Sand Trails Ch 21: Enter Sandman

The weather was hot, sweltering by anyone’s standards, in the desert town of Suna, and this was no exception at the Sunagakure high school.  Thankfully, the school was air-conditioned as a rule, so once Sakura stepped inside, she didn’t feel like she was going to die of a heat-stroke.  She went to the office and then sat around for nearly half an hour before the principal arrived at the school, and then waited another fifteen minutes before she was allowed inside his office.

The man was actually pretty young, maybe in his late twenties to early thirties, and his hair was a dark, almost dried-blood red.  His eyes weren’t very expressive, but were hard.  He wasn’t the kind sort like Sarutobi-sensei had been.  He was a stern-looking young man, and probably had his share of rough-handling of the students.

When she walked into the room, he didn’t offer her a seat.  “Haruno Sakura-san?” he asked gruffly, frowning at her like he expected her to be another trouble-maker.

Refusing to hesitate, Sakura quickly bowed respectfully. “Yes.”

He eyed her and scooted his rolling chair back to pull a drawer of his desk open.  He rifled through the folders before pulling one out, going through it and then pulling a packet out.  He set that on the desk, went back to the folder and pulled out a sheet.  After he’d put the folder away, he picked up both and held them out.  “New student guide and your schedule.  I will have one of the students show you around today.  Tomorrow, you’re on your own, so pay attention.  I do not tolerate tardiness in my school, or skipping.  There is to be no drug usage, violence or profanity, am I understood?” he asked, ignoring a knock on the door.

“Yes sir,” she replied, taking the papers from him and holding them tight by her side. Drugs? He had to tell new students not to use drugs? In high school?

He frowned at her for a beat before looking at the door.  “Enter.”

A familiar blonde stepped inside, offering him a bright smile.  “Hi dad!”

“Sabaku-sensei,” he corrected, scowling.  When she merely continued to beam at him, he scoffed.  “Haruno Sakura-san, this is Sabaku Temari.  She is to be your student guide for the day.  She will not be assisting you tomorrow,” he said, repeating it like he expected the pink-haired girl to have forgotten it.  He scowled at them for a beat.  “Dismissed.”

Temari dragged Sakura from the room, shutting the door behind her.  “He’s grumpy that he lost poker to Kankuro last night,” she confided with a grin.

“No loitering in the hallways!” Came a gruff shout from other side of the door. “I can still see you through the window!”

Temari scoffed.  “Ten minutes till class, daddy!” she retorted, but locked arms with Sakura and started off anyway.

The younger girl turned wide eyes to the blonde. “He’s your dad?” Her eyes travelled up Temari’s arm to the fishnet shirt and the loose tanktop. “How do you survive?!”

Temari snorted.  “Two words, well, three if you count the ‘and’.  Gaara and Kankuro.”  She grinned.  “Besides, dad’s a total softy, even if he won’t admit it.  Something about an image.”  She waved a dismissive hand, smirking.  “Anyway, we don’t have a study period in this school like Konoha does.”  She snatched Sakura’s schedule, then verbally paused.  “Oh, do you remember me?  We met in the cafe I work in?”

Sakura snorted. “And you’re the one that made Hidan look like a fish out of water. Of course I remember you!”

“Oh, yeah, that…” Temari murmured, trailing off.  “I forgot about that.”  She grinned and eyed the schedule.  “Oooh, tough luck, sugar.  I had hoped you wouldn’t have any classes with those two trouble makers…”

“Are they worse than Sasori and Hidan?” Sakura winced. Sasori she may be able to deal with, Hidan, however, blood would fly.

“Well, I don’t really know Sasori all that well,” Temari admitted.  “But they’re about as perverted as Hidan.  They like flipping up girls’ skirts, so I suggest you never wear one unless you have shorts on underneath.”  She wrinkled her nose.  “Also, don’t be surprised if they feel you up.  Butt and boobs.  Sakon’s a boob guy, Ukon fancies the rear end.”  She rolled her eyes.  “Kankuro likes using them as target practice.”

Sakura paled for a moment, then sighed. “Sakon and Ukon. Alright – what periods and what classes?” She squared her shoulders. “May as well know when to bring out my punching gloves.”

