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22 December 2005 @ 01:39 pm
Diplomatic Relations, Part Fifteen  
Here's the next chapter! It's not overly polished, because I didn't have much time to work on it, but it brings up, more or less directly, a few important character points in the story, and it's also got some bits that amused me to write. It's also surprisingly fluffy (by my standards), so please, consider this a Christmas present from an overly-stressed Mal to anyone still reading this fanfic, fifteen chapters on ^_^

(And ten points to Veemon who guessed what Lee was going to do next, a few hours after Gaara went ahead and said 'Okay, let's do this')

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 Fifteen: Dear Gai-sensei

Dear Gai-sensei.

I hope you and your team are well. I hope Ryota's Ninjutsu has improved as you hoped it would. He sounds like a determined young man from your letters. I'm sure that with your guidance he will become a great ninja.

I myself am recovering well.

Lee absently chewed on the end of his pen. He was wondering about that. The way he'd gotten himself knocked around in the desert last night was worrying him. He'd been sparring against Gaara for over a year at a very high level. He should have been able to dodge the Sand Barrier's initial blow, even if he hadn't been expecting it at all. Gai-sensei had told him it would take time to get back to his previous form; a couple of months, maybe longer. Still, Lee just didn't feel like he'd made that much progress at all. What if-

But that wasn't why Lee was up at four o'clock in the morning writing a letter to Gai-sensei. That concern could wait another day.

I find myself in need of your advice. You always said I could write if

Lee crossed that out. He didn't need to remind Gai-sensei of his promise to help and guide him. Gai-sensei would always be there for him.

I find myself in need of your advice. What should a man do if he's in love with someone. And that person accepts those affections, wants to be close and build a relationship, but, due to circumstances in his past, probably doesn't really know what love or a relationship even

‘His’ past...Lee stared at the word with something like unnerved fascination.

He'd finally come to terms with the fact that he liked men and Gaara specifically. But seeing it written down like that...it made it very real and immediate. Like it was taking something hypothetical and making it flesh. Um, flesh, yes, that was part of the problem.

The subject of sex still made him...not nervous, but confused. Gaara didn’t seem to think it was a big deal, which completely boggled Lee. Lee was quite divided about it himself. Part of him wanted to be sure. He couldn't say exactly what it was that he wanted to be sure of; just Sure. But another part of him really wanted it. Really, really wanted it. Lee was starting to suspect that Hormones were involved.

This deep feeling of need had first captured him when Gaara had kissed him. He'd felt something like it before, in dreams, in Gaara's presence, but it was ten times stronger now. He would have liked to dismiss it as just another attack of lust, but deep inside, he wasn't so sure it was that simple...

That was also a subject for another day, however. Lee was going to have to work his way up to discussing that with his respected teacher. It wasn't the real concern either. And from the four previous pages crumpled up in the wastebasket, and the corrections on this one, the more immediate concern was quite hard enough to put into writing without worrying about that.

He'd stopped trying to make a clean copy now. He was crossing away and rewriting until he found the right way of expressing himself, then he'd rewrite the definite version without all the scribbled-out bits. He'd been at it since he'd given up on sleep a few hours before. He had a couple more hours to sort out his thoughts before the post opened in the morning.

The desk's lamp emitted a faint buzz and flickered. Suna's generator for civilian consumption was a bit sparky at night, unlike the top-of-the-line generator that fed the admin building, the ramparts and the defence center, which could withstand any number of hostile jutsus.

Lee doodled a little 'high tension warning' symbol in the margin, his mind blank.

He should be sleeping. He'd told Gaara he'd go to sleep after their discussion in Lee's office earlier. He'd said he'd take better care of himself. He'd promised, in fact. Okay, Gaara had twisted that around a bit...

Lee found himself smiling. Clever, underhand bastard. 'You always keep your promises'. Gaara knew him too well.

Yes. He knew Lee well. Gaara trusted him to keep his promises. He trusted Lee with a lot of things.

Lee ground the pen into the doodle.

He'd sounded so confident earlier, when he'd told Gaara to face his fears and take a chance. When he'd told Gaara of the Desert to get a grip.

To the 'I myself am recovering well' sentence, Lee added 'but I think I must be going crazy'.

Gaara hadn't struck out at him, or punched him in the mouth; for some reason, the thought that his behaviour was risky hadn't fully crossed Lee's mind when he'd stood up in front of his friend and barked at him like that. Lee wondered if it was because, deep down, he'd known Gaara wouldn't hurt him. Or was it because he would have gladly accepted a few more bruises if it meant Gaara wouldn't end up curling in on himself and going back into isolation?

And Gaara had accepted his offer. His love. They were going to build something together- what they were going to build was still to determine, but it would involve defending each other, mutual support, opening up, sharing - sex eventually, Lee's bloody Hormones reminded him - and Gaara had looked at him and accepted him. Him. Rock Lee.


Lee turned the page over with a deliberate gesture.

Dear Gai-sensei

I hope you are well. I am doing fine, but I need your advice.

I have fallen in love with Gaara. I think I've loved him for months now, though it didn't exactly feel like the mighty pure and youthful flame of Love that you'd described in your speeches. This is going to come as some surprise to you. Though not the fact that I am in love with a man, I think. I may be wrong, but I think you saw this in me for awhile now. Maybe you should have mentioned this before, because it was a bit confusing for me a few months ago

Lee paused a second and tried to imagine, just for the sake of the argument, the kind of conversation Gai-sensei would have had to have with him to get that fact out in the air. He winced so hard, he broke his pen. No, Lee thought, wiping ink from his fingers with one of the discarded sheets of paper, it was much better for Gai-sensei to have given Lee the speech on Love - the one that had, ultimately, helped Lee accept the pull he felt towards Gaara, as well as his orientation - rather than try to be that explicit with a wide-eyed, twelve-year-old Genin.

Well, this was just a draft. Lee chucked the leaking pen in the garbage, picked up a new one and put it back to the page, but he found he couldn't continue until he'd crossed out all the previous paragraph. It was just too distracting, imagining Gai-sensei reading something like that. And maybe answering in a letter of his own- no, better stick to the point.

Dear Gai-sensei

I hope you are well. I am doing fine, but I need your advice.

I'm in love with Gaara. At the start, I thought it was just physical attraction. It made things very confusing for awhile. But now I know I love him. He's an amazing person. I hope one day you get to know him as well as I do. He's very strong, in both body and spirit. He's defeated things I can barely imagine. He's been badly hurt in the past, and he's cautious about reaching out. When I said I loved him, he reacted

Lee frowned at the lamp. Gaara had reacted in several ways. First, he'd nearly killed Lee, or at least he'd certainly lost it badly enough where Lee's death had been a possibility, though Gaara himself had protected his friend from his worst, first instincts. Remembering that scene, Lee wished he could attribute part of that reaction to Shukaku. But he remembered what Naruto had told him about the demon. It might attack Gaara's sanity when he let his guard down, it might make him more dangerous and unstable, it gave him a hell of a lot of power, but it didn't directly influence him. No, that had been all Gaara, unfortunately.

