SAND

In Deep Sand

For the Sake of Pain


- Forenote - Previously with Naruto

0o0o0

"Good, good," the Hokage said, fumbling with his pipe. He sighed and tapped out the ashes and set it down. "I was about to send a runner out to find you"

He leaned back in his chair a little. "I've asked Jiraiya to assist in the return of the Kazekage's children, and he believes that as your team was the one to apprehend them, it would be useful if certain members of Team 8 tagged along."

0o0o0

Naruto resisted the urge to cheer. Seeing Hinata's face out of the corner of his eye, watching it relax as a small smile formed on her lips, made it even harder. Then a questioning thought hit him. "Um, if she isn't going…. Then who…-"

"That is an excellent question," the Sandaime cut in. "And it brings me to the next topic of this mission. This is Haku." The Chunin took a step forward. "He will be accompanying you to the nation of sand."

0o0o0

Hinata reached over to her seemingly bottomless pack and began unpacking books. As she did she was reading off descriptions of the books she had brought and he could tell she had read most of them. She explained them all in a fashion that left him wondering how the book ended.

Finally, she starts telling him about a book where a man had been lost in the desert for over a year and how he had survived. At first he didn't think it was that interesting, but she started reading it to him anyway. And soon enough he was lost in the desert as she described what the man went through. Constantly in search of water, hiding from sand storms and the isolation, had effects on his mind and he eventually began talking to a rock. By the time he found his way to a village he was convinced the rock was a real person. And for years later he longed to see his friend Sasori again.

They had lost themselves in the book, until she began dozing off. She had stopped reading for a whole three minutes before Naruto noticed she was falling asleep. Reaching over he taps her on the shoulder. "hehh." her eyes only opened a crack, "Uhmm, Hinata?" She look at him and started to come out of it.

He couldn't just send her back home, Naruto decided. She would probably fall asleep in the street. "Hey Hinata, do you think you might want to spend the night?"

0o0o0

As Naruto looked a little glow began above the Sanin's callused palm. Little wisps of chakra gathered and swirled. It spun in every direction Naruto could see. Almost as soon as it began, the chakra was a round swirling mass the size of his head.

"Take a good look boy, for I am going to teach you The Rasengan!" With the declaration he brought his hands together and the Rasengan ate through the block of wood until it was gone.

0o0o0

He pulled out a yellow ball and tossed it to him. Seeing the extra ball Naruto glares at him "You liar! You said there was only one ball." Jiraiya waved a finger at him "No this one's yellow. That one was blue. And I only had one blue one." He said it as if that was explanation enough. Naruto tried to push it further but Jiraiya just told him if he really didn't want to learn it… and let the statement hang. Naruto grudgingly relents. "Besides, using clones at the same time will just split you focus."

0o0o0

"Well, I need to know how to suppress the Kyuubi's chakra. It's getting in the way." Jiraiya nodded and crossed his arms. "Mind explaining how it's getting in the way"

Naruto told him about how Hinata had discovered the bits of chakra running down his legs when he tried to water walk. And how he had stopped them from disrupting his other jutsu. He finished by telling him how the Kyuubi's chakra was affecting his control of the Rasengan.

After he told Jiraiya about this, the old man thought. It was easy to see he hadn't considered this. Finally Jiraiya let out a heavy sigh. "Naruto, I think you may have just hit a wall. You won't be able to control the Rasengan until you can control the Kyuubi's chakra."

0o0o0

As the sun finally peaked out on the horizon, they could see the base of a mountain jutting out of the sand. The Sannin, halted the jog and began descending the sand dune ahead of the rest. Kankuro and his siblings were home. He turned to the escort, "We're here. This is the village hidden in the sand."

0o0o0 And the story continues


As the troupe descended Naruto couldn't hold in his excitement, He was finally going to see another ninja village! It was all he could do to keep himself composed as they reached the first guard post.

Jiraiya who had gone ahead was now speaking to one of the guards as he waited for a higher authority to arrive. Many of them seemed to be perverts by the way they idolized him. However as the guards caught sight of Gaara they all went silent.

Glancing over, the excited blond saw Gaara's head lower. The blond kunoichi also saw this and moved closer to her youngest brother. Temari wouldn't allow anyone to harm him, even with their glares. And so she began to glare back, and wasn't surprised when the rest of the group did as well, even the pretty mist ninja.

For a brief moment Shino recalled Team Eight's first walk through the village together, it was quite similar in the respect that Gaara was for the very first time protected from the glares as Naruto had been.

They waited in silence, until an elite shinobi, whom Kankuro identified as Baki-sensei, came at a dead run. With a few words to the guard post he turned to the gathered visitors and greeted them. With his go ahead, the group of shinobi was let through.

They passed between the two massive walls. Guards littered the sides in grooves that had been carved out. Many of the grooves showed damage from previous battles.

"This is where the majority of Suna's home field battles happen; outside of aerial attacks nothing can enter our village without passing through here." Kankuro informed them. "It is the reason that our village is one of the best defended of the five."

They exited the crevice and entered the actual village. It was a bland colorless city, with tall structures and hard packed streets. It looked as if everything had been made of stone or mud.

For the first part of passing through the village the villagers were stunned at seeing them. Then they gathered more, all the children seemingly vanished and the women closed doors and windows. As more men and shinobi gathered the glares got worse. By the time they reached their destination tensions were high.

