Title: Picture Perfect
Summary: Temari thinks of a way to get her brothers to take a picture
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto
Every morning as the bright sunlight of the desert streamed in through her bedroom window Temari stood in front of her small dresser. It was like a ritual. It as something she had done ever since she could remember. It calmed her, mostly because it was something that helped her put her life in focus. Made her remember what was most important in her life. But on this particular day the ritual annoyed rather than reassured her nerves.
There were several mismatched picture frames on top of her dresser. Pictures of Kankuro at various points in his life. Like when he had started wearing the the purple paint on his face – the traditional Suna custom of puppeteers. Pictures of Temari with him. One where they were making sand castles when they were younger. One, several years later, where they were eating dinner. Nothing too serious. They were just random pictures that warmed her heart and made her recall those few precious moments in her less than happy childhood. But out off all those pictures her two favorites had to be the ones of her unsocial, unstable baby brother, Gaara. She treasured them because they were rare since Gaara hated having his picture taken. Hell, he even hated looking into mirrors. The pictures also showed a side of her brother that she had hardly seen.
It was by luck that she found the first one – a picture of Gaara when he was five. She had been looking inside a closet for something and ended up finding an old, frayed album. Almost all of the pictures inside had water damage and only one survived. She sobbed like an enfant when she saw it and Kankuro had to ask if she was okay.
In the photo Gaara still retained his child-like innocence in those bottomless green eyes of his which meant that the assassination attempts hadn't yet begun. In his small hands he was clutching a teddy bear to his chest. The tan bear was already well-worn as a result of always being at his master's side.
Staring down at the picture, Temari briefly wondered where that bear was. Did Gaara still have it? Did he retain any sentimental value to it like she did with her childhood toys? Was her emotionally stunted brother even capable of that? Or had Gaara simply thrown it away when he grew up and the bear fell apart? The silent bear had always been with Gaara as a child. It was a companion in his isolation, something that didn't, couldn't, reject or regard Gaara like everyone else did – a monster. That had to mean something to her brother, right?
The second one was more recent-taken only a few months earlier. Again it was complete luck that she was there where she was with her camera. She'd been walking to the store to drop off her camera for development. There was till a few shots left but Temari didn't want to take pictures that were completely meaningless. Then she had spotted Gaara out of the corner of her eye-just a quick moving blur of red and brown. She paused, stunned, and did a double take.
It was rare to see Gaara out in the daylight. Usually his work as a Kazekage kept him inside except when he trained. It was only at night when he restlessly roamed around town. She didn't know if it was because he was wary about meeting the people he would be willing to die to protect. Maybe he thought people still considered him a monster. But Temari knew that wasn't true. Slowly the people of Suna were starting to see Gaara as something else – a young man as well as a wonderful Kazekage. Respect and admiration was replacing the old hatred and superstition. If anyone dared to say otherwise Temari would just have correct them (forcefully if she had to).
That day Gaara was in the middle of town. There weren't many people out since the sizzling afternoon sun was too much for most of the desert dwellers to deal with. Out of curiosity Temari followed him, a little ways back so he wouldn't see or feel her presence. He paused mid-stride suddenly and looked over his shoulder. Temari quickly hid herself and watched in fascination as a young mother hurried out of her house towards the bewildered Kazekage, a small child on her hip. She was holding a heavy sack in her free hand which she promptly gave to Gaara. Temari's brother looked like he didn't know what to do with the woman.
The woman was saying something, Temari was too far away to hear, but she was nodding and smiling so it had to be something good. Then her baby reached out and grabbed a handful of Gaara's brown robe. He tensed but didn't move away and the sand remained still, probably not seeing something like a baby harmless to its master. Needless to say Temari was stunned. Though he was learning to control the sand, even Temari was a little cautious when it came to touching your younger brother.
After a moment he relaxed and gave the woman and child a rare smile. Temari snapped a couple of pictures of that. Saying Gaara rarely smiled was the understatement of the century.
So in the second frame was a picture, rather poor in quality, of her brother, smiling. It was tense and polite but a smile nonetheless.
Temari loved her collection of miscellaneous photos but it really annoyed her was that she had no photos of all three of them together. Were they a family or weren't they? Granted all families had problems but that didn't mean that they couldn't sit down for two seconds and take a goddamn picture. The probably was getting Kankuro and especially the camera-shy Gaara to participate.
"Holy shit! Were we attacked!"
In stunned silence, Kankuro stared at the normally pristine living room in the residence area of the Kazekage's palace and saw nothing but one enormous mess. What hell had happened? Did Gaara fire the cleaning people again?
