Genre: Drama and Romance
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. The decision of who gets to be with who should better be left in the hands of the creator Kishimoto-sensei. I just write the possible pairings. The song "Harmonia" by Rythem doesn't belong to me, nor does the ANBU song translation.
Author's Note: There are spoilers from chapters 144, 172, and 173. This is my musing of what would happen when Naruto goes to visit the hospital, so it would most probably turn into an alternate storyline by chapter 174. Or who knows? I could be psychic and what Naruto said would really happen. Haha…nah… The pairings are SasuSaku, NaruSaku, and SasuNaru. Now how is that possible??? SasuSaku takes precedence over the other pairings, though.
I sat up in my bed, hearing Sakura's knife rhythmically cut the apple she had brought today. The silence was not an uncomfortable one, and even then, Sakura was humming softly to herself. It sounded familiar to my ears, yet I couldn't recall where I heard it and what it was.
My thoughts were far from the room, however, and it rested heavily on my life's bane—Uchiha Itachi. He had changed these five years—his eyes were much, much colder than the last time. And those blood red eyes were all the more taunting and hypnotically terrifying.
"Why are you so weak? Not enough…hatefulness…" he murmured as he continued to hold a deadly grip on me.
I held back the growl that rose out of my throat, lest Sakura would see it. I glanced at her, but she didn't look up from her work. From the bright expression on her face and the tune she was still humming, she didn't see my tortured countenance. Looking at her, I felt like I had failed at something, but I didn't know what.
She gave me a smile. "Thanks…you saved me from the grip of the sand, didn't you Sasuke?"
I kept my eyes on Naruto and Kakashi as they were training. The image of her jumping in front of me as the curse seal took over me came to mind. She had tried to protect me, but…
"No…It was Naruto who saved you." I had wondered to myself days on end if it really was Naruto who held that enormous power. Wasn't he supposed to be weaker than me? What had happened in those months before the exam? "He fought with all his strength to save you…unleashing a power we've never seen before."
She was startled at my answer, but when she followed my train of sight and saw Naruto attempting to learn the chidori, her face dropped, as if she was almost ashamed of never having thought it. She knew my words were true. There was silence, and I glanced at her with the corner of my eye. I saw a small smile cross her face, a smile completely different from the one she had given me earlier. It was a comfortable, peaceful smile, one of the kinds you would rarely see on a person's face.
I turned my head to glance at her, but she didn't look at me. I frowned.
He was much stronger than me now. It was almost unfair. I had taken the exam to answer the question that had haunted me all my life: am I strong? And the answer I had received was the one answer I feared of all things. I existed to destroy Itachi, but this existence became hollow the moment I rushed at him. I've never felt this kind of self-doubt before—I had always been confident about my abilities and potential. But when a person stronger appeared—my very own teammate who vowed to outdo me one day…
That power…the shadow replications that assaulted the sand demon…the massive toad that he summoned to fight it…
The thought of it drove me insane.
"Sasuke-kun, do you want some apples?" She wore the smile she had always given me, but it just wasn't the same. Glaring, I knocked the plate of fruit out of her hand and she let out a startled yelp. The plate broke into pieces when it hit the floor, followed by the dull thump of the cut apples.
"Sasuke-kun?" The hurt look on her eyes, the terrified reaction at my fit—I turned my head away from her and looked out the window. I wasn't angry at her, but I couldn't tell her I was angry at myself. I couldn't tell her that I wasn't able to kill my brother.
And I couldn't tell her that I wasn't able to protect her.
Naruto pushed away the curtains with a hand, the usual grin plastered on his face. But what he found was far from what he had expected: a dead, uncomfortable silence. Sasuke leaned forward in the medical bed, his trembling hands grasping at the sheets. Sakura was squatting on the floor, slowly and quietly picking up shards of a plate and neatly-cut pieces of fruit. Shooting an odd look at the dark-haired ninja, he bent down to help Sakura pick up the pieces. He noticed a drooping sadness in the kunoichi as she cleaned up, as if she felt like she couldn't do anything else but clean.
