A Note: I wrote this a while ago, for my quizilla account. I hope the tags work...I'm too lazy to go change them. Yawl know the tag basics though, right? I don't think there are any important tags...R&R
Disclaimer: "THIS IS MY NEW HAPPY SONG!"...that was the disclaimer Brucey said I could borrow...It doesn't make much sense to me though, so I'll also give you Turtle's: "I don't own it. If I did, Turtle's sister would steal Gaara and keep him with her." Forever.
Love to my beta...
But That's Sort of Love, Isn't It?
Sakura Haruno walked up to her room after church on Sunday morning, unlocked the door, and stepped inside. She took off her coat, hung it up, then sat down on the couch and turned on the TV. Only half listening to the weather report ("Tomorrow will have a high of 39 degrees Fahrenheit, partly cloudy with a chance of snow."), she looked back at the front door, double checking that she had closed it, and saw a white leaflet on the floor. Picking it up, she read:
center i u KONOHA SENIOR HOME NEWSLETTER
Your weekly guide to special events at KSH. /u
Sunday: Church services 10:00 A.M.-NOON
Monday: Welcome to new residents 4:00 P.M.
Tuesday: Memory clinic 3:00 P.M.
Wednesday: Physical therapy 3:00 P.M.
Thursday: Crafts 7:00 P.M. (cooking)
Friday: Movie Night 7:00 P.M. Film: u Documentary: The Akatsuki Wars /u
Saturday: All day guest visiting time.
All events are in addition to daily 1:00 P.M. aerobics and 8:00 P.M. Current Events. All events are optional, but we love to see you!
-Staff at KSH /center /i
"Documentary"?? What were they playing at? Twelve veterans of the Akatsuki Wars were staying at Konoha Senior Home, and none of them were fond of their pasts. Three didn't talk (though it was natural for one), one was wheelchair bound, and none of them, i none of them /i had once talked about the past, ever. i And now they think they can shove something like a documentary on our shoulders? /i
She sighed. Of course, everyone would go to everything, including that stupid documentary. The activities may drive them insane, but it was better than milling about in their rooms doing nothing all day. At least she would get to see Ino.
Still fuming, Sakura set the leaflet down on the kitchen counter and picked up the phone. Dialing, she waited for it to stop ringing.
" i Konnichi wa /i , Yamanaka Ino speaking."
"Ino, Hello! It's Sakura."
"Sakura! How are you?" Ino sounded like she was 20 again.
"Do you want to go on a walk? Yea, it's cold, but I am i stiff /i ."
"Sure, I'll meet you down by the front door?"
"I'll race you," Sakura joked. She hung up, and threw her coat back on, and caught the elevator just as Lee wheeled his chair out.
"Lee, good to see you up and about! How is your back feeling?"
"Oh, much better, Sakura-san. My new therapist has helped me a lot." Lee smiled up at her.
"What are you doing here? Isn't your room a floor down?" Sakura was confused. The third floor was where residents without any ailments were roomed. They were mentally and physically sound, but had no family that wanted to check on them constantly. Lee was physically ailed, and had a room on the first floor.
"I am visiting Neji-san; he has asked me up to discuss something. I think he may have made some headway in his research," Lee's smile was huge. Neji had been researching ways to use chakra to ease the pain in Lee's back.
"Let's hope so," Sakura stepped into the elevator with a smile.
Once the doors closed, her smile faded and she started thinking. Though Lee still had the spirit of a 12 year old, his body had started to decay. She worried about what it was doing to his spirit. Tsunade-sama had completed the operation to restore his spine after the chunin exams, and everyone thought he would be perfectly fine for life, but after the Akatsuki Wars his health had gone downhill.
She sighed, trying to get her mind off the past. The Akatsuki Wars only had one good effect; Sasuke's return.
The doors pinged and she stepped out to see Ino waiting for her.
"What took you so long, Billboard-Brow?" Ino jested.
