It seemed to be an evening like any other in those late September days. The air was becoming increasingly more crisp, foretelling the end of warmth and extended sunlight. The trees around the small town were already beginning to lose their cheerful green hues, settling into humble shades of autumn.
It usually would have brought a smile to the girl sitting in her habitual resting place in the park, with all the brilliant shifting of colors and seasons. But there was something about the fading light of dusk that made the area around her come off as dull, resembling a worn and brittle photograph that grew tired due to over stimulation. A slight breeze swept by her, lifting untamable wisps of her fine hair and sending a chill over her exposed skin. Tucking her shoulders some, the girl ignored the discomfort, settling on crossing her sweater-clad arms.
Staring off into the distance, lashes half fallen, Sakura knew something was out of place. It had been haunting her for so long now that the feeling had become an overwhelming shadow in each crevice of her mind. But, such as the nature of shadows, she still could not fully grasp what the problem was, where it stemmed or how to deal with it. So she resolved to neglect her burden instead, taking some minor comfort in her more personal fantasies.
Looking past the trees into an unnamable void, her eyes grew out of focus, allowing her other senses to take precedence. The warmth of the atmosphere around her lacked, Sakura restored from the gentle music swimming from the protective shells of her oversized headphones. Closing her jade eyes completely, she concentrated on the lilting drifts of melody and harmony, blocking out the rest of the world, creating images from the wordless composition. It wouldn't be long before Sakura found herself entranced by her own daydreams, something that was becoming more accustomed to.
Lost in her musings, Sakura was completely oblivious to those who watched her sitting so solitary against the lime park bench that complemented her pink locks so well. The scene of her drowning out everything caused brows to be raised and mumbles between friends.
"This is the third time this week I've seen her here," a low-toned voice said, worry evident in his clear blue eyes.
The girl beside him looked on, her pearl gaze observing the other on the bench, grasping her companion's hand a little more firmly, "Have you spoken to her a-about it, Naruto? I know you're c-close."
The blonde simply shook his head, "Apparently not close enough. Not this time."
Throughout the exchange, the dark-haired male standing a few paces in front of them kept his gaze forward with cool nonchalance, but his attention was held.
"She's just…been so quiet lately. Whenever I ask her what's wrong, she smiles and changes the subject. I hardly get a whole two sentences after that. She just stares off into space as if she weren't even there."
Hinata took to examining her shoes as she shook her head, unable to find words enough for improvement. She was concerned for her friend, but what could they do when Sakura refused to speak?
With a prolonged sigh, Naruto gave Hinata's hand a gentle squeeze and made to walk on. When Sasuke allowed them to surpass his stationary form, the blonde turned his head with a puzzled expression. The Uchiha had always made a point of it to be ahead, taking second to no one in any case, even a casual stroll. But now he seemed transfixed, but the man's reasoning went beyond his claim to care for nothing outside of his own bite-sized reality.
"What's your problem, teme?" Nothing.
Not even gracing his friend and rival with acknowledgement, Sasuke stood firm, seeming pensive as always, not noticing when the couple had given up and continued on without him. But that didn't really matter one way or another, his curiosity was piqued.
The muted sound of music could be heard in time with the sway of leaves dancing in the fall breeze. To sharpen the fleeting melody, the male subconsciously held his breath, if only for a little while. He didn't even know why he was here in the first place. When he had ventured out on the walk with Naruto and his woman, the excuse was that the air would be good for him; not that he didn't have air where he once sat. But why watch this girl with her ridiculously sized earphones?
"Tch," was all he could muster in his defense, along with a classic eye roll. What am I doing?
With a shake of his head, supposedly to clear his mind, Sasuke took steps toward the path he had been traveling. But moments later he found himself blinking down at his old teammate, still trying to comprehend how or why he got there. And what was worse, she didn't even seem to notice. For some reason, his ego became offended at her lack of observance. Didn't she have a sort of radar for him or some such? Last he checked, it was still in proper functioning order.
Not knowing if the eyebrow tick in annoyance was directed at her or himself, Sasuke took the liberty to clear his throat at her, effectively making the girl jump out of her skin. A smirk of satisfaction soon followed.
As her nerves attempted to calm themselves again, Sakura stared up at the dark man standing before her. His patent cool gaze of superiority etched firmly in his features and posture, with hands in pockets, he raised a naturally sculpted brow at her. It took a but a moment for confusion to take its place in Sakura as she lowered her headphones around her neck, the music still playing.
They took several minutes to simply watch each other, communication coming to a standstill. The pink-haired girl was the first to break contact, casting her gaze to the right, the golden rays of the setting sun alighting her eyes to an almost glow. There was a moment when she found herself drifting towards the far away notes coming from her song, but when the weight on the bench shifted, reality renewed her concentration. Sakura folded her hands gingerly in her lap overtop her CD player before staring at them, out of focus. When Sasuke blinked at her again, it was almost audible.
"I don't know," she spoke to his silent question. When he raised his brow again, she sighed and went on, "Haven't you ever just gotten sick of talking?"
His scoff was an obvious answer. Silence was a trump card to this man.
"Right," she said softly, trailing off, biting the inside of her cheek absently.
"So?" Sakura was surprised to hear his deep baritone voice break the rigid atmosphere and press her further.
With a small wrinkle in her forehead, she looked up at him from her lap, "What do you mean, 'so?' What else do I need to elaborate on?"
For reasons that she couldn't grasp, Sakura recognized the uncalled for defensiveness in her tone. She soon regretted it when the prideful male beside her crossed his arms and looked away, and aura of annoyance surrounding his slouched form. Great, he actually wants to hear me out for once and I resist. Go me, always smooth…
Another heavy sigh soon followed as she redirected her eyes back to her hands, "Look, I just…" trailing off again, Sakura couldn't find the words to finish. How could she explain the feelings that had been plaguing her for the past several days? Wasn't that what she had been doing in the first place, trying to organize her thoughts and sort through things? Well, that is, when she wasn't neglecting them all together. But if she had yet to arrange all the mental baggage, how could she be expected to explain it to someone who had more said baggage than the most wealthy of shopaholics?
