's been a while...all I have to say is sorry, I really don't know what happened, I dropped the ball, it's summer and I have almost no life so I should have posted this way sooner. Sorry. I actually finished this a long time ago but I wanted to edit it more and start the next chapter so I wouldn't put that off.

I just want to say thank you. Thank you to everyone who's followed and favourited the story while I was off writing other stuff. A few minutes before I uploaded this to documents I reread all the reviews you all sent me and my eyes started watering a bit, thanks guys it means a lot to me. Also I wanted to know how the story is progressing, I'm really trying to pace the plot at a good speed but I feel like it may be going a bit fast so some feed back on that would be nice.

A lot has happened in my life since my last update but nothing devastating thankfully, sorry for the wait and I hope the quality hasn't lowered from the long break from this story. Enjoy!

This was not at all what he was expecting.

It was a children's park complete with swing set, jungle gym, and sand pit.

Naruto didn't waste a second as she ran towards the sand pit, looking back only to make sure he was still there Naruto yelled "come on Gaara, what are you waiting for?"

With a sigh Gaara trudged over and sat down on the opposite end of the sand pit, only when he sat did he notice the challenging smirk on Naruto's face. "so, is your name just that or did you earn it? sand castle contest. Just me and you. No jutsu's, no cheating"

It was so on.

If there was one thing Gaara knew, it was sand without a doubt. She was a fool to challenge his skill with it and he wasn't afraid to tell her. "you're a bigger idiot than I thought if you think you can win" Gaara said with no shortage of confidence and condescending in his voice.

"hey, I think you'll be surprised" Naruto said defiantly as she began to pile sand.

And surprised he was.

She sucked beyond what he imagined. Soon after they started she turned away from him so her work was shielded from his eyes, and when it came to judging time her castle – if it could even be called that – was so pathetic he couldn't help but laugh at it.

He only chuckled a bit harder when he puffed out her cheeks in irritation.

Meanwhile Naruto was inwardly celebrating. She'd never heard his laugh and she didn't think anyone else had either; it was as deep as his voice and soothing when it wasn't tainted by anger, malice or insanity.

Or maybe it was that mocking undertone that really struck a chord, sure it was worth hearing him laugh but that didn't change the fact that he was laughing at her hard work.

"don't make fun of me!" Naruto yelled angrily.

"it's so terrible it would have looked better if you just left it as a pile of sand" Gaara said with a cruel smirk. It just looked antagonizing to her.

"shut up, new game!" Naruto declared as she stood up, shaking some of the sand from her lap.

"amuse me" he almost demanded as he too rose from his spot.

"Let's play on the teeter-totter! I've never had another person to play with and all my other friends say their too big for playgrounds" Naruto said with a smile, excited at the prospect of finally living out childhood fantasies.

"…but it's pointless, you just go up and down, it's not very amusing" Gaara explained dully as he stared at the red contraption.

"then humor me for a bit" Naruto said as she ran over and sat on one end, waiting for him to join her anxiously.

Well, it wasn't like he'd get another chance like this.

Slowly, Gaara made his way towards her and after staring at his raised seat, with the use of his sand he lowered it to his level. Causing Naruto's to suddenly rise.

"whoa!" she yelled, holding on to the handle bar before she lost her balance and fell forwards. "some warning would be nice! And I'm pretty sure I was suppose to stand up rather than you force your seat down!" Naruto cried as she repositioned herself. Now that both were sitting on the toy with feet firmly planted on the ground neither were quite sure of what to do.

"uh, okay so now I think one of us is suppose to push up…I'll try first I guess" Naruto said unsurely as she pushed up with her legs only to soon come back down when Gaara did the same.







They continued this rhythm in silence until Naruto said quietly "This is calming…I always thought it would be more thrilling…" she didn't expect him to respond.

He merely gave her a flat look that said 'are we done now?' laughing, Naruto admitted "alright this does get boring after a while" and then proceeded to climb off rather than push up.

Causing Gaara's end to fall to the ground with a painful thump.

He glared at her angrily, causing her to simply laugh; she learned to think of it as his pouting face. "oh, come on! There's this clearing I like to go to in the forest and I know some more games we can play!" Naruto said before running off, trusting that he would follow.

