Note: …thought it about time I wrote a sand-sib fic set a couple of years before Yashamaru turned into a back-stabbing bastard and Gaara wasn't yet a complete psycho. Yep, so I hope you enjoy this and I would love you forever if you left me a few meaningful words of feedback at the end. Thanx! Have a nice day.
(Temari is six, Kankuro is five, and Gaara is three.)
Summary: While observing a storm one night, the lights disappear along with Kankuro and Temari's caretakers, forcing the siblings to face the vulnerability of the fatal, forbidden anomaly that is Gaara.
"I'm not scared," Kankuro insisted, voice high-pitched in nervousness. "Yashamaru said it can't hurt us."
"Yashamaru says," Temari mimicked with a sly grin. "Baki-sensei said it could fry your guts."
Her grin grew wider when she saw her brother's complexion grow pallid, his wide eyes reflecting the flashes of jagged light outside the window.
He shuddered as the deep rumbling of thunder shook the house, accompanied by the harmonious and violent patter of raindrops. They both sat huddled on her bed, watching the lightning with fear and fascination, mesmerized by the drops of water that streamed down the glass.
Kankuro let out an indignant squeak when she climbed off the bed and ventured over to the window.
The cool glass pressed against her cheeks as she peered into the blackness of the desert, her eyes growing wide as lightning flashed in the distance, illuminating the land as far as she could see.
"Why does this happen?"
She didn't turn at his question, and shrugged.
"I don't know. But it happens only a little."
"Rain doesn't like the desert."
"Because you're stupid, that's why."
"I'm not stupid."
"You ask stupid questions."
The room remained silent, and just as she was turning away from the window, a particularly loud crash of thunder sounded directly above the house.
Neither could contain their yelps of fear, and Temari stood frozen as the lights hummed and went out simultaneously with a pop.
She could hear her brother's shallow breathing in the darkness, his outline barely visible in the blue darkness of night.
"Temari?" he whispered. "Where did the lights go?"
"I don't know," she whispered back, now at a loss for any snide remarks. Her heart thudded deafeningly and painfully in her chest when the thunder ceased for a moment, and a long wail of grief pierced the silence of the house.
Kankuro stopped breathing, and Temari clenched her small fists, suddenly wishing she were big enough to reach the fan in the closet.
"T-Temari?" Kankuro whispered, voice quavering as she neared the door. "Come back. Don't go."
"That sound…" she whispered, her voice painfully small. "It was…"
"Him," Kankuro finished for her.
She took another step towards their closed door, the shining knob visible in the darkness.
"Temari," Kankuro whimpered. "Please don't go…"
"Don't be a baby," she hissed back.
"You're always scared."
"Temari!" His voice was choked with tears.
She paused, the crease in her brow receding as she turned in his direction.
"Don't be scared," she said, tone softening. "I'm coming back."
"Don't go to him!" he begged as she turned the knob, letting the door swing open. "Yashamaru says he hurts people!"
"Yashamaru says," he heard her murmur habitually, before she disappeared into the darkness.
She reached out, letting her hand run alongside the wall as she made her way down the dark hall.
At first she thought she was imagining the whimpers and sobs, or thought they were coming from Kankuro, but as she turned a corner she stopped, wincing at the utter grief and agony in the broken wails.
"I see it," she whispered aloud, staring down the hall at his slightly ajar door. "I'm just going to look."
As she stood there, motionless in the dark hallway, lightning continued to erratically illuminate the halls, and her brow furrowed as she came to a realization.
"Yashamaru?" she whispered hesitantly, taking another step forward, her hand leaving the security of the walls. She called out for her uncle a few more times, nearing the door with each call until she stood before it, listening to the broken sobbing coming from within.
Her uncle was gone.
She was alone.
She was alone with him.
Each breath was painful, and whatever little logic her six-year-old mind possessed told her to run away as far as she could.
