A re-write of a re-write. This fic has been years - and I do mean years! - in the making. I appreciate all previous followers and support for this story.

::Disclaimer (applies to all chapters): I don't own Naruto, any song lyrics used, etc.::

Summary: Upon losing himself, Gaara reflects on everything, on him, not minding the overflow of his mind. 'You're like the Sun - thats what I was trying to think of. And I'm Pluto.' He wants to tell Naruto every part of it someday.


Fifteen Stitches

01

:::::

[1.]

They say I cannot be this, I am jaded, hiding from the day...

Metal digs into my skin. My vision starts blurring, I know I'm fucked. When I fell onto the floor, the music was still turned up too loudly and it overwhelms my head.

This fake leather stinks. I bought the dog leash for six bucks at a pet store next to the supermarket two days ago. It's been hanging in my closet behind an old jersey and a sweatshirt since then. No one ever goes into my closet, my room, period. I got a lock from the outside, the kind you would use for heavy security. Kind of what a psycho would buy, I guess.

I guess I seem like I have something to hide (and I do).

You can't fuck with fate...
So, instead you'll taste my pain.

I think I kind of hate this song. My head feels like it's going to explode; my fingertips are numb. Then I realize, I don't like this. For 'breakfast' I had a slim jim and coffee cake. It tasted like shit. It's going to be on my carpet soon, I can tell. Not the first time I've choked - though this time, it's literally.

Yeah. I can't do this.

[2.]

Most people should probably know that strangling yourself is no good way to die. Maybe they already do. It seems like most people don't think about what happens 'after' or 'when you pass' and all the other euphemisms we use for death anyway.

My knees dig into the carpet. I reluctantly grasp onto life and it hurts to breathe. The leash, a makeshift constrictor and killer, is around my throat but it's loose. I chickened out. Somehow, against the logic I built up throughout the morning while watching old cartoons in the basement - today is the day, I told myself again and again, like I was preparing myself for my driver's exam or my AP finals - I kicked myself off of the metal hook in my closet wall. The guy who lived here before us used to use it for his gym bag. He was this big-time athlete and then he got shipped off to L.A. for some competition or something, struck it big, and rented out this place.

For a few minutes, I try to keep myself from getting sick. It's no use, and I do get sick, and I can't move anywhere. My puke pools on the carpet, and it starts sinking in; this is my own punishment. For my own failure, I guess.

What to do with the leash. I can't try this again. After catching my breath, wiping at my eyes, I see how the hook is out of the wall. I think about how I hate being short. I feel like a fuck-up. If I was taller, this never would've worked to begin with.

Eventually, I turn off the music. It's difficult getting up out of my closet, the walk-in area claustrophobic and tiny and my head is still dim - and it's too dark. I think my sock gets a little wet from the puke. The stereo I have is an old hand-me-down from none other than Kankuro, who talks about how much he likes 'pimping out' the stereo set in his room along with his weight sets. I've never met a more obnoxious person.

I guess I'm rightfully hateful. Every other time I think about anything to do with him, I look at my left arm and the cigarette burn he gave me is still on my wrist, a little. For some reason, I suddenly wish I could throw the stereo out the screen window in my room. It would look better on the front lawn. I don't know why I want to really do it - I would give the neighbors a brain hemorrhage of they saw that. But really, I'd probably get beaten so hard for it that I'd die anyway without having to do it myself.

My throat is still tight. Somehow, I'm still gagging. It makes me want to laugh a little. What a joke.

[3.]

"It's already the third week of school. You haven't joined a single club."

"How do you know? I could be in a few. I just hate talking about shit like-"

"Stop cursing." She frowns. "And stop lying to me. I talked with your counselor the other day. She called the house."

(...Fuck.)

"Don't you realize how this is going to look on your transcripts? This is going to negatively affect your ability to get into college. You haven't actually done anything since you started high school besides your core classes."

True. My sister has never been easy on me. And I kind of appreciate that she even cares at all, but I'm beginning to get tired of her acting like a surrogate parent. I feel like telling her to get on with her life and go to grad school, but being an asshole isn't going to do me any favors right now. She isn't trying to hurt me, anyway.

