"Why? Why does everyone run away from me? What's wrong with me?"
The seasons of Sunagakure do not change often, varying from somewhat hot, to hot, to blazing, and then finally, living inferno with a blast of sand storms. Indeed, it was a miracle that people even lived in such an inhospitable place, add on the fact that the area was flourishing and you had nothing short of God-like on your hands.
Today, the weather was borderline between 'somewhat hot' and 'hot', the sun bearing down on the land. There sat a small child, a boy who looked in between the ages of five and six, on one of the sun bleached buildings. His tiny legs hung off the edge, his small shoulders shaking from his rather loud sobbing. His hands were balled into fists near his face in an emotionally defensive posture. The tears rolled down a pale face from eyes heavily ringed with dark circles, giving him a rather raccoon-ish look. His hair was somewhat unusual for this land, a bright shock of unruly red hair, short but still looking as if it hadn't seen a brush or a comb in ages. Most of the villagers had more earthen tones, browns, blacks, even some blonde but not red. The shade made him stand out, for there was only one family line that held such traits.
But the child, of course, was not worried about his station. Beside him was a ball, nothing outlandish, just an ordinary ball that many of the kids would play with on the streets. It was that ball, however, that was the cause of such grief. No, that was incorrect. It was not the ball, but the boy that was the problem and for the life of him he could not figure out why.
"Why won't anyone play with me?" he sobbed to himself, his small voice full of pain and sadness. He was too young to fully understand the pains of the world, too young to understand the complexities of human beings and much too young to understand what exactly he was.
The situation had started out simply. The boy had been walking along the road, heading for his house, when the ball in question had suddenly appeared before his feet. He had stopped, curious, for ahead were the children who had been playing. He had heard their happy cheers and had held no real desire to go over there until he had seen the ball.
Maybe if I give the ball to them, they'll let me play! He had thought jubilantly, picking up his hopeful offering and moving forward, a bright and hopeful smile on his face, not wanting to seem frightening.
The smile dropped quickly as he noticed that not only had the cheering and the happy faces had faded, but it was as he had feared would happen, they were scared of him. So scared in fact that they began screaming and the more he moved toward them the more they moved away. Their screams of denial and fear struck the boy deep in his heart. He could feel the pain there, the rejection piercing deep, tearing at him.
"Wait!" he called "Please! Your ball!"
But they would not listen, his words only drove them into further panic and soon they were gone. He had stood there for quite some time, holding the ball in his hands, confusion, pain, and frustration on his tiny features.
Why? Why why why why whywhywhywhywhy?!
Something stirred in him as his frustration turned into anger, something that coaxed him on, wanting him to be angry. Lash out it seemed to say Destroy them the next time you see them…kill them all…
The thoughts went no further, however, as a voice cut into his thoughts. Soft and feminine. It sounded young, perhaps his age. Actually, had he not been who he was, he wouldn't have heard the voice at all, so quiet it had been.
Abruptly, he found himself turning sharply to the voice, startled. How had anyone known he was up here? Who was this person?
His suspicions had been correct in assuming that it was a young girl his age. Her hair was dark, almost the color of the night with natural blue highlights within. Her skin was pale, so pale that she looked fragile, like porcelain. He had never seen anyone with such a complexion, even his skin tone couldn't compare.
It was her eyes, however, that he thought was so strange. They were large and pale, so pale they looked white, except it felt instead that he was looking at twin pearls. Compared to everything he had seen so far in his brief life, she looked exotic, strange and foreign.
Like him. Strange, unnatural. But this girl, she was so…pretty. Even her garments were strange, a pale purple yukata that faded into a deep shade of violet at the bottom, pale jasmine flowers accenting. Her obi was a pale shade of gold but overall, the entire ensemble made the boy think that she truly was a doll. Was she real? She looked otherworldly, this little girl.
The girl-doll was actually half out and half behind the door that the boy had used earlier when he had came up here. Her small hands clutched at the door as if it were a lifeline, her pale face accented by the rising rose of her cheeks. Well, she was alive at least, otherwise she wouldn't be able to blush, right?
Was she afraid of him? He couldn't remember what the girl had said to bring him out of his thoughts but she definitely seemed as if she wasn't going to move from her spot. She also seemed to be waiting for an answer.
