Three pieces of flash fiction inspired by chapter 484. So obviously, spoiler warnings do apply. There are a few pairings in here, but I thought I'd let you figure them out for yourself. Answers at the end if you do make it there. Contains slash, het and femmeslash. Also clumsy second person POV, ambiguity, and general confusing-ness.


three hopeless crushes

-o-

1.

And in that moment, you think: all the power in the world, and I am still not fast enough.

You are well-acquainted with loss. Losing is an art, and you excel at it the way you have excelled at everything else in your life, everything leading up to this exact moment in time when all the weight of your failures crushes down upon you, slowing your steps. Your body revolts against you, and its internal momentum carries you backward, further and further away from her.

You could have died so many times, but there was always somebody else. Up until the very last death, when you truly thought, this is it. You were brought back from the edge, but if you think about it, maybe you really did die then—then and then and then, each time a member of your family sank into the earth, completing their story. They bring you back from the edge, and every time you bring a little of the edge back with you. This time, too, there will be someone else.

Stop. This is not your story.

Wrong context, at any rate. This is not another daring tale of your heroic failures. You've had your share of second chances, it seems unfair that you should be given another one, but life's unfair. This, you know. But there's another moment, between the settling dust and the final standing ovation, when she trips toward you with a crippled gait, and you see the way the winter light is drawn into her skin, soaking it, turning it refulgent—a moment when you do not think, this is the life I couldn't save, but instead, this is the life that never needed my saving.

Her face is unmaking a tired smile; her joy unmakes you. Hers is a kind of severe, accidental beauty. It attenuates the blood to behold. A serious young girl, hair chopped bluntly at the neck, swanning slowly into womanhood, into the triumph of a bitterly-awaited victory.

We did it, she says, looking up at you the way younger women look at older men they've known all their lives. With rue. Things really will be like they used to now. You've kept your promise. Her body emits warmth like a hearth. It envelops you, holds your loneliness with care, reaching for you with confident hands and wringing all the weaknesses out of you.

This is enough. You've done enough. Now let me.

And the thing is: you would. You really would let her. You only have to ask, and maybe you will, maybe you're opening your mouth to do just that—but she isn't looking at you now. She's glancing anxiously over her shoulder at the two crumpled forms shivering on the ground, outlined against the dusk. Parts of a whole, shambled but desperately pulling themselves together, clinging each to each. They are waiting for her. Her love is yours to borrow, theirs to own.

The wind splays her hair, glances off the distracted smile she flashes you, and in that brief instance before she turns from you and runs back to the pieces of her real family, you can see clearly what you've always known, that you never had a chance, never had a chance at all.

-o-

2.

She visits you every day, between doing her first round and heading off to collect the previous day's labs. This in itself isn't at all extraordinary—off the battlefield, this is her day job, and you are a patient, if not a willing one. Her timely intervention may have snatched you from death, but healing is an arduous process. There are internal injuries, unseen damage that needs monitoring, the possibility of physical therapy, says your chart, clutched to her bosom like a shield.

You already know all this. You've forgotten more about the way the human body works than she has likely ever learned. You think about this every time the door to your room clicks open, and her coy, flowery perfume fills the clinical air.

Hi, she says. Her voice is slightly pitchy this morning; her lips match her hair. You hold her gaze, nod back in silence. You have nothing to say to each other.

Lately, you've been noticing things. You find something crisp in the crinkles that bracket her eyes, a certain poise in the way she holds her bones. Her mouth forms this pale fine line when she pores over your body, face pinched in concentration. Even her bright, frenetic energy makes elegance of things. Next to her, you feel graceless, clumsy, gnomish and fretful.

You are a visual creature. It's always the physicality of things that you notice first. With him, it was the face. His cruel mouth. You told yourself that it was the smile, that throwaway smile that drew you to him, but in truth, it was the mouth that framed it, full and dangerous. Later, you watched him sleep, and fell in love with his hands. Skin so pale it was almost translucent when the light from the window spilled up against it, veins blue beneath. Wrists taunt, knuckles restless. You poured adoration over the long fingers, the short clipped nails gleaming at their tips.

(It was only much later, after he had already unmade you, did you remember that his hands had clawed in sleep, tensed at the faintest suggestion of noise and reared up like a crab, poised for battle. There was a bleak agony in the tendons, in the way his fingers dug into the sheet, squeezed and squeezed with the precision of a strangler. After that, you could never look upon them again without terror, or a shudder of revulsion, not even if he renounced his ways and lived the rest of his life in peace and altruism, a milksop monk. It will never leave you.)