"He's…" she swallowed the lump of fear in her throat. "My brother…he's small, smaller than me, more scared than me."
Had she been older, she would have realized that this was probably the first time he had experienced a thunderstorm, and that would have explained his crying. But she was immobile with the belief that he was not human.
An anomaly, something wretched that wasn't supposed to cry so humanly like this.
Her hand rose shakily from her side, resting against the surface of the door. Her legs trembled beneath her as she took a step forward, pushing gently on the door. It swung open silently, and for a moment she stood petrified, staring into the darkness of the room.
Amidst the noise of thunder and rain, his sobbing was audible in a far corner of the room, and she turned helplessly in the direction of it.
Her hands reached out blindly, touching against the wall as she slowly followed the wretched sounds, hearing them grow louder with each step.
And then the lightning flashed again, and she froze when she saw his small, hunched form in the corner of the room, a few meters from where she stood.
A sick feeling of fear and nausea knotted in her stomach, and she faintly wondered why the rain and thunder sounded so much more pronounced in his room.
Her teal eyes were wide and unblinking as she neared him, and she had to bite back a yelp when her bare foot encountered the swirling mass of sand that circled his small figure.
She stopped, not trusting herself to go any further, and it was then another flash of lightning showed her to be standing directly behind him.
Her voice left her completely.
The light splayed her shadow against the wall before him, and his sharp cry pierced the air when he lifted his head, whipping around to face her.
Sand rushed up before him, and she let out a yelp, stumbling backwards and onto her behind as he scrambled away from her, hiding himself behind a chest of toys.
He was breathing too raggedly to sob loudly anymore, and as she lowered her eyes to where he once crouched, she saw the cause of his despair.
Another child her age would have fled the room screaming, but she had seen these kinds of things enough to maintain her composure.
Her father had been responsible for many of them, so the sight of it there in a pool of blood was not as alarming as it should have been.
Trembling, she got on her hands and knees, not trusting herself to stand.
Crawling past the figure, she paused before the chest of toys, listening to his quiet sobs. Sand circled the floor in lazy spirals, too occupied by the inviting pool of blood to be distracted by her presence.
Her lips parted, and she tried calling out his name. Finding herself mute, she looked around for anything that wouldn't startle him into killing her.
Reaching out with her hands, she felt around the carpet until she felt something soft. Grabbing it, she brought it before her eyes and squinted.
It was a teddy bear.
Biting her lip nervously, she extended her arm, holding the bear as an offering in her hand. She held it where she knew he could see it, and relief blossomed in her chest when his sobs slowly quieted, reduced to soft whimpers.
Playfully, she wagged the bear back and forth, trying and failing to ignore the sand that curled slowly up her arm and towards the bear.
Shaking, she obligingly released her hold on the bear, watching in fascination as the sand accepted it from her hand, delivering it to him behind the wooden chest.
His whimpering slowly ceased, and she sat there on her hands and knees, listening to his hitched, ragged breathing. Her lips continued to move in an attempt to say his name, still futilely.
Deciding to bait him out with another toy, she reached around until she picked up another teddy bear, white and velvet to the touch. Holding it out like she did before, she waited.
There was silence, and she could imagine him staring contemplatively at the bear. A satisfied smile lit her face when tendrils of sand came reaching for it, and this time she held it out of reach. The sand followed her movements, extending towards her as she moved farther back with the bear.
It became overwhelming after a minute, the sight of so much sand reaching for her, and she was just about to release the bear when a small, pale hand reached out for it.
His quavering voice was barely audible over the combined noise of thunder, rain, and shifting sand.
Tucking the bear beneath her arm, she crawled through the reaching sand, screwing her eyes shut tightly as she neared the chest of toys again.
A moment of hesitation, and she peeked behind the edge of the chest, holding out the bear.
Wide, tear-filled eyes stared back at her, the blackness surrounding them startling her. Downy maroon bangs fell into them as he lowered his head in fear, staring at her from beneath a furrowed brow.
