A/N: Just in time for Halloween! And in perfect symmetry, there are a few monsters included in this chapter. Now on to important information! I've had a lot of requests to finish my last story "Surrender". The question that befalls you is: Would you prefer if I finished this story first, then move onto "Surrender", or vice versa? Or would you prefer I update both stories at the same time? Also, thank you for all your wonderful reviews! I love them all to pieces and they're a great motivater. Now, I hope you enjoy this latest installment. XD


Unsealed

"Grab the chains!"

The hand on the boat called out as the team resurfaced. They were tired and in long need of rest, so when the order came out, they didn't argue. They gladly handed over the iron weights to the crew on the rescue boat. The hands took a hold of them and suddenly pitched forward as the nose of the boat tipped into the ocean, drawing rivulets of water inside the vessel. The crew reacted quickly, and pulled the chains up distributing the weight between them and away from the bow that rose from the oceans grip.

When the crew finally managed to secure the line, they looked at each other. Silently asking between themselves just how the others had carried it for hours. When no answers arose, they turned to the underwater team who were now being helped into another boat.

On the ship's deck, Itachi watched on in silence. He wasn't concerned over the near mishap. After all, the iron line was the only thing keeping that coffin from sliding back into the ocean. The Elders had meant to keep it nestled in that mass of ice and water. Anything less would have been unacceptable.

"Leave it in the water," Itachi ordered into the small headset attached to his right ear. The crew on the bridge received the command and moved to communicate it to the rest of the teams.

He watched from the deck as his people moved to follow his orders. They helped the underwater team into two boats that took them back to the ship. The original boat remained in the water, while the men struggled to keep the heavy chains from falling back into the deep.

Satisfied with their work, Itachi calmly reached for the top button of his coat and pushed it through a slit in the fabric. Quick fingers unfastened the rest until the coat fell away from his shoulders sliding to the ground. He stepped forward leaving behind the pool of cloth. Without missing a beat, he stepped up onto the railing of the ship. He stood there a moment, surveying his team as they worked to fulfill his orders. His eyes shifted then to the platform attached to the side of the ship. He watched as the hands cleared the area leaving only his mate and the Halfling on the upraised dais anchored to the platform. The jump caused both Neji and Sai to look up in time to see the Uchiha silently land and step onto the platform.

"Lower it."

"Yes, Itachi-sama." The response was quick and he could hear as the bridge relayed his orders. He kept off the circular dais the two men occupied. Sai turned to face him, and Itachi could see the firm conviction behind his eyes.

"The seals are in place," Sai motioned to the detailed runes that embellished the marble dais. "You will need to place the coffin in these central seals here," he pointed to them.

Itachi shifted his gaze to the stipulated runes, then returned his eyes to him. "I will meet your requirements," Itachi assured him, then turned to the other.

"I will deliver the coffin," he promised him. Neji stared back at him, then looked out to the boat where his beloved drifted beneath the waves in deep slumber. His heart pounded in his chest but his resolve was firm. He nodded in turn just as the mechanical lift picked up the platform from the deck. When it was sufficiently high enough to pass over the railing, it extended the metal arm out into the ocean until the structure swayed above the Arctic waters. The arm stopped, and the structure began to be slowly be reeled down.

Itachi watched as his mate and the Halfling quickly balanced themselves making sure not to smear any of the seals. He knew the painstaking process Sai had taken to produce the runes that now covered every inch of the upraised marble. The endowment of energy they would give him while he unraveled the thread of power overlaid across the coffin was well worth the price paid in blood - literally.

Sai had used his own blood in order to produce and sustain an unbreakable link between himself and the circle of power. Aside from the bond between mates, there was no greater tie than a blood bond. There were a few different types of blood bonds, and Sai had used one form of them tie himself to his seals of power in order to have a constant energy source while he worked. They also served as an anchor to this world. It was easy to be swept away by the power one felt as they left their bodies behind in order to pursue an objective outside the physical world. The binds that crossed Gaara's coffin were invisible to the naked eye, and could not be undone with any material weapon.

