Softly and Without Remorse
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. That copyright belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.
"Because… Because no one means anything to you. You would step over anyone to get what you want. You didn't care a thing about me back then. And I mean exactly the same to you now. I can't be with someone who doesn't acknowledge me; I'm not a masochist. And there is far too much pain in this right here for me to accept."
When she curls up into herself in bed that night, crying her hollow heart out in just one more devastation in an endless flow of pain, she thinks perhaps she should have said yes. After all, the agony is still there, smothering and unbearable. With or without, it still feels like hell; the most painful lamentations of the heart and soul, forever aching, crying, wishing for what will never be.
Self-respect is overrated.
She thinks she could throw herself at him a thousand times and still the sting of cold shoulders and frozen glares could never make her hurt as much as she is hurting now. She has always strongly suspected that no one could ever hurt him as much as he hurts himself, with his defensive and harsh persona, always keeping people apart from him and placed in categorized boxes for easy degradation and avoidance. But she is beginning to think that such a destructive and pathetic cycle is a part of her own being, as well. With the way she refused him, despite wanting to accept. With the way she now obsesses and berates herself for it, despite knowing that she would still be hurting if things were different. With the way she keeps ignoring the nagging voice at the back of her mind, telling her that he is a spirit of hate and his essence was leeching into hers, dying her a shade of self-loathing in so subtle a blend she still hasn't brought herself to fully acknowledge it yet.
"I am not necessary to you. You would never fight for me."
"I would fight for you. I have fought for you"
"I don't mean to protect me. I mean to have me; to keep me. You wouldn't fight for me. If you can't have me, you'll just find someone else. You would never give up anything to have me. You would sacrifice your body, your freewill, your life, and other people's lives to satisfy your hate, but never would you put so much effort into friendship or love. And that's just not something I could live with. I want you to be happy, Sasuke-kun. But I can't keep striving for that at my own expense."
"I didn't ask you to devote yourself to me. You didn't have to make yourself so miserable for my sake."
"But you're asking me to do that now."
"I'm requesting that you marry me and have my children. Nowhere in that proposition is the scenario you mentioned."
"It's the inevitable result, and you know it. And your intentional ignorance of that is why you'll never find a wife who will stay with you to give you any children."
"What did you–?"
"You're stuck in a positive feedback loop, Sasuke-kun! Misery compounds misery. You don't even try to stop it."
"What do you think I'm doing? I'm looking to restore my clan."
"And you honestly think that will change it?! You think you'll be happy then? This is the same deal as your revenge obsession! You knew that wouldn't bring you happiness; I think you know this won't either."
"And why not? Why can't this make me happy? It makes other people happy all the time! Why can't it do the same for me?"
"Because other people are capable of loving, which is why they're happy with their families! It won't mean anything to you but a completed goal, because you don't love anything but hate! The devotion you have to what you hate is the ardency you're supposed to show for that which you love. How can you not see that?"
"How am I supposed to see something that doesn't exist?"
"...And that's why we can never happen."
It is days and weeks and months later, and she still tries to ignore the way he looks at her. Those dark eyes following her movements, asking a question she refuses to think of an answer for. She ignores his solitude; how he hasn't filled her position with an easy-to-find replacement like she thought he would.
He's just weighing his options. He only wants the best genes, the most capable woman, she tells herself, over and over again.
But those eyes never leave her. They don't stray to the many beautiful women who surround him every day. They stay on her. Only her.
Does he want to guilt me into reconsidering? Or he's trying to make me regret saying no, while already having someone lined up. Then he can tell me off, that I had my chance. Well, he had his chance, too.
But she sees him walk home alone each time. And Naruto and Kakashi never make mention of a woman, which they most surely would if there was one and they knew of it. There is no way they could resist an opportunity to tease the reclusive Uchiha.
He's hiding it from them so I won't find out—so the village won't find out. It will cause a big buzz and he doesn't want that. He wants to maintain his anonymity for as long as possible.
