Gaara x Reader
AN: I was going to do the alternate endings but didn’t really feel like it. The most important one – the true one – is done. So here’s the first of the two epilogues! Enjoy!
Note: This epilogue happens AFTER Chiyo resuscitates Gaara. You’ve been married to Gaara for a year and two months (and it is currently mid-January).
“C’mon, you big baby!” you giggled, a foggy stream pouring from your lips. It felt good to be in Kirigakure after nearly a year in the desert. You inhaled deeply, arms thrown wide as if to embrace the familiar stab of cool air making its way to your lungs. Snow crunched beneath your feet. Your [e/c] eyes drifted skyward as you waited for Gaara to quit cursing the snow and cold and actually catch up.
Snowflakes trickled from a dull gray sky. January in Kirigakure meant abundant snow, ice, and freezing rain. We need to make it to mom’s before it rains, you pursed your [s/c] lips. “It’s cold.” growled Gaara, attempting to hide the slight wheeze of his voice by burrowing into the thick scarf around his neck. He sorely regretted leaving his kage hat behind now.
The young Kazekage thought it’d be nice to see his in-laws without announcing himself. It would certainly make for a quieter entrance. He wasn’t in the mood to hear people whisper about him, anyways. His hands wormed into the slit-like pockets of your thick coat. “Ack!” you yelped and scrunched your shoulders as his frigid nose buried itself in your [h/c] tresses.
Gaara spent a few quiet seconds using your body to defrost. You were properly prepared for a return to Kirigakure. He couldn’t recall ever coming near this place, much less in the winter. Your mildly stubborn husband determined that multiple layers of Suna garb would be more than enough to keep him warm. “It keeps me warm at night,” he defended, “and that’s when Suna’s coldest. I’ll be fine.”
He didn’t account for the fact that Sunagakure citizens – including himself – fitted their beds with thick comforters. Also: you were regularly seized and used as a pillow. That was too private for him to admit, though. Did Gaara even know how much he cuddled – or weighed – now that he could fall asleep without issue? It was common to wake up with him on your chest or wrapped in his arms like a physical sand coffin reenactment.
“We’re almost to the gate. You can do it, right? You’re fine.” you teased, one hand slipping into the pocket to pat his. Your index finger rubbed the matching band that told the world he was yours.
“What’s this?” Gaara squeezed the lump in your pocket.
“That is…wait…” you pushed his hand aside to pull it out. The tiny satchel was light brown with a red string. “My spending money.” you hung it on your wrist so you wouldn’t forget about it. Temari and Kankuro might want a souvenir, right?
“And what’s this one?” there was a second crinkling bulb in your other pocket.
“Money for the orphanage.”
“I would’ve given you some if you’d asked.” Gaara’s brows furrowed. Sometimes he didn’t understand you. Between his earnings, your income from sparse missions, torture interrogations, and the shop’s profits, you hardly spent anything! You simply told him that you didn’t want for much, and you never had. He only believed that because of the time he spent as your teammate during the Chunin Exams.
You didn’t spend crazily like he imagined a woman would. Gaara, being so withdrawn, assumed women acted like Temari. She frequented the shops, but not for meaningless things. Armor, weapons, polish, patches, and repairs to keep her fan in optimum condition could get expensive.
And thus the preconceived notion was born.
Until you came along, of course. He made a point of personally summoning you three months into the marriage. Gaara was concerned that you were going through some sort of depression due to the move. You weren’t spending anything…not since those first few weeks where Temari taught you how to dress for Sunagakure. Being a male, being your husband, Gaara felt that he was somehow failing to provide for you.
To shush those thoughts you bought a sheer, frilly piece, a sexy set of undergarments, and explained your ‘system’ once he came home. Well…you tried. You were pretty hoarse and sleepy after the two of you had finished. But Gaara later understood that you’d been earning money for missions while perfecting the Yuu interrogation techniques during your childhood. That money was rarely spent; what you put into becoming a medic nin was swiftly returned after a few shifts.
