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21 October 2005 @ 06:05 pm
Naruto Fic: Diplomatic Relations, Part Eight  
I'm still a bit behind in answering some of the comments on my LJ. I'm hurrying to catch up! It's been busy still this week, though a bit less crazy. I didn't have much time to write, but I did my best, with this and Freeport (which is still looking to be 2 weeks away, I'm stuck on a couple of scenes)

Rating: All the way up to R this time (I'm probably playing it safe, though)

AN: Here's the latest chapter! Whew, this one was hard to write :P But fun too. I do so love torturing Lee...There's still humour in this and the following chapters, but it's now icing on more serious feelings and storyline. I hope you enjoy!

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.


Part Eight: Season of Ashes

"What are you staring at?" Gaara asked, voice barely bordering on the curious.

Lee stiffened so abruptly that the water sloshed around him.

Gaara cleared the wet dark-red locks from his eyes and looked straight at Lee, who was crouched down in the silty water. Lee felt a flash of pure panic and confusion as he glanced down at himself: hadn't he been wearing pants?!

"Were you looking at my body?"

Lee's squawk of denial could be heard clear across the desert.

Gaara shook some of the water off, lithe muscles rippling beneath cream-coloured skin. Then he moved towards Lee.

Lee realized to his utter horror that he couldn't move away. The water seemed to have turned into some impenetrable barrier, though it wasn't stopping Gaara's advance, unfortunately.

"Are we so different?" Gaara asked him coolly as he came nearer.

Lee's stutter wasn't intelligible even to himself.

Gaara moved through the water like a swan, until he was right behind Lee. He leaned his chest against Lee's back and his hand drifted down Lee's arm; his fingers covered the back of the spluttering Jounin's hand, then intertwined with Lee's fingers. He looked over Lee's shoulder at their arms, side by side (skin to skin).

"See? We're the same."

Lee stopped trying to say something coherent like I wasn't staring! Stay away! What are you doing?! Instead, his eyes widened in confusion.

Gaara's skin was still the colour of wild almonds, but now that he was closer, Lee could see that it was as scarred as his own; maybe more so. Remnants of old wounds crisscrossed Gaara's arms, roughened his fingers and knuckles. When Lee leaned away a bit, he could see that Gaara's chest was covered with scars; it looked like someone had tried to stab him repeatedly in the heart, slashing the skin and marring the sandstone-coloured nipple. It was a Shinobi's body, it was human...Lee slowly looked up into Gaara's face - so close to his own - and Gaara's eyes were no longer hard and cold and empty, they were alive and warm, as human as the scarred, imperfect body, and Gaara smiled down at him and whispered "We're the same..."

Lee sat up abruptly and blinked, dazed, at the opposite wall of his bedroom.

This was getting ridiculous. It was one thing to have wet dreams about Gaara, but that one had been just surreal; Gaara's body hadn't been scarred at all. And he never smiled like that.

Lee woke up a bit further, and carefully deleted the first part of that first sentence.

It was not one thing to have- it was not alright to have- it wasn't even- it was the heat. Right. He was hallucinating.


For the past three weeks, ever since-

- creamcolouredskin-

- ever since that bloody mission with the bugs. Not that that mission had anything to do with it. No sir. The only effect of that mission was that Lee tended to swat roaches and flies with a bit more enthusiasm than before.


Lee groaned and let his head drop onto his knees.

It was too hot. Lee couldn't sleep, hadn't been sleeping properly for over a week now. More. He was tired. Too tired to keep up all the internal walls and barriers which normally regulated his life into neat and beautifully strict patterns.

Yeah, he'd been having rather...involving dreams. About Gaara. And those were actually the better ones. Some of the other dreams featuring the Kazekage had been confusing. And some had been...indescribable. Lee was trying not to think about those. Those were Wrong.

But it didn't mean anything. Gaara was his friend. His best friend, actually. Lee had many good comrades in his life; he counted them as so many blessings. But he'd spent a long time in Suna and in Gaara's company by now; he was slowly beginning to understand the complex, sometimes dangerous inner territory of the Sand Shinobi. Though he was perfectly aware that there were still aspects of his friend that Lee couldn't comprehend, he now felt closer to Gaara than to anyone except Gai-Sensei.

Lee was also Gaara's friend; his only friend to date, outside of his family and Naruto. Friends, then, and Lee was proud of it. They'd become close, as warriors, comrades, fellow Shinobi. Things got a little...confused when you got that close to someone. But it didn't mean anything. Gaara was a guy - all guy, Lee could now attest to that, having seen that lean but very male body without the usual layers of clothes. And Lee was in love with Sakura-san. So yeah. The dreams meant nothing.

Not that he'd ever dreamt of Sakura-san that way.

It was a testimony to how tired Lee was that that insidious little thought crept through his brain and he didn't react to suppress it immediately.

Lee threw back the clammy sheets. He'd stripped down to the skin, but it wasn't helping. He stumbled over to the window and opened it hopefully.

The dull, dead air outside totally failed to send a fresh, reviving breeze into his room. In anything, it got even hotter.

Lee let his head sink down to the windowsill with a theatrical groan.

The people of Sand called it the Season of Ashes. The desert's turquoise sky took on a dull grey tinge; humidity gathered into feathered clouds high above; the wind died. The days were cooler, if heavier, but the nights were hell, as the heat stayed trapped by the growing humidity. It would last ten days, maybe more - long enough to drive Lee completely insane if he couldn't get more sleep at night. Then the temperature would plummet within hours, and the grey sky would squeeze out what felt like half a dozen raindrops, hardly worth all the fuss leading up to them. The desert would explode into chaotic and frantic colours as flowers sprouted, bloomed and died. Then life would go back to normal. Lee had been through the same season last year (minus the dreams he was trying hard not to think about).

The season would be over in a few days.

Until then, sleeping would be hell.

Especially when you were having erotic dreams about your best friend because you happened to bathe with him once.

Lee lifted his head up a few inches from the windowsill and let it fall back with a clunk.

It didn't help.

What the hell was wrong with him...?

And why was he dreaming of Gaara? If his mind was going to grab the first object in its vicinity to fantasize over, surely Temari - well, no, not Temari, she was scary, but some other Sand Kunoichi would be more...appropriate.

