I have so many things to say that I don't even know where to start! I'll start from the beginning. It is the last chapter of Knightly Treats and I'm insanely thankful to all those who have constantly reviewed and let me know that my story was being read, appreciated and of course that it pleased you.
Because it is the last chapter I would like to ask everyone who has read to leave a review. I'd like to know that I was able to entertain you in some way and that my writing was of some value. Arigato, mina.
I hope you guys really enjoy this chapter. I have to say (my mom told me to say this) that if you don't like it you can blame my mother. I gave her three plot options and this is the one she liked the best. I of course had also liked this one, but was unsure. Her choice only made mine much clearer! So flame her if you hate it. E-eto, I'm kidding.
I have a few more things to say, but I'll save it for the end of the chapter.
Warnings none, but I do want to say that I still don't own Naruto, not the series nor the manga. I wish I did though. Don't worry the day I get my hands on it I'll have a giant Itachi smex-a-thon.
Before I forget, I am posting this chapter for my friend, Lover, his b-day was on the 1st and I wanted to get him a gift. I worked hard Lover! I hope you like it. 3,000+ for you again.
"Really, who is he?" Gaara placed his hand on Naruto's side and held out his hand for a dance. They had been cued, but Naruto hadn't been listening. His mind was going into overdrive. He needed to find Kakashi. He also needed to not embarrass the kingdom. He also had to find out what Gaara knew. On top of it all he had to dance.
"Who?" Naruto fidgeted and took a wrong step once only to be held firmly, close to Gaara's chest and saved from a stumble.
"The man you're looking for."
Neji was dressed in his best pure white suit. His shoes were polished and used to the dance floor and yet he wasn't dancing. Neji was standing next to a drink table watching closely as the princess, 'his princess', danced with another man, one he knew to be the prince of Suna. Neji didn't doubt that something had already been prearranged between the kings. It wouldn't be unusual, strange or even unheard of to have an arranged marriage between the nobles. Now that Neji had seen the princess he wasn't convinced that she would pick him. She looked so carefree and he was known to be very strict in every sense of the word. If it was prearranged, then Neji was thankful because he would lose, but then again so would everybody else.
Asuma was thinking of the best way to rush out now that the first dance was almost over. He needed desperately to find his best friend. Kakashi had been unusually sad since Naru had left him a second time. Even Asuma couldn't get a smile out of him now-a-days. Asuma shook his head. He had to make it on time! Kakashi would find out where she was then run back after getting out of his slump when he realized that not everything was lost. The solution to all of Kakashi's problems was in that room. Naru was right there and obviously waiting for Kakashi to rescue her. It was the perfect love story and Asuma was going to make it happen, if it was the last thing he did. The knight in shining armor would save his princess just like in the fairy tales.
Even with all his hopeful thinking, Asuma's exit didn't exactly go as smoothly as he had planned. Before he could reach the large wooden doors, where the guards were now just keeping people out, Asuma was stopped by Neji. He wanted to have a conversation and Asuma just happened to have walked by. Neji was usually the most observant of the group. He could read human emotion well and take physical hints and clues the best, but today he just didn't care. He chose not to get the hint. Asuma's obsessive nodding and noncommittal sounds while tapping his shoe went ignored.
"I really don't understand what she could possibly see in him." Neji said for the fifth time. The dance had been done for a few minutes and the princess was still hanging around the prince. By looks of it they were having a very interesting conversation. "It's all a conspiracy." Neji said out loud. "How could two strangers hit it off so quickly? It just doesn't happen. Don't you agree?" Neji didn't get an answer. "He's not even that good looking. I mean the guy doesn't even have eyebrows. I checked." Neji turned to face Asuma who was still nodding impatiently. Neji waited for an answer that time.
"Sure. Well, I have to go. I forgot my thing at the place." He said quickly before turning around, running towards the doors and leaving Neji in his dust. Asuma was glad their table wasn't forced to wear the full metal uniform. If he had worn it, he was sure he wouldn't have made it out of the doors so fast.
After leaving the ball room Asuma's luck returned. Everyone parted at the sight of him running full speed and he made it out into the open much faster than he would have on a regular day. The obvious stop was at Kakashi's house. He had been moping about there the last few days and could usually be seen in his room sleeping or in his bathroom staring at the tub.
