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01 April 2007 @ 11:24 pm
[Fic] The Watcher 1/1  
Title:  The Watcher
Fandom:  Naruto
Genre:  General/Angst
Rating: Everyone
Pairings: SasuSaku, one-sided NaruSaku
Warnings: Takes place directly after the time skip, but before Naruto and Sakura meet up with Sasuke.

Word Count: 3,272
Start: 10/28/06
Finish: 1/15/07

Summary:  "It seemed to be a game he liked to play with himself only not. When he was left alone and had exhausted himself of training for the day, his thoughts tended to stray from revenge to the life he had left behind."

            Sakura closed her eyes and breathed the scent of lavender in deeply. All at once her troubles seemed to melt away. After last night’s conversation with Naruto she needed some place to go to collect herself. She felt raw, exposed… It was the first time she had ever fully expressed her feelings to anyone about the Uchiha boy, the boy who had captured her heart so long ago. She had tried so hard to suppress those feelings over the last two and a half years, but she couldn’t do it. She now understood why it was that Sasuke said emotions were a hindrance. They could hurt you, and not only that, they could be used against you. Even so, Sakura believed that they could also be a person’s greatest strength. “Just look at Naruto,” Sakura mused as she settled herself on the soft earth. She had seen the blond in action; his emotions fueled him and more often than not determined the outcome of the battle. “He may be rather thickheaded when heading into a fight, but he always manages to pull through.”
            Sakura smiled, remembering Naruto’s goofy grin. She had to admit that she was glad to see the blond return. “At least one of them did…” She shook the bitter thought aside and began concentrating on the flowers and herbs spread out before her. It was true she needed a bit of tranquility after last night, and, this field had been a great source of comfort to her over the last few years, but that wasn’t her only reason for going up there. She was on her way to becoming a successful medic-nin under the Fifth Hokage’s tutelage. In order to continue down that path she not only needed to prove herself in medical jutsu and knowledge, but in preparation as well. Having the basic essentials on hand could be the difference in saving a life or not saving one. “If I can’t fight well at least I’ll be able to heal those that can,” Sakura thought, clipping some of the surrounding lavender. “Lavender… Good for soothing aches and pains,” the pink haired girl muttered to herself as she twirled the purple flowers between her fingers. She smiled sadly at nature’s handy work before allowing herself to emit a soft sigh.
            “Aches and pains… funny how some of them never seemed to go away, eh Sasuke-kun?” the girl mused sadly.
            Red eyes flashed in the darkness the trees provided. Behind the giant oak closest to the clearing Uchiha Sasuke held his breath, his heart racing unusually fast. He thought he had masked his presence; that his stay would go unnoticed, but he must have let his guard down. He waited for his former teammate to find him, prepping himself for a confrontation, but several minutes passed and nothing happened. In fact, as Sasuke peered back into the clearing, it appeared that Sakura hadn’t deterred from her work at all.
            Sasuke chuckled to himself. He had been acting stupid, paranoid that at any second someone would find him. “Or not,” Sasuke cautioned to himself, his thoughts straying to the room he usually occupied in Orochimaru’s hideout. He wasn’t supposed to be here. He wasn’t even sure why he was here, but here he was… again.
            It seemed to be a game he liked to play with himself only not. When he was left alone and had exhausted himself of training for the day, his thoughts tended to stray from revenge to the life he had left behind. He wondered if the village was still peaceful, how his peers carried on, but these fleeting curiosities would abruptly end when they reached one of two people.
            Naruto was generally the first as he was a rather hard character to forget. Sasuke would briefly muse on whether his idiotic friend continued to have dreams of grandeur. Naruto had, after all, mostly proven himself to the village during the Chunnin exam years ago. The blond was one-step closer in getting the recognition from the village he desperately craved. The thoughts would usually turn unpleasant from there as flashbacks of Sasuke’s last encounter with the boy would flicker before his eyes. Regret would then surface making the dark haired boy squirm. He’d contemplate his actions (past, present, and future) and wonder if they had been worth breaking one of the only steadfast bonds he had. It was here his thoughts would stray to another person with soft pink hair and emerald colored eyes. It was here that guilt would nearly consume him.
            Sasuke couldn’t pin-point exactly what it was he felt for Sakura, but he was able to recognize that she had become a very important part of his life. Or rather, had been. He wondered how she took to seeing Naruto’s bruised and beaten body knowing that it had been Sasuke who had done it to him. He’d wonder what feelings she now harbored for him and hoped that they were hatred, but wished…
            He deactivated his sharigan as his heartbeat slowed to normal and gazed back out at the field, back at Sakura. She had grown; still lithe and delicate looking, but no longer frail. Tender muscle lined her arms and legs and there was a healthy glow to her skin. It was obvious she had been training hard these last couple of years.
