Expect the Unexpected. As Sakura resigned herself to death, she was saved. It's funny what a near death experience can do to a person how it can change them. Sometimes its for the better, and somet...
NOTE: What can I say that won't give this away? Well, nothing really, so enjoy this shocker! ;p
The Wrong Shade of Green
She felt weightless and heavy all at the same time. She felt as if she was floating, and sinking all at once.
The world around her was quiet, muffled and almost eerily soothing.
/ /She was in pain, but at the same time relaxed. She could not speak, but had so many thoughts running through her mind.
What light she could see above her was blurring, dancing across the wavering surface and growing dimmer, and further away.
She could feel the tears she shed mingle with the fluid of her surroundings. She also felt the contraction of her chest. Her body was fighting to release the breath she held, so it could replenish with much needed oxygen.
The world grew even dimmer, the light blues becoming black, the black swirling around and blending everything into one solid void of darkness. She lost the battle of her body and her mouth snapped open. She watched as the bubbles rose quickly, racing, almost mocking her. On instinct, she inhaled, but the only thing her body took in was the water in which she currently drifted in. Thrashing, she began to chock and cough; her body rejecting the water, only to suck more back in. Soon she lost her movement. Soon she lost her hearing. Sinking even faster now, her mind briefly flashed over the faces and names of people she wanted to see again so badly. Forget everything else she just wanted to see them one last time. Why? Why when just yesterday she celebrated the beginning of her twenty-first year, did it register to her this was now her last moment.
Just as she closed her eyes, resigning her fate to the deeps of the deep blue and to the heavens, the last thing she could recall seeing was a color other than black. It was a color that, for the briefest of seconds, made her body quiver with the slightest of hopes. It faded as her eyes closed, and she felt herself become light, and uplifted.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Noise, at first soft, and gentle, slowly grew loud. A force of pain ran threw her body and her eyes snapped open as she lent up and lurched. Water was excreted from her lungs and stomach as she gagged, and air rushed in to her much needed organs. Dizzy was her state as well as ill and great pains ran up and down her body. Light, overwhelming light, made her even dizzier and the sounds...
And slowly, she fell back into a lopsided embrace. Eyes once again closing from over stimuli, over worked use and overall trauma. Yet once again, as the shouts and noises began to dim, and she felt a wave of tiredness sweep over her, once again that same color was the last glimpse her consciousness allowed her to see before falling into the void of dreamless sleep.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
She was aware, but not entirely. She could /feel /she was somewhere safe. She /knew /by instinct someone was in the room with her, but she couldn't explain where she was or who was here, where ever here was. Not that she minded, for at the moment she was at ease. She was slowly beginning to feel a growing numbness of pain, but it was slow to come.
"You gave everyone a real scare, Sakura-san."
She heard the words, and heard them clearly. Yet the voice was just a voice. She couldn't identify it, nor could she even distinguish if it was male or female. She just couldn't place it, but she knew whomever the voice belonged to was someone she should know. She trusted it, and knew she was safe.
It was at this point Sakura began to become aware of feeling not just that numbing pain from before, but her surroundings. The surface she lay upon was hard, yet firm, almost soft. It was certainly warmer than the ground would be. A bed, perhaps? She could also tell something was draped over her. Thin, soft, and light, like a thing blanket most likely. Smell was now coming slowly back to her senses. The room smelt of sterilization...and a slight scent of something the pink haired one couldn't place, not just yet. Perhaps she was at the hospital? That would indeed mean she was safe.
The there was another feeling. It was warm, gentle and slightly tickled her cheek. This was a nice feeling. It felt like...a touch, a caress. Yet she didn't mind. In fact, Sakura enjoyed it. At least the contact proved the voice had a body and was in fact real.
"Just try to be more careful."
What was that? These words...This person was... well, they were meant as words of concern and endearment. She knew they weren't meant to belittle her or push her down, but she couldn't help feel as if this person was calling her less of a ninja then themselves. A low short laugh emanated next to her. Perhaps her thoughts had somehow consciously fabricated to an expression? It was possible.
