Do you miss the blend of color she left in your black and white field?
He remembers her heartbeat most.
It was strong, he recalls. Maybe the strongest thing about her.
At least back then.
He doesn't pretend to know who she is or what she's like nowadays, nor does he pretend to care, because she's a part of a life he can never relive.
And remembering her is entirely unintentional, and something he would never do again, if he could help it, but he can't, because he's still weak.
So when the nights are long and sleep eludes him like sunlight chasing shadows, he remembers her heartbeat and he remembers her.
Time passes differently for him these days; mostly he hardly notices its passing until it's gone, and he's fifteen now and where did his childhood go? Hours bleed into days and he works his hands to the bone, he trains so hard he's too tired to even sleep and the results show in the lean hard line of his muscles and the stone he's laying around his heart.
He surrounds himself with monsters and shadows until he can't distinguish one from the other. He builds a world for himself that could never have included her, because she is color and light and light chases shadows until there's nothing left. He remembers the desperate way she begged him to take her with him, and he remembers how fast her heart raced, and he remembers how he almost said yes.
She didn't know the reality of what she was proposing that balmy, beautiful night when she couldn't stop him, but he did.
He could have taken her, selfishly, could have taken a willing prisoner with him to Sound.
But there is evidence, then, that his heart still beats human, because he left her behind. Saved her life, as he always did, back when she was starry-eyed and naïve and silly and shallow and the most beautiful girl in the world. He spared her from this colorless hell he's sentenced himself to, kept her safe surrounded by the lush green Konoha forests and a cloudless blue sky and a blonde-haired idiot with blue eyes who'd protect her the way he once did.
He remembers the hummingbird beat of her heart as she tried to stop him. As she tried to save him.
But she was never meant to save his life. He was always meant to save hers.
And pink hair and green eyes and the ruby-red flush of a blush on alabaster cheeks have no place in the empty, colorless underground tunnels of Sound.
His world is black and white now. He is sixteen and colorblind.
His brother loved him, he learns. And he killed him, sort of. So he is angry now, and he won't tolerate shades of gray or any other shade for that matter. And he's always been an avenger, so he vows revenge against the village that turned his saintly brother into a sacrifice, and created the monster he's been forced to become.
Guilty, he thinks, and he condemns them all. It's black and white.
And he doesn't flinch when he drives his sword through the heart of his chakra-sensing teammate. She was only ever a means to an end, and he ignores the child inside of himself, the child he used to be, screaming in protest. He watches her fall apathetically, and there is no guilt, no remorse, because he's no longer capable of those feelings, and if Konoha wants someone to blame for that, they can blame themselves and burn in hell.
He's slaughtered Danzou, one of the architects of his beloved family's destruction, and the feeling is like nothing else in the world. He basks in his victory, in the triumph of dispatching one of the wrongdoers from his black and white world, and then there she is, and she's alone, and she's as bright and colorful as he remembers, and he hates her.
She's taller slightly, but the growth is not in her stature so much as in her eyes. They meet his unflinchingly, darker green than he recalls, and her back is ramrod straight with confidence. This makes no sense to him, as Sakura has only ever been a mediocre kunoichi at best, hampered by her own refusal to improve, a lack of motivation.
But she stands in front of him, pink hair bright against the snow, green eyes shining, colorful and fantastic and he wonders what her motivation is, what made her into this girl-woman that stands before him full of courage and resolve.
And she opens her mouth and lies.
Like the rest of her village, like all the others, she lies. She is incapable of truth, incapable of conviction, incapable of the love she once professed to him on a summer night beneath a blanket of stars and secrecy. She is a liar and she is a deceiver and she is guilty.
He ignores the splash of color. He ignores the twinge of regret. She has come to kill him, he can read it in the hesitation of her stance, the grim set of her jaw, the tears that well up in deceitful green eyes.
He wants his world black and white because that's what makes sense. There can be no exceptions, no shades in between, and she has only ever been a hurricane of color and like the rest of her scum Konoha comrades, she is guilty and he is judge, jury, executioner of all those who benefited from his family's destruction.
His bonds are severed. She has no hold over him anymore. He thinks of her guilt and treachery as he conjures lightning chakra to his hand, as he watches her back, as he calculates where to strike her that will end this lying witch's existence and bring him once step closer to vengeance.
And then she turns. And there is shock there on her face as she reads his intent. She can't bring herself to raise the kunai she's brought to end him with.
He doesn't hesitate.
But he doesn't miss the way the lightning looks in her eyes, how green and alive and how brightly they shine as they burn into his gaze. And it's the last thing he sees clearly, that witchy green, because then there are others there and his eyes fail him and is this what you wanted, Itachi?
He doesn't see her again.
Not until the war.
He watches her as she works, and he sees what she's become without him.
She's almost terrifying in her beauty, and she isn't the ruthless killer she ought to be in her profession, because she's something more. She heals, and he rethinks his judgment.
There is no stuttering awkwardness, nothing disloyal or deceitful about her as she risks her neck to save her comrades. There is only conviction of purpose, years of unsculpted talent molded and refined into a weapon she has the power to wield: the power to defy Death and save lives and keep going.
She's color incarnate against the gray-red backdrop of the battlefield. She weaves like a hailstorm of starshine between the fighting and the carnage, too beautiful and ethereal to be anything more than a figment of his imagination, and her hands glow green with chakra and her lips are ruby red as she screams orders to people who trust her because she's just that good. And her pink hair is pulled into a ponytail behind a gleaming Konoha hitai-ate on a red band and he remembers that she is guilty but what are all these shades in between all of a sudden?
Why can he see nothing but black and white and her?
He spares her. He pretends like he doesn't see her as he searches for Naruto, for the battle to end all battles, and the most he can hope for is that someone else will kill her so he doesn't have to.
He tells himself it's mercy, but it's cowardice.
He has not seen color in so long until he's seen her, and he doesn't want to admit it, but he can't watch the light burn out of those beautiful green eyes.
Guilty she may be, but he will not be her executioner.
His heart is bled of its darkness. His best friend got through to him at the last minute. And they saved Konoha and they saved everyone and he's been given a pardon by an understanding Hokage who isn't as angry with him as she ought to be.
And he's starting to see color again, little by little.
She's there to help him, of course. With an understanding smile that tilts up on her pretty pink lips, and jewel-colored eyes brimming with forgiveness. She's there and so's the dobe and he feels like maybe there's still a chance for him to be what his brother hoped he could be.
And she says, "Are you happy now, Sasuke-kun?"
And she says, "I'm sorry I couldn't help you."
And she says, "I missed you, Sasuke-kun."
And she paints his black and white world a thousand colors he doesn't have names for because she's chasing shadows like she always does, chases them till they bleed from darkness back to light. And he missed this about her, and he vows to never let it go again.
She chases shadows like she chased him. Until there was nothing left to chase.
And black and white don't exist now, and the only real truth he knows anymore is the strength of her heartbeat and all the colors that lay in between.
Note.. If this story looks familiar, it is. I originally wrote it in second person, being unaware that second person is not allowed on this site. (Go figure.) So when it was kindly brought to my attention, (not) I rewrote it in the far more boring and nowhere-near-as-effective third person for the people who have requested I bring it back up. So here you go :)
Song excerpt from Sowing Season by Brand New. Thanks for reading, pals :)