AN: …Just don't ask.

Scarred and still standing. Graced by moonlight, weary and still so young. He looks beautiful in black and white, still and silent as a photograph, and every bit as memorable. His hair is longer, now, kept –or perhaps unkempt- in a braid, his face is harsher, the fight or flight mentality he's needed to develop to stay alive is evident in every taut line of his body, in the unkind creases of every scar. And he is scarred, she's not really startled to discover. Across his chest and back, roped and looped in uneven ridges of skin, like the brands of some cruel master.

She thinks maybe there's a story behind them.

She also thinks that he won't tell her, even if she asks. She turns the question over in her mind, and somewhere there's an angry adult woman in her screaming to just hit him and get it over with, hit him and try to pay back some of the pain she's kept to herself over the years. But deeper still is a little girl, scared and lost without him, and she isn't sure which one she should listen to.

"Where is he?" he asks, without preamble, his voice deeper and rougher than it was before, and she can hear the near-desperation hiding behind the stoic steel. She closes her eyes and opens her heart and tries to recapture something of the love she has for him.

It's getting harder to find. Even the strongest light, over time, can succumb to darkness. Neglect and misuse and years of helpless, hopeless rage. Of wondering why she'd always played second best to dead-last.

"He's…not here," she whispers, and it's not a lie, because Naruto isn't here and hasn't been for months now. He's not hiding, he's just not here. Because he knew that eventually Sasuke would come to find him, and he knew that that couldn't be allowed to happen, because if it was anywhere, anywhere near the people that they'd once loved, still loved, always loved, it could break them both. And so Naruto ran, ran until the shadows didn't know his name, didn't recognize his face, and until he'd outdistanced everything he cared about so as not to bring them pain.

So now Sasuke is standing in her small apartment, with his back to her, looking out a window for a fight that wouldn't come. And he's shirtless and bloody and so strange and foreign and exotic that she doesn't know the first thing about who he is or why he's come this far.

"You've been well," he says next, and it's not a question.

She nods. Remembers belatedly that he can't see her and vocalizes her intent instead. "I have my own genin team, now. They're…young." She remembers when she was that young. When life was all about boys and being better than your own silly rival. When life wasn't being knee-deep in blood and guts and gore, trying to patch together the shards of something that could never be the same.

"You shouldn't be here," she tells him. She doesn't want to, because she knows she'll drive him away again, but it's the truth, bold and simple and inelegant and graceless. And it's all she has left to give him, because he doesn't want her love.

He makes a noise, something of a 'Hnn…' and he keeps looking out her window. "Probably not," he says finally, agreeably. "You're probably all under orders to kill me on sight."

Actually, they're under orders to run like hell for someone who could kill him on sight. Unfortunately, as the only person capable of that is Naruto, and Naruto… "Would you like some tea?" she asks quietly, trying not to consider how completely and utterly absurd a question that is. He's probably killed a score of Jounin just to get to her apartment, just to ask after the ghost that haunts him, and she's offering him tea.

And would you like cyanide with that?

He half-turns, and in the moonlight his face is little more than a silhouette, shaded and shaped like the edge of a knife. "Sure." A sigh, deep and resonant, and it's like he's got the world on his shoulders but that doesn't scan quite right, because she knows that's Naruto's end of the bargain. "Why the hell not."

So she makes tea.

They talk for a while, about as many inconsequential things as their skeletal fingers can garner from their past. She even makes him laugh once, short and brittle and filled with pain, but it's more than he's given her before. She'll take what she can get, thanks. No more broad dreams with boundless horizons for Haruno Sakura, no more whispers of wishes in the dark.

He's got a scar across his face, from his left eye to his nose. It's not very big or very noticeable, but when the light catches him just right it shimmers like a quicksilver wire, draws her eyes and attention but not her curiosity. He catches her looking and grunts noncommittally

"A reminder," he says, almost-mockingly. "From our dear old teacher."

She hasn't talked about Kakashi aloud for a while. It hurts just a little too much, a wound that hasn't healed, stitched shut but still ready to bleed.

"It's not the only one," Sasuke says musingly, with an almost-wistful tone. And then he sets his teacup on the table and he stands up and he looks down at her. She looks back.

He slams both hands on the table, crockery and silverware goes flying, and her poor rickety table is splintered into oblivion. She sits calmly and picks shards of the past out of her hair with a casual causality that makes him raise both eyebrows in something not-quite-respect.

"You're not afraid of me."

She gives him a vague once-over. She loved him once, she knows. I'd kill for you! but whatever she feels now seems a closer kin to pity than affection. Even so, he's someone that was once very dear to her. So dear that it hurts to have to let go, to sever those final strings, to carry on.

"Sasuke…" she says, tenderly, and she stands, touches his face, traces the scar that won't fade and knows that it does nothing to assuage the wounds that won't heal. Her hand slides down his cheek to his bare shoulder and rests there, and with the other she snags his free hand. "For all the years I've loved you, you owe me at least one thing."

He stiffens, doesn't pull away but wants to. It's probably been forever since someone touched him without intent to kill. Probably been beyond forever since he would have allowed it. But he does.

"…What, then?" he asks finally.

"Dance with me?"

"…I need to find Naruto."

"You have time," she tells him sternly. "There's always time for one last dance."

So they dance.

Later, they have sex. It's aching and tender and beautiful, but it's not the first time for either of them. Had things gone differently, had the world not spun beyond their control one single day so many years ago, it might have been. They might have been all arms and elbows and 'Ows!' and 'Heys!' and 'That does not go there, idiot!' As it stands, they're still awkward, a little. They put their hands in strange places and discover scars that never used to exist, painted on skin like macramé.

After, they lay together as far apart as they can get while still on the same bed. They don't touch. They don't look at each other. They don't unwish the moment or the deed, but the past and the coming dawn.

"They'll search the houses for me," Sasuke tells her matter-of-factly.

She smiles. Sweetly. "Sasuke, I'm Haruno Sakura, and I've hated you since you killed our sensei. They wouldn't look here because I would not harbor you."

He's silent. She's silent. Dawn creeps through the window, extends searching tendrils across the foot of Sakura's small bed, searching for signs of life that it can force into greeting the day. Dawn may be gentle, but it's as inexorable as death.

He knows. She knows.

"Then why are you letting me stay?"

She thinks. She knows the answer, but how to phrase it is key.

"Because hatred isn't all this is about."

He snorts at her, gets up, stands with his back to her, and the sun chases his thighs. She pushes herself to her knees and sneaks over to him, wraps her arms around his chest and presses her bare breasts against his back. "I'm sorry, Sasuke." She trails fingers across his shoulders, stops at his neck. It strikes her as odd, the number of years she's spent learning to heal, that killing is still the easier notion to wrap her mind around.

She knows Naruto will hate her for it. Well, maybe not hate, but she'll have cheated him out of something that was his by right. She gathers chakra in her fingertips, just enough, and it's shielded. Sasuke is too busy being aware of her presence to bother being aware of her intent. She places her energy-eclipsed fingers against his neck, his jugular vein. He jerks, whips away from her, defense up. He reaches for his shuriken holster, so close and yet so far away, and his eyes blaze red with the madness within.

She smiles. Just once. Soft and sweet and innocent, everything she was and nothing that remains.

"You see," she whispers, as he staggers and falls. "I am also an avenger."

Irony is his only comfort in death.