|Gift!fic for mikochan_noda: Fall Into Your Sunlight
||[Dec. 26th, 2010|07:20 am]
|[||Tags|||||beta, birthdays, character: sakura, character: sasuke, character: tsunade, christmas, fandom, fandom: naruto, fanfiction, fic, fiction, flist, genre: angst, genre: gen, het, one-shots., pairings, sasusaku, writing||]|
|||||Shattered - Trading Yesterday||]|
Summary: Memories keep the mind company. The body remembers its way back home.
Word Count: 3,045
Characters: Haruno Sakura, Uchiha Sasuke
Warning: 2nd person, present tense
A/N: When I started writing this last year, I never thought it'd turn into something like this. You do not give a wonderful person depressing!fic for their birthday. D: It's just not done. Sadly, it was damn cold outside on that particular 4th of November; that made me want to write not-happy!fic. As you can guess, it all went spiraling downhill from there.
A year later, I'm looking back at it and marveling at how horrible the opening scene was before sirona_gs swooped in like the Wonder Woman she is and pulled me up from the depths of despair. sirona has been an amazing beta and even more amazing person; I can only gape at how bravely she dived in to rescue what I had thought was a lost cause. O_O I'd go as far as to say this fic is 1/4th me and 3/4ths sirona, which would not be exaggerating it all all.♥
The title, Fall Into Your Sunlight, is her doing as well
how are you so brilliant, woman ♥_♥. Listening to Shattered by Trading Yesterday wouldn't go amiss either, before reading this... oh, I have no idea what this is supposed to be anymore, actually.
mikochan_noda, I guess you can call this a belated
DX birthday gift, a Christmas present and a token of my adoration all rolled into one (hopefully) pretty package. XD I hope you'll enjoy it!
Fall Into Your Sunlight
This is what the road to perdition must feel like:
Silence in your ears, silence in your mind; silence, loud and empty, as fog uncurls all around you like fingers and takes you by the throat, squeezing purposefully, in an attempt to strangle out what little life is left in you (there isn’t much, you know that). It invades your nostrils like a clever poison, until it is all you can breathe. And you can’t stop – because it is all is around you, and if you don’t breathe, you die.
You aren’t very opposed to the idea right now. Death seems a kinder alternative to this slow decay.
—(But you don’t know why you keep breathing. For whom you keep breathing.)—
The murky vapor caresses your face like the tips of Death’s bony fingers, sparing not a hint of warmth before they pull you into oblivion; your skin soaks up the sharp, stinging sensation like a sponge, shriveling with every breath that leaves your lungs, every heartbeat that echoes in the black and white caverns of your mind.
—(You can’t find the gray area no matter how you try.)—
You don’t know where you’re going, and it doesn’t occur to you to question this lack of awareness because you’ve always known what it is you seek – revenge (and something to fill the emptiness that lingers so persistently afterwards, worming its way under your skin – but it’s never been about feeling whole. You knew that; you’ve always known that. It’s never been about finding happiness, either. You know that, too.)
You think you see the silhouette of something looming in the distance, so you walk towards it. It doesn’t occur to you to wonder why, only that you have to because it feels hauntingly familiar, like the sword hanging limply from your useless fingers with their calluses and blunt-edged nails.
You take a step forward, sway like something formless; the sleeves of your haori sway with you. Wind rushes in with a whisper, damp and harsh, like ice trailing up your spine. Taking a step further seems impossible; your bones feel too heavy.
—(They’ve always felt a little too old, too tired for your body.)—
You walk until your joints creak with exhaustion, until your limbs feel wooden and your eyes sting and your lips crack and gasp for water. You walk until your lungs burn, until it’s too much effort to lift your mud-caked sandals, until you feel like you can’t anymore.
Your sword catches your fall, along with your pride.
