Aishiteru, Cherry Blossom


Chapter Six: Bloodshed


Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

-- Wicked


Gaara flew towards Sasuke with a speed he hadn't known he possessed, bodily tackling the Uchiha and slamming him into the wall. His aquamarine eyes were crazed with fury as he punched the raven-haired prodigy. "YOU HIT HER!" he roared in a rage.

Neji was at Sakura's side in an instant. "Are you okay?" he asked, looking at her carefully. Her cheek was red, and a bruise was swelling, but she nodded silently. He watched in horror as a tear trickled down her cheek, leaving an opaque trail.

"That bastard."

Neji's pearl eyes widened at her language. "Sakura?"

"That... bastard." She shook with anger. And looked at him, fire in her eyes.

The Hyuuga looked at her. Was this the same alter ego, the same mental self that had forcibly ejected Yamanaka Ino out of her Mind-Transer Justsu during the chuunin exams? Damn. It looked... furious. Sakura looked at Gaara beating the crap out of Sasuke and laughed cynically, without any real mirth. "It's funny," she said, not sounding amused in the slightest, "that the one Iwant tohate to love I end up loving to hate."

Neji put a hand on her shoulder. "Sakura, calm down," he said softly. "Gaara's taking care of it."

Sakura nodded sadly. "He is, isn't he?" She looked at him. "Neji, I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"For loving both of you," she said tearfully. "I'm a fucking fool. I can't... I shouldn't... and yet I do."

Neji was silent. "Sakura," he said finally, forcing her to look at him.

She didn't say anything, but her jade eyes met his white ones with such a look of longing and love and sorrow and sympathy that it nearly killed him. "What?" she whispered.

And suddenly he knew that it would be decided today. Suddenly he knew that it all depended on this fight, this mission. Maybe it always had. It had been his own fault for not realizing it sooner, and not acting on it. The only way he could be her choice was if he would be able to rewind the entire mission and simply... start over.

But he couldn't do that.

"Whatever you choose," he said, running a thumb across her cheek, "I'll be happy for you. And you know that you'll... you'll have my love."

She looked shocked, and for the first time it felt like he knew the answer better than she did. She nodded. "Arigato, Neji."

"No," he said insistently, "arigato, Sakura." And he hugged her gently, trying to memorize her. He realized that she was still wearing the ripped kimono, and chuckled, not knowing exactly why. When they released, Sakura was smiling slightly, and it made him smile, too. "Let's get this fight over with, shall we?" he asked, turning to face his opponents.

Suddenly, Sakura forced him down. A kunai embedded itself in the wall behind them, and Neji looked up to see the assassin group running towards them. They were all in black, but they sported a range of weapons: katanas, giant maces, crossbows, and even shotguns, along with all the standard ninja gear. Around half of the group ran to Sakura and Neji, while the other half turned left to confront the fighting Gaara and Sasuke.



Sasuke was putting up a good fight, but he was simply no match for Gaara's rage-induced strength. His chakra pumped crazily as his sand attacked with amazing speed and power. Sasuke growled as he dodged a tendril of sand, and tried a different tactic. A mental tactic. "You think she loves you?" he said hoarsely as Gaara's face contorted. Shukaku was coming out. He had to get him angrier... get him out of control. "She's using you. Look at her with the Hyuuga. Look at her with me." Sasuke smirked as he blocked Gaara's fist. "I kissed her, and she liked it. I wonder, Sabaku... have you ever heard her moan for you? Have you ever felt her shiver in pleasure because of y-"

Gaara's kick hit him in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him. Sasuke smirked, blood dripping from the corner of his mouth as he noticed Gaara morph into something... horrible. Something ugly and terrifying and demonic.

Shukaku was out.

Sasuke had won.

The Uchiha smirked and vanished just as Gaara ran for the final blow.

He never came back.


Sakura's shout caused the demon to turn, its head swiveling rapidly. His sand barrier came up, and Gaara smirked manically. He swiped at his opponents, leaving bloody gashes on their chests. From the corner of his eyes, he could see Sakura and Neji fighting bravely, taking down most of their own enemies. His heart thumped. What if the traitor was right? He was momentarily distracted... but distracted enough to be caught of guard. A kunai was embedded in his stomach. He hissed in pain and anger, Shukaku literally roaring to the challenge.

Sakura's eyes narrowed as she quickly formed handsigns. Neji looked at her curiously, but she kept going, trying to remember what Kakashi-sensei had told her... trying to make it work... "Magen: Narakumi no Jutsu!" she said under her breath. The ninja around them immediately stopped, staring in horror or crying out in shock... each in their own imagined Hell.

