I'M SORRY!!! i know it's been forever since i've updated and i thank you all for being so patient with me! i finally got a day off of work and school and homework so i got a chance to write this last chapter.
i hope you all enjoy it and thank you ALL for the wonderful support and reviews!
LOVE YOU ALL! it's been a wonderful trip...


The temperature dropped drastically.
So much so that in the time period of 24 hours, Sakura found herself trapped in her apartment as the rest of the world was covered in ice. The rain that had fallen the previous night had frozen and made everything an icy deathtrap for all that dared venture into it.
The roads and sidewalks were paved in ice, the cars were sheltered under an inch of solid frost making it so that their owners couldn't get into them.

Sakura stared helplessly out of her window as the wind and frozen tree branches cracked and moaned at her in mock voices, taunting her to leave, daring her to leave her safe refuge in order to see Gaara.

And she wanted to.

She needed to.

She had to…

She knew that if she were to not show up today then Gaara would flip out once again; especially since she had promised him that she would come in early again. Anxiously looking at the clock, she noted that she was already late. She knew that Gaara would take this the wrong way and file her under his Uncle, paralleling her absence with that of abandoning him.

She didn't want to lose him now, especially since she just won him over.

Steeling her will and ditching her doubts, she bundled up in layers, put on her winter boots with the best traction and made her way down to the hospital.

It was a short drive, but a long walk. A walk that she was willing to endure in order to keep Gaara's love and trust.

Sakura's arms switched from hugging her coat tighter into her to flying out to her sides in order to keep her balance on the slippery sidewalk. Her eyes flicked up and down in order to keep an eye on what was in front of her and to watch the tree branches that hovered above her, threatening to come raining down on her at the slightest wind.

The ice that often tapped her outer layer was a constant reminder of the threat that loomed above her. Her skin prickled at the anticipation of an ice covered branch piercing it, impaling her to the sidewalk.

Laughing at herself, Sakura said, "Sorry I'm late Gaara, I got impaled by a tree branch on the way to see you. I had to chew my own arm off, but I made it here alive…so how are you doing?"

Laughing again at her own silliness, she shook her head of her thoughts and continued her trek to the hospital.

She was halfway there, lost in her own thoughts and memories of the night before and all that had transpired during it when what she had feared happened. A loud crack echoed through the air, breaking Sakura out of her thoughts just in time to notice a giant dead branch crashing down above her.

Jumping out of its way, Sakura narrowly escaped the devastating limb only to twist her ankle in the process.
Letting out a high pitched yelp, she fell to the ground grasping her hurt ankle.

Keeping her eyes trained for any more falling branches, she quickly assessed her injury and decided that it wasn't broken, just a bad sprain.
Wincing and keeping in her whimpers of pain, she slowly stood up and began making her way to the hospital once again.
Her ankle screamed with every step for her to stop and rest for a while, or even to just start heading home.
She knew that going home was her best option, but at this point the hospital was about two blocks closer. She also knew that if she were to stop and rest like she wanted to, her body would slowly stiffen up, which would make her trip even harder.

Cursing at her clumsiness and at the weather, she hobbled down the sidewalk.

Wild fantasies of Gaara finding her on the way there filled her head. She could see him walking down the sidewalk, hands shoved into his pockets and shoulders hunched over to guard his neck from the winter wind. He would see her and run to her, sweeping her off of her feet and carry her the rest of the way.

Sighing at her fantasies, she told herself that they were impossible since Gaara never left the hospital.
He probably had given up on her at this point and wasn't even expecting her to come at all.

Stripping herself of her blind hope, Sakura's ears picked up on a loud buzzing and humming coming up from behind her.
It sounded like a snowmobile of some sort.
Although she knew it was impossible, she silently hoped that it was Gaara once again.

The sound got louder and louder until it was right on top of her. The driver of the snowmobile rushed out in front of her and cut her off. Her heart skipped a beat since she knew that she wasn't in a good position to flee from the possible attacker, she braced herself for the worst.

The driver slowly pulled off his helmet and Sakura's heart dropped to her stomach when she noticed who it was.

"Sasuke." she said unenthusiastically. "What brings you out here?"

