Maldoror (maldoror_gw) wrote,

Diplomatic Relations, Part Sixteen - part 1

I'm back! Here's a chapter a lot of people were waiting for, and that I've been sweating blood over for the last two months or more, trying to get it right. Wurhg. I hope you all enjoy. It's about twice as long as the other DR chapters, but I found that the length was needed.

Urm, it's so long, I'm gonna have to post it in two parts. I HATE DOING THAT!!!

Rating: NC17 (Mal's Lemon Bunny is back, baby!) Please read warning under the cut.





WARNING: Okay, sex happens, needless to say, but due to the characterisation....let's just say, this turned out to be one of the weirder lemons I've written to date. If you like classic lemons, and/or have low tolerance for sex slightly (but not entirely) dissociated from True Pure Powerful Lurve, then please skip this chapter, I beg of you. It won't really hurt, you can pick up the story again in the next chapter, and the next few lemons are somewhat more normal (within Mal standards, natch...okay, the next one is kinda weird too, now that I think about it).

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 Sixteen: Closer.





The start of Lee's week had been intense, to say the least. He'd been tossed against a rock, scratched and bruised, threatened with sandy death, kissed, tantalized and argued with. He'd had Gaara accept his love and open up to him a bit, too. That was almost as traumatic as the rest, in a strange way.

And it was only Wednesday.

Nobody would have blamed Lee for approaching the Kazekage's residence a bit diffidently after all that. Not that Lee did, of course. He strode right through the courtyard and rapped hopefully on the door.

"Gaara? You in?"

Silence.

Just as he was about to knock again, he felt a faint flicker of chakra from inside the house. The Shinobi equivalent of an acknowledgement and an invitation to enter.

Lee tried the door and found it unlocked. He slipped off his sandals in the lobby and hopped up the three small steps into the large reception room. He looked around expectantly, but to his surprise, Gaara wasn't anywhere to be seen. The robe of office was hanging - a bit carelessly - from the knob of a sword hilt, one of the weapons of past leaders decorating the walls of the richly furnished room. No signs of its owner, though. Lee craned his neck to see if Gaara was in the kitchen off to one side, getting some tea or a late lunch. Nobody there either.

"In here."

The quiet words answered the question Lee was about to voice.

Lee had never been in this room before. He looked around with great curiosity. It was barren, compared to the reception area. There was only a double bed, a small undecorated cupboard, a long, low writing table shoved into one corner, covered in papers and books, a cushion next to it for kneeling while working, and that was it.

Gaara was on the far side of the bed, sitting in the open window, his back propped against the large sill. He was wearing simple pants and a sleeveless red tunic, a rare informality. The gourd was leaning against the wall beneath the window. Gaara had gathered his knees to his chest, resting his arms against them, his face turned away. He was staring out over Sunagakure. Lee didn't know what Gaara could be watching so intently; he'd just walked through the village, and anybody who had half a brain was hiding indoors from the fierce, early-afternoon sunshine.

Lee studied Gaara's profile for a moment, because on a purely superficial level, Lee enjoyed looking at Gaara. But on another level, he was trying to judge his friend's mood.

Distant, was the first conclusion that popped into Lee's head. Gaara looked like he was wandering the twisted paths deep inside his own mind. But he didn't look tired or in pain. He didn't look like he wanted to talk, either. Beyond that, Lee couldn't guess. He'd seen Gaara like this before. He normally left his friend alone in these circumstances. But Gaara had invited him in. And Lee had the feeling, which he could in no way justify with any logical observation, that even now Gaara was trying to let him come closer.

Lee had spent hours in Gaara's silent company before, in the desert, on missions, or at night in his office when the Kazekage didn't feel like talking. Lee didn't mind getting monosyllabic answers or none at all for awhile, especially if it meant he could continue to admire the view. Maybe his presence here would give Gaara the impetus to stop brooding.

"Did you get a good rest yesterday, after I walked you home?" Lee asked politely.

After a few seconds, Gaara's chin dipped a fraction.

"Good! I slept over twelve hours last night myself. But I did manage to get some good work done during the day, while trying to stay awake. I finished re-sorting those reports, and I've been working with Sanada on correlating information." Sanada had been nice and ignored Lee's frequent yawns. "A summary should be on your desk sometime tomorrow."

Gaara nodded faintly, still without looking around.

Lee hesitated between the cushion in the corner and the bed. The bed would be better, if Gaara didn't mind. It was only a few feet away from the window and Lee could sit down facing his friend and talk without craning his neck.

He sat down, and then got to his feet again. He turned, prodded the bed suspiciously, and sat back down gingerly. He shifted his weight around and grimaced.

