He immediately knew that they were being tailed; he didn't need Karin's chakra sensing abilities to realize it. For Sasuke, travelling through the snow was always a challenge. He needed to make it so that there were no tracks to follow, and no possible ways for someone to discover the path they were on. Yes, travelling through the snow without a trace was difficult, but Sasuke was always good at overcoming obstacles set before him. There wasn't a challenge that could present itself to him that he wouldn't acknowledge and then immediately begin strategizing to work his way around it.

Travel on the ground was obviously out of the question, and travelling in a straight line through the treetops—their usual, laidback manner of travel—wasn't a bright idea either. In order to work towards going undetected, they had to remain a short distance from one another. Each of them 10 meters apart from one another's sides, and 20 meters ahead of the next person; forming a crooked, diagonal line. Suigetsu leading, with Karin behind him, and Juugo trailing both. Sasuke brought up the rear to ensure they were all obeying his orders carefully.

He wouldn't normally have them spread across such a far area, although both Juugo and Karin were still visible to him. Karin was barely so, the only indication of her location being her bright burgundy hair trailing behind her. If a ninja were to find a single straight trail in the trees, the absence of snow only on one direct path of branches, they would be immediately discovered. Moving in a zig-zagged yet organized way wasn't a surefire way for them to go completely undetected, although it did give them a much greater chance to retain their stealth.

They moved quickly, leaving almost no trace of their presence in the dense forest. But, in activating his sharingan for no more than a couple seconds—making another routine sweep of the general area—the one pursuing them was detected, travelling 80 meters south of them.

Sasuke grimaced. He did not feel any hesitance in knowing what had to be done. And if he were fully capable of the emotion, he may have even felt pity for them. Not due the fact that they were about to die. But the fact that they came alone, completely unaware of the fact that confronting his team would undoubtedly lead to their death.

Dying alone in a dark, dense forest, in the middle of a blizzard no less, was quite an unpleasant way to leave this world. But in following his team, their uninvited guest had sealed their own fate.

Eyes forward, watching for his teammates, a flash or red hair made its way through the treetops diagonally. "Sasuke—"

"I know," he spoke in a stern voice, cutting Karin off just as she reached him. Without stopping he continued forward, wordlessly commanding her to follow. "Continue forward, I'll take care of our little set-back." She was now caught up with him, sporting a pout, ready to protest.


"I said continue," he said sternly, glaring at her, sharingan activated once more. "I know you know it's only a single ninja. Now go," he ordered, halting completely on a branch. The impact of his sudden stop made the thick arm of the tree shudder.

He waited an entire minute for his team to get farther away, before deactivating his sharingan and letting out a breath of air, watching as his own body heat evaporated in the cold air before him. He wasn't a huge fan of any of the members of his team, but they were entirely necessary to his cause, and for that they had to be kept around. After all, he would require help destroying Konoha and all those who inhabit it.

Lazily hopping down to the ground, the snow on the forest floor reaching up past his ankles, he let out another long sigh. At this rate, by the time they all got out of the forest and out of the range of the storm, the snow would be up to his knees. Dragging his feet through the snow, he took a moment to himself, to help him collect his thoughts. Being naturally introverted made it difficult to be surrounded constantly by a group of people he considered hardly tolerable. If he could have it his way, he'd be travelling alone, just how he liked it. Without having to put up with any sort of bickering or nonsensical chatter. But again, he needed his team. He needed them around for their skills.

Not for their companionship. Never for that. He'd been alone for most of his life. It was what he was used to—what he knew best.

The only people he'd ever known whose companionship he once considered pleasant were long gone. Not dead, just gone. No more bonds or ties with those who would only slow him down and get in his way. All they were was a hindrance. Nothing more. Never anything more.

It was when a flash of pink in his peripheral vision made him shake his head, rubbing his tired eyes. He'd stopped imagining them among him years ago, but it still happened every now and again. For almost an entire year after his departure from Konaha, he found himself seeing glimpses of pink, yellow, and grey, everywhere that he went. Every person he encountered had some sort of trait or characteristic that immediately reminded him of one of them. It took him that entire year to force himself to forget. To leave them behind for good. To expel them from his thoughts.

Bonds will only ever make you weak. People will only ever get in your way.

He needed to focus. They were gone from his life. He just needed to keep them gone from his head.

