Sakura has to fix this. That's her job. What do you do when you can't fix it? What do you do? Finding out what to do... doing it somehow, doing something... That's her job too. She's not in the habit of acknowledging death or just letting it happen.
Doing nothing isn't an option. She has to get down in the blood and agony and shattered bone and somehow put it all back together.
A thankless job. A necessary job. She is the brains of Team 7, the one who gets it's headaches. Naruto is it's heart. Sasuke? Well, Sasuke is it's wound. It's constant wound. Fatal or not, bleeding or not. Frustrating her. But she has to fight on anyway, right to the bloodied flatline end. She can't wash her hands of this.
Not just because of her calling now, which changes everything about who and what she used to be. Now saving people and pulling them back from the brink is a religion. It's a Buddhist teaching. It's a hard science. And not just that... It's because Naruto is Sakura's husband. And because Naruto is hurting. Because Naruto isn't the only one hurting. Because Sakura has always had to hold the two volatile edges of Team 7 together. Because she's the voice of reason. Because of all of this. Sasuke is Sakura's problem now- she can't just do nothing.
She has all her clinical education and skill to diagnose him. Heal him. But it's for naught.
And there's actually a parallel, she thinks. There is a time when the doctor just isn't allowed to heal the patient.
So that's the framework she uses. That's how she helps it all make sense to herself, because she most of all has had to grow up. She'd really like to be mad as hell at Sasuke. She'd like to love him desperately. She'd like to pour her heart and soul into that bottomless leaking wound, knowing the transfusion would just drip out another part of him, another open slashmark, as he just stubbornly bleeds himself out. He won't even lift one damn finger to help himself. Sakura feels her temper heating up and she can't afford to be this childish. She has to hold it together.
Someone has to rise above this. That someone will have to be her.
Sakura has to stand back, now. She has to do just that, nothing. She has to let Naruto and Sasuke handle their own problems.
It makes no damn sense. She can't get her head around it. She's bone-weary of this... all of this.
There's a medical vocabulary for this helplessness. The confidentiality laws won't let her go fishing for Sasuke's file, but in her head it's like the paperwork they give to the genin kids when they go on their first missions. She pictures his form. There's a section with a box you can check off. Do-not-resuscitate.
I request that in the event my heart and breathing should stop, no person shall attempt to resuscitate me. This order is effective until it is revoked by me. Being of sound mind, I voluntarily execute this order, and I understand its full import.
It even sounds like Sasuke. It sounds exactly like something he would say.
That's one reason. That's the framework Sakura puts it in. People choose for themselves, way back when they first step into their teams. They choose. Save me, or don't save me. Check the box or not.
And Sakura has had it, had it with Sasuke. She knows exactly when it may have happened. Was it when Naruto limped home from a run-in with the latest Akatsuki psychotic? This one had tried to gut him down the margin of the spiral-seal, as if to yank the Kyuubi from his flesh. Or so Sakura thought.
Turned out that he'd run into Sasuke instead, Sasuke's blade had been in the crossfire, one of those Akatsuki crazies had been Uchiha Itachi. Maybe Sasuke was hot on his brother's trail, and maybe he lost his obsessive battle. Maybe he needed a consolation prize, a chance to carve up her husband instead? Sasuke had split Naruto open, almost killed him, and for what? What? Fun?
So Sakura has had it with Sasuke. She's a trained clinician now. She could explain it any way you wanted. She just ran out of patience. She wasn't like Naruto. Time... love, compassion, energy, her ability to give life and healing back into shattered bones and flesh, mend ruined limbs back together, all of that: it's finite. She has to decide where that energy will go. She can't waste it. She can't throw good energy after bad, losing her whole day's chakra fighting to bring back someone who will just lie down and die anyway.
In particular.. in particular.. if that person does it on damn purpose.
So Sakura has had it.
