Disclaimer: "Naruto" is owned by Masshi Kishimoto

Sorry for the long wait, but here it is, and I'll try my best to get the last chapter up as soon as I possibly can.


~Path of Sand:A Kankuro story~

Chapter Four: Night of Darkness

Kankuro sighed in relief as Yashamaru led him into the upper room of the medical clinic.

The blonde man shut the door and locked it behind Kankuro, turning to him with a grim expression on his face, "It doesn't look like they've followed us. Now get talking."

"Where's Gaara?" Kankuro asked.

"Somewhere safe. Now, who are you?"

Kankuro looked down at his feet, there was a thin tear in his black trousers; he'd managed to get caught on the barbed wire after all. His uncle stood in front of him, arms folded.

"Look," Kankuro started, as calmly as he could, "I know you're going to think I'm insane. But I'm Kankuro. . . Son of the Kazekage, Kankuro. I just. . . Got sent back somehow. I really did fight Sasori though. That's the last thing I really remember."

"Maybe you have amnesia." Yashamaru said bluntly, almost in a taunting manner.

"I mean that's all I remember happening before getting here." Kankuro rephrased in annoyance.

"Pull up your sleeve."

The puppeteer did so, glaring as Yashamaru stabbed him with needle.

"Look, it's the truth. You said so yourself." Kankuro rubbed his arm.

"So, your saying you're the future Kankuro."

"Yes."

"You look like him."

"That's because I am." Kankuro growled.

Yashamaru came back with another needle. "I'm not done yet."

"Look!" Kankuro said, standing. "I know what you're probably thinking. But a bunch of tests isn't going to help anything because they will all say the same thing!" He stepped away in efforts to avoid any more stabbing. He used needles and things as weapons, anything of that sort coming close to him tended to make him a little nervous.

Yashamaru sighed, looking at him tiredly. "Look, what you're saying is impossible." he said, putting his hands out as he talked, almost in a helpless gesture "It just can't happen."

"I know. But it's the truth. Just ask me something, let me tell you, I know more then any spy would care to know. I can answer any of your questions."

"Fine." Yashamaru said. He took a step back, "If you are Kankuro, how many children does Lord Kazekage have?"

Kankuro made a slow smirk. It was a good question. General spies would say two, someone with more information would know about Gaara.

Either way he would prove himself a spy; and if he told the truth, a very dangerous one.

"Three," he said, "Temari, myself, and Gaara."

Yashamaru nodded slightly. "Alright. . . how old are you?"

Kankuro rolled his eyes, "I'm 17, but in this time I'm what. . . Eight or something? My birthday is May 15

Yashamaru nodded. "So. . .Do you know who I am?"

"Ya. You're our uncle. Mom's brother. You take care of Gaara."

Yashamaru looked like he'd already been pulling up the next question to prove Kankuro was a spy, but now he paused. "So, you know a lot about the Kage's family."

"That's because I'm Kankuro! Look. . ." he racked his brain for some more proof, "On My sixth birthday Dad was gone, so you had us all at your place. You told us stories all night long about mom and you. Gaara was there too, it was one of the only times we even slept in the same building. I found you two up at night because Gaara doesn't sleep. . .We sat around the table and ate cookies." He took a breath, such a memory had long been blocked out by the years of training, fighting, and being afraid of his brother. He talked more slowly now. "We were playing that night and Gaara's sand went nuts. It's one of the first times I remember him doing that. After that, we never stayed over night again." He frowned, trying to shake the images away and remember anything that would be impossible for anyone else to know. "I stabbed myself with one of my puppet needles. . . I guess that would be last year or so, when I first started using puppets with weapons. I call Temari 'Mari' as a nickname when dad's not around to hear it. And on my first day of academy we. . . "

"Okay stop!" Yashamaru said. At some point during his nephew's examples he'd sat down in the nearest chair, face slightly pale

Kankuro smirked, "Convinced yet?"

"No spy would know all that."

"I know. That's why I'm telling you. I also recall that you took us to our first day of academy, Temari and I. Temari and I fought the whole time and you actually turned around and started walking the other direction telling us we couldn't go."

Yashamaru's mouth opened, then shut it. Finally he sighed, ". . . Kankuro."

"Yep. Thanks for saving my neck in there. He was gonna kill me."

