Disclaimer: Naruto isn't mine. Insert "duh" here. "My Skin" lyrics belong to Natalie Merchant. Also not me.

A/N: I know Kishi won't give this to us. It's not much anyway, but it won't happen in the manga. Maybe that's why I wanted to write it. It's incomplete, a mere glimpse of a possibility, and even if it had an ending, it probably wouldn't be happy. Nevertheless, if you like it, please review!


The Frost-Killing Hour

i'm a slow-dying flower in the frost-killing hour

the sweet turning sour and untouchable

The Fourth Ninja War raged all over the blood-drenched battleground, and Haruno Sakura ducked a stray kunai as she administered the most basic of first aid to a fallen shinobi. She didn't recognize the man; he wasn't from the Leaf, but given their new headbands, his origins remained a mystery. So did his survival, but she had no time to waste, and after she finished bandaging his wound, she rose and dove back into the chaos.

She had been in skirmishes before, yes, but never anything like this.

This was the breeding ground of nightmares.

Sakura stumbled over a corpse—she could not offer aid, not when the shinobi was missing his head—and as she regained her balance, she happened to glance up. And that was when she saw him.

His name fell from her tongue without her permission.

"Sasuke…"

The Uchiha was too far away to hear, and she had only seen him at all because the flaming figure of Naruto had caught her eye. The two rivals were sizing each other up, about to dive headlong into a devastating fight, and suddenly her legs were racing without her conscious permission as well. Long strides ate up the distance, and she didn't know why she was running, didn't know much of anything except the dissonant hum in her ears that had no origin on the battlefield. All she knew was there were things that must not be left unsaid.

"Naruto, wait!" she yelled, vaulting over an unsuspecting Zetsu and flinging out an arm to halt the Kyuubi's master in his tracks.

"Hey, Sakura, what—" Naruto began to protest, but he surprisingly swallowed his words when he saw her expression. Relaxing his stance and allowing the Kyuubi's flames to cool, he silently conceded her the opportunity.

She offered no verbal thanks, already refocusing on the long-lost Uchiha, who surveyed her coolly from twenty feet away. He did not speak, only fixing bloody Sharingan eyes on his former teammate.

Sakura returned his silent stare with dead eyes, as if the wind had swept her irises clean and left them cold and bare.

"Sasuke. I have news for you. It'll probably make you happy," she said.

He still refused to respond, but she saw one of his eyebrows arch at the promise in that statement.

She smiled faintly, or at least her lips somewhat curved.

"I don't love you."

His brow furrowed, and Naruto complained, "Eh, Sakura, what is this? This is no time to discuss romance!"

"Quiet," she reprimanded, not even turning round, never once breaking her hold on those Sharingan eyes.

Sasuke's lip curled now. "So you've fallen for the blond idiot?" he sneered.

"No," she corrected, softly and with agonizing slowness. "I'm in love with Uchiha Sasuke. And you…you're no longer him."

"What do you mean, I'm not Uchiha Sasuke?" he scoffed.

Her green eyes were unbearably sad, but distantly so, and for some reason, her lips seemed to be smiling again. "I always knew you had darkness within you. But I thought…I always thought that it was a one foot in each deal, that even if the darkness were tugging on your heels, at least you were striving to face the light…"

He watched her speak with unexpected intensity, as if he were a deaf man struggling to read her lips.

She shook her head, one loose motion. "But you've fallen, Sasuke. I don't recognize you anymore. You're…you've become this…this weak shell, this shameful parody of the man you once were. And that was the man I love. And you're not him."

His eyes narrowed, but it seemed as if the action were in thought, not in anger. As his black lashes shaded the scarlet of his irises, he almost seemed to have the dark eyes he'd always had before, but she knew that was just a trick of the light.

Sakura did smile now, but there was something terribly empty about it. "If by some miracle, we both survive this hell, and you ever return to the man you were, let me know. I might still be waiting for him to come home."

She turned on her heel, her chest hollow and her eyes bone-dry, when he called after her.

"Sakura."

The kunoichi paused but did not glance back over her shoulder. And his words, while quiet, arrived perfectly in her ears.

"You're annoying."

She only tilted her head back to look up at the tormented clouds, and a raindrop splashed on her cheek. It trickled down her face, leaving a shimmering trail behind, and it was so unfair that the first time she had stayed strong, the sky cried in her stead. She shut her eyes as the rain poured down and did not dare to think that his dismissal was, just maybe, an answer.

"I know."