Hello everyone! I don't know if you're aware, but this is the last chapter!! I want to thank the faithful readers and reviewers who have stuck with me to the end. I am immeasurably grateful, because you readers give us purpose. I hope you have enjoyed reading this half as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Thank you once again for taking the time to read! I'd like if you guys could let me know your final thoughts on Confessions, so...on with the finale!
Chapter 21: Simply, We
It happened in sickening slow motion. A tall, dark man, hidden in the confines of a dark alleyway. Waiting, waiting for his prey. And there she appeared, this pure white child. Unknowing angel child, she walked past this alleyway—no, into his alleyway. His pale glowing hand snakes her, grating her soft cheeks. It was revolting to watch, and strangely, he could not look away. There was a glimmer in her eyes, as though she was waiting for the sweet sugary treats he would surely offer her.
He could look no more.
He, he, was touching Hinata, his Hinata.
What was this feeling? This hot flash of anger, throbbing temples, accelerating pulse—
Without a warning his neck twisted to the side as he deposited the contents of his stomach. Left behind, with that salty bitterness, was the bitter wrench of disgust. Looking through blurry eyes at his soiled deposit: if only he could shed so much more.
In rising temperatures his blood boiled, daring to seep out of his flooded body. Out of his anger, a tiny remnant of leftover logic told him to leave her—or he would hurt her. That much was sure.
Where to? All his life he had ran, never with a destination in mind, but a demon to avoid. So lost was he, in this prolonged chase. Even now he ran, away from feelings and
thoughts too tangled to undo.
Why her? Why her, why did he have to ruin everything he had? …Would he ruin this too?
Where he was running too, he didn't know, nor cared. His eyes did not see, his ears did not hear, his heart did not beat—he felt so numb.
Running out of the building, into the sunlight, he felt instantly warm. That sudden rush of warmth brought thoughts of her, and reminders of her touch. Sunshine. Her touch was just like sunshine.
Slowly his heart resumed beat…his ears unfolded. So now he could hear her voice, the luxury denied to her. Her sweet voice, distorted in pain. How loud did she speak, for him to hear? Ragged and torn. Beaten and bruised. The sound of her voice was the touch that unveiled his eyes, and slowly, he could see.
Before he could wholly comprehend what he saw, he ran—this time to, not from. One look. All it took was one look at her, the car looming ever closer, and he was no longer still.
It only takes a split-second for a bullet to kill.
In that, that infinitesimal split-second, he nearly lost her. That moment was enough—it was all it took for him to shatter anything that would split a chasm between them.
Lost to her?
Her head, she had fallen on her head, all because he couldn't turn to her sooner.
He deserved to be lost, but he was so passed what he did or didn't deserve. She…she simply had to remember. Or, or…
There was no way to complete that thought.
So brief, their time, but vast, the memories. How each misfortune, each blunder had in someway brought them into creation—together.
Time was lost, and he no longer knew for how long she had stared at him with nothing in her mirror eyes. How long he had sat, idle, as she looked past him and through him.
…She couldn't have forgotten him…could she?
Without moving, she seemed to calculate something within, and he could only hope that things would add in his favor. His fingers itched for her, but…what if…she no longer knew him? What was it to be touched by a strange man you didn't know?
Hell, he didn't care. If she didn't know him, he'd make her.
Her mirror eyes shattered at the touch of her hands that firmly cupped her face. Still, it rested in his hold, and he cradled it like a child. "Hinata." She did not respond, and despite his previous boldness, his stomach became a boulder inside of him. "Hinata…do you know…me?"
"…Do you remember?"
As his lips parted to repeat her name, she silenced him with her finger, and he allowed it only because of the warmth her touch brought upon him.
"I…I'm deci—…when I was younger, I liked to pretend. I would pretend that I knew nothing. Remembered nothing. It was a game, but…more. I thought I could be someone else."
Her eyes eased in fatigue without straying from him.
"I…I almost welcomed that car. I almost ran into it. It could've been the end for me. No more of anything." In the light of the window, he could see white lines on her arms—too deep to be Sakura's.
The anger bled through his words in hues of betrayal. "Why didn't you then?" "How could you…how could you think to leave me?" He snatched her arm, absently tracing the lines both faded and old. His other hand found its way to her forehead, where memories of him lied beneath.
"Even…even when I pretended, I always knew who I was. It didn't matter if everyone else didn't know. I did."
Noticing his squinted eyes, she pulled his hands away from her—and tightened her grip on them. His anger melted from his fingers that curled around her own. She drew his fast-held hands to her eyes and flattened them so they covered her eyes. As the wetness began to leak beneath his fingers, he knew no amount of strength could keep them from spilling.
There was only so much hands could do…the rest was simply up to her.
"Do you want to forget, Hina?"
