Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
"Let me know that you hear me.
Let me know your touch.
Let me know that you love me.
Let that be enough."
It wasn't so much her presence as it was her voice—the way she said her name, the way she said his; the way she laughed, and the way she scoffed. Her words were sharp. Her tones were shrill. And everything she said, especially to her, seemed calculated, spoken with just enough precision to leave Sakura feeling as if she had been bitten.
Her voice, for lack of a better word, was just abrasive.
Sakura sighed. All she wanted to do was finish her errands in peace; and, if she had enough time afterwards, she'd stop by Sasuke's place to surprise him. That was all. She placed the tomato she was holding back on the stand. Maybe, she thought, if she pretended she didn't hear her Karin would leave her alone. However, just as Sakura stepped away from the fruit stand she heard Karin's voice yell her name again, even louder this time. She cringed. She had no other choice, plastering a smile on her face as she turned around.
"Oh, Karin, what, uh, a—surprise. It's, well, it's been a while, hasn't it? I mean, besides the few times I've passed you around the village, I haven't seen you since—" she paused. Sakura knew she didn't have to elaborate. She could still remember exactly what Karin was wearing that morning—or wasn't wearing, for that matter; still remember Karin's tangled hair; still remember that sinking feeling in her stomach when she saw Karin run out of his apartment, calling out his name. The corner of her mouth twitched. "Well, yeah. It's been a while."
Karin rolled her eyes. "Alright, Sakura. You can quit the act. You can wipe that innocent look off your face while you're at it, too. I know you were ignoring me, and to be honest, I really don't care. Like I've said before, you don't like me, and I don't like you. So let's skip the formalities, shall we?"
Sakura scowled. "Fine. Even better."
"Good. So, to get right to the point," Karin said, picking up the tomato Sakura had just placed back on the stand, "it looks like you and Sasuke-kun are pretty serious about your relationship."
Sakura looked at Karin warily. This scene was all too familiar. Of course Karin was going to bring him up; it always had to be about him. And yet, Sakura knew it couldn't be that simple. Karin would never go up to her for no reason, especially if it was just to ask Sakura about her relationship. No, she was planning something, and as Sakura stood there with no other choice but to continue in what could only lead to disaster, she couldn't help but wonder if it had not been for Sasuke whether she and Karin could have actually been friends. But, Sakura supposed, she'd never know the answer to that question. "What do you want, Karin?"
"Oh, nothing," she said, this time the one smiling a broad, plastered smile. She placed the tomato down to look at her nails. "I was just curious about your relationship with Sasuke-kun, being that, well, I was in one with him not too long ago, too."
"I would hardly call what you two had a relationship," Sakura said, gritting through her teeth.
"And that's your opinion, Sakura," Karin said, shrugging as she placed an arm around Sakura's shoulder and led her away from the stand, "and I respect your right to have a wrong opinion. Truly, I do. But whether or not what Sasuke and I shared all those years together—running, fighting, and, well, you know—falls under what you would consider a 'relationship,' you can't deny that we did have something, no?"
Sakura said nothing as she looked away. Karin grinned.
"Anyway," she continued, "seeing that I was in a relationship with Sasuke-kun longer than you've been in your current one with him, I just came by to see how you're doing. You know, to see if you have any questions—or if you needed any advice. You know as well as I do that Sasuke-kun, well, he can be unpredictable."
"Oh," Sakura said, "how—thoughtful of you." She removed Karin's arm from her shoulder. She already allowed Karin to lead her far enough away from the market. Although she still didn't know where Karin was going with this, she lost all desire to find out. "But I think I can manage without your help."
"Really. You sure about that?"
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
"Well, have you two ever—" Karin raised her brow. "You know?"
Immediately, Sakura felt the blood rush to her cheeks. She turned around. She had enough. "I don't see how that's any of your business," she said under her breath as she began to walk away, hoping Karin didn't notice her blush.
However, before she could even take three steps Sakura felt Karin's hand on her shoulder, forcing Sakura to face ber. "Well, have you?" Karin pressed.
"Have. You. Slept with him?"
