Community: Autumnwrite

Community: Autumnwrite

Challenge: 24/50 (write 50 stories using 50 prompts in 48 hours)

Prompt: #22—Emerald eternity

Pairing: SasuSaku

For: BlueGreenApples and SakuraDouble. I'm sorry about the lateness of your presents, so this is an added bonus.

Clipped wings

i.

"There is a ghost in that house," Sakura's mother warns her. "Don't go in it."

"A ghost?" Sakura raises an eyebrow. "Aren't you a little old to believe in ghosts?"

"Sakura," her mother sighs, "It is not a…literal ghost."

"Oh? Then what is it?"

"It's…" her mother pauses, biting her lip, "Well, I'm not sure actually. However, considering the sounds coming from the house and the history behind it—"

"The history? About…that clan?"

"The clan got wiped out by a single member, leaving only himself and his little brother as survivors. That is the clan that used to live in that area, and that is the house where the two brothers used to live. The whole clan could be haunting the place and the younger brother…"

"Yes?"

"He hasn't been the same since that day. He is almost a ghost himself."

"Mother, who has been telling you these things?" Sakura laughs.

"People talk," her mother frowns, "You should be taking this matter more seriously."

"I thought you knew better than to listen to gossip," Sakura smiles before looking up at the clock, "The stores are going to close in an hour, right?"

As her mother disappears out the kitchen door, hurrying to get her grocery list and wallet, Sakura glances out the window to the old mansion. Her eyes linger as her mother calls for the girl to move.

You didn't need to warn me mother.

Sakura turns away from the window and heads out the front door.

I've already met the ghost.

ii.

"Hello," Sakura calls out, her voice echoing in the empty mansion, "is anyone here?" She and her mother had just moved into the house nearby. Bored of cleaning the house, she decided to visit the neighbors. When she knocked on the door and twisted the handle, surprisingly it opened.

Cautiously, she steps into the foyer and she notices how elegant the building is.

Or maybe that should be was. While there are tapestries of foreign flowers and animals, they are faded and dusty with time and neglect. The small statues of regal tigers and royal lions are a dull colour and there is a thick air, filled with dust and gloom, in the room.

Nobody should be able to live in here.

Wandering through the halls, Sakura peers into each room she finds and wonders how this place could have looked like before it was abandoned. The blackened fireplace, the tarnished bronze plates—she sees them and instead imagines a warm, bright fire and a gleam from their reflection on the metal.

Opening one last door, she notices a figure sitting on a moth-eaten chair. The figure is staring outside and she realizes with a start it is a live boy.

"I'm sorry," she apologizes quickly, "But the door was open and I didn't hear anyone, so I came—"

He stays still, no movement at all, and she doubts he is listening. Hesitantly, she walks closer to him until she is right beside him and can see his face properly.

Dark hair that is sullied and dirty, a pale face that has traces of black smudges and dirt are what she notices first. His clothes are worn and his body looks frail. What strikes her the most, though, are his eyes. They are blank and empty, like the house itself, and she doesn't doubt for a moment that while he is alive, he is also dead.

Grabbing his hand (and it's cold, oh so cold, like the marble figures she saw), she pulls at it softly and his eyes slowly move to her face.

Instantly, she pities him. He looks like he needs some life and she decides to give him that.

"Hello, I'm Haruno Sakura," she gives him a warm smile—probably the first he has seen in who knows how long, "I'll come back later."

Waving, she silently escapes the room and the house.

iii.

"Sakura," her mother looks up from the dishes she is cleaning, "Where are you going now?"

"Oh," Sakura smiles back, thinking quickly, "I am just going to meet the neighbors. I didn't get to see them before and I want to give them a slice of the cake I made." It is the truth, in a sense. The only person Sakura did meet was the boy in the mansion and she is going to give food to him (he looked like he needed it). She just isn't going to mention who it is exactly she is visiting.

"Really?" the older woman eyed the bag in her daughter's hands, "Can't this be done tomorrow?"

"Mother, the food won't keep that long."

"Why not make something new tomorrow?"

"Mother, we won't be able to eat all of this. Why let food go to waste? Isn't that what you always tell me?"

Sakura's mother stares at her before smiling. "I'm glad to see you actually listen to what I say. Ok, go ahead, but don't be too late."

"Of course," Sakura waves goodbye before disappearing into the night. After quickly greeting their other neighbor and giving them a small portion of the food in her bag, she stealthily sneaks back into the mansion.

"Hello," she calls out, "I'm back."

