Rating: R to be safe; some offensive language and themes!
Disclaimer: Masashi Kishimoto is the god that created Naruto: therefore, everything belongs to him.
Summary: NaruSaku- Set during the Shippuuden, after episode 43. I don't know what happens after that, but for this story's purpose, Naruto, Sakura, Sai and Yamato DID find Sasuke, but failed to do much more than see him/ yell at him for an hour or so, and were forced to turn home because of Sakura's deteriorating condition due to the Kyuubi's chakra and Naruto's exhaustion.
Sakura wasn't sure how long the fever lasted, but it lasted long enough that she saw, through closed eyes, many days and nights pass throughout her ordeal. And throughout it all, he was by her side. Always. Never once did she wake from her delirium to find herself alone. He was always there. He always had been, and it had taken her all this time, this precious, precious time to realize that. They were shinobi, after all; how much time did any of them really have left? Only few made it to a ripe old age.
So she slept on, confident that he would be there when she awoke from her internal battle against his chakra that coursed through her veins. It had been her fault that the Kyuubi's chakra entered her body, something she was figuratively kicking herself about, seeing as the poor boy blamed himself. Curse Yamato for being so perceptive about her feelings, curse him for his unwavering calmness, much like their sensei Kakashi; how could they? How could they understand what she felt? No one could!
Except...Naruto. Naruto could understand, if only she could find the courage to tell him. Now, more than ever, did Sakura regret the way she treated him, the way she shunned him out of the way to tail Sasuke, a boy who wasn't even worth it in the end. A boy who took her trust and trounced on it in the dark, a broken boy who left the other broken boy all alone.
"N-Naruto," she choked out the next time the pressure on her chest subsided and the poison-chakra allowed her to take in her surroundings, "Naruto!" Her voice rose and cracked in urgency as the moments ticked by without an answer. But then there were running footsteps, closer and closer to her dimly lit cage, and the telltale signs of him, his musky scent, the forest and pine trees and salt and ramen and freedom and life all piled into one irresistible pull- and Naruto was there, strong, vibrant, fierce and alive, the way Sakura liked him best.
"Sakura," he murmured huskily, cerulean eyes unnaturally bright as he gazed down at her intently. Sakura smiled slightly; how could she have missed the devotion and love that poured out of every fiber of his being when he looked at her? How could she not have noticed?! "How are you doing?" he asked, gently touching her cheek with his fingers, hesitantly, as if he were afraid she would not permit it. Maybe if she were her old self, she would have flung his hand away from her, if only to preserve her secret feelings for him from the surface, but not now.
Sakura smiled at him, her eyes clouded by her tears.
"Sakura, what's wrong?" he asked immediately, drawing up a chair beside her bed in a flash, his face scrunched up in anxiety, his body half turned towards the door as if to call for a nurse, but he turned his attention back to her as Sakura grabbed his hand and placed in back on her cheek.
"You have no idea how proud I am of you, Naruto," she whispered fiercely, meeting his blue eyes with her green ones.
His cheeks flushed at her praise. "Sakura-chan..." The grin that stretched across his face, that easygoing, lopsided grin of his, managed to send shivers down her spine, white hot shivers that made her heart pound passionately against her chest. She had to do it. She was going to tell him, now, before she lost the nerve-
"You deserve it, Naruto," she continued, letting go of his hand to reach and push herself up. His hands came up to guide her, but it was more out of habit than anything, apparently, because his eyes were fixated on hers.
"I don't deserve it," he whispered hotly, hands clenching her arms tightly, "I did this to you. I lost control, just like I always do." His head hung in defeat, his blond spiky hair hiding his face from view. Giving into the impulse, she reached out and tangled her hands in it. The soft strands was such a contrast to her own hands; while her body radiated heat from the fever, Naruto's hair was cool and refreshing against her fingertips. He leaned into her touch with a soft sigh of gratitude, of relief, some nameless emotion that showed her he trusted her inexplicably.