Neji sprang into action, grabbing a katana from one and stabbing him with it, then using it to kill most of the others. A couple had woken themselves from the genjutsu by stabbing themselves with kunais, and Sakura was fighting them. Neji felt a rising admiration for the girl fighting next to him. There was no doubt... she wasn't the old twelve-year-old Sakura. There was a small sense of discord inside of him, though, and he felt the awful truth: he wouldn't win this. Pushing it out of his mind, he launched towards his remaining shinobi.

There were only a couple ninja left. Sakura grabbed a handful of shuriken, throwing them at her opponent; he managed to dodge most of them, but one sliced his shirtsleeve. She saw a forehead protector seared into his arm and barely managed to keep from throwing up. "Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" she said hastily, watching as two clones appeared on either side of her. She ran towards the man, trying to get a better look as she kicked him into her second clone, who punched him into the ground. Her third clone landed on him with a kunai and stabbed him through the heart, and Sakura was able to see the protector's symbol.


The minute that thought struck her, she was on her knees, puking her guts out onto the cold, dirty floor. She felt dizzy, and there was an extreme pain in her ears. She recognized this. This was what those Sound nins had done to Lee back in the chuunin exams...

Sakura looked up and grimaced at the man in front of her, who had on the same metal arm that had caused Lee such pain. The pastel-pink-haired kunoichi yelled in pain.

Gaara heard.

In a split second, the demonic shinobi was rushing towards his loved one, claws outstretched and sand swirling frantically. "SABAKU KYU; SABAKU TAISHO!" Blood rained on Sakura's head. Enemy blood.

Sakura turned just in time to be forced to her knees again by a second opponent that had crept up behind her to avoid Gaara's wrath. His kunai was pressed to her neck, and he was straddling her hips, leaning over her almost seductively.She supposed there was a seductiveness in fighting, but that was far from her mind now.The cold metal of his weaponbit into her skin, and she could feel her own blood spilling, mixing with her enemies'. She gathered chakra into her legs and pushed up, sending the man flying into Neji's stolen katana.

She stood up wearily, looking down atthe once-kimono with a shake of her head beforegazing upward andwatching in growing alarm as Gaara ripped through the rest of the ninja.

Neji watched, as well, helping her stand, frowning. "We need... we need to stop him! He could turn on us next!" he shouted, wincing at the intense pain in his back.

Sakura bit her lip in anxiousness as the last ninja was demolished. Gaara slowly turned around, his eyes crazed, his body dripping with the blood of those he'd slaughtered. It was truly a horrific sight, but... somehow... Sakura wasn't afraid.

The pink-haired ninja walked calmy to Gaara. In his bloodlust, he wouldn't recognize her... and that was the problem. She knew that if he recognized her, he wouldn't attack, she could possibly calm him down, and they'd be okay. Things would work out.

Of course, if she couldn't find a way to make him recognize her, then they were screwed beyond reason.

But that wasn't going to happen.

Gaara growled at her, Shukaku speaking for him. "You dare approach me, kunoichi?"

Sakura kept walking, not saying anything. She wasn't even armed, and her hands made no movements to leap into making handsigns. All of a sudden, she was holding onto Gaara, her arms wrapped around his neck tightly, her face next to his.

Gaara's bloodshot, black-rimmed eyes widened, and he raised a claw, ready to slice this insolent girl in half. Neji pulled out his kunai, ready to try and impale anyone who would harm Sakura.

And then...

she kissed him.

If Neji was surprised, Shukaku/Gaara was astonished. This was the last thing he'd expected. Her lips were warm and soft, and tasted of... citrus. Bright, awakening, juicy, lovely citrus, with a hint of spicy cinnamon. She smelled sweet and metallic at the same time, a mixture of her natural scent and the blood that was splattered all over her.

Gaara's arms moved so that they were around Sakura's waist, and he pulled her closer. Sakura's eyes widened slightly, but she closed them and deepened the kiss. Gaara's claws receded. His maniacal look was gone. He was Gaara again, and he and Sakura were in complete bliss. Sakura smiled over his mouth, letting his tongue in. She hardly believed what she was doing, but it felt good.A shockwave of passion and excitement spread over her body as she tasted him, felt him. Their bodies melded together perfectly, like pieces of a puzzle. They completed each other.