Like dissolves like.

They were the words of a master of long ago that had taught him fuuinjutsu at Danzou's request. He had made mistakes, but he had also learned quickly. He soon found that undoing a seal someone very much wanted kept in place was a dangerous task. With the mind completely focused on the task of unraveling, the body was left vulnerable in a place where no one but the cipher could remain. This was a true seal, not inscriptions placed on chains meant to keep an object in place like the kind Haku and Hajime had dismantled on the iceberg.

Sai had sealed his blood within the runes, and so they allowed him entry into the circle of power. He had mixed some of Neji's blood in a limited area that gave him a full path from the edge of the circle to the coffin. Once activated, Neji would be limited to that space alone. He would not be allowed to move outside the runes that did not hold his blood, if he did, he'd disrupt the flow of power, but more significantly, his mind would be captured by the massive flow of energy. There was little chance of a trained fuuinjutsu cipher to escape that fate, but there was none for an untrained one. Neji's mind would instantly be caught between Sai's circle of power, and the seals the Elders had placed. His mind would be torn between the two and destroyed, while his body remained behind devoid of its host.

Neji had no intention of stepping foot outside his area. The reason why he held the space with Sai, even with the very real risk to himself, was due to his unique ability. It allowed him to fight off almost anything that might be unleashed with the disentangling of the seals on Gaara's coffin. Sai had asked him about his power when they first started this journey and over time, he came to understand more about them than he did himself. He didn't know much, didn't care to learn, but Sai had told him he could help if he wished. Neji had accepted of course, but had no way of knowing how he was supposed to help when he barely understood the full process of what Sai was about to undertake. Itachi had asked for the same access, and had offered his blood as well. However, Sai had explained it was impossible.

A circle of power was meant to hold only the cipher's blood, introducing a second entity into the mix complicated matters. Fortunately, Sai had done it once before, sharing the circle with his master in a training exercise. Although difficult, he could endure it, but involving a third entity was inconceivable. His mind would be split in too many directions. Unraveling the seals, while constantly adjusting for the foreign entity required tremendous discipline, trying to adjust for a second entity would introduce too many variables and the complexity of the circle would be impossible to maintain. In the end, Itachi had to accept it. He preferred Neji, who was about the only person capable of controlling Gaara, to be present rather than himself who would be busy coordinating his team against possible traps.

Sai and Neji and worked together, and Neji learned enough to understand the basic idea of what the other was going to do. Sai gave him a full path to the coffin, but more importantly, out of the circle. If he encountered anything he could not defeat he would step out of the circle and let Sai's defenses take over. The artists defenses would not distinguish between friend or foe and would attack anything that stepped foot in the circle.

The structure soon touched water, which had Sai and Neji gathering their footing once more. Once the structure touched water, Itachi turned to Neji. "Please lend your power to my mate however he needs it," a formal request, and one the Uchiha did not make lightly. Neji nodded. He would give him every last bit of strength he had if it meant Gaara's release.

Itachi then walked toward the dais to the edge of marble. "I apologize," Neji's brows creased in confusion at those words, and looked down in time to see the blur of the Uchiha's hand followed by an unexpected warmth mixed with a flash of pain. Neji immediately pulled back, his hand instinctively going up to his cheek where it was met by liquid heat. He pulled his hand away and stared at blood stained fingers.

"Your human side makes your healing abilities slower than ours," Itachi said with no hint of remorse. "This will be enough."

"What are you doing?!"

Sai was at Neji's side within moments, his hand already reaching to stop the blood flow. "It can't make contact with the seals, it will-"

Itachi grabbed Sai's hand before it reached the Halfling's cheek. The Uchiha stared directly at Neji. "Then smear it. Fresh blood will attract Gaara's attention when he awakens."

Neji stared back at him, his actions finally making sense. He understood. This was his guarantee. He had wondered why Itachi had so easily allowed someone untrained like him to assist his mate.

Very well.