Gracing her with an arrogant smirk, he responded, "Well, knowing you, I knew that you would try to make it to the hospital today. So I decided to cruise by your place to see if you wanted a ride. When I got there, no one was home but your car was still there, so I decided to drive around until I found you. Looks like I came just in time too…"

Sasuke trailed off as his eyes slowly traveled down her body and rested on her hurt ankle that she was trying to not put her weight on.

Sakura's face heated with anger as she stared at him.

What an arrogant asshole! she screamed to herself.

She silently prayed for a branch to fall down on top of him and ruin either him or his bike…but she hoped that both would get damaged.

"How did you know where I lived?" Sakura asked him as she crossed her arms over her chest trying to look as threatening as she could in her current physical state.

Sasuke's smirk grew wider as he said, "I know a lot about you."

Motioning to the back of his snowmobile, he said, "Hop on, I'll get you to the hospital in no time flat."

Not wanting to join him, she hesitated for a moment.
Knowing that by letting him drive her, she would owe him a favor. Also, if Gaara saw her arrive on the back of a snowmobile with Sasuke, he would flip out.
But she also knew that there was no way that she would be able to make it to the hospital in the condition that she was in…

Taking a deep breath, she hobbled her way over to Sasuke and reluctantly sat down behind him.

Sasuke's smirk grew to a smug smile as he turned sideways to ask, "Why are you going to the hospital anyways? Didn't Tsunade call and tell you that you should stay home?"

Sakura nodded and replied, "She did, but I made a promise to Gaara that I would come today."

Sasuke huffed as he put his helmet back on, "I don't know why you promise that psycho anything. He's just going to use it against you in the end."

If you only knew…Sakura thought to herself.

Turning back around, Sasuke told her to hang on before he accelerated, forcing Sakura to reach out and hold on to him in order to not fly off of the back.
Deep down inside, she knew that he had done that on purpose and she knew that under that black helmet he was smiling like a madman.

When they arrived at the hospital, Sasuke helped her off of the snowmobile by picking her up bridal style.

Much to her horror, he carried her up the stairs and threw open the hospital doors like that as well.
As soon as she was through the doors, she cursed at her luck because Tsunade was there talking to Gaara in front of the metal gate that locked the patients in.

Her eyes met his for a second before she dropped hers to the ground burned by the ire that fueled his.

"Put me down." she muttered to Sasuke, and to her surprise, he did just that.

"Sakura, I thought I told you to stay home." Tsunade said as she walked over to Sakura supporting her under her arm.

"I know you did, but…" she trailed off as she looked up at Gaara once again, "I made a promise."

He just stared at her unmoving.
His eyes drifted to Sasuke and then back to her in a silent question.
Sakura shook her head slightly to let him know that it wasn't what it looked like.

"What happened to you?" Tsunade asked her as she looked Sakura over.

Sakura could only imagine the mess that she looked like.
Her hair was windblown wild from the ride there, her clothes were wet and wrinkled, and she could barely put any weight on her ankle.

"It's a long story," she said as she rubbed the back of her head in embarrassment.

"Let's get you cleaned up and looked at." Tsunade said as she ushered Sakura towards the gate.

Much to everyone's surprise, Gaara walked up to them and picked Sakura up bridal style and headed to one of the examination rooms.

Tsunade was too stunned to notice the way that Sakura's arms wrapped around Gaara's neck or how her head rested against his chest…Sasuke, however, noticed immediately.

Sakura stopped the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes.

"Gaara…" she started, "I'm sorry I'm late…I…"

"Do you still think I'm stupid, Sakura?"

Mouth hanging open, she shook her head 'no'.

"I didn't expect you were going to come today anyways. Especially after I told Tsunade to call and tell you to not come in."

"You told her to do that?" Sakura asked stunned.

He nodded and said, "I knew that you would try to make it out here and I wanted to prevent…this…from happening." he motioned his head towards her ankle and she blushed once again.

"It wouldn't have mattered either way, there was nothing going to stop me from seeing you today anyways."

Gaara's jaw clenched at her words and he muttered, "Why did he carry you in?"

He placed her on an examination table and delicately untied her boot and slipped it off without agitating her ankle further.

