Two and a half years without Naruto
Hesitantly, Sakura moved away from the window.
"Gone… They are both gone…"
If she looked again, maybe she could still see him through the glass. Konoha's Hospital building was tall enough for her to see beyond city walls, and her eyes could follow the main road for a mile or more. If she dared look, she would see him. His uneasy and agitate figure jumping around, the discernible blond hair, the not discret at all orange outfit, and the strong and firm man walking side by side with him… Yes, she would see him, but her eyes would get wet, tears would come, and, worst of all, she might not be strong enough to just let him go.
A strange feeling consumed her, one that she had never experienced before: solitude.
The picture of his team seven laid untouched in its place, but, had Kakashi reunited a little more courage, it would have found a new home inside a closed drawer. It was sure painful look at those young faces right now, Sakura´s beautiful smile, Sasuke´s annoyed look towards Naruto, an unsatisfied Naruto looking back. And him, of course. There he was, happy and confident, their sensei, their guide, their master…
And a great one was.
His fault? He knew he couldn't have stopped him, could he? He did all he could for Sasuke. He trained him. With all his heart. Taught him how to use that sharingan, taught him how to be faster, stronger, smarter. He had even taught him his Chidori, his original jutsu, he taught him that! And he told him… He tried to make him understand that all the Itachi thing was… was… was wrong, was vain, was hopeless! That's what it is, right?
It didn't stop the boy from going.
Even if it wasn't his fault that Sasuke left, well, other things were. He was so worried about Sasuke – not without reason, he pointed out to himself – that he neglected Naruto and Sakura. Oh, he could excuse himself saying he couldn't do as much for them as he could do for Sasuke, but he knew he had failed them. At this moment, not as a teacher, since, right now, they were better with Jiraiya and Tsunade - that's for sure! - but as a friend. He wasn't able to go to them ever since Sasuke left, and now, as he was sitting quietly in his home, Naruto was going with Jiraiya to be away for a long, long time, while Sakura was probably working hard in the hospital under Tsunade´s supervision. Naruto. Sakura. Once his students and friends, children he looked after; now, the kids he wasn't able to protect and that would walk away from him.
"I desearve nothing more…"
That was his life, hasn't always been like that? Alone. Always alone. Back to his trainning and his missions, back to what he really was: just a ninja, nothing more.
"Wipe off those tears…"
Tsunade took her time looking at the skinny girl standing before her.
"Im not crying…", mumbled the girl, a flash of anger passing quickly through her face, "Its sweat!"
"Of course it is…", she meant to sound like she didn't belive her, despite the fact that she recognized that the girl was tired, and not upset.
"Hokage-sama, I'm telling you…"
"I know.", she interrupted the sentence with a rough gesture of her hand. In truth, Tsunade was preoccupied with her new student. She was glad to have her, being her as talented as she was, but she also knew Sakura couldn't be taking it as easily as she was making it appears. After all, not only had Sasuke left on his own, but now Naruto was gone with Jiraiya, and she was no longer Kakashi´s student. And if all that was not enough, the girl was working harder than ever – or so Tsunade thought – to learn what was a completely new way to use her chakra. Such commitment and dedication were touching, but also dangerous. Tsunade feared the girl wouldn't know when to stop.
"What is it, Hokage-sama?"
Sakura looked so different from the girl who entered her office just a few weeks ago… Once an unsure and insecure girl, now this young woman who has the eyes of someone who knows just what she wants… and what she needs.
"I heard you have stayed in the hospital last night."
Sakura held the look of her sensei into her's.
"I did, Hokage-sama."
Tsunade took a long breath.
"Didn't I send you home last night?"
"Yes, you did, Hokage-sama."
She never ended the sentence. Tsunade held her words, her mind traveling through memories concerning a strange boy, one that had recently left Konoha with her old necklace around his neck. A boy that would never give up. One that never accepted defeat. The kid who reawakened her Will of Fire, her love for this village that her grandfather had founded, her will to live again a ninja life.
"What is it, Hokage-sama?", repeated Sakura.
"You must promise to me that you are not going to put yourself and your health in danger, hear me?", she waited for the girl to nod in concordance. "Otherwise, I wont teach you anymore!"
Tsunade watched as the girl absorbed this new lesson, eyes widely open and then back to normal, understandament flowing through her. Finnaly, Sakura said:
"As you wish, sensei."
"Yes, that's what I wish." Tsunade turned her eyes back to the papers she had on her desk, confident that it was all settled between her and the new student: "Now, you will go home and you will rest."
When the Hokage moved slightly her head in her direction, Sakura closed her arguments and just bowed, in complete obedience. Tsunade added:
"Just be here tomorrow, not before eight."
"Good." She dismissed the girl with a hand gesture, her atitude the one of a distracted young woman, but her thoughts were those of an experimented teacher: "Very good… Yes, she is special, this one, even more than Kakashi said. Don't worry, Sakura, I will turn you into a strong and powerful thing… And when you meet him again, this boy you love, you will be prepared… to what ever happens!"
