Baki stared at the team that had come to help his team clear out a bandit nest. Apparently, the Kazekage's attempt at brinkmanship had backfired. In response to Gaara, Konoha had sent their own Jinchuriki. Up until the boy's debut at the Kirigakure Chunin Exams in which the child had torn a Genin team from Iwa apart, most of the nations had gone on blissfully unaware of exactly who Konoha's Jinchuriki was. Others had even believed the story that Konoha had put out that their Yondaime Hokage had actually destroyed the Kyuubi, and others still had posited that the Yondaime had merely dragged it into death with him as he'd reputedly summoned the Shinigami during the Kyuubi attack which had reputedly caused the destruction of a rather sizable section of Konoha.

In the years since the treaty between Suna and Konoha had been made, it had become increasingly apparent that it was an exceedingly one-sided deal, and it wasn't Suna who were reaping the benefits of the alliance that they'd made because they hadn't been strong enough to face a full scale war with Iwa on their own, especially since Kumo and sometimes Kiri tended to jump in on Iwa's side. Over the last decade and change since the end of the most recent war, Konoha had increasingly been receiving missions that should have gone to Suna. Case in point being this mission which could've been tended to by two Suna teams or even one in a pinch, and ended up being split between Suna and Konoha, meaning that Suna would only be receiving half the pay for this mission despite the fact that it was taking place within Wind Country's borders.

In the past year, there had been some rumblings of what looked like it might be a potential war to those who payed attention to the signs, but they seemed to be subsiding a bit. There had been increased invasion drills in which his team had participated over the last couple of months. That, and the Kazekage had ordered every Suna shinobi to get into fighting shape, and started calling up the Genin reserves in small batches each week despite the fact that there weren't any missions for them to take. Konoha had responded to this increased activity on their part by revamping their Academy curriculum and calling failed students back to the Academy, citing a traitor amongst the Academy teaching staff as the reason. The fact that this was happening now however couldn't possibly be a coincidence.

Considering Suna's move, and Konoha's counter move, Gaara had likely been placed on this mission in order to cause an incident of some sort in order to see how Konoha would react. If they followed the pattern they had been following, Konoha would roll over and take it like they had during that incident with Kumo and the Hyuuga and several incidents afterward. If that happened, they would know that they could go for Konoha's soft underbelly, since a few new books and a few new recruits wouldn't change how weak the village was at the top, nor how incompetent the current generation of Genin was. If Konoha didn't back down in the name of "peace" and demanded compensation for whatever injuries or deaths Gaara might cause however, they would have to carefully withdraw and adjust their plans accordingly.

If Konoha which had been doing everything they could to maintain peace didn't declare war on them that was.

That point was moot now however. Konoha had rather promptly given them their answer by rather pointedly reminding them that they had a Jinchuriki of their own. A Jinchuriki who would be able to survive whatever Gaara dished out and return it in spades if even a quarter of the rumors he'd heard about the boy were true. The boy possessed the strongest of the Biju after all.

As he stood there trying to figure out how the hell he was supposed to deal with a slightly over-sized team that had both Konoha's Jinchuriki and the Yondaime Hokage's former student on it - which, considering what that man's father had done to Suna's forces in the second war, was another firm statement that Konoha wouldn't be backing down this time - the Jinchuriki opened his mouth and yelled out a question that completely threw him for a loop. He knew that he didn't resemble the Uzumaki in the slightest, therefore the question had to have been directed at one of his students.

Was the boy seriously questioning the paternity of one of the Kazekage's children?

Quickly looking at where the Jinchuriki seemed to be focused, he realized that the boy had asked Gaara that question. Gaara, whose paternity had been called into question before, in spite of the boy's strong resemblance to his father, thanks to the red hair and the green eyes that were a mark of the Ichibi's possession.

This was not going to be good...


Gaara blinked, stared, blinked again and tried to reboot his brain. That was most definitely the strangest first reaction to his presence that anyone had had in living memory. Normally, there was a great deal more quivering in fear and hisses of "monster", sometimes even a bit of screaming as well. Of course, most people he ran into were in or from Suna, and the ones who weren't were almost always people he was in the process of killing as part of a mission, but still...

