|forever reaching, they are
Author: the general girl PM
For sasusakumonth, day one, AU. "What are you so desperate for?" he asked. The same thing as you, her heart beat back.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Angst - Sasuke U. & Sakura H. - Words: 3,061 - Reviews: 18 - Favs: 60 - Follows: 7 - Published: 07-01-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7137973
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
for: SasuSaku Month, Day 1
theme: Alternate Universe
prompt: "What are you so desperate for?"
note: Imagine a city-state split into two tiers; the poor live below a huge, round metal plate that blocks out all sunlight, warmth, etc in the ruins of the city that used to be on the ground (think post-apocalyptic NYC?). The rich live on top with trees, sunshine, and all that other good stuff. If all else fails google Midgar from Final Fantasy VII.
"What are you so desperate for?"
He asks her this in the middle of ruins, with flakes of ash falling from the sky like so-much dirtied snow.
She is kneeling on the ground, knees pressed hard against cracked cement, blood welling from beneath broken scabs.
He stands two feet away, waiting for an answer he already has.
When she raises her head to meet his gaze, her eyes are so green that it hurts. She is the only spot of color amid the dismal grey of ash coated steel and refuse. It should be three in the afternoon, mid-summer, but the large plate above blocks all traces of sunlight and its subsequent warmth.
She shivers in the cold and her breath is a cloud of white that does not suit her.
He thinks that she is like some exotic hothouse flower; stranded in a cold she didn't belong to. He isn't much for waxing poetic, but her hair, her eyes; what else could he equate her with?
The first time they met, his best friend was running away from a bread seller he'd tried to steal from and she was what he'd run into. Later, she said she'd felt sorry for the skinny blond boy because of his scarred cheeks and puppy dog eyes, and that was why she paid for the bread herself, with many effusive apologies to the seller. The blond idiot had fallen in love with her right then and there, dragging her back to where he and Sasuke were squatting, determined to share some of his spoils with her.
Sakura was a healer: the next best thing to an actual doctor that those under the plate could afford.
When Sasuke heard, he'd scoffed, dark eyes still beautiful despite ash crusted lashes and dirt-scabbed cheeks.
There was nothing left to save here, he'd said. But the scathing words didn't have the effect he'd wanted on her, this girl so full of life and reminders of sunshine, this girl who's eyes had only deepened to a green he'd never found anywhere else.
What about you? She'd asked, and he'd had no answer for her.
She became an annoyingly consistent feature at the abandoned warehouse he and Naruto called home. She teased the blond about how clichéd the location was, but when he asked her where she stayed she'd gone uncharacteristically quiet. Sasuke soon became used to coming home after a long day (of conning, stealing, pilfering, etc) to see the pair holed up together on the ratty couch they'd stuffed in one of the less leaky corners of the space, always laughing or talking or just plain making goddamned noise.
Yes, Sasuke was used to it, but it didn't mean he had to like it.
Naruto made what money he could from doing odd jobs: helping the occasional old lady decontaminate a house, construction, deliveries, etc. Honest work, with the occasional stolen loaf of bread here and there when times got especially hard.
Sasuke made his living as a contractor. The rich and the famous that lived on top of the plate hired him to kill, to steal, to lie. But mostly to kill. He firmly believed that without what he earned the blond wouldn't make it through a single week.
A few months after Naruto met Sakura, he died.
There was a bullet, and misty rain that obscured Sasuke's twenty-twenty vision and normally perfect shot. There were bodies, mercenaries from above the plate, the bright, stitched patch on their uniform indicating they were hired guns of the Premier he'd been contracted to assassinate. There was a lot of blood, slicking the sidewalk red. He hadn't expected the Premier to come after him, hadn't expected him to have possibly known where he was staying. There were gunshots and the deafening noise of shattering glass. He'd run out into the street, still barefoot, Naruto looking panicked and confused on his own futon across the room. Sasuke had yelled for him to stay back, but the blond had never listened to him. There were many shots fired that night, but only one bullet that mattered. He stood over the body of his best friend, sprawled in a twisted heap on the dirty concrete sidewalk. None of the mercenaries lived.
Sasuke first met the older boy a few weeks after he'd been exiled from the Uchiha clan. He had…underestimated how hard it'd be for a pampered fourteen year-old to survive under the plate. Yes, he'd had training. He knew how to be diplomatic and charming, he knew how to act regal and superior and always, always unaffected. He knew all about calculus and chemistry and how to calculate the velocity of a speeding object. He knew how to kill. None of those skills, however, served him well beneath the plate as a fourteen year old street rat.
"Oi, you hungry?"
He remembered lying in an out-of-sight gutter, and looking up through hazy eyes to find a grubby hand and a proffered piece of bread.
