A/N: what in God's good name am I doing?! Were the hell is this cheesy, mushy, fluffy crap coming from? AND WHY CAN'T I GET THIS PAIRING OUTTA MY HEAD AND OFF MY FINGERTIPS? Damn it all! In my own mind, it's become canon and absolute. How sick is that? I need a therapist… or not, since that spells 'the rapist'. Heh, heh… Celebrity Jeopardy. Good times, good times. Hurray for the 'Sean Connery' of the show.
-ahem- Just bear with me, people. I promise this foxycoon phase will pass.… eventually. (sigh)
Oh, and I want everyone who knows me to Google 'Gaaracasm'… guess where it leads you to? One link, and one certain chapter of a certain story, huhu. (which reminds me: someone said they saw my word on another website something that starts with an 'm', I think… yeah, I dunno). Are you guys spreading it around like I told you to? I SURE HOPE SO! :D
Now, on with my mini-ficlet.
Warning: some sand sib fluff ahead (OMG NU WAI!). And shounen-ai later on, duhh. -winkwink- Oh, and for Naruto's apartment in chapter three: I had to look at a diagram of it by the artist, LOL. I totally forgot some things about his room and the layout of things. It's such a simple-looking residence, really…
They say you can't truly understand something until you experience it for yourself.
I'm determined to prove that theory.
It's an unusual night. Oddly, it had begun normal enough: paperwork dragging on into the evening after some meetings from the afternoon, Temari hassling me about getting some sleep now that I'm technically able to without consequences, and Kankurou coming in with news about our allies, the shinobi of Konohagakure.
But things had turned unusual the second my older brother told us the specific news. The first sign of abnormality: he was pacing wildly. Kankurou never paces; he's not the nervous type.
Immediately, I clear my mind and open my ears, my body on alert. What could possibly be making the great puppet master so uneasy? I have to know.
"Kankurou?" Temari inquires, her tone asking an entire question with one name. Now I see where I get the same talent from. 'What the hell is going on?' her tone is saying. And her body language is speaking impatiently. 'Spit it out.'
Slowly his pace, my brother tosses off his black hood and ruffles his hair. He smudges his red-purple face paint as he runs a seemingly sweaty palm down his features. "Alright. I just some news from the messenger hawk center at the wall." He releases a slow breath. "We have to evacuate."
I raise one of my hairless eyebrows, mild curiosity flashing across my face, I'm sure. "Whatever for?" Normally I would wait for him to explain, but I have a feeling he needs prodding. I'm proven right.
"Uh… well… according to what I read and was told, it's not going to be safe here in the next month. So Konoha offered it's doors, saying we could move our minute population there for the time being; at least until Suna is safe to live in again," he says so hurriedly I have to glance at Temari to ask for a translation. She doesn't even acknowledge me. Instead, she gulps and voices a question of her own.
"From what threat? What's coming, Kankurou?"
He shakes his head tiredly. "The worst storm in desert history." My sister and I wait for him to wet his dry lips and elaborate; obviously, we can't understand what the big deal is. We've had plenty of sandstorms in the past. How can this one be any different? Kankurou sits down roughly on the couch I have near the bookshelf in my office. "Last week, there was an enormous earthquake triggered by an explosion somewhere far away from here. None of us felt the aftershock because it had been in the middle of the night when we were sleeping. But the earthquake rattled loose a whole mountain worth of sandy soil, and because of the monsoon season coming, the wind has been steadily picking up and bringing all that sand with it. And if all that sand blisters through Sunagakure with all that rain, we'd be buried in a landslide!"
I cock my head slightly. Reading my thoughts, Temari asks with knitted brows: "How is all that earth supposed to travel so far this way? You're making no sense, Kankurou."
He sighs. "I know. I know. I'm sorry. But the stuff I'm talking about isn't miles away, okay? The earthquake moved the ground upwards and broke apart, see? And the shockwaves went through the ground and is heading right for us! Don't you get it? It's close to us, right in the very desert around us. And since it's loosened so much, the high winds can just whisk it away. And once we're covered in sand, the rains will come, and we'll be up to our noses in mud! We have to leave before that happens." Kankurou emphasizes.
