Phantom in the Spring

Disclaimer: general disclaimer applies. A warning: this contains mature themes.

Part One: Taken Beginnings, Stolen Ends

It was on that day that Sakura appeared.

Or had it still been the same day? I couldn't tell as I was unaware of the sun rising or setting. But it had been in the dead of night when I saw Sakura standing there outside the small cottage on that day.

The day Orochimaru had performed the technique to take over my body…and failed.

The day my katana dripped with the blood of the snake sannin as I sliced his head from his body with a sadistic smirk. When I had slain Kabuto and countless other sound-nin before I burned down the base.

I never did like leaving loose ends.

It was the day when I had matched my own power against my 'sensei's' and had won considerably. It was when my curse seal was still thrumming with chakra and craving the spill of more blood, when my own blood poured direly from the gaping wounds down my back – Orochimaru's last efforts to save his pathetic existence, along with his dying screams of betrayal. Fool.

Even injured as I was, I knew I could kill her if need be. She was standing in front of a sound cabin I had used many times in the past.

I had thought while I was running from the burning sound base that this place would be the best place to rest and regain my strength – it would be unwise to let hunter-nin find me in this condition, after all. Those black-ops never seemed to be too far away.

"Sasuke-kun," Sakura said, taking a step forward and instantly meeting the edge of my sword. Her green eyes widened as I stared at her with apathy.

"How and why are you here?" I asked in a deadpan voice that was more of a statement than a question.

She kept her eyes on mine when most would have been watching the blade at their neck. "It was only a rumor. There was a sighting of you here about two years ago…I was passing by so when I felt the shift in chakra…"

"You came to investigate." I finished, seeing how she nodded afterwards.

"You can check if you don't believe me. I'm on my own; I'd just been on medic duty at a local village about fifteen miles from here." She said and I easily read that she had told the truth. My eyes saw everything nowadays.

I narrowed my gaze at her, "Very stupid, Sakura…"

Sakura, however, just stood there. Not shaking, not doing anything at all as she shook her head, "No, it wasn't stupid. I found you on an off chance. That could never be stupid."

I chuckled as the pain in my curse seal was finally starting to dull, making me feel the full blast of pain from my injuries, "Even if you died because of it?"

She stared me in the eye, "I know you would never kill me. I'm not scared."

My red eyes narrowed further as I took a step forward and pressed the cold steel of my sword harder against her neck, "Is that so?"

"Yes," she breathed, "your still Sasuke-kun…you always will be. No matter what you say or do. It won't change. Not to me."

I glared at her indifferently as I felt a wave of acute pain stab relentlessly at my back. 'Damn it… I'm losing too much blood,' I thought, feeling the liquid pool and slide down my back.

Her green eyes softened, "You're injured badly…who did that to you?"

I sneered at her, "Be quiet," my grip on my katana teetered until it finally slipped, falling with a thud onto the forest ground as my arm fell to my side uselessly.

Even though the curse seal was slowly becoming deactivated I still felt it's weakening effects draining my chakra supply until the familiar black marks started to appear. I grunted in pain and grabbed the back of my neck, rasping as I felt the curse seal urge and demand to be released once more.

'Not again… I can't use it again so soon or it'll…' I started when I felt her hands on my shoulders, not even realizing I was on my knees until she leveled down next to me.


"Get away," I snapped, nearly lunging for her as I felt the wounds on my back split open a few more inches. "Damn…it…" I swore, lightheaded from all the blood loss and the energy it took getting to this damned place.

'With all the chakra it took to kill that bastard and all those other ninja…plus the amount used getting here on top of what my curse seal consumed my chakra levels must be extremely low. I'm in a dangerous position, vulnerable even, and Sakura blindly walked right into it.'

As if in a testament, my sharingan bled back to black as another surge of pain shot through me.

"Please, Sasuke-kun… I'm a medic-nin – the apprentice of Tsunade-shishou! I can treat your wounds." She picked up my sword that lay beside her and, looking me directly in the eye, sheathed it in my scabbard hanging at my waist.

