dedication: to the boy who exhausts me to no end. one moment, i'm ecstatic, the next, frustrated, and then confused. but of course, he is merely a boy, and i cannot even count on him to make a sandwich for himself. 8D (i certainly hope you don't have high expectations for this fic, because it is not good, and nowhere near perfect—just like us, i guess.)

notes: based on the song said boy introduced to me—unfortunately, it's in mandarin and i have no idea what it's called. i'm sorry.

He tried his best to keep his voice from cracking. This was the only time she'd hear him perform, after all. He had to make it amazing.

Her breaths were harsh from the other end of the line, and he felt his throat close up on him. Don't go. Please. Don't go.

The last chord on the piano rang out, and he had to cut his singing short to suck in a long, shaky breath.

"I'll see you later then, ne, Sasuke-kun?"




mouse & rice
it makes me sick to even think of mornings waking up alone, and searching for you in my sheets.




"This is my favorite song," Sakura said as she pressed play on her iPod. Sasuke looked at the wall, not surprised that it was another love song. "Isn't it sweet?"

"He hasn't even started singing yet," he pointed out. She punched him affectionately, and he had to hide his face so she wouldn't see the corners of his mouth tilting upwards.

"You play the piano, right, Sasuke-kun?" She hummed along to the melody, subconsciously leaning against him. The little skin to skin made his heart jump to his throat, and he was glad that she couldn't see his reddening ears.

"Just a little."

"If I found the sheet music for you, would you learn how to play this for me?"

"You know I don't perform for people, Sakura."

"But aren't I an exception?"

He looked away from her prying gaze, her green, green eyes. "Hn."

Giggling, she rested her head against his shoulder. He felt the heat rush to his cheeks. "You're so cute."

"Sasuke-kun?" Her voice from the other end of the line sounded frantic.

"Sakura?" He sat up straighter in his seat. "Where are you? What's wrong?"

"I—I—" His grip on the phone tightened. "My mom—they just called—"

"Where are you? I'll be right there."

Knowing Sakura since high school, Sasuke had a firm grasp on her family life. Her father had walked out on her when she was still a child, and she lived with her mother. She had no siblings, no other relatives. It was just them. As far as he could tell, they weren't very close—but judging from how Sakura sounded on the phone, her mother meant a lot to her. She was all she had.

He met her in the lobby of the hospital. She was clutching her purse with white knuckles, and her eyes were red, but the moment she saw him, she burst into tears all over again. When her arms wrapped around his middle, squeezing the breath out of him, he didn't know what to do. He'd never seen her this way before.

"You okay?" he asked hesitantly, placing a cautious hand on her head. "What happened?"

It was several moments before she answered, hiccupping in the process. "She was driving home from work, and…someone ran a red light. Crashed right—right into the driver's side."

The words were stuck in his throat.

"It was an instant death."

His other arm curled gently around her waist. "Have you seen her yet?"

Hiccup. "N-No. I wanted to wait until you got here. I can't—I can't do this alone, Sasuke-kun."

When they entered the room, she slipped her hand, small and cold, into his, and for once, he didn't pull away. Her entire frame was trembling, and she pressed her other hand to her mouth.

Sasuke had only seen Sakura's mother a handful of times over the years, but he knew for sure that she was not supposed to look like that.

Half of her face was caked in dried blood. The covers of the bed hid the rest of the grotesque image, and the doctor in the room was telling Sakura about the damage—but for Sasuke, the words just went in one ear and out the other. All he could register was the gauntness of her mother's face, how pale and lifeless she looked, and how he was losing circulation in his fingers, because Sakura was clutching them so hard.

"I'll need to make preparations for the funeral," she said, sniffing. "Although, she never had too many friends…she was pretty introverted…"

"I'll book the day off and help," he said without hesitation. He would never admit it out loud, but seeing her this way was terrible. Sasuke had never seen Sakura look so broken before, but he never wanted to see her this way again. She was just so much more beautiful when smiling.

She stared at him with wide eyes. "Really? You'd do that?"

He scoffed. "What do you take me for?"

Her eyes were glassy, but he wasn't sure for what reason she was getting teary-eyed over. "Thanks, Sasuke-kun. Really."

