Chapter 22

Pain: Part Two

"NOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Sakura screamed out as she rushed forward, tears filling her eyes. She didn't think. She merely reacted. All of her instincts screamed at her to stop, to let him kill Itachi and be free.

But something more powerful bade her otherwise.

Sakura didn't know exactly how it happened, only that she was grabbing Sasuke's hand, feeling the Chidori burn her skin as she stopped him in his tracks. As soon as he realized it was her, he stopped.

"Sakura! What are you doing?" His voice was harsh. Cold.

Saving him, Sasuke.

Sakura breathed in deeply, her heart beating a million times a minute. "Sasuke, stop."

"What are you saying?" Sasuke ground out. "I have to kill him Sakura. He did this to me. I have to make him pay."

Sakura shook her head, her tears showering the ground. "No Sasuke…don't."

"What is this…?" Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "Why are you stopping me?"

"It isn't worth it Sasuke." Sakura whispered. "Just please, don't."

"He killed my clan. He murdered my parents, Sakura!" Sasuke called out, his voice catching on the last word. "He deserves to die."

Sakura merely continued shaking her head. "No…no…"

Sasuke stared at her, as if he couldn't quite comprehend what she was saying. "Get out of my way, Sakura."

Sakura bit her lip. Don't do it Sakura. Don't let him win. Don't…stop…

"It's not worth it." Sakura repeated. "Just let it go Sasuke."

"Let it go?" Sasuke whispered heatedly. "Let it go!?"

"Sasuke…" Sakura tried to reason with him. She saw his Sharingan blazing through her tears. "Don't." I can't let you hurt any of them, Sasuke. They're my friends now. My allies. I have to protect them with my life.

That's my shinobi way.

Not even you can come between me and my way of the ninja, Sasuke.

I've finally found my purpose, I think, and I can't let you take it away.

Sasuke glared at her. "I can't believe I'm hearing this." He hissed. "Get out of my way."


Sasuke stared at her. "What?"

Sakura breathed in deeply, wiping the tears away. "No, Sasuke." Don't make me choose between you two. Please…don't make me choose.

"Sakura, If I get rid of him now, we can live the rest of our lives together, like you wanted. Sakura, I can finally love you back."

Sakura looked up at him, eyes wide. He just…did he? Her world began turning and she felt as if for a moment she might faint. If I went back, he'd love me?

Sasuke seemed to see that he was turning her to his cause, for he continued. "You can help me Sakura. Together, we can restore my Clan."

Sakura blinked. Restore your Clan, Sasuke? …is that all I am good for? The small warm feeling that had bubbled in her chest was already fading.

Sasuke kept talking. "When I kill him, I can be like I used to be, before I left and went to Orochimaru for power. Everything will be like it used to be."

Like it used to be…

as if he had turned back time.

Sakura stared at the ground, eyes wide. She heard the sounds of battle all around her but she paid them no attention. Her mind was screaming at her, making her head hurt. Sasuke. Itachi. Love. A Promise. She felt tears leak through her closed eyelids as she clenched them shut to get the sounds out, putting her hands to her ears.

Be quiet! Stop!



He'll never love me. He'll only use me…he just wants me to heal his eyes!

as will Sasuke. He only wants you to restore his Clan.

You don't know that!

Then see.

Sakura opened her eyes, staring up at Sasuke. She let her tears dry so that she could look him straight in the face.


"What?" Sasuke's eyes narrowed.

"Me or him, Sasuke." Sakura whispered. "Revenge or Love. Choose."

"Sakura, what are you talking about!?" Sasuke snapped out. "You're being stupid. This is completely—"

"Choose goddammit!" Sakura screamed.

"Don't make me Sakura."

He's stalling…why is he stalling? Why won't he answer?

"Please Sasuke…" Sakura whispered brokenly. "Choose."

Sasuke stared at her, breathing in deeply. His hands clenched and unclenched.

Sakura could see his jaw tighten.

"…I choose revenge."

Sakura felt her world plummet into darkness. She felt as if she were falling and she couldn't find a way to stop herself. She wondered if she had fainted, or if maybe she had died.

If I could turn back time, Sasuke…

I wouldn't.

But in a second she was back, looking at Sasuke's perfect, handsome face.

For some reason, he merely looked like an ugly, hideous demon to her now.

Then I've chosen as well, Sasuke.

"Very well." Sakura whispered, her voice stilted. She braced herself, looking up into his eyes, her own hard. "Then here is my choice, Sasuke Uchiha." She said his name like a curse.

"I will not let you touch him."

