Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto and I don't make any profit out of this.

Author's Note: It's almost a month since I last updated, haven' I? Oh gosh, I'm so sorry. But still, thank you and thank you so much especially to MissBiscuits, Luv2Laf, Hiei's Shadow Tenshi, grey 0 mage, wrecked apocolypse, Lady-Azura, Baby Abby, nekodoll, Katreda, BiqQuise, Clemen, Morning Moonlight, MsMeow and t3ddiE0x for all of your inspiring reviews and also not forgetting my other readers. I'm so sorry for not being able to reply to you guys personally, but I'll try my best to do so when I have more time in my hands to spare. Only God knows how much you guys motivated me. I love writing and I'll be working hard to satisfy you guys. I hope that I'll be getting your on-going supports till the end. Peace!

Previously on In His Touch…

"But why?" The word came out for the umpteenth time from her lips that night.

"Well, I-" But before he could give his answer, she quickly cut him off.

"You want something in return do you, Kakashi-san?"

He nodded his head slowly, all the while without lifting his gaze on her.

"In fact, I do…"

"What…"

"Temari-san, I want you and me to…"

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Part 5: Is Love A Game?

It was a really bright and sunny morning and for the first time ever, Temari actually found a concrete reason to wake up. For what reason, she was unsure but she had never felt this light-hearted before. As far as she could remember, she was not a morning-person. What for? Waking up to emptiness, responsibilities and...loneliness.

There were lots of times when Temari actually wished and prayed every night before she goes to sleep that a miracle would happen and when she wakes up, she would become somebody else or warped into another world or dimension when she was no longer the so-called cold-blooded Temari of the Sand. But alas, those were only childish whims and as she grew older, she bitterly learn to accept the harsh reality and being aloof, harsh and cynical were only a part of her defense mechanism from being known to the others, or being hurt. And that even included her brothers. For all these times, she was pretending to be someone else. Someone stronger and emotionless, where the real 'her', the real vulnerable and humane 'her' was tucked hidden beneath the layers of steel cages around her heart. No one had ever managed to come near the metal barriers let alone touch it because she had always made sure that she would protect it no matter what happens.

Until last night.

Her body stood stiff, her hands clutched onto the table cloth shakily. "I can't give you whatever it is that you want, Kakashi-san. Find somebody else."

Her gaze tore away from the older man's face, her own visage shone with mere disappointment. Oh God, how many frustrations should she receive today before He decided to give her a break?

"You can't even give me a chance of friendship?"

"What?"

The Copy Ninja swept the back of his head with one swift motion, before leaning against his seat. "As what I was going to say before Temari-san, I want you and me to become friends. That's what I wanted from you."

"Friends?"

"What did you think that I wanted?"

A sudden rush of blood crept onto her rather stunned face. 'Stupid Temari! What makes you think that he's interested in doing something like 'that' with you? For Kami's sake, he must've had dozens of far more beautiful women throwing themselves at his feet and you can't even hold a candle next to them!'

"Temari-san?"

"Uh…nothing. Just forget about it. My, it's certainly hot in here, huh?" She pretended to fan herself in an attempt to hide her embarrassment.

"Or I guess…you had a better idea in mind that you'd like to share with m-"

She shook her head tensely. "NO!"

He chuckled deeply when she pouted and her face blushed a shade deeper. Kakashi felt that he knew what she was thinking of seconds before. But he was not a heartless man. Not a selfish man. No, he no longer was. But how he wished he could be selfish just this one time.

Oh yeah, and risk this connection that he had almost established with her?

She didn't want to sound like a loser, but…"No one has ever asked to be my friend before…"

"And I'm honored if you could let me be the first."

"…What?...You do?" Turquoise and onyx orbs clashed together in that silent instant.

"I want us to be friends. I understand how lonely it could be when you're away from your family and your own place. I want you to know that I would be there to help if you ever need me or just wanting some company. If Sakura's unavailable, you know who you could turn to. And I'm not obligating you to trust me, I just hope that you'll consider it. What benefit would I have if this was only a charade or a scheme?"

"Kakashi-san…"

"There's nothing else I'd rather ask than thi-"

"Thank you."

His ongoing words stopped in its tracks when he heard her gratitude, much to his surprise. "Hey, do people thank their friends for being one?"

