The Akatsuki's Daughter

By Jeanaye Perkey

Romance / Humor

Chapter 23


It only took another two hours or so for us to reach the outskirts of our little village.

We were all prepared to walk on, all of us ready to be home, but the ninja stopped us suddenly, turning towards us with a slightly lowered head.

"I shall leave you now. Is there anything that you would like me to deliver to the Kazekage?"

I saw the fear still in his eyes when I nodded and grinned in amusement. Apparently he was still afraid that I would tell Gaara what he had said about me.

"Tell him that he needs to come on a..diplomatic visit very soon."

Misa squealed and nodded, clutching onto my arm suddenly in her excitement.

"And that he needs to bring his brother as a bodyguard."

I smiled at her before turning my attention back to the frowning ninja and shrugged.

"Hey, you asked if we had anything to say. And that was it."

He nodded and bowed to us briefly before disappearing in a poof of smoke, making me frown. Did all ninjas think that poofing away was an appropriate way to leave? It seemed a bit rude to me...though I suppose that it was faster than simply walking.

Salem's chuckle drew me out of my thoughts and he waved an excited hand towards the village.

"Well ladies, shall we go home?"

We all nodded and practically ran the rest of the way.

We stopped at the forked road, Misa and Mona waving as they ran off in one direction towards their house, Mona seeming to be in a hurry to get away from Salem, and I hurried to follow Salem as he led Toru down the straight path, having decided to go with him to drop her off before we would walk home together. He had been acting hostile way too frequently and I preferred to keep an eye on him until we were back home. Hoping that the familiar surroundings would calm him back down.

I didn't follow them into the yard, simply stopping when the house came in to view, not wanting to see what kind of goodbye Salem was going to give her.

It was bad enough having to watch my friends kiss their significant others. But the thought of seeing what I considered my brother doing the same things made me want to claw my eyes out and find a chemical to bleach my brain of the visual.

Of course I realized that he probably felt the same way when I kissed Gaara.

I chuckled at the thought, burying my face in Butterball's fur before lifting my head as I heard the impatient huff, seeing Salem stalking towards me, an irritated frown on his face. I frowned at him, tilting my head to the the side curiously.

"What's wrong?"

He shook his head and rolled his eyes.

"Yuki swung open the door before we even reached the porch.

She started spouting off some nonsense about Aubry being angry about our leaving, how he was interviewing new people to replace me, and how she was angry about how I had taken Toru away without asking her father's permission."

He sighed and rubbed his eyes wearily.

"It was everything that I could do to not retaliate with a comeback. Dating Toru is going to be extremely hard when her sisters are around."

I giggled and bumped him with my hip, causing him to stumble to the side slightly as I spoke.

"Of course it is. Relationships are work. They're not going to be easy. Sometimes I think that we should be getting paid for being in them."

He chuckled and wrapped his arm around my shoulders, leaning his weight onto me and making me stagger, giggling as he spoke.

"I agree. And it makes me tired. You should carry me home, Little Sister."

I shook my head, still laughing and trying to hold us both up without dropping Butterball.

"Salem! You're heavy and we'll fall!"

He snorted and just leaned against me more.

"Are you calling me fat, Ria?"

I laughed and nodded.

"If it'll get you off of me!"

He chuckled and stood up straight, taking his weight off of me, though he left his arm around my shoulders.

Alright, alright. I don't want to fall anyways. Shall we go home, Little Sister?"

I smiled and nodded.

"Yeah. I seriously want a bath."

He sighed and yawned.

"All I want is my bed. I haven't been sleeping well the past couple of days."

I frowned at him curiously.

"Why not?"

He shrugged.

"I was worrying about you mostly."

My frown deepened until I was giving him a small glare.

"Why have you been worrying about me, Salem?"

He frowned, his forehead wrinkling.

"For several reasons. One being that you've never really been in a major relationship before and I was concerned with how you would respond to some things. You're not exactly the touchy-feely type and I thought that it might be hard for you to talk about what you were feeling...though apparently Gaara has the same issue. I think that might still be hard for the both of you down the line.

Another was the whole firework thing. When they began to fire those stupid things off, I thought that I might hear someone screaming hysterically before a sea of fire destroyed the village. You've always had me or Sasori to get you away from the noise and calm you down. I didn't know if Gaara would be able to keep you calm when they started.

