Title: i'm here
Summary: From the moment she opened her door, he'd known something was wrong.
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
Prompt: A Hot Cup Of Tea
Warning(s): College!AU. And trigger warning for cancer.
Comments: My first college AU omg.
She'd been crying.
That was the first thing that he took notice of, when she finally opened the door to her apartment and greeted him with the most forced smile he'd ever seen her give anyone.
Something was wrong.
"Ah, so rude of me for keeping you out in a horrible weather like this! Come in, come in!" she ushered, moving to the side in order to give him space.
He nodded a little in acknowledgement, before finally stepping in and taking off his scarf and mittens, wrinkling his nose at the warmth of her home. His eyes darted around, finding it a lot less clean and a lot less cheery than it had been when he'd last come here all but a few days ago. When he spotted a trashcan full of tissues, and two empty Kleenex boxes, he allowed himself to frown some more, growing more steadily concerned with what Sakura struggled to keep from him.
"Don't just stand there, silly. Take off those boots and that coat, and sit!" she chided, reaching behind him to close the door.
He quietly obeyed and shrugged off his winter coat, watching her out of the corner of his eye as he toed off his boots and placed them in the plastic mat by the hall, as she sauntered off to the living room to tidy things up a bit.
"Want some tea?" she asked him, giving him yet another forced smile. "I was just on my way to make some when you knocked."
His lips thinned at the watery look of her emerald greens, but he said nothing—couldn't say anything as he watched her standing there, seemingly helpless and exhausted. He wanted to ask her what was wrong, wanted to approach her and make that sadness vanish, but he didn't want to take away that last straw that she was still desperately hanging on, fighting to keep herself together. He needed her calm so she could talk to him, explain to him what was going on, and allow him to be sure of exactly how he could help.
Because he wanted to do his best, by her. He wanted to give her exactly what she needed, right now.
So he bit his tongue, and simply nodded, hoping that maybe after she'd be done scurrying around and distracting herself, she'd open herself up to him in the way she'd always been able to in the past. He'd always been her shoulder to lean on, and she'd always been his since that time in high school when his parents divorced and flipped his whole world around, and he didn't want that to change—ever.
He didn't want Sakura to start hiding her problems f rom him, to start trying to be strong on her own, to start acting like she didn't need someone to catch her when things would become too much. He didn't want her to start acting like she had to take care of herself on her own in these harsh times, just because in couple months, he'd be graduated from Konoha University and heading to Oto's most infamous grad school, while she'd stay right here, working her ass off in her internship at the hospital.
But it seemed she was convinced that she had to start taking care of herself and handle her own problems, no matter how heart-wrenching and unbearable.
What happened yesterday, Sakura? he thought to himself, as he made his way to the living room and observed the mess that it was. When he sat down, he heard a sniffle and a half-choked sob, causing him to look over the frame of the couch with furrowed eyebrows. What awful news did you get to break you like this?
"The tea is hot, so be careful when you take it. Also, I brought you some lemon, I know you like to squeeze some fresh juice in yours sometimes." Her lip quivered when she attempted another smile, and his gaze narrowed at this, patience running short. "Although I'll never understand how you do that, honestly! Doesn't it taste so—"
"Sakura," he called, tone almost clipped. His eyes were hard on her own. Insistent. "What's wrong."
He saw her throat bob, saw her swallow down nervously. Stiffly, she replied, "Nothing's wrong, Sasuke-kun. I don't know why you'd think that."
"Don't lie to me," he said quietly. Then, almost uncertainly, he went on, "You've… been crying."
"I haven't been crying," she retorted, defensive and trembling anxiously. She'd never been any good at lying to him. "It's—my allergies. I have allergies."
A short breath of impatience passed his lips.
"No, you don't."
"And how would you know?" she snapped, frowning angrily. "You don't know me that well, Sasuke-kun, you—"
"I've known you since junior high, Sakura," he cut in, having finally breached his limit towards her adamant determination in steering him away from the obvious situation at hand. "We've seen each other practically every day since we started college, and I've learned more about you in the past four years than I ever did in a year in high school."
He paused, then, breathing in slowly. "Besides, it's winter," he said. "You can't possibly expect me to believe your supposed allergies would be this intense in winter."
When she didn't say anything, he sighed, putting his cup of tea aside before running a hand through his hair, and looking at her tiredly.
"Sakura," he said softly, delicately, trying one last time do be patient and gentle. "Tell me what's wrong."
She stayed silent for a moment, just looking at him with those big, green eyes of hers, seemingly in battle with herself. Considering the pros and cons of admitting her pain and letting him provide a comfort she hadn't been able to give herself. But when she opened her mouth, no words came out, and her eyes watered some more. He watched as her body curled in on itself, watched as her tiny hands cradled her hot mug of tea, watched as she never made a move to take a sip, and instead looked sideways and across the room, biting her lip tight.
He followed the direction of her gaze, and paused at the desk by the window, scrutinizing the area carefully, before he finally noticed something: her mother's picture was turned down.
And that's when everything seemed to click.
