An/ Okay so I quite like Naruto and Sakura together and wanted to write something with the both of them interacting. This is my second Naruto fiction and I'm a little anxious about how well I've written the characters so I would really appreciate any feedback on that whether its good or bad :)
Thanks for reading and Naruto and characters belong to their respective owners, not me :)
Memories of a Swing
It has been a while since Uzumaki Naruto has sat on a swing, particularly this one. It is a simple piece of wood suspended to a tree and as he sits he gently tilts forward and back, the heel of his foot pressing into the soft dirt as he rocks the seat into a slow, carefree rhythm. While he rocks, Naruto looks toward the ninja academy on his left, his blue eyes tracing the outline of the building and welling with moisture at the same time as his mind's eye is assaulted by many memories, some of them good and some of them...not so much.
He remembers a time of loneliness and despair, a time that is almost the entirety of his childhood and he remembers rocking on this seat while watching the other kids play games, watching parents greet their children in the afternoon with hugs and words of praise. He remembers how painful it was when multiple pairs of cold eyes would focus on him and bore into him until he was forced to turn away from their intensity. Absently Naruto wipes at his eye with the cuff of his jacket, the pain is still clear in his memory, such a breath stealing and heartbreaking pain that he believes no one should suffer even though he knows many who have. He thinks of Gaara in that moment and smiles to himself, proud of his friend for the accomplishments he has achieved since the battle they had so long ago during the chunin exams. Naruto's want to wipe the bonds of hatred from the Shinobi world simply strengthen, because nothing good has ever been born from hatred.
"What are you doing here?" A familiar voice calls and Naruto quickly wipes at his eye again to conceal unshed tears before looking up into a pair of green ones.
Haruno Sakura stands before him, her weight evenly balanced on both feet as she pushes some hair out of her eyes with an un-gloved hand, a sure sign that she hasn't been involved in combat today, more likely she was busy with medical duties, a stark contrast.
Naruto smiles, it's a smile he only reserves for her, a fact she has fairly recently become aware of and she smiles back at him with a smile just as personal as the one he gave her. It lifts his heart if only slightly for the moment.
"Nothing much Sakura-chan." He says casually as he halts his rocking, this time pressing his heel harder into the ground to stop the swing's motions. He begins to dig at the powdery dirt with the toe of his sandal as if trying to emphasise his casual demeanour to her hoping that she won't notice that he isn't feeling quite himself at the moment.
Sakura raises an eyebrow; she knows Naruto well and can tell simply by the look of his eyes that there is far more to his visit here than what it seems, to her recollection she is certain that in most cases he has only ever come here when he is troubled. None the less she lets it go for the time being and instead approaches him, threading a hand through his hair once she enters a reachable distance.
"I've been looking for you everywhere." She lightly scolds while continuing to thread her fingers throughout his golden locks, they're far softer than they appear.
He simply grins up at her with his trademark 'I'm fine' smile before suddenly standing up, their close proximity leading towards Sakura slightly losing her balance, Naruto uses this to his advantage as he grabs her and guides her in one fluid motion into the seat of the swing. Her green eyes blink once or twice as she takes in the fact that they have now switched places and she smiles yet again in the way that only Naruto can make her. After a few moments he moves behind her and begins to push gently on the swing, his hands gentle on her as he applies a small pressure in order to give the swing some momentum. Soon enough he has her moving backward and forward at a calm pace, a replica of the one he himself had been experiencing not moments ago. While the swing moves Sakura dangles her feet a short way above the ground so that she wouldn't hinder its speed while at the same time enjoying this quiet moment with Naruto, they're both so busy now a days that they don't get to see each other as often as they'd like.
"Iruka sensei used to do this for me." Naruto breaks the silence but his tone suggests that he is trying to explain himself and his current actions. It's with a sadness that Sakura realises that no one until Iruka sensei had ever pushed Naruto on a swing...something every child she suspects took for granted while Naruto spent his childhood alone. She's learnt about what is stored inside of him and he has taught her various things about the Nine tailed fox, including its name, but the more she discovers the more upset she feels at her own actions and of those of the other villagers during their younger days. It's something that she vows will never repeat itself, and for as long as she lives she will not allow Naruto to feel lonely because she has promised him that she will always be by his side, no matter what.