If he hadn't been with you that night after I got back, I would have had you up all night talking to make sure that you were really okay."

I smiled sheepishly and shook my head. I suppose that he had reasons to be worried. Though I always preferred it when he wouldn't and just let me be.

"It is hard for me to admit to certain things. Even the whole firework incident, it was difficult for me to explain why I freaked out like I did. Even when I knew that he deserved an explanation If it hadn't been for him acting as quickly as he did, I probably would have burnt down Suna. "

Salem smiled tiredly and patted my head gently.

"Like I said before, Sister: I like the guy. He's good for you. I don't have to worry about you so much. I still do of course, just not as much."

His smile turned into a glare suddenly and I gave him a curious look as he snarled.

"But if he ever hurts you..."

I cut him off quickly with a laugh, shaking my head slightly.

"That's not really something that you have to worry about from Gaara, Salem. Believe me."

His goofy grin came back as he nodded.

"I figured. But I'm your brother and I have to put some fear of me into the boy...just to make sure he understands."

His grin widened.

"So, what do you think that Sasori is going to say to him?"

I grimaced and groaned. With all that had happened I had forgotten all about Dolly wanting to speak to Gaara.

''I don't know. Dolly always surprises me, so it's hard to say. When do you think he'll go see Gaara? I can't see Rosa letting him out of the house again anytime soon."

Salem chuckled and gave me a smug look.

"Sasori was just waiting for us to leave, Ria. It's one of the reasons why I made all of us leave so abruptly. He needed to get back to Rosa and Niko. I would imagine that he will wait until tonight so that he's not seen but...you know how impatient he is."

I gaped at him.

"Are you serious? That's why we left so quickly?"

I gave him a glare.

''I should have known that Dolly would drag you in to any plan that he was making when it involves me."

He laughed and I sighed, feeling my shoulders droop.

"I'd kick your butt right now Salem, but I'm too tired."

He nodded and squeezed me tightly, his goofy smile back in place.

"Maybe tomorrow."

I smiled despite my irritation and nodded.

"Maybe."

I couldn't really stay irritated at him or Dolly when I know that they were just worrying about me...as much as I wanted to.

I sighed and rolled my eyes, feeling slightly giddy as the house came into view, my legs already shaking at the thought of sitting down.

"I'd say that we should race home, but I'm so tired that I think that after two steps I'd fall down and not be able to get back up."

He chuckled and glanced down at my arms, his eyebrow raised.

"You couldn't run with that monstrosity in your arms anyways."

I smiled and looked down at the so called 'monstrosity' fondly, Butterball asleep in my arms. He had been very good most of the trip, sleeping the majority of the time.

''He'll need to wake up before and go to the bathroom before I take him inside. I don't want him to pee on me.

Salem shrugged and rolled his eyes.

"I wouldn't worry about it."

I raised an eyebrow at him and shook my head.

"Gaara had that attitude at one time...before Butterball peed on him.''

Salem blinked at me for a moment before he began to laugh, his head thrown back as his shoulders shook. He didn't stop his guffaws until we were in the yard and I had placed Butterball on the grass, the lethargic panda stumbling around like a drunk and making me smile until Salem's question drew my eyes to him.

"So what did Gaara do once Butterball peed on him?"

I shrugged.

"He glared at the panda and then changed his shirt. I did learn that Kankuro is an idiot during all of that though. He told Gaara that if a girl blushes when she sees something she likes."

I rolled my eyes.

''Gaara changed his shirt in front of me and, of course, I didn't blush. So it upset him a bit until I explained myself. I mean really, it's just a chest.''

Salem snorted and nodded.

''And you have seen plenty of those in your life...and even more than that if we're being honest.''

I nodded and shrugged.

"I know. But like I said: Kankuro is an idiot."

He nodded and picked Butterball up as he ambled over to us.

"Yeah. But Misa likes him. So I guess we'll be seeing a lot more of him. You more so than me if you continue with Gaara like you have been."

I nodded and walked beside him onto the porch.

"Yeah, I know. But I really don't mind. If he has Misa around I really won't have to deal with him I don't think. He'll be too busy."

