A Sakura Nocturne

This is my first AU fic, SasoSaku as always ha.

Hope you enjoy it!

N/B- A nocturne can be a piece of music (typically romantic or dreamy) or a piece of artwork that depicts a night scene.

"I wish I knew a little more about this…" Sakura mumbled to herself as she leant over her makeup stand, carefully drawing thick black eyeliner on her bottom eyelid to accentuate her vivid emerald eyes. Ending with a slight flick at the edge of her eye, she stared at the outcome carefully before putting the pencil down and picking up an almost identical one, the tip instead coloured a dark red. She outlined her lips with it, taking meticulous care as always not to make a mistake as she made up her face.

A small flat brush was used to fill in the rest of her lips, in a shade of red that complimented her eyes and her hair. She was a master of this 'art' that she had done every night for almost as long as she remembered. She swept light pink powder across her cheekbones and admired the result of her efforts proudly.

She brushed her hair out, leaving the soft pink strands hanging loose, framing her scrupulously made-up face. A quick spray of hairspray held it all where it was supposed to stay, as she moved over to choose an outfit for the night.

"It would be much easier if I was given a bit more information…" She grumbled again, looking through her extensive wardrobe. She opted for a more simplistic outfit, a low-cut, form fitting black dress.

"What are you looking to do? Are you entertaining friends, co-workers?" On the phone earlier, she had searched for further details.

"Why do you have to know that much?" The smooth voice on the other end of the phone had replied. "Just come to the restaurant at seven. Don't be late."

"Remember I charge a hundred an hour." Sakura reminded him, after promising to meet him.

"Mhm." His murmur of assent was the last sound she heard from the phone before he hung up.

But work was work, she thought, as she slipped on a pair of high-heeled black shoes, taking a minute to get her balance in the torturous stilettos.

So many people misunderstood her business, unsure of what she did. Most of the time she was mistaken for some sort of prostitute, though it involved nothing of that sort. Generally now, she referred to her job as 'community services'.

She finished by putting a pair of earrings on, five small diamonds in a simple pattern, and a matching necklace.

It was quite fun, as far as work went, Sakura's job. She was almost like a modern day geisha.

Put simply, men would hire her to act as their witty, beautiful, charming girlfriend for a night. Sometimes the job was just to impress the clients' co-workers and friends, where they boasted her as proudly as if she were a piece of artwork they had recently acquired. Sometimes, she had to make another girl jealous by acting as a girlfriend. Sometimes her job was just to prod these girls into taking another step towards a relationship.

It paid well, and was probably more exciting than a normal office job would be, but sometimes she lamented the one rule she had set herself, to make sure she would always keep her job.

Never get attached.

She had denied herself ever having a real relationship, but wasn't having a reliable source of income way better than all that?

Isn't it?

"Shit!" She interrupted her own thoughts with the violent exclamation as she saw the time. She really needed to get going. She pulled on a thick jacket on her way out, seeing as it would be freezing outside.

On the street, a thick layer of snow blanketed her surroundings, muffling the usual sounds of the city around her, instilling everything with a kind of ethereal silence and stillness. Snow fell lightly, gathering on the buildings and on the tops of busy commuters' heads and backs.

But Sakura had no time to stop and admire the view around her as she hurried on, going to work just as most of the people around her were just leaving theirs. The restaurant was gourmet, expensive, as were most that she visited with her patrons.
She told the doorman her name and was taken to an empty table. Don't be late. He had said, and was late himself. She stared down at the table, staring at the cutlery while she waited for whoever was coming.

She heard someone approaching and looked up. Someone was being shown to a table. It couldn't have been her patron, as he was alone. No one ever came alone. But he was being led, straight and true towards her. It was confirmed that it was actually him, as he sat down across the table from her.

He looked slightly familiar, with crimson hair that fell elegantly around his face. He was quite handsome, but then again, a lot of the people that she worked with were.

Don't get attached.

She smiled at him, a warm gesture that he failed to return. "I'm a little… confused. Why did you want me to come here tonight?" She frowned slightly, as he stared at her, not quite looking her in the eye.