"Rest for now, Little Flower."
Yes...rest is nice. She should rest as she felt really tired. If she could have, she would have chuckled. Little Flower...how many little names would people come up with for her? It was such a play on words, but it was cute, if not teasing.
Then the warmth left, and the voice was quiet. She was sure the person was gone now and she was alone once again in the quiet sterile room upon which the light faint scent was now dying away. She sounds from outside where also growing dim as she felt sleep wanting to claim her. So she decided to abide. The more rest she got, the sooner she could wake, and hopefully see everyone again.
And it was then Sakura met the world of dreams instead of the world of void; though her dream began with her standing in a vibrant field of...
'..Grass...' There. She found it. She was briefly surprised at how one could overlook such a simple scent of something as everyday as that as grass; but then again, anything so simple against the mix of a sterilized room smelt like the richest of perfumes.
Thus, Sakura, in her dreams, smiled lightly as she walked the field of grass, every now and then seeing the faces of her friends and comrades. These were peaceful, untroubled times.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"...and you should have seen Hinata. She looked so cute all red faced like that! Oh, but then she passed out and I ate her ramen. I mean, I didn't want it to go to waste and it would get cold. I told her I'd take her out to make up for it-"
"Naruto....do you ever breathe?"
"Sakura-Chan! You're awake!"
Naruto, the hyperactive blonde youth of the former Team Kakashi, flung his arms around the now awaking pink haired kunoichi. He was careful not to squeeze her too tight.
"Yeah. The nap helped. I do feel a lot better. How long have you been here?"
"Oh, I've been here for an hour, or a little more. I thought telling you my day's events would help your mind wake up, and it worked I see!"
"Well, just do me a favor and keep your promise to Hinata, or I'll jump out of this bed and kick your ass to Tea Country and back." Sakura answered slightly groggily, but there was a warm smile on her face.
"You know me Sakura." Naruto gave his signature goofy grin, but then out of sheer Naruto-ness, gave a thumbs up.
"It's a promise."
Sakura for a moment, just stared, then slowly began to lightly laugh, to the point tears began to escape out of her eyes. Naruto confused, dropped the pose and looked curious.
"Sakura-Chan? Ne, Ne? What? Sakura-Chan?"
This went on for a couple of minutes until a new occupant walked in, and over to the bed ridden one.
"I see you've gained back your awareness and spirit, Sakura."
"Kakashi-San, yes, I have. I feel...good."
The Jounin moved up to the young woman and rested a hand on top her head. Even with just one single eye showing, Sakura could read the varying emotions flickering through the deep slate blue of her former teacher. She gave him a warm, endearing smile and looked into his eye.
"I'm fine. Really. I was very lucky. I'll- " Sakura paused, the words she had heard spoken to her came back, and she smirked.
"I'll try to be more careful."
"And I promise to be a better teammate- and not let something like that happen again."
It would be useless to argue with the man, so Sakura nodded and spoke softly.
"I too, Sakura-Chan."
Sakura turned to the blond boy, who's carefree face was now serious.
"I know. I believe you. Now, please, let us enjoy the fact I'm awake now, and not dwell on the 'what-could-have-been?'"
Naruto slowly smirked and gave a shout; Kakashi just smiled lightly under his mask. In all the years he'd watched the two grow, he was still amazed at how mature Sakura had become. Gone were the days of her infatuation of Sasuke, at least outwardly. Kakashi believed she still, deep down and perhaps unconsciously, held some tiny burning match for him; though nothing compared to the torch she use to hold. Sakura had become a very strong and uprising Kunoichi amongst her fellow peers, and seemed to only be going forward.
For a moment, Kakashi dropped back to the unoccupied bed, sitting down and giving himself a moment to just be free. Sakura was alright; she was doing well now. This information did nothing to ease the incredible guilt he felt in not seeing the danger Sakura had been in. He was her former teacher, teammate and her comrade; and even then he'd missed an event that had almost lead to her demise.
