Disclaimer: No, even after all of this, I still don't own Naruto.
A/N: Well everyone, I'm sorry for the late update. Believe it or not, I hit some severe writer's block with this chapter. I'm still not sure it came out correctly. I think the ending is too easy. But I justify it in the fact that I think Sakura's personality is very obsessive and so the concept of simply letting go of whatever it was that had hurt her would never occur to her.
Before I say this last bit, I would again like to think every single person who has read this fic, especially everyone who's left me the 156 reviews on FF.net, the 3 on MediaMiner and the 58 on AFF.net. You guys are awesome and you have no idea how much reading your comments, impressions, criticisms and praise have influenced me and encouraged me in the writing of this fic.
A special thank you goes to Sailor Tiamat, Lady Light, Empty Sanity, Jewel Song, Ashi-chan, Nocterayne and everyone else who's left me reviews for just about every chapter, as well as to Mint, Ivy, Fly, Wicked Innuendo, Fanartist, Kayoko and Aya for not only continually reviewing but also writing and corresponding with me directly as well as really, really helping me write and sort out my ideas for this fic.
So thank you everyone, and I truly hope you enjoy this, the final chapter of The Butterfly. Oh, and the lyrics at the end are from the song "Sweet Mistakes" by Ellis Paul.
The Butterfly: Chapter 23
By: Tea Leaf / Banana Soap
He sighed as he watched her sit at the window. It was midnight on another sleepless night for her. The moonlight filtered in softly, casting an ethereal glow to her skin. A soft breeze blew through the open glass and fluttered the long strands of her hair. The curtain billowed, causing a teasing barrier between them.
A physical equivalent to the ambiguous barrier that had been forming between them for the past month.
She'd changed over the years. She wasn't the person she used to be.
She was trying to be; there was no doubt about that. She was trying as hard as she could to fit herself back into the mold that had been so comfortable when they'd lived together.
But it wasn't comfortable anymore.
It was strained; it was shadowed. There were secrets now where there had been none before. There was a wall dividing them from their once open honesty.
He smiled slightly; he wasn't surprised. He'd known it wouldn't last forever even if he had been able to stay.
When it came right down to it, regardless of how much she may always want to deny it, there had always been something essential to her that had been missing.
He had been able to temporarily fill that void for her but that's all he was, filler. A substitution.
He was sure she didn't realize that though, she wasn't the type of person who would consciously use someone.
But even if she did…he couldn't really say that he'd minded. He'd probably been using her for the same purposes.
But something had happened to her while he was away, something that made her realize that she simply couldn't patch up that void with anyone else.
He sighed again, he'd been half hoping it wouldn't come to this but she'd been steadily regressing into herself. She'd been steadily sleeping less. She'd been steadily eating less. She'd been steadily disconnecting.
"Sakura" he said softly.
She looked at him, her empty gaze shifting from the window to him.
"Why are you here?" he asked her directly as he sat up.
"What do you mean?" she replied, frowning slightly.
"Because…because I live here?" she responded hesitantly, still frowning.
He considered her answer.
"No you don't live here, you haunt the halls like a ghost." He answered her in an honest tone, and she tried not to let the words sting too much.
"So, why are you here?" he asked again.
She glared at him, why was he doing this?
"Because…because you need me here." She answered, lifting her chin slightly in defiance.
He smiled slightly, this was one change he liked; her emotions were closer to the surface.
"Well, no, I don't. I did, that's true. But I can take care of myself again." He told painfully.
Her eyes stung and she looked away.
"Why are you here?"
"Because I have nowhere else to go…" she whispered.
"Now you're just strait out lying to me." He told her.
"Are you telling me to leave?" she asked, her eyes still stung and her vision was becoming blurry; her throat hurt.
"No, I'd never tell you that. But it's obvious that here isn't where you really want to be so I'm wondering if maybe you should be somewhere else." He said gently as he watched her blink to clear her vision.
She didn't respond, she simply turned away and looked back out the window. Finally she stood up and went wordlessly to the door and left.
She needed to clear her head.
He forced his feet to keep moving. He really didn't want to go back yet. He didn't want to be alone in that empty house.
He couldn't stand it.
It had been a rough month. He'd been grateful for the complication of the mission; it kept his mind occupied enough so that he could drown her out.
But now…now he was back. Now she was too close for him to ignore her but to far to grasp her.
She hadn't come back. She wouldn't come back. He'd just been a replacement until that stupid perverted ex-sensei of theirs woke up.
He almost wished she hadn't found him. But then he remembered that he couldn't really hate Kakashi, it wasn't his fault so he couldn't wish wasting away anonymously in some northern hospital upon him. But he could hate her. And he tried very hard to do so.
He crossed the village walls easily, being recognized immediately by the guards, and continued to walk towards his house, his feet dragging.
