The Akatsuki's Daughter

By Jeanaye Perkey

Romance / Humor

Chapter 7

That night was interesting to say the least, several things happening that I wasn't used to.

One of which being the jealousy that I felt when Yuki was the one that was stationed at the ninja's table and how I had been almost livid when she had pressed herself into Gaara's arm. I wasn't typically a jealous person, but there was no denying that I was feeling that particular emotion when I felt strangely smug as Gaara had glared at her so coldly that it would have made a glacier look warm in comparison and she had backed away from him, ignoring him for the rest of the night.

Mona had decided rather quickly that she liked Sai and had every intention on getting to know him better, somehow managing to spend the majority of her time in the seat next to him when she had everyone taken care of at her tables.

I had mentioned that to Misa, who was working upstairs with me, with a laugh and she had blushed before confessing that she found Kankuro attractive and would have been doing the exact same thing if she had been stationed around their table. I had grinned at her and teased her relentlessly the remainder of the night, finding it funny when she would huff and stick her tongue out at me, taking everything I said good-naturedly.

Her good humor left briefly however, when some drunk idiot grabbed her and pulled her into his lap, telling her about how she didn't need to look for another man when he was right there for her, his breath making her gag slightly.

Getting him to let go of her had been rather hard, his senses so dulled that he couldn't feel pain anymore.

Every time Misa would slap him, he would simply laugh and pull her tighter to him, making rude comments as he did so. I had finally stepped in when I realized that there was no way that Misa could get herself out of his hold and calmly told him that if he didn't stop harassing the staff, that he would be thrown out and never allowed back.

He had laughed drunkenly and cooed at me, asking if I was going to make him and I had nodded, picking up one of the table knives and flashing the blade at him, explaining that I would...if I had too.

I'm not sure if it was my calm attitude about the whole situation, or if it was the flash of cold steal, but he was quick to push Misa off of his lap and apologize. Leaving as soon as he could get his legs to work, staggering down the steps in his drunken haze.

I had watched him go before placing the knife back down on the table and turned to find a slightly shaken Misa, sighing softly before I spoke gently.

''You should take a break. That's not the best thing to have on your mind while you work. Especially not up here.''

She glared at me, which I always found more amusing than frightening, her hands on her hips as she replied.

''I'll take a break when it's my time to take a break. Not before. That stuff happens a lot and you know it. The only difference with this one, was that he was too drunk for me to take care of things on my own.''

I shook my head and laughed, giving in to her without a fight. If she wasn't fazed, then far be it from me to force her to worry.

''Alright, Misa. You do what you want.''

She had smiled at me and nodded, turning back to the tables that had watched the whole ordeal and began to tease her about it, Misa taking everything happily and joking about it herself.


My breaks were taken downstairs, sitting at the table with the ninjas. Excluding Sai, who had decided that he wanted to be closer to Mona and had drifted over to her side of the room and out of sight of the others.

I had laughed more than I was used to, Naruto being his normal self, doing or saying something stupid that would make Sakura angry and causing her to lash out at him. Needless to say, he had a few bumps and bruises before the night was over.

Gaara was quiet, but would smirk ever so often and I caught him looking at me a few times with a curious expression on his face, causing my heartbeat to sped up annoyingly and confuse me more than I already was when it came to the boy.


My shift ended rather early and I took most of the ninja's back to my home by myself, Salem having found a girl that he wanted to spend more time with and Sai deciding to stay until Mona closed up for the night. I wondered briefly if she might not take me up on my joking and exchange Misa for Sai for the night.

It would have made Kankuro happy, I was sure. He had spent the majority of the night shooting glances towards my oblivious friend and, with a physical push from Temari, had introduced himself to her during one of her breaks, having fallen into the girl when his sister pushed him. Temari making the joke on the way home that he had 'fallen' for the girl and causing him to glare at her.

He had made plans to come back to Aubry's earlier the next day in order to spend some quiet time talking with her.

For the most part though, the remaining ninja's were rather tired, or ready to be away from the noise and I was more than happy to lead them back to my home.