"Trust me," Sakura pleaded, "you know I won't try anything…"

My body began to feel like heavy lead, my arms and legs weighted down. The lightheaded feeling in my head increased to a point where I was dizzy and unfocused. I tried to move but was stopped as another wave of pain left me immobile.

At my silence and with strength I didn't expect from her, Sakura had pulled me inside the cabin, unclasping my sword belt as we slowly dropped to the floor in the bare, empty cabin devoid of any furniture. She got up immediately and scrounged the closets till she managed to find a few white sheets and blankets.

With a struggle, I tried to move but after several failed attempts I knew I couldn't. 'I can't even stand, let alone move.'

I knew I'd die of either blood loss or chakra exhaustion if I didn't get help soon but that didn't make me less wary of the situation. When she asked me to lie down to treat the wounds on my back I refused. That would put me in a too much vulnerable position.

I would be sitting up or nothing at all. When I said this to her she had replied that she was a medic and just wanted to help me. With my persisted stoic refusal, she relented and got on her knees on the blankets and with a determined look etched on her face, she forced me forward to lie against her front as she ripped away what was left of my tattered shirt.

I knew I'd pass out soon but I rebelled against it furiously. 'Damn it…' I cursed into my mind. I didn't know if it was luck or misfortune that Sakura was here and I was too concerned with my blackening vision to spare it much thought.

I was in the process of demanding myself to keep conscious and aware, but I had too soon slipped into a doze of unrest anyway as the last hours finally took its toll on my body.

Moments later, I snapped awake.

"What are you doing?" I demanded in a warning growl.

"Healing you," Sakura answered softly, her voice barely reaching above a whisper.

I was lying against her small frame, my head in the juncture of her neck as I breathed deeply, the inhale and exhale becoming easier with each second as her chakra poured into me. I was forced to note the inexplicable softness that pressed against my chest as I breathed.

"Why?" I rasped, shuddering every time her warm fingers brushed against newly mended skin. I clenched my jaw in exasperation.

"Because I found you." Sakura whispered, never breaking in the healing process as her own breathing started to become shallow. Evidence of how much energy repairing my wounds was consuming.

"I never asked for your help. Or wanted it." I spat, a dark anger forming at the way she was helping me. I never needed anyone's help or sympathy. Least of all hers.

'Never again hers.'

"My heart told me to help you…and so I did."

I blinked at her answer before scowling. She was too warm and I too cold. Her scent of cherry blossoms too familiar. It comforted when it should have scalded. Her body was too tiny… it felt like it I wrapped my arms around her she'd break.

Break and shatter into a million pieces.

My hands flexed at my sides.

And that's when she started humming. It was soft and low, a calming tone that would have made a small child fall asleep to. Her voice was full of melody and promised unspoken nurtures and safety. It's dreamy effect made me listen and still as it drifted by my ears and rhymed its why to my mind, relaxing, coaxing… I started to experience a lethargic state on mind and body I had never felt before.

As her green chakra continued to heal my injuries I steadily felt my strength returning and growing rapidly. It came to a point where I was able to lift my head from her neck and stare at her. Now, her body began to lean more into mine.

The fatigue of how much chakra she had used was evident in the way her shoulders dropped and how her pale skin lost another shade.

Her hand that was still on my bare back made its way up, up to my head as it came around. Her delicate fingers brushed my chin and strayed. Sakura flattened her palm against my face (not for that first time) and brushed her thumb against my bottom lip.

It took me a moment to realize she was healing my cut lip as I felt the skin repair and the discomfort cease.

Her hand began to slide away as I caught it with mine. My onyx eyes bore right into her emerald ones, locking them in a silent battle of wills, of hearts where one was alive and pounding, the other dead yet still performing its duty.

As black met green a weakness began opening slowly, cautiously.

