Everything I have to say will be at the end of this chapter.
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"Sakura-san, maybe you should take a break?"
Ignoring the nurse's request, Sakura continued briskly down the hallway, her arms filled to capacity with numerous patient's folders. She had too many things to do, a break was simply out of the question. Anyone who suggested that she take some time off was immediately shunned for the rest of the day; she found herself becoming tired of the constant advice by the older medics. At least the younger ones knew not to say a word.
As she passed each room, patients and nurses alike peered at her through the doorways, speaking softly amongst themselves in hurried whispers - words she knew she didn't want to hear.
Besides, she knew exactly what they were saying.
Since returning a month earlier to her own timeline, Sakura had dived straight back into her job at the hospital. When she wasn't sleeping, bathing or eating; she was working. Despite the constant insistences from not only her colleagues but both Tsunade and Shizune as well, she hadn't taken a single day off, nor had she accepted any mission that had been offered to her.
With nothing to distract her mind, it would be prone to think about other things instead.
The hospital was her safe place. It was secure and always busy, leaving no time to sit around and mull about everything that had happened. Or certain people, for that matter. She hadn't seen a glimpse of Kakashi since she'd left his house in tears; any time someone mentioned his name she'd immediately vacate the room.
She couldn't think about him. She wouldn't even allow herself to think about him. The tears had come and gone, yet the pain remained. And if she didn't reflect on the whole situation, it didn't hurt so much.
Sometimes, it felt as if her journey to the past had just been an insane dream - or nightmare, depending on how she was feeling at the time. Then there were times where it was so painfully real, the experiences she had gone through, the amount of days she had spent in another timeline wanting nothing more than to come home which had slowly transformed into desiring to stay. Nothing else had changed since she had returned; then again, no-one else knew.
The loneliness was becoming unbearable and yet she couldn't even dare to consider bringing someone else into this mess with her.
Finally reaching her small, cramped office, Sakura dropped the multitude of files upon the wooden surface of her desk and then stretched out her arms, feeling the strain in her elbows. Knowing her energy was dwindling, she reached over to her desk drawer, pulling it open and retrieving a small dark sphere. Despite how awful she knew they tasted, she quickly popped the soldier pill in her mouth and chewed for a moment before swallowing, trying to keep the grimace of her face. No matter how much she detested them, soldier pills were the reason she was getting so much done at work. Nothing like an instant energy boost when she began to feel fatigued.
She couldn't remember the last time she'd actually bothered to make real food.
"Sakura, I'm relieving you. Go home and get some rest."
The stern voice that sounded from behind pinkette did not make her turn, despite the authoritive tone.
"I'm fine, Tsunade-shishou. I still have to go over these files and-"
The honey-haired woman's eyebrows knitted together. "That wasn't a request, Sakura. It was an order."
Sakura finally spun around to face her mentor, who couldn't help but note how frazzled her student had become lately. Her azalea locks were no longer in it's sleek bun; tendrils sticking out in all alternating directions and in clear need of a cut by the amount of split-ends that were visible. The circles under her eyes were not overly noticeable but it was obvious they were there, her alabaster skin losing it's usual glow.
"I can't just leave when I have all these files to go through." Sakura attempted again, indicating to the mass of paper that lay scattered across her desk.
"You know I don't like to play the Hokage card on you, but so help me Sakura if I have to organise for ANBU to arrest you and place you in custody just so you can spend some time outside of this hospital then I will." Tsunade responded, crossing her arms.
Sakura sighed in defeat.
Shrugging out of her white coat, she laid it on the chair next to the desk before letting her tresses out of it's bun, running her fingers through the slightly scraggly ends and making a mental note to wash her hair. She'd have to find things to keep her busy and well distracted at home; she was certain there were a few heavy textbooks she could go over again.
Saying nothing more to Tsunade, Sakura silently made her way out of the room, walking by her mentor without so much as a glance in acknowledgment. It was obvious she was unhappy with being forced to cease work for the day, but there was no arguing with the Hokage. She vaguely registered Shizune passing her with some kind of strained greeting, but her mind simply blocked it out and she continued down the corridor.
As she made her way out of the building, the sun stinging her eyes as they tried to adjust to the natural light, Sakura's mind began to kick into gear. She knew she was in a sorry state, and if her usual self could see her like this, there would most likely be a swift kick in the rear. Unfortunately, she couldn't see past her pain, her anguish; losing Kakashi was by far the most painful thing she had ever experienced.
And she'd been stabbed clean-through her abdomen by a puppeteer man-child wielding a sword laced with poison.
Before she knew it, Sakura was in the cemetery, a familiar headstone before her. Kneeling down, she brushed Rin's engraved name lightly with her fingertips, images of the smiling brunette swirling through her thoughts. She tried to make a habit of visiting Rin once a week; it was easy to lament to someone who couldn't tell her she was acting crazy, who couldn't lecture her, who knew some of what she had experienced.
