The Moments Before Sleep

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, but I'd give my left lung to own Gaara. I'd give my entire spleen for Naruto to own Gaara.

I'd do a summary, but it's so freaking short that it really doesn't need one. Also, strangely enough, this is my first attempt at GaaraNaruto. Mission: Failed!

Naruto lies in bed, one hand trapped between his belly and the soft cotton sheets below. His eyes are focused on the softly lit clock, silently counting the seconds as they turn into hours.

He doubts he'll sleep tonight. His body has learned how to sleep with another person and, when that solid warmth is missing, he finds himself unable to get comfortable.

Another minute passes, one minute and thirty six seconds, really. His trapped hand is slowly going numb and the thick blanket is no help against Naruto's constant chill. But it's okay if he's cold; he's been cold for so long he can hardly feel it anymore.

Seventeen seconds on top of another minute. Between his body and the clock rests his free hand. Periodically, he stops counting seconds to stare at that hand. It rests in that empty space where his lover should be, where his lover currently, obviously, isn't. Bare to the room, that hand stretches out across the threadbare sheet with no protection against the cold. Naruto wills his hand to curl, or uncurl, twitch, move. If it does, his eyes don't see it and his nerve endings don't feel it.

False dawn will be coming soon, it's less than an hour away. It's always coldest then. He's almost pleased that he can't feel it anymore. In the back of his mind, the quiet part that's not focused on the clock and counting and the seconds that pass, he wonders if he should be worried that he's so numb.

Six minutes, fift-… He stops counting and listens. One breath and two heart beats later, there is another thud and a soft curse as some limb accidentally hits the couch. Eight steps, actually seven steps and a stumble, bring his lover to the bedroom.

When the door opens and Sasuke shuffles in, he holds his breath and closes his eyes.

His trapped arm is so numb from the bicep down that his shoulder is starting to ache.

He listens silently as Sasuke disrobes. He moves his free arm only when he feels a burning hot hand brush against his skin. He curls that arm beneath his chest and goes still as Sasuke climbs in under the sheets and kicks the blanket to the floor.

"Dobe and his stupid blanket in the middle of a summer heat wave."

The words are barely breathed as Sasuke rolls to face the door, turning his back to his bed partner.

Naruto turns onto his side, toward the window. He takes slow, shallow breaths. He pretends he can't smell the scent of plum wine. He pretends he can't smell the faint lady's perfume still clinging to Sasuke's skin. He pretends he doesn't know where Sasuke has been tonight. The blood starts rushing back into his once trapped hand and he can feel it.

Pain. Cold and pain and fire.

In the back of his mind, the quiet part he's learned to ignore, he wonders if it would be less hurtful to simply remove the arm.

He starts counting heart beats, easy at first because it throbs needles into his fingertips. He hears Sasuke settle down and fall into his usual silent sleep. Forty-seven. Forty-eight. Forty-nine…

He wonders if he'll ever be warm again.

Endnotes: There is a second part that will eventually go up.

Thanks for reading!