept for about five hours.

Lee sprang upright. He rubbed his eyes and looked at Gaara. A similar thought must have occurred to them both. The red head nodded as the rose from their beds, quietly making their way to the door.

Lee stood over Gaara, Lee put his fingers to his lips as he slowly opened the door to peek out.

Naruto held his foot in his hands as he sat on the floor in the hall. It seemed that had been the source of the noise that had awaken them. Kankuro holding his hand over Naruto’s mouth, looking irritated. Sasuke shook his head from his spot leaning against the wall.

“Do you want to get us caught idiot?” Sasuke whispered as Kankuro lifted Naruto to his feet. Naruto glared at the Uchiha, snorting in annoyance.

“I was being quiet, that wall appeared out of nowhere!” he whispered loudly. Gaara cleared his throat and all three boys jumped and turned, staring at Lee and Gaara with wide, fearful eyes. Lee waved and smiled a little, glad the noise had only been his friends and not some burglar in the night.

“What are you doing Kankuro?” Gaara asked, still tired and a little annoyed at being awoken. Sleep never came easy to him and on nights that it did, he did not like being awoken unless it was important. Kankuro smirked as he ran his fingers through his unruly brown hair. He chuckled awkwardly.

“Well Gaara, you see there’s a college party happening down on the beach.” Kankuro explained, not letting his voice go above a whisper. “There’s going to be drinking, college girls and dudes. I figured I’d sneak some of you guys out, show you some real fun.”

Lee stiffened and shook his head. Gaara sighed, not interested in going to something as noisy as a party on the beach. He had just wanted to wait to go until tomorrow with his friends.

“Come on Lee, Gaara.” Naruto asked, “Come with us, it’ll be fun. I mean we are sixteen that’s only two years away from eighteen!” he added as he flashed his best puppy dog eyes at the pair, pouting his lip for effect. Gaara returned the look with his own impassive gaze. He opened his mouth to deny the blond only to glance at Lee form the corner of his eye.

The dark haired boy looked conflicted, as if he couldn’t decide what to do in this situation. Gaara shook his head, crossing his arms.

“Lee, Kakashi and Gai-sensei won’t like this.” Gaara noted sternly. “There will no doubt be drinking and I do not wish to repeat the Kimimaro incident.” Lee stiffened as he remembered, a flush of embarrassment coloring his cheeks. He had hoped Gaara would forget how he had vomited in his lap.

“You don’t have to drink, just come and actually let loose.” Naruto pleaded, focusing all his begging on Lee. He knew who the weakest link was. The bushy browed teen bit his lip and looked from Naruto to Gaara before letting out a heavy sigh.

“I suppose I should keep an eye on you...” Lee conceded and Gaara let out a sigh. The red head glared at Naruto and his brother before looking at Sasuke, normally the Uchiha wanted to just keep his head down and stay firmly out of trouble.

“You agreed to this Sasuke?” Gaara asked warily. The dark haired boy shrugged.

“I’m just here to keep Naruto out of trouble.” Sasuke stated simply. Gaara raised a non-existent brow and smirk.

“You mean you broke down to Naruto’s begging.” Gaara stated smugly. Sasuke glared at the red head, a dark blush coloring his cheeks. Gaara turned to Lee to say something, only to be met with not only Naruto’s large blue eyes but Lee’s own dark orbs. He swore mentally.

“Please Gaara, I’m sure you can help us make sure no one gets hurt.” Lee asked and Gaara bit his lip, his cheeks flushing as he weighed his options in his mind.

“F-fine, but only to keep you three out of trouble.” Gaara said stubbornly, heading down the stairs quietly. He knew deep in his gut that he was going to regret this. Sasuke chuckled.

“You mean six.” Sasuke whispered smugly as they made their way past the front door quietly. Gaara closed it and eyed the figures waiting in the front yard. TenTen, Sakura and Hinata all stood together, looking out of place and unsure. A buzz of excitement filled the air and Gaara groaned inwardly.

Kakashi and Gai were going to kill them.

Hinata held onto Sakura’s sleeve, clearly uncomfortable with the situation but not wanting to be left behind. Gaara gave her a nod when she looked up, his arms still crossed.

“They convinced you too?” Gaara noted as they began walking towards the beach, falling into step next to Hinata. The lavender eyed girl nodded, pressing her fingers together in a nervous gesture.

“Sakura said it could be fun.” She stammered out, looking at the pink haired girls back as she walked next to Sasuke and Naruto. “I-I was hoping Sakura would like to be my friend and since Naruto is going…maybe they will think…” Gaara shook his head, the idea seemed so foolish that he couldn’t understand it.

He locked his eyes on Lee’s back as the taller boy walked alongside Kankuro. Lee turned slightly, meeting Gaara’s eyes and giving the red head a large yet nervous grin.

Maybe he could understand Hinata’s decision a bit.


 

The party was loud and Gaara was unhappy.

The music pumped into the air around a large raging bonfire, older teens and twenty-somethings surrounding it as they drank and talked loudly. Gaara had been offered alcohol at least ten times and he refused. He wanted to leave but he couldn’t shake this deepening pit in his stomach.

Something wasn’t right and he needed to find his friends.

He made his way through the crowd, trying to locate at least some of his friends. He spotted Sasuke with Naruto as the blonde threw back a beer with a grimace. The Uchiha pinched the bridge of his nose as Naruto whooped loudly, barely able to stand. He clearly was very drunk.

Gaara met Sasuke’s eyes and jerked his head towards the general direction of the house. Sasuke nodded and grabbed Naruto by the sleeve to convince him to leave, the blond started to protest but stopped briefly to vomit onto the sand in front of him. Sasuke shook his head as he took Naruto’s hand to lead him away.

Gaara found Kankuro next. His brother was surrounded by three girls, talking about robots while the girls nodded dumbly. They clearly had no idea what his brother was going on about but judging by Kankuro’s slurred words when Gaara walked up, he was too drunk to care.

“G-Gaara!” Kankuro stammered, smiling as he stood shakily with a goofy grin on his face. He draped his arm over Gaara’s shoulders and leaned his weight on him. “My little brother! Have I ever mentioned how much I love you?”

Gaara sighed as Kankuro rubbed his face into his neck. Gaara glared and played with the idea of knocking his brother off of him. Gaara sighed and removed Kankuro’s arm carefully opening his mouth to speak when suddenly loud cheers drew his attention over to a crowd just past the bonfire.

The sight made Gaara freeze.

Lee tossed back a shot of something Gaara didn’t recognize, his face red and eyes unfocused as the crowd around him cheered and called out his name. Lee was clearly very drunk and reaching for another shot as one of the college men handed it to him. Judging from the brown of the liquid, Gaara guessed to be whiskey.

Gaara threw his brothers arm from him and abandoned him for the time being. How had Lee gotten ahold of alcohol? He should know better by now. Gaara was at Lee’s side in one second, laying his hand over the shot and stopping his friend from drinking. The crowd gave a loud sigh of disapproval but Gaara sent a withering glare their way.

Lee blinked up at Gaara for a moment as his eyes focused. Lee smiled happily as he recognized Gaara, lifting his hand to give a thumbs up.

“Gaara!” Lee stated drunkenly, wrapping his arms around Gaara’s shoulder and nuzzling his face into Gaara’s neck. Gaara’s face heat as he lifted Lee from the chair. The crowd was beginning to dissipate as Gaara took Lee’s weight. He didn’t have time for the twist of heat in his gut, he needed to get Lee back to the cabins.

“You missed out on sooo much fun!” Lee hiccupped, swaying slightly as he leaned on Gaara. “I asked for a tea but I think the water was bad or something ‘cause it tasted funny. Then all these nice people kept giving me drinks!” Gaara clenched his jaw. Someone must have given Lee a spiked drink and the idea made his blood boil.

Suddenly, the sound of police sirens ripped through the air and Gaara’s blood ran cold.

“Everyone freeze, this is the Kirigakure police department.” A loud voice over a megaphone shouted and Gaara managed to pull Lee away from the crowd as everyone at the party scrambled to escape. He had lost sight of his other friends but right now he needed to get Lee away.

Kakashi and Gai were going to kill them.


 

Sakura swirled the whipped cream in her drink with a sigh. She had lost sight of most of her friends as the party raged on, taking away her chance to talk to Hinata. Something about the pale eyed girl made her feel giddy and happy all at the same time. Sakura sighed, why had she always fell for the people who can never love her back.

And that break up text from Karin earlier hadn’t helped. Apparently the red head had decided that she was no longer interested in “playing around with little girls”. It was a bitter feeling that welled in Sakura’s chest, loneliness and self-doubt. Was she really so unlovable?

Sakura downed the drink. Rubbing her teary eyes, she rose from her spot and made her way down the beach to head home. Hinata was probably with Naruto by now. Sakura passed a group of men, all surrounding something in a circle.

“Um…no I just need to find my friend.” Came a soft stammer and Sakura looked towards the group. She recognized that voice.

“Come on, we can take you back to our apartment and show you a really fun time.” Said one of the guys who had cornered Hinata, his hand on her upper arm. Hinata whimpered at the grip and shook her head.

“N-no, I really need to g-go.” She stuttered, tears gathering in her wide eyes. “Please let go of me.” Another one of the men scowled at the quiet order.

“What’s the deal, too good to hang out with us little girl?” the guy growled as he stood over Hinata, towering over her small frame. Sakura felt her anger boil over. Maybe it was the alcohol in her system or maybe it was the sight of Hinata so teary eyed but Sakura marched over to the man holding Hinata’s arm and pressed her thumb into his wrist, hard.

The man yelped and let go of Hinata. Sakura wedged herself between Hinata and the group, shielding the smaller girl with her body. Sakura’s bright green gaze fierce as she glared at the group.

“She said no so I advise hitting the road before I make you.” Sakura threatened as she stared down the man before her. The boy looked her up and down with a smirk. He chuckled.

“Oh yeah, you and what army sweet cheeks?” the guy mocked, his eyes flicking up her body and Sakura could practically feel a trail of slime on her skin. “Why don’t you come with us, I like them fiery.”

Sakura narrowed her eyes at him. The guys laughed around her and Sakura smirked, cocking back her fist and punching the offending boy in front of her right in the nose. A sickening crack filled the air and the guy wailed in pain.

Blood poured out the guy’s nose, spilling between the fingers of the hand that cupped the injured nose. It was clearly broken. Sakura turned to the other men, narrowing her eyes as they backed up.

“Anyone else?” Sakura asked, her voice full of violence as the men shook their heads in wide eyed fear. Sakura took Hinata by the wrist, pulling her away from the group and back towards the cabins.

As they walked away from the party, Sakura stopped to inspect Hinata for injury. The lavender eyed girl seemed unharmed as Sakura gave her the once over, just a little shaken. Sakura looked into the pale eyes and sighed. She must have scared the normally shy girl when she hit the guy, she needed to learn to watch her temper.

“Sorry about that Hinata.” Sakura apologized, feeling guilty as she noticed the tremble in Hinata’s lip. “I didn’t mean to scare you. This party was a bad idea.” She reached up to smooth the frazzled bit of black hair down behind Hinata’s ear. Hinata shook her head, looking up at Sakura with wide eyes.

“No, you were amazing!” Hinata said excitedly as she took Sakura’s hands in her own, her smile wide. “No one has ever stood up for me like that and the way you just…you were really brave Sakura.” Sakura felt her face heat and her eyes soften at the Hyuuga.

“I…Thank you Hinata.” Sakura replied, glad the darkness of the sky hid her blush as well as it did. “I shouldn’t have made you come here…I should have known you’d be uncomfortable…” Hinata had been looking down at the ground, shuffling her feet slightly in the soft sand but her head snapped up at the self-blame in Sakura’s voice.

“Oh no Sakura, I could have said no.” Hinata stated, giving Sakura a small smile and squeezing her hand. “I-I wanted to come…I wanted to spend some time with you and the others.”

Sakura’s eyes softened. She could understand Hinata’s feelings a bit, sometimes the shy girl would hold back during events where all the members of their group got together. It had to be hard to find an open space with their group being as close knit as it was. While Gaara had been forced into it by Lee and Naruto, Hinata did not have that luxury. The quiet girl could only stand beside Gaara and hope she could steal some of his space.

Sakura decided that she would have to take some initiative. She bit her lip for a moment before she spoke confidently, giving Hinata her brightest smile.  

“Hinata, would you like to be my friend?” Sakura asked brightly, looking up and trying not to look scared. Her wide eyes blinked as her face split into a huge grin. Sakura’s heart felt warm and she gave Hinata the biggest smile she could muster.

“Of course I’ll be your friend Sakura!” Hinata exclaimed happily, and Sakura knew she had made the right choice. “Who wouldn’t want to be your friend?” Sakura opened her mouth to answer when sirens filled the air, making both girls freeze.

“This is the Kirigakure police department!” Shouted a police officer over a megaphone, the lights from the cars shining down on the crowded party. “Nobody move!”

Sakura and Hinata smiled awkwardly, holding up their hands as a tall police officer started to walk towards them.


 

Gaara dragged Lee into a small beach cave to hide just a small way away from the police officers as they gathered and arrested every member of the party they caught. Gaara’s chest heaved as he leaned against the wall of the cave, the back of his shirt getting wet from the water there.

Lee sank to the ground, smiling like an idiot. His face flushed red as he crossed his legs and rocked back and forth, humming to himself. Gaara shook his head and sat down next to Lee.

“We should be safe here, at least until we can make a break for the cabins.” Gaara stated as Lee turned to him. The dark haired teen nodded, smiling as he fell into Gaara’s lap. Lee giggled and hiccupped. Gaara chuckled as he let lee occupy his lap.

The moonlight reflected off of Lee’s shiny black locks, making them glow blue and Gaara let his hands absentmindedly thread through the locks. Gaara looked towards the entrance of the cave. So far they hadn’t been followed, much to Gaara’s relief. He hoped the others had gotten away.

“Okie doki Gaara!” Lee exclaimed giddily, looking up at Gaara with heavy lidded eyes. Gaara sighed as Lee’s hand reached up. Gaara froze as a calloused thumb swiped over his injured cheek. Lee’s drunken smile hardened into a frown. Gaara unconsciously leaned into the hand, the rough fingers feeling warm against his face.

“I-I should hit y-your father for h-hurting you.” Lee slurred with narrowed eyes.  “You are t-too pretty to have s-such an ugly b-bruise.” Gaara felt his cheeks burn as Lee rose on all fours, just like he had when Kimimaro had spiked his water. Gaara could hear his heart in his throat as he recalled the question from the last time.  

The alcohol on Lee’s breath burned Gaara’s nose and eyes. Just how much did the teen drink? Lee looked into Gaara’s eyes, his round orbs half lidded in his drunkenness. Lee’s brow scrunched as he contemplated Gaara’s face.

“Gaara can I kiss you?” Lee asked softly as he swayed forward and Gaara’s heart skipped a beat. He opened his mouth but no words would form in his mind. He was vaguely aware that he was nodding his head.  

Gaara’s eyes went wide as Lee leaned forward, pressing soft lips to the bruise. Gaara felt his face heat as his heart beat sped up, the spot where Lee laid the kiss felt like a live wire and Gaara’s mind stopped functioning properly.

Lee’s lips felt soft against the tender flesh of the bruise, a gentle peck that lasted barely a minute as Lee pulled away. Gaara blinked as his heart screamed in protest and he fought not to grab Lee to pull him into an actual kiss. Lee smiled softly and met Gaara’s eyes warmly.

Gaara stood still as Lee yawned and laid down in his lap, too surprised to do anything. Gaara lifted a hand to his cheek. The fire from the kiss still filled his chest, the buzz of adrenaline and nervousness swirling inside of him.

Having Hinata kiss him felt nothing like this. This fire and spark in his heart, the need for Lee to do it once more. He tried to remember how to breathe as Lee’s soft snores filled the cave. Gaara was in such a state of shock, he barely noticed a police officer shine a light into the small cave. Gaara blinked into the bright light, his heart sinking in defeat.

They had been found it seemed, no use fighting it.

The police officer chuckled as Gaara looked up, his body tensing as the man waved towards the cave mouth. He seemed more amused by the scene than angered that the boys had tried to run.

“Come on boys, get out of here.” The man said sternly. “Get up.” Gaara sighed inwardly, shaking Lee so they could rise. Lee murmured sleepily as Gaara helped him stand, leaning on Gaara’s smaller frame as they walked forward. Gaara wrapped his arm around Lee’s waist to help him walk. He blushed as Lee’s hot breath met his neck, sending chills up his spine.

The police officer didn’t bother with cuffs, just chuckled as he led the pair out of the cave and up the hill. Gaara didn’t protest at this point, just accepted the fate he’d been handed. The other officer stood by the car and opened the back door to his vehicle, waving into the back seat.

“Get in kids, you’re going downtown with us.” He stated as Lee smiled goofily and hopped inside. Gaara clambered in behind him.

“You’re not under arrest but I’m afraid your parents aren’t going to like this phone call.” the officer that found them said as he climbed into the drives seat. “Eight underage kids in one night, new record for us.” Gaara swore mentally for the fifteenth time that night as he laid his head against the uncomfortable leather seats. So they all had been caught.

He was going to murder Naruto for convincing him to come along.

The other man shook his head as Gaara looked away from rear view mirror. Lee had laid his head back down on Gaara’s lap and Gaara found comfort in the weight. Lee muttered softly, laying a hand on Gaara’s leg as he cuddled into his thigh. Gaara’s skin hummed with touch.

He carded his hands through the shiny locks of black in an attempt to comfort himself. The soft locks sliding from his fingers like silk. Lee murmured softly before his snores filled the car. Gaara couldn’t shake the feelings he had felt before but pushed them to the back of his mind as he tried to prepare for the punishment they would no doubt receive.

Kakashi and Gai were going to kill them.


 

Sasuke grumbled as the police officer that had taken him and Naruto to the station opened a cell door. The man was a tall, intimidating figure with the name Momochi on his tag. A small bruise was beginning to bloom from where a very drunk Naruto had punched him in the face. It barely seemed to phase the tall man and Naruto was lucky that the man hadn’t decided to put worse charges on them after that. 

“You’ll wait here until your bail is posted.” The man said gruffly. Naruto huffed, crossing his arms stubbornly and glaring at the man. Drunk Naruto was fighting Naruto.

“Don’t tell me what to do!” he shouted, making a move towards the man. Sasuke grabbed the bright orange collar of the blonde’s shirt.

“Don’t provoke him idiot,” Sasuke hissed, pulling the boy to him and tossing him into the cell. “You won’t make the police force back home if you get assaulting an officer on your record.” The officer actually chuckled at this as he slammed the door shut.

“Just keep that one out of trouble kid.” The officer said as he left for his desk. Sasuke scanned the crowd in the cell. TenTen and Kankuro were sleeping soundly by a bench, clearly very drunk. Sakura and Hinata looked up at them as the jail door slammed. Hinata looked teary eyed as Sakura gave Sasuke an irritated look. She clearly hadn’t drank as much as the rest of them but had drank something if her temper was anything to go on.

“You too huh,” Sakura stated as she rubbed small comforting circles on Hinata’s shoulders. The Hyuuga was almost in hysterics it seemed and Sasuke felt bad. The shy girl was clearly very frightened and Sasuke groaned inwardly. Naruto collapsed on the floor near the wall.

“Come on b-bastard, I’m sleepy.” Naruto complained “Let me lay on you.” Sasuke scowled and made no movements toward the wall. He huffed slightly. He was too pissed at the situation to want to be around Naruto at the moment. Anger flared in his heart as he stared down at the blond, clenching his fists.

They were going to be in so much trouble when Kakashi and Gai came to get them. He was going to be grounded, his summer would be ruined and Hinata would probably be locked up in her house for the rest of her life. Why hadn’t he just told Naruto no, just this once?

Because he couldn’t say no to that face when it came down to it, a fact that in this moment made him angry. Sasuke groaned aloud.

“You idiot, if you hadn’t of convinced us all to go to that party we wouldn’t be stuck here.” Sasuke groused as he crossed his arms, glaring at the boy. “This is all your fault. This is always what happens. You do something stupid and drag me into it and I let you. Why do I let you?”

Naruto blinked up at him and cocked his head to the side, looking like a dog who wasn’t sure why he was being scolded. Sasuke tried not to think about how cute those large blue eyes looked as he tried to remain angry at his best friend.

“Because you love me?” Naruto said drunkenly and Sasuke froze for a moment, his whole body stiffening as his heart skipped a beat. Naruto had no idea how right he was. Even though he was angry at this whole situation, Sasuke would never stay mad at the blond. He couldn’t because one flash of that smile, just the sound of his name being spoken and Sasuke would follow Naruto anywhere.

Sasuke sighed as his shoulders sunk and he walked over to Naruto. He sunk onto the ground, hitting his head against the wall softly. Naruto laid down on Sasuke’s lap and promptly fell asleep. The Uchiha sighed heavily as he brought up a hand to card it through golden locks.

“Idiot.” Sasuke whispered as he watched his friend sleep. He would just have to get used to getting in trouble with Naruto around. He found himself not minding the thought as much.  

 “Sasuke, Naruto, Sakura?” Came a familiar voice that made Sasuke look up. By the bars stood a taller feminine looking man. His long brown hair tied back in a ponytail as his blue eyes scanned the group in the cell. Sasuke’s eyes widened as he recognized the man.

“Haku?” Sakura asked, her face splitting into a huge grin. “What are you doing here?” Haku’s eyes flitted over to the girl, his worry giving way to a warm smile.

“I was just coming to have dinner with Zabuza, my boyfriend, since he works late…what are you all doing in a cell?” Haku asked curiously and Sasuke cast an accusing finger down to Naruto. The blond was too busy snoring to wake up as he murmured and rolled over in Sasuke’s lap.

“The idiot convinced us to go to a college party, we all got caught and now we have to wait until the morning for them to tell Kakashi and Gai.” Sasuke explained as the same officer who had brought them in walked up, this time leading a familiar red-head and bowl cut sporting teen.

Haku turned and his eyebrows rose in surprise.

“Lee?” Haku stated incredulously as the officer led the boys into the cell. The officer raised a brow at his boyfriend, flicking his brown eyes between him and the teens. Sasuke realized that that officer that had taken them here must be the boyfriend Haku had mentioned.

“Do you know these kids Haku?” Zabuza asked as he closed the door. Haku nodded and sighed.

“They went to my high school, I also took martial arts with Naruto and Sasuke. Lee was in my LGBT club…did you call their parents?” Haku asked as he looked up at Zabuza. “I know Mr. Hatake and Mr. Maito will want to know they snuck out…” The large man shrugged.

“It’s late, I figured I’d call them in the morning…” he explained and caught sight of Haku’s expression as his eyes flicked to the teens in the cell. He was clearly very worried but didn’t want to ask Zabuza for this big of a favor. Zabuza’s eyes softened as he gave a heavy sigh.

“But I suppose the hang overs they are no doubt going to have in the morning are punishment enough.” The officer chuckled, heading for his desk. “And since you know them, I’ll let them off with a warning.” Haku beamed up at Zabuza and stood on the tips of his toes to kiss his boyfriends cheek.  

“Thank you Zabuza.” Haku said softly, grateful his boyfriend was doing this for him. The tall man waved it off, trying to hide his red blush as he walked towards the desk.

“Don’t thank me yet,” Zabuza stated as he reached for his phone. “I bet their parents are going to be just blistering mad when they get down here, staying the night might have been a better fate.”


 

Kakashi awoke with a start, eyes blinking tiredly around the room for the source of whatever had awoken him. The sheets draped around his body, keeping him warm as he cuddled back into his lovers arms. It was too early for this.

A small tinkle of music floated over from his nightstand and Kakashi groaned. He shifted towards the sound, moving to answer it. Gai’s arm moved from its spot around Kakashi’s bare waist as the man mumbled. The large man opened one eye as he rubbed the other, sitting up as he did so.

“Who’s it Kakashi?” Gai stuttered sleepily as Kakashi sat up. With a snort, Kakashi picked up his phone, the screen was an unknown number so he flipped it open to answer. He glanced briefly at the clock which read 3 am in bright red letters. He was going to murder someone for waking him up at this hour.

“What?” Kakashi growled into the phone. The voice on the other end laughed a little.

“Hello is this Kakashi Hatake or Gai Maito? This is Officer Zabuza Momochi of the Kirigakure police department.” a deep voice asked. Kakashi quirked a brow, his tired mind processing what the officer had just said.

“Yes, I’m Kakashi Hatake.” He replied as he rubbed his eyes, trying to awaken himself fully so he could handle this.

 “Are you the father of Rock Lee Maito-Hatake and the chaperones for Hinata Hyuuga, Sakura Haruno, TenTen, Gaara No Subaku, Kankuro No Subaku, Naruto Uzumaki and Sasuke Uchiha?” Kakashi’s whole body froze and he sighed.

“Yes, Rock Lee is my son, Naruto Uzumaki is my brother and the others are their friends. What did they do?” Kakashi stated, already knowing what was coming next. Zabuza chuckled.  

“They just got caught at a college party on the beach, looks like some of them had a bit too much to drink but they’re not hurt.” He stated, the sound of shuffling papers could be heard. “Normally I’d keep them here all night and make you pay bail in the morning but apparently my boyfriend Haku came by and recognized a few of them. I’ll let them off scot free is you can get here in ten minutes to collect them.” Kakashi felt a calm rage pool in his gut. He was going to kill Jiraiya then he was going to ground those kids into the next century. He silently thanked Haku for being there.

“Thank you officer, we’ll be right down.” Kakashi said as he hung up. Gai was already wide awake with a concerned look on his face. Kakashi glanced at his partner and scowled as he threw off the sheets to swing his legs over the bed.

“The kids are all at the police department.” Kakashi provided, his calm voice barely masking his anger and irritation. “Looks like they snuck out to a college party while we were asleep.” Gai’s eyes widened and his jaw clenched. Kakashi pulled on his pajama pants, sliding into his dog slippers as he grabbed a shirt.

“They are so grounded when we get them.” Kakashi stated as he threw on his robe and grabbed his keys. “This is what I get for leaving Jiraiya in charge.” Gai chuckled as he followed after his lover, picking up the face mask off the nightstand as he did. It seemed that Kakashi was angry enough for the both of them.

They walked into the other house with a loud bang as Kakashi slammed the door behind them, awakening Neji and Jiraiya as they did. Kakashi was glad at least one kid had the sense to stay put and behave.

Jiraiya yawned and blinked as Kakashi threw the light switch on. He glared at the silver haired man.

“What the hell Kak-daddy, its three thirty in the morning!” Jiraiya groaned tiredly, clearly annoyed that his beauty rest had been disturbed. Kakashi snorted and gave a strained smile.

“Do you know where the kids are Jiraiya?” Kakashi asked, his voice shaking with rage and irritation. Jiraiya blinked at him. He looked confused as he looked over at Neji, realizing he was the only one who had come out to investigate the noise. Neji shrugged and rubbed his eyes as he tried to brush the sleep from them.

“Oh god, what did they do?” Jiraiya stated as he squeezed the bridge of his nose. He hadn’t thought he needed to chain them to the beds but now it was looking like that may have been a good idea. Kakashi crossed his arms as he glared at the older man.

“Apparently they all went down to a college party on the beach, got super drunk and then got taken down to the police station. I just got a call from one of the officers there.” Kakashi said coolly, trying to keep his head but his tired mind was giving him little control of his anger. Jiraiya sighed and reached for his keys.

“Let’s take the van. It will fit everyone and then we can figure out what to do with them once they’re safe in bed.” Jiraiya observed as he turned to Neji. “There’s buckets in the kitchen, put one in every room along with two Gatorade bottles each and aspirin. They’ll need it in the morning.” Neji nodded and went to the kitchen.

They headed out to the van and Kakashi glared at Jiraiya as he took the front seat, still irritated at the man.

“This is all your fault.” He stated, crossing his arms in the front seat as Gai climbed into the back to sit just behind him. Jiraiya snorted in irritation.

“How is this my fault?” Jiraiya stated incredulously, shoving the keys into the ignition and turning them over. The van roared to life as they pulled out of the driveway.

“You were supposed to be watching them.” Kakashi pointed out. Jiraiya huffed out in anger, he was too tired for this bullshit. Gai laid a comforting hand on Kakashi’s shoulder.

“Kakashi, it is not Jiraiya’s fault the kids snuck out.” The other man said calmly, kneading his thumb gently into Kakashi’s shoulder. “It is entirely their own fault and we will make sure they claim responsibility in the morning.”  Kakashi slumped against the hand and sighed. Gai was right. Kakashi turned back to Jiraiya.

“Sorry Jiraiya, I’m just tired, worried and irritated.” Kakashi apologized as he rubbed his eyes. “How could they have done something so stupid? We raised them better than this.” Gai gave Jiraiya a look as the man gave a loud laugh.

“I seem to recall a certain silver haired teenager who went to parties, drank and slept around.” Jiraiya stated with amusement in his voice. “Despite Minato’s constant chorus of ‘No, Kakashi.’. If the kids want to be stupid they will and no amount of telling them not to is going to change that.” Kakashi sighed as Gai nuzzled his cheek. He knew Jiraiya was right, despite not wanting to admit it.

One thing was certain though, he was going to make those kids wish they’d never even heard of alcohol.


 

Gaara stared at all his friends as they all tried to sit comfortably in the cell. The benches were hard and uncomfortable but Lee seemed to have found solace in Gaara’s shoulder. The older teen drooled on his shoulder as he snored.

Naruto and Sasuke sat on the floor. Naruto had cuddled into Sasuke’s lap, sleeping peacefully with his head tucked under Sasuke’s chin. The Uchiha looked torn between holding the blonde and tossing him off. If the situation had been different, Gaara might have laughed.

Sakura held Hinata’s hand, the shy girl was practically hyper-ventilating in fear. She was scared but Sakura’s whispered words of comfort seemed to stop the tears that had rolled down the Hyuuga’s pale cheeks. Gaara felt bad for not trying harder to get everyone to stay home.

Kankuro and TenTen were sleeping on each other by a bench, heads pressed together as they snored. Kankuro’s head rested on the bench as he laid on the floor, TenTen laid on her back, hands on her chest like someone from an old vampire movie.

“Well I got Zabuza to call Kakashi and they’re on their way.” Came a soft voice that made Gaara and Sasuke look up. It was Haku, one of Naruto and Sasuke’s friends. The older boy had moved to Kirigakure to attend school and lucky he had or Gaara had the feeling they would be stuck in the precinct all night long.

“Thank you for your help Haku,” Sasuke said softly so he wouldn’t wake Naruto. “And thank Zabuza for us as well.” Haku smiled at them then looked to Gaara and Lee. His eyes flicking to Gaara’s hand as it absentmindedly carded through Lee’s hair. He smiled, pushing his long brown hair behind his ear.

“You must be Gaara. Lee mentioned you a few times at the club.” Haku observed as Gaara looked up. The red-head looked up and nodded.

“I’m sorry we had to meet under these circumstances.” Gaara stated, casting a withering glare in Naruto’s direction. “I should know better by now than to listen to Naruto and my brother…” Haku laughed, smiling softly as he looked over at Naruto with affection.

“Naruto could sell a hay to a horse if he tried.” Haku laughed. “It’s a pleasure to meet you despite the situation.” Gaara nodded as Lee murmured again, adjust his head on Gaara’s lap. Gaara’s eyes softened as pulled the jacket he’d laid over Lee’s shoulders back up.

“Lee sure is something, isn’t he?” Haku asked as he took note of the tenderness in Gaara’s touch. “I heard he made president of the club, I’m glad someone capable took the title.” Gaara nodded again.

“Yes, he was really excited and has all kinds of plans for the club.” Gaara said, his heart warming with pride. Lee hadn’t stopped talking about what directions he wanted to take the club. Lee’s passionate nature was a perfect fit for the position, where he would actually be able to make a difference. It made Gaara that much more determined to change the school environment when he ran for student council president.

“You are all in so much trouble!” came a shout that pulled all the teen’s attention to the offices outside the bars. Kakashi stalked over to the cell, glaring down at all the kids in a way that made Gaara curl his arm protectively around Lee as he jerked awake. He was dressed in his pajamas still, robe billowing behind him as he stopped in front of the cell door.

The officers gathered around the room as Zabuza opened the cell, trying to hide his smirk. The teens all filed out, the ones who weren’t incoherently drunk hanging their heads in shame. The circle of officers watched with fascination and tried to hide laughter behind their hands.

“I can’t believe any of you would be this stupid!” Kakashi said sternly, squeezing the bridge of his nose. “You could have gotten hurt or worse. Whose bright idea was it to sneak out in the dead of night and get drunk at some party?” Sasuke’s eyes flicked to Naruto and Kankuro, Kakashi let out a sigh.

“I should have known…” Kakashi bemoaned. He was too tired for this.

Gaara hung his head slightly as Gai approached. The tall man looked down at all the teens, his eyes heavy with disappointment. He crossed his arms, shaking his head solemnly.

“I am very disappointed in all of you, you should know better than this.” He said the disappointment in his voice worse than the scolding from Kakashi. Gaara felt the guilt weigh heavily on his heart, making it ache.

“Let’s just…let’s just get you all home, it’s late but we will talk about this in the morning when I’m awake enough to decide a punishment.” Kakashi sighed exasperatedly. The teens all trudged behind him, walking in silence as Kakashi turned to Haku. The male smiled brightly.

“Thank you for your help Haku,” Kakashi said gratefully before looking up at Zabuza, giving him a once over before holding out his hand to shake the officer’s. Zabuza shook Kakashi’s hand firmly.

“Take care of him.” Kakashi said, the slightest hint of warning in his voice as he turned to his own family. Zabuza nodded with a smile, chuckling as he watched the men lead the pack of teens out of the station. Haku shook his head as Naruto and Lee both waved goodbye, their large smiles making him smile before he turned to Zabuza.

“Thank you again Zabuza, I really appreciate it.” Haku said as Zabuza lifted a hand, gently running his fingers through the soft brown locks. His eyes soft.

“You can repay me later, now let’s go get something to eat.” Zabuza said as he headed for the door, grabbing his jacket off his desk chair. “I’m hungry.” Haku nodded and padded behind Zabuza, grabbing onto Zabuza’s sleeve as they walked out.


 

Kakashi held open the door to the cabin, startling Neji as he jerked awake from his spot on the couch. He quickly ran to Hinata to check his younger cousin for injury. When he found none, he tossed a glare at his friends before helping Sakura lead her to their room. Hinata was still upset but calmer now as her friend and cousin led her to bed.

Kakashi glared at the kids, pointing upstairs silently and Sasuke pushed Naruto up the steps followed by Kankuro as TenTen left for her side of the house.

Gaara trudged into his room, his body tired as he collapsed onto his bed. Kakashi and Jiraiya had spent the better part of the ride home scolding them all while Gai just cast disappointed glances at them ever so often. The whole ordeal left Gaara feeling drained. Kakashi would dole out a proper punishment in the morning but for now all he cared about was sleep.

Gaara sighed as he wiggled out of his pants, crawling under the sheets and hoping he could get some sleep after the hectic nature of the night. He heard the door open and close briefly before he felt a weight shift his mattress. His eyes snapped open.

Lee had inadvertently crawled into Gaara’s bed, falling asleep easily on top of the sheets. Gaara moved to leave for Lee’s bed, not wanting to awaken the drunken teen. Lee mumbled as Gaara moved. Suddenly, warm arms wrapped around Gaara’s waist and pulled him back. His back was pressed against Lee’s chest as the bushy browed teen mumbled into Gaara’s neck.

“Stay here, you are warm.” Lee mumbled as Gaara stiffened. He was hyper-aware of Lee’s arms around his waist. His whole body hummed as Lee’s soft snores breathed hot air onto his neck. Gaara sighed as he let his thoughts wander.

The warmth in his heart spread throughout him, settling into his bones as he gently turned in Lee’s arms after the boy’s grip loosened. He scanned Lee’s face, the muscles relaxed in sleep. He raised a gentle hand and touched Lee’s cheek. He ran his fingers carefully down the other boy’s features, savoring the feeling of having Lee so close.

Was this what love felt like? This warmth that surrounded him, this comfort of knowing Lee was with him. The beat of his heart felt so loud in his ears, Gaara was surprised Lee hadn’t awoken. Lee’s arms felt strong around him, safe and warm. It felt as if nothing could hurt him here. Gaara gently laid his head against Lee’s chest, pressing his ear above Lee’s heart. The strong beat thumped as Gaara felt his eyelids begin to droop in sleepiness.

“Lee…” Gaara whispered softly as sleep claimed his senses, the warmth of Lee’s body and the lullaby of Lee’s heartbeat the last things Gaara was aware of as he finally shut his eyes.


 

The first thing Lee felt when he awoke was a splitting headache. The pain throbbed in his head like a jackhammer threatening to split his head open. He groaned and he opened his eyes, trying to recall the previous night. He groaned when a sudden wave of nausea washed over him.

Lee tried to rise as he covered his mouth, trying to hold back he vomit in his throat long enough to reach the bathroom. Suddenly, a black plastic bucket appeared in front of Lee and the teen promptly curled over it to heave. His throat and nose burned as the alcohol came up from his stomach.

When he could finally look up, Gaara stood in front of him. The red head held out a bottle of sports drink in one hand, aspirin in the other. Lee took the aspirin gratefully before drinking from the bottle as if he hadn’t drank in days.

His head throbbed as he tried to recall the previous night. Lee could remember getting to the party, losing track of his friends but everything after he’d drank his tea was a blank. If his hangover was anything to go by, he must have gotten very drunk. Lee looked up at Gaara.

“W-what happened last night?” Lee asked as he rubbed his temples, another wave of nausea hitting him hard but he managed to press it down. Gaara looked sat down next to him and for the first time, Lee realized Gaara was only in his boxers. His face heat as he looked down.

“We went to the party, someone gave you a spiked tea, Naruto, Kankuro, TenTen and you were all drunk and we got caught and taken down to the police department.” Gaara explained quietly, trying not to aggravate Lee’s headache. Lee’s eyes flew open wide.

“W-what?” he exclaimed before wincing in pain from his own loud voice. He grabbed the side of his head as he moaned in pain. “T-then how did we get here?” he was sure this was their room or was he still dreaming. Gaara looked at his feet.

“Your friend Haku saw us and had his boyfriend, one of the officers, call Gai-sensei and Kakashi…Kakashi was angry and Gai-sensei looked…disappointed.” Lee fell back onto the bed, tears gathering in his eyes.

“I am sorry Gaara.” Lee apologized as he blinked up at the ceiling, grateful that the curtains were closed. “I should have resisted Naruto better.” Gaara laid down next to him with a sigh, watching the ceiling fan as it spun.

“It’s…fine, I should have tried to stop you.” Gaara said with a shrug. “It wasn’t so bad and I’m glad I was there after I saw how drunk you got.” Lee chuckled but the laughter made his head throb more. Lee moaned in pain. It was then he realized he was on Gaara’s chosen bed.

Lee bolted up, looking over at his bed. It was undisturbed save for the wrinkled from him sleeping on it yesterday. Lee’s heart leapt at the implications.

“G-Gaara…where did you sleep?” Lee asked nervously. Gaara blinked up at him, his teal eyes searching Lee’s brown with a confused look. He sat up on his elbows, tossing his hair out of his eyes.

“I slept in my bed. You decided that it was more comfortable to sleep with me.” Gaara observed, his cheeks tinting pink as he looked away. “You are surprisingly cuddly when you’re drunk.” Lee’s body stiffened as his face burned and his brain tried to wrap around what Gaara had just said.

He had slept next to Gaara…all night long. His eyes flicked back to Gaara’s half naked body and he suddenly couldn’t breathe. He had slept next to Gaara, held Gaara all night long. Lee flushed a deeper shade of red as he held up his hands in apology.

“I am so sorry Gaara!” Lee exclaimed, making his head ache as he did so. Lee groaned and grabbed his head, he needed to remember to lower his own voice. Gaara gave him a look of concern and sat up. Lee felt cool fingers on his forehead, brushing his hair from his eyes.

Lee’s breath hitched as Gaara felt Lee’s forehead.

“Your face is flushed Lee,” Gaara observed, his brow furrowed “Do you have a fever?” Lee felt his mouth go dry as he searched his mind for an excuse. Lee opened his mouth but no words would come out. Gaara looked up into Lee’s eyes, stiffening as he quickly pulled his hand away. Lee could hear his heart in his ears as he swallowed thickly.

Lee leaned forward slightly, his eyes never leaving Gaara’s as he searched for the slightest sign of panic. Gaara’s breath hitch as his brain shut down, his body refusing to move as Lee moved closer. Their noses almost touching as Gaara closed his eyes.  

The door suddenly flew open, making both boys jump apart as the loud banging of metal pots filled the air. Lee groaned in pain as he held his head, the noise making a jolt of pain shoot through his skull.

Kakashi raised a brow at the pair as he ceased the banging of the pots. Lee felt a wave of nausea wash over him as he grabbed for the bucket again and vomited into it. Gaara blinked in surprise as he looked down, trying not to let his blush show.

“Time to get up kids.” Kakashi said loudly, making Lee groan into the bucket in pain. The loud sound of groans coming from the other rooms along with a chorus of loud vomiting. Gaara glared up at Kakash for a brief moment before rising, helping Lee get up as the other teen sat down the bucket.

Gaara threw on a shirt he found on the floor as he walked out of the room, following Lee out to the hall. As the teens wandered into the hallway. Gaara blinked into the bright hall as Lee groaned in discomfort.

The windows had all been thrown open, letting tons of bright light into every corner of the house. Naruto groaned as he tried to hide his head inside his shirt. He effectively ran into the wall as he walked forward, making his headache throb. Kankuro was walking with a bucket, vomiting as he walked. Neji held Kankuro’s shirt to guide him around obstacles as they walked down the stairs.

When they finally got downstairs, Temari was in the kitchen with Gai. She hummed as she scrambled some eggs in a large pan while Gai cooked up some pancakes on a griddle. She looked up at her brothers. She gave Kankuro a teasing grin as she moved over to the bacon.

Several of the teens gathered onto the seats at the island bar, pressing their faces against the cool tile. Naruto took a spot next to Sakura who opened one eye to smile at him softly before closing it again. Temari chuckled as she lifted the pan from the stove.

“I see you all had a little too much fun last night.” She stated as she lifted the pan, piling eggs onto several plates before putting some bacon on with it. Kakashi handed out glasses of orange juice while Gai finished cooking up some of his pancakes. Jiraiya clapped Naruto on the back, making the teen groan.

“Remember this feeling next time you decide to drink.” Jiraiya stated as he ruffled Naruto’s hair. The teen nodded, trying to keep his mouth shut to keep from throwing up as Kakashi placed a plate in front of him.

Gaara watched Lee eat from the couch in the living room, his normally energetic movements slowed. Gaara needed to be alone for a moment to think. His thoughts were jumbled as they went back to the bedroom just moments before. Was Lee going to kiss him?

 Gaara blinked slowly as Gai laid a plate in front of him. The disappointment seemed to have disappeared from the older man’s eyes as he took a seat next to Gaara. The boy looked lost.

“Something on your mind Gaara?” Gai asked as he laid a hand on Gaara’s shoulder. Gaara glanced at the crowd by the bar, none of them seemed to be paying attention to Gaara and Gai. Gaara moved his food around with the fork.

“Gai-sensei…how did you know you were attracted to men as well as women?” Gaara asked softly, hoping the others wouldn’t hear him. Gai could be the only one he could go to for this besides Kankuro but his brother was still too busy trying to decide whether he wanted to eat or vomit into his bucket again.

Gai’s eyes widened in surprise at Gaara’s question. He hadn’t expected that question from Gaara, the boy always seemed disinterested in anything regarding relationships. Gaara’s eyes flicked briefly towards Lee, barely noticeable but Gai caught it. He fought back the powerful emotion in his chest as well as the need to grab Gaara and hug him tightly.

“I first realized it when I was eleven but it can happen at any time really.” Gai explained, his voice barely above a whisper as he met Gaara’s teal eyes with his own. Gai laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. “You can tell me anything Gaara, are you developing feelings for someone of the same gender as you?” Gaara looked at his shoes, contemplating the laces as he nodded.

“Yes but…I’m not sure I want to tell them just yet.” Gaara replied softly and looked up at Gai with begging eyes. “Please do not tell anyone…I want to do it on my own.” Gai nodded, giving Gaara a thumbs up and a wide grin.

“You have my word Gaara.” Gai stated as he ruffled the mop of red-hair as he stood and looked down at Gaara. “Now eat something, you’ll need your strength for the training I have planned for all of you who don’t have hangovers.” Gaara grimaced at the thought of training, almost wishing he’d gotten drunk with the rest of them.

Lee looked up from shoving food slowly into his mouth, looking over at Gaara with a small smile. Gaara felt himself smiling back just a little when the bushy browed teen gave him a small thumbs up.

Gaara’s chest felt warm again but he shook the feeling off. Hopefully he would be able to figure out the next step of this on his own.

 

 

                                                                                     

 

Chapter Text


 

Gaara blinked into the hot sun, following slowly after the rest of his friends. His muscles screamed in protest as he tried to find a good spot to spread a towel out onto the hot sand. The beach wasn’t too crowded yet in the early hours of the morning. Only a few scattered families and two female life guards about their age were at their post.

He was the most sore he had ever been as a result of the grueling training session with Gai the day before, as punishment for sneaking out. The punishment started with running along the beach, Gai shouting at them to drop to the ground at varying intervals to perform some strength exercise that was near impossible on the unsteady ground.

Hinata had almost cried during the harsh training, but Gaara was surprised how well she managed. She powered through and kept up, taking her punishment with grace. Sasuke had even broken a sweat, something Gaara was sure he had never seen Mr. Perfect do before.

Gaara watched Lee as he helped Gai set up an umbrella a few feet away. The bushy browed teen had gotten over his hangover and seemed to be excited for the more family oriented day at the beach. Lee’s green swim trunks hung low on his hips, a small amount of black hair trailing from his navel downward before disappearing beneath them. His defined abs and chest muscles were on full display.

Gaara caught himself staring more than once as he tried to find a spot for his towel. He would try to catch glances at Lee when he wasn’t looking. His mind was still reeling from the day before, from the moment he shared with Lee in the bedroom. His heart hammered just thinking about it.

Suddenly, a strong hand clapped Gaara on the back. Naruto smiled at his friend as the red head grimaced from pain. He glared up at Naruto but the blond kept his normal happy grin up.

“Stop staring at Lee Gaara, people are going to notice.” Naruto whispered gently, attempting to lead Gaara away from Lee and towards the water. Gaara froze and shook his head as he stopped just before the water, digging in his heels to keep Naruto from taking him too close. The blond gave him a look, shrugged and headed towards Sasuke, tackling the other boy into the waves.

The others already gathered around the salty water eagerly. Hinata looked at home in the water as she walked slowly through the cool waves. Sakura was a little ways ahead of her, head disappearing under the waves ever so often as she swam. Gaara turned to search for his brother and sister.

Kankuro was busy trying to flirt with one of the lifeguards, leaning casually against the life guard tower while the girls rolled their eyes at him. Gaara smirked at the snub from the girls. His brother was not going to get anywhere with them it seemed.

Temari was spread out on a beach towel under the newly set up umbrella she had brought, rubbing sunscreen into her skin. Gaara walked over and spread out his towel next to her. He drew his knees to his chest, wrapping his arms around his legs and rested his chin on them. He watched his friends as they horsed around in the water.

Lee was already in the water, pulling on a boogie board as TenTen rode on it. The girl laughed and yelled for Lee to pull faster. Lee gave a thumbs up, only to be tackled beneath the waves by Naruto. The boys wrestled about until TenTen was knocked off her board.

She quickly joined the fray again after that, dunking Naruto’s head under the waves with a laugh. Lee laughed as the blond came up sputtering, giving him a glare before splitting into a huge grin himself. They looked like they were having fun.

Temari glanced at her brother, following his eyes and catching the antics as he watched them. She smiled kindly at her youngest brother and she reached over to ruffle his hair. Gaara looked over at her with a small glare, reaching up to flatten his hair again.

“I’m sure they would understand if you told them.” Temari said, jerking her heads towards his friends. “They’ve already accepted all your other quirks, I’m sure you not knowing how to swim isn’t going to bother them. Avoiding them will only make them worry more.” Gaara sighed heavily.

He had never thought much of not knowing how to swim. In Suna it hadn’t been a necessary skill for him to learn and his father wouldn’t have bothered anyway. Gaara drowning would have been the best gift he could ever receive as far as Rasa was concerned. But his friends knowing he couldn’t swim wasn’t what Gaara was avoiding.

The fact was that Gaara was avoiding Lee. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do about the feelings he had towards his friend and being near him only made him more confused. How was a person supposed to confess attraction to one of their best friends?

Gaara rose carefully, nodding towards his sister as he made his way to the water. When he reached the edge, Gaara let the water rush over his feet. It wasn’t a horrible feeling. He started to slowly walk out into ocean and stopped just as it reached his waist. He was okay with going out this far but any further and he would probably drown.

“Gaara!” Lee’s loud voice shouted as he tossed Naruto off his back. His hair hung in his eyes, heavy from the water as he grinned brightly at Gaara just before being tackled under the waves by Naruto again.

“Take that bushy brows!” Naruto cried as Lee came back up to the surface with a gasp for air and a smile. Lee ran his hand through his hair, combing it back out of his eyes. Water glistening on his tan body, the sunlight bouncing off the droplets. Gaara gulped as he tried not to stare at Lee’s toned abs and chest for too long, he blinked and Lee gave him a thumbs up.

Gaara felt his heart skip a beat as he looked down and he felt his face heat. He shouldn’t be feeling this way for one of his only friends and even though Kankuro had explained that it was normal to feel this way for another man, Gaara didn’t want his friendship with Lee to turn sour. Just because the other male had a preference for males did not guarantee Gaara a place at Lee’s side.

Suddenly, a wave of cold water splashed onto Gaara’s face. The red head sputtered as salt water went into his eyes and up his nose. When his vision finally cleared, Gaara was able to see the shit eating grin Naruto wore on his face.

“Sorry Gaara, you looked a bit…warm.” The teen said as he smirked, edging towards Gaara with his evil grin widening slightly as Gaara shot a questioning look back at his friend.

Suddenly Naruto dove forward and pushed Gaara downward. He felt himself being dunked under the waves. Gaara panicked for a brief moment as he tried not to swallow water. He luckily found his footing quickly and stood, breaking through the surface with a gasp. 

Naruto laughed as Gaara shook the water from his hair. The red hair was falling limply in front of Gaara’s eyes, dripping slightly. The red head glared at the blond and Naruto froze, gulping.

“I-it was just a prank…no need to get all worked up…” Naruto stuttered as Gaara’s eyes narrowed dangerously. Lee felt a chill run up his spine. Gaara took a step towards Naruto, his movements slowed by the water.

“Naruto.” Lee said warningly as he turned towards his childhood friend. Naruto looked up at him, concerned by the seriousness on Lee’s face.

“Y-yeah?’ Naruto questioned as he took a step back, not taking his eyes off of Gaara.

“Run!” And with that, Naruto took off like a bullet towards the shore. Gaara bolted after him with the sound of his friends laughing behind him as he chased after the blond nuisance he called a friend.

Off in the distance, surfing on the waves, a blond man's eyes locked on Gaara. The man scowled as he muttered under his breath, glaring.

“What the hell is he doing here?”


 

Temari shook her head as her brother took off after Naruto with a vengeance. It made her smile a little to see her brother having so much fun with his friends, the teen deserved it for all the hell he’d been through.

The beach was starting to fill with families and college students, making the air buzz with noise as the sun began to rise high in the sky. Temari sighed as she rose and stretched. It seemed like a good idea to walk along the beach to escape some of the noise.

She passed by Kakashi and Gai. The silver haired man was rubbing sunscreen on his partner’s back. Kakashi had severely over dressed for the beach with a large shirt that practically drowned the man in material, large blue swimming trunks and a wide brimmed straw sunhat.

It was an odd contrast to Gai’s green palm tree print swimming trunks. The trunks were almost too short as they hung high on Gai’s thighs, showing off tan skin. It was an improvement over the swim suit he had tried to wear out the door earlier that day, a pink and yellow floral print speedo that showed more of Gai than any of the kids wanted to see.

Kakashi had managed to convince the man to change. Much to the relief of the teens in the group. Despite the shortness, the trunks at least left something to the imagination.

Temari began to walk along the shore, letting the waves run over her feet with cool water as she wandered further away from the hustle and bustle of the other beach goers. It was peaceful, giving Temari time to think about the problems she faced, the most pressing or which was getting Gaara out of the house Rasa had held them in like a prison.

Temari knew her father wouldn’t make a regular thing of hurting Gaara. That would require him to be around.

But she needed to get her brothers out fast, cut off ties to their father and sever their dependence on him. At nineteen, Temari could easily move out once she got a job. The scholarships that paid for her school ensured that she wouldn’t have to depend on her father in that aspect but she still depended on the man for a place to sleep and food.

Temari stopped walking, clenching her fists at her sides as she started to formulate her plan. She would have to get at least a full time job, save some money and get a three bedroom apartment. School may have to go on the back burner for a short period of time. It would take her even longer to finish her business degree. Temari steeled her resolve. She would get her brothers out of that house, even if she had to literally work her ass off to do it.

“Are you going to move or are you going to keep to blocking my view?” a bored voice said, drawing Temari from her thoughts. The blonde looked down just to her left and stiffened at the owner of the voice.

It was that punk kid she met at the InoShikaCho Corporation meeting several months back. Temari narrowed her eyes as she crossed her arms in front of her chest. She had found out later that day that this brat was Shikaku Nara’s son but that didn’t make her dislike him less.

The dark haired teen was leaning over a small board decorated in a grid pattern with white and black stones resting on top. Shikamaru leaned over it and moved a black piece to surround a nearby white piece. He tossed the white piece into his bucket and moved a white piece to a point on the board.

“Still playing games all by yourself I see?” Temari simpered as she raised a brow at him. Shikamaru shrugged as he placed another black piece onto the board.

“Playing with other people when all they do is lose is such a drag.” He muttered without looking up. “They just don’t pose a challenge to me at all, so it’s easier to play alone.” Temari smirked at him.