Naruto, as always, was far too hyper for anyone's good, including his own. Running ahead of all of us and causing Sakura to scream at him to 'stop his running.' While Kankuro seemed to be close to skipping, Gaara glaring at him when he would actually make a small leap and Temari would sigh every so often, mumbling to herself about her 'stupid little brothers.' I spent the walk laughing silently at their antics and wondering how I had gotten mixed up with these eccentric, but exciting people.

The ninjas went straight to their designated rooms when we entered the house, all of them already up the stairs before I had even let Soar inside, leaving me to make my way up to my own room in silence. Something that had become strange for the past week in my house.

I sighed as I prepared for bed, throwing my drink and food stained outfit to the floor to be washed the next day and pulled on night clothes before walking into my adjoining bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth, feeling less tired than I usually did when I got off of work.

I was pulling back the covers, preparing to crawl into my bed anyways, happy to have it to myself since Sora had decided to sleep in the kitchen, when I heard a soft thump on the roof. The noise startling me and causing me to look up at my ceiling as If I could see the source of the noise through the plaster.

You would think that since I had a house full of ninjas that one soft thump wouldn't bother me, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I should go check...just in case. Especially since it had sounded so close to my room.

I opened the window and stood at it hesitantly, staring at it for a moment before scrambling onto the roof, trying not to make any noise, the long legs of my pajamas making that harder than it should have been as they continued to get caught on the shingles and nails.

I stood up carefully when I was fully on the roof, looking around in the darkness and almost immediately finding someone with red hair sitting a few feet in front of me, his back towards me and his face lifted towards the moon.

For just a moment I had thought that Dolly had come to see me, but the eyes that turned my way were not the steely gray that I knew so well, but a vibrant aqua.

I walked closer to Gaara and hesitated before I spoke, my tongue tied condition seeming to come back now that we weren't surrounded by the lights and noise of Aubry's.

''Can I sit with you? Or did you come up here to be alone?''

I mentally kicked myself. Of course he had come up here to be alone. Why else would he be on the roof. Also, this was my roof. If I wanted to sit on the hard shingles, that was my decision. Whether he agreed or not. Stupid.

I was still berating myself when he replied, catching my attention as he nodded.

''I would probably like the company.''

I hesitated before sitting a few inches away from him, even with the distance, feeling as if I was still too close and forcing myself to not move away, even as the silence became more uncomfortable with every passing minutes.

We stared at the moon, neither of us speaking and I debated on simply leaving until he turned towards me, his voice soft.

''Ria?''

I turned to look at him, relieved that he was the first to break the silence and wondering why it was so hard for me to talk to him.

''Do you love Salem?''

I answered him without hesitating.

''Yes, of course I love Salem. He's one of my best friends.''

He shook his head, a small frown coming to his face as he had trouble phrasing his words.

''No, I mean...do you love him like...like...''

I thought that I knew where he was going and thought that I could help him out.

''Do I love him like a boyfriend?''

He nodded, seeming to be relieved with my help and I shook my head before answering.

''No. I love Salem as a friend and as my adopted big brother, but I don't think that it ever crossed my mind to love him as more than that.''

Gaara nodded and we fell into silence again as he seemed to process that before he spoke again, his voice more sure this time.

''Do you love Naruto like a boyfriend?''

I barked out a laugh, unable to help myself. Wondering suddenly where he would ever get such an absurd idea, but answered none the less, still giggling slightly.

'' No, Gaara. Naruto is just a really good friend. From what he's told me, there is a girl in his village that likes him, and I'm trying to convince him to go out with her. Is there a reason why you're asking?''

He looked back at the moon, and I could see that he was contemplating about whether or not to tell me. Finally he sighed and nodded, his eyes drifting between the moon and my face as he spoke softly.

''There's a reason.''

He looked back towards me fully, his eyes serious and holding a vulnerability that I hadn't seen from the young Kazekage before, his words slightly rushed when he spoke again.

''I...I think that I may be in love with you. I know that it seems a bit fast but...I've been watching you since we got here, and I've never felt like this before. I don't expect for you to feel the same way, I just felt like I needed to tell you.''

He stopped, forcing us back into silence and I blinked and him in surprise. I hadn't been expecting a confession, and I wondered if he was right and I did feel a bit rushed.

