This story is set years post war and is almost AU.
I don't own Naruto.
A simple solution to their problems…
"Let's get married."
Okay, it was not how he had planned to say it; definitely not this rushed and abrupt, certainly nothing as he had rehearsed repeatedly in front of his mirror since a few days. But the words were out and could not be retracted now.
Uzumaki Naruto nervously shot a sideways glance at his best buddy, his long term pal, his timeless confidante, gauging her reaction in trepidation. Albeit, 'buddy' and 'pal' did not really do justice to the, in his mind, image of feminine perfection which his eyes furtively scanned; slender, well toned frame topped by the pinkest hair he had ever seen in his life, face alight by the brightest green eyes he had ever come across; allure which had never ceased to turn male heads in admiration, whether in Konoha or elsewhere, his own being on top of the list, though he made sure never to do it in a too leery way, least that she noticed it and pounded him to a paste.
Yes, not to forget her scary temper; or the monstrous strength that had only increased with time. And the name that she had acquired for herself during the past years, having earned respect and admiration nationwide, adding to her appeal...
Yes, her… his best friend, and the one his heart had set on since as long as he could remember.
The two were tiredly sprawled on the lush green grassy ground under the shade of a wide oak tree, exhausted and battered from their two hours training. It was barely 8:00 in the morning and the summer sun was already blazing hot in the spotless blue sky; but the trickle of sweat which Naruto felt running down his back had nothing to do with the heat.
Said pal turned her head almost idly to eye him, calm and cool – definitely not the reaction that Naruto had been apprehending. He had been more imagining something in the line of a yell of "Have you gone out of your mind or what?"
Haruno Sakura contemplated the blond silently, barely fazed, used as she was to the never-ending, outrageous suggestions of her lifelong dunce of a friend. She had since long ceased to be dumbfounded by his ever extravagant 'proposals'; it was simply a waste of her energy. It was a while since the pink haired head medic-nin had come to the solemn conclusion that Uzumaki Naruto would get wrinkled, toothless, hairless and knobbly with old age and still be the most unpredictable, baka ninja of Konoha and would die being the number one prankster, ever. Being his best friend, she had heard and seen it all from the front seat row. Oh yes, she had.
From his: 'Sakura-Chan, let's play a prank Tsunade Baa-Chan today' – and the utterly pissed former Godaime had found all her stack of sake bottles to be filled with sugared water, resulting in the famous bellow that had resonated throughout Konoha and a chase which had ended some impressive craters; to his 'Sakura-Chan, let's have another go in unveiling Kakashi sensei's mask' – and the poor old man (well, old by shinobi standards) had the shock of his life when the two very adult and insanely strong former students of his had spent the day trying to get that mask down. Kakashi has laid down on his bed that night feeling more bone weary than he had been during the fourth war, though his face's dignity had been spared as at the last moment, the two having had mercy on him and refrained from coercing him to remove the mask.
And there was the day when the blond had claimed that Konoha was too quiet and boring and had dragged her to the Hokage monument to aid him in painting the six Hokage faces with huge moustaches and beards, to the delight of the most cheerful inhabitants of Konoha and outrage of the stuck-up bunch, and getting some poor Genins to clean the mess days later…
Oh, these were only some of his outrageous suggestions of adventure 'to cheer the day', as he called them.
What irked Sakura in all this was that she found herself participating more than often in these pranks. So many times Sakura had somewhat, almost despite herself and not really knowing how, found herself following the Uzumaki in one of his prankster adventure, exhaltingly putting the 'what ifs' aside and leaving it on him to deal with the consequences later, knowing that he would always found a way out. And he always did.
But, she had yet to hear THIS one though.
Marriage proposal? Friends do not propose marriages to friends.
And they were friends, best friends, only.
He had never made any suggestion that would threaten their solidly bonded friendship. Heck, he had even stopped pestering her for dates since a decade now - though they had lunches and dinners more than often per week, but it was never under the banner of 'date' or anything more than friendship.
A frown marred her brow as her mind slowly assimilated his 'proposal'. She pursed her lips. If it was a joke, she failed the hilarity of it. The next instant, her face began to darken. When would he put a filter from his brain to his mouth and limit what he blurts out, the baka?
