A/N: Just another quick one-shot for this series. This is just an interlude from the previous chapter story line. FYI, the Konoha jounins are still in Suna and they'll be coming up in later chapters.
Hope you enjoy it guys!
Summary: the demons of the past that surge in the middle of the night are not to be feared when he lies right next to her.
Twirling round with this familiar parable,
Spinning, weaving round each new experience,
Recognize this as a holy gift and celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing.
This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality,
Embrace this moment. Remember.
We are eternal.
All this pain is an illusion.
There was a body on the ground in front of her, lying completely still and giving no outward signs of life.
As she tried to concentrate enough to perform one of her many healing jutsus, she was aware of others gathering around her… of others coming to stand around the kneeling medic nin and the fallen team mate who desperately needed help. Their expectations and hopefulness hung in the air, feeling amazingly tangible, as if she could reach out and touch them. They were counting on her to save this person, that much was certain. She was the medic of the team, the one who saved comrades in the heat of battle. It was her duty to save lives and she would give anything in her power to bring back others from the brink of death.
Her vision was blurry and the world seemed to be immersed in shadows. Images shifted before her eyes but she banished them. There was only one thing she needed to focus on in this moment and it was the person right in front of her.
As she reached out her hand towards the body, she felt her heart accelerate with the common rush of adrenaline that surged whenever she was about to lose herself in her medical techniques.
Flashes of Tenten's face flew before her eyes. Her female friend had needed immediate treatment or else the risk of infection would be too great. The nasty leg wound she had suffered had been allowed to fester without any professional medic attention. The jounin team hadn't been allowed the time to stop and treat it properly. Remembering this, Sakura reached directly towards her friend's legs… but as she looked them over, she realized there wasn't anything wrong with them. There simply wasn't any wound to treat.
In fact, the person in front of her wasn't a kunoichi.
It was a man.
Shaking her head as if coming out of a stupor, the pink haired medic tried to get her bearings. She ignored the confusion and commenced by examining the person in front of her thoroughly, going over their legs one more time and slowly moving up towards their torso with her chakra-infused hands.
If it wasn't Tenten before her, then who was it?
But she was too focused her hands as she desperately tried to find what was wrong with him to even consider looking up at his face.
She remembered they'd arrived just in time to save her friends and drove the renegade group off successfully. None of her other fellow Konoha nin's had been injured… at least, not seriously enough for them to be lying on the ground like this. No ninja from Suna had been injured either.
Her frustration escalated to unimaginable levels as she continued to concentrate her chakra on the person before without getting any results. She couldn't find what was wrong. His chakra system simply wasn't responding to her probing and wasn't sending signals back.
It was as if it were completely collapsed.
As if the person was already dead.
She was too late.
As the thought came tumbling into her mind, her vision suddenly cleared and the people all around here came into focus. She saw many faces she didn't know but some of them were familiar. Naruto, Neji, Lee along with Kakashi-sensei and Gai-san. They were all standing nearby, their faces turned downwards in grief.
Kankurou and Temari were there, the pain on their expressions too keen to be described by words.
Sakura recognized the scene immediately.
Fear gripped her heart from within, invading her senses until all she could do was breathe the paralyzing terror that began to tear her apart. If she looked down to the person on the ground before her, she knew exactly who she would find.
'This can't be happening… this can't be happening.' She repeated the words like a mantra within her mind, wishing it all to go away. Closing her eyes, she decided this all had to be a dream, a very bad dream. The events that were taking place had already happened… they couldn't be changed.
But when her emerald orbs opened and she took in the people around her once more, she realized that the horrifying scene before her wasn't going to disappear. Looking up towards her friends, she desperately tried to catch their eyes. But they weren't gazing at her; they were simply too caught up in the sadness of loss to regard the pink haired kunoichi who couldn't do anything more to help her lover.
"Naruto," Sakura whispered, trying to make her best friend face her, to tell her that everything would be fine. But her voice was lost among the deadening silence and it didn't even reach her own ears.
Left with no choice, her heart beating frantically with fear, the pink haired kunoichi looked down.
He was dead.
The handsome redheaded man she loved so much was dead.
With his pale skin and black rims around his eyes, he lay utterly still. He would not be moving ever again.
She wanted to scream, wanted to rage… wanted to tear her heart beating hands out with her own hands. She felt something inside her mind snap, as if her psyche simply couldn't handle what her senses were telling her and was trying to separate itself into a thousand pieces, never to be arranged in the same order once more.