He looked away. "Hn."

Black, Sasuke decided, looked terrible on her.

"When I die," she said, voice soft, "I don't want to be like my mother." The people have long left from the funeral, but she still stood, staring at the freshly shoveled dirt. "I don't want to be buried. It's like being confined in a box forever, until the end of time…"

"You want to be cremated?" he cautioned.

She shook her head, not looking at him. "No. Not even that. I want my body to be tossed into the ocean. Is that a little weird, though? But it's better for the environment."

He had to hide the small tilt of his lips. Trust Sakura to say something like that in front of her mother's grave.

The sigh that left her lips was long and weary. "My dad didn't even come."

"Did you expect him to?"

Her laugh was dry, humorless. He didn't like it one bit. "No. Not at all. And that might be the worst part." He wanted to take her hand, pat her hair—something to make her feel better. He'd always been able to make her feel better without an effort—so what about now? Why couldn't he make her smile now?

"Move in with me," he said, voice sounding too loud and too brash for the mood. It seemed as though he hadn't put any thought into this suggestion—order, almost—but in truth, he'd been thinking about it for weeks, now. Waiting for the right time to ask. Because timing, after all, was everything.

When she looked up at him, her eyes were red from crying, but not wet anymore. "Why?"

"Because…" He paused. "I don't want you to be alone." Because I want to be with you forever. Infinitely.

When she laughed, some of the life returned to her eyes. "Even if I'm depressed for more than half of the time? Because I'm usually pretty depressed when I'm by myself, you know."

"You won't be by yourself."

She smiled softly, and took his hand in hers. It was warm. "No, I suppose I won't."

If someone asked Sasuke what it was about Sakura that made him fall for her, he would say that it was the way she laughed, and tucked her hair behind her ear. He couldn't say he loved all of her—he didn't love her short temper or how he would have difficulty beating her in a fistfight, but everything else made up for it.

It was this funny little thing. Everyone who knew them would say that they completed each other; Sasuke was the dark one, the broody one—and Sakura was the bright and cheerful one. They only knew half of the story.

Sakura was easily brought down. In their last year of high school, when they started going out, it had actually taken a lot of effort on Sasuke's part to get her to open up to him. She was easily embarrassed, and a few words could make her self-esteem plummet. Over the years, she'd become much more open around him, but even the littlest thing could trigger her to be unhappy.

"I said I won't play for you," he said shortly, turning away from the piano. God, what was his brother thinking when he dumped that thing here?

"Why not?" she whined. "Your brother said you were really good!"

"My brother has no say in this." He sighed. Why was she so persistent? It wasn't that he didn't want to play for her—it was just…

What? It was just what?

Closing his eyes, he ran a hand through his hair. It was because even after all of these years, he still couldn't tell her how much she meant to him. After all of this time, he still couldn't find the courage to tell her he loved her, to let her see how vulnerable she actually made him.

The way she half frowned, half pouted made him want to sigh in exasperation. He would play for her one day—just not today.

"Whatever," she muttered, but it was obvious that she was upset. "Look—I bruised again." Holding up a pale arm, decorated with the occasional bruise—most of them healing—there was a fresh one right above her wrist.

Sighing, he took her arm gingerly in his hands and massaged the new bruise. She flinched. "What did you do this time?"

"I really don't remember! I just bruise really easily. It doesn't even hurt."


"Shut up."

Hesitantly, he brought her arm up and pressed his lips against the injured area. "Be careful," he murmured against her skin. "Even you can't make bruises look good." He could imagine her flushed cheeks, her failed attempt to hide her smile. It reminded him that he mattered somehow, somewhere, to someone.

(She taught him how to stand tall, in little ways.)

"Sorry," she whispered. "I don't even know why I'm so weird."

Gaze falling to the floor, he took her hand and gently kissed each fingertip, his lips nothing more than ghosts brushing across her skin. "You should go see a doctor."

She shook her head. "No, I'm fine. Really."

His gaze hardened on her, but her smile didn't fade. After a few moments of silence, he dropped her hand. "Do what you want."

As he left the room, he could still feel his lips tingling, as if her skin was still touching them.

