The Akatsuki's Daughter

Chapter 30


A short time of walking later, we reached the Suna gates.

I took Butterball from Gaara so he could talk to the guards and stepped away from them, watching how Gaara and his people interacted with each other.

Gaara's expression was cold and his eyes lost the sharp gleam that I loved so much. It was eerie to watch him transform form the relaxed Gaara that I knew, to the Kazekage of the sand village.

I turned to look at Kankuro, finding that, though he looked a bit more serious, he still seemed his normal self.

I turned my attention back to Gaara and noticed that the guards not only treated him with respect, but also with a hint of fear. It bubbled it's way to the surface in both their voices and their eyes as they spoke to him. I knew why, but it still caused me to frown at them in irritation.

Soon Gaara turned back to us and motioned that we should follow him through the gates. The heavy things slammed shut as soon as we stepped through, causing me to jump and glance at Misa, who looked back at me with wide eyes. The last time we were in Suna, the gates weren't left open, but they weren't closed that quickly either. It made me wonder if people were still waiting for an attack and were so spooked that they thought that they had to shut everyone inside.

I shrugged after a moment, deciding that I would find out later and looked to my side, finding Gaara walking next to me again, his eyes drifting across the village passively.

I smiled and moved closer, causing him to turn towards me and smile halfheartedly, his hand reaching out to take mine gently. I could tell that he wanted to tell me something but he didn't get the chance to speak before Kankuro's voice echoed from behind us.

"Hey, Gaara. I'm going to take Misa on a tour of Suna. Do you and Ria want to go with?''

Gaara shot me a look and I shook my head.

He smirked, that typical spark lighting his eyes again before he turned back to his brother and shook his head.

"No. I think that we'll just go home.''

Kankuro nodded and smiled knowingly.

"Alright. Well you two don't have too much fun.''

My mouth dropped open as I caught the innuendo and I had to force myself to not make a rude retort.

I glanced at Gaara and snickered as I saw the confused look on his face. Kankuro's meaning of 'fun' had apparently flown right over his head.

"Kankuro, you always say that there's no such thing as too much fun. Are you changing your opinion suddenly?''

I laughed and Kankuro sighed in exasperation before turning a sly grin towards me.

"Ask your girlfriend what I mean when I say 'fun.'''

I gasped indignantly and Kankuro laughed.

"You owe me, Ria. I never thought that I would have to have the 'birds and the bees' talk with Gaara, until you came along.''

His grin widened.

"Though I did have a good time explaining things, and I made sure to go into some graphic details.''

Gaara made a choking noise and I looked at him to find his face the same shade as his hair, his fingers rubbing his eyes in embarrassment as Misa began to speak.

"Who came up with calling 'the talk' the 'birds and the bees'? It has nothing to do with either of those things throughout the entire talk.''

I nodded and wrinkled my nose in disgust.

"I know. When you're younger and someone walks in and says 'Hey, I think it's time that you learn about the 'birds and the bees,' you think that it's going to be about something completely different than what it really is.''

She nodded, looking just as disgusted as I felt..

"I know. Ticks me off.''

I laughed and Kankuro chuckled, wrapping his arm around Misa's waist.

"As entertaining as this conversation is, this isn't how I wanted to spend my first night back home. So...Misa and I will see you two later.''

I nodded and Misa had time to wave before Kankuro dragged her away from us.

I smiled and shook my head, turning my attention back to a still embarrassed Gaara, his voice soft.

"I can't believe they have a name for that kind of talk.''

I nodded and shifted Butterball, trying to get a better hold on him before replying.

"Yeah. But I think they called it that so they wouldn't scare off the person that they wanted to talk too.''

Gaara nodded and took Butterball from me, beginning to walk again.

"So what did Kankuro mean by 'fun'?''

I felt my face heat slightly and shrugged.

"I'll tell you when we get to your house.''

Gaara stopped suddenly, turning to glare at me and I blinked in surprise, tilting my head curiously.

"Gaara, honey. Why are you glaring at me?''

He began to walk again and turned his glare forwards to watch where he was going.

"I don't want to talk when we get home. You promised that I could kiss you. As much as I wanted.''

I chuckled, relieved that that was all that was bothering him.

I shrugged and nodded.

"You're right. Then either I tell you now, or you can wait until later. You choose.''

He thought for a minute before sighing.

"Since Kankuro said it, I'm sure that it will be embarrassing, but I think that I would like to know now.''

I nodded and shrugged.

"What your brother meant by 'fun', was that we shouldn't enjoy ourselves too much.'' Gaara frowned, giving me a confused look.

"But it's always enjoyable when I'm with you.''

I sighed and slapped a palm to my forehead. Since we were in public I had tried to keep my answer vague and appropriate, but with Gaara, it didn't seem like that was a going to work. Instead of telling him that however, I just lowered my voice, knowing that he could still hear me...and hoping that no one else could.

"Okay. Um... The way that your brother meant it, was that we shouldn't go beyond make out sessions and have sex.''

Gaara froze and looked around quickly, suddenly as concerned as I had been about someone overhearing us and I smiled as his cheeks heated again.

"Oh. I understand now.''

I laughed and nodded, noticing the multiple eyes that were watching us as we entered the main square. I looked around at the many curious faces before closer to Gaara. Every person in the square had their eyes fixed on us, and I was beginning to feel anxious, forcing myself to walk calmly and not bolt.

