Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Not even a little tiny blonde hair.
So I haven't been alive since New Years, which means it's been about four months, but whatever.
At least this time I'm not posting at, like, 2AM Arizona time! Whoooo!
Well, I'm blaming the lateness on my new puppy, this time, because he's adorable and so terribly distracting. He's four months old today, actually, and he's half German shepherd and half Siberian husky and he's all white and his name is Yukon andandand he hasoneblueeyeandonebrownandhe'sadorableandandand…YEAH. :D
Ahaha, well, there isn't a whole lot for me to say about this one except that IT IS THE FINAL CHAPTER. No more after this. Chapter fifteen is here, and it is THE END. I do not intend to write any sequels. I am satisfied with this chapter and its ending, and if you're not…well, too bad for you.
Read! And please review, it makes me feel so giddy.
Uh, as far as music goes, the Shinichi Osawa remix of "Pogo" by Digitalism is responsible for most of this chapter. Songs like that are the reason I'm alive.
And you can probably tell where I got really into writing this, because the paragraphs are fatter and nicer. Haha.
I WILL LOVE YOU FOREVER AND EVER if you leave me a review. It doesn't even have to be a nice one.
Soporific, YoungSasuke, Brandy Camel, hushhushyou, graviola, Zelha, Kineticfairy, runwithskizzers, Sagitarious Devil, cottoncandyskies, MidnightRosebud, jaishe, Masked and Dangerous, DesslerAlmeida, Claud-kun, TwistedAttraction, Nyaro, darklace15, Inuzuka Nin, Incognito Temptation, olhai.lirios, fleeting thought, insaneteacup, charl, kinomoto blossom, lepetitchat, pinkLaLa-o3, Whii-chan, Kawaii IceCream, the blanket, Darkofthenight, Sienna Maiu, clenalyn, serenitydreemz, SnowballoC, sakura9898, DeviouslyEeyore, nhix, 00vixey00, Only Secret, jami16, Alucius, YoungSasuke, hibiscussummoner, Captain Stu, xrose45623, 20 Thousand Leagues, Pure Essence, RLO, keigojin, icygirl2, DeepFreeze, yourdarkdesire, tarzi-kins, hushhushyou, nhix, BastetAzazis, Sabaku no Senshi, PrincessLazyPants, Arella, eeeee.eee.eeee, Pearl Drop Rain, Dattabayo, Teefie, fuu-nk, mak0-ch1, Ribs On The Run, Bea.., FlamedraSeer7213, iFo0l, s&sforever, xxCrex3int-, Erica, Roses of Sharon, Haruka Kokoro, Light Me Up, Pearl Drop Rain, divinemystique6
cottoncandyskies, because, let's face it, anyone who can fit a tiny romance novel into a review has to be pretty amazing.
runwithskizzers, because when you update, I have to update. Asshole. Hahaaa, jaykay, jaykay…
runwithskizzers: I won't lie to you, the minute you updated I was like "Shit! Now I really have to get to work!" Haha. You probably don't remember your review by now, but I really appreciate it.
xrose45623: Thank you, dah-ling! I'm so honored you consider this one of your favorites.
Brandy Camel: BRANDY CRIED? AHAH! Success! Lol, only joking. Thanks for all the wonderful reviews, and the humor, too.
PrincessLazyPants: Well, I'm certainly glad that you couldn't find me thanks to my ninja skills, because I would've been totally dead if you saw how much procrastination I was doing as far as this story went. It wasn't my fault, though! It was WoW, and my puppy, and boys!
Serenity.Aglow: Ohhh…thank you so much. I'm so glad that you like this and I am definitely grateful you've stuck with me 'til the end!
Kineticfairy: You certainly have my sympathy, and I hope your situation gets better soon. Thank you for all of your reviews, and thank you, especially, for not giving up on me and my sporadic updates.
