Dances with Shinobi

By Ariel-D and Darkhelmetj

Description: SANDSIBS fic, set post-Shippuuden ep. 32. After his harrowing experience, Gaara faces another terror: having to learn the box step so he can dance with Tsunade at an official, celebratory ball in Konoha. Reposted. Humour/drama/angst/family/bromance/hurt-comfort/you-name-it.

Disclaimer: The Naruto-verse and all its characters are copyrighted by Masashi Kishimoto and Weekly Shonen Jump. I am making no profit; this is just for fun.

A/N: Bromance, not YAOI. Set two weeks after Gaara has been returned to life by Chiyo. We based this on the idea of a Founder's Day for each village, but we know no such day officially exists in canon (and we also don't care).

Reposted from 2008.This story was originally posted on both DA and FFdotnet, but when my Naruto muse died, I ripped it off of FFdotnet because I knew I couldn't finish it. Despite this, I got a lot of requests in the intervening years to finish the story. The fic is old now, but when my Naruto muse returned, I decided I'd finish it anyway, perhaps despite my better judgement. The fic began as a humor story that was going to include brotherly bonding under bizarre and hopefully funny circumstances. It kinda morphed into a wild collection of genres. It's also vaguely a crack!fic, especially during the first half.

Translations (jic): "nii-san" means "older brother"; "ototo" means "younger brother"; and "jan" is the Yokohama punk accent word Kankuro throws into his sentences, much like Naruto says "dattebayo."

Chapter One

Two weeks.

For two weeks, Gaara had been trying to adjust to life without Shukaku. For two weeks, the now-esteemed Kazekage had been trying to sleep, rebuild his chakra, and catch up on backlogged paperwork. Two weeks that consisted of stress, blathering councilmen, and reports on Akatsuki's further movements. And during all this madness, Gaara had meditated, forced himself to remain stoic and impassive, and generally continued as though nothing had happened. However, deep inside he had the odd urge to ram his head through the nearest wall, and now on top of it all he was being systematically tortured.

"Look," Temari said, stalking onto the dojo's floor. "I get that you don't want to learn to dance. But this ball is to commemorate Konoha's 75th Founder's Day, and as their allies, we're expected to attend."

Gaara stood, arms crossed over his chest, in the training hall's doorway. The dojo had been added as an extension wing of the Kazekage mansion three decades earlier, but its glossy wooden floors had been kept so well-polished they gleamed as though new. Likewise, the windows on the opposing wall were dust-free. "You should have warned me sooner. You're our liaison to Konoha now, and it's unlike you to forget details, no matter how small."

Temari propped her fists on her hips. "I told you about the ball three months ago."

"I don't mean the gala itself," Gaara said, his eyes hooded. His ability to maintain a stoic mask had deteriorated hours earlier when he'd realized meditation was no longer going to work for him. He was going to have to sleep tonight. He didn't relish the idea, but given how unstable his mood already was, he knew he couldn't put it off any longer. "I mean the dancing."

Temari reached up and rubbed her temple with one hand. "Hey, I can't help it if you, as Kazekage, are expected to dance the first dance with Tsunade-hime, and frankly, I didn't know about it until just a few days ago."

Gaara didn't budge from the doorway. "Then use your newfound powers of diplomacy and fix it."

He was half-joking, but he was also half-serious and deadpan. As a result, Temari took his words literally. "I'm not the one with the political clout here." She crossed her arms as well and glared at her younger brother. "And it would certainly look bad if you refused to dance with her."

Gaara took a deep breath, trying to shake off his frustration and reminding himself that he should be mature. He was a leader — the leader. Kazekage. Even if he was exhausted, it was not his place to take it out on others. At least in theory. When he finally spoke, his usual tenacity and composure fell flat on its metaphorical face. "How about you dance with her?" he asked, once again invoking a deadpan humour that disguised his deeper irritation.

"It's Kage to Kage, little bro." Temari dropped her arms suddenly, sighing. "Yeah, yeah — I know. They wouldn't have fixed it that way if one of you wasn't female, but one of you is. So get over it. You have three days to learn how to ballroom dance."

