Between Here And Now
Warnings/Codes: post-series, SasuKarin, angst, fluff.
It is almost funny the way his body freezes completely and his face drains of color at the words. Karin has to chew on her lip to prevent herself from laughing because the horrible thing is that it's not really funny at all.
They're not ready for this, either of them.
When he looks up at her, his eyes are red flecked with black pinpricks and she can feel them stripping through her skin and all the secrets of her chakra. She feels terribly exposed and automatically crosses her arms over her chest as she looks away from him, shivering.
He flinches, shrinking back as if stung, and mumbles a hurried, awkward excuse for an apology.
He's just reacting on gut instinct and he's been trying so hard, she knows that, but she can't help how she reacts to the Sharingan, not after what he did to her. It isn't something she can just let go and forget. Her body remembers and reacts, even when she knows he doesn't mean any harm. Yet, she's not blind: she can see it still hurts him when she flinches.
A part of her, the worst part, insists he deserves that and more and all she can think is that she hates herself for thinking that part of her is even a little right. After all, she's with him again when she'd promised herself she was through with him. It's strange how it all worked out in the end and, sometimes, she thinks everyone's right to call her an idiot for letting him back in after what he did to her, in his right mind or not. Sometimes she wonders if she lost her damn mind allowing their relationship to turn sexual when it did. Other times, she worries he's with her because he wants to be punished and his rare admissions of love are little more than an apology.
In reality, Sasuke has been punished enough. His capacity for emotional self-flagellation surpasses even her own and he is far harsher on himself than any of his old Konoha friends ever were. He accepts the suspicion, scorn and monitoring of the village with a compliance borne solely of personal blame and self-loathing. He thinks he should have known better, no matter how screwed up and crazy he was at the time. When he goes on missions, it's as if he tries to make amends for every wrong he'd committed and comes back with new scars tattooing his flesh and another ninja who owes him his life and begrudging respect.
The time he spends with her is the only time he seems to allow himself to become something of the Sasuke she knew and, still, he is so different. He's more fragile and clings to her like she is the only thing holding him to the ground – and maybe she is. Some days, it feels like she is the only one who trusts him left in the whole world. Then, every time she flinches or shies from his touch, he freezes and she can feel the churning mix of guilt-shame-horror-I deserve this-sorry-sorry-sorry flood his chakra.
The Sasuke she remembers from before the war wasn't like this.
It changed him.
It changed everyone.
"...Are you sure?" he asks at last and his fingers grip the edge of the table tightly, until they're white and his knuckles stand out starkly. "You're not sick? It's not... cancer or anything?"
You're not leaving me, are you?
It hangs unsaid, leaden in the air.
He raises his head, looking at her with dark, uncertain and terrified eyes.
Please, please, don't leave me alone.
He's not ready for this. He's nowhere near ready for this.
"No," she sighs, "Nothing like that. Just... pregnant."
And just like that, it feels like she's been drained. She wilts into the nearest chair and the sheer terror of the prognosis crawls through her every pore. A baby, with him... growing inside her at this very second. Bits and pieces of their genetics, scrambled up at random, and there's no telling what it'll be like.
She pales, turning a little green.
Oh no – what if the baby has the Sharingan or is born crazy or deformed? What if it's another Itachi or worse, another Madara...?
She's not ready for this.
Karin scrambles out of her seat in a beeline for the sink, where she is promptly sick.
She can sense him moving even as she retches and then he's behind her, reaching around to turn on the tap and fill a glass of water. "Drink it," he says, and she does. He then enfolds her in a hug, guiding her away from the sink and towards the beat-up couch they'd scrounged up. It's as abused as they are.
They end up sitting, curled into each other's embrace like they haven't done in a while, and she can feel his chakra surrounding her. He's scared - terrified, really - but there's something else in there now, something she's not sure she's ever really felt from him, not like this. She can't quite place it. It's like a whirlwind of something colliding with that rush he gets before he fights and it's so terribly out of context for him to have that feeling here and now.
"We're really going to have a baby?" he asks hesitantly, a wondrous expression on his face.
"Afraid so," she manages and licks her lips, frowning at the aftertaste. "I... don't think... I'm not sure I can..."
I'm not sure I can do this.
"I'm scared," she admits, curling her fingers into his shirt. She can hear his heart beating beneath his breastbone and feels his chakra pulsing with the rhythm of his breaths. In and out, in and out, vibrant with warmth and feeling, and some part of her mind recalls hazy memories of listening to her father's heart like this.
Some part of her is still that child.
She bites her lip, lowering her head further, and resists the urge to cry because she's not ready.
Sasuke rests his chin on top of her head and quietly begins to stroke her hair. Worry skims to the surface of his chakra, but she can still feel his emotions churning wildly beneath and that feeling she cannot place.
"A baby," Sasuke says, with cautious reverence, "Our baby."
She can feel it clearly in him now, bright and warm and tiny and new-new-new. It's a flickering, unsteady little thing, hiding under his worry, terror and adrenaline and laced with excitement and rare, true happiness.
Hope, she mouths. It is genuine hope.
He hasn't felt anything like that in months now.
"Are you happy?" she asks.
"I'm terrified," he admits, "Completely and utterly terrified. What do I know about babies?"
She snorts, rolling her eyes as she tries to imagine him changing a diaper and the image does not mesh.
For a few moments, Karin can hear nothing but the steady rhythm of his heart and breathing beneath her head.
"Sasuke," she whispers, "What if we mess up?"
"I think... as long as we're together," Sasuke says and gently presses his lips to her forehead, "It'll be all right."
I love you.
AN: I like writing this pairing. It's so... I don't even know. I just like it.