It was late March in Konoha and the weather was growing increasingly warmer each day after the village's mild winter. The leaves were returning to the vibrant green they usually were three quarters of the year, rather than the dullish green they had turned in the cooler months of winter. While no snow fell in Konoha, it was a time for new life and celebration.
Haruno Sakura lay in bed, the morning sun playing on her face as her light green eyes watched the wind run through the branches of the tree outside her apartment. Her eyes were sad. She was thinking about Sasuke again. With spring here, it meant another year without him. Another year had come and gone, with no promise of his return. She sighed, tearing her eyes from the window, and sat up in bed. Slowly she kicked the blankets off and placed her feet on the cool wooden floor. While she was in no hurry to get up, she knew she couldn't stay in bed all day, even on her day off.
Sakura forced her body up and began walking towards her bathroom. She began her normal routine. She brushed her teeth, staring at herself in the mirror. While her skin was clear and creamy white, it didn't seem to have the same glow it once had. There were light purple rings under her eyes, darker than usual because of her late nights at the hospital. Her eyes too seemed darker than they had once been. The green used to be so much brighter and alive, like the leaves in spring, but now look like the hibernating green of the leaves in winter. Her hair was long again. It fell down her back like it once did when she was thirteen, before the exams. She spit into the sink and looked up again. There was one thing she liked about her face. He lips. They were bow shaped, plump, and the color was a deep pink. Ino complained how jealous she was over her lips and Sakura's lips twitched, trying to smile at the memory.
She shook her head and turned to the small shower stall. She opened the door and turned on the water. Quickly, she pealed off her short white night dress and pink panties and stepped into the shower. Water flowed over her head, drenching her from her petal pink hair to her pink painted toes. While she liked going on missions, there was definitely a perk to not being on them. That perk was being able to dress and smell as she pleased. She lathered her hair with her favorite green tea and cherry blossom shampoo. She loved the smell and it calmed her, even when she felt her worst. She rubbed soap over her cream colored curves and then turned the water up, the heat making her skin rosy. Sakura stood in the shower for a while, just letting the water run over her body as she thought. When she was sad, she seemed to always go back to the day he left. Even after she had confessed her feelings to him and even begged to go with him, he had still left her. How she was still not over him, was beyond her. She knew she deserved better. She knew that other guys gave her the time of day. But she only wanted Sasuke.
Why? She thought angrily. Why can I not move on? What spell have you put on my heart so that I can never forget you, Sasuke? She turned the water off abruptly, tears in her eyes. She did feel cursed. But she was mad at herself, not Sasuke. After all, it wasn't his fault he was incredibly handsome with those dark brooding eyes and messy dark hair. And that despite the mean things he had said to her in the past, they were teammates and she cared for him. When she was younger, she thought she could change him, save him from himself… Now she knew better. She just wanted to make him happy. She wanted to make him smile that haughty smirk for her. Swearing under her breath she stepped out of the shower and grabbed her towel. She began to dry herself off, but the thoughts kept coming. She just wanted to understand him, let him know he wasn't alone. Not like she felt now. That he'd always have a friend in her… If only he'd come back for her.
But he won't.
Sakura walked back into her bedroom, drying her hair with the towel. She stopped in front of the mirror and stared again. She had been a late bloomer, but had curves in all the right places. Her breasts were perky and more than a handful, her waist was thin and toned from all of her ninja training, her hips were wide and her butt was round. She was a sight to see, making men turn their heads to get a second look on many occasions. Even Naruto, though with Hinata, would joke that guys liked to see her leave just as much as they loved to see her come. It always earned him a karate chop on the head from both her and Hinata, but it was nice to hear. She knew she was beautiful, but rarely did she feel like it. And being in a profession mainly dominated by males, she felt it easier to be one of the guys most of the time than being one of the girls. Though sometimes being a girl was hard to hide. Especially when everyone continued to grow taller when the hit sixteen, and she just got curvier. She still stood a petite 5'3" and everyone seemed to like picking her up. That is, if they were feeling brave enough to face her iron fists.
