Disclaimer: "Naruto" is owned by Masshi Kishimoto

Author notes: Sorry it's late, but I told several of you Sunday, so I'm posting this on Sunday, even though posting off the weekend isn't a good time, cause most people are too busy too leave feedback.

Personally, this is my favorite chapter of the five. I felt pretty good about the grammar on this chapter too, but that could just be because I'm tired.

Hopefully you enjoy reading this chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it. It has some of the first scenes that gave me the idea for this story. It's nice to finally get it on paper and out to you. Enjoy.


~Path of Sand: A Kankuro story~

Chapter Three: Demon of Sand

Kankuro grinned. I lost them, he thought, scanning the area for any sign of his Anbu watch dogs. They were nowhere to be found; which was funny, considering Kankuro was sitting ontop of a roof in plain sight.

Down on the street, and not far from him, some noisy kids were playing a game. He should have been easy to find really, but that fact only made the situation more amusing. With a few well placed jutsu he'd finally earned a few moments of peace from ANBU's watchful eye. Now Kankuro just had to decide on his next move.

He'd track down his younger self and Temari, and warn them not to let Gaara out of their sight. Then he'd keep an eye on his brother for as long as he could. He knew he couldn't follow the kid around twenty-four seven, at least not until he could convince the Kazekage that he wasn't a traitor to Suna. Maybe he could even talk some sense into his dad.

Ha! Ya right.

Kankuro stared up at the sky with a frown. His injuries hurt, they hurt like crazy really. The pain had grown during the night to such a point that it was hard to sleep, even without the nightmares. Yet, somehow he was still functional.

He shut his eyes to block the sun, feeling the warmth on his face.

THUNK!

Kankuro sprang up, swearing as he did so. An old, brown soccer ball fell at his feet rolling a few inches, then stopping. Kankuro rubbed his head. Darn, I forgot how hard those things are. He moved to kick it, hopefully so far away that the brats wouldn't ever find it again. Just as he raised his foot, a snake like stream of sand curled around the ball. It created a sort of dish and pulled it away; carrying it slowly down from the rooftop. Kankuro started in surprise, then carefully walked to the edge of the roof and gazed over the short rail.

The soccer ball hovered for a moment, then fell promptly into the hands of the redheaded six year old. The sand dispersed and fell away until nothing moved. Kankuro smiled. Gaara had said last night that he didn't often try to control the sand, said that it was hard for him. However, that move had been executed perfectly as he brought the ball right into his hands. Maybe last night really had managed to change a few things. Kankuro knelt to watch, crossing his fingers and holding his breath.

For a long time Gaara just held the ball; then he took a few tiny steps forward and held it out to the other children. "Here," he said quietly, "you almost lost it." The kids stared. None of them moved an inch. Then someone in the back screamed, and like a ripple in a pool they scattered, running away as fast as they could and crying for their lives.

"Stay away from us!" a girl yelled. The ball fell from Gaara's hands as he stretched out his fingers, desperately begging them to stay, "Wait I. . . Come back!"

Kankuro gasped as a long stream of sand like claws crawled forward, wrapping itself around the other children's ankles, dragging them back. It continued despite their cries.

"Darn it!" Kankuro jumped from the wall, feeling the hot pricks as sand swirled. "Gaara stop!" His brother didn't seem to hear him. Panic rose in Kankuro's chest. Without thinking, he grabbed Gaara by the shoulder, pushing him back, "Don't!" Sand flared as Kankuro raised his arms to shield his face.

"Gaara STOP!" Their uncle's voice rang in the wind like shattering glass.

Almost immediately the sand fell and settled, Kankuro lowered his bleeding arms. Staring at Gaara who looked pale and glassy eyed. Kankuro took several breaths in efforts to calm himself , then forced the breath into speech. "Gaara, you can't. . ." He started.

"You can't do this Gaara." Yashamaru said.

Kankuro turned. The blond shinnobi stood in front of the other kids, sand swirling at his feet and a huge bloodied gash across his arm, dripping blood on the sandy ground.

Gaara stood, stumbling away from where he and Kankuro had fallen. He stared in horror at the blood around him. It was clear he knew where it came from, despite the fact he did not comprehend it. "Yashamaru . . " he stared at his uncle, then turned to Kankuro. "I. . .I. . ." He looked back at Yashamaru, then looked down. The sand swirled around his sandals, scratching together like a cackling laugh. Y

Yashamaru lowered his arms, gasping. He was like a wall; the only protection between the kids and Gaara. His face showed pain; but rather it was from the injuries, or the current event Kaknuro couldn't tell. The man looked at Gaara sadly, then turned and helped the injured girl to her feet, "Come help your friend."

