Disclaimer: I, Terry, fully admit to being a pretentious asshole bent on hijacking original characters (who in no way belong to me) to star in angst-ridden, indulgent, stylized works of fanfiction. Which, incidentally, are of no benefit to anybody, at any time, anywhere. Seriously, you can't even wipe your ass with them unless you'd like to go through the trouble of printing them out. I also concede that all self-deprecation is to be taken with a grain of salt because I simply cannot take myself as seriously as I take these silly little stories. (This one which I churned out while I should have be writing my Sociology paper). Read on at your own discretion.

I think

Sometimes, when it got too exhausting to wish for his return, she let herself think that maybe he was never coming back, that she would never see him again. She would try to really believe it, move on a little bit, go on a date or two. It lulled her in a strange way, gave some sort of abstract permission to just live for a little while, for herself.

But always, her inherent optimism, the completely unfounded, unshakeable faith she has in him, would tell her otherwise. Of course they would see each other again, if only for a proper goodbye. The idea was bittersweet; painful on her worst days, but oh how she longed for him.

Now he is in front of her, flesh and blood, living and breathing. And she doesn't know whether to be elated or disappointed.

They're trapped together in a claustrophobic room, warily regarding one another after six years of separation. A space of time simultaneously long and short for how much and just how little she's changed. She's taller, she has curves, she's acquired substantial skills, she's matured. She's accumulated some pretty impressive issues and picked up Naruto's affinity for profanity.

She's also stagnant; she hasn't really changed at all. She's not the sum of her parts, but really just the strongest impulse of her being and what drives her. It still always manages to come back to him, the end all and be all in matters of her personal happiness, or more specifically, the lack thereof.

She's always been love's pathetic fool, and he's been… what? She doesn't know what he's been, or where he's been, or anything outside of what little he's unwittingly shown her. And that was when they were younger, before the existence of all these years between them.

He's still dizzying to look at; dark, pale, slender, and sculpted. Beautiful. His countenance is the same impassive, bored arrangement of perfect features. His eyes are still both cold and hot, thickly lashed, penetrating. His walls are intact. She hates those stupid walls.

They are not really trapped; she can leave at any time and he can too, but they remain across from each other, silent and staring. She knows why she's here (sort of), but his presence is inexplicable. His eyes are on her, expectantly maybe? Is he waiting for her reaction to this accidental meeting, to him? Does he expect her to throw herself at him? (She wants to). Slap him silly? (She really wants to).

Probably, he's waiting for her to speak; somebody should break the silence and it would be in keeping with their respective roles for her to be the one to do it. But they don't have roles anymore, or if they do, she doesn't know what they are.

She has to think, that much she is sure of. She can't rely on her feelings, the way she's always been so prone to do, because when it comes to him she can't trust them. So she considers the situation, the pros and cons, tries to be rational.

He left all those years ago, chose to chase after his own vendetta and betrayed their friendship. He left her unconscious on a bench. He fought with Naruto. Years passed; growth and change and stagnation. It all amounts to just the two of them in a hotel room, sitting on the floor.

They'd found each other accidentally; she was visiting friends in this unfamiliar place, and he was doing god knows what. Their rooms were next to each other by some act of fate, and a chance encounter in the hall followed. No words were uttered at that point, no emotional teary reunion; just mind-numbing shock, an open door and her need to walk through it.

She wouldn't have known what to say even if she'd had the wherewithal when they first spotted each other. This is truly an occasion that requires a profound opening statement, or at least some measure of thought behind whatever it is that winds up being said. There are so many words to choose from, but she has so little power to utter any.

He seemed to understand that when he saw her, and if he was surprised at her appearance, he gave little indication of it. A cool once over, half a nod, and then he just walked away. The same way he'd done before, but this time he let her follow.

That was apparently as far as he was willing to take things for his part. He'd left the door open for her to enter his room, but once they were safely inside he seated himself on the floor, leaned against the wall, and has been watching her ever since.

