DISCLAIMER: I don't own Naruto, Kishi does.

MISC: Yep, another dark!fic. This one...well, the original draft was written three years ago when I was in a phase of very bad insomnia. This meant I could easily relate to Gaara's insanity, because I was more then a litte unhinged myself by the time I'd gone without shut-eye for a month. I also tend to write dark!fics a lot more when I'm tired.

This is a fic about Gaara and Temari's attempts to reach out to each other after the removal of Shukaku, but being unable to successfully do so. I don't believe that Gaara would have immediately been okay after his fight with Naruto and the extraction of the bijuu. I think he'd have a lot of adjusting to do and a lot of issues.

There's some slight HidaTema in the fic, but not the cracky kind.


I jerk awake and my screams are the first thing I hear. Sweat trickles down my bare back, slipping over the sharp ridges of my vertebrae to fall to the sheets. Claustrophobia – thick, suffocating claustrophobia reaches out for me, fingers outstretched and unforgiving, clutching at me – choking me. It makes me tear at the blankets on my body, the coils of material constricting my legs and my very soul. My heartbeat has replaced the mocking laughter in my head and I can only sink back to the pillows helplessly, pulse dominating my neck.

The sands of time are deceptive.

Little grains, little tan grains that run like a dirty river to pool, limp and careless, into a mound of infinity.

An hourglass never ends – it continues going and events in life…the turning of the hourglass…allow time as we know it to continue. But the sand never changes. It doesn't become fresh or renewed. No matter how many times you turn it, it will always be the same sand trickling in the exact same way, landing in the exact same heap.

When you're trying to give yourself a reason to live, you have to turn your back on negativity. But it's always there waiting.

The sight of the little egg timer on the desk, the tiny trickle of desert debris slowly piling up, tells me everything I need to ignore.

I don't often sleep. It makes my head ache, I can't think clearly. Grit gets in my eye and my eyes water in an attempt to wash it all away. Ghosts sit by my still form and attempt to smother me – they smile and soothe my hair before slipping the blade beneath my ribs. And as I jerk awake, I regret that the demon is gone and I laugh to realise that he saved me from myself.

I don't sleep often. But when I do, I see soft gold.

"You know I'm your friend...as well as your sister... don't you, Gaara?" She asks with a smile that makes my bones ache. I laugh at her, and her whole face twists – becoming what she shouldn't become. The classical beauty becomes a broken beast and I can hear the rush of the dunes at my window, crashing down to the ground. I want to hold her but I'm afraid she'll break. I want to break her but I'm afraid that she'll hate me for it.

I wake up crying, my body shaking from the horror of her smile, the horror of my reaction, and my hands grasp at the sheets that suffocate me. Her voice, her cynical laugh – they echo in the darkness, and I remember her face, lips scornful as her hands reach out towards me. The water – precious water not to be wasted in the desert – streaks down my face like burning trails of molten rock and I'm too afraid to wipe them away.

Once upon a time, she was just another person. Just another face in the endless crowd of people waiting to throw stones. Another face to swallow up with Desert Coffin before the blood feeds my sand.

When she became my sister, it changed me even more then Uzumaki Naruto did. It changed me even more then gaining a brother did. Kankurou is there, my voice of reason, my sounding board – but he was never the one to try, the one to make a difference. I never know which one of us is the parasite in this symbiotic relationship. I'm not sure what she could possibly want from me, what she could dig out from the broken pieces.

But I'm glad that she'll try.

She stands in front of my desk and I want to grab her by the throat, I want to squeeze the life from her when she requests missions. I want to hate her for making me protect her, for the way her face and smile makes my lips tip up. For the way she makes me so fucking weak.

I never realised how important a sister could be. I realised it too late, and she's too smart – so smart that I want to choke it out of her. Dear sister.

D rank missions are below her and I would never insult her with that. So I can only be silently grateful that she's a good stealth nin, when the time calls for it. I can sit at the window in my office, forehead pressed against the glass, and know that she is safe in the shadows, and that she will return to haunt my dreams – where I will tell her again and again that she's my friend too and I can show her what it means to be let inside my heart, until she's broken and worn into dust. And I can shudder with relief, because when the ghosts visit me, it won't be her pressing cold steel to my throat even as she whispers beautiful words in my ear.

