I pulled us to a halt in front of Dolly's door, silently praying that Rosa wouldn't be home. I really didn't want to expose Gaara to our dysfunctional relationship...I really didn't need another guy I cared about going serial killer today.
I knocked on the door hesitantly and held my breath as I heard the movement inside, looking up as the wood was pulled open and stared in horror as Rosa herself stood in the opening, her hand on her protruding belly and a scowl on her face.
I bit my lip, hoping that she would be so hormonal that she would actually be civil to me and realized how stupid that was when her scowl became a fierce snarl and her voice lashed out coldly.
''What do you want?''
I sighed and tried to look around her into the house.
''Hi, Rosa. Is Dolly home? I need to talk to him.''
Her fingers tightened on the door frame, the knuckles turning white.
''There isn't anyone by that name that lives here and you know that.''
I flinched at her harsh tone and nodded, backtracking quickly.
''I know that. I'm sorry. Sasori then. Is Sasori here.''
She snorted and rubbed her stomach, cooing gently.
''Of course he is. He hasn't left me alone since he found out I was pregnant. He's very worried about me.''
I sighed and wondered if she was deliberately lying, or if she just didn't know that Sasori had left to visit Suna. I shook my head quickly, already knowing the answer. He had probably left a clone or puppet so that she would think that he was home.
''Can I talk to him then? It's really important.''
She frowned, her eyes narrowing.
I tried to force the irritation from my voice before I spoke but was interrupted before I could even attempt to answer by an excited squeal. A blur of red came into sight almost instantly after the noise and the blur tackled my legs so hard that Gaara had to steady me so I didn't fall.
I laughed and reached down to pick up the small child, hugging him tightly.
''Aunt Ri! Guess what Daddy and I did today?''
I grinned and kissed his cheek, delighted at seeing him.
''What did you do?''
He giggled and waved his hands, his voice excited.
''I got to help him design a puppet. He's not like his other puppets. I wanted him to look like a monster, so he's green, has bull horns, and a fish tale. Can I bring him to your house the next time that I come over? I want to show it to Uncle Lem.''
I laughed and nodded.
''Of course, honey. As long as your parents don't mind.''
He smiled and laid his head on my shoulder, snuggling into me. I shook my head, and looked back towards the door, finding Dolly standing in front of Rosa, smirking lightly.
I smiled and he pulled the door open wider, stepping out of the way and pushing Rosa towards the living room, his voice dull when he spoke.
''Go sit somewhere, Rosa. We don't need you hovering.''
Rosa huffed and shot me a glare as I followed him into the house, dragging Gaara along behind me.
Dolly led us into his study and closed the door before moving to sit at his desk. Niko squirmed from my arms and ran to his father, climbing into his lap and waving me over.
''Come see what I made, Aunt Ri!''
I smiled and squeezed Gaara's hand before moving towards the desk, Niko looking at Gaara for the first time and he stared at him curiously. I smiled at the boy, leaning against the desk and looking over the drawing of his puppet. I laughed and wrinkled my nose, ruffling the child's hair playfully.
''That is one of the ugliest puppets that I've ever seen. Good job, kid.''
Niko grinned at me, his attention not leaving Gaara and he pointed at the stoic Kazekage.
''Who's he, Aunt Ri?''
I looked up and smiled at Gaara's expressionless face.
''His name's Gaara, Niko. He's...a very good friend of mine.''
Niko smiled and slid off of Dolly's lap, running to Gaara, his puppet drawing in his hand and holding the paper up for him to see.
''Do you wanna see my drawing, Gaara?''
Gaara looked up at me in panic and I nodded encouragingly.
Niko was already pulling on his shirt, coaxing Gaara to sit on the floor so he could climb into his lap and Gaara's eyes widened in terror as he was pulled to the ground and I laughed lightly before turning back to Dolly, leaning down to hug him, his arms hugging me back tightly.
He tightened his arms briefly before releasing me and relaxing back into his chair.
''I'm sorry that I wasn't the one to open the door for you. Niko was yelling and I didn't hear your knock.''
I shrugged and returned to leaning my hip against the desk.
''Don't worry about it. You got there before any major argument could happen.''
He nodded, crossing his arms lightly.
''Good. How have you been?''
''Fine. I'm happy for the most part. Though I'm still upset at Aubry's burning. You heard about that?''
He nodded and I realized how stupid my question sounded. He could see the smoke from his front porch. Of course he would have known about it.
He frowned suddenly and locked his eyes with mine, pinning me in place.
''What did Rosa say to you when you first got here?''
I bit my lip and wrung my hands nervously, feeling like a tattle tale when he asked about such things.
''Well...just the usual questions, you know?''
He raised an eyebrow and I knew that I wasn't going to get out of answering his question with such a vague answer.
