Disclaimer: entirely applicable.

Inspiration: thirrin73. basically. this fic exists because she loves this ship and stuff, and i love her and stuff. so. logic. i mean, i was supposed to draw her something instead but i took a face-dive and broke my wrist and yada yada, i can at least write with my left hand - idk i wanted to express how awesome i think she is, but she's the only one of us fluent in being, you know, verbally nice/a good person in general, whereas i just keysmash at random intervals.

and the moral of this fic, aside from SasoSaku being pretty and contagious, kids, is don't talk to strangers on the internet because you will get emotionally-frustrated, and die.

Canon you should keep in mind/Headcanons of mine that relate: Sakura and Sasori can both get rather obsessive over things that they genuinely dig (see: Team Seven and Everlasting Art/taxidermy-ed corpses of dead enemies, respectively), this is canon, we know it, we have an excuse for fluff, thank you; am i right in believing that it is, in fact, SasoSaku month?

Warnings: nothing heavy; violence, but it's shonen and they're trained killers so come on now; language, because i wrote it; and excessive amounts of affection-deficient fluff~

Your stitches are all out
but your scars are healing wrong
the helium balloon inside your room has come undone
and it's pushing up at the ceiling
and the flickering lights it cannot get beyond.
Everyone takes turns

now it's yours

to play

the part

-shock-

a sudden upsetting or surprising event or experience; jolt; impact

In retrospect, it was ridiculous.

There was no astounding, extraordinary occurrence that bound two passionately hateful nemeses together through blood, trauma and sexual tension (though they had lived through plenty of both former, and a fair amount of the latter if he did say so himself), no sudden rebirth revealing one to the other in a moment of epiphany sent from the heavens.

It is, in actuality, a rainy afternoon on a Thursday when Sakura hustles him into a nondescript café and orders two small hot-chocolates for herself instead of a single large because she knows that, even though he cannot drink, he likes to feel the heat of a cup through his deadened hands. It is as the murky droplets patter against the window and he watches Sakura's mouth move as she explains the mastery of sprinkling just the right amount of tiny marshmallows on top without losing the syrup-y goodness and that no, it did not look like a bio-waste.

It is when, mid-"ya jackass," Sakura stretches her leg to knock his, that Sasori props his head on one hand and thinks bemusedly that she was lucky that he loved her, or else he might have abandoned she and her insatiable sweet-tooth in a candy shop long ago.

It's approximately twenty-eight seconds later that his finger pauses on the mug's rim, eyes locking on nought as the thought and its implications run a loop through his head and the full force of the oddly frequent constrictions in his hollow ribcage slam into him with the equivocal upset of a wrecking ball through ice and it was not too gradual to notice, all of a sudden, not anymore it was there it'stherehere and tightening and suffocating and n-

"Ah! Christ, sit down! You made me spill!"

-chivalrous-

high-minded consideration especially to women; courtesy; gentlemanliness

"You have made your point, you incorrigible little brat, now take the cloak."

"F-fuck off."

-hands-

palms, fingers and thumbs; touch

If she hadn't known better (read: known he was an unapologetic psychopath with a general loathing for humanity and most things joyful), Sakura would have thought he'd made a game out of touching her at all times. Not in a creepy way (well, as not-creepy as Sasori ever got while in a conscious state), just… touching. An ankle hooked behind her leg here, a chin on her shoulder there, hands seeking under the hem of her shirts to rest on warm skin, that sort of stuff. It was normally only irritating when she had to act like she minded when she really, really didn't.

That was, until his most recent fixation became her hands.

And there was, as ever, the little part of Sakura that was forever eleven-years-old and anxious that hated, hated her hands, for their calluses and roughness and bitten fingernails, regardless of their considerable skill in both saving and snuffing out lives. Unwillingly, she thought of the small china dolls (virtually useless, if you didn't count the toxic liquid that turned lethal and airborne if you cracked them) that Sasori made on occasions when he was especially bored, with their flawless porcelain limbs and delicately formed features all in smooth, vivid detail from dyed glass eye to dainty toe.

Her brows pinched.

Sasori, oblivious to the thoughts behind the pinkette's averted gaze, ran two fingers from her wrist to her palm, pressing lightly over weapon worn skin to span his long, piano-key fingers in careful alignment to hers. She felt him turn it over, exposing knuckles that had been split and re-broken so many times in forcing earth the to break with them, bumps he now ran an idle thumb over. Suddenly, as though he was anything like a tail-coated gentleman and she was wearing pearly evening gloves rather than a raised scar where a hasty block had caused a butcher's knife to go clean through before she could nut the guy attached, he ducked to place an absent minded kiss on the back of her right palm before focusing back on their mark in the crowd below.

