|the sweetest thing
Author: aNdreaa PM
With a thousand letters, he said, with a second chance, he would try to become a perfect husband. But she married him because she fell in love with a human. SasuSaku.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Sakura H. & Sasuke U. - Words: 4,884 - Reviews: 97 - Favs: 359 - Follows: 22 - Published: 08-03-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5273908
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
the sweetest thing
The thing that attracted him to her the most was not her eyes. It was not her hair or her voice or the shape of her lips. While all of those attributes certainly contributed to the whole reason Sasuke was, as stated before, attracted to her, they were simply qualities that skimmed the surface.
It was her clavicle. That spot- the bone that stretched from her bare shoulder to the hollow in her neck. That was it.
It really was quite an odd thing, he realized, and surely not more prominent than the smooth angles on her face or emotion in her eyes but it was there and that was that.
Sasuke stared at it, recognizing its form and beauty. The simple collar bone, rippling with small movement under the stretch of fair, smooth skin lingered in front of his eyes.
In the past, that area on Sakura's body had almost always been covered up. She was more conservative than most girls in the way she dressed, he figured, and appreciated that fact. He racked his brain for another memory and found that he'd probably seen her bare clavicle a total of two times before- their wedding night and the day of Tsunade's funeral.
"Sasuke, you're going to be alright," she said, her voice cracking.
His eyelids fluttered.
They were married on a virtually perfect day. The sky was blue, the clouds were white, the sun was shining gently, and the breeze was occasional. The ceremony, like all weddings, had the intention of being jubilant, and Sakura desperately wanted it so. But.
That day, the virtually perfect day, was just that. Virtual. She married him because he asked her to. It was not a request nor an order. It was a simple question with no romantic strings and still, she'd said yes. Because marriage, to her, was not about the rings or the proposal. It was about the person she would be with and if that person was Sasuke, well.
She came to learn that their marriage was also virtual. It was unfortunate in every way but because she loved him so much, she stuck by him. They lived like a soldier and a woman; she, left behind and he, staring ahead. It was not always a bad thing, but when it was seven o' clock and dinner was served, they could not speak to each other like companions. Because, virtually, while they were lawfully together, they really were still strangers.
Their days were filled more silence than not and the kisses ran on empty emotions; only instigated when Sakura needed reassurance that he was there in form and body.
Their wedding night had been clumsy and accomplished at best. And although it was such a long time ago, Sasuke distinctly remembered the smell of perfume lingering along the line of her fair skin; along her clavicle. That singular night- one that never repeated itself during their almost-three years of marriage- had been strange and indescribable.
They both never, ever spoke of it but sometimes, they dreamed of it. Both of a version filled with more intimacy, caring, and passion than they had experienced. Sasuke, however, did not allow himself to think that this guilty luxury could become reality. At least, not out loud.
"Sasuke," she stammered, "Oh, God. No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no—"
Her hands, glowing with whatever was left of her chakra, ran along his face and arms and torso. She tried to reach every little bit of him at once and it was probably because of this and her desperation to save him that he lifted his hand and grabbed her wrist.
"Stop," he coughed. She didn't listen to him and yanked away. Her knees ground into the forest floor as she continued her ministrations, gauging where the wounds were deepest.
Sasuke sincerely did not know why she was trying so hard to keep him alive. He, for a brief moment, was astounded. How could she be so devoted when he'd treated her so awfully in their almost-three years of marriage? Was it really possible for one to have so much fidelity?
But when he asked himself- subconsciously- if she were the one marred and dying and he had the healing abilities, would he trying everything to save her, the answer was yes. Yes. Of course.
Because he was her husband and she was his wife.
"Because I agreed to marry you," was her reasoning.
"I never forced you," was his.
And it was that aspect of their relationship that was the most strained. Acceptance to live with one another and legally be together just because she had agreed and he never forced her.
He really wouldn't have prevented her if she had decided to pack up and leave. Practically three years of this and that with no highs and plentiful lows and near-constant mediums was enough to drive any female to tears. Maybe it was the fact that she never could get a reaction out of him in the few times she threatened to walk out. Maybe it was the fact that although he told her about all his missions, came home for dinner exactly at seven every day, never betrayed her with alcohol or abuse or another woman, they never were closer than where they had been before.
Everyone did question why she was still with him too. Naruto ceased to pester her about the matter after she looked him square in the eye and told him to have faith in her decision. Tsunade had accepted it as well- to her death.
It was Ino and Shizune who could not grasp the concept of the existence of love in a life spent with Uchiha Sasuke. The former was more verbal about the matter and she frequently would question Sakura's mindset and sense of judgment.
"Do you know what the hell you're getting yourself into? What you've gotten yourself into?"
