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.


TEMARI

The sands of time may be the same grains over and over again. But they never fall in the same way, in the same order or with the same purpose.

History repeats itself constantly and people become jaded and disillusioned with life. The days begin to feel the same, their lives feel empty even as the years rush by, and the breads and wines lose their taste. People begin to sit around and think to themselves…what if my life was a tree, and I hadn't followed the same section of trunk, the same branches, the same twigs, and then the veins of those leaves? What if the sand of my hourglass had fallen in a different way?

I don't like to sleep. When I do, my mind tells me all the things I don't want to hear. I become privy to the primitive subconscious that everyone has residing in their brain stem. I see images of my darkest desires and I awaken with a deeper level of understanding. I feel as though I am staring at life through a burn-hole that no one else has discovered, as though I have walked onto a stage production and I don't know the lines or have a role.

Like him. I'm sure he feels the same way. I find myself there…so often behind him but sometimes by his side. He scares me. He can shove me away as easily as if I were a ragdoll, he can break me with one look and yet I want him to recognise me – recognise his family. I feel that he has no patience for me and I want to change that. I want him to see me – really see me. See that I'm his sister because, at the end of the day when the sands have flipped over and over and settled into soft planes and dips of desert land, we have nothing and no one else.

Every inch of my skin crawls. I feel as though scorpions are beneath the lifeless flesh and I want to cut my arms open to dig them out. My life has suddenly halted with same intense shock as a glass hitting the floor, the shards imploding outward with a bang that shouldn't be possible and a horror that slices down past the very bones that feel so very heavy.

He's beautiful in a biased way. I never thought he was inwardly beautiful in a pure sense until I'd had the time to fend off his rage and touch his shoulder when all that was left was a broken child.

It's his inner beauty that makes my body shake now, my clothing dirty and torn. A terrible man's seed still coats my thighs and I feel as though it's smeared over my face, branding me a strumpet. Those shaggy red locks are strokes of life in a world of grey. He looks out of the window but he knows I'm there.

My tears streak the grime on my cheeks. I cannot speak to him because my voice box is dead – dead like my soul and I can't begin to explain to him my reasons. For those brief moments when he……that man…had touched me, been inside me...I could imagine that I could feel something. That I wasn't broken or defective. I could pretend that the recurring pain in my chest was perhaps a physical problem and not a mental one, as the Akatsuki – oh god, what have I done? – washed away all my pains with one sure stroke. Physical problems I can deal with, at least.

But what can I say to him? In those moments at the cave, I thought I saw it. The cowardly hints of the lost family bond that hides within us both – within Kankurou, too, if he were only expressive enough to find it. I thought I saw it as I pulled it out and trampled over it, spitting on its name and splashing it to the winds. Perhaps he didn't love his big sister – perhaps he didn't even like her.

Love? I thought I was too broken to receive it, just as he was too broken to give it. But in those moments, as I shook and cried and waited for him, I saw the truth on his face as he turned to me and lava seemed to overflow from my heart, melting away my guts and my life and I felt the tears fall faster, a constant river of burning pain.

His back is to me, and I stare with blurry eyes as strange chips in the back of his neck fill in with sand, and his body straightens. I feel as though a demon has its hand over my mouth and is pinching my nose shut. I want to thrash about and scream and cry as I realise what is lost.

I don't like to sleep. In my dreams, I see a giant mirror that reflects myself. I study my naked form – the bruises under my eyes, the scars on my stomach and the muscles in my legs. I press my palms to the glass and watch the other me do the same. It runs a finger over the reflection of its body, which distorts with every passing moment. The mirror shifts, bulges outwards before sucking in sharply. My heart doesn't even leap as my dream self meets my eyes. And the mirror explodes.

I take a panicked step forward. "Ga – "

He looks at me, and I feel the mirror exploding all over again. I raise my hands to my face, waiting for the shards to cut through my fingers, to attack my face and make me uglier than I already feel. But nothing happens. I can only see his cold, distant eyes through the cracks of my fingers.

"You've betrayed my village," he says.

His village.

"Do you honestly think you ever meant that much to me?" He asks. I want his voice to be rough – I want him to feel something. At least I wouldn't know already that I was lost forever. "You stupid bitch. You are so far beneath what this village stands for that it makes me sick."

In the pieces of mirror that fly towards my face, I can see the horror and the fear of my features. I feel as though I am on the outside, looking in on a vehicle wreck. It's as though I'm watching a film that I starred in and I can't associate myself with the character I played. I flail about in the darkness, only to come to realise that I'd been staring into his eyes.

His hollow, lifeless eyes.

I hardly notice that I'm running until the guards try to stop me. The feeling within me isn't really a feeling at all, but a realisation. The understanding of something beyond what I've ever experienced – so that it isn't an understanding as such, but an instruction.

I hate myself.