Neither breaks the quiet, but Sakura has never felt quite so lovely in her life.

-potential-

Having/showing the capacity to develop into something in the future; possibility; contingence

"Objectively, Sakura-san," remarked Sasori as he swept dust from his cloak, "if you were to put your mind to it, I believe you could be quite a substantial threat to international security."

Across the rubble, Sakura raised a shard of rock the size of a large cart one-handed, only to smash it down at the twitching remains of what was once an Akatsuki lackey. Patting the grit from her own gloves, she turned her head to him and smiled sweetly.

Everyone would be fucked, he quietly amended. Everyone.

-hours-

a twenty-fourth part of a day, divided into 60 minutes; a less definite period of time - "In the late night hours…"

The first night Sasori spends with a pulse is the first night he has had the unsettling ability, the need no less, to… sleep – the imperative to fall unconscious and lose all cognitive function and awareness of his surroundings for a time decided solely by his subconscious (whom he has never entirely trusted in the first place, accounting for the fact of it being just as sociopathic as the rest of him), in decades.

Sakura sits next to his unsettled form, her head propped up on the wall and her green eyes wide open as she watches him, rather than drift, claw away from wakelessness.

After three hours he has jerked awake, clutching at his chest and hacking in air that had too suddenly become a necessity, a total of thirteen times. And thirteen times Sakura has loosened his tensed hands, kissed his palms and traced little pictures on his shoulder until he slipped back under.

The fourteenth time is the worst, and she has to press her forehead to his and repeat his name over and over before he realizes he isn't clawing his way out of his own wood-bound coffin. The fourteenth time, he is the most dispirited thing she has ever seen when he falls against her with all his whole self and irons out his shaky, warmwarmwarm, breath against her ear. The fourteenth time, she winds her fingers through the muss of his red hair and shifts his head to her collar, settled over the beat of her own heart. The familiar thrumming lulls them both to sleep.

There is no fifteenth time.

-afflatus-

a divine creative impulse; inspiration; muse

Although he would never, ever so long as he lived ever say anything to so much as indicate it, Deidara supposed it wouldn't be exactly truthful to say he wasn't a little pleased about his partner's return from the dead (even if it was due to some totally whack story involving some cryogenic BS and what sounded like a frickin' creep-factory warehouse in the middle of nowhere that was full of dusty Sasori shells, insert-shudder-here. Personally, he couldn't stomach thinking about it for longer than it took to draft some half-hearted plans to nuke it if he got a free weekend).

Honestly, irritable old stick in the mud that he was, it was hard to find a guy with any appreciation for art in this line of work - even if their view of art was backwards and, really, pretty fucking stupid. But, he digresses. It would have pissed him off to have the bastard die on him before Deidara could make him eat his entire life's work/belief system, and thereby crown himself Deidara the Superior Visionary Artist Who is Always Right. Because he was.

Imagine his surprise when, upon clicking open glass eyes the exact replica of those smashed to smithereens by that cute Konoha ninja with the weird hair, Sasori merely tested the joints of his fingers, nodded slightly, and disappeared into his quarters. Not even a 'How've you been? Your hair looks great as usual, respected accomplice of mine,' Deidara thought as the bolts snapped into place. Asshole.

Then he wandered off to draw smiley faces in all Hidan's weird circle-things.

It's a week later when, bored again, Deidara ventures into the puppetmaster's workshop in search of something to vandalize, only to stop short and gape.

A chorus of pink and green and red all over fairly knocks him off his feet. Fabrics are strewn around every surface but the floor and main workbench, far from the organized folds of Sasori's normal professionalism, silks looking like they had been long discarded in favour of tougher materials in brighter crimsons. One table is awash in greens, dark pots of dye next to a colour chart and a precisely lined assortment of precious stones from chips of jade to fine-cut emeralds - many seem to have been sliced thin and layered on top of warmer stones, tigers-eye and topaz, before ending up on the floor from frustration. The shelves, dusty and new just days ago, are lined with pale faces, porcelain and bleached wood, the expensive stuff - some are half finished, the chisel having given up after making some invisible error (though they all were absent of the viscous gashes the ex-Suna-nin tended to lash into creations that refused to form properly), while others were sanded smooth with petal painted lips and eerily lifelike in their dimpled smiles or battle ready game-faces.

