A/N: Well, this fic is dedicated to DemonicKitsune-chan. As per her request, the fic is about gaara and naruto, as loners, coming together and finding solace in each other. *sweat drops*

This fic is a departure for me in many ways: 1. I've never written Gaanaru. 2. the whole Naruto being neglected and lonely and misunderstood is severely overdone in my opinion, so I don't know how well I'm going to do with that. 3. I'm going by canonical ages, abilities and ways of speaking for most of this fic and that is uncharted territory for me. 4. I can't see myself putting hardcore lemons in this when they're approximately 13 yrs old. Maybe some limes. *sweat drops again*

Dk-chan further requested that this be a sad fic...I'll try. I'll do my best, but I have an idea that I'm going to fail miserably. Some of the events mentioned herein actually happened in the Manga. The rest is the result of my own questionable imagination.

One last thing...this was supposed to be a oneshot, but I can't do it. So it will be a threeshot instead.

Alrighty then, my first attempt at a giftfic begins. Please be kind, this is a whole new writing experiment for me.


Chapter 1

Naruto hated his life. He would never admit that, not even to himself, but he did. He wasn't even aware that he hated it. He just knew he felt like he was in a constant fight with everyone around him and the misery was an ever-present pain inside him.

Right now he was at the training grounds with his team. He watched as Kakashi-sensei flipped his book closed and addressed them.

"Yosh!" the Jounin said. "Training's done for today. Report back here bright and early tomorrow morning to begin the new mission."

This wasn't even worth getting excited about. The mission was likely to be another boring D-rank that he screwed up on. "Neh, Kakashi-sensei," Naruto grouched. "Why can't we get a cool A-rank mission?"

"What would you do on an A-rank," Sasuke drawled. He didn't give Naruto the courtesy of looking at him as he spoke. "All you do is mess up on the D-ranks we get. I'm constantly saving your stupid ass. You're the reason this team sucks. You're dragging us down."

"Teme!" Naruto raised his fist. "I am not the reason this team is weak, you are!"

"Sasuke-kun is right," Sakura sang. "You are weak."

Naruto glared at her. He wished desperately that his crush saw him in a different light. Before he could say anything else Kakashi-sensei intervened.

"Once your teamwork improves you will be given better missions. If you want an A-rank, Naruto, work hard and become stronger. Ja ne." The Jounin disappeared with a poof.

Naruto sullenly watched Sakura try to encourage Sasuke to go on a date with her as the two walked off the training grounds. The last thing he heard before they disappeared was Sasuke telling Sakura to get lost. That gave the dejected blond a tiny bit of happiness.

He walked aimlessly through the village for a few hours, killing time as evening fell. He didn't like going home to his empty apartment. In the end, Naruto landed on the Hokage monument and sat atop the Fourth's shaggy head. He gazed out over the twinkling lights of the village, leaning on one huge spike of hair. He sighed.

On a rooftop not far away a pair of dark-ringed eyes regarded him speculatively. That figure also watched life in the village, apart from the activities.

The next day, after the mission, Kakashi-sensei announced that the Chuunin exam would be taking place soon. Team 7 had been submitted, he told them. It was up to them if they actually went through with it or not.

A lot of bickering and arguing later, Naruto and his team did decide to join. They made it through the written portion of the exam by the skin of their teeth and the Forest of Death portion with a bit more skill. Some snakey asshole attacked Sasuke but Naruto came to the teme's rescue. They fought the bastard off, though it cost them both.

It was at the matches after the five days in the forest that Naruto saw him for the first time. That weird kid with the gourd. He had to have been standing there on the railed walkway across the room the entire time, but Naruto didn't notice him until he went up against Bushy Brows. Something about the kid resonated with Naruto. Like, literally struck a chord that hummed throughout Naruto's being. Naruto couldn't take his eyes off the match, watching the kid's every move. They'd said the kid's name was Gaara.

He was utterly ruthless against Bushy Brows. Lee fought with dignity, honor, pride. Gaara fought to kill, plain and simple. Naruto wondered where someone so young got the thirst to kill so meaninglessly. Had Gai-sensei not stopped the fight, Lee would have been dead. As it was, he was in critical condition.

Gaara. Just who was he exactly?

The matches were over. The Third announced that they'd have a month to train before the final exam. Kakashi informed Naruto that he was to go train with some closet pervert while he, Kakashi, went to train the perfect and ever enviable Sasuke. Joy.

