I dreamt of a fever, one that would cure me of this cold, winter-set heart

Sasuke was staring at the white walls around him trying not to loose his mind. Bright, fluorescent light washed out every color from the space until he began to doubt his own existence. He was sheltering himself deep within his mind, in corners long forgotten but not yet lost. After all, he knew this was just another one of Orochimaru's twisted tests designed to push him into mania.

He was beginning to doubt that the white reality outside was worse than the darkness in his head.

Now he's trying to find things to fill the abyssal space that dominates his hiding place. He's not surprised when nothing but muscle memory tingles through his body as nightmares begin to play behind his eyelids.

Something like desperation overtakes him as he struggles in the vastness inside himself for times past. Anything from when his world still contained light. A feverish kind of humor rises in his throat when he realizes that he's secluding himself from the brightness of the room only to seek something like it in his mind.

He doesn't have to search for long. From his mind's eye, a pair of green eyes are staring back at him with an intensity that he cannot fathom, haunting and comforting until he doesn't know what to call the emotion. Sasuke wondered caustically what the girl he'd shunned would think if she knew she was the only thing keeping him sane in this hellhole. And then he wonders if maybe the heat of her will burn away the frozen wasteland that he's trapped himself inside.

He's not sure why it doesn't surprise him that no other person from his past rushes forward to fill up his empty, aching head. All he sees is her. She's laughing. She's smiling. She's dancing. She's feeling until she glows with her emotions, she's living and loving. She's so vivid he thinks for a moment he can feel her on his skin.

The Sakura in his memories is a million things at once. Everything she feels plays across her pale, innocent face. He knows now that he was selfish and self-deluding when he rejected her time and again.

A feeling that he refuses to call regret wells up inside him at visions of what could have been. Now he's sure that the blackness of his mind is worse than the blinding white insanity of the room his sitting inside. At least there he doesn't have to face himself.

So Sasuke opens his eyes to the torture chamber, resigning himself to whatever shreds of his sanity he'll be able to retain.

I burn with reasons as to carry on

But even as the blankness burns itself onto his retinas, he knows he won't ever completely loose his grip. He's an avenger. He stands for something larger than himself, a goal that he cannot--will not die without accomplishing. Blood will be spilt before he can rest.

Itachi would die screaming, pleading and sorry for what he'd done.

As a beryl gaze invades his thoughts again he fleetingly lets himself hope that maybe, just maybe he'll survive his fight. Perhaps he'll return to Konoha then, just to see her eyes one more time.

Sasuke refuses to decide which thought urges him on more.

He cannot tell how much time has passed since he woke up in this room. But he continues to alternate between fighting the insanity around him and secluding into himself, to dreams of her.

It's the second day or maybe the third when a particularly crisp memory leads him to murmur a soft, "Sakura."

It's almost as if a switch was flipped and the room around him melts slowly back to the living quarters he's accustomed to, complete with a door.

He's too mentally exhausted to be suspicious as he prowls from the room with every intention to kill something.

Orochimaru greets him with his standard nightmarish grin. The list of assassinations that is handed to him paints a smirk of his own across his stoic lips.

Into these twisted months I plunge without a light to follow

Remorse was something Sasuke liked to think he left at the gates of his forsaken hometown. He hoped it laid rusting and wasting away along with sympathy and pity on the forest floor. He could not have been more wrong.

Orochimaru's hit list consisted of four names.

The first two were the normal fare: an overly ambitious local village elder who thought he could double-cross the Sannin and a former Sound-nin who'd had a change of heart and was running home to his Village.

A vicious horizontal swing had ended the elder before he'd even registered Sasuke's presence. After all, he is efficient. Succinct. He does not find the pleasure his fellow nukenin seem to in prolonging the deaths of his prey. They are mere means to an end, a conduit by which he will become stronger.

He doesn't care to analyze rather or not his dehumanization is worse than their total disregard. It is a pointless endeavor. He knows the even if he does reach a conclusion, it would serve him no purpose.

The second, the missing-nin, presented a paltry resistance. His panic was his end. A sloppy jutsu was easy (oh so easy) to turn back to its creator. In the end the fool died by his own hand.

As he cleaned his katana, Sasuke to himself reaffirmed that he would kill the Snake Sannin, it would not be beneficial to have to dispatch Sound-nin after Sound-nin when he set out in search of Itachi. That might slow him down.

It is the third mark that begins to make Sasuke suspicious.

The corrupt merchant, who'd been suspected of slighting Orochimaru's imports, was almost as easy to execute as the elder. As the man fell, gasping and clutching his gaping throat, he turned glazing eyes up to stare into Sasuke's. His frenzied second swipe sent the corpse's head rolling away, familiar green gaze still wide open.

The image of bloody red and emerald green shadows Sasuke for the entire week between the incident and his arrival at his next assignment.

A retired Jounin is the final mission objective. His homestead borders the Sound Country, and Kabuto seems convinced that the former-nin is a spy. Sasuke does not question orders, but the excuse seems thin even to his minimal scrutiny.

