10

A sharp gasp filled the space. Byakugan activated, she shifted her body to attack whatever was in her vicinity.

"Hinata-chan." Strong hands gripped her wrists and immediately she deactivated her limit, taking in Gaara's impassive face. Her eyes widened in surprise and horror.

"Oh, Gaara-kun!" he let go of her and immediately she reached out to him "I'm…I'm so sorry! Did I…I didn't hurt you… did I?" it was a ridiculous question; hardly anything could hurt Gaara, especially not her puny attacks.

She was so shaken up; where was she? It looked like some sort of medical tent but she couldn't be sure. The young chunnin could still hear Uchiha's words and she felt sick to her stomach with the knowledge that he had kissed her. Only one person has ever kissed her and his were the only lips she wanted to touch hers.

The revelation completely stunned her. Did she really...with him…?

Jade eyes widen slightly when pearl focused on him with that same unfamiliar expression from before. There were unshed tears in her eyes and his heart clenched tightly as guilt filled him. When he had found her it hadn't seemed as if anything bad had happened to her and yet now she looked on the verge of tears. He should have stayed closer but he hadn't wanted her to feel crowded. Had Uchiha found her? It seemed likely, her clothes had been tattered and there had been signs of a struggle. He must have knocked her out and Gaara could only be so grateful. That meant he hadn't truly gone down a dark path.

Or maybe he spared her for another reason.

Regardless, she was still shaken up. Everyone else were in their tents, it was night and they would be heading back to the village in the morning. Everyone had concluded that something had happened, more than likely involving Uchiha, and the chances of him remaining now were slim to none. They had lost the trail; it was time to cut the losses. Since he didn't sleep he had volunteered to watch over her until she awakened.

When she reached out to him he closed the distance, interlacing their fingers. A slight smile played on his features as he tried to look reassuring.

"Everything is fine, Hinata-chan." His smile widened slightly "We found you and it's nightfall now. If you're feeling up for it you can rest in my tent until –"

The future Kazekage was cut off as Hinata turned on the cot, wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him in, pressing their lips firmly together. A hot shiver moved up his spine and he couldn't even help the small noise that emerged from the back of his throat. Oh, gods…how long had he wanted this? It felt as if he had waited an eternity and the wait was worth it…so worth it.

He had been so stunned that logical thought had fled and his arms immediately wrapped around her slender frame. A hand moved through her hair and he marveled at the silky strands; he had missed that as well. Eagerly he returned her kiss, a light moan escaping when her legs wrapped around his waist. Then they were practically clinging to each other, slender hands sliding up his back as he tilted his head, deepening their embrace. Tongues mingled and when a hand moved through his hair he let out another low moan.

"Hinata…" he breathed her name as if it were a beautiful litany. Almost two years he had gone without her in his life like this and it had been two years too damn long. It didn't even matter that he was going against the perfect self-control he had built up for himself, all that mattered was her lips, her hands, the soft noises. He loved her, had missed her and desired her more than she would probably ever know.

Now she was kissing him, she had initiated the contact and it was as if they were now making up for lost time. All of his pent up emotions for her came pouring down hard but surprisingly Shukaku wasn't trying to take advantage, it was strangely quiet. Years of denying himself the touch of her hand or a gentle embrace. Almost two years of staring at his empty bed, reliving the way he would hold her as she slept, craving that until it almost became overbearing.

He had tried so hard to close off his emotions and he had succeeded for the most part but when it came to Hinata, always when it came to her he was powerless. He loved her, perhaps he was even obsessed with her, and she was the only one who could unhinge him like this.

A soft sigh escapes his lips as he parts from her, closing his eyes at the sensation of her hands moving over his abdomen. Her legs wrap around him tighter and he knew he should pull away because if he didn't the very thin shred of self-control he was hanging onto concerning this woman and her fulfilling his deepest desires would completely disappear. They had to stop even though it was the last thing in the entire world that he wanted to do. She had a clan she was trying to eventually lead and he couldn't be part of the equation.

