Chapter One: The Last Night
Disclaimer: The Last Night, Naruto, and all related characters and places do not belong to me. Duh.
A/N: Wow, I didn't think I'd ever finish this, but here it is...after two or three years, finally complete(ish). SUPER HUGE THANK YOU TO MY AMAZING BETA, TwilightLink20xx. Also, my best franndd Sky helped a ton with plot elements. Don't try to fit this with Naruto's actual house design; it blatantly doesn't work. Each chapter is inspired by a song - this one is The Last Night. I don't own any of the songs, and I'm not posting the lyrics as part of the fic, so it's not against the rules. I wrote this quite a while ago, so if it doesn't conform to current plot elements...whatever. It's a future!fic anyway.
She couldn't believe this. Standing tall, hands on her hips, green eyes threatening tears, medic-nin Haruno Sakura glared at her mother. Not many people dared to get Sakura this angry, seeing as it usually caused broken bones - but this was her mother, who had just as much of a temper as Sakura herself.
The older woman was just as resolute (and angry) as her daughter, emerald eyes burning and pink hair falling into her eyes. The scene would have looked quite comical to an outsider, seeing as they both had a tendency to turn red when angry, but anyone who'd dare laugh would have been dead before you could say "overreacting". "Sweetie-" Sakura's mother began, trying to be reasonable.
The floodgates opened, and Sakura began to cry. Sniffling quietly and trying to blink away her tears, she turned away. "I'll be in my room," she said, her voice catching on the last word.
Her mother regarded her calmly, although it was a slipping facade. "All right," she replied coolly, struggling to keep her own tear ducts in check as her daughter stalked off. This wasn't the first time they'd fought over a certain subject, but it was the most explosive. She bit her lip, replaying the fight in her mind. She didn't want to consider this, because she didn't want her daughter to be hurt again...but she was afraid that...
This is so stupid! Sakura slammed her door much too hard, then collapsed on her bed, her vision blurred by the tears she finally allowed to fall. She hugged her knees and stared at the walls, as if the answer to her problems were hidden in them.
It had started when she had come back from an exhausting day of training with Naruto. The thought of him made her smile bitterly. He was older, and she would reluctantly admit a lot more mature when need be, but he still acted like the same hyper, irritating boy he had been most of the time. He also still harbored a crush on his "Sakura-chan", to her slight annoyance. It was no wonder nobody had asked her out (save Naruto himself, and Lee, who would never learn) since the two of them had returned, bloody and with Sasuke in tow.
Actually, most guys with even the slightest interest in Sakura "mysteriously" ended up in the hospital, and she "mysteriously" got called away by Tsunade to do some mundane chore. Naturally, Naruto denied any involvement, and Tsunade refused to answer Sakura's questions, but she strongly suspected that either Naruto was bribing the Hokage with free sake or there was some sort of betting pool going on. She wondered who all was in on it. Ino, for sure. The pig loved matchmaking, especially when it involved Sakura, but she'd been pretty inactive lately, which was suspicious... Wait, she was getting distracted.
Really, Sakura didn't mind his interference. It kept the freaks twice her age away, and after her heartbreaking attempt at a romance with Sasuke, she had little interest in dating at all. Plus, it made Naruto happy, and he hadn't been nearly as happy lately, which worried her. Of course, he'd been gloomier ever since Jiraiya-sama's death, and after every failed mission to retrieve Sasuke, the bloodshed and anger that had spread through Konoha...but this didn't seem related. What could possibly be bothering him so much? He did try to hide it under a cheerful exterior (as usual), but Sakura knew him much too well to fall for that. Now she was really distracted.
Her mother obviously didn't want to make the fox-boy happy, however. What so steamed Sakura (how could she even think that?) was (my nonexistent love life is none of her business) the proposal of (really, what was she thinking?) an arranged marriage (that's so old-fashioned! In a really bad way!) with (haven't I made it clear I have no interest anymore in-) Sasuke.
Of course, five years earlier, she would have been overjoyed. But now - wiser in the ways of the world, and with the horrific images of Sasuke hurting Naruto, Naruto who only came as a friend but left as a jailer thanks to Sasuke's actions, burned on her eyelids - the thought disgusted her.
She still loved him as a friend. She really did. But every time Sakura looked into those dark eyes that had once enchanted her, she saw blood, and felt the pain from her scarred arm. Some things can't be healed with medical ninjutsu, she reflected. Emotional scars, betrayal, heartbreak. She rolled up her sleeve to look at the arm she always covered now, horrendously scarred all up and down its length. She could easily have healed it. But life is cruel, and she felt she needed a reminder of that. Love is never painless, especially when only one person feels it.
She hiccupped. Stupid crying. Stupid Sasuke. Stupid everything.
Sakura's mother did not and could not have known about most of these physical and emotional scars, it was true. It was the comment after Sakura's polite "no" that made the teenager's blood boil.
"You've found someone else, have you?"
Unconsciously she hugged herself tighter, closing the world out.
"Not that demon, I hope!"
