Gaara sat in his testing area, arms crossed and back erect. That moronic blond haired ninja, shouting insults and threats, pointing fingers, and acting an utter fool, was making an impressive ass of himself. It surprised Gaara greatly, how much energy the stupid kid had after almost dying a few days ago, and it unnerved him. Either this child had monstrously swift recovering abilities or Gaara had not inflicted as much damage as he had thought. No…it must be the recovering abilities.

The other one, the Hyuga, was in his own seat, trying to ignore the embarrassing scene going on before him with a twitch of his eyebrow. Gaara noticed that this ninja, Hyuga Neji, was in far worse shape than Naruto. Nearly every inch of him was bandaged, his posture slightly drawn over in a sloppy imitation of the erect Hyuga pose, and he looked worn enough to the point where he could fall asleep right there at the desk with little effort. What the hell was he thinking, coming to the exams in such a state? Ah, but then again, had he not come his teammates wouldn't have been allowed entry into the exams. How absurd that the whole team's efforts could be so easily shot down because of one weakling.

Neji wasn't weak to be sure, but he wasn't anywhere as near as strong as Gaara, especially in his current state, and the thought made him smirk inwardly.

And the other one, the girl…she was there too, planted in a seat a few rows down from her cousin where he sat glaring at her back from the top of the classroom. She was stiff, trembling with nervousness, staring at the dumb blond digging his own grave from the front of the room. His teammates, Sasuke Uchiha and some other girl, looked peeved and exasperated. The Uchiha looked more pissed than anything, and wound up ignoring Naruto after some point, unable to take anymore nonsense.

Hinata twiddled her fingers over her lap, completely unaware of the watchful eyes of her cousin and the penetrating ones of Gaara, and he found himself snorting lightly through his nostrils. Hyuga Neji turned then to look directly at Gaara, a look which he returned with boredom, and turned away with an angry wrinkle of his forehead. Gaara wanted to smirk.

He was sure the Hyuga wanted no other opportunity than to wring Gaara's neck with his bandaged fingers. His hatred was practically melting off of him, and it pleased Gaara very much that he reacted this way. Just his presence stiffened the Hyuga's shoulder with fury, and if he could, Gaara would have gladly exploited that fury. Truly this written test they'd incorporated into the exams was an utter waste of his time.

When the papers were passed out, Gaara stared at his with a glare. He hardly took the time to read each question carefully, for they were heavily worded and overly detailed, intricate in sentence structure and unnecessarily long. It was almost impossible to pinpoint the run-on sentences, if there were any, since each sentence seemed to extend the length of an entire paragraph. From what he read, Gaara concluded that these questions must have purposely been designed to stump the test takers, to drive them mad with frustration, thus stripping them of every other option except that of cheating.

Interesting…it seemed as if this test was more worthwhile than he'd thought. The answers hardly mattered at all, but instead the method used in attaining them. There were nin stationed all over the classroom, keeping close watch on those glaring down at their own papers, raking their fingers through their hair in exasperation and eyeing their competitors from across the room. They smirked.

Cheating wasn't only legal, it seemed, but highly encouraged. The only illegal thing about this test, apparently, was getting caught.

Attaining answers was easy enough for Gaara. His third eye proved to be a more than effective method for stealing answers, and within a matter of minutes, every question was answered in full. Gaara hardly took the time to review his work, as long as he wasn't caught cheating the written words hardly mattered. Instead he watched and waited for the others to finish…or rather, get caught.

All throughout the test students were being tossed out of class, sometimes forcefully, sometimes mumbling curses, but either way it was entertaining. During some point Gaara had looked down at Hinata, who by this point, was already finished. Surely her Byakugan proved just as useful as his third eye, as did Neji's, but he blond next to her seemed to be falling apart at the scenes. It was fun to watch.

It was only when the timid Hyuga pushed her answers toward him from under arm that things became less amusing. Stupid girl; what was she thinking? Was she truly intending to aid her enemy? Allowing her trivial affections to interfere with duty…what kind of ninja was she? It heavily annoyed Gaara that Hinata would act this way--so careless and so willing. Did she even want to win these exams? Wretchedly stupid woman.

It was surprising still, however, that even though she was being so stupid, Naruto continued to prove to be even stupider. He refused the answer sheet, giving Hinata a grateful smile to which she returned with a blush, and the back of Gaara's teeth locked together. He'd chosen to fail with honesty. Truly if all his competitors were going to be as weak-hearted as these two, than winning wouldn't be an issue.