With her heart hammering in her chest, she wagged the bear again, blinking owlishly at him.
Tears continued to spill heavily down his cheeks as he regarded her, the sight of her somewhat familiar face quelling his despair.
"Gaara," she whispered, her eyes widening when his name finally left her lips.
He lifted his head a little, looking unsure as his eyes traveled between her face and the white bear.
"Yashamaru?" he whimpered again, tucking himself farther back.
"Temari," she whispered with a weak smile. "Sister."
She remained in the awkward position for a few minutes, waiting for the sand to withdraw and for him to come out.
"Come on," she coaxed, wagging the bear tiredly. "I won't hurt you."
Please don't hurt me, she begged inwardly.
"Don't be scared of me."
Why am I so scared of you?
The sand gradually drifted off her trembling frame, collecting into a swirling pile behind her.
She offered him a weak smile as he lifted his head, wet, aqua orbs staring intently into her own. There was a moment of hesitation, and then he finally moved, edging forward.
Feeling both relieved and terrified, Temari scooted backwards, freezing when her backside brushed against the still-warm lump behind her.
He emerged partially from behind the chest, his small figure nearly imperceptible in the darkness. Rain continued to pour and shatter against the window, accompanied by the threatening rumble of thunder.
Again, she found herself wondering why it sounded so much more pronounced in his room.
Waiting with bated breath, she held the bear up in her outstretched arms, waiting for him to take it. He stepped closer, the blue darkness of night glinting against his faint outline.
Hurry, please hurry…she begged silently, trying to block his view of what lay behind her.
He stopped, and for a moment she thought he had lost his nerve. This notion was erased when a small hand brushed her own, fingertips grazing the back of her hand as he took the bear, leaving her to wonder at the warm stickiness they left behind.
Then the lightning came, and suddenly everything became terribly clear.
She stared at him in horror, watching his brow contort as his eyes widened, lips parting to scream when the body behind her became illuminated, bloody and mutilated.
Her eyes screwed shut in response to the cacophony of thunder and the wail of anguish that followed the bright light, hands and feet slipping on the pool of blood as she scrambled backwards, trying to hide the stranger nin's face.
The noise outside invaded his room through the broken window, and she suddenly understood why it sounded the way it did in his room.
Random assassination attempts were common on Gaara; in the streets, in the park, when he was with Yashamaru, anywhere.
But never at home.
Never…had she seen what the small, sobbing figure in front of her was capable of.
Never had Yashamaru left his side for that long.
"Gaara, Gaara, don't look," she whispered, finding her voice choked with tears. "Please don't look."
She could see him better now, and couldn't understand how the need to protect him overcame the absolute terror she felt at that moment.
He had fallen to his knees upon seeing what his sand had done to the assassin, clutching the bear, head bowed and shoulders shaking as he wept. The stickiness on his hands and shirt glinted in the blue night, looking like smeared ink on his skin and velvet white bear.
"Yashamaru…" he sobbed, inky fingers clutching at his hair, knuckles white and shaking. "Where…? Yashamaru…"
Unable to stand the sight of the corpse and the sounds of his despair, Temari stumbled to her feet, moving forward until she fell to her knees before him.
She scrubbed her hands against the carpet before tearing at the hem of her nightgown where it wasn't bloodstained.
As gently as she could, she raised his chin, putting one arm around his shaking body as the other wiped at the mixture of blood and tears.
The rag was soaked within seconds, and she dropped it, instead reaching out to lift him to his feet.
His breaths were short and ragged between sobs, and she was both saddened and relieved when his pale arms reached forward blindly, clasping tightly around her neck.
Surprised at how light he was, she managed to struggle to her feet, arms winding tightly around his body as his legs encircled her waist.
Pressing a hand against the back of his head, she forced his face against her shoulder, trying to block his view of everything as she stumbled out of the room.
