Naruto flinched as he downed yet another shot of the bar's strongest liquor. He slammed the small glass onto the wooden counter he rested his arms on, taking a deep breath as the liquid slowly spread a very warm feeling throughout his body that he was all too familiar with by now. Had he'd been a normal shinobi, his liver would be screwed. But even with his healing factor granted to him by Kyuubi no Yoko, he still could feel every ounce of sake that he consumed over the last hour or so. His eye itched and the simple movement of rubbing it made him feel as though the world started spinning below him.

The bartender that stood a few feet from him looked at him and sighed. He'd seen some pretty impressive drinkers in his years at bartending this place, but he didn't know anyone who could take fifteen shots of his hardest stuff like this kid. And Naruto was a minor, at that. Here, the rule was that the word 'teen' cannot be in the number of your age in order for them to purchase drinks. And Naruto was seventeen. At the other bar across the village, anyone sixteen and up could drink. But this one was for adults that had a bit more mileage in life. He had refused to let him buy anything at first, but Naruto insisted that he had the money, and needed to drink. If it wasn't for the look in his eyes that the bartender saw, Naruto probably wouldn't have even been here. He saw that the kid had been through something, and even the bartender could tell he could really use a drink.

"Another." Naruto slurred, finding that his tongue went numb from the chemicals he consumed. The bartender rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"Kid, if you have another drink, you'll match your age. I think you've had enough." He says, looking at Naruto sympathetically from across the counter. Naruto looked up at him with a minor glare, finding it hard to focus his eyes on him.

"I'm fine, just... gimme 'nother one." Naruto commanded, extending his hand out as if the bartender would just hand him the whole bottle.

The clerk shook his head, "Sorry kid, I'm not giving you any more to drink. I shouldn't even be allowing you to sit here right now. So why not just go home and stay there for the rest of the night before you do something you'll regret, huh?"

Before Naruto could reply, the bartender walked away to serve someone else.

"Asshole." Naruto spat. Despite the clerk refusing to give him another drink, he knew that he was right. Naruto was fucked up. He knew he needed to get home soon, but decided to wait until some of the alcohol dissipated from his system. If he tried to go home now, he'd probably fall all over the place.

He turned around in his seat and overlooked the whole bar. There wasn't many people here, considering how it was a Monday night. Most people were probably preparing to go to bed right about now.

Just then, someone sat in the stool next to him. He looked over and saw that it was someone he knew, but the name escaped him.

It was then that the person looked over at him. Those red irises should have been a big giveaway. However, her name was still unclear to him. He was thinking hard about what it could be, a bit harder than he should have been.

He missed the fact that the woman was beginning to look at him strangely.

"Naruto? What are you doing here?" He almost missed that she was talking to him. He shook his head to clear his mind, but only ended up making himself dizzier.

He recovered enough to properly reply, "I'm just, uh... Havin' a few drinks..."

The woman gave a short chuckle, "Well, I see that. But I know that you couldn't possibly be over nineteen. I didn't even know that you drink."

Naruto laughed, a bit more than he should have, "Ah, I just felt like having a few... I kinda bugged the bartender to let me in."

When the beautiful lady gave a short yet warm signature smile, her name became clear to him now. Yuuhi. Kurenai Yuuhi. Hinata's and Kiba's sensei.

"Well, I'm not going to bug you, or lecture you or anything. I did a few similar things when I was your age, too." Kurenai said. "Just... don't overdo it."

"She's nice." Naruto thought.

"I'll try not to." He said. Kurenai turned her head and ordered to have the same drink Naruto was having. When she got it, her ruby lips parted and allowed the liquid to flow into her mouth.

She flinched in shock after tasting and swallowing the contents, "Oh my!" She exclaimed before looking at Naruto with surprise evident on her features, "Naruto... you were drinking this?"

Naruto chuckled and nodded, "Uh-huh."

She counted the amount of shot glasses surrounding him. This increased her surprise tenfold, "And you've had that many? You honestly don't look anywhere near as drunk as you should be." She told him.

