The Akatsuki's Daughter

Chapter 37


I heard a quiet groan that reverberated through the chest that pillowed my head and I opened my eyes slowly, looking up to see aqua. Gaara was smiling down at me softly and began to rub my back.

''Good-morning, Love.''

I smiled.

''Good-morning, Gaara. Are you feeling better?''

He nodded.

''Yeah. I didn't wake up again until a few minutes ago.''

I nodded and yawned.

''That's good. I was hoping that you hadn't. I didn't wake up either and I didn't want you to be alone.''

He shook his head.

''I'm sure that you would have noticed if I'd woken. You normally wake up when I do.''

I nodded and shrugged.

''I feel you moving away sometimes, or if you're really tired and don't want to wake up, you groan.''

He frowned, his forehead wrinkling.

''I do?''

I rolled my eyes and nodded.

''Yeah. You do. But I like waking up when you do. It's the only time that I can talk to you without irritated ninja's trying to get your attention.''

He nodded and sighed.

''It does seem like I'm getting more complaints than normal. It's mostly because they don't want to do the missions. They've all been minor. No S class or even A class missions.''

I frowned and propped myself up on an elbow to look at him better.

''Why is that, do you think?''

He shrugged, his fingers running across my spine lightly.

''Nobody is having major problems. Wait until winter and summer. Then people will start traveling and the bandits will be out. Things will become chaotic and I will have to send most of the ninjas on back to back missions.''

I rolled my eyes and huffed.

''So they just need to shut-up and be patient.''

Gaara smiled and shook his head.

''That wasn't really in the ninja training.''

I shrugged, unconcerned.

''Still. Patience is a virtue.''

He smirked impishly.

''That you don't have yourself.''

I grinned and nodded.

''That's right. But I'm not the one complaining about boring missions.''

He smiled and rolled his eyes, patting my hip lightly.

''Anyways, it's time for me to get up. I have to go to work.''

I wrinkled my nose.

''Ew. Work is evil.''

My eyes widened suddenly and I laughed.

''Oh, wow. I'm going to have issues when I return to Aubry's.''

Gaara's smile fell from his face.

''Do you think that they'll be finished rebuilding soon?''

I shrugged.

''Maybe. With how picky that Salem and Aubry are, I don't know how long it will take them.''

I grinned suddenly and kissed him quickly.

''Oh well. The more time that they take, the more time I can spend with you.''

He nodded and pushed us to sit up. He looked down at himself before returning teasing eyes to mine.

''Did you enjoy getting me out of my shirt, Love?''

I scoffed and hit his shoulder lightly.

''You're awful.''

He grinned and kissed me before leaving the warm bed and searching through his closet for some clothes. He felt me watching him and smirked at me over his shoulder as he took the clean clothes into the bathroom.

It wasn't until the door closed that I realized that Gaara had mentioned the winter and how close it was. Since we were in the desert it wasn't as cold as it would be at home, and so it had slipped my mind.

But I had been wondering for months about the date of Gaara's birthday. I had caught mention of it, but the only helping hint was that it was in the winter months. I would need to get him a gift.

I wrinkled my nose, trying to think of a good gift, and was still wearing that expression when Gaara came out of the bathroom in his robes.

I looked him over and frowned slightly.

''You always look so proper when you wear your robes. I think that you should have casual Friday.''

He rolled his eyes and shook his head as he slipped on his shoes.

''I'll be sure to bring that up to the windbags during our next meeting. I'm sure that they would just love to wear jeans and t-shirts.''

I huffed and crossed my arms.

''Rudeness! See if I ever make a helpful suggestion to you again. You could have just said no.''

I stuck my tongue out and he walked over to me, pulling me into a tight hug.

''I love you, Ria.''

I rolled my eyes and hugged him back.

''Yeah, yeah. I love you too, but that doesn't change the fact that you're still rude.''

His shoulders shook and he kissed me quickly.

''I know. I have to go now, but I'll see you at lunch?''

I nodded and pulled away, sitting on the bed again.

''Yeah. Around that time.''

He nodded and after another brief kiss, grabbed his gourd and disappeared from the room.

I frowned and crossed my arms. Dang ninja's.

I yawned suddenly and glanced at the clock that he had sitting on the desk. 6:45? I don't think so. I'm not a morning person, and unlike Gaara, I didn't have to be anywhere until noon.

I laid back down, curling under the still warm covers and glanced at the panda that jumped onto the mattress beside me.

I smiled sleepily and scratched his ears gently. I would ask Temari when I got up about Gaara's birthday.

I yawned again and hugged Gaara's pillow, almost instantly falling back asleep.


/////////


''Temari!''

At my yell the tired girl opened her door, her hair sticking up in random directions and rubbing her eyes.

I guess I woke her up from a deep sleep. Oops.

She yawned and waved me inside her room.

''What's wrong?''

I smiled sheepishly and sat on the stool in front of her vanity.

''Nothing. I'm sorry that I woke you up. It never occurred to me that you would still be sleeping.''

She nodded and glanced at the clock on her wall, her eyes widening.

''I can understand why. Is it really almost noon?''

I nodded and she moved to make her bed. I rolled my eyes at this and looked around her room.

The walls were a light purple and, excluding the black clock, didn't hold any decorations.

The floor in this room was a white wood and her bed was big like Gaara's, though the blankets were a lilac purple with small, white lotus flowers. The vanity that I sat by was white and gold, the wardrobe made of white wood.