Sakura looked away and mumbled a single syllable—incoherent, brief. And that was all Karin needed. She smirked. She could have just left it alone at that; she already had her answer. But Karin wanted more. "Louder, Sakura," she said, taunting her as she pointed and moved her ear closer, "I couldn't hear you."
Sakura clenched her jaw and turned her head to slowly meet Karin's eyes, swallowing her pride. "No. If you must know, we haven't."
Karin released Sakura's shoulder and let out a laugh. Sakura glared. "What a shame. What a real shame. But, I can say I'm too surprised," Karin said, amused, and winked at her. "Though, he can't be too pleased about that."
"What would you know? You don't know anything," Sakura said defensively. "Your—Your 'relationship' was nothing compared to mine. What I have now with Sasuke-kun, it's—"
"It's what? It's different? You guys are what? Different?" Karin rolled her eyes. "Well, you can cut that crap, Sakura, because guess what? I thought we were, too. I thought if I waited long enough, he'd end up wanting me. I thought if I waited long enough, he'd end up needing me. And you know, he did. He did. But it was never more than that. He left me all the same; and for you, nonetheless." Karin shook her head bitterly, observing Sakura as she continued, "Do you love him? Well, do you?"
"How about this: Have you told him you loved him?"
"And if I have?"
Karin clicked her tongue and shrugged. "Nothing. But I think you'd find it interesting to know that I did, too. Every night. Every night—after he called, after he grabbed my wrist, after he asked, nearly begged, me to stay—I would tell Sasuke-kun I loved him, and you know what he'd say back?"
But this time, Sakura could only stare in reply.
Karin smirked and brought her head closer to her, stopping only when her mouth was right over Sakura's ear. She counted to ten before she actually said anything. She wanted her to get inside her head. She wanted her to squirm. "'Hn.'"
Karin began to snicker, finally making Sakura angry enough to do something, to move, to react. She pushed Karin away from her, but her push was weak—full of self-doubt and self-loathing—fueling Karin even more. Maybe a few months ago, Karin would have stopped at this point, but she wasn't afraid anymore. She had nothing else to lose.
"Is this starting to sound a little familiar, Sakura?" Karin asked, grabbing on to her, refusing to let go even as she struggled—weakly—against her grip. "You can try and convince yourself as much as you want, but you and me, we're the same. Once Sasuke-kun has run out of uses for you, once he realizes you have nothing left to offer, he'll leave, just like he always does."
Karin finally let go. "Isn't that what happened last time—?"
"Shut up!" Sakura screamed, clamping her eyes shut, clenching her fists. She knew better than to listen to her. She knew better than to let Karin get under her skin so easily. She knew Karin was angry, and she knew Karin was hurt.
Karin had all of these pent up emotions, but she was taking it out on the wrong person. She was using Sakura as a personal punching bag, but Sakura's resolve was weakening. "Shut up." Because with every word Karin said, Sakura had to wonder if she was right. Because with every word Karin said, Sakura was finding it harder and harder to breathe. "Just—shut up. Stop talking. I can't take it. Your voice. Just—stop."
"Then prove me wrong. Prove to me that we're not the same." Karin exhaled slowly. "You've told him you love him. Well, has he said it back?"
"Exactly. You may love Sasuke-kun, Sakura, but I wouldn't expect too much from him. He's Sasuke-kun, and you know him better than anyone else. Isn't that what you believe?" Karin shook her head and turned to leave. "You can tell yourself that he cares about you as many times as you'd like, but you can't say he loves you." She looked over her shoulder one last time. "We're one in the same, Sakura. He wouldn't say it to me, and he won't say it to you. Nothing has changed."
"He doesn't have to say it!" Karin heard Sakura yell at her back with an added resolve. She turned around; she found it amusing. "I'm perfectly fine with the way we are now. I don't," Sakura declared, "I don't need to hear it."
But Karin only laughed. "Sure, you tell yourself that now. But give it a few more weeks, months, years. That doubt you feel; it's only going to grow. You're going to need leverage, and one day those 'Hn's' won't be enough." She paused. "One day you're going to need to hear him say it back."
"Thank you, Sasuke-kun."
"I'm starting to feel it."