When the interrogations and missions hit a lull you decided to open up a perfume shop. It met many of your mental needs. You needed focus, precision, and creativity to make and package your wares. And to sell them, of course. After restoring the semi-dilapidated space and settling on an organizational design you kept an eye on your books for nearly two months.
Estimating expenses gave you a quota to meet. Once it was met you saved any extra money for the orphanage. That system followed you to Konoha and would soon go into effect in Sunagakure. Everything in your system concerned the orphanage. It all went back to the orphanage.
You didn’t spend a lot because you didn’t need a lot. That money could go to better places.
“I got it.” you assured him. You and Gaara had officially merged your finances after he found a break in the paperwork. Even though the money was yours and his Gaara liked to give it to you, personally. It was simply his provider mentality. That little sliver of hardheaded dominance hadn’t been pulled out along with the Shukaku.
But it was sweet. He was only pouting into the back of your neck because he hadn’t gotten it for you. You were his tribute, his wife, his lover – you were his everything. Gaara wanted to be your everything, too.
How could he do that for you if you didn’t tell him when you needed money? He knew you could pay for it yourself, and that you had some funny little system to keep it that way, but that wasn’t the point!
“Are you upset?” you smiled into his cheek as he dropped his chin on your shoulder. You weren’t sure what it was – Gaara being able to live without fear of the Shukaku, the new relationship he had with the citizens of Sunagakure, the ‘curse’ of needing sleep, or the fact that he had you all to himself for the rest of his life – but he’d become slightly whiny since you last saw him. It was a cute whiny, though.
Befitting of someone who’d finally succeeded at loving another intimately after years of being hated and labeled for murder. You didn’t mind babying him. It made you feel close to him. And it made you feel special to know that he wanted to spend time with you, to snuggle close.
“Maybe.” he muttered, one side of his mouth curling up crookedly in the faintest hint of a smile.
You kissed his cheek. “Then you can pay for our food.” you pointed to a restaurant with glowing windows.
“I thought we needed to meet your parents?”
“Do you want to walk in the cold for another twenty minutes?”
He hummed disapprovingly, the sound echoing deeply in his throat. Gaara tugged on your hand, leading you towards the eatery. Wary of your balance and the low-rise step covered in snow, Gaara brushed a foot across it to reveal the moist wood underneath. It creaked beneath the combined weight of your feet and one of his.
“Hey, mister! Wanna buy this? Hey! Hey, mister!” a little girl with an uneven sandy brown bob cut ran up to Gaara. Your stomach twisted nauseously at the sight of her flapping clothes. They were either too big or she was too thin. You went into ‘nurse mode’ at the sight of her bony arms outstretching hopefully to close the distance between herself and Gaara while showing off a ruby-red glass bottle. The pretty long-necked bottle shattered when she’d misjudged her distance from the edge of the wooden step.
“Not with your bare hands!” you leapt off the low step to crouch beside her. The girl’s big [e/c] eyes widened when your fingers folded too easily around her little wrist. She wore a short-sleeved shirt that looked more like a dress. You couldn’t tell if the lilac tee was faded or dirty, but it looked gray. Her studded black scarf matched the black pants she wore.
Short, pudgy toes hung over the front of black sandals. The only thing that fits her are those pants, and they’re not even made for winter! She whispered into her scarf, rooting through the sparkling snow for red shards. “SNAKE!” you cried out, yanking your wrist up as the girl’s black scarf swung loose. It wasn’t just any snake, either; it was a Habu – one of the most lethal snakes in Kirigakure.
They were typically only found in the summer, but this girl had clearly taken it in as a pet. Gaara’s sand rushed to your defense as the venomous snake snapped the weak string of your money pouch. He saw sharp fangs extend from pink gums and went on autopilot. While the snake struck only at your satchel and buried its teeth in the cloth material, Gaara didn’t want to take any chances.
“Doku! Don’t hurt Doku!” the snake, Doku, released your pouch. The sinewy creature swiveled violently, clamping down on Gaara’s sand. “P-Please,” snot ran from the little girl’s nose as she rubbed at one teary eye. “I-I’ll give your mo-money b-back.”
