Day Twelve

Finally the day had come. The day she would receive the last gift from her 'true love' and he would finally show himself. At least that was what she was hoping.

She was anxious, to be sure, and she definitely didn't want to be. She wondered if they would really show themselves, she wondered what the gift would be, she wondered what they would say, who it was. There were just so many things that she had to worry about.

After her usual morning primping, Sakura got dressed and slipped on her new gloves. While perusing her kitchen for some breakfast, she heard a knock at the door and immediately stilled.

Could it be him already? she wondered as she moved towards the door. Throwing it open, she was met with an empty door step.

Eyes narrowed, she looked around the streets below but saw nothing out of place. Turning back, her eyes caught on a note taped to the front of her door. Pulling the note off of her door, she retreated once more into her apartment and eagerly opened the letter.

Only one gift left, but it is something that needs to be given in person. Please meet me outside the Ichiraku stand at 5 o'clock to receive your last gift.

The note had been signed Your True Love, and Sakura scowled at the shortness of it.

"5 o'clock," she muttered, unhappy about the long wait that was ahead of her. She really wanted things over with as soon as possible, and she hadn't been expecting a long wait.

Surely her true love would be anxious as well! But apparently he still had a bit of patience as he seemed intent on keeping her waiting.

"Ichiraku is fairly popular," she thought out loud as she rubbed her chin idly. "I'm not quite sure what to think of that."

Folding up the note, she carefully placed it in her pocket. She had a few hours to kill before show time, and at least she would try to do something productive.

"This gives me the chance to try out my new gloves…"

----

"Ah, good to see you again, Sakura-san!" The Ichiraku stand's owner greeted Sakura with a smile as she took a seat on one of the stools lining the counter. "What can I get for you?"

"Nothing at the moment, I'm…er, waiting for someone." she replied with an embarrassed smile.

"Oh? Has Naruto-kun returned?" the owner asked, his face turning hopeful.

Shaking her head Sakura replied, "No, he's still on his mission."

The man's shoulders slumped at the statement, his hope for a large purchase of ramen shot.

"Alright then, just let me know when you're ready to order." he said before disappearing into the back.

Sakura definitely didn't feel hungry in the least and instead her nervousness was making her stomach squirm uncomfortably. Pulling out a pocket watch she had received from her gifter, Sakura saw it was ten till 5.

Leaning back against the counter she settled in for her wait.

When 5 o'clock came and went, she shrugged it off.

They're just running a bit late.

Around 5:30 she began pacing, checking up and down the street for signs of movement before she went back to pacing. People would pass by but none would stop for her, so she continued waiting. And even if tears began stinging the corner of her eyes she pushed them back.

They'll come…they're just…chronically late, that's all.

By the time the streetlamps had turned on, she was most definitely crying.

She didn't understand how someone could be so cruel, to lure her out and then not even show up. And it hurt even more because she had fallen for it. She had allowed herself to be hopeful, and her reward was letdown.

The ramen stand had closed, and only the kindness of the owner had allowed her to stay sitting there as he left to spend Christmas Eve with his family. She had waited for two hours longer than she should have, and each tick of the clock only further shattered her withering hope.

I can't wait any longer…

"Sakura-chan!"

Sakura lifted her head slightly from where it had lay on her entwined hands. Surely she had just imagined that…

"Hey, Sakura-chan!"

Moving from her perch on the stool, Sakura saw the unmistakable form of Naruto waving as he came towards her.

"Naruto…?" she whispered unbelievingly as the boy stopped before her.

One look at his wide grin and Sakura felt the dam walls breaking.

"Oh Naruto!" she sobbed, throwing her arms around the now bewildered boy.

"Wh-whats wrong? Sakura-chan, why are you crying?" he asked, his voice filled with worry as he rubbed her back comfortingly.

Sakura responded by clinging to him even more tightly, her nose firmly pressed into his chest as she cried.

"N-Naruto, it's been aw-aweful!" Sakura blubbered into his shirt. "There was this-this person sending me gifts…and they were n-nice gifts, but I didn't know who sent them! And I was supposed to m-meet him today but-but he didn't show up!"

Sakura realized Naruto probably thought she was mental, but just getting the stress off of her shoulders was already doing wonders. She knew Naruto wouldn't mind, and she could always wash his shirt for him later.

Oddly to her, Naruto let out a low chuckle into her hair as she finished her tirade and moved his hand gently over her hair.

"Oh Sakura-chan…" he said as she pulled back to look up at him with teary emerald eyes.