She doesn't expect a response and doesn't get one. Quickly, she treads the tiled floors back to the boy. He is in the same spot as earlier but she can tell he moved a little. There is a new stain of food on his shirt and she can still smell burnt food.

"Here, time to give you some proper food," she tells him softly as she prods him. He makes no movement and she realizes that he won't move unless he thinks he needs to.

He probably has a fixed schedule that he follows without fail.

"Fine, I'll help," she moves his arms and rearranges his body until he is sitting in a proper position. Putting the plate on his lap, she watches his hands automatically move and place the food in his mouth.

Good. She was worried that she'd have to help him eat but it doesn't seem like that is the case.

Half an hour passes and he is done everything she gave him. His face is still blank and she quickly dabs his mouth with a wet cloth.

"I'll be back in the morning," Sakura promises him once again before she departs.

iv.

Once upon a time, there was a happy family. There was a father, a mother, and two brothers, along with an assortment of cousins, aunts, and uncles. It was a large clan, filled with innocent children and patient parents. Sometimes the father was harsh and demanding, but he was always protecting his family from the world. The mother would comfort and heal her children, while the older brother taught his sibling the ways of the world.

For the younger brother, this world was perfect. He didn't want anything to change.

Once upon a time, there was a massacre. An older brother, filled with power and desire, destroyed a world of laugher and light in order to replace it with death and darkness. A younger brother grew accustomed to the stench of blood and wondered why he was betrayed by his family. Why his brother had to burn everything good, leaving only nightmares and tortured feelings to fill their place.

Soon, the younger brother turned to hate. He became a destroyer himself.

Once upon a time, there was an awakening. A dreaming boy woke up and realized what he thought was real was fake. The world around him dissolved into illusions and what he thought was evil was actually good. The colours around him inverted and he didn't know what to believe any more.

The boy decided to stay in a lonely house for the rest of time, reliving memories. It was easier to live in a world of shadows.

This is the story Sakura read in the library two weeks later. It is a story that made her ache because this is the story of the boy she met everyday.

She wants to bring colour back into his world, to show him that what is real isn't always a lie.

v.

Five days after she first met the boy, Sakura leaves her house early in order to visit him again. She writes a note saying she's discovering her surroundings and places it on the fridge before taking several cleaning supplies and cans of food with her.

Today she is going to clean his room. She wishes that she could do the whole house but that is hard for one person to do. Instead, she'll start with his room and clean a little bit day by day.

(She'll slowly erase whatever it is that holds him to the gloom and replace it with sunshine.)

He doesn't seem to notice her again as she places a tray with breakfast on his lap and she watches as he mechanically takes a bite. There is something captivating about him, she thinks, and maybe one day she can convince him to take a bath. With fluid grace, he finishes the meal and she takes the tray off his lap.

He doesn't respond at all and she frowns. It would be nice to have some sort of recognition for her work.

Shaking her head, she starts to clean his room by opening the window first. It's harder than she thought and it doesn't budge at all.

"Come on," she growls, "Open up. Just a little."

It still doesn't move but then she notices a pale hand touch the edges of the window pane and open a latch. Surprised, she turns around to see the hand retract to the owner. He still doesn't move his head or make any other motion but she gives him a thankful smile anyways before opening the window.

He does notice after all. That thought motivates her to clean everything even more thoroughly. Filling a bucket of with water, she adds soap and scrubs the windows. At first, it seems like nothing happens. The windows remain dirty. Then, after hours, a slow change occurs. Years of grime and dirt flake off, revealing a cleaner and more transparent glass. She can see through it properly, see the sun play into the room and reveal the dust in the air.

She hopes he can see it too.

-x-

It is late evening before she is done with her task. She doesn't have patience to clean her own room but for this stranger, she spent the whole day cleaning. The windows are clean, the curtains are washed and hanging outside to dry, along with his blankets and carpet. As she couldn't find anything else, she ended up cleaning them by hand, using a tub of water and soap. The mattresses are back inside, after being beaten to remove bugs and dust. Shelves and other furniture are clean, having been dusted and washed with a rag-cloth. Brass ornaments are gleaming properly and the room has a fresher, cleaner look. It even smells nicer too, now that the dust is gone. She even placed flowers to give it a nice scent.

Cleaning his house might become a once-a-week thing. She couldn't do it everyday for sure.

The only thing she didn't clean from his room, though, is the chair he sits on. When she convinces him to take a bath, she'll clean it.

She leaves again, waving goodbye, with another promise that she'll return the next day.

vi.

"Sakura," her mother calls out to her daughter before she can depart, "I need you to go and buy some groceries for me."