“I guess I get that. Neither of my brothers like Go and it can get kind of boring when you always win. But there is no way you’re that good at this game.” Temari observed him as she moved forward to sit opposite of the table. Shikamaru gave her a look, raising a brow as Temari held out her hand.

“I bet I can win this game against you.” she stated as she met his cool gaze. This was her chance to put this ponytailed brat in his place. She wasn’t normally one to hold a grudge, but Temari was still a little sore about the secretary comment. This was the best way to show off that she wasn’t just some spoiled daddy’s girl.

Shikamaru sighed loudly as he thought for a moment. Girls could be so troublesome.

“Fine, but only until my body guard gets back and I actually get a real challenge.” Shikamaru complained as he cleared the board, setting the bucket of black pieces next to Temari. She smirked as she lifted up one of the cool black stones.

“Oh you’ll get your challenge,” She stated factually as she twirled the piece in her fingers. Glancing down at the board, she planning her first move. This was going to be fun.


 

Lee smiled, uncovering a small cone shaped shell from the sand and water of the shore. The pretty brown and tan patterns shined against the smooth surface. The sand had eroded any imperfections from the shell, leaving it shiny.

Lee placed his find in his bucket as he walked forward to search for more shells. His eyes flicked ahead to Gai and Kakashi. Gai had managed to convince Kakashi to walk out into the water with him, aiding in the search for shells.

Lee smiled as he watched his fathers' walk together, their fingers intertwined as Gai pointed out spots to look. It warmed his heart to see his fathers this way. Lee turned to look behind him to look over at Gaara.

The red head was sitting on his towel on the sand, he had long since dried from the dunking he received at the hands of Naruto. He looked bored as he watched Naruto and Sasuke attempt to skim board along the sand. His red hair shined warmly in the sunlight and Lee felt his breath hitch at how handsome Gaara was in the sunlight.

Gaara looked so lonely, sitting there without anyone around him. Lee broke into a jog as he approached Gaara. Gaara looked up, his teal eyes widening slightly, looking up at his friend. Lee met the gaze with his normal grin, reaching down a hand towards Gaara.

 “Come look for sea shells with me Gaara.” Lee said as Gaara blinked up at him. Gaara reached out to Lee’s hand and took it hesitantly. Lee helped him up off the ground. Lee’s cheeks heated as he pulled his friend along. He shouldn’t be holding Gaara’s hand, no matter how innocently he tried to play it off.

But even just this, this tiny bit of closeness, was enough to make Lee’s heart ache and want for more. His heart sank at his selfishness and he released Gaara’s hand when their feet met water.

Gaara’s heart cried out in disappointment at the loss of Lee’s touch. His skin felt warm as Lee dropped his hand, the tingling sensation from before returning. Lee smiled at Gaara, reaching down to search beneath the waves.

“Come on Gaara, help me find some nice shells!” Lee said excitedly as he dug through the sand. Gaara watched him for a moment before pushing his hands beneath the water, feeling gently through the sand. It felt soft beneath his fingers.

“I hope we can find some sand dollars!” Lee explained excitedly as he looked up, wiping sweat from his brow as he smiled at Gaara. “They can be really hard to find and I would like to add one to my shell collection at home.”

Gaara nodded as he searched the water next to Lee, trying not to stare as Lee bent over just a little ahead of him. He flushed as his eyes flicked to Lee’s backside. Lee’s bare torso was enough of a distraction on its own but Lee’s toned ass was almost as bad, he needed to get some semblance of his control back.

Gaara suddenly felt cold eyes on him as he looked up to see Kakashi glaring at him. He immediately averted his gaze back to the water in front of him. For the sake of his physical well-being, Gaara thought it wise to stand up and walk in front of Lee to avoid the distraction.

The movements kicked up the sand, making it swirl under the water’s surface. Gaara pushed his fingers in, feeling around the cloudy water. His hand felt something smooth and he carefully lifted the object and held it up.

The small tan sand dollar was smooth to the touch, not a single crack in its delicate structure. Gaara smiled as he held the shell carefully and turned to Lee. The round eyed boy looked up as Gaara stood in front of him.

Lee’s eyes widened as Gaara handed him the shell, placing it in Lee’s scarred hand carefully. Lee inspected the shell with a smile as he moved to hand it back to Gaara.

“It is beautiful Gaara.” Lee complimented as he held it out but Gaara shook his head. The red head gave Lee a small smile, his cheeks turning pink slightly.

“Keep it Lee, for your collection.” Gaara said and Lee’s eyes widened. He looked from the shell then back up to Gaara. Gaara felt his heart skip a beat as Lee broke into a wide grin.

“Thank you so much Gaara, I’ll take good care of it!” Lee said as he gently placed the shell into his bucket. He turned towards the shore, walking to the umbrella. As he turned back to look at Gaara, walking backward.

“I’m going to put it somewhere safe, I will be right back Gaara!” Lee said as he walked away. Gaara nodded and spotted Hinata waving to him. Gaara walked over to the dark haired girl and she motioned for him to follow her.


 

 Sasuke sighed as Naruto pulled him by the wrist across the beach. The blond was practically jumping in excitement as he did so, his wide grin making Sasuke's heart warm. Naruto’s excitement was always contagious, even if Sasuke was good at hiding his enthusiasm.

“Move faster Bastard,” Naruto whined as the water from the waves splashed at their feet, cooling Sasuke’s feet. Sasuke was already in a bad mood, his shoulders ached from where they had sunburnt. The pale skinned Uchiha would never be able to tan nearly as well as Naruto, who was already brown from the sun.

Naruto stopped them in front of a small cave, pointing towards the entrance.

“Isn’t it cool Sasuke?” Naruto said enthusiastically. Sasuke looked into the dark, dank cave and raised a brow at his friend.

“Ooh, a dark, smelly beach cave.” Sasuke replied sarcastically. “It’s so amazing I may pass out.” Naruto’s grin faded into a scowl and he pushed Sasuke playfully, hitting his sunburn. Sasuke hissed but quickly shrugged it off.

“Bastard.” Naruto stated as he started to walk towards the mouth of the cave. “Come on, there might be something cool in here!” Sasuke sighed as he followed after the blond into the cave. The cave smelt of low tide, its heaviness making Sasuke wrinkle his nose. He walked further into the cave following after Naruto’s bare back.

Sasuke couldn’t help but recall the last few days. It was getting harder to deny his feelings for the blond, getting harder not to wish for more. Watching Lee fawn over Gaara and watching the red head return the feelings made him almost hope that Naruto could somehow feel the same.

But Naruto had only ever shown interest in girls, he would be disgusted if Sasuke admitted that he was in love with him. To lose Naruto’s friendship, to have one of the best bonds he had experienced severed…

“Sasuke, come look at these pools of water I found!” Naruto’s voice suddenly called, breaking Sasuke from his thoughts. Naruto leaned over the tidal pools, running his hands through the water. Sasuke smiled warmly as the teen brought up a sea star.

“Look Sasuke, it’s so slimy!” Naruto exclaimed, almost in awe as he smiled brightly. He looked like a small child rather than a sixteen year old boy but Sasuke smiled at the spark in Naruto’s eye.

The blond laid the sea star back into the pool, standing up quickly as he gestured for Sasuke to follow. His blue eyes shined as he looked at Sasuke, the softest of smiles on his lips. Sasuke felt his breath hitch as he looked away, butterflies floating in his stomach and heart.

“We should get the others!” Naruto said happily as he headed for the mouth of the cave. “I bet they’ll love this!”

Sasuke followed after Naruto, disappearing from the cave.  They ran toward the part of the beach where their friends would be. Sasuke tried to sprint the feelings out of his heart.


 

“You seem kind of awkward around Lee, is everything okay?” Hinata asked Gaara as they walked up a nearby hillside, the sand sliding under Gaara’s feet. The sun was hanging low on the horizon, preparing to set.

Gaara sighed audibly, running his hand through his hair. He looked out over the water, his hand ghosting over his chest just above his heart.

“The other night…Lee fell asleep next to me,” Gaara said as Hinata stood next to him, her large lavender eyes widening as her mouth fell open. “I…don’t know what to do with these feelings. Every time I see Lee, my heart races and I want to pull him close but at the same time, I want to run!” Hinata laid a comforting hand on her friend's shoulder. 

“You’ll figure it out Gaara,” she comforted but Gaara pulled away, slumping his shoulders. He walked forward, staring out into the waves as they beat on the side of the hill. His heart was a mess of emotion, churning like the ocean during a storm.

Lee was a pure, his soul vibrant and bright, and the kind that lit up everyone around him. Despite how hard he was working on his own problems, Gaara knew he would never be normal. He would always struggle with understanding people.

He could never give Lee the kind of relationship he deserved. A friend is all he could ever allow himself to be. His decision was a selfless one, no, the most logical.

In his eyes, Lee deserved the best the world could offer. Gaara would only bring him suffering and hurt. It's all he knew. Because of this, it was the best choice to let go of this attraction before either of them ended up hurt. It was the right choice.

But if that were true, why did it hurt so much?

“Well, Well, I thought I was just seeing things but looks like I was right.” A voice spoke that made Gaara freeze as he whirled around. He knew that voice. Gaara narrowed his eyes and locked them with that of a tall blond man.

Gaara recognized the group of older teens that stood in front of him. A tall silver haired teen with a sly grin and a slow looking man with a shock of spiky black hair that had a goofy grin on his face. All these men had attended Gaara’s old high school, the one he'd been expelled from just before moving to Konoha.

“Deidara, what are you doing here?” Gaara asked as the blond moved closer, scoffing as he did.

“I was just trying to enjoy my summer at the beach after you got me expelled!” Deidara spat as he approached Gaara. “Imagine my surprise when I didn’t have to put much effort tracking you down to get my revenge, yeah?” Gaara glared at the older teen, clenching his fists.

He remembered that day. Gaara had walked down the hallway, on his way home after a long day at school. Shukaku had been especially loud that day. The voice had given him a headache, laughing in the back of his mind.

  Gaara brushed shoulders with Deidara, knocking a particularly large sculpture from the teen’s hands. The white bird had fallen heavily to the ground and shattered upon contact. Deidara growled as he turned to Gaara’s back, clenching his fists in his anger.

“Hey, you made me smash my sculpture!” Deidara stated, grabbing Gaara by his shirt and whirling the red head around. “That was my masterpiece! It was going to be the centerpiece of my collection!”  His blue eyes were ablaze with anger as Gaara looked down at the broken remains.

“It’s honestly an improvement.” Gaara stated coolly as he pulled away from Deidara. “And if you don’t want your things broken, I advise looking where you’re going.” Deidara growled in anger, throwing himself at Gaara.

Gaara had to be pulled off the blond by three teachers and they were both expelled the next day. Deidara apparently had a nasty habit of putting cherry bombs and fireworks into lockers and the teacher’s lounge.

“I didn’t get you expelled, you did that on your own.” Gaara replied, readying himself for a fight as Deidara moved closer. Hinata stood in front of Gaara, her small body shielding him from Deidara.

“L-let’s not fight…” She stammered as she looked up. “I-I am sure we can figure this…” Deidara scoffed grabbing Hinata by the wrist and jerking her towards him and away from Gaara.   

“Who’s this?” Deidara smirked as Hinata struggled to free her wrist. “Your girlfriend?” He tossed the girl over to Tobi who smiled goofily. Deidara rolled his eyes.

“Make sure you fucking hold her Tobi, can’t have her running off to tell people now can we.” Hidan said with an evil grin, approaching Hinata as his eyes roved over her. Gaara felt rage boil in his chest but if he fought back, they might hurt Hinata. 

The man gave a goofy salute and a wide smile to Hidan.

"Yes sir, Hidan!" Tobi exclaimed as he looked down at Hinata. "Hi I'm Tobi, Tobi is a good boy!"

Gaara growled as Hidan grabbed Hinata’s face, the girl whimpered as she continued to struggle.

“Let her go, Hinata has nothing to do with this!” Gaara ordered, taking a step towards the blond. Deidara laughed as he grabbed the front of the shirt Gaara was wearing.

“Yeah, we’ll will let your little girlfriend go after I re-arrange your face. I bet I can make it look ten times better!” Deidara threatened. Suddenly, Hinata stomped down onto Tobi’s foot, making the man yelp in pain as his grip on Hinata loosened. Glaring, Hinata aimed another kick right between Hidan’s legs. The man cried out in pain as he fell forward onto his knees, grabbing his crotch as he did. Hinata took off like a shot, running down the hill as fast as she could.

Deidara swore out loud, turning to yell something at his friends as Gaara tackled him. Pinning the blond under him as he curled his fists. The punches landed, making Deidara’s nose bleed as he tossed the red head off of him.

Gaara landed near the edge of the hill, his heart hammering in his chest as he stood. Deidara was already on him, grabbing Gaara’s shirt as he held him back. Gaara was dangerously close to the edge now. The red head tried desperately to keep his footing as the blonde tossed Gaara over to Hidan.

The silver haired man had recovered from Hinata’s kick and held Gaara by his arms as Deidara pulled back his fists. Hidan smirked.

“Fuck, make this quick Deidara. That little bitch will bring people here.” Hidan warned.

The first punch was to Gaara’s gut, knocking the wind from him. Deidara’s next hit was to the jaw, hitting the still tender bruise on Gaara’s face. Gaara hissed in pain.

“That’s for destroying my art and getting me expelled!” Deidara grabbing Gaara by the hair as he yelled. He punched Gaara again, making the teen’s nose bleed. “You’ll regret ever saying anything about it.” Deidara pulled back his fist again.  

“Let go of him!” A loud voice shouted, making Deidara, Hidan and Tobi turn. Gaara looked up and smiled. Deidara growled as Lee, Sasuke, Neji, TenTen, and Sakura ran up the hill with Naruto in the lead.

“Who the fuck are these fuckers?” Hidan growled as Naruto charged for him, leaping at the man and catching the silver haired man off guard with a punch to the face.

“My name is Naruto Uzumaki and I’m going to kick your ass for beating on Gaara!”  Hidan released Gaara just in time for Naruto to tackle him to the ground.

Gaara dove for Deidara, kicking him in the gut. The blond staggered back before recovering and diving at Gaara with a cry. Gaara blocked the next punch, his feet sliding on the sand beneath him as Deidara wrestled him to the edge of the hill.

His left heel slide on the sand, feeling the empty air behind him as he glanced down at the deep water below. His heart hammered in his chest as Sasuke and Lee ran towards Deidara, reaching out to pull him away from Gaara.

Deidara smirked as he pulled Gaara to him by the shirt.

“I hope you know how to swim!” he shouted, pushing Gaara the rest of the way off the ledge. Gaara heard the air rush past his body fell. Deidara’s face was contorted in an evil smirk just before he was pulled back, the face replaced my Lee’s concerned one as Sasuke tackled the blond.

His back hit the water, knocking the wind from his lungs as he plunged beneath the waves. Gaara flayed his arms as he sunk further down into the water. He briefly broke through the surface as he panicked, reaching towards the edge of the hill before sinking into the waves as they pulled him under.

Water filled his lungs as he tried to call for help. Fear hammered in his chest, gripping his heat with a cold hand as he started to sink. He tried to cough but couldn’t as the dark water filled his senses. He couldn’t breathe or hear anything but crashing water.

His lungs cried for air, burning as Gaara tried to move his limbs in an attempt to get to the surface. His arms felt heavy as spots filled his vision, slowly darkening his vision as his movements slowed.

Suddenly, something warm gripped his wrists and Gaara barely managed to open his eyes. He was vaguely aware of being pulled up as his eyes locked with familiar round, dark eyes as Lee wrapped one arm around Gaara’s waist and swam upward.

Gaara blinked slowly as darkness finally claimed him.


 

Kakashi was irritated.

It seemed like every time he looked up today, he caught Gaara staring at his son’s half naked form with heated eyes. Lee was too oblivious to notice, distracted by the excitement of the beach as Gaara’s teal eyes roved over him.

Kakashi had drawn a line when he caught Gaara staring at his son’s backside, tossing a scathing glare at the boy. Gaara had taken the hint and moved ahead of Lee to avoid getting caught staring again.

It wasn’t that Kakashi didn’t want his son to fall in love, in fact he was all for it. He wanted Lee to experience the best things life had to offer. He wanted his son to find a man that would make him feel like Gai made Kakashi feel.

But why did Lee have to show an interest in Gaara of all people? And why did that red head have to look at Lee like that. It infuriated Kakashi to no end.

Kakashi felt himself being pulled back from his thoughts, drawn into strong, warm arms as Gai rested his chin on Kakashi’s clothed shoulder. Gai held Kakashi close on his lap as they sat under the umbrella. All the kids had wandered off, giving the pair some valuable alone time.

“You’re glaring Kakashi,” Gai observed, wrinkling his brow up at his partner. “You are supposed to be relaxing so what has you so worked up?” Kakashi leaned back into Gai’s chest with a sigh.

“I don’t like the way Gaara looks at Lee.” Kakashi said as he looked out at the sun as it started to set beneath the waves. “I don’t mind the kid and I’d even venture to say I care about him but he needs to stay away from Lee. A kid like him will only cause Lee pain…” Gai chuckled, squeezing his lover tighter around the waist.

“He’s come a long way since we first met him. Gaara has the makings of a fine young man despite the sorrows of his past and Lee truly cares for him.” Gai noted as he reached up to stroke Kakashi’s hair. Kakashi closed his eyes, murmuring at the gentleness. “I also heard from Hinata that the date she went on with Gaara was simply one to understand the bond of love, it makes me think that Gaara may return Lee’s feelings.”

Kakashi groaned as he reached up a hand, squeezing the bridge of his nose.

“Gaara is an emotionally stunted, rebellious teenager who…” Kakashi started but Gai shook his head, interrupting his lover’s speech with a gentle hand upon his.

“And you were an emotionally stunted, rebellious teenager who turned into a depressed, suicidal alcoholic. You and Gaara are similar in that aspect…” Gai pointed out, raising a brow as the pieces clicked together. “But that is what you’re worried about…”

Kakashi let out a heavy sigh as he nodded reluctantly as he turned in his lover’s arms, wrapping his legs around Gai’s waist. Gai’s hands moved down to the small of Kakashi’s back, his grin softening as he looked up at his partner.

Kakashi looked into those big dark eyes he loved so much. It was so hard to believe he had run from this once, spurned Gai's love for him for so many years before finally giving in. He ran his fingers tenderly through the strong thick strands of Gai's soft black hair with a soft sigh.

Looking back at it now, he imagined the hurt he must have given this man. The heartache he must have caused while he was drowning for years in his own darkness. Gai never gave up on him once. He never stopped showering Kakashi with the love that ultimately pulled him out of the hole he dug himself into. Kakashi didn't want their son to repeat the hardships his father went through by loving someone who couldn't appreciate it.

He didn't want Lee to experience the pain that came with loving a broken person.

Kakashi pressed his forehead to Gai’s, lowering his mask below his chin. Gai met Kakashi’s eyes, lifting a rough hand to cup his lover’s cheek. Kakashi leaned into the hand, taking in the warmth that always radiated off of Gai.

“I love you Kakashi, I always have.” Gai said softly, running his thumb over the scar that ran down Kakashi’s cheek. “Any of the pain I’ve felt over the years, all of the longing, it was worth it if I get to share moments like this with you.” Kakashi chuckled. Gai always seemed to know what Kakashi was thinking about, no matter how he tried to hide it.

“And if Lee feels for Gaara even a fraction of what I feel for you, then I think we should let him pursue it.” Gai stated as he cupped Kakashi’s face in his hands, “Because anything that feels this amazing, is worth the heartache.”  Kakashi sighed contentedly as Gai pulled him into a warm kiss. He loved these times with Gai, even if the other man could somehow make any moment seem flowery and romantic.

“You’re such a sap Gai.” Kakashi teased as Gai smirked up at him, hands sliding down to squeeze Kakashi’s ass. The dark haired man chuckled as he kissed Kakashi’s neck, suckling on Kakashi’s throat as the silver haired man laughed.

Gai pulled away with his wide grin and Kakashi leaned down to kiss his partner again.

“KAKASHI! BUSHIER BROW-SENSEI!” Naruto’s voice called out, panic lacing his shout. Kakashi rose quickly, catching his brother’s shoulders as he stood panting in front of him.

“Naruto…what happened?” Kakashi asked, searching Naruto for injuries as the boy tried to speak. Naruto gasped for air.

“G-Gaara was...attacked by these guys and Hinata ran to get us. We got there to break up the fight but Gaara got thrown off the ledge and into the ocean.” Naruto panted, breathing in deeply before he continued. “T-Temari came over the top with the life guards to see what was going on…Lee dove in when Gaara didn’t come back up…Gaara can’t swim…”

Gai’s eyes widened as he took off like a shot, running for the hill Naruto was pointing towards. Kakashi took off after him, panic as he ran towards the hill. Naruto groaned and started to run again, huffing as he did.


 

Gaara coughed as he opened his eyes, water pouring from his mouth as he cleared it from his lungs. He gasped for air as his eyes began to focus. Lee stood over him, concern apparent on his face as his hair clung to his face.

“L-Lee…” Gaara groaned as he tried to get up, people surrounding him as he sat up. He tried to remember what had happened, his mind hazy from lack of oxygen. Lee let out a breath of relief, trying to calm the hammering in his heart.

“Gaara, you are okay!” Lee exclaimed as a shock of red hair appeared at his side. Gaara’s eyes widened as he recognized the man in front of him.

“S-Sasori?” Gaara questioned as the young psychiatrist looked him over with an almost bored expression.

“It seems my boyfriend has caused you some trouble…it’s what I get for leaving him alone for the day.” Sasori stated sternly, checking for injury as Gaara’s vision cleared. Gaara blinked and took a look around.

All of his friends as well as his siblings were hanging off near him. They didn’t want to crowd but the worried looks on their faces told him they had been scared.

Deidara was held in place by the lifeguards, glaring as he met Gaara’s eyes. He glanced at Sasori for a moment before crossing his arms and letting out a huff of air through his nose. Gaara didn’t have time to examine the bizarre relationship his psychiatrist was involved in when Gai and Kakashi jogged up, looks of worry on their faces.

“Gaara, are you okay?” Gai asked as Kakashi laid a towel around Gaara’s shoulders. Gaara nodded as he attempted to stand, his legs shaking out from under him and he collapsed back onto the sand.

“I’m fine…just a little dizzy.” He said as Sasori nodded, looking up at Kakashi sternly.

“He spat up most of the water he swallowed but I would let him rest than take him home.” The man said, standing up. Kakashi nodded as Sasori turned to head towards Deidara. The red head paused and slowly turned to Gaara, pointing down at him.

“You should learn to swim before you even think about coming to the beach again.” he said. “You lucky your friend here was so quick to act or you would have died.” With that last statement he turned towards Deidara, giving the blond a look.

“We are going home Deidara.” Sasori stated as the lifeguard released Deidara. The blond snorted opening his mouth to protest.

“But Sasori…” Deidara started but Sasori held up a hand, his brown eyes looking over Deidara for a moment. A pale hand reached out and wiped away a spot of blood from Deidara’s cheek before turning.

“Home Deidara.” Sasori stated again as he began to walk away. This time Deidara heeded the order and followed after the tall red head, mumbling under his breath as he did so.

The lifeguard shook her head at the pair before smiling at Lee warmly.

“You were really brave. Your friend is lucky you were there.” The woman cooed as Lee smiled up at her. He gave the girl a thumbs up. Kankuro glared at the teen, his jaw dropping as he folded his arms. Gaara would have laughed if his head wasn’t throbbing so horribly.

“It was nothing really…” Lee replied the flirting lost on him as he looked down at Gaara, biting his lip. The worry that swirled in his dark orbs made the guilt eat at Gaara’s chest. He hadn’t meant to make Lee worry or for the day to be ruined. Gaara opened his mouth to speak just as Temari appeared at his side with Kankuro. His brother moved toward him, as if to pick Gaara up and move him.

“Come on Gaara, let me take you back to the cabin to rest.” Kankuro said but Gaara shook his head. 

“I’m fine…I just need to sit for a moment.” Gaara said as he coughed again, his whole head hurt and he knew he should probably lie down. Lee placed a gentle hand on top of Gaara's, his smile still strained with worry.

“Gaara, let Kankuro walk you back to the cabin.” Lee said, his hand absentmindedly rubbing small circles over Gaara’s hand. “At least while the rest of us gather our things, it is getting dark anyway.” The gesture was oddly comforting as Gaara nodded. He really wanted to just go to sleep and forget about this whole day.

Gaara managed to stand shakily, nodding as he turned to head back to the cabins. Kankuro slung his arm around Gaara’s shoulder as Temari followed after them. Lee watched Gaara leave as the others moved to gather their things.

His hand ghosted over his heart, a habit he seemed to pick up from Gaara. Gaara was fine but Lee could not seem to shake the feeling of dread and fear that had gripped his heart. When Gaara had not come up to the surface of the water, Lee had never been more afraid.

Thousands of scenarios had raced through his mind as he dove into the waves and pulled his friend ashore. Gaara had been limp as Lee dragged him onto the sand, the teen hadn’t breathed at first and Lee could have sworn his own heart had stopped beating.

Lee leaned down to gather his bucket of shells as Naruto bent down to pick up the towels. The sand dollar Gaara had given him laid carefully on the top of the bucket. Lee held the delicate shell in his palm, staring at it as tears welled in his eyes.

He could have lost Gaara. He could have lost Gaara and never had gotten the chance to tell the red head how he truly felt. The thought was frightening, making Lee’s chest tighten even worse than it had when he had thought Gaara was in love with Hinata.

Lee started when he felt a hand on his shoulder, looking up as he wiped his eyes.  Naruto gave Lee a gentle smile when he spied the tears. Lee wiped them quickly, turning towards the beach.

“What is it Naruto…I was just.” Lee started to say but Naruto crossed his arms over his chest. His blue eyes looked stern as he met Lee’s dark orbs.

“Bushy Brow, you need to tell Gaara how you feel about him.” Naruto started, following after Lee as the teen walked towards the umbrella. Lee didn’t meet Naruto’s eyes as he reached down to fetch Gaara’s towel.

“I cannot do that Naruto.” Lee whispered as he folded Gaara’s towel after neatly shaking away the sand. Naruto glared at his friend, scowling as he moved to stand in front of Lee.

“But you clearly care about him!” Naruto tried to whisper “Just tell him.” Lee looked over at the others. They seemed to be either too busy or happy to ignore the blond as Lee breathed a sigh of relief before glaring up at his friend.

“I will tell Gaara when I am ready to tell him Naruto.” Lee stated as he gathered his and Gaara’s beach bags onto his shoulders. Naruto sighed exasperatedly as Lee huffed.

“But you don’t understand Lee…” Lee whirled around to face Naruto.

“No Naruto, you do not understand…” Lee snapped in an aggressive whisper, his patience finally ending. He was tired of everyone telling him what was best for him, of people trying to convince him to either pursue or give up on his relationship with Gaara. Lee took a deep breath, trying to quell his frustrations.

“It is just better this way.” Lee said, his shoulders slumping as he trudged towards the cabin. “So just leave it alone Naruto, please.” Naruto watched his friend walk away, the normally energetic teen looked so defeated…

“But bushy brow…Gaara is in love with you too…” Naruto whispered to no one but himself. It wasn’t right, letting two people suffer when all it could take was the right words, the right moment for them to be happy.

Naruto clenched his fists as his eyes blazed with a newfound determination. The smile that spread across his features was mischievous as the gears began to grind in the blond's mind. He was going to get Lee and Gaara to admit their feelings for one another that was a promise.

And Naruto Uzumaki always kept his promises.  


 

Temari opened the door to the cabin, holding it for Kankuro to help Gaara towards the house. Her youngest brother rolled his eyes at them but Temari was worried. Gaara’s face was bruised again, a black eyes starting to form on his right eye, his lip split open and his knuckles slightly bloodied.

On top of that, he had almost drowned. She couldn’t help but worry for Gaara sometimes. It seemed like trouble was always following the teen, like a moth to flame. She would have to thank Lee somehow for saving Gaara like he had.

Right after she got Gaara some swimming lessons.

“You left before I could claim my victory, what a drag.” A familiar voice stated and Temari smirked to herself. She turned towards the sound and snorted. Shikamaru Nara was leaning against Kakashi’s silver car, eyebrow raised at her. Gaara eyed the new teen warily, unsure of who this was.

He had seen the boy around his school, usually asleep in the hall or by the trees. He seemed lazy and uninterested in people. Then why did Temari seem to know him? Temari smirked at the boy, giving him a once over before speaking.

“Oh you mean your loss?” She teased as her brothers turned around, eyeing Shikamaru warily. The lazy teen didn’t seem to notice as he put his hands in his pockets and met Temari’s sharp gaze evenly.

“Go opponents that run off are such a drag.” He stated as Kankuro snorted, not liking the way this guy talked to his sister. Temari seemed unaffected though, putting her hand on her hip with a slight huff. Temari waved her brother off, shooing them inside.

Kankuro shrugged, Temari could handle herself. He turned to Gaara and jerked his head to the door. Gaara looked Shikamaru over with narrowed eyes before following Kankuro inside. The Nara seemed unaffected by the glares as he turned back to Temari.

“My brother fell off that hill that overlooks the beach and almost drowned but thank you for your concern.” Temari simpered as she turned towards the door. “We’ll have to finish that game some other time.” Shikamaru sighed audibly, shrugging his shoulders.

“Glad your brother's okay then. The city should really install some railing on that hill or something. Kids fall off of that at least twice a year, it's in the papers. It’s a real drag.” Temari raised a brow at the boy.

Then it dawned on her that the teen had been concerned when she had run off. Temari smirked and chuckled.

“You were worried about me.” She teased as Shikamaru gave her a look. “That’s almost cute coming from you.” The teen shrugged and returned the comment with a smirk of his own.

“Troublesome woman.” He stated as he turned to walk away, lifting his hand in a gesture of goodbye. “Try not to run out on our next game.” Temari laughed at him as she turned towards the cabin.

“We’ll see about that lazy ass.” She called after him just before she disappeared into the house, a genuine smile on her face.


 

Kankuro sighed as he walked into his room, his body feeling tired as he trudged over to his phone that lay plugged into the wall. Today had been tiring and after the scare with Gaara, Kankuro needed some sleep.

Kankuro rubbed his shoulders, the pink skin would fade into a decent tan in the morning. Kankuro was glad he wasn’t like Gaara, the red head’s skin was already red around the edges and would probably be hurting in the morning.

His phone was blinking when he reached for it. He had a few new text messages, one new voicemail and a missed call. Kankuro sighed as he checked the missed call. Kankuro felt a tired smile spread across his face.

It was from Kiba.

Not bothering to check the voice mail, Kankuro hit the call back button and pressed the black flip phone to his ear. The phone rang twice before the familiar click of someone answering came across the other end.

“Hey Kankuro, sorry for all the texts. I was kind of bored.” Kiba said from the other end, the sound of barking sounding off from the background. “Akamaru says hi.” The country boy added with a laugh.

Kankuro smiled as he plopped onto his bed, kicking off his sandals and tossing them across the room.

“Tell him I said hi and its fine, I was at the beach so that’s why I didn’t answer right away.” Kankuro explained as he stretched out onto the bed. “What have you been up to besides taking care of the mutt squad?”

Kiba grunted from the other end, the sound of rustling could be heard as Kiba got comfortable. Kankuro assumed he was in his room.

“Nothing much, Shino and I went to the mall today but it was kind of boring really. I can’t say I want school to start next week but I really kind of want my friends home so I have something to do!” the boy complained and Kankuro laughed. As close as Shino and Kiba were, the two boys were polar opposites when it came to interests.

“Don’t worry dog boy, I’ll be back in no time.” Kankuro flirted, “And hey did you still want to go to that bot tournament with me the weekend after school starts? It’ll be pretty sweet.” Kiba scoffed and Kankuro could almost feel him roll his eyes.

“Yeah I’ll go…” Kiba started to say when a loud, somewhat feminine voice shouted something Kankuro couldn’t quite hear. She sounded angry.

“I’m on the phone Ma!” Kiba shouted, his voice muffled as he covered the receiver of the phone. Kankuro roared in laughter as the woman replied and Kiba shouted again.

“I’m coming…” he said then pressed the phone to his ear, voice normal again. “Ma wants me but sure I’ll go to the bot thing, but you’re driving.”  Kankuro smiled to himself, sitting up as he did so.

“It’s a date.” Kankuro said seductively as Kiba seemed to choke on air. “Talk to you later Kiba.” When the other teen found his voice, he spoke again.

“S-sure…talk to you later Kankuro…” Kiba said just before the line went dead. Kankuro sighed as he fell back onto the bed. He loved flustering Kiba, the country boy was so unsure of himself it was almost comical. He never knew how to handle Kankuro’s flirting.

Kankuro sniffed his armpit, the smell making him twitch his nose in disgust. It was time for a hot shower. Kankuro rose as he made his way into the shower, whistling as he did so.

Maybe this day wasn’t a total loss after all. 


 

It was dark out now, the crickets chirping as the stars twinkled in the night sky. The teens were all in bed, sound asleep. They seemed to have gotten over the excitement of the day as they slept. Outside the cabins, Asuma Sarutobi was parked in the driveway with his face turned up to the stars.

Asuma leaned against his car as he took a long drag off his cigarette. These things would probably kill him one day but it was almost too much trouble to quit. As he blew the smoke out of his mouth, the front door to the cabin opened.

Kakashi chuckled as he walked out, hands inside his robe pockets as he walked forward. The man raised a single hand in greeting. The two men had known each other since their days back at boot camp in the army, fighting side by side several times. Asuma liked Kakashi well enough even if this meeting as anything but a social visit.

“Yo.” Kakashi said as he leaned against the car alongside Asuma, who smirked back at the man.

“Hey Kakashi,” he said as he reached inside his jacket pocket. He pulled out a large yellow folder and handed it to Kakashi. The silver haired man took it, thumbing it open to view its contents. The file was labeled with a familiar name, one Kakashi recognized almost immediately.

Rasa No Subaku

Just reading the name made Kakashi want to punch something, the owner of the name was going to get what was coming to him if Kakashi had anything to say about it. Asuma blew out another puff of smoke, giving Kakashi a look as the man looked through the file.

“So how are those kids you’re looking after?” Kakashi asked as he smiled behind his mask. “Ino is coming along in her martial arts training. She and Sakura are rivals but they get along fine outside the ring." Asuma shrugged.

“Choji and Ino do fine. They get good grades and all, don’t really cause trouble. Shikamaru on the other hand…caught him smoking the other day, failing classes the next. For a genius he can be a real lazy bum sometimes….” Asuma stated and Kakashi laughed.

“He’s going to turn into you someday, that or his father and either of those is a scary thought.” Kakashi mused as his eyes widened at a particularly interesting paragraph in the file. Orochimaru’s name had come up at least three times. It seemed that the two knew each other.

Kakashi would have to see what he could get from the scientist on Rasa. 

“Can I ask what all this info is for?” Asuma questioned as Kakashi scanned each page with interested eyes. Rasa No Subaku, owner of Kazekage industries, may be the InoShikaCho Corp's biggest competitor but he couldn’t understand why Kakashi of all people wanted information on the man. The silver haired man was normally very good at not caring about the world around him.

Kakashi looked up and Asuma could see the anger and hatred underneath the man’s one good eye.

“This man is a bastard who deserves to be thrown under the bus.” Kakashi stated with a smirk under his mask. “I’m just trying to help it along a bit.” Asuma raised a brow, taking a long drag from his cigarette. He chuckled. Kakashi must really hate this man if he was getting involved.

“Come on ‘Kashi, what did he do?” Asuma asked, his voice teasing. Kakashi stopped reading and sighed, looking up at the stars for a moment.

“His son, Gaara is friends with Naruto and Lee.” Kakashi explained, not wanting to give away too much without Gaara’s permission. “He’s a decent kid but the other day, before we got here I got a call from his siblings to pick him up at his house. He had been tossed out on the porch with a nice fresh bruise on his face.” Asuma stiffened at the accusations Kakashi was trying to hide in his voice.

"Did you call the cops?" Asuma asked, raising a brow at his friend. Kakashi sighed. 

"Gaara wouldn't admit to it and when he finally did, he said he just wants to move on from it." Kakashi explained, "The kid's tough, that's for sure." 

Asuma nodded, staring up into the sky for another moment before shaking his head at Kakashi. For a man who pretended not to care, the silver haired man could care very deeply for others. 

“Does Gai know you’re keeping tabs on this guy?” Asuma asked as he blew out the smoke. Kakashi shook his head, closing the file and tucking it under his arm. The one good eye glared at Asuma.

“No and I want to keep it that way until I get this figured out.” Kakashi said as he turned back to the door. “Thanks for the help Asuma, I’ll take you out to eat one of these days to make it up to you.” Asuma rolled his eyes as Kakashi tried to hurry him away. Kakashi must be planning a fairly large shit storm for this Rasa guy if he hadn’t told Gai yet.

Either that or he was going to do something Gai wouldn’t approve of. Asuma sighed. Kakashi had always believed the ends justify the means. Asuma tossed the butt of his cigarette out onto the drive way, turning to his car and hopping into the driver’s seat.

Rasa No Subaku might be worth looking into himself, since he had seen the man’s daughter hanging around Shikamaru earlier. Asuma chuckled to himself as he remembered the first meeting with the fiery blond.

She was well spoken, educated and stubborn, putting Shikaku and Shikamaru both in their place almost as well as the man’s wife, Yoshino could. She could be a valuable asset and if Shikamaru’s insistence on checking on the girl earlier was anything to go on, the younger Nara may have finally met his match.

Asuma smirked to himself as he lite another cigarette before starting the car and pulling out of the drive way. He would have to keep an eye on those two, maybe see what he could convince Shikaku to do to help this family.

It was best to care for the younger generation, even if some of his fellow adults failed to see it that way.

 


 

Chapter Text


 

Konoha high school was bustling with activity as the students shuffled into the doors. Teens talked animatedly in the halls, complaining and discussing varying topics related to school somehow.

Gaara opened his locker, taking out several text books as the bells rang, signaling the end of the day. Gaara sighed as he slung his bag over his shoulder. It had been several weeks since the start of Gaara’s junior year of high school and so far, the work load had been relatively easy.

Which was a good thing, because running for student council president had proved to be more difficult than Gaara had imagined. Talking to countless people, trying to promote himself, making posters and participating in debates.

The whole ordeal was tiring and time consuming but Gaara enjoyed being able to reach out to people.

“Gaara, we hung those posters like you wanted.” Hinata’s timid voice said, calling Gaara from his thoughts. He looked over at Hinata, Shino and Kankuro as they approached. Hinata smiled at him brightly as Gaara turned to them, shutting his locker.

“Thank you Hinata,” Gaara said as the girl beamed as the group began to walk towards the exit, fighting through the crowds of students. Kankuro rolled his eyes and crossed his arms in front of him.

“Oh Gaara,” Kankuro remembered as he walk. “I know you have your meeting with Yamato today but Lee was asking if you were coming to practice. He said he texted you but you never answered.” Gaara stiffened, his eyes looking towards the floor.

“I won’t be able to, I need to work on my speech for student council…Lee will understand.” Gaara said, not looking up as he replied. Kankuro raised a brow at his brother. He opened his mouth to say something when a loud voice made all of them turn.

“Hey Gaara!” Naruto shouted as he tackled Gaara with one armed hug around the shoulders. Gaara sighed at Naruto’s energy and gave him a small smile.

“Hello Naruto,” Gaara replied as Naruto let him straighten. Gaara adjusted his red collared shirt, smoothing out the collar. He had been attempting to dress differently in hopes of making himself seem more approachable. While he still wore his trademark red and black he had attempted to wear more dress shirts and black slacks or jeans, so far it had been working as he had hoped. 

“Are you going to come to martial arts practice after your session with Yamato?” Naruto asked with a bright grin. “Lee, Sasuke, Neji and TenTen are all going to be there and it’s open spar night!” Gaara bit his lip at the mention of Lee’s name, his eyes looking towards the ground once more.

“I have to work on my speech tonight, along with some paperwork Baki wants sorted out and homework, I don’t think I’ll be able to make class tonight…after Yamato’s.” Gaara replied, hanging back for a moment. Naruto raised a brow at his friend. The bright blue eyes seemed to be searching Gaara’s and he tossed a look to Kankuro.

Gaara shrugged Naruto’s arm off of him, feeling awkward as he headed for the gates of the school. He waved half-heartedly as he walked away.

“I have to go, I’ll see you all tomorrow.” Gaara said as he turned the corner, pulling out his phone as soon as he was out of sight. Lee had texted him ten times that day and called three. Gaara looked down at the messages for a moment before deleting them.

“Look at you kid, doing what you do best.” The deep, chuckling voice whispered just behind him. Gaara clenched his phone, biting his lips.

“Shut up Shukaku.” Gaara whispered through his teeth. His medication had taken a back burner to all his other responsibilities. Gaara scolded himself for forgetting again before turning to his phone. He weighed his next decision carefully for a few moments, staring at his phone screen.

He quickly dialed a number and held the phone up to his ear. It rang twice before a chipper feminine voice picked up.

“Dr. Tenzou’s office, Yukimi speaking.” Yukimi was Yamato’s sister, a bright upbeat young woman that always had a smile on her face whenever she was in town. Gaara had met her on one other occasion after she had returned from her travels, working as Yamato’s receptionist. She was back from another adventure it seemed.

“Hello, this is Gaara No Subaku.” Gaara said warily. “I am calling to cancel my appointment today, something came up.” Yukimi made a small noise of acceptance, the sound of shuffling papers filled the background.

Shukaku cackled, making Gaara’s head ache from the sheer volume as Gaara tried to focus. Yukimi had said something.

“I-I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” Gaara asked, holding his head as he gritted his teeth, trying to ignore the voice that echoed in his mind.

“Okay, when would you like to reschedule for?” the woman repeated slowly, Gaara sighed.

“I’m not sure for now, I’ll call later with my schedule. Thank you, goodbye.” He said quickly, hanging up the phone. He held it for a moment, hand shaking slightly as he took a deep breath. His phone vibrated in his hand and he glanced at it.

Another text from Lee.

Gaara stared at the screen for a moment, his heart beat picking up and aching in loneliness all at the same time. It hurt, keeping Lee at a distance when all Gaara wanted to do was talk to him, hear him speak with that passion in his voice, be near that warmth.

“You don’t deserve that warmth brat,” Shukaku growled from the fence Gaara spied from the corner of his eyes. “People like us will always be alone.” Gaara shut his eyes. The voice wasn’t real he tried to remind himself.

But Shukaku was right, he didn’t deserve that warmth. He didn’t deserve to be near someone like Lee, someone so good and pure. Lee deserved the best the world had to offer and Gaara was determined to make sure he got it.

Even if that meant putting himself through this ache, even if it mean keeping himself at arm’s length.

“I doubt Lee’s even noticed my absence, he has other friends…” Gaara thought sadly, steeling his resolve and pocketing his phone as he chose to ignore the message from his crush.

He could endure this pain if it meant Lee would be happy.


Yamato glared at Kakashi as he leaned against the couch, eyes fixed on his battered copy of Icha Icha Makeout Paradise. Yamato cleared his throat, prompting Kakashi to look up with his normally bored expression.

“You know I hate it when you read that stuff in my office, let alone during our sessions when you’re supposed to be talking.” Yamato pointed out, scowling as Kakashi shrugged.

“Yamato, do you really want to hear my whining?” he stated, closing his book with a snap. Yamato sighed and squeezed the bridge of his nose, his patience thinning. After nearly ten years of being Kakashi’s therapist, he’d learned when the man was deflecting and trying to keep from talking about something that was bothering him.

“That is kind of my job Kakashi, it’s also why you’re here.” Yamato replied, exasperated. “Need I remind you that you wanted to speak to me? Hence showing up to my office without making an appointment.” Kakashi shrugged again, his one visible eye scrunching up as he smiled beneath his mask.

“Can’t I just want to see my favorite therapist without him thinking I have something weighing on my conscience?” Kakashi chuckled, a teasing tone in his voice. Yamato opened his mouth to snap at the man when the door opened a crack, interrupting them. Yukimi peeked her head inside with a smile towards Kakashi.

“I know you’re busy trying to pry some actual feelings out of the ice king,” Yukimi said with a smile towards Kakashi before grinning at her brother. “But I wanted to let you know your four thirty appointment just called and cancelled again. I figured you’d want to call him back.”

Yamato wrinkled his brow, concern filling his eyes as he bit his lip. Gaara was his four thirty appointment and he had cancelled all his visits this month, it made the therapist feel uneasy.

“Kakashi…has Gaara been acting strangely lately?” Yamato asked, turning to the silver haired man as Yukimi took her leave. Kakashi’s eye darkened slightly and Yamato knew he had found the reason for this meeting.

“He’s been ignoring Lee.” Kakashi stated simply, his voice strained. “He claims he’s too busy to hang out, won’t answer his phone, he’s been skipping martial arts practice and apparently he’s been skipping out on therapy.” Kakashi took a deep breath, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees.

“Lee’s upset by it but he hasn’t said much about it…just puts on that fake smile I can see right through and goes into his room after dinner every night.” Kakashi says running his left hand through his hair. “I know he has to figure this out on his own and I think I know what Gaara is doing but…it’s just so hard seeing it from this end, seeing the hurt pushing people away causes.” Yamato sighed as the man rose and headed for the door, signaling that he didn’t wish to speak anymore.

“Have a good night Yamato, thanks for the talk.” Kakashi stated as he pulled up the collar of his jacket, hoping to shield himself from the fall chill.

“You too Kakashi, take care.” Yamato replied, leaning onto his desk and resting his chin against his folded hands. After a moment of thought, he reached for his phone and dialed.

“Youthful Dragon Dojo, Maito Gai speaking.” A cheerful voice said on the end of the line. Yamato sighed into the phone.

“Gai, its Yamato.” He said as he wondered if this was truly the best option. It was too late now he supposed.

“It’s about Gaara…”


 

Lee sighed as he trudged up the front steps of his home, fumbling for his keys for a moment before unlocking the door. The warmth of the house chasing away the cold that stung at Lee’s cheeks. Lee hung up his wind breaker, toeing off his shoes before taking his phone from his pocket.

Lee felt his heart sink. No new messages, no missed calls. He had texted Gaara at least twenty times that day, just like he had for the past month. He hadn’t gotten an answer in about that long. His heart throbbed painfully in his chest, he missed his friend.

He had decided against going to Ichiraku with his family and friends, he needed to study anyway. His English teacher this year was the most insensitive, nasty man he had ever met. Mr. Shimura was harsh and gave Lee no quarter for his learning disability.

He made Lee read aloud in front of the class, didn’t give him extra time to read the chapters, refused him extra time to finish tests, humiliated him for his handwriting and chastised him on a regular basis. Lee tried to meet the standards of his new teacher but after only a month, he was already falling behind with a D in the class.

It was frustrating and disheartening but even with all the stress he had been feeling, Lee wanted nothing more than to see Gaara. The red head had been avoiding him all month, ever since they returned from their beach trip. Gaara had missed out on practice, stopped coming over and even stopped calling at night. Lee could have gone to see his friend, forced himself back into the red head’s life.

Except, Lee had brought this on himself. He had tried to kiss Gaara that morning in their room and now he was ignoring Lee. It must have made Gaara uncomfortable, it must have prompted him to distance himself from Lee.

It was just a repeat of all the other times Lee had developed feelings for someone. Lee would fall, he would make a move and the object of his affections would ignore Lee until any friendship they had once known was a thing of memory. It was always the same.

But Lee couldn’t remember any of the previous crushes making his chest feel this tight. His heart felt raw and his energy was gone, tears pricked Lee’s cheeks as he took a deep breath. He couldn’t shake the heaviness in his body and it was starting to wear him down.

With a heavy sigh, Lee walked into his room and laid his back pack near his desk. His eyes itched with tiredness. He hadn’t slept well in days from a combination of stress and heartache. Lee didn’t complain much, he did not like his dreams anyway.

Dreams of soft red hair and teal green eyes.

Lee walked over to his desk, taking a seat and reaching for his book bag. He needed to finish this first three parts of act one for The Taming of the Shrew and finish the twenty-two multiple choice questions along with re-writing his three essay questions.

Lee sighed, and after that he still had science and math homework to finish on top of that. He glanced at the clock. The red letters flashed the time, seven thirty. Lee took out his pencil case and notebook, he might as well get started. An overwhelming sense of dread filled his chest as he picked up his book.

Lee was just about to open the book, when there was a loud bang of the front door being thrown open. A loud familiar voice shouted up at him as footsteps pounded up the stairs.

“Bushy Brow!” Naruto shouted as he entered the room with a loud bang. The blond was huffing, scowling as Sasuke, Neji, Sakura and TenTen followed closely behind him. Lee blinked and plastered on a smile despite not wanting company. These were his friends after all. 

“Um, hello I thought you were all at Ichiraku’s tonight…” Lee said as his friends stood around him. Naruto was the first to speak, glaring at Lee.

“We were until Kakashi got there and said that you weren’t coming!” Naruto exclaimed, throwing his arms up into the air. “First Gaara acts all strange, then you bail on us. Missing out on our tradition isn’t the only weird thing you’ve been doing lately!”

Lee sighed and turned back to his book, trying not to let the sinking feeling in his chest show on his face. Gaara must have thought Lee would be there and that’s why he had chosen not to come.

Lee had really messed up this time.

“I am fine…school is just stressful and…” Lee started to say until Sakura crossed her arms, looking at him with a skeptical look.

“That’s bullshit Lee.” Sakura said bluntly, her piercing green eyes seemingly seeing right through Lee’s strained smile. “First you’re going to wipe that fake grin you’ve been wearing for a month now off your face. Then, you are going to tell us what is going on with you.” Lee looked around at his friends concerned faces, at the disappointment and irritation.

They had been worried about him and came over to see what was going on, seen through the fake smiles Lee put on so he could pretend everything was okay. He had failed to manage this on his own.

Then all the emotion, hurt and stress finally bubbled over the surface as hot tears filled Lee’s eyes. All eyes widened as they watched Lee pull his knees to his chest, curling into himself. He sobbed into his knees. Why couldn’t he just do something right for once?

Sakura was first at Lee’s side, laying a comforting hand on his shoulder while Naruto enveloped his arms around his friend. Lee sobbed harder as slowly more arms encircled him, soft words being whispered as he cried.

When the tears finally stopped, Neji led him over to his bed. TenTen offered him his water bottle and everyone sat down around him. The bed wasn’t small but it was still a tight fit for everyone. Neji ended up pressed up against the head board with TenTen’s head against his chest. Sasuke and Sakura lay at Lee’s sides as they laid on the pillows. Naruto managed to lay his long torso onto Sasuke’s lap. Awkward silence filled the room.

Naruto was the first to speak.

“Are you going to talk to us now Lee?” he asked and Lee took a deep breath, still trying to ease the heartache he felt.

“Everything is going wrong. My English teacher hates me and lives to make my life miserable. Today he actually asked me how I made it to my senior year when I cannot pronounce the simplest of words! I cannot sleep, Gaara will not talk to me…” Lee started, tears resurfacing as they threatened to spill again. “I thought I would be able to handle messing up with Gaara…but this hurts so much more than all the other times.” Sakura and TenTen gave him sympathetic looks.

“Lee, we can talk to Sarutobi about getting you transferred out of Mr. Shimura’s class if it has you this stressed.” TenTen suggested, reaching a comforting hand to squeeze Lee’s. The dark eyed male shook his head.

“I should be able to do this on my own. I have overcome worse and I know what he says is not true…but he makes me feel so small. It is like I am back in foster care with those teachers calling me stupid and lazy. I just need to try harder.” Lee stated, taking a deep and shaky breath. Sakura raised a brow.

“Lee, this level of stress is not good for you. It’s not giving up if you are getting out of a toxic situation and Mr. Shimura is clearly very toxic.” Sakura explained but Lee just continued to shake his head.

“I will endure it Sakura, I know I can.” Lee stated with finality. His friend exchanged glances but did not press the teen any further. Instead Naruto decided to address the other problem with Lee.

“How did you mess up with Gaara?” Naruto questioned, his brow wrinkled in confusion. “I thought you were all buddies at the beach, what happened?” Lee bit his lip, contemplating whether or not he wanted to share his mistake.  

“I…I tried to kiss him…the morning after the party.” Lee explained, staring at the ceiling. “Then after we got back from the beach, he stopped calling me at night, stopped coming to practice and finally stopped answering my texts. I tried to confront him at school but he just said he needed to get to work…”

Naruto narrowed his eyes, anger boiling in his chest as he tried to wrap his head around what Gaara was doing. Why was he pushing them all away like this, why was he hurting Lee when Naruto knew for a fact that Gaara had feelings for Lee. Lee let out a heavy sigh.

Naruto’s eyes softened for minute as he leapt off the bed. His blue eyes shining in determination.

“Alright bushy brow, if we help you get your work done tonight!” Naruto exclaimed as he reached for Lee’s book bag, gathering together the things off the desk as he did. TenTen and Sakura nodded as they smiled widely at Lee.

“I’ll read this chapter out loud.” TenTen said, taking the book from Naruto and opening it up to where Lee had left his book mark. Lee chuckled bitterly.

“I am still behind by three acts…” Lee said, running his hand nervously through his hair as he looked at his feet. Neji cleared his throat, taking several papers from Naruto as well as a red pen.

“Then we get you caught up, it’s that simple.” Neji said, taking out Lee’s essays. “We may just have to up our tutoring sessions to more than once a week. I can come over here after martial arts practice. I finish most of my homework early anyway.”

Sakura turned to Sasuke and Lee as she took out Lee’s science book to read the chapter Lee was on. Science was her best subject.

“You two go get some snacks while we get set up.” She ordered as Lee jumped up, his energy returning slightly as he walked out of the room.

“All right, I will bring something up.” Lee said as Sasuke followed after him.

The pair descended the stairs and walked into the kitchen. Lee opened the fridge, pulling out some pizza snacks and veggies.

