"I never thought I would be alive to see this day." Carver said, tears filled his eyes as he turned to Raiden's tight face. Carver reached over, wrapping a strong arm around his friend as Raiden broke down, fresh hot tears spilled down his sculpted face as he shook his head back and forth.
"This has to be a dream." Raiden gasped through the ragged cries that painfully escaped his chest.
"It's not-" Carver breathed, watching the preacher speak words soft words on Sakura's behalf. "-even if it was, this would a nightmare not a dream."
"I can't-" Raiden breathed out, pulling his eyes away from the preacher who stood beside a large picture of Sakura. "-this isn't right."
"I know." Carver agreed.
"She was so young."
"That's how it goes." Carver agreed, looking around at the large crowd who sat in rows of white folding chairs. Carver gazed around at the training grounds, Kakashi did a fabulous job at planning this event in the short amount of time he had. Carver almost couldn't even make out this area, it was filled with the sweet scent flowers and light décor.
Carver turned back around in his seat, glancing at Naruto as he did so. Naruto hadn't spoken in two days; Carver could see the raging guilt eating him from the inside out. Tsunade and Naruto were the reasons everyone was sitting here. Sakura died to protect them, but it was her choice so why did Carver's chest feel like it was about to burst open with the swirling rage filling him like air being pumped into a balloon?
"Carver?" Raiden whispered through his tears.
"You stopped talking."
"What was I saying?" Carver lightly smirked looking back at his teammate.
"You said that's how it goes?"
"Oh-" Carver nodded, "-yeah...I just meant that the good ones always die too young."
"Oh." Raiden nodded. "That is true, just look at our team."
"They are alive now?"
"But we thought for years that they were dead so...my statement still stands."
"Mhm." Carver hummed looking ahead at the front row where Kakashi, Tsunade, Dawn and Diem sat. Carver's heart ached seeing Sakura's picture propped up with light blue flowers decorating the frame, Carver's stomach felt sour wishing to wake up from a nightmare that had no end in sight.
Tsunade sniffed, dabbing her eyes with a tissue Dan had given to her. The hokage turned to sneak a peek at Kakashi who seemed so unaffected, he held his composure as he stared ahead at Sakura's picture. For a man who just lost the woman he claimed to want to marry, he didn't act like he just lost his soulmate to death.
Raiden leaned forward, tapping Kakashi lightly on the shoulder.
"We are still going to her house after this right?" Raiden wanted to confirm again for the sixth time.
"Yes." Kakashi answered. "Itachi will take us all there."
"Why are we going again?" Carver wondered.
"I am in charge of all her affairs." Kakashi answered, "I have to deal with her house."
"What?" Carver asked, "Like sell it?"
"You're not selling-!?" Carver raised his voice, pulling attention onto him. He looked around and gave a weak smile and a nod apologizing for interrupting the service.
"I don't want to sell her house." Kakashi clarified, "If one of her Commander's or Annistyn wishes to live inside it than fine, but it can't just be left-"
"Why not?" Raiden felt assaulted, he wanted to get rid of Sakura's home!
"Because-" Kakashi went to answer but the preacher cleared his throat, tired of the low conversation.
"We will talk about this later." Tsunade butted in, "Now hush."
Carver and Raiden leaned back in their chests with a huff puffing out their chest, Raiden was determined to keep Sakura's house intact in the way she left it. Carver sighed licking his lips, he didn't know how to feel. Sakura's house was their home for such a long time, it was their haven after long missions and to see it get sold and for someone else to live inside it just felt...wrong.
"It was a beautiful service." Iruka commented to Kakashi who nodded, they stood beside a table with different types of food and drinks.
"Yes." Guy agreed walking up, "Sakura would have loved it." Once again, Kakashi simply nodded acknowledging the two shinobi's presence and their words.
"Excuse me." Kakashi said, turning on his heel walking quickly away. Iruka and Guy watched the silver hair fade into the mingling crowd with worried expressions painted openly on their faces.
Kakashi moved through the crowd, people patted his shoulder giving him their condolences and complimenting what a good job he had done with the memorial. Kakashi nodded, his throat swollen with pain as he walked away from the crowd. He didn't want praise, he just wanted her back.
"That's shit!" A voice snapped out, Kakashi turned his head looking through a set of trees where the voice originated from.
