And here's the next chapter of this story! Be warned – this chapter contains sexually-explicit content, and is not intended for readers under the age of eighteen. There – the warning has been issued.

Also, I feel the need to clarify what I mean by "useless reviews" as I stated in the last chapter. Useless reviews, to me, are reviews where the reviewer is simply being insulting. Again, I can handle harsh reviews, but flames are a waste of time – it's a waste of time for you to write them (surely, if you're a flamer, you must have something better to do), and it's a waste of my time to have to read them.

Positive reviews that don't necessarily have content in then aren't useless – if nothing else, they lift my spirits as an author by letting me know that my work is appreciated. I actually find negative reviews to be quite useful…if they're offered with the intent to help me as a writer to write a better story, or to fix mistakes.

That said, on with the story!

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto!

Chapter 4: I Understand What I See

Naruto was currently in a hospital room with a cast on his arm. From what Tsubaki had been able to gather, Naruto had just finished creating some new super-jutsu that had sliced up some of the chakra coils in his arm. They could still be healed, which relieved Tsubaki – she wouldn't want him to lose his ability to mold chakra.

It had been, what, a few months, since they'd had a chance to talk? It was the day after Naruto had gotten back with Master Jiraiya when they'd had lunch. Having just been promoted to Jounin, Tsubaki was now taking on more special case patients. When she heard that Naruto had been admitted for observation and for a few check-ups on his arm, she jumped at the chance to be his attendant. It would give her a chance to care for him, and also to spend some time with him as well, as he had been going on mission after mission with almost no downtime.

Smiling as she entered his room, she greeted him, "Hello Naruto, how are you?"

Naruto looked at the woman who had just greeted him with a smile of his own when he saw who it was, "Tsubaki! Hi!"

She was dressed in semi-civilian garb, attire that medics typically wore when not out in the field, and not in surgery. She was dressed in a cream-colored form-fitting blouse with a turtle-neck collar over a crimson skirt that ended a few inches above her knees, and high-heeled ninja sandals. Her headband was around her neck, indicating that she was on duty as a ninja. She wore her hair in a ponytail that began at the base of her neck, giving the hair on her head a framing effect around her face, which was highlighted with natural-shade eye shadow and lip gloss of a medium pink. She was the epitome of an attractively-dressed professional woman – tasteful, yet slightly provocative.

"It's good to see you again, Naruto; it's been too long…" she began, still smiling, "…though I do wish that it was under better circumstances."

"Well, it's always good to see you…" he responded, "…so I'll take whatever circumstances I can get if it gives me a chance to talk to you again."

Tsubaki couldn't help but blush at such a declaration. She thanked him shyly as she started making small talk with him, running some scans and performing a routine healing jutsu so that the healing in his arm could be accelerated. She noted an additional injury on his body that wasn't on his chart. She turned to Naruto and indulged her curiosity.

"Naruto, what is this injury on your head? And why isn't it on your chart, here?"

Naruto looked at her in confusion, "What do you mean?"

Tsubaki's confusion turned into surprise, though she kept an even tone in her voice, "How did you hurt your head? Do you not feel any pain around your head right now?"

"Well, a little – Sakura gave me a knock to my skull when I was in Grandma Tsunade's office, but it's what I normally feel after she does that."

Tsubaki's eyes narrowed, "Do you know who it was that created this chart?"

"I think Sakura did. Why?"

"Has anyone else besides Sakura seen you or treated you since you were brought here?"

"Well, no."

Naruto's confusion seemed to grow at Tsubaki's few moments of thoughtful contemplation.

"Naruto…" Tsubaki broke the silence, her face suddenly adopting a serious expression, "…I'm going to issue a formal request that Sakura Haruno not be allowed to treat you for the foreseeable future. I need to speak to the Hokage."

"Whoa, whoa, wait a minute!" Naruto began, shocked at the brunette medic's admission, "Why don't you want Sakura treating me?"

"Because you've sustained injuries that are not listed here on this chart, which means that Sakura either didn't record them when she constructed your chart, or you've sustained them since you were admitted. For a medic to not report such injuries if they are aware of them is unethical and illegal."