"Some of the things you said. . ." Yashamaru muttered as if to himself, putting together the pieces, "The way you talked to Gaara. . . /"

"About Gaara," Kankuro interpreted quickly. Revealing childhood memories, now that he was older, he couldn't help but pin point exact scenes, times when Gaara was in his life, but not really. "You need to get Temari and I to accept him better. I don't know what happens for sure. . . " He paused for a second. "In. . . the next couple days or so. . . Rumor has it that Gaara kills you."

Yashamaru frowned, "But Gaara wouldn't. . ./ "

"I know. I don't know what really happens. He never talks about it. All I know is it was around that time when Gaara went completely mad. That cute little kid? He changed. He killed for the fun of it. For no other reason then that he could. It completely destroyed him."

"But Gaara. . . /"

"You have to understand!" Kankuro interpreted again. "After your death no one could control him. No one could do anything. He was so under Shukaku's power that there was hardly any Gaara left."

"I don't understand." Yashamaru whispered. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that whatever happens, don't die. I don't think Gaara did it, but I don't know. Whatever happens. You have to stop it."

Yashamaru was pacing, a lot like Gaara did when making a tough decision. "What else happens?"

"Lots. I don't know where to start."

"But Gaara. . . "

"Spends twelve years of his life as a psychopathic killer that even the Kazekage fears."

Yashamaru stood still. "Twelve years?"

"Yahsamaru-san!" a voice called from the other room "Temari sama got hurt. She needs assistance."

"Coming!" Yashamaru yelled down the hall, the situation triggering the prompt answer, rather then even really hearing what was said. He stared at Kankuro in disbelief.

Kankuro stared back, "She missed dodging one of the blades in training. It hit her left hand. You'll also see a small bruise on her right shoulder." He smiled gingerly, "I pushed her off our balcony yesterday and never told anyone."

"Why did you push her off the balcony?" Yashamaru asked in shock.

"Can't recall. I think she was being bossy or something."

A younger version of Temari's voice pierced through the walls from downstairs, "Don't touch it! I want my uncle. You don't have any medical training!"

"You better hurry," Kankuro said, "Otherwise she takes it out on me."

Yashamaru nodded and left, glancing over his shoulder once more before shutting the door.

Kankuro sat back, breathing out in relief.

Someone else knew.

It was amazing how much better that made him feel. He smiled. Maybe he would even pay bratty Temari a visit, beat her up a little for being such a loud mouthed pain in the neck. Honestly, Gaara was the only non-bratty one out of the three of them. It must have been Yashamaru's doing somehow. He taught Gaara. It was Yashamaru who really cared about him, and whom Gaara listened to and trusted.

So who would kill him for that? Who would make Yashamaru a target, and why?

If Kankuro could just stop Yashamaru from dying, it would fix everything.

Wait. . .

Temari's bandaged hand, The Anbu guards telling them they had to leave the city for the night, an evacuation of the entire center part of Suna. They had spent the night far away, and it was the next day. . . the next day they came back and were told that their uncle was dead. . . That was tonight.

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.

.

"Here Gaara," Yashamaru said, putting the medicines in the brown paper bag, "I have to go meet with you father, this should be enough though. She lives down the street near the store. Do you need help?"

"No, I can do it." Gaara said, taking the bag carefully..

Kankuro watched Gaara take the brown paper bag. He glanced from the kid's bare forehead, to Yashamaru's bandaged finger, then back. The kid was basically smiling.

"Thank you. Now I understand. The medicine will make her feel better right?" Gaara asked, almost shaking with excitement, or maybe his body just couldn't handle that much smile.

"Yes," Yashamaru assured. "Though, not as much as your apology will. Make sure you say you're sorry."

"Yes uncle. I will."

Yashamaru knelt and curved the edge of the bag over so nothing would fall out, "Alright, but hurry back."

"I will," Gaara turned to leave. He stopped and spun on his heals "Yashamaru?"

"Yes Gaara?"

"You gave medicine to Temari too right?"

"Yes I did."

"Good," Gaara said in relief, "I hope she feels better too." Then he ran out the door. "Good evening!" he greeted the Anbu station outside in the hall. His footsteps faded away.

"Maybe I should go with him," Kankuro said.

Yashamaru stood. "I can't let you. The kazekage is angry as it is. He's had a lot on his mind lately. There's going to be black ops watching your every move. As long as I assure him you're some crazy, we'll be fine."

Kankuro gritted his teeth, "But tonight. . ."

"I know." Yashamaru said

"Do you? The village is going to be evacuated. . . You die tonight!"

