Character(s): Sakura Haruno, Sasuke Uchiha
Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me.
50_shinobi Theme: Theme #25 – Pitter-Patter
Summary: AU. Three years that had only felt like a heartbeat for her. Life continued and she was left in the aftermath.
Erik Satie's Gymnopedie No. 1 filtered through her car speakers as she drove home late from work. It was drizzling on this humid Friday night and Sakura could feel the exhaustion from the very marrow of her bones after pulling a double shift at the hospital. Just five more minutes and she'd be able to crawl into her sorely missed bed and—
The bright headlights of a swerving car were the last things Sakura saw before she felt the thundering impact and succumbed to the blinding darkness rushing all around her.
She heard a soft tune. A gentle humming that filled her with calm and childhood reminiscence.
"The weatherman was wrong again today, said it was supposed to be partly cloudy but it's raining outside, little flower. The skies are gray and to be honest, it's a little depressing."
Soft footsteps echoed in her hazy mind. A deep sigh followed.
"On days like these I miss your mother like hell."
She knew that voice, knew it all too well.
But why was it so hard to open her eyes and say something? Why did she feel like she was floating in a timeless space that was so difficult to escape?
Her fingers moved and her eyes slowly began to shift underneath her closed lids.
Wake up Sakura…wake up…wake up…open your eyes…
"You know I can't lose you too, little flower. You're all I have now."
She gradually forced her green eyes halfway open but then quickly closed them, releasing an almost inaudible groan.
But Eiji Haruno—tall, broad shouldered and graying around the edges—had heard it and praying it wasn't just a figment of his imagination, spun around and was at his daughter's side the next moment.
She took a shuddering breath, attempting to once again open her eyes but it was so hard to and the room was so damn bright. "Dad?" She murmured tiredly, trying to fight off the siren call of sleep but failing miserably.
"I'm here little flower. Just...just be calm and take a deep breath and Christ, I don't know what to do!" Eiji looked from his daughter to the door and back again, unwilling to leave her yet eager to notify Tsunade of Sakura's dramatic change.
She smiled a little. Silly old man. "I'm okay…" She whispered before falling back asleep.
Within the next two days, Sakura woke up every now and then but never long enough to have a full conversation. Eiji was assured that this was normal and that gradually, she'd stay awake longer but it would take time. He was fine with it of course because this was nothing compared to how long he waited for his little flower to finally wake up.
On the third day, Sakura wasn't feeling as tired and with some help, was even able to sit up.
"How're you feeling?"
"I'm fine." She replied, squeezing her father's hand. "Now tell me what happened."
He wondered how she'd react and even though a gripping sadness held fast his heart, he trudged on. "You were in a car accident, hit by a driver who'd fallen asleep at the wheel. You suffered head trauma and fell into a coma."
"How long?" And for some reason, Sakura dreaded the answer. She stared at her father, saw the shadows pass across his eyes, the dark circles beneath them.
"How long?" She demanded, even though her voice wavered. Even though she really didn't want to know.
"Almost three years."
Three years…and before she could stop them, Sakura felt the hot tears slide down her cheeks, a quiet devastation wreaking havoc inside her.
"Little flower…" Eiji took his sobbing daughter into his arms then and offered what comfort he could.
"You're extremely lucky Sakura. Thanks to all this advanced medical technology and dedication from your father, it gave us hope you'd make a full recovery. Your vitals are strong and you seem to be recovering remarkably fast. Give it a couple more weeks and you'll start looking healthier. You can begin eating solids next week, but for now just liquids and yummy mushy stuff." Tsunade said after completing her routine checkup on the pink haired, twenty four year old.
Sakura nodded and took a deep breath. It was hard trying to be happy when three years of her life had slipped between her fingers. It was hard trying not to let it show in her eyes, in the pale, slightly gaunt features of her face.
"Thank you, Tsunade-sama."
Letting out a long sigh, the older woman and chief of Tokyo Medical Center sat on the edge of the bed and gave the younger woman a hard look. "It may have been three years Sakura, but you're alive. I didn't spend a whole damn night trying to save one of my brightest residents so you could throw yourself a pity party when you woke up. Understand?"
Even though it felt like a physical slap, at a time like this sometimes sharp candor was the best thing and Sakura found herself grateful—and maybe she even missed her chief's no nonsense attitude, just a little.
"Yes, Tsunade-sama." She smiled. This time it finally reached her eyes.
