(AN) Epilogue time! Please enjoy (and review!) =)

"That was way harder than it needed to be."

"Yeah? Well you're not the one she's pissed at." Naruto grumbled as he stepped through his apartment window, holding Sakura in his arms.

"Oh, really? I haven't talked to her since we came back to Konoha." Sakura countered, raising an eyebrow at him but still not releasing her arms from around his neck as Naruto stepped into his room.

"You were injured!" He argued indignantly, "and were recovering! Most of the time you were sleeping, anyway. It's not like you had much time to talk to her."

Sakura hummed in what he assumed to be agreement as she stuck her foot out and slid his window shut.

"Still..." She began, "I probably should have stayed at the hospital to talk to her. Instead of, you know, running away?" She laughed softly as she gently shook her head, probably still amused by their getaway.

Naruto sighed in confusion as he slid down his bedroom wall and settled himself on the floor. Sakura adjusted herself in his lap and leaned her head against his shoulder. He liked the position. A lot. He liked that he could hold her comfortably like this. He loved who he was able to hold in his arms.

Earlier in the day they had been preparing to leave the hospital when Ino seemed to have caught wind of Sakura's discharge. She'd knocked – pounded, in Naruto's humble opinion – against Sakura's door, claiming she wanted to talk. The very word had sent shivers of apprehension down Naruto's spine.

To Naruto, it sounded more like an impending interrogation. An interrogation that likely wouldn't have ended well for him. After the scene he'd made running around Konoha with an unconscious and injured Sakura in his arms, it was no wonder that Ino wanted to have a few words about the situation.

In his head it sounded a lot like: "Some kind of boyfriend you are, Naruto! You almost let her get killed!" and that was not a topic he felt like revisiting anytime soon.

He had plastered himself against the door and fumbled around for the lock, all the while begging Sakura to not let Ino get to him. Sakura seemed to have been on the same boat though, since she had been scrambling to tie up her sandals after having slipped into a red cheongsam he'd sent a clone to pick up for her from her house.

Naruto had scooped Sakura up into his arms and darted out the window before Ino could get into his head and make him open up the door. After some rooftop hopping they had escaped safely to his apartment.

But... the blond was starting to worry now that maybe he'd misread Sakura's actions.

"Did you..." He tilted his head down to look at her, "want to stick around and talk to her?" He couldn't really fathom the idea, but then again he did have a tendency to miss these things.

Sakura laughed a bit more and shook her head as she gently pat his shoulder.

"Hah, um, no. I have a new relationship status I haven't talked to her about, and after all these years of me having nothing juicy to tell her about? I am not ready for that conversation."

Naruto gulped, well aware that that conversation would have a lot to do with him. It was a flattering thought, though, and he smiled with goofy joy as he pulled her closer in his arms. He'd spend a whole day sneezing at the mention of his name if that meant he got to be Sakura's man.

"I just feel a bit guilty about running away. She's probably just worried." Sakura conceded.

Naruto nuzzled the top of her head, breathing in the scent of her shampoo and revelling in her warmth. "Ino can wait," he mumbled quietly into her hair, "I need a solid two weeks just to hold you and convince myself you're okay."

He had said the last part mostly for himself, but from the way she tightened her arms around his he got the feeling that she had heard him. Somewhere inside of him he was still freaked out by how close he'd come to losing her. He needed to convince himself that she was really still here, alive, with him.

Sakura turned in his arms and lifted her head to look directly at him. Her gaze softened and she raised her hand, caressing his cheek gently with the backs of her fingers. "I'm still here," she whispered softly and he nodded slowly against her touch, "I'm okay."

Sakura secured her arms around his shoulders and leaned into him, holding him tightly in her embrace.

"You can have as long as you want, Naruto." She whispered, and he suspected she knew how hard the past several days had been for him. He also dared to hope that she needed him as much as he needed her.

"Sakura-chan?" He asked quietly.


"I love you." His voice was soft but he spoke his words with conviction. He knew she already knew his feelings, but he still had to tell her. And he would tell her every day for the rest of their lives.

Sakura snuggled in closer to him and her fingers toyed with the hair at the back of his neck.

