Title: It's red
Summary: Ever since he was only a child, one color has always caught Sasuke's eye. Red.
Faded, rosy red is the color of his mother's lips as she holds him in her arms, a small creature not older than two. As he looks up at them, wide, observing eyes caught by the pretty contrast of the color against the stark paleness of Mikoto's skin, Sasuke finds himself mesmerized by the ethereal beauty of his mother.
The prettiest woman in the world, she was.
One day, he hoped he would be as lucky as his dad.
"Mou, how come tomatoes are the only vegetables you will eat, Sasuke?"
Oh, there were many reasons. But little did he care about the nutrients they carried, and even their juicy and delicious taste took secondhand importance when faced with the most important reason of all.
That rich, appetizing red that covered its sweet insides was without a doubt what he liked best.
Five year old Sasuke does not reply to his mother's question; he simply looks up at her, mouth full of small, carefully seasoned slices of tomatoes and his eyes creased into a happy smile.
He hates red sometimes, when he sees it swirling inside his father's sharingan. A cold, disapproving, stern gaze that tainted and darkened the shade of what was slowly but surely shaping up to be Sasuke's favorite color.
Sasuke would avert his eyes, then; ashamed and frightened, hurt by the things Fugaku's eyes seemed to be reproaching him of. Things he could not remember doing; lines Sasuke had not known he was not supposed to cross.
But he loves red all over again as it takes over his beloved brother's eyes; a focused, sharp, but not unkind gaze that highlighted and strengthened everything Sasuke loved about the color.
Sasuke would feel his cheeks grow warm, then; proud and adoring, excited by the feats Itachi's eyes seemed to be promising him. Things he could become; things Sasuke had not known he would like to achieve.
With Red came responsibilities. Duties. Expectations to meet and to surpass.
Sasuke feels them the clearest as the Uchiha symbol is knitted into his clothes and consequently engraved into his heart; a permanent part of him that was as evident as the color of his skin and as profound as the flood of his blood.
But alongside it, Sasuke gradually learns to carry another weight; a pleasing, empowering weight that somehow seemed heavier than his duties and lighter at the same time.
That of pride. A pride as fierce as the red of the flames of the Katon that symbolizes his coming of age.
With Red came pain. Physical. Emotional, pain.
No pain Sasuke had ever felt before had been as strong as the agony that cuts through his body with the merciless accuracy of a katana as he sees his father's and his mother's blood splattered on the tatami floor; a cruel, horrid mockery of the drive and fire that had ran through their veins before Itachi sliced them raw.
But pain meant strength. Pain meant power.
And so Sasuke is attracted by Red all the same.
The girl is unexpected, and so is the color of her hair—of her eyes.
Never had he seen such a vibrant, lively red anywhere but on an Uchiha's backs or in their eyes, and the sight makes him stop. Makes him speak to her, watch her as she picked up her fallen glasses and regarded him with an expression that made her cheeks acquire a rosy color—three shades lighter than her hair, two lighter than her eyes.
Red, red, red—the girl seemed to be made of nothing but reds, and the sight steals a smile out of his lips.
But Sasuke does not notice just how wide it is; and neither does he notice the alien, unfamiliar echoes of pretty resounding somewhere in the depths of his mind.
The next time he sees her, she is not only made of reds but surrounded by them, too.
The sky was painted red as the sun set behind the mountains and the moon slowly rose to take its place; the dying sun-rays dancing across her hair and lighting it up as if they were bonfires, locks of it licking her cheeks like flames dancing with the breeze.
And at her feet, there was blood. Blood splattered all around her, like a stream leading them to her; but there was not a single speck of it tainting her immaculate porcelain-like skin.
The sight was ethereal, like a painting. Frightening, like death itself.
But beautiful. Stunning.
And when their eyes meet—as she turns around and Sasuke sees what once were bright, lively eyes hardened into tough, sagacious ones—Sasuke tries to exhale only to realize he had lost his breath.
With Red comes her name.
And her voice drifts through Sasuke's ears and under his skin, unnoticeably so, like a fragrance soaking his body whole; until her name finds permanent solace in his tongue and her presence makes itself a home in the confines of his mind.
"Karin, Orochimaru-sama wants to speak to you."
