Disc: Um, yeah.
AN: This fic was finished during the summer and not 'published' until now. Why? I could blame it on my beta reader, who just got it back to me yesterday, but that would be terribly unfair because he told me he was busy and I chose to take a chance anyway. Thank you, Nick. Thank you, universe. Hopefully you enjoy this quirky and occasionally comedic story. (Kankurou narrates because nobody writes about him. Maybe it's the whole ugly thing.)


It wasn't as though Kankurou was bored.

"Bored" would imply a normal situation, or one in which his biggest concern was keeping entertained. This was neither. Maybe "restless" was a better word for the feeling that he should be occupied with something useful. He certainly shouldn't be standing in the middle of the hallway at midnight staring at the reflected light from the fridge.

Since the failed attempt to destroy Konoha, the Hidden Sand had been in a state of limbo. When he had heard that one of the legendary Sennin of the Leaf had been selected as the new village head, Kazekage had sent out a small group of fairly expendable diplomats to reopen negotiations. They had been greeted in good faith instead of with short and sudden death. This was taken as a good sign. Until the villages had reached at least a temporary agreement, which they were attempting as fast as possible, it seemed that nothing would be done about the attack one way or another.

Gaara had officially been placed under house arrest until further notice. This was utter bullshit- nobody could stop him from leaving any time he pleased, and Kazekage knew it- but he was in no state to object. Still recovering from his wounds, he had locked himself into his room with his sand and wasn't coming out. Kankurou and Temari had been ordered to "guard" him. This meant that, for the first time in his life, Kankurou was sleeping under the same roof as both his siblings. This didn't please him. He'd heard the details of Gaara's fight from Temari, who had seen the whole thing. How stupid was that? Some no-name loser from the Leaf managing to defeat the Sand's most powerful weapon? But even having discussed it, he felt as though he had missed something important somewhere. He'd never known about the insomnia. Well, obviously. He'd never bothered to learn. The less connection he had to Gaara, the better. He had already been feared in the Village by association with the family. What was the point in making it worse? What was the point of trying to understand a monster? He'd never thought of Gaara as someone who had suffered. He hadn't thought of him as anyone at all.

Kankurou still hated Gaara, and feared him. Of course he did. But now, under that fear and hate, long-hidden guilt was rising to the surface.

The days since their return from Konoha had been tense and not very interesting. Other than filling him in on what he had missed, Temari hadn't spoken to him much, and that was fine. They had nothing they could say to each other. He spent most of his time lying around the house or fixing up Karasu.

Unable to sleep that particular night, he had ventured out into the hallway to the living room to see what was on TV. One of the best parts of being home was having cable again. And hey, if he wanted to grab a snack while nobody was around telling him to keep their hands off their food...

He had gotten as far as the kitchen door when a sudden noise from the stairway had alerted him to a very unwelcome presence. Not daring to make even one sudden movement, he edged back into the shadows on the wall and waited.

It seemed that Gaara was recovering admirably, but he still looked the worst Kankurou had ever seen him. His usually tight armour was floating in the air a few inches around him on all sides. Sweat plastered his hair to his forehead, almost obscuring the "ai" kanji. Wrapped in blankets of cloth and sand, bare feet padding across the tiled floor, he looked both menacing and infinitely tired.

The fridge door opened. Gaara stood in front of it for a moment, then reached out a pale arm and began digging through the sparse contents.

Kankurou swallowed the spit that had been collecting in his mouth. Relief that Gaara wasn't going to kill him immediately washed over him. Gradually shuffling backwards through the hall, he bumped into Temari and clamped down hard on his tongue to avoid making a noise. Her eyes narrowed in the semidarkness.

Gaara found the half-eaten carton of Tin Roof Sundae in the freezer and sat down cross-legged on the kitchen floor. He ate with his hands, licking the ice cream from the sides of his mouth as his hands dove back into the box. Eventually he ripped it open and cleaned it out entirely. It was like watching a wild animal ransack a campsite.

Finally, melted ice cream still dripping from his hands, Gaara pushed the fridge door shut and made his way slowly up the stairs. The entire event had taken less than five minutes.

The hallway light snapped on. "What was that?" asked Temari incredulously.

Kankurou shook his head. "You think I know?" he asked, staring at her hair, which was down in clumps around her head. He'd only ever seen it in pigtails before.

Temari noticed the direction of his gaze and tried to smooth the ragged ends down self-consciously. "Well, obviously he has to get energy from somewhere, but I haven't seen him eat since-" A look of confusion crossed her face, and she shook her head. "I've never seen him eat."

Neither had he. In fact, as Kankurou thought about it, he realized he had never even considered Gaara eating normal food. Somewhere in the back of his mind he had assumed he just hunted for prey when he was hungry- which was ridiculous, now that he thought about it, because the most edible animals in Hidden Sand were the skin-and-bones cats that prowled through the back alleys. Well, at least now he knew he had been mistaken. Gaara had to raid the fridge just like everybody else.

