title: Tell Me
summery: Tell me a story, she demands. Give me a prince and his princess. Give me a castle and a dragon. Give me a true love's first kiss and a happily ever after. Tell me a story. And he tries, he really does.
pairing: Naruto x Sakura.
note: Not my favorite pairing, because friendship is wonderful and beautiful and everything in the world so it doesn't always have to turn into more. So there. But I still like this 8)
word count: 1025 (longest one yet!)
They are alone and beaten, tired and bruised, but Sakura cannot sleep.
Before her eyes, images flash. A little black-haired child, smiling gently. An angry twelve year-old, scowling angrily. An monster-boy she doesn't know, raging with a force that shakes her bones. Sasuke, so far gone and so far lost she can't even pretend anymore. A future she's always imagined and never quite let go shatters within her, and she can feel the aching wounds it leaves as it splinters beyond repair.
At her side, curled into his sleeping bag, Naruto isn't snoring. She knows he's awake. Slowly, hesitatingly, she rolls over onto her side and pokes his stomach. With a somberness that hurts because it's so unfamiliar, he shifts and faces her.
In the dark, his face is blurred and faded. But she can still see his eyes – so blue and bright they should be impossible, fueled by a fire of love and strength and never give up. The hard thing in her throat builds and expands as a soft voice in her mind whispers that Naruto is everything anyone could ever need in a person. Everything anyone would ever have the right to want.
And he's done nothing but love her, even when she was mean, nasty, and cruel past the point of reason. If there's one person on this earth that she could call good, it is him. Naruto is a wonder, is amazing, is sweet and kind and deserving and he loves her and she loves him and she thinks the world will end before he looks at her over the hilt of a sword.
"I can't sleep." She hesitates. "Tell me a story."
The day Sasuke comes back, Sakura doesn't say a word.
The boy is angry, is fighting, but they get him in and he calms down enough for Naruto to ignite him again by charging his cell in fury. Silently, Sakura listens to the two boys she once called her own and tries not to cry. Deep inside, she feels the red-hot heat of shame boiling. She thought she was stronger. She thought she was better.
In the end, Naruto grabs Sasuke and pulls him into an embrace that could crack bones. Sasuke squirms and hisses but Sakura notices he doesn't quite try hard enough. In a voice that defies his actions, Naruto growls, "Don't. Do. It. Again."
They leave together, Naruto and Sakura.
On the way to her house, Naruto grabs her hand. In surprise she looks up and realizes with a shock her vision is blurred by tears. Hastily, she wipes them away. Naruto watches with understanding shining in his eyes. Sakura tries – tries so hard she feels the ache – to smile.
"Naruto." Her voice wavers and almost cracks, but she forges on. "Tell me a story."
She is tiny and frail, alone on the hospital bed.
Naruto sits diligently at her side, hands folded around her own, ignoring the voices that tell him to calm down, she'll be all right. In a corner, Sasuke watches with the ill at ease look of one who belongs but not quite. Sai mutters about how the hag is tough and she'll be up the next day. Kakashi sits next to Naruto and reads his book.
They're first mission as a team, and she's the one down for the count. Angrily, Naruto frets that – had it been anyone else – everything would have been just fine. She, after all, is the healer that can always, always save them. Naruto is angry she didn't save herself.
Later that night, she shifts in the bed. Slowly, laboriously, she wakes up.
Smiling, Naruto greets her in a voice a little to loud. But when she smiles a sleepy smile and tells him to shut up, he quiets. Then, he smiles again and tells her to go back to sleep. She nods, eyes already shutting, and whispers, "Tell me… Tell me a story."
It's Sasuke's wedding day and she's the maid of honor.
Next to Naruto, she watches as the boy she loved and the man she let go marries someone not her. It's been years, been forever, but there's a little piece of her that burns and sizzles in the green heat of jealousy. Maybe you don't really have to love your first love to never let them go. Maybe blind devotion is enough.
Regardless, she is drunk before the night is halfway over.
Sakura, for all her grit and strength, is petite, and only a few drinks sends her into the haze of drunkenness. And since tonight is tonight and Sasuke is actually smiling as he speaks to the new bride, she is a somber – ever so somber – drunk. Naruto sits next to her, sober only because Naruto doesn't need alcohol to make the world bright and blurry, and grabs her hand.
He looks at her and she wonders when Naruto – loud, blonde, hyper, always there – learned to shut and listen. But her head is fuzzy and her words slurring so she doesn't really want him to listen tonight. No, she wants him to yell and laugh and chuckle and scream and be Naruto-the-one-that-never-let-her-down.
So she hiccups, slumps against his sure shoulder, and begs him without the shame of real life.
"Tell me a story."
A little head of red turns up to look at him and something inside him twists as her eyes turn up.
They are bright and clear – as blue as the deepest water and the purest gem. Impossibly blue, her mother would laugh, ruffling the hair that wasn't quite either parents'.
Her six year-old body is thin and long-limbed, curled up in a mass of sheets. When she moves to sit on his lap, huddling into him, she weighs twice what she normally does. He smiles, gently, and smoothes the hair from her not-quite big forehead. In response, she moves closer, sighing into his shirt and wiggling into comfort.
Naruto smiles a gentle smile.
"Daddy," she whispers.
Silently, he waits, already knowing what will come.
"Tell me a story."
note: And no, I have no idea who Sasuke's marrying. Let's make her an OC, simply so my SakuraxSasuke lovin' mind doesn't have to contemplate any other possibility.