A/N: Okay, so I've been gone for... what, months now? And yes, I'm very sorry about that. Second year of university is a lot harder than I'd originally thought. My bad XD On the bright side, I just finished my last exam for the semester this morning and I already have another chapter ready to be posted, so that the delay I put everyone through doesn't happen again. Again, I'm sorry to anyone who was actually interested in the story before I sort of went AWOL.
Anyway, one thing I wanted to mention. Something very... sad happens in this chapter. Yes, sad. BUT, please keep reading. This is a NaruSaku, and I don't believe it depressing endings. Well actually, its more that I'm incapable or writing a depressing ending. So... yeah XD
Disclaimer: Yes, I own Naruto! Mwuhahaha. Wait, what? This isn't the place where all my dreams come true? Damn, guess I don't then. Boo.
Sakura stared down in horror at the wound in Naruto's chest. It was large and he was losing too much blood. Naruto was already looking deathly pale and Sakura was trying hard not to notice the similarities between him and Sai when she had been healing him.
As if the blood loss and the gaping hole in his chest weren't bad enough, it seemed as though the Kyuubi's chakra was making the wound worse. Sakura let out a shuddering breath, her hand unconsciously touching the spot on her arm where three scars remained from her own encounter with the poisonous chakra.
She couldn't be sure of the exact cause of this effect. After all, sometimes it took days to identify the effects and ingredients of a poison. And it was beginning to look like even surviving a few minutes would be a miracle.
She shook her head, trying to rid herself of these thoughts. Naruto would make it. She would see to it if it killed her.
She looked around, determining whether or not it was safe enough to begin to heal him. To her surprise, most of the enemies had been dealt with. There were few left, most of them being dealt with by the Raikage and Gaara.
As she glanced in the direction of the Tsuchikage, Sakura could barely believe her eyes.
Ryuu was being pushed back by none other than Kakashi. As cliché as the thought was, Sakura could only compare the man to a hurricane, though the destruction he caused seemed to be more controlled and focused than a force of nature could ever accomplish. He pushed the Tsuchikage back, attacking over and over again and not letting up. Were Sakura not dealing with a dying teammate already, she would've been annoyed at Kakashi and worried about the amount of chakra he was using.
But Naruto was more important at the moment.
She paused briefly as she mulled that thought over.
No, as important as her former sensei was to her, Naruto would always be more important.
Her hands began to glow, the familiar green light illuminating the nearby debris, the warmth of her chakra flooding the formerly cool air. As she placed her hands over the wounds, she felt her chakra enter his system, just as it had many times before.
She couldn't help but chuckle sadly. She always hated this part of her job. Not the patching people up. I mean, what kind of person would train to be a medic but hate healing people? No, the part she hated about being a medic-nin, one of the most skilled, in fact, was that she was always patching Naruto up after a mission. And it killed her every time.
She'd healed him several times before. During the war and after, not to mention all of the missions they'd been on before that. In fact, she was so used to the process that she didn't even need to concentrate on what her chakra was doing. It was like her chakra itself knew what to do. She simply sat there, allowing her chakra to flow through his system, speeding up the healing process and cleansing the wound.
While she waited, she allowed her eyes to travel up Naruto body. She'd removed his shirt and robes so that she could get to the wound, and it gave her a full view of his torso.
Unfortunately, that also included the scars he'd received over the years.
She sighed sadly as her eyes noticed one near his neck. That one had been a wound from one of the Edo Tensei zombies in the war. One of the former jinchuriki, she thought. Whoever it was, they'd gotten close to Naruto and nearly cut off his head. If it hadn't been for Bee, Naruto was sure he'd have been killed.
Sakura had scolded him for nearly an hour after that, right before pulling him into a hug and telling him he needed to be more careful.
Her eyes moved down his chest and noticed one near the center of his chest. That was where Sasuke's chidori had hit him the first time. Though the Kyuubi's chakra had healed it, it still held a faint scar, one that still sent a pang of guilt through Sakura every time she saw it.
As she continued to look at all of the wounds on his chest, she realized that almost every single one had been healed by her. Those that hadn't had been healed by either Tsunade or the Kyuubi. But most, at least 80% of them, had been her. She smiled a little sadly, glancing up at Naruto's face. To her surprise, he looked very calm. He didn't look at all in pain like he had a moment ago. 'Must be the adrenaline,' she thought to herself.
He also happened to be staring at her. Feeling a little self-conscious, Sakura put on her best nagging face and frowned at him. "You just can't keep out of trouble, huh?"
He grinned, though it was so weak that the sight nearly made her cry. Naruto should never look like that. He didn't deserve to look uncomfortable in any way.
"Sorry Sakura-chan…" Naruto replied. His voice was gravelly. He reached up with his arm and gently cupped her cheek, his thumb stroking it lightly. She leaned into it, using every bit of willpower she had to hold back her tears.
