Sand Trails Ch 1: Establishing Territory

Co-written with the wonderful Ariel. Unedited.

Sasuke peered around the corner and into the empty hallway, feeling really fucking stupid for going along with yet another of Naruto’s stupid, ridiculous plots in order to become the school’s biggest prankster. He glared around for a minute before turning and giving the trio behind him a nod. “It’s clear,” he murmured.

“Yus!” Naruto cried.

“Naruto!” Ino hissed, scowling. She turned on the boy behind her. “Shikamaru, tell Naruto to shut up!” She said it like she expected him to be able to wrangle the blond.

Shikamaru rolled his eyes, but with Ino glaring at him what else was there but try? “Oi, Naruto. You wanna get caught?”

The goofy blond ducked his head, but he came back up with a grin all the wider.

Shikamaru sighed and shrugged at the glaring Ino. If you have any ideas, be my guest, said his answering expression.

She frowned at him. He looked away. The promise of Sasuke’s mothers cooking (offered by Naruto of course) seemed further and further away from being worth the ridiculous trip.

Naruto cleared his throat and thankfully lowered his voice. “Okay, here’s the plan,” he said, motioning the other three into a huddle, before making the reason for Sasuke’s easy compliance clear. “Now, Itachi’s locker is the fourth one down on the left side, all the way to the top—third row.” He grabbed the bag he’d brought with him, an almost evil grin on his face. “Ino, you bubble-wrap the books, that way, when he comes after us—because who else would do this to him—he doesn’t really have a reason to beat us.”

She rolled her eyes but nodded. “Got it,” she agreed with a nod.

He handed the bubble-wrap to her and then pulled out a strange box. Inside was a heap of white sand. He handed that to Shikamaru. “After Ino’s done with the books, you pour that into the locker. Sasuke,” he handed his best friend an empty gallon water jug. “Go get water. Once the sand’s in, pour the water through the slats in the locker. Be careful not to get any on the outside.” He grinned. “Everyone understand?”

The box was heavy and Shikamaru could feel the grains of sand slide as he tried not to tilt the box too far in any direction. In his mind, he was coming up with ways to pour sand, which was like water, into a locker that was upright… and not have the sand pour itself right back out the bottom. Another book maybe?

For all that Naruto came up with some fantastic pranks, the details that made the deed go smoothly never occurred to the energetic kid.

After the murmured assent, Naruto watched the trio set to their tasks with near sadistic glee. This was it! He was going to get that stupid Uchiha fucker back for that shit at the pep rally last week for sure!

“Naruto!” Ino hissed when Naruto began to giggle strangely. “What are YOU going to do?”

Naruto snickered. “I’m gonna write something on the locker door afterwards,” he declared.

“You moron.”

Shikamaru rolled his eyes again. He didn’t want to know. He really did not want to know. Images of Mikoto’s rice balls wafted through his thoughts. He could almost taste them. He shook his head, it was foolish, but he was tired of the same health stuff his mom was making at home. She had been on a fibre obsession for over a month. His dad had simply started going out to more business dinners, leaving him as the guinea pig.

He shifted his feet again. Time to get moving. Ino had finished with the bubble wrap.

Shikamaru moved up to the locker. Taking a wrapped slim text he put up a barrier to keep the sand from spilling. It was the best that he could do.

He usually planned these things in advance, but with Naruto dragging them all along at the last-minute, Shikamaru didn’t even know what Naruto had thought of (he was not going to say ‘planned’) until Naruto’s whispered instructions.

Carefully, Shikamaru tipped the box at an angle and slowly let gravity pour the grains of sand in.

The white sand almost looked silky as it slithered in.

It only took a minute, but it felt like hours. Every single moment went by with hushed giggles from Naruto and Ino’s shifting eyes.

Shikamaru tipped the last of the sand in, and stood back nodding. Not a grain on the floor to give it away. A rather important detail as Naruto, who never cleaned, did not think to bring a broom.

As he stepped back, Sasuke moved in. Shutting the door of the locker he used a plastic folder to direct the water into the locker. Ever so slowly the water trickled in. Not so very slowly, Naruto’s chortles became louder.

