AN: Ahoy there, readers! Like i said, not such a long wait for this one, huh? Next one might take long, since I haven't written anything. (but I've written the one right after!) So, like I've mentioned, I've written other complete chapters, including the last one, so there's no possible way for me to abandon this story. So don't you worry anymore after this! you have my word, authors honor.

Anyway, I had to make so many revisions to this one! I kept on producing something that was pretty exaggerated until i was able to find a good equilibrium, and hopefully, it shows. Because, as you read, you'll see parts where it could've been too much.

Like always, though, I hope you enjoy it as much as you have the previous chapters. It got bumpy last chapter, and may be so for another, but please stick with me! We'll get through this together readers.

Thank you and enjoy! :)


Chapter 15: Party Foul

"We need to talk."

My proposal is one that no person likes to hear, or even oblige. However, it's necessary to alert the other individual of the severity of the conversation, and the potential emotions involved thereafter. It's a cliché opener, but one that's effective. Once you speak or hear it, depending on which end you're on in the given situation, there's no turning back.

"I understand what's happening, and that's why, I think it's best that we start seeing new roommate's." I say, hugging a couch pillow closer to my cheek as I peer sideways at my roommate's picture on top of the coffee table. "I knew it would happen at some point. I just wish you had told me sooner than later, that way; I could've made arrangements by now. Since I had to hear it from your girlfriend last minute, now I'm in a tighter spot."

The poorly crafted flower doesn't respond, and I frown at the reactionless expression of the photo, "I'll be honest and say that I'm more upset with you then Sakura-san, although she had been a little less than friendly with me the other day. I wish you would have taken the initiative to tell me as a friend, but I guess beggars can't be choosers."

With a sigh, I sink my head further into the couch pillow, mulling over my next plan of action, "I should write to my mom for her send me apartments in Konoha for cheap rent."

A few days have passed since my encounter with Sakura, and her special version of an update with current affairs back in Konoha. It's a Friday evening after secretarial work and tutoring, and I'm sprawled on my apartment couch debating on what to do once Saturday rolls around. According to my roommate's last letter, his scheduled mission assignment here in Sunagakure starts tomorrow. Therefore, he will be in town for an 'X' amount of time henceforth. I dread for Monday, since I will return to work at the Kazekage's Residence to have the potential of running into him, at any point in time. Heck, I could probably run into him before then. It's not so much a comforting thought. As much as I would want to speak my mind about my current concern, I know it'll come off as awkward— or not even say it.

I have this issue with being a straight shooter. My ideal resolution to this situation is not bother to mention it till the day I pack my things and head out the door. You could picture it as a War Hero novel or film, where the military husband leaves the farmhouse without a word. Only a single note remains on the kitchen table, where his eternal love spills over the paper practically, for he knows the war will not let him return to his lover.

Yes, that is how I want it to be.

I will leave a letter for Lee on the coffee table; tell him how I secretly do…like him, and how I hope for the best, regardless of the matter. Except, instead of going to war, I take refuge in another apartment possibly within short walking distance, where I run into him a few days later at a random store. Then realize at that exact moment that real life is nothing like the stories told by romanticizing artists, and embarrass myself for the millionth time.

Yup, sounds about right.

Or maybe, I shouldn't leave, and stand my ground. That way, I can be incredibly lazy with my opposition, and Sakura can pack my things for me, so I don't have to do it. I'll just have to wait for her to physically kick me out so she can move in—never mind, I hardly doubt that'll be the case. If anything, I won't move, and I'll just be forced to live under difficult conditions (such as uncomfortable girlfriend visits), until my sanity can't take it any longer and I end up moving anyhow.

An inevitable loss.

"I think I should just move out," I whisper resolutely, thinking it best for everyone. There's absolutely no point in staying there anymore, and I'll save myself the trouble if I get it over with sooner than later. "I've been living there for almost a year…and I did say I would think about moving out around that time."

