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Bed of the Scorpion

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A little while later, Azumi woke up to Naga hissing softly at her and tapping his nose against her's. He did not want her to oversleep and suffer some cruel punishment for not returning to Sasori on time. "Thank you," she groaned, kissing the top of the snake's head. She figured it was about time for Sasori to want to take his bath so she got up and went back to his room, leaving Naga behind this time.

Sasori was laying on his back with his eyes covered by a book when she walked in. "You're back," he said in a rough, soft voice. He had clearly been sleeping.

"I am," she answered as she rubbed her own tiredness from her face. "Shall I start your bath?" she asked, as she was already heading to the bathroom.

"Mhm," he growled softly as he stretched. He got up and followed her into the bathroom and started to strip his clothes off. She tried her best not to look at him as he took his clothes off. She hated herself for being attracted to him. "You said those other snakes would be arriving tomorrow right?" he asked as he chose what oil and salt he wanted for his bath that night.

"I said that yesterday," she said as she turned the faucets. "Which means they arrived today. Hopefully, Lord Gaara knew to just put them in the tank we prepared."

Sasori paused. "Right," he hummed. "We'll go down tomorrow then and check on them," he sighed. "Ugh, I hate when my uncle visits," he groaned as he walked back out to his room to grab his robe.

She took the jars of oil and salts that he chose for his bath and put them into the water then turned the faucets off when the water was at the right temperature. She looked at him as he walked back in and did not catch herself staring until she made eye contact with him. "How often does he visit?" she asked, trying not to make it completely obvious that she stared at him.

His lip twitched into a smirk when he noticed her watching him. "He comes around every few months," he said, slipping into the tub once she was finished pouring everything in. "I see him every other visit typically. When he forces his way into my room."

"I see," she hummed, setting the jar back on the shelf. She turned back to him. "Will you be needing anything else?"

"No, not tonight," he hummed. "You're dismissed," he said, sinking low into the tub. He watched her from just below the surface of the water.

She nodded and bowed. "Goodnight then," she said. She left and went back to her room. Naga looked up at her from the bed and hissed softly. She took her previous spot atop the dresser, looking out the window at the river that ran behind the mansion. She wanted to take a walk along the river. Just a short one. After a couple of minutes, she made the decision to climb out of the window. The sand was already cooling and it felt so nice. She moved toward the river, making sure to remain unseen as she walked further from the mansion. She approached the water, stepping into it very briefly and then stepping back onto the sand. She heard the sound of the water being moved and noticed a water snake moving up the river. It took notice of her and swam toward her, slithering onto the land and wrapping around her ankle. "Hello," she smiled, sitting down in the sand to pick the snake up. The snake hissed softly at her. Further up the bank, someone was slowly making their way towards her. She noticed them, seeing the red hair and almost thinking it was Sasori. Her heart sank, not wanting to deal with getting caught outside. As the person got closer, she realized it was Gaara. She smiled and stood up. "Good evening, Lord Gaara," she said with a bow. "I have to admit I just got nervous. I thought I was about to be caught out here."

Gaara smiled serenely at her. "I'm sorry if I startled you," he said. "I like taking walks along the river to clear my head," he told her, looking down at the snake wrapped around her arm. "I see you made a new friend," he chuckled.

"I did," she smiled fondly, looking down at the snake. "I was also about to take a walk and then this little one approached me."

He chuckled again when the snake flicked its tongue at them. "They really flock to you," he said. "Those other snakes you mentioned came and...I'm not sure if they were okay with being put in the tank but they didn't seem to give me any trouble."

"That is perfect," she said. "They will be fine there for now. Tomorrow, I will be able to properly home them. Thank you for your help." She looked at the mansion really quick and then back at him. She smiled and sat back down in the sand, patting the spot next to her for him to sit with her.

He joined her on the sand and smiled. "So my uncle was around today," he smirked. "Does that mean you also received a visit?"

She chuckled softly. "Yes," she said. "I did meet him today. He is a very sweet man."

Gaara smirked at her. "You can say he was handsome," he laughed, leaning back and tucking his arms behind his head. "He has that effect on women." His giggle was boyish.

"So far, all of the men I have met in your family are handsome," she smirked down at him. "Granted, I have only met three of you, but...you are all handsome." She chuckled and let the snake slither back into the water. "He seems to be the only person who can strike fear into your cousin."

Gaara caught the compliment to him and blushed a little in the darkness. "Our uncle does not tolerate slavery," Gaara hummed. "And he particularly hates what Sasori gets away with. It's something of a family feud." He thought for a second. "He's not afraid of Sasori because they both could destroy each other...at least it seems like they could."

