Characters: Gaara, Temari, Kankurou, Shuukaku, Yondaime Kazekage, Naruto. (Slight Naruto/Gaara.)
Genre: Gen, death!fic
Warnings: Death, some gore, spoilers
Summary: Gaara, who seemingly cannot lose, thinks that he will live forever. Death is for the stupid and the weak.
Disclaimer: Kishi, not me, owns Naruto.
A/N: For naruto_contest and the prompt "death."
ETA: WAT. I WON? EVEN THOUGH NOBODY COMMENTED? WTF IDK WHAT'S GOING ON ANYMORE.
The sun rises, and Gaara, who is as strong as the sun, wins again. He completes their mission (him, still a student at the Academy, not even a real shinobi yet), lays waste to the enemy shinobi.
He wins when the three of them get home too, when the door to his room slams shut behind him, and suddenly there is a man, and suddenly his hand is full of flames....
Kankurou, who knew what was going on the instant he heard the door shut– Gaara never slams his door like that– isn’t surprised when he hears the screams, and after that a soft, delighted laughter. Gaara never loses.
Their father keeps records of these wins– his own losses– in his office. That beautiful, spacious office, with its round windows on every wall! Some people would kill– literally– to get an audience in that room, with that man. He certainly is quite impressive; “austerely graceful” is the way one hopeful flatterer of a scribe described him. He calls out orders that no one dares to disobey, and his words snap like the crack of a switch all around him.
Impressive? Certainly, yes.
But his children (the elder two, at least; who knows what the youngest one thinks) see more clearly. Ruler of the village he may be, but he is nothing compared to Gaara. He will never be able to kill him; his assassins have not succeeded in leaving even one scratch.
Gaara is something akin to the favorite of the gods– because certainly nothing like him can be considered quite human– and try as you might, even with all the power in the world you cannot beat him.
The next win comes when the new maid has poison needles up her sleeve. His siblings sit and watch, motionless and pitiless like statues; they listen to the sounds as each bone snaps– each individual bone breaks at its own time, methodical. (As if instead of crushing it he’s peeling her body apart, searching it for whatever it is that she possesses and he does not.)
Weak! Perishable! Stupid and mortal and fallible! Gaara turns away from those things– the human ones, the ones that put men and women like these in their graves– and promises himself that he will never be that unworthy.
But the strange thing is that every time he kills one of them there is another funeral, another man saying kind words about the dead, as if there is something in their weakness and their foolishness and the way they die so easily that makes them worth something. –It’s enough to drive one mad.
Temari knows that she and Kankurou should be grateful; because of Gaara, they will never lose a battle. That ought to be enough.
It isn’t, of course.
There is a sense of inferiority there, and they work as hard as they can to lessen its burden. She wants to learn to kill with a single swing of her fan, and Kankurou works on his technique so much that he seems never to sleep. When he comes into possession of one of the puppets made by Akasuna no Sasori, it only intensifies his fervor. They both graduate at the top of their respective classes.
It is already too late when she realizes that there is such a thing as being too competent.
Most people their own age, even fellow shinobi, do not approach them. People shy away from them on the street. There is a boy with lovely dark eyes who was in Temari’s class, and she, she is human too; she has feelings. But his father works for her father; he knows all about her. When she tries to talk to him, he makes a hasty excuse and scurries away.
It isn’t just Gaara, she knows then. Not a one of them will ever be loved by another person. Too late now to change it. That’s the loneliness of strength.
That strength, that inability to fail, is undeniable; it is a certainty, a fact– for everybody but Gaara himself. He has to test his power anew each time, has to stare death in the face before overcoming it– he has to kill and kill so that he will not die.
It’s perfect every time– like when he kills the man that tries to garrote him in the bath, and– Oh, it’s good, it’s so good. Here is the fear in the split-second before the sand moves to protect him; here is the man’s blood, not his, being spilled; here he reminds himself of the weakness that is death, and therefore that death is only for the weak.
His mother– because who else can the sand be?– approves. The sand shifts softly around him and around the body, drinking in the blood, and he imagines that she says, My boy, my dear son. Together we will kill all of them, and together–
–You will live forever.
Of course he does not lose, but this time, he doesn’t exactly win either. The boy with the thick eyebrows remains alive. And then later, when he fights the loud, blond-haired boy who confronted him at the hospital... That’s the worst. If any of that boy’s friends had come along after the fight, he– Gaara, Sabaku no Gaara!– could easily have been killed, and he doesn’t want to be that pitiful.
Shuukaku is the one who licks his wounds for him; her fierce voice intones: Don’t worry. We haven’t yet lost. Next time, next time we’ll kill them all. The blond one first.
But for the first time, he doubts her. It’s true that the blond boy’s face stays on his mind, but the thoughts associated with it aren’t of killing.
No matter. It seems that Gaara truly cannot help but be victorious, even when he himself has no involvement. This is the ultimate success, because now the source of the assassins itself has been broken.
He’s not so austere now, their father, and he certainly isn’t graceful. Beetles have already run tunnels through the body.
The high officials of the Hidden Sand all worked for the previous Kazekage; many of them spent late nights in his office planning their strategies, and some of those strategies were directed at his son.
–But that was then. Sandaime Kazekage vanished and now Yondaime Kazekage has died by Orochimaru’s hand. What the village needs is someone who will not fall so easily.
Gaara, once more the winner, becomes Godaime Kazekage.
And now the unthinkable happens.
Shuukaku screams and thrashes, shakes herself around and around in bitter confusion, threatens bloodshed upon bloodshed, but Gaara is almost too surprised even to think.
Because now he is losing, has already lost. Lost in the way that matters.
Somewhere close by there are voices, some sort of faint chanting, although he can’t make out the words. He hears the voice of the one who took him here, the one who used clay bombs, but the other voices are unfamiliar. He realizes that there will be no more voices– familiar or otherwise– ever again.
Then there is pain and the knowledge of loss, which is almost worse than the pain itself.
And after that there is nothing.
The Leaf nin spend the night in Suna but leave early the next morning before the sun bakes the day into dust. There is no dew– this is Suna, after all– but mornings like this can be pleasantly cool. Gaara goes down to the gates to thank them and see them off– somewhat awkwardly, since one of his ankles has swelled up and had to be put in a splint. It’s humiliating.
They say their goodbyes, and then Gaara stands and watches their retreating backs until they disappear from view. How small their backs are! Perhaps it’s just the light, or perhaps it’s the fact that for once, Gaara is more tired than he can believe, but that’s how they look: small and weak, hardly like people who could be counted on to rescue the Kazekage.
(And anyway, it’s best if they go now, before they start talking to everybody. It’s best if only a few people ever have to know that Gaara– that Gaara lost. Died.)
Except... It’s a funny thing, but he half wishes that Naruto would turn around and come back, and then, suddenly, he’s never wanted anything more. Just turn around, right now, and double back.... Naruto, who is only human after all and can’t read minds, doesn’t turn around; he just keeps walking, and then he is gone.
(But it’s not all bad is it, losing every once in a while? A loss, and all of its perishable weakness– that might be something worth having....)
And the sand shifts a little, and what it’s saying is, Yes, yes–
Fixated? What do you mean, I'm fixated on Gaara's death? I'm not fixated, not at all. Not me. No way. I have no idea what you're talking about.