My outward thoughts are interrupted by a distinguishable knock at the apartment door. I almost throw my pillow in surprise when I stand and take my roommate's flowerpot in a defensive hold. Exiting my room, I open the front door with the flower at arms. I twist my head to peer down the dimly lit complex hallway before taking up a package placed at my doorstep.

I'm quick to settle everything down on the kitchen counter and open the box. When I do, I'm met with a letter on top of finely wrapped dress shoes and silk dress. My eyelashes flutter, taking up the fine printed envelope. When I open it, it's an invitation to a gathering hosted by the Kazekage, which I remember being informed of a few weeks previously.

What I wasn't informed of is the lovely gift accompanying the invitation. As I put the invitation back in the envelope, I notice a smaller piece of parchment inside. Taking out the simple note, it reads:

'Don't bother buying a dress for tomorrow's event, since I decided to buy you one given your circumstances for being here. If you have already bought one, return it and get your money back.

If there's any trouble fitting with the dress, contact me tomorrow, and I will have a seamstress make the final adjustments.

The Kazekage'

Although I'm shocked by the gesture, it settles into a profound appreciation, "Thank you very much," I speak aloud, as if by some means my words will reach him.

I place the note back and take up the dress in its wrapping, allowing it to extend to the floor. My mouth forms an oval shape; this dress definitely isn't cheap, I comment internally. I peer back inside the box; neither are these shoes! The Kazekage's thoughtful gift certainly is one of the most expensive gifts I've ever been given. I feel almost undeserving, especially since he's already done so much in my favor.

Regardless, the most I can do at this point is accept his gift, and try my hardest to live up to the beauty that's expected by the dress.

"Jeez. I need to go to the salon tomorrow," I settle on the idea, after peering at my plain nails and flat hair. I nod firmly, determination circling inside me to make a decent impression. Being the Kazekage's secretary, I need to put all my effort into becoming refined image capable of being at his side, "Alright, first things first, plenty of beauty sleep."

I place everything back in the box and head to my room, excitedly preparing for the next evening.

o o o

The next day followed, and I woke up bright and early to start the beautification process. Plus, I even went out to buy matching accessory items for the dress (not quite as expensive, but a fair quality that was suitable). This took up my whole morning and early evening, and left the remaining time for me to apply my make-up. Once I was fully prepared, I took up my invitation and maintained my balance as I made my way out of my apartment complex. I walked into the main streets of Sunagakure, weaving through crowds of villagers until I was able to find the exact location.

I enter the luxurious hotel decorated with marble flooring, high ceilings, and dangling chandeliers. Passing the lobby, I mix in with other well-dressed individuals, casually making their way into the convention area of the hotel. Trailing the intricate carpet under my heels, I come upon open double doors with Sand Shinobi surveying every attendee's invitation. As I near them, I present my own invitation, and I'm motioned inside. A grand ballroom, with clothed dinner tables scattered around a dance floor, instantly greet me.

I step attentively, surveying the expanse for a familiar face. Farther into the room stands my employer, dressed in a white tailored suit. He's shaking hands with two older and foreign gentlemen, and they bow out of the conversation. Now that he is unoccupied, I motion myself towards him, bowing politely when he turns to view me.

"Good evening," I speak formally, smiling when I lift my head, "Gaara-sama."

"The dress," he says, cool and crisp. "It suits you."

"Thank you," I blush, a shade deeper than the contour makeup spread across my cheeks. "You were the one who picked it out. I assume you must have envisioned me in it before purchasing it."

A veiled smile dashes across his pale features, "I might have."

He raises a polite arm for me to take, and I do. He gracefully escorts me around the lavished scenery, showing me where all the amenities are if I ever decide to wander on my own. After the private tour, we stop at one of the many buffet tables, assorted with tasters far too expensive for my pallet. My company asks one of the waiting attendees to pour us two glasses of wine. The red puddles move delicately in the glasses as the Kazekage receives both and extends one to me. I take it readily and thank him, clinking my glass against his in a silent cheer before taking a conservative sip. The bitter sweetness is stronger and thicker than white wine. It's not so terrible, but it's different enough to make my lips squeeze together in protest.

