This is a tribute to my other favorite Naruto couple besides Shika/Ino...SAKURA AND NARUTO FOREVER!!! Yay!! We lovesss them, yes precioussss...er..yeah...I'm an enthusiastic fan ::grins::


You'll Hold My Heart Forever


"Sakura? Hey, you! Where have you have been? I was looking all over for you!" Naruto's normally cheerful voice was laced with worry. He pushed aside a few rogue branches that barred his way and entered a clearing in the middle of a crowded wood. It was dark outside, and the shadows stretched out their arms, ghostly fingers scrabbling to touch what was unreachable. Sakura's head was bowed when Naruto went to her, and he could see large, wet tears spilling from her eyes.

"Why did you come out here? It's dangerous at night," Naruto said, and wrapped an arm around her trembling shoulders. Though she resisted a bit at first, Sakura leaned into his embrace and sobbed, clutching him tightly. Naruto did not know what to do, so he settled for stroking her hair and murmuring nonsense into her ear.

"Shh, everything's fine, it's okay," he whispered, which only made Sakura's tears fall faster.

"Why d-did he d-do that, Naruto? Why? Why did he betray us?"

Sasuke. Damn you to hell. Even after all this time, you're still hurting her.

"Power," Naruto stated flatly. "That's all he wanted. He didn't care about what he had to do to get it, even if it meant turning against his people, his friends..." he trailed off. Though eight years had passed since Sasuke fell victim to the madness of the curse seal, it was still painful to speak of him.

Sakura's sobs began to taper off, and her breathing slowed to normal. There was still a part of her that ached for the person that Sasuke had been, one that mourned his 'death,' as it were, and she needed to hear a voice of reason every now and then when the grief became overpowering.

"I know," she said softly, still nestled in Naruto's arms. She felt safe there, protected.

Loved.

"I'm sorry for worrying you," she said, looking into his bright, beautiful blue eyes.

Naruto's eyes fascinated her. Flecks of grey were mixed in with the blue, and the colors swirled together in an intricate tapestry weaved by his current mood. When he was angry, his eyes became almost black; when he was happy, the grey sparkled around the blue. All of these things she had come to notice as she grew closer to the boy she once believed to be a nobody, the boy who continued to care about her even while she showed no interest, the boy who picked her up and supported her when she needed him most...

The boy who was now a somebody.

"I'm just happy that you're okay," Naruto said, and his arms tightened about her. "Promise me something, would ya? The next time you feel the urge to go to the woods in the middle of the night, just come to my place. The door is always open, you know that." As an afterthought, he added, "It'll be much easier on my nerves."

Sakura smiled. "Is the Hokage allowed to have random female visitors that are not his wife at his residence?"

Chuckling, Naruto replied, "I don't really give a damn one way or the other. You're not to go anyplace else, understand? Please, promise me now. Please?"

"I promise," Sakura nodded against his chest. Her fingers began tracing patterns along the fabric she encountered there. "Why are you so concerned about me, Naruto?" She asked the question in an offhand manner, but on the inside, she was holding her breath. Her feelings through the years had been changing so gradually that it had taken her some time to see them for what they were. She could not deny that her heart no longer belonged to Sasuke, though it frightened her to realize that the love she thought she'd felt was just an illusion.

Those feelings were meaningless, mere vapors that evaporated as if they had never been.

To true love, they paled in comparison.

Oh, Naruto...please tell me...tell me that you love me...tell me that you love me as much as I love you...

"That's a silly question, you goose. I'm your friend, and you're important to me." Naruto said, his eyes staring off into the trees.

Those were not the words he wanted to say.

I worry because I love you, Sakura-chan. I love you more than the air I breathe. I would do anything for you, don't you see? But I don't want to scare you away, so these feelings I'll keep here, in my heart.

"Oh," Sakura mumbled, biting her lip and feeling as if her heart had been pierced with a sharp needle.

