The Akatsuki's Daughter

By Jeanaye Perkey

Romance / Humor

Chapter 28


Salem met us at the door, eagerly taking the bottles from me and looking over me critically, making sure that I didn't have any new bruises before nodding in satisfaction and turning on his heal, yelling at us over his shoulder that he was going to take a nap with Toru.I nodded, knowing that he probably needed it before leading Gaara up to my room, more than ready for a nap myself after the stress of the day.

Gaara seemed to understand this and didn't wait for me to ask him to lay down before he moved the lazy Butterball out of his way, kicked off his shoes, and crawled under the covers.

I smiled at him and quickly crawled in next to him, pressing myself against his chest. He sighed and wrapped his arms around me tightly, running his hands across my back, his gentle movements relaxing me and causing me to doze.

His shifting and low voice drew me back to wakefulness and I groaned, wondering why he always picked the times where I was almost asleep to speak. I didn't make an effort to answer him and felt him try to pull away before stilling again as I tightened my arms around him and sighed.

''What, Gaara?''

He was silent for a few minutes, and I waited impatiently until he finally sighed and pulled me closer.

''I love you.''

I snorted and lifted my head from his chest, looking over his face and smiling softly as I rolled my eyes.

''I love you too. But that's not really what you wanted to say, was it?''

He shrugged, beginning to gnaw at his bottom lip and I had to force my body to remain still and ignore the impulse to take over that gesture and kiss him harshly.

He began speaking again and I saw the hesitation in his eyes as I forced my eyes away from his mouth.

''I have to return to Suna tomorrow. Do you still want to come back with me? I mean, I want you too. But if you don't want too, I won't make you.''

I rolled my eyes and moved my hand from between our bodies to cup his cheek. He nuzzled into the palm as I spoke.

''Is that what you're worried about? That I don't really want to go back with you?''

He nodded, his eyes closed and his lips resting against my palm, causing me to smile and I waited until he looked at me again before speaking.

''I want to return to Suna with you, Gaara. I like to be with you. And it would take so much more than just asking me to return with you to be considered as forcing me.

I have nothing to do around here, so I might as well take a trip. And truthfully, there is not any other place that I would rather be than with you.''

I grinned suddenly.

''And besides...It's not like I can leave you to travel back to Suna alone with Misa and Kankuro. That would just be cruel.''

He looked at me blankly and I huffed.

''Oh, C'mon, Gaara! You didn't think that your brother wouldn't jump at the chance to take Misa back with him did you?''

He shrugged uncarringly

''I didn't really think about it. I was more concerned with getting you to come back with me. I didn't even think about Kankuro and what he was going to do.''

I laughed and shook my head.

''It's alright.''

I paused and gave him a small glare.

''Unless you don't want Misa to go back to Suna, and then it just wouldn't be far if I got to go and she didn't.''

Gaara shrugged and leaned down to kiss me softly, speaking when he had pulled away.

''I don't care what Misa and Kankuro do. Whether she goes to Suna or not. Just as long as you go with me.''

I smiled and moved to kiss his jaw, but caught his lips instead as he turned his head suddenly, pressing our mouths together harshly. He pulled back after a while, letting me gasp in breath and glanced behind him at the still sleeping panda before rolling us so that he could hover above me.

''I had to make sure that the fluffball wouldn't interrupt again.''

I was able to smile for a moment before his mouth returned to mine and he snaked his arms around me, holding us tightly together. I tangled my hands in his hair, scratching slightly at his scalp and smirked as he groaned, tightening his arms and crushing our bodies together.

I was the first to pull away, gasping in air but Gaara didn't even pause as he went lower, laying open mouthed kisses down my neck to the bend of my shoulder. He bit down suddenly and I gasped in surprise causing him to pull back instantly his gaze foggy and his lips swollen.

''Are you alright? What's wrong?''

I nodded slowly before I replied.

''Yeah. You just surprised me when you bit me.''

He frowned, his eyes clearing of the remaining fog and becoming intense

''I bit you?''