"He found me walking, right after I slipped and did this to myself. I didn't want to ride with him but I knew it was the quickest way here…" she let the rest remain unspoken between them, but Gaara nodded in understanding.

She felt as a weight was lifted from her shoulders with that simple nod and smiled at him.

Taking a chance, she reached out and brushed some of the unruly red hair out of Gaara's face.
He leaned his head in slightly to her hand.

Just like a moth drawn to the warmth, she thought to herself and she smiled at him wider.

He felt warm, but not the usual warmth that most people possess, it was a fevered warmth.
A warmth that threatened him with the breakout of a cold sweat.

"What were you talking to Tsunade about?" she asked as she continued to pet him.

Shrugging he replied, "I wanted to go outside, but she wouldn't let me without wearing a coat, so we were arguing about it."

Sakura shook her head and laughed at him, "You'll freeze to death out there one of these days."

"I wouldn't mind it so much…I like the cold, it would be a good way to die."

"Am I interrupting something?" a bitter voice said from the doorway, and Sakura looked up to see Sasuke looming there.

Sakura watched as Gaara's face darkened and heard a low growl come from him.

Rubbing a part of his arm that was hidden from Sasuke's view, she tried to calm him down as she said, "Not at all, Gaara was just helping me with my boot."

Sasuke huffed again and muttered, "I'm sure."

Tsunade joined them in the room and taped Sakura's ankle up.
Just as Sakura had thought, it wasn't broken, only sprained.

Sasuke loomed in the doorway the entire time, glaring daggers at Gaara who was returning the same look.
Feeling the tension in the air, Sakura stretched and thanked Tsunade.

Then she stood up gingerly and said, "Come on Gaara, I think we have a session that I'm late for."

Gaara stood up from squatting against the wall and supported Sakura with one of his arms.
As they walked past Sasuke, he gave him a threatening sideways glance before they headed to his room.

Once they reached Gaara's door, Sakura started to hobble in with Gaara trailing behind her when she heard Sasuke say, "Sakura, can I talk to you for a second."

Gaara spun around and glared at Sasuke, poised to attack him at any second.

"What do you want Sasuke?" she asked as she peered around Gaara.

"I just told you, I want to talk to you for a second." Looking at Gaara he emphasized, "Alone."

Weighing her options, Sakura told Gaara to wait for her in his room.
Gaara gave her a skeptical look but then slowly turned and slouched his way to his room.

When his door was closed behind him, Sasuke said, "I see you have him on a tight leash. I didn't think that beast could be tamed so well…I wonder what Tsunade would say about it."

"I wonder what Tsunade would say about you stalking me." Sakura shot back at him.

She could feel anger building up inside of her stomach and spreading throughout her body in her veins.

"She won't mind so much after I tell her what I've discovered…" he said smirking evilly.

"Oh yeah? And what's that?" Sakura asked, crossing her arms in front of her.

Leaning against the wall and picking at one of the holes in it, Sasuke shrugged and asked, "So how long have you been fucking him?"

The heat that was once residing inside of her was extinguished by the glacial feeling of fear and panic as she realized the damage Sasuke could do with such knowledge.

"I don't know what you're talking about." Sakura responded with a choked voice.

Chuckling quietly Sasuke said, "You know exactly what I'm talking about."

She had to get away from him, before she betrayed the secret that was between Gaara and her completely.

"Gaara's waiting on me…" she said as she turned around to open the door.

"Wouldn't want to keep him waiting…" Sasuke said as he walked closer to her.

Pressing himself against her back, he whispered into her ear, "Don't worry Sakura, your secret is safe with me. That is, if you do everything I want you to do…"

"And what's that?" Sakura hissed as her skin crawled at his touch.

Sasuke leaned into her hair and took a deep breath and said, "I think you know."

Forcing back the bile that was building up in her throat, Sakura pushed him off of her and said, "No way."

"You say that now, but we'll see just how far you'll go in order to keep this secret of yours."

And with that said, he turned away and walked down the hallway.

Sakura watched him leave, her eyes wide in horror.

How does he know? she thought to herself. There's just no way that he could know…

When she turned around to Gaara's door once again, she found him standing in it staring at her.

