A/N: Erm... according to the rules, the story should not be in chat/dialogue format; but does it pertain the WHOLE story? If so, is this type of story allowed? I'm a bit confused. Also, the rating is K+, but despite having only one cursed word here, or something... Well, okay, I'm not sure of a lot of things right now with this one-shot.
Still, Always Will
18:48 ; Tuesday...
She bit her lower lip, wondering if she should send him a message or not, seeing how his status seemed off.
"Come on Sakura, go for it!" She told herself, and with a determined gaze, she doubled clicked his username, smiling when the nickname for his character in Ragnarok Online came up on the screen, and upon typing her message, her own nickname for her character came up.
cherry: You online in RO? :D
She waited for a moment, and was glad when she saw that he was typing a message back.
shad: AFK mode
cherry: Nothing. :)
shad: You sound... happy.
cherry: Because it's summer!
shad: I'm not feeling it though.
cherry: Feel it then!
shad: Heh. Whatever, you're acting like a kid.
cherry: I resent that!
shad: ...Sorry. You angry?
cherry: huh? No!
cherry: Aren't you used to me by now?
shad: If you say so...
cherry: There you go again Sasuke.
She blinked when she ended up typing his name.
shad: Well, I love you. :)
She couldn't help but let out a giggle and a shake of her head. She often wondered how Naruto managed to get him to act like some kind of playboy online, though he only seems to hit on her character in RO, or her in general, despite being forced to lead a guild that's full of boys who are supposed to use pick-up lines for other girls.
cherry: Yes, yes. I know. But just Cherry, okay?
The last thing she needed was him taking the whole thing seriously, especially when she's not even sure where her feelings for him lie. She plays along at times, but she mostly rejects his advances, especially when their other friends are online to witness his "online acts," though she does get jealous at times when other female characters tend to hit on him.
shad: Yes mommy.
And she laughed at how he has grown to calling her that, even if it was a joke started by one of his brother's friends who commented on their weird relationship. But like hell she'd call him daddy.
shad: Go online.
cherry: I'm too lazy...
cherry: I logged in earlier, and there weren't too many people :(
shad: I'm online.
cherry: Haha yes, I know. But the more the merrier!
shad: Can't agree on that, 'coz I'm happy if you're online.
cherry: And your "playboy" acting is back...
shad: Only for you.
cherry: Shut up.
cherry: Good boy.
cherry: That made me laugh!
How can it not make her laugh? He was acting so out of character, yet only for her, to her...
shad: The dobe's going to log in later.
cherry: Wow, really? Guess I'll log in later too. :D
She smiled lightly and felt her cheeks grow warm. Was he jealous?
cherry: Don't think of such things Uchiha. He's like a little brother to me!
shad: It's lonely here in Prontera.
cherry: Here's a BIG HUG for you!
And his next message had her nearly fall off her chair.
shad: Here's a kiss then.
cherry: Haha don't act cute!
shad: Is it effective?
cherry: If I say yes, will you stop?
shad: Hmm. Maybe?
cherry: Haha I'll log in later, I promise. :D
Despite his response, she could feel a little bit of his lonesome, and figured she ought to just spend time with him then. Besides, she wouldn't want the other players who frequent the main town of the game to think he's all on his own, and no way would she give other female players a chance to even make a move on him.
cherry: Logging in, shad. :D
shad: Alright. Usual spot?
And they played the game all night, chatting with each other about things, him flirting at times, her telling him to stop.
They were too engrossed with each other to even notice the multiple messages some of their online friends have been sending them.
14:22 ; A new school year ; Monday
"Hm?" She looked from her notebook to her best friend, Ino, who was staring at her in a scrutinizing way, completely ignoring the fact that once Kakashi arrives, their three-page quiz on History will start.
"You and Sasuke..." Ino's blue eyes shifted from her friend to the Uchiha who was glaring at Naruto for still not getting the topic he was tutoring him on. "...Are getting closer than ever."
"Really?" Sakura furrowed her brows in wonder. "It doesn't feel like it, I mean... I have been more responsive to his "playful advances" online."