Naruto wasn't exactly surprised. Sure, he'd hoped to get some cool new move out of his sensei, but Naruto rarely ever got what he wanted. Tragic though everyone liked to think Sasuke's life was, it was him who had everything Naruto ever wanted in life. He had the girls, the acknowledgment, the skills, the looks. God, he hated Sasuke!

Ebisu-sensei wasn't easy to ditch, but Naruto had years of practice. Weird, when you thought about it; Naruto was desperate for any attention, even negative attention, so why did he have so much experience evading people? Alright, he got into trouble a lot…okay, more than a lot, he was constantly in trouble…but he was unnaturally good at disappearing. Maybe the fact that most people ignored him helped. It could be said that Ebisu didn't try as hard as he might have to chase him.

Naruto ended up at the section of the village where all the guests for the Chuunin exam were being housed. He walked through the narrow alleys between motels until he saw a man standing on a third-floor balcony of one particular building. The man had one half of his face veiled. Naruto paused as the realization that he'd been unconsciously seeking this Gaara person out hit him. Well, I'm here now, the blond shrugged. No use going back. He walked into the motel.

It was cool and dim inside. A few couches that had seen better days sat around the slightly shabby reception area. An ancient fan turned lazily with a muted droning sound. The receptionist gave him a frown and a sniff when he asked what room the Sand Genins were in. "What, I don't have a right to breathe your precious air?" Naruto asked indignantly. He was ignored. Typical. Naruto made his way up the stairway to her left and searched the third floor himself.

What was he doing? Why did he want to meet this person? Dude was hella strong, Naruto had seen that. Still, curiosity had him by the throat by now and Naruto was powerless to stop himself when he found what he thought was the right door. A drop of sweat wended its sluggish way down one temple as his heart sped up a few beats. He raised his grubby fist and knocked.

A girl answered. She looked to be permanently displeased about something, most especially the sight of Naruto standing there asking if Gaara was around.

"What do you want to see him for?"

Naruto hadn't thought of that. His brain didn't do well under pressure or when pretty girls were staring daggers at him. "I…uh…saw him at the matches and wanted to say hello?"

The girl sneered. "Wait here." She closed the door firmly in his face.

Naruto waited in the stifling hallway as he heard raised voices behind the door. He saw a mouse scurry along the base of the wall opposite him. When the door reopened it was the veiled man standing there. He regarded Naruto with one angry eye.

"Gaara is not allowed visitors," the man said stonily. "You may leave."

The door shut with a deal more finality this time. The brief wind it made fanned Naruto's burning cheeks. He considered storming the place, but thought better of it. That girl had fought well at the matches and if that man was their teacher he had to be very strong; not one of the Sand trio had lost a match. It galled him to back down, but Naruto displayed a rare bit of wisdom and left the motel quietly.

The blond happened to have a few ryou burning a hole in his pocket. He treated himself to ramen at his favorite spot before heading reluctantly home. He was lost in thought as he trudged up the stairs, pushed his key in his door and entered his small living space. Even if he had been alert, though, he probably wouldn't have noticed the presence standing in his living room until it was too late. As it was, Naruto stared dumbly at his visitor.

Gaara stood impassively, arms folded, stance at ease. He stared at Naruto as the blond slowly closed the door behind him. A hot breeze drew Naruto's glance toward his open window. That answered the question of how the kid had gotten into his apartment, at least. He walked forward a few steps and stared right back at Gaara, feeling his body buzz in recognition of some nameless power the guy had.

Naruto let his gaze take in the black attire, the calm yet forceful look on Gaara's face. Those eyes zeroed in on Naruto's blue ones and held them. When Gaara spoke it startled Naruto badly.

"I heard you were looking for me. What do you want?" the redhead said. His voice was deep and pleasant on the ears. At least, Naruto found the voice pleasant. It wasn't until later that he would think the voice was pleasant because it didn't belittle him with its tone or sound annoyed or angry with him.

Naruto could have lied, but the situation was too surreal for his brain to produce one that would sound convincing. There, in the moonlit confines of his messy apartment, Naruto told the simple truth. "I don't know. I just…felt like knowing you."

"I could kill you…would you still want to know me then?"

Naruto did not respond.

