A/N: To clarify, I don't hate this entire story. In fact, I rather liked the last chapter.
This will be a NaruSaku intensive chapter. Mostly from Sakura's point of view, some of Naruto's.
This Chapter is a ROUGH DRAFT!
There was a long moment of intense heart beating on Sakura's part as she stared into his deep crystal blue eyes.
Sadness seeped into his irises, and Sakura felt horrible as the cause. It was then that it occurred to Sakura just how much she loved Naruto.
Sakura knew that she loved him, of course, but when she really thought about it, she couldn't even begin to imagine going on with life without him there too. Tears stung her eyes a bit as she thought about it before shutting the possibility out of her mind.
No, now she knew what was meant by 'you don't know what you have 'til it's gone.' As she looked him in the eyes, her hear beat in her ears and her throat tightened in a way that she knew would make her voice waver.
The kunoichi opened her mouth pour her feelings and apologies at Naruto, but she was cut off before she could start.
"No." Naruto growled, breaking away from her gaze to stare off at a tree, "I don't want to hear your…"
She watched his mouth work for the right words, but they never came. Instead, he stood up and faced away from her.
"Just… go away."
Her turquoise eyes bored into the stop where he had just vacated. The leaves trembled where he had jumped off into the jungle.
Sakura squeezed her eyes shut tightly and her head fell. She thought about following him, but her hands were shaking already.
After a moment, Sakura turned and looked down at Naruto's meager camp. His pack was open, and it looked as though he had ruffled through it. There was some fruit and jerky peeking out.
An idea suddenly struck Sakura, and she turned and rushed into the brush, back towards Konoha. As she ran, she checked her watch. It was 6:30 p.m. on a Sunday. Ichiraku Ramen closed at 7:00 on Sundays!
After some close calls with carts and only a few people knocked over, Sakura made it to Ichiraku Ramen with fifteen minutes to closing. The old man's daughter smiled oddly at Sakura, whose chest was heaving from the run.
"One extra large Naruto ramen, with everything," Sakura finally managed, "I know you guys don't do special requests, but can you make it to go?"
The girl's smile faltered. "Naruto? Are you ordering something for him?"
Sakura nodded. "Yes, he's not very happy with me right now…"
"Oh," She said, smiling again, "I'll make something up special then, just for him. You can return the bowl later."
She disappeared, and Sakura sat on a stool to wait.
When the girl came back, she carried a large ceramic bowl, covered by a plastic lid. She handed the bowl to Sakura, along with a pair of chopsticks, wrapped in a cloth napkin.
"It's dad's traveling lunch bowl," She explained, "but I don't think he'll mind too much, just be sure to bring it back!"
Sakura smiled in thanks and handed over the money after nodding. Then, she was off, no longer running, but fast-walking as to not splash the soup around.
When she reached the training grounds and then, finally, Naruto's campsite, she could see that the fire had been stoked a bit and his pack had been moved about again. She hadn't been trying to sneak up, so he had no doubt just left the site.
Sakura set the ramen bowl down carefully, laying the chopsticks a top it. Then she turned around and left.
That night, Sakura tossed and turned in her bed that was too big for one person. She shivered in her pajamas and spent most of the night staring at the wall thinking.
The next morning, Sakura went back to Naruto's camp to find the bowl empty next to his pack. She had once again made plenty of noise on the way to the camp, and she suspected that Naruto had once again left before she could arrive.
Sakura had always been moderately surprised at how aware and alert Naruto could be, especially on any missions she had recently been on with him. The growth he had made from his clumsy beginning was astonishing by the standards of normal ninja growth, but most everyone who knew Naruto simply chalked it up to being a 'Naruto thing.'
The kunoichi retrieved the bowl from the ground, resisting the urge to touch his sleeping mat to see if it was still warm, and left the area.
When she arrived back at Ichiraku's, she ordered the lunch special she thought Naruto would especially enjoy, and the girl who worked the Ramen stand gladly allowed her to borrow the bowl again.
Sakura stopped before she left, though. She turned back to the girl and said, "Do you happen to have any pieces of paper? And a pen?"
"Yes, we do, hold on." The girl disappeared into the back room, returning with a small square of paper and an old and fancy pen.
Not knowing what to write yet, Sakura merely stared at the paper for a bit. What did you say to someone you have emotionally knifed?
She leaned over the paper and started writing I'M SORR-
Sakura stopped with a frustrated sigh. She furiously scribbled over her incomplete apology and tapped the end of the pen against her chin, a habit she had picked up from Tsunade.
Finally, Sakura placed the pen back on the paper and scratched under the scribble: FOR YOU.
Satisfied, Sakura gathered the bowl and the paper up, thanking the girl for her help, and left the shop.
