Author's Notes: Thanks for everyone still reading this fanfic. Thanks to everyone who once read this fanfic. Thanks, and I'm sorry this took so long.
Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me.
Sakura Finds Out
Epilogue: The Confession Replay
I, Haruno Sakura, gazed thoughtfully as I walked my way up one of the main streets intersecting the center of Konohagakure. It was a beautiful day; with an abundance of gentle sunshine and light refreshing breezes, as villagers wandered and chatted happily.
But I scarcely noted the fair weather when I saw Ino, sweeping the front yard of the Yamanaka flower shop even though it was spotless. Not that she was fully attending to her task; she glanced left and right, and grumbled as she failed to catch sight of what she expected. Finally, she threw down the broom and stomped inside, slamming the plate-glass door.
I entered the shop. "Ino?"
She looked up from fiddling with the ends of her long blond hair. "Hey, Sakura. You need something?"
"Well…" I shrugged. "Would you happen to have a sorry-I-jumped-to-conclusions-I'm-still-in-love-with-you-please-say-you-feel-the-same flower?"
Ino rolled her eyes. "I don't think you owe him anything. He should've told you the truth from the beginning. For goodness sakes, you're teammates, you've shared so much through all these years, even put each other's lives in each other's hands." She started hacking at a bunch of roses. "You've known each other since childhood, been friends even at the time that boys hated girls and vice-versa, heck, if your fathers are to be believed, you're practically engaged…"
I raised an eyebrow. "Somewhere along the way, it stopped being about me and Sasuke-kun."
She puffed out her cheeks and gave me a yellow flower with four petals. "Here. Forsythia means 'hope.' Finding out that he feels the same way after all that crazy crap, it seems appropriate. Hopeful that we can all just forget about it if nothing else." She held up a hand when I reached for my purse. "It's okay. As long as you make sure to make me the maid of honor and to order all the flowers from our shop for your wedding."
Our usual inside joke fell flat, and I sighed. "As long as you understand that might never come…"
The door bell jingled and Shikamaru stepped in, hands in his pockets, his frown more deliberately lazy than usual.
"This is unspoken love."
Ino narrowed her eyes at him. "What?"
"I need flowers with that meaning."
She grabbed a bunch of delicate white gardenias. "Anything else?"
"And my feelings are sincere."
Kneeling by a flower box, Ino cut a spray. "White anemones mean sincerity."
"Beauty and strength."
She glared at him. "We don't have that here."
He shifted his weight. "Please love me."
She stared unblinkingly, but he refused to meet her eyes. Finally she fetched a single violet. "This means quite literally, 'please love me.'"
"Make a bouquet of it," Shikamaru said.
Ino arranged the flowers with some baby's breath and fern, rolling pale yellow wax paper around the bouquet, and tying it with a golden ribbon. She dumped the bouquet unceremoniously in Shikamaru's hands.
He slapped a bill on the counter. "Keep the change." He sauntered out of the shop.
The jangling of the bell upon his exit died down, and a very thick silence descended upon us.
Ino cut it when she grabbed a huge pair of shears and started abusing the daisies in a plant box. "For that Sand girl, I wouldn't wonder…"
I snorted. "Beauty and strength? Beauty?"
"I don't care," Ino snarled viciously. "I'm prettier than her anyway."
"No contest. Besides, she's chunky."
"She's brawnier than Shikamaru."
"And her hair? Please, hasn't she heard of conditioner?"
The door bell jangled again, and Shikamaru purposefully approached Ino.
She pouted. "Look, once you say 'keep the change' you can't take it back—mmf!"
Shikamaru thrust the flowers in her hands, grabbed her around the waist, and kissed her to silence.
My jaw dropped.
When he pulled back, she blinked rapidly at him. "Shikamaru…" Then she pounded her fists against his chest. "Baka, you can't kiss me without permission!"
"Congratulations!" Their fathers burst out from behind the curtain covering the storeroom, showering petals and hugging each other.
"The motif will be green and purple—"
"But my Ino-hime will wear a white dress—"
"A hundred, no, two hundred guests—"
"Sakura-chan, you will be the maid of honor, right?" Inoichi-san asked me. I nodded, biting my lips to suppress a laugh.
"We need to tell Chouza that his son would be the best man…"
"Oyaji!" Shikamaru growled.
"Daaaaad!" Ino wailed. "You're ruining our moment."
I tiptoed out of the shop, deciding to call her later. Looks like the crazy events of the past few days were good for something after all, and not something that Ino would want to forget anymore.
I continued up the street and saw Naruto and Hinata sitting side by side on temple rooftop with a view of the Hokage monument.
