-1Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto in any shape or form. Misashi Kishimoto does.
O0o0o0o0o Loneliness o0o0o0o0O
"Damn it! What did I do to deserve this?" Sakura yelled to the dark recesses of the sky. Millions of brilliant stars and the large sphere of the pale moon glowed down on the young woman. She repeatedly crashed her fists against the rough bark of a large tree. She spilt the hardened wood with her chakra enhanced fists.
Sakura panted as the continued demolished the tree. Blood trailed down her knuckles and soaked into the cold ground beneath her.
"What have I done to deserve this?" Sakura screamed. Her words echoed throughout the dark woods. Her anger rapidly escalated. Sakura knew that she shouldn't be acting this way. But this time the barrier that she had created around herself had broken into a million shattered pieces. She had glued the fragments back so many times in her childhood that she had finally snapped.
Painful memories came to the forefront of her mind. She closed her eyes, trying the will the images away. Scenes of Team Seven. The many ups and downs they had trudged through during their childhood. Sakura saw herself weak and fragile. Unable to posses even half the power that her other two teammates had.
Recent images surfaced, bringing even more pain and anger as she continued on to another tree. They had recently taken the Jounin exam. Naruto and Sasuke had passed with high scores while she had cost herself the whole exam by a stupid mistake. In the final part of the exam the participants were to go up against a random picked Jounin. Sakura's opponent had been Rock Lee. He had defeated her in a few moments due to the fact that she had stupidly believed that he would go easier on her. He had immediately saw through her weakness and subdued her. The match had been called off. But what hurt the most was the way she had made a fool of herself in front of her Genin sensei, Hatake Kakashi and her current sensei, Tsunade-shishou.
Sakura could now feel her hands becoming numb. She did not even notice the salty tears cascading down her porcelain skin.
"Why! Why can't I be as good as Naruto and Sasuke?" Sakura yelled as she dropped to the ground. "Why am I always the one that is being rescued? Why am I the one that always needs protecting?" She looked at her fists. Blood oozed from the numerous cuts on them, but she didn't care. Her sadness overcame her anger. The torrent of tears she had been holding at bay releasing in a typhoon of sorrow.
Never had she felt this weak. Never had she been so angry and depressed. Why was it happening now? She hadn't even acted this way when Sasuke had left. She grabbed her hair as more images surfaced to her mind.
After the exam Naruto and Sasuke had come up to her at their congratulations party. They had tried to make her feel better about failing the exam. She had been the only one out of the Rookie Nine to fail. While they continued to brag Sakura had pasted on a fake smile. It wasn't long before she couldn't take it anymore and ran from the building.
Unbeknown to Sakura, a lone eye had been watching her since leaving the party. Kakashi looked down upon the young woman, his brow furrowing.
He had followed her through the forest, keeping a far enough distance so that she couldn't sense his chakra. Kakashi thought about how Sakura had become more like Naruto and Sasuke during the past few years.
Ever since her parents had died two years ago during a mission she had become a shell of her former self. He had volunteered to stay with Sakura during her time of need, but she hadn't allowed it. When she had declined his offer Kakashi had constantly kept an eye on her. Even while he was away on missions he would have one of his trusted friends to look after her. He had watched her stay strong through those trying times. He had never once seen her cry over her parents death. He knew that one day she couldn't keep her emotions bottled up and she would feel even worse than she did now.
He turned his attention back on Sakura as she began taking out her anger on the surrounding trees. He was shocked to see Sakura act this way.
'Sakura…' Kakashi saw her fall to the ground before he stealthily leapt from his hiding place. He walked silently towards her prone form. Before he could reach out and stop her, she brought her fist down on the ground.
"Damn it! Why?" Sakura yelled at the top of her lungs. As she raised her fist above the ground to continue striking it Kakashi caught it in his firm grip. He looked into her wide tear-filled emerald eyes as they turned towards his own.
"Let me go," she yelled as she tried pulling her hand free.
"No. Stop this right now, Sakura."
"Leave me alone!"
"You will stop this instant," Kakashi shouted, pulling up on her wrist.
Sakura dug in her heels, refusing to budge. Her eyes instantly dried to be replaced by a festering anger. Kakashi was surprised at the strength she still held. He grabbed her other wrist as it came towards him. He pulled hard, bringing Sakura to her feet.
Sakura let out a loud whimper, pain numbing her wrists from where Kakashi held them. She looked into Kakashi's eyes. "I said to leave me alone!" She struggled some more but to no avail as Kakashi pulled her roughly up against his chest.
