A/N: Because the world needs more Team Seven / KakaSaku fics.
Winner Takes All
Chapter 1 - Heartbroken
You once induced me like a drug.
I gave in to your sedation.
Then I learned, all this time,
You were just slow poison.
The sun sank low on the horizon.
The golden disk pressed down against the pale dusk sky and kissed the ground in greeting, like two lovers embracing after a long day of separation. At this fiery touch, bright shades of red and orange burst forth from the blushing ground and captured the clouds in brilliant color. Soft pinks touched off with gentle lavender and bled into a deep rich purple. The colors darkened as they climbed higher and higher into to the sky, until they reached a point where there were no more colors, and only stars glistened in the silky black. The first gleaming hints of night.
Sakura paused in the middle of street, tilting her head upwards to take in the view. Although her green eyes were sharp and alert, the rest of her face appeared strangely neutral. People politely moved around her as they made their way home along the unpaved streets. If it had been earlier in the day she would have been trampled to the ground or rudely shoved aside. But as it were, it was now closing time in the market-place and the thrumming activity of the day had died down to a gentle lull. The busy streets had cleared off and just a few stragglers remained, milling back and forth on their way home.
The buildings on either side of Sakura took on the pale ethereal glow of the sunset. The famously mottled and mismatched buildings of Konoha became uniform in appearance under this soft pink. Even Sakura's hair and bright red vest blended in with background and she became part of the scenery. She was just part of a greater whole. For this one moment of the day all movements came to a grinding halt as the whole world stopped to watch the unfolding drama of the sky. Sakura closed her eyes and breathed in slowly, feeling the muscles around her ribcage stretch pleasantly as she filled her lungs with air. As she released her breath she opened her eyes again, feeling all of her stress melt away. The beauty of the moment far outstripped every tiring problem and distraction of the day.
There was a feeling in the air. A feeling of anticipation. Something great was going to happen tonight.
Sakura observed how the shadow of trees crept along the streets, yawning out with the languid dark; before she shifted away from her stance and stepped off towards the direction of her house. She was on the move again. There would be no more time for standing around. There was still so much to do before the day ended. Sakura could feel the impact of her feet against the ground with each step on the hard earth. It pounded out a steady rhythm in her walk that kept her moving as she moved further and further away down the streets. Her head was tilted up slightly with confidence, and her green eyes were bright and alert, full of determination. There was so much energy in her being that she appeared youthful, and yet she had such a smooth and graceful way of moving that no one would have doubted she was anything but a mature young woman.
One street led down another, and into Konoha's maze-like districts. In a few moments Sakura had made her way through the upper areas of the village. The houses around her became more spaced out and held that air of maintaining more care. Tall trees provided for shady areas between houses. The upper districts were better, but not perfect. Small weeds poked out here and there on the packed ground, and small cracks marked the walls, but Sakura thought it only added to the charm of the neighborhood. Only at the moment, the glow of the sky made the uneven and patched up surfaces of the buildings meld away. It was all smooth richness.
Sakura stopped in front of an especially patched up looking house. Two brass 7's and a crooked 4 marked the address of her home by the door. She stepped up on the concrete step in front of the house and unlocked the door. She edged her feet to the side carefully so she would not knock over the flower pot of yellow weed-like flowers that also shared the step. The door opened with a quiet creak, and Sakura made her way inside. The last of the outer world's pink glow slipped away from her bare shoulders as she entered the dark household.
Home sweet home.
The first indication that something was wrong did not strike Sakura as something obvious.
She clicked on the lights, hearing the light-bulbs flicker on and off a few times before banishing away the dark. The household was illuminated in an artificial glow; dark shadows cast on the wall from the sparse furniture. Sakura kicked her sandals off by the entryway, humming a soft tune as she made her way to the kitchen.
A glass of water was out on the kitchen counter.
