Little Piece of Heaven
"You're thinking about him again, aren't you?"
Moving her green eyes from the ceiling, Sakura frowned at Ino defensively. An empty gesture at best; her room mate had been spot on.
"I can't seem to go long without doing so..." Sakura sighed, her expression softening.
Ino set her mouth in a firm line. Sakura had been staying with her ever since Sasuke's return from the mission. She tried not to ask too many questions as initially Sakura had locked herself in the bathroom and cried relentlessly after asking to stay a few nights. The pink haired girl had experienced a soul-crushing betrayal and was lost at a junction: the in-between of not knowing where she was headed or what she wanted. The conflict in her head had been so intense, all she could do was cry to drown it out.
Sakura's mind became blank in survival mode and she had been adamant on avoiding any discussion of Sasuke for some time; this led Ino to keep from her details of a confrontation with Sasuke not too long ago.
Ino had just finished eating lunch with her team-mates, working her way through the busy market to get some shopping done alone when Sasuke confronted her as if from nowhere.
"Yamanaka," he acknowledged plainly. Ino was startled. It was rare for him to call her by name, an indication he wanted her cooperation through strained politeness.
"Sasuke-kun!" Ino had greeted happily, though she knew that a level of uneasiness had cracked through her voice. There was only one perfectly obvious reason Uchiha Sasuke would seek her out, and that pink-haired reason was wrapped in solitude in the spare bedroom of her house.
She already knew she would be powerless under the interrogation to come. Though Ino had long ago accepted her connection with Sasuke paled somewhat pathetically against the connection he had with Sakura, a small part of her still vied for his attention just as the hundreds of other fan girls in the village did.
Did he have to stand there in his sexy black ensemble and smoulder those dark romance novel eyes so goddamn far into her she could feel them burning the back of her head?
He didn't even have to try to make her salivate!
"She's staying with you... right?"
A fair distraction. It was hard to fantasize about someone while their attention was focused primarily on someone else. Another woman to be painfully exact.
"Um... well... you see..." Ino stammered, fumbling with her words to buy time. There was no point in lying but she had felt the need to delay him from marching through her front door. Sakura's current state at the time would not handle such a confrontation.
He didn't wait for her to confirm, but he didn't move a muscle either. "How is she?"
The blonde girl swallowed hard, searching for the answer least likely to disturb him. "Well, she's... not quite herself these days." Her eyes darted away from the hard stare on Sasuke's face. "But it's getting there!" she added quickly.
His onyx eyes analysed her crudely, openly telling her that he detested things being sugar-coated for him.
"I heard you just had your meeting with the village council," Ino chipped in quickly, eager to change the subject. "Do you know yet if they've, you know, made any decisions?"
"Who knows. Don't concern yourself with it," Sasuke answered distractedly.
Ino had lost his interest and he was turning away. The mask of indifference clutching his persona seemed to lack, however; betrayed by the hint of despondency that spoke from his eyes. She had seen it. A glimpse for a mere fraction of time... it was an alien characteristic that was too hard not to notice.
"I know you must miss her!" Ino blurted out.
He stopped with his back to her, frigid muscles showing signs of annoyance but none of turning back.
She cleared her throat bravely to elaborate. "I think... no, I know she misses you too."
Ino wasn't sure what had happened after that. Either she took too long to blink, or enough people were passing by between them, but Sasuke had disappeared just as quickly as he had arrived.
She shook off the memory. It wasn't much, but it might have been an upset for Sakura to hear at the time.
The pink haired girl rolled off from the couch from where she had been daydreaming. Moving towards the kitchen, Sakura began organizing the items she had bought from the market.
"Did you have fun shopping with Neji today?" Ino inquired, distracting Sakura from her thoughts.
She smiled. "It's nice spending time with him. He's a good friend."
"Too good," Ino chided. "Please tell me you're aware of how he feels about you."
Frowning, Sakura continued to remove items from her basket. "It's not like that." She paused. "I mean, it is like that... but it isn't. We're friends. He knows Sasuke and I were... complicated"
"'Complicated'... is that what you 're calling it?"
