Ah… Sakura… It was only her voice that could make my name sound coveted. My mind felt lost in a thick, dull haze, but I welcomed the soft tone of her call. I knew I was dreaming and did not wish to open my eyes in realization that if I did the dream would end. Green eyes would not greet me when I woke up. They never did. They never have.
"Sasuke-kun… Please wake up…"
Why would I want to wake up? Still, at the plea I tried to pry my reluctant eyes open to find that it was as if they were glued shut. I frowned, inhaling deeply to smell something I had not smelled in months. A sweet fragrance of cherry blossoms hit my nose. The aroma made my mouth water then quickly dry. Too much a reminder of how –
Fingertips ghosted across my cheek.
I snapped my eyes open, green eyes meeting my gaze immediately. I stared, choking back my gasp of surprise as the last instances of when I was conscious ran through my head. The fight with Itachi – his death at my hands – Naruto – Kakashi – the curse seal's burning, spreading – the agonized screaming – and then her –
"..Sakura…" I rasped out.
She was just as I left her. Pale pink hair dancing across her shoulders, wide green eyes shining with unshed tears, and honest worry overcoming all the other visible emotions on her pretty face – It was Sakura. I glanced down and retracted my assessment, her stomach clearly swollen due to… our child growing inside of her.
Satoshi. That foul-mouthed, arrogant punk of a kid was now growing inside Sakura. Our child. Instant relief and awe filled every crevice of my being. I sighed, knowing at least even if I fail in every goal I have left at least I kept my promise to him. He exists. He exists because of Sakura and me…
Her dainty hands reached up and held the sides of my face. She leaned forward, pressing our foreheads together as I heard her swallow a sob. I couldn't rip my eyes away from her or close them. In the sparse of a few moments we didn't talk, didn't ask anything, intending just to grasp onto the feel of the other's presence.
She finally spoke.
"Sasuke-kun… how do you feel?" It was as low as a whisper.
The fight with Itachi replayed in vivid detail in my mind's eye. I realized I should have had more injuries and be in much more pain that I did feel; instinctively knowing that Sakura must have healed me. The dull pain I felt right now was no comparison to the freedom of chains I currently felt. Itachi was dead. Nii-san was dead.
No. He doesn't deserve it. I won't think on him when Sakura is sitting right in front of me. She was the one who deserved thoughts – answers – now. Not him. I owe her everything now, for fulfilling my promise to Satoshi. For even…
When I planned to touch her as well I found I couldn't. I paused, my cloudy eyes sweeping down to myself to see I was wrapped with restrictive wires and seals. I was leaning up in a sitting position against a tree with Sakura hovering right in front of me. Cursing myself for not being more aware (I must really be out of it), I surmised there was no one around us in the open, grassy clearing. I gritted my teeth, knowing Kakashi must have tied me up but.... Where is Naruto..?
"Sasuke-kun? Are you…"
"I'm fine." I answered, clearing my throat.
Sakura half nodded. "You were… almost completely taken over by the curse seal. Kakashi resealed you, and then you passed out. You fought Itachi…" She looked away, pink hair covering her eyes from view. "He's dead, you know."
I tried to move forward, succeeding in only brushing my cheek with hers. "I know."
I heard Sakura suck in a breath. "Sasuke-kun… I'm pregnant."
I pressed our cheeks closer, repeating what I had said before. "I know."
She moved back so we were eye to eye again. I saw the confusion evident in her face and wondered what she thought my reaction would be like. Angry? Upset? I wondered then what her reaction would be if she knew I planned her pregnancy. Then I abruptly stopped wondering.
"I know… because of what I heard you tell me."
It was just before I passed out when she told me herself that she was, not that it wasn't obvious by the state of her expanding stomach, pregnant. Satoshi was definitely well on his way.
A tentative smile broke through her features. "Are you… happy?"
I nodded, keeping my expression to its usual blankness. "Of course I am, Sakura. It's what I always wanted with you."
Her wavering smile widened as she hugged me around my shoulders. My fingers itched to touch her once again but I couldn't. Scowling, I wondered once more where Kakashi and Naruto were. Did Naruto lose a fight against Kakashi? He did just fight Kisame… Is Naruto tied up as well? Even though I want to return to Konoha, I know I have to keep my end of the deal with Naruto. The Akatsuki leader is next.
We have to end it.