Sasuke must have been by. He often dropped in when Sakura was gone and treated her house as his own, taking full advantage of her home's amenities and close location to the training ground. He would do things such as steal a glass of water or use her shower to wash off blood stains. Mainly the Uchiha only stopped in on days he did not feel like walking across town to his own home for such menial errands. Sakura did not mind particularly, but she only wished that Sasuke would clean up after his messes. For a person who so meticulous when it came to fighting, he was surprisingly uncaring when it came to other aspects about his life. Some days Sakura would walk into her house and discover a discarded shower towel on the floor, or a glass of water out on the counter, or a trek of muddy footprints by the door.
None of the other teammates would have treated her home with such disregard. Even Naruto, in all of his messy behavior, would have paid some respect. In fact, Sakura was certain that Naruto would have scrubbed the place down if she asked, and would have treated the place like a sanctuary for all of his infatuation with her. It wasn't so obvious now days, but the poor guy still tried to get her attention. The lingering sentiments of his childhood crush still remained.
Of course, Sakura was no better than Naruto when it came to childhood crushes. The only difference now was that Sasuke actually paid attention to Sakura, too. There was no use thinking of how the others would have treated Sakura's home, though. The only teammate Sakura allowed to cross the threshold of her home was Sasuke. True, others could visit, but only Sasuke could stop by which such frequency… or so late at night. Sakura allowed him to keep a fresh change of clothes around for those mornings he needed to leave early for a mission.
They had lived with this arrangement for over a year now. At times, Sakura would bring up the topic of moving into one household for the sake of convenience. This way they would no longer be separated. But whenever Sakura began the conversation Sasuke would suddenly become sullen and reserved. He wasn't willing to abandon his old home in the Uchiha district, and Sakura was too attached to her humble little abode to move elsewhere. Someday, perhaps tonight even, they would solve this issue of location. It was all a matter of who would cave in first. They were both strong-willed individuals, but Sakura was convinced that this was one battle she could win.
Until then, they would just have to do with this make-shift arrangement.
Not that it was necessarily a bad thing, but Sakura knew that things could be better. Her mouth went dry at the thought. There was a distinct feeling of depression clouded her mind these days whenever she reflected too much on their relationship. The two really hadn't shared a decent conversation in weeks.
Things weren't so bad now, she often convinced herself. Although their schedules during the day often conflicted, they could at least be together at night. When they were together here, at her house, things were absolutely perfect. They would curl up in Sakura's bed after a heated bout of lovemaking, not caring about the mussed up sheets. In the late hours of the night, the moonlight would stream in through bedroom window. Whenever a soft breeze would stir in, Sakura would cuddle up even closer to Sasuke. Perfectly content. Perfectly at peace.
When they got up in the mornings, Sakura would make breakfast, and then they would sit around the table discussing the day. Sometimes they would even walk to the training field together, not caring what the others thought.
Things were perfect here. It was all a matter of convincing Sasuke the same. It was about time Sasuke abandoned his cold, empty home. It was about time they really became together.
She had her own plans for the future, after all. It was all a matter of persuasion.
But persuasion was difficult for two such uncompromising people.
Sakura could sense the moment Sasuke was on the front step. She could feel his chakra. The door opened with a soft creak and a warm draft blew in as Sasuke filled the household with his presence. The sound of his sandals could be heard down the hall, then there was a brief pause as Sasuke remembered to go back and take them off by the entryway. Sakura often drilled him about this particular habit. There were two loud thunks as he abandoned his footwear, and then silence as he deftly made his way to the kitchen.
He greeted Sakura with a kiss. His cool lips pressed briefly to her cheek and then he took a seat at the small kitchen table. Sakura's heart nearly melted under his brief touch, and she couldn't help the growing glow of pride she felt while watching him observe all of her hard work. Ever since arriving home, Sakura had spent her time preparing dinner for them to share.
Sasuke looked very formal as he sat in the modest kitchen chair. The chair itself was old and made of wood, covered in small scratches and scuff marks. Yet the way Sasuke sat on the chair, it was if it was made of the finest gold. No matter where he sat, or what the occasion, Sakura always thought that Sasuke had an indefinable air of decorum. There was poise in his every movement, and he brought grace and worth to any object simply with his presence. This is how Sakura felt whenever she spent time with Sasuke. It was his presence, and this sort of feeling that was her addiction. She felt more worthy whenever Sasuke was around. Not being able to spend time around him had been difficult these past few weeks.
