Taisetsuna : Precious

A Naruto Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah

 

Chapter 10

 

            Late morning light spilled through the tall, eastern facing windows in Gaara’s room. He sat up and rested his arms on his knees. Running a hand through his hair he listened to the stillness. His mind was foggy and his mouth tasted horrible. His thick red hair, which had grown longer over the past four months, was mussed. He breathed a sigh and shuddered.

            “Morning,” Temari whispered. She was sitting in the chair that she had sat at his bedside for months in. His brother, not wearing his puppeteer’s makeup, stood at her side. “Did you…” she said tentatively, “did you sleep well, Gaara?”

            He tilted his head over to look at them. Temari’s hair was down and she was dressed in loose pants and an oversized shirt.

            “I think so,” Gaara muttered.

            “Welcome back, Gaara,” Kankurou said with a smile. “Have you checked yourself out in the mirror yet?” The confused look he got told Kankurou ‘no’.

            Temari jumped up and ran to her room. She came back with a hand mirror and held it up backwards. “Ok, don’t be too startled. You finally got some rest, so you look a little different.”

            Gaara looked as the mirror turned and was shocked to see his own face. The ‘Ai’ scar was faded to almost the same color as his skin. His hair was almost shoulder length and…

            “My eyes…” Gaara touched his eyelids too make sure they were his. The black circles from fighting against the Shuukaku all those years were gone. The wonder that lit his face soon faded. “Where’s the doctor?”

            Temari’s eyes widened. “Are you all right?”

            “Yes, I would like to speak to him.”

            “I’ll get him.”

 

            Temari returned a moment later with the strange looking doctor. He pushed his coke-bottle glasses up his nose and asked how he could be of service.

            “Drop the Henge no Jutsu. Who are you?” Gaara asked, still sitting up with his arms folded over his knees in bed.

            “It’s all right, Gaara. He’s one of us,” Kankurou tried to reassure him. The doctor smiled a thin sort of grin and dispelled the disguise.

            “You.” Gaara stared. “He’s on our side? Are you certain? He killed our father, if you’ll recall.”

            Yakushi Kabuto bowed before Gaara. “Yes. I was partly responsible for the former Kazekage’s death. But a lot has changed since then.”

            Gaara narrowed his eyes but didn’t move.

            “It’s true, Gaara,” Temari stepped forward. “He helped bring Orochimaru down. The Leaf’s Hokage pardoned him and gave him his freedom. He has chosen the Sand as his home and we have welcomed him.”

            Kabuto looked up and indeed, the 24 year old medic nin now wore a Suna hitai-ate. “I am here to help you, Gaara. I don’t expect you to trust me, but please rest assured that I will not cause anyone further grief. Those days are over.”

            Gaara’s expression remained unchanged. “Temari, Kankurou. Leave us.”

            His sister swallowed hard, but at Kabuto’s urging, left them in his room, alone. “What can I do for you, Gaara?”

            It took him a few moments to speak. Gaara looked down at his arms laced over his knees and whispered, “will I ever get my strength back?”

            Kabuto pursed his lips. “I’m fairly sure, yes.”

            Gaara shot him a look of desperation. “Fairly? I can’t feel it! It’s like I haven’t got any chakra flowing through me at all!”

            Kabuto waited for him to calm down. “You’re just not used to the feeling of your own chakra, and it’s probably underdeveloped because you haven’t had to use it.”

            “You mean I’m at Genin level again?”

            “Yes and no. With training you could be back up to Chuunin very quickly. And I think I know exactly who can train you…”

 

.x.

            Oururi returned from another mission and hesitated before putting the key in the lock. She knew her girls would be at home but was sure that once again, Kakashi would not. Suddenly she sensed someone coming up the stairs. Her heart ached, wishing it would be him.

            “Yo,” he greeted her, a soft sadness in his voice.

            “Hi,” Oururi leaned against the door and stared at him. His wild, grey hair covered most of the good eye, making his expression impossible to read. “Just coming to get some clothes. Didn’t think you’d be here.”

            “It’s ok,” she said as coolly as she could manage. “It’s your house too.”

            He nodded and waited for her to move. When she didn’t, his shoulders slumped a little. “I can come back later,” he whispered and turned to go.

            “Kakashi, wait.” He stopped but didn’t turn around. “You can come in.” When he turned, she finally saw his sleepy, blue eye and the sadness and pain that shone through it. She could very clearly imagine what the rest of his face looked like right now. “I overreacted. I should have listened to you. I’m sorry. Please…” she choked up. “Please come home!”

