I'm baaaaaack! This story ties into the timeline I created in "Acceptance" so if you haven't yet, I suggest you read that first, or some little details will be like "Huh?"
Thanks for the support and feedback I got for "Acceptance". It was just the encouragement I needed to keep going.
I don't own Naruto or any of its characters. If I did I would be living in Malibu. Please read and review. Flames are fine, I love roasted marshmallows.
Lady Tsunade, the Godaime Hokage of Konoha, watched as two of her jonin shinobi slouched into her office. Despite herself, she rolled her eyes slightly. It was hard to believe that these two were among the strongest ninja she had. Hatake Kakashi, his one eye buried in his book, silver hair sticking up wildly, was being as inscrutable as ever. Uchiha Sasuke was standing there with the slightly glazed look he always had when forced to be awake this early in the morning.
Like sensei like student, Tsunade thought wryly.
"Ok, listen up you two. You're heading out to Crescent Moon. Late last night we received a request for aid from them. Yesterday there was an earthquake off the coast and a massive tsunami hit the island. I'm sending a team of medics and a few gennin teams to help with cleanup. You two are going with them.
Kakashi stopped reading. Sasuke seemed to come awake all at once. She now had both of their undivided attentions.
"Crescent Moon?" Sasuke asked slowly. "What aren't you telling us?"
"Naruto and Sakura are there," said Kakashi. " You're worried."
That last wasn't a question. Kakashi was perceptive as usual. Tsunade finally gave into the anxiety she had been feeling since she had read the message.
"According to Hikaru, the prince, they haven't been seen since the wave hit."
Uzumaki Naruto and Haruno Sakura stood in front of Tsunade's desk, wondering what they had done now. Naruto glanced over at his girlfriend and raised a blond eyebrow. She just shrugged and gave him a "beats the hell out of me" look.
"Hey you two. I know it's hard, but try to pay attention to something besides each other for a minute. I pulled you away from your teams for a reason." The Hokage smirked for a minute." I have a mission that only you can do."
Naruto was starting to get a bad feeling. His mindset must have shown on his face.
Tsunade laughed. "Don't look so worried, little brother. You'll like this. You are to deliver some papers to the Damiyo of Crescent Moon Island. It should take you about two weeks. Naruto, Kiba can lead your team while you're gone. I want to know how he does with command."
Naruto visibly brightened at the assignment, but then became puzzled. "As much as I'm going to love going back the Crescent Moon, and while I'm sure Kiba, Konohamaru ,and Machi will be fine without me, why two weeks? It will only take us five or six days to get there and back. And why us?"
"Well, one, I want you to stay and wait for Michiru's answer, and two," and Tsunade smiled, "I told him you two needed a vacation ,and to take his time writing his reply."
Tsunade looked at their incredulous faces.
"Now don't forget this is a real mission in part. The papers for this treaty are very important and….Hey! Would you pay attention and knock off that jumping around!"
Naruto and Sakura stopped off at their homes on the Uchicha compound just long enough to pack some things. Many of their friends were out on missions, so the place was pretty quiet. Even Sasuke wasn't due back until tomorrow , so they wouldn't see him for a while.
He was going to be pissed when he found out they went on vacation without him.
Naruto went to his room in the main house and pulled out his traveling pack. Though it was barely spring here, it would be nice and warm on the island, so he could pack light. He threw some stuff together and walked through the house. Neji was in the library reading a book, and waved to him without looking up.
To his surprise, Sakura was waiting for him outside the door. "You finished packing before I did?" He clutched the door frame. "I…think…I'm…going...to …faint."
She smacked him on the arm. "Shush. I just happened to still have most of my stuff packed from my last mission."
"Or you're planning on buying a lot of new stuff while we're there, and you needed the room."
Hinata and Tenten were sitting out on the steps to their house talking, and waved to them as he and Sakura walked past on their way out of the compound.
"Where are you two off to?" asked Tenten.
"Mission to Crescent Moon. Should take a couple of weeks." Sakura winked at Naruto.
"Crescent Moon! You guys are so lucky! I've wanted to go there ever since Lee told me about it."
Hinata looked just as put out as her friend. "We'll just have to do something about that. I wonder if we could get Kiba-kun and Neji-ni to take us there?"
