A/N: Moody and dramatic Sasusaku. One where they don't end up together XD I'd like to thank Mena for so much inspiration, and for being a fantastic writer herself.
Disclaimer: Naruto, and all things related to it is (C) its creator Kishimoto Masashi. I don't own any part in anyway.
* * *
The train rumbled on its tracks as darkening clouds loomed up in the sky. The entire train was noisy at first, but after the locomotive crept along the countryside for a while, things start to die down. Sasuke assumed they would be there soon.
He couldn't remember the last time he had been on a train. He frowned and thought back. Oh wait. Now he knew. It was the day he left the village, for good he said. All those years ago. He can't believe that after this long a time, he still had it in him to go back. But he knew he had too. His conscience would never forgive him if he did not return for this event. After all, it had been killing him for the past eight years anyway.
The gray skies outside was starting to make him sleepy, so he shook his head a little and turned from the window. That was when he saw a little boy just staring at him from across the aisle. Sasuke vaguely wondered why he didn't just take a plane instead, there were sure to be less kids on a plane. He almost cursed himself for not flying on a plane, when he remembered the reason why he was here on this crowded train. He barely had any money left, and that told him to pinch every penny even more. But his current financial status was the last thing he wanted to think about. Well, second to last thing anyway. A certain pink-haired kunoichi was always the person he tried to push into the back of his head. But he couldn't. Now he was thinking about her again. Damn.
After looking out the landscape, which was raining now, he realized that he wasn't supposed to be looking out the window, so tried to find something in the train to focus his attention on. He turned to his left, and found himself face to face with the little boy that had been looking at him.
He was taken aback. "...what?"
"You're Uchiha Sasuke."
Oh crap. Sasuke tried to plot a way out of this one. "No, I'm not."
"Yes you are!" The kid nodded his head vigorously, and turned behind him. "Mom, isn't this Uchiha Sasuke?" His mother, however, was deeply absorbed in a leaflet of some sort, and ignored her son.
"I know you're Uchiha Sasuke."
Sasuke forced a smile. "...no, but I get that a lot." The kid started to leave, and Sasuke breathed a sigh of relief.
The little boy went back across the aisle to sit next to his mother again, but not before throwing Sasuke a particularly suspicious look. "Mom, this kid at school told me that a kunai used by Uchiha Sasuke is worth 1000 gold!"
The boy's mother was listening now. "Well, the kid at school was making it up, dear, because everyone knows that an Uchiha Sasuke kunai is worthless nowadays."
Sasuke knew this fact all too well, but sometimes it was still antagonizing to him. He tried to tune out of the conversation, but he just couldn't.
The kid shrugged. "You know what I really want---an Uzumaki Naruto kunai! Now that's majorly cool!"
His mother smiled sadly. "Yes, and what a wonderful Hokage Uzumaki-sama was...it's such a shame he's gone."
That's when Sasuke realized what the woman was reading. It was book written on the life of Konoha's 6th Hokage, a biography of Uzumaki Naruto. He wanted to rip that book to pieces.
He didn't really have a reason for this odd and sudden urge, but all he knew that he would never be sure of his respect for Naruto. In a way, Naruto was one of the greatest friends and teammates he could ever have, but a part of him deeply hated Naruto for everything he put him through. All the shame and rivalry, all boiled down to one thing: Naruto was better than he was. Naruto was stronger than he was. Naruto would one day be liked more than he would be. Those were the things Sasuke hated him for, and would never forgive him.
Yet here he was. On his way from many miles away just to attend the services of his departed comrade, and...to see her again. To tell her he was sorry. To feel the touch of her hand in his again---maybe. Just maybe.
His head throbbed with all these mixed emotions, and he stumbled as he got up on the way to the diner car.
He sat at the bar, and ordered a drink.
* * *
"Oh, Yumihiko," Haruno Sakura sighed, "When will you ever realize that a proper shinobi writes legibly?"
