Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. If I did Kakashi would be a stripper.
Spoilers: AU. The truth has been twisted to meet my needs, as all truths should be!
Warnings: no beta
She had to be seeing things. This was not possible. But there they were; both her boys standing together, waiting.
"Sakura, what took you so long?" Naruto smiled at her. Sakura could feel the warmth of his smile fill her chest. She loved looking at him smile. It was so innocent and pure.
Sakura opened her mouth to respond, but nothing came out so she shrugged instead. Slowly she walked up to them. She was so afraid that if she approached too quickly they would disappear. Then Sasuke turned and made eye contact. Sakura lost her breath. Very few times had he looked at her in that way. It wasn't a romantic look; no he would never do that. This was the kind of look one friend gives another after not seeing them for a long time. He had missed her.
"I, I…um…" Fuck it. On impulse she ran toward them throwing her arms them. They felt strong and hard and perfect. Her head fit perfectly between their shoulders. Naruto had his arm around her waist. It fit perfectly there. Sakura kissed his cheek. It felt so natural to be so familiar with him. Sasuke didn't stiffen or try to move away when she turned and kissed his cheek as well.
It was everything she always wanted.
It was everything she needed.
"I didn't mean to keep you two waiting."
Sakura took a step back to look them. The joy she was feeling was instantly replaced by horror when she looked at their faces. Naruto had blood dripping from his mouth and his chest was soaked in blood. Sasuke's white clothing was also covered in blood. Sakura took another step back in horror. As she looked at them for answers she noticed that they both were holding bloody kunai.
"It was bound to happen Sakura." Naruto's voice sounded pained and distant. "Don't you remember? I said the next time we fight we would both die."
This can't be happening. Her hands felt wet and warm. Looking down she saw that they were covered in blood; their blood. Memories started rushing back to her. Naruto and Sasuke fighting. Kakashi trying to somehow kill Sasuke and save Naruto all at once.
Sakura just stood there and watched. She knew she couldn't fight with them. She knew she would have to save all my energy to keep them alive. But she had failed.
She failed them.
"I'm sorry." The tears starting running down her face, adding to the whole mess.
"Don't leave." Looking up she saw Sasuke holding out his bloody hand. Surprised at his uncharacteristic actions she froze. "Naruto is unmanageable without you here. Stay."
Here? Where is here? It was only then that she noticed all the white space around them. There was no one else here but the three of them. Covered in blood.
"I can't stay." It hurt so much to say the words.
"Please stay." Naruto's word hurt so much to hear. When he held out his hand Sakura wanted nothing more than to take it. She wanted it so badly it hurt. Instead she took another step back, but instead of stepping on ground her foot hit nothing. As Sakura fell she reached out to Naruto, but it was too late.
She was falling.
"Sakura! Sakura wake up!"
Sakura opened her eyes and flung her arms out in a panic, hitting Sai in the face.
"Oh god, I'm so sorry."
"You started screaming again."
Sai let her look at his face. This was the fifth time she had the nightmare. Each time it was a little different. Sometimes they would fight in front of her; sometimes there would be blood, other sometimes there would be none. This was the first time they had asked her to join them.
"Was it them again?"
"Yes. Sai, can I ask you a question."
"Sure." Sai had moved back to his bed mat and sat down. Sakura always admired his patience and curiosity.
"Do you think dreams are showing you what you really want to see, or are you they showing you what you don't know you want to do?"
Sai looked out the window. Sakura knew she could have this kind of talk with him and that he would answer honestly. Kakashi would probably give her an answer that she wouldn't understand until she was older. Tsunade would call her foolish and kick out while she drank away her sorrows. Sakura needed an answer; one she could understand from someone who would understand.
"I think dreams are a mixture of reality and fantasy. I think you see things you already knew about, but don't want to admit you know. I also think that they show you things you have always wanted, but either never had or didn't know you wanted."
Sakura thought about his answer for a moment. Did she want to join them, or was she simply manifesting her desire to have them with her?
"Sakura?" Sai had a look of concern on his face. "I think the important question is: can the person who is having the dream tell the difference between reality and fantasy?"
"I know the difference."
"I'm just concerned that's all."
Sakura needed some fresh air. The night was dark, but the air felt wonderful. There was nothing to be concerned about. She was simply still processing their deaths and going through the mourning process. Different people mourned in different ways. She just happened to dream about them. A lot. With blood. Lots of blood.
Sakura missed her boys, that was all. No big deal.
Sai was sitting on his bed mat drawing when she came back in. She smiled at him to let him know that she was alright. She laid down with her back to him. Sakura could hear him putting away his sketch pad. He had been waiting for her too.
"Good night Sakura."
It was probably a good idea she didn't tell him about the flash of yellow she saw outside that made her come back to bed.
If there was one thing Sakura hated more than anything it was people talking about her as if she wasn't in the room. Kakashi and Tsunade were doing just that while she stood next to Sai in silence.