"I ran into Lee on the way down."
"Oh? How is he?"
"Fine, he thinks that Neji may have figured something out..." the girls both considered the possibilities of that. Nearly forty years, and nothing had been found for Lee; it was doubtful anything would be.
They stopped at the front desk, and signed out on the form that the receptionist gave them.
i KSH Checkout Form:
Name(s): Haruno Sakura, Yamanaka Ino
Destination: KSH Grounds
Purpose: Fresh air ("You'd think we were criminals or something, the way they monitor us.")
Estimated Return Time: Whenever we feel refreshed. /i
Sakura handed the form back to the receptionist before Ino could get them into any more trouble, and they headed outside, clutching their coats to ward against the cold.
"I can't believe they would do that," Ino's voice was harsh, and she was glaring at the ground.
"What? The forms? Yea, it's a little obsessive, but you don't need to get worked up about it..." Sakura laid a hand on her friend's shoulder. Ino had an anger-management problem, but she rarely lost it when she was with Sakura.
"No, the documentary on Friday." Ino shrugged away from Sakura's hand. "Usually they respect us around here, so why now? Especially since Naruto's..."
"Since Naruto's getting worse," now Sakura was glaring at the ground too. "I know. I wonder how Sasuke will take it."
"He probably won't even hear about it. He doesn't talk to anybody much anymore."
"Maybe we should go visit him," Sasuke stopped walking and looked at Ino, expecting to be called insane. Sasuke hadn't said a thing since he swore loyalty to Konoha after the Akatsuki Wars, back when Naruto was Hokage. He had been so violent and vicious that no one had tried to bond with him, and Sakura was beginning to wonder if he just needed someone to be there for him.
"Tomorrow?" Ino stopped, smiling.
The two finished their circle around the KSH grounds, talking about the "good old days", before the Akatsuki Wars. They planned more for visiting Sasuke, and they agreed to meet in Ino's room on the second floor (mental ailments, due to her anger management problems), since it was on the same floor as Sasuke's, around 1:00.
They also talked about getting together the old gang (Naruto, Sasuke, Shikamaru, Choji, Kiba, the Hyugas, Shino, Tenten, and Lee) back together before Friday to protest the showing. They pushed it aside and put it on their mental "To Do Lists".
Sakura woke up early on Monday morning, her nerves making her fidget. She hadn't talked to Sasuke in over 30 years, but it felt like yesterday.
As she walked down to breakfast, she remembered the day that Sasuke had come back to Konoha. It was near the end of the Akatsuki Wars, and he had looked absolutely terrible. He said that he had killed Orochimaru just before returning, and that was the last thing he said. After Naruto forgave him Sasuke holed up, not talking to anyone.
Naruto had also drawn back from society. He had lost a lot of close friends in the war, fighting alongside him. Sakura remembered that he had hidden away in his Hokage office for days after Konohamaru and his two friends had died.
Sakura had also lost friends in the war. Tsunade had died near the beginning, fighting as the fifth Hokage. It hadn't really been full-out war by then, just kidnapping attempts on Naruto, because of Kyuubi. Tsunade had been killed defending him.
She shook her head. All these thoughts of the old Konoha had started getting to her. The sudden return of memories was worrying her, and she was beginning to feel her age. Her mood brightened as she saw Lee, Neji and Hinata sitting together at a table, and she joined them.
"Neji, I ran into Lee before he visited you yesterday, any developments?" She scanned the breakfast menu, and raised her hand for a waiter.
"No, nothing yet, but I know where to look now. I just need to get my hands on a few books." Neji poked at his food.
"Yes, that is right! I have all faith that Neji-san will find something soon!" Lee winked at her, and pumped his fist in the air.
"U--um, how are you, Sakura-chan?" Hinata spoke up. "You look stressed."
"I am. It's this documentary thing they're showing on Friday. It's been bugging me."
"It is rather impertinent of them, isn't it?"