"I'm still not used to it," my employer comments after lowering his glass from his mouth. His hand swirls the wine, "I don't care for alcohol…I prefer my tea."

"I'm aware, since I serve you tea twice a day for five days a week," I say, watching bemused as Gaara stares distantly at the cup in his hand. "Although, they say a glass a day is good for your heart. I'm just surprised you decided to have a cup."

"The circumstances call for it," he responds plainly, taking another detached sip. He pauses to allow the savory bitterness to settle, "I'm in a large room filled with people I hardly converse with in a given day. All the Kage's will soon be present, with the slight chance of some wanting to discuss political and military topics. And need I say that it's just the beginning of the night...I have a feeling I won't be getting to sleep anytime soon."

A small fit of laughter wells in my stomach. I place my masked fingers to my lips, hardly suppressing the giggles fighting to leave my lips. The Kazekage regards me with a confused look about him, and I wave my hand dismissively, "I'm so sorry," I say between my snickers. I take in a careful breath to calm my laughs; "I've never heard you complain about anything until now. It's actually very refreshing. For a moment, I thought you passively tolerated anything related to your work."

"You wouldn't be wrong. I do in some cases," he agrees, his stare moving with the shifting crowd of bare acquaintances in front of him. "Anything I do, I keep in mind what exactly motivates me. If my intentions are good, I will produce something good. I try not to focus on reasons such as 'duty' or 'obligation'. It tends to undermine the reason why I continue to be the Kazekage."

"Then how about this party, what do you think of it?" I ask.

"Obligatory…but like I said, I don't like to use that word," he answers, and slowly but surely, more red wine passes his lips. "I'm reminding myself of the purpose of this party, as superfluous as it is. I would rather have a quick and clean meeting instead of this…but I can't deny that there are some things I'm looking forward to tonight."

"Like what, exactly?" I inquire with interest.

"It will be nice to see the Hokage again. It's been some time since I last saw him. I think it was about six months or so ago," he states, his observant eyes momentarily brushing over me before tending back to the changing crowd. "That and the opportunity to invite you to dance."

I had taken a swig of my wine at the last of his sentence. My shock opens my windpipes and ushers the gulp of liquid inside. I immediately cover my mouth and make an unpleasant choking noise.

"Are you alright?" Gaara questions with concern, tending closer to me in case I need to be assisted to the bathroom or a hospital stretcher.

"I'm—" I almost gag on the word. My violet eyes are watering, and I turn my flushed face to hide the embarrassing sight, "I'm fine, thank you. I just need…to catch my breath." I grab a napkin from the table behind us and press it against my mouth to catch my coughs. I soon regain my composure and redden in fluster, "God, excuse me. The wine got the better of me."

"It's alright, as long as you're fine now," says the Kazekage, touching upon my bare shoulder for a brief moment.

"I am, thank you," I say with an embarrassed smile.

"Oi! Gaara!" A boisterous voice erupts above the humming ballroom music and private conversations happening all around us simultaneously. The Kazekage averts his eyes away, and I do the same, trailing his gaze. My sight is no sooner met with the astonishing presence of the Hokage, accompanied by his impeccable wife and Hyuuga heiress. I'm star struck by their image as they near us, coming to stand only a few feet away.

"Man, it's been so long since I've seen you. How's it been?" The Hokage beams, flashing a white set of teeth. He extends a hand and the Kazekage accepts it without hesitation. The Hokage grips hard and brings Gaara into a friendly hug. The blonde man laughs ecstatically as they separate, "Woah, and don't you look fancy? I've got to say, nice set up you've got going here."

"Thank you, but I think you should speak for yourself," Gaara comments with an amused leer, grazing his eyes over the Hokage's primped black and white tux.