Naruto and Sakura chuckled as they said goodbye to the plotting friends. Those two could be pretty determined when they put their minds to it. They had become best friends since moving in together, and their personalities were sometimes a little too in sync. Kiba and Neji would definitely be hearing about this later from their perspective girlfriends.
"You know," mused Naruto, as they headed toward the village entrance, "It would be a lot of fun for all of us to go somewhere together."
"Yeah it would. We should definitely do that sometime."
"But not now," he said, firmly.
"Why not?" Sakura looked up at him, questionably.
Naruto turned and looked deeply into Sakura's green eyes. Messages of love and trust that didn't need any words flashed between them. "Because, this trip is just for us."
She grinned at him, twined her fingers with his, and, hand in hand, they walked through the gates of Konoha.
Three days later they were walking through the busy port of Crescent Moon Island.
"Boy, this place sure looks different from the last time we were here," said Sakura, looking around her with interest.
"The people certainly look happy. Michiru must have become a good ruler."
It was the height of the tourist season, and the place was packed. The shops and restaurants lining the main thoroughfare were overflowing. Street vendors caused road blocks and trays and racks of brightly colored cloth and sparkling jewelry were everywhere. Naruto practically had to carry Sakura past some of the stores.
"Come on," said Naruto, laughing as he maneuvered her away from the window of a clothes store. "I promise we'll do some shopping later. We have to deliver these papers to the palace first. We're going to be here all week, there'll be plenty of time for me to buy you something nice."
She stopped and grinned up at him. "Really? You know I'm going to hold you to that."
"Would I lie to you?"
"Oh sure, since your favorite thing in the world is to come shopping with me."
"Hey, this is your trip. I promise, whatever you want to do, we'll do"
Sakura suddenly jumped up and wrapped her arms around his neck. He caught her easily and swung her around, both of them giggling like children. Pedestrians around them smiled at the pair, and Sakura caught some envious looks from most of the adolescent girls around. Well, let them look. They could look all they wanted, this tall handsome man was all hers.
In the heat, he had opted to wear only his knee length black and orange haori and a pair of loose black pants. The loose clothing showed off his well shaped body and graceful form. His long, shaggy blond hair shone in the bright sun and his impossibly blue eyes sparkled. The only thing that marred this picture was the long scar across his chest. To Sakura, it was a reminder to hold on to what was precious to you, as you never knew when it would be taken away. She had been so blind regarding this wonderful person when she was young. Never again.
"What did I do to deserve you?" Sakura said as he let her down.
"Just lucky I guess."
She kissed him, not caring about the audience. It wasn't often that they could forget about being the living weapons that they were for awhile, and just be themselves.
They continued their pleasant walk across the island, through cool forest, to the palace. The guard at the gate hailed them and asked for identification. Looking over their passports, than letting his eyes travel up to their Leaf insignias, the guard smiled and gestured them through.
"Go on in, they've been expecting you."
They were walking towards the palace when excited yelling made them turn.
A tall, black haired youth was running across the courtyard towards them. Dressed in a simple tunic and pants, the only thing to distinguish him from the boy Naruto had known were the black wire rim glasses framing his dark eyes.
"Hikaru? Jeez have you gotten big." The kid must have been about sixteen now.
Hikaru puffed up to them, grinning. "So have you, you're a giant! You're almost as tall as Father now!" The young man laughed as he embraced first Naruto, then Sakura. " It's so great to see you guys again! How is Lee-san? It's a shame he couldn't come too."
"He was leaving on another mission, but he told us to tell you hi. Actually, he said a lot more than that, but it was all loud and fast and something about youth and I can't remember it exactly." Naruto shrugged. "He's Lee, what're you going to do?"
He smiled as Hikaru laughed uproariously. This definitely was not the same moody kid Naruto had first pledged friendship to. Suddenly he almost pitched forward as something made a chuffing sound and shoved into the back of his legs. He turned around and looked into the green eyes of a huge gray saber-toothed tiger.
