Chapter 3


By the time Tama arrived and bowed before the Kazekage, giving the usual respectful greeting to Gaara, Baki was ready.

Tama straightened, glancing at Baki and Kankuro. He was unremarkable looking. About 5'11'', muscular but not bulky, light brown skin, short black hair, dark eyes. His features were handsome in an ordinary, symmetrical way, his teeth were straight. Dressed as he was in a dull slate and sand colored uniform, he blended right in with the rest of the Suna shinobi.

Baki hated him.

Over the course of the last twenty-four hours, Baki realized he had come to not want anything to do with this person. He didn't want to see Tama, hear Tama, sense Tama...he didn't want Tama or anything about the man to touch him.

Baki clenched his jaw and looked to Gaara, waiting for Gaara to explain why Tama was here.

Gaara crossed his arms. "I have become aware of a breach of conduct. You are here to face the charge."

Kankuro was silent, but his presence weighed heavily on the room.

"What?" Tama looked disconcerted. "What breach of conduct? I'm here? Me? I'm the one with a breach of conduct? Kazekage-sama, I swear to you I know nothing."

He looked at Kankuro uneasily. Baki knew that Kankuro was putting off some very unsettling energy.

"Baki," Gaara said. "Please explain."

Tama turned to face Baki. Baki could see it dawn on Tama's face that whatever he'd been summoned for had to do with the last mission he'd been with Baki on.

Baki cleared his throat quietly and gathered all his courage. "I'm gay."

Tama took a step back. "What? What is this?"

Baki didn't move. "You insulted me."

Tama looked to Gaara, and at Gaara's expression, looked back to Baki.

Baki was going layer by layer, one at a time. "You ordered me...to have sex with prostitutes...to pursue a missing nin."

"I -"

"You neither cared nor paid attention to my objections," Baki said. "Though I am a jonin too. You used your rank and authority over me to ignore: A) I don't have sex with prostitutes. I don't allow anyone to touch me unless it is morally righteous. B) I am not straight, and cannot stand for a woman to touch me."

"It's a job," Tama retorted, breathing sharply in a way that revealed his anger.

"By which you made Baki prostitute himself," Kankuro said sharply. "And prostitution is illegal in Suna."

"I did not-" Tama looked at Kankuro and then cast Baki a contemptuous glance. "-make Baki 'prostitute' himself. An act of prostitution is collecting money for performing sexual deeds. He paid money in the course of a job to find a man who is said to frequent the locations -"

"You made me do sexual things with people when I was being paid on the job to find the missing nin!" Baki snapped.

"So what?" Tama said. "The job of finding Isago isn't prostitution. That's what you were being paid for. The sex was free."

Baki wanted to throw up. He felt hot and prickly.

"You are missing the point," Gaara said flatly. "You are dodging the real issue: Baki has already stated his position on sex. Whether the sex is free or paid is therefore beside the point. You asked him to violate his own body for a job. No one has the authority to do that. Not even me."

Tama turned towards Gaara, his expression flat and disbelieving at the position he was in. He bowed to Gaara deeply. "My apologies. Kazekage-sama, I did not think of my orders in that light, and I certainly did not think them through in such a manner that a courtroom lawyer or a philosopher would be satisfied with them. I merely thought the most direct approach to finding Isago was the simplest."

Baki squeezed Kankuro's hand tightly.

"Then clearly you are not cut out to be a team leader," Gaara said just as flatly. "Being a leader is a sacred position. You are charged not only with your team's physical well-being and the act of getting the mission completed. You are charged with their emotional well-being as well. To lead is not to narrowly make sure A gets done for B. To lead is to have a broad vision in which those under you are kept in top condition. You have damaged Baki physically and emotionally. You have also asked Baki to forge false spiritual connections to others, for this is what sex is: a spiritual connection made through two bodies. You have therefore also caused spiritual damage. This is not what a good leader would do. Even if you are not prosecuted, I will ensure you do not lead a team again."

Tama lifted his head, his expression bitter. "Nor do I wish to. If those are the responsibilities, I forego that."

"It is well you understand," Gaara said. "To be a leader is to accept all the responsibilities with it. It is unfortunate that you did not understand before. Much damage could have been avoided. However, your lack of understanding does not cancel out Baki's very real pain, nor does it excuse an order to have sex. There will be a court martial."

Tama straightened abruptly. His eyes glittered with outrage. However, he didn't argue.

Baki felt enormously threatened, and did feel himself edging behind Kankuro little by little.

Kankuro stepped out in front of him.

Baki felt a rush of relief, followed by pounding anxiety. He realized slowly the pounding was actually his heart, and he didn't want Kankuro to be hurt or killed. His mouth went dry.

"I understand," Tama said softly, in a tightly controlled voice. He bowed again. "Your will is law, Kazekage-sama."

