It had been hard, but she had made it through. After a couple of weeks in the hospital she ventured out on her own. She didn't even cry when she sold the house her parents reared her in. There was no point to being sad, she reasoned. Unfortunately this time that theory came doubled with the theory there was no reason to be happy either.
Selling the house actually gave her an eerie sense of relief. She had decided it wasn't necessary for that part of her life to remain in any way shape or form. She no longer could make her parents proud, had no reason to pretend she was always happy again – it wouldn't fool anyone this time around. Keeping to herself would be her new way of life.
Her new residence was large, almost twice as large as her parents' place. They had left her a rather nice inheritance and she wasn't really motivated to save it. The more new things that came in, the more old things that went out. Having such empty space gave wonderful excuses to keep spending money just to fill it up. Some rooms were left empty on purpose, because she liked the sense of solitude.
New replaced old and each day approached with the same lack of enthusiasm as the day before. Her meditations no longer lead her into the cherry blossom grove; instead, it seemed like most of her time was spent staring lifelessly at the wall.
No one came to visit anymore. There had been attempts of befriending since she had left, but she ignored them, waiting for him to come and apologize. He never did show up. She started locking her door, much unlike before when she was happy for anyone to enter. Eventually Konoha got the hint and left her alone. She figured she was nothing really special in the first place. Not like Sasuke or Naruto.
The thought of Sasuke made her heart sting and her fists clench. Yet with all the discomfort his memory caused she found herself thinking about him often. It made her want to fight. It filled her with rage – often leading to a hole punched in the wall of her new house. It was okay though, she had plenty of time to fix them.
Boredom was all that filled her life. She felt as if she was wasting away, but at the same time she also felt that it didn't even matter. Her house was bland in decoration, and there was not much to occupy her time with in those walls. There was not a single mirror to be found throughout the entire house. A scar ran from the wasted girl's lip to her naval, a constant reminder of that night. Every time she caught image of herself she thought of the death of her parents. The scar weighed deep on her emotionally, but not because she was disfigured. There were many ninja who bore wounds. It affected her so because it brought back those memories that she preferred to forget.
The thought crossed her mind once or twice to accept a new mission. Of course at first she knew Tsunade would not approve. Her wounds had healed for the most part but strenuous activity might cause them to come anew. But they were okay now, and that was why she stood there in front of Tsunade's desk, three months after the incident.
"Sakura, I'm not sure this is a good idea."
Sakura remained silent, eyes on the powerful woman before her.
"But I have to admit we are short on those who will take these missions." It was a top rank mission and a solo one at that. An assassination. Sakura would have been the last person to ever sign up for this before the incident, but she was a different person now. Tsunade also hated to admit it, but Sakura probably was emotionally ready to become Anbu now. She had been physically ready before, but her calm and happy outlook on life would surely have been shattered far too quickly if she were allowed within the ranks of Anbu.
"This is the only solo. I want to work alone."
"I could notify you when a less..." Tsunade seemed to be searching for the correct word, "...intense mission for solo comes along."
"Logic says I should take this mission, Hokage-sama. I have nothing to lose."
Sadly, Tsunade realized that her former student was right, and without another moment of hesitation, she tossed her the folder containing the contents of the mission.
"You can not take this mission yet. It would be careless of me as Hokage to let one of my ninja go on a top-secret rank mission directly after recovery of such wounds. I will let you take this mission at a later date, for there is no rush, as long as you agree to go with a partner on a mission of a lesser caliber tomorrow."
Sakura scoffed and picked up the folder in a rather angrily motion. She was content that she had been permitted to go on this assassination mission, but she was not so pleased that she had to partner up for an easier one before hand. Tsunade noticed her displeasure while pondering the best person to partner this new Sakura with. In truth, Kakashi was the ideal ninja to accompany Sakura on her first return mission; however, she felt that the two needed to work things out on their own. Of course, Kakashi had been pestering Tsunade for these missions as well, but she wouldn't budge. Kakashi had no reason to live, and was just searching for ways out without actually doing it himself. Sakura's motives seemed somewhat different. Yes, there was loneliness in her eyes, and despair. But despair meant hope, in a roundabout way. Kakashi's eyes were cold and solid as glass. Perhaps at a later time, once they began to live a bit more, she would entrust such a responsibility on the old team.
