Well, here we are: the last chapter. Really, I can't thank you all enough for your 700+ reviews for this story. Never in a millions years did I imagine I'd get so many when I sat down to write the prologue, especially after 'Rogue' went absolutely nowhere. I really appreciate everyone's kind thoughts and criticisms for this story. I know a lot of you are clamoring for a sequel, but for right now I think I might want to profile the group and their adventure to face the Akatsuki. I'll just see what I come up with.
I won't keep you waiting any further; here's the last chapter of Fallen.
Last time had been like a dream to me. I'd dismissed it as a dream for months until I had to face my pregnancy. Now, it was very real to me.
Maybe I knew all along what his intentions were, coming here so late at night. But still, I was shaking when he started to touch me.
His touch didn't revolt me, but some part of me couldn't quite forget what he did. I flinched more than once and sometimes I was overcome with panic. It didn't help that he was being as gentle as he was back then.
I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to be calm. This was different. I wasn't drugged and Sasuke wasn't acting under orders. I love him and now I was sure he loved me…well, as much as he could love someone. This was fine.
The panic started to ebb, but as our intimacy deepened so did my body's urge to flee. It would seem that this unforgivable act by Sasuke would remain unforgiven somehow. My mind and my heart forgave him, but my body…
A hand smoothed across my face. "Are you okay, Sakura?"
I opened my eyes and stared up at him. Despite my panic, it felt good to see cracks in his cold mask. His eyes were clouded over, but he looked both concerned and embarrassed. So unlike the Sasuke I knew, but it was still amusing.
Even so, I couldn't say the words and just forced myself to nod.
He pulled away from me then and sat up. "This was a mistake. I shouldn't have come here for this. There's no changing what I did to you."
Surprisingly, I didn't feel relieved at this. The panic started fading rapidly and it was replaced with an irritation. I found my voice as I sat up. "Really, Sasuke-kun. I'm okay. I don't mind, really."
Sasuke laughed sourly. "You were always a bad liar, Sakura."
My shoulders slumped and I sighed heavily. "Yeah…I guess so…"
Sasuke laughed again, but this time it was void of sarcasm. He seemed genuinely amused. He must've seen my confused face and quickly sobered up. "I was just remembering something Kakashi said once, that you'd believe most anything I said."
I pressed a hand to my face. "So now I'm returning to adolescence?! That's just wonderful!!!"
"Well, I didn't mean that, but…"
It was becoming even more awkward for us. Thankfully, that seemed to be the incentive to finally calm me down. When I took hold of his hand, none of the panic resurfaced. "I'm all right, Sakura-kun. Really, I am."
He looked down at where I held his hand for a long moment, not saying anything. I didn't know what he was thinking (as usual) but I wanted him to know I was being sincere.
Then he smiled. Or…at least I thought he smiled. "…Okay, Sakura. I'll trust you on this."
I didn't say anything more; I didn't need to. I leaned forward and kissed him.
I woke up alone. But that wasn't the reason I woke up to begin with. A feeling came over me. It was cold and horrible, and it was strongly foreboding.
Only one thought came to my mind: Naruto!!!
I quickly dressed and raced to the door leading to the garden. I cried out as I saw Sasuke standing there, his body stiff. It was still the middle of the night.
He glanced at me briefly. "So you feel it to?"
"Naruto—" I said before choking up.
Sasuke nodded grimly. "Yeah, it's Naruto."
"B-But what's going on?! It must be something really bad if we can both feel it!!!" Even with all my own tragedies did I never feel anything like this, not even when my parents died.
Sasuke ducked his head. "I don't know. That seal was still weak. He must've…tck…" he gritted his teeth.
Sasuke's behavior terrified me. The energy left me and I fell to my knees. "What…what can we do?"
"What do you want to do, Sakura?! Just up and leave the village searching blindly?! I'm condemned and you're on maternity leave!!!"
"But—" tears stung my eyes and my throat tightened. "But Naruto…he's our teammate!!!! He's our friend!!! We can't just…" I couldn't finish.
"I know, Sakura. I know." Sasuke's voice was full of pain. It tore at my heart.
He turned to face me and knelt down in front of me. He brushed a hand over my face. "Just calm down. I'll go see the Hokage and out what's going on."
I simply nodded and he was gone in a flash. It was unbelievable just how much things changed in a matter of hours. We went from arguing to sleeping together and from that…
Somehow, I dragged myself to my feet and left the garden. I wandered through the house in a daze, my chest feeling close to caving in. It wasn't long before I ended up in Tsubaki's room.
She was fast asleep, oblivious as usual. I didn't touch her for fear of waking her up. I leaned over the rail of her crib and watched her sleep and tried not to think of the worst.
You can't make it, Naruto!! You're not allowed to die!!!
Then it happened. Just as suddenly did the feeling arrive, it was gone. The chills, the fear…gone.
But I didn't feel better. I felt worse, in fact. Where the fear and other feelings were now felt like a void. The feeling was…empty. Empty. Right then, I couldn't help but think the worst.
"Gone." The words were very painful to say. "He's gone…"
I didn't want to think of Naruto dead. But now I felt so horrible and desolate, and…
"Oh no…" I felt sick. I stumbled backwards away from the crib until my back slapped the wall behind me hard. I started hyperventilating as I slid to the floor.
"I'm gonna be the greatest Hokage ever!!!"
"Don't you worry!!! I'll make it back safe!!!"
I shoved a fist into my mouth to muffle my scream, but I was still hysterical. I squeezed my eyes shut and my whole body shook violently. Oh, why wasn't I nicer to him? Why didn't I give him a proper goodbye? And the others…what happened to them?
A hand touched my shoulder. "Sakura."
My head snapped around to see Sasuke. His face was more relaxed now, though strangely neutral. Wasn't he feeling the loss?
He continued. "I spoke with Hokage. Something big happened, but they don't know what it was. What we felt was a great deal of energy, so powerful that we could sense it all the way here. The whole village is in an uproar, wanting to know what happened."
"S-Sasuke-kun—" I stammered.
"Faith," he interrupted.
"Nobody knows what happened. We'll know when we get word. But we have to have faith. Naruto's not the kind of guy who would leave us."
I swallowed thickly, wanting to believe his words. I wanted to believe Naruto was all right, but was that enough to save him?
Sasuke seemed to hear my thoughts. He gave my shoulder a tight squeeze. "He WILL come back!!! He swore he would!!! And he NEVER breaks his promises!!!!"
"I never go back on my word!!! That's my ninja way!!!"
I managed a small smile. Yes, Naruto and his reckless promises. But no matter what, he always sought to keep them. "Yeah…Naruto promised. He'll come back to us." He has to come back!!
Sasuke walked over to the crib and looked over Tsubaki. "We'll need this faith for when he does come back. I have a feeling he'll need a lot of our support."
We didn't get any word that first day or even the second or third. The wait's always a killer and I didn't even know what to wait for. But I could feel the tension throughout Konoha.
It really sucked to be out of the loop. Maybe that's why everyone strived to be the best ninja here.
I tried to remain hopeful, but it was hard when we knew nothing of what happened. I kept myself preoccupied with Tsubaki, but a baby can only take you so far. Once she fell asleep, all the fears returned.
