Blink

Sakura closed her phone with a click and leaned her head against her bed frame. She took a deep, shaky breath, dropped her phone, and let the tears come. They slid in slow trails down her face, like rain on glass. She refused to sob.

I've made a decision.

Gaara didn't believe in moderation. When he decided he wanted her, nothing stopped him. Despite contrasting personalities and the incredulousness of everyone around, he chased her with single-minded determination. For Sakura, the attention from the intense man was an exciting rush; it was sexy and dangerous and fun. Underneath the careful blank façade was a fascinating personality and a surprising dry humor, and Sakura had found him to be solid and dependable and an easy fit in her life.

Despite your positive qualities, I cannot see you coping well with the lifestyle I intend to pursue.

Loving Gaara meant late nights and quiet conversations. Loving Gaara meant finding comfort in silence and learning to read minute changes in facial expression, and being able to understand that his bitterness about his rough childhood did not mean his anger was directed at her. Love from Gaara meant fierce loyalty and sweet devotion; him cooking for her, and reading to her in the soft light from her bedside lamp. Love from Gaara meant strong arms that held her when she dropped off to sleep; eyes that remained open through the night to keep guard. Loving Gaara meant learning to love someone as stubborn as herself.

You need stability and security, and I'll be moving every couple years. There would be no time for your medical degree, and you would not be happy with a long distance marriage.

Sakura swiped her hand across her face and laced her fingers through her short hair, resting her elbows on her bent knees. She reminded herself that she needed to grieve, and that crying was a coping mechanism for the body to adjust to sudden loss. She briefly wondered if she was going into shock.

I appreciate the time you committed to our relationship.

And how dare he do it by phone. After all this time, all she was worth was a short, succinct phone call, opinions disguised at facts delivered in a voice that might as well have been reading a boring report. But then again, Gaara had probably considered their relationship over once he made his decision about her life. She'd probably have to thank Temari for reminding him to inform her of the change in status.

For once, she wanted his voice to break. She didn't want to hear an emotionless monotone, damn it; it was like it meant nothing to him.

Keep the ring.

Before their first date, Temari had warned Sakura that once Gaara made up his mind, nothing changed it. She cautioned that entering into a relationship with her brother was not a light decision. If he wanted her at all, he'd want her for keeps.

I wish you well.

Sakura allowed herself one more deep breath, before she raised her head and looked at the finger encircled with a band of twisted white gold that held the princess cut solitaire. Gaara shocked her when he pulled her into the store to pick it out; he had treated her wide-eyed stare with an amused smirk, asking what else she expected after a year of dating.

Sakura slowly pulled the ring off, and held it between her thumb and index finger, rolling it back and forth and watching it catch the light. It was almost hypnotizing, this symbol of something that could have, and should have been. She let it drop into her palm and clenched it, letting the sharp edges dig into her skin. She pushed her fists onto her knees, maneuvering her way onto her feet.

Three steps to the door, take a breath. Four steps across the hall, take a breath. Three knocks, take a breath. Hinata's hesitant call to enter, take a breath. Twist the door knob with the awkward, suddenly too-light left hand and push open the door. Force the head to lift and meet Hinata's eyes. Fight for a wobbly grin through the tears.

Hinata moved quickly, ushering Sakura to sit on the bed with her ever-soft murmurings. Sakura took one more deep breath, silently willing the oxygen to fill up her lungs and banish the empty feeling in her chest, and dropped the ring into her roommate's palm. "Please," she said, "I don't care what you do with it. I don't want to see it right now."

"Wh-What? What happened to… O-Of course, Sakura," breathed Hinata, who climbed off the bed and walked quickly over to her bathroom. Sakura heard the chink of metal on metal as she dropped it into something within.

Sakura hoped that getting the ring out of sight would lift a weight from her chest. Instead, she felt like her ribs were constricting her lungs. She wanted to gasp, but she still refused to sob. She would not give Gaara that satisfaction; if breaking up had no effect on him, it would have no effect on her. Not that he would even care anyway. He had cut ties. And that was that.

The bed dipped and creaked slightly when Hinata returned. Sakura sat up, and accepted the glass of water offered by her roommate. She took a small sip, and carefully scooted herself over the mattress to lean against Hinata's upholstered headboard. Hinata joined her, delicately laying a single hand against Sakura's shoulder. Sakura fought out another pathetic smile. "Thank you, Hinata."

"O-oh, it's ok, I don't mind help-"

"Gaara's decided I'm not suited to be a military wife. And that's all there is to it. He knows I'm not going to give up my career, and he's not willing to wait for me to be done." Part of Sakura knew she shouldn't interrupt Hinata, but part of her was crying It's not fair! and demanding that she take something for herself, even if it was just a moment of the quiet girl's time. "I guess I should understand where he's coming from, but we could have figured something out." Her voice shook, choking over the words that felt so final. Here it was, the admittance. "He wouldn't even listen to anything I said. Nothing. He just made his decision, and decided to hell with my plans. He didn't even say he was sorry! He just called—the bastard just called, he didn't even have the decency to give me a chance to slap his face-to let me know that it's over. And that's it. It's over."