I glanced back at Temari and saw that she had finished fussing with her bed and was smiling at me.

''I guess you've never been in my room, huh?''

I shook my head.

''No. But it fits you. I wouldn't have imagined it any other way.''

She nodded and sat on the edge of her bed, looking at me expectantly.

''So what's on your mind? You don't normally look for me specifically.''

I shrugged.

''I was talking to Gaara earlier, and I realized that I didn't know when his birthday was. So I thought that I would ask you.''

Her eyes widened and she bit her lip.

''Well...we actually don't celebrate Gaara's birthday.''

I stared at her in surprise.

''What? Why not?''

She sighed and looked up at the ceiling for a moment before explaining slowly.

''Because, in the beginning, it wasn't something to celebrate. With his birth, our mother died, and the village gained a monster. For years Kankuro and I were in fear of our lives.

When Gaara changed, we had fallen into the habit of treating his birthday as a time of mourning and couldn't force ourselves to think of celebrating instead. Kankuro and I don't normally even remember that it's Gaara's birthday until he reminds us that he is another year older. Sometimes it's the next day, or even a week later. ''

I kept my emotions locked up tight, not wanting to show her how much this bothered me. I realized that she hadn't had anything to do with Gaara for years and that I shouldn't be upset with her for not celebrating his birthday. But it just wasn't fair for them to treat the day of his birth like it was some horrible event.

I swallowed hard and kept my voice light.

''I would still like to know the date.''

She sighed and rubbed a hand over her eyes.

''It's January, 19th. He was born at night during a full moon.''

I nodded and stood up.

''Thanks, Temari.''

She nodded and watched me as I walked towards the door, her voice calling after me.

''Don't make a big deal about it, Ria. Or better yet, don't even mention it. Just treat it like any other day.''

I smiled over my shoulder and pulled the door open.

''Thanks for the advice. I'm gonna get dressed now and go to meet Gaara for lunch.''

She nodded and I walked out of her room, closing the door behind me. As soon as I heard the loud click, I let my smile fall from my face and growled softly.

That had to be one of the stupidest things that I had ever heard. 'Let the day pass like any other.' Just because she didn't want to celebrate Gaara's birthday, didn't mean that it shouldn't be celebrated. She was right about not making it into a huge deal, he wouldn't appreciate that, but I could do something for him.

I closed the door to Gaara's room a little harder than I had planned and flinched at the loud noise.

I sighed and went to sit on the bed, remembering my first birthday at the Akatsuki.

I hadn't had a party since I had begun to live with my aunt, telling Die that she had claimed that there was nothing to celebrate.

He had scoffed and hugged me tightly, telling me that, though my aunt hadn't been glad that I was alive, he and Dolly were thrilled. That my birth was something to celebrate because they loved me and were glad that I had been born. Because I was meant to be with them, and it made them happy to see me everyday and to watch me grow.

Dolly had nodded and led the two of us to the kitchen where a large cookie was laid out on the table. I never had a cake because none of the Akatsuki could make one, but Die brought out candle light things and lit them.

Weasel had frowned at seeing them and leaned close to look at them when they had exploded, covering his face in soot and cookie remains.

I had laughed and watched as Die ran for his life, an enraged Uchiha chasing him, his Sharingan activated.

Needless to say, the cookie was ruined, but I still counted it as one of my favorite birthdays.

Every year they threw me a party, and Salem too once he came to live with us, and they always told us about how happy they were that we had been born.

So how could I not throw Gaara a small party? How could I not show him how happy I was that he was alive?

I couldn't do all of the things that my adopted family had done for Salem and I, but I could make the day special for him. It was mid November, so I had two months to plan.

I frowned and threw some comfortable clothes on. I might need Misa's help. At least to help me keep my plans secret from Temari and Kankuro. From the talk I had with Temari, I knew that they wouldn't approve.

I smiled and hurried to the kitchen, needing to cook something for Gaara to eat. Even if it was just ME wishing Gaara a happy birthday, I was sure that it would be more than he normally got.

I shook my head. I would need to be careful about not thinking about this around him. He knew when I was hiding things, and had recently gotten very good at making me tell him what my secrets were.

I should never have taught him that.

I shrugged and pulled some leftovers from the fridge, needing to hurry. I was already late. And if I wasn't there soon, he wouldn't have time to eat.


//////////



I smiled as I surveyed Gaara's room.

Misa had helped me hang red streamers around the room and get balloons from the market into the house without either Temari or Kankuro seeing them.

I had baked a small cake while Temari was away, and now had it laid out on his desk, a wrapped present laying beside it.

The candles were ready to be lit and I rolled my eyes as I saw the lighter laying off to the side. It had taken me three hours to find it, and I realized once I found it, that I didn't even need it. I could light the candle without it.

I tried to think if I had forgotten anything and shrugged. Truthfully it was too late now to do anything else.

I heard Temari's footsteps on the stairs and rolled my eyes. She and Kankuro had been depressed for about a week, and Gaara had been avoiding the house as much as possible.

If it wasn't for my constant whining about being cooped up in his office, I knew that he would drag me with him and not leave again until they were in better moods.

I bit my lip as I heard the downstairs door slam and started fidgeting nervously at Temari's voice.

''Gaara? I didn't know that you were coming home early today.''

I heard a deep rumble, which was followed soon after by the sound of slow footsteps on the stairs.

