title: bitter cream
pairing: SasuSaku
summary: "You're…back." she states, forming the words carefully, soft voice in sharp contrast to her angles and jagged edges. Weaknesses are dangerous things and he already knows too many of hers.
notes: inspired by an original fiction I wrote, way back in the day.

(last year, really.)

it's more…er, bitter than angsty.

my take

(one of? not sure if there will be more.)

on sasuke!returns yeah. no sequels. for happier fic, read cherry apple wine, or the dating game, yeah, I self-pimp because I'm shameless. :DDD

thanks: to Epiff Annie, for reading through it.

disclaimer: not mine.

She is an awkward little thing—a mishmash of slants and sharp lines that connect to form a waif with bright pink hair and dull eyes the color of cut glass. Her mouth is stretched into a thin line, and her eyes widen almost imperceptibly at the sight of him sitting there on that grimy matted-green barstool.

(an arm's length away, and it might as well be miles)

He would have laughed had he not known that his own features were contorted into the same unflattering expression of disbelief.

"You're…back." she says, forming the words carefully, her soft voice in sharp contrast to her angles and jagged edges.

He smiles sardonically, more a customary twist of skin than anything that is genuinely meant to be comforting.

"So it would seem." His hand traces the rim of his stained coffee mug, gestures at the empty seat in front of him. Deep dark eyes never leave her form as she folds herself into the steel-and-vinyl contraption that passes for a chair. Her longs legs are left dangling, left foot tapping out a familiar tune against the tainted linoleum of the dank café.

"What have you been doing with yourself?"

She ignores the question with practiced ease, and tries her hardest to be discreet about peeking into his now discarded mug.

"It was coffee. Instant, if you must know." His voice is light and teasing

(unfamiliar because where is my Sasuke-kun with the noncommittal grunts and the too angry eyes and who are you, stranger in my first love's skin)

filled with the comfortable familiarity that is commonplace between friends and lovers.

(and he is neither so she falters in her rhythm)

"That's unexpected."

"What is?"

She turns away, dabs a wet cloth over a stain near her elbow.

"I always thought you'd be more a traditional, tea-only kind of guy. Or at least, one of those coffee imports that I can't pronounce. But instant? A bit unrefined, isn't it?" She snorts derisively.

"Perhaps." he replied, voice smoother than the silk sheets she knew he had at home. "But, in any case, I never thought I'd have an audience."

She sets her hands on the table, lifts herself off the seat

(prays he won't notice her chipped green nails and frayed gray sleeves because weaknesses are dangerous things and he already knows too many of hers)

"That's a hint if I ever heard one, so I guess I'll see you around in another five years. Or, whenever you decide to turn up next."

There's no accusation in her voice, no bitterness. She's gotten used to being left behind, but the feel of his hand on her wrist makes her ache, and she brushes him off, agrees to his silent request and settles back into the seat.

"So, you never answered my question. What have you been doing with yourself?"

She sneaks the napkin from its place under his relaxed hands, and shreds it into precise squares.

"I've been around. Here. There." Her eyes cloud over, and, though she's looking at him, he knows she's not seeing him.

A pause.

"It's customary to ask the same question, you know."

She shrugs, an artless motion that sends riotous soft pink strands tumbling over one shoulder. Long, lean fingers creep across the expanse of the yellow-white table and grasp one of her hands.

"Yeah. And I would, if I cared. But I don't, so I didn't."

"You're not very subtle, are you?"

"No," she replies, eyes locked on his, "I'm not. But you'd know that if…"

(you hadn't left, if you'd known, if you'd stayed for me, if you'd been more selfish)


"…It's nothing. What are you doing here, anyway? Don't you have somewhere to be?" She gestures at his shirt and tie, golden bangles on her thin wrist tinkling with each movement.

He brushes a self-conscious hand through his spiked black hair.

(the motion is practiced, she thinks because he could never be anything but self-assured and)

"A bit of unfinished business with a few old associates."

She cannot help the question that flies out of her mouth before she can stop it.

"Your team?" she asks, because Team 7 has long gone to dust, and she tries not to hate him for it. Tries.


(and she flinches at the reminder of her inadequacy)

"—I'm told, is still upset with me."

She is startled by his openness, and the question flies out of his mouth before she can stop it.

"Oh, did you knock her out and leave her on a bench, too? Or was that dubious honor reserved for just me?"

His face hardens, mouth stretches taut. She feels something that, onceuponatime, might have been regret.

"I shouldn't have said that."

"No," he agrees, "you shouldn't have."

She glances at his hands

(his left ring finger is still bare and she tries not to feel relieved)

eyes traveling up to the finger-shaped bruises around his neck. She wonders how she missed them.

"Naruto…he hasn't forgiven you, yet."

He follows the direction of her eyes and smiles darkly.

"So it would seem."

"Do you ever answer questions directly?"

"When it pleases me."

At her low groan of exasperation, he chuckles, takes her hand in his and traces light circles in her left palm.

"You haven't changed much, have you?"

That simple sentence seems to jar her memory

(moonlight that should have signaled a beginning,

"—with all my heart!"

not an end

"—k you."

sudden darkness, and then she is falling, falling, falling—)

—and she extricates her hand from his grasp.

"More than you can imagine. But I don't think you'd want to know about any of that, anyway. Just go home." She stops, glances at his solemn dark eyes, the pale perfection of his smooth skin.

He looks out of place in the dingy café.

(he'd look out of place in her)

"Maybe I'll see you again," she lies.

"In another five years," he says, parroting her earlier words.

And then, he is alone.

short. (not) sweet.