"I forgot the flowers again. I'm sorry." Sakura began, taking in a deep breath. "I was going to come and see you tomorrow after work, but since Tsunade gave me the afternoon off and I had the free time, I thought I'd drop by. I really wish you were here, but then again if you were, you wouldn't remember me, you'd have your memories erased along with the others. I just hope everything is going well on your end, wherever you are."
Somehow, talking to a slab of marble was therapeutic for the pinkette; it eased her mind more than she originally could have fathomed. She didn't know if Rin could actually hear her, it was mostly unlikely unless her spirit liked to hang around her grave. Still, it felt good to vent, and she could almost hear Rin's responses echoing in the back of her mind.
She continued talking for a little while longer, until she eventually ran out of things to say. There was only one topic she would avoid at all costs; speaking about Kakashi never helped at all, it simply made her sorrow exponentially worse. Letting out a loud sigh, Sakura farewelled Rin and returned to her feet before slowly making her way through the cemetery, heading towards her apartment, her head down low, eyes to the ground.
"You look almost exactly how I remember you."
The voice sounded strangely familiar, and she could have sworn she hadn't heard it for years.
Instinctively raising her head and turning around to see just who had spoken, her eyes widened as they settled on the form of an older man who smiled kindly back at her, amusement in his handsome features. A long brunette ponytail was swept over his shoulder, and two rectangular markings of a royal purple hue adorned his cheeks.
"R-Ryou?" she asked incredulously, her mouth agape.
The man's grin widened, and before she could help herself Sakura had thrown her arms around his shoulders in a friendly hug, finding herself ecstatic to see him. They hadn't been particularly close, at least not as friendly as she and Rin had been, but to see him after everything made her exceptionally glad to see him. Of course, once she realised what she was doing she immediately withdrew her arms and stood back, cheeks flushed with sheer embarrassment.
Seeing Ryou suddenly made everything appear more real. It had only been two months or so that she had last seen him; yet she knew it had been many more for him. That he was standing before her, grinning amusedly just like he always had, almost made her brain hurt with the sudden rush of images - he and Rin blowing out their birthday candles, Ryou's body going into spasms on the operating table underneath her glowing green hands, his determined words at Rin's funeral.
It suddenly dawned on her that he was someone from her time in the past, and that he clearly remembered who she was. He and his family had left the village before the Hokage had made the decision to have the memories of her erased from those who had come into contact with her. She inwardly scolded herself for not thinking of Ryou, then again he'd moved elsewhere and she'd been aware that the chances of their paths meeting again were quite slim.
Sakura then realised that she looked the exact same age that he remembered her to be, fourteen years ago; concerns were most likely going to be raised.
"I can explain." she attempted, suddenly feeling nervous, unsure of where to exactly begin.
Ryou chuckled. "Don't worry, I know what happened, who you actually were…or should I say are? Kakashi told me everything; he needed to confide in someone and I was one of the only few people who could remember you as well."
The mention of Kakashi's name sent ice-cold shivers down Sakura's back, making her shiver slightly.
"He…he told you about me?" she asked softly, knowing she was going to regret bringing the Jōnin up later.
"Of course he did. I mean, he didn't go into details, but he explained that despite everything, with you coming from the future and all, you were really special to him. Which I guess is why he fought so hard to keep his memories, so you guys could be together again when the time came." Ryou added.
Sakura couldn't help the bitter laugh that escaped her lips.
Her friend raised an eyebrow. "Did I miss something? Are you and Kakashi not together?"
"When I came back and found out he remembered everything, I was ecstatic. I'd just left him a few hours earlier and it broke my heart, knowing that he hadn't forgotten raised my hopes, I finally thought that after everything we had gone through, all the pain we had both endured, we could finally be with one another, properly. Unfortunately, it seems that the last fourteen years have turned him into a bitter old man, and he rejected the idea, telling me he had decided we couldn't be together."
The shock was clear on Ryou's face.
"I never thought…I mean, he always seemed to certain that he'd wait, and happily, for you to come back, that no matter how much he suffered, it would be worth it. I never knew what a complete fool he'd become or what happened to change his mind; it's been a while since I visited last. I'm so sorry, Sakura."
The pinkette took in a sharp breath, trying to ignore the sympathy - she wasn't able to deal with it, not for this situation.
"I've dealt with it." she replied tonelessly, although it was evident that she hadn't.
"No-one deserves to be happy more than you, Sakura. I mean, I'll never be able to thank you enough for saving my life all those years ago, or for standing up for Rin at her funeral." Ryou exclaimed, trying his best to turn the conversation light once more.
Sakura managed a small smile. "I couldn't let you die, especially knowing how much it would affect Rin; and Takeo and Yuji needed to be told outright that their behaviour towards her had been disgusting, even if it was a little too late."
Ryou frowned slightly, and she could have sworn there was guilt in his features. She was well aware that he'd felt bad for never properly defending Rin against their brothers, but that didn't mean he was an awful person - he'd never been fully aware of how much the constant slandering had hurt his twin, she'd never allowed it to show and certainly hadn't discussed it with him under any circumstances.
