Quiet: Just a lil idea I've been sitting on for awhile. May or may not do more this verse. I'm still unsure of where the timelines cross, lol. :x

Beta'd by Saeadame. :D

He was going to die here.

The dry desert air seeped into his skin even through the thick folds of his stolen Organization outfit. He'd wandered along for some time now, trying to find an answer to just how things had gotten so far beyond his control. For something that had started as a way to see new worlds had rapidly degenerated into a lifetime of endless battles against the darkness.

Wind and sand blew harshly across his fallen form, his eyes squeezing tightly shut as the tiny grains began to sting at his eyes. From the sound of things—and an earlier glimpse at an oddly darkened horizon—there was a distinct possibility that a sandstorm was brewing, with him directly in its path with no protection.

The teen groaned before painstakingly forcing himself onto his elbows and attempting to rise. The mixture of heatstroke and dehydration forced his body to disobey his commands, and bitter defeat settled deeply into his thoughts. He cracked open his eyes.

And weakly jolted as he saw a set of pale toes directly in his line of sight.

His mouth opened to question the newcomer and to kindly tell them to move their feet from his face thank you very much, but a dry croak was all he could manage before finally succumbing to unconsciousness.

Pitiful really, was all Gaara could think. The lean form lying spread out on his bed was so quiet they could be mistaken for dead. Only the faintest heartbeat and rush of lungs filling with shallow breaths told of a different story.

What had possessed him to pick the stranger up, he wondered. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now…

Now Gaara was growing increasingly wary of the one who seemed to draw the black heart-stealers to him like a moth to flame.

After their world had been overtaken by the vicious vermin that had appeared out of nowhere, it was commonplace to find scattered bodies or traces of settlements that had once been bustling villages and towns. A faint pang, long familiar since his childhood days, lanced his heart and he gripped at his shirt before taking a deep breath.

Sunagakure had once been a great place filled with people, despite its climate. The markets had been full of people peddling their wares from dawn till dusk, children racing in the streets, and shinobi dashing across the rooftops throughout the day. But then one night…

Everything had changed, and now he was alone again.

He'd been wandering the desert for some time now, hoping for a sign of someone, anyone, that had managed to escape, but so far, he'd only found vague traces of settlements. His hesitant venture out into the other countries had proven much the same save for faint hints of old camping sites and clear battle sites. Those faint signs proved there had to be other survivors, but so far, none had been forthcoming.

It was rather daunting, he could admit, clutching steadily at his chest. He'd thought he'd gotten over the old fears and despair that had once blanketed his life before Naruto had—

"Did the Heartless touch you or something? You've been doing that for a while now."

A sharp glance to the right revealed aquamarine eyes staring straight at him, the owner of which having somehow managed to awaken and sit up without Gaara's notice.

The shinobi's wariness increased tenfold.

"Who are you?" Gaara demanded, sand rustling subtly at his feet as he narrowed his eyes at the stranger.

There was silence as those eyes stared at him from under silvery bangs then they seemed to drift off to examine the featureless walls. "Riku. You?"

"Sabaku no Gaara. Why are you here?"

Well, he certainly doesn't waste any time on pleasantries, Riku thought in amusement.

"I'm…looking for someone," he conceded after another of his lengthy silences.

A bitter frown overtook the shinobi's fine features. "There's no one left. Even the animals..."

"I see," Riku murmured, silver bangs obscuring his face. "Then I guess this world needs to be restored as well."

Creases appeared on Gaara's forehead as he eyed the boy. "…restored?"

A small nod. "When the Heartless are drawn to a world by corrupt hearts seeking Darkness, they steal and devour as many pure hearts as they can before they leave. Sometimes, if they find the heart of a world, it will be completely destroyed. It looks like this place was lucky though…"

Lucky, he was saying. Gaara thought of the empty homes, the screams of the fallen and their loved ones and felt the bitter laughter building in his chest flow freely. The sound seemed to startle the other teen, who gave him a wary stare, his eyebrows furrowed. "You find this funny?"

Gaara shook his head before rising from his seat near the futon and unlatching the closed window before giving a thoughtful glance to the empty city beyond. Bloodstains littered the earth and empty bundles of clothing floated in the harsh winds catching on various broken objects littered upon the dry earth.

"If this is lucky…then I'd hate to see the unlucky worlds," he said dryly.