"Good God, Gaara, do you sleep on this?"

His antics had at least drawn some of Gaara's attention. Green eyes were studying him incuriously.

"No," Gaara finally answered, seeming a bit more focused.

"Good for you. I'd rather sleep on the floor." The thin mattress was lumpy and worn, even through the sheets. The platform beneath it was slanted in a way that would be a long-term danger to a warrior's posture, and the legs creaked.

"But you can sleep these days. You told me so. Right?" Lee prodded the mattress. "I mean, when you said you needed to rest yesterday, I assumed-"

"I sleep." Gaara was still looking at him, and Lee thought the whole question had at least had the merit of distracting him. "My mental resistance has increased over the years. I can sleep for two or three hours without ill effects."

"Oh. And you can do that on this bed?" Lee asked incredulously. He shoved against the ground with his feet and the whole thing wobbled and groaned alarmingly.

"No. I don't lie down. I do it over there." Gaara jerked his chin towards the cushion near the writing desk. "It's an old habit."

"So the bed...?"

"An old one."

"Didn't they give you a better one when you took office?"

"They did. I let Temari have it. She has back problems."

"I see."

Gaara looked at the scenery again, and Lee went back to admiring his own view: Gaara's profile cut out against the desert sky, the curve of the neck, the arms in the sleeveless tunic. It was a very fine view, in Lee's opinion.

"I thought you'd be back in your office today," he finally said, testing the ground. "But your aide told me you'd gone home before noon."

At least that got a reaction, however small. Gaara's lips tightened.

"Yes. I've had fifteen hours of work a day ever since I took the position of Kazekage, but not this morning."

"What do you mean?" Lee asked, perplexed by Gaara's unusually bitter tone.

"I've scared them," said Gaara, still looking out over the rooftops of the village that fell away from the elevation on which the Kazekage's residence was perched. "Considering my behaviour these past few days, I can't say I blame them. There was a small conspiracy of paperwork shuffling around me this morning, aimed at leaving me with nothing to do today but go home and rest some more."

"I'm sure they meant well," Lee ventured. Inwardly, he groaned. Yes, the admin staff had had the best of intentions, he was sure. Gaara had certainly needed a break yesterday. But now he needed something to keep him busy. An insomniac sleeping two to three hours in twenty-four had more than enough time with only his own thoughts for company. Giving him yet more time to brood wasn't going to help.

Lee got to his feet with a decisive gesture.

"It you want to reassure them, you need to work at it! Skulking around here isn't the way to do it. And it's not improving your mood."

That got him a faint scowl. Lee felt encouraged, as it was more of a response than he'd expected if Gaara was really plunged deep into one of his dark silences.

"I know!" Lee's fist punched the air with enthusiasm as the sudden idea hit him. "Let's go spar! That'll cheer you up!"

The scowl turned into an outright stare, as if Lee were some strange new animal in an exotic zoo.

"You think a tiring, sweaty, dangerous activity will cheer me up."

"It always cheers me up," Lee pointed out.

"Yes, that's why most of this village thinks you're as crazy as I am," Gaara said, turning back towards Sunagakure's skyline.

"You're exaggerating. Nobody here thinks you're crazy. Or me, for that matter. Come on, Gaara, it's a good idea. It'll show people you're okay, it'll cheer you up, and training is never a waste of time. Let's go!"

"No."

"Now don't be pig-headed."

Gaara didn't even dignify that last statement with an answer.

"Fine," Lee said, switching tactics. "Give me three good reasons why you'd rather hide in here instead of going out and getting some exercise with me."

Gaara didn't look away from Suna's streets, but he raised his right hand, two fingers and a thumb extended.

"If there's a way of showing my people that I've not gone completely insane, it won't be by fighting with you during the hottest part of the day," he said, the thumb folding back into his palm.

"Oh, but they know-"

A finger folded back methodically. "I don't want to strike at you with Sand again, even if it's just for a match."

"What?! But-"

"And you," Gaara concluded, still without looking around but pointing the last finger at Lee, "were supposed to take it easy for another two weeks. At least."

Lee's mouth stayed open.

"We could just do a simple match? Going slow...?" he finally suggested, not very hopefully.

Gaara continued to stare out the window, body still, face unreadable. Lee examined him, then nodded to himself.

There was no reaction behind him when he turned away from the window. No indication that Gaara would care if he left. In a way, it didn't matter if he cared or not. Lee couldn't spend his days second-guessing Gaara. The man was hard to read at the best of times, it would be pointless. More importantly, it would be sort of dishonest, in a way; a bit like manipulation.

