Okay, here's my new fic.

Please note that Gaara is 17 in this fic, and the Shukaku has not been extracted. Basically it's as if Shippuden never happened.

Disclaimer: I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I don't own Naruto. But I do own Ayaka Takahashi, Kaito Arashi and Susumu.

Chapter One

There's No Place Like the Desert

"Finally… I'm finally back." Ayaka Takahashi said as she approached the Hidden Sand Village. She was 18 years old, 5 foot 4, pale and slim. Her hair was waist length and jet black with bright red streaks and her eyes were bright amber. She wore black mid-thigh length shorts and a red v-neck tank-top over a fishnet shirt with elbow-length sleeves.

"Who are you?" One of the guards at the gate asked, eyeing Ayaka suspiciously. She pointed to the Hidden Sand headband around her arm.

"Ayaka Takahashi." She said. Both the guards' eyes widened.

"Oh, sorry. Welcome back to the village, Takahashi-san." The other guard said. Ayaka smiled and walked past them.

"I better go see the Kazekage… I heard there's a new one." Ayaka murmured to herself, squinting at the Kazekage tower in the distance. She walked through the village, getting some weird looks, which she ignored. When she got to the Kazekage tower she went straight to the Kazekage's office and knocked.

"Enter." A rough voice answered. Ayaka pushed open the heavy door and walked in until she was standing in front of a desk that was piled with paper. The only thing she could see of the Kazekage was a shock of red hair and the red kanji for love on the left side of his forehead.

"No way." She gaped, not even realizing she had said it out loud until the Kazekage's brow furrowed.

"What is it?" The redhead demanded, his patience running thin. He had been going through report after report after report all day and a headache was pounding behind his eyes. Ayaka shook her head, a grin breaking out on her face.

"Gaara? You're the new Kazekage?" She asked, rather loudly. Gaara stood, looking curiously over the stacks of paper.

"Ayaka Takahashi?" He questioned, blinking. Ayaka nodded enthusiastically.

"Yeah, I'm back!" She exclaimed. Gaara's lips twitched into the ghost of a smile and he emerged from behind his desk. Ayaka bounced over to him and hugged him tightly.

"You've been gone a very long time. Another few months and I would have sent an ANBU team to check on you." Gaara said, his voice stern. Ayaka smiled sheepishly, refusing to let go of her childhood friend.

"It takes time to gather as much information on the Akatsuki as I have." She answered defensively.

"True… would you mind letting go now?" A light blush was beginning to spread across the stoic Kazekage's face.

"I haven't seen you in six years, Panda-kun. Let me have my moment." Ayaka whined, tightening her arms around his torso. Gaara sighed.

"Alright, alright…"He agreed with a huff.

"Didn't you miss me, Panda-kun?" Ayaka pouted. Gaara frowned.

"I thought I did… then I remembered how annoying you are." He grumbled. Ayaka laughed.

"I missed you too." She said, giving him a peck on the cheek. Gaara's face was almost as red as his hair. Suddenly someone cleared their throat from the door. Ayaka let go of Gaara, but linked her arm through his.

"Hello Matsuri." Gaara greeted the brunette at the door. Matsuri tore her glare from Ayaka to smile at Gaara.

"Hello Gaara-sensei… Kaito, Susumu and I were waiting at the training grounds but you didn't show up…" Matsuri explained, her gaze flicking to Ayaka throughout her explanation.

"Oh, sorry, I got distracted." Gaara admitted. Ayaka suddenly burst out laughing, causing Gaara to roll his eyes and Matsuri to glare at her.

"Panda-kun… You have a genin team?" Ayaka demanded, still laughing. Matsuri frowned.

"Why wouldn't Gaara-sensei have a team?" She asked, sounding offended. Ayaka gave Matsuri a weird look.

"Trust me, if you knew Panda-kun as long as I have, you'd understand. By the way, I'm Ayaka Takahashi. Who are you?" Ayaka offered Matsuri a grin.

"I'm Matsuri." Matsuri said, trying not to scowl at her sensei's friend.

"Well, we should go… Come with us, Ayaka, we could use your taijutsu skills." Gaara said, looking at his friend. Ayaka thought about it for a moment.

"Sure. I'm always up for whipping genin into shape." She grinned.

"Alright, let's go. Matsuri, go ahead and tell Kaito and Susumu that I have a challenge for you all." Gaara said. Matsuri gave a nod and ran off.

"Does she like you?" Ayaka demanded the minute Matsuri was gone. One of Gaara's invisible eyebrows rose.

"How'd you guess?" He enquired. Ayaka's eyebrows also rose.

