A/N: Oopsie, I've had this thing in my notebook for several months now... heh. A lot of the stuff I've been writing lately have been comedies but this one is more serious. I've been wanting to write a Temari character sketch for a while. I don't know if it's the best thing I've ever written... but please tell me if you like it! If this one gets good reviews I'll probably write one for Kankurou.
I couldn't think of a better title...
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not making any money.
Firefly in a Jar
Temari had never considered herself to be the most forgiving of the Sand siblings. That wasn't to say she couldn't be nice; she was nicer than Gaara, certainly, just not, perhaps, as nice as Kankurou. However, she had never known herself to feel regret for herself.
Temari understood the implications of the noble principle of 'family values,' and she did all she could to take them to heart. As long as said family wasn't trying to kill her. She was the eldest, after all, wasn't it her job to keep what was left of their family together?
Half a year ago, the only person whom she had been able to apply this train of thought had been Kankurou. Gaara had always been her little brother (in theory), of course, but the fact that he had had a tendency to snarl and glare if she so much as got within three feet of him had put a damper on their relationship.
But then, that changed. It was hardly instantaneous, but it was groundbreaking enough that Temari and Kankurou could be comfortable enough around their little brother that they didn't feel the need to flee from his presence at the first possible moment. As long as they didn't touch him, all was fine and threat-free.
However, now that the three foot rule had become a two-and-a-half foot rule, Temari was forced to acknowledge another painful discrepancy in their sister-brother situation.
They never talked.
Before Naruto, any interaction between them had mainly consisted of threats and pleading, each of them having their own respective role. And even then such occurrences had been infrequent. But now that Gaara had decided to discard his old ways, he said nothing at all. It was as if without the predictions of your death he had nothing to talk about. He had been taciturn before, but now he was completely silent.
He was never around for breakfast when Temari and Kankurou ate their half-burnt toast in the kitchen. He often didn't show up for lunch either, unless it was to grab a snack from the cupboard and disappear into his room or to the desert or wherever he was spending his time for the day. And when he did come to dinner, he rarely spoke, and his quiet presence had the effect of silencing any conversation Temari and Kankurou would have had.
Even when she did have the chance to speak with him she had nothing to say.
It was with an aching heart that she realized that she hardly knew her littlest brother at all. It was one thing to know he favored liver and onions, but it was entirely another thing to know a person.
She saw her little brother smile with pride— something she had never been able to produce in him herself— as he was congratulated by an energetic blonde ninja on his superb firefly catching skills. And she felt unreasonably jealous for Uzumaki Naruto, whom her brother appeared to hold a greater affinity for then herself.
"Hee hee! We got so many! Look how bright they are!" Naruto cooed as he turned the glass jar they had used to collect the bugs in his hands.
Gaara's smile disappeared after the duration of a split second, but a piece of it remained as a subtle twinkle in his eyes. "Do we need more?"
The Uzumaki shook the jar, probably giving several of his captives concussions in the process. If bugs could get concussions. "No, this should be enough."
"Good! Can we go home, now?" Kankurou had been griping from his throne of boredom on a tree branch for the last half hour. He saw something as menial as firefly catching beneath his person. "I've got stuff to do, y'know."
"You're just a big grouch!" Naruto blew a raspberry at him and turned back to smile at Gaara. "So, you wanna go get something to eat?"
The redhead shrugged.
Temari mentally chided herself for the bitter satisfaction that rose up at the fact that Naruto got the same reaction out of Gaara as she would have if she had asked the same question. Then she remembered that he probably wouldn't have even looked at her.
"How 'bout RAMEN?"
Gaara made an odd sort of twitchy movement that the boy interpreted as a 'yes' and that was that. They all marched off to the ramen shop, and Kankurou whined all the way.
Temari wasn't sure what to do with her problem now that she had discovered it. She had never understood Gaara in the first place, and no matter how she tried she couldn't see herself ever being able to in the future.
Gaara was a conundrum. A loose string. An extraneous solution that didn't fit in the equation.
And she hated the fact that that was all he was to her. She hated herself for not seeing that he could be more sooner.
And, a few days later when the siblings were again in the company of the hyper blonde in his apartment, there wasn't enough room on the couch for Gaara when he returned with the popcorn. She nearly stood up and stalked right out of the room as Naruto pulled her little brother into his lap as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
And Gaara didn't kill him. He didn't even protest. He blushed lightly and handed Kankurou the Pyrex bowl of buttery confections.
Temari felt sick. It was a sad sickness and an angry sickness all at the same time. Sad for herself, sad for Gaara. Angry with herself, angry with Gaara. With Naruto. She loathed the fact that she couldn't be that comfortable with her own brother. That a stranger would hold a place in his heart before she could even get a piece of it.