"I don't feel as drunk as I should be." Naruto replied with a short chuckle.

"You must have a liver made of gold." Kurenai remarked, "I'm pretty sure I'd be at the hospital if I had what you had."

"Yeah, well, we all can't be that fortunate, I guess." He almost said out loud. Naruto replied by snorting, following with a shrug of his shoulders.

Kurenai stared at the remains of her drink, then shrugged as well. "Well, this must be some good stuff if it's this strong. I could use it." She pinched her nose, then downed the rest of the liquid in one go. Kurenai rapidly shook her head and was hit with the recoil from the strong liquor. The pinching-your-nose technique never actually helps as it should.

It burned her throat on the way down, so she had to wait a few seconds before talking again.

"So how's Kakashi doing? And the rest of your team?"

"They're fine." Naruto said quickly. Kurenai noted the passive response, and Naruto noticed her noticing it.

"Um... Kakashi-sensei is still recovering from the hospital due to our last mission, but he should be out by tomorrow..." He elaborated.

"That's good. Glad to see that Kakashi is recovering okay." She nodded. She caught on to how awkward the conversation was running and chose not to address it, but was sure to make a mental note of it.

Naruto quickly changed the subject, "So how's Kiba, Hinata, and... Er..."


Naruto nodded. Drunk or not, he could never remember his name, "Yeah, him."

"They're fine." Kurenai ordered another shot of the same stuff, "Kiba and Akamaru are knuckleheads, as usual. Shino's always the mysterious one. And Hinata will be Hinata."

Naruto nodded. He smiled as he remembered his old friends. He should probably pay them a visit sooner than later.

Kurenai and Naruto spent the next hour or so small talking about random things. Kurenai, thanks to the bar's strongest stuff, was now almost as drunk as Naruto. But she only had half the amount of drinks that Naruto had.

They were now laughing, as Naruto told her about the time he pranked Tsunade by switching the contents of her bottle of sake with Ton-Ton's urine. If he'd ever gotten caught for that prank, he was sure her foot would still be lodged up his ass to this very day.

Another two shots slid Kurenai's way. She looked at the bartender to make sure his back was turned, then sent Naruto a sneaky grin. She handed him one of the glasses.

"Ssshhhh..." She drunkenly held her index finger in front of her lips. She then extended her glass, "To good times." She proposed.

Naruto grinned and collided his glass with hers, "To good times." They then took the whole shot in one go simultaneously.

Once Naruto put the glass on the counter, the world around him began to spin out of his control.

Then, all of the sudden, he felt as if he were flying.


Naruto hit the ground hard.

Naruto groggily woke up with his eyes still shut. He groaned and creaked his eyes open, light searing into his retinas.

"Naruto-kun, you're up! Are you okay?" He barely heard a voice say to him. His eyes got used to the light a bit, so he leaned up from where he was laying and looked around. It was then he realized that he had the mother of all headaches.

He also saw that he was no longer in the bar. He wasn't even in his own apartment. He was in an unfamiliar home. One decorated with many flowers that had a delightful aroma to them.

He then saw Kurenai at his side. How he missed spotting her the first time he looked around, he'll never know.

"Ugh..." He groaned, holding his throbbing head. "What... What happened?"

Kurenai gave a soft smile, "You overdosed at the bar and passed out."

Naruto thought about it and could just faintly recall himself having drinks with Kurenai.

Her smile slid into a frown, "Are you alright, though? You hit your head really hard..."

"Well, that explains this huge headache I have..." He tells her groggily, "But I think I'm fine otherwise."

"Oh, good. I was scared you may have a concussion." Kurenai let out a breath of relief. Naruto saw that she felt guilty as she frowned a bit more, "I'm sorry... I shouldn't have given you another drink."

Naruto sat up on the couch he was laying on. Kurenai sat beside him and gently rubbed his head. The action caught Naruto off-guard. They didn't know each other. So why was she being so nice to him?

"I-It's fine. I shouldn't have been there to begin with." Naruto mumbled, trying not to think too much about it, "How long was I out?"

