Rokudaime Uzumaki Naruto sat leaned back in his official Hokage chair with the appearance of one who was completely relaxed. Truthfully, however, he was feeling quite the opposite. It was only a week into his reign as Hokage and he was already feeling anxious and unsettled.
For what seemed like the hundredth time that day, his hand patted a pocket on his Hokage robes before moving to sweep nervously through his spiky golden locks.
This is ridiculous! Argh, I can't get any thinking done in this stuffy office, he grumbled to himself, and without hesitation he leapt out of his open window and sprang out into the night.
He just needed to think for awhile, and there was only one place in which he wanted to do it. Settling himself down on the head of a previous Hokage (the 4th's was his favorite to perch on, but Tsunade's wasn't so bad either), Naruto looked out at the beautiful view from the Hokage Monument. Just sitting up there with the cool night breeze was making him feel better and he felt his nerves begin to calm.
He knew he should have been happy. He had gotten the position he had coveted since he was little. His dream had finally come true, and yet…
Rolling his shoulders, Naruto attempted to loosen the tight muscles when he heard a voice call up to him.
Leaning over, Naruto saw Sakura standing below, looking up at him with a quizzical expression on her face.
"Sakura-Chan?" he questioned, but in a puff of smoke the girl was gone. The sweet smell of strawberries found Naruto's nose, indicating the presence of the girl who now stood directly beside him.
"Naruto, what are you doing up here?" she asked, her hands placed authoritatively on her hips as she looked down at him.
Turning his head to the side, Naruto regarded the girl with a sheepish grin. "Ne, ne Sakura-Chan, I could ask the same of you."
Caught of guard, Sakura blinked and crossed her arms. "You weren't in your office so I figured you'd be out here." she stated smugly and Naruto chuckled.
"You know me too well."
"Mhmm," Sakura agreed, moving to sit down next to him. The two sat shoulder to shoulder looking out over the village of Konoha, each nursing their own thoughts.
As the silent moment stretched on, Sakura grew worried. "Naruto? Is something wrong?"
Naruto winced at the note of worry he heard in her voice. He hadn't meant to upset her; it was the last thing he'd ever wanted to do to her.
"No, I just…needed to think, and I seem to do a better job of it sitting up here," he said offhandedly, trying to ease Sakura's worry.
It didn't quite produce the effect he had wanted, for Sakura then frowned and asked, "What did you want to think about?"
"Naruto," Sakura cut in, her eyes narrowing dangerously, "You aren't worrying about being Hokage again are you? Everyone believes you will be a wonderful Hokage! You shouldn't worry so much."
Seeing the determined and completely honest look on Sakura's face Naruto broke out into a wide grin.
"Thanks Sakura-Chan," he said softly at first, but then laughed. "But this time I'm not even thinking of anything Hokage related."
An eyebrow raised at this new confession as the pink haired girl looked at Naruto with a mix of confusion and wonder. Standing abruptly, Naruto idly kicked a rock while Sakura's eyes never left him. He could feel them at his back and it was enough to make his heart rate increase and his palms sweat.
Sakura meanwhile couldn't help her growing worry at Naruto's odd behavior. He had always been so open with her, but now he seemed so completely off limits, and it scared her. Frantically, Sakura began listing all of her friends she knew were on missions, thinking that maybe something bad had happened.
"We've come a long way, haven't we Sakura-chan?" Naruto spoke, startling Sakura who shakily stood and approached him. He turned and smiled at her, but she noted it was forced and so very fake and it made her heart shudder.
Reaching out, Sakura placed a hand on his arm. "Naruto, wha-" she began, but stopped when she felt Naruto's arm flinch at her touch. She drew back quickly, as if he had been fire, and her eyes clouded with anger and hurt.
Seeing the pain flash through her eyes Naruto immediately realized his mistake. But Sakura was already withdrawing, a mumbled "Sorry" on her lips. Catching her arm, he pulled her back to him turning a deaf ear to her protests.
"Please don't go Sakura-chan," he whispered into her hair. Surprisingly she remained, allowing her body to relax against him. For a moment the two just stood like that, Naruto breathing gently against her forehead and Sakura's hands fisting into his robes.
When Sakura spoke, it was with a hesitant voice, "Did I do something to offend you?"
She felt a rumbling in his chest that sounded oddly like a chuckle, and looked up to see him grinning down at her.
"You know, you worry too much Sakura-chan."
Immediately her lips tugged down in a frown and a delicate pink brow ticked in annoyance. "Naruto no baka, it's your fault I have to worry so much." Pulling away, she pointed a finger in the direction of her forehead and said, "You are giving me wrinkles!"
Naruto's grin only widened. "Are you sure? I don't see anything."
Scowling, she moved closer and pointed again while Naruto tipped his head down for his own inspection.