“Chemistry, English and lunch,” Temari listed off.  “You just have Sakon in Chemistry, but you’ve got both in the others.”  She eyed the schedule, and pouted.  “We haven’t any classes together, though!  Man, that sucks!”  She sighed, and then grinned.  “However…  you’ve got lunch, Geometry and gym with my cute baby bro!” she gushed.  “Aww.  Beware, though.  If you want to make any friends outside of us siblings, you’ll steer clear of him.”

At first Sakura blinked, then she laughed. “That sounds like a challenge,” she giggled. Poking Temari in the shoulder, she grinned up at the taller girl. “If I like him, I’ll hang out with him. I don’t care if other so-called friends judge me by that. I mean, Temari, I’m dating Uchiha Itachi.”

Temari laughed.  “Oh, I know, sweety.  I’m just saying that most of the school is afraid of him, is all.  He goes all spastic when he gets pissed, and he’s been known to hurt people.”  She shrugged.  “Usually he’s got this dead fish-” she giggled at her inside joke, “-look on his face, though.  If you want to be friends with him, I encourage it.  He’s my baby bro after all.”

“Oi!  Temari!” a voice shouted from down the hall.  When they looked up, they spotted Kankuro approaching as the halls started to get louder with the fill of students.  He waved and stopped before them, grinning at Sakura.  “Hey, Pinky.  Long time no see!”

Beside her, Temari rolled her eyes and smacked him in the arm. Sakura just laughed. “Hello?”

“I was at the beach party,” he said, smirking.  He turned around as if to say something to someone, then turned back scowling.  “Goddammit, he vanished!  I was gonna introduce you to Gaara, but he did the ninja thing and slunk off.  Probably went to some dark, dank corner to play with his…”  He paused suggestively.  “… spider.”

Temari choked, trying not to laugh too hard.  “Oh, he’s going to stab you!” she laughed, smacking him again.

“Ha!  He can try,” he retorted, but grinned.  “You escorting this lovely lady today?”

Temari nodded.  “Yup!  And on that note, I must show her to the Chemistry room now, so ta-ta.”  She waved him off and dragged Sakura with her.

Kankuro offered a wolf whistle in parting before going his own way, and she rolled her eyes.   “Don’t mind him.  He’s harmless.  Mostly.”

“He brings a spider to school?” At her guide’s blank look, Sakura rephrased. “Gaara has a spider?”

“Oh!” Temari said, and smiled.  “Yeah.  He has one, but I don’t think he brings it to school.  Kankuro was just trying to spook you.  He’s a jerk like that.”  They turned down the maths and sciences hall.

“What does Gaara look like?” Sakura looked at the classes as they walked. “like you, Kankuro or your dad?”

“Yeah, a little bit like dad and Kank.  His hair’s lighter than dad’s, but it’s red, and he’s got a tattoo on his forehead.”  She tapped the spot on her own.  “‘Ai’, it says.  Kanji.  He’s really little, actually.  Much smaller than Dad and Kankuro.  Um… and his eyes are really light green, like Mom’s were.”

The smaller girl with green eyes blinked. “How did he get a tattoo?”

Temari snorted.  “He ran away when he was little, and came back with it.  We don’t know where he got it, and he won’t tell us.”  She shrugged and stopped before a classroom with the label ‘Chemistry, Baki Tsunato’.  “Here we are!  I have to get to my next class, but I’ll be back here when you get out of Chemistry.  Baki seems pretty scary, but if you do your work and don’t act up, he’s nice.”  She smiled.  “Any questions about the school before I go?”

“Where’s the nearest washroom?”

xXx

Halfway through class, Sakura was suddenly very happy she had turned her phone silent. Even so, the buzzing in her bag was rather obvious.

“Sorry!” she whispered, and reached for the phone. By the time she reached it, it had of course stopped vibrating. A text then.

Sakura waited a few minutes for the rest of the class, and the teacher, to look elsewhere before slipping out the phone. Thumbing a button a text from Sasuke popped up.

Itachi is being a fucking BITCH. You haven’t even been gone 12 hours!

Hm, someone was grumpy. Sakura tried to keep the grin off her face and put away the phone. She would deal with ruffled feathers later.

xXx

Before she knew it, half the school day had passed Sakura by, lunch had gone and she found herself parting ways with Temari at her Geometry class.  She stepped inside, the last person to do so, just as the bell rang, and smiled sheepishly at the glances from almost the whole class.