As had been the Gaara who had thrown himself on Lee at the very notion that the Jounin might go back to Konoha. And the Gaara who had said how powerful Lee's touch was for him. And the Gaara who had lashed out in fear and broken a teacup in Lee's office a few hours ago. And the one who had said he never wanted to hurt Lee again, and who trusted him.

When I said I loved him, he reacted in a rather complicated way. I think he's confused about all this. He's willing to try to get close to me, but it seems that everything I do hurts him. That’s bad for him, and potentially dangerous for me, which makes it bad for him all over again because he’s got this thing about not hurting me anymore.

Lee reread that last sentence and sighed. Good thing this was just a draft. He’d polish it up later.

So I need to know what to do and say to not hurt him or scare him anymore. I need to lead us both firmly forward, towards the promise of our youth, as you described it once. But I'm at a bit of a loss. I don't know exactly what to do. My heart says that I want to protect him, defend him, die for him if need be. Like I almost did two weeks ago, and I do not regret it. But Gaara doesn't want that now, and I can see why. Anyway, next time I suspect he will be the one protecting me, since he is five times stronger than I am when his powers aren't sealed. And none of that really matters when we're not in danger. So how can I

Lee stilled his pen. He slowly looked up at the wall in front of his desk, senses reaching. He glanced over his shoulder at the window. There was nothing to see except a slice of sky the colour of deep indigo.

Maybe he was imagining things. He'd been thinking too much about Gaara tonight. And he really needed some sleep; he was getting a bit frazzled.

Lee had been a Shinobi for too many years to fool himself. He slowly crumpled the page, balling it up thoroughly. He dropped it in the wastepaper basket, stood up and headed towards the window. He thought he saw something small and round disintegrate into sand as he approached.

A tepid night breeze trickled in as he opened the pane. Lee leaned on the sill and looked down, already knowing what he'd see. Gaara was looking up at him from two stories below.

They stared at each other for a few seconds. Then Gaara made a 'come down here' gesture. Lee nodded.

I guess I'm in trouble, Lee thought, glancing guiltily at the desk's lamp. He went to collect his sandals and his Jounin vest and then, rather than chance waking any neighbours by going out the front entrance, he jumped out the window, landing without a sound next to Gaara.

"I tried to sleep," Lee said in a hushed voice, even before his feet hit the ground, "but after waking up at two this afternoon, my internal clock's completely skewed." And he'd had a lot on his mind, too, but he didn't want to burden Gaara with that.

Gaara's scowl dissipated. Apparently that was an acceptable excuse for a chronic insomniac.

They looked at each other in silence for a few seconds.

"Patrolling the village?" Lee asked, completely redundantly. Gaara didn't bother to answer.

"Care for some company?" Lee added, because he always asked. It was only polite. If he'd set his mind on going anywhere with Gaara, then he usually did so even without a 'Yes', and unless the Kazekage specifically ordered Lee not to (and even that was negotiable). But still, it was polite to ask.

There was the faintest nod from Gaara, which was more than enough encouragement. Lee fell into step as his friend walked away, silent as a ghost drifting between islands of neon light and stretches of darkened streets.

"You look tired," Lee said after awhile.

Gaara slowly turned his head to look at him. "You are the only person in this village who would be able to tell. Apart from my siblings, perhaps."

"You said you were going to get some rest," Lee pointed out, trying to keep concern from his voice.

"You said you were going to get some sleep," Gaara predictably countered, though he said it absently.

When Lee was tired, it made him dull, dozy and prone to saying things without thinking. When Gaara was tired...well, that was a matter of national security.

"Maybe you should go home then?" Lee suggested carefully. "What are you doing out here anyway?"

"Coming to terms with a lie."

Lee gaped at him. "W-what? What lie? Did someone lie to you? Wait, you don't think I lied to you, do you?" Lee had been a tad bit arrogant earlier, and perhaps he'd tried to sound more confident than he was - a frequent failing of his, actually, but he'd never intended to-

"No." Gaara looked at him, eyes slate grey in the darkness. "I have a lot of duties, concerns and problems. Only a few of them have to do with you."

"...Yes. I should know that," Lee said quietly, staring at the faint plumes of dirt and sand kicked up by his sandals. "Sorry."

Gaara didn't respond, but then again, he rarely did.

"Anything I can help you with?" Lee added, not expecting anything, and he wasn't surprised when Gaara didn't answer.

Gaara walked on in silence and Lee followed, strands of anxiety, speculation and thought weaving through his tired brain. Gaara led them to the southern rampart and climbed up to the watchtower to check with the guard. The Kunoichi on duty wasn't surprised to see her Kazekage; he frequently patrolled the village for an hour or two each night. She hadn't expected Lee to be there though. He occasionally walked around the village with Gaara, but not at four in the morning. Good Sand Shinobi that she was, she didn't comment, or even look at them a moment longer than necessary to verify their identity before bringing her vigilance back to the desert beyond the high stone cliffs.

Gaara led Lee further along the wall, to a point halfway between two guard stations. He stopped, one hand resting on the carved stone, checking for signs of danger. Lee propped himself up on his forearms against the rampart, doing the same automatically, though some of his attention wandered to Gaara's profile cut out against the pre-dawn sky.

He didn't know how he'd guessed that Gaara was tired. The dark-ringed eyes weren't any more smudged than usual. The eyes might be reddened, but the light was too bad to tell. Gaara's face was as composed as the statues of former Kazekages that guarded the entrance to Suna's main gate. His stance was a picture straight out of the Shinobi's manual on combat readiness, carrying the gourd as if it weighed nothing at all, just like when he was younger and it looked so ridiculously big on him.

So composed. So self-contained. Yet that other Gaara was in there too, the one that ripped at what it wanted to get close to, the one that clung too tight, or thrust away. So complex. Lee felt that deep nervousness again, that responsibility.

"I'll do my best to make you happy..."

The whisper had slipped out without any volition, an extension to his tired thoughts. Gaara didn't react for a second, and then he turned towards Lee with a start.


"Nothing. Just thinking out loud." Lee straightened up and stared dutifully at the desert around them.

"...What did you say?"

Apparently Gaara wasn't going to let it rest. Lee glanced at him owlishly, blinking his tired eyes.

"I said, I'll do my best to make you happy."

"Happy?" Gaara repeated, as if he'd never heard the word before.

"Well, yes. That's why people get together. Become a couple. Get close like this," Lee added, since Gaara didn't always know the meaning of colloquialisms unless he’d heard them in a well-defined context at least once before.

Gaara stared at him until Lee finally turned to face him fully with a 'Yes?' look on his face.

"You...does that make you happy?" Gaara asked slowly.

Lee cocked his head. "Yes. Yes, it does. I told you last night why I like to be with you. Even just this, hanging out with you right now...yeah, I'm happy," Lee said, leaning against the rampart again, chin in his hand, staring out into the desert.

There was a long moment of silence. Lee glanced up at his friend, but even he couldn't read what was going through Gaara's mind at this point.

"I'm going to do a perimeter sweep," the Kazekage said, his voice oddly distracted as he turned away.

"I'll go with you." Lee didn't bother to couch it in terms of a question this time. He was a bit worried about Gaara.

