Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto
Repairs on the Leaf Village commenced immediately after villagers began healing from the war. The world having survived such chaos, aid among the alliance was offered without question. Ninjas from other villages began setting up camps and bases to set a system of repair. Clearing debris, building shelters, all were in effect.
Sakura never would have thought the sound of construction could be so pleasing. The deliberate noise she'd wake up to as early as four-thirty in the morning, making her heart pump in her throat and a vein pop in her neck, suddenly turned into a welcoming reminder of triumph.
Standing, she felt her legs wobble. Weeks had passed and she was still very sore. Medics can take away the cause of the hurt, but the residing pain was something left untouched. She learned this all too quickly and realized maybe she had little to complain about if compared to her team.
Lightly jogging towards designated "Medic Building A," the muscles in her legs noticeably burned. Trying to ignore the ache, her attentions were completely captured from the screams she heard inside. In an instant she felt her heart squeeze, eyes growing wide in anticipation, she had to stop herself from breaking the hinges off the swinging doors.
"I NEED to get out of here!" Naruto gaped, eyes wide, he sat with one arm supporting his awkward position. "Neh, Sakura-chan…!" His voice flexed, trying desperately to explain. She could only hear the sound of a short-lived battle.
"You're delusional if you think you're getting out of here." She said more to herself and he groaned overhearing. Feeling relief in his huff, she shifted her attentions toward her reappeared counterpart. Somehow Sasuke managed to sleep despite having a rambunctious roommate.
Walking over to Naruto who had yet to settle with his requests, she forcefully took it upon herself to push him back. "Naruto, if you can't calm down on your own, I will gladly assist you." Holding a readied fist to his face, she threatened him to take the better option.
Naruto grimaced knowing it was hardly a bluff. He took a moment and began softly, "I can't stay in bed like this forever." He explained. His blue eyes stern, he pleaded for action, movement – anything that would allow him to quell his restless body. He was desperate. "The swelling is gone, the scrapes and bruises have disappeared… I'm rested. I'm as healthy as I need to be." Naruto paused, eyes glancing towards Sasuke, "I can't say the same for him, but who knows how long it's been since Sasuke's had a full night's sleep…" The guilt in his tone was too real, and still very much undeserving.
Sakura hadn't felt herself draw back. Her eyes stuck on his, she had to mentally stop and interpret what it was she was experiencing. It wasn't often Naruto would meet solemnity, and for that she could barely recognize him.
Often, she'd have to remind herself that this wasn't the goofball Naruto she grew up with. Sitting down beside him, she stared at his bandaged arm. "We just want to make sure you're alright – the both of you." She set her eyes on Sasuke and they lingered to watch him take a shaky breath.
Naruto rolled his eyes, quickly reverting to shift the muggy mood. "…I should be able to go, 'ttebayo."
Sakura sighed, feeling the worry sink lamely to the pit of her stomach. "Maybe if I get it cleared with Tsunade..." and her small smile was met with his wide grin.
It didn't take long for Sasuke to leave. Sakura, of course, insisted she join him.
When he declined, she knew better than to push.
Unlike what most people thought, she'd come to realize Sasuke had his own way. That's how he's always been, and she learned to accept it.
Although he'd been alone up until now, something inside her knew he was okay to go by himself. He just needed to realize that he'd never been alone to begin with. Somehow, she thought this was the journey he needed to take to make things right with himself. Sakura felt that what was most important was him knowing that there would always be people waiting for his return.
Walking back to her apartment, she noticed how buildings had begun to emerge despite the short time. Paths became streets, shacks turned into operating businesses, it was more than comforting to see the village function again.
Closing her eyes, she took a moment to listen. It was far from a quiet night, and she was thankful. Passing a small building, she could hear children playing, and a mother requesting they stop for dinner. Only then did she became aware of the time.
Deciding on something nice and hot, she made her way towards Naruto's Ichiraku's. Absently, she thought about taking him carry-out to once again commence their semi-original two-man cell. She smiled, recognizing the feeling of closure for the first time in what felt like forever.
Rounding the corner she stopped so abruptly she almost tripped over herself. Sliding up against the wall, she peered towards the small make-shift ramen bar.
In the distance, she saw Hinata positioned two stools in. Her jacket wrapped loosely around her waist, with her ankles crossed, "Her posture is impeccable." Sakura thought. Shifting in her heels, she peered one stool over, seeing Naruto. "And he's a complete slob." Sakura's eyes narrowed, suddenly feeling embarrassed for him.
Watching more intently, she saw Hinata's hand come up to cover her mouth, stifling a giggle.
Sakura felt her shoulders relax. Smiling, she decided to make a detour.
