Twisted Storyarch MasterPiece Theater Presents:
(A Murder Mystery. Without the Mystery.)
Warning: Contains Bits of Gaara's Past That May Be SPOILERISH for Some Readers. Please Exercise Caution.
A/N: I watched a Canadian movie called Siblings, about a bunch of kids who have to dispose of their stepparents' bodies (it's good, I recommend it), and then went over to my Gaara-fan friend's house. Leaving on a Sand Sib/Canadian movie high, I decided to combine several short stories about 'Mari, Kan-kun, and Gaar-Gaar and add a murder.
Disclaimer: I am fully aware that this is not a true account of the events before and after the death of Uncle What's-his-face. I just like messing around with storylines. (as you may also be able to tell, I haven't read/watched the Uncle What's-his-face Biography (or: Gaara's Tragic Tale of Woe and Depression) I've just heard about it second hand from my Gaara-fan friend, so don't be too hard on me.)
The young blond girl hung silently on the door frame, watching her guardian down a few shots of alcohol in his bedroom. Nothing like a little liquid courage, Uncle, she thought with a giggle. What are you up to tonight, I wonder?
He heard the quiet laugh and turned around to face her, replacing the bottle on the dresser determinedly. "Where's your brother?"
"None of your damn business," she replied coldly.
"Watch your tongue, young lady."
"Watch your step, Uncle."
Rubbing his temples tiredly, the man knelt next to her. "Temari, you have no reason to hate me. I've never been anything but kind to you kids."
"No, Uncle," the little girl acquiesced. "But that doesn't mean I trust you."
He had never been able to get his niece to like him, and he wasn't going to go into the argument again right now. Temari's uncle walked by her, out of the room.
"Uncle Rita left a few hours ago," she informed Kankuro, flopping down on the bed next to her brother, who was deeply immersed in a mystery novel.
"Why do you call him Uncle Rita?" he asked without looking up.
"Because he looks like girl, that's why."
Kankuro reached the end of the chapter, and took this opportunity to giggle and flash his sister a smile before starting back to the text. "Yeah, he does."
"Maybe he won't come back tonight," she sighed wistfully.
"I hope not. 'Mari, if he doesn't come back, what's going to happen to us? We'll have to live with father."
Temari laughed and ruffled his unkempt hair teasingly. "You dope. I was just joking, I'm sure he's coming back."
"But... would we have to live with dad, if he didn't?"
"He's coming back. And we will never have to live with dad, no matter what happens. I promise."
This reassured Kankuro, even though he was fairly certain that his sister would never have the courage to stand up to their father, if it came down to it. Good enough at ordering her brothers around, she wasn't very brave around adults... well, none of them were. Anyway, it was enough for him. He trusted Temari. Uncle would come back. Kankuro went back to reading.
"Hey, Kan-kun, have you seen Gaara tonight? He got something to eat, didn't he?"
Temari stared suspiciously at the bookworm next to her. "Did you even eat something?"
"I've been reading."
"For Pete's sake, Kan-kun!" Temari sighed exasperatedly, heading to the kitchen.
One brother eating dinner (at midnight, between turning the pages, but eating), one brother left to find. Her bet was the roof.
"Gaara-kun? You up here?"
The moon was full that night, or nearly so; it took no time at all for her to spot the boy curled up defensively in the corner of the roof, or the cloaked body lying in the middle of said roof, and very little time after that to notice the pile of sand and weapons over on the far edge.
Setting the plate of Tuna Helper down, Temari went back into the house.
She returned a minute later with a teddy bear, which she silently placed as close to Gaara as she dared get; a sand arm snaked out to grab it almost immediately.
Now, for the body. She knelt next to it, turning the face towards her, wishing she could say she was surprised to see her Uncle Rita. A little timidly, she pushed the cloak back and checked his pulse. Finding none, she held her hand over his mouth, hoping for a breath. When she couldn't detect one of those either, she laid her head on his chest, hoping this would reveal a heartbeat, breathing, muscle movement, ect, but to no avail. He was dead.
"He attacked you, didn't he?" she asked, looking over at Gaara.
The boy didn't respond. He stared into space, sucking on his thumb and clutching his teddy bear.
"Are you ok? Did he hurt you?"
Very slowly, still staring into the distance, Gaara shook his head, and Temari breathed a sigh of relief. "Good. I'm going downstairs, do you want to come with me?" Another negative. Temari disappeared again.