His hands clenched fistfuls of her shirt, holding on desperately as tears soaked into her shoulder, sobs of anguish muffled against her comforting hold.
"Don't cry…don't cry…" she mumbled repeatedly as she walked slowly through the dark hallway, wide eyes searching the darkness.
Shifting to hold him with one arm, she reached out, a paralyzing feeling of vulnerability striking her when she grabbed at air.
"K-Kankuro," she stammered, turning to face the other way as Gaara's weeping and thunder stifled her call.
"Kankuro! Kankuro, please help me!"
Her voice rose octaves until her throat was raw from screaming, and her small arms ached from holding her brother up.
She refused to resign herself to tears, but they came anyway, spilling heavily and hopelessly down her flushed cheeks.
Her head rose at the frightened whisper, and she couldn't help but let the tears flow openly when Kankuro's scared expression came into view, his hands clutching at her arms.
"Temari…" he whispered, paling as he stared at the small figure in her arms. "Why'd you bring him here?"
"Kankuro," she cried openly. "He won't stop crying."
"You're crying, too," he said softly, looking perturbed. "Why…?"
"Because I'm scared…"
"Where's Yashamaru? Where's everybody?"
"I don't know, I don't know…"
"He…" he hesitated, staring at his brother's unbelievably small, shaking figure. "He doesn't look like…he'll hurt us…"
He hesitated again, and then grabbed his sister's arm.
"In your room."
Steering her through the hall, he pulled her into the comforting familiarity of her room, closing and locking the door behind them.
He turned and walked over to where Temari sat against the headboard, and stared suspiciously down at his brother who still hadn't raised his head or loosened his hold.
"Why doesn't he let go?"
"He's really scared."
"…someone tried hurting him in his room. He—I mean…the sand killed him."
She glanced up when she heard the quaver in his voice, and followed his terrified gaze to the floor. Sand curled about his feet in lazy spirals, not reacting when he leapt up onto the bed.
"I don't think it's gonna hurt us."
"I locked the door! How'd it get in?"
"It went under the door, stupid."
"I'm not stupid!"
He glared at her before sitting down beside her, keeping his limbs as far as he could from the edge of the bed.
A few minutes passed in silence until Kankuro glanced at his sister, brow furrowing as he peered at the inky stains covering her nightgown. His eyes narrowed further as they traveled to the stained fistfuls of cloth Gaara clenched in his fists, and the smeared stains on his shirt.
"Temari," he whispered, shaking her shoulder.
She blinked blearily, turning her head. "What?"
"Is that…?" he trailed off, pointing to her nightgown.
She nodded grimly.
They both lowered their eyes to their youngest sibling, listening silently to his soft, hitched breathing.
"Is he sleeping?"
"I don't know."
Kankuro grabbed her pillow, moving to sit next to her. Carefully, so as to not disturb the quiet figure in her arms, she leaned forward so he could put the pillow behind her head.
A dizzying wave of drowsiness hit her when she leaned back into the softness with Kankuro nestling in by her side. He was asleep within seconds, leaving her to stare tiredly out the window.
The thunder quieted as her eyes slowly slid shut, the noise and light dying into darkness. She could still feel the tear-stained portion of her nightgown sticking to her shoulder as she slept, somewhat conscious of his loosening hold.
The small hands clenching at her nightgown slowly released, and there was a faint sensation of being tickled as Gaara raised his head, vermilion bangs brushing her neck.
There was silence and darkness for what may have been a few minutes, and then a sensation of someone touching her.
She distantly heard an attempt to say her name, her brow furrowing as she recognized the fear and frailty in the voice. Something felt warm and soft on her face, awkwardly brushing her skin.
Then the thunder was suddenly becoming audible again, the flicker of lightning growing more annoying on her eyelids.
Her left eye opened partially, staring foggily down at his pale, anxious expression.
The right eye blinked open soon after, and she did nothing but stiffen slightly when she realized his hand was on her cheek, brushing the skin awkwardly.