They weren't sure if it was them being from the leaf or Gaara being with them. But in either case weapons had been drawn. Haku was apparently drinking from a water skin, Kankuro was twirling his fingers upon which a rock was attached by chakra thread, Shino's 'allies' had began buzzing, and Temari had opened her fan to its first mark.

Unlike the others Naruto and Gaara seemed to have not been affected by the hatred pointing their way, instead Gaara was quietly telling Naruto about the sweat baths in the village. This had the elite Suna shinobi rather unnerved as he led them through the main street. Only able to breathe once they reached the center of the village, where a large domed structure awaited them. And just outside the doors to said structure was a group of Suna elders and elite jonin.

"We bid you welcome to our village, great Sannin. And we thank you for returning to us our shinobi."

With only a nod for acknowledgement from the leader of the leaf ninja present, they invited the group into the shade of their council chambers. They descended several steps down into a large antechamber. It was lit by windows and reflective panels along the walls.

Once gathered they settled to begin their discussion, of the traveling group only Jiraiya was invited to be seated.

It was clear to Naruto from the way Shino and Haku had quietly stood back to the wall that this was a discussion meant for the High ranking shinobi only.

The Suna three however, had crossed the room and stood against the far wall. Gaara had sat on the floor after the first few moments and began to doze. Following his lead the other two lowered themselves down beside him, much to the apparent irritation of several of the Suna jonin.

It was a long meeting, and it started with an introduction of the highest ranking members at the table. And continued with a debate of how long their stay would last. As well as deciding what matters they were going to attend to.

Once they had established the issues that would be settled, they moved onto integrating the Kazekage's children back into the village.

This began with Jiraiya explaining their treatment and giving a brief but thorough explanation of how he modified Gaara's seal.

Finally the council called upon the sand three to explain their point of view of their stay, and then one of the elders examined Gaara's modified seal.

Eventually it came their time to be addressed by the elders, as the one who had place the final word on most of the decisions approached them.

"We thank you, young shinobi, for the care you took of our village's weapon and for the return of our Kazekage's children. With your actions on their behalf, the progress towards peace will be much smoother."

Naruto stiffened with anger when they called him that. But there wasn't much he could do without causing another war or something.

He remembered the discussion with his team on how a peace negotiation could be affected merely by the attitude, of a single person present. He wasn't about to risk it.

0o0o0

Soon after that they were dismissed from the meeting, and while most of the Suna council and Jiraiya stayed to negotiate, they were escorted to a boarding house for guests. Having all their possessions sealed away by the Sannin, they had little to do there after receiving their key.

So they followed the Suna three to their old home, where Naruto's clones helped the two of them to pack

"ne, ne, Why do you guys have to move anyway?" Naruto asked.

And Kankuro, who had been waiting to complain, was interrupted before he could finish getting his first word out. "It is because our father was the Kazekage. He's only reason we were here to begin with. We were subject to assassination threats as the children of the Kazekage, but now….. Now we are simply Genin. And Genin don't usually stay in their own homes here"

Kankuro took this moment to continue speaking after Temari paused. "Most of our shinobi live in the military housing. Gaara might still get to live elsewhere but we would prefer to simply fade into the ranks, that way we won't have to deal with any backlash from the Kazekage's decisions."

They didn't really have that much, so it wasn't more than half an hour before they arrived at the barracks.

Again, Kankuro and Temari had to explain. "You see, the daimyo has made several funding cuts to our shinobi program, most of the Suna ninja can't afford apartments so they have the shinobi barracks"

"Not many Suna ninja even need a home. They just need a safe place to sleep or get out of a sand storm. The rest of their time is spent either on duty or entertaining themselves at a public location." Temari finished.

The barracks were made of six buildings and each of these had two sections. The first was the sleeping quarters for those who didn't need a place of their own.

They had stacked beds on one side; the beds were used by all of the shinobi, one ninja wakes up and another gets off shift. Of coarse this resulted in a bedding launder business as each new shift received fresh bedding.

And there were lockers on the other side for personal possessions. Once a Shinobi checked in they received a locker.

Then the second section was on the upper stories of the buildings, and held rooms. The rooms were for higher ranking shinobi. Most of the beds were only used by experienced Genin, Chunin, and fresh jonin, and the elite jonin either had apartments or they got a room in the upper barracks.

In fact the only shinobi that didn't stay here were either, the high of rank, the too fresh, those in a clan or those who had families. And many of those with families had a subsidized apartment.

The Suna three, were not listed to be staying in the sleeping quarters, instead they had been given one of the upper rooms so that they could keep Gaara out of the general public.

0o0o0

Later that afternoon, after the Suna three had been moved in, Gaara and Naruto went to the sweat baths. There were several public bath houses in the village, but each of the barracks' buildings had one attached for the shinobi staying there.

The outside of it looked like a normal stone room, but the insides were more like a giant bath tub. All the walls and floors were scoured smooth and benches had been carved into the walls. It was actually much larger than Naruto had been expecting. And in the center was an equally large pit.

Then there was the heat. As Naruto stepped in, it felt as if his entire skin were being squeezed, even with his weights off he now felt heavier than he had with them on.

The redhead motioned for him to sit and so he did, it wasn't long until the pressure eased off and the heat became relaxing. It was only after his body glistened with sweat and he had begun dozing off, that he wondered how this was a bath?

