Thanks to everyone who reviewed! I can't believe I've hit 135 reviews. That feels unreal to me. Also, the winner for this chapter is...AmaiNeiko! You can either pm me what prompt you want me to use or leave it in your review. It can be a long prompt, or just a word like I did for my GaaHina one-shots.
In any case, sorry that this is later than I'd hoped. I ended up losing power before vacation, and I haven't had access to a computer in quite sometime.
I'll probably update again really really soon though, because I want to get to the fun stuff. Trying to pace a relationship is hard. :( I should let you guys know that this is probably going to be a reallly long fic, like fifty chapters or something. I hope to have it done by Christmas time, if I update fast enough.
Next chapter should also contain some things you guys have been waiting for! :D
Where We Land
"Treat me beneath this clear night sky
And I will lie with you
I start to feel those butterflies
When I'm next to you."
- Ed Sheeran
It takes every ounce of his willpower not to press his lips to Hinata's own raspberry-red ones. But this is a little too new and he doesn't want to do anything to scare her off, so he resists and she nods when he suggests they discuss the results from that morning.
Still, when her back is to him as they head to the living room, he grins widely to himself and does a little internal cheer.
Because Sabaku no Gaara, the Demon Kage of Suna, has just successfully asked out a woman.
He can't wait to see Kankuro's face when he tells him.
The woman of his affections tucks her legs up beneath her on his couch and he sits down across from her. It'll be easiest if he can see her eyes when he breaks the news that the message that shook her so badly is written in her own blood.
"As you suspected," He begins slowly, still unsure how to tell her. "The message was written in blood."
Her skin does not pale, and she does not flinch. Clearly, this is what she suspected.
But still, Hinata swallows before speaking. "And was it..."
"It was human." He whispers. This time, she sits up a little straighter, and her hands clench into fists. Her knuckles turn white under the pressure.
"Were you..." She inhales and lets the breath out slowly. "Were you able to identify who it came from?"
"That is where it gets strange." He leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "I do not know how to explain this, Hinata, but the blood belongs to you."
She does not move at first. She blinks, once, and then she falls back against the back of the couch.
"Mine." She looks ghost white and it is obvious to Gaara that she didn't expect this. "How...I don't understand."
Gaara runs a hand through his hair, which he needs to cut. The ends tickle against the bottom of his neck, just barely past his shoulders. "We cannot date the blood, so there is no knowing how they got it." He says softly. "Is it possible the blood was taken directly from you?"
"W-what?" She waves her hands in protest, and the look on her face is one of shock. "No! That isn't possible. I would've known."
"Still, I would like a medic to look you over." He says firmly, though he tries to keep his voice gentle. "But is there any possibility it was stolen from a hospital, perhaps? When was the last time you were there?"
Her eyes widen, and she sits back up and turns towards him. "I used to donate blood." She says breathlessly. "In Konoha, I donated every other month. My Genin team had a tradition of it; we all did it."
Gaara almost sighs with relief. That makes a lot more sense than someone stealing blood directly from her. "I'm sending Kankuro to Konoha in the morning - I think he's in his room right now, sleeping. I will have him check for thefts at the hospital when he arrives."
She giggles softly. "Did Kankuro ever tell you how we met?" She asks, a grin slowly growing on her face when he shakes his head in reply.
"Well, he was on a mission to Konoha and wanted a rematch with my teammate, Shino..."
Hinata does not sleep well that night.
For the first hour, her mind is filled with thoughts about the scroll. What does the message mean? Why was it written in her blood? Did someone actually steal her blood from the hospital?
Eventually, however, those thoughts fade from her mind and instead all she can think about is Gaara's blue-green eyes, and his inviting lips, and his soft pale skin...
She kind of wishes he had kissed her, but at the same time, she's glad he didn't. Oh, she's not afraid of the kiss - she's done that plenty of times. Hinata is a kunochi, not a naive virgin. She's had to use her skills in the bedroom before, and she had briefly been physically involved with Kiba after her first seduction mission.
But that's beside the point, and the point is that she is quickly falling for the pale man with the flaming red hair and the striking seafoam green eyes. And if he had kissed her, she would have been forced to admit that she really, really likes the man who she apparently has a date with tomorrow.
Hinata wakes up groggy and with bags under her eyes. When she makes her way to breakfast, Gaara is already gone for the morning and Kankuro greets her with an equally tired wave. They chat over breakfast and after swearing to find out what's going on with the scroll, he winks and tells her to "take care" of his baby brother.