Asuma arrived to the front door and tried to push it open, but was surprised to find Kakashi had locked it. Asuma didn't waste time thinking about why the door was locked so early in the evening. Instead he knocked anxiously and waited for Kakashi to answer the door. He received no answer and after the third attempt Asuma rushed around the house to look in through all the windows. Finally he made it to the bathroom window which was always left unlocked and opened by an inch. He jumped up, but there was no Kakashi. He wasn't home. Where else could he be?
Naruto blushed every time Gaara smiled knowingly at him after checking the doors, but continued to ignore the question.
"So, how is Suna? Could you tell me about it?" Naruto asked, trying to strike up a conversation yet again.
"Not much to tell about Suna." Gaara replied dryly. In the short time Naruto had been known Gaara he had noticed that Gaara always had one very good sentence that ended the conversation for that topic.
"Oh, there ha--" Naruto started to object, but was interrupted.
"Suna is a place you have to see and experience." Gaara said kindly. "I'd be glad to show it to you when we arrive."
Naruto didn't have words for the kind offer. He felt his cheeks heat up and a smile that up until that point had only been reserved for Kakashi he showed to Gaara. Before Naruto could speak again their conversation was interrupted by a young man who tapped on Gaara's shoulder almost casually.
"Excuse me, maybe I borrow Naru-hime for a dance?" He asked politely in contrast to his touch. Gaara looked at Naruto then back at the guest. He nodded, but didn't speak.
"Hime-sama, may I?" He asked while extending his hand for her to take.
Naruto was well trained for the situation. He nodded and placed his hand in the gentleman's. He gave one last look towards the doors then let the man put his hands on his waist.
"My name is Hyuuga Neji." He introduced himself after the music began. "I've been looking forward to meeting you, Ohime-sama."
Naruto smiled at the charming knight. He had seen Neji once before, but he couldn't exactly recall where. "It's a pleasure to meet you Hyuuga-san." He replied easily.
Neji raised an eyebrow at her before smiling back. Her voice wasn't nearly as hight pitched or saccharine as he had dreamed, but at least it was somewhat melodic. He spun him around once before leading him in a well practiced waltz. Neji held onto his small waist and smelled his sweet scent. It was perfection. If only he would pick him.
Asuma had searched most of bars which Kakashi frequented. He was nowhere to be found and nobody had seen or heard from him in days. By the fourth and final tavern Asuma was out of breath. He searched the bar and then the tables. It was there he saw grey, gravity defying hair. He ran up to him and shook him by the shoulder.
"Kakashi, the princess--!" He began, but stopped short when he realized it wasn't Kakashi. "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were somebody else." He said with the disappointment clear in his voice. He released the startled man and headed towards the bathrooms just in case. Asuma persisted where others would have simply given up. He walked out of the bar and started at step one again. Where could he find Kakashi?
After Neji Naruto accepted most of the visitors' and knights' offers to dance. He felt like he had danced with every man present by the time he finally got a moment with Gaara again.
The party really was grand. The king must have gone through a lot of trouble or at least the planners under the king had because everything seemed perfectly coordinated. The music never seemed to end and the tables were always lined with food while nobody's glass was ever empty.
"It has been a long night." Gaara commented when he noted Naruto's swaying. Naruto had been leaning his weight from heel to heel in an effort to relieve some of the swelling. "You should probably stop accepting--"
"No, I can still dance!" Naruto objected. Just one more dance was all he needed. Just one more, but the suitor he wanted had yet to show up.
"One more? Is just one more enough for you to be my beautiful wife without regret." Gaara passed his finger under Naruto's chin and lifted his face. Gaara watched the large blue eyes sadden at the mention of marriage. Gaara released his face and spoke up again "We can wait for him as long as the king will let us, but at the end of the night you will be leaving with me." He said as kindly as he could while stating the facts he was certain of.
"I know." Naruto replied with his blue eyes sparkling with new tears. "I-i know my destiny far better than you. There is no need to remind me."