Naruto immediately noticed the signs and realized that he was rapidly losing his ground – the dark face would be rapidly followed by a vein ticking out on her temple, and that temper of hers would explode, and she would explode him… It was how she usually worked, especially when dealing with him when he riled her: react first, think later. Admittedly, it took much more now to get her to a boiling point than what it used to take years earlier, and it only happened when he was in a particular mood of pushing her buttons just to get a reaction out of her.
For now, though, he needed to be able to lay out all his reasons first while he was still in a state to do it, so that she would have all the facts in hands when she would eventually give the proposal a serious consideration later, as he definitely knew she would.
He quickly scrambled into a sitting position. "Hear me out at least before you punch me out into the walls of Konoha," he pleaded hastily.
Sakura maintained her dark stare on him. "You have exactly one minute to explain yourself," she growled in a tone which certainly did not bode anything good for him and it was his cue to set off; he needed to be quick.
"I'm in a fix and I need help," he started hurriedly. "Some members of the council have been really, really nagging me lately. It had started since months now, but this past week had been worse; they are getting really persistent and on my nerves."
Impatient green eyes urged him to come to the point and he took a breath.
"They are demanding that that I get married."
One pink eyebrow rose incredulously at the words. "Married?" she repeated. She slowly got to a sitting position, her hands supporting her weight.
Naruto nodded. He had her full, serious attention now. "According to them, as the leader of the village, I'm obligated to set the good example and get married," he grumbled unhappily. "They feel it's not a good image that I'm projecting as Hokage to be still unmarried at this age."
She opened her mouth, but foreseeing what she was about to say, he hurried on.
"Tsunade Baa-Chan was over that age when she became Hokage, so it was not a problem, whereas they insist that I'm at the age to settle down and not to still be 'frolicking about'," he quoted the exact words that had been used.
"One of them even implied that I may have other sexual orientations and that's why I'm still unmarried," he spluttered, still outraged at the memory. "He claimed that my obsession to get Sasuke back was quite weird." He had wanted to throttle that old sly geezer. "And for them being of different orientation is, of course, even more out of question for a Hokage."
Sakura managed to hold a straight face even as her mind was filled with images of Naruto being with another man in that way. She quickly dragged her scandalised yet reluctantly fascinated mind back to his words, as he continued.
"I'm at the end of my patience having to endure this pressure from them…I'm simply fed up with their constant pestering and finding excuses to find faults in me being the Hokage," he sighed, raking a hand through his hair.
The blue cerulean eyes had darkened with frustration. Despite being a hero and loved by the village, there had still been a small group of the council, very small, thankfully, but still there, who had opposed his ascension to the Hokage, and till this day, they put all their effort to try to get him down. He usually managed to look over their attempts of low blows, but he was finding himself running out of excuses and his patience was running thin at their increasing demands about his single marital status.
He looked at her dejectedly. "I really don't have the energy or time," 'or the inclination' he thought to himself, "to go wife searching and selecting. At the same time I want to get rid of the flow of daughters, in which I have absolutely no interest at all, that some parents are throwing at me since my ascension to the Hokage title."
"Shouldn't that be the solution to your problem?" Sakura interrupted. "Why don't you simply choose someone from among them?" And what was that strange pang?
"Sakura-Chan! I'm not interested in getting married, least an arranged marriage in nobility!"
Her eyebrows shot up at that. Wasn't that the whole issue, his getting married?
"I was thinking about doing a blank marriage," he said.
At the dawning comprehension on her face, he continued.
"I thought we could do a blank marriage," he pointed to her and him. "It would only be platonic, like being flatmates," he hastily specified. "Something in the duration of two years will suffice, it will allow me to be able to shut those difficult council's geezers' mouth, even if momentarily and have some peace. But if ever you want to end it before the two years, for whatever reason, we will cease the arrangement immediately, no questions or bad feelings about it, I promise."
She stared incredulously at him. "And you think the council will look kindly upon a separation when that time comes?"
