Hmm...Firstly, thank you so much to reviewers! You all make my day, and I means a lot that some people enjoy my story! :) Really, you're all amazing! Ah, I'm not as proud of this story, but I felt it needed to be told. Haha ah, more on this in the AN. It takes place at the beginning of the Shinobi War, right before Gaara's speech.
Spoilers for the Fourth Shinobi War!
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or anything!
"So...this is it?"
It was just a moment. Outside, the camps were clearing. The army was gathering, forces combining. Orders were being given and divisions were being called. Within moments everyone had a destination and no one was idling. They were creating their formations. They were preparing for war. Tents were being torn down and armories emptied. Rations were being passed of soldier pills and weapons. Commanders were placing themselves before their army, their creation. Their alliance.
Yet in the shadows, away from the chaos and away from the ramparts, for just a moment, the three stood there, looking from one another to the next. It was just a moment. They were all needed else where. They were all required in their respective places.
The shadows of the earth's formation covered them.
The girl of the group shifted nervously from one foot to the other, settling on leaning against her hip for only a moment before deciding this was too uncomfortable, too out of place, and shifting evenly amongst her feet instead. She eyed the shorter of the boys before her. His gaze never left the taller, who finished the triangle. He was holding the eye contact with the boy, before looking down to his feet with a smirk.
"Guess this is it, then, ja?"
He raised his head, his eyes meeting hers as he cut her off before she could begin to speak her doubts and worries.
"Take care of Gaara for me. He's plenty capable of taking care of himself, but still...watch each other's backs, alright?"
For a moment, she scowled.
"Baka! You're the one who needs to watch out for himself! You're-" Not with us. She didn't finish. It would be stupid to say. He could take care of himself. He was a Jounin.
He was a commander.
"No nation should stand before another. Equality is important, in such tense times like this."
"That said, we must come to an agreement upon the appointment of our generals, should we not?"
"That is of utmost importance..."
"An army is only as good as it's leaders."
"What pray are all of our divisions?"
"Hmm...I'll draw it out here. We'll need a long range, close range, and mid range Division, naturally. I take it you've all gathered the records and lists of your village's registered ninjas and their categorical ranges?"
"Good, then it'll be easy to divide the common soldiers into their divisions. Ah, now comes to more secluded squadrons. All medics nins are to report to the Medic Squad."
"I may be out of place, but should not Tsunade-hime herself lead that division?"
"I'm afraid I'll be needed here, at the head quarters. However, if it's not seen out of my place, I would submit my own apprentice's name, Shizune, for the position."
"You will find no argument here from me. You are the expert, and any choice of yours will not be met with opposition from me."
"Very well, we have our Medic Squad Leader. We will also need an Intelligence Squad Leader..?"
"I don't mean to pass all the power in the hands of Konoha, but are not the Yamanaka clan held high in the regards of that division and field of expertise?"
"Konoha will take that praise as an honor, not as a chance to pull ahead in terms of power and prestige in this war. I simply only wish, as does the people of my village, to put the best forth to lead us to a victory."
"Then that, too, is settled."
"Another victory for Konoha."
"Don't cause unnecessary tension..."
"And the sensor squad?"
"You're getting all this recorded, yes?"
"I'll have the information squad informed at once to begin preparations of dividing the ninja immediately. Messengers will be sent out at once to inform each ninja on their positioning within the squads."
"Ah, the sensor squad..."
"And the main divisions themselves?"
"...I believe Lady Tsunade is correct, some of us should stay behind the frontlines in this war. But, I do not believe all of us should."
"It's a matter of confidence and organization that I suggest as much..."
"...Very well, Ao is regarded highly of..."
"...Our nation would be honored."
"Then I nominate the Kazekage to lead our alliance!"
"...Are you forgetting in this war of the world, the ninja do not stand alone?"
"My apologies, Mifune-sama. I assume you yourself will be a general?"
"You assume correct."
"...Then it is settled!"
"No, we're missing one..."
"Hmm? What are you talking about?"
"This is a war of ninja, I hadn't expected you to understand. Stealth and surprise is a necessity for ninja. We are not soldiers, built for war. Naturally, we cannot expect our enemy to ignore this. We can't wait around for an attack, lined in ranks for the slaughter. We require a catalyst."
"A surprise Division. To deliver the first blow to the enemy."