When she arrives at the Academy, her blush still hasn't faded.
The school day is a blessed distraction. The students show off their hand seals, and Kiyomi throws in an extra hand seal, much to Hinata's joy. The blue eyed girl looks rather down that morning, so Hinata pulls her aside during lunch to praise her on her hand seals, and to ask her what's wrong.
Kiyomi folds her arms on the desk and lays her head down on top of them. Hinata follows her gaze out the window, to the children playing outside. Takao, the dark haired boy Hinata met at the orphanage, is one of them, and Kiyomi seems to be staring at him.
"Takao got adopted." The blonde says softly. "His new parents are both doctors. They're gonna pick him up after school today."
Oh, Kami. Hinata knows that many orphans don't get adopted; Naruto is a prime example of this. Kiyomi will be able to live on her own when she becomes a genin, but the life orphans live is a lonely one. And Kiyomi is already ten - statistics show that older children have a much lower chance of being adopted.
But she doesn't need to know that.
"I'm happy for him." Kiyomi continues. "He doesn't remember much about his parents cuz' his mom died in child birth and his dad died on a mission a couple years ago. He deserves to have a family."
But there is a certain darkness in the young girl's eyes that makes Hinata's throat clench up, because she once had to look the same sort of darkness in the mirror.
Kiyomi feels unwanted, and Hinata knows this feeling all too well.
She knows that there is nothing she can say to make her feel better, so instead Hinata draws the petite blonde in a tight hug.
When they part, Kiyomi wipes at tears she hasn't quite shed and smiles up at her. "Let's have lunch, neh, Hinata-sensei?"
All she can do is nod.
Several hours later, when the students have gone and she's planned out the next day's lesson, Hinata writes a letter to Kurenai.
It's sort of funny, she muses. Her sensei adopted her, and now she's thinking about adopting her own student.
Hinata knows it's a silly idea, but it's just an idea - so far, anyway. She's only eighteen. She's not even a permanent citizen of Suna. She's way too young to be adopting a ten year old girl.
Kiyomi is still on her mind when Gaara picks her up that evening. He's not wearing his usual robes, she notes. Instead, he's wearing a black dinner jacked and a white collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up tucked into a pair of crisp black pants, and the tie around his neck is a shade of blue that reminds her faintly of the Suna sky at twilight. His gourd is absent, but they are in the desert after all. He has weapons all around him.
The Kazekage, Hinata decides with a rather severe blush, looks extremely attractive in civilian clothes.
He offers his arm out to her and her heart skips a beat when their skin touches. "Y-you look nice." She manages to mumble out the compliment, though she can't quite look him in the eyes when she does.
Gaara's face flushes slightly and he uses his free hand to brush some hair out of his face. "Thanks. Um, the place I thought we'd go to is semi-formal. I got you a dress. Temari told me your size a little while ago, and I wasn't sure if you had anything so..."
"W-what? Oh, Gaara, you didn't need to do that -"
"I wanted to!" He half-shouts. "Really. I just...I wanted to." His face reddens until his cheeks are nearly the same shade as his tattoo.
Oh, Kami help her. He keeps looking cuter and cuter.
When they arrive at home, he holds the door open for her - again - and starts fiddling with his collar.
"Ah," He coughs and pulls his collar away from his neck. "It's upstairs. The dress, I mean. I hung it on your door."
"That's very thoughtful of you, Gaara." He's obviously about as nervous as she is, so she smiles. "Really. Thank you."
He nods, and she quickly ascends the stairs before her face turns into a tomato.
There is in fact a dress bag hanging on the door when she arrives at her room, and she takes it inside with her without looking at it.
Hinata unzips the black garment bag the moment the door is closed, and when she finally sees the dress she nearly cries.
It's beautiful, really, and probably incredibly expensive; the navy blue dress that is about the same shade as his tie has a scooped neckline and an intricate lace overlay. The silk sheath underneath the lace is soft and slips easily over her body once she takes her robe off. The sleeves are mid-length, and the hem ends just above her knees. It fits perfectly, and when she looks in the mirror she almost doesn't recognize herself.
Gaara has excellent taste, it seems.
Since he is waiting for her, after all, she quickly applies a layer of black eyeliner and mascara. She considers wearing lipstick, then decides it would be too much. Finally, she smooths her hair back into what she hopes is an elegant bun and slides on a pair of black heels she had previously worn at Ino's birthday party.