Naruto just stared at her for a few moments. Tsubaki continued, "Naruto, there are signs of blunt-force trauma, past and present, to your skull. Your healing ability, thankfully, allows you to recover from injuries of even that severity. Still, though, if it was anyone else, these injuries could have been terminal or even fatal."

Naruto's eyes went wide. Sakura's punches to the head were affecting him that badly? He did find that he had trouble thinking or seeing straight for a few days any time after Sakura hit him on the top of his head. And her hits hurt, which was saying something, considering Naruto's tolerance for pain.

"Naruto, I know you don't want a friend of yours to get into trouble," Tsubaki said, "But this has to be reported; it's the law."

Naruto, seeing the pretty medic's urgency…'Huh? Pretty? I'll admit, she certainly is, but where'd that come from?'…Naruto closed his eyes, sighed and nodded. Tsubaki made a few additional notes to the chart at the foot of Naruto's bed and left to find the Hokage…

Tsunade frowned in concern, several issues weighing on her mind. The first and foremost was the damage done to Kakuzu's body from the Wind Style: Rasenshuriken, and the corresponding damage to Naruto's arm. She hoped that Naruto would heed the warnings about using the jutsu unless a way could be found to eliminate the damage to the user.

The other issue was Sakura's continual loss of temper with Naruto over nothing. Just because Naruto wasn't paying her as much attention as he used to was not a reason for her to go off on him any time she felt like it. And then to go so far as to hit him simply because he objected to going to the hospital? Most people object to that! It would also seem that Sakura had been making herself a bit scarce when Tsunade would have the time to speak with her about the matter. As it wasn't a matter of critical urgency right now, she would have to let it slide in favor of more urgent and higher-priority issues.

"Lady Tsunade?" she heard a familiar female voice ask. She looked up to see a welcome sight.

"Tsubaki," she said with some relief, "It's good to see a friend. Please, come in."

"Thank you, my lady," Tsubaki responded as she quickly entered and closed the door.

Tsubaki briskly made her way to Tsunade's desk, and placed a copy of the chart she had just finished updating in front of Tsunade, "Tsunade, I wish this was a friendly visit, but I felt that this was something you'd need to address right away."

Tsunade, not used to the urgency in Tsubaki's voice, frowned in confusion, "Okay, what is it?"

"This is a copy of Naruto Uzumaki's current chart. Please have a look at it," she gestured to the documents she had laid in front of the older blonde.

Tsunade picked it up and started going through it. Her eyes narrowed the more she read. When she was done, she put the chart down and stared hard at Tsubaki. To her surprise, Tsubaki didn't even flinch.

"Tsubaki, do you mean to tell me with this chart that you believe Sakura Haruno either didn't check Naruto's head for injuries or deliberately left them off of his chart?"

"That's exactly what I mean to tell you, Lady Tsunade," she responded with firm conviction, "In fact, I've already placed in a request with Shizune to keep Sakura Haruno from being allowed to treat Naruto for the remainder of his stay in the hospital until we can get to the bottom of this. If injuries of this nature are not on this chart, either she doesn't know what she's doing…or worse, she does."

Tsunade's eyes widened at this; Tsubaki, still not done, continued, "I'm also requesting that you go to his room and check my findings; I believe I've found something else that I didn't write onto that chart yet because I frankly couldn't believe what I found, so I'd ask if you could go over him as well and see if he has…well…inflammation to his brain?"

"Encephalitis?" Tsunade responded, stunned.

"That's just it! There's no trace of any pathogens that would cause encephalitis in his body, but I'm pretty sure his brain is swollen. The weird thing, though, is that he's not showing any outward symptoms of a closed head injury!"

At Tsubaki's diagnosis, Tsunade wasted no time. She got up from her desk and headed straight to the hospital.

"Follow me!" she ordered Tsubaki. Tsubaki was on her heels the whole way...

Once they got to Naruto's room, there was Naruto, and Sakura was there with him, apparently about to hit him on the head again…with the clipboard that had his chart on it.

"Freeze where you are, Sakura!" Tsunade bellowed out. Sakura, in her surprise, froze in her tracks.

"Err…what?" Sakura asked in her confusion, lowering her arm. Naruto's flinch also relaxed.

Tsunade quickly moved around to Naruto's bedside, her hand covered in green medical chakra as she started gently rubbing her palm around his head. Tsubaki followed her in, turning her gaze towards Sakura.