I had never really liked being the center of attention. And I really didn't like crowds. Now I had both to deal with.

I glanced at Gaara and saw the cold mask back in place, but his eyes gained a little of their sparkle as he turned to look down at me. I smiled shakily and moved closer so I could whisper, not wanting to draw anymore attention to myself.

"Did you have to take us through the most crowded street in the village?''

He looked around us and most of the people lowered their gaze immediately, but a few of the braver ones nodded their heads in respect though continued to stare.

He looked back at me and I wrapped my arms around my chest, hugging myself tightly as I felt eyes boring into my back.

"They're not going to hurt you, Ria. They're just curious.''

I nodded, chewing on the inside of my cheek before answering.

"I know. But do they have to keep staring?''

Gaara studied me intently for a few minutes before comprehension lit his eyes and voice.

"You don't like having peoples attention on you.''

I shook my head and took a deep breath, trying to calm my racing heart.

"Or being in a crowd of strangers.''

He frowned, his forehead wrinkling in confusion.

"But you go to the market at your home, and you work at Aubry's. There's always a crowd there.''

I nodded and shrugged.

"I don't got to the market when it's crowded. The time I went with you was the busiest time I've ever gone. And as far as Aubry's goes: I only have a small section that I take care of and I know most of those people. The ones I don't aren't in a big enough quantity to bother me. Even if I'm on my break and am surrounded by a lot of people, I know most of them...or I can stay close to a wall and that makes me feel a bit better. ''

Gaara nodded, still seeming confused.

"But you went to the festival with me, and it was extremely crowded. And I didn't notice you having a problem then?''

I sighed and gave him a knowing look.

"I didn't exactly expect for you to. We weren't with the crowd much. You had me alone with you somewhere normally. The rest of the time, I was clinging to you so tightly that my knuckles turned white. And at that point, nobody was staring at me.''

I hissed the last sentence and he turned surprised eyes towards me, nodding his head slowly.

"You did cling to me. I didn't realize it at the time because I thought that you were just trying to stay out of the crowd's way, but you were trying to hide from them.''

I nodded, agreeing quickly.

"Trying to turn myself invisible so they wouldn't notice I was there. And trying not to hyperventilate because of how many people there was.''

Gaara looked at me, an angry light entering his eyes, but before he could say what he was thinking, we were interrupted by a shrill squeal and a teenage girl running towards us.

"Kazekage-sensei! How was your trip? Did you have an uneventful journey?''

She slid to a stop a few inches in front of Gaara, looking ready to tackle him, her eyes shinning at seeing him.

I looked her over and found the sand headband almost instantly. Her brown hair was flying madly around her face as the wind picked up and I decided that she was actually quite pretty.

I turned my attention back to Gaara, who didn't seem to enjoy being stopped, or interrupted. He answered her non the less, his voice emotionless.

"The trip was void of attack, and yes it was sufficient. Is there a reason why you are back from your mission this early? It should have taken you at least two weeks.''

I shook my head as the girl blushed. So harsh Gaara. So harsh.

"Oh, um...well you see Kazekage-sensei, the man that petitioned for help said that we weren't old enough for this particular mission.''

Gaara frowned and glared at her, looking every inch the cool and distant leader.

"Did you insist that you were all ninja's and therefore qualified to take any mission?''

The girl nodded quickly, seeming pleased with herself that she could reply in the affirmative.

"Multiple times. But he said that children weren't allowed in his...establishment. He said to return to Suna and ask you for a team of adult ninja's.''

Gaara sighed and nodded.

"Did he tell you what his 'establishment' was? He refused to give me any specific information besides he was willing and able to pay whatever amount we asked.''

The girl nodded and began to wring her hands together, her blush darkening and her voice uncomfortable.

"I gave all the information that I had in my written report. Would it not be simpler for you to read what I wrote instead of asking me all these questions? I know that your time is important.''

Gaara's glare increased and I bit my lip. She was trying to get out of explaining why the man had sent her home. She was embarrassed about something and I had to admit that I was curious about what it was.

"That would be fine, if I was going to my office tonight. But I am tired and I have guests that need my attention. It would be rude to leave them alone and go into work on their first night in Suna.''

I rolled my eyes. Whatever. He just wanted my attention. And this wasn't my first night in Suna. Just the first night at his house.

She looked startled and glanced behind Gaara to where I had situated myself, noticing me for the first time.

The thrill in her eyes dimmed and was replaced by surprise, and a little bit of hurt.

Gaara only noticed where she was staring and stepped beside me, his hand landing on my lower back as he introduced us and I watched as the girl bit her lip, her eyes swinging back to look over Gaara when he spoke.

"Matsuri, this is Ria. She is my guest here for an indeterminable amount of time.''

I smiled when her gaze returned to me, her eyes looking over me appraising and I had to force back the urge to strike a confident pose and be polite. It was obvious when her eyes drifted back to mine that she didn't think much of me.

"Hello, Matsuri. It's nice to meet you.''

She nodded but didn't reply, any remaining surprise in her eyes disappearing and being replaced by something unpleasant, her eyes drifting back to Gaara as he spoke again.

"Now. What was this place, since I'm not going into work tonight?''

She swallowed and looked at the ground with a frown, something in her actions setting off warning bells in my head that whatever she was about to say wasn't entirely the truth.

''Actually, Kazekage-sensei. Your secretary told me that the council wanted to see you as soon as you returned. You will need to go to your office anyways. I will accompany you if you like.''