"What would you have me call it?"
"Epically dysfunctional? That's getting warmer."
"You don't understand," Sakura sighed. "How can anyone? I don't even understand."
"I understand that Neji doesn't stand a chance," Ino countered, casually helping Sakura distribute the groceries. "I understand that the moment you heard Sasuke was in danger of being exiled, you asked to speak to the village council."
"I know where you're going with this..."
"AND..." the blonde continued. "I understand that despite how messed up and fricken weird Sasuke is, and how insane those inner demons can get, it all seems to take a back-seat when he needs to lookout for you."
"Look forehead, I'm not telling you what to do. I'm simply telling you what I know. You've been avoiding him because you're afraid and it's trapped you in this goddamn funk... but I think when you see him you'll know what to do."
Sakura's eyes swept the floor. "And if... I'm not ready to see him?"
Ino shrugged. "Then you're not ready to know."
The blonde smiled, tossing her friend an apple before heading away to her room. For Sakura's sake, she would not dwell on the topic of Sasuke for too long.
Sakura blinked once, allowing the sudden film over her eyes to descend as two small tears down her cheeks.
She had stopped by a bakery in the marketplace to grab a quick pastry for lunch when it happened.
The young girl at the register held out Sakura's order, perplexed at the sudden change in Sakura's demeanour. One minute she was her cheerful, polite self and the next she was standing like a ninja caught in some flashlights. She had begun to worry for the woman when tears began filling those fearful green eyes... Surely their prices weren't that high.
"Sakura-san, are you alright?"
Reality set in like a cold shower. Sakura shut her eyes fast, trapping in the tell-tale liquid and shook her head quickly.
"I'm so sorry," she laughed. "Something's in my eye. Wow, that stings!"
Get a grip, you pansy. Stop being so weak!
"A-Are you sure?" the girl asked, frantically whipping her head to assess their surroundings. "I mean, you looked terrified!"
"No, I'm ok," Sakura assured her, wiping her cheek with the back of her hand. "I was just... remembering something I forgot to do and then some dust got in my eye. It's fine, really. I'm fine..."
As a result of the near-catatonic influence Orochimaru had subjected her mind to, brief glimpses of her torturous nightmare still invaded her dreams, and sometimes, even randomly to her thoughts when she was awake. Sakura's mind was still slowly healing from the episode, thanks to the help of an occasional visit to Konoha's resident therapist. Fortunately now, there were no more nights of waking in abrupt hysterics and crying until she forgot what had awoken her in the first place.
Now, they only caused a mild disruption that opened her eyes in a confused flutter before calmly returning to sleep. During the day however, the stab in her thoughts could be classified as a little more than irritating.
Though few and far apart, if the incident suddenly became the forefront of what she recalled, Sakura would lose focus for only a quick second. Enough to sometimes lose her footing, enough to occasionally shed a tear, but not enough for anyone to really take notice.
Though certain people could always be accounted for.
"If you're sure..."
As if just realizing the young girl still had her arm extended, Sakura quickly went looking for her coin purse. "Oh, sorry," she apologized. "How much do I owe you?"
The girl opened her mouth to answer, but was quickly silenced when the bag was rudely snatched from her hand and placed into Sakura's.
Without sparing another glance at the startled shopkeeper, Sasuke kept his focus on Sakura as he absently slammed more than enough money on the counter before ushering the pink-haired girl away by the forearm.
Dumbfounded by the sudden exchange, Sakura stared at the bag in her hands and feebly attempted to string words together. "W-What are you—what are you doing...?"
"Uchiha-san! What about your change? This is enough to buy ten loaves!" the bakery girl called after them.
Stopping just out of earshot from the food carts, Sasuke's calculating eyes looked Sakura over.
"I-I..." She blinked rapidly, willing the glassy tears to simply evaporate. "Something... my eye just now..." Was that a complete sentence? She had become bewildered and unglued at the sight of him.
