Dedicated to XweaponsXmistressX and xrose45623 for all of their love and support.
"Do I have to die for you to return?"
Where there is love, there is pain.
It's snowing again.
Sakura enjoys days like these. It's times like these when she can sit on the edge of her favorite cliff while simply watching over the city bustling with life beneath her. It is a secluded little cliff to the east of the village that overlooks the streets that no one really knows of- the people live on with their daily routines, unaware of the pink haired girl who quietly observes them.
The days slowly pass by, and eventually the snow coats the ground, covering up all the patches and the imperfections of the dirt roads.
(She secretly convinces herself that she can cover up her own scars just as easily. Then she remembers that eventually, the snow disappears.)
She doesn't mind the cold either. She's so used to feeling it inside that it doesn't even matter anymore.
Her best friend always finds her out there every single day. She spends all her time staring at the vast sky which holds no answers to the questions she has- yet at one point he knows that she's stopped looking for the answers altogether. No matter what season it is, Naruto will always find her there simply because it is her spot. No one else dares to take over that small space, because they all know that it is hers and hers only to keep as a memory locked inside of her.
Naruto finds her there when it's Spring- when the weather starts to become warmer and the snow starts to melt. It is her season, the season in which all the flowers bloom, just like she did right after the chuunin exams all those years ago. It was the moment when she learned of the true meaning of sacrifice- it all seems like a distant memory now. It is the season when the flowers that she was named after bloom into beautiful flowers, brightening up the cold village. Spring is the season when the rain starts to fall, just like her tears did when he was home- but despite the pouring storms, she still sits out there, watching the flashing lightning and roaring thunder clash against each other.
He finds her there when it's Summer- the season that reminds her most of him. The brightness and all the sunlight remind her of how he always helped her during her darkest times, when she had been alone with no one else in the world at her side. The weather is hot and humid, yet it is still warming to the heart, just like he always is. The sun shines as brightly as the name Uzumaki Naruto does- the name of the future Hokage that she is sure he will become one day.
He finds her there when it's Autumn- the season that is the most appealing to her lazy yet precious teachers, who despite everything taught her the ways of life. It is the month when the summer finally fades away, and the plants slowly start to wither. Like their teacher Hatake Kakashi, the season is just as mysterious and enigmatic- the leaves swirling around in the cool breeze disappear just as quickly as he does.
And finally, he finds her there when it is Winter- her favorite season of all. It is the season when her beloved snow finally starts to fall down, making everything look so pure and untouched as all the traces of dirt and blood disappear beneath a white disguise. The snow is cold and freezing to the touch, but somehow always seems to provide a comforting warmth to all the children who are always eager to play in it. Ironically, it is just like Uchiha Sasuke; cold yet warm at the same time.
She is always there, no matter what season it is. No one understands the reason why- but she doesn't expect them to.
Naruto secretly worries for her health- despite the fact that she is a strong kunoichi and has inherited the monstrous strength of their current Hokage, she is still a growing girl, and as much as he has to admit that the snow is beautiful, the freezing chill cannot be good for her body. He jokes with her, telling her to stay home in the winter. He tells her Sakura-chan, you always tell us to look after ourselves yet you don't to the same.
Hypocrite, is the unvoiced word in the air, but Naruto is much too nice to utter such a word to his beloved teammate.
Yet he doesn't give up, because he is Naruto and he is the most stubborn boy in the entire village. He visits her whenever he can, but sometimes it's hard in between all the missions and training. She forgets to eat most of the time so he makes sure to bring her meals whenever he can, even if it means that he has to give up on his daily dose of ramen sometimes. He sits next to her and tries to keep her company but it proves to be hard for his impatient personality- he was never one to sit still.
Naruto, do you notice that the sky never stays the same? It always changes.
She rarely starts a conversation with him, so when she does, he is almost overjoyed. However his happiness is short lived when he realizes that he doesn't know how to answer to her enigmatic statement- but her words still leave a heavy impression in his head so he stops visiting for awhile. He can't stand headaches.
Kakashi once fears that she is contemplating death- perhaps in desperation or depression that overcomes her after he leaves. Yet when he sees her swarm smiling face the next day, cold regret quickly overcomes his body. He is ashamed to admit that he doesn't believe in his student as much as he should, and maybe he doesn't know her as well as he thinks he does.