But then she pulled him down for another kiss and he began to really not give a damn. Without even realizing it his hands began to become more bold and he felt almost drunk with pleasure at the feel of her skin, of touching her again.

We have to stop.

The thought was rather appalling to him at the moment and so he ignored it for a moment longer, unable to help his body's reaction when she let out a whimper/sigh as he trailed kisses down her neck. When his fingers brushed along the underside of her breast and she whispered his name it took all of his self control to finally back away. Her face was flushed, eyes hooded and she looked slightly confused, as if she couldn't understand why he had backed off. Did she even know what she was capable of doing to a man? She couldn't possibly; she looked and seemed so innocent and he…

"I should go." Was that his voice that sounded deep like that?

"No." she said and he didn't at all fight her when she pulled him back in, the thought had never even crossed his mind. Her lips felt so soft and warm; he had missed it, missed her. She continued to pull him close and once again he shivered.

"Hinata…" it came out a breathy whisper as he once again began to move his lips against hers "Hinata I love you." Framing her face in his hands he continued to kiss her lips, face, neck "I love you more than anything and I have wanted to do this for so long." He kissed her hard "I love you." It was a low murmur as one hand slid around her waist and pulled her closer "I've tried so hard but I can't…I love you and I just can't…"

Had the cot actually been a bed he wasn't entirely sure what he would have tried doing. All he knew was that he loved her and all of the emotions he had been keeping in check were out. He didn't even know what he was saying, he was just talking "Just once…just once more I want to hear those words from you. Please."

"I love you, Gaara-kun." She said it softly and he closed his eyes, savoring those beautiful words. She didn't even seem to care that his hands kept moving up her legs and sides, and he was too out of control to stop himself. The moment she laid her lips on his he knew now his fate had been sealed. He wouldn't want to go back to the way things were now, he would be unable to walk away from her again.

Then she pulled away and the two teens remained like that; staring at each other as they panted softly. Although it was difficult for him to think he realized that he had done something terrible. This girl no longer belonged to him; he had let her go and she had chosen to lead her clan, they couldn't be together. The moment her lips had pressed against his he had been finished, completely undone. Everything in him was saying that he needed to walk away from her, to leave the tent, leave the damn vicinity for a while, and calm himself down.

His face must have betrayed his emotions for he felt her hands grab his wrist, tugging lightly. His look was impassive although he felt anything but. She shook her head "I…Gaara-kun I didn't…"

Emotionally shaky, he gave her a slight nervous smile "It's alright, I am sure you were just –"

He stopped when she shook her head again. Her gaze was pleading, imploring "Please…don't leave me again. I can't…I don't want to be without you anymore, Gaara-kun. I've missed you so much. I want us to be together again."

Hearing things. He had to be hearing things. She didn't say what he thought she said because it changed so much and yet he wanted it more than anything "We are together, Hinata-chan." He was proud of the way he kept his voice neutral "We are friends, that is what…" but no, she was shaking her head once more, frustrated tears swimming in her eyes.

"At first I had been so excited about making bonds that it hadn't mattered to me what happened as long as we stayed friends." Her grip tightened "But it wasn't the same. I couldn't see you whenever I wanted, we were hardly ever together anymore. You became distant. We didn't touch or hug or k-kiss…" she looked down, embarrassed "I hate waking up and you're not there. I hate not being able to hold your hand all the time." She moved one had from his wrist to wipe at her face "I…I hate this, Gaara-kun. I know I should do what's best but I…" she looked up at him "I don't want that if I can't be with you!"

Any further words were cut off as he once again framed her face and pulled her in. A soft moan escaped his throat as he pulled her almost impossibly close. If he were to die right this moment he would die content knowing that his feelings truly were returned; they were not as one sided as he had believed. She loved him, she wanted to be with him. She met his passion with her own, his thumb brushed along a damp cheek as he pulled away. Raising his other hand he continued to wipe away her tears. He took a deep mental breath and when he smiled it was a little sad.

