Sand Trails Ch 20: These Final Days

A shirt fell out of the gym locker and the boy beneath grunted in annoyance. Kisame shrugged. “Oops.”

The shorter brunet just grumbled and held out the shirt as he locked his own locker.

Taking back the run-away clothing, Sharky grinned at the boy’s back as he disappeared into the crowd. “Not my fault, I swear!” Wasn’t his fault that it sucked having a bottom locker. It just happened. To other people.

Turning back to shove the shirt back in, Kisame blinked as he felt a tap on his arm. He looked down to see a pale grinning face.


“Hello Hoshigaki!” Paper rustled as the smaller boy pulled out the ever-present portfolio. “I am selling—”

From across the locker rooms: “SAI!!” The screeching blonde terror had apparently followed him in.

“Ino.” Sai looked a little surprised.

Blinking, Kisame started to grin. “Let me see,” he urged as she got through the first room.

A little pre-occupied, Sai dipped a hand into his folder and pulled out a sheet.

Huh, Kisame looked at it. Another pair of breasts. The sketch was good. The subject matter, however, was surprisingly smaller than usual. “Not Yamanaka’s?” he asked.

The artist shook his head, replying. “Sakura’s. She’s moving, so I’m thinking of selling post cards to commemorate her departure.”

Sharky hissed. “Fuck man.” He hurriedly passed the paper back. “Sorry, can’t help. Itachi would kill me.”

“You were my last hope,” Sai said deflating. “No one else—”

“Damn straight, no one else! You’re a jerk, and if Sakura doesn’t murder you, I sure as hell will!” Ino shrieked, practically vibrating with fury as she skidded to a halt behind the artist.

Chuckling, blue boy tapped the locker beside him. With a growl Yamanaka swung her gaze to him and he smirked. “Locker room, sweetie.” Aqua eyes blinked at him. “The men’s locker room,” Kisame said pointedly.

Ino turned red. “Wha—I—ugh! I’ll get you later!” she yelled at Sai before escaping.

Shrugging, the tall blue teen looked over at Sai and nearly laughed. The artist had a look that was between disappointment and confusion. “What’s wrong with you?” Kisame asked.

“Why aren’t people interested?” Sai murmured. “Is the art style wrong for the audience?” the boy muttered to himself.

“Uh… Sai, I don’t think that’s the problem.” Kisame reached out and patted the other boy on the head. “Just don’t bother, okay?”

Silently, the pale teen nodded and slid the paper back into the satchel.

“Coincidentally, who else have you approached?” If the boy had kept to a select few, he may just survive Itachi.

“Oh, I’ve had flyers up on the bulletin boards all morning.” Sai shrugged. “Maybe an hour or two?”

Nope. Dead meat walking.


Aaah, Art class. One morning, it could be a quiet affair, with the soft sound of breathing and pencil over parchment, and the next, there were various artists at each other’s throats. Complete with screaming, arguing and name-calling, not to mention the pulling of long blond hair.

“DON’T WASTE MY TIME WITH THIS IDIOCY!!” Sasori was yelling this morning. This would normally be a shock, but he had a habit of getting loud and violent in periods one and six. Also known as his shared classes with Deidara.

Deidara, currently having his hair jerked back hard enough that his neck was straining, flailed. “IT’S NOT IDIOCY!!” he yelled back. “Daaaannnaaa!”

Of course, it didn’t help that the class was larger than usual, as both their class and the first period Culinary Arts class were sharing this room. Apparently, the CA classroom had flooded.

And Yuki Haku looked very pale as he watched the violent two…

Off at another table Sasuke was getting a headache. Frowning down at the model of a volcano, the raven-haired heart-throb of Konoha High was trying to explain to Sai why his brother was to be avoided.

“Sai, you’re proposing to hand out art of Sakura’s bre—chest.” Sasuke winced. “Of course Itachi is pissed.”

“Not for free, I’m charging.” Sai didn’t bother to look at the art project and was devoting all his attention to the younger Uchiha. “I thought he would like having people remember Sakura fondly.”

