Throughout the town there was a party of Mardi Gras proportions, and despite the fact the townspeople originally barely had anything to their names that morning, somehow they got a good supply of alcohol passing around and music blaring and overall a good time was had despite the lack of luxury in it.
Team Seven however were not a part of it. Kakashi was exhausted and knew he'd need no less than a week to return to normal, his sharingan taxing him if nothing else, and Sasuke was sedated so Tsunami could mend and set his broken jaw. Though he wouldn't be able to talk or eat solid food until they got him back to Konoha with him like this.
As for Naruto and Sakura, that night they were working to give Zabuza a grave while Haku watched and kept near the body, still silently weeping.
Sakura looked at Haku then to Naruto, who wasn't wearing his orange jacket right now. "Naruto, I think you should talk to Haku when we're done." She whispered.
He nodded. "I know."
"Also, I'd like to talk to you too when you have the time." She added.
He looked a bit confused here, but not without reason. Usually Sakura hated it when he tried to start a conversation, and now she actually wanted one? "Why?"
"I... I'll tell you when we're alone." She said, focusing her eyes back on their digging. Suddenly she found it hard to actually tell him what she wanted to.
Naruto nodded and pressed no further.
After a while, the grave was big enough and deep enough. "We're ready." Naruto told Haku.
The ice user was still reluctant, but allowed Naruto to make some clones and place the body in the grave. She formed some flowers made of ice and placed them on Zabuza's body before the clones started covering him with dirt.
Sakura spoke to Haku without looking at the grieving girl. "Hey, if you need another girl to talk you, feel free to do so with me. I may not know you well, but I suspect you might enjoy some fellow female company."
Haku didn't respond, but at least gave no indication she had no interest in the offer.
Sakura walked away, and the two remaining at the grave at first didn't know what to say. Naruto had no idea how to console someone who was grieving, and Haku felt slightly bitter towards him for keeping her from saving Zabuza in the first place.
"I understand if you hate me." Naruto said, surprising the girl. "I mean, I tried saving your life but it cost him his. Why wouldn't you be angry?"
"Why me? Why did you do it?"
"You could have let me die twice already, yet you didn't. I was returning the favor." He told her.
She turned to him. "That's it? Simple as that?"
"No, but isn't that reason enough?"
Haku shook her head. "No it isn't. Why did you really interfere with my role? Why did you force me to live without Zabuza-sama?"
"I didn't plan on him dying. But I figured you had no reason to die yet either. I mean, you're two years older than me at the most. You still have your whole life ahead of you, and Zabuza wants you to live it. Are you really going to make his sacrifice worthless?"
"No, I can't do that, but I don't know what else I can do."
"Why don't you talk with my sensei? I'm sure he might at least have some ideas. Just please let me know what you decided on." Naruto told her. Then he stepped away. "I'll leave you alone for a bit. If you need to talk I'm available." He then walked away.
Haku, alone, looked at Kubikiribocho left next to the grave. 'They said it rightfully belonged to me now. I guess that's a sign they're not against me. If they were they'd just confiscate it and keep me bound and gagged for who knows what their village does to my kind. Maybe this is a test, because now they know my face and some of my history. I could run off then be hunted by their village for the rest of my life, or kill them first and risk being killed now before I succeed. Or maybe, just maybe, these guys really mean me no harm. I'm so confused.'
She shook her head to clear her thoughts then grabbed the large sword's handle. "But there's one thing I'm not confused on. This is Zabuza-sama's sword, not mine. Even in death, it is his." With that, she drove the tip into the still soft soil from all the digging and create a sort of grave marker for her deceased mentor. "Rest in peace Zabuza-sama. Thank you for giving me a reason to live. With that reason gone, I don't know what to do anymore. What should I do?"
But of course, he could offer no answer.
The walk to Tazuna's house from Zabuza's grave took about fifteen minutes. Not surprisingly, Sakura and Kakashi were waiting for Naruto when he showed up, though Kakashi was resting on the sofa whereas Sakura was seated by the table. Naruto took a deep breath. "Before either of you ask, no I have no idea what that white light thing earlier was. I've never done anything like that before and never heard of anyone who could. I was kinda hoping you knew something Kakashi-sensei."
The silver-haired jounin shook his head. "That was unlike anything I've ever seen. But since we don't know the origin, can you at least describe what it did for you Naruto?"
The blonde thought it over, trying to recall everything he could. "I was hurt before it happened, and I think I couldn't call on my chakra at all for a moment."
"Not even... in your special reserve?" Kakashi asked.
Naruto got the message and nodded. "Yeah, I think."
"Special reserve?" Sakura repeated, confused. "What's that?"
"Let's call it a birth defect of mine." Naruto told her. "I have enormous reserves, and probably more chakra than most of our jounins, even Kakashi-sensei."
Sakura was wide-eyed. "Really? Sounds like a blessing rather than a defect."
Naruto looked down, forlorn. "Trust me Sakura-chan, it's anything but a blessing."
