By: Junsui Kegasu

A/N: As much as I didn't like the last chapter…here you go.

Disclaimer: …………(SIGH)

Why had he fled? It was a stupid decision, one that he seriously regretted. He wished he had a watch so he'd know how long Gaara was in there, because he was sure it hadn't been eternity. It couldn't have been an eternity, not yet, not quite yet.

Without realizing it, he had begun to pace the entire length of the hallway, back and forth, his mind lost in a swirl of memories. How had it all come to be like this? Why wasn't it happy like it had used to be?


Like it used to be…
"'Kurou, 'Kurou, look!"

Kankurou looked up from where he was attempting to figure out his math homework. Temari was standing excitedly by the window of their house, looking out with her face pressed against the frosted glass.

"'Ri, that must be cold," he told her as he got up, abandoning the difficulties of two-digit addition. To his surprise, there were people next door. The house had been vacant for nearly a year now, and now there were people. He was confused about it, though. The owners of the house had moved all the way from Tokyo to Toyohashi, they weren't planning on coming back.

"There are new people there!" his sister told him excitedly, beaming. "We should go meet them!"

Why she was so excited, he couldn't tell. The previous inhabitants in that house had been very mean, yelling at him and Temari whenever they were playing outside and the ball accidentally rolled onto their lawn, unprotected by a fence to separate the two families. His mind processed that these people would be just as mean.

However, he also knew that he should be polite, since that's what his mother always told him. So, following Temari down the stairs and grabbing his winter jacket, he tried to compose himself. Being polite meant that he was to not yell out, always use '-san', and no slang. He could do that.

"Mama, we're going to see the new people!" Temari called out. When no response was given through the semi-large house, they shrugged in unison and left, making sure to slam the door so that their mother might hear it and know they had gone outside. There was little snow on the ground, just barely a frost to cover the ugly, dead grass. Kankurou scowled; to him, being cold without snow to play in was the worst kind.

They crossed over to the other lawn to see what was going on. A man and a woman were busy piling numerous boxes out of a truck. Kankurou recognized the bold print written on the side to read 'U-Haul'. Near the woman, practically attached to her, was a redheaded boy, obviously younger than he and Temari.

"Mommy, I wanna help!" he was saying, clinging to her and making the bulky looking jacket he wore adjust to his movements awkwardly. "I can carry the little stuff!"

"Gaara, please go inside, you'll get sick," the woman said, giving up her task of attempting to drag a large, heavy looking box from the cargo section of the truck to scoop him up, turning to go to the house. In the process, she spotted the seven and eight year olds standing on the edge of their part of the lawn and smiled. "Hello!"

"Hi," Temari chirped, better with strangers than Kankurou was. "Do you need any help?"

The woman beamed, the usual thoughts of 'oh, what a sweet child!' probably passing through her mind. Temari could be such a suck up. Kankurou didn't understand why she couldn't be this nice to him.

"Oh, all of this is far too heavy for you guys! Here, why don't you take Gaara and go inside the house to play?" She set the redhead down on his feet again. He looked in the direction of Temari and Kankurou once before shyly turning his head to bury it into his mother's stomach.

"Y-you mean in your house?" he asked, bewildered. When the old people had been there, they hadn't been allowed near the building, and now they were invited into it.

"Why, of course!" she told them, then crouched down to her son's level. "Gaara, please go with them. They're nice people, I'm sure, and Daddy and I still have to unpack things, okay?"

"I can help," the boy mumbled stubbornly. "I'm strong!"

Smiling, she stood up and ruffled his hair. "I'm sure you are, but you don't want to get pneumonia again, do you?" When he shook his head, she continued. "Please go inside and play. It'll be okay."

After a long moment of hesitance, the boy turned to face Temari and Kankurou.

"Hi!" the girl said, smiling brightly. When Kankurou said nothing, she elbowed him sharply in the side. "Ow! I mean…hi, I'm Kankurou," he told him, scowling gently at his sister. To both of their surprise, the redhead giggled softly, bringing up a thickly covered sleeve to try to muffle it.

"I'm Gaara," he said, some of the shyness leaving his voice. "We just moved."

"I can see that," Temari noted, her and Kankurou getting closer to the boy. "We live right there." Helpfully, she pointed to the house behind them, still smiling.

