Chapter 16

Sakura gasped as she jolted awake. She looked to her right and saw Naruto still sleeping soundly. His mouth was slightly open and a little drool was on his pillow. Sakura smiled softly before carefully removing his arm from across her stomach and placing it gently on the bed beside her. She sat up and swung her legs over the bed. The cold air met her naked body making her shiver. She stood and walked over to the discarded shirt on the floor. She bent down picking it up, bringing it to her nose inhaling Naruto's scent. She sighed looking over at Naruto clutching the shirt to her chest. She felt her cheeks heat up and bit her lip as she reminisced on her night with Naruto. She thought it would be awkward and there would be a lot of fumbling where neither of them had any experience.

"Sakura-chan are you sure," Naruto whispered , hovering over her. His warm breath fanned over her face. She could barely breathe, forget about talking so she nodded her head quickly. She saw his cheeks turn pink and he looked down at her shyly. "I've never done this before. I don't want to," Naruto paused, swallowing hard. "Disappoint you," his voice shook with nerves.

Sakura smiled at him sweetly and she reached up caressing his cheek. "You could never disappoint me. I want this. I love you Naruto-kun. I want to be with you forever," She whispered with conviction. Naruto looked down at her in awe before he leaned down and captured her lips in a soft kiss.

"I love you too Sakura-chan."

Sakura didn't know if him and Hinata had done anything. She didn't want to think about it let alone ask. They were each other's first. Sakura knew that there could never be anyone else for her. She was meant to be with him. Sakura smiled and took one last glance at Naruto before heading to the bathroom.

She felt the feeling as if she was being watched. She looked over her shoulder into the dark room and saw Naruto was still asleep and no one else was in the room. She tried to shake the feeling off and walked into the bathroom. She looked down at the wet discarded clothes on the shower floor. She bent down and picked them up, wringing out the excess water and hanging them up to dry. She walked over to the mirror and studied herself.

For the first time in a while she didn't feel the need to look away. She had looked down and had a few deep cuts and bruises from her fight with Sasori. She moved her hand over each injury healing them before she looked back at the mirror. She had turned around and looked over her shoulder in the mirror. Her back was bruised from being flung back by Naruto. She frowned thinking how harsh she had been on him. She knew he loved both her and Sasuke. She had to figure out a way to get Sasuke back while protecting Naruto as well. She faced the mirror again and looked at the small bruises that littered her shoulders and neck. She smiled softly tracing the small bruises that Naruto had left on her earlier that night. She healed the couple that were high up her neck but left the few that were lower and on her collarbone. She didn't want to erase the memories of their night.

She threw the shirt over her head and walked back out to the bedroom. The sky was starting to lighten signifying the start of a new day. She walked over to the window and crossed her arms sighing as she looked over the village. She knew that they would all be meeting soon to talk strategy on what to do next, if Sasuke was still even in the area. She felt bile rise in her throat at the idea of having to face anymore members of the Akatsuki. Sasori was no doubt powerful but she had always preferred his methods over the others in their long time together. The others, they terrified her. Kisame, Pain and Konan were definitely the most brutal. Itachi was all mental torture. She shuddered at the thought of running into them. She wasn't ready. She and Tsunade still had much further to progress in her training before she was even near ready.

She looked over at Naruto and frowned. If she were to try now while she wasn't ready she'd be more danger than good. He would risk his life for hers without any hesitation. She needed to get stronger so she could protect herself and Naruto. She looked back out the window and made the decision that it would be best if she stayed behind. She didn't want to be a distraction for the rest of the team. She heard the bed shift and looked over and saw Naruto sitting up rubbing his eyes. He immediately sought her out looking all over the room before his eyes settled on hers.

"Sakura-chan," he called out sleepily. She smiled at him before crossing the room and crawling onto the bed. Naruto reached out and grabbed her laying back with her on his chest, he kissed the top of her head. "Are you okay? Did I hurt you last night," he asked anxiously.

Sakura-chan looked up and kissed his chin. "No you didn't hurt me. Last night was everything I ever wanted," she sighed happily. "I just had a hard time sleeping. I don't think I can do this," she whispered tears clogging her throat. Naruto pulled back looking at her with a look of agony on his face. "No! No I don't mean this," she said quickly reaching up to trace his whiskers. "I don't think I can go back out there. I'm not ready yet," she whispered as her voice trembled.

