Note: The Sand Sib muse has returned with a vengeance. Reviews would be lovely!
They were both always oblivious to his observations and scrutinizing stares. Gaara knew this. They were always snapping at each other, laughing at each other, helping each other, acting so strangely.
Gaara could never really understand why.
Since the return from Konoha, he'd kept an eye on them, taking in the intricacies of a sibling relationship and trying desperately to learn.
What was it about what Kankuro did and said that could make Temari smile so easily?
How did Temari always manage to get Kankuro to admit his fears and hopes when they sat and ate together?
Gaara wanted to learn, so he became a quiet spectator.
Impatience, he noticed, along with affectionate swatting, occurred most early in the morning. It was the same everyday. The most recent example came two days ago:
"Get up, Kankuro!" Temari stormed into his room, standing over his sprawled, blanket-swathed body and glaring. "I already made you breakfast."
"Nngh," he muttered, brow furrowing slightly in his sleep. "M'comin'…"
"If I leave, you'll just fall asleep again."
When he wouldn't reply, Temari would slap him on his naked back. When he wouldn't respond to that, she'd pull on his hair. If things went beyond that, like they did two days ago, then:
"GET. UP." Temari said between gritted teeth as she grabbed his limp arm, dragging him halfway off the bed.
"Temaaaarrriiiii…" he groaned as she dragged him off the bed, letting his body fall into a heap on the floor.
"Dammit, get up!"
Gaara would watch this in bewilderment from the hall, wondering how Kankuro put up with how Temari was kicking him repeatedly on the behind.
"Okay, I'm awake," he mumbled with his eyes still closed. "Gimme a shirt."
Temari sighed, found one of his t-shirts hanging off the lampshade, and threw it in his face.
"Get UP." She'd deliver one final kick, and then depart, leaving Gaara extremely perplexed. Kankuro would then proceed to pull on the shirt and drag himself into the kitchen, only to be yelled at more as he sluggishly asked for a cup, a plate, then some milk, chocolate syrup, etc.
When Gaara wanted to be more discreet about his observations, he'd send a sand eye to follow them, like how he did last week when they went to the grocery store.
"Put that down," Temari said without turning around. "You're fat enough already."
Kankuro glared, refusing to release the tub of ice cream. "I'm not fat. It's all muscle."
"Oh yeah," she said snidely, striding over and smacking his stomach. "Is that why you're too embarrassed to go shirtless in public?"
"Yeah, well, you have the biggest hips I've ever seen. Mad hips."
"No, I don't! My hips aren't big. I'm full-bodied."
"You have a big ass."
Gaara would blink, brow furrowing in surprise when he observed Temari throw a bag of leeks at Kankuro's head, then shove the shopping cart into his gut and laugh at him as he stumbled into a shelf.
Gaara still couldn't understand why Kankuro put up with the abuse, and he soon came to realize that Temari was most definitely the evilest of the three.
Dinner time observations were less discreet, as they became accustomed to having him present in the family room where they ate, usually in the presence of the TV.
"Temari, the noodles taste weird," Kankuro said, grimacing as he chewed.
"No they don't. Shut up and eat it," Temari replied shortly, eating as though she weren't even conscious of it.
"Urgh, I don't want anymore. I'm going to get ice cream, you want any?"
"One scoop. You're only allowed a maximum of three, you hear me?"
"I said three, stupid."
Gaara would be situated in the corner somewhere, silently eating his dinner and watching keenly as Kankuro brought out the ice cream.
"Thanks," Temari said absently, taking the bowl. "How much did you—KANKURO!"
"What?" he asked innocently. "I took three scoops."
"Those are huge scoops! Your bowl is overflowing!"
"What? You want some? I'll share."
After dinner and dessert was over, they'd proceed to watch TV, both arguing over what to watch.
"Ohh, leave it on this channel. I wanna see this," Temari ordered imperiously, putting her feet on the table.
"What is it with you and medical documentaries?" Kankuro demanded, turning chalk-white after seeing the surgeon on TV remove a pulsing, purple tumor from somebody's innards.
