Lifting a Curse

Disclaimer: I do not own/claim rights to Naruto or any of its beloved characters.

NaruSaku fans this one is for you

It was winter time in the Land of Iron, a meeting that might very well bring the shinobi nation to its knees and a young blond who was literally on his, begging for the life of a friend--request denied.

That was how Sakura found him, driven by Sai's words she and the pale boy gave chase after the rest of Team Kakashi, seeing Naruto there on his knee's, she knew they couldn't continue this way. Blue eyes set in a face that been maliciously beaten finally registered her presence, eyes widening in surprise as a look of utter apology washed over his features.

I'm sorry Sakura I failed again

Not only can't I bring him back I can't even get him pardoned

Words unspoken, but louder than any decibel Naruto's vocals could hope to reach. In that moment Sakura decided that she never loathed anything more than the look on his face because it meant Sai was it right, it meant that idiot did love her, it meant she was hurting him and hurting Naruto was unforgivable but it was she who'd been causing him pain all along.

Promptly yanking the blond up by his collar she tersely announced that she and Naruto needed to talk, before any new plans any kind of regrouping happened, they came first. A couple meters off by a river that refused to ice over despite the cold she let him go. Taking him in now, Sakura could see that the boy had no idea what she was about to say, but if nothing else he could sense the severity of her oncoming words so remained silent as she built up the nerve that seemed to lessen with each passing second.

Armed with the knowledge she blissfully if not ignorantly used to be oblivious to, she knew that it was up to her to make things right, which sounded so cliche and unrealistic because Sakura had no idea if things would be alright, if they'd ever be again or were in the first place. The young kunoichi knew, that all she could really do was set him free, let him make his own decisions and follow his true heart, instead of keeping the promise of a love sick twelve year old meanwhile suffering in devoted silence.

"I cry," she began. "Alot." Still lacking the fortitude to look him in the eye just yet, she stared into the river as she spoke. "Since I was very young I've always been crying." Crouching down on her haunches she paused for a beat and started making lazy circles in the snow with her index finger. "I know you don't like it when I do, but its part of who I am." Venturing a side glance she saw him move to crouch beside her, imploring with unspoken gestures to continue. "And with all that's going on I can tell that I have many more tears left to shed, its just that I hope the reasons I have to smile outnumber the times I'll be crying."

Calloused hands caught her by surprise when they cradled the cool cheeks of her face, forcing her to look at him. "Sakura-chan, don't worry I'll give you every reason in the world to smile, I'll get him back for you."

A gloved hand slapped Naruto's away at the statement. "Stop that! Stop saying that! Can't you for one minute just think about yourself?!" Why did he have to be so damn selfless? Did he enjoy being this emotional martyr, so damn much? His hopelessness made her brow furrow in disbelief, it cut her to her very core to know that she was the true idiot, missing something so plainly in front of her. This fool didn't even know how to put his needs before her own.

While generally slow on the up take realization donned on him at the rosettes outburst, what she was talking about, where this was going all made sense now, Sai be damned. The sixteen year old muscles tightened and his jaw clenched as he abruptly rose, about faced and began walking back towards the group. Uzumaki Naruto wanted no part of this.

"Wait were not done," she called, the sheer desperation in her voice halting him mid-stride.

The blond only shook his head, as if to say that yes they were. Hearing the soft crunch of snow, tell-tell signs of her approach, he kept her at bay with an outstretched palm, his voice became wrought with emotion and his words came out more forceful than intended losing its teenage tenor, taking on the baritone of a man. "Sakura-chan I'll never be a man whose goes back on his word, no matter what."

She couldn't believe it, his words hit her with all the force of the explosion that leveled there home. He knew, that she knew and he was going to keep on like this suffering for her sake, when she was clearly trying to unbind from this accursed promise. Frustration, the likes of which she never felt before swelled inside her, he wouldn't even let her do one thing for him. So concerned with her happiness, he disregarded his own, believing it resided in coal black eyes and an uchiwa fanning red flames.

The pink haired girl was sick of it, everybody deciding what's best for her, trying to keep her safe, stubborn male pride and before her conscious mind could comprehend her own actions she was moving, the jinchuuriki's only warning a fierce cry of "Baka!" as she lunged at him. "Forget that damn promise, its little more than a curse, I used to ignore it before but I can see what it does to you now and I hate it because I know its for me." Sprawled on top of him, the inherited strength of her master keeping him immobile, she choked as the pricking sting of tears welled up in her eyes. "Everything you've ever done has been for me!"

Adjusting her weight only so she could roll him over to face her, she pinned him with monstrous strength a second time. "Sai already told me but I need to hear it from you, is it true? Do you love me?" The question hung in the air, waiting for the boy's reply but it never came. "Damn it Naruto tell me the truth or I swear on everything I care about I'll keep us like this till we freeze to death!" Her tears were falling freely now and what had been a desperate yell before came out soft and lilting as she repeated the question. "Do you love me?"