"Don't kid me Sakura, when I went to your house last week for that overdue sleepover, I happen to spot your chat log."
"You did not-"
"I just took a glance and saw his name, so I got curious, okay?"
"That was private Ino!" She blushed and buried her face behind her notebook.
"Kakashi-sensei won't be here for another hour!" She snatched the notebook away and placed a stack of papers on her desk. "I read these!"
"...Ino... how..." She lifted the papers and checked what was printed out. "Wait, it's his chat log. How did you even get this? And why?"
"Shikamaru helped me out, and the others pitched in too."
Something flashed in Ino's eyes, but she wasn't sure what it was.
"How do you feel for Sasuke?"
Ino took another quick glance at Sasuke, seeing him ignoring Naruto who was continuously begging him to help him out some more.
"Do you... like him in that sense?"
"What are you saying?"
She sighed and looked at Sakura directly in the eye. "Read his chat logs as if you're not the one whom he's speaking it, see it in a different view, and you'll get what I mean." She turned around and opened her own textbook, leaving Sakura to look down at the stack of papers, and then at her History notebook.
"I'll... read it when I get home. I might not be able to focus on the exam if I start."
"Okay." Ino nodded without looking back, so Sakura kept the papers and took a quick look at Sasuke, and she felt her heart skip a beat upon seeing his eyes looking at her.
17:23 ; Monday
Sakura emerged from her bathroom and wiped her shoulder-length hair with a small towel, her eyes glancing at the stack of papers Ino handed to her earlier in school. She approached her desk and pick up the first page, her eyes browsing through the words and smiling a bit at their interaction.
Really, what was it that Ino and the others saw? It was just their usual chats.
Page after page, she found every chat log less and less funny, and she couldn't help but wonder what could have changed her opinion.
"Chat log three weeks ago..." she read aloud and lowered her gaze to the words.
shad: Okay, okay. I'm online now, happy mommy?
cherry: O_O *slap*
shad: Don't act like you didn't miss me.
cherry: You're going to the convention right? We are cosplaying as a group with the others.
shad: I already told you, I can't, even if I want to.
shad: Don't. You're making me guilty.
cherry: That's the idea. :(
shad: Please smile?
She stopped reading and placed one hand against her reddening cheeks, feeling them so warm to the touch.
cherry: If you want me to smile, then attend the con!
shad: I can't. You know how it is when dad plans these trips.
cherry: Can't you stay until that day? Heck you're not even planning to finish your studies here first?
shad: You know my father.
cherry: But... you will be back, right?"
Sakura couldn't help but wonder if she felt really sad that time, or was just getting into the moment.
shad: You're gonna miss me, huh?
cherry: Ugh. I hate you!
shad: That's too bad.
cherry: And why? :(
shad: I love you.
uchiha-sasuke [shad] has logged out.
She blinked when her eyes grew a bit blurry, and she wiped off the tears and wondered why she was even crying without realizing it.
"...What am I doing..?" She let out a half-hearted laugh and recalled that Sasuke told her he got disconnected all of a sudden, and said that he ought to just sleep since his internet connection wasn't cooperating. She didn't think too much of it and just bid him a good night at that time, and the topic about his... confession wasn't brought up again.
He continued to be the way he is when online, and she played along again as always. They were still normal when the group would decide to hang out, and not once did he bring up the topic, so she didn't as well.
She moved onto the next page, not heeding the call she was receiving on her mobile after checking the name and seeing it to be Ino.
