~Desert Fox~

CHAPTER 3

Spinning Leaf

"It is precisely because we love that we sacrifice... and hate"

~Pein

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"Hurry Temari!" Ino grabbed the pregnant woman's hand. Leading her up the steps of the Hokage mount. Temari glanced backwards worriedly shikamaru . . . "I can't do this. I need to help."

The blond medic nin shook her head viciously. Dark ash was flying in the air like embers. Shouts of confusion and sounds of battle echoed through Konoha "You can't They'll be fine. I have to get you safe!"

"I can handle myself!"

"Too bad!"

"Why are you doing this Ino?"

"Because shikamaru told me too."

Temari froze "Wha. . .What?"

Ino breathed heavily, feeling light headed and low on Chakra "I don't want you hurt and I don't want anything to happen to the baby. I know you're a strong ninja Temari but you have to do what's best for your baby!"

Temari glanced back down the steps, watching as another building caved in. The very air felt hot and sinister. "Alright." she whispered. She gasped, grabbing her stomach "We need to hurry."

"I'll help you. Come on."

The two blonds made their way up the stairs. In all the death and destruction, a new life was about to be born.

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A few days after her battle with Gaara, Tami walked the hot streets of the city by herself. She was missing their training sessions. Her uncle had been especially gentle with her after their spar, treating her to Ramen for the second time in the last week, and being very careful around her. He talked more often about things that didn't really matter to him, simply because her knew she enjoyed it. However, duty called this particular afternoon and he had to see things prepared for the leaf village shinobi who was due to arrive soon after dark, several hours from now.

Isn't this the second ambassador this week? I wonder what they want this time. Tami mused to herself. Why do they keep bugging us? She had tried to ask, but all Gaara would say was 'don't worry about it' and that, he'd take care of everything. He still seemed preoccupied however, despite his effort to act calm. So, feeling aggravated, Tami finally left him alone and took a long walk around her favorite stores, finding herself nearing the outside city gate with each step.

What are you thinking? Uncle Gaara? What should I do? How can I help you?

"Good afternoon," A man said happily from in front of her.

Tami stumbled and looked up. Standing before her was a tallish man who was smiling down at her. There was so much to take in at this moment that all she could do was just stare in shock. He was tall, with shiny black hair cut as if a bowl had been set on top of his head. A leaf village headband wrapped around his waist like a belt over a horrid green jumpsuit, which was bad enough without his vest which was also green, but not in any sort of matching shade.

"Is it not a good afternoon for you? Is that why you do not reply?" He grinned, giving her a thumbs up.

He was a strange sight! Sporting orange leg warmers around both ankles,and a large fan strapped to his back by a sash over one shoulder. Tami glared. What was a leaf village Shinobi doing with a wind jutsu weapon? Sure, other villages had wind based jutsu but the sand village taught theirs with special pride. The fan was developed by the first Kazekage years ago, as a great weapon, representing the beauty, poise and deadly art of the wind jutsu power.

All in all, this guy ticked her off.

"Good morning back" She said blandly, "What do you want?"

"I am Rock Lee, Ambassador from the leaf village Konohamaru."

Ya, no du. Tami thought, fighting the urge to roll her eyes.

"I am seeking the Kazekage, Gaara-sama."

Another obvious statement.. "You aren't supposed to be here until dark." She said, glancing behind the man to see if he had brought any companions, but he appeared to be alone.

"I do not like traveling in the dark." Lee said. "I made better time then originally planned."

Ya, no kidding, six hours before originally planned. "You dress like a dork." she finally said, crossing her arms in front of herself and giving him an evil look. Lee blinked once in surprise, "Excuse me?"

"That outfit. It looks hideous, and it can't be very durable in the desert."

Rock Lee eyed her up an down, frowning at her short, calf length skirt and her thinly knitted fishnet shirt.

"What are you looking at?" Tami demanded angrily. The shinobi didn't even have the decency to blush for looking at her.

"This suit is actually very durable, specially made I assure you. Now, in case you are not yet finished, I would very much like to know the name of the person mocking me."

"I'm Tami. The Kazekage is my uncle." Ha! She thought. Strike him with the fear of the kage.

He gasped, then stared. "Tami – chan?"

She frowned at him. Why did he stutter, yet still looked so pleased? And where on earth did the 'chan' come from? how did.. how did. . .

Rock Lee paused, then tugged at the strap around his chest, releasing the large fan and pulling it over his shoulder. "Then I have the honor of personally giving you this. It rightfully belongs to you anyways."