In that moment, Sakura hated Gaara. She hated him for taking the trust they had build over the course of almost two years and throwing it away like it was nothing but an inconvenience. She hated him for breaking her heart over nothing but a set of maybes. Maybe the military would station him overseas. Maybe her applications to medical schools would earn her a spot somewhere. Maybe they wouldn't be able to survive the potential (not even definite, damn him) years apart. Maybe she wouldn't be able to join him while doing her residency and fellowship. Maybe the stress wouldn't be worth it.

She hated him for taking the biggest decision she had ever made in her life, saying yes, and mocking it by re-configuring her future without her consent.

A sob finally ripped from her throat, and she hated him even more.

Hinata wrapped her arms around Sakura, and Sakura broke down, clutching the small plastic glass from the bathroom like holding it would make everything else just go away. The tears blurred her vision, and she didn't bother to catch them with her hands, not wanting to see, not wanting to feel.

And sweet Hinata, sweet, patient Hinata, held her until the painful cries died down to quiet little gasps, and didn't even blink when a little of the water spilled from Sakura's shaking. Even once the tears dried in sticky tracks on Sakura's face, leaving the pink-haired young woman feeling dull and dead, Hinata continued to hold her. They remained there until Sakura took yet another deep, deep breath and sat up from her hunched position.

She turned to Hinata, and thanked her, causing the other girl to blush and stammer. "No seriously, Hinata," Sakura said. "Thanks. You're the best roommate ever."

Hinata smiled and stuttered over her response. "Thank you for the compliment, Sakura. Are you going to need any help?"

Sakura sighed, and lifted up Hinata's little cup and let the water relieve her throat, raw from the crying. "I'm going to have to make a lot of phone calls tomorrow. Everything has to be cancelled. I'm guess I should just be glad he did this before invitations went out."

"Do you want me to?" Hinata trailed off, leaving the question open-ended.

Sakura tried to smile again, and was gratified to find this one less forced. "I would really appreciate the help, if you don't mind."

Sakura started to back to the door. Hinata's eyes widened. "I don't mind at all! And Sakura, you don't need to leave. If you need company, I don't mind staying up with you."

Sakura shook her head. "It's ok, Hinata. I really think that what I want right now is to just go to sleep and deal with it in the morning."

The dark-haired girl nodded, sympathy softening her features. Sakura slipped into the hall and retreated to her bathroom.

The first step was to wash her face. Along with ridding her face of the salty residue from her tears, Sakura found washing her face therapeutic. Bad midterm score in Microbiology? She washed her face. Fight with her mother? Wash her face. Suddenly being single again after a serious relationship and engagement? Scrub.

She knew her hands were being too harsh to her skin, but she couldn't help it. She wanted to scrub off every bit of skin that Gaara had kissed. She briefly considered taking a shower to help with that worthy goal, but changed her mind, and just stuck with her face. The rest of her routine was methodical. She brushed and flossed her teeth after throwing the extra green toothbrush kept for Gaara into the trash. She slipped into her pajamas, avoiding the T-shirt of his tucked in with all the other over-sized T-shirts in the drawer. Finally, she took the adorable little teddy bear, a gift from Gaara's childhood entrusted to her, and set it on her desk. She rummaged through her closet and pulled out the little stuffed fox Naruto had given her as a gift when she got him through his Human Anatomy final with a passing grade, and flicked off her lights, silently adding another item to tomorrow's daunting agenda. She'd have to box it all up. Every bit of it, and seal away the memories somehow.

She snuggled around her little fox, ignoring how its tufts tickled her cheeks, and how it wasn't as worn and cared and loved as the bear, and willed herself to go to sleep.

Unfortunately, relationships with chronic insomniacs left invisible marks. Now accustomed to very little sleep, Sakura lay in bed, staring up into the darkness, until sometime after the blurry red numbers of her alarm clock switched to five. Only then did her exhaustion finally overcome the empty pit in her chest enough for her to fall asleep.


Notes

Holy Cannoli, I'm back.

And in a new fandom, no less. And doing something that involves chapters and plots. Ooooh boy.

Being in a new fandom means it's gonna take some time for me to really get a handle on these characters, so patience is appreciated. Also, please be aware that it's gonna take a while to get to where we're going. Snarky!Sakura will return, she's just got some recovery to do first. Other characters will make their glorious entrances. Chapters will (I think) be longer and quite a bit more involved. And please rest assured, I really do adore Gaara. He's pretty much my favorite *hugs to him*

And maybe I can do the next chapter in less than a year? Possibly?

SJ