I shrugged, trying to tone down the hatred that had underlined her questions.
''She asked what I wanted. Reminded me that I needed to call you Sasori and not Dolly, because that is not your name. And she wanted to know how important it was that I talk to you.''
His eyes narrowed and he shook his head.
''I have always been, and will reamain as Dolly to you. You have never called me Sasori and I don't expect you to start now.''
I nodded and sighed.
''I know that. But she doesn't like that nickname, so I try to be careful not to use it in front of her.''
He frowned, his eyes narrowing into a glare.
''Still. She should not be so harsh with you. Especially not about something so trivial.''
''It's times like these that I miss being in the Akatsuki. I could have been on a mission right now and avoided her for days...weeks if I was lucky.''
I laughed and he shook his head, returning his attention to me.
''Alright, Dearheart. Tell me what your real reason is for braving this hell hole.''
I winced at his comparison, knowing that he wasn't happy with Rosa. Though I thought that it was more about her clinginess and her whining than her small insults towards me...though those alone had caused a few fight between the two of them.
''Salem is out of that miracle drug that you make him and he sent me to see if you have any more.''
He nodded and reached towards a drawer on his desk as he spoke.
''Did something happen today? He should have been out of that last bottle weeks ago. I just assumed that he didn't need the drug anymore.''
I shook my head, shifting my feet nervously as I remembered the past few days.
''No, he definitely still needs it.''
I looked towards Niko and found him absorbed in whatever he was telling Gaara. Though I still lowered my voice, knowing how children would hear things that they didn't need to, no matter how much attention they didn't seem to be paying.
''Since he ran out of medicine he hasn't been sleeping, and today the stress of Aubry's burning and Mona's barbs kinda got to him. He almost lost it. He didn't. But he almost did. He just wasn't able to cope with the emotional strain of everything.''
I sighed and ran a hand over my face.
''I guess that he just needs to keep taking the medicine, huh?''
Dolly nodded and placed three blue colored glass bottles on the desk.
''That would be best I think. He hasn't had an episode while taking the medicine and though I know that he doesn't like it, it helps him.''
I nodded and picked up the bottles, holding them gently. I wasn't sure if Dolly had any spares if I were to drop one.
''Alright. Then I better get these to him. Maybe he'll take some right away. I need him calm right now.''
I bent down and gave Dolly a soft hug, making sure not to drop the bottles.
He nodded and looked over towards Niko and Gaara, speaking to the young boy.
''Niko, say goodbye to the Kazekage and Ria. They're going home.''
Niko looked up at me as I moved towards them and pouted, his voice a slight whine.
''You're leaving right now? But you just got here and I haven't seen you in forever!''
I smiled gently and nodded.
''Yeah, Gaara and I have to take Salem some medicine.''
Niko twisted and flung his arms around Gaara's neck, the elder boys eyes widening in surprise at the sudden show of affection.
''Come back soon, Gaara. I'll have more drawings to show you.''
Gaara nodded slowly as Niko moved from his lap, hugging my legs tightly before he returned to Dolly, climbing into his father's lap.
Gaara stood up and I smiled at him before turning back to the pouting Niko, seeing that he had his small arms crossed over his thin chest.
''Can I come to your house soon, Aunt Ri?''
I shook my head.
''Probably not, hon. I'm going to Suna with Gaara for a little while.''
Niko's face lit up.
''Can I go with you?''
I shook my head again and saw his face fall before I had even spoken.
''No, Niko. Your parents wouldn't want you to be away that long.''
He huffed and crossed his arms.
''It's not fair. Why do parents have to ruin all the fun?''
I frowned and looked at Dolly, seeing him shrug with a frown.
''Rosa wouldn't let the child go over to Itachi's. Which I found completely ridiculous. But what do I know? I'm just the father. I didn't carry the baby for nine months and then have to endure the labor. So I don't get a say in his upbringing.''
I laughed and shook my head fondly.
''Careful, Dolly. That sounds a little bitter.''
He nodded and I waved halfheartedly.
''Alright. We better go. I'll see the two of you later.''
Dolly nodded and Niko waved at us until we were out of sight, closing the study door behind us and I sighed, walking hurriedly towards the front door, not wanting another encounter with Rosa. She wasn't in sight and I hoped that we could leave without dealing with her.
Gaara had made it onto the porch before a hand on my shoulder whipped me around and I groaned silently as I came face to face with an enraged Rosa, her face red and her voice a harsh whisper so that Dolly wouldn't overhear her.
''How many times do I have to tell you that you are not welcome here? Sasori is getting sick of seeing you. He didn't even want me to open the door for you, but I didn't want to be rude and leave you outside.
Sasori has his own children now. He doesn't need to play pretend with you. He's gotten tired of you. How many hints do you need before you realize that?''