Gaara sighed as well and, after bowing himself into the dojo, joined Temari. As fatigued as he was, he knew it would be more difficult if he continued to argue with his sister than if he gave in. He stopped a few feet in front of her and glanced around the room, trying to distract himself. A few ink paintings of tsunamis, mountains, and sakura branches decorated one wall. He'd never imagined he'd be learning to dance here instead of practicing combat. "Very well." He stuck out his hands toward her, preparing himself for the upcoming torture.

"Good. Let's go." Temari grabbed one of his hands and put it on her shoulder. Then she grasped his other hand in hers and held it up at shoulder height. "Okay. Technically as the man you're supposed to lead, but I'll lead for now until you get the feel of the steps." She pulled on their suspended hands. "This hand leads." She put her hand on Gaara's waist and squeezed it. "And this hand supports."

Gaara tried to accept the instruction with poise or at least with unemotional factualism. However, his accumulated sleep-loss and inherit dislike for social events like parties won. His eyes narrowed slightly. "This is ridiculous. Whoever invented this should be —"

"Killed and their intestines hung out for vultures to eat?" Temari finished for him, grinning wickedly. "I agree, but I didn't make the rules. We're not going for anything special here, though. Just a simple four-step, also known as a box step. When we're in action, it should look like we're gliding in graceful near-circles, but for now we'll go step-by-step."

Gaara stared at his sister's shoulder for several moments, becoming uncomfortably aware of just how close they were standing. "Do you have to . . . touch me so much?" He couldn't seem to move past the sudden thought that people didn't touch him often, except for the occasional punch or kick a few shinobi had landed against his sand armour. It felt odd, almost unnatural. In his sleep-deprived state, it was making him antsy, and he never imagined that he'd miss anything about Shukaku. Suddenly, though, he keenly missed his ability to withstand sleep deprivation. "Can't we do this without standing so close?"

Temari snickered and kept her hands where they were. "Are you kidding? You'll have to hold Tsunade-hime pretty close, so you might as well get over it by holding me. This is all about touch. Men and women dance like this in order to fall in love."

Her words seemed to hang like dust motes in the air between them. Gaara considered her explanation for a moment, then blushed faintly as it sank in. Thinking about women wasn't an activity at the top of his to-do list. In fact, it was close to the bottom. Prior to his decision to become Kazekage, he'd had no use for a girlfriend or anyone else. After his decision, he'd been too busy to even give dating a thought. "Wonderful." This was a complication he didn't need. "Just show me how to do it. You're my sister. I don't want to fall in love with you anyway."

"Kami, I hope not." Temari smirked. "But do yourself a favour and don't accidentally look down when you dance with Tsunade-hime. She has a huge chest."

Gaara felt his blush deepen. "I know. I've noticed." He sneered as several unwanted images blossomed in his mind. "This isn't just inconvenient, it's disturbing."

However, Temari seemed distracted, as though she hadn't heard his words. She stared past Gaara's shoulder at the dojo wall, her eyes slightly glazed. "Actually, you're pretty short for a guy, and Tsunade-hime always wears high heels. You might end up face-to- . . . er, face-to-chest with her." Her voice wavered, as if she were attempting to hide laughter.

Unimpressed, Gaara wrenched his hands away from Temari and glowered at her. "That's it. I'm finished." He turned and stalked toward the door. He had better things to do than be humiliated by his sister. It wasn't as though he could avoid the event, but Temari's humour wasn't helping his discomfort at all.

His sister grabbed his elbow, pulling him to a stop. Her voice was soft and serious. "Sorry! It was just an observation. I'll find some thick-soled dress shoes for you so you'll be boosted into a safe range." She gave her brother a guilty smile.

Gaara stared at the doorway as her words echoed in his mind. For a moment, the horror refused to sink in. Then Gaara found his voice and turned to face his sister. "Are you implying the only way I can escape is to wear . . . women's heels?" Patient as he was, he had his limits, and wearing women's clothing was one of them. He felt a headache coming on.

Temari shook her head emphatically. "No, no. Many men's dress shoes already come with a thick heal or sole. That wouldn't look odd at all. Actually, you'll look quite handsome in, say, a pair of black dress boots." She winked at him and squeezed his arm lightly.

