The Promise – Chapter 1

Author’s Note: Because there is a new NaruSaku Zine coming out, I’m dusting off my entry for the first fanzine. (I’ve expanded it to six chapters from the original one-shot in the zine.) After that, I’ll post the fic from the second NS zine, an AU fic where the Konoha gang are racecar drivers! Last, I’ll post a sneak peek of my fairy tale-themed fic from the upcoming NS zine. Enjoy!!

Sakura was still alive. But she was dying. Fast. And she knew it.

Around her, anbu guards were dropping one by one. It wouldn’t be long for her either. All she could do now was wait, held captive by memories, forced to relive the moments when she might have been faster, sharper. When she might have seen the signs and still been able to save herself. 

Because her fate was sealed into her hand. She was going to die there, and no one would ever find her….

It was supposed to be easy. A diplomatic mission the summer after the war. But it was a trap. And in a forgotten clearing three days from home, Sakura Haruno, who had saved so many, would finally know death herself. 

Sakura shielded herself from the ambush and the rain of senbon all missed her…all but one. A single poison needle pierced the center of her hand. She ripped it out, but it was already too late. Fire raced up her arm, followed by an icy numbness that choked her veins. 

The grip of poison curled out into her immediately, paralyzing her. Then the real torture began. This toxin would kill her vein by vein. And all she could do was watch. 

The back of her hand was starting to look like a cracked vase. The last anbu went down. She was alone.

Real panic began to set in. Her fingers were turning blue-black on the ends. A spider’s web of black veins were crawling up her arms. 

She closed her green eyes for the last time. She didn’t want to see it creep closer. She would deny the poison that one last cruelty. 

But in her mind raced toward something infinitely more painful: Naruto. Someone would tell him that she hadn’t come back. That it had been days since they lost her trail. He’d look for her, trace every wrong turn, every false lead. But she knew he’d never find her. 

Tears tracked down her face. She’d never see him again. This was to be her end, just when she thought their story was beginning.

They had overcome so many obstacles. Against it all, he had even managed to unite their team again. Team 7 only had a few short months together. And now it would all be ripped away. He didn’t even know it yet. She was just one more thing he’d have to endure. 

She spoke his name, but it was just a whisper over her darkening lips. Black lines were blooming along her jaw, shattering her face like fine porcelain. A single tear slipped down her cheek.

Suddenly her breath turned to a wheeze. The full power of the toxin reached her chest and was closing in on her neck. She wanted to cough, clear her throat, drag in one more breath, but she couldn’t. The muscles wouldn’t work. She opened her eyes, straining frantically for anything that might help her— 

But it was already too late. Poison crackled across her vision. She blinked, trying to focus on the pinpoints of light, but they flickered out like dying stars.

Darkness consumed her— 

Her struggling heart…stopped—

Miles away, blue eyes opened with a start. He turned, listening hard, looking at the horizon, searching in disbelief for something, someone that wasn’t there…. Then, in an instant, he was gone, leaving the long black hair of his companion fanning out beside her.

Sakura dreamed she was weightless, flying, streaking through the air…before the burden of her beating heart slammed back into her chest.

Morning light slanted across the hospital room. Sasuke’s sleepless face slowly came into focus, welcoming her back to life. He leaned in, filling up her vision. His dark eyes were soft with emotions she’d never seen there. He touched his forehead against hers and closed his eyes, whispering words she never thought she’d hear from him. 

Sakura closed her eyes too. But when she did, a different scene came flooding back. 

She was in the hospital bed, but it was not Sasuke at her side. Soft words were spoken to her under the cover of darkness. Something about a promise…. She could still feel the gentle warmth at her palm, reclaiming the place where the poison had tried to kill her— She was so tired….and it felt so real…. But it couldn’t be….

Sasuke must have noticed her troubled look. He gently tucked a stray hair back behind her ear and asked if she was okay. If she was comfortable. If he could get her anything.

She opened her eyes and returned to the present. Sunlight softened his face, and she remembered again just how much he’d changed after the war. She smiled and shook her head. She was grateful he was there and grateful to be alive.

But still…It was as if her body wouldn’t let her forget. Her fingers curled protectively over the spot….

Because down the length of the bed, hidden inside her closed hand, Sakura held a secret. It was the half-memory, half-dream of someone else’s kiss, pressed into her palm.