Disclaimer: Naruto does not belong to me.
Fields of Gold
I would like to thank omgcats for doing such a great job at betaing this piece. Without her, this story would have sat in my harddrive for who knows how long?
It completely shocked them when she died. Not just her death, but also the way she went. They were all ninjas, they knew that death was always a possibility whenever they left on a job, but she had died not part of an ANBU mission, but rather in childbirth, with her own mentor, the Hokage, as her doctor. Each had stood on opposite sides of her bed; Naruto was begging her not to leave them, Sasuke was gripping the metal railings of her bed so hard his hands left dents in the metal. In the end all she could do was smile at them tiredly and name their daughter Ren.
"I guess I'll be going on ahead of you two. Take care of our daughter and don't follow me too quickly now." She didn't whisper that she loved them before she closed her eyes—it was already understood.
They had all loved each other; their unconventional relationship would never have survived if that weren't true. But without her balancing the two of them, they began to revert back to the days when they had first met. Before, in the space between them, where there were mock-battles and loud laughter, anger and silent accusations reigned. The place they had all once cheerfully called home with its brightly painted walls and gently live-in furnishing was not home any longer. Home was now buried under six feet of earth.
They had no idea what to do with their daughter. While her mother had been alive, she had made them read through those towering stacks of childcare books she had gotten from her teacher, but the two always had the notion that she would have a plan already set for when Ren came home from the hospital. After all, she was the smartest one of the three. She probably did have some plan stuck up in that big forehead of hers but she wasn't around to share it with them now and so the two dug those books out from under the growing piles of trash and dust that now littered the floor and surface space.
At first, they were tempted to give Ren away. Not forever, they could never do that—She was their last link to her. But Ren was an infant and needed care that they couldn't give, didn't know how to give to her, not now, not when they were so alone
They tried Sakura's parents first but when her mother told them that if she was taking Ren in now she was going to keep her forever, they fled without saying goodbye.
They asked Ino next. When Ino looked down at Ren which such a longing in her eyes, they were tempted to escape her apartment as well, but instead Ino shook her head sadly and said she would want them to raise their child, not pass Ren around as if she were unwanted. This time when they left, they left by the door they walked in through.
When they saw Tsunade-sama, she looked at them with such loathing in her eyes and as they flinched, she slapped them smartly across the face. She held Ren in her other arm easily, as if the child weighed nothing.
"I don't ever want to hear that you are trying to foster my goddaughter out to another person again, do you hear me?" She asked them quietly.
They nodded, and with their heads hanging low they kept quiet as Tsunade performed her scheduled check-up on their daughter.
They lived like hermits over the next few months, only leaving the house to take Ren to see Tsunade, or pick up supplies or some takeout, as they had no energy to cook. They soon realized that if one of them didn't begin taking missions again they would go broke soon enough. For once in the long while since she had left them, they didn't argue. Naruto would stay with Ren and Sasuke would go out to do what needed to be done.
When Sasuke came home tired and muddy from his two-week mission escorting a high-ranking politician from the Fire Country to the Wave Country, he heard the sound of her voice. Without any caution, he rushed up to Ren's room and grabbed his daughter out of the fake Sakura's arms.
"What the hell do you think you're doing, you sick fuck?" he hissed.
Naruto dropped his head and his henge. "I just wanted her to remember her mother," Naruto quietly replied.
The next time one of them had to go on a mission, it was Naruto who went.
When Ren had been born, she had tufts of blond hair that stuck up in all directions and sky blue eyes that brightened whenever she saw either of her fathers. The only thing that were missing were those three whisker marks on each of her cheeks. However, once she turned six months old, her eyes began to darken until they finally became a fathomless black. It scared the living shit out of Naruto, though Sasuke was unsurprisingly pleased with this new development.
"It's normal for newborns to be born with blue eyes, and then as they grow older for their eyes to turn dark. However," and this is where Tsunade paused and frowned, "in Ren's case, there's more to this then just that. Do you have Sakura's pregnancy journal?"
The two shook their head, silent in thought. On Naruto's lap, Ren giggled and gurgled her spit as she reached up to tug at her father's golden hair.
Ino arrived on their porch two months later with a bunch of collapsed cardboard boxes under each arm. When Sasuke opened the front door, she pushed her way in and bolted up the stairs to the main bedroom. Once she got there, she immediately began to jerk open the drawers one after another until she found what she were looking for.
"What the hell are you doing?" Sasuke shouted at her as he watched her hurriedly assemble a box and begin flinging top after top into it.
At this point, Naruto rushed in and once he saw what was happening he cried out, "Stop it!"
