A/N: Hello, minna-san! Thanks a lot for those who reviewed and who will in the future! And yes, finally! The ending! Sorry, it took me long enough. Alright, enough with the blabbering now. Let us all proceed…
Disclaimer: Again, Naruto—NOT MINE!
"It's been a while," she heard a familiar deep voice bringing her back to her senses. It was the one she'd been longing to hear the moment she stepped into the Hokage's office. And if her ears were not failing her, it seemed that it came from just right behind her. Just a whisper away. And everything was just like back then. Damn him. He just loved sneaking up on other people's back and muttering a few cryptic words only he knew what they truly meant, "Am I too late?"
Her lips trembled at the sound of his voice as she could no longer fight the tears welling up in her eyes. If she had been the thirteen-year-old Sakura six years back, there was no doubt she and the Inner Sakura would be rejoicing like heck now that her dearest Sasuke-kun stood so close to her, mumbling a few sweet nothings. To boot, it was his choice to be this close to her at the moment. For he would always find her annoying and had even refused to go out with her—to be with her—a countless times before.
Yes, he hated her. He so damn despised them all. All of his fangirls. And she was one of them. Well, used to be. That's why he didn't like her a bit. She was one of those annoying creatures who would constantly pester him in the academy. Those who wouldn't simply leave him in peace. But she was also the only one who never gave up despite all his rejections. Being teammates was probably one factor. It was actually a very good and lawful excuse to be always with him.
But he knew she never took advantage of that opportunity in a selfish manner. He had expected her to cling onto him and flirt with him the whole time. That's why he never looked forward to any of their missions knowing that he had to put up with her incredibly loud character and he simply had no choice. Then even combine that with that dead last Naruto.
But no. She didn't cling nor flirt. Instead, she took the opportunity to get to know him better. Understand him. Help him in any way she could. And most of all, she took this chance to make him realize that she was a friend. A friend who cared. Who cared for him.
So, she wasn't just a fangirl after all.
Still annoying, nevertheless.
For she loved him. So much, she even said as far as he could remember. And was ready to leave everything behind just to be with him in wherever hell he would dare to venture.
Probably he was just too shocked on that fateful night for him to think of much better words to say. Too stunned in finding out that amidst the desert of emptiness he'd been enduring for the past years since the destruction of his clan, a flower had finally bloomed for him.
For him to pick.
And he knew then that every single word she had spoken had touched him. For if not, he never would have bothered standing there in front of her crying self and listening to the rest of what she had to confess. He just had to admit that he, too, cared. That he so wanted to hear her kind words, which were meant especially for him.
But…no better words to say, eh?
That's why he could only mutter a 'Thank you'. Brief words of gratitude, yet very mysterious. He himself didn't know exactly why he said that. Maybe—just maybe—a part of him really wanted to take her inviting hand, then simply go back home with her, and forget about revenge once and for all.
But that was a long time ago.
So now, as he stood behind her with his mind all made up, the whole part of him was in no doubt ready to do just that. But, was he really too late?
"Yes," Sakura simply replied, darting her eyes towards the ground before her, though she wasn't really staring at anything in particular.
It was like a slap in the face. No, make it two. But he could swear her voice contained a hint of sadness.
Or maybe, he was just hoping too much.
"Are you just going to stand there and keep quiet the whole time?" she went on, as if mocking him. She still hadn't moved in her place for fear that if she ever dared to turn and face him, she wouldn't be able to contain herself anymore and throw her arms around him in a tight embrace.
Keep quiet. Again. Yes, she might be right. He was lost for words again. Even anything as short as a simple 'thank you' wouldn't help him now. He left many things hanging. And now he wanted to start by asking her questions. So many questions. But he just didn't know how. Really, how pathetic of him.
The long deafening silence between them was already killing him. He had to do something. He knew he was about to lose her. No, maybe he already had. And her refusal to budge was now starting to get to him.
Just what is she thinking? Why won't she look at me?
If there was one trait Sasuke would definitely be famed for, it's going to be his knack for being easily annoyed. He would always want things to go his way. And he simply hated it if the other won't cooperate.
"Well, are you just gonna remain in that position as well and keep your back towards me the whole time?" he knew that had to hit a nerve. You mock me, I mock you. That was his current train of thoughts. And from this point, as he had already decided, everything would just have to go his way, "At least look at me, damn it!"
She felt her hands clenching into fists, holding back the urge to punch him right then and there. How could he say such things at a time like this? Did he really think it would be that easy? It was Inner Sakura taking over. Why the hell stand there behind her in the first place? The nerve of him to argue with her! But that sonorous voice of his, which used to posses an incomparable coldness, seemed to have drained all of her chakra from her. That's why she could only summon her voice to stand up for herself.
