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Chapter Eleven: Burying Old Pain

Naruto leapt with the others over the trees as fast as humanly possible. Their faces were grim, as if they could feel Orochimaru’s presence preparing to strike. When they finally reached the edge of the village, Naruto leapt down and told Sakura to stay hidden. She didn’t protest, as she knew that this was the right thing to do. Before Naruto left, she stopped him and grabbed his shoulder. He turned to Sakura puzzled. “What is it, Sakura? Is something wrong?”

Sakura looked down, and didn’t say a word. Naruto lifted her face up and saw she was crying. She looked up at him through soft tears. “N-Naruto…Sasuke…I know that he…I just…oh, I’m just so confused!” She buried her face into Naruto’s chest, her voice wracked with sobs.

“I’ve w-wanted to tell him f-for so long h-h-h-how I feel and wh-when I thought he f-felt the same way, he just, just…” She broke off into sobs. Naruto held her tight, but not in a compassionate way. More like how a father picks up their child and holds them after they fall. She looked up at him and sniffed.

“N-Naruto…what should I do? Sasuke might be killed by Orochimaru, and I’ll never see him again! Please, tell me…am I doing the right thing by still trying? I-I realize I haven’t always been the nicest person to you, Naruto…but you’ve always been able to stand on your own…and I’ve always wished I had that kind of will…”

Naruto looked at her sadly as he listened. He remembered how he used to feel about Sakura. He remembered all the times she made him feel torn up inside and want to cry. And he remembered thinking that she was the one he would spend the rest of his life with. He knew that at the moment, Hinata needed more help, but his thoughts were a mess.

He had always envied Sasuke for being so much more than what he was. He seemed to effortlessly act as a shinobi, almost undefeatable. He was an honored and revered person, with girls clamoring after him every step he took. Part of him wanted to tell Sakura no, that Sasuke wasn’t worth her time. Part of him wanted to tell her how he originally felt about her.

When he shut his eyes, he opened his heart and he saw her there. He whispered to her and prepared to pour out his feelings for her, “Sakura, I…” But before he could finish, the image in his heart abruptly changed. Sakura’s form faded, and in its place was Hinata. He realized the truth, now. He realized that Hinata was the one person his entire life who never cared about how he contained a demon, or that his birth killed the Fourth Hokage. No, she smiled at him and was kind to him, even when he was ignorant enough to not recognize her feelings for him.

He opened his eyes and looked deeply into hers. “Sakura, I think you should go after Sasuke with everything you got. Now I know he’s been stubborn in the past, but hey, who isn’t when it comes to love?” He grinned, then turned and zipped off to follow the others. Sakura simply stood there in a daze not quite sure what she was feeling.

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