I nodded and shrugged my shoulder, showing him the spot that he had bitten. He grimaced and ran his thumb across the spot that his mouth had just left, his expression letting me know that there was some kind of mark.

''I left a bruise.''

There was the familiar self-loathing in his voice and I smiled comfortingly.

''It's alright, it didn't really hurt. You just startled me is all. I wasn't expecting you to bite.''

He bit his lip before speaking hesitantly.

''So, I didn't hurt you?''

I smiled and shook my head, rolling my eyes.

''No, Gaara. You didn't hurt me.''

He smiled slightly, an edge of uncertainty still in his voice.

''So you don't mind if I continue?''

I laughed and shook my head, finding it cute that he had to ask.

He returned to my mouth slowly and nibbled lightly at my lower lip, trying out this new technique and I snorted in amusement before he moved away from my mouth, kissing up my jaw to my ear and licking the shell.

I bursted out laughing at the tickling feeling and bit my lip against any other stray giggles, Gaara pulling back to look at me, his gaze curious.

''What's so funny?''

I shook my head and avoided his eyes.

''I don't want to tell you.''

I glanced at him to find a horrified expression on his face, his tone just as horrified when he spoke.

''Is it another thing that I need to ask Kankuro about?''

I rolled my eyes and shook my head.

''No, Kankuro wouldn't know about this either. It's about me personally.''

Gaara paused for a moment before smirking impishly, his arms around me tightening roughly.

''I see. Then I really should know what this secret is, shouldn't I. Why don't you save us a bit of time and just tell me what it is?''

I shook my head and tried to wriggle away from him.

''Nope. I'm not telling you. You would just use it against me at some point.''

He grinned.

''I still think that I should know.''

He bent closer and nuzzled his nose against the smooth skin under my ear.

''Please tell me, Ria? Please?''

A noise that sounded like a purr rumbled through his chest and he licked at my jaw, causing me to gasp.

I bit my lip and forced myself not to notice how his noises reverberated through his chest and into mine. Who taught him how to wring secrets out of people like this? I frowned. That was me wasn't it? Crap. But I didn't think that he would be this good at it.

I shook my head, both in refusal to answer and trying to clear my mind. I had to try a few times to get my voice to work, and when I finally spoke my voice was unsteady and breathless.

''N...No. I'm not going to tell you.''

Gaara pulled away enough to smile at me and as my eyes locked with his heat filled gaze, I almost lost my willpower and told him what he wanted to hear. That impish smirk of his returned and he shook his head, his voice convincing.

''Oh, but I think you will, Love. Really I do. You're not as strong as you think you are. Not when I can see your will breaking with every touch.''

I shook my head, knowing that I should have been offended since I had just been sweetly insulted. But I just couldn't think past how his mouth had moved to nip at my collar bones. I knew suddenly that the only reason that I hadn't cracked was because I wanted more of his attention. I had never seen him this way. Like he had lost any doubts of himself and didn't mind being teasing and playful. I couldn't stop the thought that I would like for him to be this way with me all of the time.

I gasped suddenly as he bit my shoulder harshly. Harder than any other nips that he had given me and I grasped the sheet as he soothed the now bruised spot, forcing myself to not make an approving noise.

He grasped my wrists and pinned them above my head with one of his hands, his other skimming across my body and I whined as he returned to kissing my neck, his voice a growl as he spoke.

''What's your secret, Love?''

I frowned and shook my head. My brain had shut down and I didn't remember what he was talking about anymore.

Gaara took my silence as a refusal to answer and growled, leaning up to barely touch his lips to mine. I tried to lift my head up, to press our lips harder together but he pulled away instantly, his voice smug.

''Tell me why you laughed, Love, and I'll kiss you.''

His lips brushed against mine gently and I groaned, trying to force my dulled brain into remembering what he had done to make me laugh. He nipped at my jaw and I whimpered, finally getting my brain to function.

''You..You licked my ear earlier.''

He nodded encouragingly, stopping his movements so I could think and I continued in a stronger voice.

''It tickled. My ears are ticklish and I don't like to be tickled, and I knew that if I told you that, you would use the information against me. You like to tickle me.''