“Narutooo!” Ino snapped, decking him.

His laughter forgotten, Naruto pouted at her and sniffled a bit. “Aw, Ino. You’re so mean to me. I’m just a poor, innocent, defenceless prankster.”

“Dobe, just fucking put whatever it is you’re gonna put on the locker and let’s go. The bell’s going to ring in ten minutes, and if Itachi catches us, he will literally castrate us,” Sasuke said, scowling at his friend.

Ino huffed. “Not me. I’m gone,” she declared, but even so, she lingered, curious about what Naruto was going to write on Itachi’s locker.

Grinning, Naruto took out a sharpie and drew a rather detailed animated picture of Itachi’s head, wearing a crown, lipstick and other make ups, and scrawled beneath it, “Property of Miss Uchiha.” Sasuke rolled his eyes. “Let’s GO!” he hissed, and they beat a hasty retreat.

They were still running when the bell rang the first time and Ino and Sasuke peeled off from the group, heading towards the north entrance. Story was that they were buying candy from the glass dispensers near the principles office. The second bell rang. Shikamaru pulled out the carnation he had been keeping in his vest and held it out to the blonde. Naruto took the pass off and pumped a fist into the air while grinning to the rest before hopping over to library where Sakura was waiting. Naruto had boasted to Sakura that he would get her a flower from the shop 30 minutes away. Running Naruto would have made it about now. That was his story.

The third bell rang and Shikamaru was already on his way to the roof. Nodding to his best friend Chouji he collapsed to the sun-baked concrete. “So how did it go?” Chouji grinned at him.

Shikamaru snorted. “Itachi will be getting to his locker by now.” He looked at his friend. “Why do I get pulled into these things?”

Meanwhile, Toji Deidara was walking with Uchiha Itachi as they approached their lockers. Deidara was going on and on about a fireworks festival that his parents were putting on that weekend. “–and I asked Konan, but apparently she’s back with stupid Pein—again—and has no interest in my ‘scrawny 11th grade ass’, un,” Deidara was saying, scowling. “Do you have any idea how humiliating that was? She turned me down in the middle of freaking Micky D’s, un!”

Deidara continued to rant on and to anyone else Itachi looked bored and inattentive. Anyone else would have been right. Itachi cut his eyes to Deidara as the blonde continued to rave. Deidara thankfully noticed and frowned at Itachi. “This is important!” Itachi only sighed and continued walking.

Dealing with Deidara was like dealing with a 5-year-old. You couldn’t stop him, you could only out last him. Unfortunately, equally like a 5-year-old, he tended to whine. About everything. As they came closer to where the lockers were Itachi began to notice the silence.

In a high school there was no silence. The halls were filled with yelling students who would jostle each other in their rush to class. Itachi was just an implacable force of nature in that he had the privilege of scaring everyone just on sight. Thus, he could walk in reasonable peace through the halls, removed from the physical contact that came with the chaos that was between classes. This did not mean, however, that the whole student body would stop talking at his approach.

“Holy crap,” Deidara said suddenly, stopping a few feet away from their group of lockers. Group B. He stared wide-eyed at Itachi’s and debated running away. Just in case.

Itachi ignored Deidara and walked on towards the locker. Students parted from his path and scattered to stand at corners and doorways. Conscious of the entire student body watching for his reactions he stood in front of his locker and studied it. Sharpie. Permanent. He rapped on the door. The sound that came back was dense and did not echo at all. They had put something inside it, literally filling the cavity. Denser than paper. He looked at the edges of the locker door by flicking his black eyes down. There was a dribble of water seeping out from the bottom. Itachi closed his eyes for a moment. There were sand particles in the water.

He turned and looked at Deidara. “Would you mind sharing your books with me next period? I believe that mine are buried at the moment.” Deidara nodded mutely for once, eyes still like saucers.

Itachi looked back at the locker door. The caricature mocked him back. “I’ll need to find something to get this–” He waved at the picture, “–off the door.” He shook his head. Sasuke. The kid never learned. He moved away from the lockers. Another time he would open the locker, but for now there was no point. The books he did not care about. He could buy another set.