He handed the pizza snacks to Sasuke to put in the microwave while Lee fetched a tray and some bowls. He took out the bag of chips from the pantry and poured them into the bowl. Sasuke took out some waters and soda, gathering them in his arms to carry them upstairs. He caught Lee’s movements as they slowed slightly as he took the food from the microwave.

The Uchiha looked over at his friend, surprised to see him wiping his eyes. Lee sniffed as he arranged the food on the tray. He picked it up slowly and when Lee turned to Sasuke, he smiled sadly at his friend.

“I guess you were right Sasuke.” Lee said quietly, his voice sounding heavy. “I guess Gaara really could never love me.” Sasuke opened his mouth to speak, but found he couldn’t think of anything that would ease the hurt in Lee’s eyes.

Sasuke lowered his gaze to the floor as Lee took the tray, heading for the stairs. Sasuke slowly followed after Lee, his heart feeling heavy in his chest.

He had never wished to be wrong so badly.


 

Gaara rubbed his eyes as he leaned his elbows over his desk. His list of political stances lay in front of him, several sentences scratched out, replaced and rewritten. There was open question and answer panel for the student council president nominees next week and Gaara still hadn’t finished this list of possible answers he was going to have to make.

Hinata had been helpful, nominating Gaara for the position with Naruto seconding the nomination. So far, Gaara had done a decent job of garnering support from the various clubs. He listened to their concerns, made lots of notes and discussed with teachers how he could better the student life.

The only club he had avoided so far was the LGBT club.

“You’re only avoiding it because of that bushy browed freak.” Shukaku growled and Gaara’s eyes twitched. He looked towards his medication bottle on his nightstand, the orange bottle was still half full and he could easily take it now.

Gaara stopped himself. He could bear this on his own, he didn’t need the pills that Sasori had given him. He could battle his weakness himself.

Gaara sighed, leaning his head against his hand, his thoughts turning to Lee for the fifth time that day. Last semester, he would have been on talking with Lee right now as they headed out of martial arts practice. Lee would have been smiling despite the exhausting workout, still full of energy. Naruto and Sasuke would have argued at some point and Lee would have jumped in to play mediator. Loneliness pricked at his heart, the pain making his heart throb.

Gaara sighed and thought about calling the bushy browed teen. He had long since turned off his phone to escape the stream of texts from not just Lee but Naruto, Hinata, Sasuke and the others. All wanted to know if he was available to come over to Ichiraku’s for dinner.

But Lee would be there, so he declined.

Gaara rose as his stomach began to grumble. Deciding to take a break, he headed down the steps from the attic and towards the main stair case to go towards the kitchen. It was just now turning six thirty so he should make the evening meal.

Cooking was a task Gaara didn’t mind doing. It was simple if you followed the directions and Gaara found it to be a relaxing chore, it helped him focus on something other than his problems. As he walked down the stairs, he heard sounds in the living room. He turned toward the room when he finally came to the end of the stairs and frowned at the sight.

It was Kankuro, with his…what was Kiba to Kankuro anyway? Based on the making out Gaara was witnessing, most would have assumed boyfriend but Gaara knew better. This was just another one of Kankuro’s playthings. A fling. 

Although Kiba was friends with Hinata and Shino, even though he didn’t attend their school. Gaara had met him a few times before Kankuro brought him to the house after a battle bot tournament one night. The rough boy was a little rude and loud but he seemed to have a good heart, one Gaara desperately hoped his brother wouldn’t break.

He watched quietly for a moment until his brother slipped his hand under Kiba’s shirt. Gaara cleared his throat loudly, making the two teens jump apart. Kiba turned bright red and looked down at the floor while Kankuro looked up at Gaara with a scowl that would have shaken most people.

 “Are you staying for dinner Kiba?” Gaara asked, ignoring his brother’s look. Kiba glanced at Kankuro from the corner of his eye, his shoulders slumping slightly.

“No, Ma is making dinner tonight and she invited Kankuro to come over…If he wants.” He said nervously. Kiba still seemed uncomfortable with this relationship, Gaara had heard from Hinata that it was Kiba’s first time seeing another man. Gaara supposed that would make anyone nervous. Kankuro chuckled and leaned back against the couch.

“Depends, is she making her fried chicken. That stuffs like crack.” Kankuro said and Kiba gave a bark of laughter. Gaara took that to mean yes and that he would not need to prepare more than two dishes tonight. Temari would be working late.

Temari had gotten a full time job working as a waitress after her summer classes had come to a close, opting to take only two classes and make some money on her own. Gaara had gotten used to his sister wandering in well past three in the morning and made sure to save her a plate.

The other two teens headed for the door, shutting it behind them with a loud bang.

Gaara sighed again, entering the kitchen to begin cooking something. A quick survey of the fridge and pantry revealed some miso soup base, tofu and dried seaweed. Gaara decided on a quick pot of miso soup. Temari would just be happy for the food.

Gaara poured some water into a pot, turning on the stove so it could boil and covered it. He took out a large cutting board and laid it on the counter. He laid the tofu onto the board just as a loud knocking on the door called his attention to it.

Gaara wrinkled his brow, maybe Kankuro had forgotten something. He headed for the door and looked through the eyehole. His eyes widened as he moved away to open the door.

Gai stood at the door, his arms crossed in front of his chest. His normal smile was absent but Gaara recognized the face that replaced it. Disappointment shined in Gai’s eyes as he met Gaara’s eyes sadly.

“Gai-sensei…why are you here?” Gaara asked, awkwardly clutching the door as Gai looked him over. The normally kind brown eyes seemed to be searching for something but Gaara looked to his feet, breaking eye contact with the man.

“May I come in Gaara, there is something I would like to discuss with you.” Gai asked, Gaara could hear the seriousness in his voice and moved hesitantly to the side. Gai walked into the house, looking around as he hung up his bright green windbreaker on the coat rack.

Gaara gestured towards the kitchen before walking into it. Gai followed, taking a seat at the dining room table. Gaara moved to put the teakettle on the stove as the water began to boil.

“Can I offer you some tea?’ Gaara asked slowly, still trying to wrap his head around the sudden visit. It was most likely about his missing martial arts practice so regularly. Gai nodded and Gaara took out two mugs.

Gai was silent as Gaara waited for the teakettle to whistle, busying himself with locating the tea. All they had was green and sleepy time teas. Gaara settled on green and put the bags into the mugs.

The kettle whistled and Gaara poured the water into the mugs. He brought the mugs to the table, handing the warm cup to Gai. The man took the mug as Gaara took a seat across from Gai. The silence was almost deafening as Gaara sipped his hot tea.  

“Gaara, why have you been cancelling on your sessions with Yamato?” Gai asked suddenly and Gaara stiffened. So that’s what this visit was about. Gaara blinked and set down his mug, looking at the green liquid rather than Gai.

“I-I’ve been busy with…” Gaara started to defend when Gai tapped the table, prompting Gaara to look up. The man’s gaze was hard, eyes still soft with worry and concern.

“We both know that isn’t true Gaara and even if it were, your mental health is more important.” Gai scolded, “What were you thinking? And furthermore, why have you been pushing your friends out of your life? Naruto says you’ve been avoiding coming to practice, refusing to see them outside of school. You’ve been deliberately avoiding Lee...”

Gaara clenched his hands at the mention of Lee’s name.

“Who does this clown think he is?” Shukaku questioned from the oven, sending a jolt of pain through Gaara’s skull. Gaara rubbed his temple as he closed his eyes.

“Shut up Shukaku…” Gaara whispered, unaware he had spoken out loud until Gai rose from his seat quickly. The chair screeching across the tile on the floor and drew Gaara’s attention to his teacher.

“Gaara,” Gai said quietly, seriousness dripping from his voice. “When was the last time you took your medicine? Is this why you’ve been ignoring my calls in the morning?” Gaara’s chest tightened in guilt. He had been ignoring his daily reminders from his friends.

Gai looked Gaara’s face over, taking notice of that the dark circles had darkened significantly since the last time he had seen the teen. Gaara hadn’t been sleeping.

Gaara looked up at Gai, trying to harden his resolution against the look of disappointment the man held in his eyes. He rose from his seat and tried to remain impassive. He could do this on his own, he was not going to burden these good people with his weakness.

“I am fine, I can handle this.” Gaara stated, crossing his arms in front of his chest. Gai’s eyebrows crashed down as he glared sternly at the teen before him.

“Gaara, you need to take your medication.” Gai reprimanded as reached for Gaara’s shoulder. “Let us help you with whatever is going on with you, we all care about you and we can-…” Gaara wrenched his shoulder from Gai’s grip, turning away from the man.

“I never asked for that.” Gaara growled, lowering his hands to his sides and clenching his fists in frustration. Why couldn’t they just let him go, couldn’t they all see it was better this way? “I never asked any of you to try and save me. I am not your family and you are not my father!” 

Gai froze, his shoulders stiffening as he blinked at Gaara. Gai lifted his hand and Gaara flinched slightly out of instinct, his body still recalling the slap that he had suffered at the hands of his father just a month ago. Gai moved slowly, turning to the door.

“I will call you in the morning Gaara…just take care of yourself.” Gai said softly, his voice sounding strained as he walked out the front door, leaving Gaara alone in the quiet kitchen. The red head sighed as he heard the door click closed.

“Good riddance, we don’t need them kid.” Shukaku stated from the refrigerator door, his voice echoing around the room.

Gaara stared at the small kitchen for a moment before he walked over to the oven and turned off the water. After replacing the tofu and seaweed in the fridge, Gaara went to the front door and slipped on his shoes and red hoodie.

He walked out into the cool fall air, walking down his street and pulling up his hood. Maybe the cool air would help him clear his head.


 

Kakashi entered the house and the first thing he noticed was five pairs of shoes that were not normally at his door. He chuckled as he toed off his own shoes, hanging up his jacket before walking up the stairs.

Lee’s bedroom door was wide open and Kakashi’s heart warmed at the sight that greeted him.

Lee was sprawled out on his bed, sleeping soundly with TenTen and Sakura curled into his sides. The girls murmured slightly in sleep but didn’t awaken as Kakashi entered the room. Neji was asleep on the other side of TenTen, hands resting on his chest. Sasuke snored lightly, his back pressed against Sakura’s as he slept.

Kakashi smiled beneath his mask, lifting the blanket on the end of Lee’s bed and spreading it out over the teens. With a small smile, he shut the door behind him and went to look for Naruto. He knew the teen was here somewhere, having spotted his black sneakers next to Sasuke’s.

The light was on in Kakashi’s room, yellow light slipping through the cracked door when he approached it. Kakashi pushed the door open and entered the room. Naruto looked up from his spot on the end of the bed, drawing his attention away from the photo album he was looking at.

“Yo,” Kakashi greeted as he walked towards the blond, taking a seat next to Naruto. The bed sunk slightly at the added weight as Naruto smiled at Kakashi.

“Hey,” Naruto said quietly, offering Kakashi a small smile before turning his eyes back to the album in his lap. Kakashi looked down at the photo Naruto had been staring at.

It was Kushina and Minato’s wedding photo. Kushina was smiling, holding up a peace sign, white flowers in her deep red hair. Minato smiled his wide grin, looking handsome in his military uniform with his arm around his new wife.

 They looked happy, glowing with love. Kakashi was next to Minato, barely older than Naruto at the time. Obito had his arm slung around Kakashi’s shoulder. Rin smiling next to Kushina, holding the bouquet she had caught shortly before the picture.

Kakashi chuckled as Naruto turned the page to the next set of photos. This one was Kakashi’s personal favorite. Kushina and Minato covered in the wedding cake after the red head had smashed the cake into Minato’s face, prompting everyone to start a food fight.

“I know I never really knew them, but sometimes I still miss them, ya know?” Naruto said, looking up at Kakashi with those blue eyes that reminded Kakashi so much of Minato. As much as the blond looked like his father, that bright grin and mischievous personality was all Kushina. Naruto had even picked up the woman’s nervous tick.  

Kakashi’s eyes softened as he reached up to ruffle Naruto’s hair.

“I still miss them too Naruto, every day.” Kakashi said softly, pulling off his mask. “But I know that no matter what Naruto, they loved you and would have been proud of the great kid you’ve grown up to be.” Naruto smiled, showing off his bright grin.

“You’re so sappy Kakashi, I think bushier-brow sensei is rubbing off on you!” Naruto said as he tackled Kakashi, pinning the man to the bed. They wrestled for a bit, falling off the bed. Kakashi gained the upper hand by wrapping one arm around Naruto’s head, holding him in place.

“Little demon.” Kakashi teased with a laugh just as Gai entered the room. The bowl cut sporting man looked down at his lover and Naruto, smiling slightly.

“Having fun you two?” Gai asked, chuckling slightly. Kakashi released Naruto’s head, standing up to approach Gai. Something was wrong. Gai was standing too stiffly, his smile seemed strained and his eyes seemed preoccupied.

“Gai, what’s wrong?” Kakashi asked as Naruto rose to his feet, giving Gai an equally concerned look. It was unusual for the man to be so…defeated looking. Gai let out a heavy sigh.

“I went to see Gaara tonight.” Gai explained, taking a seat on the end of the bed and squeezed the bridge of his nose. “Yamato called me today and apparently he’s been skipping therapy.” Naruto’s jaw dropped.

“Gaara knows better than that!” the blond exclaimed as Gai nodded, his expression hard.

“That isn’t the only thing,” Gai continued, grasping his knees with his hands. “He hasn’t been taking his medication, I caught him speaking to Shukaku tonight. I tried to talk some sense into him but…he told me I was not his father and to butt out of his business…”

Naruto clenched his fists at his sides, his body shaking in unbridled fury. Before Kakashi could stop him, the blond bolted out the door. Gai moved to chase after Naruto but Kakashi grabbed his sleeve.

“Let Naruto handle this. If anyone can knock some sense into Gaara, it’s him.” Kakashi said, then added with a small chuckle. “Besides, he has his phone on him.” Gai nodded slowly as the front door slammed loudly.

“I hope your right Kakashi.”


 

Gaara entered the diner and walked to the counter, taking a seat in the corner and taking out his phone to text Kankuro that he was with Temari just as his sister walked over to him. She looked at him with an angry glare, crossing her arms as she stood in front of him.

“Gaara, what are you doing here?” she asked, tiredness lacing the edges of her voice. “And why did you cancel with Yamato again?” Gaara sighed, rubbing his temples. He didn’t need another lecture, he just wanted some quiet.

“Not now Temari,” Gaara stated, not meeting his sister’s eyes. He gave a heavy sigh. “I will tell you when we get home…I just want to be left alone.” Temari’s opened her mouth to protest but a loud voice from the kitchen called out.

“Get in here girl, I don’t pay you to stand around!” the owner of the diner shouted rudely.  Temari wrinkled her nose as she turned to the kitchen, tossing another look at Gaara

“I’ll get you some food, just stay put till my shift is over.” She said as she disappeared behind the kitchen door. “This is not over.”

Gaara looked around the diner. It was fairly empty save for a group talking in a booth and another man who appeared to be asleep on the counter.  

Gaara recognized two of the people in the booth. One was that perky blond he often saw with Sakura, Ino and the teen Temari had spoken to after his incident at the beach. They were with a broad man with a lit cigarette in his mouth and a chubby teen Gaara didn’t know. They ignored him as they carried on talking, laughing at something the older man said.

Gaara laid his head onto the counter, trying to clear his head. Guilt was eating at his chest. He hadn’t meant to hurt Gai’s feelings, only to get him to realize that he didn’t want the man’s help.

The clock ticked as Gaara watched the hands, waiting as the minutes passed. It was twenty minutes since his arrival when a tinkle from the bell above the door sounded off. Gaara didn’t look up at first.

Until he felt hands grab his collar and jerk him off his chair. Gaara blinked up at Naruto’s angry blue eyes as the blond glared down at him, chest heaving from exertion. He must have run here…wait how did Naruto know he was here? Gaara struggled as Naruto shoved him against the wall.

“Gaara, what the hell man?” Naruto shouted, his grip not loosening at all as Gaara fought against him. “First you deliberately ignore Lee, then you skip out on therapy, now you yell at bushier brow sensei when he tried to help you!”

Gaara clenched his hands around Naruto’s wrist, tearing them away from his shirt and pushing the blond away. Gaara gave Naruto a hard glare. The blond glared back at him as Gaara curled his fists at his sides.

“It’s none of your business Naruto,” Gaara stated coldly. “Just leave me alone.” Naruto clenched his fists and looked to the floor. Gaara thought for a moment that Naruto would leave, not want to cause a scene in the diner.

Gaara was very wrong.

Naruto pulled back his fist before Gaara could react, punching the red head in the nose and sending him flying back into the wall. Gaara groaned as his nose started to bleed. He looked down at the blood in his hand.

“Now the brat’s in trouble.” Shukaku chuckled.

Gaara threw himself at Naruto, knocking the blond to the ground and curling back his fist. Naruto was quick to kick Gaara off of him and sending the red head onto a table. The table toppled over with a loud clatter. Gaara was up in a second, just in time to block a punch for Naruto.

Gaara’s fist connected with Naruto’s jaw and the other teen quickly recovered in enough time to catch the kick Gaara aimed for his side. Naruto heaved, throwing Gaara into the booth where Ino and the others sat. Food and plates hit the floor as Naruto grabbed Gaara by the collar again.

Temari burst out of the kitchen, followed by the owner of the diner. Her eyes widened as Gaara leapt up, blocking the next kick aimed at his side.

“Gaara, Naruto stop this right now!” Temari shouted just as Gaara picked up a glass, tossing it at Naruto. The blond dodged and the cup headed for Shikamaru, narrowly missing the teen as Temari pulled him out of the way.

The teen blinked at her, as if unsure what to do as the girl glared at her brother and his friend. She decided it would just be better to let them fight this out. Someone could get hurt if she tried to intervene.

“You can’t just shut us out!” Naruto growled as Gaara managed to push him back. The pair circled each other as the blond continued to speak. “And I thought you had feelings for Lee, why are you treating him like this?” Gaara dodged his friend’s next punch as he laid his hand on a plate that rested on the counter.

“It’s better this way!” Gaara shouted as he tossed the plate at Naruto, the white porcelain breaking against Naruto’s head. Naruto grabbed his head, now bleeding from the cut on his head. “I don’t deserve Lee or his friendship. I am nothing but a burden to him. Its better I leave now before I hurt him!” Naruto rose with a growl, diving for Gaara once more and barely managing to pin the tired red head down by his wrists. Gaara struggled as Naruto glared down at him.

“You’re hurting him now by acting like an ass!” Naruto yelled, his patience long gone “Lee’s been shutting himself in his room every night because his new English teacher is a dick and tonight he burst into tears because he thinks you cutting him out is his fault!”

Gaara stopped his struggle, the weight of Naruto’s words sinking into his brain. Lee had been crying…and it was all his fault. He looked up at Naruto with wide eyes. The blond glared down at Gaara.

“You don’t get to just cut all ties and leave Gaara.” Naruto said slowly, his grip on Gaara’s collar tightening. “I said you’re my friend and I meant it. I don’t care if you’ve given up on yourself, I’m not letting you go back to that lonely existence without a fight.”

Gaara bit his lip as Naruto finally stood up, offering his hand to help the red head up. Gaara took the hand and stood to his feet. He had been an idiot. He had hurt the people he had wanted to protect with his selfish actions.

“I-I’m sorry…” Gaara whispered, his hand clutching at his chest again as he stared at the tiled floor. Broken dishes and food covered the ground, evidence of the fight. Naruto placed a hand on Gaara’s shoulder, drawing his friends teal gaze off the floor.

“Don’t beat yourself up about it Gaara, everyone makes mistakes.” Naruto said kindly, as if the fist fight that had just occurred had never taken place. His face was bloodied, clothes disheveled and shirt ripped. Gaara imagined that he wasn’t much better off.

Naruto’s bright grin spread wide across his face as he dusted off Gaara’s shirt. Gaara nodded as his sister approached. Gaara opened his mouth to speak but his sister held up her hand.

“You two…” she growled just as her boss stalked over. The large man was red faced as he glared at Temari, his eyes flitting between her and the boys. Temari stepped forward, shielding her brother from the man’s angry gaze.

“That’s your brother I take it?’ the man growled at her, gesturing around the destroyed shop. Naruto grinned sheepishly as he met Gaara’s eyes. They didn’t realize how much damage they had done.

Tables’ lay strewn everywhere, broken glass and food covered the floor along with broken chair legs and blood. Temari met the man’s gaze steadily as she glared back.

“I’ll make them clean it up, I’m sure they didn’t…” She started to say, trying to negotiate but the man scoffed loudly.

“Shut up, I don’t want to hear it!” the man growled, “You’re fired! I never want to see you or your god damned family again.” Temari’s eyebrows crashed down as her nostrils flared in rage.

“What!” she shouted, temper flaring as she put her hands on her hips. “You can’t just fire me like that! I’ve done nothing but put up with your perverted comments and bull crap for the past month, the least you can do is cut me some slack…” the man laughed, smirking at Temari.

“You’re lucky I don’t call the cops on those little hooligans for destroying my diner.” The man stated, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “You stupid little bit-…”

“What a drag,” The dark haired teen stated as the group walked up. The older male narrowed his eyes at the man, opening a checkbook and jotting down a number.

“Watch your language.” The man ordered, shoving the check into the man’s chest. “That should cover the damages caused.” Naruto smiled at the man. Gaara looked between the two as Naruto laughed.

“Asuma, man am I glad to see you!” Naruto exclaimed, smiling brightly at the man. Asuma grinned back, reaching over to ruffle Naruto’s hair as he turned to the door.

“Hey Kid, let’s get you home.” Asuma chuckled, “You’ve caused enough trouble for one night.” Shikamaru turned to Naruto and smirked at him. Gaara narrowed his eyes at the boy as the chubbier male joined his side.

“You destroyed my food, Naruto.” The boy said, clearly irritated that his meal had been interrupted by the battle. Naruto chuckled nervously.

“S-sorry about that Choji, Gaara just needed some sense knocked into him.” Naruto tried to explain. “I’ll make it up to you, honest!” Ino huffed, crossing her arms as the group left the diner.

“I’ll believe that when I see it.” The girl teased as the group walked out into the parking lot. Shikamaru sighed heavily as he held the door open for Temari.

“Troublesome woman.” The teen said to her, making the blonde girl smirk at him. “Can’t you go a day without causing problems? It’s such a drag getting you out of trouble.”  Gaara’s eyes narrowed at the male again, not liking how close he was standing to Temari. His sister seemed comfortable thought, so he didn’t worry too much.

“Some people would say you’re following me but we both know that anything that takes actual effort is too much activity for you.” Shikamaru raised a brow just as Asuma cleared his throat. He offered Temari a hand, shaking her firmly.

“I’m Asuma Sarutobi, chaperone and head of security to the Yamanaka, Akamichi and Nara families.” Asuma introduced with an easy grin. Naruto smirked and fake coughed into his hand.

“Babysitter.” He hacked out, making Ino snort and Asuma shoot him a glare.

“I’m also old friends with Kakashi and Gai, which is how I know the little blond demon over there.” The man commented.

Temari nodded, shaking his hand back just as firmly.

“Temari No Subaku, I remember you from the meeting my father had with Mr. Nara.” Asuma nodded, putting a hand in his pocket before turning to his wards.

“I’ll be in the car in a second, try not to let Choji eat the leather seat.” Asuma teased and the young Akamichi threw his arms up in the air.

“I was three!” Choji exclaimed as the group burst into laughter as they walked towards the beat up truck. “And it was one time!” Shikamaru patted his best friends shoulder, giving one last glance in Temari’s direction when the blond wasn’t looking.

Asuma turned back to Temari, taking out a cigarette box and removing one. He popped it into his mouth and pulled out a lighter.

“Before I go, I’d like to ask if I may speak privately with you Miss No Subaku.” He stated as he after he lit the cigarette. Temari wrinkled her nose at the habit but nodded slowly.

“Sure, I guess.” She said as she waved her brother off. “Go wait in the car you two, I’ll think of a decent punishment for the two of you in a minute.” Naruto stiffened at the threat but Gaara seemed un-phased as the pair walked to the lavender car in the corner of the parking lot.

Gaara looked back at his sister as Asuma talked to her. She looked relaxed when the man said something that made her eyes widen. Gaara hoped it was good news that would make up for all the trouble they had caused his sister.

Naruto leaned against the car, staring up at the stars. Gaara stood next to him and let out another sigh. He was tired, exhausted by the stress he had put upon himself.

“You’re going to take your medicine when you get home,” Naruto finally said, looking over at Gaara with serious eyes. “Right?” Gaara nodded, feeling stupid for once in his life. How could he have thought this was the best way to handle the situation?

“I was being such an idiot…I’m sorry Naruto. How will I ever make this up to Lee?” the red head apologized, running a hand through his unruly hair. He truly had no idea how to fix what he had caused. Naruto laughed, slinging an arm around Gaara’s shoulder.

“Well for starters, you’re going to go home and get some sleep.” Naruto explained with a sly grin. “You look like hell, then you’re going to agree to come to the fall fair next weekend with me and the others. It will be fun and a great opportunity for you and Lee to talk.” Gaara nodded, nervousness flitting around in his gut. What if Lee didn’t want to see him?

“But what if he-.” Gaara started to say but Naruto shook his head and laid a patient hand on his shoulder.

“Lee will forgive you, all you have to do is apologize and explain!” Naruto reassured. “Lee is the most forgiving guy I know.” Gaara gave Naruto a long look. The blond made it seem so simple, but Gaara could already feel uneasiness gather in his gut. This apology would be easier said than done.

Gaara was taken out of his thoughts when Temari walked back to them. She looked shocked and unsure as she stood in front of her brother. She looked down at Gaara and her face split into a huge grin, pulling Gaara and Naruto into a sudden bone crushing hug.

“He offered me a job!” She said breathlessly, squeezing both boys tightly. When she finally released the boys from her capture. Her smile was brighter than Gaara had ever seen it and Gaara felt warmth fill his heart. He was happy his sister was so excited and happy.

“It’s just a simple personal assistant position for now, I’ll mostly be filing papers, getting coffee and boring shit like that but it pays nearly eight fifty an hour! That’s double the minimum wage!” Temari exclaimed with a laugh.

“Congratulations Temari!” Naruto exclaimed, scratching his whisker-like scars for a moment before chuckling nervously. “I guess that means you’re not going to punish us for fighting…”

Temari’s smile suddenly looked strained as she grabbed both boys by their ears, dragging them away from the car doors. Naruto yelped and Gaara grimaced as Temari dragged them to the other side of the car.

“You’re not getting off that easy, you two are going to wish you never even heard of a fight.” She stated, voice dripping with fake sweetness as she let Gaara’s ear go and opened the door to the car. The two teens clambered in, exchanging slightly uncomfortable looks as they sat in the car.

“Dude, your sister is scary.” Naruto said as Temari slammed the door and walked around the driver’s side of the car. Gaara smiled slightly as he buckled his seatbelt, eyes following his sister as she got into the car.

Punishment or no, Gaara was glad something had gone right today.


 

Kakashi watched Gai sleep, the large man’s chest going up and down as soft breaths escaped him. The silver haired man propped himself up on his pillow as he lifted his hand. He traced gentle fingers over Gai’s chest, running them through the soft black chest hairs that trailed down Gai's torso. Gai murmured but didn’t awaken.

Naruto had texted him a short time ago, saying he was spending the night at Gaara’s. It seemed whatever Naruto had said or done had worked on the red head. Kakashi hoped that things would begin to look up.

After another moment of watching his lover sleep, Kakashi rose from the sheets. Reaching down and picking up Gai’s discarded shirt, Kakashi pulled it over his naked torso. His back ached in protest as Kakashi did so. He needed to talk to Gai about taking it easy on him when they got intimate. He wasn’t exactly young anymore.

He glanced at Gai as he slipped on his boxers. The light of the moon had come in through the window, making Gai’s tan skin glow silver. Gai looked so peaceful like this, the worries of the day long gone. Kakashi’s eyes softened for a moment before he walked to the bedroom door, grabbing a yellow envelope off of his nightstand.

He walked down the hallway and down the stairs to the kitchen. He flicked on the light, filling the room with soft white light as he headed for the fridge. Healthy foods lined the shelves, Gai and Lee’s diet left little room for snacks.

Kakashi closed the fridge, walking over to the pantry and reaching towards the top shelf. After moving around some cereal boxes, Kakashi took down a container of brownies. He had to stash the sweets from prying fingers.

He sat down at the table, opening the container and sniffing the contents. The chocolate smelled heavenly as he took one out and took a bite. He closed his eyes contentedly, making a mental note to thank Kurenai for baking them for him.

Kakashi looked at the envelope in front of him. Orochimaru had given it to him earlier at Ichiraku’s when the silver haired man had asked about Rasa. The scientist was unwilling to share verbally what he knew, but the information in this envelope might have just what he wanted.

“I am bound by confidentiality to Mr. No Subaku, I am not allowed to speak a word of our meetings.” The man had said, sliding the envelope over to Kakashi as he did. “You know how rich men always have secrets they wish to protect.” Kakashi smirked under his mask, Orochimaru was almost as crafty as a lawyer. He may not be able to say anything to Kakashi, but if Kakashi stumbled across the information he needed…then it was fair game.

The pale man rose to take his leave, as if the envelope was nothing more than the daily newspaper. He nodded towards Jiraiya and Tsunade, who were busy drinking themselves into a stupor. Kakashi wrinkled his nose at this but said nothing. After being sober for so long, he found the smell of alcohol made his stomach curl.

“Perhaps that may help you with accomplish your goals, young one?” Orochimaru said with a small smile as he buttoned up his coat. “Have a good evening Kakashi, tell Gai I said hello.”  With that, the older man had left out the door, humming to himself.

Kakashi took the envelope in his hands, opening the flap quickly and pulling out the papers held within. He needed to figure out what the scientist had given him and how it helped him throw Rasa’s reputation in the toilet.

He scanned the papers, eyes slowly widening as he read the lines. A small smile slowly curled on his lips as he processed the information Orochimaru had provided him. Kakashi chuckled as he laid the papers down on the table. Well this was an interesting development.

Rasa was going to be putty in his hands.


 

Chapter Text


 

Lee hummed to himself as he cleared out his locker for the weekend, taking out his books and piling them in his bag. The school halls were bustling as students poured out of their classrooms. The air was buzzing with excitement, many discussing the fair that had been set up in town.

Lee’s heart had felt considerably lighter since he had broken down in front of his friends. With his friends devoted help, he had passed all his tests that week. Even a particularly tough one in his English class. His grade would improve from that ninety two percent, making Lee’s heart swell with pride. Lee knew he shouldn’t feel smug but the look on Mr. Shimura’s face after he had graded Lee’s paper immediately but it had been so satisfying to see the grown man so angry.

The insufferable man had insisted on grading Lee’s test as soon as he handed it in, last as usual. Mr. Shimura had triple checked his grading after initially getting the good grade. That small smirk dissolving into a hard line as he handed it back to Lee was what made it worthwhile.

“I suppose even someone like you can get one right.” The man had said but Lee was too happy to listen to the hidden insult. His hard work with Neji, TenTen and all his other friends over the past week had proven a success.

To top it off, Gaara had come to him during his LGBT club meeting earlier that day. He wanted to discuss what the club needed, hoping to help Lee make a safer environment for the students in the club.

Lee was grateful for the interaction but thousands of questions had run through his mind. Why had Gaara ignored him for a month, only to come to him now? Why did the red head have a black eye and a split lip?

But he had decided to hold his questions back in favor of discussing the club. Gaara had been attentive, taking careful notes and listening carefully. When he finally left though, Gaara had hesitated. It seemed like he was going to say something but decided against it at the last moment.

“I will see you this weekend Lee. Naruto convinced me to go to the fair with him…” Gaara stated simply before walking out of the room. The air was left tense and awkward but Lee’s heart was buzzing. Gaara had spoken to him, the red head wasn’t angry with him.

“Hey bushy brows!” Naruto’s loud call echoed through the halls, drawing Lee’s attention from his thoughts. He smiled at his friend and gave the blond a thumbs up.

“Hello Naruto!” He said happily, reaching down to lift his back pack over his shoulder. “How was your day? Do you have much homework for the weekend?” Naruto shrugged as the pair walked towards the door.

“Nope, looks like I’m a free bird.” Naruto joked as they walked out into the courtyard. “I can’t wait for the fair, It’s gonna be a blast! I still can’t believe I convinced Gaara to go.” Lee nodded, his smile stiffening slightly.

He was still unsure how to talk to Gaara, unsure if the red head had simply chosen to forget what they had almost shared or if he was only humoring him for Naruto’s sake.

“I have a small assignment for Mr. Shimura but other than that I have a free weekend.” Lee stated with a happy smile. “The fair will be so much fun, I cannot wait to ride the Ferris wheel!” Naruto nodded, knowing that the ride was Lee’s favorite. Suddenly, a look of realization appeared on the blonde’s face.

“Oh, and Gai sensei said that practice was cancelled today so we can all get out homework done before the fair tomorrow.” Naruto said, waving as he started to jog away. “I’m going to go meet Sasuke at his house, see you later bushy brow!”

Lee raised a brow at Naruto’s sudden departure. The blond seemed to be acting strangely today but Lee pushed it to the back of his mind. Naruto was probably just excited for the fair.

Lee turned the corner, heading for the house with a small skip in his step. Things were truly starting to look up for him despite the problems with Gaara. He hoped he could at least get things back to the way they were before.

Because even if he had to love Gaara from afar, Lee still wanted his friendship.


 

Sasuke walked up to the dojo, hands in pockets as he shouldered his way into the door. The dojo was dark save for the light that flowed through the windows as he walked inside. The Uchiha took a look around, raising a brow as he walked towards the back office. He entered the room, it was even darker in the room and the Uchiha reached for the light switch. Suddenly, a figure grasped his shoulder and spoke.

“Were you seen?” the voice growled lowly, pulling Sasuke away from the light switch. Sasuke gave the figure a skeptical look, reaching out his hand and turning on the light.

Naruto glared at his best friend when light filled the room, clearly irritated. Just a little way away, in various states of standing and sitting in the small office, stood Neji, TenTen, Sakura, Kankuro, Hinata, and Shino. It seemed as if Naruto had also roped Kiba into whatever he was plotting as the boy was standing next to Kankuro and Shino with his large white dog, Akamaru.

“Sasuke, can’t you just play along for once!” Naruto whined as the others laughed. Sasuke rolled his eyes at Naruto’s antics as he walked to the others. He barely managed to squeeze in between Sakura and Hinata.

“What are you plotting this time?” Sasuke asked, leaning against the wall and crossing his arms in front of his chest. He had homework that needed to get done before tomorrow and he didn’t want to waste time on one of Naruto’s hare brained schemes.

Naruto grinned brightly as he stood in the middle of the room, pointing to several papers he had taped to the wall. They looked like diagrams, many with poorly drawn stick figures and names.

“I don’t know about the rest of you,” Naruto said loudly, “But I for one am sick and tired of Gaara and Lee pussy footing around each other when clearly they’re crazy about each other, ya know?” a small murmur of agreement went through the group. Sasuke rolled his eyes.

So that’s what this meeting was about. Sasuke sighed, guilt still tinging the edges of his mind from the last week. He hated himself for ever wishing Lee would forget about Gaara. Lee had improved slightly this week but Sasuke could still see that hurt in his friend’s eyes. That painful loneliness.

“You want to try and get them together don’t you?” Sasuke guessed and Naruto glared at him pointedly.

“Shut up bastard, I’m on a roll,” Naruto commented before turning back to the rest of the group. “So tomorrow at the fair, we are going to get those two to finally confess their feelings for each other!” the blond dramatically pointed to the paper he had taped high above the others.

“I call it Operation: Soaring Youth!” Naruto exclaimed excitedly, turning to grin towards his friend. “You can now ask your questions.” Sasuke scoffed, smirking at his friend.

“How come you don’t put this kind of effort into your school work, idiot?” Sasuke teased and Naruto’s shoulders slumped slightly as he turned towards Hinata, who had shyly raised her hand.

“Hinata,” Naruto said happily, folding his arms in front of his chest with a bright grin on his face. “I bet you have a good question!”

The Hyuuga looked to the ground shyly, pushing her fingertips together as her face went bright red.

“H-how do you propose we get them to admit their feelings?” She asked quietly. “T-they are barely speaking to each other at the moment…” Naruto turned towards his papers, smacking the wall as he slammed his hand on one paper in particular. Hinata jumped at the sound and Sakura smiled gently at her before glaring at Naruto for scaring Hinata.

The paper Naruto had pointed out was hand drawn in crayon. It was a map of the fair.

“I snuck into the fairgrounds the other night and scoped the place out.” Naruto said, walking behind the desk where he had set up a series of books and small objects to look like the layout of the fair. Sasuke rolled his eyes.

“Okay, so we will all have walkie talkies and will divide into groups that will seem normal.” Naruto explained, taking out a small green car and a red car. He took out a purple car, grey car and black car and pointed at Hinata, Shino and Kankuro.

“Kankuro, Hinata, Shino. I want you to stay with Gaara.” Naruto said, placing the small cars next to the red one. “Sakura, Neji, TenTen all of you will be with Lee. The goal is to lead them through the fair until you arrive at the Ferris wheel, which is being controlled by Kiba this year.” Kiba nodded, raising a hand and smirking at the group. Kankuro raised a skeptical brow as Naruto wheeled the small cars to a hamster wheel on the table that represented the Ferris wheel.

“Why the Ferris wheel?” Kankuro asked, confused by the odd placement for the meeting. Naruto grinned slyly.

“I am glad you asked!” Naruto said happily but Sasuke spoke first with a heavy sigh.

“Because not only is it Lee’s favorite ride, it’s romantic and easy to sabotage.” Sasuke said boredom heavy in his voice. Naruto tossed a yellow car at the Uchiha’s head. Sasuke dodged as the car broke against the wall.

“Shut up and let me finish Bastard.” Naruto snapped as the rest of the group laughed. Kankuro sighed and rolled his eyes.

“Can you two stop bickering like an old married couple long enough to finish the plan.” Kankuro stated sarcastically, making both the boys blush red. Sasuke looked down at the ground, not meeting his friend’s eyes as Naruto cleared his throat and turned back to the plan.

“When the two birds are finally in the same booth and have reached the top of the wheel, Sakura will signal Kiba, who will signal me and Sasuke. We will then break the engine, stopping the Ferris wheel for at least an hour!" Naruto exclaimed, smiling with wide eyes at the rest of the group. “The rest will be up to them but all we need to do is give them the opportunity!”

The group exchanged glances with each other, some nodding while others sighed. Neji raised a brow at Naruto, not sure if the boy was a genius or just really lucky. Naruto put his hands on his hips, puffing out his chest.

“So, who’s in?” the blond asked, looking around the room for support. The teens whispered amongst themselves for a moment, seemingly on the fence about if they could pull this whole elaborate plan off.

“This could actually work if we do it right.” Neji said, looking over the plans with a careful eye. It would take effort to pull off but if it meant Lee would finally stop moping and finally return that bright grin to his best friends face, he would do anything. He looked up at Naruto with a curt nod.

“I’m in.” he said with a small, determined smile. Hinata smiled her gentle smile as she nodded. Sakura sighed and placed one hand on her left hip.

“Someone has to keep you guys in check.” The pink haired girl stated with a bright smile. Kankuro grunted in agreement as Kiba nodded with a wolfish grin, Akamaru barking his agreement. Shino shrugged, adjusting his glasses with his middle finger as he nodded. TenTen stood next to Neji and pumped her fist in the air.

“For Lee and Gaara!” She shouted and everyone raised their fists in the air, cheering loudly in unison.

“For Lee and Gaara!”


 

Lee walked into his home and toed off his bright orange running shoes. It had been a wonderful day for a run, so after he had come home he had headed straight out. He loved the feeling of running in the cold weather of fall. The crisp, clean air always left him feeling exhilarated.

Lee hung up his jacket on the coat rack and noticed voices talking quietly in the kitchen. Curious, Lee walked towards the room. He briefly froze as he recognized one of the voices.

“It isn’t uncommon for children of Lee’s…background, to try and cheat their way around the system.” Mr. Shimura’s voice said crisply, as if reading from a textbook. A small huff escaped the next voice.

“That may be the case but it is uncommon for our Lee to do anything remotely close to cheating.” Kakashi stated as Lee leaned against the outside wall of the kitchen. He tried to be quiet as he listened to his teacher and his father’s speak.

“I understand you want to believe the best of your son, but given the…environment in which he was raised I am inclined to investigate when one of my less successful students suddenly gets a good grade on a test.” Gai cleared his throat, sounding slightly irritated by whatever Mr. Shimura was insinuating.

“Danzo, Lee may have his struggles due to his learning disability,” Gai stated calmly, an edge on the corners of his voice. “But he would never cheat on a test.” Kakashi chuckled a little and Lee could practically hear the man smirking beneath his mask.

“Besides, I’d like to think if he did cheat he’d a least give himself a C level grade rather than an A. it’s a little obvious that he cheated if he did that. I would like to think I taught him better than that.” Kakashi said sarcastically. Lee had to cover his mouth to fight back his laughter. Mr. Shimura must have been seething with rage by now.

“I suppose I will just have to take this to Hiruzen and get him to look into it if you won’t punish your child.” Mr. Shimura said his voice slightly strained. “But I am afraid I will not be putting this test in as Lee’s grade, he will be getting a zero.” Lee’s jaw dropped. He had earned that grade by working harder than anyone else and he wasn’t even going to get credit for it?

Gai’s next words were filled with contempt, an emotion Lee rarely heard from his normally happy, easy going father.

“That is not fair, if Lee is innocent than he earned that good grade and should get his reward for it.” Gai defended, anger apparent in his voice. Kakashi made a small noise of agreement.

“Yes Danzo, if I were in this position I would at least hold off on entering the grade until after an investigation has occurred. It’s not exactly fair to punish him in the likely event he’s done nothing wrong.” Kakashi stated, the sound of a chair scrapping on the floor as it slid backward. Danzo chuckled, the sound sending shivers up Lee’s spine. He was starting to like his teacher less and less.

“Well, good teachers often do things differently, Hatake.” Mr. Shimura said coolly, making Lee clench his fists at the obvious dig at his father. “Now, if you’ll excuse me. I will be taking my leave.” Lee clenched his fists and decided to walk into the kitchen, plastering on a fake grin as he did so.

“Hello Gai-sensei, Kakashi.” Lee said as he walked in, trying to hide his boiling rage as he looked at his English teacher. The stern looking man was almost as old as Mr. Sarutobi, his brown hair combed neatly as his cold, dark eyes looked at Lee. His “X” shaped scar looked particularly deep in the light of the kitchen.

“Hello Mr. Shimura, how are you today?” Lee asked happily, deciding to take the high road despite the sinking feeling in his chest. He had no idea why this man hated him so much but he was confident he would change the teachers mind with a little more hard work.

“Mr. Maito-Hatake, we were just discussing your grade on the test earlier.” Mr. Shimura stated as he looked Lee over, scrutinizing his appearance as he did so and Lee felt oddly uncomfortable.

“Oh yes, I worked really hard to get a good grade.” Lee said flashing his normal thumbs up. “Although my friends helped me study and Neji was kind enough to tutor me every day after martial arts practice. If I keep it up, I know I will get a good grade next time as well.” Mr. Shimura nodded slowly before walking past Lee, giving him a small nod.

“We shall see Mr. Maito-Hatake.” Mr. Shimura said, turning slightly towards Gai and Kakashi. He gave a small nod of farewell, a smirk on his face. “Have a pleasant evening. Sir…Ma’am.” Lee’s spine stiffened at the man’s blatant insult towards Kakashi and his rage finally came to a head, he turned to snap at the man but Gai put a gentle hand on his shoulder.

Lee looked up and sighed, crossing his arms in front of him. He was starting to dislike that man more and more with every word he said. The front door opened and closed, Lee turned to his fathers’.

“I did not cheat on that test!” Lee said indignantly, tears gathering in his eyes as Gai reached over to smooth Lee’s hair. “He…I do not know what I have done but he hates me!” Kakashi sighed heavily, squeezing the bridge of his nose as he shut his eyes.

“It has nothing to do with you Lee,” Kakashi reassured as he lowered his hand and looked down at his distressed son. “Danzo has had a grudge against both Sarutobi and I since I started working at the school. It was just bad luck you ended up in his class.” Lee wrinkled his brow, unsure if he should question his father further.

He decided that knowing would not change Danzo’s attitude toward him nor could he even guarantee his father would even answer. Lee remained silent, scowling at the door where Danzo had left. He would have to think of a way to solve this problem on his own.

Gai cleared his throat, putting an arm around his lover and his son’s shoulders. Kakashi leaned into the solid body and Lee smiled a little, happy his family had had such faith in him. They hadn’t believed for even a moment he had cheated on his test.

“We can figure this out in the morning,” Gai offered, leading his family to the door. His wide grin making the whole room feel warm. “How about all of us go out to eat, my treat.” Kakashi smiled under his mask as they walked up to the door.

The family slipped on their shoe, grabbed their jackets quickly and headed out of the house. Gai grabbed his keys off the table by the door and closed the door behind them. They made their way to the car with happy grins despite the cold. Lee was happy to have such a wonderful family, grateful for his understanding fathers’

He wished this moment could last forever.


 

Gaara sighed as he collapsed onto his bed, his head pounding from his studying and speech writing. He had managed to win the debate this time around, putting his strongest opponent in their place. Shigure Ame was ruthless and intelligent, he argued his points flawlessly and almost managed to beat Gaara in the verbal battle.

Almost.

His arrogance had been his downfall however and Gaara had taken great enjoyment out of proving the man wrong. Particular when he suggested getting rid of “useless clubs” and listed the LGBT club as one of them. Gaara managed to contain his annoyance at the suggestion.

Gaara let out a sigh, he should call Lee but he was too nervous. He had spoken to Lee earlier today but that had just been an awkward conversation about political things for his campaign. Gaara wanted to help the LGBT club so he decided to man up and at least visit Lee on a professional basis.

The meeting had gone smoothly but awkwardness had hung in the air. Neither male had met the other’s eyes, kept their answers short and to the point. Gaara had left as quickly as he could. He had mentioned going to the fair on Saturday but the logical side of him had screamed at him not to.

Gaara groaned as he rubbed at his eyes, feeling exhausted after his hectic day. His medication had been working again and Shukaku was quiet. He enjoyed the silence, relishing in the peace he now had as he stood up.

He decided that a shower would be a good idea and he walked over to his dresser and opened his underwear drawer. His eyes lifted to the top of the dresser and his heart gave a flutter.

Sitting at the top of the dresser, was the photo album Lee had given him for his belt promotion present. Gaara reached for the book, feeling the smoothness of the front cover as he opened it up to the first photo.

With each turn of the page, Gaara’s heart ached even more. His chest felt heavy as he sat on the floor, skimming through pictures. Lee seemed to be on every page, smiling and laughing. He missed Lee. He missed talking to him, sparring with him and texting.

Gaara sighed. He shouldn’t be feeling this way at all. It wasn’t like Lee was gone, he was still there and Gaara wanted to apologize.

But was it really worth it?

He had already tried to push his friend away once. He had already fallen off taking his medication and skipped out on therapy. What if he did that again? What if the next time it happened, Naruto wasn’t there to drag him back out of his darkness? Did he really want Lee to see him fall back into his old habits?

His lapse of judgement the previous month was only showing how little he deserved Lee, his friends and forgiveness. Gaara closed the book with a snap, laying it gently on his bed as he left his room and headed for the bathroom on the second floor.

A cold shower and some sleep would help get his mind off his problems, even if only for a few dreamless hours.


 

The next day was cool and fresh feeling as the fair was buzzing with the excitement. It was late afternoon when they arrived at the familiar grounds, Lee looked around the many booths with Neji, TenTen and Sakura. He had originally met all five of his friends at his home, saying they would probably see the others at the fair when they got there.

Lee was almost glad. He was still nervous about seeing Gaara. He didn’t want to make the red head uncomfortable and since the red head was still not answering his text messages, Lee tried not to be irritated.

He tried not to focus on the curling of nervousness in his gut but rather the fun he would be having at the fair. He was practically jumping with happiness, energy at an all-time high. The bustling of the people as they walked around, the rides, booths and overall joy of the event. Lee loved the fall fair and looked forward to the celebration ever year.

Kakashi and Gai had wandered off early in the day, confident that the children could care for themselves. There was so much to do as Lee dragged his friends around the fair.

“Let us go see the petting zoo next!” Lee exclaimed, running far ahead of the group but still not losing sight of them. “No, let us look at some of the booths!” He wanted to get started on all the fun now.

Neji shook his head, rolling his eyes at his friend while TenTen snorted at Lee’s antics. Naruto looked up at the sky. The sun was starting to get lower, almost time to set the plan into motion. Naruto nodded towards Sasuke. The Uchiha nodded, he might as well take this seriously if Naruto was going to drag him into it anyway.

“Let’s go with the booths.” TenTen suggested, pointing towards a purple booth with several art pieces hanging up. “We can look at them as we make our way to the rides.”  She wanted to distract Lee as Naruto slipped away with Sasuke.

Grabbing onto either sleeve of Lee’s green track jacket, Sakura and TenTen dragged the youth to the nearest booth to look. Neji turned to Naruto. The blond handed the Hyuuga a walkie talkie with a serious expression on his face.

“We’re going to find Team Browless, you take Lee and the rest of Team Bushy Browed to the Ferris wheel after we confirm that Gaara is in place.” Naruto said as Neji nodded. Sasuke let out a sigh and rolled his eyes at the codenames. Naruto was so childish.

“It will be harder to convince Gaara to go on the Ferris wheel, we’ll have to figure out how to convince him.” Sasuke noted as he followed after Naruto. The blond just smiled brightly at Sasuke, grabbing the Uchiha by the wrist as he dragged him off further into the fair.

“Don’t worry Sasuke, this will work or my name isn’t Naruto Uzumaki!” Naruto reassured the dark haired teen. Sasuke smiled at Naruto once the blond wasn’t looking, letting himself be led to their destination. He didn’t complain when they slowed down, Naruto’s hand still wrapped firmly around his wrist.

“There they are!” Naruto whispered as he hid behind a game booth. Gaara was walking with Hinata and Shino, talking with them as the group looked at several handmade necklaces. Naruto waved over to Kankuro, who casually walked up to them once Gaara was safely distracted by something Hinata showed him.

“What’s the plan kid?” Kankuro asked, trying to appear casual as Naruto handed him the black walkie talkie. The older teen pocketed it, his eyes never leaving his brother as Naruto spoke.

“Convince Gaara to get on the Ferris wheel, he has to be in the same cabin as Lee. We’ll tell you over the walkie talkie when Lee is in place. He usually likes to go around sunset so try to be in line by then.” Naruto stated, pointing at the sky. The sun was starting to get low, it would be sunset soon. Best to start heading there now.

“How am I going to convince Gaara to go on the-.” Kankuro started before locking eyes on Hinata. His lips curled into a sly grin, it was a well-known fact his brother had a soft spot for the pale eyed girl. “Never mind, I got this. We’ll have him there at sunset, just keep up your end.” Naruto gave a small salute.

“Got it, we’re heading over to the rendezvous point now and should be there in about thirty minutes.” Naruto stated as Kankuro walked towards Hinata. The blond and the Uchiha took off for their destination as Kankuro approached Hinata.

He leaned down near her ear, trying to keep his voice low enough so Gaara wouldn’t hear. His brother seemed distracted enough by something made of sand stone as Kankuro leaned next to Hinata stiffened for a moment as Kankuro spoke.

“Hinata, convince Gaara that you want to ride the Ferris wheel and that he should come with you. He’ll come right on if you say you’re scared or something.” Kankuro whispered and the Hyuuga looked up at him wide eyed.

“B-but I don’t like heights…” She stammered, face turning red in embarrassment. Kankuro shrugged, giving the shy girl his gentlest smile. Hinata was as innocent as they came and Kiba often said how much like a little sister she was to him. Kankuro made a note not to ever hurt the girl.

“You don’t have to actually get on, in fact running off last minute because you’re scared could work for us.” Kankuro assured her, standing up as Gaara approached them. Hinata flushed red as she turned to Gaara.

“G-Gaara, I want to ride the Ferris wheel but…I’m too scared to go by myself.” Hinata stammered, pushing her fingers together in her nervousness. She didn’t like lying to her friend but if it meant both Gaara and Lee could finally be happy together. Hinata bit her lip and steeled her resolve.

“Will you ride it with me?” she asked, looking up into Gaara’s teal eyes with determination and fire. Gaara gave her a quizzical look before nodding slowly. He got the feeling everyone was hiding something today.

The red head shook it off as Hinata grabbed his sleeve, pulling him toward the Ferris wheel, Hinata was too kind and would never do anything sneaky or underhanded so he had little to worry about.

Shino jogged after them with Kankuro falling behind slightly. The line for the Ferris wheel wasn’t very long as they approached it, standing in back. The noise of the people as they talked was making Gaara feel slightly suffocated. He hoped they could leave after this.

So far he had managed to avoid Lee and the others. He knew that he was supposed to be there to hang out with Lee and the others but the thought of being around Lee after the way he had acted sent a cold chill gripping his heart.

Gaara let out a sigh, he missed Lee’s warm presence. The meeting yesterday had reminded him why he had developed feelings for the teen in the first place. Every little thing Lee had done, every little physical tick Gaara had picked up on, made his heart ache with longing and regret.

He wished he could fix this mess he had made.

“Hey look Gaara, its Lee and the rest of them.” Kankuro said with a smirk, waving his hand over to Neji and the others. “Oi Hyuuga, TenTen, Haruno, and Lee, over here!” he called out.

Lee paled when he saw Gaara waiting in line with the others by the Ferris wheel. His heart pounded in his chest as teal eyes met his brown. Lee tried to turn around.

“I do not think I want to ride the Ferris wheel so much anymore.” Lee said nervously, trying to walk away. TenTen and Sakura grabbed his arms, scowling as they drug him over to the line with Neji pushing his shoulders.

“Lee, I’m sure you’ll be fine.” Sakura reassured as they pulled him into the line. “You can ride with me, it’ll be fun.” as they finally stopped by the line behind Gaara and the others. Sakura pushed her way next to Hinata, blocking Lee in next to Gaara.