Gaara jumped over the parapet without answering and Lee followed. They walked in silence for awhile, heading into the ravines around the cliffs protecting Suna. This time, the silence had purpose; Gaara was thinking. He could think for a long time like this, without trying to fill the silence with needless verbiage, until his words were fully formed and ready in his mind. Lee had learned to be silent during these moments.

They made their way to the far reaches of Sunagakure's defences, well out of view of the ramparts. Lee was glad when Gaara turned to walk the perimeter without going out into the desert; he didn't like the idea of the Kazekage wandering too far from his power base and his soldiers, what with Gaara being tired, Lee still far from the top of his form, and Sound out there somewhere.

"Someone once told me that being loved would make the pain go away. That was the lie I was coming to terms with tonight."

Lee had been expecting some kind of statement, but that abrupt declaration left him speechless for a few moments.

"Who told you this?" he finally asked.

"Nobody you know."

So it wasn't Naruto, Temari or Kankuro. That only left a couple of likely candidates, and Lee, remembering something Gaara had said in his psychotic moments the night before, said "Yashamaru?" before thinking it fully through.

Gaara stopped.

Lee let his stance shift ever so subtly into defence, while he weighed Gaara's reaction carefully. Gaara was tired, he was still under the influence of the last twenty-four hours, and that name was probably as dangerous as 'friend' or 'love'.

The moment passed. Gaara was staring straight ahead without moving.

"I have a confession to make," Lee mumbled guiltily. "Months ago- not that long after I came to Suna - when I was back in Konoha for a mission, I talked to Naruto about you. I was hoping we could become friends, and I wanted to understand you. He told me about-...your uncle. I didn't realize that he'd be saying something you’d probably told him in confidence."

"Naruto has never been able to keep his mouth shut, even when he got his jaw broken during the Jounin exam two years ago," Gaara said. He didn't sound upset.

"Was Yashamaru the one who said that?"

A single nod was his answer.

"Oh. Tell me? Please?"

Gaara finally looked at him, just a glance, then he started walking again.

Lee followed automatically. That had probably been a bit too general a question. He wasn't sure exactly what he wanted Gaara to tell him, actually. The circumstances of that conversation with his uncle? Yes, that'd be a pleasant memory to dig up, with Gaara already tired and destabilized by too many days of confusion and stress.

...everything I do hurts him...

"When I was young-..."

Gaara stopped speaking as if the sound of his own voice had startled him.

He turned to face the desert, washing up like the sea against the ten-foot-high bluff they were on. Lee watched him carefully.

"When I was young - as soon as I could talk - I was given most anything I asked for, as long as I studied and kept some control over myself. But nobody ever touched me. That's what I noticed first, when I finally put my finger on why I was different. The way they looked at me and never touched me. Even my caretakers only kept contact to a brief minimum."

The words were simple, straightforward and without self-pity. Gaara could have been describing the life of a distant acquaintance, one he didn't particularly care for.

"That’s when it started to hurt. I needed something and I couldn't say what. I was never normal, but that was when I started to become unstable. Unmanageable. And it got steadily worse. Then Yashamaru said that to heal the pain, I would have to receive love. It was the only thing that would make it go away."

'Receive love', Lee reflected. Dear Uncle Yashamaru hadn't said anything about giving it, apparently. Lee wasn't surprised. It confirmed something he'd intuited. Gaara might not even understand that the concept of giving love could apply to him.

Lee had realized at some point during this frantic, muddled and very, very long day, that he would probably be saying 'I love you' to Gaara repeatedly, and that he would not get the same words in return. Not now. Maybe never. If in the future this ever weighed on him, then Lee would remind himself how Gaara had held him while he slept that night in the desert, and how it had made Gaara feel; how Gaara had protected Lee from the demons inside his head; how he was answering Lee's question now, when opening up was still an unknown concept to him, and sharing a meaningless exercise.

Gaara might never be able to express what he felt in words, and Lee had said he'd never ask Gaara for more than he could give. But Lee didn't feel like he was being short-changed. No, not at all.

"His words helped. Especially when he said-" and Gaara stopped abruptly.

"S'okay," Lee muttered. He had a good idea what Yashamaru had said. That he loved Gaara, that Gaara was his important person.

"What he said gave me something I'd never had before,” Gaara added, in his usual monotone. “Hope that things could change. Then roughly four hours later, I killed him."

"In self-defence!" Lee exclaimed. "He attacked you!"

"I was in no actual danger," Gaara answered, voice neutral. "I lashed out. Deliberately."

"You were attacked, you were really young, who could blame you," Lee muttered loyally. He knew he was probably being unfair. Yashamaru must have had some kind of desperate reason for his act, and he hadn't stood a chance against the Sand anyway. It had been murder. But when he thought of how much damage had been done that night, for once in his life, Lee didn't feel like being fair.

Gaara continued speaking as if Lee hadn't said anything.

"During the years of murder that followed, I was receiving love, or so I thought. I was receiving it from myself, since there was nobody else to give me this thing that was supposed to make the pain go away. I did what pleased me and I thought that was what it was all about. The killing frenzy helped. You knew what I was like."

Lee remembered vividly, and if he ever forgot, the occasional nightmare would remind him.

"When Naruto beat me, he helped me to realize what bonds were meant to be. Anchors. Strength. I lowered my expectations; it would be enough if they gave me a reason to live. But still, at the back of my mind was the thought that if I just tried harder, if I proved myself worthy, then maybe I would be loved by those I protected, and the pain would go away. A part of me still wanted to believe him," Gaara concluded. He was frowning. Lee had the impression that Gaara himself hadn't planned on saying this much, and was surprised at the words that had come out.

Lee thought of Gaara's endless vigil over his village, the way he walked its streets at night, like now. How he'd nearly died protecting them from Deidara's bombs. "Gaara, the people of Suna-"

"Now you love me. And I don't even know what that means." Once more, Gaara continued as if Lee hadn't spoken at all. "You love me, but the pain is still there, the things inside my head are still there. When you said that, it...broke me. I'd still had that hope, even after all those years. I expected...a lot from being loved. I was thinking about this these last few hours, trying to bury this once and for all."

Gaara finally turned towards Lee, his eyes searching his face.

"But now you say you want to make me happy?"

"Of course. Everybody wants to be happy," Lee said softly.

"Want?" Gaara's lips curled into an ugly half-smile. "What I want is contradictory. It is also abnormal. It might even harm you. You will not understand it. You’re my friend, Lee, but deep inside, you know this. You of all people know this. The way I behave these days is only a part of me. I have constructed a semblance of normality around me like a shell. It helps me interact with others. It gives me some stability. But underneath it, I’m still the creature who went into that hospital room while you weren't even conscious and tried to kill you. That’s what I’m like inside. I might not act on those impulses any more, but that’s how I think. I’m not a normal human being. You’ve breached the shell. You’re going places I don’t let other people go. That creature inside does not have normal needs or wants, or anything a human being like you can even understand."

Gaara looked lost, staring at Lee like he had the previous night, as if Lee might hold the secret that could allow him to grasp something fundamental.

"Happiness... I understand the concept intellectually, I see it in others. But I'm not like them. I don't have the capacity for it. Don't say this is going to happen. Don't...don't lie to me, Lee. Don't be like him. I-"

I've really got to do something about these weird reflexes I've picked up, Lee thought. I should know better than to grab him after what happened last night.