Sasuke stared incredulously; an eyebrow moved slightly higher than the other to emphasize. He didn't buy her sorry excuse of course, and this was it: this was the epitome of what could shred her carefully preserved facade to pieces. Sasuke saw through her like nobody else could. A single stare left her feeling exposed and terribly vulnerable at this point. With an open entity, he could easily pick her apart without saying a word.
Damn. AND he looked good, as usual, sporting attire laden with his signature shade of blacker than black.
Sakura swallowed hard. It had been so long—panic flooded her senses. Someone she loved, someone she trusted, someone she'd die for... standing before her as if he hadn't betrayed her, hadn't tried to kill her, hadn't lost his sanity to the overwhelming lust that darkness had to offer.
Whatever it was that Ino wanted her to discover, it wasn't any more solved than it had been weeks ago.
"I should go," Sakura blurted out quickly. With her speech instantly severed, she turned to leave.
His hand shot out and clamped over her wrist. "What happened?" he repeated, impatience now heavy in his voice.
Flustered and becoming slightly agitated, Sakura's panic flew to their point of contact at her wrist. Please don't touch me, her eyes tried to plead. I can't handle this right now.
"Nothing happened..." Sakura paused, a cautious calm surfacing as her survival mode kicked in. Her next words came out carefully, as she feared he would somehow snap. "Please leave me alone."
He seemed to contemplate this in his mind, but his hold didn't lessen. "No."
"I'm warning you," Sakura said lowly. "Let go."
He glared back, driven by the embedded male urge to advance on any given challenge. "You're warning me?"
She didn't answer, and though he was at complete odds with the tonality of his voice, Sasuke reluctantly released her wrist. She held it quickly to her chest as if there were scorching electricity behind his touch.
The Uchiha frowned at her instinctive reaction to recoil from him, noticing it took an unnatural amount of energy to keep his voice calm and controlled as well. "Don't tell me it's nothing, Sakura."
Again, the pink haired girl didn't respond, only looked away at such an angle that thick eyelashes blocked what view he had of knowing her thoughts.
She shifted uncomfortably and cleared her throat. "You know what it is," Sakura answered finally. "I have to go..."
"Away from me?"
Her mouth formed a line. The crowd moved past them in preoccupied blur, heedless of their stand-off. It seemed as though they had been frozen in the middle of that busy marketplace for hours.
"What do you want from me?" Sakura finally murmured.
Sasuke lifted his chin toward the small bakery cart, "Back there...you were upset. Tell me why."
"Minor complications," she answered quietly, "from being exposed to Orichmaru's torture."
His eyes narrowed, anger radiating towards the memory of that pathetic snake bastard. "You haven't recovered," he assessed calmly, at odds with the penetrating disgust in his eyes.
"No..." Sakura sighed. "Not quite. Are we done?"
"Not even close."
She closed her eyes briefly in frustration. "What else do you need to know?"
He scowled at this. "What's it going to take for you to talk to me?"
"We are talking."
"You're ready to run," Sasuke accused. "Why are you..." Stopping, he took a moment to analyze her body language. Sakura's guard hadn't been let down. She was in a state of retract, flinching from him like he was composed of poisonous spikes.
"You're afraid of me."
Beautiful green eyes stared at him in a strange wash of confusion and defiance. Her expression grim, she shook her head at Sasuke in what appeared to be distaste before turning her back.
"Sakura!" he called, glaring after her retreat.
She wouldn't stop walking; retorts screeched to a halt in the middle of her throat.
With an abolished appetite, Sakura threw her lunch into her side-bag and hugged her arms as she quickened her pace. She was afraid of Sasuke, but it didn't need to be said out loud, least of all by him. It was too unfair and ridiculous. The one person she couldn't help but care about more than anything else was the same person that could rip her world to shreds like some kind of irony missile. Love and fear coincided in her life where Sasuke was concerned and it was a damn stupid thing to admit.
Would he be concerned, or find a way to insult her? Touch her gently, or strangle the hell out of her?
She had felt consumed by his presence; a quick retreat was the only plan up her sleeve.
Why did Sasuke have to be so damn fast?
