Tsuande remained calm although Sakura could see that her hands have clenched into a tight fist. She looked at Itachi as if he jabbed her stomach with his elbow and figuratively, he had.
Itachi stood there without any expression to stare at. There he was, calm and silent after causing a wave of confusion that swept across everyone that stood under the ever shining sun that smiled upon their troubled minds.
Sakura at first, could not breathe even if her own future depended on it. Yes, she heard Itachi's certain request but it took her the long moments without the air to realize what he had actually said. When she figured out that she wasn't breathing, she began to breath again but the air was so quiet, tense and still that she was afraid that people could hear her and stare at her. But they were all staring at her anyway. The reason why they were all so stunned was because of her anyway.
I want to know how much I can handle, and in order for that to happen… you need to help me. Itachi's words played in her head and the gravity of it sunk into her like water into a dry sponge.
Finally, Tsunade spoke. "Explain yourself."
Itachi turned his eyes to Tsunade. "I do not remember questioning you when you asked for my ring," He said.
"This is a different matter than a ring," Tsunade snarled. "Do you realize who you're asking for? She is an apprentice to me and the future of our medical world. I need a reason, now." Tsunade's demand was clearly strained from effort of keeping it steady for the sake of her people's courage. She was, after all, the leader of the village.
As much as those words meant a lot to Sakura, from a teacher that rarely complemented her, this was not a very appropriate time to feel warm and fuzzy and proud inside. In fact, the words bypassed her brain and she only found herself looking intently at Itachi, waiting for an answer. Yes Itachi…Why must it be me?
Itachi smirked, and smirk was never a good sign, especially on someone who had as much personality as an unplugged toaster.
The fact that Uchiha Itachi actually made a noticeable expression left Sakura - and everyone else in that matter - more uneasy than when he did not show anything at all. A sudden dramatic change of action - in which a simple thing as a smirk in Itachi's case - usually aroused suspicion and what Itachi said next in an attempt to calm the suspicion basically threw his audiences in a pit of utter disbelief. "What reason have I in needing someone? It is either Sakura or no one else. Since this is a treaty, I don't believe that…" He turned to Sakura now, "You have much of a choice."
"Sakura!" Tsunade called, with a vicious edge in her voice. "Say it! Say that you won't!"
"I'm afraid that would break the treaty," Itachi said.
"He's right, Tsunade-sama, let-"
"Shut up!" Tsunade cut Shizune's words as she kept her angry brown eyes fixed on the pink-haired girl. "Sakura," She called, more calmly this time but the level of her anger was still the same and if not, it was building with each and every passing second. "Speak, Sakura. There is no way we can put you in to this… unless… No, just say no, Sakura." Tsunade finally took Sakura's decision into this matter and decided to look at her and obviously was not satisfied by the expression on her apprentice's face of pure confusion.
Sakura's voice seemed to be defunct. There was no way that she could utter a word at this moment. The pressure was too great. She felt as if she was going to collapse but the inner Sakura inside her threatened to kill herself if she did such a thing.
Itachi smirked, yet again. "Hesitating, Haruno Sakura?" He said, quietly. And before anyone could stop him or even blink, he was next to her, breathing against her neck. "Why would you? Would rejecting me draw Sasuke any closer to you? He's sworn vengeance upon me that even you can't break. He won't stop and look at you as long as I live."
Tears threatened to escape her.
"Will you be a traitor to the village for a boy who's never going to look at you?" He whispered.
Her hands became clenched into a tight fist. But whether she was angry or not, what Itachi was saying was true.
"YOU GET THE HELL AWAY FROM HER!" A voice exploded among the crowd. It was Naruto. "I DIDN'T GIVE UP ON SAKURA-CHAN SO YOU COULD LAY YOUR DIRTY HANDS ON HER!!" With that, blue sphere began to glow in his palm.
Kakashi rushed over and grabbed his angry subordinate. "Naruto, calm down." He said firmly.
"But that bastard-"
"Naruto," Sakura called him with at least the equal firmness of Kakashi. She regained her posture as she was taught and leaned away from Itachi.
Turbulent storms were crashing inside of her head and everywhere else, in fact. She wished that someone would be here to help her out. But this was the truth: the deal had been finalized that whoever Itachi would claim would be final with or without anyone's approval. That was Itachi's right after giving up his ring and accepting the conditions of the treaty. She knew this. Kakashi knew this, and the entire village knew this.
