The final chapter! Thank you to everyone who stuck with this story until the end!

Reviews are better than chocolate. And chocolate is better than life. You make the connection and do what you feel you must (which, if you're confused, is review)

-EM


"The true measure of a shinobi is not how he lives but how he dies.
It's not what they do in life, but what they did before dying that proves their worth..."

-Jiraiya

My Darkness: Chapter XXV

Shades of Sunrise

xx

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn't even matter

xx

If you had one more hour to spend with the person you loved, what would you do with it? What would you say? If you knew that all too soon a part of you was going to be torn away; ripped mercilessly from your heart and soul, what could you do to prepare yourself for such heartbreak?

"Sasuke..." It took a couple of seconds for her to think past the way he was paling before her eyes. Dying before her eyes. She smoothed away the tears, tried to wipe away the blood with trembling fingers. She leaned over him, hands glowing, feeling the damage with a sense of increasing helplessness that she didn't want because the odds didn't matter, not this time.

"Sakura. Stop." His heart shuddered beneath her hand; his insides were like jelly, broken and bleeding. "It's no use. Heal yourself. Heal Naruto."

He remembered what he'd thought of Naruto before; how much of a fool he thought he was because of his priorities in a battle. But now he knew how it felt; the overwhelming need to protect someone he cared about.

"When you love someone... you finally realize that there is something worse than dying... and that's having something happen to her."

He remembered Naruto's words, and he found them all too true at that moment. If someone he loved was in danger he would do anything to protect them. He would give his life to save them.

Sasuke tried to focus on her eyes, a beacon of emerald in an otherwise black and white picture. Her eyes were wide and shocked and scared. Emotions that he saw flicker over the faces of his enemies all to often before he killed them. But on Sakura they were caring. They were eyes that were scared for him. Eyes that cared about him. He was glad; after all, if no one cared about you, did you really exist?

"Sasuke." She whispered again, shaking her head over and over in disbelief. "Please don't-" Her voice was choked off by a sob and he realized that she was crying for him. Sakura was crying for him. It didn't seem real.

He convulsed, a great shudder running through him, and his heart skipped a beat. His eyes were closed and Sakura knew that he was just barely conscious. With another great heave that had her feeling lightheaded and her arms feeling weak, she sent in another burst of chakra.

"I love you." She whispered, "I love you and I will never forgive you if you leave me now. Never. I will be mad at you until the day I die."

Rain. Oh how ironic that it was raining.

It dripped, and made Sakura's hair cling to her face, made her clothes stick to her body. It washed away the blood, it trickled along the roof and pulled all of the lies away, leaving the unmistakable.

Sasuke was going to die.

Sakura caught his eyes, staring at him completely defeated. Sasuke stared right back, his dark orbs flickering faintly as a small smirk tugged at his lips.

"No," she whispered. She'd done everything she could, but it wasn't enough. It was never enough. "You can't die."

He looked at the dark sky looming above them, feeling only the rain on his face and the emotions that flooded through his chest, numbing the pain and leaving him with one thing. It was a feeling that he often felt with her... the feeling of being... human.

She was the one thing that had been right in his life; the one thing that hadn't been spoiled by politics or war. She was perfect. And now he had to leave her behind. The only thing that filled him now was the overwhelming sadness that leaving her would bring.

"Sakura..." He whispered, reaching a weak hand to her cheek, grimacing as his fingers left a smear of blood behind on her skin. Her own fingers found his, snagging them in a tight grip and holding them to her face.

She'd been healing him as much as she could... but Madara's attack had seared right through his body. There was nothing more she could do alone, and there was no one in sight.

"Please don't go." She murmured against his hand, pressing her lips to his palm. "Please stay."

It pained him to know that there was a very slim chance he'd be able to do what she wanted. He may have taken Orochimaru down, but Madara had done a number on him. "I can't."

"Yes you can." She blubbered, her eyes filling with tears and streaming down her cheeks. Sakura clutched his hand tighter, shaking her head as if the possibility of him leaving was unbearable.