"He knows…" she whispered, staring at him with eyes brimming with tears.

Gaara shifted his eyes from her to the retreating back of Sasuke.

"Don't worry about it." Gaara said. "He doesn't have any solid proof, it's just your word against his. And who do you think Tsunade is going to believe?"

Reassured by his words, Sakura nodded and walked into his room.
Gaara glared hard at the shrinking form of Sasuke before he closed the door behind him.

Each day seemed to get colder and colder.
The weatherman reported that this winter was the coldest one ever recorded in the town's history.

Sakura arrived early and stayed late everyday. She would arrive with the anticipation of seeing Gaara and leave with the smell of him all over her.
She found that he was so starved for physical contact and affection that every chance they got alone together he was immediately all over her touching her skin, hair, and clothes.

She had even given him one of her favorite decorative hairpins that she had for special occasions and he carried it around with him everywhere he went just like a child carries around his teddy bear.
She didn't even have to ask him if he had it because she knew that it was in his pocket. She often teased him saying that the only affliction that he had was one of being depraved and that she could easily cure him if he would only just leave the hospital and move into her apartment with her.

He would refuse of course, telling her that this was his home and he was never leaving.

Frustration happened almost everyday for Sakura.
Although they had grown much closer, it seemed that he still hesitated to tell her things. He would often remind her that she couldn't help him. That it would be easier for him to make her go crazy before she could ever make him sane.

One night, as Sakura was quickly pulling her clothes back on, Gaara said, "Do you see yet?"

"See what?" she asked confused, checking the door to make sure no one was looking in.

"That you're just like me."

Pausing, Sakura turned to look at him confused. "What are you talking about?"

"You're crazy, just like me."

Shaking her head and laughing she responded, "Haven't you ever heard that opposites attract?"

"They also repel." he shot back at her.

"What are you trying to say Gaara?" she asked, getting frustrated once again.

"I'm saying that if you're not careful, you'll end up in here with me, forced to look out of the windows as the world changes and goes on without you."

"You're not forced to stay here, Gaara.You can leave whenever you want to."

"There's nothing out there for me."

"I am."

Gaara huffed at her, "For now…"

"Gaara…" Sakura said as she sat back down next to him on his bed. "I love you, and I'm not going anywhere."

Huffing at her again, he responded, "Love is just an excuse to get hurt."

"Then why do you allow me to love you, and love me back in return?"

Darkness clouded his eyes as he said, "Because it's also an excuse to hurt."

"You want to hurt me?" Sakura asked indignant and panicked.

He didn't answer her, he just stared at the wall in front of him.

Sakura sat next to him and did the exact same thing. Thoughts swirled around in her head as she thought about what he had just told her.

"These thoughts, these feelings of peace and contentment…they're overwhelming." he said.

Sakura gave him a sideways glance and noticed for the first time that his eyes were wider then usual and that he was clawing at his chest right above his heart.

"It's overwhelming…" he repeated, "so much so that it hurts."

Sakura got off of the bed and kneeled down in front of him on the ground.
His eyes watched her move and focused on her with such desire and paranoia that Sakura almost flinched.

"Come with me." she said taking his hands so that she could stop his clawing before he hurt himself again.
He shook his head and looked at his hands in hers.

"Come with me," she repeated. "Tomorrow I'll check you out and you can come to my apartment. Not to stay forever, I just want you to see what it's like away from this place. I want you to see what your life could be like…"

"If I agree, will you stop bugging me about it?" he asked.

Sakura nodded as her eyes filled with hope.
Gaara simply nodded in agreement and she stood up from off of the floor and jumped on him, pulling him into a tight hug.

"You won't regret it Gaara, I promise."

It was a delayed response, but Gaara's arms eventually snaked their away around her to return her embrace.

"But you will…" he said. "Taking me out of here won't result in anything good."

"We'll see about that." she winked.

She left shortly after their promise had been made.
Rushing home, she cleaned her apartment immediately. She wanted it to look nice for Gaara, so much so that he was encouraged to stay, if only to escape the shabbiness of the mental hospital.

The next morning, she arrived before the sun even threatened the heavy snow with its presence.