"What are you doing in this room, Sakura?" Tsubaki asked.

"What do you mean, 'what am I doing in here?'? I'm treating my teammate!" she responded indignantly.

"After I found a few discrepancies on his chart…" Tsubaki paid attention to Sakura's facial expressions as she was explaining herself. Sakura seemed genuinely confused, "…I made a formal request to Shizune that you not be allowed in here to treat him."

"Discrepancies? What discrepancies? I listed every injury that he was admitted for!"

"What about the injuries to his head?"

Sakura's confusion seemed to grow, "What injuries to his head? What in the world are you talking about?"

"Whether you know or not is not the issue right now. You are not authorized to be in this room!" Tsubaki informed her firmly.

"Actually, Sakura, stay for now, but please sit over there," Tsunade instructed, pointing to a chair on the far side of the room while still focusing on scanning Naruto's head.

After several minutes, Tsunade was done, "You're right, Tsubaki. He does have a closed-head injury."

Sakura gasped upon hearing this. She brought her hands up to her face in her surprise. Tsubaki turned to the pink-haired girl upon hearing her gasp before turning her attention back to Naruto.

Tsunade spoke up once more, "Naruto, I'm going to use a technique that should reduce some of the pressure you must be feeling on your head, okay? It'll hurt a bit, but you'll feel a lot better afterwards."

Naruto just nodded, trusting the woman to treat him properly. Tsunade performed a few hand seals and the green in her hands seemed to deepen and become a slightly darker shade. She put her hands to Naruto's head. At first, he didn't seem to feel anything different but after a few seconds, he closed his eyes and began to grit his teeth. Shortly after this, a pained groan made itself known from the back of Naruto's throat. After a couple of minutes of this, Naruto slumped back, completely unconscious. Tsunade ran through a few more techniques, apparently taking care of some of the after-effects of her jutsu before performing a final scan.

"He should be fine, now," Tsunade breathed out at last, "Tsubaki, scan him again, please?"

Tsubaki followed the blonde's orders, running the scan and confirming Tsunade's findings. She nodded as she finished up. Both of them turned to Sakura.

"Sakura?" Tsunade began, "Explain yourself!"

"Wh-wh-well, I…I…didn't know he had sustained any injuries to his head," she finally got out.

"Ball up your fist, please," Tsunade ordered firmly.


"Do it!"

"Okay, okay," Sakura said nervously, balling up her fist and presenting it to Tsunade. Tsunade took a moment to do a few visual measurements on Sakura's closed fist.

Once she was done, Tsunade explained somewhat darkly, "The size and indentations of your fist match many of the injuries to Naruto's head, Sakura. You're apparently the one who gave him that injury…and some of his other past injuries as well."

Sakura gasped once more, tears beginning to well into her eyes. She turned her gaze to him, looking forlorn, "I…I didn't know…"

"Sakura, I can only hope that's the honest truth, because I'd hate to think what it meant if you did know," Tsunade said, her tone leaving no room for excuse on Sakura's part, "But regardless of whether or not you knew about that, what excuse do you have for violating protocol and coming into this room when instructions were clearly given for you not to?"

"I…I…I just wanted to…to see my friend…"

"Your friend? Do you give head injuries to all your 'friends'? You knew that you were not to come in here, did you not?" Tsubaki interrupted as she became agitated.

Sakura nodded to Tsubaki.

"Sakura," Tsunade brought the girl's attention back to herself, "As I don't believe you honestly meant Naruto any harm, I'll be lenient as far as a penalty goes. But you need to understand something: your actions here today, and your negligence concerning all of Naruto's injuries can be considered gross medical malpractice! I'll allow you to keep your rank and continue working as a medic, but as of now, your apprenticeship under me is over!"

Sakura gasped once more as tears began to freely flow, "Please, Lady Tsunade, not that!"

"Would you rather I send you to prison?" Tsunade interrupted, causing Sakura to go wide-eyed, "Because that's the due penalty for this!"

After a few moments' pause, Tsunade continued, "Sakura, I have never condoned your overly-volatile and abusive treatment of Naruto. Granted, I know I've hit Jiraiya in the past, and there was the one time that I beat him to near-death for being a perverted lecher. But that one time, I regretted it…I still regret it to this day. I went too far, and you've never seen me hit him since…nor will you! You, on the other hand, have hit Naruto simply because you were annoyed with him, which is one issue in and of itself, but because you know my super-strength technique, that makes you a clear and present danger to his life and health!"

