Author: the blanket PM
AU. ONESHOT. SasuSaku. Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder. But sometimes radios help, too.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Sasuke U. & Sakura H. - Words: 7,453 - Reviews: 59 - Favs: 149 - Follows: 6 - Published: 10-08-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4583487
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
title: say anything
pairing: SasuSaku, background NaruIno
summary: AU SasuSaku. Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder. But sometimes radios help, too.
for: My partners in crime, annieberry and Queen Pina—because I probably would have left fandom a long time ago if they hadn't been there to nag me.
warnings: This pairing is my OTP for life, but this is so very OOC. And not in the crackalicious way, either.
notes: Started out as an addition to sixpence, and then grew monstrous. Go figure. The title of this piece is the name of my favorite film of all time. The scene referenced in the fic is iconic. For serious. AND, hello? Any Love Actually fans out there?
This is shameless self-indulgence.
disclaimer: Not mine. :)
"So, after everything, this is how you want it to end?"
He looked at her, his eyes empty, his face carefully blank. In contrast to her own mussed hair, and tear-stained face, he was the very picture of placidity, and it hurt. Would it be too much to ask, she wondered, to look just a little less composed? To at least pretend that the prospect of everything falling away did something besides just slightly irritate him? Sakura took in a deep shuddering breath.
"Look at me," she said, her voice low, her eyes suspiciously bright. When he didn't oblige, she lifted her hand to his chin—ignored the persistent shock that came every time they touched—and turned him to face her. If they were going to end, Sakura thought, blinking back the tears, she wanted it to happen while she was looking in his eyes. What was there—or rather, what wasn't—would make it easier for her to walk away.
He owed her that much at least.
She ran her gaze across the breadth of his brow, the darkness of his eyes, the line of his nose, the paleness of his thin lips—committing every feature to memory, silently locking them away to the realm of her own quiet dreams.
"I…," she said, started, stopped. What to say, what to say, she wondered. What could she say that she hadn't already? What could she tell him that he did not already know from looking at the way she looked at him? From the way she touched him?
There was a small silence, marred only by the sound of her own dolorous breath.
I…I want more than this, she wanted to say. I love you, and you know that, and I wish it were enough, but I am selfish, and I—
No. No, she could not, would not, say that.
Weaknesses were dangerous things, and he already knew too many of hers.
Exhaling softly, she dropped her hand from his chin, and stepped back. The motion seemed to divide them, seemed to form a chasm that mere footsteps could not breach. Still, he had not spoken—had only watched as she seemed to come to her own resolution.
"Good-bye, to you," she said instead, and so it was.
He'd never been one for grand gestures.
Loud proclamations, fireworks, and banners in the sky—such things were more Naruto's forte, and for a while it hadn't bothered him. Uchiha Sasuke shared his bed with Subtlety, after all.
Perhaps that was why Sakura wasn't speaking to him anymore.
He sighed, muffling the sound into his clasped hands. Even brooding, he refused to show weakness—refused to show anything, really. He supposed that the confrontation had been inevitable. The real surprise was only that it had taken so long in coming.
Silly girl, he mused, almost regretfully, fingering the tassels of an abandoned throw pillow. Sakura was impossibly easy to disappoint—a frighteningly regular victim of her own heartbeat.
Suddenly, he was angry. What right did she have to expect more from him? She knew what she was getting when she'd gotten him, and Casanova he was not. He wasn't a Romeo, or even a Darcy—he was no one's idea of a Romantic hero, except perhaps in appearances. She knew that he'd never been good at expressing himself. She knew that—
She knew him.
Why wasn't it enough that he waited up for her on nights when she came home late from work? Why wasn't it enough that he allowed her to take his hand into hers for a brief squeeze when they were in public, before pulling away again? Why wasn't it enough that he could feel his eyes growing soft whenever they fell on her form, even in the midst of a crowded room, where everyone could see what she was to him, where he was laid bare by the sound of her laugh, by the light in her eyes?
Why wasn't it enough?
He looked around at the house she'd left empty. The coffee machine was still whirring with her last efforts—he hadn't bothered to clean up after she quietly packed up a few of her necessities, telling him that she'd be back for the rest later. The shirt she'd worn three Fridays ago was still balled up under the table, where he'd thrown it in a fit of rage after he'd caught her scent in the halls. There were four strands of light pink in their—his, he thought fitfully, just his—bathroom sink, and the only reason he was still sleeping at nights was due to the lavender satchel she'd sewn into his pillowcase. The hints of her were tangible, light remembrances of a time when he hadn't been the walking dead. The weeks since she'd walked away—they weren't…she wasn't…it—
It wasn't enough, he realized. He wasn't enough.
