ONE WEEK LATER
"I'm afraid I must've heard you wrong." Orochimaru's salacious smirk turns Sasuke's stomach, but he's here in this shithole Oto University office for a reason. "What do you mean, you're transferring back to Konoha?"
He spits the name of Sasuke's former (and soon-to-be current) university like a swear. He looks at Sasuke from behind his desk, with beady, serpentine eyes that see too much and not enough when they look at him, and his lip curls into a sneer.
Sasuke doesn't flinch.
"I'll need my credits transferred by the start of spring term," he replies coolly.
He does not like being back in Oto, even if he is just here to collect his things from his room and arrange to be enrolled back at Konoha University for the spring. After experiencing rebirth with his old friends and his best girl, the atmosphere at Oto is even more repellant than it used to be.
It's barren, even in its warmth. His classmates are social climbers, shrewd and hostile, vicious and each one will stab his best friend in the back to move forward. It is a harsh, lonely place, and now that he's seen Naruto and Sakura and the rest, he wonders how he could have survived, even thrived in an environment like this.
But no more. It's over. All that's left is to rebuild.
"Surely you must be joking, boy," Orochimaru chuckles. The sound is oily, and Sasuke is repulsed. "You left that festering wasteland after only one semester, and here, I have provided you with your own path to success. Think of what you could accomplish, under my tutelage!"
"I've thought about it." Sasuke's voice is cold now as he shoulders his backpack more securely and slams his student transfer forms on the desk of his advisor.
He turns and heads to the door, and is stopped by Orochimaru's seemingly-innocuous question.
"Is she pretty, Sasuke-kun?"
Sasuke is frozen then, one hand on the doorknob, the other clenching into a fist around the strap of his backpack. He has never hated Orochimaru as much in the year he's known him.
"The girl you're throwing your future away for," Orochimaru continues, and Sasuke's eyes narrow. "She must be a vision, to have tempted even the infamous Uchiha Sasuke from the path his family set forth for him. I wonder how they would feel, knowing that their only remaining heir is squandering his unique opportunity for success to play house with a college coed."
Sasuke turns back to his old mentor with dark eyes full of fire. Orochimaru looks unafraid, unaffected, even amused by this latest turn of events. And Sasuke knows there can be no life for him in Oto, that everything that makes life worth living resides back in Konoha.
"I'm not only Uchiha," he murmurs quietly, but his voice carries throughout Orochimaru's office.
And the smirk is wiped clean from Orochimaru's face. And Sasuke has delivered the transfer forms to him and there is nothing left to say. The door closes behind him and it closes on Orochimaru, on ambition at any cost, and every wasted moment he spent away from the ones he never stopped loving.
Sakura finds herself in a familiar place: the library, the quiet section, books opened in front of her and she is terrified, because it is Finals Week and Sakura allowed herself to be so in love with Sasuke that her studies were plumb forgotten.
But premed waits for no man.
So while Sasuke is making transfer arrangements back in Oto, she has isolated herself here and is determined to learn all she can of blood types and cellular division and chromosomal abnormalities to make up for the week she spent with stars in her eyes instead of a textbook.
And part of her is choking on her own happiness, but she quiets that half of her down. School is important. Learning is important. Finals are important. A 3.75 GPA is required for her major. A 4.0 is required from Tsunade.
Busy, busy, busy. Studying always, always learning, but can you begrudge her this distraction?
She can't fight the smile that threatens at the corners of her mouth, and it's the smile Naruto sees when he sits down across from her.
"Hey, Sakura-chan," he says with a grin.
"Naruto!" She is surprised to see him. She has never, in the year she's known him, seen him set foot into the library. He looks extraordinarily out of place. "What are you doing here?"
"Checking in on one of my favorite girls, is that so wrong?" he returns, with a teasing grin.
"In a library?" she returns skeptically, and he laughs.
"Okay, you got me. I just wanted to gloat a little bit. Told you I'd get him to come back!"
Sakura blushes. "I…I know you did. Naruto I really don't know how I can thank you. I didn't think he'd ever come back."
"Wish I could take all the credit," Naruto replies, his voice carrying in the silent library and attracting a fair amount of negative attention from the library and other students. For once, though, Sakura doesn't care what everyone's thinking when they look over. "But you know it was you, too."
"I hope he did it for himself," Sakura presses, ignoring her books again. "I hope it wasn't just for us, Naruto. I hope it was his own choice. I really think he can be happy someday, you know? If he's doing what he loves. If he figures out what he loves."
"Sasuke's only ever loved two things in his life," Naruto says flatly. "Baseball, and you. And the only place he can have both is right here. So if he ain't happy here, he ain't gonna be happy anywhere."
Sakura is scarlet. She doesn't want to ask this next part but she does, because she shouldn't be afraid of hearing the truth.
"Do you…Naruto do you really think he loves me?"
Naruto laughs again. "Of course he does. And everyone says you're the smart one!"
It's hard not to feel confident with Naruto around. He shines, he just shines and it's impossible to doubt anything he says. Even if what he's saying is as blissfully inconceivable as 'Sasuke loves you.'
It's too good to be true, but so is Naruto, so is Sasuke, so is Ino, so is college. So maybe, Sakura thinks, in the privacy of her own mind that isn't such a dark and scary place lately, maybe it isn't too good at all.
Maybe it's just true.
