Niisan and Ototo

After breakfast, Gaara tugged on Yashamaru's robe. "Come push me on the swings."

Yashamaru gently disengaged Gaara's hand from his clothing. "I can't, Gaara-sama. I have to go help out in the infirmary today."

"Then how am I going to get pushed on the swings?" Gaara asked.

Yashamaru thought for a moment, and then beamed. "You can use your sand to push yourself on the swings. That's a good idea, isn't it?"

Gaara pouted and looked at the floor, hugging his teddy bear to his chest. "No." He wanted to cry.

Yashamaru quickly knelt in front of him, waving his hands to get Gaara's attention. "Ah, ah, Gaara-sama, please don't be upset. Please calm yourself."

Gaara already shook with disappointment, grieving for the day Yashamaru had just killed for him. His breath hitched. "I want to get pushed on the swings."

"There has to be a solution," Yashamaru said. "What if I push you tomorrow? I have the day off tomorrow. I can go to the park with you tomorrow, Gaara-sama."

Gaara clutched his teddy bear tighter. "Wanted to go today."

"What if someone else pushed you on the swings?" Yashamaru asked. He sounded desperate to please.

Gaara looked up at his uncle. He scowled with doubt. "Is anyone else going to push me besides you? You're the only person who likes me."

Yashamaru's beaming smile was more of a grimace. "That's not true."

"Yes it is." Gaara stared at the floor.

"I know of two – three other people who love you, Gaara-sama."

Gaara's head snapped up. "Who?" Why would you keep me from them?

"Your father, your brother, and your sister," Yashamaru said. "They love you, Gaara-sama. Maybe one of them will take you to the park."

Gaara stared at his uncle with his mouth hanging open. Then he frowned, angry. "Father doesn't like me. My brother and sister won't even be in the same room with me. They aren't going to come with me to the park. Father is working. Kankuro and Temari…" He trailed off, because he had no idea what his siblings were doing. What they ever did.

"Kankuro and Temari will take you," Yashamaru said, seizing on his silence. "Exactly!"

Gaara pouted, looking at the floor again. "No, they won't." Yashamaru could be stupid sometimes. How come he doesn't understand that people don't want to be with me?

"Why not?" Yashamaru asked.

"Because…" They don't like me. Gaara didn't know how to explain it to Yashamaru if Yashamaru wouldn't listen.

"It's not like they have anything better to do," Yashamaru said. "It's Sunday."

"What do you mean?" Gaara asked. He looked up at Yashamaru, confused.

"Kankuro and Temari go to school," Yashamaru said gently. "School is out on Sundays."

Kankuro and Temari are at home. Gaara contemplated that, absently hugging on his teddy bear. My home. Where I should be. I want to go to them. I want to be with them and live with them all the time.

"I'll drop you off there," Yashamaru said, straightening. "Won't that be wonderful, Gaara-sama? You'll get to spend some time with your siblings."

Sometimes, Gaara hated Yashamaru's fake cheerfulness. But he wouldn't say anything about it. He didn't want Yashamaru to go away. If he mentioned it, Yashamaru night get upset, and then he would be alone because he had been rude. I understand. You don't want to be sad. No one wants to be sad.

If it made Yashamaru feel better to think he was being helpful…

Gaara squeezed his teddy bear, making a decision. He looked up at Yashamaru and smiled. "Okay."

Kankuro answered the door. "Uncle Yashamaru?" He looked at Yashamaru and Gaara in disbelief.

Temari appeared right behind him, peering over his shoulder. "What's wrong?"

Yashamaru laughed. "Nothing, nothing is wrong, children. I just need to work, and Gaara-sama here wants to go to the park. You'll take him, won't you?" He stepped back from the door before they could answer and waved. "Bye!"

Gaara froze to the spot, stunned. He would have quaked in terror if he hadn't had his teddy bear with him. The teddy bear was the only thing keeping him from panicking.

"H-Hey!" Kankuro reached out as if to call Yashamaru back and stopped. He looked at Gaara with open dismay.

"What're we going to do?" Temari asked. She looked to Kankuro.

