Disclaimer: I do not own the naruto fanchise
Sakura is free.
The catch was that she could taste freedom if she submitted to certain...conditions. Apparently they were going to allow her to live, but they were also demanding for her to change her identity, change her entire lifestyle, and change herself. Why? Because Sakura Haruno could not live. Sakura Haruno was someone in the past and that identity had to die. It was the death of her name, of course, but a death nonetheless.
She still sits before them in the ginormous judgment room. Her eyes are wide as the Kage sit in front of her, regal as ever, but naming their conditions for her to live like blows of a hammer.
So, this is how the story was going to go... the five Kage were going to tell the public that Sakura Haruno was brought down and due to medical complications, she passed away.
Unfortunately for them, Sakura hates lying. She hates lying with a passion, and so, in a last show of defiance, of utter foolishness, she argues.
"No, I am not changing my name! I don't want to be someone I'm not!"
"These are the conditions!" the Raikage's voice rises. "If you don't accept them, then you will be put to death!"
A's powerful presence is enough to scare even the bravest of people. It is compressing, even. But Sakura was much too angry to care, of course. She will not back down and she, in return, yells back. "I don't care! Put me to death! I'm not changing my name!"
This unreasonable Sakura is getting to Gaara. He doesn't want to lose his best friend because of her idiocy. The only reason she's even acting like a lunatic is because she is at her limit. To be completely honest, she's stressed out. After having people look into your traumatic past, not to mention having sex with not one, but two of your lovers, can leave anyone on edge.
"Sakura." Gaara does not yell, but there is a certain hard edge to his voice that commands Sakura's attention.
"What?" Sakura snaps. Gaara doesn't reply right away. He looks Sakura in the eye and makes sure she looks back. A message of sorts passes in that one look.
Sakura's breathing begins to shorten and calm. Deep breathe in, and deep breathe out; slowly now, slowly. Little by little, Sakura becomes more stable and she is able to gain her mind again. Throughout her whole soothing techniques the Kage had remained silent. Gaara lifts his head to say something to her, but someone beat him to the punch.
"You will change your appearance and name and you will not let anyone know your identity."
It is not a request. It is a command, falling from the Godaime Hokage's mouth like rocks. Itachi Uchiha stares at her sternly. Yes, she has been through a terrible ordeal, but insolence will not be tolerated before the five most powerful shinobi in all the land. The title of Kage commands respect. It doesn't matter what you've been through, because most likely they have been through worse. They did not get to be where they are to be talked back to by anyone.
This statement may earn him a few looks from the other Kage, but Itachi doesn't care. He expects Sakura to follow through and will accept nothing else from her but obedience. He understands the difficulties and is asking of her nothing that he would not think impossible of her. Not to mention the inner turmoil that he is experiencing. His feelings are shoved and locked away in a cage right now, because he has to play the role of Hokage.
"Fine," Sakura huffs, defeated.
So Sakura Haruno would die and everyone, all her friends and family, would believe it.
Sakura was given the rest of the day to rest. The next morning she was set free and the 'story' was leaked. Sakura Haruno was dead. She was just a ghost now, with no name.
Her new name, her fake name, was a common name. It wasn't that she liked it, but honestly, Haruka Minamoto was so...bland. The least they could have done was to let her chose her own name.
Sakura puts on common shinobi pants and a long sleeved shirt. It is all the hospital had to offer. She changes her pink locks to brown and then walks out of the hospital.
Where is she going to go? She can't go back to Akatsuki, because there is no Akatsuki anymore. That's all the Kage would tell her. She wouldn't know if they were also going to be given the same opportunity as her or if they would be put to…death. She can't say goodbye to her friends or even approach them, because she's 'dead'. It's not like any of them would want anything to do with her.
She feels like she is going to cry. She's just standing there in front of the hospital doors, feeling lost. She has always had a mission, a priority, but now. It's all over, and I'm still alive.
Just then it hit her. She still did have a goal. So, Sakura takes off, in the direction where it all started.
She walks through the old forest where she first came back to the past. It feels so surreal to be walking through this forest again. She takes in the beauty of the green foliage and the musky smells it has to offer. The trees sway with the wind and the leaves dance through each gust.
Then she sees it; the great oak tree and small hill where she first came here from the future.
She walks over to it and kneels down.
She knows what she has to do. Sakura begins making hands signs, the ones she never thought she would have to make again.
'Time Travel no jutsu!'
She had to go back to her own time. This is not her dimension to live in. She does not belong here.