"What was that?" Tsunade wondered coming up from behind Kakashi.
"I don't know." Kakashi answered; he wouldn't stand for people fighting here. This may be the training grounds, but today it was a place where people could honor Commander Sakura Haruno for giving her life to protecting this village. Kakashi moved hard towards the trees, there would be nothing, but respect shown here today!
Tsunade and Kakashi walked in heavy silence, she kept glancing at Kakashi feeling worried seeing a freezing gaze in his exposed eye. The two shinobi walked into a clearing and discovered, the returned members of the Nine, Dawn, Diem and Carver and Raiden all bickering with each other in tight tones.
"How about you give me a plan that isn't fucking coated in pixie dust!" Diem snapped.
"What is going on!?" Tsunade called out, moving towards the group.
"This is my cousin who is now a fucking target!" Diem ignored Tsunade, Kakashi's eye widened instantly understanding what this fighting topic was about. Dawn was the commander of the waterfall village now that Sakura was gone, those soldiers will be going after her in order to raise Purgatory.
"What are you two doing here?" Carver questioned watching Tsunade and Kakashi move closer, "You should be out there with-"
"What is going on?" Tsunade repeated herself, she hated having to repeat herself! Carver took in a deep breath, letting it exhale inside the shape of a long sigh.
"Diem is worried."
"Worried?" Kakashi asked,
"Yes." Raiden yawned, "He is worried he and Dawn won't be strong enough to keep the Waterfall soldiers at bay like Sakura did-" Her name sent painful tingles through Kakashi's chest.
"If Purgatory rises..." Tsunade breathed, "...the Waterfall Village will be burnt down?"
"Yeah." Carver answered, "Then it's only a matter of time until Purgatory spills out infecting the other villages."
"That's why the Sand Village was so concerned..." Tsunade realized.
"Yeah." Raiden nodded, "But Sakura was able to wrangle it in before those soldiers could touch the Sand Village, then she disbanded it and created the Waterfall Village in its place."
"Take us with you then." Piper called over the voices.
"What?" Carver turned, "Hell no!"
"Because that hellhole is no place for you six to recover!" Raiden answered,
"It was Sakura's village." Finn countered.
"But-" Raiden rubbed the back of his head. "-But it-"
"Take us." Octavia agreed, "At least until we tame those soldiers."
"It isn't how it was when you six were last there." Dawn said, "It's rougher and-"
"Are you saying you don't think we can handle ourselves?" Piper challenged.
"Th-That isn't-" Dawn sighed seeing the offended spread across their faces.
"Sakura was the one who trained us." Octavia cut in, Kakashi flinched at her name once more. "You have to give us a little more credit than that."
"I'm not saying you six wouldn't be safe, it's just you all returned and when the Leaf Shinobi returned, they were sore and couldn't use their own chakra for weeks. You need time to recover and the Waterfall Village isn't-"
"If we don't go with you-" Finn cut in, "-you could be killed."
"I know." Dawn breathed,
"Then Diem is next, then what will happen next?" Piper added, "Purgatory will rise, the other villages will have to get involved and try to take them down, the village Sakura worked so hard to create would be gone and a lot of people will die."
"Take us." Carver breathed the words.
"Huh?" Raiden added, furrowing his brows together not expecting to hear this from Carver.
"Absolutely not!" Tsunade stepped in, "You two are leaf shinobi! You are not-"
"They need us." Carver turned to Tsunade.
"Sakura trusted you two to this village." Tsunade breathed, tears pressing the back of her eyes. "I will not allow you to return-"
"We are not returning; we are simply going there as back up. The moment Dawn announces Sakura has died; those soldiers will be all over her."
"Carver's right." Raiden sighed, "This is the only way to stop a war from breaking out and pointless death."
"I don't like this." Tsunade crossed her arms over her chest.
"It would only be until we get control over the Waterfall Village." Diem said,
"You're sure that you this is what you want to do?" Tsunade turned to Carver and Raiden.
"Hell no." Carver darkly laughed, "I never wanted to step foot inside that village again, I wanted Sakura to move here and us write off that hellhole-"
"Hey." Dawn defended.
"-but Piper is right, this would be the best way to prevent a lot of people from dying."
"Very well." Tsunade sighed, "You two may go and station inside the Waterfall Village but only until they do not need your help anymore, understand!?"
