A/N: Yay! First fic! So, yup, just read and tell me what you think.
She couldn't stop thinking about home, about the past, about the nonexistent future, but mostly she couldn't stop thinking about them. Her boys.
Every stab and punch made stars erupt in her eyelids and small tears gather in the corner of her eyes, but their faces continuously floated in her mind. When she should have been planning her next attack, she was wondering how much they would miss her and if they would miss her at all.
Would they even notice?
No, of course they wouldn't. She was being a foolish girl again and letting hopes and wants obstruct her view of reality.
A painful slash at her side made her bite her lip to keep from crying out and stumble, nearly slipping and falling on the muddy earth. Pink bangs dampened by the heavy downpour of rain fell forward into viridian eyes, and the Konoha nin's chest heaved with exertion.
So this was it. This was the end. She'd heard stories of how bittersweet it would seem from others who had escaped death by just a hair. But the bitter outweighed the sweet by a vast amount.
Sakura Haruno would not have her happy ending.
~~~Five Days Earlier~~~
Recognition was all she wanted, all she needed. But the last time her ears had been graced with the simple words of gratitude had been nearly four and a half months ago.
It had been a patient of hers, a charming young girl with lovely brown eyes and curly blonde hair, who had recognized and acknowledged her actions. She had been treating the young girl for nearly six months from a fatal illness that several other medics could find no cure for, but Sakura was determined.
As soon as she saw the dimpled smile of the child, a jolt in her heart had occurred and filled her with a mindset to make sure that smile wouldn't fade. The girl had already been deathly pale and too thin when she and her mother walked into Sakura's office, and the rosette set to work immediately.
Restless nights and stressful days followed, and after six months of hell Sakura had done it. She'd terminated the illness.
With wobbly legs and a quivering body, the weakened girl dragged herself from the bed and hobbled to Sakura. Wrapping her arms around the medic's waist and burying her face in her stomach, the girl spoke in a firm and bell like voice, "Thank you, Haruno-san. I've never had a friend like you."
Those words were enough to make Sakura's eyes water and imprint into her heart forever. If only she could be seen by the people that mattered most.
The sky was dimmed by thick gray clouds, and the air was cool and smelled of rain. Sakura inhaled the scent deeply as she exited the hospital, her white coat undone and flapping gently in the soft breeze. Wisps of pink hair fell loose from the bun at the base of her neck and hung limply at the sides of her face.
Nineteen years old and already a renowned medic nin, Sakura was doing well on her own, but she wasn't happy. In fact, she was plain miserable. Her girl friends were wonderful, but they had their own lives to build. Her job was fantastic, but even throwing herself into work couldn't block the pain.
They were her pain.
Her boys, whom she'd loved and cherished and took responsibility for, were driving her life into an abyss of neglect and sadness. Naruto and Sasuke were doing great as some of Konoha's top and most powerful ANBU. For the first couple of months after Sasuke's return, the two boys downright refused to even be in the same room as one another, and Sakura worked herself to the bone trying to get them reacquainted. And after being thrust together on several occasions, it finally paid off.
Their brotherly bond was reconstructed, and they were closer than ever before. Kakashi didn't adopt another team as Sakura thought he would. Instead, he began to accept regular missions and trained constantly with Naruto and Sasuke. It was like Team 7 had never been broken, but it had.
Sakura was all but pushed out of the group. With her hospital duties it was understandable, but now it was everything. They didn't invite her to train with them. They didn't notice her presence when she invited them to her house for dinner. They didn't see her. They didn't hear her. And they never once uttered a thank you when she healed them or spent hours in the kitchen cooking them their favorite meals.
She was intangible. Not real. Not there. Not worthy.
She ached for their love. It tore her to pieces to have these people she would easily die for toss her aside and not devote a single glance in her direction. Ino understood the best. She knew of her friend's heartache and troubles even if she didn't voice them, and she couldn't miss the fact that it was destroying Sakura from the inside out.
"Ha!" came a sudden cry from the training grounds.
Sakura paused and watched from the safety of a large tree as Sasuke and Naruto competitively fought eachother. Kakashi, like usual, was sitting beneath the shade of a tall tree with his orange book propped open.
