She stared at him from afar, finally coming out of the brush as he approached, pack on his back like he was going to leave. She knew he was. Her eyes tried to find his as he came closer.

He stopped, paused in front of her. "What are you doing...wandering around here at night?" His voice was cold, calm and revealed nothing; just like the boy he was.

She looked down, her voice soft and determined. "Because, in order to get out of the village, you have to take this road."

He started walking again. "Go home and sleep."

She watched as he passed her by, walking onward. She felt tears starting to form, her voice a whisper. "Why?" She turned slightly, looking at the back of his feet. "Why won't you tell me anything?" Her voice was full of her feelings, but strong at the same time; determined. "Why do you always stay silent? Why won't you say anything to me?"

And then he was talking over her, his voice raised. "Why do I have to tell you anything?" He seemed irritated with her. "It's none of your business." He stopped walking completely. "Stop concerning yourself with what I do."

Sakura turned her face downward, feeling empty and defeated as she cried almost gracefully. "You've..." she smiled slightly, sadly... "always hated me, huh?" She turned back to look at him, smiling. "Do you remember the day we became Genin and our three member team was first chosen? That day you and I were here alone. You got mad at me, remember?" The sudden flashback of him calling her annoying played back in her mind then.

"I don't remember." He admitted,

She felt a look of shock cross her features as something sliced through her. But, she tried to put on a good face despite this. "It makes sense.. That's something that happened a while back. But, that's the day when everything started. You and I... and also Naruto and Kakashi-sensei... the four of us completed a number of missions together. They were tough and a lot of work. But... Above all... It was fun!" She tried to hide the strain in her voice even if she couldn't hide the tears in her eyes.

She looked down when he said nothing and continued. "I know about your clan. But.. revenge... That won't make anyone happy. No one. Neither you, nor I."

A dark cloud seemed to fan out above them, darkening the scenery as he spoke. "Just as I thought...I'm different from you guys. I walk a different path than you guys. I tried to think it was my path to do the things we've done up until now. The four of us did things together, but my heart decided on revenge in the end. That's my purpose in life. I can't become like you or Naruto."

She was yelling then, no longer being able to take the pain of his words, his hopelessness. "Are you going to choose to be alone again?! On that day you taught me that solitude is painful! I understand that so well right now. I have a family and I have friends. But if you're gone... To me.." she took a step forward. "It's the same as being alone!" she held her fists to her chest, clenched tight as she shook.

And image of them together, her, Naruto and Kakashi-sensei flashed in his mind. "From here on... A new path will open for all of us..."

"I..!" She started moving towards him. "I love you so much!" Her heart felt caught in her throat, but she would continue. "If you stay with me I'll make sure you won't regret it! Everyday will be fun. We'll definitely be happy." She took in a deep breath, allowing for her next words to escape. "I'll do anything for you. So... please stay here! I'll help you with your revenge. I'll do something. So... please stay here... with me!" Her voice began to waver as the tears continued and her form shook with emotions still escaping. "If you can't stay... take me with you..."

He turned then, a smirk on his face, but it was somehow different this time... his eyes... what was it? "You really are annoying." And then he was turning to walk.

She ran after him. "Don't leave! If you do, I'll scream." She gasped as he dissipated, reforming behind her.

His voice was unusually soft... "Sakura... Thank you..."

Her eyes widened.

"But why would you want to? It's not worth it to come with me. You're not like me. You never will be. Even if you say you'd do anything for me we both know you don't have the heart, the drive, the pain and solitude that I do to follow my path."

She turned then, staring into his eyes, her own shaking as he cried on. "I'll learn."

Something flashed in his coal depths and he almost wanted to believe her, almost. "Why?"

Her face turned downward, her teeth clenched. "Idiot. Because I love you. Because I want to make you happy. If walking a path of revenge, turning on my village, and joining with Orochimaru will make you happy... I'll do it." She looked up into his eyes and he almost faltered at the emotions swirling there. She grabbed at whatever she could. "Take me with you."

He sighed, his eyes closing and he turned his face slightly and looked downward. "You'll do."