"Don't be foolish Sakura." Sasuke's eyes narrowed. "Stop acting like a self-righteous bitch."

"Excuse me?" Sakura's eyes widened and she tried not to let him see how the words hurt. "What right do you have to call me that?" She bit out.

"Get out of my way."


Sasuke's eyes glittered, and there was a long moment of silence where all Sakura heard was his ragged breathing, as if he were fighting within himself over a decision.

Then the Chidori began accumulating in his hand.

"I should have known this would happen."

Sakura looked at him in surprise.

"I should have seen that you were just like him. That you'd betray me in the end. Orochimaru told me you would." Sasuke gave a maniacal grin. "He told me you would turn on me, just like Itachi." He gave a small, rueful laugh.

"And yet, I believed you were different…you whore."

Sakura stared at him, eyes wide in pain and hurt. "…Sasuke…how could you say that?" My god what is he saying? What's happening to him? This isn't Sasuke…this isn't Sasuke…

"You slept with my brother readily enough." Sasuke snarled.

"How dare you!" Sakura ground out through clenched teeth, feeling angry tears flood her eyes once more. What's happened to you Sasuke? What has made you turn into this monster? Stop now… please…

"Get out of my WAY!" Sasuke lunged forward, his Chidori glittering.

Sakura moved to the side, aiming a kick at his stomach. He dodged, his Chidori dissipating as he grabbed a kunai, shooting it at her.

Sakura dodged it through tears. How could he do this! I love him! WHY!?

She did a few hand signs, feeling chakra rush to her fingertips. She placed them to her mouth and blew, sending poisonous gas in his direction, not enough to kill, only to paralyze. The haze was completely opaque, and Sakura barely noticed the large fireball until it was right on her, where she could feel its blazing heat.

She jumped backwards, out of the fire's path, sailing through the air. Sasuke threw a barrage of shuriken at her, but she dodged them—until the last waning rays of sunlight caught on the hidden strings—and he pulled.

Sakura felt herself slam against the tree, caught in his technique. She stared at him, eyes wide, tears still rushing down her cheeks.


His eyes burned with hatred, making the Sharingan ever more prominent as he charged. Sakura saw the blue chakra envelope his hand, heard the bird-like sound it made. But she continued to stare at him.

You actually think I have betrayed you, don't you? After all the times I have stood by your side and waited loyally for you to come back to me.

She watched the way the blue light reflected off of his face. A face she had once found breathtaking.

I wasted my life chasing after you, I became a shinobi for you…and yet, this is how it shall end.

She made no move to get away as she watched him charge towards her.

"You are a traitor to me now, Sakura. Die."

Sakura's eyes narrowed, as a few last tears rolled down her cheeks, and a small, sad smile graced her lips.



Naruto turned the moment he heard Sasuke yell out—and paled. Sasuke was running towards Sakura, who was tied against the tree. She merely watched him, her face sad and hurt.

No…not again.

Naruto stared in horror as Sakura made no move to get away, just continued to watch him.

The dream…oh god no.

"Sasuke! Stop it! Stop it! This is SAKURA! Stop!" Naruto yelled out, but Sasuke wouldn't stop. He continued charging, his Chidori blazing.

"SASUKE!" He felt helpless, desperate tears rush to his eyes as he realized that he wouldn't get there in time to stop it, even if he did run.

The sounds of battle around them seemed to cease.

Itachi saw the Kyuubi turn to watch the battle between Sasuke and Sakura. Itachi had seen it unfurl slowly.

He's distracted. Itachi's eyes narrowed. Get him now. But something made him turn to see Sakura, who was merely watching his brother through sad, understanding eyes.

As if she had known this was coming and was awaiting the inevitable.

Get the Kyuubi.

Itachi, for once in his life, felt indecision flood through him.

Sakura…will be fine. An inner voice hissed. Sakura continued to watch Sasuke charge, making no move to try and escape. Itachi saw the glint of steel. There was a kunai in her obi, but she made no move to get it to cut herself free.

What was she doing? Did she wish to die?


The Kyuubi…can wait. Itachi's eyes narrowed, as he disappeared.

Sakura's eyes blurred, and all that she could see was the bright blue of Sasuke's Chidori.

"SASUKE! NO!" She heard multiple voices scream out.

"SAKURA!" That one was Deidara.

The sound of the Chidori rang in her ears and anything else was drowned out. She closed her eyes, waiting for the inevitable.

If this must come…then let it come.

…I hope it brings your comfort, Sasuke. I just want you to know…that I never stopped loving you. One last tear made its way down her cheek.

The Chidori shrieked, making her eardrums hum.

And then, silence.

