(Day Fifteen of SasuSaku Month.)

It is dark.

All he knows is darkness. Darkness and heat and pain and screams that echo in his ears for an eternity. He does not know what happened or how he got to where he is or why he cannot see anything. He tries to move his arms, legs, fingertips, anything - his body does not respond. He is paralyzed.

Where is Sakura?

A sudden, terrible thought hits him, tearing into him with all the ferocity of a hurricane. The screams he can't stop hearing - are they Sakura's screams? Is she hurt - trapped somewhere and calling for him while he cannot come to her? Fear rears its grotesque head, breathing rancid air down his throat and dripping foul saliva onto his face. Sakura is going to die and he can't even open his goddamned eyes.

Sakura is going to die.

Suddenly it is all he can think. He does not cease to struggle, to reach into himself for some hidden strength and move - but the revelation that he will most likely not make it to her in time is like a knife in his heart, twisting and burning and agonizing and something like a strangled sob is ripped from his throat. What kind of Anbu captain is he, that he can only lay useless on the ground while his heart is elsewhere, likely being tortured or raped or worse -

And suddenly he is being shaken awake, violently. He grips his assailant by their shoulders - slim, soft shoulders - and heaves, rolling until they are beneath him and he is looking down into a pair of startled emerald eyes - eyes that are alive and whole and right in front of him - and he tries to make sense of his abrupt change of location, of realities. His breathing is fast and too heavy, eyes wide and wild and burning with the fire that scorched his lips with every breath.

"Sasuke." The eyes have a voice. It is soft, uncharacteristically tentative, but he would know it anywhere. It soothed him, grounded him in a way that nothing else can and he slowly comes back to himself. "Sasuke, it was just a dream."

Sakura. It is Sakura speaking to him. He can see her; she isn't trapped somewhere beyond his reach, awaiting her gruesome end. She is here, right here, beneath him - breathing and speaking soft words to him, and he sobs in pure relief before collapsing on top of her small body. His arms slide underneath her back and cinch her to him, he buries his face in her neck and inhales deeply.

"Sakura," he rasps, fingers digging into her skin.

"Shh," she whispers, running her hands through his damp hair, stroking his back reassuringly. "Shh, Sasuke, I'm here. I'm right here."

He is shaking. Knowing it is only a dream is not consolation enough, not when it had been a reality a few years before, when the Shinobi Alliance was fighting Madara and the Ten Tails. Then, he had come so close - far too close - to losing her permanently. He had not slept a single night since.

All his life she was always there. He didn't know what he'll do if someday she wasn't there anymore.

"I'm fine, I'm fine," she chants, and he lets the mantra catch hold in his mind. "I'm fine, I'm safe. You're safe, we're safe."

She's fine. She's safe. She's here.

He tries to let that be enough for him. He tries not to dwell on his almost-failure, on her almost-end. How he hadn't been strong enough, fast enough, smart enough to help her when she needed him. He vows then, as he has done all the nights before since that night, to be stronger, faster, smarter.

He vows to be enough.

He lets her voice lull him into a murky stupor; a half-sleep laden with grief and fear and pain. But as he drifts away entirely, his sleep is calm and there is some peace. Her voice, even then, reaches him in the ether - soft and gentle and soothing like the flower petals she was named after.

She's fine. She's safe. She's here.

Some people have noticed that I have favorite stories that focuses on the NaruSaku, KakaSaku and GaaSaku pairing. Well, yes. To be honest, I ship Sakura with almost every guy in the show. Hell, I ship her with Minato, for God's sake. And not only in the Naruto universe, I love crossovers of Naruto and Bleach - with Sakura and Toshiro.

Don't ask me why I keep on whoring her out, something about her just screams 'OMFG SHIP ME WITH EVERYBODY'. And in a good way. (Anyone who will dare mess with my baby girl and call her a bitch will be in the receiving end of my notoriously short temper and endless supply of cuss words.) Sorry, I'm very protective.

Don't worry though. SasuSaku will always be my number one. Anyway, my exam is in two days. Wish me luck, heh.


[Day Fifteen: Grounded]