Sakura has always worn her heart on her sleeve. She knows that it isn't practical, isn't what a kunoichi should do...but she's true to herself and at the end of the day she can sleep better because of it. So she's always been a little too forward, a little to easily bruised in matters of emotion but she never regretted it. Not until Sasuke.

He is an entity all his own in her thoughts. Her first love, first heartbreak. A special guilded place is reserved for him in her vast heart and Sakura could never really deny that. She'd tried, of course. She'd tried to forget that she loved him, but he wouldn't let that stand. She had been strong in resolve until a tiny trip in the River Country cracked her stony facade. He'd dashed her attempt with slow, subtle kindness unlike anything she'd ever thought him capable.

At the beginning, the things were small. He would pick up her part of the tab while she was distracted at Team dinners or take the less desirable watch shifts on missions. Later he was more blantant. Gifts of her favorite fruits would appear on her tiny kitchen window sill and new, top of the line medical gear would materialize in her work locker. Sakura was furious. She didn't want to be wooed, no matter how the other females around her would swoon. How quickly could they all forget what he'd done?

So she denied him. She tossed out the produce and returned the equipment to his doorstep while he was away. As she trotted from the ghostly complex he called home she would convince herself that she made her trips while he was out on missions not because she feared an encounter--of course not--but because it would puzzle and discourage him more. An innately sympathetic place in her chest panged at causing the tragic man further pain, but she would not bow in this matter.

She had given him friendship and she would allot no more. Caustic thoughts fill her mind as she approaches the boarder between the Clan's holding and common Konoha ground, not noting the shadow that's just attached itself to a pole nearby.

Her feet are moving a bit more quickly than normal pace, but Sakura refuses to dwell on it. She's trying to make it home before the guilt hits. Soon enough she feels the familiar cool texture of the worn brass knob in her palm and knows she's made it home in a sort of half-aware state. She steps inside and is half way to the kitchen even as the door snicks closed at her back.

The hiss of the tap as it floods into motion breaks her catatonic state of mind and she's frowning at her hands, slick and shining under the fall of water. With a low shout, she jerks her hands back from the sink, smashing the faucet back into its off position. Bracing her elbows on the edge of the chipped, well-loved counter, Sakura threads her dripping hands into her hair at the temples.

There's no reason to feel dirty for returning the gifts.

She repeats the thought as many times as she can, but it sounds just as hollow the thousandth time as it did on the first, and there's something about that truth that makes her angry.

Tugging her hands free from her suddenly too-long, too-worrisome hair, the kunoichi presses her hands into the lip of the sink and raises her eyes to the darkening cityscape beyond her window. For a moment, she's confused by the brown blur in the foreground of the dusky scene, but as her eyes refocus from the horizon onto the flowerbox she's so meticulous about, she wants to scream all over again.

A little paper sack is tucked carefully into her beloved plants, hardly disturbing a leaf but starkly obvious from her position at the sink nonetheless. It is a telling thing, the arrangement of the gift, Sakura knows. Anyone who'd been inside her apartment could choose the spot--but only someone who knew her would take pains to mind the flowers. Wrenching the white-washed wood of the window upward, she is collecting the errant parcel even as she slides into a sitting position on the linoleum floor.

She's pressing her back so tightly against the cabinets that she can feel the woodgrain, but her full attention is on the plain brown bag in her grip. Sakura is thinking that she's never returned a gift without opening it discreetly and trying to convince herself that now is as good a time as any to start. But it's only too easy to tip the rigid bag toward her chest and inspect the contents, and she's already done the deed before she can stop herself.

A few dozen small, dark cherries are gleaming back at her and Sakura feels wetness on her face that has nothing to do with her damp hair. Her brilliant mind has taken her back to a place that seems too bright and cheery to have ever existed in her lifetime. She's so used to guilt and ill-repressed regret these days that the happy memory is almost banished by her new found cynicism.

She's feeling like maybe she's wrong about refusing to forgive Sasuke. How can a man who tries so hard to make her smile be undeserving? Once upon a time it had been Sakura who tried to remind Sasuke that the world could be rosy, if only he'd allow it.

She supposes that she should feel ridiculous, sitting on her floor and smiling through tears over cherries, of all things. But Sakura can only think it's perfect that the man she always dreamed of saving is the one to rescue her from her own stubborn pride. It's sunset in Konoha when she acknowledges that she only loves him more for it.

I've been asked multiple times to continue the Repentance arc, so I took the thread I'd been playing with for a while now and fleshed it out. There will be one more chapter titled Beatitude up tomorrow or Sunday and that will conclude the series.

CT is still active and in progress, I'm just having a bit of trouble getting it to go where I need it to. I won't predict a release date, I can only promise that I'm making sure it's perfect. You, my readers and reviewers, deserve no less.

Several stories are going to receive updates. I'll also be announcing a new series of one-shots and releasing Broken Souls in the next week or two.

I'm back from a serious case of writer's block compounded by computer troubles, and for that I apologize to my wonderful readers. I'm working on making your waiting worth your while. :)

Reviews are always appreciated.