Title: I saw you when I walked that last step.
Pairings: NaruSaku/ Slight SasuSaku
Summary: The wedding bells sing and everything in the world is perfect. But he's not here to see her on her happiest day, and it's enough to turn the world upside down.
AN: Written for the Heaven & Earth's NaruSaku challenge.
I saw you when I walked that last step.
Sorry. I can’t make it to your wedding today. The council placed a lot of Hokage duties on me—last minute work. Not optional, so don’t ask me to put it aside. I can’t do that, thousands of people depending on me.
I don’t think I can make it to the reception either. Or anything else for that matter. I really have a lot to do. Don’t ask me anymore. I can’t see you anymore. It really hurts—. I really lov—
Be happy with your life with Sasuke.
Friend and teammate,
“He gave me this as I was leaving the tower today,” says Ino carefully, her voice so even that Sakura is angry that her friend is so calm. Or, it is because Sakura sees the handwriting and knows that it belongs to one person.
“But he promised he would come,” whispers Sakura, draped in so much of the wedding necessities. She finds the thick ribbon tied across her waist restricting her air. It does not faze her, because, recently, breathing has been a difficult thing to do. She runs her gloved fingers across the neatly written letters, not caring that the wet black ink had rubbed off and onto her white gloves. He wrote it recently, she realizes.
In the background, Sakura hears Ino’s footsteps fade. “I’ll be with the rest of the group.” Because it’s annoying to see someone like you. The implications don’t go unnoticed.
Sakura does not answer, merely stares at the paper in contempt, as if it had wronged her greatly. She clenches her teeth together and her hands ball into fists. The girl tells herself to steady, that she can’t break the mirrors and walls in this room. It’s her wedding day with her prince, a day she imagined to come true every since she was eight and saw Sasuke, and not even someone as important as Naruto can ruin it.
Ino sighs, “Isn’t it enough that he’s your friend?” Her words linger in the thick atmosphere before she speaks again. “Isn’t it more important that Sasuke’s here? He’s the one, rightSakura?” The door clicks open and it isn’t until the door slams shut that Sakura realizes that she is alone and Ino has answered her question with more questions.
Sakura wants to scream, but she doesn’t, because it makes her feel so utterly foolish. She reminds herself she isn’t the simple-minded girl that tried to follow the shadows of her friends. She has found her own path to walk, and a new sense of maturity. But it doesn’t stop her from grabbing that white piece of note paper, too much like the color of her too-heavy dress, and tearing it into thin shreds. The pieces fly, spinning light circles in the air. It takes a while, but the little shreds finally drop to the ground.
The view stuns her for a moment. Her heart hurts more than she realizes. And she’s on the ground, the hems of her satin dress spreading across the ground. Her hands move in frantic directions, seizing whatever piece her eye spots. She finds one, two, five, and ten pieces. The puzzle pieces make her think back of her childhood days, and vaguely, she sees the faint silhouette of a boy with bright blue eyes and an overconfident but kind grin.
The rays of the sun paint light shades on the white of her dress. She is supposed to look pretty; Sasuke chose the dress himself, as a gift. She remembers she invited Naruto, and the scowl that appeared on Sasuke’s face when she told him about it. But it didn’t matter, because in the end, Hinata came with a note in hand. He said he couldn’t make it, emergency meeting about the crisis in Suna. And just like that, the smile fades from her lips, it being dragged by the shadows that the sun can’t reach. The world is so much like a dream that Sakura almost waits to wake up. But she tells herself that it isn’t a dream, because then her lungs wouldn’t feel like there isn’t enough air.
The crumpled pieces are in front of her, fully reassembled. But the wind blows apart the completed puzzle; the pieces swirl around in circles. Some are turned, some far from their original position.
Only that part of his message is left, and Sakura hates seeing it. The sentence sounds too foreign, too much like a conclusion of a sad story. Slowly, she puts the message back again, for one last time. Her eyes can’t help but hover over at his clean signature.
Ino’s words echo in her ear. The words hurt somehow, and Sakura feels her lungs struggling to get more air. She opens her lips, only to find a sob escaping from her throat. Sakura bits her pale lips, because the tears are threatening to spill from her eyes. And she knows that she can’t cry, or the make-up that her mother helped put on will go to waste.