But Sakura would always repeat, and firmly, firmly, firmly believe that, "Yes. I do."
Sakura still did not listen, struggled, and rushed back to Sasuke's side. She had no more chakra now and the healing she had performed on him was temporary and achingly minor. She resorted to the most human and basic form of life-preservation and pulling back her hair, she pressed her mouth to his to administer resuscitation.
Sasuke dimly registered this act as his consciousness slipped. Every part of him hurt. His eyes hurt, his neck hurt, his chest felt torn open, and his legs, broken. His eyelashes fluttered as strands of pink tickled them. They had not been this close in proximity in so long. He inhaled and Sakura jerked up, her hands on his chest.
"Sasuke," she choked out, "Oh!" She was finally crying now.
He closed his eyes and shook his head as she fumbled for more bandages.
"Attic," he whispered, remembering something, and he faded.
The hour after Tsunade's funeral, they both had returned back to the house, quiet as the heavy air sunk low with them. Sakura had behaved like a warrior when she'd delivered the eulogy to the Konoha population. Her back had been straight, her eyes dry, and her voice unwavering because the village would expect nothing less from the Hokage's apprentice.
But her mask of strength- the one that had lasted all day through the flower ceremony and the reading of the will- shattered the minute Sasuke had closed the front door behind them. She'd dashed forward, knocking down the first thing she came upon. She ripped at a curtain and broke a lamp; kicked and punched and broke furniture and glass and tore the black dress she was wearing. Her bloodied hands and bruised knuckles didn't faze her. She screamed hysterically and covered her face with her hands and pressed her forehead against the wall.
And it was only a few seconds into her sobbing gasps and tantrum that Sasuke had realized how mentally strong of a person his Haruno- no, Uchiha- Sakura actually was.
That night, not a word was exchanged between them but instead of bitter silence, for the first time in a while, he offered consolation. He gently picked her up like a fragile child and carried her to the couch. She didn't resist. They sat, lying next to each other, in comfortable proximity of reliance and security for a very long time- not even keeping track of the rising sun or the next day's time.
When she finally, finally fell asleep, her head placed perfectly on his shoulder, he noticed the tear in her dress and the clavicle bone it revealed. His arm around her, he bravely took his callused fingers and brushed them once- just once- over her skin, holding his breath as he did so.
She was beautiful.
She asked herself this question about a thousand times as nurses in white strapped her to the gurney and carried her into the hospital.
Through the blurred slit of vision that she managed to retain, she saw blinding overhead lights, the white ceiling, and strangers' faces- all staring down at her, concerned and whispering, "You're going to be alright, Sakura-san. Just hang on. A little longer…"
When she tried to crane her neck to look around, pain shot through the muscles in her neck and traveled all the way down her spine. She screamed then- partly because of the pain and partly because she hadn't found what she'd been looking for: Sasuke, who should have been in a gurney too and should have been right next to her.
Who was going to tell him that he'd be alright? That he just had to hang on?
"Where," she choked out as a million hands were upon her face, trying to put on soothing towels to calm her down, "is my husband?"
"Get another medic team in here, stat!" somebody yelled. "My god- they're all chakra depleted!"
The sting of a needle in the crease of her right elbow was all the response she got so she asked louder. "Where is my husband?"
Someone heard her then and an unfamiliar voice said quietly, "He's been taken to the emergency room. He's…in critical condition."
"He has few blows to some vital internal points but…we're not sure…"
Sakura's eyes squeezed shut as she felt the painkillers seep through the needle and into her bloodstream. She and Shizune were the village's supreme medics and they couldn't have even managed to heal themselves, Sasuke, or Kakashi from life-threatening injuries.
Then, someone roughly fitted an oxygen mask over her nose and mouth and as she was instructed to count backwards from one hundred, she blacked out.
She, at the start of their marriage, once curiously knocked on the door he always disappeared behind. Her sensitive ears heard a small rustle before the door opened, his tall figure filling the open gap.
"What is it?" he had asked, not rudely and not wavering.
And she peered, almost nosily, over his shoulder to find that there was an open bottle of ink and a brush at the desk inside.
"Are you writing something?"
"It's nothing," he said, still not wavering. "It's late. You should get some rest. You have a mission at seven tomorrow don't you?"
And just like that, at times like that, he would catch her completely off guard and she would be astounded by the fact that he remembered and that he was listening to her while she tried to talk to him at dinner.
She had nodded numbly, almost tempted to smile graciously at him, but his door shut with a soft thump and she was left standing in the lightless hallway alone.
Sakura saved Sasuke's room for last. He'd gotten the worst hits out of their team and therefore the worse diagnosis of all- uncertainty.
