Mona and Misa lived in a house similar in style to mine and Salem's, though they had changed a lot of the outside to fit their personalities rather than leave what they had called a 'boring color scheme.'
They had taken their favorite colors and hired some people when they had first moved in to customize the house.
Mona's favorite color was purple and she had found someone that would stain the roofing a lilac color, while Misa had painted the outside walls a sky blue.
Since it stood on a hill by itself, you could see the brightly colored house at least a mile before you reached it, most people stopping to look at the dollhouse looking building in surprise.
Which was exactly what Gaara did when we got close enough, his voice incredulous when he spoke.
''That's where we're going?''
laughed and nodded, tugging on his hand to get him moving again.
''Yeah, interesting house isn't it?''
He nodded as he let me pull him forwards and seemed to become more stunned the closer we got to the house. By the time we had reached the front door, his eyes had widened to the size of saucers and I was trying to hide an amused smile at his surprise.
'' Just wait until you see the inside.''
He looked at me sharply.
''Is it worse?''
I laughed and shook my head.
I knocked on the door, stepping back in surprise as the wood swung open almost instantly, a grinning Misa jumping on me in her typical version of a hug. Had Gaara not steadied me, I would have fallen to the ground at the sudden weight.
''Ria! How are you? Are you working tonight? Oh! Who's your friend?''
She pulled away from me, finally noticing Gaara, who had taken a few steps away from me after he had made sure that I wouldn't fall, and was glaring slightly at the still clinging girl, his arms crossed over his chest tightly.
I rolled my eyes and gave her a fond smile as I answered.
''Misa, this is Gaara. I pointed him out to you the other night, remember? He's Kankuro's brother?''
Misa flushed when I mentioned Kankuro and she released me quickly, wringing her hands as her eyes darted around the yard, almost seeming to be looking for the boy himself.
''Oh, yeah I remember something like that. Is Kankuro still at your house? He didn't come to Aubry's last night like he said he would. Did something happen?''
I nodded and sighed, explaining as I fished the letters out of my jean's pocket.
''Yeah, he's fine. He and the other ninjas just had some things come up that made them have to rush back to Konoha.''
I held the letters out to her as I continued speaking.
''He wanted us to bring you a letter though.''
She took both letters and I explained the second envelope.
''The other letter is to Misa from Sai. Would you mind giving it to her?''
She shook her head.
''No, I don't mind. She's sleeping right now though, so she wouldn't really appreciate being woken up. Even for a love letter.''
''I'll just have to remember to give it to her when she wakes up.''
I smiled at her conspiratorialy.
''You better remember. If she found out that you forgot to give her a letter from Sai, you would be in big trouble.''
She laughed and nodded.
''Yeah, I know.''
I could tell by her brief answer and the way that she was fidgeting that she was in a hurry to read her letter and simply told her that I wanted to walk around the market before it got too late, not teasing her about her obvious distraction as I would usually do, simply letting her hurry through her goodbyes before I led Gaara off of the porch.
She closed the door before our feet even touched the ground and I looked at Gaara to find that he had dropped his arms to his side and moved closer to me, though his glare was still in place. After a moment of debating about asking if he was upset, I simply decided that the expression was just another of his habits and he wasn't really angry.
Especially when he took my hand again, his grip gentle and his voice soft as he spoke.
''I didn't get to see much of the inside, but...did I see a pool set up in the entryway?''
I laughed and nodded.
''Yeah, Misa loves swimming and had always wanted a heated one indoors so that she could still swim in the winter without dealing with the cold. Though I have no idea why they put it that close to the front door, though Salem told me once that it was because Mona just wanted to see people fall in if they weren't paying attention to where they walked...but that could have just been because he doesn't like her.''
I shrugged and Gaara gave me a sideways look, his hand squeezing mine before he spoke again, a small smile on his face and his voice amused.
'' I think, that you have some very interesting friends.''
I laughed and nodded, swinging our arms happily as I replied.
''Gaara, dear, you don't even know the half of it.''
The market wasn't as busy as I had thought it would be and I was glad for it, still being able to walk beside Gaara without being ran into. Mostly. It made it easier for me to watch him as he looked around curiously.
''So what do you want to do first?''
He looked at me with a bewildered expression and shook his head.
''I don't know. I don't make a habit of going to the market in Suna very often, and even if I did, this seems quite a bit different.''
I nodded and began to run down a list of possibilities.
''Alright. Well, there's shopping, places to eat, and then sometimes there are performances by traveling entertainers. There are fortune tellers, and booths to buy love potions, and that kind of thing. There is also games that you can play.''
He nodded, his face thoughtful before he smiled gently.
''Alright. Lets' get some food first.''
I smiled and nodded.
'' Uh-huh. And is there a particular type of food that you want?''
He paused before answering hesitantly.
