Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Diplomatic Relations ❯ Beautiful Dangerous Creature ( Chapter 24 )
[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]
Disclaimer: Naruto is the brainchild of Kishimoto-sama, and I am not worthy. I merely borrow the manga's characters and situations, and make no money off of them.
AN: Whee! A 100 mm.org reviews ^__^ Thanks to you all, and I'm glad you're enjoying this! This is nearing the end, actually, because I think a good wrap-up is important to a fic, but there's still a chapter or two to go after this one. Um, this chapter...is a bit of a weird one, it was written in the pure spirit of lemony fun, and should be read as such. Enjoy!
Warning: NC17, and some rough stuff (but enjoyed by all parties).
Part Twenty Two: Beautiful Dangerous Creature
Lee checked his equipment again. It was easier on the nerves than watching his boyfriend stand on top of an electrical pole two streets away.
Not that Gaara would fall. He was a Shinobi after all, Lee reminded himself, and then reminded himself again when the gathering wind made the metal pole vibrate.
So, equipment check. Lee was wearing tough Sand Jounin clothes, gloves, and boots too; he wasn't used to the latter, his toes were complaining.
He glanced up again almost reluctantly. Gaara was still standing on the crossbar near the wire connector, straight as a sword, arms crossed, the gourd a familiar part of his silhouette. The growing wind suddenly blasted his coat out behind him. Lee forced himself to calm down again, and to stay hidden behind the large decorative terracotta pot that was giving him some shelter on the roof he'd picked. The electrical pole was the one on top of Gaara's house, the highest point in the bloody village no less, and the whole of Sunagakure was tumbling vertiginously at Gaara's feet, but even if he fell, he'd be able to catch himself; he was the Kazekage after all, and besides he wasn't going to fall in the first place, even if the wind was picking up something fierce.
Lee conscientiously checked his water pack in one pouch, his rations and weapons in another. He had a thick outer cloak that gave him an extra layer of protection, a veil to cover his features and brand new sand goggles. He also had standing orders from Kankuro and Gaara to not use any of the above and to stay safely in his room, but Lee was choosing to ignore those.
Well, it hadn't actually been an order from Gaara. Not directly from Gaara, Lee told himself reassuringly, as his conscience tried to prick him. It had just been a hurried note telling Lee to stay indoors and not follow him. It hadn't even come with a please. Gaara was probably expecting him to ignore it. Right.
Lee's eyes were drawn to the distant figure again. He wondered what Gaara was feeling right now. Lee hadn't seen him in two days, and he missed him more than he reasonably should for a mere forty-eight hours. Forty-eight hours since Gaara had trailed off in the middle of a sentence, stood up, made his way slowly to the window and, in a queer voice full of restraint and expectation, had said: "There's a sandstorm coming."
It was the first storm of the autumn season, and it was early, so there had been a lot to organize. The herbarium had to be sealed and boarded, houses and roofs caulked, storm shutters checked, outlying patrols warned...
Lee had stayed out of Gaara's way by tacit agreement, just making sure that his boyfriend knew he could call upon the Jounin if he needed anything at all. Lee hadn't been surprised when Gaara did not avail himself of the offer. The Kazekage had been very busy, but the real reason they kept their distances during those two days was that approaching sandstorms made Gaara twitchy, irritable and a bit strange. Lee knew better now, but during last year's storm seasons, Lee hadn't always had the wisdom and knowledge to back down and leave well enough alone. It was hardly his style anyway. They'd had some pretty spectacular arguments as a result.
But despite this, when the storms struck, Lee would always go out and follow the Kazekage, 'watching his back' as he put it. There was no conceivable reason why he would stop doing so now that they were friends and lovers. Really, what were Kankuro and Gaara thinking? (Fortunately Temari was in Konoha working with Tsunade on their plans for Sound, because she would have made it abundantly clear what she was thinking, and then would probably have locked Lee in his room under guard to boot).
Lee watched the distant figure of his lover; Gaara watched the approaching storm. Lee could see it coming now. It was thundering towards Sunagakure like a tsunami in this waterless land. The wind was already buffeting Lee, sending forerunners of sand to gather in the folds of his cloak. The air smelt of dust, dry wind and ozone. Lee made sure that every inch of his skin was covered by the clothes, cloak, gloves and veil, and pulled on the goggles.
In his mind, he was rehearsing the various stages he'd become familiar with during the previous storm seasons. Gaara would stay on his roof for a little while after the storm hit (though hopefully not on that bloody electrical pylon), while his chakra gathered and grew wild and dangerous, reminding Lee of the Old Gaara. Then the Kazekage would stalk off into the storm.
And Lee would follow him, at a safe distance.
The distant figure casually stepped off of the pole's crossbar into thin air, giving Lee a mild heart attack. Gaara dropped gracefully to the roof, approached the balustrade and stared out at the wave about to hit.
Lee frowned. Gaara's chakra felt different than last storm season; it was more modulated. It normally rose with the savage wind.
The early-morning sunshine was dying, devoured by jaws of encroaching dust blown ahead of the storm. Lee stared until he couldn't see Gaara anymore, but he could feel a faint pulse of chakra from that direction, if he trained his senses hard enough.
Let go, love, Lee thought, feeling a tiny flare of wild power seething from the man he could no longer see. Let go, it's okay. I'll be right here with you, and I'll make sure you're safe.
At least that had been the plan. Then the storm hit.
With an inward sigh, Lee thought of the citizens of Suna huddled inside their homes. Nobody deliberately went out into sandstorms. Nobody but their Kazekage, and an idiotic Leaf Jounin who just couldn't bear to leave him by himself...
The wind lashed at Lee, showering him with sand at high velocity. Even through the thick clothes and cloak, it stung a bit. Lee barely noticed, since it would take considerably more discomfort than that to register with him. His only concern was getting lost. Gaara had predicted that this storm would be violent and last the day, and Lee wanted to be sure he spent that time as was his self-appointed duty, watching Gaara's back, not staggering around in circles and running into things.
It was proving more difficult than last year. Gaara's chakra was flaring and leaking, but it wasn't the insane boil that had drawn an alarmed Lee out into the storm that first time. In the fury of the elements, Lee had lost Gaara twice now, and only found him through luck and by hurtling forward blindly in what he hoped was the right direction until he picked up traces of his lover again.
Lee felt something looming to his right. He narrowed his eyes through the goggles. It was ten in the morning, yet the sunlight was almost gone. He couldn't see very far, but he could sense something large and dark up ahead. He walked forward prudently, and a wall of granite detached itself from the flowing sands.
Ah, he knew where he was then, Lee thought proudly. He recognized this particular battlement, a piece of rock anchoring a brick wind-wall that directed the fury of storms away from- wait a minute, that meant that Gaara was heading towards the canyon and the desert beyond. Damn it-
Lee frowned, twisting on himself and glancing over his shoulder. The wind appeared to be blowing from all directions at once, buffeting him, ripping the cloak around his legs. Through the fury of the storm, Gaara's chakra seemed to be coming from behind him. But Lee had been following the Kazekage. Hell, he must have gotten turned around again.
He left the slight shelter of the outcropping, stretched out a hand and his senses and moved towards the sinister tingling in the air that was his lover. He didn't want to lose Gaara in all this, especially if the Kazekage was heading out of Suna's immediate defence perimeter.
The aura was behind him again.
Lee felt his skin prickle beneath the tough clothes.
The wind hissed, pushing the sluggish sand against his legs. Lee realized he could see a couple of yards ahead now. He could make out the stone outcropping to his right and the wall dropping away from it, even though he was several feet away. The wind was dying.
That meant he was in trouble.
Lee swallowed and glanced over his shoulder. The wild, pulsing chakra was all around him now.
Nothing. He still couldn't see much, just the dark shape of the rock a few feet away, and the wall of sand and wind around him. He did a full turn on himself-
Gaara was standing right in front of him, well into his personal space.
Lee yelped and jumped back instinctively. Gaara didn't move. Around them, the sand-heavy wind seemed to be laughing wildly.
"G-Gaara?" A shiver of tension ran through Lee's body. Gaara had always ignored him during previous storms.
"Why am I even surprised?"
Gaara's voice, barely audible above the howling gale, held an unusual edge of irony. It matched the cruel, crooked upturn of one corner of his mouth. His eyes were wide, pupils small and hard, and he didn't seem to notice the sand blowing against him.
He took a step closer. Lee took a step back, trying to make it look casual. He could feel the presence of the rock escarpment behind him, boxing him in.