They stared at each other for a bit longer, until finally the girl's face turned an interesting shade of red and she ducked her head against the arm that was clutching on the door, her large pale eyes looking at him.
"W-w-why…" she began, her voice so soft that he had to strain to hear her. It didn't help that she was now somewhat muffled as well. "Um…I mean…I..you…you're crying. I-I…I just…"
The boy stiffened. He realized that he had not wiped away his tears when he had heard her voice. In fact, he could feel his face beginning to itch as the tears began to dry. However, he was a boy after all, and he had his pride. Scowling at her, he wiped at his face frantically. When he was satisfied, he gave her a rather defiant look.
"I wasn't crying." He huffed "I'm a boy, boys don't cry."
If anything, the girl merely moved closer behind the door, peeking out at him. "O-oh. Um…a-are you o-okay then?"
He found himself turned fully around, looking at her. Was she really afraid of him? She wasn't screaming or running away like the others. She seemed curious, but she wouldn't move away from the door, clutching it as if it would protect her. But from what? From him? If she was scared she should run away. What a confusing girl. She seemed even concerned for him. He felt something shift in his heart. No one had ever really asked him if he was 'okay', if he was well or feeling good. No one really except Yashamaru, his uncle. He felt a little giddy at the thought that someone, a complete stranger like her, wanted to know how he felt, if he was doing well. Suddenly, he wanted her to come closer, to talk to her face to face, not with a door between them.
But how? Everyone was so scared of him, would he end up chasing her away too?
He continued to stare at her and she continued to look as if she was scared yet she was remained at her spot as if stuck. He watched her pale eyes, fascinated by their uniqueness, the strange beauty behind them. As he watched her, he could tell that her eyes kept moving, from him to something else. After about a minute of this, she clutched the door even tighter, her mouth pursed before moving to a thin line, as if she had wanted to say something.
Turning to the source of what she was looking at, he realized that she was looking at the ball. Something akin to hope lurched within him. Did she? Could she possibly…?
"Do…you want to play?" he asked cautiously, the words coming out of his mouth slowly and with no small bit of fear. His heart seemed to have stopped as he walked over and picked up the ball. He turned around and his heart jumped back up to speed when he noticed that she was still there, still unmoving. She was still there, she hadn't run away, she hadn't screamed and shouted at him.
When the small girl nodded, he thought he'd start crying again. It was a curious sensation, why would he want to cry when he was so happy? He would have to ask Yashamaru about this later. Slowly, almost painfully so, she moved from the door, her hands coming up to her mouth which half covered her face. Her cheeks were still a rosy pink and she seemed to keep to the wall, or close to something that would support her. He found this curious. Was she scared or what? He couldn't really understand the concept of shyness, his range of experience was so limited due to who and what he was otherwise he would have understood and possibly tried to reassure her.
"What's your name?" he asked as she approached. She stopped and the boy tensed. Would she run away now? Was she really a real person or was she really some exotic otherworldly creature that would now fly away from his grasp, leaving him alone once more?
"H-H-Hyu-Hyuuga H-Hin-ata…" the girl stammered, hiding her face even more with her sleeves.
It took the boy a moment to process what she had just said. Hyuuga Hinata. He wasn't familiar with the name, it sounded strange, as if it didn't belong here.
"I'm Gaara." He said cheerfully, trying to do everything he could think of not to scare the girl away like the others. He smiled, he tried to look friendly. He held the ball in his hands gingerly, hoping to the Gods that he didn't look frightening.
Please don't run away.
Slowly, she continued towards him, the sleeves slowly dropping, but not completely leaving her face. When she was close enough, Gaara extended his arms, offering her the ball. He watched as she looked at the ball and then at him, as if to ask 'Is it okay?' He nodded at her, his chest swelling with some unnamed emotion. She wanted to play with him. Someone wanted to play with him, she wasn't running away or screaming. There wasn't any fear in her eyes like the others; she seemed curious and hesitant, but those large eyes held no real fear of him.
Their fingers brushed together as she took the ball and Hinata made a chirping-like sound and flinched back, her hands moving to her face once again, the ball dropping. Confused, Gaara bent over and picked up the ball.