Kankuro swallowed. After a few tries, he put on a smile. "Take him to the park, I guess."

Gaara was surprised. He wasn't offended that they talked in front of him as if he couldn't hear or see them. He was surprised that Kankuro had decided to take him where he wanted to go after all.

"Aw, man, our one day off from school, and we have to waste it like this." Temari raked a hand through her hair. "Adults are a pain."

Kankuro glared at her flatly.

Gaara watched the interaction anxiously, hugging his teddy bear to his chest, tucking its head under his chin.

"Why do we have to take him to the park at all?" Temari asked. "It's not like he can get hurt." She gave Gaara an uneasy glance.

"He's four," Kankuro protested.

"I don't care how old he is," Temari said.

Kankuro pouted. "He may be really strong, but he's still a kid. Come on. Don't be lousy."

Temari crossed her arms. "You take him."

"I'm only six," Kankuro protested.

Temari glowered. "Again with the ages. I don't care, ototo. I'm not going to the park. It's a waste."

"You're mean." Kankuro scowled at her as if he had expected nothing more of her, but he was still angry.

Temari bounced off. "I'm not going to the park. I'm going to hang out here with my friends. Tomi can come over."

"Tomi," Kankuro muttered. He turned back to Gaara, still scowling. "I guess you're coming with me. Temari's going to be a stick in the mud."

"I am not!" Temari yelled from across the room.

Kankuro sighed and stuck out his hand.

Gaara stared at it.

Kankuro wiggled his hand impatiently.

Gaara glanced up at Kankuro's face and hesitantly took it.

Kankuro wrapped his fingers around Gaara's hand without hesitation. "Okay, we're going."

Kankuro marched them down the street at a pace that was fairly hard to keep up with. Gaara felt as though he were stuck between walking and running, forced to keep his feet moving quickly.

"Why do you hold my hand?" Gaara asked.

Kankuro glanced at him with a frown. "Cause that's what you're supposed to do when you help little kids walk down the street."

It's nothing personal, then. Gaara had expected that, but he had still been curious. "Do you like me, Kankuro?"

Kankuro thought about that for a moment while they walked. His mouth wavered. "No." He sighed. "Yes. I don't know. I don't ever get to be around you. Father says you're not…" He shook his head and dropped it. "It's not your fault, I guess. Father says you have Shukaku because you inherited the magnetism release as a baby. So I guess…you didn't choose it to happen."

"For what to happen?" Gaara looked at Kankuro curiously.

Kankuro didn't answer right away. He hurried them across the street, changing directions towards the park. When they'd crossed safely, he took in a deep breath. "You're weird. But you didn't pick it, so it's okay."

Gaara thought about that. Weird. He evaluated himself. I guess I am weird. That was depressing, but not something he had been exactly unaware of. He'd just never labeled it weirdness before. Being weird made more sense. Sticking out and never being able to talk to anybody, having sand that did whatever it wanted to in spite of his attempts to control it…He nodded. "I am weird."

Kankuro gave him a surprised glance. "Hey, but don't get mad about it."

Gaara's eyes widened. He'd never even thought of getting mad about something like that. But now he wanted to know what Kankuro thought. "How come?"

Kankuro grinned at him. "Cause it's still okay. You're not a bad kid."

"I'm not?"

"Nah. You just cry a lot."

"Oh…" I guess that's true, too.

"So do all the four-year-olds," Kankuro pointed out. "I know I did."

Gaara wasn't sure he'd been aware there were others. There are some people like me that are four years old. "Kankuro…"


"Has everyone been four years old before?"

Kankuro laughed. Not like Yashamaru. Kankuro sounded like he thought something was funny. "Not everybody. Not babies. But, yeah. I mean, you gotta be before you get older. That's what it means."

"Huh? It?"

"Life!" Kankuro laughed again. "That's what it means to be alive."

Gaara looked away, thinking. That's what it means…life. Life means getting older. I will be older someday. I got older than I was last year because life means living until you get older. That was somehow a big new concept. "How come we get older?"

Kankuro shrugged. "I don't know."