It had almost been a week later when she saw Naruto next.
Something had been different, though she couldn't place it.
"Getting into trouble again, Naruto?" She gestured as they both walked up the side of the newly structured Kage tower.
His hands laced behind his head as he stared at the sky. "Nope." He curtly answered.
"You seem a little distracted, huh?" She slowly took another step forward, and he stopped. Turning towards her, without dropping his hands, a sheepish smile plastered itself onto his face, "Does it seem like that, Sakura-chan~?" He sang her name, it was his usual glee.
Sarcastically disgusted with how happy he seemed, she rolled her eyes and stared at the very hopeful view that was Konoha. At the corner of her eye, she watched as Naruto made his way inside. Taking the village in she said slowly to herself, "You're going to have such a nice view, Naruto."
The rainy season came very early this year. The climate having shifted so drastically in such a short period of time, it was the least exciting event of the year. It surprised no one, and was even welcomed for the skirting farmland.
Sitting at a bench beneath the largest tree in town, Sakura inhaled deeply. Sticking her leg out in front of her, she let the water slipping from the leaves above hit her shin. Watching in lazy fascination as the droplets slid down the side of her thin calf, she watched it happen over and over again.
The weather was not yet cold, but it sure was damp. The mist from the force of the rain against the new pavement was refreshing on her exposed limbs. In the distance, she heard Naruto's voice.
"Hey! Can't you see we're walking here?!"
"Sorry, sorry, Naruto…!" Someone on a bike yelled back as they whizzed by.
Beneath an awning, he covered a much more quiet voice. "I-it's just water, Naruto-kun..." Hinata. It wasn't so odd to see them together now.
Naruto continued, "I don't care…" His voice faltered some and she couldn't make out what it was he said next. Whatever it was awarded him, a soft caress of the cheek.
Sakura's heart spurted, and she felt her face become red with embarrassment. "I should not be watching!" She quickly commented to herself between her teeth.
Standing up, she couldn't help but peak back before returning to the hospital.
"How are things at the hospital, Sakura?" Ino, twirled the straw in her drink as her gaze came up from melting ice.
"Fine," she said blandly.
Waving a bandaged hand in her face, Ino's voice raised, "Earth to Sakura!"
Sakura blinked once, then twice. Clasping her hand around her glass, she focused on Ino once again. "Sorry, I'm just…I'm tired, I guess."
"'I guess'…" Ino mimicked.
Sakura sighed, "Do you think…" not even attempting to continue.
Ino removed her hand from her glass and leaned in, "Try talking to me Sakura."
Sakura's eyes averted Ino's and she leaned back, practically whispering, "I'm tired of being alone."
Ino bit her lip, "Well – You're not alone. You're never alone, Sakura." Ino's eyes darted towards the end of the table. She looked at the small dish of sugar cubes and then back at Sakura. Her eyes were large, and glazed, almost as if she were about to cry. Ino cleared her throat, "He's not here, but you have to know this isn't forever."
Sakura shook her head softly, "Y-yeah," her voice cracked.
Ino slid her hand across the table and plucked Sakura's from her glass. "Everyone's waiting for you to be happy. You going to make us wait forever?" Ino smirked slightly, and her eyes became soft.
Sakura felt her eyes moisten and looked down to hide her face. Nodding slowly, she felt Ino squeeze at her clutched hand.
Wiping her eyes, Sakura sprung back, wanting so desperately to change the mood "SO, what's new with you?"
Ino, slowly retrieved her hand and resumed using her straw as a mixer. "Uh, well…" she tilted her head and thought, "I've been doing a lot of field work with Hinata lately."
Sakura's interest had been piqued. "How is that, actually?"
"Pretty good… She's quick on her feet? I mean, what else is there to say? It's just typical stuff." Ino, clamped her teeth and grabbed for a few sugar cubes. "I deserve a treat, yeah." She quickly said, as if trying to convince herself.
Sakura watched as she plopped them into her cup one by one. "What do you think of her and Naruto's… relationship?"
Ino, looked much more satisfied with her beverage, "I think it's cute. Hinata – you know…since the funeral hasn't been acting quite the same around her family, from what Ten-Ten tells me. And I think it's safe to say she's happy being with him instead. Naruto, I guess, you know, from what he tells me he's happy too." Ino shrugged, and sipped.
Sakura looked confused then, "Naruto tells you about their relationship?" She asked quickly.
"Well," Ino began, "…he drops Hinata off, and while she's off doing her thing, we talk. He's a little needy if you ask me," Ino laughed, "You can tell he wants to go with her, but doesn't because it's her job and he can't do anything."
