I'd been too late.
Sai was already gone by the time I'd reached his apartment. The only thing left was the sign of a struggle. A flipped sofa rested in the shadowy corner and the desk that held his drugs had been destroyed. The remnants lay in shattered pieces across the stained carpet. The door had been left ajar, so I'd stepped inside and rummaged around for some clues, but there'd been nothing. The small book, which held a picture of him and his brother, poked out from the edge of the turned up sofa, so I'd taken it with me when I left.
I hadn't called the police. I couldn't. His apartment was full of drugs and I didn't know what else he stored there. Calling the men in suits may have landed Sai in more trouble than he was already in, so all I could do was silently promise that I'd find him.
What had he meant about Baki? As far as I knew, they'd never met. I couldn't just ask the older man, so I'd have to investigate without too much suspicion.
"Hello." A hand waved. "Earth to Gaara." I turned to Naruto and smiled before readjusting my school bag.
"Sorry," I said. "Didn't get much sleep last night."
"Hm, so you gonna tell me why you ran away the other night, or am I gonna have to guess?" he asked as we turned into the school grounds.
I nudged the strap from my bag so it fell down my arm and into my hand. "Family problems." That was one assured way to drop any conversation. It was the equivalent to a female saying 'women troubles'. People just didn't want to go there.
"I was kind of worried that I'd scared you away."
"Little kids may fear that face of yours—" He pouted. "-But I'm old enough not to believe the boogie monster exists in human form."
"Oi." He swiped in my direction, but being a few inches shorter had its advantages occasionally. I ducked easily, not allowing the heavy limb to make contact with my head. "Cheeky sod." His muscular arm rapped around my neck as he used his knuckles to noogie me.
"Well, it's nice to see that you two are getting along again," Shikamaru said as he and Sasuke caught up.
"It's about bloody time," Sasuke added while glancing at his Rolex. "So what was up with you two anyway?" He picked his bag up from the metal containers after it had been searched.
"Nothing much, just some petty argument. I can't even remember how it started." Naruto placed his rings back onto his fingers.
Putting Mum's cross necklace back on, I followed the others through the corridor toward first period science. Naruto fell back slightly as Shikamaru and Sasuke delved into a conversation about last week's homework. It seemed Sasuke hadn't completely understood and was trying to squeeze answers from his pineapple-haired friend. To no avail, may I add.
Fingers brushed against mine before totally taking my hand. "Want to ditch?"
"You're such a bad influence."
He leant closer until his lips were barely brushing my ear. "You have no idea how much of a bad influence I can be."
I ripped my hand away from his just in time for Sasuke to miss our entwined fingers. "What about you, Gaara. Have you done your homework?"
"Ugh, I knew I should have paid someone to do it… and why are you so red?"
"Why don't you ever ask to copy my homework?" Naruto butted in. I wasn't sure if it'd been deliberate, but I appreciated the change of subject, none the less.
"Because even if you did your homework, I'd get a higher mark by handing in nothing."
Sasuke clicked his tongue before going back to begging Shikamaru for 'even the smallest answer'. Which 'Not a chance in hell, do your own homework' was his answer.
Naruto slowed his pace again and held my arm to slow me down with him. "Do you know how much class I've already missed?" I whispered so we didn't attract attention from the other two who were blissfully unaware of Naruto's plan to abandon our education.
"One more day won't hurt, then."
"Couldn't you've come up with this 'genius' plan before we entered the building?"
"We've been marked in now, so at least we'll keep some attendance."
"You amaze me."
"That wasn't a compliment."
"Come on." He laughed, dragging me backward by both my arms. I gave up and dropped my head in defeat, allowing myself be pulled gently backward. The occasional student gave us odd looks as they entered classrooms, and Naruto tugged my arms one last time before grabbing my waist and pushing me through the boys' toilet door. "We'll just wait in here until the coast is clear."
Leaning against the wall beside the sinks, I rolled my eyes, but couldn't resist the smile that was attempting to creep onto my lips. "Don't you think the other two are going to wonder where we went?"
"Nah. Well, probably, but they'll figure out we haven't been kidnapped sooner or later. Besides, I wanted to spend some alone time with you."
"We're not dating."
His teeth disappeared as the grin on his face faulted, turning slightly into a frown. "Yet."
"Don't come up with conclusions by yourself."
