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The Game

By lackingwit

Romance / Drama

The Game

"Why are you avoiding me?"

His voice was deep, rumbling. Boulders crushing together, anguish creeping in through the crevices. He tried to hide it — tried so very hard — but he couldn't. He'd held the facade too long and now it was falling apart, crumbling to pieces in front of her. She didn't know this would hurt him as much as it did. She didn't expect it to, didn't want it to. She thought this would be a clean break — one never to see the other again, living their days out happily._

They lived in a large village. It was possible. Or, at least, it would have been possible if Naruto hadn't told him where she lived. She should have paid more attention. If she had, she would have noticed him hiding and following her, cornering her to ask this five-word question that seemed to have more weight than the entirety of the world. Damn Naruto. Damn him and his idealistic Team Seven. When they worked together, they worked together well, and she'd always love both of her boys — all four of her boys, counting Sai and Kakashi. But there was nothing that said she had to be near them.

Nothing that said she had to be near him, of all people.

"Sakura," he spoke again. His voice was breathy, irritated, angry — and she detected a hint of sadness in there as well. She wanted to hit him. How dare he make her feel bad for making him feel sad when he had tried to kill her on more than one occasion? Forget the fact that he had returned. Forget that he had helped in the war. For that she would be grateful, but that wasn't relevant. Their relationship — as fragile as it had been — had been ruined, and it would take forever to rebuild. She wasn't sure she was ready for that.

If her arms had been free, she would have crossed them. As it was, she lifted the medical binders higher up in her grip and humphed. "What?" she snapped, bright green eyes glaring at him in a way that would have lesser men whimpering — in a way that would havehim whimpering if he weren't so set on getting his answer.

Sasuke matched her glare with cool onyx eyes. There was something similar to a lump in his throat; Sakura could see it in the way his adam's apple bobbed up and down before he opened his mouth to speak. Sasuke wasn't one to think over what he said. He never had much to say; he was a man of actions, not words, no matter how wrong those actions proved. "You heard my question," he growled out. He wasn't asking anymore. He wasdemanding. "I don't like repeating myself."

Emerald eyes narrowed. "Repeat it," she ordered. If he wanted the answer to his question, he was going to have to play by her rules. Her glare said as much. She wasn't bending like bamboo in the wind. She wouldn't be bowing to him like the royal shit he thought he was. No. He was going to play by her rules, and she was going to change them as much as she saw fit.

"Sakura, answer me."

Misdirected rage. He was angry at himself for not being able to figure out her avoidance of him, and he was taking it out on her. Sakura was well aware of this; she knew Sasuke like the back of her hand, the the whiskers on Naruto's face.

"Sasuke, repeat it."

This was his game, but these were her rules.

His glare could have people fleeing from the pure ferocity in it. "Why. Are. You. Avoiding. Me." He spoke as if Sakura were a five-year-old, someone incapable of understanding basic Japanese. Spacing every word out, punctuating it with a snarl. Like a dog. No — like a snake.

"Say it nicely."

His game.

Her rules.

She had to remind herself, or else she'd fall victim to the vulnerability in his ebony gaze; it was there, behind all the anger and confusion. Vulnerability. Something she'd never expect to see from him again.

"Sakura, if you don't answer me—"

"You'll what, Sasuke?" she questioned tilting her head. Short strands of pink hair fell over her shoulder, verdigris eyes narrowed. "Kill me? Choke me? Haven't you tried that before?"

Shame.

Behind the anger, behind the confusions, in front of the vulnerability, there was shame. Uchiha Sasuke was feeling shame. Maybe there was regret there too. Sakura couldn't be entirely sure. She knew she'd hit below the belt, and she felt shame — but it was mixed with a strange sort of pride that negated all other emotions. She had made him realize his errors. Realize and repent.

His adam's apple bobbed and his dark his shifted away from hers. "Sakura, I—"

"Save it," she snapped, clutching her binders closer. She took a step away from him and turned around, her apartment in clear view. She didn't want to let him in. She wouldn't. Her rules. "Ask nicely and maybe I'll tell you."

He wanted to know. That was the only reason she had the upper hand. If he hadn't wanted to know so badly, he would have left already — wouldn't even have come to search for her or ask Naruto where to find her. "Why are you avoiding me?" he repeated, swallowing his pride to make his words sound sincere.

A sarcastic smile curled her rosy lips upward, pink brow rising in mock approval. "Now that wasn't so hard, was it, Sasuke?" A sugary sweet voice covered in sardonic flare. She paused for a long while, letting Sasuke stew in the fluids of his own anger. She watched him, watched his eyes narrow and his lip curl, watched his eyebrows knit and his nostrils flare. "I'm avoiding you because I don't want to be your friend."

A look of utter despair flashed through his expression. It was followed by one of understanding. Then his stony facade fell back in place, lips in a tight line, as if drawn by a ruler. "Why?" He looked as if he knew why, but didn't want to accept it.

He didn't know jack shit.

Sakura's sardonic smile fell of her face, a frown replacing it. "Because I don't need you," she said. Her voice was low, almost gentle in the afternoon sunset. "Be my bad boy." He'd done that before; he'd been a villain to conquer and rehabilitate. When all emotional ties could be taken away, and when the situation could be looked at objectively, he'd been that — a bad boy to punish. That was simpler to deal with than all the confusion she felt now.

"Be my man." That was different. There were many different meanings to that. He could be someone who protected her. Or someone she sought for sexual release. It was more fluid, different, with the ability to redefine. "Be my damn weekend lover for fuck's sake." There were no commitments with weekend lovers; no promises to keep. It was clearcut and simple. Easy.

"But don't be my friend." She didn't need him as a friend. She didn't need him at all, but defiantly not as a friend. A friend was someone you trusted, someone who trusted you, someone who would stand by you no matter what. He would not do that, at least she didn't expect him to. If he would, then he had to prove it. She refused to forgive him so easily.

Her rules.

Her glare did not lessen, though the tone in her voice was soft. "Understand: I don't need you again." She didn't. She didn't. She could protect herself now. She didn't need him to do it. She didn't need him to endanger her either. She simply didn't need him. At all.

No matter how much she wanted him.

The adam's apple in his pale neck bobbed again, ebony eyes steeled. "Fine," he almost spat. "I'll be your bad boy. Your man. Your weekend lover. Whatever you want. But don'tavoid me."

But it was his game.

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