We're eating dinner on the couch. Our dad hasn't been home since Tuesday. It's Friday today. We like to think it's business because we disillusion ourselves and prefer living in a dream world about our lives. I can't help but be a little sarcastic, since it gets old after awhile.

Temari knows it, I know it, and I don't know if Kankuro has ever cared about anything beyond himself, so he may or may not know it - but newsflash! Dear old 'dad' is a drunk. He's probably off with different women now, doing whatever, being an idiot...then again, the less often he's actually around, the better these days. Since last year things have effectively done from 'shitty' to 'atomically fucked up' and I can't help but feel slightly responsible for it. Maybe I'm guilty.

Suddenly it feels a little hard to eat. I can't believe I'm only a junior. More than anything else - my dad, our house, how it looks like white trash; my brother, my grades, the broken hook on my wall, and how my entire closet pretty much reeks of stale vomit - the recurring thought of it depresses me.

On the coffee table, we have a sampling of five different kinds of cereal, some dried fruit and toast. We've had worse in the past few weeks. I chew some Raisin Bran to try to keep myself from talking. She pokes me hard in the arm.

"Ok." I sound annoyed. I'm really pretty exhausted. "I'll ask on Monday. Now will you let up on me?" I sound too much like a pussy whiner. Sheesh...

Temari kind of shoves me and it's playful, like when we were kids. She reaches for the Cheerios, smiling with this triumphant look that she always used to wear when she beat me in anything, board games, soccer. "Good. You'd better or I'll come kick you butt after class."

I have no idea why I'm being so nostalgic. Actually, I wish I could do more for her. She's never been anything but helpful to me, to my ass-wipe of a brother, to our dad - and he doesn't deserve any kind of golden treatment. But here she is, staying home and taking care of me because I can't drive like a loser, because Kankuro can't work from being an idiot pothead. It makes me feel almost bad considering all this, and for some reason, how she'd react if she ever found out I did that all with the leash. I don't think twice about helping help her do the dishes, knowing I probably won't ask anything about clubs by Monday.

We go upstairs by eleven after watching some of the Daily Show on TV and bumming around. Temari hugs me before heading off to bed, and I don't respond in the way I probably should. I kind of put one arm around her which is probably enough. I'm tired.

The upstairs is quiet, except for these obnoxious flashes and noise and light coming out from underneath my brother's door. I bang on it once as hard as I can before running into my room and locking myself in. That outside lock really does the trick.

I put on my headphones but one ear is out. I toss them and settle on laying on my bed and thinking.

I think about writing for Yearbook, making up little captions and quotes about being 'best-dressed' or 'most athletic' - if I could actually do that. Yeah, right. More than anything I consider how everyone would all react to my cynical-realist approach. I'm probably better suited for Newspaper.

I roll over and stare at the wall. Being a halfer freak with a bad reputation will really do me a lot of favors trying to find my niche in any group like that, won't it...it makes me snort. I'm the kind of kid who has 'disappointment' written all over his forehead.

[4.]

Downstairs, I can hear my dad screaming at Kankuro about how his stomach pains are a bunch of shit, he's just too high to work, by next week I'm kicking your sorry junkie ass out of this house for the last time...!

Sure. If only. I swing my legs over the side of the bed.

I usually sleep four hours at best. Insomnia's been a late night companion for the past two years. But last night, for whatever reason, I slept a little longer than I normally do. I wake up to a controlled chaos, centered probably in the mud room or the dining room, depending on where my dad caught Kankuro after finding him smoking a bowl again. The entire upstairs reeks of pot.

When I walk downstairs, braving it since I'm actually pretty hungry, I'm thinking about taking money from...somewhere, maybe Kankuro's wallet if he isn't in his room, to go get myself some sort of bleaching detergent for my closet carpet. My whole room is beginning to kind of stink. Paper towels and bar soap didn't do a lot of good, and we're having a heat wave. The AC is still busted from last week. Temari is vacuuming in the basement, isolating herself. There really isn't any point in going downstairs to say hi.

