Well, what can I say? Inspiration comes from the oddest of places. I was thinking of a certain person I know, and clowns, and Gaara . . . and things progressed from there. Set before the finals of the chuunin exams. I hope you enjoy.


Gaara Hates Clowns

"Hey, kiddo!" the clown clapped his hands together, grinning widely. "How'd you like a balloon?"

Silence.

Gaara surveyed the man before him with unblinking eyes. He was a rather thin, lanky-looking guy, the type of guy you'd see hanging out in the downtown district, when the moon is still high and florescent lights flood the streets with their eerie half-crazed color. The type of guy who'd grab any kind of job for money and complain loudly about it. The type of guy who sulked and swore and whistled to passing girls. Red circles adorned his cheeks and stretched across his lips, in parody of a wide smile; white paint turned his face to that of a corpse. Against that livid skin, the wig atop his head was violently scarlet, and the drawn-on smile both lurid and ridiculous.

A yellow nametag, pinned at a jaunty angle on his striped shirt, proclaimed "Hi! I'm Haru!" to the uncaring world.

All in all, the spectacle was one of brightness and artificial happiness.

To Gaara, the spectacle was annoying as hell.

He walked on, ignoring the moron. If he'd had his way, he would not even be at this imbecilic fair. He'd still be at the hotel, drinking tea and playing solitaire, drawing in his sketchbook and reading. He wouldn't be looking around for Temari and Kankuro, both of whom had taken it to their heads to go to this . . . this carnival. Damn Baki, damn the fact that he was reporting to the Kazekage this day, damn the fact that Gaara needed the key from Temari to open the damned door to the hotel. Damn them all.

Then again, if he'd had his way, every fool here would be dead, this carnival would not exist, and he'd be at the hotel, not locked out, not wandering around for his teammates, not beneath orders to not cause a scene (and Baki apparently considered breaking open the hotel door a scene), silently exulting in the blissful peace and quiet and general lack of idiots.

"Hey, kid – look here!"

Ah, dreams.

But the world was not like that.

And now he had to deal with this idiot.

Life was truly irritating.

Gaara turned back to the clown, frowning slightly. "What do you want?"

"Well," the guy's fake smile twisted into a sneer. "If you aren't little prince charming, brat. Want a freaking balloon?"

"No."

Gaara turned away, having pronounced the required syllable with the sort of toneless flatness that automatically ended most of his conversations, and began to walk.

"Hey–!"

The guy lumbered forward, his hurried steps easily catching up to Gaara's slow, steady stride, and positioned himself, once more, in front of Gaara, who stopped rather than run into him. As close as the clown was, Gaara could see the veins in his eye and smell his rumpled clothing. He stank of sweat and, faintly, of alcohol.

Someone's getting fired soon, Gaara thought, not without a faint trace of cynical amusement.

"Get out of my way," he said, with a cold and fatal softness, aloud.

The clown raised an eyebrow. "You have some attitude, kid. How about saying 'hi'? I'm just trying to do my freaking job."

Gaara gazed at him without emotion.

"Go to hell."

Having spoken, he proceeded to walk around the clown.

"Oh, no, you don't –"

The clown held out his arm.

It was a thin arm, wreathed in white fabric that bore a multitude of faint, unhappy stains, as if the past had laid its imprint permanently in the cloth. It was

It was blocking Gaara's way.

He stopped walking, turned slightly, and glared at the man. The young man glared back, to his surprise . . . and to his profound vexation.

"Look, kid," the man was saying, "I'm bigger than you, yeah? Look at me like that and I'll beat your wussy butt up. You don't want to mess with me. I'll kill you."

He stared down at Gaara, probably imagining that he looked intimidating. Gaara gazed back, blinking freely, his face registering nothing. Staring contests were for losers.

When Gaara spoke, his voice was soft, almost gentle, and completely toneless. "You have a count of ten."

The clown raised an outlined eyebrow. His face was flushed beneath the makeup, and his neck began to throb above his limp unbuttoned collar. "You want to get beaten up, punk?"

"Ten."

"Hey – I will!"

The man stepped forward, fists raising slowly and with menace. Gaara noted that his nails were unkept, ragged, and clotted underneath the filth of days.

"Nine." Gaara continued, almost in a whisper. Within him, a deep shiver awoke, creeping up his spine and spreading to his fingers. Every detail of the man – the wrinkled unkempt clothing, the unshaven cheeks, the sagging sandals on his feet – suddenly seemed to sharpen. The blood snaking through the whites of his eyes seemed to burn, and Gaara's gaze caught on those thin lines. A slow and thirsty fascination seemed to whisper through his mind.

The man was still talking, the noise rushing over and around Gaara, alien and distant and all too near.

"Eight,"

His fists tightened at his sides. Within the gourd, the sand stirred, agitated, anxious.

"Seven,"

The man was holding out his hand, reaching for Gaara's arm, touching Gaara's skin. His warmth was slightly oily, rough.

Gaara licked his dry lips. "Six."

"Listen, kid . . ."

The other fist loomed in, jumping towards Gaara's face. The sand twitched and writhed within the gourd, spilling out into the air, and swung around Gaara with supernatural speed. The man's hand made a dull slapping noise as it struck the grains.

Behind him, the cork thunked faintly onto the dirt.

People, a part of Gaara's mind realized, were staring. The din of many voices dwindled, died, in ripples through the crowd.

Pain, vibrant and red, blossomed in his brain, and a delirious hungry thoughtlessness swept through him, feverish and wanting. It reached for the clown, enveloping him, swallowing him in sand. Gaara lifted his arm, reached out his hand, and the starved and yearning soul within him turned towards the heart that beat, panicked, against the sand that held it. Wrist, neck, chest, temple, the blood beat and surged.

"Mother," he mouthed.

The fragile thing collapsed, and crimson heat sprayed forth.


Temari and Kankuro kept tactfully silent when Gaara, having finally found them arguing in a tent over some stupid game, arrived silent, brooding, and covered head to toe in blood.