Sasuke's dark eyes roamed over the bowls of rice and steaming soup. Sakura had set up the table for two, with her best glasses and plates and even placed a lone candle in the middle.
"This is nice," he said quietly. Stretching out a hand, he brought a spoonful of the soup to his lips.
Sakura smiled. "This could be yours every night if you wanted."
Sakura took a seat next to Sasuke, ignoring the way he paused and watched her with those dark eyes. A frown tugged the corner of his mouth.
"Sakura, we've already been over this…" he said. There was a note of disapproval in his voice.
"Over what? I'm just saying that we can enjoy meals together."
A silence filled the air as Sakura dismissed the matter. She coyly brought her own spoon of soup up to her lips, gently blowing at the hot liquid. Sasuke watched her for a moment, deciding if there was some sort of double-meaning to Sakura's words. He must have decided not, though, and took another bite of his food.
Sakura cleared her throat. "So, tell me about your day."
"Just the usual things," Sasuke responded, not bothering to look up.
"Like what? Tell me more," Sakura said. She enjoyed hearing Sasuke's low voice, no matter how short or brusque he was about a subject matter.
"Patrols around the village."
"They have been sending you on a lot of patrols lately."
"The Hokage is looking to tighten up security around Konoha."
Sakura took a sip of her drink thoughtfully. "Strange, Tsunade-sama hasn't told me anything about this."
Truly, the Hokage kept Sakura in her best confidence. They had a very close relationship and there was nothing the two didn't discuss on a given day, ranging anywhere from formal village matters to the very personal. In fact, on some days Sakura thought that Tsunade shared a little too much information. For example, Sakura did not need to know that Tsunade enjoyed ogling at the eye-candy shinobi that entered her office on the sly. Occasionally, she would give an especially mischievous cackle before calling Sakura over. Did you see that, Sakura? That's why you need to find a man with a fine ass. Tsunade's tutelage of Sakura's education extended to many things.
"It's more of a Black-ops situation," Sasuke explained. "The Hokage wishes to keep this on the quiet side. If other shinobi found out that we are trying to increase surveillance around the village, there would be an uproar."
"What on earth… I don't understand. Why would Tsunade want to increase surveillance?"
"Like I said before… it's more of a Black-ops situation."
That was Sasuke's way of saying he didn't want to talk about it anymore. He always had the politest ways of saying shut-up, and Sakura took heed. Sasuke never snapped at her, but he had a moody sort of presence that Sakura sometimes thought was worse than shouting. At this chilly reception Sakura could feel her worth drop a little bit, and she hated the feeling. Yet, she didn't want to say anything that would provoke her lover to anger. Tonight was supposed to be a pleasant time. Another silence filled the kitchen as they finished their meal.
Sakura took away the dirty dishes to wash, turning on the sink and reaching for the soap. She decided that enough time had passed before taking another stab at a conversation. This time she tried tackling the subject from a new angle.
"I have no work tomorrow," she nearly purred. Dish bubbles began to form in the water.
Sasuke made a noise of appreciation. No work meant that they could sleep in, which meant they could stay up late… which inevitably led to something else. Sasuke always warmed up to this topic.
"My patrols don't start until the afternoon."
Sakura smiled, knowing that the night would end with them curled up luxuriously in her bed. She shut off the water and reached for a towel. Sasuke remained seated at the table, leaning forward and resting his chin in his hands.
"Since you have the morning off, maybe we can go somewhere together." Sakura suggested.
"I have some other matters to take care of in the morning." He replied, instantly changing the subject.
This statement forced Sakura to pause. "Wait, does that mean you can't stay tonight?"
"I can," Sasuke quickly amended, "I just need to leave early tomorrow."
That was disheartening. Sakura was hoping that they would be able to spend more time together. They had become more distant from each other of late. With Sasuke's patrols and Sakura's new work schedule, it seemed that they barely had time for each other now days. They would only spend time together in the brief hours of the night, and then Sasuke would leave again early in the morning. Sakura found herself waking up to a cold bed more often than she liked. Tonight's meal was really a treat, and perhaps the real first evening they spent together in a while. If only they lived together in the same home, things would be so much smoother.