Without another word said, Gaara led the older children up the stairs and into the house, softly closing the door behind them. It was a strange sight to witness, as the house was still completely bare, except for that the living room had carpet installed. All three of them took off their shoes and Gaara offered to take their coats.

Being so small, the boy looked rather humorous with his coat and two larger ones as he walked around for a moment, finally deciding on a closet at the foot of the stairs, to the right of the door, to hang them up in. He beckoned them to sit on the floor, which they did, somewhat awkwardly.

"So, how old are you, Gaara?" Temari started, still smiling. 'I hope the smile breaks her face in half,' Kankurou thought, feeling the childish resentment against his sister for living with him and being older. Shyly, Gaara held up one hand, indicating he was five.

"Oh," she said. "I'm eight, and 'Kurou-chan" he scowled at the nickname "is seven."


"I think we're going to be really good friends!"

After that, there was a lot of silence, somewhat broken by the gentle snap of strings of the carpet being pulled from their bindings by Gaara, who moved the strange fabric in between his fingers, amused. Finally, after a bit, Kankurou, hating the eerie ringing that resounded in his head, broke it, scuffing a sock-encased foot against the carpet.

"So, where did you move from?" He felt stupid after asking the question, remembering how when he had been in kindergarten, it had been difficult to remember things like cities, streets, addresses, and phone numbers. To his surprise, however, Gaara answered without a moment of hesitance.

"Ibusuki. (1)" When his new friends gave him a blank look, he tried to describe it. "It's…it's…um…um…well, there's…a lot of sand," he told them with difficulty. "Mommy can tell you when she's not busy."

"I see. Well, Tokyo has a beach." Temari stated. "It's really pretty. 'Kurou and I go there a lot, but only in the summer, not when it's cold like how it is now."

"Oh." Large green eyes widened softly in a new sense of knowledge before Gaara blinked. "We lived on the beach…my school was by the beach too."

"Whoa, that's neat! Did you go on fieldtrips a lot?" Kankurou loved going to the beach. The sound of waves lapping up against the firm, soaked sand mesmerized him, and he couldn't help a tiny twinge of envy directed towards the five-year-old child. Still, he tried to hide it when his new friend nodded, any tentativeness sapped into the air.

"Yeah! I love the sand…it's fun to play with," he informed them, drawing patterns into the rough carpet again. A minute later, there was a scraping sound against the wall, echoing loudly through the empty room and making all three children jump and turn into the direction of the sound. Standing, just beyond the doorway, was a figure, probably a woman judging by the somewhat-clingy jeans, carrying a stack of boxes that reached above her head. How she was carrying it all, none of them knew.

"Mama!" Gaara cried, jumping up. Kankurou noted, with a sense of amusement, that he was not very tall at all, nearly pathetically puny. Behind the woman appeared a man, carrying a stack not nearly as tall as his wife's, so the siblings got a view of his face. It was obvious that Gaara had gotten his hair from the man, but his face was much more tanned and sharper looking than his son's.

"Well," Temari began, standing up and wiping her palms on his jeans. "I think we should get going, right 'Kurou?"

Kankurou blinked, but recovered and nodded. "Yeah, it's almost dinner time."

"It was nice meeting you!" his sister called as they left the house, waving. As they walked back over the short distance between the houses, Kankurou didn't think much of meeting a new friend at that moment, as a matter of fact he didn't even think they'd end up being very close. At the time, he didn't know it, but he was sorely mistaken.

A lull in his pacing synchronized with the lull in his thinking. Yes, back then innocence had reigned upon them all. At the mere age of seven, he hadn't expected Gaara to even stay long. He had thought of him as a twerp who probably got sick a lot. While he had been correct about the latter, Gaara had proven that he really wasn't as pathetic as he sometimes let on.

He hadn't ever let himself become trapped in the agony that homophobic teenagers caused him, only pushed through it. He had never flaunted his chosen sexuality, and yet he was still labeled. Kankurou did whatever he could to make Gaara's life a little more manageable, but he didn't want the help. Rarely could he defend himself, even verbally, but he didn't want people doing it for him.

That was, perhaps, why Kankurou was so worried. Had Gaara told him to leave just so he wouldn't help? As much faith as he had in the redhead, Kankurou really doubted that he would stand up to Neji. Remembering all the times his friend had come to him in tears because of his boyfriend, a wave of nausea coursed through him. What was going on in there? Why was it taking so long?