He smirked and kissed me harshly for a moment, his grin still in place when he pulled back and began to speak.

''You're right. I will use that information sooner or later. I need some advantage against you.''

He smiled down at me, a bright spark in his eyes.

''Now, I'll tell you a secret.''

His eyes traveled over my pinned body and his gaze held a dark heat when it returned to mine.

''You are making me crazy. I feel like my body is on fire. And I like it. I like the way that you're making me feel. I'm learning things about myself that no one even mentioned could exist.''

He leaned down to lick my ear and I giggled softly at the tickling sensation before he pulled back and smiled down at me, squeezing his hand around my wrists gently.

''I like having you pinned under me like this. I don't know why, but I do.''

I tried to glare up at him, but knew by his grin that it didn't have the desired effect, my eyes too dulled and hazy to really hold any anger.

''Shame on you, you domineering person. Liking having someone pinned down.''

He shook his head and leaned down to kiss my lips briefly before laying his head on my chest. His hand released my wrists and slid down to wrap around me, pressing into my shoulder blades, his fingers tangled in my hair.

''Getting you to crack and tell me what I wanted to know was tiring. I need a nap now.''

I laughed and wrapped my arms around him, rubbing his back gently and listening to his breathing even out as his body relaxed against mine. I laid there for a few minutes, making sure that he was fully asleep before closing my eyes and joining him in sleep.


///////



I woke up to a groan and the hands against my shoulder blades flexing, pulling at my hair that was wrapped around fingers.

I blinked open blurry eyes and looked down to see Gaara's eyelids fluttering rapidly.

He was obviously dreaming again, and I watched him for a minute, making sure that it was a normal dream and that he wouldn't hurt himself again.

After a moment of him not doing more than mumbling in his sleep, I began to rub my hands across his back, feeling him settle back against me, his nose nuzzling into my chest as he relaxed.

I looked over him as he stilled again and frowned as I saw the rings around his eyes, noticing that they seemed to have become darker since I had seen him in Suna.

I knew that he didn't sleep much, even with Shukaku gone, but that meant that he didn't have the extra energy boost that Shukaku gave him either. He needed to sleep more...though he seemed able to do that when I was with him.

I rolled my eyes, supposing that I would just have to convince him to take more naps when we returned to Suna.

''What are you thinking about so hard, Love?''

I frowned as I heard Gaara's voice, thinking for a moment that I had just imagined it before noticing the slow movements his fingers were making against my back, twirling the ends of my hair and I shrugged slightly before answering.

''Nothing really. I just decided that if you needed me with you to fall asleep, that I would have to force you to take a nap with me a lot.''

I felt him smile against my skin, his voice a rumble in his chest.

''Good. I do sleep better when you're next to me. When I hold you, I find that I'm able to sleep deeper and for longer periods of time.''

He opened his eyes and tilted his head slightly to smile at me.

''The Doctor in Suna that examined me after Shukaku was extracted told the council that I needed more sleep than what I was getting and forced them to put that couch in my office...even if they did complain about the whole thing. He recommended that I take a nap at least twice a week. I may have to follow through with that suggestion when we get back.''

I smiled slightly and shook my head.

''But you don't sleep a whole lot even when I am with you.''

He smirked.

''But they don't need to know that, do they?''

I laughed.

''Whatever you say, Hon.''

I frowned suddenly, my brain focusing on a small bit of information and tightened my arms around him.

''From what I've heard, I don't think that I like this Council very much.''

Gaara shrugged, looking unconcerned.

''I don't care for them much myself, the old Windbags.''

I stared at him in shock for a moment, before bursting out laughing, speaking through my giggles.

''I can't believe that you just called people 'Windbags.' I've never heard you give someone such an insulting nickname.''

I was still laughing when Gaara moved to hover over me, his face serious.

''I can insult people, Love. I just prefer not too.''

I shook my head and tried to get control of my stray giggles.

''Still...you're not the refined and proper guy that I thought you were when I first met you. You surprise me a lot.''

He smiled and shook his head, his knuckles rubbing across my cheek gently.