And, Deidara thinks as he hurriedly shuts the door and scampers far, far away, it is really fucking disturbing, and if Sasori never brings it up he sure as hell won't be either.

Unlucky kid, yeah.

-regret-

repentance over something that has been done; lament; rue

Sasori never apologizes.

As he traces his fingers along the permanent scarring that mars her smooth abdomen, even as it still makes a queer sickness pool in his own stomach, he does not think that he ever will. How could he?

'Sakura, I am compelled by the confusing emotions in my lower torso, which are, as we know, entirely your fault in the first place, to offer my apologies on account of my poisoning your friend with the intent to kill on my indifferent path to aiding the hunt of your other, most precious friend for the purpose of torturously sucking his sole out and leaving him an empty, cold husk. And then for actually managing to help do that to your other friend. And I'm also sorry for fatally disembowelling you that one time. Shake on it?'

No. It would be an insult.

Awakened by something - a change in the breathing which he still hadn't quite gotten the hang of, perhaps - Sakura twists up, opens a bleary eye and mumbles, "What?"

"Thank you," Sasori says.

Sakura frowns drowsily, pokes him in the face. "Whatever. Freak."

She nuzzles under his jaw and, where he can't see, she falls asleep smiling. (And routinely, at the slightest provocation, threatens to smash the rest of his irreplaceable collection and, yeah, puppet-boy, we both know I freakin' can.)

(She never so much as chips one.)

-façade-

an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a truth; mask; bluff

"Tch, obviously I was walking cheerfully home when, all of a sudden, Sasori of the Red Sand leapt out from the bushes and kidnapped innocent ol' me away to his Evil Lair - and, like, I would've escaped in two seconds but it was my turn to pick the restaurant which meant I got to bust the sushi place out of all its fancy shrimp- oh, but then, bam!, three more Akatsuki just came outta nowhere and wouldn't leave until we thrashed 'em for invading our date, hello, I know you're psychotic but you can still have manners-"

"Alright, alright! Fine, don't tell me where you were. Jeeze, Sak, you're spending way too much time around your sensei."

"Yep."

-pantomime-

in which performers express meaning through gestures accompanied by music; performance; exaggeration

She is in the middle of a symphony of sliced wind and screams and metal-cutting-metal when she sees him.

Tousled red hair and blank, delicate face and supposed-to-be-thrashed-into-the-bottom-of-a-crater slight frame decked out in red and black, and polished fawn eyes staring right at her from the treeline. Sakura almost fumbles the snapping of her current enemy's kneecap, such is the force of her disbelief.

Movement to her left, and an Akatsuki-drone is taking advantage of her distraction with an axe aimed to her neck and, glaring at the cheap trick, Sakura arcs her tanto- and watches as Akasuna Sasori, with a casual flicker of his index finger, splits the intruder in two.

Sakura doesn't even have time to think a full 'what the actual fuck,' before the same finger moves again, deliberately, and she spins to avoid the same fate with obvious, ridiculous ease. Fragments of stillness in the desperate chaos of battle, she stops and she stares at him. With his complete attention focused on her, Sasori mirrors her cocked head, and he smiles.

Then he lunges.

Sakura is ready, curves around the katana going for her midsection, blocks a wooden arm - not his - puppets, fuck - twists it to splinters, flips over the trunk of a limb coming from behind, uses it as a launch pad to land behind the puppetmaster controlling the move, and smashes a fist-

He catches it at the wrist.

"Hello again," he says.

What the actual fuck, Sakura thinks (finally).

Aforementioned notion just about quadruples when he releases her smoothly, and motions to the battlefield as though he's asking her to the fucking dance floor. She blinks, and goes to break his pretty fake face in.

There are no puppets, and the Akatsuki, who is turning out to be miraculously spry for a deadman, mostly matches her blow for blow, but neither manages a notable connection. He's playing with me, Sakura reasons, furiously wrenching a boulder from their feet in an attempt to smoosh him. Playing with her like she was fifteen years old and downsized and actually about to take that from anyone. Screw that. Her next feint-and-kick send him crashing through the undergrowth.

Sakura grins. When he rights himself, through the fractures of his face, Sasori does the same.

They lunge.

Their fight seems to last a small eternity, and subsequently causes the end of many a shinobi who become distracted by the mastery of it - the rareness of finding two ninja at such a skill level, such a match that they appear to be, not enemies, but partners in a lethal dance that could never be mimicked in something as commonplace as a ballroom.