Gaara took a step forward, then froze as the remaining handful of kids moved forward as well, realizing that his uncle hadn't been talking to him. Gaara stepped back, turned, and walked away from them; his shoulders slouched and head bowed. He barely glanced at Kankuro as he passed and turned down the street. A random couple, who had come too see what the commotion was, stepped off to the side to avoid him.

"Gaara wait," Kankuro quickly caught up to him. "I didn't mean to grab you. You okay?"

Gaara nodded, but it was like he didn't completely hear.

Crap this isn't good. Kankuro thought, recognizing a familiar look; those dark eyes, the way Gaara's gaze would lower as if he wasn't seeing anything, and his mouth would twitch. That normally meant that Shukaku was doing the works on him.

"Gaara listen to me." Kankuro went to grab his shoulder, but pulled away when he felt sand. He hadn't realized till now how used he had become to interacting with his brother; how often, in his own time, he'd give Gaara a light poke in the arm to get his attention, or set a hand on his shoulder after Gaara had a particularly viscous spat with the counsel. . . Or a long night fighting Shukaku. It had become natural, to the both of them, but this Gaara. . . Kankuro couldn't touch him.

"I was just trying to play." Gaara said quietly.

"I know," Kankuro replied, "I saw. They run all the time don't they."

Gaara nodded.

Kankuro let out a breath, "It'll be fine," he said, feeling the lie in his voice and hoping that Gaara didn't. "Just keep controlling the sand, like you did to get the ball, or like you did last night." His mind searched for something more to say. "Gaara, You can use your sand to protect people. Not hurt them. You don't have to destroy everything you see. I know you don't mean to but. . . " He frowned, trying to remember what Gaara had said to him, something he hadn't said yet, but someday would. ". . . You feel this sadness so that you can understand others. Eventually they will respect you for it. You find people you care about and then protect them," He stumbled for the words, "Just. . . keep trying."

The child Gaara standing before him listened, his eyes seemed to focus a little more, but Kankuro wasn't sure if he really understood.

"I just wanted to play," Gaara repeated quietly.

"I know," Kankuro said, feeling deep disappointment. He hadn't understood after all. Gaara was just to young to understand.

"You said if I wasn't scared and I was friendly enough they would like me."

"That's not what I said," Kankuro replied quickly, gut seeing the shattered look on the kids face he realized that, even if that hadn't been the exact words, that had been what he'd meant. He'd been foolish enough to think a simple personality change in Gaara would be enough to get rid of the deep fear everyone held for someone so potentially dangerous. When it came down to it, no one really understood Gaara, everyone was too busy and too frightened to notice how they were tearing him apart.

"Wait! I have an idea! Come on." Kankuro held out a hand, letting Gaara come to him, and smiling when the sand didn't react negatively as Gaara shyly slid his small fingers into his.

"I'll find someone for you to play with, he's just as lonely as you are really; just to proud to tell anyone. Come on!"

.

.

.

"Where are we going? I'm not supposed to be here," Gaara said, warily looking around at the academy buildings. He was barely able to keep up with Kankuro's fast pace.

"We're just walking past," Kankuro said, searching the crowd of faces and flashing Gaara a reassuring smile, "just keep coming."

He took a right turn, pausing for a moment to get his bearings then turning towards the old training fields. The buildings began to get older, and the cement path more faded and dusty. Finally, Kankuro climbed through an old piece of fence that had been cut away forever ago. He seemed to remember the hole being a lot larger. He turned to help Gaara through, carefully avoiding the barbed wire.

Pausing to catch his breath, the puppeteer stood, looking around. "Kankuro?" He called, then smiled. It wasn't very often he got the opportunity to be calling himself. Musing at the thought, he realized he was almost acting as crazy as Gaara.

Runs in the family I suppose.

"Kankuro?"

Gaara let out a surprised gasp as Kankuro got hit in the head with a ball for the second time that day. Spinning, Kankuro turned to face the direction of the attack, growling as he did so. "Why you little. . . /"

He was looking at. . . Himself.

"Sorry," the younger brown haired kid mumbled,

Kankuro raised an eyebrow, straitening his hood. His smile widened. "Hey you," he greeted.

The younger version of himself stared in surprise, looking at Kankuro, then at Gaara and backing up. "What did I do?" He asked nerviously.

Kankuro grinned, picking up the ball, and spinning it on his fingers. "Well, besides stealing the soccer ball, nothing."

Young Kankuro started, "I didn't. . ./"

"Ya, whatever," Kankuro said, setting the ball under his arm. "Stealing things and being on forbidden grounds could get you in trouble. But I don't think I'm going to tell on you."

Young Kankuro stared at him in relief.

"I know for a fact no one will find you here," Kankuro continued, " Well. . .No one but me." He smirked, but quickly remembered his original intention for coming here. "I need you to do me a favor. I need you to play with Gaara for a bit."

