Hello... Well, this isn't a new chapter of You Should Have Seen. But I got this idea, and I'm kind of having trouble organizing this latest chapter of that story, so I started writing on this, and here is what came out. It is a one shot unrelated to any of my longer stories. It won't have any further chapters. It was just an idea. I like parts of it but I'm not sure if it all strings together well, and it may be OC. Or jumbled. Nonsensical. I hope you'll enjoy reading it anyway. And the line break tool still isn't working, so... You'll have to deal with annoying words and parentheses. Please read, review, comment, whatever.
The day they were married, it rained. It's what Sakura thinks about as she stares out the window, waiting for him to come home. He is never late.
That day was grey. Not the best day to be married. Coming up to the compound was like, almost, coming upon a prison. The path was quiet, until he gestured with his hand out to their front. "There."
As in, there, there is the house that we will spend our lives in, together.
Sakura had been inside the compound a few times, but had never been inside this building. It was quiet and dark. The wooden floors seemed to span forever, vanishing into shadows. Sasuke put down the gifts in the hall as she stepped out of her shoes, and took her bags. She followed him down the hall, counting the doors, trying to acquaint herself.
The proposal was a surprise. A happy one. Several people admonished her for the decision. Several told her to grow up. But he needed her, she knew it. And she loved him. So no matter what anyone said, she would be with him. Their children, she thought, the children he probably so desperately wanted, would be beautiful.
One year from then, today, they were married. Her mother cried. Kakashi let his hand linger on her shoulder. Naruto beamed at the both of them. She was happy. Sasuke, silent. He had, she thought, smiled at her, slightly, maybe twice.
He stopped in front of her and managed to open the door, and set the baggage down before flipping on the lights and stepping in, allowing her behind him.
The room he led her to was clean, orderly. White walls, wooden floors, wooden bed, white sheets. White curtains. A wooden chest of drawers. A small bedside table. Sakura smiled a bit.
"I like it."
Sasuke seemed to hesitate. "It's your room," he said after a moment, and slipped outside into the hall.
"Look around, if you want." And he disappeared into the shadows. He didn't usually turn on the lights.
She found him later in the kitchen, carefully putting away the gifts of dishes and silverware and pans. He watched her a while as she walked around, opening cabinets and speaking aloud to herself: "Spoons there, dishes there, glasses there..." Other than that, he didn't even look at her. Not even when she followed him down the hall that night, and he stopped the doorway of his room, barring her entry.
"Do you remember where your room is?" he asked, staring somewhere over her shoulder.
"...Hm? Oh, the one you showed me... earlier... I thought it was..." There was a strange fluttering in her stomach, but it grew dense, a heavy mass of lead, when he spoke again:
"You sleep there," he said quietly. And closed the door.
He wishes, sincerely, that he were a better man, maybe more like Naruto. The only thing he could be guilty of was having too much of a personality, being to amiable, too vibrant -- on his arm his wife, Hinata, seemed to disappear, quiet as she is, small as she is. The only thing to alert anyone to her presence would be his acknowledgment of her, which was almost constant, and more so when he was drunk, which wasn't often, but happened occasionally. He acknowledged her, and it isn't what Sasuke can say about himself.
She is his wife, but she may as well be a widow.
When no children came that year, or the year after that, or the year after that... Simply, everyone was surprised. Hadn't reviving his clan been his life goal, now that Itachi was dead and gone? Wasn't that why he had married Sakura in the first place?
It was like living with a roommate. He had his spaces, her hers, and they lived separately, for the most part, meeting only at breakfast, at lunch, at dinner, awkwardly in the hallway, on the front porch when he came home from the missions he took (always the most difficult), battered and tired. After breakfast, he would disappear. After lunch. After dinner. After his missions, he tended to his wounds alone. Occasionally, when she found him aching, sitting in semi-darkness at the kitchen table, she would help.