That is, until Sakura finds a small misstep - an open chance for her to force a chakra-scalpel through the weak-point of Sasori's chest and end him (for however long this time). She could not tell you why she doesn't take it.

Neither could tell you who won.

-need-

to require (something) because it is essential or very important; want; necessity

"Leave. Me. Alone."

-popularity-

the state or condition of being liked, admired, or supported by many people; favourite; vogue

If a little pink lamb were to wander from home and stumble upon the den of a pack of bloodthirsty, certifiably psychotic wolves, it took only the most basic common-sense to determine the outcome. Followed by a dustpan to determine whatever remained of aforementioned little pink lamb.

But, as a coil-taut, slightly frazzled and extremely homicidal Sasori was finding out, apparently if a little pink kunoichi were to shrug her way passed the line her not-exactly-boyfriend has explicitly told her to stay the hell behind and wander into a secret base of bloodthirsty, certifiably insane missing-nin…

Aforementioned little pink kunoichi would have them wrapped around her little finger in under thirty minutes.

"So, if this-" Sakura broke off with a small grunt as she tried to pop what looked like – no, no, okay, that's exactly what it was – two segments of a human spine back into their proper place without slipping on the blood. A few feet away Hidan (or a Frankenstein-esque patchwork of Hidan's head, shoulders and sternum) alternated between watching her progress from his position on the coffee table and staring longingly at his freshly re-assembled lower half which was ten feet away, slung over the sofa. "Ah," The bones in Sakura's hand aligned with a sssshclick, "if this is your Thoracic Vertebrae, then this would be your…?"

Hidan's half-stunned purple eyes followed her pointer-finger as it tapped his separated spine a little lower. "Uh, my Lumer-"

"Lumbar."

"My Lumbar Vertebrae. Uh, Miss Sakura."

Sakura reached out to pat him on his sewed silver head before shoving his spine back in place with all the care of a toddler playing with Lego. "You can come in if you want, Sasori."

Behind the scene, the red-head's only response was to slump into the doorway. All he'd needed was a new, splinter-free arm – a single hour check into Akatsuki quarters, or an estimate of forty-eight and a half minutes if he could avoid all idiots but the one in charge. It was a perfectly nice tree he had left her at, too. But she'd left it. She'd left it, and skipped into the heart of S-class criminal activities and gotten into a fight with a psychopath made immortal through sheer force of sadism, and she'd kicked his imbecilic ass, which was fine but oh gods why was she fixing him if he got back up he was going to exact vengeance on her and then Sasori was just going to have to kill him and it was going to be a whole messy cycle and then they would have to find a new communal punching bag why could she never do as she was damn well told-

"Oi, Sasori."

"But we had only just gotten him housetrained."

Kisame hiked an eyebrow.

"Yeah. So this belongs to you, huh?"

"Yes," Sasori lamented, at the same time Sakura scoffed, "No way."

The puppetmaster noticed Hidan's eyes light up at that, and went back to planning his end with considerably more enthusiasm.

He crossed the space between them and, voice low, set about in his attempt to loom. "I think told you to wait for me, Sakura."

"Yeah, you did," she replied airily, deftly looping up the last chakra-wire stitches on the priest's abdomen. "More to the point, I did. But that was before Tall, Teal and Toothy over there decided he was behind on his quota for dragging innocently lurking foreign shinobi girls back to your evil lair to be brutalized."

"My shoulder's dislocated," said Kisame.

"And I smell like a chum bucket." She turned, hands on hips. "Square deal, fishstick."

The ex-Kiri-nin bared his jagged teeth in a deep growl – something enough to make squads of battle hardened shinobi bolt en masse – but Sasori noticed the conspicuous lack of pummelling going on from either party, and began to feel quite nauseous. Oh gods, he realized. They've gotten fond of each other.

Kisame's intimidation mode cracked into a toothy grin as he barked a laugh and reached out to muss Sakura's bubblegum hair, which she only jerked away from a little. His strong hand seemed to dwarf her entire head, and Sasori shoved the strange cold in his stomach away irritably. "Bah, you shoulda just said you were bringin' a girl over, Akasuna. You know this's lost me a bet? Was sure I could've gotten the kid to come around before another one of you losers."

Appearing from no where at the implication of his name in that way he did, Itachi turned into the room with a blank non-expression in place. He was holding a steaming china cup by the rim in one hand, which he handed to Sakura. "I apologize," he said. "We appear to be out of honey, so took the liberty of using syrup instead. I hope that it suffices."