The older man looked over his shoulder, towards the cemetery, before returning his chocolate eyes to Sakura. "Did you just visit her?"
"I try to stop by once a week. Is that why you're here?"
He nodded. "I come and see her for our birthday. I do it every year."
"Wasn't your birthday almost a month ago?" Sakura found herself frowning with confusion.
"I would have come sooner but my wife was in her final stages of pregnancy, I couldn't just leave her while she was in such a fragile state. Once the baby was born and everything was settled again, I quickly made the trip here. Luckily it's only a day's trip there and back, I couldn't bear to leave her for too long." Ryou explained.
"You have a wife now?" Sakura inquired, eyebrows raising with surprise.
The brunette chuckled. "Well, I am thirty-two, some of us don't stay eighteen forever. I've been married for ten years now, with two beautiful daughters and a brand-new son."
"That sounds really lovely, Ryou. I'm really glad to hear that you're doing so well, I'm sure Rin would be proud of you." Sakura told him, the corners of her lips quirking with a smile. "What about the rest of your family? Do Takeo and Yuji have wives now too?"
The air around them suddenly felt much colder as Ryou's features turned grave and he dropped his eyes to the ground.
"They're all gone. I'm the only one left now."
To say Sakura was surprised was a severe understatement. While she had never liked Rin's older brothers, she had certainly never wished death upon them. The smile left her lips as soon as it had appeared, and she moved closer to the older man, unsure of what exactly to say.
"I'm so sorry to hear that." she whispered, patting Ryou's shoulder gently.
"They came good in the end too. After your speech at Rin's funeral, they really thought about what you had said, and in time came to the realisation that they had both treated her poorly. It took them a while, but eventually they came to terms with it, and made sure that no-one in our family sullied her name again."
"Really?" Sakura asked incredulously, unable to fathom how the two would have undergone such a transformation.
Ryou nodded. "I almost didn't believe it at first, that it was all an act for the rest of us. Then one of my father's uncle's mentioned Rin as a disgrace…I've never seen Takeo so furious in my entire life, let alone say so many words at one time. I definitely think that losing Rin made them really think about things more to begin with, but what you said to them really hit home."
Sakura hadn't been expecting such a significant transformation from the two, but was glad they had come to realise that their sister was not deserving of their awful treatment over the years.
"Unfortunately, the village was attacked a few months later by a gang of rogue Mist shinobi. Takeo and Yuji managed to take most of them out, but not without the cost of their own lives. I killed the remaining men out of fury, realising that all my siblings were gone. It wasn't my proudest moment but I'd finally made peace with Rin gone and my brothers…to lose it all so soon…" the brunette continued, trailing off as he looked up at Sakura.
"I'm sorry, I'm delving into awful things when there's no need."
"It's fine Ryou, really. I just hope that wherever Rin is, Takeo and Yuji are with her and they've come together as a family and put their differences aside." she told him, nodding her head slightly.
"I hope so too." Ryou replied, a grin appearing on his lips once more.
Happy to see the smile reappearing on his face, Sakura couldn't help but mirror the expression before something crossed her peripheral vision. Turning her head slowly to the side to get a better look, she was surprised to see Ino slowly approaching them, a confused look on her pretty face as her cornflower blue eyes regarded the two friends.
Ryou noticed Sakura's averted gaze and turned around to discover the focus of her attention, also taking notice of the young blonde who was walking towards them at a brisk pace.
"A friend of yours?" he asked the pinkette, turning back to face her.
Sakura let out a sigh as she nodded. "And it looks like she's on a mission. I should probably go. It was really good to see you again Ryou, don't be a stranger, okay?"
He grinned at her before stepping forward and enveloping her another hug, this time squeezing tightly. She couldn't help but notice that his aroma reminded her of Rin's, yet more masculine - it was strange and yet comforting all at the same time.
"Don't you worry about Kakashi. He's an idiot." he muttered into Sakura's ear before letting her go, raising his hand in a silent farewell and then continuing on his way into the cemetery.
She watched his retreating form, trying to ignore the hope she had felt with his final words. She didn't want to hear anymore about Kakashi, even if it was pointing out how foolish the silver-haired man had become. She needed to move on to bigger and better things, and leave Kakashi where he literally belonged; in the past.
"I'm surprised to see you here Forehead, who was that guy you were talking to?" a voice broke Sakura from her thoughts.
The pinkette shifted her gaze to see Ino standing before her, hands settled on her hips, a slender eyebrow raised in questioning. If anyone had insatiable curiosity, it was Yamanaka Ino, Konoha's biggest gossip.
"He's an old friend." Sakura explained truthfully, a knowing smile creeping onto her lips.
"You got the old part right, but that doesn't explain how you know him Sakura. I've been friends with you for years and I've never seen him before; does he even live in Konoha?"