"Yes indeed! They have the gift of youth! Do they need to go on so much about the past?"
"M-maybe we could do something else, all of us, instead of watching it with them." Hinata laid a hand on Lee's arm, calming him down (and maybe preventing a youth speech). "Maybe we could all visit Naruto instead."
Sakura and Neji nodded in agreement, and Lee ordered more pancakes in celebration of such a youthful endeavor.
Sakura knocked on Ino's door later that day.
"Sakura, are you ready?" Ino was ready to head out as she opened the door, shoes on and purse in hand. Sakura nodded, pushing nerves back.
They walked down a hall and across a sitting room to another hallway and knocked on room 215.
Unsurprisingly, no one answered the door.
"Sasuke, it's Ino and Sakura, are you there?" Sakura was sure he was; he never went anywhere anymore.
Almost as soon as she was done talking, the door opened, and Sasuke gestured for them to enter.
The room was dark, and sparsely furnished. The garbage can was cluttered with unopened mail and KSH leaflets. A whole wall of books was organized neatly on the largest wall, and the TV was off. A book lay open and facedown on a reading chair under a lamp in the corner by a neatly made bed. In front of them, Sasuke stood, hands in pockets.
i He looks great. /i Sakura smiled with relief, seeing him as she remembered. He was pale from sitting indoors all of the time, but he looked 45 instead of 60. Unable to restrain her happiness, she threw her arms around him. As she did so, her hands brushed over his heaven curse mark.
She remembered the last time she had been this happy to see him, before he had started withdrawing into himself and thinking about returning to Orochimaru. It had been that afternoon that Naruto had brought Tsunade to heal him after the chunin exams.
Seeing him like this again was like seeing him healed and conscious on that afternoon. From her embrace, he blinked, and wrapped his hands around her in a hug, awkward as though he didn't remember how.
Ino smiled, and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"It's good to see you, Sasuke."
Sakura finally pulled back from the hug and nodded vigorously, agreeing with Ino.
"It's great to see both of you," and Sasuke smiled.
Sakura closed the door to her room, and smiled. She had been so nervous about seeing Sasuke again after so long. She had been worried that he'd changed. True, he didn't say much, but none of them had. It was nice to just be there with him and Ino.
Sakura chuckled, remembering the times that she and Ino would've been at each other's throats in that situation.
She changed to go down for the last half hour of aerobics, and her mind turned to Naruto as she closed the door. She had forgotten to tell Ino about the visit that she and the others had planned at breakfast.
i Ah well, I'll have plenty of time to tell her and the others at welcoming time this afternoon /i The elevator door pinged open, and just as she pushed the Floor 1 button, she heard someone call out.
"Hold the elevator! We're coming!" The voice stopped moving. "Come on Chouji, Sakura's holding the elevator." Shikamaru jogged up to the doors, and stood half in the elevator and half out, waiting for his friend.
The three got in the elevator, and the doors pinged shut.
"Shika, Chouji," Sakura started. "Um, about Friday night--"
"Yea, what a drag, right?" Shikamaru leaned his head back against the elevator wall. He stared at the ceiling as though he could see through it at the clouds above. Chouji continued to munch on his dried prune chips.
"We, that is, me, Neji, Hinata and Lee, were thinking about visiting Naruto instead."
"Hmm, well, seems like a good idea to me," Chouji said in between mouthfuls.
"Definitely better than watching some movie that makes us out to be heroes." Shikamaru rolled his eyes. "I'm just glad to be done with all that ninja stuff."
"So we can meet in my room around seven?" Sasuke was glad that they agreed. That just left Kiba, Shino, Tenten, Ino and Sasuke to talk to. She'd see Kiba, Shino, Ino and Tenten at aerobics today, and she would try to drop by Sasuke's sometime...soon.
The elevator doors pinged open, and the three got out and headed towards the multi-purpose room across the entry hall from the receptionist desk. Sakura tried to ignore the glare she got from the receptionist (who was angrily waving a KSH Checkout Form over her head) as they passed by.
