Meep!

Waves symbolic flag of peace Is it even worth grovelling for forgiveness? I'm what, 6 months overdue with the update? Uni, life…Sabaku-chan going to hospital, it's all been happening since I last updated. 'Sides, I've been on a NaruHina trip (I'm going for the 100 Themes Challenge over on DA).

I've been receiving sporadic reviews and each time I feel so guilty that I haven't updated, so I finally said 'No, you can't write anymore NaruHina until you write a decent chapter for HotW!'.

Thank Sabaku-chan over on DA for the humour. It's all hers.

The characters are not though. They belong to Masashi Kishimoto. Sabaku-chan and I are only borrowing them so we can dress them up in costume and plonk them in the Wild West. It's fun!

Now, the long overdue Ch 5 of 'Heroes of the West', thanks to all for being so patient!


"Thank-you for meeting me so late but I must be discreet. I'm sure you've heard of the two new faces here in Sunset…" Itachi said to his guest.

"Yes I have, but I am yet to meet them."

"I need you to help Sasuke and I keep an eye on them. You in particular are able to get close to them without drawing attention to yourself. I need your help to ruin their reputations-"

"Which will result them in being driven out of town?"

"Exactly."

"This isn't the first time you've enlisted my services Itachi. Is there a specific time when you want me to…move in?"

"Not yet, I need to investigate them more first. Sakura," He watched as his visitor frowned. "Is unknowingly giving us information on them. Why, just today we found out that the blonde one… 'Naruto' is a big drinker who hardly has hangovers and is a very good shot. The other one, 'Gaara' is still a mystery. When Sasuke and I are ready to move forward, you'll be informed."

"Does Sasuke know I'm involved yet?"

"No, but I'll tell him soon. He's with Sakura at the moment, collecting information. I'll tell him when he returns, but for now, it's time you left. Try to collect information."

"Will do." The visitor's lips curled up into a grin.

She got up to leave, walking over to the door of the building. She slipped out without looking back at the sheriff and stepped into the cool evening. A slight breeze blew her blonde hair into her face and she shook her head to remove it. Her blue eyes narrowed on the large moon in the sky, before settling lower, on a figure moving up to the sheriff's station. She smiled.

"Sasuke."

The young man stopped dead in his tracks and glared before inclining his head slightly. "Ino."


"Gaara, whaddya think Scotch's doing?" Gaara didn't answer. "Gaara?" No reply. "Gaara?"

There was a loud, exaggerated snore from the bed beside his own, and Naruto childishly stuck his tongue out at the resting form of his best friend. Getting comfortable under the thin blankets of his bed, the exuberant blonde sighed.

"Gaara, I'm bored."

"Go to sleep."

"Ha, I knew you were awake!"

"Well I won't be able to fall asleep if you don't quit asking me stupid questions about your damn horse!" Gaara grunted and continued his fake sleeping. "Idiot..."

Naruto glared at his friend's back with narrowed eyes…then a wide grin covered his face.

"Fine! Then I'll get to sleep if you'll quit moaning like a damn dog over that blue haired girl, Hina-" He was cut off as a pillow hit him across the face.

Before Naruto could blink Gaara had moved over to his bed and slapped his hand on his mouth.

"Alright! Alright! Lets talk." Gaara snapped while blushing.

Naruto snickered under his hand. Gaara slowly let him go, wiping his hand on the sheet before moving over to his own bed. Naruto sat up.

"Gaara-"

"What?" Gaara grumbled.

"When Lee called you a 'Demon', how did that make you feel?"

"Annoyed…why?"

"It didn't make you sad?"

Naruto watched as Gaara turned over to finally face him, and his eyes had adjusted to the dark enough that he could make out his face. Gaara looked stoic, as usual.

"No." He paused. "What's this really about? What the lunatic said today?" He sat up slightly, his burgundy hair falling in his eyes. "You have good aim…it saved your life that one time. That man would have killed you if you hadn't killed him first."

