The first time he sees the boy with hair the color of blood, the fox coiled within him stirs and licks chakra-stained teeth, and this is reason enough for Naruto to flee, this inexplicable rising of the beast with a silvery hunger burning in its eyes. Kin, it says, our kin, but Naruto refuses to understand. He's nothing like that boy with the murderously red hair and envy-green eyes; the fox is a liar, a trickster, a monster. Who would listen to a fox?
(When he was five he had almost convinced Uchiha Sasuke to play ANBU with him when an older boy with a worn-out copy of Sasuke's face snatched him away, looking at Naruto with black eyes that had briefly blossomed into red. It was not the first time Naruto had felt the fox snarl and fight to rise, but until he saw Sasuke fall in a forest of needles it was the strongest, the fox's rage feeding on his own; it had wanted to kill the dead-eyed boy, and for an instant, so had Naruto.)
He watches Gaara crack and dissolve in the arena, and the smile beneath the sand is matched by the nine-tailed monster beneath Naruto's skin. Our brother has his claws deep in that one, the fox growls, pleasure thick in its voice, and Naruto thinks that the fox will tear him in half, pulling towards the kin it senses in Gaara while Naruto draws back: as if his body is a magnet barely balanced with its partner, teetering on the edge between attraction and repulsion.
Secretly he's a little glad that Sasuke will fight Gaara first in the finals. They're well-matched, self-absorbed monsters with selfish agendas, and they can fight and beat each other and leave Naruto the hell out of it.
Naruto has never been that lucky.
(When he was nine Iruka-sensei had tried to buy him ramen at somewhere besides Ichiraku. The woman behind the counter hadn't looked at him, hadn't heard him; she had slammed Iruka's bowl of ramen down in front of him so hard that it had splashed up and hit them both, burning Naruto's cheek across the thin whisker-lines there, and she had never brought a second. Iruka hadn't complained, and so Naruto hadn't either.)
He can't sleep on the night of the full moon. The deceptive silver light fills his room, but erases all the little tokens of his existence; his posters are empty shadows, his clothes and scrolls meaningless lumps of darkness. It's like he doesn't live here at all, just the way the people of Konoha have always wanted it, and he hates them and he hates that he hates them and he flees again, though only as far as the tiled roof, where the light can't erase him and he can sit all night in the company of the stars while the fox barks at the rabbit in the moon.
Only tonight it's not just the stars; there's a shape on the far side of the roof, and Naruto hears the shifting whisper of sand.
"I thought you were just another spoiled, worthless brat," says Gaara. "That I could kill you without even trying, and it would be only one tiny marker among the others proving my existence."
He comes closer; Naruto sees the sand rising behind him like a tail, glinting with flecks of mica and quartz. "But you aren't, are you?" and Gaara's voice is half-human, half-snarl. "The demon told me what you are, and the demon always knows. You're just like me..."
In the moonlight Gaara's hair is only dark, bloodless, and Naruto can't deny him anymore, nor the beasts that have haunted both their lives; who will take care of the children of monsters, if they will not take care of each other?
When they kiss it tastes clean and grey, like sand on the moon.