Disclaimer: Hah, as if I'm important enough.
Written For: The SasuSaku Fanwork Contest on NarutoFan (forums).
Present tense is a whore. Please review. :3
: Tainted :
She removes her shoes in silence.
Places them upon the three steps that lead off without any trace of luminescence to guide the wandering. Only such dare lurk here. So silent, so refined. Founded upon pride, a society wound of tightly intertwined strings, crimson reams that procure the reputation.
Once pure, forever tainted . . . this haunted district shall never rest, and neither shall its kin.
Bare feet ascend sacred steps with hesitance, and in the painful silence her gentle hands scrape the weathered curtain as she tries to pass beneath it, unnoticed. Pink locks flutter loosely, changing color within slipping seconds in time as the moonlight fades in the wake of the candle's dancing shadows. It is not prudent that she be recognized skulking around this place, and she has the sinking feeling it may not be her right.
Voice gentle, she speaks in her tender whisper, her invitation of comfort that he finds so difficult to accept, even now.
The light dies when it hits his hunched figure, as though it refuses to exist within him, upon him. Wind rustles distant foliage and forces the weak beams to relent with satisfying creaks and groans, and the depressing threnody makes him cringe. Nevertheless, the young shinobi remains still as the gentle patter of footsteps nears his back, letting his cold gaze harden. Stone.
Pale skin is decorated with shadows of erstwhile candlelight, which are wholly swallowed by the contours of his angry countenance.
"We'll be late," she continues quietly, her tone free of any and all accusation. He cannot handle that, she knows this well. Her presence is comforting, familiar. Like how she steps toward him with her left foot in the lead because it's pure and simple muscle memory, (left right, left right,) and he knows what her face will say. With those furrowed little brows that convey such worry, she will plead and comfort and refuse to let him apologize.
Touch his shoulder. The shoulder clad with a heavy cloak, held tightly not in discomfort, but in fear that she will break through once again. A constant love and hate of everything she does, and it is all he can do to inhale, exhale, inhale, ex-
A calm breath catches under her gentle touch, and her fingertips are so delicate as they trail down his neck and his heartbeat masks the song of the floorboards. The melody it composes as she kneels upon the wood to sit at his side; it disappears when he relaxes beneath her comforting hands, and the only sound he wishes to hear is her voice.
Albeit her thin, ivory fingers were destined to heal, but they were able to heal bruises and bones, children's little cuts. Her teammate's recklessly-induced injuries and her aging sensei's woes of age. For a heart wounded by guilt, poisoned with such regret and despite what everyone assumes, so unable to cope, that is what she struggles to do. Heal him and hold him when the world decides to turn it's back upon the misled and the, according to popular belief, forever undeserving.
Essence creeps in: A faint scent of cherries. He is chilled to the marrow from all that is familiar. Aroma alone. And whilst candlelight dances and his body slumps to further embrace the gelidity of the floor, accepting the discomfort that he feels he deserves-
"Don't." Her whisper is firm; he will obey.
Move again to trail down a defined jaw line that is clenched to keep the sounds in his throat from breaking free. Shakes wrack his lean and muscled body.
"If it gets bad . . . I promise, we'll leave," she says, sincerity abound. She cannot lie to him.
Dark eyes glitter, the dangerous glare of an animal not sated, beneath a curtain of equally dark hair. Delightfully tousled, as though he had just woken from some sinful romp with a stranger.
She likes it, that terribly peccant aura of his.
"He's gone," she reminds him, one of many times. "Forever. You have," she hisses in firm insistence, "-to get through this."
This is what they say; this is what he hears.
You don't deserve this, none of this.
