I leaned against Gaara, looking at the smoking remains of the once proud building and watching as Salem, Jagur and Aubry were rifling through the ashes, looking for anything salvageable.
All three were covered in soot, their faces and hands almost completely black and I shivered in disgust, feeling Gaara's arms tighten around me. Yuki and Suki had done this because Salem had been the one to find the deed. It was hard for me to grasp how childish they had acted.
And I had no doubt that they were the ones that had broken into the houses. Cheating to find the deed before they had known the rules.
I felt Gaara's arms tense around me and looked to see what had caught his attention, seeing Mona and Misa walking towards us, Kankuro following behind them slowly. From the way he was shooting glares at Mona, I could just imagine the scolding or insult that she had thrown at him.
I could see Misa's bloodshot eyes and Mona's red nose when they came to a stop beside us, a clear sign that they had been crying and I felt a bit bad for Kankuro. Mona was not a person that you wanted to be around when she was crying, having a habit of turning her sadness into anger and taking that out on the nearest person.
I smiled sadly.
''How are the two of you doing?''
Misa shook her head, her eyes filling with tears and Mona shrugged.
''We're alive. And physically unhurt. But if I ever see those whore bunnies again, I'm going to smash them into the ground.''
I nodded in agreement.
''I agree with you. Salem does too, I'm sure.''
Mona snorted and looked towards him, a disgusted look twisting her face and voice.
''No he doesn't. He wouldn't do anything to hurt Toru. She's got him so whipped, it's a wonder that he doesn't have to ask her permission to go to the bathroom.''
I frowned at her and stiffened, trying to push away my anger before I spoke, my first instinct being to jump to his defense but Misa beat me to it, speaking more logically than I would have after the insult.
''Mona! That is not nice. Salem is in love with Toru. He shouldn't want to do anything to hurt her. Especially not kill her sisters. How would you feel if Sai wanted to kill me?''
Mona frowned and then shrugged after a moment, dismissing Misa's words easily.
''That's different. You're not burning down buildings. And I was just stating a fact. There's no reason to be upset about it. ''
I breathed deeply and swallowed my irritation, remembering that Mona was just lashing out because of her hurt and tried to shift the subject to slightly safer territory.
''Where is Toru anyways?''
Misa pointed towards the side of the wreckage and I saw Toru standing next to Aubry's wife, Silva. She looked pale and sick, her arms wrapped around herself tightly. As if she were afraid that she would fly to pieces if she wasn't holding herself together.
I flinched suddenly, realizing how much worse this was for her. It was her own sisters that had burnt down Aubry's. Which her new boyfriend was a co-owner to. She was having to choose where her support would lie.
I was extremely glad that I would never be placed in a position like hers. Seeing if I loved my family more than Gaara. Neither side would be selfish enough to make me choose and I was thankful for that.
I shifted my eyes away from the broken girl to glance at Silva, seeing her watching Aubry closely.
It wasn't a secret that she had wanted Aubry home more, but she would have never wished this. This had been a second home to Aubry since forever, and the look on her face told about how concerned she was for him.
I sighed and turned my eyes back to the three males, flinching back in surprise as I got a good look at Salem.
His face was drawn tight and his eyes glittered dangerously in the sunlight. The last time I could remember him looking that way had been before he had started taking his medicine and was still seeing the creatures.
I pushed myself out of Gaara's arms and walked away from our small group, feeling the eyes that followed my movements and knew that it wasn't just Gaara that was watching me. But I needed to speak to my adopted brother away from listening ears. Salem saw me coming closer and met me halfway, leaving his task of sifting through the ashes, his stained hands twitching at his sides.
I lifted my head to lock eyes with Salem and forced myself not to flinch back at the insanity that shined there. They shifted and shimmered, resembling the shadows that moved in the moonlight. I had to take a deep breath to force myself to not look away from Salem's unnerving gaze.
''You need to calm down.''
He narrowed his eyes defiantly before speaking, his voice one that I hated hearing from him. A patronizing, laughing tone that I had come to associate with serial killers who are teasing their victims.
''I am calm, Ria. At least as calm as to be expected in this type of situation. What makes you think that I'm not?''
He smirked unpleasantly, leaning towards me slightly.
