Define "hatred." Sakura/Sai
(a/n) My guilty pleasure Naruto pairing. Please to be enjoying the crack.
(disc) not mine, whatev'. Inspired by the song, "What Is This Feeling?" from the musical "Wicked." Even though, you know, it's nothing like the musical or even the song.
It is better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you are not.
It was a particularly tense dinner together, Captain Yamato watching over his charges with a wary eye as they ate in silence. Naruto scarfed his field rations down as if they were liable to disappear, threw an angry glare at Sai for good measure, and requested that he be given the first watch. Yamato granted it, and Naruto disappeared into the trees above, after wishing Sakura good night.
Silence fell in the clearing, an even thicker and tenser silence now that Naruto's natural casualness was not around to diffuse it somewhat. Yamato excused himself, finally, muttering something about getting water.
Sakura sat on a stump and busied herself with sharpening one of her kunai, when she got the distinct feeling she was being watched—and not by Naruto. She glanced to her left to see Sai, sketching something and looking pensive.
"What are you doing?" she asked, and gave her knife such a vicious scrape that it sent sparks flying.
Sai put his paper down and smiled, unreadable as always. "I was drawing, Sakura-san," he said, "and thinking. I have a question to ask you, if you don't mind."
She scowled at him, but said, "Ask away, Sai-kun."
Sai's empty smile remained on his face, and as always, Sakura had to fight the urge to smack it off. "During a…conversation that Naruto-kun and I had earlier today, he said something to me."
"Isn't that what a normal conversation is? Saying things to each other?" Sakura quipped, putting her finished kunai down and picking up another one.
"Aa, I'm sure," Sai responded. "What I meant is, I didn't really understand. He told me he hated me."
"…" Sakura looked at Sai for a long minute, but the boy didn't elaborate. "Well, Naruto usually says just what he means. I suppose he really does hate you."
Sai's smile faded a little, possibly from facial exhaustion, Sakura privately guessed. "I don't understand what he meant, Sakura-san. What is it, to hate someone?"
Sakura put her kunai down again, even though her current one was still unfinished. "You…" she began, but didn't quite know how to finish her sentence. "It's, well, to hate someone is…is the opposite of loving them, I suppose."
Sai smiled a little wider, which, Sakura had figured out by now, meant he either had no idea what was going on or had more idea than the rest of them. "I'm afraid I still don't really understand what you mean."
"Well, it's to dislike someone, only…" She frowned. "Only much more intensely."
"Ah!" Sai closed his eyes and nodded. "I understand, Sakura-san." He opened his eyes again and lost the fake smile, intent on his new discovery. "So…Sakura-san…does that mean you hate me, too?"
Sakura bit her lip. To stall, she picked up her kunai and resumed sharpening it, the soft shhhng! noises masking her discomfort. "Yes, Sai-kun," she said, "I'm afraid I do."
He said nothing, merely giving her that empty smile again, and went back to his drawing. "I see," he said.
There was silence between them, then, broken only by the skrch-skrch sounds of Sai's charcoal on paper, and the kshnng-kshnng of stone on metal. Sakura couldn't stand it. "Well?" she burst out suddenly.
Sai glanced up, startled. "'Well' what, Sakura-san?"
"Well, aren't you curious as to why I hate you?" she burst out, not even knowing why she cared so much. "I mean, I don't go around hating people just for the fun of it. Being hated isn't a good thing, you know, and I have good reasons, so don't just sit there with that stupid smile on your face! Baka!"
Sai blinked several times as if struck. "Ano…would you like to tell me, then, Sakura-san?" he ventured.
"But of course!" she snapped, thrusting her freshly sharpened kunai into the trunk of a nearby tree, where it sank in up to the grip. She began ticking off her reasons on her fingers. "One—your shirt!"
"My…shirt?" Sai asked, picking at the fabric.
"It doesn't go down low enough!" Sakura snapped. "Not everybody wants to see your stupid abdominal muscles, you know, and for crying out loud, I can almost see your ribs! Why are you so skinny? Plus, it's so impractical—what if you got stabbed in the gut? A shirt would at least tangle a shuriken, or a kunai thrust, enough for you to grab the other guy's arm and maybe avoid a totally fatal wound. Eat some food, put a real shirt on, and stop acting like your rock-hard stupid abs could stop a blade. Because they can't. That's one."
"Uh…thank you?" Sai asked, poking his abs with a finger.
"My mouth?" Sai repeated, putting a hand over it and looking clueless.
"You say some pretty nasty things, Sai!" Sakura said furiously. "You're always saying uncomplimentary things about everybody, especially Naruto and Sasuke-kun—and you have no right to say anything about him, ever. Oh, and if I hear you say the word 'penis' one more time, I will cut yours off and feed it to you—and that's a promise." Sakura had the momentary satisfaction of seeing Sai instinctively curl up a bit, as if to protect himself from a low blow.
Sai blinked them. "Naze?" Why?