"Why do you care?" He asked, fixing her still with his unnerving gaze. "I'm paying you all the same, aren't I?"

Sakura nodded, smiling at him again, endeavouring to get one in return. He ignored her, glancing uninterestedly around the room, looking for a waitress or waiter to get their attention.

She pouted, playing with a strand of her soft pink hair, still watching him as he pointedly ignored her. Sakura was used to having groups of rich, successful businessmen competing for her attention, and now this man brought her here just to disregard her? It was so rude.

She was about to say something when a waiter coming to take their order interrupted her. She observed him carefully as he placed an order. She noted that he was vegetarian. She liked to get to know things about the various people she met with.

As they say, knowledge is power.

It came to be her turn to choose something to eat. She'd probably sampled everything in most of the restaurants around the small city. She chose something at random, a foreign dish with some sort of fish and mussels. The tall man in black and white left their table promptly, carrying his ever-present notebook.

"I'm Sakura." She felt obliged to point out after a few more minutes of awkward silence. Or at least awkward to her. He seemed quite content thinking to himself.

"Sasori." He turned his attention to her finally, as if he were only waiting for her to speak this whole time.

"Uhh… His one word answer had killed the conversation. "So what do you do as a living?" She thought this the best way to start a conversation.

"I'm an artist." He said simply, without elaboration. The way he talked made him seem mysterious; information about him was distributed on a need to know basis. "I would ask you, but it seems I already know."

Another dead end in the conversation.

Minutes ticked by, the only sound heard was the busy ambience of the restaurant. Sakura was just about to ask him something about his family, when he spoke first.

"Can I ask you a slightly personal question?' He asked, clasping his hands together and leaning his chin on his hands. He had nice eyes, yet they showed nothing of what he was feeling.

"Uh… sure." Sakura eyed him uncomfortably. What was he going to ask?

He leaned in closer to her, and Sakura acted in the same vein, leaning her elbows on the table as she moved in.

"Have you ever loved anyone?" His voice was like the soft whisper of the slight yet icy winter breeze, almost drowned out by the noise of the people around them.

Sakura's breath caught. How strange that he was asking her this, when just earlier she had been pondering that same question.

"Sure, well everyone I meet is so nice and everythi…" She started, trying to sound unconcerned as Sasori suddenly cut her off.

"No. I mean love. When you can think of nothing but that person. Every waking moment is spent pondering them, every night dreaming of them. When your palms sweat and your heart races when you see them, when they touch you. That is love." He looked the same as ever, even when telling her this.

Sakura was silent. She had tried to ignore this question. No one had ever asked her this before.

No one had ever cared.

"No." Sakura stared at the table as she admitted the truth. "I can't. Imagine if he wanted me to stop doing this? Imagine he got jealous. Then what? I have to choose between love and a good life? How could I do that? You don't have to make a decision if there is only one option in the first place." She knew he wouldn't understand. No one did.

He closed his eyes slowly. "As I thought."

Sakura was saved from further conversation as the food arrived at the table. They ate in silence, which was a relief. The sooner they ate and finished, the sooner she could leave this person, this man who delved too deeply into her problems.

The food, as always, was delicious, but Sakura hardly tasted the food that passed so quickly through her lips and down her throat. She was too busy thinking about what Sasori had said.

Pondering them… Dreaming of them... Palms sweat, heart races.

More than ever, she was filled with a desire to feel this way for someone, for someone to feel this way for her. Often the men she entertained watched her with desire, but what was that more than a primitive animal instinct, no more complex than hunger?

"The dinner was nice tonight." Sakura said, trying to catch his eye again after both of them had finished. He locked his eyes onto hers with a smile.

"Indeed. I found it even more enjoyable than last time." His smirk told her that he wanted her to ask about the cryptic comment. There was a lapse in the conversation as a waiter scurried over to take their empty plates back to the kitchens with a smile and a nod of his head.

"Last time?" She asked, raising an eyebrow, giving the question he wanted her to ask.

"I was here last week. With you." He laughed. "One of my friends had you come to his dinner party as his girlfriend. But I've seen you before, with others around the city. So I researched a little about you. You just looked so lonely last week. You need to learn how to love."