"I love you too, Naruto." She whispered without hesitation, "and I could really use these two weeks with you, too."

He kissed the top of her head tenderly and they let the rest of the afternoon slip away as they held each other close.

Sakura liked Naruto's apartment. It could use some tender loving care, for sure, but she could see it being a place filled with love and laughter. The idea made her smile.

It was also quite useful – and somewhat surprising – that he was a closet neat freak, having kept his home impeccably tidy. She suspected the only time he let it fall into a mess was when he was sick. Sakura padded softly down the hall as she mused, heading for his bathroom, one of Naruto's old t-shirts in hand.

The afternoon had come and gone and Naruto had dashed out in the early evening to go grab some takeout ramen from Ichiraku. Apparently he hadn't spent much time at home since their return to Konoha and didn't have anything edible in his house.

Sakura hadn't been able to hold back her laugh when he'd returned – through a window – with two take-out boxes in hand and a huge grin on his face. He regaled her with a story of his 'awesome elusiveness' over dinner, describing how he'd managed to avoid most of the other Konoha 11 during his quest for food. Needless to say, dinner had been an amusing affair and Sakura hadn't wanted it any other way.

Locating the bathroom, Sakura stepped inside and pulled the door closed behind her. She washed up and slipped out of her clothes. Looking in the mirror, Sakura immediately noticed the scar on the side of her abdomen. Her smile slowly fading, she turned around and glanced over her shoulder into the mirror, noting a similar scar a little higher up on her back.

Sighing, Sakura stopped examining the reminder of that battle and quickly pulled Naruto's shirt over her head. The wound had been deep, and after all of Sakura's weak attempts to close it, it was really no surprise that it had ended up scarring. There was no point in dwelling on it, and certainly not when she had radically different things on her mind.

Glancing at the mirror once more, Sakura looked herself over as she subconsciously fiddled with her hair. Naruto's shirt was loose and hit her mid-thigh, reminding her that he really had grown and was definitely quite a bit bigger and broader than she was.

She had asked to stay the night with him. Given that she'd already slept with him she didn't understand why she'd been so nervous to make such a simple request. She loved him; he loved her, They needed each other. The very idea of losing him the way Naruto had almost lost her made her want to crumble to her knees with the aching nausea that rushed through her.

There was no way he would have said no, and the wonderful smile he gave her when he told her she could stay as long as she wanted had shown her that he really did want her to stay. So why, she still wondered, had she been so breathless when she asked?

Maybe it was because they both knew that she wanted more than a sleepover. She wanted him to make love to her in a way that was different than their frantic coupling back in the forest during their mission. She didn't regret what they did, absolutely not, but this would mean something different to her, to them.

Sakura blushed lightly as she walked down the hall to his bedroom. They were safe in Konoha; in Naruto's apartment. They could take their time and be together however long they wanted to without the threat of any immediate danger. No scrambling to put their clothes back on and leaving things unsaid.

Sakura lightly pushed open the door to Naruto's room and stopped in the doorway, leaning against the frame to admire the blond.

Naruto stood by his window, dressed in only a pair of black sweatpants and the First's necklace around his neck, his hand pressed against the glass as he looked out into the night. He glanced away when he heard the floorboards creak beneath her feet and turned his gaze on her.

Sakura took in a deep breath as she looked into Naruto's bright blue eyes that seemed to glow in the moonlight streaming in through the window. Naruto smiled and started walking towards her, stopping a few feet in front of her to look her over.

Bracing a hand on her hip, Sakura quirked a delicate pink eyebrow at him. Laughing softly, Naruto ruffled the hair at the back of his head and looked slightly away.

"You look good in my shirt," He admitted, shooting a short glance at her before quickly looking away again, "I like that you're wearing it..."

Sakura smiled at that. She liked that she was wearing his shirt, too. It was quite possibly going to be her new favourite thing to wear to bed at night. Pushing off from the door frame, Sakura closed the distance between her and Naruto and placed her hands softly against his chest.

Naruto looked down at her, letting his arm drop from behind his head to his side. Smiling up at him, Sakura stood on her toes and brushed her lips softly against his. When he kissed her back she pulled away slowly and whispered his name before his lips came down to meet hers once more.

