Faded Cherry Blossom
Sakura felt like she was burning. There was so much pain and a nauseating feeling ran though her, making her want to shiver. She wanted to curl into a ball and slowly cave in as a wilting flower would. But it felt as if she would never be able to move again.
There was a chilling air that wrapped around her, choking her, and all brightness vanished. She was trapped without light and the need for warmth was greater now than it had ever been. It was a necessity to her, the dying bud. She wanted to pull in her hands that were limp at her sides and hug herself until the cold went away. She noticed that she was lying down on her back. Then there was something inside her also noticed others that were there. They were waiting for her and watching her. She wanted to imagine their faces again standing over her but they were all blank. There were figures crowding around her, but they held no familiarity to her and she gave up on recognizing them. She thought that there were voices nearby but this was pushed out by pain.
"Her heart beat is faint and erratic.–"
"Get the blood transfusion started now!"
"–She's barely breathing and she's cold as ice. You… you have to stop. She won't live much longer."
Her body suddenly felt at ease when the new blood flowed through her but, as soon as she felt it, the strength that entered her was stripped away again and replaced by increased agony. She could have sworn there was a scream. But it drifted from her attention and her thoughts were lost again. Her mind was suspended in night and the warmth was just out of her reach.
"Why won't it stop? Why can't anything work!?"
"Try it again! We can't give up now!"
The voices tickled her senses. She wanted to respond to them but the darkness kept her away. Time passed without her notice.
"I'm going to try it again. She can take it, she's already improving."
"Your power is exhausted. There hasn't been any improvement in hours! You need to let her go."
"No! Once more!"
She became aware of her body again. She was pulled from her subconscious, yet she couldn't wake. The unexpected wave of warmth started at her core. It trickled into her and just when it started to comfort her it was ripped away again. Another cry, sounding very distant, came out sounding horribly tortured.
"It's acting like a virus. It's eating her up from the inside. We're expecting her organs to fail next…"
"But it's still killing her!–"
"Once more! She held on longer that time! She's trying, can't you see that!? Please…"
There was another seed of heat planted into her. It began to root itself when the cold tried to rip it out again. The scream started quietly but as the cold struggled to push out the seed the screech grew louder. Then it was stopped. The roots held tightly onto her and the blackness was torn. There was a small hole created before her and warm sunlight seeped in. The hole grew larger and the light poured onto her. The seed inside her flourished in the sun's golden beams and it embraced her. She fell into a state of sleep. Pulses of heat sent shivers over her and everything went white.
Pain was still present in Sakura but it was only a meager soreness compared to what had taken over her what seemed like moments before. The kunoichi's hand twitched at her side, and then her lip. Her mouth was parted enough so light breaths of air could pass between her pale lips. She pressed her eyelids together when she noticed blinding lights trying to reach her green eyes. She yearned to move her hand and rest her palm over her eyes to block the light. She could feel her hair ticking her nose and knew it must be lying spilt across the pillow. Then her hearing abruptly returned to her. She identified the annoying beep of a monitor near her head and the scurrying of footsteps. Gradually she could recognize voices around her.
"Those two are still out cold. They sure know how to sleep… how troublesome." She heard a sarcastic man to her left.
A woman retorted back. "They nearly died, they're allowed to sleep." There was a light smacking noise and the man grunted. Sakura turned her head toward the conversation. Shikamaru and Temari's images were clear in her mind.
"What is Tsunade-sama going to do about this?" Someone was clearly tired of the couple's bickering and changed the topic in her own quiet way. "What will happen to him when he wakes up?"
"I don't know. I don't think there is a black or white answer to that." A monotone man responded.
"As helpful as ever, Gaara." A masculine voice moaned.
A faint feminine voice broke off the brotherly feud, it could only be Temari. "If we had come a minute later…"
"But we didn't." Neji's cold voice was unmistakable. "She'll live. That's all that matters, right?"
Sakura was drifting into sleep again. Their loud voices lulled her into slumber and words became only sounds. Then they were only murmurs, and they faded away. Soon enough she was dreaming. A soothing voice echoed around her. Its tone rang, sending a relaxing feeling over her.
"Sakura…wake up." A velvety voice called to her. "It's not easy for me to say… but… please, wake up."
Sakura wanted to laugh. This was a strange dream and she couldn't imagine the expression his face had on it as he spoke. These words just didn't fit the personality of the boy she had in mind. She wanted to see for herself but her eyes were just too tired to open.
