A/N (Update 5/18/13): I originally started revising this back in 2010, but then I graduated high school, took a five-week vacation in the Philippines, and started college. I just recently got back into looking over my fics after finishing my bachelor's. I originally wrote this when I was 14 years old, so the writing style is nothing like my current one. I fixed grammatical errors and some details that I had overlooked in 2006, but I rewrote the ending because the old one was too cliché. Anyway, I hope y'all enjoy reading my adolescent writing =)
Warning(s): Possible OOCness. Mature implications.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any of its characters. Masashi Kishimoto does.
Her delicate fingers traced the engraved lettering in the stone before her. How many times had she done this same routine over and over? She didn't answer her own question as she gazed upon the writing set into the familiar stone before her.
Died 20 Years of Age
Killed in Action
The K.I.A. stone that Kakashi had first pointed out to her squad during their training exercise was what she stood before now. At first, back then, she hadn't thought of it as much a big deal. Sure, she thought it was quite honorable for those who had lost their lives for the sake of the village, but never had she thought that she would actually recognize any name on it.
She was wrong.
And so here she stood, once again reading over the name of her love on this stone that she began to detest more each time she visited it. This stone had taken away so many from her. The latest addition to its commemoration broke her heart because now it meant both of them—both her loves—were gone forever.
She felt the familiar hot tears threatening to cascade down her face again. How many times did she allow herself to suffer like this ever since that day?
"Damn it…" she whispered hoarsely, choking on the tears that began to trickle down her now pale face as she kneeled against the stone. She clenched her fist before bringing it up to bang it harshly against the rough surface. "Why…?"
Anger boiled within her now, and she had to try her best to not break the stone with her inhuman strength. Her shoulders shook violently, and her sobs became louder, more painful.
"Neji…you liar…" she whispered again, this time with a tone of anger. She pounded again—as "gently" as she could as to not shatter it like she wanted to. You promised me…you promised me…!
It was the night before the Hyuuga's next mission, and Sakura watched as he packed, a smile on her face as she admired the serious ANBU captain mode that he had taken. She bounced a bit on their bed and laughed inwardly at how Neji tried his best to ignore the hints she made to catch his attention. She was twenty now, too old to be trying to catch attention with playful antics, but alas, she knew Neji just couldn't resist the temptation to look at her whenever she went into "cute mode."
"Do you want something, Sakura?" he asked in a suppressed voice, knowing that if he weren't careful with his words that he would lose this playful battle with his lover.
"You," she answered simply, grinning at how Neji's chakra flow swirled out of control in response to her answer. Neji always let her win anyway.
He turned around and gave her his trademark sexy Hyuuga smirk before walking over to her and grasping her chin gently, planting a soft kiss on her lips. As he pulled back, he said huskily, "Not tonight…"
She pouted a bit before wrapping her arms rather protectively around his neck. "Why not…? Who knows? It may be the last time that we get to, you know? It's always like this, remember?"
Back then, she had always been kidding around whenever she said that, but she had always won anyway.
Neji chuckled a bit before whispering on her lips, "Because I won't get enough sleep if we do…"
Sakura gave him the best puppy dog pout she could, her jade eyes watering.
The Hyuuga had to tear his mauve eyes away from her or else he would succumb to her charm. An uncharacteristic grin curled on his lips as he said in response to her look, "But we already have one coming up." To emphasize his answer, he placed a hand a bit below her stomach, feeling for the life he knew was growing inside of her—a life that he had helped create.
Sakura smiled as she placed her own hand over his. "Yes…I guess you're right," she laughed as Neji patted her tummy rather protectively.
"How many more months?" he asked as he removed his hand from her stomach and got up to finish packing.
"Neji, we just found out I'm six weeks pregnant, you impatient fool."
Neji chuckled as he buckled his bag shut. "Don't get pissy with me. Your hormones may cause you to body-slam me…"
"It's true," he insisted as he mentally went over the list of things he needed for his mission. Once he knew he had everything he needed, he made his way towards her again, this time wrapping his arms around her as he drew her into a tight embrace.
"How long are you going to be gone?" she asked, her voice muffled in his muscular shoulder.
"I don't know…at least a month, she said," he answered.
Sakura pulled back a bit, worry evident in her jade orbs. "That's why I hate S-ranks…" she muttered rather childishly.