The ever-present smile appeared on the masked Jounin's face once again. And that time, Temari did not find it to be that annoying anymore. She could even dare herself to say that his smile made her feel somewhat safe and warm inside. For once, she no longer felt isolated, no longer felt the need to hide her own nature. No longer felt the need to keep holding back.

Without her knowing, one of the many steel bars protecting her heart had been melted down by the fires of sincerity. The fire that was ignited by this mysterious male.

A ghost of a smile graced her pink lips on the short recollections. And right now she was on her way to a small café which had become a customary every morning since she stayed in Konoha for her daily intake of green tea. She walked pass by the local villagers, with not a single one of them spared her a glance of curiosity and some of them, doubt and distrust. Her knee-length marine skirt bristled under the billowing breeze and she swept a few strands of her golden bangs away as she inhaled the fresh morning air. It was only 7.30 in the morning and the sun had already risen, surrounding her with slight warmth, in contrast to the chilling wind.

Just when she turned into a corner, her petite form bumped into an obviously taller person's chest. A groan escaped her lips as her body bounced back but thankfully, the person's rather strong hands prevented her from an embarrassing fall. The limbs settled on her waist were obviously belonged to man. As soon as she recovered her slightly blurry vision, she lifted her head up with the intention to mutter a few heartless curses towards the 'blind' idiot.

"You?!" Her mouth gaped open in astonishment.

The person flashed her a really seraphic smile. A smile that melt every female species' heart in the whole village.

"What a really pleasant surprise to see you and here I thought that waking up early in the morning is such a nuisance."

"Huh? Uhm…" Her brain was bombarded with a gazillion questions. Since when did this man happen to be on an extremely friendly terms with her? Not that she could remember much from last night, though. Putting on a smug grin, she responded in her usual tone. "Well, no offense but I thought that someone like you would still be in bed with someone you brought home last night. Not that it's any of my business."

He replied to her witty remark with a cool laugh laced within a derisive tone. With his arms still holding her body tight, the man's gorgeous and quite angelic face inched closer as he bent his towering frame towards her. He spoke in a low, seductive tone, "Unfortunately, somebody else brought her back before I do. But I must admit that I kinda enjoy your company last night, Temari-san. It's such a shame we had to cut things short."

Her eyes turned from icy cold to ones with pure confusion. She was totally oblivious of the hidden meaning behind this suave man's words. "Gee, thanks for helping but would you take your hands off me? Secondly, what makes you think you have the privilege to lay a finger on me and would you mind telling me what did we do last night?"

His thin lips curved into a taunting smirk. "I don't think you can make me comply with your first request until I answer your other questions first."

She bit her lips with agitation. "You're really begging me to kill you."

He just shrugged calmly as if he knew and he was confident that he'll be getting what he's after from the fiery young chit. "I don't think you'd do it anyway after you knew what we did at the club. Everyone's been talking about us ever since."

'What the hell is he talking about?' "Wh-What do you mean?" 'Dammit, Temari. You're not losing your cool again!' She felt a resentment grew inside of her for the gallant brown-haired man, standing painstakingly close in front of her. She hated the kind of look that was held inside his hazel-hued eyes. No mistake. It was a gaze filled with unadulterated corporeal desires. She hated it. It reminded her of her judicious judgment towards most men and how it proved her right even more than before.

But this man doesn't seem to be getting nor sensing the murderous aura radiating from her. If it didn't stir him, it sort of excited him even more. No woman had ever resisted his charms and the harder to get, the more he wanted it. And this young girl thrilled him like no other. He moved closer while she tried to back away and their movements resembled more of a predator, cornering its prey. She took a few helpless steps backwards while he did the opposite, retaining and slowly closing in the distance. "What do you want?" Oblivious to her, she had actually repeated the same question she asked him last night.

"You know what it is," came the unambiguously familiar reply.

"..."

A sharp pain shot at her back after her metal fan bumped against a brick wall, the grating steel bit through her skin. She cursed silently, clearly bothered with the fact that she left her weapon holster behind. Oh God, she should've known better. How many times did she have to repeat that to herself over and over again? There are dangerous men everywhere, regardless how devilishly handsome or average looking they are.