The Uchiha cringed at the word ‘fondly.’ “Look,” he growled. “Didn’t you even think that Sakura would be offended? She broke your arm the last time you groped her.”

“That was when we first met,” the artist waved off the supposed insult. “Now she is familiar with me and knows that I am only being appreciative.” The boy looked thoughtful for a moment. “I admit, it would have been lucrative business. At five dollars each, I’m sure people would have bought them.”

Scowling, Sasuke shook his head. “Only if you didn’t tell anyone who they belonged to, which would have defeated your purpose. And what were you going to do with the money anyway?”

Sai smiled. “A project between me and Hoshigaki. We are trying to raise funds to make replica models of Ino’s jugs.”


Sakura was just getting out of Lunch when she realized it. She’d left her notebook in her Engineering A class. Cursing herself, she told Tenten she’d be right back and to please make excuses for her if she was late for their shared English class, then dashed toward the Arts building across the quad.

In the doors and down the hall, and just as she reached the proper section of hall, she stumbled, accidentally going too far… not that she knew it. And so, she stepped into the wrong classroom without glancing at the number and came up short at the scene inside.

This was actually the Culinary Arts classroom, and on one of the tables sat the teacher… and then straddling his lap and leaning forward to kiss him was Yuki Haku, whom she’d only met a couple of times.

He must have seen movement out of the corner of his eye, because he jerked back and turned to see her there, eyes going wide with horror.

They stared at each other for a few seconds. Sakura feeling more and more awkward as the silence went on. Then she blinked and shook her head.

“Lock the door next time, neh?” The pink-haired girl turned on her heel and walked out of the room.

A moment later, she stuck her head back through the door, carefully looking at the floor and not at the scrambling couple. “You two are cute together!” she called, then, blushing, she ran off for the correct classroom.

Haku blushed brightly and then looked at Zabuza with a knowing smile. “I told you so,” he said, and got up to lock the door.


Someone had been messing with his calculations. There was new numbers written on the blueprints and none of them were in his handwriting.

Most of the old numbers were still there, some crossed out while others were underlined. Itachi gritted his teeth and drummed his fingers on the table. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the new numbers hadn’t been in ink. Red bold ink.

And it wasn’t just numbers. There were new lines in traditional pencil and careless smudges showed that his impeccable diagrams had been partially if not wholly erased. Three weeks of work. None of it was usable because he couldn’t trust any of the lines there on the plans.

Sure he remembered what the diagrams were of and for, but this was metal working; angles, measurements, and order of soldering, all had to be precise, double checked, and above all, correct.

Sasori had taken a look at the paper, hissed, and stomped off to find the teacher. Kisame had taken a look at Itachi’s face and had immediately brought out a new sheet and started redrawing the lines.

Spreading a hand across his brow, Itachi shut his eyes and sighed. Perhaps it was a good thing that Dei had gone home sick earlier. The blond would have cried at the delay this would cause. They were working on his launcher after all.

Cried or promptly blown up the machine shop anyway.

“Itachi.” Sasori was back. The group leader opened his eyes. Behind the redhead was a frowning Genma.

“Man,” Genma sighed, looking at the mess. The paper hadn’t been that way yesterday, which meant it had to have happened sometime today. He couldn’t tell who had done it, though. He had Engineering classes all morning and then ADV Metal in the afternoons, so he couldn’t pay attention to everything all at once. Irritably, he rubbed his jaw. “I’ll find out who did this… Is there any chance any of you would have made copies of this for any reason?” he asked.

Sasori shook his head. “No.”

“Dei may have roughs and possibly some blowups of the more complicated parts,” Itachi said slowly, thinking.

Behind him, Kisame stood up and walked over. “It’s his baby. Of course he’ll have material. Though,” blue boy looked down at the paper spread out before them, “he won’t have the complete design.”

“You’ve restarted?” Itachi looked back at the table. Kisame had a few lines drawn from memory and in the corner was a rough overall sketch.

