To Momosportif and Capitulate
She slides her fingers through Sakura's hair—it's jagged at the ends, newly trimmed—and it feels like silk heavy with blood and regret. She wonders how something as bright as cotton candy can suddenly look so bland.
Sakura is fifteen and Tsunade is an old woman hiding beneath smooth skin. Sakura's eyes flutter open, and they're like the trigger to a genjutsu, the way they draw Tsunade in. They're just pools of placid green, spring green, dying green, and it's not fair since Tsunade has had so much time on the earth and Sakura is still a child craving an identity.
When she's gone, no one will remember. You wouldn't remember her, Tsunade thinks, unless you'd known her personally. But this is a lie—of course it's just a lie—since Sakura's hair is bright pink, and how many people have hair like that? Of course they'd all remember.
She's so beautiful, and Tsunade wants to kill herself for not noticing before. …But then why would she have, when life used to seem so permanent? There was never any need to appreciate peace, because she used to believe she'd have Sakura forever.
An idea strikes her and for a moment she contemplates really doing it. Really killing herself. It would be so much easier to die at her side than to die alone.
But then Kakashi is there, his voice cutting through the silence like the lightning he's famous for, and then Gai is there too, making matters so much worse by blubbering on about eternal youth, and then Naruto is there too and Tsunade thinks that maybe it would be okay to leave.
She thinks that maybe he could handle it. After all his talk about being Hokage, wouldn't it be appropriate for him to reach his dream while she wastes her last breath? The village wouldn't be without a leader for even one minute. Suicide is like a puzzle and she's just solved it.
But Naruto is only fifteen. Tsunade couldn't fathom being that young; she was born an old lady. (Oh, but that's a lie too.) Her fifteenth birthday was gratifying. That was the first time she'd felt validated, purposeful and invincible.
She stares at Sakura again and imagines her smiling, making a fist, ready to take on the world with the fifteen-brand of confidence.
Sakura stares back and manages a brave grin before her eyes glaze over, looking at Tsunade like she's her best friend and there's no one she'd rather see before she goes.
But Tsunade isn't her friend at all; she's her mother. –And now she has a child to mourn.
(And, as she catches Naruto's gaze, she has one more child to stick around for.)
Tsunade breathes in and out and refuses to fall apart.