"Mother," Sakura tries to think of an excuse, "I can't. I have to—"

"You will go," her mother frowns at her, "I need you to do some things for me and you always find some way to worm out of them. You will do it quickly and be back before lunch."

"Mother—" a warning glance was sent to Sakura and she fell silent.

"Now, take this list and here's money to buy the items," Sakura takes them quietly, wondering what she should do as she departs from the house. For the last month, she visited him everyday at the same time without fail. What would happen if he thinks she is leaving him like everything else did?

He needs to stand on his own, a small voice whispers.

A larger one responds, He did long ago. What did that give him?

The stores she walks in and out of are large and filled with an assortment of items. One has only pastries, while another has only fruits. There is one that sells everything from food to clothing and there is a store that dedicates itself to art. As she wanders through the market place, buying the items on the list absentmindedly, she wonders what his reaction will be. Will he be disappointed? Angry? Hurt?

Or worse, will he feel nothing?

She doesn't think she could bear it if he doesn't feel anything. As she walks past a store, its silver windows reflecting the world, she sees a glint of metal inside. It's a small, green leaf on a chain. It isn't the prettiest or the most expensive, but it draws her eyes the most and she finds herself buying it. Luckily her mother gave her extra money to spend for herself.

Holding it in the palm of her hand, she notices that it's made of glass fragments and got its shape from fire. A glass-blower must have made it.

Looking up at the sky, she hurries up with her task. It's nearly noon.

-x-

When she finally arrives at the mansion, it is late afternoon and she has only a few hours to spend with him.

"I'm sorry I came late. I had to help my mother," she babbles, nervously twitching her fingers together as she stands in front of him. Quickly, she gives him the leaf necklace. Then, as though nothing happened, she goes out into another room and starts to clean it. So far, nearly all of the rooms on the top floor had been cleaned out. All that was is the second floor and a bedroom that seemed to be his parents.

She doesn't want to touch that one just yet and decides to go downstairs next time.

Sakura sings softly as she dusts the wooden table, the tune flooding into the mansion and getting rid of the disturbing silence that lay there, oppressing all. He remains still on a chair, his fingers slowly and softly moving with the music.

He started responding to her singing a week ago and since then she sings whenever she's in the house. Maybe it is true, what they say, that music heals the soul. It's certainly working on him. He even moves into the room she is cleaning, like he is sitting in there now. She never actually sees him move; it's as though he knows where she is going to clean before she does herself.

As she waltzes around the room in front of him, she thinks she might have imagined his shoulders relax when she entered the room, apologizing.

vii.

The boy is a ghost, Sakura thinks one day, never speaking, never moving. He is just there, like the air and the light, a part of nature. It isn't uncomfortable to find him suddenly in the room she wants to clean or decides to spend her day in.

It has been a month and a half since her first visit and the house is practically cleaned, except for one room. His parents' room.

She still doesn't touch it because it is something sacred.

"You know," she murmurs, washing his face again, "You need a bath." She scrubs away the grim and dirt, revealing a pale face behind it. A mask that slips away revealing the actor behind it.

She gets up and moves to the bathroom nearby. Turning on the water, she waits for it to heat up and fill the tub before stopping the flow. It's a good thing she cleaned the bathroom and the clothes in the house, she reflects as she grabs a few towels from the cupboard nearby. If she hadn't, he would have to remain dirty until she did.

Placing the towel and some washed clothes on the sink, she heads back to him.

"Now, you are going to take a bath today," she tries to pull him out of his chair. Surprisingly, for someone who relies on her food and stays in a chair all day, he is stronger and heaver than she expected and she falls forward instead.

"Wow, you have some decent abs, for someone who doesn't work out," she comments as she pushes her hands on his chest in order to get off.

Trying again, she pulls him. This time, he does get off his chair and follows her as she directs him into the bathroom. "Now, don't come out until you're clean," she instructs and she sits outside, waiting patiently for him to finish. As she waits, she reads a novel about a man who is always searching for something he never finds.

-x-

An hour later, the door opens and she finds herself facing someone she doesn't recognize. It is the boy, but not the boy. His hair is clean and hangs around his face in a dripping mess, while his skin actually is revealed to have the pale, moonlight colour she suspected. He still has a vacant look in his eyes, but there is something more in them now, something that makes them look a little less empty.

Just like the house, the boy has been washed anew.

viii.

"Sakura, I won't be back for three days. You'll be good, right?" the female worries over her daughter as she hurriedly gives out instructions. "Now, I might be a little late, but there should be enough food for you to survive four days without me. If you need anything, just call me or use the money in the envelope in my table's top drawer."

