Disclaimer: Blacknbluesiren does not own Naruto. End of story.

AN: This idea kicked around in my head all summer, and I finally committed it to paper after a lot of resistance. This is NOT a sandcest, just a fic about Kankuro and Gaara trying to navigate that tricky thing called "being brothers". (p.s. if you couldn't already tell, I 3 Kankuro to pieces).

Tempo of Love

Gaara had a secret. When he was small, and nights alone with Shukaku banging around in his head were long and lonely, he used to sneak into his brother's room and stand by his bed. He could stand there for hours, watching the steady rise and fall of breath, and listening to the drum of the heart. Yes, he could hear a heart; Shukaku's senses were keen, and the predator could hear every drop of blood rushing through his prey's veins.

There was something soothing about Kankuro's heartbeat. It never seemed to change, and always kept an even tempo. Even years later, when insanity chipped away at Gaara, and Shukaku's bloodlust became near unbearable, he only had to listen for that even heartbeat to feel calm again. Time and again, it helped him beat Shukaku back into the recesses of his mind (where he belonged, thankyouverymuch).

He stopped going right to Kankuro's bedside after Yashamaru's betrayal—he didn't want to get too close to anyone anymore—but most nights found Gaara lingering in the doorway of the bedroom, filling his mind and soul with the steady tone of someone who was not afraid; whose heart was not racing in fear of him.

Now, years later, here he was still. Shukaku was quieter now, after the encounter with Kyuubi's container (Crazy boy. Brilliantly, amazingly insane), and Gaara was working to rebuild broken relationships and trying to find his place in his family and village and he was starting to think he would explode from all the conflicting emotions. So, he had gone where he always felt calmest. He leaned against the doorframe and drew a silent breath, willing his own battered heart to match the steadier one across the threshold.

Thump-thump.

"You can come in, you know."

Were he anyone else, Gaara probably would have fallen over, and then beat a hasty retreat. As it was, he could only stand there and stare incredulously. Kankuro sat up, yawning, and looked at his brother with an amused expression.

Thump-thump. His heart was as steady as ever.

"I thought you were asleep," Gaara said finally. Kankuro snorted.

"What kind of ninja would I be if anyone could walk into my bedroom unnoticed?" He yawned again and shook his head. "No one has ever been able to walk into my room without me noticing."

Gaara's heart dropped to somewhere around his ankles. Ever?

"That's a lie," he said quietly, crossing his arms. Kankuro raised his eyebrows. His heartbeat remained steady.

"Really?" He drawled. "How so?"

"Your heart," Gaara replied instantly, and then cringed inwardly. Great, how was he going to explain that? He took a few steps into the room, expecting the beat to increase with apprehension, with fear.

Nothing.

"My heart?" Kankuro's head was cocked to one side inquisitively. Gaara let out a frustrated sigh.

"People's hearts race with panic when they know I'm near. Yours does too—during the day, sometimes. At night, though…" his voice cracked, sadness getting the better of him. "At night, it doesn't. You're asleep. You don't know I'm here." He leaned against the wall and looked down at his feet.

"Or maybe I do."

Gaara looked up sharply. Kankuro watched him calmly, heart steady as ever. He ran a hand through his tangled dark hair.

"Maybe I knew you were there. Every night. For years. Maybe I knew and maybe it just didn't scare me."

The boys stared at each other, the unspoken question flying between them. Gaara's own heart was pounding in his head, terrified and hoping against hope all at once. He took a few steps closer and found himself at the bedside he had stood by nightly years ago.

"You were scared of me," the statement rose to a question, and he resisted the urge to grab his aching chest. "You hated me."

"Wrong," was the blunt reply. There was a sharp tug on his sleeve and he sat bonelessly on the mattress. He felt a warm pressure on his shoulder and Kankuro shifted to make room for him.

"I hate Shukaku," the puppet master said finally. "Hate him with a passion. Damn thing scares the shit out of me."

The hand on his shoulder squeezed gently, and the mellow, even tempo of a calm heart filled Gaara's head.

"I do not, have not, and will never hate or fear my own little brother." Kankuro shrugged. "I knew it was you that came in every night, not Shukaku. I knew that."

Gaara sat stone still, barely able to breathe. He was not Shukaku. Shukaku was not him. Boy and monster had been separated. Someone knew the difference. His throat closed over and his eyes burned.

"I'm sorry to keep you up," he choked out at last, rising swiftly. "I'll let you sleep now." He made a beeline for the door.

For hours, he paced the corridors of the silent compound, his brother's words thundering in his head. His heart ached fiercely, slamming about in his ribcage like a frantic animal, making it hard to breathe. He couldn't think, couldn't function. But he certainly couldn't go back—Kankuro would be awake.

"I do not, have not, and will never hate or fear my own little brother."

Thump-thump.

Kankuro, from his face-down position on his pillow, heard the sound of muffled footsteps entering his room. He smiled into the smothering fabric and mentally rolled his eyes.

Gaara stopped by the bed and stood silently for a moment, considering.

"Why didn't you say something?" He finally asked hoarsely. Kankuro rolled over and saw his brother's oddly shiny eyes. He frowned, musing over the answer.

"I wanted to," he said slowly. "But…after…after Yashamaru, when you started staying by the door…I figured you would tell me yourself when you were ready. I thought you didn't want me to know you were here."

"I didn't," Gaara replied quietly. "And I did."

Kankuro sat up and shifted over on the bed, making space, and tugged Gaara's wrist with a chakra thread from his fingers.

"C'mere, you."

A year ago, Gaara probably would have killed him for that. A year ago, Kankuro probably would not have attempted it. Gaara climbed into the vacated space and lay down with his chin on his fist. He had, as a child, debated climbing into Kankuro's bed to stay close to the aura of calm. He never had actually done so, though.

Now, a hand brushed fondly over his head and Kankuro yawned widely. The larger boy flopped onto his back and smiled sleepily at the ceiling.

"You're silly sometimes, y'know?"

Thump-thump.

It was louder and more constant than he had ever heard it. His brother was awake. Awake and unafraid. Amazing. Gaara shifted and rested his head on the broad chest, listening in silent content while the six-year-old in him fairly burst with joy. A chuckle rumbled through Kankuro's body and he laid a large hand on his little brother's back, palm rotating in soothing circles the way someone had done for him ages and ages ago (before everything went to hell and back).

"My silly little brother," he muttered fondly.

Thump-thump.

A steady beat. The tempo of love.

AN: There you go. Kind of fluffy by the end. In a strange, roundabout way, I really like this piece. .