Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, or the song!!

NOTE: THIS IS SET EIGHT YEARS LATER THAN THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER!! [EVERYONE'S ABOUT NINETEEN OR TWENTY YEARS OLD..]

Dedication: EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU!

Epilogue: Swinging With Her

He stood, almost triumphantly over his brother's bleeding body. His kunai was splattered with blood. Besides some various jutsus -- some forbidden ones -- the one thing he had used the most was the kunai. It seemed almost strange that such a simple weapon would do so much damage. Itachi's eyes closed for a final time...

Sasuke looked at the kunai almost regretfully. There was too much blood on it that even if he did clean it, it would never be as shiny or black as it used to be.

He was tired. Very tired. His eyes grew dizzy, and everything got dark and black. He succumbed to the darkness because he knew it was all right now. He had gotten his revenge.

She had given him that kunai.

---

"Sasuke!"

Sasuke tried to open his eyes. He tried to. But all he saw was black.

In the beginning, he thought that maybe he was just too tired, too weak to even open his eyes. After all, defeating his brother in combat was no small feat. His left hand was curled around something -- something cold and sticky. He didn't need to open his eyes to know what it was: the kunai.

"Sasuke!" Two figures rushed at him, gripping his arms tightly. One, he recognized as his teammate, the idiot. His voice gave it away. The other one sounded vaguely like Shikamaru, but what would he be doing here?

He gave a muffled grunt of acknowledgement as he sat up. "What are you doing here?" he demanded.

"We're here to save you," someone else stated calmly. Must be Shikamaru, Sasuke deduced. Only he could ever sound that calm during a time like this.

"Naruto...and Shikamaru?" he grimaced.

There was a slight pause. "Yeah, it's us... are you having trouble seeing?" Sasuke felt Naruto grow closer so that he could survey the damage done to Sasuke's body.

"No," Sasuke lied.

"Ah..." Naruto trailed off. Sasuke saw nothing but black. Why?

And... what was he to do now? There was really nothing else to do except to go back with his former comrades back to the village. He had killed Itachi, therefore, his revenge was over. Nothing else to do... right?

He let out a yelp as someone started carrying him on his shoulders. His first instinct was to punch the lights out of whoever it was, but he stopped himself.

"What are you doing?" He asked. It managed to come out calmly.

"Taking you back, of course."

Ah. "Why?"

"Because it was our mission," Shikamaru answered. "And... even though I'm nothing but a lazy slacker, this was still my most important mission -- and after all the trouble I went to, you'd better come back with us."

Sasuke shook his head. He would have liked to give them a run for their money... but there was really no point. He might as well come back.

' Maybe... I can see her again... '

"You don't have to carry me," he stated. There was no malice in his voice. "I can get by on my own."

Naruto snorted. "With your injuries, Sasuke, it'll take us a year to get back to Konoha."

"...." Sasuke had no retort.

He felt -- strangely happy. Content, almost. He was going back. He was really going back to Konoha. His brother was dead. He had avenged his parents. He was going back to Konoha.

She was there.

Would she still be waiting for him?

Eight years ago, she had told him that she loved him. But it was possible that that love had dwindled. Could it have happened? She was a rather attractive girl -- maybe her forehead was a tad too wide -- and many boys had set their eyes on her. Lee... even Naruto, at one point...

"How -- How is she?" he asked quietly. Naruto started.

"Who?" he asked. To Shikamaru, he shook his head. "It's nothing," he mouthed.

".... her." He couldn't bring himself to say her name. He didn't deserve to say her name. He'd caused her too much pain. He'd given her too much grief. He'd -- He'd hurt her. More than once.

"Oh." Sasuke was grateful to realize that Naruto had gotten smarter over the years. For a moment, neither of them said nothing.

Over the years, Sasuke had realized something. He -- He'd grown to like his pink-haired teammate. As more flashbacks of their time together before Itachi came, it just clicked.

It was -- strange, knowing that. Knowing that he had caused her so much grief and pain... would she be willing to take him back? What if -- What if she had gotten over him?

Then he would have to get over it himself...

"She's fine," Naruto finally said. "She's -- She's a medical specialist. Tsunade-baasan took a liking to her and even trained her. She was her only student."

"Aa..." Sasuke trailed off. There was one more question lingering in his mind. He didn't know how to ask it, so he just did. "Is she... with anyone?"

Naruto laughed. Sasuke was slightly irritated -- why couldn't he just give him a straight answer?

"No," Naruto finally answered. Sasuke wished he could open his eyes to see him. "No, she's not."

