She never intended to get to know him.

She never really intended to even talk to him. It had been a dare, one she had taken simply to prove she wasn't afraid.

He was seldom seen in the village, leaving his house only to buy food and go on a few other errands. He smiled widely and talked to anyone who crossed his path when he was out, but he valued his privacy, and anyone who went to his house was generally yelled at and thrown off his property, sometimes physically. It was the source of the dare - go and knock on his door and ask if she could come in for tea and a chat.

She was nervous, although she tried not to let it show as she calmly claimed that it wasn't anything to make a fuss about. Inside, she was quaking. She'd asked her parents about him once. They'd just shaken their heads at her questions, and told her that if he wanted to be left alone she should honour his wishes. It felt very wrong to go against their instructions, even though she was sure this would get Nado-kun to notice her. So she brushed her hair and dressed nicely before going to his house and knocking, putting on a bright smile so he hopefully wouldn't get too mad.

He never intended to get to know her.

He'd never even intended to talk to her beyond telling her to get off his property. But he'd opened the door and she was standing there, hands clasped in front of her with her green eyes shining and her pink hair blowing gently in the wind, and he was so shocked he'd just nodded dumbly when she asked if she could come in.

She never thought she'd get this far.

She looked curiously at him as he stepped aside and ushered her in, still strangely pale, and looked around the house, noting how oddly normal it looked. Chairs, table, a couch, bedroom off to the side and a little kitchenette tucked into the corner. As she gazed over some old photos hanging on the walls, she wondered to herself why this simple house surprised her. She'd somehow expected something more from this enigmatic man of around twenty or twenty five years of age, even though she had no reason to. She came back to the reason why she was here when the man asked her what kind of tea she favoured belatedly realizing after answering him that she had yet to introduce herself.

She quickly turned around and offered a quick bow, saying as she did "Ah, sorry! I'm Setsune Sakura."

He started visibly when she introduced herself, nearly dropping the teapot before replying in a hoarse voice "Namikaze Naruto."

She, like most of the village, suspected that he was lying about his name. It wasn't at all uncommon to name children after past Hokages and Namikaze Naruto was by far the most famous of them, but the Namikaze clan had died with him. There was no way he could be of that famous line. No-one really cared though. In a village full of paranoid shinobi, going by a false name in a new village was just common sense, and seeing as he had been thoroughly vetted when he had moved to the village seven years ago, they had no reason to pressure him. They knew what it was like to be hiding from something.

She felt oddly tense when he asked her what she wanted to talk about. Expecting to have just been thrown off the property, she hadn't come prepared for conversation, and it showed as she made an inane comment about the weather. He'd looked at her knowingly for a minute and said he had no interest in the weather before asking her who she had a crush on. She'd gasped indignantly at the personal question, but the smiles and laughter from the blonde calmed her down before she got too angry, and she found herself telling him all about brave and handsome and cool Nado-kun. He'd listened intently, making funny little comments whenever she paused for breath, and she found herself liking this strange man.

She hadn't intended to go back.

She had gone to the academy the next day and told her friends of going in and having tea with him. In retrospect, she should have told them he'd told her to go away. They hadn't believed her. So now she stood in front of his door again, preparing to knock while her friends jostled for position in the bushes by the gate into the yard. She raised her hand nervously and rapped the door sharply. He had told her last time, with laughter in his eyes, that she could come back whenever she wanted to talk about the weather, but she was still scared a little - she had been warned about older men who were oddly nice, and considering he threw everyone else who came to his house off his land, he was definitely being oddly nice to her.

He greeted her with a smile, inviting her in and starting to boil some water as she took a seat. He'd handed her a cup of tea with a bright grin, asking what had brought her to his house. She caved then, telling him about the dare, and the verification her friends had required. He'd assured her he didn't mind, and asked her about the academy, seeing as she had mentioned she attended in her explaination of why she was there.