Naruto looked in her eyes for a minute before he smiled at her warmly. He reached down and stroked her hair affectionately, "We don't have too. We can go back to the village and we can go at your pace. I saw you take out Sasori. You amazed me with the strength and power. I think you are more capable than even you know."

Sakura stared up at him with tears in her eyes. She shook her head, "You should go. I can stay behind and you can go after Sasuke." Her voice was strained, "I don't want to have to choose between me or Sasuke."

"It's not even a choice. I told you Sakura-chan you will always come first. We will get Sasuke back. We will do it together when you are ready," Naruto reassured her. She smiled at him and nuzzled back into his chest.

After meeting with the rest of the group in the morning Naruto let Gaara and them know that they planned on heading back to the Leaf Village. Gaara reassured him that he would make sure no harm came to Sasuke. Sakura and him traveled hand and hand back to the village. Naruto looked over at Sakura and could see a peaceful smile on her face.

He squeezed her hand lightly and she looked up at him with sparkling eyes. Naruto couldn't help himself. He pushed her up against a tree and brought his lips down to meet hers. Sakura kissed back eagerly sighing into his mouth. She pulled on his hair lightly earning a growl from him in response. Naruto moved his hands down, grabbing Sakura's thighs. Sakura immediately wrapped her legs around him. Naruto's hand slipped under her vest when they heard someone clear their throat.

They pulled apart quickly. Naruto set Sakura on the ground whipping around to face their intruder. Naruto's back went rigid as his gaze settled on Itachi.

"Well this was not what I was expecting," Itachi said amused as he turned and began to pace looking at the two in amusement. Naruto growled at him clenching his fists. He stood in front of Sakura in a protective stance.

"What the hell do you want," Naruto growled angrily. He peeked over his shoulder at Sakura. She was frozen in place, her mouth open. He thought he saw her scared before but she was absolutely terrified. She shook gasping for air. Naruto felt his own body shake with rage.

"I just wanted to come and give my congratulations in person for defeating Sasori. I see your time with us had its advantages," he chuckled walking to the side so he could look at Sakura.

"Don't look or speak to her you sick bastard," Naruto yelled. He pushed Sakura further behind him.

"Me and the girl bonded over time. Isn't that right Sakura," Itachi asked, looking over Naruto's shoulder. "We did her a service taking her under our wing. We toughened her up. You should be thanking us," Itachi smirked. He sighed looking up at the sky before looking back down. "I was just here to remind you not to get too comfortable. We let you be for the time being, but you will never be safe as long as we're around," Itachi took his eyes off Sakura looking over at Naruto. Challenging him.

Naruto couldn't take another second of listening to him. He summoned a few clones and ran at Itachi. He gathered a rasengan and jumped at him. His attack hit a tree and he whipped around. Itachi was standing directly behind Sakura.

"We can get to you anytime we want. Don't forget that," Itachi whispered in her ear. Sakura spun around with a chakra packed punch. She hit the tree behind her, blowing it to pieces. Sakura jumped back trying to figure out where he went. She felt arms around her torso and she went rigid.

"It's just me Sakura-chan," Naruto's breath on her neck sent chills down her spine. He pulled her back against his chest and whipped his head around before landing back on Itachi. Itachi smiled at them wickedly before he turned and started walking in the direction they just came from.

He looked over his shoulder and called back to them, "I'll tell my little brother you said hi. I'll see you soon Sakura." And with that she disappeared in thin air.

Sakura felt her knees buckle and she sagged back into Naruto's chest breathing heavily. Naruto held her close. He was shaken too. Itachi easily evaded him and could have easily killed Sakura if that was his intention. He was angry at himself for leaving her wide open. They needed to get back to the village now. Naruto scooped Sakura up. He ran back as quickly as he could to the village he slightly relaxed as they got close to the border. He looked down at Sakura and saw she was staring at her hands with a blank expression on her face. He was worried but he couldn't worry about that until he had her safely in the village.

He saw the village gates and let out a breath of relief. He walked up to the gate and was met by a couple jonin. They looked openly at the two not even trying to hide their nosiness. Naruto felt Sakura wiggling in his arms. He looked down at her to see her face scrunched up in annoyance.

