Title: A Scandalous Proposal
By: Dr. Destructo
Rating: Mature (language, adult situations)
Disclaimer: Naruto is owned by Masashi Kishimoto and Shonen JUMP, Shuesha Ltd.
Summary: Sakura is fed up with being the bridesmaid but never the bride and goes to confront Naruto about his most indecent lack of proposals. narusaku
As the patrons of the Yamanaka Flower Shop & Cafe fled from the thunderous cry of one Haruno Sakura, a small group of slightly less intimidated women converged. Consoling words and soothing phrases fell from their lips as they rushed to the pink haired woman.
"What's he done this time?" Ino asked, patting her friend on the shoulder.
"It's not what he's done, it's what he hasn't done," Sakura said, grinding the words out like grist in a mill.
"What are you-? Oh," Hinata said, understanding at last. "You heard about Moegi then."
"Yes," Sakura hissed.
"What about Moegi?" Tenten asked, fidgeting with her chong-sam skirt. "Last I heard she was dating that Kouji guy."
"Apparently," Hinata supplied, her voice soft, "Kouji asked Moegi to marry him. I hear it's supposed to be in the spring."
"Wait," Ino said, interrupting. "You mean Moegi already has a ring and a date when..."
"Naruto hasn't even asked," Sakura grumbled. Green eyes narrowed as her fists bunched up the fabric of her skirt. Her furious revelation elicited gasps from her fellow shinobi.
Sakura had been happy when Hinata had married Chouji, elated for the shy Hyuuga heir, in fact. She had been fine at Tenten and Lee's wedding, relieved that two friends could find happiness together. Hell, Sakura had even convincingly faked being happy for Ino when the blonde kunoichi finally landed the dark-haired, pale prince of her dreams. Okay, maybe not convincingly, but she healed Ino's black eye before the ceremony and got shit-faced like any respectable maid of honor, dammit!
Sakura would wish Moegi well, but being a bridesmaid while never even being asked to be a bride was galling beyond belief. Frustrated, she added, "We've been living together for almost ten damned years, you'd think it would cross his ramen-addled brain at least once!"
Hinata, gifted with the insight befitting a Hyuuga, saw Ino's "Why buy the cow..." comment coming a mile away and jabbed all the tenketsu in the blonde's throat to keep her silent.
"Well," Hinata said, ignoring the quirking eyebrows and scowls from her friends. "Maybe he just doesn't understand?"
"I- I mean," Hinata stammered, flustered at the combined scrutiny of her peers. "He grew up alone, right? Does he even know what marriage means? To him, it could just be a fancy way of making a promise he's already made to you? Er, maybe?"
Shoulders sagging, Sakura felt guilty for not considering the likely source of Naruto's lack of social cues. Sure, she expected a proposal and a wedding and maybe even a ring that could put Ino's gaudy little rock to shame, but she'd also had a normal childhood.
Scratch that, she'd had as normal a childhood as it was possible to have.
Ino cleared her throat, having re-established her ability to talk, albeit hoarsely. "Ami's getting married next week," she croaked with a smirk.
"I'M GOING TO KILL HIM!" Sakura bellowed.
"I'm tellin' ya, Ayame-neechan," Naruto said between slurping noodles. "I've been nearly killed by the best of 'em and I don't think I've ever seen the Mizukage look that pissed!"
A round of muffled chuckles sounded from around the large table in the center of the ramen shop. Most seemed amused at the Rokudaime's anecdote, though one person chose to go against the flow.
"Tch," Uchiha Sasuke said. After partaking of his own bowl of ramen, he continued, "You're exaggerating. Again."
"Yeah, I can see how you can say that," Naruto conceded, shooting the pale shinobi a look that proclaimed otherwise. "Then again, I was only the guy holding him back after you made that crack about his wife. It's not like I got Mizukage spit all over my hat or somethin'."
"Pfft," was Sasuke's only response. Neji and Shikamaru only exchanged wry grins while Rock Lee felt the need to point out how cool and hip Sasuke had become. Neji and Lee's genin glanced nervously between all the legendary shinobi present, praying that a man described as "part shark, part gorilla and all bloodthirsty" wouldn't burst into the defenseless shop and murder them all for Sasuke's careless remark.
Ayame just smiled and began putting away the fancy ramen bowls.
When Teuchi passed away and Ayame took over Ichiraku Ramen, she made several changes. While Teuchi was content to keep Ichiraku Ramen as a small, homey ramen stand, Ayame felt it incumbant upon her to expand from the bar and stools to a slightly larger store. Nothing too large, but some booths and space where several people could eat and gather.