FlamedraSeer7213: Haha! A bright shining star in a sea of darkness, eh? Well, it certainly made me laugh. Thanks so much.
hushhushyou: Well, now you know how many are left…just this one. I promise I'll have another multi-chaptered fic out soon, though.
Dattabayo: Oh my, you check daily? That's a lot of days. Sorry for the delay! And thank you for your glorious reviews.
yourdarkdesire: You broke your elbow? Ouch. Thanks for the lovin'. :D
Haruka Kokoro: You've summarized it more beautifully than I ever could have. Thanks a bunch.
And here it is (drumroll please), the final chapter…
Chapter Fifteen: Beginnings
It was then, on that bridge in the moonlight, pouring everything she had into that one contact of lips, that Sakura realized there would never be room for anyone but Sasuke in her heart.
She was still crying as she kissed him, still aching inside, even when he took his scarred left hand and buried it in her hair. He would forever be her everything and nothing, her weakness and her strength. He was her reason to live, to love and hate, to laugh and weep.
The fingers of his other hand tentatively brushed her hip, gentle and unsure, so terribly tender.
He didn't even love her back.
A horrible sob wracked through her bones and she drew back from him; their noses were touching, breath mingling. She stared into his hard black eyes with glittering jade ones, tears endlessly sliding down her cheeks.
"I love you so much," she whispered against his lips, pausing only to swallow the lump in her throat, "that it hurts."
And Sakura ran, because she could never think rationally otherwise.
She slipped through his fingers easily, like the water that so freely flowed under the bridge.
It was ironic, that after all those years of chasing him across land and sea he was finally home—and all they could do was run away from each other.
Sasuke stared down at the scars that laced their way jaggedly over the back of his hand and up to his elbow. Faintly, he could still feel her lips on his knuckles, could still taste the saline, could still see the way the stars made her tears glitter as they slid down her face and clung to her eyelashes.
And then he realized that perhaps they weren't running away from each other so much as what they had steadily built between them since his return.
Their undefined relationship had turned into a mutual bond, something stronger but still so ambiguous. He wouldn't lie to himself any longer—that bond intimidated him. He had worked hard to sever all of his ties to this place the day he left the village, but the fact that she had so easily cut down his defenses and worked her way back in only served to prove that all his work had been for naught.
No matter how hard he had tried over the years he had been gone, this place would always be home.
He hadn't thought of her very often during his time with Orochimaru and his time searching for his brother, he couldn't lie about that. He had expected her to remain the same, somehow—weak, small, insignificant.
He had seen her once, that time nearly three years ago when they had found him, tried to bring him home. She had changed, certainly—but she still looked at him like a lovesick puppy.
And when Naruto finally managed to drag him home—bloody, beaten, burned by his own techniques and his brother's Amaterasu—she had morphed into someone completely different. No longer was she a pompous little girl, but a serious kunoichi. She had been apathetic towards him, and perhaps he had deserved it.
But he hadn't expected it to sting as much as it had.
Sasuke closed his eyes, blocked out the stars and moon—he had anticipated the cool darkness of his closed eyelids.
Instead he saw the shimmering brightness of her watery green eyes.
Sakura lie on that precious hill in the most deserted section of the village, staring for the first time at the stars instead of a sunrise.
She had stopped crying some time ago, but the tracks down her cheeks were clearly visible, eyes still slightly puffy. Her knee was scuffed from where she had stumbled during her blind flight away from him, and she couldn't help but let out a derisive bark of laughter.
Even now, his presence only served to bring out the worst in her.
Shivering as the damp chill of the grass beneath her began to seep into her flesh, Sakura asked herself what had come over her on that bridge tonight.
She had always been so careful, up to this point, never to shove any unwanted physical contact upon him. Theirs was a fragile bond, newly formed and still trying to use its legs properly—the tiniest breeze could set it off, and Sakura may as well have created a hurricane.
She rolled onto her side and pulled her legs up closer to her body, arms crossed over her chest for warmth.
