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Bed of the Scorpion

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The next morning, Sasori made his way down to the slaves' quarters and wrapped his knuckles on Azumi's door. He did not wait for her to respond or even indicate she was in the room before he entered. He had watched her walk back to the mansion the night before. He was sure she had no idea he had seen her but he was also not inclined to let her know that he knew about the little adventure just yet.

When Azumi opened her eyes, she saw Sasori walking into the room. "Good morning," she said as she got up. She did not wait for him to give her the order to get ready, she just started getting ready.

"Morning," he replied cooly and laid on her bed the way he had previously. Again, he pulled Naga onto his chest, stroking the snake's head lightly. "When we get into the shop, I want you to check on those snakes and see if they need feeding," he said. "Then if you can, milk them."

She changed her clothes quickly and nodded at him. "I will probably need to rehome a couple of them," she said. "If there are more than five, we will need a second tank." She finished getting ready and looked at him. "I am ready whenever you are."

He stood up and draped Naga around her shoulders. "A second tank will be delivered then," he said, walking out the door. "I'll send Baki for one," he said almost as if he were talking to himself. Azumi followed him down the halls. Naga hissed softly at her as they walked. They went into Sasori's room and into the workshop. "We're taking these boxes," he told her, pointing to a couple of boxes on the table. "They're the orders we were working on yesterday. The clients are coming to the shop to pick them up." Azumi nodded and picked up the boxes. "Let's go," he said as he started walking again. She followed him out of his room and out of the mansion to the shop. The sun had not fully risen yet it was already extremely hot outside. Sasori glared at the sun as he turned down a different path then they had taken the day before. They headed into the city with the sun bearing down on them. "I'm not in the mood to deal with this," he grumbled, slipping down a shady street. The buildings were in the perfect position to block out the sun for a majority of their walk. They entered the same alleyway as the first time he brought her to the shop. This time though, the entered through the opposite end. Sasori stopped in front of the door and pulled out his key to let them in.

They walked into the shop and she set the boxes down on a counter as they went into the back room. Her attention immediately went to the snake tank that Gaara put the snakes in. "Oh, hello," she smiled at the snakes as she approached the tank. They all raised their heads to look at her and she tapped each of their noses.

Sasori watched each of the snakes flick their tongues as she tapped their noses. He frowned a little then ducked out of the workshop to open up the front of the shop. He walked back in to grab one of the boxes knowing that one particular customer would be there as soon as he opened the door.

Azumi realized the snakes did not need to be fed. She looked around for different jars to milk the snakes, finding six which was just enough. She took the first snake out and sat on the counter. Just as she positioned the snake to start ejecting venom, she heard someone walk into the shop. 'Already?' she thought. 'We just got here.'

"So, where is it, Sasori?" the newcomer asked. It was a man. Azumi could hear the smug look on his face. She peeked out of the workshop into the main shop to look at him. "Were you even able to pull it off?" he asked.

Azumi's brow furrowed at his question. 'Is this the person who was challenging him?'

"Please," Sasori smirked. "Of course I did!" He pushed the box towards him. "Go on. Open it," he said with an eager challenge in his eyes.

The man opened the box and looked into it. "Whooa," he said, pulling the bottle out of the box and marveling at the liquid inside. It was the poison that Azumi worked with him to make. "It looks really good," the man said. Then he looked at Sasori and smirked, the smug tone coming back. "But does it work?"

The snake Azumi was holding finished filling the jar with its venom and hissed at her. She jumped off of the counter to place it back in the tank and grabbed the next one to be milked.

"That's your part of the job," Sasori smirked. "Have you picked a test subject?" he asked.

"Mm, do you still have a slave?" he smirked. "Let's test it on them."

"I do," Sasori answered. Azumi heard the conversation and gasped. "But I'd rather not test it on her," he continued. "She's busy doing something for me right now." Azumi breathed out in relief.

"Oh?" the man grinned. "But if it works then she should be up and running again in three hours."