"What are you doing here? What do you want?" it was clear that she was trying her best to sound as tough as possible, "Why, is he dead? Your brother, have you killed him? Is that why you've decided to come back?"
"Do you hate me now?" that question had to be on top of his list.
But for Sakura, it was practically the same—maybe even as bad—as asking if she loved him still. Damn. How could she ever deny the reality that she still did? The mere fact that she was deeply bothered by his sudden return; it just proved that her feelings for him still continued to exist, lingering deep in inside her heart and waiting to be rediscovered. And just now, she felt like her thirteen-year-old self once again.
But there was no reason to act so childish now. She had already decided on how she would want her life to be. A life with Takeshi. And it's just right to simply stick to that resolution. Maybe, it was only natural to be confused now. She knew that sooner or later, everything would definitely be all right. She was hoping, at least. And the best thing she could do now was to simply keep hold of that hope.
And so to answer his question she wished he never asked, she turned around, but not so she could face him. Instead, she gave the impression of heading towards the door that led to the rooftop.
Sasuke took this chance to finally look at her. But to his dismay, her gaze seemed so far away, as it appeared to avoid his eyes on purpose.
"It doesn't matter anymore," he heard her speak, her tone was sorrowful than ever. He watched her blink away the tears that threatened to roll down her cheeks as she took a step forward, "I'm sorry but I have to go."
"Sakura," it was then that Sasuke finally realized it was all over. But somehow, that accidental utterance of her name seemed to have stopped her from walking off. And he knew then that it had to be now or never, "Just this once, and probably for the last time, too, please," his voice was wrapped in equal sadness, "…let me hug you."
That statement was probably the most affectionate thing she had ever heard from him. It had to be. For it was all it took to finally shatter the walls that prevented her from expressing what she truly felt.
And it looked like her permission was no longer needed for it was her own willpower that caused her to wrap her welcoming arms around him even before the now surprised Sasuke could do so. For a moment, he was taken aback. But instantly, he was able to recover from the shock as he finally gathered her in a loving embrace.
"Sasuke-kun, I'm really glad you've finally come home," she sobbed against his chest. Her voice was muffled but still sweet. And he loved the way it chorused with his heartbeat, "Welcome back!" This time, she looked up at him, giving him a really good view of the very smile that had many times haunted his dreams.
Everything felt so…right. No doubt about it. He was home. Finally. And so he couldn't help but smile himself. It was one of those serene smiles you rarely see on the Uchiha's usually impassive face.
The whole situation might have given Sasuke some hope in one way or another. For he was about to move on to the next level when suddenly, Sakura pulled away, freeing herself from his arms as she let go of him as well. Once again, Sasuke was taken aback.
"Nothing like a good cry," she muttered in sniffs, wiping her tears with the back of her hand. Then, as she looked at him again with moist eyes, she smiled, "Thank you."
And as much as he adored that smile of hers, it hurt him. Terribly. Because now, he could only gaze at her back as he helplessly watched her walk away from his life completely.
While she, as she descended the stairs leading to the rooftop, was in no doubt in her deepest thoughts. Those were probably the only words she could and would permit herself to say and nothing more. Saying anything outside the bounds of her resolution would just definitely complicate matters.
It was roughly four hours before sunset and Takeshi was not a bit worried about Sakura's answer. When she let him put the ring on her finger, he could tell by the smile on her face that she was so eager to tell him her response right then and there. She might have if not for Kiba. But he really wanted to give her some time.
And himself, too. Because oddly enough, it was his own self that he truly doubted.
"Next hundred years, eh? Who are you trying to fool?" Takeshi was talking to—or rather, scolding—himself in front of a mirror in the men's room. His hands had balled into fists, itching to punch his own reflection, "You know very well that you can't even last another year anymore."
Six years ago, his parents had finally succeeded in convincing him to attend school. He never really liked the idea and had no interest at all. He knew he didn't need it. So why still bother? And probably, he would never need it because he had no future ahead of him.
Tsunade had already anticipated the knock that was currently rapping at her door. And she had guessed right away who the visitor might be.
"I knew you would come," she glanced up at the sullen-faced Takeshi, who was now approaching her table. Closing the book she was presently reading, she added with a smile, "Either you're here to schedule your upcoming wedding, or," she paused for a while to change the expression on her face, "…you're here to discuss that condition of yours and how it could've affected your decision to marry Haruno Sakura because by just looking at your face now, you seem really doubtful about it already."