Sakura couldn't help but let out a sigh. Ino wasn't going to let this go until she got answers, and the pinkette wasn't so sure she was ready to give them.
"What are you doing here, Ino-pig?" she asked the blonde, hoping she would not notice the change of topic.
"I went to the memorial stone to speak to my father." Ino replied, crossing her arms. "Don't try to change the subject, Sakura. You can't just keep pushing us all away, we're all worried about you, you've been acting strangely for a while now. The only time I ever see you is when I'm at the hospital, and you never seem to have a spare moment to say more than two words to me."
Sakura bit her lip. "It's…complicated."
"Don't give me that, I'm one of your oldest and dearest friends. You should be able to share things like this with me, otherwise it will just stay pent up inside and you'll make yourself insane. And you're already crazy enough as it is." Ino retorted, unresisting.
Ignoring what she knew to be a playful taunt, Sakura realised that the blonde had a point. Keeping everything to herself was becoming too much for her to handle, and she didn't want it hanging over her head for the rest of her life.
A thought snapped inside her mind; one that was practically unthinkable at first, but quickly made absolute and total sense.
Yamanaka Ino was the perfect person to discuss her problems with.
She took in a deep breath. "Ino, I think it's time I told you everything."
To see Ino speechless was a rare sight indeed.
It seemed all the blonde could manage to do was stare at her azalea-haired friend with wide eyes and an agape mouth, unblinking and eerily silent.
Sakura couldn't help but ponder about what was going through Ino's head at that moment, although she'd been aware that her tale would be a cornucopia of information to process in such a short amount of time. It had taken her over an hour to go over everything properly, even missing certain details such as the night she lost her virginity. Even taking the time to have a shower and clean herself up hadn't fully prepared her for the loud-mouth kunoichi's peculiar reaction.
"Ino, are you alright?" she asked tentatively, concern in her tone.
The blonde finally blinked. "It's just…unbelievable."
"I know, I wouldn't have believed it myself if I didn't live through it." Sakura replied, knowing Ino wasn't calling her a liar, she was just finding it difficult to understand properly.
"And you fell in love with Kakashi-sensei?"
The mention of his name made Sakura's heart clench painfully, the use of the honorific somewhat ironic - she hadn't seen him as her sensei in quite a while. For months now he had simply been Kakashi to her, even the older incarnation had been viewed as her lover and no longer her former teacher.
"I did," she admitted, trying to keep her emotions at bay, "but I know he doesn't feel the same way anymore."
Ino remained silent once more, her petite nose scrunched up with thought.
Sakura inhaled deeply, knowing that this was her only chance. The more she had considered it, the more it appeared to be the best solution for her predicament, one that would most likely benefit everyone involved. She had to ask before the regret set in and she'd find herself backing out; she knew that it was for the better in the long run.
"Ino, when I was there…I saw Inochi."
Instantly the blonde's cornflower orbs began to glisten with welling tears as they snapped up to meet Sakura's viridian ones. Despite the fact that Inochi had been gone for almost two years, Ino still hadn't quit dealt with not having her father around. The two had been quite close, and despite the fact that Ino was seen to be more like her mother, she and her father were very alike in many ways; she'd always been a daddy's girl.
"Did…did you talk to him?" Ino inquired, her voice wavering with thick emotion.
Sakura nodded. "I told him that you were one of my best friends, that we were close like sisters; he seemed really happy to hear that, as well as a little freaked out, but that was to be expected. He said he knew you would always end up like your mother."
Ino let out a laugh that was mixed with a choking sob, tears now rolling down her cheeks freely as she mustered a smile. Sakura had been wary of sharing this information with the blonde, knowing that it would most likely make her upset, yet at the same time she was aware that it would make her day to hear about him whilst he was still alive; she and Shikamaru often visited Akimichi Chōza to hear tales about their fathers from their youth.
"There's more to it though…Inochi was the one assigned with erasing the memories of me from everyone who met me, and he offered to do the same with me if I felt it best when I returned. At first I was defiant that I wanted to remember it all, but with everything that's happened recently…I think it would be best if I did forget."
Wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, Ino regarded the pinkette carefully. "What are you saying?"
Sakura bit her lip. "Inochi was the one who offered to use the technique on me, but we both know that's no longer possible. So what I'm trying to ask you is if you know the jutsu, and if so, would you be able to erase my memories?"
Ino was clearly taken aback, the tears gone from her eyes as she sat back in her chair.
"Sakura, are you sure about this? Once the memories have been removed, they can't be returned. You won't remember any of it, even the little details; you'll think you're still a virgin who's never been kissed. All those important moments in you life will no longer exist to you." she informed her friend, her face serious.
"I know it's the cowards way out, that by doing this I'm making myself weak all over again, that all my years of training to become strong will mean absolutely nothing, but it hurts, Ino. It's too painful to remember, and if I want to be the best shinobi I can be, I don't need to have all this emotional baggage that is nearly rendering me incapable of anything. It took me years to get over Sasuke, and that was only when he tried to kill me. I can't go through that again." Sakura explained, her eyes beginning to sting with unshed tears.
