A/N: Well here you are folks, another one-shot. I've been a little busy with the School Certificate exam in a few weeks, and I've also been working on a Kaka/Saku long(ish) fic, but I couldn't get this out of my head.
Anyway. Here you guys go!
After years of pursuit, it finally comes to an end.
To Naruto, the success of the hundredth attempt at bringing Sasuke back is beautiful. The taste of victory is everywhere, and he cannot fight the jubilant grin on his face. He feels as though he has regained his brother - and that everything will go back to normal. Team 7 will be complete once more.
Sakura is not as naive. She knows that when he comes back with Naruto, he will be put to death.
The fight was shockingly short - Sasuke gave up after mere seconds, a fact that astounded Kakashi and herself. Naruto was too overcome with joy to see, but she and her former sensei knew there was something wrong. Sasuke would never allow himself to be defeated so easily.
She told herself six years ago to give up on waiting for him. Gone was the stupid, innocent, easily hurt little girl, and in her place stood fire country's best medic. She told herself when Tsunade had briefed her on the capture of the rogue Uchiha, she would not cry when they executed him. She would stand there, and watch with fierce eyes that burned with justice.
He deserved it. After leaving Konoha, slaughtering thousands, joining the Akatsuki, and plotting to destroy the village.
There will be no trial. Nothing to say in the defence of the last Uchiha, who had selfishly abandoned his village for his own revenge. Tsunade had asked her quietly if she wished to see him, one last time before he was eliminated, but she had blatantly refused. There was no use - she has millions of things to say to him, some ridiculously sappy, and some too harsh to hear, but all in all, she doesn't want to hear what he will say. She wants to remember the last few words he spoke to her before he left. Not the conceited speech she is sure he will give her. Maybe she is simply afraid he will not say anything to her at all. But either way, she will not face the Uchiha until he is tied to a wooden post, a katana at his heart.
Days pass, and Sasuke is kept hostage. She hears whispers from the shinobi who guard him that he makes no attempt to escape, simply stares idly, lost in thought. They say that he is unperturbed by the idea of death, as though it is something he has embraced for a long time now. Sakura is unsure what to think, and settles by not thinking at all.
When Naruto finally finds out, she almost loses her resolve right there. The pain that tears him echoes within herself, but she is stronger. She remains impassive, and is proud that she is able to do so. Naruto denies it at first, and then begins a screaming rage, trashing Tsunade's office. The room is in ruins, and Tsunade just stands there, watching him with pitied eyes. She makes no move to stop him, and that is what angers him more. He hates her for letting him trash the office, and hates the village, the elders for supporting the execution. He almost thinks he hates Sakura, because she has not objected at all.
He runs to her the night before the execution. When she opens the door to her apartment, she can see his eyes are bloodshot, and there is a defeated look in his blue irises. He stares at her with desperation, and suddenly, he is a child again. He doesn't understand, and is hurt by everything that has happened. She almost says that the worst has not happened yet, but she knows he will not be able to cope with such finality. Without a greeting, he walks into her living room, and sits himself down, cross legged on the couch.
It's almost been an hour since he came, yet neither of them speak. It seems that whatever the other has to say has been drowned, and they both struggle to break the tension.
It is Naruto who speaks first. "You know, he hates that you didn't come to see him." he remarks indifferently, not moving from his spot on the couch. "He thought that you of all people would be the first to find him."
"I don't want to see him. I have nothing to say." she replies, with the same tone of apathy that she uses whenever the topic of the condemned Uchiha comes up.
Naruto turns to her then, eyes filled with sadness and distress. "He was our brother Sakura-chan." He is hurt by her words. "Never forget that."
"A brother would not turn his back on us."
Silence falls again, and they sit together on that couch, shoulder to shoulder, arms intertwined.
"Do you remember, Sakura-chan? That promise I made you the first time we went to look for him?" Naruto asks her quietly.
"...Of course I remember. You promised me that you would bring him back, no matter what it takes."