Sakura has her own circle of friends- from the loud Yamanaka Ino, who is her lifetime best friend and rival, to the shy Hyuuga Hinata, a timid heiress to an immense clan with a responsibility that is perhaps still too big for her to handle. Even the cold and stoic Hyuuga Neji is known to be appreciative of her skills, and the lazy Nara Shikamaru who is never too keen on hanging out with others is sometimes found cloud-gazing with her on the cliff.
She gets along with everyone- that's just the kind of person she is.
She can be found in the Inuzuka's mansion chatting with Kiba, or in the forest with Aburame Shino as together they collect and study bugs. She can be found in the best restaurants in Konoha, eagerly eating with the big-boned Akimichi Chouji or training with the hard working taijutsu specialist Rock Lee. Sometimes she is shopping for new weapons with Tenten, or at Ichiraku having ramen with Naruto and Kakashi.
However, most of the time she is at the cliff.
They tell her that it isn't healthy. She turns around and gives them a heartbreaking smile of someone who has been broken into so many pieces that she will never be the same again. Life isn't healthy, she says, and turns back around as if nothing is wrong.
But it is inevitable the way in which people start to notice how sickly pale her skin is, or the heavy bags under her viridian green eyes that have lost their sparkle a long time ago. Her back starts to slouch and her strength just isn't the same anymore.
She is slowly breaking, piece by piece.
It is a snowy day when Naruto finally decides that he can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch his best friend unconsciously harm herself. He tries to drag her back home by force- he learns that even though she has fallen sick, she still hasn't lost all of her superhuman strength.
He learns his lesson, and never tries to drag her away from there again.
No one else is stupid enough to try.
After a while, they finally start to see her illness take over her body. They watch as she grows weaker and weaker, as her life slips through her hands.
There is only one cure that can get rid of her illness, and it is called Uchiha Sasuke.
(But in the end they know that she is fated to die, because there is no way that he will ever return.)
For some sick, twisted reason, fate decides that she hasn't had enough yet. People like Naruto or Lee have fallen in love with her knowing and understanding that they will never be able to fully win over her heart, though they like to pretend that they still stand a chance if they try hard enough. Then there are people like Kiba who inevitably fall for her without being aware of that fact.
Why do you keep waiting for that Uchiha? His words sting more than they should, as his face turns red in anger to match the crimson markings on his cheeks. His sharp, almond eyes narrow down into a menacing glare as he spits the last word out like it is the most vile thing in the world. He doesn't understand what he lacks compared to the traitor, but she doesn't expect him to understand either. Do you have any idea of what you do to me? He is nothing like the kind Kiba that she is used to.
She finds herself unable to answer, and when she doesn't, he turns his back on her and never looks back again.
They never speak again, and a part of Sakura mourns for the loss of a friendship that she deeply cherished.
It's all because of him.
Slowly, one by one, she starts to lose the people who are precious to her.
(That's when they know that she's dying.)
It isn't long before she is moved to the hospital. She is on indefinite stay until the disease that is eating up at her insides is cured, but they all know that they are all lies. Realization hits Naruto the hardest when Tsunade solemnly informs them that she has less than a month to live.
No, not Sakura-chan. Anyone but her- she doesn't deserve something like this.
Anyone, but sweet, sweet, Sakura. Not the promising kunoichi and the pretty young girl who has a warm heart, warm enough to melt the winter away.
Naruto lets out a howl of anger and Ino starts to cry. Even the usually composed Kakashi manages to drop his book onto the tiled floor, but Sakura does not react. She simply smiles at them, as the corners of her eyes crinkle upwards into a tired expression.
It's okay. I knew since the very beginning.
She knew ever since Sasuke left. Her words are supposed to be comforting, but Naruto can't help but feel even worse.
I promise that you're going to get better. I know you, Sakura-chan. You're a strong girl, you can go through with this. Tsunade baa-chan was wrong, you'll be fine in no time. His voice is eager and his azure orbs sparkle in hope, but he has always been bad at lying, and she doesn't miss the way in which his eyes shift to the side when he tells her this.
She softly smiles at her best friend.
Thank you Naruto.
Thank you for believing in me-
when no one else would.