"Look I understand what it's like to lose a teammate just as much as you do. I also know what it feels like to be the teammate of a traitor and I can tell you with all certainty that sending her out on an S Rank mission will not help her."
"She needs to learn to move on, and stand on her own as a ninja. She can't continue to live under their shadows."
"No, I need her here to help with the re-building."
"I talked to Shikamaru and he said that everything was under control."
Sakura exhaled at Sai's command, not realizing that she had been holding her breath. She wasn't so much mad at Kakashi and Tsuande for trying to help her. They both had valid points. One wanted to give her space so that she wouldn't end up using some kind of vise to forget. The other wanted her to continue on living, because that was all she could really do at this point.
No they had good intentions. She just wished they would have decided to have this conversation after she had left the room, or at least after Sai had left the room. Nothing was more embarrassing then having a third party listen in on your problems.
"I said no!" Tsuande has resorted to yelling and pounding on things. Never a good sign.
"Excuse me?" Sakura had to use a firm tone; otherwise they would just simply ignore her.
"Considering that you both decided to talk about me while I was still in the room I think I have the right to give my opinion. In all honesty if I were to stay at home it would only result in me moping around feeling miserable. But, at the same time, if I were sent on an S Rank mission I don't think I could..." Sakura paused, not sure how to word what she felt. "…I don't know if I can handle someone putting their life in my hands right now. The last two people I tried to save didn't make it."
"Sakura…" There was concern in Sai's voice. She was vocalizing a lot of things she hadn't been brave enough to confront before. She turned to look at Sai, but quickly looked away at what she saw in his eyes. It scared her.
"It's not the same as losing a patient. Yes I do feel sadness and pain when I lose a patient. But this is different. I just can't help but think that I had so many opportunities to say something or do something that may have changed the way things turned out. Maybe if I tried to befriend him instead of trying to make him love me or maybe if I had not made him promise me to bring him back he wouldn't have felt obligated."
Sakura felt hand on her shoulders. She had to open my eyes to see Tsuande standing in front of her. She didn't remember closing them.
"What happened is not your fault. You did the best you could. No one blames you. Do not carry this guilt around with you. Believe me when I say nothing good comes of it."
In the end everyone decided the best course of action would be to send Sakura on lower rank missions. They let Sai take those missions with her, even though the kind of missions they would be sending her on would be a waste of his skills. He insisted on staying with her.
Sakura thought it was because he felt obligated to stay with her.
Their first mission was fairly simple. There was currently a patient in the hospital that was being treated for an illness that required a specific flower. The hospital was nearly out of the flower and they needed someone to go out and find it. These types of missions usually went to interns, or chunnins. Genins didn't usually get these missions for two reasons. One was time. Many times the teams had to go out find the plant and come back quickly. Genin teams tended to move slowly. The second reason was that the plant had to come back in the correct condition and had to be plucked at the correct stage of its maturity.
The flower they had to locate was to be found where the forest started to turn into desert, right at the border with Suna. The job was simple, but would still require some skill to complete. Skill Sakura had. She probably could have done this mission on my own; she really didn't need Sai to come with her. But he insisted. He could be pushy when he needed to be.
Although he was still trying to absorb all the social norms the one thing Sakura hoped never changed was his ability to speak his mind. When he thought someone's idea was wrong he said it. He was not one to talk about someone to everyone else. He would just flat out tell you that your idea was crap or in some cases that you were crap. Other ninjas didn't like him because of it, but she liked it. Granted he never said her ideas were crap, he simply suggested a change that would make it better.
They packed light since it was summer. They didn't need extra clothes and there was no chance of rain while they were away. They decided to follow the river to the field where the flowers grew wild. Sakura had decided that on top of collecting and bringing back the flowers she would try to collect as many seeds as possible. The patient needed his treatments regularly and coming out here every other month seemed unnecessary. She'd have to ask Ino for help growing the plants.
The heat was intense. Sakura felt like she was slowing melting away. She could tell Sai was uncomfortable as well. He outfit exposed a lot of his pale skin to the sun.
"Sai do you mind if we take a break?"
"No I don't mind."
They walked over and sat down under the shade of a large tree. Even though her pack was light it felt like it weighed a ton. Sakura reached for her canteen but it was empty. Sakura got up and walked over the river with her canteen in hand. As she stood there looking at the water she could hear it calling her. The water looked so cool and refreshing.
Sakura took a peek behind her to see Sai sketching a bird. She put the canteen on the ground and took off her sandals. As she walked into the water she couldn't stop the sigh that escaped her lips. The cold water felt amazing. She continued to walk until the water passed her knees. She could just feel the water on her fingertips as she let her arms hang. Sakura closed her eyes and threw her head back. She was in heaven.
She wasn't sure how long she stood like that but the feeling of someone watching her made her open her eyes. She turned to see Sai standing on the shore next to her shoes.
"Are you ready to go?"
She noticed he was holding the canteen she had discarded on the shore.
"How long were you watching me?"
