It's been a while. Consider anything I've said regarding this story in a PM invalid.
Confession: I actually had no real plot for this story, just stringing it together as I went along. If I went any further than Chapter 1, that is. Fortunately, I didn't. I've gained inspiration again, and actually have something planned, though no guarantee the execution will be done well.
I really want to rewrite Chapter 1, not only because it's crap, but the foundation it leaves for the story is plenty weak. But I've decided to leave it up for..sentimental reasons. I've noticed the difference a year makes, and if you don't, lolwhatever.
Aito was not an overly cautious man, nor engaged in politics enough for him to be interested in shinobi benefits (they often liked to entreat him for discounts, since fish was expensive and all). Aito was made for business, and if you provided the money due, he'd compensate in fairness. He didn't concern himself with the fact the shinobi were risking their lives, because he wasn't really aware of aspects outside of things that directly affected him.
There were attacks among the border, yes. Suna had weakened in the years, but some villagers had convinced themselves there wasn't much worth contained in Suna for anyone to be interested in (or so they told themselves). There were foreign caucuses that required military action, but Aito was not an overly political man, and so did not care.
He sold fish. He had a stall, a business. And if you had the money, you could seat yourself and spend it.
That was his usual stance anyways. There were always some inconsistencies.
It began somewhere last month. It, referring to a blind sandal less girl, who for all intents and purposes, should be helpless and broke with her diet. Fish was rare in Suna, and poor quality if found.
It was a hardy business, because fish was expensive, and someone couldn't always afford it. And it'd go to waste.
Yet she always came, coins collected in her palm carefully, before spilling on his counter. Aito counted them, measured them, bit them. They were always real. He didn't know where she got it, since there weren't much occupations that hazarded blind helpless rude girls, if any. Not in Suna, anyways.
Aito had wondered, for a brief second, if she had managed to steal it. Maybe find a kind benefactor. But Suna was hot in its temperature, cold in its people, and he did not consider it again.
Business was business.
As long as it didn't infringe on his security, whether it be financially, mentally, or somehow, physically.
It began a few days ago. Aito was wiping down the tabletop, waiting, always waiting when the desert breeze washed in milky wide eyes and a toothy grin.
"Hey Pops," the girl (Toph, he remembered, Toph the little blind girl) greeted, palming money onto the counter. Aito grew to find the nicknames endearing, and grinned a little, though he knew the action was wasted.
"Same as always?" he asked, swiping the money into his coarse fingers, noting it was heavier than usual.
"Make it double," she said, pulling out the stool next to her and patting it. Aito was bemused, until a mop of red hair slunk forward, red red red, and settled onto his stool. Aito stared in horror, almost, almost lost his composure.
The jinchuriki. Gaara.
The man straightened himself. A jinchuriki, yes. Just a boy, yes. Aito busied himself. Remembered horrible things. Felt eyes on his back, his neck. Sweat rolled down his forehead, and he reasoned it was just the heat. He closed his eyes, tried to calm himself before turning back around to place the plates in front of his customers- carefulcareful, green greenDEMONICgreen eyes watch him, waiting, always waiting for a slip up.
Aito had never had direct contact with the demon child, never planned to. His eyes settled on something safer.
Toph, who had led the boy here, the treacherous girl that she was. He knew, Aito knew he shouldn't have let her come in, let her eat here. Toph, who had been good company, as much as children could be (he had wanted one, before). Toph, who was just a little blind helpless girl.
She didn't know, Aito realized with trepidation, and did not risk a glance at the demon. Could not. His fingers were shaking.
Toph tilted her head a little, and he wanted to shout at her, yell at her to LEAVE, ESCAPE. That is not some boy you can pick off the sandbox and be friends with! No, no, you must leave.
Fear stilled his tongue, and cowardice his concern. Self-preservation kept him silent, and he apologized for it in his mind. Aito liked Toph, liked her smile, her honesty, her crude jokes. But not enough.