But then again, he firmly believed that the worst that could happen was that he'd pick up a few more sand scratches. And he'd give several inches of skin and a pint of blood right now if he could just hold Gaara close for a few seconds longer.


Lee's face was pressed against Gaara's cheek; his words were one long mumble. "I know I'm sorry I know I shouldn't startle you but I really wanted to-"

A shake of Gaara's head silenced him. It was slight, but it nudged Lee's jaw. Lee still held on, though he couldn't do more than loop one arm around Gaara's shoulder and put the free hand on his waist, because of the gourd. He was staring right at the cork. Gaara had started and fallen back a step before Lee had managed to close the distance between them, but the cork was still planted firmly in the mouth of the container, so at least Gaara hadn't been seriously alarmed.

Gaara was ominously still, but he wasn’t struggling. Lee didn't move either and kept quiet.

"...not normal..." Gaara whispered, so low the faint creak of sand around them and the dawn breeze almost covered it.

"Normal isn’t all that great," Lee muttered, mouth on automatic. "I run around the desert in legwarmers to build up my heat resistance, and I'm sure there'll be people who will tell you that's not normal either. I will never lie to you, Gaara. I promise, I won't do that. I- I’m not clever, and yeah, I don’t understand you all that well sometimes, but I- I feel you inside, I can't explain it. I make mistakes too, I also hurt you these last two weeks, but we can both learn, and I can't promise you that I'll make the pain go away but I will try."

Then Lee stopped babbling and just held on. They were Shinobi. A comrade's hand on the shoulder, silently urging one to move forward despite fatigue and fear, said more to their kind than declarations of love or friendship. No ninja was normal. Gaara was just on one extreme end of the scale; one day, Lee would succeed in making him see that. And if Gaara was willing to reach out on his end, then Lee would be there to meet him halfway, however he managed it.

Lee's thumb was drawing the pattern of tension it found on the back of Gaara's neck. Slowly and by degrees, the rigid lines of Gaara's body unbent. His neck bowed beneath Lee's gentle caress, until Gaara's chin was resting on his shoulder. Something seemed to leave Gaara. It trickled from him to sink into the sand and rock beneath their feet.

"I don't know what you expect of me. Or of this bond." The words were soft in Lee's ear.

"To tell you the truth, I don't really know either," Lee admitted, letting the hand on Gaara's neck slip to his shoulder. "But you know what? We'll just have to figure it out."

"I don't know if I can be happy. I hope you won't be disappointed if that doesn't happen-"


"-but this feels good," Gaara finished simply, his hand reaching up and settling on Lee's shoulder in something that was half illustration, half a return of the embrace.

Lee felt something loosen in him. He slipped his other hand between the curve of Gaara's back and that of the gourd; his hand brushed the hardened Sand. He absently wondered if anybody else had ever touched the thing deliberately before.

This was it, he realized. This was what he wanted, and yeah, he wanted all of it, even if he couldn't understand it all either. He wanted to hold the touch-starved child-killer; the dangerous, demon-ridden man; the Kazekage; the friend; the lover, too, because that was a part of the whole as well. He wanted all of it; he wanted Gaara, so badly.

Something small and furry scurried from one stone to the next, twenty feet away. Lee tracked it with his eyes and senses automatically; one of the desert gerbils that nested in the rocks. The sky was a light neutral colour. It was going to be day soon, the sun rose quickly in the desert.

Gaara shifted, then straightened. He waited until Lee had removed his hand from between the gourd and his back, and then he stepped away.

"I have to get back." Gaara's fingers lingered on Lee's arm before falling away with a gesture that looked way too weary for Lee's peace of mind. "I need some rest."

Lee reached out and touched the red hair near Gaara's temple. The locks were rougher and coarser than he'd expected. "Are you okay?"

Gaara glanced at him, and for an instant Lee thought he would turn away and not answer, like he usually did. But Gaara didn't turn away.

"Yes. But he's getting restless," he said in a low voice.

Gaara never talked about his 'guest', nobody in Suna did. Lee didn't know how much it cost Gaara to say those few words out loud to someone who actually mattered to him, but he could make an educated guess, and Lee would have hugged him again for that small step if he hadn't been so busy panicking.

"We have to get you back! Do you want me to carry you? Oh, you're probably faster than I am right now- or can you rest here? I'll keep watch over you! I'll defend you with my life! Er, or rather, I'll defend you very vigorously and with the intention of both of us surviving."

Gaara stared at him, and then the corner of his mouth crooked upwards in that small smirk.

"Don't worry," he answered, turning back towards the village, "I've got a margin. But I had better deal with this without any more delay. I think I can rest now."

Lee forced himself to walk instead of gallop. He trusted Gaara to know what taking care of the Tail required. Gaara did look okay. Tired, but, well, more relaxed than he'd been when Lee had jumped out his window earlier. Lee allowed himself to unwind as well and enjoy these few minutes together.

Gaara paused as they reached the rampart and took one last look out into the desert, eyes narrowing against the sliver of sun dancing like a rope of fire on the horizon.

"Can you make it back up?" he asked, turning back to Lee and nodding up at the ramparts above their head. "Or should we go through the gates."

"Oh please," Lee snorted. "I'm convalescing, not dead."

"You're tired, too. You stumbled twice on the way back."

"I couldn't see properly," Lee answered, with great dignity. "We don't all have the eyes of a cat and an innate ability to walk over sand, you know."

Gaara snorted softly. There was the slightest displacement of air and then he was standing twenty feet above, on the rampart. Lee followed, a bit less gracefully but without stumbling, of course, what a silly suggestion.

"You need sleep," Gaara announced over his shoulder, already a couple of feet away.

"No point, it'll be six by the time I get back. I'll pull a redeye."

Gaara glanced back without stopping. "I've heard the men use that expression before. What does it mean?"

"It's what we do after long patrols. It means I'll run a few laps around Suna, drink three cups of that sludge you people call coffee, and then work and train through the day to stay awake. I'll crash tonight, and sleep through till morning. It'll get my internal clock back on track."

Gaara's eyes narrowed, but in the end, all he said was: "If you say so."

Then, after a moment of silence, and perhaps a brief internal struggle, he muttered: "Just don't overdo it."

Lee nodded seriously and thumped his chest. "I won't! I promise!"

Gaara didn't comment, he just nodded wearily at the guard as they passed her. She was looking at Lee and appeared to be amused for some reason.

They jumped down to the streets of Suna and made their way to its main intersection.

"Mind if I walk with you as far back as your place?" Lee added brightly, because he always did ask; it was only polite.

Gaara looked faintly puzzled, an expression only three people in Suna would have been able to decipher. "It's out of your way."

"I don't mind. I'd like to." Lee hesitated, glanced at Gaara and added, a bit more intentionally. "I'd really like to."

The Kazekage looked at him without comprehension.