"For some time. You looked peaceful. I didn't want to disturb you, but we have to get back before the day is over."
Sakura nodded her head. She turned and headed back to the shore. She quickly put her shoes back on and grabbed her canteen and pack.
"Okay, lets go."
Sakura hated her apartment. She liked that fact that she could afford to live alone. But she hated that she had windows that faced north and east. The sun would just spend all day heating her apartment and there was not a single damn tree around the building. It was probably hotter in the apartment than it was outside.
Grabbing a hair tie, Sakura put her hair up in a ponytail. Even though chunks of her hair kept falling out she just needed to get her hair off her neck. She turned on the faucet to get a glass of water, but when the water came out warm she slammed the glass on the counter.
Sakura grabbed her keys and walked out of the apartment. She needed to get somewhere cool before she lost her mind.
"Sakura." Startled, Sakura turned to see Sai standing behind her. He was holding a bag in one hand and had his bat umbrella resting on his shoulder shading him from the heat. "Are you okay? You look like you are about to overheat."
"It was too hot in my apartment. I needed to get out."
Sai took a few steps toward Sakura and placed grabbed the umbrella. He reached over and placed it on Sakura's shoulder. "Come with me. My apartment has air conditioning."
Sakura grabbed the umbrella on her shoulder and held it out to Sai. "You don't have to do that." As she held out her hand she saw the confusion on Sai's face.
"Isn't this what comrades do, help each other?"
Sakura opened her mouth to say something, but she wasn't really sure what she wanted to say. She felt stupid and ungrateful.
"Yes Sai, this is what comrades do. I'll follow you."
Sai didn't really say anything. He just continued to walk down the path. Sakura moved to walk next to him. She placed the umbrella on the shoulder closest to Sai to try and share the shade it provided. It wasn't until she saw their reflection in a passing window that she noticed how close Sai was to her. She could feel his arm ghost past her arm as they walked. The feeling gave her chills and made her nervous. She had never really stood this close to him before in a non-battle situation.
"This is it. I live on the second floor."
Sakura stopped to look at the building. It was really just an excuse to put some distance between them. Leave it to Sai to live in a building surrounded by trees. As Sakura followed behind Sai she noticed that there were only four mailboxes. The building was as large, which meant that each floor only housed two apartments. Working in the Black Ops must really pay well. As they approached the stairway the umbrella on Sakura's shoulder melted away. The ink rolled off her arm and onto the ground. She wasn't worried about her clothes since the ink never stained. It would just roll off like oil on water.
The second floor only had one hallway with a door on opposite ends. Sai's door was to the left of the stairs. When Sakura walked into his apartment she was immediately met by cool air. She quickly entered the apartment so that Sai could close the door behind her and keep the air from leaving.
"Have a seat."
Sakura took off her shoes and walked over to the small couch. As she sat down she took in the rest of the apartment. The room was large with no dividing walls. One end of the room housed a small kitchenette. There was an open space, which Sakura assumed was the dining room, but Sai had a blank canvas on an easel and his painting supplies occupying the space. Sakura was in living room which had a small couch, a coffee table and a desk. She turned and saw a doorway that she could only assume led to the bedroom and bathroom.
What Sai lacked in furniture he made up for in artwork. His walls were covered in paintings. Some were abstract, others were still life.
"Would you like some water?" Sakura wasn't sure when, but Sai was standing in front of her holding out a glass of water.
"Sure." She took a sip and sighed as the cold water cooled her mouth. Holding the glass in one hand, Sakura pointed at one of the walls. "Do you mind if I take a look?"
"No, go ahead." Sakura stood up and looked at the walls, not sure where to start. A small picture of kunai caught her attention. She walked up to it and took a moment to look at the painting. All of the kunai were sticking out of the ground at an angle, giving the impression that they were thrown. When she looked at the paintings on either side she noticed that none of the paintings in this area had people in them. They all felt cold and lonely.
As she moved along the wall the paintings changed. Some were chaotic with splashes of color that seemed to battle each other for space on the canvas. Others showed a lone figure standing in varies scenes. Eventually that lone figure was joined by other figures. The paintings became warm and welcoming.
When she reached the last painting on the wall she almost dropped the glass in her hand. It showed two lone figures with their backs to her. They were walking away, holding hands. Although the figures were not detailed she knew who they were. One had yellow and orange swirls around him and the other had black and blue swirls. The colors intermingled in the middle where the swirls met. The rest of the canvas was blank. Although simple, the painting spoke volumes.
"When did you paint this?"
"Right after it happened."
The painting reminded Sakura of her nightmares. They always looked happy in her nightmares. Although she couldn't see their faces she knew they were smiling. She turned to look at Sai. He was sitting on his couch looking at her. His face was blank. She turned back to the painting. She understood. This was how he expressed the emotions he was still trying to understand.
"Have you painted anything else since?"
"I've tried to, but nothing feels right."
Sakura walked away from the painting and moved toward Sai. She sat on the coffee table in front of him. "I see you sketching all the time."
