“You never sleep?” Shikako asks one night, mind calmed and cleared after a session in the sand cocoon. It makes her braver or, more likely, less concerned about manners; she’s basically cuddling the Kazekage, such a thing would require bravery and rudeness both.
Gaara’s hand in her hair stills, briefly, before resuming its path across her scalp. “I doze, sometimes,” he says, pausing as if to better articulate his thoughts, “I’m told it’s more of a meditative state than actual sleep, though.”
Shikako hums, part acknowledgement part contentment.
“When I was younger, I used to be able to sleep for short amounts of time before…” he trails off. Before Shukaku would take over, he doesn’t need to say, “After that, I was trained in ways to stay awake.”
“How old were you then?” She asks, already reaching for his free hand to intertwine their fingers.
“Four years old.”
Their conversation ends at that, though they remain curled together on the sofa for an hour more, before one of the Sand ANBU equivalents comes to the office and Gaara must resume his duties as Kazekage.
It sticks with her, though, a glimmering shard of thought not quite distracting her but definitely tugging at her attention throughout the day. Not so much the tragedy of it, as coldhearted as that might be, but rather the implications that come from it.
If Gaara used to be able to sleep as a child, when people’s strength of will are raw and untrained, then that means there was something else preventing Shukaku from taking over. Some part of his jinchuuriki seal that protected him as a toddler but could not anymore as he grew. Something that had weakened or degraded over the course of three years.
Something she might be able to fix.
But she holds on to that idea for a little while longer. She doesn’t have enough information yet.
Technically, she shouldn’t have access to this information–despite the alliance, she’s still distinctly a Konoha nin– but, well, it’s not like she’s reading a file she shouldn’t. She’s just plying the Elders of Suna with alcohol in hopes that they’ll be willing to answer her questions.
“Our livers are going to rot and it’s all your fault,” Kankurou hisses at her, before downing another saucer of sake at Chiyo-baa-sama’s demand.
“You’re the one who wanted free booze,” Shikako shoots back between gritted teeth, a parody of a smile as she also throws back a saucer of her own. Ebizo-jii-sama has not stopped laughing for the past ten minutes.
“This is a terrible plan,” he adds, yet again, before steeling himself for another round.
She doesn’t respond because she already knows that, but like hell she’s going to agree out loud. Especially not where the elderly siblings can hear it.
It’s not that she thought she could outdrink and trick answers out if them. She knows better than that, Sakura’s almost haunted look as she told the kunoichi group about Tsunade-sama’s drinking habits and Jiraiya-sama’s own ridiculous competence while intoxicated has taught Shikako better than that. But she figured free sake would make them, if not pliant, then pleased enough to indulge her questions.
Instead she is going to die of liver poisoning. Well, at least Kankurou is going down with her.
Three hours and an unspeakable number of empty sake bottles later, Shikako has joined Ebizo-jii-sama with giggling of her own. She doesn’t know what she’s laughing at, just that it’s very funny.
“And then I said. I said to myself. And I said to Temari. I said,” Kankurou rambles, cheeks flushed red, “I… What was I saying?”
Shikako bursts into another fit of giggles, the elderly siblings adding cackling of their own. Their poor, patient server looks utterly resigned with life; Shikako has to remember to give him a big tip.
“Chiyo, Ebizo,” a low voice says, just the smallest hint of amusement overtop the monotone.
And now the server looks a strange mixture of relieved and nervous.
“Hey! It’s Gaara!” Kankurou shouts, completely unnecessarily, “I was telling them about. I was saying. I said…” He looks around confused, as if the rest of his sentence would reveal itself to him, “Gaara’s here, Sparky!” He announces instead.
“Kankurou,” Gaara nods at his brother, a small curve edging onto his mouth, “Shikako.”
“Gaara’s here, Theater Nerd,” she agrees with Kankurou solemnly.
“And Baki,” he adds.
“Yes, and Baki,” she repeats. They both laugh.
“The two of you can take care of these drunks,” Chiyo-baa-sama doesn’t ask, just states as fact.
“Kids these days just don’t know how to handle alcohol,” Ebizo-jii-sama shakes his head, “Though for a Leaf nin, I guess she did well enough.”
As the two Elders stand to leave, Chiyo-baa-sama affectionately slaps Kankurou upside the head and tugs on Shikako’s braid. “We’ll have training tomorrow morning, brat. As for you, Leaf, I’ll answer your questions then. If you show up, that is. But I’m sure you two can handle a measly hangover,” she cackles before leaving with her brother.
The first smidgeon of doom trickles through their inebriated minds. They turn to each other.
“We’re going to die for real, Sparky,” Kankurou whispers–or tries to, it ends up more like shouting.
Shikako hides behind her braid. Unsurprisingly, it is ineffective.
They laugh again.
“Please, Kazekage-sama, Baki-san,” the server says, desperate, as if it were his dying wish, “Please take them away.”
Impassive, Baki picks up his ex-student in a fireman’s carry, before disappearing in a blur of speed–combining Kankurou’s transportation with his punishment. Very efficient, Baki.
Shikako says as much. Gaara, thankfully, is far more gentle with her; the two of them sitting on a platform of sand, him carefully holding her so she doesn’t fall off.
By the time they get to her inn, she’s already halfway asleep. Thankfully, this isn’t the first time he’s put her to bed, and likely it won’t be the last.
“Stay,” Shikako mumbles, grabbing his sleeve. Her eyes are closed, so she doesn’t see Gaara hesitate. He doesn’t sleep, but he settles beside her soon enough.
A/N: So I was stuck in a car for about ten hours and wrote this on my phone. I only just got back to my laptop now.
Um… this was yet another attempt at properly filling @byebyebriar’s prompt that derailed itself from my original goal. This time, courtesy of Theater Nerd and Sparky’s drunken shenanigans and the Elders of Suna sadistic tendencies.
Also! Do I mean English “sake” as in purpose or do I mean Japanese “sake” as in the rice wine? WHO KNOWS? I certainly don’t.