Care abundant in her touch and demeanor, she falls into a delusory state of mind and being, peaceful, undoubtedly surreal in comparison to the desolate, clean-cut air of the room. Of the night. Of his conscious screaming at him with no pity in near sight. Jacket and collar and tie; she smooths it all gently, ridding them of creases and folds because she always does it, out of habit. Perhaps it is purely altruistic, or maybe a better illustration of those actions is love because
-She loves you, accuses an unsatiated, malcontent state of mind. It prefers to dodge inquiries of importance rather than indulge in any and all satisfaction that she offers, time and time again until it is this horrid ache. He does not know why, why his muscles and stomach and mind writhe as if physically struck, but he realizes it has something to do with emotions and (god forbid, that this Uchiha has) feelings. Especially when she cries.
She's trying to put him back together, now. Cue less-than-prudent attempts at the usual, caustic humor she is used to hearing. It's a endearing thing about him, really.
"It's nothing more than dinner. Look nice, make an appearance, leave," she murmurs, weaving careful fingers with uncanny deftness around his tie; "And I thought aristocracy deserved a bit more precision when it came to looking so . . .polished," she adds, a light scolding accompanied with a tender half-smile. Endearingly mocking.
"You'll be fine."
That is all she has to say, for it is nothing that she has not told him before. Giving him just a little bit of incentive.
"Where is your jacket?" he asks coldly, covertly assessing her attire out of the corner of his eye. The conversation is ended abruptly, as expected, and they take the normal things into stride. She comforts. He silently thanks, key concept being, succinctly, and without words. She can see the looks he gives her, and so she knows how he feels by a glance and a glare and a subtle, burning touch.
Proud men like him mask vulnerability in any way then can. He favors possessiveness.
"Sakura," he growls in annoyance, as her soft fingers trail from the woven tie. She stands, the slimming black material adorning her thin frame and hugging those subtle curves in all the right places. Believe it or not, he always remembers details and now his mind is no less sharp because he sees it all and he feels just so guilty; she's beautiful with those perfectly shaped legs that now taunt him as she walks past. Without moving his head he follows her with glittering eyes. Follows her, the girl (not so little anymore) that goes to the window and leans her elbow upon the sill, bending her petite body with the utmost grace, and with her ivory skin glowing, painted lips curved, she stares through the glass.
There is nothing to see.
He rises from his position on the floor and dusts his knees out of habit, eyeing her in a scrutinizing manner as the silence balloons.
He's behind her so fast she cannot breathe, but it's the type of asphyxiation on which they both seem to thrive. And his muscled arm encircles her thin waist and crushes her little body against his, the muscles of her back cradled by his muscular chest. Locked in his needy embrace, her sigh flutters, a windswept leaf.
Breaths collide: His, quick and fast; hers, delicate, lengthy, slow. She has no room to move in his rough grasp, and it is pleasing to her. Air thickens without pretense and the night wears on and seconds tick by, for he will not relent, she will never let go.
"You came here without a jacket."
"Yes," she replies, barely stifling a giggle as she imagines the scowl he shall wear, and correctly interprets his irritated silence. Her laughing falters in the wake of a quiet gasp, as he lowers his handsome head to her shoulder, to the skin stained ivory by the moonlight spilling through the window glass.
"You," he murmurs, "Are going to freeze." Lips brush her skin so gently, barely existing like his voice that envelopes her wholly in his spell. She's caught, he's caught.
She exhales and lets her body collapse against the window, cheek pressed against the frigid glass, shallow, quickening breaths forcing fog to appear in her reflection. It thickens and reaches in tendrils of no pattern, obscuring the picture of the night. Contrary to his words, his lips press firmly into the crooks and little imperfections of her neck with an unprecedented intent to be her pleasure, and a burning sensation delves beneath her skin. His hand trails upward, strong fingers settling comfortably around her chin and they caress her face gently; she hums quietly beneath his touch and lets herself be trapped. Trapped between his body, his weight crushing her against what stops her, the protruding windowsill, the now-opaque window.