"Kaka-Sensei?" Naruto questioned. Though the man was no longer really his teacher, the name would forever stick to the copy nin.
"Maa...nothing, just thinking."
Naruto and Sakura both shared a glance that clearly read 'he's lying again.'
"Sakura, I would like to do something...special for you."
"You don't have to, Kakashi-S-"
"I know I don't have to. I want to. It's not much, but it's a start."
Sakura blinked. A start to what? Pushing the thought aside, she smiled and nodded her head.
"Alright, what do you have in mind?"
"How about, tonight after you're released, I'll spring for a celebration to your twenty-first."
Sakura and Naruto looked at one another, smiled growing and eyes dancing. As they both agreed the idea was great, all three sat together and thought up where to go, who to invite and what sake to drink.
~ ~ ~ ~
"Man, you're lucky, Sakura. Kurenai-Sensei never did anything like this for me." Kiba spoke just loud enough that his former teacher heard him. Sakura just laughed as the older woman promptly gave him a well deserved headlock.
The party was indeed a great idea. Sakura had invited the whole group, as well as their former teachers. Hell, even Tsunade-sama had joined in the festivities. It wasn't exactly a grand party, but the spirits where as high as the sake, and the overall mood was swinging. Sakura smiled to herself and observed the room quietly, fleetingly listening to one conversation to the next.
"Ne, Ne, Iruka-Sensei, did I tell you about when me and Hinata got stuck in the library two weeks ago?"
"Yes, Naruto, and you told me every little detail of it."
"Oh and then she turned around and was all like 'But that's too troublesome.' Two seconds later we were both laughing so hard we cried. I told her she's been hanging around Shika too long."
"Well, I plan to write a full letter of complaint when I get time. Cantonese Crunch was my favor flavor."
"He's in the lead now, but somehow I bet by the end of the week, I'll be up by two."
"You're on! I'll bet 5000 that you'll get your ass handed to you, and be down by two instead."
Though most of the occupants knew Sakura had been in an accident of sorts on the last mission, only a select few knew the exact extent to her incident. Sakura felt it was for the best that those who didn't know the details carry on without them. The last thing she wanted was to have her friends and comrades overly worried about her.
Getting up, Sakura excused herself from the table she resided at and walked outside into the crisp cool evening. She needed a moment to take in the fresh air, and a moment away from the buzzing world inside.
Bright emerald eyes studied the stars above her for a moment, taking in their sight and ethereal beauty. Before, she'd always looked at them and smiled; seeing something nice. Tonight, she saw them in a...what you could say, a new light. In fact, all day she'd been taking notice of things she'd previously never stop and take more notice of. In a way, it made her feel that she didn't stop to appreciate what she had around her when she was younger. However, it also made her feel good to know that she was now taking more steps to do such things. Perhaps this was one of those occurrences that went with a near death experience; she didn't know. All she could do now was to go on, and this time, take that extra moment of time to just...
Sakura's train of thought was halted as she heard the enthusiastic cries of a rather unique man and friend. Turning her head to the source, she could see in the distance a group of four walking down the way. Sakura's expression broke into a smile. She was worried the four would not have made it back in time from their latest mission, but it seemed luck was on her side.
Without thinking, Sakura's feet began to pick up and walk towards the approaching group. The source of the voice was walking in front of the other three, though backwards and was animatedly waving his arms around; no doubt going on into some wild tangent about something amazing or uplifting, or whatever it was. Sakura's smile grew even more, as well as her pace. Soon, without realizing, she was actually spiriting towards them. With a quick shout, she broke the man's banter.
Swinging around, Rock Lee only had enough time to brace himself before a rush of pink and the feeling of a tight embrace hit him. Instantly, his arms wrapped around the smaller figure and he felt his face flush lightly.
"Sakura-San!" Lee was for good reason surprised, but mostly at the suddenness of the tackling hug, rather than the hug itself.
The rest of the group members stopped. TenTen looked up at Neji and gave a small chuckle, while Neji only gave a slight grin. Gai just looked upon the embracing pair, smiling warmly.
