Do not take this story, do not edit it or try to reproduce it as your own. If you do, and she doesn't do anything about it, I surely will!
Hyuuga Neji wasn’t quite sure as to why Hokage-sama had called him into her office.
“I’m sending you on a mission, Hyuuga,” Tsunade said from behind the stacks upon stacks of paperwork on her desk. “You’re to accompany Lee and Uzumaki to Wind Country and work over the Kazekage.”
Neji blinked. “‘Work over the Kazekage’?” he repeated, getting a sudden mental image of himself and his two male companions engaging in some sort of seductive routine for the pleasure of Hidden Sand Village’s leader.
“You know, diplomatic bullshit. Suck up to her. I picked you three because I think you have the best chance of patching up Hidden Sand’s wounded ego.”
“After the killings in Grass Country, you mean.”
“Yes. They aren’t too happy about what happened. I can’t blame them, really. But I also don’t want a repeat of that misfortune with Hidden Cloud…”
At this, Tsunade’s gaze averted from Neji. She shifted her focus to a pad of paper, on which she began scribbling what weren’t likely meaningful words.
Neji folded his arms. He had wondered why the Hokage had called on him to accompany Lee and Uzumaki to Wind Country. Neji’s wounds had never quite healed, even after Tsunade’s repeated surgeries, rendering him useless on the combat front.
No, she had decided to pity poor Hyuuga Neji and send him out on a diplomatic mission, knowing full well that he wouldn’t turn her down. After all, Hyuuga Hizashi had been sacrificed after the justifiable murder of the Cloud-nin’s leader. Of course Neji would not allow another person to die in the name of politics.
“Of course, Hokage-sama,” Neji said flatly. “Of course I’ll go.”
Neji hated Wind Country. The food was awful, the heat was intense, and everywhere he looked, there was sand. Sand, sand, a few scrubby bushes, more sand…
“This sucks,” Naruto whined as they ate dinner in a town close to Hidden Sand Village. “Haven’t these people ever heard of ramen? This looks like somebody puked it up…”
Neji looked down at his meal of lentils and lamb stew. He ignored Naruto and finished eating, then went to bed. The futons were unappealing but serviceable, much like the food.
Finally, the trio reached Hidden Sand Village.
It was, in a way, far more depressing than the rest of Wind Country. The buildings were all carved out of sandstone and what had at one point in time been buttes jutting up out of the desert floor, and everything looked dusty and gritty. The streets were hard-packed dirt, and the pitiful little gardens he saw on the roofs of some houses appeared to be withering away beneath their fabric canopies. Also, there was more sand. It was getting into Neji’s sandals.
“What amazing architecture!” Lee exclaimed, pausing to take a picture of a ruined statue half-buried in the sand. “Isn’t it, Neji-kun?”
Neji grunted in response. Of course his former teammate was the only Leaf-nin who carried around a camera on missions of grave importance. God forbid they had been sent to assassinate someone; Lee would have had to take pictures of that, too.
The initial meetings with the Kazekage began promptly at seven that evening, after Neji and his companions had been given time to bathe and rest.
More horribly disgusting ethnic cuisine was served as the Kazekage introduced herself and her advisors. She seemed respectable enough, if rather uneasy on the eyes. (Kazekage-sama had short-cropped gray hair and a masculine build, and her face and arms were covered in scars.)
“My advisors,” Kazekage-sama said, motioning to the young blonde woman and the red-haired man seated to either side of her. “Temari-san. Gaara-san.”
Temari and Gaara both bowed their heads deferentially. Neji, Lee and Naruto responded in like.
Lee was, as always, vocal. He and Naruto picked up the slack left by Neji as he sat by, wishing (as always) that he were somewhere else.
Out of the corner of his eye, Neji noticed that Gaara was staring at him. Neji narrowed his eyes and shifted them slightly to the right, wondering what the monster-boy’s problem was.
Neji had a real problem with this Gaara of the Desert. Neji and TenTen had never (and would never) forgive Gaara’s attempt on Lee’s life, regardless of how he had later saved Lee from one of the Sound-nin. (Neji didn’t even try to imagine how Gai-sensei felt about Gaara. Of course, Neji didn’t ever try to figure out Gai-sensei. Sensei’s thoughts were likely beyond mortal comprehension.)
Gaara didn’t look much different than he had during the chuunin exams. Bony, malnourished, scrawny and pale: this was the infamous Gaara of the Desert. Neji wondered if he’d ever slept a night in his life. The dark circles around Gaara’s sunken eyes had only grown darker. His hair was still thick and a faded red color, though now it hung to his shoulders, in his eyes.