Resuming his casual walk in the snow, he unsheathed his sword, wanting to get this whole thing over with. He didn't enjoy killing people. But by now, if ninja from all across the nations didn't realize that tailing Uchiha Sasuke was a deadly task, then they very well deserved this fate. No, he didn't take pleasure in their deaths, but it was necessary. And ever since he'd been declared a missing-nin, more and more ninja had been trying to track him down and kill him.

Meaning, more and more ninja would meet their deaths at his hands. It wasn't his fault, he'd say, as if trying to justify his actions. It was almost a form of self-defense. It was either them or him.

And Sasuke was always about self-preservation.

Hearing a sharp, yet quiet, whistling noise, Sasuke reacted in a split second, leaning his head to one side and allowing the kunai to lodge itself in a tree somewhere behind him. Reactivating his sharingan once more, he dodged a second one no more than a second afterward. And when a third one came whistling towards his head, he grabed it out of midair. Walking toward the direction of the pathetic attacks, he spun the kunai around a finger, almost leisurely. In the other hand, his sword still remained unsheathed, ready for action.

"Show yourself," he commanded, already bored. He'd gone through this whole debacle countless times before. Most times, the enemy ninja would declare how they were doing a good deed for his or her country and how he was an international criminal, who was finally being brought to justice by their hands. At this point in the game, Sasuke had heard it all.

Their lack of creativity in their quasi-heroic speeches astounded him.

Behind him, the faint sound of a boot crunching in the fresh snow caught his attention. As if perfectly synchronized, Sasuke stepped to the side, crouching slightly and sword ready, as a fist shot by his head, wielding yet another kunai in its small, dainty hand. The hand of a woman.

Launching his sword upright, spinning it slightly in a way that would make avoidance almost impossible, he braced himself for the impact with the ninja's body. For some reason, killing women ninja always made him feel uneasy—uncomfortable even. Much more so than killing men did. He attributed that to the few lessons his mother tried to teach him as a small child; "Always be courteous and protective of your new classmates, especially the young girls. Remember to be a gentleman when it is called for."

He had rolled his young 8-year-old eyes and ran off laughing after his mother ruffled his hair lovingly. It had been one of the pieces of advice she had given him on the day of his orientation at the ninja academy. And one of the last things she said to him before her death.

Mere seconds had passed, and as his sword slashed right through the space that the ninja had just been—who had been launching themselves almost completely over his right shoulder—he jumped back, realizing he'd underestimated the enemy's speed.

Landing a few meters away, he scowled, mentally berating himself for being so lazy and careless. But it was only one ninja, so he hadn't seen the need to really give much of a thought to it all. He'd fought dozens at a time and had always come out victorious; his blade drenched in blood. Lone ninja were much easier to take out.

Glancing at the white cloaked ninja, who was currently sliding through the snow in the opposite direction on her hands and knees, back still facing Sasuke, he readied his stance again. The ninja may have been fast, but turning your back on the enemy was such a stupid mistake to make; even children knew and abided by the common rule.

Quickly launching himself towards her, he pulled back his sword yet again and watched as the ninja lifted her arm. Sasuke frowned, even if she was planning on turning around and striking him head on, she'd never be able to turn in time—his blade would be through her chest before she'd get the chance. But when she struck the ground, Sasuke faultered as the ground beneath his feet shifted in an instant, throwing him of his intended path; his blade missing its target by mere centimeters.

Instead the only damage he managed to inflict—if it could even be called damage—was a tear to the side of the ninja's hood. Sasuke held his ground as his opponent launched herself sideways, landing at the base of a tree trunk, back to the tree. Immediately her hands went back up in front of her, ready to fight, but something distracted Sasuke's attention from the hand signs she was making.

Lying at his feet, were strands of hair resting upon the snow.

Light pink hair.

Before he could react, his head jerked up towards his opponent, just in time to see Sakura's figure disappear in a sudden foggy mist, confirming his suspicion that he wasn't simply seeing things.

Turning around in a full circle, he used his sharingan to pinpoint her location. He wanted to kick himself for assuming that this would be routine and simple. A shinobi was to never let his guard down, yet in the first 10 seconds of this fight, Sasuke had already been made to look like a fool. No doubt she'd seen the startled look that he'd had upon the realization of who he was fighting.

"Come out," he barked, losing patience quickly. "Come out now!"

Directly behind him, a tree shot out of the ground. Sasuke barely had time to dodge its branches as they reached for him like snakes. One thick bough stretched out and managed to grab his left ankle, wrapping itself around it until the grip was tight and solid, holding him in place. Drawing his sword to cut the branch, a second tree shot out, its arms reacting much quicker than Sasuke's as it wrapped thick coils of wood around his torso.