"I know," he growls, face twisting painfully in a way that only she has ever seen. He would never convey such emotion on his handsome countenance in public, for it strikes him as unpolished, unnecessary, borderline obscene. "I know," he repeats in nothing more than a mumble, (he hates to mumble), a hiss that trails down her arm as his teeth drag the thin strap of her dress along. It's just in the way. He can't. Get. Closer. "I . . . "
"lt'll be all right, Sasuke," she whispers, barely concealing the hint of a whine as his teeth catch. Body responds with a fierce shudder and flush, his luxuriant dark locks splayed across her bare shoulder and neck, where his lips roam again. Against her neck and ear he breathes, guttural and low, if only to feel her clutch him as that satisfying chill wracks her body, dances along her spine.
Don't you ever,
Don't you be fond of
Breaking sweet reality.
Don't you ever,
Don't you think of
Killing this dead heart.
(That's broken, but I'm enjoying it.)
And roughly he turns her head to face him, hovering unnaturally close, a looming entity with some unknown intent.
Carefully, he leans in and almost seems as if he's willing to crush his mouth against hers (nothing's stopping him, he's done it before) and his eyes illustrate the fire that stirs. She wants it, he needs it, but it's a mutual suppression.
Almost a nuzzle; he presses his burning face to hers but does not kiss her, does not grasp her, does not speak. Instead rests quietly as he sweeps away the pained, distorted expression from his face and mumbles, "You're taking my jacket."
She nods in assent and does not satisfy him despite that smouldering look in his eye, but he is grateful for her control. They know the frightening truth.
That if they start . . . it'll never stop.
All night, she's been getting stares.
Not to mention dirty looks and also downcast gazes of pity and shaking heads.
His cloak is draped carefully across the back of her comfortable chair, the delicately embroidered Uchiha symbol visible to the room at large, and mixed reactions commence. Bringing her glass to her lips, she glances to her left and watches as her companion rests his chin on his interlocked fingers, typically bored with the proceedings. She does not miss his narrowed gaze to the people that are staring at her so obviously and rudely (or pityingly) and wishes they had some shame, but this does not seem to be the case.
Naruto sits directly across from her and is also joining in the constant barrage of glares at those speaking badly about her, and also starts correcting those that dare to refer to the Uchiha as a "traitor". The dark-haired shinobi seems apathetic to it all, but the anger in his eyes is unmistakable.
A resounding ting reverberates down the long table as the Hokage taps her soup spoon against her (surprisingly) empty glass, and the din of conversation fades. A ripple of laughter travels through her rather large audience as the glass shatters from her less-than-gentle taps, and she twists her lips into an annoyed half-smile. Raising her blonde head, her eyes sweep the table and linger upon certain occupants: The kyuubi vessel grins widely and waves obnoxiously at her, and Kakashi takes the boy's wrist and holds it against the tablecloth with a sigh; her apprentice smiles good-naturedly at the woman, jade eyes shining in anticipation; the Uchiha watches the young woman next to him intensely, and, upon realization of being observed, redirects his gaze. Meeting the Hokage's eyes, the corners of his mouth tug in a vain effort and she grins.
"While the official inauguration will take place tomorrow afternoon," she booms, voice carrying and ringing through the high-ceilinged hall, "Tonight is our celebration. I, the Hokage's advisors, our special jounin and jounin staff-"
"And Jiraiya, the Toad Sage, that handsome devil-"
"Shut up, Jiraiya! . . . will recognize the coming of a new era, and our village's decisions bestowed upon the up-and-coming younger generation."
Eyes flicker down the table to observe, in a myriad of fashions, the team that has been through hell and back and beyond to preserve all that they hold dear. Some of those eyes hold contempt.
"Without any further ado, I would like to, well, recognize them," Tsunade finishes awkwardly, her slight intoxication doing nothing to jog her memory for her speech the next day. "Anyway."
"This young man has been noted for all actions in the past and has proven himself to be worthy of not only head advisor to the Hokage, but a credible recommendation for a Hokage in the near future," she recites, and no one misses the emphasis on the fact that she would not be in her position forever. "Therefore, I officially recognize Uzumaki Naruto as head advisor to the Hokage."