Ino just grimaced and continued as if she didn't hear either of them. She had just finished emptying one drawer when she went flat on her back as Naruto pounced upon her, hands on her shoulders, knees on either side of her torso. Shocked, her eyes went to his face and she swallowed a gasp as she stared into enraged red eyes.
"Don't," he growled, "touch Sakura's things."
She closed her eyes in fear as she felt his fingers, no his claws, begin to dig into her shoulders and flinched when he suddenly collapsed on her. Cracking her right eye open she discovered Naruto's prone body slumped over her before Sasuke hauled him off.
"You should go before he..." Sasuke's voice trailed off as he lifted Naruto up onto the bed.
Warily, Ino got up and made her way to the bedroom door when Sasuke's voice made her pause. "Sorry about that. I'll make sure to kill him when he wakes up."
She didn't turn around; instead she just nodded her head slowly and silently made her way out of the house. As she shut the front door, she could hear Ren crying in the background.
Sasuke punched him awake.
"What the hell, you bastard?" Naruto screamed in pain as he clutched his face. Then he let out a low moan and gingerly felt the back of his skull. "Dammit. You're lucky I can heal myself or you would have killed me." But Sasuke had already drifted away from the bed and was now crouched by the half-filled box of clothes. "What the hell was Ino thinking?" Naruto fumed out loud. "She has no right touching any of Sakura's things."
"No, she doesn't," Sasuke agreed and smoothly opened the drawer that he knew contained Sakura's favorite items of clothing. "That's why we're the ones who have to do it."
"What?" Naruto jumped out of bed, his injuries forgotten in the face of Sasuke's betrayal. Grabbing Sasuke's wrist, Naruto violently shook him "Leave her stuff alone!"
Sasuke looked up into panicked-filled eyes and wrenched his arm away. "She's not coming back. It's time we did this."
Naruto took two steps back, his face crumbling in grief. He shuddered as he fought for control. "I can't bury her again," he said finally, his voice sounding choked. "I can't be a heartless bastard like you." Upset, he shook his head roughly. "Do it yourself. I'm outta here." Rushing out, he only paused to gather his crying daughter before he too left the house.
Sasuke waited until he could no longer hear the sounds of his daughter's tears before he picked up the red sweater that he had bought for Sakura three years ago after being forced to by Naruto. So what if it was the anniversary of the day all three of them had moved in together? Did that mean he has to waste his money on such frivolous items like the Idiot did?
When he brought the sweater up to his face to catch the barest hint of her scent, Sasuke didn't even notice the tears streaming down his face.
When Naruto flipped the lights on Sasuke flinched in response, his hand automatically coming up to shield his eyes. "I only came back because Ren needed to rest and she won't-" Naruto paused as he took in the way Sasuke sat dejectedly against the wall opposite of the dresser, tightly grasping what to looked to be Sakura's favorite red sweater.
"I couldn't do it." His voice raspy, Sasuke swallowed and looked up at the blonde pleadingly with red, bloodshot eyes. "I can't. I can't do this alone. Not again."
Clenching his eyes shut, Naruto bowed his head to the unspoken plea in Sasuke's voice. Sighing, he crossed the room to Sasuke, bent down and carefully separated the sweater from the other man's death grip. Walking next to the still half-filled box, Naruto brought the sweater up to his nose, hoping to catch her scent, but nothing of it remained. Instead, all he could make out was the barest scent of Sasuke. Folding the sweater carefully, he placed it almost reverently into the box and turned to see Sasuke standing next to him, his dark eyes solemn.
"We're not burying her again, we're just protecting her things for when Ren gets older."
Naruto nodded slowly, his eyes never leaving Sasuke's. "If it's for Ren…" his voice trailed off before he continued, "If it's for her then Sakura would understand."
Sasuke remained quiet and waited for the blonde to open a new drawer.
The dresser had been emptied and they had now moved onto the closet. They had not taken a break once they had started except to check up on their daughter. Both had a feeling that if they stopped for any other reason, they might not have the strength to come back and finish what they had started.
"You're wrong, you know."
Sasuke paused for a moment as he carefully sealed shut a box filled with Sakura's maternity wear before asking, "About what?"
"About being alone. You're not alone. You have Ren and me."
A long pause and then, "Yes, I suppose I do."
They found Sakura's journal hidden under her supply of medical bandages and medic scrolls.
"Hmmm, I guess we should give this to old hag tomorrow-" Naruto tossed the book up into the air and caught it on its way down before tossing it up again when Sasuke smoothly intercepted it instead.
"Hey! What're you doing?"
"Be quiet. I want to read this before we give this to the Hokage."
"But why? You're not a medic-nin, you wouldn't understand it."
