Sometimes, Temari watches her brothers.

It's her job, she thinks, to watch them. Even if Kankurou hides behind his masks and puppets and shadows; and even if her father warned her years ago to stay away from Gaara, using words like unstable and dangerous and monster.

Mayber it's because of that, because of those warnings, that Temari watches her little brother most of all. She's never been one for rules - few kunoichi are - and she knows the least about Gaara.

Besides, it's good enough training. Gaara is nearly impossible to sneak up on, and even harder to watch undetected. She tries to catch him in public places, or give herself an excuse to be near him, to watch him. It's harder to do now that Yashamaru is -

dead, he's dead, and is it really that hard to realize who killed him? He'd kill him, what will keep him from killing you? Silly girl, do you even know what you're dealing with?

- gone. Gaara could hardly be called sociable at the best of times, but now he was surrounded by a blanket of silence and hostility...and an apathy. Disinterest. Disregard, even, for the lives of those around him. It's as impenetrable as his sand, and she wonders which is the more deadly of his weapons, the ability to take life or the ability to not care about it anymore.

But she watches, anyway. Today is a rare day; the desert sun is still low, and the heat not too strong. The dust has settled from last night's windstorm, and she can hear the noises of the villagers of Suna as they go about their tasks and lives. She's in the Kazekage's tower, and her father is two floors up, doing the work that keeps him busy until late hours of the night and allows the three siblings to grow up on their own.

Early morning, and she's just finished breakfast, using the time to watch her brother. Kankurou left for the theater hours ago - he spends more and more time with his puppets these days, now that he's old enough to start learning the shinobi applications of the puppet play. Yesterday, the taught him to make poison. He came home, excited and flushed, an eight-year-old boy learning how to kill.

(at nine, Temari has been at the ninja academy for over a year. she is close to the top of her class, and last week she broke another student's arm.)

But today is a rare day, because Gaara is a bare ten feet away from her, and in the morning light he looks...not peaceful, but quiet. Contained, which is always a good word for someone holding a demon inside. In the soft sunlight, he looks like a tired six-year-old boy, sitting on a window ledge, hands pillowed in his lap. The sleeves of his shirt are long, too long, and they hide his fingers.

He looks so young. Six years old, and is this her brother? Small and tired, with too-long-sleeves draping over his hands and hard green eyes rimmed in black. A tormented boy, and her mouth opens before she can she can think about it.

"Gaara, do you want something to eat?"

Her brother's gaze snaps up to meet hers, and there's something like surprise in his green eyes for a half-second before they grow hard and flat again, like mirrors. She can see herself in them, can see the fact that this is the first time she's spoken to her youngest brother in over three weeks (and the fact that Gaara knows this) but she cannot see any of her brother in his eyes.

It's like looking at a stranger, at a (demonmonsterdemonshukakudemon) animal, something not human, not capable of human emotion.

"No."

The word is flat and final, and there's no reason it shouldn't be. No reason for Gaara to have human emotions when the emotions of others have treated him so badly.

No reason for the boy before her to be anyone other than her little brother, six years old with sleeves too long and eyes too tired - but she can't get past the knot of fear building in her stomach at the flatness, the nothingness, in Gaara's gaze. It's that feeling that makes her stumble backwards and out of the room, knowing that she's failed without knowing why.

After all, it isn't like she could fix things - not when she hasn't tried for too long, so long that she no longer knows what or who is broken.

It's not like she has the right to call herself his big sister.