''It's you who constantly surprise me, Love. You handle the people and problems around you so very calmly. Mona, and Salem constantly bicker, and you don't threaten to hurt them like I do when Kankuro and Temari do the same.

You handled Salem's urge to kill today like it was nothing. Plus you have an adopted family that consists of Rogue Ninja's.''

He smirked suddenly.

''And then there's me. The feared ex-vessel of the Shukaku. You have some seriously scary men in your crazy life.''

I laughed and leaned up to rub my nose against his, causing him to pull back quickly, his expression startled, staring at me with wide eyes as I spoke.

''I suppose that I do. But I wouldn't have it any other way. You all keep my life interesting.''

He smiled, his surprise at my Eskimo kiss disappearing.

''You're life is interesting enough without any help. Just today you dealt with Aubry's burning and Sasori's jealous wife.''

A dangerous light came into Gaara's eyes and his hands that had been resting in strands of my hair and on my hip tightened painfully as he spoke.

''She insulted and lied to you. Something that had I been in your position, I would have confronted her on.''

I smiled comfortingly and moved one of my hands to cup his cheek, ignoring the small twinges from my skull and hip.

''It's alright, Gaara. I told you from the beginning that it's a mutual dislike between Rosa and I. And if I thought that it would do any good, I would scream and fight with her with everything that I have. But all that would do is make her even angrier, and hurt Dolly.''

He sighed and I watched the death glint that had entered his eyes slowly disappear

''I know it wouldn't make a difference, but I just don't like seeing you hurt and knowing that I can do something to stop that hurt. Even if I have to kill those people.''

I shook my head and shrugged.

''It's alright. But can you loosen your hands a bit? I loose enough hair when it's being brushed.''

His eyes widened before he instantly released me and I sighed in relief as the pressure on my hip and the pulling of my hair stopped.

Gaara bit his lip.

''Did I hurt you?''

I paused for a moment before shaking my head.

''Not really. I lost a few strands of hair, but that's nothing compared to what would happen if the raggedy mass was being brushed.''

Gaara frowned, his eyes narrowing disbelievingly,

''Is that all?''

I was about to nod, but his arm pressed lightly into my hip and I grimaced, sighing before I replied

''I think my hip might be a bit bruised.''

He shifted to move away from me and I was suddenly glad that my arms were wrapped around him so that I could hold him to me.

From the look on his eyes, I had no doubt that he would have moved toward the corner of the room and curled up there, refusing to come near me again if I let him go.

When he tried to move away again, I tightened my arms and wrapped my legs around him, successfully stilling him. He looked at me in exasperation and I smiled up at him mockingly as he spoke.

''Will you please let go of me? I need to get off of you?''

I shook my head and pulled him closer.

''I don't think so. The only reason you now want to move is because you've convinced yourself that you've hurt me. Isn't it?''

He tried to glare at me but I simply raised an eyebrow at him, waiting for his reply. He finally sighed and nodded, agreeing quietly.

''Yeah.''

I hummed and shrugged.

''Well I don't want you to move. Not when you're feeling so disappointed in yourself. I'm not hurt anymore than if I ran into the table, or when I run into a door because I'm not watching where I'm going.''

He gave me a skeptical look.

''You walked into a door?''

I nodded and grinned.

''Yeah. About a year ago. Aubry's had a door that you just pushed and it opened for a long time. But about a year ago they changed out the door and you had to turn the knob before it opened.

Well, one night it had been extremely busy and I was really tired and forgot about the door being changed out. So I was walking full speed, talking to Salem and not paying any attention when I rammed into the door so hard that I fell backwards.

Salem actually had to carry me home because I had literally knocked myself silly and started having hallucinations From then on I remembered that I needed to turn the doorknob to open the door.''

Gaara stared at me for a moment before his body began to shake in his normal silent laughter and he leaned down to nuzzle his face into my neck.

''You really ran into a door? So if I asked Salem about this, he would tell me the same?''

I glared up at the ceiling before answering dryly.

''If he's not laughing too hard. He's never let me live it down. I don't remember what I said on the way home, but apparently I was talking about pink bunnies with scythes and black capes.''

