AN: This story has been a WIP for a long time. There are currently 10 chapters written and it doesn't look like it's ending anytime soon. This story is a 'What if' AU involving the Hyuuga clan being in Suna instead of Konoha. There will be some similarities with the Manga but not many.

This fic was inspired by another fic with a similar plot, but it's pretty much dead and I doubt the author will ever finish it. The only thing similar to this fic and that one is the Hyuuga being brought up in Suna, beyond that I went a completely different route.

This story will be updated as I complete a new chapter. Enjoy. Beta'd by Valbino.

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1

xxxxx

The nights in Suna ranged between comfortable and cold, depending on the season. Weather does not bother him. His sand protects him from such things so he is never physically uncomfortable. It is the internal pain that the sand cannot protect him from and sometimes he wishes it could.

They hate him. They fear him. It hurts him so badly, he feels so alone. The only one who cares for him is his uncle, Yashamaru; he is the only one who loves him and he is always telling Gaara stories of his mother and how beautiful she was.

"She loved you too, Gaara." Yashamaru would say "She felt that you were the best thing to ever happen to her. I think that maybe she helps watch over you with the sand. "

He knows what she looks like through a picture, she is very beautiful, with the same dusty blond hair and blue eyes as Yashamaru. There is a smile on her face and the background looks bright and sunny. Yashamaru was able to get the picture framed and it sits in his room right this moment.

He loves Yashamaru and he loves his mother but…he still feels so alone. He wants to play with the other children, he wants to feel as if he belongs somewhere. His siblings are too afraid of him to play, just like the others. His father hates him, at least he thinks so. Father never looks at him favorably, he's always angry with him but he never knows what it is he doing wrong.

It hurts. It hurts when people run away from him screaming. Every time they do he feels another painful stab in his chest. Why was he different? Why was he the onlyone no one would play with?

The sound of a door opening brings him out of his thoughts and he turns from his perch on the building's ledge, alert. Was it another assassin? He didn't like those people, they kept trying to kill him but he wanted to live, he wanted to exist. Why do they keep coming after him?

Moving into the light he notices that the figure on the roof is a very young girl around his age. He knows her; she's in the academy. He sometimes watches the other children from a distance, but he has always noticed her off by herself and none of the other children would seem to want to play with her. It wasn't until now that it clicked in; she was just like him.

She was wearing a standard purple shinobi outfit-a jacket and slacks cut off just below the knee-and her hair was cut short, almost boyishly. Her eyes were so strange, because they looked completely white. He remembers now how the children would sometimes call her a freak because of her eyes.

They…they call me a freak sometimes too. He empathizes with her and a hopeful thought moves through him. The other kids won't play with him, but maybe the two of them could. They were both outcasts, so they'd be able to understand each other.

Gulping nervously, he takes a few steps and slowly reaches out. She doesn't flinch or scream and when he is actually able to touch her shoulder he snatches his hand back as if she had burned him. That was the first time anyone his age had allowed him to do that. The hope inside of him increased, making him a little bolder.

"Hey," he says to her as she's walking towards the ledge. "Um…well…" courage quickly deflating, he nervously looks at her face and then blinks. Her face is slack and her eyes are flat, as if she isn't seeing anything. He had heard the white-eyed people weren't blind, it was just a genetic thing. Something like that.

"H-hey…" he reaches out again with both hands this time, touching her arm. She doesn't respond, it's as if she doesn't even know he's there. For a split second he thinks that maybe she really is like the others and she's just ignoring him, but he has a gut feeling that that's not what it is at all.

Stopping at the ledge of the roof, she steps up, her movements stiff, as if she isn't used to her own body. Alarm washes over him; if she falls, she will die. She doesn't have sand to protect her like he does. Panicked, he rushes over, discarding his nervousness to grab her arm in an effort to pull her back.