"It's true I never thought of you as a… girlfriend." Naruto scratched his head. "But it's because we live in different worlds… you're the heiress of the famous Hyuuga family and I'm dead-last… besides you're so quiet and you hardly ever talked to me except when you're helping me, I thought you only pitied me…
"But, but—if it's okay with you, we can hang out and talk and get to know each other like this!"
"I… I'd like that."
Their hands inched across the space between then met; they gently clasped each other and exchanged smiles.
Way to go, Naruto. I nodded approvingly. Hinata was an amazing girl, and she cared for him like no one else does. She's the only girl I could ever trust my childish, sometimes idiotic, but always goodhearted teammate with.
"Narutoooo, get your greasy hands off Hinata-sama!"
"It's Neji-niisan! Naruto-kun, RUN!"
I coughed in the cloud of dust rising as Neji streaked past me and bounded to the rooftops in pursuit of Naruto.
He had barely crossed three roofs when a voice called: "Neji?"
Ten-Ten was watching him from the yard of the fortune-teller's shop down the street.
He stopped mid-air and expertly landed on the ground. (A relieved Naruto sneaked off to Hinata, who was beckoning at him from behind a camouflaging blanket.)
"Ten-Ten…" He faced her solemnly. "Last night, Hiashi-sama talked to me about our situation… he heard about it from the senseis, the gossiping villagers, and Hinata-sama…
"He told me in no uncertain terms that… I'm fortunate to have met you. And as my closest living older male relative, he would be pleased to meet you."
Ten-Ten hugged him exuberantly, and they set of in the opposite direction, hand-in-hand, setting an appointment.
Everything was working out surprisingly well… more than well in fact, it was as if everything was falling in place. I had woken up feeling incredibly stupid for jumping to conclusions, causing a big fight between us twelve, and even involving the senseis in our troubles. But now it seemed everything happened for a reason.
"I should be glad, for everyone else at least." I bit my lip. Sasuke-kun had said he liked me—rather, Naruto had said that Sasuke said he liked me.
"But after how I acted… I wonder…"
I sighed and continued walking to the end of the bridge where our team usually met, arriving at the official time. Kakashi-sensei would be three hours late as usual, and from the looks of things, Naruto would arrive late as well, and Sasuke-kun would probably lurk in the surrounding trees until they arrived, in his usual avoidance of being left alone with him. But I settled on the railing nonetheless and waited, the flower in my hand.
Sasuke's upside-down face dropped an inch away from mine. "Sakura."
"Kya!" I scooted backward, forgetting that I was on a bridge railing, and started to fall. He swiftly landed on the bridge and pulled me back.
"Umm… thanks, Sasuke-kun."
He was still holding my wrist, and my forsythia was right at his face.
"That's… umm," I retrieved my hand. "Sasuke-kun."
"Aa," he muttered, his dark eyes looking directly into mine.
As always, the intensity in those sharply slanted eyes made me shiver, but at the same time, I was relieved that he was acknowledging my presence. I took a deep breath and offered him the flower. "This is for you. In the language of flowers, it means hope. Because I'm hoping that you can accept my apology."
"Hn." He took the flower and stuffed it in his pocket.
"I'm sorry I jumped into conclusions and let the whole thing escalate and just go out of hand." I smiled sadly at him. "I've never made my feelings for you a secret, so you must know why… although, that's still not an excuse."
"Forget about it."
"Alright," I nodded. If he wanted to pretend that the past few days didn't really happen, then maybe it was for the best. I started to turn away but he caught my wrist and spun me back to face him.
He purposefully raised before my eyes a yellow, four-petaled flower similar to the one I just gave him. "Everything blowing out of proportion… it wasn't just you. It was also because the other girls wouldn't listen to the guys' denials. And because we didn't fully explain ourselves." He pushed the flower into my hands. "That part… was my fault."
I accepted the flower. "Then, I accept your apology as well."
"That's not what it means."
"Oh…" I murmured, confused.
"I'm hoping for something else." He ran his hands through his silky black hair, and if I didn't know better, I would've thought that he was anxious about something. "Yes."
I slowly shook my head. "I… don't understand."
"Your question before. That's the answer. Yes."
The events of the last few days flashed in my head. My question, my question… my last question... with regards to Naruto's explanation of what I had seen…
"Is that true, Sasuke-kun?"
I gasped. "So that means…"
"Yes." He faced me, determined. "I like you."
I opened my mouth, but no words came out. I swallowed, then tried again. "You already know that I like you, that's still how I feel."
He nodded, then ended up in a half-shrug. "Rather, that's what I'm hoping for, even after everything that has happened."
"Okay." I nervously smoothed my skirt. "I'm not sure how we go from here."
"I am." In one step he closed the distance between us. "I should return the favor."
Closing my eyes, I let him tilt my chin up to meet his kiss.
Author's Notes (again): Here's the end. Hope you enjoyed it!