"It works but three hours is a lot of time," Sasori huffed, "that I need. You know time is money."

"Then who are we going to test it on?" the man almost pouted. "Your first customer?"

The second snake was done being milked and Azumi placed it back in the tank. She did not grab the third one just yet. She peeked out to the front of the shop again, listening to their conversation.

Sasori hummed. "Azumi," he suddenly called. "Who is second on the list of orders?"

Azumi froze for a second when she heard her name being called and then looked for the list of the day's customers. She stepped out of the workshop with the list. "Somebody named Shiore," she answered.

"Oh-oooh yes!" Sasori's friend grinned. "It's him. He's a pain in the ass anyway."

"Fine, fine," Sasori sighed. "He should be here in about fifteen minutes to pick up his cream."

"Perfect," the man smirked.

Azumi set the list down on the counter for Sasori. "Where would you like me to put the venom?" she asked him.

"There should be an empty shelf down there," Sasori answered, pointing to a low cabinet behind the counter. "We can designate that shelf for it."

Azumi nodded and went back into the workshop to continue milking the rest of the snakes.

"She sounds cute," Sasori's friend said, walking around the counter to peek into the back room. He gasped softly. "Sasori! That's not a slave, she's way too cute!" He grinned at Azumi while she started milking another snake and sashayed over to her with a wide grin. "Name's Komushi," he said, getting very close to her. Azumi let out a quiet groan when he got close and tried not to mess up the milking process of the snake. "You don't look anything like a slave. Sasori, how could you keep such a pretty little thing to yourself?" He put a finger under her chin to turn her head away from the snake and look at him.

Sasori huffed, walking into the workshop. "If she gets bitten because you're distracting her, then you're explaining to Chiyo how she got hurt," Sasori said dully.

Azumi looked at Sasori and then back at Komushi, backing away just a little bit. The snake in her hand was agitated with the stranger that approached them and was threatening to bite.

"No, thanks," Komushi chuckled. "I don't want to explain anything to the old lady."

"Then stop hitting on my slave," Sasori said.

Komushi gave her a wink and then backed away. "So what are you planning with all of those snakes?" he asked, watching Azumi resume her milking.

"I'm playing with new ingredients," Sasori said, opening a book and marking something down. "She thinks snake venom is superior to scorpion venom and I intend to test all of its possibilities out," he smirked, looking at Azumi with a glint in his eyes.

She lifted her head from the snake and looked at Sasori with a raised eyebrow. "I have not used the word 'superior' when it came to the debate on venoms," she said calmly. "I just think that using snake venom means less refining as its properties are already where you would prefer your ingredients to be, Lord Sasori." The snake in her hand was finished being milk and slithered up her arm to wrap around her shoulders. Sasori narrowed his eyes are her, his smirk still present.

"She's a sassy one," Komushi smirked. "Are you going to take that, Lord Sasori," he mimicked the way Azumi had said his name.

Sasori put the book down and closed the small space between himself and his slave. "She knows to be careful," he said, gripping her jaw tight enough that his fingers pressed into her bone. "Unless she wants to find out what that poison does." Azumi let out a quiet groan as he gripped her. The snake around her shoulders hissed in agitation.

"So, now you want to test it on her?" Komushi grinned.

Sasori smirked, opening his mouth to answer and not looking away from Azumi. "Ye—"

"Hello?" a voice came from the front of the shop.

Sasori took a deep breath and dropped her jaw. "No, just test it on Shiore," he said lowly. "Coming," he called out to the customer.

Komushi smirked at her as he walked out. "Saved...for now," he grinned devilishly as he uncorked the bottle and walked out to the workshop.

Azumi gasped once she was alone. She placed the agitated snake back in the tank and took a couple of steps back, trying to remain calm. 'It is too early for this,' she thought. She started to feel bad for the poor soul that just unknowingly saved her.

