Chapter Three: Playing at the Playground

A/N: More unwanted OC's~ ugh. Kankuro, everyone is so OOC.


Kankuro woke Gabriel for breakfast around nine a.m. Temari had dumped the boy on him after receiving a mission because he had the day off.

He didn't mind per-say, it was just that he'd rather spend his free time tinkering with his puppets than babysitting a child.

After breakfast Kankuro thought it would be good to test Gabriel on what he knew a little. He did it all, stumbling a little with the reading and forgot a few numbers whilst counting, but Uncle said it was okay, "You're well learned for your age."

"Of course. " He said, "Mommy taught me. She read to me when she felt well."

"Gaara will probably hire a tutor for you, till you can start the Academy." Uncle Kankuro said washing dishes.

Gabriel retreated to his room to play with his toys. He was admittedly lonely, but he liked being by himself. He only had a few friends – more like acquaintances – at his old village, and he never really felt the need to interact with them all the time. His mother had called him a 'natural loner'. It wasn't like he didn't enjoy company it was just that he could only tolerate people for a limited time period.

"Gabriel." Gabe looked up from the floor, where he had built a rock sand castle for his wooden knights, to see a smiling painted uncle. "Come on, I'll show you 'round the village."

"Okay." Gabriel jumped up excitedly dusting himself off and quickly changing into different clothes.

Kankuro noticed that most of Gabriel's clothing consisted of loose-fitting shirts and pants. His shirts were mostly in shades of purple and red, somewhere blue or green; and his pants favored dark browns, blacks and dark greys. A white or black sash and a few over-shirts or vest thrown in there somewhere. 'This kid has the fashion sense of an adult.' Kankuro thought.

Today he wore a blue-violet shirt with sleeves that reached his elbows, black pants that reached his knees. The boy was already at the door slipping his sandals on by the time Kankuro turned around to follow.

"You're excited." Kankuro stated, slipping his own sandals on.

"I dun go nowhere. Mommy was always too sick. "The farthest I've gone is Leaf. Nana had a friend dare that died so Granny took me to go to his funeral coz Mommy was in the hospital." Gabriel became suddenly calm and quite when they joined the crowded streets.

"What happened to all that enthusiasm?" Kankuro asked.

"I-" he seemed to have trouble coming up with an answer, "I don't really like people."

"Me neither kid." Kankuro hummed, "Why is that?"

Gabriel shrugged becoming distracted by a woman with impossibly thick muscles throwing - is that a child!? - "I dun know." He finally answered.

Kankuro proceeded to show him the village. Many people stopped to stare and gossip at the pair. The Hidden Village in the Sand didn't get too many newcomers, so the news of a strange red-headed child spread like wildfire. (For a Shinobi village, they couldn't keep their mouths shut). Gabriel seemed to come out of his shell a bit when they stopped for lunch. He asked question after question, Kankuro answered them all to the best of his ability.

Eventually the puppet master got tired of Gabriel's and the people's questions, so he dumped the boy at the closest park. "Go, makes some friends, I'll be back after I run some errands."

Gabriel totally saw through the lie. "Liar." he said with a smile, then turned tail and bounded away toward the sand box.

Kankuro laughed as he walked away. The kid was sharp, he had figured out most of the answers to all his questions before he could even say a thing. Gabriel seemed pretty adept with his sand – though not nearly as adept as Gaara was at his age. Couldn't be helped, Little Gabe wasn't raised a ninja. Kankuro couldn't decide if that was a good thing or not.

Oo0oO

Meanwhile, in the Kazekage's office: Gaara is sifting through papers of some important business, when a few Council members knocked at the door.

"Enter." Gaara provided not taking his eyes off the letter sent from the Hokage. Something about dangerous bandits at their border that have been preying on travelers. The bandits seemed to be based in Fire but raided in Wind, possibly taking advantage of the country's different law policies. He'll have to set a patrol and notify every one of the possible danger.

"Kazekage-sama." One member began and stopped.