"The only thing we're not low on is tomatoes," Sakura said when she poked her head into the fridge. "Are you up for some tomato soup tonight?"

"It doesn't matter," he grunted, eyes following her as she moved around the kitchen, grabbing tomatoes and a knife and pot. She had her hair up in a loose bun, leaving her neck exposed—pale skin and soft curves—

"You really need to eat more than just tomatoes, Sasuke-kun," she scolded as she washed the fruits before beginning to mince them. "Too much of a good thing is bad."

Actually, was it even normal to be that pale? She'd always been that way, no matter how much sun she got…

"I mean, where are you getting your iron? And your carbs? And your protein, my God! I'm surprised you even survived this long—"

"Sakura." He moved so he stood right behind her, hands resting at her waist. "Just because you only see me eating tomatoes, doesn't mean that they're all I eat." She didn't answer—only continued mincing the tomatoes. His lips ghosted across the shell of her ear, and he could feel her shiver against him; the fragrance of her shampoo was slightly floral—

"Sasuke-kun!" she squeaked when he gently kissed the curve where her neck met her shoulder. "Not appropriate!"

"There's no one here to see us."

"I'm—I'm making dinner," she protested—though it didn't sound like she wanted him to stop. Her mincing had slowed, and he noticed how she was cutting the tomatoes unevenly. The corners of his lips quirked upwards.

"We can eat later," he said softly, pressing his mouth against her jaw next. He felt her hold her breath.

"But I'm hungry—ow!"

He had grabbed her hand in the next moment, causing the knife to spin across the floor.

"Ow, Sasuke-kun, don't do that, ow, ow, ow!" Despite her protests, he kept her finger clamped tightly between his lips, sucking out the blood. Who knew—maybe tomatoes were highly infective. "It hurts, Sasuke-kun!"

Keeping a firm grip on her wrist, he went to the sink, pulling her along with him, spitting out the blood. "Rinse your hand," he ordered, turning on the tap.

"This wouldn't have happened if you didn't distract me," she muttered, wincing when she put her cut finger underneath the stream of water.

"Hn. I'll go get a Band-Aid."

"How about two? It's cut pretty deep…"

When he returned with two Band-Aids, she had wiped her hand dry, but the cut was still bleeding. After carefully applying the bandages onto her finger, he picked the knife up off the ground and washed it. "I'll make dinner."

"It's just a cut—it's not like I can't mince tomatoes anymore, or anything—"

"It's fine, Sakura." He looked at her, wondering if she could see the concern in his eyes, his apology for hurting her. "It's fine."

She held her hands to her chest—something she did when she was embarrassed or something of the sort. "Well, if you say so…" When she left the kitchen, Sasuke exhaled, long and slow. How stupid of him. Distracting her when she was holding a knife…

Wiping the blade dry, he continued with the mincing.

"Hm, I'm getting another Band-Aid." Standing up from the couch, Sakura headed for the supply closet.

"You're going to go through the entire box, at this rate."

"I can't help it, though! It just won't stop bleeding!"

Sasuke narrowed his eyes at her back as she peeled off her bloody Band-Aid and applied a new one. It was already eight-thirty—a few hours after she received the cut. Her blood should've clotted by now to stop the bleeding…

Feeling a chill at the base of his spine, he closed his eyes and leaned his head back. "Tomorrow, I'm taking you to the doctor."

"Huh? Why?"

"Because I said so."

"But why?"

"No questions, Sakura."

Sasuke had lost his mother at a young age. He could still remember her looking perfectly well and healthy on the outside, but slowly falling apart on the inside. He was only five at the time, so the details were now blurs—but the image of her slowly weakening body still plagued his mind.

Just like Sakura, she had bruised easily. Just like Sakura, she was pale. Almost unnaturally so.

His mother had fought for her life for three years, before passing away just a few months after Christmas. Sasuke remembered that, because he had to miss the opening ceremony for school to attend the funeral.

His father only told him several years later what disease his mother had. Its name was his least favorite word; exotic and foreign.

"I still don't know why you're doing this," Sakura said, bouncing a little as she walked. "There's nothing wrong with me."

"Better safe than sorry," he said, walking through the door that the nurse had opened for him.