"Yes." Carver and Raiden smiled.
"We can stay in Sakura's house." Raiden turned to Kakashi, "The Nine use to live there-"
"I know." Kakashi nodded.
"Thanks." Raiden gave a weak smile.
"Alright." Carver sighed, "Let's go find Itachi and have him send us."
"Well can I pack a bag first!?" Raiden whined earning a few chuckles. The group moved from the forest stepping back into the opening where the memorial service for Sakura was being held, the Nine went to search out Itachi as Carver and Raiden moved to head home, to pack a bag and say goodbye to the friends and the village they had grown to hold so dear.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Tsunade questioned Kakashi.
"They will be fine."
"I meant you going to her house." Tsunade said, placing her hands on her hips. "There's not a point in you going since the Nine will be occupying her house."
"Dawn requested I go."
"I am not sure." Kakashi shrugged. "I guess I will find out her reasoning when we get there."
"I don't like this Kakashi."
"We will be fine."
"Your taking your team with you." Tsunade demanded, Kakashi lightly chuckled.
"I had planned on taking Naruto with me, to say his goodbyes."
"Kakashi let's go! We found Itachi!"
"You're not going to stay for the remainder of her-"
"She isn't here Tsunade." Kakashi glanced back at the blonde as he shoved his hands into his pants pockets.
"Well of course not, but this is for her memory-"
"I only did all this for you-" Kakashi smiled under his mask, "-and for the village's sake."
"She never wanted a funeral." Kakashi said, "She hated them."
"She told me to simply cremate her body and then have everyone close to her go on vacation with the money it would have costed for a funeral."
"That...That sounds like something she would say." Tsunade smiled, Kakashi nodded turning from his hokage and walked towards the direction of people waiting beside Itachi for a free ride.
"I feel like a taxi." Itachi muttered, walking through his portal that opened outside Sakura's house that stood inside the waterfall village.
"Nah." Raiden laughed patting Itachi's back, "Taxi's get paid, you don't!"
Carver snickered as he walked past Itachi who grumped with an annoyed look on his face. Kakashi looked up at the house as he moved onto the wooden porch, remembering the day so clearly when he walked up to this very same door after traveling a straight week just to see her face.
Dawn held a spare key; she opened the door letting the group pile into the familiar home before entering it herself. Kakashi inhaled a deep breath closing his eye, he could smell her scent lingering to the building, fresh lilacs mixed with vanilla sea salt.
"It looks the same?" Lance muttered looking around the only real home he felt safe inside.
"That's because it is." Raiden smiled, gazing around feeling the familiarity Sakura provided.
"Our rooms are still here?" Piper wondered,
"We didn't let her." Carver sighed,
"Carver...we were dead-"
"But now you're not so..." Raiden cleared his throat. "...let it go."
"So why did we need to come?" Naruto muttered, not really understanding Dawn's persistent attitude for the two members of team seven to tag along. Kakashi didn't need to deal with Sakura's house, at least not yet anyway.
"Right." Dawn sighed, "This way-" Dawn pointed, moving in the direction of Sakura's office. Kakashi glanced at the wall to his right, the same one he had pinned her against and made hot steamy love on.
Naruto and Kakashi followed Dawn without much argument. Naruto sighed, recalling the argument he held with Sakura inside this room. Kakashi leaned against the wall looking around Sakura's office, Naruto looked at her desk. He brushed his fingers along the dark wood and tilted his head, seeing the multiple containers of different pens.
"Why does she have so many pens?" Naruto wondered out loud.
"She loved them." Dawn answered moving to the wall.
"She...She what?" Naruto laughed; Dawn turned holding two cream colored envelope.
"Sakura, she loved pens. I don't know why or when she picked up the hobby, but she collected them."
"Really?" Naruto laughed picking one blue one up.
"Yes, Kakashi-" Dawn turned to the masked man holding out one of the letters. Naruto looked at it, his heart dropped as Kakashi took it.
"What is this?" Kakashi questioned scanning over Sakura's handwriting on the face of the envelope.
"A letter-" Dawn answered, "-from Sakura."
"What?" Kakashi gasped looking up at the commander as his heart fluttered.
"She wrote a few-" Dawn gestured to the wall were three more were resting, "-in case she died."
"Who are those for?" Naruto wondered moving to Kakashi's side.
