Disclaimer: If I owned Naruto, I would be from Japan and a famous Mangaka. While both would be nice, I'm afraid I'm neither of the two.
He hated approaching Gaara.
Temari-neesan often told him off for that kind of attitude. After all, what kind of people in their right minds avoided being near their siblings?
Last time she had done that, he had rubbed it in her face that she was uncomfortable around their baby brother herself, which had shut her up effectively. Stupid bitch – he'd heard a villager say this recently, and it seemed nasty enough to apply it to neesan – stupid bitch, served her right for always wanting to play boss just because she was older. This time, he had got her!
Okay, so she had whacked him with her new fan for that. The thing was no taller than she was, but neither was he, so it had hurt like hell. He had made a mental note not to annoy her again whenever she carried that thing around with her.
Still, even with all the lecturing and all the beating, she had not managed to drive that opinion out of him. Approaching Gaara was not a good thing, because the little boy was dangerous, despite only being a baby. Right after he had been born, their father had told the two of them to be careful around him because he had a monster within him. They had soon learned not to be near him when they saw the sand floating, and every time they did happen to be in his way by accident, their uncle Yashamaru made sure that they did not get hurt.
But Yashamaru was not here right now. Neither was their father, or Temari-neesan, because it was the day of her acceptance into the academy. Oh, how proud she had been upon hearing that she was ready! He should know, really, because during the last days, she had never stopped bragging about it.
So Yashamaru had been sent to attend the ceremony with her, because their father had to be the one to perform the ceremony in the first place.
He had wanted to come as well, but otousan had told him that there had to be someone to watch Gaara, and that he was to come to the academy immediately if Gaara acted strangely or fell asleep.
He was not sure why, but some time later, he had overheard Yashamaru pleading with his father to send someone else to watch the baby. However, his father had not done so.
Kankurou was proud. His father must have faith in him to trust him with this task!
Well, watching Gaara meant that he was required to at least be in the same room with him. So he had sat down as far away from his baby brother as possible and started to watch him.
Gaara had looked up when he had entered the room, but soon averted his attention to his teddy bear again. The thing sat in his lap, and instead of playing with it, he simply stared at it, as if figuring something out. Or rather trying to figure something out, seeing as he was much too young to accomplish that kind of thing.
Watching the staring Gaara was boring, which was why after a while, he felt kind of sleepy himself and drifted off into a light slumber.
It was not long, though, until he was rudely awakened by a sudden sound. He jerked up, convinced that the monster had come to get him…
But it still was only Gaara, and there was no sand to be seen around him. So what had the noise been?
Gaara was crying.
He frowned. With all the awkward feelings he had towards his baby brother, with all the warnings and lectures he had received from his father – he had never hated Gaara. True, he feared him, and yes, he did everything he could in order not to be near him. But what reason was there to hate his brother? It was not his fault that he was dangerous. It was not his fault that there was a monster in his body, and it was not his fault that their mother had died on the day of his birth. It was not, right? It was true that he sometimes killed people, but he must have been too small on his birthday to do something to his own mother.
He was convinced that it had not been Gaara's fault. He was convinced that their mother's death had been an accident.
Maybe that was why now he found himself doing what he so very much despised.
Approaching Gaara, that was.
"G-Gaara?" he whispered, and upon seeing large tears roll down his baby brother's cheeks, he decided to be a little braver. "Gaara?" he repeated, reaching out to the smaller boy. "What's wrong?"
But before he could touch his brother's hand, like he had intended to, the sand shot up to prevent him from doing so.
He jerked backwards, fear plastered upon his face, but as soon as he had backed away, the sand had vanished as well.
At least it had accomplished one thing – Gaara had stopped crying.
"Kakuro?" was the trembling response. Yes, so he might have stopped crying, but that probably had been out of surprise. With his lips still quivering and his eyes still swimming in tears, it was obvious that he was nowhere near okay yet.
He tried to shake off the feeling of fear that had overcome him. It was true, Gaara had often said that he would kill him – usually, when he was angry or sad – but he had never acted upon those words, which was why it seemed to be safe to stay near him now, even though it still creeped him out every time this kind of thing happened.
"Y-yeah, it's me," he said, not bothering to correct the name. "Gaara… what's wrong with you?"
Gaara rubbed his eye with one hand, making a face. "No one plays with me," he stated.
Okay, this was bad. He had hoped for something like "where neesan", something that was easy to answer, something he could handle. But this kind of thing – how would he explain it to a child of his age? True, he was not much older himself, but the problem was not the understanding part; the problem was that he probably was not good at explaining it in the first place. Why was Yashamaru not here now, he was the one to handle those kind of things!
"Um, l-look…" He reached for the teddy bear and was glad not to have the sand get at him again. "Look here, teddy is playing with you."
"Is not," Gaara argued. "He not talk to me."
"B-because he can't!" He felt sweat forming on his temple. "He… is not a person, so he can't talk."
Gaara pouted. "I want him talk to me!" he demanded.
And he was horrified to see the little one's eyes grow darker and darker with every word.
He stumbled back just in time to avoid getting hit, and closed his eyes in horror upon hearing the shredding noises coming from Gaara's direction.
When it was all over, he dared to crack open an eye again, only to see his most horrendous suspicions manifested.