Understanding lit the stranger's face, as he looked out upon the devastated city, his features settling into grim determination. "Don't worry," the other teen said quietly, staring earnestly at Gaara's questioning face. "The friend I'm looking for…he's going to set things right. Once I find him, he'll use the Keyblade in its true form to restore all the worlds that were affected by the Heartless. He's strong and I'm sure he can, unlike…" here he clenched his fists and let his eyes drop to his lap.

The shinobi let the silence lie for a moment before lightly clearing his throat. "The Keyblade?"

Aqua eyes brighter than his own met and held his, seemingly assessing and measuring something before the teen abruptly brought his fist forward.

Gaara, trained shinobi and overall paranoid guy that he was—hey he'd been chasing off assassins since he was six—reacted by tensing and sending his sand to tightly wrap the limb in warning.

Riku looked startled and a little miffed before something like amusement crossed his pale eyes. "I just wanted to show you what it looks like. I can summon it," he offered, careful to hold still in the stifling tightness of the sand. That stuff seemed hard as steel—and it was making his skin crawl as well. Controlling sand was such an interesting power—this guy must be near undefeatable out here in the desert, where there was nothing but sand.

Hard sea green eyes assessed Riku as if looking for signs of trickery before the sand slowly and reluctantly retreated from his hand. A faint nod was sent his direction, and the other boy closed his eyes and envisioned the Keyblade materializing inside of it.

Like a well-trained pet it appeared, silently awaiting command, while he opened his eyes to look at the suspicious redhead glaring back at him. A faint shadow moved over the redhead's form, giving the impression of impatient teeth and claws waiting to be set free and Riku widened his eyes in astonishment before clenching his weapon tightly.

"What are you—"

The world suddenly dissolved into pain as Gaara felt a sharp pain tear through his chest. It felt as if Shukaku was trying to tear his way out, but this time it was in a much more frenzied manner, as if something had been pumping the demon full of power and was coaxing it out. Even as he staggered back against the wall and attempted to suppress it, he knew that it was a losing battle and that the demon shrieking through his mind in dark triumph would get free.

Riku could feel the sand stirring restlessly as the boy in front of him shuddered in pain; his eyes clenched shut tightly as a low, rumbling growl spilled from his throat.

Light shot from the Keyblade in Riku's hands, momentarily blinding him as it surrounded the writhing redhead. The shadow covering him shrieked angrily before swatting at the light until it hissed and separated itself from Gaara to stream fluidly out of the window and into the streets below.

Gaara could feel the cold reaching for his heart and knew with sudden terrifying clarity that he was going to end up just like everyone else and lose his existence to one of those things. Shukaku, awake and very much aware was fighting him for control at the same time the unknown entity was attacking, and Gaara felt as if his entire being was going to split itself in half with his internal conflict.

Suddenly, warmth flooded his body and he jerked in reaction, eyes snapping open as the cold retreated violently, taking an excessively large amount of the sand demon's chakra with it as it fled through the window. The tanuki sealed within responded by raging angrily, but Gaara found that his struggling was suddenly much easier to subdue now.

"You ok?" Riku asked grimly. "If not, pull yourself together, we've got a problem."

He was already swinging his legs out of the bed and grabbing his coat from the chair next to the bed—the heartless he'd just ousted from Gaara was rapidly growing in power thanks to whatever it had done to the other male.

Now it was festering outside, gathering its energy to begin summoning lesser heartless in order to search for the heart of the world. He could feel the Darkness gathering and it made his entire being ache in response.

Gaara, still slightly winded from having so much chakra stolen in addition to the attack on his heart, grit his teeth in response to the command and retrieved his gourd from the corner it was sitting in. The sand inside had already reacted to his earlier turmoil by spilling forward, but now it gathered excitedly around him, half in and out of the gourd as it prepared to defend its master.

"We have to catch it before it finds the heart of this world," Riku said solemnly. "If we don't, then what's left of your world will be destroyed."

Outside, a large explosion triggered a mix of sand and wind to shower through the window, and both boys sprang out and onto the streets below.

Gaara paused in surprise at the sight that greeted him, while Riku grimaced and prepared for battle.

A shadowy Shukaku doppelganger grinned maniacally back at the both of them as it raised great sandy paws to the sky and shrieked, sharp yellow eyes—significantly brighter than the real Shukaku's—wide and lacking the four pointed stars of the real Shukaku as it crouched over the two boys.