"I'll be fine," Sakura embraces her mother and pulls back. "Now, if you don't hurry, you'll be late. Come on, you need to get out."

Looking back nervously, she continues to call out instructions before departing.

"Finally," Sakura sighs, before grabbing a bag she prepared yesterday. It is hidden under her bed and she carefully double checks to make sure everything she needs is in there.

She is going to stay with the boy the next three days, to see him move and figure out his routine. There are so many things about him she wants to know and now she can find them out in peace.

Before she leaves the house, she reaches into the cupboard and grabs a few perishable goods, such as bread and fruit. It would be nice to have a change every now and then. She locks the door and heads toward the mansion.

-x-

"Hello," she calls out once again. It's out of habit now more than anything and she carefully makes her way up the marbled, curved staircase into the depths of the house. It's brighter now, she notes, than it was when she first came here. It actually looks as though the house is being used.

She smiles at that. There was actually a difference, a result to what she did.

He is not in his room and she looks around with surprise. She didn't have any cleaning plans that day, so he should not be in another room. Wandering through the halls, she peers into each room in order to discover he isn't there either.

After fruitlessly searching for an hour, she heads back downstairs to put the food in the kitchen.

That is where she finds him, sitting on one of the kitchen chairs. He is still staring with that blank look, still not moving, but the fact that he is downstairs for food is in itself a reaction.

Normally she ends up giving him meals upstairs.

"I didn't expect to see you here," she tells him, before she begins to chatter away. It doesn't matter what she says, as long as she says something and fills the air with more than just silence. Her slim fingers quickly rearrange the cans she brought and place the fruit in a bowl. Taking a knife, she peels an apple she already washed and cuts it.

"Here, breakfast," she smiles, turning to give him the plate. The slices are rearranged into a flower shape. "I hope this is enough," she continues, taking a step toward him.

Oddly enough, he walks the remaining steps toward her and takes the plate out of her surprised fingers.

Today is filled with surprises.

-x-

Late at night, when she is setting her futon in his bedroom, she quietly watches him climb into bed. He hasn't changed his clothes, wearing the same things to bed.

"You know," she tells him, "It isn't very sanitary to sleep in what you wear." Getting up, she pulls him out of the bed.

(It's easier than last time, as though he is following her lead.)

"Here, wear these pajamas. I cleaned them for a reason," she pushes him into the bathroom, clucking her tongue as she does, "Honestly, do you do this everyday? You're going to have to change before I leave from now on."

While he changes, she fixes her pillow and blankets to make them more comfortable. His bed is a western-styled one, on a frame with wooden posts at each corner. A canopy of cloth is held up by the posts, a roof to the bed.

The door swings open and he fluidly, like an unseen current is carrying him, moves back to the bed and climbs on.

She cheerfully bids him goodnight as she turns off the lights and lies down to sleep.

Sleeping in the same room as a person reveals a lot about that person. Barriers drop unintentionally, especially when those barriers haven't been used much.

The mask slips off.

This is how she discovers the nightmares.

The stars are twinkling in the midnight sky, a curtain of diamonds with a black backdrop. The small pinpricks are threatened to be overwhelmed by the darkness but the light shines bravely.

A muffled scream sounds in the room and Sakura wakes up in a start. Groans and pained sounds continue where the scream left off and she realizes that the boy is the one screaming.

"Hey," she stands beside his bed and prods his shoulder. "Wake up. It's just a nightmare," she shakes his shoulders, "Please wake up. I'm getting worried."

He doesn't open his eyes and she continues to shake him. Finally, after an eternity of horror, his eyes open and there is a haze of panic in them.

"Are you—" she stops when he blindly throws his arms around her waist, pulling her down onto the bed.

"Eh?" she blinks in surprise, "Uh, I think you're awake now," she nervously laughs, pushing on his chest like she did the last time she fell on him.

Sakura doesn't make it very far before his arms pull her back, trembling slightly, and she lies still beside his shaking body. "Oh," she murmurs as he shivers, a lonely boy, and she hugs him tightly.

"I'm here," she whispers into his ears, her hands stroking his ebony spikes, "I'm here."

Eyes she can barely see in the dim light look up at hers, softening, before the boy just collapses completely into her.

She holds him the entire night.

-x-

"Ahh," she nibbles her lip as she stares distraught at the clock, "My mom is going to be home soon. Very soon. But…"

The nightmares continued every night and while she helped chase them away while was sleeping here, she can't do it anymore. The three days were over and now she can only visit during the day again.

