Warnings: This is a YAOI FIC. Der. Possible lemon(s) in future. Also, contains spoilers for, well... >>;; almost everything? Especially post time-skip.
Disclaimer: Naruto is not mine, yadda yadda. The fic, however, is. No stealy!
"All Work and No Play"
Two aides-- Gaara's personal assistant and a runner who was awaiting signed scrolls to bring to the Council --were hovering by the Kazekage's desk in respectful silence. They each needed signatures and instructions; the only sound in the room was the scritch-scratch of Gaara's pen across the bottom of a scroll. That finished, he put it aside and reached for another.
The door banged open without warning, shattering the calm morning and making Gaara's assistant jump almost a foot. The runner managed to keep his composure grimly; he'd been one of the aides attending to Gaara when the Leaf had burst in just yesterday.
Gaara's mouth pulled into a faint frown of displeasure at the interruption, but his eyes never left the scroll he was scanning.
"Mornin', Gaara!" Naruto swaggered in, still stuffing his mouth full of pastry. "God, I can't believe how early you people get up. Temari said you wanted me. What's up?"
The runner sighed inwardly and kept his mouth shut. Gaara seemed not to have heard, his attention on the scroll; his aide, however, was deeply offended at the brash Leaf's total lack of respect for his Kazekage. He squared his shoulders and glared down his nose at the young genin.
"Watch your tongue! Knock and await an invitation, and then don't speak until the Kazekage has given his permission," he snapped. "You forget you're a guest here."
Naruto managed to bite back his initial retort with difficulty. Yamato would kill him if he incited some sort of diplomatic incident by going off at the mouth. He made a face at the aide and waited impatiently to be noticed.
Gaara abruptly pushed the scroll away, a slight frown tugging at the corner of his mouth. "No," he said flatly.
The runner blinked. "Sir?"
Gaara rolled the parchment back up and handed it over. "Tell them to revise it," he ordered. "It's a stupid waste of manpower, and you can tell them I said so." He finally turned his eyes Naruto's way, ignoring the runner's sputtering.
Naruto took that glance as permission to speak. "Temari said ya wanted me," he repeated. "And man, was she pissed about last night. She was pretty serious about that whole 'stay the hell inside' thing. What's the big deal, anyway? It's not like people didn't know we were coming."
The aide opened his mouth for a furious rebuttal, but the words died on his lips when Gaara's eyes flickered his way. He clutched his clipboard to his chest and decided to keep his mouth shut.
"The entire village was not aware you would be coming," Gaara corrected Naruto calmly. "And many who did know weren't happy about it. And of course there are some who will doubtless be uneasy at the thought of Uzumaki Naruto inside the walls."
"What? Why?" Naruto scratched his head in bewilderment. "What'd I ever do to them?"
"You have a Tail," Gaara reminded him, face emotionless. "And their experience with people like us has been less than shining, to say the least."
"Gimmie a break-!" Naruto started to protest.
Gaara ignored him, motioning to his aides to leave and getting to his feet.
Naruto stepped aside to make way for the aides, watching Gaara curiously. The young Kazekage had walked over to the window and was staring out at his village, his expression as impossible to read as always. Yet something about the other boy's stance radiated tension.
"Um..." Naruto took a hesitant step forward. "Are you--"
An ANBU appeared in the window, upside down from where he was leaning over the roof's edge. Naruto yelped and jumped back, but Gaara ignored the ANBU as if he wasn't even there; almost as if he'd been waiting for the shinobi's arrival.
"Sir," the ANBU's voice was quiet but firm, "we're going to have to ask you to stay away from the windows; especially during the day. You present too tempting of a target."
Gaara didn't move for a long moment, and the ANBU simply hung there, waiting. Finally, slowly, Gaara turned and took two measured steps away from the window. The ANBU pulled himself back up without a word, disappearing from view.
"Geez, those guys are like cockroaches," Naruto muttered, squinting at the window. He studied Gaara a bit more carefully and felt his scalp prickling uneasily. Gaara was standing still as stone, arms crossed over his chest, staring at a spot somewhere on the far wall. He didn't look angry, but his shoulders were stiff with tension.