(She'll die, something in his mind sneered, and he did not disagree. So young, so naive, so blind. And he could not counter.)
Aito said nothing.
"Ever had fish before?," Toph said, picking at the bones on her plate, and the boy shifted (he could hear the sand shifting, the clothes rustling, the demon).
"Yes," the demon finally rasped, and of course he had, of course. Of higher quality, no doubt, for he was the Kazekage's son no matter how much the man seemed to avoid it (not that Aito would know, he was, blissfully political ignorant, but word travels). Aito swallowed nervously, heart beating. Would it be disgusted with the quality? Go on a murdering rampage?
But it only ate, quietly. Aito looked. The thing did not look back, paying attention to his food, and more importantly, Toph. He saw it. Its body was positioned towards Toph, arm brushing against the girl's, almost shyly. Aito shook. Almost a reminder.
He read about beasts once. They liked to play with their food, liked to mark it, before finally devouring them when it got too hungry. The thing kept eating deliberately, careful and polite.
It made Aito nervous, how calm everything seemed to be. The sand curled around his leg and the man jolted, knee connecting with the underside of the counter. The action rattled the plates.
"Something wrong, Gramps?" Toph asked, grin flashing, eyes blank (always blank, of course, but he always noticed), "Dementia caught on yet?" She said this while curling a finger around the thing's wrist, pressing down slightly.
Aito watched with wide eyes. Sand squeezed around his foot, tight, then dispersing, spilling across his sandal.
"No," Aito managed, without stuttering, choked out a weak chuckle. "I'm not that old, brat."
"Should stop sounding like it," Toph said, smiling now, and he finally noticed tension slipping out of her shoulders. "Y'know, I have no other thing to go on here. Gotta be considerate for the handicap." Her fingers remained on a small tiny pale wrist, and Aito laughed nervously.
The demon said nothing as he finished his meal, pushed his plate forward.
Aito was not an overly cautious man, and found he needed to start. Toph muttered her thanks, sounding embarrassed, before pulling her companion out of the stall, flaps blowing behind their leave.
The man was too scared to speak up and tell her not to come back.
She wasn't a complete inconvenience, Ouya mused, and might even, in time, turn into a good one. The girl was not a shinobi, and though her origins were suspicious, an evaluation told she posed no real threat. Emotionally, Ouya narrowed his eyes in thought, she might be crippling Gaara.
Suna did not take kindly to strangers, its productivity weakening and its shinobi no better. Konoha, he thought with disgust, was a thorn. He had wondered how the blind little girl had managed to survive so far.
The desert itself was not kind. Much less, Gaara. From the reports.
Ouya sighed, resting his forehead onto steepled fingers. It was coming closer to teach the boy ninjutsu, and he had already toyed with throwing the responsibility to Yashamaru. It would not make much of a difference, and it would take both Gaara and Yashamaru away from his sights for a brief time. They reminded him of things too long gone, but the wound was fresh, and his failure even fresher.
Yes, Yashamaru would gladly take him. The other man was careful to read at times, and that worried at Ouya slightly, wondering if the other man bore a resentment for him. But Yashamaru was a loyal man, and the husband of his late sister would demand some strong loyalty, an understanding (he ignored the fact that it was his doing his sister was dead in the first place).
Ouya steeled himself. Yashamaru may have lost a sister, but Ouya had lost a wife, and a son.
The latter, he did not like to think about.
Gaara would be dead as a failure, and he could not let that happen. Both for the village, and his wife.
The Fourth Kazekage considered the blind girl, Toph, in his plans. She was a weak orphan, not even shinobi. The only worrying factor was that sand seemed to bend under her feet, flatten for her to move, when need be. But even civilians held chakra, weak as it was, and he would not be surprised that a blind girl's chakra had molded to affect her environment slightly.
Civilians were weak, not incapable.
Toph was a blind little girl, who had simply befriended the wrong person, at the wrong time.