When it was picked up and cleaned, Sakura thanked him and was about to leave to throw away the broken plate and apples. A hand shot out to grab her arm and she glanced at the blond-haired ninja. He gave her a questioning look, but she took his hand, squeezed it gently, and made a nod at Sasuke's direction. Her gaze flickered down and then up at him, pleading. Naruto let out small sigh and nodded his head in consent. She smiled gratefully back and turned away.
Naruto turned to look at him, unsure of what to say. After trying to think hard for words, he gave up and settled on a tactless question. "Is there something wrong with you, Sasuke?"
His friend didn't answer.
The usually hyperactive ninja suddenly sunk into a chair with a tiredness he never had before. He sighed. "You bastard," he murmured. "You made Sakura-chan cry again."
The other usually calm ninja continue to stare at his lap, visibly trembling with an unknown but powerful emotion. "Why…" his voice was hoarse. "Why does she still smile at me like that?"
"And you call me a total moron." Naruto rubbed his eyes. It was going to be a long day…
"Naruto…you—you…I don't get it." Sasuke's head snapped up to glare at him furiously. "You…and she…both of you confuse me!" Sasuke's hands clutched his temples tightly; as if he wanted rip his brains out. "He—he said that I needed to survive in the worst possible way, to live miserably, to hate him."
His friend furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. He? Who was 'he?' He had never seen Sasuke so crazy before. What was wrong with him?
Words continued to spill out of Sasuke's mouth in a senseless order. "Isn't it right to keep them at a distance, so that I wouldn't have to love them, so that I wouldn't have to feel the pain that I did when I lost them? Isn't it right to hate to protect them? Isn't it the reason why I lost to my brother? That I didn't hate him enough? That my hatred wasn't enough to make me stronger than him? Tell me, Naruto, because I…I don't understand!"
"I don't understand why she gives me that kind of smile despite everything…I don't understand why you can be so strong, stronger than me, to protect her when I couldn't." His face was contorted with a tempest of emotions: anger, confusion, bewilderment, and jealousy. "I was supposed to be the strongest of the three of us, the one to protect you two. But I—I—failed. I even failed to succeed in the one ambition I hold." His ejaculated words were rushed and hysterical. "I'm weak. I hate being weak. But she still smiles. And you…You proved everything I had lived for wrong. I—"
"I HATE YOU FOR THAT!"
The roar made Naruto start in his seat, his mouth slightly agape at the show of such heated emotion. Then he closed it and dropped his head forward. So that was what has been bothering Sasuke. A soft chuckle escaped from him.
Sasuke's voice was dangerously low. "Why are you laughing?"
"Because…you are such an idiot."
Naruto's fist sailed through the air at Sasuke so fast that he couldn't block. The blow caught him across the cheek and pushed the raven-haired Uchiha boy to the other side of the bed. His hand unconsciously reached up to touch the heavily bruised cheek as he looked at Naruto with a shocked stare. As he stood, Naruto rubbed his knuckles with the other hand.
"I had always wanted to do that to you, Sasuke, but I never really expected it to ever happen in real life."
Like a wild animal striking back, Sasuke lunged forward, his own tightly-curled fist ready to fly. But, to his surprise, Naruto's two broad fingers pushed him back by the forehead and the other hand deftly caught hold of his fist, keeping him from executing the punch. A remembrance, one that seemed so long ago, subdued his edgy temper. Sasuke resorted to glaring at him, as if he was trapped in a cage.
"I don't want Sakura-chan yelling at me for kicking your ass when you're still in the hospital, so let's keep this nice and friendly, okay?" Naruto smiled grimly at him as he dropped his hold on him. "I've never gotten this kind of chance before, and I never will. I might as well take advantage of it. It's time that you realize that you're not the strongest ninja around. God, what is it with girls digging arrogant bastards like you? I will never understand. But that's beside the point."
"Stop whining like a spoiled brat. I'm not the kind to personally hate a lot of things like you do, but I hate it when people whine. So what if you're not as strong as you thought? Then work harder, dumbass. If you want me to stop making you look bad, then become stronger than me." A smirk lifted the corners of his mouth. He had always liked to throw people's words back at them.
"What does hate do anyway? Hate sure as hell doesn't make you any stronger. I hated the village—did I become strong that way? Hell no. I had to go the long way. Think a little bit more, idiot." Naruto prodded Sasuke on the forehead with a finger. "Think what's around you now—stop thinking about your damn past."