Gaara touched Naruto's hand lightly and only for an instance let him see the pain in his eyes. "You do understand that your horrible destiny is also my cruel fate."
Naruto took in a sudden gasp. Could it be that the prince was also in love? Naruto tried to smile through his sadness. He wasn't alone. Gaara would understand if Kakashi came and took him away.
Asuma had traveled to a lot of their most frequented stops, but had no luck in locating Kakashi. He had to returned to the house as often as he could to make sure Kakashi hadn't shown up, but every time he did he found the house locked and empty. It wasn't until most public places had closed that Asuma wondered if Kakashi hadn't only been running late and he'd missed Kakashi on the way to the ball while he was leaving it. It was possible considering the amount of places he'd looked in without results. Asuma, after making up his mind, walked back to the ball fully expecting to see his friend there.
The sickly yellow light from the street lamps illuminated the way. There was nobody in the streets as Asuma had expected. They were all probably trying to get into the ball. It was around the time when the princess would make her decision. Because he was one of the knights of the round table he was admitted even though the main hall doors had been closed for some time when he arrived. Asuma wanted everything to go well so badly that when he did walk inside he was speechless because what he saw wasn't the scene he'd wanted to see.
Kakashi wasn't smiling with his girl in his arm while dancing an elaborate waltz. Kakashi wasn't even looking on as his one and only was taken away from him. No, Kakashi wasn't there at all. Naru on the other hand had just picked her husband to be. Gaara, the prince of Suna, was her choice. Asuma was suddenly out of breath and hearing that announcement made even his heart stop.
Where was Kurenai? She could help him look. He couldn't just let his best friend die of a broken heart. He had to make it in time and stop everything! Like a madman with a mission Asuma took off yet again. There was one place he hadn't checked. One place that probably held more significance to Kakashi than anything else. He regretted not thinking of it earlier, but now that he had he ran with the information in mind, hoping, praying, and wishing to make it in time.
Naruto felt his heart split in two as he said the announcement. Everyone clapped, while some looked disappointed. Gaara looked at her with understanding eyes and made to smile a small, kind smile for the public. He walked up to the center of the dance floor where Naruto was with his parents and offered his hand to him. Naruto tried to smile as he took Gaara's hand. Gaara led Naruto out to the middle of the dance floor and positioned his hands and arm in the right place for one last dance.
"I-i don't think I ca--" Naruto began to whisper when the music finally began.
"I'm not asking you for anything." Gaara answered quickly.
"I have to go find him." Naruto whispered hoping Gaara would understand and let him go.
"You have to stay here," He punctuated with a tightening of his grip on Naruto's waist.
Naruto looked surprised at such harsh words from the kind looking prince. He looked ready to cry, but Gaara leaned forward and continued to whisper in his ear.
"Princess, if you were to leave, the consequences would be far worse for him than you." Gaara still held his grip which wasn't forceful just secure as he danced with him on the large wooden floor. "So please, stay here and wait. He will come, if he loves you as much as you think."
Asuma slowed down to a brisk walk once the ramen stand came into view. Ichiraku's Ramen was famous in all of Konoha and he remembered how Kakashi had talked about a first dinner with Naru happening there. Asuma pushed the banners aside and checked the stools. All were empty except for one. Kakashi sat there hunched over a bowl slurping noodle after noodle of what looked to be cold ramen, if the gelatin like quality of the noodles was anything to go by. He patted Kakashi on the shoulder, but he didn't even look up.
The old man, owner of the store, spoke up when Kakashi didn't. "He's been here for hours. He's had at least 6 bowls on his own and he won't talk Asuma-sama." The old man's eyes were full of concern and his voice was almost breaking. It seemed every one of the knights had grown up on Ichiraku's ramen. So much so that the old man really took it to heart when one of them had problems of any kind.
Asuma nodded and nudged Kakashi again. They didn't have time to waste. "Oi, Kakashi the princess is--"
"He left. Asuma, he left and I might never see him again." Kakashi said dispassionately, interrupting Asuma's news as if he hadn't spoken at all.
"I know, but you can get her back!" He yelled ignoring the difference in pronouns.
