SPOILERS for Naruto Part II, Chapter 437.
"Because I... love you..."
The first time anyone tells Naruto they love him- the first time anyone actually says the words, even if he's felt them- is when he's sixteen years old, pinned to a battlefield, about to be dragged off to a painful death.
The first person to tell Naruto they love him is a girl he's barely spoken to in the years that he's known her, a girl with strange white eyes and an uncanny habit of turning red at his mere presence.
doesn't make sense
She'd come soaring in behind Pain, Byakugan bulging vessels around those gifted eyes, dirt- smudged and fierce. It was surreal; it had been weeks since Naruto had seen anyone from his home, and nevermind fighting him: talking to Pain was such a screwy experience that the sight of someone else, let alone one of his friends, was jarring. Talking to Pain drew one into a depressing void, one with only dim light and trainwreck reason.
And to have it be her who came sailing to his defense... well. Naruto couldn't really be blamed for his stunned- bunny face and slow- moving brain upon being presented with such a sight.
always quiet, hunched shoulders, stuttering and shy... said she shouldn't even be a shinobi, all kindness and sweet, gentle nature...
Skid of sandals on hard earth and suddenly she was there and Pain wasn't.
"Reinforcements, eh...?" Pain mused, not seeming at all offput by the new arrival. He didn't have any reason to be.
"I won't let you lay another finger on Naruto!" she declared, all swinging black hair and pale, too- determined eyes.
"What're you doing here?! Get out of here! You're no match-"
"I know." she cut in, and if the quiet agreement was like her the interruption certainly wasn't.
It was enough to silence him for a moment.
"I'm just being selfish," she continued.
But Naruto was never one to stay silent for long. "What're you talking about? What're you doing here? It's dangerous!"
Long hair flowed in the wind, as Sakura's own shortened mane once had in the Forest of Death. "I'm here of my own free will."
what on earth did she mean-?
"I used to always cry and give up... I nearly went the wrong way..."
The sliver of her face that he can see is wearing a gentle smile, and somehow she makes it fit with the battleready Byakugan in her right eye.
"But you... you showed me the right way..."
There's an uncomfortable feeling growing in his chest; his instincts are screaming, this is bad, why is she here, why isn't she running?
"I was always chasing you, wanting to catch up to you... I just wanted to walk with you... I just wanted to be with you."
for once it doesn't make him think of Sasuke, the way almost everything does. this feels weirdly familiar but not, at the same time, and his head's trying to catch up
"You changed me! Your smile saved me! So I'm not afraid to die protecting you!"
Pain does not look amused, or moved. His face is set and now Naruto's instincts are standing up and screaming-
"Because I... love you..."
Her hands and eyes are set, and even if he can't see it she's never been more beautiful.
knocked for a loop
With a succinct "Ha!" she's charging one of the most powerful shinobi in the world.
She's fast and fierce and deadly but this is Pain, and with two swipes and two cries-
"Shinra Tensei," apathetic. An outstretched hand, a fluttering, dark cape with red clouds-
A squeak; pained, tiny and high- pitched...
Ground cracking, dust flying, and one downed kunoichi.
The Leader of the Akatsuki looms over the destruction, dark steel in his hand, down like a disapproving thumb.
His ringed eyes are set.
White hot panic
It's a horrible noise. It's a horrible noise because it's not her voice or breathing or laughter and the first person to ever tell him she loves him is gone gone gone, just like too many others, just like all the others...
shock, eyes wide and blue like the sky shouldn't be, can't breathe, can't move, can't think-
He hates that dead voice. "This is just like... how my parents were killed by Konoha ninjas, right before my eyes."
He hates being lectured by damn people who don't know what the fuck they're talking about. "Love breeds sacrifice, which breeds hatred."
It certainly is now.
Red rage suffuses his vision, and there's an enemy right in front of him that needs to be put down.
He can't take it anymore. There's red and there's rage and there's a scream as it explodes out of him. There's fire and blood, and good, clean pain ripping through him.
"Then you can know Pain."
There's a hellish red glow and four tails wafting in a nonexistent breeze.
"Do you hate me?" he's stupid enough to ask.
"Do you really think people can understand each other like this?" he's stupid enough to press.
"That's it," he cajoles, "... but my Pain is greater than yours." he's stupid enough, arrogant enough, to assume.
There's an inhuman roar and six tails flaming in the air, fire, blood and bone.
This pain will raze the world to ash.
I don't know Naruto's age for sure, but I know he's still a teenager and 16 is one of the marker birthdays in my culture, so it seemed good enough. :shrug: And I'm sorry about the kinda awkward ending, but this just sort of flowed as I was rereading the chapter for the umpteenth time and that was the only thing to pop into my head.
Here's hoping 438 is just as good, or even better. If Kishimoto pulls this off (and doesn't kill her,) I will forgive him for all the previous Epic Suckage of Part II. Even Itachi.