Disclaimer- Don't Own It. Hence, FAN-fiction.
Warnings: Indirect mentions of abuse. If you can stomach Law and Order you'll probably be O.K. with this. As fluffy as angst can get.
"Give me your hand
And take what you will tonight,
I'll give it as fast
And high as the flame will rise..."
"Cinder and Smoke" by Iron and Wine
Sasuke sees her lying stretched out beside him. Her quiet breath leaves her warm body in soft puffs. She stares, dazed, at the night sky above them. Her eyes are wide and round and bright and it seems as though they are genin again, fresh and new in the crispness of the autumn air.
Her luminous bright green orbs flick across the dark expanse above them.
"What are-," he coughs shortly and tries again, because he'll be damned if he allows her to escape into broadness of the sky without him. She's totally capable of this too- of leaving him behind, far, far behind. He has peaked. She has only just begun to tap into her potential and he's so afraid that she'll leave him.
"What are you looking at?"
Her eyes roll slowly toward him and he is caught in her magnetic gaze.
"The stars, Sasuke-kun. They're so bright out here! Isn't it beautiful?"
She waits expectantly and Sasuke isn't sure what the right answer is because he just never took the time to really look at the sky. He had other things on his mind.
He looks upward, because he knows this is what she wants, and sees just a gaping void above them.
There is nothing magnificent about it. There is nothing beautiful. It's just nothingness and Sasuke is out here with her, on this bleeding freezing night in late October to combat nothingness, not find a new source of it.
She is still looking at him expectantly and he doesn't know what to do.
Should he lie? By rule he doesn't do this, but maybe this is what she wants. Maybe she just wants his affirmation of this and then she'll move closer and hold him, just for a little while. This is what he wants. He is cold and feels empty and he wants Sakura.
But there is too much formality bred into him to make "the first move".
He is also afraid that Sakura will see what his father had found so pathetic in him all that time- that he was sensitive like his mother, and liked quiet and soft things like his mother, and he didn't like being cold. He keeps photographs of his friends in a small notebook so he can remember that he has them and that he isn't totally alone in this big, wide world.
Anko said this would help. The older woman had been instrumental in helping the sole Uchiha- that's right, he managed to kill Itachi after three grueling years under Orochimaru's tutelage- re-socialize himself.
He came back broken. In the time he spent with Orochimaru he had done things he couldn't bear to repeat to anyone- ever. No matter how many times Anko told him that what had happened during that time was not his fault, he still felt the stale breath of the older Sannin on his neck, the rough press of the man's teeth into his skin...
Anko was the only one who knew.
" Sasuke-kun you never answered me," said Sakura, and she pouted jokingly.
He turned back to her, his inky eyes leaving the empty space above them. His eyes catch on her worried bottom lip and he has to mentally shake himself to draw them away from the plump flesh.
Oh right. Her question. Did he like the stars tonight?
Guilt trickles down his spine. He should have lied. Dammit. He should have lied. She would be disappointed and leave him and then who would keep his nightmares at bay? Who would heal him when he inexplicably came back from an average training session with deep gashes all over his body?
Who would answer their phone late at night when he called just to hear another human voice?
Anxiety tightened the muscles in his neck and he felt a familiar panic building up inside him. He slowed his breathing just like Anko taught him and he waited for the attack to subside.
She simply stared at him, then sighed and turned back around, a frown marring her pretty features.
Who would want a boy who couldn't defend himself? Who couldn't even stop screaming long enough to breathe because sometimes his heart just hurt so much? Anko told him to be patient with himself, but he had never been patient with anything, ever. He wanted to be what Sakura wanted and was intimidated by her adoration, which he felt was misplaced because there was no way he was all that special. He wanted to be better now, because he finally had a chance at normalcy, and it was lying nestled in the grass right beside him.
He coughed again and tried to slow his pulse.
"I like-" he said, but couldn't finish. He wanted to tell her about how he liked the softness of the grass below them, and how even though the air was frigid, the ground was still warm from the heat of the day, and how he didn't buy a coat because he just never thought of it and how he was cold and wished she would lie closer to him.
She faced him again and raised a quizzical brow.
"The ground, Sasuke-kun?"
He opens his mouth to elaborate but the words won't come and he hopes that Sakura doesn't see how anxious he is. He's never been so uncool before. He'd always been able to be cool and reserved and popular with everyone. But now... he had no one. Well, that wasn't true. He had Anko. And maybe he had Sakura. And the dobe. Who could forget the dobe?
