miikka-xx: hopefully, this'll turn out to be a series but for now, please enjoy sasuhina at its angsty, contrasting and beautiful best.

Title: the tale of the grim reaper's lover
Rating: T
Summary: slight AU - She's the wife of the thief of lives and, sometimes, she wonders if there's room for anything else to steal; like her heart. sasuhina. complete.
Disclaimer: no. dun wanna either.
Warning(s): crap writing. semi-existent plot. confused characters. ah well, it is a sasuhina.

the tale of the grim reaper's lover

(The best kept secret in the world is how to wash blood away.)

They marry in the winter, under the pouring rain of Fire Country, soaking through the silk curtains of her palanquin as they whisk her away to the empty Uchiha Manor. It is cool, making shivers run up her spine, the wind curling from under the embroidered fabric to tease the back of her neck that has gone cold with sweat. Her lips feel dry under the red makeup that Hanabi had smeared on. It tastes of blood, but perhaps that is because it looks like it too.

Her husband waits patiently at the gates, an Uchiha-imprinted umbrella swaying slightly on his shoulder as it shields him from the elements. He's gaunt, cheeks slightly sunken in, eyes sullen and melting into the black around them. His fingers are long and bony as they grasp the curtains and peek inside. She's biting the inside of her cheek in order not to scream in fear, though she trembles at his very presence. Her eyes are clenched closed and apparently he is dissatisfied.

"Open your eyes."

His voice sounds wholly different from the man who possesses it. It is almost a pleasant timbre, low and smooth like the sake she had sipped yesterday. Hinata, reassured by the touch of warmth in the demand, slowly lifts her lashes and stares attentively at the Hyuuga flame sewed onto the front of her cushion.

Her husband moves away, satisfied, letting the cold wind wash over her and tickle the spaces between her bones as if to claim her body. The palanquin jerks and starts to move again. She peeks out to the outside world through her fluttering silk curtains. A voice in her head tells her it is the last time she will see it.

Hyuuga Hinata witnesses a rainbow in the falling rain and leans back, satisfied, as the Uchiha gates close around her.

Her mother used to whisper fairy stories in her ear when she was young. She had long hair back then, like Hanabi's, and her mother would bury her lips in the dark locks to mouth her words. They all started out the same, with a 'once upon a time' and a dashing prince running across the lands for his beloved whom he's never laid eyes upon. Hinata the girl was enamored by this idea of romanticism, her imagination running away on strips of blonde hair and blue eyes. Hinata the Hyuuga coldly rejected these tales, finding flaws in each story and wondering how this was all possible.

Her mother always started new stories on a whim, stretching them into epics of obstacles and love so they would last weeks upon weeks with no clear end in sight. But in the Hyuuga House, one may not poison the young, fertile minds of the youth. Especially not the mind of the future leader of the Hyuuga clan. So, her mother hid her tales from the rest of the House, hiding her lips in the dark strands of her child's hair, and murmuring each phrase like it was all a beautiful secret only the girls of Hyuuga Hiashi knew.

Her mother passed away quickly and silently. Hinata the girl screamed and wept and hated the world for being so unfair to little girls like her. Hinata the Hyuuga blessed the fact that it was quick and painless but a little part decided it would bring this woman back to life if only to finish her stories. It is not her mother's death that truly kills her; it is the fact that her mother had never finished one tale for her, not one.

Her husband is obsessed with his goals. When he achieves one, he must work tirelessly to achieve the next. His first goal is to be the best in all his classes. Hinata knows for a fact that he was. His next is to find a mentor to help destroy his blood. Hinata knows this because she had to look for him, half of her mildly distressed and the other absolutely disinterested in him. After that, he finally kills his blood brother. Hinata learned of this when she witnessed him dragging back the head of Itachi into the Hokage's office in exchange for ANBU status in Konoha. Finally, he goes looking for a Hyuuga wife to revive his clan.

And this is how she ends up here, slipping out of her palanquin onto the dusty hallway of the empty Uchiha Manor.