            “Witch hazel… Good for bruises, swelling, and sores,” he heard the girl mutter to herself as she placed a twig with yellow, papery-like leaves in her basket.
            “And apparently as a medic-nin too,” Sasuke noted, watching the girl scavenge the field, rehearsing the names and effects of her finds. Kabuto had mentioned something about her skills growing rapidly as a healer. Sasuke was sure the mention of her had merely been a ploy to get under his skin; Kabuto knew (despite how much Sasuke tried to hide it) that he still had difficulty completely severing his ties with his former comrades. Sasuke was sure Kabuto was just bitter that Orochimaru favored him now. It wasn’t like Sasuke wanted the extra attention, or cared for that matter; he just wanted the power to avenge his clan. Frankly, he could have cared less about Orochimaru and his schemes.
            Sakura’s exaggerated yawn snapped Sasuke out of his thoughts and back to the present. He watched the girl stretch before sitting docilely, looking as if she was contemplating the land before her with neither a smile nor a frown. After a moment she closed her emerald green eyes and extended her head towards the sky, allowing the sun’s warmth to kiss her delicate features. As a gentle breeze tousled her short, pink hair a small smile flittered across her face. Sasuke stared in near wonderment, a feeling of longing rising from somewhere deep within himself. It wasn’t just the newly formed beauty that graced Sakura that drew him to her, but the picturesque portrayal of lingering innocence and purity. He just wanted to touch that; to feel that again. He wanted to forget everything in that moment; that he ever had a past drenched in sorrow and solitude, that he had created a future filled with nothing but misery and despair… He just wanted to forget it all. He wanted to lay his head in the girl’s lap and have her run her fingers through his dark hair, whispering soothing words of comfort and reassurance to him. He wouldn’t care if everything she said was a lie; he already knew there was no way to atone for what he’d done or what he would do, but he would have given anything for those few moments of blissful ignorance.
            “Forget about revenge,” his former mentor had said. “I’ve seen a lot of people like you and the fate of those who seek revenge is grim. It’s tragic. You will end up suffering and hurting yourself even more. Even if you do succeed in getting revenge, the only thing that remains is emptiness.”
            Those words Kakashi had preached to him that day years ago had always lingered in the back of his mind. Now, however, they practically tormented him. And that was because they were true. Sasuke knew nothing good would come of revenge in the future. Killing Itachi would not bring his mother and father back, but even so… He was the chosen avenger. He had spent nearly his entire life serving under that title; everything he did was one step towards killing his brother, one step to avenging his clan. Without that goal, that title, Sasuke was nothing. But… If only for a moment… He wouldn’t mind overlooking that.
Sasuke took a step forward into the clearing followed by another and another. He was almost at the edge of the forest, breaking out of the prison of shadows and into the sunlight. He raised a hand to his face to shade his eyes from the sun’s penetrative glare, as if it were trying to push him back to the safety of the shadows, but he trudged on. He had to talk to her. To just hear her utter his name one more time would be enough. To know that there was one person left who still cared, who hadn’t given up on him… He continued forward with a soft murmur of her name.
“Sakura-chan? What are you doing up here?”
The perplexed voice snapped the girl to attention. “Naruto!” she exclaimed at the sight of the boy, quickly standing. She wobbled slightly and the blond intruder threw his arm out to catch her. “Ah, sorry,” she replied a bit flustered. Her companion nodded, withdrawing from her once she had regained her balance. She brushed her clothes of dirt, hiding the small blush of embarrassment from her friend. She felt so silly being caught daydreaming as she had been. She was supposed to be concentrating on her studies, but the sun had been so warm and the meadow so peaceful she couldn’t help but doze off a little.
            “So… What brings you up here?” she asked casually once the heat in her face had subsided.
            “Looking for you,” Naruto replied, throwing his arms behind his head and looking out toward the village. “Old Granny Tsunade was wondering where you were,” he added.
            “Oh. A mission then?” Sakura asked, her heart sinking.
            “Mmm… I don’t think so,” Naruto said, returning his gaze to the pink-haired girl. He frowned. “You don’t want to go on one?”
            Sakura bit her lip. “No, not really,” she replied, staring at the ground.
            “Is it because what I said about Sasuke last night?” Naruto asked quietly. Sakura involuntarily shivered at the mention of the Uchiha boy’s name. Naruto sighed. “I’m sorry, Sakura.”