Lee wondered if he should explain- but he wasn't very good at talking about sentimental stuff without using broad romantic declarations. And it would be really easy to say more than he meant that way, or say something that could be misinterpreted by a man who had very little background to interpret them correctly. It just...words were surprisingly tricky, when you thought about it-

Gaara reached out and nudged Lee to the left, in the direction of Lee's room and away from the street leading back to the Kazekage's residence. Lee decided he shouldn't feel all that disappointed. Gaara might have opened up a bit, but he was still the same inside, which meant aloof, stubborn and doted with all the empathy of a scorpion who'd just had a bad day-

In a voice that suggested that Lee was being humoured, Gaara said: "If you're coming with me, move. We'll detour by the gate. I need to talk to the Jounin on duty before I go rest."

"Okay!" Lee glanced at Gaara with a bright big smile. "Thanks."

"No need to thank me," Gaara said softly, still visibly puzzled. The hand on Lee's shoulder was still there.


Lee put the training weights - the small twenty-pound ones - on the desk. He had water, a towel, his weapons and a lot to think about. There had been volumes of communication in that hug earlier. A whole understanding set out in a language they were both barely beginning to learn. Lee had made a few heavy promises these last few hours, and he would have to think carefully on how to fulfil them.

But he wasn't moving to pick up his sport's bag. He was staring at the pen on his desk.

He reached down, took out the balled up piece of paper from the wastebasket, then he dropped it back in and picked up a fresh sheet and sat down.

Dear Gai-sensei

This will come as a big surprise to you, but Gaara and I have realized we care deeply for each other, and we have decided to get together. It won't be easy, but we're both brave, determined, and in the full springtime of our youth. We will give it our best. I'm sure we'll make mistakes, but as you taught me, we will learn from them and they will make us stronger. If we fail, then we will not have deserved this victory. But I don't think we will fail. I love him. I will try, with all the determination you taught me, to make him happy. He's going to have to learn what that means, and what he wants for that to happen. I think I am going to be learning quite a lot as well. We're both going to change. I think that, with each other to rely on, we will change into the kind of men we could really deserve to be. If that makes sense. I've never been as good at speeches as you, Sensei, and I'm a bit tired, but I think you understand me.

Thank you for your help, Gai-sensei.

Respectfully, your student,

Rock Lee

Lee reread the letter a few times, then he went to burn it, along with the drafts. He didn't think he had ever had the intention of sending it in the first place. He desperately wanted Gai-sensei's guidance and approval, but this was the one situation he was going to have to figure out without his teacher's help.

Without Gai-sensei's help, but not alone.

Gaara was a genius who’d conquered himself and Suna’s fears to become Kazekage, and Lee was a splendid beast of hard work and determination who'd become a Jounin despite not knowing any Genjutsu or Ninjutsu; a couple of impossible feats between the two of them already. Together, they could surely conquer this new challenge. They could do this! Right!

Lee hopped out the window for the second time that day and hurtled off towards the training grounds, suddenly full of energy again.

End Part Fifteen

The next chapter won't be out until the second week of January, as I'll be on holiday and spending time with family. The next chapter was really hard to write, it still needs a polish, so I hope I'll have time to work on it a bit in the weeks to come, as well as Freeport. DR has gotten more complicated to write, as I try to say a lot without actually, you know, boring people or bogging the story down. I want to keep a tone for DR; something that's got dark undercurrents (hey, it's Gaara we're talking about), but that's also readable and fun and engrossing and makes sense without writing tons of stupefying paragraphs on the psychology of the characters and explaining everything ('show, don't tell', being the eternal writer's motto...) Daunting, to say the least, especially with my crazy timetable :P Encouragement and comments very much appreciated, they always help me through the rough spots in my fics.

Have a happy holiday, everybody, in whatever flavour you enjoy it.
Admantius: icha-icha-gaaraadmantius on December 22nd, 2005 09:50 pm (UTC)
I, once again, am floored by your ability to write even in the midst of all the Holiday stress that you're going through. I've tried on several occasions to write any sort of fanfic, but always let them die out without getting anywhere. I can see why so many people love to read your stories.

During this fic I find myself wanting to know Gaara's take on all of this, and considering that it's from Lee's point of view I can understand why you're doing that, but it seems like authors avoid writing from Gaara's perspective simply because he's so complex. As a future challenge-type-thing, perhaps consider writing a serious story from our favorite crazy-man's point of view. Just a thought.

Otherwise, this story is one of the best Naruto fictions that I've read to date if only for the reason that everyone is so in character. (There are more reasons than that, but that one is the most obvious.)

I thought you deserved to finally get a longer review from me, and next chapter I might pull my self together enough to make it a critical review instead of an "OMG Gaara-Lee Smexy," because I am capable of those. Really...
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 30th, 2005 04:43 am (UTC)
Gaara's POV? That's a tough one, especially for a stickler on characterisation. He's easier to approach through someone else's eyes, especially someone sympathetic like Lee. In the series, Gaara doesn't say much, especially after Naruto beats him, so it's hard to say how much damage he's still harboring. Whatever degree of psychosis you give him, that is something that's very hard to write from an immersive POV. The logic and POV of someone who's crazy is hard to understand unless you're in their disturbed head. Maybe I'll tackle that tough nut one day...I must admit I'm tempted. But it will be a harder fic to write and read than this one, lemme tell you ^^;
Proud_Snapistproud_snapist on December 22nd, 2005 11:18 pm (UTC)
::am quivering in delight:: I absolutely was thrilled to see you update. Gaara's confusion and anxiety and fears are endearingly heartbreaking, and I feel so bad for him while so very very glad that he now has Lee. I loved the drafts Lee was writing. I could see that happening and see how it would be comforting just to imagine Gai-sensei's support to rely on. You write beautifully damaged creatures with such finesse! Great chapter.

Oh one more thing, I loved Gaara's comment about Naruto not being able to keep his mouth shut, even when he had broken it during the jounin exams. ROTFLMAO....that was great.

Hope you have a happy holiday!!!
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 30th, 2005 04:48 am (UTC)
'Beautifully damaged creature' should be set to a Gaara icon ^__^ I might just do that, if you don't mind me kidnapping that sentence from you :P

Glad you liked the chapter! The letters and their evolution - and Lee's thought processes they illustrate - were fun to write. I think Lee mainly needed to think things through without as much pressure, and imagining someone older and wiser (erm, sorta wiser...well, with bushier eyebrows anyway) to lean on, even if what he was really doing was laying it out in his own mind. And I can just imagine Naruto trying to talk through a broken jaw...^_^ I have to get back to writing NaruSasu one day.
(no subject) - proud_snapist on December 30th, 2005 05:28 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Anonymous) on December 23rd, 2005 12:03 am (UTC)
I was NOT expecting another chapter today. This has brought a smile to my face :D time to read!

