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What Should Not Have Been

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Sasuke stops when he notices her standing next to a stone bench on the road. “What are you doing out here in the middle of the night?”

“Everyone who leaves the village will pass through this road,” Sakura responds, trying to keep her voice from wobbling.

Sasuke seems to consider something for a moment before muttering, “You should go back to bed.” He passes her and continues on his way to the village gates.

He stops again when Sakura starts to cry softly. “I’ve always made you angry. When we first became genin,” she mumbles, plainly regretful. “The day the three of us became a team; the first time I spoke to you alone, I made you mad.”

“I don’t remember that,” he replies quietly.

Despite herself, she laughs, albeit humorlessly. “I thought so. It was so long ago, but ever since that day, you and I—and Naruto and Kakashi-sensei—have completed many missions. It’s been tiring and difficult, but more than anything, it made me happy.”

There is a beat of silence as she wonders if she should finish vocalizing her train of thought. “I know what happened to your family, but a thing like revenge can never bring anyone happiness. It can never bring you happiness. But I—”

Bitterly, Sasuke interrupts, “Like I thought . . .” Sakura looks up at him as he trails off, curious. He continues, “I am not like the rest of you. There are different paths we must walk. When the four of us were completing missions together, I’d thought that was my path.”

He pauses for a brief moment at her pensive expression. “But after everything, my heart tells me I am an avenger—this is why I am alive. I will never be like you or Naruto.”

Fresh tears run down Sakura’s face. “Sasuke-kun, do you plan on being alone again? You were the one who told me about the pain and loneliness. Right now, I feel that pain, too. Even though I have family and friends, I will still be lonely without you in my life.”

“These are just the new steps we must take on our individual paths,” he assures her—and himself.

Desperate, she shouts, “I—I love you! I love you so much I can’t stand it! If you and I were together, I swear I wouldn’t let you regret it! We’d be happy everyday,” she promises him. “We’d definitely find happiness together! I’m willing to do anything for you! So please stay! I’m begging you!”

When he remains silent, she elaborates further. “I’d kill for you! Anything you want me to do—I’ll do it for you.”

Beginning to weep, she pleads, “Please stay here together with me.”

Still, he does not respond.

A cold breeze brushes past them, causing Sakura to shiver. Nearly despondent, she plays her last card, “If that’s not possible, then take me with you,” and promptly breaks down into inconsolable sobs at the thought of this gambit failing.

Finally, he moves, craning his neck back to say, “You really are . . . very annoying.”

Sakura’s entire body seizes, a disheartened chill settling over her. He really is going to leave Konoha.

And her.

Before another tear can escape her, she suddenly feels his presence behind her.

“But I suppose,” he whispers, just loud enough for her to hear. “You could prove useful.”