Lee smiled nervously, not meeting Gaara’s eyes as the other male blinked at him. The tension gathered in the air as the line began to move. Neither male said anything as they walked forward for a few minutes. When the line stopped, Hinata leaned to whisper to Sakura.

“I sure hope this works…they seem so nervous.”  Hinata said quietly and Sakura nodded, sighing. She desperately hoped this worked. She had faith in Naruto’s schemes to work, even elaborate ones like this.

“Naruto will pull through, don’t worry.” Sakura whispered back as the line began to move forward again, waving three fingers towards Kiba as he stood at the control panel. The silver eyed male nodded and moved to raise his own signal just as Gaara and Lee came up in line.

Sakura nodded to Hinata, eyes serious as they both got behind their friends. When the next cab was pulled up, the people vacated it as Kiba stood by the door to hold it open, the brunette male smirked and gestured towards the cab just as the girls shoved the boys forward into the cab.

Gaara stumbled into the seat, followed by Lee as the door to the small cab was closed by Kiba. The male smirked, pulling the lever and hauling the cab upward before Gaara could wrap his head around what had just happened.

Lee sat down on the seat, still in shock from being shoved into the cab by his friends. He froze as he realized who was sitting next to him. The very person he had wanted to avoid and Lee tried to look anywhere but at Gaara. This was the exact opposite of what he had wanted to do.

Gaara stared at Lee for a moment as he adjusted himself on the cold metal chair. He knew immediately he had been tricked.

“This has Naruto written all over it.” Gaara thought exasperatedly, closing his eyes as he squeezed the bridge of his nose as he tried to think. The ride wouldn’t last too long if Gaara remembered correctly. He would only have to endure this awkward silence for a few minutes then he could run home before Lee decided to jump out of the cab to get away from him. Well at least this situation couldn’t get any worse.

Suddenly, a loud clanking noise and a sputter filled the air just as their cab lifted to the top of the wheel. The whole ride jolted to a stop and Gaara swore out loud as he looked out the side of the cab. A bright orange streak was taking off away from the engine along with a small black figure as what appeared to be security chased after them. Gaara’s eyes narrowed.

Naruto. He was going to kill the blond when he got down from here. Gaara sighed, leaning back against the chair. The cab rocked slightly back and forth. The sun was setting behind the clouds, staining the sky crimson, orange and pink.

Lee scratched his head, grinning at Gaara nervously. He looked like he had no idea what to say as he looked out onto the horizon. He should at least try to say something, who knew how long they would be stuck here.

“Well at least the view in nice.” Lee tried to reassure, scratching the back of his head. Gaara looked out as the sky started to grow dark. The sight took his breath away.

Lights from the fair below glowed blue, yellow and pink as they slowly started to dominate the scenery. The pretty lights drowned out the stars as they covered the area, people dashing around the ground below. They seemed so tiny from this high up.

As the sun finally disappeared, Gaara felt the temperature drop considerably and he realized he hadn’t brought a jacket. The former desert dweller shivered as the cool air hit his skin. Goose bumps covered his arms as Gaara huddled into himself, fighting to keep warm.

“Here Gaara, take my jacket.” Lee said as he took off his green track jacket and wrapped it around Gaara’s shoulders, letting his hands linger for a brief moment before letting go. Lee bit his lip, his heart screaming for another touch. He couldn’t lose his control here, especially after the trouble the almost kiss had caused.

 The red head nodded, thankful for the warmth that radiated off the garment. The scent of Lee filled his senses and Gaara felt his heart ache painfully. This was the closest he had been to Lee in weeks, he wanted so desperately to move closer.

Several moments passed in obstinate silence, neither male wanting to speak it seemed but their thoughts speaking volumes. Lee let out a heavy sigh and turned towards Gaara, expression serious. If he wanted to make up for his mistakes, he needed to swallow his fear and nervousness. Lee would never have another opportunity like this again.

“I am so sorry Gaara.” Lee blurted out, making the red head turn to him. Gaara raised a non-existent brow. What could Lee possibly have to apologize for? Gaara had been the one to create this awkward rift between them with his actions.

Lee looked out on the fair, eyes looking sad. Gaara felt his heart clench in pain, Lee should never look that defeated.

“I should have never tried to kiss you at the beach cabin…I should have realized you did not feel the same way…” Lee stammered out, resting his elbows on his knee as he laid his face in his hands. “I am sorry…” That was all Lee could think to say to make up for his mistake.

He bit his lip as he searched Gaara’s expression for a reaction, for some kind of indicator that he was forgiven or forsaken. He just wanted his friend back.

Gaara blinked, taking in the slumped form of his friend, the boy he cared so deeply for. Lee thought Gaara had tried to push him away because of that would-be kiss. He thought that Gaara was somehow unwilling to kiss him. He thought Gaara didn’t want him.

Gaara thought back to Kimimaro, how he had callously refused Lee’s affections and manipulated the kind hearted boy’s feelings. Gaara felt his heart squeeze painfully. He didn’t want Lee to think that because Gaara was holding him away, that it was because he didn’t have feelings for his friend.

When the exact opposite was the truth.   

“Lee, I didn’t stop talking to you because I didn’t want you to kiss me.” Gaara said slowly, looking at his hands in his lap. “I would have…very much liked it…if you had kissed me.” Lee’s head jerked up, he blinked in shock as he turned to Gaara. Had he just said…?

The red head’s cheeks were flushed as he tried to remain occupied with staring at his hands. Gaara sighed heavily as he continued.

“Lee, I don’t deserve you or your affection.” Gaara said softly, it was just barely loud enough for Lee to hear as he leaned over. “I was trying to push you away…so you could find something meaningful with someone who could give you their whole heart…not just the broken pieces that are left of it.”

Lee was silent for a moment as he blinked at Gaara. He was still stuck on Gaara wanting him to kiss him. That meant that…Gaara had wanted him to kiss him, Gaara liked him too…

Lee reached over suddenly to take his friends right wrist. His heart hammered loudly in his chest as Gaara’s teal gaze looked up, boring into Lee’s brown eyes. Gaara looked confused as Lee laid his other hand over the back of the chair for balance he leaned forward, closing his eyes as he did so.

Gaara’s breath hitched just seconds before Lee’s lips gently laid down on his. Gaara’s eyes widened for a moment before closing in bliss. His heart exploded to life, fire raging in his chest as Lee kissed him. Every nerve was on fire as Gaara laid his hands on Lee’s chest, not sure what to do.

Lee’s scent was all around him, Lee’s hands on his hips before arms slid around his waist as Lee pulled Gaara closer. Body’s pressed together, Lee’s heart beating under his hands as sounds drowned out in the background. Gaara’s heart hammered in his chest as reality seemed to become fuzzy.

The only thing that existed here was Lee.

Lee’s lips were as soft as Gaara had imagined as he lifted his hands and tangled his fingers in soft black locks. Lee pulled away slightly, breathless as he focused heated eyes on Gaara. His cheeks were flushed but his smile wide as he laid rough fingers against Gaara’s cheek as the teen murmured at the contact.

“I do not care what you think I deserve Gaara.” Lee said quietly as the fingers of his other hand tangled in Gaara’s hair. “I want you. All of you. Even the parts you think are broken” Gaara stared at Lee’s wide round eyes once more.

They held no malice, only fondness and deep caring. Gaara was so unused to those emotions. His heart ached hollowly but felt so warm. He wanted so desperately to understand these feelings for Lee, maybe giving into them would be the first step.

Gaara closed his eyes again as Lee pressed his forehead to his, his eyes welling with tears as Lee leaned forward to kiss Gaara’s love tattoo that he had adorned on his forehead. Gaara blinked them away.  Lee pulled back for another moment, eyes shining with emotion and warmth.

“Can I kiss you again, Gaara?’ Lee asked softly, swiping a rough thumb over Gaara’s cheek. Gaara felt a shiver go up his spine as he thought for a moment. He didn’t deserve Lee at all but somehow the dark haired teen wanted him anyway. How could he pass on something that felt as wonderful as the feeling of Lee’s arms around him?

“Yes Lee, I’d like that very much.” Gaara replied, mouth feeling dry as the older teen pulled him close again, ghosting soft lips over Gaara’s own just before pressing them against his again. The fireworks set off in Gaara’s body, every fiber of his being on fire. Gaara was better prepared this time and settled into the kiss, returning it as best he could.

When they finally pulled apart, their cheeks were flushed and lips swollen as they breathed heavily. The air around them came out in white puffs as the temperature dropped further. It was cold and Gaara shivered as Lee pulled him into his arms.

Gaara sighed as he pressed his cold body to Lee. The bushy browed teen always seemed to radiate warmth like a furnace and Gaara cuddled closer. Being so close to Lee was better than he had imagined.

Lee bit his lip as Gaara settled against him, his heart skipping a beat. He was trying not to worry but they should talk about this before leaping into anything. Gaara had never been in a relationship, had never seen a properly functioning one and barely understood his emotions normally. Lee wasn’t much better off in relationship department but at least he had his fathers’ relationship as an example.

Gaara covered himself with Lee’s jacket, closing his eyes as he rested his head on Lee’s chest. He listened to Lee’s heartbeat and Lee nuzzled Gaara’s hair with a content sigh.  

"Gaara," Lee asked suddenly, question in his voice. "Does this mean...I mean will you..."

Gaara looked up quizzically, unsure what Lee was trying to ask. Lee took a deep breath, calming his beating heart. 

"Will you be my boyfriend Gaara?" Lee finally asked, his heart in his ears as he waited for an answer. 

Gaara hesitated for a moment before giving Lee a small smile.

"Yes, I would like that very much Lee." He replied, heart warmin at the wide grin that spread across Lee's face. 

Lee's heart felt like it would explode with all the happiness and he was going to hold onto it as long as he could.


 

Naruto laid his head against the hay bales that had formed their hiding place, breathing heavily as he grinned brightly at Sasuke. The Uchiha was trying to control his breathing as his lungs screamed at him.

“I think we lost him.” Naruto said breathlessly as Sasuke nodded. He was still in shock as his brain tried to wrap around what had happened at the Ferris wheel. “I really didn’t expect that security guy to be there. But at least we got those two idiots some time to talk.”

Sasuke nodded, pulling his knees to his chest in the small space. He hoped that Naruto’s plan had worked. If Gaara cared about Lee as much as Naruto claimed the red head did, then everything should go well.

Sasuke just hoped Gaara had more courage than he did, enough courage to tell Lee how he felt. Enough courage to let himself be happy. Sasuke thought back to the few moments before they had gotten caught by the security guard, when he had almost made a huge mistake.

Naruto pulled out several wires from the engine for the Ferris wheel, the machine sputtering and whirring as the large structure halted. Naruto let out a cry of success.

“Yes, we did it Sasuke!” Naruto laughed, hugging Sasuke around the neck with his wide smile. “It’s all up to them now.”  Sasuke stiffened at the closeness of his best friend, the force of the hug knocking him backward. His head buzzed as he grabbed onto Naruto’s waist in an effort to balance himself.

Naruto pulled away slightly, his face turning red as he met Sasuke’s dark eyes. Sasuke felt his heart skip a beat as Naruto leaned closer. His blue eyes shining at Sasuke with that light they always held in them.

“Sasuke…” Naruto whispered softly as he tilted his head. Sasuke froze as Naruto’s warm breath warmed his face.

“Hey you kids, what are you doing over there!” a voice shouted angrily as a security guard started jogging towards them. Naruto leapt away from Sasuke, seizing him by the wrist and bolting for the crowds.

The had finally found a pile of hay bales that were stacked on each other, crawling into to structure and hiding as the security guard ran past them.

Sasuke looked towards the ground as Naruto sat up, pulling his knees to his chest as he grinned at Sasuke. He was ashamed at his lack of self-control.

His heart was still beating from the close contact. Maybe he had been imagining the whole thing, Naruto was straight and there was nothing Sasuke could do about that. Sasuke couldn’t stand to lose his best friend, the only one who had ever cared about him no matter what.

Naruto’s hand reached out for Sasuke’s hand, the warm fingers drawing Sasuke’s attention back to the blond. Sasuke snorted at how ridiculous Naruto looked. Hay was tangled in his yellow locks, dirt covering the front of his orange shirt and his face.

“You’re a mess, idiot.” Sasuke chuckled and Naruto smirked at him as the Uchiha moved to take some of the hay out of his hair. Naruto laughed reaching up a thumb and swiping dirt off of Sasuke’s cheek.

“You’re not much better off bastard.” Naruto teased for a moment before his smile softened a little bit. That mischievous glint returned to his eyes, along with something tenderer, more heated.

Sasuke’s smile dissolved as he stared into those eyes he loved so much. He moved his hand down from Naruto’s unruly hair, cupping the scarred cheek with his left hand. Naruto leaned into it, his blue eyes shining.

Then in a blur, Naruto was kissing him. It wasn’t a long kiss, just a quick press of lips but it made Sasuke’s heart skip a beat, his heart feeling lighter than ever before.

Sasuke’s eyes widened in shock as Naruto pulled away quickly, face nervous as he looked up at him. He looked shocked with himself, paling as he tried to move away.

“S-Sasuke…I’m sorry I shouldn’t have.” Naruto stammered as he tried to pull away. He looked like he was about to cry or run. Sasuke blinked as Naruto stood on his knees, running his hand through his messy hair.

Sasuke watched Naruto as the blond panicked, his cheeks flushed in embarrassment. A slur of words and sentences fell from Naruto’s mouth as he tried to explain what had happened.

“I…I just…Sasuke I can’t…” Naruto said quickly, not meeting Sasuke’s eyes as the other male crawled over to him. “Fuck, I shouldn’t have done that…I just…I like you and…”

Sasuke reached his hand forward, fisting Naruto’s shirt and pulling the blond to him. He crashed his lips to his friends in a desperate kiss. Naruto murmured in surprise before settling into the kiss. Rough hands tangled in Sasuke’s hair as the teen pulled Naruto back into his lap.

When they parted, breathing heavy and smiles on their faces, Naruto tackled Sasuke to the floor in a hug. Sasuke was smiling a small but content smile as Naruto’s arms surrounded him.

“How long were you holding that back bastard?” Naruto huffed teasingly, smiling brightly at Sasuke in a way that made the Uchiha’s heart flutter. Sasuke’s cheeks dusted pink as he looked away slightly.

“S-since middle school.” Sasuke stammered, sounding annoyed as he glared at Naruto. “Why didn’t you tell me? After all that preaching to Lee about admitting your feelings and here you are holding this in!” Naruto laughed nervously.

“You just…you always refused all those girls who asked you out…even that one dude who did!” Naruto said, sitting heavily on the ground. He looked up at the tall stacks of hay and sighed.

“You never seemed interested in relationships or anything like that…I figured being your friend was easier than trying to…wait a minute, how long have you liked me?” the blond said with a scowl. Sasuke looked at the ground, his blush darkening.

“I-I thought you were straight…so I didn’t think we would ever…didn’t think I had a chance.” Sasuke grumbled, he hated talking about these things. Naruto’s scowl faded slowly, turning into a gentle smile.

He reached for Sasuke’s hand, intertwining his fingers with the pale digits. Sasuke let him, sighing as he felt the familiar heat coming from Naruto. The blond was thinking so loudly Sasuke could almost hear the gears turning.

“Would you want to…take the chance I mean?” Naruto asked softly, looking up to search Sasuke’s face for some kind of answer. “I…I don’t think I can take loving you this much from far away anymore.” Sasuke bit his lip as he contemplated his answer.

Naruto’s eyes were wide, begging and uncertain. His lips between his own teeth as the blond bit them in his nervousness. Sasuke lifted his hand, skimming the fingers gently over tan skin before tangling them in golden locks of hair.

He had never been able to say no to that face, no way in hell was he going to start now.


 

Kakashi chuckled to himself as Gai walked on his hands as they made their way to the other side of the fair. Gai had lost their race to the petting zoo earlier, not only taking responsibility to drive home but also walking on his hands as part of his self-rule.

The few people that remained at the fair stared at them, some laughing but Kakashi sent glares their way. Gai ignored them though, smiling up at his lover. Kakashi gave a small chuckle as Gai winked at him.

“Gai, it’s getting late and we should be getting the kids home.” Kakashi pointed out after a quick glance at his watch. “Why not stand up so we can get there faster?”  It was almost ten and the fair would be closing down for the night soon. Gai stood up, wiping his hands on his jeans before slipping it into the back pocket of Kakashi’s jeans.

Kakashi’s eyes widened for a moment before he raised a brow at his partner, copying the motion and giving Gai’s ass a playful squeeze. Several other people stared, whispering as the two walked towards where the rides were set up. The pair ignored them, walking like they were the only ones there.

Kakashi sighed contentedly as he leaned into Gai, looking around the fair as it started to settle down for the evening. The lights of the fair looked stunning as they walked. Many of the people had gone home, the cold chasing them to warmer places in their homes.

He watched several of the stragglers, searching for his gaggle of teenagers. It wasn’t long before he spotted as familiar flash of bright green and turned towards where he had seen it. The petting zoo was still open surprisingly, several animals still moving about.

Lee was gently petting the covered shell of a tortoise, the reddish creature eating lettuce out of Gaara’s outstretched hand. Lee looked up at Gaara, smiling brightly as he talked. Kakashi let out a breath. Gaara and Lee seemed to be on better terms again. Maybe his son would be happy again and the red head had come to his senses.

Kakashi moved to call out to his son when Lee stood up, cheeks turning crimson as he whispered something to Gaara. The red head nodded slowly and Lee gently cupped Gaara’s cheek with his hand. Kakashi blinked as his son gently pressed his lips to Gaara’s forehead. The red head smiled up at Lee when he moved away.

Gaara reached for Lee’s hand, intertwining the fingers and lowering their hands as they walked away from the animals. Both teens seemed happy, completely unaware of anyone but themselves.

Kakashi’s heart skipped a beat as his brain processed what he had just seen, he felt a hand on his shoulders and he started slightly. He turned to look up at Gai, who was watching Lee and Gaara as they walked in the distance, tears streaming down his face. He had forgotten Gai’s presence from the shock of seeing his son with his new flame.

“I-I am so glad...” Gai said, “The shining light of their youth is so moving Kakashi!” Kakashi sighed and shook his head. He glanced at the hand on his shoulder, eyes softening. Of course Gai would be excited.

Kakashi took out his cell phone, dialing Lee’s phone number and holding it up to his ear as he watched his son in the distance. Lee paused, taking his phone out of his pocket after a moment of digging to answer.

“Yes Kakashi?” Lee asked over the phone, a slight hint of nervousness in his voice. Kakashi chuckled as he watched the boys. Gaara looking up at Lee, looking confused as Lee shuffled his feet nervously. Gai chuckled next to him, shaking his head.

“Yeah, do you and your new boyfriend want to stop holding hands long enough to turn around?” Kakashi teased. He watched Lee blink in surprise, turning his head and turning an impressive shade of red. Gaara turned to them as well, his cheeks tinging a little more pink as Lee led him over to Kakashi and Gai.

Gai gave Lee a thumbs up as he approached them, the proud smile on his face the widest Kakashi had ever seen.

“I see you finally took my advice,” Gai proclaimed as Lee nodded, looking over at Gaara shyly. Gaara flushed as Lee released his hand, giving his father a thumbs up. “I am so proud of you Lee, there is nothing like the warmth of love to make one’s youth truly worthwhile!” Kakashi sighed, moving to stand next to Gaara as Lee nodded animatedly.

“Here we go again…” Kakashi said with a chuckle as Gai continued on, Lee smiling brightly at his father as he listened intently to Gai’s speech. Gaara snorted slightly, shaking his head alongside Kakashi as they watched the father and son.

“Love is truly a precious gift, one that should be treasured until the end of your days.” Gai continued putting a hand on Lee’s shoulder, chest puffed out as he laughed. “And one day, if you work hard enough, your love may just be almost as strong as my love for Kakashi!”

Kakashi sighed again as he turned to Gaara, ignoring the rest of the speech as his one good eye met Gaara’s teal ones. The red head didn’t seem phased by the scrutinizing gaze as the older man cleared his throat.

“Do you care about my son Gaara?’ Kakashi asked the teen, looking him up and down as he did. Gaara nodded after a moment, glancing at Lee from the corner of his eye. Kakashi caught the subtle softening of Gaara’s gaze.

“Yes, I care about him,” Gaara said simply, his hand ghosting over his heart as his eyes refused to leave Lee. “I do not understand my exact feelings yet but…I care about Lee very much.”

Gaara looked up at Kakashi, gaze hardening again as he cleared his throat.

“Good, because it will be very…inconvenient if you break his little green heart. Inconvenient for me because I will have to pick up the pieces and very inconvenient for you because you will be in pieces.” Kakashi threatened with fake sweetness dripping off his voice as the other members of their group approached. He smiled under his mask, making his eye crinkle as he put a hand on Gaara’s shoulder. Gaara stiffened under the too strong grip as his friends walked up next to him.

“Glad we had this talk.” Kakashi chirped as he walked towards Gai, hoping to pull the man out of his tangent about youth. Lee turned to Gaara after Kakashi interrupted Gai, smiling brightly as Gaara reached for his hand. Lee lifted the hands, wrapping his warm hands around them and pressing the cold fingers to his lips.

TenTen whooped loudly, throwing an arm around Kankuro and Shino’s shoulders. Sakura hugged Hinata with one arm, pumping a fist in the air. The little Hyuuga flushed deeply but smiled widely. Kankuro ruffled his brother’s hair.

“Temari owes me twenty bucks, she thought it wouldn’t happen.” Kankuro teased, smirking at his brother. “Just don’t go making out on the couch when I’m home.” Lee turned red again as he hid his face in his hand.

Neji put a gentle hand on Lee’s shoulders as the dark haired teen took away his hand from his face to give Neji a thumbs up. Naruto soon came into view, followed by Sasuke and took one look at Lee and Gaara before running to tackle the two teens into a hug.

“Finally,” Naruto exclaimed, arms slung around Gaara and Lee’s shoulders. “I thought it would never happen!” Gaara gave Naruto a small look as the group began to walk towards their cars. Gaara raised a non-existent brow at his friend.

“Yes, if the Ferris wheel hadn’t broken down we may have never admitted out feelings to one another.” Gaara said, his eyes watching as Naruto stiffened, rubbing the back of his head.

“Y-yeah…I guess that was pretty lucky.” Naruto said nervously, exchanging a glance with Sasuke. The Uchiha shrugged at him as he walked, not meeting the blond’s eyes.

“Yes,” Gaara said, pretending to look up at the sky. “And when I looked to see what was wrong with the engine…I could have sworn I saw an orange streak dragging what looked to be Sasuke as security chased after them…but I must have been seeing things.”

Naruto stiffened further as a Kakashi turned to the blond. He narrowed his eyes at the teen as Naruto laughed nervously, looking at Sasuke nervously for back up.

“Naruto…” Kakashi said as the teen gulped, chuckling a little as he started to back away from Kakashi.

“Well…the thing is…” Naruto explained as he looked around to his friends for support. Sakura shook her head, Neji raised a brow as Kankuro shrugged. Naruto turned to Sasuke, who shook his head with a small smirk. Naruto quickly looked at his wrist, as if looking at a watch.

“Well look at that…I should be going.” Naruto said as he turned to run, only to have his collar seized by Kakashi. The silver haired man glared down at the blond.

“You are in so much trouble when we get home.” Kakashi said as he pulled the blond to the car. The rest of the teens tittered in laughter as Naruto tried to sputter out an excuse.

Lee looked down at Gaara, his smile softening as he listened to his boyfriend laugh lightly. Lee felt warmth fill his heart as they followed the others out of the park grounds. His boyfriend’s soft fingers felt so perfect in his, it was almost terrifying.

Boyfriend, Gaara was his boyfriend. He would never get tired of saying that.

 


 

 

 

Chapter Text


 

Lee wiped away the steam from the mirror and stared at his reflection in the mirror as he dried his hair with a towel. His eyes looked back at him tiredly, evidence of his late night. Lee yawned as he pulled on his favorite pair of flower printed boxers just as his phone vibrated on the counter.

Lee grabbed the phone, flipping it open to view the message he had just received. A wide grin spread across his face as he read the sender name and read the message.

I don’t understand why you are so happy in the morning. But yes I took my pills and I’ll meet you at the school, Kankuro is driving me today.

Lee found himself grinning brightly as he texted Gaara back. His heart fluttered in his chest as he thought about what to say, what he wanted to say.

Okay Gaara, I can’t wait to see you today.

Setting his phone down again, Lee busied himself with getting dressed. He pulled on his blue jeans and buttoning them before pulling on a green long sleeved shirt that read “Fighting Dreamers” on the front in orange letters.

He combed his hands through his hair, flattening the shiny bowl cut just as his phone vibrated again. Lee grabbed his phone as he walked out into the hall, looking down at the screen as he flipped it open and smiled at the message.

I’m looking forward to seeing you too Lee.

Lee hummed to himself as he skipped down the stairs, jumping over the last two steps of the stairs to land onto the floor. He bounded into the kitchen, taking a plate of pancakes from Gai as he walked to the table. Kakashi looked over the top of his book and raised a brow at his son’s happy attitude.

“You’re sure chipper this morning,” Kakashi noted as he reached forward for his coffee cup. “It wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with you staying up all night to talk to a certain red head, would it?” Lee’s cheeks turned red as Gai let out a small chuckle, ruffling his son’s hair as he sat down between his partner and son.

Lee smiled sheepishly as he began eating his pancakes. His stomach filled with butterflies as he thought about the conversation he had with his boyfriend the night before.

His boyfriend, just thinking about the word made his heart flutter with affection and a large smile spread across his face. Gaara No Subaku had only been his boyfriend for two days and it still took all his willpower not to shout it out through the roof tops.

He and Gaara had spent the better part of the night speaking about how they wanted to go about this situation at school, whether they wanted to announce their relationship so soon. Gaara didn’t seem to know how to go about this either.

Nervousness filled Lee’s gut. They had agreed not to be too open about it, to keep hidden as best possible until later. Lee wasn’t particularly prone to public displays of affection anyway. With the bullying he already dealt with, he had agreed.

But that didn’t stop his daydreaming about holding Gaara’s hand.

“You best hurry up Lee, Neji will be here any minute.” Gai said as he took the empty plate his son had been staring at for several minutes, drawing Lee out of his thoughts. The teen’s eyes widened in surprise as he nodded.

“Sorry Gai-sensei, I was just thinking about school…” Lee said and Gai raised a brow at his son in question. Kakashi looked up from his book again and exchanged glances with Gai before setting it down on the table, resting his elbows on the wooden surface.

“We want you to be careful Lee, not everyone is as accepting as our family.” Kakashi warned, concern seeping into his voice and Lee knew he was serious. “Try to keep the PDA at a minimum and be careful who sees you.” Lee nodded, shoulders slumping slightly at the realization his fathers’ were right.

“We talked about it. Gaara and I plan on keeping things private, not doing anything at school until we are comfortable.” Lee explained as he turned to head for the door, his heart sinking slightly.

He slipped on his orange converse and reaching for his back pack, double checking that his English homework was still tucked safely in his green folder. Danzo had been even tougher on Lee after the incident with the test and Lee didn’t want to give the man an excuse to torment his fathers’ again.

He swung the bag over one shoulder just as someone knocked on the door. Lee smiled as he threw open the door, smiling widely as TenTen and Neji stood by the door.

“Good morning my springtime friends!” Lee exclaimed as he grinned at his best friends. TenTen hovered over her steaming cup of coffee, glaring at Lee with tiredness in her eyes. Neji blinked at his friend, sighing heavily as Gai and Kakashi walked to the front door.

“Lee, volume.” Neji scolded before turning to Gai and Kakashi. “Good morning Gai-sensei, Kakashi-sensei.” Lee smile at his friend apologetically. He was too excited to care too much as he bounced on his toes, ready to get out the door. Kakashi nodded towards Neji and TenTen and Gai smiled brightly at his students.

“Drive safely and have a good day.” Gai said jovially as Lee and the others walked out the door. Neji nodded towards his sensei.

“You as well Gai-sensei, we will see you at practice later.” Neji replied as Lee bolted out the door, shouting something that sounded like “See you later Gai-sensei, see you at school Kakashi” TenTen rolled her eyes as she grumbled a goodbye to her sensei and his partner.

Neji got into the car and pulled out of the drive to head for the school. The ride was relatively silent, Lee bouncing and smiling as he looked at the window. The trees were a multitude of colors from reds and orange to even the occasional yellow and green.

“Lee, calm down. I can hear your leg bouncing from up here.” TenTen said, coffee finally settling in her system. “I know you’re excited to see your boyfriend but some of us aren’t morning people.” Lee smiled sheepishly, cheeks flushing deep red for the second time that day.

“I am sorry TenTen, I will try to calm down.” Lee apologized. Neji shook his head, a small smile appearing on his face as they pulled into the school parking lot. He was happy that Lee had found some happiness.

Lee hopped out of the car and grabbed his back pack from the seat next to him. Neji and TenTen got out of the car just as a loud voice called out from across the parking lot.

“LEE, NEJI, TENTEN!” Naruto shouted as he ran over in a yellow and orange blur, attempting to tackle Lee. Lee side stepped and smiled at his friend as Sasuke walked up. The black haired boy shook his head at his friends.

“Hello Naruto, Sasuke, how are you this wonderful morning?” Lee asked as the group began to walk towards the doors. Lee looked around as he spotted groups of students still making their way onto the campus, searching for Gaara amongst them.

“Gaara’s hanging up posters with Hinata and Shino.” Sasuke stated, knowing who Lee was looking for. “He asked us to tell you to meet him there.” Lee nodded at his friends, bolting off past several groups of people as he rushed inside.

TenTen shook her head at Lee, smiling as she observed the thousand watt smile on the teen’s face. She was happy for Lee. After months of watching the boys pine after each other, she was glad they were stumbling into what hopefully would be a fulfilling relationship.

Neji raised a brow at some of their classmates as Lee ran past them. Most of them whispered amongst themselves until Lee walked close enough to hear and then they stared wide eyed at the round eyed teen.

Neji looked toward Naruto, raising a brow and the blond simply shrugged. They approached a group of freshman girls as they giggled, not noticing them as got close enough to catch a few snippets of the conversation.

“I heard that Gaara No Subaku is dating him.” One girl exclaimed with a snicker. “I mean who would have thought a hot guy like Gaara would be gay?” another girl snorted in response.

“Why Rock Lee of all people? Of all the guys to go for, he picks that weirdo?” she stated, crossing her arms in front of her and scowling. “I mean if you’re gonna be a faggot, at least pick a good looking guy. Rock Lee’s eyebrows take up like half his face!”

Naruto curled his fists but TenTen was the first to speak, walking up to the nearest girl and tapping her shoulder. The girl turned to see a very pissed off pair of brown eyes staring back at them.

“I advise rethinking that last statement before I stuff you into the nearest garbage can.” TenTen growled threateningly, making the freshman jump in surprise and instantly turn. “And where did you hear about Lee and Gaara?”

One of the girls gulped as her friends hid behind her, timid blue eyes looking up at TenTen with fright and submission.

“It-it’s all over the school…someone saw them at the fair on Saturday…” the teen stammered, shaking in her bright pink galoshes before running towards the door of the school. TenTen wrinkled her nose in distaste as she turned to Neji. The Hyuuga sighed audibly as Naruto swore out loud.

“Shit.” The blond stated and Sasuke nodded, rubbing his temple as if his head hurt. TenTen groaned in agreement, rubbing her eyes.

This was not going to end well.


 

Gaara taped the corner of the large poster to the wall, standing back to look and see if it was straight. The red and gold poster looked good on the white wall as it displayed the words “A Vote for Gaara, Is a Vote for Fairness” in large letters.

Hinata smiled at him as they moved to the next free space on the wall, preparing another poster as they stood in front of it. Shino was holding the last of the posters and Hinata held the role of tape. They would be done before class started at this rate.

“It looks very nice Gaara, I’m sure you’ll get a few more voters this way.” Hinata stated with a bright smile. Shino nodded as Gaara took the last poster from his arms. Gaara took a quick glance down the halls, searching for something briefly before turning to the wall to place the poster against it.

“Are you prepared for the speech you’ll have to give tomorrow?” Shino asked, adjusting his glasses now that his hands were free. Gaara nodded, taking a piece of tape from Hinata.

“Yes, I managed to finish it over the weekend.” Gaara replied as he finished hanging the poster. Hinata nodded, taking the tape and heading for their lockers. Gaara followed after her with Shino in tow.

“Will you be able to make the book club meeting next week?” Shino asks, raising a brow. “I know the final election debates will be that day.” Gaara bit his lip.

“I will try but I can’t make any promises.’ Gaara stated as he stopped by his locker, looking around the halls again. Hinata gave Shino a look, chuckling slightly as Gaara turned to her.

“What’s so funny?” Gaara asked as he put in his locker combination, taking out several textbooks and putting them in his back pack. Hinata’s eyes softened.

“You’re looking for Lee,” Hinata pointed out, whispering softly so the other students wouldn’t here. “I’m just so happy for you two.” Gaara felt his cheeks flush fiercely. Shino chuckled, smiling at his friends.

“Did you two decide how you would present this at school?” Shino asked, adjusting his glasses again as he opened his own locker, taking out his books. Gaara lifted his back pack back onto his shoulder.

“We are going to try to…” Gaara started when suddenly, he felt something hit his head and a small paper ball rolled at his feet. Gaara leaned down, picking up the ball and unfolding it. His eyes widened as he read the words “Gaara No Subaku is a filthy faggot!” in red permeant marker. Gaara turned towards the snickers he heard from behind him.

Shigure was standing there, smirking at him. The tall teen was flanked by his two friends, both wearing the same button up and tie that Shigure was wearing. Baiu and Madare were just flunkies with no actual brains between them

“Hello Gaara, good to see you.” Shigure said with a fake smile that grated on Gaara’s nerves. Shigure was a tall boy, his short brown hair sticking up like he had never heard of a comb. Gaara steeled his expression and met Shigure’s gaze steadily.

“Shigure, is this yours?” Gaara asked, holding up the paper. Shigure shrugged as his two friends snickered. Hinata and Shino shared a look and came to stand beside Gaara, expressions hard.

“No, we found that on your locker earlier and took the liberty of removing it.” Shigure said smoothly, adjusting his tie. Gaara narrowed his eyes. After many debates with his opponent, he had learned to recognize his tells. Adjusting his tie meant he was lying.

“Well thank you for that then.” Gaara stated, turning back towards his locker in hopes of ending this conversation. Shigure chuckled, not letting Gaara off that easily.

“The whole school is talking about it though,” Shigure stated, moving to lean against the lockers and raising a brow at Gaara. His eyes scanned Gaara’s impassive features.

Gaara locked eyes with Shigure, hiding his pounding heart behind his practiced mask as Hinata’s hand appeared on his shoulder. She looked nervous and Shino glared from behind his glasses.

“About what exactly?” Hinata asked, her voice gentle but the underlying demand made Gaara’s eyes widen in surprise. Hinata was never this on edge. Shigure didn’t look away from Gaara as he crossed his arms, resting one hand on his chin.

“About Gaara and the president of the gay kids club, Maito-something?” Shigure explained, smiling like the cat that swallowed a canary. “It’s the talk of the school about how Gaara No Subaku is a flaming faggot. Their words of course, not mine.” Gaara stiffened at the obvious slur and Hinata bit her lip.

“Not that I have a problem with two men…having relations but is that really a wise thing to do so close to elections?” Shigure asked, tapping his chin. Gaara curled his fists, reigning in his temper as Shigure raised a suggestive brow.

“I suppose it would be best if you just dropped out now,” Shigure suggested just as Gaara spotted Lee rounding the corner, his wide smile making the red head’s heart flutter. Shigure followed Gaara’s gaze as it softened at Lee. The taller teen smirked, scoffing as the other teen headed towards them. He jabbed a thumb over his shoulder towards Lee just as Gaara’s boyfriend came into earshot. Lee’s eyebrows furrowed at the scene as he came up behind Shigure.

“Because with an ugly loser like that by your side, you’ll lose to me anyway. So why not save yourself the embarrassment.” Shigure finished, putting a hand on Gaara’s shoulder. Lee’s eyes widened and his pace slowed, his gaze shifting to the ground as he came to a stop.

Gaara looked at the hand on his shoulder, his eyes narrowing. He desperately wanted to punch the smug grin from his opponent’s face for causing that much pain to cross Lee’s features.

But that was the old Gaara. This Gaara simply pushed the hand off his shoulder and walked over to Lee, taking the rough hand in his and threading their fingers together. Lee blinked and looked down at their intertwined hands, smile returning as he squeezed the red heads hand. Shigure’s eyes widened as Gaara looked up at him coldly.

“Your concern is noted but I have no intention of losing to you.” Gaara stated as he gave Shigure a once over, “And my relationship is none of your business.” Shigure’s smile disappeared, his mouth forming a thin line as his eyes narrowed.

Gaara looked up at Lee. “Lee, let’s go. We have a few minutes before class starts, let’s go find the others.” He said and Lee nodded, his happy smile returning as he squeezed Gaara’s hand.

“Of course Gaara,” Lee chirped as they walked away, Hinata and Shino followed after them. Gaara’s fingers felt warm in Lee’s hand, his heart filling with affection as they walked through the halls. People whispered as they walked by but the pair ignored them as they talked.

“So what did Shigure want?” Lee asked as they walked, several groups of people whispering as they did. Gaara chose to ignore them in favor of enjoying Lee’s company. Hinata padded next to them, adopting a look that reminded Gaara of Sakura’s angry looks. It seemed that the pink haired girl’s backbone was beginning to rub off on Hinata a bit.

“Apparently the whole school is aware of our relationship,” Gaara informed Lee. Lee sighed, biting his lip as he glanced around the halls. He began to feel the eyes on them and Gaara watched his boyfriend’s shoulders slump.

“I know we agreed to keep it secret but what would you like to do now?” Lee asked nervously and Gaara shrugged. The situation was not an ideal but Gaara had never really cared what others thought. If his classmates wanted to talk, he would let them.

All he cared about was what Lee wanted.

“It’s already out in the open, we can’t change that.” Gaara said as they approached their friends. “I only care what you want to do at this point.” Lee nodded, stopping for a moment before they reached their friends. Hinata and Shino continued towards the group, sensing the two wanted to speak privately. Sakura smiled at Hinata and Gaara took notice of the deep red flush that appeared on his friend’s cheeks. That was odd but he brushed it off in favor of looking at Lee.

“I-I do not want to hurt your chances of winning the elections Gaara, I know how much this means to you…” Lee stammered, bringing Gaara’s hand to his chest. Gaara raised a non-existent brow.

“You won’t and even if it does matter to them...” Gaara said, trying to convey the feelings in his chest to the logical side of his brain. This whole relationship was still new but he was not about to let it go easily. “I have no intention of giving you up.” Lee smiled warmly at Gaara, rubbing small circles onto Gaara’s hand with the pad of his thumb.

“If you are sure Gaara and the same definitely goes for me.” Lee said as the bell rang, alerting everyone that they had five minutes to get to their classes.

“Lee, can you tear yourself away from Gaara long enough to go to class?’ TenTen teased as she followed Neji down the hall. Lee smiled sheepishly as Naruto laughed at Gaara, patting his shoulder as he followed Sasuke to the pair’s first class.

“Come on Gaara, we’re going to be late!” Hinata said as she followed Shino towards their science class. Gaara nodded, looking up at Lee. Lee turned to Gaara to say goodbye. Gaara gently pecked Lee on the lips, having to crane his neck slightly to reach the taller man’s face. Gaara pulled away, blushing furiously as he took a step back.

“I-I’ll see you at lunch Lee.” Gaara said, walking away towards his friends. Lee blinked and nodded, still in shock as Gaara headed after Hinata and Shino. Lee finally regained some sense of reality as he waved to Gaara.

“Have a good day Gaara!” Lee called as he walked towards his first class, heart feeling so full it felt as if it would burst. He walked into his environmental science class with a spring in his step and a smile on his face.


 

Rasa No Subaku prided himself on many things. He was a stern business man, successful and intelligent. He was however, not a patient man. People around him tended to jump when he asked them too, doing whatever they could to avoid angering the short tempered man.

“I will have those new programs and microchips brought to the warehouse immediately,” Rasa growled into the phone by his ear. “You just have the money ready to be wired by tomorrow or you’ll have bigger things to worry about.” The voice on the other end murmured in agreement.

Rasa smirked as he hung up the phone. Everything was going according to plan, now all that was left was to contact Orochimaru to set up the drop off. That idiot scientist owed him anyway.

Rasa leaned back in his chair and began sipping his coffee, going over the reports and enjoying the surprisingly quiet in the offices today. He had just finished sealing a rather important deal that had earned his company another million and he was pretty pleased by this.

So far his day had gone well and with little problems getting most of the paperwork done. His “associates” would no doubt come through with the cash, then he could work on supplying the earth country with the chemical weapons for their “negotiations” with fire country.

“Mr. No Subaku,” the soft voice of his receptionist called over his intercom. “Some men from the FBI are here to see you…it’s urgent.” Rasa wrinkled his brow and his heart sped up. This was not good.

“Send them in Suri.” Rasa said, steeling his features and hiding his emotions with practiced grace. This could simply be something involving one of his employees, it didn’t necessarily mean anything.

Two tall men in suits entered his office and Rasa looked up at them with a stern glance. Both men had brown hair, around six feet. The shorter of the two smirked at him, chewing on a toothpick.

The sterner looking of the two approached him, lifting his hand to shake. Rasa tried not to stare at the large amount of scarring on the man’s face as he raised a brow at them.

“I’m Agent Namiashi, this is my partner Agent Shiranui.” Agent Namiashi said in a matter of fact tone. “We’re here to ask you some questions.” Rasa nodded, smiling as he gestured to the chairs in front of his desk as he walked to his own seat.

“By all mean, I’ll help you agents the best I can.” Rasa said smoothly, taking a seat as Shiranui smirked. Neither men moved to sit as they exchanged a look. Agent Shiranui reached into his coat pocket, drawing out a manila envelope and tossing it onto the desk.

“A very reliable source has given us some information regarding the warehouses your company owns.” Namiashi said coolly. Rasa looked down at the photos on the table. His heart skipped a beat as he looked down at the pictures. The warehouse he used to house the dangerous chemical weapons had been compromised.

“You know what those are?” Namiashi stated, pointing to the photos as Rasa pretended to look them over. “You should since you spent a good amount of time in the Wind country army.” Rasa raised a brow.

“Yes, chemical weapons…some of these are outlawed by fire country is that not true?” Rasa asked innocently, handing the photos back to Namiashi in a neat stack. “And you found these in one of my warehouses by the looks of it? I can assure you I was unaware of their existence.” the agents nodded.

“That may be true but the records we were given show that you were the only one who even knew of these warehouses.” Shiranui stated, thumbing through a little notebook he drew from his breast pocket. “We are in the process of obtaining a warrant for the remaining warehouses under you name.”

Rasa clenched his fists in his lap, trying to keep his emotions reigned in. the wheels in his head turned rapidly, thinking up some way to talk his way out of this.

“Ah, yes let me know whatever I can do to help you with this.” Rasa stated slowly as the agents nodded. Shiranui smirked again as he threw down a piece of paper. Rasa looked it over, it was a warrant to search his home, computers and office.

“We’ll just need you to clear out of here so we can search. We’ve also taken the liberty of monitoring your accounts. So don’t take any surprise vacations.” Shiranui said as Rasa leapt from his chair, biting his tongue as he went to retrieve his jacket.

“Feel free, you won’t find anything.” Rasa stated as he headed for the door. “I will simply go to lunch, do try to be finished by the time I return. I do have work that needs to be done.” Namiashi nodded, heading for the desk as he pulled on a pair of gloves.

“Thank you for your cooperation.” He stated as he began to rifle through the drawers of the desk. Rasa disappeared through the doors, walking towards his car. He pulled out a cell phone and dialed the numbers.

There was only one way to find out who had betrayed him and he was going to make them pay. No one crossed Rasa No Subaku and didn’t pay for it somehow.

He was not a patient man, after all.


 

Kakashi hummed to himself as he thumbed through a newspaper, smiling to himself. His lunch was sprawled out in front of him as he chuckled over the headlines.

CEO’s Fall from Grace: Rasa No Subaku accused of selling weapons to enemy countries

Kakashi lifted his coffee cup to his mouth as he chuckled. It seemed the information he’d passed along to Raidō and Genma had proved fruitful and Rasa No Subaku was going to pay for his crimes to fire country.

“Well don’t you look like the cat that swallowed the canary?” A raspy voice chuckled. Kakashi looked up, setting down his cup and pulling up his face mask as he did. Hiruzen smiled at Kakashi kindly and the man relaxed.

“Sir, what do I owe the pleasure?” Kakashi asked, straightening in his seat and taking his feet off his desk. Hiruzen pulled a chair over to the desk, sitting down and looking over at Kakashi. Kakashi offered him a paper cup full of coffee from his thermos. The older man nodded and took the cup.

The pair was silent for a moment, quietly sipping their coffee. Hiruzen leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk. He met Kakashi’s one good eye steadily.

“Hatake, I’m retiring after this school year.” Hiruzen said giving him a wry smile. “The wife is finally putting her foot down now that the doctor says my blood pressure needs to be monitored closely.” Kakashi nodded and shrugged.

“I suppose you’ll be searching for a replacement soon then, do you have anyone in mind?” Kakashi asked as he pulled down his mask to sip his coffee. Hiruzen chuckled again.

“You’re going to replace me of course.” Hiruzen informed with a matter of fact tone. Kakashi’s eyes widening, his coffee traveling down the wrong pipe and he coughed it up. The coffee spilt down his shirt as he blinked up at Hiruzen in bewilderment.

“Me…sir, you are aware of who I am right?” Kakashi said after he was able to speak again. “I’m not exactly the best person to take over the whole school…” Hiruzen shook his head.

“Now don’t underplay your skills, my boy.” Hiruzen replied, “You’re a good teacher, qualified, fair and able to relate to the students here. Many of them are very fond of you, you have the respect of most of the teachers.” Kakashi sighed, keeping his normal expression of boredom as he rubbed his temple.

“I am not really the leader type, Hiruzen.” Kakashi explained as he looked towards the photos on his desk. The picture of Minato, Rin and Obito smiled back at him. “Who else is in the running for the position? Wouldn’t someone else be a better choice?” Hiruzen let out a sigh.

“If you do not accept the position than the next logical choice is Danzo…I do not think he is a good fit for the position despite his qualifications.” Hiruzen stated and Kakashi understood now why Hiruzen wanted him for the position.

He thought about Lee, who had the unfortunate circumstance of having Danzo as a teacher. The man had already failed Lee on a test he passed, berated him for his learning disability and was otherwise a complete tyrant among other students.

Kakashi had hated the man ever since he met him, before the man had discovered Kakashi’s transgender status. He had been trying to get Hiruzen fired from his job by lying to police, claiming that the kind Hiruzen was laundering money from the school.

Danzo thought he would be able to manipulate Kakashi into betraying the principal. It was a severe miscalculation on his part and the tenured teacher had lost his pension. The act had almost cost him his job. It was a testament to how forgiving Hiruzen was that he let Danzo stay on as a teacher.

But the elder Sarutobi still did not trust his former friend and colleague.

“I’ll do it.” Kakashi conceded, bringing his hand back up to replace his mask. He was not about to let that tyrant take over the school. Hiruzen smiled widely and rose, patting Kakashi on the shoulder.

“Minato would be very proud of you Kakashi,” He said as he walked towards the door. “He always believed in fairness and teaching the next generation to be better, I hope you’ll bring those teachings to the position.”

Kakashi nodded as the elder man left the room, mind reeling at what he had just agreed to. He looked towards the photo of his teacher and friend. The warm smile stared back at him, as if he knew what had just happened.

“So this is your doing, eh sensei?” Kakashi said out loud. “This is a bad idea but I’ll trust Hiruzen. Better me than Danzo any day.” Suddenly, the sound of the bell took Kakashi out of his one sided conversation.

With a heavy sigh, Kakashi gathered up the remnants of his lunch and finished off his coffee. As teens began to pour into his class, Kakashi turned towards the board to write out the assignment just as a paper ball hit his head.

For the first time in a long time, Kakashi really wanted a drink.


 

Lee hummed to himself as he filed out of his last class of the day, heading for his locker to grab the books he needed for his homework tonight. He would be meeting with Neji in the library today after class then it would be off to late practice at the dojo.

Lee bounced on his feet, recalling the lunch he had spent with Gaara. They had eaten outside with all their friends despite the nip in the October air. Gaara had sat between Lee’s legs, cuddled against him with his back pressed to Lee’s chest as Naruto recounted something that had happened that day. Sakura braided Hinata’s hair while TenTen did the same to Neji, weaving fake flowers into the male Hyuuga’s brown locks.

Neji hadn’t been too happy when Kiba and Shino arrived and the Inuzuka had teased him mercilessly for the rest of lunch. A small blush decorating his pale features. Lee had even snuck a small kiss with Gaara when they parted for class.

Then during his test in English, he’d passed with another ninety-three. Danzo had been completely silent the whole time he graded the test and Lee had tried his hardest not to feel too smug. There was no way the teacher could say he cheated this time.

Lee couldn’t recall a time when felt this content as he made his way through the empty halls and out into the courtyard to head to the library.

The school was quiet as he made his way past the field, Lee’s thoughts full of happiness as he walked. He turned the corner by the back of the library.

Then something hard hit him in the head, making him drop his books and grab his head in pain. A rock lay just a few feet ahead, blood coating the sharp edges. Pulling his fingers away, he found them covered in blood. Lee heard laughter as another rock hit his shoulder and he turned.

Shinichi tossed a rock up and down in his hand, his friends laughing cruelly as they tossed another rock at Lee. Lee dodged this one and glared at his bullies.

“Hey faggot, what’s got you so happy?” Shinichi said as he crossed the field towards Lee. “Daydreaming about your new boyfriend?” Lee watched the others walk towards him, circling him with aggression in their stances.

Another rock flew from behind him, knocking him upside the head and making Lee’s vision swim. Shinichi closed the distance, grabbing Lee’s collar and tossing him against the wall.

“Why don’t I just wipe that smug grin off your face fairy boy?” Shinichi shouted as Lee bent the wrists holding his collar, tossing Shinichi away. Suddenly, one of the other boys tried to tackle Lee, punching at his face.

Lee blocked with his arms, protecting his face from the assault. He punched the attacker away, kicking another as a foot kicked him swiftly in the ribs. Lee felt the air leave his lungs as he grabbed the next fist coming at him, tossing the boy over his shoulder when hands grabbed at his hair. He was pulled back into the wall, gasping as his back hit the hard brick.

Shinichi’s foot kicked his stomach before Lee could catch another breath. He choked as he was pulled into a half nelson, struggling as Shinichi’s fist pounded his face and chest. Lee coughed up some blood as he tried to break free.

They threw him down, pinning Lee to the ground as two of the teens held his arms and shoulders down. Shinichi straddled Lee’s waist as the larger boy lite a match and handed a box of them off to one of the teens by his arm. Lee struggled but the boy pressed his foot onto Lee’s wrist just before he pressed the lit end of the match into Lee’s arm.

Lee screamed in pain as the fire burned his flesh. He tried to block out the pain as another match was pressed to his arm only to feel something press against his other arm. Lee turned and saw that Shinichi held more matches poised over his left arm.

Lee tried to struggle but the other boy put pressure on his previously injured shoulder, stopping all movements as the match was pressed hard onto Lee’s arm. He could only smell the scorched flesh now as it burned at his nose.

His burning skin.

Lee cried out for help, his scream of pain echoed before one of the teens clamped a hand down on his mouth. Lee struggled, trying to break away as the matches seared his arm and Shinichi growled at his friends. He lite another match as Lee struggled to throw him off.

“Hold him still damn it!” Shinichi shouted, not looking up as he used the matches in his hand to burn letters into the skin of Lee’s arm. Burns now littered his arm as pain threatened to overwhelm Lee. Tears pricked his eyes, running down the sides of his cheeks with the blood from his nose.   

Suddenly, a tall figure rounded the corner. Danzo looked at the scene before him as the bullies froze. Lee looked up at the teacher through his tears of pain as blood ran down his face, biting down on the hand as it moved to low in shock. The boy yelped in pain as Lee panted up at Danzo

“Mr. Shimura, p-please help…” Lee managed to stammer through his haze of pain just before the hand reappeared on his mouth, silencing him.

The man looked down at Lee then to Shinichi and turned, walking away without a word. Lee struggled as Shinichi smirked as he resumed his assault on Lee, burning another letter into Lees arm. Lee could see what Shinichi was spelling now and it made his blood run cold.

FAG

The word was branded deep into his arm and Lee was vaguely aware that it would scar.  

“No one’s gonna save you this time fag!” Shinichi laughed, his friends snickering as Lee tried to struggle once more when another match hit his skin. He wasn’t sure how many burns he had on his arms now. The shoulder ached painfully as Lee fought back his tears of pain.

“That’s what you think!” a rough voice shouted as Kiba dove at Shinichi. The Inuzuka growled as Kankuro and Neji rounded the corner, pushing the remaining boys off of Lee and gave the teen time to rise.

“Get the fuck off of him!” Kankuro growled as he tossed Shinichi off of Lee. Lee managed to stand shakily, holding his hand lightly above his arm. It hurt too much to touch it directly.  

Lee vision swam as he leaned against the wall, breathing heavy as his body shook. Shinichi ran, his friends in tow. Neji turned to Lee, his face concerned as he looked at his friend’s bloodied face. Then his eyes widened as he looked at Lee’s burned arms. The skin was red, blisters beginning to form and some had burst from the rough treatment.

Some were rounded, covered in black ash from the matches while others were red lines that rose against peeling skin. Lee flinched as Neji moved to life his left arm.

“Lee, what happened?” Neji asked, eyes widening as he looked at the burn and the word Shinichi had spelled. Lee groaned, breathing heavy as he tried to regain his bearings.

“Shinichi…they attacked me…” Lee tried to articulate as Kankuro trotted over. Everything hurt too much to speak, his body felt too warm.  