It's her move, clearly, but how the hell is she supposed to approach this? She still hasn't gotten over the shock, the strangeness of experiencing a long sought fantasy in real life. It's like lucid dreaming.

She collects her scattered thoughts, attempts to put them together in a coherent manner, tries to think. And something finally sticks.

In light of everything, it seems she'd be justified in hating him. Maybe she does; she knows that she at least resents him and perhaps that's healthy. Her devotion used to be so blind, but her awareness has changed that. She doesn't quite trust him, even though she thinks she might need him. Which is pathetic. And it's all his fault, truly, because it's him, and everything's him, and it's always been his world. She just lives in it.

"I think," the silence is finally shattered, of course by her, "that I hate you."

If she was hoping to shake the surreal quality of this entire encounter, she's just blown it. Because Sakura isn't supposed to speak such words, and certainly not to Sasuke. It's out there now, though, and it's odd. She's vindicated and sorry, sitting outside of herself and waiting for a chain of events to unfold.

He's reacting the way he always reacts; by not reacting at all. His dark eyes flicker over her face, stoic expression unchanging. He doesn't respond, of course, and they're back to staring. She appreciates the anger peering from beneath his stupid, long eyelashes. It's been there for a long time, but she takes comfort in thinking that maybe some of it is for her. Something for her.

"You're clearly not going to say anything until you find it absolutely necessary," she notes, inching a little closer. "I'd expect a pleasantry at least for an old friend, but it seems that even the bare minimum is too much for you. You probably don't even have the conviction to apologize."

"You," his expression shifts slightly into a mild scowl, "are still annoying."

Precious first words after years of silence ina deeper voice, but the tone is exactly how she remembers it. She thinks of the last time he expressed the sentiment and she scowls too, a little more darkly than he will muster.

"And you're still an asshole," she returns.

He tilts his head, minutely, studies her. She thinks, in her attempt to interpret his steady perusal that he's arriving at the same conclusion that's just occurred to her. That they are behaving childishly. But then, so what? Weren't they children when they last met? Aren't they picking up where they left off?

Well no, not really. Because she certainly isn't telling him she loves him. She doesn't even know if she still does. She won't know either, because she refuses to consult her emotions. Thinking - that's what needs to be happening here.

"I should probably kill you," she reasons, casting a glance over years gone by and his presence in them without being there. "It would probably free me the same way you expect to be freed."

She's officially disconnected, and none of this feels anywhere near real, and she doesn't care. She is pleased with herself for saying such things to him, but won't tell herself why. She smiles, at her words, at the situation, distantly as amused as she is upset.

He remains where he is, even as she draws closer in a manner she feels must look threatening.

"You are too weak," he replies, matter-of-factly.

She chews her bottom lip, considering this, "To actually attempt it, or to succeed in doing so?"

He grunts in place of a real reply, and keeps his eyes on her. Maybe because he thinks she might just try. Maybe because it's all he's been doing for the last twenty minutes or so.

A little closer, and she thinks she saw him stiffen, though she can't be sure.

She smiles again, "Would you kill me?"

He says nothing and she shrugs.

"You'd probably just knock me out." She can't help but add, "Just like old times."

He won't respond to this either, and she sighs with frustration. The lack of affect is an old wound for her, his indifference to the whims of her temper, her feelings. She used to tell herself it was because he was so good at concealing, at hiding behind those obnoxiously thick walls. Of course he felt for her in his own way, he was her friend and he cared.

Now she doesn't think she can believe it. She was probably just being a naïve little girl. Well, that is exactly what she had been then, after all.

"Maybe you're psychotic," she muses over said lack of affect; she thinks she recalls reading somewhere about it being a sign of insanity.

Then she is reminded of her own position, "Says a lot about the person obsessed with the obsessive, doesn't it?"

He's just barely scowling again, "You couldn't cut it as jounin so you became a therapist?"

