Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto nor will I ever.
Summary: "Haruno Sakura, you have been ordered to guard the prisoner Uzumaki Naruto." After a strict order from the Hokage, Sakura has been forced to conquer her greatest fear—the rumored beast of Konoha. The tragedy is slowly revealed, piece-by-piece.
Pairing: Naruto X Sakura
AN: Interesting note: I edited the past chapters, from 1-9. I noticed a bit of inconsistency with both Naruto's and Sakura's feelings. I found myself flinching at the characters' certain actions. It didn't match their mindset, so I just had to go back and change them. I would appreciate if you guys went back to read it. I feel the edits are more natural for the characters. But without further ado, the latest chapter!
What did Uzumaki Naruto mean to her?
It was sudden, but the question appeared in her mind, and no matter how much Sakura tried to focus on another subjects, the question remained. She gave the first answer that came to her mind at first, that they were simple acquaintances, bond together by work. And when she was done, Uzumaki Naruto would promptly disappear from her life. But that only served to create yet another troublesome question that her mind decided to concoct out of the blue.
Would she want Uzumaki Naruto to disappear from her life?
Of course, should have been the answer. The shock she had first received from being assigned to guard Uzumaki Naruto had still not worn off. Even in her fingers, she could feel the chill of the prison cell and finding Uzumaki sitting in the center of it all, simply smiling. That's right. From the day he left his prison till now, he had always given Sakura his best smile. She was sure of it. It had been her that had been suspicious of his intent, and had always thrown fits of anger that amounted to embarrassment.
Blond haired spilled into her eyesight, bright as the Sun. "Are you still worried?"
That seemed to bring her out of her stance. Her eyes blinked, the vivid green clear as ever. "About what?"
Naruto raised an eyebrow, the corner of his lips slight curving, until it looked as if he had been thoroughly affected by her nonchalant answer. Then, like a spring, his hand shot up from his side to Sakura's forehead. It stayed there for a moment, cool against the heat of her face. Then he pressed his other hand against his forehead. "You don't seem to have a fever."
Her forehead creased and she used her own arm to get his away from her face. It made her feel uncomfortably hot, as if all her blood had rushed to her cheeks, "Of course not. Do you expect me to get sick just from going to the Hot Springs?" Her voice was slightly chiding, she realized. She softened her tone. "Well, thanks for your concern anyways, but it isn't needed. I'm not that weak, you know?"
Naruto nodded, a bit weakly. "So," he said, his face back to that questioning look, "Are you worried?" He raised his eyebrow again, for apparent emphasis.
"About what?" she asked, a soft sign escaping from her lips. It was the best she could do without laughing at his antics, a childish face. Still, it pleased her to know that he had opened up to her. She knew that compared to his polite smiles from the first day she met him, she preferred this Naruto, the one that cracked an occasional joke, the best. He also looked more handsome, when he was informal, she realized. His natural smile attracted her the most; there was something about the way he was able to crack a grin, even in the best and worst of times.
In response to her question, he pointed with his thumb to his back; he currently carried a knocked-out Jiraiya, whose snore was loud enough to beat the summer chirp of the crickets.
"All the more reason we should hurry back," stated Sakura.
"You never answer my question," pointed out Naruto.
She looked down, "Things could become severe if Jiraiya-sama doesn't return to Konoha immediately, for both Tsunade and you." The smile on his face relaxed, until it became more of a neutral line, neither a frown nor a grin. "We should hurry," she said.
He nodded, the gentle curve visible on his serene face. But, out of the corner of her eyes, Sakura saw the blond tighten his hold on Jiraiya. Then the ends of his lips seemed to falter for a bit. He was worried. Despite her protest, the image burned into her mind and no matter how she tried, the melancholy look on Uzumaki Naruto's face would not fade away, even with the passing of time. Implications would have suggested that Sakura's feelings were rapidly changing for the blond, but her heart stubbornly refused to listen. Friends, she argued, were the only reason she worried for the blond, cried when he lamented, and smiled when he grinned.
It made it all the better that Sakura never did listen to reason, so when her brain argued against the validity of hers, she simply ignored it.
When they arrived at the gates of Konoha, the gigantic towering walls, she volunteered to arrive first, seeing how urgent the matter at hand was. "I'll go in first. See you, later!"
"Wait, Sakura." His voice stopped her in her steps. She turned around, to see his cheerful face, once more. Only this time, it looked somewhat forced, similar to the smile she had seen on the first day she met him. He shook his head, "N-Never mind. Just promise me, that you'll be safe. And, don't worry about me."
"I'm only going to be separated from your for a few minutes," she laughed and proceeded into Konoha.
It was a mistake that she would regret to this day.
When she spoke with Tsunade, it was with the Council as well.
"Tsunade-sama, we have arrived with the desired target. As we speak, Uzumaki Naruto is coming with Jiraiya-sama," said Sakura. From this, Tsunade nodded weakly. Sakura frowned, sure that her teacher would have given a much more lively expression than just a weak nod of the neck. But before she could express her protest, her teacher spoke and she was forced to keep silent. The last thing she needed was for Tsunade to scold her for interrupting her while the Elders were around.
"Good job, Sakura." Her voice revealed the age of her teacher; every word sounded heavy, as if the impact of something heavy might hit Sakura at any instant.
She breathed in, "Is…there anything else you want to tell me, sensei?"