Forcefully she pushes the sadness away and focuses back on Naruto as she nods her head and softly grasps the rope on either side of her for support. Naruto isn't moving the swing at a fast pace, but she simply finds it more comfortable rather than leaving her hands clasped in her lap.
"So...Naruto, are you going to tell me why you're here?" Sakura asks again, her voice is softer than usual in her determination to comfort him, because she knows that he isn't here for no reason.
They are both quiet for a while and Sakura grows increasingly more concerned, it isn't like Naruto to be this quiet, even his moments of calm are interspaced with just as many if not more moments of chaos. At this moment in time though as he gently pushes Sakura on the swing, Naruto's mind takes him back to other moments at this particular spot, particularly when they were team seven.
After gruelling training sessions with Kakashi sensei, team seven would often retreat to this tree, Naruto sitting on the swing animatedly telling any who would listen of his ambitions to be Hokage or dopily falling asleep in the seat if the training had been particularly gruelling. Sakura would often be seated at the base of the tree with scrolls and books on her lap as she studied, every so often casting looks in Sasuke's direction. Sasuke himself would be nestled in the tree on the upper most branches, his hands clasped on his bent knees as he thought and scrutinised the location around them with his intense eyes. Others may not believe him but to Naruto those moments were some of the best of his life, yes Sasuke was unapproachable and often made Naruto question his own ability, they were rivals after all... and yes Sakura would often insult him in favour of her Sasuke-kun, but they were the first friends Naruto had ever made...to him they were both more precious than they could ever imagine.
"Do you remember," Naruto started as he broke the silence, his voice oddly low "When we used to come here as team seven?"
Sakura nods her head with a faint smile, those memories are still sharp with detail in her memory "Yes," She turns slightly on her seat feeling as though she may have figured everything out "Is that why you're here?"
Naruto shakes his head in response but smiles at her wanly "I just...wish things could have been different."
Just as Naruto spent increasingly more time at this swing with company, with Iruka sensei and team seven, even Kakashi on occasions, there were still times when Naruto occupied the swing alone. When Sasuke left both himself and Sakura were at a loss, maybe more Sakura at the time but Naruto had been crushed...his first friend and the first and last he couldn't save. He used to sit at the swing for hours thinking of ways to bring Sasuke back, considering scenarios and words and rehearsing, but in the end none of them had been remotely close to the final reality. Before the memory could become too painful though, Naruto skilfully pushes it away, at least the best he can for the moment because he doesn't want to trouble Sakura any more than he knows she already is.
"Sakura?" Naruto asks softly.
The pink haired young woman notices the missing suffix in an instant, it's something that Naruto does when he becomes more serious and for some reason Sakura prefers it, she enjoys the intimacy she feels when Naruto simply calls her, Sakura. Sometimes she even insists that he drops the suffix, but it seems to be a habit that he isn't willing to break. Not that she minds of course because there's something that lifts her heart skyward every time she hears 'Sakura-chan' being called out from across the village, maybe it's the knowledge that after the call a certain orange clad ninja would be right behind it.
"Yes?" She asks dubiously, her gaze following him as he moves to stand in front of her again. He looks to her with his intense gaze, his mind forming the words he needs as he opens his mouth to speak them. As much as she sometimes scolds him for being childish in the wrong situations, she truly worries when he takes on this level of seriousness, she knows that it must be something of great importance to him.
"Do you think I'll make a good Hokage?"
Sakura is more than surprised by his question, ever since she has known him becoming Hokage has been his dream, often shouting at the top of his lungs how he would be the best Hokage that ever lived. It's by his question that Sakura finally understands, everything has come full circle and the closer Naruto gets to his dream the more uncertain he becomes, because it's one thing to dream but something entirely different when it is close to becoming a reality. Naruto is older now, he knows that there are responsibilities and expectations and Sakura knows about his father Minato and she knows that he is anxious to prove himself in his Father's footsteps. Even if she has told him often that his parents would undoubtedly be so proud of him...she knows that she is without question.
"Naruto..." She says softly, a hand reaching up to cup his warm, whiskered cheek, the action as much to comfort him as it is to her "Of course you will." He smiles at her with a tiny amount of uncertainty, something that presses Sakura onward "Why would you think otherwise?" Now her thumb traces his upper most whisker line, another gesture of comfort and reassurance.
