So I should be updating this other story I've got going on. But I'm not. At least, not now. I will at some point later down the road. This, however, is my goodbye-for-awhile salute. I am off to have big adventures. And, dude, I kill people down there. Which I hardly ever do. Watch out.

and all the earth shall tremble

There is a sword in Sakura's stomach.

She looks at the cool, sharp metal - bright silver, with flecks and spots and lazy streams of red that are unreasonable pretty, dancing, in the clear light of noon. She is reminded of the brook back home, where the water laughs and the sunlight sparkles, where she was happy and she was young and her toes squished merrily in the cool thick mud. Funny, how the bubble of fond memory makes her want to smile. Funny, how that same warm bubble can't seem to make it past the wicked steel that enters her belly about two inches above her navel, where it is stopped and crowded back, blocked and cornered and this sword will kill her. Kill her. It will kill her. The bubble bursts.

A metaphorical ton of bricks hits her and she knows she is going to die.

She looks up from the macabre sight of her own pierced belly, bile hot in her throat and tears stinging in her eyes. A silent scream echoes in her ears, and her brain hurts with the force of her terror.

Sasuke stares back at her, as blank as a cloudless summer sky.

His hands are fisted around the hilt of the sword, and he doesn't seem to mind that he's as good as killed Sakura. His hands are fisted around the hilt of the sword and Sakura hates him for it.

The first words she spits up – and, oh oh oh oh, she really does spit it up, all mixed up with pink bubbles popping red – reaches the air before her mind has processed it. But she hears her own voice, mean and wet, shaky and dying, say "Bastard."

Sakura makes excuses for Sasuke, Ino says.

But Ino says a lot of things, Sakura knows, and so she sits back and arches her foot until the wet shine of her red toe-polish hits the light. "You missed a spot," she says with a point. Ino's tirade is effectively cut short, and she attacks Sakura's foot with a frustrated huff.

Sakura wiggles her toes and Ino slaps her. Sakura laughingly teases Ino and her ever-reddening neck about how tall Shikamaru has gotten, how very devastatingly handsome.

Later, as they trade the polish for chocolate, Ino, still flushed and smiling in that lazy, content way says, "I'm serious, Sakura. The kid's crazy. And you still try to make him sound like something more than a blood-thirsty nut."

Ino is not stupid. She is not cruel, either. She sees the tightening of the edges of Sakura's smile, the veil that falls behind her eyes; she knows that she's hit that deep, hidden bundle of nerves that Sakura tucks away behind ever thickening lies. She knows that this is betrayal, that this is hurtful. But she also knows that Sakura needs to hear it.

Not looking at Ino, Sakura laughs – a huff a breath out her nose, an obligatory pulling up the corners of her mouth. Her eyebrows knit and then relax; her mouth opens then closes. Finally, she looks at Ino, sheepish and apologetic, broken on the inside but held together with denial and practiced ignorance and great globs and sloppy hope.

"Yeah. Yeah. I know. But – But Ino… Damn it if I can stop."

And because this is chocolate gossip giggling girl's night, Ino lets it go with a playful eye-roll.

But she sees the future in the bone-deep weariness echoing from Sakura's laugh.

And Sakura is laughing – laughing laughing laughing, even though it's more a continues, wheezing cough – laughing until the black bubbles crowd over her vision. There is a wet heaviness to her breath, and she can feel the fluid in her lungs, the blood dribbling down her chin, the leaden weight of her limbs. Everything hurts, everything aches, everything is wrong and she is going to die today. But there is a sword in her stomach and she is not even shocked, not really, not honestly, and she knew. She's always known. Forever and ever, starting way back when, with his eyes red and swirling scary, dark hate from the inside leaking out like blood – she knew then and it is damn hilarious now.

Who'd have guess Sasuke would be the one to kill her?

Sakura. Sakura would have guessed.

"It's my birthday," she says, finally. Sasuke's still standing there, at the not-business side of the sword. He hasn't moved since he skewered her into the tree that sits solid and still at her back, rough bark digging into her skin but pain doesn't really matter anymore, does it? He hasn't moved and he hasn't said a word, and he is terrifying and intimidating but there is a wild bravery that comes along with knowing the worst has been done.

"Happy birthday to me." Her words are slurred and messy, gross and sticky but lilting at the end in a sick imitation of song. She spits up blood so she doesn't have to swallow it. She's gathering chakra and she can see in his eyes that he knows it but they both know it will do no good. How many second before bird-calls and screams fill the air?

No way to tell. Sakura picks her words with the consideration that each could be her last. The smile she forces is poison sweet and she hopes he understands the dark cloud of devastating betrayal that is eating her up with every second that passes. She hopes he knows she hates him. She hopes he knows she loves him, still. "Death is not a good birthday present, Sasuke-kun." She tuts, reaches down to tap the metal that pokes right through her (and she feels it, God, she feels the little echoing vibrations running through the metal and right into her, sending little quivers dancing through her innards and she needs to stop thinking about it right now. Can you vomit with your stomach pierced?).