"And why a hospital, anyway? Why couldn't we go to a clinic?"

Even now, Sasuke still thought about the day his mother died, the day his father told him everything, the day he looked at the last family picture they took and cried for the final time.

"Be a good boy, ne, Sasuke?" His mother had been smiling, even minutes before she passed away. "Grow up and make me proud."

"I'll need to run some tests," the doctor said, standing from her desk. "Haruno-san, if you'll please come with me."

Less than half an hour later, Sakura returned, looking a little shaken up from the number of tests that she had to take. "Sasuke-kun, if I'm not suffering from some incurable disease, I'm going to kill you for having me go through that."

He nodded, holding his hand out for her to take—the first time he'd ever done so. "Let's go. We'll get the results in a couple of days."

It was on a Tuesday night that Sasuke's father had told him—over dinner, with just the three of them: him, Sasuke, and Itachi. His brother seemed unfazed, and he continued eating as his father set down his bowl and chopsticks, but Sasuke found himself unable to move. His grip had tightened on his chopsticks, and his blood ran cold—although he didn't know why, because his mother had died years ago, and wasn't he over it already?

No. No one could ever get over something like that.

They were called in for the test results a few days later. Sakura was positive that nothing was wrong, and chattered cheerily the entire way there.

"Sasuke…" His father closed his eyes, and for the first time ever, Sasuke noticed how tired he looked, how worn and exhausted he was.

"We're very sorry; it wasn't caught early enough. As you may know, there's no cure for it yet—but there are ways to delay the process. Chemotherapy, I'm sure you've heard of…"

"Your mother died of leukemia."

Time, Sasuke knew, was limited.

"I don't even know why you're so depressed over it," Sakura said as she got ready for bed. "We all die eventually—it's just going to happen to me sooner."

"I don't want to lose you," he muttered under his breath, more to himself than her.

"Aw, Sasuke-kun!" He grunted when she hugged him from behind, thin arms wrapping around his middle. Too thin, he thought. "You really do care!"

"Obviously." Shrugging her off, he climbed into bed. How could she be so calm about this? She was told that she'd have a year left, at most; the cancer was spreading quickly, and she wouldn't have much time left.

"You'd better not be having suicidal thoughts," she threatened, crawling under the covers beside him. "I'll get mad."

"I've always had suicidal thoughts. You won't change that."

"Only the amount of suicidal thoughts that come into your head, right? Yeah, that's what I thought." He didn't dignify her with a response, so they lay there in the dark, silent. "I'm not freaking out, Sasuke-kun. I'm the one who's dying, and I'm not freaking out, so don't you dare freak out on me." She inhaled shakily. "You are not allowed to break down when you're supposed to be the one keeping me together."

The silence that stretched between them was too long. "One year passes by quickly."

He thought he heard her whimper, but that might've been his imagination. But her warmth at his back was definitely not an illusion—it was there and it was real and it was Sakura and oh God, what was he going to do without Sakura?

"You always hear stories about people living longer than the time predicted by the doctors," she whispered, sounding a little hollow. "I'll be one of those stories. I'll live ten times longer than they predicted. Twenty times, even. I'll be a miracle."

Rolling over so he could face her, he pulled her against him on an impulse, because he wanted to. Because he didn't want to regret anything. "You can't always be a miracle," he said into her hair, mentally cursing himself when his voice cracked.

"I'll be damned if I stop trying."

Sasuke knew that time was limited. He knew that, even as a child, even with his mother—but this once, with this one person—

He wished, he wished so much that they would have a little longer.

"I think I'll drop out of school," Sakura said, not even looking up from her book. "I can't really keep up anymore."

Something tugged at Sasuke's heartstrings. It'd always been Sakura's dream to be a doctor—she hadn't even made it into med school yet, and she had to drop out of university. She was only twenty-four.

(And for the millionth time, Sasuke thought about how unfair all of it was.)

"Okay," he said slowly. "Is there something in particular you want to do? A place you want to go to?"

When she looked at him and smiled, it surprised him at how bright it was, how carefree. "Just one place."

"And that is?"

"The piano!"