She felt like a stubborn child, sitting out there in the cold when she should've been home in bed, though she knew sleep would not come even if she did return to her apartment. Her body and mind were still buzzing with what had occurred only moments ago.
That indiscernible something in his eyes…what had it been? It had come and gone so quickly that now she wasn't so sure she had seen it at all. Probably, it was just a trick of the moonlight across the water. Reflections.
Despite her attempts at rationalizing, something in the back of her mind whispered that agonizing question:
Then why didn't he push you away?
Why not, indeed.
Leaning against the railing of the bridge as the sky's reflection glinted below, Sasuke watched the river flow languidly by.
The sound of water had always managed to calm him in a way that he neither understood nor questioned, even in the months and years after his family's massacre. It filled him with a sense of tranquility that meditating never could, alleviating his mind—if only temporarily—of the memories constantly floating at the back of his brain.
He had seen her cry many times before, but something about her display of emotion tonight set something loose in him, deep beneath his ribcage, that he had thought long dead.
It was something weak, something indefinable yet incredibly lucid. He had felt its gentle whispering when she had told him she wished she hated him, felt it trying to break free when he kissed her afterwards. He had pushed it out of his mind for a while since then, but now that it had stirred within him he couldn't just forget about it.
Sasuke could remember this unrest in his chest when he was very small. He hadn't understood what it was, back then.
And he still didn't understand it now.
What he did know, however, was that it had something to do with Sakura. That almost painful lurch in his chest earlier had been for her, and right now he wasn't sure how he felt about that.
He took a deep breath of the cool, damp air, feeling it travel through his nose and into his lungs. His blood needed the oxygen to operate his body, but the oxygen also needed his blood in order to circulate.
It seemed like a rather uncanny match, blood and oxygen. But it was just common knowledge that without the other, the first simply couldn't function properly.
Her keys were in her hand, but Sakura had sat instead upon the cold concrete of the last step before her apartment door.
She ran a small hand through her mussed pink hair before leaning back on both palms, tilting her head back to stare at the thick branches of the tree that formed a great umbrella over the roof of her apartment.
She had never really given how old the tree was much thought, but it was huge. It's girth was about four times the size of Naruto, and tall enough that you had to crane your neck nearly all the way back to see the top. Trees like this didn't just pop up over night…they were centuries old, strong and thick. They were the trees that had seen each and every Hokage the village had ever had, the kinds of trees that, if they could speak, you would imagine to be incredibly wise.
Sakura was a very smart girl. She could counteract poison with her own chakra, could measure out the correct amount of antibiotic just by looking at a patient. She could recite every shinobi rule verbatim, could tell you the best way to set a broken bone. Hell, she could even teach you how to make a sling with nothing but a shirt sleeve and two senbon.
She had graduated at the top of her class and nearly surpassed her mentor in medical skill.
One thing she did not have, however, was the wisdom to work through the situation she had landed herself in.
She sighed softly, tracing her eyes down to the middle of the tree's trunk, where she knew a great knot resided. Naruto had told her that if you squinted and turned your head to the left just slightly, it almost looked like an old woman.
"What should I do?" she whispered to the knot.
A breeze fluttered by, and the branches creaked in response.
Sakura groaned, pulling her knees closer to herself and burying her face in her hands. Sasuke probably hated her, and now she was talking to trees.
At night, everything green turned to a most mysterious shade of inky black.
Tree leaves, signposts, painted doors, grass…all of it, from the most vivid shades of beryl and viridian to clear, all encompassing dark. Sasuke pushed his hands further into his pockets as he walked down the deserted streets, glancing up at the sky. It was beginning to turn from midnight blue to deep, royal purple.
The sun would be rising soon, and where would she be?
Sasuke faltered in his steps before stopping altogether, staring uncertainly down the street where he knew her apartment resided.
All this time, he had gone there every night when the sky turned this color. The period of time it took for him to make three laps was enough, usually, for the sun to barely lurch over the horizon, painting that lonely hill with the grey but bright light of early morning. He would be there first, and she would follow.