Landscapes pass me by, the wind stings my face. It's on instinct that I move, and I don't know whether to laugh or cry that no one has followed me. I've been let go.

Sometimes, if the grains of sand fall in the same way, you can be fooled that it's a static thing. You can tell yourself that it's okay that they fall like that, because they've always fallen like that and always will. I have always lived with loneliness and knew that if it carried on this way, I always will. But the sand fell in a different order, a different way. The last sand grains to fall down are now the first sand grains, and things have changed. I'm no longer just lonely. I'm completely, utterly, inexorably alone.

He has his people to live for. He'll carry on staring out of that window, his eyes taking in everything. Maybe, every once in a while, he'll notice that nothing moves in the shadows near the gate. But then he'll turn his eyes to the next patch of land. He will be lonely, but never alone.

It's like a jet of cold water to the face to find him still in this cave. He's gathering up his things, and I know he wasn't waiting for me, but my stomach churns all the same.

I remember the picture books I had as a child. Religious books that I never cared for but looked at because every child loves beautiful things. And the pictures were amazing – filled with soft colours of revelation and what dreams should really by like.

This Akatsuki looked like one of the angels. Maybe that was why I'd had no inhibitions about crawling into his lap, losing my virginity to him even as I mourned my integrity. This killer...this thing of evil and cruelty…had vivid violet eyes and hair of the palest silver. His face wasn't handsome…it was beautiful, and not in an abstract way. He would have been androgynous of he wasn't pure muscle and strong-jawed.

I can remember the way it felt to be in his arms, to have him inside me. It had been the sweetest pleasure even as it was the greatest anguish. It had been like walking the clouds of a dream world where there were no mirrors or revelations.

He looks at me, and his lips are smirking even as his eyes are…what, sympathetic?

I want to feel something. I want to be able to offer him the hatred I know he deserves – want to take that scythe of his and slam it into his skull. I should probably blame him (foolishly) for the end of all things. I want to tear that stupid rosary from his neck and stick it down his throat – watch him choke even though I know he cannot die.

But I do nothing.

"Why do we hurt the ones we love?" I ask him quietly.

He looks at me with a lopsided grin and shrugs those huge shoulders. "What's love?"

I flinch back, and my eyes involuntarily flick to the black and red cloak he wears. "What? I…it's where…two people who feel…"

"Yeah yeah, I know that idea, dumbass." He cocks an eyebrow at me. "How old are you, seriously? I meant that 'love' is the stupidest fucking word in any dictionary. No two people feel it the same way, they don't they apply the same rules and reasons to it. A woman could love a man for his cash, but he'll love her for the hot fucking every night."

I watch him as he straps the scythe to his back. He turns towards me, and I feel confused that I don't see him as an enemy. I hate him no more than I hate myself. "Someone could love another person for just being themselves."

"Maybe," he says, looking doubtful. "Because what I'm saying is that 'love' applies to every fucking individual person's own ideals. It's like the epitaph on a tombstone – never the truth, just what seems right and guilt-free. But could you accept the damned flaws of another person, and why would you? Everyone loves to hate someone else…it helps them love themselves a little more."

An icy river washes through me. Love themselves a little more…

The mirror explodes again, and the shards hit their mark. I'm bleeding, stumbling, falling onto chunks of glass and huddling on the ground as my life's essence leaves my body. My veins are severed and the most serene cold washes over me. Night time is falling in front of my eyes, but there are no stars for me.

"Kill me," I whisper.

He pauses. Steps forward. "Why?"

"I have nothing left now. I never even loved myself."

He moves towards me, and I realise that I don't even know his name. I swallow hard, and look up at his towering form as he stops in front of me. His face is curiosity bordering on playfulness, but his eyes are unreadable. "I won't kill you." He touches a finger to the pronounced dip in my throat as I suck my breath in. "Know why? I could love you."

I feel nothing. "I couldn't love you."

He laughs – a loud, clear sound that echoes. "You see my meaning?" He leans in, and his lips brush my jaw. "Thank you for giving me that…gift. It was fucking amazing, seriously." He suddenly looks serious, and I want to shrink up under his stare. "Maybe God will spare you because of your generosity."

I step backward. "Why…would I go to hell otherwise?"

His eyes are like blacked out windows that suddenly crack and break. Something shines through – a sudden brightness that illuminates true sadness. "Ironic, how some of the mortal sins decreed to keep us in place are the ones that keep us in misery. Fucked up, eh?"

I can't tell how long I stood there. He left at some point, leaving behind the faint scent of rainwater and a single kunai, left in the same place where we had fucked. I stare at it, my eyes tracing the edges. Time seems of no consequence – it seems that here, with no noise but my own breathing and the realisation that no life rests for me beyond these rocky walls, time is stuck and I will never leave this position.

I think that the Akatsuki knew that. He'd left too.