Gaara's body shook harder and he shook his head.

''A pink bunny?''

I nodded unamusedly.

''Mhm. With a scythe and black cape.''

Gaara grinned and rose up so he could look at me.

''I need to get up so I can take a shower. I can smell the smoke and fire on me.''

I nodded and gave him a stern look.

''As long as you can tell me that you're not upset with yourself anymore.''

He bit his lip and I unwrapped my arms to frame his face with my hands.

''There's no reason to be. You didn't mean to grip me so hard. You didn't even realize that you were doing it. You were just angry and your body instantly responded to your emotions. There's nothing wrong with that.''

He sighed and laid a kiss to my forehead.

''You've had to reassure me a lot today.''

I shrugged, unconcerned.

''You just need a lot of attention today I guess. But since we're on the subject of reassurance, let me tell you that I love you.''

His eyes lit up and he bent to kiss me lightly, his smile gentle when he pulled away again.

''I love you too, Ria.''

He untangled himself quickly and moved towards his bag, continuing to speak as he did so.

''But I was serious about that shower. I don't like the smell of smoke.''

I shrugged and sat up, pointing towards a door on my wall.

''Through there. Do you have your own shampoo?''

He nodded and I giggled.

''Good. Because if you didn't, then Salem's clothes wouldn't be the only thing that smelt like frilly.''

Gaara rolled his eyes and smiled.

''No, Love. I think that I would rather leave the 'frilly' smells to you.''

I smiled and watched as he moved towards the bathroom, speaking over his shoulder.

''I'll be out in a little bit.''

I nodded and stood up, calling after him.

''Alright. I'm going to go make us some food.''

I saw him nod before the door closed, and I went to pick up Butterball before making my way towards the kitchen. Hopefully we had enough groceries to make a decent meal.


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


I was scrounging around the kitchen, finding that my lack of shopping had caused a lack of edible food. I was still mumbling to myself when I heard a movement from the doorway and glanced over my shoulder to see a freshly showered Gaara, his hair still dripping and I smiled as he walked over to me.

''Did you enjoy your shower?''

He shrugged and wrapped his arms around me, pulling my back into his chest tightly.

''As much as possible. I'm not really fond of water. Because of Shukaku, it's always made me feel weaker. I thought that when he was extracted that I might be able to enjoy it, but I guess that was wrong.''

I nodded my head, and sighed softly as I breathed in. Whatever soaps Gaara used in the shower smelt really good. He always smelled nice, but since the smell was fresh...I sighed again.

Gaara pulled away slightly and I looked up at him to see his curious expression.

''Are you alright, Love?''

I nodded and hummed.

''Yeah, I'm fine. Did you know that you smell really good?''

He started and his eyes widened.

''Is that why you were clinging to me?''

I frowned up at him and shrugged.

''I guess so. Though I wasn't aware that I was. I'm sorry.''

He smiled and shook his head, pulling me closer.

''Don't be. I like having you this close, and if I had known that this would be how you would react, I would have taken more showers. Even if I don't like them.''

I laughed and nuzzled my nose into his cloth covered chest. He began to run his fingers through my hair and I closed my eyes, content to let him hold me.

''Not that I want you to move, but are you not hungry?''

I shrugged.

''A little bit. But I can't force my body to move.''

He smiled and tightened his arms, laying a kiss to the crown of my head.

''That's fine with me, Love. I don't want you to move, and I'm not hungry. But I don't want your stomach to start yelling at me.''

I laughed and let him hold me for a few more moments before pulling away from him.

He pouted.

''Are you leaving me now?''

I smiled and stood on my tiptoes to kiss him lightly.

''Only for a little bit. I need to find us something to eat before it gets too late.''

He crossed his arms over his chest as I moved away, his pout still in place and I laughed at his antics. He could be such a child sometimes.

I climbed onto the cabinet, looking into the top shelf, letting out a triumphant noise as I pulled two cups of ramen from the cabinet, turning to show Gaara and finding him staring at me in amusement.

