Author's Notes: Written for the annual Church of Lemons on the Love Reflection ML. Set in the not so distant future. For Sahara.

Take Back My Heart

There's surprisingly little blood when she dies. He's watching her, standing three feet away, hands limp at his sides. There is no color to him besides black but Sakura has to squint her eyes a little to see him, as if his very image is blinding her like a prism caught just right in the sunlight. Her fingers twitch as if she wants to touch him. She doesn't but he can't know that. Everything that has lead to this moment has only strengthened his belief that she followed because she had made a foolish choice when she was young, ignorant.

Some old, dusty part of him croaks that he should kneel by her shoulder, touch her hand perhaps, and sit silently with her during her last minutes in that world. He doesn't though and he feels almost angry when she smiles weakly, a crimson line dripping down her cheek. Her hand does move this time, up and over to rest on her chest. The movement makes something tighten in his throat but he can't say why.

"You'll make sure to take it back," she says, her voice fading on the edge of hearing. Her fingers tap once against the spot between her breasts. "Won't you, Sasuke-kun?"

There's a flash of green, like fresh leaves, and he meets her gaze. They stare at each other until the inky whirls slide off his skin and his pupils lose their animal gold. She was always doing that, stopping him, halting him. He pretends she isn't waiting for him, the cadence of his voice slow and measured. There is no hurry.


She gives a breathy sort of sigh and her eyes close, her fingers are still. His body stiffens, his bones tighten as he feels her pull chakra like heavy ribbons through the air. She's working them, knotting them, and he does move then - an odd half-step diagonally as if he can't decide on a direction, away or towards.

She dies in a field of torn earth and blue sky with Sasuke before her.

For a long time, she has had no other wish.

It's evening but the room is full of midnight and the shadows of his hair and eyes. She can't see well in the gloom but he can see just fine and sheds her clothes with the sharp edge of a kunai. She lets him and the weapon is discarded as they clash, a tangle of long limbs and too violent moves against the wooden floor boards.

He is not gentle and she doesn't care, turning her head to bare her slim neck as his teeth sink into her shoulder, his fingers bruising her hips. Then they are tearing at each other, her nails digging into the muscles of his arms as he jerks into her so suddenly she can't help but gasp. He never slows and she hangs on to him, her arms wrapping around his shoulders.

She eventually has to brace herself against the corner wall in order to meet his thrusts, her body sparking everywhere he touches her, so full of him that she is sure she could not love him more than she does at that moment.

It doesn't matter that he isn't even looking at her.

The trip back is swift and almost without incident. He moves silently through the trees despite the weight in his arms, pink locks of hair tickling his skin. He looks only forward, from tree limb to tree limb and ignores the feel of unseen gazes. They have been following him for the last half hour and by now they must know his destination. Still, they don't reveal themselves until he's barely an hour away, blurred shapes dropping into his line of sight.

He lands on the forest floor easily, his legs bending to absorb the impact as his body curves over his burden. He does not release Sakura but straightens slowly, never hiding. Sakura's head lays against his shoulder.

"Move," he says.

The half ring of Sound ninja stay where they are, some of them sneering in contempt, others silent and serious. They don't care why he's out there with the lifeless body of a girl. They've come to make sure that their lord's orders will be carried out, that the vessel hasn't suddenly grown a mind of it's own.

He has never had the power to decide for himself. Every choice, every decision was based on the temptation of more strength, more knowledge, more. Even now, standing there in dappled sunlight and watching death, he knows he still is not strong enough. Alone, he has never been enough.

But today, Sakura is there.

In his eyes, red wheels begin to spin.

There is a moment of trembling, of breathless exultation and Sakura arches up, closing around him. He surges into her body twice more before finding a shuddering release, his head bowed over her nakedness, eyes closed tightly. Only when her fingers trace his jaw does he realize it's over. He rolls off of her before she can say anything, lying flat on his back next to her, barely breathing hard. He is not far away but the distance somehow feels very great.

She erases it by leaning over and kissing him.

It's their first.

When she pulls away, he sees something sparkling in the corner of her eyes but her smile is hard, resolved. He has seen that expression before, when they were young, and the sudden memory slices through him like a white-hot knife. He recalls then that they used to be teammates. And that she had loved him.

He had once told her "thank you", and that was strange because he can not remember what it feels like to be grateful for something.

She moves on top of him, sliding down his body until she is flush against him, her breasts pressed into the scarred planes of his chest. Her hand dips between his legs.

"Again?" she asks, calmly.

He nods. "Yes."

He reaches the end of his journey with blood on his clothes. It's not his so he dismisses it as useless information, his focus on the aging tiles over the gateway, the mountainside faces in the background. It's bright there and the air is different, lighter. Somewhere, a child laughs.

There are ninjas in the trees, ANBU probably. They will try to kill him, of course, but they were probably unsure of Sakura and would be unwilling to hurt her. So he simply stands there, waiting for her to show him the way. She has brought him this far, after all.

Five minutes later, Naruto comes through the gates.

He stops a few feet away and he looks tired. Or perhaps it is grief because his eyes crumble at the sight of Sakura. It is the only part of him that does, however, and Sasuke is a little surprised. The Naruto he knew would have flown into a rage, voice rising in pitch along with his emotions. Now he just stands there, expression flint-hard while his gaze weeps without tears.

And Sasuke realizes Naruto knew, he had expected…

"You must have loved her then, you bastard," Naruto says. His words are weights. "For you to come back here..."

Sasuke cuts him off out of remembered habit. "It was her wish."

"And you never granted any of them before," Naruto snaps back and Sasuke sees the familiar fire. It hasn't all gone out then. It's just damp, banked. "Why bring her heart back now?"

Sasuke's eyes widen and his gaze is drawn down despite himself, to the figure he's been carrying almost mindlessly towards a goal he had thought lost.

"There's a story I heard once, when we were children I think. Ino-pig told it to me. It was about a woman who loved a man who never saw her." Sakura's fingers brush across his chest, tracing his ribs. "She fell in love with him at first sight and when she died, her love unrequited, she became a ghost wandering the plans, searching always for him. She'd given him her heart, you see, and in that place, you could not find paradise unless you were whole. Heartless, she was doomed to roam for an eternity." She takes a breath and her lips twitch as if she's trying to smile. It looks a bad fit.

"Sakura." That is all he says, just her name, but her whole demeanor changes instantly. She smiles and it's the brilliant, dazzling smile of their youth. For a split second, he feels like how she must see him. Sasuke-kun.

She slides away from him, off the bed. "Tomorrow, when I am gone, I'll want my heart back." She tilts her head at him and he becomes aware that his jaw has clenched and his bones are aching. She comes back to him then, her expression softening as she runs her fingertips gently through his hair. "Take it back for me, Sasuke-kun." Her voice drops.

"Take it back to Konoha, where it belongs."

"I brought it with me…" The words escape before he can take them back, before he can fully understand. Naruto spells it out for him.

"You are her heart, bastard."

The world stills.

And then he moves. The landscape slides by with aching slowness as his feet close the gap between them, until they stand side by side in opposite directions. For the first time in years, Sasuke steps foot in Konoha. Naruto doesn't speak, doesn't move, doesn't breathe.

Sakura does.

Chakra unwinds in long lazy loops, bright coils that shimmer almost visibly before collapsing inwards again, disappearing. Sasuke's chest is tight and his mind is stricken with every moment, every action she has taken to bring him there, to even hope that she could. Tears finally well in Naruto's eyes but he's smiling fiercely, freely.

Sakura's eyes flutter open and she looks up at Sasuke, with the gates of home just behind him, and smiles weakly.


The End.