She had been expecting his reaction to be angry, like it usually was when anyone made her cry. But instead, she saw a hint of amusement shining in his vivid blue eyes, and she furrowed her brows in confusion.

"Naruto…what are you doing he-"

"Just a minute Sakura-chan," the boy cut in, moving back a ways as he fished around in one of his pockets. His clothes were a bit mangled a dirty, no doubt caused by his mission, but other than that he seemed unhurt and for that she was thankful.

Eye's brightening, Naruto seemed to find what he was looking for and pulled it out from the jumbled contents of his pocket.

"Sorry to keep you waiting so long Sakura-chan, but here," he apologized, holding out a familiar looking note. "Your final gift."

Sakura looked dumbly down at the offered note. "Wha…you don't mean it was…but how…" she stuttered, looking back up at the laughing boy.

"I was a bit late…I had really wanted to get here before the stand closed…I definitely didn't want to make you cry…" he rambled, as Sakura took the note with trembling fingers.

The blonde quieted as she read the note, and then reread it, all the while the same dumbfounded look remained upon her face. Looking back up to him, Naruto regarded her with an anxiousness she wasn't used to seeing from him. Usually he seemed so sure about everything, but now he seemed extremely apprehensive.

Meanwhile, Sakura felt a sudden loss of words. In the back of her mind she kept waiting for the punch line to this strange joke, but Naruto didn't seem to be in the joking mood at the moment.

Naruto really was my gifter, she thought, all doubt finally disappearing as her mind finally caught up with her heart. My…true love.

Giving him a watery smile, Sakura said in a shaky voice, "That was really cheesy you know."

At her words, the tension between them shattered, and was replaced by the usual easiness they felt around each other.

"Aw, but it took a lot of planning, Sakura-chan!" Naruto whined, watching as Sakura looked helplessly back to the note.

How was he able to pull this off?

Collecting herself, Sakura began putting things together in her mind.

"You had help, didn't you?" she said, looking back up at him with a knowing look.

Naruto gave a sheepish laugh as he nervously rubbed at the back of his neck. "Well, Baa-chan helped out a bit with the gifts. Oh, and Ero-sennin had to deliver everything since I was gone."

"Jiraiya…did he write the cards too?" Sakura asked, all the pieces beginning to fall together.

"Yeah, I couldn't risk you recognizing my handwriting so I had him write them."

"So that's why Kakashi-sensei recognized it…" she muttered, thinking back to Kakashi's odd behavior. "He knew Jiraiya's handwriting from his porn, no doubt."

Naruto nodded his head in agreement, and as Sakura looked up at him she felt even more of the stress unclench within her. He always had that calming effect.

"Naruto…why did you do all of this?" she finally asked, her voice so soft she was afraid it would be drowned out by the beating of her own heart.

But she had to know, she had to hear it from him the reason, even though there could only be one reason for why anyone would do so much for one person. Sakura felt everything stop as she looked at him and somehow she knew he was probably feeling just as fearful as she was.

"Because I'd do anything for you, Sakura-chan," was his simple reply as his grin spread and his eyes shone with an honesty she could always believe in.

"But why did you leave? Why didn't you do it in person?"

"I had to take a mission because Gama-chan was feeling very empty," Naruto laughed, pulling out his now limp frog money bag. "I wanted to buy you a bowl of ramen when I got back. You know…our tradition…but I got held up and was too late."

Sakura's eyes softened at the regret she heard in his voice. He had thought everything else out perfectly, but one can never tell with a mission.

Reaching out, Sakura took the blonde's hands in her own and gave them a reassuring squeeze.

"It's fine, Naruto…you did too much as it is," she said softly, feeling the prickle of tears once more.

"No way," he replied, his voice confident once more as he gave her hand a squeeze in return. "It was all worth it."

Sakura shook her head. "But you could have been setting yourself up for a let down! How could you have known?"

His eyes softened as he looked at a spot past her shoulder. "It's been about a year since I noticed the way you looked at me was different."

Sakura blinked up at him, surprise showing on her face.

"You…I…what?"

Looking at her once more, Naruto smiled at the confusion on her face. Tilting his head to the side in a way she could only describe as childishly adorable, he said, "The way you look at me is different than the way you look at Sai or Kakashi-sensei or even Sasuke. It's almost like the way you used to look at Sasuke-teme, but not quite. It's…special."

She was flabbergasted, to say the least.

He noticed a difference even when I had no idea…

"How is it you can be so dense about some things…and so observant about others?" Sakura wondered with a shake of her head.

Pulling her closer, Naruto gave a sheepish chuckle. "I pay attention where it really matters, Sakura-chan."