"Oh." I guess you're only six. Maybe Temari knows. She's eight. Gaara rolled the thought around unhappily. If I can ever get her to talk to me.

They were almost there. At Kankuro's pace, they were making record-breaking time. Gaara didn't think he had ever been dragged to the park so fast. He was getting out of breath.



"How come you talk to me?"

Kankuro gave Gaara a look as if he were trying to figure Gaara out. "How come I shouldn't? No one ever told me not to. Father just kept me out of the same room as you."

"Then how come you're taking me to the park now?" Gaara asked.

Kankuro frowned, puzzled. "Yashamaru says it's okay…He thinks it's okay. It must be okay, right? I mean, he's an adult. He's our uncle. If he didn't think it was okay, he wouldn't have let us."

Gaara had a feeling that Father might yell at Yashamaru later. He couldn't explain why, but he thought that sometimes Father and Yashamaru didn't like each other very much. Maybe Yashamaru is doing this to be mean to Father. His eyes widened at the sudden thought, and he kept it deep inside to himself. He didn't want anything bad to happen. He wanted to be at the park, and he didn't mind being with Kankuro. He didn't want his family to fight with each other about him.

"And anyway, I'm your niisan." Kankuro looked troubled, as if he were having bad thoughts of his own. "It should be okay. I'm not just some kid. I'm your niisan."

Niisan…Gaara thought about the word carefully. He was aware that Kankuro was his older brother, of course, but Kankuro made it sound different.

"And you're not some kid, either," Kankuro said, startling him. "You're my ototo."

Gaara smiled at Kankuro. Maybe he likes me after all. He smiles like he likes me.

Kankuro pushed him on the swings, and he didn't lose control or hurt anybody. Gaara felt his heart stop hurting so much. Kankuro took a break from pushing him, looking sweaty and worn out.

They sat on the swings side-by-side.

"You come here all the time?" Kankuro asked.

"When Yashamaru can take me," Gaara said. "I'm not supposed to be by myself."

"Is he working or something?"

"I guess," Gaara said sadly.

Kankuro put his hand on Gaara's back. "Hey. How come you're sad?"

Gaara clutched his teddy bear to his chest. "Yashamaru works a lot sometimes, and then I'm home by myself."

Kankuro looked confused. "I thought you said you weren't supposed to be by yourself."

"When I'm at home I can be," Gaara said. "But I don't like it."

"Of course not." Kankuro frowned. "Why can't they just drop you off at our house every time Yashamaru has to work? Why all this trouble about one kid?"

"I don't know," Gaara said.

"Of course not. I didn't mean to make it sound like I blamed you, or something." Kankuro bit his lip. "You're only four."

"You're just six," Gaara said. He knew six wasn't very big, either. Hardly bigger than four. A little bigger than five. Not much.

Kankuro smiled. "Thanks, ototo."

Gaara blinked, surprised.

"For not…being mad at me. For being a bad brother." Kankuro kicked the ground, rocking gently in the swing.

Gaara didn't know someone could feel bad for not being something to him. He searched for something to say. "I think you're a good brother, Kankuro. You took me to the park. Temari didn't want you to go."

Kankuro smiled at him.

Then they went back to the Kazekage Mansion, walking slower this time. Kankuro seemed to have relaxed, hanging onto Gaara's hand absently.

Yashamaru and Father were both there when they arrived. Fighting.

Father grabbed Kankuro's arm and yanked him one way.

Yashamaru pulled Gaara the other.

Gaara and Kankuro stared at each other. The adults fought over their heads. Gaara could hardly even hear the words. He was stung too much by the anger. Kankuro kept flinching every time Father said something new. Gaara noticed after a few minutes this was because Father kept squeezing Kankuro's shoulder too hard.

They both were forced to stand there for way too long.

"Take him home," Father said finally.

Yashamaru picked Gaara up in his arms and carried Gaara away, something he almost never did. Yashamaru must really want to leave fast.

Then he realized something. I never said goodbye. Kankuro must not like me now. He started to cry.

Yashamaru said nothing. His uncle just carried him home in silence.