Title: The Road of Touch
Date: July 7, 2010
Summary: Haruno Sakura's journey of feelings and simple touch with one Uchiha Sasuke…Maybe one day, he'd reach back, for her.
Pairing: Sasuke and Sakura
Rating: M
Themes: Angst/Drama/Romance


The Road of Touch
Haruno Sakura
PART ONE

"Two roads leading to the same path..."

...

i. basic

Haruno Sakura silently sat in her seat, wide green eyes taking in her surroundings with curiosity and obvious awe, staring at the simple yet intimidating walls and objects of the classroom that would serve as her Ninja Academy experience for the next few years. Tiny hands clasped together in unconscious anxiety, she watched as other students loudly proclaimed their family's fame and traits that would inevitably be passed down to them with time's progression. The civilian-born girl couldn't help but frown at these declarations, absently wondering what she was getting into and why she chose to follow the path of a kunoichi.

"Alright class, settle down!" The Chuunin Academy Teacher called out at the front of the room, his hands up in the air to gain the rowdy group's attention; he smiled an encouraging smile as he looked around, innocent excitement evident on the young students' faces, "Since today is your first day of Konoha Shinobi Academy I'd like you all to take a few minutes to introduce yourself and get to know your fellow classmates as we will be spending a lot of time together. I'll give you ten minutes!"

Immediately the class was in an uproar, students jumping out of their seats and declaring who they were, making friends and rivals in the process. Overwhelmed, Sakura sat completely still, watching as a boy with an adorable, white puppy began to talk loudly to a quiet boy with bugs flying around his head. Another boy, who was falling asleep on his desk, was prodded by boy carrying a bag of potato chips. And a girl with pretty, lavender eyes was stuttering a greeting to a blonde dressed in flamboyant orange.

"Sakura-chan!" A feminine voice called out excitedly as arms hugged the pink-haired kunoichi-in-training tightly from behind, familiar blonde locks falling over her shoulder, "I know we already know each other, but I still wanted to say HI! Aren't you excited? I am! We're training to be shinobi!"

"Ino-chan," Sakura greeted with a smile as she turned around in her desk, "I-I'm a little nervous…I don't exactly know anything about being a Ninja…"

"Oh, you'll be fine, Sakura-chan!" Ino assured as she flicked her blonde tresses from her head, "So go make friends! I'm going to see Shika-kun and Chouji!"

Before Sakura could say anything else, the Yamanaka had already flounced off to the front of the room and pounced onto the boy who had been lying contently in slumber atop his desk. Frowning, nervousness beginning to tense up her body, jade eyes began to dart around the classroom to see if there was anyone friendly enough to accept a civilian-girl with a big forehead as her friend.

"Uchiha Sasuke."

Surprised, Sakura whirled around towards the origination of the voice, one that was high-pitched, smooth, and friendly. Who she found was a boy standing idly beside her desk, one hand in his pocket and the other outstretched towards her. The first thing Sakura could think of was that he was…cute. He had smooth, pale skin, dark hair styled in a way that suited him perfectly, and his eyes were so large and bottomless she couldn't help but stare. And with his soft smile, tiny but there, he looked…nice.

"You are?" He asked, head tilting to the side slightly, the arch of his brow conveying his confusion for her continued silence.

Shaking her head, feeling the blush rising to her cheeks, Sakura took his hand – immediately noticing the warmth the simple touch caused, "H-Haruno Sakura. Nice to meet you."

He grinned lightly and shook the appendage once before letting go, "You too."

Staring still, stunned speechless not only for being approached, but by a cute boy no less, Sakura was saved by Ino's loud shout from across the room, "Hey Sakura-chan! Someone's already got a crush on you! Why don't you come here to meet him!"

Jade eyes slid to the front of the room where Ino had one arm around a blushing blonde boy, the one dressed in the flamboyant orange, "…Wha–?"

"See you," Sasuke bid in farewell as he headed towards the rear of the classroom, possibly to return to his seat.

Sakura watched him go with a growing pout, not wanting to see him leave but still feeling elated for getting his name and shaking his hand. She watched his back as he walked up the stairs towards the higher seats, hands shoved in his pockets, and when he took his seat Sakura was happy to see the small smile still on his lips. Glancing once more at her hand, Sakura felt a whole new excitement begin to fill her for the coming days in studying to be a kunoichi.

