"he loves me…he loves me not…he loves me…he loves me—not."
"you've had the same results for the last three flowers, sakura."
"shut up, ino! everyone's telling me to get over him! even the stupid flowers are telling me to get over him!"
"that's because you should."
"that's what makes me different from all of you. i won't."
"this is what'll make sasuke-kun finally love me."
"i'll—i'll do anything! please, don't go!"
"sakura-chan! did you hear? sasuke's back!"
"would you…like to train with me?"
even after you're back…
why do you keep…
raindrops falling up
because sometimes, we do things that defy gravity.
"Sasuke-kun! How are you…" Swallow. "…today?"
Faint smile. "That's good. Are you busy right now? Naruto and I were just heading to Ichiraku for lunch—"
"You're training again, aren't you? You have to take a break once in a while, you know. Training alone isn't as healthy as training with others. I have to work this afternoon, but I'll get Naruto to train with you! How's that?"
"Hn." Look away.
He never says yes. It's either "no", or "hn". So what's "hn" supposed to mean? "Maybe"? "Yes"?
Sad smile. "If you don't want me here, just say so, Sasuke-kun."
"I can't understand you. Can you please speak proper Japanese? Or at least tell us what each different tone of 'hn' means—"
"he's even more reserved than back when we were genin."
"he knows you love him, sakura-chan. don't worry."
"does he also know how he crushes me every time he brushes me off?"
"…just give it time."
"what if i can't?"
"you can. that's what you've been saying all your life, right?"
She sat at Ichiraku, waiting. Would he come? Would he see that she was the only one there and walk away?
Her heart lifted a little. "Oh, he has a mission briefing with Tsunade-sama. He won't be able to make it today."
Pause. "I see." Sasuke sat beside her, and she tried to hide her smile.
They ate in silence, but Sakura didn't mind. Sasuke was never a man of many words, and when he wasn't staring one down, his silences were actually quite comfortable. What surprised her, though, was that he actually attempted to start a conversation partway through the meal.
"You're a medic."
Blink. "Yeah." Perhaps it was wishful thinking on her part, but did he want to talk to her?
When she looked over, he was staring at his bowl of ramen. "Thanks. It was hard, but…I think it's worth it."
The rest of lunch is silent.
Sasuke-kun, have I ever told you how much I love you?
He paid for his own lunch, and she reached into her pocket for her money. She blinked when she couldn't find it.
"I'm sorry, Ayame, but I think I left my wallet at home."
Because I love you…
"Oh, don't worry about it! I'm sure Sasuke-san will pay."
She looked at the Uchiha, who was standing with his hands in his pockets, waiting for her. He looked at her pointedly.
"It's alright," she told Ayame. "I owe you, alright? I'll pay you back tomorrow."
The older woman nodded hesitantly, looking at Sasuke. "Okay, Sakura-san. Have a good day."
…so why won't you even acknowledge it?
If Sakura felt any form of happiness before, it was all gone now. They stood outside of the bar, facing each other. She played with her fingers.
Strained smile. "So I suppose you have other things to do, right?"
Shrug. "Not really."
False hope. "Oh. Because I don't either, really. Today's actually my day off, so I was going to spend time with Naruto, but…" She should shut up before he called her annoying again. The old days were really beginning to catch up to her.
I just want you to acknowledge it, Sasuke-kun. Is that so hard?
"Would you like to…" He struggled with his words. "Go for a walk?"
He probably regretted it the moment her lips curved into the biggest smile in existence, but she couldn't help it. "If you wouldn't mind…"
They walked past Naruto's apartment, the Uchiha compound, the bridge that was Team Seven's old meeting place, and didn't say a word. They walked past the Yamanaka flower shop, and she stopped for a moment to admire the new arrivals.
"You like carnations?" Sasuke nodded towards the flowers she was looking at.
Nodding, she tucked a lock of hair behind her hair. "I just think they're really proportional."
"You like the pink ones?"
Straightening up, she looked at him. "Yeah. But I like the yellow ones more." She pointed to the yellow carnations a little ways over. "They're just so…bright. They remind me of Naruto."
She missed the way his lips turn downwards by a fraction. "Hn."
The next day, she found a single yellow carnation at her front door beside her morning paper.
She had a fleeting idea of who it is, but it was best not to hope.
"will he…ever return to normal?"
"probably not, sakura-chan. you know that better than i do."
"but maybe what he's becoming is better than what he ever was."
Her heart broke.
She loved Ino. And she loved Sasuke.
But who did she love more?
Because she certainly didn't love them together.
Throughout the years, Ino drifted in and out of crushes, infatuations, relationships, and the occasional one-night-stand, but Sakura had remained faithful to the Uchiha who was never there.
So why did he choose her?
It should be my hand he's holding, not Ino's.
Her heart jumped to her throat when onyx eyes locked with hers. Too dark. Too empty. Too cruel.
But what about the yellow carnation?
It was best not to hope.
(But she did anyway.)
"i love you!"
"i don't care."
