"Hey, Sasuke-kun," she says, smiles, happy (worriedafraidterrifiedterrifiedterrified)

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Summary: She runs because he is faster. SasuSaku.

against the wind

"Hey, Sasuke-kun," she says, smiles, happy (worriedafraidterrifiedterrifiedterrified). "Was there something you wanted?" She winces the second those words came out of her mouth, because they sound like she doesn't want him here when she doesdoesdoes, and tries a smile. But she thinks that she is perfectly within her rights to demand an answer, because even her boyfriend of six years definitely does not have the right to drag her to a park in the middle of the night.

"Sakura," he says, awkwardly, and she immediately suspects the worst. "Has something happened to your family?" It is an important family, she knows, but that is all she knows. Still, when he shakes his head, she is relieved. "Sakura," he repeats, and pleading flashes across those perfect, aristocratic features. "You know that I… that I am expected to take over the company, soon." She nods, not knowing why, exactly, he feels the need to tell her this. "I am expected to… I must…" Pleading is there again, written in his eyes, and she thinks she knows why.

"You need a wife," she says, almost numbly, hoping that he will shake his head and tell her no. But he does not, only stands there, watching her reaction, and she repeats herself, fiercely. "You need a wife." And she revels in the anger that follows the numbness, because at least it is not paindespairdespairdespair. "Yes," he agrees, and slips his hands back into his pockets, as though relieved, and a little surprised. And of course he would be relieved, she thinks, because now, at least, he need not say the words.

"Goodbye, then, Sasuke," she says, when she can hardly stand the silence between them. "I'm sure I'll enjoy reading about your wedding in the tabloids." It takes a lot to walk way from him, and she finds herself wishing (hoping, dreaming) that he would call after her and drag her back and follow her and (maybemaybemaybe) tell her that he's not going to marry whatever rich red-haired bimbo he dredged up, that he's always wanted her and always will. But this, she reminds herself, is Sasuke-kun, not some mysterious knight-in-shining-armor, and she knows that he would never do such a thing. He is too proud to do it, even if he wanted to, a trait she had admired just days ago.

Now she mourns it, just as she wonders if he had ever loved her, has ever needed her. She thinks so. He has never said the words, but she hopes that that is what he feels – felt. (And as much as she believes in the power of everlasting, eternal love, she believes in Sasuke-kun more.)

So she runs and runs and runs, head down and arms pumping, and she thinks about how good it feels, as though she could run from her problems forever. Sasuke-kun has always been faster, she thinks, and he could catch me if he wanted to. It is evident, because she is still running, that he does not want to.

She runs through the night, walking and skipping and running, limping on tired feet and aching ankles. It is not that she is lost, or that she is choosing not to go home: it is because the wind feels good in her hair and because it is cold and because the rain that pours from the skies soaks her skin and doesn't let her feel her tears.

Because she knows that when she goes home, she'll be forced to curl up with chocolates and ice cream, that Ino-pig will force her to tell everything - that she'll feel the better for it, but only after the pain is gone. That she will sob until she cannot breathe, and that it will hurt.

So she runs, instead. Because she is cowardly and weak and foolish, and why would Sasuke-kun have wanted someone like her, anyways? The answer is that he wouldn't, that she has deluded herself all along, has fooled herself into thinking that he is her One True Love, her Knight in Shining Armor, the One she once told Ino she would wait for.

But he's not it, it seems, because if her were her One True Love, then she wouldn't be running right now. He would have caught her. Or she would still be at home, in her bed, sleeping.

Which is where she should be right now, either way. There is a whisper and swoosh in the air behind her, and tapping footsteps, she thinks, and she begins once more to run. She runs home, this time, and lets herself in and takes the stairs and not the elevator, because the elevator has a penchant for breaking down precisely when it shouldn't, and because standing in the elevator gives you breath to cry.

Unlike running up stairs.

She slips in the apartment and tries not to wake Ino up, because this is their day off. And then she is in her room, and stripping off soaked jeans and jacket, and then the slightly dryer tank top underneath. It takes less effort then it should to convince herself to forgo teeth brushing, face washing, and showering, but she is grateful.

And then she is in her bed, and asleep. She doesn't remember any of her dreams, precisely, only that they hurthurthurt, that Sasuke-kun liedliedlied, and that something is terribly, terribly wrong. She wakes up feeling sorry, for herself and for the years of her life that he (stole) occupied, the memories and the wishes (on first stars and first snows, on flower petals, and eleven-eleven, and twenty-two-twenty-two, on birthday candles and lucky pennies) that she had wasted.

She wakes up wishing that she hadn't, because she wakes up more tired then she remembers being when she went to bed, with disgusting hair and dirty clothing piled in a corner, mud marks on her wall.

There is a note on the fridge, when she finally gets there. Hey, Forehead Girl, it reads. Hot date with Shikamaru today. Okay, so maybe I'm just going to go wake him up and make him take me out for coffee. But it counts! Ino.