Salem nodded as I pushed open the door and flipped on the light, happy to be home...that had apparently been broken in to and ransacked.



////////////



I joined Salem in the now clean living room and smiled softly as he glared.

We had spent the last two hours, cleaning up the destroyed house and discovering what the thieves had taken. It wasn't much. Just some of my more expensive jewelry and clothes.

Salem said that he wasn't missing anything, most of the things in his room untouched. Though with how untidy it was to begin with, I didn't know how he could tell.

I moved to stand beside him and he spoke softly.

''It had to be girls that destroyed the house.''

I nodded, already having come to that decision.

''I agree. Though I don't think that it was some random person passing through or an actual robber.

The things they took weren't worth much, and they left the safe and your jar of money alone. If they wanted money they would have gone for those things first. But they took clothes and gaudy jewelry instead.

It seems like they were looking for something specific and the things they took were just like consolations when they couldn't find it. ''

He sighed and rubbed a hand across his eyes wearily.

''I know that you're right. I would like to find out who they were, but I'm so tired. I can't think straight.''

I smiled softly and rubbed his back gently.

''Don't worry about it tonight, Salem. Just go to bed. We'll figure it out tomorrow after we're rested...And I've had my bubble bath.''

Salem smiled tiredly and nodded.

''Alright, Ria. Are you going to be alright sleeping in your room alone tonight?''

I rolled my eyes, knowing how tired he was when he asked things like that of me. He knew better than most how well I could take care of myself.

''Yes, Salem. I am a big girl and can defend myself from the boogy-man and girls with bad taste.''

Salem rolled his eyes, smiling tiredly.

''I know that. But if you get scared, you know where I'm at. Be sure to keep your door and windows locked. If for nothing else than to make me feel better.''

I smiled and nodded.

''Alright, Big Brother. If it'll put your mind at ease, I will lock myself in my room for the night.''

He nodded and gave me a quick hug, his voice serious.

''Thank you. I'll see you tomorrow if you don't get scared and find your way to my room tonight.''

I scoffed and hugged him back for just a moment before pushing him away.

''Go to bed, Salem. You can barely stay on your feet.''

He nodded and I watched him stumble up the stairs before I locked the front door.

The bolt had never been used since I had moved in and was hard for my tired fingers to turn. I doubted that the robbers would come back while we were home, but I didn't want to take any chances of anyone else coming into the house either. With how tired Salem was, and how he had been acting recently, he might seriously injure someone that he didn't want to hurt.

I sighed softly and moved towards my own room, picking Butterball up on the way, his short legs making it hard for him to climb the stairs. With how my own legs were shaking, I thought that I understood his issues.

I turned the lock on my door as well when I entered my room, placing Butterball on the bed as I went to find some clean nightclothes, catching sight of my sandy bag as I made my way into the bathroom. I would have to do laundry tomorrow and the thought of it had me sighing in dread as I closed the bathroom door, leaving it open a crack so that Butterball could get to me if he wanted.

I turned the tub's knobs until the water was as close to scalding as I could stand and leaned against my cabinet as I waited for the tub to fill, sighing happily as the quiet of the house surrounded me. After spending several days straight around people, it was nice to spend time in the familiar quiet.

I glanced at the tub and quickly turned off the water, finding that I had caught it just in time. I slipped out of my clothes and sunk into the bubble filled water, groaning lowly as the heat soaked into my aching muscles. I was sure that my body would be screaming at me when I woke up the next morning.

As I relaxed I knew that I should be brainstorming about who had trespassed into my home, but my brain was just too tired. I was already falling asleep and frowned down at the rapidly cooling water, debating about refilling the tub before sighing and shaking my head. I would fall asleep in the tub, and with the way things were going today, I would probably drown.

I stood and reached for the towel I had placed on the floor beside me and wrapped it around me quickly. I was already shivering in the cold room and knew before I had even climbed into my cold bed that I was going to miss Gaara and his warmth.

I winced as I tugged the cold blankets over me and curled tighter in to myself, sighing as my body refused to heat itself.

This was a downside to my element. The fire drained most of my body heat for itself, needing it to survive inside of me. I had decided a long time ago that it was a small price to pay, considering some of the others weaknesses were far worse.