Sakura laughed dismissively, hiding her disturbed thoughts. "The moment I fall in love will be the moment I'm out of a job." She was getting a little uncomfortable with this polite, handsome, seemingly sweet artist.

Maybe he sensed this, but whatever the reason, he called for the bill. While waiting, he scrutinised her, just like an artist would. "Your hair is the most beautiful shade of pink. Is it natural?" He made small talk easily. Why couldn't he have done that over dinner?

"Yes." It was her turn to be taciturn. She listened to him mumbling something under his breath, but couldn't understand what he was talking about, as he spoke of art to himself.

"Three parts titanium white, one cadmium red…" He muttered, as if he were mixing the paint in his head.

The bill came and Sasori paid the large sum with a flash of his credit card. Sakura couldn't help but think that he must have been a very good artist, to earn such money.

"Come, I'll walk you home." He stood up, stretching as Sakura followed his lead. They walked out the door, looking for all the world like the couple Sakura was paid to pretend they were.

The snow had stopped falling and had left them in an eerie world of all white, a striking contrast to the blackness that usually covered the bustling city.

There was no conversation on the way back either, and Sakura thought he was waiting for her to instigate the conversation. They arrived pretty soon at Sakura's apartment and Sakura turned to him, making a quick calculation. "You owe me for about… three hours." He'd have no problem paying it.

His mouth turned up at one corner. "I already paid for dinner.' He began walking down the corridor away from her. "Consider it a… date." Sasori chuckled to himself as he turned a corner and left her sight.

"Cheap bastard… She hissed to herself, digging the key out of her pocket and sliding it into the lock, jiggling the metal a few times before it relented and gave her access to her home.

Love. She snorted to herself. Love was a joke. She turned her alarm off before she climbed wearily into her bed; after all, it wasn't like she had work in the morning. As she closed her eyes sleepily, she thought about the night. It sure as hell wasn't a boring one.

That night, her dreams felt the need to remind her about love. All night, she saw Sasori, calmly telling her about love, all night she felt that same longing urge to experience what he described. All night she reminded herself sadly that it was impossible.

Bright red numbers blared 6:15 at Sakura when she finally woke up. Too early… She groaned and rolled over, closing her eyes again. She wasn't sure if she actually got to sleep again before she heard the digital tolling of her doorbell. She rolled out of bed, falling onto her feet as she stretched her legs. She rummaged through the piles of dirty clothes left on her floor and slipped a coat on over her pyjamas as fast as she could and hurried to the door.

Sakura opened the door and stuck her head out. There was no one there. She was about to close it when something caught her eye. She bent down to pick up the parcel that was left by the front door and closed it.

A bouquet of light pink roses. She knew who it was from.

Leaving roses at my door… Sakura thought with a frown. How annoyingly cliché.

There was a card attached, with something written on it in small, neat writing.

"Isn't this better than money?" Sakura read the message out loud with a snort of derisive laughter. "Yeah right." Below the message was an ornate heart, painted in some sort of acrylic paint. It took her a moment of admiring it before she realised that the pale pink colour used to paint the heart was exactly the colour of her hair, and also the colour of the roses the card arrived with.

Three parts titanium white, one cadmium red.

She dismissed this recollection of his words and took the flowers into the small kitchen of her apartment. She put them in a clear glass vase and placed them on her coffee table. It was unusual for her to get flowers from her customers, though usually they paid her instead…

She sat down, still in pyjamas, to have a leisurely breakfast, after being woken up so early. So rudely. Yet so sweetly. After a strong cup of coffee, large enough to be able to keep her awake until at least lunch time, Sakura finally got dressed.

Perhaps she would have got together with her friends, if she had any. Hers really was a lonely life. While everyone was working, she was free, doing nothing. Yet while she was working, everyone else was out socialising and making friends. Something maybe she'd never do.

But she went out the same, friends or no friends. After all, she needed money more than friends, right?