"Hinata-chan," just because he had to he dipped his head, closing the distance briefly "Is this…what you want? I must know the truth because I…I do not want to become possessive but if you take me back I will be unable to walk away from you again. I'm not strong enough."

Aren't you forgetting her clan? And Neji? He could sense Shukaku's influence in that question. He wasn't forgetting and as for Neji…

Grabbing his hands she looked up at him and never had he thought her more beautiful. Was this really happening? Would he actually have her back in his life again? After almost two years, would he have his Hinata back, really and truly?

"No…" she shook her head "I'm not…I'm never going to leave again, Gaara-kun. This entire time it's as if there's only half of me that exists and I only feel complete around you. I…we were meant for each other, I truly believe that now. I-I'm so sorry; you must have been so unhappy and I had thought that just being friends would be enough but –"

He stopped her with another kiss "Forget about it; it doesn't matter anymore, I have you now." He pulled her against his chest and just held her, enjoyed the feel of her so close to him again "I don't want you to give up your dream though, Hinata-chan." When she shook her head his arms tightened "Listen for a moment. As much as the Hyuuga do not wish it, there must be a way for us to be together and for you to take over the Hyuuga." Pulling her back he brushed stray strands of hair from her face "We will need to speak to your cousin."

Hinata paled "Oh…oh Neji-niisan…" her hands moved to her face and she looked guilty "I can't believe I…"

"I would not worry about it overmuch." He reassured her, remembering Neji's words from earlier. Gaara was beginning to understand why Neji had confessed; he had known Hinata felt this way and he had known it would be a matter of time before something happened. That had to be it, Neji was extremely intelligent and observant; it was not difficult to read Hinata if one knew what to look for.

Neji had said it himself; he had wanted Hinata to have a choice and she had chosen him. The fact that he was now openly trusting Gaara with her safety despite the fact that he was guardian of the heir meant that he was finally giving Gaara the support he had promised. The Hyuuga had done it in a rather roundabout way but he had given them his blessings; now only the Hyuuga council stood in the way of them truly being together and with the Hyuuga genius supporting them they would be able to overcome that hurdle eventually. "He and I had a talk today…he will not be upset." She looked relieved and he moved his hands up and down her arms, just needing to touch her.

Unfortunately, although he did not need sleep, she did and her day had been trying enough. Leaning forward, he pressed their foreheads together "We will talk more on this tomorrow; for now you need your rest. I set up my tent since you weren't able to set up your own; please feel free to use it." He would have backed away but her legs refused to unhook – which was giving him ideas he really didn't want to entertain – and she gave him a pleading look.

"I…" her face burned and she looked down, dropping her legs "Will you…sleep with me?"

It took his brain a second to process that she was asking for him to lie beside her as he had when they were children and not the other thing that was definitely on his mind. He nodded and the look on her face had warmed him. Immediately he took her tattooed hand and began to walk to his tent. She was his once more. He was hers. He didn't care what he had to do, he would fulfill both of their dreams; one should not have to sacrifice for the other, not on this.

Both teens breathed out soft sighs of relief when they reached the tent and he wrapped his arms around her frame, pulling her back up against him as they lay on his bedroll. His grip tightened, her arms moved over his and it took her only moments before she was breathing evenly. As he had years ago he sat up partially, keeping one arm around her as he watched her sleep peacefully. No matter what he did, no matter how much he changed, Hyuuga Hinata would always affect him; she would always have a way of tearing down his walls around her.

And he loved it.

xxxxx

There was a loud popping sound and sand hissed, filling the area around the new Kazekage and his office. He was standing with his arms crossed at the threshold of his balcony, looking out over the village that was now his to protect. He inclined his head towards the shadows in his office.

"Tsunade informed me that you had a rather irritable habit of appearing unannounced into a kage's office..." a pause "Uchiha Itachi."