"...This is... our last chat before school started." She murmured upon checking the date and time today and the ones printed on the paper.
cherry: OMG. Your being a playboy with me again!
shad: Only for you. :)
cherry: Ugh. I give up! Go pack your things and go to the States!
shad: Heh. Reverse psych huh?
cherry: Heck no!
shad: Really? I know you. DEAR.
cherry: Again with the "dear" huh? Stop it! :(
shad: You like it, admit it.
cherry: Are you high on drugs?
shad: I'm high with your love.
cherry: Damn it Uchiha! That's too much!
shad: At least it made you laugh.
cherry: Okay, okay. Fine, I'm actually laughing right now.
shad: That's good.
shad: Nothing, you just looked too... out of it a while ago.
cherry: Oh... well, Ino forced me to go earlier when I wasn't really feeling well.
shad: ...get some rest Sak. I'll drop by later once the dobe leaves.
cherry: Bring some ice cream? :)
shad: Heh. Okay, and Sak?
shad: Here's a hug.
cherry: ...oh fine, here's a hug and a kiss back.
Now she understood what Ino meant; he wasn't just kidding around anymore even if it seems like it. He was not making it obvious, or perhaps he had been leaving hints yet she couldn't pick up on them.
"...I should talk to him about this."
02:05 ; Konoha Park ; Tuesday
She sighed and hugged herself further, wondering what possessed her to call him at this hour and get him to meet her here – of all places!
Not to mention how dark it was and that there could be hooligans out there waiting to jump her.
The blue hooded jacket she wore did not provide her enough warmth or protection from the cold despite wearing a white turtle-neck sweater inside. Her light blue jeans weren't even enough to make her feel comfortable at the temperature, despite summer being over just a week ago.
"To think you'd at least wear a scarf."
Sakura almost jumped and quickly stood from her seat on the bench, her eyes spotting Sasuke's approaching figure, his black hoody making him blend into the darkness some more, and the gray shirt beneath it looked thin for such a cold morning.
She flushed when he pulled out a scarf from his jacket's pocket and wrapped it around her neck, the act requiring him to stand closer to her, making her want to embrace him for the warmth radiating from his body.
He pulled his hands back and pocketed them in his dark blue jeans, and she lowered her gaze to look at his black leather shoes.
"So what's so important that you asked to meet me here?"
"Well..." she bit her lower lip, and then looked towards her brown back pack set on the park bench, and then back at him. She caught how he twitched at the sight of the many stuffed animal key chains on her bag, most of them being cats, but the black one stood out the most.
She walked towards it and pulled out the stack of papers Ino handed to her the other day.
She let out a silent sigh and faced her with narrowed eyes, making him quirk a brow at the sudden change of expression.
"Can you... explain the last few pages to me?"
He stared at her, and then at the papers, before taking them from her hands and skimming through the words with his eyes. She had always envied and admired his fast reading skills, one that she (given that she loved reading books at that) couldn't do.
"Ino." She breathed out. "Plus some help from the rest."
She watched his brows furrow a bit, before he closed his eyes and let out a sigh.
"Damn it..." he hissed out.
"...Just... who is this Sasuke in front me, and that Sasuke talking to me online? How different are they from each other?" She boldly met his eyes. "I want to know... who Uchiha Sasuke really is."
His eyes returned hers, and she can see how he had no intentions of looking away, or even backing out. All she could see was him and his confidence, and how he still remained calm and collected the whole time.
"There's no difference."
"I act the way I am and feel like with you. It's different."
"I feel like I don't have to hide or be so... aware of everything, be wary of anything..." his eyes looked to the side for a moment, before flickering back to hers. "If it's you, I can be who I want to be: myself."
"I'm leaving later."
"Wha... what?" She seemed breathless when she asked that.
"My dad thinks... no, my dad believes I'll end up refusing to go if I stay any longer."
"...Because of me."
He seemed reluctant, but he nodded once – a short and slow one.
"I'm... I'm affecting you."
"...You should go."
His eyes widened for a split second, before they narrowed a bit.
"I mean... it's... it's your future Sasuke. I... I can't..." She lowered her head in an attempt to hold back the tears, something she's been good at since she first heard her parents fighting when she was nine years old. When she was sure she could force back her tears, she gave him a smile. "I can't get in your way, I won't stand in your way."
"...That's..." he turned away and took a step back, a breathless and shaky laugh leaving his lips before he looked back at her, and she wondered why his smile looked so pained and forced, and why his eyes seemed glossier than normal. "...That's too bad."