Sasuke's dark eyes flashed angrily. "You don't—"
"I don't understand, huh?" Naruto turned to face the window with arms crossed. "Sure, I don't understand because hell, I didn't have any parents at all. All I know is that you've got you, bitterness, and hate to live with. But you've got to get it through your head that you have another thing, a thing far better than anything else you have ever had in you. You just never realized it. That's why you suck."
"Then…" Sasuke asked softly. "What is it? If you know it, you total moron, then tell me." Naruto's unwavering gaze swerved back to met his hesitant one, and a huge grin found it way back into his face.
"I won't tell you."
Sasuke bristled. "Why you—"
"Even if I were to tell, you wouldn't get it until you've been through it. It's an answer to everything that confuses you, an answer to why Sakura-chan smiles at you, why you frowned when she smiled at me." Naruto leaned closer to stare at Sasuke in the eye, murmuring slowly. "And the biggest question in the universe: why she loves a fucked-up guy like you."
Sasuke looked away. "I'm an avenger…it's useless for her to…because…because I'm afraid…"
"Afraid that you would hurt her? Isn't that what we're both afraid of, Sasuke?"
He glanced at the other with wide eyes, but Naruto was gazing out the window. "N-Naruto…you…"
"How long will it take for you to realize it?"
"I…don't know," Sasuke whispered.
"I can't tell you now, but only this. You would realize that despite all your dreams and goals, just to be able to know that one thing and protect it…would be the greatest achievement in your life." With a smile, Naruto poked Sasuke on the chest.
"And to be able to live knowing that this power was in you all along."
The orange-clad ninja turned on his heels and lifted up the curtains once more. He spoke over his shoulder. "And did you know she sings? She sings…beautifully."
Sasuke watched him leave the room with startled dark eyes.
I wasn't blind, Sasuke. I knew—from the very, very beginning.
I just…I just didn't want to lose the hope that someday, she would look at me.
And she did…with a smile as soft and pretty as her namesake, fluttering down in the days of spring. It was for me—only for me did she give me that simple curl of rosy lips.
But I knew it was a symbol of a special friendship that only she and I would share until days on end.
And when she looked at you, she gave you not friendship…but love.
I laughed in spite of myself. Did you remember, Sasuke?
The three of us fell into the spider web of Fate, who was probably laughing when she wove our lives together. Twelve years of life, the start of blasted puberty, set us in the certain equation of love: I had a crush on her of all girls, she had a crush on you like all girls, and you didn't give a damn about it at all. Then, at the genin orientation, we were told that we were to be a team. I really thought at that time that Fate was now on the heaven's floor, laughing her ass off like there was no tomorrow. We were a strange team, all right. A loud-mouthed blond boy aspiring to be Hokage, a pink-haired girl set on her petty 'love,' and a dark-haired boy with revenge in his brooding eyes. Stick a weird teacher who read perverted comic books to our team and we were complete.
I hated you, Sasuke. It wasn't hard for a boy like me—with no acknowledgement, no talent, and no girls—to resent you, who had everything I wanted and took for granted. It sucked to be rated second. The strong ninjas always looked your way, eager to test their strength against yours. Then they would be forced to fight me—the insignificant midget—and lost. Haku, Neji, and Gaara—I was the 'second choice' who fought them.
But in the end, it didn't matter. You and I became good comrades on the way. We fought each other, relied on each other, knew each other's strengths and weaknesses…and protected each other. Like that time when you protect me from Haku's needles, without a thought, without a flinch or doubt. At that critical moment, images of us fighting and arguing ran through my mind like an old movie film and I realized we knew each other so well, better than anyone else. On that misty day, we forged a bond of brotherhood. Others found it so ironic to see that happening between two boys who were opposites, standing on each end of the spectrum. But it was true, because since that day, we had a connection that could never be broken.
We both knew the true meaning of loneliness, the solitude that ate away our existences, the heavy empty pain. But Sakura didn't. Her life was full—filled with those she loved and those who loved her. Her family, her friends, her goals, her…everything.
Wasn't that the reason why we protected her?
