disclaimer: disclaimed.
dedication: to leather jackets, skinny jeans, and the crooning of an old radio in the back.
notes: for sasusaku_month over on LJ. prompt was close under post-cannon.

title: love, to still my mind
summary: It's like fireworks exploding in reverse. — Sasuke/Sakura.

.

.

.

.

.

There are words stuck in her throat and she can't breathe.

It should hurt, she thinks idly, choking on letters and thoughts and broken promises. But funnily enough, it doesn't.

She tries to swallow and fails.

The lump in her throat remains, and the words stay silent. The TV flickers mutely in the midnight darkness and she thinks that if they could talk, things would be better. If they could talk, maybe she wouldn't feel like summertime dying on a breath of wind.

But they don't talk, and so she sits and mourns for something long-dead.

The crackle of dead leaves underneath her shoes, perhaps.

Fall will come, and with it, cool winds and brilliant colours flaring against the sky. Fall will come, pulling out chills and breezes and warm blankets. Fall will come.

But for now, it is summer. Too hot, too muggy, too wet, too dry, too green, too alive.

Sakura can not speak, and the world passes outside the hospital window. Konoha bubbles, a city of rot and nightmares cooking in the heat of the evening.

And she waits.

If they were to come home in one piece, this time, that would be good, Sakura thinks.

The solitary beeping of the EKG is the only sound. The electrocardiogram is comforting in a sick way—that someone in the bed is still alive, still breathing. Her hands do not tremble as she measures and takes notes.

Then she leaves, like it meant nothing in the first place.

Perhaps it didn't.

Sakura slips into her office, still choking on words and thoughts and memories. She can not breathe, can not breath, can not breathe.

The clipboard clatters to the ground.

Sakura slides to the floor; throat parched, and thinks that breathing is over-rated, anyway.

/ / /

They find her with bags under her eyes, swaying back and forth, barely able to stand straight. Their voices are loud in her ears, so loud—

"SAKURA-CHAN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO YOUSERLF?"

She doesn't have an answer for him, the boy who is brother and saviour and friend. She does not have the words; they are still balled in that lump in the bottom of her throat. The awful thing is that she should have the words for him, she should; but she is tired and sad and the energy to answer him is too much, too taxing. Too hard.

Instead, she smiles a little.

It is not reassurance enough, and she receives frowns in response. A single dark eye crinkles downward and Sakura thinks that this man who is teacher and father and childhood hero sees right through her. It is not a pleasant feeling.

"Don't be silly," she says. "I'm fine."

The truth flows from her lips like water mixed with blood, and she knows that they will not believe her even if she shows them proof. How can one show proof of something that is not there? Sakura wonders absently, and looks between the three of them. They are her family. Her family—her brother and her father and her—

The last to speak (always the last to speak) snaps Sakura's attention towards him.

"You're not," he says.

"Not what?" Sakura smiles.

"Not—hn."

His eyes burn red and swirling and Sakura thinks oh, Sasuke. Oh, Sasuke.

Because even after everything, even after a war and so much death; he is still angry. He will always be angry, Sakura knows.

Once, she thought she could save him.

But Sakura had long since left delusions of saving him behind.

The only person who could save Sasuke was Sasuke. She knows that, now. She knows many things, now. She knows how to quite literally pull someone's spine out of their body; she knows how to sew and stitch and save lives.

But she does not know how to save Sasuke.

Sakura has learned that it is best not to even try.

She smiles at him, bright and warm, and just barely shrugs. "I'm okay. Really. Promise."

Sasuke does not look convinced. He frowns at her; there is something flickering in his face that Sakura does not understand. She blinks at him.

Dissecting the things Sasuke says and does takes too much effort, Sakura thinks. It's not fair.

But then, what is fair?

He looks at her for another moment, the anger still in his eyes. They are like black holes and the air is sucked from Sakura's lungs in a great rush of exhalation. It's all tunnel vision and shivers until the other two men cough awkwardly.

Sakura remembers where she is and pulls herself from the darkness.

She tips her chin up and grins at brothersaviourfriend and teacherfatherhero. She doesn't look at Sasuke. She will not give him the satisfaction because she is not weak, she is not weak, is not weak

The speech catches in her throat and she thinks of the irony of eating your words.

If only.

And suddenly she could give anything for water. Suddenly, she would give anything to be in her bedroom, gulping ice to wet her throat because she is parched and can not breathe and—

Sasuke grabs her wrist. He's growling out a string of expletives almost silently and Sakura pretends that she does not see the exchange of glances between her the men that make up her family.

They do not stop him and Sasuke drags her away, swearing under his breath.

/ / /

Sakura's apartment is like a grave; cold and silent with all the windows open. The air is fresh and freezing. The sills are wet and Sakura wonders if it rained.

Maybe.

She toes off her shoes and leaves them at the front door—Sasuke may do as he pleases. Sakura still not stop him nor will she invite him in. He will do as he does and she knows that she can not change that.

"What's wrong with you, Sakura?"

Coming from behind her, the question hangs in the air. It curdles like spoilt milk and Sakura shudders as she tries to find the words but they're stuck in her throat and she needs—she needs—

She doesn't know what she needs, really.

Maybe just stability.

But Sakura is not good at stability and Sasuke is even worse. Being nin is bad for stability because there is no guarantee of tomorrow.

Sakura stares at the ground and struggles to not to cry.

For a very long time, they are both silent.

"I'm going to make some tea," she says, at last.

"Hn."

Sakura escapes to the kitchen to set the kettle on. She turns the tap on and lets the water gush over her hands.

It only takes fifty-two seconds to steam, and Sakura hates everything because fifty-two seconds is not long enough to collect herself. Fifty-two seconds is not enough to gather all the scattered pieces of herself and put herself back together. Fifty-two seconds is not enough for the end of hopes and wishes and dreams.

Fifty-two seconds is not enough.

Sakura lets the tap run and run, the water turning icy against her hands.

She shivers.

There is the almost-silent sound of footsteps.

He touches the back of her neck, and the shivers cease. It's like fireworks exploding in reverse and Sakura exhales. It is familiar and it is amazing and it is Sasuke.

Sakura pulls her hands from beneath the tap, and looks at him.

The world falls down and shatters. She makes green tea and they sip the scalding water together in the cold and the silence.

Sasuke holds her wrist, and they do not fade.

.

.

.

.

.

fin.
notes2: written in two-(ish) hours? you guys, what am i doing with my life? and baaaaaack to angst we go. yup.
notes3: please do not favourite without leaving a review. :)