"Because it screws up my control and makes performing half of all ninjutsu and virtually all genjutsu impossible for me. I failed the academy clone jutsu not because I'm untalented, but because of a physical disability. And it makes most of the ninja resentful towards me because they hate seeing someone young like me surpass them like this, so I've never had a proper teacher show me how to get better. I learned the shadow clones completely on my own."
Sakura was silently surprised. 'I knew his solid clones couldn't be an easy thing to learn, but... I never thought about how he learned that but failed the academy version.'
Kakashi mentally smiled. 'Good cover Naruto, avoid the complete truth by telling enough to be acceptable.'
Sakura cleared her throat. "And this had nothing to do with that... white light... angel armor thing you did?"
"I don't think so." The whiskered blonde answered.
"Can you do it again?"
Naruto didn't look forlorn anymore, and thought it over. "Maybe. Here goes nothing." He closed his eyes and tried calling on his chakra like he did know how to do.
"Maybe it needs a specific trigger. We'll have to test it out later when I'm up to the task." Kakashi sighed before sighing tiredly. "But for now, you two just stay out of trouble and try not to fight with each other. No need for another of us to be out of commission."
Naruto sighed. "Alright then, I'll just go out and get some fresh air then." He then turned away.
"Naruto, can I go with you?" Sakura asked.
The blonde stopped in his tracks and turned towards her. "Wouldn't you rather nurse Sasuke back to health?" He soundly genuinely confused, not jealous or spiteful.
"He's not going anywhere for a while. Please? I just wanted to talk to you for a bit." Sakura answered.
Still confused, Naruto nodded. "Alright."
Kakashi was pleased to see them act like this and leave the house peacefully. 'Looks like all that teamwork effort hasn't gone to waste. And now I have some peace and quiet.'
Naruto and Sakura were walking away from the house and Zabuza's grave. They were on the edge of a forest and outside the town's boundaries, and it was already night. But as ninja, neither were afraid of anything happening to them.
"Sakura-chan, if this is about me hurting Sasuke, I'm sorry. I was just trying to do my job." Naruto told his teammate.
Sakura was confused. "Naruto, you didn't hurt Sasuke-kun. I saw the whole thing, you never did anything to him. So why did you say that?"
"I don't know, isn't that the whole reason you wanted to talk to me? To tell me what I did wrong to your precious boyfriend and how stupid I was?"
Sakura frowned but sighed. "I guess I deserve that. But trust me Naruto, I'm not at all angry at you. Instead, I'm concerned."
"Really?" He asked, confused but not unpleased.
She nodded. "Yes, something strange happened to you and we don't even know if it's a good thing. Also Sasuke-kun used you to take a hit for him. Aren't you hurt from that?"
Naruto shook his head. "Not anymore. I've always been a good healer. I'm more concerned about your injury."
Sakura gingerly touched her wound, now properly bandaged up. Naruto's sleeve was being resewn onto his jacket by Tsunami. "Thank you for helping me by the way. But still, why did Sasuke-kun do that to us both? We're his teammates."
Naruto looked hesitant. "You really want my opinion on that?" She nodded. "Fine, but no hitting. You asked me after all." He sighed to give him a chance to put his thoughts into the proper words. "Personally I think he was pissed that he wasn't kicking Haku's ass like it was nothing. He was struggling just to stay even with her and he hates thinking he can't win. I mean, come on Sakura-chan I know you love the guy and all, but even you have to admit Sasuke does have a bit of an ego on him."
Sakura was about to deny this, but once she opened her mouth no words would come out. She then closed her mouth and eyes and nodded. "Yeah, he does, I admit that. But I always thought it was justified. I mean, he was Rookie of the Year after all."
Naruto sighed wearily. "Sakura-chan, that only mattered back in school. This is the real world. Did you think Zabuza or Haku cared he was the best in our class? Hell, remember how Zabuza became a genin by killing everyone else in his class? If Sasuke had been in the same class as Zabuza, do you think Zabuza would have spared him?"
Sakura gasped in horror at the thought. 'If that happened, it would have definitely been a duel to the death, and I'm not even sure Sasuke-kun could have won that one.'
Naruto looked away from the pinkette towards the horizon, almost as if he couldn't look her in the eyes for what he was about to say. "Sakura-chan, I know Sasuke is a hotshot in Konoha. I never forgot, considering no one ever lets me forget my lot in life. But what you and he forgot is outside Konoha he's just another genin to the rest of the world. He has no real experience in these sort of things, and that makes him more vulnerable to threats. And unless this team stays together, he always will be."
"What do you mean?" Sakura asked, finding herself impressed by Naruto now. He sounded so unlike what she expected of him it was a welcome change to her.
"Sakura-chan, remember how Kakashi-sensei said we're placed in teams to improve our teamwork skills and get used to working with others?" Naruto asked. Sakura nodded. "That's not the only reason. Jiji once told me it's also a safety precaution. When one of us is attacked or in danger, the others come forward to help them, and they in return will be helped by the others. From there, trust and teamwork will grow naturally."
Sakura took this in and found herself agreeing with the logic. She already found herself trusting Naruto a little bit more than before thanks to him treating her wounds, and Sasuke a little bit less for giving her that wound in the first place. That last part made her think of something else. "But what if we don't help each other like that?"
