A/N: Remember that Kankurou introspective I promised a while back? This isn't it. The psuedo-sequal to A Firefly in a Jar is almost done, and will be forthcoming soon. This is just an overgrown drabble that suddenly developed horns and teeth when I wasn't looking.
Disclaimer: I wish... I wish... I wish...
Just Sticking to the Rules
There was a very clear, unspoken rule in the Sabaku household. It was very simple and straightforward.
Respect Gaara's privacy.
It was an easy rule to follow, since it basically culminated to staying out of Gaara's way. And the siblings had spent years practicing that.
It was very simple really: follow the rule, and you were less likely to get squished. That meant staying far out of Gaara's personal space, stepping aside without question when he passed in the hall, and only venturing near Gaara's personal quarters at the dark end of the upstairs hallway when it was absolutely necessary— and hopefully an emergency. And even then, you always knocked and waited for an answer.
It was perfectly understandable, and Kankurou didn't mind preserving the status quo. In fact, he preferred it, because as long as he stuck to the rules he didn't get squished. And Kankurou liked not getting squished.
That's why his throat froze in terror around an apology when he realized the room was occupied.
The rule was simple. The couch was off limits when Gaara was already employing it, as was the TV. You did not touch Gaara's food in the fridge. You did not take Gaara's towels or washcloths and you never put your shoes on top of Gaara's in the cubby by the front door. But most of all, you never ever walked in on Gaara in the bathroom.
Kankurou's mouth worked, frantic to find something to say that could possibly keep the inevitable squishing at bay. But the most that came out was a pathetic mousy squeak.
Gaara calmly turned the lever above the spout and the water's flow ceased. Then, with calculated slowness, he turned to face the intruder.
His eyes narrowed.
"What?" he snapped. His glare dared Kankurou to find a valid reason for his intrusion.
"Uh... I..." Kankurou swallowed.
He didn't turn to run, because frankly, he was afraid to move. And Gaara had a tendency to squish things that moved. "You..." The elder blinked, suddenly acknowledging the rest of his little brother's appearance.
Thankfully, Gaara was decently dressed in a pair of black boxers and an equally black, overly large T-shirt. Anything less and Kankurou's fate would have been worse than squishing. But what really drew his attention from the redhead's menacing gaze was how one of the boy's legs was curled up to his chest, his toes curled over the rim of the porcelain sink to support this precarious balancing act.
His mouth gaped wider as he took in the white cream icing the boy's calf in a wet, fluffy cloud. It didn't take him long to ascertain the nature of the substance when he noticed the pink razor in the boy's hand, hovering by his bent knee.
"You... shave?" It probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, as that would have been to back away slowly with his palms out in the peace gesture. However, this unexpected discovery stupefied Kankurou's already addled brain to Naruto degrees.
One pale brow lifted, and Kankurou was suddenly caught wondering if that hairlessness was due to a razor as well.
Silence reigned for a moment. Two moments, as both shinobi remained perfectly still.
Finally, Gaara just shrugged. "Temari does it."
Kankurou stared at him, his mouth working wordlessly again.
Gaara stared back for a couple more minutes, studying the stupefied astonishment on his face. Then he shrugged again and returned to his task. He wanted to finish before the water turned cold, and Kankurou wasn't worth the time.
Perhaps this apparent indifference gave the puppet-nin the notion that Gaara wasn't expressly dismissing him, or maybe he was still suffering the effects of stupidity brought on by surprise.
He watched as Gaara calmly rewetted the pink razor— it was Temari's, he abruptly realized— and carefully dragged it up his calf from ankle to knee. He flicked it at the sink, loosing flecks of apricot-scented shaving cream— also Temari's— into the steaming water. Then he swished the head of the razor in the water to clean it, and Kankurou realized with a start that Gaara's cool, antagonistic gaze was on him again.
"Er..." he realized he was seriously pushing his luck, and that he had better come up with an excuse for his presence quick or high-tail it out of there quicker. "Why...?" He really was wondering. Thinking of Gaara's previous response, he wondered if he was imitating their older sister— and if he was, whether he should be more amused or perturbed by that thought.
Gaara's brows rose again, and Kankurou, if he hadn't been preserving his breath, would have breathed a sigh of relief since his brother seemed unoffended by the question.
Kankurou flinched as the sound of splashing water echoed thinly in the tiled room as Gaara cleaned the razor again; he hadn't realized that Gaara had never stopped his current task, since Gaara's face was so still.