*will reply to this with fangirlish review*

(Anonymous) on December 23rd, 2005 05:28 am (UTC)
reply: "..... *speechless*" Another beautiful chapter. You really know how to keep a story compelling :D
(no subject) - maldoror_gw on December 30th, 2005 04:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
K. Take: ANBU Sasukefutago_02 on December 23rd, 2005 12:28 am (UTC)
oh, the dark currents are definitely there... when i think about it, gaara scares me sometimes... :) and YES, another chapter! you've made my day! ;) and lee's "small twenty pound" weights... *snort* small, my ass. i think men are way to strong for their own good sometimes... my brother is three years younger and he's got more muscle power than i'll ever have, i'll tell you that... :( and i loved the way lee burned the letters. the last letter was like a eloping letter, and i was like, "dude, is he really sending that?" :) and then he just burned it and i was like, "oh." :) hah. ok, i'll stop babbling like lee now... and the awesomeness blows me away. :)
K. Takefutago_02 on December 23rd, 2005 12:28 am (UTC)
oh yeah, and merry xmas to you too! :) and new doggy year, of course!
(no subject) - maldoror_gw on December 30th, 2005 05:04 am (UTC) (Expand)
JBMcDragonjbmcdragon on December 23rd, 2005 12:30 am (UTC)
Haven't had a chance to respond lately, and this won't be a long one either, but I wanted to say thanks. I'm really enjoying this, and it was a perfectly bright spot to an otherwise utterly exhausting few weeks. ;)

Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 30th, 2005 05:27 am (UTC)
Glad you're enjoying it, and that it pepped up your weeks! I've had a few exhausting days meself...talk about the season to be merry, falalalalalawtf. Fortunately, writing pretty boys making out always brightens my day...

love and joy and hijinks: ::chibiGojyo!:: [by weyrlady]permetaform on December 23rd, 2005 12:45 am (UTC)
ooooooohh, lovely, thank you!
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 30th, 2005 05:27 am (UTC)
Ye're welcome, m'dear, ye're welcome ^_^
This feather may look worthless...: chibigaaraleesilverkiiri on December 23rd, 2005 01:28 am (UTC)
Got to read this earlier, but had no time to comment. I've forgotten some of the things I loved, but I had to come back and leave some sort of feedback. ^^

I loved the very idea of this chapter, Lee trying to write a letter that comes close to explaining in the right way. The letters, and the way they evolved, just seemed to capture the situation so perfectly, and show us Lee's thoughts as he tried to explain to Gai and himself what exactly he and Gaara have.

And the part where Lee hugs Gaara and brushes against the gourd made me wibble-squee. Loved it, loved it, loved it. ::snuggle::
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 06:17 am (UTC)
The idea of Lee writing those letters had struck me many chapters ago, when I was still thinking of the evolution of these chapters. Lee isn't the kind to hesitate too much and doubt himself, or examine himself too deeply...but I think he needed to take a step back and 'talk with the sensei', even if he was only really trying to figure things out for himself ^_^

More wibble-squeeing up ahead, I hope :P
acechan on December 23rd, 2005 01:59 am (UTC)
Yay! More DR, right before I have to leave for the land of the internet-less!

I wish I could think of something coherent to say, but this chapter has reduced me to happy warm mush. I love Lee's repeated attempts via letter to explain what the hell is going on with him and Gaara. I really, really love Lee's mental capitalization of Hormones. And I "awwwwwwwww" over the whole hugging scene, and over Lee burning all the letters because he wants to work it out on his own. Or rather, on their own. Which is as it should be.
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 06:21 am (UTC)
A confused Lee is an adorable Lee (mind you, Lee's pretty easy to make adorable whatever he does). Yup, it's time for Lee and Gaara to take this into their own hands and figure it out. It might not go quite in the direction Lee expects, what with Gaara being a biiiit crazy still, around the edges. But that's what makes it fun ^_^

Good luck in the Land of No Internet. I've just passed through the desert myself and it ain't pretty...
Alison: tifasonnie_skies on December 23rd, 2005 02:13 am (UTC)
ah lurve u!

m'kay, intentionally bad spelling aside, i just wanted to say that i'm happy to see your latest installment. good luck on the next chapter, too ^^
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 06:22 am (UTC)
Aww thanx ^_^ Yeah, next chapter's kicking my butt, but I will win! It's a promise! *good guy pose*
凍結する砂漠の中心: KanzeonBosatsuhime_no_nishi on December 23rd, 2005 02:40 am (UTC)
This story is going so well. It's incredibly realistic the way you write. I can totally see this happening in the manga. It's also amazing that you can write during the holidays. Keep up the lovely writing.
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 06:24 am (UTC)
Actually I'm not writing during the holidays; all this was written a couple of weeks before. I can't write anything during these holidays, waaaay too busy ^_^; But I should have some free time to myself, with nobody but Gaara and Lee and my crazy inspiration, fairly soon.

Thanks for the praise! Realistic is part of what I aim for! I like adding little details - about Suna or about the characters- that hopefully flesh them and the fic out.
Trivrurounitriv on December 23rd, 2005 03:03 am (UTC)
They're getting there... no violent reactions on Gaara's part, at least, and they're talking about serious emotional stuff. Gaara's beginning to get this whole "love" concept, I think, even if he hasn't quite gotten the idea that he might feel it himself.
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 06:30 am (UTC)
Yes, they're getting there indeed. Some fanfics have Gaara 'discovering love' after one kiss (or one shag, depending on the rating :P) and hey presto, he's got the puzzle that many an author (I'm talking serious authors here) have spent their lifetime and several books, plays, songs and/or philosophy treaties pursuing. When I read that, I feel like asking Gaara to share his discovery with me. I've still not figured out this 'love' thing entirely, and I got twice his years or more under my belt...In this fic, Gaara is going to circle love, nibbling at its edges and trying to reduce it to bits he can understand. Eventually, he'll figure out as much as any of us can, and he'll realize he's been in love with Lee pretty much all along, more or less; silly boy. It might take a few years, and that particular moment of Eureka! might not even make it into the fic, it'd take too long :P We'll get the fun parts in the fic though!
(no subject) - rurounitriv on December 31st, 2005 09:07 am (UTC) (Expand)
Battle Angel Productionsalita_b_angel on December 23rd, 2005 03:15 am (UTC)
This is such a sweet chapter. Usually I'm bored with complicated 'touchy feely talk', but you always manage to convince me it's important and the eventual pay off is more satisfying with the emotional back log. I also have a strange need to see Gaara all adorable and confused. So much sympathy for your skill in slugging through the psychology, but the effort is definitely worth it. It's touching and sweet and the exposition didn't drag at all.

I really like the fact that gai is such a consistent force in Lee's life. I could practically see Gai sensei's understanding and ironic interpretation of the situation (compared to him and Kakashi who are, of course, doing it), and yes, the fierce pride he would have. The fact that Lee didn't send the letter makes me realise Gai would eventually if not 2/3 feel those things anyway. It's nice to see that bond consistently there. Or Maybe I love Gai a scary amount.

There is promise of some smexing next chapter?
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 06:35 am (UTC)
Usually I'm bored with complicated 'touchy feely talk'

You and me both; that's the reason this chapter almost didn't come into existence. But there were bits in there that needed to be said. I defused a lot of info dumping with those letters, and I also liked the way that linked Lee and Gai once more; that bond is so strong, I have to make it an integral part of Lee's life and way of thinking, even when he realizes that this is something he has to face on his own.