He shimmied mock-coyly in front of me and crossed his arms to imitate me. "Sorry, did you want to be a part of the process, then?"
"You're a smug bastard when you want to be, did you know that?" Another grin was his answer, and I knew there was nothing I could do about it. I'd been the one who'd agreed to a second date, after all, meaning his smugness probably wasn't going to disappear any time soon. He was going to milk this. I could already tell that his man-pride had increased tenfold by my slight interest. I tilted my head when he wouldn't stop looking at me and he tilted his to copy me, so I stood from the wall and uncrossed my arms. The corners of his lips lifted slightly before they touched mine. I pushed him away no sooner than he made contact. "What're you doing? We're in school."
"So?" He stepped closer to gently place his hands onto my waist. I tried to act un-fazed by his actions, but inside I couldn't stop my heart racing. What the hell was wrong with me? This was all still too weird. I mean, come on, he'd been my best friend since we were twelve and started secondary school together. He'd definitely grown since then, though. He was much taller with broader shoulders and a stronger jawbone. His hair had darkened ever so slightly and his playful grin had become something that, if used against someone, could be seriously dangerous – almost like a weapon.
"So… show some respect." I still wasn't completely comfortable with his show of affection. Working Gaara may have been, but the Real me wasn't. It still made me feel a bit nervous, and I just wasn't ready. I didn't want it to be emotionless movements with Naruto, I wanted it to be something more if it was going to be anything at all.
He scrunched his face into a look of confusion. "But aren't we about to ditch? What sort of respect is that? But okay, school building, may I please kiss Gaara in your presence. I would try to contain myself, but if you could see him you'd understand my dilemma."
"That's not what I meant."
He shrugged. "I heard no complaint. I guess it gives us its blessing."
I caught his face in the palm of my hand when he attempted to lean in again, and he mumbled something incoherent into my skin.
"What was that?" I removed my hand.
"I said, sorry." He huffed before grinning again. "Just slap me. Now I've done it once, I can barely stop myself. You know how I feel about you. It just seems sort of like a dream at the moment, I suppose."
"You are so unbelievably corny. You should have been born a girl."
"But then you wouldn't have dated me." He laughed.
"I'm not gay, how many times do I have to tell people!"
"Could've fooled me." His words reminded me of Sai. He'd said exactly the same thing outside the school gates. For a moment I wondered where he could be, and if I should have called the police. Someone. Anyone. Then I had an idea. He had friends. Well, acquaintances. Perhaps one of them would know something. Maybe he was in trouble with money, or drugs, or anything. I wouldn't put it past Sai to be someone getting themselves on the wrong side of the wrong people. "You okay?"
"Huh? Yeah, sorry. Zoned out again."
"You've been doing that a lot today. You know if there's something the matter you can tell me."
"I know, but I'm fine."
"Is it about your job?" he asked, letting his warm fingers drop from my waist. The words rolled from his tongue reluctantly like poison.
"You're stopping, though, right?"
"I said I would, didn't I? I haven't got around to telling Baki yet. I thought I should probably say it to his face rather than over the phone."
"Why? You don't owe him anything. He's a fucking disgusting, lowlife for pimping out an under-age boy."
"Naruto! For god's sake, I thought we were over this. It's finished, I promise. He's my dad's workmate, so it's best to keep him sweet about it." And so I could attempt to find info about Sai.
"When are you going to tell him?"
"Later today when he drops my dad off from work."
"Do you want me to come with you?" he asked.
"No way. The last thing I need is for you to get angry and start shouting the riot act or smashing up his car. It's not like he's going to kidnap me." I laughed.
He looked a little alarmed by my last few words. "But I—"
"No, Naruto." I patted his cheek until he narrowed his eyes at my sarcastic gesture. "I know you, and I know how you feel about this, and so I know how you're going to react. It's going to be quick and quiet. What do you think will happen if you start shouting the odds outside my house? People will talk."
"Hmm. I suppose. Come on, everyone should be in class by now."
We left the toilets and slunk through the school like ninja on a mission. We rounded corners after checking they were clear and ducked under doors with windows so teachers didn't catch a glimpse of us. All in all it was a complete success. We made it to the field and I sparked a roll-up before jumping the wall to leave the premises. My place was the closest and had more of a chance of being empty. The only person who'd be at home was Kankuro, and I didn't care what he said, anyway. It's not like he went to school much in his last few years.