"Ne, Sakura-Chan, I don't see any-…oh wait, what's this?" Believing he had actually found one, Sakura's expression turned horrified, but then warm lips were pressed against her skin briefly before Naruto pulled away with a grin.
"Your forehead is perfect, just like I thought."
At that, Sakura had blushed and mentally cursed herself because of it. This was Naruto. Sure he could be sly, but never to the point where she became so flustered around him. But really, hadn't things changed?
She thought back to the day Naruto had been made Hokage, to the look of pure happiness that had shown on his face. It had been an expression she thought she'd like to see every day. Yet the smile he wore now, the smile he wore for her, was so much more than that. While the other was a smile she liked to see, this, this was a smile she needed to see.
Looking back at Naruto, she saw him fiddling with something in his pocket and looking at spot on the ground. "You know when you are young, and you have one of those significant moments that determine what decisions you make later on?"
Cocking her head to the side, Sakura frowned thoughtfully. "You mean, like when we were in the Forest of Death?"
He thought for a moment, remembering back to the time Sakura had cut her hair and then shook his head. "Close, but I'm thinking even before that, even before academy."
Naruto looked at her with a small smile, while she continued to look quizzical. She didn't really like to think about her childhood, if she could help it. If she thought on it too much, she could still hear the laughter of the other children and their little grubby hands as they hit her forehead.
"Neither of us had the best of childhoods, did we?" she murmured, remembering who he was and what he was known for. She had no trouble realizing no matter how bad she had had it, he had always been worse off.
It was a thought that made her want to demolish a mountain, or if there were no mountains at hand, to pull him close until the past could be safely forgotten once more. Yet she stayed still, because this time it seemed he had something important he needed to say, and she would be patient.
Seeing the girls face begin to turn stormy, Naruto gave a half hearted laugh and scratched the back of his head. "Ah, I guess not, but there were good moments too! Important ones..."
Sakura raised an eyebrow and prodded, "Like what?"
For a moment the man hesitated, his hand trailing into his pocket, his eyes wider than usual as he looked at her. He had felt his mouth immediately dry at her words, but when his hands had brushed the box in his pocket, he somehow found the courage to continue.
"There is a moment I think a lot about…it was the first time someone had ever stood up for me. It was important to me because it gave me a goal and one of the first promises in life I wanted to keep." Pulling a long rectangular box from his pocket, he went on, "I never got to thank this person, but I never forgot what they did, and I've tried the best I could to keep my promises to them."
Naruto looked up from the box he held to Sakura's shocked expression. "Sakura-Chan…I don't know if you remember but…" slowly, he opened the lid of the box and held it out for her to see.
She stared wide eyed down at an orange ribbon, but then something glinted and caught her eye and she saw the ribbon was threaded through a gold ring. It was a simple band, with three small diamonds set into it. It was the only type of ring a ninja could afford to wear, not large, not flashy, but still very beautiful.
After what seemed like hours, Sakura dragged her eyesight back up to his face and uttered a breathless, "N-Naruto?"
"You gave me this ribbon. It was a long time ago, you probably don't remember," he rambled, his nervousness returning as Sakura continued to stare at him with a shocked expression. "I know it doesn't seem like much, but it meant a lot to me at the time…and still does really."
He had seemed to forget all about the glittering piece of gold attached to the ribbon and Sakura could only shake her head in aggravation.
"I remember," she said at last, feeling helpless and anxious all at once. He looked at her, surprised, and she explained, "I hadn't really realized it was you until later…I think I saw it at your apartment once, or maybe it was around your neck? Oh, I can't remember!"
Now Naruto was the stunned one and replied, "You never said anything!"
Giving a sheepish shrug of her shoulders, Sakura defended, "I didn't know what to say, and I gave it to you so it's not like I would ask for it back." Then, suddenly feeling curious, she asked, "Did it really mean that much to you?"
"Of course," he admitted, his eyes softening. "I've kept it close ever since that day."
"Baka, what a silly thing to do," she said, giggling in spite of herself. He was endearing really, without ever trying to be, but that's what made him so lovable. Naruto smiled at her like the goof that he was until Sakura prompted, "So now what are you doing with it?"
At that his face fell and he looked down at the ribbon and then up at Sakura again. "Er, I thought I'd give it back to you and…give you something extra?"
"Is that right?" she deadpanned, trying desperately not to roll her eyes at him. He was trying, she knew, but did he have to be dense now?
Taking the ribbon-necklace concoction out of the box, Naruto moved towards her. "Here, Sakura-Chan, I'll help you tie it around your neck-"
"Oh no you will not!" she exclaimed, motioning for him to stop with a wave of her arms.
He stilled mid-stride and looked at her with a stunned expression. "Wha?!"
Crossing her arms, Sakura stood her ground, green eyes flashing stubbornly. "If this is what I think it is, I'm not about to let you half-ass a proposal!"
"You…wha…how'd you know?" the blonde stuttered, his blue eyes wide and his mouth hanging open.