The only thing Naruto loved more than bread was the occasional, rare bowl of ramen.
Sasuke, as a fourteen year-old, may have known a lot of things, but Naruto taught him how to survive.
Sasuke moved out of the warehouse after that night, never staying in one place for long. He slummed in run-down hostels and abandoned buildings, and the entire time he stayed on contract for the Premier's assassination, devouring information as he went. Sasuke would never admit it to himself, but it was personal now.
He spotted her one night between one dilapidated building and the next. It was nothing more than a brief flash of pink under a flickering street light, but he'd known. Where else could you find color so bright under the plate unless it was on her?
"I know you're there."
His voice was raspy from days of disuse.
"I'm not an idiot. Get out here and I won't shoot."
A tremulous flutter of pink and green and she stepped out from the shadows, wrapped from head to toe in a ridiculous assortment of faded pastel winter clothes: a thick stripped sweater of blue and white and a scarf a shade paler than her hair. Her thick, ratty sweatpants were just as obnoxiously bright as the rest of her, red with dark green patches sewn here and there. Frankly, he was disgusted that he hadn't noticed her sooner.
"What the hell are you doing?"
She only looked at him, just long enough to make him uncomfortable.
"I…I heard what happened."
Sasuke tensed, "Heard? There aren't exactly any news vans parked around here."
She straightened, hands tightening into fists by her side, "I saw his body, Sasuke. You just left him there."
He froze, mind rewinding, stepping back through the grimy images of the past few days. She was right. He never remembered removing the body, focused only on the rush of revenge, of killing those who'd wronged him. Once that'd been done he'd never gone back.
He looked away, gritting his teeth, "He was dead. It'd have made no difference."
Green eyes shadowed, she watched as he made to walk away, gun already back in its holster.
"Do you really think that?" she called out.
Sasuke didn't bother to respond. He kept walking.
"Don't be angry because you forgot."
He whipped his head around, startled. She looked at him, keeping pace with an easy, soundless lope. How had he not heard her footsteps?
"I didn't forget anything," he spat.
A small hum, indicative of nothing more than that she'd heard him, and then, "I buried him."
He didn't answer, but let her continue walking beside him without comment.
She was with him when he met up with one of his contacts a few days later. She'd been quiet, useful for any injuries he'd incurred in the fight against the mercenaries and was oddly knowledgeable about which parts of the slums were the best to stay in. On the first day after he found her in the shadows she'd quietly pooled their money together. To her, it seemed, they were now a team.
Sasuke knew better.
"Should she be here?" The cloaked man gestured to Sakura, huddled in a corner of the dingy motel room, seemingly preoccupied with thumbing through one of the few worn books she carried with her. Sasuke shrugged, uncaring.
The older man—middle-aged, nondescript, from what he could see—nodded, "I was told you'd still be doing this assignment? Do you have any progress to report?"
Sasuke shook his head, disgruntled, "I've been on the move for the past few days. The target's beefed up his security after it leaked that someone was after him."
The man sighed. "Well, hurry up with it. We've heard rumors that he has a daughter upstairs. Maybe you should look into that."
Both men missed the way the girl's knuckles tightened around the crumbling book.
The Premier had a daughter. No one had ever seen her. There were no records, nothing to indicate a date of birth or a date of death. But Sasuke was pretty damn sure from what he'd heard in the back alleys of god knows how many bars that she existed. Secreted away by her father after the violent death of her mother, armed to be the successor once her parent died, this girl would be the key to taking down the Premier once and for all. He'd tear down the regime that'd stolen his clan away from him, rip that damned metal plate apart by the seams until the whole godforsaken city was falling down around his ears.
He would be the vengeance for every poor kid out there who'd ever had to suffer the fate of a stray bullet or an empty stomach.
It was just a job, Sasuke told himself.
"How does it feel to whore out your soul?"
She asked him this without preamble. It was night now, ash scattering over the streets from the rumble of trains above the plate. They were sitting on the bed of the woman he'd just killed, her corpse cooling not five feet away.
She hadn't known what he was going to do when he knocked softly on the door once, twice, before kicking it down. The girl had watched, green eyes wide, as he slashed the woman's throat. She had been no older than forty, no younger than thirty five. He noted the dark hair, the brown eyes, compared it with the picture of the mark he'd been provided with in his head. Sheathed his knife once he was satisfied it was the right target.
Afterwards, Sasuke slumped onto the bed piled in a corner of the spacious loft. He saw no reason to leave yet. There'd be no one coming after them for another day or so, and it was a good bed. A good room. A secure enough place to stay if you were smart enough to keep a gun by your side at all times.
It took about two minutes for Sakura to unfreeze and scramble over to the woman's side, frantic hands moving over the ruptured throat, checking under the lids of glassy eyes. It took her another minute to discern what she probably already knew: the woman was dead.
