Guardian

It was a little past noon, I was walking through the hospital's left wing, heading over to Naruto's room to deliver his lunch and inspect his injuries.

I walked down the hall, tray in hand, reflecting on what Tsuanade-sama had told me. Maybe hearing that will cheer Naruto up. I hoped, but I knew it was unlikely, not with his current mood that had surfaced the night of the incident.

I approached Naruto's door, beaming, though part of me struggled not to cry. Opening his door I entered the room to see him sitting up in his bed.

I bit my lip, he hadn't looked over at me yet and I didn't want him to see how much pain I was in. Just watching him, his sullen state, as he held the object which he now treasured so dearly, tore at my heart. Naruto seemed not to have notice my presence, that or he ignored my entry. I approached slowly, setting the tray down on a side table, predicting he wouldn't want to eat anyways.

"Um, Naruto?" I asked, as if interrupting something, in a way I knew I was. The boy raised his gaze from the object in his lap, looking straight ahead at the wall in mild surprise, before casually turning his head towards me so he could see, the left half of his face almost completely bandaged.

"Sakura-chan?" He smiled; I almost broke down right there. "I was wondering when you'd visit again." I merely smiled in return taking a few steps closer to his bed.

"Well, I requested to be your caretaker so I'll be dropping by every few hours." though I felt as if I should stay with him instead of taking my shifts.

"Really? That was thoughtful of you I wouldn't rather have anyone else looking over me." However shortly after that comment the smile faded from his face as he seemed to realize something. His gaze fell to his lap once again and I took a few timid steps closer. I frowned, following his gaze. He held the frame of the picture fondly, almost insecurely as I watched his thumb rub its edge lightly. It was the picture we had recovered from Sasuke's apartment which we felt we couldn't rent out, knowing he had once lived there. Naruto and I decided to split the rent fifty-fifty. He had suggested I move into it since I was getting ready to move out from my parents' house. I told him I would think about it, I still haven't given him an answer.

"Naruto, um," I hesitated, not knowing whether I should attempt to comfort him or if that would just make things worse. "I…" He looked over at me expectantly; the smile that had recently been there unable to find it's way back.

"I should probably inspect your injuries." I said finally.

"Oh, yeah." He said quietly, placing the picture on the side table carefully. He began taking off his shirt, since his right arm was in a sling he was having difficulty. I felt the tears swell in my eyes as I rushed around the opposite side of the bed, taking his arm in hands.

"Here," was all I could manage to gasp out. He saw my expression, my lips trembling, eyes fighting against the tears, my jaw quivering. I felt a tear manage to slip out, as it fell down along the inside curve of my nose, pausing on my upper lip. After Naruto and I had managed to get his shirt off he looked up at me sympathetically and swallowed as he reached up towards my face. I could still feel myself shaking as I held his shirt. I shut my eyes soon feeling Naruto's bandaged fingers gently brush the moisture away off my lips. I felt his hand, his left one so he was reaching across awkwardly, fall to my shoulder. I opened my eyes quickly feeling more tears attempting to escape as I saw his own pained expression, his left eye looking glassy and I'm sure the one beneath the bandages was too.

"Sakura-chan," he began to say when a knock at the door interrupted us. I pulled away setting his shirt on a nearby chair. Naruto looked somewhat disappointed as he let his hand rest on his lap once more.

"Come in." I called. The door swung open to reveal Kakashi.

"Yo," he said entering the room on crutches, his latest book poking out of his vest pocket. He gazed upon us and smiled, eye squinting as he said,

"I hope I didn't interrupt anything."

Naruto let a simple laugh out before holding his side, which I'm sure, was still tender. I placed a hand on his chest as I said irritably to our teacher,

"Sensei, you've been reading those perverted books for too long."

Kakashi attempted to look innocent.

"Hey, hey, there's no need to be mean, especially to someone as old and injured as myself." He approached the bed.

"You're barely thirty! And Naruto's injuries are far worse than your own." Kakashi leaned his crutches up against the wall adjacent to the bed and stood on one foot.

"Yes, I'm sure Naruto and I aren't the only ones envious of your healing abilities."

I had felt guilty, watching everyone who had returned from the fight, in town with their injuries and ailments.

"How are the others, Sensei?" Naruto asked. He's always so concerned for others; you'd think he'd care a little more about what kind of condition he is in. Kakashi thought for a moment before replying,

"I think everyone will be fine, Tenten, Kiba, and Choji have all moved out of critical condition. I'd say everyone will be back on their feet by the end of the month. It was the beginning of August.

