Author note: So, this chapter was difficult, as we make a turn back to cannon Shippuden, and I wasn't sure how to write it and not bore you to death with a story we've already heard.

However, I finally figured out what to do. Though it might be a little confusing. Just know that this story not only transports Kankuro back to his own time, but shows childhood flashbacks.

Tell me what you think about it. I don't want the flashbacks to be annoying, but apparently I'm much better at child Sand sibs compared to Shippuden sibs.

P.S. As a forewarning. I had to divide this chapter into two parts. I feel guilty for doing that to the last chapter, so I was going to post them both tonight/this morning, however. . .It is now well after midnight. So I'm posting this one now, as promised and will finish the rest in daylight hours. Sorry about that.


~Path of Sand ~

A Kankuro story

Chapter Five: Shadow of Memory (Part 1)

"I have to remove the poison. . ."

"Kankuro!"

"Hold him down!"

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A wound to the heart can't be healed by medicine like this, it can only be given by others to heal you," Yashamaru said. Kankuro was sitting in the chair by the window, looking on as his little brother watched their uncle with wide eyes.

"How do I get that medicine?!" The child cried hopelessly.

"It's love Gaara," Yashamaru explained, standing and taking down a small roll of white gauze to bandage his finger. "That girl you hurt lives down the street a few blocks, near the shops down there. Do you need help finding her?"

"No uncle. I think I understand."

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Kankuro hoped his little brother understood, because he certainly didn't. He only felt confusion, and his head hurt. . . His entire body hurt. The images of a mere hour before faded away, dispersing into the years past it truly was, wavering, and breaking apart like sand.

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"Kankuro!"

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One voice he recognized, though he couldn't pin it down. . . Someone was holding him down. . . His hands were holding something. . . Blankets? . . . I'm in bed? What am I doing here? What happened to Gaara? A searing pain laced through Kankuro's body as he slowly fell unconscious once again.

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Young Kankuro had to stand on tiptoe to get his elbows onto his father's desk, "Father?"

"What?" The Kazekage asked snappishly, making the eight year old pause and struggle to find his words again from his stomach where they'd fallen. Finally, he took a few steps to the side of the desk and folded his arms like he'd seen his father sometimes do, looking confidant. However, one steady look, and he lowered his arms and looked at the ground.

"Well?" his dad asked "Don't waste my time Kankuro I'm very busy right now."

"I just had a question." Kankuro murmured, still looking at the floor.

His father set the papers down and stared at him expectantly.

"I. . ." Now that he had his chance, he wasn't sure he could do it. "I saw Gaara yesterday," he finally blurted.

His father stood up sharply "You did? Where is he?!" he demanded.

Kankuro ducked his head shyly, regretting the words as he spoke them, "He. . . He was by the school. . . I've seen him there a couple of times and I thought. . ."

"Good boy Kankuro," His father said quickly, setting a hand lighlty on his son's head then rushing to the door. "Get some Anbu in here!" he called to the nearest person available.

"Father I wanted to ask. . ."

"Later Kankuro." He gave quick instructions to the nearest Anbu, their masked faces unreadable. . . Except for the eyes. They were frightened. Kankuro didn't blame them, He was frightened of his father too; a matter of fact, sometimes the kazekage downright horrified him, like now, now when he wouldn't listen to what Kankuro was trying to say. The boy was just about to try again when he realized what his father was saying.

Find Gaara. . . Kill him.

When the Anbu left, Kankuro stared at his father. He hadn't realized he'd been searching for Gaara, he thought his dad was far above loosing track of someone. From what he said though, Since last week. . . When Yashamaru died. . . Gaara had been missing.

"I thought you left," The Kazkeage said unhappily. Kankuro knew he was being told to leave. Still. . . Something kept pressing on his memory. A dark clothed puppeteer yelling at him to play with his little brother, and Gaara's sand rescuing him from the frightening gripof that man's hands.

He had to ask this question. "Dad, why do you want to kill Gaara? He's just little. Maybe he's not so bad."

His father's eyes darkened. "What makes you say that?"

Kankuro lowered his gave, "Well. . . I just thought. . ."

"Wait here Kankuro." The Kazekage said, pointing to the large chair behind the desk. "We'll wait for a report from our Anbu you and I. . ."

..

Several hours passed. Then, a member of the guard squad returned, glancing at Kankuro once and then whispering to the Kazkekage.

"Bring them here," the leader of the village commanded. The shinobi looked shocked, but nodded and left, casting one more glance towards Kankuro before escaping out the window.

"What is he bringing father?" Kankuro asked, still feeling slightly giddy about sitting in his father's chair.

"The bodies," The Kazekage replied.

..

What they brought back, was not a body, but a bloody mass of. . . Something, blood-red sand falling from the forms. Kankuro felt sick to his stomach and managed, only barely, not to throw up on his father's paperwork.