"I just want things to go back to the way they were before all of this."
Ino took a moment to think about what Sakura was asking of her before taking in a deep breath.
"If that's what you think is best, then that is what I will do. But only because I hate seeing you like this Sakura, and the longer it goes on, the more you will destroy yourself." she said softly, although it was obvious that she was hesitant.
Sakura nodded wordlessly, making sure she was ready for this. As Ino stood up from her seat and moved to stand behind the pinkette, her fingertips brushing against her temples, Sakura tried to keep herself calm, knowing that if she wanted this nightmare to end, this was the only way it would happen.
Inwardly, she was furious with herself for letting it progress this far, that she was so damaged and vulnerable; yet at the same time, no matter how hard she could punch someone or how accurately she could throw a kunai, she was always going to be emotionally fragile. That aspect of Haruno Sakura had remained unchanged throughout the years, the only difference was that she was more skilled at hiding it.
"Are you ready for this?" Ino asked her concernedly.
Sakura's features were set with determination.
Ino gulped. "Alright, this might be uncomfortable, so-"
A loud, insistent rapping of knuckles sounding from the other side of Sakura's front door interrupted the young blonde, who was thankful that her friend could not see the sheer relief that washed across her face. Sakura, on the other hand, found herself incredibly irritated that they had been disturbed, and hoped that if she didn't answer the door, whoever it was would get the message and leave.
They knocked again, this time with what sounded like more urgency. Sakura remained defiant and folded her arms across her chest, there was no way she was going to be answering that door.
Ino, however, saw it as a sign of divine intervention and withdrew her hands from Sakura's head, quickly striding over to the door.
"Ino-pig, don't answer it!" Sakura called out, almost pleading.
"I can't concentrate if they're going to keep knocking." Ino retorted before she grabbed the handle, turned it and unceremoniously threw open the door.
From where she was seated, Sakura couldn't see who was standing on her doorstep, all she could perceive was the pure shock that crossed Ino's features, her jaw dropping slightly as her eyes almost escaped their sockets. The reaction triggered Sakura's curiosity; just who was standing there that was so surprising to see?
Sakura felt her blood run cold as her stomach lurched uncomfortably. Her eyes darted around the room in search of some way to escape without him noticing, there was no way she could face him, especially not right now. All her windows were closed and locked with seals, there was no way she could leave without making too much of a fuss.
"Is Sakura in?" came the deep baritone voice that haunted her every thought, sending shivers down her spine.
There was no way she could do this.
She tried to gain Ino's attention without making any kind of noise that would alert her unwanted guest that she was indeed there, but to no avail. The blonde was focused purely on the man standing before the door, her face breaking into a smile that made Sakura feel incredibly uneasy.
"She's here." Ino practically cooed, finally glancing over at her friend, clearly ignoring the hateful look that was being sent in her direction.
Before Sakura could avert her eyes, Kakashi stepped through the doorway, directly in her line of sight. Her heart practically stopped as he turned to face her, his sole eye glued to her form intently.
"This is a really bad time." Sakura eventually found her voice, surprised at how hoarse it suddenly sounded. "Ino and I were just-"
"Actually, I just remembered that I had to help my mother out with the store, so don't mind me." the blonde interjected, looking almost furiously gleeful. "I'll come and check up on you later, Forehead."
Quickly moving her eyes between Sakura and Kakashi, Ino bounded out the door, closing it gently behind her. Now there was no chance of escape for Sakura as she averted her eyes from the silver-haired man's form, concentrating on the wooden floor as she mentally screamed at him to leave her alone.
She could hear Kakashi shuffle awkwardly as he moved slowly towards her.
"How are you?" he asked, scratching the back of his head.
Sakura's eye shot up to glare at him; how could he ask her something like that?
"I've been just fine." she retorted.
Kakashi sighed in defeat.
"I know that's not true, Sakura."
She stood up from her chair abruptly and stalked across to the other side of the room, her back turned to him, her eyes fixated upon the window.
"Since when did you begin caring about my wellbeing?"
The bitterness in her sarcastic tone surprised Sakura, this was definitely a side of herself that she'd never experienced before; which meant that Kakashi hadn't either. She hated herself for letting him get to her so easily, but she still wasn't going to become a sobbing emotional mess in front of him again. He'd seen enough of her tears.
"Since when did you think I didn't?" he answered back, his tone questioning.
Sakura closed her eyes - she wasn't going to willingly enter an argument with him. She simply didn't have the energy for it.
"Why are you here Kakashi?" she asked him softly, still turned away from him.
She could hear him approaching her cautiously, and clenched her hands into fists. If he even so much as tried to touch her in any way, he would find himself knocked into next week.