I sighed softly, trying to ignore her vicious remarks and waiting for her to get tired so that I could leave. Conversations like this weren't new, happening every time that I saw her and it was better to just let her wear herself out.
She looked past me and caught sight of Gaara, seeming to see him for the first time and her lips turned up in an unkind smile. She took a step towards him and I blocked her way, not wanting her to involve him.
She laughed harshly and spoke over my head.
''You must be the boyfriend. You should take my advice and dump her. She's not worth your time. I'm sure that with your looks, you could have any girl you wanted. Instead of some unattractive orphan with ratty hair.''
I heard Gaara's footsteps as he moved towards us and I quickly shifted to stand more in the doorway, blocking his way as much as I was blocking Rosa's, dragging her attention back to me.
''Leave Gaara out of this Rosa. If you have a problem with me, then you take that up with me.''
Rosa's face had turned beyond red and was now closer to purple. Not used to me retorting to her taunts or threats. But I couldn't have Gaara stepping in. With the tension that was rolling off of him I didn't know what he would do.
Rosa stuttered and suddenly pushed me hard, causing me to loose my balance, Gaara's arms luckily there to catch me, the appendages tight around me as she screamed.
''I want you out of my house and off of my porch! And I don't ever want to see you again, you little bitch!''
I heard Gaara growl and quickly untangled his arms from around me and pulled him off the porch and towards the road, Rosa's voice echoing after us in angry screams.
Once I heard the door slam and the screams had faded away, I loosened my grip on Gaara's hand and slowed our frantic pace to a walk.
After a few more seconds of walking in silence, Gaara pulled me to a stop and I looked at him in surprise, flinching back at his expression.
I could tell that he was angry, but it was covered by a worried look and I sighed, not liking that he had to see something that I hadn't ever planned on telling him about.
''There's no reason to look at me like that, Gaara. I'm used to Rosa's insults. They don't bother me anymore.''
''Why does she treat you like that?''
I shrugged and answered simply.
''Because I take Dolly's attention away from her and she doesn't like that.''
He frowned, confused.
''And you're alright with that? With her saying all of those awful things to you? She called you names, Love.''
nodded and shrugged again, not really concerned.
''I know that she's lying now. Though they used to bother me. But there's never been any love lost between Rosa and I. She hasn't liked me since the moment that she saw me. And she's never made that a secret.''
He shook his head and crossed his arms over his chest, his signature glare making an appearance as he became irritated.
''Then why did Sasori marry her? He seems to care about you, so I don't understand why he would expose you to someone that was just going to hate you and try to hurt you. Or was I wrong to think that he thinks of you like one of his children?''
I rolled my eyes and shook my head. I knew that this would be hard for him to understand if he ever found out about it..it would be hard for anyone.
''You're not wrong. Dolly cares for Salem and I as much as he cares for Niko.
Rosa wasn't like that when he first met her. From what he's told me she was sweet, and caring, and completely different until he married her. Then she just kinda went crazy. When he brought her home to meet me for the first time...''
I shook my head sadly and broke off speaking, remembering an incident that I typically kept pushed to the back of my mind.
Gaara frowned at my hesitancy and suddenly pulling me off of the road, sitting us underneath a tree and prodding me gently.
''What exactly happened when you meet her, Ria?''
I shrugged, not really wanting to relive those memories but Gaara persisted, grabbing my hands and running his thumbs across my wrists.
''Why are you so worried about telling me?''
I sighed and shook my head, my shoulders slumping slightly as I looked up at the sky briefly.
''It's not that really. Though now that you mention it, I should be worried that you'll get angry and go back to confront her.''
I shook my head.
''It's more that I don't like talking about it. Salem's the only one that I've told about what happened that day. I never told Dolly because I didn't want to ruin his marriage. So I've pretty much kept it to myself.''
I turned back to him and saw Gaara nod, his hands squeezing mine lightly.
''I would still like to know. If you can force yourself to tell me. I promise that I won't go after her. That should be Sasori's duty anyways.''
I nodded and took a deep breath, forcing myself to remember what I had felt and seen that first day years ago.
''When I first heard that Dolly had met someone, I was excited for him. Though he would never admit it, I knew that he was a little lonely. And he became even more so when Salem and I moved into the house we live in now.
So when Die told me about Rosa, I was glad. Thinking that he had met someone that would be good for him.''
I shook my head.
''Obviously I was wrong.
Anyways, when Dolly walked through the door of my house, I instantly moved to hug him tightly. He returned my hug and picked me up enough that I could see over his shoulder. I caught sight of an irritated looking young woman and after he set me down, I looked past him and smiled at her.
She didn't smile back and I thought that she just didn't know who I was. It never occurred to me that she knew exactly who I was and that was why she was angry. Dolly saw where I was looking and introduced us properly. When his eyes meet her's she smiled brightly.