"It's okay." He whispered, resting his hand on her neck. "It's okay." She shook her head some more; defiantly. How the hell was it going to be okay?

When his grip loosened, Sakura panicked, calling for Naruto and pressing her hands to Sasuke's chest in an effort to get him to come back. "Sasuke!"

"I'm here." He croaked, eyes barely staying open.

"Come on!" Sakura shouted, her hands glowing a soft green as she forced chakra through his body. "You are not going to leave me."

Naruto stood behind his best friend, watching Sakura give her best effort to revive him. But he could feel it; Sasuke was fading "Sakura..." Naruto began, resting a hand on her shoulder and trying to blink away the tears that he felt assaulting his eyes.

"Shut up!" She yelled, shaking his hand off and turning her attention back to the man before her. The man she loved. She loved him, dammit! Against all of her morals she loved him! He couldn't die on her! Not like this!

As she continued to pour more of her chakra into his body, her tears increased, her body shaking with tremors as she tried to focus through the pain. It couldn't end like this. Sasuke was better than that.

"No!" She yelled, determination pushing through her sobs. Though even as she spoke, her chakra was depleting to the point where she could no longer use it.

His lips were so white now, the color of death, the color that was making her head swim with the idea of Sasuke actually being dead. Dead because he protected her again.

Come away from him. That was what Naruto was asking. But she couldn't. She wouldn't. "Sasuke," she whispered. "Sasuke Uchiha..."

She froze. There. A movement so tiny it was hardly a movement at all. The flutter of an eyelash. She leaned forward and pressed her hand against the torn scarlet material over his chest, as if she could pour more chakra into him, though she knew her stores were beyond empty. But she felt it instead, it was beautiful and it was perfect. It was so wonderful that for a moment she didn't think it was real. Underneath her palm... the rhythm of his heart.

"Naruto," She whispered. "Naruto! Sai!" She said a bit louder, her body sagging slightly from exhaustion. "He's-" The tears started all over again. Ones of relief and joy and happiness. She was exhausted, numb, the world was blurry, her head was pounding in time to her pulse and Sasuke looked to be unconscious but he was alive! "Oh, God, he's alive."

Sakura pressed her forehead against his and let out a breath, unbelievably relieved that she hadn't just lost the only man she'd found herself able to love. Losing him once had been terrible, losing him for a second time had been gut wrenching, almost losing him for a third time would have done something unimaginable to her mind. Nothing would make sense anymore... after finding out that he had been on their side only to have him die in her arms, it wasn't something she even wanted to think about enduring.

"Sasuke." She whispered, her breath fanning out across his cheeks. His alive cheeks. The cheeks that held color, not the ominous threat of death. "Wake up." Sakura murmured, feeling like she was cooing to a child.

And he did. After a small grimace and painful blink, he realized where he was, who was hovering over him and what had just happened. He looked at Sakura with those eyes full of something that burned truer than anything she'd ever seen before. "Sakura."

Sakura nodded and smiled, running her hands over his cheeks. "Hi." She blubbered, tears still streaming down her face. When all else had fallen, her love still stood. And that love had been enough to push through her exhaustion; enough to save his life.

She kissed him then, without any regard for Naruto and Sai. She was too thankful that Sasuke was breathing, that he was alive and Madara had disappeared for the time being. He felt his soft fingers at the back of her neck and she smiled, still not believing that this was real.

"Madara." He said in a hoarse voice, looking around the roof, searching for the other Uchiha. "Was he killed?"

Sakura shook her head, taking a moment to try and wipe the tears away. "No, he disappeared."

Sasuke tried to sit up, but Sakura put a restraining hand on his shoulder. "Not yet, just take a minute to rest."

"Madara isn't resting."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "What are you going to do, Sasuke? Chase after him?"

"Yes."

"You almost died." She hissed. "Do you understand that?"

