Disclaimer: the characters in this fic such as Gaara, Sai, etc. dont belong to me, although if they did, then Sai would call Team 7 out on their BS more often, because hes obviously the only one with the balls to do it.
Dedication: God, my parents, my fans, Masashi Kishimoto for creating the Naruto series and giving us these colorful characters, my beloved friends, and especially all of you wonderful readers!
Special dedication to: Blithe, for being a blessedly patient friend, a faithful Sai x Gaara supporter, and shedding the light of truth on Sai with her matchless portrayal.
I - Bond
Neither one of them really understands what it means to be in a romantic relationship.
Their bond grows with each passing day, until attraction suddenly sparks between them. Both are surprised, but mutually decide to venture down this path of enigma and uncertainty. Together.
It could be a physical reaction, Sai deduces after consulting his books. Biological facts point to the aspect that Gaara is seventeen, an age where males are virile - hormonal, and therefore, feel the urge to be sexually active.
Other people react rather strangely to their new status. There are whispers about how it must just be a fling. How can a relationship between them possibly last for very long? The Kazekage wants to sample what the Leaf has to offer, and Sai can boost his image by associating with him. They will have fun with each other for a little while, and then part ways afterward.
Sai isn't deaf to those rumors, but he doesn't give them the satisfaction of reacting.
He has observed many people of their age group going in and out of numerous romantic relationships. This situation could end in the same result.
He knows full well that some bonds are short-lived.
II - Exploit
Kankuro and Temari are much better versed in social standards and behavior. Gaara relies on their insight, and remembers one particular tidbit of advice. Beware of getting involved with anyone that fawns too much over him, even or maybe especially his own countrymen. He is the Kazekage. He is young. He is single. Easy to take advantage of, given his background and lack of exposure to typical social norms.
Indeed, Gaara isn't experienced enough, socially, to determine sincerity without a doubt. Sai is... very mysterious, to say the least. Both his mind set and unique sense of logic are difficult to understand, and his quirks often annoy people. Admittedly, Gaara has blanched a few times after hearing what comes out of his mouth, although none of the remarks are enough to drive him away.
Ironically, it is his social inexperience that keeps him unfazed. There is distinct comfort and kinship in the knowledge that he and Sai are equally inept. Even though Sai shocks him on occasion, he knows, intuitively, that his intentions arent ill.
Their courtship is far from conventional, and yet, their eyes steadily remain on each other instead of the surroundings.
He believes in Sai.
III - End
He has every right to feel displeased.
His emotions might be difficult to rile, but that doesn't mean he is completely absent of them.
How is he expected to feel, seeing all of those girls stupidly tripping over themselves around Gaara? Is he supposed to brush it off and act like none of it bothers him? Pretend that he is unaffected when they glare his way and mutter that he doesnt deserve to be with Gaara?
And yet, Sai, being who he is, doesn't voice any of the complaints lying dormant within him. Discomfort and unease are easily shrouded by a brittle smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes. He cares for Gaara, and the last thing he wants to do is intentionally cause him distress, and so he buries the dark feelings, choosing to ignore them for the time being.
Until Sai realizes that they have been romantically involved much longer than he initially presumed. He has to let go of him, before the attachment grows too strong for them to part ways.
"It is for your own good."
With that nonchalant deliverance, he walks out, not looking back.
He misses the raw devastation that shatters Gaaras reserved exterior.
IV - Abyss
Like before, when Shukaku was still sealed inside his body, Gaara purposely occupies himself to the fullest extent. If he allows his mind to linger too long...
He goes through the appropriate motions, albeit mechanically. He delegates mission assignments, attends meetings, reads proposals, and dutifully watches over his village.
Having tasted true happiness, and then losing it... He reluctantly settles for contentment. That is all he can expect.
He will assume the role of Kazekage and serve his people. He will be a brother to his siblings and hide his inner turmoil from them.
What Gaara wants is no longer relevant.
During one period of contemplation, he recalls a lesson imparted, long ago, from his... from the Fourth Kazekage. Gaara remembers being conditioned to believe that emotions are a source of weakness for people in general, but especially shinobi. A brief instance of euphoria is not worth the resonating ache that will stay, waiting aimlessly for a cure, ever difficult to attain. Eradicate emotions, and one would feel nothing, positive or negative. It is far more effective to function that way, without restrictions.
Drowning in the pain of a shattered heart, once again, Gaara almost agrees with the Fourth.
V - Sacrifice
Sai doesn't need to look at a calendar to know the date. The Kazekage of Suna is turning twenty years old, today. He is expected to marry by this age.
With a brush in hand, Sai sits before his easel, perplexed as he wonders why he... can't think of anything to paint.
His gaze shifts over to the side, dark coal eyes acknowledging the simple sight of a tree surrounded by grass. It is a peaceful day in Konoha.
The weather conditions might be similar in Suna, as opposed to the customary sandstorms and searing winds. Right now, he is surely in the company of his siblings and friends, and not to mention, many young eligible women that are all vying for his...
Sai shakes his head, clearing away that particular train of thought. He shouldn't concern himself with something like that. Gaara has been reduced to just his ally. There is little sense in pursuing a bond that he knows won't last.
They cannot have a future together.
Gaara will be happy, once he finds a suitable mate. That is all that matters.
It takes Sai a few minutes to realize that his hand has been trembling.