"I was just sleeping," she whispered, gently removing his hand. "I'm not dead."
She couldn't say that he looked relieved or pleased, exactly, but the ever-present fear in his large eyes gradually receded.
He averted his eyes after a moment, and she blinked when she realized that she had been staring at him.
"You're not that scary," she said softly, dismayed by his reclusive behaviour. "I don't know why Yashamaru tells us to stay away from you."
Aqua eyes rose hesitantly at the mention of their uncle's name, and Temari gave him a big grin to quell his fear.
"Don't be scared of me. I'm your sister."
Despite the darkness, she was still able to catch the small, shy smile that overtook his features, and clasp his small hand in her own.
Kankuro's breath suddenly hitched beside her.
Blinking, she turned her head towards him and saw his wide, horrified gaze focused at the end of the room. Raising her eyes, she was just able to make out the shape of a masked nin at the foot of the bed before a flying array of kunai's clouded her vision.
Kankuro screamed, and all she could do was squeeze her eyes shut and wait for the impact.
Gaara was shaking against her, breath coming in short rasps against her shoulder. She opened her eyes when she felt no pain, nearly panicking when all she saw was pitch black.
Grains of sand were spilling against her feet, and she gasped for breath when the shield of sand deteriorated around them. Kankuro stared at his little brother in shock, and then whipped around to see the masked nin lying face-down on the floor, blood pooling beneath him.
Yashamaru stood next to the body, breathing hard as he dropped the bloodied kunai to the floor.
"Temari?" Yashamaru whispered, voice weak with relief as he raised his eyes to them. "Kankuro…are you hurt?"
"Yashamaru, you k-killed him," Kankuro stammered
Their uncle said nothing, and instead rushed towards them, eyes alight with relief.
"You two, I'm so sorry, there was an attack on"—he stopped short, eyes clouding over when he saw who Temari clutched in her arms.
"He was crying, Yashamaru," Temari said in a small voice, somewhat frightened by the look of utter vacancy on his face. "We were scared."
"It's…" he swallowed thickly. "It's all right, Temari. He…he didn't hurt you, did he?"
She shook her head vehemently.
Gaara finally raised his head, tear-filled eyes widening at the sight of their uncle.
Temari reluctantly released her hold on him, allowing her uncle to scoop him up in his arms. She gave him a shaky smile as he knelt to look at them, tenderly brushing his fingertips over their faces.
"Come on," he whispered with a small, sad smile. "And keep your eyes on me."
Avoiding the corpse as best as they could, they both followed him out of the room and down the hall. Opening the door to a guest room, he ushered them in, holding Gaara up with one arm.
"What happened, Yashamaru?" Kankuro asked hesitantly, climbing onto the bed next to Temari. "Where did everyone go?"
"We had…bad people we had to deal with," he replied with a strained smile, eyes flitting to the figure in his arms. "But don't worry. No one's coming to hurt you anymore."
"Why do they try to hurt Gaara?" Temari whispered, staring intently at him. "Why do they try…when he's so little…"
Yashamaru bit his lower lip, smiling despite the bitter taste of blood in his mouth.
"Gaara is important to us. They try to hurt us by hurting what's important." He shifted, putting one hand on the doorknob.
"No more questions now," he said softly, closing the door. "Goodnight."
"Good…night…" Kankuro faltered when he only heard his meek voice reply, Temari's remaining silent. He lay down next to her, looking troubled as he gazed at the back of her head.
"Why is Gaara important?" he asked quietly, listening to their uncle's departing footsteps.
"I don't know."
"Is it the sand, Temari?"
"I don't know."
"…the sand is dangerous," he whispered, before closing his eyes. "Yashamaru says."
Her brow furrowed within the darkness, teal eyes eyeing the small, bloody handprint on her nightgown.
"Yeah…" she whispered. "Yashamaru says."