''Are you going to come down, Love.''

I nodded and moved to jump down when he was suddenly in front of me, pulling me down to the floor.

I smiled and, once my feet were on the ground, moved to grab a pan, Gaara pouting at me as I moved away and I laughed at him.

''If you're good. Gaara, I'll let you have a cookie after dinner.''

He hesitated.

''Can't I have it now?''

I smiled and moved to boil water.

''Will that make you stop pouting?''

Gaara huffed, his pout increasing.

''I do not pout, Ria.''

I raised an eyebrow and smirked at him.

''Oh, really? Because from what it looks like from here, the pout that you're wearing would make even Niko proud of you. And he has the title of pouting prince around here.''

Gaara shrugged.

''I don't pout, and I doubt that Niko does either. He's a good kid. Now can I have my cookie?''

I rolled my eyes and pulled the a cookie from the jar beside me, handing it to him.

''Here. But you still have to eat your dinner.''

He nodded and nibbled at the cookie as I poured the boiling water into the ramen cups. When I turned around again, I noticed that Gaara had taken his normal place at the table and was finishing off his cookie.

I rolled my eyes and moved towards him, setting the ramen down in front of him.

I waited until he looked up at me before placing my hands on my hips and speaking in what Salem referred to as my 'mommy tone.'

''Now, I expect you to eat all of that ramen, and not to have spoiled your appetite with that ginormous cookie.''

He stared up at me in surprise, before nodding his head and pulling the ramen towards him. I smiled and moved to my own chair before taking a bite of my own food. All in all it wasn't that bad. Though it didn't really compare to the ramen that we had gotten at the market on our first outing together.

We were silent for a few minutes before Gaara spoke, a slight hesitancy in his voice.

''You know, no one has ever spoken to me the way that you just did. Temari is the only one that comes close, and even she would never use that tone of voice with me.''

I shrugged and took our now empty cups to the trash.

''I'm not like the other people that you know though. I'm not afraid of you, and I don't speak to you any differently than someone else that I love. And if that calls for me to be stern with you, then I will.''

He frowned and leaned back into his chair.

''So, you're stern with people that you care about?''

I looked at him startled, before realizing that Gaara had never had anyone around in his childhood that really cared enough about him to not be frightened of him. I sighed and walked towards him, lowering myself onto his lap and wrapping my arms around his neck before answering his question.

''I am stern to people that I care about. However, I'm not any different than a lot of people in the world that have the same philosophy. Though there is a difference between being stern and just being harsh.''

Gaara bit his lip and nodded, speaking slowly.

''When I was a child, I noticed that the parents of the village would scold their children or even punish them. I used to be glad that my caretakers were too frightened of me to tell me what to do, but now I wonder if I would have turned out differently if they had cared enough to tell me no.''

I shrugged and leaned down to kiss him gently.

''There's no use in regretting the past, hon. And who's to say if you would be Kazekage today if they had. Or if you would be here with me. Your life could have been completely different, or it might not have been. There's no way of telling.''

He nodded and pulled me closer to him, letting me rest my head against his chest.

''I have accepted my past, and I try to redeem myself of the horrors that I've committed. But sometimes the past comes back to haunt me, and I realize how much of a monster I really was.''

I pulled back to glare at him and he kissed me gently, stopping my oncoming argument.

''Let's go for a walk, Love. I need some exercise before we go back to bed. I've slept too much today anyways.''

I nodded, letting him push me away from him before he grabbed my hand and led me out the back door. I smiled as I saw the sunset and pulled him towards the path behind my house, leading him to a small body of water close by.

''Let's go this way. The moonlight is pretty when it reflects off the lake.''

He nodded and let me lead him down the tree lined dirt road.

We were silent as we walked down the road and I smiled as the setting sun changed the color of the leaves from a yellow, and brown, to a dark amber. Though the fall was much cooler than I liked, it didn't stop the fact that I loved watching the leaves change colors.

We came into sight of the lake, and I pulled him to a grassy hill that overlooked the best spot where the moon would shine.