The teacher smiled at her and promptly had her stand at the front and introduce herself, give her age, grade and one fact about herself.  So, she waved at the class.  “Hi…  I’m Haruno Sakura, I’m sixteen and in tenth grade….  Uh… and a fact…?”  She glanced around the classroom and was almost surprised to find a bored green-eyed gaze on her.  She smiled back at the tattoo’d boy.  “A fact… Well, I’m… Oh!  I live with just my mother,” she said, and mentally patted herself on the back.  She bowed.  “Please treat me well!”

The teacher beamed and ushered her off to an empty seat, had someone fetch her a spare book, and started the day’s lesson.

xXx

When the bell rang for the end of class, Sakura looked around for the reclusive redhead. He may have been fast, but she had been dating Itachi for months. Sakura stuck her tongue out at the back of his head as he slipped out the rear door.

When she turned back to her bag, Temari was just coming in through the front door with a wry look on her face.

As the blonde made her way over to her, Sakura packed her bag and stood up. “Your brother is very fast,” Sakura remarked.

“Tch, yeah, that’s Gaara. I saw him making a beeline down the hall as I got here.” Temari shook her head. “But, we’ll have another chance in gym to get you two introduced if we move fast enough!”

Shaking her head, Sakura grinned. “Let’s go then.”

The two girls laughed and pushed their way through the throngs of the hallways to the gym.

Temari peered in as Sakura got changed and spotted the little brother in the far corner. She tapped a finger by her eye and pointed at him.

He turned his head and pretended not to notice.

“Gaara…” she growled in frustration. For some reason he looked over and a corner of his mouth kicked up. Then he went back to studying the other wall. Temari nearly threw something at him. He wasn’t the only violent one in this family!

“Temari?”

“Yeep!” She turned and glared at Sakura. “Don’t do that!”

The pink-haired girl was obviously trying not to laugh. “I’m sorry! But you’re standing in the middle of the doorway.”

Temari huffed. “Well, we’re not going to get introduction done in front of the girls locker-room, so…” She grasped hold of Sakura’s hand and dragged her out towards Gaara.

Gaara must have noticed them approaching because, even though he didn’t turn his head to look at them, he was scowling when they finally stopped beside him.  He sighed and turned his head, not dropping the scowl.  “What.”

“Er, hi,” Sakura smiled.

Temari rolled her eyes. “Gaara, this is Sakura. Be nice to her. Cuz she’s going to be nice to you. Nice, you hear me?”

“Temari!” Sakura laughed. “He doesn’t have to be nice!”

His sister ha ha’d right along with Sakura, but when she left, she turned at the door and levelled her best foreboding glare on him. NICE, it seemed to demand.

Gaara sneered back at her, watched her stick out her tongue and then leave.  He then proceeded to completely ignore Sakura.  At that moment, a whistle shrilled, demanding the attention of the twenty or so students settling around the room.

“Welcome to class, students!” the teacher said calmly.  “As you all know, today is the day we do our survival test.”  He glared at a couple of students that groaned.  “But first of all, I believe we have a new student?  Haruno, where are you?” he asked, gaze roving the room.

Standing up, Sakura called out, “Here!” and sighed as a full classroom of students again swung their eyes to her. She was getting a little tired of it.

The man nodded.  “I am Yamato-taicho, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Haruno Sakura-san.  Guys, treat her well, not like you’d treat a goat at the petting zoo.”  There was a scattering of snickers.  Yamato glowered at the culprits creepily.  They subsided.  “Alright, Kimimaro, would you mind explaining things to Miss Haruno while I assign groups?” he asked a white-haired boy standing not far away from Sakura.

“Sure Yamato-taicho,” the boy replied softly and walked towards Sakura. He gave Gaara a quick glance that went largely ignored. “Hello Haruno-san, my name is Kaguya Kimimaro. Please call me Kimimaro.”

“Call me Sakura, Kimimaro,” she replied smiling. Her eyes drifted to the various students that were grumbling. “Survival test?” she asked hesitantly.

“Yes,” the platinum blonde boy gestured to the window. “We’ll be going outside in groups of three. Not for long and not very far for obvious reasons. We will be given a list of objectives, and when the test is over, we will tell Yamato-taicho what we did to achieve those objectives, if we did achieve them.”

“Participation is mandatory,” Gaara said softly, scowling.  He was obviously not very pleased with this.  “It’s a fifth of your grade.”