No matter what lived inside him, he was no more a demon than her. Probably less.
"He'll never amount to anything. You're not that stupid, I trust."
If she wasn't so mad, she could have laughed - Tsunade had already confirmed that Naruto would be receiving the title of Rokudaime Hokage soon enough. Of course, she couldn't tell anybody yet; only Naruto and Sakura were in the know, and the current Hokage wished to keep it that way until she settled a few affairs.
"He'll never amount to anything." Her mother's voice echoed in her ears. "Demon...stupid...useless..."
Sakura had thought the same once. She knew she was being a hypocrite. But if only she could tell that obstinate woman the news. She'd eat her words. Never amount to anything, demon, useless, evil, monster - how could you even describe happy, funny, caring Naruto with those words? He was like sunshine to her after Sasuke left, and she was a flower, like her name - turning towards the sun and basking in his warmth. Her mother wouldn't understand, she supposed.
"Shannaro..." she muttered, looking wistfully at the trees. How she'd love to knock down a tree - or twenty. Better than taking her fierce anger out on her mother, definitely. Maybe not quite as fun, though. If only she could just escape, be free from this.
She could escape. She might not be legal just yet, but she was a ninja after all. She could always stay with a friend while trying to find a decent apartment (which, according to Ino, who'd recently moved into a snug apartment of her own, was like trying to find a guy who was smart, nice, and good-looking). Springing to her feet, newly energized, she pulled a bag down and starting filling it with clothes. She supposed she didn't need to bring all of her clothes - let's see, those fancy dresses would be more trouble than they're worth, she never wore them anyway.
At once, Sakura wondered two things - who she'd stay with, and how long it would take for her parents to discover her absence.
I could stay with Ino...nah, we'd kill each other. Hmm. She carelessly tossed handfuls of hair ties, makeup, and beauty products into the bag, too preoccupied to notice the blush spilling all over her black skirt. Ugh, I forgot I even owned that...maybe I could stay with Hinata. I don't know her very well, but she seems pretty nice. I don't know if she likes me very much, it's obvious she has her eye on Naruto...Sakura didn't understand why that annoyed her so much, but she quickly discarded the thought of staying with Hinata. Who else is there? Tenten...I don't know her very well, either...
"I'm home!" she heard her father call, and instinctively cursed silently and started packing faster. That should be everything I'll need. Her eyes drifted to a low table and she reached over and picked up her treasured old Team 7 photo, smiling nostalgically. I guess I'll leave it. I don't want Ino to think I'm some sort of baby who needs a picture of her teammates next to her bed to sleep. She dusted it off with her hand. Life was so much simpler then.
She propped the picture back up on the stand, took one last look around, and slipped out the window in the quiet style of a trained ninja.
Uzumaki Naruto stared out the window, not really paying attention to his surroundings. His blue eyes were dull as he rested his head on his hands in a rare solemn and introspective moment. I wonder what Sakura-chan is doing, he mused.
It was no secret that he liked - no, loved the pink-haired kunoichi. What was not to love? He was honestly surprised that everybody didn't seem to love her as much as he did - she's not perfect, I know, but I'm about the furthest thing from it myself. He adored every inch of her, from the tips of her blossom-colored hair and intelligent emerald eyes to her perpetually booted toes. He closed his eyes, picturing her smile.
That smile was the killer; it was what had drawn him to her in the first place. When Sakura smiled, her whole face lit up in a lovely display that just pulled Naruto in and made him want to draw her close and kiss her gentl-
When she smiled (wow), it completely captivated the blonde shinobi (which sometimes proved dangerous in the heat of battle, but he didn't want to remember that). The world stopped, spotlights focused on her, and angels sang. At least in his lovestruck mind.
She had never noticed him, back when they were kids, and yet he had kept up his hopeless crush on her. No matter how many times she told him to get lost, he couldn't. Naruto had always been sure they were meant to be.
Sakura noticed him now more, of course. They were friends, close friends, and yet that seemed like that was all she wanted. He sighed and gazed out at the town. Sometimes he wondered if it would have been better on his heart if she never had noticed him, if she had kept on rejecting him entirely. Although he knew she wasn't, it felt like she was taunting him, giving him a taste of what it would be like if they were together, and then taking it back away. If only-
He wasn't going to think about that.
They were friends. Friends.
He shouldn't want more.
Yet he still did. He knew it irritated her, and made him feel even stupider than usual, falling again and again for a girl who would never care about him like that. But there was something about her that he couldn't escape from. We'd be perfect.
When Jiraiya (ah, good old Ero-Sennin...) took him away from her for those years, Naruto had hoped he'd find someone else, or at least be able to distract himself. Not so. He grew up loving her, even away from his flower, as he liked to think of her (although she'd kill me if she knew about that), and when he came back and saw her, he actually thought he might have a chance.
Maybe he loved her so much because he could see what it would be like. If we were together, I mean. Their chemistry was perfect - even socially retarded Sai could tell that. They worked together perfectly as a team, and so they would as romantic partners.
Like that's going to happen.
