A/N: This, I don't know what to call it. It follows some lines of the canon, however, not completely, so you'll have to take it as is. Spoilers up to Chapter 393. Also, I normally do not do first person. I will do my best to not to make it stupid… hopefully it's enjoyable. Also the first bit deals with Sasuke's death, but the next chapter has much Neji in it. I just feel that Sasuke, did shape canon Sakura into how we know her now. So please give it a chance.
Description: Sakura suddenly finds herself facing an arranged marriage with the Hyuuga heir. She doesn't want to tie herself romantically to anyone. Will a refusal upset her life too much? Will she be forced to accept something she does not want.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. That right belongs to Kishimoto. Nor do I own the lyrics to Natasha Bedingfield's "Wild Horses" ; which was what inspired this story.
Hero worship. A most unusual entity. So intravenously connected to so many different emotions. Some lay deep in the soul, dormant shades of gray. Or the more proverbial emotions, those that seem to be painted fiercely in black and white, love and hate. The line between the two as thin as the strength of the beholder's will. Intertwining into one tiny thin thread. Sanity.
I often wondered over the years if that is all I truly felt for the dark haired self-proclaimed avenger. In my younger days, I believed I was weak. A simple insult about my 'billboard' forehead was enough to send me to tears. Even when Ino had gifted me with her friendship, my tears still continued to fall on the inside when the others would taunt me about my imperfections when my blonde friend wasn't around. I was weak and pathetic, but then again, I was only a child then. Maybe I'm being too harsh on myself but in the end, sometimes I still believe it is the truth.
I know girls were drawn to Sasuke because of either his looks or that quiet, aloof exterior he exuded effortlessly which gave him that 'cool' mysterious quality that had the girls swooning by the droves. I think for me personally, the spark that started it all was how nothing anyone ever said to his face affected him. He reminded me of a rock that couldn't be moved. I wanted to be like that, strong, immoveable. Not until years later did I realize that his whole demeanor was built on a foundation paved by pain and hatred. And looking back on it now I knew it had come at too steep of a price, one that I would have never wanted to pay. Maybe he was more like me than I ever realized, maybe the tears had stopped falling on the outside, but on the inside he had been like a man drowning at sea beneath the tide. I'll never know now, but my mind can't help but try and rationalize the past to try and make sense of it all.
I knew I shouldn't blame myself for what he had become and yet I often wondered if I had failed somewhere along the line over the years. He had chosen the path of destruction and even after his brother's death he continued to seek to fill the hole in his heart that had been created, trying to fill it with whatever he could find. Maybe that's why I was drawn to him in the first place. Maybe it was my nature to want to fix things that drew me to the quiet boy.
In the end, he had never come to realize the truly hollow nature of vengeance. I guess he wasn't a genius after all if such a simple thing eluded him his entire life. It really hadn't been the smart thing to do. And yet, I think I sort of understood his reasoning, or maybe it was just that I wanted to make believe I could. Who knew?
His death hit Naruto the worst, I suppose. I think after searching for the wayward boy for so many years, I believe the place I held especially in my heart for Sasuke just grew numb with the continuous disappointment of who he had become. I think my twelve year old self saw what he could have been, or perhaps that was just my imagination. Maybe that's what fed my sometimes inconsolable crush?
It had been difficult for Naruto to accept that Sasuke never wanted to come home even after he completed his vengeance. He had chosen to close off his soul, his emotions, and his heart from the three people left in the world who loved him, the ones who had actually cared. So when the inevitable happened and the avenger drew his last breath beneath our gazes I didn't even cry. I couldn't.
He had been stabbed in the back by one of his traveling companions, probably from some jealous conquest. I really can't understand the thought process of the insane, and really, its not like I wanted to try to anyhow, but that was the gist of the whole sad affair. Even still I couldn't bring myself to get past the numbness that spread throughout my soul like the infamous poisons of Suna.
The twelve year old girl inside me, the one who waited for his return shed many tears for the man who could never find peace. No, the woman in me couldn't accept labeling Sasuke, a man. He was indeed a person who had chosen not to grow up. He was a person who had stood, standing frozen in time since the tragedy that rocked the foundations of his world.
My eyes averted to glance at the red streaked cheeks of Naruto. The whites of his eyes were pink, and tears ran unchecked down his face. Biting my lip, I had to wonder if Naruto was crying for Sasuke or more for himself, possibly at what he probably conceived as his failure. He had sworn as a child to save his wayward friend, because of me, because of my weakness. Now that I look back on it all, I think I was probably one of the most selfish people ever to walk the streets of Konoha. All I could see, all I could feel at the time of Sasuke's departure from our lives was my own emotions. And because Naruto had loved me unconditionally, he had sworn, made me a promise that would have been difficult for an adult at best.