"Good morning, Shiore," Sasori said casually as if he did not have a heinous plan for this person. He stepped behind the counter and grabbed the item the customer had come to pick up.

"Good morning, Lord Sasori," a seductive voice reached her in the workshop. "Lord Komushi," he bowed his head a little to both men.

"How is your mother doing," Sasori said, making small talk. Komushi walked around the counter and winked at Azumi as he passed by. Azumi rolled her eyes and scoffed quietly, returning to the snakes to continue milking them.

"She is doing well," Shiore said, "thanks to you."

"I'm glad to hear that," Sasori said.

"Yes, she sends he-" his voice suddenly cut off followed by a heavy thud.

"You couldn't have caught him?" Sasori asked with a small chuckle.

"Ew no, why would I do that?" Komushi chuckled.

"You're going to have to touch him anyway since we have to carry him to the back." Sasori stepped into the back room and grabbed a chair, placing it against one of the other counters in the workshop. Komushi sighed and then lifted Shiore up, hooking his arms underneath Shiore's arms and dragging him to the back room.

Azumi watched as the customer was dragged in and sat in the chair. She furrowed her brow at the two men. 'Did they just...knock this woman out?' she thought.

"Ugh, I hate touching this guy," Komushi wiped himself down. "He always smells so weird."

"You'll get over it," Sasori chuckled, as he picked up a syringe and handed it to Komushi. The other man almost giggled as he took the needle and plunged it into the bottle, filling it up.

"Let's see if you, the great Lord Sasori, master apothecary could handle my challenge," he said dramatically before leaning down to push the needle into his arm.

"No, take his shirt off," Sasori said. "It needs to go into his chest."

'This guy?' Azumi thought. 'His shirt?' Komushi smirked and stood up straight to take Shiore's shirt off. Azumi's jaw almost dropped. 'This is a man.' She watched as Komushi pushed the needle into Shiore's chest and injected the poison into him. 'Are they killing him?!'

"His pulse should slow down in just a minute," Sasori said. "Just enough to be undetectable."

"Yeah, but the real test is whether he'll remember this when he wakes up," Komushi said challengingly.

"It'll happen don't you doubt me," Sasori smirked.

"Our entire dynamic is based on me doubting you," Komushi scoffed, sitting down on one of the workbenches.

'And you are still alive?' Azumi rolled her eyes.

"And yet, I haven't killed you," Sasori chuckled, echoing Azumi's thoughts.

"Who else would push you to your limits then?" Komushi smirked.

"Oh, no one can push me the way you do," Sasori ground out through a tight smile. He laughed and set his sights on Azumi. "How is this going?" he asked her, looking into the tank.

"I have milked four already," she answered, placing the snake in her hand back into the tank and letting the fifth one slither around her arm. "However, I was right about needing a second tank. These six will not last long living on top of each other like this." She started milking the fifth one.

"Mmm." He looked a the tank. "Komushi, while you wait for this little experiment to finish up, go up the street and buy a new glass tank," he said, turning to the other man.

Komushi looked up, poking Shiore's face. "Isn't Gaara coming in? Make him do it."

"He won't be here for a while," Sasori waved him off. "Also, I have other things I need him to do for me."

Komushi sighed and stood up straight. "Fine," he said. "But only because this poison is working."

"Uh huh," Sasori smirked. "Is there anything else they need so he can pick it up while he is out?" he asked Azumi.

Azumi looked at the snakes and they told her no. She looked back at Sasori and shook her head. "No, the tank is all they need right now."

"Fine, then," Sasori said. He looked back at Komushi and smirked. "Get to it, then."

Komushi looked between them before rolling his eyes with a smirk. "As you wish milord," he said dramatically with a loose bow. He slipped out of the room and out of the shop.

Sasori watched Azumi for a moment. "How much did they yield?" he asked, stepping closer to her. He reached out a hand to glide his fingers over the back of her neck to the tattoo that resided there.