However, by "people" Ayame meant Naruto and his retinue of friends. In a way, she thought of it as a shell crab trading in a smaller home for one that fit; Ichiraku had easily held Naruto's adoptive family as a cozy stand in the past, but now needed to house a slightly larger one.
One change Ayame had refrained from making was the implementation of a door. Some speculated that it had to do with maintaining a warm, open environment as it had in the past.
Ayame knew better.
Silence not unlike a tomb washed over the Ichiraku patrons as all eyes turned towards the blonde village leader. A single white ramen noodle hung from his mouth, captured in mid-slurp by the ferocious scream from the love of his life. Naruto finished inhaling the noodle and swallowed, not even tasting his ramen.
"That was seven O's," he said, subdued. This new information caused all of his stalwart companions, loyal shinobi and good friends to scoot their chairs away from him. Seven O's meant Sakura was serious, and that meant trouble.
"Wow," Sasuke said, awe slipping into his voice. "It's been a while since you got up to seven."
"Yeah," Naruto agreed. "That time with-"
"Her mother," Neji finished. The Hyuuga genius shuddered at the memory of violence the likes of which epic vedas consisted. "Not to be impertinent," he ventured, "but have you selected a Nanadaime Hokage?"
"Tch, bringing up something like that," Shikamaru said, scoffing. His surprising nonchalance bolstered those seated. "If she kills him, no one's going to argue that she's going to be the Nanadaime."
All nodded in pragmatic agreement while Naruto withered and died a little inside. Before he could force some bravado to the fore, Sakura stormed into the ramen shop and it was too late.
Tension clung to the air and smothered those bearing witness as Sakura met her lover's eyes. A standoff between incredibly high level shinobi, no one breathed lest the tiniest tinder ignite the dramatic powderkeg.
"Heya, Sakura-chan! Heard you comin'!" Naruto crowed, shortly preceding the sounds of a several hands slapping foreheads.
"Naruto," Sakura said, not entirely unlike an executioner. His name sounded like a death sentence. "I want to discuss something with you."
"Heh heh, sure, Sakura-chan!" Naruto said. His grin increasingly strained, the man felt himself pressing harder against the back of his chair. "What'd ya wanna talk about?"
"It has come to my attention," the pink-haired kunoichi said, "that Moegi is getting married. Moegi who is four years younger than me and who has been with Kouji six years less than I've been with you, Naruto."
"Really?" Naruto asked, befuddled. "I guess we should congratulate her on-"
"But!" Sakura interrupted, slamming her fists on the table hard enough to make dents. "I could have lived with that. Really. Moegi's a nice girl. But apparently even Katsuragi Ami has convinced someone she's worth wedding. Ami, Naruto. Do you remember Ami?"
The vehemence in Sakura's tone had long since started to make Naruto perspire and her last question caused him to visibly flinch. Desperately, he searched his memory for someone named Ami that Sakura would-
"Wait? That girl is getting married?" Naruto asked. His voice drowned in incredulity. He heard the muted gasps from Lee and Shikamaru, but they failed to register as warnings.
"Yes," Sakura said, her voice lethal. "Ami is getting married next week. And yet in ten years I don't seem to recall you even bringing up the topic of marriage."
Sakura had expected many reactions from her partner in life and love. The journey from the Yamanaka Flower Shop & Cafe to the Ichiraku Ramen Shop had provided plenty of time for her to analyze and mull over the many possibilities such a public confrontation could entail.
She had prepared for guilt and sorrow, conceding that Hinata's years of stalking the man may have lended some merit to his social cluelessness. Sakura had envisioned a sulky reluctance to broach the issue, his pride suffering in front of his friends. Indifference had crossed her mind, as Naruto's unconventional mindset may have dismissed matrimony as worthless. Sakura had even envisioned calousness at the topic, indicating that Naruto truly didn't want to be considered "settled down."
Somehow sheer wide-eyed paralysis had failed to enter her imagination. And Sakura had a very good imagination. For a man whose personality was built around loud action, seeing Naruto silently stunned bothered Sakura. He appeared neither upset or shocked at the notion of marriage, just stuck in disbelief.
The quiet, however, only made other sounds all too noticeable. Such as the gentle snickering from everyone else in the shop.
"And just what is so funny?" she asked, rounding on shinobi she'd considered friends and comrades nearly all her life. If looks could maim, Konoha would have been short a few shinobi and up a few dozen meat cubes.