Yashamaru frowned, lowering his gaze until his eyes fell on a small picture frame on the side table. He picked up the picture, brushing his finger against the glass. The photo of Kankuro's mother smiled up at him.

"Gaara wouldn't kill me, Kankuro. I'm sure of it. I might die yes, but what if it is to protect him instead? I don't want to miss my chance to serve my village, or my family." He set the picture down and smiled softly at Kankuro. "I'll be back. Stay out of trouble." He turned and left the room, shutting the door behind him.

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.

.

Kankuro walked to the window, slamming his fist on the sill. The sound echoed in the empty clinic.

Everything was happening already and he couldn't do anything about it!

In the light of the full moon, he could see the empty streets below. A prickling sensation crawled across his skin.

What do I do? I'm useless!

He turned away, running a hand through his hair. What happened? What went wrong? It wasn't just Yashamaru bothering him now, it was everything. Gaara was practically dying twice at the same time. Why did the Akatsuki take him away? What would Yashamaru do to get himself killed? Maybe uncle Yashamaru was right, maybe someone attacked Gaara and he had to save him. But why?

Why was Gaara's life constantly being threatened by random people?!

Never mind, stupid question. It was because of Shukaku. It was because Gaara was a jinchuuriki and everyone was afraid of those. Didn't people understand that It was Gaara who kept the monster at bay?

That from the time he was born, he fought with it? That he was shunned and hated because of it, learning and being told by it's whispers to only love himself and kill others. . . But no. . . No one ever saw it. No one stayed up the nights when Gaara would hover, even as Kazekage, on the edge of insanity, Shukaku taunting him for everything he was determined to stand for.

Kankuro could feel his head spinning, he felt slightly sick, and his chest hurt. There was too much to think about. Young Gaara now, older Gaara later. . . And he felt helpless to help either of them.

Quickly Kankuro pulled out a sheet of paper from the drawer. Regardless of what happened tonight, Gaara would still be Suna's jinchuuriki, and still be in danger from the Akatsuki. He needed to be warned. Kankuro wrote quickly, gripping the pen tightly. He wrote down everything he knew, everything that would happen, everything he knew about his family and the years to come. He wanted to warn his father that Orichimaru was bad news, that going against Konoha would fail miserably. However, a new plan was beginning to form, and for that he needed to act, now. Knowing his father wouldn't listen anyways, Kankuro turned his attention directly to Gaara.

He gave the date and time of the Akatsuki attack, giving every detail he could remember of the battle. He described what they had found afterward, who they suspected as the traitor. He told Gaara everything he could, everything to warn him.

Finally, he set down the pen and sealed the envelope, setting it under the picture frame.

No, that was no good, if something happened tonight before Kankuro could get to it, then someone else would find it.

He needed a safe spot, someone would find it sure, but someone who had the best chance of keeping it and eventually giving it to Gaara later.

He frowned. Then, took the pen again and labeled the letter carefully: To Temari, from Uncle Yashamaru.

He didn't trust his younger self to keep something like this, he didn't believe Gaara would either, especially if he couldn't stop tonight from happening. But Temari. . . she was old enough and smart enough to be careful.

Kankuro again stuffed the paper under the picture frame, then walked back to the window. It was all he could do for his Kazekage at the moment. Hopefully it was enough. Now, it was time to take some action.

Kankuro dug through the drawers of his uncle's rooms. His training had first started as nothing but puppetry, but as Kankuro had gathered more knowledge and skill, more interest in the art, he had learned a lot about poisons.

Taking what he could find from his uncle's cupboards, he next found a couple syringes with the new mixture. He tilted the filled containers towards the light, studying the thickness and color. It was not deadly, but close. It was something that could knock someone out for several hours. Filling a third syringe, he capped it and stuck it in his pocket for future use. He grabbed the other two, leaving them uncapped.

First putting his ear to the door, then opening it quietly, he quickly found the two Anbu guards near the doorway. They turned.

"Hey guys." Kankuro said smiling.

"You must stay in there," the Anbu said, "No one is allowed on the streets tonight."

"Why?" Kankuro asked, holding his hands in the fold of his black clothing..

"It doesn't matter why. Now. . ."

Kankuro threw the needles, each hitting a vital spot in their intended targets. He managed to hold the limp bodies up with his chakra strings, lowering them to the ground without a sound.

"I hope I don't change anything too terribly important by taking you two out," Kankuro said, dragging them into the room and shutting the door behind him, "But I have some family members to save."

