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Catching Feelings

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There is a relatively large part of him that is sure he is going to die.

He has never paid much attention to other people before, fulfilling the limited amount of social activity one needs to not go insane by hanging out with his teammates or his cousin, on the rare occasion that he is allowed to go to Konohagakure with his father. Now, though, he is almost fifteen, and he is fairly certain that he's not going to make it through his teenage years. He bumps into another boy in the village, and rather than his usual quick, polite apology and then dismissal, he makes eye contact with the boy. His cheeks heat up and his breath catches and it feels as though his heart is about to explode.

He has the bluest eyes Shinki has ever seen. It's a challenge, really, as he's met the Seventh Hokage in person and his electric blue eyes are one of his signature features, but Shinki can see the whole cloudy sky in those eyes and it shoves him back into nostalgic memories of staring up at the clouds lazily with Shikadai and Uncle Shikamaru. Stuttering, he reaches out a hand. "S-sorry."

Rather than say anything, the boy just smiles at him to reveal white teeth and dimples that only make him more sure that he's suffering from a heat stroke as his blood rushes in his ears. He turns on his heels and moves as quickly as he can through the sand toward his home while still seeming natural.

His house is large and, often, empty. There aren't many pictures from his Dad's childhood, and the few that they do have show him wearing a sour expression and shirking off any affection from Aunt Temari and Uncle Kankurō, but once he has begun to don the Hokage's robe, the smile that Shinki is used to being greeted with when he gets home from a mission begins to peek through what Shinki knows is often a chronic antisocial personality. There's one that has been up almost as long as he can remember of his father with Lord Seventh, who at that time was simply an affectionate "Naruto-oji-san", holding him at three years old while he stares at what he recalls to be a little flower native to the Land of Fire, which he now has firmly planted in his garden and is without a doubt the hardest to take care of.

He lets his eyes catch on a picture of Aunt Temari, not much older than him, grinning and holding up her Certificate of Chūnin Promotion, which hangs near a picture of Dad on the day of his inauguration as Kazekage, his hair looking as unkempt as Shinki's is now, and a picture of Uncle Kankurō with his first genin squad, which were all promoted to jōnin last year after a mission he hasn't heard much about to the Land of Hot Water. Closer to the kitchen, his ultimate destination, there is a picture of Aunt Temari on her wedding day to Uncle Shikamaru, and he wonders how different their lives were then that Shikamaru agreed to marry her. He flinches as his brain supplies a slap for him, and continues into the kitchen.

He chugs a glass of water, palms sweaty, and then opts for the more tempting peach juice that hides in the back of their refrigerator. He wipes the sticky residue away with the back of his hand and closes the refrigerator only after grabbing leftover gizzard, a common meal in the household as it is something that is easy to make and they both enjoy. Aunt Temari's voice nags in the back of his head that he should eat more diversely, and he considers the onigiri for a moment before deciding that is more effort than he really wants to put into nutrition at the moment. Shikadai is really beginning to rub off on him.

Out of nowhere at all, he is struck with the memory of startlingly blue eyes, and he nearly drops his glass.

The decision to talk to his Dad is both easy and difficult. Though he's always insisted that he would be there if Shinki ever needed to talk about anything, it isn't as if Shinki's father is a very easy person to talk to, even if he is trying his best. Being the Kazekage means he has never been available as often as he's sure they would both like him to be, and beyond that, his long silences and tendency to stare don't exactly make his presence the most comforting. Still, once he's finished his food and juice and can't find any other reason to stall, he finds himself in front of the door to his Dad's office, fist hesitating over the wood. A sudden, overwhelming, and primal fear clutches at him, and he finds himself hesitating to move forward.

His knuckles rap against the door against his will, and he almost wants to curse them. "Enter," his father announces, voice soft and distant. Shinki shuffles awkwardly into the room and looks around as though he's seeing it for the first time, his gaze settling guiltily on the floor when he sees Grandfather's stern face. That same anxious, guilty part of him is almost grateful the man isn't here to witness what a disgrace Shinki is. "You're home early," Gaara muses, glancing up at him.

