Author's Note: Yep, another KanKi fanfic. I got the idea for this from Chapter 22 of Beautiful Disaster. (Go read it, hint hint.) (But no, this isn't related to that fic in anyway, okay? So drop all previous knowledge of KanKi loveness.) Wow…I'm a fanfic veteran now. Impressive. --whistles--

All reviews are loved beyond compare. So whether you have a lot or a little to say, I'd love to hear it. Anyone who reads this is loved. Thanks to all of you! Now, let's go!

One. Losing It

"Seduce the Kazekage," Tsunade had said. "It should be simple," she'd said. "You've done things like this before, Ino. It shouldn't be a problem."

But of course, Tsunade had never counted on the Kazekage's metal state. Nor had she counted on exactly just how much of it Ino could take.

Ino ran her fingers across Gaara's chest, looking up at him through her eyelashes. His eyes burned into hers. "Is there something you want?"

"Nothing," she whispered. "It's just…I've never seen anyone with such beautiful eyes before."

Gaara moved in, slowly, and Ino made the fatal hand sign. "Shintenshin no jutsu!"

Gaara froze, stiffened, and slumped forward onto the table. Ino's body fell sideways onto the floor. Gaara raised his head. Ino smiled, getting a feel for his body.

"It feels good," she murmured. "He's so…powerful, for someone so small."

That was, until Ino began to search his memories. Pieces of herself shattered, dropping into Gaara's psyche. No. Was this why he had always been so…strange?

Death. Suicide. Accidental murders. This boy had been treated so…harshly. No family, no nothing. He had been all alone. The one person he had loved…she couldn't bear the images. So much blood…

"Yashamaru," someone moaned.

Ino turned. There, standing beside her, was a child Gaara.

"Yashamaru," he cried. "Why, Yashamaru? Why did you do it?"

Ino gasped. For the first time, the boy seemed to notice she was there. Then the boy slowly morphed, and his features became cat-like. Limbs of sand grew from him, and a large raccoon-like tail sprouted from his back.

"What are you doing inside my head?" he growled.

"I-I," Ino stuttered, unable to say anything.

So this was it. The Shikaku. Ino had only heard tales of it, but she had never seen it for real. It was…so…so…so hideous.

"Get out." He opened his mouth, revealing bared fangs. He bit down hard onto Ino's arm, and she began to bleed as a wave of sand washed over her, drowning her lungs.

"Get out! Get out of my heaaaaaaad!"

And then, back inside the Kazekage's mansion, Gaara sat up and smirked. They would never get what they wanted from him. Never.

So as Ino shivered on the ground underneath a large patch of trees that spanned the land between Konoha and Suna, none of the shinobi surrounding her could imagine what sort of horrors she had seen. Shino picked her up in his arms, examining every detail. Ripped kimono, limp, tangled hair, blue eyes wide with fear.

"Ino," he said. "What happened?"

"He…he…" she gasped. Her lips were chapped and swollen. It was evident she'd been heavily kissing with someone. Her breath smelled heavily of stale sake. "It's so…horrible. And then he…I didn't want to, but…he…" She clutched onto Shino's robes and began to sob, unable to say anymore. It was clear her psyche was heavily damaged.

"Shino," Hinata whispered. "We found her. Can we leave now? I-I don't like being here…it's too…quiet."

Shino looked off, acknowledging the silence. Ever since all this had begun, it'd been far too quiet. Suna and Konoha had been such friendly countries before, full of color and life. Now…there was nothing. Everyone was all secrets and lies and hidden agendas.

"Kiba," Hinata called. "Kiba, we're leaving. You cover the back, okay?"

She heard a rustle from the bushes behind her and took it as a sign. She then proceeded to take off first, with Shino closely following.

They were so close to Konoha now. Fifty more minutes…thirty…twenty…

Something exploded from the trees in front of them. Shino managed to dodge it, flying to another nearby tree in the nick of time. Hinata was not so lucky. The shinobi caught her full force in the stomach, sending her crashing into the earth far below.

The figure landed in front of her, his eyes feral. Shino hopped down from the tree and set Ino down in a thicket of bushes. "What is the meaning of this?" he growled. "Show yourself and let us pass! We mean no harm! We are allies of Konoha!"

"All the more reason for me to kill you," the shinobi hissed. "Or have you forgotten that we're fighting a war, here?"

Hinata gasped from her spot in the earth. He was standing over her now, one foot poised above her chest. She recognized the facial markings and pointed black hat all too clearly. "I-It's him," she breathed. "The…Kazekage's brother."

"Brother? Is that the only way you know me? My name is Kankuro!" he shouted. "You think Gaara is the only one of us you have to fear? That the rest of us have no meaning?" He stomped his foot down onto her chest. Hard.

Hinata winced, and her breath slowed. She dug into the pocket of her jacket, finding a single kunai. She wrapped her fist around it tightly.

"E-Eat this," she huffed, plunging it into Kankuro's foot. She waited for him to wince, to cry out in pain, but his face stayed the same, an eerie grin spread over his features. The kunai—which had gone nearly all the way through his foot—did not even draw blood. "Wha?" Hinata gasped, caught off-guard.

"Hinata!" Shino shouted. "Get away—it's a puppet!"

At that moment the wrapped puppet on the shinobi's back burst open, revealing the real puppet master, several shuriken poised in his hand. "Fooled you," he grinned.