Blinking slowly, my eyes fastened themselves to the austere black coffin, ignoring the stiff spectators at my side. Naruto and I, and maybe Kakashi were probably the only ones who believed that the last Uchiha should be buried in Konoha. Once the eulogy finished, the shinobi, and the few civilians who had actually known Sasuke quickly dispersed, completely satisfied with the knowledge that they paid their last respects just by attending the small ceremony that Naruto had insisted on. It was probably for Naruto's sake they had even attended in the first place.
The old academy teams that had graduated with us had quickly lost respect for the comrade who had betrayed their village. I couldn't blame them, I probably should have felt the same way, but for some reason, even though his rejection had hurt, I couldn't bring myself to feel the way that they did. Neither could Naruto or Kakashi. It was probably because we had all seen the tormented soul beneath the cocky exterior, and somehow it had made it easier to forgive.
Tsunade-sama had done more than most and complied with the blond's wishes of allowing Sasuke to be buried in Konoha, knowing only to well just from watching Naruto over the years, the emotional, physical and inner torment that he had gone through to bring his 'lost' brother home. It had hurt at the beginning when I had to come to terms with the knowledge that I had never really known who Sasuke was in the first place, or had even remotely understood him. Over the years I had come to the realization that I was in love with a dream that I created in my childish, naive girl's heart. I never truly 'loved' Sasuke as a woman loves a man. If I had maybe I could have saved him. Then again, maybe that was just my naïve twelve year old self talking again. At the moment, I really wasn't sure.
The only person who could boast of the privilege of understanding Sasuke was the boy turned to man standing at my side. It was Naruto who had never given up, even after eight years almost to the day on the one who could not be saved. The one who had gone so far down a path of darkness, he had lost himself in a place that Naruto's light couldn't even touch.
One by one we would go to his coffin, each gifted with a few moments before laying him to rest. I moved aside, indicating to Naruto that I would prefer he go first. He shook his head and stepped to the side, "Go ahead Sakura. I want you to..." He left the rest unsaid.
Nodding, I took the seven steps it took to get to his coffin, glad that the lid was closed. I don't think I could have handled it if had been an open casket. I think I might have broken. Listening absently to the gravel crunching under my feet, I stopped and placed my callused hand, a warrior's hand on the polished surface.
"Hey, it's the annoying girl," the words left my lips in a hoarse, hushed whisper. At that moment, the first tear escaped from its prison and slipped down my face. I ducked my chin almost as if ashamed. Had I earned the right to cry for him? "Even after all these years I wish I could have met you. Even if you did leave me on a bench, alone… I hope you find peace Sasuke."
The tears were flowing freely now. Lifting my hand I tried wiping them away, but all I managed to do was make my face blotchy. Looking down, I felt comforted by the pink bangs that had fallen forward to cover my face. This moment was far too private to share with the people who stood behind me. Swallowing the sadness threatening to drown my senses, I stepped back and nodded at Naruto before returning to his side.
The rest of ceremony was a blur to my numb mind. I couldn't even watch Naruto or Kakashi as they each had their private moment with the Uchiha. I am not a religious person by any means but I found myself hoping, praying that somewhere Sasuke could hear all of us, could see that we still cared about him, that we had never stopped caring in the first place. I finally lifted my chin when Tsunade-sama nodded at the three of us. We all stepped forward and it was the four of us who lowered our lost friend's coffin into the ground. I was grateful to my teacher, the woman who had gifted me not only with the hidden strength in my fists but the compassion she showed us today. She hadn't even known Sasuke for anything other than the criminal he had become.
She had never looked into those empty, sad and lonely brown eyes of his. She had never heard him laugh, or had seen him cry, she didn't even know the sound of his voice. I wonder, with all the years to pass me by, well, if I survived the harsh life of the shinobi. A fancy word for a professional mercenary, really. Will I remember his voice, the rare smile, or even those sad empty brown eyes? Will they fade away, wisps of broken memories? In the end of it all, I couldn't even call myself worthy.
Yet still despite the melancholy honestly I loved life, for all its imperfections and idiosyncrasies. Sometimes I believed I was imperfection in the flesh. Maybe that's why I took to the medical profession the way I did. It had given me the power to fix the sick, but it was ironic that I couldn't seem to fix myself the way I could broken bones.
We all took turns flipping the dirt onto the coffin and somehow with each bit of soil that I placed over what would forever be his resting place, I felt like I was being freed from the one sided emotional ties that I held for the avenger. In a sense, it was like a cleansing, one that was long overdue for my soul. After so many years of staring into the waning shadows of the boys who had seemed to eclipse any of the small accomplishments I made, I was able to come to peace with it all in my own strange sort of way. Even after they had left the village, taken by two separate paths I had continued to follow the shadows I could never reach, or touch.
One path had led to destruction; the other had created a true hero. The latter was something I would never be even though I saved lives all the time. I blinked back a tear as I watched the last bit of the polished wood be covered by fresh soil. From the earth we come, and to the earth we return, my mind reminded me. Once we finished the task the three of us looked at each other, all with different expressions marring our soul worn faces.