"You need to stop worrying me, baka," she said, her watery eyes meeting his. To her relief, the spark that she'd always noticed within him, one that most people found themselves drawn to, was still present. That was good. It gave her hope.
Naruto grinned again, his hand dropping away slowly. He seemed to be losing a lot of energy, which brought Sakura's mind back to the task at hand.
"I need you to stay awake, okay?" she asked him. He paused for a moment before nodding weakly. He didn't really need to be told that. After all, a lot of his wounds from past fights had been bad enough that she had told him that before. But this wound was also among the worst he'd ever received. Again, she found he was injured too much for her liking. She gave him a small smile and turned back to the wound.
What she saw sent a cold chill through her.
In the entire time she hadn't been looking, she figured that the bleeding, at the very least, would stop. Her chakra should have been flowing within his system, speeding up his natural recovery processes. To her horror, the wound still looked exactly the same, if not worse. It was as if she'd done nothing at all.
She didn't understand. What was happening? Why was her chakra not working?
She glanced over at one of the fallen swords again, her mind going over every little fact she had learned about the poison so far.
First off, it was made from ingredients that are usually used in medicines, not poisons. Very few of the ingredients were harmful.
Secondly, the poison seemed to only affect the wounded area, instead of spreading through Naruto's system. This meant the poison was either applied too lightly, or it was designed to be that way. She had a feeling it was the latter, as the Tsuchikage wouldn't have messed up on a simple mistake like this. He obviously felt a strong need to deal with Naruto.
Finally, it contained an ingredient that neutralized chakra, mostly used to cleanse poisonous chakra from a wound.
She paused, considering her information.
It contained an ingredient that was used to get rid of chakra. Was that it? She glanced down at the wound, where she could see small amounts of the Kyuubi's red chakra spring up from time to time continuing its rampage across Naruto's wound.
She frowned. Even the Kyuubi's chakra was unable to heal Naruto. Instead of healing the wound, all the chakra seemed to be doing was cause damage to the surrounding area, which just made the wound worse.
She growled quietly. She wouldn't let Ryuu win. Naruto would live.
It took all of her willpower to stop herself from sobbing.
She couldn't lose Naruto like this.
He was rage in mortal form. All of his enemies fell away before him, none of them able to stand up to him once he got going.
He ducked under one more of the underlings' sword swings before he sprang up, slicing upward with a flash of his kunai. The man fell to his knees, shock written across his face. Kakashi didn't even spare him a second glance as he moved forward. This man was not important. No, he was merely an obstacle, thrown in the way of his true goal.
No, the Tsuchikage was the one he wanted.
He ran over to where the Tsuchikage was locked in battle with the Mizukage. The man barely even knew what was happening before Kakashi's hands were forming the seals for one of his many jutsus.
Raiton: Raijū Hashiri no Jutsu. All around his hand, the air began to crackle and, and instant later, a small beast made of lightning was running at the Tsuchikage. Both he and the Mizukage were caught by surprise and both jumped back, not sure whom exactly he was aiming at. The beast gave a silent roar and began to chase Ryuu down. He scowled, running through several hand seals of his own.
Luckily for him, he happened to have an affinity for wind Justus.
Ryuu spit out a small blast of air. The lightning beast, being made of electricity, dissipated into nothing.
The Tsuchikage smirked, obviously pleased at besting that technique. At least, he did until he noticed Kakashi leaping through the air, his hand crackling and sparking from the electricity he had concentrated around it.
He formed his hand seals again, getting ready to hit Kakashi as he hit the ground.
Kakashi was too fast, however. The instant his foot made contact with the dirty and debris covered floor of the former conference room, he pushed off, rolling to the side as the spot he'd been standing in before was obliterated by the air bullet. Then he launched himself again, thrusting his arm out in an attempt to stab his Raikiri into Ryuu's chest.
To his annoyance, the Tsuchikage moved back, out of reach. Then again, Kakashi figured that if he wasn't capable of that much, he wouldn't be the Tsuchikage.
He sighed, leaping out of the way of another Renkūdan erased the spot he'd been standing in before to nothing. He quickly formed some more hand seals, even as a small part of his brain told him he was using too much chakra. But he didn't care. He would not, could not, allow this man to take away one of the only precious people he had left.
Just as a fourth Renkudan was about to slam into his head, a wall of earth rose up from beneath the floor of the conference room, breaking the through wood floor and blocking the air bullet from hitting Kakashi.
Kakashi sighed as he began to plan he next set of actions. The Tsuchikage would no longer be a danger to Naruto after this day. He would make sure of that.
The world was silent and unmoving. He glanced around, trying to figure out exactly what had happened. He could see his vision fading in and out, his eyelids as heavy as lead. He wanted to sleep so badly. Why couldn't he? What was stopping him? It would've been so easy and he was so tired that he was sure he'd fall asleep within moments.