"Hey!" he's yelling at her now, eyes wide with fear and confusion "Hey, you have to get down from there!" he tugs again but she continues to stare straight ahead, as if she couldn't hear him. Was she sleep walking? But she should wake up now right? He was yelling and he knows that sometimes when people yell it wakes up others.

She leans forward, going over the ledge. For a tenth of a second he's so surprised that she actually did it that he is frozen. Then sand erupts from his gourd and with uncanny speed reaches the ground, providing a cushion to break her fall. He jumps from the roof, sand slowing his fall. When he reaches the ground he immediately rushes over to the girl's side, the sand cushion disperses and is back in his gourd by the time he reaches her. Kneeling down, he turns the girl over so that she's facing him and shakes her shoulders lightly. Did he get her in enough time? Had he been able to save her?

"Please wake up," he pleads softly, giving her another gentle shake. It's obvious by now that she's either sleepwalking or worse because those large white eyes of hers still look flat and sightless.

Slowly, he watches as she blinks for the first time. Delicate brows furrow and she squints, looking groggy now. She lets out a soft yawn and looks over at the boy holding her. Their gazes lock, green to white, and he smiles slightly when he notices that she is fully awake and that her eyes actually look somewhat pretty when light shines in them.

"Um, hello." The redhead says softly, a little nervous. She continues to stare at him until he notices that her pale skin is changing colors. It's a strange transformation for him and his eyes widen, not sure if he should be alarmed or not.

When she's as red as his hair she lets out a soft cry and jumps away from him, her hands covering her face. She looks terrified.

A hand moves to his chest as he feels another stab of pain. She's scared of him. He had really thought that for a moment…

"I-I'm…I'm…s-so sorry!" the girl says, her voice shaky. To his utter and complete surprise she bows in apology at him. "P-please…please…I-I'm sorry…so…I didn't m-mean to inconvenience y-you…please forgive me."

When she looks back up at him he realizes that she's not afraid of him, she's afraid of him being angry with her. She thinks she's done something wrong. He shakes his head.

"No," he reassures her "you didn't inconvenience me." Standing up, he hesitates for a moment before taking a step forward. "Are you alright? Why did you jump from the roof?"

"Eh?" her eyes widen in disbelief and she looks up at the roof and then at him a few times. All of the red from earlier disappears and she looks even paler than she had when he had first looked at her. She was shaking, understanding just how close she had been to death. Finally her eyes settle to him and she bows again, deeper this time.

"T-thank you s-so v-very much!" the thanks is genuine and for a moment he can do nothing more but stare at this strange girl who still had yet to run from him screaming. "I…I o-owe you m-my life…"

Raising his hands in the air he gives her a nervous look "No, you don't have to do that…" she stands straight again, her hands moving to her mouth, her gaze focusing on everything but him.

He would have thought of it to be fear but she wasn't moving so it had to be something else. "Um, you're not hurt, right? I tried to make sure the sand was soft enough but…" but he still wasn't in complete control of his powers. Sometimes things would happen that he didn't want to which only made people fear him even more.

Shyly, she shakes her head, she seems to be fine and it takes him a moment to realize that she's not going to speak up again. Gaara is very confused; the girl isn't running away but she seems nervous anyway. She had even thanked him.

Understanding now that he would have to make the first move, he takes a few more steps towards her, his sharp eyes taking in every movement, unsure if she'll run away or not. Her hands seem to rise in an effort to cover more of her face but she's not moving.

"Do you know who I am?" he asks calmly, knowing it's a rhetorical question. Of course she knew him, there wasn't anyone in the village that didn't. Instead of responding she nods once. His brows furrow "You're not afraid of me?"

The question seems to confuse her, for she drops her hands. "W-why?" she asks in her soft little voice "Y-you…y-you s-saved me."

"B-but…" he finds himself stammering now and there's a tight feeling in his chest that's completely different from anything he's ever felt before "But everyone is afraid of me. They say that I'm…a monster." He looks down sadly at this, the words hurt whether or not they say it or he says it himself. "They say that I'm bad."