"When I see something worth putting on paper I'll sketch. But even those are unfinished."
Sakura wanted to cry. How many people would have assumed Sai had gotten over the death of Naruto simply because he didn't grieve the way it was expected? How had she not noticed he was suffering? Did he even know he was suffering? Sakura turned and looked a stack of canvases leaning up against the wall in his makeshift studio. She could tell they were used due to the paint round the borders.
"Why do the paintings not feel right?"
Sai leaned to the side to get into Sakura's field of vision. Sakura shifted her eyes to the side to look Sai in the face. She felt her eyes start to tear up at the sad look in his eyes.
"I think we both know why."
Sakura turned back and looked down at the glass in her hands. Of course she knew why. Guilt started to overcome her. How could she have been so selfish and not see the pain Sai was going through as well?
"I am so sorry." She couldn't stop herself from choking on the words.
"Sakura." His voice sounded so calm and gentle. Sakura lifted her head to look at him. He had the sad look in his eyes again. Sakura gave a small, startled gasp when she felt the backs of his fingers brush against her cheeks. "I read in a book that when a girl cries it gives them comfort if you wipe away their tears."
Sai's fingers were gentle and soft against her cheek. He wiped one side before moving on to the next. Sakura watched his face the entire time. There was something in his eyes that she hadn't seen before, but she wasn't quite sure what it was. When he finished he just stared right back at her. It was times like these that she wished he had an aversion of eye contact.
Sakura stood up to put some distance between them and break eye contact. "Thank you for the water." She quickly drank the remaining water in her glass and turned towards the kitchenette. "I don't want to take up more of your time so I'm going to head out."
"It's no bother."
After putting the glass on the counter, Sakura turned and walked towards the door where her shoes were located. "I'll talk to you later. Thanks for the water."
Sakura turned and almost gave Sai a fake smile but stopped. He would see right through it. Instead she just gave a small wave and walked out. Halfway down the hall she stopped and leaned against the wall.
'What the hell was that?'
All she wanted to do was sit down. Even if for a brief moment. She just needed to get off her feet. They were so tired, and sore. But knew she wasn't going to get a chance to rest.
A few weeks back Tsunade had reinstated Sakura's hospital duties. After about a week back at the hospital Tsunade promoted Sakura to the highest level medical nin in the hospital under herself and Shizune. She was assigned the task of superviinge all of the medical nin's in the hospital, while Shizune would supervise all of the civilian staff. Shizune was better as the soft talk, and encouragement. Sakura was good at the bodily threats and fear tactics. Between the two of them they could run the hospital smoothly.
Which was good considering the controlled chaos the hospital was currently going through. The rebuilding of Konoha was still an ongoing venture. Since a giant crater was created in the middle of the village, Tsunade thought it would be to the benefit of all if instead of simply filling the hole the space was properly utilized. It was decided that varies offices, facilities, and tunnels be incorporated into the crater and the rest of the city could be built on top. This would increase the security of the Anbu facilities and the offices of those involved in decoding, interrogation and infiltration. The tunnels could also serve as a way for nins, and in case of emergencies civilians, to reach the other side of the village without having to walk in public. This could especially useful for dignitaries.
Apparently someone miscalculated something and a whole section of tunnel collapsed taking the building above it and all the workers in the tunnel and the building with it. Sakura wanted to find this idiot person and pummel them. Many of the injured were civilians and some had to be pulled from the rubble. Without ninja skills to assist them in avoiding injuries all of the hospital staff were working overtime to get everyone stabilized.
Sakura was turning in a chart at the nurses' station when Kiba walked in holding another injured civilian.
"This is the last one."
Shizune motioned Kiba to follow her to one of the hospital beds. She had only been there since the accident had started. "Are you sure?" Sakura followed Kiba and started preparing an IV.
"Trust me. Neither me nor Akamaru smelled anyone else."
"That's good." Everyone turned to see Tsunade standing at the foot of the bed. "Good job Kiba."
Kiba gave Tsunade a huge toothy grin. "Thank you." With that he turned and walked out.
"Sakura, go home. You've been here too long, and everything is under control now." Tsunade moved next to Sakura and took the IV out of her hands. "Good job. Take tomorrow off as well."
"Take her home."
Sakura side stepped to look over Tsunade's shoulder to see Sai standing in the doorway.
"Sakura." Sai held out his hand towards her. For a moment Sakura contemplated taking it. Instead she just brushed past Sai as she stepped through the doorway. They walked out of the hospital in silence. Once outside Sakura took a moment to let the cool air hit her. Fall was coming and the late afternoon air was refreshing. Sakura closed her eyes as the air hit her face. "Would you like me to carry you?"
Sakura gave Sai a short laugh. "No, I'll be fine." Slowly she started walking down the path towards her apartment.
"How long were you in the hospital?" Sai kept the same slow pace next to her.
