Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto but there are a few original characters coming out that are my own. Don't worry, they're minor and completely insignificant to the plot. Almost…
Author's Note: OMG! You guys have no idea how hard this chapter was to write. I worked on this nonstop for way too long and it took me forever to approve it for publish. I'm glad it's done, and I hope you all enjoy it. The next chapter should be coming a lot sooner than this one. Give me some feedback. Enjoy!
Goodbye Now, Hello Tomorrow
The pounding of the music was giving him a headache. Too many sweaty bodies all convulsing together in such a tight confinement – it was enough to give Sasuke incentive to leave the party. If only he could…
"Where is he?"
"Where is who?"
Sakura looked at him with a tired frustration.
"You know who I'm talking about, Sasuke. Where is Naruto?"
"Around. What's it to you?"
"I was hoping to talk to him."
"Oh yeah, about what, exactly?"
The konoichi looked quite beautiful in the bridal wear picked out for her by Hinata. Her pink hair, grown back out over the past few years was pulled up nicely in a stylish bun. The few fly-aways framing her face bristled as she took a seat next to him delicately pushing the plate Naruto had barely eaten from toward the center of the table.
"I saw you with him in the marketplace last week… I wasn't sure at first, but Lee was telling me about Naruto being back in Konoha and that Hinata had invited him to the wedding. Knowing Naruto, I doubt he would miss it for anything. And seeing as you're here…"
"Okay, Sakura, I understand you know he's here, but what do you want?"
"Look, I know you love him."
"Let me finish. It's obvious in how much time you spent searching for him. I want to make sure he knows how much you care."
"Why would you want to do that?"
"I'm not the same selfish little girl I used to be. I know act like it sometimes, but that's just my defense. I want you to be happy. Since he's come back, I don't know, it's like you've been more at ease and approachable."
Sasuke just looked at her skeptically.
"Look, I know I may not have acted like it, but I missed him too, Sasuke."
He studied her for a moment judging whether or not she was being honest with him despite the fact that he knew Sakura had never been a liar, at least not a very good one. She just couldn't keep a straight face long enough to win her hand. He could sense she wasn't being completely honest with him, but there was a calmness about her that eased his suspicion of her intentions.
He spared a brief glance at the dance floor, indicating Naruto's direction.
"He's dancing with Hinata."
Somehow he managed to control his features as the pinkette leapt over to him and planted a high pitched kiss on his cheek before bouncing off to the dance floor toward the most popular blonde in attendance tonight. Maintaining his dignity, Sasuke slumped back into his seat, took a long swing on the champagne in his glass, and raised himself back out of the chair to follow after his excitable former teammate but was intercepted before he even reached the dance floor.
"What do you want, Hyuuga?"
Neji gave Sasuke a deadly look of annoyance before answering.
"We have a problem."
"What kind of problem?"
It was unnerving to Naruto.
People were murmuring all around them, trying to figure out who it was that was currently dancing with the bride. Kiba, who had left them to their own devices, was currently hovering nearby dancing with Hanibi keeping a close, possessive eye on the pair. Chouji, Kakashi, Iruka, Kurenai, Tenten, and Shino were nearby as well assisting Kiba in a sort of crowd control and acting as human shields to keep gawkers away from getting a clear view of Naruto, a small favor the blonde was exceedingly grateful for.
"I'm glad you're back, Naruto."
Hinata looks radiant in the night light. The large tent that hosted the reception, though beautifully decorated with white trees, flowers, and crystal, was but a background in comparison to the gorgeous bride now currently dancing at the center of the floor with a slightly reluctant Naruto. His hand tentatively place appropriately at her waist was tentative in its touch, but the small hand nestled in his larger palm held on with confidence and enjoyment as she followed Naruto through some basic steps.
"I'm glad I was able to come to your wedding, Hinata."