Yet there he is again, at another social gathering of their colleagues, standing by many from their former genin days, listening to Shikamaru complain about another high-priority assignment the Godaime has entrusted him with. He is socializing. Responding with more than a grunt and a glare. Not smiling, but not scowling either.
And then his gaze is on her again. A few people bump and jostle her as they move past, but her body doesn't feel the contact, just the dark pressure of his eyes on her.
She can't think when he looks at her. He asks her a question with just a look and she cannot answer him because she cannot think. He is smothering her with his questioning gaze and she loves it; would remain rooted to the spot and bask in it forever if life would allow her to; if he would just keep watching her and asking his silent question and never tire of receiving a mute gaze in return.
She would stay there for him then.
She would stay with him.
She would do that for him if he would do that for her—to have her.
But someone taps her shoulder and spins her about, tearing her eyes from his in a cruel separation of souls. The person is congratulating her on some mission where she saved the team in an impossible situation. They are being genuine and mean well, she knows.
But she can feel a heavy, penetrating gaze on the back of her head, running through her hair like a lover's fingers. And just knowing he is watching her, asking her, offering to her, makes her mind a void of thought.
Smile and nod. Smile and nod. Say thank you.
With a laugh, she blames the sake for her absentmindedness, even though she hasn't touched a drop, never has. (Being met with a drooling, passed out, hung-over master every day has taught her the virtues of abstaining from alcohol.)
They leave her be then, giving her a strange look as they make their way to a group of people in the back. But she doesn't register their gaze. Only his.
It is this sixth sense—the sensation of his eyes on her without even looking at him—that alerts her to his trailing presence as she makes her way home that night. And something tells her that he knows that she knows he is there, and that he wants it to be so. He wants her to know that she has his attention; that he is purposely going out of his way—in the opposite direction from his own home—to get to her. She is his purpose.
Once she reaches her locked door, she stops. Staring at the painted wood, her face is pensive, unsure. She doesn't understand this and so she does not know what to do when he reaches her doorstep, only moments away.
But, as it turns out, she doesn't need to think of what to do; he has his own plans and thoughts. And of course he would; he wouldn't follow her home only to expect her to take responsibility for their meeting.
She turns around, facing him with a look that clearly expects a good explanation, but is disinterested all the same: He had better have a good reason for following her, but she isn't above walking inside and shutting the door without hearing him out if he doesn't say it right now.
"What do you expect me to offer you for my penance, Sakura?" he asks quietly, dark eyes watching her face calmly, though there is a slight furrow in the middle of his brow. His voice sounds tired, matching the fatigued appearance of the rest of him; like a man who just wants an answer—one answer—and then maybe he will be able to rest again.
Sakura is thrown off by his question. She expected more demands—orders—as before, accompanied by the usual perturbed tone he uses when he doesn't get his way. Not this. Not a question. Especially not a question for the sole sake of knowing the answer. There are two types of question Sasuke asks: one is to get information in regards to a mission and the other is to insult someone by pointing out their stupidity through rhetoric. But this one is not like those two. This is...for himself. He needs to know this for himself, not for work or out of spite. Just need.
Even so, she avoids the answer. Partly out of spite, but mostly out of ignorance. She doesn't really know, at least not how to explain it to Sasuke so that he will understand.
"Nothing," she says brusquely, eyes blindly watching the air above his shoulder. "You paid your debt to the village; you certainly don't owe me anything."
He lets out a huff of air, his version of a wry laugh. "Apparently I do, seeing as how you think I'm too depraved for you to be with me." His dark eyes gain some of their characteristic sardonic light. "I don't give enough, but I'll take everything, isn't that about right?"
She watches him with hardening eyes; molten rock turned to igneous. "So?" she asks, aloof as a third party, seemingly removed from her current situation. "Am I supposed to let that pass now that you've figured it out? I'm not about to coddle you anymore—"
"I don't want you to," he speaks vehemently, gripping her upper arm in a strong hand. She winces but Sasuke barely loosens his grip; if she can dish it she can take it. He watches her elusive eyes as he continues, voice low, "You think I'm here for you to play house with me? I want a wife, not a plaything, don't you get that?"