Neji pitied Gaara. Certainly, Gaara was monstrously strong, and he was in a position of power within Hidden Sand Village’s government, but he didn’t even look like a human being. Perhaps a feral child raised by wolves, but not a normal, functional man in the prime of his life.
After an evening of frustrating politicking the guests were shown to their rooms in the Kazekage’s home. (At least, to hear Lee and Naruto talk it had been frustrating. Neji hadn’t really been paying attention.)
As he was waiting for his bathwater to draw, Neji heard Temari inviting Lee out for a drink. He heard Lee take Temari up on her offer.
Neji shook his head and sighed heavily. He knew that Lee would never drink alcohol on purpose, but who knew what horrible trick Temari might be pulling?
Neji stepped out of his room as Lee and Temari walked past.
“Excuse me, Lee-kun,” Neji remarked politely, but with an edge to his voice. “May I speak to you for a moment?”
Lee looked down at Temari, who smiled and nodded.
“What?” Lee demanded once they were behind closed doors.
“Watch yourself. You know how you are when you’re drunk.”
Lee’s eyes narrowed angrily. “I’m not ten, Neji-kun. I can take care of myself.”
“Don’t be an asshole, Lee. If that Sand bitch slips you something you can’t handle, you may very well get us all killed and start a war.”
Lee glared. Neji returned the glare.
“You ought to be more polite when you talk about women, you know. Goodbye, Neji-kun.”
Lee walked out the door and shoved it shut behind him.
Neji was incensed, but he said nothing. He went to sleep, running over the myriad ways that the Kazekage could have them killed in his mind.
There was more diplomatic back-and-forth over breakfast. Apparently the Kazekage was skirting the issue of her village’s demand, no matter how many times Lee and Naruto attempted to bring it up.
“I can’t READ her, damn it!” Lee confided in Neji and Naruto as they sat in Naruto’s room that afternoon. “I can’t figure out what she’s thinking, or what she’s going to say next! Why did Hokage-sama send me along?! Why not a skilled negotiator?”
“I was wonderin’ that myself,” Naruto added, and Neji glared at him.
“Hokage-sama trusts us,” Neji said quietly. “If she did not trust in our abilities to talk the Kazekage out of this, she wouldn’t have sent us.”
“She should’ve come herself,” Naruto replied curtly. “If this matter is so important, then shouldn’t she be handling it?”
Neji sighed heavily. Both of his companions turned to him and stared.
“It’s not important. If we can’t dissuade the Kazekage, then she’ll just send that group of genin down here to be summarily tortured and executed. The only people who will care are the loved ones of those who die. The village as a whole doesn’t care. After all, it’s-”
“…Don’t start spouting off that destiny crap, Hyuuga,” Naruto interrupted, his voice quiet for once. “I mean, it sucks what happened with your father, but it’s nobody’s destiny to get executed. Those kids had a choice when they got attacked; they could have run, but they chose to fight.”
“He’s right, Neji-kun,” Lee added sympathetically. “We all make choices. Your father could have run like a coward from Hidden Leaf, but he stayed and died with honor. It was his choice. Just as it was your choice to take Hokage-sama up on this mission.”
Neji closed his eyes. There was no use arguing with these two; he’d be shot down no matter what he said. Naruto hated him (not that Neji cared what the miserable drop-out thought,) and Lee was adamantly against any philosophy that diverted from that of hard work leading to ultimate reward.
Neji stood up and walked out of the room.
“Where are you going?!” Lee called after him. “Neji-kun, dinner is in half an hour!”
Neji ignored Lee. Neji even let the comment that Naruto made to Lee about Neji being a selfish, arrogant asshole roll right off of his back.
Hidden Sand Village wasn’t so bad up close, really. From far away, the whole village seemed to be withering underneath the blazing desert sun, but up close, it was rather exotic and beautiful. The style of dress and the language weren’t much different, but the buildings and the smells and the villagers’ accents lent everything a strange flavor.
Neji was so busy absorbing the scenery that for a split-second he put his guard down, didn’t notice that someone had fallen in step with him.
Neji jumped, feeding chakra into his eyes as he went, activating the Byakugan.
The Kazekage was trying to off him after all.
Neji bounded from rooftop to rooftop, evading the enemy shinobi, keeping one step ahead of him at all times.