Sasuke… if he was so desperate to claim her, he'd be here.
But he was away.
Farther away than anyone could ever imagine.
All the attention in the place were focused back on Sakura. Her arms were trembling as all her strength were concentrated on forming a tighter fist. Her fingers dug into the palm of her hand. She was biting her lip so hard that blood trickled down her chin and stained her medic uniform. But her voice was constrained and final. "Don't cause a ruckus, Naruto… Tsunade-shishou… it's shameful to the village."
"Sakura," Tsunade called, her voice swept over with anguish.
"Itachi-sama," Sakura called. How she hated him…
He didn't reply. But the way he looked at her, with his dark eyes relaxed and expecting an answer he already knew… He knew her decision.
The duty of a kunoichi was heavy. Maybe more so than a male shinobi, a lot of the times. Not only was she expected to sacrifice her body, but also her love and her soul.
That was what she swore upon a kunai when she attended the first day of the Ninja Academy.
That was the code she lived by. Though in pain and sorrow, her duty must be completed, even if it meant that her heart will build up a deeper wound everyday. Even if her heart would be lacerated until it was torn into many pieces.
"Konohagakure will accept the terms of the treaty. I, Haruno Sakura, is promised… to you."
No one spoke to her.
Actually, the better way to describe how her friends treated her is to say that they were avoiding her. Shizune was with Tsunade, and Ino tried her best not to make eye contact with Sakura. All other medic team only spoke to Ino, assuming that it would eventually reach Sakura if it was important. Although Ino was trying not to make eye contact, Sakura could still feel that Ino was gazing at her with both envy and worry.
This however, was a relief to Sakura who already had things to think about without anyone having to remind her. It wasn't like she had a voice to speak with anyone right now anyway.
It took more than the extendible limit that was allowed on her body to declare that she was to be the wife of a criminal in front of everyone she knew. Although the treaty was sealed the moment Itachi pointed straight towards Sakura, speaking her own future took more willpower than imaginable. It was as if she was a prisoner, reading line-by-line the methods of torture that she'll go through.
Her day of work finally ended and she exited the building to go home.
The night was cool and the streets were nearly empty.
Someone poked her.
Sakura turned to see Naruto.
"You should put this ointment on your lip, Sakura-chan… You were bleeding earlier," He said, smiling, and handed her a small tube containing ointment.
Sakura numbly applied the substance where it stung.
Silence hung in the air until Naruto said, "I'll walk you home."
"You don't have to."
She wished he hadn't offered to do so. She couldn't appreciate Naruto's kindness then, because all she wanted was to be alone. She wanted to cry. Right now, Naruto was just one another person who kept her from bursting into tears. If she doesn't cry soon, she knew she'd faint or something. Holding it in while he was right next to her was a trial like no other.
Naruto tried to start a light conversation to lighten the mood but Sakura either ignored him or gave him a curt answer that led to no further conversations. He gave up altogether after a while. But he spoke again when Sakura was about to enter her apartment building.
"What is it, Naruto?" Sakura was surprised at how choked and tired she sounded.
"Well, about what happened… Sasuke," He stopped short for a moment.
Sakura said nothing.
"He doesn't know anything yet. What-"
"Naruto," Sakura sternly cut him off. "Please… just… go…"
He was looking at her.
But she couldn't meet his gaze.
He walked away and Sakura ran as fast as she could to her room. No one was to see her cry, and crying was what she was planning to do for the entire day now.
She reached her apartment and fitted the key in the slot. The lock seemed to be stuck because no matter how much she twisted, it would not budge. In a fit of rage, she forcefully turned the key and the handle broke off and flew across the hall, hit the wall and made a visible dent before hitting the ground with a noisy clang.
Frustration mixed with her gloominess made her want to punch the nearest thing - which was the door - but she still had a bit of sanity left in her. She leaned against her door and sank to the floor.
A name she had to forget…
She was now an existence that opposed the one she loved the most.
She cried tonight, but she didn't make a sound.
No one was to hear her cry tonight. Not any night. She was to be married. She was to be a wife. Marriage is the climax of a girl's life. She shouldn't be crying, she shouldn't be longing for anything but the day of the marriage to draw nearer.
But no one will see her like this, for she was to be married. An engaged girl does not cry; she rejoices.
A shinobi cannot cry about a mission.
