Summary: Once upon a time, Uchiha Sasuke did the unthinkable. Once upon a time, Uchiha Sasuke cried.
Once Upon a Time
There is a time for departure, even when there is no certain place to go.
He remembered the distant smell of pinks in the air, and the fresh scent of autumn leaves dancing with the winds. He remembered her distant voice, which softly soothed his ears with a gentle sound. It had seemed so long ago—
He remembered his body tensing, while the chilly midnight air swept through their souls and minds, relieving them of the tension that had occurred a few years ago, on the same place, next to the cool stony bench.
He didn't have to turn around to know it was her. The desperate tone used to address his name was only used by her.
"What're you doing here?"
He remembered that he had refused to turn around, knowing that in doing so he will have no words to say but better reasons to stay.
Her voice had seemed like an eternity ago, not the mere four year gap that had separated he and her from becoming happy. He had came and left, just like spring cherry blossoms, yet so unlike her everlasting love.
He had remained passive, while the hands tucked safely in his pockets from her eyes fidgeted with ambivalence.
He remembered Sakura inching closer, his body taking recognition of the upcoming warmth.
Sasuke had turned around, to meet her drenched emerald with his nonchalant onyx.
"You know what I have to do. I am an avenger—"
"I know, Sasuke-kun. I know…"
Sasuke had furrowed his eyebrows in slight irritation.
"If you already know…then why are you stopping me?"
He had watched her shift nervously from one foot to another, her small frame shivering from the cool winds.
Suddenly, Sasuke had watched as Sakura stared at him hard, her eyes defiant and boring through his. His eyes widened in surprise as her rosy lips formed bitterly into a nostalgic smile.
"I love you, Sasuke-kun."
The girl he had known for her weakness was gone, had mysteriously disappeared with the spring, only to be replaced by the young woman before him, slightly knowing at all costs that he wasn't going to stay, that Konoha wasn't going to be home for him anymore, just like when he had left her before.
Sasuke had looked away, shame apparent in his eyes. Shame that she was so pure and innocent, and she had fallen in love with the epitome of a demon. Shame that she had given him so much love, and he had given her so much of nothing.
He had watched in silence as more tears fell, and yet the bittersweet smile had still remained plastered on her face.
"…I will always love you, Sasuke-kun." Sakura had said quietly confirmed, more to herself than him.
Sasuke's eyes softened as he felt her small frame unite with his. Contentment had filled his body as he held her under the evening star. He had buried his face in her hair, his hands holding onto her for dear life, and the smell of pinks filled his nose as Sasuke immersed himself in her.
The next morning, Sakura had found herself draped around protectively with blankets from the cold, in a dark empty room of the Uchiha Estate.
… Four Years Later
The toad, the snake, and the snail met in the midpoint of a forest, one leading a trail to the Sound, while the other led to the Leaf. One was secluded with wild thorns, shrouded with weeping willows, while the path to Konoha lay open and immersed with sunshine.
A ninja's life was filled with roads, each one leading to something new, yet Uchiha Sasuke had taken all of the wrong directions.
Team 7 watched each other, each member scarred physically and emotionally from a day of fighting and defending, one inflicting deep wounds in the other's skin while the other countered with deep wounds of the heart.
They ignored the leaves that danced through the battle, too engrossed into the war to actually notice.
One had attacked with a burst of flame from his mouth, while his target dodged tiredly and countered with multiple shadow clones running after his opponent. After much effort, all of the clones were destroyed, but the destroyer's eyes widened when another tried to punch him with monstrous strength, and he had hesitated before leaping towards the trees where his other opponent lay.
The battle waged on for hours.
Sasuke had looked at her, and watched as she tucked a strand of pink hair which had again fallen against her face. She caressed and stared at the flower in her palm, entranced in the pinkish hue that was fading, or the white that was slowly becoming part of the pink.
They had sat on a bench in a spring day, the winds cool, and the blossoms, the cherry blossoms with its plum blossom companions, swung and danced gracefully before falling into the pond. The aroma of wet dew fill their noses, mingled sweetly with the fresh morning air, and everything retains a fresh scent to it.
"…I hope the blossoms don't go away."
Sasuke looks at her impassively, puzzled but unable to show it as she continues staring at the flower in her palm.
"…spring is going away soon…"
Sasuke faced forward, and saw the crevices of the trees with bare branches, and realized that spring is fading away, and sensed Sakura's sudden sense of foreboding.
Sasuke sat still on the bench, thinking quietly.
"…the sakuras are falling…"
Sasuke watches the sakuras and attempts to catch one in his fingers, and when he does, he takes a moment and observes its fragile features, from the frail pink petals to the stems that stick out of the middle.
Sasuke senses Sakura's curious stare, and turns to meet her gaze.