Hesitant fingers hold her hand and she looks down at him in surprise. He blinks, his eyes filled a little more with that something she can't name, and his expression changes slightly.

It's only a slight change but it takes her breath away.

It's an almost smile, nearly a half-smile. A crescent moon, half in the real world and half an illusion.

Just as quickly, her hand is let go and his face returns to its usual passive look.

"I'll be back later," she smiles at him, relieved. Even if she can't help him at night, she can still help him in other ways.

She'll make sure of it.

ix.

Sometimes, when she is just sitting and staring at him, Sakura thinks she might be falling in love with the boy. It's not a flashy love, one she'll express when she accepts it, but a quiet love, the kind that is shown in actions and is usually hidden. She doesn't mind him not realizing or knowing it because he at least acknowledges her help and that is good enough for her.

The fact that she can be there for him, helping him, makes her happier than chocolates and roses.

She isn't sure of when she fell in love or even when she realized it. It just happened. One day she thought to herself, "He's lucky I love him so much," and that was that.

Perhaps that's what love is, she muses. Not something you can touch or feel, not something that can be recognized or noticed. It comes and goes, waves crashing on a beach, dancing to the beat of an unknown drum. Sometimes it is there, sometimes it isn't. Slowly, without any thought behind it, it grows, leaves spreading and a bud forming. One day, the flower blooms and that might be a surprise to find it but it isn't fully a shock because it was there all along. It is just sleeping until it is ready to face the world.

Why can't be explained, reasons can't be created, and how is a mystery.

Sakura thinks, though, that she might have fallen for his eyes first. While everything else is a frozen wasteland, his eyes contain everything he does and doesn't feel. A light shining in the dark.

Besides that, everything just added onto each other, like a domino effect, until she fell for him completely.

She just wishes she could help him more. Help him get rid of the demons in the house, the monsters of the night. Sakura desires more than anything to heal the boy lost in the cage of his heart, setting him free so that he can smile and laugh without being tied down. If he was healed, then maybe he'd walk around more and she'd know his name. He hasn't spoken at all during the time she spent with him, hasn't made any noises or attempts at speaking.

She fears he forgot how.

(Another wish to add to the list.)

Wishes don't come true by themselves, she knows, so she spends time healing him. She cooks in the kitchen, plays music in the living room, stains the hallway floors. There are flowers and open windows in every room, fresh air releasing the must of the old and creating a house that is reborn.

Maybe one day, she can help the boy get reborn himself.

x.

Sasuke closes his eyes, thinking slowly and carefully about what he is going to do next. It's hard for him, hard to take that step, but he thinks she deserves it.

No, he knows she deserves it.

Sakura—everyday she repeats her name, smiling, until it sticks into the walls of his memory—had spent the last year helping him. He is not one for help, too stubborn to admit he needs it, but at the beginning he couldn't care less.

He just didn't feel like doing anything at all. His spirit was in a coma, moving past the world instead of in it.

Then, like the spring rain, she started to reveal the colours of the world again. The black and white scenery started to include colours of blue, purple, and orange. The sun became yellow, her hair pink, and the flowers she brought were red. Smells returned, such as the strawberry of her hair and the watermelon of her skin, and he could hear the sounds of her footsteps clearly whenever she walked in the mansion.

(He is attuned to her, a compass pointing north.)

She stayed with him whenever she could, getting in trouble sometimes but not minding because she wanted to help him.

Sasuke couldn't remember the last time anyone cared enough to even try.

For this reason, and thousands of others (rocking him to sleep, cooking him meals, painting him pictures of the world he missed), he is going to do this. It isn't much to most people but he knows she will appreciate it the most.

Her footsteps sound in the halls and she throws open the doors, smiling at him as she gives him a hug and talks about her day. There is something comforting about her voice, a bubbling creek, and he leans into her embrace.

Looking down, onto her face, he looks at her eyes for the first time as she stops speaking and tilts her head, confused by his actions.

They are an emerald colour, the colour of grass and trees, of late night strolls and early morning dreams. They are the colour of eternity and he doesn't think he'll ever find another colour as striking as the green in her eyes.

Sakura opens her mouth to speak but he instead gently holds her hand, silencing her again.

Fingers slowly stroking it, he looks down for a moment before looking back into her eyes and saying, in a scratchy voice that cracks slightly,

"My name is Uchiha Sasuke."

A/N: This grew very, very long and never wanted to end. I hope this makes up for the month late presents.

Happy extremely belated birthday, you two. -

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