She tried not to flinch when he touched her. "Each of them almost filled up their respective jars," she said. "I will write labels so you know which venom came from which snake."

He raised an eyebrow. "Are they not all the same type of snake?" he asked, pushing her hair out of the way to look at her back. He hummed softly then pulled his hand away.

"None of them are the same," she said. "We have six different types of snakes in this tank." She stepped away to grab a couple of labels and wrote down the six snakes on them. "Each venom has different properties to it, so depending on the effect you are going for with your...poisons...one of these will serve best," she told him. She turned to look at him. "If you wish to use them."

"Mmm," he looked down into the tank. "It is safe to assume that you know all these effects venoms, correct?" he asked rhetorically. "Catalog all the effects and their best uses," he said, turning to pull a thin leather-bound book out. He placed it down on one of the workbenches.

Azumi nodded and sat down to do exactly that. "Is there anything else you need me to do?" she asked him as she started writing everything she knew about the specific venoms.

"We need to take inventory of all the herbs in the shop," Sasori hummed. "We can handle that once Gaara gets here." He frowned, tapping his fingers and staring at the man slumped in the middle of the room. "Ugh, he's directly in the way."

Azumi looked at Shiore and frowned. "Why did you put him there?" she asked. She turned back to the book and continued writing. "You could have sat him against the wall so he would not be in the way. If it works and he wakes up, he will just fall out of the chair."

"Aside from it being highly amusing for him to wake up in a confused stupor and then promptly fall out of his chair," he chuckled, picturing it already, "there isn't much wall space to put him against," he said, gesturing around the room, "There is also the risk of him flailing in this state and I don't need him breaking anything because he was within arms reach of it."

She looked around the room and hummed. "I suppose you are right," she mumbled before turning back to writing. "Does your friend...challenge you to things like this often?" she asked.

"He does," Sasori smirked. "He likes to, as he puts it, 'keep me fresh and on my toes.' He sees his challenges as a way of keeping me creative." His voice had a fondness to it. "We've known each other since we were kids."

She only found it a little shocking that he even had a best friend like that. Yet, her shock was beshadowed by the fact that his best friend was just as much of a monster as he was. "Interesting..." she said. She finished up writing the effects and uses of the six different venoms and handed him the book.

He took it from her. "Done already?" he smirked, opening the book to where she started. His eyes skimmed over the detailed notes she gave him on just the six he had. He looked at her after closing the book. "I may have some more venoms in my collection. They are poorly labeled by the last slave since they could barely comprehend basic chemical reactions," he snorted. "When we start inventory I want you to handle those and categorize them."

"Alright," she nodded. She looked at the snakes in the tank. "They will not need to be fed for a while."

"I'll leave it to you when they do need to be fed," he hummed. She nodded again and suddenly the door opened. Azumi hoped it was Gaara but was immediately disappointed when she peeked out to the front of the shop and saw a customer.

"Good morning," Sasori said, stepping out of the workshop. He flashed a charming smile and the customer returned the smile.

"It's so rare to see you in the shop, Lord Sasori," they said. "But very refreshing nonetheless."

"I have your custom order right here," Sasori said, taking out a small box that was designated for the customer.

While he dealt with the customer, Azumi looked at Shiore and frowned again. She helped Sasori make the poison that was administered to him and she felt bad about it because he was just an innocent person who happened to be around at the wrong time. Her thoughts were cut off by the back door opening and she could not control the smile on her face when she saw Gaara. "Hello," she grinned at him.

"Good morning," he chuckled, walking in. He walked over to the tank and peeked in on the snakes. "How are they today?"

"They are fine," she said, looking at the snakes as well. "I have milked them and they will not need to be fed for a couple of days. Um, Lord Sasori's friend is getting another tank because all six will not be able to live in one."

"Oh...does he need me to go get it then?" Gaara asked, looking around for his cousin. He walked around Shiore in the middle of the room as if nothing was out of place.