Sakura seemed to shrink in on herself at her master's harsh rebuke. Tsunade continued, "As I said, Sakura, your apprenticeship with me is over. And if I ever hear of you hitting Naruto again, especially around the head, the day I hear of that will be the day that your career as both a medic and as a ninja end, too! Am I understood?"

Sakura could do naught but hang her head in shame, "Yes, Lady Tsunade."

"Good. Now leave this room and do not come back in for the remainder of Naruto's stay, here!"

Sakura simply nodded before slowly leaving the room. Tsunade could only look on in angry disappointment. Tsubaki honestly didn't know what to say. After a few minutes, Tsunade began to shed a few tears of her own and hang her head, shaking it back and forth.

"I didn't imagine in a million years that this would happen. I didn't imagine that she'd take after my own failings like this," she said quietly.

Tsubaki sighed, "Lady Tsunade, I'm sorry about all of this."

"No…you have nothing to apologize for; you did the right and ethical thing by bringing this to my attention, Tsubaki. Thank you."

"You're welcome…and I promise that Naruto will get well quickly while he's under my care, here."

Tsunade turned to Tsubaki for a moment before smiling with narrow eyes and asking slyly, "You have a soft spot for Naruto, don't you?"

Tsubaki blushed a deep red suddenly, beginning to sputter. As she realized she was busted, she calmed down and nodded, "Yeah, maybe a little."

Tsunade laughed before her smile softened and gestured to the woman, "I don't think so; you've got more than a little soft spot for him! Tell you what: you can tell me all about it over sake tonight."

Tsubaki laughed, "Deal."

Both of them left Naruto's room, allowing him some much-needed rest.

"By the way," Tsunade added as they both walked down the hall, "It looks like I'll need a new apprentice now. Interested?"

Being Tsunade's apprentice certainly wasn't easy. Tsubaki was training day in and day out with Tsunade whenever time permitted. Tsunade was amazed once more at how Tsubaki took to her master's teachings like a fish to water, approaching them with a drive that even Sakura had failed to show. Her medical jutsu were already top-notch, and the advanced chakra control exercises that Tsunade had shown her brought her already-stellar chakra control to new heights.

Tsubaki also started serving as Tsunade's assistant when Shizune was unavailable, or out on a mission. Tsunade looked forward to these times, as while Shizune would always take away Tsunade's precious sake, Tsubaki would usually drink with her! Of course, she'd make sure that Tsunade drank in moderation while on duty, as she herself would, but being the Hokage was stressful! There were days when Tsunade quite frankly needed a drink or ten, especially with what Homura, Koharu and Danzo put the poor woman through.

Thinking of those three always put Tsubaki on edge. She had once nearly lost her temper with all of them and was about to show them her newfound prowess with Tsunade super-strength technique, but fortunately, it turned out not to be necessary. The elders also learned to stay away from Tsunade's office unless it was a matter that could not wait, as unlike Shizune, Tsubaki wasn't intimidated by them in the least. They weren't getting to Tsunade if they didn't absolutely need to; not on her watch!

Once Shizune and team had returned from the mission to retrieve and seal the Three-Tailed Turtle, with no turtle to show for all of their efforts, Tsubaki spent that night commiserating with Tsunade over the full onslaught of the Elders that Shizune certainly stood no chance against. It had been a wonderfully miserable night of getting completely trashed and forgetting…at least until the next morning, to be painfully reminded not only by circumstances but by their hangovers as well.

Naruto had also returned with the sealing team, but was sent out almost immediately afterwards once intel had been received that Orochimaru had been killed by Sasuke Uchiha. He had been given a mission to find and capture Itachi Uchiha, who had been spotted in the Land of Fire. It was also during this time that Jiraiya had gone to the Village Hidden in the Rain. Tsunade had had a horrible, sinking feeling in her gut when Jiraiya left, and she immediately went to Tsubaki's home. Tsubaki, who hadn't ever seen Tsunade in such a state, elected to allow her to come into her home and do their drinking there. Tsunade was in tears about it all; meanwhile all Tsubaki could do was hug the woman. Their drinking that night consisted more of tea than sake.