It ripped apart in my mind and forced me to see how her pale strands of petal pink hair was brushing her bare shoulders, how her lips were soft and inviting and between a color both red and pink, how her long, smooth legs were curled underneath her with my own knees touching hers.

It showed me how weak she looked at that moment. How defenseless and vulnerable and utterly…warm.

Her deep emerald eyes stared at me with such honestly and hope it was nearly ridiculous and seductive all at once. And so after this realization and escape of weakness I knew there was no turning back. Not in that moment. Not in that instant.

A curve had formed in my path of revenge where my road met hers for one brief, silent minute. They intertwined and crossed and for that moment I would not, could not walk away from Sakura.

In my mind, it had already been decided and I couldn't back down. It was selfish and hateful and all my own.

Perhaps it was a merge of body and mind, where the weakness of my body eclipsed into the mind. No, not from my lack of strength. Never that. I am not weak. This was choice. This was decision, not indecision.

My grip on her dainty hand tightened as wide green eyes gazed into mine. I leaned forward and pressed my mouth to her palm, watching and waiting, but not for long.


The breathless way she spoke my name made something foreign shoot down my spine as my gaze darkened, eyeing her evenly. I took her hand and moved, pressing it to the floor at the side of her hip as I loomed over her.

I did the same with her other hand as I captured pink lips in a kiss that held raw desire and heated want. I pressed her back into the cold floor, covered by musty white sheets.

Her innocent eyes stared stunned as I made quick work of her red vested shirt, moving in a precise, direct manner. Sakura's hitae-ate disappeared as well as her pale locks fell around her like a flowery halo.

I purged that thought from my mind as I crashed my mouth on hers again, dominating and unyielding with my tongue, forcing her to submit as she weakly responded.

But that didn't matter at the time.

Her hands moved to my shoulders as if to push me away before they slackened and fell back limply at her sides.

I broke the bruising kiss and tore through her chest bindings, leaving her upper body naked and making her gasp. I tasted everything, touching her small breasts and squeezing until she moaned and writhed.

A parade of dark thoughts and even darker inviting images came unbidden into my mind at the sight of Sakura flushed beneath me.

She was trembling when I pulled her shorts down, along with her white skirt. I ran my calloused hands down her slender legs, edging my way in-between as my need grew greater and more impatient.

I moaned lowly when I felt my hardened manhood brush her inner thigh and grabbed her hips urgently, moving her so that one of her legs was wrapped around my waist as I pressed her even tighter against me, not ever getting enough of the feel.

I felt her wrap her arms shakily around my neck, her fingers threading themselves into my raven spikes as she whispered my name in that same breathy way. A kiss she had pressed to my curse seal made me too aware of the foreign feelings shifting through me.

The need to take her increased ten-fold as I pulled down my own pants and boxers at the same time, groaning at the feel of Sakura underneath me. I kissed over the newly made red marks flaring across the skin of her neck when I entered her without warning, "Sakura…"

I pressed my forehead against hers and moved my mouth over hers as she cried out in pain as I ripped her apart and watched her break.

I sadistically studied how the tears gathered in the corners of her deep green eyes and licked them away as I moved inside her. "Sasuke…kun…" She moaned weakly.

When she shattered, so did I.

Afterwards, I stared down at Sakura's tired looking eyes. My arms were wrapped possessively around her waist and on impulse I pressed her tightly against me, it still struck me how fragile she was compared to me.

Her brilliant eyes slid shut, her fingers that had been endlessly running through my hair halting to trail down my back.

Most of my weight rested on my forearms as I watched her intently. This opening of weakness, this stray off my path would have to be closed and righted.

Those eyes were too alluring. Her breathy whispers of my name too addicting. Her warm hands and legs caused too much reaction from my own body. One that couldn't happen again.

He still lived. He still breathed. He still had to die.

Until he dies I can't live in soft promises and even softer eyes.