Sakura was surprised to see that Sasuke's car was there, but she dismissed it by remembering why she was there so early. She wanted to fill out Gaara's temporary release papers and practice her speech that she was going to give Tsunade in order to convince the woman to sign them and also to tell her that after her internship was done, she wanted to work at the mental hospital full-time.
She also planned on helping Gaara pack up the few belongings he had so that he was all ready to go.

The sooner she got him out of there, the better.

The hospital was darker then usual.
Sakura blamed it on the winter and its lack of sun and warmth. Everything seemed so much gloomier to her during this season...

Her footsteps echoed down the hallway as she made her way to her destinations.
Climbing up the stairs in order to get to the office where the release papers were held, Sakura quickly grabbed a sheet and a pen and started to make her way to Gaara's room.

When she returned to the staircase, she noticed a shadow standing by them.

"Gaara?" she questioned the dark figure.

The figure moved and said, "No…not Gaara."

Sakura's heart stopped when she realized who it was.

"What are you doing here Sasuke?" she asked as she made her way to the staircase, the quicker she was by him the better.

"I've been noticing that you get here earlier and earlier everyday…I wonder why that is."

"It's none of your business." she said as she tried to pass him.

Putting her foot out to go down the first stair, Sakura was jerked back by Sasuke grabbing her arm and pulled her into him.

"Do you love him?" he hissed at her.

"Let me go." she said as she tried to free her arm from his tightening grip.

"Do you love him?" he said louder through gritted teeth.

"Sasuke, you're hurting me. Let me go!"

She shouted the last part hoping that someone would hear her and come to investigate what was going on.

A smile that chilled Sakura's soul slowly crept onto Sasuke's face and her head was jerked back with such force that she winced at the pain that shot through her neck.

"I haven't even begun to hurt you yet." he whispered into her ear before he threw her against the wall, pinning her against it with his hand still pulling on her hair.

Sakura tried to scream but Sasuke hit her hard in the face before she could get a sound out.

Using his forearm to press her neck, he let go of her hair and reached into his pocket and pulled out a syringe.
Waving the syringe playfully in front of Sakura's face, he said, "Do you know what this is? Nembutal. I was going to use it on Gaara but I figured it would be more fun if I used it on you instead…"

Sakura tried to breath in order to scream once again, but Sasuke just pressed on her throat harder.

"Scream and I'll kill him."

Hopelessness filled her.
She knew that the night guard would never come if he didn't hear a reason to, and Gaara didn't even know that she was hear yet.

She was alone.

Alone with Sasuke…

She let the hopelessness fill her and her whole body relaxed against the wall, submitting to the defeat.
Sasuke laughed and licked the side of her face and Sakura felt the bile build up again.

What would Gaara think if he saw me like this? she asked herself.
He would see me as weak and pathetic. He would tell me that he resisted his uncle when he was only six, so why couldn't I have resisted Sasuke now?
He would see me as weak…

Something exploded inside of Sakura at this revelation.
She wasn't weak, and she didn't want Gaara to see her as such.

Wrenching the needle away from the unsuspecting Sasuke, she jammed it into his throat and injected the drug into his system.

"I told you to get OFF OF ME!" she screamed as she pushed him off of her.

Everything seemed to go into slow motion.
Sakura watched as Sasuke stumbled backwards from the force of her push.
She watched as his arms flailed at his sides in order to keep his balance.

Why is he doing that? she thought, and then the realization hit her.

The stairs.

She rushed forward to grab his shirt, but it was too late.
She felt as the material brushed against her fingertips.
She watched and listened in horror as Sasuke screamed and fell down the stairs.
Every time his body hit a stair, a loud crunching and popping noise was heard.
By the time he was at the bottom of the stairs, he was no longer screaming and his limbs and neck were twisted in unnatural ways.

Sakura only stared at his mangled body.

What have I just done? she thought to herself in horror.

Sensing that someone else was in the room, her eyes drifted to the left of Sasuke's body and found Gaara staring up at her from the bottom of the staircase.

He didn't say anything, they just stared at one another in disbelief and horrific understanding.

The moment was broken by lights flickering on down the hallway as the night guard came to see where the noise had come from.

Gaara looked at her once again and said, "Go."