'How did we develop such a kinship with each other?' Tsubaki thought offhand, 'She was certainly my hero growing up, but it's amazing how we've become such great friends. What makes her trust me so much?'

Deciding to voice her thoughts once Tsunade had calmed down and was content again, she asked, "Tsunade?"


"Just curious…how did we become such great friends in so short a time? I mean, why do you trust me so much?"

Tsunade, without missing a beat, answered, "I honestly think you're the most objective person I've ever met in this village, Tsubaki. That's at least what makes me trust you as much as I do."

"What makes you say that?"

"Your opinion of Naruto and how you formed it, for one. Of all the people I've ever spoken to in this village, you're the only person besides Teuchi and Ayame Ichiraku who have ever taken a fair, objective look at him. It's funny, Shizune did, too when we first met him."

Tsubaki simply nodded, listening to her mentor and friend while Tsunade told her the story of how she first met Naruto. They spent their evening exchanging stories about Naruto, some of which had been told before, some of which had not. After Tsunade had crashed there for the evening, they both continued the next day as they usually would, in slightly better spirits than they would have otherwise been…

Naruto and team had just gotten back from the mission to capture and retrieve Itachi Uchiha. They came up with nothing. Apparently, Itachi had been killed by Sasuke by the time they got there, and blood stains were the only evidence of the battle that had taken place. That wasn't the main issue that was bothering Tsubaki at the moment. What was bothering Tsubaki was how Naruto would take the news about Jiraiya's being killed in the Hidden Rain.

He didn't take it well. Tsubaki received the news from Shizune as to what had taken place in Tsunade's office. The woman knew that Tsunade would probably want to be left alone right now; if she wanted company, she'd seek it out. She also knew that Tsunade would be alright. It was Naruto that she was worried about right now.

As soon as her shift ended, she began her search for him. It was late; the sun had long since set. She couldn't find him in any of his normal haunts! He wasn't at Ichiraku's, he wasn't on the Hokage Monument…he wasn't even at home! Where was he? She continued searching; she had to find him! After several hours of continuous searching, she had become too tired to continue her search; she would rest and try again tomorrow. She chanced by a convenience store…and caught a glimpse of orange out of the corner of her eye. Turning her gaze in the direction of the orange, she saw him…and the state that he was in caused her stomach to clinch and her heart to break.

There he was, sitting on a bench in a slumped over position. Tears were streaming down his face. He wasn't wearing his jacket; he was in his orange track suit pants and a black t-shirt. He was just staring at the ground, oblivious to any and all around him. In his hand was a double-stick popsicle, melting and dripping onto the street below; he hadn't made any attempt to eat it.

Tsubaki felt her own tears begin to form. She walked over to him slowly. He hadn't noticed her at all. Once she reached him, she knelt down and took his free hand in both of her own. This got his attention, as he brought his gaze up to look the woman in the eye.

"Tsubaki…" he muttered, surprised to see her.

She moved to sit beside him on the bench. Once she was situated, not having let go of his hand, she said softly through her tears, "I'm sorry…I'm so sorry…"

Naruto just sat there for a few moments, not knowing what to say. In his discomfort, he began to put on his goofy façade with closed eyes and make light of his feelings, "Aww, it's okay, Tsubaki…I'm fine…"

Tsubaki interrupted him by bringing a hand up to his face and gently resting it there, causing his eyes to snap open and his grin to turn into a half-gape.

"Naruto, please…" she began, "…don't do this to yourself…" her voice began to break as she continued, "…and please don't do that to me, either."

Naruto just sat there, staring wide-eyed at the woman who was breaking through his emotional defenses. He turned his head away while averting his gaze from hers. Tsubaki, however, brought the hand that was on his cheek to his chin and gently turned his gaze back to her own.

Seeing that she had his full attention again, she smiled softly through her tears, brought her hand back up to his cheek, and gently addressed him, "It's alright."

Naruto seemed to wrestle with what to do. He wasn't sure how to respond to this woman that could worm her way through his barriers in a way nobody else had ever been able to do. As his eyes flitted this way and that, Tsubaki leaned in and kissed Naruto on his other cheek, bringing his attention back to her and stopping his panicked fidgeting.

