They cry in the dark, so you can't see their tears
They hide in the light, so you can't see their fears
Forgive and forget, all the while
Love and pain become one and the same
In the eyes of a wounded child
Hell Is For Children
And you know that their little lives can become such a mess
Hell Is For Children
And you shouldn't have to pay for your love with your bones and your flesh
-- Pat Benatar, Hell Is For Children
Naruto sighed happily over his bowl of ramen. It had been ages since he and Jiraiya had stopped and found a good place, but none were as good as Ichiraku. 'I guess there's no place like home after all…'
He and the Sannin had been traveling for near three years now, ever since that fateful day when Sasuke abandoned the village. Naruto had chased the boy down before Sasuke could reach the Sound and had forcibly dragged him back to Konoha. He could still recall Sakura's teary face as he and Jiraiya set out almost the next day, demanding to know why he was leaving before Sasuke even woke up.
"I have to, Sakura-chan… If I'm not strong enough to stop Sasuke from leaving, how am I ever going to be strong enough to protect this village? Don't cry, Sakura-chan, I'll be back. A Hokage never abandons his village, after all."
'Ero-sennin should be done with Tsunade-baba's report by now. I wonder what's keeping him? He'd better keep his promise on finding out if Tsunade-baba kept my apartment…'
Slurping down the last of his noodles, he stood and paid for his meal with a grin.
"Thanks, ojisan. It's been a while since I've had anything as good as this."
"Maa, it's been a while since we've had such an appreciative customer. It's good to have you back, Naruto."
"It's good to be back."
Naruto waved over his shoulder as he left the stand.
'It really is good to be back,' he thought as he began to wander the familiar streets. Placing his hands behind his head, he was about to head off to see if "their" bridge was still there when he heard a familiar voice call his name.
Looking over his shoulder, Naruto blinked and then beamed.
The young woman had changed in the past years, but the light in her eyes and joy in her stance had stayed the same.
"Naruto! It is you!" She rushed over to greet him, wrapping her arms about him before she could stop herself. "I can't believe it!"
"Maa, Sakura-chan…" He wrapped his arms about her and gave her a squeeze. "I told you I'd be back."
The pink-haired girl pulled away, a watery smile curving her lips. "How long have you been here?"
"I just got back with Ero-sennin." He smiled gently at her. "How are you? What's happened since I've been gone?"
She clapped her hands together. "Oh, Naruto, you wouldn't believe it! You just have to meet up with everyone!" She paused in thought for a moment. "I know! I can get everyone together for a 'Welcome Home' party – how's that?"
"That would be great, Sakura-chan."
"Great. Let me just get everyone together and then you can come over to my place tonight." She have him another hug. "Drop by at about five, all right? You'd better be there, Naruto!"
Naruto gave her a lopsided grin as she began to rush off to find the others. "I wouldn't miss it for the world."
Having moved out of her parents' house when she became Tsunade's apprentice, Sakura had bought a simple place next to the hospital so that she could easily be on-call whenever there was an emergency. Now, as she surveyed the large amount of once-gennin (and even larger dog) that were all celebrating Naruto's return, she began to wish that she had gotten something a bit larger.
"Oi, Sakura," Kiba called from his vantage point on Akamaru's back. "When did you say Naruto was getting here?"
"I told him to stop by at five…" Sakura placed a finger to her lips as she glanced at the clock that showed ten after five. Jiraiya hadn't dragged Naruto off without letting him tell anyone, right? The doorbell rang and she hurried over to answer it. Pulling open the door, she revealed a bewildered looking Naruto.
"You didn't tell me that you'd moved, Sakura-chan…" he whined before squawking as she hugged him suddenly.
"I'm sorry. I must have forgotten," she murmured, relief evident in her voice. 'He's still here…' She pulled back and grabbed hold of his wrists, dragging him inside the house and into the living room.
Naruto blinked as he saw each of the rookie nine as well as Gai's team all crowded in Sakura's living room.
Naruto turned just in time for Konohamaru to slam into his side, hugging him almost as hard as Sakura had.
"You're back, niisan! You're back!"
There were other joyous shouts as the other ninja turned to welcome him, and Kiba even leapt off Akamaru's back (was that really Akamaru? He was as big as a house!) to crow about wanting a sparring match some time soon to show off all his new moves.
As chatter and laughter filled the air, spilling out the windows and into the dusk, a single pair of eyes glared out from the wall.
'God damn you Naruto. I'll make you regret that day…'
The party continued well after the sun retired from the sky, resting for the next day. Lee and Shikamaru had already left, along with the Konohamaru Corps, claiming they needed rest for jobs, training, and school. Naruto had been sad to see them go, but was reassured that they would hang out the next day.
Sakura smiled as she collapsed on her couch, next to Ino and Hinata as Naruto wandered over to talk to Neji and Shino, tugging on the Hyuuga's longer hair playfully and pretending not to recognize Shino.
