Title: An Inky Reminder
Author/Artist: Tiasha
Pairing: Haruno Sakura, Sai
Theme: #43 – ink blotch

Disclaimer: Standard Disclaimers apply! Naturally any character that is not associated with the show belongs either to someone I have permission to use or to me. Please ask permission to use any character that I own should you desire to do so. Thank you. If there are any similarities between my work and another author's then I apologize. I suppose great minds DO think alike.

Date Completed: 2007 Feb. 27
Word Count: 1,715
Recommended Track: How to Save a Life by The Fray

She knew she was trespassing, knew she was invading his private domain, but she couldn't help it. She had always been curious about his artwork but he never shared, still too caught up in the belief that he needn't share everything about himself. It was laughable, and almost sad really; he wanted to better his social skills and start anew, yet he kept the most interesting parts of himself hidden from others.

Now granted she wasn't the type to snoop into other's personal affects and domains, but the lure of his apartment… the mystery of it… She couldn't resist the temptation. After all, it wasn't her fault that he wasn't home when she'd stopped by to drop off a mission scroll. And it wasn't her fault that he hadn't locked the door…for whatever reason. So it wasn't her fault that he had set the stage for temptation.

She kept her hands at her sides, not wanting to disturb the strange surreal of the room. Sunshine poured in unhindered through the windows, alighting upon the various art brushes, inks, charcoals, and reams of paper. An easel was set up near one of the windows, paints and inks drying in a palette he'd forgotten to clean after finishing whatever he'd been working on. Tucked against a wall were an empty desk and a lone bed, its sheets and covers folded immaculately and the pillow pristine.

Various projects, most half-finished she noted, laid against the walls or whatever empty space was available. Some pieces had the privilege of hanging on the walls, their beautifully intricate lines and colors on display to their owner at all times.

She took in everything, turning in slow circles as she moved to the middle of the room. It was almost artfully cluttered, and she smiled at the irony of it. As she passed the empty, simply designed desk, she ran her fingers across its smooth surface, as if it would help her discern the mystery that was her new teammate. She honestly wanted to understand him better, and she did try to be patient when he screwed up on his people skills, but sometimes it was so hard.

As she turned to observe the works of art on the wall, one in particular caught her attention. Perhaps it was because it was so out of place when compared to the other pieces. It was so stark looking against the white-washed walls that it drew one's eye to it almost immediately. It was a plain, black…blob.

With a slight frown of confusion, she approached it and stared at it, trying to discern the purpose of its creation and the meaning behind it. After all, why would he display an ink blotch as a piece of work? Perhaps it was one of the ink blotches psychiatrists used to get an idea of one's state of mind? But why display it, if that was the case?

"What are you doing here?" The flat toned question came from the direction of the door. Sakura whirled around with a start, hand on her chest and stared at Sai with wide eyes.

"Oh jeez, you scared me," she breathed out in relief, her heartbeat returning to normal after its unscheduled spike. After another deep breath, she smiled at him and noted the plastic bags in his hands. Food or more art supplies? Noticing a brush sticking out of one bag and some carrots out of another, she surmised that it was both.

He still hadn't moved from the doorway, probably intentionally to keep her there until he was satisfied with her answers. "What are you doing here?" he asked again, his eyes narrowing slightly and his 'fake' smile nowhere to be seen.

Inwardly wincing, she realized that she truly had trespassed on sacred territory for him. Oops. Now how was she going to get out of this one? Oh right, the mission scroll…

"I stopped by to deliver this," she answered, pulling out the scroll and moving to hand it to him. He stared at it untrustingly, making no move to take it from her. Biting her lower lip, she gently placed it on one of the small tables in the room and stared down at her feet in shame. "It's a mission scroll," she supplied, and immediately mentally berated herself for such a stupid comment. Of course it was a mission scroll! Why else would she be delivering it to him?!

"I can see that."

"You weren't here and the door wasn't locked and I thought I could just leave it here for when you got back but then I saw that there wasn't really a place to put it and then I saw the paintings and—"

"You're babbling."

