Please Don't Eat Me!
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
At the end of their second day of the three-day return trip to Suna, Kankuro glanced over at Gaara to see if it looked like he was paying them any attention – it didn't, but that didn't necessarily mean anything as it never really looked like he did – and decided to risk it. "Temari?" he said quietly. "I'm scared."
"Because it could be said that we are the reason the invasion failed as we couldn't make Gaara calm down or keep him away from the Konoha nin and Orochimaru replaced our Kazekage and tricked us into destroying our Alliance with Konoha, which apparently has possesses ninja our age capable of taking down Gaara?" Temari guessed. It was a fairly reasonable hypothesis considering the failed invasion was the reason the three former Kazekage's children were hurrying back to Suna alone.
Kankuro shrugged. "Yeah, all of that's pretty bad, but I mostly just meant that last part."
Temari nodded sagely. "I know what you mean. That guy seemed so hopeless when he only managed to take down that mediocre dog boy down via farting at an opportune moment and then a month later he beats Gaara? That's some turnaround."
"I actually meant that last last part," Kankuro corrected.
"I thought that was the last part," Temari said, tilting her head to the side in confusion.
Kankuro gave a long-suffering sigh. "Must I spell this out for you?"
"That would be nice," Temari said dryly. "Or, of course, you could try actually making sense. Either's fine by me."
"What are we usually scared of?" Kankuro asked patiently.
"Your propensity to cover your face in makeup and dress up like a cat?" Temari offered innocently.
"Temari!" Kankuro cried, his eye twitching.
"Oh, right," Temari exclaimed in faux-realization. "That's just me."
"Gaara," Kankuro said slowly.
"Gaara?" Temari repeated, a little less confused than she had been a moment ago, but not much. "He's usually extremely terrifying, yes, but he hasn't threatened us even indirectly in nearly two days. He even apologized to us!"
Kankuro nodded enthusiastically. "Exactly! What's up with that?"
Temari stared at her brother incredulously. "You have a problem with his apologizing for making us live in fear of our own little brother for all of these years?"
"When I don't understand why, then yes. Yes I do. Trying to figure out why and failing is really freaking me out here," Kankuro declared.
"Would you rather he didn't apologize and continued terrorizing us?" Temari asked rhetorically.
"Of course not!" Kankuro answered anyway. "But if I don't understand why then I don't know that he means it or if he does that he'll continue to mean it tomorrow. He's not exactly the most stable of people."
"You have a point," Temari conceded. "Not a good one, I don't think, but a point nonetheless. Let's see…he did fight that bright orange guy right before he had his change of heart. I think his name was 'Naruto'."
"What does that have to do with anything? He's fought other people before and no mystery apologies have been forthcoming," Kankuro pointed out.
"Has he lost to these other people?" Temari asked.
"No," Kankuro admitted. "But why would losing a fight convince him that he's been going about things the wrong way? I've lost plenty of fights and they've never taught me anything except how I can improve my fighting style. Or to never touch your fan without asking."
"And that is something that is invaluable in your continued existence," Temari informed him matter-of-factly. "As to Gaara…I don't know; I didn't see all of the fight. That Naruto guy started yelling at him about how he wouldn't let him kill his friends and waxed poetic for a bit about the joys of caring about other people."
"And that convinced him to apologize because…?" Kankuro pressed, still not getting it. But then, his biggest interaction with Naruto he'd been trying to pump the boy for information and the kid had told him he didn't know what he was talking about but that he didn't like him.
"Who knows?" Temari shrugged. "I'm already aware of the values of caring about people and not killing the people around you indiscriminatingly – and so are you presumably – so maybe I just wouldn't get it. That doesn't mean it's not effective for people who haven't grasped that, though."
"That continues to make no sense," Kankuro replied before reluctantly continuing. "But…I suppose the same sort of thing happened when Naruto beat that Hyuuga prodigy."
"So what? Defeat equals friendship?" Temari was skeptical. Defeat had never left her with warm fuzzy feelings, especially when the person she'd lost to was as clearly sexist as that lazy Shikamaru character had been.
"Apparently," Kankuro confirmed. "This would probably make more sense had he defeated us. Hey, do you think this works for everyone who is facing a caring-challenged individual or just Naruto?"
"Probably just Naruto," Temari decided. "Or at least just Konoha nin, otherwise we'd probably have encountered it before."