Harshly yanking him, back first, against the solid trunk of the tree, the tree's tendrils eventually halted movement as they held the Uchiha tightly in place. Letting out a growl of frustration Sasuke fought against the grip of the wood, clenching and unclenching his one fist, and gripping his sword tightly with the other. He couldn't move his arms, the only motions he could make were slight wrist movements, but after a few quick attempts, Sasuke realized he'd never be able to force it at such an angle that would allow his sword to strike.

He sensed her quick approach, refusing to be taken off guard by any more mediocre ninjutsu. Hardening his grip on the sword, he turned his head toward her, waiting for her to appear within his line of sight. All he needed was for her to look him in the eye…

His sharingan followed her every move the moment she shot out from behind the tree that was restraining him. For a moment he thought she was going to tackle the actual tree, or at least punch it by the way her hand was balled up in a fist. But she quickly struck her intended target the moment that Sasuke realized what she was doing.

The sickening sound of bones being crushed echoed through the trees as the snow continued falling. Sasuke's sword flew out ahead of him, falling to the ground into the woods and out of his direct line of sight. The pain he felt in his hand angered him more than it bothered him. He could handle pain; broken bones were nothing. Child's play. What he couldn't handle was being shown up by a ninja whose set of skills were undoubtedly below his own.


Her hood thrown back at the force of her landing, she turned toward him, her expression severe; a lock of her hair on the left side considerably shorter than the one that mirrored it on the right.

Her glare was unlike anything that the Uchiha had ever seen her wear. Normally her expressions could be narrowed down to happy, sad, and scared. There was no name for this expression though, although it looked foreign, or even misplaced, with her features contorted in a grimace. The look she casted upon him now was not one of fear or admiration, but one of disgust and contempt. For a moment, Sasuke even questioned whether or not this was really Sakura.

Not once looking him in the eye, she gave him a once over, her glare holding its sharpness and her frown staying put. Turning away from him for a split second she rushed to the woods and then back again, returning with his sword in her grasp. Surely she wasn't planning on using it? The thought made Sasuke want to laugh.

Throwing it in the snow before her, Sakura made another fist, this one glowing bright with chakra, and aiming it towards the ground. Activating his chidori and letting the electricity course through his body, Sasuke burned the wood surrounding him to a crisp, and easily broke the damaged fragile wood, freeing his arms and torso…

… Just in time to watch as Sakura struck his sword, splitting it into three separate pieces.

Launching himself at her, determined not to miss, he almost let out a wicked smirk as he gripped the front of her cloak with his unbroken hand and slammed her body against a tree. To her credit she didn't make a single noise, even as the impact of her body caused the outer bark of the tree to give way completely, leaving a human-shaped imprint on the tree. He kept her there, one hand gripping her clothing right at her collar bone, the other crackling with chidori.

And as he watched her face, she still showed no signs of fear. Not a single tear or trembling lip. Nothing that Sakura would usually express. His anger intensified; this was not the Haruno Sakura he knew. Unable to help himself, he pulled her back from the tree and slammed her back into it once more. Snow fell all around them from the disturbed branches, some of it even collecting on their shoulders and in their hair.

"Stop it," he growled at her angrily.

Even as the wind rushed out of her lungs and she coughed a few times, she lifted her head back up to him defiantly, letting him see her expression, her eyes; there was no love there in her bright green eyes. Where the hell had it gone? Now she only gazed upon him with cold indifference. In his discomfort and anger he slammed her against the tree once more.

"Stop doing that!" he screamed in her face, trying to appear as dark and menacing as possible. He powered his chidori up so that nothing else could be heard over the sounds of its sparks. He lifted his arm, not to attack, but to show her his power. The power he had to destroy, to kill. The power he had that could take her life at any given moment. He was not her friend; he was her enemy. Her enemy who was going to kill her. He waited for the fear, anticipating the widening of her eyes and the trembling of her lips and the overflow of tears.

"Stop what?" she asked in a low, deadly voice.

Sasuke tried convincing himself that the slight shiver that ran down his spine was due to the below freezing temperatures that they were currently fighting in, not his alien discomfort. And that the reason his chidori dissipated was due to his own will, not the shock that seized his entire body for a split second. His grip tightened on her clothes, bringing her up off her feet a few centimeters, her body still pressed against the shattered bark.

No. This truly wasn't Haruno Sakura. This was something entirely different, something that young ninja of Konoha aspired to one day become. Sakura was a nothing but a hard-hearted, motivated, Konoha shinobi, ready to risk everything she had for a mission. Even if it meant her life. A true shinobi of the Leaf.