In my head, I play music while our dad is screaming. They're both in the living room, actually. I get a dish and spoon. Somebody throws something, it breaks, and the music gets a little louder in my brain. For whatever reason I think about the song I hate, the one I was playing before -

Shutting down. I won't go there now. We have Lucky Charms left and they're probably going to rot my teeth and I don't care.

A while later, there's a knock on the door. It's too soft for it to be anyone but Temari (seeing as she's the only person in the house who knows I don't like anyone banging on my door to get me to come out).

When I let her in, she's wearing a wrap with a swimsuit underneath. It's still almost strange living in an apartment in a neighborhood where we pay to go swimming from the end of May to the end of September. It's too hot in Valencia. With each pulse of my heart, my brain squeezes in turn. Hot air blasts through my open window.

I didn't bother to get myself a swimsuit, not since last year. I didn't want to swim last summer and I still don't now.

Back in Mira Mesa I used to go swimming a lot of the time. It kept boredom at bay. My old suit had cigarette burns in the pockets and they were frayed around the corners from going to the beach all the time. That was back when I was with with 'a bad crowd', guys that my dad used to throw cans filled with rocks at when he was drunk and I came home too late.

He never really forgets to remind me at least twice a month that I'm the reason we had to move and he has an hour drive to work, because I turned into a 'punk ass little shit'. I guess I could spend a lot of time arguing my case. But this isn't 'Good Will Hunting' and I'm no intellectual genius. I just want to be left alone.

Temari sits on my bed for a minute. Kankuro is in his room, probably. I'm sure we'll be out another bag of frozen vegetables. I can't help but ask about it. "Did he kill him yet?"

Temari sighs. She falls back on my sheets and stares at the ceiling. I managed to get two posters up there so far. One is peeling off at the corners but I haven't bothered to fix it. "No. Not yet."

"Dad is probably going to have him evicted."

"Gaara, he doesn't pay any rent. Kankuro isn't a boarder."

"All the more reason for him to get evicted." Temari throws one of my pillows at me. Instead of it hitting my stomach, I catch it. It's a weak throw. We don't speak to each other about it again. There's pretty much no point.

"I guess you aren't really up for swimming."

"No. I think I hate it, honestly."

Temari gives me this funny kind of look and I'm not sure what it means. She gets up and hugs me. Two hugs in less than two days is a little unexpected. We're not a touchy-feely family. I notice that Temari is still tan from laying out in the backyard a few weeks ago.

"Just wanted to say bye then. Don't stay in your room too long." Then she walks out. She remembers to close the door, too. I wish I could say thanks.

[5.]

The new kid in class is bright and beaming and he won't shut the hell up. A few of the other kids are already obsessed with him. The resident gay in homeroom is absolutely falling head over heels for him. I wish the school allowed video journaling. I want to document this.

The best I can do is write about it, people's reactions to him, mostly. I don't really look up when my homeroom teacher starts talking about him. He's a senior transfer from San Diego (go figure). It makes me think about Mira Mesa, I can't stop myself. My head starts hurting by second period. Sometimes I wonder if I'm clinically allergic to fluorescent lighting. My twisted sense of humor and all the cynical half-kidding I do with myself helps me survive the school day.

His name - Naruto Uzumaki. Another Japanese kid? Come on. Our school has a shitload of kids like me, except I'm the halfer with the Johnny Rotten hair and the fucked up eyebrows nobody wants to talk to. Most of the other ones are all little Asian proteges who need to get a social life or at least learn how to make eye contact.

I didn't really get a good chance to look at him until third period. We end up having an elective together. I never really wanted to take Business Economics and by the way he looks, he probably didn't either.

I wonder about him. Maybe he's not really Japanese. But that name isn't easy to mistake. We head to the computer labs ten minutes into the period. In truth, I've been pretty bored in this school lately. I've been looking to get out of my head, out of dealing with this place, and he seems like an easy distraction. Contrary to what other people would probably think, I don't mind new people, and I don't always mind talking. Most of the time, there's just usually nothing worthwhile to say.

