The Akatsuki's Daughter

Chapter 24


The next morning Salem came into my room, flopping himself onto my bed and waking me up to tell me that he was leaving.

I groaned in disapproval and pulled the covers over my head, hearing his chuckle as his bony fingers poked my hip and side.

''Don't forget to meet me at one o'clock, Ria.''

I growled softly, kicking at him from under the covers.

''Whatever. Just leave and let me go back to sleep.''

He laughed and patted my covered leg before I felt the bed shift as he got up, the door closing behind him softly as he left.

I sighed happily as my room became quiet again, glad that his sudden arrival hadn't woken Butterball up and let myself drift back to sleep.


///////


The next time that I woke up, the sun was shinning brightly through my windows, the clock reading 12:30.

I groaned as I flung the blankets from me, stretching as I stood from the bed and began the search for clean clothes. I had planned to do laundry today and would still need to when I got home. Salem was just delaying my chores. I shook my head, remembering Temari's comment about Gaara's laundry and laughed.

He was probably dealing with paperwork today, the last time that I had seen his desk it was covered in scrolls and papers. It had surprised me that the Kazekage had so much paperwork when I had seen them. He was supposed to be the most powerful person in the village and he was forced to sign papers and file.

It seemed to me that you would send him out on more missions rather than having him sitting behind a desk.

I shrugged, not really knowing much about that lifestyle and pulled on my clothes, thinking about it from a selfish standpoint. I didn't mind that he was forced to sit behind a desk. He was safe that way.

But I knew that he didn't enjoy it.

I finished dressing and, after taking care of Butterball, made my way to Aubry's home. Salem was already pacing impatiently when the house came into view and he ran to me when he saw me, dragging me in another direction impatiently.

''C'mon, Ria! I think I've found something.''

I rolled my eyes, remaining silent as he dragged me to one of the broken down houses that littered around the village. It would have been gorgeous if someone had taken the time to fix it up, though I wasn't sure that it was possible to save it now. It was leaning to one side, the foundation crumbling. The roof and floors making it dangerous to walk around inside.

The door was open, being too warped to close and Salem dragged inside, our feet stirring up dust and causing me to sneeze. The entire house was covered in a thick layer of the stuff and I noticed that we were leaving footprints in the muck.

Salem led me up the stairs, both of us carefully picking our way up the rickety and termite eaten steps before he entered into the first bedroom, multiple trunks and wardrobes scattered around the room.

He opened one of the trunks, letting out more dust and causing me to sneeze again before I groaned and sniffled gently.

''You think that the deed is in here?''

Salem nodded and turned from where he was kneeling to grin at me.

''I know that it is. Don't be afraid, Ria. It's just a little dust.''

I frowned at his back as he turned back around to scrounging in the trunk, walking further into the room as I mumbled.

''It's not the dust I'm worried about. It's the splinters and crawly things.''

Salem laughed again and moved to another chest causing me to sigh and follow his example, opening a wardrobe..sneezing again as dust flew in to my face. Yeah...this was definitely my idea of fun.


We had been searching the house for a good five hours, spending our time upstairs, searching every bedroom. I had asked him why we weren't looking downstairs and he had shaken his head and told me that it had to be in one of the bedrooms. I hadn't questioned how he knew that and simply shrugged, continuing to look through trunks and wardrobes.

That had been an hour ago however and I had given up, coming to the conclusion that Salem didn't know what he was talking about and simply collapsed on the large, canopied bed, nearly choking myself as the dust cloud enveloped me. I would be covered in a sheet of dust when I left, but that was not exactly my main focus at the moment.

Salem was still searching and I gave him a small frown, hoping that he would admit defeat so that we could go home. Instead, he held up a pair of cotton pants and turned to me with them, a frown on his face.

''What are these supposed to be? A genie costume?''

I laughed and shook my head.

''They're called pantaloons. They're a type of old bloomers.''

Salem instantly dropped them, making a disgusted sound as he wiped his hands on his jeans.

''What is Aubry thinking, keeping things like that? Gross!''

The dust caused me to cough as I continued to laugh, wheezing out my words past delighted giggles.

''You know that Aubry leaves most of these houses like the former occupants had them. No one has been in this place for generations. And do you remember how our home looked before we moved in?''