I ran towards the door as it opened and threw myself into Gaara's arms, catching him by surprise.

He smiled at me and walked us fully into the room, shutting the door with his foot.

Once the door closed, he kissed me deeply and I had to remind myself that I couldn't just kiss him today.

I pulled away and smiled.

''Happy Birthday, Gaara.''

He drew in a ragged breath and searched my face. A moment later his eyes closed and he buried his face in my neck, his voice muffled.

''Thank you, Love.''

I laughed and hugged him tightly before pulling away, waving a hand around the room.

''Now that you're here, we can start your party.''

His eyes widened and he looked around his room, his mouth gaping slightly.

''Wh...What is all this?''

I laughed and pushed him into his chair, reaching around him to light his candles.

''This is your party. I actually got up when you left this morning for once. I had to do a lot of this early because I had to sneak it in. And Misa helped me with keeping your siblings distracted.''

He shook his head and I pulled my hands away from the cake, resting them on his shoulders.

''Okay, hon. Make a wish and blow out the candles.''

He looked at me and bit his lip.

''What do I wish for?''

I shrugged and ruffled his hair.

''Whatever you want.''

He nodded and after a brief pause, drew in a deep breath and blew out all of the candles.

He leaned back and rested his head against my chest.

''Do I tell you what I wished for?''

I shook my head.

''Nope. It may not come true if you tell me.''

He stood and turned to look at me, his expression serious.

''If I tell you, the wish will come true.''

I frowned and tilted my head.

''Alright...''

He held out his arms.

''I want you to dance with me.''

I laughed and nodded, walking into his opened arms.

''I would be happy to dance with you, Gaara. You didn't have to waste a wish on that.''

He smiled softly and reached onto the desk, hitting a few buttons on a radio that sat there.

A soft melody began to play and Gaara led me into a slow dance.

He pulled me close to him and I sighed, resting my cheek against his chest.

''I do like this wish though. We should do this more often.''

He smiled and tightened his arms.

''You are the only person that is happy to celebrate my birthday. Temari and Kankuro forget, and most of the village doesn't know.''

He stopped our movements and pushed me away slightly, frowning curiously.

''How did you know when my birthday was, Love? I know that I've never told you.''

I shrugged and smiled.

''I asked your sister about two months ago.''

He blinked at me.

''You've been planning this since November?''

I smiled sheepishly and nodded.

''Yeah. I know it's not a lot, but...''

He crushed me to him and shook his head, arguing gently.

''No, Love. This is perfect. I knew that you've been planning something, but it never occurred to me that you were throwing me a party.''

I laughed and shook my head.

''This isn't much of a party. It's just the two of us, but...I did get you a present.''

He shook his head and I pushed away from him to grab the carefully wrapped object from the desk.

''It's not much, and I couldn't find anything that I knew you would like. You are the hardest person in the universe to shop for.''

He smiled sheepishly.

''Sorry. But you know that you didn't have to get me a gift. I would have been happy with you remembering my birthday.''

I shook my head violently.

''You might have been okay with that but I wouldn't have been. You deserve to have your birth celebrated, and a part of that is getting presents, so...''

I held the package out to him and he took it, hesitantly tearing off the paper.

He paused once the paper was gone and smiled softly as he saw the object the paper had hidden.

It was a hand carved, wooden raccoon, painted to look like the real thing.

I had seen it in the market and it had instantly reminded me of Gaara. I shrugged.

''I thought that you might use it as a paper weight. If you don't like it, we can return it and you can pick out something for yourself.''

He pulled the statue to him protectively and shook his head.

''No. I like it.''

He grinned, suddenly.

''Though I'm beginning to see a pattern in the things that you like, Love.''

He closed his eyes and touched the dark ring that surrounded it.

''Me, Panda's, and Raccoon's We all have rings around our eyes.''

I giggled and wrapped my arms around his waist, rubbing my nose against his. He returned the gesture and I grinned, glad that he had gotten used to that sign of affection by now.

''I hadn't really thought that much into it, but I know that you're all so cute.''

He rolled his eyes playfully and I kissed him quickly before pulling away, taking the figure from him, and placing it on the desk.

''You know, Love? The statue kinda reminds me of Shukaku, and since you think that raccoons are cute...you called Shukaku cute.''

I laughed and nodded.

''I guess I did. But he's a part of you, and I think that you're adorable, so he has to be at least a little bit cute.''

I saw Gaara roll his eyes and he pulled me back to him and kissed me again.

His hands had just tangled in my hair when a knock on the door caused him to growl into my mouth and tighten his arms. Trying to ignore the sound.

A moment later there was another knock, this time followed by Temari's voice.

''Gaara? Is everything alright?''

Gaara pulled away and glared at the door.

''Everything is fine, Temari. Why?''

There was a pause and her voice was hesitant as she spoke.

''Well...You came home early and I guess it worried me a little bit.''

I 'ahhd' and received a glare from Gaara.

''Ria wanted me to have lunch here today. I think that she's gotten sick of the Kazekage Tower.''

I made a disgusted noise and copied a blond ninja's favorite saying.

''Believe it!''

Gaara shot me a horrified look and Temari laughed.

''Alright. Since I know that everything's alright, I'm going out for a little bit and...is it okay if I take Butterball? I promise not to let him out of my sight.''

I looked at Gaara and he hesitated before sighing.

