Chapter 1

The blistering afternoon heat of summer was upon the Hidden Village of the Sand. Even the citizens kept indoors, waiting for the eventual return of night and hopefully a somewhat cool breeze that would enable them to go about their business. However, inside the office of their leader, a different kind of heat was bothering the occupants.

"What did you just say?" his voice was quiet yet strained, and Temari knew that was a bad thing. She fidgeted slightly in her seat before answering him.

"The council has decided they want you to produce an heir, and are willing to set up a marriage for you if you don't get on with it." Even she winced inwardly at the phrasing the council had insisted she use. Their Kazekage was not to be pushed around, and Temari sighed inwardly as she heard his chair scrape across the floor as he stood up.

"Temari, you know-" She cut him off, thankful that her fear of the young man in front of her, her youngest brother, had significantly decreased in the five years he has spent as Kazekage.

"Yes Gaara, I know. Kankuro is now hoarse from trying to explain to those damn fools that it is 'a futile and idiotic effort to keep pestering you about this'." She rolled her eyes as she said the phrase Gaara had used so many times on the council. When she finally settled her eyes on her brother for the first time in the five minutes she had been in his office she almost shivered at the look on his face. The rage she felt emanating from his slim frame was still somewhat terrifying after all of these years, and she noted with wariness that his usually blank aquamarine eyes were darkened in fury. As his hands came crashing down to slam against the wood of his desk Temari did flinch, and quietly listened to her brother vent.

"That's my point! What the fuck do they think they're going to get from this?" Gaara refrained from shouting but there was a distinguishable growl in his voice instead. "Shukaku has been gone for three damn years. They didn't want a child from me while he was still inside of me, it makes no sense that they should want one now. Just because I have somehow maintained a good deal of control over sand, though only about two-thirds of my previous power, does not mean any children I have will carry on the trait. That's even assuming that there's a woman who would be willing to carry the child of the former demon container." He held up a hand at the slight smirk he saw forming on his sister's lips. "Yes Temari, I'm quiet aware that my brief brush with death three years ago earned me a following of shallow fan girls to follow me around as if I were that damn Uchiha." Temari's smirk only widened at that.

"But," and the anger in his voice seemed to melt away, replaced instead by a quiet melancholy. "Even if I did find time between all of my responsibilities as Kazekage to go look for a wife, a girl who will adore me for my position or my powers is not what I want." His face twisted into a bitter smile, and Temari noted how many emotions Gaara was comfortable expressing in the presence of her and Kankuro. She opened her mouth to say something but instantly snapped it shut when Gaara continued, his voice fading into a murmur.

"I would want a wife who would support me as I could support her, could love me and teach me to feel a love besides that for my family or my village. I guess it's greedy of me to want so much when I've already achieved my lifetime goal of being respected and recognized, but everyone else is entitled to love. Why can't a former monster?" He looked down at the desk in front of him, and Temari couldn't help herself but to stand up and walk around the table to lightly put a hand on his shoulder.

"As I said earlier Gaara, Kankuro and I know this already, and I came here to tell you that you might have to deliver a less emotional version of that speech to the council soon. Though who knows, a tear jerker like that might even work on those old coots." She grinned at Gaara as his head snapped up so he could scowl at her. Even as he shifted away from her so he could sit down and she moved back to stand near her former seat, Temari felt happy for her brother; he finally seemed to understand that he could be more than a monster. But unease also stirred within her, for this was one of the largest debates that Gaara and the council hadn't been able to resolve during his years as Kazekage. And Temari was sure that the council only wanted a child with the Gaara's strange powers, but that they could actually control, unlike Gaara.

Gaara started shuffling papers around as Temari looked around. They weren't usually so emotional with each other, and both were trying to reorganize their thoughts as an unfamiliar chakra presence appeared, the person coming up the stairs. The two sand ninja quickly changed positions, Temari turned toward the door with her hand casually draped on her hip near the clasp to her fan while Gaara had moved his hands to be clasped loosely in his lap with sand swirling around his fingers, ready to strike. Things had been peaceful between the Sand and other countries for a while now, but it was better to be safe than sorry.

A few seconds later a quiet knock sounded on the door, answered with an even "Come in," by Gaara. As the door slowly swung open Temari shifted her hand a little higher on her hip, and Gaara made sure his expression had its normal blank neutrality.

"Good afternoon Kazekage-sama, Temari-sama. A young woman walked quietly into the room, her head bowed in respect. Her long ebony hair fell forward to hide her face, leaving her unidentifiable. Temari looked at the woman's sleeves to see if there was any indication of village, but saw none.

"What is your business here in Suna?" Gaara's voice was quiet and emotionless, the normal attitude he showed to people besides his siblings and close friends. However his hands were still in his lap with sand twisting around and through the interlocked fingers just in case. The girl took a step forward so she was level with Temari, and Temari noticed that the girl had her hands held together in front of her, playing with her fingers as if she was nervous.

"I have been sent here by the Hokage of Konoha to help with Suna's medical program since our head medic Sakura Uzumaki is on maternity leave." Her quiet voice barely carried across the small room to Gaara, and he kept himself from frowning at her demure nature even as he let the sand in his hands slide to the ground. Temari also relaxed, though she was surprised. Both were used to having to deal with Konoha ninja like Naruto, Rock Lee, Sakura, or even Neji and Tenten. Outspoken ninja's who were extremely confident in their abilities. Not this shy looking girl in front of them, though Temari thought she looked familiar somehow.

"And what's your name?" Temari ignored Gaara's sharp look at her intervention in the conversation, instead turning to face the girl as she waited for an answer. The young woman lifted her head slowly, her curtain of hair parting to reveal a soft set of features, small button nose and delicate eyebrows accentuating a full set of lips and startling pale lavender eyes that were almost white.

"My name is Hinata Hyuuga, I am a jounin." Because she had lifted her head to show her face they could see the Konoha leaf symbol engraved on the plate around her neck. She kept her eyes averted to the windows behind Gaara, emphasizing how shy she seemed. Temari now recognized her from one of her trips to Konoha as ambassador. Shikamaru, her guide in the village, had decided to actually take her somewhere besides cloud-gazing. And so they had gone to some popular ramen stand where she had been briefly introduced to this girl along with two young men. One had a huge white dog, and the other was wearing sunglasses and a thick winter coat even though they were indoors.

"Very well. Temari, please show her to some quarters for the duration of her stay. Which is?" Gaara turned his gaze from his sister to the young girl. Temari thought it was to the girl's credit that only a faint pink dusted her pale cheeks. She was so shy and yet there were stronger women who occasionally swooned when they came under Gaara's gaze.

"I was told by the Hokage that I'm to stay for three months." Gaara nodded curtly, wondering how he had forgotten this. He had many other pressing issues, the one he had been arguing over with his sister earlier making him want to grimace, but he usually tried to remember things that dealt with other villages. Especially when it concerned Konoha, Suna's main ally.

"Hn." He simply grunted and looked down at the overwhelming papers on his desk. It was a silent signal that they had been dismissed, and he could hear Temari pulling the girl towards the door. As it shut closed behind them he sighed and rubbed at his temples. God he missed the days when he didn't have to sleep.