The room was small and almost homely; pale yellow curtains adorning the white windowsill, a wooden nightstand (with a matching armoire on the opposite wall) that bore a glass pitcher of water, and finally, the metal-rail bed that was covered with stale white sheets enveloping the man she'd been dying to look at for a week.
Sakura approached the bed with her hands clenched into one another. She stood over him and looked at his face- it was pale and clammy and he did not look relaxed. Surely, painkillers could at least give him a restful sleep? And before she knew it, she lost all self control and her lower lip quivered as bright, salty tears spilled over her waterline and over the curves of her cheeks. She kneeled down next to him and cried.
Everything was going to be alright. He was going to be alright. He had to be.
There was a beep from the IV machine and she looked up. Glassy eyes widened and the fleeting feeling of anticipation immediately changed to panic when a second beep sounded, far too close to the first.
"Sasuke?" she whispered, only once.
Then, a third beep came and then a fourth. It was like a rising attack and with each sound, Sakura's insides clenched with fear and dread. Her eyes, not knowing where to look- at her husband or the machine- simply fluttered with numb shock and the beeps came in a solid barrage- each one a sting on her already battered heart.
"Oh…" was all she could muster.
The door to the room suddenly burst open as an army of medics and nurses flooded in. They jostled her but she would not move and then a young nurse, determined but sympathetic, said, "Sakura-san, you need to leave."
Why did no one call her Uchiha-san?
Her feet at first, did not move because she did not want them too. She did not want to leave and she did not want to abandon her husband in what could be, the last seconds of his life. She could give what little chakra she had left to assist and she could do something as insignificant as hold his hand. But leaving seemed like the most stupid, idiotic and foolish idea ever to be suggested.
"No!" she exclaimed. "No, no, no, no—"
"SAKURA!" It was several nurses and medics to said it this time, severely. They pushed her out of the room and she screamed but within seconds, they overpowered her and she was in the hallway, alone, and facing a closed door.
The alarming beeps were still echoing hauntingly in her ears and she closed her eyes, clamping them together as she bit her lip hard enough to draw blood.
Beads of tears fell from the tips of her eyelashes as her eyelids flew open, remembering what he'd told her. She hadn't thought of it in a whole week.
She looked up and suddenly turned around and fled the hospital. If she was not allowed to be in the room, with her husband- with Sasuke, then she could not bear to stand outside his door, a barrier away, awaiting his fate.
Sakura was far too precious of a person to be treated with such apathy and he certainly did not plan to do so.
At first, he told himself that love did not solve anything. They did not solve his problems or fulfill his empty longing for his family to be alive or satisfy the gaping hole that mindless revenge had left. But then he realized, he did not need love to do that. That wasn't its purpose.
In truth, as all humans are afraid to sometimes admit, he was scared. Above all. Scared of her devotion and her acceptance and her feelings. He could not explain why he was so terrified. But love was a leap of faith and the steps he had taken had only brought him halfway. He was scared of hurting her and not fulfilling her daydreams. He knew she didn't want or need a luxurious lifestyle but love, something foreign to him, was the singular thing she desired and the only thing he did not know how to give.
So instead, he bundled up his thoughts and emotions inside a drawer and locked them away, never daring to open it long enough so that one might slip out and reach her.
She climbed the ladder and glanced around the small space. The support beams of the roof creaked above her and she choked on the dust and the stifling heat. But at last, there, in a wooden corner, was a large, ominous cardboard box.
Sakura hoisted herself up with ease and made her way to it. The closer she got, the more nervous she became and at last it was all she could do to throw her hands upon the box and open the flaps of the lid. The flaps sprang open at her in a small shower of dust. Sakura squinted and then peered inside. It was nothing but paper.
But…still, it was quite a lot of it; all slightly wrinkled and aged. There must have been hundreds of sheets in there. They looked all the same…perhaps they were flyers?
She reached inside and pulled out a random one, unfolding the old paper to reveal the Sasuke's elegant scrawl.
April 23rd: Day 326
I'm sorry I didn't say goodnight properly.
All of them.
April 29th: Day 332
I'm sorry I flinched away when you tried to bandage my wound today.
Her trembling arms reached inside the box again and she pulled out a thick stack from the bottom- some of the earlier ones- and began to flip through them.
September 7th: Day 98
I'm sorry I worried you for coming home late and not apologizing for it.
May 13th: Day 346
I'm sorry I didn't hold your hand when we went through the marketplace this morning.
January 21st: Day 599
I'm sorry I didn't tell you how flawless tonight's dinner was. It really was. (Chicken with stuffed tomatoes.)
July 22nd: Day 781
I'm sorry for not asking you if you needed me to escort you home when you took the midnight shift at the hospital.
And they were all signed Yours. As if that was exactly who Sasuke was. Hers.
