A.N. Instead of doing what I did with Children of the Spring, I'm simply going to rewrite this story. The spirit and plot have not changed, but the execution will be different. For Notes, updates, spoilers and whether or not this fic is done yet (Regardless of whether or not I've turned on the Complete sign), look at my profile.
Introduction Arc, Chapter the First
Naruto awoke to sound of singing birds. He dragged himself out of bed and pulled off his nightcap. The bathroom called him, and he went to relieve himself. He was ponderously slow in the mornings, after waking at all really, so it was no surprise when he spilt a good bit of milk on the table before realizing he was missing his cereal. Filling up his bowl, he the went and got paper towels from over the sink and cleaned up the milky mess.
"I hate soggy cereal." Naruto ate the rest of his breakfast and then moved to get dressed and head out the door.
The morning walk to the bridge he, Sakura, and Kakashi still met at each day woke him up from his morning drowsiness. He sat down on t he bridge and began to wait. Sakura would appear some time around 9 o'clock, and Kakashi would follow up somewhere around 11' o'clock or noon.
This gave Naruto plenty of time to think. What did Sakura think of him, after not being able to bring Sasuke back? What did anyone who mattered think? After this thought hit him, he went in to himself to steel up his nerves to ask Sakura that question when she got there.
When Sakura did show up, it was not as her normally happy and bubbly self. She had seemingly gotten little to no sleep last night, and her eyes were red. Naruto could barely keep his eyes on her for the sorrow he felt wash over.
Sakura sat down on the only bench that was there, but as far away from Naruto as she could possibly manage it. She almost seemed …. afraid of him.
"Sakura?" Naruto asked, testing the water. Sakura looked at him and nodded, as if she didn't trust her own voice right now.
"What do …." Naruto took a deep breath to steady himself. Why was this so hard to ask?
"What do you think of me? For not bringing him back?" Sakura made a choking noise, and looked away from him. Naruto moved to comfort her, but she held up a hand and stopped him in his tracks.
"I have no need for liars." She managed to get out, rather quickly. Naruto nearly fell over.
"I can't stand it. He isn't here. Where I need him, and where Konoha needs him. You failed, you broke your nindo, and nothing you can say will make it better." Sakura spat, seeming to have shifted from terrified to offended. Naruto bristled just a bit at her words.
"I tried everything I could think of. He's too far gone for me to get to. What else can you expect of me?" Naruto stared her down, expecting a prompt answer. He got one.
"If you had tried everything, he'd be here. If you'd let someone else do it, he'd be here. But you lied to me, and I …" She paused for a moment, as though she were about to do something she might regret.
"I hate you for it." Naruto was shocked for only a moment. He knew that this day might come, the one where he heard the words he thought might break him. However, broken wasn't what he felt at all.
All he felt was angry.
"I do EVERYTHING I possibly think of, short of bringing a CORPSE back to Konoha, and you HATE ME for THAT? Would you rather have a SKULL to profess your LOVE to? Your love, until NOW, was something that I wanted so BADLY, I made that promise just to see you happy." He turned on his heel, and began walking away.
"Now, I just hope you wither and DIE Sakura. You won't be getting MY help to get your PRECIOUS little TRAITOR back."
"DON'T YOU CALL SASUKE THAT! HE ISN'T A TRAITOR." Sakura piped up, finally having found her voice. Naruto's aura flared up.
"I'LL CALL HIM WHAT HE IS!! HE WAS SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T DESERVE YOU, I THOUGHT. I'LL IMPRESS HER, AND SAVE HER SOME PAIN. BUT NOW, I SEE SOMETHING MUCH MORE CLEARLY." Naruto was upon in such a short amount of time that he may have well teleported.
"It was you who didn't deserve him, just like he always told you." Naruto then removed her from his personal space and walked away. He threw one last comment over his shoulder. His aura, backing up, made it seem to be the final thing he'd ever say to her.
"Goodbye, Sakura. Even though I don't care, and you don't care, Goodbye and Good Riddance."
There is a small problem with having an argument like this in a village full of people who are trained to be assassins and spies. There are too many flies on the wall for this kind of argument to not spread so rapidly as to not come back and bite the arguers in the bottom.
The two flies on the wall this time were Hatake Kakashi and Yamanaka Ino. Ino was about to leave to go gossiping, but stopped when she saw Kakashi walked into the clearing and none too carefully put Sakura on a bench. Kakashi sighed.
"I'm fairly sure you know that you brought that down on yourself, right?" Sakura didn't look at him. He made her look directly into his visible eye.
"Right?" Sakura shook her head quickly and Kakashi put back down on the bench. Composing himself, he continued.
"He couldn't stand up to the constant rejection forever, Sakura. He truly and honestly was attracted to you right until a few minutes ago. He wasn't proud of his feelings and severed them like a mangled limb. I'm not too proud of you as my student to have you treat one of your own teammates like that." Sakura shook at each point Kakashi made and each truth he revealed. She spoke when he paused.
