A Team Effort


After Gaara returned to life, it wasn't Gaara that was in any medical danger. Chiyo had done her last act perfectly. Kankuro was one confined to his bed. He'd overtaxed himself by running out after Gaara as soon as he could walk, and he'd come dangerously close to killing himself with chakra exhaustion. Recovering from a fatal amount of slow-acting poison had meant that he had almost no chakra left to begin with, never mind what he burned taking off at full speed to find Gaara.

With no other means of reliable administration, Baki had stayed behind to make sure the Council didn't betray the Kazekage's family. He regretted that now. If he'd been there, Kankuro might not be laid flat in bed, so pale that his face almost matched the sheets.

While Temari watched over Gaara as Gaara slept for the first time, Baki watched over Kankuro. He'd been kneeling by Kankuro's bed for an hour. Or was it two? Either way, Kankuro finally opened his eyes, coming out of his doze.

Baki gave him a small smile of acknowledgement.

"Where is everyone?" Kankuro rubbed his eyes and sat up, cushioning his back with his pillow. That effort alone exhausted him, and he lay back against his pillow limply.

"Gaara is sleeping, and Temari is watching over him," Baki said.

"So am I." Kankuro managed to drag the covers off of himself.

Baki took his wrist. "No. Wait. You have chakra exhaustion. You shouldn't be moving."

"But I need to go to Gaara," Kankuro said.

"Gaara is safe now," Baki said.

"Yeah, thanks to Naruto," Kankuro muttered. "I need to make sure he doesn't forget he has siblings. I care. I care, even if I couldn't save him all by myself."

Baki shot to his feet as Kankuro slid his legs over the edge of the bed and scooted. "You need to stay in bed."

"No, I need to be there when Gaara wakes up this time," Kankuro said. "He needs to know I care. Not just Temari."

"Wait."

Kankuro gave him a look full of pain. "I can't." Kankuro forced himself onto his feet.

Baki caught him before he hit the floor. "Let me carry you. At least allow me that." He ran his arms around Kankuro's legs, and underneath Kankuro's arms, and hoisted Kankuro up into a front carry sometimes referred to as bridal style.

Kankuro squirmed, and then lay still. He flushed. "You don't have to…"

"I do if I don't want you crawling to your brother's room," Baki said. He walked to the door and opened it, then turned the lights out and shut the door behind them. He headed down the hallway, to Gaara's room. Gaara had chosen a new room as Kazekage. This room was much further away than just down the hall. It was across the mansion. Kankuro would never have made it.

"I'm sorry I yelled at you," Baki said quietly. "I shouldn't have done that."

Kankuro attempted a smirk. It fell short of his usual mark. "That's ancient history, man."

Baki shook his head. "Not to me."

Kankuro laid a hand on Baki's chest. "Well, don't worry about it."

"If I hadn't yelled at you, you wouldn't have been so foolish," Baki said.

"Nah. I'm always foolish."

Baki sighed. "That's not true, and you know that. I was only pushing you towards more extreme methods of action. Instead of listening to you, letting you blow off steam and intimidate the Council into not going through with its plan to replace Gaara, you decided the only thing to do was go after Gaara and bring him back yourself, to prove that there was no need for a new Kazekage."

Kankuro paused. Then he looked away and nodded. "You know me."

"Of course I know you. I'm your sensei." Baki tightened his arms around Kankuro, holding Kankuro more firmly against his chest.

Kankuro didn't argue against that, even though he'd made jonin earlier this year.

Baki turned down the hall. Towards the end of this hall was Gaara's room. Even asleep, he could feel the buzz of Gaara's chakra. He could bet Kankuro could feel the same thing. His sensing abilities were much less refined than Kankuro's.

Kankuro calmed down significantly once he could feel the buzz of Gaara's chakra. Baki didn't say anything, but he knew. Coming on the scene of everyone surrounding Gaara's lifeless body had been immensely scarring. He didn't have to be there to know. As shinobi, everyone acutely sensed each other's presence; every person had their own feel, and this feeling of another person's energy was something more intimate and more taken for granted than a person's face. Even in different rooms of a house, shinobi could sense each other, could feel the collective energy of the family.

Not feeling someone's energy for the first time, while being able to see them, was frightening. Seeing a ghost. It was immediate, unwanted knowledge.

Baki padded down the hallway, knocked on the door, and opened it.

Temari looked up. She was sitting in a chair beside Gaara's bed.

Gaara, for the moment, was awake, possibly due to the knock on the door. He looked at Kankuro and Baki with wide eyes. "What happened?"

"Nothing," Baki said, startled. "He just wanted to see you." Then he realized how it must look for him to enter carrying Kankuro. Baki carefully set Kankuro down on his own two feet and helped him over to the bed.

"I wanted to see you," Kankuro said. He sounded out of breath even though he hadn't walked here. "I wanted to make sure you knew…" He trembled for a moment. "That we love you."

Gaara gently pulled Kankuro into bed, under the covers. "I know you do. And I love you, too. Please don't worry about it, Niisan. I'm fine."

Kankuro clung to him and rested his head on Gaara's shoulder.

Temari climbed into bed on the other side to join the snuggles.

Baki nodded to himself. The way it should be. He prepared to leave.

Kankuro suddenly looked up at him. "Where do you think you're going?"

Baki stopped. "I…" He jerked a thumb at the door.

"Get over here," Kankuro said. "You said it first. You're our sensei. Stay here and watch over us."

Baki gave him a slight smile and tried not to cry. He came over and sat on the edge of the bed, to be with them.

To be with his team.