Voicing his question, the relaxed blond was met with a confused stare. "Your sweat will cleanse you skin of dirt and sand."

"Right… but how does it wash the sweat off?"

"Why would it do that?" the redhead asked back.

And looking at Naruto's facial expression tried answering anyway

"Once your skin is cleansed, you dry off in the shade room with a cooled cloth?"

"Yeah, but then you would smell like sweat."

Gaara was unsure how to answer that. So instead he simply eased back on the bench until he was practically lying down. Naruto, realizing that smaller boy was thinking about this and unsure how it worked, simply dropped the question and enjoyed the peace.

He was just beginning to get restless when, to his embarrassment, the other two Suna siblings entered. However, while he and Gaara wore loincloths, the elder shinobi had entered nude. Temari at least had held a towel over herself, but Kankuro wasn't so modest.

"Hey Naruto. It's good to be back home isn't it, little brother?" The teenage girl clothed in only a towel greeted them, and she sat right next to her youngest brother.

Nodding to his sister, Gaara sat up and added water to the pit.

Noticing Naruto's blush the unclad teen sat by him, leaned back, then in a whispered voice, he offered a slight warning.

"You know Naruto, this is no different than the mixed hot springs in your village. So unless you want my sister to hurt you for thinking weird things about her, you should probably get your blush under control."

At this point Gaara brought their earlier topic to discussion.

"Temari-Nii-chan, Naruto has never been to a sweat lodge, and I am unsure how too explain to him how sweating more makes you clean. Would you mind?"

Somehow, this seemed to distract the attention from Naruto even though it directed the attention towards him. After little longer they decided it was time to get out and cool off.

As they headed to the shade room, Temari noticed how flushed Naruto was and explained to Naruto that much like a hot spring staying in too long could make you over heat and that you couldn't drink anything cold for about twenty minutes afterwards so she gave him a warm water skin and had him sit in the shade room incase he became dizzy.

The entire time Naruto sat there and cooled he could only feel thankful they had entered before the other two.

After around ten minutes, Naruto had begun feeling a chill. And had to begin drying off, turns out that the cloth you dried with was dampened to wipe away the sweat and sand. Then the moisture from the cloth dried on its own.

"Well, now I understand why the heat here doesn't bother you. After that bath I'm actually feeling kind of cold."

This elicited a bark of laughter from the puppeteer. "Just you wait until nightfall. There is a reason we dress in layers here."

0o0o0

Night did fall and Naruto decided that his new found tolerance for the desert heat didn't help. He had wrapped himself in several blankets and was currently sitting at the edge of Gaara's bed. Shino and Kankuro had set up a shogi board on the other one in the room.

Gaara had been called back to the Suna council building and Temari had insisted on going with him. None of the three left there knew where Haku had disappeared to.

For a while Naruto simply let his mind wander. And naturally it eventually came back to the sight he'd seen in the sweat bath. Only this time it wasn't the blond kunoichi behind the towel… quickly rousing himself from thought, 'where did that come from!?' Naruto accused himself.

Now paying attention he noticed the other two in the room were actually having an interesting conversation about the academy in the leaf village.

As it was explained, Suna didn't have an academy. They recruited you as a genin and you were taught by other older genin. If you lasted as a fresh genin you went on, if not, you were dropped out. And after you had been settled as a shinobi you moved in to the barracks and were taught by the general ranks.

If you were from a clan you were taught by them for the most part, but you still had to do missions and such with the other genin.

The ranking system was based on a food chain of seven links. There were three links in the genin rank; fresh, steady and high or experienced. There were two links for Chunin, high and low, and two for jonin, new and elite.

The fresh genin are told to arrive in time for easy training and procedure, then they go on no risk E-rank missions, lead in groups by experienced genin, who are waiting to become Chunin.

They are normally taught the basics around the village and learned as they go. This also gave the high genin a chance to lead a team and get used to giving orders.

The middle or steady genin are led by low Chunin. These are new Chunin and need to get used to the responsibilities of their rank. So they lead the genin on their first missions outside the village. D-rank missions that are meant for real genin and not just those learning how to be one.

High Chunin are led by low jonin on the real missions that involve definite danger. The majority of Suna's force was in this category, either high Chunin or low jonin. Although, they had heavy losses after the battle and most had been from this group as well.

The few elite jonin mostly took full danger missions like assassination or lead low jonin on higher danger missions than Chunin could handle. It was the best of them, which made up the jonin council, which was now leading village until the new Kazekage was chosen.

Using this ranking system no genin would ever go on a C+ Ranked mission and no Chunin would ever go on an A-ranked mission. It made absolutely sure that the shinobi assigned the mission could handle it. And because of that, their mission success rate was higher, however it also meant that their mission intake had decreased.

There were exceptions of course, such as the kazekage's children. They had been lead by Baki-Sensei from the start. And they had been on many high ranked missions because of it. He was in the elite group, although he wasn't a seat on the council, he probably would have been if he hadn't been assigned as their sensei.

Most of the exceptions were either clan or bloodline based.

Though there were few bloodlines in Suna, those they had were treated as trump cards, only sent out on missions that they were sure to handle. Meanwhile they were trained by low jonin instead of their peers. The result was that they became over kill for their missions as they spent most of their time training. And when they were actually needed they would be used to the fullest of their ability.

