I'm probably going to write something with the same general idea (that of Yashamaru trying to deal with Gaara) that is canon-compliant, but I'm loath to just completely get rid of all of this stuff.
So here, have some disconnected excerpts from the parts I'd written that I really liked:
On the day of his death, Yashamaru will still be able to remember the first day his sister, Karura ever saw Suna. She was smiling then, a wide-brimmed hat shading her face from the scorching midsummer sun.
That’s Karura: the way she almost dances when she walks, the way that even her smallest movements radiate exuberance. When she stretches so that the tips of her fingers point up to the top of the sky, she’s telling the world how happy she is to be in Suna, how happy she is to see her brother after such a long time, how happy she is to be away from their birthplace, a shabby little town out in the western mountains.
On the day of his death, he will remember what the two of them did that day: how she set down all her luggage in his room, then begged him to show her around Suna. She wanted to see what was inside of all of those strange, dome-shaped buildings (because the people in their hometown didn’t build in that style); she wanted to see the desert greenhouses where Yashamaru grew the rare herbs for his ointments and tinctures. She gets her wish, and he finds himself half-dragged everywhere. Other shinobi shoot him amused glaces when they can catch his eye.
“It’s beautiful,” she says, and for the first time he realizes that she’s right. It’s not that their hometown is poor, not really; it’s just. . . Well, it’s not like Suna. Where there are shinobi, there is money, and strange and magnificent things. Here there are statues of the four Kazekage, and a group of puppet masters practicing their craft in a closed-off courtyard, half-visible strings of chakra glinting off their fingers. Here are men and women who are strangely beautiful in spite of the work the desert sun and air has done on their faces, because they radiate strength and power.
“We do do all right for ourselves,” says Yashamaru with a smile.
Karura and the Kazekage:
He expects her to stay a couple of weeks before making the long journey back west. Later, he won’t remember how exactly it happens that that starts to change, or when exactly it starts to change, but during those weeks, something happens.
It’s true that he is a little surprised when the Kazekage invites Karura to please dine with him — although he knows he shouldn’t be surprised; they are both young, and Karura is very beautiful. She borrows a beautiful kimono from a kunoichi Yashamaru has been dating on and off for the past few months (and if he’s honest, Yashamaru has to admit that it’s been pretty bad between the two of them for most of that time, and they can barely go a couple of days without fighting — but she loves Karura on sight and gladly lends her the kimono and a thousand little ornaments and accessories as well), and accepts.
Later, all she can talk about is what a fascinating man the Kazekage is, and how good the food was, and what a wonderful place the palace is. She tells Yashamaru about a thousand things he has already seen so many times over: the walls, the windows, the lamps that cast warm, pure light after the sun has set. But when she describes these things, he sees them all over again, anew; she sounds like she wants to run her hands over everything, pack it all up with her to take back to the mountains when she leaves.
Still, Yashamaru thinks little of it. The Kazekage sees many different women; that’s his prerogative as the most powerful man in one of the most powerful villages in the world. Even when the Kazekage gives Karura a silver necklace. . . The Kazekage has many silver necklaces to give. Yashamaru doesn’t notice the way Karura turns the little pendant over and over again in the palm of her hand, like she’s telling her own fortune from it.
Yashamaru’s maybe-girlfriend doesn’t begrudge Karura the use of her things, and neither do her friends; they all agree in that mysterious women-way that Karura is the type of beautiful person who is to be cherished, not envied. Perhaps it’s because she is a visitor, a non-kunoichi; she is pretty and soft and weak-willed; she poses no threat. They love to see what she’ll do with her hair, which is soft and smooth and a rich, very dark blonde. They loan her shoes, jewelry, and make up, and of each item proclaim that it looks better on her than it ever did on them — much better.
It is true. She does look better. And when she pins one of the broad, startlingly pink flowers from the greenhouse into her hair and smiles, and the silver necklace catches the light — then she doesn’t look much at all like a girl from a little town out in the middle of nowhere, in the distant western mountains that nobody ever thinks of.
But Yashamaru really doesn’t think much of it. His sister has always been beautiful, since as far back as he can remember.
Karura and Yashamaru discuss the advantages of marrying the Kazekage:
“If I hadn’t come here,” Karura says to Yashamaru one day, “I would probably have become a goatherd’s wife, and given birth to a goatherd’s children, and I would be wandering around barefoot all the time looking after the lot of them: poor, smelly little children with no future, and there I would be, right in the middle of all that, being their mother.”