Your fingers tighten around the hilt reflexively; they feel stiff enough to break. You raise your eyes to them slowly, assaulted by the sudden knowledge that you had almost crumbled. The dulled metal of your blade shows two equally dull eyes, searching, probing; blinking, startled, when light bounces off the surface. You look up at the sky – the sun is no more than a sad silhouette among the ragged clouds, spreading feathery warmth over your face.
Sunlight, you realize, feels warm. You don’t know why that is a surprise.
Around you, the fog has started to cautiously dissipate. You think you see can see a little more clearly now. In the distance, the looming silhouette becomes sharper: gates.
There must be something beyond them; anything but emptiness would be welcome, but you have to reach the other side first. You’re almost at the end of the road, you think. Almost immediately, your heart lightens – it’s a relief, a small mercy. You try to right yourself, pulling the tip of your sword out of the ground, and even in the state you’re in now, the movement has a tragic grace.
Everything about you has always been that – tragic.
For a long time you just stand there in the gradually fading whiteness, feeling lost — a stranger in your own body. Then you remember you have to reach those gates. You don’t want to die before you get there – it seems important.
So you start walking again, this time with an urgency you haven’t felt in a long time –your feet drag on the slick moss and you almost slip, but your sword braces you even now; your hair sticks wetly to your forehead, your neck, your face, but still you press forward.
—(You forge ahead because he would never give up. He’s always won where it matters.)—
By the time you reach the elusive gates your throat feels stuffed with cotton balls and your skin has sagged enough for deep lines to cut across your face. Your mouth is dry.
Your eyes are dry, too. They’ve been dry for a long time.
If you squint, you can see prisms of brilliant yellow light peeking over the tall structure, slowly gaining in warmth and color. The sunlight beckons gently, and you walk towards it because wreathed in fog, it is the only thing that exists for you at the moment. The warmth washes over your pallid skin, teases forward distorted snatches of long-suppressed memories; they flash before your eyes too quick for you to really linger on what mean—only on how they feel. And you remember sounds: voices, desperate and loving and forgiving and selfless, all at once. And—
—(You promised you would, for h—)—
—And you suddenly know why reaching the gates is so important. You promised you’d come back, someday; to whom and what for— you know, but you can’t remember. But you promised, and you’ve kept your promise; even in the trance-like state you’re in, you know that’s not something you take lightly— the realization hits you like a slap in the face. You drop to your knees like a puppet with its strings cut and stare up at the imposing gates before you.
You see three spokes of sunlight emerging from the clouds; they drift to kneel before you as you kneel on the mud, like a welcome on equal terms. Slowly, you tip forward until you hit the ground with a thump, temple-first – until you’re assaulted by the strong scent of moss and dirt, and the warm rays fall softly upon the long-faded red of a stitched-on fan your back.
You haven’t long to live now, you know that. You can feel it, in every thinning inhale, every fading heartbeat.
Maybe you’ll be buried here.
Maybe you won’t.
Who knows? Who cares? You don’t. You’re so tired.
From the corner of your eye, you make out the three spokes of light drifting back up to the clouds, turning into three swirling siphons; they remind you of three hands that have always been ready to hold yours – so you reach out towards them, feel the warmth seeping in through your fingers. Before you close your eyes, you think you tilt your lips up, just a bit.
And just like that, your body gives out. The ANBU team is on you a second later.
Carved from leaves and fresh earth, the village is an echo of a time and place called yesterday. Grasslands and rustic mire have been worn into dust and rubble, giving way to roads of baked earth and asphalt that converge like
For a single road, time has stood still. The moon wanders companionless, its complexion weary from climbing heaven. Its rays crawls along the cobbled path, searching aimlessly for footsteps that have long since
The pale light traces its way to proud gates, lingers hesitantly on the relics engraved into them.
From the other side, they seem magnificent, a doorway to an evergreen forest
— a fairytale land enclosed in
Beyond the gates
Waits a lonely bench
Against the backdrop of a dew-wet autumn
For you life flies by with a swiftness bordering on the surreal; it still feels like just yesterday that you were savoring the lukewarm aftertaste of green tea on your tongue, in a place where there was just you and them and forever. What remains are the memories you know you’ve no right to have.