The clan shinobi, however, were trained by their own, and placed on missions the clan had been requested for. In most cases, the clan would receive a list of missions requested and then pick out which of their shinobi would be sent on which mission. However it wasn't uncommon for certain clan members to be permanently assigned by their clan to the village teams that they worked well with.

0o0o0

Morning came, and they found out where Haku had been. After the meeting was let out he had continued to follow Jiraiya, as he had not been given any other task, so he sought out something to do by remaining at the commanding officer's side.

It turned out the village were fans of more than the Sannin's skill in jutsu. He enjoyed the entire night in bars, signing autographs and drinking with fans. By the time Haku would have turned in, he decided to remain with the 'so called' sage, incase the old drunkard was too drunk to ward off foul play.

However, the others were more interested in the fact that he was allowed to sit in on much of the initial negotiations over the new peace treaty. Temari was especially eager to hear what had been discussed before her arrival, even as Kankuro merely asked her to brief him on the important stuff and fled out of boredom.

Haku had been readmitted into the meeting silently as it went on, and gave the leaf authority his room key and a silent message of a task completed. At which point he returned to the wall to await further instruction. It seemed that his Chunin rank was sufficient or that they wouldn't object to a leaf ninja the Sannin hadn't dismissed. For either reason, he was permitted to stay.

The negotiations over the treaty had already been started however they had only been itemizing what it should entail, and not coming to any decisions over how those items would be applied or to what degree they would change. Basically they were listing what they would have to discuss before actually discussing it.

This continued until Jiraiya brought up compensation for a death that happened before the actual invasion. Naturally, the Suna council had objected to a single casualty of war having an agenda of its own, and requested that it be added to the overall war compensation.

And that was where the Sage focused his anger at the speaking party.

"This was not a casualty of war. The shinobi referred to was killed weeks before the actual assault, while performing non-related duties. That makes his death murder. He left behind a betrothed wife, only a couple months from marriage!"

That seemed to be the deciding factor. The Suna elite, who had escorted them through the village, stepped forward and asked what the widow's demands were. Many of the council looked at him in shock.

For a moment they argued amongst themselves, apparently the widow of the murdered was allowed to demand what type of punishment received within the village. It was normally only applied to civilians. Of course they hadn't been married yet and they still didn't agree that it was a murder. However this would take the issue off of the treaty entirely and leave it in the hands of a court if they didn't accept her currently made demands here.

Knowing all this already Jiraiya had grinned the moment the elite spoke. Sullenly the council returned their attention to the answer of the question, deciding to allow it.

"The woman has demanded the killer's public execution or a lethal kenjutsu dual with the killer. And as a stipulation to the dual, both of them will have their chakra sealed off for the duration of the fight."

Immediately the shinobi who had spoken confirmed the request for a dual. Stating that it was his matter to deal with and the council would best not interfere with the civil concerns of shinobi under his command.

Haku found it extremely odd that a shinobi not on the council was allowed to make such a statement, but when all of them seemed to regard said shinobi with a piteous look he decided to disregard the matter. Deciding it must have been someone related to the man.

After hearing this, Temari began to pale, and Haku recalled that she had addressed him as her sensei.

"By your reaction, may I asume that you know who one or all of the discussed parties were?"

"Yeah, I think I know who, and I'd like to hear about the rest of the meeting… but I need to … to process this for a moment."

Bowing his head to the retreating kunoichi, Haku told her to take what she needed, for he would remember the rest when next they spoke.

0o0o0

With the discussion over, Naruto had little to do with himself. So he decided to invent a new training schedule for Gaara. He thought on what Gaara lacked. Mostly, Gaara needed taijutsu, and probably a little kenjutsu. So Naruto would teach him how to throw kunai.

That decided, he asked Gaara to take him to one of the Suna training grounds. It seemed to him that even if the Ichibi's sand would protect Gaara, he needed to learn it. His beat down from Lee had been proof of that.

That had been the plan; However, as they headed to the training ground they were distracted onto something else. Naruto got tired of how they were getting glared at or avoided and Gaara seemed to be upset about it. At least Naruto thought he was. The kid had bottled up again.

It passed across Naruto's mind that Gaara had gone on about validating his existence when they first met. So he knew just the thing, to really get them to validate.

"Hey Gaara, I think we need to do something about these idiots. We can get to your training later, okay?"

The redhead looked up at him uncertain, "If we are going to do something to them couldn't we make that a form of training as well. I'm sure they would make great kunai targets"

Instant panic! "No! Gaara when the villagers refuse to see you, you don't just kill them. The dead don't see anything they don't want to. No, instead you do something that will make them see you and laugh in their faces when it works!"

Gaara was curious though his face was passive.

And that was how the great night of the sand pranks began. It started out with every shoe in the village getting sand in it, curtsey of Gaara lifting a layer of sand across the village to about ankle height and circulating it so that it got in the shoes. For about ten to twenty minutes this went on until as one it seemed, several groups of people had to stop to empty their shoes.

Gaara had never tried anything like this with his sand and it took a lot of chakra control before he could pull it off, they had practiced on clones for about an hour before doing it on a village scale.

Naruto had thought that would ruffle a few feathers, but it seemed to have no effect at all, they just worked through the sure blisters, emptied their shoes, and left.

So he had Gaara try to learn stealth and when he could keep from view of some clones walking around, they began the next step: Suddenly filling the main road with a wall of sand between two buildings.