Complete and utter silence, as if all the sound in the world had been shut off. Sakura blinked, looking up.

Her eyes saw red.


Sakura's shoulders began shaking as new tears flooded her vision. Why? Why did you do it? What did you gain? Something blossomed inside of her chest, and she felt as if she could breathe again.

You gained nothing from this, Itachi.

…what was your reason?

Itachi glared at his brother, throwing him backwards. He tried not to let the pain the Chidori had caused him show. He glared at him, his own Sharingan glowing.

"Touch her, Sasuke…"

"…and I will kill you."

Sakura blinked, before feeling her entire body go weak as she slumped against the ground, the only thing holding her up being the strings. It's because of my healing powers, isn't it? It has to be. He just wants me to heal his eyes. He needs me to heal his eyes. Her mind was trying to sort out all of her thoughts, making them disjointed. Deidara was beside her in an instant, cutting her loose.

She fell to her knees before Deidara could catch her, and she slowly sat up. Shakily she stood.

Itachi or Sasuke…

…betrayal and hate…or change…?

Why did you do it Itachi?

Why did you save me? I have to know.

Sasuke breathed in deeply. Glaring past Itachi to Sakura.

"You're just like him now Sakura. You…I vow to kill. You betrayed me. You won't do so again."

"Go back home to your mother, little boy." Kisame grunted as he and Sasori landed beside them. He then gave a feral grin. "That's right, you don't have one anymore."

Sakura felt Sasuke's words like a physical blow, and they hurt, they hurt worse than anything. She blanched as they seemed to strike her, and her cheeks flooded with color as her eyes filled with angry, hurt tears.

Sasuke let out a snarl as he made to go forward, but Shikamaru appeared, stopping him. The other Konoha shinobi came up beside the two.

Kisame, Sasori, Deidara, and Itachi seemed to form an impenetrable wall around her. Her protectors.

"Kisame…" Sakura shook her head as he looked down at her. "Don't."

Kisame blinked and opened his mouth to retort, but said no more.

"Sakura." It was Shikamaru. She turned to look at him, though she was afraid of the condemnation she would see in his eyes.

Nothing. Nothing but a silent understanding reflected in them.

"Hai, Shikamaru?"

"I just wanted you to know." He said softly. "That Temari is alive."

Sakura stared up at him. "She…she is?"

Shikamaru gave a small smile. "Hai."

Sakura nodded at him. "Thank you, Shikamaru." She whispered softly, after a moment of silence. It was the only thing she could say at the moment. She looked back into his eyes, then into Kakashi's. Once again, silent understanding. She couldn't look at anyone else. Especially not Neji or Naruto. The pain she would see there would be unbearable.

And she already knew what she would see in Sasuke's eyes.

She looked to Itachi. Confident. Sure. Strong. Stable. Maybe he didn't love her, of that she was almost certain. Itachi Uchiha didn't love. But he needed her, if only to heal her eyes.

He needed her for something real and tangible.

That was more than what Sasuke had needed her for.

"Itachi…" Sakura stood shakily, resisting the urge to grab his hand for comfort, because she knew that she didn't need it. Just to stand beside him, that was enough of a comfort for her at the moment.

"Let's go."

The four Akatsuki members looked down at her in surprise, before slowly nodding. Sakura gave one last look at her friends, though once again she didn't meet their eyes. She wanted to say goodbye, but she couldn't, the words stuck in her throat and refused to leave her lips. She knew, however, that this was probably the end. The last time she would see them.

She did not regret.

If I could turn back time…She repeated one last time, almost smiling, though she knew it would hurt too much to do so, …I wouldn't.

Then, as one, she and the four Akatsuki members disappeared.

There was a long moment of silence as the Konoha shinobi all looked at the base of the tree trunk where Sakura had been standing.

Naruto turned on Sasuke, his face etched in grief and fury. "How could you!?"
"Naruto…" Shikamaru warned. I don't need this.

"What did he do to her?" Neji hissed, glaring at something in the distance. "What did he do?"

"What do you mean, Neji?" Ino asked softly.

"He did something to her. Why else would she go with him?" Neji just couldn't allow himself to believe that Sakura had chosen to go with them by her own free will.

"Neji…" Shikamaru began again.

"He's right." Naruto cut in. "He had to have brainwashed her or something. Maybe he did it with his Mangekou." He knew he was pulling at loose, errant strings of hope but he continued to do so. "Surely it could have happened. I mean…"

Suddenly a quiet voice whispered from behind them. "Where is Sakura-sama?"

All of them turned to look at Atsuko, their faces sad and hurt.

