Well faithful readers, here it is at last. The final chapter of "Kissing the Wind." I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I like writing it. I intend to start on a sequil at some point, but I think I'd like to work on my book for a while, and perhaps work on a Star Wars fan fic.
This chapter I think takes the rating of the story up to teen, or about PG13. This is the "official" of "canon" version of the story. For this particular chapter though, I intend to do a seperate post in which I make the chapter lemony, cuz yeah I'm just pervy like that. Anywho, now that the whole story is in, I expect lots of comments and constructive critisism. Thanks again!
UPDATE: Now its Really done! (23 MArch) this chapter by far had the most added to it. I did this based on some of the very helpful comments I recieved. I think overall its a better story now as a result. I slowed Sakura way down, but still let her be the agressive one. Even I find it more believable! If you still can't see Sakura and Naruto going this far with their relationship, I guess I'm just in my own little world!
Naruto smiled brightly as another familiar face entered the hospital's small cafeteria. There were so many friends gathered here now that not a table was left empty. He waved his right arm to the newcomers. The tendons still felt tight and the arm was sore, but it was definitely healed. A healed arm was good news, but it felt like a cursed arm to Naruto at the moment. It served as a constant reminder of what had almost happened just a few hours before. It felt a little wrong to Naruto that, despite almost destroying this hospital, and despite how close he came to likely destroying Konoha itself, that he was now sitting at what had effectively become his going away party.
Naruto was glad to see Konohamaru and his inseparable team, the snot nosed Udon, and the rosy-cheeked Moegi. Even that closet pervert of a teacher of theirs was with them. The genin still made Naruto laugh just as they had when they were kids. But they weren't Sakura, and she was the one person he most wanted to see right now.
It was Sakura, apparently, that Naruto had to thank for all this. Word was she had been going around making sure everyone knew that Naruto would be leaving the next day for a special training assignment. She had even gotten some of the hospital staff to agree to stay late and support this little event. Where could she be? Naruto wondered.
Only Shikamaru, Kakashi, and Yamato seemed to know the real reason why Naruto was leaving. Thus, the party had a festive and congratulatory atmosphere. People kept coming up to him, patting him on the back and telling him job well done. It was understood in the ninja world that to train at the heart of one's summoning contract was a huge honor. Naruto might as well have been just been promoted to Jonin, because that was the required rank to even be considered for such training. It was like skipping a rank entirely, and all Granny Tsunade would have to do would be to conduct a small ceremony to make it official.
But Naruto didn't care about rank right now. There were other things on his mind, like his heritage, Sasuke, the Kyuubi, or Jiraiya-sama and the message he had left. The funny little elder frog with the bushy eyebrows had explained the first goal they would work on after they left in the morning would be to re-seal the Kyuubi's chakra using some sort of "combination." "Grandpa frog," as Naruto called him, had then decided to return to wherever it was that summons went when they disappeared. As Naruto thought of this, he marveled at how little he actually knew about how summoning worked. It was a wonder he could do it at all, but Jiraiya had always taught him what he thought was necessary.
So, Naruto laughed and joked and tried to have a pleasant moment among friends. He was unsuccessful at cutting off Konohamaru's latest perverted jutsu, which involved the likenesses of two female ninja in Naruto's age group. Naruto looked for a place to hide as the jutsu drew scowl from Ino, who couldn't help but recognize herself and Ten-ten through the fog of the transformation effect.
Konohamaru had done the jutsu without taking his surroundings into account, and when he realized who else had been watching, he panicked.
"Naruto-ni-chan!" He cried. "Save me! She's going to melt my brain!"
"I'll do more than melt your brain when I'm through with you, you little twerp!" cried a red-faced Ino as she chased Konohamaru out of the cafeteria.
Elsewhere, Neji was making a desperate leap to stop Rock Lee from drinking some of the punch that had been provided for the event. What had he seen in the punch with his Byakugan, Naruto wondered. Choji busied himself with the snacks that had been provided by the cafeteria, and Ten-ten was watching helplessly as Gai Sensei worked diligently at setting up a piñata. His challenge to Kakashi that he would be the first to break the double cast iron turtle-shaped piñata was apparently going unnoticed however, as Kakashi was more interested in that dumb book of his again.
