signs of life

~ 0 ~

(a SasuSaku oneshot)

She's been throwing shuriken for a couple of hours now, in the training fields near the market district of Konoha. Tenten had been by to help her work on her aim in exchange for her help in concocting a poison to coat her weapons in, but the older girl has been gone since they noticed the clouds overhead starting to go dark and ominous. Sakura knows she should head home as well; the field is near the Uchiha compound, a good mile or two from her place, but the rumble of the thunder excites her. The afternoon has been so unbearably hot that she drinks in the cool, water-laden wind with a smile.

Sakura is still throwing when the clouds roll in to blot out the sun, suddenly plunging the village into premature evening. Cold. Rumbling. Electric. Cold. The atmosphere makes her shiver. Feeling impulsive, she abandons the weapons in favor of a training dummy. She vigorously punches and kicks at the doll until she's worked up a good sweat, then gives aloud a little shriek of delight at the gooseflesh the chilly wind whips into existence against her damp skin.

The rumbling is closer now and as loud as the earthquakes she can cause with her fists. She gives her sore muscles a break to enjoy the cool gusts. She lets herself fall back onto the grass, sits with her legs pulled up to her chest and her arms wrapped around them. She takes her time watching the dark, low-hanging clouds scurry, unnaturally quickly, across the backdrop of the overcast sky.

A sudden loud, crashing boom of thunder almost directly overhead makes her start like she's been shocked by a bolt of lightning; she laughs at herself. Feeling strangely giddy, Sakura removes her hot, confining shoes, her gloves and armbands and headband. She throws the clothes away from her and lets herself fall flat on her back in the prickly grass. She spreads her arms and legs out wide, tilts her head back just in time to catch the first sprinkling of rain on her hot skin. She wants every inch of her flesh to drink in as much water as possible.

The clouds open up quickly; within moments it goes from a sprinkling to a deluge. And it is cold. She shivers like she's having a seizure, and when she looks at her shiny-wet hands there's not a drop of blood coloring them. She'll probably catch her death of the flu from this, but she doesn't care because she doesn't think she's ever felt more alive than now. There's thunder but no lightning in the sky, and she half wonders if maybe her nerve endings have stolen away all of the electricity. It sure feels that way.

This is like being swallowed up by nighttime, she thinks, as the sky gets darker, the shower thicker, her skin number. There is not a speck of blue overhead.

And suddenly, there is.

Not the lazy blue of the sky. A deep, inky blue. Artificial. It's blue vinyl.

It's the underside of an umbrella being held above her head.

"Go inside. It's raining."

She doesn't get up, just smiles and continues to stare straight up as if the umbrella is not there. "Gee, thanks, I totally hadn't noticed that." She thinks she hears him sigh, but she can't be sure with the pattering of the rain in her ears. He's forced to lean over her himself, as she refuses to get up and look at him. His dark eyes look annoyed as he towers above her, and his scowl only deepens as her Cheshire cat grin broadens.


She's looking for trouble...

... but he started it.

"So what are you doing out here, Sasuke?" she asks cheerily, as if they are not having this conversation in the middle of what's practically a hurricane.

"... taking a walk," he responds dryly.

"On a training field? Isn't that kind of dangerous?" He shoots her a look that implies he is seriously questioning her intelligence.

"Please. Besides, 'normal' people aren't usually out in the rain to train. Now get up before you get sick." His voice drips arrogance. She rolls her eyes.

"Don't you boss me around, Sasuke Uchiha. And I don't care if I get sick; this feels too good."

Did she actually stick her tongue out at him? "Well, I care; we have a mission this week and you can't be slacking."

"Whatever. It's B-ranked anyway. Why don't you come down here with me? Maybe for once you'll get put in a good mood." His eyes narrow.

"Fine. I'll just drag you." He takes the umbrella in his other hand and reaches out for her. She flips over onto her stomach immediately, rolling away from his reach. Half-crouching, she shoots him a glare. Her face is bone pale and luminous from the cold, her hair hangs plastered to her head and her clothes stick to her skin – she suddenly looks like some kind of angry water goddess.

"Don't you dare try to force me. I will break your fingers off." Her hands glow green for emphasis.

He scowls. He'd like to be able to just leave her out here, but now she has made their stand-off a contest, and he refuses to lose. Was this really happening? he wonders as he watches Sakura, seeing that her threat has been heeded, smile and lie back again in the grass with a squelch.

The old Sakura would have never given him attitude or fought with him. But then, if he is completely honest with himself, he knows he's never really bothered to get to know the old Sakura well enough to know whether she hasn't simply always been this fiery and independent. Since his return to Konoha, they've gotten far closer than those childhood days. She is an infinitely better sparring partner nowadays, and he tends to see a lot of her as a regular patient, courtesy of Naruto. Sakura has also seemed more comfortable with him lately; she doesn't blush anymore when he comes to her with torso injuries, and she's even teased and laughed a few times with Naruto at his expense.

In fact, it is to his immense embarrassment that Sasuke finds himself staring at the way her soaked shirt clings to the curves of her body. He digs his fingers into the skin of his palms.