"What is it?" Gaara demanded signing a document.

"It's about that child you were with yesterday." The council member finished reluctantly.

"And?" Gaara stopped his work to stare at his elders.

"Word travels fast Kazekage-sama. Who is he exactly?" another asked.

"My son."

"?" they exchanged wary glances, all of them beyond shock.

"Gabriel is a product of a drunken one night stand some years ago. His mother has recently passed away so I'm taking responsibility for him. I am his only blood relative left." Gaara left out the old hag considering she had no qualms of the boy leaving with him.

The few council members standing before him didn't seem to be convinced.

"Is there a problem?" Gaara asked/demanded returning to the pile of paper work that had magically appeared at his desk.

"No. Of course not." Baki provided giving 'the look' to his fellow colleagues. "We just wanted to clear up some rumors that have been popping up is all."

Gaara wanted out. He wanted to see how tiny Gabriel was doing. Was he making friends? Temari and Kankuro, they weren't ignoring him were they? But the paper work just kept coming. Seriously, where the hell did this all come from anyway? Gaara hadn't seen anyone come in the entire day, yet every time he turned around there was a new pile of work.

Who knew the work of a Kage was mostly paper work? Don't get Gaara wrong, he enjoyed being the Kazekage, but he could do without all the grueling paper work that took most of the day and sometimes most of the next day. 'Good thing I never sleep.' Gaara joked to himself.

He spent most of the day finishing, signing, reading, stamping, etc. At the last scroll he experimentally turned away and back again. No more paper, his desk was clear except for the pile of finished work.

'Thank Kami.' He thought.

An assistant came and took the tree sacrifices away telling him that his work was done for the day as she left to file and send and do whatever else her job entitled her to do. Gaara thanked the girl and reclined back in his chair rubbing his sore wrists. It took him a while to notice Baki standing there, "More paper work?" he asked dryly.

"No. Though you may have set a record."

"…"

Baki smiled at his ex-student, "You finished two days' worth of work in just a few hours."

"Mm." Gaara became tired all of a sudden. "Than what is it?"

"Your so-called son."

Gaara leaned forward taking the stance of a dangerous animal, his eye had a deathly glint to them. "And what of it? Is there a problem?"

Baki, used to his looks, sighed and gave a light chuckle, "No. it's just I'm – no the entire village, maybe even the entire Shinobi world's surprised that you have a biological son."

Gaara relaxed, "I'm starting to think I should be offended by that."

"I see no reason you should be." Kankuro's voice sounded behind Baki, "Gaara your kid is pretty smart. At least I think so."

"Where is he?"

"I dumped him at the park." Upon seeing Gaara's 'look' he added, "He'll be fine, I'll pick him up in a little while."

Gaara sighed, "Smart? He's four."

"I mean he catches on fast. I think it would benefit him to have a tutor. I tested him a little and he has some trouble reading and I don't think he can write." Kankuro said.

"He's four." Gaara said again.

"I'm just saying. Even I could write a little by four. It really would benefit him to be little ahead of the other children given his tiny size." Kankuro shrugged.

Gaara did see the wisdom in what Kankuro suggested. "How small is he?" Baki asked interrupting Gaara's thought process.

"About as small as I was." Gaara answered standing. Baki gave a 'not bad' face while nodding. "Kankuro, which park is Gabriel at?"

"The one with the red swings… The north one I believe." Kankuro walked off.

Baki, wanting to see the rumored child himself, tagged along. Gaara, in his Kazekage robes, was still thinking about the tutor issue his brother had brought up. It had to be someone he trusted, and had experience in 'troubled' children.

"Baki." Spoke Gaara, "Do you have any current students?"

"Not since you." Baki answered sensing where this was going.

"I would like you to tutor Gabriel. It might take a while for him to warm up to you though. He's… shy." Gaara clarified. Baki only grunted in response.

