Author: asteriskjam PM
Sasuke deals with the repercussions of his betrayal and realizes her devotion will be the end of them both. “This isn’t how it’s supposed to end! …How we’re supposed to end.” -SasuSaku-Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Romance - Sakura H. & Sasuke U. - Chapters: 4 - Words: 8,145 - Reviews: 130 - Favs: 148 - Follows: 141 - Updated: 12-15-08 - Published: 11-10-08 - id: 4648718
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: This started out as a one-shot then it just...I don't even know what happened, but by the 23rd page I said to myself, ok, so maybe this isn't going to be a one-shot. XD Anyway, this is my take at what happens before the end (hence the title: the 'falling action' is supposedly the step before the 'resolution' in plot). It's obviously SasuSaku and it's actually kind of sad, so beware.
the volatile exposition
He wakes up not knowing what time it is. In a full-sized bed that's always half made and untouched, half a crumpled heap of sheets. In an apartment that's too bare—nothing but essentials and tiny bits of memory he does not dare disturb.
He wakes up to nothing in particular. The rhythmic tick-tocking of the clock in his kitchen, the muffled talk of passersby, the too bright morning seeping through the sliver between his perpetually drawn cerulean curtains; the ones she said would give his room a little color.
His eyes just open.
He wakes up, but continues to lie there. Eyes stormy, like he'd just stepped out of a nightmare, body aching with the strain of his lungs heaving too tight breaths. He turns his head slowly, till his cheek rests against the cotton of his pillow.
The space beside him is smooth and pristine and the sheets smell like that flower detergent she used to cut coupons for. It is also empty, but he isn't surprised.
He wakes up.
He doesn't want to be awake.
His doorbell rings and the chime is so sudden in the too quiet space, his sensitive ears are momentarily deafened and pulsing. He climbs out of bed in a smooth, methodical manner, mouth in a characteristic frown.
He knows who it is. The chakra signature, a usually mellow warmth (that often spiked with her temper), is so familiar he doesn't need to open the door to know who's waiting behind it.
The voice is muffled, determined. Annoying.
It has only been a couple of days since his return to Konoha and he does not understand why she is bothering him so soon.
"No! Open up!"
"I'm not leaving!"
There is a short moment of quiet but he can still feel her spiking chakra on the other side of the door.
"No! Open the door, please!"
"Why should I?"
"Because I made you breakfast, bastard!"
His brows furrow and he wonders for a second if it's actually Naruto standing behind the door. He shakes his head and makes his way over to the kitchen in graceful, calculated strides. His feet touch the cold marble and he pauses at his table to reply, "Your pity is wasted here, Sakura. It is neither needed nor wanted."
And she shouts back in a voice that is incredulous and confident, "Since when did breakfast mean 'I want to sympathize with you'? Open the door Sasuke!"
He idly realizes this is their first real conversation in three years.
She growls and he admits to not recognizing this kind of ferocity in her. Her voice is suddenly deeper and her chakra is suddenly sharper, and he can hear her glare through the wood, "Sasuke, in the next few seconds, you are going to open this door and you are going to welcome me in with open arms." She huffs here, "We will then exchange pleasantries, laugh about good times, and share this nice breakfast that I have slaved over since six this morning."
He snorts with her audacity and a minute passes with no movement on his part whatsoever. She stamps her foot, "If you don't open up Sasuke, so help me, I will tear this door clean off its hinges—"
"Shut up." His tone is only slightly darker, but she's always had the innate ability to pick up on his moods. His patience is growing thin. He's had enough of this determination that he doesn't recognize. New Sakura is grating his nerves with her daring attitude and Old Sakura, echoing on in her ignorant persistency, is whittling away his already damaged self-control.
She's finally quiet on the other side.
"I don't want your breakfast." He sneers, hand gripping tight on the lone chair in his apartment, abruptly filled with the all too recognizable intent to hurt, "I don't want to see you. Ever."
He needs her to remember that he is a cold-blooded murderer. That he is a traitor to the village; that he is currently under the scrutiny of the council for crimes against humanity. He is not the Sasuke she once knew and he would never be the Sasuke she once thought she loved.