"I guess I'm not surprised at that," Gaara announced, coming to a halt not even a foot from Lee. Eyes narrowed and the smirk widened. A finger reached out slowly, as if daring Lee to bolt. It touched the edge of his goggles. "You always disobey my orders."
"Why do I like that?" Gaara purred. His finger fell from the goggles and pulled the veil away from Lee's face.
Lee couldn't answer for a rather technical reason. He quickly lifted his hand to cup around his nose, to avoid breathing in sand and dust. The other hand reached for his veil to pull it back up.
There was a soft 'woosh', and Lee's ears suddenly rang.
He gasped, fingers still fishing blindly for the edge of his veil, which was hanging limply near his face instead of being blown straight out by the wind. As he gaped like a suddenly landed fish, Gaara reached over and lifted up his goggles, settling them against Lee's forehead.
Lee blinked and glanced around wildly.
The sand from the storm had come to a screeching halt in a circle around them, arrested ten feet away by the massive chakra exerted by his boyfriend. The sand's unnatural immobility was acting as a makeshift wind breaker, allowing rough breezes and small dust devils to curve through their shelter, but bending the full force of the storm around them. Lee tried to imagine the kind of power that could do that and ran out of estimates.
"Hi Gaara," he said a bit weakly, focusing back on his boyfriend. "I'm sorry to have interrupted your walk." You can go on doing whatever it was you were doing, was the message Lee hoped to convey.
Gaara stared at him, as if his words had been in a foreign language that he knew, but it required his concentration to understand Lee's meaning.
Lee hesitated. He didn't know how to handle this. Last year, he'd followed Gaara like a naturalist followed a tiger through a jungle; trying to not let his presence impact on the dangerous creature in its natural habitat. In turn, the Kazekage had ignored him - though Lee felt pretty sure Gaara had known he was there - and had continued walking in the near-solid sand with that wild look in his eyes and power wrapped around him, dangerous and volatile. Lee had kept to his safe distance with utmost respect. He'd known even back then that Gaara was unpredictable in these circumstances, and might well try to wing him just for the fun of it if Lee got too close.
Gaara had never turned around and come after him, though.
Lee looked at the other man as clinically as he could. Gaara didn't look menacing; he didn't look like he was even angry at Lee, despite his first words. He was studying the Jounin and he looked fairly rational, though the pulse and ebb of chakra around him told Lee that he might not have quite the grip he appeared to. He seemed...different. His hair was wild and wind-blown, and seemed a starker shade of red in the half-light, his eyes were wide and oddly fixed, his mouth curved, more expressive than it usually was, but of what emotions Lee could not tell. He seemed brighter, somehow. Beautiful, dangerous and just...more.
Lee realized that he hadn't actually thought how Gaara would behave if they ran into each other in the storm. It had happened before, during the previous storm seasons. On those occasions, Gaara would ignore him and Lee would creep away, chilled by those traces of the Old Gaara he saw. But now...he'd not factored their relationship into this.
Gaara's fingers picked at the edge of Lee's cloak, as if he was examining Lee's protective attire.
"Interesting," he murmured.
Lee swallowed, in part to clear his ears, which were aching from the sudden change of pressure and from the beat of the wind hammering air into their refuge. Gaara's power pushed upwards and let a faint reflected sunshine leak through the storm above. In that charged atmosphere, Gaara's words were utterly clear, despite the wind howling around them. The air inside the bubble was dead and hollow, and each sound- the creak of sand beneath Gaara's sandals, the flutter of his coat, Lee's quick, shallow breaths - sounded abnormally loud.
"I can feel you following me," Gaara said, removing his hand and staring at Lee, unblinking. He was still too close to Lee, closer than Gaara normally stood to people. It was keeping Lee off-balance. "It's annoying. Like a mouse scurrying under the floorboards."
"Mouse?" Lee huffed, before his brain could tell him to shut the hell up.
The ghost of a strange smile briefly twisted Gaara's lips. "Mouse," he murmured. The power emanating from him seemed to curl around Lee, mocking the Jounin with the difference between their levels. "But maybe..."
Something flickered across Gaara's face, a frown, then the strange expression was back again and Gaara's fist slowly knotted in Lee's cloak.
"Maybe we can play. Show me you're not a mouse. I know you can. That might be fun." Gaara's voice was no longer quite a monotone, but it had inflections Lee had never heard before.
"Play?" Lee said cautiously. "What do you mean?"
"A sparring match. You're always hounding me for one." Gaara's eyes twitched to one side briefly. Flickers of expression lit his face and disappeared too fast for Lee to follow, as if Gaara was listening to objections, encouragements and laughter on the wind that Lee couldn't hear. "How about it?"
"Or you can go."
Lee found himself pressed back against the stone outcropping, Gaara's hand shoving him back contemptuously. "We either spar, or you leave, but I will not have you trailing after me like a little mouse." The fist shoved him back again as counterpoint.
For a second, Lee was almost tempted. His heart beat faster, his fists itched in their gloves at the idea of taking on Gaara when the latter might actually really cut loose and stop being so terrified of hurting Lee- plus the 'mouse' thing burned a bit. But no. Lee wasn't that crazy, or that stupid. Fighting with Gaara in this condition would be way too dangerous, and if Lee got injured, Gaara would blame himself.
"Gaara, we can't spar, we're in the middle of a sandstorm," he pointed out in a reasonable tone.
"Then leave, Leaf. Run away, and don't stop running until you get home," Gaara sneered. He stepped back, dropping his hand from Lee's cloak and turning away.
"Home- Konoha?" Lee asked dumbly, since Gaara had mentioned 'Leaf'-
Chakra flared like sudden wildfire. The sound that erupted in their bubble of air was like the feral snarl of a saw biting into granite. Lee's arms were in front of his eyes, protecting his face from the crash of sand. It hadn't been aimed at him, fortunately, but it had scarred the stone around him and knocked down part of the brick wall a few feet away. His muscles hummed, ready to wrench him out of danger- but the wild chaotic surge of power was already fading. With what sounded like a growl, the chakra-rich Sand of the gourd eased itself away and back into its container.
Lee lowered his arms prudently. Gaara's face was four inches away; he was staring at Lee unblinking, and he had both fists knotted in Lee's cloak now.
"You will not leave this village," Gaara said in a low, dangerous growl. "If you go, you will go back to my home, slip into my bed and wait for me there."
Lee's heart was still in his mouth. But he ignored it, and the violent grip and the way the cork still hadn't slipped itself back into the gourd's opening. Because he realized that what Gaara was giving him was an out. Lee had a choice.
He'd never actually wondered much what Gaara looked for in these storms; why he let his power boil out from him like this when the wind started to blow. He didn't really know how badly Gaara lost it. It was tempting to think he walked around in this fury and let the Old Gaara loose, or maybe even parts of Shukaku, but then if that was true, he really would be dangerous, and he would not be giving Lee the option to leave now.
However strange and unhinged and wild this Gaara was - however much Lee liked to think of this as the Old Gaara...it wasn't, not really. He was as feral as his younger self had been, as dangerous perhaps, as volatile as the thing that had lurked beneath the Armour years ago, but this wasn't the child-killer who'd maimed Lee; this was the young man who was his lover. And since he was giving Lee a way out...conversely, it meant that Lee couldn't leave.
"I'm not going. But I'm not sparring either!" Lee added hastily. "I'm sticking with you though. Orochimaru might have heard that you like to walk around in storms- and I know there are often strange creatures- erm, animals walking around in these sorts of- I mean-" Dammit, he was getting tongue tied under that unblinking gaze. "Anyway, I'm not leaving. Maybe we can, um, walk around together? If you don't want me following. But I'm not leaving you alone out here. You need someone to watch your back."
At the very far back of his mind, behind that determination, Lee realized that he sort of wanted to know. Know who this Gaara was.
"Watch. My. Back." Gaara said it as if trying to fit the words into an order that made sense. And then he laughed.
Lee went right back to feeling one hundred percent undiluted worry, because he'd heard Gaara laugh once before, pretty much like that, and Lee had almost lost the use of his limbs and his life as a result.
But the laugh became a more relaxed chuckle - still completely at odds from his usually serious Gaara. It made him sound a bit like Kankuro. The look he was giving Lee was weird, but it wasn't manic, and Lee's sense of danger crept back to somewhat acceptable levels.
"Watch my back. Lee. Lee...This is the one place I don't need you to watch my back. Not here. They can't get me here."
