A/N: Still looking for a beta. ._.

Summary: The day Ino Yamanaka met her first friend, she also met the love of her life. A story told in three parts.


"Piggy piggy piggy!"

The jeering taunts of her classmates rang in her ears. It was always like this. No matter how much she tried to block it out, no matter how much she tried to tell herself that it didn't phase her or that she didn't care, it never seemed to work.

Because she did care. She cared very, very much.

Ino Yamanaka felt her eyes watering as she clenched her fists. Why? Why was everyone always making fun of her for being fat? It was bad enough that they mocked her in school and gave her humiliating nicknames, but now they had begun following her outside whenever she had to walk home alone. Her dad was a police officer, often too busy to come and take her home, and her mother was busy in their family's flower shop.

"Hey Ino-rmous, why don't you go be our beach ball?"

More mocking, more laughter.

"Shut up!" she screamed, eyes shut tightly as she lowered her head in mortified anger.

The other children quieted, temporarily silenced by the sound, but the leader soon sneered, her beady little eyes glaring at Ino as she daringly stepped up to the cowering blonde. Ino glanced up in confusion at the smaller girl only to be met by a forceful push that sent her bowling over into the school's sandbox.

Laughter sprang up and one of the girls pointed, "Now she looks more like a beached whale!"

"What a loser!"

"Pfft, and she thinks she can have Sasuke-kun?"

"Let's go," the leader commanded, walking as the other girls began tittering at Ino's trembling form.

Ino couldn't help herself. She began crying even harder. She was lying face down on the ground, her pretty new dress utterly ruined as sand began to itch in uncomfortable places. And the light sniffles she had been trying to suppress developed into full blown sobs. She sat up as best she could, wailing her heart out.

"I h-hate t-this! I ha-ate them!" she hiccuped, curling her small arms around her raised knees.

...


Unbeknownst to the sobbing child, a small, nearly-hidden figure had seen the whole exchange from the dark shadow of a tire swing hidden under the trees. Green eyes watched as the girl was pushed and her subsequent attempt to shrink away from the world.

His name was Gaara. Today was supposed to be his last day here at this tiny school with its petty-minded children, and he had come out here to be away from all the nervous stares and open whispers of his classmates. His uncle had come to take him away from his neglectful father, but he would have to go live in Suna now, away from the only home he'd ever known.

The chubby girl was huddled miserably in the sandbox, crying her eyes out. Gaara felt his own chest tighten in sympathy; he knew how badly words could hurt, and even worse, how they stung and clung to you like a thick poison when there was no one else there. His hands clenched in the soft, furry pelt of his favorite teddy bear.

His gaze dropped to the bear, then rose to hesitantly consider the crying girl. It had always been there for him when he'd been alone, going in and out of the hospital, and no one had wanted to be around his sickly, frail form. It had supposedly been something his mother had picked out for him before he was born, but had died before getting the chance to give it him. Could he really give up his closest friend...?

A small, miserable hiccup met his ears.

Almost without his consent, his short legs were on the ground and lightly walking towards the girl, his tiny green converses making soft crunches on the dead autumn leaves. The girl did not look up, and Gaara stood awkwardly before her, staring intently down at her shaking form, wondering how he was supposed to get her attention.

"Here."

Ino jerked in surprise as something soft brushed against her arm. Confused, she peered up through damp lashes at the brown teddy bear currently touching her. It was missing an eye, its ragged brown fur had patches missing in it, and there was what looked like a deep tear in its front leg. It looked, for lack of a better word, well-loved. Her eyes strayed upwards to the person holding it.

The boy looked about her age with pale, almost sickly looking skin and hair the color of cherry juice. He was very studiously trying not to look her in the face but she could tell that he was talking to her because he was the only one around.

...why was he trying to give her his bear?

She stared at the stuffed animal, puzzled as she uncurled one fist to pet a fuzzy ear. Normally the other kids didn't talk to her unless they were going to tease her, but this boy was offering her a gift. She looked up at the boy with shimmering blue eyes, willing him to look at her and explain. "I...I don't...why?"

He seemed to make an impatient motion and promptly shoved the bear into her hand. Automatically, her fingers clasped onto it and she was suddenly met with the brightest, prettiest pair of green eyes she'd ever seen. His barely-there eyebrows were furrowed slightly and a faint blush made all the freckles on his nose stand out.

"You can have him," he muttered, looking down once more.

Ino's eyes rounded in surprise. "Won't you miss-"

The red-headed boy cut her words off with a sharp shake of his head. "You need him more," he insisted, giving her a tentative smile.

"But..." Unthinkingly, Ino had reached forward and touched the boy's arm, fully prepared to give him his toy back. He recoiled in surprise, having not seen her begin the motion, and his beautiful eyes snapped down to her own before he made a jerky motion to dislodge her arm and abruptly backed away.

"I gotta go," he whispered and took off running from the park without further explanation.

"H-hey, wait up!" Ino cried, scrambling to her feet to follow, but he was far too fast and she was far too self-conscious to run.

And so Ino stood alone in the park, staring after the long since disappeared boy, the only thing on her mind sad seafoam eyes as she tightly held onto a teddy bear from a boy who could be her first friend.

She wished he'd told her his name.

...


An hour later, when a worn out Ino would make it home and promptly launch herself into her mother's arms, a little redheaded boy would be on a train riding far far away from Konoha, his arms empty, but his heart feeling warmed by the events of that day. When asked by one of his siblings over his silence and where his bear had gone, he would just shake his head and look out the window, his eyes seeing but not seeing the passing scenery while his hands clutched lightly at the fabric over his heart.

Maybe one day...he'd meet that girl again.

...


ED: Part 1 of 3.