The Hokage stares down at himself before grinning and adjusting his tie, "Nice, isn't it? Hinata picked it out for me. Wouldn't let me leave the house without it. It was the first thing she told me to pack."

The fair heiress smiles shyly, giggling as if recalling the humorous memory between them. The Hokage turns a head to stare lovingly at his wife and cups her hand rested gently at his forearm. His attention then fixes upon me, and I can see his blue eyes brighten and gleam with interest, "Oh, hey! And you must be the famous Sho. First time I've had the chance to see the girl I fixed the position for."

"Yes, and thank you so much, Hokage-sama," I manage to speak, bowing my head. "I'm very appreciative for what you've done for me, even without knowing who I was. I wish there was something I could do to repay you."

"Alright, you can start by buying me a life time supply of beef ramen," he states, and there's a pause of silence before he explodes with laughter. "Just kidding, I've got my wife here who cooks the best ramen I've ever tasted. Honestly though, the person you should be thanking isn't me, but the guy standing right over there."

The Hokage points a finger and my violet eyes follow. Past the ballroom floor where couples are twisting and turning, stands a figure beside a white marble pillar. I contain a gasp and the action of dropping my glass in shock. There's no mistaking the bowl cut hair, circular eyes, and tuffs of eyebrows for anyone other than my roommate.

I turn a stiff head back to the Hokage, taking a heedless sip of my wine. I can barely taste the bitterness this time. "Mm. Well, I've already thanked him before I left. I don't think I need to say it again since he already knows."

My eyes tend back to where my roommate stands. His posture is straight, while his attention is fixated on his surroundings. His head deviates to our chatting group, and I quickly retract my attention.

"What's the matter? You don't seem too happy that he's here. I thought you would be, since you're friends and all," the Hokage states with a curious quirk of his brow.

"Oh, I am." I lie, smiling. "I'm just a little surprised that he's here."

"You shouldn't be," says the Hokage, taking a sideways glance across the ballroom. "He agreed to do this weeks ago, didn't he mention anything to you in a letter or something?"

"Somewhat," I mumble before taking another sip of my wine. "He only told me that he would be on a mission that required him to come to Suna. He never said anything about being here specifically."

"Missions are classified subjects, I don't blame him for not telling you," Gaara states, reentering the conversation. The Hokage nods in agreement, and I mentally sigh at the undeniable truth of it. "Regardless of the matter, he's here now and most likely chosen to come on the account that he would see you."

"Gaara's right, you should've seen the look on his face when I offered the mission to him," the Hokage bares a grin towards me. "You two must get along really well for him to have been excited to come."

"I wouldn't say we get along really well…" I speak almost inaudibly, as if there were a possibility for my roommate to hear.

I'm trying to convince my company, and perhaps a bit of myself, that what I'm saying is true. It's plain as day that I have mixed feelings for him, due to only a few reasons that don't make sense to me at all. Plus, I'm fairly certain his current girlfriend passively, yet quiet aggressively, hinted my permanent removal from the picture.

I really can't get involved any more than I already am.

"Sho," the Kazekage speaks my first name, and it's still odd for me to hear it. "You're his friend. He came all this way not only to serve his duty as a Shinobi, but to see you as well. You should say hello to him, it would be the least you could do."

Damn it all. The Kazekage should not be lecturing me; it's embarrassing. I stare up at him momentarily, longing reflecting in my eyes, "But, Gaara-sama. I'm here to accompany you, are you sure it's okay for me to leave your side?"

"I'm giving you permission," the Kazekage answers simply. "So go on, I'll see you momentarily."

I want to object, but I can't. There's no arguing with the Kazekage himself, so I bow my head respectfully and excuse myself from the group.

My heart is in my throat. I'm walking as slowly as I can to postpone this unrequited encounter. I pass a few clothed dinner tables, and maneuver around excited attendees making their way to dance. My roommate enters my clear line of sight, and I pinch the stem of my wine glass. I release one final trembled breath and step beside him.