Even so, I wouldn't let the Akatsuki continue on in their existence anyway. I want the war to be completely dealt with before I return to Konoha and start over. Every single one of our future mistakes needs to be corrected before we can even stop and begin to relax. Before I can even be with Sakura…
"Sakura," I said. "Where is Naruto?"
She paused, moving back a bit. "He's… with Kakashi, in a similar position as you, Sasuke-kun. I wanted to talk to you alone before we started the trip back to Konoha. They're only a short distance away from us right now. We'll be leaving very soon, actually…"
"You and Kakashi are taking us back as prisoners?"
It sounded odd… ironic even, given future circumstances.
Sakura's expression grew firm. "Yes."
No matter. Naruto and I have a plan for this situation, anyway. Naruto and I always had a back-up plan for everything, after all. We needed to plan out every single detail of our lives and the actions we took because we can't afford any slip-ups, any mistakes. None.
I felt the cool, smooth hide of the snake that I had released before my fight with Itachi brush past my fingers, coiling around my wrist. It was unseen behind my back, asking the silent question if I wanted it to help untie me. I nudged it back, keeping my expression even as my snake began working silently on the wires, its teeth biting through. Just as precaution in the circumstance that I may be held captive after my fight – foreseeing my weakened state – Naruto and I had let out two summoning animals just in case. One toad and one snake.
It had been my idea, of course.
I leaned forward, making my lips meet with Sakura's. I didn't say a word, not wanting to disappoint her with things she wouldn't want to hear. I felt more than heard her sigh, slanting my mouth more so I could easily gain entry into hers. It felt so much the same it burned my skin with instigators of reactions that I should take.
Our night together had been just like everything else between Sakura and I – a gift and a curse. A gift because I knew nothing else pertaining to anything light or caring or peaceful that I would ever experience could ever top that moment between us. Sakura's moments with me were a gift because even in the quieter times of our relationship, you had to unveil or un-wrap the surface – the gift – to truly understand the intent, the feeling. My loud silence, her quiet screams. It made sense if you looked beyond the surface of my ignoring her and her declarations of "Yamatte, Sasuke-kun," and "Please listen to me, Sasuke-kun." So much more than those simple words she gave and those simple wordless stares I returned.
A gift in the past that I could never return....
A curse... because every time a moment passed was another time thoughts of revenge and hatred and power fled my mind. Every time when she in the past would hold my hand – that hand would feel awkward and useless, unable to let go and instead tentatively hold back. Every time in the past she would smile brightly – a smile that in the Chunnin exams turned into a wide-eyed look of apprehension and fear. Fear for my twisted behavior, my violent actions. I realized something that day in the Chuunin exams that I know my future self acknowledged as well. I liked her face smiling just as much as I liked her face -----
No. I shouldn't think his thoughts.
Sakura was a curse because she put the words excitement and chaos and greed into a whole new meaning whenever I looked at her. So, my stolen moment with her months ago was something to be held sacred and lamented over. And every moment was… with her.
I pulled away from her lips and kissed her cheek, feeling her breath fan against my neck. I flexed my now freed hands and knew that Naruto would be arriving any moment, expecting us to now go hunt after the Akatsuki leader. It was his father, after all, and Naruto still had his own revenge to taste. I was still trying to swallow mine down.
I pulled away and pressed our foreheads together again. "Sakura," I said, knowing my tone sounded distant.
"Sasuke-kun… Don't worry. Tsunade-shishou will understand everything, I'll make her! You can tell her of your plans, I know you have reasons, and then," but she stopped and just stared into my eyes, her own widening with a trace of alarm.
I gripped her face with both hands, my fingertips pressing into the back of her neck. I continued to hold her close even though she tried to push back, her own hands reaching and squeezing my wrists in shock. I slowly shook my head.
I have a pact to keep.
"I'm sorry, Sakura." My voice lowered as she paled.
"Ma… Matte, Sasuke-kun –,"
I pressed into the unmistakable point that made her fall slack on my lap, passed out. I leaned her up against the tree, feeling the twisting feeling of regret but pushed it away harshly, knowing it wouldn't be longer until I could give Sakura the ending we both wanted. In a sudden poof Naruto appeared to my right.
"Ah, Sasuke-teme! That was mean, you know…" Naruto scolded, his whiskered face frowning at Sakura's unconscious form.
"You were watching." I commented, but not accused.