He was a ghost. It hurt at first. She thought he hated her, maybe, but found it wasn't that. There was some kind of pain about him. Eventually she learned when to approach him, when to touch him, to offer help, to talk to him, when he would walk away or flinch away or close the door in her face. She learned that when he asked for seconds, it was as if he were telling her dinner was perfect. If he left his door open, he didn't mind her stopping in to bring him tea, or toast, or he didn't mind if she thought to stop and just talk a moment to him. If he was awake late and sitting at the kitchen table, staring out the window and unable to sleep, it was OK for her to sit and share the silence with him. If he lingered at the door while putting on his shoes for a moment longer than usual, he wouldn't mind if she walked with him. It was a dance to which she became comfortable and accustomed.
One thing more she had learned: Sasuke was never late. Sakura glances back at the plates on the table, lonely looking and cold.
She leaves soon after throwing the dinner she'd made in the garbage.
Coming home was a bit like waking in the grips of a pain medication. Waking there, in the hospital, you are aware of the pain that is like a dull rock in your stomach, disguised with drips or pills or creams. He's aware of her the entire time, but the full realization of her comes later, when he sees her pass in the hallway, or when she calls him in for dinner, or is heard starting the washing machine with the load of clothes he brought home. She sings, sometimes, in the shower. She smells like jasmine flowers in water. She is like a ghost. He wonders, sometimes, if he'd prefer her clear of that haze he surrounds her with. But who, really, if given the choice, would endure the pain, wouldn't accept the drugs that mask its sharp, metallic flavour?
There was once that he let himself get away, that he suddenly found himself more attached to her than usual. And in those few seconds that they almost, almost acted, once, like man and wife, he pushed her away. The disgust he felt with himself at that moment gave a physical manifestation in nausea, in pain. The way she looked at him, confused, surprised, made him hate her. A year that they'd been married, and he hadn't kissed her until now, and she accepted it?
"I can't," he told her. He remembered the words, like blood in his mouth.
If he kissed her, he thought, it wouldn't end there. And he would think, the entire time, of how he was simply using her.
Sometimes he'd allow himself to let her touch him - cut his hair, bandage a wound. She smiled at him often. She didn't seem to mind that he was holding her prisoner. She had agreed to it. She had locked herself away at the request of him, the demented warden.
Sakura stands at the gates for a long while. The men on watch didn't pay her any mind. She asked if they had seen Sasuke, but no. They were a new shift. And so she stood, and stands, waiting.
She waits alot, in this life. Not that she isn't a busy person. And it doesn't make her melancholy person. Why does everyone, she wonders, think of waiting as something sad? Perhaps she isn't in tune with her feelings as everyone else is. More than once, friends have told her to divorce him. "You're miserable," they tell her, and they don't believe her when she says she isn't. "How can you take his emotional abuse?" they ask her, and she has to wonder what they're talking about. "He's never with you. Does he talk to you?" The fact that they slept in separate beds she keeps to herself. The fact that he had never kissed her - almost doesn't count, and even less does it count if it was only once - she keeps to herself.
It's true, at first she hated him. She hated the way he acted as if she wasn't around. She hated that he closed his door after himself, and shut her out of his life. She hated that he never touched her. She hated that his voice was always so quiet, that he walked so carefully around her, as simply being around her was so hard, so painful, so difficult.
She hated that she could never get a reaction out of him. The first few months, she grew angry. She slammed cupboards, burnt dinners. He ignored the sound, ate the food as if nothing were wrong. She cried in the shower, in her room at night, in the morning over the breakfast she was cooking. He never mentioned her red eyes.
But that, the crying, the slamming, the burning... That all stopped the day she hit him.
Everything, living with him, it made her want to snap. She asked him, as he walked past, not looking at her, as usual, if he were going out. "Mm." It was only thing she heard from him, sometimes, the entire day. Hearing it for this, the millionth time, broke whatever reserve she had, and she blocked his way. He stared at her a moment, eyes slightly unfocused, as if he were looking through her.
"Are you going out?"
His eyes didn't waver. "Yes," he said carefully. "I'm going out. Is there something you want?"
I want everything. It was all she could do to keep from screaming it. I want everything that is entitled to me. And after a moment she did start screaming, screaming about everything that had happened from that day he told her they had separate rooms. The entire time he looked at her, steadily, but far away, as if he were seeing something else instead of her. "Look at me!" she screamed. "Look at me!"