He changed the subject when it proved too difficult to say anything more. "You look so peaceful when you're sleeping." Who was this? The voice was definitely familiar. "I saw you once like this before. You had fallen asleep on your couch. You were cold and I saw you shivering. So I put a blanket on you." There was a moment of silence. Then the voice started again. "Hn. You didn't even lock the window, Sakura. I didn't even have to try. I'm surprised you lived this long without me here to look after you."
She heard a door open. Another voice came into the dream. "You need to talk to Tsunade-sama. We have to decide what to do about you."
"I understand…" There was a long pause but no indication of movement.
"I'm staying here until she wakes up."
"Sasuke…" The voice was relaxed but had an authoritative side to it.
"I am staying here. The Hokage can wait. I'm sure she wants her student to wake up as much as any one else."
"But they're not waiting for her," He added a little firmer. "or talking to her."
"This is bound to be the only time I'll be allowed to talk to her, right Kakashi?"
The man laughed. "I guess so…" Kakashi left after that. Sakura was wondering now if Sasuke had stayed. If only she could open her eyes.
Sasuke whispered to her again. "That dobe should get some rest. Right after he woke up there was a crowd waiting for him and they practically carried him off. It was hard to sleep after they got started. They've been waiting for all of us. I don't think Neji was that happy to see I was alive. Neither was Kankurou or Gaara. I apparently caused you some problems, they seemed very concerned." He stopped again. Then a light sigh escaped him. "I'm not sorry." Sakura wanted to look at him. She wanted to see his eyes and see of he was just saying that. "I did what I had to."
You didn't have to do anything! She wanted to say.
"But I'm amazed that you hadn't said anything for so long. I figured you would run off to Kakashi or that baka like you would have a long time ago. But then I saw his face when the Akatsuki attacked. He looked so shocked to see me; I couldn't help but be impressed." He cut himself off again. "I had wanted to say so much more than what I told you that night." He must mean after Naruto and Hinata took me to dinner… "I lied to you, Sakura. I thought that would protect you if you saw me as an enemy because I wouldn't be there to save you next time."
She heard him move a little. Please don't leave…
He stopped as if on command. "I tried to let you go. I tried to forget who you were, who you are. But you are too important to me." She imagined his hand, squeezing the bridge of his nose in frustration. He hated these kinds of conversations. She wanted to smile at him. "And I was almost too late to save you when I had finally realized that." Sakura imagined the confused look that would be on his face. "Gomen…" His voice was low, meant only for her ears. "Sakura."
She wanted to see him. She wanted to watch his eyes flicker across her face. Then her eyes opened. The room was white and when she turned her head morning light from a window temporarily blinded her. Then when her clear green eyes focused she saw raven hair and tears came to her eyes. Sasuke was sitting there on the edge of her bed. His hands were folded neatly in his lap and he was wearing a loose gray shirt.
Tears streamed down her face as she stared at him. His attention was elsewhere, perhaps out the window. She lifted her head off the bed and tried to sit up. His obsidian eyes flickered from side to side. He thought the sound of her movement was only imagined as he wanted it to be.
"S-…" her voice was obstruct and raspy. It cracked at the first attempt. Then, with tears dampening the white sheets, she sat up. "Sa- Sasuke." His head turned slowly, his face surprised. She embraced him as she collapsed forward and with her face buried into his shoulder, she wept. His dark eyes watched her and slowly he slid his arms around her and rested his cheek on the top of her head. He let out a relieved sigh and his black eyes shut.
They remained in their embrace for a moment before she lifted her head slowly. He slipped his face off of her soft hair and watched her green eyes carefully. She looked worn out and her cheeks were a little flushed after crying. The color was charming and he, without a second thought, swiped a stray hair away from her face, brushing her cheek as he did. Her eyes brightened and a small smile turned up her cherry colored lips. Sasuke's arms, still wrapped around her waist, helped her move over when she tried to scoot toward him. She placed her head on his shoulder again, facing the window. Her legs were folded behind her on the bed. They both looked out to the almost clear sky. It was probably very warm outside and Sakura could imagine the cool breeze that was probably blowing.
"Maybe I should lock my window." She laughed weakly. "It doesn't seem that smart to leave it open if people like you are coming in." She looked up at him. He was smirking.
"Hn." So she heard all that.
"Is Orochimaru gone?"
