Act 2: Scene 8
PHANTOM OF THE SAND
Act 2: Scene 8 and 9
"We can't keep running like this," Sakura murmured as the breeze kicked up around her and threw her hair in her face. She turned from the view where she currently stood - high atop the stone monument to the famed Hokages of present and past. In his desperation Gaara had fled with her to the most remote place possible, a place where most people would never think to look. They would all suspect that he had fled the village altogether, possibly to kidnap her and take her back to the Village of Sand. But Gaara was not so naive.
He was breaking, though. His control was crumbling. As the kunoichi turned she saw him fall to his knees in the dirt, one hand clutching at his hair painfully. Sakura rushed to his side and knelt by him cautiously. She didn't know what to do. Even as a medic nin she could do nothing for him like this. It was all internal, all mental, and with each moment even more emotional. Gaara was having trouble controlling his inner demon and his instinctive lust for blood, but now he was facing something that he considered far worse.
He was feeling. It had begun to make him ache before but now he felt like his insides were breaking apart. The Tanuki screamed for him to ravage her - to rip her pretty hair out and make her bleed, but now he had his own conflicting desires. Everything was mixed up and he wasn't sure what thoughts were his and what weren't. Did he want to embrace her or break her neck...? It was driving him mad, even moreso than usual.
"Gaara...?" Sakura said softly, hovering a hand at his shoulder, nervous to touch him in such a state. He kept his eyes clenched shut and huffed a breath through his teeth. Maybe if he didn't look at her... maybe if he didn't smell her...
Finally, Sakura's fingers rested on his arm and he whirled to grasp her wrist and wrench them away. He froze as soon as he caught her eyes and she could instantly see the torment he was enduring; one split second before the killer's eyes glazed over with instinctive indifference. She didn't try to pull from his grip, but sat there on her knees and watched him.
"It's getting worse... isn't it? The demon inside..," she finally said and he pulled his hand back from her, sitting back on the ground. Despite all the wonders the music and singing had done for the sand-nin it had all been bittersweet and temporary. The moment he felt threatened and was challenged there was nothing he could do to deny the mechanical lust for blood that had grown and swelled inside him since he was a small boy. "What do you mean to do in all this? What's going on inside your head...?"
Gaara lifted his eyes again and looked at her blandly.
"You don't want to know," he replied simply. Sakura let out a small breath - at least he had responded.
"This can't keep going," she said after a moment. "Everyone believes you're kidnapping me. You're going to be in a lot of trouble if they ever catch up to you."
"They never do," he said, getting up and tossing off the cumbersome costume jacket and gloves into the dust. "And even if they did-"
"You'll what? Kill everyone?" Sakura interrupted, getting to her feet. "That's all you ever did, Gaara. You were getting better, I heard. You became Kazekage! And now you just want to throw yourself into another needless bloodbath?"
"Sometimes bloodshed is needed," he replied simply and turned away from her.
"Why? I'm tired of all the death! I don't want to be afraid anymore." She saw his shoulders bob up and down once subtley.
"Fear is what I am," he said, almost sounding as though he was forcing himself to accept the concept.
"I didn't mean I was afraid of you!" she declared, quickly becoming frustrated and to the point of tears.
"Then you're an idiot," he said. Sakura lurched a little at those words and she soon found her hands clenching into fists. Without so much as a second thought she dashed at him, unsure of what her intents were other than to lay one on him. At the last second Gaara swept around and caught her wrists before either hand came near him and held them. He looked at her and her tear stained cheeks and reddened eyes. She looked back at him, unwavering.
"Why does everyone call me that?" she whimpered, trying to keep her voice from failing. "Why does everyone I love call me that?"
Gaara's hands flew from hers and Sakura let her hands fall to her sides.
"It's my own fault, I suppose - falling in love with the wrong people - people who don't even want to love me or don't think they can."
Everything was quiet inside, and all Gaara could hear and see was her before him. All he could feel was a throbbing, beating heart inside his chest.
"What do you need? What do you need from me? If you don't want me let me go and just stop it!" Sakura said, finally finding more strength for her voice. Gaara's widened eyes glanced over her face and fell on her tears once more. Tears. Tears for whom?
