Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.


The forest is dark, but not as dark as Orochimaru's eyes while he's dying, his body ripped to shreds, bereft of chakra, unable to perform any of his endless techniques.

Sasuke doesn't know why all the leafs in the forest look red in the moonlight. Red as Kabuto's blood as he's kneeling helplessly at his master's side. The Uchiha avenger considered sparing him, but eventually Chidori pierced medic nin's heart and there is no Sound anymore.

The forest looks like it's bathed in blood. The wind is howling. The moon is high on the sky. It reminds him...

He stops suddenly. There is something moving through the bushes, slowly, unsteadily. Sasuke moves quietly from one branch to another and freezes.

Leafs are red in the moonlight, red as the clouds on the black cloak, wrapped tightly around the person making their way through the forest.

In the first moment Sasuke wants to charge, his fingers fidgeting in anticipation of the moment they would be bent in hand seals, but there is something wrong. The Akatsuki is walking with a stagger, moving oh so slowly and it's not Itachi's chakra. There is something else wrong, but Sasuke doesn't know what.

He jumps down, revealing himself. The red clouds move on the sky of the black cloak as the Akatsuki stops suddenly, face hidden in shadows under the straw hat.

A few leafs fall from the tree as Sasuke jumps down, and they dance in the air for a moment, swirling around the slim figure. They are as red as the Akatsuki clouds.

"Itachi", he whispers with difficulty, his voice not used for such a long time. "Where is he?"

The figure moves silently from one side to another, like a hypnotized snake, and reminds him of Orochimaru - but it doesn't matter, because something is wrong, the voice in the back of his mind whispers, but Sasuke doesn't know what, and there is no time for thinking about his, because...

"Still at it, Sasuke... Kun", honorific added after a second's hesitation, but Sasuke doesn't notice, because he knows this voice, even though it was not as blank before, and a slim hand in a black glove takes off the hat and there is a pink hair under it, and Sakura is looking at him with her big green eyes, and her face is peaceful and her skin is flawless, and Sasuke thinks she's perfect.

"Sakura?..."

She doesn't answer, and she doesn't smile as she used to, and there is something wrong. But she's beautiful, her pale skin and her green eyes, and the Akatsuki cloak. And the red leafs swirling around, occasionally touching her short pink hair. Sasuke clears his throat and comes a step closer. She doesn't move, watching him silently and he touches the hat in her hand.

"It's the... How... What..."

"Sasori of the Red Sands is dead", she says, and he freezes.

"Sasori? Of the Akatsuki?" He remembers Kabuto saying something about him, and he looks at the cloak. "But..."

"I did it", she says simply, and there is something wrong. He already knows that she wasn't limping at all, it's the puppeteer's cloak and there are lots of scrolls hidden inside, bumping into each other, but he looks at her face again, and she's perfect, and he has no time for asking her how the hell did she do that - she is too weak, he remembers her weak - because something else escapes his mouth.

"You're beautiful", he whispers, and he means it.

"You are too", she answers blankly. "But it's art that keeps beauty eternal, Sasuke-kun."

"Do you know where Itachi is?" He doesn't understand her, and he doesn't want to think how beautiful she is, and he turns away. "Where did you fight Sasori? Was my brother there? I must..."

"I won't let you go this time, Sasuke-kun."

He doesn't look at her. She's foolish, he thinks, and he smiles lightly.

"You can't stop me and you know that, Sakura. Was he there?"

"I won't let you go", she repeats and he thinks that she hasn't changed at all. Red leafs are falling around like cherry blossoms, and he thinks she was always like that, thinking she could save him - like back then, in the Forest of Death, he can still remember her arms wrapped tightly around him, her breath on his neck, her cherry and vanilla scent around him and-

And he jumps away just in time, and he looks at her, emotionless and with one hand extended, and there is something wrong, because he doesn't hear her breathe and cannot smell cherry and vanilla, and he takes out his sword.

"KAI!" But it's no genjutsu, and he still sees her, he still sees Sakura, beautiful and perfect, with peaceful expression, not breathing and without any scent. "What..."

"I won't let you go", she says again. "Such beauty should never fade away with time."

He blinks and he wonders if she's insane, or maybe she's joking around, but she's serious as she takes out a puppet scroll and unrolls it on the ground, and Sasuke sees what is written there.

Scorpion. Sasori.

Sasuke screams, and Sakura extends her hands, and there are red leafs falling around her, and it starts.


END