Naruto Fan Fiction ❯ Departure ( Chapter 14 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
TYK: I know what you’re thinking: this many updates in such a small time span? Yep, I’m that invested. In fact, I write everything by hand while I’m at work or in bed before typing it up, and lately I’ve written about fifty pages worth of this fic that just needs to be typed. So I’m editing as I go. Forgive small syntax errors and the such. And I’m deciding where to cut off the chapters as I’m going. And here it is; the next installment is upon us! Read and review please! Like any writer on here, I am fueled by response! I want to know that people are still as invested in this story as I am!

By morning, Gaara was fully rested, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by his mood. Just like an old married couple, Sakura had roused him up by throwing back the covers and shouting, “We’re late!” into his ear. He’d blinked a few times before it dawned on him that it was morning, but Sakura, again, didn’t let him idle for long.

“Didn’t you hear me? Get up! We have to go! The last thing I need is for Shino and Naruto to come looking for me here…” She paused to grab her discarded bag from beside the dresser. “And I didn’t even think to pack anything last night!”

Most of her rhetorical attempts at conversation were lost on Gaara as he looked out the still open window to the very tip of the Suna gates. He could imagine Uzumaki waiting and the dark one pacing with anxiety over the woman’s tardiness. He looked at Sakura who was bustling around the rooms trying to grab everything she brought with her. Eyes scanning over her body, he visually measured the warmth that emanated from her curves. And suddenly he regretted pushing away her attempt at physical contact the night before. He could have enjoyed far more than a full night’s rest, but that blasted Shino had to come into his mind and remind Gaara of their lingering hug. But she hadn’t kissed Shino, he added. She hadn’t pressed herself to him the way she had to Gaara. And it was with this motivation that he rose from the bed and strode over to the kunoichi. She stood by the desk using its surface to gather her things. But he flipped her to face him and crashed his lips to hers.

Sakura didn’t react for a moment, which gave him time to sweep an arm across the surface behind her. If either of them heard the items tumble to the floor, they didn’t react. Sakura grasped onto the sides of his face, and Gaara snaked his hands to cup her round thighs before lifting her on top of the desk and settling in between her legs.

This feels right.

It was a brief thought that was interrupted by hands coming up the waist and down the chest, and in the midst of it all, her shirt became undone. For the second time, Gaara saw a glimpse of her beautiful chest, bared even more by the wrappings beneath that had come loose. One tug and he could…

“Gaara? We were supposed to meet at the gates almost twenty minutes ago.” Temari’s voice and her gentle knocks floated right to their ears and sent the wrong kind of chill down each spine.

The kage fumed with rage but hadn’t responded yet, so the pinkette found a voice in his place.

“We’ll be a minute! I just forgot to pack!”

Both of them traced the blonde’s footsteps as they silently receded from the door, but the damage had been done. Neither one of them wanted to move from their current predicament. Removing their hands from each other would make them admit something had been going on. Something had been about to happen had Temari not interrupted.

She couldn’t even look him in the eyes as she fixed her shirt and simply leaned over to threw everything into her bag—not caring if she forgot something—and headed for the door.

So you can understand why Gaara was in such a foul mood. He barely caught up to the kunoichi in her haste to retreat to the two Konoha nins.

“You will return,” he said evenly once he was beside her.

Sakura glared at him from the corner of her eyes but otherwise pretended that his comment was lost on the wind whipping past her face. Before she could enter the open area surrounding Suna’s entrance, Gaara jumped in front of her and stopped her in her tracks. Sakura’s bags fell to the ground.

“I’ll even bet that you won’t get the same satisfaction out of Shino after you return to Konoha.”

“What is your problem? I’m leaving, and the only thing you’re doing with your little cocky attitude here is making my decision to stay in Konoha even more concrete.” She sighed in barely contained frustration. “Damn, Gaara, you think you just know everything. But you’re wrong. There’s no way I can stay here with you.”

“But you want to.”

“I don’t know anymore!” Sakura picked up her things and walked the rest of the distance toward her comrades.

“Well, we were beginning to get worried!” Naruto shouted. “Shino here was about to storm the castle.”

“Well, I’m here now, so let’s hurry up and leave.”

At her words, Gaara began to step forward to her side.

Shino stepped between Sakura and Gaara immediately and added, “Our agreement stands. You won’t stop her from leaving. The Hokage will be in touch.”