"Just get up, Sakura. Seriously." He fights to keep the growl of frustration out of his voice.

The teasing smile returns to her pale lips, and she opens her vivid green eyes. "How about I make you a deal? If you lie down too, just for a few minutes, I'll go with you and take as much cold medication as you want. I mean, you did say all 'normal' people stay out of the rain; so since you're walking in it, I guess you must be weird enough for this." She smirks at him towering above her with his dour expression that matches the gray sky.

"You're annoying."

She just laughs and sits up to watch him reluctantly join her in the grass.

"Wait. Take off your pants."

He just stares at her, too shocked to even ask her what the hell she's thinking.

"You heard me. Take them off. They're keeping the rain from hitting your legs, and you have to feel this all over your body for the full effect." Her mouth twitches with the grin she's trying to fight away.

He is not going to move. She has to just be teasing him.

Sakura sighs. "If you don't do it, I'll just feel free to stay out here until I'm dying of pneumonia if I really want to then. And please, it's not like wearing boxers is any different than shorts anyway." She grins, pokes him in the leg. "Unless I've pegged you wrong and you're a briefs man, like Lee..."

Wordlessly, he complies with her atrocious demands, his face stony. Sasuke may have been fighting for his self-respect, but a comparison to Rock Lee is the lowest blow to his pride he can imagine, so he goes for the lesser of two evils. She looks pointedly at his waist as he removes the pants.

"Knew it." She's smug.

He scoffs. "As if I would wear... just, shut up, Sakura."

His face feels flushed and inflamed with his embarrassment, but the cold rain quickly soothes it. As he lies there, slowly going both numb and electrified at the same time, he hates to admit that she is right. It's soothing, cleansing. He feels his tension and stress wash away for the first time in what must be ages. He feels new. Cold has never felt so healing.

"Mmm," she sighs quietly at his side, sounding content, "Nothing feels better than this." He silently agrees.

They enjoy the sensations peacefully for another moment. She speaks up again, her voice calm and smooth as the beating ice water. "I'm the sign Aries. You know, in astrology?" She can feel his slight nod in the grass. "Well, it's a fire sign. Sometimes I can feel it in me too, the flames, the heat. I'll fall into this fiery temper that I can't control, or the stress of things will build up until I feel like I'm overheating. So sometimes the blaze just needs to get put out, to fall back under control. I need this."

Her voice is raw as she explains herself; she's not teasing or sarcastic. It's one of the first serious talks they've had since his return. He'd always been anticipating it. The confessions of love. The offers to go out. When they never happened he wondered, and then he interpreted her cavalier attitude toward him as a façade that would break eventually. And he was okay with that. At nineteen, he thinks he might even agree to a date; it would be about time.

Never, never had he anticipated that he would understand her. Never had he anticipated that he would connect to her. Not to Sakura Haruno. To put it in terms of her astrology, he's always assumed they were opposing signs, on opposite ends of the zodiac and hopelessly unable to find any sort of common ground.

There is just no way she can feel the same way that he does. She was never anything like him. Was she?

"And you, you're born in July, right? The twenty-third?" she continues.

"... yes. I am."

"So that makes you a Leo. You're a fire sign too." She suddenly rolls over onto her stomach, supports herself on her elbows so she can meet his eyes. "It's been awhile since you came back. Sometimes I can still see this darkness in your eyes, Sasuke. The revenge is gone, I know, but there's this blaze in there that doesn't go away. You seem unhappy." She looks away again quickly, as if she is embarrassed, fiddles with a lock of her drenched, darkened hair, "So maybe you need this too."

He really has not given her enough credit. There is far more depth to her than he could have ever guessed.

"You're right."

His honest answer surprises her, but she smiles. And so they lie there in the rain, quenching themselves, shivering every once in awhile. The terms of the deal go ignored; Sasuke himself doesn't even feel like going in just yet.

It takes a bolt of lightning that lights the sky above the surrounding trees to finally bring them to their feet. As they scramble for their water-logged clothes, a second bolt quickly follows on the heels of the first.

"Shit," Sakura's face is more white from worry than from the cold as she watches the sky. She still has to walk home.

"Come with me. I live just a few yards that way."

She stands there a moment gaping, wondering if she's heard him correctly.

"Go, Sakura!" he yells as the thunder booms around them. She doesn't need to hear him twice; they both run as fast as they can for the Uchiha compound.

It is cold. What felt so good outside is starting to not be the most comfortable thing indoors.

They drip an awful amount of water into his house; he's glad the floor is wood and not tatami mats. He leaves his sodden shirt in a pile in the entryway. His boxers are so heavy with water that they hang a little low. Sakura has to force herself to stop ogling him as he leaves to track down some towels.

Eventually, they give up. Not only are they sopping wet, but there is mud and grass on their backsides. Sasuke lets Sakura have the first shower; she was out a lot longer than him, and the fact that the blood has not come back to her lips is starting to worry him. He clumsily makes tea with his numb fingers and leaves a change of clothes outside the bathroom door for her.