Gaara hesitated, realizing his sister was trying to help him, and stepped back into place. It was easy to forget how patient Temari always was with him. She never backed away from answering his questions or from assisting him if he needed it. Her aggressive front sharply contrasted with the sisterly personae that hid underneath. Gaara sighed softly, and his irritation transformed into guilt. "I'm sorry. I know you're trying to help me. I'm just . . ." He paused, not wanting to burden her further. Heknew what was wrong with him; there was no reason to involve Temari as well.

His sister, however, seemed undeterred by his silence. "Sleep-deprived, chakra-exhausted, and wanting to be anywhere but here?" Her analysis was blunt, as always.

Gaara felt a sad smile threaten to bend his lips. "Something like that." He absently walked across the floor to opposite wall. He paused and stared out one window, lost in thought. His gaze fell upon the rock garden beyond, its sand raked into swirling patterns. "With Shukaku gone, I'm just not sure if I . . ." He still wasn't sure what the implications of Shukaku's loss meant for his fighting abilities, which was unnerving when his greatest responsibility was to protect his village. And the sheer stress of having been abducted, killed, and revived was something he couldn't even quantify himself, much less explain to someone else.

Temari followed him. She took his shoulder gently and pulled him back to her. Then she took his hands again, repositioning them for the dance. Her expression softened again. "You're going to be fine. I'm sure of that." Her tone grew mock-formal. "Shall we dance?"

Caught between the guilt and a strange comfort at her touch, Gaara nodded. "Sure."

"Okay. Like I said, I'm playing the role of the man for now. I'm going to step to my right, and you're going to follow with your left foot. Then I'm going to step back, and you're going to follow me. After that, I'll step to my left, and you'll follow with your right. Finally, I'll step forward, and you'll step back. Got that?"

Gaara felt as though Temari had just spoken in a foreign language. He simply sighed. "Just do it."

"Here we go, then." Temari stepped sideways with her right foot, then backward. "Good, follow along."

Gaara tried to match her steps, but when it was his turn to step backward, he became confused and stepped forward instead, accidentally treading on Temari's foot. "Sorry!" He jerked his foot away, only to move more quickly than his sister expected, causing them to trip and fall. With a grunt, Temari landed on top of him.

An amused male voice drifted to them from the doorway. "I can see this is going really well, jan."

Gaara snapped his gaze toward the door and glared at Kankuro. "Glad you're amused." He suddenly realized his sister's chest was too close to his face and blushed again. Feeling that he might die of embarrassment, he gasped and attempted to shift from under her. "Temari, get off of me. Now."

Temari scrambled to her feet. "Sorry!" She paused, glanced toward Kankuro, then turned again to glare at Gaara. "Still, you're the one who tripped us."

Kankuro chuckled. "Man, you both lack grace."

"Your sense of humour isn't appreciated." Gaara glowered at his brother. The fact his body still moved stiffly or clumsily at times made him uncomfortable, although the med nin had assured him that his normal reflexes would return with more rest. Then again, that meant sleep, which led him back to a subject he didn't want to consider.

"Yeah, jackass," Temari said to Kankuro. "Let's see you do better!"

As the two traded glares, Gaara sat up and pulled his knees to his chest, resting his elbows on his knees. He sensed a verbal sparring match brewing between his older siblings, and the enormity of what he had to learn so quickly fell on him like a concrete pillar. His minor headache threatened to explode into a migraine.

Kankuro apparently was going to avoid fighting with their sister, though. "I'm kidding, I'm kidding," he said, holding his hands in front of himself. "The easiest way for us to start is to let Gaara watch usdance. Then he can see where his feet need to go." He walked over and crouched by Gaara, patting his shoulder reassuringly. "How's that? Want to see what it's supposed to look like before you really try it?"

Gaara glanced up. "Sure. And if you're good at it, I'll be kind enough to let you go and dance for me."

"Sorry, no can do." Kankuro smiled. "But I know we can teach you how to do this and do it well." He stood and walked over to Temari, his entire demeanour radiating self-assurance.