"Not good at all." Her words come out too thin and too weak. Little girl fairy princess, dying dying dying.

Bastard Sasuke is still immobile. Still blank. Still holding that hilt and she is going to die, doesn't he understand?

He doesn't. He doesn't at all. There is a hard, hot band winding itself around Sakura's chest, squeezing tight and she cannot breathe but the urge to laugh is back. There are tears dribbling down the front of her shirt before she realizes she is crying. Stupid, silly girl.

"I told Ino she was wrong." She remembers her painted toes and Ino's sad smile. Sasuke is still there, beautiful in a way that breaks her aching heart and foreign in a way that sends fear to dance under her skin. Even now, she wants to believe the murmur that echoes out from where her memories of blinding brightness are stored. "I told her you could be ok. I told her that – I told her that you were lost, but you weren't gone, never gone…"

Fingers slipping against the syrup wet of the blade, she braces herself. It would not do to start sobbing. Images of shredding innards fill the spaces not full of pain and devastation and she bites her lips hard enough to draw more blood. She moves carefully, so as to not disturb the tangled, shredded mass that thrums weakly against her ribs. There is a heavy numbness in her skull, radiating out and into the tips of her fingers. Dying. This is what is feels like to die.

"I was never here," Sasuke says.



Sakura is silent, still. The tears have stopped tumbling over her chin, but her face is still mottled, puffy, wet. And then, again, quiet and unfocused and dazed and full of a devastating clairvoyance: "Oh."

She bites her mangled lip, and there is a new desperation – this one more steady, insistent, not a thing of spiking fear but of slow-boiled horror. (She always knew it would end like this.) Denial rushes up in her, a physical thing, tearing up everything not already destroyed, tainting her entire being dark and sick. She wants to die. She wants the world to stop. This is not how she wants it to be; this is not who she wants to be – how could he possibly do this to her? She cannot think but to say, "No."

And she wants to say it again. Again and again and again until it became true, more an order and less a prayer, no longer a final plea but a final command. She wants to, but there are years and tears and her own blood crowding her throat.

Sasuke's pretty perfect wonderful dark stained rotting from the inside out face is full of something like resignation. Sakura's heart putters in her chest, and her fingers are slipping shaky against bloody metal.

"Goodbye, Sakura," he says, quiet as the end of the world.

I'm not ready, she thinks. Just wait, she wants to beg.

Sasuke used to like tomatoes.

She remembers, in the crystal clear way that so often comes with that emotion closer to obsession than anything else. How many useless Sasuke-Facts will she forever have stored away in some special pocket of her mind? (He likes tomatoes; he does not like sweets; his left eyebrow comes down lower than his right when he glares; he smiled a half-smile when Kakashi-sensei called him one helluva ninja; his left index finger brushed her right ring finger on the fourth day of April.)

Too many; far too many.

But the tomatoes are a worthy fact to remember, one that she is not ashamed to keep cataloged. Because a Sasuke with an affinity for a type of fruit is a Sasuke with an affinity. With a like. With an emotion based on something other than fury or rage or boiling hate. If you can like a fruit, she whispered to the night air sometime in the long time he was just gone, you can like a person. People. The world.

Before he skewered her, Sakura had figured such an end was undeniable. The Sasuke who had looked at her from beneath the light of the midday sun was not glaring – his eyebrows were perfectly symmetrical. And the eyes beneath them – hard and black and deep pools of apathy – were not familiar.

She was pretty positive Sasuke didn't like tomatoes anymore.

And it feels like she's being sucked down a pinhole with a hook through her belly button. Beneath her hands, the steel shifts and pulls away. The world blurs dangerous bright and for a second she imagines that her guts are going to tumble out through the dangerous, dark hole that is suddenly there, right below her ribs, bleeding something ferocious but devoid of metal and hate and the apathy behind Sasuke's eyes. She stumbles forward for the loss of it, and she does not give herself time to think before the stumble turns into a surge forward. She focuses on the feel of jellied muscles and does not give herself a moment to be brave or cowardly of selfless or cruel.

Her blood-slippery fingers slide against the planes of his cheeks but she digs her nails in to hold tight. She calls the chakra that has been laying dormant and cradled in her bones; she calls and it answers, rushing up like lava, filling her and completing her and there are needles of light sewing up her insides, pulling back the frayed edges into something smooth and whole, and she will live to see another day. The power shift to channel to her fingers, and she is trying not to think but her brain is full of denial, of refusal, of a chant that says nononononononononono as the healing light becomes devastating.

Sasuke's eyes widen, and the light behind them (red-white-blue-green-black-gone) is Sakura's strength.