So it wasn't worry over what Gaara might think, but purely Lee's own decision to sit back down on the bed instead of leaving. If his friend wanted him to go, Gaara would have no compunction in saying so. Until then, Lee was going to stay right where he was, because he wanted to.

He curled his bare feet beneath him and straightened his back, after twitching around a bit to get comfortable. One of his green uniforms was in the wash, the other needed a good bit of work with needle and thread after Gaara's flare-up in the desert oasis two nights back, and the third one had been ruined by inconsiderate Sound ninjas. Gai-sensei had promised to send him replacements as soon as he could get them manufactured, but Lee was reduced to standard Leaf Jounin wear in the meantime, and it just wasn't the same thing.

"I've finished my work for this afternoon too; they're also keeping my load light during convalescence," he told Gaara while settling down. "I'll do a few chi exercises, then I'll go train when it gets cooler. I'd love your company, if you're up for it. It'll make you feel a lot better."

He took one last peek at Gaara's profile before closing his eyes. It wouldn't help him empty his mind for meditation, but it was such a pleasant distraction to battle against.

Lee concentrated on his breathing, on the slow movement of chakra and chi, and started to undo the strands of worry that were anchoring him to the material plane. Gaara would be okay. He was strong. Hell, he was practically back to normal already, just a bit more sombre and morose than usual. He-

Huh...?

Lee's brow creased. He conscientiously smoothed it and made another stab at serenity, but his mind balked again. There was something odd, trying to get his attention. Not a threat though...a presence...?

Lee opened his eyes instinctively to find Gaara examining him from a few inches away, leaning over the bed without touching it.

"Waaah!" Lee lunged away instinctively, which is not something one should do from that stance. He ended up in a tangle of limbs on the creaking bed. "Gaara! How many times have I told you not to sneak up on me like that! Are you trying to get punched?!"

Gaara observed him as Lee unknotted himself. His face was unreadable. Then he kneeled on the bed and put a hand on the mattress near Lee's thigh. Lee blinked at him owlishly. Gaara crawled onto the bed and sat down opposite Lee, who'd managed to get himself straightened out.

"...Did you want to meditate with me?" From the way Lee's heart rate had begun to accelerate, he already knew that wasn't what Gaara wanted.

Gaara leaned forwards, eyes open, looking straight into Lee's. Lee opened his mouth to say something- though he would never know what it was he had been about to say. Lips brushed his, then Gaara sat back a fraction, his face two inches away.

It wasn't a torrid kiss by quite a long stretch. But neither was it the innocent and comforting gesture they'd shared yesterday morning.

"Um..."

Gaara stayed where he was. He appeared to be waiting.

"I guess...if this makes you feel better," Lee heard himself say.

That was apparently what Gaara had been waiting for, because the last word was muffled.

Lee tilted his head and made it more of a kiss. This was okay. They'd done this before. Just a kiss. Gaara probably wanted a bit of- of nearly innocent comfort...and Lee knew that, even if he wouldn't have dared to ask for it, he'd been longing for this too.

Gaara's fingers were on Lee's upper arms, warm even through his shirt. Lee himself didn't know where to put his hands. He fumbled a bit, then settled them lightly on Gaara's ribs.

A breeze rustled the curtain near the open window. The bed creaked as their weight shifted slightly. Gaara's mouth brushed Lee's cheek, his chin, then his lips again. Lee didn't let him move on, pressing their mouths together more fully again.

This wasn't like yesterday's hug; this was soft, sensual, a shared caress. But it was also a peaceful moment. They were together, safe and sound, and Lee felt...warm. Valued. Protective and protected. He'd touched this briefly before, when he'd gone to sleep in Gaara's arms after ripping open seven Gates to protect the person he loved. But this time nobody was actively trying to kill them, and Lee didn't have multiple injuries to contend with. It made the whole thing entirely better.

Breath brushed his cheek, slow, steady and appeasing. Red hair tickled his forehead. Lee caught a flash of green pupil when he took a quick peek through his lashes; Gaara's eyes were open. Lee preferred to keep his closed. It enhanced the other senses, highlighted Gaara's breathing, the soft creaking of the bed, the small shifts in the muscles of Gaara's back and sides as Lee's arms crept around his waist.

Gaara kissed the corner of Lee's mouth; then he rubbed his face against Lee's cheek like a cat and put his arms around Lee's shoulders. Lee breathed in and out slowly, wrapping his arms more tightly around his friend. Boyfriend, Lee corrected himself, with soft wonder. It had been hovering at the back of his mind for a couple of days now, but this suddenly made it real. His body was tingling all over, but it was a comforting, undemanding feeling, it just warmed him and left him feeling happy.

