Darkness filled the space around Kiku. She sat at the edge of her bed, knees pulled up against her chest as she stared intently out her window. The sun had set and she could see the lights in the village beginning to flicker on. She knew she must have been sitting there for a long time, but how long it had really been...she had no idea.

In fact the young girl was so engrossed in her thoughts that she simply ignored the knock at her door. Her eyes were once again drawn to the object sitting to her side and she frowned.

"I never knew people could be so disgusting. How can they do that?" she mumbled to herself, picking the book up once again and lifting her arm to toss it. She would never read that book again, and she would never leave her house. That would make it's contents highly irrelivent in her life.

However when her gaze moved up to look at the side of the room she could see a face at her window. She jumped to her feet in surprise as Gaara quietly tapped on the glass. Forgetting the book for a moment she dropped it on her bed and walked across the room to open the window.

As she unlocked and opened her window she noticed the pile of sand Gaara was standing upon. He was simply floating beside her 2nd story window and for a moment Kiku just watched in awe.

"May I come in?" His simple request snapped Kiku from her mini stupor and she stood back from the window.

"Y-yeah..."

Gaara knelt down and crawled in through her window. Once inside, the sand he'd been standing upon flowed calmly back into his gourd.

"Are you ill?" Gaara asked, looking Kiku over carefully. She was still in the clothes she had woken up in, and though she'd tamed the pile of knotted curls, her hair was still messier than usual.

Kiku shook her head but refused to look Gaara directly in the face. Just thinking of what the others had thought made her face burn. Being close to him embarrased her more than she cared to admit to herself.

Gaara held a box out to Kiku.

"It's a gift from Temari. If you're sick you should still be able to eat it."

Kiku looked inside and could see a few sealed containers and a bottle of tea. She still refused to look at him, her blush still apparent on her face.

"What's in the container?" she asked.

"Temari made miso soup and rice. Since your mother and sister aren't here she said you shouldn't have to fend for yourself. She asked me to bring you some."

"That was very kind of Temari-san."

Kiku smiled. Even her own family never would have been so considerate of her well being. Typically her mother didn't even bother to go shopping for food before her trips. She never left money either. As a medic nin she expected her youngest daughter to pay for her own things, despite the fact a portion of her paychecks was still funneling into her mother's pocket. Temari barely knew Kiku and she cared enough to make sure she wouldn't go hungry. The thought warmed Kiku's heart and she thought to thank Temari in person the next time that she saw her.

Gaara remained silent and eventualy Kiku looked up.

He stood before her, serious as ever, simply peering at her face.

"Your face is very red. You really look ill."

Kiku turned her back to him and placed the box at the foot of her bed.

"I'm fine...really. I'll just bring these downstairs later. I'm not very hungry right now. Ummm...thank Temari-san for me though, would you."

Kiku refused to turn around and look at him again. Her gaze fell to the book once again and she could feel her face burn. If ever there was a time she wished she could just crawl up and disapear into herself it was now.

Several seconds passed. Then a few minutes. Then Kiku could hear sand shifting behind her and the sound of something by the window.

Gaara was leaving.

Kiku was about to let out a small sigh of relief but it soon turned to a gasp as she felt herself being lifted up off the ground. Gaara had picked her up and she was gently deposited onto her bed, her back resting against her pillows.

As she tried to figure out exactly what was going on she suddenly found a spoon extended out near her face.

"Eat."

Gaara stared intently in her face, holding the spoon full of soup out in front of him.

When she didn't move he repeated himself again, this time a little sterner.

"Eat. You wouldn't let me leave the hospital until I'd eaten. You said food is needed to help you heal. So eat."

Kiku couldn't help but chuckle. She remembered telling him that, one of the many mini speeches she had forced Gaara to listen to at the hospital. To eat, to stay in bed, to rest even if he couldn't sleep. It made her happy to know he'd taken her words to heart.

Kiku opened her mouth and it was soon filled with the warm broth. As she swallowed the soup she held her hands out towards Gaara.

"I can feed myself, you know."

Gaara handed her the container and the spoon and Kiku took another sip of broth.