Meanwhile at the park with Gabriel:

When Uncle Kankuro dumped him at the park, he wasn't exactly sure what to do. He stood in the middle of the park taking in the scenes and observing the clicks that children naturally formed. Gabriel didn't think he would belong in any of them.

Gabriel spun around upon hearing a screeching laughter. As soon as he turned, he was knocked to his butt by a girl around his age.

"Eete." Gabriel mumbled. A red ball rolled by and the girl kicked it back to the other children.

"Gomen. I didn't see you." She said holding out her hand to help him up. The strange girl had dirt smudged all over her face. She had purple hair that closely resembled the color between eggplant and plum. Green eyes had a tint of mischief that sparkled in the evening sun. Her emerald skirt showed her freshly scraped knees and her white elbow length top was sand brown from playing in the dirt.

Gabriel took the offered hand. "'S okay. I shouldn't be standing in the middle of the play field."

She giggled, "You're weird." She paused, taking in his attire and shyness, "You're not from 'round here are you?"

"N-no. I c-come from anoder village, b-but mom died so I came to live with f-father." He answered shyly.

"Oh." She didn't know how to respond to that, so she stuck out her dusty hand, "I'm Midori." 'Midori' smiled so big her eyes closed.

Gabriel stared cross-eyed at her hand, then hesitantly took it. "G-Gabriel." He said.

"Oh! Like the angel! My name's just 'green'." Midori exclaimed not releasing his hand. She laughed at his blush, "Come on! You can play soccer wit us; we need another player." Then, as an after-thought she shouted, "Ninjutsu are allowed!" she pulled him toward the group of dirty children that were all smiles, not waiting for an answer.

After an hour of play, Gabriel was as scraped up and dirty as the other children. He was having a lot of fun; they playfully made fun of his small size, but he never felt offended. "Hey, shorty! Pass the ball!" they'd shout.

Soon though, the ninjutsu came out to play (sorta). Gabriel quickly learned that he was one of the only children who could actually do any ninjutsu. Midori used some sort of water element she had hardly any control of, and a boy with moss-green hair and stormy eyes used the rare wind seemingly naturally.

Of course, being so young and not even in the Academy yet, they sucked. All too soon they became fatigued and bored of kicking a bright red ball around.

Several children went home when parents started to arrive. Gabriel gazed up at the sky; he hadn't realized it had gotten so late. The orange sun was well past the noon mark, well on its way toward the horizon. Pretty soon Midori, Gabriel and the moss head were the only ones left at the park.

Midori became fixated on Gabriel's sand ability. "Wow! You're just like the Kazekage!" Gabriel blushed at her praises.

"Th-thank you."

The other boy suddenly thrust his hand out, causing Gabriel to involuntarily flinch - big time. "Oi, Gabriel, he wasn't gonna hit you." Midori said placing a friendly hand on his arm.

"G-gomen." He took the boy's hand.

"Eko." He said. Gabriel assumed it was his name. He couldn't decide if he liked this boy or not; he seemed nice, he played soccer with them, but never really said a word. Before any more analysis could be made, Midori threw her arms around her new companions' necks and laughed loudly.

"We're friends now, okay!" she declared, "We have to be in the same class together, train together and be on the same gennin team together too!" she squeezed extra hard causing the boys to wheeze. "Okay?"

"Okay!" the boys squeaked unable to breathe, but laughed along with the crazy girl.

"I think it may be wise." Eko proclaimed a finger in the air and a hand on his boney hip. He held a fake air of importance about him.

"Wut?" Gabriel blinked at him.

"Wut. My wind can boost your sand en Crazy's water."

"I'm not crazy!"

"But my san is useless agains water."

"We'll figure sumthing out." Midori commented forgoing strangling Eko, "Anyway, where your parents?"

"Parents. Mom should be off work by now." Eko said dusting himself off.

"Uncle said he'd be back. You?" Gabriel asked following Eko's example.

"My big sis should be here any second." She smiled.