Not without her.
What to do, what to do, he wondered. How could he say what he needed to say—what he could have, should have said—without using the words he was so good at bungling? Without employing the silence that she took for apathy?
Naruto opened the door after three knocks, and greeted him with little more than a perfunctory nod.
In stark contrast to his apartment's unfashionable deshabille, Naruto's was both well-kept and well-lit. It looked more like noon than midnight within the confines of those four walls—the brightness in it was enough to make him forget the moon outside. Every vase had a flower, but he supposed that was to be expected if one were dating a florist. The furniture matched the drapes matched the walls until Sasuke didn't know where one ended and one began. He walked in after the blond, and noted that even the books were arranged alphabetically.
He peered into the kitchen, and saw a pile-up of dishes waiting to be washed, and the leftovers from yesterday's breakfast sitting on the kitchen table.
There was a folded-up newspaper on the coffee table, lipstick stains on the collar of Naruto's white dress shirt, and a smug satisfaction in the very air.
His home had been like this once.
"You look like shit," Naruto interrupted bluntly. "Clean yourself up in the bathroom, and we'll talk. You know where it is. I'm going to make some ramen." With that, he pivoted and walked away, leaving Sasuke with no choice but to follow the command.
"Bastard," he muttered roughly.
"I heard that," rang the response, only a few moments later.
Sasuke shook his head and walked ten steps down, to the end of the hall. The bathroom was lined in monochrome—Ino's influence, he was sure. Naruto would have insisted on tangerine, or something equally inane—and as winced when he saw himself in the mirror.
There wasn't anything outwardly amiss—no bloodshot eyes, no grey circles, no gaunt cheeks. Rather, there was a weariness in the face that looked back at him—a subtle sort of devastation that seemed quite content to make itself at home in his eyes. It spoke well of his friendship with Naruto that the other man had been able to spot it.
Without another thought, he bent down to turn the taps on, and rubbed his face with water. After patting himself dry, he walked out to find Naruto waiting for him, cup ramen in one hand and chopsticks in the other. A bottle of absinthe sat on the table between them, along with a small pitcher of water.
It was nice to see some stability, he decided, as he reached for a glass. After diluting it with water, he drank it down, happy to have a burning in his throat that he could explain.
"How is she," Sasuke asked, without preamble, knowing the other man would know—even if Naruto hadn't been dating her best friend, Sakura was closer than his own kin.
The only response he got was a wry smile.
"She's almost as bad as you. But you know her—she cried a lot, and cursed a lot, and then apologized the next morning."
"She does that too much, even when she has no reason to," Sasuke said, almost ruefully. "She always says things she shouldn't say."
"And you don't say enough," Naruto said, almost accusingly. "That's why you're here, getting drunk off your ass, instead of in bed with the woman you lo—"
"Don't say it," Sasuke said warningly. He knew it for truth, but it would be a long while before he'd be able to accept it.
Naruto scowled, and drank the last of his broth.
"Fine," he said, wiping his lips with a napkin. It was startling what influence a woman had over a man, Sasuke thought dazedly. Before Ino, Naruto would have used his sleeve.
"I won't say anything," Naruto continued. "But you should. And not to me, either."
Sasuke only poured another glass, content to stay silent and drown in his thoughts.
The lights were dim, and the shadows on the wall of the café seemed muted somehow—dreamt-up, and half-formed.
Sakura knew their feeling.
"They're probably at my place right now," Ino said coaxingly. "Want to go over and—"
"Ino," she said exasperatedly, blowing errant strands of her hair out of her eyes with one well-aimed breath. "You're supposed to be on my side, here."
The blonde shook her head.
"I am, Sakura. You know I am. It's just…I wonder if your side and his aren't the same one, is all."
Sakura sighed, calling for their waiter.
"How can you say that? With everything I've told you about us? About him? He's an impossible man to love, Ino."
"And yet," the blonde pointed out as she fished through her purse for her wallet, "and yet, you somehow manage."
"Managed," Sakura corrected her firmly. "I managed."
Ino stifled a soft smile at the sight of Sakura—small and delicate and impossibly strong—looking resolute, even as her frame failed miserably to fill up the chair she was sitting in.