"Hey Chamu. You still looking after this kid?" The tiger chuffed again and rubbed his massive head against Naruto's leg. Naruto started scratching around the cat's ruff and he rumbled in pleasure. Sakura came over and scratched him too, and the rumbling rose in volume. The fur around the tiger's muzzle was starting to whiten slightly, the huge teeth yellowing, but patting him was like patting a rock, he was all muscle.
"I forgot how big this guy is. I'm glad he remembers us."
"He never forgets anyone," said Hikaru. "There's this one guard that defended the palace during the coup all those years ago. He was just doing his job and didn't really know what was going on, and we trust him and all, but Chamu remembers him and follows him around growling when he gets near me. It's kinda funny." The boy looked fondly at his large guardian.
"But anyway, you guys must be tired. Father's in a meeting right now, but he told me to show you to your cabins." Hikaru looked at them and raised his eyebrows suggestively. "Or would you like just one?"
Damn smart kids.
The days went by way too fast. Naruto was enjoying himself immensely. It didn't matter what they did, as long as they took their time doing it. A leisurely pace was something Naruto had learned to love. Back home there were always missions, training, more training, and drama going on all the time. Here, he and Sakura could lay in bed as long as they wanted. They could take a whole day to just walk together. They went swimming, they had dinner in a different place every night. They shopped.
Oh boy, did they shop.
But he was even enjoying that because it made Sakura happy. He had made it his second life's mission to make Sakura happy, and keep her happy. As ninja, with the very nature of the job, he sometimes had to go to extraordinary lengths to accomplish this, but it was always worth it.
So they shopped, and he didn't even have to pretend not to be bored. Especially the time she spent trying on new swimsuits.
And now, lying on this small beach Hikaru had told him about, with Sakura wearing the red and white two piece she had picked out, he could call that time well spent.
This beach was only used by some of the noble families and the palace, and it was practically deserted compared to the tourist beaches. There were a few women with small children and a small group of older children playing in the surf, and the two of them. They had spread their towels in the sun and were going to return to Konoha in a few days with a nice tan. Sakura's hand was in his, children were laughing, and he didn't have anywhere else he had to be today. Life was good.
Naruto was digging his shoulder blades deeper into the soft warm sand beneath him when he felt a tremor in the earth. It was so slight that for a moment he doubted he felt it at all. He sat up and looked around. No one else on the beach was reacting as if they had felt anything. Sakura opened her eyes and looked at him curiously.
"Did you feel anything just now?"
"Like… what exactly?"
"Like an earthquake."
"Ah. Well these islands are volcanic. I bet there are a lot of small earthquakes here."
"Oh. Alright then." He lay back down and tried to get comfortable again. The feeling that something was off wouldn't go away however. If anything, it was getting stronger. He sat up again.
Then, all hell broke loose.
The earth began to heave and shake like a terrier with a rat. It lasted for about 30 seconds before subsiding. Sakura was sitting up clutching his arm. She looked at him, wide eyed.
"I felt that!"
They started to get up when the aftershock hit and threw them back off their feet. It seemed stronger than the initial quake. Naruto could hear trees falling in the forest behind him and rocks tumbling off the breakwater at the end of the beach. Over this he could hear children screaming in fear. When it was over, and the earth still again, the two shinobi got shakily to their feet.
"I'm glad that's over," Naruto said, checking to make sure everyone nearby seemed all right. "These people seem to be fine. We should head to the palace or into town to see if anyone needs help….."
Naruto stopped speaking and looked at his partner, not liking the sound of her voice. She was staring at the water. "What?"
The water was being sucked out of the cove as if through a giant straw. A white line was forming out to sea and seemed to be growing every second.
"Damn, that can't be good! We need to get these people to high ground, fast!"
"Naruto, I don't thing we have that much time."
She was right. With his keener than average hearing, he was becoming aware of a distant roaring sound. This thing was coming too fast for these people to run for it. He racked his brain.
"Trees! We're going to have to get them into some big sturdy trees. The strongest we can find nearby that weren't damaged by the quake. You get the moms and little kids, I'll get the group of kids up the beach. Here," and a clone poofed into existence. " You, go help her."
Naruto turned and flashed up the beach. The children were standing around pointing out to sea, uncertain of what to do. There were five of them of various ages. They probably belonged to some of the noble houses and palace staff.
Naruto put on his most cheerful face as he came up to them. "Hi guys. I see you noticed that wave out there."