''Maybe something dangerous in my eyes?''
I narrowed my own eyes, hiding my growing panic. If anyone said anything the slightest bit irritating to him when he was like this, he would snap and hurt them...and he would regret it later.
I nodded slowly, making sure not to move hurriedly, knowing that sudden movements agitated him more when he was like this.
''You have the same look that you used to get while seeing the dark creatures. You need to get yourself under control before you hurt someone. You can't lose control right now.''
He bared his teeth in an evil grin, taking a step closer to me and bending lower to be closer to my height.
''Oh, but I think that now is the perfect time to lose control. Those stupid girls don't even deserve to breathe. They don't deserve to live. Can't you see that? Don't you want to rid the world of them?''
I shook my head slowly, speaking calmly when I wanted to yell at him.
''I know you're angry Salem. We're all angry. Aubry's has been a part of our lives for so long that it was like another home.''
I reached towards him and grasped his arm, turning him to look at Toru before I continued.
''But you can't kill Yuki and Suki. Toru is their sister. She wouldn't understand if you lost control and killed them. She's already so conflicted on what to feel and she needs you right now.
She needs you to be strong and help her through this. Not go insane and go on a killing spree. If you did that, she would never be able to see you again. And that would kill her because she loves you.''
I could see that he was slowly gaining control and squeezed his arm gently, my voice slightly pleading.
''Salem. Please understand what I'm trying to tell you. Toru is young. She has been sheltered and this is her first time seeing the real world. She's never seen gruesome reality and so doesn't know how to handle her emotions.
I know that you're upset. But Aubry's can be rebuilt. It is just a building. Though we grew up here, the building does not define who we are. You've come so far and I don't want to see you back slide now when you can finally be happy with someone. You are not the same little boy that I found covered in his families blood, sobbing with a Katana dropped next to him.
You can and will be strong through this. If not for your sake, than for Toru's.''
His eyes had dimmed and he dropped his head, staring at the ground, his shoulders slumping. His voice was back to normal when he spoke.
''I'm not a very good big brother am I? I'm supposed to help you through these tough times. Not the other way around.''
I smiled and rolled my eyes, relieved to have the typical Salem back.
''Don't worry about it. You help me all the time. And when you're sane, you normally give good advice. It makes up for the few times a year that you go crazy.''
He chuckled and looked up at me, that insane spark still there but pushed far enough to the back that I wasn't worried.
''Thanks, Little Sister. I guess I should go try to be a better boyfriend than I am a brother.''
I laughed and nodded.
''Yeah, you better. Toru can't handle your mood swings as well as I can. So be good.''
He smirked suddenly.
''But not too good, right?''
He waggled his eyebrows and I wrinkled my nose, swallowing my laughter.
''Ew, Salem. You're gross.''
He grinned for a moment before a sudden seriousness took over his features.
''Listen, Ria. Would you go to Sasori's and pick up some of that medicine for me? I've been out of the stuff for...well, since we left for Suna. I haven't slept well in awhile.''
I gaped at him and put my hands on my hips, almost hissing at him in irritation.
''Seriously, Salem? Why haven't you went to get more?''
He shrugged, a smile coming back to his face.
''I've been with Toru. I didn't want to lose any time with her. Especially not for some medicine that I didn't know if I still needed.''
I gave him a leveling look.
''Yeah, well if we take the last week into account, you do still need it. You have been dancing on the edge for a while.''
He nodded and glanced back at Toru.
''Yeah. It's been pretty bad recently.
I think that I'm going to take Toru home with me for a bit. I need to get away from people and she looks almost sick being here.'
He turned back to me and smiled sadly, laying a large hand on my hand gently.
''I'll see you at home, Little Sister.''
I nodded, looking at him seriously.
''Alright, Salem. Be careful to keep your emotions in check. We don't need any accidents.''
He sighed and rolled his eyes.
''Just keep Mona out of my hearing distance and it'll be okay.''
I nodded again, a small smile coming to my face.
''Okay. I'll go straight to Dolly's from here. The sooner we get you your medicine the better for everyone's health.''
He smiled and tugged at a strand of my hair that had fallen from its holder.
''Alright. Have a good talk with him. I'll see you at home.''