"But he broke his promise to me and-" Kakashi cut her off before she got any further with that line of thought.
"He didn't break that promise. It was a stupid promise to make, like he said. Sasuke is still out there, waiting to be rescued. Waiting to be found. Maybe not in his head, but he can still be recovered. The promise is only unfulfilled. But you've just lost you biggest helping hand. I certainly wouldn't follow you into Sound Country to help you get him back. So now, you've got only yourself to get him back." Kakashi stood from his leaning posture.
"I'm taking you back to my place to clean you up, and then both of us are going to apologize to him. You for saying what you did and me for letting it go on for as long as it did." The girl stood and fell in line behind her teacher.
Ino bounded away to spread gossip. After all, what else does the root of the grapevine do?
Naruto was packing everything essential in his apartment. Clothes, kunai and shuriken, the few jutsu scrolls he had that he was trying to master. He packed the stealth, camouflage, and winter clothes that he had near the top if he needed them.
Yes, he does so own stealthy clothing. They're just not as comfy.
When everything he valued was packed up, he was confronted with the only picture he'd ever been given. It had some sentimental value some time in the past, but not as it was now. He pulled the picture of Team 7 out of its frame and tore off the pictures of Sakura and Sasuke, put the picture back in the frame, and then put the picture and his wallet in the backpack. When he picked up the backpack, it felt somewhat lighter than it should have. He shrugged it off, attributing to his recent height gain. His old orange suit barely fit him anymore, and it was about high time he got a new one.
All three of his four suits had been birthday presents from Sarutobi or Iruka. The orange suit he'd simply found laying around, and nobody claimed it after a week but him. So that's how he'd gotten every stitch of clothing he own. Most of the stuff in his backpack was food or weapons.
He decided then and there that he would fill up his backpack so he'd have everything he'd need to survive. Some survival gear, more jutsu scrolls, more weapons – whatever he could scavenge or steal. The only people he had qualms taking from in the village were Iruka and the Ichiraku family, as well as most of the Rookies. So, he'd just simply avoid taking things from them and then be on his way.
Ino had just finished gathering up Ten-Ten, Temari and Hinata to have a gab session. She was going to talk about what she had seen between Naruto Sakura …
"I heard that the Hokage is sleeping with Shizune and-"
"No way, she doing with Jiraiya-"
"That's impossible, she'd pound him into the ground before he got a grope. It's got to be Shizune!"
If she could ever stop the deluge of comments about the sex life of the Hokage. She sighed. While sex was a nice topic, Temari and Ten-Ten seemed to try to dominate the conversations that they had during their gabfests with it. She was honestly getting tired of hearing the preferences and who's doing who and when and where best to watch from of everyone in the whole damn village!
"TEN-TEN!! TEMARI!! ENOUGH!!" She hoped that that was enough to get their attention. It was. They looked momentarily sheepish, but knew that when Ino did that, she had something to say, and it was usually a really juicy secret. Hinata started to pay rapt attention too.
"Thank you for taking a break from your absent sex lives. I'm sure we needed to hear about them – AGAIN." Ten-Ten and Temari had the decency to look abashed. Ino continued completely out of her previous character.
"Alright. So, while I was walking home from the marketplace, I overheard something you won't believe!" Ino squealed excitedly. Temari and Ten-Ten leaned forward to give their opinions on what is going on.
"Ayame is running off to become a pop-star?"
"Chouji stayed thin?"
"Maybe Jaraiya's got a new book out?"
"Neji and Lee sleeping together."
"No, no! Lee and GAI!" Ino quickly slapped them up-side the head to get their minds back on track.
"No, I heard Naruto and Sakura arguing." The girls sat back with a mixture of disbelief at this being important and relief, on one their parts, that Ten-Ten and Temari wouldn't get to eat this new rumor alive just yet.
"How is this news?" Temari deadpanned.
"Naruto wins." Ino deadpanned back. The other girls eyes went wide.
"Naruto won? As in he actually argued?" Ten-Ten asked. Ino nodded, and went in for the kill.
"Kakashi even backed him up afterwards. Naruto poked about …that subject, and Sakura went all weepy-bitchy on him. Said some things I couldn't quite hear, but whatever it was, it gave Naruto enough spine to stand up to her and tell her off." Ino finished with a flourish. The girls all leaned in, including Hinata, and in excited voices said,
"REALLY?!?!" Ino sweatdropped, and leaned back.
"Er, yeah. Really." Ino said. Temari pulled out her smirk and looked right at Hinata.
"That's great. Now, if only, he would notice someone else." Hinata saw who she was staring at and turned the color of blueberry-tomato juice.
That doesn't sound too appetizing, thinking about it.
"Yeah well, that isn't too likely right now. The way he stomped off made it look like he was going to…" Ino's eyes widened in realization.
"What, Ino? Where was Naruto going?" Ten-Ten prodded. Ino responded promptly.