Sighing irritably, he rubbed his face. "Sakura, let's not go through this again—"

"You know, eventually, I'm going to use the 'I'm dying of cancer' card, and you'll feel guilty, so you should just do it right now."

"I haven't even learned the entire song yet."

"What? It's been over half a year, and you haven't learned the entire thing yet?"

"Sakura." He made his way to her and kneeled on the floor in front of her, gently taking the book from her hands and setting it aside. "I will play it for you one day. I promise." Her hands were cold in his, and he wished so much that he could warm her up, give her his blood—anything that would make her live longer. "Just not today."

Her smile was soft, her eyes large and sad. "Okay." She tilted her head down a little, and he met her halfway in a soft kiss. "Then can we go somewhere else in the meantime?"

"Anywhere you want."

"To bed, please. And I want to be carried there personally."

He raised an eyebrow, amused. "It's not like you to be that straightforward."

The flush in her cheeks was almost refreshing, compared to her usual paleness. She smacked him. "Not like that, you pervert! I'm just tired! I want to sleep!"

Sasuke didn't mention that it was only eleven at night, and that she usually went to be after midnight. "I don't know if I can carry you; you've been gaining a lot of weight lately."


His lips tilted upwards in a smirk. "I'm just kidding, Sakura." Pressing a quick kiss to her forehead, he lifted her up bridal style, and carried her to their room. Her head felt right, resting against the crook of his neck, and feeling her breathing against his skin was almost a reassurance that she was still here, still alive. They still had some time left. "Are you sure that there isn't anywhere you want to go?"

"It doesn't matter, as long as I'm with you," she mumbled, eyes having already fluttered shut. "I love you, Sasuke-kun."

He laid her down in bed, and went around to climb in on the other side. "I'll take you out for ice cream tomorrow," he said, lying on his back and staring at the ceiling. "At your favorite place."

"Sounds good. Are you sure you're not busy?"

"Never too busy for you."

And so the next day, he took her to ice cream—just like he'd always imagine himself doing, five days later, five decades later. He remembered their first date here, when they argued about which flavor was better (vanilla still topped all, he thought), and went for a movie afterwards—holding hands the entire time.

He would play the piano for her, he decided. He would.

It wasn't that he hadn't already decided—but he had always thought that there was time. There would always be more time. And now, it was slipping out from between his fingers.

"Y'know," Sakura said as they walked down the street, "I think you should eat more sweets."

"They're bad for your teeth," he grunted, eager to finish his ice cream so he could just get it over with.

"Nothing pleasurable in life is good for you, I hope you know."

"Tomatoes," he said immediately. And you, of course. Tomatoes and you.

She laughed, as if he was telling a joke (which he definitely wasn't), and intertwined their fingers together. "Even too many tomatoes is bad for you, Sasuke-kun. Hey, can we go in that store over there? Those are some cute dresses."

Sasuke sighed, knowing that shopping with Sakura would take up the majority of their day. But she was smiling, and she was tugging gently on his hand, and he couldn't say no to that—so he followed her into the store, mentally bracing himself, because he knew that his wallet would be empty by the time they got home that night.

"Do you think this looks good?" Sakura picked a red dress and held it to herself. Sasuke surveyed her for a moment, and grunted.

Of course it looks good. You always look good.

"I'm going to try it on, 'kay?" Before he even answered, she spun on her heels and headed to the dressing rooms. He glanced at his watch and made a mental note to check on her after three minutes, as that was usually how long it took her to try on clothes, and wandered to the men's section. There were some nice looking ties—perhaps his brother would like one…

"Is there anything I can help you with?" He glanced at one of the assistants that had approached him—female, blonde, and overall, very pretty. She was smiling at him with her hands clasped behind her back—polite, but he knew that she only talked to him because he was attractive.

He shook his head. "No thanks." The smile on her face only faltered for a moment, before she nodded, and went off, tending to another customer.

Checking his watch, Sasuke made his way to the dressing rooms. This store was a more high-class one, so there were several couches provided for those who were just waiting—which seemed to be very convenient, as several males occupied them; some looking bored, and others a little traumatized. Sasuke sat down in a free seat, waiting for Sakura to come out and show him the dress.