"It's getting late" Temari commented as she looked at the sky, it was turning orange with the setting sun.

"he's probably just walking around or something" Kankuro said absentmindedly and he continued to flip through the limited channels the hotel tv had to offer.

"he's never wandered this late…" Temari muttered nervously as she drew the blinds shut.

"what, are you worried? He'll be fine he's a tough guy" he assured her without taking his eyes off the television.

"he doesn't have his gourd though, if he went for a walk he would have come back to get it" she reasoned as she glanced at said object sitting in 'Gaara's Corner'.

"maybe he didn't come back after lunch and just left" he grumbled in response. He didn't see what the big deal was, if he needed sand he could just use some off the ground. Besides he was a jinchuriki, and he doubted anyone was going to mess with him while he had that nasty glare on his face.

"…that's it. he didn't come back…" She realized, her voice sounding faint with disbelief. Kankuro simply raised an eyebrow at her sudden attitude change before he continued to channel surf. There were hardly any shows he recognised…even less that were good….

"no, Kankuro…he didn't come back yet meaning he's still on the date" Temari emphasized the important information in the sentence.

"…what the?" he said, finally just as mystified as her. "it's quarter to seven, and it was just brunch it should have ended at twelve the latest…what has he been doing for the past seven probably eight hours?" he calculated quickly.

"I think he's still with her…" she whispered disbelievingly. "but it would make more sense if he was just wandering…" She needed to sit down…

"we can look for him if you want" Kankuro suggested, but it sounded like he didn't really want to.

"no!…no, I was just wondering where he was," She responded quickly, Temari collapsed on the bed next to her little brother. "did you find anything good yet clown face?" She remarked teasingly with a smirk.

"shut up wind bag!" He jabbed back with a shove.

"says the boy with air in his head"

Thus, another semi-regular day with the Sabaku's.

Her heart was pounding in her chest with adrenalin, every quiet breath sounded like a laboured gasp for air as she hid high up in a pine tree the she climbed by hand. She knew if she used chakra he could be alerted of her location.

At first they were just playing meaningless games, but now something much more intense was taking place.

Maybe she tapped too far into his competitive side, maybe he was always waiting for this chance.

It was stay hidden or death now.

Taking extreme care to distribute her weight well, Naruto risked a peak around the tree to look for any sign of his presence, the setting sun beaming at her side. Seeing none she ducked back around, silently letting out a relieved breath when she managed not to jostle the branch she was sitting on.

She nearly jumped out of her skin when a strong breeze sent all of the trees swaying, mimicking the sound of an ocean, nostalgia hitting her as she remembered her time in Nami. All pretences of relaxation flew out the window when she was suddenly being constricted by a tendril of sand; she only fought harder when victorious chuckle of its master reached her ears. "do you have any idea how many shadow clones I had to kill before I found the real one?"

The sand holding her in place prevented her from turning to face her captor. "yes, because I got the memories of you crushing every one of them" She responded angrily.

"and how do I know this is the real you and not another clone I can pop like a balloon?" he questioned mockingly.

Eyebrow twitching, Naruto growled "that didn't stop you the first ten times"

Gaara shunshined to stand on a platform of sand in front of her just so he could see the anger and defeat on her face. She glared at him when she could see the smirk she was hearing in his tone.

Letting out a final chuckle, Gaara said "I had a feeling you were a sore looser" before letting her go.

"I'm not a sore loser, you're eye jutsu thing is just cheap!" she yelled in response as she stared to just walk down the trunk of the tree. So the death part may have been a slight exaggeration…

"says the person who made at least thirty clones that could act as decoys and alert you of my position, allowing you to move accordingly" he argued back as he lowed himself beside her tree at the same rate she was climbing down.

"alright, alright, they're both cheap tricks" she admitted grudgingly as she finally made it back to the ground, she ungracefully sprawled onto the grass, not bothering to remove the foliage that was tangled in her untamed locks.