Her hand moved on its own, and its force threw his face hard to the side. Hard to the side. Red speckled the hallway wall, and slowly, he moved his head back to face her, eyes focusing-but-not-focusing on her again. Blood began to track quickly down his chin, disappearing a moment before making itself seen, still trekking, on his neck.
"Oh." The instant their skin had made contact, she regreted it. "Oh," she said again, and began to cry. "Sasuke, I didn't mean it!" She reached up a shaking hand and touched the red swelling on the right side of his face. "I didn't mean to!" She repeated the phrase several times, wiping the blood from his mouth. Thinking back, she was probably hurting him more, with how clumsy her hands were, how shaky. At last, she simply pressed her fingers to his lips. "Sasuke" - she was crying so hard then, she doubted he heard much of what she said - "I didn't mean it..."
After a moment he took her wrists gently in his hands and pushed them away. The second her fingers left, his mouth began to bleed again. "I'm sorry," he said quietly - his voice was always quiet when he spoke to her - and dropped her hands, and left the house. Sorry, she thought, after he left, for what?
She spent the rest of the day and the night crying in her room - a complete breakdown. She wrote several letters to him and tore them up. She laid curled on the bed with her eyes tightly closed. She paced the floors. She sat crumpled on the floor. All the while weeping. Today, she isn't quite sure where her mind was then.
It was some time before she noticed the shadow on the floor, visible beneath the bottom of the door. And when she thought back, she realized: every time she cried in her room, the shadow was there. When she cried making breakfast, he was up early. In his presence she was always forced to suck it up, and couldn't wallow in whatever sadness she was feeling.
She slipped to the door and opened it, and found him with his hand raised, as if he were just about to knock and hadn't been standing outside her door the entire time.
"Strawberry daifuku," he said softly, and held a white paper bag out to her. Even then, so many hours later, the red print of her palm was visible. In the next second he was gone.
That day changed everything. He cared, to some extent, she was sure. And so she devoted herself to learning more about him.
That, she thinks, staring into the darkness and hoping for his form to materialize, is what real love is.
Strange that a man like him could teach her that.
He married her on a rainy day. But why?
Because he is an imperfect man.
The thought comes to him upon waking, before falling asleep, whenever he sees her face. That man, his brother, had broken something inside of him. He is whole on the outside, but shaken he can hear the tinny ringing of so many broken shards inside of him. Sad. Weak. He had thought that anything, anything to reach his goals would be justified, that the ends justified the means, but the battle he'd waged with that man, Itachi, had ripped a hole in his chest, torn out his heart and turned it inside out, and when he stood - hardly managing - over him, the older had said, smiling, "purpose fulfilled". How he could trivialize the entire affair with just two words... It left Sasuke feeling emptied and filled at the same time.
There was once a time that he thought he felt the way he did - like he'd been bruised inside, like a cloud had come to rest permanently over him, growing heavier and heavier- was because his last goal had been unfullfilled. He was, now, truly the last Uchiha. A family, again. That, he thought at the time, would bring him the satisfaction he didn't feel with the passing of Itachi. And so he chose the one girl he semi-trusted, the girl he knew most about, the girl that, when she smiled at him, did so easily. Sakura.
It surprised him that she said yes. She stared down at his hands a moment, and the ring there, and after a span of two, full, nervous breaths, she looked up - "Yes. I'll marry you." She didn't smile when she said it - she seemed to see something in his intentions, she seemed to know he did not love her. But there was resolve in her face - she would care for him, as she always had, even if he treated her like nothing.
Realizing that, later, as he lay alone in bed, made him so violently sick that he vomited. It was like killing someone. What kind of woman could she be, Sakura, to agree to live her life with a man who cared nothing for her? Staring up at the cieling, eyes half lidded, he decided to call it off. But seeing her the next day, finding him at the training field with a lunch in her arms and a smile on her face...
He heard the whispers. He knew that all her friends, his acquaintances, were telling her to give back the ring, to pull out of it before it was too late. Naruto, even, asked her, though only once, if marrying Sasuke was what she really wanted. And each time she answered, firmly, "Yes."