"They are demanding marriage; they did not specify that it need to be a lifelong one. Couples, even the best ones sometimes, get separated. And anyway, I'll tackle that issue when that time comes; at least I'll have a breather for the time being. I desperately want them off my back, even for a short while. And who knows, maybe Konohamaru will manage to kick my ass and gain the Hokage title by then, so my impending separation will not matter to the council anyway."
She was silent, too taken aback to say anything, not even smiling at the Konohamaru comment since they both knew it would take much, much more than what Konohamaru had right then to defeat Naruto.
"I thought since you don't have anybody..." he ventured nervously.
She shot him an indignant glare at that.
"At least, not anybody that I know about, right now," he hastily rectified. Nevertheless, being her best friend, he was well aware of all the details of her social life and knew that she did not have anyone in that way. He had always made it a point to look after her and he knew everybody she frequented…Not that he would have come in her way had she been interested in anybody – her happiness was primordial to him – but apart from the one, very brief story with Hisagi, a Waves Country medic-nin who came to Konoha for a one-week exchange the previous year, she has never gone out with anybody in a romantic capacity.
Looking at her pleadingly, he murmured.
"I thought of you because we are best friends and have been team-mates for so long; we are familiar and used to each others' ways, it will be easier to cohabit and will avoid awkwardness."
Sakura frowned, her thoughts whirling at what he was suggesting. Looking at those pleading blue eyes, she decided to humor him for a brief second. "And why did you think for one moment that I'll agree to this…arrangement…?"
He straightened his back immediately and looked at her earnestly. There was hope, he thought, and with a deep breath, pulled forth all his best negotiating skills.
"Well, firstly, I really need help here. Like in really, really. And you are my best friend, and best friends help each other."
She grunted. Yes, indeed, she would do anything to help him, as he would do too.
"It would also solve your huge problem of residence right now. You won't need to look for another apartment, and think about the saving you would be able to make to eventually buy a place of your own," he went on.
Sakura frowned thoughtfully. Yes, her residence problem was a major issue for her right now. Her old, sweet landlady had recently passed away and the apartment building has been passed on to her horrible nephew. Said man had immediately decided to double the rent rate of the apartments of the building. Sakura, along with the other residents, had tried to negotiate a compromise, but to no avail. Even Naruto, as the Hokage, had not been able to do anything about it since legally the man had the right to change the contract, as the ownership had changed, as was the law of Konoha.
Sakura simply could not afford the new exorbitant rent. She had a comfortable salary as head medic-nin, but she did not want to throw more than half of it away in a ridiculously expensive apartment. So, she was currently faced with the immense task of having to look for another place to move into as fast as possible.
"And with Akemi-san, you will be relieved of tiring housework and think about the warm, homemade, delicious meals that will always await you at the end of a long, tiring day," he added.
Trust Naruto to think in terms of his stomach, Sakura could help rolling her eyes. Akemi was Naruto's middle aged, wonderful housekeeper, whom Sakura herself had recruited for him, and she had to admit that the lady could cook.
Blue eyes danced mischievously as the blond continued, "And living together, you will have easier access to nag me to you heart's content." He tried to keep a straight face as he said that.
"Hey, I don't nag you that much!" she immediately exclaimed, indignant.
He eyed her with the look that said 'Really? Who are you kidding?'
She nagged him for EVERYTHING. About his eating – she was always checking with his housekeeper that he had healthy meals with lot veggies; about his health - God forbid if he had dared acquire a wound or take un-necessary risks; about his working hours - she would scold him if he stayed too late at the office; about him drinking alcohol – he very rarely did, not liking the thing, but the couple of times she had caught him faintly inebriated she had glowered at him and lecture him about liver damage and what not; about his finances – she would always caution him about being careful…The list goes on.
There had even been this one time when she had made a comment about his undergarments! He had been in her office for a vaccine, and when he had lowered the waist of his pants to bare his hip - nothing indecently exposed – she had looked at the partly exposed waistband of his boxers and had remarked something in the line of, "I do hope you wear fresh, clean boxers everyday!"
He had turned to look at her incredulously. Surely she had not..? Oh but she had.
