Sand Trails Ch 3: Running Helps

The next day, Naruto, Shikamaru, Sasuke, Ino and their friend Chouji were huddled together on the quad during their mutual free period (fifth) and Chouji’s/Sasuke’s lunch (B lunch). Naruto had called a ‘meeting’ amongst the five, stating that their ‘Itachi problem’ needed to be discussed.

“I just know he’s planning something. Did you see how cozy he was getting with Sakura-chan?!” the blond demanded, scowling and looking the tiniest bit hurt.

The sound of crunching chips stuttered to a stop. The group looked at Chouji who began to cough. “Cozy?”

Naruto nodded, turning to Choji as a potentially sympathetic ear (Ino and Shikamaru had heard him bitching plenty the night before). “Yeah! He was talking to her and–”

“And he listened to her advice,” Ino inserted.

“Yeah! … Wait, what?” Naruto’s eyes closed with confusion.

Ino coughed. “Well… I called her when I got home last night–Sasuke’d already left by then–and we sat up talking for a while.”

Sasuke choked on his school-made French fries. “WHAT?!” he yelped. “You guys–”

“–Were GOSSIPING about ITACHI!!!” Naruto interrupted, red-faced.

“Now, now guys.” Chouji held out his hands in front of the two boys. His eyes glittered with mirth and his mouth was stretched in a wide grin. “The girls’ haven’t said anything yet. Let them speak!”

He turned to Ino. “I still want to know about this cozy thing.”

Ino grinned. “Well,” she began. Fifteen minutes later, she’d gone over the whole night with a fine-toothed comb, adding her interpretations (being corrected occasionally by Sasuke, Naruto or Shikamaru), inserting her opinions and just generally turning the debacle into prime gossip. “… and after she said that, he goes off to the kitchen–supposedly for tea–and tells him that he did well at dinner,” she was saying when a shadow fell across the group.

The five looked up and blinked at the redhead standing there. He frowned slightly, a couple of his friends approaching. “You’re in our spot,” he said, voice emotionless. “And don’t dawdle; I don’t want my time wasted.”

It was Akasuna Sasori.

The school had two main “popular” groups. One, consisting of Sasori, Shikikami Konan, Akatsuki “Pein” Nagato, Shokubutsu Zetsu and Fukumen Tobi, called themselves “Akatsuki” (no one knew why and guessed it was because Pein was more or less their ring leader). The other was Itachi’s group.

Both were equally popular and equally not trifled with, but the Akatsuki group was more on the feared side.

For good reason.

Now, the five friends were surrounded by the five in Akatsuki, them peering down dispassionately at Naruto’s friends.

Shikamaru looked at Chouji, watching as the bigger boy put down his beloved chips. “We don’t want a fight, but we did get here before you. There’s enough room for everyone to be comfortable,” the Nara boy said cautiously.

Ino was shaking her head at him signaling they weren’t buying it. Shikamaru just needed to distract them for a little few moments though. The others were getting up themselves. Chouji carefully stowed his chips away.

“Did you hear Sasori?” Konan demanded, reservedly impolite. “Move it or else.”

Naruto stood up, cerulean eyes flashing with annoyance. “Or else what, Shikikami?” he replied, glaring.

“Or we’ll make you!” chirped Tobi, thin, boyish lips stretched into a wide grin. The way he said it, you’d think he were talking about something exciting and good, like the fair or something. He always seemed happy (and often claimed to be a ‘good boy’).

Sasuke glared at them. “We were here first,” he said to Pein. “Take your groupies and beat it.”

“I’m not afraid of Uchihas, clearly,” Pein replied calmly, frowning slightly.

Ino smiled nervously. “Why don’t we just–”

“Shut up,” Konan sneered, glaring at her. “I don’t want to hear the sound of your voice, airhead.”

Ino’s expression immediately darkened. Naruto glowered. “You should respect other people more, Shikikami,” he commented as if on the weather.

“Just shut up and beat it,” snapped Sasori impatiently. “You’re wasting our time.”

