She sighed in her sleep. Frowning as her dreams crept on her like the morning. Her face was buried in her pillow and arms wrapped around it tightly. It was a tight embrace and only slightly comforting in her world of terror. She couldn't help it. It wasn't her fault. Or was it?
This night terror that refused to leave her alone kept coming back, night after night. And it played over and over again, refusing to let its grasp on her slide. Her heart ached terribly every time this dream crossed her mind. Some days, she would even have day dreams about this dream.
The half melted face of the Grass Ninja revealed a single yellow eye with a slit pupil, and a pasty white face. "Such mastery of the Sharingan at such a young an age. You are a true Uchiha after all. Yes, you'll do nicely," a low voice drawled from the twisted face. Sasuke bent over slightly in pain a let out a yell of agony, Sharingan eyes activated.
"You are defiantly his brother. If anything, your eyes are keener than Itachi's," he noted. Sasuke was struggling to keep standing as he panted.
"Who are you? What do you want?!" the young Uchiha Sasuke yelled.
A low chuckle came from the ninja as he revealed a Heaven Scroll, "My name is Orochimaru. But as to what I want, that will have to wait, until we meet again. Which won't happen until you finish this test with the best score of all," he stated. The white paper of the Heaven Scroll started disintegrating in a sudden blue flame while Orochimaru held it in his hand.
Haruno Sakura gasped from her kneeling position beside Sasuke. "The Scroll!"
"First, you will have to defeat the Hidden Sound Ninja working for me," that snaky voice continued.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, but if you're finished, why don't you just beat it? If we never meet again, it'll be too soon!" Sakura spat.
"Oh, he and i will meet again," Orochimaru grinned slightly, raising his hands in a seal.
Suddenly, his neck elongated and shot forwards with a speed that stunned Sasuke and Sakura. When Orochimaru reached it's target, he sunk his fangs down into Sasuke's neck, biting down with a sharp force as the boy was paralyzed, too shocked to move.
"Sasuke, No!" Sakura called.
Sasuke moaned in pain as Orochimaru pulled away, his neck shortening to a more believable length, leaving behind bloody imprints on Sasuke's neck.
A mark, looking almost like a tattoo appeared on his neck in the shapes of the Sharingan wheel. It looked like three commas placed together. Sasuke's hand shot to the mark and he doubled over in pain, barely keeping himself conscious in the fight to control the agony that was consuming his body.
"Sasuke! You! What have you done to Sasuke?!" Sakura demanded of Orochimaru.
He simply raised his hand in a one-handed seal, "I just gave him a little parting gift," he paused. Sasuke fell to his knees, still struggling to hold onto what was left of consciousness.
"Very soon, he will seek me out in desire of my power. In the mean time, I enjoyed the demonstration of the powers he already possesses," he smiled, chuckling as he started sinking into the dark rotting branch that he was standing on.
As soon as he was out of sight, Sasuke let out a yell that tortured Sakura's ears. She knew that no vocal cords should emit that kind of sound because no human should ever be in that kind of pain.
On his hands and knees, Sasuke struggled to breathe and stay awake. He was holding back his scream as Sakura got up and ran to his side. "Sasuke! What is it? What's he done to you? Are you-?" she paused. Her arm was slung over his back in a weak attempt to comfort him as he trembled uncontrollably under her touch.
"It's ok," she said softly, grabbing his hand as she sat on the hard wood. He let out another yell of discomfort that made Sakura's heart want to rip in two. "It's going to be ok!"
While he was yelling, Sasuke could hear the worry and fear that lined Sakura's young voice. She was trying her hardest to comfort him. But he could not see past the pain that coursed through his body. Finally unable to take anymore, he fell limply into Sakura's lap, his head supported on her chest as she hugged him close to her. "Sasuke..." her voice shook uncontrollably, "Sasuke..." her green eyes that were normally so bright with enthusiasm were wide with fear and dulled in apprehension.
When Sasuke didn't respond to her, she choked back her sobs and called out loudly, "NARUTO! SASUKE'S HURT! I NEED YOU!"
A pause...no answer from the blonde who was pinned to the tree with a kunai. He was unconscious and frowning. "Naruto!" Her screaming voice startled crows into flight, in turn startling her.
Dimly, she watched the crows disappear into the distance. Her eyes were brimming with tears. "I don't..." she held Sasuke to her chest still, "I don't know what I'm supposed to do..."
Sakura could vaguely remember what had happened after that. Sasuke and Naruto were unconscious and she tried to protect them from the Sound Nin who wanted to kill them all. Of course, that was when her hair was cut. Ever since then she had kept it short, even to this day.
That was the first time Sasuke had activated his Curse Mark.
Then, her dreams would twist together, melting and blending into different colours. From the dreary, bleak, woods and rotting bark of the Forest of Death to the Gate of Konoha. The stone path was rough from years of people tramping on them. The walled forests on either side of the path were as green as ever but blew with a soft sad wind that day.
This was the dream where Sakura would wake up, sweating, panting, and crying. This is when Sasuke had left...
Sasuke was walking slowly, steadily to the exit of Konoha. His eyes were dark and distant as always. Contemplating every action, every plan. Sakura stood before him. Watching him near her. His backpack told her what he was doing.
The raven haired boy stopped, "What are you doing out here so late? Just out for a stroll?"
Sakura's heart was racing with pain as she looked at the ground, "In order to get out of the village, you have to take this road," she said softly.
