Settle For A Draw

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Rating: R, for strongly suggested yuri.
Pairing: Sakura/Hinata
Warnings: Some yuri (but mostly shoujo-ai).
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, or any of the places or characters mentioned in that series and this piece of fanfiction. No profit is being made, I write for free.

Notes: I really love this pairing, though I can't figure out for the life of me why. Hmm.
In any case, enjoy the fic, and remember that all feedback is appreciated. Yes, even the big nasty criticising kind. :O

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The sky bleeds slowly red as the sun rises, the colour leaching into the sea. It is a sight that the Byakugan can't change: the colours are different, almost inverted, but the effect is the same. A red sky in the morning means rain however you look at it, Hinata knows.

The prospect of rain is enough to kill what little hope Hinata has left. She does not expect that Sakura has much more -- this mission is already failed. The two of them trudge on, never complaining, just the hum of Sakura's steady breathing at Hinata's shoulder and birds in the trees. She can see seven blackbirds nesting in the trees closest, but she knows there are more. Hinata knows she can't avoid failure for long.

How long have they been gone? Sakura asks, and then Hinata looks up at the sky again. Naruto, Kiba, Shino -- all three of them are somewhere nearby, but who knows where? They could be days away, so far they can't see the sea rolling against the horizon. Hinata's Byakugan can only follow them so far.

I don't know, she answers, honestly, and her voice wavers like usual. Two days. I think.

Though, of course, it may well be three, four, five-- neither of them is sure, and the question hovers. They continue on.

--

They had all been pleased by the idea of such an important mission, at first. Five of them sent to the Hidden Mist, to retrieve a stolen scroll and the accompanying thief-- this sort of mission was bound to be exciting, they had all thought.

And of course, they'd thought right.

Tsunade had frowned at their cheerful smiles, fingers locked in front of her. Don't underestimate the enemy, she had said, leaning back in her chair and sighing at the ceiling. If you all come back dead-- she had looked at them all in turn, eyes narrowed, --well. Don't.

Kiba had been the first to speak, grinning from ear to ear. Hey, he'd said, looking from Shino to Hinata to and back to Tsunade again. How hard's it gonna be?

--

At midday they stop to rest, making tea and eating what little food they have left. The day is warm but damp, and they spread a small blanket on the ground to keep themselves dry, though the material is scratchy against Hinata's leg. The grass shimmers with dew.

More tea? Sakura's voice is beaten quiet with worry. Hinata shakes her head and sips the dregs from her cup, listening to the whistle of birdsong. Their situation seems pointless from here; why continue on? Then Hinata spots a yellow flower pushing through the soil and remembers.

She tidies her things away, kneeling on the blanket and folding everything, while Sakura hovers next to her and watches her hands move. Something about the way she holds herself screams desperation, worry, regret-- all the things that Hinata knows she feels but refuses to dwell on. They are both worn thin, she thinks. They both just want to go home.

Hinata turns to pick up her shoes, and Sakura kisses her.

There is birdsong in the trees and nothing else-- just birds and the wind. The suddenness of it all is what gets Hinata, that and the fact that Sakura isn't breathing. Hinata remembers, knows how that feels. Holding breath until rejection finds you.

So she sweeps Sakura's hair away with one hand and kisses her back, lips parting nervously while her eyes close. This doesn't matter, she thinks. Sakura, she breathes as she pulls away.

Sakura nods, eyes still closed. There's a distance between them; she moves forward, presses against Hinata until her back is against the blanket. Sakura's hands rest at Hinata's hips, useless, so she pulls on the zipper of her jacket with unsure fingers instead.

Hinata's skin prickles as Sakura's hand wanders, shy, the pads of her fingers resting on bare skin. A flush rises into her cheeks-- she feels too hot, fenced in, the sky rushing down to drown her. Where, exactly, has her common sense gone? She doubts that this is the wisest thing she has ever done, to say the least; and for some reason, Neji's voice sounds in her head, disapproving of another foolish choice.

They kiss again, as nervous as before, though Sakura presses harder against her and Hinata feels as though she may bruise. Sakura's lips move to her neck. This? she murmurs, and Hinata knows her intention. She nods.

This? Sakura runs her tongue along Hinata's collar bone. Another nod. This? Her free hand rests on Hinata's stomach, hidden by cloth, and moves downward-- into the shallow of her bellybutton, and then beneath. This?

