Disclaimer: Don't got nothin' and ain't getting none.

Summary:Sakura gets tired of waiting.

In Your Shadow.

by Blue Jeans

I've waited my whole life for you. Under the willow tree when we went to ninja academy, watching you as your face was alight with happiness when we had been children; by the cross-roads when you had grown older and a hushness fell over your features like a blanket of snow over barren grounds; upon the familiar bridge with Naruto, when we had became a team at last. And now, by the gates of Konoha, in the absence of your companionship, I find myself waiting, again. You are the dark figure of my past, a once handsome and tormented prince of my dreams.

You are now my enemy.

When midnight strikes and the clouds part on a winter day, I think of you. I think of the sharp lines that must have long emerged upon your once boyish face. I imagine the light in your once dark eyes, ones that Kakashi-sensei tells me must be marked only with the red of the Sharigan now, dotted by the black of a spinning wheel.

Does this change mean anything? Weren't we children then, and what are we now?

So simple and naive I had been then, thinking you must have felt the happiness that beats in my own heart as each precious moment was spent in your presence. And I had been content too, with the scraps and crumbs that had fallen unwillingly from the edge of the table you sat upon by yourself. Happy, like a beggar is content with a few sips of sake on a cold, winter night, and not caring if the drink was goods or poison. I had been young and content, enough of both to ignore the edges of hatred and loss that peeked out at the world ever so timidly, once in awhile, in your eyes. Only when I had grown older did I start to identify and understand the look that fell upon your face in the aftermath of suffering. Usually such an expression was most poignant after a battle, one that you carried with you as you turned your head in habit towards the horizon, always looking to some far off place that no one knew of but you and him. Searching, always searching, for the silhouette or shadow of the man who had changed and destroyed your life.

Tsunade-sensei took me aside not too long ago, before this day. A frown had marred her youthful face as she took me to the scroll room, eyes sad but filled with the strength I have always looked up to her for having. "You should know, Sakura, before tomorrow's dawning." And she handed me the Uchiha scroll of family history and such, and I had looked at it sitting not so heavily in my hand as I am sure it sits in your mind, wondering if this was it. All that blood and history, reduced to memories and words on a single scroll. "You're old enough now," Sensei smiles at me with more trust and confidence in the person I am now than I had thought she would ever have in me much less show to me. "I cannot ask you to fight tomorrow without knowing everything."

My hands, they did not shake as once they would have. Instead, I went and sat in the Hokage's office, a place I am now intimately familiar with after years of training there to learn the little things of healing and the big things of life - most importantly, life in Konoha - discussed sometimes hushed and low, and sometimes loud and boisterous, between Tsunade-sensei and I. And in a few hours, my mind was reeling at the information I was given, more so than it has ever been before in this room. I was reaching the end, absorbing, at first, everything without judgment as I am in the habit of doing. But when the scroll was unfurled to the last bits of writing, my hands did tremble then. "What is the meaning of this, Tsunade-sensei?" I had asked bewildered when I had found her in the hallways. "Do you wish that I pity my enemy?"

"Do you?" Tsunade asked me with that look in her eyes that only came when I demanded to know an answer I most surely know already.

I paused and searched as she had taught me to do. I swept aside the pounding sound of my heart and the swirl of emotions muddling my thinking. I listened, instead, to the voice that once was so honest to me in my childhood, one that has matured as I had matured. "No," I finally answered and paused at the realization, "thank you for entrusting me with this knowledge." I continue gravely when I caught myself in the silence. My voice had been a little distant then, lost as I was in the amazement of my own changes and the knowledge of a once most respected clan.

Tsunade only smiles at me in the way she does when I have accomplished a particularly difficult healing jutsu or pushed myself to become a better genjutsu practitioner when no one asks that of me. It is the smile that tells me she is both amused and proud of me at the same time, without her having to say a word to me. At that moment, I couldn't find it within myself to return a smile, not this time. It pains me a little, this side of growing up. And this kind of pain is the type that takes a bit of time to fade from memory. But Tsunade-sensei never asks more of me than what I am willing to ask of myself, so she wisely stays silent and instead, sets a comforting hand on my shoulder. In an instant, I realize that she no longer towers over me as once she had done. Instead, we are so close in height that I am now seeing her eye to eye as adults do.

I am no longer the lost child that had stood like a pup in your shadows, following you as I had done so years ago. You are no longer my dark and tormented prince, but the man who would endanger the lives of my village for your quest for power and revenge, despite the fact that no one will be able to return from the dead to heal the wounds that lay still untended within your heart. You are no longer the person I look up to or the one I rely on when the weight of the world gets too weary. You were not there to comfort me when I had lost my first patient, nor were you there to hold my hand as I cried when I had reached my first road-block in my training that had seemed to hopeless for a simple girl like me to pass. You weren't there to cheer me up or make me smile when the rain got too heavy and the sun got too bright. And you weren't there to help me learn to believe in myself as I grew older and stronger and just a little bit wiser.

