Meow! Chapter Fifteen - FINAL!!
All's Well that Ends Well
He fell to his knees, his mind swimming in a disbelieving fog.
Sakura…no, not Sakura…
Despite all prior shinobi training, he was shuddering. It was all he could do after having years of unemotional training burned into him.
His ears pricked up in an instant at the sound of footsteps, fast and light, coming towards him from behind…
As if in slow motion, his head whipped around, barely daring to believe his own sight and hearing. The next thing he knew, his vision had been blocked out by a mass of bright pink, slightly singed tresses. A pair of tiny arms locked around him, the force of the hug nearly bowling him over.
"Oh, Sasuke…it's you…it's really you…"
His brain finally snapped itself out of its daze, allowing him to embrace her back as she clung to him, sobbing her eyes out. She was covered in wounds, he noticed. Bruises were splotched everywhere, some surrounding partially-healed cuts. She was wearing her battle clothes, which by now were blackened with soot. But she was safe.
"It's ok, Sakura…I'm here now," he whispered, careful not to put any pressure on her injuries.
"Sasuke…" was all she could choke out. "Sasuke…"
Suddenly, he realized they were surrounded by multiple presences and chakra signatures. Watching in amazement, the rest of the crowd he had last seen waiting for him to get married appeared from wherever they had hidden, obviously wondering if he was the real him and not another fake. Some were charred and covered in soot or dust, and some sported bandages over fresh wounds. All were accounted for as his eyes quickly swept over them.
"What happened?" he murmured into Sakura's ear, returning his attention to her tear-streaked face. She closed her eyes and gulped silently, before answering.
"It…it wasn't you…" she forced out.
He nodded slowly. "I know. What happened?"
"I…I ratted him…it…out, and then…suddenly everyone was screaming and explosions were going off and somebody was laughing crazily in the background…"
He felt her grip on him tighten.
"It…it kept pretending to be you, but I broke the illusion…it was a doppelganger body…controlled from afar, but able to use all the jutsu of the controller…"
One of her hands reached for his, interlacing their fingers.
"It was too strong…whoever was controlling it had enough power to keep it going at full capacity…there was no way any of us could hope to kill it. But then…it stopped."
She nodded. "It just…fell down and didn't get up. Neji and Hinata…confirmed it wasn't being controlled anymore. The source itself had…vanished."
A hand rested on his shoulder. Sasuke turned his head in surprise to see an exhausted Naruto standing beside him, a shuriken still gripped in his other hand.
"We fought guys like those," explained the blonde, "While we were off looking for you way back when. We were lucky to beat them, but one suddenly going kaput like that could only mean the source was snuffed out. There's…no other way to intercept the jutsu."
"So…" muttered the Uchiha, "Someone took out the source."
"Sasuke…" Sakura bit her lip, "It…the thing we fought…it…"
She seemed unable to meet his gaze.
"It…it used the Amaterasu."
There had been almost no resistance at all…the knife had just sunk where he had aimed it. He hadn't even seen a flash of the face before taking off in a desperate run. Sure, he had aimed at a vital spot, but…could it be…?
Her voice halted his wandering thoughts.
"I…we all know you wanted to be the one who-"
Both Naruto and Sakura blinked in surprise. Killing that certain someone was the whole reason he left all that time ago…
"I said it's ok," he cut her off again. "I think I might've done it."
There was a moment of baffled silence before Naruto shattered it.
"You think? Come on, teme! You either did or you didn't!"
He received a small smirk.
"In that case, I believe I did."
The blonde's mouth hung agape as Sakura gasped before practically beaming at her beloved.
"Oh, Sasuke!" Her arms flung themselves around his neck as she hugged him again, even tighter this time. "You really did?! You're amazing!"
Quietly enough so that Naruto wouldn't hear, he allowed himself to purr contentedly into her ear, dispelling any lingering doubts that he might be another fake.