She told him stories of some of the better times she'd had there, and confided her fears about the upcoming genin exam. He'd laughed, and told her she'd be fine, telling her that he'd found it hard at first, but had passed it on his fourth try, and told her that "If an idiot like me can do it, you'll definitely pass." The story surprised her, she hadn't known he was a ninja. She mentioned as such, and the mood died as he told her he wasn't anymore, and refused to elaborate. Feeling uncomfortable in the sudden silence, she excused herself, saying she had chores to do. He'd seen her out the door and then walked with her to the gate, where she had to work hard to hide her smile as he announced that his bushes were looking slightly dry and proceeded to drench them, and the academy students still hidden inside.

It wasn't planned, but she didn't regret it.

She next saw him two weeks later, on one of his infrequent shopping trips. He'd walked up to her completely unnoticed despite his heavy load, so deep in thought was she. He'd asked her if she was alright, and invited her to his house for tea and ramen when she responded with complaints about her team. It felt good to just sit and vent to him, as much as she loved her mother, she didn't understand shinobi problems, and her father was on a mission, not to return for at least a week.

Naruto was there, and Naruto understood when she sat at his table, tea in hand, telling him of her team. She was so happy that she had Nado-kun on her team at first, but Tobi, the third member of the team had spoiled it quickly. He was so annoying! He was constantly bickering with the normally imperturbable Nado, and seemed to delight in ruining her attempts to get Nado-kun to notice her. To make matters worse, he was completely hopeless on missions, but seemed to be under the delusion that he was good!

Naruto had just smiled and told her that it reminded him of his genin team-the rookie of the year, the smartest girl (who had a crush on her genius teammate), and himself, the dunce who had failed three times and who had a massive crush on the kunoichi on his team. He regaled her with a few funny stories of the things they had gotten up to (Sakura wondered just how he had survived what seemed to be a ridiculously accident prone childhood), but quickly clammed up and said that it was dark and she should get home when she asked what his teammate's names had been. She pretended to look startled at the time and agree, privately promising to find out why he didn't want to tell her some day.

He was her support.

She'd gotten to the final round in her first chuunin exam when she was thirteen, nearly fourteen. She'd had a tough draw, and was nearly out of chakra. It was in the final fight of the tournament between her and a genius grass genin that she slumped to the ground and struggled to get up.

She was so tempted to just lie there and let her opponent win. The grass genin was terrifying. None of his fights had lasted more than five minutes and he'd knocked out Nado, who she had previously thought was as good as a genin could get, in the first round. No-one would think badly of her if she lost. It was her first exam and she'd made it to the bitter end, there wasn't any shame in second place.

Her eyes drifted over familiar faces in the crowd. Her team, her parents, friends from the academy-she could see the same look on all of their faces. Whether she won or lost, they would still support her and congratulate her. Then she saw Naruto. He caught her eye and gave her a thumbs up with a big grin spread across his face. It wasn't that he wouldn't support her if she lost. He just didn't think it was an issue. He fully believed she would win.

She'd gotten to her feet and beat her opponent into the ground with nothing but taijutsu, determination and carefully calculated viciousness.

She made chuunin.

He held her when she cried.

She was fifteen when she lost her virginity. She'd once wanted to save herself for marriage, but that changed after her last mission. She'd been captured after being knocked out by an unexpected raiton jutsu, and was prepared for torture when she woke up. Despite the lectures on the possibility in the academy, what she was not prepared for was for her captor to want something other than information from her. That happened, yes, but not to you. It was sad and terrible, but, she thought, it wouldn't happen to her. She was young and strong, and things like that didn't happen to you when you were young. She'd been wrong.

Had her jounin sensei been five minutes later, she would have been raped. She'd been incredibly grateful, but the thought that it could happen again haunted her. She didn't want her first time to be at the hands of some sweaty, grunting man interested only in his own pleasure. Nado was her choice. He'd finally started noticing her over the last six months, and so she walked up to him and told him that he was taking her on a date. He'd been too shocked to say no. It was a disaster. She didn't want her first time to be at the hands of some sweaty, grunting man interested only in his own pleasure.....but that was what she'd gotten. She'd left right after, and gone straight to Naruto. He'd simply hugged her, softly stroking her hair and whispering soft nothings while she wailed about how 'it wasn't fair' and 'it was supposed to be different.' She'd cried herself to sleep in his arms, and woke in his bed to the sounds of birds singing outside and Naruto snoring on the couch.