The pinkette beamed at the Uchiha, and only checked for poisoned lacing twice before sipping it and turning her attention back to Kisame, who, pleased at the new pair of ears and completely disregarding the twin red daggers burrowing through his face, was once again going on about how Itachi's lack of action shamed him on a daily basis. Sasori put conscious effort into not fainting from bewilderment right there.

Out. Out. They had to get out, now, before-

"Sakura-chan, I got the blankets all laid out, yeah, so you can sleep in my room, no worries-"

"Hey, hang on," Sakura interrupted, raising a hand at his asinine idiot of a partner's ridiculous pouting face. Finally, some sense- "I thought I was bunking with Konan-san?"

He was going to pass out. Or kill everyone. Whichever happened first.

"Ne, if it's a bed you need-"

"I am fairly certain we have a guest room."

"You're thinking of the dungeons."

"Perhaps, but they do have perfectly nice-"

It took precisely two and a half seconds for him to summon a puppet, grab Sakura around the waist, sling her into its waiting casket and latch it shut behind her before flash-stepping out of the base. He left a distinct impression that he would not be slowing down any time soon.

The room was silent, multiple mouths frozen mid-syllable.

"Dudes," Hidan said dazedly, swaggering to his feet. "Dudes, I think I'm fuckin' in love."

-thunder-

(noise) heard after a lightning flash due to the expansion of rapidly heated air; roar; boom

Sasori never says it (he would never say it), but the lack of her… it unsettles him. The peace and quiet that takes over in her absence should have been a relief to him, he knew. But they were not. Not even close.

The Akatsuki could vouch more than most for her capability in the field - having been dead at her hand at one point, if only temporarily - but then, it could also be said that he could vouch more than most for the sheer penchant that impulsive little fool had for raising trouble wherever she went like a particularly testy magnet, and if he wasn't there to smooth over and/or quietly kill the problem who knows what cou-

Crashes of sound shatter the air like a chakra-infused fist tearing boulders from the earth, and Sasori thinks Sakura, and snaps his head towards the roar before he can stop himself.

Something he would never call disappointment, although it was remarkably alike and close to a physical pressure drags at him as he watches lightning flare up in warning of a second peel of hollow thunder. The booming is shut out, however, by the hyena-like laughter beside him from a partner that appeared to know him too well (or alternately, for all the control he seemed to have over himself these days, he may well have shrieked her name out loud without noticing) and found it as hilarious as Sasori found it discomfiting. Removing expression from the planes of his face, the puppeteer reached out and, calmly, punted Deidara off the roof by his moronic giggling face.

Equally aloof, he walked to the least disgusting residence in the town, went quietly up to his room and shoved his emotionless face into a pillow. He remained unmoved until long after the last of the thunder had vibrated into the haze of rainfall, and mourned what the tiny, impossible, irrepressible little girl had done to him.

-urge-

try earnestly/persistently to persuade (someone) to do something; press; impel

"Danna." Poke.

"Danna, yeah."

Poke.

Poke. Poke.

Twitch.

"Sasori-danna, when's Sakura coming back, yeah? Danna? Hey, Sa-"

"She isn't," he bit out.

"Why not, yeah?"

…Poke.

"I am not responding your idiocy anymore."

"Can't we keep her, though? Please?"

"Tobi likes the pretty girl's pretty hair."

"She is extremely proficient in her chosen fields. A valuable asset."

"I am going to slaughter all of you."

"Eh, we could kidnap her, or somethin'."

"Seriously? She'd bitchslap our asses from here to fucking Kumo."

"I know, right?"

"Lucky fucker."

-seconds-

"It takes years to build a reputation and seconds to destroy one." –Unknown

Sakura-chan was sick. Which was- which was what the fuck, seriously, how do professional medics even manage to catch something like flu in the first place? Hell, Deidara knew the girl was unlucky (look at what she got stuck with for a spouse, for God's sake), but really? The flu?

Not that he cared, or anything. He just so happened to be going about his own business, and coincidentally had to pass the room Kisame had basically quarantined her to ("Y'look like hell, shortcakes, you're gonna sneeze too hard and brain yourself on somethin'. And 'Tachi-chan is very fragile.") on his way. And anyway, who wanted to be stuck in a room with his creeptastic, cardboard-faced danna when they were half delirious and trying to feel sorry for themselves?

And, honestly, he was already making the stupid chicken soup. Okay.