Damn was all Kankuro thoughts as he waded through the mountains of old clothes, books, scrolls, broken weapons, and other assorted things that should have been thrown out ages ago. Where did all this stuff come from? Many boxes littered the living room and where open, looking as if a wild animal had attacked them.
There was movement to his right. Kankuro turned in time to see Gaara step out of the storage closet, arms loaded. In a huff he dropped the load in the cleanest spot before disappearing once more.
Kankuro blinked. He would have rubbed his eyes to make sure they weren't fooling him but he didn't want to smudge his paint. Did Gaara make this mess? He stepped closer to the closet and peeked inside. Though he didn't fear his brother like he did before, there were time when he was wary especially when Gaara was being a moody little brat. Living together had done some good for the family after all. After Gaara became the Kazekage he moved into the palace. Temari followed suit, saying she wanted to be on hand if he ever needed her for a mission. Like Gaara ever needed anything in his life before. Kankuro knew she just wanted to keep an eye on him. Not to keep him in check if he snapped but just to be there. Make sure he ate his vegetables and that he brushed his teeth before going to bed. Big sister stuff like that. When Temari moved, Kankuro went too.
After the incident at the chuunin exams, Gaara changed, little by little which was good, Kankuro thought, because he wasn't randomly killing people anymore. No, now Gaara was quiet. Well Gaara had been quiet before but it was a different type of quiet now. It was contemplative. Kankuro really didn't want to know what was inside Gaara's mind. Maybe he was trying to understand what it meant to be human. Maybe he thought humanity as a whole was stupid and didn't waste much time trying to understand it. Whatever it was, Kankuro admired the brat. He was dedicated and determined. Before Kankuro didn't give a shit about Suna but seeing Gaara's unwavering loyalty to the place even after the god-forsaken town had used him so many times, Kankuro started to care.
Now, however, Gaara was just a frustrated 15-year-old. Though his face remained blank as ever, the way he tore through box after box said that Gaara was far from calm.
Kankuro cleared his throat. When his brother continued to ignore him, he asked, "What are you doing?" He made it sound casual like this backward version of spring cleaning was nothing to raise an eyebrow over.
Without pausing in his rampage, Gaara muttered, "I lost it."
That's putting it lightly, Kankuro thought. "Lost what?"
Kankuro pulled his head out of the closet and glared at his sister, who looked far happier than he had ever seen her look before. That was enough reason to be suspicious. Termari wasn't the bubbly kind of girl like Ino from Konoha. Temari was bossy, stubborn, and tough. Practically a man in a woman's body.
"Hey, yourself," he grumbled.
"Man, Gaara's making a mess," she commented offhandedly as she spared a quick glace around the room.
Gaara in the meantime brushed passed his older siblings to chuck another pile of crap on the floor, completely ignoring Kankuro and Temari.
"He said he lost something," Kankuro explained.
Temari frowned thoughtfully. "Do you want any help, Gaara?"
She shrugged. Kankuro gaped, dumbfounded. He had never seen her give up so easily. Usually she'd ignore Gaara's blatant refusal and help anyway, ignoring all the glares her younger brother would throw at her. Or she'd yell at him until he accepted her help just to shut her up. Okay, something was definitely up.
"Anyway," Temari continued, directing her attention on Kankuro. "I want to ask you something."
"What do you think about us having our picture taken – all three of us? Like a family?"
Kankuro frowned. Where the hell was that coming from? "There's no way that'll happen."
"Why not?" Temari shot back, indignant.
He pointed at Gaara. "He hates having his pictures taken. He'll throw a fit."
"He's fifteen. I think he's outgrown temper tantrums."
Kankuro snorted. "I doubt it."
"Well, then, how do you feel about it?"
He shrugged, not really caring one way or the other though he couldn't understand why Temari wanted a picture of them all of a sudden. There had to be at least one picture off all three of them together, right?
"I don't care."
The smile Temari gave him was downright evil and it sent Kankuro's guard sky-high. Now that was the Temari he knew and loved…and feared.
What was she planning now? She could be quite, no, very devious when she set her mind to it. With a shudder of terror he remembered when he was seven and she had put dye in his shampoo and he had to walk around with baby blue hair all week until it faded.
Then she removed something from behind her back (why had he missed that!) and Kankuro felt like someone had punched him in the stomach as he stared down at Gaara's old teddy bear in one hand and a long sharp knife in the other. Oh shit. He really didn't like where this was headed.
"Hey, Gaara, would you take a picture with me and Kankuro?"