The channel would change, and Kankuro would settle for some show depicting moronic people doing moronic things and getting seriously injured in the process.
"I don't want to watch this, Kankuro. It's so stupid…" Temari made a face after watching some guy face-plant into the ground.
"Ohh! That guy got hit in the balls! Did you see that?" Kankuro sounded giddy.
"Kankuro, get your legs off me."
Gaara would look over from where he was obscurely sitting, noticing how Kankuro had sprawled himself over the sofa and had his legs on Temari's lap.
"Leave it. I'm comfortable."
"Stupid, your feet smell terrible. Get off me!"
Kankuro would remain silent for a few seconds, then slowly remove his feet, only to try to worm his way beneath Temari's thighs.
Gaara couldn't help but snicker silently at his brother's expense when Temari pounded a fist right into his abdomen. There was a loud thump and a moan of pain, and Gaara came to realize that Kankuro had rolled onto the floor in his agony.
"Ow…why'd you hit me so hard?"
"Where the hell do you think you're putting your feet, stupid?"
"But my feet are cold."
"So put on some socks, jackass!"
The only time Temari had ever really appeared sheepish, Gaara recalled with a faint sense of horror, was when she told him why the noodles had tasted so strange.
"Um, Kankuro? Remember when you said dinner tasted weird last night…"
"Yeah, well…it's because the sauce was expired."
"…are you trying to kill me?"
"Stupid, I ate it too!"
Ah, sheepishness gone.
Although Kankuro was nearly sixteen and supposedly independent, Temari always had a hell of a time trying to get him to sleep.
"Why are you still up, idiot? It's 2:30 AM!"
Why it never occurred to Kankuro to ask her the same question always bemused Gaara.
"I don't know. Argh, I can't reach my back, can you scratch it for me?"
Temari would sigh in defeat, scratch the idiot's back as he'd melt into a relieved puddle on the bed, and then give him a kick for good measure.
"Go to sleep."
"Hey," he rolled over, grinning widely. "Temari, do that thing. Do the impression of that Lee guy."
"No," she stated resolutely, though the corner of her mouth twitched.
Gaara would watch as Kankuro proceeded to asphyxiate laughing, tears building in his eyes as Temari struck a nice-guy pose and said in a voice so similar to Lee's it was scary:
"Yosh, Gai-sensei! Hai, Gai-sensei! Hug me, Gai-sensei!"
She'd end up sitting with him on the bed, telling him repeatedly in the midst of their conversations that he should really sleep and that his sheets smelled like B.O. And every time she made a move to leave, Kankuro would wind up saying something that either had her doubling over in laughter or staying behind to punch him in the head.
Gaara came to learn something painfully obvious about his brother.
Kankuro loved Temari more than anyone else in the world, and was discomfited to have her out of his line of sight, if even for one night's sleep. The way he'd playfully punch her on the shoulder, grinning and not at all sorry when she'd cringe, made it blindingly clear.
Temari would always try to break off the conversations at around 3:OOAM, and smack him once more before departing.
A similar cycle would be repeated the next day, with a few variations in between once in a while.
Gaara had been fortunate enough to walk in on one of the most perplexing displays of sibling interaction in the family room.
"Temari, give me the damn paint!" Kankuro pointed furiously at his tube of face paint, which she clutched resolutely in her fist.
"No, not until you promise to stop leaving your damn facial hair in the sink!"
"I promise, now give it to me."
"That's the most obviously shit-faced promise I've ever heard," she replied, trying and failing to suppress a laugh at his look of annoyance.
"Damn it, Temari, give it to me!"
Gaara honestly didn't know how to react when Kankuro lunged at her. Temari tried to evade but Kankuro caught her leg, tripping her onto the carpet in triumph.
"Let go, for God's sake!" he yelled when he tried to pry it from her hands, only to be scratched lividly in the process.
Gaara took a step forward into the family room, seriously shocked when Kankuro pinned Temari to the floor and sat on her back.
"Now you can't move. Give me the paint before I break your back."
"Kan…kuro…" she gasped, holding onto the paint for dear life. "You're so…damn…fat!"