Tami stared, she felt a chill go up her spine, though she didn't dare ask herself why. Lee had knelt on the hard packed sand and was carefully untying the sash around the fan's center. The knot came undone quickly under his deft fingers. Then, he lifted the large device. Even with his height, seemed to stand countless times higher. He handed her the handle edge of the weapon.

"It should have been yours years ago I suppose. We finally tracked it down and brought it as a gift for you." Tami stared at the metal near her hand. Her fingers curled around the polished edge. Etched in the very base of the fan, near the first of three handholds, was her mother's name.

How. . .

She had known her mother was a master of the wind chakra fighting style. She knew she had been a great shinobi. But she had never thought about the weapon she might have used. It was huge. Tami slowly undid the clasp and let the fan fall forward so that only one purple star mark fell off to the side. She felt the area. It was thin but hard, some sort of metal that was easy to handle with a bit of wind help. Strong enough to block blades.

"How. . ."

"Do you like it?" Rock Lee grinned (The only expression he seemed to know.) "She would have wanted you to have it I am certain. I am sorry it was not returned to you sooner."

"Why?"

"Excuse me?"

"Why wasn't it returned?" She looked at him, searching his eyes for the lie that was sure to come.

He only shrugged. "It was very difficult for me to track down. Again, I apologize deeply." He even made a short bow at this point. Tami looked away.

She cared nothing for this man with his stupid haircut, and no taste in clothing. She was however, interested in this fan, How come her uncle hadn't made an effort to see it returned before now?

"Ah, here we are." Rock Lee said, straightening from his bow and looking over Tami's shoulder.

Two members of the sand village black ops team walked over, nodding their heads in greeting.

"Our apologies for the wait Ambassador, we were not expecting you so early."

"So I have been told." Lee replied "I will wait for the Kazekage until the arranged time of course, I know he must be busy."

"There is a place prepared for you in the center of the city, please, come."

"Thank you. Goodbye Tami-Chan. I will see you again shortly."

He followed the black ops away down the village street.

Tami stared at the fan. Fingering the edges, which were blunted enough to touch, yet sharp enough to slice clean through an enemy if wielded properly. She felt both reverent and gleeful. A thrill of excitement taking over all thought until she finally realized what he had said before he'd left.

'I will see you again shortly.'

What did he mean by that?

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Tami ran down the street, she had to go slow because the fan was quite heavy. She stopped, playing with her chakra for a while until the wind lifted the fan slightly to pull the weight from her shoulder. Then she ran some more.

When she reached the city center where she and her uncle lived, she hurried through the doors, past the black op guards who were all used to her rampages and didn't dare stop her. Once she reached the office she skidded to a halt in front of her sensei, who was standing guard near the door since he hadn't been training her in the last week.

"Where's that green bean from the leaf village?" She demanded.

Haru shrugged "He's in a meeting Tami, I'm afraid you will have to wait."

Tami growled. He better not be! She had some questions to ask first. Tami tried the door anyways only to find it locked. Darn it! She turned, fan almost hitting Haru in the face as she headed up the stairs.

As she neared her bedroom she slowed and became quiet. Gaara had raised her well, he had thought of everything. Her bedroom was near the balcony so that he could always hear her if she woke up in the night when he was outside. The window faced the city so she always had natural night lights. Most importantly, her bedroom sat right above Gaara's office. Carefully she set the fan down in the corner near the door, then tiptoed around her bed. Tami lay on her stomach, her ear to the floor boards and her fingers raised in a sign. With a whispered word, she could clearly hear the voices down below.

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"I do not think you understand Gaara-sama. I wasn't sent here to ask you. I was sent here to bring her back with me." Rock Lee said.

"You should have brought help then." Gaara replied coldly.

"They sent me because I know you."

Gaara said nothing. So this is what it has come to. He mused. He watched as Lee wandered the room restlessly. The man was really no different then when last they met. He was slim and lithe, He wore the standard Jounin vest, and orange leg warmers around his ankles, no doubt they still hid enough weights to bury a camel.

"I doubt your Hokage cares for my niece."Gaara said "Her family is here."

"Look, I understand you Gaara-sama, truly I do. I did not wish to come and demand such a thing. But you must understand where I am coming from," Lee sighed heavily. "Look." He said, taking another breath before continuing. "When you and Kankuro took Tami-chan from the leaf village you tipped the balance of what was left of the Allied Forces and the Second Contract. It was crumbling anyways, but you took what the Hokage saw as the most important tool we had. Our most important advantage over enemies."

Gaara's eyes darkened dangerously.

"He feels that you took a tool that rightfully belongs to him. That's how he sees it. She was born there, she's legally a citizen of Konoha and a member of the Nara clan. The Hokage wants her back and. . . This. . . Could be the next shinobi war."

There was a long silence.