But to her surprise, she still felt his interest on her, the raising of the fine hairs on the back of her neck telling of his attention. Not knowing what she was about to say, or if any of it held much relevance, Sakura released a tense breath and decided to just let it go.
"I'm just so sick of words. Phrases and conversation, quotes, lyrics. Everything. It all seems to be the same old thing, all the time, every time. I feel like I'm stuck in the same place as I was yesterday, or last week, heck, why not last year! I mean, sure, things happen that might shift the flow for a while, but that's all it is, just a little while. Then we are back to square one and the weather."
Sakura took a moment to rub the bridge of her nose between thumb and finger, almost as if to suppress a headache. When she spoke next, it was almost as if what she had said hadn't been aloud.
"I really like music, ya know," a slight smile graced her small mouth as she looked up to the hazy horizon, past the fading afterglow of the sun. "I have a habit of taking songs strongly to heart, placing them to different situations relating to myself or others I know. I always have a theme song for the way I feel at the time. It's usually something that rambles on about love or life, kinda motivational. But now…"
Sasuke stared blankly at her when the drabble suddenly stopped, and for some reason, the image of a train wreck came to mind. She didn't look upset, or really even all that sad, but something was off.
"Hn," he said in encouragement, letting her know he was still there, not necessarily listening from the edge of his seat, but there.
"I've come to a conclusion," the small girl started again after a significant pause. Sasuke waited.
"Maybe I should start adopting theme songs that have no words. Like this CD that I'm listening to now, Hinata loaned it to me. I don't know what it's called and I can never remember the name of the band. Do Think Say Live, or something like that, but I really like them."
Sasuke watched her fingers stroke the little machine between her knees almost lovingly as she spoke. Looking back to her face, she appeared to be acting out scenarios in her mind's eye when she continues, a smile playing on her lips almost unnoticeably, but he saw.
"They sorta make me want to go walk the city streets until the pavement turns to dust and grass takes its place. It makes me believe that I'm dwelling inside my own personal film and I really don't belong anywhere else, but that's okay. I want to be kissed sitting on my front stoop listening to this first song, the rest of the world being drowned out by a porch light. And somehow, I feel like I'm watching the finishing credits to all this, and it was a happy ending."
I don't know if she realizes everything she just said… "Hn."
Sasuke's musing was soon corrected as he noticed her cheeks turning a becoming shade of red not a moment later, the light stroking of her fingers ceasing as they curled into nervous fists. The dark male couldn't help a tinge of amusement at her slight overreaction.
Sakura couldn't keep the embarrassment from creeping through her system and bit her lip to keep from apologizing for her mindless babbling. Instead, she vouched for flight, rising to her feet as she pocketed her CD player. Mentally cursing as the cord to her headphones as it unplugged itself, she attempted to ignore the burning gaze of the man with X-ray vision (in her opinion, at least.)
"S-sorry," she stuttered, fiddling with the cord between her frazzled fingers, her motor capabilities failing her, "I really should go, it's late and I've yet to make dinner and-"
Sakura cropped her words short as she struggled with the plug, her player being twisted now in her pocket, a sound of frustration at herself and technology taking its place. Feeling defeated after a short while, she slumped and allowed the cord to drop, unwilling to tug her player back out only to face the same problem. I hate tight jeans..
"See ya," Sakura said finally, but confusion claimed her when she realized her movement was restricted. Looking back, a little shudder of comprehension came over her. Sasuke had caught one of her belt loops, holding her in place, and what looked like barely-restrained laughter curling the corner of his lip. The previous blush returned full force as he came to stand before her, a subtle squeak of shock passing unchecked between her lips at the feel of his hand on her hip. Swallowing hard, she almost missed his action of retrieving her cord and applying the plug to its socket with ease, the soft vibrations of music filling the air once again.
"Welcome," Sasuke smirked, placing his hands in his pockets once again and sauntered up to and down his original path, leaving a dumbstruck and thoroughly self-conscious Sakura in his wake.
Later that night, Sakura was bunkered down on her living room couch, watching some made-for-television chick flick, and a light tap on her door was the last thing she expected. Grumbling to herself, knowing the moment she answered the call she would miss the sappy climax of her movie, Sakura reluctantly went to open the door. Blinking through the dull yellow of her porch light, she stared at the spiky-haired man standing before her, the amber hue making his presence seem oddly warm.
"Sas-" she was abruptly cut off by a hand cover her mouth, mumbles of protest heard from underneath.
Sasuke couldn't keep his amusement to himself as he placed a finger to his smirking lips and the poor girl's confusion doubled. When she finally took the hint and became silent, he removed his hand, only to replace it in hers. Giving a slight tug, he urged her out of the threshold to step onto the cool cement.
"Shh!" he cut her off sharply, forcing a stern expression on his face, which successfully shut her up. "Listen."
A few moments past before she leaned in and whispered, "What are we listening for..?"
"Don't you hear it?" he whispered back, closing the short distance between them almost completely, his warm breath near her ear.
Crickets? "Hear what?"
The answer came when his lips lightly touched the corner of her mouth. As everything around and within her seemed to stop, she did hear. The light little music coming from her television, not playing the song she had in mind, but close enough.
A rare lopsided grin greeted her as she gaped wide-eyed up at the male, and all he could say was, "Sorry we weren't sitting."
As he turned to leave, she could only continue to gawk at his back, flushed from head to toe.
She decided right then and there that it was absolute: she needed more silence in her life.