Title: Sleep.Dream.Wake.Live
Winter Ashby (rosweldrmr)
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto and I am in NO way affiliated with Masashi Kishimoto-sama. :pout: He's doing a great job, though. Ganbatte Kishimoto-sama.
Summary: Gaara sleeps and dreams and wakes with a hole in his chest and an image of pink, green, red, and pale skin drawing him out and away from what he used to be. He finds her broken and covered in blood that's not her own. Will they ever find solace?
Authors Notes: Okay, so this takes place after I read chapter 298 of the Manga. I wrote it while I was waiting for 299, so this is what I thought could have come next, so it's AU from then on. Everything else has happened cannon, I just decided to take it in my own direction.

This is a new style that I tried out. Don't worry; the whole series won't be like this, just the first chapter. I did it to introduce you to the two characters and their new attitudes. I hope you enjoy it. I like it, but hey I wrote it, right? Also, they haven't really addressed what the implications would be fore Gaara, so before anyone says that he's OOC; remember he's a different person. Now I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that he doesn't have the monster anymore so this is what I wished would have happened. Okay not wished, because it's kind of sad… but so is everything else I write.

Oh and as of yet it's still a T rating. Yay, SE be proud of me! I'm doing it for you, even though you have no idea what's going on I'm pretty sure you're going to read it. Don't worry I'll find a way to bring you Naruto someday… More coming soon, be patient though. I have a very full life outside of anime, not that I'm happy about that, mind you. It's just reality.

Gaara slept. For the first time in his life, he let his heavy, sullen eyes close and let the soothing comfort of sweet oblivion take him. He didn't fight the hypnotizing sound of his own breathing trick him into meditation, but felt his head hit the soft, silken pillow of the Kazekage's private dwellings and nearly cried with relief. 17 years living in fear of the night, full of hateful envy for all the closed eyes and wistful hearts of those who indulged in what he could only imagine. He wanted to cry, but he was just so tired. He thought he might sleep for a year. It occurred to him that he should have felt empty or hollow without the constant whispering of the psychotic demon in his head. He should have been focused on avenging his own death, or making Chiyo-sama's death a national Memorial Day. He should have done many things but the only thing he could do was crawl into an unused bed and let the sweeping doziness strangle his heart and dim the world.

Gaara dreamt. He let the delicate images of inner-most psyche dance lightly through his mind and across the back of his eyelids. He saw strange figures, cloaked in darkness and red, swirling clouds taunting him. He saw the ghosts of people he'd killed, and bowed reverently at the sight of his childhood. He felt wind on his face and the soothing sensation of gritty sand in-between his bare toes. He dreamt of sun kissed summer days under an impossibly blue sky next to a perfect lake. He dreamt of Temari and Kankurou floating on a giant leaf on the powerful wind, back to desert. He smelled the arid wind of the hot desert air, then the deep moisture that came just before a storm. He could smell the coming rain, just off in the distance. And he dreamt on and on and on. He was a lost boy in a canyon and a murderer on a rooftop. He was a monster in a cave and a man in the woods. He was the head of his nation and loved. Love, there was so much love. He felt love for his land and his people. He felt love for all those he would die again just to protect. And there was no monster in him to tell him he couldn't or shouldn't. He saw shinning pink hair and deathly defiant green eyes. He smelled sweet Sakura blossoms, and felt a hand tugging at his heart.

Gaara woke. The dead still of the re-circulated air in his lungs made his limbs feel stiff. It was dark; he wondered how long he'd slept. His gourd was still resting against the far wall, and the cocoon of sheets he'd made for himself was now binding and abrasive. He craved fresh air, and water. He craved to feel the sand running over his hands and almost wondered if he'd gone deaf. But he focused and heard the scrap of free floating sand on his window outside and he realized for the first time how devastatingly alone he was now. There was no more voice in his head, for good or bad. There were no more duel memories or conflicting fates. There was no more reason to fight because there was nothing left to fight. He was free, and alone. He was just a man, and he looked at the pale, fragile flesh of his hands and hated himself.

Gaara stood. The need to escape these feelings and strange sensations were just too much. The great pressure building in his lungs made it hard to breathe. Through the murky water that clouded his vision, he groped out in the darkness for familiarity of thick leather and a heavy gourd. He fled, lunging to the window and freeing the latch with a frenzied need to be free and alive. The cold desert air on his face was like drinking water for the first time. The trickle of his down his windpipe felt just like an addicting drug. He breathed again, deeper and full of passing sand. He tasted the night and grinned. Toothy, white and blinding to the absent midnight stars who cowered before his lack of all things. But the sand still knew him, still recognized him as sovereign. It came from all directions to create his version of a magic carpet. Wind on his face, tears in his eyes, nothing in his heart, and a deafening quiet in his head.