It was by no coincidence that Kakashi turned out to be just across the street when Sakura came home. He had decided what to do during a sleepless night, and, in the morning, after leaving the Hokage's office, he just waited for her.
She didn't see him, not at first, actually, not until he touched her shoulder with a light movement. Yes, she seemed distracted.
"Oh…" Her reaction was surprise.
Kakashi returned his hand to his pocket,
"Kakashi-sensei… I… I wasn't…"
"Yeah…" He interrupted. You wasn't expecting to see me, right? No, I suppose not. How one should feel about that? He was used to not being expected… Always surprising… However, weren't he and Sakura close? Does she never expect to see him, unless in those old days, in their trainning sessions? Well… He was never too good in showing up on time.
Sakura had her eyes on him, evidently taking notice of the backpack he was carring, along with others travelling equipments.
"Are you going somewhere?", she asked, her green eyes studing carefully her former sensei.
For a second, Kakashi felt his chest heavy with a feeling of inadequacy, even guilt. He felt sorry for her, he realized. Nevertheless, he answered her question.
"Yes. Yes, I'm going somewhere."
Silence fell between them.
"Should I tell her?", considered Kakashi. He usually wasn't a person who shared information about his life and plans to others, but this was a special situation. As it was, the girl with pink hair in front of him was the closest thing to a family that he still had.
"Well…?", Sakura broke the silence.
He could tell she was a little annoyed. What was upsetting her? He leaving? Could be, yes. After all, Sasuke had left, in the most unpleasent situation. Then, Naruto, with no perspective of return for the next coupple years. Now… now was his turn. Was all that too much for her? She was a ninja, she was supposed to get used to that. Right?
"But she's also a kid…"
And it wasn't like he was enjoying leaving her also.
"Well, Sakura, I might be off for a while."
She kept staring.
"In a mission?"
"But I came here to tell you that, if you need me, Hokage-sama knows how to find me."
No reactions on her part.
"I see. So, you are off on a mission?"
Of course, there was no point in lying. If he was going to answer it, better to do it with the truth.
"No, not really." He sighed. "No missions this time."
"I don't understand."
"No, I don't suppose you do…" How to explain it to her? How could he make her understand that the best way for him to help was by leaving? She was a good girl. Oh, she desearved much more than just to be left behind by her best friends and teacher.
"There are things that I must do…", he simply added.
And he saw anxiety and urgency growing inside her and showing in her beautiful face.
"Are you going to look for… him?"
"Him? Ah, Sasuke!"
"No, Sakura, I'm not going to look for Sasuke… In a matter of fact, Im probably going to be on my own most of the time."
She studied him for a few moments, a vain effort on reading his reactions.
"You don't belive me", he declared, no signs of his disappointment showing in his voice.
She turned her face away from him.
Kakashi couldn't avoid a brief smile when confronted with this very young and feminine reaction. It was very charming and sweet, and, still, brought again sadness to his heart. He reached for her chin with his fingers, and gently forced her to look into his eyes again.
"Camon, Sakura… Would I lie to you?"
She, in return for the question, gave him a look that was full of indignation:
"Are you joking?"
So, ok, he had lied one or two times before…
But he held her by her shoulders with both hands, and bent until his eyes met hers, as they were now face to face, closer than they had ever been.
"Listen", he said, trying to sound serius but not hard, "I would never lie to you in a situation like this. I know how you feel. I know it hurts." He couldn't belive what he was about to say: "I know what is like to lose one you love… or your friends", and he bit his lip. "It happened to me… Its happening right now."
Even though she wasn't crying, he could feel her trembling under his hands.
"Please, don't go!" Her arms reached for him, embracing him in a tight grasp. "Please, please, please, don't go!"
He held her against him, her head on his chest, his fingers lost in a cascade of pink hair, she nervously grasping to his clothes where her hands met with his back. "Oh, no…!", he thought. What now? He honestly hoped that Sakura would be fine with he leaving, or, at least, not so upset. He even counted with a few tears and a sad goodbye, but he certainly never imagined she could ask him to stay. Because, in truth, he never thought she cared that much.
"Sakura…" He looked down, trying to see the face she hid on his chest. "Please, understand… I… I need…"
But he couldn't.
He was about to tell her that he needed some time alone, away from all that, from the memories, from missions, from people, from guilty. He was about to say that, with the boys gone, with her as Tsunade's student, he was no longer needed. He was about to say that, right now, there was nothing for him in Konoha.
Fortunately, he couldn't.
Now, she was looking back at him, in silent expectation. Her eyes on his masked face, they both holding their breaths, a plead still hanging between them.
"What can I do to convince you to stay?"
Always silent, always alone. Always feeling responsible, but also always taking for granted the good things in his life.
Maybe it was again time for a few changes.
"Don't worry, Sakura. You did it already."