Yuki got dehydrated quickly and easily, constantly having a bottle of water in her hand or taking frequent breaks to drink a full glass when she was working.

Misa has trouble breathing, her lungs not seeming to expand or accept air very easily and she had passed out from lack of breathing quite a lot when I had first met her. Mostly it had been from her talking too fast and not taking the time to breathe properly. It had taken some time for Aubry to teach her how to use her element to help her breathe, instead of it stealing all of her air for itself.

Jagur wasn't able to see in any type of darkness. Even overcast skies and sunsets made it hard for him to see. It was one of the reasons why Aubry had him placed in well lit areas when he worked. If the lights were too dim, Jagur was almost completely blind.

Mona's was a bit easier to work around than the others. She just couldn't swim. The Earth element caused her personality to be really grounded, but it also made her unable to swim or float. Instead, if thrown in to water, she would instantly sink and it was difficult for someone to pull her out again. Which is why it had been so surprising when she had allowed Misa to put a pool in their home without much of a fight. If she fell in, she was probably not going to make it out again.

It was Salem's element that made me thankful for my own issues however.

Darkness is terrifying for most and there's a good reason for that. Awful creatures hide in shadows and when the night falls completely these creatures can roam unchecked. What saves most people is their inability to see or hear these creatures, simply shrugging off the feeling of something frightening close by as paranoia and ignoring the creature until it gets bored and leaves.

Salem wasn't able to do that unfortunately. He could both see and hear these things, making them seek him out, and act more viscous than they would be if everyone could see them. The creatures used his ability for their own amusement, getting enjoyment out of telling him lies and taunting him.

When we were younger I would hear him scream and would run into his room to typically find him sitting on his bed, his face buried in his hands as he sobbed harshly. When I would go over to comfort him, asking him what was wrong, he would point towards a corner telling me of the horrid things the creatures were showing him and telling him.

I never saw the creatures of course, though I was able to hear the slight shuffling noises that came from the corners and see the shifting darkness. Though I couldn't tell you if it was an actual creature, or just Salem making the shadows move in his distress.

Salem would tell me of how the creatures would remind him of how he had killed his family. And how they were threatening to drag him back to their world once he had fallen asleep.

I would try to comfort him. Explaining that it wasn't his fault that he had lost control with his family. And that the creatures couldn't take him back to their world, reminding him that they couldn't touch living things.

I would stay with him until the first light of morning peeked into his window, the creatures disappearing with the sun and Salem would finally fall asleep, letting me relax and fall asleep as well.

This had gone on for quite a while, most nights ending the same way unless Salem was just too tired to stay awake to face the creatures.

But it was Dolly that had stopped these problems almost completely, having made a medicine that put Salem to sleep and, somehow, stopped the nightmares.

Because Salem was able to sleep, and wasn't able to hear the creatures as he slept, he didn't have the hallucinations either, causing Dolly's worry about him snapping again to fade.

As far as I knew, Salem still took that medicine and hadn't had an episode like that in a long time.

I yawned, realizing that Butterball had climbed under the covers with me and his fluffy body had produced enough heat to warm the whole bed. I sighed happily and closed my tired eyes, feeling them ache slightly at having been open for so long when my body was screaming at me about how tired it was.

My last thought before I fell unconscious was about Gaara and hoping that he would be able to sleep.


////////////



I woke up to my name being called, hearing my door opening slowly and I opened stinging eyes to give a glare at Salem, my voice raspy as I scolded him tiredly.

''You do know that it's frowned upon to pick locks don't you?''

He chuckled and shrugged, looking around my room as if searching for something.

''Yeah, but I needed to make sure that you were up. We have to go to Aubry's in about two hours and I still have to brush that rat's nest that you call hair. Where's your brush?''

I pointed to the desk and sat up, yawning as he sat behind me, hearing his heartfelt sigh.

''I hope that Gaara can brush your hair. After the two of you get married I don't want you running to me every time you need this mess untangled.''

I winced as he began to separate my hair into sections, the strands pulling apart roughly.

''Whatever Salem. You know that you like brushing my hair. You just don't want to admit it because you think that it's too feminine. And what do you mean 'when Gaara, and I get married?' We haven't even been together very long and he's never mentioned anything even close to that.''