Lips settling into a pout, Sakura allowed Naruto to pull her to his chest. It had been far too long since she had received a hug from him, and she found she had missed it in a way she couldn't describe.

"I didn't deserve it you know," she muttered as she felt him place his chin on top of her head protectively.

"You always say that," he grumbled as he held her even tighter. "I'm going to be Hokage one day, you know. The least I can do is ask my girl out in style."

"Is that so?" Sakura asked wearily, recognizing the determined tone of his voice that he usually only reserved for Hokage declarations.

Pulling back to look her in the eyes, his tone turned worried as he said, "If you'll have me, that is."

Surprisingly, for once Sakura felt no anger or worry, but instead felt an odd calmness wash over her. This time she wouldn't stress and she wouldn't worry, because his question was too important. He was too important, and she was just plain tired.

So Sakura told her large forehead to take a back seat and leaning up she placed a quick kiss upon the corner of his mouth.

"You asked for it, Uzumaki," she said with a smirk, relishing the shocked look in his blue eyes.

But as his shock faded, his grin turned sly and he nodded, "I sure did."

Scooping her up with a laugh, he kissed her forehead, her nose, her eyes, her cheeks, and then finally settled on her lips. All the while she giggled helplessly at his child-like behavior, loving that only he could make her feel so happy and content.

As his lips moved sensually against her own, Sakura couldn't help but think of the irony of it all. Only a few hours earlier she had been so worried, and now, everything had fallen into place perfectly.

But then Naruto was moving to nip at her jaw line and all thought zeroed in on him alone.

As her hands fisted in his shirt, he leaned his forehead down against hers.

"I really will give you all of those things, Sakura-chan," he said softly, and Sakura gave a brief nod, telling him she understood.

Friendship, happiness, strength, courage, wisdom, trust, time, loyalty, hope, honor, passion, and love.

"I know," she whispered back with a smile. "Though maybe you should leave the wisdom to me?"

"Hey now, weren't you just pleasantly surprised by how observant I can be?" he reminded her, his lips turning up into an almost smirk.

Sakura sighed in defeat. "Fine, but it seems very unfair for you to give all of that."

Naruto looked thoughtful for a moment and then said, "It's ok. You can just repay me in pleasurable favors."

The boy waggled his eyebrows playfully and Sakura gave him a gentle punch in the chest.

"You're just lucky I love you. Otherwise you'd be in a world of hurt right now," she told him, brandishing her gloved hands.

Naruto nodded, giving her an appraising look. "And luckily I love you so I'd take the hurt like a man. Besides, you always heal me right after anyways."

As the two grinned at each other, they knew once and for all. There had been no romantic final declaration of love, but instead they had eased into it like they had anything else they did.

Neither could really tell when their friendship had truly blossomed. It hadn't happened overnight, but instead evolved over the years and endured through everything. It was only right that their love would be the same. And it would endure as well.

Looking glumly over her shoulder, Naruto complained, "Too bad Ichiraku is closed. I'm starving. I didn't even have enough time to go get my money from Baa-chan either."

"I'm sure she's dying to know how things are going too," Sakura replied, rolling her eyes.

"Let's just keep her waiting," Naruto said slyly. "I feel like receiving some of my payment tonight, Sakura-chan."

When he reached for her, Sakura deftly moved out of the way. "You smell," she told him with a playful grin.

Looking down at his dirtied clothes, Naruto seemed to finally remember he had just returned from a mission.

"Let's go back to my apartment and I'll fix that," he suggested, taking hold of her hand.

"You can fix it at my apartment. I actually have food there."

"I guess that's true."

"I even baked some cookies."

"Alright! Can I wear my Christmas boxers?"

"It wouldn't be Christmas without them."

"They might not last very long, though. I know it's hard for you to resist-"

"Naruto!"

Love

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

One heart full of love for you alone


A/N: ah, complete! I feel very pleased with the ending after struggling to get it just the right way. I love thinking of Naruto and Sakura's relationship as very playful, which is why I portrayed it as such. Well, by the end it seemed most of you knew who it was, which is good. (I didn't want to get someone's hopes up over another pairing, but instead lead everyone towards the true pairing). Though, I think has had some problems...I haven't received any notifications all week, which is annoying. That might explain the lower than usual review number, but for those of you who found the updates, thanks for reviewing! Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments and well wishes, especially those of you who stuck with this story since the beginning. I can't tell you how happy I am over how well this story was received! Now that this monster is complete, I will be working on my other fics, so keep an eye out for those.

Thanks for reading!

--Miss Soupy