Which brought him here, knuckles wrapping on the bedroom door cheerfully before he pushed it open without an invite. "Sakura-chyaaan, guess w-…"

The sight of his danna, Mister-I'm-going-to-stab-you-with-the-most-painful-toxins-of-my-own-sadistic-invention-just-too-see-you-screaming-and-then-make-your-taxidermed-corpses-dance-for-all-time-because-it-makes-me-smile, tucked up on the little bed with the pink-haired, snuffling kunoichi under one arm and her favourite book in the other hand as he read quietly to her drowsy form is not one that Deidara was going to get out of his mind anytime soon.

The icy glare that sliced through him (despite the smooth voice not missing a beat), however, was all Red Sand. Utterly silent, Deidara backed out of the room and down the hall, swearing never to think of this twisted, freaky moment for as long as he lived.

Naturally, the base is full of rumours by morning.

-hell-

regarded as a place of great suffering; fall from grace; abyss

Sasori laughs in a spray of splinters, a hysterical sound that chills the bone of every rogue shinobi in the dank cell with an intensity that makes them want to triple-check the chakra repressing chains that bind the Akatsuki to the chair. Instead, the thug hacks the bar down a fourth, fifth, sixth time across the ghastly slash of his grin, until Sasori is left merely wheezing with mirth through shards of his throat and, oh, aren't you all just adorable-

"H-hey, you - you shut the fuck up!" The metal connects with a viscous, somewhat panicked force. When he smiles again, Sasori feels his right eye fracture into a web-work of broken glass. "You ain't got nothin' to be grinnin' about, Pinocchio!"

"Oh," Sasori inquires with a loll of his head, "are we name-calling now? Is that what we have come to?" A sudden, viper-quick vault against his restraints has the twerp scuttling backwards into his slack-jawed friends, and if not for the thick, bolted nails through his legs and shoulders the redhead would have fallen off his chair from laughing so very hard. "You have no idea what you're doing, do you?" he manages, chuckling lowly. "You trivial, meaningless little amateurs."

Snarling (curling his lip and everything, what a darling), the lout stomps towards him on angry feet. Remaining lazy and amused while his collar is grabbed and shaken by meaty fists, polished wood chips filter to the grimy floor from his hollow check-socket when he tilts his head, and Sasori thanks his foresight in excluding a sense of smell from his improved form when a stained maw leers at him closely. With a confidence that should have unnerved him then and there, the rogue-nin says, "You should stop runnin' your mouth so much, y'know… else someone might find out about your dirty little secrets."

Rolling his good eye, the Akatsuki was a beat from responding ('Really now, I don't think you're clear on how interrogations are supposed to work here.') before-

"Let go of me before I rip your fucking arms off!"

Sasori has never, never felt that kind of burn your mind and freeze your veins fear before - the kind that winds the milliseconds into dark, choking tar that pours unrestrainedly into lungs and waxes and suffocates and blots out everything that is not it, the kind that removes thought from the mind and replaces it, stitches torn from flesh, with instinct and white noise and manifests itself to denial and no no nonono you're not supposedto-

At some unseen direction, a blade arcs down and a spray of warm crimson stains a jagged, unholy flair across the tiny room and Sasori's own face get it offget itoffgettoher - and it is followed by a cc-craaack and Sakura, Sakura is screaming-

And he.

-he.

Can't.

Think-

-myth-

fable; legend

Having been kinda out of it at the time, due to basic blinding agony and pressing subconscious focus on not haemorrhaging internally, thank you - Sakura was blurry on the details.

Frowning against the dull throb that was swallowing her head, the kunoichi brought glowing hands to her temples and set about disentangling nightmare from memories. Sound was useless; too many whacks in the skull to have anything more than tinny echoes and the rush of her pulse, waking or not - there was definitely a lot of shouting going on, though. And screaming that couldn't have been all her. And then the real noise, and the breaking. Sakura pressed the heels of her palms to her eyes, took a deep breath- winced when the constriction of tight bandages around her torso pressed over what felt like four broken ribs. Ow.

Sight was more useless still - in the sparse times where her eyes had forced themselves open through the sticky liquid filming them, her surroundings were torn at by black pressure at her peripherals and the world moved in the monochrome, frame-by-frame jittering of old silent movies. Movies that featured violent splatters of thick scarlet horror pouring over everything and great, lurching creatures with blades for limbs. She had vague recollection of scents; blood and char and death, but then a safe woodchip smell that came with hands, cool and solid despite having felt like they had shaken marginally more than the rest of the world and, suddenly, the wind, and then-

Sakura squinted open her eyes and twisted her aching head. And then, 'lo, an empty hotel room.

