Sakura felt the golden grains of sand whip across her face without mercy. She forced herself to put each foot in front of the other as she pushed against the strong winds and kept her eyes narrowed to slits. The wind seemed to cut through her clothes, making marks on her pale skin. Finally the young kunochi collapsed. Her body could no longer carry her through the strong winds.

"I…need to get there…" she murmured as her vision dimmed. A blotch suddenly appeared in her line of sight and she reached out to it. What else to do could she do?


Sakura opened her eyes slowly. The pink haired ninja sat up, mumbling under her breath when pain shot up her back from sleeping on the hard ground for too long. She glanced around at the environment, almost expecting to feel the harsh wind pulling against her. Brown, jagged walls surrounded her; a cave. She looked around more carefully…and froze. A figure was sitting against one wall. Silently she reached around and grabbed a kunai out of her back pouch, squeezing it tightly. With slow footsteps she made her way over to the sleeping form. It stirred. Suddenly it sprang up, grabbing Sakura by the neck and knocking the kunai out of her hand. She struggled but couldn't get free. Somehow she ended up facing the other way with her arms twisted around behind her back.

"Who are you!? What do you want?!" Sakura demanded as she continued her efforts to escape.

"You're not very nice to the one that saved your life," a masculine voice replied smugly.

Sakura froze. "What?"

"I found you out in that sand storm. Don't you know better then to wander around the desert without proper knowledge of its dangers?"

"Why did you help me?" she asked, trying to turn and see him.

"I was returning a favor."

"…?"

The man suddenly spun her around to face him. The kunochi's eyes widened in surprise. "Kankuro?"

"Yeah," he grinned, but it quickly faded. "Sakura…what were you doing out there? You could have been killed."

Sakura thought he sounded a bit concerned. Must have been her imagination.

"I came because…because…" she mumbled.

"Well spit it out already! I already wasted enough time caring for you!"

"Our village…needs help…"

"…What?"

"We were attacked by another village."

"…" Kankuro looked away for a moment as if contemplating something.

"Listen, I have to speak with your brother," she finally said, determination in her voice.

"Gaara is…how to put this…"

"Gaara is what?"

"Gone," the sand ninja finally admitted, his shoulders slumping.

"Gone?" Sakura asked, shocked.

"I came out here to find him…but found you instead. He went missing several days ago," he stated quietly.

"What…is going on…?"

"I don't know…but…are you feeling alright? When I found you…you were badly dehydrated. You need to drink some water," Kankuro said, forcing a water canteen into her hands. She fumbled with it for a moment but didn't drink any.

"What about you?" she asked hesitantly.

"What about me?" the puppeteer sounded exasperated.

"You need water too."

Kankuro turned to her with a smirk.

"I'll last longer then you. After all, I am a shinobi of Sunagakure."

"Alright…"

Sakura took a small sip of the water and then sat down on the cool cave floor. The sand ninja took a seat next to her, sighing when he was finally on the ground. Sakura hadn't noticed it earlier, but his face paint has smeared considerably.

"Were you in a fight?" she asked absently, recapping the canteen.

"If that's what you want to call it," he said nonchalantly.

"Your paint is smeared."

Kankuro looked down at his hands. "I didn't notice."

"Why do you wear it in the first place?" Sakura queried. It was a question she'd been wondering for a long time now but had never had the guts to ask.

"Cause."

"Cause why?"

"Cause I don't want to look like someone."

"…Who?"

"…My father," he finally answered, though it came out hollow sounding.

Sakura mouthed a silent 'Oh.' She had heard about the previous Kazekage…about how cruel he was. Quietly she examined his face once more. He looked…tired.

"How long have you been looking for Gaara?"

Kankuro thought for a moment. "About one week I guess."