NaruSaku contest piece, using the keyword "kiss." Completely inspired. Hope y'all enjoy!
From a very early age, Naruto understood what it meant to care for someone. He spent most of his childhood alone, scorned for a reason he couldn't begin to guess, yet still he knew the importance of bonds. Perhaps this knowledge, far beyond his tender years, came to him because he spent his time in solitude, hoping for someone, anyone, to acknowledge him, to assure him that he did exist for a reason.
He started with nothing, so when he found something, he clung to it. He treasured it. He put all of his effort into protecting it, nurturing it, watching it grow.
Uzumaki Naruto loved Haruno Sakura. He loved her with an intensity that transcended words, so much that it blinded him. He couldn't see how deeply his feelings were rooted because he always considered her his main priority. Her happiness was paramount to his almost as if by instinct. That was why he promised her, without hesitation, that he'd bring Sasuke back. That was why he smiled for her when he was heartsick, knowing that she had chosen a path that didn't lead to him.
That was why he prepared himself to let her go.
After all, Naruto didn't want to be her jailer. He didn't want to clip her wings and stand idly by as she floundered and flapped and plummeted to the earth, scattering her blood-soaked feathers across the ground.
She had been the one to kiss him first.
"God…why do we keep messing around? I just…it's so stupid," she had declared, and, looking quite determined, clamped her hand over the back of his neck, drew his face forward, and pressed her lips to his. Rough. Impulsive. Completely and utterly mind breaking.
Of course, they were both dripping sweat, covered in dirt and grime and gore, but that was part and parcel to the ninja business, particularly when you're on the run from Akatsuki. No time was a good time. No place was a good place. You learn to seize the moments when they come.
Sakura did the seizing, and lucky thing. Naruto was partially convinced they wouldn't be together today if she hadn't.
She told him later that she distrusted the future, the supposed inevitability of tomorrow, and she figured she ought to kiss him at least once before it was too late.
"I'm a kunoichi. We're thorough. We don't let openings slip past us."
Naruto didn't buy her flippant attitude, however. The tears swimming in her eyes were a dead giveaway of falsehood.
And it had taken that single kiss to allow Naruto to begin comprehending his love for her. Oh, it was a slow process, painful and beautiful and frightening, but he wouldn't have it any other way. Were it merely handed to them, their relationship would lose most of its meaning.
They were partners, Naruto and Sakura. They depended on each other, leaned on each other, complemented each other. They suffered the same hurt, the same unshakable determination to bring their fallen comrade home despite the cost.
In a sense, Sasuke was the bridge, the catalyst that drew them together. By severing his ties to them, he made theirs stronger. They weren't a trio anymore; they were a duo sharing a goal. They were a family missing a brother. They were a man and a woman searching desperately for a lost little boy, and they wouldn't stop until they brought him in, out of the cold, out of the dark.
And through it all, Naruto loved her.
More kisses followed, as kisses often do, and every one was different.
Heat. Questing fingers, awkward tongues, primal, basic lust.
They were in a cave. Minimal lighting, air thick with moisture, a steady drip, drip, drip in the background.
"We have to—"
"I know." Drip, drip, drip.
"Where is he?"
"We'll find him." Drip, drip, drip.
"I'm scared for you."
He kissed one eyelid, then the other. "Why? We're a team. You're with me."
She shivered. "That's not the issue, Naruto." His lips were on the curve of her neck. "How can you be sure we'll survive? How can you be sure you'll survive? Akatsuki's dangerous, and they'll stop at nothing to capture you."
The unspoken words resonated louder than the spoken ones.
To kill you.
Naruto had seen Gaara's body. He understood the relationship between a jinchuuriki and a bijuu. When one is lost, the other dies. Akatsuki did not want Naruto. They wanted his bijuu. They wanted Kyuubi.
Drip, drip, drip.
"I can't be sure," he whispered. "So we'll fight."
Sasuke was involved in this, somehow. The lies and the treachery and the deceit were woven as tightly about him as a shroud. Naruto knew it. He felt it. And he would have to unravel the threads before they destroyed him. Before they destroyed everything.
Drip, drip, drip.
"Because we're shinobi," Sakura murmured, fingers tangled in his hair.
"Because we're shinobi," he agreed.
"You're hurt," she murmured, tracing the pads of her fingers along the edges of raw, puckered skin. "Idiot." Her lips replaced her fingers, and his breath hitched.
"Sakura…" He dropped the "chan" at her insistence, because she claimed it made her feel like a little girl, especially when he said it. On special occasions, however, she allowed him to use the suffix, which always made him happy. He liked the way "Sakura-chan" sounded, for some reason. Sweet, yet containing a hint of naughtiness—from his perspective, at least, considering the nature of those special occasions.
The wound was on his lower abdomen, the result of an unfortunate encounter with the wrong end of a kunai while he was drugged and flying higher than a kite. He barely remembered how he got home, or when. All he knew for certain was that the bed she had him spread out on wasn't his.
Naruto had a lumpy mattress. Cottage cheese, practically. It sank when you sat on it, and you had to lever yourself out like a clam when you wanted to get up. Pain in the ass, but he'd had the mattress since he was a kid, and he kept it for the sentimental value.
This mattress was firm but…springy. It molded to the body without trapping it. Though his head was stuffed with fuzz and he had trouble focusing his eyes, he could discern that much.