He turned back to Sai. "It's fine. I won't let it fall on the seals," he promised as he brought up his bloodied hand and wiped the blood down his cheek, leaving behind a red smear against his pale skin. He did not like his methods but Itachi was right. Gaara's mind would be in a state of chaos, and he'd be ruled by instincts. Fresh blood would indeed attract his attention to him rather than an exhausted Sai nearby.

Once he was sure Neji understood, Itachi released Sai's hand, and turned away facing the ocean. He stepped off the platform, and disappeared. His body blurred as he hit the water at a running pace. It didn't take long to reach the boat where the hands struggled with the chains.

"Return to the ship," he told them, taking over their task. The remaining crew quickly nodded and gratefully handed over the iron chains. They moved into the last waiting boat, and were returned to the ship.

Itachi waited until they reached the safety of the ship before tossing the end of the line back into the ocean. He kept a firm grip on the iron line as the end disappeared into the water. When the weight finally reached a single area of resistance it snapped tight, forcing the Uchiha's shoulders forward. Itachi took a moment to gather his footing then began the long process of hauling the chains up. He let the line fall back into the ocean as the coffin rose from the deep, swaying in turn with his movements.

"Now," he clipped out into the headset as he continued dragging the chains out of the water.

"We've detached the platform," his team responded back within a minute. From the corner of his eye, Itachi saw as the mechanical arm separate from the structure letting it drift over the water. Sai and Neji were off the dais and on the platform when the release occurred. They remained in place as the structure floated away from the ship. When they were fifty meters out the polymer ropes lifted from the water cascading water all the way back to the ship where the ropes were attached. They drifted in place, anchored to the ship by twin ropes.

Once the structure was secured, the two returned to the dais. Sai began gathering his power, and Neji entered the circle. He took a monk's repose and focused his power the only way he knew how.

Itachi returned his attention to the task at hand, and little by little, he lifted the ancient casket from the depths until he could see the blurry image of the capsule just beneath the waves. With one last exertion, the coffin broke the surface of the water.

The sky instantly darkened, and the motionless grey clouds suddenly began to move, swirling in anger as the ocean winds kicked up creating a storm.

It had begun.

Itachi ignored the obvious ruse, and took a hold of the coffin. He didn't waste time and jumped off the boat at a running pace dragging the coffin behind him. The casket dragged through the ocean forcing the Uchiha's speed well below his average rate. It was enough to have his leg fall half a foot through the water with every step, if he slowed down any further he'd fall through the surface. He wasn't worried. He wasn't fast enough to run smoothly over the water with the added weight, but even this wasn't enough to slow him down to the point of falling through the water. It was an annoyance, nothing more.

By the time he reached the structure, Sai was already helping him place the coffin within the instructed area. When it touched the solid surface, a cyclone too touched down half a mile away. Sai immediately activated his seals which suddenly came to life glowing with power as he began the unraveling process.

Once the capsule was secured, Itachi turned away from his mate, repeating orders that were snatched away with the high winds. It took three times, but eventually a team of four jumped off the ship heading straight for the cyclone. Each had a unique ability that corresponded to the elements. He was confident they would take care of the first trap.

Back on the dais, Neji ignored the storm as he struck at Gaara's prison. He was there, right there! Only a few feet away away from him. A layer of wood and iron the only thing separating him from Gaara, and yet he couldn't reach him, couldn't free him!

While Sai continued with his work, the chains suddenly grew taunt as they revitalized with energy and slowly began to wind themselves around Sai. It was the same trap from below. Neji remembered. Haku and Hajime had been assaulted similarly while working on the iceberg, but instead of ice, it was the chains themselves this time. Neji pulled them back as best he could, but the iron weights were impossible to halt. Determined to stop them, the Hyuuga pulled back. He gathered his powers as best he could and suddenly Itachi had to cover his eyes as a blinding light enveloped the structure. Sai was already deep in slumber in a trance-like state, which left him unaffected by the Hyuuga's concentrated display of power. Neji's attack temporarily stopped the chains, and gave Sai enough time to unravel the seals fueling their attempt on his life. Yet, the display of power had another effect, it forced Itachi off the platform as his eyes burned from the sudden assault on his vision. He jumped back onto the water where weathered hands snatched his feet, and dragged him down into the water. Concerned voices immediately filtered through is ear piece as he disappeared from view.