“Wasting your time?” Ino snapped. “If you wanted this spot so badly you should have gotten here at the beginning on the period! It’s already half over. What were you wasting your time with before? We shouldn’t have to move because you’re too slow to move ass!”

“Ino–!“ Shikamaru tried to grab the girl out-of-the-way, but Shikikami had already moved. Without a single emotion the older girl reared back and rammed a fist into Ino’s right temple.

She dropped like a stone.

“Fuck!” Naruto and Sasuke both jumped up shouting as Shikamaru and Chouji went for Ino. The girl was knocked out, but besides a future bruise, it looked like she was going to be okay. Shikamaru turned around just in time to see Pein grab Sasuke around the collar and haul him in eye to eye.

Wait–if Sasuke was there, then what about… As if in slow motion, Shikamaru watched with a sinking heart as Naruto grabbed a half-finished pop can off the asphalt and chucked it at Pein’s head.

Wide-eyed, Shikamaru watched as the blue-haired girl once again reacted instantly, knocking the projectile away into the bushes. Damn, she was going to be a bitch in a fight. Now if only they could make sure Ino stayed safe then they–

“What the FUCK?”

They all glanced over to see someone stumbling out of the nearby bushes, face downcast and hands rubbing at his clearly stained white shirt as if he could get the pink liquid out of it. It was Hidan, looking very pissed and–when he lifted his head to try to spot his assailant–very comical.

Tobi burst out laughing, nearly falling over where he stood. Pein looked startled to see the normally bad-ass albino covered in what looked like magic marker, from chin to hairline. There were doodles of stars, and jacked up hearts, and… was that a unicorn?

The bushes were shaking behind him.

Naruto looked like he was trying to blend in with the concrete, realizing what he’d done. Hidan was glowering darkly at Tobi, looking about ready to walk over and deck the kid. Sasori managed to push past his shock and smirk. “Why, nice of you to join us, ‘Crack face’,” he said, reading the word scrawled across Hidan’s forehead.

“What the fuck did you call me, bitch?” Hidan growled, gaze swiveling to the redhead.

Zetsu sneered. “‘Crack face’. It’s written all over your face,” he said, and though the term could be taken as a figure of speech, he meant it literally.

Hidan spat, vibrating with fury. “Fuck you! Who the fuck threw that damn cream soda?”

“What’s it to you?” Konan demanded, scowling. “Mind your own business, Jashin.”

“This is my business, you fucking whore! I just bought this shirt, and do you know how much I make!? Whoever the fuck did this is gonna fucking pay for it!”

Behind him, Kisame stuck his head through a break in the bushes, taking in the commotion he’d only half been listening to until Hidan got involved.

Kisame barely had enough time to toss the marker before Hidan had woken like Sasuke on a bad hair day: pissed and vengeful. With the accusations on who to blame about the pop can flying back and forth, Kisame was laughing so hard that he could barely stand.

Eventually he did get out of the bushes in time to hear Hidan demand retribution. Uh-oh time to divert before they told him about his face. Again.

“Hey now ladies. I’m sure everything was just an accident, yeah?” He looped an arm over Hidan’s shoulders and patted the bright pink stain. “And the guy,” Konan gave him a glare, “or girl–will just buy you a new shirt.”

Pein dropped Sasuke, sending the Uchiha stumbling, in favor of moving his attention to the bigger threat–in this case, the overly violent and sadomasochistic Hidan. “You think any of us would care enough to buy doodle face a new shirt? Get it yourself,” he scoffed.

“Fuck you. You are buying me a new shirt.” Hidan stepped up to Pein. “Thank you for volunteering, you–wait. Doodle face?”

And the gig was up. Kisame cracked a wide grin as Hidan whipped around. “Hi there, Pretty. Come around here much?”

Several things happened in that moment: the prank victim let loose a roar and leaped at Kisame, the forgotten kids scattered, and Ibiki-sensei stalked in through the gate.

“You two!”

“Shit!” Both Kisame and Hidan jerked.

Ibiki may have had a louder roar than Hidan… “I have been looking for–“ But the bald teacher had nothing on the PE teacher.