“It’s okay. Calm down. He won’t hurt your snake.” you whispered softly, rubbing and patting her back before she started coughing. Her little face was red from stress and erratic breathing.
“I wa-want D-Doku!”
“Give her the snake, Gaara.”
“But what if it bites you? Or me? Look at what it’s doing!” he used the sand to turn Doku. Venom darkened his sand. The serpent was obviously trying to chew through his restraint.
“Give her the snake.” you repeated again.
“Doku!” the snake slithered swiftly up her thin arm and into the confines of her shirt. She hugged the wriggling lump gratefully. The girl stared silently at the ground, her chest shuddering with dying hiccups and sobs. Your money pouch was punted gently towards your foot. “I was only going to take enough to pay for the bottle.” she explained after a small silence set in.
“Why don’t I just pay you for it? It’s because of us that you broke it, right?”
You opened your pouch to fish blindly for coins and bills. The young one could use some money to buy food. A wad of folded bills greeted your palm. Her eyes widened when you showed her the cluster fluttering in the slight breeze beneath your fingertips. “My bottle doesn’t cost that much, lady.”
“This is payment for the mission I’m giving you. I think you can handle it.” you smiled at her.
“A mission?” her s’s cut sharply through the spaces in her baby teeth.
“Yes. Do you know where the Yuu house is?”
“Yeah! That nice lady buys my bottles all the time! She lined ‘em up in her kitchen window and it makes a rainbow when the sun’s out! Did you know that?”
“I didn’t.” you laughed at her enthusiasm. Your dying adrenaline and the fact that a very venomous snake’s fangs had come within biting distance of your wrist made her age forgettable. When you saw her [e/c] eyes light up and the way she smoothed her hand in an arc to mimic a rainbow it was recognizable again.
She was so adorable. So innocent. And so, so tiny.
“Could you take my husband there? He’s not from here, and he doesn’t know where to go.”
“Why aren’t you taking him?”
“I’m gonna pop in for a snack.” you pointed behind yourself to the restaurant. Her eyes followed your thumb wistfully.
She looked down at all the money in your hand. Her little fingers folded around yours thoughtfully. “So I take him to the house and this is all mine?”
“All of it.” you relaxed your fingers.
“C’mon, mister.” she clapped her hands around the money.
“Here.” Gaara pulled a tiny bag of money from his pocket. He looked knowingly at you before following the petite thief. You climbed the steps for a second time, watching how he discreetly lowered his hand should the child be one of those ‘holding’ types.
“Are you trying to hold my hand?” she looked up at him. You laughed quietly into your coat.
“N-No.” luckily, Gaara’s cheeks were cold enough to hide the blood. He was sure his face was too numb to blush. The young kage was confused. How could she not want someone to hold her when she clearly looked malnourished and cold and lonely? All he’d wanted in his childhood was for someone to acknowledge him and love him.
Didn’t she want that, too? Didn’t all children want that?
“Didn’t think so. You’re big enough to walk yourself.”
Gaara snorted but nonetheless said, “I am.”
“So you’re worth a lot of money, huh?” she opened her hand a fraction to look at the crumpled bills.
Their conversation faded away as you entered the warm restaurant. You felt compelled to buy the little girl enough food to stuff herself with. The manager needed to know about the broken glass outside, too. Although you felt a bit silly buying food when your mother had undoubtedly cooked to welcome you home, you wanted to. What was left over could go to the orphanage along with your donation.
You ordered five adult portions of grilled fish, two bowls of rice porridge, chazuke (broth poured over specially topped rice), yakisoba, a family-sized curried rice, two helpings of oden, one sukiyaki dish, a tempura-battered seafood sampler, and a side of pickles. Gaara greeted you and your clone at the door some twenty minutes later.
“Where’s the little girl?”
“Your mother’s giving her a bath.” your father replied, leading Gaara into the kitchen. He helped you and Gaara empty the bags.
“Oh, oden!” your father reached out for one of the many fish cakes in the dish.
“No.” you smacked his hand, sliding the yakisoba over to make room for serving plates. “You wait until everyone’s here.”
“You’re just like your mother.” he pouted.