"We can't play if you don't touch the ball." He said, lightly admonishing her.
The girl nodded and with a visible gulp, she reached out again and took the ball from his hands. He smiled at her and she did something he knew he would never forget for the rest of his life.
Holding the ball at waist level, the small girl blushed and flashed him the most beautiful smile he had ever seen. It seemed so strange, seeing someone his age smile at him. He treasured it, keeping her face in his memory, storing it away.
"L-let's be friends!" he exclaimed at her suddenly. His fists were clutched at his sides and he shut his sleep deprived eyes. He had no idea what made him do such a thing, only that he was scared. Scared that if he didn't do it now that he'd never have the chance again, that she'd slip through his fingers and run away. He had to seal the friendship now, make her promise. She couldn't go back on her word, she'd have to stay his friend…even if she'd be his only friend.
It's okay…it's okay as long as there's one…just one who doesn't look at me like that.
Hinata had taken a step back in surprise, holding the ball up to her face like a shield. He couldn't see her face, his eyes were tightly shut. If he had, however, he would have noticed how her expression went from being surprised to calm and then to warm, another one of her bright smiles filling her features.
"Okay!" she said, her voice for once sounding confident and somewhat loud "I'd…I'd like that."
The two children beamed brightly at each other, as if they had both found a sort of haven within each other. Gaara's face lit up and his smile was wide. A friend. A real friend. He wanted to hug her, but he didn't dare, afraid that he'd break such a fragile girl instead. Hyuuga Hinata, his friend. He'd never forget her face, her name, for as long as he lived.
"My first friend…" he whispered. He had to say it out loud, to prove to himself that it was real, that he wasn't imagining things. He looked at Hinata again, just to make sure and was greeted with a slightly confused, but pleasant smile.
"Friends forever!" she giggled, seeming to relax around the boy who seemed almost as awkward and lonely as she.
Gaara took another step towards his new friend and all hell broke loose.
Lord Hyuuga Hiashi was infuriated.
Well, infuriated was a rather weak word to use in comparison to the way he was storming about, throwing out threats and screaming out demands.
"Where is the Kazekage?!" the Hyuuga ruler demanded "And where are my men? I have brought good medical ninja, competent medical ninja and I demand that they be in there to see to my daughter's condition!"
A Suna chunin who looked as if he wanted to sink into the ground and disappear took a step back, holding up his arms in a non-threatening gesture.
"My lord Hyuuga," the man began "Your daughter is in stable condition and your medical nin are on their way right as we speak. If you'd just…"
"Don't tell me what to do!" Hiashi roared at the young man "Do you know who I am?! Don't think for one moment that I don't understand what it is that demon child did to my daughter! This entire empire is full of incompetents, ran by the largest incompetent of them all! His own son, and he almost killed my daughter! Is this what you called us for Suna trash? To do such a thing as to incite a war? Believe me, when I get back to my empire, that's exactly what will happen. Do you understand me? You people have just started war!"
The younger man, inexperienced with this sort of situation merely took a few more steps back, stuttering and stammering something, anything, to get this man off his back.
"Lord Hiashi," came a slow drawl. "Please calm down, everything is being taken care of."
The chunin sighed a very audible sigh of relief and bowed respectfully to the approaching Kazekage and his entourage. "My lord," he began "The Hyuuga girl is in stable condition, we are waiting for the Konoha medical nin to offer their assistance as Lord Hyuuga requests."
The Kazekage nodded and made a simple gesture. The elite jounin behind him disappeared but everyone in the room knew they were not gone. He wore the simple garments of a shinobi instead of his more formal robes. He was tall, as tall as Hiashi, with tanned skin and dirty red hair, almost brown. He had a rather cocky smile on his face as he regarded the Hyuuga.
"Dear Hiashi," he began "I have been briefed on the situation and I assure you that we have no intention of going to war with you, especially considering that we have just signed peace agreements between our lands." He held up a hand before Hiashi could complain, silencing him "We invited you here, the great Hyuuga clan, as you're the top clan of your land and we wanted to show that there was no ill will between us in regards to further cementing our alliance. What has happened to your daughter is quite unfortunate, but I can assure you that my son, Gaara, did not purposefully try to kill your daughter."