She returned a minute later, with Kankuro at her heels. He examined the scene without touching anything, staring thoughtfully around him.
"Should we move the body inside or something?" his sister asked, glancing at their surroundings. "I mean, the neighbors could come out at any time, and you can jump from their roof to ours..."
Kankuro dismissed the idea with a shrug. "The neighbors won't come out. They're one of the bigger meth labs in Suna, they don't want to risk being spotted, even if they did come out they'd be too wasted to care, and even then they wouldn't want to get involved with the cops just to report some murder."
"They're a meth lab?" Temari gasped, staring with sudden interest at the decrepit building across the way. She knew, of course, that her village's economy was based almost entirely on the illegal drug industry, but she still wouldn't have dreamed that they lived next door to a drug house.
"Yup," Kankuro kicked gently at his uncle's body. "Hey... Temari, we won't have to live with father now, right? You promised."
When Temari hesitated, Gaara showed yet another sign of life; he took his thumb out of his mouth and turned to his sister, looking worried.
When she had made that promise, she had honestly thought that her uncle would be coming home that night, and the night after, and the night after that, too. It just proved to her how much he had hated her that he would pull a stunt like this and leave her in charge. She stared at the body, then at her two little brothers, Gaara with his teddy bear, Kankuro in his black footie pj's, both looking up at her. Temari thought unhappily about their father, and looked back over at her uncle's remains.
With a little effort, she made her voice carefree. "Of course we won't. I promised, didn't I?" The words sounded confident, which wasn't how she was feeling, and therefore wasn't how she intended to act. Dropping the self-assurance, she added timidly, "But, you guys have to promise me something, too. I'm not your mother or anything, I'm just your sister, I'm not all that much older than you two, and you're going to have to help me out."
This seemed reasonable enough. Gaara nodded quietly and went back to sucking his thumb, and Kankuro went so far as to say, "Well, yeah. What are brothers for?"
After a Kodak moment, they returned reluctantly to the topic at hand.
"So, should we call the cops? If he attacked him, it was self-defense," Kankuro trailed off, kicking himself for even mentioning the idea. Yeah, it was self-defense, but with Gaara unharmed the only proof they had was their little brother's word, and Suna's finest were not inclined to believe that, and nobody else would, either. You could practically hear the rumors starting already. "There's that boy. Murdered his own uncle." Kankuro glanced over at the tiny redhead holding onto his teddy bear. It was hard to stomach the idea of causing any more rumors about him.
The idea died in the awkward silence. "Let's just get rid of the body," Temari decided. "I'll call dad tomorrow morning and tell him that Uncle hasn't come home and we're starting to get worried."
"Gaara, if anyone asks, you haven't seen him at all since this afternoon," Kankuro told his brother who, looking the picture of misery, nodded. "Temari, the last time we saw him, he was acting strange. Not in a way we could put our finger on, mind you, just different."
"He's been drinking," the girl suddenly remembered.
"Great," the middle sibling was now on a role. He smiled at the body, as if he'd just had a possible idea. "He seemed testy..." The smile got broader. "He hit me."
"WHAT?" Temari gasped, running over. "Why didn't you tell me? I'd've done more than just murder him, I'd have-,"
"Relax, 'Mari. He hasn't hit me yet," her brother winked, slapping himself as hard as he could. "There, that should leave a mark."
"Y'know, Kan-kun, the more elaborate the lies get, the harder it is to keep them going," his sister reminded him uncertainly, watching the bruise rise on her brother's cheek.
"Yeah, but where's the fun in keeping it simple? Here's what's going to happen. We'll sneak the body into the neighbors' basement, we'll clean up the blood and everything, and when, hopefully much later, the cops bust them, they'll find the body, and assume that old Uncle Rita was a meth addict going through withdrawal who went in there, got in a fight, and didn't come out."
"I still don't get the bruise."
"Eh, that's our back-up defense. Everybody loves abused children."
At around 2:30, the last of the blood was finally cleared off the roof. It was late and Temari was tired so even though she offered to stay up with Gaara, she didn't push the matter when he shook his head and conveniently ignored the fact that he had been through a traumatic experience and hadn't spoken a word since.
Still, she slept fitfully, which surprised her. After all, it wasn't like she cared about her uncle or anything. In fact, the events of the night had given her the proof she had long looked for that she was justified in hating him, which was kind of reassuring in a twisted sort of way.
However, logical or no, she couldn't get to sleep, so she got up to get a glass of water, and when she got back, she found Gaara sitting on her bed.
