dedication: to Les. do I actually have to name all the things you are to me?
notes: wait so this is the last chapter…
chapter title: you and life remain beautiful
summary: In a disposable plastic society, Konoha's underbelly is the last place anyone wants to be. — Sasuke/Sakura.
"You know what's messed up?"
"I'm not on duty. I'm not supposed to be here. I'm not supposed to care—that was the first thing they told us, to care but not to get emotionally invested because that would only end up hurting us. They didn't want us to burn out. So they told us not to care."
"Really," she said.
She waited next to him in the ER waiting room, the sky outside gone grey and misty-pale in the time before the sun rose. Sakura sat with her legs crossed, and listened to the artificial whirring of the ceiling fan above her. She didn't look at him. She didn't need to. She tipped her head back, and liked the feeling of her hair against her collar bone.
"But I do care," she continued. "I care way too much, which is why I'm sitting here with you instead of being curled up in my bed with a cup of cocoa."
"You don't have to be here."
"My cousin also kicked me out."
"Ah," he snorted.
She thought he almost smiled. But Sakura had a feeling that this man didn't smile very often—and especially not with nurses he didn't really know at all beyond half-carrying them drunk into the hospital where his daughter was dying.
(That sounded way worse than it actually was.)
She shifted a little bit, a nervous side-to-side movement in the shoulders. What she was about to say could go very badly—but then, Sakura had never really been one for deterrents. "What was she like?"
There was a long, pained silence. Sakura dropped her head and winced (but she was doing a lot of that these days, wasn't she). "Too soon?"
"No," he muttered, but it came out more like a sigh. "You know that she's…"
"Gone. Midori said," and tipped her head towards him, unspoken apologies in her eyes. I'm sorry you lost her. I'm so, so sorry you're going to lose someone else, too.
He wouldn't meet her gaze. He stared at the tiled floor, even as she watched shutters close somewhere behind his eyes—it was carefully masked hurt, and Sakura had known from the start that he was more messed up than she was (and that was saying something).
"She was the most rebellious girl I ever met," he said. Sakura caught the nostalgia and knew he was somewhere far in the past where she couldn't reach him.
"Kin. I was ten. She crashed into my bedroom and broke my lamp. I couldn't stand her."
Like it was the easiest thing. The words spilled over, spilled under, spilled out like falling asleep to late-night television after one-two-many microwave dinners. Sakura thought of Karin's cigarettes, red lipstick smudged around the filter, burned down to nothing. She sat and listened while he talked.
He talked for a very long time.
They were both washed out, pale imitations of themselves in sunlight like ghosts on the boardwalk. They floated there, in that moment that wasn't quite real like—time out of time, it was somewhere else, and Sakura listened to him murmur.
It was soft and slow, about his best friend, his older brother, his sickly mother; an overbearing father and a company that continued to eat the little bit of soul he had left. About a cocky girl and a cocky boy in the recline of car seats late at night when no one else was around and how she'd dumped cold coffee all over his head. How it hadn't even really been love, just mutual hatred of the world.
He told her secret things that he'd never even admitted to himself.
Growing up in Konoha was not kind to anyone.
Sakura was falling a thousand feet per second, and she didn't even realize it.
"That might take a while."
"Everything takes a while, Sakura."
She blinked at him. "You called me Sakura."
"That's your name, isn't it?"
And it was that, more than anything else he'd said, that had her dropping her guard and letting the words out.
She explained about her parents—"Dad's a drunk and my mom loved him too much to leave"—and about the tiny apartment she'd grown up in with the TV blaring at all hours of the night. How she'd studied to escape. How there wasn't always enough money to keep everyone fed, much less afford to send her to school. About her cousin, and her cousin's inability to take anything seriously at all.
She told him stupid things that she'd never voice aloud before.
Sasuke sat next to her and listened, and didn't say a word.
When she finally ran out of things to tell him, Sakura thought that maybe something had changed. The sun was brilliant in the waiting room, bright white and clean when it shimmered down her arms. The sun didn't come out often, like this.
Sasuke seemed to think so, too.
He reached out, and took her hand.
/ / /
"There's a good chance she'll wake up," Sakura murmured. "She's fighting. Winning, even."
"They didn't think she would."
"No," she agreed. "They didn't."
They stood very close together outside of the little girl's darkened ICU room, watching as the machines glowed green and red and beeped her valiant little heart rate like I think I can, I think I can. It was just that Midori was so small, fragile as ice that formed over puddles, the kind that crunched merrily beneath a person's shoes.
And she was all that he had left.
"…Sasuke, do you think we can do this?"
(Well, not all.)
He a shot a glance down at their entwined hands—two hands with fingers locked, it was simple, really. There were beginnings there, hid in flesh and skin and the creases that both their lives had wrought. And they were just two people who had lived two separate lives that had somehow ended up tangled together over a dying little girl.
They were just two people, and maybe they had a chance.
"Yeah," he said, at last. "I think we can."
notes2: hi yeah so I'm just gonna go hang out in the Avatar fandom from now on. that's a thing that's going to happen.
notes3: DONE. FINALLY. please leave a review! :)