When he emerges smelling like shampoo, he finds her in his kitchen, wrapped tightly in the throw blanket from his couch and huddled against the stove burners. It's 7:30. She's found fish and tomatoes to toss in a skillet, and there are onigiri left in the refrigerator. He rubs a towel through his damp hair and finds two more blankets because she's still shivering.

They eat the food curled up on the living room couch and chase it down with shots of liquid cold medicine, just in case. He doesn't mind that she's curled up against him; he's glad of the warmth of her body. They may have needed to cool their heads, but (not that there's really any merit to astrology, he argues; he's merely speaking figuratively) they are still both fire signs, craving the heat.

"I still can't feel my feet," she says with a laugh, wiggling her toes underneath the blankets. The color has returned to her face though, and when he grabs her ankle in concern, the skin is warm. The cold is in her bones, the kind of chill that is the hardest to get rid of.

"It's okay; you're spending the night here anyway. The lightning is still going strong outside." He shrugs.

"Thanks, that's very nice of you. You'd think the great Sasuke Uchiha could just deflect the lightning with one of those godlike jutsu of his though." There she is with the sarcasm again. He resists the urge to roll his eyes.

"Fire jutsu don't work like that."

"I know. I can use them."

He gives her a surprised look; she's a little insulted.

"Come on, it's not like medical ninjutsu is all I know. Like I said, fire sign. That's the only reason I even know astrology, because of the connection between a sign's element and a shinobi's affinity for that element. Like Naruto is a Libra, an air sign." She punctuates her assertion with a well-aimed fireball jutsu – signature move of the Uchiha clan, thankyouverymuch – right into the fireplace, for shock value.

She watches the flames crackle in the grate; he watches her. She seems so different. She's clever and independent and strong. How had he never seen it? Or had it taken his leaving to bring it out in her? He frowns, turns to watch the fire too.

"You look better," Sakura startles him out of his reverie. Now she's been watching him as he looks away, but she doesn't get shy when he catches her looking. She's smiling more sincerely at him than he's seen in a long time. "Your eyes," she clarifies at his arched eyebrow, "I think the dark is gone, a little. They're not blazing, and they're not cold. It's... warm, I think."

He feels warm, all of a sudden. Maybe she was BSing him with all the astrology crap, but suddenly he does feel himself craving heat. It's a foreign feeling. He's been nothing but extremes for so long – either cold and unfeeling or blazing with revenge and bloodlust. It's so, so different, but deep down something stirs inside of him that tells him this is right. You can let go of the past and find balance now.

"Thanks," is all Sasuke says in reply to the warmth and care in her eyes that are directed at him. But his actions have always spoken more loudly that his words. Tentatively, but then more assuredly, he peels the blankets from her form where she lies curled up on the sofa. He brings an arm to wrap around her, cradles her to his side, and rearranges the blankets around the two of them together. He can feel the heat of her blazing against his side immediately, blazing in a good way.

"Thanks," he repeats in a subdued murmur, and on impulse presses his lips against her temple. She's stopped breathing from shock. There are no words for this moment, and if there were, she wouldn't for a minute trust herself to find the right ones. So Sakura settles for pushing him down gently until he's lying on the couch with her curled up into his side. The fire smolders in the grate, making the lighting flicker and dim. She burrows her face in the strong curve of his neck and plants her own kiss there.

Her lips on his skin are like the step above fire: lightning. He doesn't give her long to settle in; in an instant the blankets have slipped to the floor and he is above her, hands pressed on either side of her head. He stares down at the mussed, pink hair and warm green irises, his own eyes narrowed.

"You can't do that, Sakura," he mutters, sounding aghast. She pales.


He shakes his head at her, "You can't possibly be saying 'good night' like that." And with that he descends, catching her lips with his, twisting his fingers in her hair. The fire's too bright, too hot. It can't possibly go out yet. He can't get close enough to it. He's like a moth to the flames. "Just stop teasing for once, okay? Please?"

There's no sarcastic remark waiting for him. She doesn't threaten to break his fingers, or his face. She can definitely feel her frozen feet again. She can feel everything. She knows for sure that the heat she sees in his dark eyes is real now.

She buries her fingers into the hair at the nape of his neck, pulls him down to her for another kiss, hotter than the last.

"Did I really say 'Nothing feels better than this' earlier while we were being rained on?" she asks him breathlessly when they finally have to separate for some air.

"You did. Just so you know," he tells her with a smirk, tracing a finger along the patterns of her neck and collarbones, "I intend to make a liar of you."

Kind of just wrote this on a whim after spending a day being stupid and lying in the rain. Of course, I did it on the scratchy grass in my backyard with my dog who quickly ditched me, instead of in some super sexy fanfiction. Grrr.

Hope you enjoyed this though! Tried to make it more realistic and not too fluffy. Feel like it got away from me in the end.

Oh, and that business about them being compatible astrological signs? Yep, that's true, and I'm hoping Masashi Kishimoto buys into that fate stuff and the SasuSaku fans have our way in the actual series! He already has so much freaking symbolism in there...

Love you guys for reading! Please review if you like it! :)

- An Engineer