So, when Naruto comes home furious and bloodied, his nose smashed across his face, she knows exactly what's happened. Even if she couldn't spot the exact likeness of Sasuke's knuckles in burst capillaries on her husband's face. She heals it and washes the blood away. She puts Naruto to bed and gets him some painkillers for the residual soft tissue damage. She goes on as she has before, calm and collected, because Naruto is still putting up with Sasuke and someone has to keep Sasuke from destroying everything. That person will be Sakura. She's ready to be the heavy now. She has to make tough choices all the time. This is how their team works, Naruto is it's heart and she's it's cold logical brain. She makes tea for herself and Naruto, and tries to cheer him up. And it's all fake because inside she's seething and she has had it.
She knows where Sasuke is staying. Everyone in the damn village knows, Sasuke can't clear his throat without half the ANBU swarming on him. It's a shame, it's an everlasting shame and a blight on her team. She feels like she failed it, she failed Naruto, she failed something she should have been able to do. She doesn't grieve for Sasuke, she grieves for her sense of faith in her own ability to heal. She can't grieve for him anymore, she ran out of tears long ago. She just couldn't keep the lie going. She'd had it with him, he pushed her too far. She had to cut this damn artery, this team heart-connection, cut it off like a torn limb before it emptied her own heart and she just bled herself dry.
Had it. So she bangs on his door with the hard side of her fist.
To her surprise, Sasuke answers. He looks horrible, lank hair and bloodshot eyes. For a second, for one little second the medic in her reaches out and wants to know is he sleeping enough? Is he drinking? He's not eating enough, he needs a good hit of sunlight too; and she has to clamp her discipline down on those thoughts. She can't afford this sympathy. He's burned her too many times.
And this time, he blinks like a startled nocturnal creature in the sudden spill of daylight into his darkened rooms.
Then his eyes focus and he says something, it might have been 'Oh,' it might have been disappointed. He slams the door in her face.
But Sakura is not quite the same girl she was seven years ago, when she begged him from the bottom of her heart. Her heart is pressed into service now, and her compassion is for the people who need and actually want to be healed. She leans in and speaks, close to the scuffed peephole and it's halo of chipped paint. "I can break the door down if you want." She knows he can hear her.
He opens the door. He doesn't even bother to scowl at her. The medic in her is less concerned about him not giving her the attitude, the usual Sasuke rudeness. And the heart in her is hardened from one too many slaps, just too many rejections. I'm sick of trying. She could say that to him. But there's no point.
She ends up just staring at him. And he stares back, paused in-between breaths. He's paused, it seems, between letting her come in or shutting the door on her again. She puts her foot in the doorjamb, just in case. He takes that in with one cool little flicker of his gaze. His expression doesn't change, but.. this Sasuke, the Sasuke that's here now, home, is not quite the ice statue, the stone-faced little boy he was before. As an adult, his mask is starting to crack. His eyes give away bits and pieces now. She sees exhaustion mostly. And a kind of desolation. He's not the same. And it's a real pain, because she needs to stay focused. She can't afford to feel sorry for him. Hate is love battered into scar tissue. She needs her love and her strength and her compassion. She needs it for the people who need her.
So are you going to admit you need me?
He lets her in. Eyes down, almost guiltily, he lets her in.
He makes tea. She almost expects him to not do it right, but he makes it the traditional way, the whisk and the iron bowl-cups, and does it perfectly. She sits at his kitchen table and watches him. He works in silence. When he brings the cups to the table, he places hers near her, but not exactly in front of her. It's more to the center of the table, like he hesitates before any kind of connection, or closeness... and Sakura feels irritation again, and is relieved. She wants to say you're an adult, stop it. But maybe he can't help it. Maybe it's just the way he is. He was alone for so long. Maybe he's just socially broken and it would be cruel to yell at him for it.
"Do you mean to be rude?" she asks, too coldly. Too much annoyance in her voice.
But it annoys him too, and he frowns darkly. The same old Sasuke-frown, just the way it was. His dark eyes flicker up to her once, quickly. Then back to his cup. He takes one sip and manages to make it look disapproving.