"But t-then, you wouldn't h-have saved m-me right?" blinking, he looks up at her and notes her genuine confusion. She really and truly isn't afraid of him. The tightness increases and he almost finds himself unable to breathe. "Y-you saved me so…y-you can't be b-bad." He hears her say.

What is this feeling?

Feet moving, he finds himself standing right in front of the girl. Her face begins to turn red again and she looks nervous but not afraid. Then it clicks in; she's shy. Just. Shy. Not terrified, not horrified…

"What's your name?"

"H-Hyuuga H-Hinata…" she stammers out once more, looking down at the ground.

"Why do you always look at the ground?" he blurts it out and stiffens at his rude behavior. Surely now she'll…

Pale eyes look up and he's stunned to see that they're filled with tears. "I-I'm s-sorry. P-please don't…b-be mad at me. I w-will try h-harder." And she does, even though she looks uncomfortable, she makes an honest effort to keep her gaze on his face.

He's forced to take a few shaky breaths or else his chest would burst open, he was sure of it. Gaara is completely confused but extremely hopeful. Not only that, he found himself wanting to reassure her that he won't get angry with her, that she's fine the way she is.

"It's okay." He forces a smile "You don't have to if it makes you uncomfortable. I'm just happy that you're not afraid of me."

Hands over her mouth she tilts her head and he can see that she's smiling at him, even though her mouth is hidden. Her smile floors him, no one except Yashamaru has ever smiled at him and even though he can't see her lips her smile is the most wonderful thing he's ever experienced right at that moment.

"Hyuuga-san, please be my friend!" he shouts it at her, and she jumps and makes a little sound, but she doesn't run away. He hadn't meant to be so loud he just…he just wanted…

"O-okay." She speaks again and when his eyes snap back to her she nods, as if confirming her statement. Hinata still seems shy but the air is lighter and he can tell that she's happy. Happy. Around him.

They just stand there for a long while, Gaara because he can't believe that this is actually happening and the girl who is also pleased to make her first friend. She doesn't really understand why everyone was so afraid of him, even her father didn't like the boy. He was really nice though, why was everyone so mean to him? He didn't look like a bad boy, he always looks sad…like her.

Looking up at the sky she realizes that, however the heck she got out here, she would need to leave and get back home. Her father would be upset with her if he found out that she had almost jumped off a building even though she couldn't even recall it.

Turning back to him she lowers one hand from her face "I um," she begins "I h-have to go home." She tells him "F-father will…he'll be a-angry with me…"

His disappointment and sadness is very obvious and she tries to think of a way to let him know that she really did want to be his friend. Coming up with an idea she lowers her other hand, smiling and reaching out.

"Could…y-you walk w-with me?" she asks, pale eyes hopeful "It's a l-little scary at n-night."

Wide green eyes look at her in disbelief. Then his gaze shifts to her hand. He looks back up at her and he takes a step back, extremely nervous. Taking him in, she realizes that he's unsure about her honesty. She didn't think it was fair, everyone was so mean to him but he looked just like everyone else and he was really nice. Normally she would remain shy and be too scared to approach him, but looking at him makes her feel that she should make him feel better.

Reaching over, she gently takes his hand. He lets out a sharp breath and continues to look at her as if she were a hallucination. She lightly squeezes his hand and smiles again.

"Please?" she asks again. Blinking a few times, sadness emerges when he actually looks as if he's going to cry. It isn't fair. No one wants her either, she isn't good enough. She gave up too easily and cried a lot, so her father was becoming less and less interested in her. Now that her little sister has been born it seemed that he was focusing on plans to train her once she's of age. No one wants her, no one wants him.