"Naruto." Sakura gently cupped his cheeks, amazed at her own forwardness, but loving the feel of his cool skin against hers. She traced the whiskers on his cheeks, the small scars from the years of accidents and attacks - and stupid stupid competitions against the other male members of the "Rookie Nine" - lovingly, trying to memorize the feel of him underneath her fingers. The blond, after watching her for a few moments, closed his eyes and let her do what she wanted patiently, a small smile curving his lips. "Oh Naruto, I've been so blind..." Slowly, her hands dropped back down to her lap.
"How?" he asked quietly, and reached up to gently cradle her face in his hands, touching her just as she had touched him.
Sakura looked down at her hands. One had an IV needle in place, the other, tightly clenched against the rough hospital regulation blanket. Bruises and scrapes from their recent mission with Sai and Yamato still adorned her knuckles, similar to the ones on Naruto's hands. Her heart was beating so hard and fast that she almost thought it was about to dive out of her chest, but Sakura ignored it and concentrated on the feeling of Naruto's hands against her face as he ever-so-gently rubbed his thumb over her cheek.
"I-I wanted to tell you, for a long time now," she began softly, fingering a small hole in the blanket, pointedly looking anywhere but at the man in front of her. "Please don't interrupt me, because when I start, I don't know if I could keep going if I'm stopped..."
"I won't," he assured her, looking worried about what she was about to divulge.
"You know the beginning. I mean, how could we forget? You, me, Sasuke, and Kakashi-sensei. But it's changed now, and it took that change... it took Sasuke leaving, you leaving, and me by myself to finally realize how stupid and naive I've been all these years. Kami, when you came back... with Jiraiya, after three years, Naruto! You had grown so much!" As if to emphasize her words, Sakura allowed her hand to roam over his chest and abdomen muscles that had toned while he was gone. Naruto sucked in a deep breath at her touch, though those cerulean eyes of his never once left her face. "Naruto, I think... I think-"
The door to her room suddenly burst open. Sakura closed her eyes in defeat with a groan; there was Kakashi, his face stuck in his book as always, though he wasn't dressed in his usual uniform. Instead, the Copy Ninja had on a hospital gown, a loose pair of trousers and hospital regulation sandals, though that infamous mask of his was still annoyingly in place. "Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto cried, "When did you get up?"
"Ah, only a couple hours ago!" he said nonchalantly, closing Icha Icha with a snap to smile at Sakura from behind his mask. To Sakura, his eyes were a little too knowing, but if Yamato could easily see what she felt for Naruto, she was sure that Kakashi, a man she had known for much longer, would have already figured it out ages ago.
"Kakashi," she managed to bite out, hopelessly frustrated. Now she could never pluck up the courage again to tell Naruto. And if looks could kill, Kakashi would be six feet under with his Icha Icha Paradise book in his hands.
The older shinobi seemed to be amused by the situation that Naruto was unaware of; he sat down on the bed beside Sakura and gave her hair a ruffle, which she shrugged off before hitting him rather roughly in the shoulder. "I'm glad that you're okay, Sakura!" Kakashi's voice was overly cheerful, and although she knew he had been concerned for her well-being, he was also very intuitive to her feelings.
"Thanks," she bit out, making a face.
Naruto, however, misinterpreted her look and grasped her shoulders. "Are you in any pain?" he cried anxiously, and Kakashi guffawed in the background.
"Kakashi!" she growled, "Get out!"
The Copy Nin bowed mockingly to her, and, testing his luck, ruffled her hair again. It was all Sakura could do to restrain herself from kicking Kakashi out of the room herself.
Now that Kakashi was gone, Sakura turned to gaze at Naruto. The blond was watching his old sensei saunter out of the room, confusion written clearly on his face. "Sakura-chan, what was that all about?" he asked her, completely bewildered. As the air between them shifted, Sakura was caught by his scent again, almost overwhelmed by it, but there was something she needed to say quickly or it would never be said-
"Hey Sakura!" a new voice called from the doorway.
Oh, you've gotta be shitting me!