Lee was about to ask a question, one of many, but he hastily closed his mouth and eyes as a brisk, sandy wind broke through Gaara's barrier. Lee protected his face with one hand and glanced around cautiously through his fingers. The sand was curling loosely around Gaara in a helix, as the Kazekage took two steps back. He had one hand out, and the sand seemed to be looping around it obediently.
"I like it out here...the power..."
Gaara stepped away and turned. He idly jerked at the harness that loosened the gourd on his back, and he swung it down to the ground with a challenging thump, eyes hard on the storm around them, as if he was watching an advancing enemy. The wind blew and raged in a circle around them.
"They would never attack me in a storm," Gaara said over his shoulder. "This is my domain. They know their limits. Human limits. The sand would leech the blood from their bodies before they got within a hundred feet."
"Huh-" Lee sneezed as some dust tickled his nose. "Who-"
Gaara spun around away from Lee and threw out his hands, fingers twisting into claws.
"You should have known your limits. You shouldn't have tried to kill me. You were too weak! You never stood a chance!" Gaara suddenly shouted, and the storm and sand screamed with him.
The spike of power that ensued made their shelter ring like a bell. A momentary avalanche of wind and sand swept through it. Lee was knocked back against the rock, and he let himself fall, glad to have its solidity at his back. He stayed crouched as the wind died down; the sand drifted to the ground, curled and played at the Kazekage's feet, danced for him as he glanced at it.
"They're dead now," Gaara announced. "They all died, and they never even scratched me. And the rest of them left me alone, they were terrified-...You're not afraid of me though. Are you?"
A slightly unsteady note had entered Gaara's voice as he glanced back, and Lee fell over himself to answer. "No! No, of course not."
"Good...Because...I can..." Gaara's face had gone still, eyes wide. "I can...protect us. I can protect us."
"Oh that's good, um, Gaara, who-"
Gaara spun around and was crouched in front of Lee before the latter could utter more than a startled gasp. Lee overbalanced, trying to reign in his fight-or-flight reactions, and sat down with a thump. The power roiled off of Gaara, an almost palpable thing. Lee had never seen him move so fast.
Gaara's eyes were fever-bright, there was a look of concentration and wonder on his face. "Do you understand? Lee! Do you understand?!"
"I can protect us! They will never harm us! I can protect us both! Do you see? Do you see?!"
Lee, mouth hanging open, stared at his lover. Hands grasped his shoulders and shook him sharply, making his teeth click.
"Do you see?" Gaara asked, eyes intent on Lee's face. "I can protect us both. I can protect you, Lee. I can give this to you. I can give this. They will never touch you!"
"Who? Sound?" Lee asked weakly.
He didn't think Gaara was talking about Sound.
Gaara got up and spun around-
An unimaginable blast of pure power shattered the strange calm of their eye of the storm. It screamed through the still air, hurled itself out, smashed the wall of sand around them and shouldered back the winds wrapped around their cocoon, leaving a large concentric ring of roiling dust and eerie, breathless silence.
Lee felt a prickle in his sinuses as the massive chakra pulse dwindled. A heartbeat- then the wind and sand came rushing back towards them like a killing tide. Lee scrambled to get his goggles and veil on, but the power of the storm once more crashed and broke against the wall of chakra surrounding his lover. A weak wind sprinkled Lee with a few handfuls of grit and a piece of dried cactus, and then it curled up obediently around Gaara's feet.
Gaara was panting harshly. It sounded like excitement as much as exertion.
"There," he told the invisible enemy out there. "Don't come near him. He's mine! He's mine."
Thank god we weren't in the middle of the village, Lee thought, his heart still thumping with shock. That blast of raw power might have knocked a house down. Or perhaps not; the conical shape of Suna's houses protected them against the strongest storm winds, and might have deflected some of that intensity- Lee was just glad it hadn't been put to the test though.
"He's...mine..." Gaara repeated hoarsely.
Then he turned towards Lee, and apparently 'they' were forgotten, whoever they'd been. Gaara's concentration was on Lee exclusively. Lee held himself still, sitting back to the rock, ignoring his survival instincts which were telling him to get casually to his feet, edge away and then start running like hell.
Gaara walked towards him with the slow, dragging steps of a sleepwalker. The storm pressed against their shelter, sending sand and a few gusts to blow Gaara's coat about his body and Lee's cloak against the rock behind him before they were sealed off again.
Gaara crouched before him. His eyes had never left Lee's.
"You're mine," Gaara said, but this time the affirmation held within it a tentative question.
"Yes," Lee said firmly.
A sharp inhale parted Gaara's lips; he leaned forward and the sigh that followed was sensuous. He caressed Lee's bared cheek with the back of his fingers.
"I've never had anyone who was mine before..."
Gaara's eyes dropped to Lee's throat, his chest. Then his hand followed, throwing aside the thick cloak, dragging his palm and finger's down Lee's sternum with the brash delight of a child who'd been told not to touch and was doing it anyway.
That same hand was, an instant later, fastened around Lee's chin, jerking his head up. So fast! Lee blinked, more in surprise than pain, though if he'd been an average person, the wrenching gesture would have hurt a little.
"But it had to be you. You see that. Right?"
This was a different aspect of Gaara yet again. There was something cold and ancient about him now, and his eyes held the wisdom of crows on a battlefield.
"What?" Lee whispered, and wondered why he was still bothering trying to keep a toe-hold in this conversation, if you could call it that.
"It had to be you." Gaara's voice flowed easily and with undertones of steely certainty. "The others wouldn't dare. They're afraid of me."
Gaara said it with cynical satisfaction, which made Lee blink. Apparently this version of Gaara didn't worry about the fear he generated; he sounded like he enjoyed it.
"And there aren't many who could challenge me as you do. Who would have the guts to do it. Maybe Naruto. But he was afraid of me too, to start with. And he frightened me...He beat me, he broke me inside..." The last words were a mutter.
"But he's your friend now," Lee objected automatically, then spluttered as sand got into his mouth, blown on one of the faint breezes that made it through the wall of sand and power.
"And Sasuke...the first person to make me bleed...he had very beautiful eyes. So intent. So desperate. He was lucky to survive, though, because he really wasn't strong enough. I can't believe he's still alive. Something that brittle should have broken long ago."
Lee wondered if Gaara had even heard him.
"But you...Even back then." The grip on his chin tightened, possessive, and something in Gaara's unblinking stare made Lee swallow and stare back in fascination.
"Even when I was in the darkness, living only for myself, I still noticed you, Rock Lee. During the Chuunin exam. You were the first. You touched me. You made me feel pain. You were glorious."
The fingers abruptly released him. They rose to trace Lee's nose, his cheeks, his lips...
"I wanted to kill you so badly afterwards," Gaara added, his voice soft with longing and shot through with malice that was so pure it was strangely innocent.
Lee stared at him, chilled as much by the dark desire in that voice as the words.
"...but he stepped in and stopped me. He protected you both times." Gaara's face twisted into a dangerously fixed expression. "He had you, you had him. Beloved comrade..." it was barely more than a movement of the lips.
Gaara's fists had slammed into the stone on either side of Lee's head.
"But you love me more than him now. Don't you?!"
"Yes," Lee answered hoarsely, mouth dry with the sudden shock. He wondered if it was his imagination or if he'd really felt the rock crack beneath Gaara's blow.
"Yes," Gaara murmured sensuously. "Yes, you do."
Lee nodded vigorously, with a silent apology to Gai-sensei. Not that he didn't love Gaara more than his teacher. Sort of. Well, it wasn't the same thing at all, really, not the same kind of love, he did love Gaara more, but it sounded wrong to put it in those terms-
That being said, arguing semantics at this point would be calamitous. As well as really, really stupid.
"You love me." It was a straight statement, but behind it lurked a hint of awe and wonder that captured all of Lee's attention again. "And you dared. You dared to reach out and touch me again. And get even closer."
The wind and sand whispered sensuously around them; the storm's mindless fury seemed a lot further than just a few feet away.
Gaara's words fell into that strange near-hush, slow, with pauses between the sentences as if other, unheard voices were whispering in his mind. "You touched me. You opened the door. I didn't know. I had no idea...how you could make me feel."
A kiss interrupted Lee's self-conscious mumble. It was hard, and teeth unexpectedly nipped at his lip. Lee started, and licked at the small sting without thinking when Gaara leaned back. The green eyes were fixed on his tongue and Gaara's mouth opened in a soundless, breathless 'hah'.
Lee suddenly had a bad feeling about this.