After taking the white cloth that hid the men's faces, and pulling the long sword from the other ops member, Kankuro ran down the hall and out into the night.

Once on the street, Kankuro paused. Where did he need to go? He had to find uncle Yashamaru. Gaara would be fine, the sand protected him by it's self. Yashamaru was only human. He could be attacked and outnumbered. It was only the thing that really stood clear in Kankuro's mind with the meager information he had. Yashamaru died and therefor, so did child Gaara. Regardless if the kid was with him at the time or not, he could have easily gotten blamed for it. Their own father himself was the one who told Temari and Kankuro about it. They had believed him, because they believed that out of all people he would know. Kankuro paused. He would know. Yashamaru had left to see him. Cursing himself for being such an Idiot, Kankuro ran towards the center of the city.

.

.

.

Kankuro snuck into the Kazekage's house. Where are the guards? Using the cloth to cover his face, and trying to take the stance of an elite Anbu soldier, Kankuro walked the halls quietly. He turned the corner, pausing when he heard two voices in the hall. Recognizing them instantly, Kankuro froze, staying in the shadows.

"But Gaara is just a child." Yashamaru said, "Do you really think this is wise? He won't be able to control himself."

"We won't know unless we try," The Kazekage said, "He keeps loosing control, and we will have to find other ways to deal with him. You're the only one who can test his true strength."

"Yes Lord Sama but. . . " Yashamaru paused, "It seems so harsh. . . Mentioning his mother like that"

"That's the life of a shinobi. It is harsh. If you are not enough reason for Gaara to lock away his inner demon, if she isn't enough. . . Then the boy is not only useless to me, but a danger all."

There was a long silence.

"Do you understand my command?" The kazekage asked.

"Yes my lord."

"Good. Go now then."

Kankuro hardly breathed as a single pair of footsteps came towards him. When Yashamaru turned the corner they both looked at each other.

His uncle was dressed in the clothing of an Anbu, assassin's mask hanging down the side of his face.

"Kankuro."

"What are you doing?" Kankuro hissed quietly.

Yashamaru looked at him, his eyes wide as if he wasn't fully aware of what he was saying. "You were right. . . I'm going to die tonight. . . No matter what I do."

"What are you doing?!" Kankuro asked again, louder this time.

"I'm going to test Gaara, lie to him. It's an order from the Kazekage, your father Kankuro. But don't hate him for it. Don't hate me. He believes it's for the best of the village."

"What are you saying?!"

"Whatever happens tonight; take care of Gaara for me." Yashamaru latched the mask across his face until only his eyes could be seen. Before Kankuro could catch him, the man whispered a jutsu and disappeared. Kankuro swore as he ran down the hall. He had to find Gaara.

It was silent, the night seemed darker then ever, despite the full moon. It was also cold, cold and clear. Kankuro stopped in the street. Where was. . . The best thing to do to find Gaara was start where the kid started, then work backwards. Kankuro ran to the clinic. He checked every room in case he'd returned from his self assigned task. No Gaara. So Kankuro took again to the street, running towards the house he had heard Yashamaru give directions too. On his way he stumbled over a group of drunk people, crowded around the body of a man. "What happened?!" he demanded.

"It was that Gaara kid, he killed him, for no reason! The monster!" Kankuro pushed his way through, eyes searching the darkness for any sign of his brother. He came to the house Yashamaru had spoke up. He ran up the steps, tripping over a small brown paper bad. Crouching, he picked it up from the porch, peeking in and noticing that the medicine bottles were still there, though some had been cracked in the fall. Kankuro raised a fist and pounded on the door.

A young brown haired girl poked her head out, staring up in surprise. "Hello?"

Kankuro held out the bag. "Gaara, the kid who gave you this. Where did he go?"

"I don't know and I don't care!" She said, slamming the door shut. Kankuro stared in surprise, then dropped the bag and ran back towards the clinic. Where was Gaara?! He looked upwards to the moon; full, the time of night Shukaku was most wild. Thirteen year old Gaara could barely manage to contain it; what about the six year old? Kankuro only knew one place to find Gaara on nights like this. So he took to the rooftops, bounding from building to building.

He saw Gaara just as he saw Yashamaru. . . Just as he saw the knives.

It happened so quickly. . . The anger In Gaara's face, the claw of sand that latched around Yashamaru's body in an attack that Kankuro knew as the sand coffin. It crushed his uncle, blood dripping from the sandy mess. For a moment, all Kankuro could do was stare. He watched Gaara slowly walk up to the limp form. He heard Gaara whimper. And he was just about to go to him. However, as he got closer, he could hear what was being said, he heard everything.

