A/N: For my journal's fic meme, this being the second request that I recieved. The title was supposed to be "Pretenders," and it needed to include the line, "I forgot his kind are thieves." GaaNaru for tdei. *rueful* Like I shouldn't have seen that one comin', eh? XD Of course, I was surprised she didn't want GaiKaka.

Set after the chuunin exam and in Gaara's POV. Haven't really written all that much in the first person lately, so let's hope I can still pull it off, eh? ^_~ Spoilers for Gaara's fight with Naruto.

*

*

"Pretenders"

*

*

He didn't stop. Neither of us could even stand, but he still kept coming. Still intended to fight me, and would have, too, if the Uchiha hadn't stopped him.

And he . . . scared me.

People aren't supposed to be able to DO that.

But I have watched him . . . maybe more than I should have, even though he had escaped me. Not many people have done that. Him, that shadow guy, that Rock Lee who almost beat me- all of those kills ultimately denied me by that same strange man. That jounin who cried in front of everyone without shame.

That jounin makes my head hurt.

But that Naruto makes it hurt more, now.

When I think about the way he smiles, or the way he looks when he's angry, or the way he looks when he's desperate and terrified. When he's protecting his . . . "precious people." Those teammates.

I never did such a thing for my teammates. And they are my own blood.

What does that say about him and I?

It should mean that I am stronger.

Only . . . he won.

I . . . lost.

And he won.

And that Uchiha came and took him away, and I wasn't sure if I should be relieved or angry.

I don't feel as alone as I thought I was.

Is this a good thing or a bad one?

I should have known from the beginning. That cockiness, that smile, that fierce desire to prove his strength . . . but I saw nothing in him. Ignored him, looked at the Uchiha instead.

Too easy to see Sasuke's violence, Sasuke's strength. Too easy to miss that familiar look in Naruto's eyes in favor of the more obvious one in Sasuke's.

But Sasuke's misery was not the same as mine. He had a family who loved him, and that was what had made him the way he was. And the villagers adored him- the beautiful and tragic genius child of their precious Uchiha.

Naruto was the one who was like me. Not particularly attractive, and with no parents and no friends and nothing but hatred given to him for almost his entire life.

Did he even remember his childhood? Did he have someone like Yashamaru then, or did his "precious people" come later? And did they all stay precious, or did some of them betray him like Yashamaru had done to me?

What was so great about that Uchiha and Haruno, anyway? His precious rival and precious "Sakura-chan." Why were they so important? Why did they MATTER?

Kankuro had never been that important. Temari had never been that important.

But his teammates were.

And he . . .

He . . .

I had a goal, once. I was going to kill everyone in the world. I was going to care about no one but myself. I was going to be strong for my own sake.

But that goal is gone now. Because I met him. Because I met him and he smiled and he beat me.

Because I forgot his kind are thieves.

Because he is my precious person.

*

*

* final *

*

*

. : clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right- here i am, stuck in the middle with you : .