Shikamaru was teaching Sai how to play Shogi, but Naruto's emotionally-challenged teammate kept asking questions, and Naruto could see Shikamaru beginning to wonder what he had gotten himself into. Through it all, Naruto kept one eye glued on the entrance, hoping to see the lean form of the pink haired Kunoichi who had saved him only a few hours earlier. Naruto also had the nagging feeling he was forgetting something.
Piñata . . . Piñata. Something about Piñata's? No!
Piñata . . . Piñata. Something about Piñata's? No!Naruto slapped his own forehead as he remembered.
"Hinata!" He said out loud.
Fuzzy-brows heard him and looked up from where he was still wrestling with Neji over the ladle from the punch bowl.
"That's right, Naruto-kun!" said Lee. "Lets go see her."
"Good idea," said Neji. "Now Lee, just hand me the ladle. Very slowly . . ."
Hinata was very tired, but in good spirits as Naruto, Lee, Neji, and Ten-Ten entered Hinata's recovery room. Hinata blushed and tried to hide under her bed sheets when she saw Naruto, even though her teammates Kiba and Shino were already visiting her. A very round-bellied Kurani looked on with amusement as Kiba admonished Hinata for being rude to Naruto by hiding like that.
After some polite conversation and well wishing to Hinata, and to Naruto's chagrin, even more congratulations, Naruto asked for a moment alone with Hinata. Kiba looked as though he would protest, but stopped himself when he saw Naruto's solemn expression. Kurani gave a knowing smile to Hinata, who looked mortified. Hinata's team leader and teacher struggled to stand as Shino helped her.
"Don't be too long, Naruto." Kuranai said. "Hinata needs her rest."
"I understand," said Naruto.
"What's going on?" demanded Lee. "Why is Naruto-kun so serious?"
Ten-ten flicked Lee on top of his head with a forefinger.
"You're so dense, Lee." she said, grabbing him by the arm. "Lets go. I'll explain it to you outside."
Naruto could hear Lee's protests all the way down the hall even after the door was closed. He laughed nervously and scratched the back of his head, trying to break the ice with Hinata, who was trembling but had a determined edge to her deep white eyes.
"Fuzzy-brows is even louder than me, isn't he?" Naruto joked.
Hinata tried to get to the elephant in the room quickly.
"Naruto-kun, what I said in the last battle . . .I . . . I really do . . . but . . ."
"Hinata," Naruto said as he took a seat next to her bedside. "It means a lot to me. It really does." Naruto said it without breaking eye contact, so that she would know he was serious.
Hinata looked like she had forgotten to breathe, but she did something Naruto did not expect. She placed her hand on top of his right hand, which was resting on the armrest of the chair. The hair on the back of Naruto's neck bristled at her touch, and Naruto felt slightly embarrassed at the revealing nature of Hinata's hospital gown, especially with the size of her . . .
"I've always believed in you, Naruto." Hinata said, drawing his attention back to her face. "I always knew you were really strong, and I hated the way people looked down on you. I . . . that is, I felt like . . . you were just like me."
Now it was Naruto's turn to be breathless.
"Hinata . . ." was all he managed as he searched for words.
Hinata gripped his hand tighter and rolled her body closer.
"I can see how you feel about Sakura-san, though." Hinata said sadly with a slight quiver in her voice. "Maybe if I just hadn't be so scared I would be the one . . ."
"Never doubt yourself, Hinata-chan." Naruto interrupted. "I never doubted you either. So please don't be sad, because I can't stand to see you that way."
"I'm not sad, Naruto." Hinata said seriously. "Just being here with you is . . ." Hinata stammered, and then the tears did begin to flow. "But you are leaving tomorrow aren't you?"
"Yeah, I'm not crazy about it either." Naruto admitted.
This seemed to surprise Hinata somewhat. "B-but Naruto-kun, doesn't it mean you are promoted to . . ."
"I guess," said Naruto. "But you were here. Didn't you hear all the noise when . . ."
But Hinata didn't know the details of what had happened. Naruto could see that. Had they evacuated her? Had she been unconscious or asleep? There may be no telling.
"Anyway," said Naruto in smooth transition. "There is still the really strong Akatsuki that nearly took you out, and he had the Sharingan, and that's a big deal, and we also need to find the leader, and find the other Jinchuriki before they do. Plus, Sakura-chan and I . . ." Naruto caught himself, but not in time for Hinata to miss the meaning.
