Sakura and the Prince of Flowers
By Miss Angel Maxwell

Final Free Talk: It's almost hard for me to believe, but we have at last reached the end of SakuPuri (my own lame abbreviation for this story… because SPF sounded too much like sunscreen). Those of you who have this story on update alert can take it off, though I hope some of you enjoyed it enough to now add it to your favorites list (big hopeful eyes). Please don't interpret this as begging, but I would really love it if you left a comment. This is my first completed fanfiction ever (though I started my X fic earlier) and I really want to know what people thought about it. What parts did you like? What parts did you not like? Stylistically, is there anything you think I did well? Any areas where I need improvement? Constructive criticism is okay. I am new and it's the only way I'll learn. Other than that, I must say that writing this story has been a wonderful experience and I do hope to write another Naruto fanfiction. I just don't have any ideas right now… If anyone out there does and feels like sharing, please go ahead! Thank you so much for reading SakuPuri! And tell your friends if you think they'd like it too! (Specific thanks are at the end… may not be important to the reader, but very important to the writer).

All of My Love, Miss A.M.

Final Chapter: "Junior Brows Still Needs A Name"

That smell… So beautiful… What is it?

The sweet scent of flowers filled Sakura's nostrils, even as she was still wrapped up in darkness. As her eyes slowly opened, she found herself tucked into a bed in Konoha Hospital, surrounded on all sides by warm yellow sunlight. The source of the smell was large bouquet of pink flowers in a white vase that was placed on the bedside table.

"The flowers are from Ino," a familiar voice said.

"Sasuke," she breathed with a gentle smile. "You stayed by my side?"

He smiled back from his seat next to her bed. "Not the entire time," he admitted. "You've been out for nearly two days. But I'm glad that I'm here with you when you're waking up."

"Two days?" she uttered. Any residual sleepiness had finally worn off from the young woman and she remembered clearly everything that happened the last time she was awake. "The baby?" she asked, sounding slightly scared. "Is he…?"

"He's fine," Sasuke said. "Tsunade checked him out and he's a perfectly healthy baby boy. You weren't awake to feed him though, so he had to be given some formula."

"Where is he?" she asked, sitting up in bed eagerly. "I want to go see him."

"He's in the room next door," he answered. "Tsunade said you would probably need to sleep for a long time in order to fully recover, so she didn't want his crying to wake you up. He's in good hands though. Naruto is in there with him."

"Naruto?" she said nervously.

The Uchiha grinned slightly. "Don't worry about it," he said. "He's actually shown himself to be surprisingly gentle. And he really has taken a shine to the little guy. Here, I'll get your robe and we'll go over, and you'll see for yourself."

As she got out of bed and on her feet, Sakura discovered that her legs were a bit wobbly, though now it was probably because she had been in bed for so long and not from lack of strength. Sasuke had to hold her steady as he helped her into her bathrobe, but by the time the sash was tied and she had slid her slippers on she was feeling much sturdier. Still, Sasuke held onto her hand tightly as they walked out into the hospital hallway and it made her chest feel warm. When they got to the door of the room next to hers, they could hear voices from inside, and not just Naruto's.

"He's making a funny face. I think he's going to start crying."

"That's probably because your giant white hair is scaring him."

"I think it's more likely that he's upset over having to wear the stupid gift you gave him. A tiny green sleeper and fluffy bright orange booties… What kind of an outfit it that for an infant? It looks dumb enough on an adult."

"Babies don't care about that sort of thing. Besides, he looks adorable in that outfit."

"Just keep in mind that he's Lee's son, not Lee himself."

Peeking her head inside the door, Sakura confirmed what she had already suspected. The voices belonged to Hatake Kakashi and his self-proclaimed rival, Maito Gai, who were both looming over a wicker bassinet. There were others in the room too. Naruto, Gaara, Ino, Hinata, and Temari, who had apparently dragged Shikamaru along with her, had all gathered in the little room and Sakura wasn't sure she was ready to face such a big group yet. She wanted to see her child so badly, though. His beautiful little face was already etched in her mind.