Their eyes meet, and for the first time, Sasuke felt the sadness that radiated from her emerald irises, and she had felt the all too familiar tragedy that emanated his past. The black eyes contained a story book of emotions.
Sasuke held the fallen blossom in his hand, and reached to carefully set it in her hair.
They had smiled quietly.
They had understood quietly.
The fight was nearing its end, but held no signs of a winner, A sense of anxiety and fear and a great force of will was planted in each body, sprouted from a mixture of loyalty and love.
Each member looked at each other wearily, wanting the other to give up, but knowing absolutely that they would not, knowing that their stubbornness was what had gotten them so far.
Each exasperated, their bodies and minds breaking but their hearts resisting to give up, each member's eyes held an amalgam of feelings; determination…courage…perserverance…
He met her on one of his midnight walks, both out for similar reasons, both unable to sleep from the nightmares that plagued their once-innocent dreams.
The sky was filled with millions of stars, shining down upon Konoha, along with a full round moon. The breezes were filled with a fresh scent of pine and mildew from the approaching autumn, and the leaves began turning a light mahogany from its ethereal green.
She had approached him slowly, one hand clasped on top of the other as she walked cautiously. He had meanwhile held his usual pensive gaze, looking at her tired emerald eyes.
They stopped at an all too familiar bench, the stone emanating coldness to their bodies.
"…Why are you out so late?"
He continued to look forward before he answered, searching for a response that would not worry her. She would not know that she, along with the murder of his family, was the cause of his worries.
"…just…didn't feel like sleeping."
Sakura watched him, observing his facial expression.
A long silence engulfed them, and the only sound was formed by the traveling winds brushing through the trees.
Sakura looked up from looking at her palms, and forward where Sasuke was apparently looking at, nowhere specific, just far, far, away into the distance.
"…I had a nightmare…"
Sakura took Sasuke's unresponsiveness as a que to continue.
"…about my kill."
Sasuke had known from the minute he had seen her wandering in the streets that this mysterious wandering at midnight was caused by her first kill.
He had been against it, even went so far as to argue with the Hokage with it, but in the end, realized that the old lady felt the same way, but the path of a ninja was harsh. He had stormed out of her office.
Sakura was the only normal one in their group, too pure and innocent. He and Naruto had been exposed to everything cruel that was possible in the life of a ninja before they had reached twelve, and that was why they decided to do whatever was in their power to protect her.
"…I should have never done it."
Sasuke watched her as droplets of tears fell one by one from her eyes. She wiped them quickly so he wouldn't see her weakness, but Sasuke grabbed her wrists before she began to wipe again, and held her hands in his.
"…It's okay to cry."
When spring approaches once more, he would say it more to himself.
She watched in fear as the two began charging their fatal attacks: the Rasengan and the Chidori, the swirl and the thousand cranes.
All of them were physically weakened, the two more than her because they lacked the medical jutsu she had trained so hard in order to protect the two who kept ruthlessly fighting.
The crackle of thunder began increasing as Sasuke charged the blue lightning, and the tempo of Naruto's forming of the swirl began steadily increasing. Naruto's once energetic azure eyes now held a sense of determination and immeasurable sadness that replaced the childish sparkle.
This was the end.
She watched, her eyes flooding with tears, as the ones she loved the most charged towards each other. The one who had openly loved her with all his might gave her a reassuring smile, a secret promise that everything will be okay, and the one who loved her secretly gave her a regretful stare, one that told a thousand words, before they both charged forward into the abyss.
She awoke from her slumber and formed seals to cancel the chakra barrier that was forged by the boys' protective love.
It was as if the sky had fallen down. The trees were broken down and lay lifeless on the ground, their green leaves all incinerated from the clashing of the two attacks.
Outside the circumference of the attack range, however, the buds still bloomed and the blossoms still danced with the winds. It was a mesmerizing site, to see so much death on one side while the other was invigorated with life.
And there, she saw.
Two bodies. One under a tree, as if he had stopped to rest like he had done in so many of their missions together. The other lay quietly, in perfect form, his arms and legs distanced equally from each other.
It would not be long before the tears came.
Sweat poured down from his face, forming a trail across his cheek to his neck. His drenched hair clung to his face as the cool breezes swept passed him and again right through the trees. The cherry blossoms swirled for a while before laying gracefully on the ground, lifelessly.
From the depth of his heart, he felt an interminable sadness, familiar to the feeling after he had realized that he was alone in the world, after Itachi had mercilessly slaughtered his family. The unforgettable sense of being returned to him, and his heart suddenly felt heavy; Sasuke could not comprehend what was causing this feeling.
He looked across, and saw Naruto, down, but breathing.
Sasuke stood, ignoring the tiredness emanating from his aching muscles. His feet began moving, and was leading him somewhere in the distance.
He walked through the raining blossoms, not bothering to notice the beginning of the end for spring. His feet splashed through puddles from the recent, ephemeral rain which had attended to his and Naruto's battle.