There were many repeats of his apologies, she noted, and came to find that she hadn't realized just how many times in the span of nearly three years that he'd treated her this way. She wondered what the days counted up from and what they counted up to and she finally found the first of the batch…
June 2nd: Day 1
We were married today. I'm sorry I didn't give you the wedding vows you wanted to hear but I guess, really, I would do everything you want if you truly wanted it. Always. This will be the first of, perhaps, many letters to come.
February 26th: Day 1000
I'm sorry. For everything. There's a part of me that can't believe I'm still writing these letters but this is it- a milestone of sorts. Day 1000. I'm sorry for never saying how admirable you are for sticking with me. I'm sorry for not being perfect…for being everything that's farthest away from perfect. I'm sorry that after a thousand days of marriage, you still feel like we're standing at square one. I'm sorry for not trying as much as I should have but this is it. I'm going to try to change. I'm sorry for making you wait this long and I'm sorry for taking this long to realize it.
All of his apologies- the accumulation of regrets and thoughts from every single day in their one-thousand-day marriage was scattered before her all over the attic floorboards like a sea of words.
Did society determine the status of a man in a marriage as the masculine and dominant partner? Did Konoha turn cold shoulders when he returned from Otogakure, beaten and weary from war and tired from searching but weightless from finding?
His consciousness slipped in and out, weaving within the conversations of the audible voices around him. He was alive and that was all that mattered. He was alive and from this point on, from that thousandth letter he'd written over a week ago, he would begin to live. And perhaps he would spend the rest of his life making this up to Sakura; lost time and empty silences. And he would strive to be, as defined by her and not by what doubting Konoha civilians thought, a perfect husband.
His eyes opened and he squinted at the bright light.
He would live.
The room was dark- tinted blue and gray from the night sky outside- but the moon determinedly cast a ray of evening light across his bed, throwing shadows over his face and in the wrinkles of his bed sheets.
He turned to his left and found Sakura stirring; she'd been sleeping in the guest chair next to him and he almost allowed himself to smile.
"Sa…Sasuke?" she whispered, her eyes opening. Her head rose from its spot on the chair's arm and she straightened up and moved closer to him.
"How are you feeling?"
"…fine." Because he was, at the moment. The aching pain in his back and torso was dulled by her company.
A pregnant silence filled the room and he looked at his wife- at Sakura- and she looked as though she might burst if she didn't say something. So he said it for her.
"You went to the attic," he said.
Her face crumpled from a determined expression to a mess of tears but he was not bothered by it at all. Instead, he stared as the drops traveled down her face to her chin and down the curve of her neck where it stopped at her clavicle.
He shifted his staring eyes to his hands. "I'm sorry."
"You don't have to apologize anymore," she said and he looked up.
"Sakura," he said solemnly, "I meant what I said in the last letter. I will try to be a perfect husband if you give me a second chance. I'll make it up- everything- to you in due time."
"Sasuke, that's just it," she said, her hands shaking. "You don't have to make that up to me. Love isn't something to take the place of happiness or satisfaction. I didn't marry you because I thought that it would solve all the problems between us and I didn't start a relationship with you because I thought you were perfect. I fell in love with a human."
Many things on Sasuke's face happened then; his eyebrows went up, he blinked, his lips parted, and the tense gesture in his jaw relaxed.
"I don't expect perfection from you and you don't have to apologize for everything. Let's just…move forward. We have to stop filling the gap with everything that's left unsaid between us with silence. I love you for you. Know that. Please. I know what I was doing when I said, 'I do.'"
He looked at Sakura- really looked at her and saw her and appreciated her- and there wasn't a moment more than now that he wanted to kiss her.
So he did.
Smoothly and carefully and softly, he did, his bandaged hand pulling her forward as he gripped her shirt. His lips moved against hers as delicately as touching the white wisps on a dandelion. Deliberate, long, and slow, he parted his lips and she sighed quietly into his mouth, as if every desire for a kiss had suddenly rushed out of her body into this one. His lips shifted to the corner of her smile and finally, chastely, to her cheek, his eyes closed, before leaning his forehead against her shoulder, the tip of his nose barely grazing her collar bone. His hand moved up from her shirt, to her hand, and then to her elbow, holding her close.
Sakura looked down at him- her liquid eyes filled with both surprise and compassion.
And because Sasuke had already said, "I'm sorry," hundreds of times in writing and because, "I love you," couldn't come out just quite yet, he uttered the only possible phrase to give to someone when they think nothing less of you when you've made a thousand wrong turns.
I felt like writing something different- melancholy.
It got a little stream of consciousness for me at places and I put way too many 'and's and semicolons in there and the tenses might have screwed themselves up a bit, but I'm really happy with this one. I hope you got the whole flip-scene-flip-scene after every line break.
Reviews and your thoughts would make me sho' gleeful.