"Be real, Sakura. You can't get over someone like him in a matter of weeks. It's not that easy. And that's OK, you know. It's OK that you still love him."
"I just—and I hate myself for this, just so you know—if he gave me a sign…even now. If something told me that he still—that I…just…"
"You'd go to him."
"In a heartbeat," Sakura said dolefully, as she pulled on her pea coat. It was sickening, she thought, the way she was so reliant on that man. She'd spent a lifetime avoiding just this sort of stifling dependence, and here she was—lovelorn and tired, with nothing to show for it except the fatigue in her eyes.
It was her own fault, Sakura decided. Sasuke had never made it easy for her to love him. He was emotional, despite his best efforts to pretend otherwise, and his fits of pique were legendary in their closed circle. He had so many issues—she'd once joked that he could have filled up an entire volume of psychiatric medical journals with years five to eleven alone—that she'd stopped keeping track long ago.
And really, Sakura thought, I've never asked for much.
She just wanted to know.
"I," she started shakily, breaking the silence between them. "I hate that I'm so—"
"—into him," Ino offered tentatively, at odds with her normal, brash nature. Sakura almost resented her for it.
She was tired of the quiet.
There were no more words as they slipped out into the night, their paces slow for different reasons. One walked with the serenity of knowing that someone was waiting for her. The other lagged with the Disappointment that walked hand-in-hand with Loneliness.
"I miss him, Ino. Even after everything—even after years of staying in stasis, even after years of not knowing anything, of him not saying anything. Even after years of guessing, I just—I miss him."
"I know, Forehead. I know. I'm sorry," Ino added unnecessarily—it wasn't her fault, after all.
"I wish he were, too," Sakura murmured, her mind flashing back to focus on staid dark eyes.
"Dip her and kiss her. That always works in the movies."
Sasuke snorted at Naruto's inane suggestion.
"This isn't a movie, idiot."
"It should be," the blond said solemnly. "Hell, it's got all the makings of chose chick-flicks Ino and Sakura watch so much—a dumbass hero, a hot chick, and a self-made mess."
"Watch who you're calling a dumbass, dumbass."
"But seriously," Naruto said, waving the insult aside with little more than a rude hand gesture, "I'm running out of absinthe. You need to fix this. It's your fault you know. It's always the guy's fault in the movies."
"This isn't a movie," Sasuke insisted, now growling the words out with less patience than he'd had before.
"Well, it should be, since it's your fault," Naruto said, not caring that he was repeating himself. "What would you do, if this were a movie?"
Sasuke thought about it for a moment.
"If this were a movie," he started slowly, "I would probably win her back with some pointless grand gesture—one that'd get me arrested for disturbing the peace or something."
"Some pointless grand gesture? Forget that. Is this pointless," Naruto asked, all traces of intoxication gone. His blue eyes were startling sober, and Sasuke cursed his friend's abnormally fast metabolism.
"Sasuke, answer me. Is this pointless? Do you think winning her back is pointless? Because if you do, then we can finish up the last of this absinthe and you can walk away—we can forget that this entire conversation ever happened."
"We already will, idiot," Sasuke said, uncomfortable with the level of tension that this conversation had released into the air. "We'll be hung-over, remember?"
"I'm serious," Naruto said solemnly.
Sasuke shifted, as the blond waited patiently for those cogs in his head to stop turning.
Was it pointless? He thought about it as he took another slow sip of the verte in his glass.
He thought about the dust rings she'd left on their oak dresser—oval-shaped, and perfume-stained—with nothing to fill them.
He thought about the numbers "two" and "eight" on their remote control—about how they weren't visible anymore because they were associated with her favorite channel—about how she'd rubbed her thumb over them so many times that they'd all but disappeared.
He thought about the chicken stock she'd left frozen in their icebox for the upcoming flu season, and the apples that had rotted through in their fruit bowl because she was the only one that ever ate them.
He thought about the brief whiffs of orange and thyme he caught, about the handmade-satchels she left in their laundry basket, because she was too stubborn to use store-bought detergents.
He thought about her old medical tomes, about the way she'd laughingly insisted that they use one to even out the bad leg on the dining room table, back before the end.
He thought about the way he felt waking up in a bed that felt two sizes too big for him, in a cold room that had lost all its color to sound of her fading footsteps.
He thought about her eyes.
Was it pointless, he mused. The question seemed absurd.
"It's…not pointless. Not," he said haltingly, as though the words caught in the net of his throat. "Not if it's for her."