However, this did mean war. And—Itachi smiled—now a few of his ideas would be allowed to come to fruition. Sasuke still sang in the shower… And the bathroom door wasn’t sound proof. It wouldn’t be too hard to get a hold of the PA system… and war was never meant to be a secret between those involved.

After a minute of staring at that admittedly intimidating smile, Deidara cleared his throat and managed to find his voice, though it started out slightly squeaky. “We… can go tell the janitor,” he suggested, and at Itachi’s blank look that was somehow more intimidating than his glare, he changed his mind. “The bathroom’s not far, un. We can go get some paper towels… And… yeah…” He shifted and walked to his locker, switching out his books. “So… bathroom?” he asked after a beat.

Itachi levelled a look at Deidara. He closed his eyes for a moment and sighed. “Deidara, do you have nail polish remover with you?” He looked pointedly at Deidara’s nails.

Deidara blinked for a moment and then shook his head. “No. I let Hidan borrow it this morning, un. He might still have it, though I think he said something about letting Kakuzu use it, too, so I dunno where it could be, un.” He shrugged, and jumped when a large, beefy blue arm draped around his shoulders. “Shit!”

Hoshigaki Kisame, Itachi’s best friend, laughed. “You dipshit,” he teased the blond. “Pay more attention, huh?”

“Don’t sneak up on people, un!” Deidara retorted, scowling.

That was when Kisame caught sight of Itachi’s locker and doubled over, laughing his ass off. “Uzumaki Naruto! It had to be him!” he said between guffaws.

Itachi shrugged. He took out a red sharpie and wrote above the picture, ‘To be addressed at a later time’. As he capped the pen he smiled at Kisame. “Naruto has a reluctant sweetie doesn’t he? And several rivals.” Kisame nodded enthusiastically. Itachi let his smile fade away and looked at the students still standing around them. “The janitor will have acetone. To deal with this and there is sand in the locker as well.” At Kisame’s guffaw, he narrowed his gaze. “Kisame, I trust you’ll help me with the removal of the inner beach my locker has been holding.”

Kisame grinned showing off his teeth. “Rice balls,” was all he said and Itachi nodded in agreement.

As the day went on, Itachi had the school janitor help him wipe down the locker and remove the sand. Kisame surprisingly claimed the sand and carted it away in glee. Itachi did not ask, but instead told Kisame and Deidara to meet him at the northern entrance of the school for planning. When he arrived, Kisame was already laughing about something and Deidara was giving him strange looks.

Kisame hooted at Itachi when he joined them, “Miz Uchiha! How are you?”

Itachi promptly kicked Kizame over the railing and watched the tall boy tumble into the bush below. He raised an eyebrow to Deidara, and when the boy shook his head Itachi didn’t ask. He did not need to know about Kisame and the sand. Kisame on the other hand popped up from the bush and grinned. “Would you believe that there’s a guy that buys sand?!”

Itachi looked at Kisame. “Is this necessary?”

Kisame only grinned wider. “Yo, you know I work at the pet store right? There’s a kid there that has been asking for white sand for months. We never get it cuz it’s hard to keep that white crap clean of well, crap.” Itachi only continued to look at Kisame. “Aquarium? For fish? Geez Itachi.”

“Anyway, the stuff was prime white. I don’t know where that prankster got it, but it was perfect.” Kisame laughed. “I made a phone call while you two were in class and the red-head just about offered to pay me a hundred for all of that.

Itachi shook his head, but Kisame continued. “The money would have been good, but–” Itachi looked at Kisame (He turned down the money?) ”–The kid has a brother and sister that’s in school over in Suna. Seems like the sister has been interested in one of Naruto’s friends.” Kisame showed up teeth. “Shikamaru to be exact.”

“Shikamaru? That lazy kid in freshman year, un?” Deidara asked, looking skeptical.

“The fuck? Why the fuck are you dipshits talking about stupid fresh fish?” a voice demanded as Hidan suddenly appeared right behind Deidara, causing the boy to yelp. He held out Deidara’s nail-polish remover with a grin that said he’d meant to scare the blond.

Deidara snagged the clear bottle and scowled. “Would you people quite doing that, un?!”