Kisame shook his head. “I don’t remember the specifics. Basics, yes. But…” he trailed off and shrugged. As casual as he looked, the Uchiha noticed that his hands were curled into tight fists.

“Well,” Genma sighed. “You should see if you can’t get a hold of Deidara and get whatever he has. It’s better than nothing,” he pointed out. He glanced up toward the corner of the room, where a security camera rested. “I’ll work towards finding out who did this and having them speak with the principal. Please don’t do anything on your own.” He gave them all a stern look, then waved his aid over.

The male, tall, redheaded and red-eyed, was working towards becoming a teacher and may even become one in the next few years. He bowed to Genma and quirked a brow at the mess on the table. “Mm, a prank?”

Genma nodded. “Yes, Yoko-san. Do you think you can keep an eye on the class while I go speak with security?”

Yoko Kyuubi nodded. “Of course. Just leave it to me.”

“Alright. I’ve given them permission to try to get a hold of their other partner, who may have pieces of the sketches. Leave them to it, please,” Genma instructed.

Yoko bowed. “Hai.”

Off to the side Itachi and Kisame stood looking at each other. Sasori had growled out that he was taking a walk and had disappeared into the hall. Judging from the sudden silence, the rest of the students were keeping out of his way.

“I’ll tell him,” Kisame offered, but Itachi shook his head.

“Group leader, remember?” the black-haired teen said tiredly. Walking to the outer door, Itachi pulled out his cell phone. He opened the door and stepped outside on the second ring. When a muffled murmur answered the phone, Itachi shut the door behind him and looked up at the sky. “Dei, it’s Itachi.”

Itachi?” Deidara mumbled, and there was a moment in which Itachi could hear the crackle of noise over the phone as Deidara rolled over onto his back. “What is it? Aren’t you…” A pause. “In metal right now?

Itachi got straight to the point. “Someone got to our blueprints.” He thunked the back of his head against the door behind him and consciously unclenched his jaw. “Do you have copies?”

There was a beat of silence and then a pained groan. When Deidara spoke, his voice sounded watery. “Are you serious? No, I don’t have copies. Not of all of it. I mean, some, most, but not all. And none of it has any of the most recent adjustments!” He paused and groaned again, and there was the sound of a loud crash before the phone was muffled. “NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS! Get out of my room!

Itachi waited until the phone was quiet again before speaking. “Either Kisame or I will come over and see what we can use.” He shook his head. “No, both of us will come over. I’ll tell you more then.”

Deidara sighed. “Fine, fine. I’ll see you after school. If you come sooner, I’ll blow you both up,” Deidara threatened half-heartedly. “I feel like shit right now and kaasan won’t quit bugging me.

The other teen snorted. “She feeding you all that health crap?”

Yeah. Bring me something spicy would ya? I don’t even care what, but if I have to eat one more cardboard-tasting thing, I’ll kill her.

Turning back to the door, Itachi said. “Yeah, sure. Are you up for a full meal or just something small?” Walking back into the classroom, he caught Kisame’s eye and nodded.

Small,” Deidara said. “Anyway, I’m tired, so I’ll talk to you guys later.” And without waiting for Itachi’s reply, he hung up.

Slipping his phone back into his pants pocket, the group leader made his way back to the table as Sasori walked in through the door. “Dei has parts. It’s old though.” He sat down and glared at the blueprint.

“We’re not going now?” Kisame’s eyebrows were up.

Itachi snorted. “I like my eyebrows.”


Blue eyes were trained on the television screen, muscles tensed and the tip of a pink tongue poking out of the blond’s mouth. Beside him, looking equally tense, was Sasuke, and behind them sat Sakura. She had agreed to come over to Naruto’s house for video games today, especially since Itachi and Kisame had a class-related dealing with Deidara after school.

So far, in their involved game of Tekken 3, Sasuke was—as usual—kicking Naruto’s ass. And when the television flashed ‘KO’d!’ about Naruto’s skimpy-clothed girl, the blond jumped to his feet angrily. “OI!! CHEATER!!” he yelled at Sasuke.