It was late, but someone was knocking on his door; though, from the way the sound resonated throughout his apartment, it was more like banging. Of course, this someone could but no other than Sakura, but Sasuke wasn't expecting to see her until tomorrow. She had mentioned something to him yesterday about reading up on medical jutsu and whatnot, so seeing her on his doorstep at 11 PM was quite the surprise. A good surprise nonetheless, but something was off. "Saku—?"
"H-hello, Sasuke-kun!" she said, faking a smile. "May I come in?"
Sasuke nodded, eyeing her suspiciously as he moved out of the way and heard her plop on his couch. He closed the door. She came alone, he affirmed. It wasn't an ambush. It wasn't a trap. Sakura was there by her own free will. And yet, there was something in her smile that troubled him, like she was hiding something.
Sasuke entered the living room. Sakura didn't even look up, her eyes never leaving a spot on the coffee table; what she was staring at, he couldn't tell. He observed her for a few more seconds before he asked her a question. She didn't answer. He asked again.
"Sorry," she said looking at him now, embarrassed, but obviously still distracted. "Did you say something?"
"I was asking if you wanted tea," Sasuke said slowly. Something was definitely wrong; he was sure of it now. And he had to wonder if Sakura was getting bad again, if she was going back to that dark place. He wanted to reach out to her, but he figured he better not—at least, not until he was sure what was wrong. "Tea," he repeated, "Do you want tea, Sakura?"
She gave him a half-hearted reply with yet another absent smile. Sasuke stared at her for a moment, an unasked question on his lips, before he went to the kitchen. Breathe, he told himself. Everything would be fine, he told himself. However, when he returned with two mugs he found that she was no longer on the couch. His stomach dropped. "Sakura?"
Placing the mugs on the table, Sasuke immediately moved towards the front door, but his bedroom caught his eye. He was almost positive that the last time he checked he left his door closed. "Sakura?"
Cautiously, Sasuke went inside his room, kunai in hand just in case. The lights were off, but from the little light that shone from the living room he immediately saw Sakura's unmistakable silhouette sitting across from him on his bed. She was alone. He relaxed his grip on the kunai. "Sakura, what are—"
"You know I love you. Right, Sasuke-kun?" she asked, her voice so soft that Sasuke had to strain his ears to even hear her. Swallowing, Sasuke nodded, also giving her a small yes in case she didn't see. Sakura didn't say anything for a while, so he slowly began to approach her, prompting her to stand up and walk towards him.
They both stopped when they were only a foot away from each other. Sasuke still couldn't see her face—couldn't see her eyes—and it scared him. But Sakura gently placed her hands on his face and began to kiss him—desperately, urgently, frighteningly—distracting him from his fear. Instinctively, Sasuke wrapped his arms around her, and although Sakura responded positively, wrapping her arms around his neck Sasuke swore he could feel something wet on her cheeks. Was she crying?
He didn't know how long he wondered that question, or how long they stood in darkness—her lips on his, his lips on hers; her lips on his neck, his lips on hers—but the next thing he knew Sakura was unbuttoning her blouse as she took one of his hands from her waist, placing it on her chest. Her heart was beating so fast. "Sa-Sasuke-kun . . ."
He stiffened. Yet, Sakura didn't seem to notice, her hands now lifting his shirt off his torso. But Sasuke couldn't focus. The way she said his name was unsettling, and it echoed in his mind. He didn't like it. He didn't like the way it sounded. In the year that he'd been in Konoha, in the months he'd been with Sakura, Sasuke had never heard her say his name like that. It was like a whimper from a child, or a caged animal.
And he realized. Sakura was afraid. She was afraid of him, and it made him feel sick. He took a step back. "Sakura," he said, stopping her from removing her blouse as he took her hands in his, "Stop. What's wrong?"
Sakura tried to release her hands from Sasuke's grip, but to no avail. She swallowed. "Nothing is wrong, Sasuke-kun."
"N-no, I'm not. It's just cold."
"Sakura, I'm not joking."
"Neither am I."
"Then stop lying to me." Sasuke stepped away to turn on the lamp. "Now tell me what's wrong."