The days go by quickly. It's too fast in Naruto's opinion- he still foolishly holds onto the hope that she will not die. Yet she thinks that it's all too slow; she is waiting for the final day to come, the day when it will all finally be over.
When the pain will be over.
A month finally flies by, and she can no longer support herself on her own. She is locked up in a blindingly white room in the hospital, a room that Naruto knows too well- room 2119. It is the room that has been kept empty ever since he left, a room that holds a deep meaning to her that no one else can understand. She is in that room at her request, a last request that cannot be denied.
Her friends frequently visit her as if nothing is wrong. They like to pretend that nothing is wrong- Sakura will never admit it to them, but she wishes that they would stop pretending- it only makes it more painful. December is nearing and they fear that she will not make it in time to see her beloved snow for the last time.
The room 2119 is found empty when it snows again. She disappears, despite her weak condition- Naruto is not surprised to find her at the cliff again, sitting in the bitingly cold winter weather in nothing but a flimsy hospital gown that does nothing to protect her from the icy breeze. They take her back to her room and she does not protest this time- but it doesn't stop her from returning to the cliff the next day.
Her visits to the cliff stop when she becomes too sick to even stand on her own.
She starts to cut off all of her connections to the rest of the world. She doesn't eat, she doesn't speak- she doesn't even look at people. It hurts Naruto to see his best friend and the girl he loves in such a condition- this is in no way the end that he predicted for the once immensely strong kunoichi.
When Sasuke abandoned them all those years ago, people had gossiped.
Oh, she's never going to make it. His departure is going to be the death of her- she's too weak, too fragile.
She proved them wrong. She trained under the Fifth Hokage and became one of the strongest kunoichi of Konoha, shining bright when it came to the medical field as well. She had held on so well, it seems to be too unfair that a mere illness is going to be the end of her. No matter what she did, the outcome is the same.
Uchiha Sasuke will be the end of her anyways.
One day, when she is the weakest-
It is in the dead of night when Naruto, who has been spending his nights in room 2119 along with his days as well, wakes up to find his ex-teammate and brother crouching at the window of the room. He does not offer any explanations as his obsidian eyes bore into the fragile pink haired girl, and the blond is not surprised when Sasuke tells him that he is not in Konoha to stay.
You can't be here. She doesn't deserve the pain.
Sasuke pauses at Naruto's words, his eyes reflecting no emotions at all as black briefly meets dazzling blue.
And with those words, he is suddenly standing by her side. Her eyes slowly flutter open before he even touches her, as if her body automatically senses his presence.
I knew you would come one day, Sasuke-kun. She gives him a tired smile, as her eyes close again. I waited a long time.
You're dying because of an illness. In the end, your body is still as weak as ever.
Her eyes are lifeless as he speaks to her for the first time in years. He has changed- he is no longer the genin boy that she remembers in her head. He is much taller now and his body is much more toned. His childish face has matured into a grown man with high and sophisticated cheekbones, with thin lips and pale skin. His beautiful raven hair hangs over his enigmatic charcoal black eyes, and for the first time she fully realizes just how much time has passed.
I thought I would see you again, she softly tells him. I saw you for the first time when I was six, on that cliff. You were training in the forest with your brother- after you left, I kept on thinking that if I kept on looking, I would see you again, just like I did on that day.
His composure slightly cracks this time. His lips are slightly parted as he breathes heavily in a mixture of frustration and anger. She is stupid, he thinks. She is stupid for ever thinking that he would return, for putting her body at risk for a reason like that, and for simply loving him. She looks away as she sees his onyx eyes flash dangerously, knowing that whatever he is feeling right now is nothing good.
Was this what I had to do? She interrupts him before he has a chance to speak. Did I have to die in order for you to come back, Sasuke-kun? Because you know I'd do anything for you.
He stands still for a second. And then-
It all happens too fast. His lips are crushed against hers in a frenzied passion, and their mouths move together in an uneven rhythm that is clumsy yet perfect at the same time. It is a kiss that tells her much more than any words could ever say. It is a kiss that speaks of loneliness, need, and-
-how much he loves her.
When he finally pulls away, he is breathless.
And she isn't breathing.
Her eyes are closed and her swollen lips are still slightly parted- she looks so peaceful that she could be sleeping.