Gaara summoned one of his guards, to whom he gave the order to have Tama processed.

Tama's chakra vibrated and flamed with outrage, but he didn't struggle. He stiffly allowed himself to be handcuffed and taken away.

Baki wanted to cry. He was shaky with the level of fear he experienced. As soon as Tama was out of the room, he wrapped his arms around Kankuro and clung, wanting to feel safe.

Kankuro hugged him very closely. "It's okay," he whispered.

Gaara walked around the desk and hugged Baki as well.

"I don't want him to hurt me again," Baki blurted, and as soon as he did, he started to cry. "Not again. I don't want to be hurt again." He was alarmed to hear himself.

Tama's angry chakra intensely washing over him triggered off a series of split-second flashbacks, confusing him and stealing all of his confidence.

Kankuro and Gaara both hugged him tightly. "We'll protect you," Kankuro said.

"We won't let him hurt you," Gaara added.

Baki relaxed enough for the room to come into focus. It had turned into a white blur. He hugged them both back. "I want you to. I want you to. I just - Don't want to be hurt again." He wasn't sure that was what he'd intended to say. He took a deep breath. "Someone did. Someone hurt me. I don't -" He stopped, analyzing himself. "I don't think it was Tama. I don't think...but I mean, Tama did hurt me. He just wasn't..."

Baki tried to face the flashbacks he'd gotten. "Someone hurt me on the inside. For real. I mean, physically did. I think..." He hesitated, realizing how horrible it sounded. "I just - Saw. When Tama...got so angry at me...I saw...things. In my head. That I think...are...might be memories." He looked at Kankuro and Gaara pleadingly, hoping they wouldn't shut him up. It was an unfair fear to have, but he was afraid.

Kankuro and Gaara exchanged worried looks. "Memories of what?" Kankuro ventured.

Baki tried to calm down and took a deep breath. "Someone...I think someone...a man..." That would be obvious if they could see what he had. He took another deep breath. "Stuck his...and I...feel fear...and pain...and I...it..." He shuddered. "It feels...I feel...so..." He looked to Kankuro. "Like I felt, when I told you the story. How Isago...how Tama ordered me to look for Isago in...in those places, and act like..." He shook his head. "I feel the same way. Like it's..." He didn't have words for it.

Kankuro returned to his first comment. "You were violated."

Baki nodded, wide-eyed. He felt relief at Kankuro supplying the word for his feeling. He wished he could say it himself, but it wouldn't come. It felt stuck.

Gaara jerked faintly, then felt deeply disturbed.

Kankuro had been told he had a similar blocked memory, and he knew he'd been sexually assaulted. All he felt was empathy.

Baki clung to them. "What do I do?" He didn't know what he was asking for.

He couldn't even begin to wrap his mind around what he needed to do.

"Try starting by telling us what you are afraid of . . . now," Kankuro suggested.

"Being undressed and touched," Baki said immediately. He was stunned that he'd responded this way. He hadn't been thinking that consciously.

Kankuro nodded.

Gaara chewed on that, nodding as well.

"Why?" Kankuro prompted.

"I don't want to be touched," Baki said. He had a sudden mental image of being exposed, of hands. "Hands hurt." He felt distressed to the point of his lips doing numb. He couldn't believe he was saying these things. "I don't want to hurt. I don't want to hurt."

Kankuro thought for a moment. "I think the lie is that hands always hurt and touch is always painful."

Baki started crying. "I can't handle it. I can't handle it. They touched me and they took off my -" He gestured first before being able to say it. "-shirt. They took their hands and..." He gestured again, swallowing a lump in his throat. "Massaged me. But they meant it sexually." He gave Kankuro a pleading look. He felt a crushing amount of shame. "They touched me all over and they...and I had to flirt..."

He felt hot and prickly all over again. "And I had to just ignore...how I felt...and...just..." He shook his head.

"And a second lie may be that no one will care if you're hurt," Gaara pointed out. "But we care that you hurt. We care that you're hurting right now."

Kankuro nodded. "We're going to make sure Tama is punished for putting you in that situation."

Baki burst out crying loudly. He clung to them. "I hurt...and no one stopped him. No one stopped him from hurting me when I got hurt by him. No one stopped him and said I was okay. So I'm not okay."

They both hugged him tightly. Gaara even encircled them with his sand.

"I will have him court-martialled," Gaara said.

"And you will be okay," Kankuro added, rubbing his back.

"I will?" Baki took in this news desperately. "How? How will I be okay if I can't prove-" He stopped. He had no idea what he was talking about.

He tried to pick up the thread. "That - That I...didn't do it..."

He stopped again, confused and worried.

"Deserve it?" Kankuro guessed.

