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Bed of the Scorpion

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As usual, Naga was coiled on Azumi’s bed. He hissed a soft greeting to her when she walked in. "Hello," she smiled at him. "Would you like to get out of here for a little while?" She sat down on her bed and pet him gently. He hissed again. "I know...I am sorry you have been stuck in here...especially after the whole situation with Lady Chiyo..." She stayed quiet for a moment and sighed heavily. "But it is okay." She extended her arm out for him to slither up to her shoulder and wrap around her body. "We are going to see Gaara," she smiled, kissing the top of the snake's head as she stood up and moved toward the window. She made it out easily and quickly headed toward the river, moving a bit further down so they could not be seen by Sasori. She sat down on the bank, slipping her feet into the water while she waited.

The moon started to rise, reflecting as brightly off of the water as it did the white the sand around her. Gaara slowed, dragging his feet a little through the sand gracefully as he walked up to her. He did not even try to control the smile that tugged his lips the moment he saw her. Like the last time they met, he had a basket tucked into his arm but this time he had snuck out a large rug for them to sit on.

A small hiss from Naga prompted Azumi to look up as Gaara approached her. She grinned and stood up, immediately cupping his face and pulling him into a kiss. Naga moved to wrap around the both of them as if constricting them together then took his usual position around just her body. "Hello," she said softly when they pulled apart.

"Hello," he said with a soft chuckle. As soon as Naga returned to Azumi's waist he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her again slowly. "How was my favorite desert rose's day?" he asked. He pulled away to roll out the carpet and set the basket down.

She smiled as she sat down on the rug with him. "The only time I was in a good mood all day was when I saw you earlier...and right now," she chuckled. "It is hard to have a good day when you spend it entirely with an insufferable twink and his equally insufferable twink best friend," she groaned, laying back on the carpet as Naga moved and coiled up next to her.

He frowned, laying down with her. He ran his hand up her stomach and settled his head on her chest gently. "I'm sorry you have to deal with them," he snorted a little at the term. "Do I even want to know what they were in town for today?" His other hand brushed over her hip. He felt the top of the bandage. He breathed out hard and lowly. There was a slight growl to the rush of air. "Did he hurt you again?" 

She frowned, placing her hand over his on her hip. "He painted on me with acid again," she said softly. "And he...invasively discovered a couple of things about my body..."

" He did what!" Gaara's eyes caught the moonlight, making them gleam in an eerie way. He pushed himself up to look her over, inspecting her body for any more damage other than the burn. He tilted her jaw up, looking for scratches or bite marks. His fingers moved down to her chest and stomach to feel for any raised scratches or wounds. "What did he do to you?" he demanded softly through his teeth, ready to kill his cousin.

She looked up at him, reaching up to caress his face. "I am sure you are aware that I am different from other humans," she started. "People like me...can produce venom." She sighed heavily. "And today your cousin found that out by tying me down and shoving his hands into my mouth."

"I figured as much but..." This time, he placed his hand over hers. He squeezed her hand gently. His face twisted in barely controlled rage. "Can...I'm so sorry," his voice was hushed. His words meant nothing but they were all he could come up with. He leaned in to press his forehead to hers. He moved her hand to his chest. "I'm so sorry."

"You have nothing to apologize for," she said softly, tilting his face a little to kiss him. He pushed back into the kiss a little rougher than he meant. "It was bound to happen. I just did not think it would happen so soon." She hummed quietly, running her other hand through his hair. "My only fear is that he will try to figure out more things with the same force because I hid this from him. There is not much else to figure out, but he may not believe that and will want to see for himself."

  "I...won't be able to handle it if he hurts you again." He leaned into her hand. "Your body is still yours." His other hand moved to grip the carpet harshly next to her, ripping up some of the threads. "He has no right to do this to you!" He was a little breathless with anger.

"You are right, but we both know he does not see it that way," she said. "The last thing I want is for you to get hurt in my defense...I know he would not normally do anything to you...but if he saw that you were actively trying to defend me, that can change." She slid her hands down his arms and laced her fingers with his, placing them on either side of her head.

He bit his lip, looking hard into her eyes. "I want...I need to protect you," he said softly. He let their noses touch. "It's only been a couple of weeks but...I...I feel so close to you. I can't stand the idea of him doing this anymore!"

"Hopefully, it will not last much longer," she said. "I am sure your uncle is getting closer to abolishing slavery as a whole." She smirked and gave him a quick kiss. "And then we would not have to sneak around," she chuckled.

“Yes,” he smiled, kissing her again. “I hope I can hold you on that day. I want to see the look on Sasori’s face when he sees how happy you are.” His lips found her jaw and he kissed along it to her earlobe then moved down to press soft kisses to her neck.

She chuckled softly, feeling a shiver run down her spine as he kissed her neck. “It will be a glorious day,” she grinned. “To see the look on his face when all of this hits him at once.” She sighed dreamily at just the thought.

