A/N: Set during the chuunin exams. Also: why yes, I do adore writing about Gaara.
What does Sabaku no Gaara know?
You have heard his thrall over the sands came at birth, was stitched into him like a wonderful instinct. Few children have such amazing gifts given to them merely for having been born.
He never woke in the gray world before dawn, shook himself out of a sleep like lead, padded out into fields wet with dew, stretched like a tiger— did he? And he certainly doesn't know what it is to feel the aching flight of a bruise run across his face and to brush it off, to will himself to not even feel it... He never hoped for this; he never dreamed, prayed, felt his every cell ache— His superiority came independent of his will, handed to him as a birthright.
You had been proud of yourself, of how much you have accomplished. Your hard work had paid off... And yet, all of your hard-earned abilities, when pitted against that—
You close your eyes. You remember sand bruising bone. A daffodil in the vase near the hospital bed. (Yes, you lay between pressed white sheets while delirium alternated with sleep and nurses also in pressed white made their rounds. He walked away on his own two feet. He did not lie woozy or cough up blood.)
And that match with Uchiha? (Which you had promised, promised yourself, drove it beneath your skin.) That honor will go to him, now.
You think of the pride you felt— not a petty pride, but something beautiful and vast, like a lotus, a lotus— every time Gai won against Kakashi. (Gai: warm and smiling, and also a man like any other; Kakashi: cool, arrogant, and he's someone with almost boundless potential...)
There's a pain in knowing that this isn't the same.
Gaara is not Kakashi.
You are not Gai.
And sometimes— later, of course, you won't admit even to yourself that you so much as thought it— you look at the bruises that have sprung up on your knuckles, the nicks and scrapes, and you wonder, Why should I even—
No sand shields your poor body, does it?
Sometimes, you watch what Gaara does. Almost a little prince, his gaze is imperious. He surveys everything with a look of contemptuous disapproval; he must be thinking: No one who cannot speak to the sands as I do is worth more than a moth, a fly, a mite.
You are afraid that no one will ever prove him wrong. Afraid, yes, and also—
Envy is an ugly thing.
You can't help but think: if you could be like that, if you could have been born into his good fortune, if you could know what it feels like...
What wouldn't you give? (Anything, anything to be powerful like that, and unlike him, you would be willing to work for it— Just to have whatever cup of fortune was brought forth at his birth pressed to your lips as well. Anything for that, anything—)
—Someday, you'll learn a little more about that fairytale birth in the country of sand.
Someday, you'll look back on this and realize you might as well have envied a rabbit caught, wild-eyed and struggling, in a snare.