I realized as he ducked his head and began to stand, that my silence was hurting him and I quickly grabbed on to his coat, causing him to look down at me and I held up a finger, unable to force my voice to work beyond a whisper.

''Just...give me minute. I'm processing.''

He nodded and sat back down, allowing me to keep my tight hold on his coat that forced him to sit closer than he had been before. It took quite a while for me to calm my racing heart and force my voice to work beyond a whisper, the thoughts in my mind having been scattered and hard to pin down so that I could respond to him.

When I finally spoke again my voice was stronger, though far more breathless than I liked, making me wince slightly, my gaze switching between his face and the moon.

''I think I may be beginning to fall in love with you too. I know that I like you more than I've ever liked anyone else before. However, I don't think its right to say that you love me until you find out some things about me.''

I paused to take another breath, knowing that what I was about to tell him would probably cause him to hate me, but I would rather he hate me after knowing the truth, than claim to love me without knowing the reality.

I glanced at him long enough to see him nod before I turned my attention back to the moon as I spoke, not having the courage to look at him as I told him about my life.

''When I was little, my parents died and I was taken in by my Uncle and Aunt.''

I continued to tell him my life story from there. Including some things that I had never told anyone besides Dolly and Salem. About my interactions with Orochimaru and why I disliked him so much.

When I was around six years old, there had been an abundance of missions that required all three of my typical caretakers to be away from H.Q. and sometimes there was no one around to watch me.

This would typically make Dolly nervous, but he didn't really have a choice in the matter, normally leaving one of his puppets to keep watch over me. One of these times however, he had known that he would need as much of his chakra as possible and I had convinced him that I would be fine and that it was more important that he come back safely than it was for me to have a babysitter. Die had agreed with me, being the one that was traveling with him during this mission, Orochimaru having been given something else entirely to deal with.

Dolly had hesitated for a while but agreed after a while, not wanting to argue with me too much since I had a cold and he had worried that too much fighting would tire me out and he wouldn't be there to take care of me if that happened.

He had warned me that if anyone besides Weasel and Kisame got home before he did to stay in my room, or better yet in HIS room. I had promised that I would, and he had given me one last look before he and Die had left.

I had spent most of the time they were gone in my room, reading, sleeping, or making up games to keep myself entertained. But a few hours later, my stomach had began to growl at me and I had been forced to make my way towards the kitchen, being careful to listen for any sign that someone was back from their missions.

When I had gotten to the kitchen, I had peaked around the corner to make sure that no one was there and breathed a sigh of relief as I made my way inside to make myself a sandwich. I had been almost finished when I caught a glimmer of something by the doorway, causing me to glance up curiously, thinking that it was my imagination, or the bright lights bouncing off of the stone walls like it did sometimes.

Instead of finding an empty doorway like I had hoped for, I had found a grinning Orochimaru leaning against the frame and watching me.

I had swallowed hard and tried to keep myself from panicking. Out of all the members, he was the one that I always avoided. If Dolly or Weasel left the room that I was in and Orochimaru appeared, out of wherever he appeared from, I would sneak out whenever possible.

This time however, I had been trapped. He was blocking the only exit and I hadn't been able to think of a way to get around him. I had tried to ignore him, finishing making my sandwich as fast as possible, aware of his eyes watching me silently the entire time and feeling my skin prickle at the uncomfortable feeling.

When I had finished, I had picked up my plate and began to walk past him, almost making it out of the door and having the brief thought that he was going to let me go without a hassle, before almost shrieking as his cold hand had wrapped around my arm, beginning to drag my small self in the opposite direction of my room.

He had been dragging me towards the door leading to the outside and as I had struggled against him I had realized suddenly that his pants, hands and sleeves where covered in blood, the realization making me stop my struggles for a moment. He had turned to smile at me, his voice making my skin crawl when he spoke.

''I think that it's about time that you learned what really happens at the Akatsuki. I'm a bit tired of Sasori letting you think that it's a pleasant place. We're killers, not some child's babysitters, or family, or whatever lies he's filled your small head with.''

His grin had widened and he had continued to tug me along before he spoke again.