Sasuke almost let out a sigh as the realization dawned upon him. "This will make it much easier to kill you," he said quietly, almost to himself. Upon realizing the truth of his words his anger suddenly dissipated and was once more replaced with his tired indifference. Looking down at her with eyes that appeared to be bored of the situation, he reignited his chidori and raised his fist to strike.

Then Sakura did something that almost set Sasuke off again. She smirked.

Glaring he prepared to deal a final blow that would end this fight, and finally destroy this useless, troublesome bond.

"It's okay," she said in the cold hard voice, "I wasn't planning on surviving this fight anyways." Smirk still on her face she looked him in the eye, and it was only there where Sasuke noted the slight change in her expression. Her tired eyes spoke volumes. She was ready to end this bond, too. To destroy the ties they still held to one another.

She was ready to die.

Chidori at the ready, Sasuke released her and took a few steps back, slightly distancing himself from her. Sakura made no move to run or dodge the attack, instead staring him in the eyes, fearless and utterly accepting of her fate. With a yell Sasuke ran towards her, fist aimed towards her chest.

At the very last moment, she launched herself at him as well, almost as if diving straight into the chidori. As if she were eager to die, and was too impatient to wait the additional milliseconds until her demise.

But before his fist reached her chest, her outstretched arm pierced his.

Not her arm, but a long piece of his broken sword.

As the pain hit him, exploding outward from his ribcage and ricocheting through his body, he hardly noticed Sakura's body colliding with his own. The force drove the sword in deeper, until it pierced entirely through his body. As Sasuke hit the ground, Sakura directly on top of him, his first instinct was to move, to run, to save himself. Adrenaline pulsed through his body and his heart began racing faster than ever, the sound pounding in his ears, momentarily overpowering all his other senses. But the end of the sword that was currently protruding from his back was stuck firmly into the ground.

Moving to either side or taking a diagonal approach at escape was out of the question. Every inch he moved, to any side or angle at all, cause his chest to erupt in new, sharper sensations of pain as the blade dug itself deeper, cutting further into his flesh. He bit back a pained groan as he let his head hit the ground, cushioned by the snow below. But no amount of snow would help bring comfort to his body or relieve any sort of pain.

It wasn't until blood began dripping onto his chest, that he remembered the woman who lay on top of him, who much like him, laid impaled with the razor-sharp blade.

Blood was steadily flowing out of her mouth. A sign of internal bleeding. A sign of damage that would be past the point of repairing. It wasn't until she let out a choked cry when he noticed that blood wasn't the only thing falling onto him.

Tears flowed down her face, mixing with the blood and dripping off her nose and chin. Her eyes remained tightly closed, as if she were trying to keep the tears at bay, and a muffled groan of pain worked its way through her clenched teeth as if trying to hold her composure.

Sasuke could do nothing but gape at her, his mouth slightly opened, his eyes wide as he took in her expression. This was the Sakura he knew. This was the woman who was ruled by her emotions, who could be read like a book, and who wore her heart on her sleeve. This was the girl who turned from a nuisance into a teammate, and from a teammate into a friend. A girl who turned into someone that he once held very dear to him.

And in that moment, he didn't see an enemy shinobi, a Konoha resident, or an emotionless, cold woman. He saw his friend. His friend who had confessed her love for him and who he had turned his back on. A friend who had offered him everything she had to give, who would've travelled with him at the beginning if he had let him, who would've betrayed her village for him, and who would've helped him to restore his clan. Someone who offered him the opportunity to love. God, how he wished he hadn't turned away from her.

An anguished cry eventually made its way past her lips and suddenly her arms that had been planted on either side of Sasuke gave way. She collapsed onto him, her head lying weak and limp over his right shoulder, the blade running itself deeper into her. A weak sob made its way out of her throat, but her body remained still.

Gripping her by her shoulders, the pain in his chest far outweighing the pain in his hand, he propped her up so he could look at her once more. She was dying, and quickly. And as the pain erupted anew in his chest, he knew that he was dying as well; there was nothing he'd be able to do about it. It would only be a matter of minutes before the two of them became lifeless corpses, covered in blood and snow and lying on the floor of the forest.

"Sakura," Sasuke managed to say, in a breathy, weak voice, "why?" Now they were both going to die. There would be no victor in this battle. This was to be their final resting place. This was it. But he needed to know why. Why she had done this; not killed him—but used her own life as a disposable tool in the process.