            “It’s my fault.” Kakashi stepped toward her and pulled down his face mask. “I should have made it clearer to you, that you are the only one for me.” She melted into his arms and soundlessly cried into his chest. Kakashi squeezed her tightly. “I missed you so much.”

            “I’m so sorry!” she sobbed. He smoothed her hair and wiped the tears from her eyes. They stood there for a minute or so in each other’s arms. When Oururi had composed herself she leaned back and gave him a devious look. “Can I start to make it up to you tonight?”

            Kakashi blushed and stumbled over his words. “I… guess… I mean… I won’t stop you… That is…”

            Oururi laughed gave him another squeeze and opened the door.

 

            Yume leapt off the couch and ran toward them as they came in. She was obviously both shocked and overjoyed to see her father back in her mother’s good graces but there was worry and panic written across her face. “Kaasan, Yami’s missing!”

 

.x.

            “Kyaaaaa I’m so tired!” Naruto cried stretching his arms over his head as he walked back home after practice that night.

            “Che, that’s because you’ve gone soft from spending so much time with your girlfriend.”

            Naruto glared at his companion. “Sounds like someone’s jealous.”

            Sasuke blushed. “Am not.”

            “Are too! You’re turning red, haha!” Sasuke swatted at him but Naruto leapt away, singing the in-a-tree song as he approached the front door to his apartment building. When Sasuke stopped his assault and stood at attention, Naruto left off his singing and scanned the area. “Somethin’ ain’t right, ne?”

            Sasuke nodded. He followed Naruto up the stairs to apartment number seven. At the end of the dimly lit hallway under a flickering fluorescent bulb, a figure was hunched to the left of the door. “I don’t think that’s Kaka’i-sensei.” Naruto muttered expecting to see the Jounin who’d been sleeping on his couch for the last week. The man stirred and stood up.

            “It has been a long time, Uzumaki Naruto,” a man’s voice echoed down the hall. Sasuke drew a breath and vanished as he charged the figure. Naruto dashed after him. In a flash, Sasuke had him up by his neck, a fully charged chidori ready to explode into his opponent’s stomach.

            “Wait, Sasuke!” Naruto shouted. He grimaced as he recognized the young man. “What are you doing here, Gaara?!”

            Sabakuno Gaara eyed the chakra coming off of Sasuke’s hand and swallowed. “I see I’m not expected…”

            “What do you want with Naruto?” Sasuke barked.

            “I have papers. Your Hokage gave me clearance.”

            “Let him down, Sasuke.”

            “But…”

            “It’s ok. I believe him.”

            Gaara rubbed his neck and fished for the paperwork that had let him into the Hidden Leaf. Sasuke grabbed it from him and checked it out. Naruto continued to stare at the Sand Nin that he hadn’t seen since he defeated him almost six years ago. “Looks like Godaime-sama did approve this,” Sasuke growled and folded the papers back up. “It says you’re here to see Naruto?”

            “Yes. I’m sorry if this is a surprise. I was assured that everything was cleared.”

            “That old hag,” Naruto hissed. “She’s probably laughing her ass of right now at the looks on our faces. Why are you here to see me?”

            “Yakushi Kabuto recommended I train with someone else who’d also been sealed,” he said matter-of-factly.

            Both men blinked a few times. “Kabuto?” Sasuke whispered.

            Naruto pointed and shouted. “Ah! Sealed! That’s what’s different about you! You sounded way too relaxed and polite to be Gaara!”

            Sasuke rolled his eyes. “The lack of bags under his eyes didn’t tip you off?”

            “Oh, like you knew!”

            Sasuke ignored him and handed the papers back to Gaara. “So, you’re here for a month? Perhaps I’ll get a rematch,” he said with a grin.

            Gaara nodded. “I’m truly sorry for the past, and I hope you’ll go easy on me. Without being able to call upon the Shuukaku at will I’m not nearly as strong as I used to be.”

            Naruto nodded. “Don’t worry. We’ll fix that!”

            Gaara cracked a small smile, a nice attempt, but obviously something he was unaccustomed to doing. “Thank you very much.”

            The three of them heard the main door below them get wrenched open and footsteps pound up the stairs. “Now what?” Sasuke moaned.

            Yume gasped when she saw them standing there but ran to Naruto anyway. “Naruto-kun!” she cried and squeezed him. “Have you seen Mi-chan!?”

            Gaara flinched. His pale blue-green eyes stared hard at the white-haired girl.

            “No, what’s up?”

            “She’s been missing since last night and Mom was out and I didn’t think it would be bad but I’m really worried and…”

            “Shhhh. It’s ok,Yume-chan,” he shushed her. “We’ll help look for her.”