VI - Apathy
Six months later, the Kazekage is still unwed.
Suna has grown much livelier since he last came to the village, Sai realizes, the moment he leaps off of his ink bird. He has been sent to the Hidden Sand on a solo assignment, to deliver important documents to the Kazekage. The composed Leaf ninja is determined to prevent any personal feelings from interfering with his mission. He gains clearance from the guards stationed at the Kazekage mansion, and then calmly enters the office.
He sets his eyes on Gaara... on the Kazekage, for the first time, in nearly a year. His tone is cool and cordial as he bows in respectful address of the young village leader.
He is adamantly enforcing their places. He has ignored all of the correspondence Gaara sent to him after his departure. They no longer share a personal, intimate bond.
Gaara stares back at him impassively. For as long as they have known each other, Sai has always been able to detect his mood. But... not anymore. Not now.
Sai is forced to stay for the night when a sandstorm hovers too closely to the village.
Even the elements are conspiring to undo his intentions.
VII - Expose
"I have been waiting," he begins coolly, "for you to come to your senses."
A simple stride closes some distance between them.
"You were wrong then, Sai."
Another step forward.
"And you are still wrong now."
"Are you ready to return to me?"
Sai stands his ground. He has no reason to back away. His facial features remain blank, revealing nothing.
"...Or will you walk away again?"
Disappointment darkens Gaara's stoic expression. As Kazekage, he is required to be selfless. He cannot place his own wants and needs above those of others. Right now, he wants nothing more than to reach forward and pull Sai to him, even knowing it would go against propriety. It takes twin clenched fists and sheer mental willpower to prevent Gaara from doing just that.
With a stiff nod in wordless response, the redhead turns to walk away; a glimmer of bleak resignation passes through his tense profile, betraying the depth of his broken feelings. Fragments of hope stubbornly clinging since the day Sai left him, each piece drifting off as his light continues to dim.
If time and circumstances won't convince Sai of his sincerity, then he doesn't know what will.
VIII - Incomplete
Ever observant, Sai is aware of every flicker that crosses his face. How can someone like him affect Gaara so much? Especially when there were others more worthy of his attention... Not even Shin had been this determined, when faced with his stubbornness. His brother hadnt needed him, certainly not to this extent.
He doesnt want to hurt Gaara. He had walked away because it would be cruel to prolong the inevitable end. But as Sai suddenly realizes what his actions have caused A tightening sensation turns his chest taut just then - leaving him conflicted and confused.
Without thinking, he reacts. His hand snaps out, snatching a firm hold of the redhead's arm, preventing him from leaving.
Gaara stops walking and slowly inclines his head in a backward glance. Light turquoise clashes with soft charcoal.
Wordlessly, they gravitate toward each other. Long lost lovers. Their embrace is tight, tingling with suppressed desperation. Their bodies tremble in unison.
Delicate. Fragile. Afraid.
With whispered apologies spilling forth from his lips, Sai presses their cheeks together. He starts a little in surprise, when he feels wetness staining his skin.
He isn't sure if the tears are coming from Gaara, or himself.
IX - Home
Without a doubt, he will miss his friends, his former teammates. But Konoha is no longer his home. With Sasuke Uchiha in the Leaf once again, Team Kakashi has returned to the formation of Team 7. Since the disbandment of ROOT, Sai has shuffled back and forth between completing missions as a regular ANBU, or filling in the position of a missing team member. Always a placeholder.
It has taken Sai a long time to admit: that isn't what he wants to be.
Over in the Land of Wind, across the vast desert, a certain redhead is waiting for him. A patient and understanding man that accepts him the way he is, flaws and all. A noble and humble leader that could easily take advantage of his position, but has decided not to, from the beginning.
Someone who would never consider him a replacement.
Sai still doesn't understand why Gaara has chosen him, of all people. He wonders about that, every once in a while. For now, his belongings are packed, and secured on the large ink bird that will take him to the Hidden Sand Village.
He is going to the place where he belongs, to their life together.
X - Kismet
There are times when they have to be apart, but patience is a virtue. They know to wait for each other, regardless of the mission or meeting length.
The redhead feels his heart tentatively stir with contained emotions whenever his gaze settles on his beloved. A dormant reminder sparks to life inside his mind for one instance: a quiet, but persistent echo of what his maternal uncle told him, on a night many years ago. Defining love to a trusting young Gaara, before the eventual ruin.
He doesn't need Yashamaru's definition; now, he can compose one of his own.
Love is the sense of warmth flooding into him as their eyes meet, and Gaara realizes that the affection identified in those dark coal depths is not just a reflection.
Sai has pledged loyalty to him, promising to remain by his side. Gaara finally gives into his own selfishness and takes his coveted attention. A mutually satisfying arrangement for a relationship that isn't fated to end.
That quality of selfless devotion still surprises Gaara, even now. He hopes that their bond benefits Sai, enough to sustain him.
There is no need to ask for the world, when they already have it.
Authors Note: Happy belated Birthday to Sai! Kishi timed it very well, giving him and Shin closure on the same week as his birthday. Here's to hoping for Gaara to confront his father in January! Oh, I'm really nervous about my portrayal of Sai, so if I'm messing up on his characterization, please let me know... u.u
Blithe, despite your claims, I cherish you as my RP partner, and our logs are always an inspiration.
Thank you for your time, readers; please leave a review and tell me your thoughts!
With love for my fans,