Sakura thought about saying something about how flat they were, like a cloudy night sky, and how she could never seem to see herself reflected in them, as if those eyes saw nothing but one goal, one purpose, forever hidden from even his comrades. Or about how it bothered her to have a companion whose eyes never showed joy, or fear, or sorrow, just like she was taught a true shinobi should appear. Or about how their color reminded her a bit of Sasuke-kun, and it stung her throat with acid to even think about him, even now, almost three years later, and how she had a secret fear that next time she saw his eyes, they might already be dull with purposeless bloodshed, or not even his eyes at all anymore—
"…I just don't like them," she finished. "Four—"
"Is that really an acceptable reason? It's just that your other two were so thought out," Sai interrupted. Sakura pretended not to hear.
"Four—your attitude!" She waited for him to say something, but he had no comment this time. "You have a terrible sense of teamwork! And I know about people with terrible teamwork." She paused at that, swallowed hard, and went on, "Our sensei, Kakashi, once told us, 'Shinobi who don't complete their missions are trash. But shinobi who abandon their friends are even worse trash.' Right now, I see you as that worse trash. Learn to trust other people, and maybe they won't hate you so much.
"And finally, number five—that smile of yours!"
Sai smiled reflexively. "I get that a lot," he said.
"I hate it most of all! I can never tell what you're thinking, and it bothers me so…urgh! It just bothers me. That's why. Those are all the reasons I have."
Sai seemed to ponder this for a while. Sakura went over and tugged out the kunai she had thrown into the tree trunk. "Those are really all the reasons one needs to hate someone?" he said finally.
"Well, they vary of course, from person to person. Some people don't even need reasons at all."
"Well, then, I'm glad," Sai said.
"Eh?" Sakura said. "What for?"
"Because now I know that I hate you, Sakura-san," Sai said brightly. "Would you like to hear why? I have some good reasons, too."
Sakura tried not to laugh; it was all so absurd. "All right, then, I'd love to hear them."
"I hate your eyes, because I can't draw them. I can't paint them the right color, and I can't get the proper grayscale shade for them right in charcoal. It bothers me very much that I cannot properly render your eyes when I draw them. That's my first reason," Sai explained.
Sakura felt a bit miffed that he'd tried to draw her without her permission, but decided not to pursue the subject. "Fair enough. Next?"
"I hate that you and Naruto value a companion who isn't even here more than you value me. I feel that it should bother you more that he left you and abandoned your village than it bothers you that I point the fact out. It's just what I think about sometimes," Sai said. The fact that he could say that with almost no inflection or emotion spooked Sakura a little. "That's my second reason.
"I hate that you punched me. It hurt my face, and I am angry that I lowered my guard because of your smile, though I am grateful to have learned that a smile can hide one's true intentions. In the long run, I probably learned something important from the experience. It doesn't keep me from hating it, though." Sai smiled a bit as he said that, closing his eyes. "That's my third reason."
Sakura felt strange, hearing his reasons. Though Sai had told her that he didn't feel emotions, what it really seemed like—to her, anyway—was that he really could feel. He just was so conditioned not to feel that he couldn't recognize feelings when he had them.
"I hate your smile," Sai began, but more softly this time. "I hate it because it's never for me."
"I hate that you hate my smile—that it's because you don't know what I'm thinking. I hate that you don't think to ask."
Sakura slipped down from the stump she sat on, sitting on the ground as he was. "Sai, I—"
"I hate that I've been having all these feelings lately, and more and more, you and Naruto are making it hard for me to ignore them. I hate that I don't understand, sometimes, what is expected of me," Sai kept reciting his list, the fake smile never leaving his lips and his voice never rising in pitch or changing its inflection. "I hate that I'm afraid that these emotions may be clouding my judgment, that I may not be able to do what I must when the time comes—"
He didn't seem to notice Sakura edging closer and closer to him.
"And the number-one thing I hate about you, Sakura-san," Sai finished suddenly, with something vaguely akin to triumph flickering across his features like a meteor, "is…your mouth."
"My mouth?" Sakura asked, covering her own in an unconscious echo of what Sai himself had done earlier, and feeling that this was a bit of an anticlimax.
"Because…" he whispered, and suddenly they were close, too close, "it makes me…want to…" His breath brushed across her face lightly, and she could see into his eyes. She could finally see some emotion in their black and cloudy depths.
It was raw, pleading, genuine confusion, and it made her want to cry.
She moved past his face, embracing him gently. "Sai-kun," she said, as she felt his shoulders stiffen in surprise, "this is what we do when we want to comfort someone. It's called a hug."
And she felt him put his arms around her in return.
They held each other like that for a long moment. "Sakura-san…" Sai whispered. "Is this normal…for two people…who hate each other's guts?"
Sakura thought about how to answer that to the best of her ability. "Yes," she said. "Of course it is."
"Oh." They were silent again, for a time. "I hate you…Sakura," he finally said.
She smiled. "I hate you, too…Sai," she whispered in return.