"This one-" Dawn said holding up the one in her hand, "-is for Carver and Raiden."
"And those?" Naruto said looking at the three waiting to be delivered to their owners.
"Diem, Annistyn and myself." Dawn answered.
"What do they say?" Naruto asked,
"I don't know." Dawn answered, "Sakura never told anyone what was written inside, she simply asked me to hand them out if she ever was to die."
"I see." Kakashi breathed looking at the cream colored letter in his hand. "Thank you."
"I have to give this to Carver and Raiden so if you wish to open yours now, you can stay in here."
"Thank you Dawn." Kakashi answered, she nodded before taking her exit from the room.
"Can we open it now?" Naruto breathed once the office door was closed. "Please!?" He didn't want to wait to get home to see what Sakura's last words were!
"Yes." Kakashi answered, already opening the creamy paper.
"Yes!" Naruto breathed hovering on Kakashi's left side, Kakashi's hands were almost shaking as he pulled out the folded paper with Sakura's handwriting written on the front.
If you're reading this letter than that means I have fallen in battle. Now that I'm not around anymore your team and village need to prepare and understand I am not in the shadows watching over you. My seals are not placed on your arm acting as a safety net, your reckless and never think before jumping into a battle and I can no longer rush in as your last line of defense.
I pray that before I died, I was able to bring the Reaper's down, so you don't have to absorb the burden I failed at stopping. I am proud of who you have become Team Seven, being back inside the Leaf Village were my best moments and you guys are my favorite people. That is why I wrote this letter for you, to remind you all to think before jumping into a fight, to watch each other's backs since I can no longer do it for you. Be safe, stay strong and I will see you all again someday.
Naruto looked up at Kakashi with bubble tears in his large blue eyes, he sniffed quickly wiping his nose on his long sleeve jacket.
"She loved us so much." Naruto cried, his tears spilling down his face, but his heart felt warm and full.
"That she did." Kakashi agreed looking at the letter, scanning over her handwriting with his eye. These were the last words from her he will ever have.
Kakashi and Naruto snapped around hearing painful cries coming from behind the wall. The two-leaf shinobi quickly exited the office and ran towards the roaring sounds of pain. In the living room, Raiden was balling his eyes out. Naruto quickly looked around not understanding what had happened.
"Wha-" Naruto went to question, but he was stopped by Kakashi who gestured to Carver on the couch who leaned forward, his elbows rested on his knees. His head was facing the floor held up by his right arm and in his left hand rested the letter from Sakura delivered by Dawn. "Oh." Naruto understood now as he wiped his wet eyes.
"It's ok." Diem said kneeling on his knees, rubbing Raiden's back. It was strange for Naruto to see Diem looking so...sympathetic. Kakashi sat beside Carver, wondering how he was doing but Kakashi's curiosity got the better of him. His sharp eye scanned over the letter tilted down in his grasp.
'Our family is torn but I am proud of what we had built-' were the only words Kakashi could capture before Carver moved, clearing his throat painting a fake smile on his face.
"Hey." Carver nodded at Kakashi.
"Hey." Kakashi said, casually acting as if he hadn't snuck a peek at Carver's personal letter.
"She would-" Carver laughed,
"-do something like this-" Carver folded the letter in his hands. "-one last punch in the gut."
"I don't think that is why she left them." Kakashi said.
"I know." Carver weakly smiled but his eyes filled with tears. "She just wanted to make sure we would all be ok, even after she died." Kakashi wrapped an arm around Carver pulling him into an embrace as his tears broke through the dam he built, Carver cried on Kakashi's shoulder as the pain of losing his best friend and little sister grasped him and squeezed tightly, making him feel like he almost couldn't breathe.
Dawn and the members of the Nine walked into the living room after an hour, giving team seven Carver and Raiden time to cry together and accept the pain inside their heart for the fallen friend.
"I remember the day I met her." Dawn said walking into the room, setting a twenty-four pack of beer on the coffee table.
"Huh?" Naruto looked up with bloodshot eyes.
"Sakura." Dawn smiled sitting on the floor. "We were inside the Waterfall's training grounds, years were being shoved down my throat and my head always felt like it was being cracked open like an egg."
"The one in the other dimension?" Naruto wondered.