''I am going to show you what exactly we do here, what happens when one of our own betrays us. That way you will know what will await you if you ever decide to talk about your 'happy family.' Really, he's putting all of us in danger by keeping you. If I had my way, you wouldn't even be here right now. He's become far too attached to you and that is dangerous for one of our kind.''

I had continued to struggle, trying hard to get free and doubled my efforts as we got closer to the door. When his grip still wouldn't loosen, no matter how much I wriggled, I had decided that desperate times called for desperate measures and opened my mouth wide before taking a bite out of his hand, clamping down hard and ignoring the taste of blood that filled my mouth.

He had yelped and released my arm to cradle his hand, giving me the chance to run, my lungs aching for a breath that my stuffed up nose wouldn't allow me to take.

I had ran past my room, knowing that he could find me easily in there and slammed through Dolly's door, taking the time to lock it behind me before looking around the sparsely furnished room, searching for a place to hide. I had known that the lock wouldn't hold him off for long, but I had hoped that I was a good enough hider that he wouldn't find me.

I had finally decided on the closet, not having many other options and hoped that I could blend in with the many unfinished puppets and their spare parts. If I was lucky, then he wouldn't be able to tell the difference between them and myself.

I had opened the door and quickly tried to bury myself under the mountain of junk, some of the things on the shelves falling on me in my haste to make myself unnoticeable and sufficiently hiding me from plain view.

I had worked on trying to calm my breathing, breathing through my mouth when my stuffy nose wouldn't allow me to inhale silently and knew that if there was one thing that would give me away, it would be a harsh breath.

I had listened and shook under my mountain of camouflage as the door rattled, praying that Dolly would be home soon. That was as long as I had needed to hold out, the Snakeman not stupid enough to make Dolly mad when he was within fighting range.

I had begun to calm when the noises stopped, wondering if the Snakeman had gotten bored and left, only to almost gasp as the door opened and I had to remind myself to breathe calmly and not make a noise. Chanting to myself to not give away my hiding place. Pretending that it was just another game of Hide and Seek between Die and myself...one that I really needed to win.

I had heard him walking around the room, heard the papers rattling and the chair move as he looked under the desk. Even in that situation I hadn't been able to help but scoff silently at the obviousness of that hiding place. Next would he look under the bed?

Sure enough, after a few seconds I had heard the sheets shifting and had rolled my eyes, griping to myself at having my skill at hiding insulted. I had heard him pace the room muttering to himself and wondered if he had forgotten about the closet. I had held my breath, hoping that he would leave to look someplace else, but bit my lip hard as I had heard him chuckling, the sound having sent a fearful shiver down my spine even before he spoke.

''I know you're in here somewhere, dear. I saw you run this way, and since you can't use any jutsus I know it wasn't a substitution or a clone. You might as well come out now. It's really no use hiding, I WILL find you, and I can't promise to be entirely kind to you if you irritate me by staying hidden. I promise that I won't kill you if you come out now. Which is more than I can say if you cause me to continue to search for you.''

I had almost shaken my head, convinced that he wouldn't find me, but had reminded myself to remain still at the last minute, listening to him as he had began to speak again.

''All I want to do is show you what we do in the Akatsuki. It will be fun. Like a game.''

I had again almost shaken my head, speaking in my head without letting any noises leave my throat. I didn't want to play his games. He tortured and killed people in his games and I had wanted nothing to do with that.

I had laid there, under a pile of puppets and their parts, waiting for the closet door to open, and wondered during that time why it never did.

Sometimes I had thought that he had left, but then I would here muffled movements or words as he had muttered to himself, soft curses making their way to me through the door and causing me to smirk slightly at his irritation.

At one point he had even tried to transform himself into Dolly to lure me out, but I had known that Dolly would know where to find me and so hadn't moved from my hiding place, causing him to turn back to normal and start shouting curses at me, stomping around the room and hitting the walls as if to frighten me out, instead it had caused more puppets to fall from the shelves and land on me.

After quite a while, I had finally realized that he wasn't going to open the closet, knowing that he knew that I was in there and had wondered only for a moment why that was before closing my eyes and falling to sleep, feeling safe under my pile of puppets and their parts. Having felt that if he was going to open the door then he would have done it hours before.