"Why? Why?!" Gaara cried.

"I guess I always hated you Gaara, you were never loved."

and Yashamaru unfolded the story of Gaara's birth, in the same way that Kankuro had heard it as a youth. But this time, it was told to Gaara, and it was told by the only person in the world, who ever even pretended to care about him.

For a moment, Kankuro just listened, unable to move as his entire body felt stinging hot and cold at the same time. He felt sick. He shut is eyes against the scene. "No, No no!" He murmured. It was a lie! Kankuro remembered so little of his mother, but her love. There was no denying her love. She had been hurt at the thought of giving birth to a demon, but there had always been love! Kankuro's eyes flew open, He had to believe that, though he knew no more about here then Gaara did, perhaps even less. He pulled out the last syringe of poison, intending to silence those lying words, stop the pain in Gaara's eyes. He was going to do what he never had the guts to do before.

Running forward, Kankuro sprang across the roof, just in time to hear Yashamaru's last words to Gaara. "This is it. Now please die." Kankuro barely had time to react as the paper bombs lit, mixing with blood and a shield of sand.

Kankuro felt the chakra rather then actually seeing it. The hot red as Gaara's chakra flared, protecting him against the blast. Things seemed to slow as Kankuro reached for the remaining paper bombs, tearing them away, grabbing Yahsamaru by the arm, raising his fingers into a jutsu just as the bombs went off.

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.

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Kankuro laid his uncle on the ground.

Yashamaru gasped, ". . . Kankuro. . . " blood layered the man's mouth, multiple bones in his body were broken He might have been able to survive that if not for the bleeding scar across the man's chest where the bombs had burnt the flesh. Kankuro raised the last syringe of poison. "You lied to him! You full out lied!"

"I know. . . "

Kankuro blinked quickly, refusing to tear his eyes away from the bloodied face, that so resembled that of his mothers. "The way you acted, the way you talked to Gaara. . . I thought. . . I thought. . ./"

"About Gaara." His uncle interpreted, breathing in shaky gulps. "You talked about him before, you said I destroyed him, you said he spent twelve years. . ." He took a shaking gasp of air. "After twelve years. . .what happens to Gaara after twelve years Kankuro. . . does Gaara die?"

"No." Kankuro said quietly "You killed him tonight. But someday the monster dies. He changes. A leaf genin from Konoha reaches him where you and I never tried; taught him about friendship. He. . . Gaara. He's the Kazekage now." Hot anger laced Kankuro's voice. "The best Kazekage Suna has ever had, a better person then father ever was, and a better man then you."

Yashamaru ignored the hate in his nephew's voice. "Good then. . . I'm glad. . . that's the Gaara I know. . . He said quietly, taking yet another labored breath. "You almost give me a reason to keep living Kankuro," He almost smiled "I told you he wouldn't kill me. . .this is my fault." his face faltered, "I want to see Gaara as Kazekage, but. . . I can't live with these injuries. Love hurts too much. Please, defend him when I could not. . .I was too afraid."

Kankuro finally looked away. "You. . . I thought you loved him. . ." he stuttered, feeling his throat tighten.

"Yes I do. Just like my sister did. I love you all."

"Liar."

"I know. This is how it ends. Someday, tell Gaara that I don't hate him. Tell him love is. . . "His voice slowly trailed off.

Yashamaru died. Kankuro had seen many die, somehow this seemed different.

Finally he stood, looking upwards towards the rooftops, where the form of Shukaku was taking shape, where sand swirled, and a child screamed in pain and hate.

Kankuro stared as the sand spun uncontrollably, and Shukaku raised his ugly head.

"Gaara!" Kankuro jumped onto the roof, going much too close. He raised a hand to shield his face, feeling the sand tear into his skin like hot, poisoned needles. He could feel his body weakening as he squinted into the sand. "Gaara? Gaara!" Through the storm he saw the his brother raise his head, thin streams of blood dripping from above his eyes, where a single word was scared into his forehead.

The first real injury Gaara had ever received, both physically, and emotionally; the word for love. Kankuro felt himself falling as sand cut into his body. His mind felt numb, He'd been too slow, hadn't been able to change anything. . He'd failed. . . Again


Next chapter: Chapter five (last chapter) - Shadow of Memory