Hinata held the phone in her hands, lavender eyes full of determination. But each time she went to dial the number, nerves overtook her resolution, and she put it down again on the desk, only to pick it up again a few moments later. On and on it went, a strange routine, but was she wrong to second guess herself?
It wasn't like she hadn't spoken to Sakura recently. But this wouldn't be a typical conversation.
She's the one girl in the world you trust more than anyone else, she thought fiercely. You're being ridiculous. She would understand, right? We're her friends, too.
The diamond ring sparkling on her fourth finger caught the light and distracted her for a moment. Her worried brow relaxed as she smiled at the shiny band, twisting it back and forth out of habit.
It wasn't too much to ask for, was it?
A wedding as perfect as the ring on her finger.
She wasn't a terribly fussy girl by nature, which was odd, considering the prim and proper household she'd been raised in. She was relatively down-to-earth, much like the rest of her friends, with the possible exception of Ino; she made it a point of putting others' needs before her own whenever she could, and being satisfied with whatever good things came her way.
But this was her wedding day. And even if it was horrible of her, Hinata Hyuuga wanted everything to be perfect on her wedding day. She wanted everything to go right.
And it wouldn't feel right unless everybody was there.
"Something wrong, Hinata?"
She jerked out of her reverie, startled by the arrival of her boyfriend. Or rather, fiancee; she really had to get used to calling him that. Naruto sat down on the sofa next to her, blue eyes shining with concern. "You looked really out of it. Everything all right?"
"Yeah," Hinata replied, smiling shyly. Sometimes she had to remind herself that this was real, this was permanent; all of her childhood dreams of spending her life with Naruto Uzumaki were coming true. "I was just thinking about the w-wedding."
"I was thinkin' about it, too," Naruto admitted, and she was momentarily taken aback by the seriousness in his eyes. It worried her, and she turned to face him properly. "And there's something I needed to run past you, before I went ahead and did it on my own, but I think it's really important."
"What are you t-talking about?"
Naruto squared his jaw, then blurted out, "Sakura's got to be there."
Hinata wasn't as surprised as she felt she should have been. Prior to her abrupt departure from Konoha two years prior, Sakura was one of their dearest friends. She'd since relocated to Suna and maintained contact with most of their old group, with one notable exception; now in her first year of medical school, she was a very successful student interning with one of the best doctors in the country. They hadn't seen her since she left like a thief in the night one balmy summer night. Ino, her best friend, visited her occasionally, but whenever she was pressed for details, she never offered much, perhaps the only time in her life she kept her mouth shut. Hinata guessed it to be Sakura's orders.
Her absence was greatly felt, though. They all missed her terribly, and occasional phone calls, random texts, and even handwritten letters because Sakura was old-fashioned simply weren't enough. Hinata knew it wouldn't feel right on her wedding day if Sakura wasn't there.
"I w-want her to be my m-maid of honor," Hinata admitted to her fiancee. "But…Naruto I d-don't think she'll w-want to come b-b-back here."
"She's got to!" Naruto said fiercely. "She's one of our best friends and it's our wedding, Hinata! She's got to come back for that!"
"But…you know how th-things ended. You know. With S-Sasuke."
Naruto sighed in exasperation, throwing himself back against the couch cushions with his arms folded. "No one really knows how it ended between them," he muttered. "She just left, and he won't talk about it."
"He's your b-best man, Naruto. D-Don't you think it w-would cause problems? He's s-so sensitive about S-Sakura."
"Which is exactly why we gotta bring her home!" Naruto announced. "Hinata don't you see? This is our chance to bring 'em back together!"
That sounded like a very, very bad idea to Hinata. No one was entirely sure what had caused the immediate, hideous breakup between Sakura and Sasuke two years ago. After a year and a half of dating, things had ended without either one of them offering an explanation. To Hinata's knowledge, they hadn't spoken since then. Sasuke was the one friend from Konoha whom Sakura never attempted to contact after moving to Suna. Getting involved in their affairs seemed incredibly stupid.
Even if she'd always rooted for Sasuke and Sakura to end up together, it had to happen on its own, didn't it?
"Sakura's the only girl Sasuke ever looked twice at," Naruto said firmly. "And she's been in love with him since forever. They were the second best couple in the world after us, until they broke up and they still won't talk about it! It's ridiculous! We all know they're made for each other, but they're both too stubborn to acknowledge it so we've gotta tweak the circumstances!"