"Oh!" she exclaimed, letting go of him. "The…the wedding…"
Naruto grinned as if in embarrassment while scratching the back of his head. "Yeah…about that…we, um…kind of accidentally tore up the place…"
Sasuke said nothing, but bent down to pick up the crumpled bouquet lying amidst the wreckage of the stone altar. Fortunately, the two rings were undamaged and remained so as he untied them from the ribbon.
"A wedding's not about a place," he said slowly, "Or what state it's in."
His hand held Sakura's and deposited one of the rings into the center of her palm.
"It's about two people who want to spend the rest of their lives together."
She sniffled a little, tears already brimming at the corners of her eyes. "Sasuke…"
A commotion from the surrounding crowd, and their disgruntled Hokage elbowed her way through to glare at the three.
"If you think for one second," she stated in annoyance, "that I'm repeating that mushy speech again, you're joining that unmoving bag of meat in the afterlife."
All present shook their heads in assent.
"Good, let's try this again. Now do you, Uchiha Sasuke, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, through this, that and the other, blah blah blah until death do you part?"
For the second time that day, tears began to fall from Sakura's eyes as her love's hands grasped hers, his dark eyes glittering as he spoke.
"And do you, Haruno Sakura, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband, yada yada yada love and commitment until death do you part?"
This time there was no gut-wrenching hesitation.
"I DO!" cam out louder than intended, but with every ounce of emotion it could hold, and then some.
"Anybody object?" asked their officiator, holding up a clenched fist to illustrate what would happen if anyone was fool enough to speak up.
"Good. By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you both…Husband, and Wife. You may kiss the bride."
Somewhere off in a corner, Shino was saddened by the fact that he couldn't play the wedding tune again on the decimated piano as the two leaned towards each other, blushing bright pink.
Eyes slowly closed, and lips gently touched.
The great cheer that erupted from those gathered went unnoticed by the two, their hands clutching at one another as the kiss deepened.
The moment they broke apart, their eyes opened in unison. Smiling more widely than ever before in her life, tears rolled freely down Sakura's cheeks.
"I love you, Sasuke," her voice murmured softly.
"Love you too," he answered, and they kissed again. Without thinking, she tossed her bouquet over her shoulder to free up both hands for embracing her new husband.
Neither saw the bewildered expression on a certain female Hyuga's face when the little bundle of flowers whacked her in the face, causing her to tip backwards. Neither saw her fall broken by a pair of hands attached to blonde hair and blue eyes that stared into her ivory ones with blushing recognition.
Maybe more than one dream could come true that day.
He had to admit it. Though she'd been disappointed at not being able to wear it for the actual marriage, Sakura was beautiful in her wedding dress. He could barely take his eyes off of her, and she was only too happy to reciprocate, her gloved hands holding his in an iron deathgrip.
A crackling noise came over a previously unnoticed group of speakers, and Shizune's voice amplified itself throughout the small microphone set. The murmuring of the guests crowded in the reception hall slowly silenced.
"Thank you, everyone, for coming tonight. Please clear the center floor, as the bride and groom would like to share their first dance together."
Sakura gulped as everyone's eyes turned to them, but the crowds parted and the checker-pattern of the dance floor became visible in their wake. Somewhere off in a corner, the Hokage herself was far too intoxicated to do more than mutter in annoyance and down more drinks, hence Shizune replacing her for the rest of the night's announcements.
The lights, covered over with ribbons as they were, dimmed slightly. Surprisingly, the live band Sakura's parents had hired was in place already. The bassist began strumming his guitar, creating a soft, warm tune. The vocalist began to sing softly as Sakura felt Sasuke squeeze her hand.
"Thank you for this moment…I've gotta say how beautiful you are…"
She couldn't help but smile.
"Of all the hopes and dreams I could've prayed for…Here you are…"
Inhaling for courage, Sasuke held his new wife's hand and led her towards the center of the dance floor.
"If I could have once dance…forever…I would take you by the hand…"
Arms wrapped around waists, hands held with entwined fingers, and ever so slowly, feet began to move in a slow, measured rhythm.