"No, I can't. I don't know where to find him. I don't know where he lives. I didn't even get a last name. I'm a true idiot, Asuma." Kakashi chewed through a few more noodles and sipped lukewarm water from a glass that had his fingerprints smudged on.
Asuma couldn't take that attitude. He spun Kakashi on his seat until he was facing him. "Come with me! Naru is the princess! She's at the castle right now and is about to leave with the Prince of Suna. We can still make it, Kakashi!" Asuma tugged Kakashi's arm until he was standing. Kakashi looked heavy on his feet and the black bags under his eyes did nothing to help his overall look. He smelled like he hadn't showered in days and his hair was matted to his head. Hatake Kakashi didn't look like the lady killer he was known to be, but that didn't matter. If Naru really loved him, she'd accept him in any way shape or form. At least Asuma hoped she would.
"What?" Kakashi asked almost instantly sobered.
"She's at the castle!" Asuma yelled yet again. He pulled Kakashi out of the ramen stand started walking towards the castle.
Finally something registered in Kakashi's mind. He smiled and shook Asuma violently. "She's at the castle!" He repeated back at Asuma as if he were the one with the news. Kakashi's legs suddenly didn't feel stiff like chopsticks. His mind wasn't nearly as clouded and his heart felt like it was beating again. He took off running towards the ball without bothering to change or shower. He had no time for that. Asuma was left in the dust, but at least he was happy. His friend was on his way and Kakashi would surely be fine after all.
"It was most unfortunate that your family thought ahead." Gaara said quietly to the person across from him.
Kakashi was grinning all the way to the castle. He shoved through the guards and in the style of a true hero he burst through the doors with an entrance to rival the most dramatic. He held his arms up as the heavy doors banged against the walls. The loud noise echoed through the room and everyone turned to look at him. He had the same goofy smile on his face he always had for Naruto. He looked about the bursting room in search for his prince. Even when everyone's attention was on him Kakashi didn't care at all.
The rhythmic pounding of hooves on the cobble stones echoed in the silent compartment. Naruto was still in his elaborate dress only now he was sitting and waiting. He was staring out of the back window of the carriage, clinging to the chance that Kakashi would follow. Because he had to didn't he? That's what the knight always did in the story. He would have to find him, right?
Every peasant who wasn't still stuffing their mouths with leftovers had their eyes on Kakashi. The party had been over for a while and they had been let in to finish off the feast. They watched him closely as he examined the room and lost the grin on his face. He looked about and the musicians were gone. By the looks of it so was the royal family.
"If they hadn't packed and loaded your things you might have had time to say goodbye to him." Gaara tried again to get her attention.
He stood there staring at the empty ballroom floor. The scene felt so familiar. He sighed and imagined he could hear the music. It filled his sense and he thought he could see the princess dancing. He must have looked beautiful in a dress. The party must have been grand. The ball should have been truly elaborate and rich. It had to be fit for his beautiful prince, Naruto. Kakashi smiled bitterly as one of his tears hit the sparkling wooden floor. Naruto was gone and he had lost him, this time forever.
"He isn't the type to say 'goodbye'." Naruto whispered almost in tears. He knew Kakashi well enough to know his jealousy would make him steal Naruto before leaving it at a simple goodbye.
"So I was right. He does exist." Gaara tried to say with humor in his voice, but still he didn't get a smile from Naruto.
Naruto kept his face pressed to the glass and spared no other word for Gaara. At times he thought he could hear the galloping of a horse in the distance, but it always turned out to be his mind playing tricks on him. When the forest had been fog filled the silhouette of a man on horseback coming to rescue him was easy to picture. Naruto clung desperately to a 'happily ever after' that didn't come. Finally when his eyes started to droop Naruto decided that maybe life wasn't like in the fairy tales.
"Princess, we'll be home soon."
Let me say that there will be a sequel to this. It's already in the planning stages. I don't have a name for it yet, but it's in the works.
Now for all the extra things I wanted to say: Go see my page for updates on Chibi Jutsu, poll winners, posting dates and all that other stuff. I update it at least once a week! Go take the poll now that you've read the story!
Please take a look at my new story called "Just A Little Charm". I'd certainly appreciate it.
Finally, thanks for hanging around for so long. Arigato.