"Good." The blonde doctor stood up, her honey orbs brighter and more relieved. "Oh, and I've also scheduled some physical therapy sessions for you. We'll take it slow. There's no need to rush. The last thing I need is your overprotective father on my case harping about you overdoing it."
Within the next two weeks, reality steadily seeped through and she found out how much she'd truly missed in the three years she'd been asleep.
And it hurt, honestly and deeply so. But what did she expect? For the world to stop spinning? For time to stop flowing so she wouldn't be left behind?
Time waited for no one. People moved on. Life continued. And she was left to drift in the aftermath. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but there was no way around it.
Sakura had found out a few days ago that Naruto and Hinata had gotten married a year and a half ago. She was already six months pregnant. Twins they'd said.
Ino was engaged to her long time boyfriend Shikamaru. Apparently, he'd finally popped the question, which Sakura suspected was him caving under the blond's relentless pressure and hounding.
And…the soft pitter patter of feet brought her out of her thoughts.
But she wasn't staring at him. Her eyes had fallen on the small toddler who could be no more than one year old. He looked around, dark eyes taking in his surroundings until finally landing on her. He blinked curiously and then looked up at his father.
Maybe her heart broke a little. Sakura couldn't be sure. She was a little numb inside.
"He looks just like you." She whispered, pushing aside the melancholy and lingering regret to look into his near ebony eyes.
"Sasuke? You in here?" A red head entered the room then but awkwardly paused soon after.
His wife…and the mother of this adorable little boy who was currently exploring the stack of magazines on the small rectangular table.
Life continued. And she was left to watch how much it had truly progressed.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to—"
"It's okay." Sakura assured.
"Karin, can you take Ichirou and give us a minute?"
Sakura watched her as she picked up her son and walked out the room, heard Sasuke take the seat next to the bed.
"How old is he?"
"Almost nine months."
She nodded and even though she didn't want to, forced herself to really look at him.
There was a time when Sasuke Uchiha belonged to her, but not anymore. It was three years too long…three years too late.
"I'm sorry…I just couldn't wait…"
He couldn't wait for her.
Was she supposed to blame him? Was she supposed to be bitter and angry because he'd moved on without her? Had married another woman and had a beautiful little boy?
A part of her screamed and shouted yes. Hate him. Loathe him. Never forgive him because maybe, maybe when he had whispered 'I love you' and 'We'll be together forever', he hadn't meant a single word. Just fabrications. Just frivolous sentimentalities uttered because it was expected, the right thing to say at the right time. Because if he had ever loved her at all, had ever meant forever, he would've waited.
And the other part of her whispered mournfully her understanding. Just because life had stopped for her, didn't mean others could afford to do the same. She would've wanted them to move on. She would've told them not to linger, not to relive the past when the present was there and the future was waiting.
"It hurts." She whispered, feeling the sting of tears as she sighed and closed her eyes. "But I understand."
He took her hand and she felt the guilt, the sadness through his touch. And she wanted to be happy with that. He should feel guilty and sad and sorry. He hadn't waited for her to wake up so they could get married, have children of their own because that had been their plan. That had been their future.
But she didn't wake up. He didn't wait. And even though Sakura wanted to hate him, she couldn't because three years was a long time…even if it had only felt like a heartbeat for her.
"Will you forgive me?"
She smiled a little. "I wouldn't know what to forgive, Sasuke. I don't blame you for moving on, so let go of the guilt...and I'll let go of us."
He placed a soft kiss on the palm of her hand and it almost felt like a good-bye.
"I guess we were never meant to be, Sasuke-kun."
Later on, when he had left and the lights in her room dimmed, Sakura let the tears fall and silently cried for all the things she'd lost.
::Six months later::
"Are you sure this is what you want, little flower?"
Sakura nodded and kissed her father on the cheek. "I need to get away for a while. You'll be okay without me?"
"I won't like it, but I think I can manage." He replied, his green eyes full of understanding and support.
Sakura knew that he'd be all right. "I love you, Papa."
"Enough to write and call home? I want frequent updates and post cards."
Sakura laughed. "You got it."
Pulling her into a tight hug, Eiji breathed a sigh of content. "Take care of yourself, little flower. I'll be here when you get back."
The Tuscan sun shined bright and true as Sakura took a deep, long breath of warm summer air.
And she was moving forward, slowly but surely and with each day a little brighter than the last.
A/N: Just a little bit of angsty yet hopeful indulgence. Excuse the medical inaccuracies. I wield my creative license quite liberally.