Salem sighed and moved towards me, seeming to have given up the search for the moment.

''That is the most cleaning that I have ever done in my life. Though even then I didn't come across some ancient chicks underwear.''

I giggled again, seeing Salem's smile suddenly turn into a frown as his eyes traveled over the bed and causing me to sit up and frown at him.

''What's wrong?''

He didn't reply except to pull me up from the mattress, crawling over the bed and causing me to roll my eyes.

''Salem, what are you doing? I don't think that the deed is going to be in a bed.''

Salem shook his head and continued to feel around, not looking at me as he continued his search.

''Where did people hide money and important things during war times?''

I frowned and shrugged at him.

''I don't know, Salem. In the ground?''

Salem shot a glare over my shoulder and shook his head.

''No, Ria. In the mattress. Now, help me find a seam that doesn't belong here.''

I blew my bangs out of my face before crawling back onto the bed and doing as he said.

After a few minutes of this and not finding anything, I stood up, stretching my back until it popped before speaking, Salem finally crawling off of the mattress to stand beside me.

''Are you happy now? There aren't any out of place seams.''

Salem shook his head and shoved the mattress off of the frame before flipping it over, releasing more of the trapped dust and I groaned as he returned to searching.

He sat back on his heels, shooting me grin over his shoulder before he pulled a knife out of his pocket suddenly and cut into the mattress. I raised an eyebrow as feathers flew from the hole and wondered if this competition hadn't made Salem go a little crazy.

Salem stuck his hand into the mattress and, with an explosion of feathers, pulled out a folded paper with a triumphant cry, turning his wide grin towards me and causing me to giggle as I saw the feathers that were sticking to his hair and clothes.

''I think I've found it, Little Sister.''

I nodded and watched in amusement as feathers floated around him. Even if he hadn't have found the deed, I would have just been happy to see him covered with the white fluff.

''Well, Big Brother, let's have a look at it.''

He unrolled the paper and read over it, his smile growing as I knelt beside him and saw the big letters across the top of the page. The word 'DEED' was written in large script and I slapped his back hard, hearing his breath rush out if him in a whoosh as I laughed.

''Well, Salem, it looks like you are the new co-owner of Aubry's. And you can call me biased, but I think that you will do a better job than anyone else.''

Salem smiled at me uncomfortably. It wasn't very often that we actually praised the other and I could see that he was slightly embarrassed about the compliment.

He shook that emotion away quickly and gave me a large smile.

''You know, Little Sister? It sound's like you're planning on leaving. You do realize that you can't go anywhere unless I say you can, right? No matter how different the relationship is, you were mine before you were Gaara's. And I think that gives me a say so in when you can, or can't, leave.''

I raised an eyebrow and stared at him in challenge.

''And what makes you think that you can stop me if I want to leave?''

Salem smirked, a teasing glint in his eyes that never boded well for me.

''Because I can do this.''

He tackled me suddenly, feathers flying from the mattress at the harsh treatment and I screeched as he tickled me, kicking at him and hearing his laugh as I missed completely.

He relented after I landed a punch to his shoulder, laughing as he plopped down next to me.

''See? I can always tickle you unmercifully until you agree to stay.''

I rolled my eyes and nodded.

''I suppose you could. But then you would have to find a way to convince Gaara that I couldn't leave, and I don't think that you would be willing to tickle him.''

Salem's eyes widened and he shook his head quickly.

''No. That would probably be suicide. I don't think that he would be happy if I decided to tickle him.''

I laughed at the mental image and Salem gave me a small smirk as I responded.

''No. I would imagine that he wouldn't.''

Salem nodded and stood, pulling me up with him, his goofy grin on his face.

''Come on, Ria Let's take the deed to Aubry.''

I nodded and followed him, the both of us picking our way carefully down the stairs.



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

It wasn't until we had delivered the deed to Aubry, Salem ranting to him about his hoarding obsession and were on the way home that I asked the question that had been bothering me for some time now.

''Salem? How did you know that the deed would be in that house? You didn't check any others and you were convinced that it was there.''

He smirked smugly.

''Aubry has been planning this thing for months and dropping hints to anyone who would listen. I was apparently the only one that listened so intently.''

