Well, it's the end of this story. I'm really sad now, because after the first few chapters I actually started liking this story, and now I've written all the really cute family bonds stuff and I'm still not satisfied! But adding another chapter to this would be pointless, because there's no more I can write about that wouldn't end up being a totally separate story. This one might be out of character, especially at the end, but I tried hard to make it all work. I'm not so pleased with this chapter because it didn't turn out how I wanted it to, but I hope it will suffice. Also, Temari's thoughts might drag on a bit because I was trying to write a decent length and I don't think it worked out all too well. The ending scene definitely didn't go as I had planned and doesn't really feel right, but it's probably because it's rather out of character for them. But I had to write that scene and I think despite the OOC-ness of it I did a pretty good job.

Just to clear this up in case people start asking, the beginning stuff up until Gaara wakes up will probably seem non-canon because I wanted to write about Temari thinking Gaara was dead and it didn't really show what happened between when Chiyo and Naruto performed the reanimation and when Gaara woke up so I worked my own stuff into it. And this next part is pretty pointless but I'll clear it up for you anyway. When you see where Kankuro and Temari are once Gaara wakes up, Temari is where Kankuro was there before Gaara woke up and she ran to his side. I had to do that because when Kankuro comes over to her I thought it would be weird for him to just get up and walk away from his revived brother, so...yeah. That's about it. I hope you've all enjoyed this story, and maybe next time I'll write my own story about the sand siblings.


Against All Odds

Liar!

Temari felt slightly guilty for calling Kankuro a liar when there was no way he could have known, but she couldn't help it. He promised Gaara would be alright! He promised her she wouldn't have to worry!

And yet there she was, staring numbly at Gaara's lifeless body.

She was hardly aware of the many Sand shinobi surrounding them, or even Naruto, who clutched Gaara tightly, watching him with a deeply concerned expression. She knew Kankuro was nearby, healed enough to come with them, but she couldn't summon enough anger to glare at him. All she could do was stare at Gaara, thinking if she had run just a little faster...

But that wouldn't have made any difference. She had been told by Kakashi that they had found Gaara like that. His spirit had left his body long before she could have arrived to do anything about it.

He was dead.

Her promise and her efforts had been for nothing.

And she couldn't even cry.

She was the one that felt lifeless.

Part of her wished that Kankuro would stand by her side, comforting her, but she knew that he was too proud and ignorant for that. He would expect her to be doing the same as him; trying to tough it out. Even though he probably felt just as distressed as she did, he didn't understand that the presence of another was much more comforting. Not that it would make any difference. She needed Gaara's presence, not Kankuro's. No matter how much she loved Kankuro he couldn't replace Gaara, just as Gaara couldn't replace him. They were her brothers, and they meant the world to her, even though she hadn't exactly shown them that.

Especially Gaara.

Temari had run and hid from him in fear as a child. She had believed that he was a monster who had taken over her real brother. But the truth was, he had only become that because everyone had avoided or blamed him...

...just as she had.

And now that she had realized she was wrong, she would never be able to apologize.

It was over.

He was dead.

She was left with a hole inside that grew a little larger with every second that went by.

Looking over at her brother again, Temari wished it were just a dream and she would wake up, both of her brothers safe and by her side.

She had been doing that every few seconds, whenever her eyes wandered over to Gaara.

She never woke up.

No matter how much she wished otherwise, she was in reality. Her brother was really dead, and he wouldn't be coming back. She would never be able to apologize for all the terrible things she had done to him, especially being ignorant of him.

After she realized some of the worst pain for Gaara came from ignorance, she promised herself she would never be ignorant of anyone ever again. Now she desperately wanted to break that promise, to ignore everyone and everything around her, to forget any of it ever happened. But she knew that no matter how hard she tried, not even if she could forget it all, she would never be able to forget the pain. It ate away at her, tearing off a little more with each bite. Soon she would be small enough to be swallowed whole by it. Then she would be nothing.

But the pain would still be there. Even after it had devoured her entire being, it would linger, hungry for more.

Temari guessed it had already eaten her shoulder, because she didn't realize a hand had been laid on it gently until a quiet voice said her name. Tilting her head ever so slightly to the left, she saw that Kankuro was crouching next to her.

She wanted to pound him two hundred feet into the ground with her fan and bury him there for lying to her. He promised her that when they were finally able to go after Gaara he would be waiting patiently for them to arrive. But when they had arrived, he wasn't even there anymore. He was dead, even though Kankuro had promised he wouldn't be.

Temari knew it was ridiculous to believe her brother was alive by only the promise of her other brother, but at that moment she didn't care. All she knew was that her youngest brother was dead, and Kankuro was as good as to blame for promising her he would be just fine.

But despite her fury, she only laid her hand on top of his and clutched it tightly, as if it was her lifeline and it could disappear at any moment. Or maybe it was his lifeline, and she was afraid that he would leave her as well if she didn't keep a tight grip on him.

"I'm sorry..." he whispered. Temari didn't have to ask to know what he meant. He believed himself to be to blame for saying Gaara would be alright, just as she did.

Instead of retorting that it was his fault, and that if he hadn't gotten her hopes up she could have dealt with Gaara's death a little easier, she gripped his hand tighter as the two watched Gaara's eyes flutter open.

...

Gaara!

