A/N: Spoiler for the Pein Arc. Pretty random one-shot but hey, why not?

Black Carnation

Sakura hated the color black.

There was no life to it. It was simple and plain. She liked orange better because there was life to it. It was vivacious and brilliant. She might even like grey better than black. Grey was a shade. There could be a light grey or a dark grey. There was no such thing as a light black. There was only black.

She hated it.

- - - - -

She stared at herself in the reflection of the pond. The ANBU uniform was ugly on her and even the brown dye was starting to look like shit but she wasn't dumb enough to take it off. Her pink hair was not as inconspicuous a she hoped. She needed to do this correctly.

Her fingers pressed against the soft ground of the earth and her shoulder shifted to the left, easily avoiding the kunai that pierced the gap between her fingers.


The voice was so achingly familiar but her heart hadn't even skipped a beat.

"Missing-nin." She mumbled behind the mask. She wasn't used to any of the ANBU attire. After all, she was still a Chuunin but there was a reason why Tsunade gave her the dog mask and she'd be damned before she screwed things up behind the mask.

"You're trespassing on my territory."

"If I recall, there is no territory bounded to a missing-nin." She whispered sharply. Sakura pulled the kunai out from the ground and stood up, snapping her wrist with one fluid motion and sent the weapon sailing at her objective.

Sasuke watched the ANBU with blank eyes and saw in his peripheral vision as the kunai skimmed his hair and sunk into the trunk of the tree where his three teammates hid.

"State your purpose."

Sakura sucked in a breath. They really should have sent someone else to do this. She was not good with reunions. "There's been a death in Konohagakure." Her eyes narrowed when she noticed the lock of his jaw. Good. He was listening but she couldn't seem to steady herself. It was a confirmation of his death and she wasn't sure she was ready to openly announce it.

Compared to all the missions she's done. This was the hardest yet.

"It's been requested that your presence is there for the funeral of Hatake Kakashi."

Sasuke blinked and his mind reeled. "Kakashi?"

She swallowed and gave slight inclination of her head to confirm his question. "Yes, it will be held tomorrow afternoon." She paused. "I'm sure you are not unfamiliar to the procedures of a funeral." She could catch the shuffling in the background of his teammates preparing to attack. "Please tell your teammates to refrain from attacking." She held up her hand. "I'm not here to fight."

He ignored her request. "How am I supposed to know this isn't a trap?" His eyes narrowed. The ANBU figure was surprisingly similar to someone but she had masked her chakra to the point where he couldn't recognize its signature. And why was his presence requested at his former teacher's funeral? It had severed his bond with Konoha long ago—that included all connections he had with Kakashi.

Sakura cocked her head to the side. "We are not so low as to use a death as means to capture you, missing-nin." She unbuckled the straps hooked to her thigh and Sasuke's finger twitched towards his katana. "Do not be alarmed." She held up a scroll and tossed it to him. "We offer you amnesty for the time of Hatake Kakashi-san's funeral."

Sasuke stared down at the scroll with a raised eyebrow. "Foolish of Konoha to invite a nuke-nin into their homes." He mumbled but nevertheless tucked away the scroll. Had she been not watching him, she wouldn't have noticed the twitch of his finger in his left hand. Immediately, she was surrounded by his team.

"Your presence is requested but it is not required." She grounded out, eyes wearily watching for any suspicious movement. She was not stupid. She was clearly outnumbered. "It is entirely up to you whether or not you attend but the invitation and amnesty is extended only to you." Her eyes shot over to his teammates. "They will be…arrested upon entrance should they follow you."

He remained silent at the ulterior death threat.

"I'll expect to see you there, Sasuke." She said softly.

He frowned. He should have known they'd send her. "Sakura." Then it clicked. "That's Kakashi's mask."

Her fingers gingerly peeled off the mask and Sasuke cursed himself for being fooled. "You should pay your respects. Kakashi-sensei taught you more than you could have cared to realize." She allowed her statement to settle in with him before preparing for her departure. There was nothing more she could do. Her mission was to simply give him knowledge of the funeral. She had a funeral to prepare for and at this point, Sasuke was the last thing on her mind.

"Is that all the effort Konoha is willing to put forward?" He asked quietly.

"We're not going to force you to go. I'd rather you not be there than see you there against your will. It's called paying respects, Sasuke. You're not doing it right if you don't want to be there." She replied, turning away from him and pulling the mask back down.

The man took a step forward. "Why didn't you save him? Aren't you a capable medic now?"

She felt her anger flare for a second before turning around. Her eyes flashed dangerously. "Why didn't you, Sasuke? Do you even have the right to say that to me?" She snarled.

"I wasn't informed he was going to attack that quickly." He said flatly.