"About 20 hours or so." It must have been because she actually verbalized how long she had been awake or the fact that she no longer needed to be on point but Sakura suddenly felt herself falling. Just as it went dark she heard Sai say her name. She didn't like hearing the panic in it.
Sakura was warm and comfortable. She pulled the blanket around her shoulders closer to her face and inhaled deeply. That was when she realized that the smell of the blanket was unfamiliar. Most of her blankets smelled like flowers. This smelled like rain and wet grass. Sakura opened her eyes and immediately recognized her surroundings. She was in Sai's apartment laying on his couch.
She sighed as she remembered passing out. He must have brought her here instead of taking her to her apartment. She thought about leaving, but decided against it. Last time she was in his apartment her departure was sudden and borderline rude. Come to think of it she hadn't really seen him since then. There really was no excuse for her behavior towards him. She was one of his remaining true friends and she knew she could not abandon him again. The guilt of her selfishness from her last visit was still bothering her.
Sakura shifted on the couch and some of her hair fell over her eyes and face. As she was about to reach up and brush her hair out of the way she heard footsteps coming towards her from the hallway behind the couch. She knew it was Sai and that he was barefoot. He walked past the couch and headed toward the kitchenette. All he had on was a pair of pajama bottoms that rested low on his hips. He ran his hand through is hair, which was currently in complete disarray. When he reached the kitchenette poured himself a glass of water.
As he drank it Sakura saw his eyes settle on the couch, and on her. Without looking away he placed the glass on the counter and started to walk toward her. Sakura was amazed at how quiet he was. She didn't hear the glass touch the counter and the sound of his feet hitting the floor was nonexistent. As he approached Sakura realized that he thought she was asleep. Her hair must be covering her eyes just enough to allow her to see him, but not the other way around. As he got closer Sakura closed her eyes as much as she could without losing sight of him.
When he right in front of her he kneeled down and ran his eyes over her form on the couch. Even in the darkness Sakura saw the warmth in his eyes. When he eyes came to rest on her face she had no choice but to close her eyes all the way. After a few seconds she felt her hair being brushed out of her face. It took everything she had to keep her breathing from changing. When she felt his fingertips run along her eyebrow she couldn't stop the sigh that left her lips. It must have sounded encouraging because Sai then ran his fingers along her hairline and cupped her cheek when his fingers reached her ear. His touch was so light that Sakura almost doubted he was even touching her. It sent shivers down her spine.
Then just as quickly as he was there she felt him leave. Even after hearing a door behind her click shut Sakura waited several minutes before opening her eyes. As she sat up on the couch Sakura reached up and touched her cheek where Sai had touched. Sakura suddenly felt very alone. She missed him, even though he was only in the room a few minutes ago. Hell, he was down the hall.
Sakura took a deep breath and got up. She needed to use the bathroom. As she approached the hallway she noticed two doors, one was closed and the other was open. She stepped into the open one assuming it was the bathroom. She shut the door behind her and flicked the lights. His bathroom was small and also very bare. Only the essentials were present.
As she washed her hands Sakura took a good look at herself in the mirror. She looked tired. There was a slight discoloring under her eyes and even her hair looked dull. No wonder Tsunade kicked her out of the hospital. After drying her hands Sakura turned to leave the bathroom. She wasn't really paying attention as she opened and started walk through it. As she moved through the threshold she reached up for the light switch, but her hand never made. Instead Sai's hand grabbed her wrist to stop her from flicking the switch.
"Sakura." It was only then that she realized how often he said her name. It was never a question as it was with Naruto or Sasuke. It was always a statement, almost an acknowledgement. The sound of his voice saying her name gave her comfort. It made her feel safe. Looking up she realized Sai was still wearing only his pajama pants. 'I have to realize all of this NOW.'
"I'm sorry did I wake you?" Sakura lightly tugged on her arm to get him to let go, but he didn't. Instead he just continued to look at her face. She figured her ghoulish appearance must have him worried. "I know I look dreadful, but don't worry I'll-"
The touch of his hand on her cheek stopped her. He was looking at her with such scrutiny it was making her feel both nervous and excited. She couldn't remember a time in which he looked at her this way, this look was usually reserved for moments in which he was trying to read between the lines of a situation. The look combined with the warmth of his hand and the slow caress of his thumb on her cheek was overwhelming. She could the skin on her chest heating up and it was spreading up her neck to her face.
"Why are you touching my face? I don't have any tears this time to wipe away." The mood was so heavy that Sakura felt that anything above whispering would be too loud.
"I know." Sakura noted that his thumb still didn't stop. "The book also said I should follow my instincts. Honestly I didn't even realize I was touching you until you stopped talking."
Sakura could understand that. Many times she found herself saying something or doing something she didn't even realize she was doing until someone else commented on it. Yet when she thought back to when he touched her in the living room, he had time to think that through. She would have to figure that out later.
"Am I making you uncomfortable?" The concern was back in his eyes.