This got many complaints, but they still went around it and ignored whoever had put it up. They all knew it was Gaara, but no body even told anyone other than to take a detour.

"Alright, Gaara, if that's the way they want it, let's take it up another notch. Operation road block part two, the road way maze! Begin! We'll have them shouting your name in no time!"

And so for the rest of the afternoon they made road blocks at random seeming spots. Many times they got a good shout of surprise or anger. But the fact that it was Gaara, was just ignored, even when he and Naruto couldn't help but laugh at the guy whose pack mule had sat on him in an attempt to get back from the wall that appeared out of nowhere.

The villagers just went on, at least until the walls started to connect. Once they set the connecting walls up the civilians were lost. Naruto had his clones scout the whole place and walk up buildings to make it as twisting as possible, and by evening they had formed a maze in the village. The people were now really mad, but they just went to their homes for the day, and any shinobi that passed forgot about the maze, they just blew the walls down or jumped over them.

As the sun fell low, Naruto was getting fed up. He would get a reaction from them, even if it meant asking Shino to help.

0o0o0

The next morning a young boy heard his mother giggle then shout at the wonder of it all. Running outside he saw green… everywhere there were these giant plants! Tall shafts of wood and leaves reaching up into the sky some were as tall as buildings.

Everybody began coming to see the forest that had grown over night. Many had even broken into hysterics wanting to know what these things meant, and how they got there. Those who had never been out of the village just stared in wonder as those who had felt tree's and smelled them did so again. To their great surprise the trees appeared to be real. Finally several of the Chunin began to cut the tree's down and the moment they were cut they burst in a spray of sand. Most blew the Chunin over, all of them getting sand in the eyes.

And by using his Daisan no Me or third eye jutsu, Gaara was able to see the villages reaction to finding out he was the one who created this, the reactions were all over the place.

Some held wonder and some became terrified of the sand trees, and others had actually just sat there and began laughing. As the day went on more and more people realized what they were and began wondering what Gaara was doing. Why would he create something like this?

Gaara was finally the main topic of discussion in the village. And the majority of the talk was good too.

Gaara had taken most of the night to learn how to make the sand look and feel like real trees. And when they had that, Naruto convinced Shino to have his kikaichu create the scent of trees and spread it around the village. This had taken him most of the night to create as well. But once he had it, dispersing it over the village was easy and so he also heavily scented the trees them selves.

Thus the three of them had made a forest over night.

0o0o0

"Lord Jiraiya!"

The shout was from one of the village council members. Said shinobi had been running all over the village looking for the great Sannin himself. And said Sannin had been sleeping off his stupor in a closed bar.

"Lord Jiraiya, There is an urgent matter the council requires you to aide with! It appears our weapon has taken some inexplicable actions against the village! We have been told that they were at the instruction of your container!"

Relaxing from the start at being told Gaara had taken actions; the sennin slapped a lazy grin on his face and stretched. Any actions that Naruto instructed would probably be funny ones, And more than worth his hangover.

"Please Jiraiya-sama, follow me quickly."

And so he did, leaving the empty bar to a sight of perplexing familiarity. The village was covered in trees… was this, what they were so upset about?

So they made their way across town. To see several walls forming a maze through out the village. Simply meandering down them would have been enjoyable to the old shinobi; however the frantic urgings of the Suna jonin had him quickly leaping the walls headed for the council chamber.

The rest of the council was already there and arguing about what these actions mean and if they had to respond. Most of them were panicking until one of them mentioned 'at least Gaara wasn't killing people,'

Then others, at the prompting of Jiraiya, began to come around.

It was relatively harmless when they made the walls, as they are short enough that any shinobi could easily jump and that means they didn't get in the way of anything important.

And the trees were actually getting more good reactions from the population than bad.

"Baki, you're the weapon's keeper what do you think it means?" The council looked to the elite for his answer anxiously.

"I believe this is what we have been waiting for since the Kazekage's greatest mistake. Gaara is finally acting like a normal child." The distain that bled through his voice at the Kazekage's actions seemed to be shared by the council. As they all flash through looks of contempt.

Jiraiya choose now to help his little charge in getting Gaara recognition. "And guess what council members, that child just wants attention, something this village doesn't give him." The Sannin looked at each of them one by one as his point settled in.

"Naruto, the one telling him to do this, was the exact same way as a kid. Our village ignored him and even hurt him, but he vented his anger and loneliness by causing disruptions around the village. There were never any harmful pranks and most were good for a laugh after they were cleaned up.

"This is the kid who, before becoming a genin, painted our villages honored Hokage monument without anybody noticing until it was done! Then he managed to evade the Anbu for almost an hour before his sensei finally caught him."

"His sensei, you mean the kunoichi?"

"No, before that. The one from the academy. He was Naruto's closest person as a child. He saw Naruto like a little brother, so he understood how Naruto-"

"Wait! That's it!" One of them interrupted "We just need to have Gaara's closest person handle it. His evaluation stated he was highly influenced by his elder sister. Let us call in Temari, and have her try to settle him down."

0o0o0

After awhile Kankuro found them. And to his surprise his little brother was on what appeared to be cloud nine for him. He reviled in the attention of his existence. It didn't matter that they still avoided him; he was the topic of discussion all over the village.

They decided to go walking the streets and enjoy the attention in person. As they did, they discussed what Gaara was going to do from now on. The fact was that Gaara needed to learn how to treat others. He had never been able to socialize before and he would have to soon.

