Chapter 13

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Thanks to Animefreak1145, Fernlight, YukiKitsune95, Chichi4mangaHero, Freedom its2l8, and Kyoichi Amaya (six of the seven Loyal Reviewers) for reviews, I can always count on you! Thanks to hello-totoro-ninja and Mad Science Lady for favorites.

WOOOOO 14KB, longest chapter! Is it bad that this chapter is the longest yet and in Acrobats 14KB would be short...? O.o


I sighed, bored out of my mind. Ruri echoed me and stretched out her legs, crossing them at the ankles, "I'm freaking bored! Why can't they talk faster?" She whined and Arashi narrowed his eyes at her, but surpisingly didn't say anything. Mitsuko and Toppi had hit it off during the three days it took to reach Suna and were irrseperable since. Yuki paused in her conversation with Nobuko and looked at the kids too, a small smile on her face. I watched the Uchiha girl. She was so different from the Uchihas that I knew. Yuki wasn't stoic like Itachi, or moody like Sasuke; if anything she was closer to Shisui's temperament, barely. They both liked jokes, but there was something sad under her happiness.

She caught me staring at her and smiled at me before returning to the conversation at hand. Mitsuko actually disengaged herself from Toppi and came over to me, "Tora-sensei? Can we go see the Medicinal Greenhouse? Temari-san told me that they have a bigger one than Konoha's." I smiled at my student, "Maybe later, we've got to stay here until Ame releases us." "Oh... Okay!" Mitsuko said and went back to Toppi. Ruri leaned closer to me, her arms crossed across her chest, "You know that's not true. We can leave whenever we want as long as we stay in the city." I shot her a sly smile, "Like I'm going to distrupt this chemistry going on." I replied, nodding to the youngest members of our group.

Temari came in then. She blinked at the sight of Konoha nins lounging around with nothing to do. She looked around and spotted Ruri sitting beside me, recognition lit up her face. She made her way to my friend, "Hi, I never got a chance to ask what your name was..." Ruri smiled, "Nabiki Ruri. You're Temari right? Gaara-sama's sister?" Temari nodded and glanced at me out of the corner of her eye. She flinched slightly at my scars but I shrugged and looked away. Konoha may not have a problem with me now, but I knew not everyone shared their opinion. I couldn't help but notice everyone in the room save Arashi was now glaring at Temari. I shot a stern look at them and elbowed Ruri, they should judge. After all, they used to be one of those same people.

Before anyone could do anything the door to Gaara-sama's office opened and the Kazekage stepped out with Ame. We all stood, waiting orders. Ame smiled, "We have the information we need. Tomorrow we start the journey home." She turned to the young Kazekage and bowed. The red head nodded his head in return and turned to us, "My sister will see that you are settled for the night." "Can we see the greenhouse first?" Mitsuko pipped up, surprising all of us. My student could hardly speak to a citizen, so how was she not stuttering in front of the Kazekage? Gaara-sama turned and raised a nonexsistant eyebrow at the girl. That was when she blushed and looked to the ground. I came to her defence, "Yume Mitsuko is my student. She has heard many stories about your greenhouse and-" Gaara-sama cut me off, "If you wish." He said deadpanned. I bowed slightly and ushered Mitsuko out, Ruri following.

Ruri gave Mitsuko a look the minute we exited the building, "You seemed pretty confident in there... What happened?" Mitsuko blushed, "I-I don't know... I just felt... a-a-at eas-ease." Ruri smirked, "Could this have anything to do with Toppi?" She asked, stuffing her hands in two of her many pockets. Mitsuko turned even redder, I wondered if she was going to faint like Hinata, "I uh... No! I mean... I-I don't... ummm..." Ruri and I laughed. I placed a hand on my student's shoulder, "You're just as bad as Hinata when someone mentions Naruto. I think you like him." Poor Mitsuko just stammered even more, her cheeks turning darker by the minute. I wondered absently if all her blood was hiding in her cheeks. Mitsuko was saved from answering when we reached the greenhouse. She squealed, her shyness forgotten, and ran into the medical greenhouse. Ruri following her, just as enthusiastic. I walked after them more sedately.

