Prenotes: I took a psychology class two years ago, and this one section in the textbook about the near exposure effect keeps coming back to me. This is based on that section. More about the effect on the bottom if you are interested in a meager education! Written for SSM 2012.
Summary: AU. Cut out all the ropes and let me fall. Sasuke/Sakura.
It was a strange feeling knowing that she could easily fit her life into boxes. For something that should have seemingly been more unwilling to binds and ties and packaging peanuts, something that ideally should be uncontainable...it was.
Twelve boxes, to be exact. And a stack of paper, stamps, her purse, and the old recliner she couldn't live without.
She could fit her life into a dozen boxes. Which were then fitted into one big, rented box—the U-Haul trailer.
It was strange to be able to put a number on her life, to be able to so concretely value the things that were hers and only hers.
For excluding her friendships that would last beyond, the boyfriend she would be leaving behind, and the walls that used to house her boxes…this was everything she had.
This was everything she was.
It was a strange feeling, indeed.
It was a while until she successfully got her mail redirected to her new residence, miles upon miles away from her old one, but the first bout of redirected bills and housewarming cards came in the form of a decidedly under excited mailman.
His name was Sasuke, the embroidered cursive on the light blue shirt told her. But it was his standoffish demeanor that told her that there was something different about him, be it the careless way he walked, the reticence in the manner of his delivery, or the way he appeared as though he shouldn't be wearing a mailman's uniform but rather a business suit.
She was intrigued.
But beyond the perplexing mailman it was the letter that he handed her that took her attention the most, the one in Lee's handwriting.
If Sakura were truly honest with herself, she wouldn't have been together with Lee in the first place.
He was sweet, kind, and a little weird. His eyebrows were bigger than the norm, but he loved her with all the fervor his being would allow.
And to some extent, she reciprocated.
But if Sakura were truly honest with herself, be it from the way that the distance between them didn't seem to shatter her like it should have or the lack of movement in the relationship didn't dissatisfy her, she would have known that she didn't love Lee in the first place.
But if there was one person Sakura was a master of deception towards, it was herself.
She opened the letter.
My lovely Sakura,
You must be already moved in at your new address. I know that I am distraught, but I also know that your work takes you where you must, and where there is a need of people to be healed, you go. And I understand that.
I miss you dearly.
But I have even more unfortunate news; I have been offered a transfer to the newer offices and a promotion, both of which exist across the country.
It tears me to part from you further, but I know that you would want me to go, that you would say that I should follow my own path even if it takes me away from you. I know you would want the best for me.
Upon hearing about the offer, I accepted.
I leave tomorrow.
I don't have enough time to come and visit if I wish to finish packing and sell off the apartment in time.
I love you.
I'll miss you.
Yours, Rock Lee.
She refolded the letter and stared at it for a moment…and smiled.
She spent her free time writing him back lengthy letters about her times her, the way unpackaging the dishes had been such a pain in the ass, and the stray cat that would meow at her window at night, but when morning came, was gone.
She wondered why people said long distance relationships couldn't work because even though she missed him, it was as though he'd never left when she received his letters every morning. She could hear his voice through the almost obsessively neat script, the enthusiasm and vigor that used to make her feel awkward but now only put a smile on her face.
She missed him, sure, but it was almost like he had never left in the first place.
She forgot to write him one day, and the next morning, when Sasuke showed up, letter in hand, she realized she'd forgotten that he existed in the first place.
And hard as she tried to dismiss that fact, instead pushing the idea that her mind was preoccupied—it was like those times she left the examination room and went to get her things and went home with gloves still on her hands—and that he had simply slipped her mind…
She could feel it in her.
He was losing her, and she was losing him.
They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, but I can't help but feel like it's doing the opposite, now. I'm losing you.
I don't know how to tell you this, but I can see the end in sight and I—
She crumpled up the paper and threw it away.
The doorbell rang, and she got up, tea in hand, to get her morning mail.