I leaned against Gaara's shoulder and smiled as he wrapped his arms around me. Glad that he had gotten used to that action. It now seemed to have even become second nature to him. Which I was sure if he ever thought about, would surprise him.

As the sun set and the moon rose, the chilly air turned uncomfortably cold and I snuggled closer to Gaara, trying to steal some of his warmth.

He looked at me in concern before pulling me into his lap and curling his body around me, warming me instantly.

''Why are you so cold?''

I shrugged and snuggled closer to him.

''Stupid cold wind. I was fine a moment ago.''

Gaara shook his head and rubbed my arm.

''But, Love. You're always cold. Even when it's not that cold, you still shiver.''

I nodded and shrugged.

''It's a side affect from the fire element. There's hardly a time when I'm not cold.''

He paused a moment before nodding, his face lighting in understanding.

''I had wondered why you seemed so comfortable in the Suna heat. Most people don't like it, including Naruto. I don't know how many times he's passed out from the heat.''

I laughed and rolled my eyes.

''What a drama queen...er Hokage.''

Gaara smiled and shrugged.

''He will be Hokage one day. I know it. He's capable of helping so many people already. People that were considered un-helpable. He helped me.

I wouldn't be the person that I am today if he hadn't beat some sense into me. ''

He sighed deeply before continuing.

''I wonder sometimes what you would have thought of me if we had met before I went to the leaf village.''

I giggled and tilted my head to look at him.

''I would have thought that you were one of the cutest boys that I had ever seen, with beautiful aqua eyes.''

He sighed and rolled his eyes in exasperation, giving me a reproachful look.

''I was being serious, Love.''

I giggled again and shrugged.
''So was I, Gaara.''

He held my gaze for a few moments before his eyes widened, seeing the truth in my words.

''You were, weren't you?''

I nodded and grinned.

''Absolutely I might have been a little frightened of you, but I would have never shown it. Dolly taught me not to after my run in with Orochimaru. I probably would have confronted you if you threatened me, but I wouldn't have had the courage to talk to you first otherwise. I just don't have that type of personality. If you remember, you were in my house for a week before I even said hello to you personally.''

He nodded.

''I remember. I would have threatened you eventually. I would have felt drawn to you, even then, and Shukaku wouldn't have liked that. He would have told me to kill you. That way I wouldn't have to deal with the confusing feelings, or the pain that you would eventually cause me.

I wouldn't have listened at first, but I eventually would have given in and wrapped you in sand. Most likely when you were alone. I would have used my sand to squeeze you, and watched the look on your face as your breath fled your body. I would have asked you if you cared about your pitiful life, and you would answer...actually, Love, I have no idea what you would say. You surprise me so often.''

He shook his head and I smirked.

''I would have told you to get your stinking sand away from me, because it was getting into places that I preferred for sand not to be. And that if you didn't put me down, that I would have to take drastic measures, and I really didn't want to do that.''

He frowned, his forehead creasing.

''I wouldn't have liked that. At all. The fact that you thought that you could hurt me would be enough for me to tighten the sands hold.

You would have gasped for breath, and I would have paused for a moment, waiting to see what type of attack you would have used to free yourself.

I probably wouldn't have known that you could control fire, and it would have surprised me to see flames shooting at me. The sand, of course, would have protected me, but I would have been stunned that you didn't have to use a jutsu.

Shukaku would have been telling me to kill you by then. Telling me to finish it quickly, so you wouldn't have time for another attack. But I wouldn't be able to kill you. I know I wouldn't. My feelings for people haven't changed. Just the appreciation for their lives.

Even in that time of my life, I would have still felt something for you. Though I would have never admitted it, and tried to smother it, I wouldn't have been able to hurt you more than a few scratches and bruises. I would have hated myself if I did.

After that encounter I would have been careful to avoid you. I wouldn't have wanted to face the feelings that you caused in me. Though I'm sure that you would have tracked me down, wanting to talk.''

He glared at me playfully and tightened his arms briefly.

''Wouldn't you, Love?''

I smiled and nodded.

''That's right. If you gave me a reason, I would have wanted to talk to you. And almost killing me would have been a good reason in my book. Especially when you didn't follow through.