I felt Salem shrug behind me.

''Just because we don't talk about getting married 24/7 like you girls, doesn't mean that we don't think about it. Some of our girlfriends just aren't worth marrying.''

I huffed indignantly

''We don't talk about getting married 24/7. And what do you mean some of your girlfriends aren't worth marrying? Wouldn't you plan on marrying someone that you like enough to date?''

Salem chuckled and tugged at my hair playfully.

'' Naive, Little Sister. There are some girls that guys date that we have no intention of forming a relationship with. We keep them for some fun and then break up with them when they get too clingy or want to move things further.''

I shot him a glare over my shoulder, not liking what he was talking about one bit and he laughed, tapping my head with the brush.

''Don't look at me that way. It's not just guys that do that kind of thing. Think about Yuki, and Suki.''

I sighed and nodded before turning away again to let him finish my hair.

''I guess. To each his own, I suppose. Though I still don't think it should be like that. Though I'm not sure that you should use the two Bunnies when you're making a derogatory comparison anymore. You really like Toru and I don't know how she would handle your view of her sisters.''

Salem groaned, the brush tangling in my hair for just a moment while he spoke.

''I know. Trust me when I say that I'm not to happy about that. You should be glad that you will have Temari and Kankuro as in-laws. I'd trade Yuki and Suki for those two any day.''

I smiled, silently agreeing with him, even as I argued again that it was too early to think about marriage.


////////



Salem and I left our home as soon as I was dressed, managing to make it to Aubry's just on time.

Misa and Mona were closest to the door and Salem instantly groaned when they waved at me, wanting me to come over to them.

''Why? Why am I being tortured by having to deal with these irritating people? ''

I laughed and reached up to pinch his cheek, cooing at him lightly.

''It's because you're just so adorable when you're flustered.''

Salem smirked evilly.

''Be careful, Little Sister. If I get closer to Toru, then you'll have to be around her sisters more. Then who will be adorably flustered?''

I wrinkled my nose at the thought.

''Still you, Salem. Because I will have murdered them.''

Salem laughed.

''I'll hold you to that. At least if you kill them, I won't have to take the blame.''

I rolled my eyes and pushed him towards the bar.

''Go talk to Jagur, Salem. Maybe he can keep you away from Mona.''

He nodded and I watched him move towards the bar before I went in the opposite direction to sit next to Misa, Mona having left while I had been talking to Salem.

She looked at me and I frowned as I met her red eyes.

''What's wrong, Misa? You look like you've been crying.''

She nodded and reached over to grab my hand with both of hers, squeezing lightly.

''I have been. Our house was broken into while we were gone. Nothing really important was taken. Just some of my clothes and a pair of Mona's shoes.''

I frowned at her, my eyes narrowing slightly.

''My house was broken into as well. What is going on around here?''

Misa shook her head and shrugged.

''I don't know. Something weird. Do you know what they were looking for?''

I shook my head and huffed.

''No. But it must have been something important to risk the chance of me finding them.''

Misa laughed slightly and shook her head.

''You'll have to get in line behind Mona if your planning on hurting them. She's so angry right now that I had to threaten her to get her to Aubry's today.''

I laughed and gave her a curious look.

''I can't see you being able to threaten Mona. What did you say to her?''

Misa giggled, her hands squeezing mine again.

''Oh, I just told her that if she didn't get up that I was going to cook breakfast.''

My eyes widened in horror.

''I could see how that would make her get out of bed quickly.''

Misa nodded and visibly jumped as Aubry's shout echoed around the room.

''Everybody shut-up! I have an announcement and I want all of you to hear it.''

Every head in the room turned towards his voice, though from my seated position, behind some tall standing people, all I could see was the top of his head, even with him standing on the bar.

''I want all of you to listen to what I have to say before you start shouting your loud and unwanted opinions at me. Know right now that no matter what you say, I've made up my mind and nothing is going to change it.''

There was a small mummer that Aubry let die down before he spoke again.

''I've decided that I'm tired of running this place. It has taken over my life and I'm tired of it. I'm not shutting down the place, just handing it over to new management...mostly. I'm still going to be around, making sure that everything runs smoothly.