She began to dress, deciding she needed to feel feminine today. She chose a short, sleeveless, red dress with her clan's symbol in white on the back, which she wore over a short sleeved netted shirt and netted leggings that stopped below her knee. She brushed her long pink hair and tied it back into a loose, low ponytail. She used her red forehead protector as a headband as usual. Sakura strapped on her thigh pack, because even though she wasn't on duty, she was still a ninja, and always should be prepared. She looked in the mirror again and nodded, satisfied for the moment. She turned and made her way out to the kitchen.
While she knew what day it was, she looked at the calendar anyway. March 28th. Her birthday. Most of her friends would be thrilled right now because it meant gifts and drinking. Sakura was depressed. She was twenty today. It had been six years since Sasuke left. Six long years and she was still hopelessly in love with him. Her friends told her she should be happy. She was a well know medic, who trained over the Hokage herself. She was beautiful and friends that cared about her. But Sakura knew the truth. She was a twenty year old workaholic, who was so hung up on a guy that didn't return her affection that it had caused her to remain the only virgin in her group of friends. She didn't go out like her friends. She worked long hours at the hospital. When she wasn't at the hospital she was training, both physically and academically. She readily volunteered for missions when she could. Anything to keep her busy and out of her own head… Unlike now.
"SAKURA-CHAN!" screamed a voice outside her door that could only be owned by one person. She shook her head, as if to physically shake off her thoughts and walked to the door. She opened the door and sure enough, Naruto. Her lips pursed into a straight line and she put her hands on her hips.
"Naruto, I told you to just knock li- " He cut her off.
"Sakura-chan! You have to hurry! Tsunade-sama!" He cried, looking hysterical. Sakura's frown deepened as she went into her "doctor mode" as her friends called it. Her voice got serious and her whole body tensed, waiting to jump into action.
"Naruto, what happened? Tell me!"
"Sakura-chan! You have to hurry!" Naruto replied, before taking off towards the hospital.
"NARUTO!" Sakura cried after him. She swore under her breath and jumped into her black ninja shoes. She closed the door and ran full force towards the hospital. She burst through the hospital doors and looked at the receptionist, Mori. "Where is Tsunade-senpai?" Mori gave Sakura a perplexed look.
"Sakura-sama, I believe she is in the break room." Sakura returned the perplexed look and took off down the east wing of the hospital. She arrived at the break room and burst through the door.
"Tsunade-se-" She started.
"SURPRISE!" Sakura's eyes widened and she opened and closed her mouth as she surveyed the room. All her friends were there. Ino, Sai, Shikamaru, Choji, Shino, Tenten, Hinata, Neji, Kiba, Lee, Naruto, and Tsunade. There was a cake on the table, along with snacks and a wrapped box. Sakura's emotions we being pulled in every direction. She was mad for being deceived, relieved that Tsunade was alright, happy her friends cared, and completely surprised. She wanted to yell and tell them it wasn't funny to make her think there was an emergency, but she thought better of it. She forced a smile and bowed deeply, taking a breath to calm down.
"Thank you all for such a wonderful surprise." She stood back up putting her hands behind her back. "I'm surprised you all remembered." Naruto gave her a big bear hug.
"How could we forget our Sakura-chan's birthday?" He asked with a laughed.
"Birthdays are a great excuse to eat Barbeque!" Choji replied, going to town on a bowl full of chips. Ino rolled her eyes and pulled Naruto off Sakura, only to pull her into another hug.
"Birthdays are also great for going out. So you know what that means." Ino said with a smirk. Sakura sighed and bowed her head. She did. It meant they were going out to party… On her behalf. Which meant, she couldn't get out of it.
"If you're going to be troublesome, you will be dragged out of your house, ready or not." Shikamaru grumbled. Sakura giggled nervously. She knew it wasn't a joke. It had happened before. Ino lead her to the chair in front of the cake.