The Kaezkage didn't react in any way, but excused the shinobi in the room and turned to his son, who cowered behind the desk. He took the boy by the shoulder and stood him up. "Someday. You will be strong enough to do what's right with your village." he said, holding Kankuro's eyes with his own. "Until then. Stay away from Gaara, or you to will end up like that. As if killing your mother wasn't enough, he will not hesitate to kill you."

Kankuro trembled, his father's heavy hand the only thing supporting him. "I. . .I. . ." His eyes darted to the bodies on the floor. He didn't see the Anbu elite though, all he could see was the way he pictured his mother. . . Dead. He clamped his eyes shut "I'LL Kill him!"

His father's eyes narrowed and for once, the Kazekage was speechless. ". . . Your time will come. I'll tell you when your time comes."

nodding, and trembling, Kankuro fell to the floor. A part of him was torn to revenge on Suna lives. Another wondered, with morbid amusement, how two Anbu could die facing a short six year old kid. But he knew he wasn't ever getting close to his brother again, it was too horrifying.

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When Kankuro woke up again, he was staring at the worried face of his sister, and a mop of pink hair, tied back with a tie and a Leaf village headband.

"Where's Gaara?" Kankuro cried, throwing his weak hands downwards as he struggled into a sitting position. Temari set both hands on his shoulders "Shh. . . It's alright. . . We've got help. . . Lay down."

Kankuro lay back, staring at the ceiling as his entire body throbbed. His head spun.

It hurt to listen to those around him, but he soon began to piece together what was going on. . .Where he was. The realization made him scream.

He was back. Gaara was still gone. . . He hadn't managed to change a single thing.

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"Stop Frowning Kankuro. You'll tick him off!" Temari smacked her brother with the edge of her fan.

The genin guarded the blow with his hand, and stepped to the side, "Well I'm not going to smile at him!"

"Shut up!"

The two stood in nervous silence for a while, Temari mumbling to herself quietly. Kankuro didn't make a sound. Baki appeared a few moments later. He was to be their 'sensei' for the exams, their team captain.

A few minuets later, the Kazekage appeared through the training yard gate, The Demon of the Sand following.

"Relax." Temari hissed at Kankuro, stepping forward. "Morning," she made a general greeting. Only Baki returned the politeness.

The Kazekage stopped, standing in the light weight sand. "All four of you have been briefed on our plan. I expect you to do your part."

They all nodded, though Gaara stood still.

"Good. Baki's in charge," The Kazekage said, "You leave for the exams in a week. Be ready." He turned abruptly and left.

Kankuro's eyes narrowed as he stared at the dark rimmed pools of aqua on his brother's face. Even while the eye color was that of cool water, it still somehow reminded him of blood.

"Stop staring at me or I'll kill you." Gaara said, turning and walking to the other side of Baki, and as far away from Kankuro as he , he tried to anyways.

Kankuro followed him, "Try it," he snapped.

Gaara turned, looking like he just might.

"Stop!" Temari and Baki both cried, Temari grabbed Kankuro, and Baki grabbed Gaara.

Both brothers shrugged away from their captors, both looked each other in the eye. . . and for some reason, neither attacked the other.

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"You have Karasu right?!"

Kankuro felt numb, not even the painless numb, that would have been too kind. He listened to each statement about what had happened, and it all became all too clear. The two and a half days he spent in the past, rather in dream or in reality, where the same three days he'd slowly been dying from Sasori's poison, three days with Gaara in the Akatsuki's hands.

"Kankuro calm down, you're in no position to get up right now," Temari said, trying to comfort him.

He pushed her away. "I need my puppets!"

The couple medics under Sakura's command, quickly went to retrieve the pieces of Kankuro's puppets. Kankuro stared at the doorway. When they returned, he immediately found the piece he wanted, pulling the scrap of cloth from the weapon's fingers. "This."

Kakashi of The Sharingan raised an eyebrow, taking the piece of cloth and looking at it quizzically. "A piece of Sasori's cloak. . . You are truly a nin of Sunaguke. You've made a success out of a failure. We will find Gaara kun, and quickly."

Kankuro lay back on the bed, breaths came unevenly. His lungs hurt. His skin still felt burnt from Gaara's sand, though Sakura and Temari assured him it was only the effects of the poison combined with the medication.

He didn't know anymore.

One thing was certain, he wasn't successful at all. This Konaha shinobi could complement him all he liked, but it meant nothing. He was constantly failing.

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'Why did he send us on a mission?' Kankuro wondered, barely dodging several blades and rolling in the rocks out of range. He hit face first into the hard shell. It was two days before they were to leave for the exam, but their father had told them they were needed, all three of them and Baki, on a mission; an A rank near the mountains.

Kankuro moved, yanking his puppet forward as an array of kunai flew at him. The heavy thump of metal on wood echoed across the sun-bathed terrain, the light almost a reddish color as the sun was setting. Kankuro suddenly felt himself slip as his puppet was swept away. He fell backwards, gritting his teeth and swearing quietly. He raised his arms for the only proper shield available as a mass of paper bombs flew towards him.