Sakura revelled in the feeling of his arms coming around her and pulling her close as she moved her lips against his, loving the softness of his lips and the tenderness of his kiss. She slid her palms up his chest and wrapped her arms around his neck as she leaned even more into him, wanting to be closer.

She nibbled on his bottom lip and Naruto relinquished his mouth to her, letting her slide her tongue into his mouth to slowly explore and tangle with his own. Finally the need to breathe became apparent and she pulled her mouth slightly away, breathing deeply and staring at his thoroughly kissed lips.

Naruto could have kissed her for days. She was so beautiful and in his shirt and she tasted like Sakura mixed with a hint of ramen and it was so wonderful. Naruto ran his hand up her back as he took in some much needed air.

There were butterflies in his stomach and somewhere in the back of his mind he acknowledged that they were result of a mixture of nervousness and excitement. He was going to make love to Sakura tonight, and he was going to do her right. I wasn't their first time, but it was certainly going to be different. She was everything to him and he was going to try his best to show her all his feelings that he didn't have the words for.

Flashing Sakura a quick grin, Naruto swiftly bent down and hooked his arm behind her knees. She released a startled gasp before it slipped into soft laughter as he carried her over to his bed and gently deposited her atop the blankets.

Crawling onto the bed beside her, Naruto pulled her close and kissed her, moving his lips slowly and lovingly against hers as he trailed a hand down her figure. He felt her shiver as his hand brushed her thigh and slid under her shirt. He traced her navel with his thumb and slowly dragged his hand up her abdomen.

Sakura moaned lightly at his touch and kissed him harder, sliding her hands up his neck to delve into his hair, hanging loosely without his headband. Naruto shifted to hover above her, bracing his weight on his forearm by her side as he slid his hand up higher, just lightly skimming her covered breasts as his fingers slid beneath her straps and began to slip the cloth down her shoulders.

He couldn't manage to slide the straps down very far with her hands up in his hair, but he wasn't in any particular rush to lose her touch and he'd managed to loosen the undergarment enough to free her breasts.

Naruto slanted his mouth against hers as he ran his hand back down her collar to cup one of her breasts in his palm. Sakura gasped into his mouth and pulled his head as close as she could, holding onto him tightly and kissing him with a force that made him want to groan in happiness at the way she reacted to his touch.

Naruto caressed her, loving the feeling of her naked skin beneath his hand and the way she squirmed beneath him, making the quietest sounds into his mouth that told him that she liked what he was doing.

Reluctantly, Naruto pulled his lips away from Sakura's and looked down into her pleasure glazed eyes. Releasing her breast from his hand, Naruto pulled his hand out from under her shirt and gripped the hem, tugging it gently.

Sakura slipped her fingers from his hair and Naruto almost regretted trying to take her shirt off before she put her arms up over her head and nodded at him. Slowly, Naruto pulled the shirt up her body and gently tugged it over her head, slipping the cloth down her arms and off of her entirely.

Naruto took a long moment to admire Sakura, swashed in moonlight and lying on his bed, waiting for his touch. His eyes paused a moment as he caught sight of the scar on her stomach, but he blinked those feelings away. She was alive, she was beautiful and he was the luckiest man in the world. He didn't have the kind of self control it took to sit there and only look, and so Naruto slid down further on his bed and pressed his lips against her stomach.

Sakura shifted against him and he placed a hand on her hip, holding her steady while he ran his lips up her torso, kissing her skin. Sakura squirmed more and he groaned as her legs brushed his hardness. Trying to concentrate on her and not his arousal, Naruto licked up her body until he made it to her uncovered breasts.

Blinking, he realized that her squirming was both a result of his ministrations and her bringing her arms behind her to unclasp her bra. Sakura dove her fingers back into his hair much to his pleasure as he secured his lips around a nipple, slowing drawing it into his mouth and brushing it with his teeth while his hand kneaded the mound.

Sakura gasped and moaned beneath Naruto, pulling his head closer to her breasts as she dug her fingers deeper into his soft hair. His mouth was hot on her breast and she couldn't manage to keep still as his tongue lavished her with attention.