Kakashi finally answered. "Sakura was killed in the battle. I'm sorry Atsuko-chan."

Kiba looked up. "But she didn't—" He was cut off by glares from all of the others.

Shikamaru nodded at Kakashi. This was for the best. This way, no ANBU would be sent to track Sakura down. She wouldn't have to look behind her every five seconds, wondering if someone was going to try and assassinate her. She would have a moderate level of peace.

Even if she had left Konoha for good, she didn't deserve to be put through that.

Besides, Shikamaru had a feeling it would have been himself sent on the mission. He couldn't deal with that.

I repaid my debt, Sakura. He nodded in the direction she had gone, and began walking back the opposite way.

"Shikamaru, where are you going?" Kankuro asked.

Shikamaru gave a small laugh. "Me? I'm heading to Sand. Temari's waiting. Then I have to report to Tsunade about Sakura's death." And Sasuke's attack on Sakura. I'm tempted to say he's the one who killed her. "After that? Who knows? Temari says I've dragged out our engagement long enough. I guess it's about time we got married. This mission is over."

Everyone slowly nodded.


Naruto looked down at his hands, wanting to do something. He wanted to go find Sakura. He had to. But he knew he couldn't do it alone. And he knew the others wouldn't go with him this time. He felt a hand grab his, and looked down into Hinata's calm, violet eyes.

"Everything w-will be ok, Naruto-k-kun."

Naruto shot a glance at Sasuke, who was still glaring, his Sharingan still present. No… everything would not be ok.

Kakashi blinked a tear from his eyes, feeling sadness overtake him as they began walking home. I told you once that you needed to find your way, your purpose in life. I guess you did.

I didn't think it would hurt so much to see you go.

I don't agree with your decision, Sakura, but I want you to know…I am proud of you for following your shinobi way.

I just wish you knew how much this affected everyone else.

They remained silent for Sakura's sake as they headed through the forest. They all pretended not to notice the tears that freely flowed down her cheeks, landing on the ground.

"We're heading to Cloud, yeah." Deidara spoke, his tone cheerful. "We have a base there, where we'll meet up with a few other Akatsuki members, maybe."

Sakura didn't respond. She merely continued running beside him.

You always thought you had no friends, that people didn't really like you.

Kisame, Deidara, and Sasori exchanged glances. Itachi kept his gaze fixed ahead of them.

"Well kitten, are you sure you're ok to walk? I can carry you if you want." Kisame grinned back at her, but she didn't seem to notice.


You always thought you had no friends, that people didn't really like you.

"When we get to Cloud Haruno-san, perhaps you can show me that poison gas jutsu of yours? It may come in handy one day, if you will permit me to learn it from you." Sasori began in his calm voice.

You didn't believe that they could ever truly worry for you if you were hurt.


"You guys?"

I guess this proves you wrong, Sakura.

Everyone turned to Sakura. Her voice was cold, dead, sad. But she did not waver as she brushed the last few tears from her eyes.

From you, the small drop of water, come all these emotions and changes, and you don't even realize it. They push outwards, affecting all of the people close to you, making them feel these painful emotions, and making them change just for you.

"Thank you."

Like a ripple in the pond, Sakura…just like that.

End of A Ripple in the Pond

(A/N: Now don't bite my head off because it's over! There's a new story, which is the continuation of this one. So calm down everyone. It's kind of hard to end this one, since it's very special to me, but I'm on to bigger and better things.

The next story will deal more with Itachi and Sakura's growing relationship. Slow going, but sure. Will Sakura become an Akatsuki member? Will Itachi and Tomokazu ever fight? Will we EVER FIND OUT WHAT IS IN THAT SCROLL!?!? Who knows? …sigh…even though it ended with Sakura going with Itachi, it's still gloomy. Man. I stayed up till three writing the last of this, and I'm all depressed.

I suppose this is goodbye for the moment. sobs Oh, I guess I shouldn't cry. After all, I'll probably have the first chapter or so of the next story up in a week or so.

I can't believe it's over, actually. I am about as surprised as you guys are that I have updated so quickly. The truth is, I had those first few chapters for months and months and then I finally decided to get an account and place them on, just for the heck of it. And then, the chapters just seemed to flow out of me.

It took a lot of time and effort to write them all though.

But, I have no regrets. (small smile)

Once again, I want to thank all of you for reviewing and loyally sticking through with this story to the very end. I hope to continue to make it just what all of you want in the next story.

Story Number Two: Crimson Reflections

not feeling much like a quote, but I'll put one in anyway. I need some levity:

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

Until next time, your loyal servant Lady Hanaka says sayonara.)