"Gaar-Gaar? What's wrong?"
Gaara looked up at her and promptly burst into tears.
"Oh, sweetheart!" she cried, sitting down and drawing him onto her lap. "Hush, it's over now. Everything's taken care of. It's over."
For the first time that night, Gaara said something. She didn't catch all of it, as his face was buried in her shoulder, but it ended with, "told Uncle to," and she could fill in the blanks. She had been afraid of something like this.
"Shh, shh, I know."
"Yes. And don't worry. He won't try this again. I'll take care of that."
"But why would he try it in the first place? What's wrong with me, 'Mari?"
Temari had to think about the best way to answer this, and it was a minute before she delivered her verdict. "Your mother is dead, your father is a heartless monster, your uncle is-- was a total tool, your town is full of useless drugged-up morons, and your siblings are just as confused as you. That's what's wrong with you."
The child processed this, finally hitting on a subject he seemed eager to discuss. "Was mom nice? What did she look like?"
"She looked... well, kind of like Uncle Rita, but with less makeup." The quip had been designed to make Gaara smile, but she couldn't blame him for ignoring it. After all, the kid had been through a rough night. "Poor baby," she whispered, stroking his head sadly. "You miss your mother, don't you?"
"No. How can I miss her? She's always with me, watching over me."
Temari thought this was the sweetest thing she had ever heard a small child say. She could have sworn she got a cavity.
"Like the time Kankuro put me in the dryer," Gaara continued, ruining the moment.
"The dryer... that wasn't," Completely confused, Temari stopped before realizing where the communication gap had occurred. "Are you talking about Shukaku?"
"Who told you that thing was your mother?" Temari asked, feeling this was an insult both to Shukaku and her mother.
Temari winced. She knew there had been a reason she hadn't liked their uncle. "That explains it. Alright, little bro, prepare yourself for a shock. Shukaku, yeah, not mom. Not even female. In fact, not even human."
Gaara took it rather well; she supposed this was because he wasn't too fond of his "mother" in the first place and was rather glad they weren't blood relations after all. He stuck his thumb back in his mouth and sucked on it thoughtfully and Temari bit back a yawn as she held him. Little brother going through a crisis or no, she was tired.
"Mom loved us, though, didn't she, 'Mari? I mean, she loved you and Kankuro, right?"
Now, Temari barely remembered her mother herself, and what she did remember wasn't exactly loving. In fact, Temari wasn't any more fond of her mother than she was of any of her other adult relations. Perhaps it was because Mrs. Of the Sand had a distinct resemblance to her brother, Temari's Uncle Rita, or perhaps it was because of the taint of having married Mr. Of the Sand, Temari's father (What was she thinking? Temari was never getting married.), or perhaps, just possibly, it was because she had died and left them alone, abandoned them to their evil father and stupid uncle, and hadn't she known what kind of people she was leaving her children with? How could she expect her little daughter to take care of the three of them, when she couldn't do it herself? Could she just not have cared what happened to them? She was their mother!
"Uh, 'Mari?" Gaara asked. Temari jumped, then noticed her fists were clenching.
"Oh, sorry, what did you say?"
"I wanted to know if mom loved us."
"I don't remember her very well, Gaar-Gaar."
"Oh." If he realized that his sister wasn't answering his question to the best of her ability, he said nothing of it. "Were you sad that I was born?"
"Of course not! I was ecstatic! Kan-kun and I went to stay with Uncle Rita about a week before you were due, and every couple of minutes I would ask when you were coming home. I don't know why I was so excited. You'd have thought that Kankuro would have put me right off little brothers... maybe I thought you were going to be a girl."
"About what? You were such a cute baby! You had red fuzz on your head and huge blue eyes. We just wanted to eat you up. Well, I did. Kankuro and you didn't get along right off the bat."
"Really? What did we do?"
"You bit him."
"Yup. Drew blood, too. Dad and Uncle were talking about some crap, either you or mom, I guess, which I thought was ridiculous because why waste time talking when there's a new baby right there to play with? Adults are always better at talking than actually doing stuff. Wait, where was I?"
"I bit Kankuro."
"Oh, yeah. So, we were playing with you, and Dad and Uncle weren't paying attention, and you bit him. So his finger started bleeding, and I run up and try to get Dad's attention, and you know how that goes. 'Daddy, I didn't know babies had teeth.' 'Shut up, your uncle and I are talking.' 'But, daddy, Gaawa bit Kan Kan, and he's bleeding!' 'Well, deal with it.' 'But, daddy!' and then Uncle stepped in and took care of things. Like always."