"Hai." He didn't look at her. "You almost went with him, too. You've been asleep for two days. They had you in emergency care through the first night until you were a little more stable. Then the last day was spent insuring your recovery." Sakura felt her hands and massaged them. "The seal Tsunade gave you backfired. It took in your chakra and it took out anything you had left. Instead of doubling your power it undermined you; at least that's what they found out." He sighed and his hand around her waist held her a little tighter. "It almost killed you…"
Suddenly a gasp came from behind them. "S- Sakura!" Sasuke and Sakura looked back very surprised at the intruding blonde in the doorway.
"Ohayou, Ino-pig." Sakura giggled. Ino was staggered. She rushed out for a second and the two on the bed could hear her shouting out the news 'Sakura's awake!' Then in her place a handful more gathered. Neji, Kankurou, Temari, Shikamaru, Hinata, Lee, Ino, Gaara… They were all there. Then one suddenly pushed through.
"Sakura-chan!" Naruto dove at her and Sasuke quickly broke away from her before he could be caught in the blonde's bear hug. There he was, stretched across the white bed hugging her. Sakura was laughing. The Jinchuuriki released her and looked at Sasuke who was now leaning against the wall casually as if nothing had happened.
"Don't stare at me, dobe–"
He laughed and cut him short. "I had wanted to stay but Kaka-sensei said it would be better if you could." The crowd behind them seemed a little shocked. "I'm glad you woke her up, teme."
Suddenly Temari, Hinata, and Ino ran past the boys and hugged the kunoichi.
Ino was crying. "If you ever scare me like that again I'll kill you myself, forehead girl!"
"Sakura-san, I'm glad you're alright!" Hinata was also teary eyed.
Temari ruffled Sakura's bubblegum hair. Her eyes were dry. "It took you long enough, Sakura. These guys wouldn't leave me alone!"
"Sakura-san!" Lee was crying next to Neji who looked like he was ready to exit the room. "It is truly a gift to see your sparkling smile once more!" Sakura was laughing again. She turned to face him and quickly counted all of the faces in the doorway.
She looked puzzled. "Hey Lee, where is everyone else? Where is TenTen?" Lee froze. "And Chouji?"
Suddenly everyone became quiet. Neji took a step forward after a second and answered. "TenTen was killed." He looked at Sakura with his piercing white eyes. The kunoichi couldn't look back at him. She broke his gaze and looked down.
"TenTen was…" Tears were coming again.
Shikamaru spoke up. "So was Chouji. He died here in the hospital. Ino nearly left us too…" Naruto's head drooped; this was also recent news to him. But everyone's eye had turned to Ino. Sakura stared deeply up at the smiling Ino. She had on a brave face even though she had lost such a close friend and Sakura hadn't even noticed. The eyes she had were not done mourning him yet, Sakura could now tell.
Ino only smiled back and commented at Sakura's guilty expression. "If you had been here it would have ended the same Sakura." The woman in question turned away from her. A warm hand rested on her head.
Shikamaru watched some faces become very dark and he decided to add on to what Ino said. "Chouji was definitely content when he died. It was painlessly and he finished his life with no regrets and even a few laughs left." Shikamaru paused. "It wasn't caused by anyone here…"
Sakura agreed silently but only wished she could have done something more for the dear friend of Ino and Shikamaru. Without her notice hateful eyes turned to Sasuke. To them there was someone to blame. It didn't take long for Sasuke to see hateful stares from Neji and Kankurou. He ignored them with little effort.
"Sakura, we nearly lost you too, ne?" Ino giggled. "What ever would we do if our precious billboard brow went away?" She added sarcastically. She received a knock across her head from the fuming Sakura as she let off some playful steam. The onlookers tried to pass over their anger for a moment and watched as the conversation became light.
Naruto walked over to Hinata and resisted the urge to smother her in a hug. The happy mood was raising his spirits. She looked up at him. Her white eyes were slightly damp but her soft laugh made him grin even wider.
"There's a lot to be happy about, right Ino? There was actually silence in the world when you were unconscious… Those were the best moments of my life!" Temari stuck out her tongue. The group laughed at Ino's expense and her fruitless attempts to tackle the Sand nin.
Sasuke was watching Sakura, a smirk on his face, when he saw others gather in the doorway. Sakura's laugh diminished and she looked to see what had caught his eye. There in the back Tsunade and Shizune stood, aiming to enter, and she could have sworn that an ANBU nin or two walked past in the hallway. Sakura immediately understood and got up from amidst the girls.
"Be back in a sec." The kunoichi reached out to Sasuke and grabbed his hand. Then she pulled him behind her as she fled the room. Naruto watched them shove past the group in the doorway and he grinned widely after them. Shizune and Tsunade exchanged concerned glances as they rushed by but when Kakashi walked out of the neighboring room between them and the fleeing couple they decided not to pursue.