"How could I not? She was looking at me as if she wanted to claw off my face." She exclaimed as they walked to the training fields. Gaara rolled his eyes.

"Overreacting?" He asked.

"Trust me, as a female, I can sense de-facing intent. And she totally has it out for my face." Ayaka said, a grim expression on said face.

"I'm sure you can take her." Gaara smirked. Ayaka pouted.

"Are you joking about the well-fare of my face? The world could not go on without this face!" Ayaka grinned. Gaara shook his head, smiling.

"Get serious." He said. Ayaka grinned evilly.

"What are the boys like?" She asked.

"Kaito is a lot like Sasuke Uchiha, too cool for everything. And Susumu is… a total pervert. I'd watch out for him." Gaara warned lightly. Ayaka cracked her knuckles.

"I'm going to have some fun…" She murmured, putting on a stoic face as they entered the training ground.

"Team 3, this is my friend Ayaka Takahashi." Gaara said, pushing Ayaka forward. Ayaka frowned at the three genin.

"Hmph." A boy with short silvery hair and green eyes glanced at her without interest.

"Kaito, use your words." Ayaka snapped. Kaito narrowed his eyes.

"So, this is your 'challenge'? Hey, I'm—" Ayaka cut off the second boy, who had light blonde hair and blue eyes.

"Susumu. Can you do me a favour?" Ayaka paused. Susumu nodded. Then Ayaka's expression darkened. "Stop staring at my chest. If you can't keep your eyes off of my body, I will remove them from yours." She growled. Susumu's eyes widened and he stumbled back a few steps. Kaito smirked. Matsuri openly glared at Ayaka.

"Okay, listen up, Maggots (A/N: Obscure Anko references FTW!). Your challenge begins now. And it's simple." Ayaka paused and placed three pendants on chains around her neck. "Each of you must get one of these before noon in two day's time."

"Or what?" Matsuri asked, slightly smug, as if she expected there was no 'or what'. Ayaka smirked, but Gaara answered for her.

"Or you will not be participating in this year's chunin exams." He said, meeting each of his startled student's gazes.

"You have forty-eight hours. Any other questions?" Ayaka asked. Kaito's eyebrow rose.

"Why forty-eight hours?" He questioned. Ayaka grinned maliciously.

"Trust me, you'll need every second of it." Gaara said. The three genin looked surprised.

"Your time starts now!" Ayaka grinned and then she and Gaara disappeared. The three remaining ninja looked at each other.

"Okay, Gaara said she was good at taijutsu, so we should use long-range attacks." Matsuri said. Kaito nodded.

"I say we batter her with some long-range attacks, then Matsuri can get close enough to use her rope javelin, and then we can get the necklaces." He strategized. Susumu grinned.

"Perfect. We'll be done before midnight."

"A cocky bunch you've got. Their strategy is a good one… if they were against a mere genin." Ayaka commented to Gaara. They were in a tree a few yards from Team 3, masking their chakra.

"Yes, but you used to be ANBU." Gaara pointed out, frowning.

"Hey, I'm still an ANBU!" Ayaka said, sticking her tongue out at the redhead. He just rolled his eyes.

"Are you going to attack them now, or make them look for you?" He asked. Ayaka grinned.

"I'll ambush them now and injure one of them. Then I'll leave them to fear our next encounter. That'll deflate their egos a bit." She said, her tone serious. Gaara nodded.

"Don't hurt them too much." He said. Ayaka scoffed.

"Duh. I'm just going to hurt Susumu enough to scare them a bit." She said.

"You really don't like him much, do you?" Gaara deadpanned. Ayaka gave him a look.

"You would feel the same way if he spent the ENTIRE time we were explaining the challenge staring at your chest... well, not that you have anything on your chest to look at... You know what I mean!" She grumbled. Gaara smirked.

"Well, you are much more womanly than—" Ayaka cut Gaara off with a glare. "Okay, okay. Just go terrify them." Ayaka grinned and ruffled his hair (much to Gaara's irritation) before disappearing.

"Now, we have to find her." Matsuri murmured. Kaito and Susumu nodded and all three were silent while they thought.

"Hello kiddies." Ayaka grinned at them from a tree branch above their heads.

"I guess we don't have to find her." Kaito stated the obvious. Ayaka jumped down to stand in the middle of the small circle the three had made.

"Well?" She asked, smirking. "Come get me."

Hope everyone likes it. ^_^

I need some OCs for genin teams for Temari and Kankuro, along with genin teams for some Konoha ninja, so submit as many as you want.

I'll need:

-Six Sand genin (at least)

-Six Leaf genin (at least)

-Three (at least) genin from other villages

The format for the OCs can be found at the end of my profile.