Takeshi stared grimly at the floor. Had he made a mistake when he finally agreed to attend Tsunade's class? Perhaps, everything would be better off if he hadn't met Sakura at all. Taking school so seriously and ending up as one of Tsunade's exceptional medic nins were never included in his life agenda the morning he woke up on the first day of class. In fact, he had no agenda at all. No plans. No goals and dreams. His life was a dead-end. He simply agreed just so his family would stop bothering him and drop the matter once and for all.
But that same morning, his life had changed. He never thought he would ever find a meaning to his rather ill-fated life. He had found someone to live for, even if it would just be for a short while. Someone who taught him to enjoy life while it lasted. Made him realized that death was not supposed to dictate the way he should live his life. And so, she had been the only reason why he chose to remain in school from then on.
"If only someone else could make her happy," Takeshi finally spoke, "I just need that assurance that she will be even when I'm already gone."
"Well, if I were you, I wouldn't worry anymore," Tsunade opened her book and began to read once again, failing to see the confused look on Takeshi's face. But, to spare herself from feeling guilty for leaving the poor guy in suspense, she decided to conclude her last statement for his sake, "Uchiha Sasuke has returned."
With this, he froze, as the cruel realization dawned upon him, confusing him even more. So, Sakura might say no to his proposal after all. There was no doubting it. She would choose the Uchiha. Definitely. She loved the bastard so much it almost killed her emotionally when he left. And she had been so waiting for this day. The day when he would finally come home.
But then again, Uchiha Sasuke might be the assurance he'd been seeking in spite of everything. He had never seen the guy nor talked to him. But as much as he hated to admit it, he knew that compared to him, the ex-nukenin could probably do a better job in securing Sakura's happiness. Far better. Heck, the mere sight of him could already make her leap for joy. He knew he could never replace him in her heart. He could never fill in the space that Sasuke had already taken.
Besides, this was how everything should have been in the first place. He just had to go with the flow now. And more importantly, there's no turning back for him anymore. This day would have to come eventually. And today just happened to be that day. Perhaps, it's all up to Sakura's decision now, for whatever her answer was, he knew it would make him equally satisfied.
Thinking that the news regarding Sasuke's return was the only thing Tsunade could offer him, though it had helped a lot, he headed for the door to leave. Besides, he had no other business with the Hokage anymore. How he wished Tsunade had been correct in guessing that he came to schedule his wedding. He laughed at the thought. Such thing would never happen.
He was almost at the door when suddenly, the Hokage called after him.
"Takeshi-kun, I advise you not to dwell on it too much," Tsunade knew the confused young man came for some advice. But she mused a few words of support would have to do, "Sakura is a smart girl. Trust her. She would never wish to hurt any of you," then she leaned back in her chair, causing it to tilt a little backwards, "You're leaving, right? Just open the door for her, please."
Takeshi seemed baffled with the Hokage's last statement. But he obeyed, anyway, only to find himself face-to-face with Sakura, who looked pensive as ever standing there in the doorway. In fact, she didn't seem to notice at all that he was right in front of her at the moment. And it was then that he realized she must be having a hard time thinking the matter over as well. But he couldn't blame her. If there was one person who was having difficulty in dealing with this issue the most, it was Sakura.
The Hokage must have seen her coming as well. And now, she was blocking his way out. She probably came for some counseling, too. Seeing that she was rather busy staring absentmindedly at the floor, he tried to get her attention, "Sakura-chan…"
Sakura glanced up at the sound of her name as her eyes widened in shock upon discovering who had spoken. Immediately, her gaze darted somewhere else, looking anywhere but him. She couldn't meet his eyes, afraid that he might discover the predicament that was presently baffling her mind.
But he understood her. Speaking with her now wouldn't do any good. She needed to take things one at a time. If only he could take back his proposal, he would definitely do it, if it would help lessen the burden in her heart. But even if he could, the fact that he had already done it would still trouble her mind.
Deciding that it would be best to simply keep his mouth shut for now, he squeezed himself through the doorway without speaking another word to her. Though the look of hurt on her face did not escape his sight. He never intended to silent-treat her. He just didn't have anything good to say that he hoped would somehow ease her pain. And so, he watched her slowly enter the Hokage's office until the closing door had blocked his view of her completely.
"Would you like to cry, Sakura-chan?" for a change, Tsunade rose from her seat. Walking over to Sakura, who stood silently in the middle of the room, she readied her shoulder in case the poor girl would break down.
"Hokage-sama, I just don't know what to do anymore," And just as the Hokage had expected, Sakura burst into tears as soon as she arrived at her side, "Why did it have to turn out like this?"