You grinned, hair falling in front of your shoulder as you leaned. “That’s funny. She always says I’m like you.”
“[Mother’s name] made you nikujaga.” Gaara pointed to the medium-sized pot of sweet, stewed meat and potatoes. You clapped happily. Nikujaga was, in your opinion, the best thing Kirigakure could produce.
“So what’s the story on the little girl?” you asked your father after explaining the foreign dishes to Gaara, “She says mom’s bought stuff from her before.”
“That’s Togai Fuchizaki’s daughter.”
“Fuchizaki? Did he serve with us?” most of the people your father knew worked with the two of you in the interrogation department. That’s how you knew most of the people in Kirigakure, actually. If a person didn’t fit that category it was rare you knew them at all. There was a slim chance that you’d seen them in the hospital or the shop, though. The age difference between yourself and Fuchizaki’s daughter told you that she hadn’t gone to the academy with you.
“No, but he doesn’t live too far away from us. Just a few houses down, actually. While you were in Konoha he was hospitalized for massive bleeding. Lost both of his legs during a mission.”
“Oh.” you winced.
“The medics gave him medicine to cope with the pain, of course. My guess is that he’s abusing it. Or selling it. Toshiko always seems to have empty bottles.” your father shook his head.
That would explain his daughter’s sorry condition and filthy clothes. Her father was probably too medicated to notice or care. You wondered if he knew she was in another house at this very moment. “W-Well where’s her mother?”
“Committed suicide a few months after Toshiko was born.” he sighed. “Some kind of postpartum depression.”
“Why didn’t anyone take her to the orphanage?”
“They tried. She kept running back to her dad.”
You, of all people, knew that kids wouldn’t do what they didn’t want to. Thanks, Aya and Minori…
“She seems to be surviving well enough on her own.” Gaara noted. Toshiko was quite resourceful for a child. And talented. He was never able to tame a snake.
“Speaking of ‘surviving’, how are you doing?” your dad looked to Gaara and waited for a response. Katsuro sent them news of Gaara’s abduction by the Akatsuki’s explosion expert after Naruto and several others left to retrieve him. They feared the worst, and continued to fear it when you didn’t respond right away. Kankuro and Temari were the ones who wrote them; you had little time to do so because Gaara required constant care after being revived.
“I’m fine. I had a good nurse.” you placed a cup of warm tea before him. Gaara grabbed your hand and placed it gently on his chest, kissing one knuckle.
“[Father’s name] and I are glad to hear it, too.” your mother smiled. Toshiko sat on her hip. She wore a few hand-me-downs of Aya’s. Her long-sleeved purple shirt could barely be seen beneath a padded steel-gray vest. Matching purple shoes properly protected both feet.
“Don’t you think she’s a little old to be carried, hun?” your father inquired. He could see her falling in love for children all over again. Hadn’t you and your sisters been enough? And what about Aya and Minori?!
“I couldn’t help it!” grinned your mother exuberantly, “She’s just so little! I want to eat her up!”
“Eat that, not me.” Toshiko pointed to the wide spread of food. Your mother set her down. She started towards the door in her new outfit.
“Aren’t you staying? Don’t you want to celebrate finishing your mission?” you asked, fixing yourself a bowl of nikujaga to compliment a plate of rice and grilled salmon.
Toshiko turned to look at you with her big [e/c] eyes. Her stomach growled. “…can I?”
“We have enough chairs.” your mother gestured to a few empty ones scattered around the table. Over the years more had been added to accommodate her grandchildren. “C’mon!”
Toshiko didn’t need a second invite. Doku’s black head emerged from her new shirt. His forked tongue flicked in and out to taste the air. He sensed the heat rising from the hotpot dishes. Your mother paled visibly at the sight of Doku.
She, like yourself, hated snakes. Your mother looked to her right where your father sat. You could tell she wanted to switch seats with him, as Toshiko was on her left, but didn’t want to offend the little girl. “He won’t do anything,” Toshiko promised your mother, “he’s just happy it’s warm in here.”