Sakura had managed to make a moment of weakness but until I completed my goal I couldn't let it open up any further. I would sew it back tightly, seal it shut until the day comes that I stand over my brother's cold, dead corpse.

If I still lived. If I still breathed. But it would be such – either I breathe or neither of us does. There would be no other way. No other outcome.

I stared down at Sakura.

No other path.

And yet… if I still lived, if I still breathed… this moment of weakness would be able to exist. It would be able to turn into minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years if she still wanted. If she still waited.

But until that time this moment would stand still, alone and isolated but never forgotten or regretted.

Sakura's sleepy eyes opened once more as she smiled at me, catching me staring at her. Guilt arose and seeped into a long dead conscience as I gazed down at her peaceful face.

'I just took her without any thought other than my own selfishness. But stopping hadn't even been an option at the time. Even if I could turn back time, I'd still do it again.'

'If only I could…' No. I pushed those burning thoughts away as I remembered brown stained floors and spinning red eyes.

Looking into her pure green ones it was hard to do that. She was dangerous, something I had realized when I left her on that bench three years ago. Sakura's words and actions were too convincing, too tempting to be ignored for long.

That is why she had to be avoided. Sakura had to stay far, far away. But for these last few seconds until my mental countdown ended, I would make sure to indulge and savor her weakened embrace.

Because, after that, she would again be nothing but a trace of memory haunting the back of my mind…like a soft hum sifting in and out…

I nuzzled her neck and nibbled my way along her jaw, using teeth to bite her bottom lip possessively as my eyes as black as my soul leered down at her. I memorized every dip and curve of her naked, unblemished skin as I traced and retraced my hands down every inch, my eyes watching her blushing response.

Her fatigued eyes lit as her bruised lips formed a beautiful smile that made the demons inside me shiver.

I continued to give her long, burning kisses that were more possessive and protective than I cared to let show as my mental countdown finished too soon, too fast for my liking.

But it had to be done.

I closed my eyes and gathered my composure as the rare, quiet emotions of want and need faded as I opened my eyes to stare at her blankly, emotionlessly.

It was harder than I anticipated but once the gaping hole she had ripped open was closed I felt secure once more. In control once more. Myself once more.

Sakura's eyes widened at my sudden stoic expression, "…Sasuke-kun…please…listen to me for a moment."

"No, Sakura." I curved my lips upwards to give her a smirk that was too humorless to be classified as one, "We already stole a moment."

Her fingers dug into my back – holding, keeping. "Then let's steal another," she whispered, pleading as jade orbs watered.

I shifted all my weight on my left forearm and covered her mouth with my right hand, "Don't. Go to sleep and then go home, Sakura." I closed my eyes again, "Don't come after me."

She whimpered as I felt her body tense under me. I stared at her again with half-lidded eyes, greedily allowing myself to drink her in one last time.

"Do as I say, Sakura." I ordered lowly.

'You always have', I thought absently.

Finally, the tears that had been threatening to spill slid down her cheeks like small streams. I lifted my hand from her mouth and raised myself to a sitting position, now straddling her hips as I scanned the room for my clothes and shoes.

I would not allow myself another tempting picture.

"I must come after you… and if I can't find you, then my heart will."

I stilled and narrowed my eyes down at a spot on the floor a few inches above her pink head, "Don't say foolish things."

Without wasting another second or indulging another thought, I stood and collected my things.

I slipped them on quietly with my back to Sakura, I knew after healing my wounds (which now felt like they never occurred) and then what happened between us afterwards Sakura wouldn't be able to move for a while.

Her body was much too fatigued and exhausted. It was underhanded to leave this way I knew but that couldn't matter.

I half expected her to beg me to stay, or implore me to wait or come back to Konoha, but she did none of this. Sakura merely lay there silently but I could feel her watching me. Expecting. Knowing. Accepting.

I paused at the door and allowed myself to look over my shoulder to see her lying on the bundle of blankets. Her eyes seemed so far away, tinged with sadness and…resolve…?