He appeared rapidly before her, blocking her path of escape and leaving no time to react as he took hold of Sakura's arms and forced her into a nearby alleyway.
She immediately flushed and gasped in surprise as Sasuke pushed her up against the alley wall. Displeased at the attack, she angrily shoved him off and slammed him into the opposite wall with her lower arm across his throat.
"Sakura..." Sasuke warned impatiently.
The kunoichi swung her fist; the Uchiha caught it just before it reached him, enveloping her slender hand with an iron grip. She flinched in surprise and he was quick to take advantage. Forcing her arm to the side, the prodigy regained his hold and pushed her back against the other wall.
"You're driving me crazy!" he growled, face inches from hers.
"What is wrong with you!?" Sakura demanded, twisting under his grip.
"I'm out of patience. You can't just keep walking away from me, Sakura."
"How the hell do you expect me to react? After everything that's happened?"
He regarded this and pulled back slightly, still unwilling to release her.
"This isn't what I wanted to happen."
A vague admission. Breathing in deeply, Sasuke's black eyes moved across Sakura's face until they locked with her own. Green eyes watched him carefully; distrusting and filled with uncertainty.
"I'm suppose to protect you," he continued firmly, "not be who you need to be protected from."
The sincerity was unexpected, pushing her heart to the floor like it was made of lead. She bit her lip to keep it from shaking. "I don't want to talk about this..." Sakura pleaded, pushing harder to get him to release her. "Let me go, Sasuke."
His face didn't react, but he increased his grip on her upper arms as the struggling frantically increased.
"Let go of me! Sasuke! Let go of me!"
She sent chakra to her arms to help her break free but unfortunately he had already thought to do the same. The two strengths clashed, pushing forcibly against each other in the battle for power; one to flee, the other to subdue.
Sakura grimaced slightly, knowing her emotions would once again prove to be her downfall. Her chakra stayed weak alongside her spirit. The resolve behind Sasuke's power stayed firm, just barely keeping Sakura's at bay.
Dark eyes frowned disapprovingly into hers. "Done yet?"
"Why are you doing this..." Her voice cracked. Sasuke was sending her emotions into overdrive. If she was driving him crazy, he was turning her brain to confetti. She was now scared shitless of this man, yet there he was, holding her possessively in an abandoned alleyway trying to prove she meant something to him. It was hard to want to run and even harder to want to stay.
"How am I suppose to trust you?" Sakura demanded through tears. "Why am I suppose to trust you? I can't have anything to do with you without getting hurt in some horrible way." She shook her head regretfully, knowing she had to do what was best for her sanity. "No more, Sasuke. Please. I can't do it anymore. I can't handle it."
The injury behind that sweet suffering voice left him paralysed. He was breathing heavy now, mouth slightly open, staring at her with a small knit in his brow.
He released her arm, bringing his hand up to tentatively touch Sakura's jawline. She recoiled. "Don't..." she breathed, using her freed hand to pull his away.
Determination took hold of Sasuke's features as he pushed her resistance aside and gripped the sides of her face. "I have to," he snapped.
He kissed her hard, crushing Sakura's slight frame against the hard stone wall with his body.
Her resistance was feeble at best as the Uchiha took control of his claim. A small murmur of protest escaped, but he had thoroughly silenced her, using the slight parting of her lips as a way to gain access. He felt himself losing reserve; Sakura tasted so damn sweet and it was then he realized he had been starving for it. He needed her. She was the one bright light that ordained him to be a better man.
Sakura attempted to pull back again, but the wall behind her gave little allowance, and it only forced Sasuke to push further. In all honestly, if she really wanted to stop him, she could have made it known. Warmth enveloped and who could argue that it didn't feel overwhelmingly good to be trapped in Uchiha Sasuke's strong dominating arms. Hard muscles pressed into her, held her, willed her to feel safe again. Her resistance paused, delayed at a crossroads, shrugging at her as if to say, Yeah... I don't know what you want me to do!
The conflict didn't last long. She realized then that her own natural instinct for self-preservation had her trying in vain to get him to stop once more. Her arms rose up between them, pushing at Sasuke's chest. "Sasuke-! Stop!" she managed to gasp.