I'm only your friend, nothing more...but what else was I expecting? I don't deserve your love, Naruto...you're a much better person than I could ever be...

It still hurt.

Naruto, despite his reputation of not being very observant, noticed that Sakura seemed tense, and his brow furrowed.

"What's this? Did I upset you?"

"No, no, I'm fine," Sakura replied, forcing herself to smile through the pain in her chest.

Naruto seemed doubtful. "Well...If you're sure..."

The darkness grew oppressive, and he made to stand, drawing Sakura up with him.

"Come on, I'll take you home."

After she was safely inside her apartment, Sakura collapsed on her bed and cried into her pillow, another dream that she'd clung to shattered to bits. Naruto walked back to his new abode, his hands stuffed in his pockets, and his head in a million places at once. He contemplated turning around and confessing to Sakura that he loved her, but something held him back. Instead, he continued on his way, more miserable than he'd been in a while.

Neither slept that night.

The next morning, Naruto did not have time to think about anything other than his duties to the village, and he was grateful to be occupied. The way that Sakura's features had turned so sorrowful when he left her distressed him, though there was nothing he could do to make it better. If anyone else noticed that Rokudaime seemed more preoccupied today than usual, they made no mention of it, but did their best to engage him in conversation.

"Yo, Naruto! Are you in there?" Kakashi waved his hand in front of the Hokage's face.

"What?" Naruto blinked. "Oh, sorry, Kakashi. Go on."

Naruto's former sensei raised an eyebrow. He had been summoned by the blonde young man to review a mission, and the two sat together in a cluttered office. Kakashi had already decided that he would accept the mission, but he sensed that Naruto needed to talk.

"Why don't you tell me what's bothering you?"

Naruto began to drum the fingers of one hand upon the surface of his desk, and used the other to prop his chin on. He sighed.

"I think I might have screwed up big time last night."

"Oh? Elaboration is a nice thing, you know."

A hint of a smile tugged at Naruto's mouth. "I was supposed to meet up with Sakura to talk, but she never showed, so I went to her apartment to see if she was there. When no one answered, I panicked, but then I remembered that place in the woods that she likes, so I decided to check it out. She was there, crying about...about Sasuke."

"She hasn't gotten over his betrayal then, I see," Kakashi noted somewhat sadly. "Poor kid. I know she took it pretty hard."

"Yeah," Naruto agreed. "She has breakdowns once in a while, though they are becoming farther apart. But...that wasn't the problem. The problem—"

"Was that you couldn't tell her you love her," Kakashi supplied, and laughed at the shocked expression that Naruto now wore. "Oh come now. I know you better than a lot of people, and I've been aware of your feelings for years. Besides, you wear your heart on your sleeve. Anyone with sense could see that you're crazy about her."

Naruto felt a blush creep into his cheeks. "I'm that obvious?"

"I'm afraid so."

The fox-faced young man sank a little lower into his seat. "Figures. I'm obvious to everyone but the person I want to be obvious to." He paused to think about what he'd just said. "Does that make sense?"

Kakashi laughed again. "Actually, it did. But what I'm curious about is why you think you screwed up."

"Well...at one point, Sakura asked me why I worry about her, and I said something along the lines of her being my friend, and—"

"Ouch," Kakashi winced. "Okay, you were right. You did muck up."

"Thanks," Naruto replied dryly. "That's real sweet of you."

"You shouldn't have said she was your friend," Kakashi plowed on, oblivious to Naruto's comments. "Now she probably thinks that there's nothing between you at all, and it hurt her feelings."

"But that's why I said it, Kakashi!" Naruto burst out. "I don't know if there's anything between us! I mean, there is on my part, but what if she doesn't look at me that way? I don't want to lose her as a friend," he finished in a softer tone. "It makes me happy that she's been spending so much time with me lately, and I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have that anymore."

Naruto buried his head in his hands, and his voice was muffled as he spoke. Kakashi made out, "love," and "hell," among the words he used, but not much else.