“IBIKI-SAN! YOU FOUND THEM!” Gai-sensei came charging through the gates from the other side–along with the rest of the PE class. “You are surely THE PINNACLE OF VIRILITY to find these TWO YOUTHFUL SPIRITS with SUCH SPEED! I My WONDERFUL STUDENTS OF SPRING-TIME ENERGY have combed through the entire school grounds WITHOUT SUCCESS. WE ARE IN AWE OF YOUR MANLY SKILLS AND VIGOR!”

Ibiki-sensei actually looked a little impressed. “The lung capacity…”

The two “youthful spirits” didn’t stay to compare notes. They sprinted for the side exits.

“Come back here!” The scarred teacher took off after them, closely followed by Gai and the exhausted classmates.

In a matter of seconds, the only souls left in the once-quiet quad were the Akatsuki.

Konan blinked. “… what just happened?”

Pein sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “It would seem Kisame and Hidan were skipping… again.”

Tobi, giggling on the ground, abruptly sat up. “I’m bored now. Let’s go.”

“This was a waste of time,” Sasori muttered, starting for the school.

And Zetsu remained silent.

xXx

Later that afternoon, Itachi was awaiting his friends–with Deidara, whom he shared classes with–and he looked up as Kakuzu walked slowly toward him, looking unhurried. Unfortunately for the money monger, Kisame and Hidan suddenly came out of the shadows beside him, lifted him up by the arms, and marched him to the others, grinning at his protests.

“–so you should know that dawdling is a risk to your health,” Kisame was saying as they reached Itachi and Deidara.

Deidara blinked at them in disbelief, then shook his head. “Hey, Kisame, where were you for Metal, un?”

Kisame snickered and lifted an arm only to have it knocked down by Hidan.

“Not a fuckin’ word you jackass,” the other boy hissed.

Not at all fazed, the grinning boy turned back to Dei. “Art is such a wonderful thing–Oof!” Hidan pulled his elbow back out of Kisame’s stomach.

An unholy glee seemed to seize Dei. “You spent the last period doing art?” The blond pushed the albino to the side and looked up at Kisame with hopeful eyes. “What kind of art? What was your specialty?”

Kisame blinked and started to cackle. Without a word, but with a proud grin, the tall boy handed Dei a black permanent marker.

“You fucking asshole! Gimme that godsdamn marker!” Hidan snapped, making a pass for it, but Deidara lifted it and held it above their heads, dancing out of reach. “You fucker! You motherfucking sonovabitch, godsdammit! Give it to me, you ass!”

Still laughing, Kisame sidled up to Itachi as the two boys went at it. The Uchiha lifted a brow. Kisame folded his arms across his chest and smirked. “Notice how Hidan looks shiny and freshly laundered?”

Both black brows were now lifted.

“He’s so squeaky clean now… but you can still see the dirt that–“

“You FUCKER!” Hidan abruptly broke off headlocking Deidara in favor of tackling Kisame for the second time that day. The two boys went down in a heap: one shouting profanities while the other laughed maniacally.

Itachi moved out of range of the flailing limbs and gestured to Deidara. “Wasn’t Hidan wearing a white shirt this morning?”

“Maybe?”

“Chuckles said something about Hidan needing to wash.” They both looked down at the combatants tussling on the ground.

Deidara looked thoughtful. “Well, there was some rumor about a fight at lunch… But I don’t know much more than that, un. Maybe Hidan was involved or somethin’…. he doesn’t look hurt, though.”

The grinning Kisame had managed to pin Hidan face down and the albino was taking the chance to exercise his vocabulary. “You fucking asshole, I’m gonna fucking kick your ass and light you on fire, and your fucking goddamn markers too, you asinine piece of–”

Kakuzu had apparently decided that enough was enough, nudging the blue-skinned boy with his foot. “Are we going to stand around all day? Or can we leave, now?” he demanded irritably.

“–And fuck you too.” Hidan grunted. “Shit. What time is it?”

Hopping up off the downed man, Kisame helped him to his feet. “Time to get to work, Sunshine.”