Her patience snapped. "Fuck you." Sasuke blinked at her foul language and she could hear an indignant shriek behind her, protesting the offense of their captain. "Fuck you for destroying everything your brother worked so hard to protect. You came and undid everything." She growled. "It was Naruto's request to have you at Kakashi-sensei's funeral. I should have known the only thing you'd bring him is shame though."

The Uchiha clenched his jaw and he could feel his teammates' chakra radiating. "You should watch you're saying. You're outnumbered."

Sakura looked as though she could care less. She let out a bitter laugh. "Pay your respects." She bit out. "It's the least you can do to atone for the wrongs you've done." She stiffly pulled down her mask and tightened her arm guards.

She barely snapped on the Velcro when Karin was immediately on her, hands threaded through her pink hair as she yanked the Konoha kunoichi back. "How dare you speak like that to Sasuke-kun!"

"Karin." Her hands tightened at her captain's voice but she didn't let go.

Sakura calmly averted her eyes over to the red-head. "I don't think I was talking to you." A scoff was heard coming from Suigetsu in the back and Sakura caught him mumbling something about bitches and meddling.

"There's a reason why he's here with us." She shrilled. "Don't you think if he would have gone back, he would have already gone back to you and the blonde good-for-nothing trash?"

Sasuke knew his teammate had crossed the line when Sakura's eyes flashed. He hadn't even enough time to stop the pink-haired girl from twisting the other girl's ankle with her foot all the while maneuvering out of her grasp and slammed her against a nearby tree.

"Hey!" Suigetsu shouted and made an advance on the girls when a large hand reached out to stop him. Juugo shook his head and directed his gaze over to the Uchiha who remained stoic aside from the slight raise of his eyebrow.

Karin choked against the rough bark and winced when the other kunoichi pressed her even harder against the tree. She could taste the metallic tang of blood that dripped from the scalp down to her lips. Her lips formed a snarl but twisted into agony a second later when Sakura pushed her face harder against the wood. The bark was rubbing her face raw.

"I'll take any comment you throw at me but the next time you insult my teammate, I'll make sure no one can recognize your face." Sakura then repeated the red-head's earlier actions as she pulled her away from the tree, exposing her neck and the grimace she wore on her face.

Sasuke frowned when her kunai glinted against the glare of the sun. He hadn't even realized she took out a dagger. His eyes moved and met with the water-man across from him. Suigetsu nodded and he jumped over to where Sakura held Karin. Her eyes shifted and immediately, the kunai was flung in his stead, stopping his tracks.

"Feisty." He murmured, a malicious smile spreading across his face. Sakura was reminded of a familiar shark-man.

Figures the brothers would have something in common.

"Don't think you'll get off this easy next time I see you." She hissed and ruthlessly shoved a disarrayed Karin in Suigetsu's direction. The other girl yelped as she collided into his chest while the man cursed and quickly shoved her off, ignoring the fact that she hadn't caught her footing yet.

Sakura then turned to her former teammate and glared. "You better hope once this is done, they'll send Naruto after you. He'll be slightly more forgiving than me." She made a move to hop onto the nearest tree but stopped short to give her last word.

Sasuke knew he would ever be able to erase the deadly glare sent Karin's way because it was such an odd combination in Sakura that it caught him slightly off guard. Her words burned an even heavier impact on him when she spoke, "Don't drag trash into the village, Sasuke. I assure you it'll be disposed of."

With that, she left an incredulous Uchiha Sasuke thinking that the Haruno Sakura he just met was a lot fiercer than any kunoichi he's come upon in a long time. And that made him smirk.

- - - - -

Sasuke stood in the far corner during the memorial service with a grip of guards making a barrier around him. Naruto stood with him, eyes drained and heart empty. Sakura hurt just looking at him. She didn't spare Sasuke a glance. It would be unbearable with the nonchalant eyes.

She stared at the crowd of hundreds and can see Iruka blinking away his tears and spotted Yugao Uzuki standing next to Yamato. It was a field of black. Even her sensei's rival was missing his spark of dynamic entry but she didn't miss the way he stood tall and straight unlike the many who were slouching, eyes hidden.

It was so dark to her. Except for the glimpse of orange and white in the back.

She glanced down at herself. Kakashi once told her that red looked good on her. She didn't believe him until now as she stuck out like a sore thumb in the midst of hundreds of people covered in the black of the funeral. She tugged the hem of her shirt but found that she was too weak to even grip it.

Sasuke was right. Why didn't she save him? Why wasn't she out on the field? Her eyes roamed over to where Iruka stood, hands fisted to where she could see his nails puncturing his palms. She couldn't very well blame it on him. He only instructed her to go to the hospital to save more lives. She moved her eyes back to Kakashi's picture but couldn't bring herself to stare at it more than a few seconds.