"That's great." He said cheerfully, as if forgetting everything that had happened before Kakashi arrived.

"Oh and Naruto, there's a few pieces of good news from the Hokage." Kakashi said, "The Kazekage and Sand siblings will be visiting."

"They're well enough?" Naruto asked amazed.

"Yes, since they arrived towards the end of the battle no one had any major injuries."

"Well, that's good." said Naruto, again optimistically.

"Also I was speaking with Tsunade and some of the Elders and they were thinking once you're healed you should test to be promoted in ninja rank."

"Alright, it's about time I become Chunin." Naruto said grinning.

"Actually, you would be testing for Jonin."

Naruto and I went silent with surprise.

"After you displayed your skills against the Akatsuki, Tsunade commented that you could be the next Sanins. But we all felt that was a little extreme, so just Jonins for now." He said smiling. Naruto and I remained shocked as our Sensei smiled at us. After being weak and below competent for so long, my brain the only thing keeping me paced even with the others, they actually want me to test for Jonin? And the Sanin comment, is this for real? I suddenly remembered my own news I had for Naruto from Tsunade-sama. But it can wait for another time. Once Naruto came out of his shock he smiled to himself looking down at the blanket lain over him.

"I can't believe it. This is amazing isn't it Sakura-chan?"

I looked up to see him focused on me.

"Unbelievable."

Kakashi laughed,

"Yes, it's been a while since there was a trio of Sanins running around here." His words killed the mood, like someone we held dearly was killed before our very eyes, again.

Kakashi saw the error in what he had said,

"Oh, well I meant just Sanins in general not that there would be another trio,"

Stop saying that! I thought, wincing as I heard the word.

"Sakura," interrupted Naruto. "Weren't you going to look at my wounds?"

I opened my eyes, looking at him as he focused again on his sheets.

"Oh, yeah." I reached into my pocket and removed my rolls of clean bandages. I then began unwrapping his sling and arm. He winced.

"Sorry." I apologized immediately, handling his arm more carefully as I undid the bandages. Naruto looked away as he said,

"What do you think about my arm?"

I sighed; I had hoped he wouldn't bring this up.

"I'm…I'm not sure. Tsunade will have to come by sometime and run an exam on it."

Naruto was quiet, I wondered if he believed my lie. Kakashi had retrieved his book and was beginning to read when I began inspecting Naruto's ribs.

"Your chest seems to be healing nicely."

Naruto smirked,

"Are they?" He knew after all the training and chasing we had done the both of us were in incredible shape. I rolled my eyes.

"It could be better." I said poking a bruise below his ribcage.

"Ouch." he rubbed it tenderly. I smirked myself applying new bandages to his arm, and carefully, his ribs. The next part I dreaded and Kakashi knew it as he made sure I didn't try to pass it.

"How's his eye?"

My heart skipped a beat.

"I'll…I'll check." Naruto glanced over at the hand mirror on the table.

"Before you re-wrap it, Sakura-chan, I want to see." Naruto was deeply concerned about all his injuries, I was sure it had something to do with becoming Hokage. I nodded.

"Okay." I took a deep breath, and began to unwrap his head. First his nose was revealed then the top of his cheek bone, then his hair, his forehead, and finally his eye. I couldn't help gasping as he opened it, having shut his eyes while I removed the bandages.

"What is it? What's wrong?"

This was the first time had seen it since the incident.

"It's fine," I said quickly, getting the hand mirror. I held it with two hands, looking down into it to see my own reflection looking back and hurt. "Here." I gave him the mirror and watched as he held it up to his face, brushing aside hair that kept getting in the way. He himself seemed breathless for a second.

"How's it healing?" Kakashi asked, putting his book down temporarily to inspect Naruto's face. He held a hand to his jaw before saying.

"It looks like it's coming along rather well. Pretty soon it will start healing and be itchy as hell, but it will only last for a week or so." Naruto looked from Kakashi back to the mirror before delicately reaching up and touching his eye.

"This is so weird…" He paused for a moment before looking up at me.

"What do you think Sakura? I kind of have to squint… but it seems like you did a really great job. I can see through it and everything."

I held my arms insecurely, nodding as it seemed like the gaze was coming from both him and Sasuke.