He smiled against her skin. He licked her lightly before coming back up to kiss her lips. “I should plan a celebration,” he grinned. “Just to rub salt in the wound,” he chuckled.

“Ugh,” she practically moaned, “that would be amazing,” she chuckled. “Especially if you make zalabya for the celebration. By the way, the zalabya you made the other night for your brother to bring over to Lord Komushi’s house was great.”

He chuckled, grinning with a slight blush on his cheeks. “I’m glad you liked them,” he said with a shy pride but it was quickly replaced with shock. “Wait, you...Sasori brought you to that?” He should have expected it yet he was still surprised. He was starting to go into worry overdrive but held a tight grip on his emotions. “They didn’t do anything to you, did they?” Kankuro had gone but his cousin did not listen to his brother.

"Not that...I know of..." she hummed, thinking back to that night. She remembered nothing from when she was in a trance and she was put to sleep with that tea shortly after. She had no idea if they did anything to her in between the time of her being knocked out and waking up in Sasori's room. She had not told Gaara about the trances yet but she trusted him. "Another unique thing about me is that I can be charmed like a snake," she said softly. "Lord Sasori found out quite early on that I can basically be put into a trance...and it happened that night."

The rage was back in his eyes. He had seen snake charming before and how the snake had no control over themselves. “I’m going to kill him,” he growled, pushing off of her quickly. Sasori had taken her freedom and now he was abusing a power he should have never been given. Gaara could only imagine the terror she must have felt losing her bodily agency. He suddenly hated himself for not going to Komushi’s. For not thinking Sasori would bring her. He stood up and moved to storm off towards his cousin’s mansion.

It took Azumi a quick second to process that he was no longer on top of her and where he was headed. "Wait, Gaara!" she gasped, getting up just as quickly and going after him. Naga slithered quickly behind them, cheering Gaara on excitedly with loud hisses. She caught up to him and grabbed his hand. "Confronting him about it, especially right now, can only make matters worse and cause other problems," she told him. She knew that the argument would only work so much but the thought of Sasori’s suspicions about them being confirmed terrified her and she did not even want to think about what he would do to her.

He glared at her, taking a long, shuddering breath. He shook his head, pulling his hand out of her grasp. He knew she was right but he could not brush this off. He pulled away from her and kicked the sand hard, letting out a scream. He ground his teeth as he ran his hands through his hair in frustration. "I can't," he spoke softly. "I can't stand back and knowingly let this happen to you." His voice was low and rough.

"Believe me, it is harder to just take it and not fight back," she said softly. She stepped closer to him, gently placing her hand on his jaw and turning his face toward her. "But enduring it is what I have to do to stay alive for right now." She tried to stay as calm as possible for him.

He wrapped his arms around her waist again, pulling her close. "I..." He stopped himself and pulled her flush to his body and bent his head to kiss her passionately. His fingers gripped the cloth of her dress tightly as he kissed her. He took a step forward and started to walk them back towards the rug without breaking the kiss. Carefully, he eased her back down onto the rug and slid his hands out from behind her. They laced with hers and pinned them beside her head. "I will ensure you won't have to bear this much longer." His voice was still rough as he looked into her eyes.

She smiled up at him. "I have faith that it will be over soon," she said softly. "Because it is not just me that needs this. It is everyone else who is enslaved in this city."

He reeled back in a little, coming back to himself. "You're right," he nodded. "Though people like Hidan...might never leave their masters," he said with a touch of sadness to his tone. "People like him know no other life. He probably would not function well without Lord Kakazu as awful as that is to say."

"Mm, I understand," she hummed. She leaned up and kissed him softly. "But on a lighter note," she said with another smile, "how was your day? I assume you spent a good portion of it with Lord Sandaime," she chuckled.

He chuckled softly at the shift in subject. "It was pretty standard," he hummed softly. "Until I got to see you and then it was a good day."

Her smile widened a bit. "I am glad I can make your day go from average to good," she laughed.

"Actually you make my day go from average to amazing," he laughed a little lighter. 

She heard something shifting and tilted her head back to see Naga rummaging through the basket that Gaara brought with him. "Naga!" she hissed softly, scolding the snake.

"Oh." He looked over at Naga. "Guess he found my treat for him."

Naga dove into the basket and came out with his treat, eating it on the corner of the rug. "You are too kind to us," she chuckled. "But I suppose he needs it...he has been alone for a couple of days." She sighed heavily through her nose and ran her fingers through his hair again. "Thank you..." she said softly.

He leaned into her touch once more. "It's the least I can do," he smiled. "I can imagine he's feeling a little neglected if he's been locked up," he said softly. "Naga...was only protecting you."

"I know," she said. "And I appreciate it but I do not want anything to happen to him either. Lord Sasori threatened his life once and I do not want to take any chances..." She looked at Naga who hissed softly at her. "I love you, too," she chuckled.