And each time she answered, Sasuke felt his heart squeeze as if it were in a vice. Seeing her devotion, seeing whatever it was... Pity, maybe, for him... It made him decide, one night, as he lay in bed, alone, staring at the cieling:
I will never hurt her. I will never touch her.
I will never use her.
He married her, but they did not live like husband and wife. Thinking about touching her made his stomach turn with fear. I am becoming, he would think, when he stared to long at the curve of her hip, or her neck, or her mouth, like my brother. I am becoming, he thought, like Orochimaru. And so they lived separately. She would be caged, but she would not be used. And she was free, he thought, reassuring himself, to leave whenever she pleased. It would not, he thought, hurt him. It would not - not- hurt him.
She screamed at him once, slapped him across the face, broke dishes. But she stayed. Why, he isn't sure. Sometimes she looks at him with soft, liquid eyes, and he is sure she seems something into his brittle insides, he is sure she pities him. Then there are times that she leans close, wrapping a new bandage, or touching ointment to a cut on his forehead, and he thinks, that she only wants to be near to him. Even if he pushes her away. He wondered, sometimes, what would happen if he hit her. Would she wake up? Would she leave him? There were many men in Konoha who would do more for her than he ever could. He thought, sometimes, about striking her, about releasing her, about making her see the light: I cannot love you. I'll never make you happy. But he never did. And she stayed with him.
Sakura, like any prisoner, grew into the routine. Now she goes about the house smiling. She waits up for him when he comes home. It gave him always a strange feeling in the stomach, something he first thought was disgust, and regret, all mixed.
Sasuke slits his eyes open and stares at the swirling images above him, eyes tracing phantom figures, moving dots trailing light. The pain hits like the cold you feel in the morning of winter, when your bones seem to ache and vibrate, when they seem about to collapse. In waves it washes over him, ebbing, ebbing, and then rushing forward and bringing with it a shroud of darkness that temporarily blinded him, that threatened to put him to sleep again. But he keeps his eyes open. To see, maybe, he thinks, her face, one last time.
Sakura goes about the house smiling. She waits up for him when he comes home. She doesn't seem to mind that she is what gives all the joy in the household, that he sucks it all in, never full, that he offers nothing back, that he only takes and takes and takes. And she allows it to him. She sells so much of herself, and takes nothing in return.
It makes him hate her for being so weak.
It makes him love her for being so beautiful.
To see her face, one last time... Seeing a shadow in this smeared glass of vision, he forces his hand to move and his throat to speak: "do not call Sakura," he says. And again, to make sure they know, "do not call my wife."
Sakura comes into the lobby and waits patiently for a nurse to accomadate her. "Uchiha Sasuke," she says. "Has he come in today? He was supposed to return from a mission today, but he hasn't come home."
"Did you check the bar?" The woman asks. She is looking at something behind the desk, something Sakura can't see but suspects is a mirror.
"He doesn't drink." Her face is blank. She has taken to Sasuke's habit of looking through people. "It would rest my mind if you would look."
The woman smacks her lips and pulls a file up. "Uchiha Sousuke."
Why this woman is a nurse, Sakura isn't sure. She waits, back straight, as the woman flips through pages, and looks around the room for a long moment.
"Ma'am," the woman says. "He came in this afternoon. He's... Oh." She stops abruptly, and it brings Sakura's eyes back to her. "No, I'm sorry ma'am. This isn't him." She looks up from the file. "Perhaps you should check the bars."
"He doesn't drink," Sakura says for the second time.
It is then that she sees Hinata hurrying down the hall, her uniform marred with old blood. Her hands are clean, gloveless, and her mask hangs around her neck. She disappears down the hall and Sakura follows. Perhaps Naruto knows, and therefore, Hinata.
Her friend's wife is crying into the phone, and the sound slows Sakura's steps.
"...open," she says, voice shaking. "Please, I can't walk home alone. Please come and pick me up." She pauses. "He collapsed outside." Another pause. "...Yes... He... When he woke up" -her voice breaks - "he must have been in so much pain. I don't know what happened, someone didn't... The drugs didn't get there, or they weren't administered, or not enough was... He woke up, but the only thing he managed to say was not to call her... He's only just hanging on, he..." Hinata is shivering, as though cold. Her words come out wobbly and splay-legged. "He said, "don't call Sakura", Naruto, I heard him."