Gaara could see the giant shadow paw raise over a large sandy stomach and he glanced sharply at the other boy. "Move," was all he said, and Riku obeyed without question.

The wind blast hit the street where they'd been standing, sending the clay buildings they'd been near toppling like a pile of children's blocks. Debris scattered through the streets and the heartless made a horrible, strangled gurgle—most likely a parody of Shukaku's own laughter, Gaara decided.

The two warriors sized the monster up as it gleefully swiped at buildings, destroying everything in its direct line of sight as it searched for the world's heart.

Riku let his gaze roam the odd creature as they followed it. "We need to find its weak spot. If we strike it, it can't reform itself…"

"If you can distract it," Gaara began, "give me two minutes and I'll immobilize it."

Riku nodded in understanding, before charging forward, his blade neatly slicing through the lesser heartless jumping at his racing figure. The sand doppelganger growled in rage as he approached and began trying to swat him as Riku took advantage of his speed to dodge the large paws raining down on him from above.

He'd fought heartless just as big as this and some even bigger—and they all had a problem being fast enough to catch their prey with their heavy bulk. He dodged furtively around the sandy dome buildings, silently apologizing to the former residents as the beast crushed them in its attempts to hit him.

Whilst Riku darted around the blackened sand demon like a silver speck, Gaara let his entire gourd dissolve into sand and begin infusing itself into the ground. It spread out into a wide circle, distributing his chakra evenly beneath the heartless and he concentrated on covering as wide and deep an area as possible.

His brow furrowed as he concentrated. Too little, and the monster wouldn't sink fast enough to be trapped; too much and the entire city would be in danger. He had to be careful to keep the circle confined as closely as possible to the monster's bulk.

Without warning, he brought his hands together and activated the jutsu. The ground rumbled warningly and the fake sand demon shrieked in surprise as it was suddenly being sucked into rapidly softening sand. It thrashed wildly in place, inhaling and rapidly firing wind balls at the ground swallowing it whole before it realized its efforts were futile ad set its eerie yellow eyes on Gaara's crouched form.

Its eyes narrowed and it reached a paw forward to try and squash its redheaded nuisance when Riku sent a stream of light from his Keyblade to neatly pierce the beast's palm. It screamed, a terrible, pitiful sound, and roared as it renewed its thrashing, but the sand beneath it relentlessly kept dragging it under with single-minded determination.

It was then that Riku noticed the telling heartless symbol etched on the creature's forehead as it was drawn elbow deep into the desert sand. With no way of fighting back, it could only struggle and snap fruitlessly at Riku's speedy form as he raced up its arm and jumped, Keyblade flashing bright in the desert sunlight before it pierced the creature directly between the eyes.

Everything froze then, and the sand and wind itself seemed to falter as the beast began to slowly crack and then crumbled into a dark pool of sand on the ground.

The silver haired teen sighed in relief as a pale heart rose into the sky and dissolved, and the black sand slowly cleared to become its natural golden brown color.

"It was using Shukaku's power," Gaara growled as he took in the destroyed buildings that had been in the creature's path.

"I don't know what a Shukaku is, but it was leeching the darkness in your heart to take shape," Riku explained, his eyes meeting black-rimmed teal pensively.

"It fed from me…am I so weak that I'm prey for these things?" Gaara asked, distaste clear in his voice.

"No," Riku said firmly. "If anything, you're very strong to have lived through a heartless feeding from you without being turned into one."

Gaara was silent, odd eyes intent on Riku's face as if searching for any hint of a lie. True they were both against the Heartless—as evidenced by their fight, but that didn't mean that he completely trusted this stranger with haunted eyes.

The Keyblade—that oddly fascinating blade that drew and repelled Gaara—was suddenly gone and he watched mutely as Riku began walking towards the city's gates.

"I need to seal this world's heart."

Stubborn idiot, he thought, amused, but unwilling to show it. "So you're going out to die?"

The silver-haired teen furrowed his eyebrows, staring at the sand nin inquisitively. "What?"

"If you go out into the desert without food or water, even in perfect condition you'll be dead in no time."

Riku paused. He hadn't really thought of that. He was far too used to using the dark corridors the Heartless traveled in to get around. He gave the redhead a small smile.

"So…how do you feel about playing escort for me?"

Quiet: And thus begins a beautiful...partnership? Idk, it's weird for me too. o.O