This happened sooner then Kankuro had said as they met a young child less than 10 minutes after he said it. The child came over to them with a great big smile and told Gaara that this morning had been the best ever.

"I'm glad you found it so amusing little girl, we have plent-"

"I'm a boy you makeup wearing transvestite! Asshole!

"Ne, ne, Kankuro, what was that you said about learning how to socailize?" Naruto tried his best not to laugh as the kid continued to cuss at Gaara's older sibling.

The raccoon-like boy himself missed the humor in his confusion. "I don't see why you think he is a girl?"

"Because he's pretty!" Kankuro replied defensively, and then shouted in pain as the boy kicked his leg.

"So... Haku is also what you called pretty and he's a boy, is it uncommon for boys to be pretty?"

Not wanting to risk another injury Kankuro asked the boy what his favorite of the pranks were.

"Well I really loved running through the walls you built. It was soo easy to get lost. But I think my favorite part was this morning. I never saw Kaasan so happy, she's never seen a tree because we aren't allowed out of the village. The Kazekage didn't want our bloodline to be risked. She's always dreamed of living in a forest though."

Neither Naruto nor Gaara had thought anyone would react to it like that.

And Naruto was just as stunned that some of them had never left the village. Kankuro told him that lots of their people had never been out of the village. It was just a way to keep them safe. And that this girl and her mother were a good example of that. Only to get hit by a glass kunai repeatedly!

The boy told them his name was Kireimaru, it meant pretty boy. And he hated it. He hated being his mothers beautiful little boy.

After Gaara had shown Kireimaru a few tricks with his sand, like lifting them all off the ground and over the walls, he show them how his glass jutsu worked. His bloodline was a mix of earth and fire, allowing him to create glass using sand and chakra. He made a glass kunai that was strong enough to use as a practices kunai but was so smooth that it literally couldn't draw blood.

He had a special standing in the village do to the wealth the Kazekage had given his mom. It seemed that his mother had become barren after he was born and that she should have had more children after him. Since she couldn't, he was not allowed to become a shinobi. Or their bloodline could be lost. Instead him mom spent hours each day training him, they had their own home and his mom usually never let him out of her sight.

Seeing plenty of potential they incorporated him into the pranks too. By having him make a large glass window and place it in front of the playroom door just before the kids got out and tried to run though the door for all they were worth. SMACK! And he would make his glass on the floor so they would slip and fall. It was extremely funny seeing this work when Baki had tried to catch them and went sailing into an overly endowed street girl. He had been chasing them since around noon that day, after they revealed that they had carved Jiraiya's face, a bowl of ramen, and an hour glass in to one side of the protective wall.

After that they had him make as many marbles as he could and dumped them on the other side of a few walls and when a pursuing shinobi jumped them they landed on said marbles only to slip and go flying.

However it came to an end when Kireimaru's mother arrived. But instead of being afraid of Gaara she turned his sand into a glass box and told him off,

"If you're just going to cause trouble for the village, like a little child; then you will have to be treated like one. I enjoyed the display this morning but using my darling son for your destructive behavior is not something I can forgive! If you ever involve my precious boy like this again, I will lock you in a glass time out for a week! Understand!? Now you may come out of there when your sister gets here. And not a moment earlier!"

Seeing how this woman was acting Gaara looked back at what had been bothering him, how to act around those he cared for. Was this how all mothers acted, what would he need to do to show he cared about Temari nii-chan and Kankuro-aniki?

It didn't take too long for Temari to arrive. When she did she thanked the lady and Gaara was released into her care.

Naruto on the other hand had to listen to the lady yell at him until Shino came to get him. Which wasn't until Kankuro had found and explained everything to him.

0o0o0

That night they all received a treat. The eldest of the group herself had decided to cook dinner for them. During their stay so far they had eaten out, it was rare for shinobi to cook their own meals in the sand. This was because most didn't have the right tools like a stove or ingredients. This setup also helped the village economy. And most places gave the ninja discounts.

That's why Temari showing off her cooking skills was a treat. It wasn't a field meal like all the shinobi could make from hunting it was an actual home cooked multi-course meal. They all sat at a table waiting for the food to be served. Gaara sat at the head of the table and Naruto sitting on one side. Naruto was almost to the point of drooling at the scent. Temari was placed to sit across from Naruto. And Shino and Haku had the next two seats before Kankuro at the end of the table.

Finally the much awaited blonde entered carrying a large serving platter in one hand and a rice pot with a handled lid in the other. The food was served and dinner conversation started. Naruto and Gaara enjoyed telling Temari about their pranks. For Gaara it was the first time he had been able to enjoy a conversation over a meal. And for Naruto it was the first time anybody had actually laughed about a prank story with out a lecture following. Temari had a major fit of giggles at Gaara's enthusiastic description of Baki-sensei apologizing and being forced into a date, although it seemed she was the only one who realized what he was being force into, the pranksters thought he was just paying for a poor girl's next meal.

It was a very good night. But not perfect. About half way through the meal Naruto decided to tell Temari how much he enjoyed the meal. And it didn't come out quite the way he meant. He told her he was surprised that such a brawny girl would be able to cook such delicious food. He meant it as a compliment on the good taste, but she decided to focus more on the part where he was surprised, meaning he had thought she couldn't. After hitting him and glaring, she also mumbled something about not being thick, whatever that meant.