That's absurdly insulting.

"Maybe I did."

"You've always been an idiot."

"Yeah," she stares at him and decides that she really must hate him, "I have."

An agreement. What is this, like, progress? An impasse, perhaps. Maybe just all the juvenility out of their systems, and now they can talk seriously.

She tries again, "I think…"

"You've never," he cuts in, nastily.

Maybe not.

She laughs because this strange detachment, the suppressing of her feelings, is making him – this – entertaining. She was expecting something meaningful and here is the rude Sasuke she's been accustomed to, making snappish remarks.

She moves even closer and he's still, always still, her knees brush his and he doesn't flinch.

"I already hate you," she reminds him, or perhaps herself, "You don't have to try."

He stares at her coolly, his face motionless, but she leans towards him because there was a flash of something in his eyes. A flash of red, it could have been, or she just imagined it because she used to find it so scary. Maybe it's just the way they burn, as they always have, with that need for vengeance and all the bottled rage. Yes, they are burning as they watch her – burning but so damned cold. It strikes her as bizarre, inhuman even.

"Your eyes repulse me," she tells him because there is no need now to censor herself, "You repulse me."

Unmoving, he still observes her; long, thick, beautiful eyelashes outlining that angry glare and the strange, inexplicable ice in it. And she can't really be repulsed because he's so painfully attractive.

"If you were smart," she points at him, "You'd repulse yourself."

Finally, some movement. He grabs her wrists and holds them at her sides, and it's a testament to his clairvoyant reflexes; she's been entertaining the idea of touching him. Now he's touching her in a restraining manner, but she barely notices because his eyes have changed. A flicker of black – just his pupils dilating – and she stares hard, searching for something more.

Then she sees it. Just a look, like one she used to dream about and still does if she's honest. Just a moment, a memory, his gaze connected to hers in an achingly recognizable way. This still, cold and hot boy, or is he a man? Is she a girl or a woman? It doesn't matter. She thinks that she remembers and that he does too. That maybe the distance of the years isn't really so far. Or that they're helpless and he's out of her reach, just as he's always been. And it's familiar and it hurts.

Her breath is released, tentatively, "I know you."

Or she doesn't. Considering she can't think with her mind all jumbled like this, with her senses overly stimulated, and her emotions spinning in a whirlpool. She doesn't know anything. Not why her pulse is racing – if it's fear or his body heat. Or if this scent of his she's close enough to inhale is truly as familiar as it seems. Or why she hates him enough to want to draw nearer. She thinks… she tries to.

"We knew each other once," she corrects herself wistfully, "Maybe we were even friends. Well, I know I was your friend… I can't speak for anybody but myself."

He glares at her, irritated, but still no answer.

"You speak for yourself," she demands, suddenly. "Tell me why you're here. In this room with me, I mean. Why did you let me in, and why are you still sitting here?"

"I… owe you."

He might as well have punched her in the stomach; her reaction is just as visceral. She recoils, slightly, and she knows her eyes express exactly how much he's just, for the billionth time, hurt her. Of the countless differences between them, this is the big one; no stony, impenetrable gaze for her. Just truth. Around him especially, where she's always been vulnerable.

Of course, she isn't twelve years old anymore. The Sakura of that age was as reckless in her infatuations as any preteen girl can be expected to be. Always clinging to her crush, throwing herself at him with youthful zeal, pouting and whining when he was mean to her. Discretion and dignity came with age; she really has grown up as unchanging as her feelings might be.

She ignores her impulses towards sulking and crying, and focuses instead on how angry she is. Empowering, well-deserved anger that demands the source is held accountable.

"You really are a bastard," she snaps at him, "I don't know what the hell you're getting at, but you really can't expect me to believe a sense of obligation is keeping you here. Considering what happened last time we… we..."

She stops, unwilling to allude directly to the event that altered her so much, "Well, anyway, I know better. You don't give a shit about anything do you?"