"W…what?" she asked him.

"Leave." Gaara said again, motioning for her to run away.

"But…what about you?"

"Don't worry about me. Just get out of here before anyone sees you. Don't tell anyone you were here today, and don't come in until someone calls you."

"But Gaara…I…"

"GO!" he yelled, and Sakura's body listened to him while her mind protested.

She didn't hear him, but as she retreated he whispered a quiet, "I love you..." as she left.

She dashed down the upstairs hallway as quickly as she could due to her ankle and ran down the stairs on the opposite side of the hospital, making her way out to her car and into the freezing winter air.

She sped home and locked her apartment door behind her, collapsing against it as sobs racked her body.

I just killed someone! she yelled in her mind as she pulled on her hair.

Picking up the phone, she fingers automatically dialed a number.
The phone rang a few times before she heard the familiar, tired voice of her best friend, Ino.

"Hello?" the blonde girl mumbled tiredly into the phone.

"Ino…" Sakura whispered.

"Well, well, well, look who it is! If it isn't the girl that doesn't return phone calls. He had better be worth it." Ino's voice said, suddenly awake and full of anger.

Sakura only remained silent.

"I figured you found this guy that you totally fell in love with, I mean, why else wouldn't you return any of my calls? I just hope he was worth ditching your best friend for…"

This wasn't what Sakura wanted to hear at all.
She sobbed into the phone as Ino ranted at her.

"Sakura?" Ino said, suddenly sympathetic. "I'm only joking with you…what's wrong?"

Sakura couldn't answer her, she just kept crying.

"I'm on my way." Ino said and immediately hung up the phone.

When Ino got there, Sakura broke down and told her everything.

She told her how she had gotten the internship at the mental hospital, how she was put in charge of Gaara, she told her about the relationship that her and Gaara had, how Sasuke was practically stalking her, she retold how she had almost been raped by him, how she had pushed him down the stairs, and how Gaara had taken the fall for her.

When she was done, Ino was holding her friend so tightly that Sakura was having a hard time breathing between her sobs.

"It was self-defense, Sakura." Ino said, trying to comfort her. "You can't get into trouble for that."

Sakura shook her head, "But no one was there to witness it! They'll just put the puzzle pieces together and say that I drugged him and threw him down the stairs!"

"Gaara saw it…" Ino tried.

"They won't believe him! They see him as a killer as well! No one would even listen to him…"

Ino sat in silence as she rubbed Sakura's back.

"I just wanted to be happy…" she sobbed into her hands.

Both girls jumped when Sakura's apartment phone rang.
Exchanging glances, Sakura slowly walked over to it and picked it up.

Clearing her throat, she said in as steady of a voice as she could muster, "Hello?"

"Sakura, it's Tsunade. Something has happened at the hospital and I need you to get here as soon as you can."

Sakura nodded and said, "I'm on my way," and hung up the phone.

Ino walked Sakura out to her car and gave her one more reassuring hug.

"Be strong." she whispered to her friend before Sakura closed her car door and sped to the hospital.

Police cars and an ambulance were parked in front of the main doors and Tsunade was standing outside talking to an officer and gesturing wildly.

Sakura rushed up to the woman and asked what happened.

"Gaara pushed Sasuke down the stairs!" she yelled as tears threatened to spill from her eyes. "I thought you said he was stable!?"

"He was…" Sakura said, "I mean, he is. Sasuke must have done something to him."

Tsunade shook her head and said, "I don't know what happened, but Gaara's gone."

"What?!" Sakura yelled as her panicked state became heightened.

"He's gone!" Tsunade repeated. "The night guard found him standing over Sasuke's body and then Gaara ran away and out the doors. He could be anywhere!"

Sakura immediately scanned the area around her looking for a clue to where Gaara had gone.
She noticed policemen doing the same exact thing. She looked down at the snow but knew that Gaara was way too smart to leave tracks behind him.

The wind suddenly picked up, bringing promise of another storm and Sakura pulled her coat in tighter.
It was so cold out…and Tsunade said that Gaara just ran out of the doors, and from what she could remember, he was only wearing his usual jeans and a t-shirt.