Kakashi loosened his grip on her wrists. "Listen to me Sakura."
Sakura's tore her hands from Kakashi and began hitting him with her fists. "No!"
Kakashi allowed her to hit him. He could barely feel anything. She had used most of her chakra on the surrounding forest and was nearly depleted. Sakura tried to duck beneath his arm, but Kakashi grabbed her around the waist. He pushed her up against a tree, trying to restrain her attempts at escape. He pinned her arms above her head before she brought her knee up towards his stomach. Kakashi used his free hand to push it back down, locking his knees behind her.
As he kept her immobilized her rage calmed though now she held her breathe, trying to stop the flow of tears from her eyes. Kakashi quickly became worried for she wasn't breathing anymore. He cupped her chin and turned her face up towards his. Her beautiful emerald green eyes held a glossy look, as if she were in another place and time.
"Sakura. Look at me," Kakashi ordered softly. She didn't respond. Kakashi shook her shoulder but to no avail. Not knowing what else to do he struck her lightly on the cheek. She gasped, her eyes changing back to their normal appearance.
"Kakashi," she sobbed. She recoiled from him in hurt and fear, her breathe coming in short pants.
"Forgive me Sakura. I didn't know what else to do." He looked into her eyes, hoping to ease some of her fear.
"I'm sorry," she whispered as she bowed her head to her chest.
"There's nothing to be sorry about, Sakura. Are you okay?"
"No you are not. Will you tell me what's wrong?" Kakashi asked. He cupped her chin again and turned her head up.
Sakura's eyes narrowed. "I said that nothing was wrong."
"I'm not leaving you alone until you tell me what's wrong," Kakashi said sternly.
Sakura remained silent, her chin set at a stubborn angle.
Sakura looked up in shock, her eyes widening. She had never witnessed Kakashi acting this way before, and it scared her. She looked into his one uncovered eye and saw the rare emotions of anger and fear. As all of the events that had happened to her recently came rushing back to her she flung herself against Kakashi. She hazily felt a pair of strong arms encircle her back as he whispered soothing words as he held her.
"Shh. It's all right, Sakura. I'm here," Kakashi whispered as he rubbed soothing circles on her back as he brought his other hand up, running it through her silky pink hair. As she sagged against him in exhaustion Kakashi gently pulled her down with him until she was cradled in his arms. Gradually her tears lessened until they stopped all together. He couldn't believe that this was the same fiery girl that had always fawned after Sasuke when she was younger. She had grown up into a mature yet lonely woman. Kakashi felt her shift against his chest before her eyes opened to meet his.
"Thank you," Sakura whispered.
"Your welcome, Sakura. Will you tell me what's wrong? If you don't want to then I understand," Kakashi said as he began removing his hands from around her.
Sakura grabbed onto his sleeve with her bloodied hands. "Don't."
"Come with me." Kakashi gently pulled her to her feet. As she tried walking forward she instantly wobbled before she began falling towards the ground. Kakashi quickly caught her, bringing her into his arms as he continued to walk. He carried her a short distance from the wreckage she had already caused. He sat against a tree, holding Sakura in his arms. A small grin spread across his face as Kakashi felt Sakura wrap her arms around his waist.
They sat in a comfortable silence as they listened to the quiet of the night. Sakura felt Kakashi's gaze on her, making an uneasy feeling settle in the pit of her stomach. Sakura slowly looked up to study Kakashi's expression.
"Hmm…sorry bout' that," he said as he brought his attention back on Sakura.
"I just wanted to say thanks again. For everything."
"Don't worry about it. I'm glad to help my favorite student."
Sakura watched his eyes crinkle into a smile. Shadows played across his hair, turning it different shades of gray. She frowned as she thought about whether to tell Kakashi the way she felt. Maybe if she got it out into the open then she would feel better.
She turned her gaze back on Kakashi as he looked out into the night. A small smile surfaced on her pale face.
"Do I bring you amusement?" Kakashi asked teasingly.
"Really now?" Kakashi asked as he lowered his head. "Then why are you still smiling?"
A blush rose to Sakura's cheeks. "No reason," she quickly said.
"Oh? Then why are you blushing?" Kakashi lowered his head another inch, their breaths beginning to mingle.
"K-Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura exclaimed as she weakly pushed against his chest.
Kakashi straightened back up. "Why do you still call me sensei?"