The Kazekage’s clear, green eyes met hers. There it was again: a look at the man who didn’t want her to go. The man that trusted and valued her.

Why did you make it impossible for me to not fall for you, Gaara, when we could never truly be together?

“Gaara, I…” She really couldn’t think of an exit line. The last month hadn’t really been a pleasure. And she couldn’t say that she would plan to return to Suna, but she felt like she had to say something. The last words between them couldn’t be I don’t know anymore. It was too prosaic. “Thanks.”

She turned to walk out with Naruto and Shino on either side of her. And Gaara knitted his brows together in confusion and alarm.

What the hell did she mean by that?

The entire way home, Sakura contemplated what she’d meant by the “thanks” she’d blurted out at the last moment. Why that of all things? It seemed like the best goodbye she could muster beyond actually saying goodbye. But there had to be something she was thankful for after three months in Suna… She was certainly thankful for heading home. But Gaara would have prevented that had he the power. She might have been thankful for his hospitality during her stay with him. Nope, not when he forced the whole experience upon her in the first place. She could have said thanks for his exhilarating company, but let’s face it, that wasn’t exactly his strong point in the past three months. It’s not generally the best sign when most of your relationship happens in the bedroom.

And she wasn’t even going to explore that part of her mission. Sakura didn’t think that bedding—literally—the Kazekage was in the fine print of the contract, whether sleep or something else was involved. In fact, she was more confused than ever on that front. And now the familiar feeling of being with Shino, feeling his eyes watch over her, was coming back even though somehow she sensed it was different.

His company didn’t seem as intense as she’d gotten used to, whereas the thought of Gaara was enough to get her hot and bothered with a tense feeling in her lower half. Again, not a topic to indulge when they were making a non-stop trip back home.

Shino led the group, keeping close tabs on the woman next to him. She had been quiet since they left, but he supposed she had a lot to think about. Not to mention that even after he poured his heart out to her in his letter, things were still quite unresolved. He was with Sakura on that front. That was a topic better left for the confines of his rooms at a later date.

Behind his glasses, Shino closed his eyes for a moment, trusting his sense to help dodge trees as they had left the sand behind and now ventured into more lush territory. The sound of droplets of water falling into the bathtub and rolling gracefully down her curves invaded his senses. It was the last night she’d been with him before the Kazekage had stolen her away, when she was trying to melt away the stress in her body with a long, warm bath. To his everlasting shame as the gentleman he’d always considered himself to be, he’d looked. It had been only for a moment, and blissfully he’d turned his head to the bathroom door, wide open, just as she was coming up for air. Head tilted, eyes locked closed, the curve of her neck became a slope for the luckiest drops of water he’d ever seen. His sunglasses slid down his nose, and the dark depths behind them followed the wet trails to her chest.

For a moment, she was his. Bared fully, wet and vulnerable, he then settled with himself that she was the woman for him. She was the woman overlooked by the village for her younger narcissistic self. He was going to fully commit to her someday with hope that she would do the same. So until that day came, he would have the vision of her lovely form burned into his mind—until her eyes opened, that is, and his face turned quickly away. He thanked whatever deity was up there that she couldn’t see the burning cheeks his sunglasses rested on.

Looking over at her now, he noticed that she wasn’t quite the same woman as that time in the bathroom. There was an element of fear that was missing, thankfully. And he couldn’t help but see how the confidence in each step, each leap that brought them closer to their home.

You made the right decision, Sakura, she kept telling herself like a motivational mantra. This is where you belong. She glanced over at Shino, who’d been doing to same to her ever since their departure. The fact that she’d become so intimate with Gaara during her stay was enough to make her guilty of leading Shino on. Of course, if her letter had reached him in the first place, it would have made her current situation even worse. Now that she hadn’t given him an answer either way, she could start her life in Konoha over and get back into the swing of things. And after a little while, it might be easier for her to decide.

In the end, she mused, it might not be either of the two men. But it was hard to imagine meeting someone else that was able to strike up the kind of passion she’d experienced in the last couple months. When they finally arrived to the gates of Konoha, after travelling non-stop the entire trip, the late sun of the new morning sparkled over them. She sighed. It felt great to be home after such an arduous, couple days’ travel. She didn’t know how it took Gaara so little time to get to Konoha when he was visiting her at night, but perhaps he’d cut illegally through the bordering villages in his haste.

