It was half past two when Sasuke realized that he made the biggest mistake of his life. He should’ve listened to his gut years ago, he never should have let Sakura come with him. The first time she asked if she could go along with him, he declined, as he did for the second, third, and fourth times; but Haruno Sakura was a woman too stubborn for her own good and on the fifth time Sasuke, reluctantly, agreed to let her join him on his journey. He always had faith in her, knew of her capabilities and believed that she would be an asset to his goals. Sakura was a medic, there to tend to his wounds, a kunoichi, to fight by his side and protect their village but most importantly, Sakura was somebody that he cared for deeply; had he not cared for Sakura in the slightest, he would have agreed to her coming along with him ages ago. Loving and caring for people was something like a curse to not only Sasuke, but to his entire clan. Their love ran deep into the ground, making it dangerous not for the people that they loved but the people who would do anything to those they loved. But Sakura was strong, Sasuke continuously reminded himself of this when missions got rough, and she was able to defend herself in any fight that came their way. Sasuke would never have to worry about his emotions running him down a path of insanity and darkness again, because Sakura only brought light to his life, giving him all of the things he once thought were out of his reach.
She had provided Sasuke with a home called her heart and promised that he would never have to worry about being homeless. When everybody turned away from Sasuke, shunned him and didn’t understand the trauma he had gone through growing up, Sakura was there, waiting with open arms to show him that he was worthy of love. It took far too long for him to come to terms with the fact that love was something he could be given, but he was glad that he had found that acceptance within Sakura. She understood him as much as she could and defended him through the darkest of days. He didn’t deserve her, but he knew far too well that nobody else would care for him like Sakura did. She gave him a child, too, a daughter that resembled him in ways that brought a grin to his face. A perfect combination of Sakura and Sasuke both, Uchiha Sarada was the sun that illuminated her parent’s worlds. Even in the depth of foreign lands, Sarada made their small tent feel like home. On the night she was born, Sakura vowed to raise Sarada in a world full of happiness and love, not wanting her daughter to ever feel the hatred that once ran through the blood of the Uchiha.
Sakura had promised.
Sakura had promised to love Sasuke and raise their daughter. Together.
They were supposed to be together forever.
But in in the middle of the night with the haunting moon floating high in the midnight sky, Sasuke learned that promises would always end up broken and that he would always end up alone.
Sasuke remembered waking up to a scream that he heard far too many times over the years of his life. Sakura. His body moved on it’s own, grabbing his sword and getting out of the tent as quickly as possible. Underneath the beaming moonlight, Sasuke came face to face with his worst fear, a motionless Sakura. There was no blood, there were no bruised knuckles, but more importantly there was nobody else around. The rational part of his mind wanted Sasuke to check and see if attackers were still around, but for once in his life Sasuke’s heart overpowered his mind, guiding his feet towards his wife’s body. Sakura’s emerald eyes were wide open and her mouth was still gaping from the scream Sasuke had heard. It was terrifying, seeing Sakura in that way. With little to no thought, he had picked her up and moved back into the tent, not wanting to leave Sarada alone any longer. She was still breathing, he remembered the faint rise and fall of her chest as he held her close to him, and he wanted to do anything he could to bring her back to normal.
Once inside the tent, Sasuke laid her body against the back of the tent, leaving her in a sitting position. He crouched in front of her, fighting back the urge to hunt own whoever had done this to Sakura.
“S-Sasuke.” Her voice was cracking as though talking was the most difficult task in the world.
“You need to explain what happened while you can, Sakura.” Sasuke said quickly, moving a bit closer to his wife. He tried to mask how frantic he felt with his voice, keeping it as stern as possible. He didn’t want Sakura to see him broken in her dying minutes, he wanted her to see the Sasuke that she had loved over the years, the man who always put emotions behind locked doors and focused on the issue at hand. Sasuke just wished that the issue at hand wasn’t Sakura’s inevitable death.
“I woke up and saw two figures outside of the tent, so I went out to see who they were and before I could even do anything they shot me with a needle, took the needle out of me, and were gone before you even made it outside. They were so fast, Sasuke, I didn’t have time to do anything.”