It was almost a week before some…news got to our village. And it was big news: the Akatsuki was gone. Completely.
It could've easily been a rumor, and no one in Konoha was taking it seriously. It gave me some hope about Naruto and the others, though.
I saw very little of Sasuke during this time. The few times I did see him he looked angry and he didn't want to talk. He spent a lot of time with Tsunade both during his job and after, no doubt trying to find out what happened. Even so, I wanted to see him again. Very little had changed between us, to my growing frustration. I knew he had a lot to take care of, but I still wanted to see him.
When I finally did see him, it was a day after the Akatsuki rumor started circulating around Konoha and he seemed to have heard the rumors too. He definitely looked more relaxed and less angry.
I was still surprised to see him, though. "Sasuke-kun!!! Is something wrong?"
Sasuke shook his head. "I'm just here to visit."
I blinked at this. "But Sasuke-kun, you visit with Tsubaki on—"
"No." Sasuke's lips quirked up and he wasn't looking directly at me. He almost seemed…shy. "No, I…I'm here to visit you, Sakura."
My jaw dropped and my heart started racing. Visiting me? Sasuke?
I smiled shyly as well. "Come in, then."
Sure, this was pretty surprising. But who am I to complain?
That wasn't the last time Sasuke came to…visit me. Often he gave the excuse to see Tsubaki as a reason to come by. I wanted to think he came to see me because he really did care about me. He hadn't really visited with me personally before, after all.
The visits started increasing though, even as we waited for more news. Sasuke ended up spending the nights here at the house a lot more often. I knew the place still disturbed him, but he began getting more comfortable here especially with Tsubaki and me around.
It was almost three weeks later, still getting very little news, did I pose the big question. "Why don't you move back here, Sasuke-kun?"
Sasuke quickly went stiff. "Move back? Why?"
I shrugged. "Well, you're sleeping here more than at your apartment."
"…I like my apartment."
I rolled my eyes at him. "Probably. But you still come here pretty often."
"Sakura…" he didn't look at me directly. "My family—"
"Was killed here, I know it. Do you think it's any less creepy for me, living here? But you've gotten past your demons enough to spend a lot of time here. Why not think about it?"
He was silent for a long moment before he responded. "…I'll think about it."
Sasuke thought about it for two days. I woke up one morning to hear a knock at the front door. When I answered it, he was standing there with two duffle bags slung over his shoulders.
"I just hope I don't regret this," he said solemnly.
I couldn't hide my smile. "Don't worry; we'll make sure you don't."
And so we progressed; Sasuke, Tsubaki and I were all living under the same roof almost like a family. Well…through Tsubaki we were a family. Even though Sasuke and I…I knew he cared about me. Maybe I was expecting more out of him in terms of a relationship. It was frustrating, but at the same time I didn't want to feel like I was pressuring him into doing something he didn't want to do.
I don't think I'm making any sense.
Of course, this couldn't be kept between us. Very quickly Konoha found out about Sasuke's move; I guess the last Uchiha heir returning home was a big deal. I'm sure most of the talk was negative and often I heard a lot of silence when I went shopping, but nobody bothered me or challenged me directly over this.
Except, of course, Tsunade.
"Has Sasuke moved into your house?" she asked me abruptly.
I looked at a medical sheet in front of me, not really looking at her. "Yeah. What about it?"
Tsunade made a noise that either sounded like a scoff or laughter. "It looks like you sorted out your issues, although you're still the topic of gossip."
"I don't care. The village is probably looking for something else to talk about other than…" even then talking about the Akatsuki mission was painful.
"…It should interest you to know that the preliminary rumors we heard about the Akatsuki are true."
I dropped my paperwork and grabbed her shoulders. "WHAT?! The Akatsuki is really gone?!"
"As far as we know, yes. We've only heard back from a few groups and they all say the same thing."
I was so excited about this. Sasuke was living with me and the Akatsuki was gone!!!
I wanted to know more. "How about Naruto—"
Tsunade quickly shook her head. "We've heard nothing from his team yet."
Disappointment washed over me, but it gave me some hope. No news was good news, right? We would've heard about it, right?
I was giddy the rest of the day. I skipped home, humming a tune to myself. It felt wonderful to know the greatest threats to our village was gone. Sound, the Akatsuki…maybe we could live in peace for a little while.
When I got home I saw Sasuke playing with Tsubaki in the garden. It was amazing how much babies grow. Tsubaki couldn't walk yet, but she had plenty of energy to get around places.
I quickly rushed over to them. "Sasuke-kun!! The Akatsuki—"
"Are gone, I know," said Sasuke, his eyes on Tsubaki. "I heard Hokage talking about it this morning."
I took a seat next to him. "This means our friends will be returning soon!!"
"Yeah, that's true." Sasuke had a peculiar way of playing with Tsubaki. It was almost like a cat-and-mouse game.
It was almost like… "Oh, is this training?"
"No." Sasuke's answer was abrupt and harsh, taking me off-guard.
"I'm not training her." His voice was calming her. "I don't intend to ever train her."
"Not train her?" I asked incredulously. "You don't want her to be a ninja?!"
"I never said that; I just said I don't want to train her. I'll leave her training up to you."
"But…" I fidgeted slightly. "But I can't teach her any of the Uchiha Kekkei Genkai techniques, only you can."
Sasuke paused slightly. He seemed to be pondering his words. Even so, when he did speak again it was shocking. "I've been thinking a lot lately. And I…Itachi may have had a point."
"EH?!" I cried. "You're still following his words?!"
Sasuke glared at me. "I don't condone anything he's done. He's a lying murderer and I still regret I never got to kill him!!!"
"S-Sasuke-kun…" I stunned beyond belief. I'd thought Sasuke was getting better. But he still held onto all that hate.
He calmed down considerably and continued. "But…some of what he said was true. The Uchihas are bred specifically for death and in doing so we destroy ourselves."
"Every knew technique we learn, we grow stronger but our lives shorten. I can tell you already that you're going to outlive me, Sakura."
I didn't like what he was saying. It made me want to cry and even hit him.
But he continued. "I don't want that for Tsubaki. I don't want that for anyone else."
"So…" I swallowed before I continued. "So you don't intend to train her or teach her anything? At all?"
"…Itachi murdered my whole family to get rid of this death curse. I hate to admit it, but he had a point. But I don't intend to kill our daughter or take my own life. I'm the only surviving Uchiha who knows my family's secrets and techniques…and I intend to keep it that way.
"I'm not saying I'll never teach her anything. But she'll never learn any of the Uchiha genjutsus, not if I can help it. Those will die with me."
What he was saying was really heavy. Even now he was complying with Itachi's will. Though…this was practical. I didn't know everything about the Uchihas, but Sasuke must be telling the truth if each new technique shortened your lifespan. Why would I ever want that for Tsubaki?
If he intended to do this, never pass down how to learn them, then in a sense the Uchihas really would die off…in technique at least.
"All right," I said finally. "I understand. And you're right; I don't ever want her in that position. It's better this way."
He nodded mutely. We sat there in the garden for a long time in silence, playing with Tsubaki. Even with my big mouth it was hard to talk to Sasuke. After such a powerful discussion, I couldn't think of anything else to say. It all seemed so awkward.