The little interaction between them made Gaara's heart swell. "As I said," he smiled at her and then Naga. "I won't let anything happen to you if I can help it. I...feel very protective of you both," he said in surprising honesty.

Naga moved closer to them, lifting his upper body high enough to nuzzle his face against Gaara's jaw, hissing his thanks and appreciation. "He is not used to people wanting to protect him," Azumi said softly. She looked up at Gaara. "I suppose neither am I," she said. "I spent the past couple of months protecting myself."

He smiled, laughing softly as he felt the cool scales on his jaw. "You're welcome," he said to Naga. He looked back at Azumi and lifted one of his hands to stroke her cheek gently. "I've never wanted to protect someone the way I want to protect you. Maybe it's from the years of watching Sasori murder or...maybe more but I feel it in my bones. I can't let him destroy you or anyone else ever again."

"You do not need to give a reason," she smiled. "You are just a good person." She kissed him softly.

He pushed back into the kiss and smiled. "If you say so," he whispered. He leaned in to kiss her again, feeling anything he had to say would become redundant. The rage was still boiling in his chest but being with Azumi, feeling her under him eased the tightness and kept him grounded. He wanted to enjoy being with her for as long as he could.

She hummed softly against his lips, pushing back into the kiss. She gently bit his bottom lip before pulling away. "I am sure you are aware that your cousin is very suspicious about us," she chuckled. "And his best friend is not easing any of that.”

He breathed out hard through his nose. "No, Komushi wouldn't," he sighed away from her face. "If anything, he's going to be the main reason Sasori actually thinks we're together at all."

"Mm...I would not be upset if he disappeared," she said softly. "He seems to be causing more problems for me than I would prefer." She continued to run her hands through his hair as they fell into silence. It was a peaceful silence with nothing but the river's water moving softly behind them.

Gaara had shifted to rest his head on her chest, enjoying the feeling of her fingers in his hair. “How much of the city have you seen?” he asked softly. He had closed his eyes while they were basking in each other.

“Not very much,” she hummed. “I have only seen the routes to and from the shop. And everywhere else we have gone was always close by. He does not go anywhere else.” She rolled her eyes. “Like an actual old man.”

"Sasori has always been a creature of habit," he laughed, shifting his head to rest his chin on her sternum.  "Would you like a tour then?" he grinned. "It's actually really nice and has a bit of nightlife to it."

“Ooh, that is a very dangerous game to play,” she smirked. Her hand slid from his hair to his back and she gently scratched up and down his skin. “But I do crave adventure...and I trust you.” She chuckled softly. “So, yes. I would like a tour.”

He hummed softly when she scratched his back. He bit his lip slightly as he leaned in to kiss her again. "Then let's go." He bit her lip this time. His arms slipped under her, pulling her close to his body as he sat up then stood with her still in his arms. "We should be okay to leave this here." He looked down at the rug and basket. "I'll take care of it." His face was lighting up with excitement. "Let's see..." He looked up at the moon to guess the time. "The botanical gardens should still be open. And all of the bathhouses." He started to walk with her in his arms as he thought of different places they could go.

She let out a small squeal as she held onto him. “I am actually very excited,” she grinned, watching as they strayed further from Sasori’s house. Part of her was terrified of being caught, but the other part of her did not care. Sasori never left his house unless he was going to his shop and his shop was closed. So there was no reason for him to leave. She looked at Gaara and smiled, leaning in to kiss his cheek.

He laughed, giving her a squeeze as they walked. "It's been a long time since I had someone to go out with," he told her. "It's usually just me by myself. Did you eat yet? We can go to this really great restaurant that only opens at night! Do you like rose sweets?" he asked in an excited rush. "They make all of their pastries in house and it has the best view." He blushed a little, realizing he was starting to ramble.

She chuckled softly and kissed his cheek again. "I have not eaten yet and I love rose sweets," she smiled. "Take me wherever you want. As I said, I trust you."

He grinned and started for the building. "I have to put you down," he said almost sadly. "The stairs are a little narrow," he told her as he eased her down to the ground. He kissed her again and slipped his hand into hers, lacing their fingers.

She brought his hand up to kiss the back of it and followed him as he led her up the stairs to the restaurant. Immediately, she was hit with the most intense scents of different foods at once. "Whoa," she whispered, feeling her stomach growl shortly after.

He grinned, kissing her cheek. "I'm sort of a regular here," he said softly, leading her through the restaurant and up another short set of stairs. It was a quiet balcony that overlooked the open sky and desert. He released her hand and pulled out her chair for her. A pair of small candles flickered on the table along with a few lanterns that threw a soft glowing light.

His eyes did not drift over the sweeping landscape. Instead, they fixed on Azumi. His fingers laced into her hands again but he pulled back a little. "It's always peaceful here and since the night is a cover for most people there...is an air of confidentiality for anything that goes on here," he said with a small hum.