“Yeah. He left you alone in the bathroom, didn’t he? Doku ate some mice earlier, though. He’s full.” she said conversationally, reaching for some grilled fish with her chopsticks.
“O-Okay then.” your mother smiled nervously, picking at her chopsticks and the nice tablecloth. Toshiko, the independent little thing, managed to make her own plate. And the next two. You and Gaara watched, awed, as she battled unknowingly with your father. Finally, your father put his chopsticks down.
“Can I have more?” Toshiko asked through cheeks full of rice porridge.
“If you eat too much you’ll get a stomachache.” you warned.
“One last bowl.” your mother determined kindly. Toshiko swallowed thickly, readily offering her bowl. You assumed her stomach was beginning to fill up because she ate considerably slower this time. But she could’ve been stretching the last bowl, too.
“Come help me wash the dishes, Gaa-kun.” you nodded towards the kitchen.
“Oh, honey, no.” your mother objected. “You and Gaara are guests. This is his birthday visit, right? Or something like that?”
“I’d like him to help me with the dishes. Alone.” you stressed politely.
“Ah.” she nodded. “I’ll take care of the leftovers, then. You’re still going to see the Mizukage, right?”
“Yeah. Figured I’d save the orphanage’s manager a trip.”
Gaara pinched the sleeve of your sweater-like undershirt, one hand full of dishes. You filled the basin with tepid water and passed him the empty drying rack. “Something’s on your mind.” Gaara observed, taking the first wet dish. “What is it?”
“I want to adopt Toshiko.” you scraped the second dish -- a bowl – clean over the garbage can before dunking it rhythmically.
He let the dripping bowl clink softly against the sink. Gaara stared down at his hands, blue eyes focusing on his wedding band. It was no secret that the two of you had been trying to get pregnant. In the beginning – when you were stealing quickies in his office and Gaara practiced his ‘debate’ skills by lightheartedly arguing whether or not the two of you would wear clothes to bed that night – it hadn’t been about children. In the beginning it was about sharing a home and basking in the freedom to be alone together whenever there was a moment for it.
In the beginning you and Gaara were basically making up for the months you’d gone without one another prior to the Konoha wedding. Only after Chiyo revived him did your heart, your world, reassemble itself. With Gaara, with the final piece there and gradually recovering in the hospital under your care, you realized that the space for a new piece had been created. That piece was reserved for children, you knew. Losing Gaara made you think back to all the things he’d told you – namely how terrible his father was and how he one day wanted to be a father just to give his children a better childhood than his own.
The two of you had been trying for children since his recovery. While you gently explained – and proved with medical knowledge – that it wasn’t easy to get pregnant, both Gaara and you were afraid that it wasn’t just a matter of ‘easiness’. He feared that something irreparable had been done to his body when the Akatsuki removed the Shukaku. You wondered if years of dehydrating fruits – among other things -- to funnel the nutrients directly into your body instead of digesting them had somehow ruined you.
If not that, what about your jutsus that operated on a molecular level? You’d had to use your own water levels more than once during your career as an interrogator. What about the incident of Andromeda poisoning? Despite your worries and theories the Sunagakure doctors could find nothing preventing you from having children. A few of them hypothesized that Gaara’s stress levels might be making it harder, but that didn’t mean you couldn’t have children. Personally, you suspected Takaeda’s mother had really laid a curse on you the day you killed her son.
But that might seem silly to Gaara. You didn’t want to say anything. It could put him in a mood, too, and you didn’t want that. The only mood you wanted to put him in was a lusty one, and that was easy enough to do. Both of you – as confirmed by the doctors – were perfectly normal young people with healthy sex drives and fertile bodies.
It was simply a matter of luck. Maybe you’d lucked out by meeting Toshiko?
Gaara sighed, setting the bowl in the rack. “Does this mean you don’t want to try anymore?” he gazed at you, a little crestfallen. He wanted to impregnate you. To bring little redheads into the world. Though he didn’t want to admit it, Gaara wanted children of his own to offset his crappy childhood.
I know I can be a good father…his fist tightened.