"See? What you just said? Movie-worthy. That's what I wanted to hear. Now, what we really need is an airport scene, or—"
Sasuke looked at him in question.
"Did you guys," Naruto began.
"Did we what?"
"Did you guys have a song?"
"Are you sure you're going to be all right here, Sakura? You could come over if you want. I'm sure he's gone by now, and you know that idiot wouldn't mind." There was a fondness in the blonde's voice that belied the mild epithet, and Sakura almost smiled. Ino watched her friend worriedly, shifting from one foot to the other.
Sakura waved the concern away.
"I'll be fine, Ino, and I think I'll pass on the invitation. I've got an early day tomorrow."
"You always do. Take better care of yourself, yeah?"
"I will," Sakura said with a smile.
"Are you absolutely sure," Ino asked again.
"Go," Sakura repeated, her eyes growing soft with memories. "Someone's waiting up for you."
"There is this one thing—wait, let me see if I still have it."
Sasuke blinked blearily as his friend jumped up from the couch and disappeared into the hallowed confines of the bedroom he shared with Ino.
He heard Naruto's voice as though from a dream, growing increasingly distant as the minutes passed. Slowly, he felt the black at the corner of his eyes expand until he was falling, falling fast.
When Naruto came outside, old-fashioned boom box in hand, Sasuke was sleeping.
"Good," Naruto said to no one in particular. "There's no way I would've let you do this drunk, anyway."
He padded off to grab a spare blanket and a pillow, and for Justice's sake—Sakura had after all, been his own very first love—one of Ino's discarded eyeliner pencils.
He'd always wondered what Sasuke would look like with a goatee.
He was drawn into the realm of consciousness by the soft sound of a woman's voice, and for a moment, Sasuke wondered if he'd dreamt the last few weeks of unforgiving silence. He allowed the tenseness to leave the line of his shoulders, but beyond that, did not move.
But no, he realized. The feminine voice he heard was not Sakura. Sakura's voice—everything about her really, he decided now, weeks too late to matter—was soft and clear. This one was strident—almost burbling.
"…didn't need to do that…what the hell were you two idiots up to…with my eyeliner, no less. I won't be able to pick up...until the weekend, and I have a lunch date…am I supposed to do?"
"…need eyeliner for…new supplier, right? You don't need to…amazing without it…looking good… you're my girl…"
"Naruto…idiot…oh, never mind, he's waking up!"
Sasuke opened his eyes slowly, and knew from experience that they were probably bloodshot. Naruto and Ino were both looking at him—one with excitement, and the other with exasperation.
Ino sighed wearily, running a hand through her light blonde hair.
"Clean yourself up, Sasuke," she said, unknowingly echoing her boyfriend's words. "Then we'll talk."
"You heard the girl! March!"
Sasuke snorted. Naruto had entirely too much energy for eight o'clock in the morning. He scowled. He probably hadn't even had his coffee yet—that bounce was disgustingly all-natural.
He made his way to the bathroom of the Naruto and Ino's apartment for the second time in two days, and flipped the light on to wash his face. Only a few moments later, there were stomping noises leading out onto the balcony where Naruto was having his orange juice.
"If you bruise his face," Ino said warningly as the sounds of the inevitable kerfuffle drifted into the kitchen, "I will break yours, Sasuke!"
"You can…try," the response came, moments later between pants.
Ino smirked. At least her Naruto was putting up a fight.
"Hey! Don't threaten my girlfriend!"
"Next, please," Sakura smiled up at the next patient, bringing up the insurance information on the computer in front of her.
"Tsunade-sensei," she called out to the woman waiting in the examination room, never taking her eyes off the screen. "Your next patient is here."
After a few moments, her mentor responded.
"All right, Sakura. Send her in!"
At the affirmation, Sakura turned back to the mother and daughter waiting to enter the clinic.
"Please go in through there," she said, gesturing to the oak door not ten feet away. "Tsunade-sensei will be waiting for you in the last room on the right side. It has green walls."
"Thank you," the dark-haired woman said, with a small smile. "Come on, Michiko-chan."
The little girl did not seem to be paying attention. Her large grey eyes were fixed on Sakura's pink hair.
"It's very pretty. I wish I had pink hair," she said softly, her smile drooping a bit as she considered her single black braid. "May I touch it?"
Her mother looked appalled.
