We were sitting at the bar eating cereal when Temari and Shikamaru came back.
Temari instantly noticed that we weren't eating the muffins that she made and put her hands on her hips, her expression fiercely offended.
"Is there a reason why you two are eating junk when I made perfectly good muffins this morning?"
We had planned for this and so I nodded and pointed to the empty tray of muffins, speaking around a bite of cereal.
"Butterball was hungry."
We actually had only fed a small pinch to the panda, making sure that there wasn't any egg shells in it. But being the star actor that he is, he went along with the plan perfectly.
When Temari looked at him he tilted his head to the side and wagged his nub of a tail.
Temari 'awed' and went to pick him up with a smile.
"Aww's. Dids you eat all the muffins? Dids you?"
She then turned to Gaara and pointed at him, Butterball still in her arms as she frowned at her brother.
"Where is your shirt?"
I hid a smile and took another bite of cereal, Gaara pointing back at the panda, his voice indignant.
''That fluffball in your arms peed on me. I picked him up and he peed on me."
I was having difficulty swallowing my bite of cereal, almost choking and Gaara smirked down at me, finding my issues funny.
Temari sighed, her eyes drifting towards the ceiling as f she were praying for patience.
"You couldn't put another one on? Or are they all dirty? Seriously, Gaara, you're the Kazekage. You need to learn to take care of yourself. Or at least put your clothes into a hamper."
I looked at Gaara and shrank back a little, suddenly understanding why a large group of people still feared Gaara. Though he had become angry earlier in the day, it was nothing compared to what I sensed from him now.
He was glaring at his sister, sand appearing out of nowhere and it switched back and forth, like a cat's tail as it prepared to pounce on prey.
Shukaku may not have been inside of him anymore, but the sand still obeyed his emotions. And at the moment, Gaara was angry. His voice was ice cold, no speck of the warmth that I was used to and I felt a shiver run up my spine as he spoke.
"That's enough, Temari."
I had heard that tone several times growing up and instantly sat away from him, my body preparing to flee even as my brain argued that he was in control of himself and wouldn't actually hurt anyone.
I saw Temari gulp and she staggered back, fear in her eyes as she looked at her brother. Shikamaru placed his hands around her upper arms, keeping her still when she looked at if she would faint and Gaara took a deep breath, visibly trying to calm himself and the sand fell to the floor, unmoving. Gaara closed his eyes and turned away from his sister. placing a hand on his head like he suddenly had a headache and waved his free hand, his voice apologetic.
"I'm sorry, Temari. I lost my temper for a few minutes. I didn't mean it."
She nodded, still visibly shaken and didn't reply before she walked from the room, swaying slightly and squeezing tightly at the wriggling Butterball. Shikamaru following after her worriedly.
I turned back to Gaara once they were gone and sighed as I saw that he still had his head in hands, his eyes clenched closed.
"Old habits again?"
He nodded, his voice soft when he replied.
"She embarrassed me a bit and I didn't know how to handle it.
I lived for so long by being cruel to others. They feared me so much that they never told me what to do or when I was wrong. Temari and Kankuro hardly talked to me for the first thirteen years of my life, and when they did it was always to stop me from killing someone.
I've threatened to kill Kankuro more times than I can remember and even came extremely close during the Chunin Exams. If it hadn't been for Temari's begging, he would be buried somewhere in Konoha right now.
I went where I wanted and killed who I wanted back then. It was nothing for me to kill ten people a day and never regret doing so.
It was as normal and easy as breathing for me. It's what I did to survive. And I admit that I loved it.
I loved making it rain blood. The sound of the screams as my victims begged for the mercy that I never granted them.
I'm ashamed of what I did now. But...every once and a while I remember the pleasure it gave me to hold someones life in my hands. To see the agony and fear on their faces...and then in one movement, end their existence forever.
Sometimes when I'm asleep I can still hear their screams. In my dreams I still enjoy the blood raining down from the sky.
Then I wake up and remember how much of a monster that I am and am horrified.
Even though Shukaku is gone, I can still hear his voice telling me to kill people. If I think about that for very long my sand reacts.
I used to think that if Shukaku wasn't around anymore that the sand would lose it's ability to move on it's own. Apparently I was wrong.