“Perhaps there are happy goatherds,” Yashamaru replies, and then adds, “And happy goatherds’ wives.”
“No, no,” Karura says, and she stifles a little laugh. “You haven’t been home in a very long time. Don’t you know that there are only poor goatherds?”
A visit from the daimyou; cut-backs:
Now that she is the Kazekage’s wife, Karura enjoys herself in the sort of luxury she could never have had at home. She has herself decked out in gold and jewels, beautiful blue silks with patterns of birds and clouds embroidered on them with brilliant silvery threads. There is nothing she loves more than to have musicians and dancers brought up to see her in the beauty of her tower suite, and men who can conjure doves out of nowhere with the flick of their hands.
But everything she has is nothing compared to the splendor of Wind Country’s daimyou when he comes to visit Suna. Perhaps it is because he lives in such comfort that he behaves the way he does: It is reasonable to make cut-backs, he says; In this situation, it is reasonable. That’s what he says, and he says it straight to the Kazekage’s face. Yashamaru can feel the blood draining from his own face at the sound of those words. Such things simply are not said.
But he does say them. He brushes aside the objections just like one of Karura’s conjurers brushing a dove out of his sleeve.
“You ruin us,” says the Kazekage, quietly but with the tone that all Sand nin know and defer to. “Furthermore, you ruin yourself. Even if you do not see it yet; you will come to realize what you’ve done to all of Wind Country. Who are you to bleed your own country dry, I wonder?”
The daimyou simply shakes his head slowly. He isn’t even trying to be polite, not even trying to be political. “With due respect, there is more to politics than war. Although I can see how that may not be the most popular opinion in Suna. . . I have to look at the truth of the situation. Not at what Suna would like to believe. A country that succeeds in war but fails in alliances, fails in trade. . . Well, it had better hope to win every single war it comes across, and you and I both know that nobody can do that, not all the time.
“Even at the best of times, you must understand that Suna only accounted for a small fraction of our income. Believe me, I know how much money you bring in. But would you believe that poor fishermen on the eastern coast bring in more? That miners bring in so much more I can barely believe it myself? Perhaps, my dear Kazekage, you’ve been too sheltered for too long.”
Even Yashamaru bristles. He wants to jump up and punch the daimyou for saying that — yes, not use a jutsu on him, not poison him or set a trap for him, but simply punch and kick until he feels satisfied. The daimyou either doesn’t know or (worse yet) doesn’t care about the fact that Suna stands tall in the world of shinobi; he doesn’t care about discipline, about strength, about the sacrifices they’ve all made, generations of them, to make Suna a name that is both respected and feared.
The daimyou is a jerk:
“So this is Suna,” the daimyou muses as he gets up from the table to leave, to go back to his winter palace by the sea. His lips curl upward a little as he continues, “It must be true, then. What they say about sand. I wouldn’t have believed it myself, but I promise you I have it on very good authority from one of my artisans. Heat it and sand melts into glass. And as we all know, glass shatters easily.
“Good day to you, Kazekage-sama. I am sure that an intelligent man like yourself will find a way not to be so brittle and survive a few budget cuts.”
Chiyo appears as a midwife:
Chiyo-san. Yes. Now Yashamaru remembers, and her presence makes much more sense to him. It was not yet ten years ago that her grandson went missing; Yashamaru can still remember what an uproar there was over that. Yashamaru never met Akasuna no Sasori, even if they were nearly the same age, but even he, who knew nothing about puppetry, knew Sasori’s reputation. Sasori was at fourteen an object of envy for shinobi who had practiced their craft for thirty years.
There was such a scandal, Yashamaru remembers, and Chiyo had lost her composure completely when it became obvious that, whatever had happened to him, here grandson wasn’t ever coming back. If he remembers correctly, she retired from public life after that.
So why is she back now? The Kazekage must have made an extraordinary request; that is all Yashamaru can think of.
Whatever the reason, her presence is reassuring. It’s true that Chiyo is not a medic. If she lives up to her reputation, she is better than any medic. She is Chiyo.
Karura is imprisoned for the remainder of her pregnancy:
She spent the next months, the rest of her life, in one room. Cocooned, almost, except that she would never break free and grow wings. Maids came and went; they’d been ordered not to talk to anybody about the lady, and their eyes were shuttered. Karura had given up trying to talk to them; they were hand-picked, clearly, and would not rescue her. The children did not go to visit their mother; they’d been told she was sick. Nothing must bother her, nothing must endanger the child’s health, upon which the entire village depended.