---

The first thing that they did was take him to the hospital. He let them place him on the bed, and he crossed his arms defiantly over his chest. He still saw nothing but black, but he decided not to let it get him down.

"Tsunade-baasan's coming soon," Naruto stated matter-of-factly. There was a bed next to his, and he heard Shikamaru plop down, grumbling.

"How troublesome," he sighed. "I think I broke my arm."

"Oh yeah? Well, look at my leg!" Naruto placed his leg on Sasuke's bed. The bed groaned.

"Ugh, Naruto --"

"Hah! So don't complain about your injuries --"

"So! You guys made it after all." The fifth Hokage stepped into the room, smiling broadly. Sasuke froze. The scent of cherry blossoms was with her.

' It's her... '

"Told you so." Sasuke heard Naruto stick his tongue out -- at the Hokage, no less. Despite everything, Naruto was still Naruto. "You have to take me to Ichiraku now."

"Yeah, yeah --" Tsunade brushed him off. "But right now, we have some more -- pressing -- matters to attend to." She stood over Sasuke. He didn't need his eyes to know that. "Uchiha Sasuke -- I assume you've killed your brother."

He nodded curtly.

"You've also been a missing-nin for the past eight years. I assume you know that, too."

He nodded again.

"But..." Tsunade trailed off. "... you did come back. It looks like you've learned your lesson. I don't think you'll ever try something like that again, will you?"

"...no."

"Good. Besides, I think you've gotten a just punishment, don't you?"

Sasuke didn't understand what she was talking about. In the beginning, he thought maybe she was talking about Sakura... but who was she to know about his feelings, anyway?

When the young man didn't answer, Tsunade frowned. She placed a gentle hand on his forehead. "You don't know, do you?"

Before Sasuke could answer, another voice spoke. It was a soft and timid voice, but he knew who it was. She came closer. The scent of cherry blossoms grew closer.

"Sasuke-kun?" she whispered.

He didn't know what to say. "Aa.." he said softly.

Then it occured to him that he wanted to see her. He wanted to see how she had blossomed in the past eight years. She was undoubtedly more beautiful... He wanted to see her pink locks, her shimmering green eyes...

He opened his eyes. He knew he did. He felt him raising his eyelids, revealing his eyes.

But still, all he saw was black.

At first, he thought that maybe he just thought he'd open his eyes, but in reality, he really hadn't. He shook himself and pried open his eyelids. He was sure of it now. He had opened his eyes.

But all he saw was black.

"Sakura..." His voice was hoarse. "Where... Where are you?"

She drew nearer now, and he felt her clasp his hands in her own. "I'm right here, Sasuke-kun."

"I -- I can't see you --"

"But I'm right here!" Her grip on his hands grew tighter. "Sasuke-kun -- I'm right here --"

He swallowed. His throat was dry. "I -- I can't -- I can't see you --"

Tsunade stepped in between them. Sakura's hand remained in his. He felt Tsunade pry open his eyes, widening them and looking in. After a few moments of that, she stopped. Her hands went up to his hair, ruffling them in an almost motherly gesture.

"Sasuke..."

"What happened?" He tried to stay calm.

"I'm sorry... I thought you knew..."

"What?!" His voice grew louder. Sakura's grip on his hand tightened even more.

Tsunade bowed her head, and her hand ceased moving around his hair. "You're blind."

---

He had brought her back to the swings the day he had found her being bullied. Much to his relief, she had stopped crying. She sat now on her swing, as he sat in his. He thought about asking her what had happened, but then decided not to. It wouldn't be very pleasant or polite to ask her to relive what had just happened.

"Sasuke-kun..." She hiccupped, her green eyes duller than they usually were. "Thank you... for saving me..."

He continued to swing, but he turned his head so that he could see her. "You're welcome."

"Why...did you?"

The question caused him to furrow his brow. "Because you're my friend, Sakura-chan. Friends help each other."

"But --"

"How long have they been doing that?"

"I --" She fell silent. "The past month."

"You didn't tell me..." He looked straight into her eyes. "You should have told me."

"I -- I didn't want to trouble you."

"Sakura-chan..." He hopped off his swing and stepped directly in front of her. She abruptly stopped her swinging. "I promise... that I'll always protect you. From those bullies. And from anyone else that tries to hurt you."

Her eyes grew wide. "Sasuke-kun.."

But he refused to be moved. "I promise. I will always protect you."

She smiled then, and wiped away her tears.

"Thank you."