He growled low, gripping the offending arms and somehow slamming her back up against the opposite wall of the alley, barely breaking contact in the process. He held Sakura's wrists tightly against the wall, finally releasing her mouth to stare boldly into her wide, glassy eyes.
"I can't take back what I've done," he breathed lowly, "I can't regret it either. You know that about me."
Sakura's eyebrows knitted in confusion, but her silence encouraged him to continue.
"I don't know how I can make you trust me again. I can't always protect you from who I was, or who i am., or who I will be. I'm condemned to my own hell... Who knows what I'll do next..." he swallowed hard, black eyes scorching into hers. "But I will always come back for you."
The declaration rippled. Sakura exhaled slowly, her breathe visible in the cool damp air.
A rough hand came up once more to carefully touch her face.
"Sasuke..." she cautioned, eyes shifting to the ground. Beads of water began to form on the stone walkway; it had started to rain without them noticing...
"'I've made my choice," he pushed, gritting his teeth to indicate the matter was not open for discussion. "There's no one else I give a damn about so if at the very least I'm someone you're trying to forget, then I'll take it. I'll take whatever you've got left."
He withdrew suddenly, glaring over his shoulder at the rapidly changing weather. He shrugged off his black training jacket.
Sakura stayed put, albeit shaking, pressed flat against the wall as if Sasuke were still restraining her. Her eyes remained searching the ground, indecipherable and uncaring in regards to the now heavy rain pouring down on them.
"Here." He placed his jacket into Sakura's hands. She blinked. Finally. Shaking fingers quickly coiled into the warm fabric. She nodded slowly at the gesture, still absorbing the words he had just spoken.
Hands now in his pockets, Sasuke didn't appear to mind the rain in the least either. The black material of his shirt molded against his body, beads dripping from the ebony spikes of his hair. "I will always come back for you," he reminded, turning away from the stunned girl to make his way out the tension-filled corridor.
He had said all he was capable of saying, and although it took all his strength to keep from running back and demanding she be his through sheer alpha-driven instinct, he knew it was ultimately a decision left fairly in Sakura's hands.
He stopped in his tracks, looking expectantly at her over his shoulder.
Sakura walked towards him, putting on his jacket as she did so. She didn't know what she was doing just yet. Her thoughts raced, her body moved on auto-pilot. Calm on the surface, one could not have guessed how desperately her brain and heart fought to join forces at that very moment.
There would be no easy way to handle this. Uchiha Sasuke was a man with a shadowed past and an unstable future. He had the temperament of a child, the personality of a gated block of ice, and the arrogance of a hundred accomplished shinobi... she knew all this. She knew he was overprotective, quick to jealousy, quick to avenge, and quick to shed blood without hesitation or remorse.
But one thing she knew for sure, for which she was absolutely positive, he would risk his life to protect her, as he had proven time and time again. Her mind re-winded as she approached this seemingly dark, dangerous man at the end of the narrow corridor. Small gestures flashed in her mind a mile a minute: Sasuke warning her of all possible danger, snapping at her when she was careless with her health, losing his temper when Neji got too close, researching her missions so he could keep an eye on her, making sure she ate, making sure she slept... How had she missed these details before? Even if Sasuke was lost behind his own darkness, she had never seen him more clearly than in that moment.
He walked forward to meet her halfway, a questioning look in his black penetrating eyes.
There was no way out, Sakura realized. There was only through.
She smiled softly. "Just testing."
He smirked, stifling the amused air that threatened to escape. "Fine. So now what?"
Sakura looked around her, sighing thoughtfully as she assessed the downpour. "Walk me home?" She nodded to reaffirm her request. "Let's start there."
He watched her for a moment before nodding back, satisfied. "Deal. Let's go."
Bravely, tentatively, Sakura raised her hand from her side. Sasuke glanced at the subtle invitation as he turned his back to lead them out the alleyway, seemingly ignoring it. With a knowing smile, Sakura shrugged inwardly, lowering her hand just before he reached back behind him, and took it.