But Sakura, at this moment, felt nothing like a bride or a shinobi. She just felt like herself.
Just a girl she was born as.
"Geez, how did you manage to break the key? This happened before, but not like this and you'd better pay up on repairing that dent on the wall," The manager dragged on, irritated, some-what angry, but a bit puzzled as well. "Which won't be much… Anyway, use a giant lock for tonight and tomorrow. It will take that long to install a new door knob and the new key," He told her.
"Really? It would take that long?" Sakura questioned, with her voice flat and disinterested.
This caught the manager off-guard as he noticed that she was only half-listening ever since he began talking. The utter lack of emotion told him that she was suppressing something but it wasn't his place to ask her such a private question. He knew and she knew.
It was late-morning right now, folding into noon.
Sakura had been here for a short time, but the looks of her aroused so many suspicion in such a short span of time, she may as well, have set up a record.
Her hair was tousled and un-brushed. Her clothes were untidy and messy and her face was red, puffy, and irritated as if she'd been crying but no tear-streaks were there to prove the last remark. There better had not be. She spent painful amount of time, trying to scrub them off with the sleeve of her shirt.
"Did you spend the night outside in the hall?" The manager asked her, now with some-what more sympathy than before. "Why not break the door open? You were capable of it…" He mumbled, much to her oblivion to his words.
Sakura only curtly nodded before telling him a quick "Thanks," and left him to ponder on his own. He did not need to know what was occupying her thoughts right now.
No one needed to know.
She walked back into her room, her hands conveniently in her pocket the entire time, nudging past her door which no longer required any hands for it to open. She closed the door with her leg and with her hands still playing in her pocket, she went into her kitchen and sat blankly on a chair.
She knew that Tsunade would wonder where her favorite pupil had gone but skipping her work today would be forgiven and forgotten for now. Probably, no one wanted to see her at the hospital anyway. Who was she to ruin everyone else's mood with her own heavy and worn atmosphere?
All people deserved to be at least some-what happy and one person's misery should not be a contributing factor to other's inconvenience. She was taught that ever since she was young. It had been difficult, yes, and since this was more difficult than any other she was challenged with before, she kindly gave up on showing her face to her comrades. Yesterday had not been a generous experience on anyone; not on her, not on the nurses, or the patients, to brood with her on her own overwhelming misery.
God damn, she hated being sad.
She ran out of tears to cry at least three hours ago. Other than the last fifteen minutes she was lightly "conversing" with the manager of her apartment, she was trying to get some shut-eye rather than sleeping. It probably wouldn't have lasted anyway.
She was struck with thirst but hesitated on drinking a glass of water, wondering if that would replenish the supply of tears again. That would be annoying. But her throat was parched and the hesitation was only brief before she chugged sown one glass after another.
Her stomach chilled and responded in numb-pain at the sudden rush of water, but her throat felt much better. If her tears began flowing again, she would have punched herself. Instead, she climbed into her bed, laying off her shoes, unable to keep her eyes closed for long.
She was going to be married.
She tossed around in discomfort and to her dismay, she found it impossible to get comfortable. Each of her positions were "bearable" for half-a-minute and she tossed around again. If she had more energy left in her, her bed would have been splintered. But at least the bed was attempting to offer some solace to her, though it was futile. Her mind was pitted against turmoil and her body was not helping with the extreme awareness that told her: she needed a bath. But her body was also being a bitch and made it difficult to move.
She spun towards the wall and when she violently turned back towards the opposite direction, she saw someone familiar, toying with her door, no longer able to keep anyone out with the lack of a knob.
"What happened to your door?" Kakashi asked, examining the perfect hole intended for the knob.
Sakura didn't answer him. He wasn't here to ask her about the mysteries of her door missing a knob and she felt no need to waste her energy on things that did not matter to her. At least, not at the moment.
"Well," Kakashi sighed. "At least you didn't break the entire door or anything…"
She still didn't stir in her bed and turned her eyes away from him, attempting to close them, just to open them back up after a short while.
Kakashi sat on the floor besides the bed as the awkward silence progressed further into the state of ignoring each other… well, at least, Sakura seemed to be ignoring him. It was impossible for him to ignore one of his favorite kunoichi who was currently in very much sadness. He had to say it; she had to know. Sakura wasn't the one to come to her sensei and complain about boys but she never needed to. Things between her and Sasuke were so obvious that it was near-impossible to mistake it. "Sakura," He called. "He's back, you know. Sasuke is."
