note: Sorry for the lateness!


Karin is angry. Karin has downed four glasses of champagne. Karin can't hold her drink very well because she despises drinking in general. In remembering this, she is disgusted with herself and gets even angrier.

Karin gets up and decides it's time that she finally acts.

Sasuke hasn't returned to their table since, but she can see him at the front of the room, sitting next to the guest of honor. Their table is filled with an assortment of people, including a particularly loud blond man that she vaguely recognizes from his frequent comings and goings at the office. At the moment he is gesticulating wildly, laughing uproariously, while the rest of the group watches and talks around him. The only person who isn't making any noise or racket that she can see is Sasuke. He sits on the girl's right while the blond flanks her left, arms and legs crossed. Karin can only make out his profile, but she is smug in the inebriated certainty that he does not belong there.

They may have been his friends once upon a time, but no more. Sasuke obviously wishes that he is sitting back here with the rest of the quiet, dignified company, but chooses not to for pity's sake. Karin sniffs, and takes another sip of champagne before she can stop herself.

She spends too much time watching Sasuke and too little entertaining the attention of the people around her, and when she finally tries to bother, it's too late; the conversation has drifted on without her. Karin doesn't mind though, her image isn't overtly hurt if she is seen being curt or unsociable tonight, her dress and the jeweled pendant dangling between her breasts keeps the questions at bay. She swirls the drink in her wine glass as if she has a secret, and she knows everyone will view her as mysterious and unattainable (which is the truth, because she is too good now for any of these men but him anyways).

The blond man finally settles down and Karin spends the next fifteen minutes quietly memorizing the way Sasuke's tuxedo neatly stretches over his shoulders, and the way his hair brushes his nape. He is a beautiful man of planes and angles, and when Karin imagines the picture the two of them will make, she doesn't bother concealing the satisfied tilt of her lips.

To her dismay, when the Haruno woman stands up, Sasuke does too, and the pair soon disappears into the crowd. There is the abrupt noise of her chair scraping the floor, startling everyone in her immediate vicinity, and Karin is surprised to find that she is also standing up. Her head spins with the movement, and she blinks a few times to steady herself. Ignoring the curious stares she is getting, Karin nearly lurches out onto the dance floor before righting herself, eyes already searching the crowds for that tell-tale flash of pink. She finally finds them standing by a table, the girl leaning down to talk to a busty blonde and Sasuke decidedly ignoring what seems to be very adamant offers from an older man with a shock of white hair and a wart on his nose.

Karin watches them surreptitiously from behind a pillar on the side of the floor. With a start she realizes she's still holding the wine glass from before. She drinks from the half full glass slowly as she follows the two's circuit around the room—apparently pinky had something to say to everyone because they stop at almost every other table, where the woman is either greeted with a hug or an enthusiastic handshake. Karin can see the entire ballroom from her vantage point, but then she looks away for an instant, just an instant and somehow they have slipped from view. She snarls, dumping her now empty glass onto a surprised waiter's tray and pushes her way into the crowd.

After the awards ceremony, the rest of the party largely abandons their little round tables to mill on the cluttered dance floor or in the gardens outside. Large, floor to ceiling French doors open out onto a long terrace and topiaries bared because of winter cold, though the large silk tent rented especially for the occasion assures that the temperature never becomes anything less than mildly chilly. She finally spots a wisp of obnoxious red chiffon as someone—and she has a pretty good idea who—leaves through said doors.

The redhead nearly shoves someone to the ground in her haste to catch up, halting when she realizes that yes, it's Sasuke and her and that yes, the terrace is completely empty except for the two of them. Karin savagely bites her lips, perfectly manicured nails leaving little crescent moons of frustration in her palms, and in the end decides to tuck herself in a corner next to the door closest to the pair (she refuses to call them a couple, even in her head, even in the most technical of terms). She flags down a waiter with a full tray this time and treats herself to another glass of champagne. She can't really remember why she thought drinking was such a bad idea in the first place. Certainly the situation—keeping one's prospects, one's future safe is a call to arms for liquid courage.

Karin leans against the wall and strains her ears. She is rewarded with the faint remnants of a conversation.

"I'm glad you could come."

"…I wouldn't have missed it."

A pause, and then the girl; "I know how busy you are, if you did I would have understood. You did your bit when you believed in this project, Sasuke-kun. None of it would have been possible without your company backing us."

There is a heavy sigh, loud even over the music wafting from the ballroom. It comes from Sasuke and it makes Karin purse her lips—it is the most tired, the most vulnerable and human she has ever heard him being. Karin doesn't like it.

"Anyone with half a whit of business sense would've seen what a success it'd be."

Another short pause before Sasuke speaks again, "And besides, it's good for public relations."

There is the sound of brief laughter, "Did the great Uchiha Sasuke just try to make a joke?"

Sasuke doesn't say anything, or if he does, Karin doesn't hear. There is silence for a few minutes, long enough that she lets herself edge closer to the open door. A passing man looks at her strangely, but she only sneers and presses her head harder against the wall. The back of her skull pounds both from the pressure and the alcohol.

"It's good to be back in any case. I was worried that I wouldn't get to see you guys before I leave again."

The smile that blooms on Karin's face is instantaneous and inevitable; and, she adds in her head, you'd better stay away this time. In fact, she is so giddy with triumph that she nearly misses what Sasuke says next; "You're leaving again."

There must have been a nod of assent because then he is asking, "For how long this time?"