I laughed and shook my head.

''So you were able to take his clues and make the connection to that house? You should do this professionally.''

He chuckled and shrugged.

''Can't now. I have a new job.''

I nodded, smiling brightly.

''Are you going to tell Toru soon? I know that Aubry will make the announcement tonight, but are you going to tell her beforehand?''

He nodded, his grin widening.

''Yeah. I'm just going to change clothes before going to her house. I'm covered in dust and feathers.''

I laughed and nodded, looking over him in amusement as we stepped into the house.

''Yes you are. Well, since I have the night off, I think that I'll get started on my laundry. So I may not see you before you leave.''

Salem hummed before turning to me, his grin suddenly hopeful.

''You want to wash my clothes while you're at it?''

I glared at him.

''You're a big boy, Salem. Can't you wash your own clothes?''

Salem nodded and shrugged, still giving me that hopeful look.

''Of course I can. But don't really have the time right now and my closet is completely empty...I suppose that I can just wear dirty clothes and smell for a few days.''

I sighed and rolled my eyes.

''Fine. Bring a load of your clothes to the laundry room and I'll wash them for you. I don't want to be anywhere around you when you stink. But after today you are going to make time to wash your other clothes.''

Salem nodded and gave me a grin before he ran off to retrieve his clothes.

I sighed, and after letting Butterball outside, went to collect my own clothes before making my way to the laundry room.

Salem had apparently decided that he needed to stay on my good side and had let Butterball back in to the house, the panda lying on Salem's dirty clothes and making me gag slightly in disgust. I quickly picked the animal up and placed him on the rug, away from the clothes.

''Don't lay on those, Butterball. They're gross and we don't know where they've been.''

He looked up at me with big brown eyes and I couldn't help but ruffle his fur and coo at him softly before turning to the laundry.

I washed mine first, knowing that it wouldn't take me as long and went about cleaning up the house as I waited for them to finish so I could wash Salem's. He had brought four hampers into the room and I rolled my eyes. He was stupid if he thought that I was going to wash all of that for him. I had told him one hamper and I was serious. It was his own fault if I picked the wrong one and he didn't want to wear those clothes.

I shrugged and threw my clothes into the dryer before starting on Salem's with a grimace. He was typically a clean person, not even liking his hands to be dirty, but for some reason, his clothes were always awful. I hesitated on reaching inside the basket and instead just tipped the whole thing over the washer, a large pile of clothes falling inside the machine...mostly. The clothes that landed against the sides were picked up by my fingernails and dropped into the water. I nodded to myself, the worst part over and reached for his detergent, my hand freezing in the air as I bit my lip, fighting off an impish urge. Salem would kill me, but I couldn't resist.

I grabbed my detergent instead, pouring a large amount into the washer and giggling maniacally as I re-capped the bottle and closed the washer's lid.

Salem was going to smell like lavender for some time. That's what he gets for waiting until he had nothing to wear before asking me to wash his clothes...I doubted he would ever do that again. I giggled again as I walked into the living room, Butterball following me closely before he froze as he noticed Sora on the couch, her tail wagging happily.

Aubry had dropped her off while Salem and I were searching for the deed and I took Butterball's reaction to mean that he hadn't seen her until now.

I smiled at the frightened panda and picked him up, settling him on my lap as I sat on the couch, my arm wrapping around the large dog that placed her gigantic head on my lap next to the panda and I chuckled as I scratched behind her ears.

''Well, what are the three of us going to do tonight?''

They didn't answer and I leaned back into the cushions, sighing gently as I thought about what to do for the night. The house hadn't really needed a lot of cleaning since Salem and I had taken care of that when we had gotten back from Suna, the robbers not giving us much of a choice. So what I had done while waiting on the washer had made the typically untidy house practically spotless...at least by my standards. And truthfully, I wasn't that fond of the idea of staying in for the night. I typically liked being home alone but, for some reason, I was feeling a bit anxious.

I could go visit Dolly, but I would probably have to deal with Rosa...so that was probably a no. Weasel was also a no, it was really too late and the twins wouldn't go to sleep if I was over. And I wasn't sure that Die was even home at the moment. I hadn't heard from him and that wasn't very typical of him.