The mail came every day at seven thirty in the morning, delivered unfailingly by the same Sasuke. He knew her mail schedule by now, and upon going up to her door (her house woefully didn't possess a mailbox), handed her mail in reading order—Lee's on top, other personal letters, bills to pay, and junk mail.
"So how are you today?" she asked as she leaned against the doorway in her sleepwear, a cup of tea in one hand and the mail he had handed to her in another. There was no letter from Lee today.
That used to bother her when that happened, but now it was such a frequent occurrence—he only wrote to her every few days now—that it stopped mattering.
She always found great amusement in his reticence.
"I'm fine, too. Hey, it's supposed to rain tomorrow," she remarked. "How do you deliver the mail if that happens?" she asked curiously.
"Same as I always do," he answered in the same monotone.
Her lips twitched upwards.
"All right, then. I'll see you, then."
She opened the door to a downpour, a wet and decidedly not happy looking Sasuke holding her mostly dry mail in his hand.
Her brows drew together in concern. "Do you want to come in? You'll develop pneumonia at this rate. I have some tea on the stove already, so it's not as though you'd be an inconvenience," she pushed the envelope, opening the door wider for him to step in. "Besides," she continued, "I feel like you're the only friend I have in this new town. The doctors are nice and all, but the neighbors aren't the friendliest. And I see you every day!"
"We're not friends," he deadpanned, stay stolidly on the porch.
Sakura raised an eyebrow, and always one for stubbornness, replied, "Sure we're not," and grabbed his wrist, pulling him inside the house.
"Who is he?"
"Who is who?"
He gestured to her pile of letters, some opened and some unopened, as he crossed his arms on the counter while she milled about the kitchen, pouring tea and cleaning dishes. It had become a regular thing for him to come in when it was raining just for a little while.
"Oh, he's…" she paused in her steps.
"No. Yes. Maybe. I don't know."
He was silent.
"I haven't seen him in months. Since I moved here."
He didn't reply.
"You can read them, if you want. The letters, I mean." She had stopped doing anything, leaning against the countertop, drying her hands on a towel.
He considered this, and grabbed the most recent letter off of the top, still unopened.
I miss you.
You haven't replied in a while, and I am quite aware that your job keeps you busy, but I miss conversing with you. Have you managed to get telephone service yet? Perhaps then we could talk verbally…
So as I was telling you last week, I met my boss. And as unhappy I am with the move away from you, he is a fantastic, youthful sort of middle aged man. Gai, my boss, is one of the most phenomenal people I have ever seen. And my coworkers are very welcoming, as well. There is this one young man named Chouji who seems to eat everything in sight, but when put in front of a desk, works like magic.
And Tenten is a striking young woman as well. She is so inspiring.
Neji, on the other hand, has become my fearsome rival in the workspace. I think he types at least a hundred words a minute, and I must strive to beat him. I have been practicing. As you can see, this letter is typed instead of handwritten.
I wish you could meet them. They would love you.
Just like I do.
He looked up briefly and spied the working landline across the room, folded the letter back up, and said nothing.
She glanced at him curiously, the pattering of rain on her rooftop making her words, somehow, seem more. "Anything important?"
"I don't know if I love him like he loves me. Even though we're so far away, it's suffocating. Sometimes I feel like I'm more of his mother than his girlfriend," she told him one morning.
He didn't say anything in response.
"…maybe I should tell him that I want to end it," she said thoughtfully, fingering another envelope, surely to go unopened, in her hands.
Lee stared at the empty sheet of paper, wondering how to phrase this.
I've gotten some time off due to the coming holiday, and I'm coming to visit!
He crumpled the sheet in his hands, starting over.
"This is stupid, Sasuke."
"I see you every day. You've had tea in my kitchen multiple times in the rain. You know all about my mail and what order I like to read it in and who mails me what. You know me, and yet I only see you every day for like five minutes in the morning. And yet I know nothing about you."