When the two oldest shinobi became so wrapped up in their quibbling that they didn't notice that her baby actually had started to cry, nervous or not, she couldn't stand on the sidelines any longer. She was about to dash over to her son and reprimand the two foolish men, when a stoic figure beat her to it, silently squeezing between Kakashi and Gai and scooping up the baby. The tiny boy calmed down as soon as Gaara picked him up, and the two older shinobi were suddenly quiet as well, in complete awe at the Kazekage's gentleness.

"You both are frightening him," the redhead said coldly. The baby stared at him peacefully.

Gai snorted. "How come the little guy is all sweet and quiet for him? That young man could scare the fleas off a dog! And he has none of my natural charm and grace! It isn't fair!"

The frustrated ninja continued to growl until a sweet giggle interrupted him. "Don't feel jealous," Sakura said, as she fully emerged into the room with Sasuke at her side. "He and Gaara go way back."

"That doesn't even make sense," Lee's former teacher stammered.

"No, it's true," Sakura replied, heading straight to the redhead with the baby in his arms. "Gaara talked to him every day when he was in my belly. The little guy must recognize his voice. Plus, Gaara is the one who delivered him."

"I think he still likes his mother the best," Gaara said. Then he transferred the child gently over to her eagerly waiting arms.

"My sweet little poppet!" she cooed as she snuggled him against her cheek. "You love your Uncle Gaara, don't you? Oh, my little angel boy!"

As she twirled around, rocking her baby in her arms, Sakura seemed absolutely oblivious to her friends and teammates who were gathered in the hospital room. Actually, she was well aware of their presence and the fact that they were all staring at her as if she was crazy, she simply didn't care. It was the first time she had held him since the day he came out of her body, purple and lifeless until Sasuke's chidori had somehow sparked life back into his body. It still felt like a miracle just to have him in her arms.

"Eh… Poppet?" Ino said, raising an eyebrow. "This is a side of you I've never seen, Sakura. So I take it you're feeling pretty good now after all of that sleep?"

"Wonderful," Sakura replied, keeping her eyes on her son rather than her friend. "But how could I not feel wonderful when I've got this little guy in my arms?"

"He certainly is a cutie pie," Ino said, looking over Sakura's shoulder at him. "Definitely way too cute to be Lee's. Are you sure Sasuke isn't really his daddy? You can tell me the truth."

The young mother rolled her eyes and took a step back from the platinum blonde. "You're worse than Temari," she said exasperatedly. "No, I am one hundred percent sure that Lee is his father. That's the truth, so you'll just have to deal with it."

Noticing that his lovely teammate seemed a bit overwhelmed by all of her son's visitors, Naruto felt a bit guilty. "Err… Sorry about the crowd, Sakura," he said a bit quietly. "Everyone really wanted to see the baby."

"Don't worry about it," she reassured. Even if she did feel a little uncomfortable, there was no reason to let Naruto feel bad.

Hinata had been typically quiet the entire time, standing to the side and tenting her fingers, but now she finally spoke up. "You… you really do look so happy Sakura… He… he's really a sweet… cute baby…"

"Aw, you'll have really cute babies someday too, Hinata," Naruto said nonchalantly. "I'm sure of it." Then he beamed a wide grin at the shy, dark-haired kunoichi and she turned bright red.

Shikamaru, who was sitting on the bed next to Temari, rolled his eyes. "What is it about babies that makes women act insane?" he sighed.

His girlfriend let out a short laugh. "Heh! It's not just women who're afflicted," she said. "Check out pretty boy Uchiha."

Sure enough, Sasuke was sidled up next to Sakura and dancing a plush kitty cat in front of the tot's face. He was a completely different person than anyone had seen before, as if aliens had replaced their gruff, antisocial Sasuke with a sweet and sensitive look-alike.