"But I've taken a man's life!" Naruto looked at him with repentant eyes.

"And he wouldn't have challenged you to a duel if he wasn't prepared to die. You bumped him, you apologised but he was the one that demanded the duel."

Naruto looked down at his hands. "Still, I wish my talent didn't involve people getting killed."

Gaara stared at his friend. "That speed and aim may not be a Godsend, but it may save someone you care about one day."

Naruto looked up at him. "Yeah… you're right!" A soft smile appeared on his face. "You know Gaara, for a 'demon', you are a pretty nice guy!"

Gaara's head snapped towards Naruto and with a deadly glare he leapt over to him with his remaining pillow in hands.

"Just kidding!" Naruto yelled laughing, while dodging the infuriated red-head's attacks and reaching for his own pillow in defence.

An hour later, both boys were lying in their own beds worn out after their pillow war. Gaara, having used up all his frustration with pelts to Naruto's head, looked over at his grinning friend with a calm face.

He sighed. "This is why we shouldn't stay in one place too long, our past starts to catch up to us. As soon as we pay off our debt, we're leaving."

"Yeah."

The two feathered-coated men finally drifted into sleep on their beds.


The two young men were woken up in a much more civilised way the next morning. There was a firm knock at their bedroom door and Gaara woke up instantly, grunting as he sat up rubbing his eyes. Naruto's movements were less graceful. He had slept hugging his pillow like a teddy, curled up, grinning and giggling in his sleep. When the knock sounded on the door, he snorted loudly and simply rolled over…off the bed and onto the floor, sending feathers into the air.

Gaara didn't seem surprised though, as he got out of bed and walked over to the door and yanking it open.

"What?"

It was Iruka. "Get ready for breakfast. If it gets cold that's too bad. We have a schedule to keep. Construction begins today and we've got a lot to do." He paused as he looked into the room. "Uh, where's Naruto?"

"Here!" And up jumped the clumsy blonde from behind his bed, grinning cheerfully.

It was a far cry from the expression on his companion's face. Gaara's face was set in a frown and his arms were crossed over his chest. Iruka seemed immune to the death glare of the enigmatic man of the duo and nodded.

"See you both down sta-where did all those feathers come from?"

Gaara shut the door with a decisive snap, cutting off Iruka's rant. Naruto had moved off into the bathroom and Gaara could hear him whistling a tune as he shaved. The more serious of the two boys changed into his clothes and as Naruto exited the bathroom cleanly-shaven, Gaara entered to act out the same ritual.

"Hey Gaara, do you think we'll be working all day?" Naruto asked, pulling on his pants.

"Don't know."

"Coz I wanna go see Scotch…and maybe get a scotch." He laughed at his own joke and looked over at Gaara to gauge his reaction, only to be met with a glare that obviously read 'you're an idiot'. "You're no fun!" He grumbled.

"You can't drink during the day, it's not healthy." His friend said, ignoring his whining.

"This coming from the guy that smokes?" Naruto grunted. "Besides, it's better than that…orange juice." He shuddered as Gaara re-entered the room.

The boys headed downstairs more gracefully, and painlessly than the day before, following their nose to their breakfast.


Once breakfast was finished, Iruka hurried the boys off to the end of the main street, where Lee, Shikamaru and Kakashi were waiting. Timber and other construction items surrounded them. Shikamaru looked completely at ease…napping against a plank of wood. Lee on the other hand was balancing a shorter length of wood on his hand. When he saw Naruto and Gaara approaching he waved at them eagerly, ruining his perfect balance and the wood came crashing down on his head. It didn't seem to affect him though, and he continued waving at the advancing young men and their gracious host.

"Morning boys, ready for a hard day of work?" Kakashi said and his grin was of course obscured.

"Sure, why not! It's a new experience and it'll be helping people, right?" Naruto replied.

Kakashi nodded and as he did, Shikamaru jolted awake. He mumbled about something being troublesome, and Gaara couldn't help but agree.