"Nothing! Not a thing, Sakura-chan!" Naruto exclaimed, clamoring for her attention. Waving his arms frantically, he let loose a nervous chuckle. "Kakashi-sensei came out with another of those stupid books and that's all they can think about! Perverts, I tell ya! The lot of 'em!"
Sakura paused in her wrath, to shoot the sweating Hokage a confused look. Siezing the opportunity, Naruto continued unabated.
"I was incredibly thoughtless, Sakura-chan," Naruto said, going to one knee. "Please forgive me. Of course I'll marry you! I'm the Hokage so we can do it this evening! Heck, let's go ahead and get it done now! I can send clones to get your parents and our friends! It's a bit short notice, but I think-"
"Naruto," Sakura sighed, running a hand through her pink hair. Green eyes flicked over to the other ninja and their barely contained mirth. Letting her shoulders slump, she went on. "I know you're kinda dense sometimes, but this..."
"I- I- I'm a thoughtless human being raised by wolves!" Naruto begged, clasping his hands together. "Promise of a hundred lifetimes I'll make it up- !"
Stunned, the panicked Hokage and his emotional mate turned to see Konoha's Green Beast weeping openly. Great streams of tears cascading down his cheeks, Rock Lee thrust his fist before him and shocked his genin into scurrying even further from the table.
"Oh to see such splendorous passion and devotion!" Lee cried. "This beautiful Green Beast cannot abide to see such youthful affection dampened and sullied by the taint of untruth!"
"Yes, it can!" Naruto hissed, making the 'cut off' motion across his throat.
"Nay! Oh most delicate blossom, Sakura-san! You know not how wrong you are about our driven and loyal Hokage!" Lee whipped his arms over his eyes, the very site of his two friends proving too much for him. "Indeed in trying to allay your sorrow he is concealing the depths of his passion and the epic lengths to which he has gone!"
Further words Sakura could not make out as great racking sobs overcame the taijutsu specialist. Naruto placed his palm against his forehead and merely groaned. Clearing her throat, Sakura asked, "What was all that supposed to mean?"
Naruto groaned again.
"Naruto," Sasuke said with a smirk. When Sakura made to interrupt, the pale shinobi held up a finger to stop her. "I think it's time you put them on the table."
With a disgusted snort, Naruto stood and reached under his Hokage robes. After a brief pause, he set a small, black box on the table. Sakura looked at the velvet container with the silver inlay, not quite understanding. She didn't believe her eyes at first, but every romance movie and sappy love story she'd ever seen told her that this little box housed an engagement ring.
Sakura had only a moment to be in awe when Naruto set down a second box. Similar to the first, only the color was a dark, forest green with gold filagree. Was that a... second engagement ring?
No time was given to ponder that thought as Naruto placed a third box, this one a deep burgandy, next to the others. Soon Sakura's suspicions were confirmed when he opened all three boxes to reveal three beautiful and extravogent rings.
"There," Naruto muttered.
"Okay," Sakura said, a touch uncertain. "Are you going to tell me why you have three engagement rings?"
"Yes," Sasuke agreed. "When did you start carrying around the third one?"
"You know the jewelers' guild up in Yokubari?" Naruto asked. Upon receiving a few nods, he said, "Well the third one's a freebie for helping fund their new compound."
"You poor bastard."
"Excuse me," Sakura said, her patience wearing thin. "But why the hell do you have three engagement rings at all?"
"Sakura-chan," Naruto started hesitantly, reaching back to scratch the back of his head. "I've been trying to propose to you for a while. It's just that, um, the moment's never really been right, y'know? So I've, uh, ended up picking up some rings for when the moment was perfect."
"That was incredibly sugar-coated," Shikamaru said, crossing his arms. Sakura's intense glaring cut short the accompanying nods.
"How long have you been waiting for his this so-called 'perfect moment,' Naruto?" Sakura asked.
"Um, can I just say a while?" he asked, offering a wide, hopeful grin.
"Oh good grief," Sasuke said, exasperated. "Let's just get it over with. The dunce has been trying to marry you for the last seven years."
"Wuh- seven!?" Sakura blurted, eyes not unlike green saucers. "Years? Seven years? How could you not have found an acceptable moment in seven years?!"
"Heh heh," Naruto chuckled. Beginning to sweat profusely, he swallowed and then thought about his words very, very carefully. When he finally admitted there was not going to be an easy way to explain things, he felt for the seal in his office for a quick getaway. "Well, it's not that I haven't found a moment, per se, Sakura-chan. But, uh, that all those moments kept getting... um, interrupted?"
