I could have died...that's what kept running through her mind. I could have died. Sakura walked silently through the predawn streets of Konoha. Images of young bodies, several younger than she was now strewn about the field still fresh in here mind. They had happened on the scene moments after a battle. They were just lying there, some bloody and some not but all still. She remembered reaching down to touch the face of a boy who was probably a year or two younger than herself. His eyes were open and his mouth still twisted in a silent scream. It all seemed so surreal and then she felt the kunai pressed to her throat. She could hear ragged breathing, feel the hand shaking, smell the fear as he tried to drag her back out of the field and into the trees. She reacted quickly, turning and drawing her own kunai then pushing it into his chest. She felt the warmth of the sudden gush of blood as it spilled over her hand. She was face to face with him as the life faded from his eyes. They both sank to the ground, her hand still clenched around the kunai buried in the boy's chest. Everything was kind of dim after that, she remembered Kakashi pulling her away from the boy, the kunai still in her hand making a soft sloppy popping sound as it came free. More blood, slowly forming a pool around the fallen boy. She remembered a hand on her cheek, turning her head to face her sensei, the look of concern. He appeared to be talking but she heard nothing. The rest was a blur, returning to the village, checkup at the hospital and then being placed on her own bed.

She woke before dawn, still wearing the bloody clothes from the night before. She had heard voices in the room outside her own and slipped silently out the window with no particular destination in mind. She found herself wandering through the dark streets avoiding the few others she saw. Without knowing why she found herself approaching the memorial. She sank to the ground in front of it. For the first time she really began to see what the choice of this life meant. This kill would be the first of many, providing she was able to survive long enough. This is why they were taught to put their aside feelings, there was no room for compassion, sorrow, fear or regret. In this life, death would be her most faithful and constant companion. Death would take her comrades, her friends and finally her. This was a truth that had just come to her. The years of training at the academy, memorizing the rules, she should have known this, she did know this but it wasn't real until now. She stood slowly, feeling the wetness left by the damp morning grass on her legs, leaving a cold ache that flowed up from he legs and settled in the middle of her back causing her to shake slightly.

She had felt him approach before she heard him. It seemed a bit unusual to sense his chakra when he was still so far away. She knew Kakashi was letting her feel him, offering her support if she wanted or needed it. He was letting her know he was there without approaching to intrude. Although Sakura appreciated the gesture she was not sure she could face her instructor quite yet with the jumble of mixed emotions still churning inside. She felt weak, unsure of herself and desperate. She turned quickly and fled back to the village streets.

Kakashi had watched as Sakura stared blankly at the memorial, remembering his first kill. The overwhelming sense of fear, the nausea that came with the realization that he had just taken someone's life. He wanted to approach, offer comfort, but somehow he couldn't. He had killed so many and so many of those around him had died, friends, comrades, family and even his sensei. In some ways he felt guilty that he was still alive. Most of the time he just felt numb but right now he remembered all the pain, desperation and fear of the first time. That was when his mask became a permanent fixture on his face. He had always worn it on missions, during training but after that first kill it never left his face unless he was alone.

The streets were starting to bustle with morning activity, shops opening, people settling quickly into their daily routines. Sakura slowly walked home. She opened the door, kicked off her sandals and walked to her room. She removed the clothes from the night before, which had become hard with the dried blood from the boy she had killed. She turned on the shower and climbed in letting the hot water remove the traces of blood and death that still clung to her skin. She tried to scrub away the emotion, the guilt and the fear losing her life to another as she had taken the boy's. She wasn't even sure if he had been an enemy or just battle-shocked survivor, panicked when he found her standing so close to him examining the body of his fallen comrade. She let the water run over her for a very long time.