But it will just crack her temper open if she has to fight to get a conversation out of him, so she falls back on her medic spiel. Are you sleeping well, Sasuke-kun? He frowns more, and sips and after a long moment mutters that no, he isn't. She asks why. He frowns. The conversation runs like a rusted engine, all popping gears and skipping beats and hesitance and reluctance to move at all. But he answers. Because he says.
"Because why?" she prods. This is new. Her being the authority, him being the guilty smaller person, the one somehow always in the wrong.
"You're not my doctor." he mutters into his cup.
"Tsunade-sama says you need all the doctors you can get." Tsunade actually has said that, snorting into her own coffee cup in the morning when she and Sakura have time for chitchat. Tsunade has said it more than once.
And it irritates him, too. It seems to shake something loose in him. He puts down his cup and says to her, straight out: "Why did you marry Naruto?"
Abrupt and rude... but not quite the same old Sasuke rudeness. Now there's a hard line of jealousy in it. He's springing leaks.
She looks back at him evenly, at the signs of illness set into his tired face, his too-pale body. And the way he favors his left arm, he's pulled something in the right. He's not bothered to ice or rest it.. of course he hasn't. He's trained on it.. so stupid, does he want to do himself some permanent damage? Will that make him feel better? Sakura can see the shadow of swelling, the angry knotted tendon. And she can think of many things she could say to answer his question. Because we're in love. Because I love him. Because we need eachother. Because it worked for them, it still works, and they find a way to be happy.
What she doesn't say is Jealous? Because that's just too damn juvenile. She's not going to sink to that level.
"Because I love him." she says, finally, holding his gaze. She says it factually, because it is a fact. Simple unvarnished truth. She loves him.
Sasuke grimaces, silently. The elegant lines of his face crumple, then he smoothes them out. His eyebrows raise witheringly. With a hint of ice he says "I see." Sakura hears the invisible question and takes pity on him. Indulges herself, at that.
"I still love you too."
Indulges herself in the useless, unworkable, completely unhealthy truth.
She watches his reaction damn closely.
He tries to suppress it, lock it behind his eyes just a second too late. For that second, it spills out. And mostly it's anger. Anger, actually, that Sakura can't decipher. Whatever's going on in his head is coming from his own secret private world. He speaks, and she almost jumps, she didn't expect him to reply at all. "I thought you would be stupid enough to wait."
She snorts. Recovers herself.
"I guess you thought wrong." she says, coolly. Because here she is. The little girl he just didn't have time for.
Or maybe he really did like her a bit, sometimes she really wondered... but he still left, he still did all that horrible constant abusive crap to Naruto, and he's still doing it. She has diagnostic names and Freudian theory, psychological weapons to name the demons, the things he does. She can vanquish something she can name. She can call him on it, and she can make him face it. She's not helpless and lost anymore.. And Sasuke? He hasn't changed. And she has. She's put her life together. She's walking in the sun. He's drowning in his own fury. She allows herself one moment of that same old superiority. The kind that used to float around him like an invisible mist. They both know what's happened. They both know this power shift. They both know he's going wrong, she doesn't have to say it. He knows it.
He looks away.
And she feels bad, she feels like she just kicked a misbehaving puppy, let her temper get the better of her. Or, more accurately, she just hurt someone who is already in pain, who may not fully understand how much he hurts others. Or maybe, he's just in so much pain for so long that he's numbed to everything and just can't work these basic things out. She sighs.. and she sags her shoulders forward slightly. Her hair trails down her face and slowly swings over the immaculately clean tabletop. If it was anyone else, then she'd apologize. But she has her limits.
She just changes the subject. She comes right to the point. "What did you say to Naruto?"
He gets up and reaches for her empty teacup.
She grabs it before he can, and makes it look nonchalant.. and slow... and elegant. Unconcerned. There's a weird polarity between them now, their roles flip without warning, like little schisms in gravity.
He just takes his own cup to the sink. As he washes it he says "None of your business."
The hell it isn't her business.