Neither of them ever discussed who might have given Nado the colourful bruises blooming across his face the next day. They didn't need to.

She held him when he cried.

She was sixteen when she decided to try drinking, and had asked Naruto to take her next time he went out. She'd gone to a bar with him once before, her drinking orange juice and him drinking copious amounts of sake, prefacing each saucer of sake with the words "To remember". The night had passed with him flirting outrageously with every woman in the bar, and ended with her laughing helplessly at the sight of him dancing down the street towards his house. That night had been tremendously enjoyable for her, and was what she wanted for her first drinking experience.

It turned out to be nothing like it. A few months after she asked, he told her to be at his house at eight oclock on Saturday night. She'd dressed up and put makeup on, a rare occurance for her. She hadn't tried sex again after the disaster with Nado, but she still enjoyed the looks she got from men. And, she thought happily, with Naruto at her side she'd be sure to get plenty of envious looks from women as well. Tall, blonde and well muscled with bright blue eyes and a near-constant cheery grin, Naruto was definitely easy on the eyes. Not that she thought of him in that way of course, he was much too old for her. He didn't look it, still appearing to be around twenty years of age, but he'd looked that way as long as she had known him, and that was going on five years now. 'But he's definitely a cutie' a rebellious part of her mind whispered. She quickly squashed it down. She definitely didn't need to be having thoughts like that about Naruto.

The bar was loud and crowded, more so then normal despite it being a weeknight. Naruto had chosen the tenth of October to go out, the day of an old festival that everyone still celebrated despite the fact that no-one rembered what it was for. To make matters worse, the jounin exams had finished that day as well, with a strong showing from Konoha resulting in four new jounins for the village hidden in the leaves, which had also resulted in lots of villagers with money to spare from the gambling – money most of them seemed to have decided needed to be spent celebrating their wins.

Sakura nursed her drink uncomfortably. She had found she quite liked the taste of sake, but she was unsure about the feelings of light-headedness it produced. They certainly didn't help her in her efforts to figure out the man sitting beside her. Naruto was.......different tonight. Naruto was not the light hearted flirt he had been last time. Hunched over the bar, he was downing cup after cup of sake as fast as the bartender could serve it to him, barely pausing to mutter "To forget" before each cup. Even his appearance was different. He was wearing a long, white coat with flames along the bottom that she had never seen before but had to admit looked quite good on him, but more curiously, he also wore an ancient hitai-ate with the stylized leaf that she only recognised due to her interest in Konoha's history.

She was greatly confused about its presence – not only was the metal plate old, bearing the stylized leaf only slightly different from the current Konoha symbol but nonetheless out of use for hundreds of years, but also because it was a leaf hitai-ate, regardless of the age. She knew he had been a ninja, but he had never mentioned which village he fought for, and she couldn't see how he could have gotten his hands on a piece of equipment reserved for leaf nin. She was dying to ask where he had gotten it, both out of curiousity and the fact that it would have been worth a fortune to the right people. She noticed that she wasn't the only one interested in it though. One of the new jounins, a surprise promotion that she vaguely remembered as being from a few years above her in the academy was staring at Naruto's forehead with a shocking amount of hate in his eyes.

And, she realised as he stood up, he wasn't going to stop at glaring either. His smell reached them before he did, a wave of alcoholic fumes announcing his presence as he arrived. He slurred his words when he addressed Naruto with scorn in his voice, but his message was clear. Naruto had no idea of the sacrifice involved in being a shinobi. Naruto wasn't a ninja. Naruto didn't deserve to wear a hitai-ate, even a fake one. In fact, he was going to make sure that Naruto didn't dishonour the leaf village like this again.

