O O O
His fingers dug into her shoulders and his beautiful, intense, honest, protective, hopeful, blue, blue blue eyes bored into her own. Her heart ached and she blinked back tears, trying to swallow back the choking sobs shaking her body.
"Sakura," his lips formed her name effortlessly, laced with so much emotion it brought on a monsoon of guilt and hurt. "Sakura, don't cry."
She couldn't help it. He was going to get himself killed and he didn't want her to follow him. He was walking to his death, and she was just supposed to stand back and let it happen? No. No!
"I won't let you go, Naruto! I won't!"
Her eyes screwed shut and she shook her head left and right angrily, hoping against hope that he would just listen to her for once and not jump blindly to his death. He was famously known for being the number one most unpredictiable ninja, but, damnit, this was just insane! He knew he was going to die once he left! He knew! If he would just say no, if he would just refuse to follow through with it, he would live. He would be with her! He was already living on borrowed time and it would run out the second he left the safety of the village.
If he would just say no...
"I've already decided. I have to go."
Her eyes flew open - eyes blazing. "No, you don't! You don't have to do anything! You have a choice!" Her voice was raw and scratchy from crying, but he still winced and drew back as she screamed at him. Her hands gripped his jacket with a firm grip and brought him close to her once more. "Naruto, please--"
"Sakura!" Her mouth shut and she eyed the boy before her warily. No, not boy. Man. He was man with a grim expression and bitter eyes slowly melting into sadness; and she was still a little girl, begging him not to leave her. "I know I have a choice. I've made it."
Her heart shattered in her chest.
"No one else is capable."
"There is no one else."
She sobbed and sagged against him, crying all the more violently when she felt him wrap his arms around her. This would be the last time she felt him. The last time she would smell his scent, hear his voice, be infected by his rambunctious behavior. She suddenly regretted every moment of her pathetic life where she hadn't been grateful for his presence.
"Sakura, listen to me," he whispered, pressing his face into her neck and dragging in a shaky breath. "Listen to me. My life has been nothing but a struggle from the beginning, a day-to-day fight with myself, and I was weak. I've been weak, but I'm strong now. I understand things." he paused a moment and she felt him smile sadly against her skin. "I've seen underneath the underneath."
"Please don't leave me."
He continued like he hadn't heard her. "This bloodshed, this war, will end soon despite what you think. Peace will come, I promise. I know it will. It's going to be hard and it's going to be painful but you have to believe me. It won't last forever."
You can't know that.
"You have to stay alive, Sakura. You have to carry on what we've learned and teach it to the next generation. Show them everything you've inherited, everything you've seen, everything you've felt, everything. The Will of Fire was passed down to you from our masters, and now it's your duty to pass it on, too." He pulled back and stared into her tear filled eyes. "Things will get better."
"You're giving up." she choked, shoulders sagging in defeat. "You said you would never give up, but you are."
A wistful smile tugged softly on his lips and stayed there with a bit of effort. "I'm not giving up. My dream is to bring peace and I'm following what I feel is right, what I know is right." She dropped her head and his fingers tilted her chin gently back up. "Sakura...."
"You've always chased after dreams. I sometimes found myself wondering if you ever finally caught one." A tear rolled down her flushed cheek and he swept it away with his thumb, drying the wet trail it left behind with the cuff of his jacket. "You have always been so hopeful, so full of life, so rash, so unpredictable..." her voice broke on the last word and she looked up at him with pure, unadulterated agony. "Why are you doing this!?"
He had fought to keep back the sheer anguish and remorse since he had broken the news to her, had bit back his tears and words of regret because he didn't want this to be any harder on her than it already was. But his control was slipping, and she looked into his eyes where so much hurt and pain surfaced and it drove a sword straight through her chest.
His bravado failed him and she knew at that moment he didn't want to die. He didn't want to leave. But he was a shinobi of the Leaf up front and foremost and it was his duty to do all he could to protect his home. No matter what, he had to follow orders of the new Hokage. Such a shady, evil man. This was all a part of his plan for control, to kill the one man that could overthrow him.
Life was unfair.
"Sakura, I did catch a dream." he said in a weary, beaten voice. "It took me years to do it, but I did. I went through Hell and back to finally grasp it. But you know what? Despite all the pain I went through for this one dream--I wouldn't change one day of struggle, one minute of suffering, one second of the torture," He leaned down and pressed his lips so soft, so gentle, so loving, and so, so sad against her own."...if I could just stay and keep holding this dream like I am now."
Her whole life seemed to crash and break around her and she just wanted to scream, scream, scream...
"I love you, Sakura. I will always love you. Even death can't stop me from loving you."
"Promise me you will just live."
He trembled as he drew her in close and rested his exhausted head on her shoulder. "Believe in me, Sakura?" he asked, and she cried all the more harder against his chest.
"I have faith in you, Naruto. I always have."
It was the last time she ever held him in her arms. He never returned.
Her heart had been destroyed beyond repair, and yet, she lived. Because of a promise made to a dead man. Because she believed in him, and eventually, learned to believe in herself as well.
Well, it's not the best, but what did you think? Good? Sad? A waste of time? Please let me know! Thank you for reading!