"Lord Gaara," a waitress said as she walked up with a tray of tea in a glass teapot. There was only one cup and saucer on the little metal disk. "Oh, you have a guest," she gasped. "I'll be right back!" She smiled widely at Azumi, giving her a small bow as she set the tray down. "My apologies!"

Azumi smiled at the waitress as she backed away and turned around to grab another cup. " Sort of a regular," she chuckled, looking back at Gaara. "But that confidentiality puts any anxiety I had about being caught to ease," she sighed.

"Okay," he chuckled. "I am very much a regular here," he smiled shyly.

The waitress poured out their tea and giggled. "Lord Gaara is one of our best customers," she announced. "Did you want two orders of your regular order?" she asked him. "Or would you like to try something new?"

Gaara blushed a little. "Um, one order is fine but could you also bring a menu for her to look at?" he gestured to Azumi.

"Absolutely," she grinned. She turned and went to grab a menu, coming back and handing it to Azumi. "Here you go."

"Thank you," Azumi smiled back as she took it and looked it over. "Oh," she hummed, taking in the number of items and their descriptions. In the meantime, the waitress went and grabbed a small basket of pita chips and a bowl of hummus, setting it down on the table. After about a minute, she chuckled. "All of this sounds great, it is a bit overwhelming."

Gaara laughed softly, licking some crumbs from his lips. “Would you like a recommendation?” he offered.

"Please," she chuckled.

"Well, you have one order of his usual coming up," the waitress grinned. "I also recommend shakshouka. It's a bit heavier but I think this place makes it the best."

"Oh, yes, bring an order of that and some kofta," Gaara grinned. "Do you like fish?" he asked Azumi.

Azumi scrunched her face a little. "Mm, not...really," she said sheepishly. "Sorry. I am not a big fan of things that come from the ocean."

The waitress giggled and shook her head. "It's fine, I'm not fond of the stuff either. I'll bring all of that and a little something extra," she winked. "But I'll leave the menu for dessert if you can handle it once  you're done."

"Thank you," Azumi smiled. The waitress bowed and left them alone. "She is sweet," she hummed and then looked back at Gaara.

"She is," he smiled, resting his cheek on the back of one of his hands.

"This is the kind of place one would want to be a regular at," she chuckled.

 "A lot of different people pass through here so you get to hear a lot of stories and characters," he said.

"I bet you know a lot about everyone then," she smirked, sitting back and crossing her arms. "A trusted doctor and a knower of all secrets. You are not one to be messed with."

He pressed one of his fingers to his lips and winked. "Ssssh," he laughed. "I do tend to know more than most people expect. I think collecting secrets is a family thing," he chuckled. "It's also good for networking. Do you have anywhere like this in your village?"

"Mm," she hummed in thought. "There was a cafe I frequented a lot. I guess you could say I was a regular. But it was nothing like this place. My village is not very large and this city...from what I have seen from the outside on my way in here...it is massive."

"Oh, like the one we go to for coffee?" he smiled, looking out over the desert. "It is pretty large. And a central hub for travelers. I can't imagine what it must have been like to come here for the first time." He took a sip of his tea and relaxed back. 

"From the outside, it looks very intimidating and entering it and seeing the number of people moving about was...extremely overwhelming," she said. "The caravan I was brought here with stopped at a bunch of different places for slave auctions before this one and none of them were as big." She looked down and chuckled softly. "Of course, the one that made me the most nervous was the one I got sold in."

His smile softened into a look of concern. "I...know you'll probably go home once you are freed but tonight I hope I can show you the better side of this city." The waitress returned with another waiter and arms full of food. Gaara's jaw dropped. "What is...all this," he laughed. 

"Okay, so Shira...went a little...overboard," she giggled. 

"This one blabbed that you have a guest with you," the waiter ratted her out with a smirk.

"I did not! I just...mentioned it," she huffed as she set the dishes down.

"But just mentioning it is all it takes," the waiter smirked, setting some more down. "You know how he is." He looked at Gaara and smiled. "He also said he'll be out here soon to see you."

Gaara shook his head, looking over all of the food. "I hope you brought your appetite then," he laughed, looking over to Azumi.

"Do either of you want drin—"

"I brought drinks!" a new voice called up. A large handsome man emerged from the lower level with three jugs on his arms and a tray stacked with glasses balanced on his head. His grin was wide and kind. The two servers shook their heads but laughed as they stepped out of his way so he could set the jugs and glasses down. 

"I'll grab you a chair," the waitress said. 

"When I heard you brought someone, I was shocked," the newcomer grinned at Gaara. "But now that I see we are dining with a goddess herself, I am curious to know how you swooned her," he teased, bowing slightly to Azumi. "What did he woo you with, talk of his patients or his sweet cacti?"