The fire was a pile of ash when she returned, and she thought that perhaps Naruto hadn't been back to his campsite in sometime.
Sakura carefully placed the bowl next to his pack again and placed the note on top of the plastic top. Then, she placed the chopsticks on top of it, to be sure it couldn't blow away in a stray breeze.
After glancing around once more, Sakura trudged home, rather dejectedly, unsure of what to do with the rest of her day. She spent the rest of the day doing laundry, and trying to occupy herself.
Unbeknownst to her, a pair of cerulean blue eyes watched Sakura carefully place the note atop the bowl of ramen she had brought for the second time. Naruto dropped down from a tree branch high above with a quiet thump. He carefully examined the ramen bowl from a few feet away with narrowed eyes. Then, the clone put his fingers together and expelled in a cloud of smoke.
In another part of the forest, Naruto and another clone stopped fighting as they became aware of Sakura's visit. The clone exploded into smoke as Naruto turned and leaped into the upper tree branches, hurrying back towards his little camp.
When he set down onto the ground, Naruto approached the bowl of ramen with a grim face. He hadn't intended to eat the last bowl, but he had gotten quite sick of grinding beef jerky between his teeth. Now the bowl was back, the sides just barely cool enough to hold between palms, and he could smell the Monday Lunch Special he liked so much from four feet away. He would eat the ramen, but the note on the top was what bothered him most.
After a moment's hesitation, the blond bent over and picked up the note. He examined the scribble, and then read the note.
Naruto looked away and into the bushes, eyes not really focused at all. He thumbed the note absently.
It was two words that held a world of meaning. Naruto knew better than anyone that doing things for other people could be the most rewarding and painful thing a person could do. He did things for other people all the time. In fact, his life goal involved dedicating his entire life to doing things for his village.
He was not a fair giver, though, and he had given Sakura everything she had ever asked for, and even more that she hadn't. He had given her so much; he would never have enough of anything to give someone else more.
So, for the first time in a long time, she gave him something, completely selflessly.
As Naruto sat, he stuffed the note into his pocket. He grasped the bowl and opened it, beginning to eat.
The jinchuuriki thought deeply of the significance of ramen and what Sakura meant by it. On some level, Naruto understood that she was trying to make things right and try to be selfless, for once, but Naruto was wiser than that. She was doing this for herself, too. It made her feel better to know he was eating her 'I'm sorry' gifts.
He snorted while he gulped noodles. Naruto certainly appreciated her efforts at doing something for someone else completely, but the future Hokage had a sneaking suspicion that Sakura was out of practice.
Naruto grinned through a mouthful of ramen as a sudden idea struck him. He ate much more quickly as he schemed out his idea, and, when he had finally drank the last drop of broth, he was quite satisfied with his idea.
The Kyuubi vessel scrambled into his bedroll, determined to rest well that night. After all, a good night's sleep was needed before a good spar.
Sakura's eyes found Naruto immediately when she entered the campsite to collect his empty bowl for the second time. He sat exactly where he had when she had first come, lazing against the trunk of a tree and resting on the branch. His eyes were closed and he seemed to be completely ignoring her.
Sakura was immobile for a few long seconds, before she finally realized that he probably wouldn't want to talk to her. After all, there was no way that he was asleep.
So, she moved forward, shoulders unconsciously slumping, towards the empty bowl and chopsticks. When she picked it up, Sakura noticed that the note she had left was nowhere in sight. With one last glance at Naruto, she turned back around and towards the village.
Naruto hadn't meant for his voice to sound so desperate, but he followed it up with a cough as he swung one of his legs over the tree branch, hopping to the ground.
Sakura spun on one heel faster than she had meant to, but it seemed that Naruto hadn't noticed how eager she was for him to speak to her again, because he had taken to examining his toes.
She was hoping that he would say a few words and they would be back to their usual selves, laughing and joking and obnoxiously affectionate in public. But her wishes stood on unsteady ground, because she could feel the gaping wound between them, still raw and painful. It was hard for her to be able to feel a wound that her normal methods of glowing chakra could never heal.
"I- uhh.. I understand that you're trying to make me feel better…" Naruto started in a halting voice, "But when I feel down… I usually talk to…" He trailed off rather than say her name, "… or I spar with Sasuke."
Sakura nodded slowly as she listened, rather ashamed that she was partially responsible for Sasuke's condition.
Naruto leaned his weight on one leg and looked up into the tree, scratching the back of his head. "Sooo… I was wondering if you wanted to spar with me instead." He continued, "It would really help me out."
Sakura's eyes lit up as she realized that Naruto was asking her to spend time with him, to spar, to make him feel better.