Sakura ran past the attendants and nurses that walked the halls. Sasuke jogged behind her, not minding the change in scenery. Sakura slowed to a stop, panting lightly, and looked behind her to see of they had followed.
She stood for a moment, her hand still in Sasuke's. "I'm guessing Tsunade came to retrieve you now that I'm awake."
"You really were paying attention." He looked at her, almost in a playful manner. But his voice was still calm, she expected no less. It was still hard to get Sasuke to show emotion even now.
She smiled at him and they walked, again, down the hallway. They started to go up the stares and Sasuke still followed without complaint. They had climbed the last steps and all that remained was a large metal door. She tried to open it but to no avail. Sasuke chuckled and easily opened the door. He had forgotten that she had just woken up and was still weak. He held the door open for her as she escaped into the breezy outdoors. She had been right. It was a cozy temperature and the wind was exhilarating. Sakura walked ahead, out into the middle of the roof.
"They're probably hoping I'll bring you back there…" She laughed humorlessly. Sasuke was startled for a moment and she turned around. There were tears in her eyes. "You don't have to knock me out cold this time, Sasuke." her hands were clenched at her sides.
"You brought me here so I could escape." He didn't seem as shocked as Sakura was hoping.
"I want you to go." Sakura watched him as he stepped forward to her. She was sobbing quietly as he gasped her upper arms, holding her still. He leaned his head down, their foreheads met. He rested it there; his obsidian eyes never left her clear green ones.When she couldn't hold the eye contact any longer she shut her eyes and pressed against his forehead. "You won't be let off. I know. Tsunade doesn't know what you did for us…!"
"I don't care." He stayed still while Sakura gripped his forearms with her imprisoned hands.
She was crying now. "Please… run…!"
Sasuke sighed. "I'm tired of running." The kunoichi opened her eyes and looked up at his confident expression. He smirked and released one hand so he could wipe the tears from her reddened cheeks.
Sakura wanted to lean into him again. She tipped her chin down to bury it in his shoulder but he caught it in his hand. He lifted her face to his and kissed her. Sad eyes stared into his closed lids. The kiss deepened and her lids shut as she realized she really loved him. She loved this cold-hearted killer that, for some reason, cared about her. She laughed against his lips and wrapped her arms around his waist. She kissed him back as his hands moved around her shoulders to pull her closer. They stayed like that, memorizing the feel of each other's embrace, knowing it was probably their last. They gradually relaxed and put their foreheads together once more.
"This is a cute moment," A chuckle came from the door. Sasuke and Sakura looked back. It was their old sensei. They could see others in the stairwell. Everyone from Sakura's room had gathered there.
A disgusted Jinchuuriki came to the front. "Ug… Save it until I go back downstairs." His tongue was sticking out. Hinata giggled.
"Uchiha Sasuke…" Tsunade's serious voice called out. "I need a word with you." Sasuke gave a curt nod and started to break away from Sakura. As the Hokage broke through she held up her hand. "I can say it here." Sasuke stopped and put his arms back around her neck loosely. "Uchiha Sasuke, you have betrayed this village. You became a missing nin and had secret contact, nearly five years after you first left, with a medical nin, a shinobi no less, of this village.
"You worked under a large enemy of this village, Orochimaru, and attacked Konohagakure. We lost many because of your invasion and yet you live… You nearly killed your teammate, Naruto, over four years ago. And you broke the heart of a kunoichi I consider my daughter." The woman looked at Sakura. The pink haired kunoichi's face was filled with fear and worry for the man in her arms.
"Uchiha Sasuke… I don't know why she loves you but that girl would have gone the ends of the earth if it meant bringing you back. And in a way she did." Tsunade stopped. "But then again, all three of you… Team 7 killed Orochimaru when I could not." Sakura looked hopeful.
The Hokage looked at Sakura's face. This is the first time in a while that I've seen her smile like that. Then she sighed. "With all this in mind we will decide your fate at another time, Uchiha." Sakura beamed at the Godaime as she turned around and headed back down the stairs. Kankurou and Neji followed her.
Just then Naruto walked up to Sasuke and Sakura. He was rubbing his head. "It's kind of scary to think that the last time we saw each other you were trying to kill me…" He laughed.
Sasuke smirked at him. "It's not that hard to scare you, bibi-kun." That's what started the verbal war.
"You seemed a little freaked when I had five tails, teme!" Naruto's arms were crossed, his tongue was sticking out.