Gaara stood stock still. And the younger version of Kankuro stared. He took a step back. "I'm not allowed to play with Gaara," he said, sounding like a brat. Kankuro took a deep breath, smiling pleasantly. "I know that's what they say, but he's your brother; and brothers stick together." He tossed the ball to the young kid, then pushed Gaara forward with a hand. "He's not going to hurt you or anything. Besides, you can't play ball with yourself now can you?"

"Yes I can," Little Kankuro said. He kicked the ball across the ground; then held out a hand. Blue chakra strings appeared at his fingertips. A small, poorly made puppet sat up from it's position by the scraggly bushes, and kicked the ball back to them.

Kankuro frowned at his younger self. With a smirk, he raised his hand, stole the puppet from the weak chakra strings of his childhood self and sent the puppet crashing towards the nearest rock.

"Hey!" Child Kankuro glared, "You. . . /"

Kankuro folded his arms, glaring. "Look you little brat. Everyday you come here after school 'practicing' " He said the word sarcastically, "What you're really doing is sitting here feeling sorry for yourself and wishing you had someone to call a real friend. Someone who won't stab you in the back to get what they want, or run from you because your dad's a monster. Well I brought you a friend. And darn it all! You're gonna play with him or else!"

Little Kankuro backed up another step, looking at Gaara, then Kankuro, then back. "No! Get away from me!" He yelled, spinning and taking off.

Kankuro could feel Gaara tremble behind him. Setting his mouth in a grim, hard line, he raised a hand, sending his chakra strings forward and pulling the kid back, walking till they met in the middle and he could grab the boy by the black linen shirt.

"What's your problem uh?"he demanded furiously, "you little idiot! He's your brother isn't he?!"

"N-n-n!" Little Kankuro stuttered. Kankuro lifted him off his feet by his shirt bunched in one fist. "Well! He IS your brother! He's just trying to be nice! He needs someone to play with, and so do you! Don't you get tired of being lonely?!" Well, he's lonely TOO DARN IT!"

The kid was actually trembling, "But Dad said. . ./"

"I don't care what Dad said! You're being a jerk. You could at least say hi once in a while! But no! You always ignore him! Pretending you're not even related! And because of that he never had anyone! What kind of big brother are. . . you. . ."

Kankuro found himself staring eye to eye with himself. The words rang like warning bells in his head; what he just said, 'because of you he had no one. . . '

Yes, Kankuro had always been afraid of the wrath of his father, but other then blatant warnings to leave their younger brother alone, he and Temari had multiple chance to be with Gaara while growing up. Their father never payed them much attention, and Yashamaru wouldn't have stopped the interaction if they had only tried. He might have even encouraged it.

But no, They had always been too afraid, Kankuro himself had been like a puppet; those who were older and stronger always pulling the strings, too afraid to act for himself, fearing that if he tried to befriend Gaara he'd get in trouble, or become an outcast too. Yet what had come from it? Nothing good. He had merely become another tool for the whims of his father, and those twelve long years. . . Of absolutely nothing.

With am angry growl his grip on the black collar tightened, causing his younger self to gulp and gasp for breath. He was hardly aware of what he was doing until a wave of sand crashed against him, sending both versions of himself flying backwards and away from each other.. Kankuro landed with a clunk and stood quickly, spinning.

Gaara stood, hand raised, as he stared at him. "You're hurting my brother." he said, then turned to the child Kankuro. Once again, Gaara picked up the ball. He walked towards him, holding it out. "It's alright," he said comfortingly to the older child. He stopped when young Kankuro tried to struggle. He had landed quite hard against a large stone and was clutching his arm as if in pain. Gaara stopped and set the ball on the ground, nudging it forward. The two young boys stared at each other silently,

"Thank yā€“ " Then young Kankuro's gaze drifted past Gaara, then flashed back, "NO! Just keep it! Get away from me!" He stood and ran away.

Kankuro swore as he watched himself run. That was all he ever did. Run. This time, Gaara didn't even try to bring his would be friend back; but turned with a look of deep sadness on his face. It quickly changed to shock and fear. Kankuro turned also, frowning as his two Black Op watch dogs, both standing by the fence.

"You need to come with us," one said. Kankuro gritted his teeth. This is bad, very bad.

.

.

.

"What were you doing with them." The Kazekage demanded.

Kankuro's heart was in his mouth. "I. . ." Kankuro started. He looked around the room There was nothing he could say.

"I already know you lied to us before. Don't think you can lie to me again young man," the Kazekage said, "I would strongly recommend telling us the truth this time."

The Anbu behind him didn't have to move an inch for Kankuro to know that they would kill him right there and then; then wipe the blood from the floor before the next council meeting.