It seemed as if she had realized the ludricity of her comment as well and had turned pink.
"I'll pretend that you have not said that," he had simply replied dryly and she had readily agreed.
Sometimes, Naruto felt that his mom had come from the heavens to have a chat with Sakura, discussing the things that he needed to be nagged about, since Sakura nagged him for almost the exact things his mother had lectured him about while he had met her briefly in the fox realm.
Well, someone has to look after him, Sakura thought defensively. He worked and cared so dedicatedly for their village, even at the detriment of his own personal life, the least she could do was ensure that he was properly cared for in turn. And surely I don't nag THAT much, she protested to herself, huffing.
"And," he continued, coming back to his persuasion task, knowing that the next one would rile her even more, "it's not as if we are getting any younger. Won't you feel better about shutting up those relatives of yours, even if for a short time?"
Yes, Sakura's relatives, especially on her paternal side, did have the tendency to point out her still unmarried status each they met. Luckily for her they rarely came to visit, but when they did, it was a nasty time for Sakura.
Then, belatedly realizing his jab about her age, Sakura bristled threateningly, just as Naruto had known she would. "Hey, we're only 25 years old!"
"25 years is old for a shinobi," he pointed out. "See how everybody in our group had already settled down?"
It was true. Ino was happily married to Shikamaru and unknown to anybody yet, was two month pregnant, as Sakura had found out from her tests results the previous day, Chouji was married to a girl form his clan and already had a 1 year old son, Ten-Ten was married to Neiji, Hinata was married to another Hyuuga and had a 2 years old daughter, Kiba got recently engaged to a girl form his clan, Lee had a long term girlfriend Ami, a lovely Jounin, Shino was married to a member of his own clan. Heck, even Sai had a fast girlfriend.
As for Sasuke, the guy already had two little Uchihas running about. Yes, their former team-mate had been that busy to build up his clan, but it was no surprise really as the guy had openly announced, at the age of 12, to have the burning ambition to rebuild his clan.
Naruto and Sakura had succeeded, together, against all odds, to bring their wayward team-mate home after the war. But it had not been the happily reunited team 7, as they had always dreamed; Sasuke had changed too much beyond recognition for that.
The only thing that had prevented a punishment of execution for his past deeds had been his major role in bringing down Madara and thus ending the war. Added to that, the veto of the Daimyo of Fire country, who did not want to see such a prestigious and powerful clan as the Uchiha disappear, had brought Sasuke punishment down to home-imprisonment and stripping him off his powers for 7 years. He had stonily accepted his sentence.
He had continued to coldly refuse his team-mates back in his life, remaining frigidly aloof and withdrawn despite Naruto's and Sakura's effort as they visited him at the Uchiha compound during his imprisonment. After a while, the two had reduced their visits, leaving the Uchiha him to his own things. Now, it was only Naruto who still went to visit him, Sakura had since long ceased to, not knowing what to say in his presence anymore.
But the two took happiness in the fact that at least Sasuke was back home and not driving further into a dark, hatred filled, lonely world. Since Sasuke had been allowed to marry during his home-imprisonment, he had taken a noble as wife, and his two sons had been born shortly after, within two-year intervals.
It has been one year since the Uchiha had been given his powers back though the close monitoring of his movements still stayed. Naruto had proposed him to get back in Konoha ranks, but Sasuke had refused to resume his life as a shinobi. The Uchiha fortune released to him had ensured that he was well off financially and he had preferred to remain secluded, tending to his properties.
So, to sum it up, Naruto and Sakura were the only two to still be single out of their group of friends.
For Naruto, the reason was simple, really. For him, no other girl had ever counted; it had always been Sakura and it would always be her, and if could not be her, it would be no one else, he had decided long ago.
He was not the first one to choose to be single - his two senseis, Jiraiya and Kakashi being some prime examples - and he would not be the last one to prefer a single life to a compromised life with someone other than the one of his heart. He refused to live a lie, to force himself to be with someone for whom he did hold such feelings for, as he had gently told Hinata years ago, after having given a pitifully short, failed attempt at a relationship with the Hyuuga heiress. It would have been unfair to her and he would not be able to live with himself.