Naruto tried to make light of it. "Hey, you can't really blame the guy; just doing his job, right?"
Gaara muttered something.
Naruto stepped closer, straining his ears. "Wuzzat?"
"...Only now," Gaara repeated, still staring straight ahead. "They were never this cautious before. They had no need to be."
It took Naruto a few moments to catch on. "Oh-- They're all paranoid now cuz you don't have your Sand Armor?"
Gaara turned his head to stare at him. "I have my Armor," he reminded Naruto with an edge to his voice. "That won't stop everything."
"Right, right, my bad," Naruto said quickly, trying a friendly grin. "It's cuz you don't have that ultimate defense from Shukaku." His eyes instinctively sought out the missing gourd. There it was, propped against the wall in a corner, probably gathering a bit of dust. It occurred to him that Gaara very carefully never looked in its direction. "That doesn't mean you're completely defenseless, though--"
Gaara's lip curled slightly, the only sign of his temper. "Not everyone believes so."
"Which is why I'm here," Naruto finished slowly, and winced. "Well... Uh, it makes everyone feel better if you have more people watchin' your back until this whole thing blows over, right? They'll chill out when it's over with. Can't blame 'em for wantin' to protect their Kazekage, can y--"
"I am supposed to protect them," Gaara said fiercely.
Naruto held up his hands placatingly, licking dry lips. That spark of anger in the other boy's eyes reminded him a bit too much of a younger, more bloodthirsty Gaara. "Yeah, and you've done that," he said firmly. "And almost got your ass killed for it. Take it as a compliment, man. They ain't willin' to lose you. Don't you think that means something? Hell, I'm sure a few years ago they would've happily handed you over to the bad guys, right?" He coughed. "Okay, that came out wrong..."
But some of the tension had eased out of Gaara's frame. "...Perhaps," he admitted grudgingly. His gaze finally shifted to Naruto's face. "One of the Council members should be by shortly, if I know them. They are a bit predictable. It would be best if you were here for that."
Naruto puffed out his chest, feeling important. He deflated a moment later as Gaara explained his reasoning. "It's just for show, since I am expected to have picked up a new 'bodyguard', but also because I want him to see your face so he can describe you to the other Council members. By the end of the day, everyone will know you're in the village, and if Kankuro is taking your friends out today, they will also be identified. Then you may wander about as you wish."
"Sure, okay." Naruto looked around for a place to sit and finally threw himself into one of the room's few chairs. "This isn't anything top secret or anything, is it? Not that I think Tsunade-baba would mind if I 'accidentally' overheard something juicy, but--"
"No." Gaara took his seat once more, straightening his papers, face unreadable once more. "This is a small matter. The Council and I do not always see eye to eye, and this can make negotiations... difficult."
This, Naruto was to find out in a few moments, was a gross understatement.
Kankuro's idea of a village tour was a leisurely stroll down the street as he pointed out random buildings and identified a few choice people. Yamato kept silent, and the others took their cue from him as guests. Finally it was Kiba who let his impatience and boredom get the better of his tongue.
"All right, so we know where the damned ramen shop is, and who to go to if we need replacement gear," he snapped, throwing his arms in the air. "Big deal. Don't you think we should be seeing the walltop and getting some idea of your defenses?"
Yamato shot him a quick glare, but Kankuro, without missing a beat, spun on his heel and came face-to-face with the grumbling boy. Kiba was forced to come to a sudden halt, and Akamaru did a quick side-step to prevent a collision.
Kankuro drew himself up to his full height, though he had only a few inches on the other boy. "I'd forgot you yap so much," he jeered. "Don't you ever have anything worthwhile to say?"
Kiba scowled, reaching up to shove back his fur-lined hood. He was already sweating uncomfortably, his cool-weather clothes not fit for the heat of the desert. "Don't you have anything worthwhile to show us?" he retorted. "We're supposed to be helping your asses out; we're not tourists."