“You first, fucker.”

“Aww, you’re such a great friend,” the grinning boy gushed, pulling the wary Hidan into a rib spine-cracking hug. After releasing him, Kisame turned to Itachi. “We’re meeting at my place tonight, right?”

Itachi’s eyebrows were once again up. The shark boy grinned even wider. “Yeah.”

“Cool. Later then, girls!” Whistling, the cheerful boy jogged over to the bus stop where the bus was already waiting.

Turning back to the group, Itachi watched as Hidan spouted off a few more choice words and then leaned down to grab his bag from the ground. The albino paused, straightened, then shoved a hand down his back pocket. “The shit-eater lifted my wallet!”

Deidara snickered, watching the bus take off. “You dumbass, un,” he teased. “C’mon; I have the Dodge today, un. Itachi, did you bring your car, or do you need a ride?” he asked, glancing at the Uchiha.

The black-haired boy shook his head. “I’m fine.” He nodded towards the parking lot. “Kakuzu, you need a ride again?”

“Please,” Kakuzu said, then paused. “You’re not charging?” At Itachi’s look, he shrugged. “Just making sure.”

“Cheap bastard,” Hidan muttered.

Kakuzu flicked a rock at him (he kept a few in his pocket for such occasions, because he often said that it was all Hidan was worth). “Shut up, brat.” He offered Itachi a half bow and then started toward the parking lot, the others trailing behind.

Deidara was grinning. “Hey, wanna see who gets there first, un?”

xXx

The evening at Kisame’s had been satisfactory. In fact, shark boy had managed to get a hold of the redhead again. Itachi had been playing with the idea of stuffing live fish into Naruto’s locker, but the taller boy had suggested a better idea. Gaara, the boy who had taken the sand, knew someone with a pet octopus.

Not one of the huge Atlantic ones, but a smaller variety. And, it was used to walking around outside of water.

Smirking, Itachi stretched out on his bed. There was no need to rush his revenge on Naruto. Time would provide. In the mean time, he had been careful to casually drop small compliments on his brother every few days. Sometimes he would say them to his brother directly, other times he would be saying them to his parents while Sasuke was within earshot.

Fugaku found it amusing, but okaa-san had pulled Itachi aside after the first two times to ask him what he was doing.

Itachi sat up and pulled off his shirt. Who knew that following an innocent piece of advice could provide so much entertainment? Sasuke now floundered on the edge of hope and sullen pride. It was both laughable and endearing.

Padding across the room, the older Uchiha brother pulled a towel from the back of the door and headed for the bathroom. On the way, he paused at Sasuke’s room and knocked on the door. When it opened, the younger boy blinked, then glared.

“What do you want?” Sasuke huffed.

“I was–“ Itachi was cut off by a younger, sweeter voice.

“Sasuke-kun! That wasn’t nice!” Sakura. This time, Itachi blinked.

Apparently they had been studying; print-outs, textbooks and pencils spread out across the floor. They must have been sitting in the middle of the mess because there were two bare spots in the white sea of paper.

The bare-chested Uchiha looked down at the pink-haired girl who was scolding his brother. “Good evening, Sakura.”

She turned around, opened her mouth and stopped. She blinked. Then she flushed bright enough to rival her hair.

Itachi gloated.

When Sasuke had asked her to help him study for the biology test that night, Sakura had agreed readily enough. She had managed to get out of the house early enough that she was skipping through the doors of the Uchiha residence a few minutes before dinner.

This time it had been a very quiet dinner. With just the parents, Sasuke and her, it had been hard to imagine the chaos that she had experienced the last time she had eaten here. She had been able to talk a few moments with Sasuke, but for the most part, Mrs Uchiha had monopolized the dinner table conversation. Most of which had concentrated on pulling personal information out of Sakura.

It had been enjoyable, though Sakura had the gut feeling that the matron had an ulterior motive behind all the questioning. When she had asked Sasuke, he had shrugged and waved it off, saying that maybe it was because his mother missed having female company in a house of males.

She didn’t think that was it–but the topic slid off the radar once the textbooks came out.