His hands rested alongside her head, his daring eyes pierced sharply into hers, further provoking the ire in those aqua-colored orbs. The first moment he ever stood close to this girl, she had almost freaked him out especially when she impatiently charged at Shikamaru with her fan in tow, totally ignoring his role as their proctor. During that time, he wasn't really fond of her. She was ruthless, edgy and not forgetting too vicious for a girl.

But last night…he had learnt to believe the truth in how much someone can change in a certain period of time. And that right now the tables were turned, a surge of confidence sparked upon knowing that he, somehow had a small power over her. A power to see the vulnerability became visible instead of conceit on her face. Ah hell, this temptress can get nasty with him anytime.

Meanwhile her patience was wearing thin. If only she could beat the lights out of this guy but alas the only one word prevented her from doing so; reputation.

In the heat of that moment, a 'miracle' happened and it came in the form of an ANBU member who appeared and landed very near to her feet thus forcing the other man to break the contact. The ANBU member, who donned a wolf mask, knelt and bowed his head as a form of greeting.

"Ohayo, Temari-san, Shiranui-san. I'm sorry if I'm disrupting something but I carry a very important message for Temari-san from the Godaime Hokage."

"O-Ohayo." For the first time ever, Temari actually put on a genuine, or more like a relieved smile to a stranger. She was so glad; she would even gladly kiss the ANBU guy for saving her that moment! While Genma on the other hand frowned at the sudden untimely interruption. He was so damn close and this guy had appeared out of nowhere and ruined it!

The wolf ANBU cleared his throat and said, "The Godaime Hokage requests your presence at her office straight away, Temari-san."

And she was more than happy to do so.

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The moderate-sized classroom remained silent ever since he had them do a small group assignment that was to be submitted by the end of the class. The sole Nara heir leant against his chair, yawning once in a while. Of all the classes that were given to him, he found himself appreciating this class more than the others. It was definitely because of two possible reasons; One, this class was the youngest batch in the academy where that meant they would be less troublesome to deal with. Two, they were a bunch of nice 6 year olds and he had yet to encounter a mini version of him, Chouji, Kiba and Naruto among them who'd try to skip classes by jumping out of the windows and laughing at their sensei's face.

The dark-haired Chuunin laughed to himself. Thank goodness that karma doesn't work that way with him. But somehow Iruka-sensei managed to catch them and they had to 'suffer' through his punishment after class. He was a good teacher and because of him, a lot of his students excelled in their own way.

"…Is she from Suna?"

"Yeah, yeah...look at her forehead protector."

A chatter between some of his students tore him away from his musings. He stifled another yawn while asking, "What's going on here?"

An elfin-like boy pointed towards the door. "Shikamaru-sensei, there's someone outside."

His eyes moved to where the boy was pointing and his forehead cringed when he saw the uncannily recognizable outline of a young golden-haired Jounin who happened to stand gloriously against the wall outside the classroom, eyeing him like a hungry lioness spotting a delicious deer. Heh, what an excellent comparison.

Shikamaru gulped down bitterly. Has he done anything wrong? 'Troublesome brain, remember. Think!'

Then it suddenly dropped into his block of memory.

He left her at the club to walk Ino home and forgotten to come back and get her. Kuso! He was too tired that he went straight home and slept like a log. Furthermore, if he was not mistaken, it had already been three days and right now was the first time he ever saw her since that night.

The same boy waved his hand, returning the young instructor's attention back to his students. "Shikamaru-sensei, is that you friend?"

Shikamaru sighed and stood up from his seat unenthusiastically. "I don't have much of a choice, do I?" He dragged himself languidly and headed for the door, choosing to ignore that really annoying but nevertheless kinda-beautiful-in-a-way grin from the girl. Oh wait, what was he thinking just now? Oh no, he's totally out of his mind.

"This is so troublesome. Class, this is Temari. She is a Jounin-level kunoichi from Sunagakure and she's here for an OFFICIAL business," Shikamaru said, more like grumbled for the short introduction. No further information was needed; just mentioning her name was troublesome enough.

The sounds of awe and admiration stirred among the little ones. It's not like everyday you get to see a high-rank female ninja from another village up close!

"Aww, you don't have to do that, Shika-kun," Temari cooed before letting a small laugh escaping her lips when Shikamaru rolled his eyes in response. "She would love to stay for a while but Temari-san had another IMPORTANT business to tend to."