Awesome.

She sighed more carefully this time, mindful of the newly formed bones in her chest, and breathed in-and-out to the rhythm of her chakra flow until it stopped hurting and the flashing reds had calmed away from behind her eyelids. By the time she shifted the painstakingly-tucked duvet and stood on pale jellyfish legs, the sky outside was bruising with dusk, and Sasori was still no where in sight. Sakura didn't bother to ask after him when she checked out, and left before anyone could ask her any difficult questions about the pints of blood on the floor.

Stepping outside, this time her sigh was nearly painless. She nodded to herself, and was about to troop off to find her sulking person-of-indeterminable-relationship-definition when she heard two elderly friends in the middle of quite an interesting conversation.

"…couldn't say they didn't have it coming to 'em."

"Aye," her friend agreed, swallowing reluctantly. "But you did'na see them - what was left of them, anyway. Complete bloodbath down there, I tell ya. Devils' work." He spat.

"My niece, you know Izumi, she was down there when it was goin' on. Poor thing couldn' move fer fright, she says." Secretively, she leaned towards him. "Says she seen spectres infestin' the whole bunker, by the hundred, all've 'em chained up in these ghost-y white chains, flashin' pasts the windows and sprayin' fountains of screamin' red blood as thee went-"

"Dammit, Kaori!" the old man exclaimed, leaning away to blow into his hands, rub at his arms. "Knock that off - yer givin' me the goosebumps."

Kaori cackled heartily. "Superstitious ol' goat. Don't you know spirits only go after the ones what harmed 'em? 'Sides," she cast a look to the far east, peaceful, "Izumi thinks it got what it wanted, 'pparently - started goin' on about the demon prince and his piskie girl, or some such. Ah, y'know how she can get with her fairytale cockamamie…"

Piskie, eh? Sakura shook out her strawberry hair as they moved away. You come over here and I'll show you piskie right now. She wasn't sure what she meant, but the passive-aggression made her feel better. Ah, well. The blow to her tiny, fairy-shaped pride could wait. She had a demon prince somewhere that probably needed a hug as much as she did.

I did not just think that sentence.

Nope.

-if-

Introducing a conditional clause; supposing; in case

"If-" The kunoichi broke off, clearing her throat. "If… you know – if you weren't such a colossal bastard murderer…"

Sasori's gaze remained steadily upon a speck of wall beside her left ear, face wooden-straight and blank. Bruised lips pulled into a smile almost bitter. "…if I wasn't patriotically and morally bound to hate you and everything you are…" Swallow. "If we had- if…"

"Yes." Eyes distant, the puppetmaster levelled the lethal mechanism of his arm between her pretty green orbs and clicked the senbon into place.

"If."

-overwhelm-

bury or drown beneath great mass/emotion/effect; inundate; overcome

Too much, he thinks, too loudly, It's too much-

He can feel (can feel) the course material of the sheets beneath him, toes to fingertips with the roughness of his clothes inbetween, pressing in from all sides and, fuck, it's drafty, he's- he is cold, he thinks, is it cold? His insides are cold, and the manual air he is gasping in through his mouth goes down with all the ease of dry-ice, and his chest is stretching like an unused balloon and, Christ above his nose is stinging what is all that fucking noise for switch it off switchitoffoffoff why-

"Sasori? Sasori!"

Oh. That would be why.

Sasori swallows (oh, that is weird), and makes himself still - just, why is it so hard to be still?

…That is his… that would be his pulse.

Right.

For the first time in decades, Sasori opens the eyes he was born with and is met with a world of green. Even the dim light of the room is enough to stab at his sensitive optic nerves, and he has to blink hard and strain to keep them from pulling closed. Sakura's eyes are green, he thinks, he knows. They are so green.

Voice rough and low from disused vocal cords, the first words from his mouth in years are, "Fffuck, how do you people cope?"

Breathy, Sakura laughs, and the sound seems to swallow up his whole being. "It's an acquired skill," she replies dryly. And then she starts to cry.

Sasori squints at her unhappily. His circulation is coming back and, if he remembers the godsforsaken feeling correctly, he now had a viscous case of pins and needles that spans his entire body like electrically charged insects crawling over his skin, and the loss of his eternal form has only worsened the dark disquietude he gets on the rare occasion of Sakura's tears. If she changes her mind about this now, I swear-

Then she launches herself across the inches separating them and Sasori's thrumthrumthrumming heart might have stopped. Apparently that was a literal thing, then, he thinks distantly. And then, a second later, that she smells like warm vanilla and apples.