Tsunade-sama said softly, "The three of you have the week off. I want you to report to my office Thursday. No earlier, do you hear me?"
No one uttered a word, as her words seemed to slowly seep into our numbed minds. We just nodded in agreement. Satisfied by the response, she left us staring after her.
I held onto the handle of my shovel as I turned my eyes to my best friend and my first teacher. Kakashi blinked a few times, his jaw working a few times as if there was something to say. It was obvious to us that he just couldn't find anything worth voicing, but then again, neither could we and so the air around us was heavy with silence. He shook his head and pivoted on his heel before striding away in his usual graceful manner. He gave us his trademark wave without looking back.
"Want to go get something to eat at Ichiraku Ramen Naruto?" I asked him to break the heavy silence that hung over us like a cloud.
My throat constricted when his blue eyes met mine. I could literally see the soul numbing pain in the seemingly endless deep azure. After a few moments he dipped his head weakly, "Yeah. I think I… just need to do something."
Side by side we returned to town. It was a strange feeling, because suddenly I felt like I had become a shade of gray. The civilians passed by the two of us in vivid technicolor, but the two of us were shrouded beneath a colorless canopy. I followed Naruto through the flap and sat down next to him on the familiar worn red stool. I vaguely heard Naruto as he ordered for us both.
When the steaming bowls were placed in front of us, I thanked Teuchi softly. Naruto just stared into the depths of the broth. Lifting my chopsticks, I nudged Naruto with my elbow, "Eat…"
"Yeah," he replied after a sigh. I waited until he began to lift the noodles to his mouth before I ate myself.
I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of the stuff. I've eaten so much of it over the years because of Naruto, but something about the saltiness of the broth was soothing today, making it more tolerable then usual. In the end though, I couldn't finish my food. The blond shinobi protested when I paid for both of our bowls. I was a bit relieved when I could see that Naruto had finished his meal at least. After thanking the owner once more, we left the tiny restaurant.
Naruto walked me home, to the tiny apartment complex nearly at the edge of town. Laying my hand against the doorjamb, I faced Naruto, my green eyes roamed over his pale, drawn features. After a minute of silence I voiced softly, "Thank you Naruto. I'll see you later… okay?"
The blond lifted his chin his turmoil-filled eyes met mine. He choked out, "I'm sorry Sakura-chan…"
He turned to leave me standing there, but my hand shot out and grabbed his wrist. He stilled, knowing full well that he couldn't break my hold, "What are you apologizing for Naruto?"
Slowly he turned, the sound of his voice gravelly from sadness, "For… for not being able to keep my promise…"
"What? Are you out of your mind?" I put my hands fiercely on my hips; I couldn't help the tinge of hardness that coated the tone that escaped my chapped lips.
The blond was taken aback by the unexpected angry words, "Sakura-chan I…"
"No… you listen to me Naruto Uzumaki. Don't you dare… blame yourself for this… Do you hear me?" I watched his eyes widen at the vehemence in which I spoke to him, "I'm just glad that you… you're safe. We chased after that idiot for years…"
"But…" he tried choking out in protest.
"I know I shouldn't be talking ill of the dead. I'm sad too Naruto. We both wanted to bring him home, but," the tears were running down my face freely again and I rubbed at them viciously, anger began to take place of the numbing bitter sadness in my heart, "The idiot didn't want us to save him. We tried Naruto. Eight years of chasing someone who didn't even want us to. You did more than anyone… please… please," I could help the crack in my voice as I pleaded with the blond, "Don't you ever blame yourself for something that couldn't be changed. I won't forgive you if you do."
His eyes searched the stubborn mask that hid my pain for a moment. After a deep breath, he shook his head. Before he could turn to leave, I reached out and grabbed him once more, but this time my arms wrapped around his shuddering frame in fierce hug. We clung to each other for several minutes. We didn't even notice the other tenants who passed by the two of us with curious eyes. Even if we did, we wouldn't have cared anyway.
He was the first to release the embrace. I watched him leave, staring after his trademark orange with sad eyes. I shut the door, listening to the click before latching the bolt. I went straight to my bedroom to cry once more. I would grieve today. I would allow myself this last weakness. I could almost hear Sasuke's voice in my head admonishing me for being so weak. I heard his voice telling me that I was still an annoying little girl.
As I sat on my bed and allowed the sorrow to pour from my soul, I murmured out loud in a choked voice, "Only one day asshole. That's all you deserve, after these eight long years. We never gave up on you even though you gave up on us the moment you turned your back on your teammates, on your home. So I'll cry for you today… but… that's all… you… get…" I choked out hoping that wherever he was, that he heard my heartfelt words. Then I finally allowed my grief to finally pull me under and I cried until I could cry no more.
A/N: Let me know how what you think, because first person is definitely different for me! Please review and let me know your thoughts even if you don't care for it. I apologize for any grammar errors that I missed. Also I know Neji wasn't in this chapter but he will show up soon. Also this is shorter than my normal stuff. If you want me to continue to write this, review.