Karin can barely hear her reply, Haruno is talking so low. "I'm heading out to South America, now that we know the vaccine's a success…"

"How long."

"Another five years."

She can't help it, their voices are growing fainter and she wants to see Sasuke's expression—to be reassured by the coldness and control that she is so used to and sure of.

Sasuke utters a hard no, and then Karin is rounding that corner and she's not, she is not prepared for what greets her on the other side.

The dark haired Uchiha's head is bowed, one hand gripping Haruno Sakura's wrist, hard. She is turned towards Karin, frozen in the act of leaving. She doesn't seem to notice the redhead wilting by the wall; instead her entire face is given over to something quiet and heavy.

"Sasuke, I need to be out there. You—since when has it mattered to you?"

And to Karin's surprise, to her astonishment there is no quick reprisal, no brusque brush off, instead Sasuke lifts his head and there is something fierce in his eyes.

"Five years, Sakura. I gave you five years to run. Not. Again."

Karin watches as Sakura tries to tug her hand free while Sasuke holds fast. Every ineffectual movement betrays how much he cares, and Karin, Karin feels like something in her own chest is being pulled and beaten at the same time.

She is standing here out in the open, dress black and daring, jewels glowing in the dim light of the lanterns, but still they don't see her at all. Haruno Sakura stares straight ahead, but her green eyes are shut and her face, the pain on her face is nearly palpable to Karin's own. She can't make out the entirety of Sasuke's experession, only his eyes are lit bright by the flickering lights—his mouth remains shaded in shadow. It is still the most expressive she has ever seen him though, the hard slash of eyebrows over dilated dark pupils more telling than a thousand words.

He pulls, and Haruno Sakura falls back into him.

Behind her, the orchestra crescendos and nearly swallows Sakura's soft gasp. She thinks that it is good that the music is so loud now, hands clutching the edges of her dress with shaking fingers, because Sasuke is suddenly yelling, or nearly yelling shouting sounds syllables words coming out of his mouth in a jumbled mess, lacking coherency or articulation and the only thing she can really discern is the bleeding raw emotion

The words themselves are lost in the music, but Karin is still watching, standing there dumbfounded as everything falls into place with a sickening lurch in her head because both of Sasuke's arms are wrapped around the girl and his lips are pressing into the crown of her hair, his mouth now shaping words soft and rapid like prayers. Haruno Sakura visibly shakes, but arches into his touch all the same.

There is no composure, no icy reticence or passivity here, instead it's everything that Karin thought Uchiha Sasuke could never be—and Karin realizes, she realizes that she's never seen any of his passion because all of it has been spent on this one girl, tucked away in some godforsaken corner of the world for lord knows how many long years.

Then, Sasuke's eyes finally meet hers from over the girl's shoulder and her own widen in embarrassment, or maybe surprise at being caught. But he doesn't let go of his grip and merely moves to tuck his head in the crook of Sakura's neck; the Uchiha's message can't get any clearer—he doesn't give a flying fuck who sees.

That's what it finally takes for Karin to unfreeze, to unstick her legs from the ground and, stumbling, back her way out of the terrace and into the warm rush of the ballroom. She turns in a rush to shut the image of the couple (no point denying it now) from her head and heart but they're still emblazoned on the back of her lids when she closes her eyes, entwined in the in the soft light, her with her petal pink hair and red chiffon dress, him with his stark lines and dark suit.

Straight out of some fucking fairy tale.

Karin makes it back to her table blind, and jerks when someone taps lightly on her shoulder. She turns to see the very surprised VP staring back at her.

"Are you ok, Karin-san?"

It is a trite question, one that people ask all the time, but she gives it the full weight of her thoughts for a moment, and in the end she decides—

"I will be."

Karin isn't surprised when Uchiha-san doesn't show up for work the next day, or the next or the next and…

She's bitter, at first, because they—him and her—were supposed to be her crowning triumph, the last blow to secure her place on the metaphorical throne, but that'll fade with time. In the end, she thinks she deserves better anyways than to be defined by a man. If she'd married Uchiha Sasuke and carried out the lukewarm (because even frigid is more exciting) consummation of her faithless dreams, she would have always just been Uchiha Sasuke-san's wife, never Karin. A trophy, she acknowledges with disgust.

They both deserve better, Karin thinks in a rare moment of generosity. And if that pink haired thing was it for him, then so be it. She herself won't settle for anything but the world.

Karin slides her glasses on with a meticulously manicured finger and finishes writing her resignation letter.

She finds out when Sasuke finally comes back to the office two weeks later. The young CEO isn't exactly glowing but. According to the receptionist—Mayu, she corrects herself—according to Mayu there's just something different about him. Karin thinks that it might have something to do with Dr. Haruno Sakura announcing her indefinite return to Japan's labs, but she says nothing, steering Mayu towards another topic.

There is a long silence, and when the blond prompts her again over the phone, Karin clears her throat primly and pretends not to hear.

They hang up five minutes later, as Karin clicks confirm for her plane ticket to the States.

Karin wants the world, and it is definitely bigger than Japan.


a/n: Sorry if this took longer than you thought it would, it really was nearly finished when I put up part 2, I just got stalled on the ending. I know a lot of you wanted some kind of ending involving Suigetsu and Karin falling for him, etc, but I kind of really had my head stuck on this one from the beginning. Maybe next time? I really hope I got Karin right; it's kind of a clumsy first attempt, but practice makes perfect, yeah? ovo

Thanks for any and all feedback!