Well, it's been half a year since I officially announced that Inner Demons was finished. Today, it is exactly two years since I first created this story. So of course there needs to be a two year anniversary present! This is a continuation of the epilogue in the previous chapter. I think it gives a more conclusive ending (at the same time, this means absolutely no sequel.) For those who like the ambiguity of the first epilogue, then feel free to skip this. I just couldn't seem to forget this story...I really love it a lot. But it's time to let go.
My beloved readers, the TRUE last chapter of Inner Demons. Don't expect a third year or fourth year anniversary update. xD
"Ah…let's see what they have," Sakura stared up at the large menu attached to the wall. "You like takoyaki, Sasuke?"
Somewhere behind her came a resounding, "Whatever."
Accepting that as approval, the pink-haired kunoichi purchased the takoyaki and bought it back to the table. They sat in silence, one nonchalantly chewing on his takoyaki, and the other sneaking glances at her companion and trying to form some sort of topic starter. She had been so excited to see him again that she had completely forgotten how awkward the situation was. Three months ago, her last words to him before they went separate ways had been a 'dying wish.' In retrospect, it really was quite embarrassing considering he had saved her and she didn't actually die. Just at the thought, a blush crept onto her face.
Sasuke, noticing the shift in the woman sitting across him, looked up from his food. He narrowed his eyes, "What?"
He continued to look at her suspiciously, and Sakura felt herself growing redder. Come on, think of something to say! Her eyes shifted everywhere, until they landed on his head, and without a second thought, she blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "Your hair's grown longer, Sasuke-kun!" She immediately regretted the action.
Sasuke, seeing that she was clearly uncomfortable, gave her a smirk "So it has."
Sakura laughed. Somehow, his smirk had allowed her to relax. If she really thought about it, three months was nothing compared to the two and a half years she had suffered before this whole escapade. "How have things been? We found Orochimaru's base destroyed, but the vicinity was empty. Is he…?"
"I killed him."
She nodded. She had expected as much, but needed the confirmation.
"What about you?"
Sakura was surprised at the sudden question. "I-It's been alright. Things have returned to normal." Her eyes softened. "You kept your promise, Sasuke-kun."
He gave her a dark scowl, "Don't think too much into it. There was nothing more I could learn from that snake, so I disposed of him."
Sakura didn't try to counter his reply. He could say all he wanted, but she knew that he had done it for her. Now that things didn't seem so awkward anymore, Sakura decided to take a chance and voice out what had been on her mind since the mention of Orochimaru. "Sasuke…"
She didn't even have the chance to begin her sentence. One look at her face, and Uchiha Sasuke knew what she was going to ask. He stood up abruptly, surprising her and all the others in the shop. "I'm not going back."
Sakura's hands clenched. She, too, stood up and quickly followed the Uchiha outside. "Wait Sasuke!"
He stopped and shook his head at her. "I've told you I'm not going back."
Sakura was shocked, "Why Sasuke?! Why are you so reluctant to return?!"
He looked away, and his face closed up. "I still have a duty to fulfill."
"That's not an excuse!" She shook her head in disbelief. "Orochimaru's already gone and—"
"I'll get stronger by myself."
"I just don't get it, Sasuke. Why would Konoha hinder you? We all want the best for you and would do anything to help you!"
"I don't have time to associate with people. You know going back will only slow down my progress." Sasuke gritted his teeth. "I have to kill that bastard."
"You're being unreasonable—"
"No, you're just not getting it," He sighed. "Sakura, stop it. I'm not going to change my mind."
"I'm not telling you to forget the past," her voice shook, "but don't give up on the future."
"There is no future if I don't get rid of the past."
Sakura snapped. "You're just afraid of losing people close to you! You think the moment you let someone in they're going to disappear just like your family! The only reason you won't return is because you're afraid to face your fears! You're nothing but a coward—"
"So what?! So what if I'm a coward?! Do you know what it's like to see all the people you love disappear in just the blink of an eye?! Do you have any idea of the pain I went through?!"
Sakura stared up at the boy in front of her. It had been a long time since she'd heard him raise his voice. She clutched his hand, "Sasuke…we're not going to disappear. We'll be there for you. We'll support you and-and give you strength."
"Look," Sasuke straightened and pulled his hand away from hers. He had regained his composure. "Just give it up, Sakura."
"…Maybe you're right."
Sasuke had not expected that response.
"I-I can't do this anymore. We can't wait forever for you. I…I can't wait forever for you." Sakura gave him a dejected smile. "…Good luck, Sasuke-kun."
"Where are you going?" Sasuke called after her.
"Home," came her reply, laced with sarcasm.
"It's dark," Sasuke grabbed her hand. "There's an inn nearby. You can leave tomorrow morning."
"I'll camp in the forest," she retorted, trying to pull out of his grasp. But he only tightened his grip and began pulling her in the opposite direction.
She sighed, and gave in. "Alright."