It was Sasuke who spoke again. And as usual what he had to say surprised me.
"Do you want to get married?"
I nearly swallowed my tongue. I did several double takes and fell over. I couldn't believe my ears. Did he really ask that?! Marriage?! Me?! Together?! Oh my God!!!!
For a moment, I thought he was joking or even that I was really imagining things. He hadn't been looking at me when…I heard that. But he waited patiently and quietly for me to collect myself. When I did, I barely had the words to speak. "What…what did you say, Sasuke-kun?!"
Sasuke glanced at me. "Marriage. Do you want to marry me?"
"Uh—uh—" This wasn't real, was it? I was probably still in my room asleep or even at work asleep. Sasuke was proposing to ME
He looked back at Tsubaki. "Well…it would make sense, right? We have a child together. We live together. We even…" he faltered. It was like he was embarrassed. It wasn't any Sasuke I was use to.
That fear welled up in me again. I grabbed his arm. "Are you really Sasuke-kun?"
He scoffed in exasperation. "Sakura, how many times do we have to do this?! Yes, I'm Sasuke!!"
"Why did Tsubaki start crying last night?"
Sasuke glared at me, clearly annoyed. "Because she had an upset stomach and made a total mess out of her diaper. That's not something I could easily forget, right?!"
Tears leapt into my eyes and my heart was beating really fast. Jubilation overcame me and I hugged him tightly. "Sasuke-kun!!! Do you really mean it?!"
"Would I ask if I didn't?"
"Do you…you must—"
"…I think you already know the answer to that, Sakura."
It was too good to be true. Indeed, my future dream was coming true, as it had been in the past few weeks. Sasuke was here with me!!! He wanted to marry me!!!
But…something didn't feel complete. I was happy, yes. However, I knew we couldn't just get married like that.
I pulled away from him and looked him in the eyes. "Yes. I want to marry you, Sasuke-kun. But not until we tell Naruto."
Sasuke looked confused for a second before he managed a smile. "All right, that sounds reasonable. He'll be returning soon, after all."
I nodded. "Yeah. We'll tell him and then we'll get married." I now had renewed hope for Naruto to return. Even though I wanted to marry Sasuke, I wouldn't until our friend made it home safe. And deep down…I wanted his approval on this.
A week later, the Akatsuki teams started returning to Konoha. All of them looked worn out and scathed, but many were alive. A lot of teams were lacking members and we didn't need to ask to know that a lot of people died. But it was good to see them home.
Still…we didn't see Naruto's group with these teams. And we didn't hear anything directly from the others; nobody said a word. I knew some of them must've known something, but they weren't talking. Whatever they had to say, they told Tsunade directly.
Finally, I saw a familiar face in these groups: Kakashi.
"Kakashi-sensei!!!" I completely forgot myself and threw my arms around him.
"Ah—ow, Sakura!!" Kakashi looked all right, but his left arm was in a sling. "Calm down!!"
"Kakashi," said Sasuke evenly, getting right to the point. "Do you know about Naruto?"
Kakashi's face twisted up in what looked like confusion. "You mean…you don't know?"
"Know what?!" I demanded.
But Kakashi quickly looked cheerful. "Ah, it sure is good to be home!!!"
"KNOW WHAT?!?!" Both Sasuke and I yelled.
Kakashi gave us a surprised look. "Speaking in unison now? My, you two are pretty close now!!!"
"Yeah, we're getting married when the others return," I said neutrally, folding my arms over my chest.
Now Kakashi looked REALLY shocked. "M-Married?! The two of you?!"
"Yeah," said Sasuke off-handedly.
Kakashi seemed to ponder this and a sinking feeling grew from the pit of my stomach. What if he didn't approve? He was our teacher, after all. I'd hate for him to be disappointed.
But my fears were put to rest as he hugged the both of us tightly. "Ah, my two students are wedding!!! I feel so old, being single and unwed while my precious students raise a child and marry each other!!!"
"Um, okay?" I said in confusion, awkwardly hugging him back.
Seeing Kakashi was uplifting, but we didn't see anything of our friends. And Kakashi's comment didn't make me feel any better.
"You mean…you don't know?"
"Why didn't he just tell us what he knew?!" I demanded, kicking the stove in frustration. "How are we suppose to interpret what he said?!"
"I don't think it's bad news," said Sasuke. "He would've told us if it was. But it must be pretty big if nobody's saying anything."
I sighed heavily. "This is becoming too much for me. I don't want to be this stressed forever. I just want somebody to tell us our friends are all right. That Naruto's all right. Just…anything."
Sasuke came over to me and slid an arm around my shoulders. Perhaps with our close intimacy and our upcoming marriage he was becoming more comfortable around me. I couldn't get him to really initiate any hugs, though. "They'll be fine, I just know it. None of them are quitters, especially Naruto. They'll come home to us and we'll tell them about our wedding and half of them will hate us. But they'll come home."
I nodded. "They'll come home."
Thankfully, we didn't have much longer to wait. Less than a week later we got word that Naruto's group was coming home. A few ninja (including Kakashi) went out to help them home safely. It turned out to be a good idea, as they were all home less than two days later.
Sasuke literally pulled me off my floor at work and told me the news. We left Tsubaki in the care of the hospital nursery and ran as fast as we could for the main gate.
The main gate was swamped with people, many of them cheering or crying or reacting in some way. I pushed down my fear and made my way through, trying to count all the familiar faces.
I saw several of them almost immediately, like Ino and her team. I couldn't help myself; I ran over and hugged all three of them, even though I was looking for Naruto. "You're all right!!"
Ino laughed, which made me feel even better. "Of course we're all right!!"
"Please don't hug me again," grumbled Shikamaru.
"I'm sooooooo hungry!!!" whined Chouji. "Where can I get some food?!"
"Is Naruto okay?" I asked suddenly.
"Oh, um…" Ino's face changed. "Naruto…"
I was about to become hysterical when I felt a tug on my arm. "Naruto's over here. He's alive."
"REALLY?!?!" I screamed, quickly overcome with joy. Sasuke hurriedly pulled me towards a group of medic-nin and ANBU. A few ANBU seemed to be looking directly at Sasuke, but they let us pass.
Naruto was being gently lowered onto a stretcher by Kakashi, Sai, Lee, and Yamato. His eyes were partially open, but his bare chest rose and fell in shallow breaths. Why was his chest bare? Where was his jacket?
But that didn't matter. He was alive!! ALIVE!!!!
"NARUTO!!!!" I shrieked, startling a few people next to me. I pushed past Sai and jumped on him, throwing my arms around his shoulders. "Oh Naruto!! You're here!!! You're home!!!"
"H-h…hey…" his soft mumble in my ear was almost painful to listen to, but I was too happy to care.
"Careful now," said Kakashi, pulling me away. "He's still very weak."
"Ugly still has a narrow scope of vision," scoffed Sai behind me. I ignored him.
"Naruto…" I ruffled his hair gently. "You kept your promise. We were so worried about you…"
"…Sorry," he mumbled. "Got a little…" he trailed off slightly and then continued. "Where—"
A hushed silence swept through the crowd. I glanced up to see various members of the Hyuuga clan walk straight through the crowd without hassle. Another thought leapt to mind. "Is Hinata-san all right?"