She wiped her reading glasses with a cloth and put them back on, squinting hopelessly at a student paper. She decided to finally give up after seven more minutes, and wrote a note on the paper in shiny red ink: Please re-do. She was quite used to this now, as she had been a teacher at the Ninja Academy for the past eight years. However, one does get a bit frustrated after running across an illegible paper, especially if that student has been told three or four times to improve on handwriting.
Putting aside the paper, Sakura picked up another one and was just about to start grading when there was a knock on the classroom door. Looking up, Sakura smiled at the person in the doorway. "Lee-san, this a pleasant surprise."
Rock Lee walked into the classroom and stood in front of Sakura's desk. "Still grading?"
Sakura sighed. "There's been an addition of students into my class, so I have more work to do now than usual."
"Can I help you with anything?" Lee reached out and touched Sakura's hand, which was curled around the pen.
She blushed a bit. "No, thanks, I'll get by," Sakura was actually surprised at the way she was responding to this, because over the past few years Lee had grown very handsome indeed. He had left behind the look he had of his teacher many ages ago, and had adapted his own style, along with a new hairstyle and everything. Now he was chased after by every girl in the village. Sakura thought he was, in a way, the new Sasuke. Her heart gave a little jolt of pain again.
She cleared her throat. "So, um, are you going to the service?"
Lee shook his head. "I'm afraid I can't make it, I've got a last minute mission I have to attend to. I just stopped by to say goodbye."
"Oh," Sakura grinned. "Well, good luck on your mission, I guess I'll see you soon?"
Lee looked very serious now. "The thing is, Sakura-san....I want us to spend some more time together."
Sakura's eyes were as big as teacups. "....?"
"Maybe when I get back....we can, um, have coffee or something...maybe get to know each other a little better."
"But, Lee-san, we've known each other for so long." Sakura said, smiling nervously. She couldn't believe that after all these years he still saw her as more than a friend.
"That's not what I meant...." Lee swallowed. "It's okay. Forget I said anything. ...I'll just see you when I get back."
Sakura had a horrible pang of guilt as Lee left, but was even more surprised when he stopped just outside the door.
".....um.." Lee said quietly. "Just one more thing---"
"What is it?" Sakura didn't want to speculate the answer.
Lee swallowed. "You're a beautiful woman, Sakura-san, you don't deserve to be alone....do you think it's time you forgot about...him?"
With that, Lee left, leaving Sakura feeling even worse than she ever did. Guilty, self discouraging thoughts ran through her head. Why did I do that? Why can't I just give Lee a chance? Why must I... push away every one who even remotely wants to be close to me...?
On the other hand....
How could he, Lee, her trusted friend, remind her about Sasuke again? Now, with the passing of one of her closest friends and his funeral so near, to make her ache with even more pain? Sakura had an expressionless gaze on her face, almost emotionless. She felt strangely empty, in a very hurtful way. She would be giving a final farewell to her best friend that night, and on top of that, she would be confronting a part of her past she had been trying so hard to keep buried. She knew he'd be there...and she knew she would have to look at him sooner or later. Part of this brought her great joy, but somehow with that joy came despairing feelings of extreme sadness.
She felt her eyes stinging, and it wasn't long until she broke down into sobs completely.
* * *
The little cemetery beneath the mountain carved with the Hokage's faces was dreary and dark when Sasuke arrived. He could only see three other people so far, and tried to figure out a way to hide throughout the service until all the mourners left. He figured that he owed this to Naruto, but didn't think he would have to actually communicate with anyone else. All these people reminded him of was days of the past---the days he would go back to in an instant, yet regarded as a lost Utopia.
He felt a sprinkle of a raindrop on his nose.
Shoving his hands into the pockets of his coat, he made for the nearest tree to stand by, when he heard someone call his name tentatively.
He stopped dead in his tracks, hardly daring to believe it. He wanted to whisk around right away to see if it was indeed her, but at the same time he was reluctant to, in case it wasn't her. He wanted to see a strand of those pink locks which he missed seeing in the morning for the past eight years, to look into those light emerald eyes and know everything would be okay.