Sakura bit her lip. “Will it be hard? I mean, I just got here and I wouldn’t know what to do…”

Kimimaro shook his head. “You will most likely be partnered with me. As long as you follow instructions, you’ll be fine.”

“Isn’t there going to be a third person?”

And as if on cue….  “Gaara, Kimimaro, Haruno-san,” the coach said as he passed by them.  “You three are a group.”  And he went on.

Gaara sneered at his back, looking irritated.  But he could have done worse.  At least Kimimaro tried not to piss him off.  And the girl… well, he’d see.  “Don’t get in my way,” he said to Sakura, scowling at her.

“Don’t go off on your own,” Kimimaro’s voice cooly rebuked him.

Sakura looked between the two of them helplessly. Oh dear.

“I know the rules,” Gaara muttered, his voice as soft and deep as before.  He didn’t seem to have a higher volume, actually.

Kimimaro nodded, satisfied. “Then we will pass with no problem.” He took out a paper and unfolded it, showing it to the other two in the group. “These are our objectives.”

“Water, shade, food?” Sakura read off the list. She looked out the window. “We aren’t taking water with us?” It was still scorching out there!

“Of course we are taking water,” the blond said. “He wants us to find water.”

Gaara smirked at her.  “Too hard for you?” he asked tauntingly.  “I’m sure if you asked, he might let you stay here.”  But he doubted it.

But the girl shook her head. “I wouldn’t learn anything then. Besides, I have you two to teach me what to look for right?” Not lead me, not give me, teach me. Sakura smiled at him.

Beside them, Kimimaro lifted a brow and watched Gaara’s expressions shift.

His expression went from hostile to thoughtful, then he huffed.  “Whatever.”

Sakura kept her smile and felt it turn just a tad more truthful. Honestly, Gaara’s reactions to her were better than how Sasuke had treated her the first time they had spoken. Or rather, she had talked to Sasuke. Sakura inwardly winced. Gushed at, would be the more accurate term.

Kimimaro wasn’t anything like Naruto, but he was supportive. And apparently wasn’t going to treat Gaara like a live grenade. Definitely good points.

The taller teen in question blinked as the new girl’s smile turned up a few watts. That was interesting. Usually students wilted around Gaara. An eyebrow raised and he looked at the redhead.

Gaara was back to scowling at her, also having noticed this.  “Can we get this over with?” he growled, even as the teacher walked toward the front of the room.

“I suppose you guys are anxious to get going and get finished, so I won’t hold you back any longer,” Yamato announced.  “You have your objectives, you know how to navigate, you know how to walk on the sand.  Kimimaro, please help Haruno-san with those.”  He nodded toward the boy, then walked to the doors that opened up on the surrounding desert.  “Go.”

Kimimaro turned to Sakura and motioned to the stand of water bottles by the entrance. “If you would, Sakura, pick up six bottles. Meet us at the door.”

She nodded silently, already a little intimidated by the heat that rolled in. As she left, he turned to Gaara.

“I believe that we should head east towards the caves. What do you think we should do?” He had heard that Gaara could and had left the school complex in the middle of the day before. Of all of them, he probably knew where to find everything on the list. Possibly within ten minutes of each other.

Gaara shrugged.  “We could skip the caves.  There’s a miniature oasis to the west, with a ground cave beneath it.”  He gestured in the opposite direction from which everyone else would be heading.  “Besides, the caves will be crowded and useless as shelter.  They aren’t very big or deep, and will be full with the other students.  No one knows about the oasis or the ground cave beneath it, besides my brother and I.  It’ll be isolated and quiet.”  Unless Pinky decided to make a lot of noise.

As if reading his mind, Kimimaro smiled slightly. He murmured, “Quiet would be nice.”

The two boys were sharing a look as Sakura walked up, lugging a set of water bottles. She blinked. I think they are having a moment. She barely stopped herself from grinning. We’ll be just fine, she thought. And that moment, dropped a water bottle on her foot.

“Ouch!”

Gaara scowled at her and picked it up, snatching another from her.  “Clumsy,” he accused disdainfully and stalked toward the entrance.  It was clear he was expecting them to follow when he stopped by the door and glowered back at them.  Most of the other students had already cleared out.

Ducking her head, Sakura threw an apologetic look at Kimimaro. “Oops?”

He only smiled softly and shook his head. “Let’s go.” As they hurried over to Gaara, Kimimaro leaned over and whispered in her ear. “Don’t drop the water bottles out there, please.”