"Michiko-chan! I'm sure Sakura-san is very busy. Let's just go see Tsunade-sensei, all right?" She gently pulled her daughter's hand away, and made to lead her to the door, but the little girl would not budge.
"It's all right, Matsuda-san. If Michiko-chan wants to touch my hair, I don't mind."
At the little girl's ecstatic grin, and her mother's resigned smile of thanks, Sakura bent low in her computer chair, and let her shoulder-length pink hair slip off her shoulders, and into Michiko's small hands.
Her fingers weaved through them awkwardly, and she gasped.
"It's so soft," she said, almost reverently, delighted at both the feel, and the color.
Sakura wasn't listening. Unbidden, her mind had slipped back into the last time someone had run their fingers through her hair—someone whose hands were much larger, whose fingers were infinitely more callous. But still, she recalled, but still. They'd been just as tentative, just as awkward.
His lightest touch had sent sparks through her, starting from the roots of her hair, and ending at the soles of her feet. She remembered now, laughing delightedly at how scared he'd been when he'd gotten his fingers caught in a tangled knot. Michiko's sudden gasp brought her back to the present.
"Oh! I'm sorry, Sakura-san. I think I'm stuck, and if I pull my hand, you might cry."
Sakura felt the familiar sting of tears.
"Don't worry," she said shakily, the same way she had that day. "I won't break."
Gently, she reached up, and guided Michiko's fingers out of the tangle, smoothing her hair back into place in the process. The girl seemed to realize that she'd done enough playing, and stepped back to bow her thanks.
"Thank you, Sakura-san. I'm sorry for—why are you crying? I didn't pull your hair out, did I?"
Sakura was surprised to feel the tears. She hadn't even noticed them. Michiko's mother looked at her, clearly alarmed, and she opened her mouth to say something. However, a new voice rang out, tinged with a note of impatience.
"What's going on out—Sakura? What's wrong?"
Tsunade was waiting by the open door, one perfectly plucked blonde brow arched in question. Sakura shook her head, cheeks flushed red with embarrassment. This is no time to be overwhelmed by memories of the past, she thought to herself angrily. I have a job to do!
She cleared her throat, before turning to the Matsuda family.
"My apologies, Matsuda-san, Michiko-chan."
Michiko shook her head vigorously.
"No need to say sorry, Sakura-san!"
Her mother nodded her agreement.
"Indeed, Sakura-san. No harm done. Come along, Michiko-chan! We're late enough already." She led her daughter through the wooden door, nodding after Tsunade told them she'd be there in a moment.
Sakura turned to her mentor with a soft sigh.
"I'm fine, sensei—apologies for my lack of professionalism."
Tsunade said nothing, neither acknowledging nor accepting her excuse. Sakura had the vague feeling she was being analyzed and she didn't quite like it. After a few more moments, the blonde woman spoke.
"Why don't you take an early lunch," she said finally, her brown eyes watching her with careful attention. It wasn't a suggestion and they both knew it.
Sakura looked up at the clock.
"It's 10:45, sensei."
Tsunade nodded, still looking at her.
"I did say early, didn't I?"
The pediatrician held up a hand to stop her.
"Sakura, you haven't taken a day off in six months, and you've been walking around like dead for the past three weeks. It's in bad taste, Sakura. You know what I've always said about that, don't you? Go home, and get it out of your system. Watch a movie. Do some karaoke. Or, you could do what I do," she said, almost wickedly. "Get drunk and sleep—"
"—it off," her mentor said, unruffled by her raised voice. Then, the smile was gone, and again, Sakura found herself on the other end of a stare that was entirely too sympathetic.
"Shizune will be here in another hour," Tsunade continued softly. " I can handle things until then. Go home, Sakura."
"This isn't going to work."
Ino scoffed, and continued with her ministrations.
"Hold still, Sasuke! This is hard enough without your squirming." In the background, Naruto snickered.
"Ha! The bastard's getting make-up on him! Hey Sasuke! I bet you feel extra-pretty now, don't you?"
Sasuke growled, and almost lunged. Ino stopped him with a smack to the head. He glared at her, though it didn't have nearly the desired effect.
"Stop laughing," he groused.
"I can't help it," Ino said, breathily, speaking between gasps of laughter. "With those grey rings around your eyes, and that little scowl that seems to be your default, and oh, let's not forget your hair, you look like an irate little raccoon! It's adorable," she finished, poking his cheek experimentally.
"I wouldn't look like this if your idiot boyfriend hadn't given me two black eyes, and drawn on my chin with your stupid eyeliner."