Still the drops spilled beneath his fingers, and he waited until his fingers were wet no more before slowly drawing them away.
"Do you want to forget?" "Including me?"
Coming closer, she leaned against the crook of his neck, tracing her nose against the base of his neck as she shook her head.
"In the end, it's not even a choice, Sasuke."
She looked to him, with more strength in her eyes than he thought she had left. "Because then I wouldn't have you."
"Maybe…everything I've done, every pain I've felt, and caused…in someway led me to you." She laughed in embarrassment, the sweetness choked with her tears.
So many days had been spent, wasted, in remembrance of things that plagued her—killed her. All those days, through all these years, she had died many, many times. Days would continue to pass, and she'd continue to die from the memories. But she wouldn't forget. She would die all those times, again and again, to finally find a life in him.
She knew this, as his finger reassuringly traced eight letters into the small of her back, for she could no longer see his face.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 letters.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 letters. Again.
And again and again.
So that she wouldn't, not even for a moment, forget.
And she was hearing it, loud and clear.
It was a new type of scar, this one. One unlike any other she had; though no one would see it, she'd feel it there. Even when his finger stopped, she'd never forget the patterns left behind.
On Hinata's right hand was nothing…because this was something she had to brave on her own will.
In her left, was Sasuke's hand. Because, though she did this alone, he would be thinking of her.
On Sasuke's left hand was nothing…because there was something he had avoided doing. And now was the time where it was this, or nothing.
In his left hand was Hinata's hand. He, too, had to conquer something with his own strength, but he was doing it for her, too.
Hand in hand they walked, independent yet together. That was what they needed most, after all—to know that they were strong enough on their own, but they didn't have to be.
4001, 4002, 4005, 4010, 4030, 4050, 4080—
The time had come to release her—
The choice was hers to make.
Then or Now.
As she walked away, before she went too far from his reach, he kissed the nape of her neck. She didn't looked back, but he knew she smiled. From here, it was forward steps.
She could've visited him without the bars, but the bars were a divider between them: one that would never be gone. Seeing him apart from them would only be an illusion, and now she just wanted the truth.
In the gaps between the bars, she reached out to touch him. His hand, already waiting, touched hers, and she winced. Indescribable, the feeling—such relief and pain. The touch she knew, ensnared with the truth she dreaded.
The one she had tried to ignore. Had feebly hoped to change.
There was no changing. Not with him, not with this man.
This man, this man that would never see the light of real day. This man that had saved her—
He pulled her forward into a loose embrace, slowly stroking her back as if to prolong their moment before the inevitable.
—from her darkest hours of detachment—
She turned away from his face, gasping, but holding onto the hands around her shoulders.
—and uplifted her hopes in the only honest words she had known to that point—
Wincing, she sank to her feet, and he released her as she did.
—as the unlikely hero. He alone had kept her human.
Spreading her arms across the bars, as if to suspend them from reality for just a moment, she sobbed.
There really was…not a thing, not a damned thing she could do for him.
An hour flew by.
And a few more were stolen, but she could still not bring herself to accept it.
He would stay here forever while she'd be there, kissed by the light of day, in a place he could never go. Sitting here, no amount of time could take away her anguish.
She couldn't stay here, in this simple disillusion—
Not when there was someone she could help. Someone who needed her as much as she needed him.
Someone for her to love. Someone for her to live with. Someone that could move forward…with her.
And not here, trapped in the sins of the past, where there exists no future. She…did not belong here.
Not even with him…
Why any of them were here, the three of them, was the past—it was all in the past. For one of them, there was nothing to be done…but they still had a chance to move forward.
That's why she kissed him—sweet, sad good-bye. It was an end.
That's why she pulled away after one last glimpse.
That's why he released her…letting that last finger linger for just a second.
That's why it was the last time any of them would ever each other.
This was good-bye. A good-bye to all things to be left in the past.
Sasuke looked at that man, a man he didn't know anymore. That man, condemned, was one he no longer knew, and no longer hated. So, he walked away, with only memories of the esteem with which he had once regarded his aniki. He would remember his hero, forget the murderer, and discount the stranger in that cell.
She would remember her savior…and focus forward on the one she could reach.
The one she could hold, free of the bars.
And she did.
Hand in hand they came, and hand in hand they left. They never came again, just as he knew they wouldn't. It was useless, and would only serve as a reminder of the utter futility.
Did aniki wish they did?
He wouldn't say—not even to himself.
But in that moment, he had felt it—she was gone forever.
Just like he was here forever, she was gone.
And he was sure that if he were capable of feeling, he would have, at that moment, felt a little of what it was like to be sad.
If he only could have felt.
Walking down the street hand in hand, they looked far more ordinary than they felt.
A girl who had denounced the concept of 'past.'