That feeling of peace had expanded around them like a bubble. In that little space and in that short moment in time, there were no more questions, problems, doubts, underlying mania and misbehaving Sand.

"Closer," Gaara said softly.

"Hm?" Lee blinked. He'd buried his face against Gaara's shoulder. The red tunic smelled like cupboards and Gaara's skin. Lee let his fingers drift up Gaara's spine, rumpling the cloth. He felt Gaara shiver against him; they were pressed closer together now. Lee's fingers pawed at the cloth again, the gesture unconscious. He only realized he was doing it when Gaara fell still.

Gaara leaned back, rolled over onto his knees, increasing the distance between them. Despite the blazing hot sunshine outside, Lee suddenly felt cold as Gaara's hands left him. But Gaara didn't say anything. His fingers dropped to the edges of his tunic and he pulled it off over his head.

In the very far reaches of his brain, Lee remembered that sudden and extreme temperature changes were bad for muscles and joints. The way he'd gone from feeling cold to feeling like he was about to fry couldn't be good for his health. The way it seemed to be independent of the actual temperature in the room was also of concern.

He stared wide-eyed at Gaara's bared chest. The skin was as smooth and pristine as he remembered. Ah, no, not quite. Lee felt an odd tingly feeling in his stomach, a queer mix of amusement and fierce protectiveness, as his eyes traced faint tan lines on Gaara's neck and arms; a little memento of their time in the desert. A small patch near Gaara's shoulder had peeled.

Lee licked his lips. That tingly feeling was growing at an alarming rate, turning into breathless excitement. He'd seen Gaara's body before, and then he'd dreamt about it quite a lot. But now...

But now, presumably, he was allowed to touch.

His hands hesitated an inch away from skin the colour of wild almonds. His fingers looked bigger than they usually did, and the bandages binding them felt tighter. Gaara glanced down, then he moved forward so that Lee's fingers slid all by themselves across his chest.

He watched Lee's fingers trail over his skin for a few moments, eyes serious and attentive. Then he looked up slowly. He leaned forward and touched the buttons on Lee's shirt with something close to a frown of concentration. Then his fingers went to work at Lee's collar.

Lee hadn't expected that, but he couldn't really dwell on it. In fact, Gaara could have proceeded to cut Lee into cat-food at that point, and Lee wouldn't have done anything more than stare, entranced, at his own fingers caressing smooth skin. It slid beneath his hands, warmer than he'd thought. Why had he assumed that Gaara's skin would feel cool...? There were no scars to catch Lee's calloused fingertips; just the occasional dip between lean muscles.

Lee's eyes were beginning to prickle. Sooner or later, he was going to have to blink. But if he blinked, he might miss something.

Then Gaara leaned forward and pulled Lee's shirt down his arms, removing the Jounin vest at the same time, and that broke Lee's odd trance.

Lee dragged the shirt and vest off his forearms and bandaged hands to free them, wishing distractedly that he'd put on a t-shirt beneath his shirt today- or at least taken a shower this morning, water-restrictions be damned. His arms crossed diffidently over his chest. But all of Gaara's attention seemed to be on the large, red scar across Lee's chest, the skin still shiny and fragile.

Some of Lee's awkwardness faded beneath the clinical scrutiny, and he glanced down at the long gash. Sakura-san's medicine was wonderful when it came to getting a wounded Shinobi back on his feet quickly, but man did it leave one hell of a mess. Lee was stretching the skin and rubbing liniment in it three times daily, so that the epidermis and muscles regained some elasticity and would not hamper him in his wider arm movements.

Gaara put one finger on the scar, the sensation numbed by the accumulated tissue. Lee didn't really register the contact as anything other than analytical until Gaara's finger wandered and started tracing older wounds.

Lee swallowed and tried not to tense or hunch in on himself. Gaara seemed absorbed by the faint speckles of dark hair peppering Lee's chest, crisscrossed into patches by faint scars. He traced the latter as if he was following a map. The gesture was both innocently curious yet still sensual, making Lee shiver.

"You've seen me bare-chested before," he mumbled. It was sort of an objection to the intensity of Gaara's scrutiny. "Twice. More than that, actually, I used to spar without my top sometimes." Before he'd had to compare his worn weapon of a body to Gaara's. After that, he'd kept his shirt on.

"Hmm. This time it's different." Most of Gaara's attention was on what his fingers were doing. "This time it's for me."

Lee stared at him, once more caught between charmed pleasure and that wobble of disbelief that he could be the object of such fascination and attention.

"But you seem to mind," Gaara said, finally looking up slowly. "Why? You don't seem to dislike looking at me, or touching me."

Definitely not! Er, what was the question? Lee blinked, and realized he'd raised his arms around himself again. Gaara's hand was flat on his scarred chest near the shoulder; he could probably feel the tension in Lee's frame.

