After about an hour of lying on the bed and flipping through the other pictures, I had finally gotten my appetite back and returned to the kitchen, thinking about the photos. There was hardly any pictures of Gaara between the ages 7 to 13. After that age the pictures increased and I saw that the expression in his eyes changed. Though a hint of the loathing remained, it was replaced by a look of confusion that increased in each picture.
I sighed and opened the fridge, trying to find something to eat, deciding that I should probably make food for the others as well.
I looked into the refrigerator and frowned at the assortment of odd colored food that I found. I wrinkled my nose and began to pull out the ingredients for stew, being careful to check the dates. Maybe I would clean out the fridge tomorrow. It seriously needed it.
I finished putting all of the ingredients into a pan and let it cook, returning to the table and pulling another album towards me.
Another photo of a 6 year old Gaara greeted me on the first page and I smiled.
My mind beginning to wander and bringing up an image of what I thought our children might look like.
I wanted them to have his eyes and hair and...well mostly him. Maybe not his temper. I could do without that.
I shook my head rapidly and leaned back against the chair. What was wrong with me? Gaara and I hadn't discussed anything like that. Of course he said that he loved me, but that could change. Human feelings were fickle.
I shrugged. Well...whoever Gaara had kids with, I was sure that they would be adorable.
I returned to check the food and found that I had been daydreaming longer than I thought and the food was almost overly done. I quickly turned off the stove and moved the pan away from the heat before grabbing a bowl and ladling some of the stew into it, sighing as I took a bite. It was pretty good. I shrugged and ate quickly, wanting to return to my room.
As I was rinsing my bowl, Temari staggered into the room, loaded down with bags.
I gasped and ran to help her, grabbing some of the bags that had been cutting into her fingers.
''Have you been carrying all of this by yourself?''
She nodded and dropped the bags onto the counter, sighing heavily.
''Yeah. Normally I make Kankuro go with me, so it didn't occur to me how much I actually buy. But I won't be going by myself again.''
I smiled and followed her lead, placing the bags on the counter and pointed to the stove. ''I made dinner. You don't mind do you?''
She shook her head and went to lift the lid on the pan, inhaling deeply and sighing happily.
''No. It's nice not having to do everything around the house. Normally I do all the cleaning, the laundry, and the cooking. Though I do make Kankuro do the dishes sometimes. But I can't trust either boy to do anything else. Gaara can cook. Though he won't admit it. And it's only simple stuff...though if you can convince him to, he makes the best omelet that you've ever had.''
Temari shook her head and shrugged before continuing.
''Kankuro can't cook hardly anything though, and his version of cleaning is shoving everything into a closet.''
I laughed and nodded, agreeing quickly.
''Salem is like that to. He hates cleaning, and the last time I left him alone to clean the living room, he threw everything away instead of putting it up. We had to go out and buy a new rug and lamp because he didn't want to vacuum or dust.''
Temari laughed and made her a bowl of stew.
''Typical brother behavior. I can't tell you how many times I've come home to find that Gaara and Kankuro had wreaked this place because they had been fighting. Sand and puppet part everywhere!''
I laughed at the image and sat across from her, flipping through another album curiously. I had apparently found the family history album and was reading the writing below a sepia colored photo of a man when Temari's hesitant voice broke the silence.
''Hey, Ria. You love my brother, right?''
I sighed and looked up at her slowly, forcing down my irritation. What was it with people asking me this question today? I nodded quickly and leaned back into my chair.
''Of course I do. More than anything.''
She nodded slowly, still not relaxing completely.
''I thought so. But if he asked you tonight to marry him, you would say yes?''
I frowned, thinking over that question deeply before shrugging ans answering slowly.
''I'm not sure. I know I wouldn't say no. But I think that it's too early for us to get engaged. I mean, I love Gaara, and I won't ever feel the same way for another person as I do for him, but the fact remains that I don't want to rush into something so quickly. I want to know him better before I marry him.''
Temari frowned but nodded, not exactly happy with my answer, but accepting it.
''I guess I can understand that. But it's not because you don't love him?''
I shook my head, rolling my eyes lightly.
''Of course not, I love your brother. And I have no intention of not marrying him, if that's what he wants. Just not right now.''
Temari smiled and nodded.
''Good. I'm glad that he found someone like you. Not only can you keep him in line, but you bring out a more relaxed side of him that I had never seen before. I didn't even know that Gaara could relax.''
I laughed and nodded, happy to have moved away from the marriage subject.