Gaara watched his brother's confident strides, noting that he wore simple black clothes and no face paint today. Without the Bunraku uniform and Kabuki paint, his brother struck quite a different figure, but he seemed just as poised as when he entered battle.

"Shall we?" Kankuro asked Temari, adopting a formal bearing. He bowed to her and then extended one hand.

Temari gaped momentarily, apparently taken aback by Kankuro's acting skills. Then she recovered herself. "Sure." She curtsied and put her hand into his.

Kankuro put his hand on her waist, and she rested her hand on his shoulder. Then he proceeded to guide them through several graceful rounds of the four-step. After a few minutes, he slowed them to a stop and turned back to Gaara, who stared at him in utter shock.

"Does that make more sense now?" Kankuro asked.

Gaara couldn't find his voice. His brother's utter grace and formality—his no-nonsense maturity—stunned him. His smart-mouthed, punk brother's performance streak seemed to cover more than fighting with puppets.

Kankuro raised an eyebrow. "What?" He'd apparently noticed Gaara's shock. "Was it the bow and curtsy? That's just the standard beginning of the dance. It's no big deal."

"No, it's just . . ." Gaara wasn't sure how to put his thoughts into words, but Kankuro's observation made him note just how many motions the dance involved. He felt the corner of one eyelid twitch. "How many of the formalities are required?"

"Just that one," Kankuro replied. "The rest of the formality will be covered by your tuxedo, actually. All you have to do is bow and then dance one song. Then you can retire to the wall and watch everyone else the rest of the evening." He grinned. "Although I'm sure plenty of girls will —"

Temari elbowed Kankuro in the side and gave Gaara a fake smile. "That's right. One dance and it's over."

Gaara was not fooled. He narrowed his eyes. "Plenty of girls will do what?" That sounded ominous, especially in light of the way the village girls seemed to squeal and blush around him. However, before he could further pursue the matter, the rest of his brother's words registered with him. "And what is a tuxedo?"

Kankuro traded a glance with Temari. "A tuxedo is a black suit with long coat tails. It's kinda like a fancier version of the trench coat and pants you wear. In a way."

"All the guys will be wearing them," Temari added. "They're the big rage since the merchants imported them; sometimes I think they'll replace kimonos as formal wear." She sighed. "And don't worry about the girls. Sure, girls will want to dance with you, but Kankuro and I will hold them off if you want us to."

"You're coming as my bodyguards, then," Gaara said, deadpan once again. He wondered if his siblings had learned to distinguish his sense of humour from his normal seriousness. Then again, he was halfway not joking. He absently massaged his left temple with his fingers. "My life is going to be in danger."

Kankuro laughed, apparently having figured it out. "It's not that bad, I promise."

Temari snorted and shook her head. "Dancing doesn't normally involve bodily harm."

As his siblings continued to provide reasons not to worry, Gaara realized that he had seen a tuxedo before, and he turned to Kankuro with wide-eyed horror. "Wait. I've seen a tuxedo, and it's nothing like my clothes. My normal clothes don't have ruffles."

Kankuro made a sudden gagging noise. He covered his mouth with one hand in a show of mock nausea.

"We are not getting you a tux with ruffles!" Temari sounded scandalized by the mere thought. She made a scoffing noise and glanced at Kankuro as though waiting for him to agree.

Kankuro let his hand fall from his mouth and waved it in front of his chest—an emphatic no gesture. "Neither you nor I will be caught dead in ruffles. I swear. A simple tux. Black, sleek, with a normal shirt underneath." He shuddered. "If anyone gets near me with ruffles, I'll shove them into Kuroari, torture, and kill them."

"Good." Gaara felt relieved by his brother's sheer adamant reaction, but with that problem solved, his mind wandered back to the implication that other women would want to dance with him . . . and what that would mean. It seemed to be a more difficult problem than the tuxedos, especially given the more he thought about it, the worse the dilemma became. He glanced away from his siblings. "I won't be expected to dance with anyone other than Tsunade-sama, will I?"

"No," Temari replied. "Whether you dance with anyone else or not is entirely up to you." She walked around to face Gaara and smirked. "If anyone says anything about your not being sociable enough, I'll dance with you in order to shut them up. That okay?"

