A/N: Thank you for the reviews! I really appreciate them. ;)

Plum Wine



Gaara stared at the hand in front of him. His stomach flipped and churned. He wasn't sure what to make of this, what she had done. All he knew that it was too soon.

"Not yet," he said. He was not ready to relinquish control now- he needed more time. Yes, they had shared a kiss in the past and he still had to determine how he felt about that. He liked it, yes, but he couldn't let her take control all the time. That dark, twisted part of his mind would not let him.

"Oh." Hinata withdrew her hand and looked guilty. Gaara might have felt guiltier if the Shukaku voice in the back of his mind told him that he needed to be stronger. "I'm sorry," she added and Gaara furrowed his brow. It seemed to give her the wrong impression and he cursed himself, not sure what to do next.

"This is new to me." Everything was new to him when it came to this. Knowing what to do next was impossible, really. She nodded and looked downwards. Something he said had to be wrong, but he didn't know what.

So they let the silence swallow them. Gaara stared at the stars to pass the next half a minute. Was this it? Maybe he should remove the Sand Armor.

But then she spoke. "Would you like to come with me to… a special place no one else knows about, to make it up to you." Something in her expression weakened the temptation he had to go and so he agreed after a moment.

He lowered them down onto the ground and they stepped off the sand cloud. Hinata led the way again, as she had the first night. Perhaps Gaara might have been worried if he was not in a village allied with the Sand and he didn't possess a fierce sand defense. He wasn't sure he had any sense of fear anymore either.



They went into the outskirts of the village, through side streets, until they came to a small restaurant. More of a diner or a café in terms of size. Hinata opened the door and a middle-aged woman – civilian – greeted her with a wrinkled face and yellowed teeth.

"Hinata-san!" said the woman and offered a small smile. "What'll you have?" She didn't really wait for Hinata to answer before she continued. "I have some special plum wine for you to try. I know how much you like it." Hinata blushed and glanced over at Gaara, as if she was embarrassed by this secret. She should not be drinking so early, but he didn't care. She was not part of his village and if it did not affect her normal kunoichi duties, then she would not get into trouble with her own.

Gaara glanced at the wooden walls, cut and scratched. This was too dirty a place for the prim and proper Hyuuga. "How often do you visit this…restaurant?" he asked, for lack of better word.

Hinata twirled the end of some of her hair. She didn't want to look at him while she did that, so she must still be embarrassed. "O-often. It's safe." Her eyes met his now, silence falling between them. There were some secrets of hers she didn't want anyone to tell.

"It will remain safe." After all, he was good at keeping secrets. No one to tell except himself and Shukaku's shadow. Hinata gave him a relieved smile and both of them said nothing for a little while.

The woman interrupted their silence by offering them some egg fried rice. Gaara wasn't hungry and did not want to pay for it, but Hinata did. It was decent of her.

(Take her outside, rip the delicate flesh off her lips.) Shukaku's shadow reared its head again and he pushed the voice to the back of his mind. He took a pair of chopsticks and tested the egg fried rice because the woman and Hinata were watching him. "It's good," he said, which wasn't really a lie. The woman laughed in a rasp and left.

Hinata furrowed her brow and rose the cup of plum wine to her lips. She sipped at it before she gulped. Gaara downed the whole cup and poured more for the both of them. If they were going to drink, they would drink like lords.

Gaara noticed that she followed suit and finished her cup as well. She drank more than he thought a quiet ninja like her would. Odd - but he didn't mind. His constitution allowed him to drink without worry of the consequences and so they both had half a dozen cups each.

Red tinges spread across their cheekbones and shimmers of smiles crossed Hinata's face. "I think you should go to places like this in Suna," she said. "It will be good for you to bond with your people. Better than being uptight like my clan." Everyone knew it - she had not voiced it to anyone, but she trusted him with the secret.

"Most clans are." Gaara said that as if he stated the weather. She burst into quiet laughter and a small smile appeared in the corner of his mouth. It disappeared, but his good mood did not.