"Yamada-san," Lee addresses me happily, and my chest squeezes in such a depressing delight. His head turns and he regards me with a warming smile that I can't help but miss. His circles stare into me with an intense excitement, "It is good to see you again. I would give you a friendlier greeting, but I am still on duty and it would be unprofessional of me."

"I understand." I turn my attention towards the sea of dancers, standing shoulder to shoulder with the green Shinobi. "It's good to see you too, Lee-san."

"How are things?" I hear my roommate ask, ever so curious to know what I've been up to.

"Perfectly fine," I reply shortly after a sip of my wine. My violet eyes briefly wander to the Kazekage, chatting with the Hokage and now an additional character, presumably another esteemed Kage. "Gaara-sama has been taking such good care of me. I'm very grateful," I pause, feeling a nervous tinge crawling into my stomach. "How are things with you?"

"Everything is good," Lee responds, his own saucers tending to the extravagant scene before him. "I have never seen you in such a fancy dress, and wearing jewelry..." the words trail from his mouth, "you look very beautiful."

I touch the heavy crystal dangling from my right ear, reddening at the compliment. The rush of blood is giving way to the effects of the alcohol maneuvering freely inside me. I'm beginning to feel a little light-headed, and the only thing I can do is wash the feeling down with the last of my wine. Maybe I shouldn't have done that.

"So," I begin, ignoring his flattery. I smile graciously as a server approaches me and offers a glass of sparkling champagne from his tray. I exchange glass's and thank him before returning to my roommate, "How's everything with you and Sakura-san?"

Oh boy, where am I trying to go with this?

"It is just as I told you in the letter I wrote to you, we are fine," he responds quickly.

"Mhm," I purse my lips and stare down at my champagne. "By the way, Lee-san. What are you doing here exactly?"

From the corners of my densely coated lashes, I can see my roommate turn a curious head at me, "I am on a mission to bodyguard the Hokage. That and to see how you are doing," he responds as if it were plain as day.

"Right, to see how I'm doing," I blow the words from my mouth, taking far too much champagne in one taste. A deeper sensation of unsteadiness is settling, causing my lips and tongue to feel lighter with each passing minute, "Sorry, what I meant to ask is why are you here? Or more specifically, why did you even bother coming to check up on me?"

Especially since you're about to take a serious step with your girlfriend.

"Yamada-san, I do not understand where you are coming from," I see him frown in my peripherals, "Why would I not want to check up on my friend and roommate?"

"I don't know, Lee-san. You tell me, because who in their right mind would accept a mission, a government assigned operation, just to 'check-up' on their roommate?" I shake my head at the ridiculousness of his actions. "Do you ever think before you act?"

"You make it sound as if I have never had a good idea in my entire life," he responds through tightly pressed lips. "I admit that I intentionally took this mission to see you specifically, but that is all. I thought it would be nice to see each other, given that we are friends."

"Jeez, you are so…" I have to take a moment to snatch another taste of alcohol. Oh, how I wish my glass was full again. "We're not children anymore. We're adults with obligations. You're in a committed relationship, Lee-san. You can't be taking missions to see me just under the safe pretenses that we're friends."

"I do not see anything wrong with what I am doing," he speaks defensively, like some primary school boy excusing his childish antics.

"Well, there is," I state desperately, begging for some form of indulgence. "The way we've been acting around each other is too comfortable. I know nothing between us has been intentional, but it's irresponsible to act that way. And as much as I'd like to move on from all of it, you're not letting me. Especially now, so please, promise me that you'll never do anything related to this again."

"Yamada-san," he speaks my name in a manner that I'm forced to turn my head at. I tilt my chin up to catch his eyebrows furrowing discerningly at me. His stare seems to be searching, as if I have something tangible that he could take. It feels like centuries until his mouth finally moves to speak, "Do you…think about us often?"

What?

"Why would you even ask me that question?" I ask breathlessly, unable to comprehend his inappropriate forwardness. I pinch the stem of my champagne glass in an attempt to mask my brewing irritation, "I'm sorry, Lee-san. But first of all, I'm not going to answer your question, and secondly, I'm going to leave this one-sided conversation now. So, if you'll excuse me."