“Lee, are you okay man?” Kankuro said, lifting Lee’s arm around his shoulder to help him stand. He was careful to mind the burns that littered Lee’s right forearm.

Neji took his place under Lee’s other arm. Lee groaned as he tried to take a mental note of his injuries. With the way his head was swimming, he worried about a concussion. Kankuro turned to Kiba, who was throwing rocks at Shinichi’s retreating form.

“Yeah you better run ya fucking assholes!” Kiba shouted as he turned to Kankuro and Neji, looking over at Lee with wide eyes. Kankuro nodded as he and Neji began to help Lee walk.

“Go get Kakashi, We’re taking Lee to the nurse.” Neji ordered and Kiba nodded running off without question as the other teens hobbled to the office. Kankuro picked up his phone, dialing his speed dial as they walked to the main building.


 

Gaara burst into the main office, his eyes smoldering with fury and anger. He still clutched his phone in his hand as Hinata and Shino followed after him, panting. Shizune popped her head out of the nurse’s office. Gaara looked up at her with a stern look but the woman interrupted him before he could even speak.

“Lee’s in here Gaara, I took care of him but do try not to cause too much of a scene.” Shizune scolded “His attackers really did a number on him.”  The red head rushed past her. Hinata smiled at the secretary and nurse kindly as she walked past.

“Thank you for seeing to Lee, Ms. Shizune.” She said with a gentle smile. “Gaara’s just worried, he doesn’t mean to be rude.” Shizune nodded, smiling at the gentle girl as she made her way to her desk. Her smile turning into a hard line as she went to her desk.

She had some authorities to call.

Lee was sitting on the paper covered bed, an ice pack over his right eye, lip still bleeding slightly from where it had split open and left cheek swollen. Bandages covered Lee’s arms, blanket around his shoulders. Kankuro moved out of the way as Gaara entered and the red head blinked.

“Lee, are you alright?” Gaara asked as Lee looked up. The older teen smiled, wincing slightly as he gave a thumbs up with a shaking hand. Gaara felt affection warm in his heart, concern still apparent in his eyes as he sat down next to Lee.

“I am fine Gaara, it is not as bad as looks.” Lee reassured as he reached for Gaara’s hand. Gaara looked down at the bandaged hand that laid over his. It was still shaking, seeking comfort from him. Gaara gently squeezed back.

It was then that Kakashi stormed into the room, followed closely by Gai and Kiba. Kiba took the spot next to Kankuro as the fathers approached their son. Concern and anger swimming in their eyes as they looked down at Lee.

“Lee, what happened?” Gai asked as he walked forward, looking over his son’s injuries. Lee sighed as Neji jumped in to answer. Lee looked down at his feet.

“Shinichi and his friends attacked Lee on his way to our tutoring session.” Neji explained as Gaara felt his fists clenching. “They…burned his arm and…”

“Why did they attack you?” Gai inquired as Lee sighed again, not looking up from his feet. Gai’s eyes softened and he walked forward, placing a gentle hand on Lee’s shoulder. Lee looked up at his father.

“Now there is no shame is telling someone when you’re being picked on.” Gai said slowly. “Now straighten up tall, men look people in the eye when they're spoken to.” Lee straightened up his back, smiling at the familiar words.

“Shinichi attacked me because I am in a relationship with Gaara. For being a “Fag” as he…put it.” Lee explained, his right hand coming to rest on his left forearm as Gaara’s shoulders stiffened. Lee looked down at the arm.

“While his friend…burned my right arm, Shinichi…burned “Fag” into my left arm…” Kakashi gasped as Gai moved forward to try and comfort his son. Gaara stood stiffly as Neji cleared his throat.

“Lee, when we heard you shout it was for Mr. Shimura was it not?” Neji asked, eyebrow raised. Lee nodded solemnly, laughing bitterly.

“Mr. Shimura walked past while Shinichi was hurting me,” Lee explained further, his fists clenching on his knees. “He just kept walking without a word while Shinichi took the matches to me again.” Kakashi’s eyes widened, his fists tightening as Gaara clenched his jaw. Both man and boy squared their shoulders.

“They are all going to answer for this.” Kakashi and Gaara said together then stared at each other for a moment, blinking in surprise. Kankuro snorted and Gai smiled brightly, hiding his chuckles behind his hand until the two men nodded and went for the door.

“For once I agree with you kid.” Kakashi stated as they walked towards the door, only to have Gai block them. He looked down at Kakashi and Gaara sternly, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

“Kakashi, we can go speak to Hiruzen now but you have to keep a cool head about this.” Gai said, earning a cold glare from his lover and his son’s boyfriend. He returned it with his own stubborn look, perfected after years of dealing with Kakashi’s stare downs.

Lee tried to rise to speak to Gaara, stumbling slightly as his head rushed. Gaara was at his side in an instant, helping Lee sit again.

“Lee, don’t strain yourself.” Gaara said worriedly and Lee smiled down at him, cupping Gaara’s cheek with his hand. The red head sighed as he leaned into it.

“I am fine Gaara, honestly I have had worse injuries during tournaments.” Lee stated as he reached to take Gaara’s hands. Gaara sighed as he felt a smile tug at the side of his mouth at his boyfriend’s words. Leave it to Lee to act as if having a slur burned into his arm was nothing to worry about. Warmth and affection was apparent in Lee’s eyes as Gaara ran gentle hands up his arm.  

Kakashi cleared his throat, looking at Kankuro and Neji. The two teens looked up from their raised eyebrows at the other pair. Kankuro made a mental note not to ever look like that, seeing Gaara and Lee in their “honeymoon phase” was almost sickening.

“Can one of you take Lee home and stay with him for a while?” Kakashi asked as Gai took a step towards Lee, ruffling his son’s hair with a bright grin. Gai gave his son a thumbs up before turning towards the door.

“We’ll go talk to Hiruzen and get this resolved.” Gai said brightly. “Don’t you worry Lee, go home and rest.”

Lee nodded as Neji put a hand on his shoulder, leading him out with Gaara close behind and Kankuro trailing after them with Kiba at his heels. Lee smiled as Gaara’s hand reappeared in his own as they walked out. His face hurt as he smiled but he was happy that his friends were with him.

“I will see you when you get home Gai-sensei, Kakashi!” Lee called out to his fathers as he headed out the door. Kakashi smiled under his mask at his son’s volume. Lee was tough, he wouldn’t let something like this get in the way of his life.

But Kakashi could still see how this was affecting him and made a mental note to call Yamato about it. He knew from his years in the military that this kind of attack, this kind of torture could have an effect on the mind.

Kakashi turned to Gai, his lover’s smile had hardened into a thin line as he met Kakashi’s eyes. Rage and fury was hidden in those dark eyes. It was an odd expression for Gai to have.

“They hurt our son Kakashi.” Gai stated, turning to his partner and Kakashi nodded.

“And Danzo just let it happen.” Kakashi added as they walked out of the nurse’s office and across the hall to the principal’s office. They were not going to stand idly by while their son was injured and a man who could have intervened simply chose not to.

They would not let this injustice go unchecked.


 

Lee opened the house with his key, walking inside with Gaara following after him. Kankuro still needed to drive Kiba home and Neji had a curfew so Gaara had agreed to stay with him. Gaara turned to Lee as he closed the door, toeing off his shoes as Lee took off his coat to hang it on the coat rack.

“You really do not have to stay, Gaara.” Lee said as he walked up the stairs to his room, followed closely by Gaara. The red head had insisted on carrying Lee’s book bag as well as his own and as soon as they entered Lee’s room, Gaara tossed them by the desk.

“I don’t really mind and you could probably use the help with your homework.” Gaara said as Lee collapsed onto his bed with a heavy sigh. “Since you didn’t get to your study session with Neji today.”

Lee nodded as he sat up on his bed with a small smile. He would get his homework done in record time tonight but for now, he wanted to enjoy the time he had alone with Gaara. Gaara sat down onto the bed next to Lee.

“I do not have any English homework tonight so finishing it all should not be a problem.” Lee said, moving closer to Gaara. “But how did your debate go?” Lee had been worried that he had torn Gaara away from something important.

Gaara shrugged, sighing slightly as he rested his hand on Lee’s leg.

“It was almost finished when I left.” Gaara explained, feeling Lee’s hand on his lower back. “I’m not too worried about it but Shigure seemed all too pleased with himself, he’s probably going to be declared the winner of this one.”

Lee looked away sheepishly, feeling guilty for costing his boyfriend the debate. Gaara reached for his hand, making Lee look up at him again. Teal eyes locked with brown and Gaara’s breathe hitched.

Lee’s hand cupped Gaara’s cheek as the other teen leaned forward, gently kissing Gaara. Gaara worried briefly about Lee’s split lip when he tasted something coppery but he lost all coherence when Lee’s tongue swiped over his lips. Gaara parted them, letting his boyfriend gain access to his mouth.

Gaara felt himself being pushed back as he grabbed for the front of Lee’s shirt, pulling him closer as Lee pinned Gaara to the bed beneath him. Gaara was at a loss as Lee’s hand wandered up his leg. He wanted to be closer to Lee as he felt Lee’s other hand slid up his ass, pressing their hips together as the hand disappeared under his shirt.

Lee’s tongue tangled with Gaara’s own as Lee’s fingers threaded through his hair. Gaara pressed himself against Lee. Lee’s scent was all around him, beckoning him closer and making the heat pool in his lower abdomen. This sensation was new.

Gaara hummed as Lee’s rough, bandaged hands brushed over his skin. When air became a necessity, Lee pulled away and stared down at Gaara. The red head looked over the face in front of him. Lee’s eye was already blackening as he kept his right hand hooked under Gaara’s knee.

Gaara lifted a single hand to brush the bruise on his boyfriend’s cheek. He should have been with Lee and then maybe they could have prevented these injuries. Lee leaned into the hand, turning his head to kiss the palm gently as he did.

Gaara’s eyes wandered down to the bandages on Lee’s left arm. He gently ran a hand over them. The area around the wound was leaking through the bandages. The teen sat up, turning to stand and head for the bathroom. Lee raised a brow and opened his mouth in protest when Gaara spoke.

“Let me change those Lee, they shouldn’t get dirty or the burn could get infected.” Gaara said as he walked into the bathroom across the hall. He retrieved the first aid kit from underneath the sink and walked back to Lee.

Lee held his arm close, biting his lip in his nervousness. He didn’t want his boyfriend to see his injury, to see how he had failed to protect himself. He felt so weak for letting this happen to him. He was a black belt, he should have been able to fend off three bullies.

“You really don’t have to…” Lee started to explain, not meeting Gaara’s eyes as the red-head took the arm. He unraveled the bandage carefully, trying not to disturb the burn too much and hurt Lee.

When the bandages had finally been removed, rage once again boiled in Gaara’s heart.

The slur was red and angry looking. The skin raised with blisters and peeling skin. The area around the burn was feeling warm to the touch.

It would scar over once it healed, a brand that hateful people had left on Lee that he would have to carry.

As he wrapped the wound, Gaara thought of all the ways he wanted to hurt Shinichi. The other boy would pay for this and Danzo for letting it happen. Lee was too good, too kind to have to shoulder this kind of hate. He finished the bandages and carefully tied them before looking up at Lee.

Lee was staring down at the bandages, flexing the fingers slightly. He looked lost in thought, eyes sad and full of guilt. He ran his hand over the bandages. Gaara’s heart twisted painfully at the defeated look on his boyfriend’s face. Lee should never look this helpless and lost.

“I should have stopped them.” Lee said softly, shutting his eyes and curling his fist. “They held me down and I couldn’t do anything…” Gaara scooted towards Lee, taking his chin and guiding his head upward.

Teal eyes met brown and Gaara leaned toward Lee to wrap his arms around Lee’s neck. Lee sat stiffly for a moment before wrapping arms around Gaara’s waist, holding him tight as he buried his face in the junction of Gaara’s shoulder and neck.

They stayed like that for a moment, Lee wrapped up in Gaara’s embrace. He was safe here in Gaara’s arms, nothing could reach him here.

“I wish I had been there to stop them.” Gaara mumbled into Lee’s ear as the teen pulled away from the hug. “I wish I could have protected you…” Gaara added, brushing Lee’s face with his hand to cup his cheek.

Lee raised his hand, repeating Gaara’s motion to brush some of the long hair that covered Gaara’s forehead. Lee ran his thumb over the red tattoo on his boyfriend’s forehead.

“Do not worry Gaara, I will be fine.” Lee reassured. “Although I am glad you are here.” Lee leaned forward, kissing the love tattoo before pulling back again and smiling brightly. Seeing the smile return to Lee’s face made Gaara’s heart untwist.

Gaara murmured as the other teen leaned down for another, much gentler kiss. This one made Gaara’s heart pound and his eyes close in content. That feeling returned, the gentle flutter of his heart and the need to be closer to Lee.  

“Let us not worry about it now,” Lee comforted as he pulled away, brushing his hand through Gaara’s hair again. “For now, I am content to just lay here with you.” He added, pulling Gaara back onto the pillows with him and kissed him again.

Something fluttered in his chest when Lee pressed their lips together but Gaara didn’t question it. When they parted, Lee sighed contentedly as Gaara laid his head on Lee’s chest and half laid his body into Lee’s side. Lee’s eyes felt heavy as he laid on his back, wrapping his arm around Gaara protectively.

Gaara felt his eyes become heavy, begging for sleep as he heard Lee’s heartbeat softly hum in his chest. Gaara was soon lulled towards sleep by the soft sounds of Lee’s snoring. Lee was right, they could face this later. Right now, Gaara just wanted to sleep with Lee’s arms around him. Gaara mumbled softly as his eyes fluttered closed as he fell into a dreamless sleep.


 

Nagato Uzumaki, known to the seedy underbelly of fire country as Pein, stared out of his office window. He was not normally distracted easily but today had not been a normal day. Rasa No Subaku had called earlier that day in a rage about the FBI beating down his office door.

Apparently, a man called Hatake had not only managed to dig up information on No Subaku’s illegal activities selling weapons of war and information to Lightning, Earth and Water countries. But had turned the man into the FBI.

 The nations were on shaky terms as it was and scrambling to find ways to gain the upper hand in negotiations. It was a lucrative choice to trade illegal weapons with all the countries and No Subaku had been covering up his illegal activities for years.

It was impressive that Hatake had managed to dig everything up. Pein was impressed. It was almost a shame he would have to go through with this plan.

No Subaku wanted the man scared into submission. Pein could oblige but he got the feeling that a man with the audacity to attack someone as prestigious as Rasa No Subaku would not scare easily.

A knock on the door drew Pein from his thoughts as a slim, beautiful young woman entered the office. Konan held a file in her hands, face impassive as she approached Pein’s desk.

“Nagato, I’ve gathered as much information on the target as I could find.” Konan said as she laid the file on his desk. “He’s interesting to say the least. Former special ops in the Fire country military, it’s given him some friends in high places.”

Pein took the file, flipping it open to scan the first page.

“That explains how he found out about our clients dealings.” Pein mused as he looked over the pages.

Kakashi Hatake, he was indeed former military but was discharged honorably after his last mission cost him the sight in his left eye and the lives of his squad mates. Former alcoholic, sober for almost eighteen years. He was currently an English teacher at the high school where his adopted brother and adopted son attended.

He was in a domestic partnership with one Gai Maito, a martial arts instructor at a local dojo in Konoha. So the man had a family. This could prove useful in getting the man to recant his evidence and keep his mouth shut.

He turned the page to look over the information on the man’s medical history. Most of the information was useless despite scanning over the hormone replacement therapy details. He didn’t particularly need this information so he skipped it. The family was most likely the best way to go for getting the results they required.

He looked up at Konan.

“Get me some more information on his family and his life. Follow them, I want to know the next time they will all be together, we will arrange the attack around them. A family man like him will want to protect them all if we endanger them.” Pein explained and Konan nodded before heading for the door.

Recon was Konan’s specialty and Pein was confident she could get him the information he needed. As the door closed, Pein leaned back into his chair to continue reading up on their target.

He would need to form together the team he needed, several individuals already in his mind. It would be easier to control the situation if he kept the team small, less money to split amongst different people. He would need one other person he could trust to be discreet and clean.

 Kakuzu was always a good option, a former freelance mercenary who joined Pein for his high profile clients. He would be obedient for the right prices and this job would have a heavy pay out. Konan would already be involved since she preferred to stay close to Pein himself. He had one other individual in mind for his, one used to military targets that could prove useful. Pein would have to get ahold of him to see if he was interested. 

He flipped the page, finding a photo that Konan had located from the newspaper. It was a story about Maito’s dojo after three of the students had placed in the national tournament. Pictured was Maito, Hatake, their son and his childhood friends.

The son, Rock Lee was sixteen, almost seventeen and trained in martial arts with Maito with Hatake’s younger brother, Naruto Uzumaki. Pein blinked at the name. His family had been large so it was likely he could be related to the smiling blond in the photo. They stood in front of the green dojo, smiling and holding up thumbs. It was a picture of pure happiness and love.

It was such a shame that Hatake hadn’t been able to mind his own business.


 

Sasuke blinked his eyes open, feeling warm and content. He yawned as he sat up and looking around the room he was in. He was in Naruto’s room and the sun was starting to set, shining through Naruto’s window.  Sasuke felt a solid body next to him as it radiated warmth. He blinked down at the source of his warmth and smiled slightly.

Naruto was still asleep, curled into ball by Sasuke’s side. Sasuke let out a sigh and put an arm around Naruto’s waist as he cuddled back down next to his boyfriend. Sasuke’s heart felt full as he watched Naruto sleep for a few moments before leaning forward to kiss the teen on the forehead.

Naruto opened a single blue eye groggily, looking up at Sasuke’s face.

“It’s almost six o’clock idiot, time to get up.” Sasuke said, poking Naruto’s cheek. The Uzumaki glared at him as he sat up, stretching out his tiredness. Naruto watched Sasuke’s face and grinned as he hugged his best friend around the waist, pulling them back onto the bed.

“Stay in bed with me Sasuke, I wasn’t done cuddling!” Naruto whined as he pulled Sasuke into his arms. The dark-haired teen glared at the blond, sighing in frustration.

“Get off me you idiot, we need to get our homework done.” Sasuke stated as Naruto’s arms tightened around him, pulling him closer as he attempted to push Naruto away when he felt soft lips on his.

Sasuke closed his eyes, relaxing into the embrace and the kiss. Naruto’s fingers tangled in his hair, sliding his tongue over Sasuke’s lips. The Uchiha sighed into it, letting Naruto’s tongue glide over his with a small sigh.

He really couldn’t say no to Naruto.

Sasuke closed his eyes as Naruto pulled away, pressing his forehead to Sasuke’s with his normal wide grin. The Uchiha’s whole body felt warm and his heart was happy, threatening to drown him in ways he hadn’t felt in a long time. He lifted a hand, cupping Naruto’s cheek.

“We really do need to get to work.” Sasuke suggested as the blond leaned into his hand. Naruto snorted, pouting slightly as he did so.

“But I don’t want to, homework is boring.” Naruto whined again, plopping his head onto the pillow. Sasuke raised a brow at his boyfriend, wondering how the teenager could be so childish sometimes.

“Remind me why I put up with you again?” Sasuke mused as he tried to remove himself from Naruto’s grip. The blond laughed, leaning close again and Sasuke could feel warm breath on his face. Naruto hooked a ginger under Sasuke’s chin, voice barely above a whisper.

“Because you love me.” Naruto stated before pressing his lips to Sasuke’s again. Sasuke murmured into it, closing his eyes in bliss once more. To think he had been so afraid that Naruto would never return his feelings. He could have been enjoying this happiness for years.  

Those times of heartache felt so far away now. Here he was in Naruto’s arms, feeling soft lips pressed against his and warm arms around his waist. He wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world.

Suddenly, a familiar voice chuckled and the boys stiffened as they broke apart to look up. Sasuke froze as Jiraiya looked down at them from the doorway, smiling a sly grin as a look of panic crossed Sasuke’s face.  

“I guess I should have figured this out sooner.” Jiraiya said from the doorway. Sasuke tossed Naruto away with all his strength, making the blond fall off the bed with a thump and onto the floor. Naruto moaned in pain as he sat up from the floor. Blue eyes glared up at Sasuke.

“What the hell pervy sage!’ Naruto snapped at the older man as he stood up, tearing his eyes away from Sasuke to glare at Jiraiya. “Can you make a noise for once, ya know?” The older man shook his head, still laughing from his grandson.

“So how long has this been going on?” Jiraiya asked, point his finger between the two as Sasuke rose from the bed to stand next to a sheepish Naruto. Naruto took Sasuke’s hand, seeking the comfort of the hand. Sasuke could sense his boyfriend’s nervousness coming off him in waves.

“Well…since Lee and Gaara got together.” Naruto stated, not meeting Jiraiya’s eyes. “We weren’t ready to tell anyone else yet…we kind of wanted to…” Jiraiya nodded, smiling warmly down at Naruto.

“You want to figure it out first, since it’s so new.” Jiraiya said, finishing Naruto’s thought as he walked towards his grandson, ruffling his hair with a small chuckle. “Can’t say I’m surprised, our family tends to challenge tradition a lot.”

Naruto let out a sigh of relief and turned to Sasuke with a bright smile. Sasuke felt his heart warm again as Jiraiya pulled them both into a large hug. Naruto gagged as he felt his ribs cracking from the bear hug.

“Well, I’m happy for you two.” Jiraiya said brightly, ruffling Sasuke’s hair. “Just make sure to use a condom and I won’t say anything to the others.” Naruto scowled up at his guardian, glaring at the perverted old man as he swung an arm around Naruto’s shoulder.

“Pervert, we aren’t doing that yet!” Naruto exclaimed and Sasuke felt his blood run cold for a moment at the statement. He held back as the other men walked into the kitchen, arguing loudly as Sasuke tried to compose himself. His chest was suddenly very tight.

Did Naruto expect him to have sex one day?

Sasuke felt his stomach curl in nervousness at the thought, pushing his heart rate up as he tried to control his breathing. Sasuke had resolved he did not want sex, didn’t need sex. The whole idea made his pulse race and he felt his heart fill with abhorrence.

What if Naruto decided it wasn’t worth it. That he wasn’t worth it. Could Sasuke somehow force himself into having sex when the whole thought made him nervous and disgusted?

Then Naruto’s hand on his, drawing his thoughts away from sex as warm fingers intertwined with his own. Naruto looked Sasuke over with concerned blue eyes.

“Come on Sasuke, let’s go get something to eat.” Naruto suggested, as if unsure he should ask what had Sasuke looking so uncomfortable. The Uchiha shook it off, gripping Naruto’s hand as he followed the blond out.

He loved Naruto. They could cross this bridge later but for now, Sasuke just wanted to enjoy the here and now. But parts of his brain still whispered at him as he let Naruto grab his hand and lead him to the kitchen.

“It better not be instant ramen again, idiot.” Sasuke teased as Naruto rolled his eyes, laughing slightly at the comment.

“It sure is bastard, hope you’re ready to eat!” Naruto replied as they walked into the kitchen.


 

Kakashi and Gai trudged into their home, hanging up their jackets and toeing off their boots.  Kakashi had a headache from dealing with Danzo. The man had infuriated him by suggesting that Lee had started the fight and he had departed to find security.

But Lee’s injuries, properly documented by Shizune, had shown otherwise. Sarutobi had taken everything seriously and Shizune had called the proper authorities. Tomorrow they would have to take Lee in to give a formal statement and to document his injuries with the police. So the men had decided to keep him out of school.

“Remind me to send Shizune a fruit basket or something for all her help,” Kakashi said, taking off his mask and putting in his pants pocket. Gai nodded as he straightened his shoes by the door.

“I agree and she did a good job patching up our Lee.” Gai agreed, straightening his back before turning to his lover. “She deserves something.”

Kakashi sighed as he went towards the kitchen, turning on the light and opening the fridge. He needed some food but he was too tired to cook. The leftovers didn’t look promising so Kakashi reached for the phone. Chinese would have to do as far as dinner was concerned.

The house was dark save for the kitchen light and Gai walked up the stairs when he found no trace of Lee. He heard Lee’s snores coming from his room as he reached the top of the stairs and peeked into the room. The sight he found made his heart warm and a wide smile cross his face.

Lee laid on his back, arms wrapped loosely around Gaara’s waist. The red head was nestled against Lee’s side, his arms laid over Lee’s chest as if protecting him. Gai smiled down at the boys, trying to decide if he wanted to wake them.

In the end, they did need to eat and Gaara would need to go home. Kakashi wouldn’t like that Gaara was here but Gai couldn’t blame the No Subaku for wanting to be sure Lee was okay. It wasn’t as if the two would get up to anything.

Gai gently tapped on the door, causing Gaara to stir.

“Boys, time to get up.” Gai announced, peeking in ever so slightly. “We’re ordering some food and Gaara is welcome to stay for dinner if he likes.” The teen looked up and blinked tiredly before turning to Lee and shaking him awake. Gaara was a very light sleeper it seemed.

“Lee, we fell asleep.” Gaara point out as Lee stirred, sitting up to stretch and yawn. Lee turned to Gaara and smiled sleepily. Gaara smiled a little at how cute Lee looked half asleep and disheveled.

“Sorry Gaara, I did not mean for us to sleep this long.” Lee apologized as he ran a hand over his hair, messy from sleep. “Will you be able to get all your work done for tomorrow?”  Gaara ran a hand through his own messy locks.

“It’s fine, I should have plenty of time to get my homework done later.” Gaara said, a light blush as he recalled what they had done before falling asleep. “Besides, I like sleeping next to you.” Lee blinked at him before reaching over to lay his hand over Gaara’s. Gaara met the dark brown eyes and his breath hitched as Lee scooted closer.

“Can I kiss you again Gaara?” Lee asked, lifting a hand to brush the stray hairs from Gaara’s forehead. Gaara nodded, tilting his head as Lee leaned forward. Gaara closed his eyes as he felt Lee’s warm breath on his face.

Lips pressed together again in a gentle kiss, Lee’s hand moving to lay on the small of Gaara’s back, pulling Gaara’s body flush against his own. Gaara felt the fire ignite in his belly again as he melted into the kiss.

“Boys.”

Gaara’s arms wrapped around Lee’s neck as the other teen licked along Gaara’s mouth again. Tongues mingled as Gaara’s hands tangled in Lee’s hair.

“Lee…”

Lee’s hands wandered down, shaking hands sliding into the back pockets of Gaara’s jeans before timidly cupping Gaara’s ass. Gaara murmured slightly but didn’t break away.

“Well Gai, it seems Lee’s inherited your tendency to grab at asses.” Kakashi pointed out as Gai’s laughter filled the room. Eyes widened as the boys instantly jumped apart, looking towards the door.

Gai stood in the doorway with Kakashi leaning with his back on the doorframe just in front of him, smirking. Lee’s face turned bright red as he cleared his throat, running his hand through his hair as he looked up at his fathers. Gaara blinked at the men, features impassive. Embarrassment seemed lost on the red head.  

“We were going to ask you what you wanted to eat but it seems like you’re content just eating each other’s faces…” Kakashi teased as Lee rose from his bed with Gaara. Lee looked towards Gaara, smiling sheepishly as they walked towards the stairs.

“W-why do we not go down to the kitchen so you can look at the menu, Gaara.” Lee managed to squeak as he practically shoved the red head down the stairs. Gaara simply nodded as Lee guided him past his fathers.

Kakashi looked at Gai, pulling the man over to kiss him by the shirt as the boys disappeared downstairs. Gai pulled Kakashi close as the silver haired man pecked his lips, hands cupping Kakashi’s ass for a squeeze before releasing him. They started to walk down towards the stairs after the teens.

“That should keep Lee off of Gaara for a few days at least.” Kakashi said with a small laugh, “It’s good to see those bullies didn’t seem to affect him too badly.” Gai nodded as they lingered by the stairs for a moment.

“I still want Yamato to talk to him, maybe after our ramen night in a few days.” Gai suggested, following Kakashi down the stairs. Lee’s chatter could be heard from the kitchen as he and Gaara discussed what type of food for the red head to try.

The parents watched Lee as he talked to Gaara, his smile bright as he held Gaara’s hand at the table. Gai’s heart warmed and tears pricked at his eyes. His son looked happy, despite his injuries from earlier.

Gai just hoped he would be able to keep that happy smile on his son’s face.

Chapter Text

Lee sighed as Gai opened the door to the car for him. He was completely drained after filing a report with the police and having pictures taken of his injuries. The police officer, Aoba Yamashiro, had been thorough in his investigation and was confident they would make an arrest.

Lee was tired, grateful his fathers had kept him out of school as they walked up to the house. He was tired, his burns hurt with every movement and he was emotionally exhausted after being forced to recount the story of the wounds again and again. Lee opened the door, only to be greeted by a large bear hug around the waist.

Naruto smiled up at Lee as Sasuke and Gaara rose from the couch. Kakashi chuckled as he walked from the kitchen. The man was halfway out of his dress shirt, opened up to reveal his pale stomach. Gai’s eyes scanned Kakashi as the man smirked, leaning up to peck Gai on the lips when he walked over.

Lee wrapped his arms around Naruto’s shoulders and returned the hug, trying to be careful of his burns.

“What are you all doing here?” Lee asked with a small laugh. Gaara walked towards him with Sasuke. Gaara’s eyes softened as Lee smiled widely at his boyfriend.

“Naruto thought you could use some company so he gathered us for a sleepover,” Gaara said. “But what did the police say?” Lee straightened his back, headache returning.

“Yeah bushy-brows, how did it go?’ Naruto questioned as Lee smiled at him. Neji raised a brow at him as if asking the same question. Lee let out a sigh.

“It went well and the officer said they should be able to file a report with the information I gave.” Lee explained as Naruto released him from the hug. Gaara gave Lee a look as the other teens moved towards the couch. He reached for his boyfriend’s hand and interlaced their fingers.

Lee sighed as Gaara gave him a look, teal eyes questioning and concerned.

“I am fine.” Lee answered softly, leading the red head to the couch. “Just a bit tired and sore.” Gaara stared at him for a moment before nodding, releasing Lee’s hand to sit on the couch. Naruto grinned at Lee.  

“We brought movies and bushier brow-sensei said we can all spend the night.” Naruto stated. Kakashi raised a brow at his partner, eyes flicking from Gaara to Gai as Lee took the spot on the couch next to Gaara while Naruto and Sasuke set up the VCR and bickered over what movie to watch first.

Lee blushed as he lifted his arm, giving Gaara space to cuddle into his side. Gaara settled into Lee’s side and laid his head on Lee’s shoulder. Lee pressed a kiss to Gaara’s head just as Naruto plopped onto the couch and spread his legs over Lee and Gaara’s laps. Lee laughed and Naruto’s head laid onto Sasuke’s lap and the Uchiha rolled his eyes.

Kakashi looked at his lover sternly as Gai ushered him up the stairs, sensing his lover wasn’t happy about his decision. As they reached the top, Kakashi turned to his lover and crossed his arms.

“You’re letting our son’s boyfriend spend the night?” Kakashi asked, his voice straining to remain a hushed whisper. “Gai, what were you thinking?” Gai smiled sheepishly at his lover. Kakashi sighed, Gai hadn’t been thinking.

“We’ll be home all night,” Gai defended, taking a step towards his partner and placed his hands on either side of the wall. Kakashi looked up at Gai with a quirked eyebrow.

“They are all teenage boys, what if they just sneak off and…” Kakashi caught Gai’s eyes and his breath hitched. Gai’s eyes were soft as they looked at Kakashi, brimming with love as he leaned down and took Kakashi’s face in his hands.

Kakashi opened his mouth to retort just as Gai’s soft lips met his.

All protest faded as Kakashi relaxed into the kiss, resting his hands on Gai’s hips as his eyes closed. Gai pulled away with a smile and pressed his forehead to Kakashi’s with a sigh.

“I’m sorry Kakashi,” Gai teased playfully as Kakashi brought up his hands to curl them around Gai’s wrists. “But I thought Lee could use some relaxation time with his friends.” Kakashi let out a sigh, no longer annoyed. Gai’s kisses had distracted him.

“They can stay…just ask me next time.” Kakashi, grabbing Gai’s shirt and pulling him towards their room. The taller man followed after him, eyes wide.

“Where are we going Kakashi?’ Gai asked, confused as he lover opened their door and leaned against the frame.

“I was going to go take a shower.” Kakashi said, voice full of hidden meaning as he smirked up at Gai, pulling him down for another kiss. Gai murmured as Kakashi slid his tongue over the seam of Gai’s lips.

Gai sighed as he opened his mouth, letting Kakashi gain access to his mouth. The silver haired man slid his hands up Gai’s shirt and pulled their hips flush against each other. Gai gasped as his arousal brushed against the roughness of his jeans.

Kakashi pulled away, leaving Gai panting before turning to go into the bedroom. Gai moved to follow only to have the bedroom door slam in his face. Gai heard the door lock click, barring his access.

“Kakashi…” Gai whined as he heard Kakashi chuckle from behind the door.

“I said I needed a shower and someone needs to watch the children to make sure they don’t get up to anything,” Kakashi said playfully. “So I guess I’ll have to just take care of myself in the shower…too bad the kids are here.”

Gai leaned his head against the door as he heard Kakashi start the shower. His arousal throbbed painfully against his jeans as Gai let out a sigh before trying to adjust his pants. He grumbled to himself as he headed down the steps back towards the living room. He needed to make dinner and Kakashi was right, someone needed to watch the kids.

He’d get Kakashi back for this later.


 

Yamato walked through the hallway of the high school, trying to read through his papers and his appointment book. He had needed to talk to all of Lee’s teachers and see to it that they had his number just in case they needed to report something on the teen’s behavior.

He had avoided Danzo, his involvement in Lee’s attack meant the man was very unlikely to want to help the boy recover. He had gone in to file a formal statement to the principal, stating that for the sake of Lee’s mental health that he be removed from Danzo’s class room.

The elderly man had been helpful. He signed the papers then and there, transferring Lee into Mrs. Uzuki’s. Yugao was a stern woman but a compassionate one. She would make sure Lee was taken care of. Tenten was also in the class and Yamato knew Kakashi would rest easier knowing Lee’s friend was with him.

Yamato turned the corner of the hall, still looking down at his appointment list when he suddenly collided with something solid. Papers flew up, Yamato blinked and watched as his paperwork fluttered through the air.

“Yamato?” a familiar voice said, drawing Yamato’s attention downward. Iruka laid on the ground in front of him, hand on his head. The scar that ran across his nose looked pink against his brown skin, complementing the tones. Yamato smiled at the other man.

“Iruka, what are you doing here?” Yamato asked as he held out his hand to help the man up. Yamato straightened and his cheeks flushed as the man rubbed his ass, then he remembered his papers strewn on the floor and quickly bent down to pick them up. Iruka bent down with Yamato to pick up the fallen papers as he spoke.

“I’m the new school counselor here, just got hired today.” Iruka explained as he blinked up at Yamato. “Although I didn’t think I’d be running into you today, no pun intended of course.”

“I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to run into you. Are you hurt?” Yamato smiled at him, inspecting him for injury.

“No, I’m fine although my butt hurts a bit.” Iruka joked, running a hand through his hair and undoing the ponytail. Yamato blushed slightly, looking down at his feet.

“Sorry about that, can I make it up to you?” Yamato asked sheepishly. “I was about to head out to get some coffee…I could buy you a cup?”

“Don’t worry about it,” He said as he glanced up at Yamato’s apologetic expression, his eyes softened a little. “Although I won’t say no to free coffee, I know a little place down the street.” Yamato smiled, spirits brightening as Iruka turned towards the door and Yamato followed the man down the hall.


 

 Iruka looked down at Yamato’s files as they took a booth together after gathering their coffee and a small pastry for Yamato. The therapist was looking through Lee’s file and inspecting the contents.

“New patient?" Iruka asked as he took a sip from his mug. Yamato nodded, letting out a heavy sigh. He rubbed his eyes, not sure if he should talk about this. While Lee was not his patient yet, there was still some confidentiality to consider.

“Lee is coming to see me after the ramen night…He’s been having some problems at school.” Yamato asked when Iruka wrinkled his brow in worry. The young man shook his head as a look of concern crossed his features. Yamato decided to give him the barest details of the attack.

“One of the teenagers from his class attacked him and burned his arms pretty badly…” Yamato explained, rage rising in his heart at the thought. “All because he and Gaara started dating.”

Iruka was silent for a moment, anger flashing in his brown eyes.

“That’s horrible, I’ll have to call Kakashi and check up on him.” Iruka said, Yamato smiled as Iruka took a sip from his drink. “I’ll call him into my office soon, just to catch up and make sure he knows he can come to me for anything.” Yamato nodded, trying not to stare as Iruka ran his fingers through his loose brown hair.

He’d been hoping to run into the man since the party a few months ago. Iruka had been very warm and kind to him, talking to him most of the night and making him feel comfortable. He wouldn’t be lying if he said he was attracted to the strong young man.

“I just hope I can help him, it’s hard for teenage boys to admit when they feel vulnerable.” Yamato stated, giving a small laugh. “And with a dad like Kakashi, I’m surprised he isn’t emotionally cut off.” Iruka let out a laugh.

“It’s a good thing he takes after Gai. That man cries at the drop of a hat sometimes.” Iruka commented and Yamato laughed with him.

“Very true,” Yamato replied as he lifted his coffee to his lips. “I remember when Kakashi first started seeing him, I would wonder how someone so calm and aloof could date someone so excitable and emotional. But they work well together.”

Iruka gave a nod, smile crossing his face.

“When I first met them, Gai was full of life and then Kakashi kept reading that horrible book!” Iruka laughed, covering his mouth as Yamato snickered.

“He does that, sometimes in my office and the last time I asked him to stop, he started reading it out loud.” Yamato said, shaking his head and leaning his face on his hand. “I honestly don’t know why you trusted him with a child in the first place. Gai, sure but Kakashi…” Iruka shrugged, eyes softening as he looked down at his cup.

“When they came to me, they had been denied by three other social workers.” Iruka explained, smiling as he recalled the day. “I met Gai first and he could do nothing but talk about Kakashi. You probably know about Kakashi’s infertility but Gai talked about how guilty he felt over not being able to provide them with a family. Gai told me he just wanted to share the miracle of raising a child to adulthood in a loving home with the man he loved, to love a child that desperately needed it.”

Yamato nodded, tilting his head and looking at Iruka softly. The man chuckled as he ran his thumbs over his coffee cup lid, lost in memory.

“Kakashi came into my office in dirty jeans and an over-sized sweater. He didn’t say much, just read his book in the corner and helped Gai with paperwork where he was needed. I honestly was getting ready to tell them I couldn’t help them. It wasn’t until Kakashi pulled me aside, questioning if I could help them. He didn’t want Gai to be hurt with disappointment again. It was then I knew how much they cared for each other and took the chance on them.”

Yamato sighed and nodded, he remembered how much devotion Gai always showed Kakashi. The silver haired man had never been easy to deal with.

“I met Kakashi shortly before he and Gai began dating. Kakashi was troubled…to say the least, he tended to chase his demons away with a bottle of whiskey. Kakashi didn’t want my help or Gai’s but Gai never once gave up on him.” Yamato said as he looked down at his files. “A love like theirs comes along only once in a lifetime.” Iruka smiled softly.

The silence that followed wasn’t awkward but Yamato found himself unsure how to breach it as the minutes ticked. He really wanted to continue talking to the bright man across from him. Iruka seemed to sense his hesitation, choosing then to speak.

“What about you, have anyone in your life?” Iruka asked innocently, sipping his coffee. Yamato looked up, his cheeks turning a light shade of pink.

“I…um,” Yamato struggled, clearing his throat. “N-no not at the moment, just an annoying sister. She likes to come home and lecture me on working too hard and need to get myself, and I quote. “A nice guy who can take care of me when Kakashi gives me gray hairs.”.” Iruka chuckled and placed his hand over Yamato’s.

Yamato felt his heartbeat in his ears as he flushed a deeper shade of red.

“I’m sure she means well.” Iruka commented, smiling gently at Yamato. “You are a nice, handsome man. I’m sure if someone hasn’t snapped you up yet, someone will.” Yamato blinked and nodded, at a loss for words.

Iruka’s cheeks turned pink as he pulled his hand away. The man cleared his throat, running a hand through his long brown hair before rising. It was starting to get dark outside and Yamato realized that Iruka would need to get home.

“Well, I have to get back home.” Iruka said nervously, picking up his bag and empty cup. “It’s getting late and my first day is tomorrow.” Yamato nodded, his heart still racing and hand feeling warm from where Iruka had touched him.

“Y-yeah, I’m sure you’d rather be sleeping than talking to me.” Yamato noted as the man turned towards him, smiling warmly.

“Trust me, I’d rather spend time getting to know you better than tossing and turning nervously in my bed.” Iruka joked and Yamato felt the silence as Iruka turned. Then he did something he had never done before.

He took a chance.

“Would you like to?” Yamato stammered out before he could stop the words. “Get to know each other, I mean. We can get together again, maybe over some ramen together.” Iruka blinked, stunned for a moment before that warm smile returned to his face. Yamato found himself happy he’d been the one to put it there.

“Sure,” Iruka said brightly, taking out a pen from his bag and taking Yamato’s wrist. “Here’s my number, call me anytime.” Yamato nodded, his hand feeling warm again as Iruka’s held it. He looked down at the number as Iruka replaced his pen into his bag and turned.

“See you later, Yamato.” Iruka said, waving as he headed towards the door. Yamato felt the smile spread across his face as the man left, turning back to his work.

Although he found it hard to concentrate on anything other than soft brown hair and even softer brown eyes.


 

Lee pulled the blanket off the back of the couch, bringing it down to cover up Gaara’s sleeping form. Sasuke was asleep with Naruto on his lap and Lee stretched the blanket over Naruto’s body.

Lee smiled at Gaara, leaning down to kiss the top of his boyfriend’s head before walking towards the stairs. He walked into his room and let out a small sigh. He wasn’t tired and he knew he needed to sleep for school tomorrow.

Lee pulled on his favorite jacket then opened up his window. The cold air blew his hair around as Lee crawled out onto the roof. He took a deep breath as he sat down. Lee smiled at the stars as they twinkled.

Everything seemed so small up on the rooftop and the air was cool, helping ease Lee’s cluttered thoughts. Being with his friends was fun and it had been ages since he and Gaara had just hung out with their friends. It was a pleasant change.

Lee heard a knock on his window and he turned. Naruto smiled as he crawled through the window, walking over to sit next to Lee.

“What are you doing out here Lee?” Naruto asked, drawing his legs into his chest as Lee turned to him. Lee spread his legs out in front of him and leaned back.

“Just thinking about things, I am nervous about going back to school after what happened with Shinichi…” Lee admitted with a sigh. Naruto nodded and reached a hand towards Lee’s shoulder.

“It’ll be okay, Sasuke and I will watch out for ya.” Naruto reassured, earning a smile from Lee. “Just like old times.” Lee nodded and looked up at the stars. The bushy-browed teen laughed.

“You mean how Sasuke and I always had to watch out for you?” Lee chuckled as he looked toward his friend. “You were always getting into trouble and Sasuke and I had to get you out of it.” Naruto snorted and nodded, laying back and putting his hands behind his head.

Lee joined him, gazing up at the stars and sighing in content. They laid there for a moment in silence, just staring at the bright sky. It was Naruto who broke the silence first.

“Remember that time I painted the entire stairwell orange and you stopped Mizuki from yelling at me.” Naruto laughed, snorting into his hand. Lee laughed and pushed Naruto’s shoulder.

“Yeah, Mizuki was so mad that he locked me in the attic for a whole day!” Lee said as he looked up at the stars. “But Sasuke and you snuck into the room and kept me company through the door.” Naruto sighed, gazing up at the stars.

“He sent you away after that…I guess it was a good thing he did.” Naruto observed. “Because you got picked by Kakashi and Bushier brow.” Lee’s eyes softened as he sat up a little, ignoring the pain of his burns as he leaned on his forearms.

“And then it turned out that they were looking for you and then we all got adopted.” Lee commented. “We got that family we would always talk about.” Naruto nodded and chuckled.

“And now you have Gaara.” Naruto teased. Lee rolled his eyes, flushing red and laying back on his back. Lee sighed and laid his hand over his heart. The thought of knowing that Gaara was with him still surprised him. The fact the red head had taken the step with him, trusted Lee not to hurt him. Lee felt so grateful for the opportunity to explore these new feelings.

“I never did thank you for helping us Naruto.” Lee said quietly. “Without you and Sasuke and the others…I am not sure Gaara and I would have ever mended things…” Naruto made a small noise and quieted, as if lost in thought.

“S-so do you think…” Naruto said quietly, drawing Lee’s attention to him. “Do you think you’re in love with him Lee?” Lee blinked at the sky, his heart rate picking up. He cared very deeply for Gaara, wanted the other teen to be happy. If being with Lee was linked to that happiness then Lee would stay by Gaara’s side for as long as he was needed.

“I am not sure.” Lee said softly. “I want nothing more than for Gaara to be happy, whether it involves me or not. Just seeing him smile at me makes me feel so light and happy because I put it there.” Naruto sat up, looking down at Lee with wide eyes. Lee flushed a deep red, grateful the night hid the blush.

“I know it is silly, since we only just got together but this feeling is so strong…” Lee tried to explain, laying his hand over his heart as Naruto sat up, staring at his hands as he crossed his legs.

“But this feeling is so strong. It has to mean something.” Lee added with finality, feeling as if he justified his feelings as the silence began to weigh heavily in the night air. Several long moments passed until Naruto broke it.

“Sasuke and I are dating.” Naruto blurted out, making Lee bolt upright and stare at him. “It happened at the fair. I kissed him and then he kissed me, we agreed to give it a chance but I don’t know…” Naruto let out a heavy sigh.

“I really care about him, ya know?” Naruto said, running a hand through his blond locks and further messing up his already messy hair. “As long as I can remember I wanted to get past his walls, see the real Sasuke and ease him out of that shell he puts up to protect himself. At first it was about being his friend but it’s grown into something more…it feels so strong and it’s scary and…” Naruto suddenly felt a crushing hug around him.

Lee held Naruto tightly to his chest, tears streaming down his cheeks as he hugged his friend tighter. Naruto blinked in surprise before lifting his arms to hug his friend close and bury his face in Lee’s shoulder.

“I am so happy for both of you.” Lee said happily, sniffing as he tried to contain his emotions. “I wish you nothing but the best of luck for the future.” Naruto chuckled and pulled away, his blue eyes softening as Lee wiped his eyes.

“It’s not like we’re getting married Lee, just dating.” Naruto commented, shaking his head at Lee. He should have never been worried about telling his friend. Lee was a lot like Gai sometimes, accepting and enthusiastic. Sometimes too enthusiastic. Naruto frowned as he thought of something.

“Just don’t tell anyone yet, okay Lee?” Naruto said, hesitation in his voice. “Sasuke and I want to take it slow, see where it goes but I wanted to tell you because…well you’re like our brother Lee, it seemed weird not telling you.” Lee nodded and sat in front of Naruto, legs crossed and smiling widely. The bushy browed teen held up his thumb.

“You have my word Naruto, I will not tell anyone.” Lee said as he looked his friend over. “If I divulge your secret, I will do two thousand laps around the entire city.” Naruto gave his friend a thumbs up in return.

“I’ll hold you to that Bushy Brows!” Naruto said, fire returning to his eyes. Lee grinned brightly as he sighed, standing up with Naruto.

“Let us go inside, we should get some sleep before school tomorrow.” Lee suggested, offering his hand to Naruto. The blond took it and they crawled through the bedroom window. Naruto felt the heavy burden of the secret lift off his shoulders as they headed down the stairs.

Warmth filled his heart as he sat down on the couch next to Sasuke, the black haired male barely stirring as Naruto cuddled closer to him. He listened to Sasuke’s gentle breathing as he heard Lee’s snores fill the room, having fallen asleep next to Gaara.

Naruto knew it wouldn’t last but right now, in this moment, if he could stay like this forever and never let time go forward. He’d stay right here, cuddling Sasuke and surrounded by friends.

This was how life should be.


 

 Kakashi rolled off of Gai, breathing heavily as he collapsed onto his back. He looked over at Gai and smiled as the man laid back against his pillows. Gai’s naked body was slick with sweat, black hair sticking to his forehead as his chest rose and fell with his own heavy breathing.

“Remind me to deny you sex more often,” Kakashi teased, breathless. “If this is the punishment I get.” Gai chuckled as he turned onto his side, smiling brightly at Kakashi as he turned to face his lover. Gai’s eyes softened as he reached a hand up to cup Kakashi’s cheek.

“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself,” Gai said as he ran his thumb over Kakashi’s cheek. The silver haired man sighed, cuddling closer to his partner and letting the strong arms encircle him. Gai kissed the top of Kakashi’s head, sighing contentedly as Kakashi’s own arms wrapped around him.

Gai loved these moments. He loved holding Kakashi close after making love and basking in the glow. Kakashi’s eyes were getting heavy as Gai turned onto his back, letting Kakashi curl into his side and use his chest as a pillow.

He gently ran his fingers along Kakashi’s back, stroking the man’s soft skin and listening to the soft breathing. Gai moved his opposite hand up to lay it over the one Kakashi had rested on his chest, fingers tangled in the dark curly chest hairs.

“I love you so much Kakashi.” Gai whispered as he pressed his lips to the man’s temple. Kakashi cuddled closer, legs tangling with Gai’s as he inhaled the man’s musky scent.

“I love you too Gai.” Kakashi replied, lifting his head slightly so Gai could press his lips to Kakashi’s gently. The hand stroking his back moved to tangle in silver locks, massaging Kakashi’s scalp and making the man’s eyes close in bliss.

Nothing could reach them here. The kids were sleeping, the world quiet and time seemed to slow down just for them. Kakashi relished in these moments, safe in Gai’s arms. Sleep found him quickly as Gai watched his lover doze off.

Gai watched Kakashi for a few minutes, eyes softening once more as the usually hard features of his partner’s face softened in sleep. Kakashi never looked more beautiful to him than when he was asleep, completely relaxed.

Gai vaguely remembered what his lover had been like before they’d finally gotten together. His partner had been paranoid, not even relaxing in his sleep as the demons of his past came at him even during rest. He was glad that now, even on bad days, Kakashi trusted him enough to sleep peacefully beside him.

Gai let his thoughts wander as he tried to relax. Anxiety over Lee and the attack had left him restless. He knew he couldn’t protect his son from everything the world would throw at him but he hated this helplessness. He had never been one to rely on others to solve his problems for him, preferring to do things on his own power.

But this whole situation had left him depending on the law and the school to punish the ones who had hurt his son. The best he could do was be supportive and compassionate to Lee, offering his help when he could and taking care of his son like he always had. He could see that Lee was putting up a strong front, much like Kakashi did. Gai smiled at the thought.

Lee may have taken after him but there was a few things that could be seen that were purely Kakashi. The way Lee tried to but on a brave face, the way Lee stared at people when he met them as if he wanted to figure them out. All those things could only be because of Kakashi’s influence.  It was more than papers that bound their son to them and it never failed to make Gai’s heart swell with love. Lee was their son.

Gai looked down at his lover as his eyes started to grow heavy with sleep. He cuddled closer to the man he loved, gently kissing his head one last time as he closed his eyes. His last thoughts as sleep claimed him were a promise.

He would protect his family with his life if he had to.


 

Lee blinked awake as a loud voice called out into the silence. The sun from the window shown in his eyes as he sat up, effectively falling off the couch with a thump.

“Time to get up boys,” Gai called from the top of the stairs. “Education is waiting!” Lee sighed, rubbing his back as Gaara grumbled on the couch next to him, rubbing his eyes as he attempted to rise. Lee rose to his knees and gently pecked Gaara’s lips.

“Good morning Gaara.” Lee whispered as Gaara murmured, smiling slightly. The red head blinked up at Lee tiredly, rubbing his eyes again.

“Good morning Lee.” Gaara said, pressing his forehead to Lee’s in greeting. Lee smiled and kissed the younger boys forehead as Naruto groaned from the other end of the couch.

“Five more minutes, Bushier brows.” He whined as Sasuke rose, knocking the blond off the couch. Naruto glared from the floor up at the Uchiha.

“Hey, what the hell bastard!” Naruto growled as Sasuke tossed him a glare. Lee laughed at the pair as Gaara rose to shuffle into the kitchen for his morning cup of coffee. Much like Gaara, Sasuke was always cranky first thing in the morning. Unlike Gaara however, Sasuke refused most caffeine.

“You were in the way, idiot.” Sasuke said as Naruto stood up, rubbing his backside as he pouted at the Uchiha. Sasuke rose and made his way to the kitchen, where the smell of eggs being made was beginning to waft into the living room.

“You’re such a fucking dick in the mornings, Sasuke.” Naruto growled as he followed after Sasuke. An audible gasp came from the kitchen.

“Naruto, language!” Gai called from the kitchen. Kakashi walked down the steps, chuckling as he smiled at Lee. He ruffled the teen’s hair. Lee smiled and hugged his father around the waist as they walked to the kitchen. Kakashi stooped them just short of the kitchen opening.

Naruto was leaning on Sasuke as the other teen fetched the plates from the cupboard, mumbling something inaudible into the Uchiha’s ear. Sasuke’s cheeks tinged pink as he lifted a hand to quickly run his fingers through Naruto’s hair.

Kakashi chuckled again, looking down at Lee with the crinkled eyes that indicated he was smiling.  

“So those two are dating aren’t they?” Kakashi whispered and Lee stiffened. He bit his lip as he tried to stave off his instinct not to lie to his father. Kakashi laughed as Lee paled, blinking up at him in shock. He watched the emotions pass through the teen’s face and shook his head.

“They made you promise didn’t they?” Kakashi teased as he headed for the kitchen. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell.” Lee let out a sigh of relief as he followed after his father. Kakashi was a genius, after all, it made sense he knew about Naruto and Sasuke.

Gaara was nursing a hot cup of coffee at the table when Kakashi took the seat next to him. The red head looked up at the man, pushing another steaming cup over to the man silently. Kakashi nodded and took the offering, sipping it as he pulled the newspaper up to his face to read.