Neji stopped and jumped backwards, right over his pursuer’s head. In the time it took for the cloaked assailant to process this, Neji had already sunk a kunai in both of the offending ninja’s arms, preventing him from using his hands.
As Neji paused to suck in breath, he realized that something was very, very wrong.
In a motion so fast that he could not follow it even with the Byakugan, Neji was pinned against his cloaked attacker, a kunai pressed against his throat.
“You’re dead,” whispered the Sand shinobi in a familiar, gravelly voice as the sand-clone crumbled and blew away across the rooftop.
Right before a person dies, it is said, their life flashes before their eyes. But there was no sudden blur of images and faces and voices from the past. No, this was unlike the time that Neji had fought Kidoumaru. Then, there had been voices, faces, images. Then, Neji had known that he was going to die.
Neji knew who it was even without the benefit of his Byakugan.
“How does it feel to be dead?” Gaara inquired, shoving Neji down onto his hands and knees on the rooftop.
“It feels no different from being alive,” Neji replied curtly, rolling over onto his side. “No different at all.”
Gaara smiled. He had a very thin smile, cold and sharp like the killing edge of a shuriken.
“I like you,” said Gaara vaguely. “I’ll put in a good word to Kazekage-sama on your behalf.”
Neji got to his feet, furious at the fact that Gaara had outmaneuvered him with so little effort. Of course, upon turning his Byakugan on Gaara’s inner coils, Neji didn’t feel so bad. Gaara’s chakra was immense, even more so than Naruto’s. While Naruto still struggled to keep Kyuubi under control and manipulate its chakra with any efficiency at age twenty-seven, apparently Gaara had complete mastery over his inner demon.
“I thank you,” Neji replied diplomatically, still eyeing Gaara’s chakra as it cycled through the scrawny redhead’s body.
Gaara smiled. On his face the smile looked alien, an unwelcome visitor from some faraway land.
“I like you,” Gaara repeated. “Don’t mention it.”
There was some curt, terse conversation over dinner, but nothing was resolved. Naruto managed to get the Kazekage to admit that the whole incident with the dead Sand genin was rather unfortunate, and that her ultimatum was only in reaction to the grief that she’d been given by the dead childrens’ parents. But there was no apology. There was no mention of a change of heart on the part of the Kazekage.
Neji went to bed.
This mission of diplomacy was going absolutely nowhere. And his altercation with Gaara earlier in the day made Neji uncomfortable, knowing that the unhinged demon-boy had full access to him here in the Kazekage’s home.
A knock came at the door.
Neji opened it. It was Lee.
“Er, Neji-kun,” Lee whispered to his former teammate, leaning in to speak into Neji’s ear. “Uzumaki just bought an escort and he wanted to know if you have any, ah, protection on you.”
Neji raised an eyebrow. Uzumaki and a hooker? Really, was Lee that desperate?
“If Uzumaki has the hooker, why are YOU asking me, Lee-kun?”
Lee laughed uncomfortably. “Because Uzumaki hates you and didn’t want to talk to you?”
Wordlessly, Neji went into his backpack and handed Lee what he wanted. Lee disappeared around the corner. Neji shook his head and went to close the door.
It caught on something.
That something was Gaara’s foot.
“He’s in there fucking my sister, you know,” Gaara told Neji without bothering to lower his voice. “She still feels badly about what I did to him fifteen years ago. What a considerate girl, eh?”
“Go away.” Neji said the words firmly, angrily. “I have no interest in you.”
Gaara smiled at Neji.
Neji rolled his eyes and left Gaara standing at the door. He sat down on the floor beside the radiator, arms folded. Gaara took Neji’s apparent display of surrender as an invitation, and walked into Neji’s room, closing the door behind him.
“Shouldn’t you be attempting to seduce Uzumaki? Lee? They both have a history with you, Gaara-san. I do not.”
Neji wanted to make a remark about how he didn’t remember Gaara as being a horny, rude and sarcastic bastard, but he bit his tongue. After all, he’d never talked to Gaara during the chuunin exams. Who knew what Gaara was really like?
“I told you, Lee is with my sister. And Uzumaki Naruto? I’m not desperate, you know…”
“No, I understand how you feel,” Gaara told Neji airily. “You know, lost loved ones, betrayal by an entire village, forever fighting against a destiny that seems bent on destroying you…”
“You ought to tell this to Uzumaki. I’m sure he’d be enthralled.”
