Disclaimer: "Naruto" is owned by Masshi Kishimoto
Author notes: Wow. So, I've been working on this story for forever. But it's finished now, all five (hopefully wonderful) chapters of it. Even if it's not perfect, it's time to post it and move on. There's more to life then Kankuro and Gaara, not much more but some.
I would like to give a special thanks to Staraz who beta read these chapters for me (I kind of lost track of her and feel guilty coming back for a last chapter edit after months of not contacting her, so if chapters four and five are bad, that's because she wasn't there to give her personal touch on things.)
Thanks for all your help Star.
So, without further adieu I introduce 'Path of Sand'
Please tell me what you honestly think, and look forward to updates weekly, since this story is all finished. Happy reading. :)
~Path of Sand: A Kankuro story~
Chapter One: Lord of Suna
"Gaara!" Kankuro tried to call for his brother but his own voice was slowly fading, his vision blurred and dark. Pain laced through his entire body as he watched Sasori of the Red Sand walk away. He could only barely make out the form of a white bird carrying an unconscious Gaara away. "Gaara!" Then everything went black and cold.
It was hot; much too hot. Kankuro slowly opened his eyes. He groaned and rolled over, wiping sand away from his skin with his sleeve; it had even gotten into his face paint which was normally good protection from the climate of the desert. Shakily he stood. "I'm not dead. . . " He whispered, looking at his hands, where there were bits of blood on his fingertips. "But. . . " He gritted his teeth and stood.
The Akatsuki members were gone. . . Gaara was gone. There weren't even footprints in the sand, and Karasu . . All the puppets, there weren't even pieces left. "But. . . No!" He clenched a fist. That piece of Sasori's cloak, the one he had only barely managed to get with Karasu's hand before he passed out, that piece of cloth. . . It was possibly the only key to finding Gaara before they killed him. Kankuro was sure that that was their intentions. However if that were the case. . .Why where they so determined to take him away rather then killing him on the spot? Surely they would not keep someone as powerful as Gaara alive for any longer then necessary for their purposes. He didn't know what those purposes where, or what these men were playing at, but they had to be stopped.
Kankuro's thoughts were abruptly interrupted at the sound of footsteps coming from behind him. He spun, preparing for a fight he was in no way ready for.
Two Anbu level black ops stood in front of him. Kankuro breathed a harsh sigh of relief, "You! Get reinforcements! They went West. Hurry up!"
"I think he's had too much sun," one man said to the other. Kankuro didn't recognized the voice, immediately he was on his guard,watching them warily, though they both bore Suna forehead plates and carried the weapons familiar to the desert people. "What the. . . " He swore, quietly "Come on get going! I just fought Sasori of the Red Sand. I don't have time for your jokes!. If we don't do something. . ." His fists clenched tighter, "We have to hurry!"
The two anbu looked at each other. "Come with us." They commanded. Kankuro gritted his teeth. They didn't have time for this but. . . He couldn't go after Gaara himself. It was impossible, not like this, not without weapons. "Alright," he said, shutting his eyes and taking a breath, "but lets hurry!" He took off towards Suna. The Anbu followed, taking up positions on either side of him, They were following him, watching him; not like he was the leader of the team. . . But the prisoner.
"What the? . . ." Kankuro started, freezing in place.
"What?" the Anbu behind him demanded.
"The gate. It. . . "
"What?" The second Anbu drew a kunai. Kankuro stared at him, raising his hands. "I'm unarmed. Relax okay? I know that gate wasn't a genjutsu. What happened?"
"I have no clue what you're talking about. I don't think you're even a Suna nin." the Anbu said. "Now you have to come with us, we're taking you to Lord Kazekage for questioning."
"But Ga. . . " Kankuro clamped his mouth shut. What was going on? He stared as they walked through the front gates of the village. They were as good as new, no sign of last night's destruction that claimed the lives of nearly his full team. Not only that, but people walked about, children played, and shops ran their business; as if none of it had happened. As if their Kazekage hadn't just been kidnapped the other night. What happened? Kankuro wondered again, walking slowly.