Sasuke wanted to lecture her, he wanted to tell her that she should’ve woken him up. He could see through the fastest movement with ease. If she had just woken him up, then she wouldn’t be in the position she was in, back against the tent and chest heaving and shaking with every breath she took. But Sasuke knew better than to yell at her when she was dying. He wanted her last minutes to be peaceful, even if they brought him nothing but pain.
“It’s poison, then.”
“And there’s nothing we can do about it.”
She nodded again.
Sasuke opened his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by the sounds of Sarada awakening. His eyes instantly shifted to his daughter, wishing that she would just go back to sleep. Even though she was still an infant and would never have any recollections of what was happening, Sasuke still didn’t want her eyes to be open when her mother died.
“Sarada,” Sakura choked out when she realized her daughter was awake. She attempted to lift her arm to reach for her, but it fell limp to her side. Sasuke then wasted no time in picking up their sleeping child and laying in Sakura’s lap.
The smallest of smiles ghosted Sakura’s lips as she gazed down at her daughter with all the love in the world. Fingers gently caressed thin raven colored hair. Sakura wanted to feel her baby’s hair one last time, knowing that the feeling in her fingertips would soon be gone. The poison was pumping within her blood and there was no time to figure out an antidote. All she could do was spend her last few moments in the presence of the two people she loved most.
“I love you, Sarada,” whispered Sakura, tears beginning to well up in her eyes. “You’ll never get to understand how much I love you, but I know your father will make up for that. I leave him in your care, okay, Sarada? He’s stupidly stubborn and shut off, but you have to make sure that he doesn’t fall down the wrong roads again, okay? You’re going to become the strongest woman in the world one day. Whatever dreams you have, you’ll achieve them. I’m sorry that I won’t be there to see them in person, but I’ll always be watching from above, okay Sarada?”
A single tear rolled down Sasuke’s cheek at his wife’s words. Their daughter gurgled in response, snuggling closer to Sakura.
“P-Please don’t leave her…” Sakura looked up at Sasuke then, green eyes trembling with sincerity. Her voice was the dry sand of the beach and the tears streaming down her cheeks were the raging ocean waves. “...promise me. She’s going to need you, Sasuke, and you’re going to need her. Give her the family you always wanted, please.”
That won’t be possible without you here.
Sasuke wanted to scream, unleash the anguish in his heart. She had promised to never leave, she had promised to love him for the rest of her life, but that promise had been shattered into a million pieces. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair. Sakura had her entire life in front of her, she had only just started the family she always dreamed of as a kid, she had come so far in life for it to end here, in the middle of nowhere, far away from the village she had grown up in.
“I promise,” he whispered, leaning closer to Sakura.
Tears stained his cheeks as emerald eyes fluttered shut, Sakura’s head falling back against the tent. Time was running out, she probably only had a couple of seconds left and Sasuke didn’t want them to go to waste. He wanted to pour his heart out to Sakura, he wanted to tell her every single thing he felt for her, all of the love, affection, pride, and faith. But he didn’t have enough time to tell her everything, so a simple phrase would have to suffice.
“I love you, Sakura.”
A small smile overtook Sakura’s lips and she forced her eyelids open to get one final look at Sasuke. The words he had never said before finally fell from his lips and part of Sakura hated that it would be the first and last time she would ever hear them. Sasuke was the type of person that showed his emotions through actions rather than through words and the ways that he had treated Sakura since he returned only proved to Sakura that he did truly love her.
“I know...” she choked out, knowing her next breath would be her last. “I’ve always known.”
The silence that hung in the tent after Sakura’s final breath was chilling. Sasuke wanted Sarada to cry, to move, to make some kind of noise, but she didn’t. Cuddled up against her mother’s belly, there was no reason for her to cry because she didn’t understand that this would be the last time she would ever feel her mother’s touch. He allowed Sarada to remain like that for a couple of minutes, deciding that not moving Sakura was for their daughter and not for himself; but in the back of his mind, Sasuke knew all too well that he was too scared to touch Sakura’s lifeless body.
When he did decide to move her body, Sasuke laid her down on the sleeping bag that had become her bed over time. He then picked Sarada up, holding her close to his chest and rocking her back to sleep. Tomorrow they would leave for Konoha. Tomorrow Sasuke would have to begin a life without Sakura.