"But the sooner we're done, the sooner we're out of here." He told himself, and he would later find that to be his mantra.

"Okay, each and every year the main event of the festival is the end, where we hand out awards to certain people. Citizenship, entrepreneurship, and ingenuity are just some of the awards. So, we need a platform to distribute these awards from. That's your task boys, it's going over there, Shikamaru has the schematics, get to it!" Iruka said sounding invigorated.

Shikamaru struggled to his feet and walked over to the sight of the future platform. Motioning for Lee, Gaara and Naruto to come closer, her explained the details of the blueprints. As he did this, Kakashi and Iruka began building the shells of stalls, a simple enough task except for the fact that they'd need 15.

"Got it? Okay I'm going to measure the timber, Lee you're going to cut the timber, and you two will start making the outer frame. Structure first, we can't have the platform collapse when people stand on it."

Naruto snickered at the thought of the sheriff and his deputy, and the stuffy mayor and his nephew falling through the platform in front of everyone. The sound of a neighing horse pulled him from his reverie and he watched as said sheriff and his deputy rode up on horses. The younger of the two men glared down at him disdainfully, but Naruto grinned up at him. Gaara, who had watched the exchange, rolled his eyes.

"If anything goes wrong during our festival, I'm holding you two personally responsible." Itachi said, placing his hand on his waist in a way that flashed the gun sitting in a holster on his side.

"You do that coz you'll see, nothing will go wrong!" Naruto said assuredly, looking Itachi straight in the eye.

Sasuke looked at his brother, and the two shared a meaningful glance that Gaara filed away under 'suspicious'. He hammered a nail down loudly on a piece of measured wood he'd just received from Lee, and Itachi glanced at him. Gaara matched his glare toe for toe…eye for eye, and then turned away with a derisive sniff, fully informing the man that held position of authority in the small town that he was not afraid of him.

Naruto was not so oblivious; he caught the exchange, and trusted Gaara's judgement fully. He was never wrong in picking enemies or friends. If Gaara did not trust this man on his high horse, he chuckled at his own pun, then he had a good reason.

There was a tense silence, even Lee and Shikamaru had stopped working, when a new voice broke the deafening silence.

"Sasuke, good morning!" It was Sakura. "Sheriff," She nodded to the older man. "Good morning boys." She said to the others.

"Good morning Sakura, you're looking lovely this morning!" Naruto smiled truthfully.

Sakura was struck by the blonde's forwardness, but was flattered anyway. She's never been told she was lovely before. She looked up at Sasuke with hopeful eyes, hoping he'd compliment her too. Oh, that would be nice. However the brooding brunette was oblivious and her heart hurt, just a little.

"You should be proud of me Sakura, I haven't hurt myself yet today!" Naruto continued, twirling a hammer between his fingers.

Sakura looked at him with a genuine smile. "Yeah well, don't jinx it." She looked over the rest of the boys too. "Good luck with construction, I'm off to make a house call." She curtsied slightly to Itachi and Sasuke. "Sheriff…Sasuke."

She left just as gracefully as she'd arrived, taking the tense atmosphere with her. Naruto and Gaara began work again, hammering nails into the timber that would become the frame of the platform. Their two colleagues moved over to them, helping to hold the shape of the frame in place.

"Wanderers," Itachi said to Naruto and Gaara. "We'll be keeping an eye on you. We don't like people ruining the peace we have here in town."

"Don't you have anybody else to threaten? We already told the mayor we weren't going to make any trouble. We're leaving as soon as our debt's paid off." Gaara said coolly without looking up at him.

"My brother is giving you a fair warning, don't make us have to come and 'take care of you'." Sasuke said, smoothly pulling his gun from its holster, twirling it on his finger then stowing it back in its place on his side.

Naruto keenly watched the path of the gun, suddenly much more serious than moments before. His eyes met with Sasuke's for a moment after Sasuke stowed his gun. His glare sat uncomfortably in Naruto's chest, but was not subjected to the gaze much longer, as Itachi and Sasuke began riding on. In a common moment of childishness, Naruto stuck his tongue out at the retreating back of Sasuke.

