Left Behind

By: Vampire Toy

Disclaimer: Me no own

Rating: PG-13, Just in case.

Summary: One afternoon during their lunch break, Sakura and Naruto talk about their broken team.

A/N: Slight NaruSaku-ness, slight Kakashi and Sasuke bashing. Of course, it's very slight.

XXX

"Hey Sakura-chan!" a familiar voice called to the pink-haired girl. Sakura turned to her teammate and smiled wearily. The blonde sat down next to her on the rock ledge hanging over the river.

"How'd you find me?" she asked, only half interested as she fingered a potato chip.

"Well, we used to come here on our off days." Naruto commented while opening his lunch. "Our team, remember?"

"Yeah," Sakura murmured, as she finally putting the chip into her mouth.

Naruto looked over at her as he opened his cup of ramen.

"Something wrong?" he asked, hoping he didn't strike a nerve with his earlier comment.

"No…" She thought for a moment before putting the bag of chips beside her.

Naruto frowned and stabbed at the ramen in its cup, waiting for her to say something else.

The pink-haired teenager looked over the river into the never-ending forest. The energetic blonde's blue eyes followed her gaze and he frowned, hoping he hadn't caused her to reminisce over Sasuke.

"Hey Naruto?" she asked suddenly. He perked up and turned to her curiously.

"Yeah?"

"Have you ever thought that we could have been stronger?"

Naruto blinked in surprise and thought over her comment.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean… if… if Kakashi had paid more attention to us, do you think we would be stronger now?"

Naruto looked down at his noodles as he tried to decipher exactly what Sakura was getting at. Sakura turned to him and saw his confusion, letting out a sigh.

"I mean, did you ever notice… that Kakashi would pay more attention to Sasuke than to us? Do you remember how he went off to train Sasuke during the Chuunin exams?"

Naruto looked up and gave Sakura a surprised look. He never thought he'd hear Sakura say anything that would show disrespect to Kakashi in any way, much less put Sasuke in a bad light. But he was glad she did. He never would've been able to say it to anyone else if he was the only one who thought that way. At times, he thought he was just jealous, but Sakura's comment showed that maybe he was right for once.

"Yeah, I used to think it was because Kakashi used to have an Uchiha on his old team…" Naruto said slowly.

"That's no excuse."

"W-what?"

"That's no excuse to leave us behind," Sakura said curtly as she stared out with furrowed brows at the river. "He's supposed to care about all of us equally. He was our teacher; we were all supposed to be given a chance." Her face softened slowly.

Naruto's eyes also lowered to the river and he reached out, slowly putting his hand on top of hers.

"Do you think that if you were as strong as you are now that Sasuke wouldn't have left?" he asked, narrowing his eyes slightly.

Her head shot up to look at him and she gave a smirk.

"Do you think that if you were stronger then Sasuke wouldn't have left? Our strength meant nothing to him. I think he would have left, but it might have taken him longer to leave. He wanted to be stronger than everyone, so he pushed himself so that he'd be the strongest on our team. If we were all on the same level, Sasuke wouldn't have felt he was strong enough to join Orochimaru yet."

Naruto let her words swirl in his mind. She was right, of course.

Sasuke always needed to be better than everyone else, especially Naruto. Naruto could understand, just as Sakura did, that in some sense, Sasuke had always placed himself in a hole of self-pity and anger. The only way he could get rid of that was to be the best. But, having been gone for so long, Naruto wasn't sure if the 'Avenger' had gotten stronger or simply died.

"Do you ever think about what he might be doing now?" Naruto asked, referring to Sasuke.

"Yeah." The pink-haired ninja brushed back some of her hair. "He's either dead or close to it," she mumbled, almost bitterly.

The blonde turned almost resignedly, and gave her a questioning look. Even after all those years she forced herself to get over Sasuke, Naruto couldn't help but long for the adorable love-sick girl he'd always known. Now she was meek, hiding behind the strength she had gathered through hurt and betrayal.

"Orochimaru wants his body, so he'll never let Sasuke get too strong." She paused, "I mean, think about it, why would he want Sasuke to get stronger than Itachi if he himself can't even beat him? It's like suicide. Sasuke will never become stronger than his brother…" Her voice trailed gradually as if she'd said something blasphemous.

Naruto gave her his infamous grin and squeezed her hand.

"Maybe it's better that way?" he said slowly.

"How so?"

"He will always have something to work towards."

"Yeah, but it's something that will eventually kill him; whether he's able to get revenge or not."

"I know…" Naruto's eyes averted back to the river as they sat in silence once again.

"Naruto…"

"Yes?"

"You won't ever be like that." It was more of a statement to reassure herself, but she wanted Naruto to confirm it.

He looked at her out of the corner of his eye and smiled.

"No I won't."

Sakura laughed softly and gave a slight nod. She was glad that through everything, Naruto had always been the one reliable person in her life. No matter how strong he became, his personality never changed. His ambitions were never self-centered, she admired him for that.

Naruto's smile broadened when Sakura gave a content sigh. He'd never thought they'd be together so long.

The girl was right; their team was intently divided almost from the start. He almost believed that one day Sakura would just disappear, and he'd find out she joined Orochimaru or she would just be gone.

Sasuke had put her through a lot and he knew she still loved him. How much, he wasn't sure, but he knew she did. It almost made him proud that she could forgive someone like Sasuke, but at the same time it hurt when he knew Sasuke didn't deserve it. Though he himself would give the Uchiha yet another chance, there were only so many chances one could give.

"Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked suddenly with a smile, standing up and holding out his hand to her.

"Hmm?" She looked up at him curiously.

"Wanna go for a swim?"

XXX

A/N: I do not hate Kakashi. It takes a lot for me to hate a character. I'm just a little pissed that he would obsess over Sasuke simply because he was an 'Uchiha'. He left Naruto to be taught by that closet pervert when he went off and taught Sasuke, and never acknowledged that Sakura could potentially be strong. He was a bad teacher is what I'm saying, because teachers are not allowed to pick favorites. As for Sasuke, it's a love/hate relationship because he needs his ass kicked… again.

Thanks for the BETA I S2 Gaara!

Uh… yeah, anyway, R & R please, flames welcome.