"No, his friend should be back with it soon," she hummed, tapping the nose of one of the snakes. "But Lord Sasori said we will be taking inventory of all the herbs."

"Oh right," he chuckled, "You just said that," he said, rubbing his face, yawning. "I just did that...last month," his words slowed down at the end of the sentence. "Damn," he laughed, sitting down next to Shiore and running a hand through his hair.

She looked at him and frowned. "Are you okay?" she asked softly. "Did you not get enough sleep last night? I am sorry if I kept you out a little later than you normally stay out."

He flashed her a sweet smile. "I'm okay. It wasn't you or our walk," he yawned. "I skipped my morning routine and my patient this morning was trying me to say the least." He yawned again, stretching just as Sasori walked into the workshop.

"If you need caffeine then get some," Sasori said, pushing Gaara's hand out of his face gently.

"I'll be fine," Gaara told him. "How long has he been out?" he asked, gesturing toward Shiore.

"About half an hour," Sasori answered. "Should be out for a total of three."

A couple of seconds later, Komushi returned with the second tank. "Gaara!" Komushi grinned. "I haven't seen you in so long," he said, leaning around the tank. "Where am I putting this down? It's kind of heavy," he said with a groan as he heaved the slipping tank.

Azumi made room on the table next to the first tank. "Right here," she told him. He moved toward the table and set the new tank down. "Thank you," she said to him with a slight bow.

"Do they need sand?" Gaara asked, walking up to her side.

Komushi huffed, taking a seat next to Shiore. "Forget the sand! Someone bring me some tea," he pouted. "Iced please!"

"You know where the tea is," Sasori said. "Get it yourself."

"But what's the point of having a slave if-" Komushi started.

"She's my slave, not yours."

"They will need sand," Azumi said quietly to Gaara. "I thought I could move some of the sand from the first to the second but...it might not work out well."

"Sasori, can I borrow her to get sand for the tank?" Gaara asked politely, cutting Komushi's complaint off.

"Whaaat!" Komushi whined. "Why can he use her and not me!"

"Because he's doing stuff for the shop. Not being a lazy bum," Sasori shot back. "Fine. Go and come back quickly," Sasori said. He knew they only really needed one person but he was being spiteful.

Azumi and Gaara both nodded and Gaara picked up the tank. Azumi held the door open for him as they walked out and went to get sand. As soon as the sun hit her, she groaned. She followed him to where she assumed was the same place he got the sand from for the first tank.

"Komushi didn't bother you, did he?" Gaara asked, squatting down to scoop some sand into the tank. "He and Sasori can get out of hand when they are together."

"Not too much. I have grown used to people grabbing my face," she hummed, kneeling next to him to help him. "He wanted to test the poison on me but they ended up testing it on Shiore instead."

"I'm sorry," he sighed, shaking his head. "If Chiyo hadn't threatened him...he probably would have used you," he said honestly. "But they use Shiore often. I'm honestly surprised he's still alive and not completely fried."

"He must not be a very smart man then," she said. "If he continues to come to a shop where the owner used him to test poisons multiple times." She leveled the sand in the tank, knowing that the snakes would prefer to move it where they like it. "I am not even surprised that he would have used me."

"They usually do something to wipe his memory or charm him into forgetting what happened." Gaara picked up the now-full tank. "It's really horrendous to watch but I can't really say anything to stop them. As awful as that sounds." He started to walk back to the shop. "I'd rather it be him than me."

"I understand that," she hummed with a nod. "Even so, I still feel bad about it. He does not deserve it from what I understand." She walked a little ahead of him to open the door for him when they approached the shop.

"Put it down there," Sasori said as soon as they walked in. "Gaara, get started on the inventory. Start on the second floor. Azumi, once the snakes are settled, join him," he ordered as he checked Shiore's pulse.

They both nodded and Gaara immediately went to start the inventory. Azumi leveled the sand in the second tank one more time and moved three of the snakes from the first tank over, helping them get settled in. They thanked her and flicked their tongues against the back of her hand.

