I hope nobody died of shock when they saw me posting some Naruto. This is a little tidbit I'd written for Kindred and then completely forgot about until someone reviewed one of the fic's chapters and lo and behold, memory stirred. I polished it up and popped it in a post and voila. Part of the Kindred universe.
For disclaimer, rating, notes etc, see Kindred.
The minute hand of the office's ornamental clock twitched forward. It was now 2:51 in the morning, and Gaara still had nothing to do.
His mind drifted as he waited for the clock's next increment. Becoming Kazekage had saved Gaara's life, simply put. The effort of will and the goal it afforded him got him through the first few terrible months after his defeat at Naruto's hands, and then the justification of his existence gave him a reason to keep on drawing another breath. He fulfilled his duties well enough; he had the strength and will to defend them all, and not having to sleep had proven a bonus for a job that required more hours than a day could reasonably be expected to contain.
The position had kept him busy and sane for years, and the decisions he'd taken with the help of his council had benefited the village in turn. It was a good arrangement. But now his village was turning over so well that he had less work to do, and so he was back to staring at clocks, or the moon, or distant hearth fires during the empty hours of the night.
Gaara sighed and looked down at his desk once the minute hand made it to be 2:53. He'd been through the personnel files once already this week. He could go to the command centre and double-check ledger entries. Hardly a fascinating task, but one that would keep him busy until dawn. Or he could slip into bed and listen to Lee breathe for an hour or two. That was a lot more appealing than dusty old ledgers-
The muted scream made him start, jarring the desk; a brush clattered from its stand, rolled across the surface. Gaara absently caught it before it fell to the floor.
As he climbed the stairs, he heard a whimper. He must have missed the first few, the heralds to that scream. He should have been paying more attention. He brushed the tips of his fingers against the bedroom door in passing, a small signal to Lee that Gaara was dealing with the situation. The Jounin would be back to sleep in a few seconds, with the practice of a seasoned warrior (and parent). There was no noise from the room furthest down the hallway near the bathroom; Aki had, as usual, slept right through any disturbance.
Chiro was tangled up in his sheets, fists clenched tight near his face, still asleep despite the high-pitched keening sound he was making. Gaara closed the door and went to shake his foster son awake. Chiro twitched violently, eyes flying open and immediately screwing shut and welling with tears. Gaara sat him up and slipped an arm around the kid, patting him on the back with his free hand; a gesture he'd assiduously copied from Lee. It was Lee who'd handled all the nightmares at first; he had the warmth, the heart, the comforting aura. But Gaara had come to realize that Chiro found some form of security in Gaara's presence as well, enough to banish bad dreams. In view of that, it made sense that Gaara, the eternal insomniac in their little family, should be the one to get Chiro back to sleep in these instances, instead of Lee who really did need his seven hours a night to be his energetic self to the full.
Chiro clung to Gaara's arm, burying his face against the crook of Gaara's elbow and getting tears all over his foster father's tunic.
"It's coming here!" The boy's voice was racked by sobs of terror, too incoherent to explain what 'it' was. "It's coming he-eere!"
"Let it," Gaara said. "If it comes here, I'll kill it."
Chiro blubbered in his arms. Gaara patted him on the back again, checking the room for any signs of a security breach, not that he expected any. The place was a bit of a mess, as it usually was. Clothes, a few toys, books, a practice kunai on the floor glinting in the light of the night light Chiro required, and which was beginning to be of some concern to Lee, because a Shinobi who was afraid of the dark at age seven was probably not going to get very far up the ladder of his chosen profession. Nothing ominous lurked in any of the shadows, and the village outside the window was peaceful.
"What's coming here?" Gaara finally asked. Talking about it might calm the boy some.
He glanced down at the lack of response. Chiro was breathing in a heavy way that spoke of a runny nose, but it was deep and regular. Gaara gently peeled his foster-son from his arm and arranged him back on the bed. Chiro slept on despite someone who could kill him twenty times over tucking him in and curling the boy's spare arm around the ragged bear Lee had given him. Kids were champion sleepers; they even beat Lee in that category. Gaara wondered when it was that humans lost that ability to completely give themselves up to slumber like that. Maybe it was when they realized their parents were fallible; when they realized they had to be responsible for their own lives, because nobody else would.
Gaara sat on the edge of the child's bed, making sure the dream had definitely been chased off and wasn't merely taking a brief respite before haunting Chiro again. Once he was sure the boy was fast asleep, he spent a few more minutes watching him.
He listened to Lee's breathing through the door for a few seconds, and dropped by Aki's room to make sure the infant hadn't woken up. Then he headed downstairs. He slipped on his coat and the gourd and made his way out the back door. He'd already patrolled Suna once tonight, but he could do it again; make sure nothing was creeping into his village while its inhabitants slept. Then he would go and watch the sun rise over the desert from the cliffs above Sunagakure, and tackle the new day that came with it.