"To his apartment." The same realization hit the other girls. Surprisingly, it was Hinata who was first to speak.
"He wo-wouldn't. He c-c-couldn't, cou-could he?" Hinata was near the point of hysterics. Ino threw her a concerned look.
"I don't know Hinata. I don't think he wants to stay, from the last look on his face. But I hope we're wrong. I hope he's just going to blow it off like he normally does." Hinata paid no heed to Ino's words. She jumped up and sped off towards Naruto's apartment at top speed, the other girls in pursuit.
"NARUTO!! NARUTO, OPEN UP!!" Hinata sounded like he might die if he didn't open up. Using her Byakugan, even though it was blurred with tears, she could see no one in the flat. She collapsed, sobbing. The other girls lifted her up and helped the girl walk to her home.
"GOODBYE, YOU STUPID LITTLE SHITTY INGRATES!! I DON'T CARE ANYMORE!! YOU GUYS NEVER LIKED ME, AND I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOUR SHIT. IF ANYONE WANTS TO FIND ME, COME LOOKING. I'LL BE WAITING TO SEE IF I'M WRONG."
And with his final words spoken, Naruto left a few dozen stunned ANBU guards looking at him like he had grown several large orifices, all of which were emitting bright and colorful birds.
Hiashi was puzzled. He couldn't figure out for the life of him why his eldest daughter was weeping so ferociously. She only did this when someone in the family close to her died, or if he'd given her a severe verbal lashing. But neither had happened today.
She wouldn't open her door and had apparently used one of her mother's sealing wards to keep him, probably simply anyone, out of her room. So he went to the most informed person in the village to find out what in blazes was going on.
As he left, he was so absorbed in his own thoughts that he didn't see the shadowy form leaving Hinata's room, bounding off to where a certain silver-haired Jounin lived.
Hiashi arrived at the Hokage's tower in record time, for not running, and simply went in to see the Hokage.
"I see that you're being your normal pompous self. What can I answer?" Tsunade asked with a bit of bite in her voice.
"I was wondering if you knew anything that would depress my eldest daughter." Hiashi spoke in a voice that was almost sincere.
"Why do you care?"
"Her tears, if discovered, would embarrass the Hyuuga clan. I must know so I can at least create a cover story." When Hiashi had finished, Tsunade blinked at him. Maybe he'd disappear if she stared long and hard enough.
"Hokage-sama?" Apparently not.
"I assume you know that Naruto has left the village." Hiashi nodded his head to the Hokage's words.
"Good riddance to the boy. What has that got to with-" Tsunade cut him off.
"Hinata? You, along with Naruto himself, were possibly the only people I know who didn't know that Hinata was attracted to Naruto. Answer your question?" Tsunade said, desperately wanting a stiff drink to make this headache go away.
"Attracted? In what sense?" Hiashi didn't like where this was going.
"Hinata loves Naruto. Simple enough for you?"
"Nonsense! Why would she try to mar her family's name like that?" As soon as the words had left his mouth, Tsunade grabbed him by the shirt collar and lifted the man over her head, nearly pinning him to the ceiling.
"If this is some shit about the ways of old, again, interfering in a society when those ways no longer function I simply say this to you." Tsunade drew in a large breath and continued.
"THE WAYS OF OLD ARE DEAD! AND THE DEAD ARE NOT TO BE DISTURBED!" Hiashi was so stunned at the Hokage's outburst that he left without another word to her. He had his answer. Shizune walked in holding a bottle.
"I guess you'll be wanting this now. It's a few decades old scotch." Tsunade was immediately upon her ward.
"Give. That. Here. NOW." She said. Shizune relinquished her hold on the bottle, and watched as Tsunade got sloshed really, really fast. As Shizune left the office, she muttered to herself.
"Run, Naruto. Run far. Run fast. And don't look back."
Hinata knocked demurely on Kakashi's door. It was swiftly opened, and Kakashi seemed slightly surprised to see her.
"Hinata! What can I do for you?" He said with a happiness so fake – let's not make that analogy.
"C-can yo-you t-tell m-m-me where Na-Naruto wo-would go??" She said, and Kakashi relinquished his smile.
"He said if anyone cared to come find him. So that means he's going somewhere he'd feel welcome. He wouldn't go to Sand, because the only people who-" he was interrupted by a voice from behind him.
"He'd go to Wave."
"Sakura. Are you sure?" Kakashi said, a dangerous edge on his voice.
"I regret what I did. As for your question, need I say more than 'The Great Naruto Bridge?'" Sakura said, almost devoid of emotion. Kakashi nodded. He turned back to relay this to Hinata, but she'd heard what Sakura had said and left.
"Be safe, Hinata. Godspeed."
A.N. I am cutting off the first chapter here because I want to resequence certain events. Don't worry, all the minor fluff bits will still be there, just in a different order. So, reviews welcome. Remember to read my other fics. Expanded Horizons are good.