The Uchiha kicked out, freeing his leg when another pair of bony hands captured his left hand in a vice like grip, and a third took a hold of his other leg. He couldn't see his opponent, while dots of colored light shifting in color with every second obscured his vision.

He was dragged deeper into the abyss, the ocean's grip over him increasing with the growing number of hands grappling at his body until he broke out in an underwater spin, using the force of his turns to loosen the unknown assailants. He then pulled out his katana, and sliced through flesh over and over until crimson tainted the surrounding water.

xxxxxxx

Back on the platform, a swarm of mermaid-like monsters dragged themselves out of the Antarctic waters and onto the platform. The Hyuuga had left the dais some time ago, and expertly combated them back. He might not have known how to properly control his powers, but he had always excelled at hand to hand combat. Yet, he was being overrun. There were simply too many of them and he didn't have Itachi's speed.

A kick or two here, another there, and Neji dispatched two more creatures, but four more crawled up the opposite side and ran toward the dais, using their hands to drag themselves toward the marble aiming for Sai's head. Neji cut them off, using his light which had the hoard behind him screeching with rage, and he was forced to retreat back to the dais.

It was obvious to even the most unskilled observer that he was fighting a losing battle. The creatures soon over-ran the marble and obscured the runes to the point where they began to dim from the shroud cast over the circle of power. He fought them off, using a portion of his power to destroy any who attempted to touch Sai with shards of light. He kept them at bay this way, but he was soon losing ground again. The creatures surrounded him on all sides. A portion attacked him straight on, while the majority raced toward Sai intent on the cipher's demise.

xxxxxxx

Free from the unknown hands, Itachi shot out of the water, and landed on the nearby boat he had deserted not long ago. It took him a minute to regain a portion of his vision, but when he did, he was greeted with the sight of his mate under attack. The same slimy hands that had tried to pull him under were now swarming the structure.

"Ningen."

A trick of the Elders. The creatures must have been released when the iceberg was compromised, and had probably followed his crew the entire way back. His features darkened as he saw the humanoid monsters trash across the platform and onto the dais aiming for his mate's death.

His Sharingan spun.

The boat toppled over as the Uchiha used it as leverage to increase his speed. He moved toward his mate, but before he could touch the structure, a colossal tentacle shot through the water capturing him mid-air. The appendage squeezed him tightly attempting to crush him to death. Sharp, finely serrated fang-like rings tore into his skin holding him in place while the suction cups further locked in his fate. Prey captured, the tentacle slammed back into the water, taking its victim to the main body hidden beneath the surf.

The shock of the tentacles retreat reverberated over the surface in the form of large waves which caused the ropes attached to the platform to grow taunt. The sudden jerk of the shifting waves forced Neji to his knees which had the ningen pouncing on him.

"Get up!" Kurotsuchi demanded as she kicked the monsters aiming for him off the structure.

"We can't do anything about the ones up there with you," Chojuro apologized. "You'll have to take care of them yourself." They were limited to the platform.

"Now get up!" Yugao snapped.

Shocked by their presence, the Hyuuga took a moment to follow through and get back on his feet. He dispatched the remaining creatures, clearing the runes once more and watched in relief as the seals glowed with strength once more.

"Don't looked so shocked Halfling," Kurotsuchi laughed as she cut off a humanoid head, then demolished the writhering body back into the Arctic. Neji stared back at them in shock, hadn't Itachi ordered everyone to protect the ship no matter what?

"Itachi sent us as back-up before the thing took him," Chojuro explained.

"Yeah. We could all see you were in over your head," Kurotsuchi waved a finger at the white-robed Halfling. "So, why don't you take a breather while we take care of these things. They weren't nearly a match for us on the ship." She tutted.