He'll freeze out here. she thought to herself as she scanned more frantically.

"Tsunade, do you mind if I stay here until we find him?" she asked.

Tsunade shook her head 'no' and told her that she could stay for as long as she wanted to.

They searched all day for Gaara, not finding a single trace of him.

Sakura went to his room when her whole body was numb from searching for him outside in the cold all day.

Please be safe and warm…she thought to herself as she paced around his room.

Trying to keep her mind off of his possible frozen corpse, Sakura picked up her Poe book that she had let him borrow and flipped through it. The book was filled with underlined verses that Gaara had singled out.
Flipping through the pages, she let it rest on one and read the verse that was underlined, it read:

"I am up
Here like a roman statue.
I will stand
'Till death hath made me marble!"

Sakura slammed the book shut as a vision of Gaara frozen to death filled her mind.

Laying down on his bed, she hugged his flat pillow into her and buried her face into it, letting his scent fill her lungs.

She soon fell into a fitful sleep…

The next day, the cops had expanded their search to a wider perimeter…but Sakura knew that Gaara was still on the hospital grounds.
He was so reluctant to leave, why would he leave now?

She traveled outside by herself, scanning the hospital grounds once again.

Going to the tree that she had first found Gaara hiding in, she leaned herself against the trunk and squeezed her eyes shut as tears ran down her cheeks.
The tears slowed down as the cold air almost froze them to her skin. Wiping them off of her face immediately, Sakura dropped her eyes to the ground and noticed something odd.

There was a single red dot in the snow. Bending down, she took off her gloves and ran her hand over it.
Standing up once again, her eyes noticed another one on the tree trunk that she was leaning on.

Her heart raced. She knew that she had to look up into the tree, but yet, she didn't want to.
She was afraid of what she would find up there.

As she turned her head slowly, her scream was drowned in her throat by the sob that came out with it.

There was Gaara hiding in a grouping of tight branches that concealed him from anyone that would looking for him.

His skin was blue.

Sakura scrambled up the tree to get to him and pulled off her coat and covered his body with it.
She frantically rubbed him in order to get some warmth back into him, but she knew it was too late.

Gaara was dead, and it was all her fault.

The haunted cries that escaped from her blended in with the wind and was carried away.

Pulling him into her arms tighter, she rocked back and forth and sobbed louder as she heard the cracking noise of his frozen bare skin peel away from the ice on the tree.

Her tears fell from her face and landed into his hair only to freeze there, making him appear even colder then he had been when she had found him.

She felt her life and sanity slipping away with every tear that fell, falling onto the one person that it all belonged to.

Tsunade's words returned to her, "Gaara is good at hiding, he'll only be found when he wants to be found."

"Why?!? She yelled at him shaking his frozen corpse. "Why are you so good at hiding?! Why didn't you want to be found?! So what if they had found you? What were they going to do?! They just would have admitted you here without release! Isn't that what you wanted!?!?"

She didn't realize just how much she really needed him and how much her life had revolved around him until he was gone.

I never got to tell him, she sobbed to herself, I never got to tell him how much he really meant to me. Maybe if I had told him he wouldn't have stayed behind, he would have ran away with me and then he'd still be here and alive…

She stayed there and cried until the tears refused to fall and her skin was numb from the freezing winter air.

She pulled him away from her slightly to get a better look at him.

His eyes were closed and he was smiling.
She smiled bitterly at the irony that his face was forever frozen with a facial expression that she had rarely seen from him.

I wonder what he's smiling about… she thought as she traced her swollen fingers over his lips.

The same lips that barely a day ago covered every inch of her skin.
The same lips that had claimed hers so hungrily...begging for her love and touch.

Remembering the blood on the ground, she looked him over to see where he had been bleeding from.
She didn't find anywhere that was scratched or punctured…but his hand. There was blood on his hand.

It looked like his hand was closed tightly around something.

Prying it open, she found her hairclip.
He had held onto her hair clip the entire time, squeezing it so tightly that it had punctured his hand, making it bleed.

"Gaara…" she sobbed, pulling him into her once again. "I'm so sorry…please forgive me."

Sakura heard Tsunade calling for her, but she didn't move from where she was. She just sat in the tree holding Gaara to her, hoping that she could somehow revive him.

