It turned out that talking the father into letting Toru go with us wasn't that hard.
The Father: who's name was Mark, was a frequent visitor to Aubry's. So I bribed him with a free order of whatever he wanted the next time that I worked.
He had grinned largely and agreed. He said that as long as someone was with the two of them, that he didn't really mind Salem dating Toru. He just didn't want to be a grandfather yet. Especially from his youngest child.
I agreed and he said that Toru would meet us at Aubry's in half-an-hour. It wouldn't make the messenger very happy that he had to wait, but I supposed that he would get over it.
I pushed into Aubry's and found that I was very wrong about the messengers disposition.
He was in a terrific mood. Aubry had given him some of his special wine. The kind that he saved for either important people or special occasions. The ninja was beat red and his words were slurred as he spoke to Aubry.
''Sooo ya see, tat we 'ave ta leave as soon as dey makes up their minds.''
Aubry was stifling his laughter, sitting across from the ninja at one of the tables and I walked over to him, frowning harshly, my glare worsening when he simply laughed at my obvious irritation.
''Amazing how people have different reactions to alcohol.''
The ninja was still ranting, talking to the air and I wrinkled my nose.
''Jeez, how much has he had?''
Aubry shook his head and took a drink from his own glass.
''Still hasn't finished his first glass. He's spilled most of it, waving his hands around. So you came to tell me that you can't work tonight, huh?''
I smiled sheepishly and nodded, having completely forgotten about working at all.
He grinned, his mouth turning up evilly
''You realize that as soon as you get back that I'm working you extra hard, right?''
I nodded and he suddenly clapped his hands together, looking down at the dog that was currently trying to tear my arm out of socket.
''About that pooch of yours? I think that it would be better if I kept her here while you're gone. She wouldn't know what to do in all that sand. Isn't that right Sora?''
Sora's ears pricked up, stopping her constant pulling to look up at Aubry and causing him to laugh.
''That's what I thought.''
He grinned at me before turning back to the still ranting messenger and sighed.
''Him I'm not keeping. He's not as good of company as Sora is. All he does is complain. He may be a burden on you while you walk back.''
I nodded and frowned. Aubry needed to stop giving people alcohol.
''Probably, in the shape he is now. I think that I'll go make some coffee. He can drink that and maybe we'll be able to leave in the next few hours.''
I sighed, pouting slightly.
''I had been hoping to get to Suna before nightfall. Now that doesn't seem likely.''
Aubry chuckled and patted my shoulder.
''It's alright, Ria. You'll be there before you know it.''
He smiled and reached over the table to take the bottle and cup away from the drunken messenger before standing and making his way towards the bar.
I sighed and placed my bag on a nearby table, finally being able to lift Butterball higher into my arms and not feeling as if I was about to drop the poor panda.
It turned out that we were able to leave an hour-and-a-half later. The messenger seeming to have a quick digestive system.
He was drunk for about twenty minutes, then had a hangover for about an hour, then he was fine and scowling.
He explained that, being a ninja, anything that he eats or drinks is processed through his body faster.
Mostly, I didn't care. His quick recovery meant that I was going to be in Suna by sunset.
A few minutes later we set off. Leaving Sora with Aubry and using her leash on Butterball. It really didn't help since anytime he was put down he would simply sit and refuse to be moved until someone picked him up again. Apparently I had already spoiled him.
So Salem, Misa, Mona and I took turns carrying the panda cub to Suna, the four of us struggling to carry the heavy animal as we tried to ignore the ninja, who had continued to complain about our 'non-ninja' speed.
It got to a point where I told Salem that if the messenger made one more reference to us not being ninjas that he would have to speak past a broken nose. Salem hadn't been much help, simply grinning and taking Butterball away from Misa. The girl had been fine carrying him, but I think that he just wanted to look like a strong gentleman in front of the soft spoken Toru.
The ninja allowed us a few breaks to rest and eat, but none of them lasted more than ten minutes. And as we drew closer to the village, the breaks decreased, all of us in a hurry to finish the walking part of our trip and get settled into where we would stay until after the festival.
We weren't aware that the gates that we would be going through were rather hidden and weren't really paying attention, Salem almost running in to them as the swirling sand had blocked our vision for some time. It had seemed as if there had been nothing there and then suddenly, large gates had appeared out of nowhere.