Sakura eyed the Uchiha with a sad glimmer in her eye. He was so beautiful. Muscles rippled beneath the fabric of his plain black shirt, and the smirk pulling back his lips made his perfectly defined face look dark and sexy. Her heart stretched out toward him, ached for him, begged for him, burned for him. Only a foolish girl would be in love with a man that would never return her feelings.
Sakura Haruno had always been a foolish girl.
The smile that graced her pretty face was a sad one as she watched Naruto do a ridiculous looking victory dance after knocking Sasuke to the ground. The dark haired male on the ground glared at the eccentric blonde above him, and with one swift kick knocked him to the ground as well before standing with another smirk on his finely chiseled face.
Kakashi glanced up from his book and shook his head gently at their idiocy, but Sakura could see the small smile playing behind his mask. A pang of desertion struck her in the gut again, and she sighed resignedly before turning to resume her walk back home. She still had to make dinner for them tonight.
"And then the girl jumped off the bar, took off her underwear, and gave them to Teme," Naruto said and then released a loud bellow of laughter, and Kakashi chuckled softly from beneath his mask.
Sasuke scowled at the memory of the previous night's events at a local bar, leaning back in his chair and moodily crossing his arms over his chest. Sakura smiled faintly, the expression slipping back into one of soft sadness in a matter of seconds.
"Man, you should have been there, Sakura," Naruto continued, clutching his stomach as another fit of laughter overtook him.
'I could have if someone invited me,' she thought bitterly, fiddling with her hands beneath the table and staring blankly at her food. The wounds around her heart became a little deeper.
After Naruto's laughter had died down, he finished up his third plate and plopped down on the couch and clicked on the T.V. Kakashi was too engaged in his book to move from the kitchen table, and Sasuke also remained put.
His ebony eyes slid to the right, and he eyed Sakura discreetly. Her face was weary and drawn into a sad expression, and she was oddly pale. And had she gotten thinner? The food on her plate hadn't even been touched. She looked so worn down and fragile. His eyes narrowed slightly, and an odd feeling stirred in his stomach. Shaking himself mentally, he tore his eyes away from the girl and joined Naruto on the couch.
A sudden knock at the door sounded, and Sakura gracefully stood and pulled it open to reveal a weary and slightly annoyed looking ANBU.
"Haruno-san," he said in a deep, throaty voice. "Tsunade-sama requests your presence at her office."
"Right now?" Sakura asked despondently.
A curt nod was her answer.
"Very well," she said with a sigh, and the ANBU retreated.
She threw a glance over her shoulder. "I'll be back," she called.
The off white walls of the hall that led to the Hokage's office were darkened by the shadows of the night, and Sakura didn't even bother to knock on the large wooden door to the office. She was in here so often that it was practically her office as well.
Surprisingly, Shikamaru and Kiba were in there too, and they both looked over their shoulder when she entered. Tsunade's intense hazel eyes locked onto her apprentice as she moved to stand next to Shikamaru, and the beautiful woman remained silent for a second.
Leaning forward in her large leather chair, she eyed the three shinobi before her, pausing for a long, agonizing moment on the girl who had been an equivalent to a daughter to her. The Hokage was neither blind nor stupid. She noticed the young woman's stresses and pains, and it was beginning to affect her physically, and she had made several attempts to help the girl. What Sakura was going through, however, couldn't be cured with vacations and easy missions.
And what she had to do now was heart wrenching. Being the Hokage wasn't an easy task.
"I'm sure you have all guessed that you're in here for the same reason," she finally spoke. "Since you are all familiar with eachother, I'm sure there will be no problem with being teammates."
The three of them shook their heads.
"Very well then," she continued. "We have recently set into action a plan to eliminate each Akatsuki member one by one. We go about this in two steps. Send a team to track and then send a team to assassinate. Two weeks ago, I sent a team of specialized tracking ANBU to track down the whereabouts and route of Kisame Hoshigaki. They have just returned with the specifics, and you're jobs are to eliminate the target."
Sakura's blood ran cold. Kisame was known as one of the most deadly and vicious Akatsuki members currently alive. A small shudder racked her spine, and she withheld it as best she could.