Tsunade realized she made a mistake in concluding that Sakura had finally outgrown her heartbreak. The girl did a very good job in concealing her true feelings. Not that her feelings for Takeshi weren't true. It's just that probably, first love never truly dies.
"Sakura-chan, have you ever heard of the saying that everything happens for a reason?" Tsunade soothingly asked as she led the crying girl to the nearest chair, "Why do you think Harigae-san gave you the whole day to think about his proposal when you both know very well that you could give him your answer right then and there?"
But Sakura, though she heard the question, wasn't in her proper way of thinking at the moment to be able to come up with a good answer. And this signaled the Hokage to just continue.
"Perhaps, he wanted to see first what this day has in store for the both of you," Tsunade opined, "And he was right. Today had been a really long day for you two."
Tsunade thought about her own opinion. How could fate be so cruel to these three young people? When it rains, it really pours. And indeed, today was one hell of an eventful day for them all.
"He probably hates me," Sakura muttered in between sobs as she pitied herself. She recalled the way Takeshi snubbed her when they met on the doorway. He should probably know by now. The Hokage must have told him already. That's why he was so cold a while ago.
"No, I don't think so," Tsunade made an attempt to cheer her up, "You know more than anyone that he's not that kind of person."
Tsunade was right. Takeshi was not the judgmental type. He would never jump to conclusions right away. And that was one reason why she didn't want to hurt him. She didn't want to see disappointment in his eyes. He had loved her honestly and to be fair, it's simply right to be truthful about her feelings towards him as well. But truthful in what way?
"Go, tell him your answer," the Hokage said encouragingly, "For whatever it is, I'm sure he'll be very pleased to hear it."
Somehow, the Hokage's last statement had bemused her. He'd be pleased with my answer? But how was that possible when up until this moment, she herself still didn't know what to give him for an answer? Rejecting Sasuke—the thought stabbing her heart once again—didn't necessary mean agreeing to Takeshi's proposal.
Tsunade liked to talk in riddles. And though Sakura wanted her to elaborate, she simply left it be. Besides, even if the Hokage did, she probably wouldn't pay attention anymore for her mind was already too preoccupied for her to entertain any additional information.
And so, she left Tsunade's office, carrying the same burden she had when she entered a while ago. Walking down the long hospital corridor, she just let herself wander off to wherever her tired feet would take her while her thoughts drifted to somewhere else.
Inside, Tsunade stared at the door where Sakura had exited, sighing to herself, "Since when did I become a love counselor?"
Sasuke found himself staring at the very bench where he had left Sakura's unconscious body six years ago. If only he had given her offer a second thought back then, then probably things would be a little different now. Way different, actually. He wanted to laugh at himself. So this is how it feels to be rejected.
Though he was currently lost in his thoughts, he didn't fall short in recognizing the presence of someone sitting on a branch of a nearby tree, watching him.
"Naruto, I know you're there. Come out," Sasuke sighed and waited for his ex-teammate to show himself.
And so Naruto did, landing a few feet away from him.
"You didn't have to exaggerate it, you know." Sasuke sneered at him, referring to the incident a while ago in which Naruto almost hugged Sakura while screaming at the top of his lungs, saying that he missed her so much.
"Oh, shut up. You know you would've done the same but you're such a chicken," Naruto taunted.
"What kind of guy is he?" the Uchiha suddenly asked, surprising Naruto. And judging from the seriousness of his tone, he realized at once who it was that Sasuke was talking about.
"You mean Harigae-san?" Naruto asked back just to make sure.
"Is that what you call him?" Sasuke threw in another question in reply.
While he pondered for an answer, Naruto decided to take a seat on the bench. It was Uchiha Sasuke who asked. And usually when he asked for a certain person's profile, he meant to know his abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. That's why Naruto was having difficulty formulating an answer as he debated if he should give him Takeshi's chakra profile or his personality profile.
"Hm…Sasuke-teme, could you elaborate on that, please?" Naruto grunted wistfully, his arms folded across his chest and his eyes in slits.
"I have no intention of fighting him, just so you know," Sasuke pointed out, "Besides, I've already lost."
This made Naruto snap his eyes open as he gaped at Sasuke. This was the first time he heard him give up. Let alone accept defeat. But the way Sasuke stood there in dejection finally made him understand the whole situation. He must have spoken to Sakura-chan already.
"To be honest, I didn't like him a bit at first," Naruto retorted finally, "He was one self-important bastard the day Sakura-chan brought him to the ramen store and introduced him to everyone. You should have seen Thick Eyebrows cry in devastation when he found out that the two of them were on a date."
Rock Lee. That's right. That self-proclaimed green beast of Konoha liked Sakura, too.