They would watch the sunrise, and most of the time they would wind up falling asleep.
For the first time, however, since the day when she had first followed him, Sasuke didn't know whether or not to make that trip past her apartment. She looked exhausted all the time lately, and would probably be glad if he skipped on this particular ritual.
He glanced back up at the sky, which had lightened from a near-indistinguishably dark purple to a clearer shade of plum.
He could turn left here, wind his way home instead.
But Sasuke had always known he was selfish, and as he made his way down her street he was rather surprised to find her sitting outside her apartment, watching his approach with tired and wary eyes. She was tense from the shoulders upward, but she was slumped at the waist and her legs bowed inward to touch at the knee. Even if he hadn't seen the weariness in her eyes, he would have known that she was completely drained.
But once he did glimpse those orbs of jade, he found himself incapable of doing anything but staring into their clear and unfathomable depths.
At night, everything turned from the brightest of green to the darkest of black.
Sasuke pulled to a stop near the bottom of the small flight of stairs, never looking away.
Everything, that is, except her eyes.
His dark eyes were smoldering with something unreadable, and Sakura didn't know quite what to make of it. It wasn't the same something she had seen on the bridge earlier tonight—that something had been fleeting and heartbreaking, but this…this was entirely new to her.
She closed her eyes briefly before reopening them, despite the effort it took to keep her eyelids from drooping back shut.
It came out as a dry croak, her throat still tight from her meltdown on the bridge. She cleared it softly before trying again, closing her eyes once more.
"I'm sorry," she spoke softly, voice hoarse with exhaustion, "about earlier."
He was silent, and a moment later when she found the courage to force her eyes back open she was silently relieved that he was looking away. Somehow, dealing with Sasuke became a hell of a lot harder when he was looking right at you—especially with those eyes.
"You shouldn't be," he said quietly after a moment, returning his eyes to hers for the briefest of moments before turning back around. That one, fleeting look sent her heart pounding for reasons she couldn't quite understand, and Sakura inwardly cursed herself for acting so foolish as she pressed her forehead to her knees.
What was she, five? A look meant absolutely—
Her head shot up to find him stopped a few yards away, back to her.
"Aren't you coming?"
Those three words filled her chest with more relief than she could properly comprehend.
The sky was just beginning to turn the shade of a rather dark pomegranate by the time they crested the hill.
On the horizon directly in front of them, in a low, wide half-circle, the stars faded into nothingness and the sky was tinged wine red. They were lying close enough together that their shoulders nearly touched, but the space between them felt like miles. She was distancing herself for reasons he didn't know, and that bothered him more than her tears.
There was a twinge in his stomach that wouldn't go away.
It had always seemed like he was the one putting that space between them. He told her what he wanted to, and refused to say anything more, most of the time. Even he, however, wasn't blind to the fact that he probably felt more comfortable around her than he had around anyone else in a very, very long time.
More surprising than that was the fact that he knew, deep down, that he didn't mind the closeness. He liked having her around, liked having something stable in his life when for so long nothing had ever been certain. Sakura was a constant.
And now she was trying her hardest to disengage herself from everything they had built up.
When it came to emotions, Sasuke was usually clueless, and this time was no exception. She had told him that she loved him—many times, in fact. She sat with him, walked with him, drank tea with him, gave him her affections—she had even kissed him, earlier this evening. And now, it seemed, all she could do was run away and apologize, again and again, for things she shouldn't be apologizing for in the first place.
Those scars weren't her fault. And she had apologized for kissing him, when he himself had kissed her several times before.
Unbidden, he felt a tiny bubble of anger beginning to twist to life somewhere in his chest.
Whether it was for himself or her, he didn't know.
"You never smile when you're with me."
Sakura opened her eyes, frowning. Where did that come from?
She turned her head to look at him, but he was staring resolutely at that lightening strip of red where sky met earth. She opened her mouth slightly, on the verge of denying it, when she realized, quite suddenly, that it was true.