"Just from the slap that I heard, I do not think it would take much effort on the part of your uncle," she said. "It is so interesting to see how two different men can be brutal in different ways." She smirked and looked down at Gaara. "What about you? How brutal can you be?"

His eyes narrowed and he smirked devilishly. "What makes you think there is a brutal bone in this body?" he asked, rolling onto his side to look up at her. "I'm not partial to it but my relationship with my father has...propelled me to learn formal fighting."

"Mm, I saw the way you almost crushed that bottle in your hand yesterday," she smirked.

He chuckled again. "Right, I almost forgot about that," he said, looking at his hand over his head.

She laid down on her side, facing him and resting her head on her hand. "Is your father similar to Lord Sasori in the sense that he is also prone to lashing out in anger?"

"He is. He's not a kind man in any way. I'm starting to think someone cruel is born in this family every generation."

"It is almost like a curse," she hummed. "What an odd curse that is." She looked at him and smiled. "Thankfully, it was not you who suffered it for your generation."

"I couldn't be that needlessly cruel," he smiled as he rolled on to his back again. "I just don't have the heart for it."

"You are an absolute breath of fresh air compared to him," she mumbled. She looked behind her and noticed a glossy snake slithering toward her. It hissed quietly and coiled up next to her. She gently stroked the top of its head.

He chuckled, watching the snake. "Do they all speak the same language?" he asked.

"They do but each type of snake has a different dialect," she said. "They can all understand each other for the most part. And I have never had a hard time understanding their dialects. You have a lot of different snakes in this part of the desert." She leaned in close to the snake and tapped her nose against its nose. "They are all approaching me to introduce themselves."

"That's precious," Gaara chuckled, watching her interact with the snake. "Yeah, sometimes they can be a problem since there are so many, but I don't mind them," he shrugged.

Azumi stroked the snake for a couple more seconds before it slithered away. "I am glad you do not mind them," she hummed, watching as the snake left. She looked Gaara again and smiled. "How often do you come out here?"

"Most nights," he said. "It's nice to have someone to share it with," he smiled at her. "Do you think you'll make this a regular thing?"

"If I can manage to sneak out, I would like to," she said. "There are nights where I sleep in my own room but then there are nights where I sleep in his room." She laid on her back next to him. "So it may not be as consistent as I would like."

"He makes you sleep with him?" Gaara gasped, sitting up to look at her. "Tell me it's for work." He frowned, already ready to get up and kick Sasori's ass.

Azumi looked at him and placed her hand over his. "He has not done anything to me," she assured him. "It was just the night he made this burn on my chest. He had me sleep in his bed with him." She frowned and looked down. "There is a bed in his room for me that he told me I would sleep in when we are working on projects overnight. So far, I have not slept in that."

Gaara relaxed a little. "Okay," he nodded. "I recommend putting an extra blanket on that bed if you can," he chuckled. "I've spent many nights on that thing. Halfway through the night, the floor starts to seem way more comfortable." He looked at her again, the frown returning. "If he does...try anything, tell me. Immediately."

She smiled softly at him. "Thank you," she said softly, taking his hand in hers. "I very much appreciate it."

He laced his fingers into hers and gently pulled her hand to his lips to press a kiss it to the back of it. "You don't deserve this life," he said softly. "We should probably head back soon," he sighed heavily.

She frowned and looked back at the mansion. "I suppose you are right," she sighed. She looked back at him and the smile crept back onto her face. "As always, I enjoyed speaking with you, Lord Gaara," she said. "You are a wonderful company."

"You can just call me Gaara," he smiled, getting up first. He offered his hand to help her up. "It's always nice to talk to you too."

She took his hand and stood up. "I look forward to doing this again," she said. "Will you be at the shop tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow," he hummed, looking up in thought. "Yes, I will be but Sasori will be opening the shop," he smiled at her. "I have a patient first thing in the morning," he rolled his eyes.

She smiled at him and ran her thumb across the back of his hand before gently pulling back. "Then I will see you tomorrow," she said with a bow. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight," he said softly, returning her bow. He turned and started back the way he came with one last look at her in the moonlight.

Azumi turned and started moving back toward the mansion. She found her window easily and climbed into it. From her bed, Naga watched her, hissing quietly and telling her that no one came while she was gone. "See, that was not so bad," she smiled at the snake. She stepped off of the dresser and laid down in her bed. She knew she would have to get up soon to go to the shop with Sasori so she wanted to get some sleep before she had to deal with that. She sighed, making herself comfortable enough for a nap and drifted off.