Unfortunately, the world let Sasuke down again, because upon turning around he was immediately crushed. "....Hinata." he said, trying to sound at least a little cheerful.
A very somber Hyuuga Hinata smiled at him through the tear stains on her face, and handed him a program. "It's a pleasure to see you again after all this time, Sasuke-kun."
"Yeah." Sasuke nodded, taking the program and folding it into fourths.
Several more moments passed in which Hinata tried to make conversation, but eventually she decided to give up. She nodded towards the arriving guests. "...I'm um...the coordinator of this service..I'd better pass out more programs."
"Right." Came his automatic response.
"Thank you for coming by," Hinata said earnestly. "I know it means a lot to Naruto-kun."
Sasuke was feeling very awkward indeed now, because upon mentioning Naruto's name Hinata's shoulders shook, and it appeared like she was going to collapse into tears at anytime without warning. However, she just closed her eyes for a moment, breathed out, and walked away. Something told Sasuke that he wasn't the only one struggling with Naruto's passing.
Leaning against a tall oak tree, Sasuke tried to make out some of the people coming around at the gate. More memories of days gone by flashed by his mind again as he saw them come: Yamanaka Ino, Inuzuka Kiba, Akimichi Chouji, Nara Shikamaru, Hyuuga Neji, Aburame Shino, and many others. His jaw dropped slightly when he saw who was the main speaker: his former teacher, Hatake Kakashi. He could just imagine Kakashi coming by and making small talk like nothing ever happened, but when Kakashi did pass by Sasuke and did not say anything, that's when he realized....
Things really did change.
* * *
Sakura took out a mirror from her purse and checked her mascara before walking up to the little area where everyone else gathered. Glancing up at the sky, she guessed that it was going to start raining soon. She cursed herself for not bringing an umbrella, and gave her eyes a new coat of liner---waterproof liner. Rain or not, they wouldn't be dry for long.
She was greeted as warmly as possible by her friends upon reaching the cemetery, and tried to be just as cheerful back, tried to smile...and hide her feelings from everyone else. But there were just some days when you couldn't smile anymore, she figured.
That's when he spotted her. Her vibrant hair stood out among the sea of black, even more than Ino's blonde. The pink peeked out from underneath the brim of Sakura's hat, almost cheerfully, but it did not match her expression. His feet seemed drilled into the ground where he stood, and he somehow lost the ability to blink. Just the very feeling of just standing there and watching her was more happiness than he'd ever known for the past eight years. He wasn't sure if he wanted her to turn her head and notice him or not. No, not yet.
This was much better.
Maybe after the services were over he'd have enough guts to go over and talk to her, though he didn't even begin to fathom what she was going to do, how he was going to react. A drop of water fell into his eye and gave him a sudden start, and that's when he noticed that people were starting to take their seats, Kakashi had headed to the podium, and he was one of the few still left standing. With some reluctance, he started towards the rest of the congregation.
As Sasuke sat at the very back, he kept looking over the assembly of people there. He had missed them all over the years, and remembered back on the days when they had all been friends and had good times together. Those memories now seemed like several lifetimes ago. In fact, everything became blurs in his mind ever since she left him. The night where she walked out the door, slammed it, and he sat in shock. The two days after where he just decided to pack up and leave all together, without even trying to ask her for forgiveness. Perhaps he was scared, he thought. Asking her for forgiveness would be a great act of courage, something he was never short on. But it was a different kind of courage, the kind asking you to use your heart instead of your mind or strength. And that was the kind he needed desperately.
* * *
Sakura didn't know where Sasuke was exactly, but she was ready to bet her life that he was there. Perhaps someday she would have enough strength and daring to look his straight in the eye and tell him everything that she was feeling, and had felt---everything. Some of the words from distant memories kept echoing back in her mind, and sometimes she could hear the words as if she was still there in that very moment; the fights and arguments they had, the empty conversations where both of them just responded heartlessly....but there were also the good moments.