He brushed by her, "Go home and sleep," he said gruffly, ignoring the fact that she knew what he was doing. His bangs hid his face as he passed her. And her bangs hid her eyes as she stayed silent.
When he was a few feet away, she couldn't control the pain anymore and a single tear slipped out from her control. "Why?" She turned sideways to watch him as he continued away from her. "Why won't you say anything to me?" She paused. No answer, "Why do you shut everyone out?" Another short pause. "Why won't you tell me anything?" her voice was shaky and her tears came a little more freely now.
Finally Sasuke stopped, "Why do i have to tell you?" he snapped. He sounded angry, agitated...annoyed. Sakura remained silent, knowing that if she interrupted he would stop talking.
"I'm telling you that you meddle too much. Stop bothering me all the time," he lashed out at her. Sakura looked down to the ground, her tears staining her face. Her soft lips were in a pout that was desperately trying to hold back her sobs. But then she grinned.
"You always act like you hate me, Sasuke-Kun," she turned to him again with a sad, fake smile and tired eyes. "Do you remember? When we became Genin... the day the three-man teams were decided, and we were alone at this very spot. You were angry at me, weren't you?" She asked.
A flash back crept into her mind and Sasuke's. A frivolous, long haired girl was picking on Naruto. 'See, he doesn't have any parents. Being alone, he doesn't get yelled at by his parents. That's why he's so unruly.' Sasuke was angry then, yes. 'Loneliness...You can't compare it to how you feel after you get scolded by your parents.' Sakura was taken aback by his comment. 'What's wrong?' Sasuke glanced back at her with cold black eyes, 'You are annoying.' Sakura watched sadly as Sasuke walked away from her.
Sakura looked at Sasuke expectantly, expecting him to remember this memory. He remained silent for a moment. "I don't remember," he said lightly, brushing it off as useless. Sakura looked down in defeat.
She still tried. Breathing deeply, she tried again. "That's alright. It was a long time ago. But it started on that day. You and i, and Naruto and Kakashi-Sensei..." She paused at the memory of the 'Take The Bells' test. The memories of their first mission outside the village, of training sessions...
"The four of us had done a lot of missions together. It was difficult, and it was awful, but..." she paused at the memories of eating out as a team, of Naruto making a fool of himself...
"But...even so...it was fun!" she said with a teary smile. It was yet another desperate and weak attempt at trying to convince him. Sasuke remained silent so she continued, looking down again. "But with revenge alone, you will not be able to make anyone happy. I know about what happened to your clan. No one...neither you...nor me..." she paused. She didn't know how to say anything.
But Sasuke started talking, drawing her still teary eyes to him. "I know that. I am different from you guys. I follow a different path than you guys. The four of us together...It's true that I've thought of that as one possible path. Despite the four of us having been together, my heart has chosen revenge. I live for that purpose. I can't be like you or Naruto." he said. His voice was cold, his eyes were a stony, ice cold black.
Sakura had enough, "Aren't you going to be lonely by yourself? Sasuke-Kun, you told me that being alone is painful. I know that very well, so much that it hurts. I have family and friends. But... if you leave, for me..." she took a faltering step forwards, her tears dripping on the ground, "To me, it's the same thing as being alone!"
Sasuke's mind flashed back to the over turned picture back in his apartment. His eyes softened slightly, shimmering with the tiniest spark of doubt and guilt. But it was gone as soon as it had appeared, "From this point on, new paths will start." he said coldly.
Sakura took an exasperated breath as she stepped forward, "I...I love you more than anything! If you are by my side, I will make sure that you will not regret it. I will make everyday more enjoyable, and you will be happy! I would do anything for you! That's why... I beg you! Please stay here! I will even help you with your revenge! There must be something i can do! That's why... Please, stay here with me..." she paused in her last desperate attempt to make him understand her.
"If that is not possible, then please take me with you..." she asked with hard eyes, sobbing so softly. She didn't know what she was getting herself into. She just wanted him to stay.
He surprised her then. He turned sideways to face her and he had a small, true grin on his hard face. "After all this, you're still annoying." He had said it as a joke. He didn't use his normal, hard tone when he said it, and his eyes seemed softer as he gazed at her shocked, hurt face.
He turned and started walking away again. "DON'T GO!" she called to him. She ran after him, her feet making loud noises as she tried to catch up to him. When he kept walking she stopped, "If you go, I'll scream out loud and..." But he disappeared in a blur.
Her eyes widened as she felt the warmth of his body behind her. She remained silent, "Sakura..." his face softened, "Thank you." No sound was made as she registered what he said. But then a sharp pain in her neck told her that she had failed.
She couldn't say another word before she fell onto the ground in a disgraceful heap. That was it. She had failed yet again. She still couldn't keep Sasuke in the village. Night after night, she tried. Over and over again her feeble words rang through her dreams. And no matter what she said...he still left...What had he become now? Was he stronger? Did he defeat Itachi? After all these years...would he even ever come back?
--Sakura woke with a start. She was sweating and panting, tears rolled down her cheeks. And her first emotion was hopelessness.
After 5 years, she still couldn't get rid of that nightmare. Her green eyes glazed over in hurt as she looked at her alarm clock. 4:00 AM. She sighed and threw the covers aside. She always woke at this time and always found it difficult to go back to sleep.
She took a quick, cold shower to wake her up. She got dressed and left her apartment slowly. This was her daily morning routine. But why did it feel different today? Like someone had tweaked at her mind and decided it was abnormally regular today.
Call it woman's intuition, but the Ninja training might have been it. Sakura ran to the Hokage's office. Something was definitely wrong.