I updated twice in one day, which is a bit surprising. But I really wanted to finish this story and here it is, the final chapter. I thank all the people who have reviewed this story in the past. Please, review this chapter as well, I'd really like to hear from you guys.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or the characters created by Masashi Kishimoto.

"The Only Exception"

When I awoke, there were blinding lights in my face. I felt a little sick and there were bandages all over my body. I was in a hospital room and a smile grew when I saw that Gaara was sitting in a chair, doing paperwork. Knowing that he was all right was comparable to having the weight of the world lifted. All my fears and worries, gone.

"Hey," I said.

He dropped the paper he had and walked over to me.

"You okay?"

I chuckled, "I guess, I'm here, aren't I?"

"That was really idiotic, what you did. It might have been the stupidest thing you've done. Ever."

Although he was reprimanding me, he had his hand on my head. Gaara brought the chair next to my bed and was filling me in on everything that had happened.

"What about Itachi?" I questioned.

His face grew emotionless, a cue that he was angry. "Someone from their group took his body back with them. We're not sure if he's dead or not."

Hearing this news, I wondered if I even cared about Itachi anymore. Maybe I was going insane, but I believed that he couldn't ruin my life anymore. I knew he couldn't harm me any more.

I left the hospital a few days later and Naruto and Sakura left the day after I was released. We were all at the entrance of the Suna village to bid our friends goodbye. I shook hands with Sakura and turned towards Naruto. He walked up to me to grab my hand.

"Goodbye and good luck," I told him.

He smiled at me.

While he shook hands with Gaara, I was surprised to see the look on both of their faces. They both recognized each other with respect and I saw that they were parting as friends. When their hands released, Gaara grabbed me and pulled me close. My heart fluttered happily, my chest twisting with nervousness.

When Naruto and Sakura began walking away I caught his remark to Sakura.

"When do you think we'll be back?"

"Soon," she replied.

A week later, I looked around my room and sighed in relief. Everything was packed up, ready to go. Because I had so few belongings, there were only a few boxes to take to my new home, an apartment a few blocks away. Something small and decent. Gaara was working and Temari and Kankuro were on missions, so I moved alone.

When I had decided to move, Gaara had vehemently opposed it. He didn't see why I wanted to live by myself.

But I couldn't live off their kindness forever; I needed a job, a stable life. It was something I had always wanted and something that was possible for me now. It was dark already and I had unpacked everything in my small apartment. There weren't many decorations, so it looked a little bare, but little by little, I was certain it would look homier. There was a knock on my door and I opened the door to see Gaara standing in the hallway, his Kazekage clothing in his hand. Without that uniform, he seemed like a normal teenage boy.

We were sitting on the roof of my building when he asked me, "Is there nothing I can do to convince you to move back in?"

"Nope," I smiled.

"I think I can think of something."

A month had passed, but it seemed so much shorter. I was content, working in a clothing store, living in a decent home, seeing Gaara everyday. My life was boring, normal. I wasn't a shinobi anymore; I don't ever think it suited me. On my birthday, I finished work in the early evening and went over to Gaara's home for a dinner party. I entered without knocking, and saw a lovely arrangement on the dining table. I walked around and saw Temari in the kitchen, putting the food she made on plates. When she saw me, she smiled and told me to sit.

"Kankuro! Gaara! She's here!"

We all sat at the table and the food was surprisingly good. Afterwards, Kankuro and Temari bought me many things I needed in my new home. I hadn't had the money to buy proper plates or furniture but they gave me a beautiful ceramic set of dinnerware, silverware and other small things for my apartment. I thanked them, giving them each an embrace.

"I left your gift in my room, follow me." Gaara said. I did as he said and when we entered, he walked towards the window and climbed onto the roof. I climbed up after him and sat next to him. My favorite phase of the moon was out, the waxing gibbous and I couldn't help but stare in awe.

"Nozomi," he began.

I faced him and I saw fear in his eyes.

"Happy Birthday." He gave me a small box as he said it and I held it in my hands. I opened it slowly and in the middle was a white gold ring with a thin band that separated into two on either side before reaching the bright teal-colored stone in the middle. I just let it rest in my hand. After a moment, Gaara seemed to get restless and nervous so he shattered the silence.

"I'm not good at speaking with people and I'd rather keep my distance from most, but when you moved out, I realized that I didn't want to keep my distance from you. Honestly, I'd rather not have people live with me. Except you."

I tore my eyes from the ring and faced him. His face was bright, his eyes wide with fear and anxiety, he was a whole mess of emotions. He had changed so much, had grown into a wonderful person that people look up to and depend on. He was strong and willful, silently caring for his village and his people and his family.

"You're always the exception. Whenever I think, I could do without this or that, an afterthought always reminds me- except her. So, I came up with only one solution to have the only exception in my life always close."

Tears began pouring down my face and my breath caught in my throat. Happiness was not something I expected from my life. A year ago, happiness seemed so foreign a concept to me. To be so happy now, it wasn't something I deserved.

"A-are you all right? Why are you crying?"

I whimpered, "I never thought this would happen to me, I thought I didn't deserve a normal life."

I pressed my face into my hands and felt Gaara placing his arms around me. Embarrassed, I stopped crying and raised my head. Gaara grabbed my hand and asked me those four words. Without even giving him a reply, I put the box down, besides us.

"You idiot," and as I said this, his face morphed, displayed a pain that hurt even me.

"You should have asked me this before I bothered moving into a new apartment." And I grabbed his face with my hands and kissed him. I felt his mouth growing into a real smile, one I would never see, because he wrapped his arms around me and kissed me back.

Sakura was right; Naruto and her were back in Suna two months later, at our wedding. The whole village came to it, the streets packed around the town square. That same day, I visited my family's graves for the first time. Gaara came with me and stood patiently while I left flowers for each one and spoke to each one. I tried to apologize to Miho, my sister, but ended up just crying and ruining her flowers. Gaara placed his hand on my shoulder and when I turned, seeing his eyes smile at me, I began to believe that she forgave me after all.