“Oh, Uzumaki and I have had this talk before. But frankly, I’ve taken from him all that I need. You see, before I met him, I was a different person. Now…”
At this, Gaara closed his eyes and smiled.
“Now, if my father were to see me, he would not recognize me as the same boy into whom he sealed a demon twenty-six years ago. No. Uzumaki changed me.”
“Please tell me that sodomy wasn’t involved,” deadpanned Neji.
Gaara burst into laughter. His laughter was deranged, a cross between cackling and howling. The laughter died suddenly, and he walked to Neji, knelt down before the dark-haired man.
“I knew you had a sense of humor. And no, no sodomy. He changed me because I saw how willing he was to fight for his loved ones, to protect them, while I had turned against those people who loved me.
“Now, Hyuuga-san, I want to help change you.”
Neji looked up at Gaara sternly. He studied Gaara’s face for any hint of motivation, but all he saw in Gaara’s pale turquoise eyes was enthusiasm, amusement.
“Through sodomy. Right.”
Gaara grinned. “You’re quite the perceptive one.”
Neji kissed Gaara hard on the mouth, pulling the redhead down against his chest. Though he’d never have admitted it to Lee or Uzumaki or anyone at all, Neji had never been with a woman. (Or a man, for that matter.)
There had been one time he’d almost gotten to see a live woman naked, but even if he had managed thusly, it wouldn’t have mattered as that woman was TenTen.
They had been training together, and Neji had gotten cocky, allowed TenTen an open shot at him. TenTen, being an expert marksman, had hit him with a kunai easily. It had gone in deeper than she’d expected, and she had to rip off Neji’s shirt to get the blade out, then clean and bandage up the wound.
“I got to see you shirtless, Neji-kun. Want me to take my top off for you, too?” TenTen had inquired teasingly, kissing the bloodstained gauze over Neji’s puncture.
Before Neji had even had the chance to say “yes,” Gai showed up and demanded to know what was going on. They told him about the kunai, leaving out TenTen’s offer.
So of course Neji claimed to have scored with his former teammate. Lee did the same thing. Sooner or later, Neji imagined, he’d overhear someone speculating that Neji and Lee had slept together as well.
As he fucked Gaara, Neji wondered if this was all he’d ever get out of life. Furtively screwing some psychotic, unattractive male without any emotional involvement whatsoever.
Neji was bitter. Very bitter.
Upon finishing, Neji pulled out of Gaara hastily and threw away the used condom. He crawled beneath the quilt and pulled the pillow down over his head, hoping that Gaara would get the message and leave.
“I hope you don’t think that you’re going to get rid of me this easily, Hyuuga-san,” said Gaara sweetly. “Surely you’re not that delusional.”
“Go to Hell.”
Gaara forced his way under the blanket with Neji.
Neji expected Gaara to molest him while they lay together, naked and sweaty beneath the thin quilt. But Gaara merely wrapped his thin arms around Neji and rested his face against Neji’s shoulder.
It was nice, really. If Neji closed his eyes, he could pretend that it was someone other than Gaara. TenTen, maybe. No, not soft enough to be a woman. Lee, then. Neji could deal with that. He wasn’t sure that he could deal with the fact that he was cuddling with a homely demon-boy.
Gaara kissed Neji. Eyes still closed, Neji returned the kiss.
The next morning, Gaara and Neji fooled around a bit before going to breakfast. At the breakfast table, Temari was nowhere to be seen, but Lee looked rather proud.
“Neji-kun-“ Lee began as he and Neji walked back to their respective rooms later in the day.
Neji cut him off. “I know. Don’t tell me about it.”
Lee’s face fell.
“Fine, Neji-kun. I won’t tell you about my night.
“But I will tell you that everyone knows you spent the night with Gaara.”
Neji glared at Lee, who fell silent. Neji shook his head and opened the door to his bedroom.
“I did,” Neji told Lee in the same breezy voice Gaara had used the night before. “And I had fun. Lots of fun. Just like I’m sure you had with Temari.”
Neji shoved the door closed in Lee’s face.
That was the end of their discussion.
Gaara and Neji spent the night together again that evening. Neji was finding himself strangely attracted to Gaara, who had no redeeming physical qualities whatsoever, and even fewer attractive personality traits. There was just something odd about the things Gaara said, and the way in which he said them.
Neji allowed Gaara to go down on him, even though he was wary of Gaara’s teeth. Neji didn’t trust the Sand-nin as far as he could throw him, but Gaara didn’t seem to have any malicious intent at the moment.