With that thought, her stomach began to churn. Would those nightly visits continue now that she was back? Would she really be able to go back to her former life as everyone expected her to? After passing through the village gates, the three of them in prefect sync made way to the Hokage’s office.

“Sakura,” Tsunade calmly said as the trio entered the room, but inside she was both overjoyed and unnerved to see her protégé intact and unharmed and right there at her door.

“Due to a breech of contract, we were able to take Sakura home with us early.”

The Hokage looked at Naruto sternly. “What do you mean breech? We worked hard to finalize our agreement with Sand—don’t tell me that has all been for naught?”

“Actually, we made a deal with that bastard kage that the peace would remain if he released her back into Leaf custody. He made the right decision, obviously,” Shino answered for him.

“And what gave you two the right to make changes to the country’s political agreements?”

“C’mon, you hag, you wanted her home as bad as we did.”

“Irrelevant, Uzumaki!” she slammed her hand on the desk to shut him up quickly. “What if he’d denied you this new arrangement? He rightfully could have as you are not Konoha officials with that kind of power.”

He could have said no? Sakura stiffened. So he didn’t have to let me leave after all?

“But he wouldn’t have. He has too much to lose.” Shino looked at Sakura as he said this.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Tsunade asked.

“Nothing,” Sakura finally said. “The Kazekage is a good leader, and I’m sure he was thinking of the two countries when he agreed to let me go.” The pinkette knew it was quite the lie, but it might pass as the truth long enough for her to get out of that office.

“Yeah, right,” Shino said and scoffed. He turned completely to Sakura. “This whole situation has been about you. You hated the man and the idea of being carted off to another village, yet now you’re covering for him? He was the one who took you from us, and that fact used to bother you.”

“Shino…” And she couldn’t think of an excuse to give him. He was right. She had vowed to hate Gaara the entire trip, but now, being back in Konoha and in the Hokage’s office, she definitely noticed the absence of his overbearing aura standing over her shoulder. For the past almost four months he’d kept a watchful eye out for her. And now she felt a little too free without the weight of her obligation on her shoulders.

“Aburame, Uzumaki, you’re both excused.”

The bug nin glared at her, rooted to his spot. There was no way he was going to miss this conversation.

“I’m not going to tell you again, and you’d best heed this warning, Shino, because it’s the only one you’re going to get.”

On second thought, he’d be better off asking Sakura directly later on. If the look on Tsunade’s face was any indication, she wasn’t in a bargaining mood, and he’d known nins who’d crossed her before that would have been ANBU had they kept their mouths shut.

He glanced at Sakura as he left. One moment his gaze was soft, happy, much like the times they spent together before she left. But the next it said, this is not over. And he walked out the door.

Tsunade crossed the room and slammed it behind him. Whether it was necessary or for added effect, the pinkette wasn’t sure, but it made her cower in her seat a little more.

The blonde took her place behind the desk before blowing her cool. “What the hell has been going on, Sakura? I want the whole truth about this stay in Suna, no exceptions.”

“It’s kind of a long story.”

“What about my question didn’t you understand? First off, and certainly most important, why were you sleeping in the Kazekage’s room? Is there something going on between you now because before your departure you seemed to loathe the very thought of the man almost as much as the idea of the ambassadorship.”

“How did you know about that?”

“Naruto, okay! He went, without my knowing, to check on you. We were all worried that you weren’t in communication. And when he found you he said you were in Gaara’s room. With him.”

“It wasn’t my fault. Gaara was the one who stopped my outgoing letters. I don’t know why he did it, but Shino and Naruto used that fact as leverage and threatened to break the agreement if they didn’t let me return home.” She could see the tension grow behind the eyes of the woman across the desk. She obviously hadn’t forgotten about asking for the full story. “Fine,” Sakura conceded. And for the next half hours, Sakura described the past months’ events barring a few of the more erotic situations she’d found herself in. By the end of Sakura’s tirade, Tsunade was certainly surprised. Her young protégé had changed the game plan since the last time she saw her. The Hokage frowned slightly.

“Sakura, I’m not sure getting this serious with the Kazekage is a very good idea.”

“Me neither! Which is why I’m not going to get serious with him. My ties with Suna—and Gaara—were broken yesterday when we left.” Even saying the fact out loud made her feel a little better and more confident that she could forget about the whole Gaara situation. “It’s not like he and I could ever be together anyway. It’s just too complicated.”