"She is no weapon." Gaara said quietly. His eyes flickered upward and stared at Lee intensely. "She has more control of the Kyuubi then even Naruto had at times. She lets it's damage her own chakra yet does not let the Kyuubi's will effect her own. She didn't choose to be the jinchuuriki, yet she accepted it easily when I told her, and has guarded the prison of the Kyuubi with no thought for herself."

"I understand."

"I don't think you do."

The two men stared at each other. They had been through a lot, as both enemies and allies.

"Look. . . Gaara." Lee stepped closer, away from the darkening window. his voice lowered slightly. "I don't want this. The child seems content here, I think both Tamari and Shikamaru would want it that way, and anyone with any sense knows she's safest here with you. I have tried to explain it to them, but I have no say in it." Gaara stared out the window but said nothing. Lee leaned against the desk, toying with the white wrappings around his hands ". . . If the Hokage doesn't get her, they will come take her by force. . . I was told to tell you that."

"Would I loose?"

"How do you mean?"

"How strong are the leaf shinobi? How many will die if Suna and Konoha were at war?"

There was a long pause as Lee just stared. "It would be a long battle." he said slowly, then sighed. "My honor to my village forbids me from giving exact intel. . . " There was another pause, "We are allies with the mist village and their new kage, and have contact with the land of waves. The Hokage actually comes from there, The brother of the seventh Hokage. Our armies are a selection of many ninja, all fighting for us. Which means we have jutsu from all different lands and the best of their kind. It would be for a long battle. . . You would loose Gaara-sama, and many of our shinobi will die."

Why is this happening now? Gaara thought, fists clenched.

"As I said, I will take care of her." Lee prodded again.

Gaara turned, gesturing Lee away with his hand, eyes shut in defeat. Kankuro. . . Temari. . .Naruto where are you now when I need you?

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"How was your meeting with the string bean?" Tami asked feigning innocence. She was sitting cross legged on the bed, a pile of clean, but unfolded laundry sat on one side and several kunai sat at her other side along with her polishing kit.

Gaara frowned at her.

"Oh I forgot uncle, they're our allies." she taunted sarcastically.

Gaara's face darkened. He did not yell, she rarely heard him raise his voice at all. He walked over and sat on the edge of her bed next to her, putting his hands over hers to stop her furious kunai polishing

"Rock Lee is very strong. I respect him."

"He's a complete dork and he looks like an idiot."

"He came very close to killing me once."

She frowned, finally stopping with her Kunai polishing "He's that powerful?"

Gaara nodded.

Tami's frown deepened, she set the Kunai down and picked up a sock from her pile of laundry. The fabric was a light netting type, with a green rubberized soul so it wouldn't slip in saddles, yet protected your feet from sand and sun. She stuck her hand inside of it to turn it right side out. Then left her hand inside, pinching her fingers and making a sort of snake like sock puppet "I'm Rock Lee from the leaf village and I'm a Baka."

Gaara took her hand, pulling the sock off and holding her wrist firmly "Tami what's wrong with you?"

"Nothing!" She snapped angrily, yanking away. "Let me go!" She turned to face away from him. As she stood, she yanked the bed covers slightly to cover the space between the bed and the floor, hiding a brown leather bad, and her mother's fan. "What did Konoha want?" She demanded. She knew of course, but she wondered if he would tell her the truth.

Gaara spoke slowly and carefully "We are trying to make arrangements to stop a war from coming. Ever since The sixth Hokage died. . . You're right Tami, our relationship with Konoha has not been good."

"So what? We don't need them."

he was silent

Tami glared at him, glowering. Is someone threatening him? Is that why he agreed? If her uncle was in danger, then she'd stop it! But. . . She knew it was impossible. No one could beat the Kazekage, and he would never listen to threats. Ever. "What else?" she demanded.

Gaara stood up, walking around the bed and kissing Tami lightly on the forehead.

"Nothing you have to worry about. Just train hard everyday. Fold your laundry and go to sleep Tami."

She tensed, hoping he wouldn't find the fan. If she didn't agree to go to Konoha would they take it away?

"He wanted something didn't he?" Sh feigned innocence again, but feeling like crying instead.

"We will discuss it tomorrow." he said, "Do you want me to help you fold your cloths?."

She turned away "No."

He nodded and walked to the door, flipping off the light and shadowing the room in darkness.

"I hate Konoha." Tami said

"There is nothing to hate there."

"Whatever." she lay in bed, listening as he shut the door quietly.

Tami stared at the ceiling. Of course he isn't being threatened. He's too strong for that, too strong and hard headed. He's selling me out. She blinked several times That way he doesn't have to go to war with Konoha. To protect the village. He's going to make me go. I'm not going to Konoha ever.