Later that night, Uchiha Sasuke found himself pacing around his room, unable to fall asleep. In the room across from his, Sakura slept. Tomorrow morning, they'd be parting ways and it would probably be awhile until they'd meet again. Running into her today had been pure coincidence, one that was not likely to happen anymore.
Her words this afternoon had caused him to lose his cool. It was just proof that he still lacked control. Yet somehow…when she said she'd given up, it had bothered him. The Sakura he had known had always had a stubborn streak, much like the idiot blonde that was once his best friend.
"You're just afraid of losing people close to you! You're nothing but a coward!"
He supposed she was right. Close bonds could only hinder. They would only get in the way. If he was alone…there would be nothing obstructing him. There would be no one that would get hurt because of him.
"We can't wait forever for you. I…I can't wait forever for you."
He thought back to their genin days. When she had been annoyingly clingy and had constantly followed him everywhere, calling him "Sasuke-kun" every chance she got. He'd been grateful that despite knowing of his flaws, she'd still loved him. Nevertheless, she had still been a burden. Where had the crybaby Sakura he knew gone? In the years they'd been apart, she'd truly awakened to her full potential. A small bud bloomed into a beautiful flower.
A sudden thought struck him, and Sasuke chuckled, realizing the irony of it.
When did you grow so strong, Sakura?
Sakura stepped out of the building. The sun had not risen yet, but it was time for her to leave. Somewhere back in the inn, the person she loved was probably still sleeping. She knew he would be upset she left without saying anything, but what could be said? She wouldn't be able to handle the pain of goodbye.
She shook her head clear of thoughts, and reassured herself, "This is for the best."
She sent chakra to her feet and leaped into the forest.
It was about three hours later that Sakura finally landed for a break. She leaned against the nearest tree, and wiped the sweat from her brow.
She sighed, feeling the emotion rise in her. Truthfully, she had not meant to say what she'd said yesterday. She didn't want to let go. She didn't want to give up. But like he had said, how many times had she'd tried to get him to come back? The answer had always been no. It made her believe the whole situation was fruitless.
No use thinking about it now. What's done is done.
She stood, and prepared to ascend into the trees again.
"Leaving without saying goodbye?"
Sakura froze, and dared not turn around even as she heard him drop down onto the ground next to her. How long had he been there? How could she have not detected his presence?
"It's okay, I won't bite."
She swiveled around, and could do nothing but gape. "H-How did you…?!" This couldn't be happening. Just the sight of him was causing all her walls to crumble.
"I was awake the moment you were up. I decided to confront you when you stopped for a rest."
"No no no," Sakura backed away, the grief overcoming her. "I can't do this, Sasuke. I-I don't want to go over it all over again. It's too painful…" her voice broke, and she took a deep breath to try and calm herself down.
Sasuke did not move from his spot. "You're running away," he stated matter-of-factly.
Sakura laughed, and bitterly remarked, "Just like you huh?"
"Yeah…just like me."
His response had been so low that Sakura had barely heard him. She stopped in her tracks, and stared at him incredulously. "What?"
He began to approach, and stopped only when he was in right in front of her. "I'll let you know that I think you're almost as idiotic as the dobe. I mean, only an idiot could be so stubborn."
"Well, this idiot is giving up, happy? Sasuke, what is this—"
"Just listen. I thought about what you said yesterday. Avenging my family is my life, Sakura. Until I defeat my brother, I can't let myself go and form relationships with anyone. I can't…can't afford it."
"But training alone, I've deduced it won't do me any good. Konoha is a well established ninja village. There are sure to be some experts in there. So…I've decided that until I find a better mentor, I'll be training in Konoha. However, don't get your hopes up; I have no intentions of getting close to anyone—"
"You talk too much."
Sasuke paused, and if one looked close enough, you could see the light tint in his cheeks. He turned away, and grumbled, "What?"
Sakura laughed, raised herself up on her toes, and kissed him. When they finally pulled away, she laughed once more.
"Uchiha Sasuke, I love you."
"I'm done with another mission! Tell me that wasn't record time! Nobody can stop the great Uzumaki Naruto!"
Up atop the hill that overlooked the village, Sasuke and Sakura watched with amused eyes at the blonde below who was parading to the uninterested guards.
Sasuke scoffed, "Still a moron I see."
She smiled at his comment, and called down, "Naruto!"
The fox glanced up, noticing the kunoichi first, "Sakura-chan's back!" His gaze shifted to her side, and the smile immediately dropped from his face. The backpack he was holding slipped out of his hands and dropped to the ground unnoticed. A few tense seconds past, until Naruto broke into a sprint towards them. "S-SASUKE-TEME!"
Back on the hill, Sasuke sighed, "He's already crying."
Sakura laughed in response. She clutched his hand and together, they headed down. Uchiha Sasuke had finally returned.
He had come home.
So it felt a bit strange to be typing 'END' all over again. But hopefully, this will answer some questions from the first epilogue. If there are still any questions about the story, please feel free to ask.
This is the end...truly.