A/N: I changed this part a little bit around, but not enough to consider it AU. In the episode, Shikamaru comes to gather the other four up and they leave immediately. In this, there is about a three hour gap in between him telling them about the mission and them leaving, time for them to prepare and stuff.
This is crazy cliché, like I can't believe I wrote it. Maybe it's the fact that I've read thousands of fics exactly like it before, and I wanted to… add to them?
Gods, I'm dumb.
Pairings: Hinted Sasunaru, ShikaIno, KibaHina, and NejiHina, but I didn't mean for it to come out that way. It's really just friendship, but if you squint, you can find those pairings.
No matter how Naruto protested and pleaded and urged, the Hokage refused to let them leave immediately. Sure, he realized that the others (and he, although he admitted that reluctantly) needed rest, time to pack up what they needed, time to plan and strategize, (though that was mainly Shikamaru,) time to eat… time to say goodbye. But this was Sasuke! They had to go catch up with the bastard! There wasn't time to waste! However, it was a very resigned and disgruntled Naruto that was forced to wait for the others to be ready.
Because he wanted one last meal of Ramen before he left, and he didn't want to eat alone, (plus he wanted to con someone else into paying for him) he went to find Choji to coerce him into coming to the Ichiraku. After searching around his house and sensing no sign of him, he spread out and eventually found him right outside the Nara housing.
Naruto stopped at the sight that met his eyes as he approached the field. Shikamaru was lying on his back watching the clouds, forehead creased. Choji was sitting cross-legged next to him, Ino choosing instead to collapse on top of the lazy boy and whimper.
Naruto focused his chakra to his ears to enhance his hearing, thus was able to hear the following conversation.
Shikamaru sighed. "Ino, I promise you, we'll get your precious Sasuke back." He rolled his eyes while saying the last words, annoyed.
Ino bared her teeth and snarled. Naruto was, needless to say, kind of freaked out at that. "Shika, if you dare get hurt I am going to kill you! Bring Sasuke-kun back, sure, but… don't do it at the cost of your own life. Please, Shika. Don't get hurt."
Shikamaru put on a surprised half-smile at that, hand creeping down to stroke Ino's hair. Choji smiled knowingly at the pair of them, ever-present bag of chips absent for once.
"And you!" Ino cried, looking up at the boy from her perch on Shikamaru. She scrambled up and into Choji's lap. Throwing her arms around his neck, she exclaimed, "Don't you do anything stupid, you hear me? God knows Shika probably will…"
"I resent that…" Shikamaru murmured, eyes gazing up at the clouds lazily.
Ino gave Choji one last hug before returning to her spot on Shikamaru, leaving Choji with a rather stunned expression on his face. "Then resent it, no one's stopping you."
"Tch. Troublesome woman…" Shikamaru smiled fondly, lowering one arm to wrap around Ino, pulling her snug against his chest.
Naruto's chest constricted at the affectionate gesture. Knowing that interrupting this scene would cross the line of laughably obnoxious to just plain rude, he left.
He went to search out Neji, line of reasoning being, 'hey, Neji's rich, maybe he'll loan me some cash.' The very small sensible part of his mind immediately broke into hysterical laughter, but Naruto paid no attention to that and went of in search of the Hyuuga genius.
He traveled to the Hyuuga compound, knowing that Neji would most likely either be there or the training fields. Hearing voices around the back, he crept through the bushes silently. Who knows how many traps he could inadvertently set off just by walking normally? The Hyuuga were a strange, paranoid bunch.
Peering around the hedge, he found the voices to belong to Hinata and Kiba. Shrugging, Naruto made to move out in the open. He could probably con Kiba into paying for him, with a little effort and a lot of blackmail. He paused suddenly, remembering the earlier scene of Team 10's. He didn't want to interrupt anything like that.
Concentrating his chakra to his ears again, he stilled and listened to the conversation. "Kiba-kun," Hinata was saying, "Wh-what do you mean there's a slight chance you won't come back safe? You'll be okay, right?"
Kiba grimaced and averted his eyes. "Course, Hinata-chan, I'll be fine, but… there's always the slim possibility of me not coming back. And if I don't… say g'bye to Shino for me, 'k?"
"Of course. But you are coming back safe, right!" The normally quiet Hyuuga heiress practically growled that last word, scaring Naruto half to death. Kiba just smiled and took her into a deep embrace.
A door opened right behind them, Neji slipping out of it and shutting it silently. Hinata didn't appear to notice, but Kiba's eyes were sharp over the back of her head.
"I gotta go get ready, Hinata-chan. Bye." Kiba excused himself, giving her one last hug before departing. Neither Neji nor Naruto missed the appraising and warning look he gave the Hyuuga boy before leaving.
Hinata stared into the bushes where the Inuzuka boy had disappeared, bottom lip trapped beneath her front teeth. She turned abruptly when she heard a deep, smooth, voice behind her. "Hinata-sama."
Whipping around, she found Neji standing there, arm outstretched. "Neji-san! Is… is there something you needed?" Neji quirked his lips in a semi-smile.
"I will be departing soon for this mission, and wanted to inform you that I was leaving." Neji explained, stretching his arm towards her more.
"You too, Neji-san?" Hinata murmured before taking the proffered hand and clasping it tightly between both of her own. "Please stay safe."
"I assure you, I will return." He comforted her. Naruto felt his chest squeeze painfully again. Sure, the relationship Neji and Hinata had was kind of a weird one… but they were family, and they still cared about each other. They even seem to have been doing better since the chuunin exams.
Who was Naruto supposed to say goodbye to? Iruka-sensei was still teaching class, Kakashi-sensei wasn't available, Sakura-chan was a basket case anyway, he didn't want to worry her anymore… Naruto didn't have a family to say goodbye to.
Morosely, he plodded to the Ichiraku, ordered a miso ramen, and collapsed on the counter.
Suddenly it came to him. The reason he so adamantly wanted- no, needed Sasuke to come back.
Because Sasuke was the one Naruto wanted to say goodbye to.
Because Sasuke was the replacement for a family that Naruto never had.
Because Sasuke was the Shikamaru to Naruto's inner Ino, was the Neji to Naruto's inner Hinata. (Even Naruto wouldn't go so far as to compare Sasuke to Kiba.)
Because they needed each other. Because they complemented each other.
Because Naruto didn't want to be alone any longer.
If I have to break every bone in your body, I'll bring you back. Goodbye for now, Sasuke-teme. But only for now.
Because goodbye is too final a word.