He sat up, this time grabbing her hand and pinning it to her side. It was amazing that he was even able to move, and he already wanted to chase after Madara. "If I don't find him, he'll just attack again."

"Sasuke, you can't." She whispered, shocked that he was even thinking about chasing after the man that nearly killed him. Then again, Sasuke had been low on chakra and was only hit because he was protecting her.

"He tried to kill you, Sakura. And my guess is he won't stop until he has. He's trying to hurt me, and I don't want him to succeed." He murmured in a voice so quiet she was sure no one else could hear. "I can't lose you." He released her hand and stood up, shaky on his feet, but standing.

Sakura stood up beside him, one hand on his arm just to make sure he wouldn't topple over. She couldn't imagine how weak he was feeling, and yet he was ready to start chasing after him.

"You won't stay, to heal before you go after him?" She whispered, holding more tightly to his arm.

He shook his head. "I can't stay in Konoha, Sakura."

She wanted to punch him again. He may have saved her life, but she'd just saved his, so that meant they were even. She could hit him, right?

"What?" Sakura said in a voice so small and weak that she wanted to smack herself. She knew that was possible. He'd betrayed them enough times... why would he be allowed to stay in the village again? But hearing him say it out loud made things more real. It made her realize that they really couldn't have a good solid future together.

What was the likelihood of him being allowed to live in the village again?

"What?" Came Naruto's louder, angry voice.

Sasuke's eyes landed on him. "I have to leave."

"Konoha is your home! Your family is here!" Naruto argued, taking a frustrated step forward.

"I have no family! Or have you forgotten that?"

"Family isn't always blood. It's the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are!"

Sasuke shook his head and ran a hand over his face. "Nothing you say is going to change my mind. I have to go after Madara. I have to protect the people left in my life."

"You'd be doing an excellent job protecting them here."

"Do you really think that the Council is just going to let me walk free after what I've done?"

Naruto saw the way Sakura was standing. She felt defeated and exhausted, yes, but hearing that Sasuke was just going to leave again made her feel like she had no fight left. That she wasn't worth anything if he found it so easy to leave her behind over and over again.

"If you tell them that you fought to defeat Orochimaru. That you tried to stop Madara from killing any more people, they would be more lenient."

"No." Sasuke said, his tone very final. "I have to go."

She dropped her hands to her side and nodded, barely even feeling the rain as it pounded down on them.

"If you go now, without anyone knowing what you've done to help," Sai began, "they'll send people after you."

Naruto nodded eagerly. Sasuke had to stay.

"I'll avoid them."

"And what if you can't?" He added, trying to be realistic. Sasuke would be making a big mistake if he left the village without letting people know of his assistance. At the very least, he had to let the Hokage know. "You're so focused on finding Madara, would you kill the shinobi sent to bring you back? They'll be in your way, holding you back."

Sasuke's hand was clenched in a fist and he looked weary on his feet, but he never responded.

"One night. To rest." Sakura whispered, finally meeting his eyes. "Please, Sasuke."

She was the most difficult person to deny. Sasuke took a step toward her and took her hand, blocking Naruto and Sai from view with his body. "I can't."

"Yes, you can."

"Sakur-"

"I'll let you go, Sasuke. If you ease my mind. One night, so I know that you're really okay and I won't try to stop you."

He let out a breath and squeezed her hand. "One night." He whispered.

She nodded, but she didn't smile.

"You can't tell anyone." He said, turning back to the other two. Naruto glared at him, and while Sai looked impassive Sasuke knew that he didn't agree with his decision. Maybe it was because he cared about Naruto and Sakura, and he knew that Sasuke leaving would make them sad.

He felt it then. What couldn't be mistaken as the Hokage's chakra, and a few other shinobi following closely behind her. And they were headed right towards them. He was surprised that the message had taken so long to reach her, or that the Hokage had taken so long to respond. But she had, and now he had to disappear.

"No one." He reiterated, narrowing his eyes at Naruto and Sai.

