A/N: Sakura's 14, so don't expect fluff…

On Their Way Back Home

She felt particularly gloomy today. It wasn't because yesterday she nearly caused her patient's death in the middle of critical treatment. If Shizune-senpai hadn't intervened, the shinobi wouldn't have lived to see another day.

And it wasn't because Tsunade-shishou sternly scolded her afterwards. Her teacher's obvious disapproval wasn't ungrounded; the failure had more to do with her nerves than her actual competence. After all, if they hadn't thought her capable of doing it, they wouldn't have assigned the patient to her.

No, the bad day she had had wasn't why she felt so low in spirit…

It's been a year…

It was a little more than a year ago when Sasuke-kun had made a bargain with the devil. His betrayal still stung every time she thought about it, even if time had managed to lessen the pain somehow.

And it was exactly one year ago when Naruto had left the village with Jiraiya-sama. Even if she had understood that his departure was necessary, the loneliness had been overwhelming nonetheless.

Sometimes, memories can be such a burden.

Her training with Tsunade-shishou had been keeping her busy, and in itself it was a good thing, because it provided the distraction she had needed. No time to wallow in self-pity. From time to time she did wonder, though, about her old teammates' whereabouts.

Yes, today marked the moment she had lost two of the most important men in her live. But…

"Ne, Kakashi-sensei, where do you think Naruto is at this moment? And what do you think he's doing right now?"

He had already been at the memorial site when she arrived there this morning, just like most of every other day during this past year. At times he would leave before she did, and at other times it'd be the other way around. But today they happened to finish their morning ritual at the same time, so she found herself walking back to the village side by side with one Hatake Kakashi.

Glancing at her companion, she scowled as her eyes fell on the bright orange color. For all of his seemingly undivided attention for his illicit reading material, he looked like he didn't hear her. She knew better than that.

It was his tendency to make people wait for an indefinite period of time—be it for his oh so timely arrival or an answer—that gave her the urge to yank at her own hair in exasperation. For Hokage's sake, the man could try the patience of a saint!

Eventually he did answer though.

"Hm… Probably off doing some research together with Jiraiya-sama…" He still had that book laid open in front of his nose, but she noticed him gazing blankly at the faraway trees, as if he was thinking about something.

"Research?" She raised an eyebrow in surprise. Naruto doing research was unheard of. He didn't fail the academy three times for no apparent reason. But apparently he's changed. Maybe it was for the sake of a new jutsu. Yes, it must be it. Naruto must be up to inventing some cool jutsu that---

He broke her train of thoughts. "You do know that Jiraiya-sama is a writer, don't you, Sakura?"

"Is he, now? I didn't know that. But what does it have to do with Naruto inventing some cool jutsu?"

"Huh?" He blinked in confusion. "When did I say that Naruto invented some cool jutst?"

"Well no, you didn't exactly put it like that," She tapped her fingers on her chin pensively, "but you said he's doing some kind of research. Well, it has to do with a new jutsu, right?"

He chuckled at her naivety. "Jiraiya-sama is actually the author of this book," he pointed at the small book he was holding in his right hand, "and I figured that a writer probably needs to do some research to write high quality books…"

"Oh…" She stopped in her track as the implication sunk in, her face turned red as tomato. But wait, so it means that… Don't tell me Naruto is… Soon embarrassment gave way to fury, and then Inner Sakura was unleashed. "THAT IDIOT! AND I JUST THOUGHT THAT HE HAS CHANGED! WAIT UNTIL I SEE THAT PERVERT AGAIN! I WON'T BE SATISFIED UNTILL I GIVE HIM AT LEAST ONE GOOD PUNCH!"

To passersby, it would seem as though the Fifth's harsh training had finally begun to take its toll on her sanity.

Strange enough, all that shouting did wonders to her somber mood.

There was not a single medical jutsu that can cure emotional wounds; it takes time for the wounds to heal. So she just had to take it one step at a time. It was good that there was someone standing by her, ready to give her a gentle push if she needed one and help her stand if she ever fell down. And for this she was eternally grateful to him.

Kakashi-sensei, thank you… you always know the right words to say.

A comfortable silence descended upon them, and for a while they continued to walk in a relaxed pace.

"Uhm… Kakashi-sensei?" Her timid voice broke the silence. There was something that she'd been meaning to ask him ever since she found out about his ritual morning activity, but she never had the courage to. For some reason, today she felt brave enough to finally pop the question.

"Hmm?" was his only reply. For as long as she knew him, verbosity had never been a part of his nature. He had never been long-winded with his speech, often letting his actions do the talking instead. However, despite his lack of wordiness, it was usually enough to get the point across. It was his way to let her know that he was all ears.

"You probably know why I come to the memorial, don't you?" Taking his silence as an affirmation, she went on while she fidgeted nervously, "Er… I hope you don't mind me asking, but for whom do you come?"

For a split second his posture went rigid. Or so she thought, because whatever it was, it went as soon as it came.

At first he didn't say anything. And just as she was about to give up hope of ever getting an answer, he surprised her again.

"His name was Obito." The answer came easily enough from his mouth, though it wasn't without a tinge of sorrow in his deep voice.

She remembered seeing that name on the epitaph. If memory served her correctly, he was a member of the Uchiha clan also. Wait a minute! An Uchiha? Her eyes widened in surprise as realization dawned. "Your Sharingan…" She couldn't bear to ask, afraid of the wounds she might inadvertently reopen. She wasn't the only one who had to deal with emotional wounds.

He simply nodded. "Obito was a friend who gave me more than just his life."

A part of her that still had that childish curiosity wanted so much to know what had happened in her sensei's past that had affected him so. What had made him the kind of person he was right now? Not until today did she realize how little she actually knew about him.

But she decided that she had intruded enough, so for now she would hold back her curiosity. He would tell her one day if he wanted to. If he didn't… well, let's just make sure that he'd trust her enough to, right?

It was with these thoughts in her mind that the world lapsed back into tranquil silence, and so they continued walking while he kept himself busy with his book.

Unfortunately for her, peaceful mornings are never meant to last forever, because suddenly she remembered that she was supposed to be somewhere else some times ago.

"Crap! Class started half an hour ago!" Time to enter the frantic mode, because Shizune-senpai wouldn't be that lenient, especially since it wasn't the first time she'd be coming in late. Shizune-senpai can be scary if she gets angry…

She was about to take a mad dash to the hospital building when a thought entered her mind. Curious green eyes stared at her teacher's languid face. "Is this why you're always late?"

A knowing smile, and then she was gone.

Yes, the loneliness was still there, but at least it's bearable now.

- The End -

A/N: This fic was supposed to consist of unrelated short chapters, but the 2nd chapter turned out to be a continuation of the1st chapter. Oh well... I still have no plans, so update will probably be very, very sporadic.