''He's wound tight a lot of the time. But he's got more to him than you would think at first glance. He's spent his entire life trying to hide his feelings and actual personality, that no one would believe it if I told them that he's got a playfulness to him.''
Temari sighed and nodded, seeming to deflate slightly.
''I remember when we were kids, before our uncles betrayal, Gaara had such a sweet smile and imagination. Don't get me wrong, he still had that temper that made everyone afraid of him, and he lost control a lot because he was too young to understand how to control Shukaku.''
Temari shook her head sadly before continuing.
''Did he tell you that Kankuro and I were kept away from him for the first four years of his life?''
I shook my head and she nodded.
''Yeah. Our father wanted Gaara as excluded from the world as possible. Wanting him to learn how to control Shukaku. He and our uncle were the only two allowed to see him regularly.
To Kankuro and I, it was like we didn't even have another sibling. Like he had died with our mom. I was four when Gaara was born, Kankuro was two. He doesn't remember our mom, but I do. And I remember how I felt when our father came home, showed me the red headed creature that caused my mothers death and then gave it away to my uncle.
I hated Gaara at that moment. Hated that he would take my mother away from me. I was definitely a mamma's girl before she died. Anywhere she went, I was her little shadow. And at that age, all I could think about was that she wouldn't be coming back. That I would never see her smile, or here her sing, or have her hold me again.
I suppose that I should feel grateful that I have any memories of her at all. Neither Kankuro or Gaara know anything about her besides what I tell them. But all I could feel at that time was resentment.
So, my uncle took Gaara away, and though I hated him, I wanted to get to know the baby that my mother had given her life for.
So I snuck out and checked on him. Watched from the window as my uncle forced him to stay awake, forced Shukaku away.
One night I saw Gaara fall asleep, and watched the sand move on it's own, breaking the arm of a man who was bringing in a tray of food. Gaara didn't mean to do it, but at four, I didn't understand that. So I left and didn't come back to look in on him for another two years.
The night when I worked up the courage to go see him again, I found him playing by himself in his room, smiling softly and clutching the arm of a stuffed bear.
I know that I should have went to talk to him. Maybe played a game with him, but all I could feel at that moment was a deep resentment. My childhood had been taken from me the moment he had been born. I was having to take care of Kankuro and all this boy had to do was play all night and ignore the world.
I know that if I had just went to talk to him, he probably wouldn't have turned out as the sadistic teenager that he became.
All he really wanted was to have someone to play with. He couldn't even get someone to play ball with him. They all ran away in terror. He was so alone. And all I could think about was myself and how, because of him, Kankuro and I were outcasts as well. We were the Kazekage's children and should have been fawned over, but because our brother was the vessel for the Shukaku, we were looked at with pity.
After our uncle's death, Kankuro and I were forced to visit Gaara. Every week we were forced to have lunch with our little brother, who Kankuro had never really met. He had heard stories though. And seen Gaara's glares. They scared him so bad that Kankuro would actually shake uncontrollably.
I didn't really fear Gaara until our father made us walk into the village one day and an assassin came at Gaara. Then I understood why everyone avoided him. He tortured the man, squeezing him slowly so his bones cracked and broke. He begged pitifully before Gaara smirked and covered him in sand completely, causing crimson blood to fall over us, staining my hair and clothes.
After that I was scared of visiting him as well, and Kankuro claimed that Gaara would kill him someday. He had nightmares of Gaara coming into his room and using that jutsu on him.
She smiled sadly.
''He continued like that until Naruto knocked him around. After that he became more concerned about not hurting anyone and changing everyone's opinion of him. He was so tired of everyone fearing him.''
She shrugged and sighed.
''Though he still has that temper of his, and sometimes he let's it get out of hand, he's pretty good at stopping it before he hurts someone.''
She smiled sheepishly and shook her head.
''Listen to me. Babbling like some old lady. You're such a captive audience that I just want to continue talking.''
I laughed and shook my head comfortingly.
''Don't worry about it. I was very interested in what you were saying.''
I stood up and smiled at her.
''Butterball is over by the stove. Will you be alright with him if I go upstairs and take a shower?''
She nodded and took her bowl to the sink, speaking over her shoulder.
''Of course. I'm used to being by myself. For the most part I enjoy it. And Butterball is wonderful company.''
I nodded and hesitated before hugging her quickly, surprising her, speaking quickly.
''Don't worry so much about what you could have done to help Gaara. He turned out alright in the end and you can't change the past. There's no use in regretting it.''