She often referred to the times with him as both the best and worst moments of her life. Some people must've thought she was crazy, because, after all, how could something be the best and worst at the same time? But Sakura still kept by the statement she had made. She couldn't remember a time where she had been more happy, those mornings where she awoke to find bright sunlight streaming into their room, and turned over to see him sleeping right behind her, his dark bangs spread around his eyes, and how she automatically blushed upon studying his face. The times that he would sneak up right behind her as she was cooking and just put his arms around her waist, saying nothing. His warm breath on her face.
And then....everything else. All the awful words exchanged between them at raised voices when he came home at one o'clock in the morning, after drinking, to add. She was happy for him, she truly was. His promotion to Anbu Captain....it was the job of dreams, next to being Hokage. But the celebrations seemed to drag out in the course of six months, and the nights where she sat up staring at the door were more than she could take. There wasn't really much to be done, since everything was peaceful...maybe she shouldn't have blamed him for having fun, letting loose a little after a long time of being a dormant corpse. But...something about it still made her ache with loneliness, and out of her mind with worry. Her hesitation of confronting him about it, her muttered um's and never mind's. She found herself slowly slipping into a state of depression, and nothing really seemed to be able to pull her out of it.
All these years she had thought that maybe she wouldn't have been so unhappy if only she had been more supportive of him. She tried everything, but it looked like the more she tried, the more she would hurt, and in the end she just threw her hands up and gave up. Sakura often thought back on what she did wrong, and never really came to a definite answer. Everyone in the village had thought Sasuke and Sakura were a perfect couple, and she had thought so for a little bit too. Now, she could probably think of it as that way again, if only all the bad times could just be taken away. This was impossible, of course, but if it could happen, then you were left with something small, but beautiful. Perhaps only both of them knew this, like an intricate little secret between them....but there was one thing that was definite, set in stone.
Neither of them ever could, or would, love anyone else.
She wondered if he still hung onto that.
The service was over. People were starting to get up and console each other. There was not a dry eye in the whole place...maybe except at the very back. Sasuke didn't cry. It was as simple as that. He felt deeply saddened because of Naruto's passing, but it still didn't manage to evoke some tears out of him. He had become so numb for so long now, it was like he lost the ability to cry all together. He saw her a couple more times. Right now, she was standing in front of their friend's coffin, just staring at it, no one else around her. It had already started raining, and people were in a rush to pull out umbrellas. Some just decided to leave all together.
He swallowed hard and walked right up to her. He stood next to her, not daring to look at her, but instead focused his attention on the grand coffin, piled with flowers and beautiful cloth. Naruto was, the Hokage, of course, and he would've continued to be a fine one, if only he wasn't betrayed by one of the very people in the village. The identity of the traitor was never known, but Sasuke was sure that if he knew that person would be in hell by now.
"You look good." Sasuke said placidly.
Sakura's throat was stuck. How was she supposed to answer to that? Then she remembered what her mother told her, when she called her parents' house three times a day sobbing back then. Her mother had said, You always have to hold your faith, even in the face of fire. "...I am good. What's it to you?"
When was she this harsh....? ...I guess...I deserved that. Sasuke wiped some raindrops from his eyelids. "...how..you've been?"
She turned her head to look at him in the face for the first time in a long time. Sasuke had never really known what it felt like to want to succumb to someone completely. But now he did. Upon seeing her tear stained face, embellished with many years' sadness, he just wanted to put his arms around her and kiss her forehead, and tell her that everything would be okay. Not only for her sake...but his as well. Somehow, some way, he wanted to have that reassuring thought, too.
"...I...drifted away from him," She said quietly.
"We all did. He was Hokage. He was busy."
"Do you honestly believe that?"
"It's not your fault."
"I pretty much drifted away from everyone." She reverted her sight ahead.
"...that's...because of me."
"You don't have to do that."
"Do what?" Sasuke asked.
"Act like you've done something wrong."
"But I did---"
"It's not worth it, okay?" Sakura said. "So...just don't bother."