He knew what he should do, of course. He knew how one dealt with these sorts of bodily urges. He'd had them before (though the dreams that triggered them were normally not quite so precise and vivid...and he had more success in forgetting them). Having these night-time fantasies wasn't abnormal; Lee was young and powerful, and he exercised a lot and led a healthy lifestyle. Gai-Sensei had explained to him that youth could lead to such physical reactions in those circumstances. You defeated this through vigorous exercise and cold showers, and by concentrating on the purity of the ninja way.

So the ideal solution would be to go for a healthy, tiring run around the village. Or rather, that would have been the ideal solution if Lee hadn't already done so once tonight, when he'd woken up earlier after that dream in which he and Gaara had been inexplicably sparring naked in a pool of deep water-

- he'd already gone running once after that dream he couldn't really remember all that well. He could go running again, except that it was - Lee gave the alarm clock an irritated look - nearly four in the morning, and he had to get up in two hours to go through that presentation for Captain Sanada and Councillor Omaku, and if he didn't get some sleep soon, that presentation was going to be very short and end with the sound of his snoring face hitting the table.

Lee wandered over to the stand with the water jug and basin. The water was tepid, practically skin temperature. What would really do the trick would be a cold shower, but you didn't take cold showers on a whim at four in the morning in Suna when you'd already had your daily wash. Water restrictions weren't so much a regulation as a religion in this place. Lee splashed water on his face and neck, washing off some of the sweat. Then he headed back to bed with determination in his step.

You could beat anything with proper resolve! Even dreams. Especially those sorts of dreams. A Shinobi should control his baser instincts lest they be used against him! For each of those dreams he'd have about Gaara, he'd do a hundred laps around Suna. With extra weights on. And a backpack full of rocks.

Lee rolled around in bed until he found a spot that didn't feel too sweaty. He stretched out on his side, one hand beneath his cheek, the other on the sheet, in a I'm Sleeping Now position. The sheet was a strange creamy blue colour beneath the speckles of moonlight filtering through high wispy clouds and the humidity in the air. Lee blinked tiredly; he really was exhausted.

He realized he was smoothing the sheet with his fingers and wondering what Gaara's skin would look like under that same moonlight.

Lee sat up abruptly and, with a certain amount of deliberation, made a fist and socked himself in the head.

That didn't help either.

Determination. Willpower. Fortitude. Control the baser instincts, not that that really applied in this instance, because Lee loved Sakura-san. Even if he was too much of a gentleman to dream of her in that way.

Lee settled back against the pillow humid with sweat, and closed his eyes, going over everything he knew about those baser instincts, and how they should be avoided.

In retrospect, that had probably been a mistake. If he hadn't thought of that, he would probably have gone to sleep and dreamt of Gaara again. That would have been embarrassing and disturbing - and led to a lot of punishing training the next day - but ultimately it would have been more pleasant than the phantasm, half-dream, half-memory, that bubbled up into Lee's exhausted brain at that point.

"Settle down."

The old Shinobi with the scarred, wrinkled face looked sternly at the assembly. The boys were excited. There was going to be a special course that day, and the girls had been taken away to another room. The boys didn't know this sensei, but there were rumours about what he was going to teach. Fascinating rumours, for a bunch of nine-year-olds full of prurient curiosity.

"My name is Tatsuyo Daisuke, and I am here today for a special lesson. We are going to discuss sex," the old man said bluntly.

The kids boggled at him, and the braver ones laughed. Wow, they were going to talk about That.

After a very short while, the tittering and avid whispers stopped.

Tatsuyo-Sensei had been very thorough. He'd explained the reproductive process in cold, straightforward terms. He'd told them about sex, what it was, some basic information on how to do it, precautions, how it worked between men and women and between-

(In the desert heat, Lee, half-asleep and unable to control the dream/memory, flinched and bit his lip)

- and between men and men. Presumably the girls were getting a similar talk, specific to their gender, in another room.

Then those wrinkled lips had shaped themselves into a cold smile, and the old man had told them how sex could be used against them. They were to become Shinobi. They had to look underneath the underneath.

He told them about being beguiled and distracted from a patrol. About special Genjutsu that could be worked on an unsuspecting mind during climax. About particular poisons and diseases that could weaken or kill. About seduction techniques that could turn a man against his friends and his village.

The course had taken all day. He had a slide show too.

By the time Tatsuyo-Sensei's course was finished, the girls had already left. Sometimes Lee wondered if their teacher had really given them as much...thorough information as theirs had, because the girls in his class and the following years had seemed remarkably interested in romance, which was just a watered-down version of sex with clothes on, as far as Lee understood.

Lee and his peers had scattered in silence after the lesson; they hadn't looked at each other as they left, they didn't joke or play, or do anything but go straight home. Where presumably their parents had softened the message somewhat. But Lee didn't have any parents.

In his bedroom in Suna, an older Lee had wrapped himself into a sweaty ball beneath the sheet. He was almost awake again, sort of. But the memories were like dreams, uncontrollable. Like water, pouring out past barriers broken by the exhaustion and the sticky heat; forming into a deep pool where things he didn't want to see were reflected.

That old Shinobi and his lessons had haunted a ten-year-old Lee when he started having sensual dreams. They'd frightened him. They were Wrong. They were a Weakness. They could lead to something Bad.

The more he fought against those dreams, the stranger and more twisted they became...

...mixing up with other desires...

Lee shook his head abruptly in the pillow, and woke himself up through sheer willpower.

That was the past. He should forget all that - most times he did, it was this bloody heat wave. He just couldn't sleep...he wondered what Gaara was doing. Working in his office, almost certainly. Maybe Lee could go-

No, that probably wouldn't help.

He rarely wondered what Sakura-san was doing anymore, whispered the insidious little saboteur in his head.

Lee shook that thought away too. Sakura-san was his special person. His Love, according to Gai-Sensei's explanation. Thank god for Gai-Sensei! Once more, his great wisdom and knowledge had shown Lee the way!

Lee settled back into the hot bed with a happy sigh. Gai-Sensei's reassuring words of Wisdom were running through his mind. They would surely protect him against the dreams.

Wonderful words...they'd shown something beautiful to Lee. He frequently remembered Gai-Sensei's Speech that day.

Lee's breathing eased, his eyes fluttered shut.

Beautiful words...words to live by...

But it hadn't started with Gai-Sensei's Speech.