"That's enough, Kiba," Yamato said sharply.
Kankuro grinned insultingly at the other boy. "You get to see what I say you can when I say you can. And you aren't goin' anywhere near those walls til everyone in the village has had a good long look at you."
Sakura glanced around, noticing the subtle glances thrown their way by the villagers that passed them in the street. "Is this your way of introducing us to the villagers?"
"You could say that." Kankuro wrinkled his nose and leaned back slightly, as if the smell of Kiba offended him. "Now I suggest some of you reconsider your ridiculous choice of outfits, or you're going to be soaked in sweat before noon."
Akamaru's lips lifted in a snarl that mirrored Kiba's. "You sayin' I offend your delicate sensibilites, puppet boy?" he sneered.
"You offend anyone within three yards," Kankuro shot back dryly, waving a hand in front of his face for good measure. "You keep walkin' around in that coat, and you'll prove you have as many brains as that Uzumaki idiot. Which is really saying something."
"Can we just continue with the tour?" Chouji protested. "I want to get this over with. All this walking around is making me hungry."
"When are you not hungry?" Ino sighed.
Kankuro offered Kiba one last jeer before continuing down the street. "I'll take you to the clothing shop. You and bug boy especially need to reconsider your wardrobe; if any of you dipshits pass out from heat exhaustion, I'm just gonna leave you lyin' in the street."
Hinata put a gentle restraining hand on her sputtering teammate's arm.
"Leave it, Kiba," Sakura suggested. "He's just trying to get a rise out of you."
"He's gonna get a fist to the face if he keeps talkin' to me like that," Kiba promised.
"Let's just continue," Yamato said firmly. "We still have a lot to learn."
"At least Shikamaru and Naruto get to stay inside where it's at least a little cooler," Ino huffed, fanning herself as they set off after Kankuro. "I'll bet they're enjoying themselves, the lazy bums."
The man who stormed into Gaara's office didn't slam the doors-- he didn't quite dare --but there was practically steam coming out of his ears as he came to a rigid halt before his Kazekage's desk. Naruto watched with interest from where he was seated, for once keeping his mouth shut.
"What is the meaning of this?" the man demanded tersely, holding up a scroll.
Gaara gazed at the scroll solemnly. "This," he repeated.
"Yes! This!" The elderly man unrolled the scroll with excessive force and practically slammed it onto the desk, shoving it forward for perusal. "You couldn't have possibly had enough time to consider this thoroughly. You wrote it off without any justifiable reason."
Gaara's eyes barely flickered towards the scroll, as if he had been expecting to have it returned to him in such a fuss. His face remained expressionless, his tone flat. "I read it quite carefully, Councilman Migawi. As I told the dispatcher, it's a wasteless use of manpower. I'm sure you can think of another way to accomplish your goal without taking so many men and women off the walls. Especially with things as they are now."
Naruto was privately a bit impressed. Gaara's social skills had certainly improved, at least. The Gaara of old would have probably said something along the lines of "Because I said so", and followed it up with a barely veiled death threat.
Migawi clenched his teeth, visibly fighting to control his temper. "Kazekage-sama, if you'll excuse me for saying so, the Council is much more aware of what is and is not a necessary risk than you might be. We understand the social structure and the capabilities of our people because we have been in our positions for a very long time. We know what will be acceptable, and we know when a job is important enough to require a certain amount of individuals. We require at least twenty men and women for this assignment. Even cutting that number in half would turn a four-day project into a two-week one."
"You exagerrate," Gaara informed him calmly. "Ten men can do the job in a week if they know what they're doing."
Migawi's face turned an interesting shade of red as his temper rose. For the first time, he seemed to notice Naruto, and drew himself up stiffly, fighting to regain his composure. "My apologies," he said in a very uncontrite voice. "I was not aware the Kazekage had visitors."
Naruto lifted a hand in greeting. "Yo."
Gaara didn't so much as glance in the other boy's direction. "This is Uzumaki Naruto. He is one of the representatives from Leaf."
