title: limbo

pairing: sasuke ო sakura.

disclaimer: own nothing!

"where are we?"

"What're you in for?"

She sounds wispy, like she has just awoken from years and years of sleep.

He glares. "I don't know what you're talking about."

She laughs, and it sounds like wind-chimes. "Oh, you don't know where we are, do you, Pretty Boy?"

Her eyelashes flutter coyly, the green gossamer of her eyes stricken and pale; for all her words, she seems just as empty as he is.

"Hn," he responds, as he takes in the wild, jasmine-grasses at his feet, the birch-white maze of trees surrounding them.

"Haruno Sakura," she announces in her tinny, bell-voice. "Twenty-two. Cancer." She lets out a tired, bitter laugh, before adding, "Kinda ironic for a premed student, huh?"

He says nothing, but she notices how his eyes go wide and, and continues to speak, in her pretty, know-it-all soprano. "I've been here once or twice. Don't worry; if you're not dead enough, you get sent back."

He watches as the wind rustles through the cherry-blossoms of her hair, and has no idea what to feel.

"The numbness goes away after a while," she singsongs. He notices the moon-creases that surround her eyes when she closes them. "Oh, and you might want to patch that up."

He looks down, just noticing the blood trailing from the painless, bloom-red gash on his stomach, and onto the ground.

"So, what's your name, gorgeous?" Sakura asks, one day. Or maybe the same day, or maybe years from when he first meets her, because there is no time in the purgatory he's found himself in.

None of your business, is on the tip of his tongue, but this girl has mended his wounds and has given him kindness and insight, and he has been raised to be grateful.

"Uchiha Sasuke," he grits out, if only to keep her from clinging to her choice nicknames of 'Man Candy' and 'Pretty Boy'.

"Sasuke," Sakura repeats, the shape of his name high in her throat. "Sasuke-kun."

"Just Sasuke," he snarls.

"Sasuke-kun!" she sticks out the candy-pink of her tongue, simultaneously seeming too young and far, far too old for a girl, almost-woman of twenty-two.

"I never even fell in love," Sakura muses sadly, on one of their walks in the meadow. "I was seventeen when it all started. Skipped a grade, was starting college. Dead-girls-to-be don't really have time for that sort of thing."

"You gave up?" Sasuke questions roughly, because if that is the case then he has been wrong about her.

She seems offended, and her eyes harden into something like jade.

"Of course not." She flips the ends of her cherry-blossom hair over her shoulder, and her tone lightens somewhat. "I kept coming back. I'm stubborn as anything, Sasuke-kun, but I came to realize that it wasn't in the cards. This—" She signals around, pointing out the dream-world that holds them. "—this is the end of the line for me."

Sasuke is quiet, because she is right. Sakura is sick. Sakura has been sick. Sakura has been off treatment for a year. Sakura is weak, even if she is strong. Sakura cannot play an eternal game of tug-of-war with her soul, trying to keep it in a weak cage of skin and bones when it really belongs somewhere else.

But, because he doesn't want to believe it, he tugs on the narrow curve of her arm. She stops, turning to him, questions pooling her eyes, and he says, "No, it isn't."

The shock fades into a calm, accepting sadness. "I don't think you understand."

She shrugs out of his touch and continues to walk, until she is out of reach.

"There's always two," she tells him, matter-of-factly. "Fate's cruel like that."

"You've...met others here?" he asks, because this is the first he's heard her say of it.

"Mhm," she murmurs, tone dreamlike. "First time was a girl named Hinata. Shy little thing." Sakura looks like she's fighting inside of herself when she continues, "The second time, I met a boy named Naruto. He—he was sweet. Loud and annoying and obnoxious, but he had a heart of gold."

Sasuke decides that he hates seeing her like this, teary and broken. Sakura needs protection, he thinks, but not from herself. So he puts his hands over hers, before asking, voice gentle, "What happened to them?"

Sakura is hollow when she says:

"They died, Sasuke-kun."

His hands tighten around hers, and he hears her screech out:

"There's always, always two..."

Sakura doesn't say anything about Naruto or Hinata or death after that.

She smiles again, like the dream-girl she is. She's fragile and tired and is sick to the bones, but she doesn't let him see that side of her again.

The sun is setting over the watercolor horizon when Sasuke, uncharacteristically, breaks the grating silence:

"Uchiha Sasuke." When she blinks at him, confused, he continues, "Twenty-three. Knife-wound, from a fight with my brother." A beat later, he adds, "He tried to kill me. I... tried to kill him back."

He says it without emotion. Like he's recited it a million times, which he probably has, as he practiced to word it all in a way that wouldn't make her hate him.

For a long while, she says nothing, looking at him with those empty, porcelain-doll eyes and he wonders if he's really lost her.

And then she launches towards him, bird-arms wrapping around his torso in a grip that is too strong for such a tired, tired girl.

"I'm sorry," she breathes into his neck. "So, so sorry."

He doesn't push her away.

"Promise you won't get mad?"

It's morning, and her eyes are glimmering; the pink of her lips are spread into a wide, crescent-smile. He wants to press further, have answers before giving his own, but Sakura is different and he decides that he has changed, too.

"Fine," he relents, and within a split second she is kissing him, and then he is kissing her back, hard, his lined, lined hands running down the river of her hair—

"I'm leaving," she gasps, and he stiffens. He feels her tremble in his arms, and feels something wet coat his chin.

She's crying.

He lets go of her, gently, tenderly, like he is holding glass. She is swiping at her eyes, the tears beading like jewels on her small palms.

"I'm sorry," she says, and her demeanor shifts into something cheerful. "I get like this when I'm happy."


"You're leaving, too, Sasuke-kun," Sakura interrupts him, bright with excitement. "You're getting out of here. You'll see all of your friends and family, and..."

Sasuke sees red. "What about you?" He gets so close that they're breathing each other's air. "Where are you going?"

(He knows the answer, and he doesn't want to hear it from her, but at the same time he does, and he wants to save her, to bring her back to life.)

"I already told you. End of the line." She smiles. "But I don't mind. I got to meet you."

"No," he says, the word drowning in his voice. He almost shakes her, rattles her to her star-white bones. "You're wrong. I won't let you, Sakura."

She beams, like starlight. "I've already had my chances."

"Sakura—" She looks like she's flickering, like she's almost transparent, fading in the sunlight. "Sakura!"

"Please," Sakura pleads, gentle as Spring. "Don't forget me."

She is gone in a second, and the clearing ripples into nothing and Sasuke feels himself wake up—

Itachi is in jail. Sasuke is found innocent on the grounds of 'self-defense', and is released from the hospital a few days after he awakens from his month-long coma.

It is spring, but he feels unnervingly cold, like the earth has been stripped of its sunlight, its passion, and for days, he is unable to shake away thoughts of a girl with rose-petal hair and garden-eyes, and he cannot stop repeating the same name, over and over:

"Haruno Sakura," he says, and it tastes like something beautiful.