A pillow sailed in a graceful arc, landing with a solid thump on the side of Naruto’s head. “He is not cheating,” Sakura said frowning. “You say that every time!”

“Whaaaat!? But Sakura-chan!!!” wailed the blond.

There was the soft thudding then of someone coming up the stairs from the basement. The door opened and Jiraiya stuck his head into the room, scowling. “Can you keep it down, Naruto?” he demanded irritably. “I can’t focus on this while you’re—OH! Sakura-chan! I didn’t know you were visiting us!” he said, perking up and stepping into the room. “Naruto, old pal…” He grabbed Naruto around the head and gave him a noogie. “Why didn’t you tell me?!”

“‘Cause I knew you’d be all perverted and gross,” Naruto retorted.

Behind them, Sakura and Sasuke shared a look, and Sakura moved up to sit next to her black-haired friend. With Jiraya, it was just safer to have another set of hands to fend him off. Preferably male.

“Well then!” Jiraiya pinched Naruto’s ear and pulled it, making the blond wince. “I should get you guys some snacks!” He grinned and left for the kitchen.

Naruto rubbed his ear and sat down on Sakura’s other side, scowling. “Ero Sennin,” he grumbled.

“At least he doesn’t drug the food,” Sakura said. Thinking of how Tsunade once slipped something into Jiraya’s drink to ‘calm’ him down. The old man had passed out in one of those horribly uncomfortable chairs. That was at some PA function or something similar.

Naruto snorted. “One of these days, he probably will,” he groused.

“Remember those brownies?” Sasuke asked from his slump against the couch cushions.

Sakura blinked. “And the funny iced tea.”

Naruto paused, recalling both incidents. “Ooh, you’re right. Also, there was that spaghetti that looked like he’d put powdered sugar in it.”

There was a beat of silence. And all three said as one, “The ice cream.”

All three of them glanced toward the kitchen and then shared a look. And then, very quietly, they snuck out of the house.


Early next morning, before the halls were a loud crazy flow of students, Konoha High was actually almost Zen like.

Whistling softly, Genma made his way towards his office. Nodding a few times to the various staff he came across, even poking his head around a corner and winking at a pretty lady teacher, the teacher strolled down the hallways.

When Genma came up to his study, he noticed the light was already on and the door was open. Curious and a little alarmed, Genma knocked on his own door frame before walking in.

The figure in front of a small TV, looked up and he blinked. “Yoko-san?”

Kyuubi sighed, the sound relieved. “I thought you might be the student coming back,” he drawled. “I’ve made it to the beginning of third period, on the tapes,” he said, motioning toward the paused video.

Genma blinked. “When did you get here?” He glanced at the clock and the tape. “You didn’t have to do this.” Granted, he was supposed to be a shining example of responsibility to the younger aid, but that didn’t mean saddling the kid with several hours of black and white table top staring.

Kyuubi shrugged. “I wanted to. It bothered me,” he said boredly. “Besides, it hasn’t been that long, really.”

“Alright,” Genma sat at his computer and flicked on the monitor. Looking over his shoulder, he asked, “No luck yet?”

Kyuubi shook his head. “No, like I said, I’m only on period three.” He pressed play and went back to it. Period three was actually Genma’s break period. There Genma went out the door to get his early lunch… there was about ten minutes of silence, and the door opened again. Kyuubi glanced at the time listed, then up at the picture, expecting to see Genma returning. He stiffened. “Shiranui-sensei, you should take a look at this,” he said.

The other teacher turned in his chair so fast, he nearly tipped over. Genma watched over Yoko-san’s shoulder as on the screen a slight figure made its way across the classroom. “That’s not one of mine,” Genma said confidently. “I’d recognize that walk.”

Kyuubi shook his head. “I don’t know him either, but I think I remember him getting beat up at that assembly a while back…” he said thoughtfully. “By Sasori, actually. Which might explain why he did this.” Even as they watched, the kid was rifling through the student possessions and pulled out the blueprints in question. He grinned and pulled a red pen out of his pocket. Kyuubi sighed and paused it.