Azumi chuckled as the man took a seat at their table, grinning wide at her. "Mm, the cacti," she smirked.

"No way!" he gasped. "That actually worked?"

"Indeed it did."

Gaara blushed and punched Shira gently in the arm. "I told you the ladies love plants!"

"I'm seeing now that they do," the man chuckled, rubbing his arm.

"The way to any woman's heart," Azumi smirked.

"I'm skeptical," he chuckled. "I think you just fell for his cute face.” He reached over and squished Gaara's cheeks between his hands just as he went to take a sip of tea.

Gaara sighed and gently swatted his friend's hands away. "Maybe that was the first thing to win me over," Azumi chuckled.

"That's what I thought," he smirked. "Ah! I'm so rude. I'm Shira.” He took Azumi’s hand and pressed a soft kiss to the back of it.

Azumi chuckled and nodded politely. “My name is Azumi,” she smiled.

“I made all of this food when I heard my best friend had a girl with him," he grinned. Gaara pouted, looking at his friend scandalized. "It's not often that he has anyone with him," Shira continued. "Which is probably why he's friends with me," he chuckled. "I get so worried about him during the day," he whispered. "He can be a real loner, you know."

"Shira!" Gaara gasped. He sighed heavily and opened one of the jugs. The strong scent of sangria filled the air.

"Am I embarrassing you?" Shira chuckled. "I'm sorry."

"Is that not what a best friend is supposed to do?" Azumi smirked. She looked at Gaara and took his hand. "It just means that he cares," she said to him.

Gaara sighed but his pout turned to a smile. "I know." He flicked Shira. "Doesn't mean he's any less the worst," he chuckled.

It was Shira's turn to gasp. "That better be a capital W," he chuckled. "It's a title I wear proudly." He poured himself and Azumi a glass of sangria then lifted his glass. "A toast!"

Azumi and Gaara lifted their glasses with him and the three of them took a long sip of their sangria. "Oh, this is really good," Azumi hummed. "Did you make this as well?"

"Every drop," he smiled proudly. "I'm glad you like it. It's a little different each time, depending on what the market has to offer."

"It's my favorite in the whole city," Gaara smiled.

"Not the whole world?" Shira pouted.

"I've not been to the whole world," Gaara countered, sipping from his glass.

"And here I thought I was your whole world."

"You're part of my world, but not the whole thing.”

"I'll take it," Shira grinned. Azumi smiled at their interaction. This pair of best friends was a breath of fresh air compared to Komushi and Sasori. This was a much more wholesome relationship. "So where are you two off to tonight?" Shira asked with a slightly cheeky smirk.

Gaara rolled his eyes, smiling into his cup. "I'm taking her out on the town. She hasn't been able to see much of the city and she's been here for a couple of weeks already."

"A couple of weeks and no sightseeing!" Shira shook his head. "A sin!" he said dramatically. "Well, then thank the Gods you have the best tour guide around."

"What a title to live up to," Azumi smirked at Gaara.

"If there was an award for it, he'd have won it over and over," Shira chuckled, refilling their glasses with more sangria. "So, if you are only seeing the sights, then where are you from?"

"A village a couple of regions from here," Azumi answered. "Tucked behind a mountain pass and settled on an oasis. Very different from this city."

"A deep desert girl," he chuckled. "And how do you like our humble city so far? Does it suit you or are you ready to head back to your village?" Gaara tensed up a little. He forced himself to relax and schooled his face into a mild curiosity. A stark contrast to the burning version inside of him. Did she like it here despite Sasori? Would she want to stay with him?

"It was a bit overwhelming at first but there is definitely...a charm to it," she smirked, looking at Gaara. Shira followed her face with his eyes to Gaara. A genuine smile formed on his lips. Then she looked back at Shira. "I can say that I do find this place fascinating. Many different characters here. And it has definitely opened my mind up to the idea of traveling more."

"A city is a good place to ignite a dormant wanderlust," Shira nodded. "But seeing the world with someone else is always better." 

"This is true," she smiled. "And someone with the title of best tour guide must also be able to hold the title of best travel companion. At least I would think so," she chuckled. Gaara blushed a little.

"He can ride horses and camels, too," Shira winked. "He'll be perfect for you."

"Mm, I don't know about all of that but I can certainly try."

"So humble." Shira threw an arm around Gaara's shoulders and poured them each another glass. The three of them drank through the first jug of sangria and opened up the second one as they started eating. "So how exactly did you two meet?" Shira asked. Azumi coughed slightly on her drink when she heard the question. She completely forgot she was a slave and she was not sure if Gaara wanted to share that information.

"She's...working for my cousin," Gaara said after some thought. He chose his words and tone carefully.

Shira looked at him a little funny and then it dawned on him. His mouth dropped open as he looked back at her wide-eyed. "I...are you sure it's safe?" he asked in a hushed tone to Gaara as if suddenly the walls had eyes and ears.

