-AU- An assassination attempt on ten year old Gaara is successful, and Temari and Kankurou mourn for the brother they never really had.
Temari's bookcase was mostly filled with books and scrolls on various jutsu, with a few history books, a few botany books, and one small photo album her mother used to keep. In that photo album were only pictures of toddler-aged Temari and Kankurou, of their much younger and happier parents, of the time before her mother died and Gaara was born.
(There were few pictures taken of Temari and Kankurou, much less of the whole family, after Gaara's birth.)
At the back of that photo album is stuffed the three pictures they had found in Gaara's room. Temari and Kankurou never took them out, never looked at the pictures after that day, but the pictures were still there, nevertheless. They were there, as the Kazekage got rid of the last traces of his mistakes and made it seemed they never happened, and as most of Suna eventually forgot the monster that walked their streets.
Temari and Kankurou did not forget, though, and that was the closest to a remembrance and funeral they could – and were willing – to give Gaara.
Gaara was gone, and it seemed a lot of Suna's problems and bad luck went with him. Morale rose and so did the number of shinobi in Suna. The more than satisfactory job Gaara did with the extermination of the steppe nomads got Suna the Wind Daimyo's approval and a few more missions.
And when Konohagakure no Sato, the Village Hidden in the Leaves, was attacked and half destroyed by Orochimaru and his allied forces of the Sound and Waterfall Villages, Suna received even more missions and their funding back once Konoha was seen as weak by the Wind daimyo. Plus, as Konoha's allies, Suna helped with the rebuilding, and Konoha was indebted to them.
(How happy the Kazekage was, seeing the village that caused had Suna so much trouble, that caused him to create Gaara and all the misfortune the boy brought, weak and depending on their help)
Temari at thirteen became chuunin, on her first try at the exam. Less than a year after that, she was leading her own teams and on her way to becoming jounin. She was promoted to jounin at age fifteen.
Kankurou failed his exam the first time, trained like crazy, trained until he can use two puppets, Karasu and Kuroari, and finally became chuunin a year later at his second exam. At sixteen, he was jounin and the second best puppeteer in Sunagakure after (old Chiyo still held the title of number one, no matter how senile and inactive she was).
Then, when the mysterious organization Akatsuki began growing prominent and threatening the Five Great Shinobi Nations, the two met Uzumaki Naruto.
When a Jinchuuriki dies, the bijuu sealed in him or her dies as well, but isn't quite gone forever. As a being of pure chakra, it's naturally revived a few years later, in its natural environment, though weaken and not a threat for a few more years, when it regains enough strength to be able to attack villages again.
Gaara died six years ago. It was very likely that Shukaku had materialized again, somewhere in the desert, but weak and hiding. The terrorist organization Akatsuki, who was apparently trying to gathering up the nine bijuu, the nine tailed beasts for most likely nefarious reasons, was surely looking for it. It was in the best interest of both the Leaf and Sand to find Shukaku, seal it and guard it before the Akatsuki gets their hands on it.
Because of that, tons of letters were sent back and forth from the Kazekage to the Hokage, until they reached an agreement to have a team from each of their villages go on a joint mission to look for the Ichibi, Shukaku, capture it, seal it and have Suna guard it. With only three of the nine bijuu left, it was important Shukaku does not get taken as well.
As former siblings of the Ichibi jinchuuriki, and therefore most familiar with Shukaku (unfortunately), Temari and Kankurou got roped into the joint mission. With them were their former sensei, Baki, who was also familiar with Shukaku, and Chiyo, the most experienced seal expert in Suna, persuaded to come along after being told her grandson Sasori was part of the Akatsuki duo looking for the Ichibi. Also along for the trip were two other teams of jounin and chuunin.
"I wish we knew about all this before we killed Gaara." Kankurou muttered to Temari as they sat in Kankurou's room, polishing and preparing their weapons for mission. "Then maybe we wouldn't have to go combing the desert for that damn Shukaku for the next few weeks."
"What would we have done with an alive Gaara?" Temari asked. "At the rate he was going, he would have lost it completely one day and destroyed everything. You know how he hated the village."
Kankurou snorted. "The 'I exist to kill everyone' bullshit; yeah, I remember. I meant we could have extracted the bijuu, kept it nicely sealed in its pot and not have to go through all this. I don't even know how the hell we'll take on the whole Shukaku – Gaara was hard enough to kill as it is."
"They say a bijuu is weaker without a human host. Less intelligence, or something. In any case, Kazekage-sama told us that the Leaf has agreed to send shinobi that can deal with this type of thing."
"Maybe they'll send their own jinchuuriki. Konoha has the kyuubi, doesn't it?"
"They wouldn't send a jinchuuriki when it is jinchuuriki the Akatsuki are looking for." Temari replied flatly.
She sighed. "I don't know how you made jounin – you're still such an idiot."
"An idiot wouldn't have made Head Puppeteer at sixteen, would he?" He retorted. "You're just too smart for your own good."
"You're right. You're not an idiot; you're just a puppet geek." Temari smiled a little.