For a moment, the room went quiet, silent. The standing figures flinched nervously, burdened by the great tension and importance of the mood in the room. The seated figures sat unmoving as they weighed every option.
"Each member for that division will need to be hand picked based on quality and expertise. Precision and skill is a must, an adaptability, too..."
"We'll immediately begin our evaluation through files."
"Won't that take too long?"
"This is war. A single mistake could cost us victory. If we do not succeed, then the world..!"
"...This is too important to give to chance..."
"...Such a squad! With so much riding on it!"
"The first battle can determine the war...If this squad does it's job right and performs adequately..."
"...Then we'll need one hell of a Captain to lead it..."
No one offered a name.
"Then...I have a nomination."
Temari whipped her head to face her brother, as did everyone in the room. Who could he possibly suggests, she thought.
"I nominate Kankuro of the Puppet Corps, Suna."
No one spoke, but an audible gasp was heard. Some shifted nervously, glancing away. Such an important position? A dangerous one at that, too.
"Gaara..." Temari nervously whispered, but was ignored in silence.
"And...why would you suggest him?" It was implied, why suggest your own brother? That alone was under suspect of bias.
"Of our commanders and squadron leaders, who here was not elected because their deep loyalty to their Kage as well as country, above all else except skill and experience?" Answering the call, the other challenges backed down shamefully.
"Puppeteers are designed solely around surprise and stealth. It's natural the candidate for a Squad solely for that purpose be of a puppeteer nature. Suna is most known for our Puppeteer Corps, is it so surprising that boastfully Suna claims to hold the best of the puppeteers?"
No one denied the Kazekage of the boast.
"Kankuro is fiercely loyal and courageous. He's strong and currently the most skilled. He's more than enough qualified. And, I believe in his capability."
"What about his rationality?"
Everyone turned in shock to face not a Kage, but the intelligence representative of Konoha; Shikaku. Not to be a crude man, he stared bluntly at Gaara, who held his gaze. Temari flinched. Of course they'd receive trouble from such a troublesome family line...
"I mean no disrespect, but I, as everyone here no doubt, saw the mission report of the Retrieval of the Kazekage himself. Every detail was listed, including that of the failed retrieval attempt made prior to the official record by a sole Puppeteer who is so fiercelyloyal to his Kage."
The other Kages and others present turned to witness Gaara' reaction. He flinched in no visible way.
"Someone so brash and quick to action...you claim he can be cool-headed enough to lead such an important division? i do not question any praise you have showered him with...I only question his candidacy in this dire need situation."
"And I do not hold any of that against you. I only assure you...I would not put my faith in him, even if he is my own brother, if I was not so sold on my assurance that he is capable of this position. You have family, don't you?"
"You can imagine how he felt, watching as one of his remaining two final family members was whisked away from an intruder to certain death. Do you condemn him for his actions?"
Others now visibly locked their eyes to the floor.
"It's that very rash action and showing of passion and love that I nominate him for. Would you not feel safer, knowing the army followers in the footsteps of such a dedicated ninja who would not fail, even at death's doorstep, if his target was within sight? I assure you, he will not disappoint."
Temari smiled, content. She didn't bother looking at anyone else's reactions. She only watched her younger brother, swelling with pride.
Temari looked to the youngest for support, but still he said nothing. He just watched his elder brother.
"Kankuro...Be careful, alright?"
Kankuro smiled reassuringly, but something about it didn't seem convincing. It wasn't his usual cocky, childish grin with that wink like he used to do all the time in his younger days. It wasn't even his prideful smirk that he gave when he watched his sister effortlessly defeat an enemy, or likewise when his younger brother accomplished the feat of gaining great respect. It was a hollow smile that if anything made her feel worse. Was this the expression she'd remember on his face if he came back carried, just a case of a body with no life..?
She stopped herself in mid thought, waiting on pins and needles for her brother to say something.
"I can take care of myself. I wasn't elected into this position for nothing." He flashed a glance at Gaara, his smile saddening even further as he attempted to stretch it for reassurance. "Take care of each other. I won't be there to watch you two's back, ja?"
A moment passed. No one spoke, and Kankuro dropped his smile. Now, Temari could easily read his face. He was scared. But he wasn't allowing himself to be scared. This was war. He needed to suck it up. She needed to. Loss was inevitable. They needed to fight and defend with their lives, for their lives. For the lives of people precious to them. For each other.