When they reached the center of the village Kankuro shook his head silently. It looked different. He couldn't pinpoint what exactly was different, but something definitely was. His mind worked to grasp it as they led him up the stairs, past guards standing in the hall. This wasn't right. They were behaving as if Gaara was still around when they should have been gathering the counsel, should have been out looking for their Kazekage. They led him pass the large meeting room where four stone statues stood. Kankuro stared angrily. What the heck were they doing? They were acting like Gaara was already dead! Then he realized that the fifth monument had never been there. There was no sign of. . . Oh crap. Kankuro thought as they passed the monument alcove and stood in front of a closed door. Somehow, it managed to look even more daunting and foreboding than it always had.
"Lord Kazekage, we found this man about two miles away from the city. He claims to have battled, missing nin, Sasori of the Red Sand."
Kankuro stepped into the office and froze.
"Very well. What happened?" The Kazekage demanded. His dark eyes shown like little hallow points. His imposing figure standing to the side of the desk, white and blue robes swaying as he stood like a stone, his face molded like a hard mask.
Father. . .
Luckily the words didn't escape Kankuro's thoughts. He wasn't sure rather he felt hate or fear most. His emotions ran so high he felt dizzy and stumbled to his knees—something that looked respectful to those in the room, but was really caused by a sudden wave of nausea.
"You fought Sasori?"
Kankuro mumbled something, he wasn't sure what to think or do.
"And you lived through it. You must have great skill," The Kazekage said.
Kankuro tried not to laugh in contempt, slowly standing. It wasn't often his father complimented him. And now, when it was so important to find the Kazekage, the fifth Kazekage, his father decided to talk to him; not recognizing that the shinobi who stood before him was his eldest son. "I barely made it," Kankuro said carefully, only barely managing to keep his voice calm and emotionless. "He's extremely strong."
"I don't recognize you. We haven't heard from Sasori in years. How do we know you are not working for him?"
Kankuro almost laughed again, but only because he was so close to breaking. "You don't," he said gruffly. "I am a puppet master of Suna. I was traveling for a short time. On my way back to the village, I met him."
"Your name and rank," the fourth Kazekage demanded.
AM I alive? Kankuro wondered,Trying to force his thoughts to clear. Temari? Gaara?. . . Mom?
The Kazekage cleared his throat. "You name." he repeated, voice raising.
"Kankuro. . . " you idiot! "um. . . "
The Kazekage glared.
"Bunraku, Kankuro " Kankuro said quickly. Come on, you have to focus now. . .
"Kankuro. . . Well, I require any information you can give us about Sasori. He is a missing nin, abandoning this village almost ten years ago. Though he hasn't made any attacks as yet, he is still reason for concern."
Kankuro felt a chill No attacks uh? Does kidnapping Gaara count? "He has bad intentions against. . . " Crap Kankuro! You can't just go blabbing. You're not even sure what's going on! You can't keep running your mouth. "He . . . said that he hated the village. He wanted revenge someday. He said something about being proud of his puppets, but that he was leaving for a while. He was just crossing through I suppose, I don't know his intentions. I didn't recognize him. I. . . "
They were loosing patience with him. He wasn't making sense. It occurred to Kankuro, that the best way to make a believable story was to tell the real one, or at least a version of it.
"He had another man with him, they kidnapped my brother. I don't know why. I went looking for them and got attacked." he said, feeling a short lived bit of relief that they seemed to be listening now rather than plotting his death. "He has puppets that I can't even comprehend. He destroyed all of mine and I thought he had killed me. I guess that's all I saw before I passed out. I'm not sure how long ago that was. He could be anywhere by now."
The Kazekage nodded, turning his back and looking out the window, in a position that reminded Kankuro so much of Gaara that he was ready to be sick again.
"Your brother. Who's he and why would Sasori target him? He must be someone of importance."
"I don't know why," Kankuro said through gritted teeth, "And no, he's not important."
"What's his name?"
Kankuro forced his thoughts to clear. He had to be careful. "Naruto" He finally said. His mind began working the facts out. If it was ten years since Sasori of the Red Sand left the village, Kankuro himself would be almost nine, Temari would be eleven, Gaara would be six. Something like that. The name Naruto was safe then, and since Gaara held such respect for the leaf genin, Kankuro didn't feel too guilty name swapping with the yellow haired brat, though he still needed more excuses. Who were they? Where did they live? His father would have paperwork on everything, everybody.