The Hyuuga snorted, obviously disbelieving. As he did, one of his men, a medical ninja came out of the room behind them.
"Lord Hiashi," the Konoha ninja announced "We've arrived. Lady Hinata is in stable condition and her limbs should be fine. She is young and there will be some scarring but there's no risk of her becoming crippled."
Hiashi didn't even turn towards the voice "Understood. Thank you. Let me know when I can see her. We'll be leaving the moment she's ready for travel."
"Sir!" the voice acknowledged.
"See?" the fourth Kazekage said cheerfully "Your daughter is fine."
"No thanks to your bastard son!" Hiashi exclaimed "What in the nine hells did he think he was doing, trying to crush her to death! Do you take no responsibility for your actions? You say you desire no war but your very own son attacks my daughter! Do not think for a second that I won't inform his lord Hokage about this…"
The smile remained, but the Kazekage's eyes narrowed "Hiashi, I understand that you are a father who is naturally upset by what has happened to his daughter," he crossed his arms "But do not forget who it is you are speaking to. You are but a noble from your lands, here, I am king and reign supreme here. I am being kind because I sympathize, but mind your tongue. I'll ignore the threats and insults you have thrown towards myself and my people, but there is only so much more I will tolerate, do you understand?"
This caused the Lord Hyuuga to pause. He opened his mouth as if to say something and then closed it, as if thinking better of it. He found himself paling a bit at the warning, realizing that if he did indeed go too far, he'd have to face an enraged Hokage for failing the mission due to his personal feelings. Disgraceful, it'd shame the house of Hyuuga if such a thing happened.
So he backed down.
"…Forgive me Kazekage," he began, bowing respectfully "You are correct. I am upset about my daughter's injuries. You see, she is the heir to my clan, if anything were to happen to her…"
"Consider it forgotten." The Kazekage waved it off "I completely understand. I am a father as well, after all. My son means a great deal to me, especially since he was chosen by the demon Shukaku. I hear that your village also had a demon choose a child. It seems that both the father and mother died, however."
Hiashi nodded "Yes, the late Hokage and his wife died placing a seal on the child so the demon would not overwhelm him. It makes him less of a threat to the village." There was a hidden undertone to that last sentence that the Kazekage definitely picked up on. However, if it angered him, he said nothing.
"It is unfortunate. My wife also died, the demon chose our child while still in the womb. There was little I could do." At this, he feigned an expression of pain "I miss her still. However, we have other ways of dealing with this sort of situation when it comes to the Shukaku demon. My son is young, the demon still has a heavy influence on him that he doesn't realize. He is being trained Hiashi, do not think we are just ignoring the boy." His expression turned grave "However, there's a reason why Gaara did what he did to your daughter. He was trying to protect her."
He couldn't help it. Hiashi laughed cruelly "Is this some sort of joke Lord Kazekage?" he asked "If so, I don't find it that funny."
"Hear me out first," the Kazekage began "I have constant surveillance on Gaara at all times. There is no where the child cannot go that I don't know about. Reports show that the two children were about to play when an assassin attacked them both."
Pausing, Hiashi's eyes widened "Where they after my…"
The Kazekage shook his head "That cannot be determined. We believe that they could have been after Gaara. Some of the other countries have felt threatened by him before, this isn't the first attempt on his life. However, reports stated that he tried to protect Hinata, but the sand ended up hurting her as well. He saved her from a life-threatening attack, at the risk of injuring her arm and leg. So in all actuality, you should be grateful to my son, he saved your daughter's life."
I didn't…it wasn't my fault! Please, please don't die…I'm so sorry, I didn't mean it…I didn't mean it…
Sobbing. He was a boy and he knew he shouldn't cry but he couldn't help it. His chest hurt so badly, he felt as if he were dying. He sat in the waiting room of the hospital alone, crying his little heart out.
He hadn't meant to hurt Hinata, it had been such a horrible accident. They were just going to play, just a little game. They had just promised to be friends forever and they were just going to play…just going to play…
Gaara's sobs strengthened in intensity as he saw the look in her eyes, the pain, the sickening crunch as the sand crushed her tiny bones. The blood, oh Gods the blood…it had been everywhere, on her beautiful yukata, his hands, his face, her face, blood coming from her tiny lips…
Sweet, delicious blood…
"NO!" the child screamed, putting his hands over his ears as if to make the sound go away Not Hinata! Not my friend!