"You will be with Neji." Tsunade made her decision, convinced that Neji would be the person out of all Sakura's old classmates that would bother her the least.
And you probably don't want to hear tomorrow's another day
Well I promise you you'll see the sun again
And you're asking me why pain's the only way to happiness
And I promise you you'll see the sun again.
Things went back to normal for Kakashi. Normal wasn't the best place to be for him either. Throughout his life, normal consisted of pain and work. Pain because he knew, for a fact now, that life was not going to get any better. His last attempt had failed and he had lost the one thing that had made him happy. Oh, she wasn't gone for good, not physically, but he could not bring himself to see her. He knew if he did, he'd start feeling something again. That something would be along the lines of a deep regret for not keeping his promise to protect her.
Minutes passed into hours, hours passed into days, and days passed into weeks. While it seemed like time passed so quickly, it stood still just the same. He still worked. Several missions were taken on that involved team cooperation, but Tsunade nearly always had him lead. He was a good leader, and unbiased at this point. He could look at things with a clear head, surprisingly enough.
He would fight until death, for the only thing he had left to live for was Konoha. His life was no longer for himself, or anyone else. Friends didn't hang around much longer after he retreated into his old shell. Gemma still came around, because Gemma understood. Yet no matter how many attempts were made at getting the old Kakashi back, he didn't even peek through the surface. So, eventually Gemma gave up as well, but not for lack of trying.
Kakashi had taken upon himself two weeks of solitude. It had taken him that long to face the day again, which after he thought about it didn't seem that long at all. Practice makes perfect, even in cases such as these. God knows he had enough prior experience at love and loss to make him pretty damn perfect at it. This was the last time, he swore to himself. After this, there would be no more love. There would be no more loss.
And yes they'll ask you where you've been
And you'll have to tell them again and again
It was the following morning, and Sakura stood in the briefing room for her rank-B mission. She was told her partner would be Neji, and that was exactly whom she was waiting on. At least she knew that Neji would most likely not bother her. With all his ramblings on fate, she figured he didn't have much desire to discuss how the past could have been different, or what had even happened to her. If Sakura had been capable of calm and uplifting thoughts, she would have appreciated Tsunade's consideration in this decision.
Sakura looked up from the floor, which she had found herself staring at for quite some time. A kunai was twirling in one hand and she looked very inpatient as well as aggravated. When her gaze caught Neji's, he could not help but to step back slightly in shock. She looked absolutely terrible, and there really was no nicer way to put it. Her hair had been cut off, the jagged ends having obviously not even seen a brush in days. Large black circles encompassed her eyes, looking her more akin to Gaara than the happy kunoichi she once was. She made no effort to hide the hideous scar that was now graced upon the length of her body. He wept inside for her. This was one of those situations in which fate was not kind upon an innocent person. He could hide the reminder sketched upon his forehead, but she would not have such luck.
Without speaking, she stood and walked out. He followed her. Tsunade had told him that Sakura was to be in charge, she was the one given all the details of the mission after all.
Do you remember telling me you found the sweetest thing of all
You said one day this was worth dying for
So be thankful you knew her at all
But it's no more
Kakashi drowned his sorrows in the local bar, which was the best place to do it, he figured. Getting drunk at home was not his forte because the last time he had embarked on that it had ended up badly. He stumbled around in anger, his fist coming in contact with ever mirror he could find. He woke up the next morning on his bathroom floor, hungover and bloody. At least while he was in public there would be people with the will to restrain him. God knows he did not have that will himself.
Tonight Kakashi was lonely. What he had always done in the past was find a woman to quench that lonely thirst just for a night. He planned on doing this same thing tonight, the first time since the incident. However, he did not realize that it was not a physical solitude that he felt. Part of him was missing, and a little rough sex was not going to bring that back.
