She knows he has been to that place again, but she doesn't ask.
With quiet, steady precision, Sakura washes the dishes on the sink, much like she would operate a dying patient on a hospital table. It is an odd comparison, even unfair – a life is not like dishes, easily replaced. But she doesn't mind this oddness. Soap, sponge, water - the cycle goes on, one after the other, until everything looks new and shiny and she can place them again neatly on the wooden kitchen cabinet.
Behind her, his faint chakra registers, as familiar as her own. She waits for him to call out her name, to tell her that he is home. But he doesn't. Every compulsion in her body dictates her to leave all the shiny objects she has washed, begs her feet to turn the other direction and begin walking. It is like an ache, strong to the point of madness, making her wish she could ease it. Instead, she gets out her dishrag and wipes the little porcelain plates in her hand, rubbing in a soft, circular motion. She lets herself concentrate on the delicately painted designs on them, seeing but not really seeing: little cherry blossom petals that swirl in links, forming a circle within the circle. His gift, for her eighteenth birthday.
The door to the other room closes with a distinct click, and the moment is gone. She takes a deep breath and finishes her task calmly. When that task is finished, she goes on to the next, moving like an automaton with a programmed list of things to do.
An hour passes. The list is done, and the house is clean. Unable to take it any longer, she opens the other door and tries to adjust her eyesight to the dimness.
He is lying on the bed on his side, his broad back facing her and his unmoving form indicating that this has been his position since he had gone in. He is still wearing the outfit she has seen him in this morning - black slacks, blue shirt. Clan symbol on its back. She does not wonder what she will see on his face, because she already knows - she has seen it once, the very first time this has happened. Her heart hurts just thinking about it. In retaliation, she tries not to remember and walks over to him until she is standing beside the bed.
He is shaking, shaking badly. The ache grows, as she climbs in the bed and adjusts her position until she is facing his back. Silently, one arm slides under his waist, the other over it. Her head finds its position on the lower portion of his neck, where she buries her face and inhales his scent.
He smells like pine trees, and misery.
He doesn't stiffen like before. Instead, his shaking becomes one violent shudder after another, until he is all but consumed by it. His sobs are quiet, but raw enough for her to understand that he needs this breaking of composure to keep himself sane. She rubs him to soothe, holds on tighter and buries her face deeper in his neck, kissing it softly as her own tears come and her already hurting heart breaks into a million tiny pieces.
The darkness surrounds them, an unending void that she knows she will never fully understand. But it takes her along with him, sweeps her along until she is drowning in the grief of it, holding on to him for dear life.
It is not true that Sasuke has only broken her heart thrice - the first time when he left Konoha, the second when he refused to come back, and the third when he almost killed her before he was stopped.
He has broken her heart every time that he almost killed Naruto, too. Every time he taunted Kakashi to end his life and get this all over it. Every time he pushed them all away, desperately wanting the love they offered countless times but knowing he could never deserve it.
But most of all, he breaks her heart in times like this - when the grief of losing a father who has not been there to see him grow as a shinobi, a mother who has not been there to kiss his scraped knees and give him womanly advice, a brother who has not been there to be a part of his every waking memory, engulfs him so completely that he becomes an empty shell. He has lost parts of his humanity, his childhood, and seeing the graves with their names carved only reminds him further that he will always be incomplete without them.
Every year, on his birthday, his heart breaks for them, too.
She understands, painfully so, knowing she can never fix the invisible scars. Silently, she lets him drown, trying to be his anchor and hoping it is enough.
Hours pass. She kisses his skin from time to time, telling him silently that she is here, she will always be here.
Come back, Sasuke-kun. Come back to me now.
She asks that, too, but not through words.
Eventually, his shudders die down, and he is quiet enough to make her think he has fallen asleep. But suddenly he moves his hand, placing it on top of hers, before turning around to face her. He stares at her tear-streaked face, before putting his lips on the places that the wetness has landed on, kissing them gently away. Then he moves his nose to her hair, inhaling her scent as his lips touch her forehead and his hands pull her closer to his warmth.
Sasuke thanks her without words for loving him unconditionally, for staying with him when he is sometimes beyond redemption - and for not overlooking his faults and sins, but accepting them.
Sakura understands and melts in his embrace, thanking him for loving her back, and giving what is left of his irreparable soul for her to cherish.
And there, the broken pieces of both their hearts try to mend again.
a/n: dedicated to smos, who read this through and encouraged me to post! It's been sitting in my laptop since last year (wrote it, and as usual, left it and forgot about it), and I wasn't really sure if I should post it or not. I'm more comfortable doing fluff and humor, so this is...scattered and kinda confusing.
But anyway, happy reading. :)