Kurenai looked at him sympathetically, "For around thirty minutes or so." Naruto nodded. That explains why he still felt drunk and could smell the lingering alcohol in Kurenai's breath, "Are you sure you're okay? Do you want anything? Water, tea?" She offered politely.

Naruto thought for a second, "Yeah, I'm okay. And a glass of water would be nice."

Kurenai nodded with a smile and walked into the nearby kitchen. She returned a few seconds later with two tall glasses of water.

She handed one to him, "Thanks." He replied, drinking the water to help get rid of the taste of alcohol.

"You're welcome." Kurenai took a sip of her own. While Naruto was still gulping it down, Kurenai looked at him with wondering and concerned eyes.


Naruto cleared his throat after swallowing the rest of the water in his mouth, "Hm?"

"Are you okay otherwise? I mean, young adults like you aren't allowed in bars like that for a reason." She inquired.

Naruto shrugged, "Yeah? What's wrong with having a few good drinks?"

The Genjutsu Mistress noted his defensive tone.

"There's plenty of bars around for men your age, though."

"I thought you said you weren't gonna lecture me?"

Kurenai was no dummy. She knew she found a nerve.

"This isn't a lecture. I'm just worried about you, hun."

"Why would you be worried about me?" Said Naruto, now slightly annoyed with the prodding, "I'm okay. I have nothing to hide."

"I never said you did."

Naruto looked at Kurenai, to see that she was already eyeing him down. The room fell silent for a while.

"It's getting late." Naruto mumbled, getting up from his seat, "I should get going."

Naruto turned around to head for the door and Kurenai raised an eyebrow, "So, no 'thank you' for helping you after you passed out in the bar? That's charming."

Naruto stopped walking and grimaced at her offended and sarcastic tone.

"Thank you, Kurenai-sensei." Was his dry response. He then continued heading for the door.

Kurenai sighed, "Naruto, stop."

Naruto grabbed the doorknob to her front door as if he didn't hear her.

"I'm just trying to help, Naruto."

Naruto opened the door.

"Whatever it is you're going through, it—"

Naruto slammed the door shut and quickly turned around.

"Damn it, can you give it a fucking rest already?!" Naruto shouted, "I'm fine! I don't need your help, okay?! Quit bugging me, for Kami's sake!"

The Uzumaki blinked and immediately regretted everything he just said.

Kurenai, on the other hand, was unprepared for his outburst.

Naruto covered his mouth in shock. Did he really just scream at her? For no particularly good reason? It didn't even feel like he had control of his own voice.

"Oh God, I... I'm sorry, Kurenai-sensei. I don't really know where that came from..."

Kurenai looked down at the floor. Those dazzling red eyes soon began building up with excess liquid.

Naruto didn't know what to say. He could clearly see she was hurt, and all she was doing was trying to help him. And how he lashed out at her was completely unnecessary and borderline inhumane. To hurt someone for doing nothing but reaching out to help him made him feel like... a monster.

Naruto closed his eyes and sighed. He turned around and grabbed the doorknob again.

"I'm just... gonna go." Naruto mumbled, "I'm sorry, and I didn't mean what I said. I guess I'm just as much of a demon as everyone seems to think."

Kurenai wiped her tears and took a deep breath with closed eyes.

"You're not a demon." Kurenai said slowly, just as Naruto was one foot out the door, "You might be a bit of a jerk, but... you're not a demon."

The Jinchuuriki looked at her and raised an eyebrow, "You do know what I have in me, right?"

Kurenai hesitated. Speaking about such a secretive matter was a forbidden law, with punishment being execution. However, she guessed it didn't matter when the secret in question was known by the person that the secret was about.

"What do you mean when you say that?" She asked for reassurance.

Naruto sighed, "The demon that every adult knows is sealed inside me."

Kurenai nodded. At least he was aware, "Yes, I'm aware. And I still stand by what I said." She looked him straight into his cerulean eyes, "You're not a demon."

