Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters used in this story.

Beginnings of Brotherhood

"And so he killed his brother and became the sole ruler of the newly discovered land. His tribe named it after him, and he was remembered as the strongest warrior of their time," Kankuro finished his tale.

Gaara sat behind a desk across from him in their father's study, several old books piled on either side. "This is a common…bedtime story in the village?"

"Sure. Temari and I heard it all the time when we were kids."

"Yet, today no one knows this man's name, what land he discovered, or even if he truly existed. He killed his only remaining family out of greed and lust for power. He forced a deep loneliness upon himself, and years later no one is certain if he was even real."

Kankuro scratched the back of his head. "I never thought of it like that before. There are several names used, but the point of the story was always this guy's determination to surpass all opponents without letting his emotions or any other weaknesses get in the way."

"It shouldn't have been worth the loss of his brother, this person who had been with him his whole life."

Kankuro looked away. "You wouldn't think so." An awkward silence passed between them.

Gaara turned away as well and studied the cover of one of his books. Neither understood why they suddenly felt less at ease. "You said they got along before that…incident?"

"They were best friends. Inseparable even."

"They couldn't share power in this new land?"

The puppeteer shrugged. "I guess not. Look, it's probably just a story someone made up to tell future shinobi."

"Hmm," Gaara murmured and flipped through another book.

Kankuro sighed. He looked at his younger brother's impassive expression and wished he knew what Gaara was thinking. "I don't know any popular stories from our village with a different theme, but I could tell you about…something else. It's not like you'll need to know any of these fairytales when you become Kazekage."

"No, but I'll need to convince the council that I understand the people of this village. And that I'm not a threat to them."

"Those self-righteous idiots will give you a hard time no matter what you do."

"I know." Gaara engrossed himself in another book.

Kankuro sat in a large chair and sighed, uncomfortable again now that there was nothing to talk about. These odd silences happened often when he spent time with his brother. They still didn't know how to act around each other. He wondered if Gaara would notice if he got up and left the room.

As he was about to do just that, Gaara asked him, "Is the council considering anyone else? Will I have competition?" His eyes stayed locked in his book.

"Not that I know of. But Baki would have a better idea."

Gaara raised his head and found his brother's eyes. "Have you ever considered becoming the Kazekage?"

The older boy stiffened, taken aback by the question. "Nah," he laughed tensely. "Too much paperwork." Gaara kept staring at him as if he did not quite believe this. Kankuro shook his head. "I remember watching Dad in the role when I was a kid. The decisions he made… His whole attitude… I never wanted to become like that."

Gaara nodded. He seemed satisfied with the answer and looked away again. The brothers once more had nothing to talk about. Their minds drifted towards similar thoughts. Both still feared at times that the other still, if not outright hated, at least disliked him.

Gaara had become far more approachable after his defeat in Konoha. Kankuro no longer received death threats. His brother had become more respectful, if not warm, towards his siblings, and Kankuro felt truly honored to be the first to learn of his dream to become the Kazekage. But all of that hatred… It had built up over so many years. Where had those feelings gone? One fight could not have erased it all. Gaara might act more civilly, but Kankuro was convinced his brother could not like or care for him now. Maybe he never would.

However, Kankuro could not stop himself from hoping. He desperately wanted to become important to his little brother.

He did not realize that Gaara had similar fears. After years of such cruel treatment, why would his older brother forgive him? How could he overcome that past? Could he really trust someone else again?

More importantly, Kankuro did not know that when Gaara decided to change his life, he began noticing certain characteristics his brother possessed that he admired. He was intrigued at the older boy's persistence in reaching out to him, and eventually some of his loneliness vanished. As they spent more time together, he began to understand the value of a bond with another person.

Perhaps their relationship would grow stronger. Perhaps one day they would find the courage to say how they felt. Neither sibling quite dared to hope for this just yet.

Gaara looked up at Kankuro again. "I noticed you were about to leave before. I don't want to bother you if there's somewhere else you'd prefer to be." He face remained neutral, but something in his tone told the other that he did not want him to go.

Kankuro no longer felt any inclination to leave. "No, I'd rather sit with you for a while." He might have imagined it, but the puppet master could have sworn he saw a glint of gratitude pass through his brother's eyes. He grinned and leaned back luxuriously in his chair. For now, they could at least take comfort in each other's company.