“You don’t have to cry anymore, Sakura. He’s back.” Sakura’s lips part slightly. She hears Naruto’s voice so vividly that she whips around, her hair following seconds after. The room is eerily silent, and Naruto is nowhere to be seen.
The door knocks; Sakura feels as if her breathe had been knocked out of her again. She closes her eyes, the air escaping from her lips. The music starts from a distance.
“Come in,” says Sakura, and she’s surprised at how normal her voice sounds. In a small corner of her mind, she hears laughter.
The door opens and a tuft of grey hair sticks in. Images flash before her eyes, and she sees Naruto laughing as he finishes his trick he has planned for his sensei. Only, this time, there is no eraser to fall on Kakashi and no Naruto laughing merrily with his eyes sparkling and his hands causally behind his back. And quickly, she remembers the loneliness and desperation of a boy blamed for many sins he never committed.
“Good to see you, Kakashi-sensei,” says Sakura, but not too loud, because her lungs are not expanding as she would like.
Kakashi looks at her, with his hands crossed against his chest. Sakura notices that he doesn’t have that perverted book with him today. Good, her inner voice says, but her heart thinks otherwise. She is forced to remember that Naruto started collecting these books, after the death of Jiraiya. He doesn’t read the books (or else she would have long punched the lights out of him), but keeps them safe in a place where he can see that Jiraiya’s still with them.
Sakura lifts her head up.
“Yeah,” she nods, lying, “I was listening.”
But Kakashi only looks at her with that strange look of his. Sakura wants to glare at her sensei, tell him how firm she is on the subject and how much she loves Sasuke.
But she remains quiet and avoids Kakashi’s powerful glance, because the words refuse to come out.
“Let’s go,” she whispers, standing up. The whole weight of the dress collapses on her again, and it’s all she can do to remain standing. She closes her eyes and sees a hint of orange. When she opens her eyes, it’s gone.
Kakashi doesn’t speak, only nods and extends his arm out. Sakura takes it numbly. Her dad died a while back; Kakashi is the closest thing to a fatherly figure she has. And she supposes, Jiraiya is the closest thing to a parent that Naruto has. Had, she corrects, because the world screwed over one of the kindest people ever. And, she faintly sees the brightly-lit hallways, the endless black carpet, and the white walls. A door opens and suddenly, her lungs almost stop working completely.
She hears the loud noises: people chatting quietly with their inside voices, Kiba’s hyena laughter (Sasuke told Kiba to leave Akamaru. He refused so there’s a big red dog sleeping in the back of the church right now. Not that she cares) , a soft buzzing that fills the air with a silent static, footsteps pounding against the floor (Chouji’s footsteps are heavy enough to rock the earth. Maybe if she’s lucky, he’ll destroy the church), people laughing too merrily (that she wants to punch them and tell them to stop), kids joking about the stupidity of having to be here (she agrees), talk, cries, shouts.
“You need to calm down Sakura-chan. It’s not good to be so stressed. Don’t you know you get older that way?”
Sakura heaves a breath. Some air manages to get in. Shut up, she wants to retort, but she doesn’t, because then she would out he’s not there.
“Relax,” says Kakashi. He says it the exact way he says it during their many missions. Only this time, it doesn’t help.
She nods regardless, because it’s common courtesy. She’s not too sure how long she can stand this. Her legs ache and she so wants to sit back down and forget about this. But she can’t, because she can see her childhood self smiling at the prospect of marrying handsome, handsome, handsome Sasuke. She has wished for this too long. She forces herself to move another step. Sakura feels something in her chest break, and the laugher in the back of her mind stirs. No one noticed the bride’s entered.
Sakura takes another step forward. Only a few more steps until she meets Sasuke, she says, and it’ll all be over. And with heavy effort, she lifts another heel. The dress follows her movements, ruffling and shaking.
A scrap of paper falls to the ground, tattered and torn.
and be happy.
And suddenly, her lungs crack and she is unable to breath anymore.
She isn’t standing next to Kakashi anymore; she’s run out the door, the straps on her heels loosening and pretty soon, her heels are dropping on the cement. She runs past a crowd of people, pushing with her gloves. They slide off so easily, trampled underneath thousands of footsteps. Off comes her veil; it falls flat on the ground. Sakura wants so much to tear off her dress, but she knows that Sasuke has paid it for her and the least she can do is keep it safe.