I turn a flustered cheek and attempt to pick up my heels.

"Wait, Yamada-san!" my name is frantically called, and I feel a strong hand capture my thin and perfumed wrist. "I am sorry for asking. You are right; I do and say things without thinking sometimes. But please, just talk with me a little longer—"

"What for?" I turn, almost choking on my words. "What do you want me to say? What could I possibly say that could satisfy you?"

Say that I want you to leave your girlfriend so I can continue to be your roommate?

"I…" his voice and gaze lower towards the ground. "I do not know."

"Exactly, you don't even know yourself. You know, I actually feel bad for Sakura-san, to have to put up with your selfishness. Oh, but wait, you don't even realize that you are, so I guess that excuses your behavior," I say bitterly. "Point is, we're just roommate's, and not for long. But until then, let's start acting like it."

A hollow silence follows my callous statement, and I become aware of how reckless the ballroom music sounds incessantly in my ears. The warm hand wrapped around my wrist turns pallid, and slips away. My heart is pumping so much blood and alcohol into my head; it's hurting too much for me to understand what to do next. With a remarkable will to face my guilt, I turn my head and allow my eyes to fall upon my roommate. He looks back at me with a terribly shocked expression, such as the poor thing can only do. I have swept away what little foundation he secured as his means of coming here. Worst of all, perhaps I've even swept away much of our entire relationship.

What have I done?

I turn my face and push away from the sight of him, "I'm sorry, excuse me."

I'm the absolute worst.

I push through a faceless crowd, frantically searching for the Kazekage. My heart is wedged in my throat, and although I spot him conversing in the distance, it refuses to be swallowed. I try to restrain my desperation by reigning my pace, casually placing myself by his side. I bow tensely at his company, politely introducing myself into the exchange.

"Gentlemen, allow me to introduce…" Gaara trails off. Although I'm trying hard to veil the emotions inside me, the skin between my eyes and lips are creasing in pure distress. He addresses his company and excuses us out of the group, taking me to the side and speaking low to me: "Did something happen? You don't look comfortable."

"It's nothing, really. I'm just not feeling too well. I might have drank a little too much wine," I exhale quite heavily, setting down my emptied glass onto a lone table. "I only wanted to tell you that I was going to the restroom, incase you came looking for me."

"Do you need me to escort you?" Gaara asks, tending a concerned eye over my form.

"Thank you, but that won't be necessary. I'll be fine on my own," I smile weakly in return. "I don't want to take you away from your conversation with those gentlemen over there. They should be your first priority."

"Your health is my first priority," he exclaims directly, his touch brushing against my arm. "Are you sure you want to go alone?"

I blush and avert my gaze to the soles of my heels, "Yes, Gaara-sama. Please, attend back to your guests. I know their eager to have a chance to talk with you. I'll join you as soon as I can."

My employer remains silent with hesitation, but closes his shaded eyes and nods, obliging me, "Be sure to come find me once you're done," he states. "I will come get you myself if I don't see you within a reasonable time."

"Yes, Gaara-sama," I bow lightly and dismiss myself.

I keep my sight low, not wanting to capture any unneeded pairs of eyes (especially a pair of big rounded ones the size of Jupiter). I trail the elegant flooring and its patterns, exiting the ballroom and entering an extended hallway. It doesn't take me long to find the restroom, and I urge myself inside, apologizing when I clumsily brush against someone making their way out. I push into the nearest private stall, and lean exhausted against the door. I close my eyes so tight, I believe there's no possible way for any tears to spring out. Inside the darkened recluse behind my eyelids, I chant stringed whispers to myself.

"Calm down, you're okay. You made a mistake, but your fine…." I blow out a wavering breath. "Just get through tonight, you can do it, Sho. Then, you can write an apology letter later when you have a clear mind."