"Sakura!" Ino waved at her from the back of the room, and pointed to an extra mat beside her.
"Ino, hey," Sakura sat down, cross-legged. "I was talking with Neji, Hinata and Lee this morning at breakfast, and we had an idea about Friday."
"Yea? Shoot." Ino leaned forward, half listening as the bored-sounding woman in front of them instructed them to touch their toes.
"We were thinking that all of us, the old gang from Konoha, could go up and visit with Naruto instead." Sakura lazily pulled an arm across her body.
"Yea, that's a great idea!" Ino leaned to the side, pulling an arm over her head. "Who else do you need to talk to?"
"Just Shino, Kiba, Tenten and Sasuke."
"Shino's next door to me, I can stop over sometime before welcoming."
"Sounds good. Kiba and Tenten are on my floor, I'll try to catch them on the elevator on my way up."
Ino nodded, and the two finished their stretching and aerobics in silence.
"Kiba! Tenten!" Sakura shoved her rolled up mat into a pile in the corner, and dodged her way between lazy looking senior citizens in an attempt to catch up to Kiba and Tenten.
"Hey, Sakura!" Kiba's sharp ears caught her calls, and he stopped Tenten in front of the elevator.
The door pinged open, and the three let a group of chatty bingo girls get in before them, and they waited for the next elevator.
"On Friday, instead of watching that stupid movie, we're going to go up and visit Naruto."
Tenten frowned. "Is that really a good idea? Don't you think that eight of us will be a little overwhelming for him?"
"Nine," Kiba corrected.
"Do you really think Sasuke will come? He hasn't even talked to anyone in decades" Tenten was still skeptical.
"Yes," Sakura stood her ground. "Actually, Ino and I talked with him yesterday."
"No! Really?" Tenten gaped. "Well, I'll go just to see him out of his room."
"I think it sounds like fun," Kiba glared at her. "I need some of that." Kiba had been depressed in the past couple years. Akamaru had survived the wars, but had died of old age 7 years ago, at the impossible age of 51. Kiba had tried gold fish and birds, but refused to get another dog. He was allergic to cats.
The elevator doors pinged open, and they rode up, chatting about their recent lives, and generally avoiding discussing the past.
Sakura got off on the second floor, and went to room 215 to talk to Sasuke again, this time about Friday.
She knocked, and no one answered. "Sasuke, it's Sakura."
The door opened, and she stepped in. Sasuke smiled at her faintly.
"I won't bother you too long," Sakura stepped in. "But I wanted to invite you to come with us to visit Naruto on Friday."
Sasuke's smile disappeared, and he nodded.
"We're all going to meet in my room on the third floor tomorrow around seven, if you want to come."
Sasuke nodded again. Sakura smiled sadly and nodded too, and then hugged him, no less fiercely than she had the other day. This time, Sasuke didn't hesitate before hugging her back.
"Thank you." He smiled at her. "I'll come."
Sakura smiled, and turned to leave.
It was Thursday, and Sakura was sitting in her apartment, looking at the weekly leaflet, wondering why on earth they would show such a movie, knowing there were veterans in the building, knowing that they would hurt some feelings, and bring back terrible memories.
And then it hit her. Tomorrow was February 17th, the 40th anniversary of the start of the war. The anniversary of Tsunade's death, and the first large-scale attack on Naruto. She wondered how many of the others had remembered.
She stood, banishing the memories of her deceased mentor, and dialed Ino's number.
" i Konnichi wa /i , Yamanaka Ino speaking."
"Ino. Tomorrow is February 17th," Sakura didn't waste any time with introductions.
There was silence on the other line, and then, "I know."
"You talked to Shino?" Shino was also on Ino's floor because he didn't talk to anybody, but that was old news to the Konoha ninja vets.
"Yea, he'll come. What about Sasuke?"