"We live east of here, the outpost." He seemed to remember there being some such thing back than. . . or now. . However it worked.
"Are you a mentor of the new training academy there?" The Kazekage asked.
"Yes." Kankuro said, then cringed. He had just made himself easy to find.
"And your brother?"
Gaara. . . Kankuro shook his head quickly. "He was going to be a student there this year. I don't know why Sasori would want him, he's completely useless."
The Kazekage nodded. After a long pause, he finally turned from his station at the window and faced Kankuro directly. "The battle was obviously hard on you. Please, my guards will show you our medical facilities. My brother works there and he will check your injuries."
That was it? He wanted Kankuro to have his wounds checked? No more questions? It didn't make sense. Even Kankuro knew his story contradicted it's self multiple times, the story simply didn't fit together. Once his father looked through the files he'd know it was an all out lie. So why was he letting him go?
That was exactly it. The story didn't match up. They knew he was lying, which meant he was either a traitor or insane. Either way, until their questions were answered, they had to keep him alive. This isn't good, Kankuro thought, following one Anbu soldier down the hall (and feeling a second man close behind him). He thought about what to do. He had to figure out what was going on. This was complicated, nothing made sense anymore. How did he get here? If this really was Suna of the past, what did it mean? What kind of jutsu, poison, ANYTHING could do something like this? And what brother was a medic anyways? His father didn't have a. . . Brother in law. That was it. Uncle Yashamaru.
Kankuro was left in the small medical room as Uncle Yashamaru stepped out with the Anbu officers. The room was clean, and smelt of that familiar smell of a hospital that Kankuro absolutely hated. He could hear the crunch of tiny bits of sand under his feet as he walked towards the window.
Yashamaru came back inside, shutting the door behind himself. Kankuro knew that at least one of the guards would be stationed right outside the door, probably more then one.
Yashamaru smiled kindly as he walked back into the room. His sandy blond hair framed a young and open face. He was only a few years older then Kankuro, not even making it past the age of thirty before Gaara. . . Kankuro shook his head. Gaara had never told them if he had really killed their uncle or not; he talked nothing of the past before the chunin exams. As a child they had been told that Gaara had murdered him. But all that had been rumors, and they didn't bring it up to Gaara, never had. Now, here he was before him, their uncle in the flesh.
"Please sit down." Yashamaru said, gesturing to the examination table. "And I will need you to take off your shirt, looks pretty bad there."
Kaknuro obediently sat, "It's nothing," he said - though he wondered why the poison hadn't taken effect yet. Then again. . . Maybe it had, maybe this was all some dream or illusion. He cringed and cursed at the pain when his uncle touched his injured side. It hurt more then any dream had right to.
"A narrow scrape this," Yashamaru said, "Looks like there was poison on the blade that cut you. It will have to be removed.
"Ya," Kankuro gasped, starring down at the blond head.
Yashamaru looked at him closely. "Take off the hood, your face got scratched. We'll have to get that paint off as well. We can't take any chances, even the mildest wound could be deadly if left untended."
He turned as Kankuro began taking off his head gear.
"Gaara? Come here please, and bring a bowl of warm water." Yashamaru called.
Kankuro froze, staring at the doorway leading to the other room. He heard a chair scrape, then the sound of water as a tap was turned on. After that, small pair of footsteps sounded in the hallway as a short redhead walked into the room carrying a bowl of water and a cloth. He and Kankuro looked at each other. Oddly, the first thought in Kankuro's mind was one, of almost amusement, then confusion. He didn't honestly remember much about the child Gaara, just the killing machine teenager, and even that was mostly forgotten to Kankuro, as he knew his brother was the best Kazekage that Suna ever had. This was a child, and the one thing that hit Kankuro most, was that he didn't yet have the kanji for love scarred into his forehead.
"Set it on the table there." Yashamaru instructed.
Gaara nodded, and walked slowly to Kankuro, watching him with careful, dark rimmed eyes. He lifted his hands, stretching on his toes to reach the table. Before the water could spill, Kankuro took the bowl and set it on the table for him. Gaara stepped back, looking at him in shock.