"I don't know. It's just a habit I suppose."
Kakashi's face turned impassive. "Now are you going to tell me what just happened?"
Sakura closed her eyes, gathering courage for what she was about to confine in Kakashi with. "I got made because I failed the Jounin exam. I made a complete fool out of myself in front of the people that I have always admired. Then during Naruto and Sasuke's party I realized that I would never be as good as they are. I would always be the weakest female kunoichi."
"Is that all?"
"No…I have always been the weakest on the team haven't I? Even after I trained with Tsunade-shishou I was still the weakest. I don't even come close to comparing with Naruto and Sasuke. I am always the one being rescued and I've always been the worst fighter. I only became a ninja so I could be with Sasuke. But overtime I came to like doing this job. But then I realized that I was too weak and incompetent. Then after my parents' deaths I wondered if it was worth being a ninja. But I was being a coward so I didn't quit." Sakura finished as she expectantly looked up at Kakashi.
Kakashi tucked a stray piece of hair behind Sakura's ear. "First of all you were never weak or a coward. You always faced your fears with determination and you never backed down from a fight. You are now more mature and wise. You've grown into a talented and beautiful woman, Sakura."
Kakashi took her silence for confusion as he looked down at her. She was blushing profusely, her face and neck covered with a bright red. She turned her head away when she noticed him looking at her, her blush darkening. Kakashi chuckled, making Sakura whip her head around with a furious glare on her face.
"Do you not think of yourself as a beautiful woman, Sakura?" Kakashi asked softly.
"W-what? You're my sensei!"
"Not anymore. I quit being your sensei once you became a Chunin." Kakashi raised his head as he heard a twig snap. Sakura, following his gaze saw a doe grazing with her young foal frolicking beside her. They were a beautiful shade of brown, almost as if they were red. The fawn had fading white spots covering its flank.
"Wow. They're beautiful," Sakura whispered.
"Yes. Just as you are."
Sakura didn't hear his whispered words. "I wonder why they're out this late at night?"
"They were probably scared from all the racket you were making," Kakashi said with a smile.
"I guess. Kakashi? I was wondering…" Sakura said as the blush surfaced to her cheeks again.
"Yes?" He switched his gaze from the animals to Sakura.
"Could you…take me home?"
Kakashi's face softened. "Sure."
Sakura flexed her hands and winced when they began throbbing in pain. Fresh tears surfaced to her eyes. She wasn't able to heal them because she didn't have enough chakra left.
"Are you alright?" Kakashi asked worriedly as he took her hands into his own.
"I just need to get them bandaged."
Kakashi lightly ran his fingers over her knuckles. Sakura winced in pain. "Come on. I'll bandage them for you." Kakashi stood up with Sakura still in his arms.
"I can walk you know.
"I know," Kakashi said as he jumped up onto a nearby branch.
"Then why won't you let me down?" Sakura asked.
"That's not an answer Kakashi."
"I want to."
"Kakashi! You're infuriating!"
Upon entering the gates to Konoha Sakura noticed two familiar figures waiting in the shadows. "I don't want to see them right now," Sakura whispered as she buried her face into Kakashi's vest.
Kakashi could understand why she didn't want to see them, but he couldn't bypass them without raising suspicions.
"Yo, Kakashi!" Naruto yelled as he saw Kakashi approach.
"Naruto," Kakashi said in acknowledgement as he stopped in front of the pair of Jounin.
"I see that you found Sakura," Sasuke said as she studied her prone form.
"Yes. Now if you'll excuse me. I have to get her home," Kakashi said as he tried side-stepping the pair. But Naruto stepped in front of him, blocking his path.
"What happened to Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked, frowning at the blood coating her hands.
"I'll tell you later. After I take her home," Kakashi said before he quickly left.
"Thanks," Sakura muffled against Kakashi's chest.
"Your welcome, Sakura."
A few minutes later and they arrived at Sakura's home, which had been left to her after her parents death.
Sakura looked up at Kakashi. "The key is under the doormat."
"That's too obvious a place to hide your key. Someone could easily break in," Kakashi said as he retrieved the key with Sakura still in his arms. He turned the key in the lock before he entered a very messy house. "I thought you were always neat and organized, Sakura." Kakashi walked further into her house, stepping over various objects strewn about her living room.
"I couldn't figure out what to wear to the Jounin exam today," Sakura said, her expression turning sad and angry again.
"It's not good to dwell on the past. You know?"