"Because," she cried, opening her eyes and looking at him with that emotion he thought was long gone and forgotten, "I love you."

Sasuke couldn't form words to respond with. He had never known what to say when she confronted him with her silly feelings that she had toward him; he had figured them to be of no use when he was young. You could never gain anything substantial from love. It was pointless.

And this? This wasn't love. Death was pain and sorrow and everything that represented what was fragile and scary in this world. Death was the end of everything and was to be feared and mourned and avoided at all costs. How on earth was death love?!

"I-I know you've wanted to see me dead for a while," Sakura squeaked out, explaining herself with her eyes closed tightly once more, and the tears continuing to fall. "So I figured if I k-killed myself in order to kill y-you, then maybe I would've done something to make you feel a l-little bit happy—" her words were cut off my choking coughs. Sakura spat a mouthful of blood out in the snow beside them, blood still flowing steadily down her chin. "Pathetic isn't it?" she whispered.

Sasuke could feel her arms growing weak in his grasp; soon she wouldn't have the strength to hold herself up, or to even speak to him. Soon she'd be dead. Out of nowhere, words from his past were echoing through his brain.

"All I want is for you to acknowledge me. That's all I want."

Sakura had done everything in her power to get him to one day acknowledge her, and now that he actually saw her for who she was—who she had grown to become—it was too late for it to even matter. Their death was upon them. Nothing that Sasuke could ever do would ever be enough to make up for the pain and anguish he'd caused her. Even if he were to apologize and vow to change at this moment, not only would it not matter since he'd be a corpse soon enough, but it still wouldn't come anywhere close to making things right.

He'd never be able to make things right. That realization hit him like a ton of bricks.

"Sakura," he choked out, his voice full of dread and sorrow. She looked at him weakly with her half-closed eyelids. "I'm sorry," he groaned, his guilt overpowering him, "I'm sorry Sakura I'm so sorry. Damnit I don't hate you, I'm so sorry."

He spoke with such emotion that his voice sounded foreign even to his own ears. He was angry, but his anger was directed entirely at himself. A new pain, one that wasn't being caused by sharpened metal, erupted in the pit of his chest, in the bottom of his gut, and in his throat.

"Please believe me," he almost shouted at her, her eyelids closing more and more with each passing moment, "Sakura, I'm sorry. Please! Sakura please believe me! Sakura!"

"I want to lie down now," she whispered. Sasuke barely caught it over his heavy, yet labored breathing; he could feel his lungs growing weaker. He'd stop breathing soon enough.

Out of nowhere, tears began streaming down his face as he slowly and carefully lowered Sakura back down on top of him. Her head lay directly on his right shoulder—if it had been any other circumstance, it would have looked as if she were nuzzling into his neck. It could've been seen as romantic if it had been any other place, and any other time.

But she was dying, and this was the only way he'd be able to comfort her. The only way he'd be able to give forth an attempt at making things right. Even if, in her last moments, he could make her a little bit happy, maybe death wouldn't be too awful.

Arranging her so that she seemed comfortable, Sasuke winced and fought back screams of pain as the metal cut more of his flesh. In the spur of the moment, Sasuke forced his heavy arms to rise and loosely wrapped them around her, fighting back the urge to cry out the entire time. "I'm sorry," he whispered softly into her hair, "I don't hate you I don't I don't Sakura I'm sorry." Tears slowly fell down his face, landing in her pink tresses.

"I can't feel my legs," she mumbled into his neck, "or my tummy or toes." Looking over at the end of the sword that was protruding from her back, he winced. The sword cut directly through the center of her spinal column. She had been paralyzed on impact. "I'm cold Sasuke," she whispered weakly.

Wrapping his arms more securely around her, he hoped for the end to come quickly to the both of them. He couldn't do it; he couldn't stand to see any more tears come from her green eyes that had once been so vibrant and full of life. Now they gazed at him, dull and gray, through half closed lids.

"It's okay," he spoke, his quiet voice shaky and growing weak, "it's going to be alright."

"I'm sorry Sasuke," she cried softly. "Please don't hate me. I'm sorry. I had to."

He quietly silenced her, leaning his head on hers, tears still flowing, "I know you did. I know." Somehow, through all these years, he knew this is how it would end. He couldn't foresee the exact circumstances that it would happen under, but he knew he'd never be able to make it much farther in this world. He'd been lying to himself in telling himself that he'd grow more powerful and destroy the entire village. And deep down he knew that it would be someone from Team 7 who would take him down for once and for all.