They were on a mission, and they were fighting and fighting and fighting and all she could think of was is Sasuke-kun alright? Is Sasuke-kun hurt? How much chakra do I have to save to heal my Sasuke-kun?
It was fitting to rain in a hopeless situation such as this. She was so, so tired, but Sasuke didn't even look fazed as he beat down shinobi after shinobi.
What surprised her was that he didn't kill a single one.
When finally, the last one fell, she fell with him, sobbing. Her tears mixed with the raindrops on her cheeks.
Why wouldn't the rain fall up, for once? Why did it always rain on her?
She saw Sasuke's feet clad in his shinobi sandals through her half-lidded eyes.
Grunt. "Get up."
Why do you have so much control over me?
She pulled herself to her feet, staggering a little. "Are you okay?" Her voice was rasp, her breath haggard. She didn't recognize herself anymore. Her hands were covered in blood. It was horrid.
She cried some more.
"Minor scratches. Let's find a place to stay."
It was so dark. She was so tired. She only knew that it was late. Too late to be up.
They walked for a few minutes before her knees gave out from underneath her and she fell to the ground.
He stopped. "Get up."
She tried. "I—I can't."
He didn't pick her up bridal style. He didn't even offer her his back. He merely took her arm and wrapped it around his shoulders, hoisting her to her feet. Her body leaned against his as he supported her weight.
Funny, she thought. She was supposed to be the one taking care of him from now on.
Her steered her into the first inn they saw. It was old and dirty and only provided single rooms, but it was cheap and it had a roof, so he took it. She was too tired to protest. They were drenched, cold and shivering when they stumbled into the tiny room with only one single-sized bed.
The bathroom didn't even have a shower.
"You have the bed," she told him, stripping off her jounin vest and draping it over the only chair in the room. Her teeth chattered dangerously.
Weary sigh. "Have I ever told you how stupid you are?"
He sounded so tired. Even worse off than her. "Unfortunately."
There's always going to be that line that I can never cross.
"You're going to catch hypothermia at this rate. Both of us are."
"So what do you suggest we do?" Don't look at him, don't look at him. Don't look. Don't. She struggled to open her wet pack, where her brush was.
The line between friends and lovers…
"You're the medic. You tell me." His voice was lilting. Morbidly, she realized he was vaguely amused.
Blush. "Under normal circumstances, I would advise the two people in question to remove their clothing and share body heat…" She found her brush, but dropped it to the floor. It was a disgusting floor. She really didn't want to sleep on it.
I can't cross it, but…
"I believe this is a normal circumstance."
She had no idea what he was saying.
"Y-You specialize in fire jutsu. I'm sure you'll find a way to keep warm. I'm a medic. I can do things with my body that others can't. So—we're good. Really." She ran the brush through her hair, yanking at the knots. It hurt. It also didn't work.
She heard the rustling of clothes behind her, and she turned around to find Sasuke stripping off his jounin vest, mesh shirt and all. "Strip down, Sakura."
…but he can.
She was shivering when she was in nothing but her undergarments, as red as a tomato (his favorite). Her arms wrapped around her middle, hoping they'd hide at least something.
"Get in." He gestured towards the small bed.
What is he trying to do?
"Are you sure? I—I mean—"
"I said get in."
She got in.
She faced the wall, but that didn't stop her from feeling the bed move as he shifted underneath the covers with her. Her eyes shut desperately and she tried not to think about how he was in nothing but his boxers—
"It defeats the purpose if we're not close together, Sakura."
"Forget about Ino."
Forget about what? Forget about their interlaced fingers and those blue eyes sparkling with joy and how her heart just broke at the sight of them?
She couldn't do that. She couldn't. How could she possibly forget about her only love being swept away by her rival, her best friend—the one who was with her longer than even he was?
Sasuke, what are you trying to do to me?
She squeaked when his bare chest pressed against her cold back. Their frozen feet touched, and she cringed away.
Don't say my name like that…
"Face me, Sakura. You're never going to warm up that way."
"I-I'll be fine. Don't worry about it."
"That dobe is going to be a pain in the ass if you return with hypothermia." And with that, his already warming hand reached around her waist and flipped her over with one movement. She didn't dare look up at him.
Don't do this to me…
The covers above them were nothing compared to his warmth, his breath on her hair, his arm draped around her waist.
"Ino's going to kill me," she murmured.
Why do people always want what they can't have?
"Ino isn't going to kill you for taking necessary measures to avoid dying."
She would've responded with something he would've considered weak and worthless, but she was too tired to do anything.
Too tired of everything he'd done to her.
The only time she'd fall asleep in his arms would be in this cheap, dirty inn miles away from Konoha, just to keep from dying.
But she was dying anyway.
"see, teme thinks you're stupid because you can't pick up on his hints."
"…he's giving me hints?"
"personally, i think he's the stupid one, because actually initiating a conversation with you is not considered a hint."
"Hey, Naruto, do you have any updates on Sasuke and Ino?" Swallow.
"Sasuke and Ino? Are you crazy, Sakura-chan?"