"Remember what I said." My deep voice penetrated the overwhelming silence between us. Without waiting for an answer, I left, vanishing into the early hours of sunrise.

Now, more than five months later, I stand in victory over my older brother's dead body. My katana soaked in his blood and protruding from his chest where it had pierced a lung, my right hand now stained with crimson when my chidori had torn right through his heart.

Ripping it out as it pulsed did not bring me the satisfaction I craved, nor did stabbing those mangekyou eyes until his eye sockets were nothing but a mess of blood and tissue.

My chest was shaking and I wondered why, but then I realized I was laughing. After all those years, all this time, it was finally done. Finally complete.

The dead whispers of revenge from my demised clan would cease, the honor of my massacred family restored, and the need to know if I was truly more powerful than my brother – if I could step away from his shadow and surpass him, was verified.

In a manic warped form of glee, I kicked Itachi's lifeless body as my laughing increased. My own red eyes glared down into my Nii-san's empty sockets with the knowledge that his eyes would never look down upon me with superiority ever again.

Itachi's container of power had failed him and mine had won.

I won…

My curse seal spiked with an onslaught of pain as I hissed, wincing as I held it and turned away from Itachi's corpse. That's right… my path to kill this man had been full of pain and sacrifices, full of torture and deals.

One such deal that would never cease affecting me, I noted coldly.

Even after Orochimaru's death, the seal still threatened to consume more emotions, more parts of me as if it were a never ending black hole that could suck up any part of me exposed to its wrath, until it took over me completely.

The threat hung in the air so it would never be dismissed.

I gasped in a breath, holding my broken ribs and surveyed the damage done to my own body.

Besides the ribs, I had a bleeding hole in my left shoulder and a large percentage of skin and muscle had been burned away on my back. Along with that, my leg was injured in a way that caused me to limp; though I wasn't exactly sure what was wrong with it.

I stilled and waited for something I did not know. After a few moments, a raw sort of panic crept its way inside my chest where it festered and spread.

'No', I thought, 'why am I acting like this? My goal was achieved! Accomplished.'

Then why…I darted my eyes to Itachi's lifeless form and swallowed at the memories it brought forth.

It's what I wanted. Even he knew this would happen. He said so before he died.

But then why…why do I…?

I walked over to his body and studied it closely, as if expecting Itachi to spring to life at any moment and attack.

'He's dead.' I saw to that myself. Dead…

But then why…why do I still feel as if it's not over? Like it still continues. I shakily lifted my right hand that had ripped out Itachi's heart and stared at my bloodstained hand.

Why does my revenge… my thirst to kill him still thrive?

I watched as my shaking hand started to tremble even more as my breathing came in short, quickened pants.

'Why hadn't it…why doesn't it fade…right? Why can't I rest?' Why does it still feel as if his red eyes are still challenging me, why do I still feel like that boy who ran screaming and crying for him not to kill me…

Why do I still feel like I'm at his mercy?

"….revenge won't make you happy. Not you, nor I…"

My fist clenched as I grasped the piece of shirt above where my heart was suppose to be only to feel it ironically pounding.


"…Itachi," I said, wildly staring down at my older brother's corpse as I felt my inner panic swell and escalate. I kicked his body again, harder this time as I forced myself to sneer down at him, "Killing you did make me happy. It did!" I swore vehemently, watching the corpse as it rolled slightly away and then ceased.

My eyes narrowed in anger and distain at my own panic, "You deserve it for what you did to Kaa-san. To Tou-san. You deserved everything you got. And I deserved to be the one who made sure of it." I said, my volume increasing with every word until I was shouting at his dead body.

Realizing what I was doing, I took a step back and turned my back on my older brother's corpse again. 'I don't regret this path…' I reverently thought. I closed my eyes, I can't regret this. I won't allow myself to.

And so, I walked away into the willowed woods. Limping and putting one foot in front of the other again and again. The act of this, the motion was enough to direct my thoughts away from regret as my distress numbed my mind and fed into my curse seal…eating and eating away until I was nothing more than a wraith walking forward.