The stench of weed filled my lungs as we entered house, and I apologised to Naruto for having to put up with the odour.
"Oi, you should be at school," Kankuro shouted, somehow knowing it was me before I'd even reached the living room.
"Whatever," I called back.
"And if you're here to steal from my coke stash again, I'll have you know it's been well hidden this time."
"I've already told you, I left you money for that shit!" Fuck… I turned to Naruto, who gave me a look to insure I knew we'd be talking about that later. Kankuro was sat on the sofa with his feet up. He was passing the joint to someone, and when I stepped into the room I saw Kiba sat on the floor against the two-seater.
"Alright, red." He nodded.
"Kiba." I nodded back, making a mental note to ask him before he left about Sai. "Naruto's here, so could you try not to totally humiliate me. We'll be in my room. Don't come in."
"Ah, blondie," Kankuro called and Naruto entered behind me.
"Hey." He grinned.
"How'd that double date thing go the other day? I couldn't get a word from this one." He jabbed a thumb in my direction.
I could practically feel Naruto laughing inside. "It went really well, thanks." His arm came around my shoulders. "We're all ready for date two."
"Another double date?" My brother shook his head. "I'm disappointed in you, Gaara. How're you gonna get any if you won't leave his side?"
I could have killed both of them with my bare hands. Unfortunately, Kiba was there to witness it.
"That's what I've told him, but he just won't listen."
I gave him my best attempt at a glare. It was my ultimate promise of a very slow and painful death. But he didn't seem to be phased by it in the slightest.
"Well, did you at least get any?" he asked Naruto.
"I'm not the type of person to share that information." His grip around my shoulder tightened slightly in a way that his head became innocently right next to mine. "But let's just say that my date had the most softest, sweetest lips I've ever felt. And I'll be ambushing them again the second I get the—uff-"
"Ops, sorry." I said, clicking my shoulder. I'd suddenly had a 'spasm attack'; meaning I'd 'accidentally' just elbowed Naruto in the gut. "Come on, Casanova." I said, patting his back as he remained doubled over, clutching his stomach while I made my way down the corridor to enter my bedroom.
He followed, still rubbing his abs and flopped onto my bed. "Ouch," he said, emphasising each letter.
"You deserved it."
"Hmm." He leaned on an elbow. "Cocaine?"
"I was having a bad day." I looked around the room where my wallpaper had once been. Random strands still clung to the walls. "I haven't and won't do it again."
"Good. And weed?"
"I'm not doing that anymore, either."
"Do you have any left?"
I shrugged. "Probably, I haven't looked to be honest." I opened my sock drawer and rummaged through. If I had any anywhere it'd be there. It's where I'd always kept it. My fingers grazed a plastic bag and I pulled it out. I still had a little, so I left the room again to throw it into my brother's room. "Happier?" I asked, shutting my door.
"Much." He held out his hand, waiting for me to take it, and I gave into his wishes. I let him pull me onto his lap. "So, now what?"
"I dunno, you're the one who wanted to ditch school. I was happy widening my horizon with knowledge."
"Can I kiss you?"
"Huh?" His question caught me off guard, I hadn't expected him to ask.
"I heard what you said. It's just a bit…" A part of me really wanted to, but another part didn't. It was hard to explain, which was why I didn't attempt to explain it to Naruto, because voicing what was in my mind would've probably just confused me even more. I supposed, in a way, I didn't know how I would react if he ever wanted to take things further. Would I totally freak-out? Or more importantly, would I not be able to differentiate between emotions or work anymore. I didn't want things to be emotionless on my side, because that wouldn't be fair on Naruto. "We haven't even had a second date yet."
"We can count this as our second date."
"Making-out on my bed while my brother smokes weed in the front room wasn't exactly how I pictured our second date. Besides, there seems to be a no-knocking policy when it comes to Kankuro."
"How funny would it be if your brother walked in. I'd pay good money to see the look on his face."
"He'd probably think he was tripping out or something." I laughed. "I can imagine what he'd say. 'I gotta stop smoking this shit'." I sighed. "Listen, I'm not sure if I'm ready to be so… intimate with you. I know the other night we… but if you want the real me, then you'll have to be a bit more patient. I don't want to rush into things. It's still a bit weird for me."