Why did he mind? Lee knew he had a body that many Shinobi would envy from a purely physical standpoint. But that wasn't what mattered when it came to attraction. What he had to offer in a relationship was his strength, his faith, his spirit, his romantic desire to protect his most important person- he didn't think it was really looks, even though he tried his best to resemble his handsome teacher. He was a thing of battles; you'd have to break down the word 'romantic' and reconstruct it from the ground up to be able to apply it to Lee's scarred body instead of his heart.

More perniciously, there were other words haunting him...Rather a plain child, isn't he? Clumsy drop-out. Fish-eyes! Loser. Freaky eyebrows. Ugh, those eyelashes creep me out!

"It's nothing," Lee said, as he listened to those voices from his childhood. "It's stupid."

And it was. Because if there was one thing Gaara was not, it was superficial.

Lee nodded apologetically at Gaara's intent, questioning expression. "Don't worry about it, please. It's just, I've had people make fun of my looks, so I guess it's made me-"

"Who?" Gaara asked, eyes narrowing to dangerous slits.

Lee's internal alarm blared. That 'Who?' wasn't an offer to listen to Lee's old woes. That 'Who?' wanted a name, an address and an estimate of the target's defences. Replacing the faint memory of jeers was an eerily precise echo of Gaara's voice, six years ago, saying 'If the one you admire is insulted, you become enraged'.

"Oh, just some kids when I was growing up- can't even remember who now-" Lee said in a voice he tried to keep from being too high-pitched and jittery, even as he did a seated hop that put their bare chests in close proximity. That would hopefully distract Gaara from whatever it was he was thinking about.

Gaara's attention focused back on what his fingers were doing. His thumb stroked an old puncture wound on Lee's left biceps, picked up during a minor battle in Snow Country. He muttered something about 'don't see what's to make fun of'.

Lee tilted his head. "What did you s-hah?!"

Gaara had shoved him without any warning onto his back, his eyes as intent as his fingers.

"The scar tissue you've accumulated is displeasing. You need to work on your defence. But your body...particularly your shoulders and arms...you have strength, power and endurance. You can actually challenge me. When you move, it draws and holds the eye like a well-balanced weapon. I fail to see what's amusing about that."

It was nice to know that in a world where Lee didn't match the canons of beauty - or smashed them repeatedly, according to some - Gaara thought he looked okay. Granted, it was in the context of comparison to something lethal that killed admirably well, but that was probably Gaara's only point of reference anyway.

I guess I lucked out, then, Lee thought, fingers tentatively caressing Gaara's cheek, brushing the dark rim beneath one eye with his thumb as if hoping it might come off.

He gently pulled Gaara down for a kiss, but after their lips brushed Gaara leaned back and returned to exploring Lee's chest. It was terribly, wonderfully distracting. But Lee's fingers had their own mission: to find some flaw or imperfection in Gaara's skin. Despite a very thorough investigation, the pads of his fingers only touched smoothness. Sasuke had injured Gaara in the sternocostal area during the Chuunin trials. Lee repeatedly tested and caressed the area, but he couldn't find any trace of a scar. The way Gaara's muscles tensed, shivered and flowed beneath his fingers was terribly distracting though, he might very well have missed it. Better check again.

Gaara's lips brushed his. "Closer," he said, against Lee's mouth.

Lee's mind was somewhere else entirely by then, drunk on Gaara's weight against his chest, the feel of Gaara's fingers, the red of his hair...It wasn't Gaara's request he responded to, it was the brief flicker of Gaara's tongue when he'd said Closer, tantalizingly near.

He pushed Gaara away gently, following him and rolling over so he was the one leaning over Gaara. The bed, against which they were lying sideways, squawked under the shift of their weight like a prim, elderly aunt who had caught them doing something reprehensible. Neither of them really noticed.

Lee's mouth was open when he kissed Gaara again. A jumbled memory; their first kiss...wondering how far the Sand Armour went...Lee's tongue explored the inner edges of Gaara's lips once again. Gaara didn't move, either in alarm or participation. His lips were slightly parted. On the second swipe, Lee's tongue touched teeth.

Gaara opened his mouth by degrees. Lee let his tongue drift further.

The temperature in the room was doing funny things again. Especially when Gaara's tongue finally licked his.

Closer...

Lee might have initiated the next move, but it was like sparring with a friend; a strike expected a parry, led to it. Both of them knew how the other moved by now. So Lee was the one to roll over and cover Gaara's body with his own, but Gaara's hands on his hips steadied him, encouraged him.