Hinata just smiled, much to Naruto's relief.
"If you are happy, Naruto-kun. I think I will be happy." She gave his hand a small squeeze. "But as I told Sakura-san. I'm not giving up just yet!"
This made Naruto laugh out loud. How could he expect anything less?
"Take care, Naruto." Hinata said.
"Yeah," Naruto said with a smile. "You too."
He leaned over and gently kissed her forehead. This made Hinata blush fiercely and pass out. Love was a strange game, Naruto reflected. He ached for Sakura more than ever as he left Hinata to her dreams.
After an hour and half or so, the hospital late shift began to usher everyone out. Naruto felt heartbroken, even a little betrayed as the last person left and he made his way back to his recovery room for one more night's stay in the village he loved so much. Sakura-chan had not shown up. He began to wonder if she were in any danger. He thought about sneaking out of the hospital to find her. But Shizune was in charge of security, and knowing the state of alert the village was in over him, Naruto knew he couldn't risk it. As Naruto gingerly changed into his pajamas without turning on the light. He still had to be careful not to disrupt the bandages on his legs, he considered sending a shadow clone. He had almost gotten around to putting his night cap on when a voice from the corner of his room made Naruto instantly fall into a defensive fighting stance.
"I'm sorry if I worried you, Naruto-kun," said a voice that sounded sweeter than honey to Naruto. It was Sakura's voice. His heart skipped a beat.
"Sakura-chan!" Naruto sighed in relief.
They rushed to hold each other. Sakura's embrace caused Naruto to breathe deeply, and he relished in the scent of her hair. She smelled of fresh spring flowers after a hard rain, and the warmth that radiated from her body blanketed him in comfort like the softest of quilts.
"I'm so sorry!" Sakura continued with a slight crack to her voice. "I wanted everyone to know. I needed you to be sent off, not thrown out."
"Sakura-chan, you didn't have to . . ."
"But I couldn't bear to come myself. I was so afraid. I was afraid everyone would be able to see right through me; see how much I've fallen for you! I needed you all to myself."
"Sakura-chan . . ." Naruto said as he cupped his hand along her jaw line. Then he kissed her, and the touch of her lips to his seemed to set the whole inside of his body aflame. This time their kiss was gentile and controlled. They waited for each other, tasted each other. Sakura inhaled deeply, taking all of Naruto's breath with it. She leaned on him gently as she threw her arms around his neck, and together they toppled onto the bed. Naruto relished the feeling of her weight pressing into him. She was real. This was no dream. Or was it a dream come true?
Sakura broke the kiss and stood up, her chest heaving as she tried to catch her breath. Slowly, she walked over to the window and peered out, facing away from Naruto. Her hands gripped the window sill tightly, and in the light of a moon that was nearly full, Naruto realized her cheeks were glistening with teardrops.
"Hey, Sakura-chan," Naruto said, sitting up. "What's . . ."
"Its not fair!" Sakura blurted with a cracked voice. "Why? Why now? Now, when I finally understand my feelings for you . . .when this time . . .this time I can love someone who would love me the way I need to be loved. If only it hadn't taken me so long . . ."
Naruto sat up and reached for Sakura's hand. Slowly, he pulled her into his lap, and she threw her arms around his neck and buried her face in his chest. He rocked her gently, and rubbed her back as she cried. She was wearing a new Kimono, but he could feel the bandages on her back where he had scratched her while under control of the Kyuubi. She had already warned him not to apologize, but still . . .
"I mean," Sakura sniffed, "we didn't even get to go on a real date!"
Naruto almost laughed. After all they had been through, she was worried about that?
"Sakura . . ."
"Now I'm going to be left with nothing but my memories again."
Naruto cupped her face in his hands, gently brushing away the tears with his thumbs.
"Then lets make it a good memory," said Naruto. And then he kissed her. Naruto reflected upon how easy and comfortable it felt to kiss Sakura now, even though this time the salty taste of her tears made for a slightly new experience.
Sakura broke the kiss and placed her forehead on Naruto's. She began to laugh in between sobs as she slowly composed herself.
"You are right, Naruto." she said with a soft chuckle.
Naruto tried to hide his confusion, but knew he was doing a poor job.
"I do always cry too easily." Sakura explained. "I'm sorry."
