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what you lose in a fire

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The gravestones stood silently, row upon row like soldiers long forgotten. It wasn't the Uchiha's rites that assembled them there, it was the order of the late Sandaime. Sakura had never understood why he gave that command, and she knew she now never would. And even if she did, it wouldn't change the Uchiha's burials and it wouldn't change that her burial would end with a headstone rather than a fire. (That she had lit a small pyre every day for every Uchiha that died during the massacre was a secret that would follow her to her timely grave.)

Haruno Mebuki and Haruno Kizashi, her parents, were set side-by-side, as was only proper for Soulmates that stayed together throughout their life. They hadn't had a funeral just for the two of them, there hadn't been any time, the resources weren't available and after everything that happened during the Sand-Sound Invasion and subsequent defection of Uchiha Sasuke, Sakura had never found the time nor resources as well. 

Sakura didn't believe in destiny, or fate. Sakura didn't believe in any god. She had, once, followed the ways of the Uchiha. Yet after their demise and Sakura's consequent half-step into the afterlife, she stopped practising the ways of a dead clan. A clan of one, of two, of technically three and four - all of whom were children - wasn't really a clan. And after Sakura realized that there would never be any kind of future waiting for her, praising Susano'o and his siblings only left the stale taste of defeat in her mouth.

Now, almost at the end of her allotted joke of a future, Sakura abhorred the idea of practising any kind of religion. Her future wasn't hers, her future had never been hers to command and after finding out what the identity of her Soulmate meant for her, specifically, she refused to give anyone or anything that kind of power over her. There was only one person that held her life in their hands, and he would certainly see it as expendable. That kind of hurt... she refused to set the stage for anyone to observe how utterly weak she was in the grand scheme of things. Godaime's apprentice or not, nobody could halt the decay of a Soulmate bond not reciprocated. 

And so, Haruno Sakura silently stood by the rows upon rows of gravestones of a dead clan, not knowing whether to apologize for not saving them, as was her responsibility as Uchiha Itachi's Soulmate, or mourning how she never would belong to their ranks, dead or alive.

Maybe, during her autopsy, Shizune-senpai would see his name and spit on her - for only truly despicable people had murderers like him bound through soul. Perhaps, she would be lowered into the ground next to her technical kin. Only time would tell, as only time would kill her.

And with her dead and dying and decaying, the Uchiha's rites would soon become forgotten. Sasuke hadn't cared for the traditions of a dead people, too raw and hurtful the mere thought of it. Itachi hadn't stayed for pyres, and only if he set himself on fire would he ever gain absolution. And Sakura...

Sakura didn't believe in gods, or fairy tales or destiny, no matter how much such a belief would have eased her continued death over the course of her entire life.

A life that she had spent first with childish dreams of royalty coming to Konoha to claim her as their Soulmate; then on frivolous things like ribbons and foreheads; then on fitting in and being seen all at the same time; afterwards on coming closer to a brother in hopes of him leading her straight to a future that manifested as being alive; then eventually on healing and giving time to others that would forever outlive her and making marks with her own two hands so she wouldn't be forgotten too soon; and lastly, foregoing her responsibilities as a student, medic and apprentice to fulfil those of a soul-sister, daughter-in-law and... Soulmate. 

Sakura's life hadn't been bad. Her death, prolonged as it was and a steady undercurrent to her life's work, had been. Was. Would always be, even when she wouldn't.

Fire would never become Itachi's absolution, not the way the Uchiha's noble rites demanded. Sakura's absolution could be a kiss. It just wasn't ever meant to be. (Sakura did and always would believe in fate and destiny. She would always hold out hope that one day, he would come and she could live to see beyond the dawn of her sixteenth birthday. For him, who had already killed so many, she would either become the greatest weight to carry, or someone not even registering on his radar.)

Sometime before her mark appeared he had to have found his future secured with a kiss on her lips. He had secured his future by any means necessary. Had Itachi given her a chance, she could have ignited his pyre, yet Sakura was left to rot and decay on the inside, bone-dry kindling for a pyre that would never light.

Now, Sasuke would eventually come and kill him and then himself and then nobody would light any fire, because Sakura would be dead by then as well.

It wasn't fair. (Her death never was.)