"And so I told him, 'If you really want me to go out with you so much, why don't you just ask me out?' He was so shy, it was cute." Sakura lied to the group around her, finishing with a laugh which they all echoed. She smiled, a mockery of love on her lips as she pretended the man next to her was the love of her life.

It was hard.

He was plain, ugly even, and the unfortunate buttons of his crisp black suit were straining to breaking point with his unsightly bulk. He was greedy, boring and rich. Surrounded by piggish businessmen, Sakura couldn't help but think of last night. Think of Sasori, with his lithe form, his pretty and gentle features. His pretty and gentle words.

As she watched those around her wolf down their food greedily, she couldn't help but think of Sasori, eating in such a refined manner, the cutlery balanced perfectly between his long, clever artists fingers.

She listened to the conversation as she ate, occasionally putting in a witty comment, or expressing her opinion, as her job required her to do. Despite how much she tried to distract herself, her mind kept wandering back to the quiet artist she had met the night before. I'm thinking about what he said. She tried to convince herself. Not him.

The night ended finally, and she collected the money owed to her before climbing into a taxi and heading home for the night. She told herself to forget about the artist she had met at that very same restaurant she had just left. What was the chance that she would ever see him again anyway? Little to none, most probably… And she was fine with that.

Am I really?

9:00 echoed around Sakura's room piercingly, blaringly, heralding the start of a new day in a robotic, electronic voice. Sakura rolled over and sluggishly reached over to the alarm, hitting the snooze button as hard as she could, wishing she could break the damn clock. She had nothing to wake up for…

Despite her hard whack, the reliable alarm went off five minutes later. Sakura grabbed for the clock and picked it up. Failing to find the switch to turn the alarm off, she yanked the power cord out of its socket and threw the entire clock to her floor. Luckily, the annoying, obnoxious clock landed on a pile of the crumpled clothes that inundated her floor.

"Damn…" Sakura rolled over, dragging her blankets with her, but the sun was already shining through her window, the city was already waking up and trying its hardest to keep her awake. She crossed the room and closed the shutters. After all, she was essentially nocturnal.

She climbed back into bed and drifted slowly back to sleep.

"Shhhhit." Sakura hissed, still drifting half way between sleep and consciousness, as she was woken up yet again. She listened to the harsh offending noise that had roused her, taking a while to distinguish the monotonous chime of the doorbell.

"Not again…" She groaned and stumbled to the door, hoping that no one would be there to try and come in to talk. Even at midday, it was too early to come and so rudely wake her.

As she expected, the only thing at the door when she reached it, was a package. It was a cylindrical tube, roughly a meter long, yet only about five centimetres in diameter.

She picked it up and kicked the door closed behind her, examining the cylinder curiously, wondering what was inside it. She sat down at the kitchen table and opened it up at one end, peering inside before pulling the contents out onto the table.

It was a beautiful painting, the colours were vivid and bright and it was so realistic. It was like looking in a mirror. Because the beautiful face that peered up at her from the new canvas was hers. The painting was slightly dark, of her in the dimly lit restaurant, with her head resting on one had as she gazed thoughtfully, somewhere out of sight.

Yet, it wasn't finished.

The area where Sakura's hair should have been was the blank white of the undercoat that was on the canvas.

Why did he send me a half finished painting? Unless…

She took the cylindrical packaging that previously held the painting and shook it slightly before upending it over the table.

Two tubes of paint fell onto the table, next to the rolled out canvas. She didn't even have to look to see what colours were printed on the cold tubes of paint. Titanium white, cadmium red. He wanted… her to finish it? The message was clear.

Hesitantly, she squeezed some of the paint out onto a piece of plastic she had dug out of one of her drawers and mixed some of the red into the white. Unsatisfied, she added a little more red, experimenting with the two colours to produce the right colour.

After about half an hour, she had managed to make a passable imitation of the beautiful colour that he had shown her on the card attached to the light roses.

Sakura took up a brush finally; she poised it between her fingers, trying to get a feel for the artistic instrument as she put paint to canvas. She covered the entire blank parts carefully with the colour, then scrutinised it meticulously, trying to discern where to add highlights and shadows to the hair.

