Copyright Kishimoto, not me.

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the weight of silence

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Gaara´s silence weights down on Konoha like a summer storm, and nobody seems to actually notice it until later, much later, he speaks again. Everybody distrusts him just enough not to ask him to speak, and not to ask him why he doesn´t. Kakashi assured the boy could be handled, that it represented no danger, that Temari and Kankuro would take care of it. But then they asked Kakashi if he would trust those two with his life and he kept quiet because everybody knows there are few people Kakashi would trust, and most of them are dead.

Gaara is a living, walking proof of Sand´s fear of Leaf. He has become almost a political excuse.

At first his silence dissolved in the flow of the town´s silence, because after what happened to Sasuke nobody felt like chatting.

(When he asked to see the Uchiha familiar house –as if it were a tourist spot or an attraction- Naruto shook his head in anger, Kakashi looked away and Temari, as a warning, tugged at his shirt, but none of them actually said a word.)

Konoha slowly returns to a simulacrum of normalcy, Gaara rests (just one room from Temari and Kankuro) in a house made of wood, of damp, smelly wood, and he pretends not to be home when Lee knocks on his door (for it has to be Lee, no one else would dare).

It´s like Sasuke´s tragedy had robbed everyone in the village of something. The mischievous tingle in Kakashi´s voice is not there anymore and a new kind of desperation pooling in Naruto´s fist that Gaara senses, even through the protective sand, whenever Naruto trains with him and sometimes Gaara gets the feeling their fights is the only thing Naruto really looks forward to, as if sometimes he´s trying hard to turn Gaara into a new Sasuke, an even more silent and conceited Sasuke, just a replacement but the other option is too painful.

And then there is Sakura, whom Gaara knows almost nothing of, really, even if sometimes she would look at Gaara and then rub her hand absently over the spot where the bruise Gaara gave her once used to be. Sakura, now sitting opposite him in the mission briefing, looks like a soulless doll while nodding to Shikamaru´s instructions.

Unexpectedly, when Gaara breaks his long silence his first words are directed to Sakura.

"I don´t want her on the mission."

Gaara has never promised anything to anybody, not really, and if he seems too harsh is because he is affected, too. The boy he swore to kill once (it seems like it was in another lifetime now, and for Gaara it is) is no more, even though his body is still there, and Gaara can´t predict his own reaction better than he can predict Sakura´s.

Getting mad at Sakura is just a way to warn himself.

Ever since he was a child Gaara has developed plenty of defence mechanisms, not only for his body but for his mind as well.

The shock of seeing Sasuke´s body with different eyes (because there was a darkness, beautiful, scary and mesmerizing inside Sasuke´s eyes that Orochimaru can´t even attempt at) would be enough to break Sakura, Gaara has to tell her so because he has to prove he is not as fragile.

You are right, Sakura says and she tilts her head charmingly, as if she was about to add something but then she decides against it and closes the door without looking at him.

You are right, and Gaara thinks that maybe he underestimated the girl.

The thought bothers him, for a moment he imagines another life for Sasuke, a life besides Sakura, if he would just have turned around once in his life, if he would have see her, really see her (the image leaves Gaara unbalanced, like he a strange kind of homesickness curling in his stomach) but Sasuke´s life had been too full of Itachi and he hadn´t left room for anyone else. Gaara puts the thought aside, because he doesn´t like to think, just as he doesn´t like to talk.

Naruto is the only one Gaara seems to respect and Naruto the only one he answers to. Sometimes Gaara wishes Naruto would beat him senseless again, so he could remember why he respects Naruto so much.

Respect seems to go both ways, because oddly enough Gaara is about the only one in Hidden Leaf who knows that Naruto hides Sasuke´s old head protector in his drawer, along with a photo of his team Naruto hasn´t look at in ages. Gaara has seen the head protector and the photo but he hasn´t asked Naruto his reasons (after what happened to Sasuke everybody in Konoha went silent, like after a sad augur, including loud Naruto).

Gaara understands. He, too, has his own reasons.

During the days prior to the mission nobody speaks to Gaara, not even Lee, although he stills follows him around Konoha, and it´s not that Gaara minds it´s that he doesn´t know how to react.

Lee Rock has always been the only one who wasn´t upset with Gaara´s silence, who tolerated it (tolerated him) and actively seek Gaara´s company for no other reason than he liked it.

So once again Gaara keeps quiet and Lee walks by his side, happily, maybe humming something, and it´s not out of fear that Lee doesn´t ask him to speak, or why he doesn´t.