"I…I haven't been able to stop thinking about you since you showed up at my place. Actually, to be honest, I haven't been able to stop thinking about you for fourteen years." he admitted softly, standing directly behind her.
"I apologise for plaguing your mind." Sakura bit back, spinning around to walk past him without a glance as she moved towards the door. "Now that you've told me feel free to leave-"
A hand suddenly grasped her wrist tightly, out of surprise Sakura attempted to break free of the grip, but to no avail. Her eyes moved to Kakashi's visible one, in her rage she could not determine the emotion that swirled within it's obsidian depths, instead she aimed her free hand towards his face. Before her hit could land however, he swiftly grabbed that wrist too, lowering it so that her arms were crossed over, both limbs held firm by his gloved hands.
She took in a deep breath, cursing herself for not being able to control the moisture that began to build in her eyes, stinging as her vision blurred. Looking up at him, the hurt clear in her features, she ceased struggling in his grasp, her arms falling limp although he did not release them.
"What do you want from me, Kakashi?" she implored, her voice defeated.
"I need you to listen to me. That's all. Just listen to what I have to say, and I'll leave and never come back, if that's what you so desire." Kakashi replied.
Sakura nodded blankly, her wrists aching as he released them. She made no indication that she was going to move away from him, her eyes falling to the floor once more. Yes, she would listen to him, but that didn't mean she had to look at him - the sight of him standing so close before her was driving her crazy.
No matter how hurt she was by his actions, and how much she desperately wanted to hate him for breaking her heart, she knew she couldn't. All she could think about when she saw him was how much she loved him; absolutely. His shaggy mane made her want to run her fingers through it's silver strands, his hands made her desire to lace her fingers between his and never let go, his infernal mask made her need to pull it down to his throat and kiss his bare, perfect lips.
Even his aroma which swirled in the air around her made her body react, the tingling sensation running across her skin like a light electrical current. Her heart beat loudly and painfully as her chest felt constricted; it took more effort for her to breathe properly. His heat was practically radiating from his skin despite the layers of clothes he wore, her fingers twitched with the ache of needing to touch him.
Sakura was keeping control of herself, but she wasn't sure how long she would be able to last before she made a complete and utter fool of herself yet again.
Kakashi let out another sigh before he finally spoke, his voice low and deep. "I wanted to…apologise for the last time we saw each other. Despite my famed genius, I can be a downright fool at times; that was definitely one of those times."
As soon as the small hint of hope began to rise up in her body, Sakura instantly quashed it. There was no time for fantasising about something that would certainly not happen, she had to protect herself and start looking at things realistically. The apology had been a nice way to start off his speech, but the rest of it just sounded like jumbled words to her.
"Your point?' she asked, scolding herself for the cold tone.
Hands appeared on her shoulders, warm and gentle as his fingers brushed against her skin lightly. Sakura automatically stiffened from the sudden gesture, feeling the tears beginning to build up once more as her self control began to slip. He always had this effect on her, even with everything that had happened he could still bring down her barriers effortlessly.
"I'm sorry that it took me so long to realise that even after all this time, the suffering I've endured without you by my side for fourteen years, I truly do love you Sakura, and I always have; nothing will ever be able to get in the way with that. There's every chance that we will cop a lot of backlash from everyone by being together, but if you can handle that, then so can I."
Sakura's head jerked up to look at Kakashi, his words echoing through her thoughts as she tried to process exactly what he had just told her. A solemn tear escaped her left eye and rolled down her cheek, but she was too astounded to even notice.
"Are...are you saying that you actually want to be with me?" she breathed, trembling slightly underneath his hands, almost afraid to allow herself to believe it.
Kakashi's eye crinkled with what she knew to be a smile hidden beneath the dark blue material of his mask. "That's exactly what I'm saying."
Unable to hold back her emotion any longer, the tears began to flow freely as Sakura bowed her head, her hands moving to his flak jacket as she clenched the material tightly in an attempt to keep herself standing up straight. This was all she had wanted, finally all those months she'd endured and the years he had suffered would mean something.
She loved him more than anything else in the entire universe, with such integrity that words couldn't even come close to describing it.
With a sniffle, Sakura raised her head once more to look up at Kakashi, a ghost of a smile on her lips.
"What caused this sudden change of heart?" she asked, finding herself curious to know.
Kakashi closed his eye. "I was visited by an old friend."
"Ryou." Sakura exclaimed, her mind clicking.
"He showed up on my doorstep, demanding to know why I had turned you down. Let's just say he's the one who knocked some sense into me."
"Remind me to thank him later." the pinkette whispered, moving closer to Kakashi as his hands slid down her arms, settling upon her hips.
"Will do." he muttered in return as Sakura's fingertips moved up to touch the edge of his mask, pausing for a moment before pulling the material down slowly.
She let out a deep breath; she'd forgotten just how handsome Kakashi really was, and age had only amplified that fact. There were more scars and aged lines etched into his skin than she remembered, but it only served to make him more attractive. However, on the side of his jaw she could see slight swelling underneath his skin, and looked at her lover questionably.