''Yeah. Just be sure to watch him.''

I heard the relief in her voice as she thanked him and shook my head. We hadn't let Temari take Butterball anywhere since the wedding fiasco, and she seemed extremely sorry for every using him in that way.

I looked back up at Gaara and found his eyes filled with sadness. I frowned and tilted my head.

''What's wrong, honey?''

He smiled sadly.

''Temari is going to our mother's grave. She died today.''

I sighed deeply and forced back an eye roll.

''Yeah. So I've heard.''

He swallowed hard.

''I killed her, Love. Not intentionally, but...there was a choice between her life and mine, I guess my life was chosen.

I took away the happiness from Temari and Kankuro's family, the one ray of sunshine they had in the blackness. It's my fault that she's dead. If I hadn't been born, then she would still be alive. The village would have never had to fear Shukaku. The villagers...''

I placed my fingers over his mouth, silencing him and shook my head.

''The villagers would not have the best Kazekage that Suna has ever seen.''

He ducked his head and I cupped his cheek, forcing him to look at me.

''Gaara, sweetheart, if you hadn't been born, most of the things that you blame yourself for would still have happened. Just to a different person.

Yes, your mother would still be alive, but someone elses mother wouldn't be. The village would be so messed up because you wouldn't have lived to change things.

Shukaku would have been put into a different child and there is no telling what he might have done. He could have been better or worse.''

I smiled sadly and shook my head before continuing.

''If you were never born, I wouldn't know about these feelings that I feel with you. You are one of the best things to happen to Suna, your friends, and me. Don't let some stupid tradition that your siblings have make you sad.''

I grinned suddenly.

''If you really want people to celebrate your birthday, then I will gladly find Matsuri and let her go crazy in throwing you a party. Which will probably even involve a parade.''

Gaara growled suddenly.

''I don't want a parade. But I wish that for once, my siblings would wish me a happy birthday on the day.''

I sighed and leaned my head against his chest, wrapping my arms around him tightly.

''I know. I'm sorry.''

He shook his head and kissed the crown of my head.

''It's not your fault, Love. Look what you've done today. You spent months planning a party for someone that for most of his life, no one even wanted to exist.''

I shook my head and sighed deeply.

''Can you take the rest of the day off? You need a break.''

He shook his head.

''Not the rest of the day, but I think that I can stay long enough to take a nap.''

I nodded.

''Okay. Do you want some of your cake before you lay down?''

He shook his head.

''I'm sorry, but I don't feel like eating right now.''

I smiled up at him.

''You don't have to apologize. You're upset. Let's just go lay down, okay?''

He nodded and pulled away from me, stripping out of his robes and shoes. I followed him and let him pull me close, his hands running through my hair gently.

''Thank you for the party, Love.''

I nodded.

''Next year, I'll make sure to throw you a bigger one. One with more people...and your siblings. Even if I have to drug and drag them.''

He smiled and kissed me.

''I liked our party. I don't need anyone else but you.''

I shook my head, but let it drop, not wanting to upset him anymore.

''Go to sleep, Gaara. I love you.''

He nodded and closed his eyes.

''I love you too, Ria. Thank you.''

I smiled and kissed his forehead, watching him drift off to sleep.


//////


I was startled awake when the body that held me stiffened suddenly. I opened my eyes and found Gaara staring fearfully at the ceiling.

I frowned and laid my hand on his side.

''What's wrong?''

His eyes shifted to mine.

''I heard a scream.''

I sat up quickly and looked at him with wide eyes.

''What?''

He shook his head and shrugged.

''It wasn't real, Love. It was just a part of my dream. But it woke me up.''

I sighed and relaxed.

''Don't scare me like that again. I thought that someone was hurt, and you didn't go check because you didn't want to leave me alone.''

I groaned and flung my body on top of his, causing him to 'oof.'

His arms came around me and I lifted my head to look at him as he spoke.

''Hello there, Love.''

I grinned.

''I wanted to lay back down.''

He smirked.

''I don't mind. You just knocked the air from my lungs.''

I shrugged.

''Yeah, but you like it when I lay on you like this.''

He nodded and kissed me quickly.

''You're right, I do. And I can hold you closer this way.''

I smiled and nuzzled into his chest, my voice whining slightly.

''I don't want you to go back to work.''

He sighed and began to pull his fingers through my hair.

''I don't want to go back either. But I have too.''

I sighed and shook my head. For some reason I had a really bad feeling about him leaving.

''Would you like to go with me?''

I shook my head and kissed his shoulder.

''No, I better not. You're ninja's don't seem to like me there during your working hours.''

Gaara growled and tightened his arms.

''They'll get over it.''

I laughed and looked up at him in amusement.

''With you glaring at them whenever they even look at me, I would imagine that they wouldn't have a choice.''

Outwardly. Inwardly, they would still be just as aggravated with my presence as before...if not more so.

Gaara's evil smirk caught my attention and he nodded.

''They wouldn't. I like having you with me and if they don't agree with that, than I'll...''

I kissed him, breaking off his threat and causing him to groan. He tangled his hands in my hair and deepened the kiss. It was harsh, and I couldn't stop wondering about what was wrong with him. It was like he had a major blood-lust tonight and I couldn't understand why.

I pulled away after a few minutes, having to breathe and Gaara smirked at me. He was pulling me down to kiss him again when a loud bang from downstairs caused me to jump. It was followed by a laugh and I looked at Gaara who was glaring at the door, his voice unamussed when he spoke.

