DISCLAIMER:Fortunately for all of you, I do not own Naruto for if I did, I'd keep him all to myself ^_^ Also, the song doesn't belong to me either. I don't own anything!
Author's Note:This is a HET fic (sorry all shounen ai/yaoi fans) based on Utada Hikaru's song "Simple and Clean (lyrics will only show in the 1st chapter)." ^_^ One definite pairing in this story is Shika x Ino because I think they're cute together ^_^ I don't know, however, who'll end up with who…could either be NaruHina, SasuSaku, NasuSaku, LeeSaku or even KakaSaku…My muse hasn't made up her fickle mind ^_^ This isn't following the story line very much and the characters may get a little OOC, so you can call it an AU. I'm still relatively new to the Naruto fandom so please excuse my mistakes! I live off of reviews, so please leave a comment or two (but no flames! gah, nothing is more discouraging than flames). And I know I have a ton of other stories to finish, but my muse wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote it, so here it is!
Simple and Clean
When you walk away you don't hear me say
"Please, oh baby, don't go."
Simple and clean is the way that you're making me feel tonight
It's hard to let it go…
Sakura had always watched Sasuke walk away, and Sasuke had grown tiredly accustomed to Sakura's usual request for his company as they headed home after their daily missions. However, as of late, Sakura found herself asking Sasuke out of habit instead of actual want, knowing that she'd receive the same answer he'd always given to her: "No."
No matter how much her feelings for him had grown during all the years of training together, his constant rejection of her affections was more than a little unnerving, and it was slowly getting to her day by day. She loved him; every time he'd look her way, her heart would pound erratically with excitement, and she would know just how much she felt for him. However, even that perfect feeling wasn't enough anymore. She needed more than the occasional glance, or, dare she hope, rare smile that he flashed in her direction. Yes, when he acknowledged her existence, she was ecstatic, but more often than not, he was distant and cold toward her, and it hadn't been until recently that she realized that the times he made her feel useless and unattractive greatly outnumbered the times he'd ever made her feel happy.
And she was tired of it all. No matter how much she loved him, she was willing to let him go. She tried to give him her all, and still it wasn't enough. He never truly responded to her affection, and the way things were going, she was sure he never would. Day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, it was the same.
Wish I could prove I love you
But does that mean I have to walk on water?
When we are older you'll understand
It's enough when I say so.
And maybe some things are that simple.
Her thoughts fled to Naruto, and she felt her cheeks flush slightly. Naruto was loud, boisterous, and completely idiotic at times, but he doted on her, protected her, and as they grew older, the childish crush he had on her seemed to grow into something more substantial. She wasn't completely sure, but whenever he looked into her eyes, she could tell that somehow the feelings he felt for her had grown past the blind admiration he had previously held for her. It was extremely touching to say the least, and the more Sakura thought about it, the more she realized that maybe, just maybe, she was starting to feel just a little more for Naruto.
She sighed when her mind inevitably tossed Sasuke back into her thoughts, and her heart grew troubled. He was just too far beyond her reach; no matter how close she seemed to get to him, he always pulled as far away as possible, continuously keeping a gap between the two of them.
Today was absolutely no exception. They stood together on the bridge, tired and a little worn out from the day's training, and as soon as he had dismissed them, Kakashi-sensei disappeared in a puff of smoke, reading his beloved "Icha Icha Paradise."
Once again, the three teammates stood there a few seconds longer, before Sasuke turned swiftly, calling over his shoulder, "I'm going home."
Sakura opened her mouth to let her usual, "Wait, Sasuke-kun!" flow from her lips, but with careful self-restraint, she snapped her jaw shut and looked away, fixing her gaze over the side of the railing of the bridge, watching the random fish that would occasionally swim by underneath. She wasn't going to give in this time around; she deserved more than that.
Not hearing Sakura's habitual reply, Sasuke slowed his pace a bit and wondered for a moment as to why she didn't say anything. It was strange, the feeling that was taking over him. What exactly was it? Disappointment? Confusion? Annoyance with himself at feeling a sense of loss? Or was it a little bit of everything? He shook his head as he silently berated himself for being foolish. Not having Sakura drool all over him was something he wanted…wasn't it? She annoyed him…right? He continued down the road, although he couldn't understand as to why he felt so upset.