"I talked to him. He's coming too."
"So, tomorrow then."
"Tomorrow." The two sat on the line, each in their own thoughts for a few minutes. Neither registered when the other hung up.
It was Friday, February 17th. Sakura didn't get out of bed for a few minutes after she woke up.
i Today. /i Suddenly anger swelled over her. Anger at the Akatsuki, anger at Kyuubi, anger at the KSH staff, and, her heart sunk to realize this, anger at Tsunade for dying. Maybe if Tsunade hadn't died just then Naruto wouldn't have become Hokage, and the Akatsuki wouldn't have declared war. Then Naruto wouldn't be in the state he's in, and all of Konoha would be exactly as same as before.
Sakura dragged herself out of bed and down to breakfast. The day seemed to last years as she ate in silence, went to aerobics in silence, and sat in her room, staring at the wall in silence.
Finally, it was over. She closed her door after dinner, and took a deep breath as she looked at the clock by her bed. 6:57; they would be arriving soon--
Someone knocked on her door. She turned around and opened it with a smile. Neji, Hinata, Kiba and Tenten walked in, and greeted her pleasantly. Hinata pulled her aside.
"M-maybe we shouldn't do this," Hinata looked at her shoes. "It is February 17th, after all. Naruto probably won't be happy to see us."
"I think he needs to see us," Sakura laid her hand on Hinata's shoulder. "Same way Sasuke needed to see us."
Sakura told Hinata about her and Ino's trip to visit Sasuke the other day, and just as she was finishing up, Ino, Shino and Lee showed up, and they got ready to leave.
"Wait, where's Sasuke?" Ino stopped at Sakura's door, which stood ajar.
"Oh," Sakura stopped what she was doing, and looked around. She looked out in the hallway, and saw Sasuke leaning against a wall, not at all awkwardly, waiting for them. "There he is." Sakura pointed, and smiled at him. He half-waved back.
The parade moved through the halls quietly, and they all crammed into the elevator together. The doors pinged open, and they crowded out, moving slowly down the hallways to Naruto's room.
They arrived outside his door, and just as Ino was about to knock, the door opened. A nurse stepped out, saw them, and smiled sadly.
"He's doing very poorly. One at a time, please." She nodded her head respectfully, and walked a little ways down the hall to wait.
They each went in, one by one, and Sasuke went last. He opened the door quietly; worried he'd wake Naruto if he was asleep.
He wasn't. He was sitting up in his bed, looking almost dead, he was so pale, and it was like a stab in the heart for Sasuke to see him like that.
"Sasuke," Naruto smiled at him.
"Naruto." Sasuke sat down on the edge of Naruto's bed, and laid a hand on his knee.
"Sasuke," Naruto said his name again. "The nurse probably told you, but I'm not doing well." Sasuke nodded. "I have a couple of weeks left at best."
"You're such an idiot," Sasuke leaned forward, his hand sliding up Naruto's thigh, and kissed the other boy's lips. "I miss you, Naruto."
Naruto kissed Sasuke back, and frowned. "Why couldn't we have figured this out sooner, before the war?"
Sasuke was crying now, silently, and he laid his head on Naruto's dying chest. "I don't know."
Three days later, at welcoming on Monday, the same nurse that had been tending Naruto stood up in front of the seniors.
"Some of you were very close to Naruto Uzumaki," her hands were folded in front of her. "So we feel obliged to inform you that our sixth Hokage has gone comatose."
Sakura stopped listening, and looked over at Ino. Her friends eyes were watery as she whispered, "I'm glad we went on Friday."
Sakura nodded, and the nurse stopped talking. She gathered up her coat, and went to visit Sasuke before dinner.
She rode the elevator up alone, debating whether to tell him about Naruto's condition or not. It didn't feel right keeping things from him, especially since he had started talking more in the past couple days.
She knocked on his door, announcing herself, and he answered with a smile.
"Come in," he took her coat, and she sat down.
