The bell over the door of the Sunagakure Chiropractic Center chimed as the door swung violently open, nearly killing the person seated closest to it. The eye of every surprised customer went to the visitor – and then turned quickly away when they saw whom it was.
Striding carelessly past every other person in the line, the newcomer made his way to the front desk and rang the bell. When this elicited no response, he hit it again. Finally, when a third ring proved unsuccessful, he sent a stream of sand into the back room. It returned a moment later and deposited a startled chiropractor behind the desk, upsetting a small memorial shrine standing against the wall.
"I'm here for my appointment." The customer glared at the man, making it perfectly clear that, whether or not he actually had an appointment, he was going to see a chiropractor. Now.
"Er… yes, Lord Gaara… if you'll just follow me this way?" The chiropractor bowed and waved Gaara toward the back, keeping a careful eye on the boy as he stepped in front.
"I want my usual chiropractor. Not you."
"Of course… he's in another appointment right now, though…"
Gaara stopped, turned around, and glared at the simpering man with just one black-rimmed eye.
"…I'll go get him."
When Doctor Heimara entered the room, Gaara had already removed his shirt and was sitting on the bed. His gourd lay in the corner. Heimara could only imagine how heavy it was.
He laid Gaara down and began probing his back. As he worked, he sent a silent prayer heavenward – Please, please, please let me live. I swear I'll be a better human being if I just survive another appointment… Trying to keep his voice from trembling, he said, "Lord Gaara, you really need to stop carrying around that gourd… it's completely destroying your back."
"Shut up and get on with it," Gaara replied, muffled by the pillow. "I'm here so it'll stop destroying my back."
As ordered, Heimara shut up. His heart sank as he found a particularly bad spot and placed his hand over it. Sweat poured down his face as he tightened his grip… and cracked Gaara's back.
"Ah!" cried Gaara, his voice a mixture of pain and relief. Heimara listened, panicking, trying to ascertain if the pain was greater than the satisfaction… but mercifully, Gaara's hands did not move.
The doctor breathed a prayer of thanks and went to the next sore place. Again, he pressed, pulled, and finally cracked it.
"Ai!" Gaara bellowed. Heimara nearly wet himself as the boy's fist clenched – but he was stretching, not attempting to kill his chiropractor.
Heimara's hands were so sweaty, he wasn't sure if he could grip Gaara's back properly. He went to the sink to wash them. The delay was better than a possible screw-up.
Gaara opened his eyes to see why the man wasn't fixing his back. He growled. Heimara washed and dried his hands in less than fifteen seconds.
"Very sorry for the delay," he said, bowing. It was something people did a lot in Gaara's presence. "Just had to-"
"Get on with it."
"Y-yes, Lord Gaara."
And so it went: rising panic every time he soothed a muscle, oceans of sweat pouring down his face, praying for deliverance more fervently with each passing minute – all in all, just another chiropractor's appointment with Sabaku no Gaara. It took an hour, and by the end, every one of the doctor's nerves was tingling spasmodically.
Gaara sat up and stretched, twisting back and forth to ease the remaining stiffness. He pulled his shirt back on and picked up his gourd. "I'll be back next week," was all he said as he left.
Heimara leaned against the wall. Thank you, he thought, practically sobbing with relief. I'm alive… oh, God, I'm alive… Overcome with gratefulness, he went to the shrine that Gaara had knocked over and tenderly set it back up, carefully straightening the small photograph of the deceased. Poor Hachimaru, he thought. I should go make an offering for him today.
Ten minutes later, he too left the Chiropractic Center. "Where you going, sir?" an assistant called after him as he hurried out the door.
"The temple," Heimara replied. "I'll be back in half an hour. Please deal with any appointments I miss."
"Of course, sir… but why the temple?" the assistant asked.
Heimara smiled. "I'm going to go and light a candle for the soul of old Hachimaru - Gaara's last chiropractor."