It was starting to get dark. The three didn't notice, they were too busy; laughing and playing in the sandy mud. The trio was caked in wet stand till Eko slapped his hands together and cried, "Fuuton! I haven' thought of a name for this yet justu!"

"LAME!" Midori yelled as they were blow dried. Still there were definitely in for a bath whenever they got home.

"Lame. So Gabriel, you look a lot like the Kazekage-sama." Eko observed after they settled down on the swings.

"Oh – w-well-" Gabriel became interrupted by Midori.

"Ya! 'Cept you got eyebrows."

"He's m-my-" Gabriel started only to get interrupted yet again, this time by a new comer.

"Gabriel!" Gaara called out, "Let's go, it's getting dark."

"No way! Gabriel you never told us your dad is the Kazekage!" Midori shouted jumping from the swing and tackling him.

"You-you never gave me the chance." Gabriel stuttered.

"Eko! Git your ass in gear!" a woman shouted.

"Gear. That's my mom! By Midori, Gabriel!" Eko waved as he ran to meet his mother. At the same time another face called out, "Pipsqueak I'm here!"

"Oh! Onee-chan!" Midori hopped up and shouted a 'see ya' as she ran.

Gabriel waved as his new friends left the park with their elder family members. "I had fun." He stated.

"That's good. You even made friends." Baki said, Gaara was shocked and happy at the same time.

Gabriel suddenly became shy again as he noticed the sand Shinobi with half his face covered by some sort of cloth. He hid slightly behind Gaara. "Um… H-hi."

"Gabriel, this is my old sensei Baki. He'll be your private tutor from now on." Gaara introduced pushing Gabe out from behind him.

"Gomen. I guess I startled you." Baki apologized.

"Tutor? You mean lika sensei?" Gabriel asked catching his father's eyes. Gaara nodded and Gabriel turned his attention to the older man, "Does dat I have t-to call you Baki-sensei?"

"Only if you want to." Replied Baki with a small chuckle. "Sayonara Gaara, I have a mission in the morning."

"Aye." He looked down at his son, head to toe covered in dirt. His knees were scrapped up and his hair a disheveled mess. *sigh* "You're adjusting well."

"I-I guess." Gabriel said. They walked in silence for a moment.

Gabriel eyed Gaara's hand, which lay limp at his side, swaying slightly as they walked home. He looked at his own earth encrusted hands and slid his hand into Gaara's much larger one. It was a moment of boldness that Gabriel couldn't pass up.

A tiny warm presence made its way into his hand. Gaara dragged his eyes downward toward their conjoined hands. It's not like he'd never held hands before he has; with his uncle, sister, brother and rarely his father. But that was when he was very young, before he became corrupted with the lies of the dead and so on. Gabriel didn't seem to be bothered, that was just fine with him, if he wanted to hold hands then so be it.

Gabriel's hand, being so small, was completely engulfed by Gaara's when his father returned the gesture.

Gabriel was starting to recognize the streets, till he was sure that the next turn would be home. Sure enough they turned and came upon the house Gaara lived in his entire life and shared with his siblings. Temari was on the couch when entered. Gaara let go of Gabriel's hand and disappeared somewhere.

"You're filthy." Temari stated smudging dirt of his face.

"I was at the park."

Gaara reappeared with a towel in hand, the sound of running water could be heard in the background. "You need a bath." He declared. Gabriel didn't want to though.

Just like Eko did, Gabriel slapped his palms together; as he did so, most of the sand and dirt poofed off him and fell in a pile at his feet. "No I don't" Gabriel was proud of himself, though he was still as filthy as a baby pig in the muck.

"Nice try, but no." you're still going to take a bath." Gaara said crossing his arms in an authoritative manner. Gabe pouted as his father herded him into the bathroom. He didn't pay attention as he stripped and stepped into the hot bath.

Gaara, amused by his pouting, shook his head. That was normal, he knew. Gaara left the towel on the sink's counter, "Make sure you wash your hair."

"Hai" with that, Gaara left leaving the door slightly ajar.