Sitting cross-legged near her, he stared at the setting sun almost mystified. 'how long have we been out here? I know each round of hide-and-seek took at least an hour since we allowed ninja techniques, not to mention those rounds of 'tag' in between…'

Taking note of the late time as well, Naruto said as she stood once more "I know it's almost dark but there's one more place I want to show you"

Giving an irritated sigh at her indecisive and spontaneous nature, Gaara followed her lead again as she directed them out of the woods and back into civilization. With the sun disappearing under the horizon, most of Konoha's inhabitants disappeared into their homes with it, leaving the streets far less busy than earlier that day. As they were walking in companionable silence for once Naruto reflected on their progress, not only did he stop (seriously) threatening her but he was even friendly.

Ignoring the fact that what they had was similar to Sasuke's version of friendship; a whole lot of harsh words that almost lead to physical violence and a dash of unspoken mutual respect. Or at least self-restraint.

"here we are!" Naruto announced as she walked up to a lone tree. "this was the school I was telling you about, the one we had the first exam in" she said as she gestured to the building that was just a few meters to the left of the tree. "and this" she said as she walked up to the weathered and beat up looking wooden swing that was hanging on a branch. "is my swing" she explained, with pride in her voice with something bitter hidden underneath.

A swing.

He'd seen tons of swings before; he even noticed the ones at the playground they were occupying before without sparing them a second glance.

So why did this one look so lonely?

It was a pitiful sight, just a worn piece of wood with two frayed lengths of rope suspending it on a gnarled, ancient looking tree that still managed to grow green leaves somehow.

"you go first" he heard Naruto insist.

Carefully, as if it could shatter apart from his weight (it looked like it could), Gaara lowered himself onto the seat.

He didn't dare swing his legs as he felt the onslaught of feelings and memories.

Gaara pressed the blade down harder against the sand as it fought to protect him from himself, his round and chubby face contorted in concentration as he tried in vain to experience pain for himself.

"Gaara!" the alarmed shout of his uncle frightened him into dropping the blade with a muted thump against the carpet. "what are you doing?!" Yashamaru said worriedly as inspected every inch of his nephew for any sign of harm. After finding none, Yashamaru snatched up the blade as if he were expecting the child to reach for it again.

Scared by his uncle's sudden appearance and seemingly angry yelling, Gaara whimpered with tears in his eyes "I saw how you got hurt by my sand and I wanted to know what pain felt like"

His eyes immediately softening, Yashamaru hesitantly started to explain to the best of his ability "pain…pain hurts, and there's different kinds of hurt. Some things hurt more than others…ah," Yashamaru said suddenly. Using the scalpel he took from the child in front of him he carefully cut his pointer finger, letting the edge cut deep enough to well up a bead of blood. "this is physical pain. It can hurt a lot or a little but with time It'll heal on it's own or with medicine"

Sticking the bloodied finger in his mouth, he quickly continued explaining after licking the blood away. "but there are also emotional wounds which can be even worse because no cream or jutsu can heal it, sometimes even time can't fix it, and it can hurt even more than physical pain" Yashamaru explained as he put his uncut hand over his heart.

Gaara mirrored his action but gripped the fabric of his tan poncho that was over top in a tight grip compared to his flat palm as he asked worriedly, tears starting to form anew "then how do you make it go away?"

His face now twisted with pain of his own, Yashamaru whispered as he covered Gaara's hand with his own "only love can"

Gaara was shocked back to reality when he felt someone push him, or rather the seat from under him, the sudden motion causing him to almost fall forward.

"sorry, you were just sitting there so I thought you wanted a push and I knew I couldn't actually touch you 'cause of your sand 'n' stuff so I just thought it would be better if I pushed the seat or whatever!" Naruto immediately apologized, scratching the back of her head in embarrassment as she rambled.

Once he righted himself on the seat, he quietly said after a pause of consideration "…warn me next time"

Letting a gentle smile ease onto her face, Naruto happily responded "sure Gaara. I'm gunna push you 'kay?" and carefully this time, she put her hands onto the sides of the wood seat and pushed him forward.

'Friends…' Gaara thought shakily as her pushing started to gain momentum. 'is this what friendship is like?'

Just the thought made his eyes water slightly 'I guess it didn't quite sink in until now…I have a friend. I-I'm not alone?' he still was a bit sceptical about the whole thing, and he didn't think he would quite be able to be a friend back to her but he was more willing to give this thing a bit more effort.