Young Mr. Nara chuckled and shook his head. "Oh how the mighty have fallen. Babe, if I ever act all sappy like that around our kids I want you to smack me upside the head."

"Our kids?" Temari asked curiously. "So you see kids in our future?"

Suddenly realizing that he had said too much, Shikamaru crossed his arms and sank uncomfortably low in his seat, wishing he could somehow vanish. "Not for a long time," he said, carefully avoiding eye contact. "I mean… having some kids wouldn't be so bad…"

Temari smirked, but decided not to needle her poor lover any more on the issue by asking him how many kids he wanted and what he would call them. Instead she directed her attention towards Sakura. "So did you dream up a good name for the little guy while you were asleep?" she asked.

"That's right," Naruto chimed in. "Junior Brows still needs a name."

A pair of pale green eyes looked up, taking in the inquisitive faces of her friends. She had actually decided his name just a few minutes after he was first placed in her arms, but she hadn't shared it with anybody yet. "His name is Shin," she said. "After Lee's grandfather. Haruno Shin. I think it suits him."

Smiles and nods were exchanged all around. "Shin is a really good name for him," Hinata said sweetly. Temari gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

There was quiet for a few minutes then Shikamaru got up with a sigh. "We came, we saw the kid, we heard his name… I'm going home. You coming, Babe? Babe? Temari?"

"Don't get your panties in a bunch, Bambi," the Sand girl retorted. "Go on home and I'll join you in a few." She got up and gave Sakura a hug then kissed little Shin on his downy black hair. "Well, I guess I better go and take care of my big baby. I'm sure I'll see you guys again really soon, though. Bye Pinky. Bye Peanut."

"Hinata, I think maybe we should go, too," Ino said. "Let's give them some private time."

"O-okay…" the shy girl stuttered. "Thank you for letting us come see the baby. And it… it's really nice to have you all back… Sakura, Sasuke…" Her face turned red again. "…Naruto…"

After Shikamaru and Temari, and Ino and Hinata had exited the room, Gai and Kakashi decided they should probably do the same. "I guess everyone is leaving, so we better follow suit," the masked, white-haired man said. "I have to admit, this still feels weird. The pretty young girl I taught ninjutsu to having a baby of her own is strange enough by itself. But the fact that it's with his oddball student…" Gai lowered his massive eyebrows angrily. "I'm just saying it's unexpected," Kakashi continued. "In any case, I am happy for you, Sakura. And I am very pleased to have all three of my students back in Konoha. Come on, Gai. Let's go."

"I don't think you need me to tell you that you have a very handsome child there," the big-browed ninja said. "And remember, that outfit stretches, so he can wear it even as he grows bigger."

"Eh… thanks," the mother said. "I'll keep that in mind."

Once the two men were out the door, Naruto went over to close it to get some privacy and was stopped by the sound of voices in the hallway, two of them, a boy and a girl.

"I want to see the baby," the girl said hesitantly. "I mean… it's his son… But I dunno if I'm ready to face her. I'm afraid I might say something mean."

"Perhaps we should wait until another day then," said the boy. "Though I do not think you have anything to fear."

"But I heard he looks so much like Lee," the girl went on. "What if I see him and start crying and embarrass myself?"

"If anything, you will feel great happiness when you look upon him," the boy answered. "Because Lee was somebody that you loved."

The girl let out a sigh. "I don't think I'm up to it, Neji. Not today. Will you walk me home?"

"Of course I will," he answered. "Let us go."

It was around the time the hallway conversation ended when Sakura noticed that Naruto was still loitering around the door. "What are you doing over there?" she asked him. "Close the door and come over here. There's something I want to tell you."

"Me?" the blonde asked, complying with her instructions and coming over to the side of the bed where she had sat down with the baby.

