Unraveling of a Dune
Disclaimer: Don't own Naruto, but I do own the plot of this little ficlette.
Loneliness is a curious thing. It was not cured by going to parties, hanging out with friends, or being part of a crowd. In fact, Sakura found that, if anything, being around people made her feel even further segregated. It seemed as though the only time she felt companionship was in her memories. She reveled in those pictures that peppered her mind and the self inflicted illusions that appeared before her very eyes.
Lounging away from the town was the best area for her to be, most of the time where her training as a genin first started. As though as reel of film was projected in her cornea she saw Naruto fighting with Kakashi, Sasuke buried in the ground, her self hiding horridly in a bush.
Sakura found that the best place for her to replay the memories under the tree of her namesake. The branches at the moment were of a light green, creating nonsensical shadows that swirled around her in fits of wind blown movement. Looking at the gnarled limbs closely, small cherries could be seen attempting to grow.
The Lackadaisical kunoichi rolled over to her stomach, pillowing her head into her hands.
When had life become so… gray? She didn't know the exact answer to the question, but she knew when things started to change. Or maybe things didn't change, maybe that was how things always were, and she just didn't want to see that. Sakura, in her young age with romantic ideals, had been one easily blinded by reality.
Her eyes had at first started changing when he left. She then realized that maybe the perfect fairytales really didn't exist. She was not the helpless maiden needed to be saved like she wished to believe. Or maybe she was, but there was no one there to save, in the prince's place she had to save herself. The one thought to be her prince had really turned out to be the enemy.
Looking at her life now, she saw that she part of a myth in the making. Really, who would forget the story of the blond-haired Kyuubi container and his trail to find his best friend. His best friend who—though a good person—had lost his way.
Sakura was ecstatic when Sasuke, but it was unable to get out of control. Sasuke could not leave for years, aiding the enemy, the come back with nothing but a slap on the hands.
He had been turned away; the gates had closed before him, excluding him from the place that had desperately searched for him. Naruto had left as well, both of them traveling to another village. They had left her behind. They had left her alone.
She had friends, but without her family, Naruto and Sasuke, she was nothing. They were the ones that she could be truly comfortable around. They were her closest friends, her brothers, her world.
When they left, she had put up a brave front, and then promised that she would visit them.
She had yet to leave the walls of Konoha.
Tsunade kept her busy, trying to keep the young Kunoichi's mind off things better left forgotten, but even being overworked had its toll on Sakura. For every high, there was a down, and as soon as she fell into her dingy apartment the crash would come, her mind full of her loss.
Puffing a strand of pink hair away from her cheek, Sakura tensed as an unfamiliar chakra invaded her privacy. Whoever it was, she was not appreciative of their intrusion. Their feel silently walked into her vision, revealing the edge of a loosed leather coat, and thick black boots.
The mystery person deigned to just ominously stand over her with a thick and quiet air, and she turned away, facing the other direction.
"Is there something you need?"
Maybe the person wasn't so unfamiliar. She had a feeling she had heard a voice like that somewhere. Wracking her brain, through her much loved memories, Sakura came up with nothing. Sighing, resigned to the fact that her solitude had been quite gloriously shattered, she sat up, finally looking at the person looming over her.
To say that she was surprised would be an understatement. She was shocked enough that she couldn't even speak for a few moments, just stare, with a clenched jaw.
"I have a message for you." Gaara said.
Sakura, shaken from another trip to the past, nodded, "You're the KazeKage, why would you be here?"
A little breeze fluttered through the young mans unruly, rust-colored hair, and he looked down upon her impassively. It was then that she began to wonder if he even remembered her. They had met a few times, most of those being run-ins at the Chuunin exams, as well as a few other times, most notably the time they had saves him. Maybe, as she was never a person in the center of attention, he had never gleaned her notice. She was just a mere shadow compared to her companions anyway, nothing special, nothing that could incite curiosity.
"I am here on official business. I was asked to tell you something."
She cocked her head to the side, her eyes—matching the tree under which she resided—telling him to go on.
"Naruto wishes to tell you that they are fine. Suna, he says, is better once you get used to it."
Crashes were always hard to deal with, and having to face the fact that they were gone so head one was harder than she ever thought. Before Sakura knew what was going on she blinking back tears, her lips trembling as questions bubbled up.
"What… are they doing?"
"Acting as Shinobi."
She was silent for a moment, eyes locked on the ground as though it could save her; release her from the emotions that threatened to overwhelm her.
"Not getting in too much trouble?" She asked, a strained laugh forcing itself out of her constricting throat.
"You think too much."
She glared up at him, "What do you mean? I'm just worried about them! Who wouldn't be?"
Realizing the stupidity of her rhetorical question she hunched her shoulders while clenching her fist into her lap, "Never mind. It doesn't matter anyway."