Had it been eternity yet? Was he trapped in a continuous lapse of time in which all he would do was pace around the hall, like a caged animal in a zoo? Morbid thoughts of everything were consuming his brain. Perhaps it was only a dream. That must've been it, because everything that happened felt like a dream. So, why did this dream feel so real? How was he still feeling the sensation of petal-soft lips against his own, feeling moans vibrate in his throat?

Kankurou came to the conclusion that no, this was not a dream. As unrealistic as it seemed, especially the part where Neji impeded on such a personal moment, it had been an actual moment in time, in history, even. Remembering it brought a blush creeping up Kankurou's face; he couldn't say he hadn't enjoyed it. He couldn't say that Gaara hadn't, either.

And, he concluded, since it had been consensual, it wasn't wrong. Therefore, Gaara was going to be okay, because the situation was right. That's how algebra worked – the situation was right, the chemistry was right, and thus, the outcome would be right. However, Neji impeding had been negative, and an odd number of negatives always equaled a negative.

But, who cared about algebra? In this case, positives would overrule negatives, squishing them into bloody pulps and thus reigning. Therefore, everything would be okay, with no exceptions whatsoever. It was this thought that calmed him a little, making his pacing slow so his racing heart could go back to it's normal eighty beats per minute.

How long had it been now? It annoyed even him how time-conscious he was being, but he noticed throughout his life that time tended to go against him. Perhaps it was a mental thing, but right now, he thoroughly believed that they were trapped in some dimension where time was slowed to extremes, making every minute seem like an hour. If so, then he had full reason to believe that while technically Gaara was in that apartment for perhaps five 'minutes', it was more than enough time for Neji to initiate something.

It must've been his fear doing this to him. Yes, that would be logical. Gaara was going to be okay, he told himself. He was going to be okay. However, his mind could spew as many thoughts as it liked, but his heart would never believe it. At least, not until he actually saw the boy for himself. He had never been this afraid…well, not since…

The walk home from school had never seemed emptier. Kankurou had been somewhat accustomed to walking home alone; Gaara ended up falling victim to illness a lot, especially in this cold, damp weather. However, it was the third day in a row, and he was beginning to become concerned. While illness was frequent, it never lasted a long time, and if it did, the redhead would force himself to go to school anyways.

Because this had been routine for quite a while, Kankurou barely thought anything of it when he was absent, usually, but now that the sunspot of high school was gone, everything seemed very bleak. His classes were boring, and he had no one to tell anything of interest to even if they hadn't been. Temari wouldn't understand; she was off in her own world with her own friends. She even had another boyfriend, Kankurou remembered, but he hadn't heard much of him. If confronted about it, she told them he was too lazy.

What a boring sounding boy, Kankurou couldn't help but think. He didn't see what his sister could fabricate from a relationship, especially in high school. It was pointless. Inwardly, he sighed. Usually, he would never go over things this much in his mind. He always talked about everything with Gaara, and now Gaara was gone. Kankurou made up his mind to go and visit him when he got home.

Turning onto their street, he jogged the way down the block and sprinted up the stairs leading to his porch. Greeting the house (probably empty) with a loud "Tadaima!" he sat down and began his Algebra 2 homework. A few minutes later, he found it impossible to concentrate on x and y coordinates and decided he'd visit Gaara then.

How bad could it be?

He was barely worried as he crossed over the lawn and knocked on the door of the Sabaku residence. Unsurprisingly, Kasuka, who had become practically an aunt to Kankurou, opened the door, her warm brown eyes widening minutely in bewilderment.

"Hello, Kankurou," she greeted, stepping aside so he could come in. "Gaara's really sick right now, sleeping even, but if you want to see him, you can."

If anything, those words worried him more than anything ever could. Gaara had never slept well and barely slept at night, much less during the day. The fact that he was now must've meant that he was extremely ill. Trying not to worry too much, he made his way into the living room, making a beeline to the lump of blankets with a fuzzy red patch on the couch and standing by it.

There was a small gap in the thick, bright colored blanket, revealing his friend's face and one arm. He was pale, much paler than usual, which was unhealthy to begin with. At least usually he had some color. Now, he was practically gray. His hands were almost blue from discoloring, and the color only accentuated how thin he was, making the jut of his wrist seem even more obvious.