Numbly he nods his head at her question. She flashes him another one of her shy, dazzling smiles and his body is moving automatically, his mind still unable to process the fact that this girl is now his friend, not only that, but she doesn't mind touching him and vice versa. He is not repulsive to her, he isn't scary. He had hoped for so long for something like this to happen but now that it had he realizes that despite his hoping he realistically never believed it could. Gently, he squeezes her hand. When she turns to look at him he finds himself unable to look at her face and his cheeks begin to feel warm. She doesn't seem to mind, in fact, he is sure she understood it, since she is like that herself.

The two children don't say anything after that; they continue to walk hand in hand as she guides him to her home. It was actually not very far, to his disappointment. He doesn't want her to go, he wants her to stay with him longer. When they are right outside the gates his grip on her hand tightens and his gaze is still on the ground.

"I'm…really glad I met you." He says genuinely. If he had known she had actually been approachable he would have tried to talk to her during the academy's recess a long time ago. Gathering up a little more courage he forces himself to look at her "Can I…call you by your first name?" he looks away then, embarrassed at his forwardness.

Out of the corner of his eye he sees her nod her head and their gazes meet again. He is elated, she really is going to be his friend, really and truly.

"You can call me by my name too…Hinata-chan." He says the last part low, excited but also very shy.

She squeezes his hand one last time and when she gently pulls away he doesn't stop her. He doesn't want her to go, but she promised to be his friend so he would see her again. He hoped it would be really soon.

Taking a few steps forward she turns, her eyes wide as if she had forgotten something. Then she smiles again and waves at him shyly "G-goodnight Gaara-kun." She says softly and his heart skips at the familiar way she says his name "And t-thank you for s-saving me."

His chest feels tight and full and he wonders if this is what love feels like. He wants to find Yashamaru and ask him how it was supposed to feel, because he would be so happy if he had another person in his life that he could love and be loved by. If he had Hinata, that would be okay right? It wouldn't matter that the other children didn't want to play, because they would play together.

There's a crinkling sound when he turns to go home. Reaching behind him, he grabs the medicine bag Yashamaru had given him for the little girl he accidentally hurt today. He had been so scared to give it to her and he had been thinking on it when Hinata had arrived. Decision made, he heads for the girl's house. Maybe if he apologizes, she would decide to be his friend as well.

He has no idea that his life was about to completely and totally change forever.

xxxxx

There is something wrong. Hinata notices it the moment it is recess time. She remembered that Gaara didn't come to watch the other children every day, but she had hoped that she would see him. The cooks had allowed her to pack a small extra lunch and she wants to share it with him.

He never shows up and a sick feeling moves through her stomach, telling her that something was terribly wrong. Unfortunately she can't leave the grounds so she decides to try and find him after the academy let out.

A small part of her had also hoped that he would wait for her outside the gates but to no avail. Surely he hadn't faked wanting to be her friend, he had been too genuine with his feelings. Did something bad happen? What if he couldn't come because he was hurt? Now very worried she doesn't go home like she is supposed to; instead she runs around the village, hoping to find him and see if he is alright.

There is a thick tension in the air as she moves through the marketplace. The adults are whispering to themselves and everyone looks agitated. The feeling of dread increases and she redoubles her efforts. She can't give up, not on her very first friend.

When she finally finds him he is coming out of the Kazekage tower with a tall man beside him that she doesn't recognize. Hinata moves to signal at him until she sees his face. The happy boy of yesterday is gone, replaced with anger and open hostility. She almost thinks they are two different boys but Gaara doesn't have a twin, and it is very difficult to mistake hair as red as his. There was something red on his forehead that she can't quite read from where she is standing. Worry fills her. He looks so cold and closed off. What happened between last night and today?

The two males walk towards her and she finds herself becoming incredibly shy all of a sudden, wanting to go and hide. Hinata is directly in their path yet the boy doesn't even look at her, doesn't seem to know she is there. Even though her courage is rapidly falling, she takes a nervous step into his line of vision. Their gazes lock and then he looks away as if she is a stranger. Her face begins to burn and her eyes sting as she tries not to cry and fails. He doesn't want to be her friend anymore and she doesn't even know why. Without thinking, she reaches out a nervous hand and touches his shoulder before he walks past her.

