Quiet: Just a warning. There's lots of icky stuff here. If you're faint of heart, I'd suggest not reading. :D
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
Shift. Callused fingers curl into a soft pillow gripping it like a lifeline, the knuckles slowly whitening as the pressure increases.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Where could he be?
Temari sighs, eyes straying toward the window, where pale moonlight spills like white blood through the dusty panes. She should be used to this; being forced to wait whilst her brother roams the village at night, restless and wild with the murderous murmurings of Shukaku in his mind.
Except…this time is different.
Before they had been worried for themselves and glad that Gaara was out satisfying his bloodlust on people that weren't them. They would be thinking to themselves, how much blood will he be covered in this time? How many bodies had Gaara neglected to dispose of would their father make them burn? Now though…
Now Temari is forced to wait and worry for her little brother.
The change hadn't been instant after those fateful Chunin exams, but it had begun after them nonetheless. The death threats had waned and Gaara had gone from a mildly domineering and controlling psycho to a quiet, more thoughtful and at times, for lack of a better term, docile member of their team.
But that didn't mean he was completely well. Or that he even trusted or acknowledged them as his siblings. More often than not, Temari would catch the young redhead staring at them with seemingly blank eyes, only to startle at the faint hint of confusion and suspicion lurking in his intent pale gaze. Like he was waiting for them to say it was all a joke and that they hated him like everyone else—
Okay, that was it.
All of this waiting around was getting her nowhere. Mind made up, Temari rises from her bed to dress herself, knowing fully well that if she didn't go look for Gaara, then no one would. People in this village would be more than happy for him to walk away into the desert and never return.
Not too long ago you would have been content for him to disappear forever, too, a traitorous part of herself whispers.
Pushing away her guilt at her own cowardice, the wind mistress gathers her weaponry and various supplies, not quite certain what condition she'd find her youngest brother in, but fully prepared to take care of him should he need it.
Now all that's left is to tell Kankuro where she's going.
"But what if he's—"
"No, Temari! You know how he gets around now!"
"I know but he's…he's…"
"Different?" Kankuro shakes his head. "You know as well as I do that he's still not all quite there yet."
Green eyes shift down. "I know but he's still our brother, Kankuro. I just want to see where he went. Normally he just wanders off into the desert and comes back…" here she hesitates, some of her own doubt beginning to weigh her down.
"—covered in blood," her brother finishes, his words hard, but his eyes wincing at some past memory of their youngest brother.
"After the Chunnin exams, he's been different from how he used to be. Quieter, more withdrawn. It's starting to worry me, Kankuro."
Her sibling gives a stubborn headshake. "He's just trying to figure things out for himself. It's better if we just leave him alone for now. Safer too," her brother adds as an afterthought.
A bitter smile crosses Temari's face. "Because leaving him alone worked so well for us before."
A long moment of uncomfortable silence, usually only present when their younger brother is around invades the room, and the kunoichi gives another heavy sigh, before turning to the door, fists clenching in uneasy resolve. She knows what she has to do—and even Kankuro can't stop her when she's made up her mind to do something.
"We don't know how he's feeling, but we do know that he's different, and we can't leave him out there with the full moon only a few hours away."
"And if he kills you?" Kankuro demands, teeth gritting because he already knows she's going to do what she wants anyway. Even so, it doesn't stop him from trying to dissuade her. "What if your death unravels everything he's been trying to do to change?"
"I'm going," is all she says, ignoring the last glimpse of concern she can see gathering into some half-formed protest; for all his roughness, Kankuro is surprisingly family-oriented. Temari knows he's only trying to keep her safe, but she's doing what she feels is right to keep her youngest brother and their family—however oddly-bonded, together.
Somewhere out there, Gaara is alone with the moon and his own personal demon driving him to gods knew what.
And she will be the one to find him.
It is a little before dawn when Temari comes across the remains of a small caravan of nomads.
The stench hits her first. The metallic overtone of blood and sickening smell of evacuated bowels gives the entire area the disturbing air of a slaughter house. When she gets closer, the rapidly lightening sky allows her to see the crumpled forms of bodies—some missing limbs and chunks of their torsos, and others simply covered in bloody furrows were clawed hands had raked across before snapping their necks.
He's changed, she remembers telling Kankuro. But something in her shudders at the carnage as she gets closer, wondering if he had somehow enjoyed doing this—if not now, then once upon a time.
It was a relapse, she argues with herself, and stiffening her resolve, follows the bloody trail to one of the shattered wagons.
She takes tentative steps forward, some inner sense telling her to be cautious. Five steps away…four...three…
Harsh panting meets her ears and she freezes. Adrenaline kick-starts her body and her heart begins to pound as her mouth dries and fills with the telltale signs of fear.
He'll kill you! Her mind screams.
But I have to help him, her heart debates.
"G-Gaara?" she asks, her voice whisper-soft as she finally reaches out and peers into the darkened interior.
Gaara lay on the floor of the decimated wagon, his lithe form crumpled in on itself as blood-darkened sand curls lazily around his panting form. His eyes flutter for a second before pale eyes a shade off from her own stare at her. There's no sign of a gourd and his clothing is covered in gore, but it's definitely her little brother looking at her.
The panting stops and a thin, high sound comes from the darkness before her youngest brother's raspy voice comes forth sounding breathless and unusually strained. "Temari…"
"We should go home," she says quietly, because asking 'Are you ok?' is just downright stupid in this situation.
Teal eyes stare up at her before her brother slowly unfolds his body. He struggles into a half-rising position before he falters and stays half-kneeling on the floor. For a moment he sways dangerously in place, then he delicately leans over and begins violently heaving onto the ground. Large bits of half-digested meat and blood pool on the floor and Temari can feel her own stomach churning at the scent and sound assaulting the small area, but she's a kunoichi and she's seen worse and—oh god was that someone's wedding ring?
She checks again, and yes, there's a finger with a silver wedding band covered in reddish-brown bile and she bites her lip hard enough to draw blood to keep herself from losing her own meager remains of last night's half-burnt dinner.
When he's finished, Temari studiously avoids and tries her best to outright ignore the mess on the ground and reaches out, unsure if her help will be welcomed or rebuffed. To her surprise, Gaara allows her to touch and leans into her hand.
She helps him to his feet, wincing a bit at the blood and vomit on his breath but doesn't think, imagine, or wonder at why and what she knew had happened to get it there.
"I…lost control again," he whispers thickly. "I tried…"
"I know," Temari interrupts, carefully steadying him so that he can get his bearings. They make their way out of the tent and she can see her brother's nostrils flare as he takes in both sight and scent of the carnage Shukaku had created in his uncontrolled bloodlust. She watches his smooth brow crease in consternation as he takes in the scene, his eyes leaving no one body untouched.
She wonders what he's thinking.
"I should bury them," he murmurs, and kneels to put both hands on the ground. She can feel the ripple through the sand, feel it responding eagerly to his command as it began swallowing all the bodies and broken vehicles into the ground. Temari should be used to this by now, but she can't stop the surprise from covering her face as the ground is completely wiped free. Not even a speck of blood remains on the ground.
It was like the caravan had never existed.
Gaara turns to stare at her as he slowly rises, his face expressionless, but she can tell that he's searching her face for a hint of something. She stares back and waits. She's not here to judge him, but even if she were, she knows change is hard. She accepts that this is the way things have to be in order for something better to come about in the future.
Whatever he's looking for, he seems to have found it, because his eyes soften the slightest bit and he nods to her. "…let's go home."
And Temari follows.
Quiet: *eats a giant bowl of spaghetti*