Kankuro stepped back, his foot pivoting as he began to turn.
"Watch Temari will ya, Gaara? I hear that lazy-ass is in her division, make sure she doesn't get distracted."
"Kankuro!" Temari scowled.
Jokes aside, Kankuro stopped, half turned from his siblings. His mouth opened slightly to speak, then stopped. He was looking back without staring at his siblings. Finally, in a short, quick breath, he added, "Don't die, you two." With that, he turned away.
Only to be stopped as a hand grabbed at his sleeve.
Kankuro and Temari both turned to see Gaara clutching onto his brother's sleeve, just below the elbow. He was looking dead-on into his eyes, taking in every inch of his face as though to memorize it. And at the same time he was ignoring every feature, as though there was no need to do such a thing. He'd see him again.
"Kankuro..." He spoke, and the word both pleaded and demanded attention. Kankuro stared, his eyes widened but his face stone silent. Temari didn't hide her exasperation of the situation at all. She watched with open apprehension and shock.
"Come back to us."
Those four words were not a question. It was a demand. A demand in the quietest, most pained voice that Gaara would ever allow himself to stoop to. Those four words seemed to set in stone an unbreakable promise, one that Gaara would hold against Kankuro if he failed to do so. In a way, it bound all three of them. There was no, "Kankuro live through this," or, "Temari don't die either." It was a command that the three siblings would return, alive and whole, to each other. No exceptions.
"Come back alive, Kankuro. We're both going to be waiting." This finalized the demand, and now they all three knew it. None of them were going to die. They would live through this, become victorious, and make it through this war. They'd all return, together, to Suna. Whatever awaited them after the outcome of this war, they as a family and as three siblings would live to see.
Kankuro smiled and Temari flinched. Not because the smile was scary. In fact, it was the most genuine smile he'd produced in the past few minutes. She flinched because his reaction was so confident, so knowing. And she felt that way too. She furrowed her brows and smiled. Gaara was right. They'd all come back. Alive.
"I'll see you two in the end."
"The beginning." Gaara provided. This war was going to change things.
Kankuro hesitated a moment.
With that, Kankuro turned and left. In a moment he was gone. He'd made his way to his own division, to introduce himself and become familiar with his squadron. The squad he would be leading in the first preemptive attack. An attack that could very well determine the outcome of the war. An attack to test the waters. To see what exactly they were up against.
Temari gave Gaara a final glance. He held her gaze and then nodded. She returned his motion with her own and then left. She'd see him again soon enough. Unlike Kankuro, they were in the same division. She'd be beside him the whole time. She made her way to the division, keeping her eyes open for any trace of Kankuro or his squad. The army was too vast-she couldn't see where he was. The sea of crowded people blocked all directions of vision except up; up she could see Gaara. Up, she could hear his speech. Blown away, moved, she was proud in him. But her thoughts fluttered back to the more private words he'd spoken just to them, his siblings.
Not everyone was going to come out of this alive.
But she would make sure she would. And she would be damned if she let the same not be true for Gaara. Kankuro just better keep up his end of the promise.
And she was more than positive he would.
AN: Hmm...That middle part, the flashback, was added last minute...I'm not sure if it adds to the story or takes away, but looking back I feel it needed to be told, and I couldn't add it really as a stand alone, so throwing it into this story was the only way it'd get told...
Random facts of this story; Temari and Gaara actually make an appearance in this fic! Haha unlike my first story...Hmm, I really like the idea of these three taking a moment to act like siblnigs and show concern for each other before the war begins. I have to admit I'm really mvoed by the idea that Kankuro isn't with his siblnigs in the same division, which I think is really bittersweet considering he's also the captain of another squad. I'd like to beleive Gaara had a hand in appointing him that position ;) That little scene of the Kages was imprompty by me on my theory of how it went-sorry, I'm not knowledgable on General appointments, so I fudged it all real quick :p sorry... Also, and this comes from my bias of being a huge Kankuro fan, I'd like to point out Kankuro really does hold a huge importance in his position, as Gaara mentions in the fic :p He leads the first attack! The surprise, the beginning point, and in some case the turning point, of the war! Haha ah, anyway, I'll spare the rant, sorry...
Anyway, sorry to spam ya'll with this fail-of-a-fluff oneshot! I'll make sure to take more time and slow back on posting anything else until it's 100% ready to avoid flooding the site w/ poor quality fics! Haha that's it!