Sakura snapped her mouth shut quickly, realizing that he was right. She had started to babble and she hadn't even noticed. She had noticed something though and it made her stomach churn slightly. 'He hasn't even called me Hag yet; oh he's gotta be really pissed at me then,' she thought dejectedly. Never would she have thought that the nickname 'Hag' would become something of importance to her.

"You can leave now." He moved away from the doorway and to the refrigerator she'd overlooked upon her initial perusal of the place. He was dismissing her so easily…and it should have ticked her off, but strangely it didn't…instead, it hurt.

Wanting to somehow mend whatever she'd damaged between them, her eyes roamed over the room and landed quickly on the ink blotch. Glancing at him from the corner of her, she moved back towards the piece instead of towards the door. She sensed him stiffen out of wariness as she stopped to examine the blob of black.

"I can't figure out why you have this hanging here," she said casually, tilting her head to look at him and offer a friendly smile. At his blank and unwelcoming look, she idly wondered if he'd ever allowed anyone into his humble abode.

"I mean at first glance, it just looks like an ink blotch but when you start to stare at it for a while, it's almost like it's moving…" she continued, squinting her eyes slightly as she focused on the blob. When silence settled around them, she glanced at him again and met his dark, blank gaze with her own curious emerald one.

"Is there a reason?" she asked tentatively. He continued to watch her, eyes betraying nothing of what he was thinking. She bit her lower lip again, wondering if whatever she'd damaged was irreparable now, which would really suck since they were on the same team and all…

After what seemed like an eternity, she saw a spark of…something in those black orbs. He sighed and placed his bags on the counter by the sink and next to the refrigerator. Silently, he moved to stand next to her, eyes focused on the ink blotch. He was silent for a moment more before he finally answered her.

"To remind me."

She blinked at the honesty in the answer, and the lack of substance behind it. It left too much open for speculation, and she hated it when things like that happened.

"Remind you of what?" she questioned in confusion and he glanced at her briefly before returning his gaze to the piece.

"That pain, hatred, darkness are necessary in life, to remind us of the better things and to be…grateful."

She took a startled step back at the depth of the answer, and that a single ink blotch could represent all of that to him. She looked back at the blob curiously, tilting her head from side to side, trying to see it from his angle. A petulant look crossed her face as she studied it for a moment longer before heaving a sigh of defeat. She could see where he was coming from, but it was almost a depressing view… Well, she'd give him something else to chew on, something with a little more optimism to it.

"All I see is a blotch of ink: simple, unobtrusive, yet stark and defiant; but overall, unique. There will never be another blotch like it," she stated, nodding her head proudly. Yes, that sounded just about right.

Smiling, she turned to see what effect her words had had on the young man next to her. His brows were furrowed in thought as he stared at the black blob hanging on his wall. She gave his shoulder a friendly squeeze and bid her friend good-bye, showing herself out. He needed time to himself now, and she wouldn't intrude anymore than she already had.


She paused, hand on the doorknob and ready to close the door behind her. She looked at him questioningly but he hadn't turned to look at her. She waited patiently, not wanting to rush him. The fact that he had called her by her first name, and without any suffix, told her that he was struggling—struggling with something within himself.

After a few minutes of silence though, she felt the need to remind him that he'd called to her. "What is it, Sai?"

"You…" he began but closed his mouth, expression one of concentration. He wanted to word it just right and she felt a spark of endearment for this poor soul who had been placed in her and Naruto's care and on their team. "Feel free to…stop by…again…sometime…"

With a genuine smile, she nodded and waved at him, "Thank you. I'll try to." And she left him alone with his thoughts.

As she left his apartment building, she realized that that had been one of the few times that he'd held a conversation without having to give it too much analytical thought. He hadn't agonized over the choice of words or phrases, well except at the end, but simply thought of what he wanted to say and said it. He was closer to being socially-ept than he or others gave him credit for… he just needed the right topic of conversation.

A giggle escaped her as she stepped out of the apartment complex and onto the streets of Konoha, her gaze being drawn to the blue, cloudless sky above. And to think, this small step towards 'humanity' had all started because of an ink blotch.