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Tami tied the sash tightly around her waist, struggling with it for a while. There was supposed to be a way to tie the fan to balance it so it wouldn't fall or tilt, but it was difficult to do on her own. Unfortunately, there was no one to ask for help, which made her angry because her uncle probably knew how to do it and could save her the trouble. She couldn't ask of course.

Tami hadn't cried yet, it wasn't worth it, nothing was. Her uncle. . . She'd heard it all

"As I said, I'll take care of her."

Then nothing but silence. She had tried to stay, listen to the entire conversation, but that silence. It might as well have been a "Yes, I must protect my people. Take her away."

He hadn't denied it either, hadn't told her the truth, that was because he knew she wouldn't like it.

Finally straightening the fan and standing carefully so it wouldn't tilt, she tested the balance of her weapon then bent to her knees to pull her bag from under the bed. She had filled it with enough food to last three days, if she skimped. With her shadow puppet jutsu she could easily catch other things to eat along the way, little animals and stuff. She straightened her cloak and took a deep breath, throwing the bag over her shoulder and knocking the fan off balance again. She had to start all over.

She wasn't going to Konoho, even if it meant never seeing her home, or her uncle again. She brushed the tears away "Oh stop it Tami!" she whispered to herself fiercely, glancing towards the closed window leading to the balcony. As a child she had always left it open, that way Gaara could hear her, and wake her up if she had a bad dream. As she got older she's maintained the habit, except for tonight. What kind of place is Konoha? Take me away from my only family, seal demons into their kids, kill their parents. . . She had to leave, no one could know. "You stupid!" she hissed to no certain person "He's not worth it." She shook her head, wiped her eyes again. It was the curse of being a girl. You couldn't do anything, even if it was the right thing, without crying and ruining it.

He doesn't care about you. You heard him.

That stupid shinobi told him he was here to take me back with him, and the first thing he asks is how many soldiers they had.

She tried not to laugh even through her tears. That question had first made her smile, it would take a whole army to drag her off! But then there came no answer, that terrible silence. She had been right all along. The sand village came first.

Quietly, she stood, moving and tightening the sash a little bit. She took one last look at her bed, the wooden puppet doll, the still unfolded laundry, the soft blankets, closet full of clothing, and the pictures of on her nightstand. Then she left the room and tiptoed downstairs.

She went out two different windows to avoid the people who were on night watch. Eventually she cut back inside and through the large dining room, across the floor, and out the back door, where she slipped on her sandals. She played with the tan mask in her hands, attaching it around her head to cover her nose and mouth. No one would recognize her, it would be dark, her whisker marks would be hid and she'd just look like a young shinobi out on duty. Yes, then she'd get out, there would be no leaf village for her. Ever. Taking one last look inside as she shut the door she shifted the weight of her fan and ran across the hard packed sand between buildings and away from Suna.

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Sitting on the rooftop, crouched behind the ledge of clay brick and watching silently, sat Gaara of the Sand. He watched his niece as she made her way down the street, the familiar shape of Temari's fan over her shoulder. Gaara shut his eyes, trying to block the pain.

"She's precious to me Lee." he had finally said, "There has to be another way." after realizing with a deep fear that Lee was right, the leaf village was a threat if he did not comply. And also realizing that he was willing to take on that threat, Gaara had been left with no choice but to defy the leaf village, and therefore start a war. He would give himself up to the leaf village if it would save his people, but Tami shouldn't have to, she had already given so much. . . Either way. This was going to mean war. No matter what he did.

There were very few people in his life that Gaara really and truly loved. So, without saying a word, he watched the last of those people disappear into the night. Wishing that he could stop her, and remind her, just one more time. That she wasn't alone.

"Kazekage-sama! I think Tami just. . ./"

"It's alright Haru-san." Gaara said quietly, "I'm letting her go."

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Author notes: Wheww! So glad I got these three chapters done now. Now we move on to the adventure. The ninja world as Naruto and his friends grew up in seems to be slowly disappearing,What really did Happen to Naruto, Shikimaru, Kankuro, and Temari anyways? *evil laugh*

Special thanks to CaptainFlye for encouraging me and helping me so much. He's amazing. If I could I would marry him. Oh wait. I AM marrying him.

hehehe. (Yep, get jealous I win this one!)

Even though this certainly isn't a romance story, there are pairings in it. I don't want to tell you which since I don't want to ruin the story, just please understand that I can't please everyone so I just chose the people I liked to write about and wrote about them. Hopefully you will find my plot and characters enjoyable either way.

Thanks for reading thus far. I look forward to your comments. :)