He had been a monster before, but he had changed and—
Temari's thoughts ground to a halt as she was suddenly forced to rethink that statement.
No, he had never been a monster.
Kankurou had been too young, but she could vaguely recall the younger sibling they had rarely seen.
The boy who watched from his shadowed window as she played in the courtyard with her friends. They boy who's eyes had cried as Kankurou and she ran from him with tales from Uncle Yashamaru's tongue in their memory after an accidental meeting in the hall, on the street. But she couldn't remember his tears. No, he had been used to crying by then. He had only watched them and clutched his teddy bear with eyes so full of sorrow it wasn't until years later she had been able to comprehend the emotion.
Those had been the eyes of a dying child.
And now she mourned, years later, for what she had lost. What he had lost. If, as a child, she had been a little less fearful, obedient, more curious; maybe she could have lessened his pain. But she hadn't, and now she was paying the price.
Yet again, it was this stranger to the family that brought to light another faucet of Gaara's personality. Apparently, instead of laughing or giggling when tickled, Gaara squealed. It was really quite amusing to see such a solemn boy allow himself to be reduced to such frivolity, and Naruto thought it was the funniest thing in the world. He did it every chance Gaara gave him, which was always away fro the public and after dinner.
Temari wondered if Gaara would ever let Kankurou or her close enough to do that to him, but she dared not find out. She feared his rejection. She didn't want to lose whatever small ground had been made ever since Gaara had given them his first apology all those months ago.
She wished she had whatever magic Naruto seemed to possess, that made Gaara— among others— trust him so readily.
He looked so sad; he held the desolate jar of insect carcasses as if it had once been a great thing. They had survived for a week, being fed with fresh grass every day and some water in a soda pop cap. But they had left Fire country days ago and the forest had changed to meadows to wasteland and to endless dunes of sand. And there was no more grass. Gaara had known the fireflies would die, but Temari had never imagined that he would mourn them. In his silent, near emotionless way.
Watching him sit there, staring blankly at a jar empty of life, Temari wondered if she could console him. Not whether he would allow her to, but if she herself had the ability. She wondered if she could love him, this twisted, damaged little boy with a monster inside that was somehow related to her. And she hated herself for having to question that.
However, she realized, he was not mourning the fireflies, Gaara was despairing a much more profound loss. Naruto was in Konoha and he knew he would not be returning to those lush and temperate climes for at least many more months.
Temari was privately ashamed that she was surprised that Gaara actually had the capacity to miss someone. It was as if she still subconsciously couldn't acknowledge him as a real human being.
But she was even more ashamed that that only made her more jealous of the blonde idiot from Konoha.
"You could write him a letter." She was half-startled at the words coming out of her own mouth.
Gaara looked at her blankly, perhaps just as startled as she was.
"You could—" she grimaced. Why were the words so hard to get out? It figured that she would have difficulty just talking to him. "Start a correspondence."
"With Naruto?" the jar turned in his hands, a merry-go-round of dead insects and dried grass.
"So you don't lose touch."
Gaara appeared to mull over that for a moment, his pale, browless forehead crinkling. "You really think... he would...?"
"Of course! He's your friend, isn't he?" The smile and laugh she gave him sounded fake even in Temari's mind.
"Yeah," Kankurou grumbled from his sleeping bag. "He was practically all over you"
Gaara seemed to hesitate for a moment, glancing between the two of them. "... you really think?"
Kankurou had his face buried in his pillow, so Temari nodded for him.
Then, something marvelous happened.
He wasn't facing her, and his eyes were fixated on the firefly jar, but she could have sworn that his lips twitched into what was at least half a smile. It disappeared in an instant, like all his true smiles did, but it was there. She had seen it.
She had done it. Temari suddenly felt an intense wave of accomplishment put a grin on her own face. Maybe loving her little brother wouldn't be so hard after all.
She would love him. She would learn to know him and she would show him that she meant it.
Temari froze as Gaara flinched under her hand. In her happiness, she had reached over to pat the boy on the back. But now that she had she realized she may have just made a terrible mistake.
Out of the corner of her eye, she watched her little brother. He was still staring into the glass container.
Gaara slowly relaxed, and Temari let out a puff of relieved air as she retracted her hand.
She jumped. She hadn't been expecting their poor excuse for a conversation to continue.
"I don't know his address."
She blinked, recognizing a renewed despair in his sea-deep eyes. "Th-that's okay." she found herself saying. "You can just send it to the Hokage. She'll pass it on."
Gaara blinked and nodded.
The two lapsed into silence in the dark and cold desert evening. Temari found herself missing the crickets of Fire country.
Later, after a long, long pause, Temari heard something that made her heart glow. It was so quiet, that if there had been crickets she may not have heard it over their chirping.
"Thank you," he said.