Hinata is no dumb girl; she knows what he means by 'revive the Uchiha clan'. She will bear his children, but before that she will have to let him bed her. The mere thought makes her shake in fear and shame and the ultimate loss of dignity. He scares her, like he scares enemy nin. At the age of 17 and an ANBU captain, he is a fearsome power to behold, like a thunderstorm in a cup, a beautiful disaster waiting to break out and destroy.

Her clothes and items are unpacked and set in her rooms. She has a whole wing to herself, a whole wing to dust and wipe down and make her home. Hinata starts in her master bedroom, sweeping the cobwebs and airing out the old futons. The cool wind from the still pouring rain brings chills every few minutes, slipping through the cracks. Once in a while, she will spot a blot of something on the hardwood. At first, she does not recognize what it is, wiping at it uselessly with a rag. Then it comes to her, like the sudden flash of lightning outside: it's his mother's blood.

He is never home; always off in missions, coming back in the dead of night with the scent of iron and copper and death. He is always silent in his returns, his shadow flitting over the moonlight and making her tense and ready to defend herself. Until the familiar scent is carried over with the chilling wind, she does not lie back down, a metal kunai or shuriken gripped in her hand and the other flitting through different symbols to awaken her Byakugan skills.

One night, it is different. It has been a month and three weeks since she has started living with him and Hinata is finally settling in, calming her nerves whenever her instincts wake her in the middle of the night, screaming death is coming. Her husband taps three times on her door, the bamboo echoing through the constant pitter-patter of rain just outside.

She is immediately on her feet, tucking the shuriken in her sash, careful not to cut the silk, and slides the door open as fast as she can. The door hits the wall with a resounding clack and there he stands, dead-looking, like the grim reaper her mother would whisper about in her ear.

She bites the inside of her cheek in order not to scream in utter panic as he steps past her - into her rooms, into forbidden territory.

"Bandage me."

Two words. The first two words he's said to her in these month and three weeks. They are both silent people, communicating in subtle gestures, like when she places her food for him on the table, warm and covered, and coming back into the kitchen the next day to see the dishes are washed and sitting innocuously on the counter.

It takes a bit of time for the utter smooth tones to sink in, his low timbre coaxing her out of her panic and she's in action, medical nin instincts taking place. He lets a roll of bandages fall limply out of his bloodied hand and unbuckles his vest and armguards, removing his undershirt to bare his skin. The blood smell is overwhelming, making her gag. She steels herself and unties her sash around her sleeping kimono.

The shuriken falls on the bamboo mat and the sound of metal makes her husband stiffen and growl, a hand grabbing her wrist.

"What was that?"

"A-A shuriken."

His hand quickly falls away and Hinata resumes her attention on his injuries. The sash wipes the blood and grime away from his injuries, revealing deep sword gashes that has also tore through his armor. Her husband tosses back a bottle of disinfectant and she rips the sleeve of her kimono to dip the liquid in. Hisses and growls are torn from his throat as she cleans his injuries thoroughly; looking for shard of metal or anything else he may have been cut with. Seeing none, Hinata unrolls the bandages.

The process is long and tedious at the start, finding the right spot to wrap around without hindering the patient's movements and finally trying to find a routine, the repetitive motions of unroll, reach around, pull, wrap – rinse and repeat.

Finally, she finds something to work with, kneeling behind her husband as he sits with his back straight, patiently waiting the whole process out. She does not take him for a conversationalist, and is surprised when he tries anyways, testing the waters as coolly and confidently as one could.

"Why this room?"

Hinata's hands falter but regain momentum. It takes a few moments for her brain to catch up, terrified as it was. Her throat constricts but she forces out an answer anyways.

"I-It opens up to the g-garden."

Her husband seems to accept this answer. He tilts his head to the side, listens to the rain outside, smells the blood around him. Hinata finishes bandaging his back and leans back, as if telling him she is done. He understands, picks up his bandages and disinfectant, and gathers his armor. The ANBU mask sits innocently on top of his head, not one blood splatter to take away its seeming harmlessness.

"These are my mother's rooms."

The tone is surprisingly casual, like it was an everyday thing to contemplate the relationship between dead mothers and scared wives. Hinata's heart jumps, she catches it and holds it deep in her breast, trying to remain still in her fear. Her husband gets up and walks to her open door, stopping briefly before the threshold, as if waiting for something to happen. She swallows, opens her mouth, and almost yells:

"W-Why did you pick me?"