Suddenly, an arm of sand appeared before him, blocking each weapon as it exploded harmlessly to the side. Kankuro spun, staring at Gaara who, with raised hands and curved fingers, sent the wave of destruction towards the enemy shinobi. Their cries cut off almost instantly.

Breathing harshly Kankuro growled, "It's about time!"

"Maybe you should just be grateful I saved your existence." Gaara replied bluntly, glaring. "As useless as it is."

"Then why did you?" Kankuro snapped.

Gaara turned, the stained sand returning to its gourd. "Because I told Father I wouldn't kill you." he said.

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"We don't have a few days!" Kankuro shouted. "Gaara is jinchuuriki of the sand and Kazekage of this village just how logn do you think they'll keep someone like that alive?!"

"But they did." Kakashi said, storing a few more items into his ninja bag. His voice was forceful, but he still maintained the standard Anbu calm. "From the reports he was carried away, injured and weak yes, but alive."

"He's not weak!"

"Kankuro!" Temari stared at her brother in dismay,"They're trying to help us!"

Kankuro's vision went hazy again and he took several deep breaths. I should have done something. . . He obviously didn't get the message I wrote. . . I should have done something to stop Yashamaru. I should have found a way to warn him this was going to happen sooner! Why was I too shocked and slow to stop him?!"

"Come on! let's get going people!" an overly happy voice shouted from the doorway. It was Naruto Uzumaki's voice.

Kankuro stared at his hands, it took effort to move, even a little. Temari was the only thing holding him up right now. He could barely move, barely think. He shut his eyes, envisioning six year old Gaara; Gaara holding an old soccer ball; brown bag of medicine. . . A gourd full of sand; Sitting in an empty desert all by himself.

The sneer on the Akatsuki member's face when he had won the prize, beaten an enemy worth fighting.

Kankuro's eyes opened again and he pushed Temari away, sitting up the best he could despite the pain.

"Kankuro be careful!" Temari grabbed him by the shoulder, sending a lace of pain up his side. He gritted his teeth. He simply. . Couldn't move. Looking up, he stared at Naruto and Sakura, both of whom were busy arguing over the supplies in one of their packs. A part of him wanted to hate them, hate them for their happiness and lightheartedness when his brother could be dead. The other part of him knew that he owed them everything.

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"Kankuro are you okay?!"

How could the attack on Konoha have gone so badly? He hadn't thought he'd hear his sister's voice again.

She grabbed him and helped him up, "Kankuro snap out of it! We have to go. Gaara's gone mad!"

What else is new? Kankuro thought still feeling light headed, chakra drained from fighting the genin from the bug clan.

He limped, leaning on Temari's arm, working with the bit of chakra he still had until he felt stronger. Somewhere nearby, he heard a roar of a beast, and his fingers clenched into Temari's shoulder.

"Ouch Kankuro you baby just. . ./"

"We have to go back," he said quickly.

"WHAT?!"

Kankuro took several even breaths, "If Gaara really wanted to kill us he would have done it by now. We're a team aren't we?"

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"Uzumaki Naruto. . ."

The genin turned, "Ya?"

". . .Please save my little brother. . ." again

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"Kankuro you shouldn't be up."

The two stood in a small block of ground right outside the hospital where wimpy trees had sort of been planted, then mostly killed as was the way with the desert.

"I'm fine," He waved Temari's concern away, "What's been going on?"

"What do you mean?" Temari asked carefully.

"Gaara," he said vehemently "Has Konoha sent word? Did we send backup yet? Did they find him?"

Temari shook her head. "No Kankuro, they left the other day, we haven't heard from them yet."

"What about our team?"

"Lady Chiyo went with Konoha."

"And?"

"And what? Are you sure you don't want to sit down?"

"Temari! haven't we sent anybody?"

". . . No." She said, turning away from her brother, and sticking both hands behind her fan, running her fingers along it's well-worn edge. "I've been called on border control on the south. You too. . . Once you recover fully."

"What!?"

"We're weak right now Kankuro," Temari said, holding him with fierce eyes. "Gaara would have wanted us to stay here and protect our village. You know that."

". . .Would have. . ."

Temari paled as if she hadn't realized she'd used the past tense, "I. . . I didn't mean that. . . "

"ya right." Kankuro muttered, pushing past her.

"Kankuro!"

"I'm going Temari."

"But. . . We don't have the council's permission yet, I've tried!"

"Don't you get it?" Kankuro yelled, fists shaking. "He's just like us Temari. Get that through your head. He can die!"

He'd never seen his sister look so close to tears before.

"I. . . I know Kankuro."

"Ya but you don't care." He spun, limping down the path limping towards the center of the village.

"Kankuro you can't talk to me like that!" His sister screamed after him, "I care!"

Kankuro touched his hand to his forehead. He still felt sick and dizzy. Somehow, being in the past, dreaming about the past. . .

It brought every other memory he'd ever had to the forefront to his mind, and it hurt. It hurt because it reminded him of all the memories he wanted to make up for. . . And couldn't.


Thank you to the people who have left reviews for me, and given me the courage to finish this up. They mean a lot to me.