Gaara left. The feel of the desert on his skin weighing him down, he felt a hundred times heavier. It was like he was suddenly on a distant planet with a thick atmosphere that pressed down on his lungs and crushed him with divine power into the dusty ground. The promise of a thick green forest, unfamiliar ground, and the coming rain drew him in. He craved to taste the falling drops and run his new hands over the dripping leaves. The wind on his face blew harder and faster as deep ragged breathes made their way to his throbbing ears. He dug his hands into the magical sand under his bent knees and relished in the feel of the grit under his nails. There was a chill on his face and his dirty hands flew to his cheeks. Fear, painful stinging in his nose, damp moisture on his fingertips; he looked down at his trembling hands with utter confusion.

Gaara wept. The tears fell in endless crystal streams down his smooth skin and over the slight pout of his lips. They dripped from his chin and crashed against the unforgiving leather of his gourd's strap. They rolled down and nestled in the red fabric of his unused headband. He wept for all the lives he'd taken and for all those he would never get to. He wept for the mark on his forehead and the brand of loneliness. He wept for all those who saved him and for not being able to save himself. He wept for his sister and brother and father and mother. He wept for himself, because no one else would. And he knew the coming storm was upon him. The torrential downpour from his own eyes washed his world away and left him so empty he felt like he could sleep for another year. The rising sun illuminated the pale outline of distant trees past the blurry haze of his own mourning and gave him hope.

Gaara longed. He was nearly free from duty, and fate, and a country that feared and loved him as he hated and protected them. The perpetual night of Gaara's first sleep was slipping away with the bright, growing sliver. The stiff tears on his face as the wind pushed past was just painful enough to prove he was alive. There was a sudden flash of green, pink, red and pale white that nearly crushed in lungs. His empty, useless hands groped the passing air and reach forward to the growing forest. He felt a fire in his heart as he passed over the unseen, but strictly enforced line into the sweet unknown. Stumbling through time he didn't understand and yearning for the touch of something he didn't realize his magic carpet took him through the fire to the land where he was defeated by a leaf.

Gaara remembered. There were fierce blue eyes that hollowed into red tinted hatred and blood red eyes that swam with the hidden talent of unforeseen limits he couldn't ever know. But there were also angry green eyes that softened for the sight of others. He could feel her body move under the crushing weight of his sand. Even the demon was quelled for a brief moment at the notion of being opposed by a passing leaf on the breeze. It was her face that woke him from his first slumber, and it was her intoxicating sent that brought him back from oblivion. It was her hands, trembling and clutching to the lifeless body of his savior. It was her hands that saved his brother and embraced his sister. It was her name, lost in the massive gaps in social order in his brain that made the red kanji on his forehead ache for soft fingertips.

Gaara thought. The massive walls of the sacred village emerged in the distance and he could feel the storm begin to brew in his mind once again. The weight of the air, the desperate call of long-lost loving caresses of sleep calling to him and he was stumbling on the fading wind. But he was almost there, so close to the figure that chased away the pounding loneliness in his chest and lunged at him with all the courage he lacked. She loved, her eyes told him so. She lost, her tears told him so. She regretted, her sullen scent told him so. She moved on, her new techniques told him so. She was powerful, her chakra told him so. She hated, her scars told him so. She longed, her silken hair told him so. She feared him, Temari told him so.

Gaara stopped. The pounding in his head was almost strong enough to drop the sand and him through the tree below and crash to the earth that he wished would swallow him whole. He didn't know how to be human; he didn't know what to do without the voice in his head telling him the opposite of what he should do. Nigen. Human. Mortal. Weak. Beautiful. He was alone because he was no longer a monster, but he was so very overwhelmed with the new found connection to all dieing things that he wanted to vomit thick acidy bile and burn his hands. He was tired again and he thought it might be nice to sleep under the sun for a month or so. How long had he slept? He didn't hesitate; there was nothing left to fear. He was broken now, seeking refuge in the last salvation he knew existed. Forgiveness and answers from perfect idealism.