The next day, Sakura would attempt to decipher her memories of the event, hindered by the effects of her first experiment with alcohol and by the speed that was still way above her level, even though both men had drunk far more than she had. She was certain the jounin had lashed out at Naruto, attempting to snatch the hitai-ate from his brow. What she didn't understand was how Naruto, a retired ninja, had taken down a jounin in his prime so fast she couldn't make out all the movements. Naruto was a relatively young man as well she would say (he couldn't possibly be any older than thirty at the most) but it still required constant training to maintain a shinobi's fighting edge. Yet Naruto had taken the jounin down so easily. And what had been that technique he used? She had never even heard of a technique that created what appeared to be a swirling ball of energy in the palm of his hand - without any visible hand seals even.

At the time however, she was more concerned with Naruto, who had stormed out of the bar immediately after his opponent hit the floor. She ran after him, nearly loosing him in the drizzling rain. "Wait!" she called out, gratefully slowing her pace when he acceded to her request. "What's wrong with you?" she asked with concern, looking into his currently angry face.

"He deserved it," Naruto ground out, the muscles in his jaw tightening at the memory.

"I don't care about him," Sakura declared, feeling surprisingly happy when the angry look dropped from his face. It was the truth after all. Knocking off or attempting to knock off someone's forehead protecter was the gravest insult one shinobi could offer to another, even if they were retired. "I mean what's up with you? You've been upset since before that idiot came over."

Naruto's jaw worked as the question was asked. "October's a festival day, but the two worst things to ever happen to me happened on October tenth."

"What happened?" Sakura asked gently.

Naruto looked away, a haunted look in his eyes. "It was October tenth when every member of my team died, save for me."

Sakura stifled a gasp at the answer. She had known his teammates were dead and suspected his jonin-sensei had gone the same way, but she had had no clue they all died at the same time. "That's one thing. What was the other?" Sakura inquired gently. She had a feeling that knowing these things would answer the question of why her friend had been so different that night.

"I was born," Naruto whispered.

As Sakura wordlessly embraced him, she knew that the moisture running down his face wasn't just rain.

She kissed him.

She'd later call it her first kiss-she didn't count what had happened with Nado.

It had started innocently enough. She was eighteen, and had just made jounin. Naruto had said he would take her and her parents out to dinner to celebrate. Her choice, his treat. When she relayed the offer to her parents, they declined, telling her they couldn't intrude on her night with Naruto. She'd caught the look that passed between her parents, and was quick to assure them that 'it's not like that' and 'Naruto is just a friend.' Besides, he was much to old for her – wasn't he? Unfortunately, her parents proved just as hard to convince as her treacherous hormones, who had recently taken to making her tingle pleasantly when Naruto smiled at her.

The night had been great fun. She had chosen a karaoke bar, and time passed quickly in a blur of eating, drinking and singing bad songs. Midnight found her walking unsteadily towards Naruto's house with him, as he had kindly extended the offer of a place to stay so she didn't wake her parents with her stumbling. They were both exchanging some light hearted ribbing about the attention the other had received from the opposite gender, and once, to Naruto's absolute horror, from the same gender, when they reached Naruto's door. He turned to her, unaware of the gentle heat low in her belly that his smile caused as he unlocked the door. "So, no special guy you've got your eye on then? You're only young once you know."

It was his choice of words that did it. Had he said the same thing in any other way, she would have been able to resist the temptation. But unbidden, his words pulled to the front of her mind what her mother had said as she stepped out the door, once more reassuring her mother that she and Naruto were just friends. 'Well you're only young once you know, and he's a very handsome man'. Sakura didn't bother answering Naruto's question in words. She laced her fingers around the back of his neck, drew his head down and kissed him. For an instant, just an instant, he kissed back, the hunger and desire in his kiss exceeding her own, both frightening and exhilarating her. But then the moment was gone, and he pulled back and looked away, leaving her wondering if she had been imagining it. "This is wrong." he said roughly.