Y-yes, Hinata breathes, her voice strained, as Sakura's fingers trail softly past her hip. Yes, as the pad of Sakura's thumb ghosts against her. She lets out a faint moan, and Sakura's movement grow bolder.

The blanket bunches under Hinata's back as she trembles. The sky is drowning her now, Sakura is drowning her. Desperately, she thinks, is this Sakura's comfort? If there is nothing else, well, Hinata is happy with this. She closes her eyes, desire running cool through her body.

It is a combination of the breath on her throat, the blanket at her back, Sakura doing these things to her-- Hinata comes, holding herself in as the feeling washes over her body, her breathing unsteady.

After a moment Sakura kneels, then pushes to her feet, turning her gaze to their bags. Shall we go? she asks, and Hinata nods dumbly. She stares up at the clouds, white churning with red, like somebody wiping their hands clean on the fabric of the sky. What could she say?

We'll find them tomorrow. Sakura's face is clouded, unsure. Hinata thinks of the sunrise, and the rain that is sure to follow.

--

The next day is a repeat of the last: Hinata is doing something insignificant with her hands, and with a soft whisper of fabric Sakura is pressing her back into the grass, hands soft against her shoulders.

The next day is a repeat of the last: Hinata speaks while Sakura presses kisses to her collarbone, but they are words without much weight. A simple yes, or mmm, or I think I'm going to--

The next day is a repeat of the last: they don't speak about anything of significance while they travel, focusing on the skyline and not much else. Do you think we'll find them soon? Sakura asks, and, as usual, Hinata gives her the briefest answer possible.

I do, she says, and crosses her fingers behind her back. The next day is a repeat of the last: just the same, red sky, nothing else to see. The next day is the same, but Hinata knows that each one changes her.

--

Despite her feelings, not once does Hinata question herself.

Realistically, she should be thinking over the strange experiences of her day and finding unexpected answers. Am I gay? she should think, and come to some conclusion. Does the heat in her belly when Sakura smiles at her, brittle and lonely-- does it mean something? Should she have stopped thinking of Naruto-kun, and desperately wondering if he will be all right when she sees him again? Has Sakura done this sort of thing before?

But these are not realistic circumstances. Normally, she would not allow another girl to make her feel this way. Sakura would never touch her if things were as they should be, and if she did, then they would discuss what it meant. They would have tea, and Sakura would ask, Just what is this?

Instead, things are strangely detached from everyday life, and instead Sakura simply asks her This? as her fingers play notes along Hinata's throat. Do, re, mi-- Hinata, is this okay?

Sometimes, Hinata almost says: No, it's not, you wouldn't look twice at me if there was something else to distract your attention. But the words leave through her skin, following the trails of Sakura's fingers. And before she can draw them together again, it's over.

There is only one question that Hinata asks herself, and this one has no answer. Still, when the other girl has finished kissing her, she seems to have found some answer herself. Sakura draws strength from her, and moves with new purpose after that; and they make better progress as the day wears on.

--

Endings are supposed to draw things to a close. Isn't that how it's meant to go? Things end, and all loose ends tie themselves neatly up.

Hinata has less experience of life than most people, but still, she knows how it's supposed to work. And her first sight of the others is hardly earth-shattering. The internal shock she feels would be enough to shake the world to its roots, but it doesn't. Kiba grins at her as he emerges from a curtain of trees, pulls the scroll from his pocket, and shouts over at the two of them.

Sakura whirls around, and the smile that unfurls on her face is something that Hinata will never forget. "Naruto!" she calls, and launches herself through the forest to the others.

Hinata follows, letting herself question just what it is she feels. But there are no words to describe it: happiness, maybe, and pure relief. Nothing unexpected.

Still, something stirs within her as Naruto complains about the strength of Sakura's hug: "Oi, Sakura-chan, careful! You'll break my neck!"

Hinata pushes it down until it is no more than a bitter ache in her belly, and smiles as she approaches the others. "We finally found you!" she says, and turns pink in the cheeks before embracing them all in turn.

As Hinata's arms tremble around Naruto's neck, she can see Sakura watching her, expression guarded but her mouth set in an angry downward tilt. The pink-haired ninja looks away, turning her face skyward as the heavens open.

It doesn't matter much, Hinata tells herself. A red sky in the morning means rain however you look at it.

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