Red Red Wine
Sakura's woken by the shifting of the bed as Naruto gets up. She peers at the alarm through sleep-encrusted eyes and groans. It's only six am, so she buries her head under the pillow and goes back to sleep.
The alarm goes off at seven thirty. She rolls out of bed with a minimum of wishing she was dead and pulls on her dressing gown. It's nearly summer, but the mornings are always chilly here.
She pads down the long, carpeted hallway just in time to see Naruto come out of the kitchen, toast in his mouth and pulling on his suit jacket.
"I'm off," he says, taking the toast out of his mouth and picking up his briefcase.
"Have a nice day," Sakura says, and Naruto kisses her absently in passing. Sakura's already turning into the kitchen, so his lips just barely skim her cheek.
With a sigh of relief, Sakura sees he's left the coffee maker on, and sits at the laminated table sipping her cup as she waits for the caffeine to kick in.
Work is boring. It always is.
"Of course, Mr. Ford," Sakura says with a sunny smile. "I'll do that right away."
Sakura isn't quite sure how she ended up a secretary, but she's one hundred percent sure it's a gross waste of her intelligence. Still, there's a mortgage to pay and a life to live, and the money has to come from somewhere. At least the work is easy.
Sakura files and types and answers the phone. In her lunch break, she redesigns the company's filing system on the serviette that came with her chicken and cheese sandwich, and then throws it in the bin on the way out. It wasn't coming out right, and Sakura doesn't like to think too hard, anyway.
(Once Sakura wanted to be a great, to be famous, but only because she was in love with a boy who was in love with power. Now she prefers not to think of those days.)
Sakura leaves work at five thirty sharp, waving goodbye to her co-workers as she goes. She drives home through peak hour traffic, mind blank, fingers tapping on the wheel to the beat of a non-existent song. The radio in this car went last year, and they don't have the money to fix it.
Soon, Naruto always says. Soon. I'm gonna get a big promotion soon, I can tell. Just you wait and see. Sakura only smiles. She's always had to be the adult in this relationship.
Sakura smiles a lot these days. It's sort of become a habit.
The house is silent when Sakura unlocks the door. Naruto won't be home for hours yet.
Sakura cooks for two, even though Naruto will probably grab something at work. Naruto's always hungry, anyway. He never grew out of that adolescent-bottomless-pit stage. It's kind of endearing, actually, and there's some real emotion there when Sakura smiles at the thought. She hums as she works.
The phone rings just as Sakura finishes cooking, and she leaving the stew simmering on the stove as she goes to pick it up.
"Hello?" she says, phone tucked precariously in between her ear and her shoulder as her hands sort through the mess of papers on the phone table.
"Hello, Sakura," the man on the other end says, and the phone slips and clatters to the floor. Sakura scrabbles for it, finally catching it and pressing the 'end call' button with shaking hands.
She slumps against the wall, then slides down, hugging her knees to her chest with the phone caught in the middle. It presses into her stomach, and Sakura pretends that that's the reason she feels sick.
When Sakura finally stands up, she unplugs the phone at the wall. The stew is burnt through, so she throws it out and leaves the pot to soak.
When Naruto arrives home, later than normal, she is eating cheese on toast and drinking brandy. She looks up at him blearily and Naruto stops and stares. He seems to shrink in on himself.
"Oh, Sakura," he says in a very small voice. "Not again?"
"What's your problem?" she demands belligerently. She pushes herself up from the table, and the world swims around her. She staggers a little then catches herself, glaring at Naruto.
"You've been doing so well," he says reproachfully, and his clear blue eyes look hurt.
"I'll drink if I want to," Sakura hisses. "Don't you dare try to stop me, you bastard. You think you're so high and mighty-"
"You know that's not true," Naruto says quietly, but Sakura doesn't care. She's hurt and angry and unhappy and she really wants to hurt someone. She lunges for Naruto, taking a wild swing. He steps easily out of the way, and she staggers and falls into the wall.
Naruto leaves. Sakura hears the front door swing shut after him, and manages to get herself up to the table so she can continue drinking.
When Sakura wakes up the next morning, she wishes she was dead. She's hungover. Her back is cramping from the awkward position she passed out it.
Naruto isn't back yet.
The bottle of brandy is still next to her, half full, and Sakura snorts. It's not even a large bottle.
"I'm out of practice," she tells the cream wall, then winces at the loudness of her voice.
Sakura's out of practice at faking it, too. Her coworkers give her sidelong, speculative looks all day. Sakura smiles until her face aches, then goes to the bathroom and wishes she could drown herself in a hand basin.
She doesn't crash the car going home, but it's a close thing. She doesn't really care.
When the man calls again that evening, she is already drunk and Naruto still hasn't come home.
"Kakashi," she says flatly when she hears his voice, not yet drunk enough to slur. "You mother-fucking piece of shit."
There is a long pause.
"Is this a bad time?" he asks. Sakura hangs up.
The next day is a Saturday. At eleven in the morning, Sakura is sitting at the kitchen table in her pajamas, turning an untouched glass of deep red wine round and round in her hands.