While he was in the middle of a revelation Naruto was having one of her own 'oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! I touched his butt! Gaah this is embarrassing! I hope he doesn't turn around right now!- what if he felt that!?' were her panicked thoughts.

"hey Gaara, what do you honestly think of Konoha so far?" Naruto asked suddenly, pulling him out of his thoughts. He had no idea why but she sounded a bit embarrassed to ask the question…

"it's like one big retirement home" he answered without hesitation.

That defiantly wasn't the response she was expecting.

"what? How?" she asked sounding thoroughly confused as she craned her head to look at his face.

He took a moment to find the right words. "…everything is so…mild. The weather, the people…well not the ninja's I'll admit" Gaara said suddenly as he remembered some of the more…eccentric people he'd seen, causing Naruto to laugh. "everything is so boring" he finished explaining.

"I can see where you're coming from, living in a desert and all. Hey what's Suna like? Are the buildings really made of sand? Because that would be really cool, wait what happens when it rains? Would you guys- wait, wait, wait! Stop changing the subject and answer the question!" Naruto said snapping out of her tangent.

Surprised when the swing suddenly returned empty, Naruto nearly jumped when she heard Gaara order from behind "sit"

Stopping the swing that still had momentum, Naruto walked around to sit with her back facing him. "so tell me about your home"

Gaara didn't say anything as he stared at her back, she would have no warning if he suddenly decided to kill her…he wouldn't even have to try, it would be as simple as a flick of the wrist. No one had even been so blindly trusting of him - so stupid, to willingly turn their back to him.

Slowly, he put his hands to her back and nudged her forward, her silky hair cool to the touch. He continuously repeated the action until they found a rhythm. Giving an exhilarated laugh Naruto repeated "Tell me about your village!"

"…it's…okay" he said carefully, in his defence it was a broad question.

"well what's your favourite part of it?" She asked curiously.

Gaara took a moment to watch her golden locks whip about in her personal wind before speaking "…all the colours"

"oh? How so?"

"you wouldn't understand unless you see it" he dismissed before giving her another push.

They were silent for a moment.

"you still didn't tell me if the buildings are made of sand" Naruto said quietly as she moved hair out of her face.

Gaara gave a soft sigh and closed his eyes. "I'm leaving"

"eh? Why? Well I guess it is getting late…" Naruto said as she jumped off of the swing at its apex, landing with practiced grace. "you're going back to Suna to train tomorrow right?"

Undeterred by his lack of responses Naruto continued to talk as they started to walk home. "I don't know what I'm going to do for training. I should ask Kakashi-sensei to help me…hey are you going to learn any new techniques for your fights or just strengthen what you got?"

"Hey where're you going? I thought your hotel was that way?" Naruto asked curiously when he took a left turn.

"who said I was going there?" Gaara said without looking back or stopping.

"oh, right. you said you don't sleep" she muttered to herself "well wait!" Naruto called as she ran to catch up with him.

Giving an annoyed huff he halted, and before he could even cross his arms he was almost bowled over by a force colliding with his back and his movements constricted by two arms snaking around him. Gaara almost killed his 'attacker' on reflex when the familiar laugh tipped him off as to who it was. "I didn't get to say goodbye, so…goodbye!" even when she let go Gaara was frozen in place.

"y…you touched me…" the shock and panic in his voice was enough for even Naruto to feel concerned.

"weird, I didn't think that would work either…" she mumbled as she rubbed her arm sheepishly

"wh-why did you do that?" he asked as he shakily turned around to face her, he was seeing her as a whole new person.

"well, sometimes friends hug goodbye when they won't see each other for a while and you'll be gone for a month so I thought…" Naruto shyly explained.


'oh' was really all he could say. He would have to take note of the sand's defence capabilities for the rare occasions he didn't have his gourd.

"well goodnight, oh and bring me something back from Suna!" Naruto said quickly before running home with a smile.

It felt a little warm for a sweater.

Sorry, no omake this time. I did have an idea for it but I was struggling to write it so it would have delayed this chapter further and it would probably fit better at the end of another chapter. Anyways, as I said the next chapter is under construction already and no matter how long it takes I will finish this story so never fear it will be discontinued.