It doesn't jump to protect me like it used to. But somehow it still warns me. Like it sends a warning across my skin and through my body."
He shook his head slightly, his hand still pressed tightly to his forehead
"I don't know how to explain it. But I know that deep inside of me, that killer is still there. And on certain occasions, like a few minutes ago, it tries to get out and hurt people."
He went quiet then and kept his face pressed in his hand, refusing to look at me. I sighed and slid off of my bar-stool to walk closer to him, laying my hand on his back and rubbing soothingly.
"Well, you'll just have to try to not let it take control. You could have let it out today and it would have killed your sister. But you didn't. You regained control, and besides being a little shaken, Temari isn't hurt at all."
I reached out and pushed his hand away before tilting his face up to mine, his eyes opening to lock with mine.
"You can control this, Gaara."
He smiled sadly and pulled me towards him, bowing over to rest his cheek on the top of my head as he sighed.
"I just don't want to hurt you or anyone else, Love."
I leaned back slightly and grinned at him.
"Gaara, I was raised by rogue ninjas. It would take a lot for you to hurt me, believe me. I could kick your butt."
He smiled and pulled me back to him, clearly not believing me, though he didn't argue.
A few minutes after his incident in the kitchen, Gaara had led me back to his room, clearly still upset about his encounter with Temari.
He had walked straight to his bed and collapsed on the mattress, causing me to sigh and close the door behind me softly before following him and curling up beside him, feeling his arms slide around me, one resting on my waist while the other pillowed my head, his face resting against my neck. He nuzzled there gently and I lifted a hand to run through his hair gently, feeling him sigh and relax, his breathing evening out and giving away that he had fallen asleep.
I thought that with how tired I was that I would follow him into dreamland. But after the excitement downstairs, my mind just refused to shut down.
So I laid there, idly running my fingers through Gaara's hair and thinking about what I had said to him in the kitchen about my fighting skills.
I was stretching the truth slightly.
I had no doubt that I could kick his butt in a fight...but the question was would I want to?
In a fight I would have to hurt him and that was were my dilemma was coming from. I wasn't sure that I could cause him harm. Even if he was in the angry state that he had been in with Temari.
If he still had Shukaku, it would be a different story because it wouldn't be Gaara then. And though it would be his body that would take the pain, it wouldn't have been him that I was actually fighting against. But...Shukaku was gone.
So I would be left with two options: Hurt Gaara in self defense and save myself...or not do anything and hurt him emotionally with the fact that he injured me.
I flinched, remembering the times before that he had thought he had hurt me and how despondent he had become. If he actually managed to hurt me, I wasn't sure exactly how he would punish himself for it.
I became more anxious as terrible ideas began to flood my mind and I quickly stopped myself, shaking my head violently to shove the thoughts away. Nothing had happened and I was thinking the worst. Gaara could and would stop himself. I had already seen that.
The sand hadn't even gotten near Temari before he had realized what was happening and calmed himself down. There was really no use worrying about something that might not happen and I sighed deeply, feeling my anxiousness fade away with the breath and smiled gently as Gaara pulled me closer to him, mumbling my name in his sleep. With him cuddling me like he was, I could almost forget what I had been worried about and pretend that he had never loosened his tight grip on his scarier side.
I shook my head and shifted closer to him, closing my eyes happily and felling sleep pull at me, glad to finally be getting my nap.
I would try to wait until something happened for me to worry again. I wasn't typically a worrying type of person, but it seemed when it came to Gaara, that it was harder for me to simply shove my fears away like I was used to doing...I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.
Gaara's sudden movement caused my eyes to fly open, my instincts telling me that something was wrong and jerking me out of my sleep.
I looked towards the boy and found him turned away from me, sweat standing out on his bare back.
I sat up to see his face and had to dodge a fist as he threw a punch into the air, his mouth pulled down in a frown as he mumbled, speaking to whatever creature had invaded his dreams.
I bit my lip as I watched him thrash, unsure what to do. I could wake him, but I would need to avoid flailing limbs to do so. Or I could let him sleep and hope that he would calm down again.