The blonde nodded at his friend, giving him the most somber thumbs up he'd ever seen. Neither Naruto nor Sakura were happy with him, that much he knew, but they were willing to let him do this. Because they were his friends.

"I have to go." He whispered, feeling their chakras getting closer. He wouldn't be able to fight them off in his current condition, and there was no way in hell the council was going to let him live this time. It was was his third strike, and if he knew anything about the council it was that they weren't very forgiving once you'd crossed them. And he'd crossed them enough.

Sakura sighed, letting go of his hand and backing away, glancing at Naruto as he approached them. "Get out of here." Naruto muttered with a half grin. He didn't really want him to leave, but it was better than him being caught. Sasuke was better rogue, and at least he knew now that his friend wasn't an enemy.

One more night. If Sakura's apartment was still in tact, he would wait there for her.

Naruto slung his arm around Sakura's shoulders as their friend disappeared. Despite the emotions she knew she was bottling up inside, her outward expression wasn't showing much of anything. She might be able to fool other people, but she couldn't fool him. She was sad that he was leaving again, maybe more than sad. He knew they felt something for each other, but there were only so many trials that the two of them could overcome in order to be together. He wanted to believe that they could do it, but he just wasn't sure how much of Sasuke leaving Sakura could take.

But then, there was another part of him that felt like Sakura would wait for Sasuke until the end of time. There was no real way to just fall out of love.

"Let's go." Naruto said, tugging her towards the chakra signals of their allies, making sure that Sai was following them. It seemed that the brunt of the attack had been defeated; Madara had been the only remaining hazard to the village, and well, he disappeared. If Sasuke was who he claimed to be now, he wouldn't rest until Madara was dead. Then the people he cared about would be safe from him as far as Sasuke was concerned.

But how long would that take? How long would he leave Sakura waiting for him, wondering if he was alive.

"Sakura! Naruto! Sai!" He heard Tsunade call, fastly approaching the three of them, her guard hot on her tail. "Are you all okay?"

Sakura felt a little bruised, she knew her forearms were bloody and she had some minor cuts, but she hadn't sustained any major injuries, though that was greatly thanks to Sasuke. Naruto looked a little worse for wear, some gashes, a long burn mark stretching down his arm where his jacket was torn, but he hadn't been stabbed through the chest. And Sai looked a little tired, but he was relatively unharmed. She didn't know if she would have been able to handle it if Naruto had been injured as well, or even Sai.

"We're fine!" Sakura returned, smiling at her mentor as she stopped in front of them.

"Where did Madara go, and Sasuke?"

Sai spoke up then. "Madara and Sasuke Uchiha vanished from the battlefield.'

Naruto shook his head, feigning disbelief. "They just disappeared."

Sakura bit her lip and closed her eyes, feeling her hand clench into a fist at her side. If they'd been able to kill Madara, would Sasuke have stayed with them?

Tsunade furrowed her brows, and then brought the three of them in for a hug. Sakura was shocked, to say the least. Her mentor had been so hard on her lately, she was beginning to question if the woman even cared for her at all anymore. "I really thought you could change him, Sakura." Tsunade murmured into her hair.

Sakura's heart lurched in her chest and she blinked back tears. "What?"

The Hokage pulled away from them and rested her hand on Sakura's head. "I thought you could change him for the better."

But she did, Sakura wanted to tell her. Sasuke was on their side for crying out loud, at least for the time being! But would that be enough for them? Couldn't Sasuke fighting against the man said to be leading him be enough to let him come back to the village? She knew she wouldn't be able to sleep without knowing he was safe.

Tsunade sighed and surveyed the wreckage behind them. "Why don't you two go back to the hospital." She said to Sakura and Naruto. "Shizune is there trying to organize things. Sai, with me."

Sakura nodded, following after her best friend in mere seconds.

When they landed, Sakura was in tears and Naruto had his arms wrapped around her in seconds. "I know." He whispered.

