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epilogue

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She’s beautiful.

 

The light spills through the canopy of the oldest trees in the world, drowning the dead leaves and dirt in a patchy sheen of gold, and she is so beautiful.

 

“The breeze is nice.”

 

He nods. Closes his eyes to feel it on his skin.

 

Not even two seconds later, she’s right in front of him, her fingers brushing over his forearms. She’s grinning.

 

“Let’s go see the ocean, Sas. I can smell it from here.”

 

Sasuke can smell the lotion she uses. It’s an earthy smell.

 

He can’t believe such a nature freak has never seen the ocean, or the redwood forest, or the entire west coast.

 

She’s such a hypocrite.

 

He loves her so much it hurts.

 

“Fine,” He agrees, reaching his hand out for her to take, which she does. “But i’m not getting in the water.”

 

Her groan is immediate.

 

“Sa-a-asuke!” She whines. “The best part of the ocean is getting in it.”

 

“No.”

 

“For me!”

 

“No.”

 

“Just for a few minutes.”

 

Sasuke doesn’t say anything more. Just sighs and begins walking down the path towards the sound of waves.

 

“You don’t love me.” Sakura accuses, squeezing his hand to ease the blow.

 

He knows she doesn’t mean it. He knows she’s just trying to remind him, and he agrees, he really does need reminding.

 

They’ve come so far. He’d hate to set them back again, even a single step.

 

But he simply loathes getting wet.

 

He hears naruto’s advice ringing in his head, bouncing back and forth like a marble.

 

Compromise, man. it’s that easy.

 

Sasuke stops as they breach the wood, and are suddenly hit with a gust of salty ocean wind. He blinks his eyes a couple times, and then soaks in the sun, the smell, and the sight of the expanse of water before him.

 

“Ankle deep. Final offer.”

 

He doesn’t have to look to know she’s smiling.

 

She brings his hand up and presses a kiss to the skin above his thumb.

 

He closes his eyes and focuses on the shape of her lips.

 

Then she’s scampering down the rest of the path, quick as lightning.

 

“C’mon!”

 

Sasuke follows dutifully, if not a bit hesitantly.

 

The waves sound nice. He watches as she wads in, not waiting for even a second.  

 

He finds a smooth, round pebble and slips it into his pocket.

 

“It’s cold!” She yells at him like it’s his fault, rubbing her arms and shifting from foot to foot. A piece of her hair slips from the bobby pins keeping it in its loose ponytail. The ocean spray is already getting her wet.

 

She’s going to smell like the ocean when they get in the truck. He can’t wait.

 

“Duh,” He replies, moving to sit on a nearby boulder to remove his shoes. “What were you expecting, dummy?”

 

“What?” Sakura yells back.

 

Sasuke chuckles.

 

He walks across the sand, feeling the particles between his toes. It’s a pleasant sensation, he admits.

 

Sakura is smiling so wide as he steps into the wet sand and waits for the water to wash up. She’s watching like this is her own personal soap opera.

 

The water comes. It’s cold. It washes the sand away from underneath his toes. It tickles, but it’s satisfying.

 

“How did it feel?” She asks, joining him on the wet sand, half soaked through. She’s cocking her eyebrow in that attractive way she does.

 

“Like cold water.” He deadpans.

 

Sakura laughs, elbowing him. Her sleeve is cold and scratchy with salt.

 

“Ew.” He makes a face, and she laughs harder.

 

She’s so beautiful that sasuke could die.

 

Eventually, she stops laughing, and steps closer, until they’re shoulder to shoulder.

 

He doesn’t like it, but he resigns himself, slipping an arm around her and letting her lean on his shoulder.

 

They stand there in silence, listening to the seagulls and the water. They breathe together, in harmony.

 

“We needed this.” Sakura says. She sounds like she’s in a dream.

 

It feels that way to sasuke too.

 

“We needed this.” Sasuke agrees. He reaches into his pocket, past the pebble, and closes his fingers around a round piece of metal. He brings it out, offering it to sakura.

 

As soon as she sees it, she jerks away from sasuke’s hold. her eyes are wide. Her hands are drawn to her chest, like she’s protecting her heart.

 

He hates that he knows why.

 

But he forces himself to move past it.

 

Acknowledgeit and move forward, Sasuke.

 

“I never thought I'd do this,” He admits shakily, bringing his other hand up to grip the small thing, staring at her face. “But I...”

 

She’s not looking at him. She’s looking at the ring.

 

“I've realised a lot over the past year.”

 

You just have to say it. get it out in the open. You can’t keep it a secret forever.

 

“Sakura, I love you. I used to think that wasn’t enough, but you made me realise otherwise.”

 

He looks down. He feels bare.

 

Her cold hand brushes over his, and when he looks there are tears on her cheeks. But for once, she doesn’t look angry as she cries.

 

“Sasuke.”

 

Her hands move further, up his arms, over his shoulders, and around his neck. she hugs him tightly, and then stands on her tip-toes to kiss him hard.

 

“Yes.”

 

She looks even better with red rimmed eyes and a ring on her finger.

 

Later, in the truck, after he’s soaked up enough of sakura smelling like the ocean, he pulls out the pebble and hands it to her.

 

“A token. To remember this place.”

 

Sakura hums happily, rubbing it delicately. She scrunches her nose up suddenly.

 

“I'm sure we’ll come back someday, right?”

 

“Not alone.” Sasuke says, and they share a smile.

 

The ride home is quiet except for the sound of their breaths in unison, and a pop song that’s vaguely familiar playing low on the radio. They hold hands over the consul and pretend to know the words. The windows are down, and her hair is sticking up in weird places, and her hand is dry and salty, and she is beautiful.

 

And that’s enough.