"I may not be a medic-nin but I'm not an idiot like you. Tsunade seemed to imply that Ren's birth wasn't normal and this might have the answer. I want to find it before we hand this over to her."
"But Tsunade would tell us if she found out something about Ren!"
Sasuke just looked at Naruto with disbelieving eyes. "She's the Hokage. If she needs too, she'll keep anything a secret."
Naruto ran into the room when he heard the loud thump against the bedroom wall. "What, what?" He cried out as Sasuke stood over Sakura's medical journal, lying haphazardly on the floor. Sasuke didn't spare him a look as he glared down at the book.
"Dammit Sakura, you knew what was going to happen…" Sasuke muttered under his breath.
"What did she know?" Naruto grabbed onto Sasuke's shoulder, finally catching his attention. Sasuke turned to him, grief and anger fighting for release on his usually impassive face.
"It's all in there, it's all in her journal." Almost desperately, Sasuke grabbed onto the front of Naruto's shirt with both hands, "Sakura planned Ren's birth!"
Naruto shook him off before bending down to retrieve the journal. "Well of course she did, she wouldn't have become pregnant if she hadn't wanted to."
"No." Sasuke glared at the book in Naruto's hands, but his voice had grown calm again. "No, she did more then just let herself get pregnant."
"Shit, just tell me what her journal said."
Finally Sasuke turned his eyes towards Naruto's. "What do you know of genetic engineering?"
I know that this goes against all the rules of nature. If they realize what I've done, they will force me to abort. I can't let them do that for all our sakes. Shisou will object but it will be too late once our child is born.
"No way. Ren is biologically from all three of us?"
"Sakura came up with some sort of method to actively pick out the genes her child would inherit. She took different aspects from the both of us to conceive Ren with."
"But, that…that's impossible!"
"No, Sakura spent the last two years coming up with this technique. She combined all three of our DNA together, using her chakra as the fuel to help the child grow. But because her body kept trying to abort the fetus, it took more and more of her chakra as the pregnancy went on. By the time she gave birth, all her strength was devoted to keeping Ren alive." Sasuke gave a harsh laugh at this point. "She killed herself to give us a child."
"Sakura wouldn't do that! Why would she if she knew she was going to die? She would never want to leave us alone!"
"But we're not alone. We have Ren and each other." Sasuke repeated mockingly, a twisted smile upon his face.
I know this is selfish, but please, please love our child…
…please don't hate me.
"So you couldn't find her journal? You couldn't find anything?"
"Of course not, Hokage-sama. If we did, you would be the first to know."
"I would hope so. If Ren's conception was unnatural and if later she were to become ill who knows how she might be affected…"
"But we don't need to worry do we? After all her godmother is the famous medic-nin, Tsunade-sama."
Silence, then "bastard" being mumbled under her breath. "I want to see her for her yearly check up in three months. The two of you are dismissed."
The night before Ren's first birthday, Naruto turned up at the open doorway to the main bedroom, with Ren in his arms. Sasuke looked up from his scroll and let his eyebrows rise in question. As if waiting for permission to enter what had once been his bedroom, Naruto rubbed the top of one foot with the other and said, "Um, Ren wants to go to sleep next to me but the only bed we have is in here."
Sasuke looked at the two of them without a word for a long moment before he shifted to lie on the far left of the mattress, his original position when the bed had once held three people. Naruto's face brightened and he stepped into the room, rambling as he placed their daughter on the mattress. "When I tried to put her down, she would clutch on to me and start to cry, so I figured she could sleep here with us."
Though he was surprised, Sasuke didn't let that show on his face. This would be the first time since Sakura's death that they would be sleeping in the same bed together. Calmly, he rolled up his half-read scroll and placed it carefully onto his nightstand and turned his lamp off.
The moonlight that streamed in through the open window illuminated the room enough so that he could see his daughter sleeping calmly, her tiny hand clutched around two of Naruto's fingers. He follwed his gaze, up from Naruto's fingers to his arm and then to his sleeping face. It always amazed him how fast and seemingly without care Naruto went to sleep, almost trusting whichever environment he was in to protect him while he slept. Sasuke was always the opposite and found sleep even harder to attain since Sakura's death. That was the reason he had been reading in bed as insomnia kept him up the majority of the night.
However, lying like this, watching his daughter and his…hmm, what was Naruto to him now? He didn't know the answer to anything anymore, but somehow watching the last of his precious people sleep was somehow quite peaceful. Without thinking, he turned onto his side, the better to watch the two sleeping besides him. He wondered if it was just because of the inadequate lighting in the room, but he could swear that Ren's hair held just the touch of pink and that thought brought a prickling of tears to his eyes. Not wanting to cry, he closed his eyes, refusing to let the tears fall and didn't seem to notice when he fell asleep.