Baki slowly brought his gaze back to Kankuro's face. Everything was crisp and out of focus at the same time. Like a photograph shoved in his face.

He had to concentrate to read Kankuro's expression. "I..." He realized he'd gone numb. He nodded. "I guess so."

"A lot of people fall into that trap," Kankuro said gently. "They can't understand how someone else could be that randomly evil, so they assume they must have done something to bring it on themselves."

"Self-blame," Gaara murmured.

Baki squinted, tears leaking down his cheeks. "Uh-huh." He felt relieved and miserable at the same time.

"But here is a basic fact," Kankuro said. "The truth is no one can ever do anything to make themselves deserve to be raped. It's not possible. Rape is a physical, emotional, and spiritual trauma, so even a rapist cannot deserve to be raped. Only executed."

While Kankuro's words allowed him to let go of a part of it, that wasn't all that Baki needed. "But bad boys get punished by spankings if they can't prove they don't deserve it." He could hear his mom saying: Tell me why. Tell me why you don't deserve it. Tell me why and I might not punish you. It depends on what you did.

His stomach quivered unpleasantly, making him feel watery.

"A spanking is not a punishment," Kankuro said. "A spanking is abuse. No one deserves abuse. Also, a rape is not a punishment. A rape is abuse. You have crossed two separate concepts in your mind: abuse and punishment. And even (real) punishment is not always the answer to a misdeed. A parent should use discernment."

Baki said nervously, "But if I don't tell her why..." And realized they couldn't read his mind. "My mother would - she used to spank me. Unless I could convince her not to. And if I could tell her why - why not - why not to spank me - she wouldn't. But if I couldn't come up with an answer, she would. And sometimes she would laugh and say my answer wasn't much of an answer, and I still deserved it, but she was going to go easy on me."

"That's broken," Kankuro said.

Gaara shook his head. "It is not a child's responsibility to be their own defense lawyer. A parent should research what has happened on her own, use her intelligence and discern after gathering the facts, and then decide if a punishment is in order. This includes asking the child for his story. It does not include having the child beg during his sentencing."

Baki was confused and hurting. "But I have to, or else -" He stopped. He assessed the conversation and hung his head. "I'm stuck in a cycle," he said quietly.

"She was essentially saying, 'Prove to me why I shouldn't abuse you,'" Kankuro said. "That is null and avoid. The answer is: 'You should never abuse me, ever. Abuse is evil and wrong.'"

Gaara nodded. "Your innocence or guilt is irrelevant. She baited you on the presupposition that abuse is acceptable."

Baki was mind-blown by that concept. "She...why?"

Kankuro sighed. "I have no idea. Parents of her generation thought it was good to beat their kids." He shrugged. "But her logic is much more broken than that. The most she could have said would be 'Prove to me you're innocent,' but even that is putting her responsibility onto you. To say, 'Prove to me that you don't deserve this beating' is batshit insane."

Baki smiled tremulously. "Uh, yeah." He hurt all over.

"Your mother and your rapist have gotten confounded in your mind," Kankuro added. "You think you should have proven to him why you didn't deserve to be raped. There is no proof for that; the question is null and void."

Baki jerked, startled, and felt a bubble of panic and confusion burst. "Oh my god."

He felt tears running down his cheeks. "Because all grownups are parents, and all parents work the same way, and he was a grownup, and I was child, so I had to argue for him to stop, and I didn't have a reason, so I -" He wanted to throw up. "It's all lies. All of it." He stared at Kankuro and Gaara.

Gaara nodded. "All of it."

"I don't have to worry about that," Baki said. "It - all of it - doesn't make any sense."

"Exactly!" Kankuro was overjoyed.

Baki cried and hugged on them both. He felt like he'd been trampled, but he didn't feel the way he did before.

Kankuro and Gaara rocked him back and forth gently, hugging him.

Baki basked in the snuggles. "Can I go home with you guys? Like, permanently?"

"Hell yeah!" Kankuro said.

"Of course you can," Gaara said more quietly. "We'd be honored and pleased."

He hugged them both fiercely. "You're the best, guys." He took a deep breath. "I feel like a million times better."

He smirked. "I guess I gotta thank that asshole Tama for popping this whole thing up to the surface. Not that I'll ever let him know that."

"Uh, yeah." Kankuro kissed his cheek.

"You're welcome," Gaara said. To the implied thanks.

Baki kissed Kankuro on the lips gently. Then he turned his head and kissed Gaara's forehead.

Kankuro blushed happily.

Gaara smiled.

Baki looked to Kankuro. "Can we...you know...go out? Because I feel like it should be official. We should be a thing."

Kankuro kissed him back. "Yes. I thought you'd never ask." He grinned.

Baki grinned and blushed. He felt warm inside. "I love you."

"I love you, too."

Gaara smiled, happy they were finally together.