She smiled and nodded, her eyes slightly moist. She waved towards the stairs and picked up Butterball, hiding her face in his fur, her voice choked.
''Sure. Thanks, Ria. Go and have your shower. Butterball and I will be fine.''
I nodded and slowly moved towards the stairs, taking one last look at the two before loosing sight of them as I walked past a wall.
I groaned as I felt something gritty running across my skin and tried to roll away from it, only to have it follow me.
I sighed and opened my eyes reluctantly, finding sand hovering above my body.
I sat up and it began to tug on my hands and waist, urging me to follow it.
I rubbed the sleep from my eyes as the sand practically dragged me to Gaara's room, not letting me pause at the closed door, but pushing it open harshly.
I blinked in the dim room, finding Gaara with his back to me. I frowned as I noticed his tense shoulders.
He didn't turn, but held an arm out towards me. I slowly walked to him and he curled the arm around me, pulling me into his side.
''I'm sorry that I woke you. I just really needed to hold you for a moment.''
I shook my head and wrapped my arms around him, leaning against him sleepily.
''Don't worry about it. I was trying to stay awake for you, but I guess I got too relaxed after my shower and fell asleep.''
He nodded and wrapped his other arm around me, petting my hair softly.
I let him do this for a few seconds, letting him calm down before speaking again.
''What has you so angry, hon?''
''Multiple things. What the council said last night and this afternoon, and the things that Matsuri said.''
I sighed and pushed him gently until he was sitting on the edge of the bed, his arms refusing to release me.
I crawled onto his lap, wrapping myself around him comfortingly, keeping my voice calm as I forced myself into waking up completely.
''Let's take this one problem at a time. What did the council say?''
He took a deep breath and tightened his arms.
''I told you this afternoon about the woman talking to her father last night. Apparently, she only had good things to say about you and the man called the other council members together to discuss my personal life. They had never thought that I would fall in love with someone, and so had never discussed what would happen if I started dating or got married.
But now, they wondered if I should even be allowed to choose who I wanted to be with. Most of the time the Kazekage's spouse is chosen for him. Whether for peace or rare jutsus that run in their family.
My parents were an arranged couple. And look how well that turned out.
The man who's daughter we met, pointed this out and suggested that the council leave things alone. One of the others agreed, but the other three don't want to give up that power. Two want me to marry a girl from Suna, the other, a girl from the waterfall village.
They called me in last night because they wanted to make sure what you meant to me before they decided to make any further plans. When I told them I wouldn't accept any other girl, two council members stood with me, but the other three argued that it was tradition and I was a Kazekage and should follow the traditions.
I told them that they could shove their traditions for all I cared, stormed out, and came home.
Today they tried again to 'reason' with me, bringing in pictures of some of the Suna girls with good bloodlines. I ripped the pictures up and threw them at them. I must have seemed like a child having a tantrum, but I couldn't help myself. I told them that I would not marry anyone that I hadn't chosen myself and if they didn't like it, then I was more than ready to remind them why I was made the Kazekage in the first place. None of them took my offer, deciding to drop the subject. Though I know that they will bring it up again.''
He stopped and drew in a deep breath, his arms tightening around me, his voice tight as he tried to keep his tone under control.
''How dare they try to force this on me? I will not marry someone that I do not love.''
He was shaking harshly and I swallowed hard before taking a quick look at his eyes. Sure enough, the gold that usual stayed hidden was bright and flashing dangerously.
I tightened my arms around his shoulder, pressing my body to his.
''It's alright Gaara. I don't think that they can make you marry anyone. Especially not if they're not unanimous.''
Gaara growled darkly.
''Or if I kill them.''
I sucked in a startled breath at the seriousness of his tone and shook my head quickly.
''You can't do that sweetheart. It would not be right. Though it would be easier. Remember that you've been trying to convince everyone that you don't kill everyone that displeases you. What kind of leader would you seem if you returned to that?''
He tensed for a moment, but slumped forward a second later, his voice resigned.
''You're right. I wish you weren't, but you're right.''
I sighed and looked at his eyes, seeing the gold receding. I didn't want to bring it back, but we needed to discuss the other problem he had today.
I pulled back slightly and cupped his cheek, running my thumb over the ring under his right eye.
''Now. Tell me what Matsuri said to you. I know that you saw her confront me today.''
He nodded, and though the gold was still present, it stayed in the background.
''Like you warned me she would, she claimed to love me. I told her that I could never love her back and at that point she became so angry that she started yelling at me. I guess she forgot who she was talking too.
