Title: And A Day
Pairing: Team Seven, Naruto/Sasuke/Sakura, Ino/Sakura
Word Count: 1,108
Summary/Description:Swing low, sweet chariot, if you get there before I do. (Their forever and a day has passed.)
Warning/Spoilers: Character death, angst.
A/N:31 days, February 3rd: hell hath no limits. Angst. Takes place in the hazy future, when Sasuke is back and everything is peaches and sunshine etc.
Disclaimer: Naruto is not mine. Sasuke is, bitches. Hands off.
Sakura stares ineffectually at her sensei of old. No matter how well she has gotten to know him over the years, she still cannot discern the expression behind his mask.
"What do you mean, 'gone'?"
Kakashi blinks, and makes a gesture that might be a shrug.
"Just that. They followed the ronin to the edges of the cliff, there was an explosion, and then they were gone."
Sakura stares, unable to do anything but. Her stomach swings low like the sunset.
"They are dead."
For a moment, there is silence as Kakashi's oddly matched eyes meet sea green. Sakura searches, searches hard, for any sign that this might be the worst joke they ever played on her, a mistake, a misunderstanding, anything but a truth that she must stare in the face.
Kakashi freely allows her to scrutinise his face. She sees the creases in the mask where his mouth should be, analyses the messy shock of his hair, passes over the crow's feet at his eyes. He doesn't flinch or blink, and suddenly Sakura's throat constricts, and she is holding back a sob. She gets up, and walks out of the mission room very quickly, slamming the door shut behind her.
The Hokage building trembles as she pounds down the stairs.
Ino finds her eventually. She is sitting calmly on the roof of Naruto's apartment building. At first, she had gone in, thinking to make herself comfortable, comfort herself with scents and memories, but then she saw Sasuke's clothes at the foot of the bed, and her extra toothbrush by the sink, and the whirlwind of Naruto all around her and it was all too, too much for her. She cannot be strong in so many ways.
Ino settles next to her quietly. Sakura knows that Ino will not venture to say a word, but in case she does, Sakura speaks up very softly and hoarsely.
"I'm not crying; I need no comfort. I'm not a danger to myself or others; I need no supervision. Please leave." Her voice cracks on the last few words.
Seeing Ino wince like that would have affected her strongly back in the day. Right now, her heart is dull, and she barely observes as her friend looks away.
"No," is the straightforward reply, nonetheless. Ino isn't looking at her; she is staring straight out into the vista, and Sakura is glad that she cannot see how relieved she has made her. She will admit it to herself; she does not want Ino to go. She hugs her arms tightly around herself.
True to Sakura's expectations, Ino does not speak. They observe the birds passing, the clouds changing, the sky turning. Sakura's breathing calms and evens, even as a storm rages on within her. She finds that biting her lips helps. They become bruised and bloody in no time at all, but she cannot see, she cannot feel.
An hour passes.
"Don't you have somewhere to be?" asks Sakura, not unkindly. Even before she says it she regrets it. She has earned this little bout of selfishness, and she wants Ino to stay.
"No," the blonde replies, to Sakura's relief. Long fingers beckon to her. "Come here."
Ino opens up her arms, and unthinkingly, Sakura crawls into them, headfirst, so that her cheek is pressed to Ino's thigh, and her arms are wrapped around Ino's waist. Her friend rubs her back soothingly, and Sakura can feel the tears prickling her eyes once again. Their forever and a day has passed.
Ino runs her fingers through her hair, combing back the pink locks.
"You can talk about them, if you'd like," she says softly, wiping the blood off of Sakura's lip with a thumb. Sakura doesn't say a word; she presses her face into Ino's thigh as if she is hiding from the world, and her nails dig deep into Ino's waist in her agony. She gives a dry sob and her face crumbles. She can't do this.
"Can't?" Ino is massaging her neck now, speaking in a low voice as she hunches over. "Well then, just… try your best, and remember."
Sakura cries in earnest, with Ino holding on to her. Ino will dry her tears and dress the wounds on her knuckles and kiss her forehead when she says it's all too much for her.
Meanwhile, two young shinobi are dead, and it is so unfair that it eats away at her, gnaws at her stomach and her heart. Sakura's hands and her body shakes. The sun swings low, pregnant and lazy while Sakura tries not to lay waste to her mind and her town, and she cries. Ino continues her soothing strokes, her soft words.
At one point, she lifts Sakura's chin with a knuckle, and gestures left. Through bleary eyes, Sakura eyes Kakashi standing on a rooftop not too far away from them, hands in his pockets. He keeps what can be called a respectable distance, while still close enough for Sakura to see the utter weariness in his eyes.
A breath catches in her throat. Sakura rubs at her eyes, and feels ashamed. In her grief, she forgot that he too has lost.
She squeezes her eyes shut, tightly. Behind them, Sakura sees bright spots of light and she tries to remember, like Ino suggested, but it is just too hard. It is too painful to see them even in her mind, because she always took for granted that she could open her eyes and they would be right there. Her boys.
She sobs harder, because she should have been on that mission with them. She should have been with them.
Ino whispers comforting words in her ear.
When she next raises her head, Kakashi is still standing there. She supposes he has come to take her home, but… she is not ready. Not quite yet. With a hand, she beckons, and almost immediately, he comes. He sits on Ino's left, and faces the sunset.
Ino makes as if she is going to leave, to give them some privacy, but Sakura will not let her. She holds on tight.
Her voice is scratchy and dull when she speaks to Kakashi.
"Do you want to talk?"
He does not answer for a very long time. Kakashi has dealt with a lot of tragedy in his life, but that does not make this any easier, Sakura thinks.
A gloved hand pats Sakura's shoulder firmly. Kakashi shakes his head.
So they sit, watching the sun swing low on the horizon, watching the day die. In time, Ino and Kakashi will carry Sakura home. In time, they will talk.
A/N:It's amazing, honestly. I hate writing angst, and yet I DO IT ALL THE TIME.
Uh, feedback welcome…? I gotta say, this turned out way different from its conceptualisation. It was going to be all about Sakura being furious and unable to cope and breaking stuff.