Sakura felt her heart plummet to approximately the level that the pleasant warmth had been just a moment ago. "Why?" she whispered, tracing his jaw with her hand. "Is it really so bad?"

"Yes, it is," Naruto said just as softly. "I'm sorry Sakura," he said, stepping away from her hand and inside the threshold of his house. "I think you should go home."

Sakura smiled weakly. "Yeah, I guess my parents would be worried if I didn't come home." She backed away, somehow managing to keep herself from crying. "I'll see you later then?" she asked in a voice thick with unshed tears, not leaving until he nodded.

She didn't go home that night. She went back to the bar, then left with the first man to approach her. He was another Noda, only interested in his own pleasure. But it was hard and it was fast and that was exactly what Sakura needed. In the end, she thought she might even have enjoyed it more than he did. But when it was over and he was asleep, she cried. He had blonde hair.

He hated himself.

For a second, he wanted to do it. To give in to her, to loose himself in green eyes, and run his fingers through pink hair, and call out her name as their sweaty bodies moved together.

Her hair was pink and her eyes were green and her name was Sakura, but it wasn't her.

To him, it would be her eyes he'd gaze into, would be her hair he'd run his hands through, and though he'd be calling for her he'd be thinking of her, and that wasn't fair to either of them. She'd just be a shallow imitation of the Sakura he'd loved and lost so, so long ago. He couldn't do that to her. She deserved better than that, deserved better than him.

He deserved nothing. He'd been unable to save his Sakura. He'd come close, so close,

fingers closed on nothing as lightning screeched past his fist, the arm burst through her chest in a shocking spray of blood

but he'd been that little bit too slow and the bastard he'd once called his brother had taken his teacher and the woman he'd loved from him in the same day, and he'd lost control, and had

clawed at his face with an arm made of pure chakra, blasted through his defenses and watched in unholy glee as the eyes, the eyes he was so proud of were torn from his face, leaving nothing but partially cauterised wounds weeping blood from the edges

taken his revenge, but it hadn't brought her back, nothing could bring her back, not even losing himself in green eyes, and running his fingers through pink hair, and calling out her name as their sweaty bodies moved together.

But he was tempted. So tempted.

He hated himself.

She hated him.

He was older than her, she knew. She didn't care, even though it occurred to her at that point that she didn't even know how much older. It didn't matter anyway. He was brightness, he was sunshine and laughter and everything that was good in her life, and it just felt so right when he smiled at her and said her name.

He had turned her down, acted as if she was just a little girl who didn't know what she was doing, didn't know what she wanted.

She hated him.

But she was fairly certain she loved him too.

She'd asked him why.

She'd come prepared, with counter arguments to everything she thought he might say. She wasn't at all prepared for what she heard. He'd sat her down, and told her that what he was about to say had to be kept a secret, guarded with her life. She'd agreed, curious, but mainly wanting to just make him see that there was nothing wrong with love, and life, and simply finding joy with each other.

He'd nodded, and begun his tale. A story that began with a question.

"Have you ever heard of the Bijuu?" he asked, an uncharacteristically serious look on his face.

She told him everyone knew the legend of the Tailed Demons, the unkillable beasts that were more of a force of nature than an animal.

He'd shaken his head, and told her they were real. Or had been at least. Shinobi had figured out various ways to seal them in living people, creating weapons of inconceivable power known as jinchuuriki – the power of human sacrifice. But time had passed, and one by one they had died with their hosts as they were killed before the demons could be extracted from them to be readied for a new host. All bar one, the Kyuubi, the nine tailed fox that had been sealed away when it attacked the village hundreds of years ago, being, he claimed, the reason for the festival on October tenth.

The Yondaime Hokage had defeated it, sealing it in his son, born just that day. There was something different about the seal however. All other seals used were flawed, using the death of an unwilling victim to power the sealing. They gave the host some of the demon's powers, but not all. In some cases the seal was weak enough for the demon to break free, or survive the death of the host. The Yondaime sacrificed himself, not just his life but his very soul, and in doing so created the perfect seal. No-one knew however.