            “Oi, speak for yourself,” Sasuke grunted and started to walk away. “I’m beat. I’m going home.”

            “Oh?” Naruto sang. “And what would your precious Hikari-chan say if she heard you didn’t care about her sister’s disappearance?”

            “Would you drop it?!” Sasuke shouted, but stopped and looked to Yume.

            “It’s true that Hi-chan doesn’t usually like Mi-chan,” she sad sadly. “They fight all the time, but now I think half the reason Yami went away is because of the fighting and Mom and Dad and something else. She’s just not happy ever since she came back from the Hidden Sand.”

            “It’s Hatake Yami you’re speaking of?” Gaara asked. “Yume-san. Please, allow me to be of assistance.”

            Yume clutched Naruto’s jacket. “You’re… Are you Sabakuno Gaara?”

            Gaara nodded. “I owe your sister a great debt of gratitude. I would like to help in any way I can.”

            Naruto met his eyes and nodded. “Are Kaka’i-sensei and Oururi-san already looking?”

            Yume nodded. “Hi-chan is still grounded so she’s at home waiting. Kaasan and Tousan are covering the south and southwest. We meet at the Hokage monument in 45 minutes.”

            “Right,” Naruto pointed to Sasuke. “You take the north against the palisades. Gaara, 30 degrees east of Sasuke. I’ll follow at 30 degrees east of you. Yume-chan, between your folks and me.” They split up and ran through the streets calling for Hatake Yami.

 

.x.

            ‘Yami…’ her father thought as he darted from street to street, stopping occasionally to ask a passerby if they’d seen her. ‘Why do I have this choking sense of dread? I knew there was something wrong, and I did try to talk to her, didn’t I? When did my daughter become a stranger? Does this have something to do with Oururi and me fighting? Damn it.’ Guilt and worry turned his stomach. ‘Yami, I’m going to make it up to you. Please, be ok!’

 

.x.

            Gaara gave up on the streets after the first person recognized him from the Chuunin Exam War and gave him static. “Even here in another country I have a long way to go,” he muttered and took to the rooftops. He bounded along, his gourd strapped firmly to his back. He had no idea why Yume would be so worried about Yami, but her plea struck him. Something had happened in the last few months to change the genki, free-spirited girl who dragged him to the market place and stayed up almost all night telling him stories. He stopped and looked around him. The lights of Konoha were unlike those of Suna. The architecture was haphazard and the scars from the war he had helped start were still visible here and there.

            When Gaara looked up, he couldn’t see as many stars as he would have been able to in Suna Gakure, but the moon was almost full and loomed huge in the Eastern sky behind him. He remembered Yami looking up and commenting on that very subject. ‘Will you be there?’ he had asked her. ‘I promise…’

            “Yami.” His gaze fell on the Hokage monument and a flicker of white atop the stone caught his eye; a figure with long, fair hair that danced in the wind. He bolted towards the cliff.

            ‘How on Earth do I get up there?!’ Gaara thought wildly as he looked for a stairway. When he was 500 yards from the base of the cliff he looked up and the need for stairs became moot. The flickering white object he had seen was now falling like a star past the faces etched in stone.

            “YAMI!” Gaara shouted and ran as fast as he could. Her long, white hair fluttered around her as she fell, her body limp and accepting of its fate. “I won’t make it!” Gaara looked around to see if anyone else had seen her, but there was no one in sight. “What am I going do?! She’s going to die!” His ‘ai’ scar ached suddenly and a strange hot-cold feeling pulsed through his veins. As he ran, Gaara stretched out his hand and to his amazement, the sand in the gourd on his back obeyed. A gigantic palm opened up and caught the girl as she fell, cushioning her fall.

            When Gaara closed in on her, the sand was already automatically retreating back into the gourd. Yami touched down on the ground gently, her eyes wide and full of with surprise. “Sand,” she muttered watching it pull away from her. He skidded to a stop in front of her. “Gaara? You’re all right!?” she asked, looking up at the young man. Her face softened but it was only temporary. “I’m so…” She was sitting on her folded legs. Her hands hung limply at her sides. She hung her head.

            Gaara couldn’t find the words he wanted to say to her. He clenched his fists and opened his mouth but nothing came out. Just as the silence was getting too much to bear, an Anbu member appeared in a puff of smoke between the two. Gaara’s heart sank. How would he explain the situation fast enough? The intent to kill emanating from the Anbu woman was palpable. It was the first time Gaara had ever experienced such a feeling. He took a step back.

            “Yami-chan,” the woman whispered. “Why?”