"I guess... I guess it looks like I finally made good on that promise, didn't I?"
And she can do nothing but hold him fiercely when he breaks down again in her arms.
At dawn, the villagers assemble in a clearing. There is one wooden post, and the villagers give it a wide berth surrounding it. They all wait for him to brought out, and the early morning sun casts shadows on all who stand there. There are some who are jubilant and relieved, others who see the tragedy. They are the ones who knew him as a child. The shinobi who grew up with him, passed the same exams, took the same missions, they all watch with sad eyes. This was the execution of a traitor to the people of the village, but in their eyes, it is a death of a comrade.
At long last, he is escorted out. Two ANBU walk in front of him, holding a rope tether that binds his hands together. Two more ANBU walk behind him, each holding a katana to his back. Their pace is efficient, but silent, and it is not long before they reach the post, and tie the traitor's hands behind him with the same rope that brought him there. The Godaime marches with the air of authority around her, commanding respect from the spectators. She stands before him, and her eyes are cool and unsympathetic. There are more black ops hidden throughout the clearing, because they know that should the last Uchiha attempt to escape, he will not be stopped easily.
Naruto stands by Kakashi, hands trembling, eyes infuriated. This is wrong somehow, he knows. Sasuke could not die, anymore than Sakura, Kakashi, or he himself could die. They are a team. What was supposed to happen now, now that a bond would be severed? How can a tower support itself with only three pillars? Sasuke cannot be replaced. It is not a matter of the ability - there are plenty of shinobi who can fill his position. It is the fact that none of them will ever share the same bond. Growing up with a harsh past, fighting to be better than the other, and then going their separate ways. He and Sasuke have finally caught up to be on the same level .There is no more fighting for supremacy. After saving the village from Pein, he finds they can finally be equals.
He is not surprised to find a part of him praying that he will somehow escape, so they can continue looking for him. Anything to stops this finality. Anything to keep Sasuke alive.
Kakashi watches his lost student with a single, solemn eye. Those who look upon him cannot tell, but his heart wrenches with guilt and disappointment. This is not the first time he has lost a comrade, the deaths of his team mates, and his sensei. Now it is the fall of his student, and he fights the inner battle inside him, screaming to run and protect his pupil, like a father would protect his son from being hurt. He wants nothing more than to turn back time. So many things he would change, so many unnecessary deaths would be prevented. And the worst part is he knows all of it, is his fault.
Kakashi cries out for his lost student under his calm mask. While some say he is lazy, and has no regard for anything, Kakashi knows he is the epitome figure of failure.
Sakura waits patiently, knowing the inevitable is about to happen. She cannot stop them, and she tells herself she doesn't want to stop them. There is no point waiting for something that will never happen. She may have loved him, but now it was time to move on. She tells herself that peace will be achieved with his death. The village will be safe, the bonds between other villages will be strengthened. She tries harder with every passing second to forget that she will lose a part of her, and convinces herself, again and again that it is for the best. And when that figure of doubt creeps up behind her, she convinces herself over and over, until it is the only thing she believes.
The ANBU guards take their place, two behind, and two in front of the wooden post, ready for his resistance. A single guard walks forward with a red spiral mask, and a long, gleaming katana in one hand. She steps in front of Sasuke, the sword situated above his steady beating heart. Another guard walks behind the other, and stands a few meters away from Sasuke. This one hold a scroll instead of a sword. He opens it, and begins to read.
"Uchiha Sasuke, you have been apprehended and charged for defecting the village of Konoha, the murder of countless humans, civilians and ninja alike, contact with the illegal organisation of Akatsuki, conspiracy to destroy the village of Konoha, Leading a rogue shinobi group..." he trailed on, the list of offences growing with every syllable. Sakura refuses to listen to all the atrocities that he has committed since he left them. She cannot stop staring at him, and wondering why he looks so calm.
It didn't make sense. He didn't even fight back, even from the beginning.
The speech is ended, and the other guard rolls up the scroll, and walks away to guard the rest. The ANBU guard with the katana waits expectantly for the signal from the Hokage.
