Author's Note: No spoilers in actual story, but in terms of timeline, this ficlet most likely takes place during the journey back to Sand's hidden village, right after the rescue-Gaara mission. A fair warning for tons of run-on sentences though. I swear this thing insisted on being written this way. :p Oh, and I disclaim any ownership of Naruto of course.

Sand Speak
by Téa

Heat was beating down on her neck, there's sand everywhere, Naruto was being much too loud, and Haruno Sakura was getting really annoyed. The desert, she thought, had a serious way of grating on her nerves, mission successfully completed or not. Well, that or it could just be the blisters forming at the soles of her feet from the sand that wouldn't stop collecting inside of her shoes.

Wiping the sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand for the hundredth time, Sakura had half the mind to start stomping her foot childishly, if only to release some of her irritation. Instead, she reached down, also for the hundredth time, to pry at the base of her sandals so that she could attempt to shake at least some of the sand out yet again.

Hopping on one foot to keep moving, she eyed the boy walking calmly just a little ahead of her, to the left and with gourd missing. Well, there's one who's in his own element.

I bet his sandals are sand-free, the bastard.

With an aggravated huff, Sakura, still hopping, switched her sand-removing efforts to the other foot as she narrowed her eyes at the mop of red hair and the pale skin that looked suspiciously absent of sweat. She wondered if he'd take it in a horribly bad way if she asked him to command the damned sand away from her feet.

And then he turned around, not completely but just enough for one of his eyes to focus in on her without warning. Sakura froze instantly, mid-hop, with one foot in the air and three fingers lodged between toes inside her sandals... and all thoughts of inappropriate favor-asking was just simply gone. Vaguely, she was aware of how this wasn't quite the position she wanted to be caught in. But then he was staring, eyes roaming down to her feet and back up to her burning cheeks, and Sakura did the only thing her embarrassed brain knew how to do at the moment. She stared back, which lasted about four seconds before...

"Saaaaakura-chan! What're you doing?"

"Ooohh! Such power of youth! Sakura-san must be training by crossing the desert on one foot!"

And even that was all just fine, until Naruto, in his full idiotic glory, slapped her a little too hard on the back in greeting as he jogged up to her. By the time Sakura clambered back onto her feet, punched Naruto to some far off distance, and remembered what she was doing before her face was buried in sand, he had already gone back to walking in that infuriatingly impassive manner of his. Casting one final glance in his direction, she violently swatted some sand off her arm and grumpily plowed forward once more.

About seven steps later, though, Sakura found that she had sand in her hair, under her nails, on her face, and even between her chest bindings... but her feet and sandals, now those were curiously and blissfully sand-free for the rest of the journey.

500 Words
Written: 04/08/2007