"It's risky but I know nothing can happen here," Gaara said.

"But what about outside of here?" Shira asked softly.

"The chances of us running into someone who would rat us out are very slim."

"You don't think your cousin is going to notice she's gone?"

"Once Lord Sasori goes to bed, he is not seen until the sun rises," Azumi assured him. "And I have given him no real reason to be suspicious of my absence. He will not have much of a reason to check if I am there."

Shira gave them both a long, stern look as he topped off their glasses. "Fine," he finally broke the silence. "Just...be careful."

"We will and always are," Gaara smiled at him.

"So, how are you doing dealing with a monster like Sasori?" Shira asked Azumi.

"It is...not the easiest task I have been given," she hummed. "However, I think I am faring quite well, seeing as I am still alive," she smirked.

"That is a...wait you said a few weeks?" Shira gasped. "Holy...that must be a record!" 

"It is," Gaara nodded and sipped his drink again. "And what's worse...Sasori really likes her."

"Likes me," Azumi scoffed, rolling her eyes. "Is that what you call it?" she asked.

"I take it you're not fond of him," Shira chuckled.

"It is hard to be fond of someone who justifies damaging your body with 'I own you,'" she said. "I tolerate him at most. And even that is difficult."

Shira blinked for a moment and then laughed softly. "I like her," he said to Gaara. "Sasori's always been a piece of scarab shit." He downed his glass. "It's about time he found someone who could tolerate him."

"Hopefully she won't have to for much longer though," Gaara said, taking her hand.

"You're not planning on breaking her out are you?" Shira asked, going back to his hushed tone.

"My uncle is working on abolishing slavery in the city in general," Gaara answered.

"Ah, I did hear whispers of that," Shira smirked. "His wife was here a couple of nights ago and she might have mentioned something like that."

"Lord Sandaime has a wife?" Azumi asked with a shocked grin. It should not have surprised her because Sandaime was amazing so of course he was married. Yet, she had not heard any mentions of him being married.

"Oh, he has a wife," Shira sighed dreamily. "She's beautiful, talented, kind, and wonderful," he listed off.

"Shira has a crush on my aunt," Gaara chuckled.

"She sounds amazing," Azumi smiled. "I am sure she and Lord Sandaime are perfect together."

"Great power couple," Gaara nodded. "I'm sure she comes here often because she gets free food."

"Of course!" Shira said. "I can't make someone as wonderful as her pay .”

"Does Sandaime get free food, too?" Gaara chuckled.

"He gets a discount,"  Shira shrugged. "He insists on paying anyway."

"I'm sure he knows you give his wife everything for free," Gaara said. "And he probably finds it amusing."

"That is quite precious," Azumi smirked. They finished their second jug of sangria and moved onto the third one. She was starting to feel a slight buzz, something she had not felt in a long time. She was not going to stop herself, however, because she was enjoying herself and having a great time.

After almost an hour, they ate most of the food Shira had made for them and finished their third jug of wine. A fourth one was brought up to them and they were well into it when Shira decided he should probably get back to work. "Have you decided on any desserts?" he asked them.

Azumi looked over the menu for a moment, scanning the dessert section. "Lokum?" she suggested to Gaara. "Unless you have something else you recommend."

"I'll bring up a few others for you as well," Shira said with a wink. He took Azumi's hand and pressed a kiss to it. "In this restaurant, you will always be considered free." With that, he disappeared back into the rest of the restaurant to make their desserts.

Azumi looked at Gaara and grinned. "I like him," she chuckled. "He is very nice. That is what a best friend should be and I am glad you have him." She took his hand and kissed his knuckles.

Gaara smiled and leaned across the table to cup her face with his free hand. He pulled her into a slow kiss, tasting the wine on her lips. "I'm glad I have him, too," he said softly. "And you."

"I am glad I have you, too," she whispered. She was truly grateful for him. If he had not been around, her time being Sasori's slave would without a doubt be much more miserable than it was. She kissed him again, biting his lip gently. He pressed into the kiss, lacing their fingers together as they kissed. They only pulled apart when there was a soft tap of ceramic on the metal table they were sitting at. Their waitress was giggling silently as she placed down their sweets.

"Oh! Sorry," she said as she quickly put the rest of it down. "Please enjoy these." She smiled widely and disappeared back downstairs. Gaara's face was flushed.

Azumi chuckled softly, kissing the tip of Gaara's nose before sitting back in her seat. "Four jugs of wine in," she smirked, "I may or may not be just a little bit drunk." Her slight buzz from earlier had escalated closer to the bottom of the fourth bottle of sangria. "I apologize."

He laughed softly, a little breathless and very flushed. “I...am drunk,” he laughed again, leaning in to kiss her once more. “So there is no reason...to apologize.” He paused between his words, grinning as he did. “But are you tired?”