"I'm... sorry," he finally managed, though he felt detached as if it hadn't been himself who had said it.
"You're not an idiot. I mean..."
"What... what do you mean?" Sakura prodded, stepping closer to him.
"Nothing." She suddenly looked very sad then. It was always nothing. Something in her expression began to bother Gaara immensely. He didn't know what to do. Reaching up slightly he let his fingertips brush her cheek, feeling the coolness of her tears against the warm flesh. The kunoichi slowly lifted her eyes to look at him, inhaling a little sharply from the sobbing she was supressing.
"This isn't right," Gaara murmured and stepped close, bringing his other hand to her other cheek to brush away the tears. "You...are more beautiful when you smile..." Sakura's eyes widened a little at this and she simply stared at him. He looked back at her, unsure, as if maybe he had said something wrong. When she said nothing he continued, "You are in pain... It's the worst sort of pain..." His fingers moved some of the hair that had become stuck to her cheek. "I knew it ages ago...and I knew it was something I never wanted again..."
"Is that why you're so angry...?" Sakura managed to say, despite her initial shock.
"I'm not angry. I was born from anger and death... Since I can remember my life was forfeit. I kill because they all wanted me dead... All of them..." His eyes became distant.
"No..," she shook her head. "I want you to live..." She lifted her hand and touched the kanji at his forehead and this time he did not flinch from her caresses. "I don't know what you've felt... or what things have happened to you to make you hurt so badly... That's what it is... isn't it? You hurt all the time..."
"When I let it in."
"You don't have to feel that anymore. You remember the song..., right? It's like the song..."
"No more talk... of darkness... Forget these wide eyed fears... I'm here, nothing can harm you... My words will warm and calm you...," she sang lightly, watching him.
"...Let me be... your freedom...," he murmured, brushing away the last of the wetness at her cheeks. "Let daylight dry your tears... I'm here... With you, beside you... To guard you and to guide you..." Sakura felt a relieved smile tug at the corner of her lips.
"Say... you love me," she hummed. Gaara paused a moment and watched her a moment, leaning close to take in the smell of her and letting his forehead touch hers.
"You know I do...," he said more than sang.
Sakura choked a little on her tears while a quivering smile overtook her lips. Her arms wrapped themselves tightly around his neck and held him closely to herself. She stood on tiptoes just to manage it, but didn't really mind. Gaara stood still a moment, letting the feeling overwhelm himself again, just like before. He had almost convinced himself that the entire time before had been a dream. Such a sweet thing could never have really happened to him. But now here she was again and he felt as every sense was heightened. He felt her breath and her heartbeat. He smelled her sweat and her femininity. And as she tilted her head up and caught his lips he could taste the salt of her tears and sweetness of her mouth.
He felt himself choking and shaking inside. He clutched at her small frame, wrapping his arms tightly about her. His mouth bore into hers, something that startled her at first, and he made every attempt to burn the moment into his memory. If it should be nothing more than another dream, he would be sure to remember it entirely.
The tears burned his sleepless eyes and felt shocking against his cheeks. He had forgotten how to cry, and had never known how to cry out of love. How could something so wonderful be so painful all at the same time? He felt Sakura's fingertips brushing through the wetness on his face and brushing them away, comforting him.
"You're not alone anymore," she murmured against his mouth softly.
"We need to get away from the village," Gaara murmured, his tone ever the same. Despite the emotion welling up in his eyes his voice was unwavering, though softer and gentler when he spoke to her.
"That's not happening, I'm afraid."
The voice startled them both and they turned to look and see Sasuke standing on the other side of the cliff. He had found them, though he was alone. Gaara instinctively whirled Sakura behind himself and stood in front of her to confront the Uchiha.
"Sasuke! How long have you been there?" Sakura asked.
"Long enough," Sasuke replied bitterly. Gaara narrowed his eyes.
"Sasuke, please. Just turn around and go back. It's all okay now. It's all going to stop," Sakura insisted. The last thing she wanted now was another fight, though she sensed it was inevitable.