Naruto was actually shocked to hear her say that, "How can you tell me that when I just lashed out at you and made you cry not even five minutes ago?"

Kurenai wiped her last tear as he said that. After doing so, she let out another deep breath, "Naruto, what you said was pretty rude and hurtful, no doubt about it. But trust me when I say that it doesn't make you a demon."

Naruto stared at the ground, "... You don't understand." He mumbled.

"What don't I understand?"

Naruto didn't give her an immediate response, "The fact that I really am a demon. I'm not just saying that because of how much of a jerk I am. I can turn into a literal demon. One that can hurt anyone and anything around me."

"Naruto, with all due respect, you don't seem like you'd hurt a fly without feeling bad." Kurenai told him honestly, "I've heard a lot about you being a fine shinobi, but I think you're far from a killer or dangerous person. I think you're just going through some things, which is to be expected, given our line of work."

Naruto remained silent and Kurenai sighed again. She patted the spot on her couch next to her as a prompt for him to sit next to her again. Naruto hesitated, but complied.

"Naruto, I don't want to pester you or prod too much if it makes you uncomfortable. I just want to help you out where I can." She informed him empathetically.

"Why waste your time on a monster like me?" Naruto huffed, "All I do is hurt people."

"Naruto, if you're referring to me crying because of what you said, just know that I'm just... dealing with a lot myself." Kurenai said, trying to hold in her emotional reaction due to just thinking about it, "Otherwise, I'd have taken it in stride."

"It's not just that..." Said Naruto with a sigh.

Kurenai waited for him to continue, but he seemed to be stuck in thought, "You don't have to tell me if you don't wan-"

"I... murdered my own teammate."

What he said completely derailed her train of thought.

Naruto shook his head once he saw the look on her face, "Yeah. I killed someone on my team, and I honestly feel as though I should be locked away somewhere."

Kurenai Yuuhi didn't know how to properly phrase her next question with the best of her ability, but proceeded with it regardless, "Naruto... why and how did you do something like that?" She asked with a careful tone.

"That's what I've been telling you this whole time." Naruto sighed, "I'm a demon. The Kyuubi that is sealed inside of me can make me turn into one when my temper takes over. I gain this immense power that makes me rampage and cause destruction. It happened on a mission where my team and I were to track down intel on Orochimaru. He said some things to me that really pushed me into that state... It's happened to me quite a few times already, but this most recent time it happened, I... fatally wounded my own comrade. I don't even remember it happening. All I can recall is me getting mad, then... me waking up to see my teammate Sakura in critical condition. Yamato-sensei said he saw everything and relayed the information to me, telling me that I came at her like a wild animal."

As Naruto had his face in his palms to work out his emotions, Kurenai thought to herself for a second, "Naruto, from what it sounds like, it sounds more like a side effect of having the Kyuubi sealed inside you, not so much that you were the one who did it."

"I personally don't see why it'd make a difference."

"It makes a difference because it displays the difference between an accident, and something that you did voluntarily." Kurenai explained.

Naruto shrugged, "I guess. But at the end of the day, if it was not for me, Sakura would still be here." He then gripped at his hair, "To me, it doesn't make a difference whether or not I meant to do it. No matter how you look at it, someone died because of me."

Kurenai frowned. She felt bad for Naruto. And not just because of this incident, but because of everything he had to endure as a result of the Kyuubi being sealed in him. It wasn't his choice. He had no say in the matter. But yet, everyone had treated him like a monster. She'd heard and seen the villagers, and even some shinobi, shunning, abusing, and even talking about killing Naruto to get rid of the demon that almost wiped out their whole village. Kurenai always hated that kind of behavior. Naruto was a kid, whether or not a demon was locked away inside him. And to treat a kid with that much venom and animosity was something that Kurenai thought was totally inappropriate and unacceptable.

"I understand, Naruto." She told him, "I-"

"How could you understand?" Naruto asked, sounding very frustrated.

Kurenai took a deep breath. Then, as unexpected as it was for Naruto, she slapped him. She did it hard enough for the sound of her palm running across his cheek to echo throughout the room they were in.