The ninjas guarding the gates had stared us down suspiciously and the messenger had to explain what all of us were doing in Suna, the guards nodding, though they still didn't look happy as they let us into the village. Their reaction caused me to wonder how suspicious of strangers Suna actually was. I knew from Naruto that they hadn't exactly been on completely good terms with Konoha when he had first met Gaara, but I hadn't been aware that their dislike was for everyone.
I stepped closer to Salem as the gates closed behind us, people walking past us and I noticed that no one really paid any attention to us once we were inside, even with the messenger ninja leading us through the streets and giving us away as strangers. So maybe my first impression was wrong and it was just the guards that were suspicious?
Though...with how busy everyone appeared to be, preparing for the coming festival, they may not have even noticed us at all and their reactions would have been different if we had appeared on an average day.
The messenger drew me out of my thoughts by stopping suddenly in front of an Inn and clearing his throat
''This is where you will be staying. Your rooms are all prepared and set up, though one of you will need to go tell the Kazekage that you have arrived. The building is over there.''
He pointed to a building a few yards away from the Inn.
''I'll leave you to get settled.''
He suddenly turned on his heel and walked off, leaving us blinking after him at the abrupt goodbye.
Salem grinned at me, being the first to regain his senses.
''Well, Little Sister better get walking. The Kazekage himself wants to see you.''
I gaped at him as he took my bag and Butterball from me before he led the other girls into the Inn, Mona giving me a knowing grin before the door blocked her from my sight.
I stood still for a few moments, unsure about what exactly had just happened before a small smile came to my face and I suddenly understood. He had just solved the problem of Misa volunteering to go, just in case Kankuro was there.
I shook my head, my smile still in place as I silently thanked my adopted brother's quick thinking and began walking towards the building, sidestepping the people that rushed past me and trying to not dawdle to look at all of the half hanging decorations. I would see them all tomorrow when they were finished and the village was lit up prettily. Right now I needed to hurry and speak with Gaara before he decided to go home for the night. I wasn't sure if anyone would direct me to his house...or even if I could find it by myself.
I stopped when I came to the entrance to the tower and giggled lightly as I looked over the large building. It reminded me of a large beehive, and I had the brief image before I pushed inside, of a swarm of ninjas buzzing around like anxious bees.
It wasn't like that however, being almost silent inside and I pouted slightly as my small daydream was crushed before shrugging and making my way up the flights of stairs that I hoped would lead me to someone that could help me.
I had gone up four flights before finally passing a door and catching a glimpse of someone inside just as I was passing by. I instantly slid to a halt and backtracked until I could enter into the room.
A thin man with a hooked nose looked up at me over the rim of his glasses and he frowned, sticking his nose up in the air and sniffing pompously before he even spoke.
''I think that you might be in the wrong place. Information and maps of Suna are four floors down and the fifth door on the left.
I shook my head and shuffled my feet against the patterned rug, wondering if it just wouldn't be easier for me to go to where he said and ask where Gaara's office actually was. But I had already walked up all those stairs and I didn't want to do that again if I could help it.
''I was actually looking for the Kazekage. I was told that I needed to see him as soon as possible.''
The man sniffed and stacked some papers, straightening them out before standing from his chair and walking over to a large filing cabinet, not even looking at me as he replied.
''The Kazekage has said that he will see no one else the rest of the day. I'm sorry, but you will have to came back tomorrow.''
I frowned at his back, my hands clenching into fists at my sides. Sure he was sorry. He definitely sounded it when he spoke in such a smug voice. He had probably had to turn his back so that he could hide a smile. I was actually trying to be polite, which was pretty hard for me to do sometimes and this guy was making that even harder for me with his rude attitude.
I took a breath and tried to keep a tight hold on my slowly climbing temper.
''Yeah, he's actually kinda expecting me. So will you ask him if he wants to see me. If he says no then I'll leave and come back tomorrow. Though I don't think that will be the case.''
The man sniffed again, not even looking at me this time when he spoke.
''I told you already, the Kazekage will see no one today. You will have...''
I cut him off, slamming my hands onto his desk and causing him to spin around to face me in surprise as I snarled at him. Screw being polite, it didn't seem to get me results with this guy.
''Look! Just ask him, okay? It won't do any harm to ask and it won't take you more than a second. That's your job isn't it?''