"I'm sorry Sasuke," she whimpered weakly, "I love you."

"Sakura," he cried, allowing himself to let his emotions take complete hold of him for the first—and last—time in his life. "I'm sorry Sakura please forgive me," he kissed the top of her head a couple times, desperately trying to let her know how he felt, so he could attempt to make things right in his last moments. Or as close to "right" as he'd ever get.

One of his hands cupped her cheek, rubbing the skin, trying to keep her a little more alert for just a little while longer. "Sakura look at me," he begged her closed eyes. She couldn't be gone. No, not yet. "Sakura!" He shouted, desperate for her attention, "open your eyes, please!"

And with what must have been the very last bit of strength she still held in her body, she opened her eyes. Only slightly, but it was enough for Sasuke to gain her full attention.

"I'm sorry," he whispered one last time, allowing her to see his tears, his anguish, and his remorse. Suddenly, he kissed her. It wasn't anything special, just a bloody, salty, cold, kiss. He remained still for a moment until he felt her kiss him back. It only lasted for a second, and the pressure she'd returned was hardly noticeable, but it had been there. He then quickly pulled back and whispered in her ear over and over. "I love you," he choked out in between strangled sobs, "I'm sorry Sakura. I'm so sorry my Sakura. God I'm so sorry. I love you."

He kept mumbling to her over and over, for several more minutes. Past the point where her breathing halted and her heart stopped breathing. Past the point where he lost all feeling in his fingers and toes and to where the pain began to subside and numbness started to take its place. Past the point where anything he said at all mattered in the grand scheme of things. Maybe he was just saying it for himself in that moment. So that he knew what was true in his final hour. Maybe this was his penance. Or just his punishment for all the wrongdoings in his life. Fated to hold the only woman who he could ever say he had truly loved in his arms as she died. Died because of him and the pain he caused her throughout most of her life. It may have been by her hand that they died, but it was his blade that sealed their fate.

Growing delirious to the world around him, Sasuke found himself entranced with the snowflakes falling around them. Glancing downward he noticed how quite a bit of snow had accumulated on their bodies. Frowning, and in a weak stupor, he mustered up his last bit of strength and grabbed the end of the sword that was sticking out of Sakura. Pulling as hard as his weak, dying body could, he removed the blade from their bodies, its sharp edges easily slicing through his palms, but his body was cold and numb to any further pain.

From there he managed to push himself up into a sitting position, Sakura along with him. And by some miracle he was able to drag himself, and Sakura's body (being held close to him) under the protection of a tall tree. Leaning against the trunk, and holding Sakura's body close to him, as if he could still keep her frozen body warm with the little life he had left, he looked out into the snow once more.

In the distance he could hear voices. People were shouting. Some voices were familiar, others were not. Two voices stuck out more than any others. Why did he know those voices? Who were they? Was he finally dead? Were these the voices of his parents? Holding tightly to Sakura he started straight ahead into the storm, the distance giving of a hazy, white cloud of cover.

"Sakura! Sakura!"

"Kiba! Have you caught anything?"

"Yeah! It's faint though!"

"Where the hell is she Kakashi?!"

"We don't have much time."

"Sakura! Sakura can you hear me!?"

The voices all blended together in his head. Holding her closer he wanted to yell out, but he could not find the words or the means to speak them. He wanted them to go away. They could not have her. They needed to leave her alone and let them die in peace.

"Naruto, 1 o'clock! Up ahead!"

"Sakura! Sakura answer me!"

There were the familiar voices again. He knew these voices, he knew that name, but he would never be able to make the connections in his final moments. His mind had begun to leave him. Suddenly, the cold numbness was replaced with a warm feeling. A nice, comforting, warmth that started in his chest and expanded to his fingers and toes. If this was death, then Sasuke would then give in, and go willingly to wherever it is people like him—lying, deceiving, murderous monsters—went.

As a flash of orange and black flew before him, and as a yellow mop of hair cried out in anguish on its knees, Sasuke knew that his and Sakura's suffering might be over, but that it would only give birth to new suffering for those whose lives still remained intact. For those whose hearts were still beating.

And the vicious cycle would continue.

This story was inspired by Regi-chan's beautiful artwork on deviantart titled "Because I Love You".

The link to the art is on my main page; be sure to check it out and to also take a look at more of her wonderful art.

This was my first Naruto fanfic, I hope you all enjoyed it. I know it's sad, but for some reason I like sad stories. Eh, go figure.