Author's note: Because the current manga arc makes me wonder about them. And for Rurouni Gochan who got me to finish this without knowing it had been started.
The miso on the table had cooled to an uneatable temperature. Ino pushed the spoon through it, stirring up the white grains and watched as the cloudy mixture settled again. She repeated that at least ten times before she got disgusted by the whole procedure and pushed the cup away.
A waitress eyed her and walked over, picking up the soup and replacing it with a warm one. Ino didn't acknowledge the switch but concentrated on the steam, watching as it danced slowly in the air.
The door opened and the steam shifted quickly in the cold wind. It broke Ino's concentration enough to look up at the door. Another genin walked in, pulling the coat's zipper down a bit as she entered.
Hinata's pale eyes scanned the shop for a moment before settling on Ino. The timid girl nodded slowly but Ino just stared at her. Hinata took a few steps towards her and then stopped, pondering if it was the right move. She walked forward slowly, making sure to give Ino the chance to shoo her away. But Ino said nothing.
Hinata sat down across from her and put her hands on the table. Ino's dull eyes looked at her for a moment before settling down on the steam again. Hinata followed the other girl's eyes and found herself transfixed on the soup as well. It took a few moments to break the trance but Hinata finally collected her thoughts.
"Ano... she's still out there," Hinata whispered.
Ino didn't respond but picked up the spoon and began to push the miso again. Hinata watched the movements and bit her lip.
"It's very cold out tonight," Hinata added.
The spoon's circular movements halted for a moment. Ino looked up at the other girl with a frown, anger flashing in her eyes. She dropped the spoon and stood up, pushing away from the table with such a force that the bowl tipped and spilled its contents on the countertop.
Hinata had to jump up to keep up with the blond girl. She tried to call out but the other girl ignored her, plowing through the streets of Konoha. Ino looked very upset and this wasn't the reaction Hinata was hoping for. She was suddenly afraid she had made things worse.
By luck, Hinata saw a familiar figure walking out of a store and ran up to grab her. Tenten jumped in surprise as Hinata's hand grabbed hers and Hinata pleaded with her to follow. For a moment, hope flashed in the older girl's eyes and she let Hinata drag her towards the gate.
Ino was already there, staring at the kneeling pink haired ninja who was waiting there. Tenten's pace slowed as she realized what was going on. She looked over at Hinata and saw the worry reflected in her eyes.
"Get up," Ino spat, looking at her former best friend.
Sakura didn't move. The hands on her legs were pale, the blood having retreated in the cold. The wind blew her pink hair and green eyes stared out towards the gate. The red of her dress had turned darker from sitting in the dirt all day long.
"GET UP!" Ino yelled.
"Ino, I don't think..." Tenten's word drifted as she caught the look in Ino's eyes.
The voice was soft but cracked from disuse. Still there was no mistaking the soft feminine voice as Sakura's.
"Why should I?" Sakura asked softly, eyes never leaving the gate.
Ino's fist clenched with each word. "Because you don't get the right to sit here and cry while the rest of us have to pretend that nothing happened."
Sakura's eyes blinked and she looked up at Ino.
"Do you think that any of us want to just sit around and pretend that this is another normal day?" Ino cried. "Do you think you're the only one who wants to stare at the gate and wait for them to come home?"
Tenten shifted nervously behind Ino, hands clutching the package of groceries that took almost five hours to buy. Hinata's grip on her shirt tightened a bit as she moved behind her.
Sakura saw it all. Her eyes started to water as she tried to speak. "It's my fault... that they're all..."
The smack echoed in the empty street. Hinata jumped, almost pulling Tenten to the ground as she did. Ino's eyes were a mix of fury and sadness, her own tears threatening to spill over as she slowly brought her hand back down.
Sakura looked shocked for a moment but then her eyes slowly shifted back to the dullness they had when the other genins first arrived.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"I don't want your apologies!" Ino screamed. "I want you to get out of the road and act normal!"
Sakura's shoulders hunched up with each word. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Inner Sakura was yelling too, agreeing with Ino for once. But she silenced her conscience and shook her head slowly in answer to Ino's question.
Ino stepped forward quickly and wrapped her hand around Sakura's forehead protector. She gave it a pull and Sakura reacted quickly, trying to keep it on her head. Tenten dropped the bags and ran forward trying to separate them.
"You're not her anymore!" Ino cried, trying to pull it free.
"Ino! Stop it!" Tenten cried, wrapped her hands around the girl's waist and lifting her off the ground and backwards. The forehead protector came off but Sakura grabbed at it, pulling it free from Ino's hand. She clutched it to her chest, sobbing slightly as Hinata came to her side. Ino was still infuriated, trying to kick free from Tenten's grasp.
