Author's Note: This is a series of vignettes about Gaara's early life, before his psychotic break at age 6. Kind of a portrait of what his life might have been like. I picked up roughly at the age of four and a half. Four-year-olds are smarter than you think. Especially Gaara. ;p


They sat on the back steps, sharing slices of apple. The quiet end to a tiring day. Yashamaru had to go teach newly graduated students at the infirmary. Gaara had been to his father's house for another training session. He had seen his siblings briefly during that time, though he knew they weren't allowed to be in the dojo with him. As usual, Father gave him instructions he couldn't follow and then yelled at him for not being able to understand.

Gaara could tell that Yashamaru was tired. His uncle had that slumped posture and sad expression that meant he was trying not to look like he was in pain.

"Why do I live with you, Yashamaru?"

Yashamaru glanced at him and then smiled. "Because that is how your father wishes it. He is the Kazekage. He is a very important man."

Gaara looked down at the slice of apple in his hands. "But why?"

Yashamaru laughed, trying to make light of Gaara's depression. "Because this is better for you."

Gaara glanced up at his uncle dubiously. "It is?" He wished he could believe that. But every time he trained with his father and then was sent home, he felt so disheartened. He couldn't describe it. It was almost like he wished he didn't exist, or something.

"Of course. Your father cares about you." Yashamaru beamed.

Gaara saw through it to the sadness underneath. He didn't comment. Yashamaru was always sad. That was why he thought they were well-matched. Yashamaru could understand him, Yashamaru was his friend, because they were both sad all the time.

He ate the slice of apple in his hands before it could go brown. While he chewed, he thought about the disappointment and irritation on his father's face. If he could make those expressions go away, if he could somehow make them change to something elseā€¦

Gaara looked up at his uncle. "Yashamaru?"

Yashamaru hid a flicker of wariness behind another smile. "Yes, Gaara-sama?"

Gaara shared his idea. "If I start doing better on my lessons, Father will bring me home with him, won't he?"

Yashamaru laughed and looked away, rubbing the back of his head the way he always did when he was embarrassed. "Maybe. Maybe. I can say that is definitely a possibility." He looked at Gaara, his eyes softening. "That would be nice, wouldn't it? And that would be better for everyone."

Gaara tilted his head, surprised. "Wouldn't you miss me?"

Yashamaru stared at him, mouth open, and then busied himself cutting up the other half of the apple. "Ah, Gaara-sama, have more apple." He hastily handed Gaara a fresh slice still dripping with juice.

Gaara took the sticky apple slice, still focused on Yashamaru's face. "Won't you?"

Yashamaru smiled ruefully. "I want what's best for you, Gaara-sama."

Gaara nodded thoughtfully and bit into his piece of apple. Yashamaru will miss me. He just doesn't want to admit it because he wants to be happy for me. I understand. I won't let him know I can see it. Otherwise he might not think he's been good enough. Yashamaru likes being selfless.