Harm's Way

Karin is happy. She is drinking an overpriced mocha and sitting in her favorite café with Sasuke, the beautifulbeautiful boy she maybe loves, and Suigetsu and Juugo, who aren't actually horrible, although she'll never admit it aloud.

And then she walks in.

It's not that she's gorgeous, and no one's going to ask her to pose for a Play Boy centerfold anytime soon, but her pink hair is, at least, initially eye-catching, and Karin won't take any chances with Sasuke.

She scoots closer to him possessively, but in truth she doesn't expect him to take any interest in this newcomer. Attractive women parade in front of and throw themselves at him all the time, but he doesn't so much as bat one of his breathtakingly long eyelashes.

Surely this girl, this child won't even come close to showing up on his radar.

But he glances up to look at the clock on the wall, and in doing so catches sight of her. His eyes widen fractionally. The barest hint of surprise registers on his face, and he says levelly, "Sakura."

That's when Karin's world starts to fall apart.

The girl—Sakura?—turns at his voice to face their table, and this new view allows the rather lovely green of her eyes to be taken note of.

She's never liked green eyes, Karin decides immediately.

"Sasuke-kun…!" She breaks into an incredulous, ecstatic smile. When Sasuke stands, she goes up and hugs him, curving her arms around his torso and burying her face in his (very nice) chest. He makes no move to return the embrace and, in fact, doesn't move a muscle.

But that's what makes Karin's eyes widen in shock and hurt. He always, always pushes her away when she tries to hug him—hell, when she gets too close to him.

This boy and his personal space.

When Sakura (what a trite, stupid name) pulls away, she clasps her hands behind her back and looks up at Sasuke warmly. "God, I've missed you."

He inclines his head slightly, his face impassive. "Yeah." But then his expression softens, and he prods her forehead with the middle and index fingers of his left hand.

Karin has spent three years analyzing everything Sasuke says, everything he does, and the affection in that one simple gesture hits her like a bowling ball. She has a vague but strong impulse to double over.

"Yo, Sasuke," Suigetsu breaks in, violet eyes sharp with interest, "aren't ya going to introduce us to your hot chick?"

She's not his, Karin would have said savagely, had she not still been recovering, and he's definitely not hers.

Sasuke just scoffs quietly, but Sakura blinks as if noticing the three of them for the first time. "Oh," she says, "sorry. Hi, I'm Haruno Sakura. Sasuke-kun and I went to high school together."

"Isn't that just precious," Karin mutters under her breath. Juugo, the only one close enough to hear, frowns reprovingly at her.

Suigetsu jabs a thumb at himself. "Name's Suigetsu," he proclaims cockily.

"Juugo," the orange-haired man puts in softly.

Sakura smiles at them both before turning to Karin expectantly. The latter only crosses her arms and huffs haughtily.

"The redhead with the bad temper," Suigetsu smirks, "is Karin. Don't take it personally; she's a bitch to everyone."

"Suigetsu!" Karin hisses, and leans over the table to hit him.

"Suigetsu, Karin, enough." At Sasuke's admonishment, they desist, but not with good humor.

Sakura is still smiling, but now a little uncomfortably. "Um, so you guys go to college with Sasuke-kun…?"

"No," Karin sneers, "we go to daycare with him."

The green-eyed girl draws back, clearly startled by the other female's hostile sarcasm. Her eyes narrow, but Sasuke puts a hand on her shoulder before she can retort.

"Sakura, why are you in Oto?"

She shifts her weight, thrown off-track. "Oh, um, I'm driving to Konoha on my way back from a medical seminar in Suna. I just stopped in for coffee."

His face hardens. "You're here alone?"

"Well, I suppose that brings us back to the age-old question: 'Is one ever really alone when accompanied by imaginary friends?'"

Clearly he does not find her amusing. Even from where she is sitting, Karin can see that his hand tightens on Sakura's shoulder. She hopes he breaks the bone. "This isn't Konoha, Sakura. It's dangerous."

Her eyebrows slant with exasperation, but her eyes glow with fondness. "I see you haven't lost your penchant for melodrama."

I see that you're a pretentious bitch, Karin thinks to herself.

Sasuke gives her a withering look and grabs his jacket, which had been hanging off the back of his chair. "I'll walk you to your car."

"That's not—Sasuke-kun—but my coffee," Sakura protests, but he takes her wrist and tugs her out the door and onto the chilly evening street.

"Wasn't that sweet," Suigetsu laughs. Batting around his empty mug like a cat, he remarks, "Well, she seemed like a nice kid." He smirks and directs his gaze at Karin. "Don't you think so, Karin?"

"She's irritating—and what a slut, clinging to Sasuke like that," she sniffs.

"Sasuke seems to care about her very much," Juugo comments thoughtfully.

"He was only humoring her," Karin growls, and tries desperately to believe it.

But still… she wishes he would humor her that way.

Not that she's jealous of that bitch, or anything.