Kiba grinned. "Doesn't sound too hard. Take a trip, kick some ass, and come home."
Tsunade's expression remained cold, and unbeknownst to the teens before her, her throat was constricting painfully. Sakura, having been her apprentice for several years, noticed the strangely depressed aura the older woman was emitting, and pale pink brows drew together.
"There's more," the young Haruno said, not as a question but as a statement.
Tsunade nodded, and Shikamaru and Sakura exchanged curious glances with eachother.
"Kisame alone will be a challenge for you, a very difficult and possibly fatal fight," Tsunade began, taking a deep breath before continuing. "He's traveling with a group of Akatsuki underling, all a possible threat. Your orders are to execute as many as possible. The survival rate is.…there almost isn't one."
Sakura was sure the sky had just come crashing down on her head and the walls were closing in around her, pushing and constricting her form. Beside her, Shikamaru had snapped into a tense posture, and Kiba hissed in a breath.
Green eyes widened, staring in horror and shock at the Hokage, and her chest was rising and falling rapidly with sharp breaths.
They could die.
They might die.
They would die.
It was so surreal, being told that you were going to die, being told that there was no future for you. Sakura felt tears burn her eyes as a million different things ran through her mind.
No more friends. No more shopping sprees and movie nights with the girls. No more happy faces when she healed a kid's broken arm. No more delightfully cold snowflakes on her arms. No cool night air would ever blow through her hair again, and the sun would never kiss her face so gently again.
Who would take care of Naruto, Sasuke, and Kakashi once she was gone? Who would make them dinner? Who would sacrifice their afternoon to doing their laundry?
More than anything, Sakura wanted to not die. She hadn't done all those things she'd sworn she'd do, and she definitely wasn't ready to vanish. Mostly because a part of her knew that her boys would move on without any trouble or pains, and she wasn't done trying to prove her worth to them.
Tsunade's voice held a slight tremor in it as she broke through the thick and painful silence. "Do you accept this mission?"
Tight lipped and stiffly, both the male shinobi nodded and cast their eyes downward, desperately trying to hide the tears that gleamed in their eyes. Tsunade's eyes turned to the silent kunoichi, a part of her silently begging the girl to refuse and remain as her wonderful, reliant apprentice for as long as possible.
Said girl didn't lift her eyes from the carpeted floor, and her shoulders sagged down.
Her lip wobbled.
The sun was just breaking over the horizon when Sakura closed the door to her apartment with a finality that made her stomach sick. Thick gray clouds were still covering the sky, and the sun altered their color to a dark red and grey mixture that made the whole sky seem menacing and fearsome.
Vendors were setting up their fruit stands with a tired, yet equally light hearted nature that made Sakura's heart clench and her breathing stutter. The sweet aroma of fresh bread and cinnamon wafted out from the doors of a bakery, and she inhaled deeply, hoping to forever imprint it in her memory. Wind chimes sung in the doorway of a quaint home, and the kunoichi was stung by a bought of desire for the thick mattress of her bed and warmth of her comforter.
Kiba and Shikamaru were waiting tersely at the gates with grave expressions upon their faces, and Sakura felt sorrow overwhelm her senses at the realization that her friends would die beside her.
Nobody but Ino currently knew of her situation, and they had spent hours sobbing and clutching eachother until their throats were raw and arms ached. The boys had already been gone when she got home, the dirty dishes still scattered across the table and sink and a mess upon the floor.
She couldn't bring herself to do it, to look upon each one of their faces and say a final goodbye with a sincerity and compassion she was sure they couldn't return to hers.
And as she turned to look over her shoulder one last time, she saw her boys. They were together and heading in the direction of the training grounds, and she didn't even know that they went this early in the morning. So strong, so beautiful they were in her eyes, and so not hers.
They were men now, and they did not need her.
But Sakura Haruno needed them.
A/N: It's me....again. Anyway, this story shouldn't be more than a few chapter cuz I'm just testing the waters and stuff and I have problems sticking to one thing at a time. I like to multitask. Lol. Well, hope you liked it so far.