He laughed as he drew her in for another chaste kiss. "Tough luck. It's a part of my job."
"You promise to come back safe, okay?"
"Of course. Like always, ne, Sakura?"
The sepia-haired man laughed as he kissed her again.
"You liar…you promised you would come back safe…" she growled, the tears running endlessly. She choked on her sobs again as she felt the pain seep back in her heart. "You promised you would …"
It hurt to say what she knew she would never get now. It was another broken promise. And after Neji's death, many promises had been broken.
Her teary eyes glanced at the gold band that wound around her left ring finger, and she could feel herself about to break down again. Knowing Neji had left his behind as to not lose it while on his mission hurt even more because it signified that the ring would never be worn again.
They had been happy for two years now, and Neji was anxious. The last couple of months had gone by quickly for him…and her. Never had he been so happy in his whole life, because before he had met her, his life was full of wrong turns. But when he had indeed met her, he felt that, for once, fate decided to show him the right way.
And so Hyuuga Neji waited outside of Konoha Hospital for Sakura's shift to end.
The sepia-haired man looked up to the voice that he had wanted to hear all day. A small smile tugged on his lips as his girlfriend came up beside him, her arms holding her white jacket as she wore her own medic-nin hospital uniform. Even though he would never admit it, Sakura looked damn hot in that skirt of hers.
"Sakura," he greeted, standing up and entwining her fingers with his own, as he proceeded to walk her home as he usually did after her shift ended.
"I didn't think you'd pick me up today…since you were busy earlier," she said, recalling how Neji had told her earlier in the day that he wouldn't be able to spend time with her, for there was some "business" for him to take care of.
"Got it finished," he answered simply, his trademark Hyuuga smirk threatening to burst out onto his features.
"I can see that," she responded with a rather flat tone. "May I ask what this 'business' of yours dealt with?"
If Neji wasn't a Hyuuga, his face would have been filled with nervousness, but since he was indeed a Hyuuga, he kept his cool façade up. "Sakura…" he said quietly, stopping in his tracks. Since he still held Sakura's hand in his own, his sudden halt caused the medic-nin to stop as well, at which she shot him a curious look. He lithely slipped his hand out of hers as he reached in his back pocket to pull something out. As the street lights shone over the object he slowly dragged out, Sakura drew her breath in sharply.
"Sakura…" he said again as he presented a miniature velvet box. He dropped down on one knee as he took her left hand in his own, his right flipping open the carton to reveal a 24-karat ring with three diamonds embedded into it. "Will you marry me?"
The pink-haired kunoichi could only stare at the man kneeled before her in shock. Her heart pounded against her chest so hard that it threatening to burst out; her hands had become clammy, and her breathing had become faster. Her eyes went blurry as she nodded slowly, tears beginning to flow down her pale cheeks. " Yes…" she whispered, choking on a sob. Happiness coursed throughout her whole body.
"I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you," Neji said with a smirk.
"I said 'yes,' you idiot!" she cried out before flinging herself onto him, her arms latching around his neck. He had buckled back in surprise and was now sitting on his rear with Sakura clinging onto him.
He let out a chuckle as he took hold of her left hand again and slipped the ring onto her ring finger, momentarily flashing his own matching ring on his left hand. Even though it wasn't tradition for a male to possess an engagement ring, Neji was all for breaking rules, and he wanted everyone to know that he had already been claimed. Stepping forward, he drew her into a tight embrace before pressing his lips against hers, instigating the most passionate kiss ever shared between them.
And that was the first time he had ever told her those three sweet words.
"We were…supposed to be happy together…" she murmured, sniffling a bit more. Bringing a hand up to her face, she roughly brushed away her tears.
It hadn't been too long ago that Neji had proposed to her—exactly four months before Neji's twenty-first birthday. Yes, the age he had asked for her hand in marriage had been quite young, but knowing that their duty as shinobi always risked putting their lives on the line made their bond stronger—pushed them to love each other as if it were the last time they would ever share passion.
The first time they had made love wasn't even supposed to happen…yet, anyhow. Shortly after Neji's proposal, Sakura had aroused the Hyuuga so much that before they knew it, the two were entangled in each other's arms in the ANBU captain's bed sheets. Hiashi hadn't exactly approved of his nephew's actions at first, but he knew he had no say in Neji's affairs whatsoever and simply allowed him to do as he pleased.
