Storm Shadow stared at the clock. Twenty-two hundred hours, or ten o'clock at night.
And Billy still wasn't tired.
Donning footie pajamas featuring the Cobra symbol, the five year-old squealed and smacked him with a pillow for the tenth time in the last minute, not caring that the ninja wasn't reacting to the assault. Storm resisted sighing. During his dinner break, he had gone back to his room and found a pair of earplugs, but they didn't make Billy's vocal exclamations any less unpleasant. Weren't kids supposed to get bored when their playmate didn't respond?
Billy walked in front of him and gave him another whack with his pillow before dropping and sitting on it. "Stormy, how do ninjas sleep?"
"With their eyes closed."
"No, how do they really sleep?"
A roll of the eyes. "With great difficulty, especially if they have to watch over a little boy who refuses to sleep."
Huffing, Billy stood up and swung his pillow toward Storm's head. "I'm. Not. A. Little. Boy!" He emphasized each word with a hit.
The ninja didn't move away from the assault; Billy wasn't very strong, and the pillow was awfully squishy. "News flash - hitting people doesn't make you a man, kid."
The pillow stilled. "But Father does it all the time! And he's a man!"
"He likes to think that he is."
Billy giggled. "You're funny."
Storm groaned. "I'm not funny. I'm tired. Go to sleep."
"Don't feel like it!"
"I need sleep too, kid. And I'm not allowed to fall asleep until you are in bed."
Eyes lighting up, Billy placed his pillow down and patted it. "You can sleep here!"
Storm finally allowed himself to sigh. "I can't."
"I don't think your father would want that."
"Why nooot?" Billy whined. "You're my bobbyguard!"
"Because I'm not a family member, and there is no reason for me to sleep here." Storm rubbed his eyes tiredly. "Honestly, Billy. When do you usually go to sleep?"
"Whenevah I want!" Billy looked proud of himself.
"... That's not healthy. Kids like you need a set bedtime."
"I'm not a kid! AND I DON'T WANNA SLEEP!"
Storm silently thanked whoever invented earplugs. "Well, you're going to get tired soon. You've been jumping around all day."
Billy nodded excitedly as he dragged his blankets off of the bed and draped them over Storm's head, completely covering him. "You look like a mountain!"
A grumble, followed by a very unenthusiastic, "Yay."
"A biiiiig mountain," he declared as he went to get a toy helicopter and a handful of toy soldiers. He set a few precariously on Storm's head and knocked them off with the helicopter.
Storm sighed from underneath the blanket. "Did you have caffeine or sugar in the last two hours?"
"I had chocolate cake and shoda!"
"Soda. Soh-dah," Storm couldn't help correcting. "You shouldn't have those things before bed, kid. In fact, you shouldn't be having them at all."
"BUT I LIKE CHOCOLATE!"
"Diabetes, kid. Heard of it before? Nasty thing to have. Means you can't eat whatever you want. And one of the ways to get it? Excessive sugar."
Eyes widening, Billy stared at his ninja bodyguard in shock before taking the edge of the blanket and yanking it off. "... You're lying!" he accused.
A little pleased that he was no longer a geographic landmark, Storm stared back at him. "Not lying. Ask Scalpel if you don't believe me."
Panic bubbled up inside of Billy and he wrung the corner of his blanket nervously. If his ninja was confident enough to name another person who knew the same thing, then he couldn't be lying. "I don't want dee-bee-tees!" he cried, sniffling.
Oh, god. He was going to cry. "You don't have diabetes," Storm quickly said. "I'm just saying that you probably shouldn't have so much sugar." He frowned. "And so close to your bedtime, too. It's not good for you."
"But I like sugar!"
"You can still have sugar - just limit your intake and don't consume it when you're supposed to go to bed soon."
Billy stared at his bed. "Bed?"
"Yes. Bed. Sleep. Rest. Now, please." Storm rose to his feet and picked up the discarded pillow. It was a little wrinkled and battered-looking, but not dirtied, at least.
The ninja groaned. Of course. Even if Billy went to bed right now, he would be too restless to fall asleep. The sugar and caffeine in his body would keep him awake. "Alright, fine." He tossed the pillow onto the bed. "Follow me."
Excited, Billy tugged furiously on one of his coattails as soon as he turned around to open the door. "Where are we going?"
"To the dojo."
"Yes. Dojo. A place to train." He opened the door.
"Train?" Billy asked a little too loudly.
Storm covered his mouth with two fingers. "Yes," he whispered. "Stay quiet. You can talk once we get there."
With a nod, the ninja turned around and walked away. Billy jogged to keep up with him, utterly distracted by his swinging coattails. The hallways were completely silent, although Storm could hear loud, drunk partying on the floor above. He's growing up with bad influences everywhere, he thought somberly.
As soon as Storm flipped the lights on in the dojo, Billy shrieked with delight and began running in circles around the room. "IT'S SO BIG!"
"Yeah." The ninja sat down. "Get the sugar out of your system. Go on."
Much to Storm Shadow's disappointment, the boy stopped running as soon as he noticed his bodyguard on the ground. "Stormy? Whatcha doin'?"