After lingering there for a few seconds, she pulled back and stared into his eyes again. Smiling just as softly, her eyes flowing with even more tears than before, she told him once more, this time a little more urgently, "It's alright."

Feeling his barriers begin to break even further, and panic begin to arise anew, Naruto closed his eyes and forcibly wrenched his gaze and his head away from her. Tsubaki, however, would have none of that. She let go of his hand and brought both hands up to his cheeks. Cupping his face in her hands, she gently yet forcibly brought his face back around to meet hers as she threw herself forward while pulling him towards her, smashing her lips into his own.

Naruto froze, his eyes as wide as dinner plates. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he noted that he had allowed the popsicle to drop from his hand. He gasped as he felt the woman's tongue snake into his mouth. As Naruto's own tongue instinctively danced with hers, he could feel one of her hands making its way to the back of his head with a looser grip on him. Tsubaki's sobs could be heard through her kiss, and somehow Naruto knew what she was trying to tell him. This kiss was not only a show of affection and an attempt at comfort, but a plea to let her in – into his heart, into his thoughts, and at least right now, into his life.

Tsubaki finally pulled away slowly, tears still streaming down her face. Naruto just look on, stunned, confused, yet still shedding silent tears. Tsubaki started gently stroking his face with the hand that was still on his cheek.

"It's alright, Naruto…it's alright," she said once more, this time her tone a pleading one. Naruto understood her words, now. She wanted him to know that he was safe with her. It was alright for him to let his walls down and be who he really was - to express and let out what he really felt. It was alright for him to grieve the way he needed to grieve, and to allow this woman to support and comfort him through it.

So many things went through Naruto's mind at that point. Why was this beautiful, precious creature going so far out of her way to help him? What about him made her think he was worth her while? What was it about her that she seemed to know him well enough to get to his fragile, wounded heart? The answer came as quickly as the questions did: she knew because she could relate. He wasn't sure about the recognition she always seemed to show him before, but right now, he knew where she could relate to him – she'd lost her daughter, the closest person to her as well.

Right now, she knew exactly how he felt. She also knew exactly what he needed to be able to do to work his way through this, as well. Unable to hold back the torrent of feelings any longer, he began to break down and lean into her, sobs forcing themselves up from his throat. She brought him into a warm, tight, comforting embrace, kissing the side of his face that was next to hers while doing so and sobbing with him.

"It's alright…it's alright…" she whispered to him softly as he began to bawl and wail, wrapping his own arms around her and clinging to her as though his life depended on it. She never imagined she would hear such heart-wrenching cries from this man; this seemingly unbreakable spirit. Even when the Third had died, Naruto's reaction wasn't anything like this. She just let him cry into her. She sat there as he sobbed into first her shoulder, and then into her blouse-clad bosom. She held him there, whispering sweet words of comfort to him, crying with him as he let out the anguish and grief that was almost overwhelming him.

After an indeterminate amount of time, Naruto had cried himself out. He got up off the woman, noting where he was; he looked at her slowly, seeing her own tear-stained, puffy face and laughing sheepishly.


"Naruto, it's alright…" she interrupted gently, her own tears not having stopped yet.

Naruto, not knowing what to make of her expression, tried to excuse himself, "Well…err…I appreciate what you just did for me. I…guess I should be getting home now…"

"No!" Tsubaki said forcefully, grabbing his hand before he could leave, "Naruto…I'm not leaving you alone, tonight."

Naruto frowned in confusion at her.

"Come with me…" Tsubaki gently ordered, standing up and leading him by the hand. Too tired to argue, Naruto allowed himself to be pulled along by Tsubaki. After pulling him into the streets, Tsubaki pulled him into another quick hug and used shunshin to teleport back to her apartment. When they reappeared, Naruto took a few seconds to get his bearings and acquaint himself to his location. He could see the Hokage Tower close by, off to the right of what he guessed was Tsubaki's apartment building, letting him know where he was.

Tsubaki quickly unlocked her apartment and led Naruto inside. After seeing her close and lock her front door, Naruto voiced his confusion, "Tsubaki, not that I mind, but…why have you brought me here?"