She wanted to press herself entirely against him but he swung a leg over hers, holding her still along with his hand on her hip as he released her breast and shifted over to give her other one equal attention.

"Mm!" Sakura gasped and threw her head back as his teeth grazed her. She slid a hand from his hair and down his back, her fingers running over his taught muscles and gripping him tightly as his mouth blissfully tortured her.

Her body was begging for Naruto's attention elsewhere, and finally her squirming won out as she freed a leg from Naruto's hold and wrapped it around his waist, pulling his body down closer to her.

"Ahn!" Naruto groaned out around her breast as she pulled his hardness against her. Pleased that she wasn't the only one suffering such arousal, Sakura took the opportunity to gently pull Naruto's head up to hers and kiss him passionately, angling her head to capture his bottom lip in hers and slip her tongue deep into his mouth.

Sakura felt Naruto's grip on her hip tighten as she squeezed her legs around him tighter, pulling him as close as possible and pressing him against her. She bucked her hips against his and Naruto groaned deeply into her throat, causing shivers of anticipation to course through the kunoichi.

Naruto freed his lips from hers and buried his face in her neck, kissing tenderly at her collar as his warm breath brushed her skin. Sakura held him close, breathing deeply as she ran her tongue over her kiss bruised lips.

"Sakura-chan..." Naruto breathed her name softly against her skin and Sakura wanted to melt into him. She could feel his arousal pressed snugly against her, and she suspected that he wanted her as much as she desired him.

Sliding her palm down his back, Sakura slid her fingers into the waistband of his sweats, feebly tugging at the garment but unable to get it very far from her trapped position beneath Naruto.

Naruto lifted his head from her neck and Sakura sucked in a deep breath as she met his smouldering gaze. Sakura mewled softly at the loss of his warmth and touch as he pushed off of her, but soon she had him back in her arms as he slipped out of his remaining clothes.

His hands caressed her body, almost as if he was worshipping her every curve. Knowing Naruto, he probably was. Sakura arched her back against his touch, pressing her lips to his throat as he slid his hand down her hip, hooking a finger around the fabric of her underwear and sliding the garment down her legs and off her body.

Wrapping her legs around his waist once more Sakura pulled him closer and cried out in pleasure as his naked skin pressed against hers. This was what she'd wanted since his surprisingly skilful hands had first begun to torment her. Kissing him deeply, Sakura wrapped her arms around him.

Naruto leaned his other arm beside her on the bed and with his other hand he gently lifted her hips as he guided himself into her. Slowly, tantalizingly slowly he slipped inside her, filling her so entirely as she clung to him, her head thrown back with pleasure.

Sakura opened her eyes and looked up into Naruto's gentle blue orbs as he slowly pulled out of her and pushed back in. Sakura kissed him, touched him and clung to him as he made slow love to her, his thrusts long and torturously drawn out as he whispered sweet nothings against her lips; murmured how much he loved her into her ear.

Sakura was melting; sinking deeply into heaven as Naruto held her close and pushed himself deeply inside her. She didn't know how long they had lain there, slowly loving each other as thin sheets of sweat covered their bodies. Naruto's arm shook slightly next to her head as he leaned his forehead against hers, moaning as he withdrew himself from her once more and slid back in.

Every inch of her skin burned with the slow build up of pleasure, and finally Sakura couldn't take it anymore. Squeezing her thighs tightly around Naruto, Sakura pressed herself against him as much as she could as he buried deeply inside her. She cried out incoherent sounds that should have been his name as she came, clinging to him and pressing her lips against his throat.

Naruto held her closer as her core tightened around him, squeezing him and sending him over the edge as he lost himself inside of her. Naruto's arm gave out and he fell into bed beside her, his other arm pulling her close as she sleepily tucked her head beneath his chin.

Sakura brushed her nails lightly up and down his back as they both took in ragged breaths, existing in the afterglow of their lovemaking.

After their breathing returned to normal, Naruto held her close and lifted her slightly to pull the blankets out from under them. Letting the top blanket slide to the floor, Naruto pulled the sheet up and over them as she snuggled in close to him and he wrapped his arms around her.