His brow twitched.
He began yanking on her hair, oblivious to the hand she'd managed to squeeze out from under her. Gaara took a step back when Kankuro let out a high-pitched scream, rolling off her back and clutching his leg.
Temari got to her hands and knees, gasping for breath and grinning maliciously.
"Pinching is the ultimate defense, Kankuro."
"You…I'll kill you!" Kankuro got to his feet just as Temari was making her move to flee, still short of breath.
Temari saw him coming this time, picked up one of the pillows on the sofa and swung it at him. It connected with a rather amusing thwack to the side of his face, and she proceeded to beat him over the head with it until he tackled her back to the floor, trying to wrestle the paint out of her hands.
Gaara watched them roll across the floor, wrestling and screaming at each other with an impassive face.
They never noticed him at times like these, anyway.
It wasn't always fun and games for them, and Gaara found that the more sobering experiences they shared together seemed to hold a deeper meaning than all the laughter combined.
He'd never forget the day Kankuro came home from a mission, covered in the blood of some child who got caught in a fray between Suna and some small, opposing village.
Temari remained silent when Kankuro snapped viciously at her that night, rage in every syllable and violence in every cracking punch he administered to his surroundings.
For some reason, Gaara had found it exceedingly difficult to watch when Temari approached Kankuro with a wet towel later that night, silently reaching up to clean the blood from his face.
Somewhere within the rivulets of warm water on his face, tears mingled and he bowed his head, reaching up a hand to still hers against his cheek.
A muffled sob escaped him, and Gaara felt pain somewhere in his chest when Kankuro wilted into Temari's arms, face pressing into her shoulder, heavy and staggering as he cried.
Gaara found himself having to look away when they sank to the floor, Kankuro's cries becoming muffled sobs as Temari rubbed his back, saying nothing.
He found himself wanting to learn, he'd realized, leaning against the wall on the opposite side and clutching the fabric over his heart. His body slid down the wall of its own accord, and he remained sitting there, hidden in shadow and striving so desperately to understand.
Temari loved Kankuro more than anyone else in the world. It wasn't as painfully obvious as Kankuro made it, but the way her brow would crease in worry when he didn't arrive home regularly and the way she put up with his ridiculousness made it clear.
Emotionally, Temari was definitely the stronger of the two, and there was never a circumstance where Kankuro had comforted her after a mission.
But Kankuro never failed to remember things like her birthday.
"Happy Birthday, Temari," he said when she wandered into the kitchen, half-awake and surprised to see him up.
"Huh? Oh yeah…thanks."
"You're so damn old."
"I can see your wrinkles already, Obasan."
"Here," he shoved a hastily wrapped package across the table.
She blinked, sitting down at the table and looking at the parcel in surprise. Gaara would watch from the doorway, pale green eyes staring hard at Temari as her teal eyes softened, and for a few precious moments, she looked so much like mother it made his heart hurt.
Upon opening it, she allowed a small smile to grace her face.
"How did you know I wanted one of these?" she asked, putting a cream-coloured conch shell to her ear to hear the ocean.
He grinned, apparently self-satisfied.
"I read it in your diary."
Needless to say, Temari became violent once again and Kankuro left the kitchen wearing a bright red hand print and a grin.
Gaara watched them keenly for weeks, quiet and unnoticeable in the background. He watched and wondered as his siblings fought one second, then laughed together the next. He stared and thought, as they pushed each other around one day, and comforted each other the day after.
Gaara observed, content with his role as the quiet spectator, if only temporarily.
The pain in his chest would cease when he imagined them making space for him between themselves, making room for one more to listen in and live through the same experiences. He knew he was nowhere near ready to understand the odd and wonderful complexities of such a relationship, and that belonging would come only when they decided it.
But when and if that day ever came, for him to join them in their love and hate and sorrow, Gaara wanted to be ready for it. He wanted to be able to smile and react accordingly, he wanted desperately to fit in seamlessly, and he wanted nothing less than that.
So until that day came, Gaara decided, sitting and watching his siblings sleep against each other's shoulders, he would remain the quiet spectator, ever learning.