Short, sweet, & simple: Crackfic. Created by Annette and Bertha. Or Bertha and Annette. Whichever flings your ding-a-ling.

Summary: Gaara's living in Konoha with Temari and Kankuro. He's seeing a therapist who diagnoses him as antisocial. He gives Gaara the ultimate assignment: to become a progressive member of society.

Warning: It's a crackfic. Watch out for major OOC-ness and crazy pairings/happenings. Random and horrific cussing/swearing a.k.a. profanity to the highest power. All research on psychobabble was HALF-ASSED. Do not trust our psychobabble or diagnoses or prognoses or whatever other noses we may put in here. You have been warned.

Rated: M for Mad Stalin. Er, we mean M for Mature.

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A Progressive Member of Society

Chapter II: All Aboard the #17 Downtown

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It was around nine o'clock. It had been a strange, albeit productive morning, to say the least. Gaara mentally recapped the day's events: so far he had perfected his movie star smile, as well as had breakfast with "the family." He had more than enough time left to complete his other tasks.

Damn.

Grudgingly, Gaara opted to continue with the to-do list that his therapist had laid out for him, although doing so seemed to go against all he had ever stood for. He wasn't afraid of premature ejaculation, oh no, not him. He tugged at the hem of his shirt as he peered into the mirror. The shadows under his eyes were uneven! Now he would have to take his time and fix them up with some eyeliner, of course. That would buy him lots of time, right? Lots and lots and lots and—

His evenly smudged eyes looked back at him from the mirror.

It had only taken five minutes.

He mentally kicked himself and snarled into the mirror before finding himself cowering under the dining room table again.

Gaara berated himself as he crawled out from underneath the table upon which the breakfast plates still lay. He mentally noted to never snarl into or near a mirror ever again. Well, at least now he knew what his game face looked like. Imagine what would have happened if he'd been snarling (smiling?) in his typically crazy fashion during battle, when some lamewad (most probably Naruto, the dumbsnot) had suddenly shown him a mirror? Ha. Now he was prepared.

So, what was next on the list?

He pulled a piece of flowery stationary from the depths of his left pocket. Why on earth Ted had decided to use flowery stationary (albeit, rather pretty flowery stationary), Gaara would never know. He wondered if the odd little "tare panda" in the corner meant something.

Steps to Becoming a Progressive Member of Society

By: Ted

Always smile when smiled at!

Be polite!

Be courteous—

Gaara skimmed down to the numbered list.

1. Have breakfast with The Family

2. Take bus to—

Gaara tore his eyes from the sheet of paper before he could read the rest of the sentence. He knew what it said. He had just hoped that somehow, miraculously, the ink might have changed formation and said something entirely different. He took one last look at list, just to be sure, but no, it hadn't.

Gaara sighed and shoved the paper back into his pocket.

He'd have to take the bus.

It would be the first time he'd ever been on a bus. He couldn't recall ever being on a bus before. Gaara looked into the mirror from his perch on the ottoman. At least he looked relatively good now; his eyeliner was even. He smirked. It was better than what that Ino girl could manage.

He gathered his sand and walked out the front door, not bothering to shut it behind him. No one was stupid enough to attempt to steal anything from The House of Gaara.

He knew what bus he had to take: the #17 Downtown. It arrived every ten minutes; he'd researched it last night. Even though the bus stop was only two blocks away, he decided to "poof" there anyway. "Poof"-ing always made for a better entry.

There were a few people waiting at the bus stop when Gaara arrived. None of them noticed him. He supposed it was because he was standing upside down in a tree, his feet firmly planted on the underside of a supportive branch. Funny, he'd have thought that people would have noticed something out of place like that. Odd.

Mr. Bear hadn't mentioned anything about standing on the ground. He was still waiting with the people… just not in a place where they could see him. He was probably doing them all a favour anyway; they'd all have fainted of shock once they caught sight of him. He was the Gaara of the Sand, after all.

He grumpily scorned his therapist's ideas, replaying their previous session in his head and thinking up all of the scathing remarks that he wished he had said if he had only thought of them earlier. Why is it that such brilliant wit only occurs to one half an hour after the actual confrontation has taken place? Gaara shifted his weight from one leg to the other as he waited for bus #17 to arrive. It would be much faster for him to just "poof" to there; "there" being where he was headed. He stopped mid-thought, hoping not to dwell on "there" since it was hard enough just thinking about being here… with all these strangers who understood nothing about the way of the ninja.