To think that she was surprised when she had first Gaara was nothing to her response when he sat down next to her. The gourd he wore was leaned against the tree, him resting against the trunk next to it. Letting out her breath in a dejected puff, Sakura leaned against the tree as well.
"Do they get into a lot of trouble?"
"Do they live together?"
Gaara gave her a look, that though still hard to discern, gave her the impression that he was asking 'Are-you-crazy?'
"Do they annoy you a lot?"
She laughed, a little less tense now.
"They are annoying, aren't they? You know, there was this one time; they were competing to see who could eat more ramen. Sasuke didn't act like he was competing at first, but by the end…"
Gaara tuned her out, staring at the small grass clearing they faced. The space was calm, a timid breeze whispering through the thin stalks of green, the fluff of clouds barely covering the blue expanse of daunting sky.
As she babbled on about her two former teammates, Gaara began to wonder why he had sat down in the first place. The girl was…annoying. At least that's what he told him self.
Maybe it had something to do with her eyes. Looking at him, she had no fear or disgust. She looked at him like any other acquaintance from years earlier. She didn't even seem to hold him in contempt for the time he had tried to kill her. To her, he was just a contact to friends out of her reach. Though why they were out of her reach, he would not understand. She could easily come visit Suna, even delivering scrolls between him and Tsunade would allow her moments with the people she seemed to hold above everything else.
Interrupting another anecdote he didn't care to hear about the infamous duo, he asked his question, "Why do you not come see them?"
She was quiet for a moment.
Then her shoulders slumped, "I don't know… I guess I don't really want to leave the village. I don't want to leave the people I care about here. And," She paused, and Gaara wondered why she was telling him this, considering they barely knew one another, "And, I guess I'm afraid they won't want me around.
"They've always been linked together. They were friends, closer than anybody could ever imagine. They were strong, and they fought for each other." A little quirk of her lips showed she was trying to shove down the depression with a familiar expression, "I don't really fit in. I've always been weaker, I never take anything seriously… not the way they do. I have never…felt the pain they have. I've been sheltered all my life… I am not worth being with them."
Gaara was silent for a moment, still, almost as though he was a living statue.
"The amount of pain one feels does not account for who you can be friends with. Maybe someone like you could make them forget what they have been through."
"Maybe…" He could tell she was hesitant about that fact, but she thought it over, like polishing a rock in her head.
Gaara went to move, standing up as he swung his gourd back over his shoulder. He turned back to her as he felt her hand clasp his.
"Thank you, Gaara. I know we've never talked, and you probably don't really care either way… but you did make me feel better. Thanks."
All too aware of the feeling of her skin rubbing against his, Gaara nodded, then with a swirl of wind and sand, he was gone.
Sakura sat back, eyes focused on the pile of sand left on the soft soil, her mind mulling over the oddest conversation she had ever had.
The second time Gaara met the bright-haired Kunoichi it was in the forest outside of the Konoha gates. She appeared to be returning from a mission, her locks dull and disheveled, light shadows bracing themselves beneath her eyes. When she saw him she smiled, and the travel worn expression seemed to leak away.
"Have you come with another message?"
She had paused, slumping slightly against a thick trunk, the overcast sky casting shadows on her brow. His face remained impassive for the moment, studying her as though trying to solve a problem, unwrap an enigma that would not leave him alone.
"Naruto speaks of you a lot."
She tilted her head, a faint spark of happiness igniting at his words, "He can never keep his mouth shut."
Walking the few steps towards him, ignoring the faint brush of sand against her sun-burnt skin, she grabbed his hand.
"Sit down, let's talk."
He sat, removing himself from her hold and distancing himself a few more inches away.
"You talk too much." He said, "Like Naruto."
Sakura pouted, a mock expression meant to put him at ease, to make herself seem friendly.
"You don't need to insult me."
He was about to open his mouth when she interrupted him, "And if you say the shoe fits, I swear…"
She left the threat hanging, and Gaara couldn't help but feel amused. Did this practically inexperienced Chuunin mean to challenge him? Was she insane?
No, she was just…odd. Maybe she wasn't quite right, mentally. Any other person would never have dared to talk to him like that. They probably wouldn't have dared to talk to him at all. Most quivered and pleased him with any string of meaningless words they could. Only a few, Temari, Kankurou, Naruto, and some more, talked to him like a person. He may be KazeKage, but there was a thin line between respect and fear. Most chose to stay in fear.
His thoughts were interrupted by the girl barely younger than him again, "Life is strange…" She said, "It is such an abstract thing."
He raised a brow, unsure as to what the point of her words was. He still chose to participate in her conversation.
"Life is far from abstract. It is simple, strait-forward, direct. There is nothing confusing about it."
She turned her eyes upon him, and even though the discussion was barely started, she was already completely immersed.
"How could you say that? Think of all the aspects in life that revolve around each and every person. Think of emotions, actions, thoughts… what are these, where are they formed? Why do we have them?"