Spark of panic coursed through her veins as she felt as if her blanket was filled with cold air. Her eyes grew wider as she began to be painfully aware of her cold fingertips. Her emerald eyes stared into Kakashi's one black ones as if she was clinging onto the only sanity she had left.
"He returned yesterday. He knows."
These simple words drove an invisible stake into her heart. But what did she expect? He couldn't not know… Itachi was his brother after all… and she was… she was… well, at least a friend.
"Sensei…" She called out, her voice losing energy.
"Sakura, are you sure about this? We can try to convince Itachi to-"
Sakura shook her head. Tears crept into her eyes again. "It's no use… it's no use…" She mumbled, silently damning the water she consumed. She pulled the blanket over her head. She would not let her sensei see her cry. Rule number 25: A ninja should never show his/her tears. It was clearly written on the textbook she memorized as an obligation. The textbook she memorized so Sasuke would notice her.
Somehow or another, she always found herself breaking that rule. Over and over again and the cause was Sasuke, Naruto, and more Sasuke.
Sakura did best she could do to muffle her sobs but Kakashi knew. He laid a gentle hand on her covered head and patted her. "Be strong, Sakura. I know you are," He told her.
He turned to leave but Sakura called him. "Kakashi-sensi…"
"Will you please… with your sharingan… Please put me to sleep…" She pleaded.
Kakashi sighed. It wouldn't be natural if she would fall asleep with her current state of mind. Slowly, he lifted his head-band to allow the gentle hypnotization take place. When she fell asleep almost immediately, he gathered her limp arms and head in the proper position and firmly pulled the blanket over her. Then he turned around to leave her alone. The best remedy for her right now was to sleep as if tomorrow would never come. So he left, placing a chair to hold the loose door shut.
When she came by, the sky was dark with moon illuminating little light. She was surprised at the fact that she slept through the entire day but was almost thankful that she had done so. Now that she was awake, she could no longer delay her shower.
When she casually glanced over to her door, there was a chair holding back the door. She made a mental note to thank Kakashi later. Depressed or not, having a dysfunctional door that could easily be opened by anyone was a strange thought, so she stacked some heavy volumes of books on top of the chair and laid weights down besides the chair. When she was sure that half of her assets were laid by the door, she nodded approvingly, proud for no reason whatsoever.
She would just enter and exit through the window until the knob was back. Funny, how a little thing such as a knob would impact her other possessions. It was as if the Lords of castles were standing watch at the gate when a guard dies. She crumpled up a piece of paper as she walked towards the door and shoved it in the round hole where the knobs used to be. Just in case.
Only then, did she trudge into the bathroom, where she securely locked the door, a thing she had never done before missing knobs. She partially undressed when her eyes scanned past the mirror and she had to do a horrified double-take at her face.
Her exceptionally pretty face, once healthy-looking with flawless complexion and fair tone was now almost unrecognizable with sunken eyes marred by dark circles, emphasized by her severe lack of cheeks and color. Her green eyes stared at itself miserably as self-pity consumed her. The reflection was of a girl she no longer knew as her own. For a good five minutes, she did absolutely nothing but stand there, brooding in her despair but she couldn't stay a statue forever.
She stood still as hot water rained over her. If water could wash away time, hatred, love, choices… If everything had been different…
If she wasn't who she was…
If she had a single wish come true, she would know what to wish for.
Her hair was drenched as streams of water veiled over her. Her hands were slowly rubbing over her face as to comfort herself. Occasionally, she felt hot tears peeping out from between her sealed eyelids and making itself known to her hands. She didn't need to know if she was crying again.
She questioned fate so much that it was no longer an option, she hated fate so much that she simply wanted to disappear, and she feared her fate so much, that the heat of the water only reached skin-deep. Fear and contempt churned inside of her and was taking over her until she just… wanted to stop.
Two days later, Sakura was called into Tsunade's office.
The hokage paced about in frustration, and by the dark circles under her eyes, she had been sleeping as well as Sakura had the past few days. When Sakura entered the building, her concerned eyes studied Sakura for any signs of illness but her mouth said none of them. "Oh, Sakura, finally, it's you. Sit down. I have things to discuss."
She did as she was told.
Tsuande looked at her. "How are you feeling?" She asked.