"Yes." Dawn nodded, "I was in that nightmare for, nine years I think before Sakura gave me the final test to leave and return home."
"Really?" Carver didn't know this story.
"Yup." Dawn cracked open a can of beer. "I failed the test."
"W-What!?" Carver laughed. "No way!"
"I thought you passed it with flying colors!" Raiden said his tears drying a little accepting the distraction.
"Nope." Dawn shook her head, "I failed it horribly, that is when I first met Sakura."
"Did she help you?" Naruto asked getting a beer for himself.
"No." Dawn smiled at her memories, "She yelled at me told me to get back in line, I was going to do another round of training inside that hell."
"R-Really?" Naruto was shocked to say the least, this was her second in commander. Naruto thought they were best friends!
"I didn't want to." Dawn went on, "I was about to quit but Sakura yelled at me to get back to marching in line and to shut the fuck up."
"She-She said that!?"
"Yeah, she didn't let anyone quit until they passed her final test." Dawn explained.
"H-How are you her second then!?" Naruto was so confused.
"I was inside those training grounds for so long..." Dawn breathed staring into the can in her hand. "...when I finally passed the second time around, and I was released to freedom I didn't cope well. I remember collapsing to the ground with the other soldiers, but my brain wouldn't compact back together, I remember feeling like something was pulling my brain apart."
"You're not answering my question." Naruto muttered.
"She's getting there." Diem lightly kicking Naruto's foot. "Shut up, let her tell the story."
"Sorry." Naruto muttered leaning closer to Kakashi, instinctually feeling safer beside him.
"I thought I was going to die that day." Dawn continued, "I could hear Sakura yelling at us to stand, people were getting up and began marching back to the village, but I couldn't move, I felt frozen in place. I felt her move towards my direction, I thought for sure she was going to kill me and move on with her way, but out of nowhere she kneeled down beside me and...hugged me."
"She...huh?" Naruto tilted his head.
"I know, I was so confused, but she did. I was nobody to her, I was a soldier who failed the test and barely passed it a second time and yet here she was beside me, hugging me. I don't know what she did or how I did it, but I was able to pull myself together."
"Wow." Naruto breathed.
"Sakura was the light inside this darkness, she kept us all sane." Dawn grinned, "The day she came to me and asked me of all the people inside this village to be her second in command I felt so honored."
"I never felt prouder." Diem smiled.
"Yeah." Dawn laughed; tears filled her eyes as she pulled her face together trying to stop the flow from starting. "She taught us everything we know, the day she picked me, and Diem to be her Commanders was the day I was born."
"She had that effect." Carver agreed, "She had this way about her, to make you feel so special."
"Yeah." Raiden nodded quickly blinking his wet eyes. "Damn it's gonna suck without her."
"Yeah." Everyone nodded in agreement.
"You two should probably get back." Carver turned to Naruto and Kakashi.
"What?" Naruto didn't like this idea, he wanted to hear more stories about Sakura. "But-"
"You're right." Kakashi agreed, "The village is wide open for attack right now and we are still short on shinobi."
"Right." Naruto sighed getting up, as Naruto and Itachi got ready to return home Kakashi walked into Sakura's bedroom. Her scent was starting to fade and would soon be gone forever, he looked around her room, remembering the time he spent in here with her.
"Kakashi." Dawn's voice called from behind him, Kakashi turned around.
"For loving her." Dawn clarified, but Kakashi still felt confused.
"She died loving you, all I wanted for her was to find someone." Dawn sighed, ready for today to end so she could crawl into her bed and silently cry into the night.
"Thank you for having her back when I couldn't." Kakashi said.
"There was nothing we could do...right?" Dawn asked, Kakashi watched guilt toasted tears fill her eyes. He sighed, reaching out and pulled her into a hug.
"No." He answered, his heart aching and the feel of this woman in his arms felt wrong, like he was somehow cheating on Sakura. "There was nothing we could have done to save her."
"Then why do I feel like I failed her?"
"Because you loved her-" Kakashi said, "-but she died anyway, and we all need time to learn how to live without her."
"I don't think I can do that."
"You have to."
"She trusted you-" Kakashi said, "-you of all people with the village she built, she knew should she ever died in battle, the Waterfall Village would still be standing because it had you and Diem keeping it together."
"I'm not strong enough-" Dawn shook her head.