Haruno Sakura was lost and there was no bringing her back. The body she inhabited was only a case, a vessel with no one living inside of it.
In the midst of her desperation, a thought managed to filter through the miasma and she clung to it like a lifeline.
It was amazing how the entire hope of single person could be contained in a simple name.
'She's here, I know she's here! She was with me!' Sakura thought anxiously as she snapped her head up and looked all around her. 'She was right next to me, dammit! Chiyo-baasama can help, she's the only one that can save him.'
The experienced old lady with the wrinkled face and the gift of self-sacrifice was the only opportunity Gaara had left.
Emerald eyes searched desperately through the gathered crowd, scanning face after face, trying to find the one who would bring back her redheaded lover from the dead. But try as she might, she simply couldn't find her.
She simply wasn't there.
"Chiyo-baasama!" Sakura screamed at the top of her lungs, her voice breaking with raw need and desperation.
Isn't that typical of human nature, said a deep dark voice from somewhere nearby. It was only after a few moments that she realized that it was coming from within her. To sacrifice someone else for your selfish needs. Doesn't the old lady have the same right to live as he does?
What kind of medic nin are you?
Her mind finally succumbed to the pressure and broke, a thousand pieces being carried in the wind, never to return.
Waking up with an earth-shattering jolt, Sakura opened her mouth to elicit a deafening scream but she found that her voice had simply left her. Cold sweat covered her skin and dampened her hair, the shaking of her limbs only adding to the emotional turmoil flooding her entire body.
"Finally," she heard a familiar deep voice say close to her ear, the relief in his tone evident.
She choked on her own breath and started coughing frantically, only to realize that she was being held by two strong arms. Her face was resting against a solid male chest and when her senses finally started reacting normally, she found she had been deposited in his lap while she was still asleep.
"What's wrong?" Gaara asked anxiously, an undertone of irritation in his question. She couldn't see his face in the dark but she knew that if she were to look into his eyes, she would encounter a glint of temper in his jade orbs at not knowing what was happening to her.
In any other occasion she would've smiled at that but now, as the memories of the horrendous nightmare she had experienced came back to her, Sakura could only throw her arms around him and bury her face at the base of his neck.
The way she was clinging to him made him nervous. Hell, the whole way she had been thrashing around on the bed a minute ago had his nerves crawling on edge. His pink haired lover wasn't prone to frightening dreams and in all the time they had been together, he had never seen her react like this to the illusions she saw in her sleep.
For the Kazekage, a man who had never slept in his entire life, dreams were of an incredibly elusive nature and no matter how he tried, he simply couldn't understand what it was to experience them. Sure, he lost himself in deep meditations every night and would sometimes encounter visions, strange and wonderful, but he would always be in control. Whenever he meditated, he knew he was the one controlling the sights before him, not the other way around and if he came across something that didn't sit well with him, he simply left and lifted back to consciousness.
From what he had been told, the common dreams people went through during their slumber were nothing like that. They had direct power over the dreamer and the person would experience them as they were truly happening, as if they were truly living whatever their unconscious state had brought to the surface.
His worry for the woman in his arms increased tenfold and the way she clung to him like if she never wanted to let go simply made his heart beat with concern for her.
When she had brought him out of his meditation with her anguished moans and sniffles, Gaara had simply sat up next to her and had tried to wake her up. It seemed like she was completely disconnected from the real world however, for no matter how much he shook her or called her name, she refused to wake. Not knowing what else to do, he had thrown the covers off her and had lifted her into his lap, continuing to call out to her. It was only after another couple of anguish filled minutes that she screamed out a name, a name that made his jade eyes widen, and finally awoke from her nightmare.
Returning her embrace with equal eagerness, he moved them into a more comfortable position. He sat with his back against the head of the bed and stretched Sakura over his length. She was partially on top of him, clutching his neck like she was, allowing him to embrace her freely and wrap his legs around hers. Since he had never been very good with words, he wanted his body to remind her of his presence, to let her know that he would protect her against any enemy, no matter how elusive.
"Daijoubu," he whispered simply as he buried his nose in her hair and tenderly caressed her back.
It was like opening a flood gate.