When you walk away, you don't hear me say
"Please, oh baby, don't go."
Naruto stared at his crush, bewildered with her abnormal behavior. Despite her obvious love for Sasuke, Naruto couldn't help but fall harder for the girl he had been crushing on forever. She had changed over the years, forcing herself to train harder, especially when she felt she was holding her team back. She really had grown stronger, for her team and especially for herself. He could see that with her newfound strength, her self-reliance had also increased, although somewhat subtly. She still wanted to pamper Sasuke, but never once did Sasuke really acknowledge how much she meant to him, even though she probably meant more to him than he let on. It made Naruto sick to his stomach to see him treat Sakura with such indifference, especially since she tried so hard to do what she felt would make him happy. The way Sakura tried to gain recognition from Sasuke was the way Naruto had always been trying to gain recognition from everyone in the village, and Naruto couldn't help but feel his heart open up to her, wanting to offer her the love that Sasuke refused to give her. He knew firsthand what rejection felt like, how it stung the soul, and it pained him more than he realized to see Sakura go through the same rejection he felt day by day.
"Sakura-chan?" he inquired, his voice unusually soft.
"Hm?" She moved slightly, folding her arms on top of the railing as she continued to study the water beneath them, refusing to look back at Sasuke's retreating form.
"Is something wrong?" Naruto inquired, concern brushing his lips into a tiny frown as he drew closer to her, copying her stance and looking down into the water as well.
"No," she sighed as a soft breeze caressed her pink tresses to gently dance away from her troubled green eyes.
"B-but, Sasuke just left," he replied blankly, quietly admiring how beautiful she looked at that moment.
"I know," she answered.
"What?" she sighed again in exasperation. "I know. I always chase after him, right?" She paused, biting her lip. "I can't do that anymore, Naruto. I'm tired of it." Naruto remained quiet, not knowing how to reply, and he studied her discreetly from the corner of his eye. She was a little depressed, yes, but there was also something there in her expression that he rarely saw on her face: a silent resignation.
"I know how you feel," he found himself uttering, and he turned away, his cheeks flushing with embarrassment, unable to believe that he'd spoken aloud.
"I know," she said softly after a few seconds, and when he looked at her, he was surprised to see her green eyes mirroring his own. "I'm sorry, Naruto. I never knew how much I hurt you all those times before." He tried to laugh it off.
"Sakura-chan!" he chuckled loudly. "No worries!"
"But I realize, now, that you really care about me," Sakura whispered suddenly, her cheeks flaming. "And I never did anything but treat you horribly-" Naruto cut her off by waving her comment away with his hand.
"Don't apologize, Sakura-chan!" he said, smiling brightly, noting at how her eyes grew misty, though she tried not to show it. He impulsively grabbed her hand and began to tug her along.
"N-Naruto!" she stuttered, as she almost stumbled. "Where are we going-"
"We're going to go eat some ramen!" he said. "Food always makes everyone happy, ne?" Allowing herself to be pulled along, Sakura curved her lips into a tiny smile, and Naruto noted with pleasure that instead of drawing her hand away, her fingers curved around his.
Whatever lies beyond this morning is a little later on
Regardless of warnings the future doesn't scare me at all
Nothing's like before
They arrived at Ichiraku after a casual ten-minute walk, and Naruto noticed that along the way, Sakura was beginning to liven up a bit, losing her dismal countenance and actually joking along with him.
And their hands were still connected when they entered the tiny shop together.
Sakura glanced over the customers in the shop and noticed that sitting in the corner were Ino and Shikamaru. Despite his early proclamation of hating girls, Shikamaru apparently changed his mind not too long after he had been promoted to a Chuunin. Ino and Shikamaru had been together for about four and a half years, and it didn't seem that their relationship would cool anytime soon.
Upon seeing the happy couple, Sakura thought back to a talk she had had with Ino just last week when she had asked about her relationship with Shikamaru.
