It was his turn to drive and Naruto was damn well taking advantage of this fact.

He arrived at Gaara's house super-early. The redhead was clutching a toothbrush and looking murderous.

"Hey, 'sup," said the blonde, forcing himself into the apartment before Gaara could do more than blink. The shorter boy's parents were dead, so he lived with two elder siblings who were always away for work. Gaara practically lived alone. The redhead had industriously repelled his friends for years, but Naruto's curiosity had become near maddening. It was junior year, and he vowed to uncover Gaara's secret!

Upon entering the apartment, he spotted no bloodied weapons or dead bodies, just a few pieces of furniture. The place looked tidy and comfortable. It was, perhaps, the definition of normal.

Sighing in both disappointment and relief, Naruto plopped himself down onto the couch that faced the large-screen television. He propped his legs onto the coffee table, ignoring Gaara who had taken to glaring. The blonde snatched up a dusty-looking remote and turned the television on.


"I don't have cable," muttered Gaara, glancing away suspiciously.

Naruto wrinkled his nose. ...the hell? "Then what do you do for fun?"

Gaara's fishy behavior only escalated as he began to back away. "I'm going to go finish brushing my-"

Naruto ignored him. "I want to see the rest of this place," he said, hopping up from the couch and storming into the kitchen before his friend could stop him. He headed straight for the refrigerator.

...No food...n-n-no food...

"So you don't eat either?" Naruto asked dryly. His whiskers twitched in annoyance.

"I eat at school. I don't have the patience for grocery shopping," growled Gaara from the doorway.

A look of disgust had crossed his face as he said the word "shopping." Naruto was almost convinced.


Naruto quickly found another door. He burst through it before Gaara could object.


He could hear tribal music, but it might have just been his imagination. Naruto gazed enviously – ah, I mean, shocked and appalled – into Gaara's enormous bedroom. The room was shades of red and black, from the Persian rug to the silken sheets on the bed. The walls were beige, with black paneling. There were a few candles scattered about, but everything was otherwise dark. There wasn't even a light bulb in the single lamp on the bedside.

Then again...who needed light?

So the apartment was virtually a hoax. The television, the fridge – it was just a façade, the place's ultimate purpose being to get Gaara laid.

"Dude," said Naruto, offering Gaara a high-five.

The red-head in turn seized his collar and began to drag him toward the window.

The first class of the day was Chemistry. There was an odd number of students...and she was the only one without a partner. For forty-five minutes, she slaved over her project alone.

It was mortifying...horrifying...lonely...but she was...content.

Sometimes – particularly times when she was so absorbed in her work – she worked well by herself.

Better, by herself, than she would with anyone else.

And she was rather a fan of science.

Carefully tipping the sodium chloride into her beaker, Hinata smiled in success as her solution turned red.

Her classmates took to ignoring her that day – even Ino – and it was more than she could ever ask for. Some were struggling to complete their own projects, and others were immersed in personal reunions. Kurenai-sensei had begun to patrol the room with her grade book.

Hinata raised her head, weakly smiled, and waited patiently for her sensei to reach her desk.

From the corner of her eye, she saw Sasuke enter the room.

"Sorry I'm late," he muttered, but Kurenai paid him no mind. It was one of the perks of being son of the assistant principal.

His eyes briefly scanned the room. Sakura immediately waved him over as Ino fervently tried to push Tenten out of the seat beside hers.

Hinata paled when Sasuke's eyes met hers, then lowered to the empty seat beside her. Indifferently, he walked over and slid behind her lab table. "Hyuuga," he acknowledged her.


Maybe this was...a new start? Maybe the previous day had been an inexplicable accident? Hinata swallowed uncomfortably as Sasuke raised a test tube and examined the remaining flourine within it.

"What do we have here?'

"I was – I-I was-" She stared as he picked up the beaker of the finished substance.

Sasuke emptied the flourine into the beaker, causing her solution to instantly turn black and bubble. He reached for another test tube.

"Wh-what are you-?"

Sasuke dumped some aldehyde into the beaker, this time causing it to hiss and pop.

Hinata pressed her pointer fingers together, watching him raise yet another test tube. He was intentionally destroying her project. She should have stood up for herself! She needed to say something! Hinata opened her mouth-

-and only managed a whimper.

That's when Kurenai reached their lab table, harnessing her thick grade book and giant red magic marker. She frowned slightly and eyed the pair. Hinata watched her scribble down something that looked suspiciously like an "F."

Her eyes watered.

There went her perfect record.

"Tomorrow we'll be dissecting frogs," Kurenai announced as she finished the last of the grades. "Some of these carcasses are inflamed. Remember to bring your goggles."

If one of my high school teachers ever alleged we'd be dissecting inflamed frog carcasses the next day, I would have called the department of health. O.o

The chemical names in this chapter are absolutely, positively, random.