“Why?” Hidan asked. “It’s fucking hilarious!”

“I hope you didn’t spend any money on that,” Kakuzu added from Deidara’s other side, once again causing the blond to start.

Kisame cackled. “Hey, it’s a scare-fest!” he declared. “Who wants to see who can make Dei piss his pants?”

Hidan instantly lifted a hand. “I’m in!”

“It’s a waste of time,” Kakuzu sniffed. “I could be making money.”

“Buzzkill,” the other two chorused while Deidara scowled darkly at all of them.

Abruptly, Deidara looked at Itachi. “Didn’t you have payback to get, un?” he asked, trying to change the subject off of him.

“Payback?” Kakuzu asked, perking at the word ‘pay’

xXx

A few days later Shikamaru walked up the pathway to Sasuke’s house.

The day had been long. For some reason Iruka had decided it would be today he would announce a pop quiz and find out how dismal some of his students were. After Iruka had them mark each others’ papers he looked at them all, dismissed half the class right away and then proceeded to drill biology into the rest of them. This was made worse by the fact that somehow Iruka had managed to make his usual study group (problem students from his class and Kakashi’s), larger with the ‘good students’.

Naruto had tried to sneak away by claiming bathroom emergency but Iruka said that if Naruto didn’t come back, the rest of them would be cleaning up the classroom instead.

After the dirty looks from the rest of them, Naruto had laughed in embarrassment, rubbed his nose, and sat back down.

Sasuke, Sakura and Shino had been allowed to leave. Sasuke had smirked of course, Sakura shook her head and Shino almost looked like he wanted to stay.

But the day was over… and the REAL Mrs Uchiha was welcoming them all over for dinner per Sasuke’s request.

Shikamaru always did like the quiet that surrounded the Uchiha’s house. Not as nice as the forest near his, but it was a nice change. Not to mention the smell of the cooking that had already wafted from the house…

He frowned as he stood on the front step, staring at a closed door. He had thought that Naruto and Sasuke would be out here waiting for him and the others. “Hosts” as they were.

Sure it was risky to be hosting the celebratory dinner in the same house as Itachi, but Sasuke had been pretty sure Itachi was mentoring another kid tonight.

He raised a hand to knock on the door, but to his surprise the door opened on its own.

It opened to reveal a black shirt with red stitching. Oh shit. Shikamaru froze. Itachi wore that shirt.

He raised his eyes and indeed Itachi looked down at him.

“Hello Shikamaru,” Itachi intoned. Shikamaru blanched. “I have something to talk to you about after dinner.”

Shikamaru looked beyond Itachi wondering if the ‘party’ had been called off. Sasuke could be seen standing behind his brother with an almost horrified look in his eyes.

Itachi moved to the side, “After dinner,” he said again. And grinned…

Sasuke and Naruto were waiting inside, and the younger Uchiha dragged them both down the hall and up a set of stairs to his room, shutting and locking the door behind him. “Shit, shit shit,” he muttered, blanching. “Kaasan just told me…”

Naruto looked confused. “Told you what?”

“You know how you were wondering about why she had us bring out the extra table?”

“… yeeesss…” Suspicious uncertainty coloured Naruto’s voice as he stared at his best friend.

“He’s invited his friends over, too. All of them. Hoshigaki, Toji and the Zombie Brothers,” Sasuke said with quiet dread, referring to Jashin Hidan and Chuushin Kakuzu by their mutual nickname.

The colour drained from Naruto’s face as he blanched. “… crap.”

Shikamaru frowned, “But why is he here? You said he was out tutoring!” It couldn’t be called a celebratory dinner if the enemy camp was staring at you from another section of the dining table. Or… worse grinning at you from across the food. Shikamaru shook his head. “Itachi wants to talk to me after dinner…” He looked at Sasuke and Naruto. Ino—sitting on Sasuke bed, having arrived moments before Shikamaru—was making meeping sounds. He groaned. “Naruto, what have you dragged us into?”

Naruto looked wounded for a moment. “It’s not my fault–!”

“Yes it is!” Ino shrieked, decking him with enough force to send him sprawling.