"Yes," she answered. "Well, all three of you, really. You, Sasuke, and Gaara… and I wish Temari had stuck around too. But I guess she has more fun things to do." She looked down and stroked the infant's cheek. "I named this little boy Shin to honor Lee's grandpa, but there is still one more thing I feel I should do for the old man. As soon as Tsunade discharges me from the hospital, I want to go and spread his ashes in the field where he died and where his namesake was born. And I would like it if all of you would come with me. After all, we were probably the only ones who ever met him."

"I think that's a good plan," Naruto said. "Count me in."

"I would like to participate as well," Gaara intoned seriously. "I did not know the man well, but I could tell that he was wise and compassionate."

"He did so much for Sakura and Naruto and I," Sasuke added. "He really deserves a proper ending."

"Yes," Sakura agreed. "And maybe it will help us put all of this violence and suffering behind us. The Children of the Kyuubi will never bother anyone again. I believed the one that I killed when it told me it was the last of its kind. It makes me feel so relieved to know that my son will not live feeling that he is obligated to sacrifice his life because of his bloodline."

"Is that one of the reasons why you gave him your last name instead of Lee's" Naruto asked.

"Yes," Sakura answered. "But it's not the only reason. Lee and I weren't married… we never even dated… And who says a child can't take on his mother's name anyways? I think it's very progressive. Despite what Ino said, I don't think anyone will deny that he is Rock Lee's son."

"Especially when he's wearing that ridiculous getup," Naruto said. "But he doesn't have any other clothes yet."

Hearing this, Sakura felt an unexpected wave of cold panic sweep over her. "I… I don't have anything!" she gasped. "The few things I had already gotten for the baby I left in Suna! I'm not prepared at all! I'm a terrible mother!"

"Do not panic," the Kazekage said calmly. "The things you had collected in Suna have been sent here to Konoha."

"And we'll go get anything else you need," Naruto added helpfully. "We'll go right now! C'mon, Sasuke!"

The Uchiha looked around cautiously. He honestly didn't want to leave Sakura, and if Naruto and Gaara went out it would give him some time alone with her and the baby. Maybe he would finally get a chance to talk to her about their future. "Actually," he said. "I was thinking maybe I'd stay here with Sakura and…"

The young man was cut off mid-sentence, however, when the hospital room door swung open and a tall, full-figured blonde woman stepped inside. "Sakura, I just heard you had awoken," the Hokage said. "And of course the first thing you did was come and see your baby. Though you really should have told me you were up first."

"I'm sorry, Tsunade," the young woman replied.

"It's too late to worry about it now," the older woman replied. "Now I would like to talk to you about a few things regarding your health and your body as it recovers. And I would also like to walk you through breastfeeding. So Naruto, Sasuke, and the Kazekage can go home or find something else to do for a while. Go on, you can come back and see her later."

Sasuke sighed as Naruto herded him out the door. Once again, he would have to wait until another opportunity arose to talk to Sakura. But there was plenty of time. There would be another opportunity. Right now he could at least help her out by getting some of the essentials she would need, a task he knew Naruto would mess up if left to his own devices.

-

Unfortunately for Sasuke, his opportunity did not come as quickly as he had hoped. Sakura's time at the hospital was largely consumed by resting and fully regaining her strength and getting used to feeding and taking care of her new baby. Two days later, when Tsunade discharged her, she wanted to go spread old Shin's ashes as soon as possible. Sasuke wouldn't dare interfere with something that the woman he loved felt so passionately about.

A cool early March breeze whipped over the grass field, but there was a subtle hint of warmth in it, a promise of spring, as it touched the faces of the young shinobi who had gathered to pay their respects. Temari had been informed of the plan and joined her brother and the members of Team 7 in the large field about an hour outside of Konoha. Little Shin was asleep, snuggled in a red cloth sling hanging across Sakura's chest, so her hands were free to clutch the plain clay jar containing the remains of her friend.

"Rock Shin, we commit your ashes and your spirit to the wind," she said. Then she gently removed the jar's lid and tipped its contents out into the air. The breeze quickly picked up the dust and swirled it up and around in circles and out of sight. "Goodbye," she whispered. "And thank you."