Sakura's grip on Lee tightened lightly, as a few tears sprang to her eyes. For a moment, all she wanted to do was just hold him. It was all she could do at the moment, as her voice failed her; no matter how many time she wanted to tell him 'Thank you.' Lee just held her, and gently rubber her back. Sometimes Sakura would come to him and confide to him when she was dealing with immensely pressures. He knew to wait for her to calm down; so he would just hold her, and rub her back. Sometimes he'd whisper things to her, and sometimes he'd stroke her hair.
Sakura herself was already calming down, as her grip was loosing and her tears had stopped. She pulled away, almost in a shy manner. Her face was slightly flushed, and her eyes a little red, but she quickly wipes away the tears and gave a small sniffle.
"Oh, Sorry...Just, you know...happy."
"Are you feeling better, Sakura-San?"
"Yes. I am." She gave a bright smile, and pulled back, almost in a skipping manner, and turned to the quartet.
"In fact, I think I'm really feeling for the first time, in a long time."
She laughed at the puzzled look on the boy's face, and then spoke up again.
"I'm glad you all made it back in time. Kakashi-San threw me a party, and said I could have anyone I wanted to come. Most everyone is there right now, already, and I really would love it if you join in the fun."
Lee beamed at such the opportunity bestowed upon him. TenTen smiled and nodded, looking excited. Neji seemed his usual stoic self, but there did seem to be a tiny form of a relax grin and soft gaze in his iridescent eyes.
"Oh, please let us go, Gai-Senei! Normally I would not wish to deviate from our evening training sessions, but-" Lee began, but was cut off by TenTen.
"I agree, we should go! We can train together tomorrow, I'm sure!"
Neji just smirked and kept quiet. Gai also smirked, bringing a hand up to his chin.
"Well, I don't know..." He began.
Sakura, feeling that she would need to sway the older Jounin, retaliated by using an all purpose retaliation tactic; or as Naruto had dubbed it, the 'puppy pout.'
Clasping her hands together just below her chin, eyes full, wet and wide- and angled just enough to catch the sparkle of the stars, and the pursed, lightly trembling bottom lip; all aimed at the Sensei. The last touch...
"Please....Gai-San?" The tiny cute voice.
Gai didn't stand a chance.
"Go, Go, have Youthful fun! Tonight is a night of celebration, is it not?" A smiling grin.
"Yay! Now the parties complete!" Sakura jumped a little in place.
For the moment, Sakura didn't really care if she felt like a little girl again, giddy about silly little things. These little things were no longer so little to her anymore nor where they all that silly. It was these very little things she would now hold close and dear and not ever take for granite again.
TenTen cheered with her and the two girls ushered together a moment like two high school girls who had a mysterious secret. Then TenTen broke away and grasped up Neji's hand; not that the Hyuuga really minded, but he had preferred to have leisurely walked to the party than be dragged by the Weapons Mistress. Ah well, so be it.
As Sakura walked up to Lee, Gai stopped and shifted his direction.
"Have fun at the party, and enjoy yourselves."
"Hai, Gai-Sensei." Lee still called him that, even now.
"Where are you going?" Sakura walked up to them both.
"I was thinking I'd head home. It is a bit late and I could use the extra sleep."
"Oh..." Sakura seemed a little dis-hearted at this.
If Gai noticed or not, he made no mention. He began to walk off, bidding them good night.
Sakura turned back to Lee, gazing at the ground, slowly gazing back up to the boy before her. A sneaky grin was forming on her face, and Lee just began to smile at the cuteness of it. He was wondering what she was planning.
"And to think I heard Kakashi-San saying he wanted to challenge you tonight. Oh well, I guess he'll just have to be disappointed."
Sakura took one step forward, before the feeling of weightlessness took her; as if she was floating on air. The crisp air of the night was rushing against her skin and before she knew it, she was on the ground again, in front of the establishment of the party joint. Blinking rapidly, she turned to see Lee trot up next to her, almost laughing. It didn't take her long to realize what happen upon hearing the next words filter through the air.