The spinning scenery begins to slow. The jutsu comes to an end and Sakura begins to take in her new world.
She opens her eyes to the same forest. I wonder what date it is? she thinks. Still weak, she begins to hobble towards where she knew the castle was. Only that she didn't see what she expected when she got there. What is going on here?
Sitting right there in front of her eyes is the village she loved, the village she grew up in. Konoha. Suddenly she feels two fingers at the small of her back.
"State your business."
She knows this voice well. The baritone and utterly male voice belongs to someone she knows well, has worked with, has known since she was twelve. Neji Hyuuga.
Neji is dressed in full ANBU gear; apparently someone had earned a promotion while she was away. Sakura wasn't allowed to reveal her identity, but technically she never did. She changed her appearance like they told her to, but being discovered because someone recognizes her voice wasn't her problem. To be honest it was rather uplifting; at least she didn't have to be alone anymore. With a jolt, she also remembers that Neji recognized her chakra.
"You're alive... does this mean Sasuke was defeated? Is that why Konoha still exists?"
Neji takes off his ANBU mask and looked directly at Sakura. He looks good, like he was never in a gruesome battle that claimed his life. Wait…he does look well, but why? Isn't she back in her own time period? Her confusion increases and she no longer knows what to think.
Neji takes his right hand and places it on the side of Sakura's face. This gesture of affection is really more than what it seems. Neji is also running his chakra through her to make sure she is no imposter. When he is certain it's her he rapidly takes his hand back. A series of emotions pass through his face, starting with caution, regret, then to wonder and suspicion.
Neji can't believe it, but it is still true. Sakura Haruno is here standing before him, totally unharmed.
To be honest her disguise isn't much of a disguise. All they did was change her pink hair to brown. Really? If they were really serious about changing her identity, so many other procedures could have been done. It's almost as if the Kage didn't really care if her identity was kept hidden or not.
"Sakura, you were declared dead a week ago. They said you died of medical complications…" Then he pauses and looks at her strangely. "Wait… Why would you think that Sasuke…did you try to time travel again?"
Oh my gosh, how can this be? The jutsu didn't work? Why?
"You did didn't you?"
"Sakura, you can't use that justu anymore."
"Because your future does not exist anymore. Don't you understand? You have already changed it."
Sakura takes in Neji's truth. Of course, that's why it wouldn't work.
"You sound just like my old Neji. He didn't want me using the jutsu either."
Neji sadly smiles, as he tucks a piece of hair behind Sakura's ear. "He's the only one you ever cared about."
"Hm, I loved you so much."
"Not me, him," Neji says, with an edge to his voice that she recognizes as bitter.
Now it's Sakura's turn to look forlorn as she remembers her passed lover. It's so difficult to think of him as gone, when there is this man who looks exactly like him standing before her. They are the same, but they are not.
"I don't know what to do anymore, Neji."
Neji sighed and removed his hand from her face. He looked away from her and turned his gaze towards the sky, as if to ask for guidance. Sakura took this time to observe him; he looked so… ethereal. Neji's beauty always seemed so unreal to Sakura. To this day she is still surprised that such a disciplined guy like Neji ever took notice of her. Finally, he closed his eyes and prepared to make his confession.
"You? You're lost? You could have conquered the world," he chuckled. "You have been thinking of others for so long, you've forgotten to think of yourself."
Sakura looks up at Neji. Her voice starts out normal, but ends up just as a whisper. "What do you mean?"
As Sakura is quietly talking to Neji, Neji is coming closer and closing the distance between them.
"If I asked you to run away with me would you?" His lips are inches away from hers and closing. Just as Neji is going to close the gap and connect them once again, Sakura turns her head and his lips meet her cheek.
Neji pulls back with a knowing smirk.
"It seems as though you do not want me any more Sakura."
Sakura just shakes her head and apologetically smiles at Neji.
"For so long I thought, if I could just see your face one more time." Then she gives out a quick laugh. "But I'm such a...joke, I guess." Now Neji is no longer smiling. He is intensely looking at her. He is listening to her, listening to what she has to say before speaking.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because here I'm saying I have wanted to see you again, but this entire journey, adventure." Sakura started waving her hands trying to find the right word for what she had been through.
"FIASCO, has been for him. For Sasuke."
By now Sakura is crying. Tears trail down her face, leaving wet tracks behind them.
"All I've done, everything, has been for Sasuke," she whispered. "I can't let go of him."
"Do you want to be with him?"
Sakura wipes her face free of falling tears, nods her head in agreement, smiles and looks at Neji.
"I'm his wife."
"You're not his wife anymore, Sakura-san."
Neji thinks Sakura is a beautiful woman, but she is not his woman. Not this time around at least. They share some fond memories and he will always look out for her, but this time around he wants to do something for her. He wants her to be happy.
"You need to let go of the passed before it consumes you."
This time Sakura is the one looking away and shaking her head in disagreement.
"Oh Neji, you don't know..." This... it meant he didn't know the commitment she made for him. She's his wife. She was raised as a good girl; she was raised to believe that once you got married, that's it. Your husband is supposed to be the only one, and even though she has pretty much shot their relationship to hell, she is still conditioned to think that she has to be with him. Besides she has always been looking out for him, trying to get him to come back to Konoha, trying to comfort him and trying to be with him.
Neji's eyes narrow and he looks at Sakura. I mean really looks; maybe he has been wrong about her this entire time.
"Whatever you choose to do Sakura-san, I hope it will make you happy."
Then Neji turns around to leave and Sakura can only look on. Neji starts walking taking one silent step after the other and softly crunching the grass. Before he completely makes his way out of Sakura's sight he turns his head, but keeps his back to her.
"He's not always going to be there for you Sakura-san. You should make up your mind before it's too late."
And just like that Neji is gone; he teleported away leaving Sakura to her thoughts. It would be as if he never saw her, because after all he technically is not supposed to know that she still exists.
Neji's words have shaken her; sending her deep into thought. Her feet begin to wander aimlessly. The familiar buildings pass her by as she walks through town. He's right Sakura has changed; this world has changed. This was her intention all along. If she's being honest with herself, then there is only one place left for her to go.
Coincidently, her little stroll has taken her to the familiar compound where she grew up in her second life.
The Uchiha compound sits quietly on the upper corner of Konoha. By now Itachi has abolished the law requiring them to live only within the confides of the compound and many Uchiha have now sought dwellings outside the compound as new homes. However, the majority of the Uchiha clan still lives within the same area.
As Sakura is admiring the magnificent building, she hears a voice.
"What are you doing here?"
There he sits in a nearby tree, as nonchalantly as always, eating a tomato, Sasuke Uchiha.
"You know who I am?"
He snorts at Sakura's question. "All they did was change your hair brown. It not much of a disguise."
How can he sit there so calm and collected? After all that we've been through? At least Neji seemed to sort of miss me and we weren't even married!
"Why are you here?" Sasuke's voice has lost the tone of carelessness and a bit of his anger seeps out.
He's fed up with me, she thinks relfectively.
"I came to talk to you," she says shakily.
Sasuke stops eating his tomato and regards Sakura with a level stare.
"You think I care about anything you have to say?" Then he turns his attention back to the tomato.
He's so angry at me. I worked so hard to make his life perfect and he still has something to brood about, she thinks incredulously, the stirrings of resentment in her stomach.
"Can you at least come down?"
Sasuke tosses away the remainder of his tomato; for him to do that means he is in some kind of serious mood. He gets down from the tree and charges towards Sakura head on; trappings her within his arms.
"What makes you think you can make any demands of me!"
Sasuke's jaw tightens in fury; his rage only self contained through sheer will.
Even now Sakura can only look up at him. She stares back into his rage filled eyes, frightened and concerned at the same time. Has she destroyed everything she has worked so hard to avoid? Has it all been for nothing?
Upon seeing Sakura's frightened expression Sasuke releases Sakura and draws back a little on his anger.
"What do you have to say to me?" he says in a more level tone.
"Just that…I'm sorry."
Sasuke reacts with a face of incredulity. "I'm sorry," she continues, "that I wasn't honest with you. I just wanted to look out for you Sasuke-kun, the way you looked out for me. I only wanted to take your pain away." By now Sakura's emotions has spilled over and as a result she has started to silently cry. Sasuke's eyes begin to soften around the edges; she is breaking through to him. In a rare moment of affection, he gently runs his index finger in a soft caress under her chin, in an attempt to get her to look at him.
"The truth is," she hiccups and pauses to catch her breath. "The truth is I love you, so much and I was willing to risk it all for you, and so I did."
Now this truly touches his heart, because all this time he has felt the same way towards her.
"Sakura-" before he can finish his declaration, she pushes through and continues with her ramblings.
"I just…I gave so much that now," she turns her head to look up at him. "I've lost my way Sasuke. I look in the mirror and I just don't recognize the person that I am anymore."
Now, Sasuke pulls back just a little bit; her words instill caution in him, in an attempt to control his feelings of hope.
"I'm not the same Sakura that I was when we were little kids. Sasuke," she breaks in realization of what she is about to say. "Sasuke, I just can't be with you anymore."
He just stares at her. Unbelieving of what she has just said, then slowly, but surely, he pulls back and away from her.
A long time passes before either one of them breaks the silence. Then finally, as shocked as he is, Sasuke's words escape him.
"You destroyed everything."
A giant sob spill out of her, it seems like she's always crying now a days.
"No, Sasuke. Can't you see our love was lost a long time ago? Somewhere along my journey I lost my innocent feelings for you. It became something unhealthy and dangerous, and now. Now I just can't continue anymore Sasuke. I have nothing left to give."
With dazed wide eyes, Sasuke bows his head in acknowledgement and understanding. He never really lifts his head back up all the way, just turns and gives his back to her. And just like that he leaves and walks out of her life. She knows they could never have any sort of relationship, no, not even a platonic friendship. There was just so much between them, that it has become impossible.
Sakura continues to look on, as if she could still see him walking away. It just wasn't meant to be, not this time around. An inkling feeling begins to take over her and she glances up. There in the topmost window she sees Itachi.
He's been watching all along. He looks down at her as she looks up at him. He loves her and she loves him. Sakura is afraid she will always love him, but her connection with Sasuke will always make it impossible to ever be with him. Still, she looks on with eyes of hope and desperation. Suddenly it all becomes clear to her; she wants to be with Itachi. Yes, if she could chose a man to spend the rest of her life, she could think of no one better. Itachi, he is the one. My one true love...
It was just her damn luck that she met his brother first; who would have known that the perfect man for her did not lie in the little boy with the sad past, but more with the unwavering disciplined man who always tries to make the right decisions regardless of how difficult they may be.
She urges him to come down with her eyes. Come down Itachi, come down and get me...
Sadly, he does not and instead closes the window and turns off the light. A silent, but strong message. He does not want Sakura, or maybe he does, but will not go to her. No, there are few things he loves more than anything in this world and one of them is Sasuke. The brother he could not kill, the brother that he would give the world for and so for that reason, he will not come.
Sakura is left looking after the window where he was just at, staring at it longingly; knowing that this was their final goodbye.
Sakura has been through a lot in this world, but none of it can compare to the ache she feels right this moment, in her heart. It seems that no matter what, Sakura is never meant to be with the one she loves.
Sakura walks through and away the gates of Konoha. Now, her once loved village is being left behind. It will be nothing, but a memory to her. Once again, she hears the sounds of night. Everything is as it was when she first came here.
The lovely colors of the forest are stained by the obscurity. The trees softly sway with every blow of the wind. The crickets chime in with their sorrowful music. No, actually it isn't the same as when she first came here. Just like you can't step into the same river twice, you can't every experience the exact same thing again.
Off in the distance she sees a familiar man. She didn't think he would be here, but nevertheless he is here. He holds his hand out to her and she closes the distance between them. Is he the man she always dreamed of, no, but he is the one who wants her. Ever since he first met her he has wanted her; he was completely smitten by her to the point that no other woman would do.
Though she has torn his heart to pieces and could never love him the way he loves her, he still wants to give them a try.
She gazes back at him and wonders whatever could he see in her?
His familiar streaks of red make his pale skin stand out. His usually cold eyes now look back at her with an undying love that will never go away. She originally came here to fix things, but has ended up causing so much damage in return. Now, with this small act, she will at least give this man what he wants and stand by his side. She knows now, that not all stories can end with happy endings. Most end so tragically, but you only ever hear of the rare happy ones.
Resigned to her future, she considers herself fortunate. After all she did accomplish what she came here to do. Sasuke has his family and the villages are at peace. Yes...
This ending is not a happy one, nor is it a sad one. It is simply realistic. Finally...
This is the last chapter. I know it's not what some of you may have expected, but this is the best way that I felt the story should end.
I may include an epilogue, or I may write a sequel. I'm not sure yet.
Thank you for everyone who has been with me throughout the whole process of this story. I started it about two years ago and am very happy with how it turned out.
I want to give a special thank you to my beta lucidum somnia sub sidera, who has always been willing to help to me and who has been very patient with my writing, so thank you! :)
If you want to leave a review and tell me what you thought that would really help, but you don't have to do anything you don't want to do.
Alright that's it! It's over!