Sakura opened up the cabinet doors ahead and carefully went about putting away her best dishes. They were the fragile kind, and she had to be careful not to break them.
"What sort of things do you need to take care of in the morning?" Sakura asked. Despite her disappointment, she tried to stay upbeat. She wouldn't let her feelings about their time apart ruin the time they could spend together.
Sasuke regarded her with his dark eyes. He looked so formal sitting in that chair.
"I am dining with the Hyuuga clan tomorrow," Sasuke said in that low, measured voice. "Before that, I must formally speak with, Hyuuga Hiashi, the head of the main house."
Another crushing blow. Whenever Sasuke met up with the head of the Hyuuga clan, they ended up talking for hours on end. Whatever they discussed about, Sakura was not sure, she only knew that Sasuke seemed different after those meetings. For days afterwards, he would only talk about matters that concerned the various clans around Konoha. Sakura found it all dreadfully boring, and worried over the way Sasuke's discussions took on such a formal, business-like tone. Not only that… but whenever Sasuke became too involved with clan matters, Sakura saw her own dreams for their future slipping further away. He took on a completely different mindset whenever he was like this, and it was hard to bring him back down. It hurt, sometimes, to think that Sasuke might choose the clans over herself. When things were like this, it was difficult to capture Sasuke's attention. She could feel the haze of depression clouding her mind.
They were similar in that they were decisive individuals. They were both stubborn and straight-laced, never backing down from a personal view or conviction. United, they could have been unstoppable. But more often than not they found themselves divided, bitterly so, and now it was reaching the point in their relationship where it was time to bend or break.
Sakura traced her fingers along the fragile dish-ware. She needed to tell him the truth. If she didn't do it now, then she never would, and things would carry on this way forever. Like a broken record that looped over and over on the same old song. It wouldn't be easy. Sakura closed the cabinets doors carefully. She let her hands fall and firmly grip the counter. She refused to look at him. Her pink hair drifted down to cover her eyes. Some words were never meant to be said face-to-face.
Her mouth was dry. Her throat felt tight. She hated it whenever situations got too emotional. When situations got too emotional, people ended up crying. Mainly, she ended up crying. Tonight was not supposed to end this way.
"Sasuke," she said quietly. "Sometimes I feel like I have to compete to get your attention."
The room was silent. Sasuke did not respond instantly, but Sakura could sense his dark eyes as they pierced into her back. Was she worthy enough for his attention now?
"I don't know what you are talking about." He said finally. The tension in his voice suggested otherwise.
Sakura tightened her grip. The counter was like an anchor for her wavering emotions. Why was this so hard to explain? "I feel like I have to compete with the clans to get your attention. It's not a nice feeling."
Sakura heard the kitchen chair scrape back. The artificial lights scattered dark shadows over the countertop. The shadows flickered and moved as Sasuke approached. She could feel the words bubbling up from deep inside. She was breaking down fast. Sakura felt the desperate need to talk before the tightness in her throat threatened to choke out her remaining words.
Her sentences were broken and almost incoherent. "Sometimes I wonder where our relationship is heading… I always imagined that we might move into this house… grow old together…but if the Uchiha manor is what you really want… If formality… and clans…"
That's when Sakura broke down into a sob. She hated herself for crying as two hot tears trickled down her face. She hated this weak side of herself that often broke down into tears. In her mind, it was only natural that events would end this way. They hadn't spoken properly to each for months, or held a decent conversation for weeks… Distance was inevitable. Things simply weren't the same as when they first began. Deep down, for a while now, Sakura had felt the tugging fear in her heart that something was about to go terribly wrong. That she would make a misstep that would cause the whole fragile relationship to unravel. The sobs wracked through her body. It wasn't the end, but for some reason, but for some reason it felt like she was dying. Sakura could not stop the wretched crying that tore from her throat, or stop the tears.
Sasuke moved behind Sakura, wrapping two arms around her in an embrace. Suddenly he was pressing hot kisses to throat. He offered no reasons or explanations.
"I mean if I have to compete with the clans… it's impossible… I can't win," Sakura said. Her voice trembled as she let herself be embraced.