"Wow," Komushi hummed, watching over her shoulder. "I've never seen snakes act so...friendly to a person." He rested his chin on her shoulder. Sasori squinted at Komushi and yanked him back by the collar.

"They will cooperate well," Azumi said. "As long as they are not abused for their venom." She tapped the noses of the snakes and went to help Gaara with the inventory.

"You're like a human snake charmer," Komushi said.

"Snake charmers are human," Sasori said with an idle tone, mirth lurking behind it.

Komushi rolled his eyes. "I mean she doesn't even need the music to get them to comply."

"No music is needed when you can understand and speak to them," Azumi said, putting away the jars of venom she filled up and taking out all of the old jars of venom that were improperly labeled from the last slave. Naga slithered up to her shoulder from the floor to help her determine which animal each jar of venom came from.

"I feel like I'm being tag-teamed," Komushi chuckled, moving away from Azumi when Naga wrapped around her shoulders.

"Serves you right," Gaara smirked, looking at them from the top floor.

Naga smelled each of the jars and told her which animal the venoms came from. She made the correct labels and placed replaced the old ones with them. Once she was done correcting the labels, she placed the jars back onto the shelf they belonged. "Some of these venoms are very rare," she mumbled to herself as she put them away.

"Hey, how much longer is he going to be out?" Komushi asked, poking Shiore in the head. "I want to know if he'll remember anything."

"You're so impatient," Sasori said over his shoulder as he walked over to see what Azumi had done.

Komushi stood up straight, scoffing loudly. "That's rich coming from you,'" he countered.

Azumi looked at Sasori and backed away from the shelf so he could see it. "You have quite an array of compositions here," she said. "Most of these venoms are aquatic animals...in a land where the ocean is so far away. It is very interesting."

"My means of trade bring me a lot of unique products the common veins wouldn't dare to touch," Sasori smirked, leaning down to look at the new labels. "What is impressive is that you and your snake knew them."

"He can smell the compositions," she said. "I can only tell the differences in snake venom."

"I suppose it's lucky that I let you keep him then," Sasori hummed. He picked up one of the jars. "Now that I know what these are, I can play with them a little more," he smirked.

She furrowed her brow at his comment. She really hoped she would not be the test subject for when he decided to 'play' with the venoms. She was going to say something, only to be cut off by Shiore groaning in the back room.

"Oh! Someone's getting up!" Komushi grinned.

Sasori put the jar back in the cabinet. "Don't touch him," he ordered Komushi.

"Yeah, yeah, I know the rules," Komushi grinned like a child.

"You two are going to get caught doing this one day and I will not be apart of that fall," Gaara said as he moved to a new set of shelving.

Komushi scoffed through a boyish giggle. "We'll be fine," he grinned.

Shiore held his head as he sat up straight in his chair and then slumped over. "What happened to me?" he groaned. "Where am I?" He lifted his head and looked around. "When did I get here?"

Sasori smirked at Komushi over Shiore's head. He put his hands on the man's shoulders, making him jump.

"Relax, Master Shiore," Sasori said in his charming tone. "You tripped out on the street and Lord Komushi brought you in for me to treat you," he told the confused man. "How are you feeling?"

"My head hurts..." Shiore said, holding his head. "I don't remember much after leaving my house..."

'Looks like it worked,' Azumi thought, rolling her eyes.

Shiore looked up at Sasori and Komushi. "Thank you," he smiled. "I don't know how to repay your kindness."

Azumi leaned against the counter and tilted her head back in fake agony. 'You have got to be kidding me,' she thought. Gaara looked up from that book that he was logging everything into to catch her eyes. He smirked, shaking his head and rolling his eyes.

"Komushi, make us some tea," Sasori ordered. Komushi nodded and got up to make the tea. "Your mother's order came in so we'll treat your headache and send you on your way."