“Shut up!” Sasuke hissed, tensed. “He’s near. I can tell…”

The other three stared at him like he was insane before Naruto cleared his throat. “So, uh, teme… Er… How long has your… ah, dimentia been… plaguing you?” he asked uncertainly.

Sasuke glared at him. “It’s not–” He cut himself off and listened, and they all heard the clear sound of Jashin’s voice, echoing from somewhere in the vicinity of the stairs.

“HOLY FUCK!!!”

“Hidan!”

“What?! This place is fucking awesome!”

“Oi, watch yer language, un!”

This was followed by Hoshigaki’s laughter and the paling of four faces.

“… told you so,” Sasuke said.

The silence stretched thin. Downstairs they could hear the older boys say hello to Mrs Uchiha and enquire about Mr Uchiha. Yes, Mr Uchiha would be joining them for dinner, he was running a little late with meetings—but should arrive any time now. Would one of them call the younger kids down to dinner?

“It’s okay Itachi, I’ll get them,” sounded an amused voice at the stairs. “You’re up to your eyebrows with plates. I’ll get the twerps—Really, it would be my pleasure.”

Shikamaru blinked. Hoshigaki was coming up here?

“Shit.” It was hard to tell who’d spoken.

Sasuke, who had his back to the door, jumped when there was a solid thump against it, followed by Kisame’s voice through the fake wood. “Oi, time for dinner, kiddies,” he said, the grin in his voice obvious.

Sasuke’s expression darkened and he stepped back, jerking the door open. “Whatever,” he said, shifting under the shark-like teenager’s grey gaze. His eyes moved past him and caught sight of Hidan leaning against the wall on the other side of the hall, Deidara just coming up the stairs with his hands shoved into his pockets. When he looked at them, both the others grinned almost evilly.

Sasuke resisted the urge to gulp. “We’ll be down in a minute; you can go away.”

“Hey, no need to be rude,” Kisame said, grin widening.

Ino huffed. “No need to leer,” she retorted, tucking a clump of hair behind one ear before glaring at him.

Hidan snorted. “Yer leering, yer leering,” he said, voice sing-songy in quality.

Deidara laughed. “You should be more careful, un. She might call the cops.”

Ino’s eyes narrowed on the oldest blond and he paused, blinking at her almost deadly look. He coughed and cleared his throat. “Uhh…”

Kisame only laughed. He shook his head at the kiddies and turned around to face the other two boys. “We’ll be helping Itachi downstairs with the set up. We all love Mrs Uchiha’s cooking. And,” the tall boy looked back over his shoulder at them, “since we’re helping with the set up, you guys are left with the dirty dishes.”

Sasuke cringed. Ino grimaced. Naruto stuck out his tongue. Shikamaru sighed and shook his head. It wasn’t traditional Japanese culture to do so, but there was an understanding that if the Uchiha brothers invited more than a few friends over, they were to help with set up and clean up. All of them. Mikoto’s cooking was near legendary and they didn’t want to chance that she may refuse to host again.

There was no reason for the reminder. However…

Shikamaru looked at Kisame. The older boy grinned again. Ah hell.

The older boys took their leave laughing and joking about aprons and using up as many plates as possible The younger group looked at each other. Shikamaru was already thinking a mile a minute, but the rest of them were in shock.

Itachi had been expected to know it was Sasuke who was targeting them. There had been a time where the two had been close, but it had been years since they had been able to stand each other. Or rather, Sasuke couldn’t stand Itachi. Itachi on the other hand took an unholy amount of amusement out of poking his younger brother. Shikamaru understood the draw, it was like poking a hedgehog. Sasuke was just too easy to rile up. Sure he didn’t show anger right away, but Shikamaru could read the signs as clear as the billboards downtown. And he had only known Sasuke for five years. Itachi on the other hand had been around to watch him develop those signs.

It was also expected that Naruto would be identified as the master mind behind the prank. What with all his boasting about being the number one prankster.

What they didn’t expect was for Itachi to take it so calmly. It killed Naruto’s pride that his target didn’t respond according to plan. Sasuke on the other hand quietly simmered. Worse, Itachi was now here. At their party.

It was going to be a long dinner.

xXx

Table of Contents | Chapter 2

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