Chapter 1

A cyclone of dust kicked up just passed the view of her toes. She watched the tiny whirling sandstorm from under the shield of the book opened across her face. Her body was slouched against a wall, her hands clasped lazily on her stomach and her feet twitching restlessly in her sandals. Her eyes, which could barely be seen under the hardcover text, followed the cyclone until the breeze dissipated, allowing the small bit of sand to spiral back down to the earth. It was so small, so quaint, yet her mother would have seen it as a sign from powers beyond their control. To Arisca it was just bits of sand blown in the wind.

Arisca's cynical thoughts did not begin upon the sight of the tiny tornado, but earlier that day. Upon waking she was informed that she would have to watch over her younger cousin for the day. This meant walking her to play with all the other children her age and sitting around while she socialized. Arisca had had plans, but this apparently meant nothing to her parents. The teenager resigned to her fate fairly quickly – one did not argue with Risca's father – and fetched nine-year old Tamashii. That had only been the beginning of her grand adventure for the day.

Her book ended up being easily finished and bore no solace for a long day around the chattering and hyper play of younglings. The only thing the book was good for now was a screen against the unforgiving sun.

While Tamashii was out there running around with her friends, having a ball – literally by the sounds of the bouncing and boinging sounds – Arisca was stuck leaned against this building in the hot sun. If anything else could go wrong she wasn't aware of its existence. She watched the feet as they ran by, listened to the monotonous TING of the ball as it was tossed and kicked around. For a small glorious construction of seconds there was silence and Arisca thought perhaps she's finally get some peace.

She was wrong, as usual…

Tamashii was having fun with her friends, although she didn't really know them very well. She kicked the ball if it came her way, sometimes glancing in the direction of her cousin. She knew Arisca didn't want to be here, but the younger girl didn't want to be inside when she had the chance to play with the ball that everyone else was playing with.

The ball came her way at one point, but as she ran to get it, it zoomed passed her and toward the shadow of the cliff. It bounced off and she caught it. Tamashii turned with it in hand and kicked back toward the group, walking back to the makeshift soccer field.

The young girl paused to pull her extremely long hair from around her neck when she'd spun around seconds ago and looked up at the lone swing hanging nearby. There sat a small red-haired boy that looked really lonely. In her mind she wondered innocently why he was over there by himself. Why wasn't he playing with them?

She was just about to go ask him when the kids started complaining. The ball, she looked to see, was stuck on a small ridge of the cliff. She headed in the direction instead, thinking maybe she could go up there and get it for them. Tamashii walked carefully toward the cliff, getting ready to climb it, when the ball began floating down on a cradle of sand. The sand fell away and the ball landed gently in the hands of the boy with the red hair.

"Here..." he gave a small, lonely smile, holding the ball out to the closest girl. None of them moved to take it, most frozen in place or trembling. Why where they trembling, Tamashii wondered.

"It's Gaara…" one girl muttered, fear in her voice.

"Subaku no Gaara…" another child whispered, panicked. Then one of them said to run, and they all did just that as Tamashii was stepping toward Gaara to talk to him.

Gaara looked down for a moment, and the ball dropped, making her pause, as she looked at him, confused.

"Why do you run?" he nearly screamed, his eyes wide as he his threw up his head and arms. Tamashii took a step back, but didn't run. Sand reached out to the kid who now ran away from Gaara. The tendrils of sand pulled them to the ground, making many of them scream, frightened.

Everything else happened in a blur; everyone left Gaara there, except Tamashii. Gaara was now on the ground, crying, and felt that she had to make him feel better. The young girl picked up the discarded ball and started over to Gaara.

Very softly she whispered, "Do you want to play?"

Arisca enjoyed the silence for all of the two seconds before thinking something was off. She opened her ears and listened for the reason why a group of boisterous kids would suddenly go quiet. She could hear some vague conversation amongst them, then the mention of a name. Gaara. It was then Risca removed the book from her head and raised herself up. Frightened voices began to flee and instinctually Arisca found herself searching for Tamashii. She could not see her. Great job babysitting, Ris.

The kids began to scatter, running from the terror that they believed was embodied in the form of this young boy. A queer expression took shape from the previous look of hope. His features melted into something that combined confusion, loneliness, disappointment and …anger. Arisca felt a strange sensation flood through her. She couldn't explain this vague feeling, but for some reason she could not look away from this boy. Something told her he was looked away from too often. It made her feel so lost.

The boy named Gaara reached out to them, trying to call them back. When he reached out his hand sand rose and engulfed some of the children. A pang of something vile burst through her chest right before a stream of sand plunged down towards a little girl. Then, in an instant, someone had leapt in front of her, forming a shield from the sand. Arisca rocked back on her heels and it was then she realized that she had at some point gotten to her feet. She had been moving forward to do the same thing – although she now believed if she had done so she probably wouldn't have been as lucky as the man now standing before them.

The man implored the small boy, "Gaara-Sama, please calm down."

"Yashamaru…" He looked upset, even more disappointed. Perhaps with himself.