Ino frowned, before attacking him with her make-up brush.
"You could have ducked, you know," she informed him self-importantly. "Naruto was just trying to defend himself."
"I was lying on your balcony and he was sitting on my stomach. I couldn't do much of anything. You know first-hand how heavy he is, don't you, Ino," he finished with a sneer.
She retaliated with a hard pinch to his cheek, not caring that she was smudging her work. Sasuke resisted the urge to wince.
On the other side of the coffee table, Naruto preened.
"Oh, yes she definitely does," he leered, forgetting Sasuke's implication that he was fat. "Don't you? Tell him! You remember don't you? I reminded you last night—ow! What was that for," he cried angrily, clutching the bottle of moisturizer she'd chucked at his face.
"Idiot," Ino said, her face flushed pink at the direction their conversation was taking. "Shut up! Don't you have something else to talk about? Like this so-called master plan of yours?" At the reminder, she pouted.
"I still don't get why I'm not allowed to know." She turned to Sasuke. "I am her best friend, you know. Don't you think it'd be a good idea to let me in on it so I can give it my stamp of approval?"
Naruto shook his head.
"Sorry, babe," he said, making Sasuke gag at the pet-name. "It's a guy thing."
Ino scowled for a moment, before allowing her features to smooth out into a haughty mask.
"I'll remember that the next time you come home looking for something besides food on the table, Uzumaki."
"You heard me."
The blond turned to his best friend with a scowl.
"You'd better appreciate this, bastard," Naruto muttered quietly.
Just when Naruto thought he hadn't heard him, Sasuke replied.
"If this works," he said, swallowing against a sudden lump in his throat at the possibility that it wouldn't, "then I will."
Sakura collapsed on her bed, tired, but unable to sleep. The apartment she was living in seemed colder somehow—lonelier, her mind amended, even despite the constant partying those college kids upstairs seemed to do—and she rubbed her arms to stop her shivering.
Despite herself, she still wondered about him. If she'd stayed—if he'd stopped her, what would they have been doing right now?
She smiled wryly.
They'd probably be making love.
The bedroom was the one place she'd never felt lonely for him. It was the one place he seemed unafraid to drop his guard—the one place where he'd been unafraid to feel for her.
It was the one part of their relationship where she'd felt totally secure.
She shut her eyes, remembering the way he touched her the first time—how scared he'd been, how afraid he was of bruising her. He'd held her like glass, and kissed her like she'd break at the slightest provocation.
His hands—his hair, his mouth, his body—had felt so good on her skin, that even now, at the memory, she flushed.
These nights, she decided, rolling over so she faced the open window. These nights are the hardest.
Sasuke shifted uneasily as Naruto pulled into a parking space across the street from Sakura's apartment. In the passenger seat, Ino huffed, and turned around to face him.
"Well? Are you just going to sit here?"
Naruto tapped her on the nose.
"Be patient, yeah? He just needs a minute."
Ino shook her head.
"He's had weeks, Naruto. The time for…well, time—it's gone. He has no more time. This is do or die. Do you hear me, Sasuke? Do or die. And for your sake, and for hers, it had better be do."
As he listened to her, Sasuke felt his mind drifting back, sifting through memories, trying for courage.
All he could remember was the look in her eyes as she walked away.
"She wanted me to stop her," he realized, feeling like ten different kinds of fool for not seeing it before. The revelation left him in one breath, and he sank against the seat behind him.
Naruto regarded him in the mirror.
"Do or die, bastard. Do it."
Ino nodded. There was a soft smile on her face, decidedly different from her usual confident smirk.
"The Sakura I've seen is some horrible, half-assed imitation of the girl I know, Sasuke. And I'm not saying that she needs you—she's her own person, with or without you, but—"
"I'm better when I'm around her," he said, almost dazedly, still reeling from his epiphany.
This time, Ino smirked wryly.
"Something like that. Now, go on," she said, shooing him out of the car with a dismissive wave.
"Yeah, bastard," Naruto said, bringing Ino's palm up to his lips for a kiss. She smiled at the blond in a way Sasuke was suddenly sure she didn't smile for anyone else, before fixing him with an imposing stare.
"Go get me my best friend back, Sasuke."
"I gave her my heart, and she gave me a pen."
Sakura stifled a small sniffle at the line. She didn't know why she did this to herself. The last time she'd watched this movie, she'd been with him. She smiled softly, rearranging the blankets she'd been using as a cocoon, as she allowed herself to sink into the memory.