Haku also told the rest of his observations from the initial negotiations. And everybody noted that the old sage was still in a meeting now.

It wasn't long after things settled that they took another nosedive, when Kankuro tried to use a copy of icha-icha to explain why girls were pretty. The result being a massive shouting match, about what is allowed at the dinner table. This ended when Gaara took his sister's side and put Kankuro in time out.

Naruto thought that was funnier than the pranks. And nearly choked on his food as he watched the sand form a little cage to hold the pervert in.

0o0o0

The next day began with a morning jog. And a tour of Suna's training grounds.

It was just him and Gaara again. Temari and Kankuro had both been placed back on duty. And it was only Jiraiya's insistence that Gaara would be learning most from Naruto that Gaara wasn't on duty as well.

Naruto didn't consider himself teacher material but he did know how to impersonate one. And so he had Gaara run through the kata's he'd shown him on the trip to suna. After that he had Gaara go through one of Gai-sensei's warm-up routines. And then they ran another lap around the village. Now suitably exercised, the duo made their way to the target field.

Gaara was able to hit all the targets with his sand, and most of them when his sand threw the kunai. However, when Gaara himself tried, the results were disappointing. His aim was good but the throw was way too short. He simply didn't have the muscles in his arms toned for throwing.

Naruto decided that Gaara could train that over time. And they moved on to using a kunai in battle. And since the sand shielding prevented them from working on defense, Naruto had him attack. After a quick spar, Naruto showed Gaara all of the kata's with kunai he knew. And as when he had learned them. He had Gaara repeat them as he corrected stance and form, then repeat them correctly several more times to ingrain them into memory.

0o0o0

The day came and went, and was over for the two when Temari arrived to usher them home. On the way they stopped to pick up food for dinner. And then Temari took them off the route towards the barracks. When asked about it she said there was someone she thought Naruto would like to meet. They walked through the village and into the civilian living section. Stopping at one of the houses Temari pulled a book out of her tool pouch and handed it to Naruto. Much to his surprise it was one of the books he had brought. More specifically the one Hinata had read to him the night before the mission.

The home they were currently in front of was none other than the author who wrote the book, Akachiri Basho. It was an autobiography meaning he was man who had been lost in the dessert. He was originally a stone civilian, and as a kid he moved to Suna with his dad after his mother had died, that was just after the war had ended. The book told about him sneaking into his dad's merchant wagon and getting lost having followed him out.

Temari walked up to the house and knocked. Almost immediately the man opened the door and stepped out onto the porch. After a couple short introductions Temari got him to autograph the copy his book Hinata had loaned Naruto. After which, they were incited in and he told them more about his time out there. Including what had happened to the rock he'd befriended. The kunoichi had to ask why he'd named it Sasori, he said he didn't know. It was just a name he'd heard shortly after arriving in Suna. He didn't even know who it was until after he'd been found.

Unfortunately their stay was cut short as Akachiri-san said he had begun to feel ill and had to lie down. He told them it was just a headache. And that he'd be more than happy to talk to them the next day.

0o0o0

Early to bed, early to rise, and at sunrise another day of training began for the two jinchuriki. It started out much the same as yesterday, but with a slight order change. As this time Gaara knew the warm up beforehand, they did that before doubling the running of the previous day. This was followed by all the kata Gaara had learned, and more target practice, rather throwing practice. They had worked so well today that they'd finished everything well before noon. And that left them to decide what else they wanted to train.

Gaara needed to work on defense. So he began creating a harder Suna no Yoroi. The sand armor he wears over his skin was only so strong, no matter how much he hardened it. But with a little work he had begun converting parts of it into a stronger stone armor.

Naturally this couldn't be done over his whole body. But creating small stones that fit together over his vital organs and chest was doable with out losing any movement, of course these stones had to be held on by his sand but he was also able to quickly repair the stones when they were damaged.

A quick spar between the two revealed that. And it also led them to attempting an increased speed sand shield. With his weights off Naruto had very little trouble evading the sand's protective barrier. This might have helped in taijutsu except for the fact that Gaara wasn't even able to see him move at that speed.

Deciding they needed a break, Naruto sat down and tried to get the Rasengan to work. He knew he couldn't do it until he could somehow suppress the kyuubi's chakra. So he focused on simply gathering filtered chakra. It wasn't that hard to do, but he still couldn't do it and create the Rasengan. It was like trying to look left and right at the same time. He simple couldn't do it.

So after an hour of concentration and a late lunch, he and Gaara began talking about the differences in their demons. Gaara told him about the sand form of his mother that he'd spoken to so many times and Naruto told him about the basement room he'd woken up in, when he first spoke to the Kyuubi.

0o0o0

The blond Chunin did eventually spend some time dealing with the politics of the village. He had been summoned to evaluate his opinion on Gaara's stability. And after giving his testimony he stayed in the meeting at the bribery of the mission leader. And he even managed to stay wake for some of it. No wonder Kurenai had warned him to stay out of it. He had thought it would be useful for a Hokage. And the promise of another discussion over using his tenant's chakra was enticing. But they were debating trade prices and it was impossible to stay awake for.

Unknown to him a man had been watching him sleep and his eyes seem to be awake for the first time in years, he remembered his mother's death in the war, he also remembered the year of training he'd gone through to survive. Those skills hadn't vanished; they had simply lost their focus as the year pasted. No he stood his proud and angry self, as he recognized the child of the one who had taken his mothers life along with so many others. He would kill the bastard child. And he would use the demon child to do it.

