It is too late, because they have already let go. Team 7.
The closer they got, the louder her breath grated in his ear. It would have knitted them together, had it not been for the raggedness of it, barely hidden, that marked the edge of a grudge. There was more to her breathing than lungs and pumping heart; there were years in there, years and years of pain, and the painful pretending of having mastered that pain. Feigned maturity and careful masquerading, he would have read--but he was too careless, or maybe too afraid, to seek between the lines.
She leaned in close, her face pale and beautiful, haunting as a ghost's. It glowed in the slants of light that struck in, fiercely, to uncover all the ugly truths beneath the sheets. She smiled at him, and her smile was corrupted and comprised of scars. He was fascinated.
"Do you love me, Naruto?" she asked, huskily. There was something askew about her, the way her eyes were heavy-lidded and her voice too smoky to belong to the clear-headed kunoichi he knew in the daylight. But now was an entirely different story. Now was the time when they no longer knew each other; no longer knew themselves.
He watched her warily, unwillingly entranced by her unsettling beauty. He could not speak.
"Do you?" she pressed, her question slithering through the air to brush against his skin. Her gaze was glassy, making him uncomfortable and self-conscious. But he couldn't look away; it was not permitted, and he dare not disobey. The words stuck frantically in his throat. What should have been simple to say was no longer possible.
She came closer still. Her breathing was loud and rasping in his ears, and the glaze of her eyes eerie. He did not move.
"Would you die for me, Naruto?" she whispered harshly. Her face loomed, the shadows clinging beneath her eyes. Her presence was cold against his skin, the raw quirk of her lips, chilling.
She came too close. He could see the space between her eyebrows clearly, and the space was an endless expanse that encompassed the entirety of her face.
Her hands sliding up to linger on his neck made him shudder violently within. At first gentle, the touch turned suddenly savage. Her nails dug into his skin, startling and deep in their learned revenge.
"I asked you a question, Naruto," she hissed, the eerie beauty of her face turning abruptly sour. He could no longer recognize the pinkness of her hair, the greenness of her eyes, or the soft sympathy that had once marked her expression. (But then again, that was 12 years ago-) All was replaced by a black hatred, so sudden it frightened him. Her nails forced throbbing crescents onto his skin, but he couldn't pay attention to the pain when the look was forcing him into her.
Her lips were so close to his that he could kiss her if he moved a fraction of an inch forward. He wasn't sure if he wanted to, now.
His throat exploded into: "Sakura-"
She dug deeper. "Don't," she said sharply, cutting him off. "Do you love me or not, Naruto?"
Her tone was forceful. He gulped, the turmoil relentless and banging inside his head. "Yes-"
"Then prove it."
The distance between them was nearly nonexistent. Her breath was hot and thick against his lips, but the taste was clouded and ruined. Her look still managed to be magnetizing, despite it all.
"Prove it," she repeated, and the knife of her words was sharper than the nails in his skin (he nearly forgot that pain). "Prove to me, that you love me."
She came too close, and that was her mistake.
Naruto saw suddenly, in this broken light, the desperation that glossed her eyes. The realization was brutal: she was a girl, nothing more, a lost and lonely girl. She was dangerously afraid. He knew that he would never forget this look, because finally, he understood.
"Sakura," he said, softly.
She seemed to sense his new perception of her, and she started, the heavy-lidded mask faltering. Her nails withdrew. The fear gleamed clearer in her eyes as she regarded him warily.
"I'm sorry," he murmured. He broke the stare now, looking down to the bed sheets, ravaged and spelling both of their desperations, wound together in a tight ball of aching string. She took back her hands and backed away from him clumsily, across the narrow bed. He let her.
"I should have known," he said, "that you hadn't forgiven me."
Her eyes were hard as she refused to let the words touch her. "What are you talking about?" she asked, her tone barbed; but the pretense of her words was lost when he initiated the gaze.
"You know what I'm talking about, Sakura," he said. "You hate me."
Her eyes gleamed silently. She said nothing, but her lips thinned into a gray and sullen line.
"You don't need to hide it. That only makes things worse, Sakura." His tone was gentle.
"Don't spout this shit to me," she spat. "Don't act like you know, because you don't."
"I killed Sasuke," he said, simply. "And you hate me for it."
She tensed, because the words were too vivid for her liking. She swallowed, her fingers reaching to grip the sheets, to entangle and lose herself.
"Sakura..." Naruto paused, closing his eyes. "I never told you, did I? What happened?"
Her body was stiff as a board, the angle of her neck strained. The fear was still floundering, midway, weighting the air between them with heavy musk.