"Hopefully," said Kakashi. "Neji said she wasn't too good, either."
I glanced down at Naruto, in his weak state. Wasn't too good, either? What did that mean?! Was Hinata like Naruto? "What exactly happened?"
"I think that's best left for later," said Kakashi grimly, watching the Hyuugas.
"But…I don't understand!!" I looked towards the front to see Hiashi, Hinata's father. He came to a stop and someone went to meet him. Neji. Augh, they were too far away!!! What the hell was going on?!
A hand batted my arm. "Hey…call the old man…"
"Old man?" I looked at Naruto. "You mean Jiraiya-sama? I don't see him—"
"No," said Naruto, his weak tone now harsh. "The Hyuuga…call him…"
"Hiashi-sama?! Hinata-san's father?!" I glanced back in Hiashi's direction. How exactly was I suppose to accomplish this?! I couldn't just walk up to the guy making demands!!!
Naruto started gulping for air. The medic-nin in me took over and I searched around frantically for an oxygen mask. "C'mon Naruto, take it easy—"
"OLD MAN!!!!!" he shouted as loud as he could.
Now there was dead silence across the crowd and people turned to look at us. But Naruto's yell was pretty vague, right? Nobody should know who he was addressing, right?
I looked up and saw that Hiashi and the other Hyuugas were looking directly at us. He said something to Neji and started towards us.
"Well, you got his attention all right," I snapped, not bothering to hide the irritation in my voice. I just wished I knew what was going on!!!
Hiashi reached us in no time flat. He stared down at Naruto with a neutral expression on his face. I wasn't use to seeing him up close, but I could see both Hinata and Neji's resemblance in him. "I'm here. What do you want?"
Naruto reached towards the man with a shaking hand. I didn't know where he was getting this energy from. Was it the nine-tailed fox? Oh, I hate being out of the loop!!!
He flimsily grabbed the edge of Hiashi's sleeve. Hiashi didn't move away, but he didn't look pleased either.
Naruto managed a weak intimidating glare and said, "Hinata…she saved me…us all…if you…if you put the seal…because of her heart…I'll come after you…"
I glanced between the two of them, unsure of what to do. Nobody around me seemed sure of what to do either.
But I thought it was interesting, Naruto threatening the head of the Hyuuga clan. Not that he ever had any respect for leaders anyways. But what was this about Hinata saving him? And he was defending her? Very interesting.
Finally, Hiashi spoke. "Is that all?"
"Yeah…I'll be Hokage, and…" Naruto past out, his arm going limp. Hiashi stared at his unconscious body for a short while longer before walking away.
"We should get him to the hospital," said Kakashi. "You can talk to him later."
"Right," I said evenly.
"…I think I'll go with Naruto to the hospital," said Sasuke. "Do you want to come?"
"Um…not yet." I glanced back at where Neji was. "I wanna check with everyone else."
"All right, then." We went our separate ways. As I headed towards Neji, the crowd dove aside. I had to dive aside too as medic-nin rushed by with Hinata on a stretcher, her teammates close behind. I only got a brief glimpse at her, but her forehead was bare. Things looked good so far.
I quickly headed over to Neji's group. Lee was immediately alert when he saw me. "Sakura-san!!!"
"I'm so glad to see you guys all right!!!" I cried, giving him a hug. Truthfully, I was almost euphoric. Not only was Naruto alive, but it looked like everyone else was alive too. "You had us worried there for a while."
"I am sorry we caused you such worry, Sakura-san!! But I assure you by my duty as a ninja I will never seek to make you so worried again!!!" Lee struck a dramatic pose.
Tenten burst out laughing and Neji simply looked away. I noticed his right hand was wrapped up. "Are you okay, Neji-san?"
"Of course I am," he said evenly. "But Hinata-sama's needs are more vital and important at the moment."
"Neji, that bastard broke every bone in your hand!!" exclaimed Tenten. "Just go to the hospital already, damn it!!"
Neji sighed heavily. "Sakura, my only worries on this mission is this sort of whining that's plague me the past few weeks."
"You broke your hand a few weeks ago!!! Think of infections, possible amputations—"
"If I go, will you promise to be quiet?"
"If that'll get your ass moving, yes!!!"
"Fine, then." He turned to me. "If you'll excuse me…" then he went off.
"Neji-san is really not too bad off," said Lee. "Most of his broken bones have been reset. And he does speak truth; Naruto-san and Hinata-san are in far worse conditions at the moment."
I didn't bother asking what happened, since I expected some answer later. I addressed Tenten. "Well Tenten-san, you seem to be getting along better with Neji-san."
"Um…" Tenten's whole face turned red. "Y-Yeah. I guess so…I must go to the hospital too!!!" she rushed off.
"It has been strange," said Lee in a grim tone. "For a long time Neji-san and Tenten-san spoke very little on the mission. Then when we ran into problems, they became normal again. When Neji-san broke his hand, Tenten-san saved him. And since then…they have been most strange."
I burst out laughing. So things seemed to be working out for Tenten!! I couldn't be happier for her!!!
Lee gave me a confused look. "Why do you laugh, Sakura-san?"
"No reason." I looped my arm through his. "Would you like to see Tsubaki?"
"Of course I would!!!"
It was Kakashi who gave me the information I needed. And as usual, he was abrupt and to the point. "We all made it to that village relatively quickly and all-hell broke loose. We secreted in a message to the villagers to evacuate, but many stayed behind. Most of who did ended up getting killed.
"Perhaps by some Deus ex Machina—or a sick joke—Naruto ended up facing Pein. As you can imagine it was a very one-sided fight. But we all know what Pein and his group were seeking from Naruto anyways; the nine-tailed fox. So Pein did quite a number on Naruto and…voluntarily broke the seal. I suppose Pein thought extracting the fox would be like with Shukaku. Only…the nine-tailed fox didn't want to budge, especially not to be some pawn. And so…it completely possessed Naruto.
"We don't know what happened to Pein, but even if he's not dead that fox fire will knock him out of commission for a while. Naruto at that point lost all sense of himself and was creating a lot of hell. The whole village was destroyed. He was angry and the fox was feeding on his anger, egging him on. We figured we had to calm him down and put about a million seals on him. The only problem was, we couldn't get close to him through his whirlwind and his fire, and none of us could really see him in all that chaos. It was the Hyuugas who spotted Naruto's chakra with that…mess and so it was decided one of them had to go in and get him. But since Neji's hand was severely broken, Hinata was the only one who could.
"Thankfully, by this time some Sand ninja arrived, including the Godaime Kazekage. He offered to give Hinata a sand shield and I used my Sharingan as much as I could to foresee any attacks. It took a long time, but Hinata reached him. We don't know how she calmed him down, but it was enough to get a lot of us in there and place a whole bunch of seals on him. Unfortunately, Hinata suffered a mild heart attack, although apparently Neji has been stimulating her chakra networks all the way home. After this…mess, we ended up getting separated and everyone so injured accounts for why it took them all so long to get home. I guess we can thank the fact that though the nine-tailed fox is evil and destructive, it doesn't exactly want to part with Naruto at the moment. And Hinata seems to be doing all right now, though I heard the medic-nin say she might need to retire.