After Gaara, after the tension and each-person-for-themselves mentality, they have grown closer. Not teammates that have to put up with Suna's jinchuuriki – but brother and sister.
(But both of them know – in the best scenario, it would have been two brothers and a sister)
Kankurou did not reply. There was silence, until he asked, "He's better off dead, isn't he?"
If they could talk about him like this, talk about Gaara's life like a thing that did not matter, then…
Temari's voice was utterly devoid of emotion. "Probably."
Turned out, Kankurou was right. Konoha did send their jinchuuriki, a blonde loudmouth named Uzumaki Naruto. With him was his team leader, the (in)famous Hakate Kakashi, a jounin called Yamato, a medic-nin named Haruno Sakura, and the Uchiha Sasuke.
The Suna group all had found out when Naruto decided to punch a chuunin right in the face after the chuunin had given his opinion about the decreased monster and good riddance he's gone during a debriefing.
"Naruto!" Pink-haired (How the hell is that possible, Kankurou had thought the first time he saw her) Sakura had hissed. "You can't go around attacking our allies!"
"He– He–" the blond struggled uselessly against Kakashi's grip, angrily pointing at the chuunin who was currently nursing a broken nose. "That bastard shouldn't talk about him that way!"
"Why the hell do you care?" One of the Sand jounin sneered. "He's right. It's a good thing that thing dead."
"Unless…you're just like him?" The jounin continued. Naruto's threatening growl was all the answer he needed. The man laughed bitterly. "What's this? Some kind of demon kinship? You're a monster just like him!"
"I'll kill you-!"
Then the Uchiha was behind the man, a kunai pressed against his throat. "Don't talk about my teammate like that." He said quietly.
And it all would have gone down the toilet, both the mission and relationship between the two villages, if weren't for, surprisingly, Chiyo-baa-sama who told everyone she was sick of their bickering, and they all should move their asses because she was looking forward to seeing her cute grandson again and then going home to finish her retirement after all this. Then she took off into the desert by herself, making everyone fall into a frenzy trying to catch up with her.
Kankurou was stunned. The blond brat, a jinchuuriki? The kid, who was about his age, if not a year or two younger (the same age Gaara would have been) was immature, loud and completely different from their own jinchuuriki in almost every way. The rising bloodlust when he was angry, though, was familiar. Still, before the Chuunin's remark, Naruto was all smiles and eagerness and totally not-Gaara.
And, Kankurou thought, remembering the way the Uchiha came to his friend's defense, he had people that cared, that thought of him more than a demon host.
Sneaking a glance at Temari, he caught her staring at the blonde as well, a slightly confused look on her face. No doubt she was thinking the same as he was.
What the hell happened with this guy?
A/N: Early Action College Applications are done! Which meant working on this fic after neglecting it for so long.
I totally had not planned for Naruto and company to show up. What I had came up with originally was an angsty epilogue chapter. But I forgot my original plan after having my brain turned into mush after college essays, and this new idea popped up. It's probably going to span several more chapter, instead of the one last chapter I planned to do at the start. I like it.
So, Gaara's dead and his death caused a completely different timeline. This is what I thought might have happened:
Suna, without their jinchuuriki, was completely ignored by Orochimaru, who needed a monster to go berserk in the streets of Konoha and destroy it. The Kazekage survives. Orochimaru instead chooses Takigakure, the Hidden Village of the Waterfall, which has its own jinchuuriki - Fuu, host of the seven-tailed horned beetle. Offer some power here, kill the village leader there, and he's got Takigakure to back his invasion up.
Chuunin exams starts. Sasuke gets cursed mark, as usual. But the main difference is that Gaara isn't there to stalk Sasuke. This causes Kakashi not to teach Sasuke the Chidori to fight Gaara. The other opponents are pretty normal people, so honing his Sharingan and other skills were enough. Without needing to teach Sasuke the individual-training-needed-and-time-consuming Chidori, Naruto also gets trained by Kakashi. Later, the two boys meets Jiraiya and he trains them both (kinda) as well.
Invasion starts, and Sasuke and Naruto work together, as well as the other members of the Konoha 12, to take down Fuu. They succeed in defeating and capturing Fuu, who Naruto being Naruto later makes friends with. See, in this world, Naruto and Sasuke are on much better terms with each other. Sasuke isn't unhealthy jealous of Naruto's vast improvement and sees him as an equal.
Itachi stills comes by, and Sasuke goes off the deep end, but Naruto is able to talk, and beat, some sense into him and brings him back. It helps, of course, that Sasuke doesn't know the Chidori.
Team 7 is intact, Akatsuki is running amok; Fuu's dead, Naruto's pissed, and wanting to stop the Akatsuki in any way possible. This leads to everyone looking for the Shukaku, whose jinchuuriki was killed and now has materialized somewhere in the big desert. Leading to the meeting between Naruto and the rest of the Sand Sibs, and Naruto being Naruto will somehow make them realize they had loved Gaara. Or something.
You're going to have to read more to find out how.
(I tried to fit all this into the story. I tried. But it just didn't fit with the narration and the hints I drop just weren't enough. So, info dump)