Gaara entered. The village seemed small somehow, in the shadow of the distant night and the light of the rising sun. It was just as he remembered it and nothing like he expected it. This place held revelations, and nearly wistful ideals that created in him the desire to protect his people. But now the heavy, humid air was on his bare neck and winding its way up this throat. He missed the certainty of evil and hated the idea that he must now embrace goodness. His shallow green eyes reflected the gates as he passed effortless over the symbol of power. There was a pain in his heart and the lingering stiff skin of his lower eyes. He wondered if the black circles were still there, if he would ever really lose the raccoon eyes he had come to be known for. He hoped not, change was happening too fast in him to stop and he wasn't pleased.

Gaara wanted. Her scent was effervescent. It reverberated from every tree and rock in this land. It echoed off cliffs and through valleys. It ricochet through pounding rain and pointed the way to her like a huge, neon arrow. Outside the hospital, tears, sake, fresh blood, chakra, and her. He didn't cause the blood or the tears but each made the hollow part of his chest simultaneously tighten and spurn at the thought of her and him and all of it. Her chakra healed the blood, and the sake healed her tears. She was broken and damaged and everything he never knew he wanted. Without another voice in his head to urge him forward and taste her sweaty skin he stood fixated on the ethereal image of her back to the cold stone wall and the empty bottle at her feet. Heavy eyes regarded his presence with little care or too much, he couldn't be sure. No words, no thoughts, no balance. She fell.

Gaara cared. He didn't know what he expected when he fled the desert, he wasn't sure when he realized it was for her, and he was even less knowledgeable about what he would do once he arrived. But holding her as she vomited over the back of a bench into the low bushes was not at the top of his list. She smelled sweet still, under the sickly scent of overindulgence. She clung to his chest and vomited again. Apathetic sentiments crept their way through his eyes as he watched the fragile creature in his arms nearly break from the pressure of her own heaving. Hand twisted in her perfect hair reminded him of what woke him from his impossible slumber. Upturned eyes and unasked questions beckoned a response he was not willing to give, or inadequately prepared to answer.

Gaara spoke. "How long?" His monotone voice was raspy with disuse and he realized it was the first thing he'd said since his long sleep. Groggy features greeted his placated reply and shattered the simple concept of dreaming. She stumbled, she closed her eyes, and she thought. His hand still touched her hair as she laid hap hazardously in his arms. Small, so small; she was tiny, a fragment of the towering figure that chased away the demon in his now empty soul. She knew the answer, but under the haze of the alcohol still chasing away her pain the answer was lost in her mind, fleeting on some nerve path sent to the wrong location. She reached up; eyes closed and stroked the side of his face.

Gaara growled. The sensation of her cold extremities on his face and the sickening smell of sake on her breath made him want to throw up right next to her. Instead, he pulled away and flung her over his shoulder. Ass to face and face to gourd he walked. Her softer, more natural smell led him down a dark alley and up a flight of squeaking stairs. The pink doormat made him stop in his tracks. Something about the idea of the drunken medical prodigy with a bright pink rug to mark her entranceway seemed at odds. Her hands fumbled with the white sash that bound him to the sand receptacle and he paused. "Yamate." He insisted with depressing restraint. Human, moral, mortal, ignorant. The door screeched open as his sand trickled though the key hole and conformed to make a skeleton key.

Gaara regretted. With sweeping finality, he was standing at the precipice of what he wanted, wrapped around his neck and clinging to him like he was made for her. He was angry at the thought that he'd given into such a human folly, but hateful for the state in which he found her. Over the threshold, cradling her with an annoyance even he didn't quite understand. Then she was gone, away from his grip as she danced and swirled through the darkness of her apartment. Clumsy hands reached for a hidden bottle nestled between cookbooks. He was beside her, removing the offensive liquid from her grasp as it slipped effortlessly down the drain with a satisfying swirl. She pouted, and he idly thought she looked thirteen again. Except she wasn't, and the alcohol hidden in her home made him rethink just how not thirteen she really was. How long had he been asleep?

Gaara sighed. He was unfamiliar with the action and it seemed a little incomplete until he crossed his arms across his broad chest. It felt slightly less queer then, like perhaps with practice it was a gesture he could be comfortable with performing. Annoying, pale, sick, heartbroken. He recognized the signs, and saw the same heart agonizing pain reflected in her eyes. Unshed tears, will power to be stronger. A promise made to no one, but unable to forget and move on without it. She was stuck, he didn't know why or how to pull her from the depths of her sorrow so he settled for picking her up, bridal style this time, and walked into her bedroom and placed her with a heavy thud on the bed. The graceless failing limbs of her putrid body pulled him forward and downward. Billowing breasts and smooth skin greet his face with a new kind of discomfort.