It had been her turn to pick out a movie, and this was one of her favorites, so she'd chosen it, laughingly ignoring his pointed grimace. It's movies like this, he'd said, that give you all such high expectations of love. This isn't real, he'd continued. None of it is.
Sakura felt her breath catch at the thought. Some of it was, she wanted to say now. All of it was, at least for me.
She turned her attention back to the movie.
It was so very ordinary, she thought, the situation these characters were in. That they'd managed to make for themselves an extraordinary love story just the same, only cemented its place on the top row of her DVD shelf.
"Don't be a guy, be a man. The world is full of guys."
Idly, Sakura found herself nodding along to those words of wisdom, repeating them to herself long after the movie had passed the scene. Not long after, she frowned at the brief catches of loud music she heard filtering in from her open window.
"Those kids," Sakura muttered, only half-heartedly angry. She didn't have the energy for the rest of it.
The curtains were fluttering with a slight breeze, and she relished it for a moment, shutting her eyes, only to open them in the next second.
Now that she was closer, she recognized the song.
She shut her eyes again, and laughed hysterically. It seemed the Universe was determined to taunt her that night.
No, Sakura decided ruefully, looking around at the way Night bathed her street in soft moonlight. It wouldn't do to be so self-centered. I'm sure Fate has better things to do than to—
Suddenly, she gasped, almost recognizing the figure on her sidewalk, holding a radio over his head outside her window. It was an achingly familiar silhouette—long and lean, with pale skin, and dark hair. She couldn't be sure, but it looked like there was faint stubble on his chin, and oh—
His eyes. She had to see his eyes.
In her peripheral vision, Sakura thought she saw lights across the street flickering on, no doubt wondering about the disturbance on their usually quiet street.
She couldn't tell who'd woken up, though.
She was already running.
There were many moments in his life that Uchiha Sasuke had thought twice about listening to the advice of one Uzumaki Naruto.
There had been that one time when they were five, and Naruto had told him that mud tasted exactly like chocolate—back when he'd still had an affinity for sweets.
Then, there had been the one incident in high school when Naruto had convinced him to take part in a drinking game. He'd woken the next morning, ass-up, and buck-naked, outside on the lawn of his father's main offices.
And then, there'd been that one blind date Naruto had set him up on, with his freaky stalker cousin, Karin. It had taken him three months, five cans of pepper-spray, and two more agonizing "dates," to get rid of that harpy.
But standing here, outside of his ex-girlfriend's new apartment, in his rumpled dress-shirt, and alcohol-stained pants, with foundation on his face, and a radio in his hands—
This had to be It.
Behind him, he could hear Ino and Naruto's encouraging cheers—or well, Ino's encouragement, and Naruto's "good-natured" jeering—and he scowled.
Grand gesture, my ass, he thought irritably.
Then she opened the door—pink-hair mussed, green eyes red, legs bare from mid-thigh down. The girl didn't even have the sense to put a jacket on over her sleeveless arms, he thought distantly.
She mouthed something—your name, his mind supplied helpfully, before Sasuke beat it off. Where had it been when Naruto had convinced him to pill this stunt?
"Idiot," he scolded himself. "Idiot."
Her voice came out in a low breath, and every cell in her body screamed at her to go to him, but Sakura couldn't move. She was arrested by the sight of him, afraid to blink.
If she did, would he disappear? Walk away again?
She was so very tired of seeing his back.
It was very possible that this was indeed a hallucination, she thought, steeling herself for the possibility. Sasuke had always been maddeningly composed. This specter smelt of absinthe, and a closer glance confirmed the stubble on his cheeks.
His hair was mussed.
Sasuke was very finicky about his hair, she remembered, smiling softly at the memory. When she heard the gasp, she stumbled.
It had been so long since he'd seen her smile.
Sasuke wondered what she was thinking about—wondered why she was looking at him like some figment from a past life.
Suddenly something occurred to him. What if he was? What if she'd moved on? Perhaps Naruto and Ino were teaching him a lesson, telling him to come here and see how much better she was now that she'd thrown off the shackles he'd given her.
What if she was happy?
He stiffened at the thought.
And why isn't she saying anything, he wondered. He'd always been able to count on her words at least, even if she hadn't been able to stay the same. Surely, she couldn't have changed that much.
Suddenly, he couldn't take the silence. Was this how she'd felt, all those times before?