"Yeah!" She said enthusiastically, before feeling overly excited, "I mean, yeah, I'd really like to spar with you."
"Okay." Naruto responded, a smile crawling across his face, "Well let's get started! You should put that ramen bowl down first, though."
His wife let out a half completed 'oh' and set the bowl down gently, surprised that they were going to spar right there and then.
Naruto watched as she stepped over the bowl and started her usual sparring traditions of retrieving the gloves from her pockets and pulling them on, one by one. He had once called them her ass-whooping gloves.
Sakura watched as Naruto rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck and all his fingers, just like he always did. It drove her nuts, and she had often told him so.
The kunoichi sank into a fighting stance but was surprised when Naruto grinned and crossed his fingers in a familiar seal. Four clones poofed into existence and the five of them raced towards Sakura all at once.
Her husband had never used clones against her before in a spar. Their spars were usually one on one, focusing on intensely advanced taijutsu.
Team Seven's only female didn't have any more time to contemplate this change because the multiples had surrounded her and were sliding in to reprise a move she had seen Naruto use against Kiba in the Chuunin exams. She flipped from the circle with ease, leaving the three clones to slide towards each other.
She had been anticipated, though, because another Naruto locked her arms behind her when Sakura landed. The other Naruto not being used in the Rendan leaped at her from the left with a heavy right fist aimed at her face.
The punch connected solid with her face and her eyes reeled from the shock wave, blurring and distorting her vision.
Sakura didn't need to see to know where the clone was going to land, though, and her left leg whipped upwards, her foot catching the clone under his chin. She was rewarded with a poof.
Then, she swung her leg back down and used its momentum to lift the Naruto behind her off the ground and up. As she curled her head under, she forced their close bodies to do an incomplete flip, ending with her slamming the clone's back onto the ground, followed by her own body smacking into the front of his body. He poofed out of existence and she flopped onto the ground.
Just as her vision cleared once more, a Naruto was flying at her again. It yelled as he made to grapple her, but Sakura raised her legs to catapult him off behind her while using his momentum to flip herself back to her feet.
When she heard him rushing her again from behind, she was ready.
Spinning on her toes, Sakura let loose a throaty shout and grasped the clone but his unshielded neck, her fingers crushing down til she felt his trachea buckle. Sakura was relieved as the flesh she gripped in her fist turned to smoke.
As she turned back around, she spotted another clone rearing back with a punch from the corner of her eye. She ducked the punch as she spun, letting her right leg drag cross the ground before sweeping the legs right out from under him.
Sakura snatched him back up by the front of his orange jacket and pumped chakra into her arm, lifting him and throwing him headfirst into the nearest tree trunk, where he poofed on impact.
Chakra drained from her arm and Sakura was surprised by the use of her monstrous strength, something she had never done in a spar with Naruto before.
Sakura spun and looked back into the small clearing at the real Naruto, who was grinning at her.
"Lucky none of those were me." He said in a sing song voice.
Sakura raised her eyebrows and pointed at him, "You're next." She started to advance.
Naruto simply raised his fingers yet again, and this time she caught his whisper, "Tajuu Kage Bunshin no jutsu!"
Turquoise eyes widened as Naruto clones filled the trees and the clearing, all of them grinning and taunting her.
"Who's next?" They all chorused at once, sticking out their tongues, as four started advancing.
With no more time to be surprised, Sakura poured herself into the fight, and soon gave up on using only normal taijutsu against Naruto's horde of clones.
She would fight off ten or so clones before there would be a lull large enough for her to crack open the ground and swallow fifty.
Fighting hundreds of her own husband was tiring and endless, something she had only remotely experienced once against Sasori's hundreds of puppets. Even then, it had been different with someone else on her side. Naruto's endless chakra was perhaps his greatest asset. Her and Naruto's spars were never this intense, and Sakura had never fully realized how formidable Naruto could be as an enemy, and this was only one technique.
In a sense, all he needed was one technique, because she could feel her body wearing down already.
The true Naruto stood high in a tree, observing Sakura fight with other clones. As she defeated them, the information as to which fist hit them with and where was reabsorbed by himself and other clones. After many clones had fallen to her abilities and roughly a half hour had passed since they first began, he began to notice patterns in her fighting style.
Like the fact she favored her reaching right punch, which left her core wide open far too often.
Suddenly, Sakura took a nasty kick to the stomach that knocked the breath from her and sent her flying. The crowd of clones split like water, and she was stopped by a tree.
As she lay slumped against the trunk, the horde of clones collectively gasped and stared with deep concern as she coughed to catch her breath and her body shuddered with gasps.
At this moment, Naruto's words from just before came back to her, and she realized just what this was. This was not a usual spar between Naruto and her, this was a usual spar between Sasuke and Naruto.