My interest peaks and I stand from my desk. "Then we will schedule for an evacuation at once. I'll make an appearance tomorrow and announce the situation to everyone. Then, in two weeks' time, we can be locked away safely behind Konoha's gates."
My brother bows, a sigh of relief emerging. "Thank Kami," he mutters. He glimpses at Temari and I before heading out to no doubt alert the council. "And thank you, too, Gaara."
I nod once and watch him leave. Temari turns to me. "Quite the fiasco, ne?"
"But an easily avoided one," I reply. I collect my papers and save the rest for tomorrow. With the arrangements needed to be made, I have to have time to think. And the best place to complete that task is to go to my old sanctuary of the night: the rooftops.
I feel my sister's gaze track me as I wander to the balcony of my bedroom. She leans against the doorframe. She shakes her head and crosses her arms as she leans. "Going to pull another all-nighter and plan things out, Gaara?"
I nod my head, and vaguely feel my bangs tickle the right side of my forehead; something I'm not used to, since for so long, I had a layer of thick sand armor protecting my skin. Funny how many jutsus you lose when over half the chakra in your body is taken from you. And how much control you lose when you don't have a demon of your jutsu's element inside you any longer. Not that I missed the Tanuki; he was in no means a pleasant guest in my body, but I do miss the feeling of protection. Now I felt physically weak. But not mentally; which is why I had to spend the entire night thinking all this over. It's a very unexpected and unfortunate turn of events.
Temari sighs. "I wish you wouldn't push yourself like that. Isn't nearly sixteen years of sleepless nights enough? Can't you relax? I worry about you," she tells me gently. 'Gentle' not being used lightly, since Temari is rarely ever such a thing.
"It's a hard habit to break," I supply as an answer and hop onto the railing of the balcony. I feel my Kazekage robes blow and tap against the balcony's rails. The dry wind licks at my face, and I notice it's chilly tonight from a relatively cool day (by desert standards).
"That's a lie," Temari snorts. "You just don't want to have another nightmare." She takes a step forward. "Do you want me to do something to help?"
I pause a moment to bite the inside of my lower lip, a gesture unseen by my older sister. Without denying her accusation, I mutter, "It's not something you can help someone with," before disappearing. I leap to a few footholds – like windowsills and the rims of this or that – until I'm on the top of the Kazekage mansion. The silvery half circle of the moon is dustily hidden by some clouds filing in from the north. I squint at them, my eyes narrowed with anger. Those clouds for once are bringing a rain more detrimental than beneficial, and it frustrates me. While part of me is intrigued by the possibilities open to me for staying in the Leaf for however long it'll take until Suna is livable again (which could be months, who knows?), most of me at the moment is about to stab something. I don't mind making plans; that's the easy part of this mess. The hard part is getting everyone to cooperate and finding places for an entire village worth of people to reside for the temporary time. What are the people of Konoha going to do? Take us into their homes? Put us in tents in their forest, or in the spare places inside the gates? It's such a hassle, and frankly, I'm much too tired to come up with anything. For once, I need assistance.
Collapsing onto the roof, I rub my temples and exhale heavily. Soon after, my hands drop to my lap. I fist the fabric of my clothing. It feels coarser than usual. I decide I don't need to wear the outermost cloak, and I discard it behind me in a ball, and lean back onto it like a pillow. The stars are still glistening in the vast navy blue on this portion of the sky, and I spy a constellation or two. I try looking for the constellation I made as a child that I named 'uzu', because it was in a perfect chain of stars in a swirly shape. Is it even visible this time of the year? Ah, it is… there, I see it, spiraling down almost directly at me. The center star that makes up uzu winks at me.
Suddenly, I'm reminded of Naruto. The swirls he always wears, and the first syllable of his last name: 'uzu', like my stars. Hmm, Uzumaki Naruto… I haven't seen the blonde since we parted ways some months ago, although as to how many, I lost count. It's almost my birthday, however, so perhaps half a year? I'm not sure. It hardly matters. And yet, I find my fingers twitching irritably and my heart dimly aching upon thinking about him. I automatically take it as a feeling of missing a dear friend, which he's become to me. But that doesn't sound exactly right.