"Interrupted how?" Sakura asked, leaning forward to enhance her wrathful gaze.
"It's just, y'know, when I'm about to pop the question," Naruto said, beginning to ramble. "Sometimes things just sorta, I guess, happen. Right? Like, say, an emergency hospital summon or an assassination attempt. Stuff that just ruins the mood and all."
"Naruto," Sakura began, her voice flat and devoid of emotion. "There haven't been any assassination attempts on either of us. Ever. And I don't get called into the hospital for emergencies that much."
"I was just givin' you examples, okay?" Naruto said, hands up.
"Uh-huh. The truth. Now," Sakura demanded. To emphasize her insistance, the fierce kunoichi cracked her knuckles.
"What you have to understand, Sakura-chan," Naruto said, his eyes darting around. "Is that accidents can happen to anyone. Sometimes, a person can have a lot of accidents! It's not that person's fault, right? It just... happens."
"This is truly pathetic," Sasuke said, interrupting Sakura's building fury. "And trust me, I've seen pathetic."
"Oh fine!" Naruto snapped. "Sakura-chan, the reason I haven't been able to successfully propose to you is because... You keep messing up the proposals."
Stillness settled over the small ramen shop as the revelation echoed. The couple's long-time friends -- Ayame, Sasuke, Shikamaru, Neji and Lee -- all sucked in their breath, anticipating the worst as Sakura tilted her head and slowly began to digest the information.
For her part, Sakura stood analyzing her better half. Her formidable intellect struggled to reconcile what she'd heard and the heartbreaking honesty in Naruto's face. Unable to fully wrap her mind around this new surprise, she instead chose to just stare at the blonde Hokage. Maybe she could decipher the hidden meaning of his words. Because, really-
"How does someone screw up getting a proposal?" Sakura asked, bewildered.
"Well, I-" Naruto stammered, "I think saying 'screw up' is a bit har-"
"Apt," Neji said.
"Accurate," added Sasuke.
"Understated," Shikamaru countered.
"Hey!" Lee exclaimed. "I am certain that Sakura-san did not mean to destroy so many rings!"
"Destroy?" Sakura asked. She didn't notice one of Naruto's shadow clones instantly appear and guide a chair under her as her knees grew weak. "I destroyed rings?"
"What? No!" Naruto shouted while directing a brief spike of killing intent towards Lee. "Not in the conventional sense, at least."
"Ah," Sakura said. Slightly dazed, she continued, "And just how... unconventionally... did I destroy these rings?"
"Well," Sasuke said not quite relishing the display, but close enough. "I believe the first one was mangled when you sucker punched the dunce. There was the one you dumped in the incinerator. A couple were just lost because you accidentally tossed them away. And... Neji, did she finally pass number six?"
Aghast, Sakura watched the Hyuuga genius activate his bloodline eyes and literally peer into her. A moment passed before the man brushed back his long hair and nodded. "It appears so," Neji confirmed. "Pity, that one was particularly well-crafted. Excellent color."
Sasuke nodded in sympathy. "The cut of gem was extraordinary even for the guild," he agreed.
"I- I ATE ONE?!" Sakura blurted.
"No!" Naruto shouted, quickly arresting his newly minted fiance's attention. "Well, you kinda swallowed it, but that was totally my fault, y'see?"
"Your fault?" Sakura asked. "You made me swallow an engagement ring?"
"Not on purpose!" Naruto exclaimed. "I was trying to do that thing where the guy puts the ring in the wine glass and is like 'Let's make a toast!' and the girl goes 'Oh my! Is this what I think it is?' Only it, uh, didn't exactly work out like that."
"And Sunagakure's a little sandy," Neji muttered.
"I... I think I'm starting to understand," Sakura said, lying profusely. She wasn't understanding anything, except perhaps Naruto's little mishap with laxatives a couple months ago. Although speaking of things that smelled funny... "Wait a damn minute," Sakura said. "How come everyone else here knows about all this proposal stuff and not me?!"
"Heh, that's actually a funny story, Sakura-chan," Naruto said, tugging on the collar of flak vest. "See, after a couple of... accidents... I asked for some help to make the best proposal ever!"
"You needed help?" Sakura asked, raising a skeptical eyebrow. "From four elite jounin?"