Before the Speech, a paternal Gai-Sensei had given young Lee some balanced, down-to-earth advice about sex and- no, it had started before that, too.

Half-awake, Lee stirred and frowned, but he couldn't escape the memory uncoiling in his mind. He'd...forgotten just why Gai-Sensei had given him the Speech that day. Why...? What had happened that day for Gai-Sensei to start talking about Love?

It had started with...

Oh, he remembered! How could he have forgotten? It had started with that book! That stupid, horrid book.

"Did you want to borrow it, kid?"

"What?" Lee asked, startled. Then he remembered his manners. He was a Genin, twelve years old and still a rookie, while Kakashi-Sensei was a seasoned Jounin. "I'm sorry; what do you mean, sir?"

"My book. You keep staring at it." The visible eye creased into an amused crescent. "Did you want to borrow it? It'd probably teach you-"

"Kakashi, leave my student alone," Gai-Sensei said, from where he was doing a multitude of one-handed press-ups (he'd lost today's challenge).

"I wasn't looking at it," Lee said stiffly. Actually he had been looking, but not because he wanted to borrow the lurid orange thing. He'd been wondering how a responsible Jounin could read such unsuitable material. Dangerous material! Didn't Kakashi-Sensei know that Lust could be a Weakness that could be used against him?

Kakashi looked at him as if he could read the thoughts off of Lee's forehead. He turned towards the book again, flipping a page.

"I see old Tatsuyo-Sensei is still teaching Sex Ed to the pre-grads. That guy's better than a chastity belt," he murmured.

"Kakashi," Gai-Sensei grunted reprovingly, while Lee's mind became one huge question mark.

"Well he is. Mind you, that's probably not a bad thing. Better than letting a bunch of hormonal, legally-adult twelve-year-olds loose on the population. But some kids are more sensitive than others, and I sometimes think he lays it on a bit too thick."

"And I sometimes think it's a pity you left the academy before that course," Gai-Sensei muttered, switching to the left hand after wiping the sweat from his brow.

"Yeah, I had to figure it all out on my own," Kakahsi said with a laugh, hefting the book. "You sure you don't want to borrow it, kid? You'd learn tons. Give those nice hot dreams a bit more consistency."

Lee- the adult, Jounin Lee - was looking at the scene as if he was outside of it, half-asleep as he was. While the Genin he'd been went red and got offended, Lee suddenly wondered, for the first time, if Kakashi's offer hadn't been sincere, if not very well put. Something to undo the damage of that 'Sex Ed' course. He'd gotten to know Kakashi through Gai-Sensei, Naruto and Sakura-san these past few years; it'd be the kind of weird, off-the-wall thing the guy would probably do.

"I do not want to borrow it. Sir," twelve-year-old Lee answered with some distaste, his tone stiff and reproving. "And I dream of only one thing."

"And that's his ninja way- and Neji," Gai said between two pants.

In the present, Lee opened his eyes, grabbed the pillow out from under his head and stuffed it over his face. Maybe if he cut off his oxygen supply, he might forget the next bit again. Damn it all to hell! He'd managed to forget about it for seven years! Why was he remembering it now?! In all its lurid soul-searing details.

But he couldn't stop the memory.

He remembered how he'd stared at his teacher in horror. How he'd felt the blood drain from his face. Gai-Sensei knew! He knew about those shameful, twisted dreams- he knew!

"...Beating Neji. I meant," Gai-Sensei added. He was staring at the ground as he did some more press-ups. Lee looked hastily at Kakashi-Sensei, who had his face buried in his book. Good, they hadn't noticed his reaction. Of course. Beating Neji. That's what Gai-Sensei had meant. Of course Lee dreamed of defeating Neji, his genius rival. Right.

Kakashi suddenly closed his book with a snap. "Look at the time. I'm going to go work on that mission report. Sorry about that, Gai. Good luck."

In the present, Lee put his arms over the pillow, pressing it to his face and muffling his agonized groan.

That younger Lee had thought he'd successfully managed to hide his reaction. He'd repressed that part of the conversation for years, along with the memory of the dreams and other embarrassing childhood episodes. Now Lee was remembering Kakashi's last two incongruous sentences. He hadn't understood their significance when he was a young, inexperienced Genin, but now he realized just how fully both Jounin had read from his reactions exactly what was going through his mind. He must have been an open book to them.

Could you die from embarrassment, even years after the fact?

Despite twinges of pillow-induced suffocation, the memory continued to unravel in Lee's mind.

Gai glared at the puff of air that was the only thing left of his rival, then he straightened up - without even finishing his press-ups - and looked solemnly at his student.

"Lee, what is your ninja way?"

That instantly banished young Lee's worries and confusion. The words burst from his mouth with the habit of much repetition. "I want to prove that you can become a fine ninja without the ability to do anything but Taijutsu!"

"Good!" Gai shouted, finger pointing dramatically at his student, as if he hadn't heard this twenty times before. "A worthy goal! Is that more important than anything?"


"Excellent. Concentrate on that! Concentrate on that with all your might and youth and spirit, and you'll get there!"

"Yes sir!"

"And then you'll find out why it's such a noble goal!"

Lee paused with his fist enthusiastically punching the air. Huh? This was new.

Gai-Sensei smiled at him. Not the sparkly smile; it was warm and a bit rueful. "You and I, Lee, we're not works of art. We're not going to build our lives for the sheer beauty of it, and have no use. Yes, your purpose in life is beautiful. But it will be truly noble when you can use it for the good of others. For the good of one other. Shape your life to your desire, then use it like a sword, to defend the life and happiness of another person."

Lee stared at him in confusion.

"You are young. But one day - not right away, of course, but when you're sixteen, or eighteen rather, so you can concentrate on attaining Jounin rank first- or maybe twenty, yes, twenty is a good age for- ahem. Anyway, one day, you will find someone you want to protect. Someone special; the most important person to you. You will-"

Gai stopped talking and sighed. "Lee, put away the note book."


"Put it away, and come sit over here. We need to have a talk."

Lee had managed to erase the circumstances leading up to that conversation from his mind, but he remembered every word of Gai's Speech after that.

His respected teacher had started by giving him some more balanced information about sex than that old Tatsuyo-Sensei had. Yes, Shinobi were wary of lust, emotions and baser instincts that could be manipulated, but that didn't mean they couldn't find a special person to love.