Sakura turned to the door that Kakashi just exited to see a haughty Neji Hyuuga followed by his very green teammate, Lee, and Kiba Inuzuka with Akamaru by his side. Kiba eagerly jumped on the bed next to Sakura and gave her a hug that squished her insides together in its intensity; "Sakura!" the dog-man cried happily, "I haven't seen you in months! And we saw Kakashi on his way to the hospital when he told us that you of all people was in here..." And he proceeded to ramble on, oblivious to Naruto's discomfort both with their proximity and the fact that Sakura was in the hospital because of the Kyuubi.
"We're glad that you are alright, Sakura," Neji added over Kiba's chatter with a small smirk, "It's not too often that we get the chance to threaten you to stay in your bed."
"Very funny, Neji," Lee said, rolling his large eyes. "Sakura-san, I am very happy that you are better now!"
"Me too, Lee," she responded, though her grin was a bit forced. Would her and Naruto be alone again long enough for her to tell him...? Hmm... how could she get them to leave? It wasn't that Sakura didn't appreciate her friends' concern for her well-being, it was just that this was the worst possible moment for them to coddle her... "Well, I'm kinda tired," she hinted, making a show of stretching her arms and yawning widely.
"Alright," Kiba said, ruffling her hair affectionately just like Kakashi had done earlier, "We'll let you get some sleep. C'mon Akamaru." Sakura giggled, and pat the gigantic dog on the head before he turned to follow his master. Lee gave her his customary "thumbs up" and a tight hug. And Neji merely gave her a nod and a small smile.
As soon as Neji and Lee finished their goodbye's and shut the door behind them, Sakura turned and grabbed Naruto by the shoulders roughly. Then the doorknob began to turn. Sakura flung the covers off of her body furiously, and angrily shouted, "GET OUT!" The poor nurse quickly slammed the door shut and scurried away; Sakura was going to have to apologize to whatever poor soul had to deal with her.
Naruto chuckled nervously next to her. "Ne, Sakura-chan," he said, "If you're tired, I can go too-"
"No," she cried, grabbing his hand and squeezing it reassuringly, "No, I still need to tell you... to finish."
"Well," she began again, "After this mission, I realized something... and it was something that had always been there, I was just too blind to see it... Naruto, I... I love you."
Long moments passed in silence. The only sign that Naruto was still seated beside her was the soft whooshes of his breath in the room. The clock on the wall next to her clicked the seconds away until a minute passed, and then two minutes, and when five minutes passed, Sakura was ready to cry from frustration and throw that infuriating clock through the wall! What was he going to say?! Did he understand how hard that was for her to admit, not only to herself, but to HIM?!
But then, before she knew what was happening, big, brawny arms wrapped around her and crushed her to a hard, solid form. His breath was hot against the nape of her neck; she hesitantly embraced Naruto back, and when he showed no intention of letting her go anytime soon, hugged him with equal force. "Oh Naruto," she breathed, "I love you so much."
"I love you too." His voice was soft and husky, and he pulled back to look her in the face. "I've always loved you."
"I had hoped," she replied, a small red blush tinting her cheeks. The smile he gave her then nearly made her heart jump from her chest for the second time that day.
"So what now?" he asked.
Sakura slyly glanced down at his lips, and then looked back into his eyes, hinting at what she wanted. But when Naruto sat there, speechless, Sakura slowly, carefully, oh-so-gingerly closed the distance between them and hesitantly brushed her lips against his. His lips were so warm and soft, and it felt so right. They broke away after a few long moments; Sakura closed her eyes and leaned her forehead against Naruto's, savoring the feel of him, and knowing he would always be there. After all, he always had been.
Just another little ONE-SHOT with Naruto and Sakura. They are my favorite couple, because I believe - and the Shippuuden hints at it too - that they genuinely care for one another! Sasuke and Sakura are cute too, but Naruto and Sakura just seems so plausible, and I think they'd be really happy together if they just 'FESS UP TO THEIR TRUE FEELINGS ALREADY! Whatever, enough of my blabbering on and on! I hope you enjoyed!
My inspiration for this piece: Inhale, by Killswitch Engage. It's such a beautiful song!
P.S. Stay tuned for a next installment: the next one will feature Sasuke, Sakura and Naruto! No, not a threesome, just a friendship type thing. Anyway, you'll see! Review's are my imagination's bread and water!