So why didn't he?
He glanced downwards as he felt a small spark of pain. Unable to move his head, his eyes were the only thing that could move. As a result, all he saw was a head of pink hair.
If it didn't hurt to breathe he would've sighed.
She was the reason he couldn't sleep. She'd told him not to, in the gentlest voice he'd ever heard her use. He paused wondering at the reason for her tone. Not to mention the tears he'd clearly seen in her eyes. She really had beautiful eyes. Even with tears ready to fall like that. But what was the reason for those tears?
Another spark of pain caused him to mentally roll his eyes.
Ah yes. The hole in his chest. That was why.
He felt light headed and unable to think. The pain had dulled now and he only really felt those small sparks of pain that sprung up every now and again.
He glanced down again, trying to figure out the how much more she needed to heal him. But as his eyes locked onto that head of pink hair again, he found that he didn't really want to look at anything other than that.
It was such beautiful hair. It was something that had drawn him to her in the first place. Not that that should have been surprising. Pink hair wasn't exactly common and would draw the gaze of anyone who saw it.
He paused as Sakura raised her head from where she'd been leaning over him, her full features coming into view. She was biting her lip, he noticed. Something she did when she was nervous. It was also something he found completely and utterly adorable. It made him want to kiss her. Then again, most of what she did made him want to kiss her. How he had gone about denying that for years was a mystery to him. Really, maybe Sakura had been on to something all those times she called him an idiot.
He studied her features for a few moments. She was dirty, covered with debris from when the explosion had rocked the room. Dirt and chunks of wood stuck in her hair. Her face was pale, her breathing heavier and more laboured than usual. Yet, despite this, her brows were furrowed, her eyes narrowed in concentration. He wondered if she ever realized how good she looked, even in a situation like this. He doubted it. Even when she wasn't covered in dirt and blood, Sakura wasn't always as confident as she let on. Despite her vanity in her younger years, the whole confession to Sasuke thing had deeply damaged her self-confidence, something he still blamed the teme for to this day.
He did sigh this time, despite the pain that shot up through his chest. He cringed, drawing her attention from his wound to his face.
"Naruto?" she asked, her voice full of worry. He didn't like that tone. If she ever used a genuinely worried tone, it usually meant that he was in very, very bad shape.
"Y…yeah?" he asked, trying to speak even as his first attempt came out as a sort of forced wheeze. He noticed her brow furrow even more, her worry increase. He didn't like that. Sakura shouldn't look so sad. He smiled up at her, even though even he could tell it wasn't up to his usual standards. Then again, it wasn't exactly easy to reproduce the smile he reserved for her when heone had a gaping hole in his chest.
Nevertheless, he noticed the corners of her mouth turn up in a slight smile.
"Baka…" she muttered, though he noticed there wasn't as much playfulness in her voice as usual. Despite all the times he managed to get under her skin or the times she found it necessary to nag him about something, he always knew that she never really meant any of her insults. Except maybe when she called him a pervert, but even he knew he sort of deserved those. But now, she was sad and he frowned knowing that it was his fault.
"Sakura-chan…" he wheezed again, "That's not nice…" he paused again. God, it hurt so much to speak! It seemed that Sakura noticed this because she gently placed a finger on his lips, shushing him as she briefly glanced at his wound for a moment. He didn't miss the expression of despair that briefly passed over her face.
But then it was gone and she was looking back at him, her eyes full of the worry she tried so desperately to hide from him.
"Please Naruto, focus only on staying awake. Just… don't push yourself," she said, her voice weak and full of emotion. He could tell she was ready to cry, but was holding it back. She always had cried easily. Then again, if he thought back, he seemed to remember that every one of those instances related to either him or Sasuke.
As he watched her return to her work, he pushed at the darkness creeping into his vision. He felt so weak now. A nap would have been nice, even for just a little bit. But Sakura had told him not to. And he trusted her above all others, so he would stay awake, if only to make her happy.
Time passed and Sakura tried her hardest to heal Naruto. He kept himself awake, even as his surroundings were consumed by the darkness within his vision. It was like a shadow was engulfing the world around him, the only thing keeping him there being Sakura. He grinned at the thought.
It was at that moment that he noticed her tears flowing freely now. Why was she crying?
She turned to him, her eyes now full of despair. Giving him a very watery smile, she tried to speak. Her voice cracks and she needs to clear her throat before trying again. Even when sound does come out, it's quiet, almost a whisper.
"Naruto, I want you to promise me something," she said, her eyes locked onto his. He nodded, his energy now long gone. He couldn't even speak anymore.
"Please, promise you'll stay with me. That you… you'll pull through this."
His eyes widened, his brain not sure that what he'd heard was correct. But as he gazed into her eyes, reading her emotions, he finally understood.