Along with the platform, the creatures had attacked the ship, but they had easily kept them at bay. They had been tired, but a pint or two of hot blood had taken the edge of their exhaustion. The doctors had done the rest. They weren't nearly at top shape but they could fight. Besides, there were other strong vampires on board.

Yugao snapped around feeling something crackle through the air. "What's that?" she demanded just as the shift of power flashed beneath the Arctic, and Itachi shot out of the water while pieces of the tentacle fell from his body.

"Hmph, show off," Kurotsuchi commented with a grin. She had little time to say more when a familiar serpent rose its head from the water, hissing in anger. "Aww, come on! Not this again!" she huffed.

Itachi soon landed on the platform, while the two women ran after the guardians from before. Itachi looked on, noting that the ningen weren't the only ones that had followed them up.

"Keep this area clear of those things," Itachi addressed Chojuro who immediately raised his great sword, and looked toward his enemies with determination. Confident in his abilities, while the Uchiha returned to the battlefield.

He move to help Yugao and the girl when he was cut off by an array of colossal tentacles larger than the last. They rose from the Arctic, drawing a river of water that rained over him as he dodged their deadly swings. From the surface, Itachi could not pin-point how many colossal squids now attacked him, but their was more than one this time. They slammed their enormous limbs simultaneously across the water creating a series of tidal waves that struck the platform with enough force to catapult Chojuro and Neji off the structure as it toppled over, slamming into the water face down.

"-Sai!"

Itachi's heart pounded in his chest as he saw his mate go under. He remained attached to the dais, the runes keeping him in place along with the coffin, but it also left him without a champion, a fact the ningen immediately pounced on. The mermaid-like monsters shot through the water their bony hands thrust forward as they aimed to tear him apart.

The dais glowed with power and as swiftly as the ningen breached the circle, his defenses triggered. A large almost incorporeal tiger tore through the first creature tossing its dismembered head aside, as its paws slammed another away. The tiger was part of the circle, and like its master, it was attached to the dais. It ran across the marble, gravity having no hold over its surreal form, and slashed at anything that disturbed the runes whether friend or foe. The tiger even tore through two of Itachi's men attempting to turn over the structure, and one had to be returned back to the ship in need of medical attention when his leg was torn open.

With a giant splash, the structure was once again upright, and Chojuro returned to his place, ready to make amends for having left his post. He was joined soon after by Neji who entered the circle, but he was little more than useless. He fell on his knees, his hands desperately rubbing at his chest as the freezing water threatened to stop his heart from hypothermia, or so he thought. Even now, he still had a human mindset and the frigid water had hit him like a knife to his gut. He didn't know how he was still alive, let alone breathing... but he wasn't the only one. All around him he saw men slammed into the water and return as if it was nothing more than a nuisance. How could they not feel it? Even now he trembled uncontrollably, worried over frostbite.

"We're not human," Chojuro smiled back at him, as if reading his mind. Neji stared at him. He knew that... but aside from his extended lifespan he had never really felt the truth of that. His time with Gaara and his world had been short-lived and he had wanted nothing to do with it when his mate had been taken away and their bond destroyed. While he recalled those memories his temperature began to rise, his body adjusting to the cold. It took him longer than those around him, but he was untrained and again, his human side slowed the process. Nonetheless, Neji nodded back at Chojuro and stood up. He could do this. If they could endure, then so could he.

Back on the water, Itachi jumped in the air and unleashed a spew of black fire across the multitude of tentacles targeting him. He watched as the fire spread down to the bodies below instigating a chorus of eerie death cries.

Before the last tentacle slammed into the water, Itachi had already landed on the waves and was heading back to the lone structure that held his mate. He burned the surrounding ningen creating a ring of fire around the structure. When he turned toward the marble circle, the tiger growled at him. Itachi stared back at it, as he gave out a list of orders. He watched as its wispy body swirled with the wind like smoke in the air, coming back together into a solid mass anytime it felt something disturb its master's circle.