"Look," Gaara whispered.
The throb of chakra in the air rose sharply; so did Lee's eyebrows. It reminded him of the way Gaara's power had crashed around him earlier.
"Look," Gaara ordered again, getting to his feet with that grace that made Lee's blood do funny things in his veins - not that this was the time or place, and he hoped Gaara understood that-
He was looking, but he didn't see anything. What was he supposed to be looking at? Uh...
A lazy circle drew itself in the sand, centred on Gaara who stepped away and lifted his arms. Pure chakra, ploughing the ground.
It curled around Gaara, brushed his feet, rose around his body slowly. The sand followed it, rising like a veil, wisps rising to cling to it through sheer static. The power felt almost solid to Lee, four feet away. It drew itself up around Gaara, swirling slowly. It seemed to solidify around the Kazekage, who lifted his arms higher, tilted his head. His eyes slid shut.
Lee blinked. Then his eyes went very round.
Gaara let one hand trail down his other arm, slowly and sensuously; he touched his throat, let fingers trace the collar. Something dark, a thick shadow in the half-light, followed the track of his fingers, swept up to Gaara's face, caressed his neck and shoulders. Pure chakra, pulsing on the edge of visible like a heartbeat.
Lee just sat there, staring, too amazed at the sight and the rippling power in the air - the sheer sensuality but also the amazing strangeness of the scene- to know how to react.
Gaara let his head fall to one side, his lips a sensual line, slightly parted. The power dripped off of him, then curled back to stroke him. It caressed the small of his back where Lee's hand rested when they made love...wrapped around the lean muscles of Gaara's belly, up his chest...slipped down his arms to catch his legs and stroke the inside of his thighs beneath the coat...
Gaara's flat tones were underscored with a faint purr. "This...is what you gave me. I understand it now...pleasure..."
Lee made a noise akin to that of a small desert rodent. He had meant it as some form of protest. Because this was just wrong. It, well, it had to be.
Wrong but very, very alluring.
"Shukaku doesn't understand this..."
Lee tensed, but Gaara had said that as if it was an inside joke they shared.
"He doesn't have a body. He only understands pain and destruction; those are his pleasures. But this...this he doesn't understand. And he can't do anything about it." Gaara's voice was one long smirk as his hands drifted down his chest, his hips, rose to caress his arms and shoulders. "I use his power, he can't stop me, and he hates it...He rages and tears at me, but I'm stronger now. I can control him. And this...this understanding you gave me, this pleasure. It makes me feel human. This is what helps me to remember that I'm not him, and he's not me..."
"Are you sure this is okay?" Lee mumbled, torn between worry and utter fascination at the sheer amount of power pulsing from his lover and engulfing him in caressing waves.
"Is he making you nervous...? Don't worry, he's never getting out again." Gaara stopped moving, his dark-ringed eyes deadly serious, almost fanatically so. "I'll protect you, and my brother and sister and my village. I'll protect you all, even from Him. He'll never come near you, Lee. I swear."
"Okay, okay," Lee said quickly. Gaara had years of practice staying in control; in fact, it took him that 'fake sleep' jutsu and some effort to let Shukaku take over. And this young man before Lee had a lot more determination and reasons to keep on top of his demon than the crazed child-killer from years back. Considering what it was exactly that the power was doing, it was obvious that it was Gaara in the driver's seat, not the Tail. Lee was nonetheless relieved when the levels of chakra in the air started descending back to normal levels - normal for Gaara, which was still hugely off the charts for an ordinary human being.
Lee felt something crawl beneath him. He jerked his hands away from the ground instinctively, ready to leap up-
The sand in a small radius around Gaara was moving towards him like filings towards a magnet. It crawled around Gaara's sandals, insinuated itself up his body, beneath his clothes.
Lee's mouth was already pretty dry, what with the wind and dust leeching the sparse moisture from the air, but now he felt like something was going to crack.
Gaara lifted his hands, watched lazily as the sand rippled over his skin, caressing his palms and leaping up into small, rather disturbing shapes before his eyes. Lee could see the tight coat rustling here and there as the grains coiled and caressed his lover.
"Have I ever told you what the Sand Armour feels like?" Gaara asked dreamily.
"No," Lee croaked, his eyes welded to the sight before him.
"When I was young, I thought this is what a hug must feel like," Gaara said, a flicker of sadness crossing his face- then his lips parted in a silent gasp as the sand touching him beneath his clothes did something that Lee couldn't see but was unfortunately able to imagine quite vividly. "Hmmm. But then when you touched me, when we got together, I knew that wasn't it. When the Armour touches me, it feels like-..."
Gaara blinked and focused on Lee. And then he smiled. It was sensuous and scary in equal parts.
Lee nervously held up his hands in a warding gesture. "Now Gaara-"
This time he saw Gaara move, though the Kazekage was still amazingly fast. Lee's reflexes were honed to perfection- but they were battle reflexes, and he was afraid to hurt Gaara if he tried to keep him away. Gaara was on his knees between Lee's legs, his hands fastening on Lee's face, before the Jounin could figure out how he was supposed to react.
"What are you-"
Gaara pressed a kiss to his lips...and something slithered onto Lee's face. Lee started back and bumped his head against the rock behind him. Gaara caught his lips again, one hand on Lee's cheek, the other settling at Lee's waist. The grains rasped over the Jounin's chin and throat, not quite as harshly as he'd feared in that first instant, but it still felt like getting brushed with sandpaper.
More sand slithered up his legs, his hands; it wiggled and slipped beneath his clothes, popping open the careful arrangement of cuffs and buckles that normally kept sand from the storm from getting into his outfit.
Lee whined in protest, lips clamped shut as sand passed over them- then Gaara's tongue was forcing his mouth open, rough and without compunction.
Lee had his eyes screwed shut. He could feel the Armour moving over his body. It-...scratched, it stung a tiny bit, it-...it was heavier than he'd anticipated, and he only wearing a section. No wonder this chewed up Gaara's stamina when he wore it.
A strand as big as a handspan rolled up his chest, engulfing one nipple and dragging at it, harder than any caress Gaara had ever given him- and unexpectedly pleasurable. Lee stiffened as if he'd been shot and his eyes flew open. Gaara kissed his eyelids shut again.
"Feels good, doesn't it?" he whispered.
Well, no, it didn't, Lee thought, bemused. Not bad, but not that great, either. Apart from the thing with the nipple- but he'd much prefer Gaara's hands doing that, in the right place and time which this was not.
The sand encased the small of his back, the top of his thighs, scratching the skin ever so slightly, a strange but not unpleasant feeling. Still, hardly as delightful as Gaara made it sound. Ah, but Gaara was used to this sensation, and to him it meant protection; it meant the assassins who had trailed him when he was younger couldn't get at him, that nothing could hurt him...maybe that was why he associated it unconsciously with something pleasant. Lee felt a bit more lenient towards the heavy coil slowly making its way up his back and rippling across his waist.
He opened his eyes cautiously; the sand had left his face. He edged forward, and put his mouth to Gaara's ear.
"Maybe we could...you know...go back to your place now?"
He could still feel sand and energy drifting over his lover's body, and he'd rather be applying those caresses himself.
Gaara whispered something.
"Hm?" Lee murmured, nuzzling Gaara's cheek.
"I like it out here. I feel alive," Gaara answered, barely audibly. Lee only heard him over the storm's distant howl because their faces were touching, carrying the vibration of his words.
Gaara's hands had grabbed his thighs and jerked him away from the rock, hard, spilling him to the ground. Lee had the reflex to tuck his chin into his chest or he'd have smacked his head on the stone directly behind him.
Sand hissed and leapt at him. Lee struggled to get up- it felt heavier now and it was moving over his skin like a small avalanche, knocking his arms out from under him, rolling him from side to side on the ground as it slithered beneath him and flowed into his clothes. The whole ground shifted, it felt evanescent, slowly collapsing, yet always there. The sand boiled and hissed beneath them.
His only answer was that smile again; carnal, sensuous, dangerous and delighted.
And then there was a massive ripping, tearing noise.
Lee was hunched up defensively, arms raised in a parry, legs bent to protect his belly - and other sensitive areas. Nothing badly damaged, but he had scrapes along his forearms and shins.
Oh, and he was pretty much naked, except for his short boots, gloves, the goggles pushed up on his forehead and a few remnants of torn bandages on his wrists and around his torso.
"You shouldn't have moved," Gaara told him reprovingly, looking with fascination at the red scratch marks on Lee's skin. "I wasn't expecting you to move like that."
