Disclaimer: Naruto is the intellectual property of Masashi Kishimoto, Shueisha, VIZ Media, et al. No money is being made from this story and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's Note: This was a failed attempt at writing a femgenficathon story -- I say 'failed' not because I think it's a bad story, but because it's only 650 words long and the ficathon minimum length is 1,000 words. Also, it doesn't quite fit my theme quote.

Summary: Temari and her family, before and after the demon.

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Drought
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Flowers are an extravagance in Suna.

Temari's mother gardens anyway. She grows flowers beside her medicinal herbs, hangs decorative plants in the upstairs windows, and keeps a vase on the kitchen table, filled with a new bouquet each week. Temari's father complains about the waste of water, but he hides a smile in the corners of his eyes and Temari knows he loves the flowers because they make her mother happy. The garden is a splash of color against monotone sandstone walls and undyed cotton robes, a gesture of defiance against wind and sun and sand.

"If it were easy to grow flowers in Suna," her mother always says, "there wouldn't be any point."

When Kankuro is born, Temari's father cuts a bouquet of roses and lets her carry them to the hospital. Her mother smiles and kisses her, and shows her the baby. Kankuro is wrinkled and red-faced, bald and ugly, but Temari promises to love him and protect him anyway, like a big sister should. It's an easy promise.

"Good girl," her mother says.

When Gaara is born, Temari's mother dies. Her blood gushes out and all the medic-nin in the village can't save her. There's no point in visiting the hospital. There's no point in cutting roses.

Her father brings her new little brother home, sets his cradle on the kitchen table, and slumps in a chair, drinking cup after cup of sake. Temari and Kankuro watch, silently, waiting. After a while, the baby starts crying. Sand curls up from his cradle and reaches toward the vase of flowers.

Temari's father pulls the vase away. "I gave her life to you, demon," he says. "Isn't that enough? Isn't it? You don't get anything else of hers! You don't get anything more!"

He smashes the vase on the kitchen floor. Then he walks upstairs, and Temari hears the smash of potted plants falling to the dusty, sun-baked street.

Gaara is still crying.

Kankuro clambers upstairs to watch their father. Temari picks up the big pieces of glass, careful not to cut her fingers. She picks up the fallen leaves and stems. She blots the water with a dishtowel, and sweeps the little pieces of glass into the dustbin.

Upstairs, her father yells at Kankuro. A door slams, and then a window. Undaunted, Kankuro wobbles downstairs and out the back door to the garden. For a moment Temari sees her father silhouetted against the stone wall, pulling herbs and flowers up by the roots. Then Kankuro closes the door.

Temari climbs up on a chair and looks down at her new little brother, who killed her mother. His eyes are pale green and his short, fine hair is red, a splash of color like roses... or like blood and bile and death.

In mid-wail, he stops to catch his breath, and blinks. His huge, cloudy eyes fix on her face. Sand curls up toward her, mimicking the flailing of his tiny, pudgy arm.

Sand brushes Temari's fingers, wraps around her palm, tickles her wrist, and Gaara smiles. When his face isn't crumpled from screaming, he's beautiful, not ugly like Kankuro was. She can see her mother in the shape of his eyes and the color of his hair.

"You took the flowers away," Temari says, as she touches Gaara's forehead, feeling the soft, fragile bone underneath his skin. He took her mother away, and he's taking her father too. Maybe she should love him anyway -- she thinks that's what her mother would want -- but she can't. It's not easy, and she's not strong enough.

She'll protect him. That will have to do.

Outside, wind moans around the house, hurling fine-grained sand against the closed panes of the window. Her father curses, and Kankuro's voice rises in a plaintive wail. Temari shakes sand from her fingers and steps off the chair.

Gaara begins to cry again. Temari turns away.

Love is an extravagance in Suna.

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AN: Thanks for reading, and please review! I'm particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why.