"Sometimes,"Ino had said, "the perfect person isn't the one you've been chasing, but the one who's been running with you by your side. Shikamaru was always right there. I just had to stop being stupid and open my eyes. As corny as that sounds, it's the absolute truth."
"Sakura-chan?" Naruto's concerned voice cut through her thoughts, and she snapped back to reality, looking down at their joined hands for a moment, and Naruto shifted uncomfortably, thinking that maybe he had held on much longer than she wanted and loosened his grip.
He was surprised when Sakura's fingers tightened around his hand, and he gazed at her questioningly, searching her eyes for any indication of what she was feeling. He had wanted this for so long, but was she really ready to let go of Sasuke? Did she really want him for him or was he someone she was just settling for?
When their eyes locked, Sakura's eyes shone with something he'd never seen directed at him before, and Naruto started, recognizing it as the affectionate look she had always reserved for Sasuke and Sasuke alone. Naruto had always wanted for her to look at him that way, and now that it was happening, a warmth gathered in his center before spreading rapidly throughout his entire body, and he knew his cheeks were tinted with crimson strokes. He smiled foolishly at her, and she grinned back, tugging him to the counter next to Ino and Shikamaru.
A pair of feet paused at the entrance of the tiny shop, taking in the scene. A profusely blushing young woman emitted a cry almost too soft to hear as her eyes landed on a certain loud ninja, who happened to be laughing rather merrily at that moment. But with her sharp eyes, Hinata caught sight of the entwined hands displayed freely on the countertop, and she held back the gasp that threatened to escape from her mouth.
It was obvious that Naruto had always chased after his pink-haired teammate, but Hinata never dreamed that Sakura would actually give in and accept him. Sakura had always been fervently chasing after Sasuke, and it had always seemed that Naruto had no chance…
Hinata pivoted and fled, trying to hold back her sob. Her heart was crumbling within her, and she silently scolded herself for being so idiotic. It wasn't as if Naruto had ever given her any attention. Really, what right did she have to feel broken-hearted? True, she harbored her crush on him almost as long as he had harbored a crush on Sakura, but…
It still hurt.
Another pair of sharp eyes watched from a distance as he walked closer to the ramen shop. Sasuke stared in curiosity as Hinata ran wildly from Ichiraku, and he paused for a moment to gaze after her. She was really a shy girl, and he had never seen her run away in such a manner before. He shook his head as the rumbling of his stomach reminded him of why he was heading to the shop in the first place. Tired of his normal rice balls, he was in the mood for a steaming bowl of ramen, and with Sakura's rather indifferent attitude toward him when he had left after training, he was bothered enough to feel like he needed to treat himself out. Another complaint from his stomach forced Sasuke to take his mind off of Sakura; it wasn't as if he liked her like that anyway-
'Yeah, just keep telling yourself that, baka,' a voice, his own personal Inner Sasuke, said sarcastically in his head, and he immediately shook his head to free himself from his thoughts.
He stepped inside, giving himself a second or two for his eyes to adjust to the lighting, and he headed to the counter before he stopped dead in his tracks. There they were, Naruto and Sakura, laughing freely with an audience, Ino and Shikamaru to be more precise, watching them with interest. Naruto was in the middle of telling some wild story, animatedly using his hands to illustrate the images he was trying to get across-
That was when Sasuke noticed the oddness of Naruto's movements. He wasn't using both hands; he was only using one as his other hand was occupied with holding something else.
And she wasn't pulling away.
Sasuke felt as if someone had dealt a blow to his stomach as he was having a hard time breathing. A sudden possessiveness crept into his system, and he could feel the blood coursing through his veins, mixing in with a good dose of adrenaline. He clenched his hands into hard fists as he moved in their general direction, and when Sakura looked up and saw him, she let out a soundless gasp.
The laughter faded from her smile, and she bit her lip, gauging Sasuke's reaction. She was surprised to see the fists gripped tightly together at his sides, and she could tell by the tension in his grim expression that he was bothered, and extremely so.
"Hello, S-Sasuke-kun," she greeted with a forced smile, and she waited anxiously for his response.
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