His orders went through, and Itachi waited for his men to move into place before the next attack came. He stayed in place, watching as the began the moon began to rise in the horizon bringing it with the first shards of light.

"What do you think will come ne-" Chojuro's words were cut off, when the iron chains around Gaara's coffin suddenly gave way and fell into the ocean. "He did it!" Chojuro exclaimed.

Itachi looked on. "No," he watched as a second set of seals began to glow from the coffin itself. "Not yet."

The unraveling of the first set of seals sent a flash of power across the ocean warning its wardens of the failure to come.

A single shriek pierced the sky, and a cacophony of wails answered back.

"Get ready," Itachi warned.

Darkness descended.

Waves of cyclones touched down on the water creating chaos across the water's surf. Hundreds of ningen took advantage of the changing landscape, and torpedo just below the surface of the water, followed closely by undulating serpents. They all rushed toward the platform and Itachi's team could do nothing but brace themselves and face them head on.

The moon slowly rose through the night sky, the shimmering light reflecting the bloody water that now enveloped the once pristine waters. It revealed the chaos that was the unsealing of a demon that was never meant to walk the earth again.

The ship was now in the grips an array of tentacles that intended to sink it to the bottom of the Arctic. It groaned as its framework was slowly compromised the action drawing fighters away from the main battle. Experience had them slicing chunks of meat as they cut off the arms of the creatures hidden within the abyss.

As the moon drifted across the sky, climbing higher and higher, the fighters below fought to give Sai time to do his work. Depleted of energy, Itachi's hand-picked team were exhausted and still more creatures appeared. They fought by the light of the moon, the only source of bright light coming from the Hyuuga's shards of light that were becoming increasingly rarer as the night dragged on. He was exhausted like everyone else, but did not have the experience of extended fighting to keep up precise, let alone effective, strikes. His powers were becoming increasingly wild, and uncontrollable to the point where he had to abandon the platform where most of the heavy fighting took place. There were simply too many people near the area to use his powers in his current state, yet he was a liability without them.

The fighting continued on with cries of pain and death becoming common place, until there seemed to be no end in sight. It wasn't until the moon reached its zenith that a groan of power moved across the battlefield, and in a flash of blinding light the last seal slowly faded beneath the cipher's touch.

The entire team of warriors covered their eyes, bringing up their weapons in defense as the sea monsters attacked in one last large scale affront fueled by rage at the demon's awakening. While the fighters busied themselves destroying the remaining sea monsters, the cipher awakened from his trance, and his tiger disappeared with the wind.

Sai opened his eyes slowly, and was thankfully greeted by the moon's gentle light. When his eyes adjusted, the moonbeams revealed an ocean on fire. Dark flames engulfed him all sides like a prison, and beyond the ring the ocean was set ablaze as hundreds of creatures cried in rage and agony as their bodies slowly disintegrated becoming ash.

He tried to blink back the horrifying images, when suddenly his body pitched forward as exhaustion began to set in. Instincts took over and he slammed his hands down in front of him, breaking his fall. He barely had enough strength to keep himself up, but when he heard the deliberate sound of a wooden door creaking open, he slowly raised his head, fear suddenly gripping him by the throat as he came face to face with a demon.

It stared at him, capturing him in another nightmare harsher than before. He told himself to pull away to put distance between then, but his body wouldn't respond. The demon tilted its head regarding him with a predator's gaze. When it reached for him with bony fingers Sai felt a deep aversion suddenly overtake him. The demon ignored the protest cast by dark eyes, and roughly grabbed him by the collar, its sharp nails scratching thin lines across his skin making him bleed.

"Gaara!"

Someone yelled from beyond the black fire, but Sai was caught in a whirlwind of panic to recognize the voice. Before he could garner enough strength to stop him, he was dragged forward, and without preamble the demon mercilessly tore into his throat.