"Yes, I get that," she answers evenly, meeting his searching eyes. "But I don't know what that means to you." A saddened shadow pales her cheeks, though it does nothing to veil the vulnerability in her gaze. "What does that mean to you, Sasuke-kun?"
His mind goes blank for a moment, as his eyes glaze over, seeing nothing but her lips forming his name. She hasn't called him by his name in...forever, it seems. It sounded like...like he wants to hear it again.
But she is waiting for an answer, just moments from giving up and walking into her apartment, shutting him out for good. She is already turning away, hiding the salty rain that green skies refuse to let fall, behind a cascade of pink. Her hand on the doorknob...
He is looking at the back of Eternity and she is getting farther and farther away, which is wrong. Eternity is supposed to be forever; how can she be drifting away?
Eternity asked him a question. When Eternity asks you a question, you answer.
But Pride is such a strong master...
"What does that mean to you, Sasuke-kun?"
She said his name. After so long, she said his name.
She asked him a question... Such a useless question. She should know what it means. Everyone knows what a wife means to a man.
"What does that mean to you, Sasuke-kun?"
She said his name. She asked him a question and she said his name...
What does it mean to me?
Of course she knows what a wife means to a man. But she doesn't know what it means to him. Because she's not a nameless, faceless woman being asked by a nameless, faceless man to be his wife. She is Haruno Sakura being asked by Uchiha Sasuke to be his wife. And that is a very different situation. Somewhere that Pride and indifference have no place in. Demands are not allowed and selfishness is negated. Eternity will give everything in due time...but you have to answer her question first. You can't have without giving.
"I don't give enough, but I'll take everything, isn't that about right?"
"So? Am I supposed to let that pass now that you've figured it out?"
She has to know you want it for the right reasons. She has to know you want her.
"It means nothing to me, Sakura."
He watches her silhouette framed by the doorway and the door itself. She is paused, a hand just hovering over the knob, ready to close the portal in a millisecond. She won't do it, though. He has slammed the door in Eternity's face countless times, but she will not do it to him. She is gentler than that. She is more patient than that. She is better than that. She is better than him.
"I was mistaken," he says quietly, as though confessing a dark sin. "I thought that was what I wanted, but it's not. I don't want a wife. I want you."
When she speaks, her tone is even and clear, mild bitterness flowing through. But it is a question she wants answered—No, needs answered, just as he needs an answer from her. "What's the difference?"
"Everything," he breathes, shaking his head at the question.
"And what do I mean to you, Sasuke-kun?"
"Everything," he repeats, the word out of his mouth before he realizes that it is true.
"...Then...I'll marry you...but I won't be your wife. I'll just be yours," she answers quietly, but he can hear the smallest of smiles in her voice, the lightness of the tone pulling his tiredness away as rain does dirt.
The door clicks shut gently, a quiet soul on either side. And both smile softly and without remorse.
Guttersnipe's Word: Gee. Could I have made it any sappier at the end? Well, yes, but dude, this is a mite too molassesy for my taste. Oh, what has become of me? Oh angst! I have missed you so! Crack! is love, but I've just been craving for an angsty product. It was a long, unwilling road, but I finally got it out. Whew! So, please review!
And chapter seven of The Eternal Soundtrack is up, so go check it out. This one was actually initially intended to be part of it. Not entirely sure why I didn't put it in there... Hmm... It's angsty like this story, as are most of its preceding chapters, though light-heartedness can be found in one or two instalments there. I'm afraid it can't satisfy your need for humour, though. But that's what Of Fear and Women and A Family of Sorts, and especially Public Service Announcement, among others, are for. Yes, I am pimping out my stories. No, I do not feel any shame about it. I've always suspected that going gangsta was my true calling… Alas! A small-town, Canadian female faces many challenges in pursuit of such an endeavour.
Mr. Clicky is gagging on the sappiness of it all. Please give him the Heimlich Manoeuvre by clicking on him and reviewing. Thanks.