It struck him as odd that he chose to remember that at this particular moment, underneath a full moon in what was probably her room... He was glad, he supposed, that she had saved him and taken him away from the sight of his parents' bloodied bodies... but now that he knew what had to be done, he had to leave. There was no question about it.

He had placed her on the bed. She had stirred, but hadn't woken up. The blanket was still draped across her body. There was something sad about the whole thing... maybe because now, nothing would ever be the same again.

She had been his friend, and he had been hers.

"Sakura-chan..." He whispered softly. "I promise.. I'll always protect you. No matter what."

He walked out into the cold and lonely streets.

The cherry blossoms were beginning to wilt.

---

He didn't need his eyes to go to that place. His feet, his brain, his instincts... They all led him back to that place. He felt around his surroundings, to that thin metal pole that separated the two swings. He took his seat on the one to the left of it, as he had always done.

The swing groaned loudly as soon as he sat down. He smiled, almost a sad smile. He had grown, hadn't he? If he kept this up, the swing would soon fall...

He didn't care. He pushed off, swinging back and forth in a slow and easy rhythm.

It seemed almost ironic now. He was blind. He couldn't see. And all for what? Just to kill his brother, just to soothe the hatred and pain in him?

The very same hatred and pain that had already been soothed?

By her...

A small portion of him didn't care. So what if he would never be able to see out of his eyes again? It was obvious that he would never become a shinobi... at least, not one of a Jounin or ANBU standard... but that wasn't the main reason he was disappointed.

He would never be able to see her again.

He would never be able to see her face... Her shining green eyes, her soft lips, her silky pink hair... even her slightly bigger than average forehead...

He would never be able to see how she had grown...

He would never be able to see her again...

With a start, he realized that it wasn't worth it. It hadn't been worth it to go after Itachi and kill him. It hadn't been worth it to go with Orochimaru.

He would never be able to see her again.

Which was even more painful, considering that the last time he had seen her was when she had been crying her heart out for him.

The swing screeched as he swung forth harder. How could he have been so stupid?!

He heard footsteps. Her footsteps.

Her scent.

The scent of the cherry blossoms in full bloom, underneath a blue April sky. He realized, with a pang, that he would never be able to the cherry blossoms in bloom again.

She approached him cautiously, hesitantly lingering around the metal pole that divided the swings. She said nothing, and neither did he.

"I knew you'd be here," she said softly.

"Aa..." He turned to face her, but there was no point. He would never see her again.

"Remember..." There was a trace of nostalgia in her voice. "... this is where we first met."

"Aa," he said again.

"What happened?" The question caught him off guard. What happened to what, he wondered.

"Life..." he trailed off. "... can play many tricks on you."

The answer didn't really make sense, but it seemed to fit. She appeared to be satisfied with it, however, so he let it go. There was no sound except for his swing.

"Is it..." She stopped, but then went on. "Is it okay if I swing with you?"

There was no need for him to think about his words. He turned again to face her. There was nothing but black. In his mind, he imagined what she must look like. Her green eyes, dulled with tears because she knew he could never see again. He knew she had grown her hair out again. He liked it better short.

"Aa," he said, the rhythm of his swing moving back and forth never ceasing. "You can stay."

[ "BAI-BAI------" ]

[ "Bye-bye." ]

-- owari: the end --

A/N Done, finally! I'd like to thank everyone who's put up with me so far... Thanks for all the reviews and support! I've enjoyed writing this fic, and I hope you guys liked it as well!

The song used throughout the fic is called "Sink" and it's sung by Plastic Tree.

Random answers to random reviewers: hikariko - LOL, me noticing the moon thing was a total fluke. I was just writing about how it was a full moon, and then all of a sudden it was a crescent moon? I was sooo confused.. lol, but thanks! angelicat - thanks! hikari - Ooh, I agree, 181 was full of SasuSaku goodness. SasuSaku is not the pure, lovey-dovey fluff that we're used to, so I think that's why it's refreshing. Crystal-Faerie, kookie - Thanks for reading!

Hobes - Yeah, I wanted to write a realistic SasuSaku, none of my usual fluff.. it's a different kind of story for me, and I wanted it to be the kind of story that people could read and think, This might be exactly how Sasuke feels in the manga!

Oh, I'm so sorry I couldn't answer all of your reviews! Blame this lazy, lazy author. But I seriously do appreciate every single review. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING!

Soo, do me a favor and review some more? puppy dog eyes I'm aiming for 100 reviews! Whooo! Lol... really, just thank you, so much.