Hinata takes a deep breath and looks herself over in the mirror once more time.
Well, it's now or never.
When Gaara had been deciding what to do for their date, he'd asked his assistant what girls like. Maiko was, after all, a girl and therefore an expert on the subject. She had responded by raving about some restaurant her current boyfriend had taken her to, a newer place called Gorudo. It apparently sold western style cuisine in an upscale environment, and Maiko had said it was excellent. She had then insisted on dragging him to a nearby clothing store to purchase a dress for Hinata, in the event that she didn't have one. It wouldn't do to have her embarrassed, Maiko had reasoned. So he'd picked out the first thing that he thought would look good on Hinata (really, he thought she'd look good in anything but Maiko had final approval). At the time, he thought it'd all seemed really silly.
Now, he makes an internal note to give the girl a raise, because the way Hinata looks right now leaves him speechless.
The dress is the perfect shade of blue and it contrasts beautifully with her porcelain pale skin. The neckline shows off her elegant collarbone and she looks so innocently sensual that he almost chokes.
She bites her lip when she reaches the bottom step and peers up at him through those long, dark eyelashes. "A-ano...do I look ok?"
He blinks and suddenly he can speak again. "You look incredible, Hinata." His voice sounds almost hoarse and the color her cheeks turn reminds him of the roses planted outside his tower.
She ducks her head, but her lips curve up into a gentle smile and he really, really wants to kiss her.
But instead, he offers his arm out to her for the second time that evening, and the feeling of her arm in his is one he enjoys.
The walk to the restaurant is a little awkward, as the villagers are all watching them with interest. It makes sense, he supposes. He's their beloved Kazekage, and he knows his villagers would like nothing more than for him to find a wife and start a family. Baki himself actually has brought it up to him, but he's never really considered a woman before Hinata.
"They adore you." She observes quietly, her small hand tightening around his own.
"I'm glad." He responds, his voice equally low so that the conversation stays between only them. "I was shocked when they made me Kazekage, you know. For a very long time I worried that the Shukaku would beat me, and that I would end up the monster my father thought I was. But eventually I realized that the people here don't think I'm that person anymore. I am not my mistakes nor am I defined by my past, and I think my people respect that."
"Your people are smart." She comments wryly. Then her serious expression turns playful. "But perhaps you simply won them over with your charm, like you did Matsuri."
He feels his cheeks begin to burn, but when she laughs, he doesn't care and he joins in with her. "Remind me to speak to her about that." He grimaces. "I can't believe no one ever told me she had a...crush on me. I care about her, but in the way that I care for all my villagers."
"Just let her down gently." Hinata says softly. "A girl's heart is a fragile thing, after all."
They've finally arrived at the restaurant and once inside, Gaara raises his eyebrows and Hinata lets out a small gasp. This is certainly not like the casual BBQ places they've visited in the past. The walls are painted a metallic gold that fits the restaurants name well. The decor is all sleek and modern in shades of white and silver. In one corner of the room, there is a raised platform where a man plays piano. The atmosphere is one of elegance, and for a moment Gaara feels underdressed.
The hostess's eyes widen when she sees him enter. "K-kazekage-sama! I did not realize you had a reservation tonight!"
Oh, shit. He never thought about that. He normally never goes to these sort of places; he doesn't make reservations.
Apparently the woman, whose nametag reads "Fumio", has realized he has forgotten to make a reservation at all, and her fingertips fly over the papers lying on the podium. "I'm sure we can find room for you and your date, Kazekage-sama; I'm sure no one will mind giving up their reservation for you, after all you've -"
"No." He interrupts her, which he knows is rude, but he won't use his position to take someone else's reservations. "We will come back another time. Thank you for your time."
Hinata is silent as they head back outside, and once they pass through the double doors to the resturant, he sighs heavily. He's got to be the biggest idiot in Suna.
"I'm so sorry about this, Hinata." He feels miserable. "I feel incredibly foolish for not realizing I needed to make reservations in the first place."
She simply smiles at him and slips her hand into his. "It's no problem, Gaara. We can go somewhere else."
Somewhere, the gods are smiling down at him. Hinata has got to be the easiest woman to please he's ever met.
But really, he wanted to make this night memorable, and romantic, and just anywhere else won't do.
And then it hits him.
"Hinata, what are your feelings towards picnics?"