I walked inside to find Salem sitting on the couch, drinking something out of a can. I was a little afraid to know what it was. He has some terrible taste sometimes.
I placed Butterball on the floor and flopped down on the couch beside Salem, both of us silent for some time and lost in our own thoughts.
Salem was the first to break the silence.
''How did your date go?''
''Fine, how was yours?''
''Fine. I guess.''
He took another gulp of his drink.
''Her father hates me.''
I looked at him startled.
''What? You've only just met her. What did you do to make him hate you already?''
''I don't really know. I guess he just doesn't want to let her go. She's the youngest child you know.''
He took another swallow of his drink, wincing slightly.
''It didn't help that he walked in while I was kissing her either.''
I scoffed and gave him a scolding look.
''No, I could see how that would make a father angry.''
He took another gulp before nodding.
''Yap. Anyways, you heard my story, what's yours? Did Gaara get abducted again or what?''
I glared at him, not finding any humor in his teasing.
''No. And that's not funny. He had to go help his family and the leaf ninjas fight against Weasel's stupid little brother.''
''I think that if I ever meet the guy that I'm going to hit him in his face.''
Salem chuckled, giving me a sympathetic look.
''Looks like we both have issues.''
He offered me the can that he was holding.
''Do you wanna drink?''
I looked at it doubtfully, leaning away from him slightly, the smell coming from the open can making me wince.
''What is it?''
He glanced at the can and then back to me before shrugging.
''I really don't know. But it's good. Aubry gave it to me. He said it was to congratulate me on finding a nice girl to date.
A lot of good it does me if her father wont let me within fifty feet of her,''
He took another drink, only to spit it back out again, his eyes wide and his mouth gaping.
''What in God's green Earth is that?''
I looked to where he was pointing and saw Butterball lying on the floor, his large eyes staring up at us.
''It's a panda bear. Cute isn't he? Gaara and I got him at the market today. His name's Butterball.''
Salem grabbed a towel off of the coffee table and began dabbing at the wet spots on his shirt.
''It fits him. I hope Sora doesn't mind sharing a bed with him.''
Salem looked at me and then back at Butterball, raising an eyebrow thoughtfully.
''I wonder if hunting a panda bear would make the old man like me better?''
I grinned at him impishly.
''Only if it was you in the panda bear costume.''
He snorted and nodded with a smile.
''That's probably right. Then the geezer would probably put my head on the wall.''
I wrinkled my nose, giving him a disturbed look.
''That's gross, Salem! I think that stuff you're drinking has gone to your head.''
He laughed, far more loudly than he normally would, holding the can in his hand up in a small salute.
''Yap. This is some powerful stuff, whatever it is. Are you sure that you don't want a drink? It would definitely make you feel better.''
He waggled his eyebrows at me and I laughed, shaking my head.
''No thanks. One of us barfing up our toenails is enough for tonight I think.''
He smiled and leaned further into the cushions, putting his arm around my shoulder lightly.
''Yeah, I guess you're right. But, you know what?''
I looked at him smiling, his words were slightly slurred and I knew from experience that he would always come up with some crazy thoughts when he was like this.
''Our love lives suck. We should join the church. You would be Sister Ria, and I would be Brother Salem.''
I laughed and shook my head, sending a pointed look towards the empty can in his hand.
''You wouldn't be able to abstain from some things.''
He chuckled and shrugged.
''You're probably right, but still, I think that I'll call you little sister from now on.''
His smile was lopsided and I laughed, pushing at him gently, causing him to tip over into the arm of the couch.
''I think that you need to lay down for a while. Whatever was in that drink has gone to your head.''
I stood up, letting him slide down the cushions to lay down before throwing a blanket over him. He had already closed his eyes by the time I turned around to pick up Butterball, mumbling softly as I turned out the lights.
''Night, Little Sister.''
I smiled and paused at the foot of the stairs, calling back over my shoulder.
''Goodnight, Big Brother.''
