Her Oldest Friend
Sakura hugged her threadbare teddy bear, the little fur he had left damp with her tears. There was a time when the bear had been a warm caramel color, but decades of love and cuddling had reduced him to a dirty grayish hue.
She had received the stuffed animal as a birthday present. She was so young she couldn’t even remember how old she had turned when her parents presented her with the bear, topped with a big red bow. She had taken him everywhere, and even as a teenager, often slept with him wedged under her arm though she always his him when friends came over. Her younger self had dubbed him with the incredibly masculine name Mr. Cuddleface, and even though she now knew it was a ridiculous name, even for a teddy bear, she continued to refer to him as such.
The bear was her oldest friend, sticking with her before she had ever had a rivalry with Ino, before she had joined the ninja academy or made Team 7 and before Sasuke had walked out of her life.
Mr. Cuddleface never had words of comfort, and yet hugging him tight and crying into his soft fur made her feel better in a way that no amount of human contact could. He had been there for her when the fifth hokage met his untimely end, when the nights were lonely and long and both Naruto and Sasuke had left the village in search of their own ambitions, when she had suffered through a long day at the hospital and had to watch a patient she couldn’t save die as she watched helplessly.
Mr. Cuddleface had never let her down, and he was here for her now, even though his stuffing was falling out and his worn button eyes had lost their luster. She hugged him tight while looking at the framed picture sitting on her bed, the one of Team 7 taken back when she was still hopeful and excited about being a ninja, the romance of the profession still intact.
She had seen her share of death, far more than a girl of twenty-three should have, but nothing had prepared her for watching her sensei fall, dead before she could blink an eye, let alone rush to his aid and heal him.
She knew she shouldn’t blame herself, but couldn’t help but feel like there was something she could have done to prevent that kunai from piercing his heart.
Her body was wracked by fresh sobs and she squeezed Mr. Cuddleface even tighter. She had not only lost her sensei, but lost a dear friend, and would forever miss the way he was never on time or the way he ruffled her bangs even though she was far too old for that.
His funeral would be held tomorrow and she would have to appear without her threadbare teddy. After that, she would have to make it through one day at a time, just as she always had.