There was a small, slit-shaped window on the wall above Karura’s bed. She could spend hours, some days, simply looking out the window, where clouds struggled in the high winds against the backdrop of Suna’s piercingly blue sky. There was a tower whose top she could also see from the window, and it comforted her to notice it there again day after day. Each morning when she awoke the tower was there, strong, firm, and real as it had been the day before.
Sometimes she could see tiny little people scurrying around on its balconies, and that delighted her. At those times, she could almost forget that she was a captive, and then she would make plans to go out to the tower later in the day. She had named all people she saw (although of course there was no way of knowing for sure whether they really were the same ones from day to day; when she thought on that, it troubled her), and she felt strongly that they were her friends. Friends: yes! She would go to see them soon. First, she would choose what dress she would wear: the simple tan one . . . no, the green . . . .
How free they look. Who are they, and what are they doing? Where do they go when they’re gone?
Karura has a trippy, deathbed conversation with Shuukaku:
Then she got up and walked away, knowing all the while that she wasn’t really walking. There were no shaded faces and claustrophobic walls; she walked across the surface of smooth, still lake, flat and tranquil as a stone. The water was a very pale, icy blue, and barely rippled beneath her footsteps. The lake stretched on forever, one continuous sheet; she had never been anywhere like this before, and yet. . . It reminded her a bit of the mountain snow melt back home.
She wasn’t surprised to realize that there was somebody else walking on the lake with her. Who was that woman? Karura couldn’t see her clearly even when she looked directly at her. There was something strange about her, something out of focus, but Karura decided not to let herself be troubled by it.
One of the strange things about the woman, she decided, was the fact that she wasn’t really a woman. Or even human. And she had no face. Not a human face, anyway, but she had burning gold eyes. She had a great, giant tail which she dragged behind her across the surface of the lake, and the hairs skimmed along the water like blades.
“Little dead one,” she said to Karura, and her voice wasn’t a woman’s voice or that of a man either, although it was very deep. It rumbled in a deep, gritty way that made Karura think of earthquakes and landslides. “You must be so young and so pretty, to die so soon. Your blood tastes so sweet, my dear.”
“That’s you, then.” She found that she didn’t feel surprised. It was as if she had known Shuukaku for a very long time, as if she had been one of her friends on the tower in the window.
“It’s a two-way street, my little one. Just imagine. This for that. All it takes is your life to bring me back into this world again. You never let go of me really, you humans. You’re afraid of me; I ruin everything you build and break your bodies. But I’m strong, and so . . . I know I’ll never be gone forever. That’s only you.”
“Yes,” replied Karura, and then, not knowing at all why she said it but feeling suddenly that it was the only thing to say, continued, “Here, take my face as well. It will suit you.”
She felt herself take her face off, then. It didn’t hurt; it didn’t feel like anything at all. She turned it over in her hands a few times before she gave it to Shuukaku, and it looked as wan and as blank as a doll’s face. She held it out, at an arm’s length, and Shuukaku took it from her.
“See? It does suit you. You can keep it, then. I guess I won’t be needing it anymore.” Although, Karura thought, it was strange to see her own face with those smoldering yellow eyes.
Shuukaku laughed, and then lifted her claws to her — Karura’s — face to lick something off them.
Blood? — Yes, Karura realized. My own.
“Can I ask you for something, then? In exchange for my blood and my face?”
Shuukaku glared at her, but all Karura could feel was numbness, not a trace of fear, so she pressed on.
“Make him be like you. Strong, so they fear him, so they’re terrified of him, and strong so he’ll keep coming back.”
“So you’ll give me your son, too?”
“Yes, take him.”
And then, on an impulse, Karura stepped across the lake and put on her own face again, just one more time, and —
Yashamaru's feelings on baby!Gaara:
As for the baby. . . it does baby things. Cries. Shits. Apparently it’s bonded quite well with the wet nurse. Basically, it’s boring. It cries more than other babies, an obvious and unavoidable side-effect of the fact that it never sleeps. Sometimes it throws tantrums and sand flies all over the walls and gets in people’s eyes, but that’s nowhere near as interesting as it sounds. The novelty wears off quickly.
There’s no malice in it, regardless of what sort of demon lives inside it — Yashamaru knows that. He knows it. But that doesn’t change the fact that Karura won’t laugh ever again, won’t smile, and her smiling eyes won’t catch the light. Ever.
