I promised my friend a lemon in return for some fanart but no matter now much I stared at the five short paragraphs I'd written I couldn't come up with anything (plenty of ideas but no where to start) and this wouldn't leave me alone.
This will probably be the last chapter for this fic, it doesn't seem very popular any more and there's no point dragging it out if that's the case but at the same time I felt I needed to add this one so that I had one counterpart to each Naruto-centric chapter. Although it's a little late this is the partner to chapter four.
Thank you to all of you who've stuck with me this far and have put me on your favourite or alert lists as well as those of you who reviewed the first chapters. A very big thank you to the lovely miss Nako13yeh who's faithfully reviewed each and every chapter, you always make me smile!
What had she done?
Sakura had been Tsunade's apprentice for over a year now and had worked hard to learn everything her master had taught her as well as going out and learning as much as she was able from books. This had lead to her current, awful realization.
Sakura knew she'd changed a lot from the girl who had first been assigned to Team 7 but looking back on it now she realised that, as inadvertent as her actions had been, what she had done to her blonde team mate had been inexcusable.
Looking down at the text book on her desk, she re-read the section she'd just been reading. Too many of the sentences rang home, each one reminding her of the whiskered boy she had always treated so harshly, with no regard for his feelings. She'd always known he had no family but had never thought past how jealous she was to think of just how terribly lonely she would have been had her parents not been there to welcome her home every day, to scold her when she had done wrong, to praise her when she had done well and, above all, to love her through it all. All things he had never experienced. Instead she had envied him the freedom and blamed him for his loud, attention seeking behaviour.
Now that thought caused tears to well up in her eyes.
How many times had he asked her and the rest of Team 7 to spend time with him outside of missions, whether for lunch or for an extra afternoon of training? How ever many times it had been, she had turned him down just as many, as had Kakashi and Sasuke. Never once had she willingly spent time with Naruto and each time she was 'stuck' on a mission with him she had always made it clear to him just how unhappy that had made her.
And still he'd cared for her. For all of them.
The worst part of all of it was that it had taken a textbook, a textbook, to make her see the truth that had been there all along. She called herself a Kunoichi and yet lacked the observational skills to see what was right in front of her until she read it in a text book. The shame of it burned in the back of her throat like acid.
Maybe she had been too young to truly understand what Naruto was feeling but she still felt that she should have been able to comprehend some small part of it had she made the time for him even once. She never had.
The book on her desk was heavy, well read and contained sections on most medical conditions and treatments, all of varying length. The one she was looking at now was one she had begun to read without much interest as the subject was one she hadn't expected to be faced with as a field medic but the entry was a long one and as such seemed to be of significant importance.
Looking at the words staring up at her in black and white she wondered how she had ever failed to see the signs but the truth was just as obvious; this was Naruto she was talking about and that said it all.
Every reason she could think of for him feeling that way, and there were plenty now that she considered it, was also a reason for him not to show it, to keep it all to himself and never ask for help.
But he tried to. He tried to and we brushed him off.
She could even think of several occasions where one of them had pointed out that he'd turned up for training with more wounds than he had left with the day before and more often than not they weren't the kinds of injuries you would get while training. Rather, they tended to be thin, deep cuts hidden amongst the many less uniform scrapes and scratches that he had received, the same as her and Sasuke, while carrying out their D rank missions. None of them had ever seen them for what they were, even Kakashi-sensei who always spoke about seeing beneath the underneath had merely told the loud-mouthed genin to be more careful in future before quickly turning his attention back to his infamous book
The more the Sakura thought back, the more occasions she could think of: cuts and bandages the blonde hadn't been able to explain, the look that would sometimes appear on his face when she or one of the others would turn down an invitation to spend time with him, days when no matter how hard he had tried he had seemed unable to shake off a particularly glum mood and days when his usual exuberance had been exaggerated out of all proportion until even she had known it had been fake without ever realising the cause.
And then Sasuke had left. She'd known how very much it had hurt her team mate to know that Sasuke had abandoned them of his own volition but instead of trying to comfort him she had asked him to bring the Uchiha back, had let him promise to do so knowing the burden it would put on those too thin shoulders.
He'd failed, of course he had, she'd known before he left the village that he would because Sasuke had already made his choice. She should never have let him go but rather than stopping him, freeing him from that impossible promise she had let him go, knowing that he would fail and how that would make her feel about him. What difference would it make? She didn't care for him anyway...
Now she wanted to find the blonde, tell him how terribly sorry she was, make sure he never felt so alone again and try and make up for all the wrongs she had done him but that was impossible. Neither she nor anyone else knew where Naruto and the Sanin Jiraiya were right now, nor when exactly they would be back, only that the white haired man had intended to return within three years.
Snapping the heavy volume shut, Sakura got up and made herself a promise. By the time Naruto returned from his training she'd be stronger, strong enough to help him bring Sasuke back rather than laying the burden on him. And more than that, she'd be the friend he'd always deserved.