I repeat the verse like the chorus of a song, until it gives me enough reassurance to exit the stall. I motion myself to an unoccupied sink, smiling faintly when I catch the eyes of another woman powdering herself next to me.

I stare at my image reflected by the mirror in font of me, and fortunately, nothing seems out of place but the tiniest smudge at the corner of my eye. I'm quick to fix it and inhale slowly, composing myself in order to return to the party. I understand that I'm responsible for my actions, and within my recent mistake, I must inwardly deal with the turmoil that accompanies it.

And although I presently feel like a small girl far too young and reckless to wear all that I'm wearing, I'll pretend and play the part, because that's what it means to be an adult.

With one final adjustment of my dress, I step out of the restroom and make my way back to the ballroom. I settle beside the Kazekage just as I promised, and he briefly turns an eye that examines me from head to toe. I tilt my lips far into my cheeks, assuring him that all is well, and that he doesn't need to preoccupy himself with me. My appearance seems to please his discerning gaze, and he proceeds to converse amongst the gentlemen in his group.

As the time passes, I follow the Kazekage as we move from one cluster of people to another, exchanging greetings and current events. Luckily, there's a pause between the hectic journey between conversations and the Kazekage finally asks me to dance. He escorts me on to the open floor plan and guides us through the strewn of twirling guests. Before I know it, his hand is guided to my waist, while the other takes mine to hold. I position myself accordingly, and we begin to move and mix with the music and those surrounding us.

"Are you enjoying yourself?" I ask, breaking the silence between us.

"I am now," he says with an underlying sigh. "I needed the break."

"Glad I could be of service," I smile genuinely; true enough to briefly erase the persisting discomfort in my chest. "Were you happy to see the Hokage?"

"Mm, yes," he responds in his usual cool manner. "The Hokage invited me to chat over more drinks at the hotel he's staying at for the remainder of his visit afterwards."

"Sounds like fun," I say. "I think you should go, since you don't see him very often. Your positions keep you two rather busy all year round, I'm sure."

"That's very true," he responds, gazing down at me with his pair of light eyes. There' s a beat before he speaks: "Would you care to join me?"

My violet hues blink upwards, and I only take a moment to consider his sincere invitation before glancing away; "I think it's best if I don't," I answer quietly. "I wouldn't want to distract you two from chatting about more personal things. That, and I wouldn't want for the Hokage to assume anything beyond our current relationship. I just think it would be bothersome for you if I do decide to go."

"I wouldn't be bothered by the assumption," he answers plainly, with that habitual low pitch which is customary for him.

If it weren't for the impending throb in my chest, a considerably deep shade of pink would have bruised my cheeks. Instead, my motions are reserved by lowering my eyes shyly; "Thank you for the invitation, Gaara-sama, but I really should retire after this event. I still have work tomorrow, and there's so much to do for you. I don't want to lack in my performance if I stay out too late."

Gaara nods at my answer, "I understand. I admire your sense of responsibility."

"Thank you," I reply.

Would it be selfish of me to admit that the sole reason I'm against going, for all intents and purposes, is because of my roommate? I'm fairly certain his presence would be there, if not definitely near by. The thought of having to be within arms length right now would spur unbearable cramps in my stomach, a pain I'm not too thrilled about experiencing more than I should. I'm already confronting this emotional and physical pain; and I'm not even menstruating. At least I can keep my eyes to myself in this larger space, and if my attention does wander, there are more individuals to stare at than a person with obscenely large eyebrows. My options would surely be limited in a hotel suite with only a few others whom are all seemingly close to one another. It would be impossible to "freshen-up" in the bathroom for a good hour and go unnoticed.

o o o

I blow a hefty puff of air from my shimmering red lips, settling into a pulled out chair at an abandoned dinning table. After dancing for quiet some time with the Kazekage, my feet have taken a sincere beating from my heels. I mentioned my 'small' discomfort to my employer, and told him that I would be resting for most of the remaining time here at the event. I was advised that the extravagant festivity would be ending within an hour or so, which gave me the only relief I've received this entire night.