Lee choked and spluttered. The stiff breeze within their protective bubble pushed around bits of tan cloth which had once been tough protective linen. Since the desert sun was blazing somewhere far above their heads and the casket of sand that encased them, the wind wasn't all that cold, but it was still raising goose pimples on his bared skin.
Gaara grabbed Lee by one wrist, lifted the Jounin's hand and leaned forward. Lee's protests turned into a strangled gurgle as a tongue traced one of the scratches from his elbow up to his palm.
His hand was forced back until Gaara's fingers caged his against the ground. This put their bodies in close proximity; Gaara crouched over Lee who was floundering on his back in the dirt and sand. Gaara reached for the other arm with his free hand and applied the same treatment. Lee was filthy, covered in sand and dust, scratched and- and shivering with the sensual pleasure of that caress.
"You can't be thinking of...of...Gaara, the-hn!" Gaara was licking at the pulse in his wrist, just below the short gloves. "The southern garrison is only s-sixty feet from here!"
"I don't care about them. I only care about you," Gaara said, voice full of dangerous desires as he placed Lee's hand with singular deliberation on the ground and looked down at Lee's naked body.
Lee tried to squirm away- and realized that the hands Gaara had forced to the ground had sunk into sand and were now stuck there. There was a bit of give, but it tightened if he tried to lift his arms, relinquishing one limb a little only to grip the other one deeper, like quicksand. He should be able to wrench his hands free if he really tried to- what was Gaara doing?!
Gaara had crawled back, fastened a wrist around Lee's ankle and leaned down, and was now licking his way up one of the scrapes on Lee's calf up to a tender part of his knee.
"No," Lee groaned, jerking helplessly at his imprisoned hands. He distantly realized that, as ways of getting Gaara to stop, moaning like that was probably counterproductive; the grip on his ankle had tightened and the tongue quickened at the sound, exploring areas he felt pretty sure hadn't been sanded.
"You're mine and I want you..." Gaara said, in a voice that was soft, but brooking no argument. "Here. Now."
Lee was breathing heavily, his body burning with desire and scrapes and heat.
"What if I say no?"
The words fell hard and stern in the heavy air. It got through even to Gaara, who stopped moving. Lee could feel him lift his head away from the path he'd been licking, though the Jounin didn't look.
"No?" Gaara sounded irritated and confused. "Why would you say no? You want this." He grasped Lee's hardening erection in illustration.
Lee didn't flinch, didn't blink, and didn't glance down at his lover. He was staring straight up as he lay on his back, arms anchored to the sandy ground. The sky above him was ragged and dark, the sunlight scratched to pieces by the storm winds and sand above their heads.
"What if I say no?" he repeated.
Hard fingers grabbed his chin again. Gaara hauled him up by that grip until he was looking down into Lee's face, forcing eye contact.
Lee stared right back and waited. Gaara's face was unreadable to him, not because it was set and controlled like it usually was, but because it was a shattered mosaic of a picture that would make no sense to a normal person anyway.
Gaara's eyes narrowed. If he was looking for signs of fear or repulsion, he would be disappointed. But what he would find was determination. You could build a wall with Lee's determination. It would reach from here to Konoha. This was not going to happen unless it was his will as well as Gaara's.
Gaara hurled him back. Lee managed to brace for it, but his head still rapped on the ground - and nearly knocked on the stone outcropping behind him- with enough force to make his eyes water. But he refused to believe Gaara had meant to do that quite that violently.
And his faith was rewarded when Gaara sat back on his heels instead of leaping on him. There was a faint sneer of contempt on the usually inexpressive face.
"If you say no, you can run off. You will go straight home, and you will not move from there. When I come back for you later, you had better not say no."
That might have sounded like a threat, but the tone had been too annoyed and petulant for that.
Lee felt the dust and sand on his face crack as he grinned. He had the nasty impression that the wave of relief that had washed through him had finally destroyed what was left of his sanity.
Gaara wasn't the only one who could move like lightning. The sand left small abrasions on Lee's skin as he ripped his arms free, but he barely felt it.
The Sand Barrier hissed from the gourd, Gaara's hands darted to break Lee's hold on the front of his coat- Lee hauled his beautiful, dangerous thing into his arms and kissed him. That is, it would have been a kiss, and a very passionate - if slightly deranged - one at that, but Gaara had moved in a way Lee hadn't quite anticipated so Lee's mouth ended up making contact with Gaara's cheek instead of his lips.
It was stupid and hazardous, startling Gaara in his present condition, but Lee was stark naked and expecting to get screwed a stone's throw from a garrison full of soldiers in the middle of a sandstorm, so really, what that said about his intelligence and risk evaluation...
And he trusted Gaara. Even this Gaara. Lee knew that his lover believed himself to be a monster inside, but Lee had now seen further into that inner landscape than he'd been allowed to ever before, and whatever insanity and wildness lurked there, he hadn't found a monster. Gaara had given Lee enough outs to prove that. This was his Gaara, but without the restraints he usually imposed on himself, and Lee wanted him, especially after that little display with the chakra and sand caressing him...oh that was going to be fodder for a few steamy dreams to come, Lee knew it.
Lee was flat on his back again, and Gaara's body moved against his greedily and hard. Lee had fortunately landed mainly on his cloak, which hadn't been too badly ripped by the sand, but his shoulder blades were pressed against unprotected ground. Bugger, more sand burns. Oh well, they'd heal.
This wasn't the gentle caresses they usually shared; this was as subtle as a fist fight, and Gaara's hungry body ground Lee into the sand, which was gripping and sucking at him again, as if it was on the verge of pulling them both under. Lee paid it no mind; he was giving as good as he got, his hands forcing Gaara down into a kiss like a bite, legs looping around Gaara's to force his lover to grind into him even more.
Gaara broke the kiss and leaned back- Lee was about to haul him down again when the sand jumped on him, virtually tying him to the ground. Lee protested wordlessly as it captured his hands again. No fair! A thick coil of sand washed over him like a wave, dragging against his skin and nipples again until he thought he was going to shout with sensory overload. And Gaara was watching him, unblinking, eyes alight with lust that seemed to devour every flinch and gasp he got as he groped and rubbed and used mercilessly.
Gaara's hand slid sensuously through Lee's hair- and gripped hard, jerking the Jounin's head around to face him.
"You'd better not change your mind," Gaara growled hungrily, "because I won't stop now if you-"
"If I tell you to stop, you will stop." It was not a plea, not a threat, it was a stern statement. It was the words Gaara had used the first time he'd let Lee bring him off.
Gaara blinked. Flickers of emotion crossed his normally impassive expression, recognition among them.
And then he smiled. It wasn't the small, warm smile Lee kept in his heart like a secret. This one was as clean and cruel as a sword's edge. But it was for Lee and for Lee alone.
"Yes. Yes I would stop; because it's you."
"Well then," Lee said, with an impatient 'get on with it' look he normally used when Gaara was being a drag about sparring.
Gaara's eyes slitted with feline pleasure at Lee's reaction. "It could only be you. The only one to dare..."
A crushing kiss put an end to talking for awhile.
This was probably going to hurt a little bit, Lee thought without any particular trepidation. Gaara wouldn't hurt him deliberately, not now, not ever, but he was kind of wild right now - Lee's heart underlined that statement with excited beats. But that was okay. Lee didn't fear a little pain.
Well, within reason. Or rather, not in a certain area which would be excruciatingly embarrassing to have to clean out later, especially since he'd probably need Gaara's help to do it...maybe Gaara would let him use his mouth...? No. To put it crudely, Lee was going to get fucked, unless he called a stop to it all and went home. But that would be giving up, and Lee just didn't know how to do that and had no intentions of learning now. He was rather looking forward to it, in the dark part of his mind where his deeper fantasies coiled. But there was one small condition that they needed to agree on first.
"G-Gaara." Lee tried to make his voice sound determined instead of quaky with desire. For both their sakes, he had to maintain a bit of control over this.
"Gaara, you can- oh! Look, stop, just a sec- you can control the sand so please make sure I don't get any, um, in there."
"Yes," Gaara said against his skin, "that would be uncomfortable while I'm moving in you."
Lee nodded in gratitude, and then realized Gaara hadn't actually said whose comfort he was concerned about, his or Lee's. Oh well, it was the end result that counted.