He was dying and she didn't know how to save him.
This was her last hope. After all, he always kept his promises, didn't he? Well, to her he did. He would do anything for her, he would die for her. He doubted at times that even she understood how far he'd go for her.
But this was something he realized he couldn't promise.
Because he was dying and if Sakura herself couldn't save him, he doubted anyone could. As much as he wanted to nod, to tell her that he would pull through, he knew that it would be wrong to give her false hope.
He gave her a grim smile. It told her all she needed to know and she burst into tears, sobbing freely now.
He looked away, unable to watch her cry. Not to mention he was more than a little upset that this was the end.
There was so much he had yet to accomplish! He still needed to beat Shikamaru in Shogi. He had to read all of those old scrolls Ero-sennin had left behind. Kakashi had promised him once to spar with him, one-on-one.
He still needed to have kids. To marry someone. To live and grow old with them.
And there was only one person he wanted to do those last ones with.
He turned to look at Sakura again, watching as she wiped at her tears in vain. His eyes settled on her lips. Those lips he'd been so afraid to kiss, afraid that it would ruin all that they had. But hell, he was dying! And if he couldn't do all the things he'd mentioned earlier, then he knew exactly what he wanted his final memory of life to be.
Sakura was crying freely now, wiping her tears with the back of her hands. She couldn't do it. She couldn't save him. His wound just wouldn't heal and that damned poison was stopping her chakra from healing it.
It surprised her that even the Kyuubi's chakra was unable to heal the wound, being as powerful as it was. Maybe if the Naruto focused the Kyuubi's chakra into the wound or something, she'd have a chance. But that was impossible, since Naruto lacked the proper chakra control for something so precise and even if he did, he was too weak now to do it.
Suddenly, a low moan brought her attention back to Naruto's face, her hands held absent-mindedly over his wound, trying to give him as much time as possible.
His eyes opened, revealing those brilliant blue irises she loved so much. He glanced over at her, a determined look in his eyes. It surprised her. This was a look he usually reserved for a particularly tough battle, training, or anything involving Sasuke. She couldn't recall a single time he'd looked like that at her.
"Sa…Sakura-chan," he wheezed out, the sound breaking Sakura's heart.
She leaned closer, so that she could hear him better. He placed a hand on her cheek again and she found herself leaning into that.
They remained like that for a moment, allowing Naruto to gather the strength to continue. When he did he grinned weakly at her. "Sakura-chan…" he repeated, the rest of his sentence trailing off as his voice fell to even quieter than a whisper.
In an attempt to hear what he'd just said, Sakura found herself leaning in a little more, bringing her face within a few inches of his.
Suddenly, he grinned again and with a strength neither she nor he himself knew he possessed, he pulled her head forward.
Sakura gasped at the feeling of his lips on hers and for a few painfully slow seconds she was frozen.
Then she began to return the kiss, even as tears began to stream down her face.
The kiss itself was pretty chaste, since Naruto barely had the energy to talk let alone kiss. But despite that, the emotions Naruto was trying to express within that one kiss were so intense that Sakura could already feel a new batch of tears. In that one moment alone, she could practically feel the love he was feeling for her.
After a moment of just feeling his lips on hers, of feeling how much he loved her, she felt him pull back just enough to speak.
"Sakura-chan, I love you. I'll always love you," he said, his voice so weak she had to strain her ears to even hear it.
Her eyes met his and she couldn't believe the sheer desire and longing she saw in his. Then again, she had no doubt that it was mirrored in her own eyes, just as intensely.
"I love you too," she replied, her voice strong and sure.
At that moment she saw Naruto's eyes widen, his grin change into a complete smile that overtook his entire expression. It was so happy, so full of pure joy that Sakura felt her own lips turn up into her own smile at the sight. He pressed another kiss to her lips before pulling away.
Except after a moment she realized that he wasn't pulling away at all. He was falling, his eyes closed peacefully with his mouth still set into that wide smile of his.
Sakura felt her heart stop. Her hands, which were still pressed to his wound, trying to heal him, stopped. Both grabbed his wrist, attempting to find a pulse.
"Naruto!" she cried, her voice strained slightly. He didn't answer. Sakura felt her breathing quicken, her heart breaking more and more with every passing moment. "Naruto!" she called a little louder.
Finally, her hands were able to work up the long sleeves of the Hokage robes. She pulled them up, her hands pressed to his wrist, desperate for some sign that he was still there, that he wasn't dead and that this was all some horrible dream.
After a moment, she felt her sobs return, sounding louder and more broken than they'd ever sounded before.
There was nothing. No pulse. No beating that would tell her that Naruto wasn't dead, that he'd just lost consciousness or that he'd just decided on taking a sudden nap. No, there was just nothing. Naruto was dead.