Sasuke sighed. "I was impressed, dobe. But nothing you can do will ever intimidate me." Beside him, Sakura laughed.
Sasuke looked away for a second. Then he muttered quietly to Naruto. "However, you werean amazing opponent."
The Jinchuuriki pumped his fist. "Hell yes!"
"Don't overdo it, baka." Sakura bopped him on his head and he cried out.
After a few more smacks and punches Naruto gave up on outdoing Sasuke. Gaara was looking strange and didn't seem to know how to respond to this awkward situation. Then Hinata called Naruto over. Sakura guessed that Hinata and Temari's female intuition understood that Sakura wanted to be alone with Sasuke and in a team effort they beckoned and practically pushed the other observers, Shikamaru and Lee, back down.
Kakashi watched Hinata and her blonde loudmouth, the last to leave. Then he looked to Sasuke. "It's good to have you back, Sasuke." He raised his hand in a casual goodbye then followed after the couples. Sakura waved to them while Sasuke gave a simple nod of acknowledgment.
As soon as Kakashi was out of sight Sasuke released the kunoichi's shoulders and settled for grabbing her hand. He gently led her to the edge of the roof and let go again. He looked over the city and they stood in silence. Sakura watched his face and held back her words so she could cherish his expression.
He spoke first. "I don't regret what I did, Sakura… If I could take back all that I did I still wouldn't."
"Why…" Her whisper was as soft as the wind.
"People change, Sakura… You and Naruto got stronger so you could bring me back. What if I had never left?" He didn't need to say anything else. Sakura understood. If he had stayed I wouldn't have become who I am today and the same would be true with Naruto. His training with Jiraiya wouldn't have happened.
Sasuke continued. "I've completed my life long ambition and now I can move on." He observed Konoha's beaten buildings and streets. There were people already starting to fix damaged walls and remove the rubble. Even the hospital had volunteers coming in and out to repair broken windows.
"Sasuke…" Sakura smiled. "What will you do?"
"It will take some time… But I'll pick up the pieces from where I left off. Finishing the Akatsuki comes first and then rounding up the last of the Sound village." He rested his hand on the concrete wall in front of him that came to his waist and leaned on it.
"But you know that Tsunade wouldn't let you… Even if you're cleared she won't trust you enough to–"
"If I don't want to stay here do you thing Tsunade can stop me?" He looked seriously to Sakura now. Her green eyes were shaking.
Sakura turned to face the other direction. It was immature but she needed to compose herself. Hadn't she suggested he leave? Behind her Sasuke removed his hand from the wall and stood parallel to her, only a foot away.
"Sakura…"He sighed, the woman slowly turned around. Then he chuckled at Sakura's perplexed expression. "Didn't I tell you I was tired of running?" He looked into her eyes and he saw through her worry. "I'm not leaving." As he spoke he cupped her cheek. "And thanks to you…" He leaned in and the kunoichi found herself rising to meet him. "…I have a reason to stay." Sakura's eyes widened and their lips met. A fire was sparked within her and she hugged his neck. Sasuke pushed her body to his with one hand on her back and the other in her hair, locking them together. While still in this state Sasuke moved, he picked her up by the waist and perched her on the edge of the building. The kunoichi steadied herself by putting her hands at her side, pushing against the wall and lifting into his kiss. Sasuke rested one knee beside her on the wall and partially straddled the pink haired woman while standing over her. He released and she saw his small smile. His features suddenly brightened and his hand slid through her hair to graze her cheek. From her shining green eyes his fingertips wiped away a tear.
Sakura had been the last bud for so long…
Now she could finally bloom…
Faded Cherry Blossom
Thank you, all of you, for your dedication and support. I have never had so much fun writing. I tip my hat to all the people that read, reviewed, put me on their favorites, and alerted my story! But first, here is the Top reviewer (The one who reviewed from chapter 1 and onward):
C.A.M.E.O.1 and Only - Reviewed on all chapters! That, readers, is amazing all in itself:3
And HPBabe91 (Your reviews were by far the most fun to read!) came in second only by a few reviews! I'm so glad you didn't get bored with me!
Thanks everyone! And here is a buffet of virtual food for you to snack upon… munchmunchmunch…
I have some ideas for new stories on my profile page. Please check it out and tell me what you like! the one I've just begun is Bonds. If you liked Faded Cherry Blossom I suggest you read this! I've just started it but my plot line is forming nicely. There are lots of twists and turns... The summary in on my profile. IAmNotANut
Please review for me there! I need your support!
Ja! (I'm gonna miss you :C …)