It wasn't until his fist smacked into his face with an audible pop that I made my decision, realizing that he was actually trying to hurt himself.
I quickly moved onto his chest, trying to avoid the fists that were swinging at me, glad that the movements were so sluggish and tried to pin his arms to his side. I finally succeeded and shifted to press my knees into his forearms, freeing my hands to cradle his face, looking over the damage he had done to himself.
It wasn't bad, but he had still managed to bust open his lip, a stream of blood running down his chin from the wound and causing me to wince in sympathy. He was definitely going to feel that when he woke up...which needed to be soon. I knew that I couldn't keep his wriggling body pinned for long.
I began to run my thumbs over his cheek bones and suddenly had to avoid the sharp teeth that followed the sudden snarl as he tried to bite at my fingers. I quickly slid the fragile digits out of the way and shifted my weight on his arms, trying not to hurt him as I continued to pin him.
"Gaara? Gaara, honey, you need to wake up. You're going to hurt yourself more if you don't."
He seemed to calm down at my voice, his thrashing stilling and I ran one of my hands through the sweat soaked hair as I continued to talk, finding that the movement seemed to calm him even more.
"Gaara, please wake up now."
I saw his eyelids flutter and they slowly lifted to reveal hard, cold aqua eyes. He was glaring at me intensely and I had to force myself to not flinch back. I realized after a second that he wasn't really seeing me, still slightly caught in his dreams and I smiled gently, continuing to push his hair out of his eyes and after a few more moments, he finally seemed to come out of his daze, blinking up at me curiously. I felt him tug at his arms that were still pinned under my knees and he frowned up at me.
"Ria, love, why are you sitting on me?"
He grimaced as he spoke.
"And why does my mouth hurt?"
I sighed and swung my legs off of him, moving to sit next to him and touched his lip gently with my finger, wiping away some of the blood as I answered.
"You were having a nightmare, and for some reason you hit yourself. So I had to restrain you from injuring yourself more. The only way that I could think of how to do that was to sit on you.
He sighed and nodded, his shoulders slumping into the bed.
"I think that since I admitted to you about what I was feeling in the kitchen that it made things more real for me. So now it's vivid in my subconscious."
He sighed again and shifted his eyes to stare up at the ceiling blankly, his voice curious.
"Did I ever tell you that I almost killed Lee at one point?"
I jerked back slightly at his question, wondering what had brought that subject to mind but shook my head all the same before I replied.
"No. No one had ever said anything about that to me. With the way that he talked to you at the festival I thought that the two of you were good friends."
He nodded and shrugged, still looking up at the ceiling.
"We are now. But during the Chunin Exams we were matched in a fight and I had every intention of killing him. Just for the thrill of it.
I never thought that he would be as good of a fighter as he was. He almost beat me. He was extremely fast and even my lightening fast sand had issues following him.
He made a mistake however and closed his eyes. It was only for a moment, but that gave me enough time to do a substitution. That one fatal mistake cost him dearly. I shattered both of his legs and even now he hasn't fully recovered. And that was several years ago.''
I reached out and captured his hand closest to me, rubbing the knuckles comfortingly with my thumb.
"He forgave you though. And you've changed a lot since then."
He nodded and gave me a sad smile.
"I saved him once. That was what changed his mind about me.
He was fighting one of Orochimaru's henchmen and I intervened before he could finish Lee off. He was still hurt then and shouldn't have been fighting in the first place. But that's Lee for you. Always has to be in the middle of the action."
I smiled and rolled my eyes.
"Stop beating yourself over the past. You can't change it. The only thing you can do is learn from your mistakes. And from what I've heard and seen, you've learned a lot.
The people of Suna love you as their Kazekage. You now think twice about killing people, and you're not bitter or angry anymore. They're are people that haven't gone through even a quarter of what you have and can't say that about themselves."
He smiled softly and squeezed my hand gently.
"Thank you, Love. I'm sorry that I interrupted you nap."
I grinned and tilted my head to the side impishly.
"Don't worry about it. It was more interesting watching you beat yourself up."
He grimaced and I laughed before laying back down beside him, his hand still in mine as I let him think in silence, content to just feel his thumb rub softly against my wrist bone.