Chapter 3

Gaara's eyes narrowed, following the laughter of the children racing down the city streets behind him. Children were an annoyance leaving him with a hollow feeling where his heart should have been. Or was it simply that he was too numb to feel anything of the anguish that had permeated his entire life?

How had this all happened? This isolation... and more importantly why did it have to be him instead of someone else? His hands clenched into tight fists, mouth twisting into a dissatisfied scowl as he turned his attention back to the small eatery in the distance. He was here... at least that was what he'd been told when he finally got a reluctant answer out of one of the nameless, faceless inhabitants of this God forsaken place.

It had been a simple question.

'Where is Naruto...'

But from the reactions he'd gotten, he'd have thought they'd been asked what kind of painful gruesome death they wanted to suffer.

'Irritating... Idiotic... Bastards. All of them.'

A voice deep inside his body whispered that they should die... but Gaara shoved away the impulse, too troubled in his thoughts to listen to the promises of relief that such actions could bring.

He kept remembering those crystal blue eyes glaring at him, and how this fool of a shinobi, not much older than he was, had kept coming at him no matter how hard he tried to kill the boy. He'd been unstoppable.

This fool. This idiot... this brash loud-mouthed brat who'd been shaking in his shoes just earlier that day at the stadium. Well, he certainly had been a surprise. Gaara'd never even seen it coming.

It was a strange feeling, this nervousness that rolled through his stomach as he came to a stop outside the shop. His hand reached up to clutch at the fabric at his chest, an unfamiliar gesture to try to calm himself enough to enter. Was it fear? Fear of failing once again. Fear of being spurned by this boy, just as every other person he'd attempted to befriend had done.

How was it that everyone else knew how to do this? It seemed so easy for them. A casual smile, a friendly wave. They were all foreign concepts to Gaara. But he wanted to change. Desperately.

He wanted to feel what it was like to be a part of things... to have his small world expand to include people that actually liked him; that wanted to be around him. And even more so, ones that Gaara didn't feel like killing at a moments notice.

The world around him solidified once again. Sounds became clearer, painful to his ears with the bustle of activity from the happy community. He could hear voices raised in conversation, cheerful greetings, friendly laughter, soft murmurings of other things he didn't understand. And yet, he knew that if he didn't take this single step forward, he would remain in the dark isolation of his lonely world forever.

Gaara of the desert. Sand ninja, murderer, monster... Steeling his nerve, he took a deep breath and walked inside.

End of Chapter 3