His face had turned an unattractive shade of red and he stomped over to the door, knocking on it harder than I thought that he would have normally and peeked inside when a muffled voice from the other side answered.
He poked his head inside, not letting me get a look into the room and his voice was beyond scathing when he spoke.
''I'm sorry to disturb you, Lord Kazekage. But there is a girl here that insists that you are expecting her. I have told her that you would see no one else today, but she won't leave until I ask you to see her. Should I tell her to leave now? She's very rude and I can't imagine you being associated with her.''
I heard a sigh and this time I was able to hear Gaara's weary voice as he spoke.
''No, if I'm expecting her then it wouldn't be right for me to send her away without at least seeing her briefly. Tell her to come in.''
The man shot me a hatefully look before opening the door a little wider, allowing me to walk past him and sniffing at me before he closed the door behind me. I had the brief image, before the door clicked shut, of kicking him in the shin, but he was faster than I was.
I glanced around the room quickly before finally finding Gaara, his back to me as he gazed out one of the many windows, his hands clasped tightly behind him. He didn't bother to look at me as he spoke.
''I wasn't planning on seeing anyone else today, but since you were able to persuade my secretary into asking if I wanted to talk to you, it must be something important. So I would appreciate it if you give me your reason for being here quickly. It is starting to get late.''
I smiled impishly, bouncing on my toes lightly. He hadn't realized that it was me. Well, that or he was being very cold.
I shrugged, though he couldn't see it, a teasing tone in my voice as I answered.
''Well, it really isn't anything important and I'll try to hurry through my explanations quickly. I know that you're probably tired. But your Messenger did say that one of us needed to tell you that we were here, and Salem kinda drafted me so...''
I stopped suddenly, a giggle making it's way from my throat.
He had turned around so quickly as I began to speak that he had to put his hand on the window seal to keep himself from falling. He stared at me, his eyes wide in shock. ''Ria?''
I nodded happily, still bouncing on my toes as I grinned at him.
''Yap. So wha..''
Gaara had somehow gotten over to me without me seeing and had pinned me against the wall, his lips harsh against mine as he kissed me deeply, catching me by surprise. I smiled after realizing what was happening before letting my arms slide around his neck, my hands tangled in his hair as I tugged him closer.
When he pulled away I laughed, my voice slightly breathless.
''You know, we weren't away from each other very long, but maybe I should be away from you more often if you keep greeting me like that. I enjoyed that. I didn't realize that the Kazekage was so welcoming to his visitors.''
Gaara smirked and shook his head.
''Only a special person gets that kind of welcome from me. Now, since I have welcomed you as the Kazekage, I think that I will now greet you as your boyfriend.''
I smiled and he kissed me again. This time the kisses were more sweet than forceful, his surprise having disappeared enough for him to regain his composure.
When we pulled away from each other, Gaara began to trail kisses along my jaw and down my neck, causing me to freeze in surprise for a moment before I relaxed again and allowed him to continue for a few moments, happy to simply let him do as he felt was right before I gently pushed him away.
He looked at me, his eyes confused and his mouth red, causing me to smile and trace the slightly swollen bottom lip with my thumb as I spoke.
''As much as I would love to stay here and let you keep kissing me, I have to make sure my peoples aren't getting into to much trouble.''
He nodded and stood up to his full height, my hand sliding down to rest on his chest. ''Who all did you bring?''
I shrugged and leaned back against the wall to look up at him, his arms still holding me loosely.
''Well there's Salem of course, His girlfriend Toru, Misa, Mona, and Butterball.''
Gaara smirked suddenly, an amused glint lighting his eyes before he went back to kissing my neck. I was confused as to why he thought that was funny and I tried to push him away again, but found that I couldn't, his arms tightening around me and holding me to him. I huffed, giving up and felt his smirk against my skin as he continued.
I truthfully didn't want him to stop. What he was doing felt nice. And he could hear me just fine as I spoke, though he might find it difficult to reply.
''Gaara? Why was what I said so funny? Is there something that I don't know about going on?''
He lifted his head, but instead of answering, started kissing me again. I could tell that he was trying to distract me, but it wasn't going to work.
He pulled back after awhile and I smirked, not letting him out of my questions so easily, my curiosity never one to simply be pushed aside.
''You still haven't answered my question.''
He huffed out a sigh and rolled his eyes.
''And here I thought that I would be able to discourage you from asking random questions while we're together. I guess not.''