One of the plant caretakers bowed to me, "May I help you?" I turned to her and the woman let a small gasp escape her lips when she caught sight of my face. I didn't smile, people were even more revolted when I smiled, but I asked, "Do you have any poisionous plants?" The woman stiffened and hesintated, probably thinking that I was up to no good. I pulled out my Konoha hospital ID and showed it to her. She relaxed and turned back into a polite woman, "This way please." She said gesturing behind me to a small doorway leading away from the main room.

It was almost an hour before Ruri and Mitsuko came looking for me. By then Sumi, the plant caretaker, and I were in a deep discussion of whether Amatoxin or Wolfsbane was deadlier. Ruri cleared her throat, "Sorry to inturrupt the poison debate, but I'm sure Ame is going to freak if we stay here any longer." I sighed and said good-bye to Sumi before joining Ruri and Mitsuko. I glanced down at my student and saw her carrying a large book and a bag of herbs. I raised an eyebrow and Ruri, seeing where I was looking, answered my unasked question, "Mitsuko befriended the head plant caretaker." Mitsuko gave us a bright smile, "I can't wait to use these!" I chuckled and patted her dark hair, I didn't mention that someone had to be hurt for her to use them.


We left at dawn the next day, the eight of us surrounding the Kazekage, his siblings and his student, Matsuri. It didn't take me long to realize that Matsuri was in love with her teacher and he didn't return the feelings. I also noticed that Yuki was awfully quiet. Konkuro tried to flirt with her, but she snapped at him, surprising the team since she was never angry, and he left her alone. Mitsuko was telling Toppi avidly about the plants she saw in the Suna medical greenhouse and he listened mesmerized. Ruri was actually carrying a conversation with Arashi that didn't involve any shouting. They seemed to be teasing each other, but it was hard to tell. Ame told Nobuko something briefly and he disappeared ahead of us, probably to scout.

Gaara-sama fell in step with me and I looked up mildly surprised, "You're friends with Naruto, are you not?" He asked. I should have guessed. I knew that Gaara-sama and Naruto were friends. I shrugged, "Well, my brother is closer, but I guess you could say that. Why?" The red haired Kazekage was silent for a while before asking, "How is he? I haven't seen him since the Akatsuki attack." I smiled at the former jinchuuriki, "He's fine. A little overwhelmed trying to catch up with everyone else. His team seems glad to have him back." Gaara-sama nodded absently, staring off into the trees that surrounded us. I couldn't help but notice Matsuri's jealous glance towards us, I frowned at her and she shivered and turned away.

Ame stopped us for the night and set guard duty. The Sand Siblings tried to protest about not being put to guard duty, but one glare from the older woman and even the Kazekage shut up. I was with Yuki for the last watch of the night. When it came to our turn to guard my Uchiha friend was as silent as Sasuke when he was angry about something. I watched her cautiously from across the camp. Her back was turned to me, as I watched she pulled one of her long dark red pigtails around and ran her fingers through it. I sighed, knowing that she played with her hair when she was nervous and walked over to her. I sat down beside Yuki, startling her. I gave her a knowing look as said, "Alright, spill. What's bothering you?"

My friend tried to deny it, but I just raised one eyebrow and she sighed, "While you were gone I... I tripped and Gaara-sama caught me. He was so... gentle and nice. He didn't laugh at me for being clumsy like people usually do. I don't know why... but I can't get him out of my head." She looked at me, her dark eyes wide, "You can't tell anyone what I just told you!" She urged. I pulled back, blinking, "Why not?" I asked confused. Yuki snorted and scuffed her ninja sandles in the dirt, "I'm just a shinobi. He's the leader of his village!" She said as if it was obvious. I shrugged, "So? You're an Uchiha." Yuki rolled her eyes to me, "Not every Uchiha is Itachi or Sasuke. We're not all gifted like those two." I hitched my shoulder again, "So? You're part of a powerful clan, that's something. You have a kekke genkai. Besides, rank shouldn't matter if you really truely like him."