Sakura laughed nervously, "Its not creepy or anything…?"
Ino waved her hand, "No," Ino inhaled and held her breath as if to think, "It's more like…he's being protective. It's Naruto! You know he's just trying his best to be good enough for Hinata."
"Mm," Sakura took a small sip of her watered down drink.
"There's this place up the street if you want to go shopping. Your clothes are looking a bit on the bland side," Ino joked.
"Hey, Ino-Pig, you better watch it!"
She had been reduced to paperwork. Staring at the stack she felt herself sink into a suppressing boredom. It has almost been an entire year since she's been assigned a mission that permits her to leave either the hospital or the Kage mansion. Not only was it isolating, but it was painful, emotionally and physically. She felt her muscles weaken and her social life deteriorating with every swivel of her desk chair.
Tapping her warring desk, she stared out the window. It was like she was a child waiting for school to end. She groaned, "Spacing out won't do me any good." She said to herself as she leaned forward. Cracking her knuckles, she went for the first folder.
Jumping up quickly, Sakura practically slammed the file down. "So-sorry! I didn't see you there. You – are quiet." She commented openly.
Hinata stood ahead of her desk and said nothing. Instead she offered an agreeing nod.
Sakura began sweeping the parchment towards her open manila folder. "Wha- How are you? Do you need something? What can I do for you?" she blabbered. She felt as if she hadn't spoken to a real person in ages. How was it people 'talk' again?
Hinata's cheeks turned a slight shade of pink as her eyes swept the desk. "I just needed to turn this in." Handing a green folder to Sakura, she shakily accepted. This was the first time she had had an interaction with someone who worked outside this building in what felt like months. It might have been months, she no longer knew. Days felt like they were dragging.
"Oh and…!" Hinata exclaimed in her soft voice, "I am also doing quite well, thank you for asking. How are you?"
Sakura felt giddy, "I'm okay— but I am bored to be honest, and irritable and…" she halted her nervous hands and connected a stiff palm to the growing pain beneath her brow, "I'm sorry. Excuse me. I don't mean to dump this on you."
Seeming not to mind Sakura's sudden grief, Hinata reached over the stack of folders and to the desk's parchment pile. Arranging loose papers into the manila folder she spoke, "If you'd like, you are always welcome to join Naruto and I during lunch or-"
Sakura's hands hit the table and Hinata retreated to herself quietly. "Yes!" Sakura wouldn't even let her finish. If she had, there could have been a much larger chance of Hinata retracting her invitation once she realized just what she was saying. Not even apologizing for her sudden interruption, she looked up as to urge Hinata to disclose the details.
Hinata collected herself, intertwining her fingers. "Wonderful," she began, gifting Sakura a soft smile. "Naruto-kun will be very happy to see you."
Tilting her head, Sakura noticed suddenly how animated Hinata's eyes were. Without even an ounce of effort, she could tell just how sincere the girl in front of her was.
Looking away to avoid staring, Sakura started, "He will? Everyone just seems so busy lately."
Hinata placed a finger on her chin and thought a moment, "Mm…You're always working. We've thought to ask you but you seemed so busy yourself it seemed rude to interrupt."
Sakura felt herself tense, "Ah, I see." Her mouth open, she felt she didn't have the words to refute.
"Well, anyway…I'm glad you're able to join us later. If you'd like we could pick you up here?"
Sakura's mind was racing. It was a pitiful day for her work, but man was she reeling. Ever since Naruto and Hinata became close it seemed as if everyone else in the village had also found their other half. She contemplated, it really hadn't been a surprise but the idea that she was one of the very few still alone, had her reevaluating.
"Sakura," Naruto appeared in the doorway, "As ordered, I am here to retrieve you."
Sakura side stepped the untouched stack of papers she placed beside her desk and pushed in her chair. "Where's Hinata?"
Naruto scratched the back of his head, and smiled big. "It's a surprise."
If she wasn't nervous already, this wasn't helping.
Naruto wrapped his arm around her shoulders, "Long time no see."
Feeling comforted suddenly, she took a relaxing breath. "Yeah," she looked towards him, "It has."
Walking together now, Naruto had his hands bunched up in his orange track pants as Sakura kicked a pebble in front of her.
"I've been meaning to ask you something." Naruto looked towards her, and Sakura's eyes followed the pebble as it rolled ahead, "Yeah?"
"I love Hinata."
Sakura almost tripped, "O-Okay." Putting her hands up in front of her chest she was practically waving away her worries. "You kids sure move quick!" She joked.
Naruto laughed nervously, "Well, it's almost been two years."
Sakura swallowed, "Has it really?" She didn't even know she stopped walking until she saw him turn towards her.