            “Kaasan…” Yami looked up at her mother and started shaking. “I… I’m just… I’m so tired of being unhappy.” The tears rolled down her cheeks.

            Another puff of smoke and her father appeared behind Gaara. “It’s ok, Oururi. Gaara’s not an enemy.” The malicious aura dissipated almost instantly. “In fact, if I saw correctly,” he continued, his Sharingan eye exposed, “He saved Yami’s life.”

            She looked over her shoulder at the young man. “Is that so?” She sized him up and decided that her husband was telling the truth. “Thank you. Yume?” she called and her third daughter appeared from behind a nearby wall.
            “Hai!” she answered and jogged toward them, rubbing her tears away with the back of her hand.

            “We’re going home.”

            “I’ll catch up,” Kakashi clapped a hand on Gaara’s shoulder. Oururi nodded and they walked toward home.

            “Good timing, Gaara!” Naruto cheered as he and Sasuke came around the corner. “Looks like it won’t be long till we get you back in action if you’ve already got that kind of response from it!”

            “Ah!” Kakashi slid the hitai-ate back down over his right eye. “So I don’t need to explain anything? Great. See you later,”

            “Hold it, Kakashi,” Sasuke barked and folded his arms. “It was you who sealed Gaara, wasn’t it?” Naruto’s jaw dropped.

            “Yeah. It was. If you don’t mind, I’ve got a bit of a family situation going on.” He didn’t wait to be excused, but vanished in a flourish of smoke.

            “Che. What I want to know is how the hell he survived that? He must have used some sort of variation on the Fuuin seal,” Sasuke muttered.

            “Whatever. He’s alive. Gaara’s ok and Yami-chan will be, I assume.”

            “I don’t understand,” Gaara rubbed the back of his neck. “She didn’t seem the sort of person who would throw her life away.”

            “She’s the dark one of the Hatake Triplets,” Sasuke scoffed. “And she’s also a teenage girl. They get confused.”

            “They are confused. Besides, having a royal pain in the ass like Hikari for a sister’s got to be rough on the psyche,” Naruto commented with a smarmy grin.

            “Oi! Just because yours is a goody-freaking-two shoes!”

            “Aha! Gotcha!” Naruto pointed and shouted at him. “Admit it, Hikari’s your girlfriend!”

            “Shut up!”

            “Excuse me.” Gaara leaned to one side and cocked a brow at them. “You do realize Yami just tried to kill herself, don’t you?”

            Sasuke released Naruto from the headlock he was giving him and cleared his throat. Naruto spoke up. “Yeah. I know. Sorry. Force of habit. Wow. You’re so weird now! Getting all sensitive…”

            “Naruto. Don’t point these things out to him. Making such a transition isn’t easy. I know from experience.”

            “Ah, right. Sorry, Gaara.”

            “It’s… it’s ok. Do you really think Yami will be alright?”

            Both the Leaf Nin blinked and stared at Gaara, then stared at each other for a beat. Sasuke rolled his eyes and Naruto grinned like an idiot.

            “Hahaha! Hatake Girl Magic strikes again!”

            “Oh for crying out…” Sasuke groaned. “This better be a phase, or else…” 

            Looking quiet confused, Gaara swallowed deep. “Else what?”

            “Haha!” Naruto chimed. “We’ll be related! Oh my God, that would rule! When I’m Hokage and you’re Kazekage it’ll be like the two villages will be one big family of Ninja! Woo hoo!”

            “You’re an idiot.”

            “Shut up, Sasuke! Come on, don’t you want to have a big family again?!”

            Gaara shook his head slightly and followed them back to Naruto’s place. “What have I gotten myself into?”

 

.x.

Later that week Sasuke and Naruto stood atop the cliff, arms folded, looking down. A light breeze tousled their hair.

            “Are you sure that was a good idea?” Sasuke asked. “He doesn’t have an animal to summon like you did.”

            “That’s why I pushed him into Lake Konoha instead of that ravine Ero-sennin pushed me into.”

            “Yeah but Naruto, if Gaara doesn’t manage to do something incredible the impact of hitting the water could still kill him.”

            There was a deadly silent pause before Naruto started screaming at Sasuke for not telling him this before he pushed his unlikely student. While the young men were busy screaming at each other, a form appeared in front of them.

            Gaara had his arms folded tightly. His chest heaved with the deep, calming breaths he was trying to take. His eyes bored into Naruto. He was soaked to the bone, but standing on a pillar of sand that stretched from the lake bottom some 500 feet into the air. “Uzumaki…” he growled. Both Leaf nin went white. Gaara let out a long breath before announcing, “it worked.”

 


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