Heart breaking sobs shook her frame and Gaara could feel the tremors of her crying throughout his entire body. He felt her wet tears trail down his naked chest, increasing his irritation at not knowing what had caused them. If there was something the redhead abhorred, it was to see Sakura cry. Most of the time, the reason would be quite obvious: he would usually screw things up without noticing, as he was wont to do, but would manage to discover his mistake in time to rectify it. When the cause of her crying was due to external factors, he simply got rid of them. Like the time one of her genin students made a callous remark about the hue of her hair; it had been something completely childish and for some inexplicable reason he simply couldn't grasp, it had gotten to her. He'd found her moping in the bathroom amid a fit of sniffles. Gaara had sent the kid flying out the window within a cloud of sand the first chance he got, without her knowing it of course. The boy learned his lesson and actually brought her flowers to the next class. His intervention had been a success.
But now, with her crying in his arms at 3:30 in the morning after having a nightmare, there was no way of knowing what was causing her tears until she spoke. There was nothing left to do but wait until the storm passed.
Another one of the things Gaara truly hated was waiting.
If there was a problem, he would always look for an immediate solution that would solve the issue in the quickest way possible. Nonetheless, there was really nothing to do in this case but to wait for his pink haired lover to calm down enough for her to be able to form a coherent sentence. Thus, breathing in deeply and reigning in his temper, he remained quiet as he held her, caressing her hair and kissing the top of her head from time to time.
Sakura didn't know exactly how long he held her. It could've been minutes or it could've been hours. All she knew was that the pain of loss that her dream had made her live through had shaken her to the very core. The memory of Gaara's demise at the hands of Akatsuki had been buried deep within her and she had never truly looked upon it under the light of their blooming relationship.
Now, after her subconscious had brought it back to the surface, the implications of what might have happened back then were suddenly stampeding over her. To think that the Kazekage had actually been dead for a length of time when they got to him; to know that if it hadn't been for Chiyo-baasama, he never would've walked beside her in life.
She had almost lost him without knowing that he was meant to be hers.
This realization brought a whole new sting to the pain she was already experiencing and she simply couldn't prevent the burning tears that kept streaming down her cheeks. She buried her face further into his neck, trying unsuccessfully to keep her sobs in check. His arms tightened around her even more in response and the pink haired medic tried to find comfort in the strength of his solid presence.
Gaara had heard that your inner demons would usually filter through your dreams, forcing you to face them. Strangely enough, he knew what this was like even though his experience hadn't been exactly the same. All his life he had been battling a demon, and a very live one at that, within himself. He remembered what it was like to fear sleep above anything else and to know that if he were to slip even a single time, his soul would be consumed whole, leaving nothing left to be salvaged. It had taken years of discipline to be able to dominate the mind techniques that allowed him to rest his body without letting go of his mind. Shukaku still stirred but finally knew who was in control; he remained though, lurking in the shadows just waiting for Gaara to make a mistake.
Indeed, he knew what it was like to face your inner demon. That's why he had and inkling about what Sakura was going through, despite his inexperience in the field of dreams. Thus, he held her quietly and waited for the storm to pass.
It was after a while that the pink haired medic finally started to calm down. Taking in a deep shuddering breath, her sobs managed to lessen to an occasional hiccup as she lifted her face away from Gaara's neck. She didn't look up at him though, not until she had wiped away the remaining tears from her cheeks with the back of her hand.
The redhead didn't say anything. He simply waited for her to look up at him, the look in his eyes voicing the words he didn't need to say out loud.
Talk to me.
Knowing that she needed to give him an explanation soon or else his temper would start to manifest itself, Sakura looked up at his face. The room was dark but a little light from the street lamps outside filtered through the shades of the window. She could see his features, bathed in shadow as they were, filled with worry and concern.
With his tousled hair and slightly confused expression, he looked terribly handsome.
Her heart clenched slightly in pain as images from her dream started to flood back into her mind. The crying threatened to recommence but she held it in check. She was stronger than this, damn it! She couldn't afford to let a nightmare affect her so much. It wasn't real.
Gathering what remained of her strength, she lifted her hand to cup his cheek before she spoke.
"I almost lost the chance to love you. I almost lost you without knowing what I was losing."
He narrowed his eyes in confusion, not quite understanding what she was saying. But the sudden lump in her throat at having him here with her, alive and breathing, prevented her from saying anything else. She suddenly needed to touch him, to caress his skin, to run her fingers through his hair… she needed to be assured that the man in front of her, the temperamental and passionate Kazekage in the bed with her, was real.