The light was dim, but it was bright enough for Sasuke to see Sakura standing in the middle of his bedroom, her shirt wide open, tears streaming down her face. But she remained silent as the tears fell, keeping her head down, as if trying to hide from him. Sasuke felt the knot in his stomach tighten. He felt so useless, and the only thing he could do—the only thing he ever could do—was go to her, wrap his arms around her, and hold her tight. "Sakura, please."
"I don't want you to leave again, Sasuke-kun," Sakura finally said, sobbing, her hands forming tight fists. She looked up at him. "The first time was hard enough. I don't I could bear it a second time."
"Leaving?" Sasuke repeated, confused, "Who—who said I was leaving?"
"No one did." Sakura shook her head and averted her gaze, her cheek against Sasuke's chest. "But—but what if? What if you wake up one day and you realize Konoha has nothing left to offer? That—that—that I have nothing left to offer? I just wanted to show you that I'd give you everything I could. Do anything I could, just so you—And I thought, I don't know, maybe if I did—" Sakura stopped, unsure if she should finish, forcing herself to anyway. "I thought you'd stay for good. No, even more than that." She closed her eyes. "I thought then, maybe you'd finally tell me you love me."
It sounded so stupid now that Sakura had said it out loud.
Sakura broke away from Sasuke's embrace. "Because you never said it to Karin whenever you guys did it!" she blurted. Her eyes widened. The way Sasuke was looking at her was awful. "And, I just wanted to make sure we were different," she said quietly.
"I know I told you that I didn't need to hear you say it, and I don't want to force you. I know I'm an important person to you. And I know you care about me but sometimes—I don't know. I'm sorry, Sasuke-kun. I'm so sorry. I feel so stupid. Just, just forget it."
She turned around so she didn't have to face him anymore. If she felt embarrassed before, right now, Sakura was utterly humiliated. If only she had kept calm, she thought, everything would have been fine. She would have gotten over with it, and that would have been the end of it. She covered her face with her hands. Sakura wouldn't have been surprised if Sasuke wanted nothing to do with her now. She didn't even want anything to do with herself either.
But Sakura felt Sasuke's arms wrap around her, pulling her back into his chest. "Sakura," he said as he rested his head against the crook of her neck, "you don't need to go that far to keep me here." He turned her around and kissed her forehead, his hands cradling her head as his thumbs instinctively wiped the tears from her cheeks. "You're already good enough to keep me here. You always have been. And I promise," he said as pulled her in again and held her tightly, "I'm not leaving."
"Sasuke-kun, I'm so sorry—"
"Stop saying sorry," Sasuke said as he picked Sakura up bridal style and placed her on his bed, "There's nothing to be sorry about." Going to his dresser, Sasuke took out a t-shirt and shushed Sakura before she could saw anything. Her shirt was already unbuttoned, so Sasuke only had to slide her blouse off, which made his task that much easier. He commanded Sakura to hold her arms up, but as he pulled the shirt over her head, Sasuke's eyes continued down to her skirt. He cleared his throat. "Um, you can take that off yourself if—if you'd like," he said.
When he was finally ready for bed himself—which was simply just getting down to his boxers—Sasuke turned off the lamp, leaving the two in darkness. Sakura felt the bed shift as Sasuke climbed in, letting out a small gasp when she felt Sasuke pull her close to him. But it felt right. It felt—safe.
"I—" Sakura hesitated. "I love you."
She held her breath.
Don't say 'Hn.' Don't say 'Hn.' Anything, anything, anything but "Hn.'
The pause between her admission and his answer couldn't have been more than a few seconds. Nevertheless, to Sakura, the wait was excruciating. But in the end, it was worth it.
"And when I fall in love, for real this time, I'll know."
"Because when I fall in love, Sasuke-kun, I mean really fall in love, it will be forever."
Song: Let That Be Enough – Switchfoot
And that's chapter 25. Sorry this took so long guys. I actually had this drafted a while ago, but I hated it so much that I couldn't look at it for a week, and then before I could go back to edit it exams and finals came up. But here it is. I'm on break so the next chapter, hopefully won't take as long. We'll see! But next semester I'm studying abroad in Australia with lighter class load, so who knows, maybe this fic will finally finish. Lord knows it's almost, almost the end.
So I hope you enjoyed it!
And as always, read and review!