She smiled that same brilliant smile at him that reaching into her eyes and projected farther than any light could. Naruto could never understand how Hinata's could be so expressive and open. Obviously something to do with the byakugan, the entire Hyuuga family had way never showing emotion through their eyes. Neji was notorious for such a talent, but even Hanabi's eyes never gave an inch one way or the other along the feelings spectrum. But Hinata was different. Her eyes could carry the world in them as they did now, sparkling with laughter and happiness as they danced. Naruto's heart couldn't help but clench in sorrow for the pain he had put this woman through in his absence. The horror she must have felt upon finding his apartment empty and in tatters.
"I'm sorry, Hinata."
Her expression displayed shock at his sudden apology, those depthless opal eyes widening ever just a fraction.
"For what, Naruto?"
"For everything I may have put you through these last few years. I'm sorry you had to be the one to find my apartment the way it was. I'm sorry I made you suffer."
Hinata looked deep into those rich blue eyes. So much time had passed since she had last seen those eyes. Studying the changes in their texture and color, she barely stopped herself from weeping as they spun in a circle and Naruto offered her a turn. She pirouetted away from him and came right back into his arms hugging his torso close to hers as she took in the warmth of his body. The heat of the Kyuubi kept in check beneath the surface touched her skin, and she knew this was Naruto, similar but different from the child she fell in love with so many years ago. His arms wrapped around her as they continued their slow dance around the floor and she felt safe. Naruto was back and Konoha would be a safe place again. Naruto was back, and though she knew he would never be hers, she had him back in her life.
"You have nothing to apologize for,"
She cut him off with her fingertips.
"What matters is that you're back. You're here. You're home. That's all that matters."
She tucked her chin into his chest so as to hide her blush from him. She may have been a bit too bold saying that out loud, but he needed to hear it from someone before he up and left again.
Naruto smiled, it was small and hardly noticeable, but it was a smile, and rested his chin on Hinata's head for a moment letting the music, her scent, and the touch of her skin against his fill his senses. They danced just like that a while longer before, Hinata pulled away at the end of the song they had been dancing to a radiant smile on her face.
"Hate to interrupt, but do you mind if I cut in?"
Naruto smirked at the peeved brunette in front of him while Hinata just giggled at the antics of her new husband.
"Not at all, Kiba."
Her delicate hand in his, he bestowed a chaste kiss on those small fingertips before relinquishing his hold on them. She gave him a cute curtsy before taking her husband's hand and being flitted away to another part of the dance floor. Naruto smiled after them a moment before deciding to turn back around and find Sasuke. Instead he found himself looking directly into the mint green eyes of Sakura.
"Naruto…" she gasped in surprise at finding him so quickly. Wide green eyes looked him up and down taking in every inch of her old teammate as he was now and all her carefully collected confidence melted away at the vision before her. Lean muscle, piercing features, beautiful tanned skin and an ethereally enticing aura. Here was a man in place of the teen Sakura had remembered, but she should have expected as much. The three year separation that allowed him to grow from child to young man had been a miraculous growing period, it would only be fitting that the transition from teenager to adult would be even more drastic. For the first time in Sakura's life, she felt a desire for this man.
Blue eyes followed the up and down motion of her jugular as she swallowed in her nervousness. He could practically smell the sweat rolling off her skin in fear, anxiety, and something else he'd never smelt on Sakura. Was that arousal? A deadly combination if you'd asked anyone. The emotions coursed over him in waves enticing the demon into a barely contained frenzy within. Naruto could practically hear the Kyuubi gnashing its teeth and the succulent offered standing before it. Sakura visibly flinched when Naruto's muscles tensed trying to calm the beast before anything got out of hand. Naruto shook his head at her, letting her know it wasn't her causing the reaction, at least not directly; she seemed to understand and proceeded in her task.
"Care to dance, Naruto?"
He nodded thankful that she managed to squash her insecurities about the situation long enough to allow him to calm down. He offered his hand to her which she took and he led her across the dance floor to find a space where they might be able to talk and dance at the same time. She stepped into his form just as the music picked up into a fast paced dance beat. Her hips took control from there and they were off in a sea of bodies moving in tandem with the other groups and couples surrounding them.
