Okay, my first Naruto oneshot. Tell me if you think I should change the rating.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
Gaara knew that neither one of his siblings held anything even remotely resembling grief for the death of the Kazekage. Their so-called father.
"Our father has died," Temari said tonelessly. Her face was even; no signs of tears marred her smooth skin.
"Your father. Kankuro's father. Never mine!" Gaara hissed.
As they led the procession, Gaara was aware of the eyes of all the citizens of Suna upon the three of them. Scanning their faces for signs of grief. Gaara knew that if they were expecting any, they would be disappointed.
Kankuro was grinning like a lunatic. He'd removed the coarse black cap with the cat ears he always wore into battle, but the lanky teenage boy had point blank refused to remove his purple face paint. Secretly, that filled Gaara with a strange emotion. Lately, he had realized it to be relief. Deep down, he didn't want Kankuro to look like the Kazekage.
Temari behaved with more decorum. Her face was solemn and still; her chin upraised, she neither stared forward or below, choosing again to keep her eyes at a level where they couldn't meet the eyes of any of the village's people. The hem of her long black kimono whispered in the slight evening breeze.
Gaara carried the rear, staring at his brother's back, careful to keep his eyes there. The sight of hate and fear on the faces of the villagers, undiminished, if anything intensified, was not something he was prepared to deal with at the moment.
Why should any of them feel sorrow for the ruined remains of the man that sat in a closed casket even now? There were no tears being shed for the Kazekage by anyone in the crowd; they had no reason to hold anguish over his death. The Kazekage's ruthless practices had very nearly brought Suna to its knees.
It was hard to think about. Gaara's mind did not want to focus on the matter that loomed like an elephant—no, like a mastodon—in the room.
What if? Gaara didn't like to think about "what-if's". His life had been a tragedy of "what-if's". But would he, would they be acting, feeling differently if the Kazekage had actually been a father to them?
Cry? For him? Gaara could have shuddered at the very notion of it. He and Kankuro and Temari had agreed, silently agreed, that between them nary a tear would ever be shed for the Yondaime Kazekage.
But what about pain? Would he be feeling that knot in his stomach, that tightening in his chest? When Yashamaru died, these feeling flared up inside of him, though they were quickly cooled and replaced by wave upon wave of copper-smelling sand. Temari had cried noisily and Kankuro had barricaded himself in his room for days, coming out only for the sake of his stomach. That they were hurting the then six-year-old Gaara was all too aware, and vaguely did he comprehend that he was in some way responsible. But this awareness was soon snuffed out by bloodlust and apathy.
These feelings, they were coming back. Everything he'd attempted to drown in blissful black for so many years had returned, roiling through the cracks in his subconscious. The grating voice of Shukaku was dimming, having to share Gaara's mind with something else: emotion.
Gaara felt like he was going to choke. He had to find some distraction.
Gaara's eyes flickered as they rested upon Temari's face. Utterly inscrutable, her solemn face was a mystery. He could not fathom what was going through the young kunoichi's mind.
In truth, Temari was experiencing a flurry of memories. She was remembering the blood that seeped from a newly engraved "Ai". She recalled the terrifying vision of a brown-haired boy roughly seven years old writhing and thrashing on a hospital bed as poison coursed through his veins, remembering the horror that rose like bile in the back of her throat. She dredged up the memory of the pain that caused a jagged scar to snake across her belly, the path carved by a thrown shuriken. As these images and sensations flashed through her mind, her wide eyes narrowed, flashing like emeralds, hardening like glass.
Gaara stared at her, mesmerized by the changes taking place on his sister's face, before finally drawing up the will to tear his eyes away.
He bowed his head, deep in thought, until Gaara was aware of yet another set of eyes on him. He looked up. Kankuro had his head turned round to check on his younger brother. The slightly manic grin splitting his face and distorting his kabuki paint had slacked off to a weak smile.
He's smiling? At me? A warm feeling, foreign and alien, but not unpleasant, rose in the young genin's chest. He could not for the life of him put a name to this feeling, but he possessed the suspicion that whatever it was, it was very important. Gaara attempted to smile in return, but all he was able to manage was a half-hearted grimace.
Kankuro seemed to understand though, his eyes filling with laughter before turning back to face forward.
His puppeteer brother was usually a great deal easier to read than Temari. Kankuro almost always wore his emotions displayed on his face, hence the imperative need for his purple kabuki face paint.
But now, Kankuro's face rivaled Temari's for its unreadable qualities. They may as well have been wearing ANBU masks. Kankuro, like Temari, was not giving away his thoughts to the crowd.
The young puppet master was thinking of all the times as a child that he had woken up in the middle of the night, not knowing whether it was his brother, Temari, or himself crying. He was thinking of the mother he'd never known. Of the uncle he'd lost and the father he'd never had.
Gaara frowned. His brother's face was as wistfully pleasant as before, but something dark and ugly had, for just a fleeting moment, crossed it like a shadow.
The avaricious and selfish actions of one man, now mercifully dead, had virtually destroyed an entire family. Karura, dead, cursing everyone in her village down to the smallest infant nursing at his mother's breast, hoping that her youngest son would grow to be his father's bane. Yashamaru, driven mad by grief and rage, accepting an order to kill one whom he should have loved and protected, driven to commit an act of murder doomed to failure. Temari and Kankuro, embittered and angry at the world, just now starting to see that hated world in a different light. Gaara, barely sane, his froze emotions only now being put on defrost, his emotional state brittle and fragile from years of suppression.
When Gaara's memories came to the forefront, they were not of long lonely nights or the torture of demonic possession and persecution. He was not thinking of how the Kazekage had ordered that a monster be sealed within him, or how the man had callously sacrificed his mother to do so.
He remembered looking at his brother and sister with a lost expression in his eyes, and asking, "If not to kill, then why am I alive?"
And Kankuro had spoken for both of them when he said, "We're not entirely sure why any of us are alive. But we'll always be here to help you find out."
Gaara knew that he was no longer a part of the past his siblings longed to escape. Instead, he was a part of the future they wished to build.
He had no idea what the purpose of his existence was. But he had some inclination to believe that that warm feeling, like sleeping on the inside of a familiar blanket, had a great deal to do with it. He wasn't quite sure what to do with that feeling, but he had two siblings to help him discover it in every detail.
He had every reason to hate the Kazekage.
But in dying, the man had returned one very important thing to Gaara: his family. The only thing he ever did for me, or for any of us, was die.
Gaara looked up and shivered, rubbing his arms. It had gotten cold outside. The sun was going down. The three Sand siblings moved to go inside, flanking each other closely.
It was a strange truth; the child of the Kazekage that had more reasons to hate him than either of his siblings came the closest to actually mourning for him. I have a family again. And I suppose I owe you that much.
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