Not his first and only friend, he would never want to hurt her! She had made him happy, even for just a few moments. She had smiled at him and had wanted to play with him, with him of all people! Never ever would he have ever harmed her. So why? Why had the sand hurt her when he had wanted to protect her?
His thoughts began to turn dark as he contemplated it. It was the assassin's fault. It wasn't the first time someone had attacked him, trying to kill him. Of course, he couldn't be killed, the sand protected him whether he liked it or not. Of course, he had dispatched of the assassin, killing them wasn't nearly as frightening or disturbing as it had been the first time. However, hurting Hinata, his new friend…
It had been like hurting himself.
He could hear screaming from another room, Hinata's father. Gaara had tried to tune out the threats and accusations.
No! he had thought in defiance to Hiashi's words I didn't try to kill Hinata! I'd never do that! Why does everyone think I'm some sort of bloodthirsty monster? I didn't mean to…
He wanted to shut Hiashi up. He wanted to stop the screaming, to tell him he was wrong, to make him take back those words, even if he had to claw it out of his throat. Hiashi was like the others, calling him a monster, not understanding. If he could, Gaara would show him, he'd make Hiashi understand…
"Gaara, what are you doing?"
Yashamaru. It was always Yashamaru that brought him from the darkness and back into the light. Yashamaru understood him, he cared. Tears still streaming down his face, Gaara looked up at his caretaker and uncle and rushed over to him, putting his little arms around the man, sobbing.
"I didn't mean it!" Gaara exclaimed to Yashamaru "I didn't! Please believe me Yashamaru, Hinata-chan and I are friends, we promised!"
There was a long pause, so long that Gaara looked up at the man, wondering if perhaps he had said something wrong. However, Yashamaru simply looked thoughtful and when Gaara looked up at him, he looked down at the boy with a smile.
"It seems like you found someone precious to you." Yashamaru said carefully. When Gaara didn't seem to understand, he motioned the boy to sit down at one of the chairs.
"What does that mean Yashamaru?" he asked "To have someone precious to you?"
As always, Yashamaru's smile was kind, warm, inviting. Gaara always felt soothed around the man, as if he were like a father figure. "It means," he began "that this girl, Lady Hinata, has become someone that has touched your heart deeply," as he said that he poked a finger at Gaara's heart, to which the boy giggled. A small hand reached and clutched at his shirt where Yashamaru had poked.
"My heart…" Gaara repeated "When she wanted to be my friend," he began "My heart felt big and warm. I liked it. She promised me that we'd be friends forever, and I was really happy Yashamaru." The tears threatened to reappear "But…but the sand didn't like her. It hurt her, why did it do that Yashamaru? Does the sand reject me too?"
"I think…the sand loves you and wants to protect you as my sister, your mother, would have if she were still alive. But you're still young, your powers are still developing. It wasn't your fault this happened Gaara, if you hadn't pulled the Lady Hinata out of harm's way with your sand, she'd be dead." Another heartwarming smile "You did the right thing."
"Th-thank you Yashamaru."
"Ah!" the older man exclaimed, giving Gaara a bright smile as he remembered something important "I actually came in here to tell you that the Lady Hinata is fine. Her wounds were serious, but she'll be able to walk and move her limbs again efficiently." Yashamaru put a hand on Gaara's shoulder but paused as the boy began to cry once more.
"G…Gaara? What's wrong? Why are you crying?"
The boy didn't know "I..I'm crying but I'm happy Yashamaru.." he confessed "What does that mean?"
Pulling the boy close, Yashamaru sighed, but it was not one of exasperation "That's…a very good thing Gaara. When people cry and they're happy, it means that their feelings toward that something is very strong. You've found someone precious to you, try to keep her close."
"I…I will Yashamaru…" the boy said.
The young boy, with the help of his uncle, eventually was able to sneak into Hinata's room after everyone had departed. He only wanted to see her just once more, just to see if she was okay or if…or if she hated him.