Neither of them spoke for the longest time. Neither dared to even look at the other for what seemed like an eternity. Both waiting for the smothering discomfort to ebb away on its own before rising to begin the confrontation that was surely about to happen. Rather wishful thinking, but at least they could both demonstrate good manners by acting as such… Inevitably, the silence was broken… by Naruto, no less.
"How have you been Sakura?"
"Oh you know me, Naruto. Same old same old."
"So what's on your mind?"
She gave him a puzzled expression that was comically innocent and extremely hard to believe.
"Whatever do you mean?"
"I believe there is something you wish to say to me."
"What makes you think that?"
Naruto gave her a look that said quite plainly, 'don't play with me.'
"Kay fine. I do have something to ask you."
"And what is that?"
She worried her bottom lip for several seconds. It was a gesture that not only emphasized her nervousness but it was meant to entice him. There had been many a time when a younger Naruto had gone completely starry eyed at the small movement, but that young boy, as we've already established, never really did exist, did he?
Noticing his complete lack of reaction to her antics, she furrowed her brow at him in minor frustration before finally answering his question.
"Why did you come back?"
She sounded strangely shy. Naruto didn't answer for quite a few seconds. Sakura studied him as his eyes glazed over in thought whilst he peered at something over her head. It was amazing how Naruto's eyes had always had the ability to look fox-like to an outside observer whether you knew the reason for it or not. At this particular moment, Sakura wanted those eyes trained on her. She didn't understand it, but she wanted Naruto's attention on her at the moment.
She reached out and placed a hand on a scarred cheeked. She retreated slightly when his gazed snapped instantly to her but didn't give up her position letting her hand glide over the skin of his face and neck before it trailed to graze light touches on his chest.
'His skin is so warm and inviting. Nothing like Sasuke's,' she couldn't help but think.
"I had to."
She looked at him puzzled.
"What do you mean?"
Naruto's gaze wandered once again to open tent flap they had found themselves near. Something felt wrong.
"It was just the right time."
"I don't know what you mean."
Naruto continued to look outside the tent as if he hadn't heard her at all. Sakura reached out to touch him again, but his hand intercepted hers and gently lowered it before letting go. She pouted at him wanting his undivided attention. It was just as she reached for him again that Naruto pulled completely away from Sakura and headed for the opening of the tent. She followed after him both curious as to what he was doing and anxious to continue their conversation.
"Shh…" he shushed her gently. "Something's not right."
A rustle in the nearby bushes called his attention for just a second before Naruto pulled Sakura behind him and he jumped forward just in time to tackle a stranger to the ground. They wrestled for several moments before Naruto kicked the nin off of him and onto his back in a dirt patch. Sometime during the commotion, Sakura scampered off to check for any other ninja around the area and probably to find Sasuke.
Standing up from ground, the two stepped around each other for a time neither making any move to attack. That is until Naruto got fed up with the light-footed game. Naruto threw the first and last punch, it landed directly in the mystery ninja's stomach with enough force to knock him off of his feet and into dreamland. Naruto dusted off his hands before resting them on his hips and saying.
"Well that was easy en-"
To bad he was cut off by fist flying straight for his cheek. The punch never landed as Naruto jumped out of the way delivering a punishing blow to the back of the shadow clones head only to dodge again as sharp blade came screaming toward his throat. It would seem that this ninja wanted to dance a little longer.. Naruto smirked his reply a predatory glint in his eye.
From the time Neji had told him about the situation, Sasuke hadn't stopped running. In the span of ten minutes he had changed clothes, donned his mask, and drawn his sword before proceeding to tear his way through the surrounding forest looking for the invading shinobi Neji had told him about. They had been sensed crossing the barrier that had been set up by branch house members of the Hyuuga clan. Already, Ino had intercepted one of the invaders. Entering his mind, she had discovered that the ninja were from a small village on the outskirts of Lightning country called Fog. There were five in the attacking party as far as she could discover including the already defeated shinobi. Their target for the evening: our lovely bride Hinata Hyuuga. The last fact was enough to make Neji grimace at the look on Sasuke's face and the orders that had followed quietly out of the Uchiha's mouth.