I would have been curious, and that curiosity would have overcome any sanity that told me to run from you. And then when I found you and broke you down to tell me what you had gone through, I wouldn't have been able to leave you alone.''

Gaara sighed and pulled me against him tightly.

''I would have enjoyed having you there. Though I would have never admitted it, and pretended that I didn't care what you did.''

I smiled and kissed his jaw.

''I'm glad. That you would have liked having me there.''

He nodded and glanced up at the dark sky.

''Are you ready to go back?''

I nodded and stood up, pulling him with me.

''I need a shower, and to pack. I haven't done that yet.''

He nodded and laid a kiss to my forehead.

''Alright. It was always my plan to leave tomorrow...I would still like to do that.''

I wrinkled my nose and let him lead me back towards the house.

''And you're probably wanting to leave early, aren't you?''

He smiled, not needing to reply with words and I groaned.

''Lovely.''

He grinned at me and squeezed my hand gently.

''I told Kankuro before we reached Aubry's that I wanted to leave by seven. He should be here around that time.''

I wrinkled my nose before beginning to think about what I would need to bring with me to Suna.


///////



As we entered my room, I found Butterball lying on my bed, a note beside him, and I frowned as I went to pick it up, reading the hurried script.

'Little Sister: I went to take Toru home. Before that, I took Butterball out around eight. I'll probably stay at Toru's...on the couch. But I'll be back early tomorrow to tell you goodbye.'

I shrugged, not asking myself how Salem knew that I was returning to Suna and simply accepting it before moving to grab my duffle bag.

Gaara had already changed into a pair of night pants and crawled into bed, watching me in amusement as I moved around my room, muttering and throwing things into the bag. I caught him smirking at me and frowned, pointing an accusing finger towards him.

''Don't you laugh at me. This is how I pack and it works.''

He shrugged and folded his arms under his head, his eyes never leaving me.

''Whatever you say, Love.''

I stuck my tongue out at him and thought about what clothes I had packed before nodding and picking up my night clothes.

''I'm going to take a shower.''

He nodded and closed his eyes.

''Alright, Love. I'll be here.''

I rolled my eyes and moved into the bathroom, closing the door behind me before stripping down and looking over myself as I let the water run, waiting for it to heat. The bruise on my hip was an ugly shade of purple standing out on my pale skin and I knew that I would need to keep Gaara from seeing it, or remembering that it was there.

I touched the small mark and frowned as it stung a bit...it could be worse. Maybe by tomorrow morning it wouldn't hurt at all, or I could pretend that I didn't feel it.

I nodded determinedly before stepping into the hot water and sighing as it instantly warmed my cold body, knowing that I needed to hurry if I wanted to sleep, but unwilling to move.

I finally huffed and rushed through my routine before turning the water off and jumping out of the stall, pulling on my clothes as fast as possible...Though apparently it still wasn't fast enough, since my teeth were chattering before I even left the steam filled room.

I grabbed my shower things before returning to my bedroom, shoving them into my bag before turning off the light to my room and crawled into bed beside Gaara, shivering the entire time.

He groaned as my cold body pressed into his and he wrapped his arms around me, pulling me to into his side.

''You're cold again.''

I nodded and snuggled closer to him, my teeth still chattering.

''I'm sorry.''

He shook his head and rolled us suddenly, his body lying halfway on top of me, sharing his body heat and causing me to sigh happily. My body warmed quickly and I wrapped my no longer trembling arms around his back, feeling his voice rumble through his chest as he spoke.

''I wonder sometimes if the only reason that you keep me around is because I'm warm.''

I laughed and turned my head to kiss the tip of his nose quickly.

''No. There's other reasons too.''

He smiled and shook his head before tightening his arms, his body relaxing against mine.

''Go to sleep, Love. I don't want you to be cranky tomorrow.''

I laughed and nodded.

''Alright, I love you.''

I felt him smile against my neck and he laid a kiss there.

''I love you too.''

I hummed and closed my eyes, letting his steady breathing relax me into sleep.


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