"They are formed of our own fear. The 'aspects' of life are illusions. Living is what life is, surviving."
"Do you really think so?" She challenged, then taking a step further, "Those years of being alone… did you feel nothing but the need to survive?"
"Yes." She noticed the barely notable pause of hesitation, but moved on.
"What about Naruto? Sasuke? Even me. What about every other thing in this world. Think of all the different perspectives and mind sets. What about all of those?"
"Illusion… the only reality is death."
Sakura sighed, "You're hopeless."
The silence was punctuated only by the slight chirp of birds. Gaara had yet to get used to such everyday sounds. In the past, before he changed, he had never heard the sound of wildlife. What followed him was silence and death, the scent of blood and fear permeated him so thoroughly that the forest would quiver in terror.
Not anymore though, he took pleasure in the sound of living things going about living, unaware of the danger they were in.
"What about love?" Gaara turned his attention back to the girl as she hugged herself, legs scrunched to her chest.
"Love is something that certainly merges into our lives. It is something that constitutes death and life, it is something that makes live the way we do."
"Love is just a fall back in weakness. It is something that humans search for to find protection and stability, it is a thin veil to hide reality."
"Well, have you loved?"
Gaara remained silent, his shadowed eyes narrowing, "I don't need to feel love to know the truth of it."
"You don't know the truth of it if you have never felt it. You need to experience something before you can for a rationalized opinion."
"Feeling dilutes the truth."
"Feeling is how we live."
He was tired of this conversation; he didn't want to further it. Sakura looked up at him as he stood, he hadn't changed since the last few months she had seen him, other than his height has lengthened just a bit.
"I need to return to Suna."
"Will you come back here?"
"Say 'yes', I need some more messages from Naruto."
And so he disappeared in a flurry of sand.
Speaking with Gaara was a strange thing, though that seemed to be what Sakura classified many things as now days. Never in her wildest dreams of the future had she even thought of becoming friendly with the KazeKage. He was a murderer changed, someone far away, untouchable. Her younger self had been consumed with Sasuke, as she grew older she became consumed with self pity.
That seemed to fade away though, with the visits Gaara placed upon her at random times. He would come, normally having to speak with Tsunade on some matter or another, then he would leave, after talking with her for a short time. She wished he would sometimes stay longer, but that was not meant to be, a KazeKage can only be gone for so long.
Each and every time though, he came under the guise of having a 'message' from Naruto. Maybe the first time he approached her he really did he have a message, she couldn't figure out why he would approach otherwise, but as the visits flew by, it became patently obvious that the 'messages' were just covers.
She did ask how Naruto and Sasuke were doing, but it seemed to be mostly the same every time. Both of them fought, they were annoying, and they were still the closest of friends.
Odd, she thought, how, though she spoke to Gaara at some length of her former teammates, she never actually learned anything about their state of being. She was sure that there had to be some exceptional stories about them, but she hadn't heard a detail yet.
And, well, that didn't really seem to bother her.
"You are quiet today." He said as they walked down the busy street. It was their first time in public together, and it was a little stressful. It seemed Gaara's infamy had preceded him, and an unnatural path dissolved before them. The curious and distrustful eyes prickled her skin, though it seemed to have no effect on the young man next to her.
"More business with the Hokage?"
He nodded, "Yes."
"You know, it's been a while since your last visit. Is Suna okay?"
"It is fine."
"Have there been a lot of missions for your shinobi? You were worried about that before, weren't you?"
His pale green eyes settled onto her as they walked, "There is an acceptable amount."
Sakura's sigh was cut off though as she felt a shove against her shoulder. Balance wavering she crashed against Gaara, his sand catching her in a tangible touch. Catching herself, Sakura turned back at the offending figure, "Hey, Jackass! Watch where you going!"
Her eyes widened as she noticed the sand wrapping around his ankles, making him fall to the ground, face first. The kunoichi laughed and turned back to her pillar of support.
"Thanks! Stupid jerk didn't know what hit him!" his face changed form ominous, in the other mans direction, to soft as it turned to her.
They continued walking, Sakura carrying the conversation; it wasn't until later that they noticed that she was still holding onto him.
A/N: This is so hard… Normally it's not that hard for me to write stuff, but I had a lot of trouble with this. Anyway, this is not the end, there should be maybe one or two more parts… this was just kind of like an intro. It will be a while before I can update though, I'm going on vacation, and unfortunately I won't have computer access (being on a boat in the middle of the Pacific… kind of.)
This was my first Gaara fic, and he is a difficult character to pin down. I've been reading a lot of his fics, and I've read up to, like, vol 36 of Naruto… but still.
I'll try my best though. Thanks to those of you who read and review. You really do make me happy. Hopefully the nest part will longer and a little more interesting and fluffy and angsty and all that good stuff.
Utill next time,