"Yeah, Sasuke…" She thought absently as she got up from her desk and left to join Ino and the blonde-boy at the front of the classroom, "See you…"

...

ii. innocent

Sakura frowned as she spread her legs, planting her feet firmly against the ground, bent her knees, and stared fixedly at the target about fifty yards away from her. On her left hip was the unfamiliar weight of a pouch filled with different metal tools and in her right hand, three shuriken were clutched between the gaps of her four fingers. Narrowing her jade eyes, the kunoichi-in-training breathed deeply, ignoring the sounds of other irritated grunts and shrieks beside her, arm cranking back and letting loose, the shuriken flying free of her grasp and whizzing towards the wooden plank.

Thunk. Thunk.

Two hits, one miss. Sakura frowned as she surveyed her aim; none of them hit the bulls-eye. In fact, one hit the bottom, right hand corner and the other hit the outer most ring of the target. Annoyed, Sakura dug through her pouch to obtain three more shuriken, staring down at the metal stars with growing irritation.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

Hearing the rapid succession of hits, Sakura's head snapped up to stare at the target plank beside hers, seeing a perfect cross of shuriken, the middle clearly on the bulls-eye mark. Astonished, she panned her gaze to the owner of the marksman-shots and wasn't surprised to find Uchiha Sasuke, the boy idly staring at his handiwork with a contemplative furrow of his brows before he reached for two kunai in his back pouch.

Sakura watched him, studied him as he easily fell into stance, narrowed his eyes in concentration, and effortlessly let the projectile weapons fly, both hitting the bulls-eye mark on both sides of the previously thrown shuriken already occupying the spot. A small smirk graced the Uchiha boy's lips and Sakura hurriedly looked away before he could catch her staring. She couldn't stand the thought of being teased for staring…

Inspired by his display, Sakura took her new shuriken and positioned them between her fingers, planting her feet and bending her knees as similarly as Sasuke did, her eyes intensely studying the board across the field, her fingers shifting for better grip on the tools, anxiety tensing her muscles as a soft wind blew through her pink tresses. The sound of other metal weapons hitting wood and Ino's triumphant shout and Naruto's aggravated moan filtering out of her head.

"Relax, you're too tense."

Sakura blinked, recognizing the familiar voice, but before she could shift her gaze to confirm her suspicions, a hand had already gripped her wrist firmly and adjusted it before he guided that same arm into a different form. Surprised, she looked over to see Sasuke watching her, standing beside her, holding her wrist as his dark eyes studied her, the target, and then adjusted her again.

"You're putting too much force into your throw," Sasuke explained as he took his foot and pushed it against her ankle to alter her stance, "Itachi-nii-san told me that form helps too, you're too stiff, try relaxing and feeling your throw…"

Another adjustment and Sakura found herself in a position different from what she was used to but one that seemed to make sense to her. Nodding her head, her peripherals found Sasuke move back a few steps to allow her space. Feeling her throw, Sakura threw her shuriken in an upward arch rather than her usual downward, watching apprehensively as the projectiles flew towards the plank.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

Three hits, all three making a vertical line, the middle one in the center mark. Smiling triumphantly she turned to Sasuke, the boy looking at her achievement with a small smirk.

"Not bad," He remarked as he finally faced her.

Sakura blushed, bowing her head bashfully before looking back at him, "Thanks to you…So, um, thank you Sasuke-kun."

His smirk remained but he shrugged his shoulders as he walked back towards his spot, "No problem."

With her small smile, Sakura caressed her wrist where his fingers had grasped her, jade eyes looking at her three-hit mark. Inspiration and excitement returning, Sakura removed a few more shuriken and took her new stance. Feeling more confident and comfortable, the kunoichi-in-training smirked and easily let her weapons soar.

...

iii. bothersome

Sakura always made a point to get to class early. She was meticulous like that because she liked entering an empty classroom, the sun rising higher from the horizon, its rays breaking through the shallow cracks of the closed blinds, lining the room in yellow beams, and leaving her in a comfortable silence where she would take a seat at her desk, open up her books and remove the papers she had completed the night before and she would read and study to her heart's content. For forty minutes she would be absorbed in the text in front of her and when a single beam of light would finally cross her desk she would know what her time was up and other students would steadily begin to filter in.

But today was different.

When she pushed open the door to her classroom and took a single step forward, Sakura could immediately tell that something was wrong. The classroom was dark, the sun was covered by grey clouds and she could feel a palpable tension suffocating the entire room. Cautiously, Sakura took another step forward, bright jade eyes scanning the area before they fell with surprise on the lone form sitting quietly at his desk at the rear of the room.

"…Sasuke-kun?"

He didn't acknowledge her, his dark eyes were unfocused, elbows resting against his desktop, hands clasped in front of his face, a frown curling his lips. Slowly, Sakura stepped forward, placing her bag and books on her desk and seat before climbing the last few steps to stand beside his quiet form.

