There was a stillness in the air, an alarming shade of red washed over the sand. And he could feel it, the dormant hunger thriving inside of him. The one he had successfully put at bay for so long now. It had been nearly a year...and yet, it felt stronger than ever inside of him now.

Anger, frustration, hunger, he could feel it pulling it's way up and out of his throat. He was eyeing his enemy and for some reason, it seemed as though he was transforming into something so much more malevolent...his eyes...had they changed? What was different?

Or was it himself?

He felt that spirit inside of him, growing...Shukaku...

He hadn't felt him have this much control over him in so long. What was happening?

He looked from the corner of his eye and saw Temari, her fan in front of her, her chest rising and falling in exhaustion. He looked to his right and saw Kankuro, looking even worse, yet his jaw was squared, teeth bared, he wouldn't be standing down any time soon.

'They'll die.'

He swallowed, his heart dropping into his stomach and he focused his attention back again at the man before him. He was bleeding from the corner of his mouth at a considerable rate, but still his eyes...they were still full of life.

'Let's watch it leave him, Gaara...Let's watch the life melt away.'

He squeezed his eyes shut. He wasn't in control, he was. He just had to ground himself. While killing this bastard wouldn't bother him ethically, considering he was of course trying to kill them, Shukaku's hastiness was unsettling.

Gaara closed his eyes, focusing on the deeper layers of sand beneath him. He focused and just as the sand clasped around the enemy's ankles, he lifted his hand to perform the final rights. Just before he close his hand into a fist, he felt the sand to his left rushing to shield him. He looked over in sudden shock. Temari?

"Gaara! Stop!"

Confused, he tried to lower his hand but his eyes widened when he realized...he was unable to. He looked before him and where the man once stood, was a small child, tears running down his cheeks. He felt his hand beginning to close against his will. "N-No..." He whispered, trying to pull his arm back.

'Just the one.'


"Gaara!" Kankuro screamed as the sand around him exploded into a cloud of blinding dust. It encased him just as his hand closed and the sound of a screaming child was replaced with silence within seconds.

He was shrouded in darkness. The only sound was his thudding heart and his gasps inside the sand cocoon.

'What did you do?' Shukaku laughed, 'Oh no, Gaara...Whatever did you do, you naughty child?'

"I didn't do did." Gaara whispered, his heart still thudding in his chest, hands shaking.

'Now, now. Remember who really has control here, Gaara.'

The sand walls around him exploded and just below him lied the Sand Village. The entire village was in his view, hundreds of feet above, floating gently in the sky.

'Kill them.'

His arms began to pull away from his body and watched with fevered eyes as giant clouds of sand began to pull from the ground on either side of the village.

"No!" Gaara struggled against it, but it was overpowering...overwhelming, it was-

The world became black and then...

...he opened his eyes and jolted upright with a start, breathless. He sucked in breath after breath, his chest tightening into painful knots.

Temari was in front of him, eyes wide, her mouth moving, but he couldn't hear the words. His head was spinning. Kankuro was beside her looking at him, fear evident in his eyes. Behind them stood Leaf ninja. Naruto, Sakura, and Lee were standing, legs apart and hunched slightly as though getting into position for battle.

He could hear suddenly and the sound of sand and wind whipping around him and Temari's voice became clear.

"-..Gaara, can you hear me?" She was shouting over the wind.

He turned around suddenly and saw the sandy outline of a single tail forming behind him, flicking back and forth like a cat about to attack. To his left and right, gigantic churning clouds of sand had started to form, violent and steady whistling.

His eyes met back with Temari just as the sand collapsed and fell to the ground. Kankuro released a breath of relief.

"Gaara." Temari whispered, "Are you ok?"

"Wh-What happened?" Gaara questioned, looking towards his sister briefly before flickering his eyes towards Kankuro, "Were we attacked?"

Kankuro shut his eyes briefly, "It's just as I feared." He whispered solemnly.

Temari's eyes held tears, soft droplets slid down her cheeks like the boy in his dream, "It's true. He's completely lost control."

Gaara's eyes widened, watching as Naruto stepped forward. The sands began shifting.

Naruto brought out his kunai, brandishing it against the light, "I guess this is goodbye...Gaara."

And for the second time, the world went dark.

Gaara opened his eyes slowly, his gaze meeting a rushing river. He was in the woods, sitting atop a tree stump, just a short walk away from the campsite they'd made. He hadn't fallen asleep, only meditated until daylight. Meditation was key to getting through the sleepless nights without losing his sanity, though his meditations, admittedly, oftenevolved into some of his worst nightmares. Often times, they took on a life of their own.

The difference between dreaming and his alternate meditative reality? He knew his meditations we're only a figment of his imagination. A simulation of some of his worst thoughts and fears. Though he rarely broke from them on purpose. He found it best to ride through the experience without too much tampering. It was his psyche's time to meditate on some of the deeper issues he did not otherwise allow himself to delve into.

He looked towards the dawning sun and stood from his position on the stump, kneeling at the river to throw some cold water onto his face, looking at his reflection momentarily in the water below before turning away from it.

He tried not to let his mind linger on what he'd pictured in his meditative state and stood with a pensive expression as he looked back towards the thick of trees, the very edge of the forest.

It was like his mind was stuck on the vision of the child, tears running down his face. Temari's same defeated expression, the tears rolling down her cheeks. The tenacity and rage in the shifting sands...unable to control the demon inside of him. What was that feeling? Such immense power...and completely out of control. A feeling of utter chaos. And he'd felt it. He'd felt it, like it was...real.

Gaara moved towards the thick of the forest and told himself once he pushed through those trees, he wasn't going to think about those visions. He had a mission. He was a shinobi. There was no time for such childish distractions.

And then, he entered the thick of the forest.

A/N: Thank you so much for reading, please review. :)