Her hands moved of their own accord and her fingertips explored his face. Sakura's movements were slow but the slight shaking of her hands betrayed her desperation. Gaara simply looked at her, allowing her caresses to continue unhindered, as he tried to comprehend the meaning behind the words she had said.
It suddenly dawned on him when he remembered the name she had cried while immersed in her nightmare.
Sakura had dreamed of the day they had rescued him from Akatsuki.
Of the day he had died.
Her weeping, her desperation and the jagged heartbreaking sobs that had been shuddering across her lithe frame up until now were suddenly revealed in a new light.
She wasn't the only one who had almost lost that day.
Lifting his own hands, he cradled her face. Her eyes were still moist and he could see the reflection of unshed tears even with the little light filtering through the window. He brushed the wet streaks on her cheeks using his thumbs, never looking away from her eyes as he did so.
It was easy to lose yourself sometimes in the tide of thoughts that brought the maddening query of 'what if' into your life. Gaara had done it a few times on those days when things seemed to slow down and the mind was prone to wondering how it all could have turned out if things had been different. All those small events at specific moments in time that shaped the path you were currently walking on, what if they had happened in a different way? What would've happened if he'd never gone to Konoha for his first chuunin exam? What would've happened if he'd never met Naruto… or Sakura?
What would've happened if he'd died during birth with his mother? Would his father have found another vessel for Shukaku? Or would've Suna's history been free of such a monstrosity?
The number of these kinds of questions was staggering and you would be able to keep asking them until the very end of your life, not knowing the answer.
But that, in itself, was the important thing. To recognize that they didn't have answers. It was pointless to speculate on how things could've turned out if events had taken place in completely different manner. You couldn't change the past… you could only learn to live with it, to learn from it. Being the leader of a shinobi village, the Kazekage had come to gain that knowledge the hard way, knowing very well that you couldn't make effective decisions if you were intent on harbouring regret.
Regret clouded the mind and it had no place when you were making choices that would endanger the lives of your shinobi or of the citizens of your village. You simply couldn't predict every single possible circumstance that could take place and more often than not, certain aspects of life were simple out of your hands. Coming to terms with that was a lesson in humility, especially if events brought great loss and grief with them.
Therefore, it was more useful to let things go… to learn from them. It was pointless to concentrate on how events might've taken place. It was useless to focus on things that didn't happen instead of on the things that actually did.
And in this case, Gaara knew that what had led after the day in which he had been brought to life had changed his existence in more positive ways than he ever could have imagined possible.
Sakura knew this too… she just needed to be reminded of it.
Leaning forward, he brushed his lips against hers softly and very slowly. The feel of their mouths touching tenderly lingered in complete contrast with the usually passionate way with which they kissed while in bed. The affection in Gaara's unhurried actions almost made Sakura's heart burst and she let out a deep sigh of relief as she lost herself in the sensations he was stirring, letting go of the anxiety brought on by her nightmare.
His hands left her cheeks and travelled down her neck, sliding across her shoulders and down the skin of her arms. The caring touch of his fingertips was light, barely there, but it conveyed all the words of comfort that he wasn't saying.
I'm here… with you. This is real.
Gaara didn't need to say them. Sakura knew very well that he was a man of actions and of very few words. She loved him for it. Throughout their relationship she'd learned to accurately translate the things he did into the messages he was trying to express.
His hands continued their journey, lifting them over her sides and caressing her through the tank top she loved to sleep in. Their lips never broke contact and as his fingertips lingered unhurriedly across her skin, she felt the natural response to Gaara's touch inside her body. It was amazing sometimes how he could ignite her desire without even really trying…how he could make her forget everything else but his masculine presence.
Sakura deepened their kiss with a moan she couldn't help but utter. Brushing her tongue against his lower lip before seeking entrance into his mouth, she asked for him to make her forget once again. She didn't want to think about anything else in that moment but him.
Responding with a muffled growl and with the fervour that always rested just underneath the surface when it came to his pink haired woman, Gaara returned her kiss, taking control of their exchange. A few moments later, he divested her of her shirt as he lifted her to straddle his hips and proceeded to leave a hot wet trail across the skin of her shoulders with his tongue.
As she instinctively threaded her finger through his hair in an attempt to pull him closer, Sakura knew he was the only one who could drive her nightmares away.
And with the zealous drive with which he always tackled things in life, the redheaded Kazekage proceeded to do just that, driving away all her demons as they met the new day in the bliss of their lovemaking.
Thanks for reading, minna!