"Why are you so upset?" Sakura suddenly yelled, causing Ino to slow down for a moment. "You won, okay? I couldn't do anything to make him stay!"
"No one could have done anything!" Ino yelled. "But at least you had the chance," she continued, voice breaking. "They never even asked me to go! They just left on a mission where they could die and... they didn't even say good-bye."
Ino's strength disappeared and Tenten switched quickly from restraining to supporting her. Tenten's face sank as she watched Ino's rage quickly subside into sadness. She closed her eyes and pushed back her own worries, trying not to succumb to the same pain Ino was feeling.
Sakura watched silently, still clutching the forehead protector to her chest. "Ino..." she started. Slowly, she let her hands lower into her lap.
"I keep messing it up," Sakura smiled sadly. "Sasuke-kun, Naruto... even Ino-chan. I don't know what to do anymore but cry. It's the only thing I think I'm good at."
Hinata kneeled down next to her and took the forehead protector from her hands. She slowly smoothed back the pink hair before tying the forehead protector on. She had a small smile on her face as she did, surprising Sakura with the sudden closeness.
Hinata stood up suddenly and bowed deeply. "Please, Sakura-san... Ino-san is right. To be like this... this is not the real Sakura-san. She is more like Na... Naruto-kun and now... we need someone like that."
Sakura blinked and watched as Hinata remained bowed. Tenten bit her lip and eyed the other genin cautiously, wondering what to do. Ino pushed away from her and turned her back on Sakura, ignoring her completely.
Tenten walked back to her bags and picked them up, eyeing the contents to see if anything was damaged. She also finally got a good look at everything she had bought.
"Hey guys," she started, looking up at them. "I, um... bought a lot of food." She shrugged a bit. "Why don't we go eat it at my place?"
Hinata looked up at her and seemed so glad that Tenten had suggested it. She nodded fervently while looking down at Sakura.
Sakura closed her eyes and for a moment, Tenten was sure she was going to refuse. But the other girl stood up shakily and brushed some of the dirt off her dress. "I haven't eaten in a while, "she said softly.
There was silence as the trio looked over at Ino. The blond girl's fingers were digging into her arm but slowly they relaxed. She looked over her shoulder, just enough to catch Tenten's eye.
"There's no miso in there is there?" Tenten shook her head vehemently, though unsure of why that would be so important. Ino's shoulders slumped. "I guess I'll go," she said. "Not like there's anything else to do."
She started to walk off but paused, waiting for the footsteps of the others. As soon as she was sure there were three sets of feet following her, Ino resumed moving.
"I'm so hungry," Ino whined. "I think Chouji is rubbing off on me."
There was a paused before someone answered.
"No, it's just that you are always like that... Ino-pig."
Ino's face flashed a smile before she let anger set in. She turned and pointed at Sakura. "At least I don't have a huge ugly forehead!"
"Maa maa," Hinata said, trying to calm them down before it came from blows.
Tenten merely sighed and slung the bags of food over her shoulder. Hinata was right, they needed someone to cheer them up now. And she trusted Hinata when she said Sakura was the one to do it.
"Whatever!" Ino cried after another insult by Sakura. "Geez, why are you always so concentrated on what other people eat? It's bad enough you call her Dango-girl."
Tenten's brow furrowed. Why would they call Hinata 'Dango-girl'? She looked over at Hinata, who had covered her mouth in surprise at Ino's words. Sakura was eyeing Tenten warily.
"Well, it's not like I ever called her that in public," Sakura hissed, looking back at Ino.
A few second later, Tenten made the connection between her hair style and the nickname. "HEY"! she cried out. "What do you mean, Dango-girl?"
Sakura winced and pulled Ino in front of her. "She started it by saying you looked like you had a pair of odango's on your head."
"I DID NOT!" Ino cried.
Tenten attempted to keep her temper. "Hinata-chan," she said sweetly. "Please help me by holding these bags."
Hinata nodded and took the bags from the older girl. The second her arms were free, Tenten took off, chasing after the younger genin.
Hinata smiled as she watched them disappear down the road. She was sure that things would get back to normal soon. She had overheard Hokage-sama talking about temporarily letting the genin girls take some low level missions but that she was worried they were too depressed about their teammates leaving to do any good. However, if they kept this up, Tsunade-sama would no longer have to worry. And with their minds occupied with mission, hopefully everyone could stop worrying.
Hinata spared a glance at the gate. No matter what though, she hoped they all came back soon. Konoha wasn't right without them. And it wouldn't be until they all returned home, safe and sound.