The Uchiha arrives at the humble cottage at sunset and moves in quietly and quickly. He steps silently over a row of herbs as he skirts his way through the garden at the back of the structure. Once he is in range, he centers himself and studies the chakra signatures within. When he picks up only a weak, civilian reading, he is almost ready to settle back into the forest to wait. But it occurs to him that a Jounin would or should be fully capable of masking his own energy. Determination floods his features as he calculates and forms a plan.

A quick check of the nearest window reveals it to be unlocked and he slips in without a sound. Pushing chakra into the soles of his sandals, he perches himself onto the ceiling and works his way from the bedroom into the living room. His dark eyes scan the surroundings and he is confused when he notes no traces whatsoever of any notable chakra-levels. If a Jounin lived here, even a retired one, he would leave a residual pattern on the space. He is turning to leave when he glimpses a sight that brings his mind screeching to a halt.

A short, feminine figure is toddling around in the kitchen, preparing dinner. Her hair is caught in a careless, clumsy braid. Long, distinctly pink hair.

Sasuke has advanced before he even knows what he is doing. The sound of his feet hitting the floor as he drops from the ceiling startles her into turning. His heart stops at the sight of her front.

The woman is heavily pregnant.

Her terrified scream draws his attention to her face.

Hazel brown eyes stare back at him.

Sasuke stumbles backward, out of the cabin and sets off into the surrounding trees at a run.

As he flees, all he can see are green, green eyes and long pink hair.

So I drink to stay warm and to kill selected memories, cause I just can't think anymore about that or about her tonight

The bar he's sitting in is hardly more than a hovel. It's drafty and dirty and stinking but the booze are strong enough that he doesn't care.

He just wants to drink himself blind.

Wants to--has to forget the sight of dying eyes the same shade of hers. In his nightmares he knows it will be her face staring back at him, gurgling and drowning in her own blood. That it will be her pretty head rolling to a stop at his feet and it utterly fucking terrifies him.

He knows that the alcohol is taking affect when he sees the woman in his mind's eye. So blatantly with child. So vulnerable. It's haunting him that he doesn't know what Sakura is like now. Years have passed and she was always beautiful. Had she married? Did she have children of her own?

Glazed eyes watch listlessly as the glass in his hand shatters. His grip doesn't slacken as the broken pieces dig into his palm. The callouses there are too thick to be pierced so easily, anyway.

At the first sign of blood, he drops the remnants to the bar as he relishes the stinging burn of the drink dripping into the wounds. With increasing clarity, he realizes that years of training are sharpening his mind with the onslaught of pain, so he wipes his hand carelessly on his shirt and motions for another round.

His thoughts are barely lucid when he allows himself to fantasize.

Light is pouring in from somewhere to her left and he sees her smiling face shining up at him as she rubs her midsection. Green eyes are full of devotion and her belly is swollen with his--their child. An Uchiha fan is stitched onto the breast of her oversized clothing and he can almost make out the sound of little feet on the hardwood of his ancestral home. And she's so gods-damned gorgeous like that that he can hardly stand it.

He always thought that when (if he forces himself to think) he ever went back to Konoha he'd marry a nameless face and settle into a loveless marriage, leaving Sakura to someone who deserved her. Now he knows he can't. Won't.

A bitter smile slashes across his face as he takes another drink.

Cause I swear that I'm dying, slowly but it's happening

A week or so later, Sasuke returns to Hidden Sound.

Orochimaru is angry when he does not come to report the success of his mission upon arrival, but Sasuke frankly can't bring himself to care.

The way he looks at it, it's pretty fair that he doesn't follow protocol for what he's sure now was a mind-fuck of a mission in the first place.

When he tells the Sannin so, all the old man does is smile and laugh that hollow creeping sound.

Sasuke is back in the white room before he can blink. The experience is completely different now. Thoughts come to his mind without his provocation, swirling there until he's nearly ill with the confusion and anger and desperation of it all.

This time around, it's nightmares of her terror and bright blood interspersed with gut-wrenching pipe dreams of a life he wants but knows he cannot have. He's sure he'll loose it now, avenger or no.

Soon enough he decides to use his chakra to force his system into keeping him awake, running his vital organs on his reserves of energy. The technique is regarded widely as a last resort, but Sasuke once again just doesn't give a shit.

He can only see her die so many times and in so many ways before he's sure to crack and fly apart at the seams.

By the third day he's floating in a strange realm between sleeping and waking, reliving every time he ever insulted Sakura. Made her cry. He's shamed at just how long the vision goes on. His agonized mind is filled with her crying eyes, wails and dying gasps.

When the fifth day comes around, he finally succumbs to exhaustion and his eyes roll back into his head.

He doesn't feel the Curse Seal pulsing to life on his skin, doesn't know that the creeping sickness methodically is searching his subconscious until it finds what it wants.

The directions to Konoha.

If the perfect spring is waiting somewhere, just take me there...

This is the first chapter of a four to five part fic. Some reviewers requested Cannon work, others a chaptered fic. So, I combined the two:3 Thank you for reading and please review.


The lyrics in this chapter are from the song If Winter Ends by Bright Eyes. I in no way own them. At all.