"Put me down please. I don't want to make a bigger spectacle of myself than I already am," Sakura winced. Naruto nodded and gently placed her on her feet in front of him. He grabbed her face gently in his hands and kissed her softly. She quickly responded gripping Naruto's jacket tightly. She pulled away and rested her head on his shoulder. "Thank you," she whispered.

Naruto nodded, taking her hand in his. The villagers gazed at the pair in curiosity as they walked through the streets to Naruto's apartment. They walked up to his door and walked inside. Naruto let go of her hand and summoned a shadow clone and gave him instructions to go brief Tsunade on what happened. He turned back around and saw Sakura had disappeared. He looked into the kitchen and didn't find her there so he ran up the steps to their bedroom.

He found her curled up in bed. She laid motionlessly with tears running down her cheeks. She looked at him and whimpered. Naruto rushed over to the bed he crawled in taking her into arms. Sakura grabbed his shirt and let out her tears. After an hour or so she started to quiet down. She pushed herself up and looked at Naruto with red eyes. She smiled at him softly and he reached forward and pressed a kiss to her forehead. She closed her eyes and soaked in the moment.

Naruto was about to say something when Sakura cut him off, "Can we just not talk about it. I can't think about that right now. I just want to pretend I'm okay for a little while." She sat up pleading with her eyes with him. "I know we'll have to deal with it sometime. I just want to pretend I'm safe for a little while longer."

"Sakura-chan you are safe here," Naruto said, taking her hand bringing it to her lips. "I won't let anything happen to you," he whispered, kissing her hand.

"That's what I'm most scared of. I don't want you to die just to protect me. I wouldn't be able to live with myself," Sakura whimpered.

"And you wouldn't do the same for me," Naruto asked seriously. Sakura looked down at her hands, wringing them anxiously. Of course she would. "That's what we do for each other. It's not easy for me either to think of you throwing yourself in harm's way. That's just what love is," Naruto sighed, stroking her hair.

Sakura peeked at him through her lashes smiling meekly. "I love you," she sighed. Naruto felt his heart flutter. He opened his mouth to answer when his stomach growled loudly. His cheeks turned red as he rubbed the back of his head. Sakura bursted out laughing. "Let's go get some ramen," She said standing up from the bed. She reached her hand out grabbing Naruto's hoisting him up.

Naruto yanked her to him resting his hands on her hips, "Have I ever told you how much I loved you?" He smiled at her sweetly brushing some hair behind her ear.

"Hmmm maybe. I can't seem to remember. You might have to jog my memory," Sakura said in a teasing tone. Naruto smirked at her picking her up and spinning around before tossing her gently on the bed. Sakura squealed a giggle escaping her lips.

"I guess I'll just have to show you," he said slowly crawling unto the bed on top of her.

Sakura sucked in a shaky breath as she felt Naruto's fingertips trailing up her thighs before digging into the soft skin on her hips. "I thought you were hungry," Sakura asked, trembling.

"Food can wait," Naruto growled, capturing her lips in a searing kiss.

Naruto never pictured his life could be so good. He looked over to see Sakura joking with Teuchi. She went to get another bite of noodles only to find nothing but broth. She frowned before peeking over at Naruto's bowl and seeing that he didn't have more than a bite left.

"Two more bowls please Teuchi-san," She said politely, holding up two fingers. Naruto couldn't help the silly grin plastered on his face. He reached over pulling Sakura closer by her side planting a big kiss on the cheek. Sakura's cheeks flushed and she buried her face in his shoulder.

Teuchi smiled widely watching their exchange turning around to get them another bowl. He placed both bowls on the bar walking away to give them some privacy.

"If you're not careful you'll end up like me Sakura-chan. You'll be finding any excuse to come eat here," Naruto teased, nudging her lightly.

Sakura looked over at smirking, "Well if I plan on being your girlfriend I really won't need to find an excuse to come here." Naruto stared at her with his mouth open. Sakura felt self conscious and looked down at her ramen with her cheeks burning. She felt like she overstepped and just wanted to take her words back.

She was too busy staring at her ramen to notice the immense joy Naruto was experiencing. He knew they confessed their feelings for each other but it was a whole other feeling of being claimed by the girl he loved. He was on cloud nine. He reached down and felt the box in his pocket. He hoped Sakura liked the necklace. It looked like the one Tsunade had given him but the crystal was almost the same green as Sakura's eyes. It was years ago when he saw this necklace in a small store window while he was out training with Jiraiya. The color caught his eyes and made his heart ache. It was shortly after Sakura was taken and it reminded him of her eyes. He went into the shop and spent all the money he had on it. He would open the box every night to look at it and hoped that he would be able to give it to her one day.