Forgetting about Kankuro for the moment, Temari rushed to Gaara's side and watched in disbelief as he slowly sat up, helped by Naruto whose relieved expression was probably even stronger than hers.

Once Temari was certain Gaara was alive and well, she wondered how he could have possibly survived. She noticed that across from Gaara and Naruto was Chiyo, laying limply and having to be supported by Sakura. Ebizo stood just behind them.

Wait...Did Lady Chiyo...?

She looked over at Sakura for confirmation. Her head dipped slightly, and she clutched Chiyo even tighter.

Temari felt her spirit plummet as she learned the truth. Lady Chiyo...

"You sure had us worried there," Naruto commented, drawing Temari's attention back to Gaara.

Kankuro joined them, a grin on his face, though Temari could see that he had been just as worried as she was only minutes ago. "No kidding. You caused us a whole ton of grief there, little brother."

Who do they think they are? ! They may be the closest people to Gaara, but that didn't mean he wasn't the Kazekage!

"Will you two quit putting on airs already!" she scolded. "Gaara's the Kazekage, remember? Ugh! Show a little respect! ...Nitwits."

Ignoring the two's glares, she pushed Naruto out of the way to be by her brother's side. "Gaara! Talk to me, how do you feel?"

Temari watched with worry and dissatisfaction as Gaara tried to stand instead of giving her a simple 'yes' or 'no'. "Easy," she warned, hiding the part of her that wanted to scream at him for daring to try and stand just after he had made her worry so much when he was dead. "You shouldn't get up too quickly. Your body hasn't completely recovered from the rigor mortis yet."

Relieved that Gaara was listening to her and resting, she quickly got up to stop Matsuri and Sari from getting too close. She couldn't risk him being injured after he had just been brought back to life. But she could understand their enthusiasm. Seeing Gaara brought back to life like that...Everyone's relief and cheer surrounded them, creating a bright atmosphere.

Once Naruto mentioned Chiyo, however, the mood darkened as Kankuro explained that the jutsu Lady Chiyo had used brought Gaara back to life at a high price. Gaara seemed especially disturbed by the news, and attempted to stand again. With a little help from Naruto, he rose and walked over to Chiyo and Sakura.

"Everyone...pray for Lady Chiyo."

Temari closed her eyes along with everyone else. Lady Chiyo...thank you for saving my brother.

-X-x-x-X-

After clearing up some business and saying a final farewell to Lady Chiyo, Temari and her brothers joined the Konoha group at the entrance to the Sand Village to see them off.

"Well, so long," Kankuro started off, and Temari had to resist rolling her eyes. After all the Leaf ninja had done for them, and after all that had happened, that's how he said goodbye?

"Uh...yeah," Naruto replied. There was a pause as he stared at Gaara, wanting to speak, before looking at the ground in discomfort. "Heh, I guess this is where people are supposed to shake hands and get all choked up...but I've never really been good at that stuff, either, so let's just leave it—"

Gaara held out his hand, silencing him. Naruto stared at it, both disbelieving and glad, but he didn't move. As a form of encouragement, Gaara's sand guided his hand. Naruto smiled as he let the sand manoeuvre his hand to Gaara's and the two shook.

Temari smiled as she watched. He really has changed...Thank you, Naruto...

-X-x-x-X-

Shortly after watching the Leaf ninja depart Temari, Gaara, and Kankuro returned to the Kazekage's office. Kankuro and Gaara were talking about happier issues, to lighten the dark mood caused by recent events, while Temari watched them fondly.

Gaara and Kankuro...they've changed so much from when they were little. Gaara used to care only for himself, and Kankuro was selfish and cruel, but now they're better people.

Temari's smile slowly slid into a frown as she looked back on her own faults. I was always so mean to them...And I stopped loving them when they were no longer little kids, even though they're my brothers...

"I'm sorry..."

She didn't realize the apology had slipped out of her mouth until she noticed her brothers staring at her with confused expressions.

"Sorry for what?" Kankuro asked. "You didn't do anything."

Before she could stop herself words were pouring out of her mouth. "Yes I did! Ever since we were little I've been so terrible to you two! I ignored Gaara and I was always rebuking you for making the slightest mistake! And now that I've realized that I just assumed I was forgiven, but I didn't even ask! If I were in your places I wouldn't forgive me, so how could I even consider that you would?"

With tears pricking at her eyes she turned to leave, but was stopped by two hands grasping her arms.

"It's okay, Temari, we forgive you," Kankuro insisted.

"We have never once blamed you for what you did in the past," Gaara added.

"Let me go!" Temari struggled to get out of their grips, but they held on tightly. She gave up resisting and turned to them. "I know you do, there's no way you could forgive me for being such a terrible sister—"

"Would you just shut up and listen! ?" Kankuro exclaimed, shocking Temari into silence. "We don't give a damn what you did in the past, all we care about is who you are now!"

"Yelling isn't going to help the situation, Kankuro," Gaara stated, before turning to Temari. "But he's right. You were a different person in the past. What matters to us is the person you are, not the person you were."

"But I—" Temari's comeback died in her throat as she felt both her brothers' arms around her. After a moment of hesitation she hugged them back. It reminded her of when they were little, as close as any other family, before everything started getting in the way.

But against all odds, they were still together. And Temari was never going to let anything ruin that again.