Lee's legs and hips flexed, moving against the man beneath him. A shift in stance and his hard-on slid along Gaara's thigh. Pleasure, hot and sudden, made him blink and jerk his body again.

Gaara's left hand had seized up around his hip. Then it slid lower. Lee moved again. It was quite without conscious input from his brain.

Oh...

Even with his eyes closed, Lee could feel Gaara's gaze fastened on his face, watchful and curious. Fingers on Lee's hip pressed him forward.

Lee moved again under the silent order.

Gaara didn't make a sound, but his mouth was touching Lee's cheek, and the Jounin felt a sudden small catch in the flow of breath against his skin.

Lee's senses slowly spiralled out from the pleasure twisting his gut into hot and happy knots. He could feel Gaara's body beneath his, warm and close. Their bare chests touched. Lee was putting his weight on his forearms, but he could reach out with one hand bent at the wrist to touch the red hair and comb a finger through the rough locks. He could feel Gaara's fingers on his body, pressing him forward blindly.

And he could feel...Lee's hip was against the juncture of Gaara's legs, barely touching, but he could still feel a distinct hardness there.

...That certainly answered a few questions about Gaara's sexuality. He had one, for starters.

Okay, Lee thought with determination and some regret, I think we better stop here. This is already waaaaay past 'just a kiss'.

"Wait," he said, lifting his head, the word breathless.

The fingers on Lee's hip became borderline pressuring. Gaara's eyes narrowed. Despite the aching throb between his legs and the rather embarrassing position - now that his brain was working again...despite this, Lee couldn't help a rueful grin. He'd seen that look before. It was one reserved exclusively for Lee. It boiled down to 'I can't believe you're not doing what I'm telling you to do'.

Lee shook his head to clear it. Strands of his hair stuck to his forehead. The room's temperature had gone completely loopy ever since Lee had rolled over onto Gaara and started moving like that.

"We should stop-"

Then he was blinking up at tousled red hair and diamond-shaped eyes.

Lee said "Hey!" long after the fact in Shinobi time measurement. It was embarrassing because in a purely physical match, Lee was both faster and stronger, and Gaara shouldn't have been able to blindside him and roll him over like that, though of course Lee had been rather distracted.

They stared at each other. Lee had scrambled up onto his elbows. Gaara's hands were plunged into the mattress on either side of him. Their faces were a few inches apart.

Lee felt his scalp prickle. He knew what Gaara was going to say before he said it.

"I don't want to stop."

Lee swallowed. "But we can't-"

"I want this."

The bed creaked as Gaara's weight shifted. When he spoke, it was with the slow, steady tone with which he delineated battle plans.

"I've tried to think it through. But I don't understand what you're feeling. I don't understand what I'm feeling. It's intense and confusing and- Touching is a part of it, though, and I think I can understand that."

Lee opened his mouth- Gaara cut him off with a curt gesture.

"I know it's not all. You said that already and I figured out that much by myself." There were traces of anger and frustration in Gaara's voice. Lee's instincts told him to hold his tongue and listen. "If you just wanted sex, you'd go to the house near the west wall and pay for it."

Lee made a very undignified noise that would come back to haunt him later. "You know about that?"

Gaara had been about to continue; his eyes narrowed in irritation at the obviously bone-headed interruption. "The bordello? Of course I know about it. It's controlled by the village for security reasons. Same as Konoha's."

Lee winced. As a Jounin, he did know that, but he'd never connected that small fact with Gaara actually knowing about it...Emotionally, Gaara was a wasteland, but that didn't make him ignorant of the way things worked or of what might control and motivate people. As a Shinobi and a leader, he couldn't afford that.

"You don't go there-" Gaara started to say.

"Of course I don't!"

A pause, that informed Lee that that had been a statement, not a question.

"You don't go there. You are here, with me. You want to have sex with me."

Another pause.

"Don't you?"

Good question.

Lee suddenly knew what he wanted, and why he'd felt so torn over this. What he really wanted was for Gaara to throw himself into his arms, declare his everlasting love for Lee, promise to be his always, and then they could most definitely have sex.

But that was never going to happen. Never exactly like that. If Lee couldn't see that, then he wasn't looking at the real Gaara; he wasn't accepting Gaara for everything he truly was.

And Lee couldn't say he didn't want to have sex at all. Because that would be almost entirely a lie. It would be denying that queer mix of love, lust and longing that made him reach out to Gaara in the first place. He still had a hard-on, for all this conversation was as pleasant as an ice-cold shower. Deeper than the physical need, Lee simply wanted Gaara to touch him gently and help him forget the cuts and the bruises. He understood Gaara's first violent reactions and he accepted them and he still loved him, but he wasn't about to claim that it had been particularly pleasant.