The note makes her smile for a moment, wondering exactly how Shikamaru felt about his weekly distraction - Ino was a morning girl, and an annoying one. He was, in some ways, her project. In all other ways, he was her boyfriend.

Or so Ino said.

Sakura waits. She waits because that is what she was born to do: wait. She waits for Ino to come home and tell her about her hot date, she waits for her water to boil for instant noodles, and most of all she waits for Sasuke.

Waits for him, because that is what she does best. She waits and waits and waits, and maybe someday he'll come for her. He used to call every day, she thinks, and is not waiting for the phone to ring.

Because of course he will not be calling today. Of course not.

She is still trying to convince her errant heart of this when the phone does ring, and she jumps, listening to it ring - once, twice, three. She doesn't pick up, and is relieved and disappointed with Ino's boisterous voice. "Hey, Forehead-Girl! You still sleeping? Look, I'm staying at Shika's tonight, okay? And we all know you can't cook for squat, so I called Sasuke and made him take you out tonight, okay? I think he was saying no, which is totally weird, forehead, but then I told him you looked sick and he said yes. I think he's worried. Be good to him, alright?"

It takes her a moment to process that, but when she finally does, her eyes open wide - panicpanicpanicpanic - and she reaches for the phone in time to hear it beep. The message button is blinking, and she presses it, hoping that hearing it a second time will negate the message.

Hey, Forehead-Girl! You still sleeping? Look, I'm staying at Shika's tonight, okay? And we all know you can't cook for squat, so I called Sasuke and made him take you out tonight, okay? I think he was saying no, which is totally weird, forehead, but then I told him you looked sick and he said yes. I think he's worried. Be good to him, alright?

The message sounds like a death threat the second time around. Oh, shit, she thinks, and rushes into the kitchen to take her water off the stove. Because she's not sick - she turns her head away to cough - and she can cook - see? Instant noodles - and Sasuke is so not going to be happy, and this is bad awkward.

Because Sakura is so fine with staying home alone and ordering pizza, and she is so not fine with her best friend ditching her when she's apparently sick and especially not with her ex-boyfriend.

Even if said best friend didn't realize that, yet.

So Sakura waits, because she can't run, and Sakura tries. Sakura sleeps.

She does not awaken to the sounds of pacing in the hall, and the scrape of key in lock at seven. She does not wake to the footsteps crossing into her home, and when fingers trail softly across the tear tracks on her cheeks, she still sleeps.

She wakes, however, to the sound of her doorbell ringing. The room is dark and bleary, and she sits up and rubs her eyes, looking around. Sasuke is pressing the buzzer next to the door to let someone in, and…

He's here, she thinks. He's really, truly here.

He looks over at her, and she briefly wonders whether she has spoken the words out loud. A blush crosses her cheeks, and he opens the door for the delivery man. "My favorite," she breathes as he pays, and he walks over to place it on the table in front of the couch she is lying on.

"Yes," he agrees, and touches her. His hand reaches toward her, and for a minute she thinks… she doesn't know what, exactly, she thinks, but then his hand settles on her forehead, and he frowns.

She thinks that she should tell him that she's not really sick, and opens her mouth to do so - a cough interrupts her, and when she tries to say it again, there is a glass of water in front of her. "Drink," he says. It is a command, but even if it were not, she would never have disobeyed him.

"I'm not really sick," she tells him a moment later, and something flickers in his eyes as he takes the glass from her and sets himself to opening the boxes, snapping the chopsticks apart for her.

"I'm really not," she insists, even as she accepts the chopsticks - perfectly broken - and reaches for the food. "You didn't have to… I mean, if you were worried or anything…" She trails off, picking at the food.

His voice is tightly controlled when he answers her, so many minutes later that she is hardly expecting an answer. "Just because you've made your feelings on the subject clear doesn't mean that I feel the same way," he says, a strangely perplexing remark.

And then he stands, walking towards the little kitchenette, leaving her to puzzle over the statement. Just because you've made your feelings on the subject clear doesn't mean I feel the same way. What was that supposed to mean? That he loved her? That he hated her? That he wanted to be friends? That she had rejected him?

Savagely, she began biting on her nails. They were chipped and faded, and tasted faintly of nail polish - she had grown them out for Sasuke-kun, and she thinks that definitely doesn't need them anymore.

It wasn't like they had helped at all. In the end, he had still…

Tears pooled in her eyes and spilled over, and she tried desperately to cling to her anger. I did everything for him, she thinks miserably. I did everything to make myself seem worthy of him…

I always knew it, she tells herself, vindictively. I always knew he would leave me…

But, Just because you've made your feelings clear doesn't mean I feel the same way.

She shakes her head, briefly. No, she thinks. No, he didn't mean it. He couldn't have meant it, because she had told him goodbye, and that would mean that he wanted her back, and that… that wasn't possible.