She bit her lip in a smile and shook her head. "No," she answered. "I can last a little longer." She looked down at the desserts that were brought to them and picked up a lokum cube. "Unless you are tired," she smirked, feeding it to him.

He grinned, pulling her finger into his mouth a little to kiss it as she fed him the sweet. “No, I can last as long as you,” he grinned. “There’s somewhere we can go for more drinks and music,” he told her. “It can be a little crowded but it’s a lot of fun and you can dance. Freely,” he added hastily.

"I would love to," she smiled, eating a cube herself. "Can you dance?" she asked. She did not care what his answer was. She was going to make him dance with her anyway.

He shook his head, feeling it spin a little and grinned as he picked up another cube. "I'm a terrible dancer when I’m sober," he hummed. "And would probably crush your feet too much when drunk."

She chuckled as she tried another dessert that Shira made for them. “It is hard to look bad when you are dancing with someone who knows how to dance,” she smirked.

"Fair point," he hummed, licking his fingers of the light sugar sticking to them. "But I think you deserve a better dance partner," he chuckled.

She grinned, taking the final sip of the sangria in her glass. “You can try to get out of it all you want,” she said. “But you are going to dance with me.”

He laughed a little uneasily but leaned in and kissed her with sugar on his lips. "As you wish, milady," he told her softly.

The finished off the jug of sangria and ate the rest of the desserts that Shira made for them and got up. The waitress and waiter from earlier approached them with wide grins and cleared their table. “Shira says it’s on the house,” the waitress said. 

“As usual,” the waiter chuckled. 

“Thank you,” Azumi smiled, giving the servers a slight bow.

Gaara shook his head and tipped a large wage of money into each of their hands. "Thank you for everything," he told them softly with a kind smile. The waitress giggled and the waiter bowed in return. Gaara held Azumi’s hand as he led her back down into the restaurant and then the stairs. He stopped on the last step, where they still had a shadow of cover and pushed her up against the wall of the building gently. His hands found her waist as he pulled her into a deep, passionate kiss.

She hummed softly, pushing back into the kiss and resting her arms on his shoulders. Her fingers laced into his hair and bit his lip before pulling away ever so slightly. "Thank you for bringing me here," she whispered against his lips.

"Thank you for letting me," he whispered back. "We'll visit again for sure," he promised. He kissed her one more time before pulling away and tugging her gently back on to the streets of the city. It was still lively despite the hour. He walked with her, hand in hand, breathing in the night air with a huge grin on his face. It felt nice to have someone to be with and drink with other than himself alone with his thoughts. He turned down an alleyway and slipped out to a new street. It was even more bustling with a line of people wrapped around the building. Not even glancing at the line, Gaara walked to the front and nodded to the pair of bouncers who happened to be twins. Their grins stretch widely across identical faces. 

"Lord Gaara!" one said with a slight bounce to him as he spoke.

"It's always good to see you Tobi, Obito."

"It's been a while," the second added. His face was heavily scarred but just as handsome as his brother's.

"It has been," Gaara chuckled.

"And I see you've brought a friend," Obito smirked.

"Is he treating you right?" Tobi teased.

Azumi laughed and nodded. "He is treating me perfectly," she told him.

"Please," Obito chuckled. "Lord Gaara doesn't have a bad bone in his body."

Tobi chuckled, shaking his head. "You're right, Brother," he said. Obito winked at Azumi. "I think you got the most gentlemanly man in all of the city."

"Second only to maybe Lord Sandaime," Obito smirked.

"Oh, no, he is definitely more than Lord Sandaime." 

"We've been through this before." Obito rolled his eyes.

Gaara chuckled, holding up his hands to keep them from getting into it. "Guys, it doesn't really matter, does it?" he tired.

"See!" Tobi jutted a hand out toward Gaara. "The finest gentleman!"

"I may have to agree with you on that," Azumi said.

The twins stepped aside to let them into the building. "Have fun, you two," Obito smirked.

"Don't get too wild now," Tobi chuckled.

"Never any promises," Gaara chuckled over his shoulder.

"Ooooh," both twins chuckled as they returned to work. Inside, the club was two levels. They enter through the second level where people seemed to be mostly hanging out with drinks in their hands and having conversations or using the shadows as cover. Music bumped from the lower level. It was on the lower level where most of the action was taking place. People danced and intermingled with drinks sloshing a little in their hands. There was the thick scent of incense and something else on the air.

Azumi looked around as they made their way through the crowd. She looked at the one below and was pretty fine with the less dense one on the upper level. She followed him as he led her to the bar and let him order the drinks. They occupied a small section against the railing, overlooking the lower level and watching the dance crowd move. "I see what you meant when you said it can be a little crowded," she chuckled, taking a sip of her drink.

He chuckled softly, watching with her. "It ebbs and flows with the music. So it might thin out with the next song," he told her. "This is usually more my brother's scene than it is mine."

