The setting sun was slowly beginning to hide behind the horizon as a young man watched, mesmerized by the view. Naruto watched as the rays of the sun reflected off of the water from the small brook. He didn't know how long he had been standing on that bridge staring off into nothingness, but it gave him a piece of calmness he had not had in a long time. The past couple of days had been hell for him. Team Kakashi had just come back from an information gathering mission and narrowly escaped the grasp of Akatsuki. Sai had been badly hurt as a result of the struggle. As for Naruto himself, he had fallen unconscious during the mission. He learned later, after waking up in the hospital, that he had indeed transformed again and had gone on a rampage. But apparently it was because of him that they had managed to escape at all.
Naruto cursed under his breath as he gave a menacing scowl at the setting sun. It was hard living with a demon inside of him. And with Akatsuki right on his tail, it just made his life even more difficult. His transformations didn't help either. Every time he woke up, not being able to remember anything, always gave him a sense of dread; the fear that every single transformation he underwent, he had hurt someone precious to him. He had already hurt Sakura once before and he did not want something like that to ever happen again. Just the thought of her getting hurt by his own hands tugged at his heartstrings. He could just imagine the anguish in her voice as she called out his name.
Her voice sent a shiver down his spine. It sounded as if she were really there.
Naruto suddenly felt a hand softly touch his shoulder, breaking him out of his stupor and surprising him. Turning towards the source, he found himself face to face with the girl he had been thinking about.
"Hey Naruto… Are you alright?" Sakura asked the dazed blond, concern etched in her voice.
"A-ah, yeah... Sorry about that Sakura-chan," Naruto quickly recovered. "I was just deep in thought."
"Hmmm… I see…" She replied softly. Sakura walked to the railing of the bridge and leaned on it as she looked at the view.
"It's pretty nice out here…" Sakura said aloud.
"Yeah…" Naruto replied. "So I guess you're done at the hospital?"
"Yeah, it's tired me out though."
"So how's Sai doing?"
"Oh, he's doing pretty well. He'll be making a full recovery and should be dismissed from the hospital tomorrow," Sakura replied.
"Ah, that's good to hear."
"So what about you?" the kunoichi asked, turning towards the blond. "What have you been thinking about?"
"Oh, just about life and where we are now," replied the genin, a smile on his face.
"Ooo, I never thought Naruto would ever be the type to think things over… or even think at all," Sakura said jokingly, a grin on her face.
"H-hey, I do think! S-sometimes…" Naruto retorted back.
Sakura gave a light chuckle at the blonde's antics.
"You haven't changed a bit, Naruto."
"I've become taller than you haven't I?" asked Naruto, a foxy grin on his face.
Sakura couldn't help but laugh at his question. "I guess you're right with that. That's probably the only thing that's changed. I know your maturity hasn't."
"In a way, I kind of envy you, Naruto," Sakura began. "Even with everything that's been happening, you still manage to smile and act as if nothing's wrong…Oh, I wish we were kids again! Back then all we really had to worry about were exams and getting the attention of the person you liked," Sakura gave a light chuckle as a memory entered her mind. "I seem to remember a young blond trying desperately to catch my attention, but in the end caught the lips of my Sasuke-kun instead."
Naruto cringed at the memory.
"You must have really liked me a lot back then huh? To go through all of those embarrassing moments and still live with yourself?" She asked jokingly.
Naruto remained quiet. For the blond, the question had hit home.
"…Yeah… I did…" the blond said softly, turning his head towards the horizon. "…E-even now… I still like Sakura-chan."
"E-eh?" Sakura cried out. She was surprised to hear such a revelation coming out from the blond. Sure, she knew his feelings for her when they were kids, but she never would have thought that he would still like her even after all of these years.
"It's hard to believe isn't it? Me liking you after all of these years…" said Naruto, sounding as if he had read her mind. "But it's true… I still do like Sakura-chan."
Naruto's answer seemed to have rendered Sakura speechless. A moment of silence passed before Sakura had the courage to throw a question in the air.
"What is it you like about me anyway?"
The genin was surprised by the sudden question. He thought about it, but could not find a proper answer.
"I…I'm… not so sure myself," began Naruto. "It's just… there's just something about you that I just can't help but like," the blond finished as he turned to face Sakura, a soft smile painted on his face.
"I-I see…" Sakura replied, suddenly turning away from him. She couldn't look at him for some reason and she didn't know why.
Silence reigned over the two once again. Even though the blond knew his feelings for her, he still did not know where he stood with her. When they were kids, it was all about Sasuke, but what about now, Naruto thought. Had she changed her mind about the raven-haired boy? Naruto had to be sure.
"Sasuke…" Naruto whispered softly, suddenly breaking the silence.
"I'm sure Sakura-chan still likes Sasuke, right?" the blond asked.
Naruto's question seemed to spark something in Sakura's mind as memories began flooding her. The pink-haired kunoichi couldn't help but smile at some of the images of her and Sasuke.
The blond saw the smile that started to spread along Sakura's face.
He had found his answer.
Naruto suddenly felt a small tug on his chest. The genin hung his head down, his hair hiding his eyes.
Naruto's voice seemed to bring the kunoichi back to the present as she turned to face the blond. Seeing the young man's head lowered, she immediately sensed that something was wrong.
Thinking about everything that had happened since the past, Naruto couldn't help but chuckle at his conclusion.