"It's irritating." the boy said at last, a miniscule twist to his lips accentuating his distaste.
Kankurou nodded as if he completely understood, which he didn't.
Gaara returned to watching his own hand guide the plastic-encased blade up his calf, and then to the sink to clean it before returning for another careful pass.
"Um," Gaara didn't look up, as Kankurou felt himself compelled to speak again in the unnatural quiet. "Does Temari know you're using her stuff?" Kankurou winced. Why couldn't he just keep his mouth shut?
Uncaring eyes glanced at him only briefly, but Gaara's annoyance was communicated by the particularly sharp way his wrist flicked the razor through the water.
The blade returned to a glistening smooth calf; there was hardly any cream left. "I was out of razors."
Kankurou blinked; realizing simultaneously that this was the reason Gaara was not in his own personal bathroom, where no one ever bother him, and that this was also a regular occurrence.
Kankurou wasn't sure why the idea of Gaara shaving regularly bothered him so much. Maybe it was just the unmanliness of it. He glanced down at himself where a pair of very hairy, manly legs protruded from his casual shorts. Then he looked at Gaara, whose legs were perfectly smooth and white, with slender, lightly defined calves, graceful ankles, and a subtle, almost feminine curve to his— damn it, they were girl legs.
He almost— almost couldn't stop himself from blurting out that thought, for if he did, Gaara would surely kill him. Instead, something else came out. "When did you hit puberty?"
Gaara paused in running his hands up and down his calf, searching for any tiny, overlooked hair. Kankurou stiffened; it always scared him how still Gaara could be. It was like staring at a statue depicting the predatory stillness before a kill. But Gaara was staring at him with a pointedly blank expression, and Kankurou forced himself to relax as he knew from years of experience that this was just Gaara's curious face.
"Y'know, that special time when your body changes and stuff and the adults start talking to you about the birds and the bees?" Kankurou felt a growing unease as Gaara remained still. "I mean, how old are you? Twelve? I guess that's about the earliest start a guy can get... it's not unheard of..." he trailed off, noticing a subtle change in Gaara's expression that he could not identify.
Kankurou blinked; then he chuckled nervously. "Oh... oh yeah, heh heh, my bad." Kankurou took a deep breath, trying not to give in to panic. Thankfully, Gaara didn't look too pissed off by his slip up. He felt a guilty pang in his heart that Gaara's birthday had been more than two months ago. It was a day that everyone studiously ignored every time it came around each year, even by Gaara himself.
Kankurou wondered if Gaara had ever received a birthday gift, or if he even understood that he was missing anything at all each time his day of birth came around.
But Kankurou pushed those thoughts away, as bringing that up would only antagonize his volatile little brother. "So... you do know what puberty is, right?" Best to cover up his mistake before Gaara interpreted it as an insult.
Gaara's gaze was uncomprehending again.
'Oh, shit...' "Right?" Kankurou tried again.
His red head slowly cocked at an angle. "Why would I want to hit this puberty? Is it a threat?"
The puppet-nin sweatdropped. 'No freaking way...' However, if he thought about it, it did make sense. Sex-ed was not a standard academy class, as such things were better left to parents. And he couldn't think of a single person who'd want to sit down with his psychopathic little brother and have The Talk.
And hell, he didn't want to either. However, something made him stay, to amble over to the porcelain throne and take a seat on its lid. Maybe it was the way Gaara frowned quizzically when, initially, Kankurou turned to leave. Or maybe it was some stupid brotherly instinct. He reminded himself to later find and maul whoever came up with brotherly instincts.
"Sometime in a person's life, usually around your age, that person will find that their body starts to change..."
Gaara had swiveled to stare at him, his leg still curled and balancing himself gracefully against the sink. Kankurou wondered how he could not be incredibly uncomfortable. He knew he himself would have fallen over a long time ago. Then again, he doubted he could ever get his leg that high.
"See, this is the time in your life when your body is getting ready to... well, when you're coming into sexual maturity." He paused, praying to Kami that Gaara wouldn't ask what sexual meant.
The boy continued to stare blankly.
Kankurou glanced down at his little brother's too smooth legs, and was struck with a thought. If Gaara didn't understand what puberty was and its effects, did he shave because he was self-conscious or perturbed by the changes in his appearance? If he didn't know the cause, then Kankurou understood how the Jinchuuriki could have been upset, maybe even scared, of the phenomenon. The elder was reminded of gossipy horror stories of girls freaking out in the bathroom because they thought they were bleeding to death. Then he shuddered and shoved the thought of the taboo period from his mind. There was no way he was filling Gaara in on the girl's side of the bargain, whatever duty he had ended there.