"That's fine. We'll take things as slowly as you need. I'm just happy to be like this. To be honest, I didn't even think that you'd give me a chance."
That made me feel a bit better. "Thanks," I said, leaning down to kiss him lightly on the cheek.
"I think that's the cutest thing you've ever done in your life."
"… Get the fuck out my house."
Naruto left after a couple of hours. It was late enough to convince his mum he'd just got home from school. I'd sort of pushed for him to leave, I wanted the chance to speak to Kiba before it became too late.
I entered the living room to be met by the sight of my brother comatosed on the sofa. His brown locks covered his eyes and an unlit joint rested in his hand as it flopped over the side of the sofa.
Kiba grinned at me. "Alright, red?"
I nudged my head toward the door, beckoning him to follow me into the hallway. My brother may have been asleep, but I didn't want him waking up during our conversation. Kiba appeared in the small space beside me.
"Sai." I didn't break eye contact as the boy's name rolled off my tongue. I wanted answers, and Kiba was the type of person to know at least something about everything.
"Stunted?" He turned his head quizzically. "What about him?"
I stepped forward so that I could drop my voice a few notches. "Listen, Kiba, if you know anything about what's going on, you have to tell me."
"Gaara," he said. My real name sounded strange coming from his lips. "I actually have no idea what you're talking about. So you're going to have to clue me in here."
Shit. He really didn't know anything. "He's gone missing."
"Oh, I'm sure he's fine. He'll turn up." He laughed. "He goes off all the time. Sometimes I don't see him for months, and then all of a sudden he's there again – wanting to buy something or asking me to hook him up with some jobs. Don't worry. It happens."
I shook my head. "No, you don't understand. He called me. He was panicked, told me not to trust a man I know and then someone broke into his apartment. I heard the whole thing." I ran fingers through my tresses and breathed. "I went to his place, but it had been trashed. He was gone. Do you know if he was in any sort of trouble?"
Kiba stepped backward to poke his head around the doorframe, probably making sure my brother was still asleep, before ushering me into my bedroom. "What're you talking about?"
"Yes. Yes. I got that bit, but what about the phone call? What did he say precisely?"
I couldn't remember exactly. It all happened so quickly. "He said not to trust someone and—"
I couldn't tell him that. The less Kiba knew the better, or at least that was my reasoning.
"Gaara, this could be important."
My face scrunched slightly, but I decided to tell him everything. Because honestly, who would Kiba tell? If he hadn't already told my brother about what I was doing, why'd he tell anyone about this?
"Baki?" he repeated after I finished explaining everything that had happened. How strange Sai had acted when he first saw Baki, what he'd said on the phone, who baki was to me.
He rubbed at his triangle tattoos. "Red, you've gotten yourself into some deep shit here. I'm not one-hundred percent sure, because I never knew official names, but I think this Baki person might be the person who used to control Sai. The person who stabbed him. Left him for dead."
Footsteps moved across the hallway. "Kiba?"
Kiba grabbed my shoulder to pull me in closer so that he could whisper. "Listen to me, Gaara, quickly. Are you still working for him?"
"Well, sort of. I was going to tell him that I quit."
My door handle twisted. Kankuro really needed to learn to knock.
"Meet me at the club tonight." Kiba quickly let go of my arm, just as my brother entered.
He gazed at us through red eyes. "What's going on here?"
Kiba patted Kankuro's back and laughed. "You'd zonked out, mate. I was just telling ya brother that he should get off this stuff. You know, and stop nicking his brother's stash."
Kankuro nodded. He probably still had no idea what was going on. He was groggy enough after sleep without coming down from the amount of weed he'd smoked today. "I'm gonna put the kettle on," he said, turning to head toward the kitchen. "You want one?"
Kiba laughed again. "Nah, man. I've got to get off. I'm dropping gear tonight." He quickly stepped closer to me once Kankuro was out of sight. "Tonight at ten. Meet me in the toilets."
And with that he was gone. No more answers, no more clues. He'd left me dumbfounded, and I'd have to wait until tonight to get to the bottom of things.
I'm soooo sorry about such a late update. It has been nearly three years since I worked on this properly. But I do have some good news. I have now graduated from university. So I began this story three years ago just before I started university, and I'm going to finish it now I have graduated.
I also have to apologise if the voice/ writing style of the story has changed slightly. It has been three years, so I have to get back into the swing of things.
Thank you for understanding.