Gaara growled slightly, standing to his full height.

"They want to see me tonight?''

Matsuri nodded quickly, her eyes lifting form the ground and hardening, her voice insistent

"They said as soon as you returned.''

Gaara snarled and turned towards me.

"Apparently I need to make a stop before we go to my house.''

I nodded and caught the panic in Matsuri's eyes out of my peripheral vision, her tight voice not hiding it like I knew she had wanted.

"Won't the lady be staying at the hotel? If so, then I can direct her there before accompanying you to the tower.''

I cringed inwardly, knowing that whatever Gaara said would seriously hurt this girl's feelings.

Gaara turned a cold glare at her and she flinched back like she had been slapped.

"Ria and her friend will be staying at the Kazekage mansion. You will not be accompanying anyone anywhere tonight. You need to go home.

I will read your report since you are adamant on not telling me the information directly, and then I will go home and rest myself. I will expect you to come to the Tower tomorrow, in case I have any questions.

Now goodnight, Matsuri. I wish you a nice rest.''

He brushed past her, his head held high and I followed him, noticing the girls eyes fill with tears.

Amazingly, Gaara was able to make someone cry, even when holding an adorable panda bear.

I sighed as we walked towards the Kazekage Tower. It never occurred to me that Gaara had fangirls. Or that one of them was head over heels for him. Though it didn't surprise me that he hadn't mentioned them. He wouldn't have known why they were drooling over him...If he even noticed it at all for that matter.

I was too deep in my thoughts to notice that Gaara had stopped and turned towards me, until I ran into his chest, almost falling backwards. His hands instantly reached out to wrap around my forearms tightly.

I looked up to thank him, but the words stuck in my throat as my gaze contacted with his angry glare.

He tightened his hands and I gasped at the sudden pressure, seeing him smirk harshly.

"Now. What I was going to say before I was interrupted: I need you to tell me when your frightened, Ria. I can't read your mind, or do anything to help you if you don't tell me. I don't want to ever see you upset like you were during the fireworks ever again. I hated that. Especially when I didn't know what was wrong or what I could do to help it.''

I sighed and nodded.

"It didn't occur to me to tell you. I've always avoided crowds for the most part, and got through them alone when I couldn't. I've told you before that I'm not used to telling people what I'm afraid of, Gaara. I was raised to never do that. It's hard to change that mentality.

I've suffered through crowds all my life. I just pick a corner, or a spot, and hide there until the mass has walked by. Most people in a group stay to the middle of the walkways, avoiding walls or corners.

And with the staring, I'm pretty good with being almost invisible when I want to be. People don't notice me for the most part. I'm pretty unexceptional.

I just thought that I would handle this situation the same way that I have for most of my life. But I didn't take into account that you were practically a celebrity here and drew everyone's attention. I'm sorry.''

He sighed and his eyes softened, his hands now rubbing my arms instead of gripping them roughly. He gave me a sheepish half smile.

"You shouldn't have to apologize to me. You did tell me before that you weren't used to sharing your fears, and I'm more angry at myself that I didn't pay enough attention to you to realize what you were doing. I should have realized on the occasions that I had you in a crowd that you were more than uncomfortable.

But I can't help but want you to trust me enough to be able to come to me with your problems and fears. When you don't do that...it makes me feel as if you don't really think that I'm strong enough to help you.''

I smiled and raised a hand to cup his face.

"You shouldn't be upset with yourself. I'm pretty good at hiding any weakness I'm feeling. Years of living with Rogue Ninjas, remember? And I do trust you. I'll try to tell you the next time that I'm frightened. Alright?''

He nodded and released me, turning to pick Butterball up from where he had placed him before he had stopped.

I took the panda from him, smiling gently.

"Go to your meeting, hon. I'll be at that park over there. Come back and get me when you're finished, okay?''

He paused for a moment before nodding.

"Alright. I wont be long.''

I smiled and nodded.

"I know. I still have a promise to fulfill.''

His eyes lit up and he nodded.

"I had almost forgotten about that. I'll be sure to hurry the windbags up.''

I laughed lightly.

"Good. That means that I wont have to worry on how to get to your house on my own.''

His eyes filled with panic suddenly.

"Don't leave the park without me.

I smiled comfortingly and rolled my eyes.

"Don't worry, Gaara. I was just teasing. I'll be there when you get back.''

He nodded hesitantly, his eyes searching my face intently.

"You promise?"

I nodded and looked around quickly, making sure that everyone had apparently gotten their staring out of the way and had returned to their own business, before lifting myself onto my tiptoes and pressing my lips to his. He sighed and wrapped his arms around me, practically crushing poor Butterball.

I laughed as the panda began to wriggle and pulled back.

"Go to your meeting. I'll be waiting for you.''

He nodded and stepped back before sand surrounded him and he disappeared and caused me to sigh. After a moment of staring at his abandoned spot, I made my way over to the large park.


///////



I sat on one of the swings that the park sported and watched a group of children play with Butterball. Though for the most part he preferred to lay down and allow the children to jump over him and run around him in crazy patterns.

Either way, they enjoyed themselves and I couldn't help my smile. I hadn't thought that I would miss Niko or the twins this soon but it seemed like I was wrong. I missed them a lot.

I heard a raised voice and looked to the edge of the park where a woman stood, holding her arm out for a small boy that was running towards her. She lifted the boy into her arms and after letting him wave at his friends, turned and made their way home.