That one word, Love, changed everything.

Gai-Sensei had told Lee that making love to that special person would be a wonderful experience, to Lee's intense relief; in retrospect, those Sex Ed classes had scarred him rather badly. Now, Gai-Sensei was telling him about something pure, precious and warm. Lee would be able to place his heart as well as his body in that person's hands. It would be the most beautiful moment of his existence, a moment he'd be able to protect every day for the rest of his life because he'd be a strong man and an excellent Shinobi.

When he found...that precious person...

Lee, face still hidden by his pillow, suddenly realized something. The thought hit him like one of Gai-Sensei's wake-up-call punches. Harder even.

He could remember every word of that Speech perfectly. Every single word. It had indeed been a glorious Speech. Stirring, moving. A wonderful, life-affirming Speech.

It had been a speech, Lee just now suddenly realized, that carefully avoided any mention of that special person being either male or female.

Lee lifted the pillow from his face and let it drop unnoticed to the floor. Gai-Sensei...

Lee could hear his teacher's words in his mind. They might sound pompous to others, but Lee had seen the real heart and valour that lay beneath them. Always be true to yourself, Gai-Sensei said. Always believe in yourself. Live your Youth to the full, and never look away.

Lee swallowed painfully, and let the barriers crack for good.

It wasn't that the idea of- of another man turned him off or disgusted him. The small part of Sex Ed that had addressed consenting, loving sex (not that the old Shinobi had ever used the word 'loving') had treated both straight and gay intercourse equally. Some villages and countries still had social stigmas regarding that, but not Konoha.

No, that wasn't the problem.

The issue was elsewhere, and it was complex and scary, but one part of the problem was that Lee had been so tired.

Some of the other boys had gotten over Sex Ed a whole lot faster than Lee, with the help of parents, friends, older brothers and a natural cynicism towards teachers and lessons that Lee had never mastered. And they were talking about girls. Not that they were doing anything about it beyond talking; they probably wouldn't for years, so maybe those 'lessons' had had some effect after all. But they talked about their dreams, laughing and joking. Breasts and fantasies and long hair and pretty faces and willing bodies.

Lee hadn't been a part of that, of course. He'd been a social reject for pretty much as long as he could remember; graceless, too earnest, different from the others by his inability to mould chakra to do even the simplest jutsus. He'd been hanging around on the outskirts of those conversations. Nobody asked him to contribute. But still, Lee had been so tired of being different, once more.

So very, very different.

Neji hadn't been the first; he was just the first Lee could distinctly remember, when he let himself remember that is. They'd been thrown together on the same team, and Lee had been concentrating on him so hard-

But those dreams weren't the harmless, frivolous fantasies the other boys enjoyed. The dreams involving Neji were dark, violent, intense. They scared Lee. They were dreams where the challenge of beating his rival was paramount, but it was closely followed by something else, something darker, more exciting, shared between two willing bodies like a secret...

That wasn't what Gai-Sensei had been talking about though. He'd been talking about something pure. There was too much need in those dreams. Too much desire. Besides, Lee didn't love Neji. He knew that damn well, and there was no doubt in his mind about it, either then or now, seven years later. Back then, Neji had been his team-mate, even sort of a friend, but he'd also been a bit of a bastard, arrogant and dismissive and-

-and he didn't need Lee.

Lee didn't want that. And he didn't want to be different, once more. And he didn't want to feel something that intense. And he didn't want to give in to his baser instincts and fall prey to those bogeymen old Tatsuyo-Sensei had mentioned. And he didn't want to be distracted from his nindo. There were too many reasons and he just didn't want any of it.

Unfortunately, his body had different ideas. But that turned out to be a trivial problem. Lee was used to bringing the mind to bear over the body.

And then he'd seen Sakura-san during the Chuunin exams.

Pretty, popular Sakura-san...

So far out of Lee's league that it was almost funny, the normally-repressed part of his mind whispered.

Pretty, popular Sakura-san. Many of the boys in her class and higher had a thing for her. Lee hadn't. What he had was Love. But not because she was pretty and popular...

...but because at the start of the Chuunin exam, Lee had seen something in her. Something hesitant, lost, vulnerable. Lonely. The way she'd been so grateful for the smallest kind word from Sasuke...Lee had wanted her to look at him like that. With need. And she did need him. She needed his protection, and she needed a friend, and she-

-she was so in love with Sasuke that she was perfectly safe.

The part of Lee that had escaped its leash in the exhaustion and the heat was now running rampant over his tender memories of those first days with Sakura-san. He was seeing them in a much different light.

What he felt for Sakura-san was true and steady, he felt no shame over those emotions; they were tender, protective and warm. It wasn't the burning need and the twisted, intense desires he'd felt in those dreams of Neji he couldn't always suppress. She didn't like him much to start with, but that was okay. He could use determination to protect her. He could show her his valour. She was a goal to strive for. One he would probably never reach.

She was quite safe.

The part of Lee that normally lurked behind his barriers whispered Gaara...

Gaara was just about as not safe as you could get.

A few choice pieces of the dreams he'd been having scrolled past his eyelids. The scream of chakra suddenly released; lethal danger and a hidden pain; creamy skin the colour of almonds; power at his fingertips; fingertips on Lee's skin...

The heat of the whole night coiled into Lee's belly and slithered downwards.

Lee put an arm over his eyes, ignoring the way hot, sweaty skin met skin. He tried to concentrate on Sakura-san. But he kept seeing her as she'd been the last time he visited Konoha. A friend. A good friend. One who confided in him, and one he could confide in as well. He trusted her. His heart felt warm and tender when he thought about her. He was proud of her progress. She was now...

A strong, independent, mature woman.

One who didn't need him anymore.

Lee's fists clenched. That...he hated that thought, and it wasn't the first time it had crept up on him either. He tried to suppress it ruthlessly every time it occurred to him. He didn't want to believe that his love for Sakura-san was dependent on her need for him. That felt...cheap. Unfaithful. Trivial. His Love was truer than that.

The rest...was just a distraction. One he could no longer fight against. Not tonight. It was too hot and he was too tired. But it was okay. He was all alone; and he was strong most of the time. As long as he kept his certainties, his values, surely it couldn't hurt...just once...

The arm tightened over Lee's eyes until all he could see was red.