Sakura had witnessed a few of their spars, and they were usually held far outside the village, because the earth would be torn and forests fell. Naruto and Sasuke fought like they meant to kill each other, and it was usually their way of expressing their respect towards each other, and a way for them to vent. However, Sasuke was currently injured, which left Naruto to punch logs.
But Naruto had decided that he would use his wife as a substitute, and this was the result.
The kunoichi figured that she'd have to toughen up to spar on Sasuke and Naruto's level, or be seriously injured.
Resolution in mind, Sakura's gloved hands stopped nursing her stomach and balled into fists. She stood, slowly, and plunged her fist deep into the trunk of the tree. The two and a half foot diameter splintered like a snapped pencil, and Sakura wrapped her arms around it.
Chakra flowed into her arms until they glowed, and the clones stepped back in surprise. With a primal yell, the pick-haired kunoichi reversed the fall of the tree and swung around on her heels in a circle, wiping out a chunk of the clone crowd, and then let go when it was towards the thickest part of the crowd. The tree rolled through the clones, spewing up smoke and giving rise to screams as some clones tried to escape its path. It crashed through the brush and right through saplings as the clones that weren't in its way gaped at the spectacle.
While no one was looking, Sakura spun and surged off in a run towards a tree she had picked out. It had a foot of diameter and it looked very straight. The top had thick branches and it was full of young twig like branches that would act as whips.
With a single solid kick, the bottom portion of the tree exploded into kindling and Sakura caught the tree on the way down. When she turned, the clones had overcome their initial shock and the survivors of her first tree were starting to clamber towards her with shouts of anger.
She wielded the tree like a giant sword, sweeping it through the crowd of clones and even picking some of them out of the air if they tried an aerial approach. Chakra saturated the muscle cells and gave her the ability to use a full grown tree as a weapon.
The true Naruto was rightly shocked when Sakura started wiping out vast quantities of his clones with a tree, and he was forced to switch trees in order to avoid her offensive tactics.
Finally, he was forced to call two of his clones towards him to pour their chakra into his fist to make a rather large Rasengan in his right hand, before they disappeared.
The bright blue ball was spotted, though, by Sakura from the corner of her eye. With a growl, she hefted the tree, turning it around. She cut the tree where the branches began with a well-aimed chakra fist, and then she raised the tree, now a good twenty feet in length. Sakura leaned back and, with a gruff yell, threw the tree trunk like a javelin at Naruto's chest.
He met it in mid-air with the Rasengan.
The ball of rotating chakra ate through the trunk like a wood-chipper, just large enough to break up the entire tree.
Sakura watched carefully from below. She had seen the Rasengan in action many times before, and she was looking for the dissolution of the sphere. Then, she charged her feet with chakra, and leapt, shooting into the air.
Just as the Rasengan ate through the end of the tree and start to clear, Naruto was met with Sakura and her fist. He barely had enough time to cross his arms in front of his face before she smashed her fist where his nose should have been.
His wife's chakra charged fist sent him flying backwards through branches before he finally hit a solid trunk, causing him to slide down to the ground.
Sakura landed on the ground with her feet solid beneath, her knees bending on impact. Naruto's concentration broken, his clones poofed from existence around her and she straightened, starting to advance towards where Naruto landed.
The Kyuubi vessel was badly injured, but his demon chakra was already starting to heal him. His splintered forearms slowly reassembled and knitted back together and the bruising of his back began to fade. The tiny cuts all along his body from branches steamed as they sealed and returned his skin to its usual untouched state.
Naruto stayed completely still, though, as his wounds healed. Even after they healed, Naruto was still as though he was dead.
When Sakura reached him, she could see that he was healed, but he was sitting like a stone.
"Naruto?" She asked, her voice unsure.
At first, she couldn't sense any of his chakra moving at all, as though it was just a body, and then it exploded into a chakra that flowed in the most peculiar way. And there was tons of it, too. Sakura stepped back in apprehension.
Naruto moved then, up and into a squat before he raised his head and opened his eyes.
Sakura's eyes widened as she stared at the red pigment staining his lids and his eerie yellow irises dotted with dash shaped pupils.
The Nature Sage grinned at Sakura's stunned face. "This is so much fun, Sakura." He said, "Are you ready for round two?"
A/N: Action scenes are fun! The next chapter spar will be a lot more personal. SasuHina in the next chapter, by the way.
If you think this fight scene is unrealistic, please direct your attention to the entirety of the Naruto Manga. It makes tree-swords look like a normal thing.
I think tree-swords are cool. Were I Sakura, I'd use everything as a weapon. She always fights close range when she could just be heaving giant boulders and houses at people. No sense, I tell ya.