Back before then, they had made an agreement to not make love before their planned wedding, for they wanted their wedding night to be the most passionate night for them. However…
Sakura gripped her stomach, biting down on her lip, as memories came flooding back into her mind. The grief overcame her once again, and she couldn't help breaking down.
Neji allowed his mauve eyes to roam over the petite figure of Haruno Sakura, whose body was adorned in a form-fitting white summer dress, her mid-length pink tresses piled up into a bun at the nape of her neck as her long bangs streamed down the sides of her face. The hem of her dress ended half a foot above her knee, giving Neji a good glimpse of her muscular yet sexy long legs. The inch-wide dress straps dipped down her chest to form a v-neck, showing some cleavage.
It didn't help that the last breezes of March decided to show before the advent of April. The wind blew against the two, causing Sakura's skirt to flutter in pallid waves, which only aroused the Hyuuga even more.
"Neji-kun, isn't it nice?" Sakura sighed dreamily as she turned to him.
The sepia-haired man felt his face heat up before coughing and agreeing.
She accused him of not listening and began to lecture him, which he certainly did not want to hear at the moment. And as she became caught up in the raptures of her lecture, he did the best thing he could think of to shut her up: he pressed his lips against hers. Taking advantage of her open mouth, he slipped his tongue inside to explore her cavern.
Her eyes widened at the sudden impact but closed momentarily as she succumbed to the kiss, her own tongue shyly meeting his.
His left hand had settled on her hip, the other hovering over the base of her neck. His fingers entangled themselves in her hair, skillfully undoing her bun and causing waves of pink to instantly cascade down her back. He relished the softness of her hair, running his fingers through the pink strands before cupping the back of her head, deepening the lip-lock between them.
She instantly melted in his arms, leaning against his muscular chest with her hands pressed against his pectoral muscles. She raised her right hand to caress his left cheek before softly cupping it and pulling him towards herself to ignite even more passion and fire. She felt his tongue against hers before it swept over her bottom lip—tasting her, teasing her.
"Nn…" she moaned softly against his lips, and in turn, he let out an aroused growl. She felt the hand in her hair slowly slide against the skin of her neck, tracing the curve of her shoulder before reaching behind to feel for the zipper on her dress. But before he could get to stripping her down, she broke the kiss for a moment and whispered onto his lips, "Not here…"
After all, they were only at the bridge above the river in Konoha. It was only early evening, around seven o'clock or so, and they were in public, which meant that the chances of someone passing by them were very likely.
"My place," he growled out against her lips as he stepped away from her and took her hand, transporting them to the Hyuuga estate.
Clothes flew, fingers ran, and lips touched…skin slid against skin, and heat exploded all over their bodies with every touch. He knew where to touch her and how to please her. His touches were gentle, well restrained even though the beast inside wanted so much more, but he resisted to prevent hurting her. And for that, she loved him even more. In return, she vented all of her love into him during that night at that moment.
Even in the aftermath of the morning, she hadn't felt guilty at all. She had felt rather proud of the love-making that had taken place between them, and she knew that after their marriage that she would experience so much more.
She would never feel him against her again, in her arms or inside of her. She would never feel his fiery kisses or gentle hands again. He wasn't a very verbal man, but she always knew how he showed his love for her. She would never feel his tender touches again, and she would never hear him whisper those three sweet words ever again.
The last time she had ever heard them was the day she had learned of her pregnancy—that something had been made from the love between them.
They had already bought their own apartment, and it was safe to say that they never got much sleep every night. They shared passion each passing night, for they never knew when it would be the last time for them. Every day was always like the last day for either of them, and so they showed each other as much love as they could whenever possible.
Since it was still early in May, the days became warmer as spring reached its peak, which displeased Neji, for he preferred winter and its coldness. Although Sakura usually didn't mind warm temperatures, she had rather irritably welcomed the late spring heat, much to Neji's surprise.
But today she was more irritable than usual. And when she had gone to the fridge because of a mysterious craving and couldn't find what she was looking for, she threw a tantrum—and not just any regular tantrum: a PMS-like, destructive tantrum.