A low, angry growl leaves Karin's lips before she turns to meet Kabuto's eyes, the tips of her hair lightly brushing against the sensitive skin of Sasuke's arm as she did so.
Sasuke cannot help but blink, unconsciously tuning out the conversation between the girl and the older boy.
Karin's hair had gotten longer. Sasuke had noticed as much, but he had not noticed just how long it truly was. At this rate, it would reach her waist in no time.
"Sasuke, you can finish here, can't you?"
Sasuke comes out of his reverie only to find Karin giving him a prodding look, her fingers pointedly holding the bandage that she had been wrapping around his wounded arm.
"Right," he agrees, absently. And all of a sudden Karin is moving, her hair cascading down her face and tickling Sasuke's cheeks for the barest of instants—and Sasuke gets the inexplicable, overpowering urge to reach out and touch it. Thread his fingers through those locks of red that seemed to stretch on forever.
But then the instant ends and the girl straightens and turns her back on him, her hair bouncing with her every step.
Sasuke decides, then, that he was going to talk to her. Ask her to cut it.
Long hair was troublesome; unpractical. It could get Karin in trouble with one of her test subjects and moreover—moreover, it was distracting.
It was too red. Too bright. Too—pretty.
Sasuke-kun, you like long hair, don't you? A girl had asked him once, seemingly a lifetime ago. Sasuke had not replied; how could such a pointless, mundane question be worth a reply?—but the girl had taken his silence as an admittance, and Sasuke had never bothered to clear up the misunderstanding.
It now occurred to him that perhaps—perhaps she had been right.
Perhaps he did like long hair, after all.
Inwardly, Sasuke groans; ashamed of himself for even allowing such a thought to make its way across the labyrinth that was his conscious.
Karin's hair had to go. Certainly.
Sasuke could not afford such distractions in his quest for power, and he would be damned if he allowed something as… as stupid as Karin's hair, of all things, to jeopardize his mission in any way.
When Karin comes back into the room; all angry reds and frustrated frowns, she drowns Sasuke's words with her complaints about Kabuto and Orochimaru and what a pair of asses the both of them were—and by the time Sasuke gets the chance to speak, he is too distracted to remember what he had meant to tell her in the first place.
"You like it?"
Karin asks, and Sasuke can do nothing but stare, taken aback. It's been a couple of weeks since he had last seen Karin; she had been assigned to take charge of the Southern Base, and training with Orochimaru kept Sasuke too busy to afford time to pay her a visit.
And sometime during those weeks, it seemed the girl had decided to go for a change of looks.
"You cut it," is his eloquent comment, which steals a mysterious smirk from Karin, who turns around only to reveal that there was still a long mess of red hair falling down her back; half of it, to be exact.
"I couldn't decide," Karin explains, back still turned to him; and so she misses the way understanding dawns on Sasuke's eyes.
"Length doesn't matter," he states, and Karin gives him a curious look over her shoulder.
"What does, then?"
"Huh, 'that so?" Karin seems to weight the thought in her mind, for she keeps silent for a moment before inquiring, her voice kept deliberately casual, "So, what color do you like, Sasuke?"
Oh, it had taken him some time, but Sasuke now knew the reply only too well. And so he finally gives in and indulges himself; steps closer to her and reaches out to lightly brush his fingertips against the ends of her hair.
Karin stifles a startled gasp that sounds suspiciously like his name, but Sasuke pays it no heed.
Her hair was soft—as soft as his mother lips. The bright, rich and dominant red standing out against the stark paleness of his calloused fingers, and Sasuke finds himself lured in by the contrast.
Fifteen year old Sasuke does not give a straight reply to Karin's question; he simply tilts his head to the side, fingers threaded in red strings, a secretive smile curving and giving life to his lips.
"Hn… I wonder."
I realize I could've taken this further; related it more to what it ultimately leads to, aka, "the red string of fate". But I preferred to play with implications and focus more on what truly inspired this little ficlet: aka, the plot involving Karin's hair.
Originally it was just supposed to be a fluffy, humorous little piece; but it had a mind of its own and took a more serious turn. I hope it was enjoyable regardless.
Thanks for reading! Feedback is more than welcome (but please don't bother bashing the pairing, you're wasting your time.)