Just this once. He was so tired of resisting it. And it didn't mean anything, as long as he remembered. Remembered that what he felt for Sakura-san...

...pretty, pure Sakura-san...

That was surely Love.

And what he felt for Gaara-

- cream-coloured skin, 'I never underestimated you', intense eyes ringed in darkness, complex and torn and still so very, very powerful...

Lee's free hand crept downward, towards the source of the heat...

What he felt for Gaara...

That was merely lust.

End of Part Eight

This chapter was the hardest of DR to write to date; the structure is quite complex. Feedback on how that went, and how coherent Lee's emotions seem, will be much appreciated.

And yes, I know: Denial is a river in Egypt, and Rock 'Merely Lust' Lee is happily paddling around in it. Keep in mind he's spent the last few years certain of being in Love with his 'Sakura-san'. He's not going to get the whole breakthrough in one clue-bat session.

JBMcDragonjbmcdragon on October 22nd, 2005 01:05 am (UTC)
Man, that was wonderful. :D The the structure worked really well, it was very clear what was going on, and the shift in emotions was done awesomely. Everything made sense--even some of the backtracking he kept doing--and the flow was about perfect.

I love the way not-so-random words are capitalized. Speeches about Love and so on. *grins* And the falling in and out of memories/dreams was great; I have that happen A LOT. In fact, it explained a lot without feeling like you were sitting us down and Explaining Things, so that was nice. *grins* It was also nice that not everything got solved here; some things are fixed, or realized, but not most of them. It's much more realistic this way.

Also, kinda painful. *laughs* Poor, poor Lee. And Gaara is still clueless. Poor, poor Lee, who's pretty much going to have to travel this path without any help. *laughs* And then help Gaara travel it... Mal, you have your work cut out for you. *grins* Good luck.

And I love this. :D

Maldorormaldoror_gw on November 1st, 2005 01:29 pm (UTC)
Mal, you have your work cut out for you. *grins* Good luck.

Don't I know it...I'm still fighting with the Gaara side of things. I got over the hump I was crying about the other day on LJ, since I now have permission to thread the humour with darkness :P But the bits after that...still struggling.

I'm glad the flow worked! Emotional progressions like that are probably what I find hardest to write (by contrast, violent action trips off my keyboard without any problems). The dreams helped a lot to illustrate without explaining; I have a lot of dreams like that too. Glad you liked it!
(no subject) - jbmcdragon on November 2nd, 2005 07:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
love and joy and hijinks: ::buttprint!:: [mine]permetaform on October 22nd, 2005 01:15 am (UTC)

the structure worked. I love how the last section was an unearthing, this section was an examination of all that was...ashed. Season of Ashes. Duuuude.

And just Gai being all Gai-like to Lee and I love how you manage to show the two POV's simultaneously and with the scary Sex Ed presentation and with the by-play with Gai and Kakashi and wow that a burn of embarrassment and honestly done so well that it leapt off the page and I love how you tied Sakura and Neji into it all with a nice neat bow (and oh hey, Sasuke would've lost his family by nine yes? ::cracks up::) and...

bravo! ::glomps!::
Maldorormaldoror_gw on November 1st, 2005 01:24 pm (UTC)
Glad I tied it all up neatly! I had to deal with Sakura. I think Lee's love for her, even in canon, is more White Knight than actual wet dreams material, but still, I had to do something about her, I couldn't just drop her down a hole. Neji kinda slipped in there by accident, as a contrast to Sakura and prep to Gaara, but he worked so well I didn't complain ^_^ And Gai-sensei is my hero. 'nuff said ^_^
This feather may look worthless...: gaara panda ryodark_iconssilverkiiri on October 22nd, 2005 01:31 am (UTC)
Hm, I wondered how you were going to deal with Sakura in this. Very well done and believable. It showed his emotional revelations very clearly, and the flashbacks certainly helped. I'm glad he at least realizes that he wants Gaara now, if not that he loves him. That'll come, I'm sure. I just wish I knew exactly what was going through Gaara's head. ^_^ Ooh, I'm so excited! Can't wait for more! (You know, I have noticed some authors think I mean that seriously and get all iffy about not having time to just write and write. I don't mean it like that. I just don't know another way to express my eagerness. ^_^)
Maldorormaldoror_gw on October 26th, 2005 12:31 pm (UTC)
I'm glad the way I managed to peel Lee off of Sakura and onto Gaara was believable; that was the biggest hurdle :P I never really trusted Lee's Great Love for 'Sakura-san', not 100% the way he shows it, but it is real, and it's not so easily dismissed. In fact, this Lee loves Sakura still, just not in quite THAT way :P

(No fears; I like 'can't wait for more', since it means I'm doing something right, and I know it doesn't mean 'update or I'll kill your cat', like some reviews on ff.net sometimes seem to go :P )
Emi: ROFL AHAHAHAthe_loud_monk on October 22nd, 2005 01:40 am (UTC)

I loved it..! The whole idea, the way you made Lee dream of Neji in... ahem.. certain ways >>;; made my inner LeeNeji fangirl happy :D
The Gai being all teacher-like and ... all sweet.. was just... so.. OMFG It was amazing and totally in chracter, AS ALWAYS!!

I'm a Rock Lee rp-er o_o And omg from you're story I just learned all this stuff about Lee, omg! It's amazing.. how you come up and figure out these things and add them into your fanfiction :O So, so amazing! You rock!

I was like ".. omg it's going to fast! Unless I'm missed a chapter this shouldn't be happening yet.. @@;;" and then I read it all and I was like "OH CRAZY i'M RIGHT! W00T!"

But- but..
goodness I'm gonna have to read this again :O
Emi: Jiraffe go BOOMthe_loud_monk on October 25th, 2005 02:56 am (UTC)
You know that's actually funny because I did miss the last chapter xDD;;;

*already read it and is SUPER happy ^-^*
(no subject) - maldoror_gw on October 26th, 2005 12:27 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Alison: coldlysonnie_skies on October 22nd, 2005 01:41 am (UTC)
this chapter was amazing. almost uncomfortable because you're so good at navigating through lee's conflicted emotions. i think lee is so much deeper than almost everyone gives him credit for and your writing is a testament as to just how complex he really is.

What he had was Love. But not because she was pretty and popular...

