the four of us

"I had a dream last night," she told him softly, brushing away the hair matted to his face. "There was a lot of white, I think. We were young again, did you know? We trained all day, until we laid down in the grass, at that training ground, watching sky and leaves, sunlight and shadows... I forgot that we were like that once."

He coughed harshly and his eyes were cold and hard, she knew his blood was filling his mouth with metallic magma, red and hot and alive. Her face softened at his look as she held his reluctant hand, pressing it to her cheek. Those calloused fingers were always so cold, she thought. Had it always like this? But she couldn't remember how it had felt the last time he touched her.

"It was a hot summer day. Naruto said he wanted ramen and Sai, even at his age, he commented--" she flushed a bit in embarrassed exasperation, but felt that smile rising on her lips. "You held out your hand to Naruto again, I think," he snorted and, at the corner of her eye, she thought she saw Naruto lower his head as his shoulders shook. Someone else was gnashing his teeth, she thought she heard that too, and she laughed a little softly at the dream that could never be. "It reminded me of the first time we shared lunch. But I was so tired that I couldn't get up. I felt you two leaving me behind again, further and further away you got..."

Tears fell. Of the three she was the only who could really cry for all of them. Naruto wasn't afraid to cry, but he was held so tight that he looked like he would burst with emotions which tears could never relieve. Even if she knew it didn't change anything, she didn't think a tear was wasted that day. Who else would cry for us? she wondered. Who else would feel this as deeply? Every heartache she had felt for him, for Naruto and the selves they had been, it was all worth it.

They had been worth it.

"I think you turned back to look this time," she said softly, her tense fingers digging into his shirt as if the action could stay him. Sobs escaped her lips, breath caught in her throat at thoughts she never wished to think or believed to be possible. Those unwanted noises of weakness escaped uncontrollably between the words she wanted him to hear so badly, to let him know how much, even if he never acknowledged it and always knew anyway. "And that had been enough, Sasuke-kun. It had been enough."

It must have rained. His head pillowed against her muddied thighs, and his pale skin peaking beneath grime and blood. Her hand on his neck, feeling his pulse slowing down. Naruto's own hand on her shoulder and Sai's presence at her back. There had been a painful squeeze, but she wasn't sure if it was Naruto who held her so tightly or Sai who was tugging her away.

Naruto was so quiet...

"So, tomorrow," Sakura said as she closed the boy's stilled eyes with her fingers and laid her hand on his stilled heart. "Will you smile and hold out your hand to us again, Sasuke-kun?" she asked him gently, as if fearing to wake him from a dream.

She couldn't tell if it was because of the rain or somebody's tears, but Sasuke's cheeks were wet on that cold, grey morning.

Theme(s): For 30-deathfics #6 -Innocence