Lee took the spot at Gai’s side to help get the plates ready. Gai smiled, trying to mind Lee’s arms as he handed his son Gaara’s plate as he carried Kakashi his own. Lee set the food out in front of Gaara, leaning down to peck him on the cheek as Naruto grabbed more chairs. Kakashi raised a brow as Gaara gave Lee a small smile.

Gai gave Kakashi his own food, gently kissing him through the mask as the silver haired man watched his son take the seat next to Gaara. Lee laid his napkin on his lap and picked up his fork as Naruto took a seat next to him, Sasuke sitting next to him silently.

It was then the front door opened with a bang and another voice called out.

“Hey, Kak-daddy, I heard the kids spent the night.” Jiraiya’s voice called as he entered the house. Kakashi rolled his eyes, regretting giving the old man a key. Jiraiya entered, still wearing his frog printed pajama bottoms and an old band t-shirt.

“Morning Gai, what’s cooking?” Jiraiya called as he entered the kitchen, sniffing the air as he walked in. Gai turned to him, lifting his spatula in greeting. Jiraiya chuckled at the frilly pink apron the other man wore, turtle pocket in the front full of eggs for easy access.

“Is that bacon I smell!” he said with a wide grin as Kakashi groaned. Jiraiya chuckled as Gai greeted him cheerily.

“Hello Jiraiya, care to join us for breakfast?” the bushy-browed man chirped, putting some bacon on a plate. Jiraiya smiled as Kakashi tossed a glare at his partner.

“Sure I would, then I can take the kids to school.” Jiraiya said as he scooped Naruto up in one arm, ruffling the teen’s blond locks and further messing up his hair. “Got to go talk to the new guidance counselor about this brat anyway. Probably his grades.” Naruto wiggled from Jiraiya’s grasp and scowled at him.

Sasuke gathered the empty plates, ignoring the fighting from Jiraiya and Naruto as Lee disappeared up the stairs with Gaara, slipping past his fathers. Lee gathered his clothes for school as Gaara walked to the duffle bag he had left in the corner of the room. Lee flinched as he lifted his night shirt over his arms. He needed to change his bandages.

Gaara noticed and moved towards Lee, gently guiding the shirt over his head and pulling it away. Gaara’s eyes wandered down Lee’s chest and his cheeks flushed. Gaara looked up at Lee as he raised a tentative hand.

“Let me change those Lee, they’re hurting you.” Gaara stated as he moved to grab the bandages that rested on Lee’s nightstand. Lee nodded and took a seat on the end of his bed. Gaara sat down next to him and gently unraveled the bandages. Lee watched Gaara as he picked up the ointment and spread it over his burns.

“You do not need to do this Gaara…” Lee tried to protest as Gaara paused to inspect his left arm. Lee watched Gaara shake his head as he lifted the fresh bandages to wrap them around Lee’s arm.

“Y-you took care of me when I was sick,” Gaara said simply as he tied the end of the bandage and moved to take care of Lee’s other arm. “You also took care of my during my episode and you saved me when I almost drowned. Let me help you through this in any way I can.”

Lee watched Gaara as he finished tying the last of the bandages and raised his hand to graze his knuckled over Gaara’s cheek. The red head looked up at him as Lee scooted closer.

“Thank you Gaara,” Lee said gratefully. “I am just not used to being the one that needs to depend on others…” Gaara raised his hand, cupping Lee’s cheek.

“You told me you would help me with my burdens, let me do the same for you.” Gaara said and Lee smiled softly and leaned forward, placing a gentle kiss on Gaara’s lips.

“You are wonderful Gaara.” Lee said pulling away for a moment before deepening the kiss. Gaara laid his hands on Lee’s chest, gently threaded through soft black hairs that covered it as Lee’s arms wrapped around his waist.

Gaara felt his heart pounding in his chest as Lee pulled away and pressed their foreheads together. Gaara sighed and closed his eyes, relishing in Lee’s closeness.

“I am worried about going back to school…what if something happens again?” Lee said, his anxiety bleeding into his voice. Gaara shook his head and opened his eyes to meet Lee’s soft brown, he hated the uncertainty that shined in them. He had grown so used to the confidence that Lee always seemed to radiate.

“Don’t worry, Naruto and I have already coordinated it so that you won’t be alone today.” Gaara reassured, hoping he was helping to ease the anxiety. “And I have the final speeches today before the homecoming dance next weekend, I’d like it if you could be there. We can walk home together.” Lee’s face lit up and he nodded.

“Of course, I will be there Gaara.” Lee said and then a look of realization crossed his face and he looked at Gaara shyly as he took the smaller hands in his own. Gaara looked up at him in confusion.

“G-Gaara…would you like to go to the homecoming dance with me?” Lee asked, his cheeks turning bright red as he asked. “I know we are together and it is sort of expected but I really wanted to get your permission first…Since the…um,” Gaara’s eyes softened and he chuckled at his boyfriend’s embarrassment.

“Of course, I will. You are my boyfriend after all.” Gaara said as Lee hugged him around the shoulders and pulled him close.

“I am so happy you said that.” Lee exclaimed, tears gathering in his eyes as Gaara wrapped his arms around Lee. He was glad he had managed to pick up Lee’s spirits, to bring back some of that light in his eyes.

The door swung open and Naruto stood smirking at the pair with Sasuke in tow. Naruto raised a brow and grinned at Lee.

“Are we interrupting anything?” He joked and Lee turned bright red as he remembered his half-nakedness. “If you guys want to get it on, I’m sure school can wait.” Lee turned bright red and leapt up, sprinting to his closet and picking the first shirt he saw to throw on.

Gaara tossed Naruto a look as he snickered. The blond really needed to learn when to shut up. Sasuke rolled his eyes and tossed Gaara his bag. The red head caught it and took out some clothes, walking past Naruto and Sasuke to disappear into the bathroom.

Sasuke turned to Lee and he smiled giving the teen a thumbs up. Sasuke raised his eyebrow at Lee before turning to Naruto who had laid his head on the Uchiha’s shoulder and wrapped his arms around him. 

“You told him didn’t you?’ Sasuke asked as Naruto grinned up at him. The dark haired teen let out a sigh and Lee scratched the back of his head, smile turning sheepish.

“Yes but it feels so weird not telling Lee at least.” Naruto stated as Sasuke sighed, he knew that Naruto was right. He looked up at Lee.

“You won’t tell anyone right?” Sasuke asked, knowing Lee would not but he wanted to be sure. Lee nodded vigorously, his expression serious.

“Do not worry Sasuke, I already told Naruto I will not tell anyone until you tell them first.” Lee said, promise lacing every part of his voice. Sasuke crossed his arms around himself as Naruto kissed his cheek and left the room to grab his things. Lee waited until the door was shut before he turned to Sasuke, concern and worry in his round eyes.

“You have not told him have you? About the other thing.” Lee said quietly, hoping they were not overheard. “I know that it isn’t always easy to talk about your sexuality but…” Sasuke shook his head and looked towards the door.

“Because that’s a great relationship starter.” Sasuke commented sarcastically. “I really like you but oh, the thought of sex makes me cringe so we’ll never be able to fuck like I know you’ll want to.” Lee raised a brow at his friend’s use of language, walking forward to place a hand on Sasuke’s shoulders.

“Naruto will understand.” Lee said simply as he headed for the door. “But I will not tell him but you should.” Lee then disappeared into the hallway and Sasuke listened for the heavy footsteps down the steps.

He didn’t want to admit it but he knew Lee was right, he should tell Naruto. The relationship was still new, he still had time to think about how to tell Naruto his fears and anxiety.

He still had time.


 

Pein looked down the table at the men that gathered around. Kakuzu leaned back in his chair, counting the bills from the first half of the pay Pein had given him. The scars across his mouth looking particularly menacing in the low light of the room. Konan stood next to Pein, face impassive but clearly annoyed by the man.

Madara barely looked at the envelope that had been placed in front of him. He had eyed it once before meeting Pein’s gaze steadily. The tall man’s sharp black eyes scanned him up and down.

This wasn’t Pein’s first dealing with Madara, a normally solitary hit man but Pein knew he could use the man’s expertise. Madara had been a hired gun for years and despite more than a few gray hairs, was not quitting anytime soon.

“The target is going to be out with his family later tonight at Ichiraku ramen. We can restrain the owner and his daughter until we are finished with our business.” Kakuzu nodded as he pocketed his money.

“So we threaten his family for his silence or are we still going to off him?” Kakuzu asked, leaning his hands on the table and meeting Pein’s eyes skeptically. Pein turned to him slowly, giving the man a blank stare.

“The order is to scare him but if he fails to comply, and I am sure he will, then Hatake is to be taken care of accordingly. Rasa requested that no one else be hurt if we can avoid it.” Pein said nonchalantly as Konan picked at her nails.

“But if they get in the way…well, accidents happen.” Konan added coldly. Madara nodded and chuckled.

“Family is always a good motivator to listen.” Madara said as he rifled through the small file. “Is his partner on the hit as well?” Pein shook his head.

“As far as we know, Maito was unaware of what Hatake was up to so Rasa insists that he and their son be left off the hit.” Pein stated, leaning into his hands as he sat. Madara chuckled and gathered all the files.

“But he said nothing about maiming them a little.” Madara said as he rose. His tall form towered over Pein as he continued to stay seated. “This will be too easy.” Pein nodded as Madara headed for the door.

“Let me gather my supplies and I will meet you at the rendezvous point.” Madara said and Pein nodded again, sighing heavily as the man left. Kakuzu rose a few moments later.

“I need to handle a few things myself, I will meet you at the meeting spot and hopefully this won’t take too much time.” Kakuzu said as he headed for the door. Pein exchanged glances with Konan as their associates left.

A silent conversation occurred between them as they rose to prepare for the job this evening. Hopefully, everything would go according to the plan he had set out. 


 

Kakashi sighed as he untied his necktie, walking towards his closet in hopes of finding something to wear to their ramen night. He undid his shirt, letting the blue garment fall to the ground in a heap as he hung up his tie.

Kakashi was actually looking forward to this dinner. It would just be himself, Gai, Jiraiya, and some of the teenagers tonight. They had decided that since it was mostly the kids, this would be a good time to celebrate some of the good things that had occurred that day. This was a celebration for two things tonight.

One of them was Gaara’s speech, which had earned him a standing ovation in the auditorium and surely won him the election. Shigure had barely managed to follow Gaara up with his own speech, earning him barely a pity clap.

The other was the expulsion of Shinichi Nakano and the boys who had taken part in Lee’s attack. They had been carted away earlier that day by police officers, in front of all their peers. Lee’s bright grin returned soon after, feeling a lot better now that the bullies were no longer hidden in the dark corners of the halls.

Kakashi felt his mind ease now that his son’s tormentors had been taken in by the proper authorities. And to top it all off, Danzo was being investigated for his involvement. The elder man had been lost his job at the school and Kakashi could not have been happier.

Yugao had come to Kakashi and practically raved about how respectful Lee was, what a good student he seemed to be. She had high hopes that he would thrive in her classroom and reassured Kakashi’s worries about Lee switching classes.

Suddenly, a warm arm encircled his waist and Gai’s lips kissed the back of his neck as a bouquet of yellow flowers in white wrapping with a bright red bow. Kakashi chuckled as he took the flowers and raise a brow at his partner.

“Why the flowers Gai?” Kakashi asked as he took an experimental sniff. Gai continued his kisses along Kakashi’s shoulders, speaking in between them.

“To congratulate you, of course.” Gai stated as Kakashi laid the flowers on his nightstand. “Sarutobi told me you are being picked for the school principal position! It is a great honor Kakashi.” The silver haired man sighed, with all the excitement of the last few days, he had forgotten to tell Gai the good news.

“Thanks Gai, sorry it all just slipped my mind.” Kakashi apologized as Gai shrugged and pulled Kakashi closer to his body. Kakashi smiled as Gai’s rough hands traveled up his torso before he turned in the man’s arms. The small gesture had been incredibly sweet.

“I love you.” Kakashi said as Gai reached up a hand to play with his spikey locks. Gai smiled at his lover. Kakashi felt his heart warm in affection and love as he looked up into the other man’s eyes.

“I love you too Kakashi.” Gai said as Kakashi let out a sigh, letting his hands glide up Gai’s shirt. Gai’s strong physique felt solid under Kakashi’s wandering hands as Gai kissed him again.

The bushy browed man rumbled as Kakashi deepened the kiss and his hands wandered down to cup Kakashi’s perfect ass. Kakashi melted into Gai, tangling his fingers in the silky black hair and letting the man guide him backwards. Kakashi felt his back press against the wall as Gai finally pulled away

Kakashi stared up at his partner, eyes softening as they met Gai’s and he reached a hand up to stroke Gai’s cheek. With a smile, Gai leaned down to kiss Kakashi’s cheeks and nose before pressing his forehead to his lover’s. Kakashi sighed contentedly.

“Help me pick out something to wear?” Kakashi asked, jerking his head towards the closet. Gai smiled brightly and moved towards the closet to look at what his lover had to choose from. Kakashi watched and felt his heart swell with love and affection.

He honestly wouldn’t know what to do without Gai.


 

Gaara adjusted his hair in the mirror, still wet from the shower as he got ready to go to Ichiraku’s for ramen tonight with Lee and the rest of his friends. He was still buzzing from the speech he had given and the reaction he had received.

Lee had been off the side of the stage, smiling at him and giving him a thumbs up. He was sure that Lee had been the one to cheer the loudest when the crowd rose to cheer.

And the congratulatory kiss he had received on stage when Lee forgot where they were for a moment had been one of his favorite things about the whole speech. The wolf whistles from Naruto had been fairly unneeded though.

Gaara heard his phone vibrate and he moved to pick it up. It was a text from Lee.

We are leaving now to pick you up Gaara. <3

Gaara shook his head, smiling at the small heart that his boyfriend had left at the end of his text. Lee could be so strange at times. Gaara opened his phone to text his reply.

I’ll meet you downstairs, just finishing getting ready.

Gaara briefly considered returning the heart icon but decided against it. He sent the text and walked over to his bed, pulling out his sneakers from below his bed.

Gaara tied on his sneakers before grabbing his hoodie from the bed and taking one last glance at his clothes in the mirror. He hadn’t worn just a t-shirt and jeans in a very long time but he wanted to relax tonight.

Gaara grabbed his cell phone from his night stand, quickly texting Lee before pocketing the device.

I’ll meet you outside.

After hitting send, Gaara grabbed his keys and headed down the steps from his room.

Temari and Kankuro were both out tonight. Temari was working and Kankuro was out with Kiba so he would have to lock the house tonight. As he padded down the stairs, Gaara found himself smiling at the thought of seeing Lee and eating ramen with the family.

Gaara was just walking past the kitchen, reaching for the door knob when he heard a familiar voice that made dread fill his gut.

“Where do you think you’re going brat?” Rasa boomed, staggering out of the kitchen towards Gaara as he took another drink from the vodka bottle in his hand. Rasa was very drunk, his face bright red and the smell of alcohol so strong it made Gaara’s eyes burn as the man approached him.

Gaara looked up blankly at his father, trying to remain calm. He didn’t want another incident like the last time he had provoked his father.

“I’m going out.” Gaara said simply as he turned back to the door, hoping that was the end of the conversation with his father. Rasa snorted and wiped his mouth before tossing a glare at Gaara.

“Where to?” Rasa growled as he grabbed the back of Gaara’s neck, digging his nails into the soft flesh as he turned his son around. Gaara struggled against his father’s grip, gritting his teeth against the pain. He could feel blood running from the cuts his father was leaving.  

“I am going out with Gai-sensei, Kakashi, Lee and Naruto.” Gaara said calmly, trying not to start a fight. “Can you please let go of me?” Rasa snorted as he glared down at his son.

“You know what will happen when they realize what a monster you really are?” Rasa snapped, slamming Gaara against the wall near the stairs. Gaara hissed in pain as his shoulder blades hit the wall.

“It’s your fault they are even here!” Rasa growled as he lifted Gaara slightly before slamming him into the wall again. “If you had just died instead, Karura would be alive and that tranny would have never meddled into my affairs!” Gaara stared up at his father, the lack of fear in his eyes making Rasa uncomfortable.

So that’s what this was about.

Gaara was well aware of the investigation against his father. The police had searched their home and belongings several months ago for a connection between his father and the illegal weapons market.

Gaara sighed, somehow everything was his fault in his father’s mind.

“If you did something wrong and it came too light, how is that my fault?” Gaara questioned as he looked up at Rasa. The man towered over the teen as he slammed the boy against the wall once more.

“I’m going to beat that mouth off of you, demon.” Rasa growled as he strengthened his grip on his son’s shirt. Gaara blinked up at him.

“Do what you want, it won’t make a difference.” Gaara said calmly, his teal eyes meeting the fierce black. “I’m not afraid of you.” Gaara reacted quickly, weaving his left arm over Rasa’s and under to grip his right wrist.

Gaara slammed his wrist against Rasa’s hand, forcing the man to let go and giving Gaara enough momentum to toss him aside. Gaara moved towards the door, hoping his father’s senses were dulled by the alcohol. The red head grabbed for the door knob just as hands gripped his hair and pulled him back.

Gaara’s eyes watered as Rasa pulled him towards him, an involuntary cry of pain escaping his mouth as his father attempted to drag him up the stairs.

“You’re going to be carted off tomorrow, to a military school. Maybe then you’ll learn your place.” Rasa growled as he pulled Gaara towards the stairs. “Hope you got a good look at your “friends” today, you won’t ever see them again.”  Gaara’s heart skipped a beat and Rasa smiled as he saw the fear pass through Gaara’s face.

Gaara’s racing thoughts turned to Lee and Naruto and all his other friends. He promised Lee they would go to homecoming together, he told Naruto they would skip rocks by the river tomorrow. If he just disappeared without saying goodbye, it would break Lee’s heart. No, he couldn’t let that happen.

Gaara struggled before managing to stomp on his father’s foot. Rasa made a strangled noise of pain, releasing his grip on Gaara’s hair.

Gaara tried the door again only to be grabbed by the collar in his father’s bruising grip. Gaara yelped when nails dug into his skin and his father curled his fist back. Gaara looked up at the man, meeting his eyes without fear. He refused to be scared of this man any longer.

Then the door flew open, slamming against the wall with a loud bang. Rasa turned to the door just as Gaara did.

There in the doorway stood every one of his friends.

Sasuke was holding Naruto back by the collar when he lunged forward at the sight of Rasa holding Gaara. Lee’s eyes widened and he met Gaara’s eyes worriedly as Hinata gripped Sakura’s arm, keeping her from lunging at Rasa as well. Neji calmly held Tenten by the shoulders while Gai and Kakashi stood next to Jiraiya, faces hard as they glared at Gaara’s father.

Jiraiya was the first to walk over, gripping Rasa by the wrist and wrenching Gaara’s shirt from the man’s grip. Gaara watched his father lock eyes with Jiraiya and stiffen under the hard gaze Jiraiya was giving him.

“Gaara, are you okay?” Jiraiya said quietly, not taking his hand off of Rasa’s wrist as he glared sternly at Rasa. Gaara nodded as Lee jerked himself from his father’s grip and padded up to Gaara’s side.

Lee inspected Gaara for injury, eyes full of concern and when he deemed the injuries not severe. He glared at the man who had caused harm on his boyfriend. Gaara reached for Lee’s hand, shaking his head as Lee turned to him. His father wasn’t worth Lee’s anger.

“Lee take Gaara up to grab his things. He’s coming back home with me.” Jiraiya added. Lee nodded and took Gaara by the hand and led him upstairs as quickly as he could.

Rasa growled as he wrenched his wrist from Jiraiya’s grip. How could these people want to defend that…that demon. The demon that had stolen everything from him, had taken the woman he loved and left him a shell of a man, the demon that had brought these people into his life and left it in ruin.

“How dare you come into my home and put your hands on me!” Rasa shouted as he shook in rage. He dove for Jiraiya only to for the older man to side step away, grabbing the unstable man by the shirt before he fell forward.

“Now, let’s not have any of that.” Jiraiya stated as he tossed Rasa into the wall. The drunk man stared at them with wide eyes as his son padded down the steps with his hand intertwined with Lee’s, a bag over his shoulder. Rasa followed his son as he stood by Gai.

The bushy browed man looked down at Gaara with concern, putting a hand on his shoulder. Gaara gave him a small smile of reassurance. The rage rose in Rasa’s heart and he spoke before he could think.

“How can you defend him!?” Rasa shouted as the group turned to him. He glared at his son, clenching his fists as he raved. “He’s a monster! He took everything away from me!” Gai turned to Rasa, blinking at him with a look of pity.

“The only monster I see here, is you.” Gai said calmly before the whole group turned, leaving the broken man behind in his home. Rasa sunk to the floor as the door shut and he was left in darkness.

Alone.


 

Kakashi leaned held the door open as the noisy crowd entered the small ramen shop, laughing and carrying on as they normally did despite the excitement from earlier. Lee and Gaara walked side by side, hand intertwined while talking to both the Hyuuga about different topics. Gaara seemed unaffected by the incident with his father and looked to be enjoying himself.

 Tenten and Sakura chatted about the dance coming up the following weekend. Naruto and Sasuke bickered about something or other as they entered the shop.

Kakashi stopped suddenly after entering Ichiraku, releasing Gai’s hand. Something felt off about the shop, Teuchi and Ayame were nowhere to be seen and the shop was too quiet. No sounds of food cooking or pots scraping. Gai turned to his lover, his eyebrows knitted in concern. He sensed it too.

Kakashi looked around, his senses on full alert as he closed the door. The teens turned when they heard the door shut but Kakashi has stopped talking. Neji was the first to speak.

“Hey, where is everyone?” Neji said quizzically, voicing Kakashi’s uncertainty when the familiar sound of a rifle cocking put Kakashi on full alert. He turned to the group of teens and opened his mouth to shout a warning.

“Kids, get outside no-.” he started to say when a tall man with long black hair and scars across his mouth came out of the kitchen and pointed the gun at the group of teenagers. Another man, this one with greying hair and a woman with short purple hair walked out, pointing hand guns at Kakashi and Gai.

“I wouldn’t do that Mr. Hatake, unless you want your brother and son to be the first one’s we shoot.” A voice said as a man with red hair walked out of the kitchen. Kakashi glared at the man as the woman jerked her handgun, motioning for them to move further into the shop.

The man with the scars drew the blinds of the shop, shielding the outside world from whatever they were planning. Gai met Kakashi’s eye, worry and concern filling them.

Kakashi held up his hands and moved towards the teens. Lee pushed Gaara behind him and held his arms out, staring as one of the men moved closer to them.

“Gaara, stay behind me.” Lee said as he tried to shield Gaara. The red head shook his head and moved to Lee’s side, taking the rough hand in his own. Lee looked over at him as Gaara squeezed his hand.

“No, I will stay beside you.” Gaara whispered. Lee didn’t protest as the teens huddled together, Hinata behind Neji, Tenten and Sakura as they tried to remain calm. Fear was apparent in all their eyes.

“What do you want?” Jiraiya asked as he lifted his hands, staring at the red head. “If it’s money you want, we’ll give it to you just let the kids go.” Kakashi narrowed his eyes. They knew his name, that was enough to guess why they were here and money was only part of it.

They were too heavily armed to be just common robbers, they hadn’t even bothered covering their faces. They came here with the intent of harming his family. Kakashi went through his mind, trying to figure out what he had done to order a hit.

“Rasa sent you.” Kakashi said and the older of the men chuckled, giving Kakashi a smirk. Kakashi clenched his fists. Gaara’s eyes widened at the mention of his father’s name, clutching Lee’s hand even tighter.

“No Subaku was right, he is very intelligent.” The man said as the red head motioned for him to grab Lee.

“Madara, if you would.” The red head said and Madara smirked as he looked towards Lee. Gaara instantly moved to stand in front of Lee, heart hammering in his chest.

“My pleasure, Pein.” Madara chuckled as he stepped forward. Gaara tried to block the man’s path to Lee. Madara raised his pistol and slammed the butt of the gun into Gaara’s head. The red head was knocked to the ground, blood welling from the cut on his head.

“Gaara!” Lee exclaimed, moving towards his boyfriend and moving forward to reach for Gaara. Madara grabbed the teen by the shirt, yanking him towards him. Lee struggled as Gaara looked up at him, fear in his teal depths.

“Let go of me!” He growled, elbowing Madara in the gut. Gaara managed to stand and Lee pulled him into his arms. Gaara took in Lee’s scent, the familiarity calming his racing heart. Lee wiped the blood running down Gaara’s face with his sleeve and kissed his forehead.

“Are you okay?” Lee asked softly and Gaara nodded. Madara straightened as Kakuzu laughed.

“Can’t handle one little brat Madara?” The man laughed without lowering his weapon. Madara glared at him as he pointed his gun at Gaara, aiming at his head. Lee glared up at Madara as he tried to pull Gaara closer to him.

“Cooperate or I’ll kill your little boyfriend right here.” Madara threatened. Lee looked down at Gaara, a feeling of dread filling his gut. Madara grabbed Lee’s shirt, yanking him out of Gaara’s arms. Gaara watched helplessly as Madara dragged Lee away and pressed the gun to Lee’s temple, his heart freezing in his chest as the realization of what these men were going to do hit him.

They were going to kill Lee. Gaara couldn’t breathe as the fear gripped his heart, he couldn’t lose Lee. Not like this. Lee met Gaara’s eyes and smiled at him, making Gaara’s heart stab with pain.  

“It is going to be okay Gaara.” Lee stated as Madara held onto him, willing his voice not to shake as the cold metal pressed to his temple.

“Lying is a serious sin.” Madara said as he forced Lee’s face forward. Lee steeled his features, he didn’t want his fear to show.

Pein approached Madara and Lee before he turned to stare at Kakashi. Kakashi kept his face impassive, his heart hammering in his chest as he looked between their captors and his son’s scared face. He wanted to tell Lee it was going to be okay but the words lost themselves on their way up his throat.

“Our employer wants you to stay out of his business. He wants you punished for what you’ve done.” The red head said. “It would be such a shame, your son has such promise.” Then he turned to Naruto, quickly grabbing the boy by the collar. The blond struggled.

“Let go of me, asshole!” Naruto said as he struggled. The red head looked down at him coldly as he placed the barrel of the gun against Naruto’s temple. Sasuke made a move to go towards them and the purple haired woman pointed her gun at him.

“One move and I shoot.” She threatened as the man cocked his gun. Sasuke clenched his fists in front of him, staring at Naruto as his heart hammered in his chest. He was completely helpless as the man jerked his boyfriend toward him. Gaara put a hand on Sasuke’s shoulder, the gesture a small comfort. He wasn’t the only one watching the one he loved being threatened.

Jiraiya growled menacingly as the man chuckled.

“Let’s start with your brother shall we.” Pein chuckled as he placed his hand on the trigger. Naruto ceased his struggle and looked up at Kakashi, no fear in his eyes. Kakashi recognized the fire in Naruto’s eyes, the determined stare that told Kakashi that the blond had a plan.

It happened quickly, Naruto grabbing the man’s wrist and pushing the gun upward, sliding his foot behind the man’s heel and knocking him down before diving for him to pin him to the ground, Sasuke following after him and diving for Madara.

Lee turned and attacked with Sasuke, striking Madara’s knee before bringing his palm up against the greying man’s nose. There was an audible crunch at the nose broke, blood pouring down Madara’s face.

Madara growled as his eyes watered. He grabbed the knife from his belt just as Sasuke lunged to punch him in the gut. The knife struck its target, embedding itself into Sasuke’s shoulder. The Uchiha staggered back, holding his shoulder as the knife fell out and clattered to the floor.

Jiraiya lunged at the Madara and wrestled him to the ground. The gun fell out of his hands, sliding across the floor as Lee ran toward Sasuke. Lee looked him over, tearing off a piece of his shirt and tied it over the bleeding wound. Jiraiya wrestled with the other man as Kakashi moved towards the woman.  

Kakashi barely managed to get halfway to the woman before the sound hit his ears.

The sound of a gunshot as it rang out, echoing off the walls. Time stood still as Jiraiya stopped fighting his opponent. Behind him, the red headed man was pinned under Naruto with his gun pointed at Jiraiya’s back. Blood gathered along Jiraiya’s back as he grunted in pain and staggered backward, holding his stomach. Blood blossomed around the hand and Jiraiya pulled it away to stare at the blood that coated his fingers.

“Shit.” The man said as he fell forward, into Sakura’s arms. The pink haired girl laid him to the ground, taking off her jacket to press it to the open wound. Naruto grabbed the gun from the Pein’s grip and used the handle to knock him unconscious.

As Naruto rose, he held the gun in shaking hands and collapsed next to Jiraiya. The wound was bleeding right through Sakura’s jacket as Sasuke collapsed to his knees next to Naruto. Sakura looked up at them, shaking her head as tears gathered in her eyes.

“He’s losing blood fast…he needs immediate attention…” Sakura struggled. Sasuke placed a hand on her shoulder. Naruto shook his head in disbelief as he looked back down at Jiraiya.  

“No, he’s going to be fine.” He said as he felt the older man take his hand. “Won’t you pervy sage?” Jiraiya chuckled weakly, coughing as Naruto’s eyes watered. He hadn’t been fast enough. Why hadn’t he taken the gun earlier?

“Hang tough kid, it’s gonna be just fine.” Jiraiya managed just before he lost consciousness from the rapid blood loss. Naruto shook as Sasuke reached a hand out to him. Kakashi turned to the woman just as she shouted.

“Kakuzu, help Pein and Madara!” she said, taking her eyes off of Kakashi for just a moment. That was just enough time for Kakashi to attack. He knocked the gun to the side, jabbing his knuckles into her jugular. The woman coughed as she stumbled backwards towards the bar, holding her throat.

Kakashi was quick to grab the woman’s head and slam it into the hard surface of the counter. She slumped to the ground in a heap, knocked unconscious. Kakuzu moved towards Pein, only for something sharp to be jabbed at his back.

Neji held the knife that had fallen to the base of Kakuzu’s spine.

“Don’t move or I’ll stab this in as far as it will go.” Neji threatened, his voice serious. He wasn’t planning on leaving the man alive should he move.

Kakashi moved toward Madara just as Gai reached the man. Madara blocked the solid kick Gai aimed for his side, punching as the man slide across the floor. The blow met Madara’s jaw and the man chuckled as he spit the blood from his mouth.

“You’re very good at this.” Madara said as he blocked another punch, only to earn a kick in the back from Kakashi. Kakashi came beside Gai and dove for the man with a leg sweep. Madara dodged just in time for Gai’s next punch to connect with his chest.

Madara staggered back, gripping his chest as he coughed. Gai dove for Madara again, hoping to catch him off guard before he recovered. Madara grabbed the large man by the shirt and threw him off to the side.

Lee suddenly moved towards Madara, holding a gun shaking in his hands. He cocked the gun, voicing his intent.

“Do not move or I will shoot!” Lee called out, eyes glaring fiercely at Madara. The greying man laughed, his eyes looking at the teen with amusement.

“You don’t have the guts kid.” Madara said as Lee narrowed his eyes. He pulled the trigger, the kickback catching him by surprise. Madara grunted as the bullet grazed his side, the aim distorted due to Lee’s shaking hands.

Madara straightened up, holding his side. He pulled the hand away and looked down at the blood. Lee moved to shoot again, more prepared than he had been before. He pulled the trigger and the click of the gun made Lee’s heart freeze. The gun was jammed. He looked up at Madara as the man smirked at him.  

“Bad luck kid.” Madara chuckled as he reached into his jacket, taking out a small colt pistol. He pointed the barrel of the gun towards Lee as he looked over at Kakashi.  

“You’re more trouble than your worth Hatake.” Madara stated as he cocked the gun in his hand. Kakashi froze, reaching out towards Lee.

“Lee!” he cried out as the man moved to pull the trigger, his heart beating loudly in his ears as he turned.

Suddenly, Kakashi felt a rush of air just as two gunshots rang out into the shop. Kakashi opened his eyes, not realizing he had closed them.

Gai stood in front of Lee, his back facing Madara as his arms circled around their son. Kakashi blinked as he sprinted toward his son and partner as Madara slumped to the ground. Blood blooming from the gunshot wound on his chest. Naruto stood just behind Lee, shaking hands still holding up the gun.

Anger was dark in the blond’s eyes, washing away any of the light Kakashi was used to seeing as Sasuke moved towards Naruto, taking the gun from his hands and letting it drop to the floor. Naruto turned to Sasuke. Sasuke placed a gently hand on his cheek.

“It’s okay Naruto, it’s over.” Sasuke whispered as tears welled in Naruto’s eyes and he wrapped his arms around Sasuke’s waist and cried into his boyfriend’s uninjured shoulder. Sirens began to sound from outside the building and Sasuke noticed Hinata holding her phone to her body as she shivered next to Sakura and Tenten. Kakashi silently thanked the girl for thinking so quickly.

Kakashi caught Gai as he lost his footing, letting the man lean against him. Gai’s dark eyes stared back at him, filled with pain and warmth all mixing together in their depths. He raised a shaking hand to Kakashi’s face as he managed a weak smile. Gai’s hands loosened their grip and Kakashi felt Gai’s weight fall onto him.

He lowered his partner to the ground, pulling him into his lap and searching for the wound. He found it, blood staining the green shirt Gai was wearing around his lower back. Kakashi felt his chest tighten, eyes watering as he began to panic.

“Gai, stay with me.” Kakashi ordered as he peeled his sweater off, pressing it to the wound in hopes of stopping the bleeding as it began to puddle on the floor. Gai murmured softly from Kakashi’s lap, looking up at his lover with a weak smile.

“Co-couldn’t let him h-hurt my…f-family.” Gai managed through his pain, his mind becoming fuzzy with the blood loss. “L-love you…Kaka…shi.” Lee had joined them at some point, his hands laying over Kakashi’s shaking ones to put pressure on the wound.

“Don’t say that like your dying, you know better.” Kakashi said, voice sounding higher pitched in his worry. He couldn’t lose Gai too, He wouldn’t be able to take it.

“Just hold on papa, it’s going to be fine.” Lee said, willing his voice not to shake as Gaara joined them. Gai managed to lay his hand on Lee’s thigh as his vision spotted with black. He felt Lee’s free hand grip his and tried desperately to keep his eyes open.

“L-Lee.” He managed just before he lost consciousness. Kakashi shook the man, fear settling in the pit of his stomach and twisting his insides. He quickly lowered his hand to Gai’s neck, checking for a pulse. Gai’s strong heartbeat, the one that lulled Kakashi to sleep at night, was silent.

Kakashi held Gai close to him, crying and begging for him to wake up. Lee had to gently wrench his father’s hands from Gai’s still body when paramedics filled the room. Even with his son’s hand curled in his own, Kakashi couldn’t stop shaking.

For the first time in eighteen years, Kakashi was cold.


 

Chapter Text


 

The ambulance blared as Tsunade ran to the emergency room door. She had gotten the call mere seconds before the ambulance arrived. There had been an attack at Ichiraku Ramen with one dead, two critically wounded and four with minor injuries. Tsunade prayed to whatever holy entities she could think of as the doors flew open and the paramedics pushed in two gurneys that there were no faces she recognized. 

She didn’t need to see Kakashi and Naruto following after them to know who the injured men were.

“T-Tsunade...” Jiraiya said as the woman appeared at the side, inspecting his injury. The bullet wound had been wrapped but from the clamminess of his skin, the weak pulse, and shallow breathing, he had lost too much blood.

Gai was not much better. He had been resuscitated in the ambulance after being dead for almost ten minutes. His blood loss was severe and the bullet wound was too close to the spine for Tsunade not to be worried about the bullet that had caused it.

“Give them both blood transfusions and did you run an ultrasound?” Tsunade barked to one of the paramedics, the younger man nodded rapidly as they walked down the hall. Naruto trailing after them, keeping pace next to Tsunade and holding onto the gurney.

“The older male was shot clean through but the other man still has the bullet lodged in his back just barely touching his spine.” The man said, eyeing Naruto warily. Tsunade clutched her clipboard and she turned to one of the nurses.

“Get prepped for surgery as soon as possible. I have to get that bullet out ASAP.” Tsunade said as she walked over to Jiraiya. The nurse nodded and pointed to another door and the gurney’s separated.

Naruto stayed next to Jiraiya and Tsunade, looking up at Tsunade with worried eyes. The woman bit her lip. The prognosis was not looking good for her friend as the other doctors tried to get the wound closed.

Suddenly, a bloody hand grabbed at her sleeve. She looked down at Jiraiya as he looked up at her, half-conscious. Tsunade put her hand over his, trying to steel her nerve as the man spoke. His voice was shaky, weak but Tsunade managed to hear the words.

“Y-you should bet I’ll die…so I can get out of this alive.” Jiraiya said with a small, pained smile. Tsunade’s eyes widened. How could Jiraiya make jokes at a time like this?

“You’re going to be fine and then I’ll kick your ass for getting shot in the first place.” Tsunade said as the man chuckled softly.

“Is Naruto o-okay?” Jiraiya asked as they ran the gurney down the hall. They needed to get the wound closed and the bleeding stopped. Naruto reached for Jiraiya’s hand.

“I’m right here.” Naruto said, his brow wrinkled in worry. Jiraiya looked relieved as the teen squeezed his hand. They rolled the gurney into a room, attaching the transfusion bag and setting up the heart rate monitor.

“We need to stop the bleeding!” Tsunade said as she turned to Naruto, putting a hand on his shoulder. “I need you to go outside Naruto, you’ll only be in the way.” Naruto didn’t protest as he looked down at Jiraiya.

“I’ll be right outside.” Naruto said but Jiraiya held onto his hand, not letting the boy move. Naruto’s eyebrows crinkled in concern as Jiraiya’s eyes softened.

“I am so p-proud of you Naruto.” Jiraiya murmured, coughing slightly as he fought to speak despite his weakened state. “You’ve inherited both Kushina and Minato’s wishes…they would be so proud…” Naruto felt tears prick his eyes.

“Don’t talk like that…” Naruto stated as Jiraiya chuckled again, looking up at Tsunade as she took Naruto’s hand from Jiraiya’s grip. She needed to get Jiraiya tended to, she needed to save him.

“I…love you. Both of you.” He managed to stammer as his eyes closed. “T-take care of each other.” The loud, clear sound of Jiraiya’s heart flat lining made Tsunade’s blood run cold.

“Jiraiya!” Naruto cried shaking the man frantically as Jiraiya’s grip finally loosened on his hand and a nurse hurried him out by the shoulders. Naruto fought, trying to stay in the doorway as several nurses came rushing in, some pushing various carts and equipment. One nurse began CPR as Tsunade checked Jiraiya’s responsiveness.

“Jiraiya!” Tsunade shouted, “Damn it, get me the AED, stat!” Naruto watched helplessly as Sakura entered the room, taking Naruto by the shoulders and leading him out of the room as a nurse wheeled in a defibrillator. Tsunade took the pads quickly, charging them.

“Analyzing rhythm, stand clear!” She called as she stared at the machine. Everything seemed to be moving too slowly as the nurse performing CPR stopped, moving away. The AED beeped and Tsunade looked down at Jiraiya.

“Charged, Clear!” She shouted as she pressed the pads to the pads on her friend’s exposed chest. Jiraiya’s body jerked but the monitor did not change. She charged again, eyebrows crinkled in determination.

“Damn it you idiot!” she growled as she pressed the pads to him again. “Come on…” the body jerked again, no change to the monitor. She charged them again, gritting her teeth as she pressed them against Jiraiya’s chest once more.

She couldn’t give up, not on him.

____________________

Gaara touched the stitches on his head, his mind still reeling from the events of the night. He was quiet the whole time, still trying to process as the nurse sewed the wound shut. He shivered when the nurse left the room and Gaara was left alone with his thoughts.

His father had planned this, he had planned on hurting Lee and his family. If he had never met Lee, if he had never seen Lee than Gai wouldn’t be hurt and Jiraiya would still be alive.

Lee’s hardened face as he told Gaara everything would be okay. Even when his life was being threatened, Lee had worried about him. Gaara shivered, crossing his arms over his chest. He had lost his hoodie at some point during the attack and now he felt cold.

It was then he heard a small knock at his door. Gaara looked up to see Lee standing in the door way, shoulders slumped and his eyes looking heavy. Blood was covering the front of his shirt and his jeans but Gaara couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief as he slid off the bed.

“Lee.” Gaara said softly as Lee walked across the room and wrapped his arms around him. Gaara buried his face in Lee’s shoulder. Lee inhaled Gaara’s scent, feeling Gaara wrap his arms around his waist.

“Gaara.” Lee said as he held onto his boyfriend tightly. They stayed like for a long moment, just holding each other. Lee pulled away slightly, looking down into Gaara’s eyes.

“I-I was so worried…I couldn’t stop them.” Gaara stammered, gripping Lee’s shirt in his hands. “I still can’t believe we’re alive…” Lee lifted his hands, cupping Gaara’s face in his hands.

Lee’s mouth crashed against his, kissing Gaara desperately. Gaara’s eyes fluttered closed as he relished in the feeling of Lee’s lips pressed to his own and Lee’s hands on his face. Tears trailed down Lee’s cheeks as he pulled away. Gaara lifted his hand, wiping away the tears as they fell.

Lee ran his hands up Gaara’s arms, his usual warmth making Gaara feel safe as the red head looked up at him. Lee ran his fingers gently over the stitches on Gaara’s head.

“He hurt you…” Lee said quietly and Gaara shook his head, laying his hand over Lee’s.

“I’m fine but Lee, are you okay?” Gaara asked, searching Lee’s expression for some answer. “Gai-sensei…how is he?” Lee bit his lip, taking a shaky breathe. He tried to fight his tears as he took Gaara’s hands in front of him, running his thumbs over the soft skin.

“He is stable now.” Lee explained, his eyes not leaving Gaara’s hands. “He is being prepped for surgery to remove the bullet but the doctors are worried.” Lee shut his eyes and shook his head.

“He wanted to protect me…I cannot be sad.” Lee said softly. “Showing pity or sorrow for a man who has resolved himself is an insult.” Gaara nodded as Lee pressed his lips to his hands.

“I am so glad you are okay.” Lee said softly and Gaara felt guilt eat at his heart. His father had sent those men, his father was the reason Gai was even fighting for his life. He knew he shouldn’t feel this way…

But part of him couldn’t shake the guilt, couldn’t rid his mind of Kakashi’s desperate cries for Gai to wake up, of Gai’s still body as the blood pooled beneath him. Gaara sighed, lowering his eyes to the ground.

“I’m sorry Lee…this is all my fault.” Gaara said and Lee’s eyebrows crinkled as he shook his head. He hooked his finger under Gaara’s chin, lifting Gaara’s head to meet those beautiful teal eyes.

“No Gaara, this is not your fault.” Lee reprimanded gently. “Your father is to blame.” Gaara’s eyes softened as Lee gave him a soft smile. He was glad Lee was safe, alive in his arms. Gaara let Lee interlaced their fingers, the guilty knot in his stomach easing.

“I need to go see Kakashi…I am worried about him.” Lee stammered, placing another delicate kiss on Gaara’s lips. “I will be just down the hall in the waiting room. Get some rest Gaara, I’ll come wake you when Gai-sensei is out of surgery.” Gaara nodded, walking over to the hospital bed. Lee turned towards the door, giving Gaara one more smile before leaving the room.

Gaara laid back, staring up at the ceiling as he tried to let sleep take hold of him. He wished he could help in some way. But the best he could do right now was close his eyes and let sleep claim him.

Lee would need him if things went south.

                                                            __________________________

Nearly fifteen minutes passed with no change, no heartbeat. Tsunade charged the pads again, having lost count of how many times she had done this. She didn’t even notice that the nurses and attending were watching her with wide eyes.

“Dr. Senju, you need to call it.” One of the nurses said sternly. Tsunade shook her head, no she couldn’t give up. Jiraiya would never give up on her if the roles were reversed.

“No, I can still…I can save him.” Tsunade said as she moved to charge the pads again. Suddenly, a hand was on her shoulder and Tsunade looked up to meet the amber eyes of Orochimaru. He stood still, eyes sad as he looked at her.

“He’s gone Tsunade,” He said quietly as he took the defibrillator pads from her shaking hands, passing them to a nurse. “Call it.” Tsunade clenched her fists at her sides, fighting back the tears that welled into her eyes.

“Time of death, ten-forty p.m.” Tsunade said quietly as she walked out of the room, her lab coat billowing behind her as Orochimaru followed her out. Naruto was in the hall, head down and staring at his hands as Sakura talked to him softly.

“I’m sure it will be fine Naruto.” Sakura said when Tsunade walked over to stand in front of Naruto. The blond looked up at her, searching her face with concerned blue eyes.

“Granny, how is he?” Naruto asked, standing up straight. Tsunade steeled her nerves, taking a deep breath.

“There’s no easy way to say this Naruto…” Tsunade said with a sigh. “Jiraiya’s gone.” Naruto stiffened, his eyes widening as he looked down at his hands as he clenched them into fists in front of him.

“N-no, you’re wrong…he isn’t…he wouldn’t!” Naruto said, rushing forward to grab the front of Tsunade’s coat. Orochimaru made a move to pull Naruto away from her but Tsunade raised a hand.

“I’m sorry Naruto.” Tsunade said softly as the teen started to cry, his grip on her lab coat tightening as a pained sob escaped his mouth.

“Pervy sage would never…he wouldn’t leave me alone!” Naruto said as Tsunade wrapped her arms around him. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she hugged Naruto close. Naruto kept shaking his head in disbelief, repeating a mantra of “No’s” into Tsunade’s scrubs. As Naruto sobbed, Tsunade held and let him cry his sorrow and grief out. She may have lost her closest friend but Naruto had lost the only father he had ever known.

And she knew from experience that no one should have to lose family twice in their lifetime.

                                                                        __________________

The soft beeping of the heart monitor was the only thing that stretched across the silence as Kakashi guarded over Gai’s bedside. The man was hooked up to tubes and machines, eyes closed and his body still feeling cold.

The doctors had successfully removed the bullet, which had nicked some of the nerves on Gai’s spine, severing more than a few. The pain must have been excruciating and they were surprised Gai had survived. Kakashi’s relief soon turned to horror when the doctors said the trauma to his body had resulted in Gai falling into a coma. They were unsure when he would awaken. It could be the next day, next month…

Or never.

“Please wake up Gai,” Kakashi said quietly, bringing the hand up to his lips and closing his eyes. “I can’t do this without you.”

No answer other than the steady beeping of the heart rate monitor. Kakashi sighed as he took a deep breath to quell the sudden urge of tears that pricked his eyes. He needed to be strong, for the kids and for Gai. He could break down later.

A nurse entered the room, a stern look on her face as she lifted the clipboard at the end of Gai’s bed. Kakashi didn’t acknowledge her until she spoke, tapping her board impatiently.

“Sir, only family is allowed in with coma patients.” The nurse said, her tone sounding condescending as she glared at him. Kakashi’s head jerked up, his one good eye narrowing at the nurse.

“I’m his life partner.” Kakashi growled, not having the patience to deal with the woman. He turned his attention back to Gai as the woman shook her head.

“I’m afraid that doesn’t matter sir,” the nurse said, crossing her arms as she continued to glare at the man in front of her. “It’s listed that he isn’t married and I can’t allow just anyone other than family into the room.” Kakashi turned to her.

“You must be new.” Kakashi stated, his patience ending as he rose. “Talk to Dr. Senju and she can explain things to you because I am not leaving my partner when he needs me.” The nurse put her hands on her hips, eyes narrowing.

“I really don’t care what Dr. Senju says, I am the head nurse and I say that you need to get out.” She said, moving to the phone. “I’m calling security.”

A pale hand stopped her. Orochimaru smiled at the nurse as Tsunade entered the room, scowling at the nurse. The nurse blinked up at Tsunade as she pushed past her.

“Get the hell out of here and stop harassing my patients and their family.” Tsunade said as she moved to inspect Gai. Orochimaru moved next to Kakashi, placing a hand on his shoulder. Kakashi sighed, rubbing his eyes as Tsunade looked Gai over.

“How’re you holding up Kakashi?” Tsunade asked as she looked him over, searching his slumped form for any distress. Kakashi rubbed his face.

“As well as I can. Lee is with Naruto and Sasuke now…I heard about Jiraiya…” Kakashi took a shaky breath. It felt so surreal knowing he would never see the older man again. Guilt ate at his chest as he remembered his annoyance at the man this morning. What he would give to see that bright smile again.

Tsunade stiffened, biting her lip as she nodded. Her fists clenched at her side as Orochimaru left Kakashi’s side to stand next to her. A pale arm wrapped around her shoulder, providing comfort as the woman leaned into him.

“I couldn’t save him but I won’t let Gai go.” She said, determination sparking in her eyes. Kakashi smiled under his mask, trusting Tsunade’s judgement. Suddenly, another man dressed in a security uniform entered the room. Kakashi raised a brow as the man’s eyes landed on his, giving him a hard look.

“The head nurse told me there was some trouble in this room.” The man said, eyeing Kakashi warily. Tsunade glared at the man.

“I told her that my patient’s life partner was allowed inside and she apparently doesn’t like taking orders from me.” Tsunade snapped, walking towards the man. “I’ll have a talk with her, sorry for wasting your time.” The man shook his head.

“Konoha law says only spouses and family are allowed in hospital rooms with patients.” The man said, glaring up at Tsunade. “You know that Dr. Senju.” Tsunade’s eyebrows crashed down, her jaw clenching.

“And that law is unfair to people like my patient who are in same sex relationships and can’t get married.” Tsunade stated, crossing her arms as the man shook his head and turned to Kakashi.

“Sir, I understand it isn’t fair but I need to ask you to leave the room.” The man said sternly, taking a step towards him. Kakashi rose, shaking his head as panic set into his heart. He was not going to leave Gai all alone in this hospital room, not when he was needed. He needed to be the first thing Gai saw when he woke up.

He needed to know that Gai was safe.

“Hell no, I am staying right here.” Kakashi said just as Naruto, Lee, Gaara, Sasuke, Sakura and the rest of the kids entered the room. The security guard eyed the teenagers for a moment before turning back to Kakashi.

“I am sorry, sir but I need to escort you out…” The man insisted, moving to grab Kakashi by the arm. “In fact anyone who isn’t related to Mr. Maito should leave now.” He said, eyeing Naruto, Hinata, Sasuke and Sakura.

“Hey, he’s our teacher.” Sakura said, clenching her fist as she moved towards the man. Hinata reached out a hand to stop Sakura’s arm. The pink haired girl turned to Hinata, eyebrows scrunching as she glared at the girl. “But Hinata we can’t just…” Hinata shook her head.

“This man is just trying to do his job, I am sure he doesn’t want to do this but his hands are tied.” Hinata said, voicing the logic that the worry in the room had taken from them. Sakura thought for a moment before her eyes softened at the girl.

“You’re right Hinata.” Sakura admitted, taking a step back and sighing. Naruto crossed his arm as Hinata lead them all towards the door. She took Gaara by the wrist as he stared worriedly at Lee, he didn’t want to leave him all alone.

“W-we can come by later, after Gai-sensei wakes up but for now we need to let this man do his job.” Hinata said as the Naruto turned to Lee, placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder. Kakashi jerked his arm away from the man’s grasp, eye narrowing at the man as he glared. He was not ready to listen to reason.

“Fuck off, I’m not leaving my partner.” Kakashi growled, as Lee came to stand beside him. The round eyed teen looked up at the security officer, eyes tired and watery.

“Please let my dad stay here, sir.” Lee begged, eyes pleading with security guard as the man’s stance softened. “My father is in a coma…we’ve all just lost someone precious and…w-we just want to make sure that he’s alright.” Kakashi caught the quiver in Lee’s voice and looked towards his son.

Lee’s eyes were tired, just barely holding back tears and his whole body looked exhausted. He was barely holding it together and Kakashi knew that he didn’t need this added stress. Gaara reached for Lee’s hand and Naruto grabbed for his shoulder again.

Kakashi’s eyes flicked to the security officer as the man reached for his arm. Kakashi stiffened as the man met his eyes with tired ones. This man looked genuinely sorry for what he had to do right now.

But that didn’t stop Kakashi from yanking his arm away again and storming towards the door.

He walked towards Lee, placing a gentle hand on the teen’s head. Lee looked up and hugged Kakashi around the waist. The teen’s shoulders shook as his father pulled away, smiling sadly.

“It’s okay Lee, let me know how he’s doing later.” Kakashi reassured as he kissed Lee’s head, turning to Gaara and Naruto. He locked eyes with the teal ones, passing along a silent message that Gaara seemed to understand. He would watch over Lee in his absence.  

Naruto turned to Lee as Kakashi stormed out of the room.

“Call us if you need anything.” Naruto said as he gave Lee a reassuring squeeze on his shoulder. Lee nodded, mind spinning too much to find a proper thank you as Naruto followed the others out the door, each giving Lee their own form of comfort before they departed.

Gaara paused in front of him, reaching up to touch Lee’s cheek. Lee’s brown eyes met his nervously and Gaara leaned forward to whisper.

“I’ll sneak back in later, until then I’ll be right outside.” Gaara said as he squeezed Lee’s hand and released it before following Naruto out of the room. Gaara’s eyes never left Lee’s until he could no longer see the teens.

Kakashi practically flew to the parking lot, not letting the stiffness in his spine falter as he walked outside and to his car. He opened the driver’s seat, sliding into the seat and slamming the door with an audible clap of metal hitting metal.

 It was there and only there that he finally let himself break down as he turned on the ignition. The car roared to life and Kakashi turned toward the main road to drive down the street.

Thoughts of Gai falling into his arms plagued him, of Gai laying there in a pool of his own blood as he coughed out declarations of love like it was his last day on earth. Gai could die tonight in the hospital and Kakashi wouldn’t be there, Gai could leave him and Kakashi wouldn’t get to say goodbye.

He’d never get to show Gai how much he loved him.

With a look of calm resolve spreading through every inch of his face, Kakashi pulled up in front of a liquor store, parked the car and stepped inside.

                                                            _______________________

Gaara watched the officer in front of him as he finished giving a statement. The man looked over the notes he had taken and scanned the redhead with softened eyes.