"We should go to the carnival!" she exclaimed suddenly as she rifled through her mail, finding a flier in the stack, waving it around excitedly. "I have time off."
She tore off a piece of cotton candy and popped it in her mouth as they walked around. "So why did you want to become a mailman?"
"Okay, so then why did you end up becoming a mailman?"
"My father demoted me."
"He owns the mailing company."
Lee was sitting on her porch when she arrived home from the carnival with Sasuke. He had parked in her driveway, and the smile that had been on her lips died as she saw the man on her porch swing.
She stepped out of the car and walked up the sidewalk.
"I told you I was coming?" he said, confused, almost as though he were questioning whether he really sent that piece of mail. "Who's that?" he asked, looking at Sasuke who was leaning against the door of his car, arms crossed.
"Sasuke," she replied.
"You have a phone," he noted when he walked through the door.
"Are those my letters?" he said, sounding hurt. The unopened stack that was only a few centimeters tall somehow seemed more daunting.
"I…" she sighed, rubbing her face with her hands. "Yes."
"It's Memorial Day," she said when he showed up on her doorstep the next day with a cup of hot chocolate in his hand.
"You're not supposed to work—"
"Does it look like I'm working?"
So she took the hot chocolate and let him inside.
"He's stopped sending you letters."
"…yeah," she sighed. "I think it's for the best."
"So what now?"
She looked up at him from the muffin she was picking at across the table at the café. "I don't know."
"My father calmed down enough to realize that," bitterness coming into his tone, "society would frown upon him for demoting me."
Sakura opened her door wider, and he stepped in.
He kissed her for the first time that day in the early hours of the morning in her kitchen.
It was a strange feeling knowing that she couldn't fit her life into twelve boxes.
It was a strange feeling that even though she was moving all of her stuff yet again, moving into his house, the twelve boxes didn't quite contain her life because he made up a large portion of it.
(And of course, he rather rejected the silly idea of trying to see if he could fit in one.)
So when she had finally unpacked all twelve boxes, she sat down at his kitchen table and penned a quick letter. She walked out of the front door, closing it behind her, and then turned around and rang the doorbell.
When Sasuke finally opened the door, an eyebrow raised curiously, her lips curled upwards. "Honey, I'm home," she said, laughing, and pressed the letter in his hand.
It was a strange feeling indeed.
And for once, in return, he took her hand and led her inside.
You snuck up on me.
The mailman at the doorway come to whisk me away on his standard white mail truck off into the early morning sunrise.
You snuck up on me, and you made my life a little brighter. A lot brighter. You made my move here home.
You became my home.
I'll see you there.
Postnotes: Every time I write Lee I wish I owned a green jumpsuit. Drop a review?
The near exposure effect: basically, it says that extended amounts of physical closeness—as in distance—pushes people together. But it goes beyond that—it says that if you are stuck in a closet or a class or anywhere with someone for an extended period of time, you will bond and you must bond because that is the effect of being near to someone. If you are close to someone physically, you will bond with them as that is human nature.
(A fanfiction example of this that comes to mind at the moment is Theory of Time by Pensulliwen. It's a fantastic SasuSaku fic. Go check it out!)
Anyhow, there was this real life blurb of an example example in the textbook about a woman who was madly in love with this man, but then he had to move away. They would send millions of letters back and forth, but in the process, she fell in love with the mailman who sent and received her letters. The other guy was still pretty attached though, but she moved on much quicker because of the proximity she had to the mailman.
But yeah. I really loved that snippet in the textbook, and I suppose it just stuck after all these years.
You can see how I applied the idea, except I made them both fall apart as opposed to it being more one sided…and that Sakura never really love loved Lee in the first place—another area where they differ. Lee stopped sending as many letters, became more immersed in his life, as well. Sakura became more immersed in her sexy mailman and in the process realized she never had that much affection for Lee in the first place beyond just…a really good friend and a convenience.
Welp. That's basic psychology for you!