"And…there you have it."
I nodded mutely. "Okay…"
I left Kakashi and retrieved Tsubaki from the nursery. Then I went looking for Naruto's room. His room was under heavy guard again, but nobody said a word as I went into the room. Sasuke was seated next to the bed and Naruto still looked pretty weak.
Sasuke glanced at me as I took a seat. "Did you find out what you wanted?"
"Yeah," I said evenly. "How are you doing, Naruto?"
Naruto managed a feebly one-up. "Heh…I bet people are pissed…"
"You killed the leader of the Akatsuki and single-handedly destroyed their headquarters," said Sasuke. "Yeah, our village is mighty pissed at you."
Naruto managed a laugh. "Well…I don't mind the credit…"
I laughed loudly. "If anyone hassles you, just call me!! I'll hassle them right back!!!"
Naruto smiled toothily at me. "Thanks, Sakura-chan…"
An awkward silence swept the room. Naruto seemed particularly uncomfortable with us. I think he could sense something different between Sasuke and me. If that were the case, I couldn't tell what he was thinking.
"Um—" I began.
"I've asked Sakura to marry me," interjected Sasuke. He paused as though waiting for a blow. Naruto simply stared back at him, so he continued. "She agreed, but she wanted to tell you before we did anything."
Naruto was silent for a long time. He looked away from us and my chest tightened. For the way I flaunted my feelings for Sasuke in his face all these years without any regard for his feelings, it had to be tough.
Maybe it wouldn't be so hard if he said something or screamed at us. But he remained calm and collected and that made me feel worse.
It was a very long time before he said anything. "I understand. You're the one she loves, after all. So you're the only one who can make her happy."
I choked at his hurt tone of voice. I hated seeing him like this, especially in his condition. But we had to tell him.
Naruto turned his head and stared straight at Sasuke. He didn't look at me. "I get it. As long as you two make each other happy—well, as long as you make her happy—then I'm cool with it."
I was relieved beyond words. I jumped to my feet and grabbed Naruto's hand. "Thank you so much, Naruto!!!"
"But!!!" he snapped suddenly, glaring daggers at Sasuke. "If you hit her or make her unhappy, I'm comin' after you. And you can bet Fuzzy Brows will do the same."
"Is that really necessary?" I demanded, letting go of his hand. "Making threats like that? And in the presence of our daughter?"
"Okay," said Sasuke. "I hear ya. I wouldn't want two guys to have a vendetta against me."
"THAT'S THE ONLY REASON YOU AGREE?!?!" I screamed, startling Tsubaki.
Naruto and Sasuke laughed at this.
"We're getting married."
It's almost automatic when you get use to the idea yourself. After telling Naruto and getting his approval, I told Sasuke we had to go around and tell everyone else about it too. He agreed, although he warned me not a lot of people would be happy about it.
He was right, as usual.
"That's wonderful!!!!" cried Tenten, throwing her arms around me.
"Didn't he rape you?" asked Kiba.
"You thieving bitch!!!" yelled Ino, though I was sure she was joking. I think.
"Well that's practical," said Shikamaru. "You two already have a kid together."
"Cool," said Shino.
"If you ever hurt Sakura-san in any way, I will avenge her with a furious vengeance!!!" roared Lee.
"Will your wedding have food?!" demanded Chouji.
"Sasuke," said Sai. "I respect you as a genius and master ex-ninja. But…you have positively the worst tastes in women."
"Congratulations," said Yamato.
"Will you rebuild the house of Uchiha with new heirs?" asked Neji.
We went to see Hinata last, and though she was conscious she looked even weaker than Naruto. And her forehead was still bare. Was Hiashi taking his threat seriously or was there ever need for a threat to begin with?
"Oh…" she said softly, smiling weakly. "I'm s-so happy for you, Sakura-san. I hope you'll b-be happy."
"Thank you," I said, taking hold of her hand. "For your words and for saving Naruto's life."
Hinata diverted her eyes. "I…I didn't want him to die…"
"He understands that and he's very grateful."
Her whole face lit up. "R-Really?"
"Yeah. Also…" I sobered up a little. "I heard about your heart. Are they going to make you retire?"
Hinata's face fell. She briefly looked away. "…They can't give a Hyuuga a direct order, but I know they told my father they would not recommend me for ninja duty anymore. It…now I know my position in the family. And I know what my father must do."
"Don't say that!!" I said, fearfully thinking of the Hyuuga seal. "You can still be heir even with a poor heart!!!"
"I…I almost died several times because of it. I'm not…for leading—"
"Naruto wouldn't stand for it!! Do you know he threatened your father?"
Hinata's eyes went wide. "What?"
"Yeah, he threatened him not to put the seal on you!! And I don't see it on you now!!! Besides, do you know for a fact that your father will do that to you? Has he said he'll do it? And even if he intended to, wouldn't he have done that much sooner than now?!"
Hinata seemed to not have heard me, though. Her eyes were glazed over. "Naruto-kun…he…oh my…"
The hospital door opened. "Sorry to intrude, but I have a delivery!"
"Iruka-sensei!!" I jumped up to greet him.
"Hello Sakura! Hello Tsubaki!!" he leaned down to greet her. Then he straightened and glanced at Sasuke. "Hello Sasuke."
"Hello," said Sasuke.
Iruka turned to Hinata. I realized he was carrying a large bento box. "Well Hinata, I got an insistent call from one of my students to buy you a treat!! He said it would make you feel better!! Here, I'll set it aside until you have enough strength to eat." He moved to put it on a side table.
"No…" Hinata struggled into a sitting position. I handed Tsubaki to Sasuke and helped her sit up properly. She pulled her dinner tray to her. "I'll eat it now. Please…bring it here."
"Okay." Iruka put the box on the table and opened it. I was suddenly struck by the aroma of ramen and a smile crept to my face.
I didn't know if Hinata was a fan of ramen, but she looked so happy to see the ramen bowl. Tears even leapt into her eyes as she surveyed it. "Oh…wow…"
"You see?" I said smugly, patting her on the shoulder. "Naruto really does appreciate what you did."
"Eh?" asked Iruka. "How did you know Naruto requested this?"
We all shared a laugh.
And so we told all our friends. And through them the news spread across the village. The Uchiha and Haruno (though my family name held lesser significance) would wed soon.
But…as we expected, not a lot of people were in favor of our marriage. Even our friends were a little iffy on the subject, preferring to not talk about it at all. I didn't see why it was so taboo. I forgave Sasuke for what he did and Sasuke was forgiven by Tsunade herself. Wasn't that enough?
I guessed not. Now everyone stared at me when I went out. They whispered amongst themselves and openly pointed at Tsubaki and me. It was worse when it was Sasuke, Tsubaki and I out together even if that was rare. Not only did the streets go quiet but people actually moved away from us and crossed to the other side of streets so they wouldn't be near us.
It was crazy and it made me angry. But I had to think rationally too. And having a big, frilly wedding would invoke a lot of bad blood in the village that was already brewing. We weren't going to not marry each other, but there were very little options left.
"So we'll see Hokage ourselves," said Sasuke one day as we formulated our plan. "We'll just sign the paperwork and get through the legalities. Then we'll have a very minor party here that everyone is welcomed to come to."