You've seen Rosa. She's a very pretty woman, but when she smiles it lights up her features and she becomes something beyond gorgeous.
Seeing this, I was very satisfied with Dolly's pick of wife.
We moved to the couch after the introductions and Dolly immediately became engrossed in an argument he was having with Die. Something typical between the two and I had smiled at the two of them, knowing that they could be arguing for hours. Normally I would either tune them out or go to cook dinner, but I didn't want to leave Rosa alone. So I had tried to make conversation with her.
I asked her how the trip was and all she did was send me a haughty look and scoot closer to Dolly on the couch. I had just shrugged this off, thinking that she was just shy and the longer that she was around us, the more comfortable she would become.
I didn't try to talk to her again, getting caught up in Dolly and Die's conversation until Die had demanded that the two of them go outside.
Die had some art thing to show Dolly that was supposed to 'prove his point' and I was left alone with Rosa. I had thought that since it was just the two of us that she might open up and talk. But when I had turned to her, I had found her sizing me up, a snarl on her face.
''So you're the little urchin that Sasori took in? With how he spoke about you I thought that you would be pretty, or at least interesting. From what I've seen tonight, you're neither. You just look like a grungy little girl to me.''
She had sighed deeply.
''Sasori is too kind for his own good. Always putting others before himself.''
I had stared at her in confusion, not really knowing what Sasori she had gotten to know. I had never heard of Dolly being called kind. And as far as I knew, no one other than her would think that way either.
I had laughed in disbelief and she had glared.
''I don't appreciate you laughing. The sound grates at my eardrums. I want you to stay away from my Sasori. Do you understand, Foundling? If he still wanted you, he wouldn't have brought me here with him.''
I had frowned at her and shaken my head.
''You're wrong. Dolly loves me. And my name is Ria. Not foundling.''
She had gasped and moved quickly, slapping me so hard that my head snapped to the side.
I had clutched my sore cheek and drew my knees up to my chest, looking up at her in surprise. It had been a long time since I had been hit and I wasn't used to the sting anymore. It had been hard to fight off the surprised tears that had pricked at my eyes.
Rosa's eyes were filled with hatred and she had leaned forward, locking her gaze with mine as she hissed.
''Don't you ever call Sasori, Dolly again. That is not his name and he hates that nickname.''
She had turned away from me suddenly, shooting me one more glare over her shoulder before she had walked out the front door.
Neither Dolly or Die came back inside and I thought that Rosa must have charmed them into leaving without saying goodbye. I had sat on the couch, still in the position as when Rosa left and I stayed that way until Salem walked inside.
He had seen me sitting there and pulled my hand away from my now bruised cheek and I had seen him frown.
''Ria, sweetheart. Who hurt you?''
I had shrugged, not wanting to answer.
I remember seeing the look of panic that came into his eyes when I didn't say 'Dolly' and he had cupped my unhurt cheek.
''It was that woman he brought home wasn't it? I thought that there might be some jealousy between the two of you, but I never thought that she would hurt you.''
He had hugged me tightly and apologized
''I'm sorry, Ria.''
He had kept a tight hold on my shoulders as he pulled back, his voice serious.
''You are never to be alone with that woman again, if you can help it. Understand?''
I had nodded and he had continued.
''And go back to calling Sasori, Dolly. You know that he enjoys his nickname.''
I had tried to smile at him, and grimaced as I felt my sore cheek twinge.
Salem had growled and pulled me up from the couch, tugging me towards the kitchen.
''We need to get you some ice on that. If that woman ever touches you again...''
I had sighed and shaken my head.
''Don't, Salem. If Dolly loves her, we just have to deal with her.''
He had frowned and placed an ice pack on my cheek.
''Fine. But I'm still not happy about this.''
I had nodded and sat at the table, letting him heat up dinner.
I shrugged suddenly and turned to look at Gaara for the first time since I started my story, flinching at the hatred burning in his eyes.
He reached out and ran his hand over my long ago healed cheek.
''She hit you. And Sasori did nothing about it?''
I shook my head quickly, wanting to clear up any confusion.
''I never told him. I wanted him to be happy remember? And I thought that Rosa made him happy. I didn't want to be the thing to ruin that.''
I sighed and dropped my head.
''I should have left that part out of my story I suppose.''
Gaara glared at me and pulled me onto his lap suddenly.
''No, Love. I wanted to know. And I agree with Salem: You never need to be around that woman. Especially alone.''
I nodded and stood up, tugging Gaara after me and giving him a small smile.
''I never am anymore. But I think that we need to get this medicine to Salem now. He might come searching for us if we're not home before dark. He's probably already worried.''
Gaara smiled and nodded, grabbing my hand again and leading us in the direction of my house.