I sat there for what seemed like hours with my head in my hands, just thinking about nothing and everything at the same time. I was so convinced at one point it was just a terrible dream that I pinched myself rather hard, only to note that I was very much awake.

I haven't cried yet. That's what I've been waiting for, actually: the will to cry. I don't know if I can. A part of me says that I'm horrible; that I should be sobbing my eyes out right now at the mere thought of him. Another smaller yet more profound part of me says that I never will cry, and if I do, they'll be selfish tears. Why should I cry for someone who's gone on to something better? I'd only be feeling sorry for myself.

So I just sit here, digging my fingers into my hair, wearing a mourning uniform while women I don't know wearing the same thing cry and exchange stories about him. I've been sitting in the back of this room for far too long. I know I shouldn't go up there, but I also know I should. I have to say goodbye.

The news was a shock, but news like that always is. I don't know why, but at first I was scared. It was some irrational fear about death or dying or God only knows what, but I was afraid. I think some small part of me thought he was going to take me with him. Then I was somehow angry with him for letting himself die. How could he have let that happen? How could he have been so stupid?

I think I'm in denial now. I feel like any moment he's just going to sit up and smile or come through the back door and reveal that that's just a dummy up there. But I know that if I go up there, his face will be very real. If I touch him, he'll be solid and cold. If he weren't wearing that uniform, there would be a long slash down the center of his chest.

Somehow I still manage to be mad at him for giving up. I know it must have been a long, hard fight, but somehow I know he could've made it. If he had only held on a little bit longer, maybe someone could have helped. Maybe the drugs would have worked. How could a body reject treatment? How could he reject treatment?

The women in matching uniforms have moved down the room, congregating closer to the front. I wonder if they even know who I am. I wonder if they know that I had seen him at his most happy, his most vulnerable. I wonder if they would even care if they knew. Probably not. And somehow I wonder if they even know his name.

I should have been expecting this. I should have known that he wouldn't make it. It was such a relief when we found out he'd survived the surgery, but I should've known it wouldn't last. Nothing lasts. He lasted three days, heavily medicated and barely conscious. I visited him the day before it happened. He was so pale. His eye was dim. He looked dead already. I kissed his hand and told him to hold on. I guess he couldn't. And I forgot to tell him I love him.

I've been sitting back here much too long. My hair is mussed from running my hands over it so much. The front of this room seems so far away. I can see myself going to it but never getting there. I won't allow myself closure, because I know this isn't real. I didn't sleep last night, or the night before. His students came to me for comfort, sobbing, knowing I would have the words, the resolve. I could barely look at them. They'd lost their mentor. I'd lost my best friend. I couldn't be there. He couldn't be gone. I refused to cry. Somehow crying would mean I'd given in.

The Rookie Nine are sitting up front with their Jounin sensei. Gai is trying to comfort his rival's team, albeit rather unsuccessfully. I must say I've never seem him this somber, though. I wonder if they know I'm back here, afraid to go up there. I'm afraid that once I go up there, the dream will become reality. The words that were spoken in the hospital two days ago that seemed so false then would be set in stone now. I refuse to believe what I know is true.

A week ago he was still talking. He told me how much he wanted to just be out of there, to read his dirty books in private, to stop being poked and prodded, to live. I cried then. I held him for a while and just cried. He comforted me, when I should have been comforting him. His voice still haunts me: his whispered, 'it'll be okay's. It's not okay now. It never will be again. I didn't tell him I loved him then either.

My legs don't feel like my own as I rise. It's just my imagination, I know, but it seems like there's a sudden hush in the room. The room fades to a blur as an unknown force propels me forward. The women in black stop and look at me for a moment as I go, then turn back to their hushed conversations about nothing. The closer I get, the more afraid I feel. No one is around. It feels empty there. My eyes fool me by blowing the candles out. The only light in the room illuminates from his pallid visage.

He looks like he did a year ago, when he fell asleep on my couch. He came to my apartment after a mission late one night, so tired. I watched him sleep until the sun came up, but he slept on. The mission had been hard on him, but he said he'd be fine. He said it would be okay. I thought he was invincible then. He looked so perfect when he slept, and he laughed when he caught me watching him. And I still didn't tell him I loved him.

The dress uniform looks strange on him, but I suppose mine looks strange on me too. I recall that I'd rarely seen him outside of his plain uniform. He would've been fine just wearing that. His hands are resting on his stomach. I swear he looks like he's sleeping. I touch his hand. It's no warmer than the linen surrounding him.

In my moment of blind panic, I gasp, but quickly recover. I knew he would feel that way. I knew his skin would be like cloth. I grip his hand anyway, his stiff fingers unresponsive to my touch. A shuddering sigh escapes my lips and I let my other hand stroke his hair. The coarse white strands are clean for once, and that small detail is like a pin sticking me, reminding me that this isn't him. This is just his shell. There is nothing lively left about him. I close my eyes, leaning down to whisper to him. I kneel beside the coffin, still holding his hand.

I tell him I'm sorry. I tell him that I'm grateful to have known him. I tell him that it isn't fair that we had so little time together. I tell him he looks funny in his dress uniform. I tell him I hate hospitals. I tell him his nurse was cute. I tell him that he could've made it. I tell him he should've held on for me. And as I feel the tears begin to slide down my face, I tell him I love him.

I stand again and look down at his still-masked face, letting silent tears fall onto and beside it. I kiss his forehead and let go of his hand, turning away from his body. The women in black whisper more hurriedly to each other and the genin teams look at me for a moment. I shake my head and leave the room as quickly as I can.

I missed the service. I didn't hear the Hokage's eulogy. My best friend was dead, as cold as the tears falling from my eyes. I sat crumpled against the wall outside the doors, sobbing, and feeling sorry for myself.