But getting angry won't help. She'll scream at him, or worse she'll cry, because this whole open wound in her team is such a damn shame, it's so useless, it's so preventable. It's so damn painful. It's weeping blood and sweat and tears every day for a whole eight years and counting. Sasuke comes back, but it's still not right. And he won't heal. He won't let her heal him. He won't let Team 7 heal. He won't let her.
"Stop it." she says to him. The way her mother used to say when she was fed up. Just stop it! She hears the same exasperation and anger in her own voice.
If he gives her any of that cool act, that averted icy little nose-turning, she'll get up and knock his damn teeth out. Try me, she thinks, not looking at him. Just try it. That moment, a million moments before, freshly now, she's sick of it. She's had it.
"I'm not going to let you do this anymore." she says to him, and looks down at her faint daylight shadow on the table, her cup wet with cooling water and speckled with tiny flecks of shiny wet green. His whole spin and span apartment, just a bit too obsessive-compulsive clean to be comfortable. She looks back up at him. "I'm not going to let it happen."
What's she going to do? What's she going to do about it? She doesn't care. She'll do something. She's had it, had it with this. She's tired of seeing Naruto fight so hard for his enthusiasm and to hold this relationship together. She's tired of stitching up Naruto's battered body and his bruised feelings and wiping blood and bruises away from his cheeks. She's tired of being scared that Sasuke is changing him, that the whole exhausting battle is just going on too hard and too long, that Naruto is growing emotional scar tissue of his own. Sasuke hurting her is one thing, she can take that. It's Sasuke hurting Naruto, open and silly and caring and fun-loving eternal-optimist Naruto. Naruto who has fought body and soul, nine years, for a man who spits in his face. She has had it.
She tries to feel nothing but anger, but it's useless. It's still Sasuke. She loves him. She wouldn't be here if she didn't love him. She couldn't get this blindingly angry with him, if she didn't love him.. if she could just stop caring. Naruto is an open bleeding heart of connection and compassion, and she has to be the hardcase. She has to step in when it's time to just cut it out. When there's just no hope of resuscitation for the relationship... She looks at Sasuke and wishes she could just give him up as hopeless, beyond her help. Beyond all help. Just beyond them. She could stop then. She could let him go.
But she can never let him go. She's in love too. Just as bad as Naruto. Just as locked-in-forever, they are a team for the rest of their lives. Sasuke may want to smash those bonds and fade away, but he's one member and he's outvoted.
"Come home with me." she says.
She gets up and walks, slowly so he won't feel threatened, slowly up behind him.
She puts her hand on his shoulder.
He tilts his head sideways to glance back at her. "Bring it here." he says, meaning her cup. She brings it, and watches his shoulders and forearms move under his shirt as he washes it. He dries both cups, the pieces of the kettle, the whisk. He puts everything away, neat as pin, everything in it's place. Total silence. He doesn't even break breathing rhythm.
She stands in place, a bit behind him, and she watches. He turns to her. He looks back at her. His face is almost blank... flat black, but the eyes leak out something close to peevishness, or guilt. It's almost a pout. He then walks past her and to the front door of his apartment. He bends and puts on his sandals.
And she takes him home. Her home. Back to Naruto... their cheap but comfortable apartment. Whatever warmth and comfort they can provide.
"I don't have to do this." he grumbles. They're just leaving the courtyard of his building.
She doesn't have to not break his nose, either.
He gets it. A sidelong glance from her is enough. He shoves his hands into his pockets and scowls, but he understands.
I'm not going to let you die, damn you.
Tsunade's words. Tsunade broke the do not resusciate order. Tsunade taught Sakura to have a healthy disrespect of death and those who seek it.
Sasuke will fight her. For all she knows, the box on his form is checked. And he won't just let her shock his heart back to life that easily.
But she got one gasp of breath out of him. She can find a pulse. She can start to stitch him back together. His heart beats sure and hard in clean echos through his hand. She'll breathe life back into him yet. She's not going to let him destroy them and himself and the team and everything. She's had it.