Natural Blues:

Don't Nobody Know My Troubles but God

By Ariel-D

Description: Yondaime Kazekage's thoughts upon young Gaara's murders and subsequent testing.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Kishimoto's and Shonen Jump's. No profit is being made.

A/N: I named Yondaime Hirohiko. Story title is from Moby.

No one had ever asked Hirohiko how he felt about his situation.

When he came across another dead body in the street, the man crushed beyond recognition, his blood splattered all over a storefront, Hirohiko sighed deeply. Another civilian or another shinobi dead. An innocent or a trusted comrade. Either way, it was a loss. Another family with a missing father, a missing husband. If they were lucky, they might be able to identify him by his dental records.

I can't let this keep happening, Hirohiko thought, frowning. He glanced down the street and saw Gaara lugging his teddy bear, heading in the direction of Yashamaru's house.

Instantly, a jumble of opposing thoughts and feelings smashed into Hirohiko. Images shot through his mind:

Chiyo, telling him he shouldn't try to make a jinchuuriki.

The Council, demanding that he did to shore up the village's strength and resources.

Yashamaru, angry at the idea of sealing Shukaku into Gaara while Karura was pregnant.

Karura, smiling and understanding.

Gaara, tiny and premature.

Karura dead.

Hirohiko reached up and rubbed his temple. "God . . . such a mess." And it was. He'd lost his beloved wife, and his son was now a liability to the village. There had been twelve murders in the past ten days; two of them had been children.

Shukaku was clearly out of control.

Gaara needed to be in control.

There was no helping it. Hirohiko could hear the Council now: "Something has to be done about Gaara! Shukaku is terrorizing our streets and killing our shinobi! We're losing forces here; we're losing resources. We're in bad enough shape already without our jinchuuriki going on rampages."

They would soon be demanding that Hirohiko extract Shukaku from Gaara. Either that or kill Gaara outright.

And such was the weight of being the Kazekage. Any kage. The village had to come before everything else, including oneself and one's family. All decisions had to be weighed against the greater good. Tens of thousands of people's lives depended on it.

Never mind that Hirohiko would be forced to sacrifice his own son.

"God!" Hirohiko shuddered. Sacrifice Karura's and his child? Their last child? He had to come up with something else first. A better solution. A way to prove it needn't come to that.

He turned on his heel and headed back to the Kazekage Mansion, back to his other two children, Temari and Kankuro. It was time to get them off to bed. They had school in the morning.

While he read bedtime stories to his other two children, Hirohiko did not want to think about the murder on the streets or the son who had committed it. Temari and Kankuro were almost past the age of stories, and Hirohiko didn't want this soon-to-end stage pressed out by darkness.

And yet what did Hirohiko think about night and day except missions, reports, deaths, losses, budgets, and money? Konoha was underbidding them on their missions; the budget was in the red. Suna needed to compete against Konoha better, but Konoha was already larger and wealthier.

Hirohiko's thoughts were a dark plague that hovered over his head like a black storm cloud, day and night. He had to save his village. He was charged to. He was the man who had to save the village from threats internal or external, tangible or abstract, even if it cost his life.

"What can I do?" he muttered to himself.

Behind him, a team of night guards landed in the street and examined the dead body. Assuming an identification could be made, someone would learn she was a widow tonight.

As a widower, Hirohiko could sympathize with the woman's pain.

The following day went much as Hirohiko had expected it would: Chiyo showed up in his office to inform him his son was a failure, and at the Council meeting, several members demanded something be done about Gaara.

Something. That is, death.

Hirohiko sighed and asked Yashamaru to meet with him.

"I'll determine his value," he explained to Yashamaru. "We'll test him. Talk to him about his mother, Yashamaru. He has to withstand emotional duress to be a jinchuriki."

He did not issue an order for Gaara's assassination. Only to test Gaara's reaction to stress.

This was why the night of Gaara's test was confusing for Hirohiko.

Certainly the test concluded that Gaara was a failure; he couldn't contain Shukaku when under stress. Child or not, Gaara had to be able to do that, or more people would die.

But other than Yashamaru's lies about Karura, the rest of the test was incomprehensible. Hirohiko had not ordered Yashamaru to kill Gaara, much less to attempt to kill him twice. Yashamaru's claim that Hirohiko had ordered Gaara's assassination made Hirohiko wonder if his brother-in-law, the man who'd been his right-hand man all these years, actually secretly hated him. Hirohiko had never thought so before — you did not make a right-hand man out of someone who hated you — but now Hirohiko wondered if maybe Yashamaru blamed him for Karura's death.

With his eye jutsu, Hirohiko could see Gaara was beyond hysterical and had burnt the kanji for love into his forehead. The irony was atrocious. Karura certainly had loved Gaara; Yashamaru and Hirohiko did, too. But Hirohiko couldn't spare that anymore thought for the moment. Gaara was transforming into Shukaku, and Hirohiko had to stop him before he razed the village.

For Hirohiko, the village always had to come first, even ahead of his own son and his own life.

Or his feelings.

Three days later found Hirohiko at Yashamaru's funeral. Needless to say, the funeral was closed-casket. A picture of Yashamaru sat on top of the lid.

Temari stood at Hirohiko's right; Kankuro stood to Hirohiko's left. Gaara was in the hospital in the mental ward, where he was under analysis and was being kept sedated via laughing gas (given no one could put a needle in him). This was because instead of murdering Gaara on the spot, while he was fighting Shukaku, Hirohiko had simply stopped the bijuu.

It would have been easy.


Gaara was unconscious on Shukaku's forehead. All Hirohiko needed to do was crush Gaara in a Gold Dust Coffin while he was unconscious and after Shukaku had been stopped. Gaara wouldn't have even been awake for his own death. The threat to the village would have been over.

Hirohiko couldn't do it. Failure or not, Gaara was still Karura's and his child.

The Council was not happy with him.

Hirohiko sighed. In order to keep the village safe, he'd have to issue assassination orders. Certainly the Council would demand it, and it was Hirohiko's duty. But that was as close as Hirohiko could get to the situation; despite the fact Hirohiko was immensely more powerful than his six-year-old son and could easily kill him, he would not do the deed with his own hands.

It was unthinkable. Kage or not.

Temari stirred beside Hirohiko. "Dad, why is the casket closed?"

Hirohiko couldn't tell her the truth — because there was nothing left. "It's what's done at the family's request sometimes if the funeral is too painful. Also, it's done if the person was disfigured."

Temari frowned. "Gaara killed him. He was probably disfigured." She crossed her arms over her chest, tears standing in her eyes.

Hirohiko chose not to reply.

Kankuro remained sullen and silent. He'd cried upfront when he'd first been told his uncle was dead.

Hirohiko had the uncomfortable thought that one day, Temari and Kankuro would see Gaara's corpse. He wondered how they would react then.

He sighed. That wasn't really what he wanted at all. Not at all.

But then again, his life had been a nightmare from the day of Karura's death until now. But no one asked Hirohiko what troubles he'd seen. They only asked him to act in his capacity as Kazekage. He wasn't allowed to be a man; he was a position, a title. And to try to save his village, that was all he'd ever be allowed to be.

A/N: Thank you to all those who read and review!