You don’t recall them too clearly, those memories. But you remember the motes of snow perched gently on his nose and the unusually serious set of his mouth.
—(You still remember the betrayal in Naruto’s eyes. You remember the madness in his.)—
Naruto forgives you, like he forgives everyone else; you hold his hand and smile, and pretend not to see the resigned longing in his eyes when he looks at you, unaware that you’ve already noticed. And Sasuke— your last memory of him is blurry: fingers digging into your throat with a purpose, a crazed smile on lips that never smile, blood that shouldn’t be there flowing from eyes that aren’t as kind as you remember.
—(You have a hunch that what Naruto remembers of him is very different. Because Naruto has always been different.)—
What you want to remember is the secret tilt of his lips on the good days, under sallow April skies, hay in his hair, another mundane task to complete on his mind and a scowl on his face when Naruto shouts like it’s all he knows how to do – like he wants to make sure Sasuke is not deaf and hears him properly – and tries to turn weed-pulling into a competition.
You want to remember the bad days, too – the days that weren’t really all that bad, but had seemed like it at the time because you all secretly enjoyed wallowing in shared misery, cursing a late-again teacher who knew all of you better than you knew yourselves, or thought he did. It made you feel happy and not-alone – like a family, but you don’t think they realized it back then. They were always so busy, bickering and pushing each other forward.
—(And leaving you behind.)—
What you want to remember most is the Times You Made It Through. Your first taste of fear, sharp like a knife through your gut and bitter like the bile in your throat, mocking you, helpless as you were on a forest floor covered with feather-soft pink strands that had given way to something just as strong as they were fragile (but not strong enough). Your hands are bigger now, not shapely, not frail, roughened with responsibility that you should feel proud of shouldering—the only thing you see when you look at them, capable as they are now but were not always, are razor-edged smiles that lent an unholy glint to sulfur-yellow eyes; and little-people feet leaving little feet-like shapes on swamps that smell putrid, like acid and compost and rotten eggs; and skinny little-people legs trudging in pairs of three through dark forests with trees that made terrifyingly nebulous shapes if you looked at them a certain way. But it was all okay. The times you faced death and barely Made It Through were okay, because you did it together – and back then, there had been a boy who needed you to hold his hand when the pain got too much to bear.
But that wouldn’t be fair; remembering things for what they had been and could have been, and not for how they turned out, wouldn’t be fair – not to Sasuke, not to you, not to anybody.
So you remember him as he is, like you’ve seen him last, but most of the time you don’t remember him at all because life moves on, you have to move on, too – and you try.
You try so hard.
But sometimes, the smell of fresh tomatoes in your Sunday groceries will remind you he liked them too, and that still-not-fading scar on Naruto’s chest will remind you just who had put it there – until the smile on Naruto’s face becomes too-wide, too-cheerful and not oblivious enough to be convincing; until you don’t want to remember anymore – and so you go back to not-remembering, scold Naruto for smiling like a lunatic and put the tomatoes away in the fridge along with your memories.
The next Sunday comes around, as it always does, and the parched coffee beans you measure by touch remind you just how he liked it. Black, and bitter, trying to be an adult in a little boy’s body. You remember to put extra sugar in Naruto’s coffee when he visits next.
For days afterwards, your mind goes on auto-pilot, shuttered like a window against a storm. Your ink-tipped fingers rove reverently over esoteric medical tomes; you murmur words like a prayer, memorize them by sight, by touch, by how they taste on your tongue; you learn how to reset broken bodies and break them with the same touch, learn to stop heartbeats with a senbon and to cast little illusions – people (Kakashi) used to say you are good that.