But that doesn’t stop her from quickening her pace. Her lungs ache, and she feels as if she might die from lack of oxygen. She runs so fast, and she can’t stop, because then, the ache in her chest returns.
She’s not sure of the time, but eventually, she finds herself running up a flight of stairs up a familiar tower. The long hems of the wedding dress follow her, dragging her down. Almost there, her mind whispers. She doesn’t know what that means, but her heart calms down and she’s able to feel the warmth of her cheeks.
She knocks her hand on the door she’s so familiar with. But it is only now that she sees it as the barrier it is.
The rest of her freezes and for a minute, she contemplates on running. But she opens the door, the edge of her dress poking through the edge of the door. Her whole body eventually fits through the crack of the door. She closes it with her right hand.
“Sakura, I thought I—what’s wrong?” Concern is followed by a wave of pounding footsteps. She hears ever single step. He is so fast she barely notices that he is standing right next to her, only inches away with his hand on her shoulder. He’s so close she can see the faint whiskers imprinted on his cheeks.
It feels so warm, but she realizes, it’s the tears that are streaming from her eyes. His hand feels so cold, and she can’t help but feel that she has contributed to the damage.
And she feels another part of her heart breaking when Naruto cups his hands and catches every single drop.
He hesitates, but speaks in the end. He was never one to be subtle. “…Did Sasuke, did he—
She cuts him off, shaking her head. She doesn’t know how she finds her voice, but she does. And she hates it. “I was taking a stroll first. You know, pre-wedding jitters.”
That’s when she hears him swallow his breath, watches him walk back to that desk of his and sit down. He looks at a corner opposite of her, his eyes suddenly sharp.
“I have to still complete this stack by tonight. Regulating funds and all,” he says nonchalantly, picking up a pen and spinning it in his hand. He grabs a paper with his other hand.
It still is hard to breath, but she feels her lungs expanding a little, because she’s right here and it’s all that matters now.
Despite all that she’s done, he still takes the time to lift his head and look at her. She sees something hidden beneath those blue-colored eyes of his and it catches her breath.
“Sakura?” he asks, “You’re still crying.” He shuffles his feet beneath his desk and fidgets with his pen, anything but look at her. But he does it soon enough and that unwanted frown graces his face. “You’re crying.” And it’s almost as if he’s saying it to punish himself for being an idiot. He’s not.
“I lied,” she blurts, and this time, she feels a bit happier about herself. Because childhood dreams are hard to get rid, and it’s all she’s doing to stop clinging onto her foolish one. “To you.”
His eyes grow gentle, but they glow with a sad tint, gleaming with a subtle dampness that disappears within the next seconds. “It’s alright. I knew that you couldn’t forget about him.” He smiles, and it’s still as bright as she remembers, even when it’s so forced. “Go back, Sakura. I don’t blame you. I can’t.”
And this time, it’s her turn to grow uncomfortable. She knows she has to explain, force the words out of her mouth. Because this isn’t a love story where the main characters can understand each other without so much as looking at the other. It takes time, but she has grown to understand the blond boy in the traditional realist way, with talks bordering on perverted jokes and tragic promises.
And she’s still not so sure she understands him completely.
“I can’t,” she says, repeating his last words. “I couldn’t do it.” It takes only a few seconds, but she’s running to him, pushing him out of his chair with her arms wrapped around his waist and head on his chest. The sobs escape from her mouth, and she feels like such a child. But it’s okay, because it’s Naruto who sees it and if he ever reveals it she’ll pound the daylights out of him. A few more seconds pass and he has his arms wrapped around her as well.
“I’m sorry,” she croaks, and she sounds so childish she would have scolded herself if not for the circumstance, “I’m so sorry.”
But maybe it’s because they really do understand each, with experience and growing time that Naruto says, “I understand” and tightens his hold on her. They stay like this for a few moments, before he speaks.
“I won’t let you go again.”
She nods her head against his chest. “You just try to leave me. I’ll leave some lumps on your head so fast—
“Already so violent after apologizing, Sakura-chan?” She feels his chuckles vibrate through her system.
And suddenly, she can open her mouth and laugh too.
Because she can breathe again.