"No," she whispers. "He can't have meant that."

"What can't I have meant?" he returns, and she looks up, startled, the tears still shining on her cheeks.

"Nothing," she assures him. "It was nothing."

For a moment, she thinks that will be enough, but then his face darkens, and he steps forward, almost menacingly. "It was nothing. Just like we were nothing, I suppose?"

Her mouth opens to contradict him, but she cannot think of a response to such a silly statement, and he is on her in a moment, "I should have known you'd do that, you know. Should have known you'd run at the first sign of commitment."

He pauses, as though waiting for a rebuttal, and she cannot think of one. "How could you?" she asks him. "What did you want me to do, congratulate you?" There are tears rolling down her cheeks faster then ever now, dripping down her chin and pummeling her jeans. "Should I have told you that I'd be happy to be your whore, thank you very much? What could I have done?"

He looks five years older as he replies, "You could have listened. You could have stayed. You could have not run off."

"I ran because you're faster, damn it." This is a whisper, and it is a scream, a harsh sound that tears at her throat and makes her tears come even faster. This is her confession, her admission. "I ran because I knew you could catch me if you wanted to."

"I did," he bites out. He is looking anywhere but at her now, and when she challenges that statement he suddenly turns his back to her - Fear, she thinks, Fear - and lifts up his shirt, giving her a glimpse of white bandages before he tugs it back down and sits.

"Oh," is all she can say, and then guilt rushes in, washing over the anger and the frustration and anger. "Oh," she repeats, and then it is a war between "What happened," "Why didn't you tell me," "Are you okay?"

Something strange comes out, something with components of all of those but which doesn't quite make sense, and Sasuke, still sitting across from her, raises those dark eyebrows of his and does not say a word.

He is forcing her to choose, she thinks wildly, and, "Are you okay?" she asks, because Sasuke-kun has always come first. Sasuke-kun, no matter the state of her heart.

"No," he tells her, slowly, as though the truth hurts. "No, I'm not okay."

And that changes everything, because Sasuke-kun is strong, is ferocious and powerful and omniscient and omnipresent, and Sasuke-kun not being okay is akin to the sun not shining and the earth not turning, and she is afraid, suddenly.

"Are you?" he asks, and she slowly shakes her head No, because how can she be okay when Sasuke-kun isn't okay?

"What happened?" she asks him, and he looks away.

"My parents were… displeased with my choice," he says. There is something bitter in his voice, something bitter and dark and ironic. "They should not have worried."

And then she is crying, silently and brokenly and confusedly, and "What do you mean?" Because he hasn't meant anything he has said today, not to her. He is feeding her half-truths and half-lies and half-nothings and half-everythings, things that don't mean anything to her, that can't mean what she thinks they mean.

"What do you think?" he asks her, and he is indefinably sad. There is nothing in his voice to tell her that, or in his face, but she can feel it.

"I don't know," she tells him, not quite truthfully. "Anything I can think of just doesn't make any sense."

"What are the options?" he asks her. He is not looking at her now, glancing carefully at a point over her head.

"Its stupid," she answers, a bit more truthfully. You love me, she thinks of saying. You wanted to marry me.

But it will hurt more if she is wrong, and she is tired of hurting…

"You loved me," she thinks. "You wanted to marry me." The words sound good in her head, except for the tense, maybe.

His black eyes are on her, intense and burning and happy, maybe. Maybe a little sad, too, and maybe a little desperate. "Is that so stupid?" he asks her.

And he cannot read her mind, because that would be foolish, and so it must have been that she had spoken the words aloud. So. The truth, then…

The truth scares her, as it always has, but she asks herself to say it despite that.

"No," she tells him. "No, it is not so stupid. It is what I have dreamed of since I met you."

His voice is soft as he replies, soft and bitter. "Then why--" his voice cracks, and he pauses to clear it. "Why did you refuse me?"

This is a time for honesty, so she says the words that she has always dreaded in the romance novels, because they mean that the heroine is playing stupid and is leading the hero around in circles within circles within circles.

"You never asked," she tells him, and that is the truth.

"I would have," he responds. A challenge.

"If I had waited?" she asks.

Maybe not, but I will never admit that, his eyes say. "Yes," he replies.

"Oh," she says. "If you had only said that earlier, I would have said yes. But I suppose--" and this is said with a toss of her chin and flick of her hair, her eyes boring into his even as she stands, "--I suppose that it is too late now."

"Hn," he replies, and she thinks of what her father says. A good man will wait, he had once told her. A good man, a man who truly loves you, will come back though he has been rejected, and ask again.

He stands, and he leaves. He leaves her alone with the boxes of take-out and the broken chopsticks, with the tear tracks on her cheeks and dishes to wash, and she cries. Because maybe this is Goodbye, then.

She hopes that she has made the right choice.

The next night, her phone rings.

It is his picture that shows up on the screen.

(She thinks that, this time, she will not run.)