"So, you're the new halfer." His eyes meet mine. Blue. I guess it answers my question, doesn't it?

"I said that because I was the resident halfer around here. So you're taking my place." My lips are wry. This is kind of fun. But then again, I don't want to seem like the resident asshole, either.

But he's kind of smiling, too, in this unsure way. I guess he doesn't want me to dislike him, but he probably wants to punch me a little. It's OK. "...Kidding." I figured I'd throw that in there for good measure even though I'm really not. Can't hurt.

"Actually, you're right. My dad's half-Chinese, half-American. We even used to live in San Fran before San Diego. Pretty funny, right? We were the non-classic Japanese-Chinese family hanging around in the neighborhood. Kind of weird... My hair is even bleached out." His smile is a little infectious. Actually, he just seems...good. I can't really explain it beyond that. I guess when you're with so many shitty people at Valencia High School you usually don't see people like this and it's like - culture shock. He can actually take a joke. Yeah, it's new.

We walk into the computer lab and I take a seat near the back farthest from the teacher, and when he takes the initiative to sit beside me after a minute like he's actually deliberating where to sit (he's kind of a bad actor) I pretty much can tell I'm going to be talking to him for a while. We're supposed to be doing something fantastic with excel that will change our lives and educational potential - sarcasm, yet again - but I don't bother to really try. My head is still hurting, unsurprisingly. And I'm still tired. Just like I thought I would be.

But at least Naruto keeps talking. Like I said, the guy's voice is even bright. It keeps me awake and I'll avoid getting another write-up, which is good. I have too many of those on my record already. Thinking about my crappy history makes me consider actually asking about joining a club to my counselor, for my sister. I'm a little more considerate these days (though not much). It's probably from the hook incident...

"You OK...?" I'm too in my own head.

"Yeah. I'm OK." I rub at the corner of my eyes. I think about how I have another year, almost two years, in a place like this. If I could be sad, I would be. But I'm having a hard time sorting out my emotions. Maybe I need this kind of distraction. To just talk about something, because hearing something else from him will keep me out of my own brain.

"Why did you move?" Naruto seems like he's always taken off guard by some of my questions. They're not bad questions. (Are they?) Whatever. Maybe he's having some sort of flashback. It makes me think about Mira Mesa, all that, for the second time today. I don't know whether I should hate him or - yeah, hate him for making me even consider Mira Mesa, which I've pretty much done everything in my power to repress for the past twelve months.

"We moved because I was in deep shit." I guess he's like me, and he doesn't care if our teacher hears us. I think by now, none of us really care. We're adults but we're in cages in this kind of system. It's ridiculous.

"I guess I don't really get it." I'm a liar. I just need to hear someone's voice.

He turns toward me, like he's worried someone we'll hear even though no one is in front of me or next to him. Maybe he's just a self-conscious guy. I hope he's not worried about being popular. It just rubs me the wrong way.

"Do you really want to know?" He finally says. Naruto looks like he's itching for a smoke. Actually, I can smell it on him. Big surprise, I used to light up - it's not hard to tell. I see him tapping his hands on the front of his jeans, and then he bites his thumbnail. I wait, a little impatient. But then he eases up a little. And I never really saw myself as the most trustworthy guy...go figure. He's an anomaly.

"...I punched my teacher in the face. He was talking to me like I was a moron. Just...pushing me. Way too much." Well, I've been there. But I have to give him accolades for actually punching a teacher in the face when he was pissed. I want to tell him so, but resting my chin against the fold of my arms in the dimness of the lab, I'm tired. My brain feels like soup.

"Yeah." It's all I can muster. But it seems like it's enough for him to keep going.

"I had it out with the guy. I think he was hitting on me or something. I kind of rejected him. I mean - we were after school, me and..." He's talking in a hushed voice, and I like the change in tonality. I notice things like this about people. It's kind of strange. I like that he's trying to keep this a secret, but a poorly kept secret. It's interesting.

He seems unsure. Then Naruto sort of laughs to himself, but not in a happy way. He's scratching at the back of his neck. The guy never stops moving around.