            Sakura looked up at the drop of the honorific, but Naruto was gazing back at the village, sadly. His hands had dropped to his sides, but he seemed tense. She turned so she was overlooking the village too, knowing she was being burdensome again. “I came up here because it’s peaceful,” she stated after a minute. “Don’t you think?” Naruto merely shrugged. She pursed her lips slightly at his indifference, but continued in her persuasion. She wanted Naruto to feel the tranquility she felt when she went up there. “Here, come sit with me. I’ll show you what I mean,” she said, tugging at his sleeve gently. The boy’s crystal blue eyes widened slightly, but he followed without a fuss.
            Sakura knelt on the ground and beckoned for her friend to sit in front of her. The blond gave her a puzzled look, but did as instructed. Then, kneeling at her fullest extent (the boy had certainly grown in the last few years!) she told him to relax before she covered his eyes.
            “Sakura-chan?” Naruto questioned with a note of surprise in his voice.
            The girl smiled. “Just relax,” she chided, teasingly. “And close your eyes. Okay? Now take a deep breath through your nose—“
            “My nose?”
            “Your nose,” she repeated. “Think of this as a sort of training,” she offered. “And hold that breath in for about two or three seconds. Then, exhale.”
            “Sakura-chan?” the boy replied skeptically. “What kind of training…?”
            “Just do it!” she snapped.
            “O-okay…” 
After a moment Naruto cooperated. He shut his eyes, his lashes tickling Sakura’s palms slightly, and breathed in deeply. “Do that a couple of times,” she ordered quietly. As he continued the breathing exercise Sakura slowly began to withdraw her hands, smiling in satisfaction. After a few moments she said, “See? Doesn’t it calm you?”
            “Mmm,” the boy replied sleepily. “But Sakura-chan… Sasuke…”
            “Don’t worry about me,” the emerald eyed girl said softly. “I’m sure he’s not.” The bitterness in her voice caught her slightly by surprise and she couldn’t help the tears that sprung at the thought of the boy. She silently cursed herself and her foolish emotions. Sometimes she wished she could just hate Sasuke; it would make thing so much easier, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. “You were right when you said we may not be able to save him. If… If that’s what Sasuke chose than there might not be anything we can do to help him.” By this time the tears had started to slip from their pools and slide down her face. And she shook; with what she wasn’t sure. Was it rage, sorrow, helplessness? She didn’t know. “But… but I…”
            “Sakura-chan…” Naruto said softly, beginning to turn around to comfort the girl.
            “Please don’t look!” she pleaded, resting her forehead against Naruto’s back. “I’m so sick of crying; of being weak… but I… I just can’t seem to stop!” she cried, voice wavering slightly. 
Naruto sat very still, not entirely sure what to do. He wanted her to stop crying, not because it annoyed him, but because it broke his heart to see her like this. Despite what Sakura said he had never seen her as weak; there were plenty of times when her steadfast determination had gotten them out of tight situations, but she never seemed to believe him when he told her that. He wanted more than anything to reassure her that Sasuke would come back, that he’d keep his promise in bringing their dark haired friend home. After all, Naruto wanted him to come back too, but… Even if Sasuke did come back one day, Naruto knew things would never be the same between them again…
“It’s okay Sakura-chan,” Naruto replied after a moment, looking up at the clear, blue sky for encouragement, perhaps even strength. “There’s still hope isn’t there?”
Sakura sniffled a little and with the exception of a few stray tears she had ceased in her crying. A part of her wanted to scream at the boy in front of her, to shake him until she had instilled some sense into him. How could he be so unwaveringly optimistic!? If Sasuke chose to leave it was unlikely he’d come back--- even if he got his revenge! But the other part, her weaker self, drew comfort from his words. She wanted to believe them. She had to believe them. “You’re right,” she sniffled, lifting her head to dry her eyes.  “So long as there’s hope we can believe. Can’t we?”
Naruto smiled lovingly if a little sadly. It didn’t seem to matter how much time passed; the three of them would always be trapped in this triangle. But, so long as Sakura smiled he could draw strength and comfort from that. And, as long they hoped for Sasuke to return they could believe he would some day.
Naruto stood and offered his hand to the tear stained girl before him with a grin. “Come on, I’ll treat you to some ramen.”
“Is food all you can think about?!” Sakura spat in disbelief, but took his hand all the same. 
“You can’t train on an empty stomach,” Naruto replied with one of his trademark grins, hefting the girl to her feet.
“Oh well, so long as you’re paying,” she grumbled, straightening her attire once again. When she looked up her companion was gazing intently at the forest behind them, looking baffled and incredulous. “Naruto?” she questioned, turning her attention to the forest. “What is it?”
“I thought I saw…” the blond began tentatively.
“Saw what?” Sakura asked anxiously, scanning the forest
“Oh, nothing, nothing!” her friend replied dismissively, quickly turning and grabbing the girl’s arm. “Come on!  I’m starving!” Without another word Naruto dragged himself and Sakura down the hill, dismissing her squabbling and protests. However, while she was busy chiding him he turned to peer back at the forest. It had only been for a split-second, but he was so sure…
“I thought I saw Sasuke… watching us…”
 