He was honest with himself. Sakura had turned him down so many times, and although they often went on strictly "friends-only" dates, she obviously felt nothing beyond friendship for him. And who would? He was a demon, rude, blunt, not exactly the brightest shinobi in town, and altogether a good "guy friend", or whatever girls called them, but not boyfriend material. (...that's a really stupid phrase...)
His heart gave a twang as he looked around his apartment. I'm so tired of this feeling. He knew it well, of course. He'd known it for as long as he could remember, before he knew what it was called.
Naruto was painfully lonely.
Sure, he had friends. Lots of them. But they were at their own houses or apartments, with their families or spouses, or at least an occasional visiting friend. His apartment only ever held him, and he dreaded coming "home" every day to it, to hear his footsteps clacking loudly on the hard floors in an otherwise silent room.
He looked away from the window and wandered into his room. The faster he went to sleep, the faster it'd be the next day, when he'd see her again.
It was raining. Crap. Should've looked out the window to check. And she called herself a ninja? She sighed and hoisted the bag over her shoulder, before setting out for...somewhere...
Flaw number two in her plan. She had been so eager to leave she hadn't reconsidered who to stay with. Sakura wasn't sure she could stand Ino's company for that long. Maybe if she walked around (in the rain, great plan, genius, her inner self mocked) for awhile, she'd have an idea.
Sighing yet again, she let her feet carry her to that bench she had sat on so long ago. This was the place where Sasuke had almost kissed her, and it was also the place he left her. She shivered, not entirely out of cold. Why was she dwelling on those memories? She was over that. He never loved her as more than a friend, and she no longer wanted him to.
She sat on the bench. Wish I'd had the forethought to bring an umbrella. So much for being the smart one. She put her head on her hands and closed her eyes, enjoying the feeling of the cool rain on her face. Crud, it's washing off all my makeup. Oh well. If I'm gonna run away from home, I might as well look like a runaway.
Sakura smiled, seeing in her mind's eye the first day of Team 7. Kakashi-sensei had been late, which later became routine with them. Naruto had been...enthusiastic, to say the least ("My name's Uzumaki Naruto, and I'm gonna be the next Hokage!"), Sasuke had been painfully cold to them ("There aren't many things I like...you're annoying"), and Sakura herself had been...
What had they thought of her? Back when she was almost 13, confident and sure that Sasuke loved her (wow, I was really delusional), she had thought they treasured her company. Which was probably true in Naruto's case. But Sasuke most definitely did not enjoy her presence any more than she had appreciated Naruto way back then. (I was such a jerk to him...I never apologized, either...)
She resolved that moment that she would apologize for those wrongs so many years ago when she saw him next. He had done so much for her and she had pushed him away, never even considering being friends with him. The medic-nin hoped she was more pleasant to be around now, but she knew that there were lots of girls nicer than her...like Hinata...
Okay, now it was a little too cool. Shivering again, she stood up. She was soaked! How long was I sitting there thinking? Now I'm going to catch a cold. This is just great, Sakura, just great.
She wondered if all this talking to herself was a sign of a mental problem. Might be the reason why everything seemed to be going so quickly and yet so slowly. And I'm still standing out here in the rain. Wow.
Lightning cracked, and Sakura cringed. She hated storms. With terrifying accuracy, she saw another bolt knock down a nearby tree, and gulped.
She started running, her feet knowing the way, her eyes firmly closed. Don't let that hit me, don't let that hit me...that sounded close...oh-
She was there, wherever there was. She felt the rain dripping off her clothes and appreciated the drier porch. She realized her teeth were chattering, but couldn't seem to make them stop, and finally opened her eyes, expecting to be at Ino's.
How the heck did this happen?
Sakura was looking at Naruto's front door. She hugged herself, trying to make herself warmer and only succeeding in getting her clothes even wetter. She knocked on the door, the noise hurting her ears. Oww...I think I'm starting to get a headache...
What troubled her more was...wow, my mind's feeling hazy...how she had ended up...is the ground moving?...here, at...why can't I think straight?...Naruto's apartment...wait...Naruto...that's not right...I should be at Ino's...
A light came on. Oh, shouldn't have opened my eyes...Naruto would be mad that she was so messed up...why am I even here what was I thinking...but not mad at her, never at her...too nice to me...crap, I hear footsteps...She was pretty sure things weren't supposed to look so blurry and inverted...oh no he's coming what do I say oh gosh this is crazy Sakura...did she come because she felt...I think my head's going to explode...safe with him?
He's opening the door oh no oh crap crap crappity crappy crap he's gonna ask why I'm here and I don't even know-
He looks worried I don't want to worry him...but my head hurts and I can't even talk...I don't want to...
"Sakura-chan! Are you okay? You're all pale! Sakura-chan!"
His hand feels cool on my forehead...don't stop that...I think I'm going to...
"Sakura-chan, speak to me, please!"
Oww...your voice is too loud, Naru...Naru...
"...Naruto..." she whispered weakly.
Sakura fainted into his arms.