"I feel like this keeps happening," Shiore said. "I'm always getting hurt outside and you always have to treat me. I'm so sorry, Lord Sasori. I must be a burden."

Azumi moved next to Gaara. "And he falls for this each time?" she asked quietly.

"He sure does," Gaara sighed.

"It is never a problem," Sasori reassured the oblivious man. "There is no better place for you to be taken to." Komushi returned with a hot cup of tea for Shiore.

"Honestly, it's a blessing," Shiore chuckled awkwardly. "You are so kind. I never used to be this klutzy but I think taking care of my mother might be taking a toll on me."

"You need to make sure you take care of yourself so you can take care of her," Komushi teased.

"You're right," Shiore smiled, sipping his tea. "I can never thank you two enough."

'For what?' Azumi thought. 'Administering poisons into your body?'

"Your loyal patronage is thanks enough," Sasori waved him off, keeping the charm levels high.

Azumi rolled her eyes again. 'Spare me.'

Shiore finished his tea with a sigh. "I should get going," he smiled, standing up with a little help from Komushi. "Mother will be worried."

"Of course," Sasori nodded. "Your order is right here," he said, picking up the original package and handing it over to the man.

"Thank you again," he said with a slight bow to Sasori as they walked out to the shop. The others in the workshop watched the man pay Sasori for his order then leave.

"You really should assess how badly you've damaged his system," Gaara sighed once Shiore was gone. "You're going to wind up killing him."

"He'll be fine," Komushi grinned, waving off Gaara's concerns.

"At least acting would be a good fallback if the shop were to fail," Azumi mumbled within earshot of Gaara.

"His system flushes everything out within two weeks," Sasori said.

"Yeah, see?" Komushi said. "He only comes around once a month."

Gaara rolled his eyes. "Whatever you say."

"I mean the other option would be to use this lovely little thing," Komushi grinned, dancing around Azumi and wrapping an arm around her stomach. He pulled her close and started to sway a little. "I'm sure she'd enjoy a nap once in a while, right?"

Gaara's eyes narrowed putting his book down. "Let her go," Gaara nearly snapped, walking over to pry Komushi's hands off Azumi.

Komushi laughed, twirling them away from Gaara. "Aww, would that bother you?" he teased Gaara.

"We can't use her just yet," Sasori said as he wrote down something in a different book. "She's an efficient worker. So let her go." He looked up at Naga who was coiled on the counter, hissing aggressively. "You're agitating her snake," he smirked.

'Just yet?' Azumi thought.

"Fiiiine," Komushi pouted as he let her go. "But eventually we'll get to play," he said with a wink. Naga's hiss got louder. He was getting ready to strike.

"Get away from her," Gaara warned again, glancing at Naga.

Komushi glanced at the snake and smirked, backing away just a couple of steps from her. Azumi stepped closer to the counter and Naga moved up her arm and into her dress to coil around her waist. The look on Komushi's face told her that he did not take the snake's threat that seriously but she was not going to warn him about it.

"Sasori," Gaara said, descending the ladder, "we're going to need to stock up on a lot," he frowned. "We haven't been shopping in a while."

"Mmm," Sasori frowned, taking the log Gaara offered him. "Damn, of course, it's a lot of the rare stuff. We'll have to take a trip for most of this to the night market."

"Oooh, the night market!" Komushi grinned.

"We'll only be able to get some of the stuff there," Gaara hummed. "We should contact the vendors before we close, so we can get it before the end of the week."

"I'll leave that to you then," Sasori told Gaara, handing the log back. "Teach Azumi how to do it too so she can do it in the future."

Gaara nodded and gestured for Azumi to follow him to the workshop and then up the ladder. "We really just write letters to be delivered to our vendors," he told her softly, shifting through a shelf with pre-written notes that requested specific items. "These are the only ones we'll need from them," he said.

"I suppose it is convenient to have them ready," she said with a small chuckle as she gently stroked Naga's head. "And how do you send them out?"