A painful cry echoed across his mind, while his unresponsive body remained still, a perfect offering to the demon. He didn't know how long he was fed on, but in the back of his mind, he saw as a figure clad in white ran across the platform and onto the dais. His seals were still activated keeping out everyone but one. The figure cried out words he could not make out as his life was drained with every gulp, then suddenly a river of blood ran down his clothes and the torment stopped.

Someone screamed as a katana lodged itself through the demon's throat, and suddenly Sai saw a dark figure step out of the shadows through blurry eyes. He grimaced in pain, losing sight of him when the demon dislodged itself from his neck dropping him on the marble floor. Sai couldn't keep awake any longer, and his seals dimmed fading along with his strength from the stolen blood. Dim eyes watched as the demon grabbed onto the blade and slowly pulled it out. Black blood gushed from the wound. It threw the blade aside, and turned vengeful eyes on the dark figure.

Losing consciousness fast, Sai barely realized he was no longer on the marble floor, but nestled against a familiar warmth. Itachi had removed him from the demon's reach as soon as the seals had dissipated, and now he faced down the demon his wrath all but palpable within the close confines. His rage was so strong, even Sai who was exhausted to the point of becoming dangerous was kept from blissful unconsciousness by the crackle of power fueled by vengeance.

The demon stood answering Itachi's display with his own acrimony. It wanted its prey back. The virtual stand-off terrified Neji who suddenly threw himself in front of Gaara blocking him with his own body. He remembered Itachi's promise from before, and he could see in the depths of those cursed eyes now. He had every intention of following through with his threat. Already he could feel his power gathering, the black flames of destruction were being fanned by unmitigated rage and would soon be turned against Gaara. He couldn't let that happen, and yet his actions only annoyed the demon who did not recognize him. Callously, the demon threw him aside as it stepped out of its cage and onto the marble floor.

"Gaara-" Neji's heart stopped for a moment as anguish began to engulf him.

Itachi ignored the Hyuuga's agony, all that mattered was that the Halfling could not control the demon. That's all he needed to know. He took in a deep breath ready to burn the demon alive, along with his mate when a sudden wisp brushed across his mind, gentle in its touch.

Don't.

The unexpected use of their mind link caught the Uchiha in a rare bout of surprise. Itachi caught the blaze in his throat and forcefully swallowed it along with a portion of his anger.

Please.

Neji was once again blocking Gaara with his body, but Itachi couldn't care less, not when he recalled the gentle brush of his mate's touch. His anger was still there but it didn't grip him as strongly as before. In a blur of movement, Itachi threw a weapon across the vengeful space. Neji was suddenly slammed back against the demon as a dagger pierced his palm and lodged itself deep into the demon's chest just inches from his heart. Too short to reach the organ, the demon growled in acrid hate at the second wound dealt to him by the dark figure. It turned sharp eyes on Itachi instincts calling on the sand he was so used to controlling... yet none heeded his call. The small granular particles were so far away and his powers greatly diminished that he was unable to call them to his aid.

He screamed in anger, instincts propelling him to destroy his enemy in a fit of rage when fresh blood suddenly filled his nostrils. His eyes suddenly lost the vengeful light from before as an overwhelming hunger overtook him. He looked down at Neji who stared up at him without fear, his soft eyes watering with tears as they fell across features he remembered only from his dreams. When the first tear slipped down his cheek, the demon exposed his neck and pierced his flesh. The new taste was a sharp contrast to his last victim, and it overwhelmed him with fierce greed he could not control. He gathered the unresisting body in its arms, and returned him to its den of a coffin where he took to selfishly ravaging Neji forgetting all about the enemy from before. The demon avidly devoted itself to gorging on its new prey paying no heed when the Halfling lost consciousness, and continued to feast on him intending to guzzle down every drop of blood it could consume.

Itachi did not stop it.


Next Chapter:

No longer starving, Gaara manages to extract himself from his instincts and regains his mind. Itachi still very much wants to kill him, and Gaara feels the same. Neji and Sai bond over their mutual bed-ridden status, while Gaara is left out in the cold. Literally.

As always reviews are greatly appreciated. ;)