Dismissing those thoughts, I briefly close my eyes and ponder what I'm going to say tomorrow to the people I watch over. Even after being named Kazekage, half of the villagers didn't trust me with the title due to the fact that I am – I mean, was – a Jinchuuriki. Following my abduction and return, however, those opinions of the older citizens changed when they learned Shukaku had been removed. So my speech shouldn't need too many words; if I simply explain the situation and our tact for handling it, they should buy my reasoning without my having to persuade them. At least, I hope for this.
I feel a yawn erupt from my throat, and I try to clamp my jaw to stop it. But it overpowers me, and I make a small noise. How late is it now? Perhaps I should go to bed. I'm not doing much at the moment, anyhow.
Alas, it feels as though my body has transformed into sludge, for I find myself unable to move and my lungs beginning to rise and fall at a steady rate. And my eyelids feel too heavy to even lift. It's been a while since I've been this… exhausted…
At one point, I'm vaguely conscious of the footfalls near my body. I smell perfume, lightly breezing across my nostrils from the wind, and recognize it to be my sister's. Any panic I might've had of the intruder being an enemy vanishes. I hear her speaking to someone. "Come on, help me lift him."
I'm about to awake and protest, but then I hear a smile in a male voice replying to the fan-wielder. "My pleasure; I've always wanted to do this." It's Kankurou. Distantly, I wonder what he means. That's when I feel arms encircle my knees and armpits. My siblings are carrying me to bed; if I were more awake, I probably would flush and tell them I could do it myself. I don't know why, but physical contact like this unnerves me. I never let it occur in the past; and a majority of that time my siblings had been too afraid to do even attempt any sort of affectionate touch. So this is new to me.
When I open my eyes to sunlight in the morning, my shoes are missing, along with the thicker layers of my clothing. I have sheets tucked up under my chin and the mattress around me feels cold; did I not move a muscle during my slumber? I feel fully rested, but as though I had slept like the dead. This is an expression I wince at, reminding myself those aren't the best words since I have died once already. The memory of such empty whiteness and a surreal sense of seeing myself outside of myself… I involuntarily shudder.
I toss off the covers and dress, not bothering to shower this morning. I descend the stairs to the meeting room, and find the council assembled and waiting for me. "We thought we'd let you rest, Kazekage-sama," one of the men – an old mentor of mine named Baki – informs me.
I settle into my seat at the head of the round table and fold my hands in my lap. "I assume you all heard the disastrous news," I begin.
They collectively nod.
"Then I can also assume you don't mind the final decision," I test, watching each individual expression that crosses the faces around me. A few men are stubborn, I've learned, and don't like the Leaf very much.
"Well, er, that's why we wanted to meet with you, Kazekage Gaara-sama," Baki says, clearing his throat. "Some of the councilmen are hesitant to evacuate all the villagers to a place so far away, and so different than what they're used to."
I look down at the wood patterns on the table. I lower my voice, meaning to capture their attention. "Then where else do you suggest we go? I do not see any strong, respectable villages closer to us than Konohagakure, nor any that are our esteemed allies. I agree that it's very different than our way of life here, but no one is quite the same, since no where else is in an oasis in the middle of a desert. But if you think you can choose a place better… then be my guest. But unless you've forgotten, we can't be left out in the open in some place we think is secure and abandoned. Enemies lurk everywhere these days."
I hate having to speak so much. The more I say, no matter what the circumstance, opens windows for my emotions to leak through. People know me as the stoic, dependable leader who is calm and stony-faced about everything, and little speeches could break that reputation. And I'm not about to let that happen. I've come too far to build a solid relationship with this village to have it all come crumbling down.
I catch a few members of the council swallowing hard. They clearly heard the small threat in my tone, and don't dare disagree with me. In fact, one man murmurs: "You're right; what were we thinking?" and another says, "How foolish. Of 'course." And yet another: "We were wrong to doubt you." And finally: "Shall we tell the population?"
Nodding my head and standing, I tell them, "Yes, and as soon as possible. If you could get everyone in the square by one o'clock today, I will give a speech and explain everything."
They mutter their agreement. "When should we depart for Konoha?" one man wants to know.
I pause in the doorway. "Tomorrow, send a hawk saying we will arrive in a couple weeks. We can't afford to have that storm arrive early." I then retreat to my office to wrap up the papers I have yet to read over from the previous night.