Her frown deepened as she lifted her eyes to look straight above them, where the sky was still untouched by the waking sun. It was a deep shade of indigo, the color of his hair and, if you ever got close enough to tell, the color of his eyes.
It wasn't that he as a person made her unhappy. As a matter of fact, she was probably most content during the few hours they spent together each morning and night. She was so happy that he was home, so happy that he was comfortable enough around her to talk. She knew that somewhere, in the far reaches of a heart long forgotten, that he cared about her, to an extent. Bonds like the ones Team 7 had didn't just disappear overnight.
No, it wasn't Sasuke that took the joy from her.
It was the fact that she knew, one day, that everything they had built up since his return would all have to come to an end.
"I'm sorry," she said, because it was all she could say. She couldn't bear to explain her gloom, couldn't walk away, couldn't ignore it because it was the painful, righteous truth.
She hadn't even realized that her eyes had refilled with tears until she shut them tightly, sending cool droplets running down the sides of her face and into her pink hair.
She heard him shift beside her, but refused to open her soft green eyes.
"Stop apologizing," he said, voice quiet but steely, "for things you can't control."
Lower lip trembling, she took a shaky breath. His tone demanded that she open her eyes and look at him, and quite against her will she found herself obeying. Now sitting up, he was staring down at her with those same smoldering chips of anthracite she had seen at the bottom of her apartment steps this morning. Those eyes sent her heart pounding all over again, and this time she sucked in a breath that had nothing to do with the tears.
Sakura hadn't the faintest clue what that fire was, lighting up his eyes like that. And that frightened her more than anything.
She pushed herself to her feet with a swiftness that belied her exhaustion, but she didn't even make it two steps away from him.
The sun broke the horizon line just as his hand grasped her wrist.
That one contact froze her in place and set in motion something entirely different from everything the two of them had formed over the past weeks. The indefinable something in Sasuke's chest lurched more powerfully than ever before, and Sakura felt something travel through her bones that felt an awful lot like longing.
He wasn't going to let her walk away this time.
It seemed like an eternity passed in which they just stood there, her wrist caught in his unrelenting grip. He felt more than saw her as, finally, she slowly turned back around to face him, tears still rolling silently down her cheeks. It took several more minutes before she took a tentative step closer, her arm relaxed in his firm hand.
Sasuke still didn't release her, still stared down at her with a tight sensation in his stomach.
The vast, luminous globe of the sun inched steadily higher over the horizon, bathing her in a crisp, golden light that set her skin glowing and her pink hair ablaze. A gentle, teasing wind brushed past them, playing with her clothes and moving across her face in a way that turned her short mane into the waves of a pink ocean. The tears on her cheeks were transformed into glimmering crystal in the first rays of the sun, and her eyes…
Her eyes remained a clear, stunning green, bright and gleaming with water at the edges. They were shimmering in a way he had never seen before as the pale golden light of dawn brought out the vividity of her irises.
Sasuke wasn't sure when his hand had relinquished its hold on her wrist, nor was he certain just when, exactly, he had taken a step closer. All he knew was that he was now holding her face as if afraid he might do harm if he pressed any harder, kissing her more gently than ever before as that something beneath his ribcage filled him with a strange sense of contentment.
He drew back slowly, searching her eyes for something he knew he would not find; things between them could never be the same after this moment, but right now Sasuke really didn't care.
"I think," he said in his quiet voice, absently watching a final tear make its way down her smooth cheek, "that I could love you, if I knew how."
Go hasn't a clue where Submit Review-chan has gone! Maybe you could help reunite them.
Sooo this is it, the last chapter, the last Submit Review-chan and Go joke. I think I might cry. I'M GONNA MISS YOU ALL!
No worries, though. I'll definitely be back soon with an entirely new story to keep you kiddies interested, and I've actually got a couple chapters pre-written already. Leave me a review, tell me if you liked the ending, and definitely forgive me for all of my lazy updates.
Down and out,