Still, the boy failed to recognize her, and Sakura frowned when she noticed his tense shoulders and haunted eyes. Distinctly, she could remember something happening over the weekend, something about the Uchiha Clan. She wasn't as informed as she wanted to be, her parents didn't want to share any sensitive information to their precious, innocent daughter, but Sakura could connect the pieces without their help. Something bad had happened to make Sasuke look so broken.

"Sasuke-kun?" Sakura tried again gently, not knowing why she kept her voice so low, "Are you okay?"

Obsidian orbs briefly flickered in her direction, his brows creasing slightly, and Sakura couldn't help but take a hesitant step back, "Hn."

Although confused, Sakura straightened her spine with determination and stepped forward, one hand outstretched to offer a comforting hand, "…Sasuke-kun?"

As her fingertips brushed against his shoulder he roughly jerked away and sent her the fiercest glare she had ever seen shoot from his eyes, directed entirely at her, "Leave me alone!"

Sakura's heart stopped, pained, hand snapping back to hug against her chest, a frown pulling her lips as she watched him close back in on himself, ignoring her, forgetting about her.

"S-Sorry…" Sakura stuttered, before she cast one last saddened glance at him, stepped away, and turned her back on him, hopping back to her seat quickly and sitting down, mechanically opening up her books and removing the papers from the day before, her vision blurring for reasons she couldn't fully explain.

She looked down at her tingling fingertips, remembered the brief touch that had bothered him, and closed her hand into a tight fist as she bowed her head.

Sasuke was hurt.

And it hurt her to know that he wouldn't let her in to help him…

...

iv. fearful

"Sasuke-kun! You're awake!"

Sakura's relieved exclamation faltered as she gazed upon the Uchiha Prodigy's crouched figure, an uneasy feeling filling her stomach as she watched a strange purple chakra begin to swirl around him, his presence suffocating and repelling to others; it felt ominous and dark.

Slowly, he began to stand, his bangs covering his expression though Sakura's wide viridian orbs were trained on the strange, black-flame markings decorating along the left side of his body, spreading and glowing and the pink-haired girl knew something wasn't right.

"Sakura…Who did that to you…?"

"…Sasuke-kun?"

She didn't know what to say, her mind was only processing his change, the edge in his voice that didn't sound reassuring to her, in fact, it scared her. His question didn't process, she ignored the bruise above her left eye and the cuts along her body, what concerned her most was what wasn't right about the Uchiha Sasuke before her.

"Who is it?" Sasuke repeated, voice lowered into a growl as his brows furrowed in anger.

"We did it," Zaku stated without fear, a grin on his face.

Sasuke's dark eyes slid towards the Sound Ninja but Sakura wouldn't have it, she wanted to find out what was wrong.

"Sasuke-kun…Your body…" She didn't know how to ask, but she needed to get it out there.

The Uchiha held out his left palm, staring at his marked skin, "…Don't worry. I feel power overflowing within me. I feel…great. He gave it to me."

"Huh?" It hurt to make expressions, but Sakura couldn't help but be confused.

"I finally understand it…I am an Avenger," Sasuke continued, letting his arm fall limp, "Even if I must eat the Devil's Fruit…I am on the path where I must gain power…"

Anger once more filled his expression, body taking an offensive stance as he glared at the three Sound Ninja across the clearing, "Now…It was you guys, right?"

Zaku didn't seem fazed, if not a bit cocky. Dosu's lone eye widened in apprehension and Sakura could see Ino – in Kin's body – become rigid with tension before she quickly returned to her body under Shikamaru's hasty instruction. Sakura watched as Sasuke grit his teeth, the purple chakra around him becoming erratic under his control.

While Dosu was analyzing this change, Zaku wasted no time in taking the offensive, "No need to be afraid of this half-dead freak! Ultimate Zankuuha!"

Before Sakura could react a large explosion shook the clearing, though warm arms had already wound quickly around her waist and before she could tell if it was friend or foe she was set gently down, out of harm's way, beside the still-unconscious Naruto.

"Heh…I've blown him away," Zaku laughed triumphantly.

"Blown who away?"

Just as Sakura looked up, Sasuke had struck out his left arm, his attack catching Zaku in the back and causing the Sound Genin to fly a couple meters away.

"Katon: Housenka no Jutsu!"

Everything happened so fast; one moment Sakura watched as small shuriken encased in fireballs flew towards Zaku and then Sasuke was on the other side of the clearing, standing above Zaku, holding both his arms behind his back with a feral smirk gracing his lips. And Sakura knew this wasn't her Sasuke, his chakra was too different, too evil and she couldn't help but remember the strange man that had attacked them just before.

"…Sasuke-kun will seek me…"

She could feel her heart hurting, the pain was unbearable, and the blood-lust in Sasuke's red-Sharingan eyes was frightening.

"So you're proud of these two arms?" Sasuke asked with a dark chuckle.

Sakura watched as Sasuke tightened his grip, pulled Zaku's arms with that same smile on his lips.

SNAP!

"AHHH!"

Sakura's heart jolted at the sound and she watched as Sasuke turned his head over his right shoulder, his eyes catching Dosu, his sinister grin still in place.

'This…'

"You're the only one left," Sasuke remarked, facing the Sound Shinobi, "I hope you let me have more fun…"

'This isn't…'

Her tears were blurring her vision, covering the Sasuke before her and helping her to see the images of the Sasuke she knew still existed. Her teammate, her friend, the arrogant Uchiha Prodigy she cared about.

'This isn't Sasuke-kun!'

Instantly, Sakura was pushing her tired and sore body to her feet, running without preservation for her own safety, running with tears in her eyes, running for fear that she'd lose the boy she cared about to a complete monster.

"STOP!"

Arms wound around his waist, feeling him tense up from her unexpected contact, but she held tight and firm, locked her hands together and rested her cheek against the space between his shoulder blades, not knowing what her actions would do, help or harm, but needing to do something.

"Please…" She whispered as he twisted his head to look at her, inwardly flinching when she saw the dark marks across his cheek, Sharingan spinning, "…Stop."

It felt like forever, but slowly she could see the black marks across his skin begin to recede and when they were fully gone Sasuke fell back in exhaustion, her arms willing and ready to catch him. Yet, even when he was settled against the floor, that the Sound Ninja had left in defeat, that her long, pink locks were still chopped and scattered across the clearing, Sakura couldn't help but tighten her hold around him. Her heart was pounding, the fear was still present, but he was okay, Sasuke was back, he was himself again. And she was so, so relieved.

...

v. bittersweet

Sakura could feel her tell-tale tears begin to course down her cheeks, her eyes clenching tightly in a vain attempt to prevent it. But she was trying. She was trying so damn hard to make him see, so hard to make him stay and she could feel him slipping away from her fingers like sand every second that ticked by.

"From here on out…" Sasuke stated deeply, his words causing her to open her eyes and stare at his backpack-covered back, "We all begin new paths…"

Her jaw tightened. It didn't have to be this way! They didn't have to go on different paths; they could all walk together, they could learn together, grow together, and help each other! Why was he being so stubborn? He had her! He had Naruto! He had Kakashi-sensei!

"I…" She stood her ground, yelling at him as if the volume could get past his obstinate defenses, "I love you with all my heart!" Immediately she pushed forward, speaking her feelings, hoping he'd see, "If you were to stay with me…there would be no regrets…because everyday we'd do something fun, we'd be happy…I swear! I would do anything for you! So…please, just stay with me! I'll even help you with your revenge…I don't know what I could do…But, I'll try my best to do something…" She sniffled, the tears coming in torrents, "So please…Stay with me…Or take me with you if you can't stay here…"

She was babbling now, saying anything to make him change his mind, saying anything that would keep him within her reach…So that whenever he fell, whenever he came close to becoming something that wasn't him, then she'd be there to pull him back, she'd be there because she cared about him…because she loved him.

Movement from Sasuke prompted her to look up through her blurry, tearful vision, his sharp expression breaking her heart, "You really are…annoying."

Her breathing hitched, she watched him turn his back on her, and desperation crawled up her throat with a vengeance, "Don't leave! If you do, I'll scream!"

He flickered out of her sight and Sakura stayed completely still, her heart beating so hard and so quick it was almost too loud to hear Sasuke's even breathing behind her. Her hope was growing as she waited in the silence, something positive for him to say, an assurance that he'd go home, anything.

"Sakura…" His tone made her wary, "…Thank you."

His voice was filled with finality and her eyes lowered in sadness because his tone also meant he had made his choice…A choice that didn't include her. Instead of a hug from behind, or even a pat on the back, a simple touch that could give her peace of mind for his decision, Sakura wasn't surprised to feel the sharp pain against her neck and for darkness to flood her vision, her heart crying out in despair while her mind desperately wondered:

'Thank you? For what?'

...

vi. fleeting

She watched Sasuke unsheathe his sword; his intentions clear as he pointed it towards Naruto, the blonde standing under his loose hold. Her jade eyes widened, not wanting to believe his actions, wondering why Naruto wasn't moving to protect himself, too stunned by this reunion and change in Sasuke that she wasn't reacting like she wanted to.

"Sasuke-kun!"

Sai was there before she could blink, blocking off Sasuke's attack, the Uchiha's smooth baritone breaking through the sounds of footwear sliding against stone.

"Your choice of defense…Quite correct…"

Naruto spun in his hold and Sasuke stayed calm in the struggle, Yamato's hands came together to call upon his Mokuton Jutsu, Sharingan already spinning with strategy.

"Chidori Nagashi!"

Sakura felt the electricity in the air as flying, blue bolts encompassed the Avenger, the attack throwing Sai and Naruto away and stopping Yamato's offensive. Although the Jutsu had not been directed at the kunoichi, Sakura could still feel the static; the concentrated bolts still whizzed against her skin and caused her to take a few steps back. It hadn't been painful but startling, too fast a touch to really comprehend, but the warmth of the brief contact remained and Sakura's heart cracked when she realized that warmth was far from friendly.

As her eyes narrowed, Sasuke standing meters away, open for her attack, her resolve solidified as chakra poured dangerously into her right hand. So she ran towards him, cranking her right hand back, her chest clenching when he only stared at her without any emotion, a shadow of the boy she once knew, but she hoped against hope that he was only buried beneath the anger, waiting to be freed.

'Sasuke-kun…I'm going to stop you with my own power!"

She saw the blade swerve towards her; she despised Yamato in that moment for getting in her way. So many things could have gone differently and Sakura wanted so badly to have made a difference. After she watched Sasuke, Kabuto, and Orochimaru disappear in ephemeral flames and wisps of smoke her fists had clenched and her tears had fallen again. He was becoming harder and harder to reach, farther and farther from her grasp. She wished she could touch something, seize anything in her hold so she would have a fighting chance at pulling him back.

"Crying isn't going to bring Sasuke-kun back, you know!" She knew Naruto was kneeled behind her, his anger and sadness was palpable, but the words were mostly for herself as she felt the wetness trail her cheeks, "I'm here too! We'll both get stronger, together!"

"There's almost another half year left…" Sai added, "And three's better than two, obviously…Besides, I'm pretty strong myself, you know."

Naruto laughed softly, "Thanks a lot, guys."

Sakura wiped away her tears and smiled. Maybe they had a fighting chance after all.

...

vii. painful

"Sasuke-kun!"

He was right across the bridge, just a leap away from her reach, his left hand bordered in blue, jade eyes easily recognizing the Chidori. His dark eyes gazed at her, bottomless, hard, and so dark, left eye bleeding along his cheek.

"…Sakura."

She was slightly surprised that he would acknowledge her, maybe a little surprised that he would remember and say her name so easily. It gave her hope, something to hold onto despite all the chaos and anger he had stirred up among the Five Great Shinobi Countries. She hoped he wasn't entirely lost, that she would have no reason to go through with her initial plan.

One step forward changed everything for her. He was different, his chakra was suffocating and even more repelling than the darkness she had felt in previous encounters; he was consumed entirely by hatred, discerned by the one look he had thrown at her with her single step.

'He's…like a different person…Is this really Sasuke?'

"What do you want with me?"

Sakura straightened her posture, firm and resolute, "Sasuke-kun! I will follow you! I'll leave Konoha!"

He was silent at first and Sakura took that as an opportunity to leap across the gap of the bridge, closing distance and gaining reach.

"You wouldn't gain anything by following me…" He stated simply, though his dark orbs narrowed suspiciously on her, "What are you plotting?"

"I'm not plotting anything…!" She lied instantly, mind whirring with possible responses, "It's just…I've always regretted not going with you when you left Konoha!" She stepped forward once, still cautious but pleading her case all the same, "I'll do whatever you want me to do…I don't want to have anymore regrets…"

Sasuke's obsidian orbs narrowed further, "Do you know…what I want?"

"It doesn't matter!" Sakura argued, "I'll do whatever you say–"

"I want to destroy Konoha," He answered bluntly, interrupting her, her eyes widening at his words, "That's what I want…"

Sakura's hope was snuffed out. Her heart broke, because the Sasuke standing before her was not the Uchiha Sasuke she remembered; Sasuke was no longer within her reach. Now…now she had a job to do.

"…Would you really betray Konoha for me?" Sasuke inquired, testing her, she was sure.

"…Yes…" She answered, fists clenching at her sides, "If…you say so…"

"Then…you'll have to prove it…" He responded, right hand resting on his hip while the left pointed at the injured woman at his feet, "If you kill her…I'll let you come with me…"

Pain coursed through her body, pain with the knowledge that Sasuke would willingly allow a life to be taken, a death to be made, at the cost of her loyalty. This was not Sasuke.

No, perhaps this was Uchiha Sasuke. She watched as his eyes narrowed critically on her and she found her resolve, removing the kunai and walking towards the fallen woman.

If he wasn't the Sasuke she knew, then she would show him that she wasn't the Sakura he remembered either…

"Who is she…?" She murmured, slowly stepping towards them.

"One of the members of my team, Taka," He answered, "As you can see, she's no use to me now…Sakura…you are a healer, right? You'll make a good replacement for her…"

A team member? He'd rather hurt someone of his own team than save them?

Her brows furrowed, 'This…definitely isn't the old Sasuke-kun…He's changed…'

She stepped up to the dying woman, absently wondering what else she was to Sasuke, knowing her morals that she had no right to take this woman's life. She was a Healer, instincts told her to save this woman. Looking down at the red-headed female, Sakura stayed her kunai, mind turning over every angle with various tactics.

"What's wrong?" Sasuke asked, a hint of mocking in his tone, "Sakura…Can't you do it…?"

"She…has nothing to do with this…" Sakura reasoned, "…If I…If I…"

'If I…kill Sasuke-kun now…everything will be over…!'

She closed her eyes. The decisions were overwhelming. Her Sasuke – she wanted him back, she wanted to hold onto the hope that he could come back. But this Sasuke – he was dangerous, he was cruel, and he scared her.

"…Stop. Sasuke…" The woman below her whispered.

Sakura turned, everything moved in slow motion, she could see the blinding, bright blue light of the Chidori heading for her, but her jade eyes slid past that, past his dangerous, electrified hand to the angry black eyes looking at her, and she wished she was five-years old again, staring at the kind kid who came up to her to introduce himself.

She wished.

She wanted to erase his anger, his pain, his sadness, his hate…

When Kakashi came to her rescue, everything afterward was a blur. Her silver-headed sensei wanted to release her burden but it wasn't as easy as saying it to take it away. She knew she needed to do something, even as she used her chakra to heal the woman that was once his teammate the tears fell down her cheeks, unstoppable and never-ending. The boy she always looked up to, admired, cared for, and loved was no more. His darkness had consumed him and she didn't know what to make of it.

Most of all, she didn't know if there was anything she could do to help him.

Helpless. Weak. Her touch would not reach him. Maybe the Forest of Death was only a one-time miracle, maybe that event made her think she had a power over him that no one else had, but so far her attempts were in vain, and she was useless.

'I have to be prepared! I will kill Sasuke-kun!'

So she hopped the safety of the bridge, giving one last hopeful try, to make a difference, to lift the burden from everyone. But then, as she stood behind Sasuke, her poisoned kunai just inches from piercing skin and ending it once and for all, Sakura realized…

She realized that she hadn't hopped the bridge to make a difference or to try one last time to see if she could break through Sasuke's barriers…

'…I thought…I could do it…'

Instead, she realized that she hopped the bridge to figure out for herself how she felt about Uchiha Sasuke, no matter what or who he turned out to be. And because she couldn't pierce him, couldn't incapacitate or kill him, Sakura knew that no matter what he did or who he was…she would always love him.

So when he turned around and curled his fingers around her throat, lifting her a few inches off the ground, Sakura felt the pain and fear run through her veins, felt her heart begin to escalate as he took her kunai from her loosened grip to easily turn it on her.

"Stop! Sasuke!"

And as that kunai descended towards her, her body struggling to breathe, Sakura knew that no matter the outcome she would still love Sasuke. If she died, even by his hand at least she was able to see him again, wishing that hand was curled around her own in an introductory shake. When his kunai hit her flesh she would wish of the time when he taught her how to efficiently train with those simple, projectile weapons. She would leave with the good memories, because they were the memories she would rather take with her and treasure.

Some people would call her crazy for loving and caring for such a dark soul, but they didn't know him like she did, they couldn't look back and remember his tiny smile and high-pitched voice, the mere innocence he held when he was just a child before he had been robbed of all he loved and held dear. She cherished that boy because she knew him and she wanted him to be saved. So if she died, she would rather remember his innocence than the darkened shadow of a boy that now morphed and consumed him.

But if she lived; if she lived she wouldn't forget. She would love Uchiha Sasuke but there would be a chasm between them forever. Instead of reaching for him, reaching all the way to pull him back, the only way she would truly forgive him is if he finally, finally reached back, because then he would be acknowledging her presence, seeing her love, wanting her touch, reaching for her help.

So, with her eyes closed, waiting for fate to make its decision, she felt warm arms wrap around her body, air breathed back into her lungs, and she opened her eyes to gaze wonderingly at blonde and shining sapphire.

Maybe, just maybe, fate had something in store for her future…Maybe Sasuke could one day reach back.

...

vii. imaginary

Sakura stood uncertainly, away from the crowds of the Northern Gates, her right hand grasping her left elbow to prevent needless fidgeting as emerald eyes hurriedly scanned for brilliant blonde among the throng of curious shinobi and civilians. She kept telling herself that she wasn't bitter, that she had even been a little relived when Naruto, Sai, and Kakashi had left without her on another rescue attempt mission for Uchiha Sasuke. As much as a part of her wanted to go, she knew she wasn't ready, and she knew that she was needed at the Village to help with the growing wounded count Uchiha Madara's Ninja World War had brought.

It hadn't even been an official rescue mission, she reminded herself, it had been one to stop Madara that turned into a rescue when Uchiha Sasuke unexpectedly switched to their side and aided in the older Uchiha's defeat. When she had gotten a message from Tsunade that Sasuke was willingly returning to Konoha – at the cost of the Council Elders' trial for their involvement in the Uchiha Massacre – Sakura's heart had flown from the ashes of dying hope while her mind had been thrown into chaos.

Fate from that day – the day Sasuke had intentionally tried to kill her – was giving her a second chance, giving all of them a second chance, but she was unsure of how to go about it. Yes, she was happy, excited, overjoyed, encouraged, but she had already given so much, she wasn't sure if she could keep on giving without getting at least something in return; she didn't want to tolerate unfairness, she couldn't stand a one-sided give and take.

"Sakura-chan!" Naruto shouted exuberantly as the crowds parted and he hurried towards her, three figures, all worn-out and injured, slowly following him.

She kept her eyes entirely on Naruto. She was still scarred by the day Sasuke tried to kill her; she wasn't ready to face him, not yet.

But before she could turn away and calmly walk back the way she came, two arms had already wound around Sakura into a tight hug, her eyes landing on dark obsidian, over the broad shoulder her chin was resting on.

"I did it, Sakura-chan," Naruto whispered as he squeezed her tighter, and she immediately looked away from those onyx eyes and towards the floor, too frozen to respond to the hug or even speak, "I kept my promise to you, I brought Sasuke back. Are…Are you happy, Sakura-chan? Please tell me you are."

Tears were coming unbidden to her eyes as she listened to Naruto's deep, hopeful baritone, and she buried her face in his collarbone as she nodded her head, tears falling, words spilling from her lips for her blonde best friend, "I'm happy, Naruto…You didn't have to keep your promise, I told you that you didn't have to…But thank you," She sniffled and finally wound her arms around his torso, "You did it, Naruto."

"Not without your help, Sakura-chan," Naruto replied as he pulled back and looked at her tear-stained face, gently wiping the wetness away.

"I-I didn't do anything," The Medic retorted, if not a bit sadly as she grabbed his hand, keeping her focus entirely on his sapphire-blue.

"Yes, you did," Naruto assured with a wide grin, his hand ran affectionately through her pink tresses, "…You believed in me."

And Sakura's tears returned as she buried her face in his broad chest, trying so hard not to sob loudly, even when Kakashi's composed presence approached and began to ruffle her hair lightly, leaving Sakura to pull away from Naruto and hug her silver-headed sensei, relieved to see him alive and without any life-threatening injuries. Sai was next, though the hug they shared was briefer as he began to question her physical gestures, but Naruto waved him off before hanging his arm over Sakura's shoulders and began to eagerly pull her along.

"I'm sure you want to see the bastard," He crowed, not noticing her stiffening posture.

"Naruto–"

"Sasuke-teme! Say hey to Sakura-chan!"

Sakura kept her gaze to the side and downward, even when she and Naruto stopped walking and a pair of black, shinobi-sandal feet came into her vision across from her. Just shy of eighteen years old and Sakura felt like an Academy Student being introduced to another classmate. She bit her lower lip uncertainly as her eyes refused to lift in acknowledgment, her hands clasping together in front of her, Naruto unaware of her discomfort as he began to retell their battle against Uchiha Madara animatedly.

"…Sakura."

His voice still did things to her that she was beginning to despise. Her eyes had snapped up at his soft greeting, staring into bottomless obsidian, various cuts and bruises littering his face and neck, hair in disarray. His expression remained stoic but his eyes were looking at her in a way that she didn't think they ever would again; those eyes recognized her and what's more was that they lacked malice and anger and Sakura was overcome with the powerful urges to fall into his arms and run away as far as she could.

Her fingers tingled with the remembrance of their first handshake. Her throat itched with the memory of his last attack.

"I-I…" Sakura began as she took a step back and hurriedly removed the arm Naruto still had around her shoulders, eyes still locked on Sasuke's, a light in them she couldn't believe she was seeing – a light she felt like she might be imagining, "I need to go."

"Sakura-chan?"

The kunoichi looked to the floor and took another step back, "W-Welcome back."

And she turned on her heel swiftly – ignoring the concerned glances from her other teammates and Naruto's worried call – and walked away without another look back.

...

viii. reluctant

It may have only been hours since his return to Konohagakure no Sato, but hours still wasn't enough for Sakura to adjust. Unfortunately, Sasuke had sustained a few injuries that would cause him major pain if it wasn't healed quickly and since Tsunade was not aware of Sakura's inner turmoil – because the kunoichi refused to voice her personal, trivial problems aloud – the Hokage had assigned the pink-haired Medic to her former teammate, honestly believing that Sakura would like to spend more time with Sasuke due to his anticipated return home.

How far from the truth her Shishou was.

"I can't do this," Sakura sighed as she stood outside Sasuke's Hospital room, one hand on the handle, standing in indecision for the past ten minutes, "…I can't."

Her brows furrowed, a frown gracing her lips as her grip on the door handle tightened. She wasn't weak. She just had to see him as another patient. In and out, it was as simple as that.

Hardening her resolve, Sakura twisted the handle and pushed the door open, her features shifting into true professionalism of her field as she walked into the room and picked up the clipboard at the end of the bed, jade eyes ignoring the form silently sitting there.

"Broken ribs, dislocated shoulder, burned left arm due to excessive use of the Chidori," Sakura listed off in a soft mutter, already thinking about how she was going to go about her healing; she looked up, "Alright–"

She stopped, jade eyes silently taking in the man before her, asleep and considerably exhausted if he was able to slumber in such an uncomfortable, sitting position. Her arm carrying the clipboard fell limply to her side as she studied this unguarded man before her, not sure if she should be frowning with concern for his injuries or smiling with affection with the ease he had sleeping in her presence.

She settled with frowning.

Walking up to the side of the bed, placing the clipboard on the side table, Sakura inwardly debated whether or not to just begin healing him, even in his sleep, but with injuries like his, he was bound to wake up at the slightest of her touches.

Shaking her head, her mind berating her – just get it over with already! – Sakura allowed her right hand to become encased with glowing, green chakra, reaching out to touch skin that she hadn't touched in years.

His eyes opened, she froze just centimeters above his ribs, and they stared at each other in complete silence.

"Sakura."

She flinched as his voice cut through the quiet, her hand pulling back a fraction.

He frowned, "What's the matter with you?"

Even after years apart from each other Sakura could still easily read his apathetic tones, could hear the hidden, 'Why are you acting like this?' especially after her strange behavior just hours before, walking away abruptly like she did.

She couldn't do this.

Sasuke moved, simply to adjust his position, grunting as his ribs throbbed, but he shifted in a way that allowed her better access for her healing.

However, his movements had a different affect on Sakura. She had startled, moved back a step, hand that was already outstretched unconsciously reaching up to her neck as if to protect herself from an unexpected attack.

Sasuke, who had stopped shifting when Sakura had jolted, had seen the entire display of defense, recognized the brief flash of fear that crossed her expression when he had moved, had seen her hand reach for her neck out of safety. He frowned.

Eyes wide, Sakura quickly snatched her hand away from her throat – criticizing herself for giving away her uneasiness in his presence – and took another step back.

Sasuke's hand curled over his bed sheets, frown still in place, dark eyes sliding towards her, away from the glare he had given the floor – and she instantly told herself she wasn't seeing regret in his eyes, "Sakur–"

"Shizune-san will heal you," Sakura interrupted quickly, "I just remembered, I have something else to do."

"Sakura!"

But the door was already closing behind her, leaving Sasuke alone in his room.


A/N: So yeah, another Story Idea, but don't worry it's not going to be long, just a angsty/dramatic/fluffy/romantic Two-Shot, or Three-Shot if it ends up a little longer than I anticipated. So, please tell me what you think? Like? Don't like? Hmm, just a little ficlet that popped into my head a few weeks ago, please tell me what you think, feedback helps! Also, this ficlet will have Mature Content, a sexual scene, and I think it'll be good that I have some practice with it before I utilize it in Forbidden Bonds and Vengeance and possibly False Facade...I think now that I'm getting a little older, I want to do more Mature stories, I don't know. The Curse might have some Lime...heehee.

Disclaimer: Naruto and Company do not belong to me...

Next Chapter: Road of Touch - Part 2 (Update: 5-7 Days)

AND! How would you guys feel about a companion piece to this Fiction in Sasuke's POV called The Road to Feel? Let me know, yeah?

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Len83
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Luvinukag83