I wish I was. "No."
Naruto gave her a look. "You've probably been working overtime too much lately. You didn't hear? Ino was just using teme to make Shikamaru jealous." Snicker. "Oldest trick in the book, but it still worked like a charm."
Frown. "But Sasuke wouldn't do that for Ino. He wouldn't do that for anyone."
"Have you ever thought that he got something out of it too?"
Her heart lurched. "A lay?"
After a moment of absolutely stunned silence, Naruto burst out laughing before pulling her into a bear hug. "This is why I love you, Sakura-chan."
She didn't see what was so funny.
"sasuke-kun, you have to stop this."
"this. one minute, you're treating me like a proper person, and the next, it's like i'm nothing to you. i'm not a superhuman. i can't endure all of this."
"you could if you wanted to."
"that's not the point. i want a straight answer. what do you feel towards me?"
"you'd still love me no matter what my answer was."
"…yes, i would."
"so why does how i feel matter?"
"Naruto and Kakashi-senpai are on a mission, but…would you still like to have dinner?"
Our weekly Team Seven dinners haven't really been Team Seven dinners when at least one of us are always gone.
He looked away. "It's my turn this week, right?"
Shuffling of feet. "Well, yes, but we can have it at my place if you'd like. It doesn't really matter." I'd cook all of your meals from now on, if that was what you wanted. I'd do anything for you.
"No. We'll go to my place."
Pause. Small smile. "Okay."
They were walking closer than they normally did—or were they always just continually walking a little closer and never realizing it? Their hands brushed a few times, and she tried to ignore it—it means nothing, it means nothing, it means absolutely nothing—but she was sure his keen ears picked up on her increased heartbeat.
Stop making me feel so helpless, Sasuke-kun.
But that increased heartbeat nearly stopped altogether when he hooked his pinky finger with hers.
What's this supposed to mean…?
She unhooked hers and pulled her hand away—I can't get hurt again, I can't break again, Ican'tIcan'tIcan't—
But he reached over and hooked his pointer finger with hers, now.
"Stop," she mumbled—but she didn't want him to stop—not really, not ever—she never did—"I can't do this."
"If we were twelve again." He stopped walking, and she had to stop too; he had her around his finger—always holding her back, always keeping her with him—"If we were twelve again, you'd go on about how we were perfect for each other and how much you loved me."
She bowed her head. "But we're not twelve anymore, Sasuke-kun." If we ever had a chance, we missed it.
Swallow. "Yeah. We're adults now. No more infatuations or chasing after boys." A soft, hushed voice.
"Sakura. I'm only going to say this once, so you'd better listen." She didn't look up, but she listened. She always listened to him. No matter when or where—always him—always, always, always. "I'm not going to go as far as to say that we're meant for each other. And I'm not going to say we missed all of our chances. Because we never got chances."
We're like two pieces of a puzzle. But we're on the opposite sides of the picture.
"We're never going to get a chance." Too little, too late.
"Do you remember who I am?"
"Yes. You're Uchiha Sasuke."
"And if I don't get chances, I make them."
Her breath caught. Don't hope, don't hope. It'll only hurt more when he lets you down again.
"Look at me, Sakura."
Your eyes are so empty, Sasuke-kun…How am I suppose to believe anything you say anymore? How was I ever supposed to start believing you?
"I can't do the things Naruto does. I can't smile when I see you. I can't comfort you when you cry. I can't"—he paused for a moment—why did he pause?—"fix you. I can't undo the things I've done."
Sad smile. "We'll never be perfect like we could've been, Sasuke."
"I have never been attracted to perfection."
Don't do this to me, please, don't do this, don't, don'tdon'tdon't—
His lips tasted so bittersweet—like a train wreck, like a disaster, like imperfection. Like Sasuke.
We're two puzzle pieces that were never meant to be side by side, but maybe if we meshed together hard enough…
Then maybe we could be wrongly right.
"we're a disaster. did you know that, sasuke-kun?"
"but you're not a disaster alone anymore."
week .seven— (seven, like our original number—seven, like where it all started. where we started.)
"I think…" Deep breath. "I can try. I can give us…a try." Strained smile. Attempted smile. But still a smile. "If you could try just a little too, then…I think I could accept you."
Never a yes. Always a "no" or a "hn". "What's that supposed to mean?"
'Yes, God, yes, please take me back even though I've done so many terrible things to you. Take me back, because I'll try and I'll try and I'll try and I'll make up for everything I never did—'
Smile. A genuine one. "Okay."
"good day to you too, sasuke-kun!"
"but i don't want to say goodnight, because that's like saying goodbye."
"i love you too…"
A/N: This is a little different from my usual stuff, so I would adore feedback. (And can people actually die from hypothermia if not given the proper treatment?)
And this is sort of like my goodbye fic for a while, 'cause I have two RCM Exams to get through in two weeks. (One to make up for my failed History IV.) My parents are really stressed about this, being Asian and all, considering how I failed one last time. So yeah. I won't be posting much. Or anything.
I still love you guys, though.