Gaara knelt. Pulling his body from hers, disengaging her hands from his hair and trying his best to ignore the pleading in her eyes. If there had been a beast in him, it would have stirred, but instead he was greeted with the desperate urge to shake her until the half lidded gaze she was giving him now disappeared from this earth forever. He gauged her with untrusting eyes and measured the length of his patience. It sufficed, for the time being. He stood, letting the soft fabric of her sheet slide under his bare palms for an instant longer than he should have as his eyes lingered on the exposed skin of her thigh in the cresting sunlight. Disappointment, confusion, anger, all useless human emotions for the journey he shouldn't have taken and the kunoichi that should mean nothing. "Gaaaaarrrrraaa" she let the slurred name spill from her lips like a tainted, forbidden jutsu. Lush with raw emotion, humbled in the presence of his name from her lips he stilled. She seemed to mull it over, roll it around on her tongue until she was satisfied with it. Then she turned her face away and past him all at the same time.

Gaara waited. He wished for sleep, yearned for her soft sheets and cool pillows. It was a new sensation, to want sleep rather than fear it. But she snored and rolled over to vomit every few hours so he decided that he had plenty of practice not sleeping. If he woke to find her choking to death on her own tongue, that would anger him. The sun rose and hung in the sky. He sat, still and unchanging as her condition seemed to be improving. There were longer periods between unrest and sickness. The noises of city life percolated through the opened window in the kitchen but he sat with his back against the wall, watching her sleep. There was no one to check on her, no one to verify the state of her condition. He registered that with weary thought and tired eyes. Eventually he noted the setting of the sun with envious eyes. Night, sleep, dreams.

Sakura slept. There were images of sickening smiling faces and betrayal. There was a large, orange fox that clipped her arm and made her cry out. There was the memory of leaving a comrade behind. With heavy thoughts she formed the image of a bloody boy, waiting to be healed. Too late, and too sad to save him. Too focused on the faceless enigma of her past and chasing demons to stop and change her mind. Duty and unacceptable reasons danced through her mind with an ache in her heart and a scream in her thought. Rusty hair and green eyes mixed in a swirl of sand and she was falling. She could feel eyes on her; feel the moon on her skin. But the pale green eyes peered through the haze of nightmares, always in the back of her mind.

Sakura woke. Pale green eyes waited for her on the new side of sleep and she almost rolled over and went right back to sleep. But the putrid taste in her mouth and the pounding in her head made her stir from her haze. Green eyes still watched her. She thought for a moment that he looked so tired. Even with the black rings around his eyes, he had always managed to look menacing in the past. But now she almost felt guilty for not offering him a spot next to her on the bed. Carefully, she tilted her head, trying to let the traitorous thoughts drip from her mind as she became frantic to piece together the events of… how long had she slept?

Sakura spoke. "What happened?" her mouth was itchy and dry and scratched with the words that she probably shouldn't be speaking. There was no answer, she wasn't sure if had really expected one. But the fact remained that he was in her bedroom, watching her sleep. She was still dressed and that horrible feel in her stomach was lurching again. "Oh, yeah." The sickening hole in her heart tore open again and she wished she had some sake. There should still be a bottle under the side corner of her bed, and suddenly she was moving forward and across. Her hand reached behind the curtain of fabric that spread across the floor. Desperate hands searched for the smooth porcelain she knew she'd left there yesterday. With great triumph her fingers closed around the familiar bottle she'd stolen from Tsunade and brought it to her lips.

Sakura cared. So she drank. The sting of the liquor as it passed her parched lips and sore throat was almost painful enough to make her forget that there was another person in the room. And then, she didn't care. She could feel the tears welling up in her eyes. God, she was so sick of crying. She just wanted to wither away, slither into the bottle and never come out again. But then the bottle was gone, alcohol flying across the room and smashing with a horrible finality against the far wall. Wide eyed she peered at the man who sat on her floor and dared to take her reprieve away. Insolent, arrogant, powerful. He reminded her so much of faces she wanted to forget. He was up, and moving like mist over ice toward her and all the problems that swirled around her. "Don't come near me!" her shriek was more a warning for him than out of fear for herself. Somewhere deep inside she registered that he no longer had a monster in him. But she no longer had a heart in her, so it didn't really matter.