"He is with Lee and his other deceased family members now," Gaara reassured.

Naruto nodded, His hand was buried in one of the pockets of his black and orange jacket, searching for something. "There it is," he declared as he pulled out a tiny scrap of old paper.

"What's that?" Sakura asked.

"Just something I want to put behind me," he said. Then he turned and gave Sasuke a knowing smile and released the last relic he had of that day long ago.

"I have something, too," Sasuke said, taking a small red book out of his backpack. When he opened up the field guide to retrieve the flower pressed between its pages, something else fell out and almost flew away, but he caught it just in time. He looked at the little scrap in his hand. It was a piece of parchment almost identical to Naruto's 'don't let Sasuke beat you' message, but on this one was written a single word. 'Sakura.' Sasuke felt his face grow warm. This was what he had written for himself to remember, almost fourteen years ago. He didn't need it anymore. He would never forget. The note and the flower were both carried away in the wind.

"I guess that's it," Sakura sighed. "We can all head home now."

"Yes," Gaara agreed. "I should prepare to return to Suna. Will you be coming with me, sister?"

"Naw, I think I'll stay in Konoha for a bit longer," she said. "Spend some quality time with the boyfriend, help Pinky if she needs it… But you go ahead. You should probably get back home before Kankurou leads our country into ruin."

As she walked back towards Konoha with her friends, Sakura had a feeling of closure in her heart. She had put this part of her life behind her. But there was also a feeling of anxiety. She still hadn't turned eighteen yet, and she had a newborn to take care of. What would life be like from now on? And would she still be able to be an active shinobi as well as a mother? In the middle of all of her worrying, Sasuke came up alongside her, so close that his shoulder was touching hers. Her heartbeat strengthened.

"Sakura, I've been thinking," he said, with a barely detectable hint of shyness in his voice. "Your parents are still out seeing the world, so it's just you at home now. With a baby that would not only be lonely, but also difficult. I think you should come and stay with me. You and little Shin should. I have plenty of extra room."

The girl's cheeks glowed. "Are you sure?" she asked. "I wouldn't be a burden? I mean… babies do cry a lot and make messes… You were never the type to tolerate that kind of thing, Sasuke."

"I think I could learn to live with it," he replied. "After all, men have been adapting to the role of 'father' for thousands of years. Come on, let's go home, Sakura."

They could hear Naruto teasing Temari as he ran along somewhere ahead of them. Despite the cheerful attitude he adopted, Sasuke knew that it would take time before his friend really got over his love for Sakura. But Naruto was resilient and Sasuke would never disappoint him by making Sakura cry.

Sakura was once again thinking about what Lee had said about endings, but now her feelings about them were different. Endings did matter. Endings allowed for new beginnings, such as this one. Sasuke's fingers silently meshed with Sakura's and they walked back to Konoha hand-in-hand, their son sleeping the entire way.

Sasuke hadn't read the pages in his field guide that had preserved both his note and a single blossom. On these pages was an entry describing a rare variety of small flower that blooms only once every fourteen years. Perhaps if he had read it, he would have looked down and noticed the vast bed of tiny green buds that covered the field they had just visited.

The End

Thanks: I have to give credit where credit is due. The characters and the universe they inhabit were created by Masashi Kishimoto. I just made up this story about them.

I have to thank my best friend Al because she was the one who I bounced all my ideas for this story off of. If it weren't for my discussions with her, this would have turned out to be a very different story. And if it weren't for her encouragement I might never have completed the story or even posted it at all. I actually have promised to make her a soundtrack for this story as a thank-you gift, so I'd better start collecting some good songs.

Thanks also go out to my favorite fanfiction author of all time, Kristen Elizabeth. My first foray into the world of fanfiction was drawing illustrations for her stories. Her fanfiction is what inspired me to try writing fanfiction of my own. Go read her stories. You won't be disappointed!

And, of course, thanks to everyone who read this story and gave it a chance! Until the next story…