Gamabunta stared forlornly at the still form of the much smaller frog cradled in his enormous webbed hand. He squeezed his eyes shut and a single tear rolled down his face. "Gamakichi..." he said softly.
"I'm so sorry, Gamabunta...if I had gotten there in time..."
"It's...not your fault, Jiraiya," Gamabunta replied. He sighed heavily. "I just don't know how to tell my mate. I'm...going to take him home now."
Gamabunta sighed again and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. As Jiraiya was returning to the city, he saw Tsunade walking up the path. "Ohayo, Tsunade."
"Ohayo...Jiraiya." Silence. "How did he take it?" she asked with a wince.
"About as well as you would expect. I suspect I won't be able to summon him for quite some time." Jiraiya watched a bird as it flew over his head. "How did it go with Katsuyu (A/N-Tsunade's summon)?"
"Not as bad. It wasn't her child, but she was still upset," Tsunade replied.
"Nhm." Silence. "Well...I'll be seeing you," Jiraiya said as he turned around to go.
"Jiraiya, wait," Tsunade said as she placed a hand on his arm. Jiraiya turned back around to face her.
"Naruto should be awake soon. I want you to stay and talk to him," Tsunade said.
Jiraiya shook his head. "It won't do any good, Tsunade. He hates me," he said sadly.
"I don't think he does. He was taking the shock of the moment out on you. I think if you talk to him again you might find he's calmed down."
Jiraiya sighed. "Alright." Silence. "But before I do that, I need to tell you the whole truth..."
Naruto had spent the past few nights in the hospital. Monitors beeped in rhythm with his heart and circular pads on his forehead connected him by wires to a machine that watched the electrical activity in his brain. He was getting very tired of listening to the incessant beeping. "Beep beep...beep beep...beep beep," he repeated in a bored voice as he stretched out on the floor in front of Kyuubi's empty cage.
He made a long, irritated sigh as he rolled over and stared at the cage. "I wish he was here to teach me how to heal." Pause. "Wait a minute...maybe I can teach myself." He sat up and leaned against the wall. "Hmmm. Maybe if I just imagine myself getting better, then I will." He pictured his body in his mind. "Get better, get better, get better..."
After a minute he realized his plan wasn't working and stopped. "I guess I'll have to ask Baa-chan how to heal myself when I wake up." With that, he flopped back down to the floor and resumed echoing the heart monitors.
She watered the flowers on the nightstand next to Naruto's bed, put the watering can on the floor, and sat back down on the chair she'd occupied for the last few hours. She had wanted to stay by his side every second until he woke up, but of course, her father would have none of it and restricted her to normal visiting hours. She became more alert when she suddenly heard her name called.
A wide, open-mouthed smile lit up her face. "Naruto-kun!" she cried happily. She hugged him and planted a kiss on his lips, then sat up quickly with a blush. "S...sorry, Naruto-kun."
Naruto smiled. "Don't worry about it—definitely not the worst way to wake up."
Hinata's blush intensified at the comment. "I'll...be right back. I have to tell the nurse you're awake," she said before getting up and leaving the room.
Naruto smiled and sighed happily. "Not a bad way to wake up at all." he thought as he folded his arms under the back of his head.
Sweat beaded on Lee's forehead as he pounded away at the multi-armed practice poles in front of him. "One thousand four, one thousand five, one thousand six..."
Lee stopped his practicing and turned in the direction of the voice to see Sakura running toward him from the other side of the field.
"Sakura-san!" he said with a wave.
"Lee-kun, Naruto's awake!" Sakura said once she came to a stop.
Lee grinned. "Yosh! I knew he'd be fine," he said as he clenched a fist in front of him for emphasis.
Sakura smiled, but then became quiet. "Lee-kun?"
Lee saw the serious look on Sakura's face and became concerned. "Hai?"
"It's nothing bad. I just...need to talk to you for a minute," Sakura said as she fidgeted with her hands.
"Oh. Okay...Do you want to sit down?"
Sakura shook her head. "No, standing's...fine." Silence. "Lee-kun...While Sasuke and I were out on the terrace at the hotel..." she began.
Lee forced a smile. "I'm happy for you. I didn't think he'd ever change his mind," he said, trying to keep his shattered heart from showing.
Sakura immediately understood what Lee was thinking. "We didn't kiss, Lee-kun."
Lee looked confused. "Then what...?"
Sakura put her fingers over his mouth in order to silence him. "I told Sasuke-kun...that I don't love him anymore..."
A flutter of hope entered Lee's chest. "Y...you don't?" He swallowed down his nerves.
Sakura shook her head once again. "No...I like...someone else..." she said as she looked at him.