I sighed, a pout coming to my mouth for a moment before I sat up straight, biting my lip harshly as an idea popped into my head.

It had been a long time since I had gone to Aubry's just for fun. And I had an outfit that I had never worn that would be perfect...I nodded determinedly and carried Butterball up to my room, placing him on my bed before quickly rifling through my clothes to find what I wanted in the far back of my closet.

I pulled it out and smiled as I looked over it.

The shirt was a black tank top that left my lower stomach bare. The skirt, one of the only ones that I owned, was red and black plaid, a small chain belt not functioning as anything but a pretty accessory.

I pulled on some fishnets and black high heels, wobbling slightly before I regained my balance and looked in the mirror, frowning harshly. Why exactly was I so concerned about what I was wearing? It's not like I was going to see anyone that I cared what they thought. I glanced over myself again, debating on changing before shaking my head and squaring my shoulders roughly. I was already dressed and I might as well wear this outfit at least once.

I didn't bother leaving a note for Salem, knowing that I would probably see him at the club and left Butterball in the kitchen, telling Sora to keep an eye on him before I walked out of the house, still a bit unsteady in the thin heels.


////////


As I walked in, I was instantly aware that the atmosphere in the building was more aggressive than I was used to it being. I frowned and pushed my way past a group of arguing guys and walked to the bar, realizing that I didn't see Yuki or Suki. Which was not exactly a good thing since it was their night to work.

I stopped at the bar and watched for a moment as Aubry frantically mixed drinks, Jagur running between the bar and tables, ducking and twirling to avoid careless people to deliver them and I watched this all in confusion before finally speaking up and catching Aubry's attention.

''Aubry?''

He looked up from mixing a drink and smiled distractedly

''Hey, Ria. Quite a crowd, huh?''

I nodded, glancing around again.

''Where are the twins? Weren't they supposed to be taking care of the downstairs?''

He nodded, handing another drink filled tray to the frazzled Jagur.

''Yeah. But they found out that Salem had found the deed and refused to come to work.''

I sighed. Blasted bunnies needed to be punched in the face. I looked back at Aubry and frowned when I found him looking at me strangely.

''Hey, would you like to work for a few hours? It would be a lot of help and I wouldn't have to worry so much for Misa. She's upstairs by herself right now.''

I sighed and shrugged.

''Sure. As long as you don't mind me working out of uniform and barefoot. I can't run around in these shoes. Just hand me an apron, and tray.''

Aubry smiled as he slid a drink filled tray to me and I exchanged my heels for a half apron, Aubry dropping the shoes behind the bar as I tied on my apron, picking up the tray as he spoke.

''All of those go upstairs.''

I nodded and made my way to help Misa, the poor girl being yelled at from several tables.

I touched her shoulder and she swung around to look at me tearfully.

''Oh thank goodness! I couldn't handle this anymore alone.''

I smiled and handed her the tray.

''Take these to whoever they belong to and then go sit down. You need a break.''

She nodded without arguing and walked off as I turned towards a table that had yet to be waited on. Smiling brightly as I recognized a couple of regulars that were waiting far more patiently than some of the others. Though I had never really actually heard Dristan or Ash really raise their voices or become anxious since they had started coming into Aubry's several years ago.

''Hey, guys! Thanks for waiting. What can I get you tonight?''

They smiled back at me and Dristan answered first.

''The regular for me.''

He turned towards the other man.

''What about you, Ash?''

The other man nodded briefly before looking over me with a raised eyebrow.

''The regular is fine for me as well. But tell me, Ria. Why are you so dressed up? This isn't your normal uniform.''

I smiled, slightly embarrassed.

''I actually wasn't supposed to work tonight and just came to have some fun, but Aubry asked me to lend a hand. Poor Misa was a bit overwhelmed.''

Ash nodded and Dristan grinned impishly.

''But you're dressed so prettily. Were you planning on meeting someone? The rumor going around is that someone has caught your eye.''

I bit my lip, and Ash smiled knowingly.

''Leave her alone, Dristan. It's too busy tonight for you to be teasing her.''

Dristan laughed and I left them quickly, making my way around the room, taking the remaining orders.