'Don't worry, you'll be ready." Tenten reassured her with a smile. "We'll be coming over to help get you ready. Ino picked the outfit herself!' Uhoh. Sakura thought. That meant she would definitely be showing too much skin. She smiled weakly.
"Sakura-san. Make a wish and blow out the candles." Tsunade said with a smile. Sakura looked at the cake for a moment. Every year she made the same wish. I wish Sasuke would come back to me. And every year, it never came true. Noting this she closed her eyes and blew out the candles. I wish the man I loved would be a part of my life. Her friends cheered as the candles went out and she opened her eyes with a slight smile. For some reason, saying her thoughts differently made her feel confident. While Tsunade cut the cake and Hinata passed out the pieces, Ino brought over the wrapped box.
"This is for you. From all of us." Sakura blushed lightly.
"Oh, you guys shouldn't have…" Sakura mumbled, her vision getting a bit blurry from her sudden tears.
"We know we shouldn't. That's why we did it. Now open it!" Kiba said impatiently. With a nod, Sakura unwrapped the gift and opened the box. She gasped. With trembling hands she pulled out the loveliest kimono she had ever seen. It was white silk with pink cherry blossoms embroidered onto the fabric. The obi was pink like her hair and the silk chord was light green. When worn together, she would not only look like the epitome of spring, but very rich and regal.
"Guys… this must have cost a fortune!" Sakura exclaimed breathlessly.
"It's not so bad when the cost was divided by eleven people…" Shino said logically.
"Besides, Sakura-chan… It was worth it just to see the look on your face a moment ago." Hinata added softly. Sakura couldn't stop smiling. She also couldn't stop the tears from running down her face.
"Thank you again, everyone. But where I to wear this? None of Konoha's festivals are near this formal… Unless someone else is not telling me something…?" She turned her eyes to her few friends that had coupled up. Naruto and Hinata, Neji and Tenten, and Ino and Sai. They all laughed, getting her hint and shook their heads.
"That's where I come in." Tsunade said with a smile. She handed Sakura a scroll. "Go on, open it." Sakura nodded and opened the scroll. She could tell it was a mission right from the start. She read.
Mission 1: D Class
Escort Nara Shikamaru to Suna. Escort Nara Shikamaru back to Konoha.
Mission 2: S Class
Taking a vacation. You are to stay away from work unless there is an emergency. You are to report back to the Hokage on Suna's famous spa. You may return after 2 weeks.
Sakura narrowed her eyes and looked up at her mentor. Her lips were pursed into a straight line. This wasn't very amusing to her.
"This still doesn't explain why I need such a fancy kimono, Hokage-sama." She replied stiffly. Tsunade laughed.
"Why, you're right! Well, not only will you be escorting Shikamaru to Suna to see Temari, but you are an honored guest of the Kazekage and his family during the Rain Festival! You'll be escorted by the Kazekage and are expected to look as proper as the Kazekage himself." Sakura wrinkled her brow. "I expect you to be on your best behavior, Sakura-san."
"Yes, Tsunade-sama…" She mumbled. She was to be Gaara's arm candy for the festival. She hardly knew the man. She didn't know what to expect. All she knew he was quiet and that he once tried to kill her. She rolled her eyes. "When do we leave?"
"I can't believe you talked me into walking out of my house in this, Ino…" Sakura slurred looking down at herself. She was wearing a netted tube top with a black sash to cover her breasts, a black mini skirt, which she had to keep pulling down, and her knee high ninja boots. She giggled, remembering the how the boys had reacted when she walked in. Jaws were on the floor. Sai even got a bloody nose.
"Another round for the birthday girl!" Naruto exclaimed, filling her cup with sake again. Every time her drink was low, one of the boys was there to fill it up again. But, no one outside of their group approached her. She rested her chin on her hand with a sigh, not realizing it was her friends that disallowed anyone to get too close to her. They were fiercely protective of her ever since Sasuke had hurt her.