She's shrewd. I can see that even as she begins to slip out of Suna past curfew, effortlessly evading the guard of our country, her eyes are alight with something that defies the stupidity and risk of her actions. When she returns I slam harsh words at her, watching as her shoulders sink and her face resembles the battle-wounded. But she doesn't stop. So neither do I.

She thinks that I don't see how she views the world through a fuzzy film over her eyes. Behind the distance of her eyes, every memory she could possibly have is stored behind locked doors, so that when she's tired of smiling at everyone, she can retire and hug her misery to her chest while the pictures play out before her like old romances in a theatre.

I see it. I treasure her pain, even as I hate to stand on the other side of a door and listen to the muffled sobs that echo in loneliness. I place my hand against the wood, and with a fingernail I trace the kanji into her door. I wish that she could see its blueprint, but I haven't even disturbed the grain and her cries never fade.

I apologise for our broken home, but I never make a sound when I do it.

Kankurou asks about her – about the slump of her shoulders and the film over her eyes. I don't know how to explain to him that our sister can't be our sister because I can't let her.

If I care for her, I might kill her. With or without Shukaku, I might kill her. Break her. And maybe she's upset because she knows.

It's because she's so shrewd that she returns to me, voice full of fire and disgust. She tells tales of promotion, of ending life as a stealth nin because she is worth more than that, and not just because she's been related to two Kazekages. She wants to become an ANBU. I look at her, hating my impassivity and I say, "No."

Her eyes are unpolished, a dull sapphire that seem to shrink back as she rants, raves, and eventually – cries. Cries like a weak little girl.

I can only watch, my gaze ridiculing her even as chips of sand fall from the back of my neck.

Something's breaking inside too, bleeding in a way it shouldn't. I wonder if maybe my shrunken black heart is imitating her tears, as I try to imitate the humanity of him…Naruto. I touch her head, and she sucks in a breath. Her blue eyes glimmer in the light from my window. Diamond crust falls down her cheek to my hand, and her mouth twists in ugly anger.

I grab her head with both hands, fingers hooked into claws and my expression as ugly as hers. I pull her into a strange simulation of a hug. She pulls back to look at me. Her stained eyes glare up at me, but confusion is wiping it all away. My fingertips are just in her hairline, digging into her scalp and she winces.

"You make me want to be a better person," I tell her harshly. Then, quietly, "You do…"

I pull away sharply, turning my back to her, and the jerkiness of my moments leave little marks on her head and forces her back. Somehow, the friction between us causes the egg timer to fall from my desk. It shatters on the floor, and I can only stare at the mess of sand and glass. Those shards…the sand embraced them, like they were a part of it – no disruption, and yet the glinting pieces of glass were alien and dangerous.

Her breath hitches, and I feel her shift as though to move towards me. I close my eyes, angry at the thought that she might touch me but shaking with the anticipation of it. I want to know what a sister's caring feels like. I want to know what her caring feels like.


Her blond bunches whip through the air as she turns, her voice jagged with her departing word as she moves quickly from the room. Silence descends, bringing with it those feelings. Those feelings of bile and acid and bitterness that start so low in my body but rise and rise until I want to curl up in a corner.

My mind tells me to hold her, to acknowledge her and force her to see and understand. But I simply kneel, scooping the fallen sand with little pieces of broken glass into my hand. My eyes unfocus.

I tighten my hand around the wreckage. Sand shifts from my palm to the floor, followed by droplets of rusty blood, twisting over my fingers and the wrinkles of my clenched palm to collapse to the floor. The sand darkens.

She escaped again. I watched her with my forehead against the glass as she slipped through shadow and crevice. I saw the way the gloom hit her eyes – they're sunken, like mine…maybe she doesn't sleep too. Maybe when she closes her eyes, the ghosts laugh at her too?

I clench a hand in the material over my chest, brow furrowing. She had left. And she hadn't returned.

It may be my fault and that puts a void, cold feeling in my body. The enemy stirs in these parts and consider Suna ninja ripe for the plucking. They don't do it because of personal vendetta or for any reason that begins to touch the plausible scale. They do it just to spit in my face for the hell of it. Because that's what a Kage endures.

But not her. Please, not her.

I see her that night, a pale distorted form wreathed in surrounding darkness that becomes clearer as a stumble closer. A blood-streaked face turns to me and her eyes are inky and indistinguishable. Colourless – even the blood is black – she reaches out a hand towards me, the blood twisting like ribbons over the creases of her palm and around her wrist. Slowly, her hand fists as though she casts Desert Funeral, and dark grains twist over her body, smearing liquid over her skin and leaving the ebony trails in cruel designs.