I didn't know where I was going. I have no sense of direction at all. It didn't matter. Things that mattered were…

… 'Sasuke-kun'…pink lips murmured against my neck as I lay against her soft chest, hearing the hypnotic drum of her heart beating, one, two, one…

A distant pounding in my head surged through as I started and looked around at my foreign surroundings. It was around midday and I was in a forested setting, twigs snapping every few seconds under my feet.

How long had I been walking? I cringed mentally and limped over to a tree and collapsed, breathing heavily and blinking awake.

Judging from how I could feel the bones of my heel digging into my boots, I must have been walking for a long time. Days, even.

Sakura… would she have waited? Would she even allow my path to cross with hers again after everything? I leaned my head against the hard bark of the tree, listening to the wind as it blew past the tress, a light chill that signaled winter was on its way.

The sun beat down on me, even through the light shade of the tree as it's warmth seeped into my cold bones, making my stiff body loosen into a somewhat state of calmness…


I frowned and wondered for a moment if my thoughts of my former teammate had caused me to remember her voice… it must have been… I sighed as fresh blood trickled down my arm and dripped from my fingertips. I paid it no heed, I was so tired, all I wanted to do was rest and…


I snapped my eyes open – that had not been my imagination. I stared in front of me to see none other than Haruno Sakura standing there in a simple white dress. I creased my eyes to see if this was a trick of the mind but when Sakura was still there I leaned forward, startled.

"Sakura…!" I scanned her over and over again, wincing as I forced my tried, beaten body to stand against its will.

I gritted my teeth and held the hole in my shoulder, not being able to tear my eyes off Sakura.

"How…how are you here?!" I asked then took a step forward, "Fool! I told you not to come after me and you…" I silenced as I narrowed my eyes at Sakura, wondering if my vision was blurring or if I was close to passing out.

Because… something was wrong with Sakura. The edges of her slim body were unclear, as if fading in and out. In fact, her entire body flickered in and out of existence like an unsteady flame on a candle.

"…Sakura," I said again, making my feet move as I took another step towards her as she continued to stand there a few feet away.

This was not like Sakura. Usually she would have rushed over and begun healing my injuries, or at least have said something by now. Sakura wasn't the quiet type at all…so why…

I stiffened. Could this be a genjutsu? From who and why? ANBU, perhaps from some other village I pissed off? No, none of them know of her. Nobody does…unless this is a trap from Leaf? But… would they really use Sakura?

I know she would have just come to me herself, not make a genjutsu of herself – and Naruto and Kakashi would have just apprehended me by now – in my state I wouldn't be able to do much…

…then is she a hallucination? I traced my gaze up and down her form. It was possible from the amount of blood I must have lost…

"Sakura," I demanded again, watching as she gave me a small smile, "say something." I ordered, eager to see if she was indeed real or not.

The small smile she wore transformed into that same beautiful smile she would direct at me, "I told you my heart would find you…if I couldn't…"

My spine stiffened at her voice that was definitely Sakura – but it was off somehow. It sounded as if she was talking from a great distance away other than only a few feet.

She took a step back and nodded her head at me before turning and lightly running away.

Alarmed, I took a few steps forward and groaned at how painful it was, my head dropping into my high collared shirt as I looked up to see Sakura waiting a distance away.

She lifted her hand and signaled me to follow her.

I frowned at her actions, confused and wary of how this could be an intricate trap set by an enemy.

But…she was gaining further distance away from me now as I forced my body to walk after her, as fast as I could. I tried to keep up to her pace but every time I seemed to gain and close in on her she would suddenly appear an even greater distance away.

I struggled, panting and half yelling at her to stop as I tore after her through the forest. It felt like hours had gone by, ignoring my calls out to her before she suddenly stopped in the middle of a clearing.