The boy grew up friendless and alone, hated and feared for what was inside him. This had slowly changed after he had learned of his tenant and was placed on his genin team, consisting of himself, the girl he had a crush on, and his hated, one sided rival who his love interest was crushing on. They had slowly become friends, to his shock. Even his rival became someone he would fight for. But then it happened. His rival had betrayed Konoha, betrayed his team, betrayed him for power he needed to avenge his clan. The boy had pursued his rival, catching him and fighting him, and losing. He also had the first inkling that his tenant gave him more than just extra chakra, twice during the fight healing in seconds injuries that should have killed him – a broken neck and an arm shoved clean through his chest.

Mindful of the promise he had made to his one remaining teammate, the boy had trained for years in order to bring his rival back to the village. Eventually they had tracked him down. His rival had killed the man who slaughtered his clan, achieved that which he had left the village to do. They thought he'd come back. They were wrong. He was too far gone, consumed with hatred and bloodlust. He struck without warning, killing his old sensei first. Then it was the girl who used to think she loved him. Bereft at the loss of the woman he loved and who loved him, the young jinchuuriki lost control, and destroyed his former friend.

Life had seemed bleak for the boy after that. He had kept on living, because he knew the girl would want him to. He trained, and fought, and eventually was recognised as the strongest ninja in the village, receiving the title of Rokudaime Hokage. By the time he was fifty, the full effects of the demon inside him were undeniable. His body hadn't aged since sometime in his twenties, and he was practically unkillable. He thought it was a good thing. He kept working, and became the best Hokage the village had ever seen. Then one day he had woken up, and looked around him, and realized that although he only looked twenty, he was over a hundred years old, and everyone he had grown up with, all his friends and allies and rivals were all dead, struck down in battle or by age. He'd looked desperately for someone whose name he knew outside his job, someone who he talked to because he enjoyed spending time with them, not just because it was his duty. He'd failed. He'd gone a little crazy then, and had left the village far behind, trying to find a way to end his existance, to kill himself, to join his long lost friends in the peace of the grave. Again, he'd failed, and in the process removed the 'practically' from the status of his invincibility. It had taken him a long time to get over his insanity, but as with all things, time wore it down. He had travelled the world, seeing everything. And then, with nothing else to do, he had returned to his home village, hoping to be at peace.

"And was he?" Sakura asked, not sure where he was going with his strange story.

Naruto appeared to consider it for a little while. "He was, for a little while. But then one day a little girl showed up at his door, and she had pink hair and green eyes. Her name was Sakura, and she reminded the man so much of his long dead love that even though he knew he should, he was unable to turn her away from his door."

Sakura gaped at him. "You can't possibly expect me to believe that" she gasped.

Naruto again seemed to consider this statement for a second, before pulling a kunai seemingly out of nowhere and ramming it handle deep into his temple.

Sakura screamed in shock and rushed to his side as he toppled to the floor. Her weeping was abruptly cut off by the sound of a metal object hitting the floor, and she gasped in amazement as Naruto picked himself off the floor.

He killed himself three more times before she believed him, then explained why they couldn't, wouldn't, should never be together. Not just because he would go on living when she was nothing but dust and memories, but also because she would forever remind him of what he had lost, and she would always take second place.

When he asked her to leave she did so.

She came back.

He opened the door, and paused, shocked by what he saw. She had dyed her hair black, and was wearing blue coloured contacts. "I'm more than just pink hair and green eyes," she said defiantly as she pulled his head down to hers.

And she wasn't her, would never be her, could never be her.

But for now, she was enough.

Well, at 5442 words worth of story, I think this is the longest thing I've ever written in one go. It's just something I wrote because it simply would not get out of my head once I thought of it. I got the idea from a combination of things, but I think the most prominent influence on the writing was the old saying about how the worst thing that could happen to a parent is that they outlive their children. In this Naruto never had children as Sakura died too early, but he outlived everyone he knew and cared about. This was mainly an exploration of how exactly that would affect someone in the future.

And I don't own Naruto.