Pressed so intimately against one another, he had no doubt she could feel every crest and wave of the conflicting emotions storming through him. In the name of all that holy he swore he never wanted to have this conversation, while unendingly painful Naruto was more than content to harbor his feelings to the bitter end. The girl of his dreams was in love with another man, so deeply that she made a once in a life time wish on a dead last who'd give her the moon if she asked. So failing wasn't an option and neither was walking away from her promise despite how much she wanted to break it, however with each tear that wet his face, he felt her owed her something, so with a weary exhale of breath he gave the girl what she wanted. "Yes."

Fresh tears poured anew and she collapsed on top of him burying her head into the crook of his neck, holding onto the boy tighter than she ever thought possible. "Will you listen now, to my request?" She felt the nodding motion of his head beside her own and smiled. When the youth below her moved to stand-up she merely pushed him back down in the snow, signaling her intention to remain as they were. "It's not right to keep feelings like this bottled up inside, it'll destroy you Naruto, we have to let them out." Raising her head slightly to look at him she pressed further. "That's why I told Sasuke before he left, why Hinata stepped onto the battlefield for you, its why you have to tell me now."

Cold hands cupped his frigid cheeks. "For all your admittance, you haven't said a thing, have you Naruto. If you can't say it now in your own words, we'll never be able to move forward." Sakura clasped his hand as it made a move to brush away the tear tracks that skinned her face. "Don't mistake these tears for weakness," and she leaned her face into his palm, peridot green eyes refusing to waver.

A light went off, in the sometimes dull witted lads head. The statement that had confused him so thoroughly before, gained new clarity with her final words. Sakura cried, she'd probably always be crying but that hadn't meant she was incapable or unwillingly to face all the things he tried to protect her from. All this time he believed if he ever confessed, she'd break down in confusion and what was left of Team 7 would disappear, he judged the outcome on the tears he knew would come. An egregious error if there ever was one, because Sakura was strongest as she looked through her tears determination and courage at its peak, standing her ground protecting the ones she cared for most.

Peering up into those green depths, he saw the dormant inner strength of the girl, no, young woman above him and it pulled the words from his lips with an ease that shook him to very center of his being. "I've loved you since I was twelve years old, since before I could remember and I love you more than I ever have, right now in this moment." Naruto fell into the snow once again at the force of her tackle, wind supremely knocked out of him in a death grip to rival her previous one. There were more tears of course but all he could register were Sakura's endless thank yous and the kisses that reigned down on his cheeks, jawlines and forehead.

Resting her brow against his she breathed one final thank you before she removed herself from the prone form of her teammate. "I'd ask you to break your promise however I know you'd never do such a thing so I want to change the conditions." She offered a hand up as he struggled to right himself. "My once in a life time wish is for Team 7 to be happy again, all of Team 7, so bring Sasuke back because he's your brother, because its not the same without him, because no one else could ever hope to be your rival. Just not for me, don't do it for me anymore."

A weight lifted from his shoulders and the subsequent relief--unparalelled. With the burden gone he truly comprehended the depths of the load he carried and he was eternally grateful to her, Sakura had given him permission to love her openly and express the truest extent of his feelings unabashedly. He intiated the embrace this time, no fear of a beat down he surely would've been awarded in his younger days, she returned it with equal fervor. But looking at her now, he only had one question."And what will you do?" He raised a yellow colored eye-brow.

"I'll bring him back for the both of us," she said resolutely.

"That's not fair."

"Doesn't get to be." She replied smiling.

For Sakura's part there was no return I love you or even I don't love Sasuke, there wouldn't be. Whatever her feelings for the avenging youth were, she'd cross that bridge when she came to it. But for now there was she and Naruto, and as she took his hand she decided that was enough.

For now.

That was enough.

Authors Note: Well there you have it. I swear this story was a pain to get out but my muse stoutly refused to relinquish me till I finished. 458 is certainly one for the books, a hallmark if you will in Naruto romance, hell I'm going so far as to say its the new 181 NaruSaku flavored.

I apologize for any errors or continuity issues, I'm completley out of practice with my writing, though I do feel I recovered a little bit of my niche towards the end. First new story in four years your gonna have to let some things slide people.

Danger! Danger Will Robinson! This is a warning, do not I repeat do not go to my favorites looking for NaruSaku because you will be soooo disappointed. As a matter of fact don't even go to my profile, I haven't written anything new in HOW many years.

However you all can be dears and hit that little green button down at the bottom for me. Much obliged. Thanks in advance. Hunnybee out.