"Yeah," I said.
Sasuke nodded to this. "To be honest, I prefer it this way. I won't want to bring a lot of attention to us right now."
"I know. I don't either."
We contacted Tsunade and then the next day we went to her office. We sent word to everyone about the celebration, though we knew for a few of them it would be difficult as they were in the hospital.
We didn't get word back, but we didn't let that get to us.
"All right, all right," said Tsunade, shifting through a huge pile of papers. "I've never done a wedding before, so don't expect it to be perfect."
"Er, thanks?" I said sarcastically.
"Please forgive Hokage-sama," said Shizune with a huge smile. "She's just as nervous about it as you are."
"Shut up, Shizune!! Ah, here they are!!" She pulled out the documents and slapped them on the table. "Just stamp these documents and you're set!!"
"Why not recite vows?" offered Shizune.
Tsunade glared at her murderously before she glared at Sasuke and me. "Do you want to recite vows?"
"Um—" said Sasuke.
"Yes," I said at the same time.
"Okay, great." Tsunade started digging through the papers again.
"Is this fuckin' wedding over or what?" asked a slurred voice behind me. "This is a boring reception!!!"
I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. "…I have no problems with a Sannin being one of our witnesses, but why does he have to be drunk?"
"I'm not drunk." Kakashi materialized beside me. "I'll make sure you two do this right."
"Thanks." I snuggled Tsubaki close to me, my eyes on the marriage certificates on the desk. My heart was hammering against the wall of my chest. Soon…very soon my name will change and I'll be married. My childhood dream will come true.
"Here!!" Tsunade pulled out flash cards. She shifted through them. "Okay, just answer me yes or no. 'Sasuke, you seek to marry this woman and become her partner. Will you in peaceful times, during sickness, love her, respect, comfort her, help her, until death, do you promise to fulfill?'"
"Yes," he said, looking directly at me.
"And Sakura… 'Sakura, you seek to marry this man and become his partner. Will you in peaceful times, during sickness, love him, respect, comfort him, help him, until death, do you promise to fulfill?'"
"Yes." I choked on the words, but I looked at Sasuke while I said them.
"Okay, you're set," said Tsunade.
Shizune coughed discreetly and Tsunade sighed heavily. "Fucking—all right, by the power invested in me as Godaime Hokage of Konohagakure of the Land of Fire do I pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride."
Sasuke pulled me close for a briefly kiss. Jiraiya started clapping overenthusiastically and Kakashi calmly cheered us on.
"Right, now fill these out and you're legal," said Tsunade.
My heart didn't stop pounding as we went through our paperwork. My hand actually started shaking as we got to the last few pages. When we finished, I was close to tears.
"Done?" asked Tsunade. She took the paperwork and literally threw it into the filing cabinet. "And filed. Now your marriage is legal, and your name is now Uchiha, Sakura."
Uchiha. Uchiha Sakura. Sakura Uchiha. I couldn't believe it. I was married to Sasuke!!!
I wasn't able to talk so Sasuke spoke for us. "Thank you, Hokage. We'll be leaving now."
"All right, enjoy your wedded bliss," said Tsunade in a bored tone.
"Congratulations!!" cheered Shizune.
"This has been most amusing!!" laughed Kakashi.
Jiraiya was too drunk to say anything so we ignored him as we headed to the door. But then another big surprise lay on the other side.
My jaw dropped. All our friends were standing there, clapping and cheering for us, throwing confetti firing poppers. Oh, Tsunade will just love that. Ino and Tenten ran over to give me hugs.
"Congrats, guys!!" cheered Naruto. He was standing front and center, though he was leaning on Sai.
Sai for his part looked pretty annoyed. "I guess I can thank you for taking this ugly girl off the market."
"HEY!!!!!!!!!!!!" I roared, starting towards him.
"Aren't we gonna have a party?!" complained Chouji. "I'm hungry!!!!"
"Um, yes," I said, redirecting myself. "We have some food at our house that you're welcome to have."
This was enough for everyone and suddenly we were making our way towards the house.
A whisper came at my ear, "Are you happy, Sakura?"
I turned my head towards Sasuke and gave him my best smile. "Of course I am. I wouldn't have married you otherwise."
His own face looked beyond relieved and he smile a little. "All right. Thank you."
I reached over and pinched one of his cheeks. "You should smile more often. It suits you…you look cute."
Sasuke pulled away, his face now irritated. "Shut up."
I couldn't help but laugh. It was incredible just how much could happen in a little over a year. But I felt happy; I genuinely did. And I knew if we kept each other happy, Tsubaki would grow up happy too.
Even if the direction said a minute, pregnancy tests were still a killer to wait through. The last time I bought one, the circumstances were beyond pleasant. But now…now I don't mind so much.
Finally, the results came back. What I saw on that slim little stick surprised me for a brief moment. But after that moment a smile crossed my face.
The bathroom door slapped open, startling me so much I nearly dropped the stick. "Mama, are we leaving yet?"
"Tsubaki, what have I told you about opening doors without knocking?" I said sternly, throwing my test away.
"I'm sorry. But you said we were in a hurry and Tsubaki doesn't want to be late."
I was smiling again as I turned to face my daughter. It was extremely hard to reprimand her and stay mad at her. I think it was because she was so cute, especially when she stood there in a dark blue yukata decorated with camellias. "All right, I forgive you. Just remember to not do that again."
"Okay," said Tsubaki, her big blue-green eyes staring up at me. It was hard to believe she was already four years old. She'd recently gotten a haircut to match my own short style; a lot of people jokingly call us sisters. Even so, with each birthday she grew to be more and more like Sasuke. Even though she had a lot of energy, she was mostly subdued in her daily routines and polite, easily reflecting her father. But there were times when she'd get mad that she'd get mad, but she knew how to balance her energy, taking a lot after me (I only reluctantly admitted to the anger part). In a sense, Tsubaki seemed like a good balance of Sasuke and me.
Unfortunately…my daughter had a bad influence. There were times she'd be playing and she'd drop a couple of curse words. I know neither of us have taught her those words, but she couldn't have just magically heard them. I had a sinking suspicion who was the culprit and his name began with 'N'.
Ah well, that's not something to ponder for now.
I scooped Tsubaki up into my arms and headed into my bedroom. Sasuke was fitting himself in traditional ceremonial robes, reminding me I still needed to get dressed.
"Are you feeling okay, Sakura?" Sasuke asked over his shoulder.
"Yeah," I said, pulling out a bright red kimono decorated in cherry blossoms. I actually had very good news to tell him, but I knew it could wait until later.
Once all three of us were ready, we started heading out. Excited chatter could be heard all along the streets. Everyone was dressed up formally and everyone looked pleased. I found this both surprising and ironic, that Konoha was pleased about this occasion.
"So are we up on the balcony or in the crowd?" asked Sasuke.
"On the balcony," I said. "Naruto gave us clearance to be up there."
"Good. I don't want to stand in the crowds with all those people anyways." I knew where he was coming from; even after being pardoned four years ago, some villagers treated Sasuke with hostility, fear, or like a freak-show exhibit. He dealt with it in silence, being it was a price he had to pay, but it still got annoying for him.