"I don't know." Sakura hadn't realized the truth in her words until the left her lips. Sai took one long look at her face, focusing on her eyes and lips, before slowly removing his hand. Sakura noted that once again her cheek felt cold.
"Well I should go back to bed." Sakura watched as he took a step back, turned and walked back into his room. As he turned Sakura flicked the lights off in the bathroom. She wanted to make a quick escape as well. Although her eyes were not yet adjusted to the dark Sakura turned and walked toward the living room. As she sat on the couch she replayed the moment in her mind and she could have sworn she saw him watch her walk away.
"Wait, what do you mean? I don't understand?" Sakura could feel panic starting to take over. If she wasn't sitting on the couch in Tsunade's office she may have collapsed.
Sakura hated the look on Tsunade's face. It reminded her of the moment she told her about Naruto and Sasuke. It made her feel weak. Shizune was standing behind Tsunade and she had the same look on her face as well.
The couch dipped next to her and she turned to see Yamato sitting next to her. He was dressed in his Anbu gear. He placed his cat mask on the table in front of him and then grabbed her hand.
"We were ambushed. There are still nins out there wanting to seek revenge. They see this as the perfect opportunity and many of them are extremely powerful."
"I understand that, what I don't understand is what that has to do with Sai?" She felt Yamato squeeze her hand. It wasn't in anger. He was trying to comfort her, but she was beyond that.
"They captured him. He was able to send one of his ink rats before they took away his scrolls. We did everything we could to find him. When we finally found him…" Yamato looked away and Sakura could feel the tears building up.
"Needless to say he must have revealed nothing. Not that it would have mattered since we killed them all." Although she couldn't see Kakashi she could tell he was trying to comfort her as well. She also understood what he was implying.
Sai had been tortured.
"Where is he?"
Tsunade sighed deeply and looked out the window. "I've had him moved to the fifth floor. I've already granted you access."
"If there is nothing else." With control Sakura didn't know she possessed she calmly got up and walked out of the Hokage office. The fifth floor of the hospital was for approved personnel only. Usually only those patients who were either prisoners of war or great importance were kept on that floor. Only the Hokage had the power to grant access to people.
There was only one door on the entire floor that had a chart hanging on the outside. The chart had CONFIDENTIAL written in big red letters written on it. She didn't have to look at it to know this was his room. She didn't want to look at his chart. Slowly Sakura opened the door and walked in.
The room was small and bare. There was only the bed Sai was laying on, the hospital monitoring equipment and a single chair by the door. Sakura grabbed the chair and made her way to the side of the bed.
She immediately noticed how pale he looked. He was already naturally pale, and right now he looked almost translucent. There was a bandage covering his left ear and eye. She could see bandages on his right shoulder and chest. Sakura grabbed the blanket covering his torso and pulled it down to his waist.
Sakura couldn't stop the choking gasp that escaped her lips.
He had bruises, burns, cuts and bandages all over his torso. The sight was unbelievably gruesome.
Sakura closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Sai was home, he was safe, and he would heal. When she opened her eyes she took her time examining his chest. Whoever had bandaged his wounds had not taken the time to completely heal them. They had administered first aid, but had not taken the time to use chakra.
Sakura removed the packs she kept around her waist and placed them on the chair next to her. She grabbed a hair tie from one and tied her hair in a sloppy ponytail. She removed her gloves and rubbed her hands together to warm them up. She placed her hands above his chest, close enough to send her chakra into his body but not close enough to physically touch him.
She slowly moved her hands up and down his torso. Someone had taken the time to heal his internal injuries, and they had done a good job. It must have been either Shizune or Tsunade. Wiping the sweat from her forehead Sakura came to the conclusion that all of this life threatening injuries had been taken care of. With care Sakura removed the large bandage on his shoulder that covered his burn. Slowly and with precise expertise Sakura began the slow and arduous task of reconstructing the burned skin. The wound wasn't too old to reconstruct, but wasn't fresh enough that it would not leave a scar.
One by one, Sakura healed each burn, cut and bruise. She knew Sai was completely unconscious so she carefully turned him on his side and then treated his back as well. When she was done with his upper body and pulled the blanket up and healed his legs. After she was done, Sakura debated on checking his hips. She could gather the blanket in the middle and still maintain his dignity, as well as hers. She decided to take a small peek and when she noticed a nasty looking bruise she knew what she had to do.
Sakura took a step back and shook her arms. She had to mentally reset her brain from comrade to medical expert. This was she could focus on healing his body and not on, well, his body. As she started she thanked the gods that he really one had that one bruise. The rest of his hips were left untouched.
After carefully covering his body again with the blanket Sakura finally sat down. It was only then that she realized how drained she felt. She had used up all of her chakra, but it was worth it.
Sai would make it through this. He had too.
She needed him too.
Grass, and rain. The smell was wonderful. It reminded her of cool spring nights, laughter and slow strolls under an umbrella. It also reminded her of something else she couldn't really put her finger on. Something dark, but safe.