Sakura wept. The ignorant, putrid, hateful tears that began to spill or their own will mocked her. They taunted her, whispering that she wasn't good enough, and that she would always be the little girl in the corner who cried because she didn't get her way. He didn't stop until he stood towering over her small, malnourished frame. She hadn't really noticed how tall he'd gotten in the three years she'd been training, and he'd been Kazekage. It was all strange, and beneath the beneath there was something else. But past the nausea, pain, anger, and grief she wasn't sure she trusted herself to make judgments on other people's mental state. So the tears fell, and she sobbed and chocked on her own air. She almost bent over to lick up the spilled sake, but decided better of it. All he did was stand and glower down at her disappearing form. After a few minutes of indulging in mortal fears, she stopped and settled the pang in her heart.

Sakura stood. On shaky legs and unbending will she moved forward, brushing past the stranger in her bedroom. She thought for a moment that she should be more concerned about not walking up alone. She couldn't remember how she got home but she was left with the distinct impression that she owed him some semblance of gratitude for it. She didn't like that feeling. But she didn't speak, there were no words in her heart left to say. Her shirt was stiff with blood that wasn't her own and she nearly crashed to the floor as the image of a lifeless body was pulled from her grasp. She'd left him, to chase after a useless dream of summers past and teams now gone. She hated herself, she knew she always would. She tasted vomit past the burning of the fresh sake. There was a pan next to bed.

Sakura thought. The fearsome man standing behind her, watching to drifting night clouds chilled her. He looked so pale, and tired. His eyes twisted from their locked position outside the window to peer at her with guised interest. Then, ever so slightly, they flickered to the rumpled bed to his right. She thought he looked almost longingly at the disheveled sheets she'd emerged from. But she couldn't bring herself to care. She simply turned from him and headed for the sweet call of warm water and fresh clothes. She didn't need lights to see. She didn't want to see the hollow, broken woman look back at her from her medicine cabinet mirror. She didn't look. She forwent the light and opted to bath in the dark. She wished she'd thought to hide a bottle of sake in her toilet. She let the sullen clothes slip from her sore shoulders and run past the under-mesh and pass over her hips to meet the floor. She shed the mesh and undergarments, glad to be free from the confines of shinobi clothes. It should have bothered her that there was a murderer just outsider the flimsy door and she was now naked. But she just didn't know how to care about anything anymore. She turned off the steaming water that she didn't even remember turning on and stepped into the tub.

Sakura remember. As the water rose to cover her face she let the fading memories of years gone back take her in. She could still feel a warm body under her tear stained face on a misty bridge. She could see crystal eyes proudly declare his solemn promise, and the disappointment and self petulance as he returned battered and beaten with empty hands and a broken heart. She let herself, for one shinning moment of ultimate regret remember just the way he looked in the sunlight in the clearing of his own destruction as she made the decision to leave him and follow a useless fantasy. She left him, and now he was dead. She was to blame, and she knew now that past loves would never be redeemed. She hated him, she hated herself. She hated everything. She left a sudden chill ripple through her body as she could feel her heart harden.

Sakura regretted. The water was cold now, so she racked her nails over her skin and scraped off the layers of skin that held in her former self. Her soft pale skin puckered and emanated a deep red just at the surface. She wanted to bleed, she thought at least then she would have something to fix – something she knew she would be able to heal. The gashes across her heart were too deep for even her expert medical skills to reach. She was sober, and terribly hungry. She dried, and dressed in fresh, blood free clothes and emerged only to find the terrifying Kage asleep in her bed. Her eyes softened. He was tired. She approached his peaceful, slumbering form and watched in the passing moonlight as his chest rose and fell in peaceful patterns. He didn't look so menacing then, but small. She leaned forward and pulled the covers up to his chin. She glanced down at the vomit in the pan and back to the man who was such an anomaly. She smiled a sad, knowing smile and nearly cried again for the sweeping pain that passed through her chest at the sight of the fierce man crumpled, defenseless, and vulnerable in her bed. She had no answers, and somehow she didn't need them. So she let her heart swell, and leaned forward. Placing a feather kiss on the mark on his head she whispered. "Arigato."

Gaara slept. Gaara dreamt. Gaara woke.

Sakura cleaned. Sakura waited. Sakura spoke.

And to everyone who has reviewed my stories, even the ones I had to take down, I want to say thank you. Really it's you guys that keep me writing.

Arigato gozaimasu!

:bows deeply: