As a devout ShikaIno fan, if I had my way, I probably wouldn't write anything but Shikaino fics. (Well....one KibaHina) But my wonderful, good good buddy Fi-chan commanded me to write one GaaraNaru fic and here is my feeble attempt.
#bows# The series of Naruto doesn't belong to me. (I don't need to say this right?) And SHIKAINO FOREVER!!!!! DOWN WITH SAKURA!!!
Warning: Mild shonen-ai for GaaraNaru later.
Ch. 1 The Talk
A tendril of familiar musk in the air, not pleasant at all with its malodorous reek, caused Temari to turn her head away from the stove to seek the source. Just as she suspected, Gaara had slipped imperceptibly into the kitchen and was staring at her with his blank, black-circled eyes. She had no idea of the exact length of time he's been standing there, observing her in his habitually silent demeanor before she finally noticed him. Stirred by apprehension, the normally inconspicuous tempo of her heart made itself known by thumping like drums in her chest at a brisker pace than usual. She stood there, staring back at the shorter person with the gourd, in awe at the unusual situation she was in. It wasn't often that Gaara entered the kitchen. He's never had a reason to do so.
She gently placed the ladle she had in her hand into the pot of boiling broth and cautiously gave him a slight smile, hoping that the sign of affection wouldn't offend Gaara. It worried her that she hadn't been able to sense her younger brother's chakra for the past month or so. For a ninja not to sense someone entering the room, especially someone as dangerous as the trump card of the sand village, was just the type of unthinkable mistake that weeded out the less than stellar ninjas. Death claimed those without honed senses early in their days.
The unpleasant stench of male maturity now filled the room, heavy in its odor and radiating from the unsuspecting source that was the red haired boy. It was this repulsive smell of his that alerted her to his presence these days. His recent lack of killing intent reduced his personal brand of blood-tinged chakra to nil, which goes to justify her inability to feel him approaching. Although his unnaturally calm aura made it difficult to detect his chakra, Temari still had no trouble with detecting him with her olfactory senses. But she would never dare to tell him that his newly acquired repugnant stink was detectable a room away.
It wasn't that her little brother didn't wash himself. She knew he valued hygiene, a delightful habit of cleanliness he picked up from killing too many and getting himself dirtied in the process. This smell was a sign of puberty. He was rapidly approaching the age of fifteen and it was about time that secondary characteristics appeared. The unfortunate side effect to physical maturity in males was the aberrant pungency of body odor. Gaara has yet to learn of the joys of deodorant and no one dared to tell him, herself included.
When he was about fourteen, the average age most boys experienced puberty, she had already told herself it was time for her to inform him of the bodily changes that were to come. But in the end, she chickened out and rationalized that it was too early for him. Now that he was fourteen, she couldn't procrastinate anymore. If she waited any longer, he might end up walking around with a mustache and not know what to do with it.
Being the oldest one of the family, the duties that normally belonged to the parents fell on her shoulders. She was the only one around to teach her youngest brother to be prepared for the changes in his body and she had to make him understand, or, the sudden alterations of his physique might be enough to set him off into a violent rampage. He was mentally unstable, despite his improvements, and was completely innocent of the facts of life. His, was an existence of solitude imposed upon him from the time he was born. Temari felt bad that Gaara never experienced friendship or parental love. The dark, noxious, feelings of hatred and fear from the villagers drowned her brother like a putrid slime, warping him into the monster he later became because he reciprocated the villagers' sentiments with an equal fervor. Guiltily, she knew she could have given him some sibling love but she was too weak and fearful to protect her brother like she should have. Sometimes, when he stared out the window silently, lost in his own indecipherable thoughts, she could see a scrap of untainted innocence within him. If nurtured, she optimistically believed he could be taught to live among society. Until then, she supposed he would remain in his own world, constantly at odds with the rest of humankind.
Just slightly, Temari bent her head down to make friendly eye contact with the unresponsive Gaara before speaking. "Do you need something?" She asked in her most non-threatening voice. The smile she had given him no longer felt strained because she realized she was genuinely happy to see him.
Gaara made no sign of even hearing her question. Standing like a statue with his arms crossed, his opaque blue eyes continued to bore into her. As usual, his face was carefully impassive and Temari was unable to guess his mood.
The blond woman's easy smile was starting to feel unnatural again. The way Gaara had his eyes trained unblinkingly on her caused her to worry that she had done something to displease him. But then, she remembered that despite of his lack of communication and his unwavering gaze, his person was still void of the malevolent aura that represented death was on its way. That meant Gaara was still in charge, not the volatile tanuki sharing his body parasitically.
"Are you hungry?" She asked before quickly supplementing what she said by adding, "Dinner will be done soon." To her relief, Gaara responded by nodding his head slightly. She grinned at him, then turned back to the broth she was planning to make into chicken stew. Taking the ladle back into her hand, she carefully stirred while humming a badly constructed song that came to her out of nowhere. While agitating the gently bubbling stew, Temari noticed that she had forgotten to take out the salt. Turning around with the intent to retrieve the salt from the cupboard, she was surprised to find herself face to face with Gaara again. Still standing there, his arms no longer crossed below his upper chest but hung limply at his sides, the steadfast gaze of his light blue eyes seemed to never have left her.
It was a bit of a shock for Temari to see him still standing behind her in the kitchen. She had expected him to leave after she reassured him that dinner was on its way. The fact that Gaara hadn't budged from his spot seemed like he was waiting for something. Maybe, Temari suspected, her younger brother wanted something of her but didn't know how to express himself. Deciding that Gaara would never initiate a conversation, figuring out what the red haired boy needed was going to be a trial of guesses and errors on her part.
"Is something wrong, Gaara?" She asked gently with her tone soft and quiet. Temari didn't want to make him feel like she was pressuring him for information.
Milky azure eyes stared into her own black ones as he shook his head.
"Do you need something from the kitchen?" Temari tried guessing randomly. She didn't really expect anything from this wild presumption but incredulously, Gaara nodded—his dark cherry locks of hair bounced lightly with his movement.
Her eyes widened slightly before she enhanced the affable smile she showed him. "What do you want from the kitchen?" She continued her line of questioning, quickly closing in on the ultimate answer to Gaara's behavior.
Gaara raised an arm and pointed at the counter with his pale hand.
In confusion, Temari turned her head slightly so her eyes could follow the direction his finger was pointed to. She saw nothing but a chopping board with some leftover vegetables from her preparation for the stew. A few lonely sticks of carrots laid forgotten on the board while the rest of its companions were already softening in the stew. As impossible as it may be, an unbelievable realization started to seep into her. "Do you want the carrot sticks?" Her face was an expression of utter astonishment when she asked him this.
Gaara nodded again and Temari noticed with envy that unlike her own stiff hair, his hair seemed to float in the air with each bob of his head.
"I like it uncooked sometimes...."
Her jaw dropped slightly at Gaara admission. "That's...that's....yes, they also taste good uncooked." She replied even though she was unsure with what she should say at first.
The hand that Gaara used to point at the chopping board slowly turned upwards, fingers unfurling themselves in the process until his hand was outstretched, waiting for the carrots that he desired.
Temari quickly walked to the counter and deftly gathered the carrot sticks into her hand. Turning back to Gaara, she held the carrots out to him and tenderly placed it in his palm with utmost care. His fingers immediately retracted, clamping down on the carrots in a firm grip as he turned away and unceremoniously walked out the kitchen. He moved quickly and left Temari wholly confounded as the rapidly disappearing sound of his footsteps faded away into the living room.
Temari wasn't sure but she thought she heard a faint murmur of "arigatou" before he left her alone in the kitchen that was silent except for the steady gurgling of the stew on the stove.
The little family had sat down together to partake the meal Temari prepared with no real show of appreciation. That Temari didn't mind. As long as no one died during the dining experience, all was well. Her cuisine was far from savory since she found no joy in the act of cooking and only did it out of necessity. Being the oldest and the only female in a family of inept boys, she had resigned herself to doing more than her share of work.
Of her two brothers, she only dared to impress on Kankurou his responsibilities within the house. But Kankurou was lazy to the innermost core—preferring to spend his days grumbling under his breath about things that irritated him than actually making himself useful. As for Gaara, she would never try to make him do chores. He was already contributing significantly to the harmony of the family by not slipping back into his insanity that would consume them all.
Dinner was blissfully uneventful except for one little scare. They were eating at a leisurely pace, enjoying the peaceful ambience of the living room that doubled as the dining room while Temari made small chat with the older of her two brothers. She was sharing the contents of some recent missions, Kankurou making non-committal grunts every now and then to show he was still listening, when they saw Gaara had froze in the middle of spooning a mouthful of stew for consumption. Seeing how Gaara had stopped eating his food, Temari and Kankurou did the same.
Gaara was staring down at his spoon that was raised halfway to his lips. For some reason, he seemed extremely interested in the meager amount of stew that rested in the concavity of the spoon. Since Gaara's attention to the chicken stew seemed to be absolute, Temari and Kankurou wondered if they should use this opportunity to get away.
Temari found that she had trouble breathing steadily through her nose. Her heart rate was soaring at a speed that made heart failure a plausible end to her life. During that tense moment while Gaara sat unmoving like a lurking gargoyle, Temari asked herself if she added too much salt or if not enough—hoping against all odds that the mistake would not be enough to warrant her demise.