...but because at the start of the Chuunin exam, Lee had seen something in her. Something hesitant, lost, vulnerable. Lonely. The way she'd been so grateful for the smallest kind word from Sasuke...Lee had wanted her to look at him like that. With need. And she did need him. She needed his protection, and she needed a friend, and she-
-she was so in love with Sasuke that she was perfectly safe.

She was now...
A strong, independent, mature woman.
One who didn't need him anymore.

I love those two passages ^^ This is my favorite chapter along with chapter four.
Maldorormaldoror_gw on October 25th, 2005 12:28 pm (UTC)
Thanks ^_^ I'm relieved; this chapter was either hit or miss. Either I'd drag people through Lee's convoluted inner landscapes, or I'd leave readers going 'huh?' ^^;
Proud_Snapistproud_snapist on October 22nd, 2005 02:38 am (UTC)
Damn...Lee's got one twisted and circumferencial rationale I've ever seen. I love it!!!!!!! I especially liked the scene w/ Kakashi and Gai. It took me a second reading to fully get what you meant by it. I can actually see how Lee is fighting so hard to not be "different" again, since he's as Naruto put it, "as flexible as a rock." Great chapter. I always go fangirly and squeeing when I see that you've updated.
Maldorormaldoror_gw on October 25th, 2005 12:25 pm (UTC)
Aww thanks ^_^ Yeah, Lee's a bit twisted up inside. I think he has to be, to be so straight and direct on the surface. Humans aren't that simple. But he's brave and honest enough to face it; which gets us somewhere ^_^
Nobody puts Qem in a corner.qem_chibati on October 22nd, 2005 02:52 am (UTC)
Oh! I loved this. The horrible sex ed teacher, Kakashi's attitude, Neji, the way that he wanted to be needed by Sakura, it was just really amazing to read.

The structure I thought worked well, highlighting Lee's emotions. The emotions I felt came across strongly with confusion and denial.
Maldorormaldoror_gw on October 26th, 2005 12:23 pm (UTC)
Confusion, denial and then more confusion was what I was aiming at ^_^ And it ain't over yet. Lee's still got a few clue-bat sessions booked :P Glad you liked it!
(no subject) - qem_chibati on October 26th, 2005 01:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
jemupandap on October 22nd, 2005 02:59 am (UTC)
Oh, Lee. I loved this. Lee is so conflicted; everything is from his pov, but it's obvious that he's an unreliable narrator trying not to deal with certain things and I just love this story so much. I'm happy every time I see that there's a new chapter on my friends page.
jemupandap on October 22nd, 2005 03:02 am (UTC)
Also, poor Gai-sensei! It was hilarious the way he kept on revising the age upwards on Lee; I guess no teacher ever really wants to think of his students actually having sex.
(no subject) - maldoror_gw on October 26th, 2005 12:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
tokagemusume on October 22nd, 2005 03:39 am (UTC)
Don't Worry
Yes, it was complex in structure but it worked fine. With a character like Lee, you can't just leap into the fray with a couple sentences about his childhood... It was necessary and done very well and coherently.

In the midst of admiring your technical prowess, I ran across a jewel, just standing there modestly, as I do so often in your work.

"Gai-Sensei smiled at him. Not the sparkly smile; it was warm and a bit rueful. "You and I, Lee, we're not works of art. We're not going to build our lives for the sheer beauty of it, and have no use. Yes, your purpose in life is beautiful. But it will be truly noble when you can use it for the good of others. For the good of one other. Shape your life to your desire, then use it like a sword, to defend the life and happiness of another person." "

Beautifully put and beautifully worked out. You could embroider that on something. It's got sparkly Truth droppings all over it!

This will be quite a love affair, it's looking like. Can't wait.
Maldorormaldoror_gw on October 26th, 2005 12:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Don't Worry
Whew, what a relief ^_^ I had several key stages Lee had to go through, but it took me such a lot of time/effort to hammer out a structure that could carry it AND not be too overly angsty :P Glad it works!
Sparkly Truth droppings...lol! But yeah, Gai is my sexy green beast that bears wisdom in his words ^_^
Battle Angel Productionsalita_b_angel on October 22nd, 2005 10:37 am (UTC)
I find it amusing almost everyone tried the sex talk and it just didn't STICK. And I admire his stubborness not to wank when probably everything in his body tells him to. That's a painful way to live.

""And that's his ninja way- and Neji," " *SNORT* Lee is drowning in denial, not just swimming. I'm holding my head above the desk in preparation because if Lee's this obstinate, Gaara's in a WHOLE OTHER LEAGUE OF CLUELESS.

I sympathsise with being hot and being unable to sleep. It's torture, and cruel joke of nature. I did like the emotional flow, it gives a good sense of history and the ironic humour of Lee's brain going Sex Ed = bad, Sakura = good, man!dreams-neji=bad, therefore sex + man = bad makes me laugh.

Good link to the KakashixGai fic too. Woo OTP.

Maldorormaldoror_gw on November 1st, 2005 01:20 pm (UTC)
I'm holding my head above the desk in preparation because if Lee's this obstinate, Gaara's in a WHOLE OTHER LEAGUE OF CLUELESS.

Lol, the way you said that made me snort tea up my nose. Actually, Gaara's got a whole other range of problems. But denial of his sexuality isn't one of them. First he's going to have to find his sexuality with a map and compass. But once he actually finds it, I don't think he'll be embarrassed or in denial over it (though I'm not sure, I'm still trying to write that part in my head).