He glowers, "You just said you knew me."

"Fine, you care," she says it spitefully, "Just not about the people who waste their time caring about you."

"Well then it's a good thing you're not one of them," he coolly observes.

"Oh come off it, you know I'm full of it." She shakes her head, pink hair flying about her face, "As if I could ever hate you. No matter how relentlessly you push me in that direction."

Was that a smirk? Just another nudge in the direction she refuses to go, it seems. But at least it was affect – a smile, if it could be called that, at her inability to despise him. Or probably she's just reaching. Most likely, he just smugly enjoys his attempts to change her feelings. It's a toss up, really, even the few clues he occasionally provides are open to interpretation. His true skills are of the cryptic nature.

"On the off chance that you're not a bastard," she thinks aloud, "you're a liar. And if you're a liar, you're also a coward who'd rather hurt me than admit to yourself that maybe you miss your friends and your home."

He narrows his eyes, and she's pleased in a manner that lacks any real pleasure to note that he's angry. With her.

"That's why you're here with me, isn't it, Sasuke?" she pursues the matter, "It's because I'm familiar and nothing else is. Maybe it's that you know that I really am your friend, maybe you appreciate the value of that."

He doesn't look at her, his face turns away and he answers softly, "I'm not a coward."

The pause that follows is contemplative; there are too many blows to absorb, too much pain to sort through with that last statement. If he cares, he holds the feeling in contempt. Because he sees her as unworthy of his consideration or he just can't deal with emotional attachments. Probably both and a million other reasons which make the truth too abhorrent to admit to.

If he doesn't care, then it's all for naught, and she's attacking stone with feathers. Her pining has been utterly hopeless, her feelings insignificant (he has a habit of making them that way, anyway), her memories counterfeit. It's bleak and dismal, and so is everything because she's here without any real purpose and when it all ends, he'll just disappear from her life once more. Maybe this time she'll get the goodbye she's been waiting for.

No, she hasn't been waiting for a goodbye; closure in all her futile expectations came in a considerably more optimistic package. But real life will not give her the happily ever after she craves, fuck, he never will. But maybe she can learn to live with it all if he ends this in a way that closes a door for good. As always, it's in his hands. And they are so emotionally clumsy. Or, rather, just careless because she is sure he knows how to handle with delicacy; he just doesn't bother.

"You don't feel anything," she breaks the silence once more, and again it's bitter.

It hurts too much, all of it, and she is at once genuinely sorry that she had to see him again, "I really should hate you. I wish I did."

She feels his gaze on her, his hands still holding her wrists, certainly for lack of anywhere else to put them.

"What do you want from me?" he asks, clinically, like a scientist conducting an experiment.

"You can't give me what I want," she explodes, pulling away, "You can't give… you won't even take."

No response but more silence. The stupid, unfeeling, asshole! She'd smack him if he wasn't so determined to hold onto her wrists until the circulation cuts off.

"Do you miss me?" Eyes snap back to his glacial gaze as she demands an answer, "Do you ever think of me at all?"

No, no he doesn't think of her. Not like she thinks of him. Not with the same bittersweet mixture of love and hate, passion and weakness, yearning and suppressing. Not with such steadfast loyalty to the one source of every emotion her very being feels most strongly. Of course not; she is annoying to him and so many things change but feelings can't. Not for people who don't let them grow and adapt and just… be felt.

There is something in his eyes, some expression as he absorbs her questions, but it's so guarded and elusive she can't trust it. Her imagination is too kind to her.

She feels, too much, and thinks. Since feeling is so hard when he's right in front of her, since it's dangerous, she thinks instead. Her mind gropes for reasons, rational, and anything, really, to justify what's taking place.

And then she stops. Because his mouth is suddenly pressed against hers but she doesn't remember moving her head.


A/N: It's a three-parter, kiddies. Because I have just that much melodrama stored up for jam.