She sobbed into his chest, finding the tears falling uncontrollably now. "Why is he such an idiot?" She yelled, the sound muffled by Naruto's sweater. Why couldn't she have fallen in love with a regular civilian; someone who would be safe working in a stall selling vegetables. Why the hell did she have to fall in love with Sasuke again? She'd known the risks, she'd told herself time and time again that it wasn't worth it; that he would just leave again.

But it had been worth it, and she knew it. Every minute she'd spent with him had been worth more than she could have ever imagined. And he hadn't left for the reasons she'd foreseen back then. He was fighting alongside them, if it had really been his intention to kill them and destroy Konoha he would have done just that. Nothing would have stopped him.

Sasuke had decided to defend the village. He'd decided to stand by his friends and protect them.

Her sobs weren't quiet like she wanted them to be. They were loud and obnoxious and made her nose run. One night. That's all she had left. One night.

Naruto tightened his grip around Sakura, feeling tears pricking his own eyes. He knew he wasn't going through the same pain as her, but he was losing one of his best friends again, and part of him felt a little heartbreak as well. But hell, he hadn't been in love with the guy. He hadn't spent as much time with him as Sakura had.

"I'm sorry." He whispered, the only thing he could really say.

xx

The minute she'd returned from the hospital, she'd curled up in her bed. On his side of the bed, wishing that his scent was still embedded in the linens. But it had been such a long time since he'd slept there; since she'd woken up in his arms and smiled at the morning light.

Now all she could do was stare out her window, thinking of how many times he slipped through that opening, and how many times she watched him leave through it. It was the entrance and exit that he favored, and it pained her to think she'd never see him casually leaning against the pane again. She would never be kissed as he hung half outside and half inside as her flowing curtains brushed against them.

It was still dark out, and Sakura couldn't help feeling like Sasuke wasn't going to show up. That he only agreed to one more night in order appease her, leaving her waiting while he started his chase.

She closed her eyes and felt a breeze pass over her skin, then a familiar presence in the room.

"You're here." She whispered, opening her eyes to meet his.

"I'm here." he murmured, taking a ginger step toward her.

This was it. When morning light came, he would leave. Start chasing after a powerful man that had almost killed him. Somehow, he'd managed to get into the Uchiha house he'd been staying in and grab new clothes. She remembered how bloody his last shirt had been, how shredded it was.

She shuddered, and Sasuke took another step forward, sitting on the edge of the bed.

"How does it feel?" Sakura whispered, sitting up and pressing her hand to the area on his chest that she'd healed.

Sasuke smiled briefly and took her hand. "You're an amazing healer."

Even with the compliment, Sakura didn't smile, didn't do anything. "How long do you think it will take to find him?"

"I don't know."

She nodded, absorbing the information. "I'll go with you."

"No." He said immediately, his hand tightening around hers.

But what was she going to do in Konoha? She would sit there, wondering if he was alive, praying that he was and never being completely able to move on. She had to go, or she would only torture herself with the knowledge she didn't possess.

"I know you think this won't work, but can't you respect me enough to let me make my own decision?" Sakura whispered, meeting his eyes. "I know the risks, but I want to face them with you."

"Sakura, please." He murmured, a desperate tone in his voice. "I want you by my side, but it's too dangerous."

"Have I still not proven my strength to you?"

"I know how strong you are, Sakura. I've seen it." He said, reassuring her. "But I'll worry about you anyways because I'm terrified to lose you."

"Sasuke-"

"I can't risk it, Sakura. You gave me everything, I-" He shook his head. "I can't lose you." He repeated.

She bit her lip and sighed, not fighting him as he pulled her onto his lap. "I'll follow you, even if you don't want me to."

"Promise me that you won't," he murmured.

She watched him with level eyes, her hands playing with the hair at the nape of his neck. "Some people don't know the promises they're making when they make them."

He nodded. "Right. But that's what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyways." Sakura pulled away slightly, shocked at his mention of love. Did that mean that he was in love with her? Finally admitting his feelings?