"No, I don't."

"Yes, you do." Without letting another word out from her lips, he hauled her away from the room, completely missing the prattle between Hajime and his classmates. Apparently, Temari's appearance had ignited the children's curiosity.

"She's pretty."

Hajime snorted at the brown-haired girl. "Girls. But don't you think it's weird to see her standing outside for a very long time?"

"I think she's waiting for Shikamaru-sensei."

"Do you think she is Shikamaru-sensei's…?" The girl held up her small 'pinky' finger as her friends nodded in accord.

While on the outside, after making sure that they are not within prying ears and eyes, Shikamaru finally found the energy to ask, "What are you doing here, Temari?"

"You've got a really cute class back there, Shika-kun."

"Cute? Tch. Troublesome woman. I've got a class to teach right now."

"You looked more like dozing off than teaching."

"Hey…"

"Don't think that I would forget that you ditched me again that night."

"…I had to walk Ino home but after that, well…I kinda forgot."

'FORGOT? I'm not a doormat, you lazy bastard!' Her heart screamed back at him but sadly it'll never be heard. So instead of crying her heart out or yell in frustration, she just put on her faithful calm, superior mask and composedly said, "I guess you're really eager to get rid of me, huh? Don't fret, because you're getting your wish come true."

"…What?"

A bitter smile etched upon her unnoticeable gloomy face. "I'm here to bid farewell." 'Oh God, please don't let me see his eyes.' She didn't need him to know that just by looking into those dark orbs would be enough to break her resolve, her everything. Just by looking into his eyes, she will be reminded of his choice. Of her current place inside his heart when she meant to change that in time.

"That's not gonna change my answer. I knew her no better than you guys, I can't just abandon my teammate for a girl I hardly knew."

Yes, that was her resolve. She wanted to be the center of his world. She would make him see that she's perfect enough for him.

If Shikamaru was surprised, well, he didn't look like he was. And what hurt her the most was the fact that he can still remain cool and silent. Devoid of any emotion like an insensitive mechanical being.

Well, she could lessen the pain by pretending that if he ever mutters a word, it'll piss her off to no end.

"I don't see there is a need for me to stay longer when the Chuunin exam won't be happening until the next six months. So that's why I'm here."

He shrugged his shoulders unhurriedly but his eyes were fixed sharply at her. "Oh, alright."

"That's it?"

"What?"

She could only post a momentary hopeless glance at the skies above as if hoping that someone up there would drop some sense of concern inside that thick skull of his. Then later she murmured, "Never mind."

"Just have a safe trip, Temari."

Just hearing those words came out from his lips was already enough for her to feel a spark of hope in her grasp. Her secret, private desires were to be embrace by his arms and seal shut her insecurities with a kiss. But instead of those thin lips, she was only bold enough to leave a quick peck on his cheek.

"Hey, what was that for?!" A hand instantaneously moved to cover the spot on his face, wiping away whatever traces she might've left there.

His exclamation was greeted with a meaningful smile. "I'll be waiting for the day when you'll open your eyes, Shikamaru-kun."

"Pray tell, what's that supposed to mean?"

"Just to remind you. Once I've set my eyes on something, I'll never stop pursuing it till I call it mine and no one can stand in my way."

In that one brief moment, the young Nara swore or at least he believed that he saw a certain glint in her eyes; the same glint that she held when she came to his rescue and right before she defeated the Oto kunoichi with a single blow. No doubt, she was determined and she was confident.

The Suna kunoichi turned around and began to walk away but after a few steps, she paused in her tracks. A sly grin graced her pinkish pout, "Don't miss me too much, Crybaby."

"Hnn, don't put your bets on it."

He watched her leave from the corners of his eyes. Her departure should've brought some kind of relieve to him, right? After all with her gone, he won't be robbed of his cloud-watching time since Ino was easily avoidable. But why did he felt that this was far from over?

The only logical conclusion that he could make out of his present (or future, in a sense) situation was that he had involuntary allowed himself to be involve in a game where he will definitely end up being a loser.

On the other hand for Temari, she had set her sights on love and she knew she will win it fairly in the end.