She turned to glower at him, but found him grinning at her. Sakura couldn’t help but laugh. “Meanie,” she said warmly and used her bottle to threaten him.

Gaara scoffed at the sight.  “Can we go already?  I want to get there and then relax the rest of the period,” he snapped.

“Yes, yes,” Kimimaro soothed. “Let’s go.”

Sakura only smiled and held out a third water bottle to Gaara. “You’re the one with darker hair.” she said teasingly.

He sneered.  “Kimimaro carries his own bottles,” he snapped, not getting what she was talking about.  He turned on his heel and walked out across the sand, steps feather-light and perfectly balanced upon it’s shifting surface.

The white-haired teen sighed as Sakura shrugged good naturally. She tucked the bottle in with her other two into her backpack. Kimimaro looked at her in confusion when she muttered, “At least he talks to me.”

“Here,” the boy caught her attention, “you want to step like this, see my heel? And the way that my toes land. You need to set your weight here and roll this way.” He pointed down to his foot as he stepped onto the sand.

Sakura frowned and tried to mimic him. It took some practice, but she did get the hang of it. And she didn’t drop any bottles. Hers or the spare meant for Gaara..

About ten minutes later (longer than it usually took Gaara because they were babysitting a clumsy outsider), they reached the oasis he’d mentioned and fulfilled their objectives for water, shelter, and food.  There were a few fruit-bearing cacti in the oasis which Gaara quickly harvested.  He noted that there were spaces on a couple of the plants from a prior working.  He frowned.  “Someone was already here,” he said.

Soft footsteps heralded Kimimaro’s approach, though the other boy stopped before crowding Gaara. “Perhaps your brother?”

Gaara thought about that.  Well, Kankuro did have Gym earlier in the day.  He shrugged.  “It’s possible.  He would have left a sign of some sort,” he said.  “In case I came by.  We usually do.”  He glanced over toward the hidden cave entrance, watching as Sakura ducked inside.  “Hmph.”  He nodded for Kimimaro to get some water while he finished with the fruit.

To the side there was a small pool, fed by an underground spring that ran through part of the cave.  In fact, the cave was probably the reason that the pool hadn’t drained away ages ago.

Kimimaro slowly made his way inside, letting his eyes adjust to the dim lighting before going further. He saw Sakura easily, she had flopped down on the soft sand and was rubbing her eyes.

“Sakura? Are you alright?”

Startled, the girl sat up and squinted at him. “Kimimaro? Yes, I’m okay. Just wishing I could actually see in here.”

He hummed, “It will take a moment. Just be patient.”

Sakura made a face. “I hate not being able to see.” After a second or two, she started laughing.

“What is it?” Now he was wishing his vision would clear faster. “Sakura?”

“I don’t think Gaara is going to like his brother.”

“Oh?”

Gaara trailed in after them, scowling a little.  In his hand, he had a flashlight (he was cheating, he knew, but Yamato would live).  It was pointed at the wall.  Written there in big, sprawled kanji was his brother’s ‘sign’.

Hey, ototo!’ it proclaimed in white.  ‘This is a fond greeting from your loving siblings… and that fat guy Jugo.  … ouch.’  When they looked further, they saw that there was actually quite a bit of writing all over the walls.  Some from Temari, some from Jugo, some from Kankuro.  Their ‘greeting’ for Gaara had obviously gotten a little out of hand.

“I’ll kill them all,” the redhead growled irately.  “Painfully.  No one will ever find the bodies.”

Over in a corner, Sakura was choking back laughter. BE NICE, ended Temari’s note in very large letters complete with underlines. Multiple lines.

Kimimaro had reached out to touch a handful of notes that had been left in surprisingly neat lettering. “Apparently, your brother’s group also stayed here to relax,” he said amused.

“Apparently,” Gaara growled, and sat down on a rock to sulk.  He was going to murder them both!  Glowering, he pulled his back pack off his shoulders and opened it, pulling out a clear plastic container.  He held it up to his eye, tapping the side gently.  Something inside the container moved toward his hand.

The soft humming from Kimimaro moved further to the back of the cave then came towards Gaara.

“Excuse me, but could I borrow your flashlight? Jugo’s notes mention there being more writing at the back of the cave.”

Gaara looked up at him, then held the flashlight up with his free hand.  “Don’t break it,” he said.