The time passed in the most boring fashion. Since I couldn't have my gaze parade the party due to the current circumstances, I was forced to stare intently at the lifeless centerpiece of the table. After five minutes of inspecting every detail of the floral arrangement, I had to do it again, and again. Maybe, I'd stare at a few others at distant tables, but that became awkward very quickly.

My head only perked up when the Kazekage took center stage on the ballroom floor, giving an inspirational speech of national unity and Shinobi pride. I found myself captivated by his delivery. A sure sentimental undertone was present, despite him having told me of his indifference towards the whole thing. I recall smiling, when during a pause in his speech, I was certain his eyes met mine. Whether he did or not, I don't know. Point is, I made sure to pay full attention and stand to applaud him, as did the entire room. As the collective claps simmered the guests began to disperse, where a few approached the Kazekage to give their final compliments and good-bye's.

Now, from my spot next to the clothed table, I wait patiently until the strewn of important individuals leave his presence, before making my way towards him.

"That was incredible, Gaara-sama," I give my own commendations as I come to stand in front of him. "You're a really great public speaker. Everyone in the room had their eyes on you."

"Thank you," he replies humbly, reverting back to his private way of speaking. "Will you be leaving now?"

"Yes, actually. I was just about to mention that," I say.

"I've decided to accompany you back home," he prompts. "I've already spoken to the Hokage, and told him that I would join him at the hotel once I was sure you arrived home safely."

"Oh." I'm surprised by my employer's initiative, but it's definitely appreciated, which places a small meaningful smile across my features. "Thank you, I'm very grateful."

We walk together out of the ballroom and through the intricate hallways of the building, bumping into a couple of attendees wanting to exchange a few more words with the Kazekage. He's quick to respond and politely excuse himself, being that the event is officially over, and his mind is centered on the relief of finally escaping. We make it outside and quietly walk side by side down the darkened Suna streets. The vast twilight is stretched out above us, and I can't help but fall into a daze staring at the stars scattered so perfectly across the purple blanket.

"I'm aware of what happened between you and Rock Lee."

My pleasant daydream abruptly pops, and my head snaps in the direction of my employer, "U-Um," I stumble on my words tinged with embarrassment and surprise. "You saw?"

He nods silently and slowly, continuing to trial his gaze straight ahead, "I keep an eye on all of my guests, and from my perspective, it looks as if you two had a disagreement," his ivory cheek turns more in my direction, peering at me through the corner of his eyes. "Am I wrong?"

I bite my bottom lip, "No, you're right," I whisper with disgrace, beginning to rub my arm as a means to seek comfort. The more I think about my behavior, the heavier my chest feels. It's so uncomfortable, I angle my chin away from my employer, too ashamed to even be walking at his side; "I'm sorry you had to see that, Gaara-sama. It was sincerely uncalled for, on my part—I was technically the one who initiated it…and to have done it at your important event…I'm..." I swallow a painful lump stuck to the back of my throat, "I'm incredibly embarrassed."

The Kazekage slows down his pace, maneuvering in front of me so that we come to a complete stop. I flinch when he pinches the bottom of my chin, directing my flushed face towards him.

"Cheer up…" says Gaara, and I carefully tend my trembling eyes to his, light and gentle. "It's only one night, and I'm not offended. Things like this will happen."

"Mhm," I croak, afraid to speak actual words incase I crack. "I will."

"Good, I can't have my secretary work under uneasy conditions, because it affects my work as well," he says with a ghost of a smile growing at the left corner of his mouth. "I expect nothing less than a cheerful smile with my cup of tea tomorrow…that's a direct order. Am I clear?"

I nod, giggling lightly at his way of lifting my mood, "Yes, Gaara-sama."

Satisfied with my answer, he releases my chin and turns his back to me, continuing to walk the path in front of us. I pick up my heels, and although the pain in my feet and chest are still present, I smile fully:

Thank you.