"I couldn't care less what he does to the village," Sasuke said, rounding on Gaara slightly. The sand-nin reached back and guided Sakura with a hand to keep him behind her as he turned. "I worry what he plans to do to you."
"I have no intent of harming her," Gaara shot back. "Though I doubt I could say the same for you."
"Ha. Nice try. Sakura knows I would never hurt her. Unlike some I know who tried to strangle her to death," Sasuke replied, sliding his hands in his pockets. Sakura failed to agree which made Sasuke's expression turn sour again. "Hn. That's what I figured." Gaara brought his arms up and crossed them in his usual fashion and eyed Sasuke warily.
"I'm getting tired of you. If you want to die, then let's get on with it."
"I'll make it quick, I promise," Sasuke replied. Promptly, he closed his eyes and opened them to reveal the Mangekyou.
"No! Gaara, don't look at him!" Sakura declared, weaving around him to try to block his view. Sadly, she was too slow to pre-empt the affects of the red eyes and Gaara began to tremble again. His hands grasped at his head and he fell to his knees once more. "Gaara! Gaara! Break out of it! It's not real! It's not! PLEASE!" the kunoichi begged, shaking him by the shoulders.
"To little, too late, I'm afraid," Sasuke hummed as he slowly approached and stood over them. "Give it up, Sakura. His mind is weak. He will always have this problem even when I'm not here. You're just endangering yourself..."
Sakura felt the tears returning and burning her eyes, but for a completely different reason this time. Rearing up, she whirled and shoved her hands into Sasuke's chest, implementing the enhanced strength she learned from Tsunade-sama, and watched the Uchiha fly backward and crash into the ground.
"In CASE you haven't noticed, Sasuke-kun, I can take care of myself!" she said, putting a sour emphasis on the childhood name she had once used so fondly for him. Sasuke brought himself to his feet, trying to hide his shock at the retaliation.
"You've gone completely crazy," Sasuke replied.
"Leave. Right now," she demanded.
"I can't. I have to finish this."
"There's nothing for you to finish! Do you even know what you're fighting for?" she yelled. "You can't even say it's because you love me!"
"What would you know?" he raged back.
"You NEVER loved me! You would have never left me if you did! You're selfish and you can't stand it when anyone is better than you! You almost KILLED Naruto because of your ego!" Sasuke hmphed and advanced on her, intent on not letting the girl have the upper hand on him.
"And what have you got to say for yourself then? You're the one that clung to me the minute I came back to the village. You're the one who kissed me. And now you're acting as if it all means nothing to you!" Sakura bowed her head at this, suddenly wishing she hadn't been so stupid before. She was blinded and had clung to her crush far too long, even after he had left.
And suddenly Gaara was in front of him, face to face, at a dangerous proximity.
"We all make mistakes...," he murmured as a long wisp of sand wrapped around Sasuke's neck and jerked him backward, slamming him against a small tower of rocks.
"Gaara...," Sakura whispered.
"I can't allow anyone who is the cause of her tears...her pain...," he said, advancing forward towards the restrained Uchiha. "...to live..." Behind them, Sakura shook her head furiously, her voice caught in her throat. She was angry at Sasuke, but she didn't want him to die. Had Gaara really learned nothing? Perhaps he really would never change! However good an intent there was behind it...!
Gaara stared into Sasuke's eyes for a moment, feeling Sakura's gaze on his back. Slowly, the sand loosened about Sasuke's limbs and let him down to drop onto the ground. "...But we never really were alive in the first place... were we? And you gave up the one chance you had to become so..." Absently, he glanced back at Sakura before giving Sasuke one last glance and turning to approach her. Sakura embraced him as soon as he was close enough, relieved for his better sense. Gaara loosely let his arms encircle her waist and looked back at a bewildered Sasuke before speaking for the last time. "I won't make the same mistake."
In a whirl of sand they vanished then, leaving everything about the past behind - all mistakes and wrong choices long forgotten and forgiven.
It was time to start anew.
AN: OMG it's over! WAH!... Well, I hope everyone enjoyed the conclusion!