"Tonight it's you and I together…I'm so glad…I'm your man…"
Other couples began grabbing their partner's hands after the bride's parents led each other into the dance. Soon enough, all were silently holding one another, losing themselves in the overwhelming aura of togetherness.
"And if I lived a thousand years, you know…I never could explain…the way I lost my heart to you…that day…"
For possibly the first time since this whole mess began, Sasuke allowed himself to relax. Not just un-tense relax, but "exhale all stress from since before accidentally becoming an anthro" relax. All his attention focused itself on the girl…no, the woman he held in his arms. This was who he was going to spend the rest of his life with, from this day forward.
"But if destiny decided I should look the other way…then the world would never know…the greatest story ever told…"
Slowly, he felt her slender hands let go of their embrace around him to reach up, grabbing at the back of his bandanna before fumbling with the knot.
"…And did I tell you…that I love you…tonight…?"
As the cloth came away, he smiled softly just for her, tickled slightly as her gloved fingers brushed the now-human ears that had replaced his cat ones.
"You're back…" she whispered softly, her eyes glimmering in the dim light.
"Thanks to you," he murmured back as her hands found their way around his neck. It was a cozy way to slowly waltz to the music; his hands clasped around her waist as hers were draped around his shoulders. Up this close, he was finding it very difficult not to give in to his longings involving her little pink lips.
"I don't hear the music…when I'm lookin' in your eyes…but I feel the rhythm of your body, close to mine…"
"Oh, look…" she breathed, gazing at something over his shoulder. "It's Naruto and…"
In genuine curiosity, he snuck a glance behind him.
"The dobe finally figured it out?" he muttered sarcastically, watching his best friend perform a very secure kind of hug-dance with That Hyuga Girl Whose Name He Could Not Remember.
"Aren't they just the cutest thing ever?" she sighed.
"It's the way we touch…that sends me…It's the way we'll always be…"
"And oh, look, it's Tenten…looks like she finally caught herself a Neji."
"Your kiss, your pretty smile, you know I'd die for…oh, baby…you're all I need…"
It was only a glimpse, but as he swayed with her to the soft beat of the music, he could've sworn he saw a dark gray, furry backside weaving through the feet of the other dancers.
Thanks…you stupid kitty…for everything.
"Man," muttered Akamaru as he sat with the other non-human members of the party watching the people dance. "This is beyond boring."
"It is," agreed Tonton, "But at least there'll be free food later. My Tsunade's already tanked as it is, though."
"Man, I'd hate to be you," chuckled the dog.
"'Ello, you lot."
The two turned in mild surprise as an unfamiliar cat settled itself beside them.
"Have I smelled you before?" asked Akamaru, taking a deep whiff of the cat's fur. "Seems like it."
"Maybe you have, maybe not."
"Where'd you come from?" inquired the pig.
"Just a spectator, dear. Watching the young 'uns finish up their bonding ritual."
"Ohhh, wait…were you the one that guy was talking to in secret?"
"The very one. Though, he can't understand me anymore. And I think he'd appreciate it if you didn't mention any of that to your people."
"Why?" snorted Akamaru. "I thought the tail was an improvement."
"You only noticed it after I pointed it out to you," teased Tonton, stretching her stubby legs before curling up in a ball. "Personally, I liked the ears. But if he'd be happier without, it's his loss."
"It is, dear," muttered the old cat, watching his charge and his charge's new mate embrace each other as they danced. "It is indeed."
Ok, before any of you flame me for finally ending it, go search youtube or whatever for the song "greatest story ever told" (it's from the What A Girl Wants movie soundtrack) and try to tell me it isn't the prettiest song ever (second place goes to "Time To say Goodbye")
Second ginormous fiction finished! YAAY! After tormenting you lot with Kodocha-esque deadline shenanigans, Here's the end of this fic for ya. Hope you enjoyed!