Eyes are drawn to Tsunade, and it will happen any second now. One word, and his life would be taken away. One breath. One whisper.
One last order-
"Execute." There is no emotion in her voice.
The katana is plunged into his chest with a single clean swipe, and his agonised cry echoes over the silent crowd that came to witness the death of the traitor.
She watches unflinchingly as the metal pierces his chest. She repeats the same mantra until she believes herself; He is a criminal. He betrayed the village. He broke her heart. With her silent chant, her resolve grows stronger, and she finds she can look him in the eye. She wants to see the light leave his face. She needs to know that after everything she had been through with him, after all the dreams, the plans that she made, this was the price she must pay for believing in him.
He looks up then, finding her eyes in a sea of millions. He hold her gaze for a moment, and smiles with the famous arrogance she remembers when they were twelve.
"No! Don't go! If you leave, I'll - I'll scream!" she cries desperately, tears running down her porcelain face.
He suddenly appears behind her, and she freezes, but her tears do not.
He moves closer as he whispers his last words to her.
She does not allow herself to feel pain at her loss. She would not weep in front of him, even if these are last few seconds, the last few breaths. Their eyes are a silent battle, an inaudible cry of desperation. If she will not say it, her eyes scream it. If he will not hear it, his eyes will listen.
As she watches his blood slowly seep down a chiselled chest, she opens her mouth to speak.
"This could've been different." she utters coldly. She swallows back every other thing her heart is straining to say. I love you... I missed you... I wish we could start over. Words like these will not do her justice.
She is too far to hear, but knows the last words he spills from his lips are for her.
"...Could've...could've been..." his lips twitch, and he laughs softly, once, before choking on his blood.
They watch each other until the end, and he knows that he has hurt her. Strangely, all he can do is smirk at the irony of it all - how that little, easily swayed kunoichi, who once professed her love for him, now watches him with cold, indifferent eyes. She had changed, and so had he over time. Gone were those normal days that they spent together with Naruto, gone was the idea of friendship. Now she watches him as his heart beat its last beats, and she doesn't shed a single tear.
Sasuke knows then that she has grown up, even if she refuses to acknowledge that she hasn't, and will not move on.
As death comes closer, he is not afraid, and welcomes it with open arms. What else was there, after all? Itachi was dead, even if he died wrongly. There was no more. No more dreams to fulfil. He was tired of everything.
He thought that maybe coming back would fix things. After all that they had been through as a team, and the countless attempts to bring him back, he thought that he could go back that feeling of being together, for no other reason but friendship. Family. What was family?
He watches Sakura again, sees her cold face, and laughs again. True, he had been hoping to be allowed to live when he came back. But now, tied to a wooden post, and feeling his lifeblood drain from him, he realises.
There is no place else I'd rather be.
Finally, it has ended. His heart stops beating, his lungs take their final breath. As his eyes slip from hers, he is quiet as he passes. His body relaxes against the wooden post. His head falls forward.
As if on cue, it starts to rain, and for a second all is still. Then the villagers disperse slowly, as though aged and wearied by the execution. The only ones left are those who were close to him once, if that were a fitting word. Naruto sinks to the ground wretchedly, his cries audible to all that stand there. Kakashi stands by Naruto, and Sakura swears she can see tears running down his single eye, spreading out into his mask. The rest of the rookie nine are silent. They say nothing, because there is nothing to say. They just stand, and watch...and remember.
Despite it all, Sakura's eyes do their own raining. Her face is hot, her lips tremble, and she shrugs off the comforting hands of her loved ones. No, she will not be comforted. She will feel every ounce of the agony that rips her. She needs this.
"Stupid bastard." she curses bitterly, and she stares at that beautiful face, still holding that ghost of a smile.
Of all things that she is feeling now, the thing she hates most is that she broke her promise.
Yay! I hope you all liked it. ^^ I reply to all reviews so, mm. :D PWEESE!