He was being dramatic and I had to admit that I found it funny, a smile making it's way to my face.
''It's your fault. If you hadn't smirked at a random moment then I wouldn't have asked. So what was it about?''
He sighed again and shrugged.
''I was just thinking that your friends will all have someone else that they will want to spend time with at the festival, and I thought that we could maybe ditch them at some point during the night and just spend some time together. But since my kisses don't seem to have an effect on you...''
He shrugged and trailed off, causing me to laugh at his dramatics.
''Is that all?''
He nodded and I pulled him towards me, a smile still on my face.
''You know what?''
His eyes were curious as I stood on my toes to lean my forehead against his, having to pull him down the rest of the way to meet my still shorter height.
''I don't mind ditching them.''
I saw Gaara smile and he brushed a finger over my lips, his eyes soft.
''Good. Because I'm not done welcoming you to Suna yet.''
I laughed and shifted to lay my head on his chest, letting him stand straight as I rested against him.
''Good. I like this type of welcome.''
He hummed, seeming to agree with me and we stood there for a few more seconds until a knock on the door interrupted us, Gaara pulling away reluctantly before going to open it.
I couldn't hear what he and the secretary were talking about, but I could tell that Gaara was not happy, his shoulders tensing. I heard the secretary's voice arguing before he suddenly went quiet, becoming frightened of, what I assumed, Gaara's expression.
A second later Gaara slammed the door in the man's face, clearly trying to hide the irritation in his voice when he spoke to me next.
''He's an annoying man, but he gets the job done.''
Gaara hadn't come back to where I stood, instead going back to the window to stare out at the village below. I shoved myself away from the wall and walked over to him, wrapping my arms around his waist and laying my head on his back, hoping to give him some sort of comfort.
''What's wrong, Gaara?''
He shook his head and sighed.
''It's nothing really. It's just that some people are worrying that since Sasuke's plan was to annihilate the leaf village, that his sudden 'change of heart' as well as this festival are both a ruse to get into our village on friendly terms so that they can destroy it. It's completely idiotic, but the Suna villagers are very suspicious.''
I nodded, having him confirm my thoughts from earlier without him knowing it.
He took a deep breath before he turned in my arms, his own arms coming around me as he continued, a forced lightness in his voice.
''Naruto and the others will be here tomorrow. You got here quicker than I expected, so I told Naruto to be here around two in the afternoon.''
I nodded and smiled, letting him change the subject and hopping that he would forget about the Secretary and his words.
''So Sai will be coming too, huh?''
Gaara nodded and I smiled impishly.
''Well, Mona will like that.''
He nodded and I caught sight of the quickly darkening skyline from one of the windows behind him, causing me to sigh and untangle myself from him.
''I have to go. They'll be wondering where I'm at.''
I looked down at my clothes, my nose wrinkling at all the sand that covered them. ''Besides, I really need a shower.''
He smiled and nodded.
''I'll walk you.''
I shook my head and glanced at his paper covered desk.
''You probably have work to do. The hotel's just down the road, I can get there in less than two minutes.''
He gave me an 'I can't believe that you're arguing with me about this' look and pulled me towards him again, his voice uncompromising.
''I was about to go home anyways, and I refuse to let you walk in the dark alone. You're not a...''
I quickly covered his mouth with my hand, grimacing slightly at what phrase he was about to spout out unknowingly.
''I swear if you say 'not a ninja', I'm going to scream.''
He nodded and I let my hand fall to his shoulder, not really arguing with him anymore and instead explaining myself.
''And I can take care of myself you know. If anyone messes with me I can always burn them.''
Gaara blinked at me, confusion on his face before he nodded in surprise.
''I had forgotten that you can control fire. Though I would still rather walk with you. Mostly so I know that you did get there safely. It would make me rest better tonight to know that you weren't attacked during your first night in my village.''
I smiled and nodded, rolling my eyes at his silliness but giving in anyways.
''Alright. You can use the excuse that you wanted to see Butterball if anybody asks.''
Gaara smiled, seeming to suddenly remember the panda.
''Of course. We can't disappoint the mysterious man at the booth.''
I laughed and shook my head.
''Nope, and besides, Salem's probably having issues with the girls.''
Gaara nodded and pulled me out the door, leading us past the sniffing man without a word and towards the Inn to see Butterball.