Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
reach me with your love
"I suppose I'll have to start with you after all, Naruto." The words were smooth, breathing calm and collected as he quietly stepped further away from the others. This was it, he knew. The final battle. "…But not here. Let's go somewhere else." That didn't mean he wanted to do it, though. "You know where."
This was never how he wanted it to end.
Gritting his teeth, Sasuke closed his eyes and took a few steps forward.
How could he do this to them? Turning on the very people that had never ceased to love him, to believe in him, within a moment's breath after he no longer had need of their teamwork to beat Kaguya? How could he betray them again, after everything they had just been through? Even when he'd tried not to get attached, there was a warmth that told him of how much he had missed them all. He didn't want to have to do this to them, especially not after hearing them cheer victory, laughing and smiling as they thought they finally reached the end of it all—as they thought that everything would be back to normal, now.
They didn't deserve this.
Exhaling quietly, he continued his way onwards—away from his team, away from his second family, away from everything he once, and still, held dear. Away from those who held him back.
Naruto, his best friend; the only person that would ever come close to understanding his pain and suffering, the knucklehead he once used to spend all day belitting, the one person, after Itachi, he'd formed his strongest bond with—the one he found he had no choice but to kill for the price of a better world.
Kakashi, his mentor, who had taught him everything he'd come to know about real, true teamwork—the one who'd also taught him how to use chidori, whom he had once hoped would only be used to protect the ones he loved.
(Oh, how far he had fallen, in his sensei's eyes.)
Sasuke clenched his fists a little, mulling his lips into a thin line.
Bowing his head, he took a step forward, and grit his teeth a little. She deserves this less, out of everyone.
"The truth is… I've always known in my heart, there was nothing I could have done for you!"
He blinked in surprise, and his jaw slackened, then, as her voice boomed shakily across the cracked battlefield, wind carrying with it the brokenness of her words. His fists clenched a little more, at that.
Stop it, Sakura, he thought harshly, taking another slow, heavy step away from them all. He could feel his heart hammering against his chest, anxious for reasons he didn't quite understand. You know this will amount to nothing. You know how this turned out last time. It won't work, no matter what you do, no matter what you say I won't—
"But I love you…!"
And this was where his heart stopped beating.
He wasn't prepared for the memory that sprung to life, and he wasn't fast enough to stop his mind from veering into such a delicate past that he'd vowed so long ago to keep out.
"I love you so much, I can't even stand it!"
His breath hitched without his knowledge.
"No matter what's happened…" he heard her choke out, her tone so full of wavering that he almost couldn't stand to listen. "…I still care about you more than I can bear!"
The wracking sob that followed made his chest tighten, no matter how much he tried to brush off the guilt. She was always best at doing that, wasn't she? Making him feel guilty, making him reconsider—making him falter. She was such a dangerous little thing, for someone who never meant him any harm.
But then his world seemed to shatter with the next words.
"If I could have taken all your pain onto myself… to comfort you…" she said to him, with a quieter sob, "…I would have…"
The words were raw and true.
All the pain…? His teeth chewed at the inside of his cheek, fists balling tighter. She would take it all…? My family's genocide, my brother's death and torment, the village's betrayal…? She, who's known such little pain compared to the dobe and Kakashi… whose only real loss was my betrayal… How could she possibly handle this much pain?
He knew he should feel angry at her, for telling him that she would endure such pain if she could, that she would take everything away and embrace it by herself just so he wouldn't have to go through such suffering anymore—but he found that he could only feel awed. Bittersweet, even.
She would give up her happiness, her sanity, all so I wouldn't have to suffer.
His eyes slipped shut again.
"And still, here were are again…" she went on, hiccupping on her breaths. "…and all I can do is sit here and cry! I'm so pathetic…!"
His mind flashed back to the time where, just a few hours ago, his tender-hearted teammate had fought to her damnedest limit to bring him back to safety. She had risked her career as a ninja, risked her life, just to save him and allow him to get back to Naruto. So he could save the world.
(End the war.)
He'd never seen such will, such determination before. Even from Naruto. Exhausted green eyes half fluttered shut and sweat-slicked skin, chopped pink hair sticking hotly to her panting, fevered face. She was so tired, he remembered, with muscles so weak boneless that she was teetering on the edges of her feet when the strength finally left her. And when her breath stuttered against his collarbone when he pulled her against him moments later, allowing her body to melt within the safe confines of his arms, he remembered feeling his heart give a slow, elongated flutter.
Because this had all been for him. She had given her all for him.
(Soft, punctured breaths. Quiet hisses of breath. He can't quite keep himself from pulling her closer, fingers dancing carefully on her shoulder in avoidance to her wounds.
"You did good… Sakura.")
No, Sakura. You're not pathetic. You will never be pathetic.
"But… Sasuke-kun," she started, her tone heavy with the weight of all the sorrow she had ever felt in the past three years he was absent, "if I still have a place in your heart… no matter how small it may be… Then please…! I'm begging you…" Her voice trembled, almost like she was going to lose it. "…don't slip further away!"
Sasuke swallowed, then, eyes squeezing shut tighter—and he found himself surprised at the taste of copper on his tongue. When had he bitten himself? He hadn't even sensed the pain. Had her words really affected him so much that he had put all conscious effort into repressing the feelings she arose, so much he numbed his body's senses without even realizing it? Was she really getting to him?
Holding back a grimace, he forced his hands to unclench, and tried to take in the most stable, calming breath he could manage.
"If we all just stayed together… forever… then I'm sure someday… things could go back to how they used to be…"
So naïve, he told himself, feeling the strangest, most unexpected impulse to tip his head back and laugh. He took a shaky, hesitant step forward, expelling the most unstable breath. Always so full of dreams and childish hopes, Sakura. You never change. A soft, too-broken smile tipped at his mouth. He couldn't seem to walk away, like he really wanted to. Not until…
Opening his eyes, he tipped his head over his shoulder. And with a slow breath, he said softly, most painfully, "You really are… damned annoying."
He only ever had a moment's breath to catch the shocked look on her face—the same one she wore that night when he'd first left her, when he'd first whispered those words not to hurt her, but to show her how much he cared, in his own way.
And for that one split second, he saw her understand.
But then the genjutsu took over, and her eyes slipped closed—and it was over.
No, he never wanted this.
But he had to do it, anyway.
Because that was his duty, to his family. This was the only way he could bring them justice. And he was going to do everything that needed to be done.
Even if it meant throwing away the people he loved most.
Don't ever change, Sakura.
A/N: TOO. MANY. FEELS. FOR THE LATEST CHAPTER. I CAN FEEL THE CANON. IT'S SO NEAR.
Thoughts on my "interpretation" of the scene? ;)