Eyes darting quickly to Kankurou, she saw that the hand he used to hold his chopsticks were trembling in short, uneven jerks that lasted only a second between pauses. It was amazing that she could tell his skin was sickly pale with trepidation even through his layer of makeup. From the way Kankurou's gaze kept floating back to Karasu that was resting in a corner of the room, she knew he wished that today wasn't the day he felt comfortable enough to not keep his weapon strapped to his back.
A drop of cold sweat had crawled unhurriedly down the side of her face as Temari slid her left leg undetectably to the side of her chair and felt the cool metal of her fan press against her flesh. She believed it was luck watching out for her that caused her to have left her weapon resting against her chair. If Gaara should lose his composure, she was prepared to sacrifice herself to give Kankurou the chance to run.
Heavy and oppressive, the perilous atmosphere of the room was having a joyous time at sawing at her already frayed nerves. Feeling faint, Temari was about to pass out when Gaara casually pulled the spoon into his mouth and swallowed the liquid while he chewed on the thick chunks of meat and vegetables.
Kankurou's lips parted, his lower jaw was slack from both bewilderment and relief as a soft breath of air escaped. A happy sigh, a contented sigh, a sigh from the lungs of a man that was alive.
That was when Gaara looked up from his bowl and seemed to notice for the first time that his siblings were also sitting at the table. He had looked back and forth from the face of his sister to the painted face of his brother before he told them that, "Cooked carrots taste good too."
Kankurou, who was out of the loop, didn't understand the comment but Temari, remembering the event that took place right before dinner, found herself grinning at the youngest of the family in a state of silly stupor.
Clinking daintily, the plates made their little sounds of protest as Temari placed them one on top of another. She was cleaning up the mess left behind from the meal by herself when something she never expected to happen, occurred. She saw an extra pair of hands helping her stack up the dishes. Looking up to see who it was that offered her the unexpected assistance; she saw the face of Kankurou and his perpetual frown.
"Finally decided to get off your butt?" She said dryly in a mild tone.
Kankurou gave her an annoyed snort before carrying a stack of dishes to the kitchen. Quickly gathering the rest of the dishes in need of cleaning, she followed close behind him.
Before Temari had even managed to place the plates down on the counter, Kankurou already had the water running strong from the faucet in a steaming hot stream. In amiable quiescence, the two worked on scrubbing the leftover stains of food from the plates. After a few minutes of mutely washing the dishes with only the sounds of rushing water and squeaking plates accompanying them, Temari finally decided to be the first to start a conversation.
"You need to have a talk with him." She told Kankurou. There was no need to elaborate who "him" was.
"Have a talk with him? You've got the be joking." He muttered.
"What do I need to talk to him about?"
Temari lifted a dripping cup with soapy suds from the sink and started to scrub the inside before she finally gave him a response. "You can tell as well as I can that he's growing up." She said straightforwardly.
With a solemn sounding thud, Kankurou roughly slapped the plate he was washing down onto the counter. He tilted his head to glare at his sister while she continued to look down at the dirty dishes. The effect of his glare was lost on her since she easily ignored him by continuing her activity.
Kankurou sighed grudgingly but not yet defeated before refocusing back on his duty. He took his anger out on the dishes by scrubbing them harder than necessary with the rough side of the sponge. "I'm not teaching him the birds and the bees." He stated with an inflexible note of finality in his voice.
"Not right now but definitely later. For now, I need you to teach him about puberty." Temari said after she turned the running water off and took a clean towel from the rack.
Kankurou hated it when Temari used her sister tone on him. "Why the hell should I?" He snapped. "I don't want to die."
"He won't kill you!" Temari was quick to protest. "Gaara has
"Maybe he has." Kankurou agreed with her. "But you were as scared as I was tonight. If you really thought he was completely safe, you wouldn't have looked for your weapon."
As much as Temari wanted to, she couldn't argue with that. With a bowl in her hand, Temari turned her back to Kankurou as she wiped the dish dry.
Once again, reticence overcame them as they worked side by side with nothing to say to each other. They were preoccupied with their own personal contemplations as their hands moved mechanically at their labor.
Again, Temari was the first to fight against their subdued mood of sullen taciturnity. Without looking at him, she continued with her attempt to persuade him of her point. "You're the only guy in the house. I can't explain it to him." She said candidly. There was no need for pretense when it came to something they all knew.
Kankurou kept silent, his hands worked hurriedly to dry the dishes with a towel.
Knowing that his unresponsiveness was attributed to a lack of convincing retort, Temari pressed on. "If you don't educate Gaara about this and prepare him emotionally, he might get scared. You know what happens when he gets scared."
"I know...." He responded. His voice was low and unhappy.