The warmth was on her cheek, rubbing, willing her back to the world of the living. The feeling was wonderful. Sakura inhaled deeply and sighed as she exhaled.
At the sound of his voice all of the memories from the night before came crashing back. Sakura opened her eyes. At some point she had laid her head down on the bed and fell asleep in the chair. When she sat up Sai was caressing her cheek again, a small smile on his face.
"Sai!" She couldn't stop herself. Sakura sat up and threw her arms around his neck, hugging him. "Oh my god, Sai."
"Sakura, that hurts."
"Oh god!" Sakura pulled back and sat down in the chair again. She was so overjoyed that she had started crying. She reached out and placed her hand over his. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you."
"Why are you apologizing?" Sai turned his hand and grabbed hers. He pulled her forward, a little more forcefully than she expected. Sakura had to put her other hand on the bed to keep from falling on top of Sai. As soon as she was within reach Sai started wiping her tears away. "I've been comforting you a lot lately."
"You should give others an opportunity, you know." As she said the words, Sakura reached up and lowered Sai's hand from her face. Once his hand was on the bed she then reached for the bandage still covering his eye and ear. As she worked she noticed that he closed his other eye. He might not have noticed that he turned his head slightly towards her touch, but she did.
Once the bandage was off, Sakura couldn't help but run her finger along his eyebrow to smooth down the hair. He had a faint bruise along his cheek bone, close to his ear. She pressed two fingers to it and started to heal it with chakra.
As the bruise faded away Sai opened his mouth and sighed. The action fascinated Sakura. When the chakra left her fingers Sai reached up and pressed her hand into his cheek. The contact sparked something in Sakura that she couldn't name. His face felt warm. When she started to move her thumb along his cheek he opened his eyes to look at her.
For a person – no man – who just suffered so much at the hands of others, the warmth in his eyes was unbelievable. It was intoxicating. Sakura understood now why he kept touching her face. The action was so simple and innocent, but there was an undertone of intimacy to it as well. It comforted him just as much as it comforted it her.
"I realize that now."
Sai stayed in the hospital for a week. Although his physical wounds had healed, Tsunade wanted to ensure that his psychological scars did as well. After varies exams and questions he was finally cleared to go home. Tsunade explained to Sakura that Sai's psychological recovery was sped up since he had managed to "remove" himself from the situation by shutting off his emotions. It was the only good thing he had learned from Danzo.
Through the whole process Sakura waited. If she wasn't allowed in the room with him, she was waiting outside. When he woke up she was there, when he fell asleep she was there. Tsunade had graciously removed Sakura from hospital duty so that she could stay with Sai. When she announced that he was cleared to leave, and was given a month off, Sakura panicked. But as Tsunade left she handed Sakura a small piece of paper. It was approval for a month's worth of vacation. She hadn't even put in the request, but the smile on Tsunade's face told her everything.
By the time they made it out of the hospital the sun had set and the night was cold. Slowly they made their way to Sai's apartment. Sakura didn't want to rush the pace and risk re-injury. Once they made it to his front door Sakura realized she wasn't sure what she was supposed to do. Should she stay and take care of him, or should she go so as not to smother him?
"Will you come in?"
Even in the dark she could see his shoulders release the tension in them. Once inside the apartment Sai made his way over to the couch. He sat down in the middle of the couch and laid his back against the back. Sakura walked toward the couch, but decided to sit on the coffee table in front of Sai. A slight feeling of déjà vu hit her.
"Thank you for healing me."
"It was the least I could do."
Sai lifted his head and looked at her. The feeling of excitement and nervousness that Sakura had experienced once before came back. She knew what that feeling was this time. She had spent a lot of time thinking things over. Her insecurity about the whole topic was thrown to the wind when Sai was injured. She would not repeat the same mistakes she had before.
She deserved better than that. He deserved better than that.
"Sai, I can ask you a question?" When Sai nodded, Sakura shifted forward on the table and looked down at his knees. "How easy is it to turn on and off your emotions?"
She watched as he shifted his legs at her question. "It depends on the situation. If turning off my emotions will keep me alive then it's easy."
"In what situations do you turn them back on?"
Sai moved his legs again, but this time he sat forward. Sakura was forced to sit up straight to avoid hitting his chest with her head. This resulted in her being face to face with Sai. He was so close to her that she only had to lean forward to—
When he spoke again his voice was a whisper. "Think of my emotions as a faucet. If the situation calls for it I can turn off the faucet. In normal day to day situations I turn on the faucet to a reasonable flow. But recently I've noticed that in certain situations the faucet it turned up all the way. I am unable to control the flow."
"What situations are those?" Sakura wanted to know the answer. She needed to know the answer. This was her make or break moment. Everything she felt, and everything she wanted depended on his answer.
"They all involve you." As he spoke he reached forward and cupped her face. "Every time I did this," Sai slowly caressed her cheek, "I've wanted to do this." He then moved his hand down her face and ran his thumb across her lips. Sakura instinctively parted her lips and sighed.