Gaara straightened up on his knees, staring down unblinking at Lee, who was lying panting and achingly hard on the ground. His lover stared for what felt like a long time. Lee finally blinked and stirred, and realized the sand was no longer pulling at whatever part of his body sank into it. He lifted himself onto his elbows, wondering if Gaara's restraint had returned, and trying not to feel too disappointed at the thought.
Gaara's hand rose, he made a circling motion in the air with one finger, slow and deliberate. Lee swallowed as he realized it meant 'turn over'.
They'd never done it like this before; Lee was tense with uncertainty and excitement as he slowly got to his knees facing the rocky outcropping behind him. It was only when a feather-light kiss dropped onto his shoulder that Lee realized what kind of trust it had demonstrated for a Shinobi to turn his back on such a ball of unstable chakra. But he did trust Gaara. And he wanted this.
Familiar hands drifted down his sides, lingered at his hips. Then they left him and Lee heard the jingle of a belt buckle, making his heart jump.
And helped him to suddenly remember another rather important detail, well, important for his comfort. He looked around hastily- a hand grabbed his neck.
"Stay still," Gaara purred.
"Um, okay, but can you see my weapons' pouch?" Lee rolled his eyes around to try to catch a glimpse of it. It had disappeared along with his clothes.
"Why?" his lover growled, obviously not interested in any interruptions.
"It's got my first aid kit in there. Um. And something for. Um. Lubrication."
He felt a prickle of tension run up his spine; Gaara hadn't sounded all that patient. Lee was disobeying the unspoken order of the hand clamped on his neck and turning his head to look around, and he still couldn't see his pouch-
There was a slithering sound, and a rustle of sand nearby. The pouch erupted from a small dune, which gathered up and hurled it towards them. It slammed into the hand Lee had instinctively brought up to protect himself from the missile.
"Hurry up," Gaara murmured.
The contents of the pouch went flying as Lee emptied it out. He grabbed the small tube of suntan lotion, a crucial piece of equipment for a Leaf in Sunagakure. It was heavy-duty stuff, thick and oily and meant to resist sweat and hours of effort. It probably wasn't something he would want where- um, where the sun didn't shine, as Kankuro would surely mockingly phrase it, but Lee didn't have much choice, and it was better than-
A hand caressed his butt and gripped, reminding him of the pressing nature of their business.
Lee squeezed out half the tube in one shot and started to lube as quickly as he could. He thought he caught a strange semi-purr from Gaara at the sight. Lee closed his eyes and concentrated on loosening his anal muscles as much as he could.
A hand settled on his back, right between his shoulder blades, and shoved him down hard, bending him over. Lee gasped and threw up his free hand, to stop his face from slamming into the rock outcropping before him. The hand covered in lotion was buried an inch into sand now, to keep him on his hands and knees.
Two fingers jabbed into him.
"You want me," Gaara murmured.
"Actually-" the fingers parted, hard and abrupt, and Lee bit his tongue. He could do with another five seconds, really-
The fingers weren't even there to help him. They were there to guide Gaara to the mark.
A long, hard thrust pushed Lee against the rock. He gasped, dazed at the power, the flickers of pain, the sheer taut pleasure.
Gaara barely paused. He was pulling out and then thrusting in again, even harder. Lee's arm flexed - every muscle tensed, resisting that movement, pushing back against the ground and the stone outcropping. His body was shaking with shock and pleasure. This was it. This was the thing he'd been reaching for, the time Gaara had taken him.
Another hard thrust. Lee's body felt like it was going to shatter with pressure and bliss.
Hands were gripping him by the hips, sure and strong, and he could feel Gaara's body press against his when his lover thrust into him. Gaara's breathing was deep and harsh, his movements utterly sure. Sand curled about them, crawling up Lee's legs-
"Gaara-don't get it in-"
The sand didn't seem to care what he wanted or not, but there was no sudden sensation of abrasion where Gaara was penetrating his body, so hopefully Gaara was controlling every particle with that bloody immense power of his. Lee sucked in his belly and shifted as the sand gripped him around the waist; it was falling off his body than leaping on again as if clinging to him with static. The wild chakra that had first drawn him out into a sandstorm was now surging into his body, riding him along with his lover.
Gaara made a noise of need and hunger deep in his throat. There was no attempt to be gentle or subtle; just thrust after thrust hammering into Lee's body. Lee fought back instinctively, shoving back, his mouth open in a soundless gasp, air curling in his lungs but he still felt as if he was drowning in the chakra and dust and power and pleasure and force. He licked his lips, then his mouth opened to pant some more. He was shaking. And he wanted...there were no words for what he wanted, dark images from his more hidden sexual fantasies, the ones keyed in to battle and training and struggle and rivalry...and he wanted- he wanted Gaara to- to acknowledge him- to- Lee wanted to fight, to resist, yet not resist, he wanted-
"Is that all you've got?!" he shouted, angling his head against his arm to throw that challenge over his shoulder.
Gaara was a dark figure behind him, barely visible in the growing obscurity of the storm encroaching on their space. But Lee could still see an edged grin that sent shivers down his spine.
Gaara didn't thrust; he wrenched, hauling Lee back hard onto his erection. Lee's hand scrabbled at the rock as everything shifted around him abruptly.
He caught himself, bent over sharply at the waist, his face a few inches from the ground- Gaara slammed into him again, and this time the angle was- was- oh-
Lee made a noise he'd never thought himself capable of. He was kneeling in the dirt- one arm thrust out kept him from biting sand; the other still clung to the stone outcropping, fingers gripping the rock until it frittered beneath them.
"Yes," Gaara said, dark satisfaction and desires and a strange sort of possessive tenderness in his voice, and Lee's mind echoed that, yes-yes-yes!
What was left of Lee's reason chose this moment to remind him that there was going to be a tally for this wild crazy thing they were doing, and Gaara might remember events a bit differently unless Lee made it very, very clear he was participating of his full free will. He should- should reassure his lover that- huh! Ah!
"Harder!" he shouted.
There was a harsh, greedy laugh behind him, a shocking reminder of the Chuunin exams; it electrified him, but that memory held no more fear, no more darkness for him now, he had taken it in and accepted it, all of it.
"Glorious," Gaara breathed.
...That hadn't been what Lee had intended to say to reassure Gaara. But it probably worked.
It wasn't going to last long. Lee's body was on the edge, he was fighting it off tooth and nail already. Gaara's breathing and movements were getting chaotic, alternatively slamming Lee forward, hauling him back- and suddenly stilling!
"Ngh!" Lee nearly screamed as he realized why Gaara had frozen; because the bloody sand that had been lustily crawling all over them had tightened like a straightjacket, binding them both together around the chest and waist, stopping all movement.
There was a dangerous growl over Lee's shoulder.
The burst of power hurled the sand away and wrapped it around them like a miniature tornado. Lee could feel sand prickling against his skin, his closed eyelids, falling from his hair when he threw his head back. Chakra was thick enough to taste. It danced along his skin, erotic and wild.
Gaara reached around Lee and hauled him up until the Jounin was pressed back against Gaara's chest, sitting straight as Gaara thrust into him. Something dragged down his chest in a rough embrace- hands- sand- fingers- claws- no matter, the small abrasions on Lee's skin felt like a fierce caress and he wanted all of it, all!
Lee came hard over the sand, his body jerking against Gaara's.
The rest was a blur. Getting thrust forward again- an inch from rocky concussion- hard movement inside him, against him, power and pleasure and-
Lee didn't know if it all stopped very abruptly or if he'd blacked out for a moment. Probably the latter.
The power in the air was decreasing rapidly. Lee was flat out on the ground, panting fit to bust his lungs, dust tickling his nose. He'd landed face against his forearm, fortunately, or he'd have sand up his nostrils and down his throat. He was sore, the sort of sore that came from good, hard practicing, though there was a bit of an ache and a lot of tingling in an area which rarely saw any practice. In Lee's half-conscious state, he felt nothing but a tired satisfaction at it all.
Gaara was a warm weight against his back. An unmoving warm weight.
Lee stirred, and then sneezed as wind sent sand to prickle against the skin of his face.
Gaara barely moved and didn't respond. Lee twisted around, sat up gingerly-
An arm wrapped around his waist. Gaara made a grumpy noise and curled up against him, hauling at him as if he were a disobedient pillow.
Lee stared down at his lover. "Oh no. You're not going to- not here. Gaara?"