A few minutes later, a few of the older children grabbed their younger sibling's hands and began pulling them towards their houses. I suppose that it was getting close to their dinner time.

Soon, all that was left was a brown haired boy of about 7 and a blond girl of 3. It was this same boy that had asked me if he and the other children could play with Butterball. He was running around Butterball, his sister following on stubby little legs, having trouble on not falling in the sand. Her brother was sure to slow his pace so that she could catch up to him.

I laughed softly at their antics and suddenly felt a presence behind me.

I was about to turn when a pair of hands wrapped around mine on the swing's chains, stopping my slight swinging and I smiled at the feel of familiar fingers, speaking without having to look back at him.

"How did your meeting go?''

He groaned and released my hands, wrapping his arms over my shoulders and pulling me back to lean against his chest.

"Windbags. They didn't have anything to say that couldn't have waited till tomorrow. They even seemed upset to be called away from their homes. It makes me wonder if my secretary was wrongly informed and they didn't really want to see me until our meeting tomorrow morning.''

I shrugged, not telling him that I had already been aware that the meeting was probably a lie and just Matsuri's way of getting him away from me. I had seen people in love do worse and didn't want him to call her out on it.

He sighed suddenly.

"Though I do understand now why Matsuri and her team was sent home.''

I nodded and hummed.

"Can you tell me why?''

I felt him shrug.

"It's not actually a secret apparently. The man that requested help was the owner of a brothel. Apparently he's been receiving threats against some of the girls. He wanted the ninja's to escort the girls around town until they figured out who was behind the threats.''

I frowned, having thought that the hidden villages didn't deal with the underworld and it's problems...it seemed more like something Aubry would do.
"And you let your ninja's go to those kind of places for missions.''

I turned to look at him and found his expression detached, seeming to have thought that I was thinking less of him.

"Though I would like not to associate with that type of place, they are offering an abundant amount of money for helping them.''

I nodded and turned back around, laying my head back to rest on his shoulder, not really caring about brothel's or their constant issues.

"How is it you know what that type of place is anyways? Kankuro.''

Gaara snorted, though his shoulders relaxed when I didn't scold him.

"No. Before I became Kazekage, Temari, Kankuro and I were still sent out on missions like a normal ninja team. One of these missions was in the mountain village. They aren't as...children friendly as Suna and the Leaf Village. They do have a separate district, but it is filled with brothels and prostitutes. They were everywhere. On the street, in the windows, calling down.

They were yelling at Baki, who was our team leader at that point. I finally asked what they wanted and he replied, money for sex. I left it at that, though it wasn't until the 'birds and the bees' talk that I realized what that actually was.

Now that I know what that is, I'm even more hesitant in allowing my younger ninja's to go there. But I still have to send some of the older ones, like Temari and Kankuro.''

I nodded and closed my eyes, absorbing his body heat as the sun set and the desert became cooler. Though Suna was scorching to most people in the day time. It was uncomfortably cool to all at night.

A moment later I felt Gaara stiffen and a loud cry echoed across the park.

I opened my eyes to see the young boy running towards me, a grim look on his face. He skidded to a stop in front of me and pointed frantically to his sister.

"Can you help us? My sister fell and scratched her knee...It's bleeding a lot.''

I nodded and unwrapped Gaara's arms from around me before following the boy to where his sister was crying pitifully, clutching at her knee.

I knelt down beside her and touched her arm, her watery eyes looking up at me as she sniffled.

"I 'urt.''

I nodded and dug through my bag that I had dropped beside me, pulling out the small first-aid kit that I always carried with me...years of dealing with children and clumsy friends having trained me to do so.

"Can I see?''

She nodded and moved her hands, revealing a slightly skinned knee with slowly seeping blood. It wasn't bad at all and I was almost sure that it didn't even really hurt anymore.

I smiled and reached towards the antiseptic.

"I'm gonna spray this on your knee, okay? It'll only sting for a minute. Can you be brave for me?''

She paused and then bit her lip, nodding slightly.

I kept my smile in place and began a stream of useless chatter as I sprayed her knee before placing multiple bandages over the cuts.

I looked up at her when I was finished and patted her foot.

"All done. How do you feel?''

She wiped her runny nose onto her sleeve and I grimaced at the action, listening to her speak.

"My knee still hurts. My mommy normally kisses my boo boo's.''

I hummed and nodded.

"Oh, I see. Well, I think I was probably taught a different technique than your Mommy, but let's see if it still doesn't do the trick. I'll need your help, okay?''

She nodded and I smiled.

"Okay. Just do what I do. First we wrinkle our nose.''

She scrunched her nose up tight, making her eyes squint.

"Then we pat our head.''

She hit the top of her head gently.

"And we say triscadecaphobia.''

She mumbled something that sounded like 'triklobia' and I laughed before pressing a light kiss to the bandages that covered her knee, smiling as I pulled back.

"Now how do you feel?''

She hesitated a moment before giggling delightedly.

"I no 'urt no 'ore.''

I nodded sagely before looking up, finding a woman standing not far away, an amused expression on her face and I felt my face flush as she walked closer, the little girl grinned.

"Mommy! I falled and 'urt my knee.''

She pointed at me.

"But, 'ady 'elped me 'eel better.''

The woman nodded and bent down to hug the girl.

"You better thank her then. She knows the magic of making little ones boo boo's better.''