That can’t be undone. Yashamaru doesn’t think he will ever bring himself to like the baby. It grows chubbier and stronger in the nursery like a poisonous fungus.
—The problem comes from the fact that it’s not a fungus. That’s the Kazekage’s son, there, and from the way his father talks about. . . him, you would think he had no other. Kankurou may be the eldest, but he doesn’t have a demon inside of him. He will not be the salvation of Suna, not the way Gaara will be.
The Kazekage is so busy, always has been, and now of course his beloved wife is dead; someone will have to be there to raise his son, so why not have the other remaining blood relative do so? Yashamaru must love the boy, his dear nephew, his important nephew. . . Of course he must.
More Yashamaru and baby!Gaara:
“You know, I really can’t stand you,” he confides to the baby one evening, leaning over the crib with one hand absentmindedly twirling the bright-colored ribbons someone has hung from the ceiling — for the baby to look at, presumably. “I mean it. I really can’t.”
In reply, the baby giggles and says, “Baa!”
The sun setting out beyond Suna’s high walls paints the sky crimson; the light casts red patches on the floor beneath the windows. The baby wriggles around a bit and makes a sighing noise.
“But actually, even more than that, I can’t stand myself much either,” he decides, and laughs a little, sadly.
After that, he and Gaara get along quite well.
As for Sanddad . . . :
It’s not exactly the best of names, not a happy name, and when Yashamaru thinks too much about it he sees blood stains on pretty silks.
But it’s the only name his youngest nephew has, so Yashamaru buys inks in all different colors and paints the characters surrounded by stars and animals, leaves and clouds — he paints a sign to go on Gaara’s door; he paints on the backs of chairs and on the lid of a wooden clothes chest. In truth he’s never been much of an artist, and his cats look like roly-poly jackals, but he doubts Gaara will mind.
The Kazekage seems pleased as well, and although he never spends much time with any of his children, he does seem to hover over Gaara’s crib much more often than he did when Temari or Kankurou were babies. He lets his son kick against the palm of his hand; picks him up and cuddles him against his shoulder. Most of all, he is intrigued by those times when Gaara is hungry or angry and the sands stir around in the corners of the room.
When that happens the Kazekage laughs, such a ringing, genuine laugh that Yashamaru knows he must be smiling even when he cannot see his face.
“You’re a fine boy,” he assures his son one day, and even though Gaara doesn’t understand a word of it, he looks pleased. Maybe it’s that he understands the tone of the words, or maybe he just likes to be picked up and held by someone who isn’t there every day. It must be that he feels loved.
Yashamaru tried not to think about his sister. Whatever it was that really happened, happened. Better now to turn his hands to the present. Here was Gaara, growing bigger almost by the day now. There was always so much work to be done, and yet Yashamaru increasingly found that he enjoyed it, so much so that he had gradually begun to take over many of the tasks of the nurses. And so Karura’s ghost rested for a while and was gradually forgotten, and Yashamaru told himself, That’s because the living matter more. Especially children. The Kazekage was right; Gaara really was a fine boy.
And it really was like that, for a few more months.
Gaara is completely heart-breaking:
“I’m sorry,” Gaara tells Yashamaru when he comes home one day, and Gaara’s face is a portrait of bafflement. He knows he has done something wrong, terribly wrong, but cannot understand quite what it is.
He is four years old, then. He tugged on Yashamaru’s sleeve, hard. Desperate is the word that pops into Yashamaru’s mind, and it’s a good one.
“She’ll be okay, right? Right? You’ll make her all better.”
The little girl (Yashamaru had never seen her before his life) must have followed Gaara home; they must have gotten into some petty argument the way children so easily do. With such scant information, Yashamaru couldn’t think how they were ever going to identify the body. You typically needed an intact face for that, for one thing.
“Yes, of course,” Yashamaru lied. Just like he always did. “She’ll be fine, Gaara-sama.”
And he tried his best to smile like nothing was wrong, and surreptitiously moved back a pace or two so that the blood wouldn’t ruin his new shoes. Bloodstains were so hard to get out of things. It was ridiculous, of course, that Yashamaru should respond to a child’s death by worrying about his footwear. But nonetheless, a man couldn’t live long in this household before he started to take these sorts of callous actions.
Gaara was sweet, most of the time, and he didn’t mean to do the things he did. And he brought out the worst in everyone around him. Yashamaru hated the fact that just being around his nephew made him feel like an accomplice to some terrible and obscene crime. Which he was, he knew.