He had never approached Sakura with his feelings because somehow, that opportunity seemed to have been missed as more years had passed. They had settled so deeply and comfortably in their close friendship that it had gotten hard to take the slightest risk to breach that bond; he had been terrified to do anything to put that bond in jeopardy.
What they had already was so strong, what they share transcends anything, they were as close as two human beings could be, excluding being lovers. He strived to be happy with what he had, preciously cherishing her affection and bond above.
But now, with this issue about the council rising, things could take a different turn. It was a far fetched thought and he did not want to dwell into it but still…one could hope.
Coming out of his musings, he met affronted green eyes glaring at him.
Sakura was visibly annoyed. Whatever their friends' status, poking her about her age had been a bad thing to do, and her eyes narrowed threateningly at the blond Hokage.
"So, this how you've come to this utterly, most ridiculous solution I've heard ever heard in my life," she growled, crackling her fists. "Your one minute is long over," she warned.
"Sakura-Chan!" Naruto wailed, quickly scrambling to his feet and running away for life, knowing that nothing more could be said now.
The citizens of Konoha did not react when they heard the yell of their young Rokudaime. There could be only one person who could make him yell for dear life like that– well, two, if they counted the former Godaime, but the retired woman rarely did that these days. So, that would be their head medic-nin, they all thought. The villagers just shook their heads knowingly as the growl of their monstrously-powered head medic-nin followed soon after. Being used to it, they happily continued with their occupations of the day, safe in the knowledge that they were dearly cherished and protected by their mighty Hokage as the front line defense, and if ever the enemy had, by fluke, managed to get past that impeccable defense, they had the best medic of the whole five nations to repair them back to health.
Just as Naruto had known she would, Sakura gave the strange proposal a thorough thought later that night, alone at home after her shift at the hospital. It was rare that Naruto asked her for serious help and she gave the request its due consideration, because she would do anything to help her best friend.
One thing he had been right, it was not as if she was taken that it would prevent her from accepting this request, nor did see anything like that to happen in the near future.
She had spent so many years chasing after her one-sided love for Sasuke, a couple of years further to come to terms with the fact that her feelings were and had always been futile and would never be returned, and some more years to get used to this reality and get herself completely purged of any residual feelings she had for the Uchiha, that by the time she was done with it all she had lost her romantic outlook of life and had been too wary of looking for a relationship anymore.
Not forgetting that there had always been this stormy and unexplained thing she had for Naruto all that time; feelings which had remained unsolved, since they had, on an unspoken, common decision, settled into a close friendship instead. It was a friendship that she valued above anything and friendship which neither of them had ever tried to change, keeping it safe and cherished.
The only man she had been acquainted with in a little more than friendly capacity had been Hisagi, and it was not as if there had been any major involvement or feelings shared. Knowing that it would be only for a few days, both of them had decided to keep the story light and pleasant.
Not that she was a moping about her lack of love life; she was very content with what she had. Her career was more than thrilling and she had a swarm of great friends, with Naruto on the top of her list, for her to be happy.
So, she was free of any present or forthcoming relationship restriction to consider Naruto's request. But though Naruto had made it sound so simple - typical of him, he always made things sound much easier, as impossible seemed to be absent in his vocabulary - Sakura, being the meticulous and brainy one, could see many loopholes in his plans. The major one was her own dormant, complicated feelings which she had buried deep within her.
It was definitely not a decision to take lightly, and Sakura remained awake until the wee morning hours, turning the prospect all around in her mind.
A couple of days later, Sakura found herself giving the proposal another serious thought as she faced her new landlord on the threshold of her apartment's door. She was trying desperately to hold on to her calm, her hands curled into a tight fist, curbing the urge to punch the middle aged man as the sleazy being ran his eyes over her form as soon as she opened her door. It was the third time he had come to her apartment for the past two weeks and his revolting attitude seemed to increase each time, seeing as he did not even attempt to hide the lecherous sweep of his eyes over her person.