Naruto was so caught off guard, it took him a while to register what happened, "...What the hell was that for?" He demanded, clearly offended.

"That was for shouting at me earlier." She stated, "And it was also to prove a point."

"And that point is?" He inquired, holding his currently warm cheek.

"That I hurt you. People hurt people all the time, Naruto. People have hurt me, I have hurt other people, and people are going to hurt you, just as you are going to hurt others in the future. And whether you do it on purpose or not, it doesn't make you a demon. The demon inside you does not make you a demon because of something that was outside of your control." She explained, making sure to keep her tone gentle.

Naruto didn't respond verbally. He simply shrugged. She could tell he wasn't convinced.

The brunette Jounin sighed, "Naruto, I know you're in a lot of pain right now. And I just want to let you know that... you're not the only one. After all, I was in that bar tonight for a reason, too."

This grabbed Naruto's attention.

The red-eyed Jounin closed her eyes and tried to hold back her emotions enough for her to elaborate, "I know what its like to feel like your actions are the cause behind someone's untimely death."

Naruto lifted his head to look at her, "You... killed someone close to you, too?"

"Not necessarily. I..." Kurenai took another deep, but shaky breath, "I was pregnant a few days ago, and... my baby had been miscarried."

The blonde Jinchuuriki's eyes went wide. His mouth had opened to say something to comfort her, but he couldn't figure out what he wanted to say.

"... Kurenai-sensei, I'm so sorry to hear that." Was all he could come up with, "I didn't even know you were pregnant."

Kurenai's eyes got watery, but she did everything she could to hold herself together.

"I was less than three months pregnant, I wasn't showing much." She answered, "I also didn't tell anyone. I wanted to keep it a surprise."

"Who was the father? If you don't mind me asking."

Kurenai grimaced, "I'm sure you know who Asuma Sorutobi is."

"...Shikamaru's sensei?" Kurenai nodded, "Really? Well, I did see you two together a lot..."

Kurenai gave a short but dry laugh. The room went silent again for a few more seconds.

"Um... What did he say? About the, um..."

Kurenai shook her head, "He doesn't know. About the miscarriage or the baby in general."

Naruto paused, "Why didn't you tell him?"

"Because..." Kurenai tried masking her sadness and anger with a bitter smile, "The fucker dumped me before I could tell him."

Naruto's eyes went wide in disbelief. Who could dump someone as beautiful and wholesome as her?

"What?! Why?" Naruto almost shouted.

Kurenai's teeth were grinding. Someone as gorgeous as her sure looked intimidating when she was upset.

"He claimed that things just weren't working out. He didn't even offer me much more explanation than that." She then wiped her eyes to prevent a tear from falling down her face, "I think... he just found another woman."

"How could anyone possibly trade someone as great as you for someone else?"

Kurenai looked at Naruto and blushed. Naruto noticed this and blushed himself. What he said just came out without a thought.

"I... That's very flattering, Naruto-kun." Kurenai said with a bashful smile.

"It's true! I don't see how anyone could turn you away. You're really pretty and just an overall good person." He said sincerely. Kurenai's smile grew. She could tell that he wasn't hitting on her, or just trying to make her feel better. He really meant what he said.

"Thank you, Naruto-kun. But apparently, I must not be enough for him if he just randomly decided to break up with me when everything was going well. Or at least I thought it was..." She sighed.

"His loss. You deserve better." Naruto shrugged.

Kurenai smiled internally. What a charmer this man was.

"The worst part about Asuma dumping me is that the day he did it was the day I planned to tell him I was pregnant." Kurenai shook her head and crossed her arms, "It's almost as though the fucker knew. Pardon my language."

Despite how he knew that Kurenai was being truthful, Naruto had a hard time believing her. He may not have known Asuma all that well, but he seemed like a genuine guy, from what he could remember. He would have never guessed that Asuma would break up like Kurenai like that, whether he may or may not have known that she was pregnant.