I'm glad the flow works (poor Lee). And though Kakashi and Gai aren't a couple in this story, it does seem suspicious the way my mind insists on putting one in the scene and having the other pop out of nowhere *glares*
Admantiusadmantius on October 23rd, 2005 02:01 am (UTC)
Awesome! I'm really getting into this, and I always get really excited when I see that you've posted a new chapter. Remind me to draw some fanart for this fic, too. can't wait for more! ^__^
Maldorormaldoror_gw on October 27th, 2005 12:32 pm (UTC)
*hops about at the idea of fanart*

Glad I've dragged you into yet another fic *evil smirk*

*sends subliminal messages for fanart* (You know you want to draw these guys...Lee was designed for your type of willowy/tall style of drawing bishies...and Gaara's got those rings around his eyes...you know you want to draw that little psycho raccoon...*end subliminal messages*
Ashimistressofrobin on October 23rd, 2005 04:30 am (UTC)
(absolutely envies you)

Well-written, structure was wonderful. Being the lame-face I am, it took a while for me to realize at some points he was flashbacking or dreaming, so I'd get confused, but it was never anything a reread couldn't fix. You write Rock-kun so freaking well that it makes me cry of love for your fic and jealously for my inability to write as emotionally and clearly as you do. I really liked the way you stuck Neji and Sakura there. I kind of like LeeSaku, and I was afraid that since this is a LeeGaa fic she'd be totally ignored. So kudos to you, you rock my world, and I wish I could use Sharingan to copy your writing talent. X.x;;

Oh, Rock-kun, you're so in denial! You know you loves yourself a Gaarakins. XD
Maldorormaldoror_gw on October 27th, 2005 12:28 pm (UTC)
I'm a stickler for characters and canon, so I just couldn't drop Sakura down a handy oubliette and forget about her. I had to deal with her somehow ^^; I'm glad my tack seems to work. Especially since this way they stay close - there's even love here, it's just not Love, or sexual attraction, but it's a very strong, friendly affection.

Glad you liked it ^_^ And that the structure did make sense at least on rereading (I was worried it'd take three rereadings for it to make sense, what with the flow-in to the various backflashes...)
(Anonymous) on October 23rd, 2005 07:06 am (UTC)

Oh, Gaaaawd, I HAD Tatsuyo-sensei for a sex-ed teacher! Some guy from planned parenthood who came in as a guest lecturer. This course had already been.... I mean, it wasn't even CALLED "sex-ed," it was "Theme Five." When they can't bring themselves to say Sex in the NAME of the course, hoo boy. But this guy brought things to new lows. Every conceivable way that sex can kill you or otherwise ruin your life.

And the really hilarious thing was, he started every paragraph with:
"Now I don't want to scare you."

Lecturer: Now I don't want to scare you, but: You four guys, stand up! You're all sexually active and using condoms. You three, sit down! Condoms are only 75% effective. You, sir, just got your girlfriend pregnant.

Standing Guy: Aw, crap.

Lecturer: Now I don't want to scare you, but, CHLAMYDIA. AIDS. HERPES. HUMAN PAPILOMA VIRUS. HEPATITIS. GENITAL WARTS... (et cetera ad infinitum)

Snrrk. Hang in there, Lee. Recovery is possible.

Maldorormaldoror_gw on October 27th, 2005 12:18 pm (UTC)
When they can't bring themselves to say Sex in the NAME of the course, hoo boy

Lol! True, true. Why didn't he all just weld chastity belts on you guys and get it over with...

In Lee's case, there's the whole added dimension of 'you got a girl pregnant AND she's actively trying to stick a kunai up your spine' too. Tough being a Shinobi ^_^ I think he's about to get over it. Sort of. Sex Ed isn't the only mental block he's facing, but we'll get him through that *hefts clue-bat*
(Anonymous) on October 23rd, 2005 09:42 am (UTC)
You rock
An other greeeeat chapter,
I really liked the Sex Ed trauma... But it must means that every other boy got traumatisedd too hum ? Naruto probably skipped the class, now Shakamaru thinks it "too troublesome" (but Temari certainly changed his mind), and Sasuke... well, I can't even imagine (sex make you weak... sex=bad, if I want to kill Itachi I must not have sex... X[...) lol
Nothing to say about the content itself, it's well wrote and makes a lot of sense (but I still think that saying Lee liked Sakura only because see was 'safe' and needed him is a little bit too much... It's certainly true to a certain level but... I don't know, I'm just not totally convinced.

I liked how you introduced Kakashi in it, and Gaï is as great as always... You're one off the few autors I ever found who can write Gaï that well, it's hard not to caricature him. (I know, I have a full fic about him and his rivality with Kakashi...). The Speech About Love was great...

And one last thing, the end of this chapter is strongly similar to Metal Dog ending... just lust/a dumb reflex... hehehe

and here is the other drawing : http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/24178888/
Maldorormaldoror_gw on October 31st, 2005 01:28 pm (UTC)
Re: You rock
But it must means that every other boy got traumatisedd too hum ?

Yes, but in a lesser measure. Most kids have a natural cynisysm towards education that comes through in their teens, and ninja would get that a bit earlier. Enough would stay that they wouldn't let their hormones run away with them right away, and they'd be careful. But only Lee, who wouldn't know what Cynisysm is if it came up and kicked him in the spandex, would be that affected.

Though in my imagination, Naruto did indeed play hooky that day ^_^

Glad you like my Gai; him and Kakashi (and Iruka) are my top favorite adults to write in Naruto.

(I faved your drawing, it was soooo cool! Love ANBU...love Kakashi...love Gai...love action/tension...and the pic had them all!)
Doewiebeledoewiebele on October 23rd, 2005 01:21 pm (UTC)
That was so great! Again, great skills.... I love Lee's whole inner conflict.

Poor, poor, little Lee. I hope Gaara gives him some good lovin' soon XD!

You are a much greater writer than me, that's for sure! *Huggles*
Maldorormaldoror_gw on October 31st, 2005 01:23 pm (UTC)
Well, Gaara will eventually give him some lovin' (the quality of which is still a bit up in the air), but I don't know about 'soon'. There's still a few chapters of Lee-torture to go through :P Waiting is half the fun! (for us) Thanks! *Blush* I don't think you can really compare writing styles; but I'm glad you like my fics ^__^
Illucienillucien on October 24th, 2005 11:05 pm (UTC)
Nuu you can't end it there!! But that was a pretty powerful ending, full of realization you write so well. I also liked the beginning to, very sweet. The structure worked VERY well, I think. Again, you are so good!!! I'll be waiting for the next chapter ^_^!!!
Maldorormaldoror_gw on November 2nd, 2005 05:24 am (UTC)
Thanks ^_^ Scenes like these cost me an embarrassing amount of brain juice :P I sweated over this chapter ten times more than the previous ones, and I couldn't tell if the structure worked; so I'm glad to hear it did ^_^
Lrayvah on October 25th, 2005 04:51 am (UTC)
I have to agree with tokagemusume about this passage:

Gai-Sensei smiled at him. Not the sparkly smile; it was warm and a bit rueful. "You and I, Lee, we're not works of art. We're not going to build our lives for the sheer beauty of it, and have no use. Yes, your purpose in life is beautiful. But it will be truly noble when you can use it for the good of others. For the good of one other. Shape your life to your desire, then use it like a sword, to defend the life and happiness of another person."