''Kankuro's way of dealing with our mother's death is to get drunk.''

My mouth fell open and I frowned.

''Are you serious?''

He nodded, but didn't get a chance to do more than that since Kankuro had begun banging on Gaara's door.

''Hey, Gaara!''

I rolled my eyes as I heard the slur of his voice.

''C'mon, baby brother. Open the door.''

He hiccuped suddenly and I turned wide eyes to Gaara.

''What did he do with Misa?''

Gaara shrugged.

''Not my problem.''

I scoffed and smacked his shoulder sharply. He jumped in surprise and stared at me, his mouth gaping.

''Did you just hit me?''

I shook my head.

''No, I smacked you. It's completely different.''

He frowned.

''How so?''

I shrugged and tried to ignore Kankuro's slurred ramblings.

''Well, you hit someone with the intention to cause pain, but you smack someone when you want to show the person that you're irritated without words. And smacking someone doesn't normally hurt the person.''

Gaara's eyes narrowed and his arms tightened around me.

''I don't think that there's an actual difference, Ria.''

I gulped. It wasn't normally a good thing when he used my name in that tone of voice.

I smiled at him sweetly and shrugged.

''Oh, don't be mad, Gaara.''

I leaned down and began to lay light kisses to his neck, feeling his body relax.

He sighed, his arms loosening.

''Fine. I'm not mad, Love. Just a bit stunned.''

I smiled against his skin. Stunned I could handle. But his anger tonight wasn't something that I was sure I could deal with.

''Why did you 'smack' me anyways?''

I shrugged and hummed, continuing to lay gentle kisses against his skin.

''You said that what Kankuro had done with Misa wasn't your problem.''
Gaara pulled on my hair gently, wanting me to meet his eyes.

''It's not, Love. Whatever they do in their relationship has nothing to do with me.''

I groaned and rolled my eyes, huffing roughly.

''What is it with guys and their being unconcerned about their friends well-being?''

No matter how many years I had spent around men, it never failed to surprise me about how callous they were when it came to their friends love lives or feelings.

I shook my head and Gaara shrugged suddenly.

''Misa isn't really my friend though, Love. She's yours.''

I nodded.

''I know that. But Kankuro is your brother, and drunk, but you don't seem to care about that either.''

Gaara smirked and shook his head.

''Kankuro getting drunk is nothing new, Love. And nothing has come from it before. So I don't see the point in worrying about him.''

I frowned. If he acts like YOU do when intoxicated, then I would say that there is definant cause to worry. At least for Misa.

I growled suddenly.

''You're such a jerk sometimes.''

He rolled his eyes and smiled.

''I think that we've established that. But as long as you love me, I don't see a reason for me to change.''

I stuck my tongue out at him and he grinned, pulling me down to kiss him. I sighed against his mouth, only to pull away to laugh as Kankuro began singing loudly...and off-key.

I rested my head against Gaara's shoulder, giggling softly. I guess that Kankuro is just a funny drunk.

The singing began to fade slightly and Gaara sighed.

''I think that he's finally going to his room. He'll need to sleep that off.''

I snorted.

''I hope that he has a hangover when he wakes up.''

Gaara looked at me in surprise.
''Is there a reason why you're wishing for my brother to be sick?''

I shrugged.

''Not really. I just don't see the point in getting drunk when you're trying to forget things. It may work for a short time, but once that haze wears off, you not only have to deal with the pain again, but you're sick from drinking as well. It's stupid.''

Gaara paused for a moment before speaking.

''Did the men in the Akatsuki drink?''

I frowned.

''You're meaning the men I was around, right? Dolly, Die, and Weasel?''

He nodded and I shrugged.

''Die and Weasel would have maybe two or three drinks, but Dolly refused to even touch anything with alcohol. He didn't want his senses dulled. And he didn't like the taste.''

Gaara nodded.

''That explains your dislike of it then. I realized years ago, that when a parent hates something, the child will normally hate that thing as well.''

I saw the sad light that entered his eyes and realized that Gaara was talking about his childhood. If the adults hadn't been scared of Gaara, then the children wouldn't have been either. But because of the parents warning them to stay far away from him, they had grown to hate and fear him.

I sighed and nuzzled into his neck, beginning to run my fingers through his hair.

''Don't think about that, Gaara. That older generation is wiser now and know better. And this new generation loves you. They can't see you as anything other than their great leader.''

I grinned suddenly and pulled back to look at him.

''I was in the park with Misa the other day, and even saw some young children arguing over who got to play your character in a game. It was funny how the children see you.''

He smiled and kissed my forehead, speaking against my skin.

''I have to leave now.''

I whined and moved to look at him with a pout.

''Really?''

He nodded and flipped us suddenly so he could lay on top of me, nuzzling my neck gently before standing up.

''I'll see you tonight, Love.''

I sat up and sighed.

''Yeah, I guess. Since you have to leave me.''

He smiled hesitantly.

''I...I love you, Ria.''

I blinked at the hesitation in his voice and moved to stand in front of him, searching his eyes. I could feel that something was wrong, but there was nothing in his expression that hinted to what it was.

Gaara frowned and wrapped his arms around me.

''Is something wrong, Love?''

I shook my head, wanting to ask him the same and forcing myself to keep from asking him to not leave. He needed to go be the Kazekage, and I needed to get over this paranoia that I was having.