"I-" Hinata began, but it was too late. One of the shuriken lodged into her shoulder, and he poised the others at her throat.

"So," he whispered. "Are we going to die slowly, then, or would we prefer to die quickly and painlessly?"

Shino gave a growl. "Step away from her!" he hissed, charging at Kankuro. Several kunais were already in Shino's hands. He threw them all with hurried accuracy, only managing to hit the shinobi twice.


The knives made a thick sound as they hit the puppet master's body. A cloud of smoke exploded, and Shino was left coughing, facing Karasu where Kankuro had been a minute ago. Damn, his transitions were smooth. It was hard to tell where he ended and the puppet began.

Where the hell had that damn puppet master gone to?

Shino searched the tress, but he couldn't see much. Mostly just leaves, and more leaves. He took a beetle in his hand. "I need you to find him," he whispered to it, and off it flew.

The puppet had let its weight off Hinata's chest and she sat up, attempting to remove the shuriken from where it had lodged in her shoulder.

The puppet cackled. "I seeee youuuuu," he murmured in an eerie tone. His voice echoed all through the woods, giving him an omnipotent air.

Hinata tried to concentrate. Where was the voice coming from? She closed her eyes, placing her fingers at her temples. "Byakugan!" she shouted.

Her lavender eyes grew veins on either side, and she began to analyze the trees and bushes surrounding her. Finally, out of the very corner of her eye, she spotted movement. "Shino! Thirty degrees to your left!" she cried.

Shino turned, sending hordes of beetles towards the tree. Kankuro leapt.

"Sixty degrees, right!"

Kankuro leapt and hid again. Damn, this chick was good. No one had ever really found him when he was hiding before. Well…except for that damn shinobi with the beetles. But Kankuro didn't think back to that. It had barely been an official battle.

He couldn't manipulate Karasu when he was moving so quickly like this. He'd have to retreat. Not that it mattered, anyway. Enough damage had been done. The Hyuuga girl was bleeding profusely, and she looked a bit ill. As for the blonde in the bushes…

Kankuro leapt down from his hiding place, directly in front of Shino. "So," he murmured, hoping to strike a nerve. His tone was cocky, reassured. He could tell that Aubrame was confused to why he was revealing himself. "Your friend, there in the bushes. She seems a bit…off."

"It's not your business," Shino growled, making a dive at him. Kankuro swiftly moved to the side.

"But I think it is," he continued. "That girl…I remember from the chunin exams…she's a mind-controller, isn't she?"

Hinata stood up, her fists poised into front of her chest, ready for a fight. "What is it you want?" she said, her tone forceful.

Kankuro nodded his head towards Ino. "That girl…I'm assuming that with the way she was dressed, she was sent to retrieve information. A spy. And, given her mental state, it looks like she found the person she was looking for. And my guess is that person was Gaara."

Hinata paused, her mouth hanging slightly open. She and Shino and Kiba had only been told to retrieve Ino when she hadn't come back. Tsunade had said nothing of the nature of Ino's mission, just that she had seemingly failed.

"You know what Gaara's head is like, don't you?" Kankuro hissed. "That girl…of she infiltrated his mind like I think she did…you'll be lucky if she snaps out of it. At all."

He turned then and leapt back into the trees, wondering why he had even told them such a piece of information. He had felt…compelled to. He couldn't explain it. It was almost like he felt guilty for trying to stop them from saving a life. But why? He had never felt guilty about assassinations before. Was this because…he knew these shinobi? Or was it because he was becoming soft?

He shook his head, summoning Karasu back into his arms from the ground. He rebandaged the puppet and slung it over his back, continuing to hop though the trees back to Suna.

That was when he saw something, just hidden in a thicket of bushes a quarter mile ahead of him. No, it couldn't be…could it?

Shino was tending to Hinata's wound, bandaging it the best he could. "No jutsu," he said. "It'll waste too much charka, and we need to get Ino back to Konoha in one piece, no matter Ino's mental state. She may still hold some information we need."

Hinata sighed. "I hate this war. Remember when we all used to be such friends? Kankuro…there was a time…he saved Kiba, remember? And now he's trying to kill us…" He voice trailed off, and her eyes opened wide. "Kiba?" she yelped. Realization hit her like a shuriken to the forehead. If Kiba had been here, he would have come out for the battle. But he hadn't. Did that mean…? "Shino, where is Kiba? He never came during the battle, not once. That's…that's not like him!"

"No, it's not," Shino said, trying to keep a cool head.

A rustle came from the bushes near Ino. And, almost as if he had been summoned, a weak bark emitted from the foliage.

A large, blood-matted body crept out, whining loudly. "Akamaru!" Hinata cried. "Akamaru, no! Akamaru, where is Kiba, boy? Where is he?"

The dog whined and collapsed at her knees, not saying much else. Shino shook his head. "It's no use. Even if Akamaru could tell us, it'd make no difference. You're hurt, and neither of us can understand him. We'll have to take him to Konoha with us, and hope Tsume and Hana are still there. They may have been sent off to battle, too."

Hinata squeezed her eyes shut, trying to fight back the tears that pricked her eyes and the lump that rose in her throat. "Kiba…" she whispered.

Then she rose and took Akamaru in her arms, and Shino took Ino in his. They set off to Konoha in hopes of finding Kiba together.

We have to find Kiba…

Of course, neither of them entirely finished that thought. They didn't want to think about what would happen.

We have to find Kiba…before it's too late.