I hadn't found out until I was much older that Orochimaru would never have opened that door, no matter how angry he was, he would never have opened a puppet masters closet, even he being afraid about what he would find in there, or what the dismembered puppets could do even without someone pulling their strings.


The next time I had opened my eyes I had been confused as to where I was, not having remembered for a moment why I was in complete darkness and why it smelt like wood and grease.

It had taken me quite a while to remember everything that had happened and where exactly I had been, buried under all of the junk in Dolly's closet.

I had heard the rustling papers that had been a constant noise since I had first woken up stop and my breath had hitched as I had heard the chair creak and footsteps coming towards the closet. They had stopped outside of the door and then a streak of light had flooded the dark closet, making me wince before I could stop myself.

I had forced myself to still again, hoping that he hadn't seen my small movement and wouldn't see me, or just think that I was another puppet and overlook me.

That hadn't happened however, everything that had fallen or been pulled over me had been pushed to the side and I had felt hard hands pick me up from my hiding place, causing me to struggle and screech hoarsely, neither of which I had known would do much good.

The hands that had lifted me slowly brought me to a unyielding chest and I caught the scent of wood and grease before having realized that the arms that restrained me were gentle and not the pinching grip from earlier. I had stopped moving before looking up into Dolly's gray eyes, seeing them looking back at me curiously before I had busted into tears, burying my face into his chest. The fright of the day and the stress of my cold making me far more emotional than I normally was.

He had returned to his chair, holding and rocking me back and forth as he gently petted my tangled hair, letting me cry against him without speaking.

After what had seemed like ages, I stopped crying, simply lying against Dolly's chest, glad that he didn't stop his calming movements even when he began to ask me questions, his typical routine of asking the less important ones first having made me smile slightly.

''Did you get some sleep today?''

I had nodded, not telling him that most of my sleep had come while being in his closet as I had hidden in terror, letting him ask his next question.

''Did you finish the book that Itachi wanted you to read?''

I had shaken my head, having left my book on my bed when I had left my room to get my sandwich. I had waited for what I had known would be a harder question, holding my breath.

''Are you going to tell me what you were doing in my closet?''

I had sighed, having already known what this harder question would be and hadn't answered right away, trying to find my voice before trying to piece together what had happened while he was gone, clumsily explaining it to him while he had listened patiently.

He had stayed calm for the most part and my voice had only broken twice, though I hadn't allowed any more tears to fall, knowing that they irritated Dolly as much as they did myself.

Dolly's face never changed to let on what he was feeling and he never stopped rocking me or running his fingers soothingly through my hair. My only indication of him being angry had been that his body had stiffened for a few seconds before he had caught himself and relaxed again, his voice as calm as ever when he spoke to me.

''So you haven't eaten anything at all today, have you?''

I had shaken my head and he had stood up with me, shifting me in his arms so that he could hold me better.

''Then lets go get you something to eat. It's not good for you to go so long without nourishment''

He had carried me into the room that I had always called the living room, though I was always corrected that it was just a room that people relaxed in, Dolly having sat me down in the small space on the couch between Weasel and Die. They had both seemed to realize that something was wrong and had looked between Dolly and me before looking at each other in confusion..

Weasel had put his arm around my shoulders comfortingly and Die had started to tell me about what pretty things he had seen that day and about the new hairstyles he wanted to try out. He was still talking when a loud bang had sounded from the kitchen. As if something had hit the ground, hard.

Die and Weasel had shot another glance at each other before Weasel had gotten up to investigate.

As soon as Weasel left the room I had heard Orochimaru's voice from the kitchen and had shuddered. Die had noticed and replaced Weasels arm around my shoulders before having pulled me onto his lap, his fingers pushing my hair out of my face, continuing his chatter.

A few minutes later Weasel had come back into the room and flopped down on the couch. Die had given him a questioningly look and I saw the look that he had cast down at me before he had shaken his head slightly. Die had gotten the signal and continued talking, his overly dramatic stories causing me to smile slightly and relax against him.

A few minutes later, and Dolly had come back into the room, carrying a tray with a huge sandwich, some chocolate milk and a cookie. I had scarfed everything down without much thought besides being hungry and Dolly had taken me back to his room. Having sat me down on his bed before explaining.