I leaned up to kiss him quickly before pulling away with a smile.

''I'm sure it's nothing. I'll see you later, okay?''

He nodded and pulled on his robes and gourd before walking towards the door. He gave me one more hesitant look over his shoulder before walking out the door and closing it behind him.

I sighed once I heard the front door close and walked towards the window. One thing that I had learned about Gaara, was that he had to have a clear view of the moon, and this window made it where he could easily see it rise.

I smiled and thought about his expression as he watched the pale sphere take over for the scorching Suna sun. It was unguarded, and though he tried to be open with me, it was only when he was watching the moon that he lost any insecurities and worry.

I shook my head and sighed as I remembered the last full moon. Shukaku had been gaining strength rapidly, and was now as fully healed as he could be. Tormenting Gaara with the worst visions, causing Gaara to cause himself harm.

As soon as the sun set he had begun to cry out and drag his nails across his arms. I hadn't been able to get to him before he had caused some damage, but for the rest of the night I had had to pin his hands down, though he broke free a few times and by the end of the night had bloody marks on his arms and sides.

When I had finally calmed him down it was only an hour until sunrise and he had left the room without a word, still in a daze.

I had found him sitting on the roof, staring up at the moon. I knew that I couldn't leave him alone and had wrapped the blanket that I had brought with me around us, snuggling into his side, waiting out the night.

I shook the memories from my head and looked towards the rising moon, stumbling away from the window with a surprised gasp.

Instead of the sliver of silver that I had expected, a full sphere stared back at me, the face in it visibly smiling. As if laughing at my obliviousness to it's cycle.

I took a deep breath and sat on the edge of the bed, my legs wanting to buckle.

Maybe everything would be alright. Gaara hadn't seemed much different when he left. And he had dealt with this for years...so he could handle this one night alone, right?

I groaned and let my head fall into my hands as my unsympathetic brain reminded me that Gaara had dealt with Shukaku for years, but for 13 of those years had killed someone every full moon, and the rest of the time took the night off from being Kazekage because he didn't want to risk the chance of losing control if made angry.

But now he was at his office, probably surrounded by people that didn't realize that Shukaku was still around and causing him torment every full moon.

I growled and tried to smother the annoying voice. Gaara would be fine. I just needed to take my mind off of this. I stood up and walked towards the door. I would bake. Yeah. Making cookies seemed like a good idea.

As I opened the door, I heard the front door swing open and a terrified voice yelled up the stairs.

''Temari, Kankuro! Help!''

I ran down the stairs and nearly collided with Matsuri, who instantly grabbed my wrist and pulled me towards the door.

''There...There's something wrong with Kazekage-sensei. He hurt one of the council members. He's locked himself inside his office and there's awful noises coming from the inside. It...It's almost like he still has the Shukaku?''

She gave me a frightened look and I made a shrugging motion causing her to groan.

''Oh, no. He does, doesn't he?''

I nodded and she made a scared noise before pulling me into the Tower. I saw that a group of men were standing in the reception room, one of them cradling a twisted and bleeding arm.

He shot me a glare when he saw me and sneered.

''We sent you to get Temari or Kankuro, Matsuri. Not her.''

I frowned at the way he looked at me and put my hands on my hips.

''Temari and Kankuro are indisposed at the moment, so you're stuck with me. Sorry.''

Another of the council members stepped forwards, his hands raised.

''As long as you can calm the Kazekage down, I don't care who you are.''

I nodded and looked towards the closed door as a loud bang sounded from the room.

''What happened to make him so angry?''

The man with the bleeding arm huffed and glared at me.

''That is between myself and the Kazekage.''

I glared

''Look. If you want me to help, then you need to tell me what got him upset. If not, I can just leave and you can deal with this.''

I saw all of their eyes widen and the man frowned.

''I mentioned that I and another council member were looking for him an appropriate spouse.''

I rolled my eyes and three of the other council members turned towards the bleeding man, beginning arguing with him.

I smirked at Matsuri and shook my head, whispering conspiratorially

''More competition, huh?''

Her eyes widened in surprise.

''Are you not concerned? He is serious about wanting Gaara to be with someone else.''

I shrugged, uncaringly.

''You know as well as I do, that Gaara won't do anything like that if he doesn't want too.''

She nodded and I moved towards the door, preparing to burn it down, though a hesitant voice stopped me.

''We...we would prefer if you didn't destroy that door. It is an artifact from the first Kazekage.''

I groaned and looked towards the man.

''So you want me to try to calm an enraged Kazekage down through a closed door?''

They shrugged and I shook my head before knocking on the door.

''Gaara? Can I come in?''

I heard a shuffling noise and a second later, the door was opened, sand wrapped around my waist and I was pulled inside, the door slamming closed again behind me.

Only the moon lit the room and I looked around, finding a mess: The couch had been tipped over, the desk propped up on it's end against the wall, the papers and scrolls torn.

The bookshelves were all turned over, the books thrown carelessly around the room. I saw a movement from a dark corner of the room and flinched as I saw Gaara, the shadows not hiding the sticky, red substance that fell from the wounds on his face and neck.

I took a hesitant step towards him, my arms outstretched.

''Gaara...''

His sudden movement caused me to freeze and he was suddenly behind me, a kunai held to my neck, his mouth close to my ear.