Since the next chapter does containg smexing, we do not feel too sorry for Lee...(Mind you, this is shaping up to be one of the stranger lemons I've written to date - which is saying a lot for Maldoror - so the smexing comes with a Weirdness Factor 5 Warning)
(no subject) - complexphoenix on December 31st, 2005 05:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 06:46 am (UTC)
Thanks ^_^
wait then as my heart drops: ravenlostdarkemptyheart on December 23rd, 2005 04:13 am (UTC)
I don't have anything witty or profound to say. I just want to tell you I read the chapter and enjoyed it very much. I always like your charaterization of Lee and Gaara. It's all about details and you pay great attention to that. Like say the whole Gai-letter Lee is trying to write throughout the chapter, it's nice to see Lee's bond to him not forgotten. I'll be patiently waiting for the next chapter after New Years. Merry Christmas.
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 06:48 am (UTC)
Indeed, Gai's importance to Lee can't be forgotten. Even though Lee is essentially using the letter to work through his feelings himself, he's still got Gai in mind, he needs his mentor even if it's only in his own imagination. I'm glad you enjoyed the chapter (and that's always nice for me to hear!) ^_^ Happy new years as well!
Crystalline Starslikeredgold on December 23rd, 2005 05:39 am (UTC)
What a surprise! And a delightful one at that! I wasn't expecting a new DR chapter today! It's like an early Christmas present! I don't have anything really...profound to say, just the basic I read, I loved (adored and near worshiped really), and I look forward to the next chapter Come on January
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 10:11 pm (UTC)
I wasn't sure I could get it out before Christmas, what with all that was going on, but I thought it'd make a good present, since I tend not to send out cards or celebrate the season much ^_^ Glad you loved it!
Doewiebeledoewiebele on December 23rd, 2005 01:50 pm (UTC)
Good, lovable, brilliant!

Whenever you want a drawing... feel free to request ^^
Maldoror: Beautifully Damaged Creature Gaaramaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 10:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks, glad you liked it! I've been spoiled rotten with pics, I think *_* I don't have enough 'image' savvy to request anything - I can write it, but I can't imagine it drawn until someone else puts it on paper; but I'll stare in awe at all the lovelies people have sent so far.
(Deleted comment)
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 10:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks ^_^
zalika_02zalika_02 on December 23rd, 2005 06:53 pm (UTC)
Wow. Its brilliant!
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 10:19 pm (UTC)
*makes victory sign* Thanks!
tokagemusume on December 23rd, 2005 06:58 pm (UTC)
"Dear Gai-sensei" puts me a little in mind of writing a grown-up letter to Santa or some other handy sounding board... Very charming concept and nicely done, too. I laughed out loud at how many times he destroyed the letter and snapped his pens... Very engaging.
Everything has been so thought out, so explained, so planned and handled carefully -- I hope the time for some wild lightening in their relationship might be upon them...
Have a nice holiday!
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 10:21 pm (UTC)
Re: *g*
"Dear Gai-sensei" puts me a little in mind of writing a grown-up letter to Santa

Lol, it hit me with the same echoes, since it's that season anyway. I'm glad the concept worked, because it could have fallen very flat on it's face ^_^;

Wild lightening coming right up...next chapter!
Illucienillucien on December 23rd, 2005 09:47 pm (UTC)
Hope you have a great time with your family! Sweet chapter, I totally love it when fics have letters, too bad Lee never sent it, I would totally have liked to see Gai-sensei's reaction to all this. ^^ Wow January huh, thats a long wait >-o I'll hafta keep myself busy until then.
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 10:22 pm (UTC)
I can imagine Gai's reaction to this: Googly eyes, wide-open jaw, stammering...and Kakashi reading over his shoulder and saying 'I told you so', probably. That reminds me, I gotta start thinking about those upcoming chapters soon :P
obsessed_futago: mawari~obsessed_futago on December 24th, 2005 12:28 am (UTC)
Love how you keep the people in character no matter who you write about...^^ And I'm elated to see an update--didn't think you'd update til the new year. You write the whole confused relationship thingy really great, I think. Well, happy hols.
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 10:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks, glad this chapter came out okay ^_^ I wanted to make it readable, but realistic and in character. I just love a challenge *groan*
technodestinytechnoranma on December 25th, 2005 07:30 am (UTC)
long long review for you....
Hi, I’m TechnoRanma and I’ve been reading Diplomatic Relations…

This will probably be annoyin to read but I want you to know just what you’ve done to me with this story…. I was the type of person who HATED yaoi. I bashed it, I shunned it in favour of het pairings (even when now, looking back those het pairings weren’t as possible as yaoi ones) … I did all kinds of things. Then I actually started to like it, and I ended up becoming one of the biggest supporters of a male/male pair which turned out to become canon…. But still, I had hated on yaoi pairings that didn’t have romantic evidence. I publicly bitched about them, tried to get fics with disturbing pairings deleted…. I basically did a lot of shit that I was proud of doing, and thought it was the absolutely right thing to do.

When I got into Naruto fandom a short while ago, I was really into LeeSaku cause it was cute (while I knew it wouldn’t seriously happen…), but I decided to try and be open to all pairings. I’d seen Lee & Gaara stuff around before, and when I had I’d cringed cause I could only imagine something seriously dark and terrible with no real love involved. (I hadn’t seen them versus Kimimaro yet). Then somehow I came across your LJ and I saw Diplomatic Relations. Your story was a Lee/Gaara, and I saw how many people commented on your entries and I decided to try reading it, all the while thinking that it couldn’t really be that good, nobody could make Lee & Gaara work……

But..but…The way you wrote it… the way those two characters ended up becoming friends, the way Lee ended up falling in love with Gaara, the way Gaara is feeling things he’s never felt before…!! You made it work, and not only that, but you made it almost impossible for me to see them ending up with anybody else. The story flows so unbelievably well, like it’s not even a story but you’re just watching it happen! If anything, you are a brilliant writer. How’d you manage to keep their characters so well??? How’d you manage to make me rethink my whole way of thinking of pairings?

I’ve always been the biggest fan of conventional romance…. and now here you are, with this story that makes me regret never giving pairings or stories like this a try. Look how crazy you’ve made me!! I became damn obsessed with Lee/Gaara now, I’m drawin art like mad where before I got upset looking at it, I’ve reread every chapter of your fic, and others, SO many times because this pairing is scarce… I’ve even saved it to my computer. I found your story on a Saturday. I read all the available chapters on that Saturday... by the last few ones I was grabbing my head and nearly had a breakdown for enjoying it so much. I purposely read extremely slowly to prolong it! I found out that it was to update on the Sunday right after. I spent that day refreshing the page like a desperate fool...
technodestinytechnoranma on December 25th, 2005 07:35 am (UTC)
long review cont....
While waiting for chapter 12, every moment I had free I was thinking about it, I couldn’t even say it out loud which pairing I was reading about because it scared me so freakin much that I’d actually extremely enjoyed it….. I kept on thinking and thinking and I finally had to accept that I had to revise my whole way of fandom. You-you … this story has certainly changed me. I was afraid to review or say anything that would give away just what you did to me. I commented on pretty much everything BUT the one piece of work that actually got me to love Lee and Gaara as a pair…..

Please forgive me for that.

How can I possibly say all I need to about this story? I loved the way Lee arrived in Suna and Tsunade’s dialogue in his head. I loved the way Gaara wanted to spar and practice with Lee but he just did not have the capacity to realize he could ask, or that Lee would want to with him. I loved the way Lee offered without Gaara having to realize the problem anyway. I loved the sandstorms and the power and the fight scenes and how they were still Lee and Gaara, jounin leaf ninja and Kagekaze, not just two leading male characters in a yaoi story.