Everyone else knows to keep their distance. Most do so in fear, some in hate. The few daring ones offer meager, unfelt 'welcomes' and proceed to leave him be. Even Naruto, his obnoxious rival, his stupid ex-teammate, his friend, is cold and quiet and awkward in his presence.
The rest of Konoha know how to treat a missing-nin.
He is used to it.
"Leave me alone."
Her voice is so soft, he almost strains to hear it, "Never."
A few seconds pass before her tone has retained remote normalcy; though there is an underlying stroke of something akin to desperation, "Please. Let me in."
He glares at nothing and tries hard not to think about her words on a deeper level.
She should know better and yet there is nothing in her voice or attitude that suggests fear or hate or insincerity. There is only this impossible hope.
Another few minutes pass, and the doorbell rings again.
She speaks up on the other side, tone still unwavering but not quite as fired up, "We don't have to eat it together. Please, just accept it."
He does not reply and her steady energy abates as she leaves.
When he is sure she has gone, he opens the door. He scrutinizes the blue box on the ground for a moment, before picking it up and lifting the cover.
He should find it incredibly absurd, how she spelled out 'Welcome Home, Sasuke!' in a combination of natto and dried seaweed; how she's made the bowl of rice look like the Uchiha Clan symbol by laying out cut strips of salmon over the top; how there are tomatoes on the side (instead of the traditional slices of pickle or sour plum) because he told her a long time ago that they are his favorite food.
But he doesn't.
In spite of himself, he retreats back inside, food in hand, almost nonsensically careful about leaving every bit of its arrangement in tact.
The next morning, he wakes to the sound of the doorbell ringing and the glow of too warm chakra.
She is here again and his eyes narrow in confusion.
"Morning Sasuke!" She says from behind the door, voice cheerful and feminine and annoying; like he didn't just reject her the day before.
"Let me in!" She exclaims, energy happy and unsuppressed like she wasn't talking to a killer.
"I have breakfast!" She says.
Pft. As if that will sway him.
He deems it best to ignore her. If she will not be persuaded with his straightforward logic, he will flat-out disregard her entire being.
Her steady chakra is still at the door several minutes later. She still waits with this quiet determination, like she knows for sure that he will eventually submit.
And he does not understand why. When she has Naruto and Kakashi and Ino and everyone else in town to turn to; people who've earned her loyalty. Why does she try so hard for him—someone who's repeatedly hurt her, who would probably continue hurting her in whatever ridiculous future she foresees for them.
Finally, he hears her sigh. "I have a shift at the hospital right now." She hesitates, "I'll leave this here."
He opens the door when her chakra dissipates and there's a glass bowl covered in tin foil at his feet.
He picks it up gingerly, lifts the aluminum to find a salad arranged into--what?
They are weapons he realizes. The celery stalks have been cut into kunai and kodachi, onions and cucumbers into lopsided shuriken, tiny strips of carrots have become what he thinks are senbon. The main part is lettuce covered in thick ranch at the bottom, cherry tomatoes lined in a half circle at the top—the Uchiha symbol.
She is so inane, he almost scoffs.
But he doesn't.
And again, the meal is brought inside, and he isn't quite sure why he is being so delicate.
It is the fifth day and he isn't surprised when the condensed chakra of an ANBU arrives at his door to deliver a message. The Godaime would like a word about his upcoming preliminary hearing.
He is however kind of surprised that that girl didn't come with a clever tongue and some frivolously assembled breakfast food.
He is also relieved, but not quite as relieved as he knows he should be.
He sighs and leaves the house for the first time in days.
He walks to the Hokage Tower, uncaring of the looks and whispers at his back. It doesn't matter that the shinobi who used to look up to him, now hiss insults when they think he's out of earshot. It doesn't matter that the civilians who used to stare openly and admiringly at him, now back away even when he is simply attempting to pass through like everyone else.
He is used to it and he expects nothing less.
He is no longer the rookie prodigy this town used to love.
He is a criminal and he tells himself not to anticipate anything different.
'Let me in.'
