Wilderness

...The sandcest just... writes itself. o.O I wonder what that should say about these kids, eesh... but then, I guess the fscked-up-ness of the Sand Siblings sorta goes without question, LOL. Spoilers for the end of the Chuunin exams and for the current manga (i.e., stuff relating to Kazekage). This one was partially inspired by the My Chemical Romance song "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)", not so much the mood as the lyrics... Uhh, I think that's it. Enjoy. Or something. XD
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Temari was five, and Kankurou was four, and they didn't see each other much anymore.

Kankurou had been sent to live with the puppeteers, and Temari all but lived by herself, trained by herself with Baki-sensei in the huge empty sandstone palace the Kazekage-sama called home.

(He was always, always, always 'Kazekage-sama'. Never 'Father'. 'Father' was rude.)

The servants were invisible, leaving only meals and clean sheets to mark their passing, and a little ghost with red hair and dark-rimmed eyes wandered the hallways at night. Other than that, Temari very nearly saw no one.

When Kankurou was quite little, he used to follow her everywhere. She would always sigh and express her annoyance, but she would take him by the hand and drag him along anyway.

The Kankurou that came to visit once a while now on holidays was not her Kankurou, but a cold and strange and secretive boy, hiding in the corner with his puppets. But he still followed her around.

He never slept in his own room. Perhaps he had forgotten he had one, perhaps not. But when night fell and the servants appeared long enough to gently urge Young Master and Mistress to bed, he always crept into her room and they curled up together.

She missed her Kankurou.
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Temari was eight, and Kankurou was seven, and they didn't see much of each other, but at least it was a bit more than before.

Kankurou was still in training every day, but the puppeteers let him come back home, and he walked into the palace one day with a tiny bag of clothes and a very big bag of puppet regalia. He wore the facepaint all the time now. Temari had only seen it a few times before in her life, but now confronted with it every day, she decided she didn't really like it. It made her brother look mean.

Of course, if she was honest with herself, he was kind of mean. But no more than she.

They had forgotten how to be friendly, so they traded sniping words instead, and sparred together, and hid from Gaara together. It wasn't quite like her Kankurou who followed her around clutching her hand, or even like her Kankurou who sat in the corner and watched her, but it was enough.

Sometimes when Kazekage-sama got very angry, or Gaara had murdered an especially large number of people, or once or twice when he had a nightmare, Kankurou still snuck into her room and snuggled under the sheets. He never asked permission, and she never told him to stop.
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Temari was fifteen, and Kankurou was fourteen, and they saw too much of each other, but they didn't see much of each other at all.

They were leaving for Konoha tomorrow, another in a long line of missions, trickier and more important than all the others perhaps but no less mind-numbing. Temari was bored by everything anymore, and the only time she felt half herself was when she was in the midst of a fight, dodging blows and wreaking havoc and asserting some minimal control over her life.

Kankurou smiled more easily than he used to, but he was still not her Kankurou, and he no longer seemed to even want to be. Outside of their missions and the occasional sparring session Baki-sensei insisted on, he had taken to hiding in the puppeteers' theatre, and exactly like the curtain on the players' stage there was a Gaara always hanging between the two of them. When they talked, it was to relay orders, or to placate their youngest sibling, or once in a while to taunt. 'Friendly' was only a dim and distant feeling by now, and so Temari teased him when she could, and felt not-quite-but-almost satisfied.

They were grown-up, were coworkers and soldiers and many other things now, but they were not really brother and sister, and so her bed remained empty of all but herself. Kankurou no longer came to creep in on quiet cat feet and fill her big empty room with the sound of his breathing.

Except, it seemed, for tonight.

"T... Temari?" He stopped partway through the door; the lamplight outside in the hall threw his form into silhouette and obscured his face, but his voice bespoke all too obviously how foolish he felt for coming in here.

She just looked at him for a moment, and felt quietly amazed, and then she turned back her covers.

"What's the matter?" she murmured, and smirked at him, because smiling too was a distant memory for her. "Forget you had your own room?"

He gave a quiet, awkward laugh, shut the door behind him, padded over on those cat feet to plop onto her bed in baggy pajamas, all warm and breathing and alive and most importantly here. He lay there for a moment without touching her at first; he reached down for the sheets she had moved back, but she tugged him closer until they were against each other, holding each other. He gave a little sigh, content or relieved or both perhaps, and she lay with her head next to his chest and listened to him breathe.

She felt him press his face softly into her hair once he thought she was asleep, and she smiled a little - it was a distant memory, but not so distant yet as to be lost - and reached up to caress his cheek. His face felt very different without the paint on it.

She had only been with a few men in her short life, and she decided that she preferred sleeping in Kankurou's arms to any of the pleasures they could offer.

Temari clutched him a little tighter when she felt him shudder, and thought that this Kankurou, perhaps, was not such a stranger to the one who had followed her around holding her hand so many years ago.
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Temari was eighteen, and Kankurou was seventeen, and they saw enough of each other, but it was far too much.

Kazekage-sama was dead, and long live Kazekage-sama, for now their little brother had taken his place, and the curtain had begun to lift from between them, and perhaps that meant it was time for the play to begin. They spent their days now not in solo missions and private abject terror, but in bodyguarding, message-passing, standing next to Gaara in a crowded room where no one would meet their eyes. As far as the people of the Sand were concerned, they were Gaara, his right and left hand, Gaara-parts, and together they, Temari-Gaara-Kankurou became a single whole Gaara who would crush any and all of them at a whim. Temari did not like being part of a Gaara any more than she had liked being Gaara's referee, any more than she had liked cowering in fear of his anger. And so she turned her attention toward that slowly lifting curtain, and watched intently for glimpses of the players on the other side.

Kankurou teased her back sometimes, now, and once in a while he smiled at her where other people could see. And she thought that in his own peculiar way this meant he was admitting his weakness, for quiet cat feet padded into her room nearly every night now, and they slept clutching each other because no one else would ever hold them. And some nights when it all became unbearable and they felt they were no more than grains of sand carried away by the wind, then they could not help themselves, and they certainly could not help each other but each was willing to try. And someone's mouth would find someone else's lips and their clothes would come off because if she could just feel his bare skin, his too-thin body all warm and breathing and alive and there against her then she knew that the world made some kind of sense, and she just needed to figure out what kind of sense it was.

Afterwards they would get up to quietly change the sheets, and sometimes they would shower together, and sometimes he would slip off to his own room, but most often he would curl up beside her again and clutch her to him with guilt lying heavy in his eyes. And she would twine an arm around him, and kiss him her own apology. And then they would fall asleep together, warm and calm and something like content, and perhaps this stained their killer's souls one shade blacker but neither could bring themselves to stop.

They had crossed one line called 'family', but Temari was ever a stubborn child, and decided she would simply draw a new one. Perhaps it would be purple, like his facepaint.

But no, that was the color of his mask, the color of royalty.

She pondered, and clutched him tighter.

It would be red, she thought at last. Blood-red, like the thread of destiny that bound them together. And it would encircle the world.

He softly stroked her hair, and they rested there together in the darkness.
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