What was he supposed to do now? She had obviously not forgiven him. He remembered the first time where they began spending more time with each other. He couldn't believe how amazing a person she was, she completely blew him away....he didn't imagine that anyone could be so wonderful. She was truly beautiful, both outside and inside. Everything she did for him was accented with love, and in time he learned to love her too. In fact, it was possible now that he might love her more than she loved him. He doubted anyone in the world could love another person like he loved her. But it didn't matter now. Did it?
Maybe they had grown so close that they began to be connected spiritually, because Sakura was thinking back about that time too. She remembered how her stomach would do uncomfortable backflips when he smiled at her, how he was so handsome her knees would wobble just standing next to him. He tried to do everything at once, not getting help from anyone, pretending he was emotionless and cared for none. But she knew that underneath it all, there was someone with a heart bigger than anyone she'd know.
Standing here right now next to him brought back everything she'd forgotten. She even left out a soft laugh when she remembered the first time he told her he loved her.
He turned over to her. "....?"
She shook her head and sniffed, but still smiling. Why does he have to do this? What is it about him that has to make everything else in this world go away when I'm next to him? He...hasn't changed a bit. But today wasn't about them, she told herself over and over. It was about Naruto. She should've been closer to him.
"I...missed you." Sasuke said at last.
"...did you really?"
"Aah." He nodded.
"You didn't seem to miss me then."
"I...I'm really sorry."
Sakura scoffed incredulously now. She turned her entire body and stood facing him. "You're apologizing...NOW?"
Sasuke was ready for the blow. "...I couldn't do it then. I'm sorry."
Sakura closed her eyes and breathed out. "It's not that simple."
"It doesn't have to be hard," Sasuke reached out to take her hand, but she pulled back. "...?"
"I...don't think I can do this."
"Dammit, Sasuke-kun, it doesn't work like this!" It was difficult to distinguish tears and rain in her eyes now. "You can't just---reappear after eight years and act like nothing's wrong!"
"...I know I can't," Sasuke said. "But...I know..I was wrong."
No arguing with that, Sakura thought. She now realized that this was more difficult that anything she'd ever imagine. More difficult than when she had left in the first place. She didn't know how many times she told herself she would never forgive him. It would be hard to stick by those words now, looking at him. He looked young still. Beneath everything, he was still handsome.
"Please," Sasuke got closer to her. "...can't..we just...?" He put his arms around her, and kissed her.
Sakura entirely melted into the moment, tears streamed from her closed eyes, his warmth was intoxicating. After a while, Sakure just couldn't take it anymore. The pain was too great, and she broke away in tears. "Sasuke-kun, I can't," she whispered.
She looked down at her shoes to avoid looking straight up at him. She could feel his breath as he collapsed onto his knees and put his arms around her waist. His mind went back to when he was nine years old, standing alone in a dark room, gazing at his parents' dead body. Never before did he feel so alone and hurt like he was then, except now.
Sakura wiped the tears from her eyes but they just kept flowing. She kept her arms at her sides, trying to make no move to comfort him. She tried to imagined what it would be like if they were still together, but no images came up. All optimism seemed to be drained from her right then and there.
"I love you, Sakura," Sasuke's voice was muffled against her coat.
She shook her head. "I'm sorry, Sasuke-kun...I..."
"Do you still..." Sasuke began to ask.
Of course I do...! Sakura thought, but she just couldn't get it out.
Words couldn't come to her anymore, and the rain overpowered her sobs. She removed his arms from her waist and turned away, trying to compose herself. "...we can't do this, Sasuke-kun...we're just not meant to be together...."
"How can you say that?" Sasuke asked in disbelief.
"I'm sorry," She said again. She started to walk away, desperate to get out of there. She felt like she would die if she continued to remain there.
He watched her disappear into the distance. He could still feel her kiss on his lips.
And it was raining.
A/N: That was for my friend Larissa, who asked me one day, "How come the people in your fics always end up together?!" Well, there you go, 'Rissa. Hope you liked it, did it get too mushy for ya...? ^^;; Go ahead and tell me. I'm always open for suggestions. Thanks~!