Kurenai continued after a brief pause, "A few days followed after and that's when I lost the baby. I guess that whole moment just stressed me out so much... that..." Kurenai couldn't continue. She buried her face into her palms, sobbing and crying her eyes out.

Naruto didn't know what to do or say. So he did what his body was urging him to do. He hugged her. Once his arms enveloped around her, Kurenai clung to him, burying her face into his jacket. Naruto rubbed her back up and down delicately.

They continued like this for at least ten whole minutes, until her sobs died down. She separated from Naruto and let out a sigh.

"...The reason I can relate to you is that I've been struggling with feeling like my miscarriage was my fault."

"How could that possibly be your fault?" Naruto asked.

Kurenai looked down at the floorboards, "Because I allowed my state of mind affect the health and progress of my pregnancy."

"I still don't see how that could be your fault, Kurenai-sensei." Naruto said, "I understand that you could be hurt by the whole break-up, but that doesn't mean you were responsible for what happened with your pregnancy."

Despite her crying not even five minutes ago, Kurenai's lips curled in a small smirk, "Checkmate."

Naruto raised an eyebrow, "... Huh?"

"Check and mate." She repeated, "Sounds like someone needs to listen to their own advice."

The spiky-haired genin was still confused, "What do you..."

Realization kicked in. Naruto stopped himself mid-sentence, mouth agape, as he realized what she meant.

She gave him a sad smile, "Naruto, I know what happened with your teammate is very unfortunate. And from what I can tell, you had a very strong connection with her." She then placed a hand on his face, caressing his cheek, "But you have to understand that what happened is not your fault. I know it may not seem like it, seeing as the situation involves you. But just like how I'm not responsible for my miscarriage, you're not responsible for Sakura's death. These things just... happen. And just because the situation involves you doesn't mean that it's your fault."

Naruto wasn't convinced, "N-No, our situations are different because I was on a mission. I failed as a shinobi. I should have kept my emotions in check when Orochimaru provoked me."

"I can say the same about myself, Naruto." She argued politely, "I can say that I should have kept my emotions in check after Asuma broke up with me to make sure that my pregnancy was going to go well."

Naruto didn't respond. He was out of comebacks.

"Hey." Kurenai said gently, smiling at him, "I understand your frustration. I still have days where I beat myself up, too. But you have to realize that life moves on. Don't let this hinder you. Life is bigger than our mistakes and misfortunes, and it's up to us to make the most of it, okay?"

Naruto nodded slowly. He was starting to understand what she was saying now.

"Our situations may be different, but they've affected us in similar ways. I wanted to blame myself because of what happened, too. I was at the bar because I'm still hurting over what happened. I was using liquor to numb that pain temporarily, and I know it's a bad coping method. But I know I'm going to be okay. Life moves on, Naruto. And we're going to lose a lot more people as it does. But we just have to enjoy what we have now, rather than taking away the joy that life gives us by focusing on things that are already said and done. We have to remain resilient, and look forward towards the future."

A tear slid down his face and dripped onto his pants, "I can't just move on that easily, Kurenai-sensei... I used to see Sakura almost every day. Not only that, but I loved her. I only wanted to see her happy, and to realize that I'm the reason she's gone makes it extremely hard not to blame myself."

Kurenai nodded, "I hear you, Naruto. Your feelings are still one-hundred percent valid. And I never said that things would be easy. If anything, this is going to be one of the hardest things that you're going to have to endure. But you're stronger than this. I remember you always shouting around the village about how you're going to become the next Hokage. It takes a very strong person to do that, and I think you have the potential to do just that. You just have to try your best to keep your head up. It's a long and rough journey to be a shinobi, let alone become Hokage. And it's okay to mourn and allow yourself to feel the pain you feel. But don't let it keep you down, Naruto."

"How come... you seem like you know me well when we hardly even know each other..?" He asked through his tears.