"Mmm..." Sakura hummed as Naruto played with her hair while they rested against his pillows.

"You're amazing, Sakura-chan," He whispered, his lips brushing against her temple. Sakura was his dream, his love, and in his arms. He couldn't make himself stop adoring her long enough to let sleep finally take him. God knows he hadn't slept well in at least a week, having spent almost all his time at the hospital willing her to wake up.

He felt Sakura's lips curve in a smile against his chest and his heart swelled as she lifted her head to look at him. Her hair hung messily in her face, tousled and haphazard. She tilted her head to the side, letting most of the beautiful pink locks hang over her shoulder, leaving only a few strands to fall by her eyes.

"I love you," She whispered as she slowly brought her lips down to his in a sweet kiss, "get some sleep, Naruto."

Smiling at him as she rested her head on his arm that lay across the pillow, she added, "I promise I'll be here in the morning."

Naruto smiled at that and pressed his lips to the side of her head. "I know you will," he admitted happily, "but I can't stop my heart from racing when I look at you long enough to fall asleep."

Sakura shifted in his arms and looked up at him with her beautiful jade eyes, "so close your eyes," she whispered, smiling.

Naruto laughed and shook his head, "I don't want to."

Sakura scrunched her nose up in a playful frown. "That's an order, Naruto."

Naruto grinned down at his pink-haired kunoichi, "You can't boss me around. I'm –"

Naruto Uzumaki? Future Hokage? Awesome? Too much in love? He didn't remember how he was planning on ending that sentence as Sakura leaned up and placed a sweet kiss against the tip of his nose.

"Sure I can," she laughed delicately, "I outrank you. So go to sleep and you can adore me in the morning." Sakura smiled brightly at his dumbfounded expression, her eyes twinkling with genuine amusement and love. He could see so clearly the emotions she was feeling.

She could probably see his clearly too as he gawked at her. He was still a Chunin. She was two ranks ahead of him... What did that mean for their relationship? Laughing off the tiny bit of panic, Naruto leaned into his pillow and wrapped Sakura up in his arms.

The only thing that mattered to him was that she wanted him in her life, and he was going to stay there, no matter what.

She would never have to stand alone.

(AN) The End. =)

I tried to make it un-smutty, of which I don't think I entirely succeeded =P Ah, well, practice makes perfect!

Thanks a BUNCH to all of my reviewers throughout this story – you really inspired me to keep going and finish this up and I'm so glad I got to. =) Thanks to: 89, 9-tailed reaper, saveme57, Mangaka Shuzen, NorthernLights25, Traekor, Kidloco, Arvarno, ChaoticSerenity and xzanessaforverxG for reviewing my last chapter!

With regards to my future fanfic writing endeavours:

1. I am entertaining the thought of making a sequel for this story, but I'm not entirely sure yet. I don't have anything planned out, only a few wandering thoughts that need to find a way to be tied. Ergo, you may get one or you may not! I'm undecided. ALSO: I'd like to try my hand at writing another multi-chaptered romance between these two wherein Sakura isn't so hell bent on becoming strong. I want it to be focused more on developing the romance than dealing with the external conflict. (I was SUCH a liar when I said I was going to stay away from multi-chaptered fics...)

2. I've been suffering from a rather persistent AU Sasuke x Sakura brain child that demands I give birth to it, so I have the first 6 chapters mapped out in detail already. It's kind of ironic that I want to write this, considering I wrote Sasuke off in this story (har har). You'll be able to check my profile soon for details regarding this story and other ones that I'm planning that involve other pairings.

3. Naruto x Sakura is still my favourite! I just happen to have no awesome one-shot ideas planned out for them at the moment. I'm still in warm and fuzzy land from this story with them. (Okay, that's a lie, I DO have a possible two-shot idea but it's kind of dark and again, warm and fuzzy land... I plan on calling it 'Captivate Me', so keep your eyes out!)

OKAY. Thank you so much for reading my story and putting it in your favourites! It makes me positively giddy! ^_^

Please leave me a review and let me know your thoughts. =) They make me even more giddy and are well loved! (and any constructive criticism you may have will help me improve my writing. :))

So yeah; REVIEW! =)