"Sakura, let's not talk about this anymore," Sasuke said quietly. There was something he wasn't telling her, something she wasn't understanding. His grip was hard and unyielding as he continued to rain kisses down her neck and shoulders, silently begging her to give in.
That night, Sasuke made love to her with a desperation that Sakura had never known. A desperation that she had never felt, or seen before in her lover before. He was forceful and demanding as he plundered her mouth with his tongue, and raided her body of pleasure. They both reigned in the passion, but it wasn't a good feeling. Because there was a feeling of finality that filled every kiss and touch. It was the beginning of the end. Although, Sakura didn't fully understand at the time, she already knew it. That night they became swept up in the feelings of sadness and passion. Deep and moving. Sasuke begged her with each touch to move and feel with him, because tomorrow all those feelings would be gone. Fathomless regret.
It broke her heart.
Sakura stirred softly, feeling the cool breeze on her bare shoulder. Moonlight poured through the window and filled the room with soft shadows.
She rolled over. "Sasuke…"
He was already awake, and watching her with those dark eyes. There was a small leap in her chest from surprise, not expecting him to be awake. Sakura noticed how his spiky raven hair framed his smooth, pale face. That mouth that had kissed hers earlier that night was now turned downward into a frown. It was almost unnerving how watched her, as if he was burning her image into his mind.
"We need to talk," Sasuke murmured. He sat up, pushing the sheets away.
Nothing good ever came from those words.
A cold feeling plummeted down into Sakura's stomach. She stirred, so that she was fully facing him. She knew. It was time to clear away this difference between them. Whatever was stopping them from being fully together. Whatever was preventing them from being the way things were once before. Sakura could feel her heart speed up in anticipation. She was willing to do anything to fix their relationship.
Then Sasuke said the five words that completely destroyed Sakura's heart.
"I'm going to marry Hinata."
What? Sakura froze. Waiting. Thinking that perhaps she just heard Sasuke wrong.
Sasuke said some strange things sometimes… and it took Sakura a moment to find the right reaction. But this time around his words made no sense at all. Perhaps it was just a sick joke. Perhaps Sakura had finally gone insane. But as the time stretched on, and Sasuke did not correct himself, the truth made itself evident. The whole world suddenly held still. Like those moments the sun buried itself deep into the horizon and made the whole sky bleed with color. A cold wave slowly washed over Sakura and gripped at her heart. It was like being doused in a bucket of ice water. She could feel an unpleasant chill run up and down her body. She was frozen. Even her thoughts were frozen. Her mind had gone surprisingly quiet.
"What?" she gasped out. Her mouth was so dry. She spoke out into the silence. It was getting hard to breathe.
Sasuke gave a deep sigh. He almost sounded irritated, annoyed, as if he was explaining some terribly simple battle move on the training field.
"I am engaged to Hinata," he said in a flat voice. There was no guilt on his face. No emotion as he explained, as if he already practiced these words a thousand times before. "We have been engaged for a long time. I am going to marry her in two months. Everything is already settled and arranged. I have the blessing of her clan."
Sakura's eyes were wide. Her expression was blank. Despite Sasuke's explanation, only one word filled her mind, and encompassed all of her feelings.
"What?" she said again.
"Sakura, stop this…" Sasuke said. He suddenly looked at her with those dark piercing eyes. "You're a smart woman. Try and understand. Think back to the history of the clans—way back to before Konoha was even founded. They say that the Sharingan is nothing more than an evolved form of the Byuukagan, and that the Uchihas are an extension of the Hyuugas… If this is true then an alliance would be the most promising way to ensure that the strongest bloodlines live on."
Sakura shot up from the mattress and stared at Sasuke. Suddenly her brain had sparked back to life, and she could nearly feel the crackle as the synapses worked to full power. Different thoughts flashed through her mind as she processed these events. Her mind began to conceive things at a frightening speed that made her heart jump and her breath shorten. Everything was snapping into place and her body was just beginning to catch up.
Sakura managed to choke out the words. "What about Hinata? How does she feel about this arrangement?"