A twelve year old girl who seemed to be the leader of the group looked him up and down. "Is that a tsunami, mister?"
He crouched down to their level. "Yeah, it is, and it means big trouble. Can I get you guys to trust me, we need to move fast."
"You're one of those ninja, aren't you?" asked the girl. "I heard Hikaru-sama talking about you. We'll do whatever you say."
"Thank you. The first thing we need to do is…find a tree." He quickly led them into the forest. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sakura doing the same with her group. About 20 feet in, Naruto found what he was looking for, a massive tree with a wide, thick trunk.
"Ok here we go. You older ones start climbing. I'll take the youngest up, then come back for you." He scooped up the smallest child, a girl of about 7. Naruto started channeling chakra into his feet and started running up the tree. About 30 feet up he found a wide seat where several large branches had grown together. Perfect. He set the little girl down in a depression and grinned at her." I'm going to get your friends ,OK. Don't move around too much."
The child smiled shyly up at him. "Ok."
He swung himself down off the branch and vaulted down the tree to where the rest were. Judging by their progress, these kids were no strangers to climbing trees. He grabbed the next smallest and dashed up to deposit him with the girl. On his third trip he took time to peer through the trees. The wave was coming across the cove at blistering speed, its crest now about ten feet high. He was out of time. He dropped down, grabbed the last two kids, tucked them under his arms and pounded up the tree, scattering chips of bark behind him. He got to the branch where the others were and looked for Sakura.
She and her charges were in a large tree about sixty feet away. She had secured a couple of the women with small babies with beach towels. His clone had anchored himself to a large branch and was holding two small children. Naruto waved and caught Sakura's attention and started talking to her in hand signs.
"Think so. You?"
"Yes. Here it comes!"
Naruto heard the surge of water before he saw it. It crashed into the beach and kept coming. Smaller trees were ripped out or knocked down as the wave rushed through the forest. Naruto crouched down and encircled the children with his arms, locking the bottoms of his feet and palms of his hands to the tree with chakra. "You kids hold on!"
Their tree shuddered violently when the wave hit, but stayed standing. Naruto sighed with relief.
Screaming nearby made him look up just in time to see a tree next to Sakura's snap in half with a report like a cannon. The treetop crashed into it, jarring its occupants and shaking a young woman's grip loose. She slid down the tree into the foaming water, Sakura chasing right after her. His clone looked on helplessly, unable to drop his precious burden.
"Sakura! Dammit! Kage Bunshin no Jutsu! Stay with and protect these kids until help comes!" he barked at the clone that materialized.
Nartuo crouched, gauged the distance, channeled chakra into his leg muscles and launched himself through the trees. He bounced off one tree, swung from a limb further down, and smashed into the trunk of Sakura's tree on all fours, knocking off huge chunks of bark with the force of his landing. He realized the water wasn't running inland anymore, that the back surge had started. Sakura had her arms around the terrified young woman, eyes tightly shut holding onto the tree with her prodigious strength, fighting the backwards pull of the water. He slid and shimmied down the tree until he could grab on to the woman's arm.
Sakura's eyes flew open. "Naruto! Grab her!"
He could see the muscles in her arms shaking under the constant strain. "It's alright, just hold on."
He pulled the young woman from Sakura's grasp and drug her up against his chest. "Put your arms around my neck." The woman shakily complied and he began to walk hand over foot up the tree. He deposited her on a wide branch near the others and started back down to help his partner. Just as he neared the water line, the tree shook wildly. A large tree trunk had smashed into the opposite side. Naruto gripped with his fingers and toes until the shuddering stopped. He started down again than stopped, horrified. Two pieces of bare wood was all that met his eyes. The bark where she had been holding on had come loose in the collision.
He looked around frantically, scanning the water. There. A dot of pink, already far away. He looked back at the civilians. He couldn't just leave them. Then he saw both of his clones gesturing to him in basic hand signals.
He didn't think then, he just reacted. He pulled himself onto a branch, stood up, ran down its length, and in a flat racing dive, entered the water.
It is so nice to be able to get these stories out of the mad jumble that is my brain.
Next chap. will be up soon. Please tell me what you think of it so far.