A/N: (So here we are again, what feels like years from the start of this charade. This story has been a struggle for me from the beginning, and each time I try to fix it I can only patch it up so much. I want something clean, something that I will like and will ultimately, in the end, be a good fanfiction. I haven't felt that from Unwritten, and this is one issue that it doesn't matter if people like it - I have to like it. Otherwise it would be pointless. Mainly, I had a hard time embracing the faults and flaws of our heroine along with her better qualities. I think my main obstacle was getting over that. Keeping her Sakura. That was for the old-timers.)
For newcomers: welcome to Unwritten. This is a story about laughter and sadness, and being sorry and second chances, and how sometimes if you could do it over it wouldn't turn out how you expected, anyway, and also about how clay birds make great pets. Moving forward, one step at a time.
Get away get away get away run run run run run run-
The air was fresh.
Get away get away get away get away get away-
Keep running keep running keep running keep-
The kind that was almost painful to inhale deeply, the kind that was a little like cold water and the scent of damp earth, muddy earth and dull brown and yellow leaves. She used to like it, by the way. Never could quite make up her mind if she liked rain or sunshine more; she could answer instantly if asked, of course, because she was like that.
Run run run run and oh, my gods-
And she could be asked the same question a day later and the answer wouldn't be the same.
My gods, my gods, are you even there-?
Still, not the point.
That doesn't matter just keep running, get a plan and just keep running-
The point? That a certain name in the bingo book was running away. In fact, Sakura imagined that her biography would look a little like this, if she had the time to think about it:
Rank: A-Class Criminal
Status: still breathing
Diagnosis: completely, completely fucked.
Cursing wasn't really her style, but once again, that didn't matter, that didn't matter at all. What did matter was that - that -
Oh, sweet sweet mother they're dead, they're dead-
No, not what mattered, time for crying - time for crying - crying - later, not now, but quiet tears were leaking down her face anyway as Sakura sped across the forest floor littered with dead leaves, quiet as she could be even as her left arm flapped against her ribcage like a pounding mallet, heavy and hard and cold and useless, twisted up like a gnarled root. She didn't have the chakra to fix it. Completely heavy and hard and cold and useless, like somebody had torn it off and sewn it back on all wrong like a puppet.
And oh, gods, what went wrong?
If someone asked her... if she were to think it over right now, think over it hard and long, would she have done anything differently?
(Would you have done anything differently, Sakura?)
She felt like a little girl. She felt like a little child on a sailboat on the lake, waiting patiently for the wind to blow her back home.
Would she have done anything - anything - differently?
Sometimes, water is thicker than blood. Sakura found this concept utterly heartbreaking and warm.
Running blind, her legs stumbled and her eyes streamed - strong women don't cry, and if they ever do, the strongest of the strong only let one single perfect tear down, she thought. But the ugly ducklings who hide their feathers with baubles and useless trinkets (the girls who hide themselves with heavy armor and fake confidence)? The women who can still be reduced to little girls on the sailboat of the world? They cry in hiccuping gasps, because they are little girls again.
And Sakura tried not to tremble.
The voice, calling and calling, in absolute rage and anger and hatred and everything, everything building up and spilling out his throat and ears and nose and eyes like waves, was so, so harsh. And that voice, that voice, so familiar to her - but it wasn't, that was the problem, and it tore Sakura's insides out and smashed them apart, it really did, but she couldn't think about it because she had a problem on her trail, and theirs ended so soon, too soon - but not now. Not now. Not when everything was falling apart.
And here at the end, Sakura understood that this was her worst. Physical training can only go so far, and she was too volatile to ever train the inside of herself, and it never worked right, and it's a little like torture and a little like pain, she guessed hazily in the back of her head. A strain on her shoulder reminded her of the solitary clay bird who hooted softly, a symbol of change shooting through her world.
The forest was thinning out, the blurs of branches and thin dull brown trunks getting thinner and thinner as the leaves crunched underfoot, and soon she could see why as the river came into view. The fresh water ran quickly and widely, and without choice Sakura sprinted to gain enough momentum to jump straight across. Landing on her belly painfully, her limbs screamed out angrily as she staggered up to keep going - and then she saw the glint of silver. A giant hope rose through her chest to her throat that maybe, just maybe, it was a Konoha headband, just maybe-
But no. No headband.
As her left arm pounded painfully against her bruised and broken ribs, Sakura ran towards it anyway as the edge of the cliff in the Valley of the End approached fast and she slowed down to a trot. She should probably keep running, because she has a minute head-start at most, but she knew she wouldn't keep it up much longer, anyway, and the world dotted and danced through her vision in neon. Chakra seeped from her legs; she was sure if she kept surging the energy through she would burn them off, and she vaguely wondered how that would feel, because Sakura was fairly sure that it wouldn't.
It wasn't a headband, but it wasn't a trick of her vision, either. Sakura stumbled towards the strange phenomenon. It was a rip in the air, and she lifted her good hand towards it to fall through.
And suddenly, she wasn't there anymore.
(Would you have done anything differently?)