title: Alleviate

summery: She doesn't love him – not anymore. But she once did and she thinks she could again. So she'll try to save him, one more time.

pairing: Sasuke x Sakura ALL THE WAY!

note: Because I'm up to date now and reeling in shock from recent happenings. While this doesn't have real spoilers, it does 'work' with the newest chapters. But I make it go the way I want it. Because I can.

dedication: To AGENT KUMA-CHAN and AGENT MIKO-CHAN. Because they rock and they make me smile and they're always so nice.

word count: 1409


She doesn't remember why she loved him.

Or maybe she does, somewhat. Maybe some corner of her mind won't disappear and won't fade away and reminds her every day why her baby self wanted that broken little boy. But mostly, honestly, she's forgotten. Grown too old and too wise to see the faint light that dances through the hardened shell of his face.

But she still pities him.

Because she is Haruno Sakura, and she is whole and alive and loved and a healer, so she can look at this shattered, crumbling, dead-eyed boy and hurt deep in her chest for a pain that's not her own. The years have gone by and she has stained her hands red but she has loved and she has been loved so she is full and she is ok and – and that's more than he can say. More than he's been able to say for a long, long time.

Besides, there is so much more to pity now. So much more to pity, so much more to mourn.

She doesn't love him – not anymore. But she once did and she thinks she could again. And he's her once-upon-a-time friend, her former protector and her current duty.

So she'll answer this summons and walk this corridor and hug this blond-haired boy for all the strength he can give her before she faces this demon. Before she faces her past.

-

He is alone in the cell until she enters in a soft creak of un-oiled hinges.

Chained to a chair, he doesn't respond. His head is bent forward, eyes hidden behind long black hair. Even here, even now, his back is straight and tall and tells of years of class and riches. Years of lies and hidden agendas. She thinks that only he could be imprisoned for betraying (everyoneeverythingevery) his village and still look like the world deserved to be at his feet.

Some part of is furious that he won't do her the decency of looking up at her. But the greater part, the part that controls everything but the small black corner of her heart, understands. Understands perfectly and completely and aches for all the reasons he thinks he can't bear to look at her.

"Sasuke?" she asks, and watches the figure tighten.

His eyes still remain downcast, but the tendons in his arms are suddenly straining and his muscles quivering. She doesn't know if this is very bad or very good, but she's braver now, so she steps a little closer. And as she does, years of childhood come rushing back, heavy and overwhelming. Seconds, minutes, hours spent inching ever closer, ever more slowly, waiting with baited breath and hoping, begging, praying he wouldn't leave her.

Of course, he always left her. Always and without fail. He left her when she was scooting closer at the ramen bar and he left her when she was running at him with tears in her eyes and 'I love you!' on her lips. If there's one thing – one thing – she could always count on him to do, it was disappear. There's something like sick, twisted pleasure curling in her gut now, as she stands over him. Because this time, he can't leave her and her pathetic self. This time he has to stay and listen and hear everything she has kept bottled up and chained away for years that are only long because she's so young.

"I know what happened," she says, and feels the cold ice of memory curl in her throat. "I know – I know what happened to your clan."

And then he is alive and human and moving so fast she stumbles back in a heartbeat of utter fear. His eyes – hidden before – are on her; are glaring and red. She remembers, for a second, a time when she thought those magic eyes of his were the color of hearts and apples and the tomatoes he loved. (She wonders if he still like tomatoes. She thinks not.) But they aren't that color anymore. Or maybe now she just sees them for what they are; what they've always been.

Red. Red like blood and fire and the lights that flashed before her eyes when he left her that night. Red like broken best friends and dying patients she can't save no matter how hard she tries. Red like lies that eat you from the inside and kill you slowly because you're bleeding but no one knows so no one cares and –

And he's growling at her, hissing in a rage that is nothing like she's ever seen and that scares Sakura because it is so inhuman and so feral, and he is speaking through the hate.

"You. Know. Nothing!"

She really doesn't. Sakura – for all the loss of her short life – has no idea. But she knows this, understands, dies a little because he does. And she wants him to be able to forget, because she knows that no one deserves that pain, that shock, that horror and vertigo of the world as you know it disappearing out from under your feet and leaving you in wild freefall. The red eyes glare at her and someone she knows writhes in his bonds.

Behind the anger, she sees the pain.

"It was them!" he hisses and ceases his fighting. "It was them the whole time."

So she's stupid and weak and foolish, but she's Sakura and he's Sasuke and her heart is still too soft and his is still too hard. But she's braver now, stronger and surer and able to save the ones no one else can. When she falls to her knees and wraps arms that can crush mountains around him he stiffens and growls low in his throat.

But she holds on tight and doesn't let go and promises never, ever to let go and whispers right into his ear, "I'll protect you."

Maybe it's her imagination, creating wild delusions to make this moment less heart breaking. But she swears he relaxes into her embrace.

-

Time goes by: rushing, trickling, dragging, flying, and leaving a present that is nothing like the past.

Sometimes, when she goes to say goodbye the night before leaving for a mission, he grabs her arms and pulls her to him and let's his weight fall upon her. Against his chest, holding him up, she breathes deep and slow and tells him that it's ok, she'll be fine, Naruto and Kakashi and Sai will be with her too. And he'll nod into her shoulder and take a deep breath but won't let go and Sakura will be able to feel the weight of his world.

She can always feel the weight of his world, right there next to hers. It is heavy and it is dark but it is Sasuke's and he deserves a little help – real, honest help – for once.

So she does everything she can. She picks up the broken pieces he can't seem to find and helps him push them back into place and mend the fractures and glue the seams. He's doing well – doing great – but he still needs her. Some days it feel like too much, all this responsibility and all this worry, but those are the days she sees she doesn't actually have to carry him.

Those are the days he lies with her in silence, pulls her on top of his chest and breaths slowly and surely and tickles her hair with his breath. The days that she looks him in the eye and he smiles a smile that whispers so many things he still can't quite say.

I trust you. I need you. I love you.

So when he comes to her late at night, cold and alone and frightened to only her eyes, she lets him in. For hours of darkness, she'll listen to a voice that teeters on breaking tell stories of a past that makes her eyes leak. She'll listen and she'll understand and then she'll keep her promise and when he falls asleep she'll fight away the monsters.

And he's still not whole, this man she calls her own, but he's getting there. He's learning and changing and now, when she looks at him, it doesn't hurt to imagine the future. Somehow, it's brighter than even star-struck forehead girl imagined.

-

And he's impossible to love.

But she manages.


completed: 6/29/08


note: I hope this makes sense. I really do. Because I kinda like it.