Gaara didn't even stop his search to answer his sister. "No."
"All right, then." To Kankuro she whispered, "Just play along."
He shook his head in disbelief. If she was going to do what Kankuro thought she'd do, then Temari was crazy but he was even crazier following her lead. Yet he couldn't stop her. His whole body had gone numb and he was starting to see black splotches in his vision.
"Is this what you're looking for?"
Finally Gaara stopped and turned around. Pale green eyes found the item Temari had in her clutches and widened in shock. Kankuro stared. He's brother was actually falling for this crap? There was no way he still had that old bear. But Gaara's reaction proved that he did. Secretly Kankuro was glad that his brother was still able to show some emotion even if it wasn't embarrassment. How could Gaara still play with a teddy bear when he was 15? It was old, definitely seen better days, and one arm was hanging on by a mere piece of thread and it was missing an eye.
Gaara's surprise quickly turned to horror when Temari showed him what was in her other hand. Slowly, warily, he approached her.
"Now, Gaara, I'm sure by now you are familiar with compromises," Temari stared. "If you take a photo with us, I'll give you back your teddy bear. But if you refuse-" Slowly she raised the knife to the bear's throat-"he gets it."
Gaara's eyes narrowed dangerously until Kankuro could only see a sliver of green. "You wouldn't." It was more like a command than anything else.
"Try me." The knife edge closer, inch by inch, to rub against the threadbare fabric.
Kankuro, the helpless bystander, swallowed nervously, eyes darting back and forth between his siblings. Both were two stubborn to back down. He glanced at the gourd strapped to Gaara's back and he could have sworn he heard the sand in the gourd shift, edgy and bloodthirsty. Gaara wouldn't kill them over a stupid teddy bear, right? But then again he had the thing since forever and it had been by his side as a sad substitute for a real friend, for real siblings.
As he thought about it, he realized that that bear had been better to Gaara than either Temari or himself had been. Oh god, the really were going to die!
"You know he's arm's about to fall off," Temari muttered suggestively, moving the sharp blade closer to that one fragile little string.
Don't be fooled, Kankuro wanted to shout. Be a man!
Suddenly his serious 15-year-old brother looked like he was about to cry! Kankuro felt like slapping his hand against his forehead. This just went from crazy to weird.
In the corner of his eye, he saw Temari's resolve weaken and knew that she was moments away from giving up the entire charade and giving the bear back. Who wouldn't? Gaara was staring at them with the large round eyes he had as a baby and the bear's damn name…It was all too much to handle. Too damned cute! Even he was inches away from crumbling and giving the thing back to Gaara. Twelve years of isolation, hurt, and hatred was enough. They didn't need to add psychological abuse to the list by killing Gaara's only friend right in front of his eyes.
"Yes," Temari agreed, her voice forced and hard. "Mr. Peanut."
They were at a stand still. Either Temari would cut off the bear's arm and Gaara would kill them or Gaara would yield to Temari's demand, get his bear back, and then kill them. Neither option was good in Kankuro's option. He wished Temari had never involved him in this mess. He was too young to die.
"If I give Mr. Peanut back to you will you take a picture with us?"
Gaara frowned but then slowly nodded like a petulant child.
Temari smiled, lowered the knife, and held the mangy lump of fur and stuffing to Gaara. Kankuro winced. It really had seen better days. Gaara snatched the bear in a blur of movements and held it against his chest protectively. Now all he and Temari had to do was to wait for the sand to finish them off.
"Okay then," Temari said after a moment. "Kankuro, I want you to go with Gaara and help him find something to wear."
"Why?" both brothers asked in unison.
Temari rolled her eyes and didn't even explain. "Find something nice but not too formal. And, Kankuro, wash your face."
He glared at his bossy sister's back as she turned and walked away, leaving his to deal with a prickly little brother.
Well, at least Kankuro was still alive.
Temari smiled as she put her newest photo into its frame. Securing the back, she turned it around and chuckled. It wasn't perfect but she loved it anyway.
In the photo she was wearing a bright kimono she had bought in Konoha and her mother's gold jewelry, yelling at Kankuro for flipping the camera off. Face free of paint, he looked relatively handsome, dressed in a green tunic and cotton pants, a more traditional look in Suna. Gaara was squished between them, dressed in a tunic that matched his hair and pale brown trousers. He didn't even bother to look at the camera or force a smile. He just glared. On his lap sat Mr. Peanut.
She sat the frame on her dresser in the middle. Finally after fifteen years the sand siblings had their first picture taken together.