"There is a black market messenger that picks up the requests and sends them out to the vendors."

"Fascinating," Azumi whispered.

Gaara chuckled. "It is at first." He finished picking out the notes and putting them in envelopes. He heated some wax and stamped each envelope, marking it with a scorpion. "We leave them outside the door."

"Oh man, we haven't been to the night market in so long! I wonder what's changed," Komushi grinned. "You're in for such a treat Azumi!"

"What is this night market like?" Azumi asked, leaning over the banister and looking down at Komushi. "We do not have any of those where I am from. At least none that I know of."

"I've always like to describe it as," he paused for dramatic effect. "A festival of the underground," he grinned. "Anything and everything is sold there."

"There are ordinary things," Gaara joined in.

"And disturbing things," Sasori smirked.

"There's even performances and food from different lands!" Komushi gushed.

"Performances?" Azumi hummed. "This sounds very interesting."

"I hate to say he is right," Gaara chuckled, "but you may actually enjoy it."

"This is going to be the best outing in a while," Komushi grinned. "When is it again?" he asked Sasori.

Sasori looked at a calendar on the counter. "It starts tomorrow night," he answered. "And it goes on for three nights."

"Oh, this is so lucky!" Komushi grinned. "Let's go all three nights!"

Sasori shook his head sighing. "We don't have time for—"

"Come on, Sasori! We haven't had a good night out in so long!" Komushi whined lightly. "She has to experience it all."

Sasori raised an eyebrow looking at his best friend. "She's a slave," Sasori reminded him. "She doesn't need to experience anything aside from picking up herbs and making sure she knows how to run errands."

Gaara clicked his teeth. "Stop pretending you aren't at least a little excited to show her," he huffed, folding his arms. Sasori scoffed but did not say anything.

"I will try to not have fun there," Azumi smirked at Sasori.

Sasori rolled his eyes. "Now that would defeat the entire argument these two idiots are trying to make."

"I beg your pardon," Komushi gasped. "Why would you say something so rude to Gaara!"

"Well, at least you know," Gaara chuckled.

Azumi followed Gaara back down the ladder and he set the requests outside the door of the shop. She stopped in the back room to pet the snakes again before joining the three men at the front of the shop.

"Everyone here?" Komushi joked.

"I can go home," Gaara smirked. "Which I am going to. See you tomorrow, Azumi."

Azumi smiled at him and bowed. "Have a good night," she told him. He smiled back and left. Then she followed Sasori back to their home.

"There isn't much to do tonight," he told her as they walked up to the mansion. "Run my bath and then go to bed. We have a lot to prepare for tomorrow. We might return home early from the shop to sleep before going to the market," he said to her once they were in the house.

Azumi nodded and as soon as they got to his room, she went straight to the bathroom to start his bath, getting it to the perfect temperature then poured in the correct amount of salts and oils. She went back to his room and grabbed his robe to put it on the hook in the bathroom. Once it was ready, she turned the faucet off. "It is ready," she told him.

He hummed softly, coming out of deep thought. "You've taken to doing that efficiently." He looked at her. "Did you have servants where you lived?" he asked. "Most nobles are hopelessly incompetent," he smirked as he stood up to strip down.

"I did grow up with servants, but that does not mean I relied on them to do everything for me," she answered. "Much like you, I like to have things done a certain way. It was easier for me to do things on my own to get them how I wanted. Each time my father tried to give me a personal servant, I refused them."

He looked her over. "I almost expected such an answer from you," he said through a laugh. He shook his head then ran a hand through his hair. "You are dismissed," he waved over his shoulder as disappeared into the bathroom.

Azumi rolled her eyes and scoffed quietly. "Goodnight," she told him just as she turned to leave. "Brat," she mumbled as she walked down the halls back to her room. She laid Naga down on her bed and kissed the top of his head when he coiled up. The lack of sleep from the night before caught up with her and she laid down, drifting off to sleep quickly.