The room looked so massive to the small boy and when he looked up at her it almost seemed as if the bed was engulfing her. She was sleeping with her head turned to him, long lashes brushing across pale cheeks. Guilt coursed through him, he looked at her almost too-pale skin and the painful memories of that day came back to haunt him.
I don't…I don't want to lose my first friend. My only friend.
He began to cry again, fear and guilt and pain eating at him. Why did he exist if everything he did brought suffering to others? What was his purpose in life? He was shunned and feared, even his own family avoided him. Yashamaru was the only person Gaara felt cared and understood him, but Yashamaru wasn't a five year old little girl. For the first time in his life someone his age had wanted to play with him; hadn't been turned off by the fact that he simply existed. Yashamaru had told him that he had saved Hinata's life. Looking at her, how frail she looked and the bandages all over her body, he did not understand what good had come out of this.
His eyes flew back up to her face, his eyes wide with surprise. His friend's voice had been so soft, so quiet he almost hadn't heard her. There was a small smile on her round face as she regarded him. Slowly, she moved her uninjured arm out from under the covers. Even in her condition he watched as color began to form on her face.
The child looked at the girl's hand. It was as if she was trying to reach out to him. Afraid and unsure, his gaze moved to hers and he hesitated.
Hinata never stopped smiling, even though he could tell that she was in pain. "H-hand…" she whispered, a few of her fingers wiggling at him.
Gaara was dumbstruck "Y-you want me to…?" he looked once again at her hand and back at her. Her smile brightened and she nodded slowly.
She's not…she's not scared of me. She's not angry, she's not…she still wants to be my friend.
The realization struck him to his very core. Why was this girl so different from the others? Why did she offer him a hand in comfort when everyone else fled? Wiping at his tear stained face he took two steps forward. His hand, shaking in nervousness, slowly moved up to take her hand. He intertwined his fingers with hers and noticed how soft and fragile her skin felt. Leaning forward, he brought their joined hands to his face, closing his eyes briefly.
"F-friends…" she croaked out and he came to the sudden realization that she had been doing all of this to comfort and reassure him, even though he had injured her so badly. "It's okay," she seemed to say without speaking "I still like you, I still want to be your friend."
He held her hand until she eventually closed her eyes and allowed sleep to claim her. Gently, he shifted her arm so that she would be more comfortable and he quietly left the room with mixed feelings and his tiny hand moving over his chest in contemplation.
After that night, Gaara never saw his friend again.
As the years progressed, Gaara suffered betrayal from the man he had considered most important to him and continued to be alienated and feared by his people, those he was destined to one day rule over. He never did forget the girl; she merely became a background figure in his mind, an imaginary figure that had only existed in his dreams that could have been his salvation.
Gaara suffered many more assassination attempts, the most notable one from Yashamaru. He changed after that, becoming cold and unfeeling, caring only for himself. It was only during the chunin exams, when he had been defeated by the previous Hokage's son and next in line for the mantle of Hokage, Naruto, in which he changed. Naruto and he, holding different philosophies in life fought each other to prove whose line of thinking was more correct. Naruto won and Gaara realized that it honestly was possible for him to form bonds and connect, his own siblings having been the first to connect with the young boy.
He did not see Hinata at the chunin exams, or else things would have gone differently. In fact, he still believed the girl had been a figment of his imagination, a miracle he had dreamt up when he was small to deal with the fact that everyone hated him and wanted him dead…even his own father.
He took over Sunagakure as the new Kazekage years after the chunin exams, taking the country by storm. Under his strict but kind rule, Suna began to prosper, their major export being spices and other exotic scents and fragrances. Relations between Suna and Konaha improved greatly although there were a few countries that were beginning to talk about war. This made the allied nations a bit nervous, so to try and appease the hostile nations and in a method to seal peace, they began what was called 'Debut'. Similar to the chunin exams in the sense that it brought all of the major countries together, the 'Debut' was more of a political ceremony. Elegant, beautiful, graceful, the 'Debut' took all of the young noble females of age from varying countries and presented them at their most lovely. They danced and performed, only once of course, at the age of sixteen, to show prospective suitors 'their stuff'. It was all stuffy and boring and something he had held no interest in.
Little did he know just how involved he would become.