''I'd rather it if you slept in here tonight. I want to keep an eye on you.''

I had nodded, unwilling to argue and had crawled under the covers.

I hadn't changed out of my pajamas that day, having planned on spending most of my time in my bed. So I had laid in Dolly's bed and after a few minutes fallen asleep, having nightmares that Dolly had been forced to wake me up from, his voice calming as it always was.

I hadn't found out until some time later, when I had asked Weasel about what had happened in the kitchen, that Dolly had thrown Orochimaru against the wall and threatened him. Apparently having said that if the Snakeman ever came near me again that Orochmaru wouldn't need to worry about finding a new body, because Dolly would personally make sure that he was so torn to pieces and buried so deep in the ground that no one would be able to find him and put him back together again.

By the next week Orochimaru had left he Akatsuki and I had been far more than relieved when he was gone.


I let this sink in, feeling as if I had just reveled something very personal before I continued telling Gaara about my life, all the way up to where Naruto had shown up with him and the other ninjas.

I stopped, finishing my story and still gazing up at the moon as I let all that I had told him process. I was truthfully waiting for him to stand up and rush inside to tell the others about what kind of person I actually was and that they were leaving...He didn't.

He just continued to sit next to me, his eyes trained on my face. I finally found the courage to look at him and bit my lip as I noticed that his eyes were kind, not harsh or condemning at all. His voice the same when he spoke.

''Thank you for telling me, Ria. I would like to meet your Dolly and Die on better conditions than I did before. I think that the three of us would get along much better now.''

I stared at him, feeling more than a bit stunned.

''You're not angry?''

He shook his head and smiled gently.

''Why would I be angry?''

I shrugged and explained, wondering why he didn't already realize it.

''Because two people in my adopted family almost succeeded in killing you. That would make most people angry.''

He smiled softly and shook his head.

''Well, as you can see I don't act like most people, and if were being technical, they did succeed in killing me.''

I tilted my head, having never heard this information and finding it curious.

''But, you're not dead now.''

He shook his head.

''No. Sasori's grandmother helped me with that. If not for her, and Naruto, I would still be dead right now.''

He shot me a sheepish glance.

''With my background, I really have no right to judge people for their past.''

I smiled at him and relaxed slightly, falling back to lean against my palms.

''Thank you, Gaara.''

He looked at me curiously.

''So now that you have explained all of this to me and I've accepted it, can I tell you that I love you?''

I looked at him startled, blinking at him stupidly before I found my voice.

''After all that I told you, you still want to tell me that you love me?''

He smiled at me and nodded quickly.

''As a matter of fact, I feel as if I can say that I love you more now that I know what you have gone through. I think that it's you that wont love me after I tell you what I've done.''

He looked down sadly and I grabbed his hand that was closest to me, holding it tightly as I smiled at him encouragingly.

''Well, we still have a few hours till sunrise. So lets hear it.''

He looked down at me for a moment before sighing deeply and nodding, his hand flexing in mine before he began to tell me his story. Him being the one that kept his attention on the moon now as he spoke.


Before he was even born, a sand spirit named Shukaku had been placed inside his body. Causing his mother to die when she was giving birth to him. So even before he was out of the womb, he had killed someone.

He grew up spoiled, getting whatever he desired whenever he demanded it.

Because of this, for a long time he though that being given what he wanted was love.

As he had gotten older, and it became obvious to his father that he would never be in complete control of the sand spirit, he began sending assassins in an attempt to destroy his own son, therefore destroying the creature within him and the threat he had become to the village.

This included Gaara's uncle, who had taken care of the young boy and convinced Gaara that he loved him, being one of the only people that could calm Gaara when he felt the Shukaku getting too close to the surface. Though that soon changed when said uncle had attempted to kill Gaara, having blown himself up in a final attempt to destroy his youngest nephew.

Gaara's sand had shielded him from the explosion, saving him from facing the same death as his uncle.

When the smoke had cleared and the sand had gone back to its dormant state, a sad, hurt and angry Gaara was left behind. He had thought in that moment that nobody had really ever loved him and had held on to that belief for years after that night. He had decided then that he would love only himself and that he would never put himself in the position to be emotionally hurt by someone again.