Migawi lifted a brow coolly. "Representatives," he echoed with a faint note of scorn. Not the word Naruto would have used, either, but he frowned in irritation at the man's tone.
"Kazekage-sama," and this time Migawi's voice was a bit more controlled, "you cannot deny the importance of this mission."
"I am not denying it," Gaara said simply. "But twenty men are an unnecessary waste. You can have ten." There was a hint of steel in his voice now.
Migawi opened and closed his mouth a few times, getting redder and redder as Naruto watched with interest. The older man was obviously unwilling to make a fool of himself in front of a guest; and he was probably starting to sense he was nearing a line that most didn't dare cross with their dangerous Kazekage.
Finally he gave in, snatching up the scroll and muttering an ungracious farewell before stomping out.
Gaara gazed silently at the door for a moment after he was gone, then returned to his other paperwork as if nothing had happened.
"Damn~ Gaara, you've gotten all diplomatic and shit," Naruto hooted, bounding to his feet. "I woulda told the old fart where to shove it." He wandered over and leaned against the desk, glancing around at the piles of paperwork without any real interest. "I can't believe you let him talk to you like that. What the hell was he tryin' to get approved, anyway?"
Gaara answered without looking up. "There's been an underground water source discovered a league from here. We need men to dig wells."
Naruto blinked. "All that fuss about WATER?"
Gaara lifted his gaze to offer the other boy a long stare.
"Oh, right, desert. I keep forgetting how weird you guys are about water." Naruto pushed himself away from the desk and began wandering aimlessly around the office, looking for something to amuse himself. "Sooo, the guy's seen me an' he'll blab about me to the other old farts on the Council, right? Now what? I just sit in here dying of boredom and watching you shuffle paperwork all day? Man, if this is what it's gonna be like bein' Hokage, I'm startin' to think maybe I'd be better off leavin' the job to some other poor sap."
"If you're bored, I'm sure you can find someone to show you around the village," Gaara responded absently. He paused in his writing and reached up to rub briefly but roughly at his eyes with his free hand.
Naruto didn't miss the small gesture. "Crap, I forgot you've been tryin' to get used to sleeping again," he said guiltily. "You didn't get to sleep last night cuz I came and bothered you."
"No." Gaara lowered his hand, face still impassive. "I already knew I wouldn't be sleeping much before you showed up at my room. I slept for a few hours afterwards."
"A few?" Naruto snorted. "Man, if you don't start sleeping regular hours, your body's gonna just give up on you one day."
Gaara didn't bother that with a response.
Naruto sighed loudly and sat himself down in his chair again, throwing one leg over the armrest impudently. "Anyway, I can't go anywhere. I'm supposed to be doing the whole psuedo-bodyguard thing, remember?" He perked up suddenly. "Hey, we can go get ramen for lunch."
"Next time there's a runner in here, tell him what you want for lunch."
Naruto's face fell. "You wanna eat lunch HERE? No, I meant let's go to the ramen shop. You do have one, right? Let's go out for lunch."
Gaara finally lifted his gaze to stare at the other boy. "...Go out."
"Yeah," Naruto said enthusiastically. "It's not healthy stayin' in this stuffy office all day. C'mon, you can treat your dashing new bodyguard to lunch." He smiled winningly.
Gaara, predictably, was not impressed. "I have things to do today."
"Yeah, yeah, you're the head cheese. You always have stuff to do. But come on! If you stay cooped up all day, you'll go bonkers." He made a face. "Or at least I will."
Gaara studied him for a long moment, as if contemplating the idea of a bored, hyperactive Naruto trapped indoors with him all day. "Fine," he conceeded, already returning his attention to his paperwork. "I will show you the ramen shop. But don't expect this to become a habit."
If Gaara had hoped that Naruto would forget their lunch arrangements, he was sorely disappointed.
As soon as the assistant politely poked her head in to ask what they would like to eat, the blond leapt from his chair and made a beeline for the door. When the other boy didn't follow quickly enough, he hollered at him from the hall until Gaara reluctantly put aside his quill.