''Do you think there is any ramen booths around. All I hear from Naruto is how wonderful ramen is, and I think I would like to try it.''
I laughed, knowing what he was talking about. Naruto would talk about, and eat ramen, all day if he could.
''I think we can find a stand or two.''
Gaara nodded and let me tug him past the crowds of people, not commenting on it when I would tug us to the side to avoid being in the thick too much on our way to what I had been told was the best ramen at the market.
It was busy, like it always was, and I was quick to lead him away towards one of the small sitting booths to eat, the both of us basically inhaling the noodles. I suppose that I should have realized that I would be so hungry after missing breakfast. I didn't typically do that when I was awake in time for it.
We continued our walking once we had finished and I tried hard to not laugh at Gaara as he looked from one brightly colored stall to another so fast that I was slightly afraid that he was going to give himself whiplash. He seemed to not want to miss even the smallest of details and I found it adorable.
As we walked, I noticed a familiar booth that typically had games and tugged him towards it, seeing that today was a game where you threw three rings onto the necks of bottles to win a prize.
I looked at Gaara and saw that he was giving the brightly painted bottles a curious look before he looked at me when I spoke.
''Would you like to play this?''
He glanced at the bottles again before returning his gaze to mine.
''Isn't there a rule that says that ninjas can't play any of these games?''
I laughed and shook my head.
''Not around here. Some of the games are hard, even for ninjas, and the ones that aren't, the people just enjoy watching a ninja's skills. There aren't too many that travel through this way, or come to the market just to goof off. ''
I had taken Naruto to the market when he had visited and he had loved being able to show off to the large group of people that had gathered to watch him play the games. By the time we had left, he had an arm full of prizes and an empty coin bag.
Gaara nodded hesitantly, squaring his shoulders.
''Alright, how do you play then?''
I explained the rules and he concentrated on everything that I said, his expression turning into a harsh frown and I sighed.
''It's just a game Gaara. You don't have to wear such a serious expression. This is supposed to be fun.''
He smirked suddenly, surprising me before he nodded.
''I know that, but I'm still planning on winning.''
I huffed with a smile and rolled my eyes.
''Well I would hope so. That's the point of playing.''
He nodded and I gave the smiling man at the booth the right amount before looking back at Gaara and seeing that he was looking at the bottles, his eyes calculating before he suddenly threw all of the rings at the same time, each ring landing on three different bottles at the same time. I gaped at him and he looked at me triumphantly.
''So, what do I win?''
I turned my wide eyed look towards the man running the booth, seeing that he looked as stunned as I felt. He shook his head after a moment of silence and pointed to the wall of plush animals and trinkets.
''You have your pick of anything. I haven't ever seen anyone win like that before.''
I nodded in agreement before looking back at Gaara, seeing that he was eyeing something behind the counter. I stood on my toes to see what had caught his attention and cooed softly as I saw a group of panda cubs in what looked like a baby pin.
I noticed that what I thought must be the mother was sitting away from the pin, though she was still keeping a close watch over her cubs. She was far smaller than a typical panda bear, just a bit bigger than Sora and I wondered briefly if there was a new type of bear that I wasn't aware of.
I felt Gaara stiffen next to me and followed his gaze to find that one of the cubs was sitting in a corner of the pin, away from his playing brothers and sisters, his eyes looking lonely as he watched his siblings play.
I looked back at the older man with a hopeful expression and he smiled warmly before walking over to the pin and picking up the cub and handing him to me, speaking when I had the chubby bear in my arms.
''I wasn't planning on letting any of Kira's babies go, but he doesn't seem to fit in with the others and you two seem like you would make a good home for him. I think that he would be happier with you.''
He patted the cub's head before looking both Gaara and I in the eyes, his gaze and voice serious.
''You two be sure to take good care of him. I don't like being proven wrong when I think that people are right for something.''
He smiled and I gaped at him but not getting a chance to respond before he had already turned back to luring customers to his booth, his voice loud as he ignored us.
I looked back at Gaara to see that he looked a bit stunned as well before he seemed to gather himself. He shrugged and slowly began to walk through the crowd, leading me this time as I carried the wriggling cub.
We didn't stay long after our run in with the man at the booth. The panda was heavy, and even though we switched off on carrying him, it was still a long walk back to my home.
While we were walking I smiled up at Gaara, who was at the moment having issues holding on to the wriggling cub. As I watched, the cub crawled onto Gaara's shoulder, put his paw on top of his head, and fell asleep.
I giggled and Gaara turned his attention to me.
''It looks like you have made a new friend.''
Gaara sighed but didn't say anything, letting me continue thoughtfully.
''What are we going to name him? The man at the booth didn't mention him having a name did he?''
Gaara thought for a minute before he shook his head, careful to not dislodge the snoozing panda.
''No. But I suppose that we need to pick a good one because the man said that he didn't like to be disappointed.''
I laughed and nodded.