("She's better these days, you know! I mean she still gets these really big headaches sometimes that last over 48 hours, and she still tires really easily, but she's stopped vomiting so much and she says her breathing is a lot better than it was last week. She's gained back some of the weight she lost but they're still keeping her under watch." A worried frown crossed her lips. "They want her to come back in two weeks, though, cause' there's this weird lump they need to check out." She waved it away. "Probably something benign, right? I mean if my mom had cancer, there would have been earlier signs. This all just started barely three weeks ago so there's no way it's that.")
His eyes slipped shut tightly, pain ripping through him as the reality of what was at hand finally came to life.
Tentatively, Sasuke opened his eyes and whispered, "How bad is it?"
He heard her hiccupping a breath, something she always did when she was just about to lose it, and instantly, his hands reached for the cup she held, putting it away so she could not spill hot tea all over herself. He swallowed when he noticed her hand rising to her chest, clutching at the shirt tightly while she heaved a few breaths, eyes squeezed shut tightly.
"Stage four," she managed to choke out, squeezing her shirt tightly, bunching the material some more. Desperately holding on to her fast-fading self-control. "Terminal phase. They said there's nothing they can do, cause' the cancer's too advanced," she went on so, so quietly, gritting her teeth when the first few tears fell. She wiped at her eyes furiously, adamant on being strong.
Clearing her throat, she sniffled a bit, before straightening her back and looking at him with her big, heartbroken green eyes. "They don't really expect her to make it through the next year."
Her voice was thick with sorrow and shaky with effort, weighing heavy on his heart. But it was the way her lower lip quivered, and how her eyes tightened with the most silent agony, that caused him to reach out, grasping her forearms firmly as he pulled her against him, one arm slipping around her waist securely while the other wound itself around her shoulders, tugging her face into his chest. He gritted his teeth when she made a sound of protest, attempting to feebly push herself away from him while sharp, broken exhales left her mouth, wanting to curse at her for trying to deny the comfort he was offering and that she had always so easily accepted before.
(and he knew why she was doing that. He knew she was only trying to be a little more independent, that she wanted to get used to comforting herself on her own and to try and hold herself together, so that when the time came, when things would get hard and he wouldn't be here, she wouldn't have to—)
"Sakura," he sighed, eyes softening as he moved a hand up to her nape, delicately brushing soft skin he found there. He closed his eyes and pulled her closer, tilting his head down a little so he could rest his chin on the crown of her hair. "Stop it. Stop holding back." The fingers at her nape silently moved to threat through her pink locks, as if wanting to soothe, to coax. "You don't need to be strong right now. I'm here." His grip tightened when she stopped struggling, and gave up pushing him away. "Just let it go. I'm here."
And with those words, she broke.
He couldn't find the words to describe the pain that struck him as she collapsed against him, boneless and weak, her small hands clutching at his shirt while she cried out her rage and her pain, screaming in frustration and pounding a fist against his chest at the unfairness of it all. He did nothing to stop her aggressive pounds, only tightened his arms around her some more, stroking her hair a littler gentler, ignoring the soreness starting to throb there. The anger would be spent soon, anyway.
His eyes slipped shut again when her sobs got worse, wracking her entire body with an almost frightening force, and he let out a slow, long breath when her pounding finally stopped. The fury in her heart had finally emptied out, leaving only the most wretched, excruciating grief in its place. He swallowed tightly when she clung to his shirt tighter and took in a few harsh gulps, before weeping even harder, to the point she was almost breathless.
He'd never seen her cry so hard in his life, and it was hard to watch. He wanted so much to take it all away from her, to make her smile and hear her laugh again—wanted so much to be able to snap his fingers and make it all go away.
Burying his face in her hair, and squeezing his arms around her one final time, Sasuke brushed his lips to her temple briefly, before he whispered again, "I'm here."
"What am I gonna do without you, next year?"
Frown. "What do you mean?"
"Oto's far, Sasuke-kun…"
"It's not that far."
Sad look. "It's far enough for me to feel lonely."
Sigh. "Then call me. There are phones for a reason, Sakura—"
"But if I need you with me, what do I do then? With everything going on with my mom and me probably having to move in with her so I can help my dad, and god, Sasuke-kun, what if it's too much, what if it's—"
"Then I'll drop everything I'm doing and take the first flight home."
"One call. One message. Just one. I don't care what it takes." His hand found hers. He squeezed. "I'll be there."
A/N: It's kind of a relief to write them as friends with that tiny little edge of romance. Like idk last chapter I realized that I make them kiss like A LOT of times in my drabbles and I was like huh I should write more of those where they don't kiss but it's still obvious that they love each other to bits. Maybe there wasn't that feel in this one (well, I hope it was there!) but I'd like to do more where it's like that. Idk. Keeping it cutely ambiguous but obvious at the same time was nice.
Anyway, I hope you liked! I was pretty nervous writing about this one because of the cancer theme and how I've personally never had any experience with it or in depth knowledge or anything like that so idk if im portraying it accurately… hence me being nervous. Because offending people or making it look unrealistic is what I'm afraid of, here.
Hope I didn't do either!
P.s. I was supposed to include somewhere in there that Sasuke came by to bring the notes she missed because of her family emergency, but I kind of forgot about it. Not a very important detail though, right? Maybe it would have made it a little more clear that it was college!AU.