She began calling you all sorts of names that even I hadn't heard of, and though I DID try, I couldn't force my anger down. The final straw was when she said that I would regret my decision and that I didn't even know what love was, so I couldn't love you.
At that point, I lost it. My sand wrapped around her and squeezed. I didn't really hurt her, but I enjoyed the look of fear that entered her eyes when I tightened the sand. And I heard Shukaku's voice telling me to finish her. To cover my office with her blood. She was such an insignificant ninja anyways, so why not kill her?
I stopped myself and threw her from the room, locking myself in my office for the rest of the day.''
He shook his head, looking at me pleadingly.
''What is wrong with me, Ria?''
I sighed and hugged him tightly.
''It's because you still have Shukaku inside of you.''
He pulled away and looked at me startled.
I nodded and explained my findings hesitantly.
''I was looking in some of the old albums that your sister kept, and I noticed something off about your eyes. Something that happens even now when you get really angry. There's a golden tint that isn't there until you're ready to kill someone. And it's only in the pictures when you're angry.''
Gaara paused and closed his eyes, his body going still.
I sighed and ran my fingers through his hair gently, letting him do his soul searching in silence. A few minutes later, his eye flew open and he gripped me to him tightly, his eyes wide and his breath quick.
''You're right. I just thought that it was memories of him, but it's not! I didn't even have to search hard to find him. He was hiding all of this time, trying to gain strength so he could talk to me and when he finally came out, he was still too weak to take control. But he's gotten a lot of his power back, though he still can't control me, at least not for very long. That's why I can sleep.
But all of these awful things that I've been thinking, all of the death that I've been seeing in my dreams, is because he is still inside of me. I am still the vessel of the Shukaku.''
I nodded and kissed his forehead gently.
He frowned, looking over me hesitantly.
''Are you not frightened?''
I shook my head and leaned back slightly, letting his arms brace my back.
''Not really. You've had Shukaku in you all of this time. I trust you to keep control of yourself.''
I smiled brightly.
''And besides...I love you. It doesn't matter to me if you have Shukaku inside of you or not. I will still love you.''
He smiled and kissed me gently before tossing me behind him to land on the bed, causing me to gasp and stare up at him in shock as he stood up. He smirked down at me before gathering his night pants from the floor.
''I need a shower.''
I rolled my eyes and wriggled under the covers, shivering as the cold sheets made contact with my skin.
He frowned and moved towards the bathroom, talking over his shoulder.
''I'll be back to warm you up in a little bit.''
I nodded, realizing too late that he couldn't see me and closed my eyes as the bathroom door closed, sighing as the sound of running water relaxed me, but huffing a moment later as the cold covers brushed against me again.
Stupid cold covers. Stupid cold room. And stupid desert that got to 40 degrees in the night time. I groaned and rolled to my other side, glaring at the door, hoping that my meager body heat would soon warm the covers.
I don't know how long I laid there, simply glaring at the door, but I didn't move again until a pair of warm arms wrapped around me tightly, causing me to gasp.
The arms pulled me back into a still damp chest and I sighed, turning in his arms and finding him smirking at me as I nuzzled into his chest, humming as I inhaled deeply.
''Hmm. You're really warm right now. Do you know that?''
He huffed lightly, tightening his arms.
''Sometimes I think that you love me because I'm warm.''
I shrugged and pressed myself closer, smiling sleepily.
''No. You also smell really really good.''
He scoffed and shook his head, his voice teasing.
''Oh. So you love me because of my body wash and my warmth. I understand.''
I laughed at his teasing and shook my head, laying a kiss to the center of his chest, feeling him shiver lightly.
''I would love you even if you weren't warm, or you didn't use that type of body wash. Because you are you.''
He snorted in amusement and laid a kiss to my forehead.
''You're beginning to ramble, Love. But before you go to sleep, I want to kiss you.''
I nodded and tilted my head back so he could press his mouth to mine.
His lips moved against mine gently, slowly coaxing me to follow his lead. His hands came up to curl in my hair, angling my head back to deepen the kiss and I sighed against his mouth before he pulled away, nipping lightly to my bottom lip.
He smiled and pulled me back to his chest, pressing my head to his arm.
''Goodnight, Love. I'll most likely wake you up in the morning when I get up.''
I nodded and snuggled into him.
''Alright. I love you too, Gaara. Goodnight.''
He began to stroke my hair gently and I soon felt myself falling to sleep.