She is in the middle of a sentence when Sakura makes herself seen, and her appearance seems to break down the pale-eyed girl further. "Is that his blood?" Sakura asks. The woman nodded, her eyes wide, brows turned up. "What room?" When the Hyuuga - now Uzumaki- cannot answer, she attempts to write it down, but her hands move so badly she cannot even do that. It gets to the point that Sakura feels like shaking her - I am his wife, not you, why am I the one dry eyed, and you the one a crying wreck? "What room?" Sakura asks again, and this time Hinata can answer:
Sakura is not supposed to be in the room, but she is. She lays with her head on the rail and her hand on his shoulder. It is the first time she's seen him shirtless, as an adult. He does not let her touch anything but his face and arms. There is a white, spider-like scar beneath her hand, smoother even than his skin. There is a straight brown line beneath his collarbone. There is a pale and long diamond shaped scar on his upper ribs. She does not touch those.
His face is unmarred, but beneath the blanket his torso is a mess of flayed flesh, his insides re-suspended in the skin that is him, put back in their places and coaxed with stitches to stay there. As she stares at his face, she thinks that he needs a hair cut, and that he needs to stay home for a while. She'll tell him to take it easy, but he will never listen to her. As soon as he can stand without swaying, as soon as he can convincingly hide the grimaces of pain and mute the groans that seep from his throat, he will be gone again.
Sasuke, when he opens his eyes, moves them weakly around the room for a long time, unable to focus, sometimes falling back asleep. "Where am I?" he said once, but he was gone before she could answer. When at last his eyes open, and stayed open, and move to her, they lock on her own. Sakura stares back, not wanting to look away, though the clarity in his eyes is startling - he looks at her, straight into her eyes. After only a few seconds she looks away and slowly takes her hand from his shoulder, as if he will not notice it. The light coming in from the windows is grey. She does not like the colour it paints him. It makes her think of death.
"You've been sleeping for 6 and a half days," she says, first thing. "How do you feel?"
He clears his throat. "...Fine." It takes him a moment to regather his voice. "Have you been here?"
"The entire time?" She nods, "yes", and smiles at him. "I'm glad you're awake." She rummages in a bag for a moment before pulling out an orange. He shakes his head, but she begins to peel it anyway. "Don't try to sit up."
Sasuke watches her fingers on the orange. They do not shake. The light coming in from the windows is grey. It softens her face. It is like seeing her in a dream. "Sakura," he says. But he does not say anything more, and when she speaks he thinks that maybe he hadn't said anything at all.
"Why did you tell them not to call me?" She is still peeling the orange. It's skin grows longer and longer, spiraling over her fingers.
"I was dying," he says, as if that answers her question. Really, it just gives her another one. She does not ask it, but hands him a section of the fruit. He takes it and holds it in his hand. "Sakura," he says.
"If I had died..." He wants to ask her if she would free herself from him, or if he would drag her down, even in death, but he pauses because it is an idiotic question, and because he sees the look her face had taken on, he sees the way her mouth tightens. She cries when her mouth tightens like that. He wonders how much she has cried these past days, and the question dies in his throat. If he weren't who he was, maybe he would cry, as well. He feels like it, now, seeing her. "I wanted to see your face again," he says instead, but softly, a puff of breath.
She does not hear him. She is crying, the orange in the cupped hands resting on her lap. "I worried about you," she said. "You're never late. I didn't want to eat dinner alone when you were supposed to be with me." She wipes her eyes with the back of one hand.
Sasuke puts his hand through the railing on impulse and touches his fingers to her elbow. When she looks toward him he makes it a point to look straight into her eyes, though it hurts, worse even than his body. He moves his fingers toward himself and she leans forward, still wiping at her eyes, trying desperately to cover it up. She doesn't cry in front of him, not since that day. "Sakura," he whispers, and she has to lean further forward to hear him. She smells like jasmine flowers and water. "I'm glad," he says quietly, "that you're with me."
Kissing her, no matter how chastely, hurts. But the weight of her head on his shoulder, and the feel of her tears on his skin...
It is like walking into the sunlight and being reborn in the rain.