Temari grabbed some paper towels from the counter, threw them on the floor where the ice cream carton had been, and gave it a quick wipe with her slippered foot. Apparently this was clean enough for her, because the dirty towels stayed where they were. "I did want to finish that ice cream, though. I wonder if he ever eats anything healthy."

"Whatever..." Although her offhand comment had actually made him sort of curious, Kankurou just gave a shrug and headed for the living room. "Not our problem." He grabbed the remote and crashed onto the couch, letting the white light of the TV fill the room. "You wanna watch?"

"I only got up to check the kitchen," Temari replied from the hallway. Kankurou turned around to see her usual annoyed expression. "Besides, nothing's on this late. Turn it down, okay? I can hear it through the wall."

"Okay. 'Night."


Kankurou started channel surfing, but she was right. The best thing he could find, other than a decade-old TV movie about gangsters, was an Earth Country talk show about strippers pregnant with their brothers' children. He turned it off when a fake shinobi bouncer stepped in to break up a catfight between two women who looked as though they badly needed to eat a sandwich.

By the time he dragged himself off to bed, now sedated by late-night TV, Gaara was the farthest thing from his mind. He thought that would be the end of the incident.

When he left the house the next morning, Kankurou wasn't sure where he was going. He just had to go somewhere. Temari was out already, he was sure Gaara needed no watching, and Karasu was about as fixed as he was going to get. Besides, he was starting to feel out of shape. A walk would at least let him stretch out a little.

Hidden Sand was quiet like the dead exhaustion after a sand storm. He didn't see many people passing by. A few kids were playing hopscotch within an arm's throw of an apartment, and he didn't need to look to know that their parents were watching anxiously out the windows. Information about the invasion attempt had gradually trickled down to even the commoners. They had enough sense to keep inside until the storm had passed over.

The quiet could almost have been pleasant. Kankurou usually attracted attention when he went out, because of who's son he was, and who's brother. Even in Konoha he had caught people's eye simply for being an outsider in the Village. The deserted streets of Hidden Sand were eerie, but they ignored him.

Since Kankurou had never actually been to a grocery store - had never needed to shop for anything, in fact - it was a complete coincidence that he ended up in front of one. It was merely curiosity that drove him inside. Grabbing a shopping basket was simply an action born of a desire to buy himself some snacks for home.

Unfortunately, there was no excuse for ending up in the produce section, so eventually he had to admit to himself that for some reason completely beyond him he was shopping for Gaara.

Kankurou didn't know much about nutrition. All his life, someone else had either done the cooking or left well-documented instructions to follow. He probably couldn't have told you what went into most of the food he ate. He did know, though, that Fruits And Vegetables were Healthy and contained Vitamins and Minerals. That was a start, anyway.

Picking items one by one and managing to amass an attractive assortment of produce, he made his way slowly through the other aisles of the grocery store. He was briefly confused over whether or not baked goods had any nutritional value, but finally decided against them. He ended up getting three cartons of milk. He picked up some instant curry, too, because it felt like it might be healthy. He had no idea how to cook meat. He bought some anyway.

Wandering through the aisles, he tried not to meet anyone's eyes. He felt like what he was doing was somehow shameful, and it was made even worse by the fact that he didn't feel guilty at all. He was making a conscious decision to sustain the life of a monster who had terrified the Hidden Sand since his birth - if that wasn't shameful, what was?

Even so... as strange as it was, he was finding it difficult to think of Gaara as a demon now that he had seen his face covered in ice cream.

When he reached the checkout line he picked up a can of iced tea for himself, mainly so that he had some legitimate excuse for coming this far. The convenience stores around the house didn't carry his favourite brand.

"Don't worry about it," said the girl at the checkout with a smile and well-concealed wariness when he offered her a wad of bills. The store would get their money from Kazekage later. They always did. Kankurou had gotten used to having money on him in Hidden Leaf, but sooner or later he would one again get used to having everything paid for by others.

He was left with five bulging bags of groceries. He slung them around his arms and neck, then headed home before the food went bad in the heat of the day.

Seeing the house again, with its promise of air conditioning, was something of a relief. The walk home had been just as uneventful as the walk there. Kankurou wanted a mirror to check and see if his makeup was running before realizing he wasn't wearing any. He hadn't wanted the hassle of wearing it since they got back, but old habits died hard.

He strode up the stairs and into the house. Dropping the plastic bags on the floor, he felt his arms tingle as blood started circulating through them once again. He felt annoyed with himself- how out of shape was a ninja who couldn't even carry produce? He picked up the bags again and headed for the kitchen.

Temari was washing her hands at the kitchen sink. The counter next to her was piled with dairy products, cake mix, and assorted vitamin supplements. It wasn't hard to tell who they were for.

When she turned and grabbed for a paper towel, she saw him standing there.

"Hey," he said casually. The expression on his face at that moment was probably exactly the same as hers. They had both been caught red-handed.

Temari stepped forward defensively, arms on her hips as if to block the sight of her purchases. "...Well, it's not as if we have any choice," she snorted, not missing a beat. Her words were harsh and cold and a tiny bit desperate. "It'll be our necks on the line if he starves to death while he's still recovering. After all, Father told us to take care of him."