The smell of nature hovered through the air, displacing the metallic smell of blood that he and Naruto had shed.
Sasuke continued walking, his feet dragging, following his heart.
Far into the distance, he saw.
And he ran, faster than the winds.
He knew how everyone was going to react, but like always, Uchiha Sasuke did not care.
He resumed punching the tree, the twigs piercing through his knuckles. He did not feel the pain on his knuckles, yet he felt it so much in his heart.
Ignoring the excess blood from his hands, and the lightheaded ness he felt because of it, he continued kicking and punching the broken tree until there was nothing left of it.
Sasuke collapsed, and his dull onyx eyes, void of any emotion, yet full of unshed tears, stared into the blue sky.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
He had thought that the skies would be crying its tears, and the sun would be shrouded by the darkness of the clouds. Instead the sun shined brilliantly, and the sakuras danced with a grand elegance throughout Konoha.
He can imagine what was happening now. The Godaime would be saying her speech at her podium, and stop in the middle from her uncontrollable tears. Kakashi would be like him, unable to attend the funeral because of its reminder that he was once again, unable to protect a precious person.
Naruto would stand, pretending to be strong, while his heart wept loudly, and his fists would be clenched tightly at his sides, promising fiercely to himself that he would never let a precious person die again.
And yet, Sasuke's perception was not as accurate as he would think it was, for he did not even know how to read himself. He tried desperately to convince himself that her death would not matter, that it would fade in time. But, he was just as wrong as his perception.
The Godaime smiled in her speech, disregarding her bereavement for her student, announcing in her speech, that her protégé had not fallen to her death but rose like an eagle to the heavens. And Kakashi would stand amongst the attendants of the funeral, his face impassive, his heart sad, yet proud, knowing that his female student would live forever in the memorial stone.
Naruto would stand, tears streaming endlessly down his face, but looking as strong as ever as he discarded his childish grin for a proud smile for his crush, knowing that the least he would be able to do for her was to be happy, and thankful for a second chance at life.
They had lost the greatest gift that had been bestowed upon them, like so many other things that had been taken away from Sasuke, and so many other things that Naruto had never gotten. But in the end, Naruto was the one to realize that her presence, in the academy, in Team 7, after Sasuke's departure, after Sasuke's return, and after her death, would be cherished until he died, because that was enough.
And Sasuke, unable to realize that he had let the one so precious to him die, stood up, ignoring the blood dripping from his knuckles, and realized the one thing he should have when she was alive.
He loved her.
He would have taken this mission sooner or later.
Sasuke grasped the scroll in his hand and walked out of the Godaime's office, closing the door after she buried her face in her hands.
He walked past Kakashi, who retained an unreadable expression on his face. Perhaps from knowing that he, as his teacher, was unable to stop his student, to go down a path he could not follow.
Sasuke neared to the entrance of the Konoha gates, and saw a familiar figure, standing rigidly against the wall.
His sudden appearance initiated the unforgettable memory Sasuke kept in the back of his mind.
Her head had leaned against the bark of the tree, looking as if she was peacefully sleeping, although her chest had stopped moving. Her face held an expression of content, and although she was not smiling, he was able to tell she was happy.
He had held her head in his trembling hands, unable to stop them from shaking, but once a vagrant cherry blossom had landed on his arm, he had stopped, and the tears began rolling down his cheeks.
She had used her final jutsu to save the both of them, knowing that she would die, knowing that she would never be able to see him again. He would blame Tsunade, for teaching her a jutsu that would exhaust one's charkra to revive others. But most of all he would blame himself, for failing to protect her, for failing to carry out the promise he and Naruto signed with blood.
And he would scream, scream uncontrollably into the raining blossoms.
Just as he would when he began his suicide mission, as he formed the seals that would cause the ultimate apocalypse to Orochimaru's hideout, and as he formed the final tiger seal, he remembered.
His mother's gentle smile, his father's stern face, Itachi's mysterious gaze, Kakashi's hidden sadness, Naruto's tearful grin as he stood against the Konoha gates and watched Sasuke leave the village for the last time,
And her peaceful sleeping face.
Dandelions were everywhere, along with millions of other flowers that shrouded him as he awoke from what seemed to be a long slumber.
As he stood up, he saw into the distance, a familiar sight he had yearned to see, a sight he would have died for.
She stood, in white, her pink hair swaying against the wind as she waved happily at him.
He stood, and walked, unable to believe but doing so anyway, knowing that his last atonement for his sins had been rewarded with her.
He walked, his heart leading this time, and embraced her, unwilling to let go.
Burying his face into her hair, he whispered something he would never regret.
"I love you."
Hmm…I wonder why I get so anghsty at times, probably because of the last of Sasusaku in BOTH the manga and the anime. I am so sad…
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed, and please review.