“That seems to match what the other witnesses said.” The man stated, pocketing his notebook and placing a hand on Gaara’s shoulder. “And you’re sure that it was your father who sent these men? It seems rather odd for a father to endanger his child this way.” Gaara crossed his arms, looking towards the room where Lee sat at Gai’s bedside.

“My father holds no affection for me.” Gaara said, not looking away as he watched Lee take his father’s hand. “If I had died at the hands of those men, he would have counted it as a blessing.” The officer nodded and sighed, rubbing his face as he looked toward where Gaara was staring.

“We’ll arrest him in the morning,” the man said, giving Gaara another pat on his shoulder. “He’s already under investigation so it won’t be hard. Thank you for the statement and we’ll be in touch.” Gaara nodded, moving into the room where Lee sat. The dark eyed teen was staring at his father, eyes looking lost and tired.

Gaara placed a hand on Lee’s shoulder, making him look up at him with sad eyes. The normal brightness replaced with anxiety and grief. Gaara wrapped an arm around his boyfriend’s shoulders as he took a seat next to him. Lee leaned into him, seeking comfort from Gaara’s presence.

“It is not fair.” Lee said suddenly, voice filled with bitterness as he laid his head on Gaara’s shoulder. “Kakashi should be here with us…how can people be so cruel?” Gaara blinked, unsure how to answer the question.

“I don’t know Lee…” Gaara replied softly, feeling guilt creep back up. He wasn’t sure what he should say or do in this instance. Lee looked so lost and hurt and here Gaara sat, unable to provide the comfort he desperately wished he could give.

It was then that his siblings came into the doorway. Temari looked into the room, her teal eyes scanning the room for Gaara as Kankuro followed behind her. She met her youngest brother’s eyes worriedly.

“Gaara, are you ok-.” She started to say when her eyes landed on Gai lying unconscious in the hospital bed, her eyes widened and she placed a hand over her mouth. Lee rose with Gaara to walk outside the room as Temari flew towards them both. Kankuro placed a hand on Gaara’s shoulder, looking over the stitches on his head.

“The police told us what happened.” Temari said, turning to Lee after deeming Gaara relatively unhurt. “Are you okay, Lee?” Her eyes softened as Lee wrapped his arms around himself. Lee bit his lip, nodding slightly as Kankuro put a hand on his shoulder.

“I-I am as fine as I can be I suppose.” Lee struggled to say, his voice catching slightly as he looked up at Temari and Kankuro. “Did you hear about Jiraiya?” Temari wrinkled her brow, Kankuro grasped Lee’s shoulder and Lee took a deep breath.

“He is gone…he was shot and we lost him.” Lee said hollowly, looking back towards Gai. “A-and Gai-sensei…he was shot protecting me…” Temari looked into the room again, eyes questioning as she took note of one person missing she assumed would be here.

“Where’s Kakashi?” Temari asked, wrinkling her brows as Gaara watched Lee stiffen. Kankuro blinked, looking around as well.

“Yeah, where is he?” Kankuro repeated, looking toward Lee. “Is he okay?” Gaara stepped forward as Lee’s shoulders started to shake, tears welling in his eyes.

“T-the hospital security would not let him stay in the room…” Lee managed to say, trying desperately to keep his shaking voice steady. “There is a law and since they are not…legally married…Kakashi had to leave.”

Temari was quick to pull the boy into a hug as tears started to fall down his cheeks. Lee wrapped his arms around Temari, tears tracking down his cheeks as Gaara came to his side and Kankuro rubbed at his back.

“I-I do not know what to do…” Lee said as he tried to reign in his emotions. “The doctors keep asking all these questions and I do not know how to answer and the paperwork looks so confusing…and I cannot read them and…” Temari shushed the boy, steeling her gaze as she looked at Kankuro.

“I’ll go deal with the doctors,” Temari reassured the boy, turning towards Kankuro and giving him a curt nod. The teen nodded back, putting an arm around Lee’s shoulders.

“Visiting hours are up, why don’t you let me drive you home and we can get this sorted out.” Kankuro said as Gaara took Lee’s hand, giving his brother a grateful look. His siblings seemed better at providing comfort than he was. Lee hesitated for a moment, the wheels turning in his mind.

“But…Naruto and the others…” Lee started to say when Kankuro raised a hand.

“Hinata’s father came and took Sakura, Tenten, Neji and Hinata home.” Kankuro reassured, “Neji was the one who called us earlier. And Naruto was leaving with Tsunade and Sasuke and Orochimaru when we came in.” Lee nodded, glad his friends were going home to get some rest.

Lee nodded, letting Kankuro lead him with his arm around his shoulders and Gaara’s hand tightly grasping his own. Temari gave him another gentle smile before heading off to talk to the doctors.

Lee was grateful that the siblings cared about him so much.

                                                            ______________

Naruto collapsed onto the guest room bed in Sasuke’s home. Orochimaru was kind enough to let him stay here, he didn’t want to go home right now. He wasn’t sure he could take being in Jiraiya’s home knowing that he would never find the old man at his table writing or laughing as he made Naruto something that vaguely resembled a meal.

He stared at the ceiling, mind feeling too full to sleep. He had cried out all his pain and was left with a numb emptiness he didn’t know what to do with. Naruto reached for a pillow, dragging it to his chest as he turned onto his side.

There was a soft creak as the door opened, Naruto didn’t bother looking up as he felt the bed sink under the new weight and a cool hand on his bare back. Sasuke’s scent filled his nostrils as he felt the hand rub his back.

Naruto released the pillow, turning towards Sasuke and opening his arms to allow the teen to slide into them. Sasuke didn’t speak, just let Naruto nestle into his shoulder. Naruto felt soft hands thread through his hair as he held his boyfriend close to him.  

“He’s gone Sasuke…I never got to…” Naruto tried to say, tears that he thought he had exhausted brimming up to the surface. Sasuke nodded, pulling Naruto in a little tighter.

“I know...I’m sorry.” Sasuke comforted as Naruto sobbed into him, wishing he could take away the pain in the teen’s eyes. Naruto gasped for air as his thoughts turned to darker ones.

“I-I killed him…I killed someone Sasuke…” Naruto said softly, pulling away slightly as the desperate thought suddenly crashed onto him like a wave. He had ended a life with his own hands

Yes, Madara had deserved it. He was a man who had tried to end Lee’s life, to end Kakashi’s life and if Naruto hadn’t pulled the trigger, he would have surely killed them all. It wasn’t as if he had killed the man in cold blood. That wasn’t what made the guilt thrum in his chest and twist his insides.

What truly scared him was how easy it was to kill the man, how he had just reacted without even hesitating. Naruto had watched as the man slumped to the floor, looking at him with fearful and dark eyes as he fell to the floor, gasping.

Part of him had liked it when the light faded from the evil man’s face.

Sasuke shushed his boyfriend, pulling him in tighter as Naruto buried his face in the uninjured part of his shoulder. Sasuke searched his boyfriend’s weeping form for some way to help but he knew from experience that there were no words that could ease the pain of losing family.

His own family had been taken from him so long ago but the hurt still hummed inside his heart, still lingered even after all these years.

Naruto finally managed to cry himself to sleep in Sasuke’s arms, leaving Sasuke to watch over him. Sasuke was too alert to sleep, so he settled in to watch over Naruto as he moaned and cuddled closer to him.

Sasuke just hoped he could give the comfort Naruto clearly needed.

                                                                        ___________________

The car was quiet as Kankuro drove them to Lee’s home. Lee had dozed off onto Gaara’s shoulder, his soft snores filling the car as he managed to catch a few winks of sleep. Gaara gently combed his fingers through soft black locks.

Gaara gently pressed his lips to the top of Lee’s head, glad his boyfriend was finally getting some rest. Kankuro watched from the rear view mirror, not sure if he should be happy or disgusted by his brother’s display of affection.

“How are you holding up little bro?” Kankuro asked, voicing his concern as he turned the corner. Gaara looked up, teal eyes scanning his brother’s as he let out a sigh.

“I’m fine…just tired.” Gaara replied, voice heavy as he curled his arm tighter around Lee’s shoulders. “I’m just trying to process it all. It still seems surreal…I know our father is not a good man but I would have never thought he’d do something like this.” Kankuro nodded, hands gripping the steering wheel tighter.

He still couldn’t believe it himself. Rasa was a bastard, a harsh man who treated his children just as harshly as anyone would have. Kankuro had experienced the man’s callousness just as much as anyone but to think he would send hired guns after this family…

Kakashi and Gai, Jiraiya and the others had shown them nothing but kindness. Kankuro had never met anyone as kind as these people and to think that someone of Kankuro’s own blood had punished them this way made the anger flair in his gut.

Rasa had taken something precious from these people, from the ones who had changed his brother for the better. He had hurt this family he was slowly starting to see as his own.

Part of him was grateful for the news Temari had given him earlier that evening. She had gotten a small three bedroom apartment near the high school for them all to live in, away from their father. Kankuro was grateful to his sister for the sacrifice she had made just to make sure they were being taken care of.

Any sense of loyalty he had felt for the man who he called father had disappeared when he saw Gai lying in that hospital bed.

“Well when we get home, I want you to start packing up your stuff.” Kankuro said. “Temari got us all a place to stay and frankly I don’t want to see dad until whatever court date is set.” Gaara nodded, a small smile gracing his face. He was relieved he wouldn’t have to face the man who had done this to the people he cared about.

Kankuro pulled into the driveway and took note of the wide open door. He wrinkled a brow as he got out of the car. Gaara was shaking Lee awake as Kankuro walked to the front door and pushed it open the rest of the way.

The house was dark and Kankuro stepped inside, scanning the area for any sign of life. His senses on high alert as he heard noises in the kitchen. He walked towards the room and peered inside.

He stared in horror of what he saw.

Kakashi was at the kitchen table, a few bottles of beer littering the floor and table as he drank from a bottle of whiskey. Several unopened bottles laid on the table as well as another case of beer.

The man looked up when he heard Kankuro enter the room and grinned widely. His eyes were glazed over and he struggled to stand upright as he rose from his chair. Kankuro glared at him.

“K-Kankuro…what brings you here kiddo?” Kakashi slurred, wobbling slightly as he walked toward the teen. He slung an arm around Kankuro’s shoulders and Kankuro wrinkled his nose at the smell of alcohol on Kakashi’s breath. He was very drunk.

“W-want some?” Kakashi offered as another voice made Kankuro stiffen.

“Kakashi?” Lee called out, voice still tired and strained as Kankuro heard the footsteps come closer. Lee shouldn’t see his father this way after what had happened that day. Kankuro pushed Kakashi off of him, turning to shout towards the door.

“Gaara, don’t let Lee-.” He started to say as the familiar bowl cut rounded the corner into the room. Lee’s eyes widened as he set eyes on his father. Kakashi stumbled backwards, smiling up at his son as he steadied himself on a kitchen chair.

“Lee!” Kakashi said as he took another swig of his bottle, swallowing thickly as he turned towards the table. Gaara came up next to Lee, standing in front of him as Lee shook his head in disbelief.

“D-dad…what are you doing?” Lee asked, taking a step towards the man who had raised him. In all the years he had known the man, he hadn’t ever seen the man look at a drink let alone get this drunk.

“J-just having some f-fun!” Kakashi stated, speech still slurred as he coughed and turned towards the floor. Kankuro clenched his fists as Kakashi vomited up the contents of his stomach onto the floor. The smell was horrible as Lee started to shake, his eyebrows crashing down in anger as he moved past Gaara. The teen moved towards his father, glaring as he tore the bottle from his father’s hands.

“Kakashi, you should not be doing this!” Lee said as Kakashi blinked, looking at his hand before looking up slowly at his son. Kakashi reached for the bottle, taking a shaky step forward.

“G-give that back Lee.” Kakashi whined as Lee took a step back, shaking his head. Lee bit his lip and wrinkled his nose as his father moved closer.

“No, Gai-sensei would not like seeing you this way!” Lee said, trying to keep the bottle from his father’s grasp. “He would not like it that you are drinking because…” Kakashi laughed cruelly, managing to wrench the bottle from his son’s hands.

“I-it’s not like it m-matters,” Kakashi growled, taking another swig of the bottle as Lee glared up at him, tears pricking his eyes. “It’s not like he’s here to stop me. He’s n-never gonna stop me again…”

Gaara made a move towards Lee, eyes watching Kakashi warily. His whole body was stiff, on edge and waiting for Kakashi to go for Lee. In his experience, father figures with alcohol in their system always spelled trouble.

And if Kakashi made any move towards Lee, Gaara was prepared to defend him.

“He’s never gonna wake up,” Kakashi said with finality as he took another swig of his whiskey. Lee’s eyes widened as Kakashi laughed bitterly, staring his son down with glazed and angry eyes. Lee took a step back as Kakashi gripped the bottle in his hands.

“N-no, Gai-sensei will be fine!” Lee shouted, fear clawing at his heart at the mere thought of his father dying in some hospital bed. Kakashi shook his head, taking another swig of the whiskey and laughing bitterly.

“What do you know about it, you’re just a child?” Kakashi scoffed, taking a looking step towards Lee. “Shut the hell up, you don’t know anything about life.” Lee took a step back and clenched his fists at his side.

“He is my father. I know he will be okay.” Lee said quietly, wrapping his arms around himself as if cold. “He would never abandon us like that.” Kakashi felt irritation rise in his chest, spurned by the alcohol. He just wanted some peace to drink and forget, to forget the misery and sadness that gripped his heart.

To forget this unbearable loneliness and pain he felt.

“Gai isn’t going to wake up…He’s going to die in that hospital bed and I won’t even be there.” Kakashi said, his face contorting into one of rage. “He’s going to leave just like everyone else!”

A loud slap reverberated off the walls. Lee stood in front of Kakashi, breathing hard and his cheeks streaked with tears as he glared at the man he called his father as he blinked down at his son, cheek red from the slap.

“How dare you give up on Gai-sensei?!” Lee shouted, hands clenching into fists at his sides. “He has never once given up on any of us. He has never given up on you, not even once.”

Kakashi’s jaw dropped as the bottle fell from his grip, falling and shattering in a loud crash of breaking glass. Lee jumped up, the sound shocking from his anger. Gaara was quick to stand in front of Lee, leading him towards the stairs as Kankuro turned towards Kakashi.

The man blinked at his son as he was led up the stairs. He stared down at his hands, his heart clenching as he realized what he had been saying. Lee shouldn’t see him this way, not when everything else was falling apart.

Kakashi managed to stumble up the steps, heading towards his son. His alcohol ridden thoughts turning to his own father as he reached the top, Kankuro following after him to keep Kakashi from falling down the stairs. Kakashi stopped at the door, moving to open it when he heard Lee’s soft sobs. He peered inside, barely making any noise despite his drunken state.

Lee was wrapped up in Gaara’s embrace, body shaking as he clung to the smaller teen’s shirt. He sniffed and cried as Gaara rubbed soothing circles on his back. Gaara’s face seemed impassive as Lee looked up, defeat and hurt heavy in his eyes.

“I-I do not know what to do Gaara…I have never seen Kakashi like this…He seems so defeated and I do not know how to fix this.” Lee said, voice heavy with hurt and Kakashi felt his own heart pang. He had been so lost in his own misery, he had forgotten that Lee was just a child. He couldn’t handle this pain and trauma on his own.

“You don’t have to Lee.” Gaara said softly, wiping away the tears with his thumb as Lee pulled him closer. “I’m here and I’ll do my best to help.” Lee buried his face in Gaara’s shoulder, gripping onto the boy like he was a life line.

 “I-I cannot do this Gaara.” Lee sobbed into the red head’s shoulder. Gaara gently rubbed Lee’s back as the man cried a wet spot on his shirt. “Kakashi…how can he just give up on papa like this…how can he…I need him…” Gaara shushed Lee gently, holding him tighter to him.

Kakashi felt guilt hit him full force as Gaara tried to comfort his son. How could Kakashi have just assumed that he could just fall apart like this, just ignore his child like his father had done to him so many times.

The image of Sakumo lying dead on the floor, bottle of whiskey still in his hand next to the gun filled Kakashi’s mind and tears sprung to his eyes as he burst into the door. Lee jumped up, wiping his eyes as Gaara glared at Kakashi.

Kakashi took in Lee’s red eyes and he took a step towards the boy. He may need Gai but there was someone here who needed him to be a man right now, needed him to be a father right now.

“L-Lee…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to…” Kakashi struggled to slur as he stumbled forward, falling forward and landing hard on his knees. Lee was by his side in a second, lifting Kakashi’s arm around his shoulders and helping him stand. Kakashi threw his arms around his son as he stood.

“I didn’t mean any of that…I just…I can’t…” Kakashi struggled to say as he held his son close. Lee’s eyes softened as he wrapped his arms around his father, rubbing his back in comfort as he gripped him closer.

“I know dad, I know.” Lee said softly as Kakashi lost all control once more. He cried into his son’s shoulder, soaking the soft green material. Lee felt tears prick his eyes as well as he broke down.

“It is going to be okay.” Kakashi reassured as they both cried, holding each other like they would disappear if they let go. When they finally did let go and Lee led his father to the end of his bed, Kakashi looked over at Gaara.

The red head stood awkwardly, holding himself as he eyed the pair warily. He seemed unsure how to proceed or if he should interrupt this moment. Kakashi’s eyes softened at the teen.

Gaara had stepped up to take care of Lee when he had been too busy drowning in his own sorrows to do so. He could see the guilt in Gaara’s expression, the boy was blaming himself for this. Kakashi knew Rasa was to blame for what happened to Gai, that he should be angry that Gaara’s father was still alive.

Rasa was allowed to live and continue on to potentially hurt so many other people, after treating his family as poorly as he did. Meanwhile, Gai, who had done everything he could to be a good person and help others would potentially die in a hospital bed.

It wasn’t fair but it wasn’t Gaara’s fault at all.

Kakashi lifted an arm, gesturing for Gaara to join them at the end of the bed. Gaara approached warily, locking eyes with Kakashi as the man wrapped an arm around the redhead. Gaara stiffened before relaxing into the hug with Kakashi and Lee.

“Don’t blame yourself kid.” Kakashi said, his voice still slightly slurred from the alcohol in his system. “It isn’t your fault your dad’s an ass.” Gaara chuckled a little at that as Lee laid his hand over his, rubbing a thumb over the soft skin.

“He’s right Gaara, you never have to worry about us blaming you.” Lee said comfortingly. Gaara looked up at Lee and gave him a soft smile. Kakashi watched as the boy’s shared a look, his heart swelling and aching at the same time.

Gaara truly did care for Lee. It showed in how attentive he had been to the boy while Kakashi himself hadn’t. Maybe it was the alcohol but all worries over Gaara hurting his son went away as he watched Gaara squeeze Lee’s hand and smile at him as if he was the most precious thing in the world.

Gaara smiled at Lee the way Kakashi always looked at Gai. Kakashi felt his own guilt prick at his heart.

“And thank you for watching over my son…” Kakashi said gratefully, finally voicing his thoughts. Gaara looked up, eyes widening as they met Kakashi’s. He had always sensed that Kakashi didn’t trust him not to hurt Lee but right now, the man looked at him like he was part of the family.

Gaara felt happiness fill his heart with the gentle praise.

“I would have done it anyway.” Gaara stated quietly, eyes flicking back to Lee. “Anytime Lee needs me, I will be by his side. He’s done that and more for me.” Kakashi chuckled and ruffled Gaara’s hair.

“You’re a good kid.” Kakashi said as his eyes starting to feel heavy. Lee released him, smiling up at him as he guided Kakashi to his bed, helping him settle under the blankets. Gaara held them open as Kakashi laid his head on the pillow.

Kakashi’s heart filled with warmth as his son tucked him in, moving to walk away as Kakashi laid his head on the pillow. He reached up, grabbing onto Lee’s sleeve.

“I love you, Lee,” Kakashi said, holding onto his son’s sleeve as he sleepily looked up. “I-I don’t say it enough…” Lee’s eyes softened and he laid on the bed, curling up next to his father and ignoring the smell of alcohol that still clung to him.

“It’s okay Kakashi,” Lee said softly, his own eyes closing as he tucked his head under Kakashi’s chin and wrapping his arms around him. “I love you too.”

Gaara shut off the light as snores began to fill the room. He gestured for Kankuro to leave the room with him as he shut the door behind him, taking the time to look at the small family as they slept.

                                                            _________________

 Sasuke rose from his bed, blinking sleepily as he tried to figure out what had awoken him. The clock flashed the time, saying it was almost four in the morning. Sasuke grumbled and rubbed his eyes when he suddenly noticed Naruto was not next to him.

Sasuke swings his feet over the side of the bed and got to his feet, walking from his room. The bathroom was empty as was the study so he walked down the hall to the stairs.

That was when he heard the dull sound of breaking glass.

Sasuke ran down the stairs and into the kitchen like the house was on fire. He rounded the corner and into the kitchen when he saw Naruto staring blankly at the broken cup at his feet.

“That fucking Madara deserved what he got.” Naruto’s voice said, sounding rough and nothing like the blond normally did. “He was weak if he let me kill him. All humans are weak.” Sasuke watched from the door as Naruto paced back and forth, tracking bloodied foot prints onto the floor. Naruto must have cut his feet.

“Damn, I could use a smoke.” Naruto growled, his voice still quiet as he ran his hand through his messy blond hair. “Haven’t had one in ages. Can’t remember last time…”

Sasuke entered the kitchen, his footsteps catching Naruto’s attention. The blond slowly looked over at him, smiling widely. The smile was a cruel one as Sasuke scanned his boyfriend’s face. The face was unfamiliar and frightening to Sasuke but he kept an impassive face. Naruto growled lowly, fists clenching as Sasuke raised a brow at him.

“What are you looking at?”  Naruto snapped, his blue eyes looking at him with a level of contempt that Sasuke had never seen on Naruto. Sasuke looked his boyfriend over, taking in his tense shoulders and defensive stance. He fought his instincts to run as he took another step forward, this was Naruto and Naruto would never hurt him.

“Naruto, what are you doing?” Sasuke asked, looking at Naruto with confusion. The sound of Sasuke’s voice seemed to draw Naruto away from whatever place he was lost in. Naruto’s head jerked up, eyes unfocused for a moment as he looked at Sasuke and the blue eyes returned to normal.

Naruto stood in the middle of several broken glasses, bare feet bleeding from stepping on the broken pieces. Sasuke took a step forward, concern reaching his voice. The blond blinked at him several times before his eyes focused and he suddenly looked around. Sasuke raised a brow as Naruto looked confused, reaching up a hand to hold his head as he shook it.

“H-how did I get down here?’ Naruto asked aloud, looking around the room and running a hand through his already mess hair. Sasuke raised a brow and walked toward his boyfriend. He looked over the bloody footprints on the floor, watching the path they had tread to the cupboard.

It almost looked like Naruto had purposefully broken the dishes. Sasuke shook that thought from his head along with the memory of what his boyfriend had been muttering, trying to find a more logical explanation for the mess. Sasuke reasoned that his boyfriend had just been sleep walking and had been caught in some kind of dream. Naruto would never say things so violent normally.

Sasuke lead Naruto over to the kitchen chair, setting him down and moving to clean up the mess. He swept up the bloodied pieces of glass before using a rag to mop up the blood. Naruto stared at his hands, not moving to tend to his feet as he blinked. He was being too quiet as Sasuke moved towards the kitchen sink.

Sasuke moved toward him after cleaning, grabbing the first aid kit under the sink to wrap Naruto’s torn feet. The cuts were deep but not bleeding too badly. Sasuke used the peroxide to clean the cuts, the pain finally drawing Naruto from his thoughts.

“I-I’m sorry Sasuke…I don’t know how or why…” Naruto tried to apologize. Sasuke shook his head. He wrapped Naruto’s feet gently with the white gauze.

“It’s okay idiot, you were probably just sleep walking.” Sasuke said, smirking at Naruto as he rose to his feet. Naruto nodded slowly.

“Y-yeah, sleepwalking.” Naruto echoed as Sasuke helped him to his feet, lacing his fingers with Naruto’s and leading him towards the stairs. Naruto was unnaturally quiet as they carefully walked up the steps.

“You are not going to school tomorrow.” Sasuke stated as he helped Naruto up the steps. “I don’t want to have to drag you around all day because you cut up your feet sleepwalking.” Naruto chuckled slightly as they walked to Sasuke’s room.

“Whatever bastard,” Naruto commented, collapsing onto the bed and sighed as he cuddled under the covers. “I wasn’t going to go anyway so don’t think I’m letting you tell me what to do.”

Sasuke followed Naruto onto his bed, lying beside him and laying his head on the blond’s chest. Naruto’s arm wrapped around Sasuke’s shoulders. Naruto placed the covers around them, cuddling closer to Sasuke.

He placed a gentle kiss on Sasuke’s forehead, sighing as he leaned back onto the pillows. Sasuke felt his eyes get heavy again as Naruto sighed. Sasuke focused on Naruto’s thumb as it circled the soft skin of his hand, enjoying the contact.

He had been so close to losing Naruto tonight, a thought that scared him more than he was comfortable with. He had never been so scared, not since his parent’s death when he was six years old. The thoughts of that night still gave him nightmares and kept him up well into the night.

He never thought he would ever be as attached to anyone after that night but Naruto had changed all that. Naruto with his bright smiles and stubborn refusal to let Sasuke curl into his own loneliness. Sasuke had been so alone before Naruto’s friendship. The thought that Sasuke would one day wake up and not be greeted by those bright blue eyes and wide smiles made his heart twist in pain.

He wouldn’t lose Naruto like that. He would not let it happen.

“I’m so glad I have you Sasuke.” Naruto said sleepily, curling his other hand on the hand Sasuke had laid on his chest. Sasuke nodded, smirking to himself as the worry left his mind.

“I know, you sure are lucky.” Sasuke chuckled as Naruto let out another small laugh. Naruto grumbled something intelligible as he faded off into sleep again. Sasuke listened to the soft sound of Naruto’s breathing that settled into snores.

Part of him still worried about what had happened but Naruto was going to be fine. After something so traumatic, it was natural that he would not be able to sleep.

In that moment, Sasuke found himself remembering their past together. When Naruto would get into trouble on purpose and . Naruto hadn’t done anything like that since he was thirteen. Naruto would be okay after this, he would snap back even stronger than before just like he always did.

Wouldn’t he?

Sasuke closed his eyes, letting sleep grab him again as he pushed his worries from his mind. He would be there for Naruto just like he always was until the blond no longer needed him.

                                                                        __________________

Kakashi blinked as the sun shined into his eyes. His head jolted in pain as he moaned, grabbing his head and trying to shield his eyes from the sun. His head pounded as he tried to remember the night before. Everything seemed a haze of fog in his mind.

He recognized this feeling, he hadn’t been this hung over in a long time. Kakashi looked around the room carefully, eyeing the green bed spread and realizing he was in Lee’s room.

Kakashi bolted into a sitting position, moaning as his head gave another dull throb. He looked around when the door squeaked open and he could hear his son laughing. Lee walked towards the bed, balancing a tray of food on one hand and carrying a bottle of Gatorade and pain killers in the other.

“Morning Kakashi.” Lee said quietly, placing the tray down on his nightstand and opening the bottle of pain killers and shaking two out onto his palm and handing them to Kakashi. The older man smiled gratefully, taking the pills and then grabbing the Gatorade that Lee handed him.

He downed the drink about half way before turning to the plate of food that Lee had set in front of him. Eggs, bacon and greasy foods decorated the surface and Kakashi realized just how hungry he was as his stomach rumbled.

“Thank you Lee.” Kakashi said as his son took a seat next to him. He took Lee’s hand and the boy smiled at him.

“You are welcome Kakashi.” Lee said, giving his father a look. “And just so you know, I poured rest of the alcohol you bought down the kitchen sink.” Kakashi blinked at his son, surprised by his nerve. Kakashi chuckled, earning him a jolt of pan through his skull. He reached over to ruffle his son’s hair.

“Gai would be very proud.” Kakashi stated, taking a bite of the eggs Lee had prepared. Lee shifted at his side. Kakashi cast a glance at his son, taking note of the contemplative look on his face. He raised his brow at Lee.

“You want to tell me something,” Kakashi guessed, pausing in his eating as Lee nodded. “Then tell me.” Lee sighed, looking up at his father with worried eyes.

“K-Kakashi,” Lee asked, sounding unsure of how to phrase his question. “I think you should go see Yamato and tell him about last night. I am worried that you will regress back into your alcoholism.” Kakashi’s head jerked up, meeting his son’s worried eyes with his own.

He had never told Lee about his alcoholism. Kakashi would rather his past stay there, hoping his son would never make the same mistakes he did. He hoped that he would never have to tell his son of the kind of person he had been after Minato, Obito and Rin’s deaths.

“Who told you about that Lee?” Kakashi asked, moving his eggs around the plate with his fork. Lee looked up at his father, giving him a small, comforting smile.

“Gai-sensei told me a while ago, when I asked why you did not drink like the other adults did and why he kept his sake in the dojo instead of at home.” Lee explained before giving Kakashi a hard look. “I already called Yamato and set up an appointment, you have to go Kakashi.”

Kakashi blinked again, eyes softening at the gentle urge in his son’s voice. For a moment, Kakashi was reminded of how Gai used to speak to him when the man first found him after the war.

Kakashi had been down on his luck, getting kicked out of a bar when Gai had found him in the gutter. Gai had brought him to his apartment, given him food and cared for him during his hangover and offered him a place to stay.

Kakashi remembered how hard Gai had pushed him to seek therapy, how he found Yamato for him and even went as far as to throw out not only his own alcohol but also Kakashi’s hidden stash of whiskey.

And here was Lee, doing all the things his father had done for Kakashi. Kakashi felt the pride well in his chest as he chuckled, all anxiety gone. Even if Gai left him, even if Gai died in that hospital bed, there was still a small piece of him that lived on in their son. Kakashi took comfort in that realization.

“Of course I will Lee,” Kakashi said as he turned back to his food, trying to look aloof and calm. Lee watched his father continue to shovel the last of his food into his mouth, smiling as he did. “I’ll call Yamato in a moment, after I sleep some more.” Lee nodded as his father finished his food. Lee took the plate, letting his father settle back into his covers.

“Just stay in my bed then, feel better.” Lee said, walking towards the door. “I am going to visit Gai-sensei today and see if I cannot get them to budge on the rule about you not being allowed in the room.”

A soft snore filled the room and Lee turned towards his father. Kakashi was already sound asleep, clearly more tired than he had let on. Lee smiled, walking towards the window to draw the blinds and block his father from the harsh sunlight.

Lee turned to the door, shutting it slowly and quietly behind him as he padded down the stairs. He hit the last step with a dull thump and Gaara looked up from his spot on the couch, his book perched on his knee as he looked up at Lee.

“I cleaned up the mess in the kitchen.” Gaara said as Lee brought his father’s dishes to the sink. Lee nodded as he washed the plate and fork, carefully and deliberately taking his time. Gaara walked up beside him, leaning against the counter as he watched Lee. Lee had never moved as slowly as he did today. It worried Gaara a little.

“Kakashi is asleep.” Lee said simply, turning to look at Gaara as he dried the dish. “I am still worried about him but I hope I can resolve this issue at the hospital today.” Lee’s hands kept drying the dish, his movements not slowing even after the dish was thoroughly dry.

Gaara took a step forward, taking the dish from Lee’s hands to set it on the counter. Gaara took Lee’s hands in his own, bringing them up to his lips. Lee’s eyes softened as his eyes met Gaara’s and the redhead took a step closer to him.

“Do you want me to come with you?” Gaara asked as Lee raised his hand to Gaara’s cheek. Gaara leaned into the warm hand and laid his hands on Lee’s hips. Lee shook his head, running his thumb over his boyfriend’s cheek.

“I-if you want to.” Lee said, his voice shy as he tried to hide his nervousness. “I would like you there, at least for a little while.” Gaara nodded, wrapping his arms fully around Lee’s waist and pulling him closer.

“I will join you as soon as I drop off the notes from the police to the school.” Gaara said, pressing his face into Lee’s shoulders. “I want to make sure they know what is happening with all of us and know why we are missing school.” Lee smiled. Gaara always thought of things like this.

“Thank you Gaara.” Lee said, wrapping his own arms around Gaara’s shoulders and pressing their forehead together. Gaara sighed, leaning up into Lee. “I am so glad you are here…I do not think I could get through this without you.”

Gaara felt his cheeks heat, his face feeling warm at the praise. He stood on the tips of his toes, reaching up to press his lips to Lee’s for a quick kiss. He curled his hands on Lee’s chest as the teen murmured in surprise. Lee’s eyes slowly closed as Gaara kissed him.

Gaara’s lower back ached slightly, a night spent on the couch had left him in knots but he ignored the pain as Lee melted into the kiss. When the need for air became too much, Lee pulled away. Lee was smiling brightly at him and Gaara felt his heart flutter in affection. It should always be like this, Lee in his arms and that bright smile on Lee’s face.

Suddenly, Lee pulled his body away and released his grip on Gaara’s shoulders. He kept grinning, reaching up his hand to take Gaara’s. The rough callouses of Lee’s hand rubbed against his soft hand as Gaara looked up at Lee.

“Let’s go lay on the couch for a bit,” Lee suggested, intertwining his fingers with Gaara’s. “I want to hold you until Kankuro gets here.” Gaara nodded, a small smile playing on his lips.

“Okay Lee.” Gaara replied as Lee took his hand, leading him to the couch where they would sit and cuddle until Kankuro came to bring them to the hospital. It was in that moment that Gaara knew that Lee would be okay. That they would make it through this traumatic event…

Together.

Chapter Text


 

Lee stared out the window of Yamato’s office, his mind too distracted to really speak to the man as Yamato looked him over silently. It had been like this for two weeks, Lee came in with a bright grin and the latest update on Gai before sitting down and eventually growing silent until their hour was up.

Kakashi thought it would be a good idea but Lee had never really needed to see a therapist and struggled with what to do. It had been three weeks since the attack, two weeks since Gai had gone into the coma and had yet to awaken. Kakashi told him of how Lee woke up screaming most nights, how he locked himself in his room whenever he was home only to come out when Kakashi could coax him into eating.

Yamato looked Lee’s silent form over. In all his years as a therapist, he had learned to recognize how different people dealt with trauma. People like Kakashi did whatever they could to forget, people like Gaara chose to harden themselves, and then there was Lee, the kind of person who put on a smile and tried to be strong.

Lee had poured himself into his studies and when he wasn’t at school, the boy was at his father’s bedside. Even though he wore that strained smile, it was clear the stress was taking its toll on Lee’s spirit. The dark circles under his eyes revealed how little he slept, his normally well-kept appearance had fallen into disrepair.

Gaara had told Yamato about his concerns during his own sessions, how he worried that Lee was holding too much in. Gaara could see the cracks in Lee’s armor just as much as Yamato could and knew that the teenager needed to talk but Lee still hadn’t even spoken to him about how he was. Yamato knew he could help Lee.

He just needed to get past that fake smile to do it.

The timer dinged, signaling the end of their session once again. Yamato let out a sigh as Lee jumped up, his stiff smile on his face once again as he gathered his back pack. Yamato rose to grab the door.

“Thank you for your time Yamato,” Lee said as he headed for the door, Yamato nodded and watched Lee’s back as the teen left the building to walk home. Frustration rose in his chest as Yamato closed his door and walked to his desk.

The man laid his head on the table and sighed again as he opened Lee’s file to record the progress of the day. There wasn’t much to report as Yamato tried to wrap his head around how to deal with this.

His thoughts wandered as he tapped his pen on his desk. He was at a loss. If Lee didn’t want to open up, then how could he help this young man who was hurting and reeling from his experience? The entire family was coping with this loss and trauma as well as they could.

But Yamato was helpless to help with something he had been trained to do.

Yamato turned to his drawer, opening it up and taking out his phone to look at his messages. Iruka had called him and Yamato felt concerned. Iruka never called him while he was in session. He flipped the phone open and dialed his speed dial.

In the three weeks of dating, Iruka had been very respectful of Yamato’s dedication to his patients and usually waited until he called him. This must be an emergency.

“Iruka, are you al-.” Yamato said the second he heard the phone click. Iruka didn’t let him finish his anxious questioning.

“Did Lee just leave?” Iruka asked, his voice sounding high pitched and worried. “Was he alone?” Yamato wrinkled his brow in concern, looking towards his door for a moment.

“Yes, he just left and was probably heading home.” Yamato answered and heard his boyfriend swear. Yamato’s eyes widened at that, he never heard Iruka swear before. The man was usually composed unless irritated by something but working with children had all but killed his ability to use foul language.

“Is everything okay Iruka?” Yamato asked, trying to get to the bottom of what was happening. He heard Iruka take a deep breath as the man tried to calm his rage that was edging on the ends of his voice.

“Shinichi is back in school, his father got him out of the charges and got him back into the school.” Iruka explained, his voice sounding strained and angry. “I want to make sure Lee will be okay.” Yamato nodded, worry filling his gut as he sighed.

This would only add to the trauma that Lee was going through. If Shinichi chose to instigate something, no matter how stupid that could be, he could target Lee. Now that he was out, Yamato was sure the bully would be that much more careful in how he bullied Lee. 

“I will call Kakashi,” Yamato reassured, trying to ease his boyfriend’s worries. “And I will contact some of his friends to tell them.” Iruka let out a sigh, still not sounding relieved by any means.

“And I’ve already told his teachers.” Iruka stated as Yamato felt affection fill his heart. Iruka was a very caring and involved counselor. “I just don’t want him to get hurt any more than he already has.” Yamato nodded, his own anxiety over the situation making him sigh.

“I’ll make sure to do my best to help.” Yamato said, trying to comfort Iruka the best he could. “Why don’t you come over to my place tonight, we can have some dinner together.” Iruka chuckled from the other end of the phone.

“I’ll be over around seven.” Iruka said, his voice sounding warm. “I’ll see you then Yamato.” Yamato found himself smiling as he nodded.

“Okay, goodbye Iruka.” Yamato replied, listening to Iruka’s sigh as he hung up. Yamato stared at the phone for a good minute before lifting it to his ear once more. He dialed the number and listened to it ring before the person picked up.

“Yamato, what are you calling for?” Kakashi’s voice answered, the man sounding bored. Yamato rolled his eyes at his friend and patient.

“Are you home yet?” Yamato asked as he rose from his desk. Kakashi sighed heavily into the phone, making the speaker crackle in Yamato’s ear.

“I’m going to be pulling up in a minute or two, I needed to give a statement to the police.” Kakashi explained, his voice suddenly sounding tired. “Why?” Yamato sighed heavily.

“Shinichi got out of the charges, I don’t think you should leave Lee alone.” Yamato stated, trying to remain calm. “He might try to get revenge on Lee somehow and I don’t think he needs this added to his current mental state.” Kakashi hummed from the other end of the phone, a sign that he was angry.

“I can’t believe it, even after all that questioning and evidence…” Kakashi mumbled, his voice hard with anger. “Lee probably knows already, I’ll try and see about getting some of his friends over and hopefully that will ease his mind.”

Yamato nodded, leaning back in his chair and sighing in relief. Kakashi always had a plan it seemed and Yamato was glad to see Kakashi handling things properly. He had been a little concerned when Kakashi had shown back up for the AA meetings on Sundays but it seemed that the silver haired man had not relapsed since that first night.

“That would definitely help, Lee needs a good support net right now.” Yamato stated as Kakashi made a noise of approval. “I would also make sure that everyone knows about Shinichi and that you arrange so Lee is never alone. I know Iruka has already spoken to the teachers but his friends should know as well.”

“Alright, I’ll make sure they all know.” Kakashi said, shuffling about as Yamato heard him let out a sigh. “I will let you know if anything happens.” Yamato nodded, his heart easing slightly now that he knew Kakashi had the situation under control.

“Keep my updated and let me know if you need me to do anything.” Yamato stated, leaning forward in his chair as he heard the rumble of the car shut off. Kakashi must be home.

“I will, thank you Yamato.” Kakashi stated followed by a click as he hung up. Yamato sighed, setting the phone down as he stared up at his ceiling. He hoped that this would all blow over soon. He hated feeling so helpless against the things his patients and friends were going through.

But hopefully, his confidence and faith in Kakashi and Lee’s ability to persevere was not completely unfounded. Yamato knew that the small family would pull through this.

For now, he only needed to be patient.

                                                                               ________________________

 Tsunade clocked out for lunch, her arms weighed down with legal papers and books. Sakura trailed after the woman as she carried her own load of papers and books. Sakura had been helping Tsunade a great deal lately.

The two women had been fighting to allow Kakashi into the hospital room to see Gai. So far, the board had banned Kakashi from the room and had only allowed Lee inside since he was legally Gai’s child and thus, family.

Sakura had been trying to help where she could but there was only so much the pink haired girl could do. Shizune was a great help with the other parts of the research and law talk. Hopefully by the meeting this afternoon with the board, Tsunade would be able to convince them to allow Kakashi and hopefully any future couples that were not married, into the coma ward.

They entered Tsunade’s office, setting the books and papers down on the desk. Sakura lifted one of the papers and wrinkled her brow.

“Are you sure a bunch of cases like this is going to help?” the young girl asked, raising a brow at her teacher. “Those bigoted assholes seemed pretty adamant that the law is the law.” Tsunade turned to Sakura and gave her a small whack upside the head.

“Ouch,” the girl whined, rubbing her head. “What was that for?” Tsunade let out a sigh as she shuffled the papers on her desk and started to read them over.

“Things aren’t always that black and white kid,” Tsunade pointed out. “While some of the board members are right assholes, some of them are only doing what the law tells them to do and others are simply doing this because they don’t want to make waves.” Sakura crossed her arms in front of her chest, huffing for a moment.

“That always seems to be the problem with people, though,” Sakura observed as she took a seat across from Tsunade. “They will talk all day about how something is wrong but when it comes down to putting the work in to fix it, they are too afraid of everyone else’s opinions to actually change anything.”

Tsunade nodded, mind completely focused on the papers in front of her. Sakura had a point but there wasn’t much they could do about the fact. People would do what they wanted and Tsunade knew that sometimes all that a person could do was fight and hope to change the minds of those around them.

The key was just to keep trying until someone was annoyed enough and finally broke down.

Sakura read for a moment, green eyes scanning the paper in front of her when suddenly her phone rang. The pink haired girl lifted the phone, eyes never leaving the page until she tore them away to look at the text message.

Her eyes widened for a moment as she scanned it before looking up at Tsunade.

“Kakashi is having a sleepover for Lee, he’s invited everyone, including Ino and Hinata and wants to know if I’ll be there…” Sakura informed as she looked up at Tsunade with hopeful eyes. “Should I tell him I’m helping you?” Tsunade looked up and looked Sakura over.

The teen had been helping her for nearly three weeks now on top of her duties as a volunteer, school, and homework. Sakura could use a break from studying to have some fun with her friends. Tsunade suspected that it wasn’t just Lee and Sakura who could use a night of fun.

And she had seen how much Sakura blushed around Hinata. The teen would probably appreciate being able to hang out with the girl she currently had affections for. Tsunade remembered being young and crazy about someone. 

“Go, hang out with your friends.” Tsunade conceded as she looked back down at her papers. “I’ve got this handled and you’ve worked hard enough. Just be sure to come back tomorrow.” Sakura smiled widely as she jumped up, grabbing her purse from beside her chair.

“Thanks, Dr. Tsunade.” Sakura said as she sprinted for the door, throwing it open and disappearing into the hall. “I owe you one!” Tsunade let out a good-natured chuckled before she noticed the phone still on the desk.

Sakura dashed back inside, smiling as she reached to grab her phone. She smiled sheepishly as Tsunade shook her head.

“Have fun and be sure to say hi to Hinata for me.” Tsunade teased as Sakura turned pink at the mention of Hinata’s name. She grabbed her phone and pocketed the device before turning towards the door.

“I will see you later Tsunade.” Sakura said as she left the room again, still not slowing down as she ran down the hall. Tsunade shook her head again as she turned back to her papers. The words and legal jargon stared back at her. Tsunade let out a sigh as she began to read again.

She hoped she could find a solution to her problem soon.

                                                            ___________________________

Sasuke towel dried his hair, walking out of the bathroom after taking a long shower. His day had been exhausting between practice, homework and his new job at the library. He had been hoping to apply to some colleges soon and he wanted to be able to pay for some things himself. He couldn’t depend on Orochimaru forever.

Today had been rough on him. He had helped Naruto pick out a casket and make sure the preparations for the funeral would take place soon. Naruto had been stone-faced the whole time, barely speaking a word as he let Sasuke and Orochimaru handle things and only looked up when he was needed.

It wasn’t the first time that Naruto had been acting strangely lately. Between pouring himself into his school work and rarely leaving the house, the blond had also been prone to fits of rage that had left even Sasuke frustrated with him.

After the fights, more volatile than usual, Naruto would act as if nothing had happened or act as if he couldn’t remember anything. It was unlike Naruto to act this way and frankly, the Uchiha was rather tired of it.

It was a testament to how much he cared about the blond that Sasuke chalked it up to grieving and dealt with it. He just hoped he would have his best friend back soon.

Sasuke sighed as he walked down the hallway to his room. Lately, Naruto had been spending all his time with Sasuke in his room lately. No one questioned it, although Suigetsu had made a few snide remarks. To the outside world, they were the same friends they had always been but behind closed doors…

Sasuke felt his face heat as he tried to hide his blush. Honestly, he loved Naruto and always had but lately he had been trying to pluck up the courage to tell Naruto about how he felt about sex. But with all the grief and troubles that their family lately he wasn’t sure that would be for the best.

Naruto was at the desk when he walked into the room, hovering over his math book and jotting down notes quickly as he read. Sasuke walked over to the bed, sitting down on it with a soft creak. Naruto didn’t look up.

Sasuke watched as Naruto poured over his homework, the blond’s face hyper-focused on the math problems before him. He had never seen the blond so interested in school work but lately his boyfriend had been almost obsessed with it.

Sasuke bit his lip as he tried to determine how to speak to him. Lately, it had felt like walking on eggshells with Naruto and the last thing he wanted was another brutal fight.

He didn’t need to think much about it because a moment later, Naruto’s shoulders slumped and he looked up blinking again before shaking his head slightly. Sasuke watched closely as the blond pushed away from the desk.

“Why was I…?” Naruto said aloud for a moment before sensing eyes on him and turning to Sasuke, grinning brightly. “Oh Sasuke, when did you get there.” Sasuke sighed as Naruto rose, walking over to the bed and placing a gentle kiss on his forehead.

The blond plopped down on the bed with a contented sigh, making the bed shake as Sasuke raised a brow at him. Naruto laid his head in Sasuke’s lap, looking up at him and grinning brightly. Sasuke felt his heart soften as he lifted his hand to comb his fingers through the soft blond locks.

Naruto closed his eyes in content, leaning into the hand as Sasuke’s fingers worked their way through his hair. They stayed like this for several moments, just enjoying each other’s company. Sasuke was grateful for this small moment of peace.

“Thank you for your help today.” Naruto said suddenly, his voice sounding heavy as Sasuke looked down at him. “I know I haven’t been very grateful lately and you’ve been putting up with it.” Sasuke shrugged as his hands continued massaging Naruto’s head.

“Don’t get too sentimental on me Idiot,” Sasuke teased gently as Naruto opened his eyes to look up at him. “I would have done it no matter what.” Naruto chuckled, flipping onto his stomach and gazing up at Sasuke with his blue eyes.

“Still, I love you and I’m glad you’re here, ya know.” Naruto assured as he wrapped his arms around Sasuke’s waist and pressed his face into Sasuke’s sweatpants. Sasuke nodded, wrapping his arms around Naruto and smiling to himself.

“You’re welcome, now let’s go to…” Sasuke started to say just when his home phone rang. He wrinkled his brow as he reached for it. Who could be calling so late?

Naruto beat him to it, picking up the phone and raising a brow at Sasuke.

“Orochimaru’s house of orphans?” Naruto joked, making Sasuke roll his eyes at the teen. Sometimes he wondered why he still hung out with this idiot.

“Oh, Kakashi what are you calling so late?” Naruto asked, leaning against Sasuke’s nightstand as Sasuke raised a brow. Naruto nodded, eyes meeting Sasuke’s and the teen was instantly on his feet. Naruto’s eyes looked serious, which only meant one thing.

Lee needed them.

“We’ll gather everyone and be around in just a second.” Naruto said as he nodded, hanging up the phone suddenly and quickly started texting on the key pads.

“Kakashi wants us to sleep over.” Naruto explained as he met Sasuke’s eyes. “Kakashi wants Lee to get his mind off things and frankly, we haven’t really hung out with Lee in a while.”

Sasuke nodded, knowing that Lee had been having just as rough of a time as Naruto with what had happened. This sleepover might help.

“Okay, you text Neji, Tenten, Choji, and Hinata.” Sasuke stated as he reached for his own phone by the bedside table. He flipped the small black phone open and started to type a message. “I’ll text Sakura, Kiba, Ino, and Shikamaru.”

Naruto nodded, typing away on his phone. He looked up for a moment as he turned to grab the duffel bag he had been living out of for a few days.

A text from Sakura arrived, telling Sasuke that she already knew and that Neji, Tenten, and Hinata were all working on picking up the others for the party. Hinata had brought popcorn and told him to bring some movies.

“Sakura is on her way there now with the others,” Sasuke informed as he went back to packing the duffel bag. “Hinata grabbed some popcorn and we should probably bring some movies along.” Naruto nodded just as his phone rang. Naruto looked down at the phone and smiled before looking back up at Sasuke.

“Gaara just texted back, He said he’s on his way there and wants to know if we want anything for the snacks and stuff.” Sasuke sighed, Kakashi wouldn’t like that Gaara was tagging along but Sasuke knew better than to try and stop Naruto from telling Gaara to come.

Over the last few months, Gaara had grown closer to Naruto, a fact that made Sasuke’s gut curdle in jealousy. The red head was clearly head over heels for Lee but the closeness of Gaara and Naruto’s relationship did unsettle Sasuke slightly.

“Fine, I suppose he can make himself useful and grab some chips and ramen so you don’t eat Kakashi out of house and home.” Sasuke said disgruntledly as he pulled his duffel bag and put it on his bed. “But I doubt Kakashi is going to like the fact you invited Lee’s boyfriend to the sleepover.” Naruto shrugged, grin bright.

“I don’t think Lee is really in the mood to get all hot and heavy with Gaara tonight.” Naruto pointed out. “And I think they could use a little time together too. Lee hasn’t exactly been himself lately.” Sasuke nodded, agreeing even if his look was one of reluctance.

“Fine but if Kakashi gets mad, it’s your head.” Sasuke stated with finality, moving towards his dresser to pull open the drawers and pull out some clothes and pajamas for them.

Naruto nodded as Sasuke walked back over to the bed and began folding his and Naruto’s clothing, carefully putting them into the bag. Naruto watched Sasuke for a moment before Sasuke went to the bathroom to gather their toothbrushes and travel toothpaste.

Naruto smiled to himself as he walked over to the desk he had previously been sitting at. The blond glanced down at the work he had finished. He honestly didn’t remember even sitting down to do his homework, let alone finishing it and starting on next week’s chapters.

That had been happening a lot lately, Naruto would find himself in places he didn’t remember going to or doing things he didn’t remember starting. Sometimes he’s wake up and he wouldn’t be able to remember the previous day’s events. Huge chunks of his memory were blank.

Naruto shook his head, trying to push away the thoughts. He was probably just stressed out with the funeral and school. Naruto looked up as Sasuke entered the room again, tossing their bathroom things into the duffel bag before zipping it shut.

Sasuke walked towards his door. He was halfway outside it when he realized Naruto hadn’t followed him, looking back at Naruto and catching the blond staring at his homework again. Naruto seemed lost in thought. His eyes considering the spot he had once occupied with a confused look.

Sasuke let out a sigh and lifted his duffel bag. He tossed it at Naruto, hitting the blond in the head with the heavy bag. Naruto almost fell forward as the duffel hit him in the back of the head. Naruto yelped as he turned to Sasuke, glaring at the teen as he rubbed his head.

“What was that for!?’ Naruto whined as Sasuke turned back towards the door.

“Hurry up, we need to head over to Lee’s” Sasuke replied as Naruto lifted the fallen duffel bag over his shoulder. “We don’t have time for you to be an idiot.” Naruto huffed as he followed Sasuke out of the room.

“Were you born an asshole or is this something you’ve just worked on for a while?” Naruto asked sarcastically as he followed Sasuke down the steps to the door. Sasuke didn’t answer as he walked out of the house, choosing to ignore Naruto’s comment.

They had bigger things to think about.

                                                ___________________________

Gaara blinked as he fed the last of the paper from the box into the large shredder in the office. He only had one more box to go before he could call his shift finished. Baki had given him light work over the last week, worried for Gaara’s well-being in the aftermath of the attack.

Gaara lifted his phone from his pocket as he bent down to take the first of the papers out of the next box. He flipped his phone open to check his messages.

Lee had been barely responding to Gaara’s texts or phone calls for the past week. Whenever Lee wasn’t at home or school, he was in the hospital at Gai’s bedside. Gaara tried to be around Lee as much as he could, tried to help but Lee had poured all his concentration into his school work.

It was draining for him, trying to help Lee when the teen seemed bent on getting through this on his own. Gaara had been over to Lee’s house a few times but between his homework, job and new position as student council president, he was stretched thin.

Homecoming had been put off after the recent tragedy, giving them time to recover before the event. Gaara was grateful, the last thing he wanted was to go to his first school dance without Lee by his side.

Gaara finished the last of the papers, the shredder whirring as he reached to shut off the machine. He gathered the boxes, setting them into the corner of the room by the garbage as he left to gather his things from behind his desk.

Gaara thought about the pile of admission letters to colleges he had applied to. He was still only a junior but he had already begun sending out essays and filling out forms. For the first time in a long time, Gaara was beginning to consider his future and setting goals for his life.

He knew that he would have to fight his way into a decent college because of the record of expulsions he had on his record but Gaara hoped to prove he had changed.

Anxiety pricked at the back of Gaara’s mind as he headed out the front door of the large office building. There was another problem he needed to discuss with Lee, one that involved him and one Gaara wanted to do with him.