Shaking his head, Genma sat back down. “I’m tempted to take a screenshot and just give the picture to Itachi.” He sighed. “Thank you, Yoko-san. This was a lot of help.”

Kyuubi nodded. “Any time, sensei,” he replied calmly.


The beginning of first period Biology was a bit… louder than most classes (except, of course, first period Chemistry, where Naruto usually attended). This was because of one Rock Lee. He swooped into the classroom every morning with an exuberant yell and grabbed his best female friend in a hug, twirling her around.

“Good morning, Tenten-chan!” he cried eagerly. “Oh how lovely it is to see your face so early in the day!” This was, word for word, his greeting every morning.

To which Tenten would laugh, pat him on the head and tell him, “Put me down, Lee.”

Once he did so, the class would begin. The teachers learned early on that to begin lessons before Lee showed up, would result in a rather loud interruption as the bowl-cut boy would invariably announce his arrival. Thankfully, the boy was unfailingly on time.

Not to mention, he never seemed to take a day off due to sickness. The teachers were also forced to make allowances for the times that, during specific classes, when there was assigned groups, Lee would inevitably get into some sort of ‘Youthful disagreement’ with his sometimes friend sometimes rival Zetsu. The two never seemed to agree on anything but disagreeing, and being on time.

Ten minutes into first period, this happened. Loudly.

“What! No! That is unyouthful! Why would you want to do such a thing to him!” cried Lee, overhearing Zetsu and Pein discussing ‘punishment’ for some transgression done to their mutual friend Sasori.

Both the other teens swung their gazes towards Lee. “Him?” Zetsu asked as Pein just raised his eyebrows. They didn’t know if their target was a boy or a girl.

Lee’s mouth clamped shut and he managed a blush. He may or may not have over heard the teachers talking in the lounge that morning after his pre-school spar with Gai-sensei.

Zetsu stood up and raised his hand. “Sensei! Washroom.”

When the teacher looked up, Zetsu had already walked out with Pein… and Lee sandwiched between them.

They reached the washroom with the struggling Lee (well, he wasn’t struggling too much, as he saw them as his friends and didn’t want to hurt them). Finally inside, once he was released, he stumbled away and spun to face them. “Um? Huh?”

“You said ‘him,’ ” Pein stated as Zetsu turned to lock the door. “What do you know?”

“N-not much! I didn’t…. well… I was sparring with Gai-sensei before school…” Lee coughed. “And we went to the lounge to get sodas from the teacher’s lounge. Usually, it isn’t a problem ‘cause there’s no one in there. But I had to wait outside ‘cause of some teacher’s meeting. And they were discussing someone who had vandalized someone else’s stuff…” He shifted under their combined gazes. “But I never heard a name, just ‘him’ and stuff.”

Zetsu snorted. “That’s it?” When Lee nodded, he flipped the lock and scowled. “Go back to class.”

Lee offered them a smile and dashed off quickly, his speed belaying his size.

The tall teen turned around to see Pein frowning at him.

“You don’t think he’s lying?”

Rolling his eyes, Zetsu shook his head. “It would be unyouthful.”


Across the empty parking lot Kankuro could see four pigtails bouncing. Actually to be more precise, the body they were attached to was bouncing. Up and down. And he was getting more nervous the closer they came.

Temari had many moods, most girls did, but when she did happy, chipper, bouncy, it was usually a good idea to run for the dunes.

But she had the keys. Goddammit.

Groaning, he scruffed a hand through coarse brown hair and glared at his sister as she bounded up to him, all smiles and happy humming.

“What’s up with you?” And the way she grinned made him wish he had kept his big fat mouth shut.

“Transfer student!” she squealed. “To be precise, Haruno Sakura. You know, Itachi’s girlfriend? Ooohh, god, this is sooo awesome!” She actually giggled eagerly.