“Of course not!” you said quickly, drying your hands off. “I want to bless the world with gorgeous babies that have their father’s eyes! But…I want Toshiko, too. She needs someone to take care of her, Gaara. We can take care of her!” you wound your arms around his neck, drawing him in for a kiss. Gaara smiled against your mouth, hands finding your waist.
“What could it hurt?”
“Absolute nothing. We’re just starting on the next Sabaku trio a little early. Well…Fuchizaki-Sabaku trio. Toshiko might want to hyphenate.” you giggled.
“I’m finished boxing everything up.” your mother poked her head into the kitchen. “Take it while it’s hot. I’ll finish the dishes.”
You and Gaara grabbed the two bags thoughtfully packaged by [Mother’s name]. A blanketed lump caught your eye. Bumping Gaara with your bag, you nodded to the armchair. Toshiko was fighting sleep and looked especially cozy and adorable inlaid in the plush chair with a tray holding cocoa next to her washed head. Doku was wrapped around the mug.
“Hey, Toshiko,” you tapped the armchair. She looked up blearily.
“Can you come with us?”
“Where are you going?”
“It’s a surprise.”
Yawning, she picked Doku up. He slithered up to her neck and looped himself around it. Toshiko stumbled along, following you dutifully through the snow to the orphanage some ten minutes west. “You look tired.” you crouched down to analyze her puffy eyes and heavy lids.
“I am.” she harrumphed grumpily.
“Want me to carry you?”
She stood there, hugging herself as she thought. Shutting her eyes, she nodded. You picked Toshiko up, able to do so without effort due to her thin frame. Toshiko was fast asleep by the time you and Gaara dropped off the food. He served as a confirming witness to the fact that you’d donated money.
The owner was used to you and Katsuro sending a little their way. She remarked that Katsuro was scarce, just making conversation while updating her records, and was shocked to hear that he’d settled in Konoha for a woman. “But I’m happy.” she smiled, “And it looks like you are, too.”
“He’s the best thing that ever happened to me.” you grabbed Gaara’s left hand, squeezing it. He coughed awkwardly, not wanting to let a pure stranger see him blush.
“Looks like you’re good for her, too, the little runaway…” the owner observed fondly, reaching out to stroke Toshiko’s short locks. She stirred with an unhappy whine, hot forehead peeling off the meeting point of your left shoulder and neck.
“You’re okay. Keep sleeping, kiddo.” you murmured into her temple, gingerly pushing her head back down. Her [e/c] hadn’t even opened yet. Numerous incidents with Aya and Minori had taught you that her accidental waking could be quickly fixed. The bridge of Toshiko’s nose smashed against your collarbone as she burrowed back into your perfumed skin.
Gaara’s eye lit up like a camera flash at the sight. He’d just committed the moment to memory. You were made to hold children. And, one day, you would hold his children. That blond head would one day be scarlet…perhaps a muddy scarlet…but scarlet all the same.
She handed you the records with a quiet apology. You waved it away, unconcerned, and mouthed a ‘thank you!’ as Gaara held the door open for you. Toshiko got another fifteen minute nap before you walked into Mei Terumi’s office. The fifth Mizukage knew you fairly well; you were one of her citizens and one of the best – albeit the youngest – information gatherers this generation of Kirigakure ninja had to offer.
“Kazekage-sama! Umiko!” she stood, surprised. “Welcome!”
“I have a favor to ask, Lady Mei.”
“Oh no…this is the talk, right? You’re pregnant? I can’t borrow you from Suna anymore, hm?”
“Wh-What?” you blushed. “N-No.”
“Oh.” she smiled again. “Good. It’d be tough to replace you. You have useful techniques that your father doesn’t really want to pick up.” Mei laughed, referencing the jutsus that worked on male genitals.
“D-Do I look pregnant?” you squeaked, a bit terrified of the answer. You didn’t…right? The latest pregnancy test said you weren’t. Though you explained a ‘false negative’ to Gaara, and you both hoped for one after every try, it hadn’t happened yet.
“No.” she dropped her chin into the palm of her hand with a smile. “But you have that glow about you.”