Her mentor hid her face behind her hands, so that Sakura could not see her expression. But from the severity of the scene, Sakura's heart involuntarily started to beat quickly. "What? Did anything happen?"
Tsunade stared up, from her hands. Sakura noticed the dark curves that had appeared under her mentor's eyes. They revealed the further aging her mentor had seemingly gone through in the absence of Uzumaki and her. "Uzumaki Naruto, is there anything wrong?" Her voice climbed another octave and sounded something akin to a squeaky teenager. She flinched inwardly as the Elders looked at her questioningly, as if they were berating her for worrying about the boy.
"Haruno Sakura, you are relived from your duty. Uzumaki Naruto will no longer be in your care. He will be kept in captivity again." One of the elders had said this.
For a moment, Sakura did not feel anything. Time had stopped for her, and the space floating around her was timeless and soft, like a wave of hot air. Then her heart flopped and fell. Something ached in her chest and it couldn't have been her heart, she thought, because her heart had just dropped into her stomach. It couldn't have been her heart, because it wouldn't be aching like as if it had been stabbed. It wouldn't have been as painful because there was no knife in her chest. But why, then, did it feel as if someone important was pulled forcefully away from her grasp, like her teammates had been, one by one?
"Sakura, are you okay?" Tsunade's voice pulled at Sakura's conscience, until her eyes snapped back into focus. It was when she noticed the background was blurred. She blinked, and a drop of water dripped from her eyes. "Sakura, answer me."
She so desperately wanted to answer no, scream the word over again like a little child when something important got taken away from her, and complain until her teacher brought back Naruto and freed him from that horror of a jail.
"I…" The softness of her words scared her. Rather, it was the lack of strength in her words. She felt as if the air had been deflated out of her and she was merely an empty vessel. She looked around the room and saw the disgusted looks on the Elders. She wanted to scream at them, threaten them with her ridiculous strength until they agreed to release Naruto. But, she couldn't, not without giving more trouble to Tsunade and Naruto. She looked down to the floor, closed her eyes. She could not allow herself to cry in front of the Elders. "Uzumaki Naruto. He means nothing to me."
With that, she departed away from the scene.
It was then she realized that there was nothing she could do for him. Her power was useless. She was even prevented from asking questions about his whereabouts. Slowly, she managed to reach her apartment, a void little space. She inserted her key in the lock, but found that she could not open the door. She looked down and saw that she had not managed to insert the key into the keyhole. She tried again, but fumbled. She tried another time. When she failed, she threw the key against the surface of the door and in desperation, kicked the door with her leg. A loud thump followed as the girl slumped to the floor, her pink hair covering the upper half of her face, her arms limp besides her side.
"He-He knew," the words gushed out of her mouth. The image of Naruto at the gate flashed in her head, and it was at the moment, her tears flowed out as well, wet and warm. But then, the door opened with a slight creak and Sakura was not alone anymore. She pressed her face against the cloth of her skirt.
"Sasuke," she greeted, her voice still raw. She stood up, dusting the invisible dust around her skirt. More importantly, she had her head down. "I'm really tired today, so I think I'll just go to sleep." She pushed pass the Uchiha and would have successfully reached her room, if not for the fact that he had grabbed her hand at the last second. She froze, not daring to meet his eyes. She lifted her head, willing the tears to stop, but it was impossible. Everything in her house reminded her of Naruto. It was at this, her tears paused.
There was something different about her house.
"I moved around some of the furniture while you were gone."
Her lips were slightly parted and in only a while, she knew that hiccups would follow. She felt Sasuke release his hold around her wrist. Her legs moved automatically, her weight causing the floorboards to creak ever so slight.
Everything was so different. The clock she had grown to love was placed in another position in the living room, where it was closer to her bedroom. It ticked systemically but somehow, to her ears, it sounded off-beat. She turned around. The sofa was around the window instead next to the hallway. The table, the one where she had found to be filled with dust merely after a few days of neglectance, was cleanly polished and sitting around the kitchen. Bitting her lower lip, she ran to Naruto's room. It was rearranged as well; there was not a speck of dust to be seen. The mattress was placed so that it would not block the door. She found that there was an open pathway because of this, despite Uzumaki's claims that it was impossible. It was so unlike the way Uzumaki had kept it. There was no sign that Uzumaki Naruto had indeed existed here. Everything was different.
She turned around, only to collide with Sasuke's chest. She backed up instinctively, trying to turn her face away.
"What happened, Sakura?" His voice sounded warm for once, unlike the cold tone she was so familiar with. It was still not as warm as Naruto's voice had been. His hands moved to touch her cheek, but she only flinched. Sakura didn't apologize.
She placed a placid smile on her face, forced herself to. "Nothing. I just had a tough day."
"I'm tired. I want to sleep," she said, pushing pass her teammate. When she reached the doorway to her room, she stopped, and turned to Sasuke. "You can sleep there for tonight. Uzu—No one's using it tonight."
When she entered her room, she slammed the door completely behind her, unlike when Naruto was here. She would leave it open, least he cause any trouble in her home. It allowed her to better hear the sounds around her house. She laughed bitterly at this, remembering the time that the blond had caused such a loud clatter that she found herself awake for the whole night.
Sakura did not change into her pajamas. Instead, she plopped down onto her bed and could not find the will to fall asleep.
What did Uzumaki Naruto mean to her?
It's a sad chapter. T.T Sorry about this, guys. I update a new chapter in a long while and it's a sad one...