Tsunade closed her eyes and said, “See that’s what I’m talking about.”

“What?”

“The fact that you’ve even considered being together with Gaara would be complicated is unsettling. Konoha can’t afford to lose you. You’re just too valuable a medic, and I’m going to forget about the whole sleeping situation and make myself believe that Gaara values you for the same reason.”

“But Tsunade…”

“You’re dismissed.”

“Just hear me out. It’s not like I’m in love with the guy. I just—”

“I said you’re dismissed. I don’t really want to hear it right now. Just try to return to life as if Gaara had never stepped foot in your apartment.”

Sakura paused for a moment but eventually stood to leave. So much for the cheery welcome home.

“And Sakura,” Tsunade added. “How do you think all this had affected Shino, I wonder?”

The question was obviously rhetorical, and Sakura had no qualms about not being expected to answer it. She left the office and began the walk toward her apartment. The way Tsunade had cut her off hurt. This situation with Gaara was complicated, and the Hokage needed to understand that she couldn’t just brush the whole experience off. She’d just spent three months of her life in another village with a man that was after her—even if it was only her body or ability to get him to sleep—and that was long enough to create some feelings between them. And it wasn’t as if she was a different person or would perform her duties worse because of it.

But what she’d said about Shino…

The kunoichi didn’t understand what business it was of the Hokage’s to butt in on her love life. Leave Gaara, be with Shino, what does she think she’s trying to do?

Once she’d walked through the door to her apartment, the whole place felt empty. Dusty, unlived, the sun wasn’t even shining through the south-facing windows enough to brighten the place up.

And there was nothing to do.

She’d spent the past months training in Suna, so that was off the table. The remote was laying on the couch, books on her shelf, and everything seemed to beckon her to spend her free time doing something she enjoyed. But everything was unappealing, as if nothing was going to keep her attention for very long. Going to the Ichiraku was out of the question as well. She was going to enjoy the first actual alone time she’d had since Gaara started coming into her room at night, and she wasn’t about to start fielding questions about her trip just yet.

Sakura merely curled up on her couch, enjoying the little things she’d missed. The smell of the soft fabric of her own upholstery, the scratchy sensation of her favorite throw pulled over her. And she dozed off. The morning light turned into midday sun, and by the time she’d heard the knock on her front door, the pinkette felt genuinely rested and a little easier about her sudden return home.

But for a moment, she just stared at the door from her position on the couch, hoping it wasn’t Shino on the other side. Another knock, light but patient, sounded, and she figured if it were Shino he wouldn’t have hesitated to just walk in.

“About time you answered. Took about all I had not to just bust down the door.”

“What about you doing here, Naruto?”

“I came to check on you,” he said. His arms settled behind his head as he walked right passed her into her home. “You’ve been away so long. You seemed to have changed a little while you were in Suna.”

Sakura shrugged for a reply and sat back down on the couch.

“Not thinking of killing me for taking you away from there, are you?”

This time she was quick to reply. “And why the hell would you say that?”

“Jeez, I was just kidding. You seemed just as anxious to come home as we were to take you back.”

“I did?”

“You weren’t starting to like it there were you? I mean, it’s so hot…”

“Well, to tell you the truth, I think I might have been.”

“But Sakura,” he whined in his usual voice. “We missed you here!”

She almost smiled at his old antics. Sure, he was playing melancholy now, but she had a good glimpse of his mature side during the dealings with Temari and Gaara the night before. It would come of use to him if he was planning on succeeding the current Hokage someday.

“Sakura, level with me. What all was gong on with you and Gaara? Because I know you were staying with him in his room.”

“Yeah, Tsunade told me you made an impromptu trip out there. But… I don’t really want to go into that right now. I think what really went on between Gaara and me needs to stay that way.”

“Don’t kiss and tell, eh? Well, you know I’m friends with the guy, but I’m not above defending you if he was to have done… er, forced you to do things… you know?” he trailed off as if the blush on his face was inhibiting his ability to speak.

“Eww, Naruto, maybe you should just stop right there. But suffice to say that was never the case.”

The blond looked relieved.

“Now, if you wouldn’t mind, I’m just going to catch up on… unpacking.” She blurted out the first thing that might save her from any more conversation at the moment.

“Oh, no you don’t. I know you were just planning on shutting yourself in here, but I’ve come to steal you away. Everyone is gathered at the Ichiraku to welcome you back, and I’m not going to let you miss your own party!”