This was the inevitable end of Gaara's trips into the jaws of these storms. Lee had followed him enough times to be familiar with his friend's patterns. Chakra would boil and scream and curl in around Gaara who played with it and the sand and winds. Then, when the storm started to die, so did the massive power. The Kazekage would end up curled in a corner somewhere, legs pulled up to his chest and head resting on his arms. Not asleep, but only half-conscious. Kankuro had told Lee he'd seen his brother like this a couple of times, and it was nothing to be alarmed about; the Kazekage would keep control of Shukaku even in this state. But it was safer not to approach him and to just leave him alone.
Lee didn't know if it was the result of fatigue after a chakra expenditure that would kill a small team of Shinobi, or if Gaara's drowsiness was simply a response to the calming of the storm. Either way, Gaara would stay immobile, unresponsive for an hour or two, until the storm had fully passed, then he would get up and slowly make his way back home, before people started to fill the streets of Suna once more. He'd stay locked away for twenty four hours, and when he re-emerged he acted as if nothing had happened, and so would everybody else.
This time, the lethargy had taken him a considerable time before the storm ended. The winds were still howling around them, louder and louder as Gaara's chakra dwindled and their shelter started to fail.
Lee looked about helplessly. Then he shook himself. Enough! Now was the time to act, before they were at the mercy of the elements.
His lover was awake, of course; he blinked and scowled as Lee moved, and his arm tightened on the Leaf's body. But when Lee shook him gently, the eyes did no more than blink, and there wasn't much awareness in them.
Lee detached himself from his boyfriend, scrambled to his feet and grabbed his cloak, the only piece of clothing he had left. The fastenings had been torn, and there were a few rips in it, but overall it was still intact. He knotted it shut, covering himself. It fell as far as his boots, so he should be okay. Fortunately, what with the storm and the wind and their Kazekage on the loose, the inhabitants of Suna were going to stay safely indoors for the rest of the day, so nobody would see him like this. Lee pulled on his veil and goggles, and made sure he had as little bare skin exposed as possible, between his gloves, his boots and the fall of his outer cloak.
He did his best to get Gaara dressed again, belting the coat over the rumpled clothes. Then he scooped his lover up in his arms and cradled his head in the crook of his neck, hoping to protect Gaara's face from the blowing sand. Though it turned out to be somewhat unnecessary; Gaara wasn't entirely with it, but his power still shoved out and protected them both a bit.
Once his lover was safely in his arms, Lee turned to where Gaara had left the gourd and gave it a heavy look. He could swear the thing was looking back at him. Was it safe to approach with Gaara like this? Was it even safe to leave it behind, or would disintegrate back into Sand, slither after them and maybe try to get Gaara back...?
Lee gave it a suspicious glare, but he edged up to it, manoeuvred Gaara against his body and one knee temporarily, and then hooked an arm through the gourd's strap and lifted. Nothing bad happened, except that Lee now had two motionless objects to carry. Lee was rather tired after the morning he'd just had, and not looking forward to hauling the bloody heavy pack of Sand around. Oh well, no use complaining...
The gourd stayed remarkably well-behaved all the way back to the Kazekage's residence, through the wild howling storm.
Lee dropped Gaara off on the bed; his lover made a loose grabbing motion in his direction that was never completed, and lay on the covers, eyes almost closed.
The cloak, boots, gloves and goggles marked a trail to the bathroom. Lee crawled into the shower and turned it on full blast. His skin felt weird, he was sore pretty much all over, and his eyes were grainy with fatigue as well as sand. At least he didn't seem to have any sand where he really didn't want to have any sand. The rest was perfectly acceptable to someone who practiced hard out in the desert most days. He sluiced himself over thoroughly with his eyes almost closed and without much attention, mind still in a warm, fuzzy and post-orgasmic place.
He stepped out after ten sacrilegious minutes under the flow. He wanted to get back to Gaara or he'd have stayed even longer, Suna's water restrictions be damned. But man, his skin felt-
He glanced at himself in the mirror and froze.
"What the hell?!"
His disbelieving fingers traced his chest, his stomach, his thighs, which were now mostly - but not completely - free of hair. Sand Armour. The bloody Sand Armour. Gaara had said it interfered with hair growth- but Gaara had been wearing it regularly since before puberty, so he might not realize that it did a bit more than 'interfere'.
Lee laughed, a ragged hysterical sound as he brushed his bare legs, the tension from the past few hours releasing in chagrined amusement. Aw man...
Then, with a sudden nervous gulp, he jerked his gaze up to his face in the mirror and scrabbled with his bangs- but fortunately his eyebrows were still there. They weren't his best feature, according to some, but they helped him look like his handsome teacher, and Gaara had said they made Lee's face distinctive, so Lee was glad to still have them. The Armour had mostly kept away from his face once Gaara had started kissing him. Lee absently felt his chin and realized he wouldn't have to shave for a few days. Silver lining.
He went back to the bedroom and fished out a pair of Gaara's trainers; a bit too small on him, but they'd do. Dressed as he was, it would be wise to get back to his room before the storm ended and people started leaving their shelters...
He glanced at Gaara curled up on the bed and thought, screw it; I'm staying here.
He fiddled with Gaara's belt and coat, got them off of his lover and made him comfortable. Gaara frowned and blinked slowly; Lee wasn't sure how conscious he actually was of his surroundings. The Sand in the gourd nearby seemed to be watching Lee's every move, but didn't interfere.
"You...are a pest, Kazekage-sama," Lee whispered tenderly, as he noticed how their arms were now strikingly similar bar Lee's tan and scars. "If you were going to shave me, you could have at least done a better job. Now I have patches all over."
Gaara mumbled "What?" but his attention seemed to wander before Lee could answer.
Lee stumbled onto the bed, cuddled up against the warm body, and was fast asleep in a second.
He woke up to find that all was not well with the world, inasmuch as he was alone in bed, his shaved and reddened skin itching, and Gaara was sitting in a tight knot, knees to chest on his cushion in the corner, staring at a dagger embedded in the low desk in front of him.
Lee got up slowly, feeling stiff and scratched, but no more injured than that. The creeping sensation trickling down his spine had nothing to do with his physical state.
"Hey, Gaara, " he said, trying to sound casual, as he walked slowly towards his lover, gauging his mood.
The wind was still blowing outside, throwing handfuls of sand against the storm shutters. The light was dim, the afternoon sunshine still obscured by the sandstorm. In the gloom, Gaara didn't move, didn't glance up.
Lee settled down on the floor three feet away, not wanting to give his lover the impression of being cornered. The Jounin wasn't picking up any dangerous vibes here...then again, after what had happened in the storm, his sense of risk might have become blunted.
Gaara was silent for a spell, then his mouth twisted. His voice was back to its dead-flat monotone. "I'm fine. I am not the one who was mauled by a lunatic."
There were several ways he could handle this: gently reassure his lover, or sit by him in silence to show his love and understanding, or even leave Gaara to think it over...
Lee chose option D. He hauled himself up and plunked down right onto the cushion next to his boyfriend, obliterating whatever safe distance there'd been between them: "I'm fine too! I picked up a few scratches, and my storm equipment is toast, but that's all."
Gaara had stiffened at his proximity, and Lee thought he heard a faint scrape from inside the gourd, propped up against the wall on the other side of the low desk. It was more a movement of agitation than defence or anger, Lee judged, having honed his instincts in regards to the behavioural characteristics of containers full of twitchy, chakra-rich Sand.
Lee leaned forward and tried to catch Gaara's eye. His boyfriend was still staring fixedly at the knife, a fact that rated a lot higher on Lee's personal Bad News scale than whatever the Sand thought it was doing.
Gaara's voice was soft, unhurried and toneless. "I promised I would never hurt you again."
Lee's voice in comparison sounded way too loud. "You didn't. I'm fine."
Gaara didn't move.
"I am!" Lee said, as if Gaara had vehemently denied it. "Seriously! Though I'm a bit mad at you for shaving me. And for doing such a sloppy job of it. You do know I take showers in the barrack's communal bathrooms, right? What the hell are the other Jounin going to say?"
Lee grinned at Gaara. He thought he caught the slightest twitch of the green eyes towards his partially plucked chest, but Gaara did not respond to his humour. Lee stared at him, waiting for a response, and then he huffed, squared his shoulders and stuck his arm right in front of Gaara's nose.
"For the love of- stop moping and look. They're just scratches and they're not even bleeding. Okay, that one there is a bit- but I get worse than this when I train. Gaara, these- these are love bites!"
The green eyes flashed towards his in surprise. This time Lee held their glance, refused to let Gaara look away.
"It's not serious. Okay? Don't take it like this. I'm barely scratched."
Gaara's gaze went from his face to the red marks on his forearm.