The bath was warm and made Gabriel very sleepy. He didn't pay attention to the dinner he ate, or the surroundings around him, he was just so~ tired. "I guess it's time for bed." Gaara interrupted his son's zoning. The plates magically disappeared (at least to Gabriel) and he stood from the table yawning.

Gabriel was about to open the door to his room when Gaara stopped him, "Matte."

"Hm?" Gabe turned around, one hand on the doorknob the other in his eye.

"You can use my bed till you have a proper one installed in your room." Gaara said guiding his sleepy son away.

"W *yawn* what 'bout you?" Gabriel asked crawling into the strange bed.

"I don't sleep." Gaara caught Gabriel as he nearly fell of the bed trying to climb up.

"Mommy said boys need sleep to get strong and big." He was sitting up now, the thick covers covering his lap.

"Not me."

"Why not?"

"I have insomnia."

"I-insomknee- what?" Gabriel laid down.

"Insomnia, a medical condition that prevents me from sleeping." Gaara explained, pulling up the blankets on the heavy lidded boy.

"Not even wit sleepy medicine?"

"Not even with sleepy medicine." Gaara turned to leave as the boy yawned.

"Matte otou-san." Gabriel whispered sleepily.

Gaara, surprised by being called 'dad', swiveled around, "Yes?"

"C-can you stay till I fall 'sleep? I-I'm not use to sleep'n alone." Gabriel's eyes closed and a hand reached out for him.

"Of course." Gaara sat at the window to gaze at the village, listening to his son's slow breathing. It only took a few minutes for him to fall deep into REM sleep.

Temari happened to walk by the open door an hour later to find a tiny lump with red hair in Gaara's bed and Gaara himself in his window sill, head bowed arms crossed. She ventured closer to see Gaara's eyes closed, he was fast asleep.

Gaara woke with a start. He couldn't remember what he was dreaming about, he hardly ever could. It took him a second or two to gain back his bearings. A sneeze made Gaara whip his gaze toward his bed, Gabriel had rolled over when he sneezed. At first he thought that the boy had woken up, but closed eyes and even breathing denounced that.

Gaara stared out the window, it was dark, but dawn was fast approaching. It was at the time where it was literally darkest before the dawn.

He stood, he had so much stuff to do for Gabriel and he had no idea where to start. He took to wandering around the compound where he ran into Kankuro coming from… somewhere. "So you're awake."

"Ya. Time got away from me. Didn't realize it was so late." Kankuro knew that face. The face Gaara wore, the face that was unsure – maybe a little scared. "Gaara, what is it?"

"He called me dad."

"Is that it? He called me uncle, but you don't see me mopping about it."

"No, it's not that." Gaara looked off into the distance, watching the stars slowly blink out as the dawning came ever closer. "I don't know how to be a dad. I don't know where to start. How do I even be a dad?" it was a rhetorical question, one Kankuro answered anyway.

"It's not like there's a manual for this." Kankuro turned to watch the distance with him, "Start with what only you can teach him." He started walking away.

"What do you mean?" Gaara asked watching him walk away.

"Your sand otouto. Teach him your sand." Kankuro waved as he vanished within the house.

Once again, Kankuro gave him the answer at the same time as making him do all the work. There is no how-to guide to being a parent; but he could start by teaching Gabriel his techniques. He may not make the perfect father, but at least he'd be someone who's there.


A/N: lol, I can totally picture Kankuro ditching some poor kid somewhere after he's gotten bored with him/her. Okay you know the drill some note junk.

1) Midori… I don't know, I pulled that name out of my ass. She's a bit tomboy-ish and enjoys theatre, dancing and girly stuff.

2) Eko… I don't know about that name… he is quiet most of the time. He's not shy just observant. I'm actually thinking about making him gay (if I do decide to make a sequel that is).

3) Gabriel is more 'aware' of his surroundings than most children his age. I'm only saying this if I didn't convey it properly.