"What?" Kankuro asked, looking down at the kid.
Gaara opened his mouth, but before he could speak Yashamaru walked over and added some medicine into the water, stirring it with his finger tips. "Thank you Gaara."
Gaara nodded, then stepped back and watched as Yashamaru took the cloth and carefully began to wash off the blood on Kankuro's side. Kankuro looked around the room carefully. Then, assuming that they were the only three there, he spoke. "What's you're name?" He asked Gaara, unsure of what he meant by the question, but asking nonetheless.
Gaara's eyes brightened in surprise, which quickly turned into a sort of fear and apprehension. ". . .Gaara." he said quietly. Kankuro could sense Yashamaru listening, though the man pretended not to as he tied a bandage across Kankuro's chest, then moved to the work of cleaning the paint from Kankuro's face with a new cloth.
"Gaara. I'm Kankuro." He honestly wasn't sure how to talk to kids, kids annoyed him like crazy. They were generally cruel, spoiled, and annoying, but . . . He was curious.
"My brother's name is Kankuro," Gaara said quietly.
"Oh?" Kankuro cringed as Yashamaru hit a tender spot near his ear. "That's. . . cool."
Gaara shrugged, then nodded. He watched Kankuro grit his teeth as Yashamaru touched a large cut near his cheekbone.
"Just hold still." their uncle said, setting the cloth down and walking out of the room to get some more supplies. Kankuro took a breath, then stared down at Gaara, who stared back up at him, much closer to Kankuro then he had been just moments before. (Another annoying thing about kids.)
"What?" Kankuro asked.
"Nothing." Gaara said shyly, backing down.
"You help Uncle Yashamaur out here a lot?" Kankuro asked.
Gaara nodded, "I like to try and help people." he looked at Kankuro seriously.. "What happened?" he asked, small voice somber, A lighter tone to it, but familiar all the same.
"I got in a fight with. . . " Kankuro's voice died off. That jerk took Gaara away! Sasori. . . That monster with the clay. . . Gaara. . . "They took my brother away." he said flatly.
"Does. . . it hurt?" Gaara asked curiously, staring at the bandages.
Kankuro stared down at the red mop of hair. "Ya, it hurts a lot," He said. "it hurts like. . . /"
"Move please." Yashamaru said, gently scooting the boy aside with his leg and setting a box of supplies down on the table, pulling out a needle. "I need a blood sample to check the poison content." Kankuro sighed, letting the man adjust the bandage on the wound, With a sharp tingling prick the needle was out before he hardly had time to realize it had been there.
"Alright. You're done." Yashamaru said, "But I will have to keep an eye on you, tell me if you start feeling the poison's effects."
"Good." The medic took his supplies and carried them to the other room to dispose them safely. "Don't touch the needles Gaara," he reminded.
"But they don't poke me," Gaara said, reaching toward the table to help his uncle clean up.
"Don't. You'll get sick." Kankuro said, reaching out a hand to slap Gaara's pale fingers away. A swirl of sand leapt up like a narrow hand, latching onto his arm. Kankuro gasped and pulled back quickly. Gaara too backed up with such sudden force that he fell over. The sand fell back on top of him like a thin blanket.
"Gaara don't!" Yashamaru cried, coming in and standing between them, even though the danger was over.
"I. . .I. . " Gaara looked at his uncle then Kankuro, teal green eyes frightened.
Kankuro buried his wrist behind him. "It's alright. . . He didn't mean it. My bad." he said, rubbing the thin traces of blood off on the fabric of his trousers so no one would see.
Yashamaru started in surprise, but no one seemed as relived as Gaara. Kankuro couldn't help but stare at his little brother; so much expression on his face, relief, happiness, trust. . . Kankuro looked at Gaara, then Yashamaru, than his gaze fell towards the window sill, the thin traces of sand and smudged child fingerprints on the glass. Gaara wouldn't purposely kill anyone. . . Not at this point. . . So what happened? He knew from experience, a puppet was limp until something was changed, a string was pulled, What changed? His eyes trailed upwards from the smudges, to the high, distant roof of the building where the Kazekage worked. What strings did you pull father?
Next chapter: Chapter two -Child Of Darkness