She rose, sat beside him on the bed, ankles politely crossed, hands folded neatly in her lap.
And then she'd asked her question.
Her voice was even, low, calm. Eyes staring straight ahead.
He wasn't angry, he told himself. He was not affected because this stupid little girl that insisted on wasting time and energy on saving worthless bums on the street had no idea what she was talking about.
None at all.
A soul was only worth jack-shit to people who didn't have to worry about the immediacy of dying, of being gutted for your shoes on the street and of starving to death. There was an irony in that, he distantly thought.
Sasuke didn't answer, ignored the way she looked at him and swept the urge to justify himself to her far, far away.
Later, he would realize it'd been a rhetorical question.
Sakura loved rhetorical questions. She asked herself one every day. Like: why does she continue to follow the dark man with the face of an angel forsaken by God and the hands of a pianist? Why does she continue to heal a killer—her greatest dreams and fears all come to fruition at once?
He would be the death of her, she thought, late at night after reciting the Hippocratic Oath to herself ten times over. There was weight in those thoughts, and she clung to it when there was no certainty anywhere else.
He continued to seek the Premier's daughter. She continued to follow him. There was no change in his demeanor; sometimes he acted like there was no one with him at all. He thought he might lose her that way; sometimes it seemed as if she lived on his scant acknowledgements of her existence so that, if taken away, would cause her to wilt and die, petals crushed underneath his steel-toe boots.
But she persisted, and he kept allowing her to follow him. Neither mentioned the fact that he hadn't killed since the last woman.
When he found out who she was, the first thing he did was quietly, deftly; take his gun out of its holster. Snapped off the safety. Pointed it at her head. Then lowered it, dark eyes narrowing, like he couldn't quite believe what he was seeing.
The manila folder laid abandoned, contents scattered on the asphalt road. Grainy, low quality pictures of a girl with unmistakable pink hair littered the street.
He raised the gun again, fired.
It missed her by a good five inches, but she still sank slowly to her knees. Green eyes bright, earnest. He'd seen the same expression before, reflected back at him from a mirror.
"What are you so desperate for?" he'd asked.
She can tell that even though he hadn't intended for it to be, the question was rhetorical. She dissects out the answer from his face anyways, tracing with her eyes the words he couldn't say out loud from the sharp angles of his cheekbones, the smooth planes of his forehead, the tight line of his lips.
And then Sakura stands, knees creaking when she rises from the ashes. Like spring being reborn from winter. She walks, carefully, slowly, over to him, taking the hand with the gun and prying cold metal from sweaty grip. She guides his hand under all her layers, until skin touches skin. Shivers when long, lean fingers take their own answer from the scars lacing her back.
She doesn't tell him a story about growing up alone in dusty, windowless rooms filled with beautiful, dead things. She never mentions huddling in a corner as rain drums the roof, her father huge and loud, looming over her, spittle flying as he screams, pounding bony fists against gold-flaked walls. Sakura says nothing of the sensation of glass cracking splitting shattering beneath her, or the high, keening sound the supports of the building makes as she slams her body repeatedly against the daylight streaming.
She doesn't say anything about the pain either, but truth is she remembers nothing of it. There had been only the warmth and the first glimpse of a blue, blue sky.
Naruto's eyes had reminded her of the sky. Being friends with him had almost been as good as being free.
Sakura whimpers when Sasuke's hands creep another inch higher, her numerous sweaters bunching underneath her breasts. His eyes are closed, and she is just near enough to count the dusky lashes brushing the top of his cheekbones. His touch is light as he traces the lines of each scar, each rise of pink running across her pale skin.
She doesn't flinch when the lightest touch of steel lays itself, tip first, against the small of her back.
Being with Sasuke (but never actually with Sasuke) is like…is like following the rabbit down through the dark, dank hole. It is like chasing dreams that you never want to come true and cupping water in the cracks between your fingers. Being with Sasuke is reminiscent of sleeping with your regrets, of taking rusting handcuffs and snapping them around your own wrists.
Being with Sasuke is nothing like being free.
What are you so desperate for, he'd asked, and she tells him her answer in silence.
The same thing as you, she thinks; the same thing that leaves you aching and wanting and panting in the wake of your nightmares every single morning.
She tells him all the weak spots in the plate's infrastructure in hushed, unhurried whispers, and when change first sounds in the screech of slipping metal, they stand together, hands nearly touching, triumphant.
Waiting for the first rays of sunrise.
a/n: This took for-freaking-ever. Will edit edit edit later because I know the first half is just...really, really bad. I just wanted to get this out before Day 1 was over, aha. And if you couldn't tell, the first part and the last part is the present talking (present tense) while everything in past tense are flashbacks/the past.
Happy SSM guys!