The little girl nodded and smiled at me.

"ank you, 'ady.''

I smiled, trying to force away my blush and nodded.

"You are very welcome. Just be more careful when you're running, okay?''

She nodded and the woman stood up, still holding the girl.

Gaara helped me to my feet and the woman's smile became secretive before she lowered her head slightly in greeting.

"You brought back a lovely young woman, Lord Kazekage.''

She then turned to me, that secretive smile still in place.

"Thank you for helping my children and letting them play with the panda bear.''

I shrugged, finally overcoming my slight embarrassment and feeling more like my calm self.

"You're welcome. But it wasn't that big of a deal. Butterball needed the exercise.''

She smiled and bowed slightly to Gaara before stepping back.

"All the same, thank you. I wish you both a goodnight.''

I nodded and Gaara inclined his head slightly in acknowledgment, watching her walk away, the little boy at her side chatting about his day.

I smiled and rolled my eyes at the typical child behavior, Gaara moving to pick up Butterball before returning to my side.

"You are very good with children.''

I laughed and picked up my bag.
"I should be. I've been babysitting for at least five years...and dealing with Salem's childish tendencies for years before that.''

He nodded and began walking in the direction of his house.

"That woman is the daughter of one of the council members. All of them will know about you, and how you react to children, by tomorrow.''

I frowned unhappily.

"Is she that much of a gossip?''

Gaara shrugged.

"She will only have to tell her family what you did, and they will spread the gossip.''

My frown deepened for a moment before I shrugged nonchalantly.

"Does it matter though? The entire village saw us tonight. I'm sure they would have found out about me sooner or later.''

Gaara shook his head, his voice convincing.

"This isn't a bad thing. Though I know that I will have a long discussion about you tomorrow. I'm glad to get it out of the way early.''

I nodded and shivered, moving closer to him.

"How close are we to your home?''

He frowned and moved Butterball under one of his arms, wrapping the other around me to share his body heat.

"Close. Another block or so.''

He sighed deeply.

"I'm ready to be home.''

I laughed and nodded, thinking of my promise.

''Yeah, I'm sure that you are.''

He smirked at me and tightened his arm briefly.

"Not just because of your promise, Love. I'm ready to have you settled in my home and know that you're actually with me and I'm not just imagining you there.''

I smiled and nodded.

"Understandable. So what room do you want me to stay in while I'm here?''

His head swiveled to look at me, a frown on his face.

"Do you not want to stay in my room with me?''

He sounded so depressed that I had to roll my eyes.

"Of course I'm planning on staying with you, Gaara. But I need a place to keep my clothes and to stay when you're at work.''

He sighed deeply and nodded.

"But you are going to stay in my room with me?''

I nodded.

"As much as you want me too.''

He nodded and squeezed my hip lightly.

"Good.''

I shivered suddenly and pressed as close to his side as I could without impairing his movements. At least I'll be warm while I sleep.

I smiled at my thought and sighed in relief as the large house came into view Gaara unconsciously speeding up our walking as we got closer.

As we stepped onto the porch the door swung open and Temari pulled me into a tight hug. She sent a frown at Gaara when she pulled away, her brother glaring at her for pulling me away from him.

"Shame on you, Gaara! Keeping Ria out so long after that long trip. Kankuro and Misa have been back for at least an hour.''

Gaara rolled his eyes and stepped into the house, pulling me from Temari's grip and replacing me with Butterball, the older girl instantly cooing at the panda in her arms as Gaara spoke.

"I had a meeting before I could come home.''

Temari raised her eyes from the panda to her brother.

"You could have brought her here before you went to your meeting. She would have been more comfortable and able to get settled while you were gone.''

She ignored Gaara's darkening glare and turned towards me.

"Are you hungry, Ria?''

I choked back a grimace, remembering her awful cooking skills and instead smiled.

"A little bit. But I'm sure that you've had more of a trying day than I have and I'll gladly make us something, if you show me where the food is.''

Temari's eyes widened a bit before she turned to Gaara.

"I like her. You are not allowed to break up with her...ever.''

I giggled and Gaara grumbled lightly. Butterball also made a strange noise, catching Temari's attention and she cooed down at the panda while walking to the kitchen.

Gaara sighed and grabbed my hand.

"Come along, Love. Temari will be busy with the fluffball.''

I laughed and let him lead me to the kitchen, finding that he was right. Temari was feeding Butterball some sort of green thing that I could smell from across the room.

I wrinkled my nose as the panda ate the green concoction and turned to find Gaara rummaging through the fridge, pulling out the ingredients for sandwiches.

Before I could move to ask if he wanted my help, he had already made two sandwiches and was taking a bite out of one, holding the other out to me.

I took it gladly, finding that I was hungrier than I had originally thought. I took a hesitant bite, finding that it was good before scarfing the rest of the sandwich. I guess Gaara would have had to learn to cook some things or have to eat Temari's cooking.

I finished the last bite of sandwich, managing to give myself the hiccups.

I was glad that Gaara was concentrating on eating his second sandwich, because I was sure that he would have been teasing me about them.

Temari began speaking again and I saw Gaara frown before he turned his attention to his sister.

"You need to find a room for Ria. She can't stay in your room all of the time. It's depressing in there.''

I giggled softly and received a glare from Gaara, causing me to bring a hand up to hide my smile.

He sighed softly and rubbed his eyes.