"Don't touch me!" she hears right as something solid slams into her and she feels herself go flying. Her back slamms into something very solid and she cries out in pain as the hard surface of the building scrapes through her clothes and straight to skin. Then the pressure on her front disappears and Hinata briefly, very briefly, sees him right as she collapses. She tries to call out his name but it only comes out as a harsh whisper before everything goes black.

I know that girl.

Frowning, Gaara realizes only too late that the person who had tried to touch him had been his 'friend' from last night. It isn't until she drops to the ground with his name on her lips that he realizes he had just made a terrible mistake.

The jounin behind him stiffens, too afraid to do anything while Gaara is obviously not aware of everything going around him. The boy stares at her crumpled body on the ground and something snaps. His legs are moving and then he is at her side, kneeling down as he inspects the damage he had just inflicted on her. Her face is pale and dirty and her back is shredded from when he had slammed her against the hard jagged surface of the building. The little bag she was carrying had fallen a distance away from her.

"Hinata-chan?" his voice is unsure. Her chest is still rising and falling so she is obviously alive.

No. he tries to tell himself I shouldn't care anymore. I will love myself and only myself, no one else.

Yet when he looks at her he can't help but remember how she had held his hand reassuringly and said that she hoped they could play the next day.

She was lying. She had to have been lying.

Then why did she try to reach out to him? If she didn't care, wouldn't she have run away?

Yashamaru 'cared' as well; look at where that got you.

But Hinata had been alone just like him. No one would be her friend either. She was his first friend and he had been hers. No, Hinata is different, she must be. If she isn't…if she is lying…

If she had lied he will kill her too.

"Gaara-kun?"

She opens her eyes although her face looks pained. Looking around her gaze finally settles on him. He is ready for it. He had almost tried to crush her, she was going to turn on him, tell him that she really didn't care at all, she'd become afraid of him just like all the others.

"Are…you alright?" a shaky hand raises to touch his face, worry underneath the pain in her eyes. She isn't even stuttering, pain and concern overriding shyness. "W-what happened?" She let out a harsh noise, eyes closing "I had hoped we could play…" Then she tries to move, her hand reaching out for something. Following her hand he sees the bag she had been carrying earlier on the ground.

"The lunch…" she whispers "It should…still be good…if you want it." She blinks as something wet hit her cheek and she looks up to see her friend crying. His eyes aren't cold anymore and she winces a little when his arms tighten around her small body. "Gaara-kun?" she is confused, although a lot of it had to do with the fact that she is in serious pain and shock. For some reason she really wants him to have the lunch. He might not have eaten today, that is her thought. "The lunch…" she tries again.

"Forget the lunch!" he yells and buries his face in her chest, pulling her painfully close. His breathing is irregular and he is rocking back and forth "Hinata, I'm so sorry…" he starts to apologize over and over, like a mantra. Still in shock, she looks confused although he can't see it.

"Gaara-kun?" she frowns "I…I don't feel so good." She suddenly wants to go to sleep. "I'm sleepy and…I think my back hurts."

He begins to start calling out her name but she keeps drifting further and further away. Frowning again, she tried to reach out to him but her arm felt heavy. She kept trying until she felt her fingers lightly brush along his cheek. Smiling, she closed her eyes.

xxxxx

When she opens her eyes again, her back is stinging and her face is buried in a pillow that doesn't smell at all like hers. It smells almost stale, as if it has never been used. When she makes a little noise she sees movement and then her friend is at her bedside, taking her hand into his. He looks very worried.

"Are you okay?" he asks. He sounds absolutely panicked and his hands are squeezing hers a little hard. "Hinata-chan, I'm sorry so please tell me you're okay. I tried…" he looks around as if someone is listening and turns back "I told them to heal you and afterwards they said that you just needed to sleep so I brought you to my room."