He cocks his head to the side, as if confused by the question. She bores holes through his back with her intent gaze, waiting.

"Are you happy here?"

Hinata almost cries out in betrayal, hating him for ignoring her question. She narrows her eyes and bites her lip, clutching her sleeves in anger. Why was it so hard for him to answer her? Who did he think he was, to take her away from what she loved, stealing her freedom and birthright? It hurts her head to think of such things in such a negative feeling, but it's liberating in a way because she has never actually hated anything, not her father, or her Hyuuga cage, nor the fact that her mother left her without giving her a proper ending. And now she can hate this man, hate with her heart and soul and mind.

"Because you have a weak Byakugan."

His voice, so unlike his gaunt body, replies to her question evenly, no inflection of emotion to reveal what he thought.

"I hate you."

Uchiha Sasuke turns around fully, for the first time, looking at his wife with a bitter smile.


She is not a prisoner in her home. She may leave and return as she pleases, meet with her friends and family, go shopping, spend the rather beautiful dowry the Hyuuga had piled on with her. Yet she stays to wander the halls, cleaning and cooking to pass the winter. The rain has become her closest friend as she spills her heart out to the constant pitter of the water as it pours down upon her home.

"Once upon a time," she tells the rain, "there came a man, strong and scary, to the house of a beautiful maiden."

He had been in a clean, blue kimono, with the Uchiha fan stitched on the back. His hair had become long and he had tied it to the nape of his neck, much reminiscent of his older brother. Bringing in a scroll, he set it down in front of her father and spoke in his same low, even tones the origins of Sharingan.

"He wanted to have a child with his eyes, but no one was left to be his wife. So, he came to the maiden's house, aware that she had the power to grant that wish. See, their eyes are like brother and sister: the same blood running in their veins."

He sat with Hiashi for many hours, telling him that he could rebuild the police of their village. Currently, it was occupied with Hyuuga nin, taking away from Konoha's war force. If the Uchiha could rebuild itself as its policing power of Konoha, the Hyuuga could pull out and increase their villages fighting ranks, like it had been before; thus benefitting not only the Hyuuga but the village as well.

"This man-prince, scary and strong that he was, convinced the King that marriage with the maiden, the King's daughter, was the only way to save the kingdom. It took many days, but eventually, the King relented."

Hinata sits on the balcony, feels a shift in the air but doesn't stop her tale. The rain waits, attentive and curious.

"So, the maiden was dressed up and a wedding happened in the kingdom, large and beautiful until it started to rain. After the rituals, the maiden was rushed inside, so that she would not catch a cold. That's when the man-prince appeared on her balcony, dressed like a warrior though it had only been a few hours since the ceremony. He tells her, 'I have tricked you. I am no prince, with riches and glory.'"

Her voice hushes and a smile peeks from her mouth, as if holding back a great secret.

"But see, my friend, the maiden already knew that. She replies, 'You are actually a thief.' Because, yes, that was actually what he was, true to the core. He nodded, told her what he stole and left. The next day, the maiden went to his home and…"

The rain is still there, hitting the rock path in the garden, increasing tempo as if impatient for the ending phrase. Hinata doesn't know though. She sits, waits, hoping that it will come to her. But she doesn't know, because her mother had never come this far, never spoke the ending sentence to her epic tales, told in stolen whispers, pressed against her ear so no one else would hear.

"And they lived happily ever after."

She turns, startled at his voice cutting through the pitter-patter of her listener. He stands, leaning against the sliding door, blood splattered over his vest (a new one, she notes idly).

"Do they?" she asks quietly, sitting on the edge of the balcony that now feels like a cliff. A precipice to jump off and fall into the terrifying places of nowhere. All of a sudden, there's bile in her throat and Hinata wants to throw up at the utter hate that floods her body when she sees him. It hurts her head and tightens her throat, piercing her heart deep in her chest.

"I am a thief," he remarks vaguely, turning from her. It kills her that he has the audacity to turn his back to her.