"Tweak the circumstances, babe! Sakura's bullheaded but she wouldn't miss our wedding for anything. Not even Sasuke. And Sasuke's got no choice about it. He's my best man and that's final."
Hinata sensed he must have had that exact same conversation with Sasuke before.
"Don't you think they're supposed to be together?" he asked.
Hinata sighed and looked out the window. "Of course I d-do," she said quietly. "But are you sure th-this is a good idea?"
So many things could go wrong. Sakura returning would be amazing, since they all missed her. But forcing her to confront the demons of her past seemed callous. The last thing Hinata wanted to do would be to give Sakura one more reason to never come back to Konoha ever again.
But Naruto was right. Beyond her selfish desire to have all her friends together on her perfect day, Hinata knew that if anyone deserved a second chance at love, it was her maid of honor and Naruto's best man.
"So you think I should c-call her?" Hinata asked.
"Hell yeah! We should've told her last week anyway, when I proposed to you!"
So Hinata punched in the numbers she'd long since memorized, hoping that good intentions would not pave a road to hell this time.
Sakura stood in front of the open fridge, allowing the cold air to seep out and soothe her overheated muscles. Sweat turned cold on her forehead, and as she fanned herself with her hand, she scolded herself for never, ever learning her lesson about running in the sweltering Suna heat.
You'd think after nearly dying of heatstroke four times this month, I'd actually get it, she thought, panting. Just splurge and get the goddamn gym membership! Ten dollars a month is worth it to get out of this fucking sun.
Sakura couldn't handle being idle for too long, so she kept herself busy almost every minute of the day. She'd always been like that; a social butterfly, popular and involved in everything, hard working in every facet of her life. She had a few hours' downtime before her night shift at the nursing home she worked at and after a fairly intense class schedule in the morning, so she decided to put it to good use and get a run in.
And even though she'd now lived in Suna for two years, she still constantly underestimated the strength of the sun and heat until she was drenched in sweat four blocks from her apartment.
The fridge light flickered, then died. Sakura sighed. One more thing to take care of. Annoyed, she grabbed a bottle of water from one of the poorly-stocked shelves and shut the door, heading to her living room to decompress.
The beaten-up couch she'd found at a secondhand store dipped under her weight. She lifted her heavy ponytail off her neck and pressed the water bottle to her skin, hissing a little at the cold before sighing in relief. The ancient overworked fan in the window blew in air that was just as hot as it was outside. Her spandex workout shorts clung tight to her thighs, and she cursed the heat-retaining material and her own lack of energy to get up and change her clothes.
Wistfully, she thought of late summer in Konoha. Balmy during the day, comfortable at night, with a breeze that pulled through the trees and her hair when she let it down, and…
Sakura never liked to dwell on thoughts of Konoha for too long. Used to having to constantly distract herself, she redirected her attention to how much time she had left before heading over to the nursing home across town. About two hours, which left enough time for her to shower this exercise grime off of her, do something with her hair and catch the 5:00 bus, and…
Her cell phone rang loudly on the coffee table. Cursing its volume, she forced energy into her limbs and reached for it, pleased to see Hinata's name on the Caller ID.
"Well hey there, gorgeous," she answered breezily.
"S-Sakura!" Hinata's voice was happy on the other end. "Hello, how are y-you?"
"Ugh, exhausted. Just got back from a run. I always forget how it never cools off here. How 'bout you?"
She reclined on the uncomfortable couch, deciding to make time for a nice long conversation with Hinata. She hadn't seen her dear friend in two years now, and when the guilt threatened to take over in her stomach, she tamped it back down with resolution. Leaving had been the right move. Of that, she was certain.
But it didn't make her miss her friends any less.
"Uh, good. Really good. Great, actually. Um…N-Naruto and I are g-getting married!"
Sakura almost choked on the gulp of water that was halfway down her throat. She swallowed it quickly, sat bolt upright, and exclaimed, "You're what?! HINATA! CONGRATULATIONS!"
"Thank you!" Hinata sounded absolutely delighted, and Sakura really couldn't think of a woman on the face of the earth who deserved true love the way Hinata Hyuuga did. She'd been crazy about Naruto since kindergarten. "Last week. He asked me to m-marry him at the r-ramen stand."
"Typical," Sakura sighed, rolling her eyes, before catching the first part. "Last week? And nobody told me before now?"