"Maybe I should stop telling you this. I mean, we just kinda met each other what...ten minutes ago?"

I've shut my eyes a little but I'm still listening. I must seem bored. "Don't forget homeroom."

"Right. Almost forgot about that..."

I look at him and I try to convey some sense of solidarity. "I won't tell anybody. If it makes you feel any better...I don't get shaken up easily." That took a lot of effort. My throat is thick, my mouth is a little dry...I don't do well in the heat, I guess. I never did. I almost died when we went on a trip to Arizona a while back. Well, close to it.

Naruto seems hesitant for a minute. The teacher is out of the room. Lucky me. "Ok. I guess you're right. I mean - I don't know what I'm saying. Can I just say I hate this fucking school and it makes me feel weird? I can't...I don't know. I can't really explain it."

I actually smile. Just a little. "Yep."

This, for whatever reason, is enough to make him ease up. "Well, I guess I can finish it...It was just so weird how I was supposed to be staying after school, and I was going to be tutored with this other kid. But the other kid, he never showed up. So the teacher starts acting funny, and getting a little too close to me...it's not even the fact that he was, you know, even maybe gay. It was just the way he was sliding up next to me and getting all close to me at the board. Saying like 'Ooh, it's OK, you can trust me...' Touching my hand and shit. Made me angry. I thought he was an all right guy."

Yikes. Sounds like this kid has a lot of baggage. Then I feel so condescending and I want to hit myself. I'm not any better than he is. At all.

"It sounds difficult. But not a lot better than here." When I say this, it's understandable that he looks a little disturbed. Naruto's face has this kind of comically universal 'what the fuck?' expression. It amuses me. "We don't have any child molesting gays that I know of, however. Just to put your mind at ease."

Naruto gives a sigh. "Wow. Now I'm pretty relieved." He laughs a little to himself again, but differently than before. He laughs a lot. He's that kind of person, I guess.

"So you punched this teacher in the face, for hitting on you..." I probe. I don't mind being a little obtrusive.

"It wasn't just about that, though. It was because I didn't respond to it in the way he wanted, I guess, that he basically became like, just short of a satanist. He started harassing me and humiliating me in class...I didn't really know what to do since, well, it all kinda snowballed, you know? It was near the end of school. I'm not sure why he waited until then... what a weird guy. He almost ruined my life. Well, I guess I kinda did."

Naruto also talks way too much, but it's effectively drawn me out of my own brain and its torture den meant for me. The teacher comes back in the room, and because I'm playing the role of the Good Kid for the past few days, I take the incentive to at least log onto the program. While I'm doing my best to type slouched over the keyboard, still tired enough to go to sleep, a piece of paper slides underneath my fingers onto the keys.

"My phone number. In case you ever wanna hang out, you know?" He smiles. Naruto, like I thought before, is good. A good guy. I feel like telling him that I'm basically an anti-popularity magnet and repel a good social reputation. But for some reason it doesn't seem worth it.

At the same time, I can't help but cut myself some slack. I've been at this school since last year and it takes its toll on you for a while. He needs someone to show him the ropes around here anyway. Or maybe I'm rationalizing too much.

"...Thanks." I don't give him my number back; I'm busy trying to type (and fucking it up a little. Numbers aren't my strong point). I'll eventually contact him...maybe. I don't think about if his feelings are hurt or not. I've never been that kind of person. He doesn't ask me about it.

[6.]

Class ends, and I push in my chair as fast as I can because it's lunch and I need to go outside. It's a thousand degrees but the light is natural and I need air. I'm zombie-like. I walk out as soon as I hear the bell.

Unexpectedly, Naruto claps me on the back a little. "Thanks again - for listening I mean...Halfer." He's a fast walker, fast talker. Has a lot of energy. I could use some of it, personally. The smile he throws over his shoulder is a little like the kind you'd give a friend. I can't believe it.

(You're like the Sun - that's what I was trying to think of. And I'm Pluto.)


a/n. Any Queen of the Damned fans here? Song lyrics are from 'Redeemer' by J. David/M. Manson. I caught it on TV today. It happened to work for the story...