"Sasuke," she patted the couch next to her. "I--there's something I need to tell you."
Sasuke frowned, and sat down, avoiding her gaze. "It's Naruto, isn't it?"
She nodded "He's in a coma."
Sasuke nodded, biting back tears, and hugged her. "I'm glad you told me, really." He looked into her eyes. "Don't be mad at yourself for telling me, okay?"
Sakura nodded, and forced a smile. "Of course not." She stood up, and he got her coat for her. She hugged him again, and left.
Sakura came back every day for a week, and they talked. Sasuke would ask about Naruto, but it was always the same. He was still comatose. They would move on, and talk about other things, Lee's health and Neji's research, Ino, and the others.
Sometimes Ino would come with her, and they would all get talking about their genin days, when they were kids. With Sasuke, it was okay to talk about it. Sakura had never been able to look back and think about her kunoichi days this comfortably, but Sasuke made it okay.
One Tuesday, just over a week after she had told Sasuke about Naruto, Sakura came for her daily visit, alone.
"Sasuke, it's me," Sakura knocked, but no one answered. She tried the knob, thinking he was asleep, worried that he had fallen and hurt himself. The door was unlocked, and she stepped inside.
"Sasuke," she hung her coat over the back of a chair, and turned the corner to his bed space.
He was lying there, in his bed, cold and pale.
"Sasuke," Sakura rushed to his side, and took his hand. It was cold. "Sasuke! Sasuke!" She layed her head on his chest, crying her eyes out. "Sasuke..." After a few minutes, she looked up, and saw what she had been crying on: two envelopes. One was addressed to her, the other to Naruto.
Confused, she looked around. i If he was dying, why didn't he ask for help? I've never seen a nurse around here, and he could've called me. /i For some reason, that hurt the most. Why couldn't he have confided in her, talked to her?
And then she saw it, an empty bottle of painkiller pills on his nightstand. It had been suicide.
"No, Sasuke," she whispered. She took the envelopes, and walked to his phone. She dialed the front desk.
"I need a nurse here, now. Room 215." Sakura said, uncannily calm, and hung up. She left the room, and went straight down the hall to Naruto's room.
She knocked, and entered, not waiting for him to invite her in, since he couldn't. She looked at his unconscious form, and laid his letter on his chest, and then opened hers and read it, right where Sasuke had sat when he had kissed Naruto that night.
I hate myself for doing this to you. I'm so selfish, but it's not your fault. Promise me that you won't blame yourself for anything. You helped, if nothing else.
I've been thinking about this for months. I was going insane, stuck up in my room with no one to talk to for decades, but then you and Ino came. You hugged me, and I said "thank you." I thought everything was going to be okay then.
And then we went to see Naruto. I loved him, Sakura, and we kissed for the second time on that night. The emotion forced on to me that night was enormous compared to the loneliness I had been enduring. I felt alive and great. Thoughts of suicide slipped my mind, until he went into a coma.
That's what did it, I think, the coma. That's all the explanation I have for my actions, the only thing that I can say to you right now. None of this is your fault. Thank you. /i
The note wasn't signed, but Sakura could see him in every letter. She went back to her room, and vaguely registered paramedics rushing around, though it was pointless, really.
One month later, Uzumaki Naruto came conscious. The first thing he noticed was the envelope on his chest, and the girl in his chair.
"Sakura?" He whispered, opening his eyes.
"Naruto!" She smiled sadly. "Can you sit up? Should I call a nurse?"
"No, I'm fine, but give me a hand." With her help, he sat up, and opened the envelope. Sakura quietly slipped out of the room to leave him in peace.
I love you. I can't stand seeing you asleep like that, hooked up to monitors and tubes day in and day out. I don't even know if you'll ever read this, but I do know that we will be together soon.
I'm sorry, thank you and good luck. But that's sort of love, isn't it? So, I love you. /i
Two days later, Uzumaki Naruto died in his sleep.