Can't hit him, can't hit him, she chanted like the mantra in her head, her jaw clenched. Think about the consequences, the dark, cold prison, she insisted to herself, for she would be definitely imprisoned if she hit a civilian. He would simply die, or at worst suffer permanent damage if she landed a single punch on him.
"So, Sakura-san..." The way he drawled her name made her shudder in fury. "Have you come to a decision?" he asked in his nasal voice which grated on her nerves, the small beady eyes running over her again.
Her fists clenched tighter. "Legally, I have until the end of the month to give you my decision," she snapped, "so I still have four weeks left."
"I just came to remind you about it_" he started, but Sakura had had enough.
"I'll see you at the end of the month," she grated and slammed the door on his face.
She felt like screaming as she leaned against the door, cursing the predicament she was in for the umpteenth time. Looking around at the beloved, small but cozy living room which opened to the kitchen and dining room, she again despaired that she had to leave the place which she had called home for the past seven years since she had left her parents' house.
Good apartments were very rare to find these days. More and more shinobis were getting their own place at earlier age, so the demand for housing in Konoha had peaked during the past years, resulting in prices getting soaring high. She, along with the help of Ino, had been scrounging the town in the look of a decent place. The ones she could afford were scrawny, and the one she liked was not within the budget she had allocated for lodging, unless she decided to squeeze in her other expenses. She had considered sharing with a flatmate but all her friends were settled, most with families of their own, and the idea of sharing with a total stranger did not appeal to her.
The image of the one storeyed, bamboo shingles roofed house, surrounded by a small, lush green garden that was the Hokage residence was very, very appealing right then; house which she herself had a huge hand, (if not total hand) in decorating when the Rokudaime was given his Namikaze heritage at the age of 18.
But still, lodging should not play too importantly on her decision; it was their friendship which could be in jeopardy if all this turned sour, and she did not want to risk that for anything.
Later in the week, Sakura drearily slumped her form into her parents couch after the delicious and elaborate lunch cooked by her mother. She longed to escape to her apartment, but she could not, her mother's pleading glance forced her to curb that urge. It was her father's birthday and she had told her parents, since a week now, that it was her day off, so she could not find a valid excuse of not staying over for longer. She rarely had time to visit as it is, busy as she was as medic-nin, so the rare times she could manage it and for such special occasions she always ensured that she stay over as long as possible.
She usually loved to visit her parents and always enjoyed the pampering and fabulous cooking of her mother, but her averse to be present on this specific day stemmed from the presence of her out of town paternal relatives: her grandmother and her two aunts. The one who were always riling her about her still single status. They were from a civilian town, a day travel away from Konoha and had come for the birthday.
So, currently, Sakura felt like a grumpy, sulking kid, forced to behave properly around adults, dreading when they would start on her case. And she was not disappointed, for as soon as all the family gathered in the leaving room and were seated, it started.
"So, still no husband, Sakura?" roared her old grandma, sitting opposite to her. The old lady may look fragile at 70 years old, but it was just a false image as she was a real paragon, with a forceful personality and unbearably, stubbornly pushy when she wanted.
Being that they met very rarely, Sakura was not particularly close to her or her aunts and the fact that they did not understand her choice for being a shinobi did not help at all.
"Who would want such a …" Aunt Mai paused voluntarily, running a critical eye over Sakura, "muscular wife anyway," sighed the buxom woman dramatically, eyes lingering pointedly at the large forehead before falling down to the modest bust and the slim hips of her niece. "Men like their women to be more feminine and less domineering, Sakura."
Sakura scowled, retaining a snarky reply and held to her temper, a vein ticking at her temple. Yes, her forehead had not magically shrunk in size, neither had her bust miraculously expanded since her late teens, and her slim frame was not hotly voluptuous, her voice and temper when raised was anything but dulcet; but she had come to accept and like her looks as they were and her temperament could not be helped, and her relatives' words was not about to change that.
She took a deep breathe to calm herself. Her grandmother and aunts were not bad people, really, they were just very set in their own ways about the role of women. Being civilians, the idea of a woman being a Kunoichi and not married at the age of 16 and produce kids at 17, like her cousins had, was alien and incomprehensible to them, and in their world, women were sweet and subservient and agree with everything their husbands say.