"I...I don't know." Naruto shrugs as he covers her hand with his own, he enjoys the touch, the closeness to her even if he had been reluctant to believe her at first when she originally confessed her feelings to him, but they had learned together with time just how much they truly meant to one another...something far deeper than simple crushes and infatuations. Sometimes it boggled him how Sakura could fall in love with him but she had explained herself countless times, had insisted on the differences between childish infatuations and what she feels now. He had believed her then along with his own realisation that he couldn't pin point when she stopped being his crush and had become something much more.
It is with her and with her alone that he feels he can expose this part of himself, his uncertainty, self-doubt and all of the other negative feelings he takes especial care to conceal under smiles and hyperactivity. Naruto knows that she feels the same way, he remembers her telling him of her inner self and how she often struggled to express what she truly thought or felt, something that changed when she was with him and the knowledge that he would never judge her.
"You're going to be Hokage in two days, Naruto." Sakura says quietly, Tsunade the fifth Hokage had decided to retire and with the overwhelming cheers that were received on her suggestion for the next candidate, Naruto's becoming Hokage was without question. "You're finally going to fulfil your dream." She emphasises in an attempt to rid him of the unfounded doubts that were wrecking havoc on him.
"I know, Sakura...it's just," He paused and fixed his eyes on hers "I failed Sasuke, I couldn't even save him."
Sakura looks at him sadly for a moment, she misses Sasuke too but not in the way she used to. She misses his presence and his friendship or at least as much as he offered for he had always been a quiet person even in team seven. Troubled, she surmises but where Naruto gained strength in the support of those around him, Sasuke was determined to support himself. Maybe that was what happened to someone when they believed that they couldn't even trust someone who was flesh and blood, even if it did turn out that that wasn't the case, the damage had already been done.
"You didn't fail Naruto, you tried, but...but in the end Sasuke didn't want saving." She watches as Naruto bows his head and rests more of its weight in the palm of her hand, a hand that could probably crush his skull if she so chose to but that was something that he loved about her hands.
"I know." He whispers.
Sakura nods and grasps his jacket with her other hand before tugging on it and encouraging him down to her level so that he is kneeling in front of her, enabling her to see him more closely rather than having to strain her neck looking up. Really though, she just wants him closer, just wants to comfort him any way she can and she does this by wrapping her arm around his shoulders.
"You'll make a wonderful Hokage, Naruto." Her hand is no longer cupping his cheek but is instead behind his neck with her fingers burrowed in his hair. "You have completely united the Shinobi world, brought peace throughout, saved Gaara, saved Konoha...saved me and so many other people." She kisses his forehead with a tenderness she reserves only for him "I can think of no one better to become Hokage."
This time when Naruto looks at her with his eyes watery, he smiles at her genuinely and slips his arms around her waist while laying his face in the crook of her warm neck, her pink locks tickling his ears and he finds incomparable comfort in her closeness. It's been two years since the end of the fourth ninja war, it's been two years since Sasuke died and it's been two years since peace fell on the entire Shinobi world and in two days time; Uzumaki Naruto is to become Hokage.
"But, Sakura-chan..." Naruto says at last with a grin, his mouth pressed to her ear and to the pink haired Konoichi's relief the return of his more characteristic demeanour. "I've never been very smart."
She can't help but giggle "Idiot." She mutters while tightening her hold on him "Promise me something." Her voice drops in pitch signalling the arrival of her concern for him and the mild hesitation she still holds in asking for his promises, she doesn't want to burden him and weigh down his shoulders.
Sakura hesitates before speaking softly in his ear "Promise me that you'll never doubt yourself as Hokage again." She leans back and holds his face with her hands "You've come too far and beaten too many odds to start doubting yourself now."
Naruto chuckles then and before leaning in and pressing a tender kiss to her lips he confirms with "Promise of a lifetime."
"Good." Sakura smiles warmly before bringing him into a loving embrace, she can't wait to see his face carved in the mountainside and she can't wait to watch the ceremony when Naruto receives his Hokage hat...but most of all she can't wait to finally see Naruto fulfil his lifelong dream, because she can't think of anyone more deserving.
And just like all those other times, the simple wooden swing outside of the ninja academy once again ensures its place in the memory of Uzumaki Naruto as a place where his life interweaves with loneliness, with family, with failure and with love.
It's not just a simple piece of wood suspended to a tree...to Uzumaki Naruto it is much, much more than that.