0o0o0

That afternoon Jiraiya left the negotiation early. They all needed a good break after all and he hadn't even sampled the sweat baths yet. Thus the sage was found in the shade room giving Naruto and Gaara a lecture on how seals worked. Once Naruto understood it, he was brilliant, and for once Gaara proved better at something than his blond counterpart. Though he lacked the brilliance Naruto had, he had grasped the idea's of it instantly. And displayed an understanding of the finer details as the lecture continued. Naturally Jiraiya had to take notes on the ideas the two of them came up with. And working things out together they came up with plenty of great ideas. Many that the fuinjutsu master decided to work on himself.

The lecture and discussions continued on into the night, and eventually shifted to the promised talk about using one's demon chakra. Gaara was already used to drawing out his demons chakra, but didn't want to risk letting the demon take over again by doing so. And Naruto was told about how to enter the seal as he had in the exams. It could be done in several ways, injury, fear of death, and meditation in the top. And so Naruto decided he would try calling up some of the Kyuubi's chakra the next day.

0o0o0

A small dot appeared in view and drew closer quickly. Shino reached a finger out for the kikaichu to perch. He had needed to stay informed on his teammates' locations, but when Naruto had decided to try using his other chakra he decided it was almost certainly a bad concept to have his allies near the vicinity of that particular training ground.

Taking stock of the mission so far Shino realized how unnecessary he was on this particular mission.

They left the village thirteen days ago and during the trip he had done little training and had only scouted ahead with his allies while they were in the land of fire. That was understandable.

However they had been in the village for seven days and he had yet to perform any duties of the mission. After the initial greeting and introductions, he hadn't been summoned back to the council chamber. He had requested a chance to observe but was summarily denied. Having little to do in the category of training with his allies, with the exception of the night spent growing a forest out of sand, the solemn and bluntly… bored genin instead performed his routine kata's and trained his mind.

Going so far as to simply walk through the village and try to estimate who was speaking about who. He was slightly surprised that most of the tree's had been kept up after that night, and the next day of pranks was not unnoticed either, once the villagers had begun talking about Gaara they didn't stop, and every prank he pulled afterwards was discussed.

It was not unsuccessful but it didn't progress him either. He had heard several tidbits about the leaf party. Though most of what he learned of the Sannin was undesirable. He also learned much about the village's views of Temari.

Since their arrival in Suna, many of the shinobi were shocked at how the "Bitch of Suna" was acting. According to them, Temari was one of the hardest kunoichi in the village, even jonin were afraid of her. And likely would let her call the shots if they didn't have rank. This wasn't so much because she was frightening, but rather because she was actively standing up to Gaara. And it was only added to by the ruthlessness with which she dealt any threat to her or her brothers or any hint of sexism.

So when they saw her treating Gaara like she had for the past month they were puzzled to say the least. Shino even heard many results of romantic requests. The first few had confused her, but after she realized what they meant, she just ignored most of them.

Shino was astonished to hear some of the theories over her change. Most of the Chunin believed she had gotten laid over the time she was a captive. Others had suggested it was a more incest related reason. There was also speculation on a rumor that the council of jonin had decided to name her the next Kazekage and was now simply choosing who would hold the spot until she was coronated.

0o0o0

The man walked slowly to the council chambers and swiftly crossed to an entrance of another building. Going down into the depths he found a place where the wall wasn't made of the same stone as the rest, and using his master's instructions, he opened it.

It was time for the bastard child to die. He had waited long enough after waking. Those two were finally here. It had taken them long enough. He had signaled his ready days ago, after that bastards child visited him.

Placing the supplies he'd received he focused, the tags were not like any exploding tags he had seen before. These ones required a specific set of seals to go off, and more, they wouldn't just blowup. The smoke from the explosion would be toxic to anyone who breathed it in.

0o0o0

Gaara had just entered the council chamber, they were waiting for him. They needed to evaluate whether or not he could be placed on duty again. Yesterdays testimony from the leaf's weapon left them confident.

They were still wary and still on edge, half expecting to have to fight today. They were right, but not about whom they would have to fight.

The blast brought the building down around them, and it was only Gaara's sand that saved them.


-Note-

Yes things are going to be different between leaf and sand than they were in cannon. But that is mainly because Jiraiya is here to over see things. And the dual mentioned earlier is between Baki and the wife of an anbu who died when Hayate did in the anime, as he didn't it can just be assumed that another anbu did.. Temari paled because she thought it was someone Gaara had killed.

... thank you, archsage328.

The glares they received were mostly from grown men and shinobi. They weren't all directed at Gaara either.

The structures of the village that I mentioned (such as the ranking system and the housing) were set up so as to make it as efficient as possible with what little funding they had.

And as for bloodlines, it is hard to imagine that they wouldn't have any, but the one I focused on isn't that hard to believe. As for why it was so important, well you read what Kireimaru's mom did. She was able to turn demon sand into glass. But of course she was never used before because the Yondaime Kazekage took care of Gaara's rampages.

Akachiri means red dust and Basho means place or site, the place of red dust sounded just right.

Akachiri had befriended a rock named Sasori, What did Sasori of the red sand do to Kabuto? And is it unlikely that he'd do it to others? Including ninja from stone?