Sakura closed her eyes and pressed her face into his hand. She wanted to remember every detail of this moment. The sound of his voice when he spoke, the warmth of his hand, the feel of his thumb against her lips.
All of it.
When she felt his other hand reach up and brush her hair behind her ear she almost melted. His touches were so simple, but they felt unbelievably intimate.
When she opened her eyes the sight before her took her breath away. There was so much emotion in his eyes. His cheeks were flushed and his lips were also slightly parted. She could see that he didn't know how to proceed. He wanted to, she knew he did, he just wasn't sure how.
Sakura reached up and grabbed his hands. As she pulled them away from her face she leaned forward towards his face. She saw the concern in his eyes before he spoke.
"What are you doing?"
Sakura touched his cheek with her own and spoke into his ear. "I'm following my instincts."
When she moved to turn her face he mirrored her actions and met her half way. For a moment they just hovered their lips close to each other, neither wanting to make the first move. When Sakura placed her hand on his knee, Sai closed the gap between them. Sakura felt fireworks go off in her chest and work their way down to her stomach. Sai's kiss was slow and gentle. Sakura took her time. She wanted to savior this moment.
As the kiss intensified Sakura felt an ever growing need to physically close the gap between them. When she shifted to move closer to the edge of the coffee table, Sai simply wrapped his hands around her waist and pulled her forward as he sat back on the couch. Sakura ended up straddling his lap.
They continued to kiss and Sakura could feel the intensity of the moment increase with every passing moment. When she finally got the courage to run her tongue against his bottom lip, Sai responded by doing the same and placing his hands under her shirt and running them up her back. Sakura moaned and ran her fingers into his hair.
At the peak of their kissing Sai pulled away and buried his face into Sakura's shoulder. "Sakura, if we continue this way I think we may end up—"
"I don't want you to regret anything we do here."
Sakura leaned back. She wanted Sai to look her in the face as she spoke. "Listen to me very carefully. I loved Sasuke and I loved Naruto and they loved me. But it was not meant to be. I was naïve and stupid and I blamed myself for their death. Maybe if I had done something different I could have saved them. I wanted to join them in the darkness." Sai started to frown as she continued. "I never told you but sometimes I would swear I would catch glimpses of them even when I was awake. Then at some point you worked your way in. You were the light that guided me out of the darkness when I didn't even know I was in the dark."
Sakura cupped both of Sai's cheeks and smiled. "You somehow managed your way into my heart long before I realized it. I will be damned if I another precious person slip through my fingers without letting them know how I truly feel."
She watched as Sai closed his eyes and took in her words. When he opened them again a small smile appeared on his face. "I'm a precious person?"
Sakura smiled and leaned forward resting her forehead against his. "Yes you are."
"Is the warm glow I feel in my chest love?"
Sakura didn't answer. She was sure if she did she would cry and possibly ruin the moment. She discovered that night that Sai was not only honest in the words he said, but also in the actions he took. His actions spoke volumes, and Sakura wanted to read them all.
Rain, grass and flowers. Sakura sighed as she took in the scent of the blanket around her. She could wake up to this smell everyday without any complaints. Sakura fisted some of the blanket and brought it to her nose. The smell was intoxicating. As she brushed her nose against the blanket her lips touched her thumb. The memory of Sai brushing his fingers against her then swollen lips flashed in her mind. Sakura closed her eyes and relived the memory and all the others that started rushing forward.
Sai kissing her bare shoulder.
Sai running his hands slowly down her bare back.
Sai whispering something against the skin of her stomach.
The feel of his lips on her skin. The look in his eyes.
The sound he made when Sakura kissed his neck.
The way he closed his eyes when she ran her fingers through his hair.
Sakura pulled the blanket away from her mouth and moved to get up suddenly feeling hot.
"Don't move." She opened her eyes and saw Sai sitting in a chair next to the bed. He had his sketch pad in his hands and was drawing. "Let me finish this first."
"Are you drawing me?"
"It felt right."
Silence filled the room as Sakura took in the meaning of his words. "Are you going to finish it?"
"As long as you stop moving."
Sakura was about to say something snarky when she noticed the smile on his lips. He had pushed her buttons just like he used to. She bit her lip to keep from smiling. It made her happy to know that even after all of this some things hadn't changed.
"Bit your lip again."
Sakura bit her lip lightly. When Sai put down the pad and reached for her face she was glad some things had changed.
Authors note: I had started writing this years (yes years) ago and never finished it. When I found it on my flash drive and re-read it I realized I couldn't remember where I had planned to go with it. After sitting on it for a few days the story started to take root in my brain again. I find it easier to write Sakura than Sai. It's probably since we're both females.
Anyway I had posted this on 1/23/2013 under a different title with a different ending. I hated the ending, it was really, really WAFF and not my style. That night a different ending came to mind that I liked much more. So I renamed the story and changed the ending. I'm much happier with it.
Well I hope you enjoyed it!