Gaara smacked Naruto over the back of the head. "Watch it, he could have looked back." He shook his head at his now pouting friend. "And can't you act your age?"

"What was that all about?" Shikamaru asked.

"The Sheriff and his Deputy don't seem to understand that you've been cleansed." Lee said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

The three boys just blinked at him.

Gaara stepped towards him. "Will you stop using the word 'cleanse' with us, you-"

"Okay, lets get back to work shall we?" Naruto cheered with a big smile on his face, laughing exaggeratedly.


Sakura arrived at the mayor's mansion, knocking on the front door to alert the Hyuga of her presence. Neji opened the door a few moments later and her eye was first drawn to his black eye. She lowered her gaze from his face to stop herself from laughing.

"Good morning Neji, I'm here for Hinata's appointment."

Neji led her through the house wordlessly, and Sakura let that smile she'd been holding creep onto her face. She even had to slap a hand to her mouth to stop the snort of laughter at Neji's eye.

"She's in here." He said turning around to face her.

Her hand snapped to her side and her expression became blank. "Yes, thank-you." He began to leave. "Neji," She called after him suddenly. "I have some ointment if you want it. To make the swelling go down…"

Neji glowered at her and she entered Hinata's room, shutting the door behind her and snickering quietly. Hinata was by her window and had turned her head to look at the pink-haired doctor.

"Sakura, that was not very nice. H-His eye isn't even that b-bad now." She said softly, pausing for a moment. "You've…you've never spoken to my cousin like that before. W-Where did you get the c-confidence?"

Sakura looked thoughtful. "You know, I don't know. Maybe I had a good breakfast, or maybe because I've already seen Sasuke today, or it could even be the fact that I have been complimented today."

"S-Sasuke complimented you?" Hinata was stunned.

Sakura shook her head. "No, Naruto did. He called me lovely." Her lips raised in a smile. "His personality is very different to what we normally find here in Sunset. Him and his companion Gaara," Hinata blushed delicately. "Have really spiced up this town, don't you think?"

"Y-Yes, I think they have. Though my father, the sheriff and Sasuke s-seem to dislike them. Neji too. I-I wonder why?"

Sakura shrugged, pulling out a stethoscope. "Who knows? Now, let's get this check-up over and done with. I don't know why your father insists on having them done so often. You're a normal, healthy girl. If only he wasn't the mayor, then I could shout at him."

She shook her clenched fist at the ceiling dramatically and Hinata sighed. "Sakura…"


It was three in the afternoon and the boys were still working. The afternoon sun was beating down on them, making them sweat with exertion. Gaara and Naruto had removed their jackets and all six of the men had pushed their sleeves up passed their elbows.

"Gaara…do you smell something weird?" Naruto said, panting in the heat.

"Probably your brain frying…"

"Ha Ha..." Naruto replied sarcastically as he dropped his hammer to the ground and wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. "God it's so hot, like my eyes are going to melt! Kakashi, can't we have a drink?" Naruto whined pityingly, gripping onto the front of Kakashi's grey vest.

Even Gaara was craving a cigarette, needing sweet relief from the hard labour. Lee, with all his boundless energy, was still working at full power, moving timber from the measuring station to the site of the soon-to-be platform. Iruka and Shikamaru were looking at Kakashi too, hoping for a positive reply.

"Soon, let's just get this frame finished first."

"YES!" Naruto shouted jumping back.

In his excitement, he tripped over a pile of wood, all neatly stacked for use during the production of the platform. He sat up with a groan, rubbing the back of his head.

"Oww…" He winced as he touched a sore spot.

"You idiot." Gaara said, but there was no hostility in his voice.

"Well aren't you in luck, Sakura's coming this way." Iruka said.

"Sakura, your presence is a beacon of light in this dark time!" Lee shouted waving to the approaching girl.

"Uh, hi?" She replied. "What happened?" She asked, eyes scanning over the group.