Naruto shifted uncomfortably as he tried to figure out what he should say. His burns still hurt in some areas, especially on his legs.
Sakura shot to her feet.
"Oh! I wasn't hurting you, was I?" she asked worriedly.
"Its nothing," said Naruto. "It felt good to have you close."
Sakura smiled. In the moonlight he could see her cheeks flush the same color of her hair.
"Naruto," she said. "I do want to leave you with a good memory."
Even in the low light of the room Naruto could see a glint in her emerald eyes as she pulled the window curtains closed, then began to undo fasteners at her neck and along one side of her scarlet Kunoichi uniform. With a mischievous smirk on her face, she let the garment slide off of her to pool at her feet. This left Sakura standing in form-fitting black sports-apparel. As Sakura crossed her arms and began to lift off the top, Naruto croaked a half-hearted protest.
"Sakura-chan! You . . . we can't . . . not here!"
Sakura did not stop undressing. "This whole wing is still evacuated until you leave, Naruto. We won't be bothered." Sakura seemed to be enjoying the irony of how the precautions helped her in this situation. Naruto wasn't sure he was quite as amused.
In a moment Sakura stood before Naruto in a simple but practical set of black bra-and panties. The moonlight coming through the window highlighted her muscular form and flat belly. Naruto swallowed as she crept gracefully up to him, and playfully pushed him over, climbed on top of him, and kissed him softly.
Sakura was positively intoxicating. Naruto had absolutely no defense against her as she took control of all of his senses. His eyes were closed, so he could not see. He felt her warm breath on his ear as she broke the kiss, and he could not hear. Without her lips on his, his mouth went dry, so he could not taste. As she worked the buttons of his pajama-top loose he could not breathe, so he could not smell. As she kissed his neck, and then his chest, the shivers that worked their way down his spine made him go numb, so he could not feel. Somehow, he did feel her hand work its way south of his belly button, and Naruto snapped out of her spell.
"Sakura-chan, wait!" Naruto gasped. "Just how far do you intend to go? Don't you think we are moving too fast?"
Sakura locked her gaze on his. Her eyes were aflame with a hunger he had never known existed within his team mate. Then she gave him her answer breathlessly, one word at a time, between a barrage of wet kisses, while her hands caressed his spiky hair.
"Naruto . . . mmmm . . .I . . . need . . . this. Ah! . . . I . . . need . . .you. Please!"
Naruto wasn't satisfied. This wasn't like Sakura, he thought. How would you know? Another part of him wondered. Conflicted, he gently pushed Sakura away from him.
She moaned in protest, but seeing he was serious, some of the hunger in her eyes was replaced with warmth and gratitude.
"Sakura-chan," Naruto said. "We don't have to rush this. If this is going where I think it is, its not a choice you can take back."
"Thank you, Naruto." Sakura said, sitting up. She sat on the side of the bed, and Naruto could no longer see her face. But as she spoke, Naruto could hear her worry, sadness, and heartache in every word. "I really do love you."
Naruto smiled. He was about to say, "I love you too." When Sakura continued.
"We are ninja. Our lives are full of hard choices. I want so badly to let everyone know how I feel about you, but I'm forced to act casual, because its professional. I never considered what it would be like to live like that, even when I . . ." Sakura stopped. She looked embarrassed.
Naruto thought he understood what she was going to say, but it didn't matter. Sasuke was Sasuke, and Naruto understood he would always be a part of who Sakura was. Naruto was more concerned about the bandages that he could now see on her back from this angle. It was that reminder that he had hurt her again that hurt him more than anything. He took her hand in his.
Sakura turned and lay on him again, looking him directly in the eyes. She was close enough that her hair hung down and tickled his nose and forehead.
"Don't you see, Naruto?" Sakura said in a low voice. "There is never a guarantee we will make it through the next battle, or even the next day. Our enemies are strong, and they won't stop until they are defeated. Even training can be dangerous. We . . . we don't have the luxury of time. We don't even have the luxury of love."
With this last point, Sakura brushed two fingers lightly against his lips, tracing them before she kissed him softly.. Naruto felt hypnotized. At that moment, any resistance he still had was scattered to the winds.
"Make love to me, Naruto." Sakura pleaded. She leaned in close to his ear, and the warmth of her breath made his skin crawl. She purred her next words. "And don't hold back. You know I won't. That's our way of the ninja."
