Epilogue and Prologue

Months Later…

Jiraiya sighed, noting with heavy heart that the stack of invoices he'd been working on for the last week had only grown higher since he began sorting through it. He had always considered himself a man of the world; nomadic, insightful, just, and a suave womanizer. But to be trapped behind some desk like a bureaucrat, it was simply demoralizing and staid. Nowadays, his greatest of adventures involved embarking on a hunt for the best price on an ergonomic chair and working his way through the proper channels to get it approved by the payroll department.

He grunted in frustration and drummed his fists to the desk, sending invoices flying. Where did my old life go? Hot springs. Coy women. Hot sake. And the occasional brawl in the name of justice?

A low chuckle broke him of his selfish moping. Tsunade stood at the door looking as young as ever. The way that she had laughed made him wonder if she could read his thoughts.

"You know, old woman, it is considered polite to knock."

She shrugged, "What's a little impropriety between old friends? Besides you had such a miserable look on your face, it would have been wrong not to intrude."

For the first time, he noticed that Tsunade held two glasses and a half empty bottle of scotch.

"Oh, I see you brought a treat."

"Guilt," she stated. "It's not an easy thing to have to rely on another to help with a job that should be mine alone."

Jiraiya shrugged dismissively. "This country has been through a lot, and rebuilding is not an easy thing to do. Don't be too hard on yourself, we are all struggling to piece back a semblance of the old life."

"Yes, the old life." With a great sigh Tsunade strode across the room and placed the glasses on the desk. Jiraiya looked on thirstily as she poured the scotch. "It's like we're living in a ghost town. We've risen from the ashes, rebuilding upon our past, only it is now colder and paler in color. The brilliance is but a dream. A ghost of what we once were."

"That's morbid, but it rings true," he conceded, making a grab for the drink. Before the glass had even touched his lips, Tsunade had completely downed hers. She plopped herself on the chair across from Jiraiya and leaned backward, eyes closed and heavy with exhaustion.

"You need to get out, Tsunade. Get some fresh air. You haven't left the office in days." Jiraiya rose and walked to the window that overlooked the Sakura trees on the southern end of the park. "Go and admire the Cherry Blossoms. It looks like they're in full bloom."

Tsunade laugh ironically. "No thanks, old man. That just doesn't cut it anymore."

Jiraiya said nothing, understanding her sentiment full well. The war had been gritty and demoralizing, so now that reconstruction was well underway it was harder to take in the beautiful. It was more like trying to adjust to the painful glare of light after emerging from a dark solitary cave.

As unimpressive as the luster of spring had become to him, it startled him to spy Sakura Haruno leaning back against a sakura tree smiling flirtatiously at Naruto Uzumaki who was making a point of leaving as little space between them as he leaned one arm against that same tree. So, spring has arrived, Jiraiya mused.

"At least there are still those that can welcome beauty's splendor," Jiraiya commented. "That is what is so great about youth," he went on. "it has miraculous healing powers that the old are immune to. Why do you suppose that is?"

Tsunade rested the back of her hand on her forehead as she grew disoriented from the effects of the alcohol. "It is because we are so much closer to death," she replied.

"Perhaps," he said distractedly, his eyes still focused outside the window, observing as Naruto pressed his hand against Sakura's cheek, trailing his fingers down her chin. He almost felt perverse watching. A man his age gawking at a pair of love struck teenagers, how dismal. Yet it was nostalgic; to be young and in the throws of burgeoning romance. The elation of it and the desolation of its end, Jiraiya felt comforted by its unending cycle.

"They will be the ones to inherit our legacy," he uttered to himself.

"Uh?" Tsunade was struggling between maintaining coherence and giving in to the serenity of a drunken stupor.

"Naruto and Sakura."

Tsunade sat up in her seat at the mention of those names. "It makes me sad to think it," she said. "Those two are so much like we used to be. The great sanin. You, me, Orochimaru. I don't want the same fate for them."

Jiraiya nodded. "Are you going to tell them the news we received about Sasuke?"

"No," she replied. "Not yet. Such things can wait."

Jiraiya raised a startled brow as Naruto dropped his hands down to Sakura's waist, pulling her close to him. He leaned his head down searching her lips with his own, tentatively and with the expertise of an amateur. It was slow to intensify, but Sakura was invitingly responsive. Her hands were pressed up against his chest, clutching on the smooth fabric of his shirt, egging him on. Naruto shifted his weight and pressed her against the tree, never releasing her from their deepening kiss, and Sakura slid her hands up his chest and around him neck. Neither seemed to take notice of the cherry blossoms that snowed upon them.

"I don't know," he said and cleared his throat. "Those two are pretty strong. I'm sure they will be able to handle it."

"Maybe," Tsunade conceded. "But we have other matters that take precedence at the moment. Reconstruction may seem like exhaustive and tedious work, but it is of great essence. What we are working to reconstruct here is the foundation that will carry them."

"Them?" He inquired.

"Our people and our future leaders," she paused briefly. "Those two have the greatest potential to lead our people."

"Ah. I see now." Jiraiya pulled himself away from the window to face Tsunade who was now standing and facing the opposite window that overlooked Konoha Village.

"The world is changing, Jiraiya," Tsunade spoke contemplatively, "and I have no doubt that those two will have a hand in it."

Beneath the shade of the sakura tree Naruto and Sakura clung to each other, short breathed, and lips swollen, kissing almost desperately. It was strange being like this with one another, intimate, and hot for the need to continue to hold each other. It was strange but unbelievably natural.

"Naruto?" Sakura said when they paused for breath.

"Wha?" He mumbled distantly, still consumed by the dizzying effect of their kiss.

"I love you."

He grinned, regaining his center, and pressed a kiss on her forehead.

"I already know that."

"Oh," she replied, at a loss for words.

"Thank you," he said, cupping her chin. "It felt good to hear you say that."

He brushed off some of the cherry blossom petals that had come entangled in her hair and laughed.

"It really felt good to hear you say that. I feel so giddy."

Sakura joined his laughter, "Yeah, me too."

She ruffled some of the cherry blossoms out of his hair and caressed his cheek.

"Wanna kiss some more?" she asked timidly.

"Yeah," he replied. "That would be nice."

Author's Note:

I hadn't really planned on writing anymore on this story, but it sort of came to me this morning. For those of you that weren't satisfied with my ending, I hope this finally gives you some closure.

Reviews are always appreciated but not required.

So now it is finally…

The End.