"Go run, kid. I'll wait."
Storm's right eye twitched. "Fine. Do something that will get your heart-rate up and your muscles warm."
Billy seemed to consider this, then grabbed the man's wrist. "Hide and seek?"
"Really, now. You want to play hide and seek with a ninja? You're never going to find me, you know."
"No - you find me."
"I can hear your heartbeat, genius. No matter where you hide in this room, I'll know where you are." He didn't bother to mention that he had earplugs in at the moment.
Jaw dropping, Billy stared at the ninja before whispering loudly, "Can you hear meeee?"
"I don't know - can you hear me right now?" Storm whispered back at the same volume.
With a small 'hmph,' the young boy looked around the room. "Fine - then what do you wanna do?"
"I want to go to sleep."
"That's no fun!"
"You need rest too."
"NO!" Billy raised his hand and slapped the ninja across the face - or he tried to.
Storm Shadow was on his feet in an instant, fingers wrapped around the child's forearm. The boy sputtered in surprise and tried to free himself, with no result.
"You want to play a game, Billy?" the ninja asked, his voice barely above a whisper. "Alright. Then let's play a game. Pretend I'm an assassin, and you're my target. Avoid me for ten minutes, and you win. But if I catch you before your ten minutes is up..." He chuckled darkly. "Then you lose. So what are you waiting for, Billy? Run. Run for your life."
Billy grinned and took off out the door, screaming with laughter.
It didn't take long for Billy to realize that he should probably stop screaming and save his breath for running. Panting, he threw a glance over his shoulder, and promptly yelped in surprise. Storm Shadow was only a few meters behind him, and catching up fast. The sight of the ninja sent fear and excitement through him, and Billy sped up, shrieking as he ran down the stairs.
Storm was taking his time, jogging behind Billy. It was quite amusing, seeing the child run with all his might to escape at such a slow pace.
"NonoNO! Stormy, no!" Billy laughed when he reached the lower floor level and sprinted down a hallway.
Behind him, Storm gave a playful snarl, and Billy squealed in excitement as he continued running. His breathing was heavier, and he was slowing significantly, but at least he wasn't keeping still.
Billy looked ahead and immediately regretted choosing this corridor; it led to a dead-end, and - for a moment - he felt nothing but pure panic. A quick look told him that the ninja was really close behind him, almost close enough to touch.
Desperate to get away, he looked all over for an exit of some sort. His eyes fell on the entrance to the lounge. Yes! There!
Storm pressed himself against the wall near the lounge door and counted to five, just long enough to allow Billy to hide, before walking into the room. "Looks like you're going to get your hide-and-seek game after all," he said to the dark lounge as he slowly strolled past chairs and tables.
Peering out from his hiding place between two sofas, Billy struggled to catch his breath as he watched his white bodyguard. "I can hear you, Billy." There was a faint, metallic sound, and he saw a gleam near Storm Shadow's leg. He had drawn his sword.
Huddling, he continued observing the ninja. Storm wouldn't hurt him - he knew that for certain - but it was hard to deny that the man could be scary whenever he wanted to. And at that very moment, Billy couldn't help but feel as if he was an actual target. It was a bit terrifying, yet so very exciting.
Even with earplugs still in, Storm had no problem pinpointing the Commander's son - he was breathing way too loudly. However, if Billy's still-erratic breaths were any indication, he might have overdone the game a bit.
One hand returned his sword to its sheath while the other flicked a switch. Light flooded the room, and Billy accidentally squeaked in surprise. Storm pivoted and walked briskly over to the boy's hiding place. "Found you."
Blinking, the child looked up at him. "Did I win?"
Storm looked at a nearby clock. Billy had only managed to stay away from him for eight minutes. "... Yeah, you won, kid."
The look of utter surprise on his face almost made the ninja laugh. "I did?!"
"Yes, you did."
Billy stared at the man for several dumbfounded seconds before grabbing his arm and hugging it to his chest. "I won! I won! I won! I ran away from a ninja!"
With a sudden uneasiness, Storm freed his arm. "Yes, you did. How do you feel?"
His answer came, satisfyingly, in the form of a yawn and tired gaze as the effects of adrenaline in Billy's body slowly faded. The boy climbed onto a couch and sat down, head rolled onto the armrest. "Not tired..."
Storm fought back a triumphant grin as he walked over. "I'm sure you're not."
Billy didn't protest when strong arms wrapped around his body and lifted him up. He mumbled incoherently and buried his face against Storm's chest, the ninja's warmth reminding him of his bed.
Bed... sleep... sleep suddenly sounded like a very good idea.
By the time Storm Shadow returned to Billy's room, the boy was fast asleep. As gently as he could, he set the child down on his bed and tucked his blankets around him.
"Sleep well, kid," he whispered before turning out the lights and closing the door behind him. Tomorrow morning, he was going to have a word with the kitchen staff regarding what Billy was and was not allowed to eat before bedtime.
He crawled into his own bed and closed his eyes. But until then, he was going to get some much-needed rest.