Author's Note: This takes place sometime after Gaara shares his dream with Kankuro, but way before he becomes Kazekage.

Heart Failure

"It's a kind of heart failure, isn't it?" Gaara said suddenly.

Kankuro stopped short. The piece of tempura fell from his chopsticks back into his bowl.

Gaara turned his head and looked at Kankuro with his intense blue-green eyes. "When you can't love anyone else but yourself. That's a kind of heart failure. A failure of the heart."

"Uh…I- I guess so," Kankuro said.

Gaara tilted his head, examining Kankuro's reaction. "That's why I was such a bad person. My heart failed."

Kankuro started sweating. Does he want me to say something, or am I just supposed to sit here and listen? He had no idea what to do. Communication with Gaara was strange. Sometimes, he could say something and Gaara would never respond. At other times, Gaara would turn to him and begin this outpouring of ideas, and Kankuro didn't have any room to get a word in edgewise. It wasn't as if they never had real discussions, but those were a separate third category in which Gaara asked him direct, simple questions.

Gaara closed his eyes. "I know why it happened, too." He opened his eyes and smiled at Kankuro. "Yashamaru tried to kill me. And Father, but I blame Yashamaru. The betrayal of Father by itself wouldn't be enough. It had to be Yashamaru to cause that kind of reaction." He paused. "I wonder if they knew that." His gaze wandered off again.

Kankuro set aside his bowl and chopsticks. He no longer felt like eating. In fact, his stomach was so tight he regretted eating anything. Gaara, man, you gotta warn me when you're about to say stuff like this. It sickens me. He'd never say that, because he knew Gaara wouldn't be able to tell the difference between reacting to words and reacting to people. Gaara would think he meant Gaara sickened him.

Gaara pinned Kankuro with his gaze again. "Niisan, why would someone want to cause heart failure?"

Now the discussion had begin. Kankuro took a deep breath. If Gaara called him 'niisan', that meant Gaara really wanted to know. Was invested in knowing. "The kind you're talking about, I don't know. That's causing a total collapse of personality. Like a black hole. Everything gets sucked in because of the emptiness."

Gaara held his hands out palm up. "Shukaku, and Gaara. These are personalities?" He weighed the two ideas in his hands.

"And people, but I guess you could say that, yeah." Kankuro nodded. "They're kind of indistinguishable from each other. A person is a personality, except a personality is said to have no body, and a person implies a body to go along with the personality."

Gaara smiled again, that odd, eyes closed, tanuki smile. "So I'm right. Gaara and Shukaku are personalities. Neither one of them has a body. Because we both share it, and it isn't either of ours." He placed his hand over his heart.

"Whose is it?" Kankuro asked.


Kankuro flinched. What?

Gaara looked at Kankuro curiously. "Father made it for me out of Mother. Mother had to die first. That's why. That's why I don't have a body. I didn't want one. My body is like Mother's body, really. But Father stole it. I'd give this body back to her if I could, but I can't. She's dead." He pondered that. "That's the way bodies are. Once you don't have one, you're dead. When bodies become inoperable, people die. Their spirit goes away."

Kankuro chewed his lip. He could see Gaara's logic. That was the problem. He couldn't see how to get Gaara away from the ideas when they were so logical. "But since you're inside this body now, don't you own it?"

"No." Gaara said the word as if he didn't care, wasn't upset, and couldn't understand Kankuro's assumption.

"Why not?" Kankuro asked.

"Only people own their bodies," Gaara said.

Kankuro opened his mouth.

"I am not a person," Gaara said. Again, he didn't seem upset. "Because I was born from Mother's body with Shukaku's personality along with me, shaped by Father's desires, I am not a human. I am a monster." He smiled, the sweetest smile Kankuro had ever seen from him. "I am trying to be a nice monster."

"A nice monster," Kankuro said, dazed. He had never imagined that Gaara might go through his transformation still feeling like a monster.

Gaara nodded. "Maybe if people see that I am trying to be a nice monster now, I can be Kazekage, and then they will bond with me." He looked so hopeful.

Kankuro felt his entire body fill with pain. He was just about killed by that. Ototo, you don't need to be Kazekage. How could he tell Gaara that? Gaara was hanging onto the idea of being Kazekage like a promise. A promise of love.

I love you! Look at me! Kankuro's throat closed up. Don't look to those other people. Look at me. Isn't my love enough for you?

"I don't think you're a monster." Kankuro's lips were numb.

Gaara's nose wrinkled. He looked at Kankuro in confusion, almost looking annoyed. "What do you think I am?"

"I think you're a person." Kankuro didn't know how he managed to get that out, much less in a steady voice.

Gaara was taken aback. "Well, you're wrong." He studied Kankuro warily. "I'm a monster." He looked as if Kankuro had shaken his confidence in Kankuro's sanity.

Kankuro pasted on a big, sheepish grin. "Sorry. I like ya. That may have something to do with it." He rubbed the back of his head. "I forget."

Gaara relaxed. "That's alright, niisan. Sometimes I forget you're a person."

Kankuro wanted to snort with laughter. If it had been anyone but Gaara, he would have been insulted. Gaara's cute, backhanded compliment made him forget most of his pain. I know what you mean. You forget I'm a person because you don't like people and you don't feel the same as them. "Why, thank you, Gaara. That means a lot to me."

Gaara smiled. "I, as well, like it when you forget that I'm a monster and treat me like a person. Even if I'm not." He looked down at the kitchen table shyly. "It's not stupid. It's nice."

Kankuro almost reached out and touched Gaara's arm. Almost. If he could ever be sure Shukaku wouldn't rip his hand off, he probably would. "I think you're nice, ototo."

Gaara looked up at Kankuro, stunned. Then, slowly, his cheeks turned pink.

Kankuro smirked. Hah. What kind of monster is that? Someday, I'm gonna make you see just how much of a monster you are: not one.

Then he realized the real heart failure was Yashamaru's.