Sakura was our innocent sister, and we didn't want her to lose what we never had. That was the one true understanding we shared, something that was reached when our eyes—azure and obsidian—met in a brief moment, reflecting each other in clarity and strength. Protecting her was the thing that mattered most to the two of us. Everything else was pushed aside.
As the days grew shorter and our eyes aged like dusk, I just didn't have 'interest in her'—I…really, truly loved her. I loved the way she was so strong, the heart that was untainted, the emerald eyes that glinted in the light, translucent for the world to see the emotions that lurked in them. She filled the part of me that was empty.
I loved her even when she fell for you.
I was glad it was you she loved. Had it been anyone else, I would have either been extremely jealous like any love-struck boy or kicked his sorry ass to space like any self-righteous brother. But it was you, the best friend I loved as much as a brother. And that's all right to me. I knew that in her heart, she loved me too, just not in the way I had wanted her to. I knew that she, too, had filled a special part of you like she did to me. What had worried me the most, however, was if you didn't answer the same love she had for you.
But that doubt disappeared weeks after the disastrous Chuunin exam. As I was being taught the chidori by Kakashi-sensei, I caught Sakura smiling at me. I also caught the look of jealousy that flashed across your face when you saw that smile. If we had been strictly siblings, you wouldn't have cared so much that I was the one who saved her and not you. Those times when you had gone for training, I knew why you trained so hard. I knew the questions you kept asking yourself: how can you grow strong enough to protect her.
And now, I'm assured. I was surprised for a moment, but another feeling replaced it: the bittersweet feeling of letting go the one you loved to another person. I stood near, unmoving as I watched her hold you ever so tightly, tears like small rivulets running down her heart-shaped face. As I watched your expression, blank if it wasn't for your tender gaze, the expression of realization on your face that in spite of myself I smiled. I knew what you were thinking. She really cared for you; she loved you more than just a brother.
And…you loved her back just the same.
The blond ninja stepped outside of the hospital doors, glancing around for signs of the pink-haired girl. He couldn't find her anywhere within the hospital. But in the quiet gardens of the hospital…
Can you hear me?
He smiled to himself. He could definitely hear her. He began to walk down the dirt path, following her distinct voice.
May the sky endlessly remain blue and clear.
He remembered running to the hospital, ecstatic to surprise Sakura at his arrival and the news of Tsunade. But when he reached the door, he heard her voice and stopped to listen. With little common sense that he had, he didn't barge into the room and ruin the music. It was clear and resounding, like an angel's song of comfort. It was a pretty lullaby, one he had never heard before. Her words floated past his ears in seamless motion, like the waves of the sea.
May the sea infinitely remain vast.
As he neared the center of her voice, he saw a concealed figure in the dark green shrubs. It was difficult to hold back the laughter coming out of him. The boy's wardrobe sure had its uses in camouflage. He snuck up behind the person, taking care not to make any sound to expose his intentions. When he was close enough, he clamped a hand down on the boy's shoulder, smirking as he saw the startled expression on the other's face.
"What are you doing here, Lee?" he whispered.
The green beast of Konoha flushed crimson and looked down as he stuttered out his words. "I—I was taking a walk and I heard someone singing, so I was wondering who it was."
May you always remain smiling.
Naruto grinned. This was the boy who had the guts to ask Sakura, a total stranger to him, to go out with him and promised her that he would protect her to the death. He looked up to see the kunoichi sitting on a park bench a few feet away, still singing. "It's a nice song, huh?"
"Y-yeah…" But Lee's face suddenly fell and darkened gloomily.
Otherwise, I'm going to cry.
Frowning, Naruto asked, "Hey, are you all right?"
"I'm fine…just…a lot of things on my mind lately." Lee attempted to smile back reassuringly, but he failed at it. He grasped hold of his crutch and pulled himself into a standing position. Thankfully, Sakura was too immersed in her song to notice the two figures standing in the distance. "I better get going now. Nice seeing you, Naruto." The disabled ninja turned to walk away silently.
"Yeah, see you later. Bye," Naruto waved back at Lee.
You don't have to look around anymore.