And let me be the first to tell you guys, since I know that it will be the first conclusion all of you jump to and I know that I'm going to get some shit for it: My wife is tired of not seeing me.''

There were loud laughs and shouts thrown around the room and I was able to pick up Salem's and Jagur's voices mixed with a few others before they fell silent again as Aubry continued.

''Laugh all you want. You're all just jealous that I have a loving, caring wife...that has given me a 'loving' ultimatum.

But back to the matter at hand: choosing my replacement. I wanted this to be fair and as unstressful to me as possible. So I decided to make it a contest.

I've hidden the deed to half of the club in one of the old houses that I own. I know that someone has tried to find the deed already by breaking into other peoples homes. To you I say, if I ever find out who you are, I will not hesitate to break your necks. Plus, you will be disqualified from this competition.

The deed is not in any inhabited house.''

I smiled at his threat. No matter what Mona and I could plan, Aubry would do a much better job of torturing the guilty person.

''Now, I'm finished. Let's hear what you have to say.''

It seemed like everyone began yelling at once and it was Jagur's voice that rose above them all.

''The name of the club is AUBRY'S. That's how it's been known for years. You might loose most of your clients if you change the name.''

I saw Aubry's head move from side to side.

''We won't change the name. I will still own half of the club. Just think of this as a change in management and not ownership. Any changes made will still have to be brought to me and if I say no, that's the end of it. Does anyone else have a question?''

It was silent for a moment, no one seeming to be willing to argue any more and Aubry spoke again.

''Good. Then I'll give you the rules of our game.

One: You can look for the deed in groups. Though if you do you will have to share the reward. I don't mind having more than one person owning half of the club. It might make it even easier.

Two: You are not allowed to swindle information out of the people who know. I believe that my wife and myself are the only one's that know the exact location of the deed. And I will destroy you if you bother her with this mess.

Three: No trying to get rid of your competition...Jagur.''

There were some quiet snickers and I could just imagine Jagur's grin, his loud laugh sounded through the hall and I saw Aubry's arm raise and heard a small 'thud' as he threw something at the amused boy before he continued with the rules.

''And four: As soon as you find the deed, I want you to come straight to me. I don't want there to be any fights over this. Understood?''

Everyone nodded, murmuring out our agreements and Aubry clapped his hands loudly.

''Good! Then I want all of you to get ready for tonight. It's going to be hectic.''

Aubry jumped behind the bar, arranging glasses and bottles like he liked them and the rest of us moved to our stations to do as he said and prepare for the night.


/////////



Aubry was right about the club being busy. Mona and I were running the upstairs, rushing around like crazy, trying to keep the crowd from turning into a mob.

It was hard to keep everyone happy, making sure their drinks were filled and they had their orders before they started complaining. It was harder than it typically was. The downstairs was worse, several large groups having just come from a wedding, already drunk and I think that their loud personalities drifted up the stairs and affected the people there as well.

It took several hours before the upstairs calmed and became more of what we were used to. The louder, easily influenced people drifting off to wherever they were staying the night and making way for Aubry's main clientele The people like Dolly, Die and Weasel that were considered viscous criminals by the majority of the public.

A lot of them were regulars and would use the back staircase to reach their reserved tables, keeping everyone downstairs blissfully unaware of their presence.

I had been hoping that Dolly or Die would come to see me, but as the night drew on I shrugged and gave up on that wish. Dolly would have a hard time sneaking away from Rosa the later it got and Die seemed to have developed an early bedtime since leaving the Akatsuki. It typically made me laugh and tease him that he was becoming an old man, which would make him scoff and throw clay at me as I tried to avoid it getting in my hair.

I smiled to myself as I thought about some of our antics and flinched slightly as Mona grabbed my arm suddenly, startling me. She smiled at me in apology and kept her voice low so no one would over hear her.

''Go take your break and find Misa. She has something to give you.''

I nodded and did as she asked. She had everything handled for the moment and it was past time for me to take a break anyways.

It took a bit longer than I was expecting to find Misa. The girl wasn't in her area, instead she had snuck off into an abandoned corner, her body slumped into a chair, her head tilted back and her eyes closed.

I took the seat across from her and laughed lightly, her head snapping up at the noise before she returned my smile tiredly.