"Sakura!" I shouted, breathless and rasping as I tried to keep my wounds closed and forced myself not to pass out as black dots appeared all over my range of vision. Finally, she turned around and faced me once more as I met her eyes again.

I dropped to my knees in exhaustion as I tried to regain my breath. Sakura turned her head to the side and gave me a small impish grin.

I was about to say something when out of nowhere two forms burst out from the other side of the clearing and shot across on either side of where Sakura was standing, nearly ramming right into her.

They stopped abruptly in front of me as two pairs of eyes glared down at me, one blue and the other black with one eye covered with a leaf hitae-ate.

Naruto glowered at me as he took a step towards me, "Sasuke…" He began, fisting his hands at either side of him, "I'm going to kill you!"

'So Sakura lead me to them,' I thought as Naruto swung back his arm and punched me clear across the face. I didn't have the energy to attempt to dodge after coming here as I staggered and gazed up at him blankly.

Naruto looked like he was about to go for me again when Kakashi stopped him with a hand and kneeled down in front of me, "Sasuke, how did you get those injuries?" He asked as I noted how worn the copy-nin looked.

At my stony silence Naruto seemed to simmer with unreleased anger while Kakashi just knelt there, "Then I can assume that Uchiha Itachi is dead?"

My eyes bored into his one visible one as I gave a curt nod, suddenly not giving a shit whether they knew or not.

Kakashi sighed, "I see…" If possible, he seemed to age a few years just hearing this information. I moved my gaze onto Sakura who just continued to stand there in the middle of the clearing.

Kakashi turned to Naruto who was still on edge, "Calm down Naruto, in his condition, he's not going anywhere." The fox boy then just stared at the ground, his blond hair covering his whiskered face.

I furrowed my brows as Sakura continued to look hazy and unfocused. Why? Why doesn't she just come over? Is she angry…?

'She has every right to be…but…she's the one who lead me here…' I thought distantly.

Suddenly Naruto grabbed the front of my shirt and dragged me up until I was standing eye level to him. My body screamed in protest but I bit my lip from showing any reaction to the slightest amount of pain as I reached up and grasped Naruto's wrist that was holding my collar.

"You're not even asking! Don't you CARE?!" He yelled loudly, his blue eyes pained and tormented as he shook me roughly.

I tightened my grip on his wrist as Kakashi looked away, "Ask you what?" I growled, irritated at this outburst and striving to move my uncooperative body.

Naruto grabbed my high collar with his other hand as well, "Don't you even see that Sakura-chan isn't here?!" He cried, shaking and trembling with rage and…sorrow?

Kakashi stood slowly, "…Naruto."

"No! Not until he apologizes – not until he realizes what happened when he was off in Sound!" Naruto shouted back, glaring me dead in the eye the entire time. My own eyes flickered over to Sakura and then to Naruto again.

Why is he acting so…dramatic and…

"She's right over there. If she doesn't want to come over then I can't make her." I stated tonelessly, glaring right back at Naruto and cursing my damaged body.

But then again, where else could I go? I had killed Itachi and now…now I wanted…

I want to… my gaze settled on my pink haired teammate standing alone in the clearing as her words echoed in my mind.

… "Then let's steal another moment."…

'I want a moment to turn into minutes…' I thought, staring at her intently.

The breath was knocked out of my lungs so fast it left me gasping as I recoiled from Naruto's punch to my gut.

"How dare you," Naruto spat, his cerulean eyes flashing red with utter anger, "How dare you say that when…when…"

I groaned in pain at my broken ribs and rebounded with a right hook to the side of Naruto's head, but at my current strength it wasn't enough for him to release his grip on me.

"What the hell is that matter with you?" I growled as Naruto lifted his fist to punch me again but Kakashi decided to jump in and caught it before it landed.

"Naruto, he doesn't know." My ex-sensei stated as he tore Naruto off me and pushed him back.

"I DON'T CARE! HE SHOULD KNOW! He…she had been…" Naruto turned away and breathed deeply before sharply turning back to me again. With nothing to support me, I was barely able to keep standing.