"Naruto, let me tell you something that might make you feel better," Kakashi said, leaning forward. "I know how to read people pretty well, and I think that you may be as blind to Sakura's feelings as she is to yours. Trust me on this one. I've never led you astray, have I?"

"No," came Naruto's voice through his hands. He lifted his head a fraction. "What should I do?"

"Tell her," Kakashi said simply. "Sakura's an emotional girl, so I'd advise you to do it soon, too, if possible."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

For some reason, hearing those words from his former sensei's mouth set Naruto's resolve to fix the problem, and he nodded.

"All right, I'll do it."

Kakashi smiled, and patted Naruto on the head as he used to when the Hokage was still a Genin.

"Wonderful. Good luck," he said, and walked out the door. He stopped to call over his shoulder, "Oh, and I'm taking the mission, just so you know!"

Naruto laughed. "I figured that much!"

As luck would have it, Naruto did not have a spare minute the rest of the day to track down Sakura, and by the time he was able to sit back and breathe, it was too late in the evening to do anything.

"She must be asleep by now," Naruto said to himself as he sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the living room fireplace. The flames of the fire danced and crackled as Naruto stared at them, and he barely heard the pounding on the front door.

What the hell?

Sakura waited on the other side.

"I...I promised you I'd come, so here I am," she said, her eyes meeting with his. "Is that okay?"

Once he got over his surprise at seeing her there, Naruto stepped aside so that she could enter. "Of course it is! I was kind of lonely by myself, so it'll be nice to have some company."

Sakura smiled, and stepped through the door, going immediately to the fireplace to warm her hands. "It's nippy out," she explained.

Who cares about that! Her mind screamed at her. You need to tell him the truth, now!

She'd spent the day contemplating her situation, and she'd come to the conclusion that she had nothing to lose. She had to know for certain what Naruto felt, so that she could move on if he didn't want her.

But will I be able to move on? Will I be able to let him go, knowing that he's the one who will always hold my heart in his hands?

"Naruto—"

"Sakura—"

Both stared at each other for a few moments. Sakura's heart started to pound. Naruto's breathing became deeper.

"I—"

"Sorry," Naruto said, grinning sheepishly. "It looks like we both have something to say, huh?"

Sakura giggled. "It would certainly seem that way."

Silence.

Just do it, Naruto, he rallied himself. Say it...

Come on, Sakura, you can do this...

"I love you." Naruto and Sakura chorused.

Sakura's eyes went wide. "You—"

Naruto's face mirrored her expression. "You too?"

Everything seemed remarkably funny all of a sudden. Unable to hold back, the two burst into helpless giggles.

"I had no idea," Naruto said honestly when he gotten control of himself. "I thought that I'd scare you away by telling you."

Closing the distance between them, Sakura buried her head in the crook of Naruto's neck. "I didn't think you looked at me in any other way but a friend," she whispered.

Naruto's fingers made their way to her hair, and he smelled the fragrance of strawberries. He loved her hair.

"No, never," he whispered back. "I've always loved you, always."

"I'm sorry," she said, more tears coming unbidden to her eyes. "I'm sorry I was so awful to you before. I never knew...I never listened to what my heart was telling me..." She pulled away enough to look directly into his eyes.

The grey sparkled.

"You are the best man that I have ever known, and I don't want to be with anyone else but you." The tears fell like tiny diamonds.

"I don't want to be with anyone else but you..."

Those words played over and over in his head.

Naruto smiled, his own tears glistening.

"You know you make me very happy," he said, and covered her lips with his. When they broke apart, he added, "This place is too big for just one person, anyway."

Sakura's answering smile was radiant.

"I think I can get used to living here."

"Good," Naruto replied, and pulled her in for another kiss. "Because now that I've got you, I'm not letting you get away."


AWWW!! Yay Naruto and Sakura!!! I know that this was fluff central, but I love fluff...so sugary sweet...