"Oh. I'm really s-sorry, Sakura! It's just…you're so f-far away. And so b-b-busy. It gets a little…"
"Hard to communicate," Sakura finished, figuring she had no right to be upset when she was the one who'd left, even if it did sort of hurt. She used to be the first one to know anything in their group of friends; now, with the separation and her schedule keeping her so isolated from everyone, she was an afterthought. "No, I understand. I completely understand. But when are you guys getting married?"
"Soon," Hinata admitted. "Next month. After gr-graduation."
Sakura did some math in her head. She was a year younger than most of her friends, having skipped second grade, and she'd finished college a year before everyone else because of her workaholic study habits. Which meant that Naruto, Hinata and the others would be graduating college a month from now, and a year after she had. Moving forward so quickly in her life, it was easy to forget everything else happening around her.
The guilt wasn't so easy to ignore this time.
"And…we w-want you to be there, S-Sakura. It would m-mean a lot if y-you would c-come. I'd love for y-y-you to be my m-maid of honor."
Sakura's jaw dropped. "Me? Hinata, are you sure? What about your sister?"
"I love H-Hanabi, but w-we're not that cl-close. I can't t-tell her the th-things I can t-tell you. And I know I-Ino's your b-b-best friend, but you're m-mine." Hinata paused, and then her voice was stronger. "I really want you to come, Sakura. I can fly you home if you don't have the money."
"The money…isn't an issue," Sakura admitted. She could easily scrounge together a few hundred bucks to make it to her best friends' wedding. The problem was a 6'2" mistake she wasn't too eager to see again. She tugged on her ponytail as she did when she was deep in thought.
"I know," Hinata replied softly. "It's S-Sasuke, right?"
Hearing his name twisted something in Sakura's stomach. She'd done such a good job these past few months avoiding anything Sasuke Uchiha-related, from his name to their memories; but sometimes there was no running from what had happened. She felt sick.
"We just…it didn't end well, Hinata. I don't want to get into it. It's…I don't know."
"I understand," Hinata replied, her voice even quieter, and Sakura bit her lip.
I'm just being selfish, aren't I? she thought nervously. God, I'm such an ASS. I can't let something that happened two years ago slide even for something as important as this wedding? No. No way. I won't be that girl. I can handle heading back to help her with the wedding preparation. I'll put together the best goddamn reception anyone's ever seen. And when it's over, I'll come right back here and it'll be like it never happened. And I'll barely have to see him at all.
"Of course I'll go," Sakura said, determined not to swallow the words back as she forced them out.
"Really?" Hinata exclaimed, joy lacing every word and making Sakura feel even worse. "You will? Oh Sakura! I'm so happy, you have no idea how much I've missed you! How much we've all missed you! This is going to be so perfect, thank you so much! When can you come back?"
"Classes don't end for me till next week, so after that. How long should I stay?"
"As long as you want," Hinata said fervently, stammer gone with her happiness. "I could use all the help I can get, the Hyuugas all have high expectations but none of them like to get their hands dirty and actually help, so…"
Sakura laughed before checking the time. "Oh, shit. I have to get ready for work. Do me a favor and message me all the information, okay? Sorry to cut it short, but I need to shower and get ready to check pulses for eight hours tonight."
"Oh, sure, no problem! Thank you so much, Sakura!"
Standing under the harsh spray of a cool shower, Sakura watched the water swirl down the drain without really seeing it. Her mind replayed the last conversation over and over, and the sick feeling in her stomach flared up more severely with each passing minute.
What did I just agree to? What is wrong with me? Am I a glutton for punishment, is that it?
She'd done such a nice job building herself a life free of Sasuke Uchiha since their horrible breakup two years ago. Moved hours away. Transferred schools. Never visited.
Now, all her hard work was being rapidly undone, all because stupid Naruto and silly Hinata needed to get married at 22 for whatever reason. Despite being thrilled for their commitment to one another, she was furious at the timing.
How can I go back there? How can I look him in the eyes without going CRAZY? Oh God, this is such a horrible idea. I'm not ready to see him. I can't. I won't.
But Sakura was resigned to her fate already. Second thoughts, second guesses, none of it mattered.
I have to. Oh holy shit.
note.. Because I am horrendously bad at staying focused on one thing at a time, here's another story. I took a plot from an old story I'd written in the DC universe and I'm incorporating some aspects of it into this one, since it's been years and I hope to God I've improved since then.
So what do you think? Please, as always, don't favorite or alert without a review here and there. I appreciate it!
Have a good night :)