Tsunade screamed when she found Sakura. She rushed away and returned in record time holding a blanket and with a policeman following close behind her.

They tried to talk her out of the tree, but Sakura only held onto Gaara's body tighter and shook her head 'no' over and over again.

She wouldn't be separated from him, not now, not ever.

It wasn't until a few policemen and Tsunade herself pulled Sakura out of the tree and pried Gaara away from her that they were separated.

Sakura screamed and kicked at Tsunade as she wrapped a blanket around her and dragged her back inside of the building.

Once inside, Sakura refused to talk to anyone. She just sat in one the chairs in Tsunade's office staring at the cup of tea that Tsunade had offered her.

The police tried to get Sakura to talk, but she just stared ahead at the walls never answering their questions.

It wasn't until Tsunade was discussing where Gaara should be buried that she spoke.

"Here." she said, interrupting the argument they were having. "He should be buried here. It's what he would have wanted."

Tsunade nodded in understanding and made the arrangements.

After everyone had left, Tsunade turned to Sakura and said, "Why don't you go home? There's nothing else you can do for now. I'll call you and tell you when the burial is."

"I am home." Sakura said as she stared ahead of her.

Tsunade shook her head once again, and left Sakura sitting where she was.

Eventually, Sakura made her way to Gaara's room.
Once there, she sat on the bed and stared at the walls of the room.

They're not so boring after all, she thought to herself.

She refused to leave his room.

She refused to eat anything.

She refused to talk to anyone.

At Gaara's burial, Tsunade and Sakura were the only ones there.
Temari and Kankuro hadn't shown up, Sakura wondered if anyone had even bothered to tell them that their brother was dead.

When they lowered his casket into the ground by the tree that he had died in, Sakura placed her apartment key in with it.

"For the things we could have had and never did." she said quietly.

Tsunade turned and walked slowly back inside leaving Sakura there alone.

"You're home Gaara. The coldness that constantly threatened to consume you finally did…and you're home."

Tears started to flow from her eyes again as she thought about burying herself in with him.

After the burial, Sakura never talked to anyone again.

Tsunade let her stay in Gaara's room and eventually called Ino to see if she could help.

When Sakura refused to even talk to Ino, Tsunade brought the crying blonde girl back to her office and asked if she knew anything that Sakura might not have told her.

Ino told her everything.
She told Tsunade about her relationship with Gaara and what had happened between her and Sasuke.

Tsunade was shocked that she had let something like that slip under her watchful eye, but the more she thought about it, the more it made sense.
She figured there was no point in yelling or punishing the only remaining offender since she was being punished enough already.

A month passed and Sakura still wasn't improving.
Everyday she was closing in on herself, shutting out the rest of the world.

Ino stopped by to drop some of Sakura's stuff off.
She gave her some clothes, music, books, and a few other items that she thought might help Sakura get better.

Nothing did.

Sakura never changed out of the clothes that she last saw Gaara in and the only book that she read was the Poe book that he had last read.

Tsunade examined her and decided that she had had a total mental breakdown after discovering Gaara like that and admitted her into the hospital.
She let her stay in Gaara's room since she thought that it may help her get better.

Ino would visit occasionally, but after she realized that Sakura was never going to talk to her, she stopped coming.

The worst thing about being a doctor is knowing what's happening to you. Sakura thought to herself. I know I'm going crazy, I know what's going on…but I don't want to stop it. Does that make me crazy? Can a person that knows she's going crazy really be qualified as a crazy person?

The same coldness that constantly haunted Gaara's skin and touch started to seep its way into hers.
The warmness in her that had once burned him with every touch was extinguished completely and Sakura found that she liked the cold much better. It was almost blissful to her…she could see why Gaara liked it so much.

In the end it all comes back to him…she concluded. I told him that I was going to fix him, that I was the one that was going to bring him back to the real world. And he warned me, he told me he couldn't be fixed, that he was incurable…only now do I realize that he was telling the truth. He had an affliction that couldn't be cured by anyone, little did I know that it was an affliction that could rub off onto others.

He told me I was just like him…he has no idea how right he really was.

The End.