"I know you better than anyone, Naruto," was her reply, her mouth lifting into a smirk. "It all makes sense now! Why you've been avoiding me…you know you can always go to me if something is bothering you, but this time you couldn't because I was the problem."
"Am I wrong?"
Letting out a sigh, Naruto admitted, "No…"
He was still holding the item out to her, hoping she would accept it, not quite sure what he would do if she didn't.
"Sakura-Chan...you're not mad, are you?" he tried, still confused as she made no move towards him.
"Baka! I'm not mad…yet," she added warningly. "I'm waiting for you to get it together." Turning on her heel, she faced away from him and shot over her shoulder, "Just tell me when you are ready."
Naruto studied her back for a moment and then took a deep breath. He was scared, probably more so than he had ever been before, but she hadn't rejected him yet and he took that as a good sign. When he had bought the ring, he hadn't been sure how he wanted to give it to her. Well, in his heart he knew what he wanted, but he was afraid of what she might think. So he had made a compromise, by adding the ribbon, and hoping she understood how much it meant to him, and she could wear it until the day came when he was sure she would accept. If that day ever did come, that is…
But her reaction had surprised him and somehow, he supposed, she had understood his thought process and hadn't been too happy with his plan. Now she was giving him another chance, one he would not mess up. He couldn't afford to; this was something his whole life had been building up to.
He was Hokage, he had a village to look after, but, when he was looking out for everyone else who would look out for him? Naruto needed Sakura, but somehow, without him realizing it, he already had her.
The Rokudaime lowered himself, finally finding the courage that was always there ready to be called on.
"Haruno Sakura," he spoke, his voice strong and unwavering, his eyes reflecting his resolve.
Sakura turned to find a completely different person than before. This was no longer the nervous confused Naruto she had met with, but instead the leader of Konoha, the Rokudaime, keeper of the Kyuubi, and the strongest man that she knew. Even more, he had humbled himself before her as he knelt on one knee, his way of saying she would come first.
Then as suddenly as Naruto had changed, so did Sakura. She was no longer the tough shinobi who carefully masked her emotions. Suddenly she was just a girl, tears welling in her eyes and fingers trembling at her sides.
"I made a promise, years ago, that I would always protect you and make sure you were happy, and I hope you might be happy with me, Sakura-chan." Gently he reached out and surrounded her hand with his. "Will you mar-…oof!"
The tense moment that had been slowly building up was suddenly broken as Naruto found a sobbing Sakura flung at him.
"S-Sakura-chan! Um, I think you missed the punch line," he chuckled, holding the girl with one arm while making sure not to drop the ring. Sakura, who had her face nestled against a shoulder, curled her fingers into his jacket and mumbled something.
"Eh? What was that?"
Pulling away, Sakura rubbed her eyes, feeling embarrassed and thrilled all at once. She looked up to where Naruto was seated on the ground, his Hokage robes jumbled, and then thought about how she must look and just laughed. Soon Naruto had joined her as the two tried to pick themselves up. Once standing, Sakura moved to fix his robes as Naruto reached over to smooth down her hair. They made an odd pair, she knew, but it worked, even before they had realized it.
The girl who had been teased endlessly and the boy who was shunned smiled at each other. The girl whose forehead may or may not have been overly sized held out her hand and the boy who may or may not have been a demon took it. A ring was slid onto a finger, a tear slid down a cheek, but two smiles remained.
Naruto drew her in and leaned down until their noses touched. "I take it that was a yes."
"You took long enough asking." Sakura's green eyes flickered with humor as her lips curled up.
Naruto kissed her nose and replied, "A Hokage can't just rush into things, Sakura-chan."
With a roll of her eyes, Sakura pulled his face down to meet hers. "When do you ever take your time?"
"Hm, good point…"
Sakura smiled as their lips met, one hand moving to thread itself in spiky blonde hair as she felt Naruto's hand cup the back of her head.
The moment that had been waiting to happen ever since two hearts touched all those years ago finally came into motion, while the ribbon that had connected the two remained forgotten in a pocket.
Sometime later, when Naruto found it again, he offered it to Sakura. "It was yours to begin with; you just kind of lent it to me."
She had smiled, green eyes twinkling and shook her head. "It's yours Naruto," she said, curling his fingers around the orange fabric once more. "So even when I'm not around you will remember we have this special connection."
And he had kept it, the reminder of his promise and of that fateful day when two children found an everlasting kindredship in each other.
A/N:Sniffs: I can't believe something I wrote almost made me cry! This was written while listening to a lot of very old romantic music..thus the extra sugary coated fluff. Ah well, its done and I'm happy with it, even if it might cause a minor stomach ache.
Special thanks to Dasdeke for sticking with me and betaing this chapter for me. Thanks for always cheering me on!
Hm, not much more to say here, so hope you enjoyed it and thanks for reading!