~x~

Sakura comes to visit Sasuke a lot after that, mostly on weekends. Suigetsu and Juugo warm up to her quickly, but Karin just grows to resent her more and more—to resent this girl who acts like she owns Sasuke, who acts like she thinks he gives a damn about her.

(He doesn't, Karin tells herself, he doesn't, does not, not not notnotnot—)

Karin has wanted Sasuke since the first day of their first year of university. Now into the start of their fourth and final year, she has worked long and hard to gain his regard. After all that effort, she can now include herself into the circle of people he is closest to, can now consider herself his closest female friend.

Or she could, anyway, before Sakura came along.

Consolation had always come from the fact that, if he wasn't interested in her, he wasn't interested in anyone else, either.

Now she can't even say that anymore, not definitively. For Chrissake, Sakura made him laugh a few weeks ago—it was the most beautiful thing Karin had ever heard, as well as the most painful, because she wasn't the one that caused it.

And she hates it, absolutely hates it, how Sasuke is so much more relaxed around Sakura, more open, more receptive; she doesn't know which is worse, the weekends she has to watch them together, or the weekends he leaves, goes to Konoha, goes to see her, and Karin is left moping and wondering and feeling sick with jealousy and dread.

One weekend, she confronts the other girl in the hallway outside of Sasuke's dorm room.

"Who do you think you are?"

Sakura stands hipshot, eyebrows raised. "Excuse me?" she asks slowly.

Karin sneers at her. "Don't play dumb. Coming here constantly, taking all Sasuke's free time, smothering him. You have no right. You don't own him."

"No, I don't," the green-eyed girl admits. Her eyes narrow. "And neither, of course, do you."

"I never said I did! What you don't seem to realize is that Sasuke has moved on. He doesn't care about Konoha, or you, or whatever other losers he left behind." Karin pauses, then smirks victoriously, sure she has found a point that can't be refuted. "Before you showed up and started throwing yourself at him, he never talked about you. Never even mentioned you. He doesn't care about you anymore, if he ever even did."

"… Oh, I'm sorry, were you expecting me to what—burst into tears?" Sakura asks blandly. She shakes her head. "Look, I'm not going to fight with you over Sasuke-kun. I will, however, fight with you because you've been nothing but a bitch to me all along. You don't like me? That's fine. I don't like you either. But I'm not going to stay away from Sasuke-kun just because you glare and make catty remarks. Honestly, it just makes you look pathetic. I—"

"Sakura, be quiet."

They turn to find Sasuke exiting his dorm room, looking weary and annoyed. Sakura scowls. "Sasuke-kun—"

He levels her a sharp look. "I'm serious, Sakura. That's enough."

Sakura's mouth hangs open. "But she—!"

He cuts her off with another look, then turns to Karin, who is about ready to break into a jig. Finally, finally, he is favoring her over Sakura! "Karin," he says, "go to the lounge where Juugo and Suigetsu are. I'll talk to you later."

"Of course, Sasuke," she coos. "Whatever you say." Treating Sakura to one more superior look, she flounces away but doesn't proceed to the lounge; she lingers around the corner to hear the other girl getting told off.

"Sakura," Sasuke says, "you're acting like a child."

"And you're acting like an asshole. She started it."

"Again, I could make that child remark."

Sakura's voice is petulant. "Sasuke-kun! I can't believe how unfair you're being. I was only defending myself. She's been treating me like crap since the first day we met. Why am I the one in trouble?"

Karin grins. Revenge is sweet—

Sasuke sighs. "Because I expect better from you. You shouldn't let Karin drag you down to her level."

—except for when it turns out to not actually be revenge, at all.

"I don't get it. Why do you hang around with her? She's so… ugh."

"I," he says slowly, enunciating excruciatingly clearly, "care about Karin."

And maybe, maybe possibly, oh God oh God oh God please, maybe there is hope—

Now Sakura sounds sulky, as well as sad. "Yeah, well. Goody for you."

Another sigh. "I care about you, too."

—and maybe life's just a bitch like that.

A long, long silence, and Karin is almost wondering if they'd walked away and she hadn't heard, and then— "I love you, Sasuke-kun."

Despair, Karin thinks numbly, is walking out into a lake with your pockets full of rocks, and she is sinking, sinking, sinking

"I know, Sakura. You've told me before."

"Okay, so not what you were supposed to say."

Yet another sigh. "Sakura…"

Karin can barely hear his whisper, can't make out the words, and, driven by that damnable impulse that makes people watch train wrecks, she peeks around the corner—

And sinks even deeper.

Because that is harm's way.


BECAUSE THEY WERE MAKING OUT.

Ahaha. I crack myself up. Get it, get it, because in The Great Divide I put - ... well, never mind. Umm... I've never written Karin before, and so I just... felt like it. I don't hate her, I... strongly dislike her, but she's still human, and no matter how big a bitch you are, it sucks when the guy you like is into someone else. Anyway. How'd I do with her? Negative comments will make me cry, but will, in the end, help. And this one is like, at least kind of more original, now? Ish. ... I should probably just stop digging myself deeper.

Disclaimer: I own nothing that is not mine.