Though he didn't know how, Sasuke somehow knew this was a dream. A second latter he realized how he knew—he felt happy. His eyes fluttered open and a warm hand squeezed his tightly.
"Sakura." He murmured as she smiled at him. "I've missed you." Since it was a dream, it was all right to reveal a little weakness, especially if the person he was admitting weakness to was dead and could never tell anyone else of it. Sakura shook her head wryly, as if she was privy to his inner thoughts. Perhaps she was—this was his dream after all and this Sakura was just a figment of his own imagination.
"Shall we stay here then, just the two of us together?" She asked him, head tilted in question.
The word "yes" was on the tip of his tongue but somehow he couldn't say it to her. As if reading his mind again, she asked, "Or would just the two of us be too lonely?" With her free hand, Sakura carefully cupped his cheek and said; "You shouldn't feel lonely even if I'm not there with you anymore. There's still Naruto and-"
Suddenly Sasuke was desperate to cut her off before she could finish her sentence. "She can't take your place. Ren's not you."
Suddenly the hand that had been caressing his face was now pinching his cheek. "Of course she's not me. She's Ren. She's all of us and her own person."
"Ow, ow Sakura!" Were you supposed to be able to feel pain in your dreams? But Sasuke's pained cries did the job as Sakura stopped pinching him and instead began to smooth the marks she had made with her thumb.
"I know you were angry and that you're still angry even now."
"You shouldn't have done that Sakura, sacrifice your life like that."
"You're not angry because of Ren. You're angry because I didn't leave you a target to vent your pain on when I died." Sasuke was shocked into silence as he realized she was right. She continued on, "But don't let your anger ruin the rest of your life."
Shaking off both her hands, he took a step backwards from her and snarled, "Easy for you to say when you're dead."
She took a step forward, her hands reaching out and grabbing onto his. "Yes, I'm dead, and I can say this easily because it's true. Sasuke, even though another of your family members died, it's still all right to be happy again. I thought Naruto and I taught you this already."
He set his mouth into a mulish line and stubbornly refused to say anything. Sakura shook her head slightly and sighed before she asked, "How do you two spell out Ren's name?"
Surprised, Sasuke's eyebrows furrowed before he answered, "In katakana since we weren't sure what kanji you wanted to use."
She smiled. "Do you know why I chose the name Ren for our daughter?" Sasuke shook his head and she asked him, "What were the choices of Kanji?"
"Lotus, love, or to connect." He answered, a slight frown on his face.
Still smiling, she said, "Katakana is a good choice. Now her name can mean all three." Releasing his hands, Sakura once more cupped his face to bring it to hers for a lingering kiss. When they broke off, she rested his forehead on hers for a moment before taking a step back. Without thought, Sasuke's hands came up, trying to catch her, trying to restrain her from leaving because he knew what her kiss had been saying. 'I love you. Goodbye.' But she seemed to flow away from his grasp, just hovering outside his reach.
"Wait," he called out to her even though she was only standing a foot away from him. "Did you visit Naruto too?"
At this her smile turned a little wicked. "I didn't need to. He was smart enough not to need me to come to teach him a lesson." Sasuke could feel himself frown at her unwarranted criticism, and her laughter filled the space between them.
Finally her laughter faded and she stared at him with love and laughter shining in her eyes. He stared at her with longing and a bit of despair in his.
"Remember Sasuke. Remember to love, to be happy, and to not let Ren just grow up on ramen."
Her form was fading from his sight and he couldn't help but want to try and reach out again, somehow hold her to him and never let her go. But he knew that wasn't going to happen so instead he asked her, "Will I see you again?"
"Sasuke, I'm always with you, you just have to open your eyes and see."
"Open my eyes?"
"Yes, open your eyes."
When Sasuke woke up the next morning, he found Ren's hand clutched in his, her other hand still holding onto Naruto's.
…hand in hand in hand…
Author's Notes: When I started this fic, I didn't think it would end up to be more about Sasuke rather then Naruto or about the two of them together. Truth be told, I don't care much for Sasuke. However, as I got to the ending I realized that of the two, I think Sasuke would have the harder time of dealing with Sakura's death considering how messed up emotionally and psychologically he is. He would try to be strong, to look strong, but inside he would be a mess, though I don't think even he would know it. Naruto has Ren to heal with, and that in turns helps his relationship with Sasuke heal as well, at least on his side. Sasuke needs a wake up call to help him start his own healing process, though it did have roots in the scene in which Sasuke and Naruto are packing up Sakura's things and Naruto tells him that he he's not alone--he has Naruto and Ren.