"Because, you've made a name for yourself around the village already, Naruto. I've seen you and your antics as a person before you even became a ninja. You were so happy, undeterred by other people trying to get your hopes down, so persistent to get everyone to recognize who you were... I respected that. A lot of the people here saw and still see you as just the container of the Kyuubi. But not me, not with a smile and personality like yours. I was actually hoping to have you as one of my students, so I could show you that not everyone hated you." She said. "You're an amazing, unique person. And if I have enough strength to get back up from my dilemma, I know you can do the same with yours."

"B-But..." Naruto stuttered, "It just hurts... No matter how hard I try to not blame myself, I still feel the same amount of pain... And it makes me wish that I could just end it all and be done with it."

Kurenai gave him her sweetest, most considerate smile. She reached up and caressed the cheek she slapped a few minutes ago, "That slap I gave you earlier, it hurt, right?"

Naruto nodded, "Yeah."

"Does it hurt, now?"


"See?" Kurenai said, "All pain is just temporary, no matter how severe it is. Some pains may take longer to heal than others but nothing is infinite. Your dilemma probably hurts you more than mine does to me because you're young. This is probably the first time you've had an experience like this. But for me, I've had my heart broken before, and this isn't the first time where my emotions affected those close to me. Yes, shinobi are supposed to separate their emotions while on duty, but for most people, that's almost impossible. I still struggle with such matters. However, that's life. Everything is a learning experience, and no matter how hard it gets, we have to move on. If you were to kill yourself now, you'd lose all your respect from me. And Hinata, Kiba, Shino, Kakashi, Tsunade, and all your friends and comrades, including Sakura, as well. The only way we want to see you die is because you went down fighting for your village, just as you had promised Iruka when you became an official shinobi of the Leaf." She smiled softly at him, "Never give up, Naruto. You promised yourself that you'd become Hokage. And isn't that your nindo? To never go back on your word, no matter what? You've been shouting it around the village for quite some time."

The blond of Team Seven sighed and seemed to ease up from how tense he was earlier. Her words penetrated his psych and were slowly but surely helping him realize the situation at hand. He finally understood that she was not blowing off his feelings and experience as something that wasn't a big deal, but was rather expressing that there were other things to dwell on, rather than putting himself at fault for containing a demon that he had no choice in dealing with. He acknowledged how much it hurt to see his friend go. But he knew that the best thing that Sakura would want is to keep on pushing.

He knew that it wasn't going to be easy for him; coping with the aftermath of what happened on his mission. But Naruto was never one to just give up.

Naruto suddenly ambushed Kurenai in a tight hug, something that caught her off-guard. But she simply smiled, returning his embrace.

"Thank you..." Naruto said.

"You're welcome." Kurenai whispered, rubbing his back comfortingly, "You just needed someone to remind you of a few things, that's all."

The pair remained in this position for at least ten whole minutes. Naruto was still crying. And soon, Kurenai found herself shedding a few tears as well.

It felt good to be comforted. Especially by someone who can relate to them.

"Kurenai?" Naruto mumbled.

"Yes, Naruto-kun?"

"It still hurts, though..."

"It's going to still hurt for a while, Naruto. I'm still hurting over what happened to me, too. But we just need time to heal. And maybe we can help each other through this process..."

Naruto nodded. He was perfectly fine with that.

"I'm sorry for slapping you earlier." She apologized.

"I deserved it." He answered. The room fell quiet as they continued embracing each other, allowing the warmth of their company serve as a cushion for the pain they were both still feeling.

Soon enough, they both pulled back a bit.

They then stared at each other. Blue irises met red ones.

Then it happened.

It was as if their bodies moved on autopilot, with no conscious mental decision making being used to guide their behaviors. Their heads slowly and hesitantly inched closer together like magnets until their lips connected. Electricity sparked between them, and their bodies became hot. Yearning.

The kiss was so passionate. Their hearts were still in pain, and that connection, that identical heartache let them link together on more than just a physical level.

Soon, Naruto found himself on his back, with Kurenai on top of him, kissing him with just as much passion and force as he was letting on.

Then slowly, more and more clothing was found discarded onto the hardwood floor.