His decision had been made. Thirty days, it had taken. Thirty days of tormenting himself to the point that he couldn't sleep. Thirty days of lying to Yoroi, Lord Orochimaru, and himself. In reality, though, it hadn't taken thirty days because all it had taken was one look at the one photo he had of the beautiful Leaf Nin with those big green eyes and playful smirk to know exactly what he needed to do. No, Kabuto thought to himself. The last thirty days that he'd been telling himself to make up his mind had really been a small attempt to change it.
But tonight, as he stood in the doorway of his quarters, the curtain drawn closed and the bed neatly made, light turned off, he knew that wasn't going to happen. He couldn't change his mind any more than he could stop thinking of Haruno Sakura. His decision was resolute, his mind sound and now the only thing left to do was following through.
"I'm sorry I've failed you, Lord Orochimaru," he murmured softly to the room before sliding the door closed one final time before making his way down the hallway. This was to be his last time leaving Oto and it would not be through his window this time. Maybe this was his final attempt to force fate's hand. But Kabuto had already decided thirty days prior that if he was to make this decision; that if he was serious about it, he would leave through the front door. He was only a little surprised that he encountered no one else on his way through the building. Lord Orochimaru was in his chambers, sleeping for the first time in a few days. Most of the other Sound Nin were in their quarters for the night as well. It was only when he was just past the front door that another presence made itself known.
"You know I can't let you leave, Kabuto."
"I know, Yoroi. That's why I'm sorry for this," Kabuto spoke softly before taking the kunai in his hand and throwing it to the left of himself. A strangled sound gurgled through the otherwise quiet evening and Kabuto didn't need to turn his head to know that Yoroi was dead. A heaviness settled itself on the gray-haired man's heart as he took a few steps further before closing his eyes. Emotion wasn't something he allowed himself to get caught up in. It was weakness, it was blinding but most importantly, it was human. And finally, after all these years of careful calculation and masterful hiding, his feelings were bubbling up to the surface and he didn't know what to do with them. He should have known that it would come to this three months ago, but he'd tried to fool himself. At the end of it all, it turned out he was the fool.
He forced the wave of emotion back and leapt up and into the trees. The journey was made easier with thoughts of Sakura. When he'd met her during the Chūnin exams, Kabuto hadn't thought that she'd impact his life to such an extent. It didn't seem like so long ago, but she'd changed so much in the last eight months. Back then, she'd been such a scared little girl, dependent on Naruto and Sasuke to protect her in the Forest. He hadn't been sure she'd survive, let alone thrive, after Sasuke had left. But the pink haired Nin had caught him off guard with the strength she'd shown, and the determination she possessed, and it had all he'd been able to do to do anything to get closer to her.
And so, he'd snuck in to her room one night, mostly on a whim and partly out of curiosity, and he'd given her the ultimatum. Meet in the forest, or the people you love will die. Looking back, he realized he hadn't actually expected her to listen to him. Maybe he'd thought she'd tell Kakashi, and that he'd be dead before the next morning. Maybe he'd thought she'd call his bluff.
But she'd been there, and it had changed his life so damn much that it was hard to wrap his head around it. In the eight months since their meetings had begun, he'd found himself slipping in his duties. He wasn't as observant in his experiments because he was observing Sakura in his mind's eye – picturing that beautiful smile she had, that fierceness in her eyes; the gentle laughs that would sometimes slip from her lips when he'd say something funny, the quiet sighs of approval when his lips would touch a particularly sensitive spot. He'd found himself thinking of the way her hair felt when he'd run it through his fingers. He'd get carried away imagining the expanse of her soft skin beneath his body, their sweat mixing together to create a scent all their own. It had been all he could manage to keep himself under control to keep suspicions from arising.
And now, because of that, here he was, caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place with no peaceful resolution possible. He'd known for some time that it would come to this. Maybe he'd known it the night he'd slipped up and admitted he never would have killed Naruto, Sasuke, and Kakashi. Maybe that was when he'd truly made this decision. Because at the end of it all, this was the only decision he could have made that didn't leave both of them dead.
It took Kabuto only a few hours to reach the rendezvous point. A soft smile formed on his face as he realized that this would only make it easier for him to go through with his decision. He leapt from the tree and landed on the ground beneath him and surveyed his surroundings. It was just past one in the morning. The full moon filtered through the trees, dappling the ground with little spots of light. He could hear insects chirping and buzzing quietly in the background and the occasional breeze ruffled the leaves to create a gentle sound that soothed him. He sat on the ground and reached in to his pack, pulling out two items. The first was a tattered and bent photo, the only one he had of Haruno Sakura. The edges were stained with various substances and the top left corner was missing altogether, but it didn't diminish her beauty at all. He smiled down at the photo, tracing over her jawbone with his thumb. What he wouldn't give to really be able to touch her.