"Fine. I'll do that now. Are you going to keep Butterball?''

Temari nodded and lifted the panda into the air.

"Of course I am. He's so adorable. And since you and Kankuro haven't given me any human nephews to cuddle, he'll have to due.''

My laughing stopped immediately and I shot a glare towards Gaara. I was not ready for kids.

Gaara smirked and walked over to me, grabbing my bag in one hand and wrapped his free arm around my waist, leading us up the stairs. He stopped at the door closest to his and pushed it open, flicking on the light.

He dropped my bag on the floor and I walked past him, surveying my surroundings.

Like the rest of the house it had wood floors, but unlike Gaara's it was all a light brown color. The walls were painted a light tan, which went well with the tan covers on the large bed.

All things considered, this room gave off a warm feeling.

I looked at the other doors in the room. One was open and led to a large walk in closet, while the other I guessed led to a bathroom. I took a step towards it, only to be stopped as a pair of arms wrapped around my waist, pulling me into a chest.

Gaara began to lay kisses across my neck and I tilted my head to the side, giving him more access. As I did this I felt a grittiness in the crease of my neck and wrinkled my nose.

Gaara pulled back and turned me around to look at him.

"Is something wrong, Love?''

I smiled gently and rested my hands against his chest.

"I just realized how covered in sand I really am. I seriously need a shower.''

He pouted for a moment before sighing.

"Alright. I probably need one too.''

He jerked my body close to his and lowered his head slightly, capturing my gaze with his heat filled eyes.

"But as soon as your finished, I want you to come to my room. Okay?''

I nodded and raised myself to kiss him softly.

"As soon as I'm finished.''

He nodded and released me a moment later, walking out of the room.

I closed the door behind him before grabbing my shower stuff and running into the bathroom...gasping and almost dropping my things. The bathroom was huge. There wasn't a bathtub, but the shower made up for it. It was big enough that six people could sit on the floor comfortably, without touching.

All of the glass had stained roses and vines carved into them and I opened the colored door, finding three shower heads.

I quickly turned on the water, finding the right temperature, before undressing and jumping under the scalding water, feeling it loosen my muscles and sighed as I wondered how long the hot water would last. Though I wasn't entirely convinced that Gaara wouldn't come looking for me if I stayed away too long.

I giggled suddenly. I was sure that walking in on me in the shower would embarrass him more than me.

I shrugged and quickly began to wash off the sand that coated my skin. I had just begun washing my hair when I remembered Gaara had done something with my ponytail holder when he had kissed me earlier. I hoped that he didn't throw it on the ground. I was always loosing them and I had only brought five with me.

I shrugged, turning off the water and stepping out into the cool air, shivering as the droplets cooled on my skin and dried off quickly, pulling my clothes on a second later.

I finished my bedtime routine before leaving the room and making my way to his.

I paused in front of his door, not sure if I should knock or just walk in. I had just raised my hand to knock when the door opened and Gaara grabbed my wrist, pulling me into his chest.

I heard the door slam behind me and gasped as my back was pressed against it, looking up into aqua eyes and smiling softly. Gaara returned the smile and ran his fingers through my wet hair.

"I was beginning to think that I was going to have to come get you.''

I shook my head and wrapped my arms around his neck.

"Nope. I have a promise to keep.''

He smirked and quickly pressed his lips to mine.

He pulled away just as quickly.
"Good. Because I've been looking forward to kissing you like this since this afternoon.''

I smiled and he let his lips crash back onto mine. I began to respond when he pulled away again and I looked at him in confusion before noticing his smirk. He was teasing me.

I shook my head and smiled, raising a teasing eyebrow.

"You know that your wasting your time of kissing me, right?''

He growled and pressed me harder into the wood of the door, his mouth again covering mine.

After a moment of being pinned to the door, I felt us moving and suddenly found myself laid out on the bed.

I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled him closer to me, his arm wrapped around my waist, holding me to him and he tangled his free hand in my hair.

I let him kiss me like that until I had ran out of breath and had to pull back. He shot me an accusing glare as I wrenched my lips from his and I gasped.

"Air!''

He smirked and moved his lips to my neck as I inhaled.

Once I had my breath back, I grabbed onto his hair and pulled his lips back to mine.

I decided that I was sick of being pinned when he pressed harder against me and flipped him so I could straddle him. He looked up at me in surprise a moment before I bent down to kiss him again.

He cupped the back of my head and pressed a hand to my lower back, pressing my body closer. I had my hands tangled in his hair, scratching lightly at the scalp and causing that purr like rumbling in his chest that I liked.

I felt his hands begin to wander across me a moment before a harsh knock sounded on his door, followed by a frantic voice. I squeaked in surprise at the noise and jerked away from him, successfully managing to fall of the bed, landing harshly on the floor.

Gaara leaned over the side of the bed and smirked down at me, his hair disheveled and his voice slightly more breathless that normal.

"If you wanted to stop kissing me, Love, all you had to do was say so. You didn't have to fall off of the bed.''

I glared up at him, gasping, throwing an arm towards his doors direction.

"Go answer your door, Gaara.''

He frowned.

"There's someone at my door?''

I nodded and as if on cue, the knocking on the door started again. This time more frantically. I sat up slowly, barely able to see over the rumpled comforter and watched as Gaara calmly climbed form his bed and walked over to open the door.

Even with Gaara halfway blocking the view, I could see Matsuri fidgeting timidly. Her hair was windblown and she was breathing hard.