Kankuro frowned. “Pinky? With the perky nips from the beach?” He moved around to the driver’s side. “Give me the keys. No way you’re driving like that.”

She stuck her tongue out at him. “Yeah, Pinky. Don’t let Itachi hear you call her that, though. I hear he tends to be kind of protective. I don’t know how he’d react to something like that, but he’s a hot-blooded male, so err on the side of caution.” She fished the keys out of her purse and unlocked the passenger’s side door, then tossed them over the car to him. “We should hurry. It’s looking like a sandstorm.”

“Maybe the teachers shouldn’t keep students so late if the weatherman’s been screaming about gusts all afternoon,” Kank groused as he slid into the car. He plugged in the keys and hit the fans, rolling down the windows at the same time. “Fuuck, we need a new car or at least a new grill. This one is about dead.”

“It needs a cleaning,” she replied, shrugging. “Maybe Gaara’ll do it? By the way, where is he? I haven’t seen him since yesterday.”

He barked out a laugh. “Gaara? Clean a car? If it doesn’t have anything to do with his precious fish tank, good luck!” Kankuro guided the car out of the lot and gunned it for the highway. “Eh, he’s probably off somewhere. You know he wants a snake now right?”

She gave him an irritable look. “Are you serious? God, him and his animals. Doesn’t he already have a tarantula, too?”

“At least he let go of the raccoon. Even though it was a cute scrapper.” Kankuro tilted his head. “Actually, I think the raccoon went after the spider, that’s why he tossed it out.”

She snorted. “Gods, just get me home before I want to go string him up by his big toes.”

Grinning, Kankuro rolled up the windows as the wind kicked up. “If he still has both of them. The chameleon might have them now.”

Temari actually laughed out loud at that. “Oh, he’d be pissed! It’s so funny when he’s pissed. Those tantrums of his… Ahahaha! But I can see why the other kids at the school are so afraid of him.” But Gaara would never hurt her or Kankuro, so she wasn’t worried about that.

Humming, Kankuro agreed, “Yeah, our lil bro might be hanging out with the paws and claws too much. He actually growls when he fights.” He also grew his nails long and wore a dog collar, and it didn’t help that Kankuro himself had taught Gaara how to use those nails in a fight. But, fair fights didn’t happen in their area and his little redhead bro was a prime target because of his small size.

She sighed. “He needs to chill out, though. And stop wearing the collar. He’s not a dog.” She pouted.

“Nah, I think he looks great with that thing!” That thing had inch-long sharp spikes, which when taken off and wound around the knuckles had proven to scare off some big bullies. Considering where Gaara was at that time, Kankuro was just glad that his brother had come home that night.

Temari gave her brother a disapproving look, but sighed. “Oh whatever.”

Triumphant, he flashed a grin at her. “So! Any idea why Pinky is moving so very very far away from her beau? Into this lovely paradise?” He turned off the air intake as the storm rolled in.


Three hours after school was out, Suigetsu slunk out of the principal’s office. Damn stupid security camera. He thought the black dome was just a front. But no, they had called him in, sat him down in a chair, showed him the goddamn tape and then watched him squirm.

He should have turned off the lights when he had gone into that room. But he wasn’t familiar with the layout and the papers would have been hard to see. Shit, he should have just torched the whole lot.

The growling boy stalked through the outer doors and glared at the concrete. He should have worn a hoodie or a mask. Something. Even though the feed was grainy and black and white, it had been obvious it had been him. Fuck… and he should have…

Footsteps on either side of him made his head snap up. Suigetsu had time enough to squeak as a gag was shoved into his mouth and a black bag came down on his head.

He should have looked where he was going.

A furious voice hissed into his ear. “Now that the teachers are done with you,” a large hand came down to grip him around the base of the neck, “you get to play with us.”


 It was her last day in Konoha, a Saturday, and she had been told to meet Itachi and the others at Deidara’s place. Something about hanging out somewhere that they wouldn’t be killed for making too much noise in. It made sense, since Deidara’s parents owned an acre of land and their own house.

