Sins Of Glass
Summary: Sometimes the demons catch us, and sometimes we let ourselves get caught.
AN: Uh, 'ware random tense changes (although they have an artistic purpose, heh) and whatnot. OoCness in the form of 'Mentallyfuckedupandconfused!Sasuke and rawrI'msurroundedbyidiots!Sakura. Ye be warned.
Unedited, and written in about forty minutes, which is quite a long time for something so short. Whoops. The bad formatting is entirely the fault of grr.
How she'd gotten here didn't matter. It was what she was doing, and why she was doing it, and who she was doing it for. It was the fact that she hadn't recognized the man in her doorway as being an enemy because she wished so dearly for him to be a friend.
Her half-hearted yelp of 'Sasuke-kun!' had died on her lips, stillborn, as she noticed that he was too old to be Sasuke, too cold and too dark, too utterly changed. The only thing that Sasuke had in common with the man in front of her was the fact that they bore the undoubted stamp of the Uchiha, in the red-crimson madness of their eyes and in the cast of their sculpted faces.
"Wh…who are you?" she asked, quietly, willing her voice not to tremble, her knees not to shake. Her heart not to flutter against her ribs like a trapped bird.
He studied her with a sort of curiousness that unsettled her more than any turn of phrase, and then he stepped the rest of the way into her apartment, shaking his wet hair out, the light caught on the droplets of rain like refracted crystals. He set one hand against the doorframe, as if to steady himself, and then, strangely courteous, he used a tendril of chakra to pull her door closed.
And then he collapsed into her arms.
She didn't know why he'd come back.
She didn't know why she held him.
But she did it anyways, and didn't cry, because that was against the rules.
And for the next six days, he was dead to the world. For the next six days, Sakura kept him a secret, a sort of fairytale prince that only she could see, that might disappear if she left him too long unattended. She claimed a near-terminal cold and turned everyone away at the door. Fortunately, one sight of her red-rimmed eyes with the inelegant bags of darkness beneath them was enough to deter everyone except Naruto, and Naruto was away on a mission for another week, so she didn't have to worry about what came next until he was back.
During the day, she practiced her jutsu. At night, she belonged to Sasuke.
She tended him, and she watched him for any changes, for any hints of life, and for anything of the old Sasuke she'd known. He disappointed her time and time again, but she supposed she was used to that. And when he shivered in his sleep, and his skin burned to her touch, she fetched another blanket and curled up beside him and hoped beyond hope that what she offered was enough to sustain him, while she knew beyond knowledge that it couldn't possibly have been.
He'd left her once, years ago, thinking it would be a mercy. But there were few mercies sweeter than death, and that hadn't been one of them.
And so she'd waited, and realized eventually that she hadn't loved him at all. But if that wasn't love that she'd felt, why did watching him make her feel so young again? Shouldn't she have been past all that?
On the seventh day, he woke. She realized it by the fluctuation in his chakra pattern, as she stood in the kitchen and made herself breakfast and him some broth. But instead of rushing to him as if she were a child with a nightmare, she waited patiently for him to come to her. He'd done it once; maybe he'd see fit to make a habit of it.
Some part of her knew better. So when she returned to her room and found the bed absent but still warm with his body heat, she hadn't really expected that he'd be there to occupy it. To have low expectations was what it meant to know Uchiha Sasuke, because he would break them, if he knew you harbored them.
The fact that he'd left a note was a small, chill comfort. The words that it held lessened the brevity perhaps a little, but she didn't let herself be fooled by their sweet allusions.
Scrawled in his usual graceful style, for Sasuke exuded perfection like the sun exuded warmth. The words were characterized by sweeping brushstrokes, however hastily applied to the paper that became their home.
She smiled at the little scroll, smiled and then she set it on fire and put it from her mind. There was no better place for Uchiha Sasuke.
"Happy birthday, Sasuke-kun!" She smiles brightly and hopes that he likes her kimono, because she'd picked it out to compliment his eyes. A dark, vehement red, hostile and unforgiving, contrasted with a pale border of cream, so decadent that all sins fell to ashes and all past misgivings were forgiven. She smiles again at him and hands him a hand-wrapped, hand-made present.
"Che," he mutters, obviously annoyed, and if he likes her kimono he doesn't say anything to the affirmative, and he turns and starts to walk away, and she feels tears welling in her eyes but she knows she's stronger than that, so she 'hmphs' very softly and she sets the present on a bench and folds her arms.
"It'll still be here later," she calls after him softly, and receives no answer in response. His shoulders are hunched, and rigidity seems a way of life for the solemn young Uchiha.
She sighs, and knows that she'll wait as long as necessary. And though she's not thinking of vows, or cold park benches, or of cursed seals against young skin, such things linger in her not-so-distant future. But she's young, and she has all the time in the world, because death is a mysterious melody the likes of which she chooses not to hear.
He returns in a month, or two months, or three, and she doesn't remember because she's never kept score. And this time when he studies her curiously, she doesn't flinch nor shy away. She merely returns his gaze, uninterested, and wonders how such a boy could have ever held her interest.
"Sakura," he says, at the exact same time she says 'Sasuke.' And he stops and stares at her, because she's forgotten the '-kun' and she's never done that before, and Sasuke has always stumbled, just a little, on foreign turf.
His eyes are still sharingan-red, and she wonders if he's forgotten how to shut out the madness.
"I've killed people," he begins, like he expects her to be shocked. Like he expects her to rant and rave and cry and cling to him like he clings to his past.
She looks at him.
"Tortured them," he insists.
She doesn't tell him that she's got as much blood on her hands as he does on his. In so many ways, being a healer is more cruelty than kindness, because the end result is often the same as being a murderer. In the end, you can only save so many people before you can no longer save yourself.
"Hate me!" he hisses, like he's the first person to ever live in anguish. She stifles an inappropriate laugh at that, because what he thinks he knows of pain is nothing compared to what others have suffered.
She continues looking at him. Sighs, a little. Takes his hand, presses it to her chest, near her heart, and asks quietly, "What do you feel?"
He doesn't answer. He tries to jerk his hand away, but she's reinforced her grip with chakra and is pleasantly surprised to discover that she's on par with his strength. "Answer the question, Sasuke."
"…Warmth," he finally mutters. "I can feel your heartbeat. And your chakra."
"What does that tell you?" she continues patiently.
"…That you're alive."
That earns him a smile. Slowly, she reciprocates the gesture. Places a hand splayed out against his chest, feels the play of muscle and fabric and scars beneath her skin, and the faint fluttering of his heartbeat. "Now tell me what I feel," she says softly.
"…I…don't know." And though he's broken and bruised and bleeding -god, she can smell the blood on him like alcohol- he's still so stupidly stubborn.
"Warmth," she murmurs. "Your heartbeat. Your chakra."
He swallows with some difficulty and doesn't meet her eyes. The sharingan pinwheels in what might have been a sign of menace, years past. But they're older now, and she knows better. Does she ever know better.
"And…what does that tell you?" he asks haltingly, as afraid of her answer as he is of his demons. He's still just a child, alone and afraid, hiding behind a mantle of that which he considers to be a safe haven. He's not awe-inspiring, or cool, or even particularly special. He's Uchiha Sasuke, and he's never known love, and she has no time to take the pains to show him something he'll never accept.
"That you're alive, too." Her eyes narrow, and her smile fades, and she grips his wrist tighter and pulls him close, viciously so. "Now act like it, Uchiha Sasuke." No 'kun'. No 'please'. No entreaties or delicate whispers of affection or love or even hatred. It's an order, plain and simple, bare as bones.
Sakura doesn't plan on taking no for an answer.