Gaara's body tensed at seeing her and his voice was again cold as he spoke.

"What are you doing here, Matsuri?''

I saw her eyes drift from Gaara's face down to his bare chest, her face heating slightly before she caught herself and forced her eyes back to his.

I felt a pang of possessiveness shoot through me before I could smother it, instantly shaking my head of the emotion. There was no need for those kinds of feelings.

"The council has requested your presence. They have discovered something that requires your immediate attention. They sent me to get you.''

Her eyes were straying again, but as Gaara spoke they shot back to his.

"What do they want?''

She shook her head.

"They would not tell me. They just said that it was important.''

Gaara nodded before striding pest her and out the door. Matsuri bit her lip, her cheeks heating even more as she cleared her throat.

"Kazekage-sensei...Don't you think that you need a...a shirt?''

I heard his footsteps move back towards the room and e walked through the door a moment later, slamming the wood in the poor girls face.

He went straight to his closet and I pulled myself from the floor, walking to him and wrapping my arms around his waist, while resting my cheek against his back.

He sighed and laid his arms on top of mine.

"Why is it that when we're in Suna, that we almost always get interrupted?''

I shrugged and tightened my arms, humming lightly.

"Because you have a demanding life.''

I reached past him and pulled a black shirt off of the hanger, feeling him take it away from me gently.

He unwrapped my arms and swung me around, holding me to his chest as he nuzzled his face into my neck.

"I hate being Kazekage sometimes. I love being able to help my people and protecting them, but there are things that I hate about it. Like being pulled away from you in the middle of the night.''

He pulled his face from my neck to look at me, his eyes almost pleading.

"Ask me to stay. If you asked that of me, I wouldn't go. I would stay here in this room, with you.''

I smiled sadly and kissed his jaw.

"I can't ask that of you. Your people need you, Gaara. Badly. I've told you this multiple times. You being the Kazekage comes first. I accept and understand that.''

I grinned impishly.

"But I do expect for you to come back as soon as your meeting is finished. And you come back as Gaara, not Suna's Kazekage. I like it when you're as relaxed as you have been recently.''

He nodded and bent to kiss me roughly for a few heartbeats before he pulled away and pulled on his shirt, giving me an apologetic glance as he walked out the door.

I sighed when it closed and hugged myself against the cold that suddenly seemed to enter the room, my bravado seeming to leave with him.

I walked over to the bed and crawled under the rumpled covers, huddling into a tight ball. I needed to get used to the fact that Gaara could get called away at any time.

I remembered that he had told me on my first visit to Suna that I was more important to him than being Kazekage, and he had reiterated that fact a moment ago by telling me to ask him to stay. No matter that this might be something important.

I sighed and shook my head. I would never ask that of him. What if the one time that I asked. the village was being attacked, or the council had something serious to tell him? It would be my fault that he hadn't gone and saved his people. And he would grow to resent me for it, I was sure.

I didn't think that I could handle that.

I buried my face into his pillow, inhaling his scent that lingered there and began to wonder how Gaara had met Matsuri

Maybe if I knew their past together, I could figure out how much she loved him. If it was just admiration for the young Kazekage, or if it went deeper then that.

I sighed and rolled onto my back. Maybe coming here was a bad idea. It would cause difficulties between the two of them. I hoped that she wouldn't become difficult and vengeful. Gaara didn't need one of his ninja's going rogue.

I sat up, trying to escape my thoughts and turned to see Gaara's stuffed bear still sitting on his desk where it had been when I was last in this room. I crawled out of the bed and moved to sit in the desk chair, folding my arms on top of the desk, setting my chin on my folded arms.

The bear looked at me with kind brown eyes and I smiled sadly.

"Alright, Mr. Bear. I know that you aren't going to give me advice, or at least I hope you wont talk back to me, but I've heard that you were a good listener and I really need to talk to someone...or something.''

I frowned, wondering if I was crazy, and then shrugged it off. Of course I was. But I was going to tell this bear what I was thinking and hope that it made me feel better. It wasn't as if Dolly and Salem were just a short walk away and I could ask for their advice.

"I seem to have a dilemma I don't want to make Gaara stay away from being Kazekage, it makes him happy being able to help his people. But I want to spend time with him. And I know that's selfish, but I can't seem to help myself. Though I won't tell him about that. It would just make him feel bad that he's not able to spend more time with me.''

I bit my lip, frowning harshly.

"Or make him want to give up being Kazekage and I don't want either of those things. I would never make him give up something that he loves, and he does love being Kazekage. Even if he does complain about it.''

I sighed.

"And then this afternoon, I find out that he has another girl in love with him. She's a ninja and gets to spend time with him because of that. She's kinda pretty too.

I have to admit that I'm a bit jealous of her. That she probably gets to spend more time with Gaara than I ever have hope to.

I don't think that he realizes that she's in love with him.''

I swallowed a lump that suddenly formed in my throat, a small idea that I hadn't thought about until that moment entering my brain.
"If he did, I wonder if it would change things? I mean...what if he's actually in love with her and he doesn't realize it. What if he didn't realize what the feelings he felt for her were, but now that I've helped him learn what those feeling are, he realizes that he loves her too. He may feel love for her, more than he ever could for me.''

I let out a mirthless laugh.

"I wouldn't keep them apart, of course. I want him to be happy. No matter who he's with. If he wants her instead of me, then I'll walk my way back to Aubry's and wish them all the happiness in the world.