07:43 ; Tuesday
Her eyes glanced back at the two empty seats where Naruto and Sasuke should have been, given that the former always arrived with the latter, who was NEVER later and ALWAYS earlier than her or anyone for that matter.
"Wow, Kakashi-sensei must be rubbing off on them."
She looked at one of her classmates who noticed the two empty seats, before talking back to his seatmate about some game.
"Why are you still here?"
She turned her head up front to see Shikamaru, Ino, and Chouji looking at her.
"Sasuke's..." Ino looked down. "He at least told you, right?"
She blinked a few times, and then recalled his words early this morning in the park.
"He... oh..." and she didn't notice that tears were already streaming down her face. "I... I forgot. Ha... haha..." her smile was pained like his on their last meeting, and her laugh sounded dejected and out of it. "...I... I don't think he... I..."
"...What happened?" Ino asked, pushing Shikamaru and Chouji away and taking the seat next to her best friend, concern written all over her face.
"...He told me he'd leave today, said that his father... his father didn't want him to... to refuse, because... because I was affecting him, his decisions, everything. I'm... I'm the obstacle to his future Ino, so I... I can't show up on his departure, I just can't!"
"You mean you won't, right?"
Both girls lifted their heads, seeing a frown etched on the normally hyper Naruto's face. He was dressed in his uniform, but seeing how late he arrived, it must have meant he had seen his best friend off.
"...He waited 'til the last minute for you." He looked away and walked pass the two girls, slumping in his seat and averting his gaze at the empty spot next to him.
"...He waited..." Sakura choked on a sob and Ino couldn't do anything but wrap her arms around her best friend and try to comfort her as much as she could. "...Sasuke..."
01:52 ; five months after Sasuke left
Sakura stared at the numerous messages she had sent and had saved in her archive, seeing only two replies from him during those five painful months.
shad: ...when I get back, I'll head straight to you.
She had replied with an "I'll be waiting," and he didn't respond after that until another month.
shad: I'm glad to know that.
And for the next days that came, he didn't log in or reply, not even in Ragnarok, not even in Facebook, nothing. It was like he cut off all ties he had with her, and Naruto won't even give her any details; just that he's still alive and healthy, still the same teme they knew, still the same Sasuke.
"...I miss you..." she whispered the words as she typed them, and then pressed the "enter" button on her keyboard. She looked at the screen, waiting and waiting just like any other day. She waits and waits until sleep comes to her, and almost every single day, her mother would enter her room and see that she had fallen asleep in front of her computer.
"...If only... if only you were still here..." She typed the words and sent it, and waited again.
The clock continued to tick, and before she knew it, it had already been about half an hour since she last sent her message, and she wondered if she should send another.
"...I guess I should move on..." she entered the words. "...and let go."
She didn't want to, but she figured that if he really does love her, then he'd somehow reply.
And her eyes widened when he did.
"Sasuke..?" And she immediately typed something, but her fingers stopped when he sent another message, and she slowly lifted her gaze to look at his words.
shad: If only... huh?
shad: You... don't plan on waiting any longer then.
She could feel the corners of her eyes growing wet, and soon, she felt something trickle down her cheeks, but she did not bother to lift a hand to find out what they were, because she knew they were tears; her heart was clenching in a painful way and she knew that it was probably what he felt on that cold morning he told her the words: "That's too bad."
cherry: I guess it's time... to say goodbye...
cherry: That's... that's all you can say?
shad: What do you want me to say?
She couldn't help but let out a sob, and she tried to respond while he was still there, while he was still online.
cherry: I... wish you're still here, I wish you didn't leave.
It took a while, and he replied.
shad: If only you said those words on that day.
cherry: Why does it seem like you're not telling me something?
shad: ...You're still my cherry.
She didn't know what it was, but she felt something – as if he'd be disconnected soon, as if he'd log out and never log in again.
shad: Take care of yourself.
Her hands were shaky but she forced her fingers to type, but she found herself too slow that she wanted to curse out loud and just punch the keyboard.
