Summary: She breathes, and waits for the end. He dreams. Sakura-centric, Kakashi-centric. Written for the prompt A Dream Within A Dream for the Poe Challenge on the kakasaku lj comm. Beta'd by the absolutely fabulous puffinmuffin.
Warnings: death, disturbing imagery.
Disclaimer: Naruto doesn't belong to me. It's Kishimoto's and I just play with it.
Her breathing ragged against the solemn silence of the night, and beside her he doesn't stir and Sakura knows that, too, is her fault. She rocks back and forth, shoulders shaking, green eyes bleeding to black in languid swirls that no medic-nin could get rid of.
How could they?
No one knows it's there.
He drifts like a leaf on the ocean and all around him is the sky. He breathes and there's nothing there to breathe. He chokes, doubling over and curling in on himself and there's nothing to do but choke and struggle for air. What is there around him but blue?
Blue sky, blue water, and he floats.
And he's dying.
There's a wedding and he is the groom and he has absolutely no idea what's going on. He doesn't remember buying this outfit, he doesn't remember who the people staring at him, waiting for the bride to make her entrance is, and he doesn't even remember his own name.
The doors open, music plays, and he realizes, as he tries to run, that his feet are nailed to the floor. They're bleeding, he sees, but it doesn't seem to matter, no one cares that he's fallen; all eyes are on the bride except for his.
Then she's there and helping him up with one hand that he thinks is probably the most beautiful thing he's ever seen as he accepts her help. His feet still bleed, he still doesn't know where he is and as the priest says he might kiss the bride, she lifts her veil.
Pink hair, green eyes and that's a name he knows to go with it.
"Sakura," he says, "your nose is melting."
And she smiles as the skin on her face sloughs off, falling to the ground in oozing streamers that are flesh and blood and muscle and leave only bone behind.
He's forced to watch, her hands still in his, until she's nothing but a skeleton in a wedding gown and a glance out at the audience says they, too, are skeletons.
He glances down at himself.
No, he's not.
She shifts as he thrashes and bites back the urge to scream. Her fault, this is her fault! Her eyes are black now, rather than the green, and she knows that soon, soon and never soon enough, there's going to be no more 'her' left.
Part of her wails about living, the rest welcomes the idea of cessation of this nightmare.
The water rises, raging over his head, dragging him under as he struggles. Struggles to breathe, struggles to live, struggles to remember what had happened to bring him to this point and it's not happening and he doesn't know what to make of that either.
Just the water and the pain and he is dying in blue.
How strange, he thinks, shouldn't it be red?
It's a sunny day and he's sitting under a tree reading. Nothing tasteful, of course, and he knows that's the natural order of things. Even as he turns another page, he realizes that he doesn't understand what the book is about. He can't read it.
The words blur together, merge together and there's a girl on his page with a smile, holding her hands out to him.
He can still read her lips and that doesn't make sense to him.
She mouths 'come with me' and he wonders how he's supposed to. She's in a book, he's out under a tree. It doesn't compute and yet she's still in the book, there are no words, just her image, and he's smiling slightly as he reaches one hand out to her, brushes his fingers down her cheek, down her chest, down her legs and she's smiling as he finally reaches to touch one hand.
He touches and all of a sudden he can feel flesh, skin, her skin and her hands and the rest of him is in agony, sinking into the book. He's not supposed to be here, but she's stealing a kiss that feels like a hundred million salted papercuts and he's helpless.
I gave you butterfly kisses, whispered a voice in her head, one that she'd found more and more often in her thoughts, and music to dance to.
And Sakura sobs. Shaking, shuddering, she's past anger, past the fury that filled her once upon a time when they'd first returned from a mission in Kumo and found that this, whatever it was had come with them, with her.
I told you, murmured the voice, a discordant melody to her ears, you know me.
I am death.
Blue isn't his colour, he desperately thinks, even as he knows that the only reason he's so fixated on it is because there's nothing else to be. He can't breathe, the world is going dark around him, and then there's light.
Nothing but light.
Heaven, he thinks, was supposed to be more than this. He's standing in a forest clearing, in a loose pair of drawstring pants and his mask is missing. Something in him is furiously upset about that but everything he's feeling is muted, quiet, and he can't quite work up the urge to do anything about it. He wonders if that's a problem or if it's okay.
It has to be okay, he figures with a shrug as he looks up and spots the sun through the canopy, because that's what's going on right now and this doesn't feel like anything bad.
All around him the trees are laughing and a solemn eyed, pink haired little girl peeks around one of them.
"Follow me," she says.
"Where are we going?" he asks, even as he reaches for her hand.
She doesn't answer, just skips along with him, her small hand in his and he can't be bothered to ask a second time. It doesn't really matter does it? He'll get there eventually and see for himself.
She's humming and he doesn't know the song, that doesn't bother him either, though he idly finds his attention wandering. The trees are changing, becoming less verdant and more straggly, reaching for a sunless sky with grasping, needy branches that beg rather than celebrate their closeness to the sky.