As he was trying to figure out how the hell to react to this, e.g. ignore it and the one who said it since he looked too weak to confirm his existence and Mother wasn't calling for his blood, or if he should kill the boy in case what he'd asked had been meant as an insult or something, Temari spoke up.

"Why the hell are you asking if my brother's an Uzumaki?" Temari yelled indignantly.

"Um, well, he's got red hair, and the old dude who's like my cousin or something has red hair, and my mother had red hair, and since the old dude and my mother were Uzumaki, I thought maybe he would be an Uzumaki too, and we'd be like cousins-ttebayo." the blond boy with the whisker markings on his cheeks who was wearing an outfit that was of various shades of muted oranges and browns said.

He blinked again as he wondered what the hell was going on in the blond boy's head. Whatever it was, aside from the fact that it was tangentially about him, it quite likely didn't concern him. Deciding to ignore the strange blond for the moment, he turned his attention to the rest of the team which, with five members, looked slightly unwieldy, too large to be a proper squad, and too small for anything else. Aside from the blond who'd been hoping he was a cousin, there were two Jounin, which was one Jounin too many for the group, there was a somewhat nervous pink haired girl, and there was a dark haired boy who had eyes that were somewhat familiar, eyes like his own but not.

As the dark haired boy turned, possibly to say something to the blond boy who'd quite likely ruined the team's first impression with his strange little outburst, he caught sight of the edge of a red and white clan sigil on his back.

Uchiha! Mother screamed in his mind. Kill it! Kill it! KILL IT!

He ignored his mother's screams for now, for the sake of the mission of nothing else, seeing as he didn't want to be a total disgrace to his village, and killing a member of a foreign team in front of said foreigners when it wasn't an objective of the mission would be an exceedingly stupid move that would bring embarrassment to Suna. He'd learned through experience that he could ignore Mother when she got like this for a little while, but eventually it got to be too much and he'd have to do something to sate her desires. Fortunately, people who were too stupid to live had a tendency to show up before things got too bad. If worst came to worst, he could do as Mother wished, but he would try to hold off on that for as long as possible.

"My name's Uzumaki Naruto, what's yours?" the blond boy asked him when the teams had finally come together and Baki and the two Konoha Jounin had gone off to trade notes.

"Gaara." he replied, barely paying attention to the blond, more focused on the dark haired boy who had caused Mother to have such a reaction.

"Nice to meet you Gaara." the blond boy said rather cheerfully.

He remained silent. He wasn't sure how to deal with this boy who was behaving so far outside what he considered to be normal, that normal couldn't be found with a telescope. The boy seemed to be reasonably nice, but that would more than likely end in trouble. The last time anyone had treated him with anything approaching true kindness had been his uncle Yashamaru, and he knew how that ended. It was entirely possible that his father had hired these Konoha ninja to take him out, and the blond one was meant to get him to drop his guard somehow.

If that were the case, the blond boy would die like all the rest who had tried before him.


Kakashi frowned when he caught sight of how the Jounin from Suna was looking at Naruto. This could potentially be trouble, especially considering how the man had tensed up when Naruto had approached the red-haired boy that he'd taken to be a possible Uzumaki.

Since Tetsuo was team leader for this mission, he had taken the lead in asking about the specifics of the mission and the plan they would have going in while he hung back and watched. He would continue to watch, since he had the feeling that something was not quite right about the situation, and it seemed to center around the red-haired boy who looked to be around Naruto's age.

If something happened to Naruto however, he would do much more than watch. Much, much, more. And, whether or not this Baki survived at the end of it would depend on exactly how strong the man was, and exactly how much more punishment his body could take in comparison to his own.


Author's note: For those wondering about my characterization of Gaara. In the subtitled version of Naruto, Gaara was reasonably calm and collected when his team showed up in Konoha for the Exams. That, and he called Kankuro out for causing potential embarrassment to Suna. As the days and weeks passed however... That, and Gaara had initially had an interest in Sasuke, and absolutely zero interest in Naruto.