The doorbell rings, and Sakura wonders casually whether it will be Naruto or Kakashi, and whether it will make a difference.
She hears the door swing open, but no footsteps in the hall.
"Hello?" a voice calls tentatively, and Sakura sighs silently.
"Come in, Kakashi," she calls back, but her voice sounds dead even to her.
She hears the front door click shut, and Kakashi's whisper soft footsteps on the polished wooden boards of the hall. He appears at the doorway, slouching as always, face and eye covered as always, looking as perfectly indifferent as Sakura could ever hope to be.
If he's aged, Sakura can't tell. If he's changed – well. Kakashi never changes, because all he is is a series of masks, one over the other. The only change is which one is currently showing.
His one visible eyebrow rises. "Ohh?" he says, voice low and smooth as fine whiskey. "Drinking so early? You take after old lady Tsunade."
"I'm not drinking," Sakura corrects him, looking back down at her full glass. "I'm making a point of not drinking."
"Why?" Kakashi asks, and Sakura's breath comes short. She takes a long pull of the wine to dull the burn.
"I think Naruto's left me," she says, and crumples, harsh, gasping, chest wracking dry sobs leaving her whole body shaking. The wine spills across the plastic table cloth.
Kakashi doesn't comfort her, of course. When the pain subsides, she straightens to see him sitting at the chair opposite her, staring out the window, as unconcerned as ever. Sakura smiles, though it's a little watery.
"What is it with you men? Don't you ever change?"
Kakashi doesn't get it, and Sakura almost laughs. She stops herself when it nearly triggers another bout of tears.
"Well, what do you want?" she asks, getting up to look for something to clean the spilt wine.
"Tsunade sent me," he says. Straight-forward as ever is Kakashi, incapable of tact or pity.
"Tell her I'm not interested."
"Do you enjoy your life here?" he asks, smiling steadily. Sakura considers attacking him, but he could probably take her with one hand tied behind his back these days. Instead, she carefully wipes up the wine, then wrings the cloth over the sink.
"I'm not interested."
"Most of the Council members have moved on. Naruto would be welcomed back to the fold. You'd never have to worry for money again."
"Tell me, Kakashi," she says, with the smiling venom she hasn't had to use since she left, "did you never have a conscience, or was it something they trained out of you?"
Kakashi leans back on his chair, stares contemplatively at the ceiling with his one eye. He doesn't even bother with a vague non-answer.
Sakura sits down at the table and rests her chin on her hand. She sighs, already running out of anger. "So what brought this on? We haven't heard from Konoha in years."
Kakashi doesn't answer immediately, which tells her she won't like the answer. He doesn't pull his punches, though. "Sasuke finally killed Itachi last month. Our Hunters killed him while he was recovering."
Sakura thinks that she should feel something at that, but it's not like it's unexpected. Sakura's been mourning Sasuke for years. "What does that have to do with us?" Her voice is less flippant and more dull than she would like.
"Times change. Grudges fade. The Akatsuki cartel is moving again." And when Sakura doesn't react, Kakashi sighs and slumps a little in his chair.
"Look, Sakura. War is coming. Sasuke's dramatic re-entry," said with no small amount of contempt, "to the political stage has sparked people's memories. War is coming, and you won't be left in peace here any longer. Not by your enemies."
"Not by you, either," Sakura says, but she hates how convincing Kakashi is. She hates how appealing the idea of being someone special again is, even if being special just means they expect more and more of you until there's nothing left.
"You were the Hokage's apprentice, chosen out of all Konoha," Kakashi says, and the bastard is saying all the right things. "We need your talent badly."
Sakura puts her head in her hands. "Naruto will never forgive you for killing Sasuke."
The silence that follows that is nothing more than a brief hesitation on Kakashi's part, but it's enough. Sakura's head jerks up in time to catch his face sliding back into his normal expression.
"Oh my God," she whispers. "You killed Sasuke? You killed him yourself?"
Kakashi's discomfort is as plain to Sakura as a written sign would be to a stranger. She feels sick. She should have known. She should have remembered Kakashi's warped, terrifying sense of honour.
"Yeah," she says, and swallows, "yeah. I think you'd better leave now."
Kakashi doesn't argue. He stands silently. Sakura follows him down the hallway. He pauses at the doorway, though.
"By the way," he says, "Shikamaru is probably speaking to Naruto right now."
"Will he tell Naruto the truth?"
"Yes," Kakashi says, "or he won't lie, anyway."
"Naruto will never go back willingly."
"He always was a stubborn fool," Kakashi says matter-of-factly. "I have higher expectations of you, though. I'll be in touch." He doesn't give her time to respond before he is out the door. Sakura watches him out onto the road and into his car. Then she goes back inside.
She looks at the bottle of red wine on the table for a long time, but somehow drinking feels dirty now. As if she's nothing more than a poor imitation, a pink haired Tsunade with all the flaws and none of the power.
Instead, she goes back outside, and sits on the front steps and waits for Naruto to come home.