The teddy bear lay in bits and pieces, its limbs strewn all across the floor. One of the black beetle eyes was still rolling until it came to a halt on the torn carpet.
Gaara looked up at him in confusion. "Teddy dead," he reasoned.
He shuddered. It had not been the first time this had happened. In their attic, they had a whole load of torn teddy bears, all of which Gaara had attacked when certain feelings had overwhelmed him.
"Y-yeah…" he managed. "Teddy dead indeed. B-but I don't think he's angry at you."
He saw an odd shimmer of hope flash up in Gaara's eyes. "Teddy not mad?" He looked down at the sad remains of his plushy. "But why teddy not talk to me?"
Oh, how he had hoped Gaara had forgotten about that question! It was because the "he is not a person" excuse seemed to have made him angry. What else could he say? That was the reason, was it not?
Of course, he knew that Gaara had probably not meant the teddy bear at all – it was not just the plushy, after all. It was about other children their age as well, about the adults talking behind his back and to his face, even about people that did not know him. People in general, everyone. And naturally, there was a certain reason for these people to treat him that way – but how did you explain to a baby that it had a monster in its body?
"W-well, teddy does not talk to you, because…" he started, frantically searching for an answer.
"Cause?" Gaara asked, looking up at him in wonder.
"B-because…" he repeated, taking in his brother's full appearance and finally settling on his face.
"Because you look different!" he lied. And well, Gaara did look different, with the red hair which was so rare here in Suna, but mostly because of the weird black rings around his eyes. He suspected it had something to do with the monster, or maybe Gaara was always tired because he was not allowed to go to sleep.
"Diffwent?" Gaara struggled with the unfamiliar word. "Why I diffwent?"
"It's your face!" he told him. "Nobody else has those rings around their eyes! And otousan says people fear things that are different! Well, I guess that also goes for teddy bears."
Gaara thought about that for a moment. "I not wanna be diffwent!" he then stated, rubbing at his eyes. But upon looking at his fingers afterwards, he made a face, his eyes clouding over with sadness. "But it not get off!"
And there they were again, those large, pearly tears. "Why it not get off?" he sobbed.
And he felt his heart tighten. This little child might be dangerous, yes. He might be lonely and he might be despised by many people, but after all, he was his brother.
Brothers helped each other, did they not?
"You don't have to get it off!" he claimed, standing up and trying to smile down at the smaller boy. "Come with me, I have an idea!"
Gaara stared up at him, once again too surprised to cry on. "What you wanna do?"
"I'll show you!" he said, scanning the room with his eyes, until he had found what he had been searching for. Grinning, he ran over to the small box and opened it.
He knew he was not allowed to use neesan's stuff, and if she found out, she would surely whack him with her fan again. But he felt the urge to help right now, so he would just have to find a way to avoid that stupid thing when she got back.
Gaara had been crawling over to him, taking half of the teddy's torso with him, the largest piece he had been able to find. "What you doin?"
"Ah, here it is!" he exclaimed, pulling out a small container of that face paint stuff. He could have that, he knew that Temari-neesan did not use it anyway. She always said it was too girly for her to use, which he found odd – she was a girl, after all.
"That neesan's!" Gaara seemed to feel the need to inform him.
"I know it's neesan's!" he tried to calm his little brother. "But I need it. You said you don't want to be different anymore, right?"
"I not want!" Gaara confirmed.
Satisfied, he stuck a finger into the weird stuff and looked at it for a moment before rubbing it around his eyes.
"What you doin?" Gaara asked him, confused.
"You're different because you're the only one who looks like that!" he told him. "If there are other people who look like you do, you won't be different anymore!"
Gaara seemed to like that logic, for he dropped the torn teddy bear before also reaching into the paint with his little fingers and smearing the stuff all over his brother's face, leaving hand marks here and there.
He felt the urge to ask Gaara to cut that out – but decided against it.
Gaara was laughing.
Looking back on that day, he remembered many different things, the dead teddy bear and his laughing baby brother being only some of them. Others were his father's deep frown that he sported upon coming back, Yashamaru making fun of his looks, and, indeed, Temari whacking him with her fan. However, she had allowed him to keep the make-up she did not need anyway, and even though his father had been strictly against it at first, he had continued to use it since that day, despite it looking a little awkward on him.
If it made Gaara feel better, so be it.
A/N: Yes, I know that Kankurou's make-up is a reference to Kabuki, but hey, I don't think he wears it just to show that he's a Kabuki lover. I'm aware that I made him a little Nojiko-like (and to everyone who does not know who Nojiko is, better for me), but I only realised this after finishing the story. It was not intentional.
Big question: Would the Kazekage have left the two boys alone? I say yes. There wasn't anyone who could have kept Gaara in check, so it didn't matter who watched him. He as Kazekage couldn't constantly have an eye on his own son, so I guess it's safe to say that even as a baby, Gaara was often all alone. Furthermore, the Kazekage didn't really strike me as the type who cares much about his children, so leaving Kankurou with Gaara would not have been that big a concern to him.
Usually, I beta my stories myself, but this was betaed by lotus blossom, so a big thanks to her! I changed some things afterwards, though, so if you come across any errors, those are mine to keep. :D
And again, reviews and constructive criticism are welcome.