My eyes widened a fraction to see tears collect in Naruto's eyes as he glared furiously at me. I once again darted my sight from a somber Kakashi, to Naruto, and then to Sakura, still standing so far away before I felt a cold, foreboding instinct cast itself up my spine.

'What could Naruto get so upset about that he'd…?' Tenseness settled over me, reminding me eerily of how I felt the day I was forcing myself to open the doors that I knew would probably contain my deceased parents.

"Sakura-chan…" Naruto began brokenly as I stared at him, turning to look over at Sakura again, and then returning my gaze back to him.

"Sakura-chan's…dead." Naruto whispered, tears now pouring down his whiskered cheeks.

Kakashi looked away as I stared at them both and slowly became aware that they were not joking. Even Naruto would never go this far with a prank.

'But…can't they see she's standing right there!?' I locked my gaze on Sakura who still had that small sad smile on her face. Her outline was still fuzzy, not entirely focused as she stood there in her white dress…wait…

'Why is she in a dress? Shouldn't she be in ninja gear if she's on a mission? Where's her kunai, her hitae-ate, her gloves?'

The wind picked up again as it blew past us, blowing black bangs into my eyes as they widened at Sakura. 'The…the wind!!' I took a step forward, now stunned as I realized Sakura's dress and pink hair wasn't being blown in the direction of the wind like it should have been.

That, instead, it just remained still…like she…as if…

I took another step forward and another as I continued; my heartbeat started pounding sporadically again. A ringing resounded in my ears that had nothing to do with my injuries as I staggered towards Sakura who still stood there, not making a sound.

'It's…it can't be…it's…'

"Hey…where are you going?!" Naruto yelled as I walked past him and Kakashi, not paying them any attention.

"Don't worry Naruto – he's not going anywhere. We'll take him back to Leaf just like she would have wanted…"

A choked cry came from Naruto, "She'll never know… my promise I – damn…!" I tuned Naruto out as the ringing in my head got louder.

'Why are they talking like that? She's right here! She's right here… Can't they see her…?!'

I was nearly in front of her.

'She's not dead . . . no, Sakura can't be…'

"…Sakura…" I stood in front of her now, breathing heavily from the forced excursion as Sakura's green eyes continued to gaze at me sadly.

'She's real. She's not dead. She's standing right there in front of me…'

I lifted my hand and reached out for her, intent on showing Naruto and Kakashi what they didn't seem to see.

My fingers reached for her shoulder and the distance disappeared and my fingertips passed right through her skin.

I sucked in a breath as I moved my hand sharply across her to see it faze right through her neck and face as if she was a…a…

'…no, no, no…it can't be. This isn't happening. This isn't real. She's alive. This is just an illusion, a hallucination or – no, she's alive and breathing and…real, Sakura's real…!'

The image of Sakura smiled faintly at the panicked look in my eyes, "My heart has found you." She whispered, it was so low and distant I barely heard it.

I sagged forwards, inwardly horrified by her words, by how real and not real she seemed, "…you're alive, Sakura," I muttered, more to myself than to her, "Where…where…"

The black dots that had been forming in my corners of my vision got bigger and expanded as my chest tightened and lurched at the same time.

'She's not a ghost…she's not a ghost…they don't exist…she's real but that isn't real…'

"…where are you…?" I breathed, on impulse reaching for her again only to watch my hand pass right through her.

Her green eyes shined with sorrow, "I'll die when spring dies."

With that whisper, I stepped forward as the pounding in my head reached its tempo and the black clouds in my sight expanded until I knew no more and passed out with one, fleeting thought…

'…She's alive…she had to be real…'

'Sakura… isn't a ghost.'

With one last distant yell of "Sasuke!" and the sensation of someone catching me, I lost consciousness.


Well, that's part one – I hope you liked it. Part two will be out soon, please review and tell me what you thought as I do love feedback.