I knew when we got to our destination how late it was; the whole area was swamped with people. Sasuke took hold of my hand and led us through, while I kept a tight grip on Tsubaki's hand.
"Mama, Tsubaki can't see anything!!" my daughter shouted up to me.
"Don't worry, honey, we'll be up somewhere where we can see everything," I assured her, but I tightened my grip on her hand. The last thing I wanted to do was lose her in this gigantic crowd.
Finally, we reached the front where two ANBU were standing guard. Sasuke spoke to them briefly and they let us pass.
Once we were inside, Sasuke showed us to an elevator and we went inside. As we went up, my nerves were all shot; I couldn't believe this was happening. It seemed too surreal to me.
Come now, Sakura. You're not the only one who can have fulfilled dreams, right?
I looked down at Tsubaki, who was smiling up at me. We were both very happy about what was going to happen today, although she didn't have any understanding why it was good. She would learn with time, though.
"I'm sort of surprised," said Sasuke suddenly. "That the idiot pulled it off."
"Naruto's not an idiot," I chastised cheerfully. "He's just…all right, he's an idiot."
Sasuke snorted. "But we have to put up with him anyways."
"I don't mind it too much."
We reached the top floor and stepped out onto the balcony. It was swamped with ANBU officers and members of the council. I spotted Hinata at the front near the railing, flanked by many Hyuugas. We quickly spotted Kakashi and Sai and headed over to them.
"Well, well," said Kakashi blandly. "This is certainly an exciting occasion."
"Wow," said Sai, looking down at Tsubaki. "Your daughter looks nothing like you, Sakura. Good thing, too; wouldn't want her to inherit ugly."
I glared at him, but before I could say anything a shout came from behind us.
"All right, we're starting!!!" It was Tsunade. She swept past everyone towards the balcony rail, someone in the Hokage robes trailing behind her. Once she reached the front, the commotion below began to cease. When silence swept the area, she continued.
"As you all know, I have retired my duties as Godaime Hokage. Not that it hasn't been fun or anything, but a girl like me can only take so much responsibility."
"Oh dear God," muttered Koharu.
"But don't go thinking I've left the lot of you unprepared for the future; far from it. I've already and designated the Rokudaime Hokage position. He'll speak with you now and you may direct all you complaints and such to him."
Tsunade stepped aside, allowing the new Hokage to step forward. As they reached the rail, they paused there for a brief moment in silence. I was confused; didn't he want to say anything?
But then the Hokage hat was swept off his head and he punched the air with his free fist. "HEYA, BITCHES!!!!!!!!!!!!"
I winced and pressed my hands over Tsubaki's ears.
Naruto let out a cackle that sounded maniacal as he surveyed the crowd…his village. "I am your new Hokage, Uzumaki Naruto!!!! I told every last one of you for years I would do it, and I DID!!!!!!"
Great, now he was gloating, lording his power over a village who once hated him. What a way to make an impression.
But then Naruto got serious. Somewhat. "I know what many of you are thinking. I know most of you don't like me and think I'm dangerous. I'm not gonna deny what I've got; the nine-tailed fox is inside me, even though we coexist at the moment.
"However…I've learned to accept this. I've protected this village constantly over and over again. I don't hold those bad feelings against any of you, but as your Hokage I only demand respect and trust. After what I went through growing up, I think you all owe me that.
"But like I said, I'm not holding grudges. I'm your Hokage now. And I swear to protect this village and everyone in it."
He was finished. The crowd below was still quiet; oh, the hell with them. I let go of Tsubaki and started clapping as hard as I could.
But then everyone was cheering, even the crowd. People chanted Naruto's name and confetti was released, fluttering across the village.
Naruto grinned from ear to ear, though his eyes were shining. He'd finally gotten acceptance from the village; even if it took becoming Hokage to do it.
"I still don't—" began Homura from behind me.
"Give it a rest," snapped Tsunade. "Naruto's my choice. He's very much like his father, after all."
"Being like someone doesn't change—" said Koharu.
"Just shut up. He's Hokage now and you two have to live with it and support him."
It was fun to watch Naruto so happy. He let loose a loud yell and pumped his fists to the air. He tossed aside his Hokage hat, which a nearby ANBU caught like a sucker punch to the stomach. Then he turned to Hinata, scooped her up, and started making out with her, to the ever growing horror of the other Hyuugas.
I clamped a hand over Tsubaki's eyes. "I see being named the Hokage hasn't changed him much!!"
Sasuke snorted. "I don't think it's a big deal. If he became all serious because of the job, he wouldn't be the same Naruto."
"Heya, bitches!!" said Tsubaki cheerfully.
Sasuke's face fell. "On second thought…"
Of course, there was a hug feast to honor our new Hokage. Naruto had wanted Ichiraku to cater the occasion, but Tsunade, Homura, and Koharu quickly shot that idea down. Nevertheless, the actual catering was a far cry from formal food. I took the opportunity to meet up with my friends.
"This is shocking, huh?" asked Ino playfully. "He actually pulled it off, becoming Hokage."
"He does love to keep his promises," I mused. I couldn't take my eyes off her baby son; he was just too adorable. "How's this little guy doing?"
"Oh, Katashi? He's doing all right. I am hoping he takes after me over his father—"
"You mean in brain power or appetite?" I teased, not wanting to hear another drawn-out tangent against Chouji. I was still amazed how he managed to snag Ino, who was by far one of the most egotistical people I've ever known. Ah well, it's none of my business.
"Both," drawled Ino, glaring in her husband's direction. "Look, he's eating everything off the trays!!"
I laughed feebly. "Well, I'll see you around."
I next ran into Lee, who was using a very heavy looking tray for weight-lifting. "Aren't you going to eat, Lee-san?"
"I will eat when I am done with my training!!!" he declared, not breaking stride.
"All right." I felt sad for Lee. Even after all these years and friends around us coupling up, Lee still hadn't found anyone. I didn't dare think he still held a candle for me, but I was hoping he would catch some girl's eye. Then again, at the moment he didn't seem too focused on finding a girlfriend. I could only hope he'd find happiness sometime soon.
And speaking of friends coupling, I ran into Tenten not too long afterwards. "Tenten-san!!" I noticed very quickly she was sitting alone
"What a celebration, huh?" she mused. "I'm still bracing myself for a Konoha until Naruto."
I laughed at this. "I think we all are." I looked around us. "Is Neji-san here?"
"He's discussing something with a few ANBU. You should've seen him when Naruto planted that kiss on Hinata-san; he looked about ready to run up there and make an example out of him."
"Hiashi-sama looked like smoke was coming out of his ears."
We both laughed at this. Then I asked the important question. "Has he proposed yet?"
"No," said Tenten miserably. "And I don't think it's gonna happen anytime soon. It took two years to get to this point with him; I shudder to think how long it will take to be offered marriage."
I smiled sympathetically at her and patted her shoulder. "Good luck with that, Tenten-san."
Parties seem to bring out a silly side to people. As I headed back to my own table, some of the more dignified ninja in our village were becoming completely shit-faced, falling all over each other and telling humiliating stories they would never say sober.
When I did make it back, Naruto and Sasuke were in deep discussion. Tsubaki was shoving a bunch of sweets in her mouth, Sai looked utterly bored, and Kakashi was reading his trashy romance novel. The rest of the table was minor conversations going on.