He is not sure he has a cognitive thought for an indeterminable time after that. His mind, desperately disorganized and cluttered with chemicals and neurons firing at hyper speeds, is an overwhelming tactile wash of all things Sakura. The absurd little tickle of the bright strands at his cheek, the solidity of muscle under the course material of her shirt under his unsure hands, the steady heat that curled at him, turned to prickling shivers down the length of his spine, when she exhaled her breaths over his collarbone; the heat of her that he could feel sinking right into his bones. He was torn, ripped between the decision of binding her small frame to him until they couldn't tell ends from beginnings or pushing her far, far away because this almost felt like terror and she really was not helping with his taking-of-it-slowly plan.

He turns his face to the smooth column of her neck and keeps it there.

He's alive, Sakura thinks, and keeps thinking it, and isn't in the least bit prepared for the emotional shockwaves the knowledge of that sends through her, fists the soft mass of red hair on his head to compensate and know that he could feel it when she twisted. He's so alive.

And as the pads of shaking fingers skim lightly under the hem of her shirt to the cool skin of her back, Sakura falls in love all over again.

Alas, it all goes to hell when Haruno Sakura pulls back to press a real kiss to Akasuna Sasori's mouth to the first time-

And in two seconds Akasuna Sasori has passed out unconscious.

-whisper-

to speak softly using one's breath over one's throat; murmur; rustle

Okay, so she was kind of a lot short and twig-skinny and yeah, alright, her hair was pink.

But for all this, Haruno Sakura was a ninja. And she couldn't quite understand why nobody remembered this, especially when a certain red-headed, stupidly pretty 'nobody' tended to creep upon her door in the late hours and expect her to sleep through the feather footsteps and the change in atmospheric space occupied by the (technically, somewhat questionably) animate. As if she could ignore the intensity of his gaze if she wanted to.

She never reacted, never gave any indication that she knew of his night time visits to her quarters – his presence always seemed as though it carried a certain weight beyond the regular compression of his dark eyes, as though the words of something he wanted to say were trying to press at her even if he wouldn't say it himself. Or something. So Sakura pretended there were never any hyperaware nerves prickling down her spine, nor did her ears perk like a cat's upon every quiet shift of floorboard.

But he never made a sound, and was always gone before dawn could make it past the curtains.

Right. Whatever.

Freak.

(Not even the best shinobi can read lips with their eyes closed.)

-beginning-

point in time or space at which something starts; new or inexperienced; origin

"Mm, fair enough. And the jinchuuriki's teammate – the girl with the weird hair, yeah – she's the Godaime Hokage's apprentice-"

"I will deal with her. She won't be a problem."

hold on
one more time, with feeling
try it again

breathing's just a rhythm
say it in your mind until

you know that the words are right
this is why we fight.

Psst: definitions are mostly from Google; the lyrics sandwiching the text are from One More Time, With Feeling, by Regina Spektor, and a very nice song besides; the (fucking gorgeous omg) fanart on the cover-thing on this fic is by the insultingly talented CitrusGunn, on deviantArt.

Things em has learned in the time spent writing this: college prospects are fucking terrifying kids don't grow up don't do that it's a trap; prompts are sent from the heavens, likely the same segment which gave us doughnut glazing and over-your-hands jumpers/sweaters; they're trying to get the clearance to mAKE A DEADPOOL MOVIE LIKE AN ACTUAL ADAPTATION AND IT'S R-RATED AND EVERYTHING OH MY GOD JUST I'M SO HAPPY JESUS FUCK; in the realm of the relative, i have also learned that the only way to get me to stop procrastinating and write something, other than doing it expressly for someone i like a lot, is to use it, actually, as its very own procrastination against revising for a Maths GCSE. yes.

(Unrelated) Recommendations: thirrin73's stuff, because it's really very awesome. and then i recommend that you tell her so, because she, too, is really very awesome.

i promise i'm not just an unsophisticated verbal computer virus guys i'm a person with a real face and everything. (Anything you wanna comment about would be appreciated and, even if I am a delicate and insecure little spring bud of verbiage and self-loathing, your crit is your opinion – is just as valid as anyone else's – and I'll try to take it to heart in a tough, emotionless way. Or, hey, tell me what you liked so I can keep doing that stuff, dammit. Or drill me questions. It's all cool.)