This is a short little Sakura & Naruto story. It's cliché and stupid, but I don't care. Read if you like. I'm just tired of all the yaoi and SasuSaku fics out there.

Skipping Rocks

By Vikki

Disclaimer: Property of Kishimoto-sensei. Please don't sue me.

SPOILER warning! Takes place at the end of manga 20!

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//Sasuke's changed a lot.//

Sakura fingered the smooth, flat stone in her hand, tracing the rounded edge absently as she looked out over the slow-moving stream. With a flick of her wrist, she tossed the stone out over the water; it skipped 3 times before sliding below the surface to its new home at the bottom of the bank.

It really shouldn't have bothered her so much, she supposed. She didn't know what had happened before Sasuke went into his brief coma, but she had been told that it was very traumatizing. She had just thought he needed some loving care. She had thought he might like some nigiri. She had thought . . .

//Oh come on,// said her inner voice. //You thought that maybe this would be a chance to get Sasuke to pay more attention to you!//

"That's not true!" Sakura said aloud, angrily. But some tiny, cringing part of her knew it was at least partially true. Pouting at nothing, she furrowed her brow and picked up another stone.

He had tossed her meal in her face. Did he hate her that much? She swallowed back tears.

For certain, he hated Naruto that much. Sakura didn't even know what had caused Sasuke to suddenly be obsessed with fighting Naruto when he had always ignored the shorter boy before. And his eyes . . .

Sasuke had looked like he was one of the walking dead.

Sakura took a deep breath and tossed the stone in her hand; it only skipped twice. She chewed her lower lip.

*Plunk.*

A small pebble dropped into the water from somewhere over her shoulder. Sakura shot to her feet, kunai in hand, instantly alert. How could she have let someone sneak up on her!? Some shinobi she was.

"Awww! It didn't skip at all."

And there was Naruto, grinning at her with his eyes squeezed shut, arms behind his head, looking for all the world like a fox spirit who had found his prey. "Hey, hey, Sakura-chan, what're you doing out here all alone?"

Sakura sighed, unsure whether to be annoyed or relieved, and sat down on the bank of the stream again heavily. "Thinking." She picked up another stone. The last thing she wanted was Naruto joking around right now.

There was a minute of silence, and then she heard Naruto seating himself to her right; she glanced over at him. He was leaning forward, elbows on his knees, an unusually serious look on his face. //I guess he's not totally oblivious to my mood after all. //

He spoke, softly. "Ne, Sakura-chan . . . I'm sorry about being so harsh earlier."

Sakura blinked, bewildered. "Harsh? About what?"

"When I asked you to not interrupt our fight." Naruto picked up a pebble. ". . . I just want to fight him for real!" He sat up abruptly. "He's going to recognize me! Because I am the future Hokage!"

He always looked so self-righteous when he said that, but for the first time, Sakura didn't feel like laughing at Naruto for saying that. Maybe it was because she was depressed . . .

But she knew that it was also because she had seen his attack.

Naruto could kill Sasuke trying to get his recognition.

"Does it matter so much if Sasuke-kun notices you?" she asked, not looking at him.

There was an incredulous pause. "Of course it matters!" was the spluttered reply. "Everyone has to recognize me if I'm gonna be Hokage!"

Sakura struggled for words. She shouldn't baby Sasuke, he was a way better ninja than she was . . . wasn't that part of the reason she loved him? Because he was so skilled? But . . . that fight had been so serious . . .

"I don't want either of you to die," she finally said.

There was no sound but the running stream and the wind, and when Naruto said nothing, Sakura found more to say. "Your fight was so serious! Sasuke-kun . . . I thought . . ." she trailed off, unable to say what she had seen in his dark eyes.

So scary. So like . . . like Orochimaru.

"Ne, Sakura-chan."

Sakura looked up at Naruto; he was staring out at the stream, turning the pebble over and over in his hands. "Sasuke won't die." He turned to look at her and offered a close-eyed smile. "He's too strong for that."

//My greatest wish is to kill that certain person.//

Sasuke's words came back to Sakura in a flash, and she lowered her head and looked away. "Not until he kills someone, ne, Naruto-kun?"

". . . Yeah." Naruto sounded sad. A little plunk told her he had thrown the pebble in his hands.

Sakura absently picked up another stone and skipped it across the stream. "Naruto-kun . . . do you think Sasuke-kun will ever notice me?"

". . ."

Sakura cringed when Naruto didn't answer. //I'm such a jerk! That must've hurt Naruto's feelings//. She slowly turned to look at him. ". . . I'm sorry . . ."

Naruto was grinning again, but it didn't look sincere. ". . . no, no, Sakura-chan," Naruto said with fake cheer, hurling another pebble over the water; it too fell into the stream without skipping once. "I'm sure even that snob Sasuke will have to recognize you!"

And even though it was the empty answer to a cruel question, it made Sakura smile, just a little. "He'll have to recognize us both, Naruto-kun," she said. "Because I will be a beautiful ninja, and you . . . you will be the Hokage, ne?"

The shorter boy's smile relaxed into something more natural, and his eyes opened a little. "Yeah . . . and then you'll go out with me, ne, Sakura- chan?"

Sakura narrowed her eyes, raised a fist, and bopped Naruto soundly on the head; she was satisfied by his yelp of 'Ouch!' as he rubbed his head. "No, I'm not going to go out with you just because you're the Hokage! Idiot!"

"Naaa, Sakura-chan, that hurt . . ."

"Hmph. Sit still for a minute and I'll teach you how to skip a rock, okay?"

"Really!? Sakura-chan, you're so cool!"

And things weren't fixed, or better, or normal . . .

But at least it hurt less.