And she thought losing Chiyo was heartbreaking.

Sakura sniffed and bowed her head as the shinobi began to line up.

She hated carnations.

- - - - -

Tsunade pursed her lips together and glared at the Uchiha who stood with Naruto several feet away. "I shouldn't do this." She muttered, fingers massaging her temples.

"Please." Sakura whispered hoarsely. "We need our time and it's a bit ridiculous to have seven guards standing around him as we mourn…" She swallowed hard, "as we mourn." She finished.

Her teacher eyed her wearily. She knew that death was nothing new to Sakura but it didn't make it any easier to deal with especially if the one person she couldn't save was Kakashi. Tsunade had to admit to herself that she was a bit taken by the news. She shattered a pillar. At least Sakura still had the decency to not go around destroying the village. The Hokage glanced around her to see her village in shambles. Not that it could be any more destroyed.

"You have until the end of today." She sighed. "By that time, he better not be within my reach and that means as far as Sand."

Sakura nodded her head and Tsunade made eye contact with the lead ANBU guarding the Uchiha. Two seconds later left Naruto and Sasuke standing off at the side alone while Sakura gave her thanks to her shishou. She walked over to where the grey haired ninja's picture was placed and she traced the contours of the frame. It was the one she'd given him last Christmas.

"To think that we'd only be reunited at our teacher's funeral." She whispered sardonically. Her fingers trembled as they retreated back from the frame. Naruto slipped his hand into hers and gently gave it a slight squeeze in which she returned and didn't let go. "I think I'm going to cry." She said in a fractured voice, broken and haunted.

"It's okay." The blonde held her hand even as the tears dripped from the corners of his eyes. "We're allowed to cry."

Sasuke stood there taking in the picture of his former teacher and he couldn't deny the forlorn sentiment in the air. He might have cut off his connections with Konoha but that didn't mean he never had one. His eyes travelled to Sakura whose shoulders were now shaking from her sobs.

He took a step forward and placed a purple Hyacinth in front of the picture. It stood out from all the pink carnations. Sakura's breath hitched and she turned to look her at her first love. Naruto repeated Sasuke's action and placed his flower in front of Kakashi's memorial. His hands still held onto the kunoichi's tightly as if never intending to let go. Sakura didn't want him to.

The three former teammates took in one last look at the legendary shinobi's picture and turned their backs, leaving in their wake three different flowers among the carnations

- - - - -

Naruto was immediately called into the Hokage's office after the three had left the altar. He'd given Sasuke a somber punch and left him with a "We'll come get you next time, bastard." His voice lacked the energetic promise because even the former avenger knew that today was not the day to bicker and fight about coming home. He was beginning to understand that in the end, the choice would be Sasuke's but that didn't mean he was readily going to accept it.

Sakura had given the blonde a kiss on the cheek and promised to meet him at his house later. The Uchiha turned away from the scene with a bitter after taste in his mouth.

"Shishou will be on your ass again once you leave these gates." Sakura mumbled. "Make sure you're not within our reach once the day is over." Her eyes hurt to even blink as she stared listlessly at the gates in front of her.

He grunted a soft agreement.

"Thank you for coming." She whispered.

There was a heavy silence in the air. He walked up to her and handed her the scroll she had given him prior to his visit. "I didn't do it for you." He replied simply.

"I know." She said and then gave him a soft smile that he forgot she was capable of doing. "Stay alive out there. At least until Naruto and I can get our hands on you."

He snorted. "Unlikely I'll die." And then, surprisingly, he flicked her forehead. Sakura blinked at his action and gingerly reached up to where she could feel a small bruise forming. "And unlikely you two will get your hands on me."

"We'll see about that." She growled, preparing to punch him but before she had the chance to even gather chakra to her finger tips, he flicked out of her sight to the other side of the gate. "Hey! Sasuke, you cowar—"

"Take care of the dobe." He said and for the second time that day she was taken aback.

And yourself.

She released a sigh and closed her eyes. She couldn't believe how close he was but she still couldn't reach him. "Worry about yourself first." Sakura muttered, running her hand down her hair. "I don't know how reliable your teammates are but…" Sakura clenched her first, "I meant what I said to her."

He could feel her anger at the mention of his teammates and if he wasn't so tense from the procession earlier and if he was still their teammate, he would have rolled his eyes. But he wasn't, so he opted to turn away from her. Until he was ready to face her and Naruto head on, he'd have to turn his back to them. "I'll hold you to that."

She watched as he disappeared behind the foliage of trees and turned back to her village. It seemed like they still had a long way to go.

Kakashi-sensei. I won't let you down.