Naruto shrugged. "Heh, well I took care of Kakashi – took a while but I did. I had the element of surprise, after all. Besides, I knew they were coming, but knew you needed medical attention. I pretended they 'captured' us after you passed out" – he tossed me a concerned look – "and then waited until Sakura-chan was done healing you till I finished off Kakashi. It was easy since Sakura-chan wanted to be alone with you."
"I doubt it was that easy to defeat Kakashi." I replied, annoyed.
Naruto scratched his blond head. "Well, he didn't know that I summoned Gamabunta beforehand. Big surprise, huh? He was a big help."
"That was the toad you summoned?" I asked, surprised. Naruto hadn't summoned Gamabunta since they were in the future. The dobe said he wanted to wait until the time was right.
Naruto nodded seriously. "Yeah, I did. Thought it was the best time since now we're..." he trailed off at my nod in return.
Naruto glanced at Sakura, focusing on the bump of her stomach. "She's… so pregnant, already. I wonder what Hinata-chan looks like now." He faced me again. "But we need to finish this, Sasuke. As soon as possible. It's not fair to Sakura-chan and Hinata-chan. It's just not."
Gamabunta appeared in a burst of smoke. At my sweep of his appearance, I assumed he didn't have quite an easy fight as Naruto made it out to be. At his hind legs there were indents of what looked like dog bites.
"Naruto – you said you would explain it to me now. Why were we fighting Kakashi? What is going on?" the Toad King demanded.
Naruto slowly turned to face him. "Gamabunta, I'm going to give you directions to an old Akatsuki base. I want you to take me and Sasuke there."
Gamabunta stiffened, and then shook his massive head. "Do you know that Jiraiya –,"
"Gamabunta – I need to do this for me."
The Toad King's expression went from anger to a heavy resignation.
We're going to the same Akatsuki base we went to in the future. Hopefully, it's still in use. Hopefully… he's there.
In a matter of seconds, we left.
I have never been so angry.
At first I was skeptical of Naruto's sudden submissive surrender when I resealed Sasuke and he passed out. He let me tie him up without complaint, only hurriedly asking Sakura if Sasuke would be all right. He didn't even stop his frantic ranting over Sasuke's condition to notice Sakura's obvious one.
She was five months pregnant – and Naruto didn't even blink?
I suspected Naruto knew more then he lead on, and accepted Sakura's proposal of being alone with Sasuke. I wanted to question, no interrogate Naruto. I could sense the boy I trained in the past was not the missing ninja I saw in front of me. The whiskered grin that answered me was not the one I was used too; it mocked the past Naruto.
Then imagine my surprise, just as I was about to throw my first question, the sudden arrival of Gamabunta, poised to attack. The apologetic grin that replied made me all the more furious. It had all been planned and Naruto, in his seemingly characteristic unpredictability, pulled a fast one. Another vast change in Naruto was that I realized he knew techniques thought to be long gone – buried by a certain dead Hokage.
Did Naruto think I, master of over a thousand jutsu, wouldn't notice?
Even though I had noticed, I certainly wasn't prepared this time. Next time would be a different story, entirely.
When I awoke Sakura was looming over me. By her expression alone I could tell Naruto and Sasuke were indeed gone – again.
By the time we both got back to Konoha, though, a certain person was waiting for us. Before we could even enter the main gates Jiraiya was standing there, as if he expected us. Thank God Sakura put up the genjutsu that masked her swollen stomach beforehand.
"Kakashi… do you want to know where Naruto and Sasuke are?"
I stared, startled for a second. His expression was grave.
"You know where they went." I answered back, surprised but more than willing to accept.
"I do. Let's just say a certain toad told me. I have been tracking Naruto for the last three years, you know."
"Ka- Kakashi-sensei, I will..." Sakura began almost breathlessly before I cut her off.
I pushed her behind me and moved away to stand next to Jiraiya. I would not bring a pregnant Sakura on a mission – not again at any rate. I thought she could convince them but it was obvious that Naruto and Sasuke were not up to compromise. At this point, neither was I.
"Sakura, stay here and get rest. You've been too strained as of late."
I shook my head. "Jiraiya, let's go."
Naruto and Sasuke had a lot to answer for.
Hey guys, guess who..? Yeah, I know me and Spaz have been dead lately – and we won't offer excuses. I know the length of this chapter isn't the usual but think of it as a re-start to going back on track with fanfiction.
Thanks to all the reviewers (and the messages) who gave us a much needed kick in the ass. Thanks for sticking with us. I know we can be quite annoying.
Thanks again, guys.
Twitch and Spaz