"I wish we hadn't had to leave so suddenly," Kankuro said wistfully, which was surprising given how much he'd complained about being in Konoha since before they had even arrived. "This would be so much easier if we could just ask Naruto about this Therapy Jutsu of his."
Temari raised an eyebrow at this. "Therapy Jutsu?"
"What?" Kankuro asked defensively. "It's fitting. He fights people and it rids them of their issues. Seriously, he should start charging or something…"
"I doubt that would occur to him or that he'd understand how he's doing this for that matter. He seems kind of like an idiot," Temari reminded him.
"Maybe we're just making a big deal about nothing. It could just be a fluke. Do you think Gaara would know more?" Kankuro wondered.
Temari nodded. "Probably. You should ask him."
"I'm not going to ask him," Kankuro said stubbornly.
"I can hear everything you say," Gaara deigned to inform them that he was, in fact, paying attention to what they were saying.
Kankuro jumped. "Please don't eat us!"
Gaara blinked, puzzled. "Please don't eat you? Have I ever threatened to eat someone before?"
"I don't think so," Temari told him after thinking the matter over. "At any rate, you've never threatened me with that. Maybe he means 'don't let your sand eat me'?"
"Sand doesn't eat people," Gaara said blankly.
"Kankuro has a bit of a flair for the dramatic," Temari explained. "You get used to it."
"I'm still here, you know," Kankuro told them, annoyed.
"Then you explain your idiosyncrasies," Temari ordered.
Kankuro took a deep breath. "If you could refrain from killing or even maiming me, that would be great."
"I will," Gaara promised.
"Oh, God, we're all going to die!" Kankuro wailed.
"I think he means that he will refrain from killing or even maiming you," Temari corrected, a little amused.
"Your misplaced and frankly delusional optimism is adorable, Temari," Kankuro said shortly, eying his brother warily.
Temari's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Oh, I know you didn't just call me 'adorable.' And I'm not too happy with being called 'delusional', either."
"I would apologize but seeing as I will soon be dead or possibly just maimed there doesn't seem much point," Kankuro replied flippantly.
"I have no intention of hurting you," Gaara attempted to clarify.
Instead of assuaging the puppet wielder, however, this assurance only served to horrify him further. "Gaara's branching out into mercy killing? Oh God…now we're all definitely going to die. Here's a hint: if gushing blood is involved, it generally hurts the person doing the bleeding."
Gaara closed his eyes, counted to ten slowly in his head, and tried again. "Let me rephrase that: I currently have no intention of killing or even maiming you."
"Right now?" Kankuro latched onto that last part. "So tomorrow we could wake up dead? Or not wake up at all as the case may be?"
Temari rolled her eyes and swatted Kankuro on the head. "I would say that misplaced and frankly delusional paranoia is adorable, Kankuro, but it's not. It's annoying."
"I am sorry that it is so difficult to believe that I am not going to attack you at any moment," Gaara said softly, looking at the ground.
Kankuro took that opportunity to mouth 'ANOTHER apology? I'm scared again' to Temari, who ignored him.
"As long as that is a thing of the past, I'm sure all can be forgiven," Temari said diplomatically. She hesitated. "Do you mind telling us what brought all this on?"
"It is difficult to explain. Naruto…" Gaara trailed off, searching for the right words. "He made me see everything in a different light. A better light. I owe him a great deal."
"By defeating you?" Temari asked, wondering if she'd somehow missed something during the fight.
Gaara inclined his head. "If that is how you wish to see it, then yes."
"Temari…" Kankuro sounded like he was freaking out again, although he might never have stopped. "This 'Naruto' guy is sounding more and more like a cult leader."
Temari wanted to tell him he was being ridiculous, but…"Well, maybe just a little."
"Listen, Gaara, you know I love you but if you start wearing nothing but orange and acting like an idiot, I will refuse to admit that we're related," Kankuro warned. "I mean, it looks bad enough on him but with your hair…" he shuddered.
Gaara blinked rapidly. "You…love me? After everything I've done? But…why?"
Temari sensed that this was a turning point and that Kankuro would probably say something stupid so she quickly stepped in. "Of course we love you! You're our little brother and that's all the reason we need. It may not always be easy, but things will get better."
"Um, hello? About the cult thing?" Kankuro tried to bring their attention back to what he felt was the more pressing topic, but to no avail. His siblings were having a 'moment.' "I swear, you people never listen to me…"