It was nice, really. Losing his virginity to someone he’d never see again, someone who wouldn’t spread rumors behind his back and (most importantly) someone he couldn’t get pregnant. And Gaara was a satisfactory enough lover.
Neji pulled out of Gaara’s mouth and finished what Gaara had started on the redhead’s face. Gaara looked humiliated. Neji liked this. A humiliated Gaara was a weak Gaara, and it made up for the fact that Neji felt horribly emasculated by fucking a man physically stronger than himself.
He fought the urge to roll over and fall asleep. Instead, Neji said, “Wipe it off. You can be on top next.”
Gaara did wipe off his face (on Neji’s shirt) but replied, “It’s better if I don’t. If I orgasm, I might fall asleep. And if I fall asleep, Shukaku might kill you.”
Neji frowned. “Are you saying that you’ve never…?”
“Well, only rarely,” Gaara admitted. “I sublimate my sexual urges. I kill things. Watching the light go out in a human being’s eyes is just as good as orgasm, you know.”
Suddenly, Neji felt very vulnerable. The fact that he was naked and alone with Gaara was not appealing.
Gaara grinned. “I won’t kill you, Neji-san. But I would like to taste your blood.”
Neji shifted his weight uncomfortably. He imagined Gaara descending on him, ripping out his heart and biting into it as Neji’s lifeblood spilled all over the bedroom floor.
Gaara knelt behind Neji’s back. He picked up Neji’s kunai from its pouch and brushed Neji’s long, coffee-brown hair aside.
Neji winced. He turned on the Byakugan, ready to move if Gaara moved to stick the kunai into his back.
But no, Gaara didn’t stab Neji in the back.
He traced the kunai lightly down the ridge of Neji’s spine, then lay the blade aside. Blood welled up out of the razor-thin cut, brilliant red and sparkling in the lamplight like a string of tiny rubies.
Gaara lowered his face to the wound and ran his tongue along it. Neji grimaced at the bizarre display of affection, watching as Gaara lapped up the blood, his eyes closed.
Gaara wrapped his arms around Neji’s torso, pressing his hands palm-down on his lover’s chest. Neji closed his eyes, deactivated the Byakugan. He rested his hands over Gaara’s, listening to the soft licking and sucking noises coming from behind his back. Somehow, this was more fulfilling to Neji than his degradation of Gaara mere minutes earlier.
Neji sighed. It was unfortunate that he would have to leave Gaara behind. After all, Neji would be leaving a part of himself behind as well…
Finally, Gaara stopped. He sat back, wiped off his mouth.
“I’ve talked to Kazekage-sama, Neji-san,” Gaara said as he cleaned the laceration and bandaged it up. “I told her your story. I remember it quite well from the chuunin exams; I was reading your lips the entire time.”
“What did she say?”
Gaara kissed Neji gently on the back of his neck, just below the base of his skull.
“She’s talking to the families tomorrow morning. I can almost guarantee that she’ll let your village off the hook, but she’ll demand that your Hokage issue a public apology and give our village some money.”
“That’s fair enough,” Neji remarked quietly.
“Thank you, Gaara-san. I appreciate what you’ve done.”
There was a long, tense silence.
Neji said, “I’ll miss you.”
Gaara rested his chin on Neji’s shoulder. He said nothing, merely stroked Neji’s hair, staring off into space.
“It’s better this way,” Gaara finally replied.
As Gaara had speculated, the Kazekage agreed to spare the lives of Hidden Leaf’s children. Tsunade was angry at the price put on peace with Hidden Sand, but she paid and the Sand and Leaf-nin were once again on friendly terms.
“It would be pointless to ask you to come with me,” Neji remarked to Gaara, who nodded. “But if you ever happen to be in Fire Country…”
Gaara kissed him. “And you’re always welcome here.”
His life went on without Gaara, of course.
It was a late evening in early July. Neji was meditating in the back yard of his house.
Everything was very tranquil, very quiet. Birds fluttered past beneath the sinking sun, insects buzzed in the nearby field. Neji’s hair was down, and it fell around his shoulders in dark, gleaming tendrils.
He felt a presence behind him, but made no move to defend, or even to see who it was intruding upon his quest for inner peace.
“You’re dead again. Won’t you ever learn to watch your back?”
Neji beamed. He opened his eyes and turned around, smiled at Gaara over his shoulder.
“I suppose,” he told Gaara lightly, “you’ll just have to keep killing me until we find out.”