"I'm sorry, shishou… I've been lacking in my hospital duties…"
"Forget it," Tsunade snapped. "I'd rather have a robot as company than you these couple of days," She said, but the concern in her voice betrayed the thorn of her words.
Sakura stirred in her chair.
Tsunade sighed. "As much as I hate to tell you… Itachi had come by… and we set up the date."
Sakura expected that Tsunade had called for this reason. But hearing it made her heart sink lower than it already was.
"Three days," Tsunade continued against her will. "The wedding will take place in three days," She spat out the words as if she had been chewing on dirt.
"I understand, shishou," Sakura said, as confidently as she could but it was a façade. She knew and her shishou knew. Even Itachi knew. He knew, the best of them all.
Sakura closed the door behind her, now with knobs. Locking it behind her, she slid down to the floor, sighing so deeply that she almost began to cry again.
Three fucking days…
She buried her face in her palms and sat there like that until she felt a presence about the room. A shadow was looming by her bed and when she turned the light on to reveal who it was, she thought she was going to die of heart-failure.
He was leaning by the wall so casually, that this might as well have been his home, and Sakura the unwilling hostage. Everything about him was relaxed and lazy; only his dark eyes looked at her as if he was going to burn a hold through her.
She hopelessly gazed upon his cold beauty, trying to find words to say, but couldn't. The word she was trying to say was "Sorry." The words that were prying at her tightly closed lips were worthless declarations of love. But at last, neither prevailed as she could only manage to gasp out his name. "Sasuke-kun…"
His face cringed a bit when he heard his name whispered out of her lips but he said nothing. His eyes were intensely on her, but she couldn't read what emotion he was trying to display with his intensity. Most-likely anger. Maybe a bit of sadness… For the life of her, she could not tell.
But at last, he broke the gaze and looked down to the floor. "I misjudged you," He said, and when he looked at her this time, the intensity was gone. Only serene, hollow pool of black looked at her.
Sakura bit her lip. I know, Sakura thought. I know that I've told you that I'd love you forever…I know I lied, She reasoned in her head.
"I never thought you would take up your duty before your feelings, I'm impressed." He told her.
What he said struck her like lightning. Out of all the things he could have said… She would rather have him angry at her for lying. For betraying. Why was he being so calm? It should have hurt him. She knew it should have. But his black eyes gave away nothing of that sort.
"I've always thought your head was filled with useless things like romance and such. I would have never thought that you would take up your responsibilities as ninja and forsake those needless bonds. I am almost proud of you," He told her, each beautiful sound of his voice, lashing at her raw, wounded heart.
Proud? Proud? How could he be proud?
Ever since she laid her eyes on him, she's wanted to make him proud of her. She worked and studied vigilantly day and night to score the highest on her exams for his approval. She became the most brilliant student in her class for his approval. She would have climbed thousand mountains and crossed thousand rivers if he would nod to her. When she had sacrificed everything in the attempt to make him proud of her, he would scoff and turn the other way.
Now he was looking at her with tranquil eyes, telling her that he was proud of her for betraying him.
"Goddamn you!" Sakura suddenly yelled.
He did not move, but his eyes followed her as she stormed in front of him, but stopped as if she was afraid of touching him.
"Why won't you slap me or something, or at least call me a whore?! Why do you have to be proud of me for marrying the person you hate? Why don't you tell me that you hate me?!" As much as Sakura never wanted any of these to happen, any of the mentioned things were better than this.
"As a friend, I am glad that you've made the right choice," He said, almost warmly.
"And there isn't anything between us for me to throw any insults at you," Sasuke continued.
Sakura closed her eyes as another set of tears rolled down her cheek. "Kiss me," She pleaded.
Sasuke looked at her. "Don't be foolish."
"I don't kiss my enemy's wife ."
"I am not!" Sakura cried indignantly. "I'm just Sakura right now." She reached out to him, hesitantly taking his face in her hand.
For a brief moment, he closed his eyes, savoring the brush of her soft hand against his cheek, but he turned away from her and walked past her towards the door. "You are Itachi's betrothed. It's all you are to me right now," He said, with a voice that barely masked raw hatred that Sakura's knees gave out.
She watched as he made his way towards the door and opened it.
When she blinked once to clear her vision of tears, the door was closed and she couldn't even hear his gentle footsteps gliding away from her room.
I know, she cries a lot... but oh well... I 'd cry alot too if I was in her situation... Bear with me even if the excessive crying is annoying :P And as always, thank you!