Naruto stays and chatters with her and it's background noise to her studying, and all the while her heart plays a song that sounds like moments with Sasuke and she thinks she's never been so happy. Never been so hopeful.
And it's beautiful.
Orochimaru isn't happy, Sasuke knows, as he pulls into his preferred parking space at the Konoha University student lot. He isn't happy, and he probably won't let this go. Sasuke's the jewel of his collection after all. And Orochimaru isn't known for his ability to share.
There will be problems ahead now, because of his sudden transfer. But he will face them head on, because for the first time in a very long time, Sasuke knows he's in the right place.
He carries a bag of his things over his shoulder inside the building. Up the stairs to the fourth floor, last room at the end of the hall. He opens the door with the key that still works hanging from his keychain and steps inside.
Naruto isn't there.
He's surprised to see her but not as surprised as he feels he should be. She's smiling at him, a gorgeous smile that he hasn't seen for awhile, and sitting on his stripped bed with a textbook in her hands.
"Hey handsome," she says sweetly, invoking his old nickname and she's beautiful with that unafraid happiness shining in verdant green eyes.
He feels like he's home now, in this cramped little room. Home is chipped paint on well-worn walls and the smell of stale ramen and old socks. Home is half a room covered with trash and clothes and papers, the other half empty and waiting to be refilled.
Home is a girl who is stupid to love him the way she does. Home is a girl he loves back, and ten times harder.
"I wanted to be here when you got back," she says.
A smirk lifts his lips and he drops the bag unceremoniously on the floor. In an instant, Sakura hops off his bed and her arms wrap around his neck like vices and she whispers in his ear, "I missed you," and she whispers, "Welcome home," and she whispers, "I love you."
She's never said it to him before.
"Aa," he mumbles back.
"I missed you, too." I love you, too. "Annoying girl." I always did. He kisses her forehead. I always will.
FOUR MONTHS LATER
It's Movie Night.
Well, it's technically Movie Night. Actually, it's Philadelphia vs. New York in the season opener and that means everyone's in Sakura's single room yelling and screaming and arguing and man does it feel good to have everyone back!
Naruto surveys the room with a grin. Ino sits on the floor with Baby Hana crawling around in front of her, Shikamaru pretending to sleep on Sakura's beanbag chair but really keeping an eye on his daughter, the only thing he's not lazy enough to ignore. In the corner are Karin and Suigetsu, reconciling after their most recent three-day breakup in ways that Naruto questions are appropriate in the presence of a baby, but no one wants to get caught in the crossfire.
Then there's Neji, his arm around Tenten, who is loudly cheering New York even though she doesn't understand baseball, she just picked the team with the cutest first baseman. Beside her is Hinata-chan, Naruto's girlfriend, come to visit for the weekend, since she'll be attending here in the fall like everyone else. She's sitting in Sakura's desk chair, and is already one of the group, and beaming because of it.
Naruto grins at her and glances around again. There's Kiba, who cheers for Philadelphia in between texting his new flavor of the month girlfriend everyone teases him for. And Chouji's eating chips like they're going out of style and Shino's forgettable in the corner and someone let Lee drink, so he's out cold on the plush carpet, while Sai, sketchbook in hand, draws the scene.
Then there's Sasuke and Sakura.
They're on the bed together, backs against the wall as they sit side by side. They're arguing, loudly, in fact Naruto doesn't think he's ever heard Sasuke say so much at such a volume ever before. Sakura tells him he's a cheat and a fraud and a bandwagoner and a scumbag for rooting for New York. He shoots back and lets her know how obnoxious Philadelphia is and their no-talent farm system will be the death of them and they don't have a chance at the World Series.
But Naruto couldn't be happier. Because fighting is flirting, and Sasuke and Sakura have been going strong for months now. And when they think no one's looking, Sasuke drops a quick kiss to Sakura's temple, and she looks up at him like he's sunshine and stars.
It'd be sickening, if it wasn't so amazing.
They've come far. A long way to go, still. Sasuke's still an asshole and Sakura's still dramatic, and they're a volatile combination. Naruto knows that better than anybody.
But they're also soulmates.
Naruto's known that since Day One. Since he met Sakura-chan the first day of college, since he'd helped her move her TV and worked his way into her circle of best friends.
Since the first time he saw Teme look at her with narrowed, mistrustful eyes. Since the first time she smiled up at Teme and it wasn't fake. Since the first moment he stood with Uchiha Sasuke and Haruno Sakura and they introduced themselves and he fucking knew.
And that's how Naruto knows they're gonna be okay. Not okay, even, but great. They're gonna be Sasuke and Sakura, they're gonna be married someday and have a bunch of cute asshole kids and they're gonna be as happy forever as they are now.
So he sits back against Hinata's legs and takes a handful of popcorn and drowns in the music of friendship, of true love gone right and baseball on TV and nothing but hope on the horizon.
Note.. That wraps up Horizon! Thank you so much for your support of this story, it's based partly on things I've done and been through so to hear it so positively received, is just amazing. I absolutely love you guys.
And to answer the question: yes, there will be a sequel. So if you feel like there are a lot of loose ends, there are, and for a reason. Kiba, Orochimaru, Madara, Sakura's parents, etc…all of that will be addressed and more next time in my new story. Look for it this week!
Thank you all so, so much. You're amazing.
Daisy Jane :)