 
 
 
            “Good for soothing aches and pains, huh?” Sasuke said bemusedly, twirling the lavender between his fingers. He watched as the sun began to set outside the room’s window, an array of orange and pink washing away what had been a clear, blue sky. He had to leave soon; the village’s security was sure to tighten by nightfall. “I’m sorry, Sakura,” he said softly, placing the old picture of Team 7 back on her desk. “I won’t be coming back. But it looks like you’re in good hands,” the dark haired boy murmured, a small trace of bitterness in his otherwise sincere words. Silently he placed the pale purple flowers in front of the picture and left, leaving no other indication that he had ever been there.
            It would be the last time he’d come to visit the village without orders. It would be the last time he’d gaze compassionately at his former friends. Even if he could go back things could never be the same again. Too many things had happened; childhood memories were not a luxury any of them could afford any more. The world was a cruel place with even crueler fates. He understood this; now it was time that they did too. If he ever met them again he would not hold back. He could not allow anything- anyone- to stand in the way of his goal and they were his weakness. They were the only ties he had left to his former life, but it was time he officially severed them. He wanted them to forget about him, to hate him because if they did it would make it so much easier to hate them in return. He wouldn’t have to suffer any more ‘what if’ scenarios of a peaceful life in Konoha or having a family without any real familial ties. Things would be different, things would be easier…
            When he reached the field of lavender once again, he turned to gaze at Konoha for the last time with his own eyes. He knew Orochimaru planned to use him as his next host, and, he was willing to let that happen for the sake of his revenge, but tonight… Tonight Sasuke was no one other than Uchiha Sasuke, a grief stricken teenager with his heart set on revenge; a boy moving away from all that was once familiar to an uncertain future. Sighing, Sasuke turned his sharp eyes to the heavens. The stars shined vibrantly. He had looked at these same stars night after night as a child and yet he could not recall there ever being a sky quite like this one. He closed his eyes and breathed in deeply. The scent of lavender filled him and for the first time in a long time he felt truly at peace. When he opened his eyes he permitted himself a small smile, bittersweet in every way.
            “Good-bye.”
 
 
 
 
 
The End
 
 
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