I forced myself to relax, reaching a hand up to grasp his, not trying to pull it away, but releasing a sigh as I felt how steady it was. He wouldn't accidentally cut me then.

He drew in a deep breath, like he was smelling me and growled, causing my hair on the back of my neck to stand on end. That wasn't Gaara's voice.

''So they sent you to calm down the angry Kazekage? Probably the smartest thing they've ever done.''

I bit my lip and forced myself to not move, aware of the kunai that was still at my throat.

''Shukaku?''

He chuckled darkly.
''Correct. And you are, Ria. It is nice to finally meet you in person. Though, as you know, this isn't my true form. But it is the best I can do at the moment.''

He pulled away from me, slicing my neck shallowly, speaking over his shoulder as I wiped away the small trickle of blood.

''You really should be more cautious though, dear. If you walked into any other creature's den when he was enraged, you could be seriously hurt.''

I shrugged and moved to perch on the edge of the overturned couch.

''That may be true, but I wouldn't be going into a creature's 'den' if it wasn't Gaara's. Though, Shukaku, I would prefer it if you didn't refer to me as 'dear.'''

He frowned and tapped the corner of his mouth with the still bloody Kunai.

''And why is that?''

I frowned harshly

''Because it reminds me of the Snakeman.''

I saw him pause before he nodded.

''Orochimaru? I can understand why you would hate that then.''

He grinned before continuing.

''So, girl, I have to say that I'm glad that I'm finally getting a chance to speak with you. You've been doing a good job of helping the boy keep control. And he probably wouldn't have even lost it tonight if it weren't for that council member. Do you know what he told us?''

I shrugged.

''He said that he wanted to find Gaara a better spouse.''

Shukaku snorted in amusement and shook his head.

''He busted into the office, claiming that he had found the perfect candidate for the boy to marry, she had a good bloodline and would unite Suna to another village. When the boy declined the offer, the man became angry and let it slip that he was the one that organized the attack on you.''

Shukaku laughed and I forced back a shudder as the sound made my skin prickle uncomfortably.

''Can you imagine how angry the boy was? Visions of what you looked like after the attack kept flashing through his mind...it was magnificent. He lost control briefly and crushed the mans arm, though he threw him from the room before doing anything else.'' He shook his head.

''It took me ten minutes to take control after that. Much longer than it used too.''

I nodded, keeping my anger at the council member pushed to the side.

''Are you going to let Gaara have control of his body, again?''

He nodded and waved a hand in a dismissive gesture.

''Of course. I'm not strong enough to keep control for more than an hour. Two at the most.''

He shrugged nonchalantly.

''And you humans annoy me. All of the fickle emotions...''

He shook his head in disgust and took something out of his robe, turning it over in his hands. After a moment I recognized the paperweight that I had bought for Gaara.

''Now tell me, girl: What makes you think that raccoons are cute?''

I shrugged, wondering what the point of this conversation was.

''I don't know. I just do. They look like little buglers''

Shukaku rolled his eyes and set the figurine on a tipped over bookcase, his eyes glowing strangely in the dark room as they leveled on me.

''I wondered about you in the beginning. Before the boy even realized that I was still around. I feel things that the boy feels, and the things that he feels for you are more intense feelings than I have felt in a long time. If you had hurt him, I would have felt that pain like it was my own. And though it would have caused him to revert back to the way he used to be, it could also have led to him killing himself, and I didn't have the strength to stop him like I did when he was younger.

But you turned out to be more help to him than anyone else. Even that lying uncle of his.''

I frowned and crossed my arms, tilting my head to the side curiously.

''You seem to care about Gaara, Shukaku. Why do you torment him if you care?''

He snarled, his eyes flashing.

''The only reason I care about the boy's feelings is because he is my vessel, and if he kills himself, I die as well.''

I frowned before shaking my head, not believing him.

''You're lying. You do care about Gaara. Not just because he's your vessel. You feel a bond with him.''

Shukaku growled and I hid a shudder as he stalked towards me. He pulled me up harshly and I winced as I crashed into his chest, his arms tight around my upper arms, his eyes glowing brighter as he snarled.

''I can't hurt you because the boy will not let me, but understand when I tell you that if you ever confuse my self preservation with caring again, the next time that I take control, I will kill one of the villagers. And not even the boy will be able to stop me.''

I nodded, swallowing hard and he loosened my arms from his bruising grip, almost causing me to fall back as he pushed me slightly.

''Good. We will have to wait and see, but I think that the boy might have picked a good mate for himself. I'll have to tell him how to keep you.''

I frowned and was about to ask what he meant when he pressed his lips to mine bruisingly and biting my lip harshly, causing it to bleed. I whimpered and pulled away, only to have Gaara's body to slump into my arms with a groan.

We sunk to the floor and he squinted up at me, his eyes their normal aqua shade. He sighed and rested against me.

''Hi, Love.''

I smiled and kissed his forehead, relaxing my tensed body.

''Hi, Gaara. Are you alright.''

He nodded.

''Yeah. I'm sorry that you had to go through that. I had hoped that you would never have to meet Shukaku.''

I sighed and shook my head.

''It's alright. Excluding that threat at the end, he wasn't so bad to talk to.''

Gaara nodded and took a look around the room, his shoulders slumping even more.

''I need to clean this up.''

I shook my head and tightened my arms.

''You can clean tomorrow. Let's just go home tonight. It's late and you normally would have sent everyone else home by now.''

He sighed and looked at the door with dull eyes.