“Naruto! I’m not in the mood to—”

“Nope, not buying it…”

She had to admit, he was stronger than he looked, especially when he was dragging her by her shirt out of her apartment.

The night had been good, even Sakura had to admit. She met the people she’d left behind and easily swung back into their normal routines. Maybe there was hope of returning to life after Suna. No one else seemed to notice the change in her that Naruto had pointed out earlier. The hard part of the evening was, of course, dodging questions about her stay in a village so different from their own, but Naruto was quick to come to her defense and change the subject for her.

Shino even attended and stayed by her side as expected by most of the Leaf nins. Sakura found it odd hat he seemed at ease when they hadn’t even talked about things yet. But she excused herself very quietly after a couple hours and managed to make it home sober in one piece, wondering why the bug nin never bothered to bring up their would-be romance while he had the chance.

And that’s how the next week went. She maintained her usual duties in the hospital and with the Hokage (though the subject of Suna and Gaara was forbidden unless on a strict professional level), and Shino even joined her for lunch and sometimes dinner. She felt the familiar flutters of something rekindled bubble up into her stomach as he walked her home or their eyes locked through his glasses. Sakura was quite surprised that it took him until her fifth day home to bring anything up about them.

“Sakura, I want to know what this is between us. Because it seems like we’re getting back to where we were, and I hope that you feel that way, too.”
“I’m not sure.”

“How can you not be? We spend time together, we act like a couple, but we’re still missing that last step of becoming official. Everyone already thinks we’re dating as it is.”

Sakura remained silent and stared at the bright surroundings around her. She still felt something for Shino, and those butterflies within her were a sure sign of that. But then there was Gaara. And that was the problem with Shino and her. She would easily jump at the chance if it were the Kazekage next to her asking the same thing. But, she reminded herself, he’s not. And he won’t be because the relationship would never be able to function. My best chance it just to become happy here.

And what was the harm in giving Shino a for-sure chance at that same happiness. She could easily become as hot and bothered for him as she did with Gaara.

“Okay.”

“Really?” He paused at her doorstep.

“Yeah, but let’s kind of take it slow.”

“So, he’s still in your head, isn’t he?” Shino’s voice turned slightly dark at the thought that he was still competing with the kage even after she’d returned home to Konoha.

“A little.”

He was surprised at her honesty but let it roll off of him. “You know that would never happen. I mean, why would you even want it to? He stole you away. He kidnapped you. You shouldn’t think you have feelings for the guy just because he was your captor for a few months. You’re free now.”

“I know. It’s probably best if I try and forget about him now that I’m home.”

“I really hope so,” he said. Ever so slowly, Shino reached up to cup her shoulder, turning her fully to him and placing a short kiss on her lips. Carefully, he pulled away to look her in the eyes. He wanted to ask her a million things. Was that okay? Did she feel the little spark as well? Had it brought back the night they’d stumbled into bed after the bar?

But asking her anything of the sort would be too much pressure after the conversation they’d just had. It was better, and more definite, to just seal the deal with a kiss and be happy about it. “I’ll see you later,” he simply stated and began to walk away without any expectations.

Sakura just stood on her stoop for a moment thinking not about the kiss that just occurred but the one she’d initiated the last night she was in Suna and the one Gaara initiated that next morning. She blushed and turned to unlock her door. It wasn’t as if she’d betrayed Gaara or anything. They’d certainly parted without any kind of understanding, though he seemed to have it in his mind that she would return. As if she’d just be lost without his presence.

And to say the least, she was certainly put off by the lack of constant watch. But that wasn’t exactly a feeling she was itching to get back.

But Shino’s kiss, while it was smooth and soft and everything she would have wanted in a kiss when she was younger, fell flat when she compared it to the lip locking passion that she felt when she kissed Gaara. Not to mention the ache in her heart when she thought about his words the night before she left and that fact that he probably felt that same passion when he kissed her back. This isn’t right, she thought. She wasn’t one to betray her own emotions, but when it came to Shino, how was she supposed to shoot him down when he’d done everything he could to help her out since the beginning of this situation?

A situation that hadn’t turned out as bad as she thought it would.

TYK: Wow. Not all that happy with this chapter either because not much happened. Some Shino/Sakura action in this chapter, but definitely a lot more Gaa/Saku for the next couple! Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think!

Reunion