He wanted to tell his father about his and Lee’s relationship before the man was finally locked up. Rasa was currently out awaiting trial. Gaara wasn’t sure how to discuss the topic with Lee, not wanting to stress his boyfriend out any more than he already was.

But he didn’t want to hide in fear of his father’s wrath. He wanted to stand proudly with Lee by his side and tell his father of the acceptance he had found. Gaara wanted to show his father how wrong he had been and how much stronger he had become.

But first, he needed to help his boyfriend through this hard time.

A loud ring filled the air as Gaara’s phone went off, drawing his attention to the incoming call. Gaara took his phone from his pocket and answered it, recognizing it as Yamato’s number. He crinkled his brow in question, wracking his brain for the reason his therapist would be calling him.

“Yamato…why are you calling me?” Gaara asked, confused as he opened the door to Kankuro’s passenger side. “I don’t have an appointment until next week…” Kankuro raised a brow as Gaara laid his back pack by his feet.

There were a few moments of Gaara listening. Yamato’s voice muffled and intelligible as Kankuro continued to drive. Kankuro glance over when he sensed anger coming off Gaara in waves.

Gaara’s fists clenched in his lap. His face a calm mask over the storm Kankuro knew was raging underneath. Gaara was angered by something the therapist had told him.

“I’ll tell the others, so Lee will be watched over.” Gaara stated as Kankuro looked down at him with a puzzled look. “I will probably try to go over there tonight…he probably needs me.”

Kankuro’s face softened at the worry in his brother’s voice. It was always somewhat odd to see how deeply his brother cared for Lee. The days where Gaara fought and cared for no one seemed so far away now. Kankuro sighed as he pulled down the road towards Lee’s house, averting from their original route home.

“I know, thank you for the information Yamato.” Gaara replied as he felt his phone begin to vibrate, indicating he had a text message “I’m sure I will find a way to help Lee.” With that, Gaara hung up the phone.

“What happened?” Kankuro asked, trying not to sound too concerned but still worry bled into his voice. Gaara sighed again, rubbing his temple.

“Shinichi.” Gaara said, voice hard. Gaara’s phone vibrated again and the redhead began looking over the new text. It was from Naruto, inviting him to come sleep over at Lee’s.

“The group is going to stay the night over at Lee’s.” Gaara continued as Kankuro turned into the gas station. “I know he is perfectly capable of taking care of himself but Lee is probably worried. This might help get his mind off of things.”

Kankuro nodded as he parked in front of the pump, humming as he got out of the car.

“I’m sure he wouldn’t mind that. He’s been looking a bit worse for wear lately.” Kankuro noted as Gaara looked out the window. The redhead was still trying to think about whether telling his father would be worth it.

He would talk about it with Lee later, hopefully after the teen had relaxed amongst all their friends. Gaara looked out the window, his thoughts wandering to Lee as they drove to the apartment to gather Gaara’s overnight bag.

He just hoped everything would start to get better soon. He wasn’t sure how much more pain Lee could take. Gaara didn’t want to see his boyfriend hurt anymore.                                  

__________________________

“I know that it is required reading but why must Mr. Dickens use so many large words?” Lee mumbled as he rubbed his eyes as he sat up in the chair he had curled himself into. “Gaara said he thinks I will love the story if I give it a chance but it is very hard to enjoy a story so long when I can barely make out the words.”

After his appointment with Yamato, Lee had immediately headed for the hospital. He had spent the last hour and a half trying to make sense of his English homework for an hour now with little success.

Ms. Yuhi was a wonderful teacher, definitely an improvement from Mr. Shimura but with all the stress that had been taking its toll on Lee lately; it was hard to concentrate. She had lessened his work load given the recent incident and told Lee to just turn in work as he could.

Lee was grateful for the sympathy.

“I hope I will have this done by the end of the week, Gai-sensei.” Lee said out loud, bringing the paper up closer to his face. “I know that Kurenai said it was okay to take my time but I would like to keep my grades up.” Lee glanced over at Gai, watching his father’s chest rise and fall slowly.

The heart rate monitor beeped slowly in the corner. Gai hadn’t moved after Lee spoke as silence permeated the room. Lee sighed, his mind filling in the parts of the conversation his father would usually fill. He could practically hear his father telling him not to complain and just work harder to get his work done.

“You are right sensei, there is no use in complaining.” Lee announced as he clenched his fist in front of him, his smile widening as he could practically hear his father’s good-natured laughter.

Lee stretched his arms over his head, working out the kinks in his back from being bent over his homework for so long. Tiredness itched at Lee’s eyes as he looked over at the clock that hung above the hospital room door. It was only just now turning six o’clock.

“Oh, I should probably get home, Kakashi will be wanting dinner.” Lee said as he rose to his feet. “I have been trying to cook all the meals while he handles all the legal stuff. I have gotten very good at making the miso soup with eggplant he likes.” The monitor beeped in response, the silence making Lee sigh, trying to keep up his smile.

“I have been trying to keep smiling for them…to be strong like you would want me to be.” Lee said softly as he walked over to Gai’s bedside. “But it is not easy. I know I have not been as open with my friends as I should be…I know they are worried.” Lee looked down at his father, laying his hand over his Gai’s.

Gai was cold to the touch, not moving as Lee touched him. Lee bit his lip as he looked down at Gai’s still form. It was odd to see his normally active father so still. It had been nearly two weeks with no change to Gai’s comatose state.

Kakashi had been unable to visit for more than a few minutes to pick up Lee. Tsunade had been fighting to allow Kakashi visitation but the board of directors at the hospital had been unmoving. The law was the law, despite how unfair it could be.

Not that seeing Gai lying here was something to want to see. The image often left Lee with a deep heartache that he couldn’t shake. It wasn’t right to see his father this way. Lee had to bite his lip to keep the tears at bay. He had always been quick to cry but now, he knew tears would serve no purpose.

“I wish you would wake up,” Lee said softly to Gai, watching the man’s face in hopes that his father would awaken. “I cannot sleep, I keep having nightmares and Kakashi looks so sad...”

Gai didn’t move, the monitor continuing to beep as Lee’s heart sank. He squeezed Gai’s hand, more for his own comfort than anything.

“We need you Gai-sensei…please come back to us soon.” Lee said as he let go of his father’s hand as he gathered his backpack off the floor with one hand. He headed towards the door, looking back at his father’s bed for a brief moment before stepping out of the room and heading towards the front of the hospital.

Lee barely noticed that he had walked by the nurses and out into the parking lot until the cool wind his face and the sharp air filled his lungs. It was getting cooler as fall was beginning to turn into winter. Kakashi was waiting in the parking lot, standing by his car as Lee tread up to him.

Kakashi hadn’t even bothered to take out his book. He hadn’t touched the battered copies of the Icha Icha series since Jiraiya’s passing. It was odd to see Kakashi without his normal reading material but given the circumstances, Lee understood.

Kakashi met Lee’s eyes steadily, his eyes crinkling in a strained smile under his mask.

“How is he?” Kakashi asked as he opened the passenger side door. Lee collapsed into the seat, throwing his back pack behind him.

“He is…okay.” Lee replied, trying to find the words to make Kakashi feel better without giving away just how little had changed. Gai condition had been gliding between states. It had not worsened and not bettered. Lee was beginning to wonder if Gai would ever awaken.

Kakashi nodded, closing the door behind Lee as he slowly made his way around the car to sit in the driver’s seat. Kakashi was quiet as he pushed his keys into the ignition. Lee closed his eyes as the engine sputtered to life.

Kakashi pulled out of the parking lot, watching Lee from the corner of his vision as they began to drive to their home. Lee tried to entertain himself with his copy of “Great Expectations” as he tried to focus on the book.

“Naruto and a few of the others are coming over tonight.” Kakashi said as he turned toward the road that pointed toward their home. “For a sleepover, they are probably there already.” Lee looked up with wide eyes. His eyebrows crinkled as he looked back towards his book.

“I do not think I can…I have homework and-.” Lee started to say when Kakashi shook his head, pulling to a stop in front of a red light. Kakashi turned and looked down at his son, reaching over to ruffle Lee’s hair.

“You need to relax Lee,” Kakashi stated as Lee looked up at him. “Kurenai already told me that there is no rush for you to complete your work. You can take one night to spend time with your friends.” Lee sighed, knowing his father was right.

“I know but Gai-sensei would not like for me to neglect my studies.” Lee pointed out as Kakashi turned into their neighborhood, looking down at his lap and bandaged hands. He had taken to wearing the sports bandages over his hands after the incident with Shinichi. The burns had mostly healed now and Lee took care to hide the offending word on his arm.

Kakashi caught the flash of sadness in Lee’s eyes as they drove down the street. Kakashi let out a sigh as he spotted their home, as well as the large group of people gathered in front of the house. Kakashi let a smile crinkle under his mask as he spotted Naruto’s flash of yellow hair as the teen waved frantically towards their car.

“That is true, Gai wouldn’t like for you to neglect your studies.” Kakashi noted as he pulled into the driveway of their home. Kakashi laid his hand on Lee’s shoulder, drawing his son’s attention upward. Lee’s eyes followed Kakashi’s when his father turned his head toward the group of teens all dressed in jackets and coats outside their front yard.

Lee felt a smile prick at his face when he spotted his friends, faces pink from the cold but still waiting outside for him to arrive home. Hinata sitting between Ino and Sakura as the three girls waved at him. Neji and Tenten smiled towards the car as Kiba looked up from his conversation with Shino, Choji, and Shikamaru to grin brightly at him with Akamaru swishing his tail. Naruto with his arms thrown around Sasuke and Gaara’s shoulders as the teen’s eyes practically closed with how wide he was grinning.

They had all come to spend time with him. Taken time from their days, studies or whatever they had been doing to make sure he was okay. The caring and love he felt from his friends. Guilt, sadness, and happiness were all swelling in his chest as he tried to process the emotions he was feeling.

He had been ignoring his friends and been so consumed by his own problems that he hadn’t even thought to see how they had been. Lee mentally scolded himself for not being a better friend. Yet even despite his selfishness, they had all come to cheer him up and make sure he was okay.

Lee’s heart skipped a beat when he met Gaara’s green eyes. The redhead looked at Lee with worried eyes as he gave the older teen one of his small smiles. Lee couldn’t place the emotion in his chest when he looked at Gaara, standing there among his friends and just being grateful the redhead was there.

Kakashi watched Lee’s eyes soften when they landed on Gaara and he shook his head, a smile making his eyes crinkle under his mask.

“But I don’t think Gai would like it if you neglected your friends either.” Kakashi said as Lee looked up at him with wide, dark eyes. “When was the last time you saw Naruto? The last time you spent time with Gaara? He wouldn’t want you to push them away.” Lee blinked for a moment, his father’s words sinking into his mind for a moment.

He thought back to the past few weeks, trying to remember what had happened but found his memory to be a blur of school and the hospital. Lee looked out at his friends as they gathered off the porch and towards the car, his heart feeling light and still somewhat heavy all at the same time.

Kakashi was right. Gai would not want him to bury himself in books and studying just to forget about the people who cared about him. As Lee looked out at the crowd of people who cared for him, who wanted to provide support for him and his family during this dark time.

He was just so grateful.

A newfound determination and vigor filled Lee’s heart as he unbuckled his seat belt.

Lee opened the door, stepping out of the car as his friends all greeted him brightly. Lee felt as if he could burst with how loved and cared for he felt.

It was time to live in the present. Maybe tomorrow the bad things of the past would brighten but all Lee could do was wait to see how things went. For now, he would look upon the faces of his friends and family and relish in how much love he possessed.

 Naruto ran up to him, smiling widely as he practically tackled Lee with his body in a hug. Lee staggered back, grinning as he hugged his friend.

“Ready to party, Lee?” Naruto asked as the rest of the group walked up to him. “I brought kung fu movies, Sasuke brought horror and Gaara brought us food!” Lee smiled widely, excitement filling his veins and giving him energy.

Gaara looked up at Lee as Naruto wrapped his arm around the teens shoulders, Lee laughed and grinned as Sasuke rolled his eyes as Neji reached forward to pull Naruto off of Lee. Tenten laughed with Sakura as Naruto glared at Neji.

Lee’s smile was a true one, filled with the same warmth and happiness that he had held when Gaara had first met him. Gaara’s heart warmed at the sight of Lee’s smile, his hand rising to rest on his chest, just above his heart. Gaara stopped for a moment, watching as the others turned towards the doors as Kakashi tried to usher the rowdy teens into the house.

Lee turned back, stopping when he noticed Gaara holding back. Gaara felt his heart skip a beat as he locked eyes with his boyfriend. Lee looked over at him, his dark eyes softening as he reached for Gaara’s hand.

Lee’s calloused fingers curled around Gaara’s soft ones, pulling him towards the house.

“Come on Gaara, I cannot wait to see which movies Naruto and Sasuke brought!” Lee exclaimed as Gaara followed after him, returning Lee’s bright grin with one of his own, small ones as he followed his boyfriend inside.

                                               ______________________

Gaara lifted the bags of snacks and soda’s he had brought with him as Lee and Naruto began to move the couch against the wall. Sakura and Ino began laying out the sleeping bags with Tenten and Neji.

“Let me get some extra pillows for you guys,” Kakashi said, walking up the stairs with Sasuke following after him to provide assistance. Hinata grabbed at Gaara’s sleeve and took one of the bags from his grip.

“L-let’s get these put away and get some of the snacks put into bowls.” Hinata said as she led Gaara into the other room. Gaara briefly noticed Hinata’s eyes wander to Sakura’s back as the pink haired teen laid out Hinata’s lavender sleeping bag next to her own. Gaara raised a non-existent brow as Hinata’s cheeks turned pink.

Gaara followed his friend into the kitchen, setting the bags onto the counter and unloading them onto the counter as Hinata put the soda into the fridge. Gaara could sense Hinata’s nervousness as she put away the food with him.

Her movements were slow and deliberate. Hinata kept biting her lip and looking out towards the living room as she seemed to be focused on something else. Gaara continued to work on his task by setting a bag of popcorn in the microwave to cook, knowing Hinata would share once she gathered the courage.

“Gaara…” Hinata finally said, turning to her friend as she pushed her fingers together in front of her. “Can I ask you something?” Gaara turned and met Hinata’s eyes with question.

“Yes…” Gaara replied as he followed Hinata’s lavender eyes to the kitchen doorway again. Hinata looked at the floor, then up at him and then back towards the living room as she blushed bright red.

“I-I think I have a crush on someone…” Hinata said, her voice struggling to stay steady. Gaara nodded, questioning this because she had already told him of her crush on Naruto. Unless…

“Have you developed feelings for someone other than Naruto?” Gaara questioned as he reached up to grab a large bowl for the popcorn as Hinata took the cooked bag from the microwave and laid another on the glass turntable.

“I-I think I may…Gaara I think I may like another girl.” Hinata admitted, her face turning a deeper shade of red. “I-I really don’t know when it started but…I get butterflies in my stomach and I just don’t know what to do around her…” Gaara nodded slowly as he started to put the pieces together.

Hinata must have an attraction to Sakura.

It made sense, explaining Hinata’s odd behavior. The two girls had become closer over the summer and Gaara could sense Hinata had slowly been getting over her crush on Naruto. He had no idea if Sakura had feelings for Hinata though.

“I-I just have no idea if…” Hinata started to say before staring down at her hands, touching her finger tips in nervousness and getting lost in the movement. Gaara reached over, placing a cool hand over Hinata’s fidgeting ones.

“You have no idea if she feels the same way?” Gaara finished for Hinata. Hinata nodded, letting out a heavy sigh. Gaara nodded in understanding. He had been in Hinata’s shoes before and understood the frightening aspect of losing a friend but the feeling of caring so deeply and wanting the relationship to be something more becoming almost unbearable.

“Yes and what about my family…what if father doesn’t accept me being with a woman? I know grandfather won’t like it and I don’t want to disappoint them and…” Gaara’s eyes widened as Hinata’s breathing started to pick up and tears gathered in her eyes.

The red head lifted his hands, laying them on Hinata’s shoulders as the girl panicked. Hinata looked up as Gaara reached a hand over to her face, wiping away her tears with his sleeve.

“No one can help who they develop feelings for Hinata.” Gaara said soothingly, trying to comfort the girl he had come to care for like family. Hinata had always been kind to him, kind to everyone. He wanted to repay some of that kindness.

“Your family doesn’t have to know right away.” Gaara suggested, trying to help Hinata come up with a solution. “We aren’t even sure if Sakura returns your feelings, although I get the feeling she does.” Hinata looked up with hopeful eyes, her cheeks turning pink as she sniffed softly.

“And if something happens and your family starts to mistreat you for simply having feelings for another woman, I am sure we will all be willing to figure out how to help.” Gaara reassured as the microwave went off and drew his attention away.

Hinata sniffed again, watching Gaara as he took the popcorn out of the microwave and emptied it into another round bowl. Gaara could sense that she was still nervous and deep in thought. This was something Hinata had to work through on her own but Gaara hoped that he had given her some comfort.

“Don’t worry about it too much, it will all work out.” Gaara reassured as they walked towards the living room, each carrying two bowls of popcorn. “Now let’s not focus on our problems, tonight is a time for friends.”

Hinata nodded, her soft smile returning as they entered the rowdy environment of the living room.

                                                            ___________________

Lee moved the T.V. away from the wall to allow Sasuke and Shino to get a better look at the back so they could plug in the VCR. The two quiet males tinkered in the back, speaking to each other seriously as Neji started to gather the video’s and put them in the order the group had agreed to watch them in.

Naruto hovered over Sasuke, occasionally trying to give advice while Kiba tried to do the same to Shino.

“That’s not a good way to do it.” Naruto said as he reached down for the wire Sasuke was holding. “Let me do it.” Sasuke held the cord out of Naruto’s reach, shaking his head.

“You’ll just break it.” Sasuke stated as he tried to go back to working, turning to Shino. Shino had plugged in the red, yellow and white cords into the back of the television. Kiba made a small noise as he shook his head.

“Shino, that’s wrong the red cord is for the screen display and the white one is for sound.” Kiba corrected as he reached back to unplug the cords. Shino smacked the Inuzuka’s hand away.

“No this is how it’s supposed to go.” Shino said as Kiba glared at him with narrowed eyes.

“No, it isn’t!” Kiba defended as Shino looked up at him from behind his sunglasses.

“This is coming from the boy who put his foot through his TV when the remote battery died.” Shino said, voice hard. Kiba glared at the boy and soon, the foursome was starting to argue and bicker over the best way to assemble the cords and place the VCR.

Lee sighed as he moved away from the other men, sitting back on the sleeping bags with a small thump with the girls, watching as Hinata led Gaara back into the kitchen. Gaara caught Lee’s eye, smiling at him as he walked into the kitchen. Ino, Sakura, and Tenten watched as Lee’s dark eyes softened in affection as Gaara disappeared into the kitchen. Ino and Sakura started to giggle while Tenten rolled her eyes at Lee and drew Lee’s attention back to them.

“What is so funny?” Lee asked as Sakura covered her mouth to hide her laughter. Ino smiled brightly at Lee, reaching up to pat his head like he was a puppy that had just learned to sit.

“You and Gaara,” Ino replied as Tenten laid her legs over Lee’s lap as Sakura laid back against the base of the couch. “I wish I could get a guy to look at me with half the devotion you give Gaara.” Lee felt his cheeks heat as Sakura scoffed, a smirk decorating her delicate face.

“You’d have to get a boy to notice you first, Ino-pig.” Sakura teased as Ino whipped her head around to face the pink haired girl. The blond scowled at Sakura, her eyes narrowing in a small glare.

“And when was the last time you even got asked out on a date, forehead girl?” Ino teased as Sakura reached over to push her. Lee smiled as the two friends laughed together. Ino and Sakura had been friends for quite a while now. Despite having a falling out in middle school, the two girls had made up and still poked fun at each other.

“The most romantic date I’ve been on was when the guy took me to the movies and tried to make out with me the second it came on.” Tenten scowled as Ino laughed, flipping her ponytail behind her shoulder.

“My first date, the guy tried to get me to pay for it.” Ino said with a sniff. “We went to get fast food and a drive in movie! It wasn’t even expensive!” Tenten laughed as Sakura hid her snort behind her hand.

Suddenly, the girls fixed their eyes on Lee expectantly. The boy blinked at them, raising a brow in question.

“W-what?” Lee asked as Ino smiled at him, waving her hand as if urging Lee to speak more.

“Tell us about the first date you took Gaara on.” Ino said in a matter of fact tone, “I’m sure it was interesting.” Lee gulped and smiled sheepishly at the blond.

“We have not really been on a date yet.” Lee admitted, scratching the back of his head. “It is not that big of a deal…I am sure…” Ino scowled at him, smacking the teen’s arm sharply as she gasped.

“Rock Lee Maito-Hatake, bite your tongue!” Ino exclaimed as Lee’s eyes widened at the sudden raise in volume. “The first date is always the most important part of a relationship! How could you have not taken your lovely man out for a movie at least?” Lee flushed red and ran his fingers through his hair.

“I have just been preoccupied…” Lee started to say when Sakura laid a hand on his shoulder, smiling at him.

“Don’t let Ino-pig get to you Lee, you have every right to be distracted.” Sakura reassured, squeezing Lee’s shoulder. “And I’m sure you’ve spent plenty of time with Gaara other than going out.” Lee thought for a moment before he frowned at himself.

When had he last seen Gaara before tonight?  He vaguely remembered seeing him for lunch at school but Lee had been eating in the library lately instead of with his friends. Lee felt another hand on his shoulder and looked up to see Tenten smiling at him.

“She has a bit of a point,” Tenten stated, giving Lee a stern look. “Most couples go out on dates or at least try to hang out alone together. You and Gaara really haven’t hung out much lately other than at school…” Lee bit his lip in thought. He had never thought to ask Gaara out on a date.

They had sort of just confessed to each other and began treading into the relationship. Gaara was still so new to this type of bond and Lee hadn’t wanted to do anything Gaara wasn’t comfortable with or push him. With things being so hectic lately and Lee being preoccupied, he had been too distracted.

Gaara must be feeling so confused about things. Lee was sure the redhead was doing his best to help and Gaara had been so understanding with him. Lee felt guilt gnaw at his heart as Gaara entered the living room with bowls of popcorn.

The girls divided up, moving towards Hinata to sit on the couch as Lee rose to help Gaara with the bowls. Lee’s hand brushed Gaara’s as he took the bowl from him to set onto the coffee table and he smiled at the teen.

Lee took Gaara’s hand in his after setting down the food, his boyfriend's green eyes looking up at him with question. He could sense that Lee was getting ready to ask him something.

“Gaara, I need your help with something.” Lee said as he guided Gaara towards the stairs. The redhead raised a non-existent brow as he let Lee take him up the stairs. Gaara took note of Kakashi’s open door as Lee led him into his room.

Gaara looked around the room as Lee shut the door, leaving it open just a crack. Gaara felt a small smile pull at his lips as he noticed the sand dollar that he had given Lee perched on the dresser. The memory made his heart feel warm as he thought of how happy Lee had been to receive the small shell.

Lee stepped in front of Gaara, taking the redhead’s hands into his own.

“Gaara, I want to take you out on a date.” Lee said, his eyebrows scrunching down in a look of pure determination. Gaara raised his own non-existent brow at Lee’s sudden declaration.

“A date?” Gaara questioned, confused by Lee’s sudden need to ask for this. “Why?” Lee ran his thumb over Gaara’s hand.

“We have not been on an official date since we got together.” Lee explained, leading Gaara over to his bed and taking a seat. Gaara sat next to Lee, the bed squeaking under the weight.

“It is an important part of being a couple,” Lee continued as he looked at Gaara nervously. “I want to be able to share our first date together and we have not been able to spend time together alone and I want to treat you to a date this Saturday.” Gaara blinked as he looked up at Lee.

Lee looked so earnest, his eyes searching Gaara’s for his answer. Gaara felt his heart flutter as he stared into those dark eyes. Lee wouldn’t stop asking until Gaara finally gave in. Gaara chuckled, his eyes softening at Lee as his nodded.

“Okay, we can go out to the movies on Saturday if you want.” Gaara said as a huge smile split across Lee’s face. The teen hugged Gaara, pulling him into his lap and hugging him close.

Gaara stiffened for a brief moment as Lee wrapped his arms around his waist, pulling Gaara’s back into his chest as the red head settled against him. It was a comfort to be back in Lee’s arms after three weeks of barely seeing each other.

“Thank you.” Lee said simply as Gaara relaxed in his arms. Gaara turned his head slightly and raised a non-existent brow at his boyfriend.

“For what?” Gaara asked as he lifted his hands to rest on Lee’s forearms. Lee pressed a kiss to Gaara’s temple as he smiled at the redhead. Lee scooted back and pulled Gaara in between his legs to further wrap his arms around him.

“For being so patient,” Lee replied as he rested his head on Gaara’s shoulder. “I know I have not been as attentive as I should be lately but I promise to be better.” Gaara’s eyes softened as he gently ran his fingers through Lee’s hair.

“I understand why and it’s okay,” Gaara reassured as Lee buried his face into his shoulder. “You take all the time you need, I’ll just be here to help.” Lee chuckled as he placed a soft kiss on Gaara’s shoulder.

“You are amazing.” Lee said as he squeezed Gaara tighter. Gaara closed his eyes for a moment, leaning his head back as he settled against Lee’s strong chest. The material of the bandages felt rough under his hands as Lee kissed the junction between Gaara’s neck and shoulder.

The touching of the sensitive skin made Gaara’s breath hitch and Lee paused, looking up at Gaara for a brief moment. Lee slowly lowered his head and kissed the area again, this time pressing small kisses up Gaara’s neck along with it. 

“Lee what are you…” Gaara started to ask as Lee leaned over to whisper nervously in his ear.

“Do you want me to stop?” Lee asked, sounding worried as the hot breath made heat coil in Gaara’s gut. He wasn’t used to this sensation but the feeling of Lee’s hands as they ran down his body and to his hips felt pleasant.

“N-no.” Gaara managed and Lee pressed more kisses behind his boyfriend’s ear. Gaara shivered as Lee kissed down his neck, growing bolder with each soft moan that escaped from Gaara’s mouth.

Lee’s hands gently ran up Gaara’s shirt, rough callouses and bandages brushing the sensitive skin. His eyes half lidded in his concentration as he tasted along the skin, lost in the sensation of touch.

“L-Lee.” Gaara whispered as his boyfriend pulled him closer to him. Suddenly, something hard pressed against Gaara and he froze for a moment before he pulled away from Lee. Lee immediately released him, turning bright red as Gaara turned to him.

“I am so sorry Gaara…I did not mean to…um…” Lee tried to defend as Gaara blinked at him. Pink flushed over Gaara’s cheeks. Gaara watched Lee focus on his lap, his hands covering between his legs.

“What was that?” Gaara asked as Lee turned an even deeper shade of red. The teen cleared his throat, running his hand nervously through his hair. “I felt something…” Lee bit his lip, his smile embarrassed as he opened his mouth to speak.

“I…I was…” Lee started to explain, trailing off for a moment as he tried to fight his blush. “I should have stopped before…I was just um…” Gaara blinked as he sat back down next to Lee when the realization clicked in his mind.

Lee had been aroused.

Gaara didn’t know what to say, his eyes looking Lee up and down as he tried to figure out what to do next. Lee didn’t meet his eyes, his hands curling on his knees and Gaara watched Lee.

“It’s normal to become aroused when you are with your significant other, isn’t it?” Gaara asked, reaching over to hold Lee’s hand. Lee looked up, eyes wide for a moment before he nodded, chuckling slightly.

“Yes…I just did not want to think that was all I wanted or anything.” Lee started to say as he intertwined his fingers with Gaara’s. “I did not want to make you uncomfortable.” Gaara nodded in understanding, lifting his other hand to touch Lee’s face. Lee looked over at his boyfriend.

“I could never be…uncomfortable with you Lee.” Gaara said as they locked eyes. Lee blinked, leaning forward slowly as Gaara felt his eyes close. Lee’s hot breath on his face as they leaned closer, lips touching in a gentle kiss.

Gaara relaxed into the kiss, his hands pressing against Lee’s chest as his boyfriend’s arms wrapped around his waist again. This was where he needed to be, in Lee’s arms and warmed by Lee’s body heat.

Suddenly, there was a tapping at the door as Kakashi walked inside with just enough time to see Lee jump apart from Gaara. The silver haired man gave Lee a look as he released Gaara’s waist and smiled up at his father.

Kakashi narrowed his eyes, shaking his head slightly as he gestured towards the door.

“Come on you two, they finally got the movie set up.” Kakashi said. Lee bolted up, taking Gaara’s hand and flushing bright red as he walked out of the room.

“Y-yes, of course, Kakashi.” Lee said as the pair walked by Kakashi. The silver haired man caught sight of Gaara’s exposed neck as he walked by, chuckling when he saw the faint beginnings of dark bruises along the pale skin.

Kakashi raised a brow, shaking his head slightly. He played with the thought of saying something when he heard laughter from the living room and his heart softened. He would let Lee have his fun tonight and talk to him in the morning about having Gaara in his room without supervision.

For now, he would let his son enjoy this moment of bliss and happiness.

                                                _____________________

Tsunade drank down another cup of sake, draining it quickly before wiping her mouth and slamming the cup down. She was going over her notes again, trying to find out why the board had refused her petition. She had given them all she could, tried to reason with them. They had refused to

The unfairness of it all sent Tsunade into a rage. She knew about Kakashi’s slip up when he had found out he wasn’t allowed in to see his partner. It fueled her need to fix this situation and get Kakashi in to see Gai, no matter how briefly.

Tsunade sighed heavily, tiredness making her cranky as she threw the papers across the table in her frustration.

“This is bullshit!” Tsunade shouted as she stood, walking towards her fridge as she opened it. She scanned the shelves, her eyes landing on her bottle of sake in the fridge. She tore it out, opening the lid and chugging the contents.

“Damn it, why can’t those bigoted bastards see that this is wrong!” Tsunade yelled to herself, the sound echoing across her house. Silence greeted her as she walked towards her bedroom. She needed a hot shower.

Tsunade hated feeling so lost, so helpless to help her family. She had been unable to save Jiraiya. It was yet another mistake that weighed on her conscience.

Just like Dan.

Just like Nawaki.

Her brother had died when they were young, cancer had taken him when Tsunade was in her early twenties. She had been forever changed by his death, heartbroken at the loss. Nawaki had been so full of hopes and dreams, wanting to become police chief just like their grandfather. He would get into fights at school for defending others from bullies. The loss of such a bright soul had been almost unbearable.

Tsunade turned her grief into determination, finishing medical school at a time when most women were barred from practicing it. She had been shrewd and tougher than anyone to earn her degree and become a skilled doctor, the best in her field.

At first, nothing could deter her from her goal. Tsunade wanted to live life to the fullest in Nawaki’s place. She drank hard, gambled hard and studied even harder to reach her goals. She had been so hyper focused on her goal, she had completely missed the opportunity for love.

Until she met Dan.

Dan was the kindest man she had ever met. Quiet and soft-spoken, he worked as the head doctor at the hospital that she was assigned to for clinical duties. At first, Tsunade tried to ignore the handsome young doctor who smiled warmly at her.

It wasn’t long before he managed to weasel past her defenses, asking Tsunade out for coffee. After that one date, Tsunade knew Dan was the one for her. She fell in love for the first time and fell hard.

Life with Dan was pure bliss and everything started to fall into place for her. Tsunade managed to get a job as a doctor, started working in the cancer care unit and slowly became the best doctor in Konoha general hospital.

It wasn’t easy to juggle life and working as a doctor but Dan was patient and Tsunade was determined to make it work. The more time she spent with Dan the further she fell. When Dan proposed, Tsunade said yes without any hesitation. She was happy as she thought of living the rest of her life with Dan.

Then, just like before, tragedy struck just when Tsunade was at the pinnacle of happiness. The memory was still fresh, playing in her mind’s eye even all these years later.

She had been looking at wedding dresses for the second time that week, having become annoyed with her mother and grandmother with their constant bickering and telling her what to do the first time she went looking. This time, she brought Orochimaru and Jiraiya because she knew that at least one of them would be a help to her.

She was telling off Jiraiya for attempting to look at her changing in the dressing room, Orochimaru rolling his eyes at the pair of them when she got the call from the hospital.

There had been a robbery at the bank and Dan had been trying to help a security guard who had been shot. The robber was just some punk, high on a cocktail of oxycodone and heroin and desperate for another fix.

He had told Dan to stop, to get away from the man but the doctor refused. He was shot in the chest, the bullet just missing his heart but shredding many of the tissues surrounding it. He was still alive when Tsunade made it to the hospital.

Dan had been lying in a hospital bed, the extension of his injuries dire. The doctors weren’t confident in his ability to survive. Tsunade tried to hang back, knowing it was a conflict of interest. She needed to just be by Dan’s side.

And she had stayed there for days, taking a leave from work to sit by his bedside every waking moment she could. Jiraiya and Orochimaru never left her side, serving as her support net like they had always done.

Tsunade had been standing over him, shaking as Dan opened his eyes and the heart rate monitor picked up. He had looked up at her, eyes glazed over in pain as he came to for the first time in a week.

“I…I…can’t…die…here.” Dan had whispered to her just before he flat-lined and the doctors rushed inside with the nurses. 

Tsunade didn’t remember screaming but later, as Jiraiya and Orochimaru were pulling her away from Dan’s body just as the attending doctor declared the time of death. She had been unable to save the man she loved, unable to do anything for him.

She had spent the last of her years honing her medical knowledge and becoming as well-rounded of a doctor as she could. She was the best doctor in all of the fire country.

But even the best, couldn’t stop death. Jiraiya had died on her table, in front of Naruto and Tsunade had been helpless yet again.

She wasn’t going to let Kakashi down, she wasn’t going to let Kakashi go through what she had gone through by losing the man he loved. Even if Gai died, Tsunade knew that being with him in his final moments would be a comfort to Kakashi.

Tsunade sighed as she entered her room, walking over to her drawers to gather something to wear to bed. She just wanted the hot water to flow down her aching muscles and calm her enough for sleep. She would worry about this more in the morning.

She was just about to hop into the shower, about to shut the bathroom door and lose herself in blissful water, when the phone rang. Tsunade grumbled as she answered it with a growl.

“What and you better make it good or so help me…” She started to say when a voice chuckled on the other end of the phone.

“You were always quick to anger Tsunade.” a deep voice said. Tsunade recognized the voice immediately.

“Shikaku?” Tsunade said, confused as to why the lawyer would be calling at this time of night. “What do you want at three in the morning?” Shikaku chuckled as he sighed.

“I need you to bring Kakashi to the hospital and meet me there.” Shikaku stated a certain air of rushed urgency in his voice. Tsunade raised a brow. It was unlike Shikaku Nara to speak with such an air of impatience. The man was always calm and collected, constantly thinking things through.

“Why?’ Tsunade asked as she tossed her clothes over her shoulder, walking the wireless house phone towards her nightstand to grab her keys. Shikaku sighed heavily.

“Troublesome…” Shikaku muttered before continuing to speak so Tsunade could hear. “I may have found a loop hole and managed to let the board let Kakashi in to see Gai for a few hours but you have to hurry before they change their minds.”

Tsunade’s jaw dropped, her body freezing in place as her mind processed what Shikaku had said. The man had somehow convinced the board…

“I’m not even going to ask how because I don’t care.” Tsunade stated as she started to walk towards her doors. “I’ll go get the kid and you meet me at the hospital.” Shikaku chuckled, the sound making the phone crackle.

“Impatient as always.” Shikaku said just before he hung up. Tsunade slammed the phone onto the base and ran towards the door. She slipped her shoes on, not caring if she was still in her s

Things were finally starting to look up.

                                                _____________________________

Kakashi stared up at his ceiling, trying to urge sleep to claim him. He hadn’t slept much in the past three weeks. Between his nightmares and the paranoia that had resurfaced with his PTSD, sleep was just not as easy to find.

Kakashi looked over to the other side of his bed. Gai’s side of the bed. Kakashi laid on his side, laying his hand down on the comforter. It was cold and Kakashi found his heart giving a painful throb as he tried not to think about it.

Gai always radiated warmth, even when they were kids. He would often sleep without the covers even on the coldest of winter nights. Kakashi turned back to stare at the ceiling. His mind thinking about when he had finally given into his feelings for Gai.

Initially, Kakashi refused to let Gai in but after sobering up and seeing his therapist regularly, Kakashi had begun to dissect his feelings for Gai. He had never given a serious relationship thought. Relationships took work and trust, something Kakashi had never been able to give.

They involved a level of impulse, an impulse that the often logical and analytical man that Kakashi was, thought to be unacceptable. But that night, when he’d looked up at Gai as he chatted away in his usual way, he finally let himself give in to a single impulse.

They had been together ever since and they stood against the world that way. Even after adopting Lee and making the tentative steps into fatherhood, they had managed to help each other and stay together. There had been fights and anger and tears but Kakashi wouldn’t change any of it.

But what he wouldn’t give to have Gai here now, awake and laughing about something silly or blushing when Kakashi teased him about Jiraiya’s books.

Kakashi rubbed his eyes as he threw away the blankets. If he couldn’t sleep, he could at least go and clean something downstairs. He rose from the bed and threw on his shirt, walking down the stairs to check on the kids downstairs.

All of the teens had fallen asleep. Some of them had sensed it, falling asleep in their sleeping bags or on top of them while others fell asleep where they had sat. Sakura and Hinata looked cozy beside each other. Gaara and Lee had apparently zipped their sleeping bags together as had Naruto and Sasuke.

Gaara laid cuddled close to Lee, the older teen finally sleeping somewhat soundly after weeks of exhausting nightmares. Lee snored softly, arm wrapped around Gaara protectively as Gaara clung to him. Kakashi smiled to himself before turning to Naruto and Sasuke.

Sasuke had a scowl on his sleeping face, nothing too out of the ordinary. Naruto was on his back, snoring loudly as his arm wrapped around Sasuke’s sleeping form. The Uchiha clung to Naruto as the blond turned his head, burying his face in spiky black hair.

Kakashi smiled, making his way towards the television and stopping only for a brief moment to cover up Shikamaru, Ino, and Choji as they lay in a pile on the couch. Neji and Tenten slept soundly near the television as Kakashi turned it down.

He smiled warmly at the group before walking into the kitchen. Kakashi looked around, spying the dishes in the sink that needed to be done. Kakashi rolled up his sleeves and walked towards the sink, hoping to get something done since sleep was not going to visit.

He had just started when the phone started to ring. Kakashi was quick to pick up the phone, hoping it hadn’t awoken any of the kids in his living room. The last thing he needed was for his son to lose hold of one of the few nights of nightmare-less sleep.

“What?” Kakashi hissed as the phone crackled at the sound. Who called at four in the morning?

“Kakashi, you need to come to the hospital now.” Tsunade’s voice said with an air of urgency. “Shikaku managed to get you in to see Gai for a few hours but you need to move quickly.” Kakashi’s eyes widened as his mind processed the words Tsunade had just said. 

Tsunade had managed it, she had gotten it past the board and enabled him in to see Gai. He made a mental note to get the doctor a nice bottle of sake for Christmas to thank her. Maybe he should get Shikaku some nice cigars or a bottle of the best malt whiskey he could find to show his gratitude. Kakashi was quick to stop doing the dishes in favor of walking towards the kitchen opening.

“I’m on my way.” Kakashi said as he hung up and walked to the front door. He slipped on his shoes just in time to spot Gaara rising from his spot next to Lee.

“Kakashi…” Gaara started to say, rubbing his eyes to look up at Kakashi. The silver haired man nodded at him as the teen rose and walked towards him.

“Tsunade needs me at the hospital, can you make sure that everyone gets taken care of in the morning?” Kakashi asked as he pulled on his shoes and grabbed his keys. Gaara nodded, his eyes wrinkling his brow in question.

“Is Gai-sensei okay?” Gaara asked as he reached for Kakashi’s coat to hand it to him. Kakashi shook his head, eyes looking over at Lee for a moment. The boy was sound asleep inside his sleeping bag.

“He’s okay, I just managed to get in to see him.” Kakashi explained as he took his coat from Gaara. “So just keep an eye on Lee and I should be back soon.” Gaara nodded again and watched Kakashi open the door.

“I will,” Gaara reassured the man. As Kakashi opened the door, a gust of wind chilled him to the bone as Kakashi tried to prepare for the weather to walk to the car.

“I’ll see you soon.” Kakashi said as he walked out the door, pulling his coat collar up a little more to cover himself as he made his way to the car. Gaara closed the door behind him before turning back to walk towards his spot under the blankets.

The cold air had sunk into Gaara’s bones, making him shiver. He crawled back under the sleeping bag and Lee jerked awake for a second. Lee blinked and looked up at Gaara, yawning for a moment.

“Gaara?” Lee whispered as he rubbed his eyes. “What are you doing up?” Gaara pulled the sleeping bag over his shoulders, raising his hand to lay it on Lee’s chest.

“Kakashi got a call, he is allowed to go see Gai-sensei for a few hours and he asked me to tell you and make sure everyone behaved while he was gone.” Gaara explained quietly as Lee cuddled closer to him.

“That is wonderful, I am so happy.” Lee said as he wrapped his arms around Gaara’s waist. “Maybe things are finally starting to look up.” Gaara chuckled as he wrapped his arms around Lee’s neck. Lee’s voice sounded full of hope, his body relaxed in a way Gaara hadn’t seen since the attack. It made the anxiety in Gaara’s heart untwist to see his boyfriend happy again, instead of having to stomach that forced smile. Gaara was slowly growing to despise that fake smile Lee put on when he was trying to be strong. He was glad he didn’t have to see it at all tonight.

However, the question that Gaara had been wanting to ask Lee still hung in the front corners of his mind. He didn’t want to ruin Lee’s happiness or keep him awake with a question that may just upset him. Gaara bit his lip in thought, a gesture Lee noticed as he gently touched Gaara’s face.

“Gaara, there is something you want to ask me.” Lee whispered, running his thumb over Gaara’s cheek when the red head looked up at him. “Ask me, I will not be angry or anything.” Gaara blinked at his boyfriend. He was never sure how Lee was able to see past his walls but the older teen always managed to break them down. Gaara let out a sigh.

“I want to tell my father about us.” Gaara said, voice sounding sure as Lee’s eyes widened in surprise. “I know that we haven’t been together very long but…I want to tell him. I don’t want to hide from him any longer.”

Lee looked at Gaara, eyes wandering to the tattoo on his boyfriend’s head. The red kanji symbol for love had caught his attention that very first time he had met Gaara. Lee lifted his hand, tracing the symbol with his fingers.

“I agree, we should tell your father about us.” Lee said, his voice soft as he looked down at Gaara. “How about we do it on Friday, before our date just in case something happens? That way we can relax on Saturday knowing that the worst is over.” Gaara nodded, a small smile gracing his features.

“That makes perfect sense.” Gaara said as Lee hugged him closer to his chest. Lee’s warmth surrounded him, making the redhead feel content and safe. He could become addicted to this, sleeping next to Lee.

Lee yawned, eyes closing slowly as he started to fade into sleep. The older teen looked down at Gaara and watched the redhead close his eyes and settle against him to sleep. The last thought Lee had before falling to sleep was a small one, brought on by his half-conscious state but no less meaningful than it would have been had he been awake.

‘I love you, my Gaara.’ Lee thought just as he fell asleep, content to have Gaara in his arms.

                                                ___________________________

Kakashi walked into the coma ward with Tsunade and Shikaku in tow, his nerves on edge as he tried to keep himself from thinking of the worst case scenario.

Shikaku had only needed to show the paperwork to the security guard once before the man gladly let Kakashi through. They had briefly met eyes for a moment as Kakashi walked away and the man had given him a nod. Kakashi took the gesture as one of apology, not sure as ready to forgive the man.

They walked down the hallway, the anxiety grew in Kakashi’s chest as he mentally prepared to see his partner in his comatose state. Tsunade stopped by the door, opening it for Kakashi. Her face softening when she looked at him.

“We’ll guard the outside of the door to make sure no one gets in.” Tsunade stated as Kakashi gripped the door knob. Kakashi nodded butterflies in his stomach. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to see Gai wasting away in some hospital room but he was sure that he wanted to see his partner. He owed Gai enough to be here now.

Kakashi opened the door, closing it quietly behind him as he entered the room.

The machines that kept Gai alive and monitored his heart beat whirred and beeped softly, the room noisy even though it seemed quiet. Kakashi walked towards the bed, eye lingering on the body on the bed.

Gai was paler than the first night Kakashi had seen him, his body looking somewhat less defined. Three weeks without his beloved training was probably the cause. Gai was normally so strong and healthy, seeing him lying still was so strange for Kakashi.

Kakashi contemplated whether to just sit down or if he should pull a chair over. In the end, the chair made the most sense and Kakashi dragged one over to Gai’s bedside, as closely as he could manage. Minding the tubes and wires, Kakashi sat next to Gai.

Kakashi reached for Gai’s hand, longing to feel it in his own. Gai’s skin was cold, clammy and feeling almost dead under Kakashi’s fingers. It sent shivers up Kakashi’s spine.

“Hey Gai, they finally let me come back.” Kakashi said, willing his voice not to shake as he talked to his partner. “I’m sorry I haven’t been up that often but legal issues, idiots and other things…” Gai remained silent as Kakashi trailed off. Kakashi squeezed the hand he held in his, looking down at it as guilt ate at his heart.

“I relapsed Gai…for the first time since we started dating.” Kakashi admitted, his heart feeling heavy. “And Lee saw me…god, he’s been a trooper through all of this. I almost… Gai, you would be so disappointed in me.”

Suddenly, there was a beep. A rise in the heartbeat that broke the steady beating of the unconscious mind. Kakashi stared at it for a moment as the beeping went back to the same steady, comatose rhythm. He shook his head, it was probably a fluke. Kakashi turned his attention back to Gai.

“The nightmares came back.” Kakashi continued, trying to hold in his heartache. “The PTSD is bad too, I almost had a flash back in the middle of the store the other day…Yamato is talking about getting me a therapy dog. Something small to keep me grounded on bad days…”  Kakashi looked down at his partner, tears welling in his eyes.

“God damn it, Gai.” Kakashi said as he gripped his partner’s hands in his own, curling downward and pressing his lips to it. Tears fell down his cheeks as he took a shaky breath.

“I miss you, I miss your stupid challenges and hearing you dancing around the kitchen at five in the morning…” Kakashi said softly, the tear tracks drying quickly on his face. He had never been much of a crier.

“I know I can handle things, I know I would be fine on my own and I could take care of Lee but I don’t want to.” Kakashi confessed, squeezing Gai’s hand tighter. “You told me you would never leave me alone.” The soft beeping was all that answered him.

Kakashi closed his eyes, leaning his head against Gai’s hand. He chuckled softly.

“And do you really think it’s wise to leave me alone to raise a kid?” Kakashi joked, trying to make light of the situation. “I don’t exactly have a good track record with children.”

Kakashi laid his head down, keeping his hand over Gai’s as he tried to fight back another wave of tears. His heart was aching painfully as he tried to fight it away. He couldn’t do this, he wouldn’t break down. Kakashi took a shaky breath.

Suddenly, the heartrate monitor beeped again, slowly picking up when a strong hand squeezed Kakashi’s.

The silver haired man started, jerking his head up to stare at Gai. The strong jaw clenched as Gai’s eyes started to flutter, the monitor beeping as the heartbeat slowly rose to normal, conscious levels. Kakashi’s eyes widened in shock, tears forming in his eyes again.

“Gai?” Kakashi asked as his partner blinked his eyes open. The lights were dim but even in their low setting, Gai was trying to blink away the brightness. It was then that the panic sunk in as Gai seemed to remember things.

“K-Kakashi, where am I?” Gai stammered, trying to sit up only to have Kakashi push him back down onto the bed. “Where’s Lee? Is he okay? What about the other’s? Jiraiya?” Gai asked hurriedly as Kakashi laid his hand on Gai’s left thigh.

The questions filled Kakashi with relief. Gai was remembering, that meant he must have suffered little brain damage from the blood loss that initially caused the coma. It was a relief to know.

“It’s okay Gai,” Kakashi tried to reassure as he hit the button for the nurse. “We are at the hospital, you’ve been in a coma for about three weeks. Lee is fine and so are the kids. Calm down.” Gai nodded, sweat gathering on his brow as he ran a hand over his face. He looked somewhat relieved as he looked up at his lover.

“Good...” Gai said, comforted by Kakashi’s words. Kakashi pulled Gai’s hand to his lips when a nurse came in. she grinned brightly as she started to look over Gai’s vital signs. Gai smiled at Kakashi as he managed to lift his hand, cupping Kakashi’s cheek.

“I’m sorry Kakashi, you had to do this alone.” Gai said as he laid back on the bed. Kakashi’s eyes softened as he shook his head. Kakashi lifted his hand, moving Gai’s sweat soaked bangs.

“You can make it up to me when they release you.” Kakashi teased, playfully running his hands over Gai’s thigh. Gai didn’t react for a moment until his hand brushed Kakashi’s on his thigh. Gai looked confused as he glanced down at Kakashi’s hand, raising a brow in question for a moment.

“Kakashi…move your hand.” Gai asked, his voice sounding hauntingly serious. Kakashi raised a brow and ran his hand up Gai’s left leg once more. He did it slowly, making sure to watch Gai’s face as he moved his hand up to Gai’s knee. Gai’s eyes darkened as he watched the hand, his body stiffening as his eyes darkened.

Kakashi instantly knew something was wrong just Gai looked up at Kakashi, his eyes wide as he shook his head. Gai looked startled, Gai was never anxious or scared of anything. This look made Kakashi’s blood freeze.

“Gai?” Kakashi asked, putting his hand on Gai’s shoulder as a nurse opened Gai’s record of care from the end of the bed, completely oblivious to them for a moment. Gai blinked up at Kakashi, eyes looking miserable for a moment as the other man let out a shaky breath.

“Kakashi…I can’t feel you touching my leg…” Gai admitted as Kakashi’s eyes widened and the nurse perked her head up at the sudden distress in Gai’s voice. The kind looking woman took one look at their faces and ran for the door, calling for a doctor. Kakashi felt his heart freeze at those dark eyes he loved looked up at him with a look so broken and distraught it hurt him.

“I can’t feel my leg Kakashi.”

 

 

Chapter Text


The sun shone into Gaara’s eyes, pulling him from a deep sleep. He blinked his teal eyes open and groaned as he looked around to get an idea of his surroundings. Soft snores and breathing still filled the room as his friends slept soundly in their sleeping bags. Naruto and Sasuke next to them curled against one another as Hinata and Sakura laid in separate bags just to their left.

Gaara smiled as he looked up at the cause of the warmth surrounding him. He was still tucked into Lee’s sleeping bag, strong arms wrapped around his body while Lee’s face was pressed into his hair. Gaara gave a contented sigh, happy that Lee was still safely resting with him. Lee looked calm in his sleep, light snores filling the air. Gaara cuddled closer into Lee, knowing he should be getting up soon but finding the prospect of enjoying his time in bed with Lee to be too tempting.

Lee opened his eyes, blinking as he yawned and looked down at Gaara with half-lidded eyes. Gaara smiled at him, taking in his boyfriend’s handsome face. He found that he loved how Lee looked first thing in the morning. Lee’s eyes were still hazy with sleep, his smile soft as he lifted his arm around Gaara.

“Good morning my Gaara,” Lee said as he kissed Gaara’s forehead. “Did you sleep well?” Gaara nodded, looking up at Lee’s face. His heartbeat sped up at Lee calling him “his Gaara”, it felt amazing to hear that. Gaara liked this, waking up to Lee and his warmth. How could he ever live without this? How had he ever managed to sleep at all without Lee next to him?

“Morning.” Gaara said as he cuddled into Lee. “and yes, I did. I sleep surprisingly well with you next to me.” He looked down and felt his face heat. He was still so new to saying things like that. Lee chuckled at his boyfriend’s embarrassment and pulled Gaara tighter to him. Gaara was so cute sometimes.

“I am glad,” Lee said and leaned down to press a soft kiss to Gaara’s lips. “I like waking up to you.” Gaara sighed into the kiss, content with his situation. Lee pulled away, leaning back onto his pillow and closing his eyes.

“I would like to sleep a bit longer with you,” Lee said softly as he buried his face in Gaara’s hair. Gaara nodded, closing his eyes and settling against Lee. He pressed his ear against Lee’s chest, listening to the strong heartbeat and sighing contentedly as he closed his eyes.

Then, Lee’s phone suddenly began ringing. There was a chorus of groans and complaining from their friends as the sound awoke them. Lee turned bright red as he struggled to grab his phone and hold it up to his ear. 

“Lee speaking…” Lee said as the remainder of their friends began to rise, rubbing their eyes and glaring around. Gaara sat up, raising a brow as Lee’s eyes widened as the voice on the other end spoke. Lee’s jaw dropped as he nodded rapidly.

“I will be right there, Kakashi!” Lee said, hanging up the phone and struggling to get out of the sleeping bag. Gaara was instantly awake and rising to his feet as Naruto, Sasuke, Neji, Tenten and Sakura all bolted upward at the sound of the man’s name.

The whole group waited with bated breath for Lee to put his phone down and look up, worry heavy in the air until Lee's face split into a huge grin. Lee jumped up and began searching for his clothes.

“Gai-sensei is awake!” Lee shouted as he grabbed the pants he had taken off the night before and slipping them on quickly. Gaara’s eyes widened as he looked over at Naruto. The blond nodded, eyebrows crashing down as Neji began dialing on his phone.

“I’ll call the family driver to take you to the hospital,” Neji said as he stood to call. “The rest of us can wait until later since we have school.” Sasuke nodded, crossing his arms when Naruto opened his mouth to protest. Sasuke cut him off before the blond could complain.

“No, Lee should get to go see Gai-sensei first.” Sasuke pointed out, glaring harshly at Naruto. “We can all go later after school and we can see him later.”

Naruto looked at Sasuke and blinked, eyebrows crashing down. They stared down at each other for a few moments, their other friends waiting for the fight that usually followed when the two disagreed. But Naruto just looked down, curling his fists and turned away without so muc