"Catch them and keep them away from Hinata."
It was absolutely imperative that Hinata remain unaware of the situation. The more oblivious she was the better. Kiba, he couldn't have given a flying fuck about whether or not he knew of the panic taking place outside the reception, but this was Hinata's day and he owed it to her to make sure that her wedding ran smoothly and without a hitch. Group of attacking ninja bursting in on the party – that was pretty big hitch. One everyone currently involved in the situation wanted to avoid at all costs not only for the sake of the bride but also for the sake of their own skins.
Ino, who had failed to bring a change of clothes, had ripped her dress up a considerable amount, some on purpose some by accident, in order to perform her various jutsu against the enemy she took down. Neji had changed out of his formal attire. Shikamaru was reasonably disheveled from his running about in the standard issue uniform that was obviously not designed for actual fighting. They were all currently chasing after the other four nin trying to beat them to the tent.
And to say Sasuke was annoyed would be an understatement. What was it with idiots always trying intrude upon the Hyuuga family? It was just like that time when Hinata and Neji were just toddlers and they'd tried to kidnap Hinata to no effect. When were these people going to learn?
And on top of that here he was trying to keep the situation under wraps but already he could see two people exiting the tent curious as to what was going on. Naturally, it was Sakura and Naruto. Those two could never just leave well enough alone. He could see them plain as day with his Sharingan activated as it was. Then he saw Naruto dive for the ninja closest to the tent hiding in the brush. The two wrestled on the ground trading blows.
Sasuke kept an eye on the blonde as the brunette leapt for an enemy that was approaching them from the side. He drew his katana slicing deep into the flesh of his enemy's leg. The nin was down and unable to move but still very much alive. Sasuke shot an order toward Ino not to let this one out of his sight for interrogation purposes. If he died before that from bleeding out from his femoral artery, well too bad; they still had four more available to them, he thought before returning his attention to the open flap of the tent. Sakura was nowhere in sight, but Naruto was still well within view though now on the far side of the tent from where he was standing, and what the Uchiha saw taking place was enough to have him rolling his eyes. The blonde appeared to be playing with his opponent, dodging in out of the way of the nin's sword and only returning blows on occasion. Though those hits were nowhere near as potent as what Naruto could deal when he felt so inclined to cause serious damage.
Sasuke flew at the blonde's opponent, knocking the ninja out of his way with a ferocious kick to the side before running to the tent flap to enter the reception. He turned around and sent a stern look in Naruto's direction while the blood red wheels of the Sharingan rotated. Naruto just sent the most shit-eating grin he could muster back at him red glinting in eyes with pleasure at the impromptu battle taking place at the moment. He also seemed quite pleased with himself especially now that he knew he had annoyed Konoha's ANBU captain without even trying.
"Dobe, stop playing around and do something constructive, will you?"
Naruto rolled his eyes at him as the shinobi approached the blonde from behind with a means to attack.
"Whatever, Teme," he said delivering a sharp elbow his attacker's jaw line. Poor guy never stood a chance. Sasuke nodded heading into the tent where all the ruckus (aka: party) was still taking place, Naruto close behind him.
"So what's going on?"
"As I'm sure you've noticed, we're under attack. Their target is Hinata."
"Two more to go. Where's Sakura? I saw her with you outside."
The aforementioned konoichi's voice broke answered his question.
"I'm right here, and we only have one more left to track down."
The two men looked her up and down. Between now and the last time they had seen her, she had pulled on her gloves. There was a rip along the seam of her dress so she could kick and her hair had a few new decorations in it courtesy of the surrounding foliage. A glace around her revealed an unconscious fog ninja piled on top of the Naruto's latest opponent. Sasuke raised an eyebrow at her.
"Uchiha, the last one has made it inside the tent." Neji's voice cut through the music.