''Are they all still out there?''

I nodded.

''They were when I came in here. Even the man that you mauled.''

He flinched and closed his eyes, his jaw tightening before he spoke.

''He was the reason that you were hurt. You were in such pain, for weeks and it was all his fault. And then it turns out that he wants me to marry some chick that only wants me because I'm the Kazekage.''

He was getting angry again and I kissed him quickly.

''Enough. Don't think about it right now. You're tired, and stressed, and angry tonight. Let's just forget that any of this happened for right now and we'll deal with it in the morning. Sound like a plan?''

He smiled slightly and nodded, opening his eyes to look at me.

''Alright.''

He stood up, pulling me with him and I traced one of the rapidly healing lines that lined his face.

''You hurt yourself again. I hate it when you do that.''

He nodded and shrugged.

''I know. But I couldn't help it.''

I sighed.

''I know. At least we're finished with another full moon for a month.''

He nodded and paused before opening the door, speaking slowly, clearly not liking what he was about to say.

''We need to tell my siblings about Shukaku. Tomorrow morning. Otherwise they'll hear about what happened tonight from someone else.''

I nodded.

''Yeah. That would be bad.''

He sighed and drew his shoulders back before opening the door and walking out, like nothing had happened. All eyes turned towards him fearfully, the silence almost deafening.

Gaara paused and pointed to the man with the twisted arm, his eyes cold and his voice commanding.

''Matsuri, place that man under house arrest until I can figure out what to do with him tomorrow.''

Matsuri's eyes widened and one of the council members took a step forward.

''But, Kazekage-sama, this is highly inappropriate''

Gaara sent him a glare and the man instantly shut his mouth, his eyes lowering to the floor quickly. Matsuri grabbed the injured man's good arm, ignoring his protests as she turned to Gaara.

''Should I get a medical ninja to heal his arm?''

Gaara sneered before nodding.

''Fine. But make sure that he isn't left unguarded.''

She nodded and pulled the man towards the door, the other council members looking on in stunned silence. They turned back to Gaara with curious eyes and he raised a hand.

''I will explain everything in our meeting tomorrow morning. But tonight, we all need some sleep.''

They nodded and I saw the secretary move towards us slowly, holding a letter out to me. I frowned but took it, looking at the writing on the front of the envelope.

I sighed as I recognized the hand-writing before moving to follow Gaara, who was already leaving the tower.

Once outside, Gaara gave me a curious look and I shook my head.

''I'll tell you when we get home, you're just going to get angry again.''

He frowned but nodded, quickly pulling me to him and transporting us into his bedroom. I sighed, hoping that I would have at least had the walk home to think of what to say to him. He dropped the gourd to the floor and stripped out of his robes before sitting on the edge of the bed.

He looked at me expectantly and I handed him the envelope, which had my name printed on it, in Salem's writing.

Gaara took the letter with a confused look and I shrugged.

''I haven't read it yet, but I'm sure that I know what it says.''

He frowned and I watched him for a moment, seeing his expression cloud with anger, before I looked to the floor, wringing my hands as he spoke.

''They're finished with the rebuilding.''

I nodded, refusing to look at him.

''I figured.''

He crumpled the letter and threw it across the room.

''Salem said that if you weren't back within three days that he was coming to Suna and dragging you back.''

I nodded again.

''Yeah.''

Gaara growled suddenly and stood in front of me.

''Will you look at me?!''

My eyes instantly flew to his and I bit my lip at his angry gaze, his voice still angry.

''I don't want you to leave. I like having you with me. This just isn't fair. Salem should be able to deal with not having you, he has Toru. But I need you with me.''

He snarled and grabbed my upper arms, reminding me of what Shukaku had done earlier, only without the harsh grip.

''You are mine, Ria.''

I frowned, not liking him referring to me like a possession

''You don't own me, Gaara.''

He shook his head and let go of my arms, sinking back to the edge of the bed dejectedly.

''That's not what I mean. I...I'm not good at explaining this. You're not an object, and I know that I don't 'own' you. But...you are mine. Just like I am yours.''

I bit my lip, trying to understand what he meant. I walked towards him and he instantly drew me closer, leaning his face against my stomach.

''I don't think that I can survive without you, Ria. I've been alone most of my life and I don't think that I can handle it anymore. Don't leave me alone.''

I sighed and wrapped my arms around his shoulders, stroking his hair gently.

''I can't leave you, Gaara. At least not for very long, or without being miserable.''

I pulled on his hair and he tilted his head to look up at me, his eyes sad.

''I won't ever leave you completely, unless you tell me you don't want me. Okay?''

He sighed and shrugged.

''I would prefer it if you didn't leave me at all.''

I shook my head and he pulled away, stripping off his shirt and speaking in a sigh.

''Let's just go to bed. We'll talk about your leaving tomorrow. But for tonight, I'm just too tired for this.''

I nodded and went to change into pajamas. When I got back, the light was off and he was fast asleep.

I smiled softly as I crawled in beside him and he mumbled, wrapping his arms around me instantly.

He was really tired if he went to sleep this quickly. I shook my head and nuzzled into his chest. There was a lot that we would have to deal with in the morning, telling his siblings about Shukaku, dealing with the council, cleaning up Gaara's office, and his room of all the leftover birthday decorations...but for the moment, all we really needed was sleep.

I sighed and closed my eyes, falling to sleep quickly.


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