Wide pale eyes blink sleepily at him. "Okay." She says simply and gives him a weak smile. "Are y-you alright?" her brows furrow. "You l-looked a-angry. I th-thought m-maybe…you didn't w-want to be my f-friend anymore."

"No!" he denies vehemently "No, I do Hinata-chan…you're the only one…" he looks a mixture between confusion and being in pain. She sees him wipe at his eyes with his sleeve "Are you angry with me?"

The question seems to confuse her. "No I…thought y-you were a-angry with me. If I did s-something w-wrong I'm s-sorry Gaara-kun. I w-won't do it again so…"

Hinata doesn't understand why he is so upset. It had probably been her fault that he struck out at her, it was always her fault when something happened at home. She thinks apologizing for it would have made it better but he seems even more upset now.

The grip on her hand tightens and she fights not to wince. "Hinata-chan," his voice sounds pleading, as if he is begging her "Do you really like me? He told me that…no one loved me but you were…you were so nice to me and…" and he doesn't want Yashamaru to be right. "You're always alone too, right?"

She tries to smile at him but she is still in a lot of pain "O-of course I l-like you Gaara-kun." Confusion fills her features "W-why would s-someone say y-you're not l-loved?" Maybe it is because everyone is afraid of him. But she isn't afraid, he is nice and he is her friend. Why wouldn't anyone love him? It is the same at her home, no one likes her, even her cousin hates her now.

Her gaze flickers back to his."I w-will…love you." She says finally "B-because…you're n-nice and you're m-my f-friend and I understand w-what it's like to n-not be loved. M-my family d-doesn't love me e-either." She looks very sad.

There was a long moment of silence and she closes her eyes, feeling sleepy again. She feels his hands jerk sharply and it wakes her up, the girl blinking owlishly at her friend. The look on his face is severe, as if he is seriously debating something and finally reaches a conclusion.

"We'll love each other." He says it low and with dark determination "We don't need anyone else. No one else matters but us. Mother said she would protect you too. It'll just be you and me Hinata-chan, alright?" there is something panicked in his voice, as if he is on the edge of hysterics "I'll protect you from them, from all of them." His voice sounds shaky and a little sinister "We will belong to each other and love only each other, no one else."

Hinata seems to debate this. That would be nice, just the two of them. No one else cares for them so they would care for each other. Frowning a bit in pain she begins to struggle to sit up, much to his alarm.

"You're supposed to rest!" he grabs her shoulders but then stops when he sees the look in her eyes. She is nervous and in pain, but she is determined.

So instead he jumps up on the bed and has her lean on him as he gets her sitting up. Her head rests on his shoulder and her breathing is shaky. It hurt her and he knows she is in pain but she is trying to be strong. For him?

"Hinata-chan…" his voice is sad. He hurt his friend because of Yashamaru. But he is wrong, there is someone like him and she does love him. Even though he had hurt her she hadn't been afraid of him, if anything she had thought she had done something wrong! "Hinata-chan, you have to promise." He insists. She had to promise, you aren't supposed to break promises.

She nods her head slowly, her hand reaching out to his. He takes her hand, interlacing their fingers. "I promise." She says weakly "Just the two of us. It would be…nice. I would like…to be loved. Mother loved me until she passed away…"

Stunned, he looks down at her as best he can considering their position "Your mother died as well?" she nods and his hand squeezes hers lightly "Okay. My mother's spirit is in the sand and she said she'd protect you so…she can be your mother too." He feels her smile and nod again slowly and he fights the urge to pull her to him, knowing that she is in pain.

"I love you Hinata-chan." He says firmly "You and only you. It'll be just us and I'll protect you from them. No one else will ever hurt us again, I swear it."

Another nod. "I love you too, Gaara-kun." She whispers and eventually falls asleep, feeling happier than she ever had before in her life. Nothing else compares besides being with her mother, they would be friends together forever.