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"Here are the files for your mission this time." The honey-eyed Sannin pushed the files forward on the table and the three nins in front of her took one of their own respectively. After scanning the first few words of the objectives and the responsibilities in their new mission, Kakashi's eyebrow rose in confusion. But before he could utter any word, Tsunade raised a hand as a sign that she wasn't finished as yet. "Let me explain briefly what your mission is this time. As you can see, Velvet City is located far north-east of Kumogakure No Sato. It's supposedly belonged under the administration of the Lord of Thunder Country, but apparently, he had given up his authority because the city had been living its reputation notoriously, not much to his liking. After all, that's how it earned the title of Vice City. A lot of amoralities had been going on over there that I do not dare to mention here. Albeit as scandalous as it may seem, it's also a favorite spot for a couples' getaway. The problem was we've received several reports from a few people claiming that their family members went there and never return."

Sakura raised her hand for the Godaime's permission to enquire. "Anou…Shishou, who are these people who lodged the report?"

"Their family members. It always started with the same story. The couples went to the city for a vacation and had never returned."

Kakashi stopped reading his file and asked, "What type of couples had been targeted?"

Tsunade shrugged her shoulders while cradling her face. "The pattern remains undetermined. Young, old, newly-weds…whoever did this, they don't really care and for what reason, no one knows. That's why it's your job to investigate and pull out the missing pieces and get to the bottom of this."

"You know, this mission calls for undercover."

"I know Kakashi, it's stated in the introduction that this is a four men team." Tsunade sighed once and she stared at the three people standing in front of her. "You were supposed to join forces with Kurenai's team. Unfortunately, some casualties occurred and she's not back yet but luckily we have one of her team members here."

Kiba cleared his throat. "Err…that would be me."

Sakura narrowed her eyes at the brown-haired Inuzuka boy. "How did you being left out?...Oh yeah, you were on a mission with your sister. Sorry."

Tsunade pondered upon the possible substitute for the fourth member of the team. Unfortunately, after her calculations and skimming through the mission charts…the numbers were reduced to none. And the only kunoichi that was still in the village and that was not on a mission would be Shizune. She looked to her assistant from the corners of her eyes. Tsunade shook her head slowly. No. She needed Shizune right now, especially when the paper-works were rushing into the office like a storm. Oh God, she desperately needed help at that moment.

A loud knock erupted on the door and five heads turned towards its direction. The Godaime's forehead twitched with annoyance. "Come in!" She barked at the door, causing everyone in the room shuddered in fear.

"Sorry for interrupting, Hokage-sama." The visitor's head peeked out from the slight opening. Kakashi's eyes lit up when he realized the identity of the woman. "Sumimasen, I come here to submit a copy of my full-length report and I hope you can approve my passp-…Oh…" Her mouth closed slowly, obviously surprised when she saw the familiar faces in the Hokage's office. And when she saw…him.

The corner of the flaxen-haired Sannin's lips curved into a thankful smile. Heh, at least God was being compassionate with her today when he answered her prayers just a few seconds before. 'Why can't I be luckier when I'm betting?' Her faithful assistant's forehead cringed in a possible worry. When Tsunade-sama had that 'look' on her face, it usually meant something awfully 'ingenious' a.k.a someone's going to be in trouble. "Tsunade-sama…," She started but knew better not to say another word when Tsunade narrowed her eyes with a deadly glare.

The Godaime's strained back relaxed against the leather chair. "How about extending your stay in Konoha, Temari-san? We are in desperate need of manpower right now and we would appreciate it if you could lend us your help."

Temari pointed a finger to herself. "Who…me?"

Tsunade rubbed her hands together and smiled. "Yes. You."

"…"

"You're perfect for the mission."

"Eh?"

A well-hidden smile formed under his mask. Kakashi believed that the Godaime had gambled on a very wise decision this time.

------------------------------------------------------------------

"You will be joining Team Kakashi in an investigation mission."

"But the Kazekage is expecting my return."

"Don't worry, I will inform your brother straightaway. Now, all the essential information is in the file and the rest will be explaining the details of the mission to you on your way."

"Are you sure, Hokage-sama?"

"Do I look like I'm joking, Temari-san?"

"Er..N-no."

"Oh, before I forget…." Tsunade opened one of the drawers on her left side and took out two small black-colored boxes. "Here are your really important 'equipments'. They are specially designed and guess what? The four of you are the first ones to try it out."