You earned nothing from me but memories and sorrow for the person you could have been in my life. For the person you could have been in this village, I will always think of you with a bit of sadness in my eyes, because I was once the person who believed in you most. But that was a time when we had been children and you and I had been naive and innocent, so thoroughly blind and selfish in our own rights to not look beyond our own desires. It was a time when the decisions we made couldn't harm too many and our powers were not so destructive. But this is the person you are now and this is the path you have chosen.

I will no longer follow in the darkness of your shadow, Sasuke. Instead, I have run ahead of you, searching for a future that is brighter, a future I will now protect with my life. That is my belief, Sasuke. This is why I fight. This is the road I have chosen. You may not believe me to be strong then, and perhaps, not even now, but even if I must turn back to see you approach with that same expression on your face that once made me love you, so long as your other hand holds the kunai that may destroy all that I hold dear, I will fight you to the death, Sasuke...

Softly, a hand creeps into mine and squeezes my limp fingers, pulling me from my dark thoughts and turning my eyes away from the shadowed and still sleepy forest before me. It is a good hand, a strong one that has wrapped itself around mine many times in the past. Now, it pulls me forward as it has done in all my times of need and reminds me that the past is just that. "Are you ready, Sakura-chan?" His eyes are beautiful, and for once I know with a certainty in my heart that it is not because of the shade or the color or the mystery as your eyes had once inspired me to admire, but the light in his soul reflects through them as yours never have, a light that I wish would never vanish. I believe in his strength as well, and the strength of the village that is waking behind me to a new day.

I smile because I cannot help myself, not in his presence. This man beside me who has made promises to me that you never will. The man who has stood by my side as my equal and have never blocked the sun from my sight. This man is the one who believed in all the strength inside of me that even I did not realize, despite my neglect of him and my own selfishness. In my humanity, he has held me close, and when I grew up, I realized the strength inside of him that I could not understand as a child. The sorrow he bears in silence, I could not see it or grasp it as a girl but now, now I know the shape of his scars. Now, it is his hand that I squeeze in return, knowing how much harder it is for him to let go than me, that promise that I had extracted from him in our childhood years. A part of him still feels obligated to fulfill it, despite everything that has changed.

"I've been ready for a long time, Naruto." I close my fingers around his, conveying to him all the emotions I know he feels in return with the small and physical link between us. "This time, let's face it together." I say with a smile, knowing he comprehends how important this is to me and how much more he misunderstands my meanings.

The sun is rising over Konoha, and when you finally come back, Sasuke, this time the battle will be different. I am no longer the weak little girl you left behind, crying for your safety at the risk of others' lives. I am a woman who has weathered death and hopelessness, loss and sorrow without tears of helplessness. I have friends who I have caught up to stand on equal grounds with after your leave, and, most importantly, I have myself, who has grown up and grown strong. I don't follow the road of constant anticipation as you have known. I have learned the value of moving on, and most importantly, of not being afraid to reach out and fight for myself and those I hold dear.

Here and now, I have things precious to protect. Instead of destroying for power or seeking answers through revenge for the aching past, I have accepted what can no longer be altered as what it is. I have learned to turn my face to the future, because it is the best way to spend one's life. I hope with all my heart that one day you will live to learn the lessons I was taught in your absence, Sasuke. But for now, I will hold tightly onto Naruto's hand one last time before the looming battle in the horizon arrives in the wake of your shadow. And I will pray for a happy-ending that won't be so bittersweet, for all of us, whether or not we deserve it...

This time I am no longer the little girl who waits and glances behind for your shadow and your figure that is weighted always by phantoms of the past. Instead, I am now the woman who freely runs, always heading forward, towards the future while holding dear to the present. Bright or not, they hold within them something I can have a hand in changing. And there, Sasuke, lies true happiness and true peace.

I hope you will see that someday. I hope you will be able to step out of the shadows cast over you by that man and the ghosts of the past, as I had done so in the past. "Step out and move forward once again, Sasuke-kun!" those are the words the girl inside of me, who will always love you a little, wished to say to you most. Should we meet again - whether it be on the battle-field as teammates or enemies - perhaps those words will finally be said after all these years, even if you have never listened. This time, I won't wait for you, Sasuke. This time, it is you who must learn to run forward and catch my back...

The End

Ehh... I just wrote it on the fly. Feel free to point out any particular OOC-ness you might feel is prominent. I don't mind a critique or two.