Applause is abundant and cheers from Jiraiya swell over the din of those dining; Sakura is clapping furiously with a smile that brightens those around her, while Sasuke brings his hands together politely with a slight less exuberance. Nevertheless, he is one of the last ones showing his appreciation as the rest of it dies away, and has the audacity to smirk at the boy. The blonde bounds up from his seat and basks in his moment of glory for all it's worth until the gray-haired jounin next to him pulls him down.
"The Konoha police force has not been considered an institution of the village for many years now, given the events that took place; the Uchiha Massacre, and ultimately, the death of the police institution. However, as the village continues to grow and we have been strengthening treaties among the smaller communities surrounding us, the council has decided this institution should be re-established. Not," she emphasizes, as a barrage of glares descends upon the Uchiha, whom stoically ignores the unwanted attention, "For the sole fact that he is the only remaining descendant, but has been vouched for and has proven himself as capable and wholly willing to take this position. He has proven he will conduct himself to the best of his ability. Therefore,"
Bodies tense and shift, whispers hiss across the table like tiny fires; Sakura's face breaks into a smile of admiration and pride as Tsunade finishes, "I officially recognize Uchiha Sasuke, final lineal descendent of the Uchiha clan, as chief of the reinstated Konoha police institution."
Naruto breaks out into a storm of clapping and punches his fist into the air with unmatched exuberance, narrowly missing clocking Ino in the face. Underlying, the whispers continue but are masked with plenty of applause, and Sakura positively beamss as he stands, politely inclining his tall frame to Tsunade, whom nods in approval.
Sasuke resumes his seat and Sakura leans closer to quietly say, "I'm proud of you."
"Ah." He smirks arrogantly and receives a gentle punch in the arm.
Sakura is confused and stares at him, mouth slightly open, but he nods at Tsunade and she focuses her attention.
"-and has surpassed me in all fields of medical jutsu. Her skill is far greater than mine, and her courage, the unmatched kindness in her heart, and her drive to save each and every life, is a truly admirable thing."
It takes the young woman a moment to realize that her mentor is describing . . . her. Struck dumb, she raises a shaking finger and catches Ino's gaze, pointing to herself and mouthing silently, Me?
Ino tilts her head in apparent disbelief of her friend's stupidity. "Yeah, you, forehead," she jibes with a wide smile.
"I would, without a doubt, trust any and all lives in her hands."
The young medic rises her fingers to her lips and presses against them, eyes widening; Kakashi gives her a proud smile, Naruto is eager to cheer, and Sasuke watches her, expressionless.
"Therefore, I officially recognize Haruno Sakura as Head Medic of the Konoha Medical Institution, and Chief of the Shinobi Medical Core."
"ALL RIGHT, SAKURA-CHAN!" Naruto yells, providing a proper introduction to the swell of applause in her name; Ino's smile breaks through; Kakashi loudly congratulates her over the applause and still the medic remains silent, eyes round, not daring to believe the words spoken.
Sasuke brings his hands together a few times and then realizes she is still frozen, in the spotlight; his own applause falters, and after a moment he takes her by the wrist and mutters, "Sakura."
His voice shatters her reverie of shock and she slowly turns to face him, not ready for the gentle manner in which his calloused fingers touch her face. He has no words to say, and for her, as always, his expression is enough.
"You'd better stand," Sasuke reminds, and the girl hastily jumps up in her seat and inclines her head in respect, but Tsunade waves it away with a smile and nearly lunges for her glass of sake, a clear dismissal of those at the table.
It's happening again.
The stares, the whispers, and the horrible glares. Saying things that are not true and so painful to hear that it shatters her core, but she will never admit that gossip bothers her in such a way. Pretty head held high, she greets those she knows and stays close to her family and struggles to ignore all the snide comments.
Sadly, she has the audacity to wonder to her conscious just why she is the brunt of village gossip, but the answer is so obvious it is almost an insult. She is a member of Team seven, the team that has been breaking records and living legends since its first formation, not to mention trained under the renowned Hatake Kakashi. Then she has the privilege of being trained under a famous Sannin that is known to have ties to the other two Sannin, and her own teammates have big names for themselves as well. Add in the fact that one spent years a missing-nin and was accepted under the village name, in all technical terms, is a murderer, and now is head of the Konoha Police Force. If that is not irony, well, what is?