Gaara understood with even greater clarity then that his sister really did care for him and look after him. Her suggestion, though she had smirked, was a clear attempt to support him. He nodded. "Thank you," he said quietly. He still wasn't sure what to be more perturbed about — the fact that he might have to spend an entire night dancing or the fact that the idea of physical closeness with girls was making him feel uncomfortable.

Temari clapped her hands together. "Good! Now back to the lesson."

Gaara shook the thoughts away and stood, resigning himself to his horrible fate.

"You might want to lock your arms for the first few tries in order to lead him more easily," Kankuro told Temari, stepping out of their way as they orientated themselves. "You can get him to relax his elbow later. And you'll probably want to count the steps as you go so he knows exactly when you're going to move." He retreated to the doorway, then turned around suddenly. "Oh! And let him watch your feet at first. Don't worry about making him look you in the eyes yet." He paused, absently rubbing his chin. "Let's see . . . what else?"

Gaara stared at his brother, stunned that he knew so much about the subject. The shock immediately gave way to fear, however, as he realized he'd have to learn and remember all of that in three days. "Learning a new jutsu would be easier," he mumbled.

Temari sighed and glared at Kankuro. "Yeah, I know, I know! I remember our stupid lessons."

Lessons? Gaara wondered. What are they talking about? Must have been when we were much younger.

Kankuro raised both hands defensively. "I know! I was just trying to —"

"Whatever." Temari huffed, her cheeks flushing. "If you're so good at it, youteach him. Call me back in three days, and I'll test his ability to lead a woman. Got it?"

Gaara started to protest, then recognized that his sister was on the war path. It was best to stay out of her way; an angry Temari was a dangerous Temari.

"Hey, wait!" Kankuro ran his fingers back through his hair, pausing his hand on top of his head. "I wasn't criticizing you. I just —"

Temari held up one hand for silence. "Never. Mind. Got it or not?"

Kankuro cringed, apparently realizing he'd lost this round of Sibling Rivalry. "Yeah, yeah. I got it, jan."

"Good." Temari stalked toward the door. She whisked past Kankuro as though he weren't standing there.

Kankuro sighed explosively, closed one eye, and glared after her. "Man, what is her issue?"

Gaara glowered at his brother, thinking he was probably doomed now. Kankuro struck him as far too macho to help him learn to dance. It was all fine when his brother was giving Temari pointers, but Gaara was having trouble imagining Kankuro leading him in the box step. "I'm pondering whether or not I should kill you for getting rid of Temari. It depends on whether you're better."

"Well . . ." Kankuro strolled back onto the dojo floor. "She wouldn't want you to know this, but Father laughed at her at the diplomatic gathering where we had to dance. Even after taking lessons, she was awkward at it, so I was left to dance with all the young daughters of the representatives. It's a really bad memory for her, so yeah. I kinda just put my foot in my mouth."

Gaara pondered this for a moment, but given his sister's lack of the stereotypical feminine graces, the story made sense. He didn't remember any such party, but then again, he hadn't been an accepted member of the household. "All right," he said, sighing. He gave his brother a hooded-eye stare. "Make this simple, and teach me fast. I don't have time for this, and the sooner you teach me, the sooner you can get back on Temari's good side."

"Right." Kankuro ran his hand through his spiky brown hair. "Oh, boy . . . Okay." He blushed faintly.

Gaara stoically watched his brother's unease. Kankuro was a mix of contradictions: a loner who loved to perform; a punk who doted on his family. He put off the lazy air of one who was laidback, yet he was a self-starter who trained relentlessly. He followed orders as given, yet he wasn't afraid to defy authority for his family's sake. He could be loud and obnoxious, and at the same time he was an excellent listener. Gaara wondered which facet of his brother's personality would win in this situation.

Kankuro seemed to gather his wits, then his face grew set with determination. Apparently the performer/warrior had won and was ready to instruct. "Okay," he said, meeting Gaara's gaze. "I'll take over the lead as the 'man' until you learn the steps, and then you can lead me instead." He inhaled deeply, as though mentally preparing himself. "First, bow to your dancing partner." He paused. "Er . . . we'll both bow, since we're both guys, okay? Now, bow." He bowed to his younger brother.