Hours had gone by, broken only by the occasional knock on the door when Mrs Uchiha would stop by and ask if they wanted any refreshments. Sasuke had asked for water, while Sakura had hesitantly asked for a ride home. Both requests were granted, much to Sakura’s relief. It was getting pretty late.

When there was a knock on the door again, Sakura had assumed that it was Mrs Uchiha again, proposing that Sakura go home before it got too unreasonable. When Sasuke opened the door and answered with such an abrupt tone, Sakura’s etiquette lessons kicked in. One did not address their mother that way!

It was a shock then when, in the middle of her impromptu lecture to her friend, a male voice greeted her. When she turned around to see who it was, the shock helped itself to adrenaline and a great deal of blushing.

Itachi Uchiha stood leaning in the hallway, in nothing but a pair of loose cotton pants. Sakura’s brain took out a check list. Bare chest: must have toned muscles. Check. Double check: he had a delicious set of abs, and pecs, and shoulders… The check list became littered with check marks.

Did he look better with his hair down? Check. Yes. Could you see the muscles of his legs through the thin slacks? Check. Yes. Does he wear his pants low? Check. Yes. Does he have a sexy smile? Yes. That last one wasn’t on the list, the brain frowned. Sakura passed judgement: it was going on the list now.

Didn’t he just say something? She shook her head and looked at Sasuke. Why was he looking at her weird? “What?”

Her ex-love-not-ever-boyfriend frowned. “You should go sit down.”

“Yeah. Sure.” Sakura sat back down in the midst of the homework.

Sasuke turned back to his brother and lifted his chin. “What do you–” He sighed. “Did you need something, brother?”

Itachi grinned. “I was going to take a bath. Just checking if you needed the room.”

Sasuke shook his head, but Sakura shot to her feet. “I need it!” she said in a rush. She paused and then slapped her forehead. She didn’t even dare look at either man. “I mean, I would like to use the bathroom for a moment.”

Itachi was gracious enough to step aside when she bolted out the bedroom door.

A few minutes later, Sakura was still staring at her reflection in the bathroom. She just couldn’t believe herself. All that time she had sat on the floor while the brother had been talking, her eyes, traitors that they were, kept traveling towards Itachi’s… HIPS.

Sakura wailed softly and pressed her forehead to the cool porcelain of the sink. She should be honest to herself right? His hips, while nearly bare, were not what she had been peering at. Alright, Haruno. Say it. She was looking at his crotch.

She felt her cheeks flame up and without looking at the mirror she turned on the cold tap. Stupid fair complexion!

A familiar knock sounded on the door. Seriously, this evening has been nothing but knocks on doors! Sakura thought randomly.

“Sakura-san?” Oh no… It was Itachi. “Are you alright in there? It’s been ten minutes.”

She squeaked.

On the other side of the door, Itachi nearly burst into laughter. She had squeaked. He allowed a chuckle and then lifted a hand to rap on the door again.

Before his knuckles touched wood, the door flew open and a pink-haired, pink-cheeked girl flew all of four feet from the inside of the bathroom, straight into his chest. “Oof!”

Sakura squeaked again.

Her hands. Where were her hands? Above the waist. Okay, thank kami. Then, what were they doing?

Sakura opened her eyes, and discovered herself nose to perfect pectoral. And she recognized those muscles. Her dainty hands were pressed, quite comfortably, on those abs that she had been admiring earlier. Her cheeks felt like they were going to combust. She had run full tilt into the older boy, thus was pressed full frontal, knee to collarbone, body to body, with Itachi–

Why wasn’t she moving?!

“What the hell?” Oh no… That was Sasuke.

This time Sakura didn’t squeak. She didn’t blush. She didn’t stammer. Mind you, she didn’t bother with eye-contact, but she communicated quite thoroughly how she felt.

Haruno Sakura wailed as she ran back to Sasuke’s room, leaving behind the two brothers standing in the hallway: one confused and deeply disturbed, the other amused.

xXx

Chapter 2 | Table of Contents | Chapter 4

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