Silence took hold for a few moments as a breeze blew through. Arisca was frozen there, her cerulean eyes captured intently upon that small child. Even as the kids picked themselves up and made their escapes Risca watched him. He didn't notice her, and she wondered what she would do if he did. Her soul stitched as the boy collapsed into tears. Then, something she hadn't expected happened. Her cousin, who had up until this point had been missing in action, walked over and picked up the ball. Then she offered it to Gaara and whispered something.

The man looked like he might say something, and a worried expression adorned his handsome face. Arisca hurried over to him, concerned that he might not let Tamashii talk to him. She wondered if the man was aware of what had happened before he jumped in. "Sir, wait. I'm her cousin. Let her talk to him. As much as I hate to say it, she's good with people." Arisca smiled reassuringly at the man Gaara had called Yashamaru. They both turned their attention on the children.

Tamashii bent down in front of Gaara as he looked up at her. She gave him a smile as innocent as a pure angel. She could see the tears of sadness and pain in his eyes and down his cheeks as she waited for an answer. The girl wished he's stop crying, but she unknowingly understood his pain.

"I'll play with you, Gaara," she said sweetly, reaching out to gently take his hand and stood, tugging him to follow. He wiped his face of tears shyly.

"Okay." Gaara's voice was a soft squeak; you could hear the pain of being hated in his voice. Tamashii ignored it and gave him another sweet smile.

"I'll always play with you, so smile, okay?"

He looked at her, aqua eyes lost and searching for something he didn't quite understand about this girl. She was so kind to him, when everyone else, no matter what he did, would always look at him hatefully. Even if they tried to hide it, he could always feel it. But with her, there was no hate.

Instead of that pain that always struck his heart, there was a small budding happiness, and without realizing it a smile crossed his face. Tamashii's smile grew; he looked so much better when he smiled.

She held his hand still, with the ball dwarfing the other. "Come on, Gaara-kun," she led him toward the abandoned soccer goals.

"Kids can be so cruel," Arisca said suddenly as she watched her cousin walk away from them, hand-in-hand with Gaara. "And at the same time, kids can be so wise." She gave another cryptic smile and looked at the man, who was looking quite stunned at the transformation of the boy at the words and actions of Tamashii.

"What did you say your names were?"

"I'm Arisca. That's my younger cousin, Tamashii." She nodded toward the little blond girl. "And here I thought it was going to be boring today." She allowed herself a small laugh of irony. "Are you his father?"

"No, no." Yashamaru answered, shaking his head. "I'm his uncle. His mother was my sister. I try to look out for him, but as you can see he's different."

"I know who he is." That cryptic nature that belonged to Arisca's bloodline reappeared as her voice took on the sound of a mystic. She then caught herself. She didn't desire the road that her predecessors had paved for her. "Sorry, that happens sometimes."

"Junshin." Yashamaru said, "you're clan Junshin, aren't you."

"Yes," Arisca sighed. She didn't want to admit it. Whenever people learned which clan she was from they usually didn't let her forget it anytime soon afterward. "My mother's side. My father is Meisei Saikuro."

"Is Saikuro-San doing well?"

Arisca raised an eyebrow. He didn't ask her what it was like being a Junshin. Odd. "Otosan is doing quite well. He's complaining about an old leg injury, but other than that, well."

"That is very good. Next time you see him tell him I give my regards."

"I will, sir." Arisca nodded pleasantly.

"Gaara-Sama!" Yashamaru called out, "its getting late, I think we should go."

"Tamashii! Its almost dinner time," Arisca reminded in addition, then inquired upon the older man. "If I may, would it be all right if we come back tomorrow and visit with Gaara. I'm sure Tamashii would enjoy that."

"I think Gaara would, too." Yashamaru stretched out his hand and Arisca took it in a friendly handshake as the kids said their goodbyes.

Tamashii and Gaara had been pushing the ball back and forth. Whenever the ball got past her, Tamashii would giggle and say "good job!" to Gaara or, "Come back!" to the ball as she chased it. Gaara had stopped the ball from going too far with the sand so she could get it.

It was obvious that Gaara looked a little happier with Tamashii showing absolutely no fear of him and even having fun just knocking the ball back and forth.

When Arisca and Yashamaru called for them to she pouted to herself, wanting almost to cry because she was having fun. Gaara looked sadder than she did, looking toward his uncle with sad aqua eyes.

"Gaara... I can come play with you tomorrow, okay?" she smiled, going over to him. Gaara gave her another little smile, nodding.

"Okay... Bye..." he said softly, turning again to Yashamaru. Before he got far Tamashii turned him around and hugged him.

"Bye, Gaara-kun!" she whispered happily, and hopped over to her cousin. She watched Gaara with a smile, and he was watching her silently, too. She kept on smiling, happy that she'd made a friend today.

Well, that was the first installment. We currently are working on chapter 2 at the moment. I know its a little boring at first, but it will get better, especially as Gaara gets older. This was a what if idea we threw around for a while before deciding to write a story to figure out whether or not Gaara would have changed any if given the chance to be shown affection from people. Tamashii and Arisca are the variables. We don't know if they're going to fail yet or not.

Long Live the Kazekage!

(Not me the other one!)

Signing off for now, Kazekage-Hime