Gaara cocked a hairless eyebrow at him, but Kankuro's seriousness seemed to be holding. Internally, he felt shocked senseless that Kankuro was going to actually dance with him, yet he wasn't in a position to question it. He pushed down his reaction and bowed in return.

"All right," Kankuro said, stepping up to Gaara. "My left hand goes on your waist, and your right hand goes on my shoulder." He grasped his brother's waist.

Gaara flinched slightly as Kankuro's fingers wrapped around him, struck suddenly by how much taller and larger his brother was. Gaara had never stopped to consider it before, but it occurred to him that compared to his nii-san, he was the right height and build to play the part of a woman. Just as it had when Temari had suggested the thick-soled boots, a sense of discomfort ran through Gaara, and he wondered if he'd continue to grow taller and fill out. Some day he wanted to be able to literally look the councilmen eye-to-eye. "Right." He put his hand on his brother's shoulder, again forcing the thoughts and sensations away.

If Kankuro noticed Gaara's slight hesitation, he never let on. "Then we grasp our other hands at slightly above shoulder level." He took Gaara's hand in his.

Gaara realized how stretched out he felt. "This is awkward."

"Sorry." Kankuro lowered their arms a bit. "As the man, it's your duty to make sure the positioning is comfortable based on the woman's height."

There it was again: the thought of dancing with some unfamiliar girl. Or Tsunade, who undeniably had — "All right," he said, distracting himself. "Now what?"

"Now I want you to lock your elbow and wrist," Kankuro said. "Make them rigid so if I push or pull on your arm, your whole body will follow suit. We won't do this as you get comfortable with the steps, but for now, it'll help me guide you." As though demonstrating, he pushed on Gaara's hand and arm.

Gaara stumbled faintly, then caught on and stepped back. "I see."

"Good." Kankuro pulled Gaara in close to him. "I'll explain every step as we take it, but I want you to watch my feet. Our feet. Again, not something you want to do in the end, but you need it for now."

Gaara paused momentarily, uncomfortable just as he had been with his sister. Since people usually only touched him to hurt him or to carry him when he was chakra-exhausted, he couldn't shake his unease. He closed his eyes briefly and inhaled. It was fine, he told himself. It was only his hand and his waist, and Kankuro had carried him several times when he was unconscious. And it was his brother, who he knew he could trust to get that close. "All right," he said finally, opening his eyes. He cleared his mind and focused on learning the dance.

"Okay, first we're stepping to my right." Kankuro pressed on Gaara's waist as he pulled on his left hand. "So step left."

Gaara frowned, watching their feet, and did his best to follow.

Kankuro stopped. "Now I'm going to step back, and you're going to step forward with your right foot."

Gaara nodded, staring at their feet as they moved. This time, he managed to step forward without treading on anyone's foot.

"Good!" Kankuro tugged him to the right. "Now we're going to step sideways to my left and your right."

Gaara followed this step with ease. "That part is simple enough."

"Yep." Kankuro stopped again. "Now you're going to step backwards, and I'm going to step forward with my right foot. Okay?"

Gaara had the fleeting thought that he'd best step in time with his brother, or he'd end up bruised. Kankuro danced with great exuberance. "All right." He stepped backward as Kankuro moved forward, then he was struck by a sudden realization that did not amuse him. "This is like taijutsu training."

Kankuro chuckled as they stopped once more. "Maybe." He lowered their raised arms. "Well, you've completed one rotation or 'box' now. That's the basic step — very straightforward and simple."

Gaara wasn't impressed. "If you used henge, you could disguise yourself as me and dance in my place."

"I see your sense of humour is improving."

"Who says I'm joking?"

Kankuro grinned and raised their arms again. "Time to modify the dance slightly."

"Modify?" Gaara wasn't sure he would remember the original version.

"I prefer it this way." Kankuro seemed terribly joyful about it, like someone who had rediscovered a past hobby. "Now, every time you step sideways with your left foot, we're going to move at a faint angle. If we do, after several rounds, we'll have rotated 360 degrees. Makes the dance look more . . . artful, I guess."