"Mmhmm…" I managed. Sasuke's transplanted eye was black unlike Kakashi's. The scar was red, lightly scabbing and vertical, also like Kakashi's.

"Hey, sensei, do you think something went wrong? Why isn't it sharingan like yours?"

We looked to Kakashi for some kind of answer, he resumed his reading.

"Well, I can't be sure. I'd say either you can or can't activate the Sharingan."

Naruto and I stared blankly at him. Wow, he's not really helpful…

"Normally only the Uchiha clan can activate the Sharingan. But perhaps because it is an Uchiha's eye, or maybe because you yourself are unique, you might find a way to activate it."

Naruto looked down at the mirror and I was reminded of what Sasuke said that night, before he died.

"Sakura-chan." Naruto began. I looked at him a bit edgy.

"I would like to go outside today."

I frowned.

"You really should rest; you shouldn't be up on your feet yet,"

"Then could you wheel me?" he looked up at me, almost begging. I almost started crying again, he was so desperate.

"Alright."

Kakashi shut his book and reached for his crutches.

"I think I'll be going, I have a mission coming up in a week, the sooner I heal the better." I nodded.

"Goodbye Kakashi-Sensei." Naruto said as he began shifting himself so he could climb out of the bed. I grabbed some fresh wrapping and was about to wrap his head when he held a hand up,

"Can you leave it off? I…" he hesitated. He seemed to smile almost embarrassed, "I want Sasuke to see how nice it is out." I found it impossible to swallow as I inhaled shakily with a smile.

"Yeah, good idea."

Once we had him situated in the chair, I wheeled him down the hall and to the elevator.

"Thanks Sakura-chan." Naruto said. I looked down at him as we entered the elevator.

"No, problem." We began descending; we were on the third floor; as we approached the bottom I asked,

"So who else came to visit you?"

"Not very many, most of our friends are pretty injured. Iruka sensei stopped by of course, we're going to go have Ichiraku's as soon as I'm better, he promised he'd treat me." I smiled,

"He knows you too well." We exited the elevator and went the opposite direction of the lobby. I don't want a lot of people hassling him, we'll just go outback.

"Actually, I asked if he wouldn't mind if you came too."

I was a little surprised but continued to walk,

"That's nice of you Naruto, but as soon as you're healed Tsunade needs me in the office. Besides, you and Iruka should spend some time one on one."

We left the building and entered the back garden. There were lanterns and flowers decorating the area, with a brook that koi swam in where a footbridge led over it and to a small gazebo.

"Oh." Naruto replied obviously depressed. I sighed. As we arrived on the footbridge, looking down at the koi in the pond, I spoke,

"I'm sorry Naruto I just,"

"Don't be." He said quickly. "I should have known, you probably want some time away from people after…yeah." He leaned forward onto the railing and I locked the wheelchair in place.

"Maybe… later. Later we'll go for ramen, just the two of us."

Naruto nodded,

"Alright."

I looked ahead; I could see the Hokage's building in the distance.

"Oh, Naruto," I began, "Tsunade-sama wanted me to give you some news." Naruto listened intently.

"She was talking about her ruling as Hokage. She says in a few years, when she's ready to retire, she's thinking of electing you to take over." Naruto's eyes widened as he looked down at the stream.

"Me?...But why?"

I laughed,

"I would have thought you'd be ecstatic."

Naruto shrugged.

"I guess I should be; it's always been my dream to be Hokage." He sighed. "I guess I just can't believe it's going to happen so soon." He laughed, "I sort of pictured it as a life long dream."

"Well, Tsunade isn't retiring for a good decade or so."

"That's good, she does a good job. Plus, I need more training."

I smiled,

"How could you get more training? We beat Akatsuki. I mean,"

"Not all of them."

I looked down to see Naruto strangling the railing.

"Naruto?"

"I have to go after him, it's my job now. I owe it to Sasuke."

I swallowed,

"But, we have no idea where Itachi could be…"

"I'll search the world, every continent, every damn corner of the earth. Wherever that bastard's hiding, I'll find him." I could see the kyuubi starting to take control, as Naruto barred not just teeth but fangs, his nails growing to claws, his eyes turning red. Wait… red? Both of them?

"Naruto, look at me."

Naruto seemed to be calming down immediately as he heard the urgency in my voice.

"What is it?" he asked gruffly.

"Your eye, you have sharingan!"

Naruto felt the scar beneath his eye.

