title: Truth Is
summery: "I was just pretending." Lies, confessions, truth, and what makes life worth living.
pairing: Sasuke x Sakura
note: Because this is the kind of ending I want.
word count: 693
Her voice is soft, wavering, tittering off into sleep even as the words tumble over her lips.
"I… I didn't use to love you, you know."
On this couch of time-softened black and in this room that is only lit by the space between curtains drawn to block out the fading sun, he stiffens. Against him, or on top of him – chest against his side, sandwiched between his arm and torso, limbs hanging every which way – the girl speaks again.
"I kinda lied, I guess."
"Why?" He's not exactly sure what she's talking about, but he thinks better than to press. She's tired, near exhausted, having just healed him after returning from work when she should have been collapsing into the sheets of her bed. So he keeps it simple, no matter how much he wants to understand.
Her yawn reverberates around him, and his arms unconsciously loop over her, pulling her closer.
"The truth is… I was just pretending."
Pink fairy princess dancing his way. Hair long, flowing. Cotton-candy smile, green eyes laughing. Something like feeling fluttering in his chest, so close to returning the grin.
He feels, doesn't see, her nod.
"Yeah. Well, maybe. I liked you – a lot. And I wanted you too. But – But.. I was so little. And you were this – this thing and…"
He speaks cautiously now, lowering his voice to a soothing rumble. Wounds can heal and forgiveness can come, but there are still old scars not-quite gone. "What about the night I left?"
Instead of stiffening and turning away, she buries in closer, near disappearing into him.
Weak child stumbling his way. Shorn-off hair, desperate, blood shot eyes. Determined, angry, begging, pleading.
"I love you with all my heart!"
Sinking into uncertainty, running through the night.
"I wanted you to stay," she whispers, but now the words are choked and halting. Inside his chest, something withers. "I – I loved you then. As a friend, a teammate, a protector. Maybe even like I told you I did… But I just didn't want you to disappear. I didn't want you to get hurt."
There are scars, faint and barely there, but he knows where to look, where to watch and wait until the light hits just right. He can see the marks he's left on her. Marks of a past too dark and dangerous and empty and that scares him so much. Regret tastes like the blood of family and the tears of everything he's ever loved.
She speaks again, and he knows with some comfort sleep will claim her soon.
"I didn't even love you when you came back. In fact, I… I almost hated you. I think I deserved to hate you though. But I didn't. But I didn't love you either, but I had to pretend, see? You – you were so broken and sad and alone and I – we – have a history and… I pretended."
Short arms, clenched fists. Hand reaching, smile accepting. Home is here.
"Why are you telling me this?" He wants to know, wants to understand. Something in his life just blew away, disappeared as a façade – no matter how lacquered and perfect – fell away.
"I told you." Her face presses into his chest and he thinks of the lives saved today and how deserving she is of just a little reprieve into darkness that doesn't bite. Guilt overrides him and he wishes he'd just let her sleep. But he wants to understand.
"I'm done pretending."
He doesn't hear the words, muttered into his chest and muffled past recognition, but he knows what they are. And so, as her breathing deepens and slows, as her limbs relax and stretch into comfort, he takes a deep breath, inhaling the fragrance that has no name but Sakura. Confusion still plagues him – why would sacrifice her reality for him? – but it's ok because she's ok and he's ok and they're ok.
"I love you too."
Because – no matter what her lies and make believes – he does.
Besides, he's pretended too.