"When I say Ryou knocked some sense into me, I didn't just mean figuratively." Kakashi explained sheepishly.
Sakura smirked. "Definitely remind me to thank him."
A smile appeared on his lips; the one she loved so much, crooked and perfect. She pulled herself closer to Kakashi, her torso pressing against his as her hands snaked through his moonlight locks, his nose barely touching hers as his warm breath fanned across her face.
"I love you." she told him earnestly, truthfully, her heart practically soaring with joy.
"I love you too." he replied before his lips slanted across her own.
Sakura could have sworn her toes were curling as the fire blazed through her system, one of his hands moving to the small of her back as he pulled her even closer, the other moving to tangle his fingers in her petal-coloured tresses. She moaned softly against his mouth with pure satisfaction and elation, spurning him on as he nipped at her bottom lip playfully, earning himself a low whimper. Again and again their lips crashed against one another's until the need for air broke them apart momentarily, and Sakura could have sworn she was floating.
Finally, everything in the world made sense again.
Sakura admired her reflection in the mirror, noting how the white satin material of her kimono rippled in a beautiful way as she moved. She could hear Ino muttering under her breath behind her as she fussed over the pinkette's elaborate hairstyle, making sure there wasn't a single strand out of place.
Beside her sat Hinata, who simply looked stunning in her own kimono of a maroon hue that Sakura had chosen for both her and the blonde. She remained silent with a smile on her face as she looked up at Sakura, who returned the gesture with a broad grin.
"Are y-you excited Sakura?" the Hyūga heiress asked suddenly, her voice soft.
The pinkette would have nodded but that would most likely ruin her hair and send Ino into a complete meltdown. "I'm nervous and excited at the same time." she admitted, glancing back at herself in the mirror.
"Well, it's b-been a tough road for you to get h-here." Hinata replied, her cheeks flushing, most likely because she believed herself for talking out of place.
"Yeah." she agreed, letting out a sigh.
It had been two years since that fateful afternoon when Kakashi had come to her place and asked her to be with him, two years since he'd made her the happiest girl in all of Konoha. At first they had considered keeping the relationship a secret for the first few months before telling all their friends, but Ino had interfered with those short-lived plans by hinting at it to everyone they knew. It wasn't long until the entire village knew that Hatake Kakashi was dating not only a much younger woman but that she was also his former student.
Luckily, Ino had enough sense to keep the rest of the story to herself.
At first, the reaction had been as they expected - friends were shocked and couldn't even begin to fathom how it had happened, colleagues were wary of them and villagers gossiped and whispered amongst themselves as they walked past. Sakura had been forced to protect Kakashi's honour several times when their friends had threatened to punish him for taking advantage of her, no-one ever seemed to believe that she was a willing participant in the relationship.
The worst reaction by far was definitely that of Tsunade, who had at first appeared calm and collected as Sakura and Kakashi had jointly informed her of their changed relationship, only to then lecture the silver-haired Jōnin about treating her apprentice carefully and to use protection; that there was no way she was going to let him get away with it if Sakura ended up pregnant.
She couldn't remember the last time she had felt so mortified.
Over time however, everyone seemed to eventually accept that they were together and were actually happy, even some begrudgingly. The chemistry and love between them was obvious, Ino noted on numerous occasions that she'd never seen her friend so happy before. Kakashi moved in with her after a year of dating as her place was much bigger and they spent the majority of their time together there anyway.
On her twentieth birthday, he'd gotten down on one knee and asked her to marry him.
Which had led to today; Sakura dressed up elegantly in a wedding kimono as Ino finally completed the finishing touches on her hair. Somehow, it suddenly felt more real, that this day had finally come and was actually happening. Her heart began to thud and her skin began to prickle, she was overjoyed and yet apprehensive.
She loved him. She could do this.
Ino moved to her other side as Hinata rose from her seat, both looking at the pinkette in the mirror with matching smiles of reassurance.
"Are you ready for this Forehead?" Ino asked, winking cheekily at her friend with the use of her child-hood nickname.
"I am." Sakura replied, taking in a deep breath to steady herself.
"Y-you look beautiful Sakura." Hinata commented, her cheeks flushing again.
"It's time for you to go and make an honest man out of Hatake Kakashi."
It was going to be a very long day, that was for sure.
And Haruno Sakura couldn't have been happier.
Here's four things you should know;
1. Ryou was originally not in this chapter, but I realised I needed to tie up that loose end, and he became the perfect catalyst for Kakashi coming to his senses and returning to Sakura. Also, I wanted to give him a proper send off - I rather adore him, even though he is an original character.
2. The end segment on the day of Sakura and Kakashi's wedding was also added at the last minute; I wanted to give it a nice little follow up without being too over the top. I think it fits in nicely and gives you an idea of how things went after they finally got together at the end of everything, I just hope it wasn't over sappy.