She started with the few parts where it was obviously meant to be a shadow, making uncertain yet steady strokes with a slightly darker mix of paints than she had previously used. Sakura held the brush above the painting, deciding whether or not to paint the stroke she was about to do.

"Shit!" Sakura dropped the brush in fear as she felt a delicate hand lightly caress her own.
"You need a darker shade here." The same hand pointed out the spot mentioned, as a familiar voice spoke to her.

All Sakura could do was watch in silence as the end of the dropped brush, covered with paint, fell dangerously close to the beautiful painting.

"I'm sorry… the door was unlocked. I thought you noticed me coming in."

"Why are you here? I thought you understood that a stable and sure way of life is the most important thing to me? Unless you came to pay what you owe me…"

Sasori stepped into her view, sitting down opposite her at the table. "You remember what I told you? Love is when you can't stop thinking of someone, when you dream of them while sleeping, when you think of them endlessly while awake."

The simple comment was enough to make Sakura's head reel. She had. She had been thinking of him incessantly, and she had dreamt of him… Surely he wasn't saying…

"I know you aren't happy doing what you are now. I still can't believe you wish to be eternally lonely, just for the sake of money." He stood up and moved over to her, calmly, serenely, and Sakura wondered what he was thinking.

"See here needs shadows…." He pointed back to the painting and she complied with his advice, adding in the darker line of colour and willing her hands not to shake. He really had given her a fright when he first came in.

He continued to direct her, standing behind her, out of her sight. Just having him in such close proximity, the gentle, slight contact of his front on her back, it gave her butterflies, just as if she was nervous about giving a speech, or meeting some powerful businessmen.

The sky was dark outside by the time Sakura put the finishing dab of paint on the artwork, both her and Sasori, still standing stationary behind her, were finally happy with it.

As Sakura took her brush to the kitchen to wash the paint out of it, she asked a question. "Why did you want me to finish it? Surely you could have done it much better by yourself…" She was puzzled.

"The real question is," Sasori replied smoothly, "why did you finish it for me? Surely money is more important to you?" He looked at her, and she loathed the irony in his voice.

"What do you mean?" Sakura asked. He was perplexing her more and more by the minute.

"Well, to help me with this, you just missed a meeting with one of those rich bastards you get money from." He pointed out coolly, pointing to the clock that already showed seven thirty.

"Fuck!" Sakura shouted, dashing into her room to get changed quickly. She'd be about an hour late… Deducting that, and some more to apologise for being so late, she'd lost at least two hundred dollars. She pulled on a dress, swearing angrily under her breath as she rushed around her room in a hurry. She vaguely noted Sasori was standing in the doorway, watching her attempts with a bemused expression on his face. Sakura tugged one boot on her foot as she frantically searched for the other. Outside, the snow fell calmly, slowly, seeming to mock her frenzied rush.

Sakura stopped to lean against the doorway to put on her second boot, pausing next to Sasori, whose eyes were still on her. She headed out the bedroom door, but was stopped. Sasori casually leaned against the doorframe, blocking her exit.

"I know you feel love. Now you have to acknowledge it." He lay his hand gently on her shoulder as she stared at him, her eyes wide. His other hand came up to gently caress her cheek as he leaned in towards her.

Sakura knew what was coming, and didn't avoid it. She had a sudden urge to feel this thing they called love.

Their lips met and the moment was intense, as Sakura's hands crept up to Sasori's shoulders, seemingly of their own accord. As they broke apart for air, Sakura kicked off the boot she had been struggling with and yanked the other off. Sasori closed the door and before she knew it, had her over on her bed and they were deeply engrossed in another passionate kiss.

Sakura woke the next morning to the phone's metallic buzz next to her ear. The first thing she noticed was the comfortable warmth on her right. As she glanced over at the peacefully sleeping artist next to her, everything came back. A night of love. Sakura's first.

She reached over and picked up the phone before the noise woke Sasori, murmuring a lethargic grunt into it as she answered it. The tinny voice that came from it sounded angry, the man who had hired her to come the previous night. Sakura told him, as politely as she could, to fuck off.