As if he read her thoughts, Sasuke smirked and pressed his hand to her cheek, telling her what he needed to with the look in his eyes. Sakura didn't really need more than that. She was never expecting Sasuke to tell her he loved her, not outright anyways, so what he'd said was close enough and made her heart flutter.

She didn't know how long they held each other and frankly she didn't care. She didn't want him to leave her and chase after an extremely dangerous man. For what? Why did he need to chase him? Out of pride? She didn't want him to always have to protect her.

The first signs of sunlight came far too soon.

"I can't stay." He whispered, pressing his palm against hers and nuzzling her neck. She said one night, and while she didn't want him to leave, one night in his arms had been enough to accept the situation.

"I know." She whispered in return, letting her breath tickle his neck. What would her life be like now? She couldn't tell her friends about the man she loved because in their eyes he was a criminal. He was to everyone except Sai, Naruto, and herself. If he returned... he wouldn't be able to stay in Konoha; the council would never welcome him again. So what was she going to do? She couldn't erase how she felt, and she didn't want to live without him...

That was something to deal with in the future. All she needed to focus on was hoping that he would come back to her in one piece. Alive.

"Sakura..." He leaned his forehead to hers, the tip of his nose at her cheek. She could feel the hot, damp puff of his breath. "Don't ever forget, wherever you go, I'm always with you."

She pressed her lips to his temple and sighed.

"It's your turn." She whispered, smiling when he rose a questioning brow. "Your turn to make me a promise." She ran her fingers along the collar of his shirt.

"Okay."

"Promise that you'll come back to me." She hummed, pausing to meet his eyes. His dark orbs held hers for a moment before closing.

"Sakura-"

"That's what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyways." She reminded him.

He let out a strangled noise and pulled her against him again. "God, I'm going to miss you."

And she would miss him like no other. She would miss his arms, his kisses, his kind words. Everything about Sasuke would be missed. "Keep your promise."

"Okay."

"I love you." She murmured.

"Sakura..." He whispered, brushing his nose along her cheek. "I-" He hesitated, the words caught in his throat.

"I know."

She waited six years for any sign of him, and then he returned as someone she never expected. She didn't plan to fall in love with him, she didn't plan to care at all. But now that she did love him, and she did care, she was scared. She knew how Sasuke felt about her, or she thought she did. At least this time the promise he made could be held against him. He would have to return to her.

Slowly, he let her slip from his arms, though he kept her hand firmly in his until he sat on the ledge of her window, bending down to give her one final kiss before disappearing into the darkness.

He came to her in the darkness but now he was leaving her with the shades of the sunrise lighting his back. Darkness had been everywhere, from the beginning of their story, but now it was being lit up like a beacon. Sasuke was the sunrise, beautiful and bright and brilliant... and she loved him. She would always love him.

xx

"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.
They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.
They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love."

-Washington Irving

xx

Contrary to what the cynics say distance is not for the fearful, it is for the bold.
It's for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone in exchange for a little time with the one they love.
It's for those knowing love when they see it, even if they don't see it nearly enough.

-Anonymous

xx


Oh, look he didn't die! I had you fooled, didn't I?

Ah, well this story had a good run, and I am so thankful to all of the people who reviews and gave me criticism so I can become a better author! I should be making another story soon. Probably a sequel to this one! MAYBE. MAYBE. I think I should, don't you?

I don't know, if you want a sequel, tell me by clicking the BIG BLUE BUTTON. THAT ONE, RIGHT BELOW ALL OF THIS BLACK WRITING AND CRAP.

I'm actually really happy that I got this done, and, well. HAPPY. HAPPY HAPPY.

Well, I'm not going to make a review for you, because I hope by this point, since the story is ending and all, that you can leave me a review saying what you thought of the story as a whole, and this chapter on its own as well.

Again, thanks for sticking with the story!

For the last time (on My Darkness)

-EM