I awake beyond shaking, fear and comprehension. My body has shut down. I cannot even see.

My fists tighten, knuckles white. As the dunes roll and fade under the night's bluster, my eyes narrow. I have to go and find her. My nin will question me – they'll see my weaknesses. But…sometimes, there are more important things than pride. He taught me that.

And so it is that I cross the desert. The winds hoist up little funnels of sand and drop them in slipping piles that crush beneath my sandals. Behind me, the guards at the gates of Sunagakure watch on with disapproval and horror. So soon after my capture, I am willing to leave my village alone, when I should send them.

I can't.

Scorpions are warring, tails poised for the kill and their pincers slash at each other. They're circling, circling, looking for weaknesses and familiarity before the proverbial axe comes down.

I close my eyes, and something…a foreboding feeling…washes over me. My fists shake as I realise that the closer I grow to Iwagakure, the more I can feel her. The distinct hum of chakra that is now beating erratic patterns in signal. I swallow, not allowing my mind to analyse the state of unnaturalness that her chakra is undertaking. My feet pick up speed, until they are running – running over the borders between our country and theirs, from sand and scorpion and cactus to rock and dirt and caves.

She's there. I can feel her within a cave, and something within me tightens. Perhaps she is injured – Iwagakure is hardly a friendly country. She may have taken refuge in this cave for the 24 hours she has been away, her lifeforce ebbing away as I stare out of my window and wait for her.

I shake my head. Even as I fear, something doesn't add up. The ghosts are laughing in my ear, their blades slipping over my skin as they speak their wordless mocks into my mind. Something drops away from me.

And I step inside the cave.

It's absurd what people think when their world collapses.

I think that it's amazing how I never fully realised she is a woman until this moment. Her legs tighten around his waist, and she rocks in his lap. The muscles in his thick arms flex as he grasps her rear, helping her move up his length, but she sets the pace, eyes closed and her cheek against his.

She arches, and I glimpse her breast, the tip dark. She looks so pale, so fragile, and yet her arms clutch him around the neck tightly. Her fingers pull the silver hair, run over the broad muscle of his shoulders.

I cannot see him, but I know he looks angelic. A fine sweat coats their bodies, and I can hear their soft noises of appreciation. His rear dimples and clenches with the effort of fucking her, protected from the rock by the cloak that he sits on.

The black cloak with red clouds on it.

I don't often sleep, but when I do – I get nightmares. They're filled with agony beyond comparison to fires and burning. I see the faces of everyone I've killed and destroyed. They stroke my cheeks and rip out my tongue. They speak to me of my heart before ripping it apart and I lie in anguish with my limbs twisting in their shackles.

But this is worse than any nightmare. I won't awaken to discover my body trapped in the sheets. I won't fall, shaking, back to my pillows.

I can almost see where he's joined with her. The scream wells in my throat as she slips back onto him, burrowing her face in his neck. My heart is banging in my ears – god, Shukaku, where are you? I – okaasan, help me…

I reach one hand up to clutch it in my hair. The laughter echoes in my head, hysterical and unbridled laughter. It swarms up in volume until it becomes loud buzzing without end.

She reaches that end, head flying back as she strains against him before resting it one more in the juncture of his neck. The image of her swirls around, distorts.

I want to kill her for what she's done. Black skies with red clouds fill my vision, rippling as I writhe in torment with my very essence being torn out. I can't feel my light fading, and I see faces amongst the red clouds – different faces. I see them, one by one. All different. Until…

Violet eyes.

Her eyes snap open, and they're a pure, polished sapphire that shine with her passion. She looks right at me, unseeing, as he muscles her up and down his cock over and over again. But then she sees. And her jewelled orbs widen, her face draining of colour. Her body stills, and it's only him controlling their movements again.

A tear slips down her cheek as he holds her to him. I can practically see his essence slipping into her. The essence of one of the ones who killed me.

Something falls away forever. The pain goes away with it.

I watch her, bewildered. I don't understand anything that just happened. The images that had been clamouring in my head have stopped abruptly, like pages of a photo album that have been removed and burned. I can't understand what I'm feeling. I don't want to.

I turn around and leave.