"I've been courting her for months now, but only within the walls of the Main House."
"Then all of those patrols were really…"
"But," Sakura sputtered. "How does she feel?"
"Hinata is the heir of the Main Branch. She understands the duties that formalities that befall the –"
"I don't care about the formalities!" she nearly shrieked. Her throat had gone tight again. Her voice was shaking. "Fine. Forget about Hinata. What about… what about us?"
"There never was an us," Sasuke replied coldly. "This thing we have now can hardly be called a relationship. We get together and screw each other at night. Do you honestly consider this your highest ambitions for the future?"
So, this was what the end of the world felt like, Sakura thought. The feelings closed in. There was no shaking fear or panic that she once assumed she would feel at the end of the world. Instead, all she could feel was a strange heat running through her system—running through her veins. Like liquid fire, hot and cold all at once. On the outside Sakura appeared strangely calm as she tried to pin-point this feeling, and an eerie stillness filled the air. Sasuke watched her closely with guarded eyes. At that moment, Sakura could almost read his thoughts and sense his surprise at her cool-headed display. Sakura could also see the light pulse of his neck, and see his chest move with every breath. The calm before the storm. Truly, they were more intimate now than any time before when they made love. They were finally being truthful. They were finally seeing each other for the first time.
Sakura watched him with sharp green eyes.
"You're a terrible liar," she whispered. "I know you enjoyed what we had. It was a relationship, until you became obsessed with the clans. We had the potential to become something more. We could have gone all the way, Sasuke. Marriage. A family. Everything."
The heat in her body was drawing to a low simmer. Sakura tightened her fingers into the sheets of the bed.
"Don't get caught up in your own delusions," Sasuke's warned. His voice was just as cutting as her own. "We were always incompatible. Anything between us would never have lasted. As for the blood-lines… it had nothing to do with us, Sakura. I had been meeting with Hinata's father, far before we started. I have been working with him, and persuading him to let me marry into the clan, and now… everything is finally arranged. In two months it will all be over."
Sakura exploded. She withdrew her fist, feeling her cool anger switch over to rage. Her knuckles met his face with a satisfying crunch. The sheets had fallen away from her body. Sasuke's smooth face was pushed to the side, and Sakura could see the beginnings of a dark mark across his cheek. Hopefully, she managed to damage his nose, as well.
"It's over now, you idiot!" She was seething with fury as she drew back her hand again, but this time Sasuke anticipated her attack. He grabbed both of her wrists with a bruising force and held her down. This only served to drive Sakura further into a rage as she tried to bite him, knee him, and push him away.
Sasuke immediately let go and moved away from the bed with a deftness that only be accomplished by a skilled shinobi. Soon, Sakura was only struggling against thin air.
He gave a deep sigh. "I was hoping we could be reasonable about this, but I can see you are only going to act like a crazed-bitch."
"Get out!" Sakura shouted. "Get out of my house!"
But there was no need for Sakura to tell him. Sasuke already had his pants on and was collecting his clothes.
In the next moment he was gone. Like a faint breeze. Sakura could hear the front door close as he left. A gentle click. No slamming.
No more explanations. No goodbyes.
Sakura sobbing now, feeling the hot tears course down her cheeks. Why? Why did every situation have to end with her crying? She sank her face into her pillow, letting the hot tears soak into the fabric of the sheets. The moonlight poured through the window, and as Sakura gasped for breath and felt the tightness in her chest, she was almost certain that she was dying. She was just a warrior on the battle-field, and lost to foe she didn't even know she was fighting. Cut down to the quick. It was as if someone had punched a hole in her chest and ripped out her heart. She was crippled. In pain. And surely dying. Sakura wrapped her arms about her shoulders and released healing chakra for comfort. The room became filled with a faint green glow, and very slowly her tears began to stop as the soothing energy numbed the pain away.
This was the night that Sakura lost her heart.
As she lay there gasping for breath, fighting against the pain, only two words crossed her mind. These were the words that would carry her out for the next few weeks.
A/N: Poor Sakura. Perhaps things will look better for her next time? The next chapter is called Double Vision. A certain Copy Nin will completely dominate this next chapter.
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