"Nine jounin, three chuunin and the Kazekage have all been party to one scheme or another," Shikamaru said, deadpan. "We had Naruto make it a classified triple-S-ranked mission so we could dedicate sufficient man hours to it."
Sakura felt no shame in letting her jaw hang open.
"So, uh, congratulations, Sakura-chan!" Naruto exclaimed, drawing her eyes back to him. "We're getting married AND you're getting triple-S-rank pay to boot!"
Managing a weak smile, Sakura turned back to Sasuke and Shikamaru. Swallowing her anxiety, she hesitantly asked, "How- How many attempts have been made?"
Tense silence filled the air as a flurry of quick glances were exchanged between men. Finally, Rock Lee cleared his throat and stared Sakura directly in the eyes. "We have no idea."
Sakura gracelessly let her forehead meet the table.
"In all honesty," Naruto said, gently rubbing the kunoichi's back, "I stopped keeping track after the first time you said yet, a couple years. It's not important anyway!"
"The first time I what?" Sakura asked, peeking over her arms at the blond shinobi. "I said yes? When the hell was this!?"
"Remember when Iwa was participating in the Chuunin Exams for the first time?" Naruto asked. After receiving an uncertain head nod, he continued. "Well, I popped the question to you after the final round of the tournament. I think that was ring number four... doesn't matter! Anyways, you said yes and I was really thrilled. Then this rock hit your head and you forgot the whole thing."
"I got amnesia?!"
"Only a couple times though!" Naruto amended. "The Tsuchikage felt so bad because it seemed like maybe it was some dissenting Iwagakure faction or something that did it. But after I knew you'd say yes I stopped counting because I knew we were gonna get married!"
"The brain damage would make it more likely," Sasuke muttered. The ninja genius hissed as a heel buried itself in his instep.
When only a muffled groan emerged from his bride-to-be, Naruto glared at his compatriots and repeated himself. "I said, we're gonna get married."
Blank stares were his only reward until finally one of Lee's genin kicked the bushy-browed taijutsu specialist, setting off a chain reaction of forced cheers and awkward well-wishing. Lackluster applause and congratulations sputtered out just as quickly as it started. Yet still Sakura refused to lift her head.
The need to dispell her woes upon him, Naruto firmly yet gently cupped her chin with his hand and lifted her head to face him. With deliberate care, he wiped away the wet streaks along her cheeks with his thumb. When her watery, verdant eyes finally met his, Naruto smiled.
"Pick one," he coaxed, angling his head towards the three rings still atop the table. "I guess it won't feel right unless I do it proper-like, so pick one."
Mortified at the recent turn of events, and doubly so that she had to sniffle a bit because of a runny nose, Sakura found it easier to focus on the different colored boxes than the sincerity radiating from the man in front of her. Using her palms to clear her eyes, Sakura tried to huff. "Geez, you're such a dork sometimes, Naruto," she said voice nearly cracking. "The green one, I guess."
"That one's my favorite," Naruto said, smile widening as he plucked the ring from the middle box. The analytical part of Sakura's mind noted an exceptional radiance of the gem, and how the light reflected was colorless except when the angle was just so. Then there was the faintest tint of green. Once more, Naruto captured her attention as he took her hand and knelt on a single knee.
"Haruno Sakura-chan," he said, words confident and bold. "I would be the happiest-"
"UCHIHA SASUKE!" cried the blue and wrathful Mizukage as he stormed into the ramen shop. Small, yellow eyes blared in fury as the incredibly muscular leader of Hidden Mist directed an over-sized sword in the table's general vicinity. "You will pay for your slanderous words against my beloved!"
"Aw crap," Sasuke muttered
"ARGH! Not again!" Naruto shouted, pulling at his hair. His momentary rage subsiding, the Hokage swept Sakura into his arms and discarded all sense of propriety. "Marry me, dammit!"
"Gladly!" Sakura shouted back, swiping the ring from his hand. Adorning her new jewelry, Sakura pointed in the direction of their home and commanded, "Now let's get the hell out of here!" The freshly engaged couple then proceeded to vanish in a cloud of ninja smoke.
"Okay," the Mizukage said, lowering his monstrous blade. "Now I'm just confused."
As always, many thanks go out to Random1377 and Geor-sama, though I can't for the life of me remember why.
This story was inspired by one of those livejournal writing prompts over at 20kisses. A prevalent theme in a lot of "proposal" stories is that the guy is always screwing up the marriage proposal. I thought it would be a nice change of pace for it to be the bride-to-be who kept ruining things.