Gaara continued to stare at this strange kid, unable to comprehend someone wanting to know him. He'd seen his execrable fighting style, heard how the kid seemed never to shut up. Yet he'd also seen him sit for hours watching a village that he didn't seem to be a part of. Even when Naruto (Gaara knew his name; the kid had shouted it often enough during the matches) was screaming at his team mates Gaara sensed that a part of the blond was silent and watchful, waiting for censure or condemnation. Gaara could relate. He could relate very well.

In fact, they both related so well, were both so used to being ignored and scorned that their mutual interest in each other, evident by the prolonged stare, was quickly becoming unbearable. Even so, they were helpless to look away. Gaara took in the baggy orange pants, the matching orange jacket that was currently tied by the sleeves around Naruto's waist and the sweaty black t-shirt. The silence as blue stared into sea-green became insufferable and Naruto ducked his head in self-defense. The eye contact was broken and Gaara felt he could take a breath at last. They each shifted their shoulders, trying to dispel the unfamiliar feeling of kinship that had been creeping up on them.

It was Gaara who spoke again, making Naruto raise his head. "You fight horribly. Who is your teacher?"

Naruto squawked in indignation. "I'm awesome! How dare you say that? What do you know?"

Gaara didn't even blink. "Do you always get defensive when people state the truth? You suck. Who's responsible for your training?"

Naruto felt nearly apoplectic with rage. This bastard didn't even know him! "Kakashi-sensei," he muttered. "But he's not training me right now. He's off training Sasuke." Naruto turned from Gaara and flopped on his bed moodily. Meeting Gaara was turning out to be a big disappointment.

An expression animated Gaara's glabrous face at last; his eyes widened as he took a few slow steps nearer the bed. He peered down at Naruto's grumpy face. The mention of Sasuke receiving something Naruto wanted had sounded as if it were a common occurrence. Naruto's voice had held dull resignation. Gaara would kill his sensei Baki if the man refused him training. What kind of teacher did Naruto have?? And why did the boy accept refusal so easily? "Kakashi the Copy Ninja?"

"That's him."

Gaara was surprised enough to sit on the edge of Naruto's bed. "He's a superb ninja. Why isn't he teaching you better?"

"Always has his nose in those stupid books, I guess." Naruto rolled to an elbow, studying Gaara. "How'd you get away from your sensei?"

"Quite easily. He left my brother and sister to watch me. What did you mean by wanting to know me?"

Naruto had been enjoying the ease with which the conversation was flowing. Now he shrugged one shoulder, uncomfortable again. Gaara looked at the blond in silence a moment then turned his eyes toward the messy room. The night he'd watched Naruto sitting on the Hokage monument suddenly came to him in a different light, coupled with the fact that Naruto obviously lived alone.

"Where is your family?" Gaara asked.

"I don't have one. You're lucky to have a brother and sister and a father."

Gaara turned so that he was sitting cross-legged on the lumpy mattress. The conversation was intimate and strained at the same time. The combination left him fascinated, quite apart from the fact that it was unheard of for him to be having a conversation with anyone at all. "Lucky? They all hate me and I hate them."

Naruto gasped, completely scandalized. He sat up. If there was one thing he wished for more than acknowledgement from the villagers it was a family. To hear that someone had a family and hated them…"That's awful. I would do anything to have a family. Families don't hate each other," Naruto said in reverent tones. "They love and protect each other."

Gaara's voice held little inflection when he said, "My father tried to have me assassinated for six years. My uncle died trying to kill me. My mother died giving birth to me with a curse on her lips. No one loves me. I love myself."

Naruto was at a loss for words. His fundamentally good nature could not fathom a father wanting to kill his son. It just did not compute for him. He opened and closed his mouth soundlessly as he stared at Gaara's blank face. He managed a whispered word. "Why?"

Now it was Gaara's turn to shrug. He was actually talking to someone; he didn't want to risk Naruto looking at him the same way everyone else did by telling him the truth.

Naruto accepted the shrug. He didn't want to push Gaara away by pressing for obviously sensitive information.

The conversation fizzled after that. They spent a few more minutes staring at each other in silence until Gaara eventually slid off the bed. Naruto followed him to the window where the redhead crouched briefly on the sill. He looked back at the blond.

Something could have been said, a request to meet again, an apology for any insult given…but somehow their brief, strange words had bonded them sufficiently so that they were beyond the necessity for verbal communication. Gaara's glance conveyed the request just as Naruto's offered the apology. Then Gaara was gone with a swirl of sand.

Naruto stood looking out his window as he pondered this first encounter long into the night.