I made my way slowly to my room hoping that I would be able to sleep as soundly as Salem was...without the ugly symptoms that he would have in the morning.
I woke up the next morning feeling more tired than when I had gone to bed.
Butterball had kept me up most of the night, tossing and turning in his new environment. He had finally fallen asleep on top of my chest, making it difficult for me to breathe.
Around five in the morning I had finally decided to give up on my sleep and made my way downstairs to cheek on Salem, rubbing at blurry eyes as I tried to not stumble down the stairs.
He was sprawled out on his back. One of his legs hanging off of the couch cushions and an arm thrown over his eyes. The blanket had fallen off of him and I gently replaced it over him before making my way into the kitchen.
Salem would be waking up soon, and though I wasn't really hungry, I knew that Salem would need food...and coffee. I searched through the cabinets and freezer looking for something to eat, and finally found some muffin mix and frozen blueberries. Having such a large group of people in my house had pretty well cleaned out the cupboards and I would need to go shopping if I wanted food for lunch.
I was just beginning to stir the batter when I heard a loud 'thunk' from the living room, the sound being followed by a loud groan and I soon heard Salem shuffling towards the kitchen.
He didn't speak to me when he entered, instantly going to pour a cup of coffee and taking a sip of the steaming black liquid before flopping down on a kitchen chair with a sigh.
I smiled at his behavior and enjoyed the silence in the kitchen, still trying to wake myself up.
I had just placed the tray of muffins in the oven, Salem pouring his second cup of coffee when we heard a sharp banging on the front door.
Salem instantly groaning at the noise, his hand pressing harshly against his temple while I looked at him startled.
''Where you expecting anyone?''
He shook his head and made his way towards the knocking, his cup of coffee held tightly in one hand as the fingers of the other made small circles against his temple. I scampered along behind him, peeking under his arm as he threw open the door with a small growl, his typical good host attitude being pushed to the background as his head throbbed.
''Can we help you?''
I stared at the man, not recognizing him and saw him look over Salem, seeming to size him up before he began speaking, his voice slightly pompous.
''I was sent by the Kazekage to this address, with the specific orders to deliver a message to a person named 'Ria'. Do you know where I could find this person?''
Salem paused for a moment before removing his hand from the door frame and stepping away, waving a hand at me.
Now that I had a clearer look at the man, I noticed the Suna headband tied around his forehead. He looked over me appraisingly, causing me to stiffen before he nodded and spoke again.
''You are, 'Ria?'''
I nodded, trying to ignore the look he had just given me.
''Yeah. You said that you had a message for me?''
He nodded and turned a pointed look at Salem before he returned his gaze to my face, his voice lowering.
''I think that it would be better if I gave you the message in private. The Kazekage said it was specifically for you.''
Salem raised an eyebrow and straightened his shoulders, not moving from his spot next to me and I smiled at his stubbornness before turning back to the ninja.
''Anything that your Kazekage told you can be said in front of Salem.''
I doubted that Gaara would have told his messenger anything that Salem couldn't hear.
The man frowned but nodded, seeing that I wasn't going to push Salem from the room.
''His lordship, the Kazekage, has invited you to come to the village hidden in the sand to attend a festival in honor of the defeat of Sasuke Uchiha.''
I jerked back, looking at the ninja in surprise before turning that look towards Salem. The ninja's had only left the day before. Could they have finished their fighting already?''
Salem shrugged and the man cleared his throat to gain my attention again, causing me to wince at the grating noise as I turned back to him, listening to the remainder of his message.
''The Kazekage also insists that I escort you into the village, should you wish to attend the festival. The elder brother of the Kazekage also asks that you invite a miss Misa, as well.''
The man went silent and I nodded encouragingly.
''Was that it?''
He reached into his bag and pulled out a scroll, handing it to out me.
''He sent a letter. I expect that it will explain what I have already told you.''
I nodded and took the scroll, stepping back, anxious to read whatever Gaara had written.