Gaara tried to shake his thoughts off by observing the goings-on of the street. It was quiet, not a lot of traffic. There were lots of houses, each with its own flower garden, pruned hedges, and the occasional pink plastic flamingo, which were, in their own right, rather frightening. Why a rational human being would choose to have a large plastic replica of such a gangly, hideous bird on their lawn was simply beyond him. Did they serve only as ornamentation, or did they have some sort of alternate purpose? And if there was an alternative purpose, what was it? Perhaps it served to confuse prospective intruders by having them question the tastes of those living inside. Surely no one who would voluntarily put something that tacky in their front yard could possibly own anything worthwhile inside their house.

And why was it a flamingo? Why not a stork? Or an elephant? Or a llama? Llamas were nice. Flamingo. It was a funny word. Fla-min-go. Flam-in-go. Flame-in-go…

Gaara rubbed his lucky lighter.

The fire called his name. The blazing heat; the hot, searing licks of the flames; the tempting, bright orange glow… he recalled it all so vividly. The languid curls of darkening wallpaper, the vicious bright blue forks of electricity. He relived the deep, aromatic odour of burning wood, the acrid stench of burning rubber, the unusual smell of burning plastic, and the raw pong of burning flesh…

His eyes unglazed once he heard the steady thrum-thrum of the bus's heart: its engine. Well, he didn't really hear the bus; he felt the vibration via his sand.

The bus pulled up and Gaara watched carefully. He'd never seen a bus unload before, nor had he ever boarded one. He'd have to pay close attention; he didn't want to draw any attention to himself.

The door clunked open and people filed out. There was a young woman who, rather than placing her infant in a stroller, had opted to place him (or her, Gaara couldn't tell; he thought all babies looked alike) in a sling, where he now fit snugly against her body. She helped a very pregnant teenager off the bus and they walked down the street together, laughing.

It was bright out. Gaara realized this when two old woman, one of whom was wearing far more make-up than was necessary, opened an umbrella and hobbled down the street. Why hadn't the other one told her friend how horrid she looked? Surely it was a friend's duty to tell you when you wore something that made you look ugly, right? Except, of course, if it hurt someone's feeling or… what else had Ted said?

Gaara shrugged. There was too much to this friendship thing. An unwritten contract with one too many clauses, too many exceptions. Not having any friends at all made life a whole lot easier.

He peered after the two old women, still wondering about the umbrella. It wasn't raining… Perhaps one of them was allergic to sunlight?

Gaara was jolted out of his thoughts as the bus driver yelled "ALL ABOARD!" and the doors began to swing shut.

His sand was there within the second, jamming the machinery and stopping the bus from successfully closing its doors. He smirked and "poof"-ed down on to the sidewalk. Everyone on the bus was muttering quietly, some of them peering out of the window to glare meaningfully at him. The bus's windows hadn't been cleaned in a while, so all the passengers saw was a small boy, with what looked like a large overnight pack, standing at the door.

The bus driver, however, recognized Gaara instantly. His hand froze on a knob attached to a long lever, which Gaara assumed worked the swinging doors. The sand swirled lazily around the doors and proceeded to open them, creating a gap just large enough for a Gaara-sized being to walk through.

Gaara got on the bus.

And everyone on the bus gasped.

He gave them all a look at his perfectly applied eyeliner. They were all in shock.

Probably marvelling at my skill with an eyeliner pencil.

He sneered at them, and at the back of the bus, a toddler burst into tears.

Undoubtedly amazed at my superior eyeliner applying technique.

Such jealousy.

Gaara stood there, staring at the bus driver; he wasn't quite sure what he was supposed to do. Was he supposed to greet him? Why was the bus driver just staring at him? Wasn't there to be an exchange of something? The website he had seen had mentioned something about a transfer, though he wasn't sure what the transfer was for. Did he have to give them something for being allowed to ride the bus?

Stupid public transportation with its stupid rules.

His sand went back into its gourd and the doors crashed shut with a loud bang, causing the rest of the passengers on the bus to snap back to reality. The bus was suddenly alive and rocking as people banged on the rear doors, all of them attempting to exit at once. The rear doors, however, weren't going to open any time soon; the bus driver's full attention was on Gaara.

Gaara continued to stare into the driver's eyes. Perhaps it was a transfer of… he still wasn't sure. The driver swallowed and looked ahead. Maybe that had just been some sort of game? Did one normally have to engage in a staring contest with the driver in order to ride the bus?