The other boy nodded. “Of course not.” He didn’t even blink at the container, but calmly took the flashlight from Gaara. “Thank you.” He moved back towards the walls, flicking on the light.

Beyond him, Sakura made a slight sound of surprise and started laughing. “Kankuro knows some funny jokes,” she said appreciatively.

Kimimaro merely hummed in response and moved on, but tried to keep the light where Sakura was reading.

Gaara glanced over at the pink-haired girl, eyes narrowed.  Finally, he smirked and got up, ninja’ing his way over to lean over her shoulder.  “Boo,” he whispered in her ear, making her jump.

“Gyaah!!” She yelled, then turned. “What are you? FIVE?”

He smirked and crouched beside her.  “You should pay more attention to your surroundings,” he replied.

Her green eyes narrowed, then she smirked. With slow deliberate movements, she pointed at the wall where she had been reading. “So should you.”

Gaara blinked and followed her finger, his eyes widening on the writing there.  ‘… and you should have seen it when Gaara-’  He stopped reading and closed his eyes.  “Definitely murdering him,” he grumbled, sitting down where he was.  “That idiot.”

Looking back towards a concerned Kimimaro, Sakura waved and mouthed, ‘We’re okay.’ The older boy nodded and continued along the wall, taking the light with him.

The two younger ones sat in the shifting dark.

“It’s not that bad,” Sakura murmured, thinking of Sai. “At least your brother writes this where only trusted people are going to see.” She frowned thinking of the postcard ads that Itachi had nearly killed Sai over.

“You’re welcome to leave if it bothers you,” Gaara replied irritably, going back to looking at whatever was in the container.  If he could see it.  … and it just moved.

In the dark, Sakura felt safe enough to roll her eyes. “Not a bother at all.” She looked over at him. What? Kankuro’s words from that morning came back to her. She blinked. But Temari had said…

He must have felt her gaze because he looked up and scowled.  “What?  It’s a spider.  Got a problem with that?” he demanded, pulling it closer to his chest as if she’d try to hurt it.

She grinned. She couldn’t help it. He was acting just like Naruto with his first toad. It was adorable. She shook her head, “Why is it toads and spiders with you guys? Why are they so interesting?”

“I don’t like toads,” he replied blankly.  “Where did you get that?”

Sakura shrugged. “My best friend keeps toads. Small, big, smooth, bumpy, young, old. Any that he can find.” She smiled softly. “Naruto’s basement is like an underground sauna filled with glass cages.” And he loved them all.

He blinked.  “Naruto?  You know Naruto?” he asked, perking eagerly.  “That’s the… wait, Uzumaki Naruto, right?”

It was Sakura’s turn to blink. “Ye-es?” She frowned. “Okay, this is insane. He can’t have pranked you all the way out here.” She didn’t think his reach went that far… did it?

Gaara shook his head.  “No,” he said, shifting in his seat.  “No, I met his friend Hoshigaki-san, who works at a pet shop I frequent.  Hoshigaki-san got his hands on some white sand for me and then told me that he got it from a boy named Uzumaki Naruto.”

“Oh you can’t be serious,” Sakura’s eyes closed. Kisame had kept that sand? She had heard of the prank of course. On the other hand, it seemed like it turned out to be a good deal for both Sharky and Gaara. So… not…a… bad thing?

She cradled her face in her hands and carefully let herself flop back onto the sand. “I think my brain just had a melt down.”

He frowned.  “Why?” he asked, confused.  Was it something he said?

On the ground, Sakura gave a helpless giggle and tried to explain. “Months ago, my best friend, Naruto, along with his best friend, Sasuke, played a prank on Sasuke’s older brother, Itachi. That white sand was involved.” She trailed fingers through the sand beside her and continued. “Itachi’s friend, Hoshigaki, kept the sand, and apparently gave it to you.”

She sat up and grinned. “Since then, I’ve started to date Itachi, grew to know Hoshigaki, and am now talking with you. I can almost safely say that I am following the white sand.”

“But that’s not even the part that makes my head hurt.” Sakura flopped back down to the sand. “It’s the sheer fact that one of Naruto’s pranks actually did something good for a change.”

Gaara actually looked thoughtful for a moment.  “Well, I don’t know if you’re superstitious, but there are some legends that say that every action, negative or positive, has ripples.  Sometimes these ripples are good, sometimes they’re bad, sometimes both and sometimes neither.”  He tilted his head.  “I happen to believe this, and the story you’ve told me is a good example of it.