Naruto leaned on the base of the tree, smiling as he listened to her song. This song didn't fit Sasuke very much. He doesn't smile often, and Sakura cried too much for the sake of the idiot. But it was a comforting song, nonetheless, one that sang in hopes for something more peaceful and happier. And as much as Naruto had his own personal demons (well, rather one for that matter), Sasuke was even more twisted than him. The stuff that goes through Sasuke's mind was really too much for Naruto to comprehend. Perhaps if Sasuke heard the song, he would change a little. It would be nice to see that taciturn teammate of his actually smile and stop thinking about power.
Everyone is in this hand of yours.
There was a rustle in the bushes and the singing stopped. Like a frightened deer, Sakura glanced around furtively, cheeks flushing pink in embarrassment. Naruto shook his mind in disappointment and stood up from his hiding spot.
"N-Naruto!" Sakura blushed even more at his appearance and laughed nervously. "What are you doing here?"
"No need to be embarrassed about singing, Sakura-chan," he grinned good-naturedly.
"Eh—t-true…but…" As Naruto walked closer to her, he noticed her eyes.
"Sakura-chan…were you crying?" Sakura was startled at his keen perception, but she recovered quickly and smiled as naturally as she could.
"Why do you say that? I was just taking a walk," she replied.
"Don't lie to me. I'm part of your team, you know." He bent forward to meet her bloodshot gaze, their noses barely touching. "…You were crying about Sasuke, weren't you?"
She widened her eyes at the mention of name, but then her eyes fell to her lap. "I never seem to do anything but cry for him, ne, Naruto? I'm a failure as a ninja, as a teammate. I can never catch up with you guys..." Her voice was choking. "And when I tried to protect him, I ended up getting caught and you had to go through so much just to save me." She shut her eyes tightly to stop the flow of tears. "I'm…I'm so sorry, Naruto."
"There's nothing to be sorry about, Sakura-chan." A cheerful smile was still on his face. He bent down before her. "You're strong, and you did the one thing that makes us an awesome team. Who knew what would have happened if Gaara had taken Sasuke? And nothing could make me any happier besides becoming Hokage than to be able to save you."
"…B—but—not only that…I'm…I can't…" Naruto's eyes widened, but a smile lifted the corners of his lips and he touched her hand.
"It's okay, Sakura."
Those three words forced Sakura to look up in surprise. The look she saw—the look of pure love and bittersweet called more tears to well up her emerald eyes. She blinked them away and once again, a smile surfaced, one she had always kept for Naruto. She hugged him around the neck, whispering.
"Thank you. Thank you for everything."
"Just sing to me the rest of your song," he murmured back. "I want you to sing it to me this once." She let go of him and nodded. He sat down next to her as she cleared her throat.
When you want to cry, or run away,
Or when you've forgotten what happiness is
Light was born, and then darkness was born
The two are one
Feel the harmonia
Can you hear me?
As he listened, Naruto began to realize what this song was made for. It was a song for the three of them—about the three of them. When Sakura finished singing, he grinned at her with the same idiotic but warming grin. Without a clue of what Naruto was thinking about, she smiled back at him. She jumped up from her seat and grabbed his hand.
"Come on, let's go and see Sasuke-kun!"
"Aa!" Naruto let her pull him away, finding warmth in her soft hand.
May Sakura be always true and clear as the sky.
May Sasuke remain deep as the vast ocean.
May Naruto always have a smile on his expression.
Everyone is in one hand, never apart. When life becomes hard, just sing this song and remember the people who are with you.
Naruto and Sasuke are the light and dark.
And Sakura is the harmony.
Author's Ending Note: …Wow…I just made a romance one-shot for Naruto! YAY! *dances around with chickens* I made a pairing fic! Thank Kishimoto-sensei and his fast releases of the Naruto chapters! If it wasn't for chapter 172 and 173, this story wouldn't exist. I tried to make it as IC as possible, but it's kind of hard to imagine Naruto (no offense to the guy) being perceptive…he's pretty dense, you know… To tell you the truth, the introspection into Naruto's thoughts was the first part I wrote, and then later, when I had more parts, I organized it into the middle.
Anyway, I hope you liked it, even if it wasn't the pairing you had in mind. Thank you for reading and please review! ^_^