Kankurou laid his groceries next to hers on the counter. "That's right," he replied, knowing full well that Kazekage had said no such thing. "He did, didn't he?"

"Yeah." Her mouth curved into a guilty smile. They might be doing something stupid, but at least they had someone to blame. At that moment he felt like he understood his sister perfectly. "Let's get started."

And so, forgetting about the monster upstairs and the state of Hidden Sand Village, the two of them attempted to make as much refridgerateable food as possible.

It took them almost all afternoon to finish up. Kankurou discovered soon after they started that Temari had little more culinary experience than he did, and there were no cookbooks in the house. They were left to experimenting with the food they had, which led to a lot of sandwiches and plates full of neatly sliced vegetables.

The kitchen was mostly quiet. They only talked to pass utensils or ask advice about food. Temari had had the sense to pick up vitamin supplements, which were chopped up and sprinkled liberally over everything they made. Kankurou tried some. The dust tasted awful, but Gaara probably wouldn't notice.

Working from trial and error, as well as his limited experience with cooking shows, he ended up baking a batch of marginally successful chocolate chip carrot cookies. They had decided independent of each other that adding healthy things into junk food was probably the best way to get Gaara to eat.

Of course, they had no ideas about his preferences in food. He might really like broccoli and multigrain bread.

"Do you think he has allergies?" Temari asked, dumping peaches and ice cream into the blender along with Vitamin C pills. "He's probably never been to a doctor in his life. I mean, what if he's lactose intolerant or something?"

Fairly sure he was doing alright, Kankurou put a pot on for noodles and watched her struggle with the machine. "I don't know. If he is, and he always eats like that, no wonder he's always so grumpy." Thinking of Gaara as 'grumpy', rather than 'murderous' or 'filled with loathing for the universe' was new to him. It put things in perspective - a skewed perspective, but one he was grudgingly learning to accept.

"No kidding." Temari finally decided to give up on the blender. She poured her concoction into a mixing bowl, then went through the drawers looking for beaters. "Where's the wall socket?"

Kankurou pointed to the spot where he had plugged in the toaster. "There."

Watching her struggle with the mixer was the funniest thing he'd seen in a long time. Temari's face displayed the same deadly concentration as when she was fighting, but in this case her glare was directed towards a pair of beaters who wouldn't both fit in the machine at the same time. He really couldn't help it when he started to laugh.

Temari turned to face him. "What's funny?" she asked, eyes narrowed slightly menacingly as she wiped her wet hands off on her skirt. The gesture only made him laugh harder.

All at once, understanding dawned on her face. She shook her head and began to laugh along with him. It was surprisingly high pitched in comparison to her voice; a harsh, friendly sound. Kankurou wondered why he found it so strange, then realized that he had never heard a genuine laugh from her before.

Now that he had heard it, though, he thought he wouldn't mind hearing it again. It was nice to laugh with someone else. Maybe sometime they should watch a movie together.

They waited in the hallway that night, watching the dark kitchen with apprehension. The counters were clean. The floor tiles gleamed. Even the table had been wiped meticulously after dinner. If not for the abundance of food in the refrigerator, it would have seemed like the afternoon had never taken place. Neither of them spoke a word.

Although it was a warm night even by the standards of Hidden Sand, Kankurou had brought a blanket to sit on. He shivered and pushed it over his bare feet as the automatic air conditioner started up again. Beside him, Temari was filing her nails with expert but anxious skill. He wondered how she knew what she was doing in the dim light. It was probably a girl thing.

He sat still for what seemed like hours. A cramp started to form in his left leg. He was just about to stand up and stretch when Gaara came down the stairs.

Kankurou couldn't help the knot of fear in his stomach, but he closed his eyes and attempted to take the deepest breath he possibly could while still being totally silent. He wasn't scared of Gaara. A tiny dead-secret part of him was worried for him. It was probably only his perspective that had changed, or maybe the darkness, but he thought that Gaara looked even worse than he had the night before.

The next fifteen minutes went as well as they could have hoped. Gaara tore into the food in the refrigerator with an animal-like hunger, smearing his hands and face with food. Almost everything was eaten without hesitation. With some dismay, Kankurou realized that he was mentally tallying the foods Gaara liked and didn't like for future reference. He consoled himself with the thought that Temari might be doing the same.

When he had finished, filthy with sweat and sand and bread crumbs, Gaara closed the fridge door and turned around. A tendril of sand snaked away from him and flicked the kitchen light on. He took two steps towards the hallway, eyes fixed on the two of them.

Temari's body went rigid. Her nail file fell to the floor. Kankurou clenched his teeth hard.

"Thank you," said Gaara slowly, in a voice cracked and hoarse from lack of use. His face was like a mask. His eyes burned with emotion. "Goodnight."

"'Night," said Temari, sounding a little as if her throat had closed up.

"'Night," echoed Kankurou, not able to think of anything else to say.

With that, their brother turned around and headed back up the stairs.