—(You cast them on yourself sometimes, before you go to sleep. Kakashi’s too-sharp grey eye lingers knowingly on your face the next day.)—
In the mornings, it’s always do this, don’t do that, sign that report, hold the aorta steady, dammit, not like that! and when you’re done with telling people what to do (being in control isn’t as satisfactory as you once thought it would be, not when your world has already fallen apart), you find yourself staring at a bleeding sun, dust in your mouth and tired eyes in your sockets, lying in a crater of your own destruction until Tsunade, displeased and still-slightly-inebriated comes to stand over it like a too-long shadow and glibly throws a rock at you with pin-point accuracy and too much force. It bounces off the middle of a once-too-big forehead that you still haven’t grown into and elicits a painful cry that makes Tsunade smirk.
Some days you think Tsunade does it on purpose. She doesn’t have much to amuse herself with ever since she gave up her gambling days, and you brace yourself for the day you’ll die by way of rock. Wonderful.
But the rock does its job, unlucky tool of communication between student and teacher that it is, snaps you out of whatever self-defeatist headspace you had gotten yourself into. You realize that Tsunade does do it on purpose – dishing out tough love because she has tough luck and nothing has ever really gone her way; she isn’t about to let you follow in her footsteps and develop blisters on your feet because you’re still too young, her eyes say. You look up groggily, blink like you are the one with the hangover and rub the clumps of dirt from your face; you must really look a mess right now, but you merely fix the hitae-ate askew on your head and don’t concern yourself with it too much. Tsunade’s seen you at your worst, after all – has been responsible for you limping out of training fields with broken jaws and black eyes, wishing you could curl up then and there on the concrete beneath your feet. Tough love, indeed.
Your master barks at you to get up, you’re still not good enough, girl. But there is quiet approval in the proud tilt of Tsunade’s lips; you feel a momentary satisfaction at being able to learn another thing Tsunade will leave behind with you—she’s the only person you haven’t failed (not yet), so you bask in the praise she’s always so careful to give you in small, succinct doses and walk back home, body heavy but mind light with knowledge, already eager to scribble down Tsunade’s words on ink and paper.
—(Not because you don’t think you won’t remember them, but because words on paper stay where they are. Tsunade won’t stay forever.)—
At night, the coffee on your table gleams like oil under the egg-yolk light of your lamp, cooling rapidly in the nighttime air that waltzes uninvited through your window. It coaxes pages to turn, flap flap flap; the sound enters your dreams, turns into velvet butterfly wings, spotted red and blue, which take flight towards the sun like a beacon of hope against the sky; until that beacon becomes too blinding, too real, and you wake up and realize that it’s already the next morning, another day to look forward to, another patient to monitor, another report to check, another intern to castigate. It’s just another day you won’t see Naruto (he’s so busy now, you’re so proud of him. So proud), another day Kakashi will read you like a book and go back to reading the book at hand, it must be interesting; another day you’ll still smile and another day time has forged ahead and left you behind, hung up on butterfly wings too pretty to be true.
If Sasuke is the past and Naruto is the future, then you’re the present – always caught between the two and never knowing which way to go.
Day by day, you improve, you measure your growth against no one but yourself (for that, they always had each other), against the you of yesterday, and you learn. You learn a lot of things. You learn how to accept, you learn so much, but it’s never enough.
—(Letting go is an art you still haven’t perfected.)—
Even after all this time, you haven’t learned a thing—or so it feels, always so wrapped up in your maybe’s as you are; but you push those scornful voices aside, drown them in the shattering of stones beneath your fist until the ground beneath you feels stable once more and those voices beat a temporary retreat.
For now, you just live in the moment because it seems simple enough and you just don’t know what else to do.
Then an ANBU member knocks on your door and summons you to the hospital. The only explanation she offers is that Tsunade wants you there, now. You’re out the door in a moment, sleep forgotten and hair uncombed, and soon your sandals thunder against bamboo rooftops and impeccable tiles, leaving dusty footprints behind.
The last person you expect to see when you barge into the ICU is Uchiha Sasuke, unconscious and nothing but bones, skin looking like it could easily be stripped off and folded into origami.
And just like that, life doesn’t seem as simple as it had a moment ago.
Merry Christmas, everyone!