I LOVED the way you created the perfect imagery of the hidden sand village and culture, that just seems so right, and like you somehow had managed to live there yourself because it’s so flawless. I love the way Gaara began to care about Lee, and how it was so believable and in character… how you worked the other Leaf ninja’s in there to help fill in about Gaara’s past…

I knew I was truly and completely caught up in this story when I read chapter 6, and there’s not much I can say about it other than my resistance completely died by how fantastic – nay- how amazingly funny and cool and perfect you made everything fit into place.

I nearly died when you wrote about them fighting together, and how freakin AWESOME it is, and how friggin INCREDIBLE a tag team they make. And I nearly killed myself by my own chairdancing when Lee’s attraction started to develop and that scene, where Gaara makes them bathe together….. I can tell ya right now how I went to heaven and back with Lee’s dream scene, and I ain’t even religious…..

Desert Apple… that chapter… that is the one where you became a goddess and I became a Lee x Gaara fan. That-THAT’S not even writing. That’s something beyond it, I’m tellin’ you…. The ACTION was something that deserved to be set to badass music and made into an anime music video hundreds of times cause I just can’t get over it…. Writing fight scenes so well should be illegal……
technodestinytechnoranma on December 25th, 2005 07:35 am (UTC)
long review again, complete!
And. The. Part…. Where Gaara Holds Lee.

Right then and there, Maldoror, you could have a thousand ships set sail across the ocean for you and I would be on the first one.

Lee’s revelation of being in love with Gaara is just…. Just so real. I don’t know how else to praise it, cause it wasn’t forced, it wasn’t overdone, you could really see where the feeling came from, and… Lee became my hero.

When I watched those episodes that dealt with Gaara’s past and the Shukaku and all, I thought to myself, even though I hadn’t considered shipping a pairing with Gaara at the time… I thought, I want someone to show Gaara what love is. It became one of the things I hoped to see in the fanfic side of the fandom one day….

And Diplomatic Relations did it.

Just…. Just, this one line, I won’t EVER forget it.

“Something changed out there, in the desert. Why did you want me to hold you while you slept that night? Why did it feel that way when you did?”

And…… oh my GOD, the way they’re getting closer, the way Gaara is so protective, the way Lee touches and wants to be with Gaara…. I never thought it’d be so right, but it is!!

Maldoror….. this newest chapter…. The ending to it….

“Gaara was a genius who’d conquered himself and Suna’s fears to become Kazekage, and Lee was a splendid beast of hard work and determination who'd become a Jounin despite not knowing any Genjutsu or Ninjutsu; a couple of impossible feats between the two of them already.

Together, they could surely conquer this new challenge. They could do this! Right!”

That’s what love is, right there…. The feeling of being able to conquer the world and do anything cause you’ve got the one you love to do it with you…. How’d you manage to capture it and make it shine in Rock Lee for Gaara of the Sand like that? I can’t wait to see if it’ll all work out for both of them…. I really hope it does……

You may say this isn’t meant to be a conventional romance, but…. It sure makes me feel way more than some of the greatest (and admittedly mushiest) love stories I’ve read before have. I have to say, I haven’t read all that much Naruto yet, and even though the Lee x Gaara fanfic world is pretty small… this has to be one of the Best Fan Fictions I have EVER read.

…….. I still have tons I can say…. But I’ve already spent 3 days on this…. just-uh ..one more thing…. GAARALEE IZ SO SMEXY OMFGGF PLEASE MORE SOON!!!! I’LL WAIT FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!!@@##!!!! *descends into fangirlism*
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 10:43 pm (UTC)
Re: long review again, complete!
Lol, when you said 'long review', you weren't kidding ^__^

Thanks (which sounds a bit short, but is fully and truly meant; your review made a great Xmas present). Lee's my hero too. I can see why you'd be leary of this pairing to start with: so was I, even though it dragged me in like an iron filing to a magnet as soon as I heard about it. I thought it was morbid curiosity at first, because even though something in me just couldn't wait to read some GaaraLee once I'd heard about it, I couldn't imagine it would be any good ^^; Then I read the really good fics on the LeeGaara community, particularly the stuff by Rainyd, and Gaara's Courtship and anything by Gelfling, and my brain imploded. DR was found in the wreckage.

The great thing, I think, is that the characters have a tremendous amount of potential in the series, but we don't know all that much about them. The fics I mentioned above and DR all develop the characterisation, they 'feel' right, they base themselves on the series quite logically...and they take the boys and the pairings in radically different directions.

Regarding the unconventional romance thing: This fic is a lot more romantic than most of my others (except the Drunken Fist series), truth be told, since Lee is a fairly romantic character, and I love him for that. The unconventional side of it comes from Gaara, who wouldn't know what romance was if it chewed on his ankle, and who doesn't understand love all that well - despite what a lot of fanfics would have us believe, love is a bloody hard subject to corner, especially for a Childhood Trauma poster boy like Gaara. I don't think Gaara will figure it out in the course of this single fic; not with the character setup I gave him. He'll be heading in the right direction, though, so it will definitely end well ^_^

Glad you loved the fic so much, and that it dragged you into the pairing ^_^ I get such a kick out of these two guys that I love it when I can get other people hooked as well. Especially people who draw reeeeeaally well and make very smexy pics of Lee and Gaara snuggling in trees or ripping each other's clothes off during a sparring match ^____^ Oh yeah.
That was beautiful! - complexphoenix on January 1st, 2006 11:04 pm (UTC) (Expand)
nayamashi on December 29th, 2005 06:27 am (UTC)
I would like to first start out by saying that you have ruined normal fanfictions for Naya! She can no longer read them without comparing their writing style to yours, which is much better. This is very sad, because Naya doesn't even really like any anime other than Naruto.
Also, you may add Naya onto your list of people you have dragged into liking this pairing kicking and screaming.
Anyways, you probably want to hear some feedback about the chapter. You made this chapter perfect without overly polishing it; it's a beautiful transition from the confusion and pain after Lee's confession to a future for the two lovebirds. Maya particularly likes the way you use contradictory statements to move the story along, like this:

Maybe he was just being paranoid. He'd been thinking too much about Gaara tonight. And he really needed some sleep; he was getting a bit frazzled.

Lee had been a Shinobi for too many years to fool himself

It's a highly effective tool that few other authors have pulled off so well. Well, Naya has very little left to say of any merit, so she will be slinking off now. Best wishes for the next chapter!
Maldorormaldoror_gw on December 31st, 2005 10:49 pm (UTC)
Also, you may add Naya onto your list of people you have dragged into liking this pairing kicking and screaming.

*puts another Victory notch on the side of her monitor*

Using contradictory statements is indeed difficult; sometimes I put them in and then take them out again when a good re-read tells me they'd just confuse people ^^; I'm glad this one worked! And there is indeed an interesting future ahead for the lovebirds; although Lee's due for some more confusion and uncertainty in the course of it (but a befuddled Lee is a cute Lee ^_^)

If you're new to the pairing, let me poke you in this direction:

It's the fics previously posted on the LeeGaara comm, and contain some jewels that easily rival mine ^^; They're all a really good read as well.

I'll go work on next chapter now ^__^