"No matter what, he's your brother too. Don't you care about him?" She asked accusingly.
"I get it!" He growled at her. "I'll do it, ok?" Kankurou said before his voice melted to an unintelligible grumbling under his breath. "That's why I hate kids. That's why I hate borderline prepubescent kids even more! Kuso gaki...."
Kankurou walked laboriously. His stiff legs were resisting every step he took that carried him closer to Gaara's room. Apparently, the instinct for self-preservation was strong enough to almost override his conscious command of his body. Gritting his teeth, the tendon of his jaw bulged achingly with the strength he used as he willed his right hand to raise, which it did so unsteadily in a cowardly manner.
Knock, Knock, Knock
Three times, the knuckles of his fisted hand rapped against the wooden door. Then he waited. After a few seconds of hearing no response from within the room, Kankurou's heart was started to feel lighter with hope. Maybe he can weasel out of this dangerous mission not for the lack of trying but because Gaara wasn't home. The tight frame of his body relaxing, he readjusted Karasu on his back and turned to walk away.
"Come in." The familiar monotone voice halted Kankurou's from taking a step.
"Damn." He swore with a gasp of breath before turning the bronze-yellow doorknob and giving it a push. With the sound of rushing blood in his ears, the door swinging open revealed the sight of Gaara sitting on the floor directly ahead, facing him with an unamused look. All of a sudden, all Kankurou could see was the piercing gray-blue eyes that were bereft of warmth or recognition. He started to stammer. "H-Hey...hope I didn't disturb anything." He managed to say in a false casual manner.
Sitting cross-legged, Gaara stared up at his older, physically stronger brother with without affection. Crossing his arms, he leaned back against the wall and remained aloof. Despite of his air of detachment, his presence in the room was overpowering.
Kankurou swallowed uneasily. The tightness in his throat kept the saliva from going down without resistance. Shifting his weight from one leg to the other, he swung Karasu off his back by the strap over his shoulder and placed it down without a sound. "Gaara," He begin, not willing to prolong the torture of waiting for the seemingly hostile boy to grace him with a response, "We don't really talk to each other. Ever. What do you say you share a bath with your brother, eh? Maybe we can get to know each other better."
After saying that, a prickling mist of moisture rose from his skin, condensing into beads of cold sweat all over his body. It wasn't until after the words left his mouth that he re-played what he said in his mind for serious analyzation. With the insidious sensation of horror creeping over him, Kankurou realized in a panic that he had sounded like he was hitting on Gaara. Unconsciously, he leaned back for some distance when Gaara started to shift from his position. Although Kankurou knew intellectually, that the extra distance he created wouldn't do a thing to save him if Gaara felt inclined to indulge in bloodlust, reflex was something not easily conquered.
Legs straightening from his body, Gaara sat up higher against the wall and tilted his head back. There was a curious look on his face as he inspected Kankurou. His pale eyes missed nothing as he attempted to assess the possible reasons for such a proposal from someone who obviously feared him.
Kankurou kept his back erect and tried his best to look both trustworthy and harmless under his brother's scrutiny. If Gaara had any sense of familial ties to him, it just might work. "I have no ulterior motives." He said in a calm and collected voice. "I just thought it might be nice for the men of the house to have a talk about what it means to be a man....and.......... other guy stuff." Struggling with every fiber of his facial muscle, Kankurou managed to forcibly produce a grimace that was meant to be an amicable grin.
Although his face was a hardened shell of apathy, the uncharacteristic behavior of Kankurou intrigued Gaara. Rather interested, Gaara decided to keep the tidbit of the fact that he's already had a bath to himself. Throwing his upper body forward, Gaara shifted his weight to the front and raised himself to his feet. "Alright then." He said in his typical toneless voice.
Recognizably relieved, Kankurou swayed precariously as his body slumped from his ridged posture. Now, he knew, was the truly difficult and uncomfortable part of being a brother, especially to someone like Gaara.
1) Kuso gaki: damn brat
Anyone freaked out about Kankurou and Gaara sharing a bath shouldn't be. It's socially acceptable (probably considered weird nowadays though), for a family to wash together.
And yes, families in Japan DO use the same bathwater at separate times. #SHUDDERS#
For those of you who read my other fics (I adore you pplz), yes my ShikaIno fics will be coming. Sorry that I've been so busy. T-T I'm still a rabid ShikaIno fan.
p.s. Sorry for making Gaara "stinky" in this fic. EH hehehe. I was bored. (don't be mad fi-chan!) GaaraNaru fans rest assured. Naruto will show up soon. Eventually. I ramble too much with my fics and plots take too long to start LOL. Hope this fic is satisfactory Fi-chan. T-T Atashi yoku ganbattan da mon