Normally I would use the little dumbwaiter that we had to send the orders down to Aubry, but I needed time away from the two men's knowing eyes.

Though they seemed harmless and kind, they weren't. They were two of the main slave traders in the surrounding area. They would take certain people, the ones that wouldn't be missed, and sell them to the highest bidder. And though that was bad, it wasn't the worst thing. They had the pardon of one of the rulers in a nearby village and could go about their trading without worry of punishment.

The other rumors about them were even worse, though I didn't know for certain if they were true or not and so didn't really think about them too much.

I shivered at the thoughts before pushing them to the side and balanced a filled tray on each of my hands, dancing around the crowding people as I made my way back up the stairs. I didn't need them getting more impatient than they already were.

I smiled as I reached the top step and saw that Misa had gotten over her emotional breakdown and had returned to taking orders, her typical smile back in place.

It only took a few minutes with the both of us working together to get everyone calmed down. All of them happily eating and drinking, talking to their companions quietly.

I slowly stepped to the side, making sure that Misa could handle things on her own as I debated about going home. My fun filled night hadn't been what I had thought it would be and I was tired. I didn't regret coming to the club, glad that I could help Misa from having a complete breakdown, but I was worn out.

I sighed to myself, preparing to ask her if she was alright if I left before a flash of red out of the corner of my eyes caught my attention and I turned swiftly. Leaning over the banister to try to stare into the shadows. After a moment of not catching sight of anything familiar through the crowd of people, I shrugged and turned back to Misa, convinced that my mind was playing tricks on me. Wanting to see things that couldn't possible be there.

I moved towards where Misa was, seeing the girl about to stand on a chair and quickly grabbed a hold of her arm, keeping her still.

''What are you trying to do, Misa? You know that you aren't supposed to stand on chairs, you're clumsy.''

She turned towards me, a frown on her face.

''I think that I'm going crazy. I keep thinking that I see Gaara downstairs. But he should be in Suna, right? I thought that if I could get a bit higher that I could see better. I can't seem to get a good look at his face.''

I frowned and turned to look at where she was pointing before gasping as I got a look at the familiar person standing in shadows that did nothing to hide the mess of brightly colored hair.

I left Misa without a word and ran down the stairs, ignoring the curious looks I received from people both upstairs and down as I darted my way through the crowd. Gaara didn't notice me at first, his eyes set in a glare at something else and I almost knocked us both down as I crashed into him, my arms flung around his neck.

His glare that he shot at me instantly softened and he drew us fully into the shadows, wrapping his arms around me tightly as I smiled up at him, feeling almost giddy.

''What are you doing here? I mean, I'm happy that you are, but I thought that I would have to miss you for a lot longer than a couple days.''

Gaara smiled and pulled me closer.

''My messenger gave me your message. That you wanted me to come for a 'diplomatic visit.' And I wanted to see you.''

I smiled brightly.

''I did say that. We also told him that you needed to bring Kankuro along as your bodyguard. Did you do that?''

Gaara smirked and pointed, a familiar figure walking up the stairs.

I grinned impishly and turned back to Gaara, pushing myself closer.

''So? Would you like to be welcomed to Aubry's, Gaara?''

His eyes lit up and he returned my smile.

''That would depend on who's giving me this welcome.''

I smiled and tilted my head to the side as I replied.

''Well that would be me.''

Gaara pretended to think about it for a moment before nodding.

''Then yes. I think that would be appropriate. Considering I welcomed you to Suna.''

I nodded and smiled as I pulled his head down to mine, capturing his lips. His arms instantly tightening around my waist as I pushed against him, pressing him into the wall. It was far too soon for my liking that I had to pull away, breathing unevenly and giving him a smile.

''There. Do you feel welcomed?''

He smiled and nodded.

''Very welcomed.''

I smiled and it took me a moment to realize that we were dancing in the dark corner, Gaara's arms around me lightly as he moved us gently in some slow steps.

I smiled up at him, pleasantly surprised.

''I didn't know that you could dance, Gaara.''

He nodded tensely, his mouth twisted in a small frown.

''When I became Kazekage the council decided that I needed to know how to dance. For formal parties and other such nonsense.''

