Stranger by angrypixels

Summary: He was back. He was not a monster, for that would mean someone she knew had just forgotten what he used to be. He was not a traitor for that was a name for one who had betrayed something that had once existed before. She did not know him. He was a stranger.

This person. She did not know him.

The way he stoically waltzed through the large gates of Konoha as if everything was the same before.

She watched him carefully without blinking her eyes, not wanting to miss the slightest twitch of his muscles.

He barely glanced at the newly rebuilt walls and buildings. He did not seem to take note of the newly paved roads underneath his feet. He ignored the silent stares and murmured whispers from the civilians and shinobis watching his slow stroll into their village.

She had just seen him a few weeks ago on the battleground, standing on the opposite side, blood red eyes burning holes into each and every one of the alliance. And suddenly, he switched sides. She remembered it so clearly. The sun was setting. The whole field was silent and they are watched a lone, dark haired figure slowly walk towards the Hokage. He might have just been taking a stroll in the garden if not for the decapitated head of Kabuto dripping a trail of dark dark blood all over the sand. She remembered her mind going blank when he wordlessly knelt down before the Hokage and placed the head before Tsunade. He did not bow down his head, nor did he stare straight into Tsunade's , or anyone else, eyes. He stared straight ahead. At nothing.

After a long moment of silence, she remembered her shishou asking the traitor to rise. Their eyes met and an unspoken truce was made. The war was over with the death of Kabuto. All the undead had crumbled into dust. Tobi had escaped but grievously injured. And now, he was allowed back into Konoha. A reluctant hero.

Her friends were secretly worried that she would break down. After all, she and Naruto had tried and failed to bring their lost teammate back. And now he came back without someone threatening to break every single bone in his body. Still a traitor but also the one who single handedly ended a war. Obviously, she should have strong feelings for him given the number of times she tried again and again to bring him home.

But they were wrong. She did not feel a thing.

His eyes were coal black as they always were when his bloodline was not activated. Eyebrows elegantly arching as if lovingly painted by an artist. Silky smooth yet somehow gravity defying hair moved gently in the wind. Thin lips pursed slightly, not betraying a single emotion.

He was taller than he was when he first left her on the bench 6 years ago. His face was longer, pale and a bit hollow. She could see dark circles around his eyes and a general pale, sickly complexion that had everything to do with exhaustion and nothing to do with natural skin colour.

However he was still handsome. And strikingly so, if not more.

However, she did not know him. This was not her teammate. They had the same face. But she knew that beneath that skin, he wasn't the boy she had a crush on 6 years ago. He wasn't the boy she cried tears over when almost dying under his hand 2 years ago.

No, he was the man, not boy, who became the stranger before her now.

She could feel her fists clench painfully. Her fingers dug into her palm. Warm trickles of liquid concentrated on her knuckles and dripped silently onto the gravel.

He finally stopped walking and stood in front of her only a meter away. Or rather, he stood in front of Tsunade who was standing next to her. He did not say a word. He only stared straight into the Hokage's eyes. She could feel almost all the shinobis around her tensing, waiting for an attack from the once coldblooded betrayer. Except for Naruto who had a silly grin on his face as he stood next to his brother who had finally returned.

Moments passed. She heard her shishou sigh very quietly.

"Stay in the Uchiha compound. Do not leave until I grant permission. I shall send ANBU to watch over you." Tsunade said with a controlled voice. She knew her shishou was just one step away from throwing a temper and destroying the whole street.

He nodded once in acknowledgement. Naruto jumped up into the sky, fists pumping as he shouted "Yea!" A nervous chuckle echoed from the crowd surrounding them and Tsunade turned around with a sweep of her cloak and headed towards the new Hokage tower, no doubt in need of a sake binge.

"Sakura! Teme is back! For good! Team 7 is back!" Naruto jubilantly scrambled towards her and attempted to grab her arms and dance.

She sidestepped immediately, just missing his hands, ignoring the hurt look that crossed his face.

No. He was not back. He never came back.

This stranger. Was not him.

He was not a monster. No. A monster was someone whom you had known before yet somehow became something horrible along the way. Someone who you felt pain for every action they took. Someone who caused you would turn to fate with endless tears, begging for the inexplicable reason how he became the monster he was. Someone who woke you up at night in wordless screams, with images and dreams of how he once was, so long ago.

He was not a traitor, for that would mean that once upon a time, they held something in common, a bond. It meant that he had forsaken something that once was, causing tears and endless sorrow. It meant breaking something that she once upon a time cherished and treasured.

This person in front of her turned to gaze at her with his dark, emotionless eyes. Waiting.

What was there to wait for? She did not know him. There was nothing she had to show him.

He was a stranger.

And without a further glance, Sakura turned around and walked away.