Sakura had great difficulty in imagining her dragonic grandmother being sweet or obedient, though. She painfully swallowed her ire and was still struggling to get a polite response out, when her father chuckled loudly.
"Well, a very strong and deserving man would like her for what she is," he said affectionately, winking at his daughter. Sakura smiled a thanks to him. He had always advised her to take the family comments with a grain of salt, but Sakura still always got riled up by them. "Nothing less for my princess," he added proudly.
Her mother nodded in agreement. "Sakura is put on the same league as the esteemed Godaime in terms of medic-nin, she has already earned the respect of the whole village, even further nations" she said proudly.
Sakura did not miss the wistful glint that entered her mother's eyes and almost rolled her eyes. The older Haruno might be taking her side in front of their relatives, but whenever Sakura was home, she would always nudge her about any prospective son-in-law.
Her grandma huffed. "Well, she may be successful, but still without a man to return home to. Now look at _"
Sakura groaned and resolutely closed her mind to the rest of the conversation, having enough for the day. It was always the same story.
Why did it feel like someone from above was having a good laugh by throwing out the reasons that Naruto had enumerated to support his 'proposal'? She thought crossly.
Sakura reached her decision the very next day. In all logics and rationality, there were hundreds of reasons that this was the most foolish, reckless thing to do, but the fact that Naruto needed her help trumped all other reasons… the rest was all side benefits, which really were a solution to her immediate problems, as he had said. So, Sakura found herself finally wanting to take the plunge and accept his unusual proposal.
She found Naruto chatting with two Jounins of the administrative staff at the Hokage tower's lobby when she went to look for him during her lunch time.
She observed him for a moment, taking in his tall frame – he topped her by half a foot now – the face more angular now, the blond hair still as shaggy and unruly as ever, held by the Hitai-ate, the maroon Hokage robe suggesting the lean but powerful physique, his face alight as he laughed loudly at what one of the Jounins said.
She suddenly felt nervous about what they were about to do, her hands clammy as she shakily tucked away a stray lock of hair which had escaped her mid-back length braid. Drawing a deep breath, she squared her shoulder determinedly. She had made a decision, and would stick to it.
Naruto finally noticed her standing at the entrance. With a hurried apology, he took leave of the two Jounins and made his way in her direction. His eyes were hesitant as he walked towards her; they had not met since his 'proposal', so he was wary of her reaction, but his smile was the usual bright as he greeted her.
Sakura nodded back, remaining standing where she was and waited for him to reach her side, within discreet-talking distance.
"Are we having lunch together?" he asked, trying to recall whether they were to meet on that day. Most of the time, he was the one to go to get her from the hospital when they met for lunch, but they had not made any plans for that day as far as he knew.
"About that proposal of yours…" Sakura started in a low voice, deciding to go straight to the subject and he immediately snapped to attention, looking at her carefully.
"It will be like flatmates only, correct?" she asked almost hesitantly.
Naruto felt a jolt. Was she agreeing? "You trust me?" he asked simply.
Her eyes snapped at him. He did not even need to ask that question. She trusted him blindly. With her life. "Do you even need to ask that?" she replied.
"Then I give you my word that I would never cross any boundaries."
She stared at him, his serious tone imparting his sincerity to that commitment, and she slowly nodded.
"Well, unless YOU want me to," he then added, a sly, teasing grin on his face, winking roguishly at her.
She growled and rolled her eyes. Trust him to break a serious moment. "Platonic flatmates," she said firmly, her eyes twitching and he immediately chuckled nervously.
"Just teasing, Sakura-Chan, you know that."
"I'm being thrown out of my apartment in barely three weeks," she informed him. "I'll go to my parents in the meantime_"
"We'll do a quick wedding," Naruto threw in smoothly. "Shall we go for lunch to discuss about all this?" he proposed, as they were still standing on the lobby of the Hokage tower, and she acquiesced.
So, once again Sakura find herself following her idiot of a friend in a reckless adventure, longer term this time, and once again, exhaltingly putting the what ifs aside and letting it on him to deal with the consequences when they come.