Author's Note

- This is actually the first fanfiction story I ever began to write for Naruto, and, now that I'm satisfied with the beginning, I've decided to put it up here. Here you go. I hope you all enjoy this. If you have any questions about the title "Nepenthe", you can find them on my profile.



Unconsciousness was slow to come.

Lying on the forest floor, palms pressed to the earth, Gaara could only see the harsh, early autumn light falling through the trees. Unconsciousness was slow to come, and the world was delirious, bright, throbbing.

He thought of Yashamaru, lying just outside the reach of the desert moonlight, and wondered if this was what it was like, to die.

Almost drowsily, he opened his eyes a little wider, trying to bring his opponent into focus. Uzumaki's face had fallen to the side; all Gaara could see was the froth of yellow hair spilling about the ground, blurring in his bloodied sight. His voice was gone, and Gaara could hear his breathing, could feel his own. They breathed together, an exhausted, frantic rhythm.

Yashamaru's voice, Yashamaru's face. Long banished, long cast away. Now, as Uzumaki's silence spun on and on into the moments, Gaara drew Yashamaru forth, and replayed his voice, the nuances of his face, his smile.

Love . . .

So, that is why he is so strong . . .

Gaara blinked up into the sunlight, and felt its warmth upon his mouth and cheek, the bruised and battered skin above his eyes. Look, Yashamaru, I am bleeding, just like you . . .

Voices, vague, intrusive; Gaara heard these, didn't focus on them. They passed away, like water cupped in one's own hands; impossible to hold, to pause and feel. He looked instead at the sky, the blueness, and replayed Yashamaru's face in his memory, dwelled in the ghost of a voice long gone.

Thump – thump.

Air, currents slamming down before him; a dark figure, a pale one. And tension once more, fear, even though Uzumaki was still.

"It's all right," he whispered to the shades below the trees' cathedral, "I quit."

Silence; and then a mumbled reply, soft, soothing. Gaara felt warm hands take hold of him, felt himself drawn up and around the black.

He caught a last blur of yellow before all the world ran together; Uzumaki Naruto . . .

. . . Maybe someday . . .

And then his eyes slipped close, and there was Yashamaru, waiting for him, tucking him into bed, pulling him onto his lap, touching his hair, smiling . . .

On and on they went, forward into the wind.

Gaara forced his eyes open, forced the painful memories away. Love. Love, as Yashamaru had tried to love him. Love, as he had thought his mother had loved him. He had something to say. He had to say it now, before it left, before he left. Dimness in his eyes, all the colors leaving.

"Temari, Kankuro . . ." he said, "I'm so sorry."

Voices, sound, wind, color, darkness . . . and then his eyes had fallen closed once more, and Yashamaru's kind face faded away and away, into nothing at all.