And so he did just that. One of his old flings was more than willing and practically threw herself on top of him after her shift at the bar was over. The girl had missed this broody ninja, but she had missed his touch even more. They went back to her place, stumbling drunk over each other. She was laughing and he was doing all he could to not have the scowl on his face scare her away. He didn't want her company, just the physical pleasures she had to offer. They soon found themselves in her bedroom, undressing one another in a fury of lust.
Something was different for Kakashi, something just wasn't right. The touch of her skin. The feeling of her breath on his body. It wasn't right. It was too rough. It didn't smell right. He was so dizzy and nothing was going as he planned. The plump breasts in his hands were too large, they weren't Sakura's. These breasts were not firm and the feeling of them almost made him nauseous. This was wrong, he remembered her as being a wonderful lover. Something about her was not quenching the physical need he felt. Where was Sakura's dainty body? No… this wasn't Sakura. Sakura's skin was not nearly so rough. The small kunoichi did not have fingernails that dug into his skin. Sakura would never have slept with him on call.
Frustrated and drunk beyond conscious recall, Kakashi pushed the woman off of him so violently that she hit the wall beyond the bed. He stood up to leave, but his head felt so heavy and he could not get his feet to cooperate with him. He didn't even know where he was or how to get out. Eyes closing, he slipped into darkness, with the screeching voice of a naked woman following after him.
"You're…not her…you're not…" He whimpered. And even though the woman was so upset with him for the violent action, she couldn't help but notice by the pain written across his face how fragile this strong man actually was.
The mission went smoothly. It was a supply mission through enemy territory, but they encountered no enemy assaults. Sakura still had her strength, though she found she was getting slightly winded as they reached their destination camp. She did not voice this, because the physical pain was a nice reminder to get her mind off of the emotional pain. So she kept going. Neji, however, was smarter than he let on to Sakuraand insisted they stop. Sakura was covered in sweat and her breathing patterns were getting no better, even when they changed to a slower pace.
As soon as they stopped in a clearing, the sky opened up with a torrent of rain. Rain was fitting to Sakura's moods these days. She threw her head back and looked into the sky, the rain hitting her face, some drops flowing down the contour of her scar leaving an almost pleasant burning sensation. It felt as if her scar was on fire. The silver shade of the clouds reminded her of something, but she could not quite put her finger on it. It wasn't a particularly bad reminder, she concluded. She closed her eyes, and there he was. His face was so clear, so sad. Kakashi.
Sakura let out a choked sob and fell to her knees. No matter what she did, that gaze of his would pop into her mind more often than not. It wasn't wanted there. Why couldn't her mind just realize this, she did not want it there! It brought back awful memories, and though she had so much to be thankful for from him…she could not forgive him for not protecting her. She almost loved…no. She did not love him. She never loved anyone. At least this is what she had talked herself into believing. The reality of her emotions was quite different than the post-traumatic reality of her mind.
"Sakura…" Neji approached the solemn looking girl and placed a hand on her drenched shoulder. The rain was hitting them both and creating an almost surreal setting for the two of them. Their surroundings echoed every element of Sakura's loneliness and pain.
"You're awaiting that day aren't you." Neji spoke assuredly to Sakura, breaking the silence between them that had persisted stubbornly throughout most of the mission. He couldn't blame her and he did not want to pry. However, this was a question he felt the need to ask.
"What day?" Sakura turned her head to look at him, a sense of loss in her eyes. For this one moment Neji could see the old Sakura within her. Her eyes were so wide and she looked so innocent as the rain fell in droplets down her face. She was still the same girl, after all.
"That day you feel good again."
"You believe in fate, am I right, Neji?" The innocent expression was now wiped from her face, a serious and angry expression now contorting her features. He hoped he had not said the wrong thing. He felt that there wouldn't really be any right or wrong things to say to Sakura, though. Anything said to her would make her feel no better or no worse than she already did.
"Yes, I believe in fate."
"That day is not mapped out in my destiny." Sakura turned her gaze to the grass beneath her, and a tear dropped in mixture of all the rain. Neji understood now, this rain fell for her, and it would continue falling until a miracle came. That miracle, according to fate, would no doubt be death.
I really need my previous proofreader to email me at please! I have lost your email address and no longer have a proofreader :(
Song by Dido.