"Ah, I can definitely see this being his scene," she said. She leaned over the railing a little to scan the crowd below. "How often does he come here?"

"Most nights," Gaara hummed. "Father doesn't pester him too much to do well with much of anything since he's such a successful artist."

"Does he bother you?" she frowned. "You seem to be a successful doctor." She took his hand and pulled him closer, wrapping his arms around her and pressing her back against his chest. "You mentioned your relationship with him not being the best."

He smiled, nuzzling his face into the bend of her neck. He kissed her softly and sighed. "He does," he admitted. "He wanted all of his children in politics. And my sister, Temari, is the only one who followed his wishes. Kankuro won a challenge against my father and got to be whatever he wanted. Me, however," he paused, wrapping his arms a little tighter. "My profession is the only thing I can genuinely say Sasori did for me."

She frowned, turning her head to kiss him. "That is unfortunate," she said. "He should be content with you being successful in any way. Parents that force a dream onto their children are the worst. I am sorry you have to deal with that."

"You're too kind for the fate the Gods have given you," he said against her lips. He kissed her again, shifting one of his hands up to lace into her hair. "I don't mind him. I live in my own place and the rest of my family won't let him hurt me." He touched the tips of their noses together as he spoke. He got lost in her eyes for a few minutes. "What about your father? Did he have great plans for you?"

"He had plans for all of us," she sighed and then frowned. "I was already doing what he wanted me to do with the lab work."

"Did you want to do that kind of work?" he asked quietly.

"I think as a child I may have shown enough interest for him to think it was what I wanted to do so I cannot blame him," she hummed. "As I got older, I did not exactly hate it, but I knew it was not what I really wanted to do. So I got into dancing."

"And is dancing what pulls and calls to your heart?" he asked her, moving his hands to wrap around her waist. He kissed her neck, aching a little to bite down.

"I suppose you could say that," she smirked, pressing her hips against his. "It is something I find myself being passionate about."

He pressed back against her, chuckling softly. "You moved beautifully at the night market," he told her but then frowned a little. "Did he...force you to do that?"

She did not answer at first, resting her head back against him. "He...did," she said. "But the first part, when I danced with him was okay...then he made it so the music put me in a trance for the second half." She hummed softly. "I know he did it to calm my nerves, though."

Gaara strained so he would not grind his teeth. "And...did it?" He wanted to scoff and doubt Sasori actually did anything for anyone's nerves but he thought back to the night and her reaction to the crowds. Maybe his cousin could still be considerate.

“It did,” she assured him. She pressed her body back against his and started to move very slightly, making him move with her. “I am not going to teach you how to dance,” she smirked. “But I am going to make you look like you know what you are doing.”

"Somehow," he laughed, letting his body move with her. "That sounds so much harder."

“Worry not,” she chuckled, finishing her drink and setting the glass down on the nearest surface. “I am a professional.” She started off slow, following the music that played so he would be able to get it at first. “You will find that it is much easier than you anticipated.”

"I trust you," he chuckled nervously. He set his own glass down so he could give her his whole body to use.

She smirked, turning around in his arms to lead him around the small area they occupied to the music that played below. “You are much better than you think you are,” she said softly as they moved.

"Am I?" he smiled, leaning down to kiss her properly. "I'll take your word for it," he grinned. "If you let go though I won't know a since step."

“Then I will not let go,” she chuckled. They continued to move, him following her lead as she changed how they moved with the music. Much to his own surprise, he followed her well. 

After a couple of songs, they finally stopped. Gaara grinned, pulling her close as they drifted back to the rails. He leaned against the railing and pulled her into a deep kiss. "That was amazing." He pressed his forehead to hers. "You're amazing." 

"Mm, I would not say I am amazing," she chuckled, wrapping her arms around him. "That title should go to you for doing as well as you did for someone who does not know how."

"Let's agree we're a perfect pair then," he chuckled. "The right student for the right teacher." He ran his hands up her sides and kissed her again, biting her lip gently. He was suddenly struck with all of his desire for her and hated how restricted they both were. "Did you want to stay for another dance or drink?" he asked softly.

She chuckled quietly, kissing him again. "Let us have one more drink," she smirked against his lips, "and then we go."

"Sounds like a plan," he smiled, pecking her lips once more before shifting so he could untangle them. He made his way over to the bar and ordered them two more drinks.

Across the room, leaning over the other side of the railing that overlooked the dance floor below, Komushi watched them with a drink in his hand. A sinister grin spread across his lips and he took a sip every time he saw them kiss. He had been watching them since they started dancing and had not taken his eyes off of them. He had not expected his night of dancing and drinking with strangers to take a turn like this, but he was not complaining. This was rich. He finished off his drink and grabbed another as he watched them leave. “It seems the little snake also has a problem with boundaries,” he smirked.