Sasuke didn't know how she'd stayed so long.
Sakura gasped at the sudden sound of his voice. So he was real, then? Not a hallucination? Not the creation of some half-formed dream?
She looked at him now, really looked at him—looked at the tense line of his back, his shoulders, his arms. She saw the white-knuckled grip he had on his yellow radio, the tightness in his jaw, the gauntness of his cheeks.
She saw his eyes, and gasped, recognizing the look of them.
He was tired, and she saw that now—almost-sorry.
She saw the same eyes in her mirror.
Then, he spoke, and his voice made her shiver.
"Say something," he repeated now, almost pleading, and entirely sorry. In another time, he would have laughed at the irony. "Say anything," he said again.
But that was all he would allow. In the next moment, he was stealing her breath, molding his mouth over her own, his hands in her hair, kissing her with a sort of misery that made her sigh.
The radio dropped to the ground, forgotten, and over the roar in his ears, Sasuke could vaguely hear Naruto's incensed protest.
He didn't care.
Sasuke pulled back for a moment, resting his forehead against hers, his breath coming in gasps. He kept her close to him, with one hand at the small of her back, and the other in her hair.
Sakura thought dazedly that he shouldn't have worried. She wasn't going anywhere.
"Don't," he whispered, "don't."
"Don't," he repeated, until it turned into a tuneless mantra. "Don't, don't, don't." He didn't know how to say it yet. He didn't know what to say.
He didn't know anything except that he didn't want her to leave again.
He pulled her to him, kissing her hair, resting his chin on the top of her head. She fits perfectly, he realized dazedly, wondering if it had always been this way.
Wondering why, even with his twenty-twenty vision, he hadn't seen it—why he hadn't seen her.
He should stop, he thought dazedly, and they should talk. As nice as it was, the kissing—the holding—wasn't solving much of anything. They still had issues to work out.
He couldn't bring himself to let her go.
There was a sudden push against his chest, and Sasuke raised his head, pulling back so that she was still in the circle of his arms—where she'd be always, if he had his way—but he could look at her face.
"Sasuke," she said softly, and he wondered if he realized that his name was all she'd said since this started. Her eyes were pink, and already he could see the tears.
She kissed him again, soft and sweet, and he felt the water running down her cheeks.
He didn't know what kind of omen it was—having her crying at the beginning in his arms. But he decided, as he pressed desperate kisses to the soft skin of her face, her brow, her eyelids, and finally, her lips, but—
To me, he said, quietly in the refuge of his mind. To me, you are perfect. Don't, don't, don't…
And looking at her, at the way she gazed up at him, softly under the fringe of her spiked black lashes, he knew.
She knew. Finally, she could see it. She knew.
That was enough. There would be time enough for more, in the after.
"Thank you," she said aloud, "for—you're…you're not a guy. You're not a guy," she repeated, hoping he remembered. "I'm sorry I needed—"
"Don't," he said harshly, pulling her closer as though he could breathe her in. "Don't ever be sorry to me." For me, he amended mentally.
"You know," Ino said thoughtfully, leaning back so she rested in Naruto's arms, back-to-chest, blue eyes shut to the world beyond that street. "You know something?"
"What," Naruto said after a moment, breathing into her hair.
Ino smiled softly.
"They really are something out of a movie. If I were any less awesome, I think I'd be jealous."
Naruto laughed, looking at Sasuke look at Sakura. Broken radio aside, he thought it had been a good night.
Ino blew a lock of hair out of her face.
Suddenly, Naruto's grin turned predatory.
"Well there is this one movie I think we're a pretty good fit for—especially right now," he said, idly considering images of icebergs and handprints.
Ino shifted so she could look at him.
"Really? What movie?"
In answer, Naruto reached behind him with one hand, pushing the button that would shut their windows with one hand, and pressing the controls for the heater with the other. After a few moments, he'd given them a man-made fog.
Satisfied, he turned to Ino with a feral grin.
She led him upstairs, past the closed doors, and open windows, through winding hallways, and finally, into her apartment.
The movie was still playing, when they'd kicked off their shoes, and as he threw his shirt into the corner of her living room, someone else was falling in love. Sakura kissed him once, twice, before turning around, and leading him into her bedroom.
Home, he thought later, in the glow of the after, holding her so close that her breath became his.
I…don't exactly know what to say.
Because I sort of adore it. Also, I kind of like their dynamic.
Because they're amazing. It's really that simple. :)
Thanks for reading.