"See, a lot of changes occur that may seem scary are actually totally natural and accepted." Kankurou pulled up his own pant leg. "The thickening and darkening of hair all over the body is totally to be expected. And normally, guys don't shave." he indicated his own leg.
Gaara's face twisted into one of abhorrence. "That's disgusting."
Kankurou paused a beat. "All guys pretty much leave it as is." He flinched as Gaara's foot hit the floor and the boy spun on his heel to scowl at him.
"Then all guys are disgusting."
"Well... it's just how men do it—"
"Then all men are lazy and unsanitary!"
Kankurou blinked, wondering how Gaara had become so violently opposed to unshavenhood. "But it's manly..."
Gaara's face twitched, and Kankurou stiffened again. "It's... I don't want to look like some hairy beast! And it's uncomfortable!"
It finally clicked in Kankurou's mind as the word 'beast' came off the boy's tongue, coupled with the slightly crazed anxiety on the boy's face. "Oh..." Gaara was afraid of assimilating any demonic characteristics. The dark tanuki eyeshadow was a testament to the demon's ability to cause unusual physical representations. "Gaara... it's totally natural. No one's gonna look at you weird if you have hairy legs. Well, not any weirder than usual, I mean..." he faltered.
Gaara went into that unnatural statue stillness again. Kankurou carefully met his gaze, gulping uncomfortably. He noticed that Temari's pink razor still hung from his fingers, and Kankurou wondered if Gaara could kill anyone with it. Even though the blades were small and encased in plastic, he probably could.
Death by shaving.
Finally, Gaara seemed to come to life again. Kankurou watched as he turned away and put Temari's razor back where it belonged above the sink and drained the water from the bowl. A towel was snatched off its rack as Gaara dried off his legs. And then he turned to leave.
"Uh, hey, I'm not done with the whole puberty thing—"
Gaara stopped in the doorway, and Kankurou was put on the alert again as he noticed the slight tremble of Gaara's shoulders, and the clenching of his fists.
Kankurou perked up.
"It wouldn't change anything."
And Gaara was gone.
Damn! And he had thought for a moment he had managed to convert his brother from his unmanly ways.
Then he found himself going over Gaara's last words, spoken in the coldest and most emotionless of monotones.
Kankurou winced. Why couldn't he just keep his mouth shut? Temari would kill him if he ended up causing another of Gaara's drawn out, silent depressions.
Those had been frighteningly common in the last year or so, ever since Gaara decided gore and death wasn't the solution to his emotional problems. Now that Gaara didn't take out his frustrations on those around him (as much), however, his punishments turned inward.
The last thing the siblings wanted was to have to spend another month or so worrying when Gaara's next psychotic break would blow their house to bits because he couldn't stop moping. Or if he would pass out because he had stopped eating again. And Shukaku was even nastier when he was hungry.
Kankurou sighed. Temari would definitely kill him if she found out he had caused Gaara to relapse into another of his depressive episodes.
And Kankurou really didn't like being tenderized by a giant fan just like he didn't like being squished.
For almost a full minute, there was no answer. Then the door slid open a crack.
"Oh, hey Gaara," he tried to breathe normally. This was Gaara's room and he shouldn't be anywhere near it if he valued his life. But he had already done worse that day and Gaara hadn't killed him... yet. At least he remembered to knock this time.
"Um," he faltered in front of Gaara's cool glare. "I was just... checking up on you."
The door opened a little wider so Kankurou could appreciate his little brother's scowl. "What?" he snapped.
"Well, uh... I... I'd like to say— I— I'm sorry. If I upset you."
Kankurou shifted uncomfortably. "Well... I was... worried, y'know?" About future pummelings, yes.
Gaara stared at him. "Why?"
Kankurou blinked. "Um... 'cuz... 'cuz... you're my brother?"
After another minute of staring, Kankurou opted for a more dangerous approach. "I don't think... you look beastly."
The redhead's eyes widened a little.
"And you can shave or not. I don't care. It's fine with me."
Gaara continued to stare.
... And stare.
And slammed the door in his face.
Kankurou blinked; and sighed. "Well, that worked..." he was turning to leave as a faint sound made him stop.
"... You promise?"
Kankurou stood still for a moment, wondering if he had imagined the sorrowful, needy plea that only the trained ear of a shinobi could have picked out of the silence.
He smiled. "I promise."