The second item was a packet of three light pink pills. He'd created them himself, and his heart skipped a beat – was that fear he just felt? - when he glanced down at them. Only one of them was necessary to fulfill the decision, but he'd made three to make sure. Sakura appeared to be talented in the medical arts, after all, and it would be she who found him here in a few hours.
That left him with little time to take the pills if he wanted to be dead by the time Sakura got here. He felt no hesitation at all as he took two of the pills and sat them on his tongue, letting them dissolve rather than swallowing them. His head fell back against the tree and he smiled softly as he thought of Sakura and all that the last eight months had taught him. It could all be summed up in one silly four letter word.
Kabuto found it almost funny that in nineteen years of life; he'd never felt anything close to this about anyone else. He'd done experiments on people who claimed they were in love and through all of the data and information that he'd gleaned from them, he'd never come to such a complete and whole understanding of what love really was until Sakura. All it had taken was that little laugh and he'd been hooked. Maybe this was what love really came down to, he thought. Maybe love was the willingness to die so that she might have a chance at life, at finding love with someone else.
It took only a short amount of time for the pills to begin affecting him and with a soft sigh, his head lolled to the side and he was looking up at the treetops, the moonlight filtering through the leaves and splashing down on to his face. It left him feeling warm and cold all at the same time, and an involuntary shudder passed through his body as a breeze hit him. Everything was starting to feel groggy and blurry; the insects buzzing in the background had gone silent and now all he could hear was a soft voice calling out to him.
Death, is that you? He thought to himself before giggling. He wasn't dead; he wasn't even close to death, yet. The pills would require another hour or so for that. No, this was different. This was exactly how Sakura made him feel – this was being high.
"Kabuto, dammit, I said wake up!"
The suddenness and closeness of the voice shocked Kabuto out of the whirlwind that had been his mind, and his eyes shot open to find himself dangerously close to Sakura…but that wasn't Sakura, was it? Because she wasn't here with him in the forest, not yet. She was never early. No, it had to be just her photo.
He opened his mouth to reply but words escaped him now and he swallowed thickly as cool water was poured on to his face. He shivered and blinked, his focus coming together.
"S-Sakura?" He whispered. "Why are you here?"
The pink-haired Nin didn't answer him but instead shook him. "Focus, Kabuto. Tell me what you took! I can help you, I can—"
He cut her off by placing his fingertip to her lips, shaking his head. She couldn't, and she needed to know that now. The no-nonsense part of him wouldn't allow him to give her false hope. There was no cure for the poison he'd taken. He was going to die and now, she was going to have to watch it.
"We…We always knew it would come to… t-this, didn't we?" He stammered out his words before searching for her hand with his own. He could already see the tears starting to form in her eyes and he shook his head again, turning his gaze to the side. Call it selfishness, but he couldn't spend his last moments watching the girl he'd fallen in love with crying over him.
"Why?" She growled out, shoving his hand away from her before hitting him in the chest. He smiled. This was the Sakura he'd fallen for; the strong one, the questioning one. The fierce one. "Why did you do it, Kabuto?"
He couldn't answer her because he already knew she understood. Sakura had proven herself loyal to a fault and if there was one thing he was sure the Leaf nin could understand, it was sacrifice. She'd sacrificed that beautiful, long hair to save her friends. She'd sacrificed friendship for the pursuit of love, and if he hadn't done this, he knew she'd have sacrificed her loyalty to the Village Hidden in the Leaves for him. And at the end of everything, he hadn't wanted that.
He didn't want Sakura to lose everything. So he'd taken himself out of the equation. It had been the only logical decision he could make.
"You…You should go," he told her, licking at his lips. They were going dry, and he knew he didn't have long. "Leave me, Sakura. Go home."
She shook her head defiantly and those pretty green eyes met his as he felt her hands fumbling around his body. He swallowed again and reached for her hand, sitting up with what little strength he had left. "I love you, Sakura," he whispered to her, his eyes searching out her own. The whirlwind in his head was starting to pick up strength again, and the dizziness caused him to fall over again, a groan slipping from his lips as his head landed in her lap. He could feel her gentle fingers on the side of his face.
"I am going home," she murmured to him gently. Her voice was starting to sound farther away, his vision blurred. He thought he saw her swallow the last of the three pills, but he was too far gone to do anything about it. Maybe he'd known it would end like this. Maybe he'd been selfishly hoping she'd go with him to wherever it was you went when you died.
This is it, he thought to himself. This is the end. I hope you know how much I love you, Sakura. I never said that before tonight, but it's true. I lo—
Sakura whispering a declaration of love in to his ear was the last thing Kabuto heard before letting go; her hand gently holding his the last thing he felt. Never before had he felt so whole, so complete. And that made it all worth it. That made all of the confusion and the lying and even his death worth it. Because if love wasn't worth dying for, what was worth living for?