It would be a night to remember. Naruto found himself following Sakura's lead. Throughout that blessed night, Naruto would have a hard time determining where he began and where Sakura ended. It was like learning a new dance, and in some ways like learning to even walk. They explored each other, figured out how to touch each other, and in the end understood how to love each other. There was a moment of pain and fear that was erased by understanding and patience. There were sensations of fire and ice, violence and peace. As the night wore on their inhibitions and awkwardness melted away, and they danced their way toward heaven.
Naruto gained confidence quickly, and found he was more creative then he thought. The ninja arts and their combined chakra only added to the experience. Sakura was full of surprises, and even as pleasures he had never imagined racked his body, Naruto enjoyed most of all watching Sakura respond in ecstacy to the things he was doing to her. He called out to her repeatedly and she to him. Naruto didn't want it to ever end. Eventually, they reached one last peak together, and Naruto fell asleep, with Sakura where he felt she should always be; curled up snug in his arms.
The next morning, Sakura awoke at dawn to the chirping of birds. She rolled over, reaching for Naruto, but found nothing but a soft pillow. The realization that he was gone left her feeling empty and hollow. Groggily, she felt like she had forgotten something important.
"Shit!" Sakura rarely swore, but if she knew her master, she was dead meat!
Overwhelmed by fear of what she faced, Sakura temporarily forgot about Naruto as she threw the covers and sheets off her, hurriedly dressed, and made her way fast as she could over the rooftops of Konoha toward the training grounds.
Training ground five was deserted. Had her master already come and gone? Or was she thankfully late too? Maybe this was a test. Sakura extended her awareness, searching for any hint of movement, any sense of chakra. Her eyes darted from left to right as she surveyed the tree stumps, practice targets, and wooden dummies.
The ground was still damp from the morning dew, and she felt the droplets of water cling to her boots. Somewhere a grasshopper hopped away through the grass. A squirrel chattered away on a nut for breakfast. The wind blew though the trees, lifting her hair and scattering the autumn leaves. Then she heard a footstep. She turned and threw a kunai toward the forest. There was a sharp clang as a second kunai met hers in mid-air and sent it spinning harmlessly off course. Naruto stepped out from the shadows of the trees.
"Naruto!" Sakura exclaimed. "What are you doing here? If the council finds out you didn't leave . . ."
"Don't worry, Sakura-chan." said Naruto as he closed te distance and embraced her. "I did leave. I'm one of his Kage-bunshin."
"That's still a big risk, Naruto. I mean Naruto's clone. Er . . . whatever."
The Kage-bunshin laughed.
"I am Naruto in a sense, Sakura. You should know even better than me by now how this jutsu works; how it stores memories."
Sakura considered this, trying to remember her studies. Satisfied, she nodded.
"Anyway, I didn't like leaving before you woke up like that, but I didn't want to get you into trouble."
Trouble! Sakura remembered her training session again. Her master . . . Wait. How had Naruto known to send his clone here?
"Naruto, I guess you spoke to Tsunade-sama."
Naruto's doppleganger nodded. "She made me her personal responsibility, so it was her that directed me where to go before dawn this morning."
"Then, she told you about our training session?"
"I asked her for this favor." the bunshin said with a nod. "She'll be by in a little while, but I don't have much time. I can only hold this bunshin out to a certain distance, and my Anbu escort won't let me slow down or stop."
Sakura felt warm tears begin to pool in her eyes.
"I love you, Sakura. Become stronger, so when I get back we can finally put an end to all our troubles."
Sakura hugged the clone tightly. He felt like Naruto. He had Naruto's heartbeat. He even had Naruto's scent. The clone would even fool Kiba.. And to hold the bunshin at who knows how great a distance. Naruto was becoming so strong!
"I love you so much, Naruto. Come back to me as quickly as you can."
The clone kissed her. No, Naruto kissed her. It was as potent and as warm as ever. She felt eternally connected to Naruto even as the distance between them increased. The leaves swirled around them as they danced along the swirling wind. It was as if the power of the kiss had called upon the elements themselves. The kiss lasted until the bunshin finally dispersed in a puff of white spoke. When Sakura opened her eyes again, she was left with the distinct impression she had just been kissing the wind.