Ouya straightened, and set about changing his plans.
She was something to strengthen Gaara (emotional training, he thought), at best, and at worst:
Gaara was unbearably clingy, Toph learned. Toph didn't do clingy. Well, not to this extent anyways. It was too much, too touchy feely, though the boy didn't seem too keen on using his words.
He liked to hold hands, seemed fascinated by it. He liked to link their fingers, and Toph would feel the coarse sand coating his hand, consistent and dry. Itchy, too. Whenever she moved to extract her hand, he would tighten his hold on it, possessive. He would eventually let go, if only so he'd have the chance to hold it later.
He liked to press his face into her side, almost reaching her chest in height, and breathe.
Liked to nudge her bare foot with his small sandals.
Gaara liked to touch.
It was unnerving. Reminded her of overprotective parents, like they thought she would walk off and impale herself on the nearest sharp object. It was annoying, overbearing. It was...suffocating.
"I'm not a stuffed animal," she had complained, several times. Gaara would only stare, then insist on holding hands once again. Like he had never had human touch. Which, considering, was probably true.
From other people's reactions anyways.
Never got the big deal about that, and she kinda wanted to know. What was this chubby little boy, still clinging to his baby fat, that a whole population would avoid him? Ostracize him? She liked to pinch his cheeks, remind herself of his status after a particular nasty altercation with other adults.
(Their hearts always sped up, sounded like they'd burst. It wasn't hate then, that fueled their actions, not entirely, but fear. Fear was always the strongest).
Sometimes, when she let go of his cheek, grains of sand would scrape off with her hand. That was also disturbing. How did the kid take a shower?
At any rate, it was getting easier to navigate. The terrain wasn't complete shifting sand, after all, but dirt. Hardened sand, maybe. Still earth.
"Toph," Gaara spoke up, and the girl cocked her head to the side to show she was listening. He grasped at her fingers, and she let him. They were walking through the streets, enjoying the silence and disturbing lack of people.
"Why," he hesitated, slowed to a stop, forcing the girl to stop with him. There was a silence, and she could hear his heartbeat rise steadily.
"Ye-e-e-s?" she drawled out impatiently, wriggling her toes. The boy's fingers were strong around hers.
"Why don't you hate me?" the boy rasped out quickly. Toph considered this.
"Well," she replied, "why does everyone hate you?" Gaara shoulders tensed at this, nervous and afraid.
"I don't know," the boy said finally, and hurried to continue walking. Toph followed, and listened. To their footsteps, the wind, his heart.
"Then I guess we'll never know," Toph sang, smile splitting her face. He was a really bad liar, like really bad. She didn't even need her earth bending to hear the crack in his voice. So vulnerable, so weak.
Just a child.
Not that Toph had much leverage to speak on childish whims, considering, but she liked to think so. Because he was child, she would let it go. Everything would come out sooner or later, at any rate.
The sand whirled uneasily, in tribute to Gaara's conflict. Finally, the boy shrugged, forcefully.
"Whatever," Gaara said, mimicking her accent, "I don't care that much." As long as you don't leave.
Toph heard the unspoken words, sighed.
"You are such a pansy," she muttered, but the words lacked real malice, and could pass off as endearing. Gaara, who had now coined the term as something positive, smiled.
N: Chapter served for justification, mostly, as to why Toph isn't dead. And Aito needed some fleshing out, since he might be serving some significance in the rest of the story. To clarify (since some people still might be confused):
-I gave the Fourth Kazekage a name, he was never given one in canon. Ouya. Doesn't hold any real significance in translations. I just plucked it out. Hope that doesn't annoy some.
-There are /some/ inconsistencies from the first chapter to this one (because the first one is so dumbomg), but you probably didn't notice.
-Still contemplating if this should be actual Gaara/Toph, but we'll see as the story progresses.
Feel free to bounce questions or concrit off at me, since I might actually be answering with real thought this time (yay). Reviews would be lovely.