"NEJI! WHY THE HELL DON'T WE HAVE ANY TOMATOES?!" she screamed angrily as she stormed into the living room where the Hyuuga was leisurely sitting on one of the beige couches while polishing weapons. She banged her fist rather violently against the wall, causing it to crack and crumble a bit, which instantly gained Neji's attention.
Neji simply stared at the partially destroyed wall before directing his gaze at his fiancée. He had to admit deep inside that he was somewhat afraid of Sakura's violent temper, but today was the worst he had ever witnessed. He could only hope that his smooth tact would be able to avoid as much of her pissiness as possible. "Because we never buy tomatoes…"
The rest of the partially destroyed wall instantly crumbled, joining the debris piling up on the floor.
"ARRRRGGGGHHHH!" she bellowed furiously before stomping outside, leaving Neji to stare rather frightfully at the destruction caused by his lover.
He immediately set out after her, determined to buy whatever she wanted as long as it would keep her down. He had never seen her so angry, and he obviously didn't enjoy witnessing it.
However, later after three servings of tomatoes and rice balls, Neji couldn't help staring as Sakura leaned over their toilet to empty her bowels out with a foul mood.
"Maybe you should go see Tsunade-sama...?" he suggested as he grimaced at the sight of her purging out another gush of vomit.
After flushing the toilet, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand as she stood and walked to the faucet to wash her hands. After a quick rinse with mouth wash, she replied in a low voice, "I don't feel like moving…"
He sighed as he walked to her and turned around, bending at his knees and reaching his arms behind him to beckon her to climb on. "I'll carry you."
She stared for a bit before nodding slowly and slipping onto his hard back. She felt his arms slip under her legs before he hoisted her up with ease. She laid her head to one side against his back as he formed the seals to transport to the Hokage's office.
Upon arriving at their destination, Neji had immediately asked to see Tsunade, explaining his dire situation. Sakura's being the Godaime's apprentice proved useful as Shizune came down in an instant and escorted him and Sakura to Tsunade's office.
He automatically explained the recent occurrences to which Tsunade patiently listened while occasionally glancing at her rather sickly-looking student. As Neji finished, Tsunade simply chuckled at his explanation, which received a curious look from his mauve eyes.
Ceasing her laughter, she stood up and walked towards Sakura before pressing a glowing hand against the pink-haired girl's stomach. Ignoring the incredulous expressions of the two younger shinobi, she lowered her hand as her chakra dimmed. Her hazel eyes regarded them with amusement as she simply answered with, "She's obviously pregnant. Good job, Hyuuga."
The look on Neji's face would have been hilarious to Sakura if she wasn't shocked as well.
"Pregnant?" Sakura squeaked, whereas Neji couldn't even find the willpower to say anything. She felt darkness overtake her as she instantly fainted in his arms.
When she woke up, she found herself on their bed with an ecstatic Neji sitting beside her. She was rather dumbfounded to see him so happy, for she had always seen him as the calm and collected type, but she supposed this kind of reaction to the news they had just received was natural.
But Neji uncharacteristically drew her in a strong embrace, whispering in her ear, "I love you." And he repeated it to her over and over as he held her in his arms.
Sakura could remember the happiness that had ignited within Neji for knowing that he had helped create a life with her. Of all the women in the world, he had chosen Haruno Sakura; and of all the men in the world, Sakura had chosen Hyuuga Neji. The time she had spent with Neji had been the happiest moments of her life, but they were indeed on par with the memories she had shared with her first love, Uchiha Sasuke.
But they both were gone now.
After Sasuke's death when she was still eighteen, going nineteen, whereas the Uchiha had died at the young age of eighteen, Neji had been there for her. It had been a slowly developing relationship between them that formed from mere acquaintances to friends and finally to more than friends. In no time, they had become romantically involved. And later they had become betrothed lovers.
But that was only as far as fate would allow their love to go on. Fate had ended Neji's life before they could make the love between them official and eternal. It had already taken Sasuke from her, giving her Neji in exchange before cruelly taking him away as well. What more could she lose in this life?
Her hands settled on her stomach once again, and she felt a small smile form on her pale lips, her eyes still moist. However, fate had allowed the life inside of her to continue growing. And she was glad that she could at least keep something that was akin to Neji, unlike with Sasuke, who had died during the early stages of their romance.