"...are you sad that Uncle's dead?"
"Oh, goodness, no. You know what I thought about our Uncle. Granted, it will be a little harder to deal with dad directly, but don't worry about that."
"It was an accident. I mean, I didn't want to—,"
"I know that, baby. You didn't do anything wrong. You know, just don't tell the cops that. Like I said, adults look at things funny."
Gaara hugged her. "Thanks, 'Mari. I'll let you go to sleep now. You look tired."
"I am, a little," she admitted with a jaw-cracking yawn. When she laid down this time, she fell asleep before her head hit the pillow.
The next day, Temari called up their father (after a heavy jolt of some caffeinated soda her uncle wouldn't have let her touch before noon) and explained Kankuro's edited version of the previous night. He came right over, which in itself was suspicious, for their father.
He had just arrived when half a dozen police squands, metaphorical sirens blazing, broke into the house next door. It was fortunate that their father ran to look out the window at the noise, because his three children had just had heart attacks, convinced that the cops were there for the three uncle-cides.
As it turned out, an anonymous tip had led to the discovery of enough illegal chemicals to put Wind Country into orbit along with the body of Uncle Rita. As it also turned out, one of the busted druggies managed to identify him as "that guy next door with the creepy kids", so a cop showed up at the door to take Temari, Kankuro, Gaara, and of course dear old dad to identify the corpse a bit more officially.
For an impromptu performance, the three siblings thought they did quite well. Temari clamped a hand to her mouth like she was going to be sick, or start crying, or both; Kankuro turned his sister away from the scene protectively; and Gaara won an Oscar for grabbing his father's hand trustingly and refusing to let go while watching the proceedings with a grim fascination that made the cops shudder compulsively.
They were all duly interviewed, the house was searched, some traces of drugs were found (something to the surprise of the siblings), and the conclusion was reached as Kankuro had predicted.
They didn't have time to gloat, though. Their father was still wandering around like a zombie, and they had stuff to do.
"Come on, pack your stuff," Temari ordered her brothers.
"Where do you think you're going?" her father managed to ask, following her to her room, where she began filling a suitcase.
"Oh, you can't expect us to live here anymore. We'll find somewhere else. I'll ask you for rent money in a few days."
"Nonsense. You will move in with me until we find a suitable guardian."
Temari concentrated very hard on folding a dress. "No. I will take care of us. I am the only suitable guardian we have ever had, anyway."
"That is a very disrespectful thing to say about your dead uncle, daughter."
"Uncle was the kind of man who would not hesitate to murder his sister's child," she replied coldly, placing the dress in her suitcase and raising her eyes to meet her fathers'. "Such men do not deserve respect. No more than a man who wants his own son dead."
It had been said, and there could be no turning back. Temari grabbed onto her bag to keep her hands from shaking. Her father scared her, and she couldn't afford to be afraid right now.
What followed was a battle of wills; Father vs. Daughter in a staring contest, both aware that to blink was to admit weakness and defeat.
Temari had the advantage of practice; staring contests were commonplace with her brothers, she had once gotten nerves-of-steel Gaara to blink (Gaara continued to claim he'd gotten sand in his eye), and it was not long before the adult was forced to turn away.
"You have no doubt been told that you look like your mother," he whispered, staring at the floor. "It is a shame you cannot act more like her as well."
In response, Temari curtsied politely. "Mother was a spineless, weak person, completely and blindly loyal to you. I'm honored you consider us different."
There was nothing that could be said to that, so Mr. Of the Sand retreated, muttering, "And I used to think that Gaara was the only demon child among you three."
"He should talk to me," Kankuro chuckled after Temari relayed their father's parting comment to her brothers. "I'd set him straight."
"I don't know, Kankuro may be the most evil of all of us," Gaara said. "He's the brains behind the operation."
"Shh," the older boy hissed. "No one will ever suspect me."
"All right, I think a pact is in order," Temari announced.
"A pact?" the boys asked in unison.
"Yes, a pact. We three may not like each other. In fact, there may be times when we hate each other. When we can't stand each other. When we want to snap each other's necks like twigs-,"
"Oh, where was I? Oh, yeah. No matter what, anyone messing with one of us, messes with all three of us. All for one and one for all!"
"All for one and one for all!" chorused the three siblings.