He was silent for a moment, searching for the right words he knew he would never find.
"It was...it was a year ago."
He tried to remember again. It was hard because he had suppressed the memory so forcefully, never allowing it to resurface. (he knew if he did it would make him insane) So when it came, now, he was nearly overwhelmed. The hurt staggered into his eyes, and he turned his back to her, clutching the edge of the bed.
"He looked the same," he whispered, half to himself.
She said nothing, but he could feel her unwavering gaze boring into his back, could feel the churning of her stomach in his own.
"I never meant for it-"
He remembers the smirk now, how hateful it was, because it was too tender, too secret.
"Come to bring me back, Naruto?" he sneered. The wind whipped their hair back as they stood facing each other on the familiar cliff, overlooking Konoha.
Naruto's jaw tightened as he glared into black eyes, ignoring the shuddering premonition.
"Sasuke," he managed, bitterly. There was a pleading in his voice that went unacknowledged.
"It isn't going to work," said the tall, dark man, nearly unrecognizable in his strange garb and the odd glint of his eyes that came from too much (not enough!) power.
Naruto's fists clenched. "That hasn't been decided yet."
Sasuke smiled, faintly.
Naruto charged. He would always be the charger.
There is always that moment in battle when you realize that the end is drawing near. It builds in your gut, piles up through the ribs to latch onto the heart, and then you feel it, the deadly lapse, the lost heartbeat.
Both of them sense it, deep down, because they have always been tied to one another, from the beginning. Only now do they discover the string, but it is too late-
Because they have already let go.
The air was alive and full of birds. They sang of many things: of failed childhood, of blue skies and blue eyes, of burning sunsets and discarded promises, and betrayal. They sang of sacred love.
The birds were cupped within his fingers, and they struck out their wings, crackling sweetly. Feathers of blue electricity spilled out, nearly overflowing.
He stood facing the boy who had been--was still--his best friend.
There was an equally blue force in the best friend's hand, compressed into a single ball of all the emotions that had ever ravaged his life. It consisted solely of him.
For the second time in their lives, they abandoned their monsters to stand naked in front of one another, to see each other in the full light.
(but they would always be cursed-)
They smiled grimly, and there was that precious moment of understanding.
Sasuke released it, because neither could afford it this late in life. There was nothing left to understand, except the wisdom of death.
In tacit understanding, they both charged.
"It wasn't supposed to-" he choked, fighting his way through the mire of heady remembrance, with not enough words to fend off the monsters. Sakura sat silently on the other side of the bed, her eyes empty, hands fallen away.
The bruises swelled up in his chest, and he forced them down his throat, forced down the ugly protest, willing himself to be in control. "It wasn't meant to be. I tried to..."
He broke off.
"He tried to--but it didn't work. It couldn't."
Sasuke's hand was clamped around Naruto's wrist as the blood dripped down to stain the ground, tepidly.
The strange, hungry light died out of the man's eyes, and suddenly he-
He was Sasuke, again.
They were 12-year-old boys obsessed with rivalry and each other.
Naruto's hand remained engulfed in his chest. The deed was irreversibly sealed before all of Konoha (but no one there to see it, to brand the sight into the mind).
The scar still possessed their fevered eyes. They could see no other way out of this.
"I told you," Sasuke said softly but unhindered, because his body had not yet registered the shock, "it would never work."
Naruto felt a faint beating that was not his own. It was to the right of his fist, and it pulsed, painfully. This was belonging, he knew. This was the only belonging he had ever known, would ever know.
And now it would fade.
Naruto felt the burning in his eyes but told himself not to acknowledge it. To do so would mean the end of him--would mean the end of this climax that had finally been achieved. Maybe we can all be happy now, he thought, knowing all the while it was a terrible, terrible lie.
He could never be happy with his best friend dying and his own fist stuck inside his chest, and the feeling of the heart still going, but gradually, not so hard, not so strong, and then, not at all...
But the smirk still existed, even when the lips that wore it turned cold.
Naruto did not let himself cry until a year later, while he sat on the edge of a hard bed with his last remaining teammate, whom he could barely recognize. She had felt the fingers of change and had bent under them, too.
They were all different people, now. But in this moment of tears, they were transformed back to the miraculous children they had once been.
Naruto felt a savage joy kicking inside, and Sakura was still in love.
Sasuke remembered what it was to live.
you would kill for this
Um...first post here on Ficwad. :) The file didn't upload so I had to respace everything, which was a bit of a pain. Plus there's no italics. :/ But that's alright. Anyways...some of the stuff may not be accurate according to the actual storyline, but just ignore that. ;) ...C&C?