Three minutes turned into five, and five into ten. Eventually, Sasuke was tapping his foot impatiently, wondering if Sakura had bumped into Ino in there, or something.

"Somebody, call an ambulance!"

The voice that shouted this was female, from inside the dressing room area—and suddenly, Sasuke's blood ran cold.

Dropping all of his belongings, he stood and stalked straight into the dressing rooms, dark eyes scanning the area for Sakura. There was no guarantee that she was the one in need of that ambulance, but this hunch, this terrible feeling in his gut wasn't going to go away until he saw her—

"Miss? Miss? Are you alright? Miss!" There were two employees kneeling on the floor just outside of a stall, huddled around one person—

And that person had pink hair.


Every person meant something. Everyone was special to someone else—that businessman you passed on the street this morning, the teenage girl who served you coffee. That person might not be special to you, but they were special to someone else.

There was one nurse who worked in the east wing of the hospital, where the long-term patients stayed. Every day at four thirty-two in the afternoon, she would go into room 520 to check up on a cancer patient, Haruno Sakura. If it weren't for her disease, the nurse would say that she was a lively, bright young woman, with lots of potential and even more ambition. It was such a shame that she was slowly dying—she'd have a few more months, at most, at the rate she was going.

And what almost reduced the nurse to tears was that every day, when she entered the room at four thirty-two, there would be a young man there.

He had dark hair and even darker eyes; maybe one of the most beautiful men she had ever seen. He would step aside for her to do her work, nodding once in greeting—but when he looked at Haruno Sakura, his expression was completely different. There was warmth in his eyes. His deep voice would be soft and affectionate.

And that was most likely what hurt the most. When the nurse went home every night, back into the arms of her fiancé, she would forget all about her patients and their frequent visitors. She would forget everything outside of the four walls of her home.

But the thing was—everything mattered. Even if it didn't matter to her.

In a few months' time, Haruno Sakura was going to die. And that beautiful love that she had with that man was going to shatter.

"Sasuke-kun…" His name sounded dry and raspy. He looked at her, ready to do anything she asked. "I think…I'm dying."

Those words alone were enough to crush his heart. Ever since being diagnosed with leukemia, Sakura had never acknowledged that she was going to die in such a straightforward manner—even when she steadily became weaker, when she became bedridden, constantly hooked up to an IV. And hearing her say that now was almost enough to make tears spring to his eyes.

"Of course you are," he said shortly. "We all are."

"No, Sasuke-kun." Her smile was weak. "I think I'm dying. I think…I think it's happening."

And that was when time stopped.

"You don't know that," he told her, almost desperately, as he grabbed her hand. It was so pale. So cold. "You don't know that." She couldn't leave him. He couldn't live without her.

"You don't know that. But I do. I'm—I'm cold, Sasuke-kun."

"I'll call a nurse to get more blankets for you." His heart pounded frantically in his ribcage, almost as if begging to be let free, so it could pump the life back into her. This wasn't the Sakura he knew, wasn't the Sakura he fell in love with. She wasn't supposed to be this way.

She shook her head, looking worn and weary. "No. I just…can I hear you play the piano?"

"There's no piano here."

"There's one at home. We live close to the hospital for a reason." She squeezed his hand, her strength only a fraction of what it used to be. "Please?"

"I want to be with you," he said, leaning closer to her. "I want to be with you when—" When it happens. When you die. "I can't have you do this alone."

"I'll hold out long enough to hear you play," she insisted weakly. "Can you get my phone from my purse?" He couldn't deny those green, green eyes of hers, so he dug around in her purse until he found her phone, and he pressed it gently into her hand. "Go home, and call me. And then play. I'll listen until the very end."

"Don't be stupid, Sakura," he said sharply, before stopping. Her eyes were beginning to fill up with tears.

"Please, Sasuke-kun."

And it was those two words—those two words that she'd said numerous times, breathed in that desperate voice—the voice of someone who knew she was going to die—

And he couldn't say no.

So he pressed his lips to her forehead in a kiss; the warmest and sweetest one he could give, because he knew it would be the last. And murmuring, "You won't even notice I'm gone," he turned sharply on his heels and sped out of the room.

