Disclaimer: Characters within this story belongs to Masashi Kishimoto, their creator and rightful owner. No copyright infringement intended.

I'm Sorry

"I'm sorry."

"I don't care. Get lost." She pushed past him roughly, shaking off his hand that had gripped her wrist. She refused to accept his apology this time. It was no use – he would lead her into the vicious cycle over and over again.

He let his arm fall limply to his side, his throat dry as he struggled to hang onto his defensive wall of indifference. He knew that she knew it was breaking him too, that this was final. He wanted to tell her things, things he had never told her before, yet he knew the next few words he said would be the last he would say to her. Ever.

"I'm really, truly proud of you," he choked out, holding back the tears already forming a blurry mist in his vision.

She didn't turn back, she didn't look back – she didn't even pause in her steps. She just walked away.

Big droplets of tears flowed gently down her cheeks, her lips trembling as she bit her bottom lip hard. She forced her eyes shut, holding back the wail she wanted to scream out. She opened her eyes again, now turning a forlorn gaze heavenwards. The sky was crying with her today, the bleak rain clouds hovering ominously over her as the rain pelt softly against her skin.

She missed him.

It was already half a year gone – a time too long for even her anger to remain. It had dissipated after two weeks since she walked away, though he had been long gone on a solo mission by the time she squashed her ego and walked up to his apartment to apologize. She had stood out in his balcony, as she always did, and had tapped softly on the glass panel. She had waited under the heavy rain that soaked her thoroughly before leaving dejectedly. She had dragged her feet back to her own apartment, before being summoned to the Hokage's office to resume her duties. Seeing Sakura's wretchedness made Tsunade frown in apprehension, before informing her apprentice that her former sensei had left on a solo mission. She had said it so brusquely, as though in sympathy for the absent man instead of the woman that stood in disappointment in front of her – Sakura remembered so well that it still made her flinch as she recalled it. She had resumed her duties soon after, only taking the time off regularly to frequent the memorial stone that he had visited every day – perhaps hoping to see him there, should he return from his mission.

She laughed bitterly, stifled by her choked tears.

His scent was still fresh in her memories. It smelled of the forest, the rain, his dogs and everything else that was part of him. She had clung to that scent vehemently, always trying to duplicate it on herself so she would not need to sniff his pillow she had stolen on those aching nights. It was to no avail, and even the slightest smell on his pillow was now slowly overwhelmed with hers. She bit her lip, remembering the light traces of his fingers on her lips. His touches were always lingering, as though he was contemplating just how long the moments would last on all those times. The light caresses on her cheeks were always accompanied with a faraway, dreamy gaze, as though he was walking in a dream he did not want to be rid of. She ran her fingers through her tangled mess of hair, feeling the sensations of his fingers brushing through her hair as they snuggled up in bed with each other on cold nights. His brushes were always so delicate and soft, as though he thought her hair was as fragile as it looked.

She wrapped her arms around her torso, trying to make herself feel as though he was the one holding her now. The rain now diluted her tears, and she felt thankful that it was so. It felt as though she could release her pain freely, now that the rainwater washed away her tears. The rain gradually subsided, and she cursed the skies for its fickleness – though inwardly, she knew she was cursing herself for hurting him with her impatience.

It was time to stop mourning for the man – he was not dead yet, and she wanted it kept that way. She got up slowly, and ambled weakly towards the Hokage tower. She trudged reluctantly up the stairs leading up to her teacher's office, grudging the fact that her ritual was cut short – though she was late for their meeting. She allowed a small smile at the reminder, knowing that Kakashi's habit had taken a hold in her now. It was rare for her to smile nowadays – though all that mattered to her was that he could still make her smile, even if he was not around.

She pushed the door open after being permitted to enter and bowed as she greeted her teacher.

"Good afternoon, shishou." A clipped polite greeting, devoid of any cheerful emotions.