A boy who had denounced his enslavement to anger.
Now, simply a girl. And simply a boy. A boy and girl, together. Walking ahead, hand in hand. That was the circumstance of their newly simple situation.
And it sure as hell felt good being simple at long last.
Epilogue – Exoskin
It was a nice day out, so Mrs. Haruno thought it was as good a day as any to arrange a little gathering amongst the young folk. She had always favored that Uchiha boy, so she couldn't truly complain as long as one of her daughters had managed to nab him. Said daughter (along with many others) had been picked up by the official Haruno limo, which headed straight for a place familiar to some, and new to many.
Despite the weather, there didn't seem to be anyone around. All the better, they figured, as they had the entire beach to themselves.
Beneath an obnoxiously rhinestoned pink Haruno© canopy, they laid out various blankets and recliners in fast efforts of maintaining their easygoing pace.
Sakura sat beneath a white umbrella, a little off to the side, in an uncharacteristically modest navy blue one-piece that most certainly did not come from her closet (she had felt far too exposed in her usual suit). Curious that it fit so precisely, considering its owner was a good 5 inches shorter. Her hair, French-braided by a helping hand (she could never reach the back herself), sported a simple white orchid, courtesy of Yamanaka flowers. Today, it seemed, all of her pieces were borrowed.
Naruto was under the canopy, close enough to hear her, but far enough so that he could roam freely. Occasionally, he'd glance back, just to make sure she was safe and dry on her reclining chair. Not that she needed him to, but sometimes it's just nice to know there's someone looking at all.
In someway, Naruto had managed to keep in touch with the others at the orphanage, but Hinata chalked that up to his insatiable energy. Currently, he was talking to a brown-haired guy with red facial tattoos that Hinata couldn't recall at all. Still, they had reacquainted each other, which was just as well.
Ino sat behind Sakura, because Sakura would never let her live it down that she was watching her too. Sitting beside Temari, who was wedged between her and Shikamaru, Ino was still loud. Anyone could tell, though, that she was content and relaxed. Ino and Shikamaru cared for each other, and would always remain close by—but only close enough to be able to fit Temari between them, of course.
Even Gaara was there, who was currently being fanned by a grim-faced Kankuro. His skin was ever-so-delicate. Gaara flagrantly stared at Hinata, who was not creeped out enough to prevent herself from smiling at him. Kankuro might have been admiring Tenten, but one can't be too sure; especially with her European boyfriend draped onto her lap like a blood-thirsty hound.
The long-haired, pale-eyed head of Branch Corporation (relocated to England after its first collapse and renaming) was visiting his beloved for the summer. Each time Tenten looked to her beau, then to Hinata, she recalled her initial reaction to Hinata—that the girl looked eerily familiar. In fact, now that she thought about it—
Said boyfriend, upon meeting this Hinata, could not help but recall all of those newspaper clippings he had gathered over the years. She had definitely been in one of them—was it the one overviewing the history of his company's management? Whatever the case, he was sure that a thorough review of his company's history would yield an answer.
As for Hinata, she was currently too caught-up to think of anyone…else.
Seeing as Hinata was suddenly short of a bathing suit, she had no choice but to settle for a certain sister's less-than-humble two-piece. Sasuke had modestly proposed that she change into something less suggestive. When she had refused, just to humor him, he had gracelessly seized her, tossing the both of them into the water.
There they were—strange that amidst this sea of people, they could perfectly feel each other. As soon as Hinata resurfaced, she was tugged back under.
The water was clean enough to open her eyes under, and the sight of him before her let her withstand the panic that being in water brought upon her. Like a mirror image, his hand lifted to life the moment hers reached for his. Together, they met, and together they pulled.
She sailed into his arms despite the weight of the sea, where they probed each other's face with their lips until they met in a gravitational pull. He kissed her fiercely, pumping oxygen into her, and she didn't refuse.
It's what he did. He gave her physical things, things to give for all that he couldn't:
All the invisible things she had given him.
He had accepted—they wouldn't be here otherwise. So she did as well, and in this way they were equal.
The moment they parted, a current ripped her weightless body from him and she sailed a distance away. Panic overcame her, and she squinted through the salt to find him. She could barely make out his form, muddled by the fog of distance when even he began to drift further away.
I'm scared. Sasuke, where are you? Are you near?
She repeated these in her head, and of course she went unanswered. But suddenly, she was unafraid. She did not fear any longer, for in the innermost realm of her, she could feel it. Like the light thrumming of his fingers on her back, she felt it – those soft, eight thumps.
Over and over again, so she'd never forget.
The answer to any and every question she'd ever have, there it was.
She remembered. So she knew she would find him, or he would find her. Because.
He loved her.
There were no words.
But she knew all the same.