"Yashamaru asked me to keep an eye on Gaara," Kankuro blurted, biting down on his teeth, knowing that he could very well get his uncle killed now too. "I mean. . . he said he had a meeting or something, asked me to follow the kid around town and make sure he kept out of trouble, the brat likes to push people around."

He just kept going, just kept digging his own grave. With hardly a sign, the nearest Anbu moved forward threateningly.

The door suddenly opened, and Yashamaru ran in. "Lord Sama I Th. . . " He froze, lowering his head. "Forgive me," he begged

The Kazekage glared darkly. "What is so important Yashamaru? And don't let your tongue slide. Be aware of who is in the room currently."

Yashamaru looked at the Anbu soldiers, then at Kankuro. He turned back at the Kazkeage. "I. . . got the results back from my tests on Kankuro-san." He turned slightly to Kankuro. "Most of the poison is out of your blood. You didn't get much in your system. You are still feeling well I presume?"

Kankuro nodded numbly.

"You look slightly pale," Yashamaru said.

Ya, no kidding . Kankuro thought.

The Kazekage, thumped his fist on the desk, "Yashamaru! What are you doing?"

"Um. . . " The medic turned back to his brother-in-law, "I'm sorry sir, I heard that Kankuro was in here with multiple Black Ops, I was afraid you were thinking about integrating him."

I'm going to die here. Kankuro thought in panic

"What of it?" The Kazekage demanded.

"It would be unwise," Yashamaru said, "There was no poison in the blood samples I took, but the other tests I ran show an interesting. . . well, It's almost a Jutsu sort of thing. I haven't seen anything like it before."

"So?"

"See, essentially, Kankuro is extremely unstable. I think he knows more then he's saying, but integration would be useless because he doesn't know he knows."

Kankuro stared, "Excuse me?"

"Shut up," the Kazekage demanded, then turned back to the medic nin in front of him. "Are you saying his mind has been messed with?"

"Well, it's more technical then that, but yes."

"Then why is he here?"

"It's hard to tell," Yashamaru said, "It is very possible that he was abandoned by Sasori. A disciple of his or something. After all, We don't know for sure what medicle training the man had, but he was fond of poisons, so it's not far fetched to conclude that he could have developed a jutsu like this. As we know, he has made similar experiments before. I would like to request permission to put Kankuro under my care. I can run a few more tests, perhaps solve this mystery and get the information we need."

The Kazekage frowned deeply. ". . .Very well, are you sure you can handle him along with Gaara?"

"Yes sir."

"He was with Gaara. We found him with Gaara and Kankuro in an old training filed. Is there a reason for that?"

Yashamaru glanced quickly at Kankuro, then back. "That was a misjudgment of mine I'm afraid." he said carefully, "Gaara accidentally attacked some children today. I was taking care of them, and asked Kankuro to leave with Gaara so as to calm them all down and prevent further incident. I was foolish to do so."

"Yes you were. There is no room for misjudgments."

"Forgive me My Lord."

"Fine. Do what you must. But I want a careful watch. If this man isn't with you I want other guards."

""Understood sir. He will be under my constant eye. I think it's best to take this slowly, so as not to damage him mentally anymore then he is already."

"Fine. Get out," the Kazekage said.

Yashamaru made a short bow.

Kankuro's head was spinning in overload, but mostly he just felt relief that he wasn't dead. . . Damage. . . Mentally. . . Anymore then he already is?! What's going on! He followed Yashamaru to the door.

"Yashamaru" Kankuro's father called, stopping them at the door. "I still plan on meeting with you this evening. It is of minor importance.

"Yes sir."

They slipped out of the room. Kankuro walking beside his uncle. Yahsamaru didn't look at him.

"Thank you." Kankuro finally said quietly, ". . . But why are you helping me? You didn't tell me to watch Gaara."

"Yes I did."

"No you dā€“ "

Yashamaru stopped, and glared at him, "Yes. I did, " he said forcefully. "Whatever I said in there, I did. Or would you like to go back in that room?"

Kankuro started. He shook his head quickly. His uncle started walking again.

"But. . ." Kankuro caught up to him in a few strides. "Why are you helping me?"

"I'm not helping you." Yashamaru said, then looked at him with a side ways glance.

"Then why. . ./"

"Your blood test."

"Huh?!"

"It's an exact match to my nephew's. Exactly. All your medical data matches without fail." Yashamaru turned, looking Kankuro directly in the eye, "I want to know why."


Next chapter: Chapter Four ā€“ Night of Darkness

Important Author note: No promises for when the next chapter will be up. I'm kind of in the middle of moving these next two weeks or so. So the update might not be weekly like I've been trying to do. However, go ahead, review this chapter, and make sure you check your email for updates because chapter four is written and it's only a matter of editing and posting. I'm sure I can manage that at some point between packing my closet full of cloths.

So long, till we meet again. :)