"He's really happy, isn't he?" she asked softly, sipping at the punch she had set up and making a face when she realize someone (probably Kiba, the resident troublemaker since Naruto had left) had made it more alcohol than punch. That was probably why it hadn't run out yet.
"Of course he is," Ino said, brushing her bangs from her eye. "He is home after all. And we're all happy to see him, too."
"Sasuke-san doesn't seem to happy," Hinata murmured, pulling her jacket tighter about her, despite the heat of the room.
"Oh, Sasuke-kun's never happy," Ino laughed, glancing over to the dark-haired shinobi leaned up against the wall, as far from the others as he could be while still in the same room.
"But you would think that Sasuke-kun would have said something to Naruto," Sakura said, looking at Sasuke as well. "After all, Naruto did bring him back…"
"Have you been watching him all night?" Ino asked, a graceful eyebrow quirked in amusement. "I thought you'd gotten over your crush a long time ago."
"Oh, hush, Ino. I'm only saying because he's in the exact same spot he was in when he first arrived."
"Maybe his icy personality has finally frozen his legs and he can't move," Ino laughed, mockingly wrapping her arms about herself and shivering.
Sakura smiled at her friend. 'Maybe I'm making too big a deal out of this. Sasuke was never social and didn't really like Naruto in the first place. Maybe he's just waiting for everyone to leave…' She looked up when a shadow fell over them.
"Come on, Hinata," Neji said, hair mussed and a look of barely suppressed amusement on his face. "It's getting late."
"W-what about Naruto-kun?" Hinata asked softly, standing and playing with the hem of her jacket.
"He's too drunk to notice anything, he's not going to miss us."
"O… Ok." Hinata turned to Sakura and bowed politely. "Thank you for having us here."
"It's no problem, Hinata-chan," Sakura replied with a smile. "Make sure Neji-san takes you home safely, or I'll have to knock some sense into him."
Hinata blushed and giggled while Neji rolled his eyes, gently leading his cousin away and out the door.
"Neji-san is right, you know," Ino said, glancing to the clock. "It is getting really late and most everyone here is drunk off their ass. Think we should wrap it up?"
Sakura smiled and, with her friend's assistance, managed to get the semi-coherent to drag home the unconscious. Looking to Naruto, where he was still half-dazed in an overstuffed chair, she was about to lead him to the guest room so that he could sleep off his drunk, when Sasuke (he was still there? She thought he was one of the first to leave) pushed off the wall and approached.
"Let me." It sounded more of an order than a request. "I know where he lives."
"Really?" Sakura gave a relived sigh. "Thank you so much, Sasuke-kun. You're such a good friend."
Sasuke grunted and tugged Naruto to his feet, the blond wobbling unsteadily. Draping Naruto's arm over his shoulders and supporting him with an arm around his waist, Sasuke nodded his goodbye to Sakura and Ino as he dragged the near-unconscious boy home.
Ino chewed her bottom lip as she watched her former-crush carry the stumbling blonde away, pushing away the worry that was forming in the pit of her stomach as she began to help Sakura clean. After all, what was going to happen with Sasuke there to help Naruto?
Naruto grunted, feeling as though he was about to pass out as Sasuke unceremoniously dumped him on his couch. He could feel the Kyuubi filtering the alcohol from his body already, causing the drunkenness to fade quickly and leave him with the beginnings of a major hangover. He knew why the Fox was doing this (to go drinking with Ero-sennin was indeed an experience – one he tended to block from his memory whenever he could) and appreciated the vile beast grudgingly.
Naruto blinked, his mind still foggy, and accepted the glass from Sasuke's hands with an odd grimace. But that might have just been from his brain throbbing against his skull. "What's this?"
"It's to help with the hangover."
Swaying in his apartment's nonexistent breeze, he quickly down the glass in almost one gulp, the sticky-sweet scent and taste assaulting his mouth and nostrils causing him to gag horribly.
"Uugh… I don't feel so good…" The glass slipped from his numb fingers and landed with a dull thud.
"Come on, dobe." Sasuke's voice sounded far away. Like his ears were stuffed with cotton. Naruto felt his lips move and his throat vibrate with words, but he couldn't, for the life of him, know what he was saying.
Again, Sasuke grabbed his arm, but it felt distant. Almost like his entire body was going numb. Sasuke said something again, but Naruto couldn't make it out. All he knew is that they were stumbling away, down a ratty hallway and into a dusty room. And then…
Inverted eyes, gold and black, narrowed and black fire burned across his flesh. Oh yes. Tonight, Naruto would pay…
Man, this chapter sucked… Oh well. I'm sleepy, so I'll just go ahead and say it. I own neither Naruto nor FMA. So, till next time! (also, I'm not sure about the title. Any help with this would be greatuly apprecieated.)