Salem took over speaking, giving the ninja directions to Aubry's to wait and I scurried from the room, almost running up the stairs and forcing myself to not slam the door as I ripped the seal from the scroll.
I sat down quickly on my bed, my eyes instantly going to the spiky writing, my hands crinkling the paper with how harshly I was gripping it.
I know that you are probably wondering why I am able to write to you so quickly.
Sasuke did attempt to attack Konoha But when he saw Sakura, and she threw herself in front of him, he couldn't continue with his plan.
You were right about him having feelings for her.
Nobody knows what they said to each other in that brief time that they were alone, but whatever it was caused them to fall to their knees and embrace each other.
There was an awful screech from the woman that had traveled with him when he kissed Sakura. It took three ninja to restrain her when she tried to run towards them. Apparently she wasn't very happy about him choosing Sakura over her.
But that's over with now and I would really like to see you and show you my home. Suna and Konoha have joined together to hold a festival here and I think that it would be the perfect time for you to experience the village.
And Kankuro is hoping that you will bring Misa along. He won't stop talking about her.
I know that Salem will not allow you to travel to Suna alone, so please bring him with you... And anyone else that would make you more comfortable.
Truthfully, I wouldn't mind if you brought your entire village, as long as you came to Suna. I didn't think that I could miss anyone this much in such a short period of time. But I do miss you. Maybe it's because of the awful way that I left you last.
Please come to Suna. And bring Butterball if you can. Temari wants to see him.
I looked at the scroll for a second more before finding my duffel bag and throwing some clothes and essentials inside of it. It was hard to not simply grab an armful from my closet, stuff them into the bag, and call it good before rushing from the room. But I really didn't want to wear extremely mismatched clothes during my first visit to Suna.
I was zipping up the bag when I heard my door open, Salem strutting into the room, a muffin in his hand, crumbs around his face.
''Are you getting ready to leave?''
I nodded and winced as I caught a whiff of the slightly burnt muffin, speaking with a wrinkled nose.
''Yeah. And you better go pack soon too. I don't want to go to Suna without you.''
''I wasn't planning on letting you, Little Sister. My bag is already packed and waiting downstairs. I promised Sasori that I would look out for you. And you know that I don't break my promises.''
''And besides: What kind of big brother would I be if I let you travel alone when you can't even remember to turn off the oven. You almost charred the muffins.''
I tried to scowl at him but I ruined it with a giggle.
''I suppose you're right. I was just so excited to read Gaara's letter that I forgot about my cooking.''
I paused, a sudden thought popping into my mind and I tilted my head curiously.
''Hey, Salem? Would you like for Toru to come with us?''
His eyes widened and he nodded instantly.
''I would love that. If you can convince her father to come with us.''
I smirked, feeling more confident than I probably should.
''I bet I can. If you'll go to Misa's and tell her what's going on, and tell Mona that she can come with us to Suna as well, I'll go over to Toru's to talk to her dad.''
He scowled, his mouth twisting in disgust.
''I don't know if I'm getting a better or worse deal, but alright. I'll meet you at Aubry's?''
I nodded and waited for Salem to walk out of my room before I shook my head and grabbed my bag from the bed, throwing it over my shoulder. I didn't want to come back for it after meeting with Toru's father.
I grabbed Sora's leash with a sigh, latching it onto her collar while she tried to prance away from me, wincing as she tried to run away from me, nearly jerking my arm out of socket. I would have to take her with me since no one would be home to take care of her.
I picked Butterball up by the scruff of his neck, grunting as I lifted him. Maybe I should have just sent him with Salem. I was struggling with him a bit.
I was glad suddenly that Salem had left the directions to Toru's on that paper when he had visited her the day before. It was still lying in the mostly empty waste basket and I was able to find it without a problem...and without bothering Salem by asking where she lived. I wasn't even sure he was still in the house anyways.
I shrugged and struggled to lift the wriggling panda higher, not wanting to drop him as Sora pulled me down the stairs, too excited to be going for a walk with me for mine or the panda in my arms good.