He drew me into a slow waltz that didn't fit the tempo in the room, though I definitely preferred it to the fast beat music that blasted behind us. Gaara smiled at me shyly.

''What do you think about my dancing, Ria? I was told that I lacked rhythm and feeling.''

I frowned and focused on his movements, smiling at him after a moment.

''Your movement is fluid and you have the steps memorized. So it's not terrible. Though you do seem to simply be mimicking the steps instead of actually feeling the movements, so I would have to agree with that... you can also hold me a little tighter if you want.''

He smirked, his eyes flashing and he pulled me so tightly to him that it made it difficult to move, causing me to laugh and he smiled smugly.

''You told me that I could hold you closer. You just didn't specify how tight.''

He shot me a mock glare and stopped his movements briefly, his words slightly warning.

''No one else is to know that I can dance. I've kept it hidden from all of the girls in the village because I don't want to be bombarded at the festivals.''

I rolled my eyes, a small smile tugging at my face as I answered.

''Well, at least I don't have to worry about you running off and dancing with any other girls.''

Gaara frowned and pushed me away slightly, his eyes serious as they locked with mine.

''I don't want or need any other girl. And I don't want to dance with anyone but you.''

His eyes skated down my body and I felt my face heating slightly as his eyes lingered over my bared skin before he pulled me to him again, his lips lifted up in a teasing smirk.

''Especially not when you look the way that you do tonight. I like this outfit...Though I'm not sure about how I feel about the way that these men have been looking at you.''

I frowned and glanced around quickly. As far as I could tell, no one was paying any attention to us, especially since we were mostly hidden in the shadows against the wall.

Gaara saw my confusion and explained quietly.

''While I was watching you earlier I noticed that some of the men upstairs were staring at you.''

I felt my mouth fall open in surprise before I groaned and buried my face in his chest, stilling our movements again as I whined.

''Eww! I knew that I should have changed before coming here. I didn't think that you would be here and so I did think about changing. This is why we have modest uniforms that don't show any skin. Gross.''

He froze and pushed me back slightly, his eyes wide.

''You were thinking about me when you picked out this outfit?''

I nodded and pressed my face back to his chest, unwilling to let him see my embarrassed face for too long.

''Yeah. And I remembered that you weren't supposed to be here, and I did think about changing. I just...didn't.''

I could feel his smile against my hair and he rubbed my back gently.

''I'm glad that you didn't change. If you had, I wouldn't have been able to see you in this outfit.''

I rolled my eyes and shook my head, my face rubbing against his shirt.

''I think that you just like it 'cause it flaunts more skin than I normally show.''

Gaara nodded and I peeked up to see him grin.

''You're right. It gives me easier access to your neck.''

I groaned and bent my head back to look up at him.

''You're going to attack my neck while you're here aren't you. I'll have to find some high collared shirts.''

Gaara's body shook in a silent laugh and I smiled before returning to leaning against him, content to just sway in silence for a few minutes.

His sudden tensing caused me to pull back and frown at him as I saw him shooting a glare over the top of my head. I turned my head, following the direction his gaze was directed, and my frown deepened as I saw a pair of men leaning against the banister upstairs, their eyes trained on us. I had seen them earlier when I had been waitressing, but they were new and I didn't know anything about them.

Gaara's tightening arms drew my attention back to him and I winced at the death glare he was giving the two men.

''Are you alright?''

He looked back at me, a strange flame in his gaze and I gasped as his arms tightened to an almost uncomfortable degree, pressing my body unbearably close to his. His voice gruffer than normal.

''I don't like for them to look at you like that.''

I leaned back slightly in surprise, recognizing his actions and look suddenly.

''Are you jealous Gaara?''

His glare swung to me, his voice coming out in a slight growl.

''Of course not! I am the Kazekage, I do not get jealous.''

I nodded in mock seriousness before trying to pull away.

''Well, then I think that I need to go have a talk with them about not ogling the staff members.''

Gaara growled and slammed me back into his chest, forcing my breath out of me as he did so, his arms too tight.

''Fine! I'm jealous. I love you and I don't like the thought of some scum looking at you like they can simply climb down here and steal you away from me.''

I sighed and pulled his head down to kiss him quickly.