"Up to now, I still don't know what Sakura-chan has seen in that guy," Naruto went on, "He would always make fun of her, with all his gags and teasing," then he shrugged before he continued, "But somehow, she would always end up laughing and didn't seem to be the least affected by his jokes."
Naruto was right. The way he described the guy, he didn't seem to be remarkable enough for Sakura to even have the slightest interest in him. So what was it really that she saw in him?
"Well, I guess it was his comical character that had caught her attention," Naruto replied, as if reading Sasuke's thoughts, "Sakura-chan always seems happy when she's with him," the words just slipped out and he wanted to punch himself for saying them so offhandedly. Really, he should have been more sensitive to Sasuke's feelings even though the guy used to be as cold as a chunk of iceberg.
"Is that so?" Sasuke's face remained stern though he had a lot of thoughts going on in his mind. His absence had indeed made a big difference. And Harigae was one lucky guy, he had to admit.
"Sasuke," Naruto muttered, interrupting his thoughts, "I hate to say this but," darting his eyes towards the ground, he took a deep breath before he continued, "I think you should just let her be with Harigae-san. She's happy that way. And I know you want her to be happy. We all want her to be. After all, she deserves it."
"Hn, if I do that, then I am indeed a chicken," and with that, he turned on his heel and began to walk off, leaving an unnerved Naruto behind. Then, waving his hand casually in the air, he added, "It was nice talking to you, by the way…dobe."
Judging from the sudden coolness in his tone, Naruto knew Sasuke was up to something. That's why he felt anxious at the moment as he watched his friend leave. And he had always hated it whenever Sasuke would decide things on his own and become too stuck-up to consider other options.
"SASUKE! Don't you dare mess things up this time!" Naruto yelled at full-blast, "I will be the one accountable for all your actions, you bastard! At least become a chuunin for your own well-being. Or maybe a jounin like me," But Sasuke didn't seem to pay attention anymore, "Just…just don't do anything stupid, damn it!"
After venting out all the necessary emotions, probably it's about time for them to hear out each other's sentiments. In any case, they had already planned beforehand—this morning to be exact, just before things started to become so complicated—to meet under this particular cherry blossom tree on top of a hill and watch the sunset together.
This was definitely harder than Sakura had thought. Earlier, the mere thought of the word sunset excited her. But just a few moments ago, though she had been wishing so much for this very hectic day to finally end, a part of her wanted it not. For it meant sunset would have to come soon and she wasn't yet ready for anything. If only she could simply come out of this day and move on to tomorrow right away without having to go through the sunset, by all means, she would definitely do it.
"There's no need to pressure yourself anymore," Takeshi suddenly spoke, breaking the silence that was currently being graced by the cool afternoon breeze. The sun was about to set, as evident from the purplish-orange clouds scattered about the west skies of Konoha. They had seen many sunsets like this in the past, but today's seemed to be the prettiest of them all. If only moments like this could last forever, he thought to himself as he turned his gaze towards the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, which—or rather, who—was standing just a couple of inches away from him at the moment. Marveling her tranquility, he continued bitterly, "I'm taking back what I've said this morning."
His words surprised her. That wasn't how she had imagined things to be. She had never wished for him to withdraw his proposal even though it meant simplifying things a hundredfold. She didn't want him to make assumptions right away, perhaps even thinking that he had been defeated already, without first listening to what she had to say. And most of all, she didn't want him to feel sorry for himself. Such act would never tone with his benign personality.
"But I want you to know that I'm not giving you up," Takeshi added earnestly, "You're simply too wonderful to be given up," his lips curved into a smile, "Sakura-chan."
With that, she finally had the strength to look at him, her misty emerald eyes reflecting the orange glow of the setting sun. And in an instant, her arms had encircled him as she began to cry her perpetual apologies, with her face buried in his chest.
"Forgive me. I'm…really sorry." She mumbled in between tearful breaths, "Please, don't think that I've used you. Believe me, I have loved you honestly and with all my heart. And I don't regret any of it. I will never!"
"I know that," Takeshi smiled, caressing her back in an attempt to cease her crying, "And I never doubted you."
He had never indeed. He knew Sakura had been true to every moment they had shared—from the first smile she had given him, then all the laughter that followed, up until the tears she had cried just now, and to every little thing that happened in between.
That's why he couldn't help but feel guilty himself for keeping this rather very important thing from her. The one reality he could never escape from. And so, with no further ado, he pulled away from Sakura's embrace as soon as her tears had somehow subsided.
"Sakura-chan, please listen," he began in a serious tone, startling and confusing Sakura at the same time, "I've got something to tell you myself. And forgive me for keeping this from you as well."