This is not how your life was supposed to turn out, you think bitterly. Defeated by a boy. Made less than you are. Subjugation is for other girls, you always thought, girls with flaky lipstick and artificial scents, who impress people with their shapely legs, their pretty smiles. Girls like her. She loved him, as you did, and even now, there are probably pieces of him inside her that you would never be able to touch, but you think, what does it matter? In the end, he still took a blade to her, just as he did you. In the end, you are both made brilliant fools.

But if you looked now, all you would see is the eggshell clarity of her skin, scrubbed clean and visible, hair pulled back from her narrow face. Eyes a little washed-out, a little careworn, but earnest, a lively intelligent green. The economy of her movements surprises you. Such frugality for one so young. Now scribbling on a notepad, now holding a clear vial up to the light. Wrists thinner than yours. The softness of her body is erased by the sharpness of her mind.

After the first week, she starts talking to you. It begins with a polite address, lilts into a plane of nervously inquisitive questions. You've never known anyone who starts a conversation like her. She wants to know about your tracking technique, about your special healing ability. Healer to healer, kunoichi to kunoichi. The two of you have the same mind, always hungry to know, to consume and dismantle, and all this time you've been trying to figure her out. You don't pretend you haven't noticed the lingering sadness with which her fingers trace the bite marks on your body, even as her gaze drills through your thickened skin like a lie detector.

Then one morning, as you're watching the tip of a pen quiver against her bottom lip, you figure it out. It's the functionality in the neat mathematics of her movements, you think, the irrefutable evidence of something that has never been destroyed. Or rather, has pulled itself together, rearranged its own scattered pieces and struggled on. Even though she spilled brilliant tears over your broken body for his sake, he has not managed to unmake her. Don't be made less than you are. Don't let the bastards grind you down. Something true and real and right, and the blinding force of it obliterates you, so that you barely notice her fluttering shock when you crumble and break into a million shards, pungent and sharp, shards like bitter tears, a kind of absolution.

-o-

3.

Something you've never told anyone: you felt it when he died.

You've never told anyone, because they would never believe you. They would say, of course you couldn't have known, you were nowhere near each other when it happened, might as well have been on opposite ends of the continent for all intents and purposes. But you knew. You felt it. The writhing, violent shudder of a part as it is wrenched from the whole, the tiny, drawn-out cry of something that goes on living even as the rest of it dies.

When they tell you about it later, you only tighten your mouth and nod in casual acknowledgment. You say nothing of the dark tinge that every now and then invades the edges of your mind. You neglect to mention the unfamiliar currents that channel through your polluted veins. You've never spent restless nights dreaming of carrion birds.

And you remember how, for the longest time, you resented it. You wanted nothing more than to erase the stain of him inside you, these foreign pockets of otherness that catch on your skin like the raised bumps of scars, rough and unpleasant against fingertips. How dare he do this to you? He was not your brother. You owed him nothing. In fact, it was he who had burdened you, made your life bitter with his very existence. You should feel nothing but hate for this man who drove your best friend into a frenzy, made the blood boil in his skull and chased him away from you.

It was merciless, what he did to you. An utter violation, to cut your body open like that and place inside you a piece of himself, so that when you look at Sasuke—Sasuke, who is your brother, who has also cursed your shoulders with more heft than your sixteen years could rightly bear—all you can feel is confusion. You can't decide if this pain is yours or his, whether it's his regrets or yours that make your soul curdle and clot just so. If this is his love surging up your throat in a tender, choking rush, or yours plunging down into the dark flesh of his heart like a sword.

But what is most ruthless of all is the way that those dark emotions flare and draw into sharp acuity when you gaze upon Sasuke's features, and in that instance you feel it all, the hopeless conviction as he struggled against fate in his wasting, self-savaging body, the excavated sympathy that stills and resuscitates your heart. His silent undoing. It makes you reel and stumble, your mind calcifying under the flashflood of understanding, and in that instance, you know. You know.

And it aches.

It aches.


A/N: Still here? Figured it out yet? Yeah, it was pretty obvious: Kakashi - Sakura; Karin - Sakura; Naruto - Itachi. Look who's going back to her roots!

It's been awhile since I shut off my brain and just, you know, wrote. Either I should do it more often, or never do it again.