She stroked her elevated stomach lovingly, knowing that Neji's child still had a chance at life, and she swore that she would do all she could to give him or her that chance. She remembered those nights she would talk to Neji about the unborn baby—how her maternal instincts would emerge and how his own paternal instincts would as well when discussing the aspect of raising a daughter.
"No male may touch her," he had told her with a protective glint in his pearl-like eyes.
Then she had asked him about having a son.
"He will surpass the power of the main house as well and become head of the clan," he had answered rather arrogantly, at which she had simply laughed.
But those times were over…just like Neji's life.
The day Neji's squad returned was supposed to be a day that she was supposed to experience ecstasy to see her lover home again. However, she had experienced quite the opposite.
It had been five weeks since Neji's departure in late May, and now it was the last week of June. Sakura had been assigned to hospital duties and no missions outside of Konoha because of her pregnancy; she only complied due to her sensei's request to take it easy. Of course, without Neji around, she experienced mood swings and cravings even worse than whenever she went through that time of the month.
And when she heard knocking on her door, she opened it to find a grim-looking Naruto standing outside.
"Naruto! What are you doing here?" she greeted enthusiastically, despite how she had been rather pissed a few moments before.
"Sakura-chan…" he started, but she pulled him inside, ushering him to her sofa.
"Would you like something to drink? Eat? Anything?" she offered.
The blonde shook his head and spoke before she could open her mouth. "I have some…news…"
"Why don't we discuss it over tea?" she suggested with a strained smile, about to walk towards her kitchen before Naruto grasped her hand tightly.
He knew that her happy façade was fake and that she was simply trying to hide her dread of hearing his news. But he had to let her know as soon as possible before she had to find out so much later. If there were any other way to say it, he would have gladly used it. But alas, he couldn't think of any other way to tell her without her having to urge him to continue his painful message.
"Neji…he's…he's gone, Sakura-chan…"
Sakura simply stared at Naruto before letting out a hearty but hesitant chuckle. "Well, did you just notice that, Naruto? He's been gone for three whole weeks already! And he's going to be back next week…and I can't wait to see him ask about the baby again—oh, he doesn't know that we're having a boy—and–"
"No, Sakura," he said firmly, shaking his head as he gripped her hand even tighter. His sad blue eyes gazed directly into her wide green ones. "Neji is dead. The mission failed, and the rest of the squad is back today with severe injuries. And Neji…he made his teammates come back without him and got killed trying to protect them."
And that was when time froze for Haruno Sakura as reality hit her.
Neji was gone.
Neji was dead.
She would never see him again.
And she couldn't help breaking down in her best friend's arms. "No…no…NO!" she cried into his shoulder as she desperately clung onto him, venting her grief out on him.
Naruto said nothing as he held her, allowing her to use his shoulder to cry on…as he had always done for her, even when they were still genin in Team 7.
"I promise…" she started as she stood up, her shadow washing over the K.I.A. gravestone, "I will raise this baby into a fine human being, just like you…Neji. And I won't break this promise."
Fighting the urge to cry again, she reached inside her shirt to pull out a small wrapped parcel with a bow that was accompanied with a card. She placed it on the grave, as close to Neji's name as possible, before stepping away and bowing her head in prayer.
She whispered those three words that she knew that she would never say to anyone else. Her words were carried away by the wind, and she tilted her head up, before saying it again. "I love you."
She stepped back, and before she turned around, she quietly said, "Happy twenty-first birthday, Neji…"
She began to depart from the gravesite dejectedly, wishing that she didn't have to leave it behind. She had thought to keep it at first since it matched her own, but she knew that seeing it every day would only remind her of her sorrows and loss, as well as the fact that they would never have the happiness they had been looking forward to before his time.
As she headed towards to the apartment that she had once shared with Neji, she resolved that everything would be okay and that she would be able to keep her head held high. Although she had no idea what the future held in store for her, she did know that she still had a life to live as she raised her and Neji's child. Fate had given her something worth living for, and she was going to make the best of it, even without Neji by her side.
Years later when her son was old enough to look at her with pale eyes and ask about his father, she closed her eyes and welcomed the bittersweet memories of her second love.
A/N: Now I know why no one guessed the right answer to what Sakura left. Obviously I still had much to learn about the world at 14 years old, lol. I added a completely new detail in the middle of the fic so that the hints made sense, so feel free to guess the mystery present! Anyway, reviews are appreciated =)