“I’m happy.” you laid your cheek down on Toshiko’s shampooed hair. She lifted her head at the extra weight. It wasn’t painful, but it was just enough to wake her. “Can I adopt her? I know you could pull some strings for me.”
“’s th’ Mizukage.” Toshiko pointed wearily to Mei. She blinked again. “The Mizukage?! Are you turning me in? I gave the money back! Don’t take me to jail!”
“I’m not taking you to jail.” you shushed her, somehow managing to hold her flailing body. You set her down. She ran and hid behind Gaara, much to your surprise. His earlier show of strength and the danger he posed to Doku must’ve influenced the choice. Maybe her growing mind equated that with protectiveness.
Gaara looked equally bemused as she refused to release little fistfuls of his clothes.
“She wants to send you away, all right.” winked Mei teasingly. “But to her house in Sunagakure, not to jail.”
A very cyclical and difficult conversation ensued. Toshiko felt that she needed to take care of her father because he’d lost his legs. The Mizukage countered that he’d been given the standard supports any amputee would receive, but Toshiko still felt obligated. When Mei pointed out that Togai wasn’t taking very good care of her Toshiko didn’t know what to say. Mei also tried to help the girl realize how she was fending for herself and how her father obviously spent money on other things because numerous people had seen her pedaling bottles of various colors quite frequently.
Toshiko, herself, had realized these little details before. Even though she was six – and not four, like you believed – she knew her father wasn’t perfect. She knew normal children couldn’t speak to animals like they were people. She knew houses didn’t usually have mice running around.
“Gaara and I will take very good care of you.” you promised. “I’m a medic, so I can keep you from getting sick! And, trust me, we have food. You were very hungry today, weren’t you?”
Reluctantly, she nodded.
“And you needed new clothes, didn’t you?”
She nodded again.
“We could give you that.”
Toshiko liked you. She liked having clothes that fit and food to eat. Your shoulder was very warm and comfy, too. Perhaps like her mommy’s would’ve been if she were alive right now.
“If I go with you who will take care of daddy?”
“We’ll take care of daddy.” Mei promised.
“Will he miss me?”
“I’m sure.” Mei turned to let a snow owl into her office. She took the letter in its beak. After opening it she hummed darkly. Gaara caught a look that said Mei had something important to share. Something not for little ears.
“Would you like to see a sandcastle?” Gaara crouched to catch Toshiko’s eye.
“It’s snowing outside. There’s no sand.”
“Ah, but there is.” sand slithered from his gourd soundlessly. He formed a small but simple sandcastle to distract her. Gaara promised to make her a bigger one in the hallway.
“Toshiko’s house is infested with mice. Her father started screaming for her at the doorway, and several people said he smelled clearly of booze. A few jounin arrested him for disorderliness and threatening behavior towards fellow citizens.”
You grimaced. If mice were present so were mice droppings.
“Considering her home situation, and the fact that her father didn’t even notice her absence until now, I’ll grant you full custody. This is an ‘emergency removal’ situation.” Mei filled the papers out, wetting her personal stamp. She knew you’d be a good parent.
You whooped loudly.
“He’ll be able to challenge you for custody if and when he straightens out, though.” warned Mei.
You didn’t say anything. In your personal opinion, you didn’t see Togai getting Toshiko back. He seemed fairly dependent on alcohol and what medicine the medics allowed him. While it was possible to separate himself from those dependencies, you’d be surprised if it actually happened. Pulling away from alcohol and medicinal abuse was very, very hard.
You settled for: “I know.”
Ao scrawled his signature next to the ‘witness’ space.
Thanking Mei for what felt like the hundredth time, you ripped open the door. Gaara’s gourd sucked up his carefully crafted masterpiece. “Well?” he crossed his arms patiently.
“Toshiko,” you squatted, “would you like to come home with us?”
“To your house in Sunagakure?”
“I guess I can visit.” she shrugged. You grinned.
“Are you going to stay?” Gaara questioned as you handed him the folded up papers.
“If I like it, sure. The Mizukage said she’d take care of daddy.”
“Let’s go home.” you hugged her before standing up.