"KAKASHI! I accept your challenge!"
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Pleasant was the mood of the hour, and it was a rather late hour at that. However, most everyone was still enjoying the leisure time of the party. A few had left due to next day missions, or other personal matters, but most all the people Sakura felt was her extended family were still living it up and felt touched.
So many people cared about her. It was one of those things you don't realize until, well...until moments like these. Grabbing up her remaining glass of sake, Sakura excused herself quietly from her seat and wound her way outside - this time to the buildings opposite exit, which lead to a balcony which held a rather nice, but not too marvelous view of half of Konoha. It wasn't all that much to look at, but it did have some pleasantness to it.
She leaned on the railing, downing what little drink she had left. Sakura had gone through quite a few drinks, and was feeling a nice tranquil calmness. She knew she was tipsy, but she didn't really care. She could still think accurately enough. Her senses were still somewhat sharp; for she could feel someone coming outside, but their footfalls stopped behind her a little ways.
"Sakura-San, are you alright?"
"I'm fine Lee-kun. I just wanted to get some air."
There was a pause, but it wasn't uncomfortable. Sakura smiled, and folded her arms. Resting her head down, she began again.
"Everyday we face life or death situations knowingly. Every minute we spend on a mission could be fatal. So how is it, that even in knowing this...we never stop to just...appreciate life?"
Sakura smiled and closed her eyes.
"I've wasted so much time...on such stupid things."
"That time was never stupid to you."
Sakura hummed and smiled a little.
Light footfalls again, and Sakura figured Lee had walked a little closer, but still remained behind. Even now, she mused, at twenty two he was ever still the gentle non-pushing and patience man.
"You're right. Back then it wasn't wasted; and from now on it'll continue to be not wasted."
Sakura straighten herself, though still kept her hands on the railing.
"I'll be back inside in a minute. I just want a moment."
As Sakura gazed out across what she could see of the town, she felt herself feeling even more relax and languid. Perhaps she should call it a night soon? She was feeling tired already. Then again, perhaps she'd had too much sake; had she not heard Lee's departing steps? But she still felt a presence. Lee could be stubborn at times, and could sometimes in a blue moon jump to conclusions. Oh...balcony...jump...Sakura chuckled lightly.
"I'm not going to jump."
The presence stiffened, and she knew she'd hit the nail on the head. Sometimes Lee could worry way too much. Was he not seeing the whole point that she wanted to live life to its fullest? Then again, even she herself had to admit that did sound kind of...well, she began to see how he could take it the wrong way.
"I need to get stronger; perhaps even faster. I'm more than I ever have been, but I know I can reach just a bit more...with effort. I want to move like the wind and hit like the earth. I want to be as deadly and precise as lighting. All these things I want to be, so I can start living again."
During her words, the feelings she'd imaged began to flow through her, warming, tingling and tantalizing her. Somewhere in the back of what logical part of her mind was slowly shutting down, she had felt more than heard him come up behind her. Her mind was high in its own euphoria and the world was beginning to blur and dim, but she had never felt so...felt so...
Lifting her arms above her, as a gust of warm winds sailed over her and tossed at her shoulder-length locks of pink, she smiled and closed her eyes.
"I want to feel free again."
And she let herself fall backward.
And she let herself be caught in a warm and strong embrace.
Slowly, ever slowly, she reached up a hand to the now unfocused and blurry figure; a ghost caress to the cheek, before falling to his chest and remaining. A smile played across her lips. How many more times would she lastly see the color green, lastly smell the faint scent of grass and lastly hear the voice full of concern but with tones no longer recognizable? Sakura suspected many more times.
So it was that she snuggled deeper into the embrace, gripping a comfortable tightness to the suit, and murmuring inconsistent words of chivalry and large eyebrows. Thus upon her words finally ceasing, and her mind seeking rest, did a few final words penetrate the cozy haze of her mind.
"You will always be free. You just have to learn that, Little Flower."
/x// -ch1- x/