"I don't want to be without her." He explained. Turned fully now, towards Sakura he spoke, "I want her to marry me."
Sakura smiled sadly. So much has happened. It was like she wasn't really there. She never felt present, and she never really was anymore. Ino had told her. Ino had said that she stop waiting. That she start being happy for herself. Sakura didn't listen. Somehow she thought Sasuke being with her would make her a happier person, but that was never the solution.
Naruto made sure he did what he needed to do before approaching Hinata, and Hinata had always been doing the same. Sakura gulped, and hoped the knot in her throat would melt, "And Sasuke-kun too…"
"It sounds like you already have a plan." Sakura began walking, unable to simply just stand in one spot.
Naruto released the breath he didn't realize he was holding. "I've wanted to ask her for a long time now. I've just been waiting for some input from my friends."
"Friends? Sasuke too?" Sakura lightly laughed, "You don't need a man's opinion on this kind of stuff, Naruto."
Naruto's voice practically cracked, "Well, yeah! Sasuke, I thought he'd be back by now. I can't wait forever, you know. I'll be an old man before that bastard comes back. I don't think Hinata would want to marry that."
She could tell from his voice that he was nervous. She didn't even have to look his way to know. The doubt in his voice was extremely obvious. "Naruto, when did you know Hinata was it?"
He looked at her, puzzled.
Sakura exhaled and a puff of heat appeared like a small cloud in front of them, "When was it that you realized you loved Hinata the way you do?"
Naruto's face lit up immediately, "Oh!" He chuckled.
"It's not because she's the only girl that confessed to you, right?" She was partially joking but she almost wanted to make sure.
"You didn't even let me answer." He paused, "When she told me – you know confessed…"
Sakura smiled, she's never seen Naruto genuinely shy.
"…Things, just sorta made sense suddenly. I always thought she was kind of weird…" He trailed off a bit, "With the fainting and her face turning red. I mean, you can't blame me for thinking she was sick a lot of those times!"
Sakura couldn't help but laugh, "Uh-huh."
"Okay, okay, so I asked her to get ramen with me one day. That night, I was a total mess. I was gross, like I had just come back from training and I was everywhere all at once. I was …nervous. Hinata is pretty, and when you're sitting up close, it's suddenly really obvious…"
Sakura saw Naruto's neck turn red, the back of his ears on fire, "Pervert." She commented.
He turned so quickly, "NO! No, Sakura-chan."
"I'm kidding, continue."
"She accepted me. I couldn't have been any less appealing, and I don't mean that night at ramen… When she really spoke to me, I realized she's always seen me the same way the villagers do now. I've always felt, my whole life, that I've had to prove myself… that I needed to be on top because it wasn't even an option people were letting me have. Hinata— she accepts what I have to offer, and that's whatever it is I am and can give. Whether or not I want to be Hokage… I don't have to prove myself to her. At my most basic self, I know she will be there. When I'm with her I feel safe, and I feel right, like I'm on the right path… I've never met someone so kind in the world we live in. And I love her for what she has to offer, and I knew as soon as we sat down for ramen that this was the start of something else." He turned towards Sakura and her eyes had been filled.
"Ah, Naruto! You idiot. Hinata's lucky you ended up being worth the wait." She punched him playfully.
Naruto smiled confidently, "Let's go upstairs. Hinata made us dinner."
Sakura filled her pack, and thought absently about the most recent news. Naruto had asked Hinata at dinner that night. She smiled, remembering that Hinata hadn't even said yes, rather, she hugged him.
Sakura laughed to herself, ashamed at how big of a sap she was, crying and laughing while Naruto tried to maneuver the small ring onto Hinata's finger as she kept the embrace. It was obvious Hinata did not want to let him go, and after he secured the ring, Sakura noticed Naruto hadn't wanted her to either.
Grabbing a cloak and keys, she headed towards the tower.
Kakashi sat atop her desk staring out the window.
Seeing him, she threw her keys at his back. He didn't even deflect or attempt to catch them. "Ow," he said calmly.
"I'm on my way out." She stood beside him, staring out the window as well.
"Are you sure this is what you want to do?" Kakashi didn't even turn towards her.
Sakura placed a hand on her Hokage's shoulder, "It feels right." She explained simply.
He turned towards her then, "Sasuke's due back soon, you know…"
Sakura let her hand drop, "I know… I know things will be different when I return." She clutched her coat and began to backpedal slowly. "I know for sure. I'll be better."
Kakashi stood and turned towards her.
Taking her first step out of the office, "It's time for him to wait."
Not going to lie, super weird to write through a character I don't necessarily like. Hope you liked it, please review :)