Kind of nice, really. Sure, Naruto's opinion would change later, after the effect of the drugs wore off and all his aches and pains clambered for attention, but hell, everything was fabulous right now.
Sakura's bed. Complete with Sakura, no extra charge.
Naruto in Sakura's bed.
She raised her head and quirked an eyebrow at him, expression bewildered.
He blinked slowly. "Mmmmmm?"
She studied him critically for a moment, and then groaned. "God help me."
He blinked again. "Wassamatter?"
Naruto let out a semi-conscious giggle. "Okay." He didn't care what he was, quite frankly.
But Sakura did.
"I could kill you," she grated between clenched teeth. "I should kill you. Irresponsible…you know better than to accept anything offered to you by an openly hostile enemy!" To emphasize, she slammed the palm of her hand down over the wound, and he jerked.
"Think that's funny?" Her voice had a hard edge to it, and her eyes blazed. "The daimyo and his goons intended it to be fatal, or they wouldn't have taken pains to drug the wine."
His jaw slackened. "How did you—"
"I can smell it on your breath," she snapped.
"I'm sorry, Sakura," he croaked. "I messed up."
Naruto winced. He hated it when she was angry with him. Of all people he wanted to impress, all people he wanted to make proud, she ranked at the top. Her opinion held more significance to him than anyone else's, partly because they were best friends, and partly because he respected her. A lot.
"I'm sorry," he repeated. "I'm sorry."
"Sorry won't protect you, Naruto."
Sakura scooted to the edge of the bed and climbed off, pausing to smooth a few pieces of bang back from his face.
"Don't leave," Naruto said. If his reflexes hadn't been so sluggish, he would've grabbed the hem of her shirt, but all he could manage was a pleading look. "Stay here…"
"I'm just going to get some stuff to fix you up with."
Grinning, Sakura bent over and brushed her mouth against his.
"Next time, fox, try not to need a reason to apologize."
Over the years, he learned the subtleties of her body. He knew the places she liked to have touched, the places that were the most sensitive, the places that drove her into a frenzy. He knew what parts she was comfortable with (legs, arms, nose, stomach), and what parts she despised (butt, hips, forehead).
He also learned, purely by chance, that the dip on the inside of her left elbow was a fount of boundless pleasure for both parties.
Sakura had graceful, dancer's legs, and Naruto definitely appreciated them, but there was something…erotic about her arms. They were muscular in a lithe, sleek way as opposed to visibly bulging, which Naruto found dangerous and sexy all at once. The girl was a literal powerhouse. She could punch holes through solid rock as if it were no more than paper. He'd watched her do it. The fact that all that strength was contained in those smooth planes of muscle never ceased to amaze him.
Her wrists were dainty and her hands were small, but they fit her. Big, bulky fingers were a bane rather than a boon for a medic, and Sakura was a perfectionist to her core.
She always wore a pair of black gloves in combat, however her knuckles still reflected her profession. They were littered with tiny scars and indentations, and Naruto thought they gave her character. No doubt his girl worked for a living.
And the inside of her elbow…
She had a freckle there. Very miniscule, of course, but Naruto could be quite observant when he wanted to, and he ferreted it out rather quickly.
"Did you know you had a freckle?" He wondered, fascinated, as they lie on the carpet in front of the fireplace at his apartment. The light from the flames cast flickering shadows across her skin, and he leaned in to get a closer look. "Aww, that's cute!"
She made an exasperated noise, like a breathless whinny, and said, "It's a freckle, Naruto. Don't be such a geek about it."
Naruto smirked. Despite her effort to appear otherwise, she seemed happy that he was being a geek about it.
"Why don't I just…" He planted an open-mouthed kiss over the freckle, her skin salty to the taste. Before pulling away, he nipped her gently, and she squeaked.
"I'm not food, you pervert."
He waggled his eyebrows. "Yummy."
The blonde young man cackled. "You'd make a kickass ramen flavor. 'Sakura-chan ramen.' 'Essence of Sakura ramen.' 'Ode de—"
She smacked him on the bicep, cheeks flushed. "Shut up already…moron…"
"But you love me."
Sakura flashed him her own smirk, and, were he a dog, he would've been drooling.
"Kiss me like that again, and we'll see."
Naruto couldn't say no to a lady.
Naruto was an emotional sort of man, and he had done his fair share of crying. He wasn't afraid to admit that, either.
Human beings cry. It's natural, whether you're male or female, child or adult.
He cried, yes, but there was only one shoulder he was brave enough to cry on.
"Come here," she would say, her voice so gentle it could have been the wind talking, and then she'd draw him into an embrace. Sometimes he resisted and she had to coax him, other times he'd fling himself at her, and the impact was like a bullet. Sometimes he'd cry immediately upon contact, other times he'd hold it in while she stroked his back, murmured nonsense in his ear, and the sobs tore out of him, and afterward, she would trace the whisker marks on his cheeks and shower him in butterfly kisses.
"My little fox," she'd say. "Your spirit is too pure for this world."
No it wasn't. Hers was.
She transferred the burden of his pain onto herself when she didn't have to. She stuck by him, found room for him in her heart when she had given so much of it to Sasuke…
"I love you, Naruto."
He didn't want to be her jailer, and he wasn't. He had jailed himself. He had clipped his own wings.
And she had returned them.
Because Haruno Sakura loved Uzumaki Naruto, and she had been the one to kiss him first.