''Hey, Ria. How's it been upstairs?''

I groaned and rolled my sore shoulders.

''Crazy. Mona told me to come find you.''

Misa nodded and shifted to pull a small brown package out of her apron pocket, handing it to me with a smile.

I looked at her with a raised eyebrow before tearing into the paper and pulling out a thin silver bracelet, a small charm that resembled a flame the only ornament on the otherwise plain trinket.

I cooed softly and Misa beamed at my reaction, holding out her arm so that I could see a similar bracelet around her wrist, the charm on hers in the shape of a cloud.

''I bought them in Suna. I got Mona one too, though her charm is a mountain. I saw them while we were shopping for dresses and knew that we had to have them.''

I smiled at her and stood from the chair, leaning over the table to hug her, her tired arms wrapping around me tiredly as I spoke.

''Thank you, Misa. I love it. It's definitely something that I'll wear a lot.''

Misa nodded and I pulled back, frowning as a loud noise came from the stairs and caused me to sigh.

''I should probably get back. I don't want to leave Mona alone for very long.''

Misa nodded and sighed gently.

''No, that's probably not a good idea. She's not in a good mood after last night.''

I nodded and gave her another quick hug.

''Thank you again, Misa.''

Misa grinned and made a waving motion, her bracelet glinting in the low lights.

''You're very welcome, Ria. But go on now. I need to get my section cleaned so I can go home.''

I nodded and gave her another smile before hurrying back up the stairs, instantly finding Mona and making sure that she was alright before getting back to work. Glad that people that were upstairs now were rather quiet and preferred to talk amongst their comrades rather than cause a lot of trouble for the waitresses.


///////////


The rest of the night went smoothly. No physical fights and only a few raised voices that we were able to calm quickly.

Aubry's emptied almost as quickly as it filled each night, everyone knowing when the club closed for the day and typically leaving without any hassles or prodding...mostly The downstairs were the only ones that seemed to give us any trouble, when there was any.

As soon as the upstairs cleared out, Mona and I began our frantic cleaning, making sure that everything would be ready for the waitresses that would work the upstairs the next night. It was more thoughtless work, things that I had done for several years and could repeat with my eyes closed, so it wasn't strange that my mind would wander.

I thought about Gaara and found that I hadn't really done such a thing while I was busy, but now that I didn't have anything to keep my brain occupied, it was harder to not focus on him...it felt strange to me that I would miss him as much as I did.

I sighed and jumped in fright as a hand landed on my shoulder, having gotten too lost in my thoughts and gave a grinning Salem my best glare.

''Are you ready to go home, Little Sister?''

I looked around me, making sure that everything was cleaned properly before nodding with a small sigh.

''Yeah, I'm tired.''

Salem nodded and led me down the stairs where everyone had gathered after their shifts, Mona helping Misa finish her cleaning so they could walk home together. The hyper girl saw us walking towards the door and waved hurriedly, her voice echoing through the large building.

''Bye, Ria! Bye, Salem! Have a goodnight.''

I saw Salem flinch and laughed as he waved back good-naturedly. He waited till we were outside before he spoke, a finger in his ear.

''That girl is loud. I feel bad for Jagur, he was standing a few feet away from her, and is now probably deaf.''

I nodded, still laughing and agreeing with him completely. I had been one of Misa's 'victims' when she had shouted and had suffered with ringing in my ears for several hours afterwards.

Salem had gone silent for some time after his statement and I could see that he was thinking deeply about something and knew that I would just need to wait a bit before he told me what it was about. True to normal, he sighed and looked at me sideways as we walked, his eyes serious.

''Did you see Toru when she came in tonight?''

I hummed and shook my head.

''No. It was pretty busy upstairs.''

Salem nodded.

'' That's what I thought. I talked to Aubry earlier today and apparently he thinks the same way you girls do. He wants her to start working there and asked her tonight if she would like to.

He also said that one of his 'girl's' was going to marry a guy from Suna and was going to be moving away in the near future.''

Salem turned towards me, one of his eyebrows raised and his voice gruff.

''Is there something that you want to tell me Ria?''

I rolled my eyes and huffed at him. We had already been through this and Salem knew that I didn't lie.