And when she was about to press the "enter" key, her eyes caught sight of another message:
uchiha-sasuke [shad] has logged out.
Her tears fell, and she didn't know if she should bother to send the words she failed to tell him. So she looked over her chat screen, and with a deep and shaky sigh, she sent it.
cherry: I love you.
sakuraharuno02 [cherry] has logged out.
15:45 ; One week after
Naruto said Sasuke was engaged, said that his father arranged it the moment they arrived in the States, said that the girl who would soon become an Uchiha had been preoccupying Sasuke's free time, forcing him to be offline.
His blue eyes frowned and he averted his gaze to the scene below them.
Since Sasuke left, Sakura and Naruto's friendship had been shaky. Sometimes, people wondered what had happened to them, seeing as they only spoke a word to each other when needed.
"...He... he's engaged..."
"It's your fault." He murmured, and she could detect something in his tone, something she didn't think he'd ever direct to her. "...I'm an ass this way, but... it's really your fault."
"...I know." She lowered her head and also looked at the students below. The rooftop had always been a place where the three of them used to eat lunch together, though she was usually absent because of her best friend, Ino, she still devoted most of her time with the two boys.
It made her wonder why Naruto had chosen this spot to speak to her about the news, given that this was supposed to be a place for happy memories.
"He told me, you know."
She looked at him when he spoke.
"About your last chat with him, your last words."
She bit back her tongue to not tell Naruto that she had confessed a minute too late.
"He was hurt."
She chose to remain silent and just let him talk.
"He believed your earlier messages, he was happy that you left him offline notes everyday, so when you told him you'd wait for him, he was looking forward to it, he was drawing strength and determination from it."
Her eyes closed as she tried to picture Sasuke's face, his expression, and how the scene would have turned out if they talked face to face.
"So when you told him that you should move on and let go, he was devastated."
It was supposed to be hard to picture the usually stoic Uchiha's face, but she found it easy to see his knitted brows and wide eyes, to imagine his head lowering and gaze looking to the side, and then lifting to meet hers and giving a small yet painful smile.
"But he didn't want to force you, so he accepted it."
She could feel Naruto's blue eyes on hers, and she sometimes wished it was Sasuke's dark orbs looking at her.
"Because he loves you, he still does."
She refused to return Naruto's gaze, and instead, continued to think of the whole scene as Naruto told her what he and Sasuke talked about.
"You're still his cherry."
And she couldn't help but fall to her knees and let out the tears.
"And he wanted me to tell you that... he loves you too."
Which means he still logged in and saw her last words to him that was supposed to be a minute too late...
Her feelings still reached him...
08:09 ; Three days later
It was cold.
And yet it still felt warm, it still felt as if he was standing before her, as if he was just there looking at her, seeing her and only her.
It felt like his eyes were gazing at her so... warmly and lovingly, it felt as if he was telling her that she's an idiot for wearing such light clothes during a cold climate, it felt as if he was smiling softly at her and saying that she should take better care of herself, it felt like he was laughing lightly...
She sighed and watched the few people who jogged pass her, and she stared at her brown back pack which had the stuffed animal key chains. She eyed one of them, staring at a black cat which had blue buttons for eyes and a white "x" stitched as a mouth.
"Nyan," she murmured, pouting at the small black cat which she got from him when they were still seven-years old. "I miss him."
Of course, the cat wouldn't reply.
"But he's engaged and... it's my fault he's... not here."
Silence greeted her yet again.
"You're like him Nyan, in person at least." She huffed. "Quiet and... unresponsive," a small smile made its way to her face. "Yet oddly enough, a comforting presence."
The leaves fell as the breeze blew, and she shuddered and pulled her bag closer to her, seeking warmth from it. She wrapped the scarf he had supposedly lent her that fateful day they last spent together, and she felt her heart ache upon missing him once more.
"I can't move on, I can't let go..." she shut her eyes and tried to push back unwanted tears. "I can't say goodbye."
She recalled those days they spend online in Ragnarok, and also those times they chat endlessly, and even those moments they share together whenever Naruto went with Hinata on a date and left them both eating lunch by themselves on the rooftop.
