Eew. School computer again. I'm not going to bother my beta with this, so I apologize for any mistakes.
Disclaimer: No. I don't think so.
- - -
When he and Team Hebi stumble across her gathering herbs in a deserted forest in Kirigakure, Sasuke half-expects her to be the same twelve-year-old child in a red dress who can barely defend herself.
But he has changed, and Naruto has changed, so why shouldn't she have changed (grown up, matured) as well?
Her outfit has changed and her hair is chopped off right above her shoulders, but her voice as she hums to herself is still the sweet (but not overly, sickly sweet like Karin's), tinkling voice that he remembers.
(No. He doesn't remember. He doesn't remember anything, because memories create bonds, and bonds are a weakness. He doesn't remember,
can't remember her, or him, or them.)
When she looks up, he peers into the same wide emerald orbs as before, but in a split second, they are narrowed.
And he sees what he missed before – the spark of green waiting to burst into flame, and the permanent gleam of sadness in the eyes of one who is no stranger to pain and sorrow (and loss and loneliness).
"Uchiha Sasuke," is all she offers, standing fluidly. Her face is emotionless, guarded, but there is something about her that seems angry. Nevertheless, her voice is serene.
"Sakura." His voice is flat in response to her calm.
"Who is she, Sasuke-kun?" Karin shrieks, pushing up her glasses and pointing jealously.
He waits for Sakura to shout back an answer, but she merely looks to him. "Yes, Sasuke-kun. Who am I?"
Now Suigetsu and Juugo are also looking at him expectantly; he answers without deliberating. "Merely an annoyance. A hindrance."
"Do you hear that?" Karin hoots in glee. "You're an annoyance to Sasuke-kun! Go away and leave us be!"
(Shut up, his mind hisses. You're even more annoying.)
Sakura ignores her, glancing at Sasuke with a raised eyebrow. "How amusing," she states passively, her large eyes watching him (penetrating him, exposing him).
"You left us to find Itachi alone, but ended up gathering a group to help you," she smiles wryly, mockingly, "and… a fangirl."
Her quick eyes flicker around his team members (which is ironic; did he leave their old team only to create another?) and she doesn't comment on the glaring fangirl, the Kisame-wannabe, or the large man with obvious sanity issues.
(Were we not enough for you…?)
But Sasuke sees, and he shifts uncomfortably. "They are useful," he says sharply. "They mean nothing to me."
"It seems you have yet to tell them that," Sakura observes dryly as Karin drapes herself all over Sasuke (to his disgust) and proceeds to whine until he is deaf.
"They are useful," he repeats, more forcefully. "I need them to kill my brother."
She gives him a knowing smile. "And after all this time, you still think of him as your brother," she notes keenly.
"Yes!" he growls, close to losing his temper. "I need to kill him! I've lived my life this way so that I can kill him."
"And after he's dead, what will happen?" The smile on her face never wavers (but there's no way that he can know how hard she's trying to keep it that way) and her voice is perfectly even. There are no tears in her sparkling green eyes. "Will you die as well?"
(But to her, he's been dead ever since he tried to kill Naruto.)
Karin gives an indignant gasp. "Sasuke-kun won't die!" she declares loudly. "After he kills his brother, he'll turn to me and – "
"Shut up," Suigetsu grunts. "He's not interested."
Ignoring them, Sakura continues to speak. "Suppose you do manage to live. Why would people remember you?"
"They will remember me because I killed him," he hisses, unable to see where she is leading. "Because I avenged my family."
"He'll be a hero!" Karin declares, completely convinced.
Inner Sakura snorts, outwardly echoes by Suigetsu.
"You will be remembered as Uchiha Itachi's killer," Sakura says sharply, her unaffected façade dropping for a brief moment.
Karin humphs. "Your point?" she demands haughtily.
Sakura looks at Sasuke. "Are you content with that? You will be famous only as long as the name of Uchiha Itachi is remembered."
"I don't need to be remembered," Sasuke answers stoically.
"Your clan, then," she tries again, slightly impatient. "Do you want the Uchiha clan to be remembered like that? People will think of the clan and remember a massacre, and that the last member of the clan died killing his brother."
Red eyes narrow. "Leave," he orders curtly.
She laughs dryly. "Why are you angry at me?" she chuckles. "I am merely pointing out the truth."
"Leave," he repeats. "Karin will tell me when you are gone. If she still feels you close by in ten seconds, I will kill you."
Sakura's eyes soften (slightly, ever so slightly, in sorrow) and she closes her eyes, smiling. "The Sasuke-kun I used to know so long ago would never have depended on someone else."
"The Sasuke you knew depended on his teammates," Sasuke scoffs.
Her eyes flutter open slowly, focusing on her face. "Let me correct that," she whispers. "Sasuke-kun never depended on the weak, annoying little girl who followed him around and whined."
Suddenly, there is a katana at her throat. "Leave," Sasuke snarls for the third time.
"You're not going to come back?" she sighs quietly.
"Leave!" is his answer.
She sighs and turns. Swiftly, he thrusts forward and his katana pierces through her back. She turns and smiles at him, completely alive despite the sword through her middle. The smile chills him with the sorrow it contains.
"So, you really would kill one of us," she murmurs. "Sou ka…"
Karin shrieks, pointing at the bloodless wound as Sasuke's katana is withdrawn with the jerk that is mean to kill.
Sakura's eyes are the last thing that Sasuke sees before the genjutsu fades.
"When – " he chokes out.
Sakura smiles sadly. "You are not the only one who has improved," she tells him. She turns; again he attacks.
This time, she replies by stepping to the side and tapping her heel gently on the ground. The earth rises up to greet Team Hebi.
When the dust clears, she is gone. All that's left of her is a single kunai in the ground before Sasuke's feet.
He stoops, picks it up, and, scanning it, frowns.
"What is it, Sasuke-kun?" Karin demands suspiciously.
"Nothing," he replies gruffly. "Let's keep moving."
Suigetsu and Juugo shrug and take the lead. Once he is alone (or at least as alone as he will ever be), Sasuke slips the kunai into his kunai pouch and thinks over the engraving on it, hastily (but neatly) carved with another kunai.
Sayonara, Uchiha Itachi no oroka na otouto yo. May we never meet again.
Running his finger over it one last time, he inhales Sakura's scent and firmly tucks it into the back of his mind.
He knows that he will never smell it again.
So be it.
- - -
Well, it's done… Angst, angst, and more angst, but it was fun. By the way, the kunai says "Goodbye, foolish/naïve little brother of Uchiha Itachi," or something to that effect. It's what Itachi calls Sasuke.