As soon as they'd gotten home, Kankuro and Temari had put Gaara to bed. Baki had come, and he had arranged for a med nin to check in on Gaara and make sure that Gaara was going to be okay.
Kankuro collapsed back in bed and slept. When he woke, it was the next afternoon. He showered, brushed his teeth, and went downstairs to the kitchen, eating leftover rice and chicken in a hurry before going to see Gaara.
Gaara was sluggishly awake, tucked into his bed with the covers pulled up to his chin. He looked professionally arranged. No doubt Temari's work. Temari always played amateur nurse. In spite of the fact that she wasn't a professionally trained med nin, she always tried to fix them up when one of them was sick or injured. Maybe that was just what older sisters were like.
"Hi." Kankuro stood in the doorway uncertainly. Is anything going to be different? Will it ever be different?
He'd like to think that Gaara's death and second chance at life changed things. But he didn't know.
Gaara nodded. "Ohayo." His voice was scratchy.
Kankuro chuckled and scratched the back of his neck. "Ah, konnichiwa, actually."
Gaara took in this news with slightly widened eyes.
"You slept through the night." Kankuro offered a grin. He knew that in the past, Shukaku would have woken up Gaara after a few hours of rest.
"Come in," Gaara said. He shifted, turning onto his side.
Kankuro crossed the room and stood over the bed awkwardly. The house was silent; he didn't feel Baki or Temari's chakra. He took a chance. Kankuro leaned down and took Gaara's hand, squeezing it. "How're you feeling?"
There was no one here to witness the rejection if Gaara told him to leave.
Gaara squeezed his hand in return.
Hope roared to life. Kankuro was flooded with the desperate desire to close the gap between them once and for all. He heard a rushing sound in his ears, and his heart pounded. He clung to Gaara's hand, refusing to let go.
Gaara answered the question after a few beats of silence. "I never realized how much of me was him."
Kankuro's heart plummeted. He'd heard jinchuuriki couldn't live without their bijuu. He'd heard it was a bond he couldn't comprehend. Symbiotic. A kind of bond that he could never have with Gaara, no matter how close they got. "I can't imagine what it's like. Ototo, I'm sorry. If I had gotten there in time…" In the beginning, if I'd gone a little faster, managed to get to Gaara before Deidara had, managed to get village security to respond fast enough instead of hanging back out of fear –
Gaara shook his head absently. "No…" He closed his eyes and rested back. "I never realized how much of my aggression was him. How much sadness, and anger…and betrayal…I felt all those things from him."
Kankuro was stunned. He immediately withdrew judgment, refusing to jump to conclusions about what Gaara was trying to say.
"He felt like a caged animal," Gaara said. "He felt as though this village was his prison. He wanted…to disappear, and never come back. He felt as though he were an outcast, that no one wanted him or loved him…those feelings were his. I…" He opened his eyes and looked at Kankuro. "…don't feel that anymore."
Kankuro realized then that Gaara's amazement at finding the village around him when he woke was more than simply awe at the show of loyalty. Gaara must have also realized in that moment that the feelings he'd lived with were not his at all.
Can you…can you love me? Kankuro knelt by the bed, still holding Gaara's hand. "I want to know…How do you feel, Ototo?"
"I feel…" Gaara rose unsteadily, sitting up in bed. He was still pale and shaky, and Kankuro could tell that sitting up was a great effort. He met Kankuro's gaze, and a slight smile curved his lips. "…glad to be home. With my Niisan."
Kankuro felt a smile spreading across his face in return. "I'm glad you're home, too."