He took the stairs. The elevators took their time. He didn't have any to spare. He went past the speed limit on the streets, and was surprised that he didn't have at least two police cars trailing him by the time he returned home. He kicked his shoes off impatiently, and pulled his phone out of his pocket and frantically speed-dialed Sakura's number. For a heartbreaking moment, he thought she wasn't going to pick up, because she couldn't anymore—but after two rings, there was a click, and a long silence. And then:


The sigh of relief whooshed from his lips, and he pressed the phone harder against his ear. "Sakura."

"Hi, Sasuke-kun."

"I'm right here. Don't go anywhere."

"Of course."

Putting the phone on speaker, he walked to the piano, pushing it open and pulling out the seat. He hadn't practiced in a while, but it'd have to do. After all, he only got one shot at this. "I'm going to play for you now."

"Okay. I'm excited." The worst part was, she didn't even have the energy to sound excited anymore.

When he placed his hands on the keyboard, he realized that they were cold and clammy. And his throat was most likely coated in phlegm—she would laugh at him for not warming up before playing for her. But he started playing anyway, even though he went a little too fast, and had to slow down, until the music went at the same tempo as his heartbeat. He couldn't hear her ragged breathing over the piano anymore, but he trusted it to still be there. It had to be. It had to be.

What would he do after she was gone? Continue on with life? Move on? Would moving on even be possible? He had known this woman for years; she was such a big part of him; one of his main motivations. Who was he if she wasn't there to push him?

The only reason he was able to cope with the loss of his mother was because he was so young when she passed away. He couldn't do that with Sakura. He wasn't strong enough.

There was a sharp dissonance as he hit the wrong notes a little too hard in a small fit of frustration and the unfairness of it all.

"Sasuke-kun? Sasuke-kun? You're not singing, Sasuke-kun."

Oh, right. He had forgotten that this song required singing.

When Sakura first showed this song to him, Sasuke thought it was stupid, and had no idea why she liked it so much. But putting it into context—it was about happiness and loving someone to the very fullest and fairytales and happy endings—and suddenly, so very much, he wanted that too.

(Always too little, always too late.)

When the final chord of the piano finally bled into silence, her breathing was ragged on the other end of the line. His throat closed up and he inhaled shakily.

"That was really good."

His voice was tight. "Thank you." Don't go. Please. Don't go. From the phone, he could hear her laugh airily, as if the weight of the world had been lifted from her shoulders. "I—I lo—"

"I'll see you later then, ne, Sasuke-kun?"

His eyes widened in pure, unadulterated shock—firstly, because she interrupted him when he finally had the nerve to tell her he loved her, and secondly, later? What did she mean by later? It couldn't—it couldn't possibly be that—

"Sakura. Sakura." He grabbed the phone and held it to his mouth, hoping that she just couldn't hear him. "Sakura!"

But there was only silence. And a few moments later, he heard the monotonous beep of the monitor, signaling a flat line.

Time stood still.

And finally, when he heard the nurses turning off the monitor, and the deafening silence was too overwhelming, he turned off his phone and started playing the piano again. He couldn't find it in him to sing though, because if he did, he was sure that he would break down, crying.

So this was how it was going to be.




It was a warm, windless day when he set out to sea.

Sakura was cold in his arms, but he swore, he could still feel her heart beating. He sat in the small boat for several minutes—or several hours, maybe—before he sighed softly and brushed the stray locks of hair out of her face. And with little difficulty, he lifted her up, all skin and bones, and slowly lowered her into the water.

This was how it ended, huh? With some sickeningly poetic moment?

Soundlessly, he let her go.

a/n: my hair right now is pretty long; it reaches about three inches below my shoulders. i'm going to grow it out until around this time next year, save for the occasional trim, for two reasons: looking pretty for grad, and cutting my hair for cancer at my school's annual carnival for the cure. i'm not brave enough to shave my head, and sometimes, i wish i was. it might make me a better person.

four people in my family have passed away from cancer: my great-grandpa and grandpa, both before i was born, my aunt, when i was only a few years old, and my other grandpa, just last year. i don't want to be ignorant about these things.

to those whose lives have also been affected by cancer—i send you all my love.