Oh, do not forget that he is courting (in his opinion, dating is such a loose and unpolished word) Haruno Sakura.
Everyone thinks she has to do this, that she loves him out of pity and will serve him like a trophy wife and it's all so disgusting to think about it. He is angered by it as well, perhaps more than she; the broken furniture can attest to that.
It's just words, right?
(The world disagrees.)
"And how do you think we'll fare with this?"
Turning her head, the medic finds the source of the disgruntled comment with ease. Scowling darkly, she prepares to walk away, put it out of her mind.
"I'll be damned if they can do it."
Her stilettos halt upon the marble floor. She listens amid the crowd and somehow is not noticed.
"They're putting a bunch of children in charge, basically," the man adds, rolling his eyes to the group at large. "If that wasn't enough, it's that same team. Don't they have enough fame?"
"Well I'm not surprised the Uchiha is being integrated back into society," another snorts derisively. "He's the last one and I'm sure that his two teammates overruled the council out of emotion alone."
"That's the problem," the first speaker interrupts. "They're placing too much emotion and humanity in the governing aspect of this village. Unfortunately, the third was always of a similar mind set."
"And he's dead," someone adds.
Sakura shrugs, as if to convince herself it was not worth listening, then turns away just as one of the men says something quietly, and she does not catch it all, but it wasn't anything good.
" . . . like a trophy wife."
Once again, she stops.
Low muttering, then it begins again, now a woman's voice. "It's disgusting, frankly. I don't understand how any self-respecting female can let herself be treated that way, especially when he clearly doesn't love her."
Jade eyes darken, pieces of jagged sea glass. Color rises in her shapely, ivory cheekbones and threatens to shroud her forehead in patchy crimson as she stops breathing.
"He may be young, but all he's seeing is his future when he looks at her. Not her. His future and putting his clan back at it's position of posterity. It's sad, really, that in his eyes, it's all she's good for," she continues. A snide, superior voice that captivates attention and satisfies thirsts of curiosity.
Adrenaline pounds through her ears and veins, trapped in frigid ice; the locks of pink hair resting against her face seem scratchy, an annoyance, just as the air is thick and seems to close in, suffocating. Faraway voices flicker and die in face of this, these accusations. Lies.
"'Course, it's due in part to her utter stupidity to even try to love someone like that," she adds.
Sakura seethes and snatches a glass of sake from the nearest table, eyes glittering dangerously; Naruto waves, but the girl ignores it as she holds the glass tightly and storms the crowd, face twisted into an expression of malice.
"He's a traitor, at any rate," the woman finishes stoutly, as if that settled the matter. "Betrayed the people that put clothes on his ungrateful back and now he's sitting up high and mighty in a position of power that he's going to run away with again, taking what he wants with him. She's one of them, and we're the rest," she says loftily, shrugging her shoulders to adjust the shawl upon them.
The medic shoves her way through the crowd, glass in hand and expression livid, as the woman continues to please her shameless audience and says, "But, couldn't ostracize the runt of the family, could we?"
(Her punishment is overdue.)
A ringing sound cuts through the air.
Painfully curt, a blade across a throat.
The surrounding people stumble as they draw back quickly in something akin to fear; Sasuke rushes forward with Naruto on his heels to a strange sight that needs an explanation.
The Uchiha has never seen his companion so wild, angry, unhinged. Eyes sharp and alight with raw anger, her gentle palm cradling a small collection of glass shards, while the woman facing her splutters and stumbles, blinking liquor from her dark eyes.
The medic fingers a shard for a moment, turning it over in her fingertips, then flicks it-
The woman does not react in time and clutches her cheek where the skin so thinly splits, revealing a line of crimson from beneath her shaking fingers.