“But she’ll be mad at me,” said Gaara softly, and his voice wavered and he looked like he was about to cry.
“Mad? No, no, of course she won’t. When she gets better, she’ll know it was all an accident and that you didn’t mean anything by it.”
“N-no, she won’t.” Really sobbing, this time. Yashamaru fished a handkerchief out of his pocket and handed it to him.
“I’ll tell her myself, if you like. I’ll go to visit her while she’s recovering and assure her that Gaara-sama is hoping she’ll get better.”
Gaara him a suspicious look, and Yashamaru knew then that he had said something wrong, made some mistake.
“You’re lying,” he said, dabbing at his eyes. “They’re always angry with me. If they’re not angry, why don’t they ever come back?”
Gaara is Gaara:
That was Gaara. Kind but sad, dear and monstrous. He liked to fingerpaint cards for his uncle, who would find them tucked in his satchel in the mornings. As soon as he could, he began to read constantly, and made up stories of his own. The names of distant countries — real and made-up — lilted off his tongue with such longing, and such easy wonder.
And he killed people, usually for no reason whatsoever.
Yashamaru had long since begun to think that he no longer inhabited the normal world, the world of logic and reason, but some other place where up and down were one and the same, where water burned and the days were as black as a velvet shroud.
Gaara’s eyes were big, and even when he smiled there was something pleading about them. His hands made tiny fists when he killed.
Yashamaru's life has gotten rather depressing:
Most people never referred to Gaara by his name, as if naming him could summon him. He is “the monster,” or simply, “him.” Yashamaru could feel that same silence start to envelop himself as well, as if he had been somehow tainted by caring for Gaara. He probably had, he decided. The other medics treated him with respect — but they were always so chilly, now, even when they smiled. He could walk from one end of a busy street to the other without having anyone brush against him.
As for Gaara — grown men and women grew pale and sweat dotted their brows when he passed them by. They slipped quietly into the shadows of doorways. Many of the children screamed, and their heads snapped around in confusion as they looked for their mothers.
Gaara would sit by himself in suddenly-empty courtyards, and it was only the sand that whispered sweetly to him, almost like laughter.
About Temari and Kankurou:
Temari grows to be a very pretty little girl. Almost a double of her mother at that age, in fact. Same halo of sunlight-blonde hair, same dark, bluish green almond-shaped eyes. But on the inside, she’s nothing like her mother. None of Karura’s children are anything like her. Temari is a tough, independent girl. She picks fights with Academy students three years older than herself and walks away the victor, laughing with exultation. With every month that passes she becomes stronger, and more beautiful, and more haughty.
For his part, Kankurou grows fatter. He’s sneaky and sullen; he shuts himself up in his room and refuses to let the maids come in even to clean. When he does come out, he is the most bitter, acid-tongued boy Yashamaru has ever met. Neither he nor Temari are like their brother; they aren’t monsters. But Yashamaru is sure that they too will start to kill young — even if not as young as Gaara has — and will feel little compunction when they do.
That’s why he knows that if anyone can survive, these children can. It’s beginning to occur to him that perhaps the same cannot be said of himself.
Gaara completely and utterly fails to sleep:
“Goodnight, Gaara,” says Yashamaru, stifling a yawn. “You know you can wake me up anytime if you need something.” He always said that, and always hoped that Gaara wouldn’t actually take him up on it.
“’Night.” Gaara didn’t look up, just kept moving the toy ninjas around on their little board that was shaped like the shinobi countries.
Then he paused for a moment, and looked up. “What’s it like, sleep?”
Yashamaru had to think about that one for a moment. How could anyone possible explain sleep to a person who hadn’t already experienced it?
“It’s. . . peaceful,” he said finally. “Peaceful, but you can’t really think about much of anything. Or can’t think clearly, at least.”
Gaara nodded. “I wish I could sleep.”
“I wish I could sleep all the time, and not ever have to wake up.”
(Tired as he was, Yashamaru lay awake for a long time that night. From the next room he could hear the faint scratching sound as Gaara dragged the little wooden shinobi across the board, over and over. He wondered whether his nephew was playing the game properly, by the rules; the game was designed to teach the advantages and disadvantages of every shinobi art. Suiton destroys katon. Raiton destroys doton.
Shuukaku destroys everything.)
Yashamaru's thoughts on love healing wounds:
He had said that wounds could be mended, and that much was true.
He hadn’t said that a wound to the heart was never something you simply walked away from. And that was true also.