she waits

The cold of the hardwood floor seeps through her thin nightgown, chilling her to the bone. She shivers, drawing her knees up to her chest, as the rain continues its unforgiving onslaught against the windowpanes.

A cup of tea is on the floor beside her, untouched and long since grown cold. Her hair falls loose around her shoulders, keeping her neck warm. She hums to herself—disconnected fragments of barely-remembered childhood songs, meant to keep the gloom of night at bay.

Sakura waits for him.

--

She wakes up as he is carrying her to their bedroom. He holds her with a generous amount of space between their bodies—to keep his soaked clothes from touching her.

(So she tells herself.)

He is aware that she has woken, she knows, but he gives no indication of it.

"Sasuke," she murmurs. "Welcome home."

He does not look down at her, instead only inclining his head slightly. "I'm home," he says, as is the age-old custom.

She accepts it, which is all she can do.

He enters the bedroom and sets her down gently on her side of the bed. "You report to the Hokage tomorrow morning?" she asks softly.

A grunt of affirmation is her answer as he pulls off his shirt and tosses it into the dirty-laundry hamper.

She peels the blankets up and slides in; the sheets are cold. He turns out the light and climbs in a minute later, his back facing her.

She scoots closer and traces pictures on the broad, clothed expanse of his back, something that he has only recently allowed.

They have been married for six months, but she measures it in his concessions, her little victories. What she likes to think of as Sasuke's humanization process happens, as does everything, in increments—stages and phases, piece by agonizing piece.

The process is slow and painful, and often it seems that for every step forward he takes, he will take ten backwards. One day he will hold a real, honest-to-God conversation with her; the next he will barely speak to her. At one point he will allow her to hug him, to stroke his hair; later, he won't let her come within three feet of him.

It is maddening and disheartening and sometimes it just seems impossible, but she forges onward. Not out of love—she does love him, really, truly loves him, but going so far out of love puts too much strain on a heart that has already grown careworn and jaded, just a little jaded.

No, she perseveres because she believes in him.

She believes in his ability to heal, to learn and to love and to live. She believes that one day he will untangle the knotted cords of his heart. She believes that one day, he will open his eyes and see her, and that he will smile. She believes that it will be beautiful.

Sakura waits for him.


Nn.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.