"Shit." Sasuke gave one last glance toward Sakura before turning to leave. "Keep it up," he said as he walked away leaving a starry eyed Sakura in his wake. "Neji, Naruto…"
The pair reluctantly followed after the captain paying no heed to the konoichi who still had not moved from her spot. Inner Sakura had taken the opportunity to swoon beneath the surface at the "compliment" just given. It wasn't much she knew, but from Sasuke, a girl's gotta take what a girl can get. It took her a good ten seconds to realize that both Sasuke and Naruto had both disappeared from her sight. 'Ah man…' she thought before heading back outside to find the others.
"We need to find Hinata," Sasuke growled over the pounding of the music. "Neji, you find Kiba. Make him aware of the situation."
The Hyuuga flitted away to find the inu-nin while Sasuke and Naruto separated to find the bride. Hinata was actually on the opposite end of the dance floor with her father, and if anyone dared to say that she was oblivious to the goings on outside her own reception, they would be forever shamed by the assumption. Yeah, this bride knew exactly what was going on and she was ready. Her byakugan had been activated for the last five minutes as her father had attempted to lead her around the dance floor and out of the reception tent for her "safety". Needless to say, Hinata was having none of it; it was her night and she was not going to let the stranger that was currently trying to sneak up on her to ruin the event she had been planning for nearly a year. (Apparently no one told the fog nin about the byakugan's 360 degree range of vision.)
"Dad, could you hold this for me? Thanks," she asked pushing her clutch into her father's reaching hands just as the shinobi pulled out a senbon needle to throw at her. I'm happy to announce however that the needle never hit its target.
A burst of white light and the invading ninja went flying backwards followed closely by Hinata. Byakugan activated with one hand hiking up her dress and the other poised for attack, Hinata unleashed her gentle fist on the poor soul before her. A whirlwind encompassed the two hiding the brief fight from the many onlookers concerned for the safety of the bride. When the jutsu's effects finally cleared a round of applause sounded.
At the center of attention, you could see Hinata standing tall as beautiful as she had been since the ceremony. Her hair was completely immaculate and her dress showed no sign of the disturbance that happened just a second ago. Her opponent, however, was completely incapacitated on the floor next to her – Go Hinata.
Sasuke walked over, placing a hand on Hinata's shoulder in recognition before scooping up the assailant and disappearing from view. Hinata clapped her hands together and addressed her guests.
"Sorry about that interruption. Shall we carry on?"
A chorus of cheers went up around the room as she grabbed her shocked husband and led him back onto the dance floor just as the band struck the music back up full swing. In the excitement, no one noticed the blue eyes watching with quiet appreciation of Hinata's abilities. No one noticed when those same blue eyes took in the whole room seeing one familiar face after another having the time of their lives celebrating young love. And no one noticed when the blonde slipped outside the tent and into the night.
Toshio Yuichi was hiding out in a tree outside the reception they had been trying to get into to kidnap the Hyuuga princess. Now all he could see was his comrades unconscious in a messy pile outside the tent. Now was he going to try and complete the mission? Hell no. He saw these Konoha ninja could do. Even the damn bride had all but torn apart his commander without even breaking a sweat. When he got back to Fog, he was going to talk to the missions' board because when their client had said the Hyuuga heiress was "harmless" as a shinobi they had been dead wrong. And then the client had asked for another Konoha shinobi to be assassinated. A shinobi that had not been seen nor heard from in nearly six years.
Seriously, how much more ridiculous can people get.
He was ready to go home, but just as he turned around to leap out of his tree, a man entered his line of sight that had him doing a double take. Blonde hair, blue eyes, tanned skin, and three whisker marks on each side of his face, this was their other target, the jinchuuriki to the Nine Tailed Demon Fox. Another followed the demon carrier outside, one he now recognized as a member of ANBU. He watched to two trade words for a while. Their conversation seemed simple at first but gradually became more and more heated. The two were arguing about something and it was starting to get serious.
Toshio had started to lean forward in the tree and nearly fell clean out of his hidey-hole when he snapped a tree branch under his weight. He caught his breath and his eyes darted back to pair praying the two nin hadn't heard him. A sigh of relief… They hadn't. They were too consumed in their own conversation to notice. Fortunate for Toshio, but the mistake could prove deadly for the two shinobi.
Maybe he could salvage at least half of this mission.