''He must have been talking about Misa then. Because, as far as I know, I haven't been asked to marry anyone. Or asked to move away.''

Salem chuckled, his hand shooting out to ruffle my hair.

''I was teasing you, Little Sister. I know that Gaara hasn't asked you yet. But if it was Misa we would all know about it already. She would be too excited to keep it quiet.''

I laughed and nodded, wondering why he had been so lost in thought then.

''You're right. Though Misa isn't really good at being quiet at any time, whether she is excited or not.''

Salem nodded and smirked at me.

''No, she's not. But remember, Ria, I better be the first one that you tell when Gaara proposes. Or I will have to tackle you.''

I scoffed and nodded.

''I'll be sure to remember that, Salem. Though I think that you should be more concerned with Toru. When does she start working?''

Salem sighed and I realized as his smile faded that I had unknowingly discovered what had caused him to fall silent earlier. Apparently he was worried over Toru working at Aubry's, no matter if he had agreed to it or not. I suppose that was understandable considering he personality that the girl had. It would be hard on her to overcome that timidness and be gruff when she needed to be.

Salem's voice was resigned when he spoke.

''Tomorrow night if everything goes as planned, at least for an hour. Aubry if going to have you and Misa trade off on training her for the next few months.''

I groaned and felt my shoulders slump.

''Seriously? Why isn't he letting Yuki and Suki train her? She's their sister.''

Salem shot me a glare.

''Do you really want those two forming her young mind?''

I shook my head slightly confused

''No. But doesn't she live with them. Don't they already try to tell her how to do things? Would it be any different at Aubry's?''

Salem shook his head, his glare lightening to a small frown.

''No. From what she tells me, they're out of the house most of the time. And they ignore her for the most part when they are home.''

I nodded and rolled my eyes.

''That explains why she acts so differently then. Alright. I suppose that I will have to help her. Though I'm not sure how she will handle things upstairs.''

Salem nodded, a frown coming to his face.

''I don't want her up there. She wouldn't handle it well at all. She's just too sweet.''

I rolled my eyes, but let him continue speaking.

''I want her to be used to working before I win the deed though.''

I raised an eyebrow, turning my head to stare at him.

''And tell me, oh confident one: How do you plan on finding this deed?''

Salem grinned.

''Why, Little Sister, don't you know that I know everything?''

I barked out a laugh and nodded.

''I think that I've heard you say that once or twice. So where is this deed then?''

Salem shrugged, his grin still in place.

''I can't tell you yet. But I know that we're going to go find it.''

I narrowed my eyes at him.

''What do you mean we're going to find it? I don't think that I agreed to that. I have no interest in running Aubry's.''

Salem shrugged, his steps lighter as he chuckled.

''I'm drafting you. I'll let you sleep in, but tomorrow afternoon I'm making you go treasure hunting with me.''

I sighed, knowing that I wasn't going to win this fight with him. If I didn't agree he would just keep bugging me until I got up. And I would rather get to sleep in than have to worry about him dumping ice water on me.

''Fine. As long as you let me sleep in.''

Salem nodded and hummed.

''Of course. You can meet me at Aubry's home around 1:00 in the afternoon. We'll go searching from there.''

I nodded and sighed as we reached our home, rolling my stiff shoulders.

I would need to let Butterball out and then get ready for bed. It was already 4 in the morning. I was glad suddenly that Aubry had decided to keep Sora for another night, not wanting to have to deal with two animals trying to knock me down when I entered the house.

I followed Salem inside, my adopted brother already stepping out of his shoes and jacket, leaving both on the floor as he called a goodnight to me over his shoulder, making his way up the stairs and towards his room.

I rolled my eyes and picked up the jacket, throwing it on to the couch and frowning suddenly as a heavy weight plopped onto my feet. I looked down at rolled my eyes at the panda that had simply laid down on me, huffing at him as I picked him up.

''You heavy thing. Is that your way of telling me that you want my attention?''

He gave me a mournful look and I sighed before taking him back outside to let him walk around a bit. I was tired, but it had been quite a while since Butterball had been let out and I didn't want another incident like what had happened to Gaara. I smiled at the memory and sat on the porch as the panda stumbled through the tall grass.

We would need to cut the lawn soon or I would lose him.


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