"Because you don't need to be by yourself right now; please…just take the word of someone who knows," she pleaded with him softly yet urgently. She then went through what Naruto guessed was her routine for when she arrived home after a hard day at work: removing her sandals, checking for messages delivered while she was out, and various other mundane tasks.

"Make yourself at home, okay? I'll be done in a few minutes," she offered.

Naruto sighed and nodded, seating himself down on one of her couches in her living room. Not knowing what to do or say, he settled for leaning his head back against the back of the couch, closing his eyes. His mind's eye flooded his thoughts with images of Jiraiya – times they'd laughed together, special moments they'd experienced during their training trip, times when they both had to flee for their lives from righteously angry women that the pervert had peeked on, as all the while Jiraiya shouted that he regretted nothing. Naruto's memories seemed to fixate on the times when Jiraiya had bought and shared double-stick popsicles with him. Tears once again came unbidden to Naruto's eyes as a few sobs escaped his throat once more.

After a few moments of this, a soft hand to his face caused him to open his eyes once more. His gaze fell upon Tsubaki, who had come over to him once she'd heard his sobs again. While no longer in tears the way he was, her eyes were still filled with a knowing pain for him. She took both of his hands in hers and pulled. Naruto stood up and allowed him to lead her through her apartment through a hallway and into a door. When Naruto saw a queen-sized bed, his eyes went wide as he turned his gaze to her. She gently turned him around so that he was now walking backwards, and instead of pulling him, she was now gently pushing him into her bedroom, closing the door behind her.

"Tsubaki…" Naruto began, only to be interrupted by her raising a finger to his lips, followed by a gentle kiss. That kiss was followed by several more, and within a few moments, Tsubaki was working Naruto's shirt off of his body.

"Is this a good idea?" Naruto barely whispered out, unable to process how he should react, tears still flowing from his eyes in the grief that his memories of Jiraiya brought on.

"Not important right now…" Tsubaki answered as she proceeded kissing him once more while lifting his shirt off of him. It wasn't long before both of them were in nothing but their undergarments. Naruto was still shedding tears, while Tsubaki was running her hands all over Naruto's exposed upper body, her kisses, while still gentle, had turned from chaste to passionate as she began using her tongue to play with his own once more.

"Just let go, Naruto…I've invited you into my home…" she spoke between kisses as she gently pushed Naruto onto her bed, "…I've invited you into my bed. Please…let me comfort you tonight."


Tsubaki removed her bra and panties slowly, exposing her naked body to Naruto. Naruto, no longer able to think straight with the tempest of emotions raging through him, relented to her request and removed his boxers.

Despite both of them being completely exposed before each other, they hadn't broken eye-contact. Tender, caring chocolate-brown eyes stared into dazzling electric blue pools. Tsubaki got into the bed on her knees, and slowly moved to straddle the blond as he sat with his back against the headboard. Tsubaki's hands continued exploring his body as she looked deep into his eyes and continued kissing him lovingly. Naruto began to kiss her in turn. After a few moments, he pulled back and drank in her beautiful form, his hands apprehensively reaching out to touch her.

She took his hands in her own, bringing his gaze back to her face. The warmth and acceptance that he saw in her sparkling brown pools caused his apprehension to melt away. She brought his hands to her thighs and began to guide them across her skin…up her legs, over her hips and rear, and upwards…around her back, over her sides and towards her front, bringing them to stop on her supple breasts. She leaned in and began to kiss him again.

After a few moments, she opened her eyes to look at him once more, and seeing his nervousness, she asked softly, "Are you alright?"

"I…err…I don't…know," he admitted honestly.

"Naruto," she brought a hand up to his face and began to stroke his cheek again, "This is all for you. We don't have to do anything that you're uncomfortable with, okay? I know that this must be confusing, but I want you to understand: this is an act of comfort and love…okay? You're not obligated to do this now, and I'm not going to hold you to anything in the future as a result of what does or doesn't happen here tonight. Do you understand?"

Naruto's breathing and pulse began to quicken as he saw the love and sincerity that her eyes presented to him. He nodded in response to her question as he slowly leaned up towards her face and kissed her just as gently and as passionately as she had done to him. After a few minutes, he leaned back and continued looking into her eyes, his hands never having left her breasts the entire time.

"Are you alright with this? Are you willing to trust me?" Tsubaki asked gently.