There were a few startled glances thrown their way as Gaara solemnly led the way down the street; evidently it was rare that Gaara emerged from his offices in the middle of the day. The ramen shop was smaller than the one in Konoha, and it was open-air, but Naruto didn't care as long as the food was edible. He seated himself eagerly in one of the high stools at a narrow table and called out for two orders of ramen as Gaara took a seat across from him.
The owner of the shop seemed stunned to see his Kazekage on the premises, and hastened to get their orders. After he'd delivered the two steaming bowls, he retreated behind his counter and watched them nervously out of the corner of his eye, as if afraid the food would not be to his leader's liking.
Gaara studied his ramen for a long moment, as if he had indeed never had such a thing before, but Naruto set to with a will, slurping noisily and breathing around a full mouth in an attempt to cool his tongue from the scorching broth.
Gaara ate more sedately, but it was impossible to tell what he thought of the fare from his expression.
Naruto finished his in record time and gave his stomach a satisfied pat. "Ahh~ just as good as back home." He smacked his lips curiously. "There's a little something extra, though. It's a little spicy. Pretty good stuff." He looked around with renewed interest in his surroundings now that he'd been fed. "So where are the others? Is Kankuro still showin' 'em around? And I haven't seen Shikamaru since this morning."
Gaara pushed his bowl aside, and Naruto snatched it up eagerly, draining the last of the broth in one big gulp. "So did ya like it? You act like you've never had ramen before."
Gaara's shoulder lifted in a barely-there shrug, and he got to his feet. "I have work to do."
"Oh, come on," Naruto protested, sliding down from his stool hastily. "We haven't even been out twenty minutes! Can't it wait?"
Gaara had started to turn away, but stopped to stare at the other boy. "I'm finished eating. I have work to do. You can explore if you wish."
Naruto waved his arms helplessly. "I told ya, I have to stay with you. Your sister would probably kick my ass if she caught me wandering around by myself, anyway. Don't you wanna stretch your legs after sitting down so long? You can give me a quick tour. All you really showed me last night was the wall."
"A tour," Gaara repeated in a deadpan. He looked around slowly, as if wondering what on earth Naruto could possibly be interested in seeing. He lifted his arm in a vague gesture, indicating their surroundings. "Most of the buildings are built of sandstone and look more or less alike. The next few hours are the hottest part of the day--"
"Yeah, I'd noticed," Naruto grumbled, tugging at the front of his shirt, which was beginning to stick to his chest.
"--and almost every person in the village will be indoors to avoid the heat. There are stores where you can purchase and repair gear, and another where you can buy clothing more suited to the desert. Other than that, there's not much to see."
Naruto gave a huff of annoyance. "Can't we just walk, then? If I have to go back to that damned office so soon and sit there and just stare at the wall some more, I'm going to lose it."
Gaara's mouth twitched in the beginnings of a frown. The other ramen customers flinched as if preparing for the worst. Naruto didn't notice. He scowled darkly at the younger boy and placed his hands defiantly on his hips, waiting.
"...You're acting like a child," Gaara finally said, face slipping back into unreadable lines once more.
Naruto rolled his eyes. "And you're acting like a boring old fart. Come on, you could use the air. And the exercise."
Gaara didn't answer at first. He turned away and started walking. When Naruto was sure he wasn't heading in the direction of the Kazekage's building, he gave a triumphant grin and hurried to catch up.
A lot of Sunagakure's people couldn't help but stare at the strange sight as their antisocial Kazekage went walking aimlessly down the streets, a smiling chattering Leaf at his side.
Author's Notes: Mwahaha~ I found several awesome fanart pics of Naru/Gaa, and felt inspired 8D
So, sorry about the wait! Oh, fair warning- the main pairing is of course N/G, but there are several side relationships that start happening on the sidelines, including het. I've known a few people to go "WUT, WHERE'S TEH GEI??", annoying as that is, but if you refuse to tolerate even hints of het in a yaoi fic, uhhhhh this story might not be for you. >>;;
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