Said Uchiha emerged from the shadows, a small smile playing on his lips. "It took the Hokage a few minutes before she had noticed my presence; you realized it immediately."

Gaara turned back to the view "As a child, I constantly had assassins coming for me; I suppose it has made me more paranoid than most." The sand receded, sliding back into his gourd that had been at his side.

"My brother was here." He decided to get straight to the point. "Orochimaru will soon be ready to try and take his body."

"I do not see what my village has to do with it." He turned to face the other male. At twenty years old, Itachi looked harmless, but many thought Gaara was harmless - those who did not know of his reputation, anyway. He was wearing a flared neck black shirt and matching pants, crimson eyes taking in the other male.

"I merely need the ability to transverse through your lands without concern of hostility. I understand –" he cut in as Gaara opened his mouth to speak. "That my brother is no longer in Suna; but I will still need to travel through to follow."

"Ah." He tilted his head "So I am to allow an international criminal and supposed dead man through my lands...with your eternal gratitude?"

Itachi actually chuckled "No, although you will have it regardless. The Akatsuki are beginning to strike and for some reason, they are searching for the tailed beasts. They are extracting them from their hosts...where and for what purpose I do not know."

Green eyes widened in shock "They are...?" he turned away, frowning thoughtfully. Why would they do such a thing? It didn't make any sense. "So they will come for me."

"Yes." A pause "I will offer you my services in exchange for passage. I will take no longer than a few days to a few weeks to search for my brother. I will be at your disposal until the threat has passed."

The Kazekage contemplated this. "Do you believe I cannot protect my own village?" it wasn't asked out of malice, he was fishing for something.

And got it. "They travel in pairs. You are incredibly powerful, but not even you would be able to take on both or even a group. I assure you, the extra protection will be necessary."

He nodded once, understanding "Very well." He paused "But I do not wish to be protected..."

"You mean Hyuuga Hinata?" the Kazekage nodded. "I heard of the rumors that you constantly had a girl at your side. I understand; I will protect her." He pulled out a scroll. "You may give this to her," he walked over and put it on the Kazekage's desk. "If she is ever in a dire situation and I am not there, she may use this only once. If it is not used before my time is up, I will reclaim it."

"I understand." He smiled thinly. "You have...my eternal gratitude." He turned back to the village when Itachi chuckled once more at the joke and then was gone.

Sleep deprived eyes narrowed to slits. "Akatsuki." He repeated. He knew of them and the threat they posed to the village. It was a serious one. He knew they were actively searching for Naruto which was why the blonde had left with Jiraiya to begin with. In fact, he was due to return in a few months. If they had already captured other tailed beasts, that meant that if they returned to Konoha for Naruto, they would either come before or after for him.

This time when he felt an intruder in his office he smiled thinly, turning just in time to keep from being toppled over by his love. He chuckled lightly at her antics, his arms wrapping around her waist. Simply because he could not help it, he pulled her close, covering her lips with his briefly. His hand rose to brush along her cheek when she looked up at him, her eyes shining with a familiar but matured emotion.

"You have...no idea how much I have longed to see that look in your eyes again, Hinata-chan." He said sincerely. Losing her had nearly undone him; it had taken a lot of willpower and discipline for him to have gotten as far as he had without her at his side.

Her brows furrowed and guilt crossed her features. Slowly, her hands framed his face and he leaned into the touch, closing his eyes. Never again would he take her gentle touches for granted; he knew what it was like not to have them at all. "You...must have been suffering...this entire time and I..."

"Don't do that." His hands grasped hers and he realized for the first time that his were beginning to dwarf hers. They truly were getting older...changing. "We are together again and only after a year and a half. That is nothing in comparison to how long we've had each other in our lives. And...if I am honest with myself; it was something you needed. No matter your feelings for me, my treatment of you..." his grip tightened slightly. "had been stifling. You needed freedom – something I will never take from you again."

"...I...I love you, Gaara-kun."