"N-Naruto? What's so funny?" the kunoichi asked the blond, confused by his sudden laughter.
"…I guess I never had a chance huh, Sakura-chan?" Naruto whispered softly, his head still lowered. The young genin felt his chest tightening up even more. It was starting to hurt him.
"Naruto, what are you talking about?"
Images rushed inside Naruto's head. These images were of the many different times he had tried to catch the attention of one pink-haired girl, but was always laughed at, rejected, or taunted at. Each image was always hurtful and neither of them had anything that pointed towards his direction.
"Hey Sakura-chan…? Should I just give up…?"
"Eh? Give up what? Naruto, you aren't making any sense…"
The images were still flowing through the blond, reminding him of every single failure when it came to the girl he liked so much. The images were only hurting him more and more to the point where he could not take it anymore. Naruto had reached his limit.
"I'm asking if I should just give up chasing after you!" Naruto suddenly exclaimed, finally turning to look at the pink-haired girl.
Sakura took a step back from the young blond, surprised at his sudden outburst.
"N-Naruto?" Sakura asked, confusion coming out of her voice.
Naruto didn't want to give up, however. He wanted to be sure that he still had a fighting chance, no matter how slim it was.
"I need to know, Sakura-chan! Is there any chance of you ever liking someone like me or should I just give it up?" Naruto asked despairingly.
"W-why are you asking me a question like this?" Sakura asked, slightly afraid of Naruto's sudden aggressiveness.
Her lack of a response was starting to get to the young blond. He could not keep this up forever. All those images inside his head had taken its toll on him. He felt like he had been running nonstop for so long and wanted a long rest from it all.
"Because, I'm beginning to feel a bit tired, chasing after something…I can never truly have…" Naruto finished softly.
Sakura's eyes widened at Naruto's revelation.
"So, please…I need to know… Is there even the slightest chance that you could have feelings for someone like me…?"
Sakura could not utter a word.
Naruto's words were beginning to sound desperate as if his entire world could come crashing down at any second, but Sakura could not form a single word no matter how hard she tried. Her voice just didn't seem to work properly.
Sakura's silence sealed the deal for Naruto. His chest had become so tight, he felt like he was going to suffocate. In that single moment, he felt like all of his life was drained from him.
"I...see…" Naruto managed out.
Naruto lowered his head once again as he turned away from the pink-haired girl. Sakura could only watch as she saw a small drop of water fall from Naruto's face and hit the water below. She had just taken away his final ray of hope. Her chest felt like it was going to burst. Touching her cheek, she noticed, that she too had a tears in her eyes.
Time passed by slowly for the two, as uncomfortable silence engulfed them. Each torturous second felt like years; years that they could never take back.
As the blond-haired genin lifted his head to look up at the horizon, he saw the sun fully hidden from view and the darkness finally setting in.
"I guess that's it then…" whispered Naruto.
After quickly wiping away the few remaining tears, Naruto turned to face a teary-eyed Sakura.
"Don't worry Sakura-chan, I'll still keep my promise… I'll bring Sasuke back to you…"
The smile on Naruto's face tugged on Sakura's heart-strings. She knew that he was having trouble keeping it up.
Naruto looked up at the sky. "Well, it looks like it's getting pretty late. I better head on home."
He then turned to Sakura once more.
Sakura suddenly felt that if she did not say something now, she would lose something very important to her. She didn't know why, but at this point she did not care.
"N-Naruto!" the kunoichi exclaimed, suddenly finding her voice again, "Wai—"
"Goodbye Sakura-chan…" Naruto said softly, cutting off the pink-haired girl. With one last smile, he turned around and began walking away from the bridge, towards his home.
Sakura could only watch the retreating back of the blond-haired boy. With the way Naruto had said his goodbye to her, she knew that there was a double meaning behind those words. The kunoichi suddenly felt something stir up inside of her that she could no longer control. The tears were starting to freely flow down her face.
As Naruto walked down the road towards his house, he could not help but replay the scene that had happened between him and Sakura. He suddenly felt another tear trail down his cheek.
"Damnit, I told myself I wouldn't cry… Damnit! I won't cry anymore!" the blond exclaimed. But no matter how much he told those words to himself, the tears just kept on flowing.
The stars were beginning to fill the night sky, but they would soon disappear; for only a few hours later, the sun would rise again to mark a new day. But to the two friends, it only meant one thing.
It was finally over.
A/N: Whew… I'm finally back after a couple of months. I owe all of my readers a big apology. Life kind of got in the way, but don't worry as I've said before I will end this no matter how long it takes me. All I ask for is patience.
Well, anyway, this story was such an emotional story to write. I think I even felt a little something in my eyes as I wrote this. If you couldn't tell, this chapter was set before Sasuke was rescued which gives you all another clue as to how old everyone is. Oh and yes, I know this chapter was a bit on the short side. It was made to be that way since I didn't want to distract the reader from anything else. The emphasis here was on the emotions between these two characters and nothing else.
Oh, and before any of you Naruto/Sakura fans jump down my throat, please note that this is NOT the end of the story. I'm not done with everyone since some of them haven't had their say in anything yet. The couples are still in the air at this point in time since I have not fully gone through any details with any of them. This is only the first one. So all I ask is that you please be patient. You never know, maybe your wish might come true after all.
Well, this officially ends Chapter 7! Thanks again to all my readers. You guys rock. It's back to the present in the next chapter so…'Till next time!
This chapter has not been beta-read.