Ooooo 6 and Gaaino?
I wasn’t supposed to fall for another ship, but I just can’t help myself. I’d curse you for this, but we all knew it was coming, right? I hope you like it! Thanks for the request!
Red sunlight bled through the glass, lending the eerie aura of a battlefield to the greenhouse. Crimson dusted flower petals and caught on Gaara’s hair, making it flame brighter than normal. Ino watched the man from the corner of her eye, fingers lingering on the flower they’d just been discussing. Gaara laced his hands together behind his back without speaking, and for a moment, she considered brushing his arm. Undoubtedly, it would make the man startle, more from her forwardness in public than the touch. Well, maybe both.
Ino reached toward a cactus with luminous, purple tendrils sprouting from it. “What about this-”
Gaara caught her wrist before it could complete the journey. “That one is poisonous. The spines contain an especially powerful hallucinogen, as does the flower.”
“What would it do?” Ino asked, curling her fingers away from the plant without pulling free.
Gaara released her arm. “It would make you live through your worst nightmare, or forget yourself in a fantasy. It’s different for every person, but the result is always the same.”
Ino had experienced genjutsu before, the poison couldn’t be much different from that. And, she’d already lived through her worse nightmare, so what harm could it do? Ino’s mind flashed back to the war, to the moment that she’d known the bijudama was going to decimate the Allied Shinobi headquarters, and Inoichi’s final words rang in her ears. The air rushed out of the room. She couldn’t draw a breath, something heavy pressed against her chest, suffocating her.
A hand touched Ino’s shoulder, drawing her back from the memory. “Ino?”
Drawing a breath, Ino forced a grin. “I was trying to figure out what type of fantasy would be the most fun to lose myself in.” She curled her voice playfully around the words to sell her lie.
Pink tinted Gaara’s cheeks at the insinuation, but Ino could tell that he didn’t believe her. Even so, he didn’t press the issue, for which she was thankful. “I don’t think you’d want this fantasy,” he said. “The poison also suppresses the heartbeat, leading to death in high enough doses.”
“It should have some a warning on it,” Ino complained, glaring at the innocuous looking plant. Like most of the others in the greenhouse, the cacti blended seamlessly into the ones around it. Only a trained eye would be able to tell the one plant from another.
Gaara smiled. “This is the Kazekage’s personal garden. If the plants kill someone, they probably shouldn’t have been here in the first place.”
The idea brought a true smile to Ino’s lips as the pair continued down the crowded row. The war had colored her perception of even the most beautiful things. What should be considered a lovely sunset, now reminded Ino of the shade of a bruise as the sky faded toward true darkness. Neither Gaara nor Ino suggested going back to their rooms. Time rushed through their fingers, and though she knew it would come to an end soon enough, Ino couldn’t bring herself to worry about it.
The silence between them would have been uncomfortable with anyone else, but somehow Ino found that it wasn’t with Gaara. Nearly two months ago, she’d come to Suna with Shikamaru, ostensibly to see Sakura. Teasing her former teammate about his budding relationship with Temari had been an added bonus. The close proximity to Gaara had made he and Ino friends by default. A week turned into two, then a month, and now the second had nearly passed. As Ino’s friends went on with their own lives, she’d found herself spending more time with Gaara.
Of course, Sakura had elbowed Ino and told her there was absolutely nothing wrong with falling for a kage. Ino had immediately protested that they only spent so much time together because Sakura was always busy with her work in the hospital. Even worse had been when Shikamaru got that annoying half grin as he watched Gaara and Ino chatting over dinner one night. He hadn’t been as bold as to mention anything, but Temari had watched them with the same expression. Though hers contained a protective overtone as well.
Pushing the thought from her mind, Ino turned to face Gaara. “Yet, you let me come here?”
“Of course,” Gaara answered. “It’s rare that someone actually appreciates the gardens. Temari and Kankuro humor me at best. More recently, Sakura has seen them as a resource for antidotes, but they don’t understand them. Not like you.”
A smile tugged at the edges of Ino’s mouth. If someone had told her that she and the Kazekage would share an interest in plants when she’d first met him, she would have laughed at them. But, here they were. “Not everyone can be as interesting as we are,” she laughed, tucking a strand of blond behind one ear.
“I’m not interesting.” Gaara shook his head as if he found the word distasteful. Running a hand through his crimson spikes of hair, he continued. “Until recently, boring would have been the better word to describe me.”
Ino’s pulse picked up at the words, and she tipped her head to the side with a questioning look. Gaara looked away, gaze traveling over the gardens surrounding them. “You intend to return to Konoha in the morning,” he stated the obvious, looking more uncomfortable with every passing moment. “But, could I convince you to stay?”
Aquamarine eyes slid back toward Ino’s, and she felt a flood of warmth through her chest. The past weeks of shared meals and stolen moments had become something she looked forward to, but she hadn’t really allowed herself to hope Gaara felt the same. In fact, that was one of the reasons she’d decided to return to Konoha. If he wanted anything more, he would have initiated it by now. They were a friendship of convenience, and yet…
“It depends on the reason,” Ino replied, breath catching in her throat.
Gaara stepped forward, his fingers teasing against hers then taking her hand. “I want you to stay.”
It was the first time Gaara had initiated such an intimate contact, and for a moment, Ino couldn’t remember how to draw breath. As much as she’d teased Sakura about being innocent, most of Ino’s experience came from things she’d heard rather than experienced. Standing this close to Gaara, her brain shorted out, and the only response she could think of came out as a squeak. “What?”
“I’d like you to stay,” Gaara repeated, a pale shade of pink tinting his cheeks as his hand fell away from hers. “If you want to.”
“Why would you want me to stay?” Ino dipped her head enough that she could look up at Gaara through her lashes, noticing the flush on his cheeks deepen until the color almost matched his hair.
Gaara cleared his throat. “I’m not good at this sort of thing,” he began, running nervous fingers over his jacket. “I’ve enjoyed the time we spent together, and I want to get to know you better.”
Though Ino had felt that irresistible tug toward Gaara, she had no idea if he felt the same until now. He remained aloof comparatively, though she’d begun to suspect that it was more his personality than a lack of interest. Judging by the intensity in his eyes, she’d been correct. “Nothing has ever scared me more than being with you, but I want-”
Laughter bubbled through Ino’s lips though she tried to stop it, halting Gaara’s words and transforming them into an apology. Before he could finish the sentiment, she closed the distance between them and pressed her lips against his to halt the slur of words. The world didn’t explode with light, and time didn’t stop, but the flutter of emotion in Ino’s chest when Gaara circled his arms around her was definitely a good place to start.