"Ino…?" Sakura asked her mood suddenly sad. Ino turned to her friend, suddenly sobering up a bit.
"Saku-chan? What's wrong?" Tears were already forming in Sakura's green eyes. Her pouting lips quivered.
"Do you think there's someone out there for me? I mean… Do you think I missed my chance with Sasuke because I didn't love him enough?" Her tears bubbled over. Ino took the cup of sake out of her friend's hand and placed it on the table.
"Sakura-chan. Don't you worry. There is someone out there for you. And it's not Sasuke, but he'll be a good man and treat you right. A good man doesn't abandon his village and leave a poor girl who just poured her heart to him unconscious on a bench." This didn't seem to help. In fact it just made Sakura cry more.
"Ino, I love him. I can't stop loving him. I don't know why. I know he's a bad man, but I love him!" her voice growing louder with each word. Ino winced when Sakura's voice became a yell. She mumbled an apology as Naruto rushed over.
"I got it from here, Ino." He said firmly. Ino nodded, looking like she might cry too. She moved next to Sai and buried her face in his shoulder. Naruto turned to Hinata and gave her a small smile. "I'll be home soon, Hina-chan."
"You're a good friend, Naruto. Take your time and make sure she's okay." She replied back. Naruto nodded and grabbed Sakura's wrist gently. She sobbed and took a step before falling into the next table. She was far too upset and drunk to walk. Naruto shook his head and hefted her over his shoulder like she weighed nothing. He walked out of the bar.
The walk to Sakura's house was silent, except for Sakura's hiccupping sobs. He opened the door to her apartment and walked in, going straight for her bed. He gently sat her on the bed and handed Sakura her sleep dress. She looked up at him with streaked makeup around her green eyes. It made him think of Gaara a bit and he bit back his smile.
"Sakura-chan, put on your night gown. I'll get you a glass of water. Okay, Sakura-chan?" Sakura nodded with a sniffle and began to pull off her top before Naruto had left. He whirled around quickly, his face getting hot. He fumbled in the kitchen a bit before returning with the glass of water. He founded her with her knees drawn up to her chest, looking at the moon through her window.
"I miss him, Naruto." She whispered. Naruto frowned. His missed Sasuke too. At least the Sasuke that didn't want to kill him for the demon inside of him. "I miss the old days when we used to train together. And you guys would mock each other. I was so happy, despite feeling so far behind you guys." Naruto handed her the glass of water.
"Drink. It will make the morning more tolerable." She followed instructions and he smiled. "I miss those days too. But at least we still have those memories right?" She nodded. "Sakura-chan, you're so strong. Look how far you've come. As your friend. No. As a brother. I'm worried about you. You need to move on. I know it hurts. But you're going to be okay without him, I promise." Tears welled up in Sakura's eyes again. He sat on the bed and pulled her into a comforting hug. "You'll be okay, Sakura-chan. You're a strong woman." He pulled away and smiled down at her. She gave a small smile back, wiping her tears away.
"Thank you, Naruto-kun." His smile widened and he gently motioned for her to lie down. She complied and her eyes closed as her head hit the pillow. He covered her up with her blanket and walked out of the room. Naruto walked out the front door and shoved his hands into his pockets and walked to his own apartment where he was sure, Hinata was waiting.
A/N: Well, I feel so much better to have gotten this chapter up. This story has been stiring in my head for the last 3 weeks or so. I finally put pen to paper and this came out. I hope everyone enjoys it. I also hope this story goes a lot better than the other story I started on here.
Please Read and Review. Be kind with you comments. This is my first try at writing a GaaSaku fic... and in all honesty, I'm still watching the series. Naruto-wiki has really been helpful. And while it did spoil stuff for me, I actually want to watch the show more now knowing the information I do. XD;; Thank you in advance and I am working on the second chapter!