"Didn't feel like hanging out with Araya and Yodo," he offers, keeping his eyes pointed plainly at the floor.

"You didn't have any other friends to hang out with?" Dad raises a brow at him. He gulps.

Forcing his eyes to stay on his father's face, he says, "I actually... ran into someone in the village." They both clear their throats awkwardly for a moment until he rushes to the point, oblivious to social cues as always. "I think I have some feelings."

His father's face shifts into one of interest, and he sets aside the scroll he was looking at to focus his attention on his son. When Shinki doesn't elaborate, shuffling in place under his dad's scrutiny, Gaara simply shrugs. "That's perfectly natural. Everyone has feelings." After a moment and Shinki's continued silence, he adds, "Though it takes some of us a while to admit that. Longer still to admit it is something that's alright. You know that it's something that's alright, right?"

Rather than answering his father's question, Shinki blurts, "I think I have romantic feelings." His only frame of reference is Aunt Temari and Uncle Shikamaru, as Uncle Kankurō has stayed single to focus on shinobi life and his father has never seemed particularly interested in pursuing that sort of thing, but he thinks to the way his aunt and uncle look at each other when they think no one is looking and then thinks of the way his heart sped up so quickly when he looked that other boy in the eyes.

"Oh. Do you..." He looks unsure of himself, glancing around the room as though trying to find an anchor. "Want to talk about them?"

He notes the distinct relief on Dad's face when he says, "No, no, that's okay."

Chewing on his lip, he sits in the chair across from his dad's desk, where the Kazekage hasn't looked back to his scrolls yet, and he feels his heart beginning to rush again as he thinks of the boy in the village. Someone he doesn't even know, and they've got him blushing like a lovesick Academy girl! Worse than that, it's a boy. He can't imagine the disappointment his father will experience when he learns that his only son's heart is racing for a blue-eyed, dimpled boy. He fears being disowned. Unadopted. He's not sure if "unadopted" is an actual term, but he imagines it's like an annulment but for the children you no longer want.

"Would you hate me if I liked boys?"

He doesn't think before saying it, and his father looks distinctly bewildered. At the same time, from Shinki's urgent tone, he imagines his father was expecting something much more urgent in the sentence than simply I think I'm gay. It takes a moment for him to come up with a response, and when Dad finally does open his mouth, all he manages to say is a curt, "What," only it doesn't actually sound like a question.

He repeats himself anyway. "I think I that I'm gay. That I like boys, I mean. But I love you more than I love any boy and I don't want to be... unadopted or something." He tries not to think too much about the "or something."

Once again, his father looks taken aback. He leans forward in his seat as though trying to visibly analyze his son's health, before leaning back again and moving all of the rest of the scrolls and papers on his desk to either side. "I don't follow."

He scrambles for an explanation for a whole minute while his father simply sits across from him, as patient and quiet as ever. Shinki has to stare at the surface of the desk just so he doesn't lose his nerve. "These... romantic feelings," he starts, and Dad nods as though to signal that he understands this. He doesn't try to drag his eyes up to meet his father's as he says, "They might be for boys."

"Okay?" Gaara questions immediately, and there is a distinct question mark at the end of this one. Shinki sighs loudly. He's not sure how to explain it to him. Before he's given the opportunity, Gaara starts, "You're worried that I would... disown you for such a thing?" Without saying anything aloud, he nods timidly, eyes flicking to his father's face as though he is testing the waters. Furrowing his brows, not quite sure how to respond to this, his father folds his hands together and places them in front of his mouth as he thinks quietly for a moment. Finally, he says, "Why would I do something like that?" To Shinki's great relief. "You are my son. I do not understand romantic love, but," waving Shinki closer, he lets one of his small smiles break his face and rests a hand on top of his head, "I love you. I always will."