''Well then, I suppose that were going to have to be careful about what we choose. What about Rover?''
Gaara frowned, his forehead wrinkling slightly.
''Isn't that a dogs name?''
I laughed and shrugged.
''I guess it is? Alright, let's not call him that.''
We continued down a list of names. Gaara saying ones like Sailor, Constantine, and Cezer, while I was spouting out ones like Dusty, Milo, and Darcy. When we couldn't think of anymore names I suggested that we just call him Pandy and be done with it, having lost my patience and ran out of names.
Gaara sighed and frowned harshly.
''What do you think of Butterball?''
I pondered the name for a while, a smile coming to my face as I agreed quickly.
''It fits him, considering how heavy he is.''
I was the one carrying him at this time and grunted as I lifted him higher, almost dropping him. Gaara smirked and took him from me, Butterball wiggling for a little bit until he found his spot on Gaara's shoulder, his paw on Gaara's head.
I tried to fake seriousness as I spoke, though it was hard with the amount of cuteness that I was witnessing.
''You know, if we wait a few minutes we may start to hear snoring.''
''You might hear snoring. All I hear is this massive thing breathing in my ear.''
I couldn't help but laugh and skipped next to him. Even with him carrying the heavy panda, my shorter legs were having a bit of trouble keeping up with his pace, though I would never admit it out loud.
''Aww! But you both just look so cute. We should take a picture and frame it.''
Gaara smiled at me for a moment before seeming to remember something, stopping suddenly and giving me a sad frown. We were in my yard by now and I looked up at him, confused at his sudden halt.
''What's wrong, Gaara?''
He handed Butterball to me but wouldn't look at me. I began to think about what we had been talking about that could have caused him to fall into such a mood but couldn't think of anything.
He sighed suddenly and looked up at me, his eyes serious.
''Ria, I don't think that I can stay as long as I originally said. I really wanted to stay here but...I can't pretend that there isn't a war on it's way, or shove my duties to the side to spend time with you here...as much as I wish I could. My Siblings will be in Konoha soon and I can't shake the feeling that I should be with them.''
I nodded and smiled at him comfortingly.
''I didn't think that you would actually be able to stay the entire time that you said before anyways. I was just glad to be able to spend the time I did with you. I figure that you'll want to leave as soon as possible?''
He nodded and suddenly gasped my upper arms, pulling me a bit closer as he spoke.
''I did have every intention of staying till tomorrow. I really don't want to leave you. I just can't let them fight alone. You understand that don't you?''
I nodded again, feeling a slight weight press inside my chest that I had been pushing away since I had realized what Sasuke's plans would mean for the people that I had just recently come to know.
''I understand, I just don't want you or any of the others to get hurt. Which of course you probably will. But, can you please try not to get hurt to badly.''
He smiled and nodded, his hands squeezing my arms briefly as he answered.
''I'll try. Though I can't make any promises.''
I sighed and he hesitated a moment before leaning down to kiss me, his arms tugging me a bot closer and I decided that he was getting better at kissing. Which really wasn't fair, since he had been a natural at it to begin with.
I could feel his frustration and anxiousness in the kiss and though he tried to keep it gentle, we didn't really know when we would see each other again and his desperation caused him to press his mouth to mine harder than he had any of the other times.
By the time we pulled apart to breathe, I was sure that my lips were bruised. The thin skin aching slightly even as I ignored it, Gaara wrapping his arms around me, letting me rest against him for a few moments, his heart beating steadily against my ear.
I was the first to pull away, not wanting him to miss anymore daylight. He would already be traveling in the dark, but going through the countryside and town that surrounded where I lived was not something that I wanted him to do after sunset.
I looked up at him with a forced smile, trying to keep my voice light.
''Do you need anything from out of the house?''
He shook his head.
''I sent it with my siblings. If I leave now and push myself, I should be in Konoha before breakfast tomorrow. So I won't need food either.''
I nodded and continued to keep up my fake smile.
''You better go then. You don't want to miss breakfast.''
It was a poor attempt at a joke and we both knew it. He was still holding me and I stood on my toes to kiss him quickly before untangling myself, lifting the panda that I had continued to hold higher in my arms.
Gaara frowned as he watched me and I saw his expression become determined, his hands clenching at his side before he spoke.
''I love you, Ria.''
I smiled at him, this one far more genuine than the ones before and I nodded.
''I know. I love you too, Gaara.''
He seemed to relax after hearing my reply, his shoulders relaxing.
''I'll send word as soon as this stupid war is over.''
I nodded, unsure how to reply to that and watched him perform some complicated hand signs before he disappeared in a cloud of sand. I had seen the unhappy look on his face before the sand had wrapped around him and known that he hadn't been able to stay any longer in the tense atmosphere. I stood still for a few moments staring at the spot where he had been standing, before sighing and taking Butterball inside to see his new home.