Her teacher did not reply. Instead, she received an appraising stare mixed with a faint grimness. She waited patiently for some sort of explanation, now no longer excited to be assigned any task. She was a sorry, empty shell of her former self – always masking her loneliness with a fake smile that did not reach her eyes. Perhaps it had been a half hour, or an hour – she was not sure – that her shishou kept her silence.

The silence was broken when the older woman cleared her throat. Still fixing a cautious stare on her young apprentice, she began, "I have news."

Whatever left of her joy was chained into a bundle and thrown away out of her soul; a sense of foreboding taking over her. "Yes?" Her voice had gone unsteady, slightly cracking as she anticipated the worst.

"We will engrave his name," her shishou choked slightly, tears forming in her eyes, "on the memorial stone in two days' time." She bit her lip, her gaze now cast downwards. Big, fat droplets fell on the sheaf of documents in front of her.

Without a word, Sakura walked out of the office. Her expression was inscrutable, unreadable even to the best of the shinobi used to looking underneath the underneath. Her eyes were empty of their shine as they fixed a straight stare ahead. Her lips were set in a taut, straight line. Her shoulders were rigid, not slumped, though her arms hung listlessly by her sides. The color had drained from her cheeks, enhancing the dead look in her eyes as her feet took on a mind of its own and led her to somewhere familiar.

She squeezed her eyes shut, letting her knees buckle weakly as she knelt in front of the memorial stone.

A hand went up limply to her chest, and she clutched the cloth desperately, feeling the faint heartbeat beneath it. Thoughts ran wildly through her mind, thoughts that her mind had scrounged for just to redirect her raw emotions from being released as it should. Her heartbeats would maybe stay faint for as long as she lived outside of the battlefield. It would never thump wildly against her chest anymore just like it would when he was so close to her, now that his body would be six feet under. It would never skip a beat anymore now just like it would when his voice had dropped into a hoarse, needy whisper, now that his voice had lost itself in the winds. She would never feel her heart sinking anymore just like it would when she anxiously awaited his homecoming from missions, now that he was lost forever.

The big heart he had loved so much could not contain the morose thoughts anymore. It started as small sobs, which then made her entire body wrack with heavy, violent sobs. Sobs turned into soft crying, and eventually became a strangled wail. Her fist drove into the muddy soil beneath her, splashing mud onto her clothes.

The news had gripped her with such cold intensity – she was tempted to discard it as a dream, a cruel joke played in her subconscious. Her mind knew better, and a cold voice crept up into her thoughts, telling her it was real. He was really gone, truly dead – he had died for the ones he loved, to protect them all, to protect her. She beat a fist against the unforgiving stone, knowing slightly that he too had done the suicidal assignment to alleviate the pain. What was she to do now – now that there were no words of forgiveness for her to offer in return for the undoing of his death? Thoughts of regret wistfully clouded her mind.

What she would give just to hear his voice again – to hear him chide her when she did not listen to his orders, to listen to the tenderness his voice had adopted when he called her name, and even to hear his silly excuses for being late to their dates. She would give anything to turn back time – to tell him that she forgave him, to heal the pain she had caused him, and just to look into his obsidian eye that would wink at her in return. The moments they had shared in the past seemed so distant from her that it felt so unreal, as though it had happened in a different lifetime. She had not taken them for granted, though it did slipped her mind on that day that she walked away from him.

It was a dangerous thing to wish for – the ability to turn back time – and she knew it. She knew that he had seen this coming, feeling bitter with herself as she recalled his very last words before she left. Heartfelt words had choked out of his lips – words that were almost unheard of, coming from him. She leaned her forehead on the stone, tracing lightly an empty space that would be carved with his name.

He was really gone – and there was nothing she could do to take away the pain. She loved him, and was loved in return by the man. There will be no other, none that would ever take his place – her last promise to him.

A/N: A little note – this story was inspired by the song 'Hurt' by Christina Aguilera. I wanted to capture the pain their memories would have on Sakura, and just to explore the workings of her emotions as she tries to grasp the fact that Kakashi's dead. The inspiration was also drawn from personal experience, so I hope that this story does the song justice. Anyways, my first attempt at romance-angst - please let me know if there's anything not right with it.