Tonight he was going to. After they finished eating and said goodnight to Teuchi they started walking towards the direction of the apartment. Naruto tugged her hand lightly pulling her the other way. Sakura looked over at him puzzled.

"C'mon I got something I want to show you," Naruto said like an excited kid. Sakura giggled letting Naruto lead her away. The sun had set and the moon had begun to take its place in the sky.

Naruto led them to the top of the Hokage monument. They sat down looking over the village, the people looked so small from above. They sat in content silence for a few minutes before Sakura nudged Naruto with her elbow. "You know I hate to break it to you but I think I've seen this before."

Naruto let out a nervous laugh, "Yeah I just thought this spot would be a good place. As a kid I used to come up here a lot. I looked down at this village and I vowed that one day I would be Hokage. I thought if I was Hokage people would start seeing me differently and stop looking at me like some monster." Sakura scooted closer to him, intertwining their fingers. "I just wanted to be loved. All my life I was so alone. Over the years I've made lifelong friends and bonds, I found people that care about me. I worked hard and last year Baa-chan told me I was going to be the next Hokage. Just like that my life long dream came true. Only I realized that wasn't what I needed," Naruto sighed, reaching into his pocket with his other hand and pulled out a small rectangle box.

Naruto took a deep breath to calm himself, "I wanted to give this to you and ask you to be my girlfriend." Sakura paled, she felt sick to her stomach. He said "wanted" as in past tense. "I have loved you for as long as I can remember. I watched you chase after Sasuke and I never thought you could ever possibly love me, but still I was persistent," he smiled lightly at her. He opened up the box and displayed the green crystal. "I saw this and I knew it was meant for you. I was going to ask you to be my girlfriend but that seems a bit silly now. I mean I feel like we're past that," Naruto peeked at Sakura and could see the uncertainty on her face.

Naruto shifted nervously. He cleared his throat lightly. He turned so he was completely facing her. "Sakura-chan once I become Hokage I want to make you my wife. I promise to love you every single second for the rest of time. I will never leave you and will always stand by your side. Sakura Haruno will you marry me," Naruto asked, looking deeply into her eyes.

Sakura sat there totally in shock. She had no clue where he was going with all of this and now he was asking her to marry him. She noticed Naruto's face started to fill with panic. He started to pull the box with the necklace away, "Neverminded it's stup-," Naruto started to say.

"Yes," Sakura whispered quickly. Naruto eyes shot to hers with a look of disbelief. Sakura smiled at him feeling tears prick her eyes.

"Yes," Naruto asked surprised.

"Yes! Yes Naruto-kun I will marry you," Sakura gasped. Naruto was frozen before a slow smile crept on his lips. He jumped up grabbing Sakura, spinning her through the air.

"She said yes," He yelled at the top of his lungs. Sakura giggled wildly, wrapping her arms around his neck tightly. Naruto set her on the ground, taking her face in his hands. He kissed her face all over before planting a deep kiss on her lips. Sakura smiled into the kiss. She was getting what she always wanted, she was going to marry the man she loved.

Naruto pulled away smiling like an idiot. He gently pulled the necklace out of the box he reached around Sakura's neck, clipping it. His fingers trailed the chain. He positioned the crystal gently on her neck. It looked even better now that it was on her porcelain skin.

"Naruto-kun it's beautiful. Are you sure," Sakura asked, suddenly feeling like he might regret his decision later. She moved her hand up to touch the crystal.

"Sakura-chan I could lose everything tomorrow, go back to having no friends. Tsunade could take the title of Hokage from me and I would still be the happiest man in the world as long as you were mine. You are my dream Sakura-chan. I have never been more sure of anything in my life," Naruto promised.

"I love you so much. I promise I will spend everyday making sure you know how loved you are. I promise to be a good wife and to love you always," Sakura whispered tracing his whiskers with her fingertips. "You will never have to feel alone or unloved again," She promised.

Naruto could feel tears in his eyes. He wrapped his arms around her hugging her tightly. He buried his face in her hair inhaling her scent. She was finally his. Sakura Uzumaki had a nice ring to it.