She slammed the phone back onto the cradle and rolled over, putting an arm around Sasori as his comforting warmth made her drowsy again. She half closed her eyes, and the morning cold didn't bother her as it usually did.

She noticed Sasori stirring beneath her arm and smiled. She wished the moment would never end, that she would never have to leave the comfortable warmth of the bed and her lover. But she had to get up eventually. She had to eat; she had to work in the night-time, to make up for lost money the night before.

After a moments thought, she slipped out from between her sheets, as carefully and quietly as she could as to not wake up her sleeping lover. She crept to the kitchen, walking as silently as she could on the balls of her feet.

Breakfast seemed to be unimportant as she noticed that it was past midday, and slightly into the afternoon, but she ate it anyway, not quite tasting the food that she was eating. She stared at the open bedroom door pensively, watching for movement in the dimly lit room.

About half an hour later, she was joined at the table by the crimson haired artist. He admired the painting that had been left to dry on the table, reaching out and gently stroking the slightly textured surface of the artwork. "It's perfect." He breathed. "You could make it as an artist."

"Hmm… thanks." Sakura murmured, a blush creeping onto her cheeks. They sat in silence as the minutes ticked past, the clock sounding impossibly loud in the small room.

It reminded Sakura of their meeting in the restaurant. Neither of them could decide what to say, so they said nothing.

The usual evening ritual began again, regrettably, as Sakura sat by her makeup stand. Face, eyes, lips, everything was made to look perfect. Because that's what men wanted, right? Perfection, that unachievable yet much craved value.

"What are you doing?" The soft, puzzled voice came from her doorway.

Sasori was still at her apartment.

"I'm… going to work." Sakura stood up and faced him. "Is there something wrong with that?" Her tone of voice became defensive and her elaborately painted eyes narrowed as he glared back at her.

"Why do you sell your love, sell something that is meant to be given?" He questioned her, stepping inside the room.

"I sell it to keep myself alive." Sakura retorted, moving up next to him. There was a long silence as they stared at each other, and eventually her gaze softened.

"Please… will you wait for me?" She whispered softly, her subdued voice barely able to be heard above the gentle ambience of the traffic outside.

"I…" Sasori looked emotionless, despite the words he was speaking. "I'll still be here when you get back."

Sakura didn't answer, but left swiftly. The front door made no sound as it swung open, until it slammed behind her. Sasori flinched, still staring into the empty bedroom.

The night was long, dull, drab and boring. A bunch of boring businessmen trying to impress her with stories of great gain on the stockmarket, and of their rise to glory, often through cheap, dirty tricks.

She thought that her patron wouldn't be happy with her performance, as she sat still for most of the night, staring off into space as her thoughts were elsewhere. But as it turned out, that was exactly what he wanted, a girl who would sit down next to him, shut up and look pretty.

She despised him for that; it was such an arrogant way of thinking. She was glad when she could finally leave, the polite words that left her tongue were denied by the malicious thoughts in her mind.

She hurried home as fast as she could; keen to get to the tender embrace of her koishii. Beloved. He occupied her thoughts. It perturbed her, that this stranger could come along one day and make such a profound effect on her life, on her mind and her livelihood.

She didn't expect him to still be there when she came back, after all, she wouldn't even wait for herself, but as she pushed the door open gently, she met his gaze almost immediately.

He sat directly across the room from the door… How long had he been sitting there before she arrived?

No words were exchanged as he came towards her, laying a soft kiss on her lips with a small sly smile, which she soon returned, leading him towards her bedroom.

Words seemed so weak at that moment; the simple joining of sounds was not enough to frame what she was feeling. So Sakura did not speak.

Sasori lay her down on the bed almost as soon as they entered the room, and his mouth locked with hers as their arms entwined.

He tugged her shirt off her back and let it slip off the bed nonchalantly.

Suddenly, the feel of his lips against her was lost. The comforting warmth of his body was gone, and the cold night air flooded to replace the space where he had lain on top of her. He stood next to the bed looking down at her with cold eyes.

"I want you to remember the coldness of being lonely," was his simple statement before he strode out the door, collecting on his way out the beautiful painting they had done together.