"—don't really need to do it," said Sasuke.
"But I want to," said Naruto. "And as the Rokudaime Hokage—the greatest Hokage of all time—my word is law!!!!"
"You've been Hokage for only six hours. Besides, I accepted the terms of my return here under the Godaime Hokage. I'm completely satisfied with how things are now."
"Well, I'm not and that's what counts!!!"
"What's going on?" I asked, retaking my seat.
"Naruto—" began Sasuke.
"Hokage-sama!!!" corrected Naruto smugly.
"—Naruto has decided to lift Tsunade's decree over me. I would have my full pardon along with the freedom to resume my ninja duties."
"Take it!!" I cried. "This is a perfect opportunity!!!"
"I already said I didn't want to. I'm fine with how things are."
"So you'd like being my accountant?" asked Naruto incredulously.
"Wait, weren't you Tsunade-sensei's accountant?" I asked.
"The employment contract was for the Hokage, not Tsunade. So technically I could stay on under Naruto—"
Naruto puffed out his chest. "…As Hokage, I accept your answer for now. But you better bet I'll be hounding you for acceptance until you say yes!!!!"
An evil smirk broke out across Sasuke's face. "And as your accountant, you better bet I'll be cutting you spending costs every chance I get."
Naruto quickly went pale and broke off from the conversation.
I started digging into my meal and Tsubaki…well; let's just say my daughter can be such a darling sometimes.
"Mama's eating a lot!!" she pointed out very loudly.
I laughed sarcastically and glared at my daughter. "Very funny, Tsubaki."
Tsubaki 'eeped' and looked straight at her lap.
"That is a lot of food," observed Sasuke, though in a quieter tone. "What, are you pregnant again?"
"Holy crap Sasuke, thanks for the reminder!!!" Naruto yelled suddenly.
"Um, Naruto-kun—" said Hinata quietly.
"Everyone, listen!!" he banged his fist on the table a few times before he was sure the entire assembled party had his attention. "Your Hokage has great news!!! He's having a baby!!!!!"
"EH?!?!" screamed Sasuke and me.
Hinata looked beyond embarrassed. But she forced a smile and waved feebly at the people gaping at them in shock.
Nobody seemed more shocked than the Hyuugas, especially Hiashi. While Hanabi ran over to give Hinata a hug, he was glaring at Naruto. Man, if looks could kill…
But for the practical side, most everyone reacted positively. Their Hokage wedding the Hyuuga heir definitely seemed like a good match, even if their Hokage was a little less refined.
"'He's having a baby'?" repeated Sai in a monotone voice. "So is it you or Hinata that's carrying the runt?"
"Don't be a smartass," snapped Naruto.
"On that note, who's name is the baby gonna have? You two ain't married."
I'm sure that prospect was even more embarrassing for Hinata's family.
"Well, uh—" began Naruto but quickly stiffened. He spared a glance at Hiashi and forced a smile. "Don't spoil the surprises!! I was plannin' on doing that tonight!!!!"
Hinata's red face lit up. "R-R-Really, Naruto-kun?!"
"Sure!!!" he thrust a fist into the air. "Wanna marry me, Hinata?"
Hinata stammered and began hyperventilating. Then her eyes rolled into the back of her head and she fell out of her chair.
"Sister!!" cried Hanabi, catching her before she hit the ground.
Naruto stared dumbly at this situation, even as Hyuugas swarmed around the two sisters. Even as they fussed over Hinata, I couldn't help but notice hers and Hanabi's foreheads; they were bare. Even after the stress on Hinata's heart and recommendations to retire her, Hiashi still named her the heir. The other Hyuugas were a bit upset over that, but Hinata had a lot of backing and eventually earned their respect.
"Hey, wouldn't a pregnancy be too hard for her heart?" asked Sai. "What if the labor causes another attack?"
"Stop being such a fucking killjoy!!" I snapped, punching him in the arm.
"Fooking!!" cheered Tsubaki.
Sasuke glanced at her. "Sakura—"
"I know, you don't have to tell me." I glared at Sai. "You should've kicked his ass when you got the chance…"
"Sasuke was the one who forgave me civilly," said Sai smugly. "And I'm not the one who said 'fuck' in front of your daughter."
"You just did," said Sasuke.
Naruto scratched the back of his head. "Um…was that a no?"
"I fear for the future," said Sai.
"Eh?" Kakashi looked up from his book. "Did you say something?"
The party ended with a pretty big bang. Naruto got the 'assurances' that Hinata agreed to marry him and we all went our ways in the wee hours of the morning.
I sighed heavily and stretched out my arms as we walked home. Tsubaki had fallen asleep hours ago and Sasuke was carrying her. I couldn't help but look up at the night sky, littered with stars and the full moon.
Just like that night…
I stopped in my tracks, but I didn't feel disgusted or resentful. I never wanted that sort of thing to happen to me again, but I feel that I've overcome what happened. Had circumstances been different, things might not have turned out the way they did.
And I was happy. I'd felt so awful and lost for such a long time, but now I had a family again. I had a husband and a daughter and I loved them. I couldn't ask for anything more.
"Sakura." I turned to see Sasuke standing just behind me. "What's wrong?"
I smiled a little and pressed a hand to Tsubaki's small back. "There's something I haven't told you yet."
"That's you're pregnant?"
I moved my hand away. "So you already knew?"
"After Naruto announced Hinata's pregnancy, you seemed pretty upset with Sai. I could sense a sort of disruption from your chakra and then I knew."
"Hmm…" I pressed a hand to my stomach. "I only found out this morning when I took a pregnancy test. She seemed to be acting up and so I thought 'what the hell'. Turns out, I'm positive."
"…We're having another girl?" asked Sasuke.
I shrugged. "I dunno. I'll schedule an appointment at the hospital and find out then."
"…Tell me when you do, I want to go with you."
I couldn't stop smiling. "Okay."
We continued on our way. I couldn't resist asking him, "Will you consider Naruto's offer?"
"…Maybe," said Sasuke. "But there's a lot I have to pay for that he's willing to let slid. And I don't want to risk passing on my techniques."
"You already burned your family texts so Tsubaki couldn't read them, wasn't that enough?"
"Not quite yet. The Uchihas are one of the greatest clans in Konoha. But I won't uphold the reputation of powerful super ninjas at the cost of the well-being of my children. Especially my daughter…s."
"…All right, I understand. This is something you decided years ago, after all."
"Like I said, I'll consider the offer. Just not right now."
I stopped walking and turned to hug him. It took him off-guard, but we avoided waking Tsubaki up. "I love you, you know that Sasuke-kun?"
"Yeah," said Sasuke. "And I love you too."
I pulled back and looked at him. It was very rare for him to say those words. "Really?"
"Would I put up with…all this otherwise?"
I laughed and gave him a kiss. "Let's go home."
He managed a smile. "Yeah, let's go home."
It was a long and horrible road to get where we're at now, but we made it. We live in peace. We're happy. And we love each other. And no matter what happened next, how many children we had or potential disasters that might face us, I was happy with the present.
Sasuke came back. He chose to live. And he gave me Tsubaki, a wonderful child. I don't think I could ask for anything more.