Author's Notes: Tis the end, lovelies. I might plan on writing out an epilogue or a few missing scenes, but for now this is it. I hope you enjoyed the journey and thank you so much for your kind attention and support.
ACT V, Scene I
Kakashi took the steps down to the basement slowly, hands in his pockets. He was feeling his age that night, all of the city's dark and awful secrets bearing down on the lines of his shoulders. He had seen this much in his time, had even once been a part of that shadowed underworld of gangs and their politics. But then he had lost something, everything, and had turned in his street name for a drug store on the corner of West and Third. It seemed, though, that he was destined to see the world's youth corrupted and killed, burdened beyond anything polite society would ever know of. Taking those cold, concrete stairs felt like a descent into hell, a journey he should have long been used to - if only he didn't have to face Sasuke at the end of it.
The boy was packing things into a duffel bag, his face one of content concentration. He wasn't on guard or he would have known that Kakashi was there before he glanced up and saw him. The midnight eyes stilled and Sasuke's hands stopped, one of his old shirts folded between his fingers.
"What is it?" Uchiha asked immediately, his usual impassive expression settling over his features. He had been waiting, Kakashi realized, for the other shoe to drop. Nothing in that young man's life had ever gone according to plan. He had been expecting some hitch, some turnabout that would once again steal a faint glimpse of a normal life. He could not know that what Kakashi was about to tell him was something neither of them had ever planned for. No one ever looked for Death.
"I got a message for you," he said, his words slow and without inflection. There was no soft way to impart such news. It was better just to say it. "You can't meet Sakura tonight."
Sasuke's hands were moving again, already silently dismissing what he thought his mentor would say. "Why is that?" he asked flatly, humoring an old man. Kakashi didn't look away. He still needed to punish himself.
Never was there such a quiet as those words brought. It was a full minute before Sasuke looked up and when he did, his face was so blank it was as if those few words had erased everything: past, present, and future.
"How?" The question was asked with careful restraint, no hint of doubt. If Kakashi had said it, then it must be true - that was what the boy was thinking. Now there were only details, motives, choices to agonize over. Kakashi gave them to him.
"Lee, that kid they wanted to marry her off to, he found out about you. He confronted Sakura and shot her sometime after you left."
A muscle was moving in Sasuke's jaw but no words were coming out. Instead, he finished packing his things, zipping up the bag with a quick finality that was a sort of grief all it's own. Then, leaving everything where it was, the Uchiha walked right by him, his footsteps steady and sure.
As he passed, Kakashi spoke quietly. "Killing him won't fix it."
There was no answer. Just the wind of Sasuke's passing and the closing of the basement door at the top of the stairs as the last Uchiha went back to the streets.
They welcomed him.
"Where are you?"
It was less a question and more of a demand.
Sasuke stood in the center of the neighborhood basketball court, head down, shoulders in straight lines down to his arms, one of which was corded with the effort of holding a gun. His fingers gripped the cool metal without shaking, his demeanor still and focused. He had come to take care of things. There was no revenge nor honor in what he was going to do. He was going to do it simply because it was the logical outcome of events.
Sakura was dead. He would kill her killer.
It was perfect in its senselessness.
Raising his head slightly, he sent a dark black gaze skimming over the pavement, eyeing the shadows with a calm that spoke of violence. Only hours ago he had been planning to meet Sakura there, the beginning of something more than a life on the streets where their two very different allegiances would have torn their families apart.
And Lee would come there. The Falcons were masterful at collecting information. He would have gotten what he needed to know from Sakura before he ever fired his gun. Kakashi had made it sound as if Lee had acted from jealousy but Sasuke thought otherwise. Lee had done it because Sakura had betrayed him and everything he was loyal to.
It was a matter of pride.
Sasuke's voice hardened and rose in pitch. "Where are you?"
Something moved in the corner of his vision and his arm came up and swung to the left, the barrel of his weapon pointed directly at Lee's chest as he appeared from the shadows. He had his hands up, palms out, and his face was composed, perfectly at ease with a bullet waiting for his heart. He stopped about thirty feet away.
"You've been looking for me," Lee said. "Here I am."
There was no blood on him, Sasuke noted with detachment. Nothing to say he had just come from Sakura's bedroom where he'd left her lifeless body. When he made no reaction other than to tighten his grip on the gun, Lee's eyebrows drew together.
"Where is Naruto?"
Sasuke was momentarily thrown off balance. Naruto? Sasuke had taken him to Tsunade what seemed like ages ago. Could it really have only been a handful of hours?