I know that I won't find anyone that makes me feel the way that Gaara makes me feel, but I also know that I can be strong on my own and live my life. Though a part of my heart will forever be missing. I've given it away without any thought of what could happen.

If it does turn out that he loves her, I hope that I can tell and leave gracefully. No tears or hurt eyes. I know that he would never be able to tell me he loved her and so I would need to take matters into my own hands and leave. Though my heart will stay with him.''

I rubbed at the rebellious tears that had fallen from my eyes and shook my head, feeling as if I shouldn't have said all of what I had out loud and wondering why I had. It was as if as soon as I had started speaking, a floodgate of unsuredness had opened.

"If it makes him happy, I'll just do whatever it takes to make it happen.''

I heard a snort behind me, my eyes widening as a voice began speaking.

"That's good, because I feel the same way towards you.''

I stood from the chair quickly, succeeding in knocking it over and turned towards him, feeling sand move past me and pick up the overturned chair.

I rubbed away my tears and wished that my heated cheeks would cool.

Gaara was leaning against the door, his hands crossed over his chest and his face hidden in the shadows.

I swallowed hard.

"How long have you been there?''

He shook his head, and I felt his sand swirling around my feet in agitation.

"Long enough to hear you're statement of how you wanted to spend time with me.''

I flinched and felt my blush heating instead of cooling like I was ordering it too. He had heard almost everything I had said then.

He sighed and lowered his arms.

''Ria, come here.''

His voice was authoritative and I automatically began to move towards him. His sand swirling around me, waiting to pull me if I stopped moving.

I came to a halt within arms distance of him, but refused to lift my head, instead looking at the grains in the wood floor. I felt the sand push me forward, almost causing me to fall and Gaara wrapped his hands around my hips, steadying me and holding me in place as he spoke.

"Why didn't you tell me about these things?''

I laughed a sob and felt more tears come to my eyes.

"Because, apparently, I am a coward when it comes to expressing doubts. And I didn't even know I felt that way myself, until I started talking to that bear.''

His sand lifted my face to look at him and though I couldn't see his eyes in the shadows, I kept my eyes on his face as I continued.

"I didn't want you to think that you had to give up being Kazekage to be with me. It scares me to think that I could be the cause of you abandoning these people.''

I paused. "And if you loved someone else, I guess that I just didn't want to know yet.''

I swallowed hard and saw his mouth turn down in a frown.

"And you're referring to Matsuri when you say 'someone else?'''

I nodded, preparing myself for the realization to light his face. That he suddenly acknowledged that he did love her. Instead he pulled me closer and tightened his hands. He took a step towards me, bringing his face into the light.

"I have never felt anything for Matsuri, besides a very very slight hint of protectiveness. I saved her a few years ago, and then trained her briefly. I wanted her to become a ninja to protect herself. Not to spend more time with her.

I've known that she's felt more for me than friendship for a while. And I did try to force myself at one point to feel something like love towards her, since no one else seemed as interested in me, but I couldn't. I understand now why. You can't force those feelings.

I've been acting cold to her for months, and dropping hints that she should move on with her life, but she seems to ignore them.

What made you think that I would fall in love with someone else? I would do anything for you. Do you think that I would give up being Kazekage for Matsuri?''

He shook me gently, as if the movement would help imprint his words into my head. His voice more intense than I was used to hearing from him.

"No, I wouldn't. I love you. Not Matsuri, or hardly anyone else for that matter. I will always love you. Even if you are turning out to be seriously over analytically''

I laughed, tears falling lightly and threw myself at him my arms wrapping around his neck, my legs wrapping around his waist.

He smiled against my neck and his arms tightened around me.

"Did my speech calm those unnecessary fears of yours?''

I nodded and moved my head to kiss him repeatedly, wondering why I didn't just ask him these things in the first place. It would have saved some tears and useless emotions.

He grinned and began to walk us towards his bed, laying me down gently before pulling his shirt off and climbing in after me.

He pulled the covers over us and playfully tugged me towards him, casing me to laugh and wiggle closer so I could mold my body to his, sighing softly when I was comfortable.

"So are you done kissing me for tonight?''

He nodded and yawned.

"I suppose. I have to be up early tomorrow and I would like to MAYBE get some sleep. Though that probably wont happen.''

I smiled rubbing a hand across his back soothingly.

"But you can rest at least.''

He nodded and tightened his arms briefly.

"So what made you decide to talk to my bear?''

I shrugged.

"Because I needed to talk to something and he seemed like a good listener.''

Gaara smiled and kissed my forehead.

"I always thought that he was. I'm glad that hasn't changed.''

I smiled softly and relaxed against the pillows.

"Will you tell me about some of the things you talked about? It doesn't have to be anything important. Just random stuff.''

He nodded slowly and hummed.

"Yeah. But not tonight. Maybe tomorrow...Maybe not...Sometime though...''

I laughed. He was falling asleep and didn't realize that he was rambling. I returned to rubbing his back and laid a kiss to his chest.

"Go to sleep, Gaara. You can talk to me some more when you wake up.''

He hummed lightly and rested his cheek against the crown of my head, his breathing becoming slow. He had thought that he wouldn't sleep, but I think that having me in the bed with him calmed him enough to change that. I hoped that it would continue to do so.

I smiled and kissed his neck lightly before closing my own eyes and falling asleep.



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