So Sakura arrived via taxi at the tall, white-painted, two-story house at around five in the evening and sighed as she looked up at the place. Wow. This was nice. Shaking her head, she went up to the front door and knocked.

The broad white door swung open and she was greeted by a grinning blue shark face. “Sakura-san! Glad you could make it!”

“Kisame-kun,” she said a little overwhelmed by the enthusiastic greeting. She paused and giggled as Kisame was shoved aside by a rather pleased looking Deidara.

“Go downstairs! They need help with—” the blond cut his eyes at Sakura “—the extra preparations.”

With an evil cackle, Kisame waved and disappeared into the house. Deidara finally turned to Sakura.

Sakura’s brows lifted, but she smiled at the blond. “What are you guys up to?” she asked in mock suspicion, stepping inside when he moved out-of-the-way.

“Huh! We’re putting together the perfect party for you! That’s what we’re doing.” Deidara nodded firmly. “With fireworks of course.”

He led her though the house and to a plain door, which he opened for her. When she looked down, she found Itachi looking up at her from halfway up the stairs.

Sakura smiled at her boyfriend and stepped back as he finished the trip up. “Hey, Itachi,” she said. “A surprise party, huh? That’s sweet of you guys.”

The black-eyed teen stilled, and then turned his head, giving the blond a flat stare. The artist grinned and stage whispered, “Oops!” before whisking down the stairs.

Sighing, Itachi shook his head. “It was going to be a surprise.”

She grinned at him and gave him a peck on the lips. “You honestly expected him to be able to keep it to himself?” she asked. “With fireworks involved?”

The teen reached behind him and closed the basement door, then pulled a laughing pink-haired girl against his chest and kissed her thoroughly.

When they finally broke for air, Itachi was leaning up against the door smirking. “Fireworks aren’t the only entertainment tonight. We figured you needed some stress relief.” His eyes took on a wicked gleam. “Physical stress relief.”

She tilted her head, brows lifting. “Really now. And what does that mean?” she asked, mock stern.

“Mmmm, something like this,” Itachi murmured, claiming her mouth and completely messing up her hair.

Banging on the door behind them made Sakura laugh. He pulled away to bang at the door in retaliation.

“Hey!” Kisame yelled from the other side. “Some of us actually want to talk to her too!”

Sakura laughed a little more at that. “Oh, let them come up,” she chided her boyfriend, satisfied when he reluctantly complied. When the door swung open, she smiled at the three faces grinning at her.

“Kakuzu’s still downstairs, but we probably couldn’t pry him up with a hundred-dollar bill, un,” Deidara claimed, smirking.

Blue boy took a step up, catching Itachi’s eye and quirking an eyebrow at Sakura. Strangely enough, Itachi grinned.

The other boy laughed and bowed before Sakura. “Since Kakuzu won’t come up,” he lifted his head, smirking at Sakura. “We have no choice.”

Sakura blinked at him.

He swooped forward out of his bow, caught her around the waist, and hoisted her up onto his shoulder.

“We’ll have to take you downstairs!”

She made a sound that was half yelp half laugh and latched onto his shoulder. “Aach! Careful!” she said, but was grinning.

Deidara cackled along with Hidan, who added, “Don’t bash her damn head in, dick, or Itachi might bite you!” He grinned and dashed down the stairs before Itachi could hurt him.

The whole group of them tromped down, Itachi keeping an eye on Sakura’s head as they passed under beams.

When Sharky made it to the bottom, he rapped on the door to the right, which swung open to reveal a surprisingly mellow Kakuzu. “Aah,” was all he said and held the door open for them, then let it swing shut on Deidara’s face.

“OI!” the blond shouted, opening it again and stomping in to scowl at Kakuzu. “Jackass!”

Hidan cackled and kicked half-heartedly at his best friend. “Yeah, he’s right, you are a jackass.”

Sakura grinned at the semi-familiar interaction before noticing a very big piñata. “What is that?”

Kakuzu sat down on a couch next to the colourful floufy thing and patted it. “A piñata, Sakura.”