It had been a mistake to get close to her. It was a mistake to have gone after her at all. It was a mistake to have let her leave in the first place.
She leaned against the rail of the bridge, letting the comfort of a familiarity that no one could take from her wash over her as she watched the fireflies dance over the moving water.
Damn Kakashi for seeing through her anyway. She'd been starting to be able to ignore it. She'd been starting to act normally again. She'd been starting to be able to force away the numbness during the day.
She felt so stupid…there was another familiarity. She always felt stupid and useless.
She wanted her butterflies back. Her butterflies had always been her companions; they'd made her feel strong and smart.
But there were no more butterflies. They didn't come to her anymore. They weren't hers anymore.
She sighed and sat down, her legs swinging over the edge of the bridge.
She heard steps. She ignored them. Maybe she'd get lucky and it would be some psycho who'd simply murder her and put her out of her misery.
The owner of the steps sat down beside her, his own feet swinging over the edge as well.
No such luck.
She couldn't say she was surprised he was there; it was just a perfect anecdote to the sick joke that had been her day, her week, her month, her year, her life.
They didn't speak. Her inner self snorted, they never spoke. She stared listlessly at the fireflies.
"How was your mission?" she asked him eventually.
"Successful." He answered her.
The silence stretched again.
"How's Kakashi?" he asked her.
"Good. Recovering remarkably quickly." She responded.
Again the silence stretched.
"You ruined it, you know." She told him, so softly he could barely hear her.
He didn't respond.
"As soon as I found out you were gone…." She trailed off, her gaze hazy as she watched the fireflies.
"As soon as you found out I was gone you what?" he pressed.
She took her time, deliberating her answer.
"I went numb." She said eventually.
"Ah numbness…" was his response.
Silence fell again.
"You ruined it, you know." He told her, his voice barely above a whisper.
She frowned slightly.
"What could I have possibly ruined for you?" she asked, bristling slightly.
"You ruined my comfort zone." He told her quite matter of factly.
"Well then we're even on that front." She responded a little sharply.
"What are you mad at me for? I haven't done anything to you." He muttered.
"Excuse me? You haven't done anything to me?" she snapped as she whirled to glare at him.
"You abandoned me. Then you ignored me and avoided me. Then you dismissed me. And then you tricked me into caring about you again and again, you abandoned me!" she raged.
"What are you talking about, I didn't abandon you!" he shot back, glaring as well.
"What the hell do you call leaving without so much as a by-your-leave?" she said acidly.
"I had a mission." He responded, his own anger starting to rise.
"One you volunteered for." She continued, cutting it down.
The brought him up short.
"How did you know that?" he asked, his eyes narrowing.
She looked away, back out at the fireflies.
"I asked about you." She said, her voice calm and quiet again.
He felt a small smile start to twist the corner of his lips.
"Where you worried about me?" he asked her.
"Of course I was worried about you, I've always worried about you." She answered as she stood up.
He looked up at her, frowning slightly.
She glared and kicked him lightly in the ribs.
He winced. "That was uncalled for…" he muttered.
She moved to the opposite railing of the bridge.
He stood up.
"Had you bothered to come back, I wouldn't have volunteered for that mission" he said as he leaned back against the railing and crossed his arms, looking at her back.
"Well excuse me if I had something important to take care of before crawling back to you like some lap dog. Besides, you could have and should have come to the hospital!" she shot back.
"Why didn't you come back?" he asked her pointedly.
"Because…because I got caught up. Because…I don't know. Why didn't you come to the hospital?" she countered.
"Because…I couldn't figure out what to say. Because I thought you didn't want me there." He answered as he looked away.
"Why would you ever think that?" she asked softly.
"Because you ignore me and avoid me." He answered a little childishly.
She resisted the urge to hit him again.
"Why do you think I did that? Did you ever consider that I acted that way because you acted that way towards me? Because you had made it abundantly clear that you didn't want me around you?" she asked with a glare.
He didn't answer her. No, he hadn't thought of that.
"I'm sorry." He said eventually.
She gripped the railing as a wave of …something washed through her and weakened her knees. She took a deep breath.
"I want to say apology accepted but I'm not sure I can that easily. So, I'm sorry too." She answered, still not looking at it.
He waited for the words to form in his mind.
"How about…we don't bother with forgiveness. Mistakes were made, we move on." He said eventually.
She considered. How simple. How easy. How could she have not thought of this before?
Just let it go.
Let the past go.
Let the memories go.
Let the butterflies go.
"Ok." She answered softly, finally raising her eyes to his.
"Ok." She said again, as she felt the weight lift. Finally felt it lift.
"Ok." He answered.
He smiled back.
//Bless your sweet mistakes
That crumble you down to your knees
They brought you to this place,
Changing you by degrees
When change was just what you needed
Pop the cork, a champagne glass
Raise to the future, drink to the past
Thank the Lord for the friends you cast
In the play he wrote for you//