It was disheartening though, that even in the end the Hyuga and the blond had not been caught, and so intended to move on to the next level of the chunin exams. Gaara and his siblings had passed without one red flag, and so quickly moved on with the others toward the court yard on the outskirts of the forest where the next exam would undoubtedly take place. Gaara knew before it was even explained that this would be a test of survival.

But it was more than a test of survival. Each team gets a scroll, one of two kinds, and the object of the game is to wind up at the end of the set course with both kinds of scrolls by the end of three days.

Could this be any more simpler? The written test sounded like more of a challenge. This just sounded like…well, like fun. Temari and Kankuro, looking quite unhappy, turned toward Gaara to access his mood only to find he was quite within control and even bored to an extent. They knew that when he was excited things got out of hand, but for such an event like this where he would know the outcome, there was nothing to be excited over.

Gaara paid as little attention to Anko as possible, since all he needed to know were the basics, and once she stopped for the scroll distribution, Gaara was off on his own again. He was very aware of Temari and Kankuro keeping close watch, but he ignored them as usual. Upon his wanderings he stumbled upon that girl, the Hyuga, who was, at present, by herself looking over the guidelines and regulations for the upcoming survival exam, though there was hardly much to it other than to stay alive.

Gaara stood a far distance off, crossing his arms over his chest and examining her from afar. She was leaning against a tree, eyebrows drawn together, looking over the paper nervously, seemingly thinking hard about something and accessing her worries. Gaara knew she would have a tougher time than usual completing this already difficult task because of the wounds inflicted on her--by him no less--and by the looks of things Gaara doubted her teammates would be of much use when trying to pull her weight. Hell, Gaara doubted they could even pull their own weight with how weak they looked.

Hinata herself was not as weak as one might assume, and even though she was injured to an extent, Gaara thought that, to any ordinary ninja, she would prove a hassle to deal with, even with her current handicap. But in any case, she was in no condition for intense battling. Even so, this test wasn't about that. It was about slick maneuvering, stealth, trap setting, and discovering your enemies tricks and weaknesses.

Gaara watched Hinata intensely, more so than he was aware of, and stared at the worry wrinkles in her forehead, the natural paleness of her skin, and the slight twitch in her fingertips as she held the paper in her hands. Whenever she seemed anxious or nervous her fingers would react in such a way.

Gaara also noticed how she, much like himself, was prone to distancing herself from the crowd, dispatching from others like a bird from a frock, and immersing herself in her own solitude, a place where she undoubtedly found the most comfort. Gaara himself hated to be around people in general. His hate for humanity had since been blown out of proportion, escaladed to volcanic heights, enough to a point to where he could explode, sweeping them up in a torrent of anger and power, eradicating them from the face of the planet, and enjoy the after-echo of their screams in his mind.

Gaara wondered how this meek little mouse, this girl named Hinata, would react if he were to erupt in a such a manner…

Would she be like everyone else and run? Would she face her fears and fight him? Gaara doubted she would, but then again, he doubted she wouldn't either. From what Gaara had been able to observe thus far, the Hyuga girl was dutiful and determined despite always clashing with her own weaknesses, and could also be fierce on occasions where need be. She herself, who had refused so honorably to give up her life, had taken battle stance against him, rose her hands firmly in the air, and bravely stood her ground against his sand.

Though she lacked spine, Gaara found Hinata had more heart than a surprising amount of others he'd encountered, and all men. Weak assassins they were, hired by his father to kill him, and some, when faced with the absolute certainty of their death, would try to flee; an act which always proved to be ineffectual.

Perhaps one day, sometime in her adulthood, this girl would be a forced to be reckoned with. And maybe if all went well their paths would cross somewhere down the road after these exams were over and he'd get to test her limits.

This thought excited him.

A glaring flash of blond penetrated Gaara's thoughts and he looked a little distance aways from Hinata to see Naruto unconsciously approaching while staring at a form of his own. The second he drew attention to Hinata she glanced up, surprise clear on her face, and turned away from him with a blushing fluster.