Yuki looked at me out of the corner of her eye, her mouth curling into a smile, "Are you saying that for my benefit, or for yours?" She asked. I blinked again, confused at the change of conversation, "What do you mean?" I asked. Yuki turned to face me fully, "Oh come on, Tora. The whole village is talking about you and Itachi-san!" I stared at her, disbelieveing, "Me and... Itachi? What are you talking about?" Yuki rolled her eyes, "You've been friends for three years, don't tell me you don't have feelings for Itachi-sama." I blushed and looked away, foolishly confirming her suspicions. Yuki stood, "Ha! I knew it!" She cheered, pointing a finger at me. I glared at her and pressed my finger to my lips, "Silence before you wake people up." I hissed at her, coming to a stand as well. Yuki grinned and returned to whispering, "Don't try to deny it, Tora, you like my clan leader!"

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath before saying, "Fine. I do have feelings for Itachi, but what good are they? Half the village girls love him!" Yuki gave me a satisfied grin, "But you're the only one who is his friend." I paused thinking about that. Then I returned to arguing, "So? I know Itachi doesn't return my feelings." Yuki giggled, "If that's what you think, then you're more blind than Tenshi!" I narrowed my eyes at her, "What makes you say that?" I asked and Yuki giggled again, "Do you really think that Itachi is spending all that time with your daughter because he only likes her?" I opened my mouth, but she held up a hand, silencing me, "Think about this: what would you do if he did ask you out?" I opened my mouth to answer when I paused. I honestly didn't know what I would do. I glared at the Uchiha girl, "Okay, fine. You win. Go back to guard duty." I growled and turned away. I could feel Yuki's smirk as I retreated back to my spot.


I yawned again, boredly watching the sky lighten. Yuki had fallen asleep a while ago, but I didn't bother to wake her. I could watch our group by myself for the last hour. I sighed and picked at the bark of a root that was poking out of the ground beside me. I leaned my head back against the tree trunk I was sitting against and looked up it's tall length towards the sky. The sun would be up soon, maybe another half hour or so. The birds had started singing not too long ago, a few twitters that turned into multiple birds singing at the same time.

Suddenly all birds fell silent and I straightened from my relaxed position. I glanced around but saw nothing out of ordinary, not even a suspicious shadow. I stood cautiously and started to wake Yuki when I saw it. A creamy brown owl sat on a low branch, just above Ame's head, it's bright yellow eyes staring straight at me. I froze suddenly thinking of another time I had seen an owl, years ago when Itachi and I were watching over Sasuke after he was rescued from Orochimaru.


It was close to midnight and still nothing happened. I had given up trying to stay alert, like Itachi was doing so effortlessly, in favor of dozing off. My hand rested on Sasuke's bed so I would wake if he shifted during the night, but he had stilled hours ago. Suddenly the relaxed air in the room became tense. I pulled myself back out of my light doze, aware that something had changed. I glanced first at Sasuke, but he was still sleeping peacefully. I couldn't help but notice that he looked younger in his sleep and I wondered if Itachi looked the same. Shaking my head to clear my mind of those frustrating thoughts I turned to Itachi. He was standing, his back turned to me.

I slowly got to my feet, scared that any suddenly movement would startle Itachi into attacking. I shuffled forward until I was standing beside him. The Uchiha spared me a brief glance of acknowledgment before turning his blank gaze back outside. "Is something wrong?" I asked, expecting him not to answer. To my surprise he said softly, "The night is too quiet." I looked out and indeed he was right, nothing, not even the wind, made a sound. It was like the whole world was holding it's breath in anticipation for... something.

A shadow fell across me and I glanced up to see a night owl gliding in the still air. It hooted softly and with that sound the nocturnal life came alive once again. Whatever had silenced the night had passed and no harm had come to anyone, at least I hoped.

~Flashback Over~

I glared at the owl and it screeched at me, making me cringe, before silently taking flight. I watched it fly through the trees, fading into the dawn. I didn't know the connection between the two owls, but I knew that whatever it was, it wasn't good.


Mwahahahahahaha! Tora finally admits her feelings! XD

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