Kiba looked dramatically horrified at the boxes. "What's in there? Are they going to kill us?"

"No, Kiba. You're only going to be dead if you don't get your ass out of here!"

He hid behind Sakura's smaller frame. "Okay! Okay! I get it, Hokage-sama."

"Aah…that's good because I'm pronouncing the four of you as men and wives."

"WHAT THE HELL?!" Three different voices broke out from three different people bearing similar expression on their faces.

"….'re you okay?"

A person's voice shook her from her trance. "What?" She lifted her head and saw the concern on Sakura's face. "Are you okay?"

"I think I am."

The pink-haired girl laughed softly at the older girl's response. "I'm sorry that you were dragged into this."

The two of them walked through the seas of rushing villagers. Each of them had their own business to attend and places to go to. The sounds of howling locomotives filled their ears and the heat of the atmosphere burnt their skins slightly. Variety of scent, sound and sight loaded their senses. "Don't worry, Temari-san. Let's think on the bright side. Just look at this mission as a vacation trip. I've never been outside Konoha that much but now I've got a chance to see places even though it's a mission. Besides, it's not like you get to dress up as a civilian during work."

"My acting sucks. If I wanna be an actress, I should've never become a kunoichi from the first place."

"Aww, come on Temari-san. If we're lucky, we get to see Kaka-sensei's face. Normal people don't wear masks. Oh, we're here." Sakura stopped in front of a washroom. "We should get change."

"Sakura, what's so exciting about seeing someone's face?"

"This is the Kakashi we're talking about Temari-san. No one had ever seen his face before. I remembered this one time when Team Seven was on a mission." She rummaged through her luggage and held out a blue top. "…Do you want to wear this one, Temari-san?"

"Sakura, you haven't finished your story, yet."

"Oh, sorry. I'll tell you while we get dressed, okay?"

"But-"

"Here, put this on."

And the next thing Temari knew, she was pushed into a changing room with a handful of clothes and other female stuffs. "Hey, I'm not going to wear this commoner's clothes!"

"Haha…good one, Temari-san. Now go!"

Temari grumbled. If Sakura wasn't Tsunade's apprentice, she would've kicked her or something. 'Now, how do you put this on?' She sighed as she held up a really slinky top. 'Where the hell did she get this anyway? I'm gonna kill you, Sakura!'

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The two shinobi sat on a wooden bench, facing the railroad where a black and shiny train stood. Its engine grumbled steadily against the noisy environment of the railway station. Behind the paper he was reading, Kakashi snuck a glance to the young Inuzuka beside him. "I hope you know what to do, Kiba."

The brown-haired Chuunin raised his hand in a salute. "Yes, sir! Anou, Kakashi-san you know what Sakura will do if she finds out about it, right?"

"Kiba, you're a man. No matter how strong a woman is, a man was born to be her protector. Besides, you know why I decided this."

"Hai." He petted his ever faithful buddy, Akamaru. It sat steadily like a stone beside its master's feet, one of its paws rested on Kiba's thigh. "Sorry, Akamaru. You have to stay inside your cage. I can't let you into the coach with me." The medium-sized white dog let out a soft whine. Kiba understood very well that Akamaru was afraid to be alone. They had always been together ever since the moment they were born.

The silver-haired Jounin took out something from the pocket of his slacks. "Kiba, take this." It was one of the boxes that the Godaime gave them before.

"What's this?...Oh, I see."

"It was designed with another function. I'll explain later when we get on board."

"Oh yeah, where are them anyway?"

As soon as the question left his lips, two women approached carrying their luggage in hand. When he realized that it was their respective 'wives', Kiba wished he hadn't asked the questions just now, for he wasn't prepared for the sight in front of him.

In that still few minutes….

Kiba let out a smug grin. 'Damn Sasuke, you're stupid.'

Sakura frowned. 'Shannaro! There goes our chance.'

Akamaru barked excitedly.

Temari couldn't stop herself from blushing. 'God, I'm making a fool of myself.'

Kakashi held a breath without him realizing. 'Breathtaking…like always.'

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Next Chapter: Velvet City Part 1. She discovered something that she had lost long ago and he believed that he might find the thing that he's been looking for all his life in her. For her, it's all because of her unexplored yearnings. For him, it's all because of her differences.