"I tripped." Naruto said simply, grinning up at the girl.

Sakura rolled her eyes as she knelt down beside the clumsy blonde, checking for any injuries. "You're not hurt that bad, just a few cuts and scrapes, but I can tend to them."

"Were you at the mayor's place?" Iruka asked as she tended to a scrape on Naruto's forehead.

"Yes, it was time for Hinata's bi-monthly check-up."

Gaara was slightly perturbed. "Bi-monthly?" He asked before he could catch himself.

"Yes, but there's nothing wrong with her. Her father is just a bit paranoid. We mostly use the time to catch up."

"Ow, that stings!" Naruto cried.

"Well if you weren't so clumsy you wouldn't get hurt so often." She replied, applying ointment to a wound.

"Ah, but then I wouldn't get to spend time with you."

She smacked him softly on the head so he wouldn't notice that she blushed lightly. "You're such a flirt! And unpredictable. I'm…glad Sasuke's not like that."

"Really?" Naruto said, leaning towards her with a smirk. "You like boring and routine? OW!"

"I'm sorry, did that hurt?" She asked with a sickly sweet tone.

Naruto gave her a puppy-dog pout and she couldn't help but smile. Gaara watched the exchange carefully and surmised that Naruto was being especially flirtatious. More than with any other previous girl. His ice blue eyes narrowed, this could get to be a problem. The more bonds that were formed, the closer they'd be tied to the town, and the harder it would be to leave.

"Okay, now it's time for drinks!" Kakashi said, dusting off his hands.

"Naruto." Gaara said firmly.

Naruto looked over at his friend with curious eyes. Gaara repeated Kakashi's words and Naruto grinned. As Sakura finished tending to him, he stood excitedly, eager for a drink. He thanked Sakura heartily and walked over to his best friend. Gaara leaned over to him.

"Be careful."


That evening Gaara and Naruto were sitting at the bar in Kakashi's place of business. Lee had opted to go home instead of drinking the 'bottled sin' but Shikamaru had stayed as it was easier than leaving. The later it got, the more people arrived, wanting a drink to wind down.

Naruto was giggling drunkenly, though he was not as drunk as previous nights. Gaara was indulging himself in a cigarette, having successfully offered one to Shikamaru too, who had taken to it rather quickly.

When Kiba entered, he walked right up to the young men of similar age and chuckled teasingly. "How was work today?"

"Troublesome."

"Really, well I have good news for you. Jiraiya is reopening his business for the year."

"Really?" Kakashi asked, leaning over the bar.

"Who's Jiraiya and what does he do?" Naruto asked curiously.

"He owns the local…gentleman's club. Girls dance and sing there. And," Kiba turned his gaze on Shikamaru and Choji, who'd arrived just prior to him. "Ino is performing tonight."

The lazy young man and the butcher sat up. "This is worth checking out."

"Ino?" Gaara prodded.

"Local performer…very good one too." Shikamaru replied.

"Reeeaallly…" Naruto said, tapping his chin. "That is worth checking out."


The five young men entered the small building, looking around curiously. The room was darkened, with silk curtains and mirrors everywhere. It wasn't tacky though, it was tastefully and sparingly used to create an atmosphere of sensuality.

A tall, well built man with long, silver hair walked over to them. "Why I do believe I haven't seen these two before." He motioned to Naruto and Gaara.

"Jiraiya, this is Naruto and Gaara, they're wanderers that arrived in our town recently. We thought we'd show them your wonderful establishment." Kiba said winking at him.

The flattery worked.

"Front row seats for my favourite customers and their new friends! And it's free for your first time. I'm Jiraiya and welcome to Jiraiya's Gentlemen's Club!" He grinned widely. "Ino will be on in ten minutes, get ready."

He slapped Naruto on the back as the five men passed him going deeper into the club, taking their seats close to the stage. Kiba and Choji were sitting up, excited. Naruto was more relaxed, but still interested, and Gaara and Shikamaru were sitting slumped in their chairs, just grateful for comfortable seats. They both lit a cigarette, inhaling deeply.