“Your friend pranked your boyfriend now, whom wasn’t your boyfriend then.  Perhaps your meeting him even had something to do with that prank.”  He shrugged.  “From there, the sand from the prank traveled through your friend Hoshigaki, to me, and you have met both.  It’s Fate.”

“But, the sand has now stopped…” Sakura bolted upright and cast wide eyes at Gaara. “You haven’t sent it on anywhere have you?”

He blinked, then scowled.  “No.  It’s in my fish tank,” he replied.

A relieved smile broke over Sakura’s pale face and she sighed. “Thank God – I don’t want to move anymore.” That said, she lay back down on the sand.

The light began to shift again, and Kimimaro walked over, being careful not to shine the light in their eyes. “I don’t think you should put all of your faith into that one bucket of white sand, Sakura.” He looked over to Gaara. “Fate is not necessarily bound to the physical.”

The pink-haired girl grumbled, an arm flung over her eyes, “So far so good, Kimimaro.”

“It’s rude to eavesdrop,” Gaara told the older boy with a scowl.

The older boy gave him a bland look and sat down next to Sakura. “We’re in a small cave, that is incredibly quiet. The two of you were not whispering, and I wasn’t trying to overhear.” He sighed. “I apologize if I heard something I was not supposed to hear.” Then he shrugged. “I could have started to sing to myself, I suppose.”

Gaara scowled at him, sure he was being made fun of, and went back to playing with his spider.

Until Sakura said something rather rude and actually threw a water bottle at Kimimaro. “I only made up that song so that I would remember how to walk properly. You two already have the balance thing down to an art. I have to think about it.”

Bringing down the hand that had caught the bottle, the pale boy grinned. “And it was a lovely song, Sakura-san.”

Gaara glowered at them.  “And here I was hoping for peace,” he drawled.  “Whatever could I have been thinking?”

Sakura was still scowling at him, so Kimimaro replied glibly, “Inner peace but not actual quiet?”

Gaara scoffed.  “Idiot,” he retorted, getting up to go tuck away his spider.  “We should get going.  Class will be over soon.”

Smoothly rising to his feet, the white-haired boy turned and offered the girl a hand up. She took up his offer and as she was dusting herself off, he turned towards the entrance saying over his shoulder, “The song is cute, Sakura. You should teach it to us on the way back.”

Sakura growled, “When we get back, I’m dumping sand in your locker!”

Gaara smirked.  “I would like to witness that,” he commented.  “I’ll take a picture for my portfolio.”

Kimimaro only lifted his chin and sniffed as he stepped out into the sunlight. “Childish threats.”

The two younger ones eyed his back.

This time, Sakura edged closer to Gaara and whispered, “That pool is nice and refreshing looking, isn’t it?”

Gaara blinked, then smirked.  “Oh, very,” he replied, an evil gleam in his eye.  “Think he would appreciate us helping him cool off?”

“Definitely,” Sakura answered and padded casually up to the target as Gaara slipped off to the side.

“Kimimaro-san,” Sakura confronted him at the pool. “I don’t think that you are affording me the respect that I deserve.” She frowned up at him, with her hands on her hips.

The older boy stopped and raised an eyebrow.

Gaara circled around the pool and got into position before he smirked and nodded to Sakura.

To her credit, she didn’t bat an eyelash. Instead she advanced another step forward, crowding into the taller boy. “Aren’t you going to say anything? Or do I need to talk to Taicho about the lack of respect you show to female students?”

Kimimaro frowned. “Sakura-san, I assure you, I was only playing.”

Inexplicably, Sakura nodded and smiled. “So am I, Kimimaro.” She reached up and poked him on the nose, then took another step into his personal space, set her palm against his chest, and pushed.

“Sakura!”

Gaara smirked as the poor boy flailed, and when he started to regain his balance, the redhead grabbed his shoulder from behind and tugged hard.  He dove to the side, even as Kimimaro splashed into the pool.  Abruptly, Gaara shouldered his bag.  “We should leave now,” he decided.  “Before he retaliates.”

As they fast marched out of the shade, Sakura grinned at Gaara. “Think he has enough water for the trip back?”

Gaara smirked and didn’t answer.

xXx

Chapter 20 | Table of Contents | Chapter 22

A/N: Who else is giggling with glee? Gaara is awesome.

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