Lee took a deep breath. He'd promised Gaara he wouldn't lie to him.

"I do want to," he said, trying not to choke, "But I think it's too soon to go all the way. To soon for us to have sex." Lee forced himself to spell out, because he wasn't sure Gaara would understand what he was getting at otherwise, and he had to be clear.

Gaara nodded. Lee stared at him for a stunned second before realizing that yes, Gaara visibly agreed with him. Relief made his arms wobble and he slumped back onto the bed.

"Good! Good, I'm glad you see that. So, when you said you didn't want to stop, you meant...?"

Gaara sat back on his heels, his body warm against Lee's thighs, and the green eyes rested thoughtfully on the bulge in the Jounin's slacks which still hadn't gone down, damn Hormones...

And Lee suddenly had a really good idea of what Gaara had in mind. Probably something else he'd seen when he was six, spying on the villagers, or else he'd figured it out based on the vague explanations on male physiology and arousal that he'd received years ago.

Lee's flinch was strong enough to cause the bed to echo it with a sharp, shocked squeak. It stopped Gaara from actually saying it out loud, which was good, because Lee didn't need any mental scars to match his physical ones.

Lee opened his mouth to say no, no way, what the hell are you thinking- and by the way that bloody well does count as sex-

"Please?" Gaara whispered.

Lee stared at him, mouth still open.

"I want something I can understand, even if it's only a part of what's between us." Gaara's voice was barely audible. "I want something I can share with you. I want to prove to myself that I can do this, that I can touch you, that there's some way I can reach out to you where you won't end up injured-...Please?"

There wasn't the faintest trace of embarrassment in Gaara's eyes. Why would there be? He'd never picked up the social conditioning most others had acquired by the time they were eight. The little of propriety and manners he knew, he pretty much ignored; he barely remembered to say please and thank you most times. He only remembered them when it concerned something conditional, something he needed and that was completely outside of his control to obtain, something important...

It probably wasn't the act itself he was reaching for. The reason he wanted this was not something a 'normal' person would understand. It would be a product of his twisted past, that would make sense only to one who'd shared it. From the way he was looking at Lee, a hint of vulnerability disappearing as his expression changed and grew hard and withdrawn, he did not expect Lee to understand and he did not expect Lee to agree.

"Okay," Lee said.

Lee's brain froze from the sheer audacity of that single word. But he felt strangely calm about it. He loved Gaara deeply. The more he discovered the inner landscape that Gaara had scornfully dismissed yesterday as abnormal, the more Lee loved him. Gaara said he wanted this, and if Lee was going to doubt Gaara's honesty, his ability to reach out for himself or to know his own limits, then they were doomed before they even started. If this turned out to be a mistake - and Lee's sense of what was Right and what was Wrong and what was Proper was insisting it probably was - then they'd face that mistake together and sort it out later.

Gaara was staring at him.

"You understand?" There was a thread of hope in his voice, something Lee hadn't heard from his friend very often.

"A bit. I think," Lee answered honestly. He'd seen Gaara at his best and at his worst and at various stages in between, he knew his way around a part of the inner maze...he couldn't claim to fully understand why Gaara wanted this, but he could feel the outline of those reasons in his mind.

Gaara nodded, accepting that as one accepts a compromise. He shifted back a couple of inches and let his hand rest squarely on Lee's erection through the cloth of his pants.

"I've never masturbated. I know how it works, in theory, but you might have to show me what to do. I don't want to hurt you."

There was a short silence. Lee stared at him, eyes even rounder than usual. All he felt was astonished. Though he expected embarrassment to rise up at any moment, and possibly make his head implode.

But no. The only thing he felt was his heart tripping in his chest, the barely-there pressure of Gaara's hand on the hard-on which was getting uppity again, and a faint sense of wonder at Gaara's usual ability to be completely and utterly direct. Lee's incredulous eyes went from the hand resting against his groin to the faint frown that was starting to draw a line between Gaara's eyes.

"You've done this before. Right? You do know how it's done?" Gaara asked.

"Huh...yes..." Lee's voice sounded like it was coming over a great distance. Okay. Now. Surely now he was going to just curl up and die.

He felt only that strange calm still, like a quiet white space where his usual mess of confusing feelings were supposed to be. In that strange clarity, he noted the way Gaara was looking at him again with renewed trust and expectancy. Still no curdling embarrassment, guilt, doubt, mortification-

"I think I sprained something," Lee mumbled.

Gaara's hand was withdrawn sharply. "What?"

"Nothing..." Lee's mouth twitched into a crooked smile. He had a feeling this blissful state of affairs was only temporary, but right now, all he could see was the crazy humour of the situation. And Gaara.

