A/N: Just a short little scene featuring Naruto's and Sakura's friendship and how they depend on each other to overcome their lack of Sasuke.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto and am making no profit from this fic.
It's been three and half years, and still it's hard to discuss Sasuke. And they had to "discuss" him, not recall him. It's impossible for them to openly speak of the things he had done, the way he had been, and both of them understand that if not for each other, they wouldn't be able to speak of him at all.
It takes Naruto's assurance that they will find him, that he will come back and see her again. And to an extent, it takes Sakura's sadness. Her tears water the faith in a bright future and Naruto's determination provides the sun. Together they make hope grow. Together they rearrange destiny. And together they find comfort, small as it is.
They're walking tonight and it is deathly cold. Winter is at Konoha's doorstep, and despite all of his whining, Uzumaki Naruto can't get her to wear a coat. It's nearing midnight, and they are only out because he went to the hospital to force Sakura to go home for the night.
"You'll die," he complains. "I can see goose bumps on your arms. You'll get a fever!"
"It gets in my way while I'm working," the young medical kunoichi responds, using her usual answer. "Or I bring one and then forget it when I leave. A hassle." She waves a careless hand through the air. "I have to avoid one as much as possible or I'll go nuts."
Naruto shoves his hands deeper into his pockets. "Some doctor you are, not even taking care of yourself." He looks away when she shoots him a glare. "You'll be sorry when Granny Tsunade orders you to stay home from work with a cold. What if you're sick on Christmas?"
"Christmas is a month away, moron." But Sakura smiles. There is light in the deep green of her eyes, and it is all Naruto requires. He returns the pleasant expression and they continue down the empty street in silence. Lampposts burn through the late night fog. There is only the sound of their breathing and the sight of little puffs of steam coming from their mouths.
She raises her hands to rub her arms, and Naruto reaches out to take one of her hands. He rubs the paler, smaller fingers between his palms, warming them, and still there are no words to be spoken. He eventually drops that hand and goes for the other, but as quick glance at her face has him pausing. At once, he stops walking and grips her elbow to force her into halting as well.
She faces him automatically and meets him gaze for gaze even with tears glimmering in her eyes. "Sorry, Naruto," she whispers before he can even ask.
Even Uzumaki Naruto has grown enough to realize that there are times when you shut up and let someone else talk first. But he still isn't the one to do absolutely, so he pulls her to him by the shoulders and lets her rest her head against his orange-clad shoulder. His heart twists when he feels her trembling against him. She's holding back, as she always does. Sakura is gifted with unnatural strength, both physically and mentally, but emotionally…she can be a wreck just like everyone else.
The icy night wraps its fingers around them, and Naruto rubs her back companionably. Whatever feelings he may or may not hold for her these days, he isn't about to move in. He's decided that it's Sakura's call. She's frail and heartbroken, even after nearly four years, and he will wait if he is meant to.
"I made a promise to myself last Christmas Eve," she murmurs at least, the sound of her soft voice muffled by the material of his thick winter coat. "That I would start getting better about talking to you about him. About Sasuke. You give so much, and I…" She is unable to continue and Naruto seizes the chance to reply.
"You're doing fine." His pats her back and doesn't realize that the gesture is largely like something Kakashi would do. "Just fine, Sakura. Okay?"
She nods, a bob of cheerful pink hair. Neither of them knows whether or not Sasuke even deserves to be grieved over, but they do so anyway. It's almost like he's dead in the eyes of the village, but he thrives in the hearts of his teammates. And it is the Sasuke they knew, not the one that left them.
"He would want you to wear a coat, too," he tells her. He is rewarded with a shaky tremor of her laughter.
They walk on and, in a few short minutes, arrive at her door. "Thanks, Naruto." She sends him a grateful smile, the telltale stains of tears still evident on her smooth cheeks. "You're always helping me."
"Same to you." He hugs her briefly and accepts that her touch is only that of an important friend he cherishes. He doesn't mind these days nearly as much as he would have years ago. "Goodnight, Sakura."
"'Night. I'll wear a coat next time," she promises, and goes into her home to leave him alone outside in the cold.
But Naruto can still feel her there, and it warms him. He asks for no more than that small amount of feeling.
He is perfect with just that.