This annoyed Gaara. She, someone who'd bravely take up arms against the terror that was Gaara of the Sand, would so easily make herself look a fool in front of someone as insignificant as this. His cheek was bandaged and on the opposite side, cut from a stupid mishap earlier. Gaara was certain that under the thickness of his orange jacket there were layers of bandages and gauze, dried with his blood and dyed with antibiotics, yet he could still so easily express a dismissive façade as if mocking Gaara's attempts to murder him not too long ago.

In fact, it was infuriating.

It was even worse for Gaara since he could not hear what they were saying, but when Hinata erected her spine, suddenly stiff with worry, and fished out a small container of what Gaara imagined to be medicine for the boys cut, he figured she might just have been offering him some form of kindness. Gaara did not know why she was kinder to this boy than any other person, but it irritated Gaara. There was no reason for her thoughtfulness toward someone so dense.

Gaara's opinion of the boy was confirmed when he waved a dismissive hand at her, bidding her farewell, and leaving her offer hanging in the air.

Stupid idiotic moron of a shinobi.

Hinata, after realizing shortly he had walked away without taking so much as a glance at her offering, stared down sadly at the object in her hands. There was a clear mix of disappointment and hope in their was well, indicating that perhaps she thought he might need it again at some other time and she, being there at right moment, would be able to offer to him once more. How stupid was this girl? Was she just as stupid, if not stupider, than the blond?

Naruto, who seemed just as lonely as he in some ways, was very unlike Gaara. Yes, his loneliness was apparent, but sometimes it was hard to indicate with his smiling faces and his moronic grins. The presence of his teammates was always an occurring thing, and when around the two of him, he would smile even more. Sometimes they seemed to ignore him, even scold and threaten him, but they were there for him too.

Temari and Kankuro were different.

No, they never yelled at Gaara, threatened him--who would dare--or lecture him, but they did ignore him when it was possible. They made excuses for him all the time--Gaara could be carelessly violent on occasion--gave him his space without being told to, and watched over him exactly as if they were watching over a bomb.

That was not friendship or love, but simply fear. Gaara enjoyed the frightened expressions of others, but from his brother and sister it was different. It got old fast. Sometimes he wished they would show a bit more backbone and challenge him, take up defense, and though Kankuro had come close on few occasions, they never got close enough to Gaara to where it seemed necessary.

They hated him. It's far too easy to hate something you feared, and they feared Gaara more than they feared anything on this planet, even their father.

Gaara had never seen Hinata's father, but from what he heard about him, Gaara got the impression that he cared for his children just as much as his father did his own, if not a fraction more, but that was saying next to nothing. Gaara's father hated him as if her were a plague, but that's what Gaara was to the village. A plague, one to be wished away but too powerful to be rid of.

Hinata was in no way shape or form involved in a situation that was at all similar to his, but Gaara knew the burden placed on her shoulders. Her father's anger at her sudden hospitalization was undoubtedly the result of some bruised Hyuga pride and nothing else. Gaara didn't know how much pride his father, one who does not think twice about ridding the lives of his own family, his mother included, possessed, Gaara could relate to the feeling of abandonment.

Gaara himself would rather toss the feeling in with hatred, making it nearly impossible to locate, but it was always there, a separate entity in itself, and one that always dislocated from the jumbled emotions Gaara had intertwined together in his black heart.

Anko called to the shinobi around the field when the scrolls were done being passed out, and Hinata's head snapped up. She pushed the small brown container back inside her jacket pocket and took a step foreword toward the assembly, but in one chill of her spine, spun toward Gaara's direction to find him staring at her.

Though she looked surprised, at the same time, she didn't seem surprised at all. She did look scared to some degree, but not as much as she would have been weeks ago. Gaara found this interesting. Did she think that because he had already struck he would not do so again?

Either way the girl did not flinch back or turn her head, but instead glanced at him with thoughtful eyes. She drew her eyebrows together, folding her fingers together tightly, and her mouth moved slightly as if she was deciding on what to say, or rather, if she should say it or not.

"Stay away from Naruto-kun," she said in a voice just loud enough to extend the distance between them, then hurried away.

Gaara, glaring at her retreating back, felt something spark in his chest.

What was this? Immediate, heated, and electrifying, and yet…not anger.

Before Gaara knew it the corner of his mouth was curling up into a wicked grin, one of which bared a section of white, fang-like teeth, and he found himself grinning.

This test would undoubtedly be his most favorite yet.


Hey guys. Just posting this to let you know I'm still alive. I would be posting more frequently but I been busy as HELL. But I haven't forgotten about you. See you soon! :P