''You're not going to lose me, Gaara. I love you too, remember? No 'scum' is going to be able to change that. Do you understand?''

He nodded but didn't look convinced and I sighed. I shouldn't be surprised that he wouldn't really be able to believe simple words, which meant that I would just have to show him.

I gripped his hair tightly, pulling him down to me again before I crushed our mouths together harshly, hearing Gaara make a protesting noise that he quieted quickly as I pushed him back into the wall again, his hands seeming to clutch at me.

I pulled back after another minute, breathing heavily and wondering dazedly if I was actually getting enough oxygen to my brain while kissing Gaara, or if I might faint one of these times.

Gaara didn't seem ready to stop our kiss, his irritated voice grumbling lowly before he moved lower, his mouth latching on to my neck and causing me to roll my eyes with a huff. I was sure that I was going to get looks, though I couldn't really force myself to care at the moment. If they didn't like it, they didn't have to look.

Gaara was bringing his mouth back up to mine when we heard the familiar voice calling for us, Gaara pulling away with a groan and sending a glare towards where his older brother's voice was coming from, causing me to laugh lightly.

''I doubt that he can see us, Gaara, we're behind a lot of people now.''

Gaara sighed and nodded, moving us away from the wall and around the group of people that had blocked us from sight, finding Kankuro and Misa close to the center of the room, the girl's face flushed as she clutched at Kankuro's hand. It was pretty obvious what the two had been doing and I smirked impishly.

''Well, it looks like you two have had a nice reunion.''

Misa giggled, her face flushing a deeper shade of red and Kankuro chuckled, simply shrugging off my comment as he turned towards Gaara hopefully.

''I wanted to tell you that I'm going to stay at Misa's tonight...Unless the Kazekage is expecting a threat of some sort?''

Gaara shook his head and I saw Kankuro's shoulders slump a bit in relief.

''I'm sure that everything will be fine. You may have the night free.''

Kankuro grinned and nodded before he pulled Misa back towards the stairs, the girl giggling at him as she waved at us from over her shoulder. She would have to wait till closing time to leave, but the upper level was quickly emptying and they could be alone for the most part.

I rolled my eyes and smiled at the retreating pair before leading Gaara towards the bar that Aubry was slowly cleaning. He smiled at us and handed my shoes to me as I tugged off the apron, placing it on the counter before I grabbed onto Gaara's arms to steady myself as I slipped on the heels.

''I'm going to leave now. Misa should have everything handled since it's so close to closing time.''

Aubry nodded and threw the rumpled apron into a hamper under the bar.

''That's fine. Thanks for helping out, Ria, I really appreciate it. You two have a good night.''

I smiled and nodded before tugging Gaara outside and towards my house, wobbling slightly as we walked.

''We'll have to let Butterball outside when we get home.''

Gaara nodded and wrinkled his nose.

''That's probably a good idea. I don't want him to pee on me again.''

I giggled and winced slightly as the shoes pinched my feet slightly. My feet must have swollen a bit while I was working.

''He hasn't done that to anyone else.''

Gaara snorted and wrapped his arm around my waist, stopping my wobbling as he supported most of my weight and I sighed as his body heat seeped into my side, almost missing his next words.

''That animal hates me. I'm convinced.''

I frowned at him, trying to hide a laugh.

''He does not. He loves you. And I think he's missed you.''

He shrugged and tightened his arm briefly, his eyes darting down to the side before they returned to face forwards again.

''Did you miss me?''

I scoffed and rolled my eyes.

''Of course I did. I thought about you everyday, wondering what you were doing.''

Gaara nodded and smiled.

''Good. I missed you too. I'm glad that I came to see you.''

His smile became amused suddenly as he let his eyes trail over me.

''I'm not sure how you would have made it home in those shoes otherwise. As good as they look with that outfit, they may be a bit too high for you.''

I blew a raspberry at him, feeling his body shake against me before I replied.

''They are not. I just need some time to get used to them. I didn't really get a chance to wear them much tonight like I was planning.''

His body continued to shake and I huffed at him before shrugging and smiling at him good-naturedly and cuddling into his side. I was too happy to see him to be irritated...and I was stumbling down the road like a drunk sorority girl.


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