"Huh... so much for being shadow." She murmured, remembering his in-game name. "Claiming to follow me just like my shadow..."
Another sigh left her lips, and she pulled her legs up together and hugged them, wondering why there were very few people this morning, and why the benches were all deserted.
"But... like I'm still your cherry," she smiled softly. "You're still my shadow."
A moment of silence followed after, with only the comfort of the wintry breeze accompanying her. She heard trudging and crunching of snow, and she figured it was just another hardcore athlete jogging, until laughter echoed in her ears and she raised her head to see two children playing, one chasing the other who was laughing and saying "You can't catch me!" while the other would yell a "Just you wait!" and laugh as well.
Another smile came upon her lips as she watched the little girl run after the young boy, and she couldn't help but think back to her childhood when she and Sasuke often played tag, with her mostly being "it," given his unusual speed.
Naruto and the others always arrived late after all, so it was always her and him playing first.
Her eyes continued to follow them, to watch how the boy dodged a bit to avoid getting caught by the girl, and then run once more with the girl yelling a "No fair!" to him as he laughed.
Just like they used to be.
Her eyes widened upon seeing the little girl slip, the loud thud making her flinch as the boy she was chasing immediately stopped and rushed to her.
Just like he did when she fell back then.
Out of reflex, she ran towards them and helped the little girl up. She was sniffling, her face was red, and pretty soon, she cried.
She tried to calm her down, the little boy also doing her best in making her smile or laugh with words like promising to buy her candy or hot chocolate.
Just like him back then.
"Don't cry, I promise I'll..." she noticed how the boy blushed. "I'll buy you that stuffed cat you wanted so much."
Sakura felt like it was déjà vu.
The girl sniffed a bit and wiped her tears. "Promise?"
"Y-Yeah, I promise."
Sakura watched the girl try to hold back her tears, and a smile broke out from her lips because she could picture the same thing that happened years ago with Sasuke.
"Ne-chan, thank you." The girl said with a small smile, though her tears were still present. Sakura nodded at her, and then at the boy who also murmured his thanks, before the two of them took off – though in a much slower and careful pace.
She found it cute that the boy held the girl's hand – much like how Sasuke did back then too.
With one last look, she returned to where her back pack was, deciding to just skip the idea of sketching the scenery since it was too cold, and just buy a cup of coffee on the way. Yet upon arriving there, she did not expect to see a black cat seated near her bag, and while it was furry, it was rubbing against the bag as if seeking warmth.
Sakura quickly ran to it and picked it up in her arms, surprised that it didn't run off like most strays would have done so at the sight of a human.
She noted that it wasn't really shivering, and was rather warm too. She was ever surprised that it had blue eyes instead of yellow, and she wondered if the cat was really a stray despite missing a collar.
She spun around in her heel, almost slipping at the process.
"Just like you wanted for your birthday."
Her green irises watered, and her cheeks flushed pink as her lips parted to let out a silent cry.
Those dark orbs that were always intense when looking at her, those dark locks that fell over his eyes and made his gaze hooded which drove the fangirls wild, that unkempt hair that spiked at the back but suited him so much, those long yet slender fingers that pressed piano keys to emit a beautiful melody – not one single finger had a ring, and that small smile on his lips made her feel so warm as if it was spring instead of winter.
"...Sasuke..." she choked out as her tears came flowing down.
He took a step closer to lessen the distance between them, and she could care less at how the black cat jumped away from her arms and went back to its spot next to her bag.
She couldn't hold back anymore and threw herself to him, and he caught her like always, wrapped his strong arms around her waist while one hand lifted to rest atop her head. She cried like she never cried before, and he smile like he never smiled before...
His lips softly brushed the side of her head, and he leaned down to her ear and breathed softly: "I'm home."
A/N: I needed some angst, fluff, friendship, and... well, I just WANTED to get this out of my system. It was just too... well, I don't know how to describe it but... I just felt the need to type it all out and share it to the world.