"I know," he finally said, to Lee's surprise. "I..."
The Jounin frowned, suddenly sensing that there was another, more serious problem behind Gaara's concern for his bruises.
"I never wanted you to see that part of me," Gaara finally admitted, looking steadily at the knife again.
Lee stared at him. In the silence that grew between them, the wind outside sounded loud and harsh.
"Maybe I felt like you trusted me even with that part of you," Lee finally said.
Gaara didn't respond right away; but then he turned slowly and looked at Lee instead of the blade.
Lee scratched his head and wished he had his teacher's famed gift of speech. Oh, he could manage a romantic declaration or a gallant challenge, but this? He'd just have to muddle through.
"I think the way you behave these days is amazing; the control you have over yourself, after what you've been through. And I know you do it so you can reach out to me, to all of us, and to protect us too. Keep us safe from what's inside you. But I don't need that. I don't underestimate how dangerous you can be, but I can handle it. And...this part of you that I saw out there...I know why you didn't want me to see it, because I won't lie, some of it's not pretty, some of the things you've survived and that still haunt you. But it's you, the same way my scars aren't pretty but they're a part of me, and they don't turn you off, now, do they? I think we're way past getting hung up on stuff like that in each other, right? Your mental scars or my physical ones. Um...am I making sense...?"
From the way Gaara was looking at him, probably not.
"I just don't regret following you out there," Lee said firmly, "because it showed me a part of you that you don't let me see normally, and I...felt as if you trusted me with it. You didn't show me this last year. Even now we're together, you usually shut me out when that part comes to the surface. But you let me see it today, and I'm glad. That part of you is pretty wild. But you always had enough control where I never felt threatened; I never felt the need to put a safe distance between us. You would have let me go if I'd asked you to. I know that, and if you think about it, deep inside you know that too. And...it was nice to know that even deep inside, in that wild place, I mean something to you. Something important."
The wind growled and scratched bad-temperedly at the window's shutters.
"I could have told you that," Gaara finally said.
"Um, yes," Lee answered, not able to put into words the thought that Gaara could say that as much as he wanted to, but the real proof had been in that madness outside that had caressed Lee and acknowledged him and whispered 'It could only be you.' The same way Lee could always assure Gaara that he wasn't afraid of him, but it only really penetrated that complicated mind when Lee followed him into storms and did crazy fearless things around him.
Gaara's green eyes dropped to Lee's chest. He was pulling and smoothing the hem of his tunic, a strange gesture for Gaara, as Lee could never recall him fidgeting before.
"I like your body," Gaara said, almost in a whisper, "even your scars, though I don't like the way you were hurt."
"...Thanks." Lee was a bit intrigued. There was something subtly...different-
"I hope your hair grows back," Gaara muttered, eyes still fixed on Lee's chest.
"It probably will." Lee grinned. "If not, you'll have to help me get the rest off, because right now I look mangy."
"...Will you follow me out there again?" The question sounded almost reluctant.
"Yes. Don't ask me not to," Lee answered simply. "I'm not stupid, I won't take too many risks, and if I really feel there's some danger, I'll fall back. But I won't leave you alone."
Something deep moved in Gaara's eyes. Lee wasn't sure what emotions were stirring there. Then his lover nodded once, and there was a lot behind that single gesture.
"Right." Lee leaned over, slowly wrapped his arms around his boyfriend and pulled them together, until Gaara was leaning back against his chest. "Better?" he whispered.
Gaara didn't answer, but the way he relaxed slightly into Lee was all the response needed.
"Good. Now," Lee said gently, "are you ready to tell me what that knife is doing over there?"
"An old experiment."
Gaara reached for the knife. Lee tensed. Gaara plucked it from the table and stared at it.
"I wanted to remember what pain felt like." The knife twitched in his hand, he tapped it against his fingers- still those odd, tense gestures Lee had never seen before. In the gourd, the sand shifted, rattling a warning like a snake.
"Oh." Lee carefully took the knife from Gaara and tossed it away. "For that, I can take you to the practice field tomorrow, open a Gate and punch you through the Sand Barrier a few times, if that's what you want, but please don't play around with a knife like that again, okay?"
"Why not?" Gaara said listlessly. "The Sand won't let me cut myself."
Because it's creepy and it's scaring me, was what Lee wanted to say.
"Just don't. Please?"
"Very well." Gaara glanced over his shoulder at Lee. "Can I ask you a question now?"
Lee wanted to pursue this, but it was only fair. "Sure," he sighed.
"I hurt you."
Not this again. "No, it really wasn't that-"
"But you seemed to enjoy the sex."
Lee had been about to explain again how his injuries were very, very minor and Gaara should stop brooding over them, when his brain caught up with what Gaara said. As a result, Lee's response came out something like 'Guwah?' He'd been hoping - rather stupidly - that Gaara wouldn't actually remember that part in too much detail.
Lee felt his cheeks turn a bit warm, but no more. He'd been with Gaara for well over a month now; his tolerance for straight talk on sexual matters had gone way up as a result. He explained with only a little mumbling and hesitation that of course he liked it gentle and slow, but that there was attraction to rough sex too. The endorphins, the light edge of pain he'd find during training, the challenge...
"So this is a turn-on?" Gaara finally asked, unblinking eyes tracing every inch of Lee's face.
"You'd do this again?"
"Will you do it to me?" Gaara whispered, gaze still intent.
But Lee liked to be gentle with Gaara, who'd been through enough in his life. There was also the Sand Barrier to consider, and Gaara's new and raw emotions to take into account, he reacted so violently to things sometimes-
The objections were on Lee's tongue, but his libido mugged them with shatteringly intense images: of his teeth gently scoring perfect cream-coloured skin, leaving human marks on the unworldly purity; his beautiful and dangerous creature beneath him this time, shuddering and clawing and shouting his name...
"Your nose has gone very pink," Gaara observed.
"Er-" Lee cleared his throat.
"I take it that the notion appeals to you."
"Only if you want to," Lee croaked.
Gaara didn't answer; his eyes drifted towards the window, and Lee finally interpreted the odd restlessness he'd felt from his lover.
"It's not over, is it?" the Jounin asked calmly.
"No, there's still a couple hours of storm left."
Lee hadn't been talking about the storm. Gaara's control had almost entirely returned - maybe shocked back by coming to his senses next to Lee and remembering some of the particulars of what had happened. But the feral thing inside was still awfully close to the surface, barely skin-deep.
Gaara moved until he was on his knees between Lee's outstretched legs, a hand leaning on the wall near Lee's head, but he wasn't looking at the Jounin, he was still staring at the shutter as if he could see the screaming wind outside, the wild whips of sand lashing Suna and the desert, unbridled and free.
"When I'm out there...it's...like I no longer have to keep watching myself all the time," Gaara said slowly, turning back to Lee and fixing the Jounin with an unblinking stare. "It's hard to try to act like a human being; harder still when everybody else seems to be so much better at it without effort. Out there...I can be something else. I can breathe. Nobody's around, nobody can hurt me, and I can't accidentally hurt them either. So I can...be. I can burn out the frustration. The storm is so powerful, I fight it, I bend it to my power...but it's also so great that it's as if my actions are finally insignificant, harmless, and I can play...It protects me and it strips me naked...I guess that for humans, something can't be both black and white; frightening and reassuring. But for me...out there...I don't have to keep the normal part of me in control, I can let him slip in with the rest and then contradictions mean nothing anymore, and I can do whatever I want..."
He was staring at Lee as if hoping this would make sense. In a way it didn't. In another way, it did, and either way the simple effort to share that much, to open that side of himself, touched Lee more than anything.
"Do you need to go out more? We can if you want," Lee said, just before he remembered that his storm outfit was now scattered over half the desert.
"We can if you want," Gaara said in an eerie parody of Lee's own words. Strange currents were slipping through the green eyes, it was his Gaara and it was also that other one, and they were both the same person...Lee was learning to live with contradictions too, since he was in love with one.
"We can if you want," Gaara repeated, staring down at him, arms on either side of Lee's head. "Or...if you're not afraid...."
"Never," Lee whispered, and meant it. Cautious, yes; prudent, fascinated, at a safe distance and yet always drawn in, but never afraid.
"If you're not afraid, then you can help me get the last of this out of my system by doing me. Hard."
Lee looked up into the sane/insane eyes and managed - barely - not to salute as he answered: "I accept the challenge."
End Part Twenty Two
Next chapter out either in a week or two, depending on my free time.