Naruto smiled as warmly as he could and nodded slowly. Tsubaki thought it best to keep things simple tonight, given Naruto's evident lack of experience with sexual intimacy and the turbulent instability of the emotional roller-coaster that the next few days were sure to be for him. Without saying another word, she got off him and rolled over to the nightstand on her side of the bed. Opening the drawer, she pulled out a bottle that Naruto saw was labeled as sexual lubricant before closing it. Opening the bottle and putting some of the slick, oily fluid into her right hand, she reached down to his hard shaft and began to apply it slowly and gently, rubbing her hand and fingers up and down, making sure she covered it all.

His twitches at the contact of her warm, soft hand were not lost on Tsubaki, and neither were the involuntary moans that escaped him every few seconds. She smiled as she thought about how good this would feel for him. Once she saw that his manhood was sufficiently lubricated to provide comfortable entry into her canal, she straddled the blond youth once more, lining his tip to her entrance. Scooting forward slightly, she kissed him once more as she gently lowered herself onto him, bringing gasps from both of them as they became one. Tsubaki leaned into Naruto, wrapping her arms around him, one around his back, the other around his neck holding his head to her shoulder.

Naruto's hands came forward and snaked their way around her back, holding her to him while gently caressing the velvety flesh of the brunette's back, occasionally strumming his fingers through her silky honey-colored locks. She started kissing him once more as she began to slowly move up and down upon his shaft.

Not a word was said between the two. The only sounds that came forth from them were gasps and moans that were soft and sensual, their coupling a slow, sensual, intimate dance instead of a fast romp. Tears began to come forth from Naruto's eyes yet again; this time, he wasn't sure why. Tsubaki seemed to understand as she smiled at him, bring the hand around his head towards his face, kissing him as she continued her slow steady rise and fall, moving every so often to kiss the tears off of his face.

After a few minutes, Naruto's hands went from her back to her glutes as he instinctively began to guide her up-and-down motions with his hands, lifting and relaxing in time with her own bounces onto his member. Before long, Naruto's impending climax made itself known as his moans became louder. Tsubaki, sensing his impending release, leaned more tightly into him, holding him more tightly to herself. Naruto yelled in a groan from the back of his throat as he ejaculated into Tsubaki's womb, the feel of Naruto's seed filling her triggering her own climax as she yelled out in release, soaking Naruto's groin with her own juices.

(Lemon End)

Both of them took a few moments to recover, spent from the act they had just engaged in. They held each other tightly for a few minutes as they came back down, Tsubaki kissing him softly all the while, before she slowly separated herself from Naruto. She got out of the bed and pulled him out as well before moving to get the covers stained with their fluids off of the bed. She took the sopping linens and blankets and placed them into a hamper before retrieving fresh bedding from her closet and redressing the bed. After the bed was remade, she pulled back the covers and got under them, gently taking Naruto's hand and pulling him into the bed with her.

"Are you alright, honey?" she asked once he was situated, stroking his face and hair once more, giving him a gentle, loving smile.

"Yeah…I am. I think I'm okay…at least for now," he responded, smiling back, though a few tears still continued to flow down his face.

"Let's just go to sleep for now; it's been a long day, and we can talk more in the morning," Tsubaki suggested. Naruto nodded, and reached around to the lamp on the nightstand at his side of the bed, turning it off and laying down on his back. Tsubaki leaned into his side, draping her leg over his own and laying her head and hand on his chest.

"Good night, sweetheart," she whispered softly, kissing his chest.

"Good night…princess," he whispered back, bringing an arm around her and holding her more closely to himself. Both of them drifted off into a peaceful slumber, seemingly given a reprieve from life's current troubles…

And that's Chapter 4! This was my first ever lemon – I didn't actually plan to write one for this story, but it just seemed to fit, here, and the context of it does add to what I want to do with the story. I won't ever write a lemon scene just to write a lemon scene – if it doesn't actually enhance or compliment the overall story I'm telling, I won't add it in. That's just for future reference.

Also, in case you're wondering, the seeming "over-quickness" of the two of them jumping into bed together is by design. It was NOT an oversight on my part. There was a reason for it, and there is a reason that it happened as seemingly quickly as it did. It will all make sense next chapter.

Please, read, review, tell me how you think I did.