title: whispers of the past
summary: post-699, post-the last. in the midst of moving in with sakura, sasuke finds some old things of hers.
disclaimer: naruto, not mine since 1999.
Sakura has a lot of stuff.
This is the thought that prefaces Sasuke's day as he begins the process of merging his life with hers.
He is home for good now, his long journey of discovery and redemption complete. Of course, those things are a life-long endeavor, but he feels that maybe he has earned the right to continue that effort surrounded by the people who have always made him better, from the comfort of a home that he hasn't had in years.
Thankfully, he only has a few meager boxes of possessions to find a space for. He has no additional clothing beyond what's on his back (Sakura will very soon remedy this), and only has a few select weapons and priceless mementos from his family's old home: some photographs, his mother's favorite knick-knacks, his father's ceremonial sword, his brother's books on history and philosophy.
Sasuke is on his own today; Sakura has an early shift at the hospital but hopes to be let out early. He has already moved all of the boxes into her small apartment, now the challenge lies in finding space for his things.
Like his mother, Sakura has a taste for useless small decorations, scattered across every surface in the apartment. Sasuke has to admit that it does give the place a very lived-in feeling, and is somehow comforting to his former wanderer spirit.
Lifting two boxes, he carries them into the bedroom. His brother's books he can put on her shelves, he plans on reading them soon. His parents things will go into storage for now. Opening the closet, Sasuke is forced to take a step back as a barrage of clothes peeks out at him. He's never seen her wear even half of these things, but then he has been gone for a long time.
Kneeling, he eyes a potential space on the floor beneath her hanging clothes. There are other storage containers down here, but they can be rearranged to make room. As he begins rummaging around, pushing boxes to the side, a small container falls to the floor, its contents spilling in front of him.
Sasuke peers curiously at the thin objects. They appear to be folded paper, yellowed with age. He picks one up, delicately unfolding it so as not to tear the old paper. Scanning the lines written on the page, he feels everything inside of him go cold, as if he were plunged into an icy lake.
I wish you were here. I wish you were home and that we were a team again. I know that you have things that you feel like you need to do, but I just don't understand why you won't let us help you.
I know that my words had no effect on you that night when you left, but my feelings haven't changed. I still love you, and I hope that wherever you are, you are safe.
Please come home soon.
Sasuke stares at the page for a long time. His mind is blank, but his heart thuds painfully in his chest. He looks down at the other papers scattered across the floor. She wrote him letters. Carefully, he folds the one is holding and picks up another.
It's been three years since you've left. Naruto's gone too now, and I haven't seen Kakashi-sensei in a long time. I'm lonely and I miss you, but I've been training hard, and under the new Hokage. She's a sannin, just like Orochimaru.
I'm going to bring you home, Sasuke-kun. Back to Konoha, team seven, and me. I know it's selfish to add myself to that list, but I can't help it. The world has been so empty with you gone.
I'll see you soon.
There is a space in his chest that feels as though it's been hollowed out, and he is seeing for the first time the effects of his decision to leave.
He doesn't know how long he sits there, reading and reading her words, imprinting them in his memory. He reads every letter, his heart shrivelling in shame. Finally, he finds the last one still wedged inside the box.
Her handwriting in this letter is very shaky and the paper is stained by tears.
This is the last letter I will ever write to you. I am about to attempt the hardest thing I will ever do in my life, and that means saying goodbye to you.
I dont know how to reach you anymore, Sasuke-kun. You've gone down a path so dark and dangerous that I don't know if it's even possible to save you.
We've been sent on a mission to destroy you, Sasuke-kun, but I'm going to do it myself. Tomorrow I'll make sure my teammates are out of harm's way, and then I will somehow find the courage to do what must be done.
I love you so much that I can't stand to watch you do this to yourself, and that's why I have to do this. If you can't forgive me, I hope you can at least understand.
I love you, Sasuke-kun.
Sasuke has to stop reading this letter and restart several times. His shoulders shake in dry, silent sobs, and each drawn breath is ragged and painful. The paper crinkles in his tightly clenched fist.
Behind him, the bedroom door opens and Sakura enters. She comes to kneel beside him, curiously glancing at what he's doing.
"Eh? What's this?"
She picks up a letter, and a moment later her eyes flash in recognition. Her gaze swivels to his face in alarm. But Sasuke isn't looking at her, his eyes are screwed shut and his mouth is a twisted line of grief.
"I'm sorry," he mutters through clenched teeth.
Sakura's gaze softens into sorrow and concern.
"I'm sorry," he says again, louder this time. This time, he looks her in the eyes, his expression one of tortured agony. Sakura pulls him into her embrace, and even as his face is buried in her neck, he continues to mutter his apology as a litany, over and over until her heart breaks.
"It's okay, Sasuke-kun," she whispers, holding him tight.
"No, it's not," he growls against her throat. He lifts his head to meet her eyes, and his are angry. Not at her, but at himself.
She smiles sadly. "Sasuke-kun, you've already been forgiven. You're here now, and that's what matters."
Sasuke just shakes his head, retreating inside himself to brood. Sakura sighs. "I'll go call Naruto and Kakashi and tell them to cancel dinner."
She moves to get up, but Sasuke's arm holds tight around her. "Stay," he whispers hoarsely. She nods, settling against him.
And so they lay amongst scattered memories, making new ones as he relearns what it is to love.