"I know. I just can't help it though. I don't know how to get away from my past and move on. After my parents died I didn't have anyone to turn to for companionship. You offered but I declined thinking I could survive on my own. But I couldn't. Instead I wallowed in self-pity. I thought I could do everything on my own, but I was wrong. I didn't trust anybody. That was until I noticed you following me around."
"You noticed that?" Kakashi asked, surprised at her confession.
"Yes. It gave me comfort to know that someone cared about me," she said sadly as Kakashi entered her bedroom to revel the biggest part of the mess in her home.
"A lot of people care about you Sakura," Kakashi said gently as he looked into her eyes.
"Me for one, Naruto, Sasuke, Tsunade-sama, and Ino. Even those we had met on missions all those years ago cared about you."
"Oh." Sakura adverted her eyes away from Kakashi as she looked around her room. 'What a mess,' she thought to herself as she saw the piles of clothes messily thrown about. She felt comfort and warmth lying in Kakashi's arms and for a moment she wished that she lived further into the village. Just so she could stay with Kakashi longer. 'What am I thinking? He's not my personal keeper.'
Kakashi followed Sakura's line of sight to the state of her room. He smiled at her messiness before he walked over to her bed, pushing enough of the clothes off to lay Sakura on it. After he cleared a space big enough for her Kakashi gently lay her down. He noticed with satisfaction the blood rushing to her cheeks.
Kakashi grinned at her underneath his mask before he left the room, in search of her first-aid kit. After getting a bowl of warm water and a washcloth he reentered her room, going to her bedside. He smiled gently when he noticed that she had dozed off, her hands laid on her stomach as her hair flowered out on her pillow.
'Beautiful. Come on Kakashi. Get your mind out of the gutter. She was once your student.' He shook his head before he sat down beside her as he gently brought her left hand into his own. He wet the cloth he had brought and wrung it out before softly moving it across her knuckles. Sakura awoke with a gasp, sitting up in bed as she grit her teeth.
"Sorry," Kakashi said sheepishly as he removed the cloth from her hands.
"It's okay. It'll hurt no matter how gentle you are," Sakura said as she closed her eyes and lay back down on the bed.
"Do you know what you want to do now since you didn't make Jounin?" Kakashi asked as he continued cleaning her hands.
"I'm not sure. I know that I want to become a Jounin so I'll have to train harder and pass the next exam. But I've taught myself all that I could learn on my own and I don't know who else would want to teach me." Sakura stifled a cry when Kakashi cleaned a particularly deep gash.
"There will always be people willing to teach you. You just have to find that person."
"Yeah. But who? What do you think Kakashi?"
"I think you should go with what your heart tells you. Do you want to be trained by yourself or by someone with vast knowledge and someone with more techniques than you have?" Kakashi asked as he finished wrapping bandages around her hands.
"Hmm…I'm not sure. Ask me again in the morning and I might give you a sensible answer." Sakura closed her eyes.
"I'm staying with you tonight. Understand?" Kakashi said with the authority to his voice that he had always used on Team 7 when they were Genin.
"Sure. Whatever. Just don't try to attack me in my sleep," Sakura said before she drifted off to sleep, unaware the odd look Kakashi was looking at her with.
Kakashi quickly left the room the empty the bowl of now pink water. He glanced around at the mess in her living room and shook his head. He began cleaning up the mess though he didn't know why since he had never been much for cleaning. But he started picking up various items anyway and putting them where he thought they went. After he had finished the living room he decided to put her clothes up in her bedroom.
He silently entered her room, being careful not to wake her as he began cleaning her room. He came to a pile of clothes that made a small blush run across his cheeks. It was her undergarments. He hurriedly stuffed them into a wardrobe drawer, being sure not to look at them too long in fear of Sakura waking up. After he had finished he went over to a plain adorned chair in by her window. He watched Sakura sleep as a small smile spread across his face. He traced over the contours of her perfect face, down to her lips where he lingered the longest, then down her neck. He suddenly realized what he was doing and looked away with a small blush staining his cheeks.
'What am I doing? I shouldn't look at Sakura that way. But I can't seem to get her out of my mind,' he thought. He had believed that their relationship was just that of friends, but could he be mistaken? When she was young he used to dote on her more than the two boys and he would protect her more than the other two. Had he tried hard enough? Now that he thought about it, he had always kept her in the shadows. He had never let her do any of the dangerous work. Suddenly feeling exhausted Kakashi succumbed to a light sleep.