Disclaimer: Naruto is owned by Masashi Kishimoto

Cover Image: 'Gaara of the Desert' by Angelbebob8 (Deviantart) Used with permission.

Author notes: After the Suna genin assist their allies in the failed Sasuke retrieval mission, Gaara seeks out the one person he knows can answer his question about bonds.


Hate

Gaara stood by the door for a long time, standing silently in the shadows as the pink haired girl entered, stayed in, and then left Naruto's room. He stood just as silently and still as the dark haired Hyuuga girl waited outside the same door; twiddling her fingers nervously, then leaving quickly without going in when the new Hokage walked into Naruto's room and shut herself inside.

Gaara watched all this then, when everyone had left, he walked towards the room; stopping when he heard another voice. Glancing around the hallways of the quiet hospital, he raised a hand and sent his sand eye under the door. A large, white haired man crouched on the windowsill in Naruto's room. Leaning closer so that he could hear, Gaara caught the words as Naruto vehemently declared that he was still going to find Sasuke, no matter what. It was the same declaration he had made to everyone who came to visit him in the hospital. He swore to bring Sasuke back.

However, it wasn't in the same way Gaara and his siblings might capture a rouge and bring them back for trial, or search out a spy or missing nin. Naruto was saying he was going to save Sasuke's life, bring him back home. This troubled Gaara, and was part of the reason he stayed by the door; waiting, even with Shukaku hissing at him to give it up and leave. He had to ask Naruto a question, because only Naruto would know the answer.

Even after he could see that everyone was gone, Gaara waited until the room was quiet, hoping maybe he would be interrupted again so he wouldn't have to go in, but no one else came. Slowly, Gaara creaked the door open and stepped inside. Naruto gave a small gasp of surprise. He was sitting up in bed, bandaged from head to toe like someone who was supposed to be long dead. Gaara stood in the doorway, unmoving. The last time the two had seen each other had been during their all out battle to the death.

"Hi Gaara," Naruto said.

Gaara stared at him, unsure of himself. Naruto's voice didn't seem to carry any resentment, any hate. Which made Gaara wary because resentment and hate he could deal with. Acceptance and forgiveness? No.

"You can come in you know," Naruto said. "You don't have to stand there like a door block. Besides, Sakura-chan said she was coming back soon."

Gaara's eyes shifted slightly. He had to be gone before anyone else came. He had to ask.

. "I . . . have a question."

Naruto's brows creased slightly. "Okay. . ."

Gaara fell silent, unsure of how to begin. The silence became so long that Naruto grew restless. Gaara found himself watching the blond, their eyes met and he stood still, waiting. He knew he shouldn't have come.

"Want to sit?"

Gaara blinked as Naruto gestured to a chair near the bed.

"You'll have to get that enormous gourd off your back though." Naruto said, smiling.

Slowly, Gaara loosened the strap across his shoulder and set the gourd of sand carefully against the foot of Naruto's bed. He walked tentatively over and sat in the chair by the night table, his hands set tensely on his knees, back straight.

A small smile flirted across Naruto's face, but at Gaara's glare it disappeared. The two stared at each other.

Without the gourd of sand giving the illusion of bulk, it became apparent to Naruto that Gaara was actually slightly smaller in size then he, which was something amazing since Naruto himself was quite small.

For a long moment, the two boys sized each other up; looking at each other in a quiet sort of respect that came from Naruto knowing Gaara was dangerous, and Gaara knowing Naruto could win against him in a fight. Gaara frowned slightly at the intensity of those blue eyes.

"What do you want?" Naruto finally asked, breaking the silence and causing Gaara to jerk slightly. In many ways Naruto was like Shukaku. They were both loud mouthed, powerful, and demanding.

"I. . ." Gaara looked at an imagined point of wall behind Naruto's head; having never met a human that he felt so powerless against. It was frighting; which was another similarity between Naruto and the One Tail.

"I heard you tell others that you were going to find Uchiha Sasuke."

"I am," Naruto said, fists clenching at his side.

"Why?"

"Because," Naruto stared at him forcefully, "it's the same as before. He's my friend and I'm not going to abandoned him."

"But. . . ."

The room fell silent until Naruto realized the look of confusion and discomfort on Gaara's face.

"It's like I said before. . ." He repeated, quieter this time. "I care about Sasuke. I'm not going to let that jerk kill him."

"But he betrayed you," Gaara said, taking a breath as his real question came forward. "How can you still care when he betrayed you? He could have killed you, taken away your existence."

"I don't care Gaara," Naruto said. "Sasuke's still my friend."

Gaara's lips turned to a small frown.

The room, once again, fell silent.

Gaara stared down at the floor for a time, then stood, replacing the gourd of sand onto his shoulders - Looking less like a shinobi holstering a powerful weapon, and more like a bound prisoner confined to fate. He adjusted the sash around his belt, then walked towards the door, laying his hand against the glass on the small inside window. He stopped.

"Naruto?"

"Ya?"

"Is it possible. . . To hate someone, but. . . To love them also? Even if it were just very small?" Gaara asked, fingers pressing against cold, hard glass.

Naruto frowned, "I don't think so."

Silence.

"I see. . ." Gaara said. His hand lowered from the window, raising to his chest slightly. "I should have known." He took one more step towards the door. "I. . . Hope you . . .Feel better soon."

"Gaara wait."

He stopped.

Naruto stared at him, then out the window facing the city of Konoha. "You can. Just like Sasuke. I hate him. I swore to bring him back even if I had to break every bone in his body." Naruto's eyes lowered, "I hate him."

Gaara turned, watching him.

"But. . .I still love him. As a friend. I love him so much it hurts." Naruto's hand too, crept to his chest. "I. . ." His voice stuttered slightly, then he looked up, eyes holding Gaara's and burning with some sort of inner light. "I love Sasuke. I hate what he's done. But that doesn't change the fact that I care."

Gaara watched Naruto. He felt Shukaku stir uncomfortably, then Gaara turned away. "Alright," he said quietly, standing in the doorway. "If. . .you need help. . . I'll help you."

Shukaku was ticked.

Naruto grinned, "Thanks, and you too. If you ever need me. I'll help you out. Got it?"

Gaara turned, frowning, "Why would you. . ."

"Because we're alike you and I." Naruto laughed, "And you're not so bad when you're not all creepy looking and all. I think we can get along."

Gaara stared at him for a moment.

No, Naruto was not like Shukaku at all. He was stronger.

"Thank you."Gaara said, then turned and left the room.

He passed a nurse who stared in fright and quickly gave him walking space. He passed pink haired Sakura who paused for a moment, then quickly went into Naruto's room. Gaara would have told her he was sorry, sorry for almost killing her when it was clear she was precious to Naruto, but in an odd way he wasn't. His interactions with these Konoha nin had first been interactions of only blood and darkness. Now there was a chance, as faint as it was, for love and light. Gaara tentatively touched the red scar on his forehead. There was a chance, that even he. . . while hated, could possibly be loved just a little bit.

Updated Author notes: I did a rewrite on this story thanks to the comments and help of Mod Soul who has written a story called "Decisions" Which, as she has pointed out, carries a smiler feel to the sand sib's personalities as I have written. Her stories are pretty good, she even has a Naruto/Bleach cross over. So, look her up, read a bit, leave some comments, etc.