Gaara never had entirely accounted for Kankuro's blatant performer's streak, given that he was otherwise introverted. Even now it mystified him. "If you say so."

Kankuro winked at him — his habitual mannerism. "I do." He guided his brother to step left. "Angle your step slightly forward this time."

"Wai —" Gaara was taken slightly off guard, but he managed to follow as Kankuro began the dance again.

"Step forward. Good, now step right. Keep the slight angle going! Okay, step back."

Gaara began to feel like he was dodging kunai. It was doing nothing for his nerves. "Kankuro . . ."

His brother, though, proved to be a ruthless trainer. "Excellent! Keep going." He didn't let Gaara pause. "Take larger steps this time; you can continue to watch our feet if necessary." He swept them into a faster, more graceful motion.

"Kankuro!" Gaara tightened his hand on his brother's shoulder, fearing for a moment he'd be tugged off his feet, but he managed to complete several rotations. As Kankuro drew them to a stop, Gaara sighed. "I think I have the basics." He felt vaguely like dashing from the room.

His brother's eyes twinkled with delight. He obviously loved to dance. "Of course you do. It's not that hard. So stop looking at our feet." He wiggled Gaara's arm. "And loosen your elbow and wrist. We'll go through this one more time, but now you have to look me in the eyes."

Gaara stared at his brother, shocked on two counts: one, by seeing Kankuro so animated outside of battle; and two, by realizing he had just been given more things to remember. "But —"

"Relax." Kankuro smiled, and it made his entire face glow. "It's supposed to be free-flowing and fun. I'm your guide, so just follow me. And this time, we'll do it for real." He stepped closer, placing his palm on the small of Gaara's back. "Which means we'll have to stand closer now. Ready?"

Gaara internally cringed, still unable to overcome the oddness of receiving nonviolent touches. However, as he considered the other option — practicing with Temari — he decided it would be less uncomfortable with his brother. At least when he danced with Kankuro he wasn't constantly reminded about dancing with women. He took a deep breath and nodded.

"Remember to look me in the eyes." Kankuro paused, apparently making sure Gaara was indeed ready, then moved them through a series of graceful, almost circular steps.

Gaara tried to match gazes with his brother as they danced, and as he relaxed into the steps, he found the movement almost hypnotic. After a moment, he realized he wasn't even blinking. Kankuro smiled at him, apparently noticing this, and began to turn them at more of an angle, swirling them through the entire dojo. Fearing once again that he'd be literally swept off his feet, Gaara clutched his brother tightly, but Kankuro's grip on his waist seemed solid. By the time they came to a stop in the middle of the room, he realized he was catching on.

"Well done!" Kankuro seemed pleased. He released Gaara and took a step back, running his fingers through his hair. "You picked that up very quickly."

Gaara nodded and rubbed the bridge of his nose with two fingers. "As long as I can remember it all." He frowned, comprehending the implications. "It wouldn't be pleasant if I stepped on Tsuande-sama's feet."

"We'll be practicing together every day until the ball, so there's nothing to be worried about." Kankuro chuckled — almost an evil little snicker. "But you're not done yet, jan."

Gaara's stomach sank with a distinct thump. "There's more?"

Kankuro laughed outright. "Humour me! We need to go through at least one round today with you leading."

"Me lead you?" Gaara couldn't even imagine it since Kankuro was taller and bigger than he was. He was doomed, he decided with utter conviction as Kankuro laughed again. Absolutely doomed.

A/N: Please note that this story explores the possibility or theory that Gaara has ignored girls all his life and has no experience dating— that he poured all his time into killing, then all his time into learning to control Shukaku and becoming Kazekage. If you're of the Gaara's-been-sexually-active-since-age-12 camp, then you'll need to read this story with a grain of salt . . . or not read it at all if Innocent!Gaara annoys you. I'm telling you upfront, so you have been warned.

Also, I actually had someone teach me the box step so I could write this. I tried to explain it as clearly as I could in my dialogue and descriptions, but if anything came out wrong, please let it go. My dancing expertise or lack thereof is not the point of the story, regardless of the title. (laughs)