Neji watched from behind them, a small smile gracing his features. His pearly eyes were sad, yes, but knowing. Watching her walk to him so confidently... he had known that he woudn't win all along. He'd failed to recognize it, failed to accept it, but he'd known it. And now...


There would always, he figured, be a piece of his heart (a very large piece) that would belong to Sakura. There would always be a piece of his mind (smaller, but still good-sized) that would be dedicated to envying Gaara. But most of his heart and his mind sadly agreed that this was for the best; that they belonged to each other. They fit each other.

And that was fine with him.

They broke apart and stared at each other for a while, each of them contemplating just what had taken place. Gaara embraced her tightly, his voice hoarse. "I almost lost you."

"You'll never lose me," she said, kissing him lightly on the cheek. "I promise."

He chuckled slightly and picked her up bridal-style, carrying her over to Neji, who had that same strangely happy and sad look on his face. Gaara looked, if possible, slightly uncomfortable as he let her down. The two men gazed at each other for a moment, hesitating as an unvoiced correspondance wove lines of connnection between them that could never be erased. Neji smirked. "Congratulations, Sabaku. Take care of her."

Gaara nodded, and Neji placed a kiss on Sakura's cheek. "I knew it was him," he whispered, and she looked at him, touched at his understanding. She nodded and kissed him lightly on the lips.

Gaara didn't mind; he knew what was going on. Neji was surrendering her to him... while still saying that he was there for both of them in times of need. For once, Sabaku no Gaara had the two things he craved most: love and friendship. And it camefrom the two people he'd never expected to receive it from.

Sakura put a hand on Neji's shoulder, entwined her fingers with Gaara's, and smiled.

The three shinobi walked out of the building.


Epilogue: Two Hearts Beat As One


But if I'm a fool for you, thats something; two hearts beat as one.

--U2; "Two Hearts Beat as One"


Sakura stretched luxuriously, smiling at the man in the bed beside her. Gaara. Her boyfriend. His red hair was messy, his aqua eyes closed in his fake-sleep. His well-muscled body poked out from under the covers, showing his rippling abs, and giving a hint to what might lie below. Sakura blushed cutely as she remembered the previous night. Never in her life had she felt so good, and never in her life had she felt so completely satisfied. No, satisfied wasn't the right word; never had she feltso amazingly, fully, astoundingly whole.

The jade-eyed girl got out of the bed, hardly making a sound as she slipped on a robe. She gazed at the once-kimono on the desk in front of her, watching as the sunlight hit it, rippled through the curtains. She wasn't sure why she kept it. When they'd gotten back to Konoha, she'd been about to throw it away... but stopped suddenly and smoothed it out, putting it back on her desk.

True, it was damaged beyond repair now; it was blood-spattered, cut off at the shoulder and mid-thigh, mud-smeared, and rained on. The obi's silver cord was now a grayish brown. In fact, every color was distorted except for one: the silver and gold threads. She ran her hands down the shining material, wondering why the hell they hadn't been tarnished like the others, but suddenly she knew that it didn't matter.

This kimono, she decided suddenly, depicts life. My life, Gaara's life, Neji's life... everyone's life. She picked it up, studying it. It's born with a combination of special material and hard work. When it's finished, it's perfect; a beautiful, shining, wonderful creation. Gradually, things happen to it. It gets damaged. It gets hit, mutilated, mocked. And suddenly, life-- the kimono-- isn't so perfect anymore. It's hurt beyond repair in some places... in most places. But a couple threads... the couple things in this life, this kimono, that stand out, are intact. They shine, as usual. They are the good things in life... the encouragement and support from family, the guidance and good times from friends... and the caring and passion from a lover. Sakura smiled to herself, watching as the silver lines of the river emptied into an embroidered pool. And the end of the garmentis decided by the user, just like thepurpose anddirectionof one's life is decided by the one living it.

"Thinking too deep again?" a masculine voice came from behind her. Strong arms wrapped around her waist, and she leaned against Gaara's chest. "Why the hell are you dressed? I'm not done with you yet." He nipped her ear, and she smiled, giggling slightly.

She put the kimono down and turned, kissing him meaningfully. "Aishiteru, Gaara."

His eyes widened in surprise, but he returned the kiss with a couple of his own.

"Aishiteru, cherry blossom."


The End! I hope you guys liked it! Gaara got more votes than Neji, so sorry... but I'll be sure to write a SakuNeji fic soon! I already wrote a oneshot for it: 'Craving'. Check it out!

So much love to you guys, my faithful reviewers! Thanks for all your compliments and encouragement, and be on the lookout for new fics!

-- Petitdejeuner