"You are, because she trained you to be." Kakashi's voice was strong and stable, Dawn leaned on them.
"I don't feel-"
"You're not going to." Kakashi said, pulling away from her. "Not until you have accepted her death, not until you have made room in your life for her loss."
"Thank you, Kakashi." Dawn looked at his masked face, Kakashi smiled with his closed eye and Dawn felt her heart flutter seeing the expression. Her cheeks blushed as she looked away from him, clearing her throat. "You should get back to the Leaf Village, just in case..."
"Your right." Kakashi nodded, "Thank you for taking care of her home."
"Yeah." Dawn said not making eye contact as he slides past her, she caught a sniff of his scent, her heart fluttered inside her ribcage, she touched her chest not understanding these new emotions. What was this?
"Are you ready?" Itachi asked Kakashi once he was in sight, Kakashi nodded as his response moving to stand beside Naruto. Dawn quickly reached the living room in time to see Itachi's portal opening, Naruto waved goodbye to Carver and Raiden. Dawn watched with wide eyes as Kakashi moved into the portal vanishing from sight, her heart felt heavier now that he was gone.
"If you need anything-" Itachi's voice pulled Dawn's attention. "-don't hesitate to call."
"Thanks." Carver smiled.
"Do you...Do you want me to return when you tell Annistyn about Sakura?" Itachi questioned.
"I can handle it." Dawn answered, "I need you inside the Leaf Village just in case, the Reaper's are still a threat and I have a feeling they will carry a grudge against the Leaf for Sakura killing Malachite."
"I wouldn't doubt that." Itachi sighed, "Give me a call later?"
"Of course." Dawn nodded, Itachi turned walking into the dark portal that would whisk him back to the Leaf Village that had fallen to pieces.
Kakashi walked into his apartment, after returning home from the Waterfall Village he and this team helped with the village clean up until his body was tired and his muscles were sore. His stomach growled out for substance and his eye burned with the urge to sleep. He closed his front door locking it as he always did, he turned facing his apartment and dropped to the floor, his legs gave out.
Kakashi gasped in and out for precious oxygen, his eye wide as Sakura's face reflected inside his tears. He ripped his black mask down feeling suffocated, tearing the material of his mask as he did so. Kakashi could feel his heart pounding hard on the front of his ribcage, he clenched his chest in pain as he felt cold. His blood felt like it had been replaced with wet cement weighing him down as tears flowed down his face.
Kakashi kneeled on his knees, his forehead resting against the floor as he felt the pain fully hit him head on. Kakashi didn't feel safe anymore, like his self security got burnt up along with Sakura. He felt her ring resting inside his pocket, guilt rained down on him as he resented himself for cutting her off as she went to propose to him.
Why hadn't he let her finish her sentence?
Why couldn't he just have said yes to her instead of rudely cutting her off?
Did she die feeling he didn't love her?
Kakashi cried into the wooden floor, he grinded his teeth against the pain that racked his body. Kakashi opened his eye feeling he had failed Sakura, the one person he wanted to make proud of him he allowed her to die inside his hands.
Kakashi sat up holding his arms out, wondering why he had let Sakura get so close to him in the first place, every time he holds a woman inside his arms, they died. He was where she was supposed to be the safest, and yet she died inside his embrace much like Rin had done when they were children.
'Father-' Kakashi's mind wondered, '-is this how you felt?' Kakashi understood then, why his father took his own life, this kind of pain...it was too much for even him to endure. Kakashi reached to his leg, feeling the slick kunai between his fingers he released it from its home inside his weapons pouch. Kakashi held the familiar kunai in his hand, as he stared at it, it felt more like a friend than a weapon...
'Don't you fucking do it.'
Kakashi's eyes widened, hearing her voice so clear. He quickly looked around but saw nothing but an empty apartment welcoming him home. Kakashi's heart squeezed, the small sliver of hope he felt shivered up and evaporated from his reach.
Kakashi's eyes filled with tears, he choked on his voice throwing the kunai he fell backwards onto his ass as he cradled his face in his hands as cries ripped from his chest filling his quiet apartment. All he wanted in this world was to lay beside her in his bed one more time and run his fingers along the strands of her pink hair.
Hello you fantastic Jommies!
Book Two: The Woman who Climbed from Cinder is now published with a few released chapters! Enjoy!