Sakura could only stare at him. What else was there that he needed to tell her? And did he just beg for forgiveness? She practically tore his heart apart. So how come now he's the one who's acting all apologetic?
"I don't understand," that was probably all she could mutter.
"Remember what I told you this morning," he went on. He could see that this sudden change of topic had greatly caught her attention, "About you having to put up with my jokes for the next hundred years?"
"Yes," Sakura bowed in apology. That's right, she thought as she recalled the event this morning, "I'm sorry, I guess that won't happen anymore."
"Hm, don't worry about it," Takeshi shook his head, dismissing her admission of guilt, "Even if it was me you have chosen, it will never happen."
"What do you mean?" this time, Sakura met his eyes once again, her face looking more confused than ever.
"Sakura-chan, I'm sick," The words came out more like a croaked whisper. Damn, this is harder than I thought. Clearly, he was trying his best not to shed a single tear. He had to look strong in front of Sakura, "I have a fatal disease," he continued even though she was now looking away from him and seemed to be on verge of crying once again, "I'm probably dying now for I only have less than a year left with my life."
"No! That's not true," Sakura cried as both of her fists landed on his chest, wanting him to take back his words and tell her that everything was just a joke. Besides, that was how it had always been. Takeshi would always end his stories with the phrase 'Just kidding!' And that's what she'd been waiting for at the moment. She was hanging on to that used-to-be annoying signature phrase of his. Used-to-be because now, it was all she needed to hear to put an end to this very unfunny joke he'd just told her, "There has to be some mistake."
"It's the truth," Takeshi ascertained.
"Well, at least there's got to be something we could do—I could do!" she was now yelling at him in desperation, "Is it really that fatal? If you want I could ask the Hokage to form a research team so we could find a cure to your sick—"
"There's no need for that anymore," Takeshi cut in. He was already happy at the simple notion that Sakura would do anything for him as well, "No amount of chakra could cure the disease."
"But why?" Sakura was positive that Tsunade could heal all ailments known to mankind. How come she hadn't encountered any illness that might be similar to that of Takeshi? The books had never mentioned anything like it. Well maybe, not everything could be found in the book. But even Tsunade had never informed her about the existence of such sickness.
"It runs in our clan." Takeshi began to explain. He knew Sakura was now having a hard time with her current mental discussion. "Every other generation, one member of the family has to die due to this illness," then he glanced bleakly at the ground beneath them before continuing, "And in my generation…"
Such clan existed? That's terrible… Sakura studied his gloomy features. How could he make fun of almost everything while he carried this burden all along? No wonder she would catch him sometimes staring far off the distance, as if wanting to grasp the farthest point his eyesight could reach. For someone who had been tragically fated with a really short life, maybe he was trying to see if eternity was indeed that far for him to get hold of. I can't believe a blood limit as awful as that would exist.
"It just happened to be me," the way he finished off his sentence was somewhat pitiful.
"Takeshi-kun, I…I just don't know what to say," Sakura said sadly, "I'm so sorry, I didn't know. And I couldn't do anything."
"Do me a favor then," Takeshi smiled, lifting her head by the chin so that he was looking at her eyes.
"What is it? Anything, I would definitely do it," she agreed eagerly, hoping to compensate for all the pain he was probably feeling now.
"I don't want you to feel sorry for me. Don't pity me, please," he begged as he met the tears welling up in her eyes with his thumb, "And for the last time, may I kiss you?"
Sakura chuckled a bit before she replied, "Are you kidding? Of course, you may."
And with that, their lips locked as a lone tear trickled down her cheek, erasing all the lingering guilt in her heart. For Takeshi, it was a moment worth remembering. It lasted until the last streak of the dim glimmer of the setting sun had finally disappeared behind the horizon.
But from a distance, a pair of swirling red eyes watched the two silhouettes seal the gap between them in a passionate kiss. Introducing the owner would be a cliché. He had been watching them all along. His Sharingan helped a lot in figuring out what they had talked about by observing the movement of their lips.
Thinking that he had heard—or rather, seen—enough, his glowing irises turned back to their original dark color as he retreated from his spot behind an insignificant tree and walked away from the scene in contemplation, failing to see the rest of the conversation.
"This is really ironic," Takeshi began as soon as they broke from the kiss, "At first I was having second thoughts about proposing to you because I know I will have to leave you soon enough. That I'll just probably cause you sadness for all eternity," then he sighed in relief as he admired the now peaceful look on Sakura's face, "And now I'm letting you go but, strangely enough, I'm happy and satisfied."
"And why is that?" Sakura pouted.