3. I had originally planned on Sakura falling pregnant which would turn into a sequel, but I decided against it. I felt that this story was complete enough on it's own, and some of my ideas for the sequel will be recycled in future stories of mine. Also, the timeline was a little bit off and it was going to became too complicated to try and sort it all out and still make sense.
4. Definitely the most difficult chapter for me to write, especially as I kept becoming upset throughout it. It's tough to say goodbye, but I'm glad I could finish the story.
Now, onto some questions that were asked in reviews for the last chapter:
Do you write any of your love stories from your own life? You know how some writers are they will put a piece of their own life into the story do you do that?
I wish my love life was as interesting as this, but no, I don't write my stories from personal experience (at least not yet anyway). I guess the closest I would be is knowing the extent of Sakura's unrequited feelings for Sasuke, I was in love with a boy for four years in high school even though I knew he didn't return my feelings. Of course, I eventually came to my senses and moved on. Perhaps soon in the future I will write something that does reflect my own experiences, as a former foster child I've had many of them, both good and bad.
What exactly inspired you to write this fic? Ex. love the pairing, love the genre, noticed there weren't a lot of these types of fics...read someone else's story?
I've been interested in the pairing of Kakashi and Sakura for a while now, reading other fanfics but never being really sure what kind of story I could contribute to the fandom. Then I saw some time-travel stories that caught my interest (I'm a massive Doctor Who fan) and decided to have a look, but I found that there were quite a few that just didn't quite intrigue me or had a very wobbly plot. I like well-written stories that develop over time and have a lot of thought, I was disappointed to find that some didn't seem to have consequences for someone's time in the past - that they could openly declare who they were without considering the risks it would have on their timeline and everyone else just seemed to accept it without a blink of an eye. So, I decided that I would try my hand at the idea, and see what interesting plot-points and scenarios I could create whilst staying true to the rules of time-travel. And then this story was born.
Also, the song 'Unbroken' by Stan Walker (feel free to look it up on YouTube) was a contributing factor not only for the title - the lyrics are beautiful and I loved the idea that Kakashi was 'broken' when Sakura met him in the past, and over time fixed him up so he was now 'unbroken'.
I want to know. ALSO. could you recommend some other good Sakura time-travel stories?
I'm sure there are plenty of ones out there, I just don't know their names. However, there's actually a community archive of time-travel fics that are Sakura-centric (this one included) called 'Wibbly Wobbly Time-y Wime-y' so be sure to take a look!
So, did you plan everything from the start?
The majority of this story was planned out from the beginning, mostly the backbone of the general plot. Several scenes changed over the course of writing; some were deleted and others were added. I always knew how it would end however, with Kakashi rejecting her in the second last chapter and then coming to his senses in the final. After all the two had been through, I had to allow them a happy ending.
Is there anything you would change about the story, looking back on it?
I definitely need to go back and change some typos, but overall I'm pretty pleased with how it all went. I just wish I had known more about Rin's background before I started writing so it could be more canon - then again she was only fourteen when she was killed and I couldn't bring myself to write about fourteen-year olds falling in love and being placed in such mature situations (I'm a firm believer that while you're young, you should enjoy being young and stop trying so hard to become an adult, especially as you only get eighteen years of being young and at least fifty years of being an adult). Also, Rin was an important character in the story to begin with, I couldn't simply omit her. She was the link between Sakura and the younger Kakashi, and unknowingly brought them together.
Now that I've answered those, I can begin my rambling speech. First of all; THANK YOU to everyone who has been reading this story. It really humbles me to know that you have been loving this story as much as I have loved writing it and sharing it with you. I know I've said it several times but I honestly never believed that Unbroken would get as much interest as it has, and your support has been phenomenal.
To all my reviewers - you guys are the true lifeblood of this story. Without your input and lovely words of praise, there's a good chance I would have given up on this a long time ago. I always look forward to hearing your thoughts and a smile appears on my face every time I receive a review. There aren't enough words to describe how much your continued support means to me personally; I have low self confidence issues and with every review I received it raised significantly. I love each and every one of you for taking the time to express your thoughts, especially my regulars (those of you who review on pretty much every single chapter).
As a way of expressing my gratitude, I'm planning on writing up a one-shot of snippets of this story through Kakashi's eyes, including the time he spent without Sakura whilst dealing with her younger self. Mostly the important moments, I thought it might be a nice way to wrap things up entirely and I know there have been numerous times that reviewers express their wishes to know how he was feeling during those times. I don't know when I'll have it done but hopefully it won't take too long - so keep your eye out for it.
A special shout-out goes to Prescripto13 who has been following Unbroken since it's infancy and has reviewed every single chapter without fail - I always find myself looking forward to hearing from you and I can't thank you enough for your consistent support and kind words.
Happy birthday czarleigh, hope you enjoyed your present!
Once again, thank you to everyone. You are all amazing and I'm sending out internet hugs to each and everyone of you. Until next time.