Gaara's approach to sex was about as subtle as his Desert Coffin, but what did Lee expect? More importantly, what did he want? Would he want Gaara to pick up all the baggage Lee had had to struggle with...?

Lee reached up, took Gaara's face gently in his hands and pulled him down. The kiss that followed was the most erotic they'd shared yet. Lee, still in that state of grace, was actually a bit impressed with himself.

He didn't say anything; he didn't need to. A touch, a nudge in the right direction...Gaara settled back on Lee. He was moving slowly but without hesitation, imitating what Lee had done earlier, Lee's hands guiding him.

Just this, to start with, Lee decided. They'd done this a few minutes ago, it would be familiar to Gaara, and to Lee as well...Lee still felt oddly composed about all this, but this was new to him too. And he didn't want to screw this up. Just this to start with...bodies touching...then when the time felt right, he was going to have to show Gaara exactly what to do with that hand.

Gaara's mouth left Lee's and he shifted a bit, trying to get a balance that didn't involve letting his whole weight rest on the Jounin. The bed muttered and complained, and was steadfastly ignored by both young men.

Gaara's movements happened to press his thigh against Lee's erection a bit harder than Lee had anticipated initially. The surprise was unpleasant, but the feeling of almost-too-much-but-not-quite pressure was shockingly good, it made him jerk and writhe, and that felt even better so he did it again.

Gaara tried to straighten up and put a few inches between them. Lee bit his lip and forced himself to relax. He'd been gripping Gaara's shoulders.

Green eyes studied him attentively, and then Gaara moved the same way again, not quite as hard but completely deliberately. He was apparently a very fast learner. It probably came with the whole genius territory. Lee's hips jerked again. And again.

Lee's knee bent, giving him better purchase, rubbing their bodies together even more and getting the angle absolutely right, spot on. Gaara's thigh was rubbing against a seam that was pressing and pulling- just right...

Lee was going to be so embarrassed by all this...later...

But right now it felt good. Even better than when he did this himself because now he had Gaara in his arms and Gaara's breath on his throat and Gaara's weight on his body-

Gaara was staring down at him. Lee screwed his eyes shut, because that was a bit too-...too much. Gaara wasn't moving more than a slight flex, just enough to nudge Lee higher as Lee moved against him.

The bed muttered as Gaara shifted his weight onto one hand. Fingers brushed aside the hair that had fallen into Lee's eyes when he'd tossed his head back. They smoothed it away, cupped his cheek. Gaara's mouth touched his, but Lee was breathing too heavily to return the kiss. Just- just right-

Lee's hands were hard on Gaara's body, stopping him from moving altogether as Lee arched against him. He hoped he wasn't gripping too hard- he would never hurt Gaara, but he shouldn't alarm him, either, that would be bad, though right this instant Lee couldn't remember why.

It wasn't just the last few minutes. It was almost half a year of hidden longing and desires that suddenly came violently and unexpectedly into focus. Gaara's weight was solid and real in Lee's arms and against his body, his friend- this was Gaara-Gaara, his most important person-

Fingers caught in Lee's hair. Gaara's breath was short and irregular against Lee's mouth. His friend-Gaara- his friend- boyfriend- lover-

Lee tightened his grip, pressing Gaara's body against his, arching his back and hips as a crescendo of pleasure hit him.

He ended up with his face pressed against the cream-coloured skin of Gaara's shoulder, panting.

Wow.

Oh.

Uh....

He released his hold, arms suddenly limp, and fetched up against the thin mattress, staring up at Gaara. Ragged breaths peppered the space between them. Gaara was looking down at him, lips slightly parted, eyes wide and hungry as he watched Lee.

Lee opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again. He probably looked like a fish.

"I...um, I..."

"Yes, I think you did," Gaara murmured, the corners of his mouth curling upwards.

The tip of his tongue flickered over his lips.

"You enjoyed it." The green eyes were still huge and fervent as they traced Lee's features. Gaara's fingers relinquished their hold in Lee's hair and brushed his cheek, as if he had to touch to allow himself to believe this was real. "You enjoyed it. I made you feel that."

Lee had a spreading spot in the front of his pants which was going from body-warmth to tepid, his face was going to be red for a week, and he had the feeling that Doubt and Embarrassment were going to come back at a gallop soon. He was rather worried that things might get awkward or complicated between them now. But with Gaara staring at him like that, Lee couldn't begin to regret it.

Gaara kissed him. It was suddenly hard, savage and a bit uncertain, as if he wasn't quite sure what was supposed to happen now.

Lee broke the kiss first, still out of breath. He knew what was supposed to happen now.




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