He snorted derisively before he could stop himself and panicked because he thought maybe Sakura would be angry when she heard him. Would she think that he was laughing at her?
She props her head up on her elbow and watches him.
"What are you laughing at?," she asks serenely.
And he swallows and chokes as he says-
"Oh. What did he do?"
"...nothing. He's just... funny."
Sakura smiles at him.
A gust of wind blows and bites his skin and he shivers before he can stop himself.
"Oh!," Sakura exclaims with alarm. "Sasuke, where is your coat?"
"...I don't have one."
"What?," she cries and Sasuke flinches because she is sort-of close to him (but not close enough) and her voice is loud in his ear.
He knows this is her concern for him and he is touched. His chest tightens. Maybe now he can hold her to himself and bury his face in her neck and feel her small, warm body against his. He wants her badly now and waits in anticipation of her next words.
"Sasuke why didn't you tell me! We could have done something else, like watch a movie or something! Oh no, you must be so cold, it's freezing out here! Kuso, I can't believe I didn't notice! C'mon we have to get you warm!"
"...you wanted to do this, though," he said with a frown. He wonders if she'll understand what he means whens he says this.
"I didn't want to let you down. You wanted to do this and I want you to be happy."
Sakura rolls her eyes.
"Yes! But I am perfectly fine with doing something else- especially if it means you won't get pneumonia!"
She shoots him an exasperated glare and tugs him unto a standing position.
"And why did you never get a coat?"
He shrugs and looks away, secretly pleased at this attention.
She rolls her eyes.
"That's it. Tomorrow I'm taking you shopping. You've been back for what, close to six months now? I can't believe you didn't buy a coat in all that time! You knew winter was coming!"
She takes his hand and tugs at it impatiently.
"C'mon, c'mon, Sasuke-kun. Let's get going. When your blood gets moving, you'll get warmer."
Her touch is enough to get his blood moving, but he doesn't tell her that.
He looks at her, almost bewildered and completely unfamiliar with this kind of behavior.
He hasn't had a family in so long... he had almost forgotten what it was like to have someone who cared unconditionally and was unafraid to show it.
She is tugging him along and then she slows and looks back him.
Her eyes close as she flashes him a benign grin.
"Tonight was nice, though, wasn't it?"
Sasuke swallows and nods.
She pulls him forward and wraps his bare arm around her shoulders, holding it in place with her gloved hand.
He flinches at the contact and fights the instinct to pull away as panic causes bile to rise in his throat.
He heard the soft pants of the snake sannin in his ear... his fingers roughly holding him in place after another disastrous training session that had left Sasuke more dead than alive.
He swallows and stops, allowing memories to wash over him momentarily.
He felt the itchy crackle of dry blood in his hair again, felt his arms prickling with sweat as he fought for air.
Sakura must have seen something flash across his face because she stops and pulls his larger frame to her, embracing him gently but firmly.
"Ne, Sasuke-kun, I'm so glad you finally agreed to a date with me," she says softly.
Sasuke feels his leaden arms come up and wrap themselves around her uncertainly. He tenatively lowers his forehead to rest in the crook of her neck. It is hot and moist there and he resists the urge to kiss the exposed skin of her neck.
And here it is. He finally has what he has wanted all night long.
Bravery wells inside him and he swallows roughly before finding his voice.
"...maybe next time we could..."
He trails off, his confidence flickering out and his eyes widening. He wanted her close but now he is panicking at her contact. He doesn't want to feel trapped anymore. He wants to feel free and warm and cared for.
He wants Sakura so badly but he is adjusting so slowly to this new life that it is all he can do not to burst out screaming.
He flinches and tries to calm himself. He raises his head and looks off into the distance, trying to school his features back into showing nothing but cool aloofness.
Sakura's beautiful eyes turn upward to stare innocently at him.
"We can do anything, Sasuke-kun. Anything you want."
"...Next time I want to stay inside and get take out," he says quickly. He exhales and becomes suddenly aware of her heart beating rhythmically next to his own racing pulse. It slows to match hers. She continues to hold him and he pulls her closer.
"Then next time... we'll get take-out," she says quietly.
"...Cinder and Smoke
You'll ask me to pray for rain
With ash in your mouth
You'll ask it to burn again."
"Cinder and Smoke" by Iron and Wine