I nodded and watched for a moment before making my way back to Gaara, wrapping my arms around his waist and burying my face in his chest as I rested against him tiredly. I needed a nap already and it wasn't even noon.
Mona snorted roughly and I frowned as I tilted my head back to look at her, Gaara's arms tugging me closer when I would have pulled away.
''What was that about? Did you have to go play mommy to the baby?''
eyes widened and my head snapped towards Salem's direction so fast
that my neck popped. I saw him glaring at Mona and he took one
threatening step forward before he saw my warning look and stopped.
He grabbed Toru's hand and practically dragged the poor girl after
I breathed a sigh of relief as I watched him leave before turning a glare towards Mona, my voice low in warning.
''Do you have a death wish? Because if you don't, you need to watch what you say to Salem right now. He is not in the right state of mind to deal with your attitude.''
She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms.
''He can't do anything to me.''
She suddenly raised her voice, yelling at Salem's retreating back.
''He's too caught up in his girlfriend!''
I breathed a sigh of relief as he didn't break his stride and I turned back to Mona with a glare, my limited patience finally running out.
''Look Mona. Salem is trying to stay calm. That doesn't mean that he won't lose his sanity briefly. So, if you know what's good for you, don't push him. He's having some issues right now, and though he's trying not to, it doesn't meant that he won't kill you. And with how much he dislikes you, he may not regret it. You seem to have forgotten just how frightened you were of him in Suna, but that was nothing compared to how scary he can be.''
She snorted and turned away from me, her cheek twitching. She clearly didn't like being reminded of how terrified she had been and refused to even acknowledge it.
''Whatever, Ria. You need to quit defending him like he's a child.''
I sucked in a harsh breath, forcing myself to not scream at her. It wasn't her fault entirely that she seemed to just brush aside Salem's temper. She just didn't know what he was capable of. We had kept his past a secret from most of the others, sure that it would have changed the way that they had treated him...though at the moment I wasn't sure that would be a bad thing.
I rolled my eyes and ignored her, looking up at Gaara and smiling slightly. His whole body was still tense, prepared for a fight and I knew that he had seen the warning signs from Salem. Though he relaxed slightly as I spoke, smiling down at me softly.
''I need to go to Dolly's for a little bit. Will you come with me?''
He nodded and I turned to look at the others. Mona had turned away from me, her arms crossed over her chest as she silently seethed. Misa was leaning against Kankuro, holding onto his arm tightly as she glanced between Mona and me worriedly, while Kankuro just looked pleased to have Misa clinging to him.
I shrugged and smiled as pleasantly as I was capable of at the moment.
''I guess that we'll see you later.''
Misa smiled sadly and Kankuro nodded, his voice unconcerned.
''Guess so. Have fun.''
I nodded and stepped out of Gaara's arms to pull him towards Dolly's house, the road well packed from the many feet that had trampled over it.
I felt Gaara shift beside me after the others had fallen away from sight and he spoke for the first time since we left my home, his voice low.
''Why did I get the feeling that Salem was about to go on a killing spree?''
I sighed and tightened my hand that was holding his.
''Because he was.''
Gaara's shoulders tensed again and I hurried to reassure him.
''Don't worry, he's fine now. He was just upset about Aubry's.''
Gaara looked at me doubtfully and I smiled, squeezing his hand.
''I'll explain it to you later. But for right now, thank you for coming with me. Both to see the destruction of Aubry's and to Dolly's.''
Gaara smiled slightly and shook his head.
''I'll probably stay outside.''
I shook my head quickly, swallowing a slight sense of panic.
''Oh no you won't. You're coming in. If Rosa is the only one home, you are not allowed to leave me alone with her.''
He frowned in confusion but nodded all the same, his mouth pulling into a small frown.
''Alright, Love. If you don't want me to leave you alone, I won't.''
I smiled, sighing in relief.
I laughed suddenly and wrapped my arms around Gaara, twirling us around happily.
''You get to meet my Niko!''
He looked down at me in surprise, though I could see the amusement in his eyes.
''Your who, Love?''
I shook my head and smiled.
He shook his head and shrugged.
''Whatever you say, Love.''
I nodded and hurried him down the road, wanting to see Dolly and Niko soon.