"You couldn't steal my heart." Her mouth blurts it out like it's venomous, ready to burn her tongue if she doesn't spit it out. It gains a reaction: Sasuke turns on his heel and grabs her arm, flitting through the garden until he's slammed her back against the stone wall of the garden. Hinata feels a sick satisfaction at the sight of his utter heartbroken yet murderous intent in his dark eyes.

"Because whenever I do," he hisses, "they die on me."

And, suddenly, she knows it's more than his family massacre, it's about his dead friendship with the village, with his teammates, his sensei, but most of all, his brother. Now she's here, hair long like his mother's, staying in his mother's room, taking care of him like his mother. It's like having someone come back from the dead and he can't bear to lose them again.

"Your mother is dead," she tells him. He flinches, scowls and presses himself against her, eyes still burning with the desire to kill, but it is subsiding quickly and being replaced with hurt. Her hands touch his cheeks and hold his face gently so he is still watching her.

"I won't die unless you kill me," whispers Hinata. He looks deep into her eyes, searching for deceit and hate and disgust.

"I told you what I steal, I told you and yet you're still here."

"You're the thief of lives."

He sags against her like that's what he was waiting for her to say the whole time. It's been three months since their marriage, each day passing without words, communication, seeing each other. This conversation, remarks Hinata vaguely, is long overdue. She lets her hands move from his face to around his neck and into his wet hair. The rain soaked them both, easing a bit but still hitting rather sternly against them as if berating the couple.

"It comes off in the rain, you know."

Sasuke shifts and looks up at her, "it?"

"Blood," she whispers.

This makes him buckles and he collapses, his weight dragging her to her knees. His face is now buried in her stomach, the obi of her kimono probably digging uncomfortably against his cheek. She unties the bow in the back and removes it all together, so the kimono hangs limply on her body, unfolding and showing glimpses of skin.

"It hurts to look at you," he says, "you look like her, and she's dead because she loved me. But you hate me, and I…"

He goes silent, and something hot touches her thighs. It's his tears, tears of 17 years of holding this back. She wonders since when had they gotten this close but she doesn't mind. It feels infinitely better to know her husband is a human, not a grim reaper haunting the halls of the Uchiha Manor.

"It hurts me to hate you," she confesses quietly, "I don't want to hate you."

"I don't want you to lose your life."

"Not unless you steal it."

"I want to steal your heart."

Her breath catches in her throat at the statement, at the implications.

"Why did you pick me?"

Sasuke does not reply, he lifts his head from her lap and kneels in front of her, face blank yet eyes just as heartbroken as before. It kills her, pins her against the wall: this utter expression of self-loathing and want and need.

The tears blend in with the rain as he mouths it out, too scared to use his voice: "I love you."

Hinata leans back against the stone, hate melting away as something warms in her gut. She touches his face, lets her fingers touch his eyelids as he closes them. When they open, she is startled by the red of his Sharingan, spinning to memorize her face in the rain.

"Since when?"

The Sharingan slows as he ponders the question, "since the balcony."

Somewhere in the silence, the rain has slowed to a mere trickle and her heart pounds beneath her chest, something easing off her shoulders and fear sliding away from her like the water. Her hate slips to the ground and is swept up by the trickles of water sliding over the stone steps and grass.

Hinata takes Sasuke's hand and holds it on her chest, over her left breast. Her heart is pounding steadily against her rib cage and they both feel it.

"I think it's gone," she whispers. It takes a while for the phrase to sink in, but when it does, his reaction is quick. The first thing she remarks is Sasuke's mouth is warm when it gently presses against her own, tentative, as if she was a dream that would slip away if he went too fast. He nips at her bottom lip, feeling her press softly back as a tongue swipes her mouth. She gasps and pulls away, face red and he is smirking slightly.

Suddenly, she stands up, one hand holding her kimono tight now that the sash is somewhere on the ground. The other hand she offers to her husband, who takes it and gets up easily himself.

"Come, you're skinny. You need to eat."

They walk back into the house, holding hands.

an: christ, long and pointless. and totally not how i wanted it to go. ah well, i still sort of liked it. though it seemed quite rushed.

drop a line; i would love to hear what you guys thought. :)