"Happy because I now have the assurance that you'll still be happy even when I'm gone. I'm pretty sure Uchiha-san will always be there for you," he replied with a smile, "And I'm satisfied to have been part of your life even if it was just for a short time."
"Takeshi-kun, thank you," she felt like crying again but thankfully, this time, she succeeded in keeping her tears to herself. Then she said, "And please, let me take care of you until that day."
It had been a really long day for him. After another sumptuous dinner at the Haruno residence, he went for a little nice walk in the park instead of heading straight home. Sadness would permanently remain in his heart, that's for sure. But at least now, somehow, bearing it wasn't as hard as it used to be anymore, as it made him accept his fate more willingly.
And this solitary walk in the park was probably included in his fate as well. For when he slowed down his pace, he could very well sense that somebody was obviously following him in discreet strides. Stopping in his tracks, he turned around, only to find himself standing opposite an unfamiliar figure slightly being illuminated by the nearest streetlamp.
Takeshi couldn't quite discern his features but knew it was a person and meant no harm. So he promptly mouthed the first thing that popped into his mind.
"I don't remember seeing you around here before," he began, "But judging from that fan crest on your clothing, I think I know who you are."
"I just dropped by to thank you for taking really good care of her," Sasuke muttered in indifference, "I think I owe you a lot."
"Don't mention it," Takeshi smirked, waving his hand in front of him in welcome.
"And not only that," Sasuke added as he turned to leave, "You've taught me a couple of lessons as well and made me realize certain things." And with that, he walked off and disappeared into the night.
"Hn," Takeshi grinned inwardly as he watched Sasuke vanish from his sight. He recalled his thoughts then about him teaching the Uchiha prodigy a lesson for rejecting Sakura. "So I have, huh?"
Months passed and as expected, Takeshi had grown weaker everyday. And as she had promised, Sakura looked after him until the last living breath left his body. Except for the fact that she could be seen spending most of her time in the Harigae compound, especially during the last few days of Takeshi, everything went back to normal for everyone. And to make it look more normal, they tried to avoid the subject regarding Takeshi's condition as much as possible.
As for Sasuke, he had finally regained everyone's trust over time, as he was now a full-fledged ninja, taking high-rank missions just like Naruto and the others. Once, Tsunade had even appointed him to join an ANBU squad since the top-secret mission happened to require his abilities as an Uchiha. He was more than willing to do it, of course. And the day the squad set off, he met Sakura by the Hokage's doorway, who instinctively smiled at him and wished him good luck. Though it surprised him a bit, he didn't fail to return the smile, even feeling a little flattered.
And so today, two months had already passed since Takeshi passed away. Sakura had been mournful for about a week but of course nobody could blame her for being so. Now, as she did her usual rounds in the hospital, she was called upon by her superior to receive her special task for the day. And that was to give first aid treatment to the three teams of ninja who had just returned this afternoon, which—to her delight—happened to be Naruto's gang.
As she entered the ward, she was greeted by Naruto's usual blabbering. Really, some things never changed. Glancing at the folder she was holding, she checked the code of the patient she was supposed to attend to. "Bed no. 5," she mumbled to herself and proceeded right away to where the fifth bed was, only to find Sasuke sitting on it.
"Sasuke-kun?" upon seeing him, she was taken aback for a moment but went on, nevertheless, "So, where did you hurt yourself?"
"What gave you the idea that I hurt myself?" he snapped rather smugly.
"Alright, where did the enemy hurt you?" she asked again, rephrasing her question. Yes, some things never really changed, she thought frowning.
"Here," and he took off his shirt in reply, revealing his well-built body and earning a number of gasps from the other female medics inside the room. Indeed, some things really never changed. It seemed that his popularity never receded up to this date. And so, ignoring their stares, he just went on, "I think the kunai had poison."
"Piece of cake," Sakura gave him a smirk as she rolled up her sleeves and began healing the wound near his stomach. And of course, that would mean having to stare at his muscular features and endure the little flush that had now crept up on her cheeks. Thankfully, the glow of the chakra emanating from her hands covered up for the pink shades on her pale face, making them less obvious.
After a series of gestures, she had finally gotten rid of the poison entirely. All she had to do now was to close the wound and bandage his torso around the abdominal area. But as she did so, she made sure not to make any contact with his skin every time she encircled her arms around his body so she could wrap it with the gauze properly. And so, as she busied herself with this task—hoping that her poker-faced patient would never notice her tensed hands—she heard him speak, making her jolt in her seat in surprise.
"Would you like to have dinner at my house tonight?" Sasuke asked out of the blue, causing silence to reign over the entire room as everyone jerked their heads towards Bed no. 5.