"Don't . . . you ever," she begins, voice wavering slightly, "Ever, speak about him in that manner. You don't know anything."
Lip curling, the antagonizing female retorts, "Contrary, dear girl. I know how your beloved man thinks. Any fool could."
"I said you didn't know anything, and that includes anything about him. Don't flatter yourself, you-"
"He's not your husband, though," another voice interjects. Male.
Unsure of the source, Sakura replies slowly. "No . . . no, he is not."
"Not yet," states the man, stepping out of the circle; Sasuke snarls and steps forward, but is stopped by Naruto, who warns him.
"What's your point?" she demands forcefully, tossing the shards aside.
"Why are you standing up for him?" the man asks. "Why are you protecting him? That's what most of us don't understand."
She narrows her eyes, glancing at the dark-haired Uchiha out of the corner of her eye. He's waiting for a piece of the man in front of her; no one is allowed to be that close, much less get in her face. It's common knowledge. "I love him," she states quietly, but firmly. "And he doesn't deserve it."
"You're foolish," the man replies harshly, inches from her face. "In love, in charge, and so disgustingly foolish."
Sasuke wrenches free of Naruto's grasp and immediately steps in front of her, shielding her from the man's verbal abuse. Despite the reproachful expression gracing her features, she folds her arms and seems shaken, but relieved, from the intervention.
They stand at equal height as the tension leaps and bounds.
"If you ever speak to her in that manner again," Sasuke warns, syllables frighteningly staccato, "You will regret it."
"Will I, now?" the man goads, a silent invitation, and all the while the room holds it's breath.
(Will he? Won't he?)
"Don't come near her," Sasuke hisses, and to the woman, still lingering on the fringe of the action, "You either."
An amused pause for effect. The obstinate man laughs derisively. "Both of you are ridiculous. Like children. A traitor looking for former glory, and a girl playing trophy wife. Konoha's little cherry blossom, am I right?"
Sakura bristles; Sasuke seethes; even Naruto and Kakashi reel from the effects of a jab in a soft spot.
"You'll be the death of this village, both of you," the man finishes, turning his back.
Sasuke growls. Turns away, places his hands upon his girl's shoulders and roughly guides her out in the lead, not daring to let her out of his sight. He mutters savagely:
"So be it."
His fingers never relent in grip, and her tears spill over as the room whispers to her, loathing, accusing:
"Tainted little cherry blossom."
She looks so fragile as she curls her limbs tightly, a little girl upon a large bed, painted in moonlight from the high windows along the wall.
His jacket is splayed beneath her thin frame, some source of comfort.
He is near but not touching, leaning against the wall and shrouded in the shadows in avoidance of the light.
Still, he is close.
But it's just not enough.
He is aching again, that nagging pain. Her tears break him, especially when he is unable to stop them and for all he knows in his emotionally challenged mind, he may even be the cause. He can't stand it.
"Stop," he murmurs, and in a swift instant he is near her, so close as he holds himself over her and (god forbid, he's almost pleading) keeps his voice so quiet. "Sakura, stop."
Couldn't ostracize the runt, could we?
At any rate, he's a traitor-
Tainted little cherry blossom.
He needs it to stop, he needs her to stop. Through spilling tears she looks up to see his handsome countenance contorted in...
Something akin to pain. And want. And need.
Swallowing with difficulty, she laces her arms around his neck and pulls him down to her. She has things to say; so does he.
"Thank you, Sakura-"
"-For being at my side-"
"-They said horrible things about you-"
"-and I shouldn't have reacted-"
"And loving me."
His words edge out her unneeded apologies, however quiet and muffled they were. Head resting upon her chest, she holds him close and truly believes what everyone considers falsities: In his own unconventional, arrogant way, he loves her.
"Stop crying," he mutters against her collarbone.
It's a bit of an arrogant command, but through her tears, she smiles at the considerate thought behind it. Eyes glittering beneath his dark locks, he gives her no pretense as he crushes his lips upon hers, forgetting, and hoping to make her forget as well . . .