It wasn't that Gaara was extremely underweight; he was just barely healthy, however. It was from being sick, but he had never been this sick in his life. At least, not since Kankurou had known him.

"Is he feverish?" he mused aloud, bringing his hand to the smooth-skinned forehead. Though it was gray and cold looking, there was an immense heat beneath his fingertips, and that also bothered him. Was Gaara really okay? He was scared now, truly scared, and why was he breathing so shallowly?

He stood there for a long while, monitoring the redhead's breathing, concentrating so deeply, perhaps, that he barely noticed when it stopped until it was too late. Terror seized his chest and all of a sudden, he found it hard to breathe himself. He couldn't bring himself to call Kasuka for help, or even move to check if his heart was still beating.

'Breathe…BREATHE!' he mentally willed, eyes wide and breathing labored. In a few seconds (hours, it seemed) though, the slight movement of Gaara's chest began again, and Kankurou let out a breath he didn't remember holding. He knew right then that it had been the largest fright in his existence.

Yes, fear did do odd things to him, he concluded. He tended to panic in such a situation, and time would always go so slow…far too slow. There was never anything to take his mind off of things; this time was no different. His pacing became quicker, and now he was only pacing a good four feet on either side of the door leading to where The Trials were being held.

Finally, a feeling of cold dread overcame him. His instincts were never wrong, and that frozen feeling had told him something enormous should happen. He needed to get help. He didn't care how irrational it seemed, he trusted his instincts. Setting off at a jog down the hallway (his pounding heart wouldn't let him go any faster) he barely heard the cry from where he had come from.


Was that…no, it couldn't be, his instincts…but were his…

Fighting his fragmented thoughts, Kankurou whirled around, eyes wide with panic and amazement at the sight before him. The light from the still-open door caused an angelic affect, silhouetting the figure standing by it. It couldn't be…but it was.

"GAARA!" He took off at a sprint, ignoring the protest from his stressed body, not stopping until he collided with the redhead, knocking him backwards and slamming the door shut in the process. He didn't care when people poked their heads out of other apartments to shake their heads in disapproval, but he could see why. The two men were now tangled in each other, him holding Gaara tightly to him, although, it was unnecessary, as he was pinning him beneath him.

"You're okay!" he cried uselessly, rolling off of the redhead so he wouldn't crush him. "I-I can't believe it! Did Neji hurt you?" He almost rambled more, but Gaara, held out a hand to silence him and began explaining.

"I-I told him to stop," he said excitedly, face flushed and eyes bright. "I pushed Neji away!"

Silence claimed the hall for a moment. Gaara had actually stood up to Neji? It was amazing…fantastical, even! Kankurou almost didn't believe it, but Gaara was a horrible liar, and the way his face lit up was genuine euphoria, so he embraced him again, swaying gently. "I'm so proud of you."

"I-I'm proud of me, too," Gaara mumbled into his chest. "I…I think I broke it off!"

The words lingered in his head for a moment. Broke it off…broke it off…broke it off…

Where had Gaara gotten the courage? It was so…so…unreal… but that meant… "We can be together without worry!" he exclaimed, finding the same euphoria that visibly claimed his friend – no, boyfriend – rush to his senses, feeling somewhat tingly. "This is wonderful!"

"I know! It's like…like I was possessed or something, I just…just told him to stop!" Gaara rambled, using his hands for emphasis. "I pushed him away 'n everything and he looked so shocked! I think I was possessed!" he repeated. Kankurou, however, just grinned.

"Nah, I don't think you were possessed. I think you were exorcised. C'mon, let's go out and celebrate. We can use…several different methods," he told the redhead, smirking. He stood up and offered a hand to the younger man, now blushing crimson and they stood up, walking out of the building together.

'Yeah…you've been exorcised…Neji was the ghoul, and you were haunted, but everything's okay now."

…e x o r c i s e d…

LYKE, OH. MY. GOD. I ACTUALLY COMPLETED A FANFIC. I'm actually not uberly happy with this, but at the same time I am…and…and…yeah. Feedback is appreciated! Wh00t! I finished something!

1) Ibusuki is actually a city in Japan...it's in...Shikoku (sp?) I think, I looked it up...