Itachi chuckled, drawing her attention. “Stress relief.”

Kisame burst out laughing. “Karma,” he stated, smirking as he put the girl down on her feet and being very careful where he put his hands.

Karma?” she asked doubtfully, frowning at them. “I don’t think I want to know.”

Hidan snickered and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Then we won’t… fucking… tell you.” He grinned evilly.

There was a loud smack as Kisame whacked the albino up the back of the head. “Shut up and play.”

Turning her head, Sakura watched as Hidan yelled and followed Kisame over to a—Whoa. Whipping her head back around, she raised both eyebrows at Deidara. “Is that yours?” She pointed at the pool table.

Across the room, Kakuzu blinked and looked interested.

Deidara nodded. “Yep. I got it… uh… a few years ago, actually. Sasori and I actually hung out quite a bit back when I was like twelve. He came over a lot, so we played pool, un,” he explained, beaming.

“Oi! Stop fucking gossiping and get your asses over here already!” Hidan complained. “I want to kick your asses, since I totally fucking rule at this game!” He scowled at Kisame when the shark-boy snorted.

Itachi strode over to the table and claimed a cue. “Two teams, then?” He flickered a gaze back to Sakura then to Kakuzu. “Are you two playing?”

Sakura nodded. “Yeah, sure!” she said. “But I’ve not played in a while, so don’t be surprised if I suck.”

Hidan smirked. “Everyone sucks compared to me,” he boasted. “Sucks dick.”

Deidara scowled at him, but then smirked when Kakuzu almost gently smacked Hidan with his own cue. “Ass.”

“Cunt,” Kakuzu retorted. “I’m playing.”

Smirking across the table at the albino, Itachi raised an eyebrow. “So, if everyone sucks, does that mean you’re on a team of your own Hidan?” His grin widened. “You’re not making allies.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Hidan retorted. “Kakuzu’s on my team, dick. I don’t need anyone else.”

Kakuzu snorted, but shrugged. “Whatever.”

Sakura rolled her eyes. “Wow, Hidan. Your mouth just makes me want to eat soap.”

Hidan flipped her off, but smirked. “I hear Dei’s parents buy the scented shit. I wonder if they’re fucking flavored too?”

“Herbal,” Dei corrected as he picked up a cue to hand over to Sakura.

Picking up a chalk cube, Kisame snickered. “Don’t you remember biting one on a dare?”

Itachi chuckled as he arranged the balls in the triangle. “Kakuzu actually laughed that time.”

Hidan scowled at them. “Fuck you all and go to hell.” He cupped his privates through his pants. “Suck it.”

“Ew, pass,” Sakura said, wrinkling her nose in disgust.

Kisame threw the chalk at him. “Play already.”

An hour later, Kisame groaned and Itachi rubbed his eyes.

Sakura looked at Dei and muttered, “Sorry.”

Dei waved a hand dismissively. “Don’t worry about it, un.” He made a face. “Hidan is actually good.”

Kisame let out a low growl and threw himself into the couch. “Damn!”

Hidan grinned pompously. “Ohhh, fuck yeah. I fucking rock at this shit! Kakuzu never fucking plays me for money.”

Kakuzu snorted. “I’m not an idiot,” he replied.

Deidara shook his head. “Man, I’m hungry!” he said, and grabbed a bag of popcorn (prepackaged shit) from the snack table. “Hey, Itachi, you brought those CDs right?”

“Green bag, under the coffee table,” Itachi replied, snaking an arm around Sakura’s waist.

“I’m taking a piss.” Kisame lurched up from his seat and ambled out of the room.

The girl in his arms giggled softly and turned to look up at him. She smiled. “I’m going to miss this,” she admitted.

Itachi swallowed and tightened his arms. “Shh.”

“Hey!” Kisame’s voice boomed through the basement. “Dei! Get your explosives off the fuckin’ toilet!”


Chapter 19 | Table of Contents | Chapter 21

A/N: Merry Christmas everyone!

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