Suddenly, Gaara realized that the passengers at the back of the bus were screaming at the bus driver to open up the rear doors. He wondered what had gotten a hold of them. There was probably some big convention being held that they had all forgotten about and all simultaneously remembered. Or perhaps there was a bomb on the bus. Or maybe they had all gone crazy with jealousy and wanted to go home to better their eyeliner applying techniques.

Oh yeah, he was suave.

The passengers refrained from approaching him. He wondered why that was. They weren't afraid of him, were they? Gaara smirked, and the flock of passengers momentarily froze before breaking out into mass hysteria again. At this rate, the bus was going to tip over. He looked at the bus driver who was staring straight ahead, both hands tightly gripping the steering wheel.

Two voices rang out from outside the bus.

"Thank goodness!"

"Open the doors, you nasty snots!"

"Annette, really, do calm yourself!"

"I'll calm myself when I want to calm myself!"

Gaara turned his head and noticed two figures hobbling up to the bus from around the street corner.

"Open the damn door!" screeched one of them, emphasizing her utterance by rapping at the door with her bony knuckles.

Gaara stepped over to the bus driver, the screams of the passengers getting louder and louder as he moved towards him. Geez, it wasn't like he was going to kill the guy. Yet.

He grabbed the knob and pulled.

The doors swung open to reveal a pair of distinguished old women, both of them wearing matching pastel-coloured suits. They were so old and wrinkled that Gaara found he was unable to discern what race they were. One of the old women was wearing a particularly worn hat from which a large, distasteful feather hung.

"Thank you, sonny," said the woman with the revolting hat. She tottered up the stairs with the help of a cane as her friend followed her. She hobbled over to the bus driver and rapped him smartly on the head, effectively jolting him out of his stupor.

"That's for not opening the door yourself."

"Annette," whispered the woman who had enough sense to not to wear an ugly hat. "Do come, Annette, we should sit down. Don't bother the good driver."

Gaara stared at the woman. Annette? What kind of a ridiculous name was Annette? He snorted inwardly. That was almost as lame as Sasuke. No, wait, it was lamer. Who'd ever heard of Annette? At least people had heard of uke.

He snorted inwardly again before he could stop himself.

The driver coughed. "Uh, well, ladies, and, um, gentleman," he said, hastily addressing Gaara, "that'll be two twenty-five each."

Annette rapped a large metal box with her cane. "We're senior citizens! We get on for one fifty!"

"Oh right, sorry, lady. But, uh, he has to pay two twenty-five."

Gaara blanched. Pay money? Him? He hadn't spent a cent in the whole three months he'd been living in the damn village, and now this man expected him to magically conjure up some change from his pockets? He hadn't spent anything because he didn't need to pay for anything. That fact was that nobody wanted payment for anything. He just walked into a store, picked up what he wanted, walked past the cash register and then walked right out the door. No one had ever bothered to stop him.

"I'll pay for him!"

"Annette, do you really—"

"Bertha!"

Bertha? The names kept getting weirder and weirder around here.

Annette swivelled on the spot. "I'm going to pay the fare for this fine young gentleman."

Gaara walked over to the box. He turned to the old women who were looking at him before glancing back at the machine. "How does this work?" he asked the bus driver, though his eyes were trained on the machine.

"Um, well, you see," the bus driver hemmed and hawed. "Hem…. haw… well…"

Bertha (Gaara smirked inwardly again) waddled over. "You just put the coins into the slot, dear."

Gaara nodded. He grabbed some sand and squished it hard, carefully shaping it into several coin-shaped masses. Gaara then proceeded to dump them one by one into the machine until the balance was at zero.

Three tickets popped out.

Gaara picked them up and gave one to each of the old ladies, placing his own in his pocket.

"It'll last you the whole day, this one," crooned Annette. "So nice of you, sonny!"

Gaara grunted in response.

"Well, what are we waiting for? Sit down, boy!" Gaara sat down. The woman must have been mad. Only a crazy person would wear a hat like that. "You too, Bertha! Bus driver, get moving!"

The bus lurched forward.

"And you!" Annette fixed her beady eyes on the passengers huddled in the back of the bus. "Calm down, why don't you! It's not like we're on our way to the morgue!" The passengers all shuffled slowly back to their seats. Either the old woman was right, or she was crazy. Most of them silently vouched for the latter.

Annette turned her head to Bertha, who was sitting on the other side of Gaara. "Honestly, some people!"

Gaara tuned out the old ladies, hoping that they'd get off the bus before he did.

Some people indeed.

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Argh! It's a filler chapter! Don't worry, we'll give you something to sink your teeth into in the next chapter, promise! You'll see something SNAZZY! And hardcore! Or… well… maybe not.