Nonononono- this can't be happening-
The next thing he knows, the entire room is filled with loud beeping sounds coming from the machinery that is connected to the petite little girl. Naruto shoves him to the wall as he runs to her side, and Sasuke can barely understand the words that he is yelling. Medics start to rush into the small white room and Sasuke thinks that for a second, he sees Kakashi's face, but he can't be too sure. His brain is too fuzzy to comprehend anything right now.
He realizes that ANBU nins have entered the room in an attempt to arrest him. He is a missing-nin after all- but his eyes bleed into a color of menacing crimson as he slams one of them against the wall.
Don't you dare take me away from Sakura.
He honestly does not expect his words to stop them, but for some inexplicable reason they do stop. He vaguely remembers the medic nins trying to revive Sakura- but it is no use.
She is already gone.
The medics step back in a hushed silence. He grabs her cold hand, searching for a flicker of hope, anything to tell him that she is still alive, but- nothing. The exhausted medic nins give their condolences as Naruto finally gives into the pain. His heart wrenching sobs are enough to jolt Sasuke back into reality, as he realizes that they are both standing over the shell of a girl they once knew.
Her face is extremely pale but there is a ghost of a smile on her lips nonetheless. Kakashi is there- his book is not in his hands for once, as he simply observes the room from the doorway, gazing at the sobbing Naruto, Sasuke's numb posture and Sakura's unmoving form on the bed- this is what remains of Team 7, his Team 7.
People automatically move out of the way as Sasuke takes a few steps forward, his footsteps echoing loudly on the tiled floor amidst the eerie silence that surrounds them.
Without thinking, he reaches out to gently pick up the pink haired girl's body with a softness that Kakashi has never seen in him before. She is cold to the touch- different from the warmth that she usually radiates.
Where are you going? Kakashi's voice is steady and composed, yet Sasuke clearly hears the meaning underneath the casual question. Where are you taking her?
Sasuke thinks that it's a miracle that he's able to answer in his current state. Away from here. To her favorite place. His words sound choked and strained, even to his ears.
Are you going to return to Orochimaru?
Sasuke doesn't answer his ex-sensei's question. It is useless, because he is sure that he knows deep down inside. He has to return- he reminds himself that there is only one goal in his life right now, and no matter what happens, he must continue to grow stronger for that sole reason.
She would've wanted you to stay. Naruto finally stops crying, but his usually bright blue eyes are now faded and worn. Room 2119- this was her way of being close to you, even in death. You would be making her happy if you stayed here, always near her.
Sasuke's head snaps upwards at the familiar number.
It is a number that Sakura had once chanted around him during their genin days. She used to call it her lucky number- she thought of it by joining two numbers together, 21 and 19. Each number represented a letter of the alphabet. At the time, it had been nothing more than a little girl playing around with imaginative ways to show her affection to him, but it has somehow stuck throughout the years.
21… was U.
19… was S.
It is childish, he always thought. At the time it was no better than Ino or Ami scribbling down their names with his last name on the corners of their notebooks, but now he realizes that 2119 is so much more.
Even in death, she wanted to be close to you.
Sasuke leaves the room without another word, and he is slightly surprised to see that no one is stopping him. Perhaps they are too shocked, or maybe it's because they understand that he is not a threat to the village right now.
He brings her lifeless body to the cliff, knowing exactly which one she was talking about. He finds it hard to believe that it is all over so fast. His sight starts to blur for the first time in years as he sets her down gently onto the ground. This is not how he planned things to be- this was not how things were supposed to turn out.
She was supposed to be part of his future.
I'll come to you soon.
Wait for me.
Hours later, the ANBU squad finds Sakura gently laid on the small little cliff that she always used to visit during her lifetime. There are no traces of Uchiha Sasuke, except for a worn out silver ring on Sakura's finger that has the Uchiha clan symbol engraved onto it. There is a cherry blossom tree on the edge of the cliff, and the numbers 2119 are roughly carved into the bark. No one knows if it was done by the pink haired girl or her lover, but it is there to remain for many years to come, as a legend in Konoha.
It was never just you or me. It was always us.
Uchiha Sasuke is never seen or heard from again.
(On snowy days, Naruto likes to think that they are finally together.)
When the springtime comes again, the tree beautifully blossoms.
Maybe it was never meant to be.
The legend of Haruno Sakura and Uchiha Sasuke of Konoha.
A/N: Merry Christmas!