He closes his eyes tight, and he counts quick, efficient steps all the way to the office.
He is sitting in Tsunade's office and is neither relieved nor distressed with what she tells him.
There are four possible outcomes to his hearing, she says.
He would be put in local jail for maybe a year or two, where he would grilled for information on a weekly basis about the Sound, Orochimaru, the Akatsuki, his brother, etc.
He would be put on probation where he would be under the close, constant watch of three ANBU officials. Should he prove his loyalty, a direct effect of good behavior, he would be reinstated as an official Konoha shinobi.
Any combination of the two, with jail time and info pressing preceding any time on probation.
She looks at him seriously here and she tells him that the council is more often than not ruthless with traitors to the village. She tells him that they would consider the fact he had returned home on his own, the fact that he had exterminated two major threats to Konoha, but that he shouldn't count on their sympathy.
The fourth possibility is execution.
And he looks at her with cold eyes and mutters only, "I know."
He leaves and nothing in his expression hints that he is aware of that he might not see next year.
He is walking through the pavilion of the Tower when he hears a group of girls, nurses he figures, considering their white uniforms, mention Sakura's name. It is an unconscious effort on his part to tune into their conversation.
An incident has occurred.
"I can't believe Sakura-san would do that!" says one girl in a disbelieving whisper.
"I know right? It's so weird of her. I mean, everyone knows she has kind of a temper, but it has never before been turned on one of her patients!" says another.
The third girl in the group scoffs, "It's so unfair! Just because that little twit is the Hokage's student, she gets away with pouring a drink all over an injured patient!"
He leaves the tower quick enough and convinces himself he isn't at all interested in whatever predicament she's gotten herself into.
He just happens to pass by the hospital on the way home and there are more nurses outside, talking. As he stealthily ducks by them, Sakura's name is mentioned again. He consciously attempts to ignore them but a couple of words slip past his apathy, nonetheless.
"—I know! How incredibly impulsive—"
"…And all for that Uchiha-traitor--?"
He is convinced she's done something moronic, but what he cannot fathom is the possibility she'd done said moronic deed on his behalf.
All for that Uchiha-traitor.
The few words disarm him and his head is full of useless little things: her breakfasts, her pleas, her determination, as well as unsettling bits of the memory of a pink-haired twelve-year-old who wouldn't let anyone say anything about her Sasuke-kun.
He is at sitting in his kitchen around one and the doorbell rings.
It's suddenly warmer in the cold of his apartment.
"Sasuke, open up!" Her voice is bright and still as unwavering as day one.
"I couldn't make it this morning because I took the midnight shift last night, slept a little over there, and had to replace one of the attending doctors for a couple hours."
"Her kid came home from his first mission and she wanted to see him." She explains, as if he's interested.
Her blind compassion is in itself, blinding.
"I figured you wouldn't mind a nice lunch!"
He is quiet.
"Sorry it's not home-made or anything. I rushed here from the hospital."
He is standing so close to the door he can hear her breaths on the other side. Her chakra is bright and inviting and he is suddenly enveloped in it.
He knows she's smiling.
"I didn't want you to think I abandoned you or anything."
She's so stupid. Why would he think that?
Nonetheless, his throat is tight with an emotion he doesn't quite know. He finds this faith, this protectiveness, and this patience disconcerting and unfamiliar.
He has already recognized his status in this village—someone to be shunned, someone to be forever acclimated with the words killer, traitor, monster; someone to be looked at in awe or alarm or revulsion, but always at a distance.
He is unused to her fortitude; uncomfortable with the sheer vigor she invests in forcing herself into his life.
Her hand is on the door. "Please."
His fingers hover over the knob and some part of his brain is screaming that she should know better, that he should resist. That he is a murderer and she is someone needed and loved by too many. That this is a farce, a joke, a dream. How can she possibly, after all this time, devote so much of her heart when there is a distinct chance that he'll break it all over again?
"Let me in."
He does so because in the chill of his empty apartment, the sleek cold of the hardwood under his feet, he finds himself unable to reject it.
A/N: I have five more chapters to go, so stick around! :)