When the lights on the stage became more prominent, as Jiraiya raised the gas level in them, the men in the audience started to cheer, Kiba and Choji included. A feminine figure appeared on stage with her hands set on her hips and her legs spread until they were in line with her shoulders. Kiba whistled from beside Naruto and as he did, the lights were turned up more and they soaked in her full form.

Small waist, smooth skin, long blonde hair and blue eyes that sparkled in the light, Naruto and Gaara too had to admit that she was alluring. When the music began, her hips started swaying to the beat. Her short flimsy skirt swished and sparkled with her movements, and her lips curled into a small smile as she winked at Naruto. Kiba nudged the blonde boy and whistled up at the stage again.

When the music sped up, Ino began waltzing around the stage, her body moving to the beat. She gracefully hopped off the stage and walked over to Naruto, sashaying into his lap, hands resting on his shoulders. He gripped the sides of his chair for dear life as blood rushed to his face as she gyrated her hips against his. She leaned over and whispered in his ear.

"Hi cutie," She cooed. "Never seen you here before. New?"

"Y-Yeah, guess I am. So…d-do you enjoy what you do?" He asked with a flustered smile.

She was taken aback by his blunt attempt at conversation and slipped off his lap. "Hope to see you around."

She moved over to Shikamaru and sat on his lap, taking the cigarette from his mouth and taking a long drag, dropping the butt to the ground and stomping on it.

The raucous chorus of cheers continued throughout her entire performance, as Ino danced her way though the laps of several of the audience members. She had stayed well clear of Gaara, who seemed to give off an aura of danger. She may have been charged by Itachi to find out what she could about the two newcomers, but she wasn't suicidal. She's stick with the sillier and happier of the two. She was a bit annoyed that she didn't get more out of the drunken blonde, but she'd wait till next time.

After the show, Gaara had to drag Naruto back down the street back to Iruka's Inn. Kiba and Choji followed, Shikamaru's home was the opposite direction so he wasn't part of the group.

"What'd you think of Ino?" Kiba asked.

"She is good looking, there's no denying it." Gaara said.

"True," Naruto slurred. "She's sexy, but she wasn't arousing. Not my type." He said, coughing several times while trying to keep a straight face.

"Right..." Kiba said, rolling his eyes.

"Alright, she was hot! I'm definitely going back." The blonde admitted. "It's good for…relaxation. If you could call it that. No, distraction! That's the word, it's a good distraction! Besides, her body does her credit."

Kiba's laughter sounded like a bark. "That's what I wanted to hear! Tell me when you go next time, I'll come with."

When they arrived at the hotel, Kiba and Choji bade them goodnight before heading off to their own homes. Naruto was giggling as he stumbled upstairs, standing erect only with Gaara's support.

"Idiot, we have to work tomorrow."


Ino and Jiraiya! Hurray for new characters! For ages Sabaku-chan and I were spazzing over what job/position to give Jiraiya so we decided to leave it till we wrote him into the story. Owner of a Gentleman's Club…I think it works perfectly :D

I'm going away for 3 weeks. 3 weeks in the Simpson Desert (If you don't live in Australia, google it and feel my pain!) because my Dad likes to 4WD. No water or electricity for 3 weeks. No showers, no lights, no Internet…no Foxtel :(

Don't know as of yet when Ch 6 will be up, and I'm tired of giving deadlines that I never keep, it's not fair on you guys. But I will be drafting and brainstorming while I'm away, so yeah…

Cannot wait for the 2nd Shippuuden movie! Comes out not long after I get back from my holiday (is it a holiday when you don't want to go?).

Reviews and construction criticism are welcome, flames will be used to keep me warm on my trip. Don't forget to visit Sabaku-chan over on DA, she has a few artworks on HotW over there. Link's in my profile. Maybe ask her to make new art for the newer chapters :)

Ciao!

-Wandering Wonderer