"He's fine," Sasuke replied coldly, and clicked off the safety on the 9mm. "But you are going to die here."
"You're going to kill me because I am a Falcon?" Lee spread his hands a little wider. "I suppose you felt me trailing you tonight. I congratulate you. I lost you on the south side of town, though." His voice filled with conviction. "Next time, I will not lose to you."
"There is not going to be a next time." Did the idiot not understand? "You will not leave here alive." His finger tightened even as his voice cracked harshly. "You killed Sakura, and I am going to kill you."
Lee's eyes widened in surprise and he was moving, sideways, out of the path of the bullet he knew was coming. Sasuke didn't care. Lee was too late, the trigger was sliding back...
The gun clattered to the pavement. Lee dived and rolled to safety. Sasuke turned his head and caught a glimpse of petal-pink hair and wide green eyes.
She was running towards him, a bag flung over one shoulder as if she had packed hurriedly. She had no wounds, no crimson stains on her clothes and she smelled of honeysuckle as she threw her arms around him, almost knocking him off his feet.
"I'm so sorry I'm late," she said breathlessly into his ear. "The police asked me all sorts of questions and it took me forever to get them to leave. I thought for sure you would be gone." She leaned back a little in order to look into his face. Her brow creased at his expression. "What is it? Are you angry? I know you had to wait but..."
He found his voice, "No." His hand gripped her arm carefully. She was really there. "I'm fine."
She nodded but the look on her face said she wasn't convinced. In front of them, Lee straightened, watching the scene before him incredulously.
She turned with a somewhat sympathetic smile. "Lee. I'm sorry, but I'm leaving the city with Sasuke. Tonight." Despite her gentle expression, her voice was unwavering. "I think you will agree that it is the best thing for both our families."
Lee's mouth was working as if he couldn't quite comprehend what he was hearing. Then, out of the blue, he smiled - a little sad and a little understanding.
"Then there is something I would ask of you before you go." His glance included Sasuke. "Both of you."
By now Lee has told you where I have gone. I know you will think I'm being foolish and I'm making a mistake, but I do this of my own free will. I am sorry I won't be able to say goodbye to you and the others in person but I think you know it's probably for the best. I never realized that the city held so much pain and politics, but what I wish for now is peace - for you and everyone else. There has been enough hatred.
I know you will make the right choice.
Please give everyone my love and thank you for caring for me all these years. I know we will meet again and until that time, I hope for your happiness. My own road calls me.
Tenten cleared her throat and glanced over at Neji, propped up on the bed with pillows, his far-seeing gaze focused out the window on the sunlight filtering into the room. His bandages were visible through the open strip of his shirt and his fingers played absently with one of the free ends. She could not read his face.
She had told him of what had occured after she had left him with Shizune, everything but the humiliation she had suffered in Kakashi's store and the bitter lie she had told in retaliation. It seemed to have all come to naught, though, if the letter was true. Sakura and Sasuke had fled in search of something they both only barely understood. They were young, though, and they would be together. She hoped they found whatever it was they were looking for.
"So, she is gone then," Neji said finally, his voice low and even. Tenten folded the letter carefully and went to him, sitting daintily on the edge of his bed.
"Yes, she is," she agreed, her gaze following his out the window. "And Sasuke, too." He grunted but said nothing and she knew he was not happy with the turn of events. She reached out and brushed her hand over his. "She loves him, Neji. You can understand that."
His eyes moved to her face, his hand relaxing so that she could intertwine their fingers. "I can understand it," he answered, "but I still think it's foolish."
Tenten smiled wanly. "She knows where to find us if she changes her mind."
He breathed out quietly. "You still want to stay, even after all this."
"Just until Naruto is back on his feet." She was still smiling. "We can't have him thinking he's beaten us. After that, I might be persuaded to take a trip." His eyebrows rose and she laughed softly, leaning forward to kiss him. He pressed his palm against her cheek lightly as he tilted his head and her eyes fluttered closed, hiding tears in her lashes.
Outside their door, Lee straightened his jacket and headed down the stairs to a waiting Hinata who was fiddling with her sleeves nervously. He smiled and took her arm.
"Ready to see Naruto?"
She bit her lip. "I'm not sure h-he'll want to see m-m-me."
He patted her wrist and winked. "Don't worry! Things are changing, Hinata." His grin softened. "For the better."
She smiled hesitantly and together they stepped out into the sunlight, into the city, unafraid.