It's completely beautiful. Made more so by the way you write the relationship between Lee and Gai.

The structure was good, the dream sequences/memories/thought trains meshed pretty well together. Whew! That must have been a job.

The ending... *SO* intense.

You go!
Maldorormaldoror_gw on November 3rd, 2005 04:58 am (UTC)
It was quite a job ^^; I rewrote the structure and the details loads of times before I got it to its present stage. Glad you like it!

The relationship between Lee and Gai in the manga actually made me tear up a bit. I love those two characters (in a father/son type relationship, mind you)
(no subject) - rayvah on November 4th, 2005 07:01 am (UTC) (Expand)
kiyakotarikiyakotari on October 26th, 2005 02:15 pm (UTC)

I think you may have almost outdne yourself this time.

0.0 It's great. I love the way he keeps denying things, and even when he does give in, he's still choking off that last little "but it's really not...."

**grins** Heh. I'm becoming a Naruto addict, almost as bad as I am a GW one. XD
Maldorormaldoror_gw on November 5th, 2005 04:53 am (UTC)
Lee's stubborn with a capital S, so yeah, he's not going to change his mind that quickly. I'm glad you enjoyed it ^_^

*feeds you Naruto crack* Nyahahhaa, welcome to the insanity!
complexphoenixcomplexphoenix on November 3rd, 2005 03:45 am (UTC)

That was GREAT. So angsty and emotionally intense. I loved it.

Sex-ed classes that are all "Sex is dangerous, sex is baaaad" are about as good for kid's mental health as drinking sewage would be for their physical health. Sex is a basic human need, we seek it like we seek food. A basic need denied becomes an obsession. To be afraid of what you need... erk! A ninja, of course, really would need to be aware of that stuff, but what it ought to come down to is "don't have sex with strangers or enemies" not "no sex at all!"

Lee's love for Sakura is a brotherly kind of love, like she's his adopted little sister. Very cute, and firmly chaste. Gaara, his best friend with the smooth cream-colored skin... Lee. The cream-colored skin oooowwwwwwnnnnssss joooooo. Resistence is futile. Heed the call of True Love/Lust! KISS HIM!! XD

Hehe, I think I got carried away :P

Of course, though, True Love/Lust is as inevitable and unstoppable as Lee's hand heading south. Inevitable I say. Gloriously inevitable.

*crouches predatorially to await the next fic*
Maldorormaldoror_gw on November 10th, 2005 01:20 pm (UTC)
It may be inevitable, but I'm still working hard to bring it about ^^; Lol, that cream-coloured skin has done its work though. Lee's screwed, he just doesn't know it yet ^_^

In regards to the Sex Ed...well, Konoha and other ninja villages never seemed to shy away from Tough Love (not to say near-child abuse) on a regular basis. Kicking twelve-year-olds into battle and expecting them to kill is pretty unhealthy as well. I'm sure they wouldn't be subtle when it came to this message either :P
(no subject) - complexphoenix on November 17th, 2005 07:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - maldoror_gw on November 21st, 2005 06:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Moeko: Naruto: Kakashi's catch!moeko on February 22nd, 2006 07:20 pm (UTC)
It's 22 degrees outside but i'm sweating i'm so red. You put Lee's reaction to Gai's comment so well I'm having flashbacks. oh god. >_<

That was great. I'll never look at another Lee/Sakura fic the same way again. Thank goodness I didn't put off finishing Ripple Effect. Whew. ^_^
Maldorormaldoror_gw on February 23rd, 2006 05:23 am (UTC)
You put Lee's reaction to Gai's comment so well I'm having flashbacks.

Lol, you too? I was squirming when I wrote that. I've got a few 'episodes' I would soooo like to forget *whimper*

I might prefer Lee/Gaara, but I still like Lee/Sakura too! I have a secret fondness for persistence that finally pays off...If I wrote a SasuNaru, I'd probably try to get her paired off with Lee ^_^
Jack's Raging Geekeryna_no_nai on July 24th, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
Just wanted to say quickly how much I loved this chapter. The sex ed class, Gai-sensei's Be True To Yourself speech ♥, the realization that Sakura was safe... LOVE IT. *skips off to read more*
DianaLW: gaia friendsdianalw on December 6th, 2008 04:58 am (UTC)
Okay, wow. It makes me laugh to see that I'm commenting years after this has been posted, but I've been lurking the internet for Gaara/Lee stories and decided to read yours after seeing a link from yaoi-daily, and this chapter is THE BEST fanfic chapter I have read in YEARS. The ending there had me tearing up.

Amazing writing. I'm going to stalk your LJ now. <3
cheydancercheydancer on December 9th, 2008 08:31 am (UTC)
On last chapter because I was so excited to forge ahead I didn't comment, I wanted to mention how much I love your use of words and metaphor. I am totally mesmerized by your descriptions of the desert, they ring so very true (I live in Arizona)and I couldn't help but fall in love with the way you described the movement of the sand, the build up of humidity before a storm that lets loose a few drops like the gods are having a spitting contest and the desert riots with color in response.

Now on to this segment:

I think I had Tatsuyo-sensei for sex ed in the late 60's. O__O

This chapter was very complex and a veritable roller coaster for only having Lee actually remembering things. I loved how confused and vulnerable he is in this and his fumbling towards awareness. I also had to laugh out loud when he wondered if one could die of embarrassment years after the incident.
(Anonymous) on July 25th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
Sometimes I wish I had never read this story. You know, forget I ever read it. Just so that I could go back and experience the excitement of reading it for the first time all over again. I still come back to read it again every couple of months or so, but its just not the same! I'm reading ofic right know and I'm scrambling at the edge of my seat every Sunday (or so). I have to say, you are my favorite author. Plain true, Every single fic that you've written, and I've read, I love. So thank you from the depth of my heart, because reading your works of magic always seem to put a smile on my face and a glow in my heart. With my sincerest gratitude I pray you to keep up the excellent, fantastic work and for you and your's to have wonderful lives.

my password doesn't work, but I'm kitsuudai at yahoo, thanks
Omiraoomirao on December 25th, 2010 07:20 am (UTC)
Your portrayal of Gai is breathtaking. Literally.