"Good."

I was surprised by his sudden attitude,

"Naruto, are you,"

"I hoped Sasuke's wish wouldn't die with him."

I was quiet as he turned to me, calm as ever.

"You remember, don't you Sakura?"

I leaned on the railing hiding my face in my hands as the memory that seemed to haunt my dreams every night surfaced.

"Of course."

Sasuke lie there, choking on his own blood which also oozed from the deep crater in his chest.

"Sasuke! I'll save you, its okay." I cried my eyes so tear-filled I almost couldn't see the scene. My hand rested on Sasuke's bare ribs his heart half-cover with flesh and muscle I could see it throbbing weakly, struggling. Naruto held Sasuke's hand crying into it.

"Sakura…" I heard Sasuke gasp. Naruto and I both looked up at him.

"I always cared, about you, and Naruto and Kakashi. I," He coughed up more blood. "I wanted you protect you," he looked over at Naruto. "And you, even though we fought." Naruto was crying harder than even I was.

"Sasuke, you're going to be okay!" Naruto seemed to beg. Sasuke just shook his head,

"I'll be dead in a minute. Don't bother Sakura, no one else could do better." I cried, I wanted to hug him but was unable to do so because of his open wound.

"I don't want to leave you guys," he said straining to live a little longer. "I can't die yet, I have to kill Itachi," he said desperately, "I have to kill him…" He was getting too worked up as he coughed hard, more blood. Blood was everywhere, at our feet, on my hands, on Naruto's, on our clothing, Sasuke himself was a bloody mass.

"I want to… I don't want to leave you guys again…" He paused, "Sakura, I need you…to do me," he wheezed, "one last favor. Please."

"Of course, anything."

"I want you, to give Naruto… my right eye."

I was so confused, wondering if all the blood loss had Sasuke out of his right mind.

"So, I can watch over you too. So I can protect you, to make up for…" Sasuke winced and I could tell he was going to go any moment.

"Alright, hold on." I took out my kunai and prepared to do the unthinkable.

"And Naruto," Sasuke began as I knelt over him. "I want you to do me a favor too." Naruto listened, squeezing Sasuke's hand.

"I'm not going to be around… so I want you to promise me, that you'll take care of Sakura…" Sasuke winced, waiting as I worked on him.

"You…you don't even have to ask." I heard Naruto say shakily.

"And sometimes you're kind of ruthless; if I give you my eye I want you to use it to guard your own life too."

Naruto nodded.

"Naruto, I need you to come here." I said, Sasuke's eye was still intact; I'd leave it there until the last second.

"Naruto," Sasuke began as Naruto cringed while I cut. "Promise me?"

Naruto cried with one eye,

"I promise!" I quickly switched out the eyes. Placing Naruto's in Sasuke's skull, stitching both of their eyes. Sasuke seemed to look at where Naruto's eye now rested.

"Sakura, why did you give me Naruto's eye?"

I cried, I really didn't have a good answer.

"I, I just didn't know what to do with it."

Sasuke's eye and Naruto's transplanted one started turning cloudy.

"It's funny, how history repeats itself…isn't it?"

Naruto, face bloody and stitched up cried into Sasuke's neck as he hugged him around the shoulders. I managed to do the same thing, arranging my arms around Naruto.

"We'll always be a team." Naruto cried hugging onto Sasuke. I couldn't help thinking how fragile Sasuke seemed.

"Yeah, but just because I'm gone, don't give up."

I didn't know what was going on around us and I didn't care, right now it was the three of us and the night, and none of us wanted it to end.

"Sakura, don't give up on love. You didn't the whole time you knew me, I don't expect you to do it now." I nodded trying to get too hysterical.

"And Naruto," Naruto looked up, both looking at each other with the same gaze. "You're going to make one hell of a Hokage some day." Naruto gripped Sasuke tightly again. I heard him reply between gasps,

"Believe it."

Sasuke died that night; Naruto carried his body, and brought him back to Konoha just like he promised he would.

"Sakura?" Naruto asked. I came out of my reflection, realizing I had been crying.

"Oh, sorry Naruto…" I began wiping away the tears.

"Before you take me back, can we go one more place?"

I nodded, unlocking his wheelchair.

"Yeah, I think I already know where."

"Thanks, Sakura-chan."

"Don't mention it, I wanted to go too." I said quietly. With that we began our trip to the graveyard.