"You know," Gaara said quietly "Yashamaru used to feed me whenever I was sick."

"My father used to do the same thing." Kiku said, before taking another spoonful into her mouth.

She could remember being a little girl with a cold. Her father watching over her all night and helping her to eat her food and sip her water. He'd make sure she was comfortable, wrapped in her blankets, and whenever she had a fever he'd leave a cold compress on her forehead and hold her hand while she fell asleep. Even if she only had a nightmare he would spend the night sitting in her room. His presence always comforted her no matter the problem.

The first time she'd gotten sick after he passed, her mother merely left her a bowl of rice and a glass of water before disappearing for the rest of the night. She had never felt more lonely than in that very moment. She wondered if it had been the same for Gaara after Yashamaru was gone. She knew it had probably been worse.

The two were then quiet as Kiku slowly finished her meal. She set it on her bedside table and relaxed into her pillows.

She flashed Gaara a small smile. "Thank you."

He gave her a nod in aknowledgement.

It was quiet once again and Kiku shifted nervously in her spot. Her eyes were drawn to the book still sitting at the foot of her bed. Gaara noticed her gaze and reached for the item in question, lifting it up. Kiku's eye shot open and she lunged forward to grab the book from him. A small wall of sand came up but quickly fell as Gaara simply handed the book to her.

"This must be very important for you if you don't want me to see it." he said as she pulled the book up against her chest.

"It's not important..." she mumbled. "It's embarrassing...I don't want you to see it."

Gaara tilted his head to the side.

"I don't see what's so embarrassing about a bodily function."

Kiku's eyes shot open and she pulled her knees up, hiding her face againts them.

"So you know what's in the book already?"

"Yes. I have a lot of time in my day...I do read." he said matter-of-factly. "Temari got that book from one of the medic nins a few years ago. It's something they give to all female ninjas before they leave the village I think. To know what can happen."

Kiku shivered. She didn't want to think of that part in the book. She didn't want to think of that book at all.

"I don't ever want to do that. I know it says people want to but I don't." Kiku said, frowning.

"You haven't...have you?" she asked quietly, peeking up from behind her knees.

"No."

Gaara was quick with his answer. No embarrasement on the topic and no falter in his voice.

"I think it shows a lack of self control, leaving ones self vulnerable. It's not something I plan to do in the near future either."

Gaara reached over and took the book from Kiku's shaking hands. She looked up at him.

"Don't worry about this thing. If you don't wish to do that, then you don't have to. Should you ever change your mind when you're older, then there's nothing to worry about right?"

Kiku nodded but her face remained serious.

"but the book said..." her voice drifted off. She didn't want to repeat what she'd read.

Gaara gave a slight nod.

"I know, but should anyone ever try to make you do anything you don't wish to do I will stop them myself. I don't want you to worry about unnecessary things alright?"

Kiku nodded, a sigh of relief passing her lips. She knew he was right. The things in the book wouldn't become relevant in her life unless she decided to make them relevent, and with Gaara as her friend she knew nobody would risk hurting her for fear of his retaliation. Though she was always finding herself upset about his reputation, for once she was almost greatful. If anyone could protect her she knew it was him.

The room had become dark during their conversation, it was now only illuminated by the faint lights outside. Kiku sat back against her pillows and let a yawn escape. She wondered how late it was.

Gaara got up from the foot of the bed. She wondered if he would leave and was about to ask him to stay one more night, but before she could say anything he sat on the floor beside his gourd. He leaned against her wall and looked her way.

"Sleep."

Kiku lay her head against her pillows and pulled her covers up to her shoulders. She suddenly felt 5 years old again. Having someone to watch over her gave her comfort and she settled calmly into bed. Her eyes becoming heavy, she gave him a small smile and whispered, "thank you."

She could only wish that some day she could bring him peace as well.

[A/N] - Well...here's a new chapter. Didn't get around to editing it or anything so hope it doesn't suck too bad. .-. Next chapter is for sure back to the main chunk of the story...no more side trips and detours. yay! Comments are always appreciated. :) They keep me motivated and on track with the story. The next chapter is mostly typed out already so I will have that up in the next few days :)