He hesitated in slight surprise and then nodded "I love you too, Hinata-chan."

When they parted again from their kiss, she rested her head along his chest and he began to absently trail his fingers through her long hair "I almost forgot, you've returned from your mission almost two days early. I was a little surprised to see you."

His childhood friend turned a very interesting shade of red which caused his brow to rise. He had the distinct impression that she was up to something. She'd tell him eventually and he had patience so remained silent.

"W-well I um..." she pulled back a bit and began to do that finger poking thing that he had always found to be cute. "I hurried back b-because..." one hand slid to his chest, gripping the fabric of his shirt lightly. "I wanted..." if possible, she turned even redder and ducked her head, muttering something that took him a moment to translate.

"Alright." He said and she looked up at him with those bright pearly eyes and he resisted the urge to kiss her again. Pulling away, he took her hand and the two walked together out of the office, ensuring that they were not seen.

His new room was much larger than the one they had grown up in which was probably for the best as the two of them would be unable to fit comfortably in their old bed. They did not crawl under the covers, they never had; instead they curled up together, the redhead spooning the brunette. His arm moved protectively over her middle and hers moved to cover his, their fingers interlacing.

It was indescribable how good it felt to have her like this again. Gaara buried his face in her neck, taking in her natural floral scent. He would never be able to sleep but it never failed to relax him. "You are beautiful, Hinata." He had always wished he had said that to her more as he had certainly felt it, but had felt awkward about doing so at the time. The Kazekage would not make the same mistakes he had in his younger days. Not with her.

She turned in his arms and before he could even register another thought her lips slid over his in a definitely more-than-friendly manner. Hinata pressed her body against his and his immediate reaction was to wrap his arms around her, his hand sliding up her back. Tilting his head they deepened the kiss and he moaned softly, heat emerging in his stomach and quickly spreading.

I should stop this. Came the thought until warm hands slid underneath his shirt and over his skin. A pleasurable shiver moved up his spine and his hand pushed on her lower back, pressing their hips closer. It took every bit of self control he had not to move against her as his body quickly reacted to her touch after going so long without.

"Hinata," he sounded breathy as he tried to pull away "We can't...we can't do this."

Her confusion nearly broke his resolve. "I don't understand. We love each other so..."

Understanding dawned on him and he rested his forehead against hers "Yes, but we are no longer married, we are still too young, and if something were to happen you would lose your position as heir." The two of them had never held back when it came to their feelings for each other, not really, so he now understood her confusion. They had always been close in every way possible and now that they were a couple again intimacy was something they could share.

If only it were that simple. He wanted to, because he felt the same way; but he wanted her to fulfill her dream. Becoming lovers would not help that.

"Oh." Her face began to heat with embarrassment "I..."

The redhead cut her off with a brief kiss. "It's alright...it's not that I do not want to." He began to shift so that he wasn't pressing up quite so much against her. Both were unable to hide the blush from that. "It's just that; we can no longer do whatever we want when it comes to each other. We actually have to care about what others think of us and how our actions will affect things."

Hinata frowned in thought over that before looking at him. "I...do care about others but..." smiling warmly, she placed her hand over his cheek. "you will always be my most precious person. If I am ever given a choice between you and something else, I will always choose you, Gaara-kun. I always have and the one time I didn't I was unhappy. I...know we don't live by our oath any more but still in the end...nothing else matters but you."

"No, Hinata-chan, we still live by our oath..." he brushed his lips against her lightly "As I said before, we merely expanded it...but we will always love each other. We still exist for each other. And you are also my most precious person." Never again will I forget that or take it for granted.

xxxxx

AN: Some folks might be upset with how this ends, but I had lost the muse for this story. Regardless, I felt it to be a good place to end, as the story is open for a sequel, but is still a HFN(Happily for Now). Apologies for how late this was, this story had been completed months before actual posting up here, I just kept forgetting to update it since it was already on LJ. Hope you enjoyed.