Now, Sakura definitely hadn't seen that coming as she found herself gaping at him as well. Her thoughts were so jumbled up that even the stupid notion of blaming the poison for Sasuke's sudden change in behavior had occurred to her. And deep within her, she could feel Inner Sakura coming back to life. Go for it, girl!
"You might as well treat his wounds at his house." Naruto teased, interrupting the staring contest that was currently taking place between the couple sitting on Bed no. 5.
"That's troublesome." Shikamaru muttered in a yawn.
Sakura kept staring at him as she was tempted to check his forehead for any sign of fever. Did he just ask me out on a date? Again, if she had been her thirteen-year-old self, she would have jumped for joy right then and there. This was the moment the child Sakura had been waiting for all her life. But too bad for her, it seemed to be seven years delayed.
So now, the twenty-year-old Sakura sighed inwardly, giving the issue at the moment a very deep thought. Her Sasuke-kun had just asked her out. So what the hell should she do?
And speaking of Sasuke, Sakura's lack of response seemed to have gotten to him once again, as his patience had gone down another level on the meter. Good thing, it didn't take long for Sakura to make up her mind as she decided to have her say finally.
"Sasuke-kun, I don't know but I think I will have to reject you for the time being," she snapped somewhat snobbishly, earning another batch of stares from the audience. Even Inner Sakura was speechless.
"Is this a payback?" he glared at her, frowning.
"Don't give me that look," she told him off, darting her eyes towards him warningly, "If you want me, you will have to start from scratch."
"Hn, you haven't changed at all," he mumbled, his lips curving up into a smirk, "You're still annoying."
A/N: PHEW! -bounces around- YAY! I've finished it finally! It only took me two days to finish the first chapter whereas this one, it took me TWO WEEKS! Two whole damn weeks! It was really hard to think of an ending for this one. And that's the best I could think of. Not too typical and not too complicated. To be honest, I don't really like the "I love you, I love you too" fluffy stuffs. They're fine but just don't make them come right out of the blue. So there! My fingers just obeyed what my brain was dictating them. But I must admit, I really had a hard time producing an ending for this. Yhel'Sakura0918 was right. I've really made it very complicated when it came to the love triangle and all. And Ikoo was right as well. This is a sasusaku fic so it has to end as a sasusaku fic. But Takeshi-san is so nice and I don't want to see him live the rest of his life watching Sasuke and Sakura all lovey-dovey. And I didn't want to end it just like that. So he had to disappear. And one way to do that is to make him leave Konoha. But then what? And so I thought another way was to kill him! But how the heck should I kill him? He's so nice I don't want him to die a painful and very stereotypical death, like suicide or being murdered. So maybe, give him a disease of some sort. But a disease kinda sounded typical, too. I could already imagine the "BOOs!" coming from the readers. So finally, I've decided to invent a clan that's got some weird DNA strands running in their blood. With that, his sudden death in this fic will be somewhat reasonable. It's the most perfect excuse to die. Well, at least in my opinion. And he gets to die a happy death, too! I know, I know, you feel bad for Takeshi. We all do. Sorry, if it had to end that way.
While I was doing the scene on the rooftop, I was listening to a song that had these lyrics: "…So if you really love me (love me, love me), come on and let it show…" And it looked like I got carried away. Now that song will always remind me of this fic. And it's my favorite song, too! For some personal reasons, of course. It's really nice. You probably know it. If you wanna hear it, just email me. ;)
Also, I've thought of a good sequel to this. Like how Sasuke will try to woo the now hard-to-get Sakura. I'm already expecting the story to be really really funny, contrary to this one. Well, just look at the ending. It's a give-away. Just imagine a hard-to-get Sakura being pursued by an easily-annoyed and stubborn Sasuke. But why the heck would he keep on chasing her? BECAUSE what an Uchiha wants, an Uchiha gets. Alright, I nicked that from another fanfic ;D (insert disclaimer here).
Another possible sequel would be a one-shot lemony fic. Remember the last scene? Sakura turned him down, right? Let's just say that Naruto and everybody else present in the hospital ward had convinced her somehow to accept Sasuke's dinner offer. And when dinner was over, things started to get really hot. Er…you get the idea. ;P
But I'll be very very busy for the next few months (I'm a graduating college student with my thesis and all…er, don't ask anymore) so I don't think I will be able to find time to write. Anyway, if you want to write the fics yourselves, just go for it! Write all you want! I would really really love to read them. :D
And many many many thanks to all those who've spent their time reading this crap. Hopefully, this crap hasn't wasted your time. And for ALL those reviews! sigh They've really inspired me a whole lot:D