"I'll what?" She almost looked confused.

He opened his eyes and looked at her again. They seemed so cold and yet something else was there. "I'll need someone if I want to revive my clan one day. I'm the last and I'll need children after I complete my mission. So... you'll do."

He seemed so crass about it. It hurt her. But she didn't care. She pushed it down.

"Can you do that for me... Sakura?"

She couldn't say no to him, she never could have even if she wanted to.



Days later... When Naruto woke up in the hospital he felt a wave of grief instantly wash over him. Tears stung his face and fell to either side, staining the bandages around his head. He'd lost them both. He'd failed them both. Sasuke... and the Sakura. Why did they go? Why'd they have to take that path?

He opened his eyes and stared up at the ceiling.

He knew Sakura was in love with Sasuke, but, he'd never thought she would actually go so far as to go with him; to take his road. He'd recalled the way she looked at him when he fought Sasuke. There was such pain in her eyes. She really hadn't wanted to do this. To leave her family, her friends and her village. But, love apparently made you do stupid things.

What would he have done, given the same option if it had been Sakura? Would he have gone with her? Taken that path? Given up on his dreams of Hokage because of love? He swallowed, not really sure if he could answer that question.

"Naruto...?" A soft voice called. A young girl's voice.

He looked over towards the door, his eyes softening at the sight of Hinata. He couldn't help but notice, really notice, for the first time how lovely she looked when she blushed at the sight of him. Did he look like that when he stared at Sakura? Was Hinata really just shy or did she feel something for him? He couldn't fathom what. He was an outcast dropout that people feared because of the fox. He supposed even Sakura could do better.

He tried to sit up, gasping as he braced himself, his eyes tightening shut in pain.

"Naruto!" She ran forward, helping him, keeping him from falling. In the process her face came entirely too close to his own. She felt another blush rise at the heat she could feel beneath her hands; his half naked form.

He turned his face to look into her eyes. Cold blue skies met with white heavenly clouds as they stared at each other. Naruto smiled slightly, almost looking like he'd given up on himself. Her heart broke for him.

"I've lost them both... Hinata."

She frowned... "...Naruto."

He laughed softly, tears coming again. "I'm a helpless weak fool, Hinata. Why can't I be good enough when it counts? I've always managed to look like a nobody to everyone, a dropout failure, and now I'm starting to think they're right." He closed his eyes, his lips quivering. "After all, who is a man, which, deserves the title Hokage if he can't even save two friends? Right... Hinata?"

She shook her head. "No..." She gripped him tight enough that he looked up at her again, shocked look in his eyes as she shouted. "No! You're much more than that, Naruto. You're much more than that to everyone... to...to... me." She closed her eyes, turning her face form his. But then she gasped as she felt a hand on her cheek, eyes wide as he looked at her with pain filled eyes full of something... more.


"Yes?" Her voice was a whisper.

He paused for a moment, searching her face as though he wasn't sure what to say. "Will you stay with me, Hinata?"

She felt like her heart was in his hands, but the look in his eyes told her he felt the same way, like he wanted something, but couldn't say it. He was confused, scared and in pain. He wanted love. He'd lost the two most important people in his life and he was asking her, little shy Hinata to be his rock. She felt overwhelmed, overjoyed and honored all at once.

"Will.. you.." He looked down, caught on on his words. "Will you love me?" And then he was speaking quickly. "I know it's a lot to ask. I shouldn't ask you. I just... I need someone... if even as just a good friend... to care about me... for someone to want me.."

"Naruto..." She placed her hand over his, smiling softly as she admitted... "I've always loved you." She was finally able to admit it.

His eyes went wide as he stared at her, flabbergasted. Tears fell, pouring down his cheeks again. Someone loved him. Someone was in love with him. He'd lost everything and all at once gained it again. He was smiling. Happy and sad all at once. He leaned forward, capturing her gasp with his mouth as he gently kissed her...

If he had someone who loved him... maybe as much as Sakura loved Sasuke... then maybe, just maybe he could get through this. Get through this and be strong enough to find them both.