He had made the sand carve the kanji for love on his forehead, letting everyone that saw him know that he held love only for himself, and had continued in that way until he had went to Konoha for the chunin exams.

His fight with Naruto had caused him to reconsider his life and his decision to kill people in order to make himself feel alive. After losing the battle and receiving several severe injuries, he had begun to think hard about what Naruto had said and had decided to begin repenting for his past actions.

He had tried his best to keep Shukaku under control from that point on and instead of killing innocent people had fought to protect them, both against himself and the enemies that found their way into the village.

A few years after the chunin exams he had gained the title of Kazekage, thinking that this would be the best way to help his people and keep them safe.


Gaara completed his story returning his gaze to me, his eyes and voice sad.

''See? Compared to what I've done, you're past isn't anything to be ashamed of.''

I smiled comfortingly and shook my head.

''Gaara, you're really too hard on yourself.''

His expression became confused and I rolled my eyes, still smiling gently as I spoke.

''You did choose to kill those people, though in my opinion, when it came to the assassins you didn't have much of a choice. Most of those other circumstances that caused you to become the way that you were were forced on you. Like having Shukaku put inside of you for instance, you didn't choose that for yourself.

And as for you killing your Uncle: You didn't do that. He blew himself up. There really isn't a reason for you to feel such guilt for that. I'm almost positive that had you had your way at that time, you would have preferred that he had stayed alive...even after he had tried to kill you.''

He swallowed hard, his twitching hand in mine giving away his uncertainty.

''You don't think that I'm a monster then?''

I huffed as I shook my head, smiling softly.

''I think you're a good person, not a monster. I know people that have done far worse things than you have, and they have no intention of trying to make it right.''

I paused and looked into his eyes, needing for him to understand just what my life was.

''Gaara, the men that raised me were in the Akatsuki. I love them and I don't judge them for what they have done in their pasts. So I'm not going to judge you for what you've done. Especially after all of the things that you have done to rectify those actions. That would make me a hypocrite, and I have no desire to be classified as that.''

He looked at me, shock clear on his face and I realized during his silence that it had become extremely cold during our time on the roof, the fall weather finally making itself known when I had been too distracted by our conversation to notice it before.

I shivered harshly, snapping Gaara out of his silent thinking and he looked at me worriedly.

''Are you cold? Do you want to go back inside?''

I shook my head, an idea of something that I would like better popping into my head and I scooted closer to him, leaning my head against his chest and forcing myself to remain still. I had to remember that Gaara was not used to physical contact and I gave him a moment to adjust to it before I looked up at him, wondering if he would push me away and not blaming him if he was too uncomfortable to stand my sudden closeness.

He looked down at me, seeming to be slightly panicked about what he was supposed to do and I giggled, seeing him give me a sheepish smile before I decided to help him. I grabbed his arm and draped it over me, seeing a realizing light flash in his eyes as he caught on and wrapped his arms around me loosely.

I had turned to face forwards when he had realized what to do and wasn't able to see him now, his loose arms securing me in place, but I felt the tension leave his limbs as he relaxed, getting used to the feeling of holding me and I spoke after a moment of relaxed silence.

''Are you alright with this? I know by your reaction that you aren't used to it, but are you handling it alright?''

I didn't want to push him and he had began to worry me when he didn't answer right away. I had almost turned to look at him when his voice stopped me, sounding more confused than upset when he spoke.

''Yes, this is fine. It's strange but...it's nice. But I really don't have any idea as to what I'm doing. I've never had the desire or thought to do something like this before. My...contact with other people is pretty limited.''

I laughed softly and relaxed against him again

''Don't worry. I'll help you learn as best as I can. And who knows, you may find that you know more than you realize.''

I didn't know if this made any sense to him, but I was to tired to elaborate

With his arms around me and the beat of his heart beneath my ear, I was slowly falling asleep. The last thing that I remember of being conscious was him shifting, his cheek resting on the crown of my head as he spoke.

''Ria? I love you.''

I smiled and as replied in a mumble.

''Mhmm. I love you too, Gaara.''

Not a moment later sleep claimed me, feeling warm and happy.


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