Title: Watering Plants
Author: The Scarlet Pencil
Genre: Gen, friendship, light angst.
Warnings: Character death.
Summary: Sakura only watered Naruto's plants plants three times.
AN: Written mostly as a character study for Sakura because I love Naruto&Sakura friendship fic.
The first time Sakura watered Naruto's plants, he was in the hospital. Nothing serious, just a simple case of chakra exhaustion(she thought it was silly of him to train so hard) and she had dutifully gone to see him. She hadn't last time he was in the hospital, and that filled her with unease. (Teammates should visit each other when injured, after all, and she wasn't a bad teammate. Right?)
He had been his typical boisterous, annoying self until the very end, when Sakura had gotten up to leave.
"Hey, Sakura-chan," he had said, and she had paused because he sounded uncharacteristically serious. "Do you think you could water my plants for me? They really need it and I can't do it today and—"
In the end, she had said yes just to get him to stop talking, and he had beamed at her and handed her his keys.
The first time Sakura looked at Naruto's apartment, she was struck by how messy it was. Scrolls littered the floor, and there were a few ramen cups festering in a corner. She had gagged at that and couldn't help but clean up a little. Of course Naruto wouldn't notice if his apartment looked like a war zone, Sakura had thought disgustedly.
There were only five plants in the room, and they were a definite exception to the chaos that Naruto called home. They were all well-kept, bright, and vibrant. A bright yellow daffodil and a red tulip were placed in the forefront. Behind it was a short, scraggly bunch of white flowers that Sakura didn't recognize. Another was a hydrangea, and the last was a small bonsai tree. She recognized the care that had gone into the plants instantly. After all, she had helped Ino out in the Yamanaka store many times. Once, she had even known the meanings of all these plants, before she had scorned Ino's friendship and accepted only harsh words and rivalry. Looking at them now though, she couldn't begin to remember any but the daffodil, which meant "respect." She snorted. Not that Naruto knew what the flowers meant either, he had probably just picked them because they were pretty.
Sakura left a clean apartment behind her and didn't give it anymore thought.
The second time Sakura watered Naruto's plants, he was away on a mission to find Sasuke. Naruto had come to her and once again asked her to water his plants. This time Sakura agreed without hesitation. How could she do any less for her teammate who was risking his life yet again to keep a promise he had made to her? A promise he made because you were too weak, a voice in the back of her head said.
The apartment was much cleaner this time, and the cleanness allowed Sakura to see how empty the apartment was. For the first time, it really sank in that Naruto lived alone. Perhaps that was why Naruto kept the plants, which filled the place with lush greenery and bright colors.
There were many more plants now, and she recognized more of them this time. (She had walked into the flower shop and broke a tense silence by saying, "I wonder if I could help out today?" and Ino had let her and not questioned her, with something like sympathy and forgiveness in her eyes.) There was a prickly cactus with a bright red flower on its top in the kitchen. A white daisy, purple verbena, orange-red zinnia, and some bluebells were all clumped together in an assortment of pots in the corner. A breeze coming through the open window (What was the point of locking the door and leaving the window open, Sakura thought with amusement) caressed a lotus plant, floating in a bucket of water, and an amaryllis.
Sakura remembered some of the meanings this time and she wondered if Naruto knew the meanings too. Why had Naruto picked such a diverse set of plants to take care of? Why Naruto even bothered with them, because some of them were very finicky plants and she had never thought Naruto to be the type to put so much energy into things. And how was Naruto getting them all to bloom at the same time? (The Yamanaka had a jutsu just for that purpose, but they weren't prone to sharing even a harmless technique like that with others.)
But she was wrong, one plant wasn't blooming. The little bonsai plant, carefully trimmed and tended to, had little buds on it but had yet to bloom. And looking at that, Sakura realized that the hydrangea Naruto had before was missing. She shrugged it off as unimportant; the plant must have died, she thought.
All of these plants were in the main room, which multi-tasked as kitchen, bedroom, and living room. Thus, Sakura nearly missed the one, lonely plant that sat in the middle of the room Naruto used to store his scrolls.
A tall, thin, elegant plant with delicate, almost round leaves and bright red flowers clustered at the top, the stamens branching out and away from the center—
–Red spider lily, never to meet again, lost memory, abandonment–
Sakura's mouth felt dry, and she left immediately after she finished watering.
The final time Naruto asked her to water his plants, she was sitting by his bedside, watching her best friend die. They were older now, much older. Old enough that Naruto had long since become the Shichidaime and later resigned in favor of his student, Konohamaru.
Old enough that Sakura had stopped being weak and had become just as feared as her teammates (and she hated the tales that spoke of them as the next generation of Sannin, because she was not Tsunade-shishou, and Naruto was not Jiraiya-sama, and Sasuke was not Orochimaru.)
Old enough that Naruto's body, which had survived countless maulings and the Kyuubi's malicious influence, was finally beyond her skill to repair.
As his last request, he asked her to take care of his plants, and Sakura had to ask.
"Naruto, why did you start keeping them?"
He closed his eyes, and Sakura wondered if he had enough strength to answer her question. But this was Naruto, so he opened his eyes and smiled at her.
"I was alone in the beginning," he said, "and I hated how empty my apartment was. But the old man... Sandaime-sama, gave me some money, and said I could buy some flowers to help cheer the place up." Naruto closed his eyes again, lost in the memory. "After that," he finally said, "I bought flowers whenever I found a new precious person."
"You've met a lot of precious people then," Sakura said with a soft smile. There was barely any floorspace in Naruto's home now, and baskets of flowers hung from the ceiling.
He smiled. "Yes."
They talked for a while longer, reminiscing, until Naruto sighed softly (And it was wrong, so wrong, because the Naruto she had known never sighed like that), and he was gone.
Later, Sakura heard that there was talk of creating some sort of monument to the Shichidaime, and she talked to Konohamaru.
A space was made below the Hokage Mountain, and all of Naruto's closest friends (those who were still alive) came to help with the planting.
Sakura found the red spider lily and hesitated for a long time on where to put it. Finally, she chose to place it right next the stone monument that bore Naruto's name. After all, it was what Naruto had worked for all those years.
When nearly everything else was in the ground, Ino tapped Sakura on the shoulder.
"You should be the one to plant this," she said and made to hand Sakura the bonsai plant Naruto had tended to so carefully.
Sakura stared at the tiny pink blossoms and suddenly the enormity of what Naruto had done and been and given her hit. She took the plant carefully, trying not to drop it because of how hard she was shaking. Somehow Sakura got it into the ground.
The sakura tree had finally bloomed, and she finally understood that silly, loud boy who had declared his ambitions so boldly all those years ago.
Plants mentioned in order:
Red Tulip/Fame, Charity, Trust/Sandaime
Cherry Blossom/Kind, Gentle/Sakura
Cactus/Lust, Sex/Gaara ---Not intentional, since in my mind cactus=desert=Gaara but uh... yeah.
Lotus/Far from the one he loves, Purity, Chastity/Rock Lee
Red Spider Lily/Never to meet again, Lost memory, Abandonment/Sasuke