Sakura could do little but stare in disbelief as he walked out on her. He had left the window open too, the bastard. As Sakura walked over to close the window, she could feel the chill on her bare skin. A snowflake drifted in the window to land on her chest.

She slid the window shut quietly and slipped between the covers. The flimsy material provided no warmth for her, especially after the heat of skin on skin.

Being rich wasn't worth this loneliness, the feeling of emptiness that couldn't be filled by material possessions.

Maybe she would…

Give her job up…

Just for him.

"Shit…" Sakura breathed as she slumped at the table with a mug of coffee in her hand. How would she find Sasori again? She didn't know his number, she didn't know his address, she didn't know his last name even…

It was hopeless to even think of just going out into the street and hoping to find him there. Perhaps the only thing to do was to wait and hope he came back for her.

Sakura almost wasted away after he left, eating and drinking only, it seemed, to sit by the phone and wait for a call that would never come. How could it? She never told him her number. She never told him anything. She never told him she loved him.

She was too disheartened to go back to her old job, and the only phone calls were the angry ones by customers waiting months for her, only to find she never came.

After three days of this half-existence, she was sick of it, ready to kill herself for being so selfish when he offered her everything she wanted.

The thoughts of suicide that crowded her head confused her and she had to do something to take her mind off these morbid images that pressed down on her, every waking moment.

She pulled on a thick coat and walked outside, oblivious to the gently powdery snow that drifted from the heavens around her. A deep breath cleared her lungs, but failed to clear her clouded, crowded mind. She shook her head and pulled her coat tighter around her, continuing to walk through the mostly empty streets.

She knew where she was planning to go, but her feet had other plans.

They took her down to a place down by the river, where- years ago- she had met the man who had suggested her life's career to her, as he sat in awe of her radiant beauty.

She still remembered it, from years ago, when she had only just left school, with great marks but such a terrible unhappiness. He comforted her and gave her ideas. He shaped her life.

Thinking about it, Sakura likened him to Sasori, one of the few men in the world of the many she had met, that she actually cared about.

Who was he?

Down by the banks of the wide, drifting river, Sakura sat beneath the curved branches of a drooping cherry blossom tree, watching the fine snow and glittering icicles that covered its once colour-filled branches.

This place had always been special to her. It was generally disregarded by the city folk, who preferred expensive places of style and class, but it had such a timeless beauty that inevitably drew Sakura back.

Sakura and… someone else? Previously unnoticed by the cherry-haired woman, another person sat by the river, their back to her. It was a man definitely, and as he turned towards her, she caught his profile. She gasped.

Him? It's him… who was here before? So many years ago…

The man from the river had come to visit her again perhaps, with more useful tips. But, she remembered, his last advice had only brought her pain, separating her from the only person she had ever loved, the beautiful painter,

"Sasori?" He turned to face her completely and Sakura recognised his fine face with its delicate features. It was Sasori, but it was also the man from the river.

Seeing him was like the breath of fresh air after so long inside, it was like being saved from the suffocating water as you're drowning.

"Why… Why tell me to start doing this for a living only to come back to tell me to stop?" She asked, tears gathering in the corners of her eyes as realization hit.

"I had to test you. I know it was cruel, but how else could I be sure you loved me. I knew it from the start, when we first met. Did you?" His mellow voice spoke such harsh words, but it filled her with warmth, despite the coldness of the winter air.

"I know now. So selfish of you… I couldn't love anyone else because you wanted me to yourself…" She looked down at the river for a moment, contemplating its murky depths. "I did something for you, now could you do something for me? Just one thing…"

"What is it?" His soft voice carried easily to her ears in the stillness that surrounded them.

"Never leave me alone again." She whispered, choked by emotions as she threw himself into his arms.

His agreement went unsaid as he embraced her, forever together, never lonely again.

Hoorah happy ending!

I'm glad I got around to finishing this. I seriously wasn't bothered when I started on Nostalgia, because that story's kinda more exciting than this. But this one makes me feel warm and fuzzy, and is my first AU.

I think at some points I forgot it was AU. Sorry for any continuity problems.

Love ya!

s2- Envy