Naruto shrugged. "I think the answer's obvious."
"Naruto?" Sakura asked, getting him to look back at her. "I know Sasuke-kun did something wrong, but we should still give him another chance. I don't want our team to fall apart so soon or easily."
Naruto closed his eyes and slowly nodded. "Yeah, you're right. But Sakura-chan, for this to really work, I need you to stop hitting me so much. I get it that you love Sasuke and not me, but can't you at least treat me like a friend?"
Sakura was confused. "I already treat you like a friend Naruto."
The whiskered blonde gave her an irritated look. "Do you punch all your friends? Because I've never once seen you hit Ino." He then crossed her arms, as if challenging any denial.
The pinkette didn't know how to react, but looked quite upset and hung her head. "I'm sorry Naruto. I thought it was okay since my mother told me it was okay to hit you. You're right that I never did hit Ino-Pig before." She then turned her back to Naruto. "I doubt you'll forgive me, but I truly am sorry."
"I forgive you Sakura-chan, but why the change of heart?" Naruto asked looking at her. He still cared very much for her and was curious as to why she suddenly apologized.
"It was during the battle, when I saw Sasuke-kun being so callous towards you. I think I saw the person I was becoming. I don't want to be that person." Sakura turned around with tears starting to form in her eyes. "How can you forgive me so easily? I've done nothing worth forgiving and you forgive me as if I've done nothing wrong. Why?"
"Because I like you Sakura-chan. I don't want to hold a grudge against you." He answered.
Sakura felt her heart ache at what she felt was undeserved admiration for herself. "But why do you like me? Why don't you hate me instead?"
"Because... you're similar to me." He told her, surprising her. "You were picked on a lot when you were a kid like I was. No one wanted to be your friend, everyone made fun of you, and everyone said you had no future as a ninja. I was in the same position, then I saw you made friends with Ino and I thought if you could do that maybe I could make friends too."
"But... why were so persistent? If I had been you I would have stopped the first time someone hit me." She asked.
Naruto sighed. "I already lost my chance to be friends with the other girl who was being bullied thanks to her family. I didn't want to lose any chance to be friends with you."
'Other girl?' Sakura asked herself. 'The only other person I can remember being picked on back then was...' She mentally gasped. 'Hinata? Naruto tried to be friends with Hinata first but her family stopped him? This doesn't make sense.' She cleared her throat. "Naruto, do you remember who that girl was?"
He shook his head. "No, I was beaten up pretty good that day and got a concussion from it. All I can remember is that it happened, but I can't remember anything about who was involved except that the girl had dark hair. When I woke up in the hospital, I was given a note by a masked dark-haired man that said if I came anywhere near that girl again they'd gut me like a fish and even the hokage couldn't stop them."
Sakura was so horrified at hearing that she actually tasted bile. "Why? Why would someone make such a threat to you when you were just a kid? What kind of monster says that to a child?"
"They weren't the only ones. If I told you half the threats I've received you wouldn't sleep tonight."
"But... why do they threaten you like this? Your pranks can't be that bad." Sakura countered, looking for something rational here.
"It's not because of my pranks." He answered simply, turning away. "It's never been because of my pranks."
"Then why?" Sakura pleaded, desperate to know.
Naruto took a moment to reply. "Why don't you ask your mother why she wanted you to hit me all those times first?"
Sakura could see him lightly quivering. 'Is he crying? Or trying not to cry?' Acting without realizing what she was doing, she hugged him from behind, feeling him tense up upon contact. "Naruto, I promise I will be a real friend to you from now on. I won't hit you again, even if Mom says otherwise. I'll... I may even take you up on your date offer before we go back to Konoha."
He put his hand on hers. "Sakura-chan, don't pity me like that. You still want to date Sasuke after all."
"I'll decide who I want to date Naruto. And if I have to choose between the boy who stabbed me and the boy who helped me, I'll go with the second one." The pinkette told her teammate. "It's the least I can do to be a real friend."
"Thanks Sakura-chan. That means a lot to me."
Neither teen did anything that night since they had no idea what they even could do, so they went back to Tazuna's house. Haku chose to stay a bit longer, having no idea where to go from here. She slept in the same room as Sakura, but the two barely had anything to say to each other.
Naruto slept on the couch in the living room, wanting to give Kakashi some quiet and some space away from Sasuke, who still was in a bad mood from the battle. He slept comfortably, but a knock at the door woke him right up.
"Ugh. Who'd show up this early?" He asked as he rubbed his eyes and stretched, then opened the door. "Yes?"
It took a moment for his eyes to focus from the sleep and in the morning light, but he saw two adult women about Tsunami's age in front of him. Both had long hair flowing to their hips but one was scarlet and the other was golden. The redhead had violet eyes and wore a purple housewife dress and the blonde had red eyes and wore a royal blue tunic dress.
"Uzumaki?" The blonde woman asked.
"Is your name Uzumaki?" The blonde woman repeated.
Naruto reflexively tensed. "Yes. Why?"
Both women smiled. "I've got something for you." The blonde added.
"What?" Naruto asked, curious.
"Your mother." The redhead answered. "Me."