He's cold and she's burning up, if her hand is any indication. They come across a puddle that he thinks might have been a lake at one point but now it is small, black, and boils. Not tar, but close to it, and there's an oily sheen to reinforce that impression. They stop in front of it.
"We aren't there yet," she complains and moves to step forward into it.
He grabs her and picks her up. She is burning up, and his skin blisters, peels and cracks under her touch. It's worth it for the smile he gets and he moves on, walking through the lake that boils his pants off him, then his flesh and muscle and still he walks even though he's nothing but bone.
He falls when they leave the lake.
She lands and explodes into ash.
There's something shattering, heart breaking, to know that in the morning, in the morning, she's going to get out of bed and going to go about her day and tell others that yes, Kakashi still hasn't come back from his mission. Shizune will sigh, Tsunade-shishou will frown deeply, Ino will rant about how inconsiderate he is to her feelings and how she should dump him because Ino knows another boy, a good boy, who'll keep her happy.
And yet he's in bed beside her, and dying.
So is she.
No one notices.
I don't want them to notice, murmurs the voice, so they won't.
Sakura lowers her head and squeezes her eyes shut.
He's falling and he's flying and the world twists around him so that he's never landing, never stopping, and he doesn't think he's supposed to stop. There's the sound of weeping in his ears and he doesn't know what to make of that.
Is he weeping? He doesn't think he is.
And then it starts to rain.
A clock ticks somewhere and he's late, late, late and yet he's not running. He's walking, checking his hair in a mirror and when has he ever done that, when has he cared, and he can't remember it ever being important before.
"Stop that," she says, stepping up from behind him to take the mirror off his hands.
Her hair is tumbling down her back, across the floor, down the street behind him, it's a stream of pink. A river of it, he thinks, realizing that it is as a fish leaps and frolics in and out of it. Her eyes are veiled.
"I just wanted- "
He stops, he doesn't know what he wants, and he stares at her like she's supposed to have all the answers. Doesn't she always? Why doesn't she this time?
Does she and he just doesn't know it?
"It's alright," she says, pressing a kiss to his lips, and he realizes her tongue is forked.
Her hands are claws and they're biting into his chest, the sharp pain a breathless agony that leaves him moaning for more, and since when has he liked pain so very much?
She pulls his heart from his chest, her hands, her arms, bloodied up to her elbows. She's an eldritch wonder as the stars sparkle in her eyes and her forked tongue scents the air.
"It's mine now," she purrs and he thinks, in a shattered moment that makes little sense, that shouldn't she be hissing?
"It always was," he tells her, even as he falls to the ground an empty shell of a man. What is a man without a heart?
He might as well be dead and all he can hear is her laughter.
Or are those sobs?
She's staring at herself in the mirror, in their small bathroom, under the harsh white light that makes her eyes water. There's nothing to be seen, she thinks, that would give it away. It's a dull hope, an old hope, won't someone see how she's suffering?
Can't someone tell?
Only her eyes give her away, though, that beetle-black where once there was green.
When she goes to work that morning, her eyes are green again. Whatever is in her can hide that, prevent her from speaking of it, and Sakura, desperate for a respite, flings herself into work. There's no cure. This isn't a virus or a disease and she doesn't know how to combat it. She still looks, feverishly.
A genius, people murmur about her, and she simply smiles stiffly.
It's the genius of desperation.
If he were drowning he thinks that he should have died long ago but still he is breathing and still he is moving and everything is crumpled pain that laces his veins and runs down his arms and hands until he cannot even breathe.
But still he's there and he's alive and it's a broken sort of world when a man who drowned in the sky is still alive.
What is up with that?
He's a king and he's got a robe and a funny hat and an entire court of mannequins.
They don't move, he doesn't stay still, and he's searching, looking through them, trying to find one that isn't so still, do any of them move, is there a doll here besides him who hasn't had their strings cut yet?
He's growing more and more frantic even as the search goes on. He's tripping over them, knocking them down, sometimes he lands on them, he never picks them up, just himself, and he doesn't even remember that. His hat keeps sliding down in front of his eyes and he realizes that it's a newspaper hat and since when has he done that?
But there, she's sitting at a table, having tea. Her ball-joints flexing and moving, her gown a ruffled majesty of taffeta and silk and her hair is cropped close to her head.
He comes up to the table, trembling, and she turns her head.
She has no eyes.
Just painted closed lids, and he takes a step back from her. Where are her eyes, how can she see him, and how does he know that she can?
She sets her tea cup down, the movements stiff and slow due to her joints, and opens her mouth.
Fangs appear, delicate and long and dripping long tendrils of poison.
"Kiss me," she commands, and he's helpless to disobey.
She feels him, when he finally dies.
She doesn't move for hours, and when she finally makes a sound it's a broken, crazed laugh. He held her back from the edge of this nightmare.
Morning comes far too fast for the last shred of Sakura in her.
And the next morning, when she gets to the hospital, she removes her sunglasses as she greets her co-workers. When she removes them her eyes are black and soulless. And there are fangs in her mouth.